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Archive Entries for October 2007

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Wednesday October 31, 2007

Books in October

Halloween already....
As Alison explained, we were both a bit busy to be blogging while I was in Los Gatos, and I have been ill with a bad cold since getting back. [Alison struggled (wo)manfully on with her cold while I was there but I seem unable to recover properly...]. I will be entering some retrospective entries on our activities in due course.
Anyway - it's an ill wind etc - I have been doing a lot of reading this month:

  • S is for Silence Sue Grafton
    As usual, an excellent plot and thrilling finish. Following what seems to be a literary trend, Kinsey finds herself investigating a 30 year old disappearance, thus providing delightful period detail from both the 1950s and the 1980s.
    Also amused by the author's foreword. Sue Grafton is a lady of a "certain age" and seems to tolerate fools less gladly than ever before (along with her heroine!). Clearly pacing the writing of her alphabet series to last her through to retirement - by the time she gets to Z I am sure she will have totally lost patience with the general public.
  • The House Sitter Peter Lovesey [Read by Steve Hodson]
    Another charming (if murder can be...) police drama set between Bath and Bognor. Like the previous novel I read, the setting provided the interest for me, as I grew up on the south coast, and much of the action seems to take place around Sussex.
  • The Overlook Michael Connelly
    I spotted this latest novel in the library at Los Gatos during the weekly meeting of Alison's knitting group.
    It was relatively short but gripping and excellently written as usual. Apparently, this story was originally serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, but the plot has been revamped and expanded to fit into the current Harry Bosch timeline.
    If you're a fan take a look at Michael Connelly's website - it's a lot of fun with added multimedia excerpts for you to enjoy.
  • Quietly in their Sleep Donna Leon
    I raided Alison's own bookshelves for this one. I think it's the latest Brunetti novel in paperback at the moment.
  • Under Orders Dick Francis
    I pounced on this one when I saw it in the library - as I surmised, this is his first new novel in a number of years - since his wife died in fact. There is some scurrilous suggestion that his wife wrote the books, but he seems happy to freely acknowledge and credit her input. Maybe at the grand age of 87 he simply feels no need to keep the day job. Anyway - happily for us he has written another jolly good novel.
    Appropriately, he returns to his hero Sid Halley, one of my favourites from early on in his writing, and the subject of a TV series in 1978 starring Michael Gwilym. I do remember how odd it was having to visually accept a such a tiny hero (ex-jockey - easy to overlook in a book).

Posted on October 31, 2007 at 1:15 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Thursday October 25, 2007

Hedonistic Heels

Alison took me for a pedicure. It was wonderful and comparatively inexpensive. Lovely Vietnamese American ladies fussed over our feet,while the chairs we sat in gave us a vigorous back massage!


I would love to be able to have these regularly - apart from the pleasure, it must be so good for your circulation as the whole lower leg is scrubbed and massaged. However, in the UK, I am afraid the experience is more expensive and less rewarding. Age concern recently raised a debate about the lack of NHS foot-care services, pointing out that when you cannot care for your own feet, it is no longer a beauty treatment but a health issue.

Posted on October 25, 2007 at 3:16 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Sunday October 21, 2007

Back to reality

Two items left on the itinerary: kumihimo braiding and .... underwater knitting. Yes... you heard that right.

I was keen to try the braiding using the polystyrene circle tool, and it seemed to work out just fine; it produced the same kind of braid as my marudai, and the plastic bobbins seem very handy - could be used for intarsia - except I'm never doing that again(!). I hope to be able to use this method with thicker wools to make corded bag handles - to go with all those other bag handles I have bought in my time.... If you use thicker wools though, it will distort the polystyrene, making it unsuitable for further use with finer threads.


The under water knitting was really amusing - as the weather was so good, we did want to try it, and Alison managed to jolly a lot of people into it, even though the last thing she felt like was a dip in the pool. The rules were made easier for us, so you could chose full immersion or not, and only the knitting had to be under the water; some chose to stay at the side and some had snorkels...!


Alison was declared the winner, being first to 4 rows with her speedy continental style! Below is the winning knitting - Alison's in stocking stitch on the right and mine in garter on the left.


Finally it was all over, and we had to say good bye to everyone, and goodbye to our lovely room with the view of the sea, and set off for home. It was a thoroughly enjoyable few days, excellent value for money, and just the sort of break Alison and I wanted it to be. Hollis and her colleagues put a lot of effort into making it a great weekend - thanks to them, and looking forward to next year (or maybe the one after that...).


Posted on October 21, 2007 at 9:06 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Saturday October 20, 2007

Carmel by the Sea

To breakfast, (and for most of the morning truth to tell), I wore what I now think of as my very luxurious Rowan bedjacket (Carolina - magazine 39) - a good opportunity to show off, I thought, - and our group of knitters did not disappoint with their nice comments. The seminar this morning was on shadow knitting; this is a method of knitting stripes in a combination of plain and purl stitches such that, when viewed at an angle, a "secret" pattern can be seen. There are entire books devoted to the subject, but I preferred the more abstract cushion covers over any form of clothing. We had a choice of what to knit - I did the "piano keys" scarf, and Alison chose the "DNA" scarf.


For lunch we adjourned to the Forge in the Forest - which is neither a forge nor in a forest - but does (as they advertise) love dogs - the dogs provided some unwanted distraction for our group. I think knitters are mainly cat people.... it seems inevitable.

ItalianWool.jpg After lunch, we went en masse to the woolshop, "Knitting by the Sea", conveniently situated across the road from the restaurant. I bought some wonderful Italian wool - wildly rich in colour and now definitely destined to be Pattern of the Month for December... I was also captivated by some buttons they had in a set of four with the playing card suits on them (heart, club, diamond, spade). This inspires in me some sort of memory - these card or gambling motifs are very fifties, James Bond etc and I think there a lot of retro patterns featuring them. Whether I find anything suitable is another matter; both Alison and I are agreed that any motif in the knitting should be very low key. I was so enamoured of Hollis' merino knitting wool which we used this morning that I plan to buy a cardigan's worth in black perhaps to use on such a project with these buttons....

Alison and I then spent the afternoon chilling out - buying patent cold remedies (Alison), buying sun glasses, (me), and sunning ourselves on a handy bench in the town.


In the evening it was back to work with the "short rows" clinic.


We tried 3 methods of essentially wrapping the stitches when knitting back on a short row (such as you might do, say,when turning a heel on a sock). I preferred the conventional method that I am used to, and the second method produced the same result with a slightly different technique. The third Japanese method seemed overly complicated for very little benefit - but some of the group thought it was less visible on the right side of the work (but much more visible from the wrong side). The continental knitters had some difficulty in getting the stitches twisted into the right orientation - but any short row pattern will inevitably be slower to knit than just whizzing away with plain stitches.


Note: this isn't Alison's new design for a knee warmer, it's the three methods of short row knitting. Can't really see a difference can you?

Posted on October 20, 2007 at 9:52 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Friday October 19, 2007

Knitting Camp

With great excitement we set off for our weekend at the Full Thread Ahead Retreat in Carmel. After a dubious start to my holiday (rain), the weather is all set to be beautiful for the next few days. On the way to Carmel, we stopped off at Capitola for lunch, which turned out to be quite substantial ["I always eat a light lunch"] - I ate a kind of Chinese duck in a wrap served with a marmalade sauce - no really - delicious.

We arrived at 3 pm to find one other person already there, Trish, who was very friendly and waved her knitting at us from the seminar room windows. Our room - our suite of rooms! - was simply lovely with a full view of the sea from our balcony.


People were arriving throughout the rest of the afternoon, and we slipped out for a pre-prandial stroll via the Coach outlet, as per our itinerary, and popped in for a little aperitif at the Hogs Breath Inn before our pot-luck dinners.


There was a ton of food and we could see there was unlikely to be any necessity to actually go out in the evenings hereafter. Once we had knitted, introduced ourselves, and our projects, (which was actually really interesting - being one who copies rather than designs, I love seeing what other people are doing), we moved on to the "class" for the evening. We dyed 3 small skeins of wool, by micro-waving with KoolAid, and food colourings; I was very smitten by the brick-like red colour unexpectedly produced by the morello cherry drink.... Alison bravely managed to stay the course despite not being well, and we retired at about 9, and hung our skeins to dry on our towel rails in the room.


Kumihimo fingers. [We haven't learnt how to do this yet but I am sure this is close...]


We did not buy any coach bags but Robi bought the most wonderful.... well to call it a "tote" does not do it justice. It really was fabulous and - the best part - it was a thousand dollar bag sold for 250.


Posted on October 19, 2007 at 10:43 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Thursday October 18, 2007

Saratoga Knitting Arts

Already visited Yarndogs in Los Gatos and bought some lovely sock wool ("Wildfoote"); I would have bought more but they had only 2 balls left - still, that's enough for socks eh?


Today we went shopping in Saratoga. The wool shop there is wonderful, and I bought a great bargain pack of mixed wool, which I am hoping to use on Pattern of the Month for December.

I also purchased some buttons - two to match the wool pack, and two for my latest project.

We also did some clothes shopping (for my benefit really - although Alison picked up some camouflage clothing and boots for the boys). Despite Alison's best efforts, after we had tried Nordstrom Rack and Favorite Footwear, we ended up in Ross "Dress-for-Less". We were looking for some cheap T-shirts that we can use this weekend in case the dyeing class gets splashy. Here we were successful - and I also bought a splendid 1950s/60s styled short jacket in loose weave plaid, and a rather busy patterned shirt for work (which I instantly mutilated when I got home in order to remove the pockets, which, to quote Alison, "might look nice if they were actually on the bosom rather than under the armpits" - at $7 mutilation seemed acceptable).

Posted on October 18, 2007 at 11:56 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Sunday October 14, 2007

Santa Cruz

Day one and the whole family (and me!) were off to Santa Cruz for lunch.


We started with a little walk to get our apetites up.


Despite distractions on the way, the boys found the walk a bit too long but they were encouraged by the promise of seeing a surfing competition.


In fact we didn't get a very good view of the surfers (lots of onlookers) - but I was delighted with a really good view of a cormorant, who wasn't the least bit bothered by 3 adults and two small boys standing within touching distance.


Lunch was great and I ate the traditional sand dabs - yum.

Posted on October 14, 2007 at 9:50 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Saturday October 13, 2007

Jiggedy Jig

I can't tell you how great it was to be here again. Alison and Finlay met me at the airport, and I was delighted to see them, [...and mightily relieved to have got through customs without having to have had to explain the various imported Christmas goods in my luggage (like that there is no actual meat in "mincemeat")].

My room is lovely and the weather is sunny and just .... perfect.


There was much excited talk of our planned weekend in Carmel, and I eagerly claimed the Knit Picks needles that Alison had ordered for me.

They are circular wires with interchangeable needle sizes. Such a good idea, and very nice to use. Discovered this almost right away by casting on for my next project.

Posted on October 13, 2007 at 11:21 PM. Category: Holiday USA.

Do you know the way to San Jose?



Posted on October 13, 2007 at 9:52 AM. Category: Holiday USA.

Friday October 12, 2007

Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitchery Show 2007

We had a fantastic time at the show, as usual. Probably a bit more laid back than usual, and less of a buying frenzy. We worked out that we have been going every year now for 8 years - so probably accumulated enough stuff!

We started the day with a workshop about rag rug making. It was great fun and I am quite smitten. It is something I've been interested in for many years, but always concerned about starting a new hobby. However, as new hobbies go, there is no huge outlay on materials or equipment, you can almost start right away....
Here was what we achieved during the class.


Having said that, we did both buy Hessian (the ideal is to recycle animal feed sacks - but neither of us has access to that sort of stuff!), and Sheila bought a hook and a bodger. The more expensive shuttle tool is something I intend to look for during my holiday with Alison, as it may be cheaper in the US.

On this stall - the Shuttle -


I found some bargain priced Tana Lawn. Alison has been interested in getting some Liberty Tana Lawn for some time now but it is astonishingly expensive. The colours were all lovely but mostly tiny flower prints in blue shades - so I was delighted to find this somewhat retro print example in colours that will suit Alison.


See the extended entry for photo album of the show.

Click on the thumbnails to page through and view the pictures.

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Braid - ducks

Rag Rugs

Bead flowers

Bead flower


Jewellery Beads



Knit a River

Relax and Knit


Posted on October 12, 2007 at 11:38 PM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday October 11, 2007


George tolerates his special birthday. Lovely chocolate cake supplied by his Mother.


Trying to make sense of mysterious rubber cushion.


George models his new cable socks, and the very best present ever (from his Mother of course): Crocs.

George_socks.jpg George_crocs.jpg

Posted on October 11, 2007 at 11:08 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Sunday October 7, 2007

Keepsake books

After the Bound to be Beautiful workshop I attended some months ago, we were given a second set of materials to complete another book cover. So I finally sat down today and made the companion booklet - so I can take it out to the US, and Alison and I can have one each to write about our Knitting Camp experiences - or that's the plan anyway.


Yet again, I was very pleased at how it turned out. Most of the cover is glued together with PVA, but in the final step, when the book section is glued into the cover, you have to use "paste". This can be made in various ways (or purchased), and as I needed very little, I made up some paste from flour and water, following some instructions on the web to judge proportions and consistency.
What fun!

Posted on October 7, 2007 at 5:02 PM. Category: Crafts.

Friday October 5, 2007

Where ginger-bread wives have a scanty sale...

I have been pretty busy all week - yesterday I went to a customer near St Pauls and it was such a lovely day and so wonderful walking around the City that I wished I had taken my camera. But I had not. However on the previous two days I was in Plymouth - which is about a 5 hour train journey (if you're unlucky). And on this occasion, I did take my camera - with an agenda.

In my working life I have been down to see customers in Plymouth with surprising frequency. Sometimes driving, and sometimes on the train. The first time I went I was astonished as I had not really thought about where I was going - basically through all those lovely Devon resorts, and beyond Exeter... [There be dragons... I expect...].

Dawlish1.jpg My memory of that first train journey is obviously fogged - I remember it being dark - certainly was when I set off, but unlikely to have been by the time I got "beyond Exeter". In my memory, dawn was breaking, grey and very stormy, and suddenly we seemed to be travelling actually in the water - it was astonishing, and the sea was spectacular - it seemed as if at any moment we could really be swept away!

This time, you can see the weather was cloudy as I travelled outbound - and the tide was out - but even so, in places the water came right up to the retaining walls and walkways. I leave in the window frame so you can get the real perspective.

So from the maps, I find that between Starcross and Teignmouth, the train does truly take a spectacular route which seems indeed almost to end up on the beach. If you hung out of the window (which I did not do and is not recommended) you could almost seem to be splashed by the waves.
The train snakes around the coastline, with a number of deep tunnels through the beautiful red sandstone cliffs. I have tried entirely inadequately to capture the moments from the train. [The first two photos taken on my outbound journey, and those that follow, taken on my return journey.]
Here, walkers along the broad sea wall walkway, the sea immediately to their left and separated from the rail track by a low wall:


Here is the Red Rock Cafe tucked behind the deep red cliffs:


And here a view of a wreck in the river mouth flats (I think) nearer to Starcross:


Try viewing some great photos from the perspective of walkers and bikers on this lovely stretch of coastline.

Posted on October 5, 2007 at 8:08 AM. Category: Days Out.