Saturday, 30 April 2011

Knitting woes

My grandmother taught me to knit when I was about 8 years old. She also taught me to crochet and I crocheted two single bed-sized blankets from my neighbours' leftover wool before I was 10. I knitted a few things as a teenager, including a number of scarves and jerseys. Then I fell in love with counted cross stitch and attacked it in a somewhat obsessed manner for the next 15 or so years.

While I was a classroom teacher, I taught a class of 9-10 year olds to knit. Most of them specialised in creating the lace effect, ie holes everywhere, but one or two boys in particular excelled at the art and went on to knit various items of clothing for their families and also for me. I wonder if any of them now knit as young adults?

During that time, I knitted a couple of warm jerseys and wore them in the years following, but that was the last time I picked up knitting needles. These days, knitting has become fashionable again and knitting circles are popping up all over the place. Having just about finished what will probably be my last large-scale cross stitch project, I've thought about knitting something for this winter. But what to knit?

I spent time looking at patterns in four different knitting shops this week; no luck. I thought about knitting accessories, rather than full on jersey-type projects, but other than baby stuff (no thanks) or knitted toys, everything looked a bit too intensive. A friend suggested I knit a throw rug. Great idea! One or two patterns caught my eye but they were part of books costing $20+, which I thought was quite excessive for someone who was really just after a single pattern. I obviously don't look like a serious knitter, as not one person in any of these shops asked if they could help in any way. *sigh*

The Twitterverse has been helpful and introduced me to Ravelry, Knitty, Free Knit Patterns, The Daily Knitter and Lion Brand Yarn patterns. I have spent this afternoon trawling through them in the hope of finding just the right project to start on. I've made a little bit of progress - not there yet, though.

How about you - do you knit? Do you have a current knitting project? Where are good places to go for knitting ideas and inspiration?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Cone of shame

It's been a big day for us as fur parents as our 5 month old kitten was spayed and microchipped today. Just as she was getting the hang of the cat flap and accustomed to the freedom it offers, her coming and going privileges have now been revoked. AND she was starved all night. How cruel are we?

The operation went well and kitty was discharged with strict instructions to stay quiet and inside for ten days. Hmmm. Have you ever managed to keep a 5 month old kitten quiet? No, neither have we. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

After her first meal since last night, kitty decided to start the clean up job. She is a very appearance-proud kitten in the best of times, meticulously licking herself clean well after we'd consider the job complete. She set to on her wound ... despite my best attempts to distract her, I could see that there was no way I'd be able to keep her tongue away from her stitches for more than a few seconds and that there was only one thing for it: the dreaded cone of shame.

After a few failed attempts to singlehandedly hold kitty down and do up her collar and cone, I realised that we were getting nowhere fast. Being home alone until later in the evening meant that my partner couldn't help. It was time to call for backup. A friend and fellow cat mum came over and together we negotiated kitty, her collar and the plastic cone. The first time we did up the collar, she fell forwards onto her face (cone), wriggled backwards and ran towards the door with a "you can't catch me" look on her face. Wrong! We tried again and finally managed to do up the collar, during which time we heard several very angry, low growls.

Kitty is not impressed.

Admittedly, I did take a quick video of her trying to run backwards out of her cone but will protect what's left of her dignity by not posting it here. It's more than a little amusing, though. ;-)

Kitty is now sitting sedately on the arm of my chair and feeling suitably sorry for herself. I get the feeling it's going to be a long ten days for the three of us.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday brunch

The long weekend has begun. Bring on the chocolate!

It was so lovely to sleep in for a while this morning. Of course, our kitten decided that it was time for us to wake up and play with her at 6.15 am (as per usual). I think her idea of a long weekend is enjoying having us at home for several days in a row with the sole purpose of playing with and entertaining her.

Later this morning, we had some friends over for a Good Friday brunch. We made buttermilk pancakes (soooooo yummy!) and we had hot cross buns with freshly ground coffee. It was great to catch up with a friend visiting from Germany. She is a specialist pastry chef and I am looking forward to gleaning as much baking expertise as I can muster from her during her stay.

This is the first of my 101 in 1001 activities I have belatedly picked up: #39 - Host a brunch for friends. I'm loving this Easter break!

Thursday, 21 April 2011


"He was a famous trumpet man from old Chicago way
He had a boogie style that no one else could play ..."
... and that's how it all started. Last night, we had the pleasure of attending BeatCamp! at Circa Theatre, thanks to Circa on Twitter. We all know I love music, a good show and winning stuff. The perfect combination!

It's been a few years since I last saw The BeatGirls in action. They make great fodder for girls' nights out. As always, their show is a polished performance, well researched, with perfectly synched harmonies and choreography and stunning costumes to match. Taking us on a musical journey through the military ranks to today's pop, it was great to hear some of the classics given a contemporary spin. We had excellent seats in the middle of the middle row - not only a perfect view, but our position ensured we couldn't be 'recruited' to become part of the cast! ;-) The second half of the show fired particularly well, starting with an Amy Winehouse/Motown-style set and ending with a fitting girl group bang.

BeatCamp! runs at Circa until 13 May - a feelgood night out for all.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Planning for Easter

I love the Easter break. It's the only time of the year when things truly slow down (or stop). A tradition of bad weather means that some long, lazy days can be had. As much as some people complain about the legislation dictating restricted Easter trading hours, I really enjoy a few days when there are few people about and even fewer places to be. Contrary to Christmas, there is far less pressure building up to the 'big event' and no requirements to be in several places at the same time. This year, Easter backs onto Anzac Day in New Zealand, essentially 'robbing' us of a public holiday; that's unfortunate, especially after missing out on Waitangi Day, which fell on a Sunday.

We aren't going away this Easter and will be at home for the holidays. There will be a fair bit of family time, some things to get done around the house and, hopefully, lots of relaxation. I am having an extended break and will be on leave for following week. I can't wait!

Here's what I've got planned for myself:
  • Start a knitting project for winter.
  • Have friends over for buttermilk pancakes and hot cross buns on Good Friday.
  • Bake molten chocolate cakes for my family's Easter dinner.
  • Bake a carrot cake for my sweetie's birthday dinner.
  • Eat chocolate. Come on, it's mandatory at this time of the year!
  • Get a haircut and get a real job. It's not the first time I've said that. I usually just get the haircut.
  • Have our kitten spayed and microchipped. Oh, she's going to really love us after that. (She'll get over it.)
  • Catch up with friends for coffee and lunch.
  • Go for walks when the weather is fine enough to do so.
  • Watch a few DVDs.
  • Read, read, read.
  • Sleep, sleep and sleep in. (Kitten, please take note!)
What are your plans for the Easter break?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Top 100 movies

We watched The Godfather (1972) on DVD for the first time the other night. Yes, I know it's a classic. Yes, I know it's supposed to be one of the best movies of all time. Yes, I know it was released before we were born and we've only just watched it nearly 40 years later.

I got to thinking about all the other 'classic' movies I have not yet seen. We subscribe to Fatso and have a list of DVDs we've ordered to have sent to us. I keep a list of movies (and books) I'd like to see on my phone so, when faced with the task of topping up our list, I can remember the brilliant idea I'd had earlier but forgotten at that crucial moment. ;-)

Now that winter's here and it would seem that hibernation is not an option, it might be a good time for us to catch up on some movies from the IMDB top 250. Maybe we start ordering up some more from the list? 250 might be a bit ambitious for one winter and I've already seen a few of the top 100. Do we start from 100 and work our way up to #1, saving the best for last, or just pick random movies as they become available?

Here are the titles I've seen from the IMDB top 100 movies list:

1.9.2The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
2.9.2The Godfather (1972)
3.9.0The Godfather: Part II (1974)
4.8.9The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
5.8.9Pulp Fiction (1994)
6.8.9Schindler's List (1993)
7.8.912 Angry Men (1957)
8.8.8Inception (2010)
9.8.8One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
10.8.8The Dark Knight (2008)
11.8.8Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
12.8.8The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
13.8.8Seven Samurai (1954)
14.8.7Fight Club (1999)
15.8.7Goodfellas (1990)
16.8.7Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
17.8.7Casablanca (1942)
18.8.7City of God (2002)
19.8.7The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
20.8.7Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
21.8.7Rear Window (1954)
22.8.7Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
23.8.7The Matrix (1999)
24.8.7Psycho (1960)
25.8.7The Usual Suspects (1995)
26.8.7The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
27.8.6Se7en (1995)
28.8.6It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
29.8.6Memento (2000)
30.8.6The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
31.8.6Sunset Blvd. (1950)
32.8.6Forrest Gump (1994)
33.8.6Toy Story 3 (2010)
34.8.6Leon: The Professional (1994)
35.8.6Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
36.8.6Apocalypse Now (1979)
37.8.6Citizen Kane (1941)
38.8.5American History X (1998)
39.8.5North by Northwest (1959)
40.8.5American Beauty (1999)
41.8.5Taxi Driver (1976)
42.8.5Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
43.8.5Saving Private Ryan (1998)
44.8.5Alien (1979)
45.8.5Vertigo (1958)
46.8.5Amélie (2001)
47.8.5Spirited Away (2001)
48.8.5The Shining (1980)
49.8.5WALL·E (2008)
50.8.5Paths of Glory (1957)
51.8.5City Lights (1931)
52.8.5The Pianist (2002)
53.8.5Double Indemnity (1944)
54.8.5Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
55.8.5M (1931)
56.8.5A Clockwork Orange (1971)
57.8.5The Lives of Others (2006)
58.8.4The Departed (2006)
59.8.4To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
60.8.4Aliens (1986)
61.8.4Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
62.8.4Requiem for a Dream (2000)
63.8.4Das Boot (1981)
64.8.4Reservoir Dogs (1992)
65.8.4The Third Man (1949)
66.8.4Modern Times (1936)
67.8.4L.A. Confidential (1997)
68.8.4Chinatown (1974)
69.8.4Life Is Beautiful (1997)
70.8.4Back to the Future (1985)
71.8.4The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
72.8.4The Prestige (2006)
73.8.4Black Swan (2010)
74.8.4Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
75.8.4Cinema Paradiso (1988)
76.8.4Raging Bull (1980)
77.8.3Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
78.8.3Singin' in the Rain (1952)
79.8.3The Green Mile (1999)
80.8.3Rashômon (1950)
81.8.3Some Like It Hot (1959)
82.8.3Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
83.8.3The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
84.8.3Amadeus (1984)
85.8.3All About Eve (1950)
86.8.3The Great Dictator (1940)
87.8.3Bicycle Thieves (1948)
88.8.3Full Metal Jacket (1987)
89.8.32001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
90.8.3Braveheart (1995)
91.8.3Inglourious Basterds (2009)
92.8.3The Apartment (1960)
93.8.3Downfall (2004)
94.8.3Gladiator (2000)
95.8.3Metropolis (1927)
96.8.3Up (2009)
97.8.3Gran Torino (2008)
98.8.3The Sting (1973)
99.8.3Oldboy (2003)
100.8.3Unforgiven (1992)

How about you? How many movies have you seen from this list? Have you got any good recommendations for us to try?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Hunting for mojo

I've temporarily lost my blogging mojo or, more specifically, my ability to finish things I've started. Does anyone know where I might find it?

I'm not going to write about how I've got nothing to write about (or apologise for it). I won't even tweet about it. I know my mojo will be hiding somewhere. I have several posts started on this blog and my professional blog, along with several books and an almost-completed sewing project. There's some pretty big stuff going down at work at the moment - stepping in the right direction, but there is a long way to go yet. I'm sure this is contributing to my lost mojo. So, here's an abbreviated post of sorts until my mojo returns.
  • We went to the Government House open day on Saturday. I started writing a blog post about it but didn't finish uploading the photos I took. You can sure see that a whole lot of cha-ching has gone into the project, even without the appearance of apparent bling. I might get around to posting it someday.

  • We had dinner at Two Black Sheep Cafe and Baa on Saturday night and used our Spreets vouchers. We're doing well with getting a life via various daily deal sites.

  • I had a great girls' night out at Cafe Pasha on Friday night. I was completely thrilled when a young lady introduced herself to me as one of my former students. She was an 8-year-old in the second class I taught way back in 1998. Wow, she's all grown up now!

  • We are at the initial planning stages of renovating the kitchen. The renovations will be modest but exciting none-the-less. (That's another blog post I've started.)

  • Our kitten is now a very active and affentionate (like that word? = affection and attention) teenage cat. We are trying to train her to use the cat flap. She will go through it if pushed through paws first but would rather train us to open the back door for her every time she wants to come and go. It's a battle of wits!

  • I've got a great story about a friend's daughter's dinner party that I started writing about. Guests were required to bring a partner, a foreigner or an animal. Until I post it, you can let your imagination join the dots.
How's your week going? Have you ever lost your blogging/writing/tweeting mojo? Where did you find it?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Beer 101

I'm not much of a drinker, even though I can sometimes be partial to French champagne or an occasional wine trail. My brother is a professional beer brewer; I am a competition junkie. Last week, our interests converged when I won an evening of beer tasting at The Malthouse. My partner and I were two of the first graduates of Beervarsity, having 'passed' Beer 101.

The evening was hosted by beer writer and judge, Neil Miller. Neil's a talker, that's for sure. I'd imagine many a tall beer tale has flowed from his lips (or pen) over the years. In fact, the way Neil tells it, beer is largely responsible for civilisation as we know it. In the past, beer was traditionally brewed by the women of the house for their families as it was safer to drink than water. Now brewed on every continent, beer is apparently the third most widely consumed beverage, following only water and tea for the #3 spot. Yes, more beer is drunk around the world than wine or coffee. *gasp*

So, on to the tasting. We got to sample five beers, including a surprise from Neil's own cellar.
  • Tuatara Hefe. This yeast beer was my pick of the evening. Cloudy in appearance, the hefe is sweet and creamy with distinct traces of banana and without a bitter aftertaste.
  • West Coast Marzen. All the way from Westport, this is a German style beer traditionally brewed in March (leading into summer in the northern hemisphere). It has a rich, dark caramel colour and a bitterness resulting from the type of hops used. This is probably an acquired taste.
  • Epic Pale Ale. Epic by name, epic by nature, or so Epic Beer on Twitter would have you believe. This fruity (grapefruit) American pale ale has a pungent smell and lingering bitterness.
  • Tuatara Porter. This dark beer is poured flat (not fizzy) from an English hand pump and its texture thickens as it warms. Gushing with a rich malt flavour, I couldn't honestly taste the promised chocolate - and if anyone is going to hunt out and find chocolate, it's me! Not a beer I'd choose to drink.
  • Neil's special surprise - a chimay brewed by monks in one of just seven Trappist breweries worldwide, vintage circa 2003. This beer had a rich aroma of figs and raisins and tasted more like wine than beer. Magnificent!