Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Hallowe'en!

Oh, I do love Hallowe'en, apostrophe or not. Back when I was young(er) and impressionable and fancied myself a pagan, some of my friends and I would cast a circle on Samhain and try to do love spells to assuage our teenage crushes. They never worked, of course, although there probably is something in focusing the mind on the object of one's desires (whether a potential mate or something else) as it does help to make things happen by other more practical means. Still, if I were religiously inclined these days, I'd probably still be doing it. I prefer polytheistic religions, especially ones with strong women and a healthy respect for earthly pleasures. I can't be doing with all this waiting until some kind of afterlife for my rewards!

So to celebrate, er, I went to Wednesday Night Knitting as usual and did nothing special. But I do have half a pumpkin in my fridge! The first half became a risotto earlier in the week. The rest may get made into soup whenever I'm next home early enough in the evening, assuming that's before it goes off...

Don't let the ghosties get you tonight!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Life goes on (for now)

Apologies for the doom-laden post yesterday. It was rather scary though. But oh well, given I have no personal ability to send a big mirror into space, I might as well knit while the planet burns. Nero, mad as a box of frogs as he clearly was, didn't in fact fiddle while Rome burned, and spent vast amounts of money rebuilding the city afterwards.

So, a finished object, hot off the needles tonight! This is for Dad for his Christmas present, and is a neckwarmer for him to wear out on his motorbike as a scarf would just fall off. He suggested I could make him this when he saw me making some socks from bamboo yarn, so this is Rowan Classic Bamboo Soft. Hopefully the natural wicking properties will stop him getting a sweaty neck. It feels lovely and silky but is very prone to splitting and sliding off the needles, so was a slower knit than anticipated.

Dad requested this in black actually, but bamboo yarn doesn't seem to come in black, so charcoal grey had to do. And ideally the edging would have been in red to match his Ducati, but every other colour was pastel so a mid blue was the best I could do there. Still, I'm sure he'll find use for it, even if it doesn't quite match his leathers.

Onwards with the finishing things!

Monday, 29 October 2007

We're all doomed

As a complete contrast to the weekend, tonight we went to a talk by James Lovelock at the Royal Society. Free science, I love it! These are government funded and highly egalitarian in that you can't even book tickets but just have to turn up and queue. That's great except for the time when we came to see David Attenborough (he is my god) speak and didn't get in after queueing for an hour in a snowstorm. I got chilblains that night that have never really gone away.

Listening to Lovelock speak you'd think there'll never be snowstorms again. He is one of our most eminent environmental scientists and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis. This says that the planet and its living inhabitants (its biota) should be viewed on a holistic basis as, effectively, a single living organism which can regulate itself. Just as the human body when exposed to heat sweats, leading to evaporation which cools the skin and blood supply, so when the planet heats up water evaporates (using up heat energy) and forms clouds (reflecting radiation back into space) and raining, cooling the surface. To bring the biota in, just as the human body can sense too much CO2 in the blood via chemoreceptors in the circulatory system and automatically increases the breathing rate to remove it, so when CO2 levels rise in the atmosphere, plants which "breathe" CO2 flourish and multiply, thus using up more and more CO2, and levels in the atmosphere fall. The earth therefore regulates itself and stays relatively constant for atmosphere, temperature etc: "homeostasis".  It is much like Le Chatelier's Principle in chemistry: give one variable in an equilibrium a shove and the system, after swinging a little like a pendulum, will eventually find a steady state to rest in again. Of course this is on a much more geological/evolutionary timescale.

Gaia was initially rejected and is still misunderstood as some kind of mystical, pagan belief system. Blame William Golding who suggested to Lovelock that he name it after the Greek goddess of the earth. There is no conciousness involved in Gaia, or "Earth System Science" as it has come to be known in an attempt to escape the spiritual connotations. The system merely reacts and recalibrates as necessary, whether the outcome be good or bad. Animals and plants on the planet will evolve to best suit their new environment, and they will in turn alter their environment by their behaviour, creating the need to evolve again in a feedback loop.

Unfortunately the subject of Lovelock's talk tonight was that climate change represents an alteration to the ecosystem which is going too fast for the environment to equilibrate fast enough to prevent catastrophe for civilisation. The rate of additional CO2 emissions is such that plants have no chance of growing fast enough to use it all up in time, especially since we have constrained the vegetation's potential to help through extensive farming (because crops just aren't as good at metabolising CO2 as rainforests). Worse still, our nice, balanced negative feedback loop may now have become a rather more terrifying positive feedback loop, where changes become amplified rather than corrected. For example, polar ice caps are melting due to global warming, and where we previously had white areas of ice to reflect back sunlight like a mirror (the earth's "albido"), now we have dark seas which absorb those photons and accelerate the heating process.

He didn't use the word "catastrophe" but he did use "apocalypse". He also referred to us being in a blitzkreig-like war with our planet, which is moving too fast for the current methods (reduction of carbon emissions, sustainable living) to make any difference whatsoever. He says it is just too late and that the IPCC's latest report on climate change is vastly optimistic. His models show polar ice disappearing totally in the next five years, and he estimates that realistically the earth can support only one billion people. The rest of us will die of drought and starvation (heat will cause desertification of vast tracts of Europe and the Americas and so where will we grow our food?) unless drastic action is taken. His suggestions were the stuff of science fiction: mirrors in space to reflect back the heat, ways of turning CO2 and nitrates into food, an as-yet-untested theory of churning up the oceans to absorb more CO2. But who knows if we can do those in time or whether they will work?

Lovelock did say that he doesn't know for sure if this will all happen, because he is a scientist and knows that we can rarely be 100% certain of anything. But his talk and his data were pretty compelling and, as you would imagine, all rather depressing. So where does this leave us? Tempting to just give up on all our green credentials to which society is only just warming (no pun intended), as we are about 200 years late in starting? I think not, because doing something is better than doing nothing, and Lovelock did agree that we need to work on living sustainably in addition to the drastic action needed. But we mustn't be complacent that cutting down on fossil fuel use and recycling a few plastic cups will be enough long-term. And we have to insist that governments take this seriously - granted the UK seems to at least be meeting its Kyoto obligations (again, not enough, but a start) but the USA and Australia are just not taking this anything like seriously enough.

The point being, I suppose, that a large-scale natural disaster because of global warming is highly likely to happen in our own lifetimes, even in the next decade, not just in some wishy-washy future time in the lives of our children and grandchildren. Something needs to be done and what we are doing is just not enough.

A press release on his talk can be found here which explains things in a little more depth.

Also, I am horribly upset that the world's oldest animal, a 400+ year old ocean quahog clam that has been named Ming (after the dynasty not after the ex-leader of the Lib Dems), appears to have been killed in the attempt by scientists in Wales to age it, given the past tense of the article and the dissected shell in the photo.

Sleep well.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

A cracking good time

I generally seem to be playing catch-up with this blog, writing about things I did yesterday. Inevitable I suppose since by the time an evening's entertainment is finished, it's rather late to start trying to write about it. However I feel justified in writing about last night's fun today, since we didn't even get the party started until gone midnight. Hurrah for clocks going back to give us extra time for fun!

The aforementioned party was Torture Garden's Halloween Special. For those who don't know (and I don't recommend following the links from work to find out), TG is a fetish club. I've been before although not admittedly for a few years. Essentially you dress up in your finest goth/burlesque/whatever clothing (emphatically not normal dress as you have to pass outfit inspection before they let you in) and dance yourself silly to hard house/electronica and the like. And if you want, utilise the dungeon equipment and such, or find a corner for more intimate activities. I will say right now that I do not participate in such things, although of course there is nothing wrong with doing so. I just really enjoy the dressing up and people watching aspects! It's also the nicest club night I've ever been to atmosphere-wise - probably because the level of effort required to get in is so high therefore no casual interlopers from off the streets, and there is an attitude of full openness regarding one's desires. As an example, I have been in ever so many clubs and been groped by sleazy men, and been called all sorts of names for refusing advances (and another, long, story involves the one and only time I've ever punched someone in anger over exactly that, I floored him, ha ha ha, although broke my ring in the process, but I digress). In TG you will be approached and asked (for whatever) and a refusal is met with a smile and a graceful retreat. Much better all round, and leaves much more good humour and energy for the dancing.

By the magic of a good plan coming together, lots of us went including most excitingly several of my Bournemouth massive, and with respective posses there ended up being quite a bit group of people I at least knew tangentally. Cameras aren't allowed in for privacy reasons, although we did get snapped by the official photographer and I will link that up if/when it appears on the site gallery. I have one photo only, of my very funky hairdo for the evening:

I tell you what, having a hairdresser getting ready to come out with you is a fab idea and something to be done at every possible opportunity. I didn't wear the stripy jumper to TG, and I had significantly more makeup on (with orange false eyelashes to match the hair sticks), though I did wear the collar. The rest of my outfit was a standard-issue domme-style black corset, leather skirt, fishnet stockings, boots and a riding crop, although sadly I managed to snap the latter in the queue to get in so could not crack the whip too much. There were some utterly amazing outfits from the other guests, and special shouts must go out to:
  • All the bloodied brides, male and female, since you all clearly thought you were being highly original, but especially props to the dead bride on roller skates who was therefore confined to the ground floor.
  • Ugly naked guy, we salute your bravery, especially when leaning over the balcony, but it would have been better without the trainers (OK OK, broken glass is something best to be avoided so you are forgiven).
  • The guy with the live snake - I never saw you but I'm told the snake didn't look too perturbed.
  • The guy with the posing pouch stuffed with fairy lights, aka Mr "Look At My Crotch". Shame there clearly wasn't room for much else in there with the lights.
  • The people with the huge papier mache cow skull held aloft all night - a useful point of reference for us all in terms of dancefloor orientation.
  • The many furverts, you weirdos, you.
  • All the pirates - why? Since when did pirates become fetish? I blame Johnny Depp.
  • Anyone who complimented me on my magnificent bosom, and the guy dressed up as a devil who told me I was "radiantly beautiful". Aw, shucks.
Eventually we staggered out at 5am (which was of course 6am in the old time regime under which we'd entered the club), only because we pretty much couldn't stand up in heels any more. Cool.

Having slept for half the day, my Bournemouth house guests and I managed a bit of light shopping this afternoon and also a trip to Tate Modern to look at Shibboleth by Doris Salcedo, aka The Crack which is the current installation in the Turbine Hall. I liked it - plenty of speculation on the construction and also another opportunity to observe the habits of our fellow humans, who all seemed to be doing exactly the same thing: walking the entire length of the crack from entrance to back wall (sometimes pausing to jump from one side to the other or stick a foot or hand in), then milling around aimlessly at the point where it disappears behind glass and trying to work out where it went and if they could get through there too. It's fascinating to watch this from the balcony. I wonder if that's down to some kind of herd behaviour, or something else innate that makes us want to follow lines to their origin like an ant following a scent trail? I also loved that in that huge, open, high space, not one person was looking up! I won't discuss the "division" point behind it, I'll leave that to the art critics who know about this kind of thing.  Love the word "shibboleth" too.

I really need an early night tonight.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Donnez-moi du fromage... j'aime le fromage...

The lovely Anna & Tony hosted an inspired wine and cheese soiree this evening. Much good cheese was had by all. No photos sadly as I completely forgot to take my camera out with me this morning, but hey, I just get to write more OTT description.

There were all sorts of weird and wonderful cheeses on the table. Having hit Selfridges food hall earlier in the week (how I love food halls) we took along the following international selection:

Starting off with France, bien sur, and a small round langres, oozingly soft and tres piquant to smell, but much more subtle when tasted. This is my favourite type of cheese (such as livarot, reblochon or, joy of joys, a ripe vacherin in season) although difficult to give house room to given the all-pervading odour and finicky requirements as to temperature and humidity. Best eaten quickly all in all. I love the thick, mottled, sunken rinds of these cheeses, which come from being washed with a range of substances during the affinage process: brine for the langres; cider, wine or brandy for others. Given the ammonia, you'd think they were washed with wee, and hell, I'd probably eat that if French cheesemakers recommended it... Walk into La Fromagerie in Islington and you will be whacked in the face with the overpowering aroma of this type of cheese ripening happily and begging to be taken home. Yum.

From Britain, or more precisely the Inner Hebrides, an Isle of Mull (Eileanan Mhuile in Scots Gaelic) hard cheese. Well aged - to the extent that it can develop blue veins from time to time as the piece I bought had - and very strong, but not in the searing, mouth-stripping way of extra mature supermarket cheddars. As an analogy, if those are shrieking violins, this is a rich, low note on the cello. Ah, such poetry from a humble cheese...

At the boyfriend's request, some Italian gorgonzola dolce - not my favourite as I prefer a more solid blue cheese, but he likes this well enough for both of us. It does amuse me that it's sold by the spoonful, scooped into a tub from a huge, broken-open cheese shell. This is younger, wetter and milder than full-grown gorgonzola.

Finally from Spain an aged but still zesty viejo manchego, made from the milk of the manchega sheep (the others are all cow's milk). Aren't sheep great? Wool and cheese!

The table groaned with bread, crackers, celery and fruit as accompaniments. And for a flourish, some beautiful, amber, glowing quince jelly. Gorgeous stuff and just perfect with the Isle of Mull as well as the manchego it's made for as carne de membrillo (quince meat). This only ever seems to be sold in huge chunks, far too much even for us cheese-fiends, so hopefully some will keep until my father brings back my promised smoked duck and rillettes from his trip to France, so that I can scoff the rest of the quince with those plus warm brioche.

If a rich benefactor ever wants to buy me a cheese-by-post subscription from, they should feel free...

Please note in contrast to the above, I really do not like melted cheese or cheese in things. I can just about tolerate mozzarella on pizza, but as a child I used to pull it all off and just eat the tomato-covered dough, and even now on trips to Italy I relish a good pizza marinara, just tomato and garlic with no cheese and no funny looks from fellow diners. The worst in my opinion has to be cheese melted over meat, ick. What a pointless addition of cholesterol to a steak. I was terribly disappointed that even the ultra-traditional Rules did this on a recent visit - my roe deer venison was meant to come with a stilton and pear salad (fine) but that translated to the plate as stilton in the salad and melted over the steak. Why? And fondue baffles me...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


I never said I didn't have a childish sense of humour. Thank you Mr Tesco for making my grocery shopping that much more amusing. And only 39p! I didn't buy any though.

Staying in tonight - looking at my diary yesterday I realised with a sinking feeling that it's nearly November, which means (1) free evenings become at a premium what with all the social obligations leading up to the festive season, and (2) I really should get on with some Christmas knitting. This is my only night in this week, sigh. It is lovely and cold though - I don't like summer/sunshine/heat (which comes of being pale and interesting) so winter really is my time. The proper winter coat was dug out this morning, and best of all I can look forward to wearing the scarves, hats and gloves I've made, and indeed making more.

Ooh, squishy parcel in the post today! Two skeins of handpainted sock yarn from Skein Queen via Etsy. One is a lambswool/angora/cashmere blend in a shade called Skooshy which is mainly pink but with sweetie-coloured flashes of green, yellow, purple, blue and orange, just like those candy necklaces you used to get. The other is superwash merino in Clam, mainly royal blue with turquoise, lilac and violet. Lovely!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

There's a rat in me garden, what am I gonna do?



Yes OK, the cuddly toy is a water vole so only a rat in the Wind In The Willows sense. I had a perfect photo-op but no camera to hand, and the real rat got scared when he realised there was a large ginger animal watching him and banging on the door so it has run away. I can't decide whether or not I would like it to come back so that I can take a proper photo...

I should point out the rat is NOT in the flat (or on the mat), there is absolutely no evidence of rats in here and there are as far as I can tell no obvious weak spots for one to get in. So it's still safe to come round.

I like rats. The domestic ones make wonderful pets. The wild ones are possibly less pleasant, what with the plague and all, but this was a fairly nice example of Rattus norvegicus. It was reasonably small as wild rats go, and it was healthy and clean-looking: bright eyes, shiny coat, perky ears and tail. Nothing like the greasy-coated, cat-sized beast I once saw dragging a whole slice of pizza away on the New York subway.

It was probably inevitable that, living in London, a rat would show up one day. We are a couple of doors down from a kebab shop, and it seems that the small noisy people at the nursery school next door have been baking recently and lobbing fairy cakes into our garden along with many and varied plastic toys. It was those cakes that the rat was eating this morning. We also put food out for the birds which doesn't help, although until today that had only attracted theft by squirrels and wood pigeons.

So I absolutely don't mind our latest addition to the London fauna of our garden, provided it doesn't come inside. I do not want a rat in me kitchen. I would have to write to UB40 and ask them how to "fix that rat".

Coincidentally, we are going to see Ratatouille tonight!

The food is bright...

Not a terribly interesting week just gone, except of course from knitting with the lovely Ting and Cassie on Wednesday. I revel in being boring sometimes. I do like my sleep.

I will be spending today photographing my sock yarn stash and avoiding the rugby.

So just one minor anecdote from a work-related "discussion forum" I went to on Thursday night, which only lasted an hour so gourmet catering was not expected. What we got was:
  • Wotsits
  • Doritos
  • Bacon-flavoured Hula Hoops
  • Mini Cheddars
  • Orange Juice
That's right, all of the food served was vividly orange. It co-ordinated perfectly, and stood out well against the blond wood tables. I wonder why? Perhaps they thought that the discussion would be more lively if we were all hyped up on annatto?

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Published! Well, nearly.

Had a rather exciting e-mail today, asking whether I'd consider allowing one of my photos to be used for an online city guide to Dublin!

It's not definite that it'll be included, and I don't get paid (I do get credited) but I'm pleased anyway and of course I've said yes. It's not actually the best or most exciting photo out there, but I suppose it does illustrate the place it shows clearly enough. 

The photo is this one of the Olympia Theatre (taken because we went to see R.E.M. playing there in June) and the series of online guides, of which I'd never heard but which look quite good actually, are here. Perhaps I might get round to finally putting some of my backlog of travel photos on Flickr, if this is what happens.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Please Mr Postman...

... will you get off your arse and deliver me some mail?

Well that's how I've been feeling for the last week or so as I wait for deliveries. Thankfully the strike now seems to have lifted and so parcels from Amazon have arrived!

What have I had?

Lonely Planet Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

I am hugely excited about this as it means we can finally start planning our dream holiday to the home of evolution, woo hoo! Our own little Voyage of the Beagle.  Probably going around the end of April/start of May and we intend to go for three weeks (which will include some time in Quito and Mindo as well as the Galapagos; we're not that rich). If I don't see an albatross, I might die.

Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

This popped up as a recommendation when I chose the above. I'd never heard of it, I'm ashamed to say, even though I'd certainly heard of Vonnegut (R.I.P.). Cat's Cradle is one of my all-time favourite novels (did you know there is actually a real substance called Ice IX?). This one's about a surviving race of humans who have evolved into something else entirely on the Galapagos Islands so sounds right up my street. You might infer correctly that I am not a chick-lit kind of girl.  A quote from the man himself: "Evolution is so creative. That's how come we got giraffes and the clap."

No Sheep For You by Amy R Singer

One for the knitters. Amy Singer is the editor of Knitty, which was where I first turned when I started knitting - it's left me with the feeling though that all patterns should be available free on the web which of course just isn't true (or indeed right). Anyway, the book. I've already read it through and to be honest I'm disappointed. I don't much care for the patterns, and whilst it's well written and there's some interesting information on non-wool fibres, most of the good techy stuff that I like seems to be taken from other (referenced) sources. Shame I couldn't find this in any bookshops to flick through first. I'm sure it's great if you are allergic to wool, but if like me you're just looking for other inspiration, it's not all that.

Enjoy Your Rabbit by Sufjan Stevens

A CD not a book, to state the obvious. Haven't listened to it yet. I have Michigan and Chicago so thought I'd better start on the back catalogue whilst he carries on working on the 50 States project (he'd better get a move on frankly). The overtly Christian message of some of his songs puts me off a little but his melodies and arrangements are just gorgeous so I can forgive him that. Plus the man's a knitter!

Monday, 15 October 2007

It's oh so quiet...

Yesterday we went down to the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes. This is one of my favourite places to spend a day - apart from the joy of birdwatching and the gorgeous houses on Castlenau, I love the fact that such natural (well, man-made "nature") tranquility can exist within central London.

All the frantic breeding activity of spring having been done with, the birds seemed to have settled down quietly for autumn, concentrating on putting on that bit more fat before winter. Everywhere was calm, with swans gliding effortlessly...

...and shovelers scratching.

My main aim of the day was to try out my two new attachments for my camera (a Sony DSC-H2 by the way). I bought a teleconverter and a macro lens at the start of September, but they didn't arrive in time for our Tobago holiday so I'd not had a go with them yet. I was quite pleased with the results generally. Here is a dragonfly very close:

And another one very far away:

Respectively a ruddy darter and a common hawker.

On our way out, the peace of the gradual slowing down of the seasons was shattered when a great big, flappy, prehistoric thing nearly crashed into my face. It was two common hawkers, shagging on the wing, making out like it was spring again. Guys, I know you're having fun, and it must be hard to steer when you're latched together for your nuptial flight, but could you keep at least one compound eye on where you're going next time please? They scooted off and settled on a twig fence to carry on bonking for quite some time whilst the boyfriend and I took photos like a pair of professional Amsterdam skin-flick auteurs. So here is some dragonfly porn for your delight:

It's called a "mating heart" as that's what the male's grip on the female looks like from the side (in case you can't make it out, he is the one at the top of the photo, he has her by the neck with the end of his tail and she brings her abdomen up and under to meet his body). Isn't that romantic for an October afternoon?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Stash of the Titans

Darling, if you are reading this, you might want to stop now. Even though you've seen the bags in the corner of the lounge, you might find this upsetting.

Everybody else, as promised in yesterday's post may I present the haul...

First stop was Alpaca Select, for some 100% alpaca sock yarn in a vivid variegated blue, probably for socks for the boyfriend, plus a lovely toy alpaca made of alpaca fleece. He is very soft and has a jingly bell on his collar. Shame they had run out of alpaca fleece slippers in the size I wanted.

Then on to Get Knitted's stall... after much consideration, I picked some Handmaiden Sea Silk in shade Paris, which is shades of forest green, rust, gold and mulberry. I have heard of a lace wrap pattern which uses one skein of this so hopefully I can track that down on Ravelry.* Thankfully this stuff doesn't (to me) have the clammy feel of certain other seaweed-based yarns, nor does it smell of brine.  

From Cherry Tree Hill, as supplied by The Woolly Workshop, a vast skein of Merino Lace in shade Northern Lights which is dark grey with sections of vivid fuscia, purple and the bright green of ionising oxygen in the atmosphere. Good value for the amount you get (2,400 yards) which is apparently enough for at least two shawls and maybe a scarf too, but to be honest I'm unlikely to want to make two shawls out of the same stuff so would really rather buy half the amount, given the choice.

On to the massive Colinette stall, which contained many wonderful goodies, but I plumped for Zanziba (why not Zanzibar?) in shade 109 Summer Berries. I love the fat bubbliness of this yarn and the sheen it has from the viscose content, which makes the purples, reds, pinks and orange highlights of this shade shine like jewels. No idea what this will be for - something simple I suppose as complex stitches would be utterly lost in it.

As if I didn't have enough sock yarn, one skein of wool/nylon mix from Fyberspates in lilac and dove grey.

More alpaca, this time from Artesano, where I loved the vibrancy of the colourways of their Hummingbird yarn. I chose shade Kingfisher to make the Graffiti hoodie, the pattern for which was thrown in free. Apparently if you collect ball bands from their yarns, you can eventually claim a free pair of Brittany Birches.

A nice big hank of aran weight pure silk from Hipknits, in a subtle lavender, which matches the cool weight of silk in the hand. Again no specific plans as yet for this one.

My final yarn purchase was some incredibly soft raspberry-coloured handspun cashmere from Shilasdair from the Isle of Skye. Yummy.

Not quite yarn and possibly the most pointless thing I have ever purchased: some unspun silk from Oliver Twists. I just can't do the colours anywhere near justice on my photo - it is a flowing rope of subtle greens, reds and purples, irridescent like a starling's wing, shimmering with blue and gold. It is so soft to touch you almost can't feel it's there. I can't spin, and I have nowhere to keep it that will do justice to its beauty, but I just could not be parted from it - I nearly cried when, having put it back on the shelf as a silly purchase, another woman picked it up, and when she put it back down I grabbed it and ran rejoicing to the till. I love it, love it, love it.

On the non-yarn front, some 30cm 3mm circs to try to knit socks with (which might be the most fiddly thing ever but I'll give it a go), the latest copy of Selvedge for only a fiver, and a free copy of Alpaca World magazine - shall I subscibe?

Finally, some very interesting Habu for delivery to Gail. Both are a mix containing stainless steel - on the left is a silk/steel blend in midnight blue, and on the right is a wool/silk blend in a very dark burgundy-purple. The steel gives it a slight sparkle, but the yarn itself is thin as sewing thread. Good luck hun!

In my defence I should say I didn't buy any of the following objects of desire:
  • Knit Picks Options from Get Knitted - I might get some of these on the next shopping trip to NYC which should be cheaper with the dollar as it is
  • Any of the qiviut from Arnica - gorgeous yarn with lovely patterns, but terribly expensive and anyway Ting got the last of the teal colour
  • Anything from Habu - because I was shopped out by that point
Still, I think there may have to be some sort of moratorium on yarn buying for a little while...

* Later: found it!  The pattern's called Lace Wings and needs to be ordered from Canada, it seems.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Ally Pally!

An exhausting day at the Knitting & Stitching Show today, but oh my it was great fun. Hideous damage was done to my wallet... stash photos tomorrow when the light is better.

Arrived at Alexandra Palace to see a river of women (and it was mainly women; male knitters were seen occasionally but really the place did lack Y chromosomes and the queues for the loos were a sight to steel the bladder) flowing up the steps to the entrance. I hadn't been to the show before and was astonished at the number of people there even at 10am for the start. I knew it would be crowded, but even so... But that's a good thing of course. Bring on the knitters!

Met up with Ting on arrival and we checked out the smallest of the three halls - not much in there apart from Selvedge magazine and a nice woman from City & Guilds - I've been looking for an evening class now I actually have evenings so I might think about it. Stopped for a quick coffee until Tash and Caroline arrived, then it was off to tackle the main hall.

Although sorely tempted by the huge Colinette stall right in front of the main doors (such an obvious marketing ploy), we sensibly chose a systematic approach and started at the far corner of the hall. I will only say that we staggered out five hours later, broken women staggering under the weight of bags and desperate for a sit down. We were barely able to enter the middle hall, and indeed only popped in for Habu to fulfil a request from Gail - admittedly we were then distracted by some truly beautiful cashmere but we did call it a day at that point. We had no strength left.

Tired but happy, we were most grateful for Tash's car to effect a swift getaway rather than having to wait for the W3 bus to turn up, although the trek to said car did involve us trying to get down a grassy slope when we couldn't find the steps, and me skidding on a load of fallen acorns and landing on my arse even as I was warning the others about their existence under the trees and their ball-bearing-like qualities. Luckily no yarn was harmed, and as a secondary consideration neither was I.

Back to mine for afternoon tea and quite a lot of cake, and most importantly the sheer wonderfulness of not being in a room with thousands of rabid yarn-fiends elbowing each other out of the way to grab that last skein of quviut. Our peace was only shattered by the arrival of the boyfriend and seven of his rock climbing buddies, almost as tired as we were. They were useful in polishing off all the cake.

Unbelieveably all that left me far too knackered to go to the birthday party I was meant to be attending in Soho - sorry S! Which was a shame because I had been going to see some of my old university Morris dance team (yes, that is what I just said) again for the first time in a couple of years, but I had no idea yarn shopping could be quite so exhausting. Far better to be sitting here listening to Brain of Britain and stroking my purchases.

Some photos from the day:

Mmmm Colinette...

Stalking some truly horrendous knitwear by pretending to take photos of each other - sorry madam but oh my god, this is what gives knitters a bad name. I know you made it yourself and we respect your craft, but your obvious skills could be better utilised on something else. Perhaps the lovely stock from Get Knitted you are looking at will inspire you:

And the same goes for you, hideous pixie hat woman:

Searing my retinas on some fluorescent yellow yarn, ick:

Cross-stitch - fine. Not my bag but some, including Caroline's favourite the owl, were OK. But please tell me who on earth does a big cross-stitch portrait of Princess Diana?

This glitter stall was just asking for trouble with that martini glass display:

At the last stall before we gave up, where the lovely cashmere stall owner (lovely cashmere and lovely owner) agreed to take our photo in front of his stock. Not least because we'd all spent lots of money there. As you'll see we had lots of bags by this point:

The bags completely filled the boot of Tash's "yarn-wagon":

Recovering at mine with the life-giving power of tea and cakes:

What fun!

P.S. Consensus amongst my fairly large sample seemed to be that the ginger-cashew things were the best baked goods on the table. Thank you Aussie WW!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Come over baby, whole lotta bakin' goin' on

Well I'm sure no-one's ever used that one for a blog about baking before...

Frantic baking activity has indeed been "goin' on" in the Ginger kitchen this evening, in preparation for the lovely knitting girls coming back here after tomorrow's eagerly awaited Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. We will need a nice cup of tea, a sit down and plenty of cake after that, especially since we're going on the Saturday and so it's likely to be heaving.

I describe the baking as frantic since I ended up having to go up north on business today (5.30am start, yuk) and so didn't quite have as much time this evening as I'd anticipated. Still, I do like deadlines - as the dear departed Douglas Adams said, "I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." I probably got things done a hell of a lot more efficiently than usual anyway out of a desire to go to bed and attempt to reduce my sleep debt.

Cakes-in-progress (the last one is in the oven as I type and another needs to be topped in the morning) are:

  • Cashew Ginger Squares - well there had to be something ginger in there
  • No-Bowl Choc-Bit Slice - both this and the above are previously untested by me, from Simple Slices by The Australian Women's Weekly who do a great series of little books
  • Nigella's Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake - Flibbertygibbet makes this one too (we do love Nigella) - although the boyfriend's lemon phobia meant he has been in hiding during it's making
  • Ginger Lucy's World Famous Triple Chocolate Brownies

And here they are, all finished:


Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Just add water, penguin optional*

I couldn't make knitting tonight, but I did go home after the work thing and bake a cake. This is not for me but for my ex-colleagues because I neglected to make them a cake I'd promised them before I left in July.

This is Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake, a good, rich and reliable chocolate cake also favoured by Flibbertygibbet and KnitterRooney. I chose this because it will reach my colleagues via someone I'm having drinks with tomorrow night, so a cake that improves over a day or so is perfect for something that won't be eaten until Friday. It also had to be robust enough to survive being carted around a bit in a pass-the-parcel style arrangement until it reaches its final destination. I also don't want to sacrifice one of my cake tins as it's unlikely I'd get it back if I did, so I figured a loaf cake was more likely to survive being tightly wrapped in foil and packed in a small Liberty's bag for transport than a circular cake or cupcakes. It's a good recipe but I can never quite bring myself to add as much water as it says; my batter is always plenty runny enough once I've added 150ml or so. This deviates from my basic principle for a good cake, which is to always follow the recipe slavishly. I believe cakes are a science, not an art, and they do not respond well to most alterations, even such innocuous things as changing the dimensions of the cake tin. I therefore apply the same rigour as I had to in labs for my degree, and it seems to work out well. It is fascinating to think of the chemistry going on in the cake, bonds forming and states changing. For anyone interested in the cooking/science interface, may I recommend at this point How To Dunk A Doughnut by Len Fisher, which discusses lots of this type of thing including how exactly to calculate boiled egg cooking times.

I am always a bit worried when my cake-babies (babycakes?) go off into the world without me, not least because I like to taste the first slice for quality control, always prepared to whip it away from the waiting cake-eaters if it's horrible. This may stem from an unpleasant incident with another recipe from Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess, the Strawberry Shortcakes. I made these for a small dinner party a few years ago, and in my stress of cooking several courses (I recall making a warm duck, orange and red onion salad which was lovely but sadly overshadowed by later events) I didn't apply common sense to the shortcake recipe. Unfortunately I have the first edition of this book, which contains a rather crucial typo in directing one to add a tablespoon of baking powder, rather than a teaspoon. Oops. I did wonder what the hell was going on when the acidic strawberries fizzed violently on contact with the fiercely alkaline shortcake (chemistry you see!). My guests, bless them, bravely ate the damn things without comment until I shamefacedly said that I thought they tasted a bit off. They responded with utter gratitude that they could stop forcing them down! They are true friends indeed.  Since then I've only had compliments on my cakes but I am still worried. They've corrected the typo in later editions of the book, by the way.

I have never taken pictures of my cakes before, though some of mine from my summer Hawaiian party may be found guest-starring at the wonderful Rate My Cake - her cakes and indeed herself are as fab as her blog.

* The penguin is not mine, and I have tried to lose/break it in every house move we've had in the last five years, to no avail. It's indestructible and serves as our coppers jar. The eagle-eyed amongst you may also notice that there's no muscovado sugar in the photo which I only noticed when it was missing from my mise-en-place when I came to need it. So technically, just add water and dark muscovado sugar, penguin optional.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Monkey business

A trip to the theatre tonight with L and M, to see Cooped by Spymonkey. I have no way of describing this most surreal of plays, other than that it was in spirit much like a very silly episode of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. The reviews all seem to mention Monty Python or Carry On. Anyway, it was terribly funny in that peculiarly British way involving plenty of slapstick, nudity, toilet humour and vicious poking of fun at various nationalities and religions. The cast were great, they sing and some of them I would assume are or were dancers, given the body control they needed for some of the physical comedy. An extremely amusing evening all in all, and I want one of the remote controlled pheasants!

Kudos to M for referencing the story of the original spymonkey! Which of course inspired Hartlepool United FC's famous mascot, H'Angus the Monkey, who went on to become the Mayor of Hartlepool in 2002 onwards. Hmm, perhaps we should replace the entire House of Commons with giant cuddly toys? They might argue less than the current lot who I had to watch this afternoon for the Pre-Budget Report, and who could disagree with the policy "free bananas for schoolchildren"?

I don't actually like monkeys, as their little hands with little fingernails freak me out.

Monday, 8 October 2007

All about me

I guess this blog thing needs some information about yours truly, so here are some things about me in this-amp-goes-all-the-way-to-eleven varied categories. 

Be warned, it will be long as brevity is not one of my strong points.

1. Personal details

I am very clear from the start that certain things, such as where exactly I live and work, are not going to make it onto this blog. You've got my first name, hometown and hair colour already, for heaven's sake. What else do you want, blood type?  It's all on Facebook anyway for those of you who are actually friends of mine (and I can't for one second imagine that many other people will ever read this).

For interest's sake, I am named after the character in the Wordsworth poems, then after my great-grandmother for my middle name. I am some kind of recessive genetic throwback as no-one else in my family is ginger.

2. Getting crafty

As I've already mentioned, I do like knitting. I learned as a child, with both grandmas hand-knitting and my mother machine-knitting. I then completely forgot about it until about two years ago when I went to a beading workshop with my lovely mother and was encouraged to try knitting with wire and beads. It took all day and left me with extremely painful fingers, but I made a fab bangle and went out to find some real yarn soon after. I am GingerLucy on the very wonderful Ravelry if you want to see my projects. I buy too much expensive yarn, and never in sufficient quantities to do proper garments. But hey, I love making scarves and hats so who cares?

I also love making jewellery and various other crafts, although have not as yet been bitten by the sewing bug. I dread being so bitten as I do not have enough storage space for any more craft items. I'll just drool over everything on etsy in the meantime.

3. Yes I do have other hobbies other than knitting

It's just that there are an inordinate number of internet resources devoted to playing with string. I love to bake cakes though don't cook savoury food as much as I should. I am a complete science geek (although I dislike most sci-fi) and love going to lectures on almost anything. I read everything, to the extent I find it hard to have a conversation if there's printed matter in my sight line. I wish I went to yoga class more often, particularly bikram. I'm good at shopping and love dressing up for any occasion.  I enjoy visiting art galleries.

I am utterly in love with London (and my boyfriend of course) and the huge variety of things to do here. I have a mild horror of ever having to move elsewhere.

4. Food of the gods

My favourite type of food is undoubtedly sushi, of which I can't get enough, but my favourite restaurant is the Afghan Kitchen in Islington. Tiny, surly, cheap and delicious!

I love milk chocolate (except American chocolate - sorry but Hershey's is vile) although wouldn't turn down white or dark. But I can happily give most puddings a miss. Just give me a bar of Dairy Milk, please.

5. She's a rainbow

I could never be a goth as I love colour too much. I find most colours beautiful and uplifting with a few exceptions: most yellows (except clear lemon and sunshine yellows), khaki, mustard and any browny-orange, sage, olive and acid greens and orange-reds including terracotta. They all seem to be on the yellow spectrum. No idea why I don't like those. I hate the damn Coldplay song too. 

I love pink but object to the fact that in certain shops (ski- and surf- wear in particular) virtually all of the female clothing is bloody pink. So stereotyped!

6. Mixed media

I am an advertiser's worst nightmare. I don't have a TV (no, really). I normally only listen to Radio 4 (which is non-commercial in case you don't know). I hardly ever read magazines. Sometimes I'll read a paper (The Times for preference and mainly for the crossword) but generally on my commute I'm reading a book, and I skim over the ads automatically. I don't look up at the tube ads. I'm good at ignoring or blocking internet pop-ups. I loathe branding. I'm sure some exec would be having apoplexy at the thought of a reasonably affluent, mid-twenties, DINKY Londoner just not seeing any of his hard work. I would probably be their ideal demographic if only they could get hold of me.

This means that when I go to the cinema I actually quite enjoy seeing the new adverts, as they are a bit of an event. But they don't make me want anything.  Far from it.

7. Driving Miss Lucy

Because I can't drive myself. I had a couple of lessons, hated it, then moved to the city where I don't need to drive and would have nowhere to keep a car anyway. Nothing wrong with the tube or walking.

My provisional driving licence (obtained for ID purposes when I turned 18) does cause mild hilarity from time to time from people who can't comprehend not being able to drive at my age.

8. Play on

If only I had more natural talent with musical instruments... I would have loved to have been a rock star. Or even a journalist for the NME. My sole reason for coming to university in London was to hang out with bands, which never happened (but lots of other good stuff did). I have stubby fingers like Lisa Simpson which thwarted my attempts to play bass competently enough to become one of the Smashing Pumpkins' list of female bassists.

They aren't my favourite band by a long shot by the way, although I do like them. That honour goes to R.E.M., who I have devotedly played the screaming fan to for many years, especially Mike Mills. Other than that, I couldn't possibly list all the bands I like. Particular genres of interest include indie rock/pop/folk,, the big 70's California sound, melancholy Canadian poets with a guitar... I'm sure I'll mention enough along the way if this blog keeps going.

9. The unspeakable topic

Of course one should never discuss religion, politics or money in polite society. I will happily discuss the second and third, but the first really does get me unpleasantly riled so is best avoided. I am absolutely an atheist, and would agree with Richard Dawkins on most things - the phrase "The God Delusion" is just perfect in my opinion - but I do believe in at least being tolerant of the beliefs of others provided they are tolerant of mine (and don't seek to ban teaching of evolution in schools). However I do appreciate the art and architecture that religion has inspired through the ages. And CofE hymns do tend to have a good tune for a singalong.

For the record, in the 2000 UK Census I put my religion down as "Church of Satan", being still a stroppy teenager who had been reading too much Anton Szandor LaVey at the time. I'm now flirting with Discordianism as my alternative "religion" of choice. Hail Eris!

10. Board stupid

I enjoy board games but apparently I was too bad a loser as a child to be allowed to play many of them with my family. I doubt I've changed much (though I don't cheat these days). I have a poor poker face. I get far too competitive at pub quizzes, although I do love trivia (you may have noticed I worship Wikipedia). I am utterly crap at most sports and so do not play them because I would only lose.

There's nothing like being self-aware, is there?

11. Gender confusion

According to both "Men Are From Mars..." and this scientific-ish test here, I have a male brain. This is because I can read maps competently and can also rotate 3D objects in my head. I thought everybody could do this.

I assure you all I am actually female, although please do not expect me to coo over babies or kittens.

I promise I won't post anything this long again!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

So, a blog then... and what I did this weekend

After some pressure from the knitting girls I have finally decided to give this blog thing a go. It seems like an entirely narcissistic activity, and deity-of-choice knows I spend far too much time on Facebook, Ravelry and the like already. However it would appear that if I ever want to participate in a yarn swap or similar, some kind of blog will be required, and those sound like fun so here we are. We'll see if it works out or if I get bored after a week like I always did of diaries when I was an angst-ridden teenager.

I will tell people about this once I've decided if it's staying and decided on some nice formatting, done the "About Me" bit, etcetera.

Right now it's 11pm on Sunday evening.  This weekend has been rather pleasant in all, even though it involved recovery from a nasty little rhinovirus (I have my cuddly cold virus from Think Geek to comfort me/blame).

Saturday started off with a yarn swap graciously hosted by A (oh dear, I don't quite know the etiquette for people's names in blogs). Hooray for getting rid of superfluous stash (if such a think can exist). Damn my eyes that I came away with more than I took. Not good considering Ally Pally is next weekend and I really did need to make some space. Still, at least the horrible blue unfortunate-Christmas-present eyelash yarn is gone. A photo of my haul will grace this page if the software will let me add one later, but it included some Rowan Bamboo Tape, some Noro Blossom, some Brown Sheep Company Lamb's Pride Bulky, and some Colinette Jitterbug. Lovely!

My dear friend L then accompanied me to Xpo at the Barbican, which was fun. I adore the dressing-up aspect of all of this, particularly the burlesque outfits. Wearing a corset, whilst not something I would do every single day, is enonormous fun and really does make you feel like a beautiful and powerful woman. Hard not to be confident when you are standing up ramrod-straight. And who doesn't love dressing up like a fairytale princess?

I didn't buy any more corsetry this weekend, but I did buy this skirt in the rose pattern and the petticoats for underneath (this is absurd I admit; I can't actually fit widthwise down my hall in it), and a mad irridescent blue organza skirt-thing from here. If I'd had £795 to spare (if only), I would have bought this dress because it was just beautiful. I was devastated to have to leave it behind. Because what we all need for every-day wear is a latex prom dress, isn't it girls? Sigh.

Today I motored along with some Christmas knitting, but nothing terribly exciting.

Time to sign off this first post, I think, and stress about formatting. Nighty-night!