Tuesday, 28 October 2008


It is snowing. In central London. In October.


Sunday, 26 October 2008


So I have nearly achieved my WIP Wrestling goals, which were meant to be done by this weekend. But it is only 6pm on Sunday night, so we have time yet!

So far I have finished the big Noro shawl, and have actually also finished the garter rib socks, which I had not expected to do. I have not quite finished the llama lace scarf but I will carry on with that in a bit. I won't get the weaving in done on anything, but I think that's offset by the socks. I think that makes me at least WCW even if not quite WWF.

The boyfriend was playing with his cameras earlier and wanted a model to check the settings. Being busy with the socks, I agreed only on condition that I could stand there in front of the fridge and knit whilst he took photos. We ended up with one I really like:

Definite Facebook profile photo material there.  Oh, and being wildlife nuts, you can see our fridge is covered in animal postcards!

I'd better go, I have knitting to finish...

P.S. I don't intend to make this a regular feature, despite appearances, but here's more random weirdness, this time from Camden:

I wonder if it works?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Some like it hot

Today I went back to something I used to love but haven't done in ages: Bikram yoga. Also known as "hot yoga" (to prevent those sneaky trademark infringements), this yoga is performed in a studio heated to 40C (just over 100F) so that you sweat. Really sweat. You have to take a towel to use on top of your yoga mat, to drip on. It's recommended to drink at least a litre of water during class - any less and you end up with a nasty hangover-like dehydration headache later in the day. It is an awesome workout.

The principle is essentially that you can stretch more when your muscles are warm, and given yoga was invented in a hot country, this is more appropriate to the practice. There's a set series of 26 asanas, plus breathing exercises either end, and best of all none of them is flipping dog pose, which I hate. I quite like yogas with set sequences - I used to do ashtanga before the only class available to me ended up a 6am weekday one. No thanks.

I do have certain issues with Bikram yoga in terms of the above-mentioned trademark issue.  Bikram Choudhury came up with the concept and continues to own it, which means that only studios affiliated to him can use the name, the sequence and the narration that goes with it (after a couple of classes you realise that the encouraging dialogue from the teachers is word for word the same every time). There has been plenty of controversy over this, in the sense that the asanas are standard yoga poses, and there is some discomfort over the idea of owning intellectual property in something that has existed for millennia. There's nothing particularly startling over the ones picked, or the sequence, and it seems odd to try to claim the sequence as one's own. Still, given I'm not about to set up a rival studio, I'll go no further with my objections.

It's weird that I enjoy this, because I have an odd relationship with heat - entirely one-sided, as heat clearly doesn't give a shit about what I think of it. I feel the cold intensely and am always the one begging for the A/C to be turned down at work as I wrap myself in knitted shawls. I can stay in a sauna for longer than most people I know. However, I detest sunshine, which makes me feel physically sick in even small doses, and a lot of the time actually hurts my skin (it only takes about 10 minutes for me to burn in the standard English summer, and I can feel the horrible prickling almost immediately). I'm generally OK outside if it's hot and overcast, hence my ability to survive holidays in tropical jungles but not beaches, and I'm static, but as soon as I start to move around, I can't seem to dump heat. Exercise makes me overheat extremely quickly and I hugely dislike the sensation of being sweaty, which to me itches terribly. This all sometimes adds up to me having to put my coat on when I'm in the office, because I get really cold when sitting down, then removing it to walk home. My hands are either extremely warm or extremely cold. Essentially my internal thermostat is whack. Oh, and my bedroom needs to be very cold for me to sleep. I'm strange.

So really I shouldn't enjoy Bikram at all, but I do. I guess once the sweat is literally pouring off, I can resign myself to it until after class. That or the yoga is so hard, I just forget in a way I can't when I'm running in hot weather.

Anyway, you do feel wonderful afterwards, so thoroughly stretched and somehow clean inside. A 90 minute intense detox, I suppose. I'm going to keep going this time, despite it costing thirteen quid a class, which is pretty much why I stopped before.

This afternoon was more of a retox as we showered Helen's forthcoming sproglet. This was beautifully organised by Pauline, down to the sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and a quiz. Unfortunately the pairing of me and Ting didn't do very well at this - round 1 was about television, and seeing as neither of us own one, we pretty much resigned ourselves to losing from the start. And we did. There was plenty of cake to cheer us up, of course. Here's the chocolate peanut butter cake I made, with Ting's yummy mango and mascarpone cake behind:

I had actually made one of these CPB cakes earlier in the week to take into work for a colleague's birthday, but wasn't fast enough to get any photos other than this:

Clearly the knitting girls are much more restrained and genteel than the office locusts.

Since the Bikram class was at 9am this morning (on a Saturday! Ugh! Thank god for the extra hour in bed tonight), when we came out it was too early for my favourite post-yoga food: Vietnamese pho bo from the nearby Kingsland Road (my favourite of the many restaurants there is Song Que). There is nothing like fiery Asian broth to rehydrate and replenish salts after profuse sweating. Presumably that's why they eat this stuff in Asia. Pho bo is almost as reviving here in chilly London after hot yoga as it was in Saigon's central market after a morning's trek in the countryside... almost. But since there's no Vietnamese restaurant round where I live, I had to settle for Thai tom kha kai for my soup fix tonight, with chicken, lemongrass, chilli and galangal instead of beef, star anise, lime and mint. All good though. I'm sat here waiting for it to soothe my aching muscles from the inside out. A most satisfactory day.

P.S. This was high up on a wall I passed on the way to the studio:

Very creepy indeed, and entirely inexplicable.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

WIP Wrestling

Being the Ravelympics event in which I did not participate.

Let's revisit that picture of my new stash storage solution from a few days ago, with a close up:

See all that stuff on the tops? WIPs! WIPs everywhere!

Now they are out in plain sight, it's time to tackle them. I therefore announce a concerted plan to squash them into submission, rather than squashing them under the sofa out of sight. No more casting on until a good load of them have been cleared. Let's assess the situation:
  • Skein Queen Silk Feather & Fan Scarf (orange thing): this one, shamefully, was finished quite some time ago, but I haven't woven in the ends. That's all it needs. Maybe a blast of steam if I can get my old and neglected iron to do such a thing, but I don't want to block it as such. I really should just do it. Probably one for the coming weekend, with some other finishing work, hopefully.
  • Luscious Llama Lace Scarf (dark blue in the middle): half a ball of Mirasol Miski to go. An evening's work, if that. Then gentle blocking, for which I can use the kit of blocking wires I bought at IKnit the other day. I'll aim to get the knitting finished on Thursday or Friday evening for finishing this weekend.
  • Oil Slick Noro Iro Shawl (John Lewis bag): I did pick this up again the other day, mainly because I know Ting wants her 7mm circular needle back (sorry hun). Just one more loooong row of garter stitch to go, then the cast off. Again, one evening should do it, and more weekend finishing.
  • Garter Rib Cherry Tree Hill Socks (right at the front): stalled because I've finished one and need to turn the heel on the other. The instructions for the heel are the white piece of paper you can see. I'm going to do that this evening whilst I watch a DVD, so that it can go back into circulation as my travelling project. With a few rows whenever I can in the office canteen/whilst commuting/at knitting group, it should get done reasonably soon. I can then cast on for a pretty sock.
  • Lost In Music Colinette Shrug (hidden from view): I started this not long ago because I thought I should make one thing out of last year's Ally Pally haul before going again this year, and figured that the Colinette Zanziba in a lacy shrug pattern would make a quick knit. This failed because I mistook which week this year's show was, and it was sooner than I thought. Clearly I didn't stop myself going, even though I broke my own condition. Never mind. The pattern's OK but not all that inspiring. I'll get it done when I'm bored enough.
  • Brownie Jumper (Liberty bag): a new one this, because, yes, I have finally decided to knit a jumper! An actual non-sock garment! The shrug above is too pointless to count. This is in lovely teal Kidsilk Haze, and I'm doing pretty well on it. I'm into the armhole section of the back, and I only started a week and a half ago, although I did have a very dull weekend at the parents' plus two long train journeys in that time. Progress will inevitably slow now, but that's OK. Given the scope of the project, I'll be content to have this done by Christmas. The KSH is pretty enough to deserve a picture here, though I have none of the jumper so far.

By the way, I'm not doing any Christmas knitting this year. Once I've finished that little lot above, I need to start work on my wedding shawl, and I have more sock yarn than should be humanly possible so really need to make more of those. And handknit socks are too precious to give away to the non-believers.

So yeah, expect an update on Sunday with at least a couple finished, blocked projects, or you have my permission to beat me over the head with a swift and winder.

And now an update on my poor, scarred Liberty holdall: I took it to the mothership (aka the Regent Street shop) this evening, and although deeply sympathetic, there's not much they could recommend even though they got the designer on the phone to check. The problem is that the water got into the seams and into the leather from underneath, so can't be treated from the surface and it's not worth tearing the whole bag apart to fix. Also not worth claiming on the insurance as they don't make this colour any more, so I couldn't get a replacement anyway. I am so last season, it seems. However, thankfully the staining has faded considerably over the last few days (I've kept it in a warm, dry room) and really is now only visible in certain lights at certain angles as a darker green on an already pretty dark green background, not that awful black that it was when it first happened. I know it's there, but it would probably look fine to a casual glance especially as the surface is shiny. I can live with it, and hopefully it will continue to fade down anyway. Still grumpy though. P.S. Jen, don't just comment, e-mail me and tell me how you are!

Finally, atheists represent! I will be mentally honking when I see one of these drive past!

Sunday, 19 October 2008


A slightly strange noise roused me from my slumbers at 10am this morning (yes, I know, but that's what the weekend is for, right?). The sound of heavily running water, like a shower. I vaguely considered ignoring it, then had the, "No, seriously, what is that?" thought. Good job too, as I dashed into our main living area to find water pouring down from various points all over the kitchen/dining room ceiling in an impressive waterfall effect. Turns out upstairs' toilet had flooded - the cistern thankfully, not the waste pipe, so it's not skanky water, but still, aaargh!

The good news: the stash is fine, being safely in its trunks about two feet beyond the limit of the wet area. I should probably consider lining the inside of the bottom one with plastic though, in case this happens again. Everything in the top one is bagged already. Luckily we don't have carpets so no damage there other than the potential for us to break our necks skidding on the wooden floors. Because it was in that bit of the house, there's not much else damaged except that the breakfast cereal and washing powder are a bit damp. Except...

The bad news: my beloved big leather holdall from Liberty was on the floor in the dining room, in the firing line. It's the most expensive thing I have ever bought myself (well, that isn't jewellery), being worth a grand (it was in the sale though at 75% off so as Lotta and Gail pointed out at the time, impossible to resist). It is, or rather was, beautiful racing green patent leather. It now has awful black water marks all over the front. Observe the horror:

I am hoping that it will dry out a bit and look better. We're pretty sure the water had only been flowing for around ten minutes when we caught it so it could be worse. I am going to call Liberty tomorrow for advice, unless any of you guys know what to do? Otherwise I do have the receipt for an insurance claim, hence the photos, but that depends on whether they'll replace it or refund what I paid. And the premiums will go up. Buggering fuck. It's my own fault as it shouldn't even have been there; I had lazily failed to unpack it from our trip down to my parents' place last weekend (good thing this didn't happen then whilst we were away, right?), and it should have been safely away in its dust bag in the cupboard. Damn and blast.

Oh, and because the water was pouring down through the light fittings, and behind and over the electric hob and oven, we can't have the lights on or cook until the electrician has been tomorrow. We had to hit the greasy spoon for breakfast. Mind you, upstairs had it worse as their toilet was out of action all morning until the plumber came after lunch.

Yet again I am terribly pleased that we rent rather than own this place, as it is marvellous to be able to ring somebody and make it their problem to get it fixed now, without having to pay for it. I really do love renting. OK, we can't have pets, but that's a small price to pay (and we are thinking of getting an illegitimate hamster anyway) for easy household repairs and frankly, the ability to move if the neighbours are antisocial. We even got a new washing machine earlier this week.  Property ladder be damned, I would say, if I weren't so busy with the mop and bucket...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Cross stitch and bitch

The weekend before last, the girls (being Gail and Lotta) and I happened upon a whole new craft: cross stitch! But not any boring samplers, oh no. This was subversive cross stitch, by the Interior Anarchists. Those lovely people had organised an afternoon of free cupcakes and cross stitching at 93 Feet East, on Brick Lane. Free cakes? We were so there. They handed out hoops, needles, thread and squares of aida (something for which I had no a-idea there was a proper name), and off we went. Surrounded by their rather fun Banksy kits as inspiration, we decided to stitch various swear words, because really we all have a mental age of about ten. I went for "bitch" in a snazzy pink and orange combination. Here's the work in progress (note cakes on groovy cake stands made of vinyl records):

And finished, at home:

Given my decor doesn't really suit little framed bits of embroidery, I am considering making this into a bag, as I have a black jumper of the boyfriend's which accidentally got shrunk and felted in the wash (no, don't panic, it wasn't a handknit) that I could slice up. Not that I'm a great one for sewing, but I might be able to manage what I have in mind.

Clearly this is not a unique idea; these guys even have a book!

So that was all fun of itself, but it gets better! Gail and I went to Ally Pally last weekend, and the Interior Anarchists had a stall. We stopped by, and guess what? There was a photo of me doing my sweary stitch! I'm famous! There's a picture over at Gail's blog of me looking most pleased with this.

Ah yes, Ally Pally, that time of year again. Last year was the first time I went and it was enormous fun. This year? Less so I'm afraid. Didn't help that I'd sprained my ankle the evening before so I was limping around, but even so, the calibre of stalls seems to have decreased. Of course, the yarn stalls were great, and I bought a fair bit (Knitwitches in particular is a weakness of mine at knit-fests, and because they don't show many colourways on their website), but they seemed outnumbered by stalls of dubious relevant to "Knitting & Stitching", the title of the show. There were ready-made clothes, for a start. Jewellery. Hair pins. Loads of glitter and card making. OK, if it's a general craft fair, say so... I'm not sure about next year, I mean, it's fun, and I love participating in something so big in the UK knitting scene, but I could spend the £12 entry on another skein of sock yarn. We'll see.

I didn't take many pictures there, but this sign did amuse me as the inevitable bandwagon-hopping:

So where does all this stash go in the Ginger household? Well, up until yesterday, into a rather uninviting pile of disarray:

That's three plastic tubs and a whole lot of overspill into bags. Not great, although at least it was all sealed in ziplocs against moths. But now, now we have a storage solution. May I present, the trunks:

Don't they look great? I rang and ordered them from here on Thursday morning, and had them delivered in the very early hours of Friday (5am!) by the ever-so-genial Steve, in his special service for London residents who don't want to take the day off work to wait for the courier. I did actually order three, but the biggest one is so unbelievably big in the flesh that it has to go back. We had measured for it, but even so, it dominates the room. I could get in there with my stash, and sleep all cosy and warm, but hardly practical otherwise. I'll trade it in for some smaller flight cases for my fibre stash. By the way, the WIPs are the bags on top, the top trunk of those two is nearly full of sock yarn, and the bottom one is everything else, again almost full. Oh dear. Must stop buying yarn (except for the Wollmeise I scored in yesterday's update, hoorah). Another reason not to attend next year's Ally Pally, perhaps?

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Blogiversary presents

I am a bad blogger. I do not deserve presents for yesterday's blogiversary (yeah, a whole year since I mashed that "create blog" button). But because there is clearly no natural justice in the world, I got presents anyway, ha! Up yours, karma!

You see, my Ravelry Rubbernecker Swap package arrived from the wonderful Melyssa aka Gwlana! Actually, it arrived at the end of last week, but I've had my mother staying with me so I had no chance at all to do more than have a quick look, squeal with delight, then put it away until my daughterly duties were done. Tonight I finally got to spread it all out and play. Here it all is:

The yarn is something I'm terribly excited about: Knitpicks Bare, which is sock yarn for dyeing, and loads of Kool Aid to dye it with! I have been dying (groan) to try this for years but was scuppered by the lack of both readily available undyed yarn and the Kool Aid itself - neither one impossible, but not easy, to come by. I am going to have a lot of fun with this. I have a few colourway ideas in mind already... Just one thing, being hit by the incredibly sweet smell from these little packets even unopened, do people really drink this stuff?

There was other cool stuff too! A little hand-carded batt of royal blue wool with sari silk and angelina, which doesn't show up as prettily in this photo as it really looks (glitz never does) but should be lovely to spin. There are also some gorgeous sparkly stitchmarkers, again not photographing that well, but they are lovely.  I am dead impressed.

Also included were two issues of a magazine from the 1950's called "The Workbasket", one from 1951 and the other from 1958. Utterly fascinating. I am even more touched that Melyssa sent these from the collections of her mother and grandmother - that's so sweet.

Last but not least, the edibles! Yummy chocolate, dried cranberries (which I think will become muffins, if I can find a good recipe) and some very interesting green tea mints. Since I love green tea, I can't wait to break into these!

Thank you so much Melyssa, it's all fantastic!

In other news, the wedding planning is starting to move faster, now we are past the year-to-go date. We now have a photographer, and we have contacted these people, these people and these people for silly things to do at the reception...  Our guests don't get to sit down!