Archive for September, 2006

I’m back

We had a lovely few days away, it was really relaxing and I enjoyed the chance to just unwind. We ended up coming home a little earlier than anticipated, as the best laid plans of mice and men…

Saturday morning we drove to Beaverlac camping ground at Cedarberg – it was a really nice drive through rolling wheat fields. I saw hay stacked in a way I’d never seen before.

Look, triangles, aren’t they cool. To get to the campground we had to go up a mountain and then down a pass into the valley. It was very high and the way the road dropped off the edge made me quite dizzy.

Somehow it doesn’t look that high from the top in the photo.

The campground had more people there than we expected, but since they ban cds and stereos etc it was very quiet. We put up the ten year old tent and went for a walk to the swimming hole. On the way Gorgeous Man (who has eyes like an eagle) spotted this rock agama,

Check out the blue head!

The swimming hole itself was fantastic (though I didn’t go swimming, the water was MUCH too cold)

I sat with my feet in the water (until my feet turned numb from the cold) while Gorgeous Man went for a walk to hunt for birds. We also saw a troop of baboons on the top of the mountain looking down at the waterhole (almost as if they were waiting for the humans to leave).

The only down side to this place was a serious lack of hot water in the showers.

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A short holiday

Just a quick post to say that I’ll be off-line for a while as we are going camping on the West Coast to see the wildflowers and succulents.

Hope all of you have a good week. There’ll be lots of pictures of the trip when I get back.

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Thank you

Firstly, I want to say thank you very much to all of you who stopped by to leave such lovely messages of love and support yesterday. It meant a lot to me.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the baby shower I attended. I have a confession to make. I lied at the baby shower. I told the mother-to-be that I hadn’t finished making her gift. In truth, I hadn’t started. I don’t feel too bad about this as there was not one hand-made or knitted gift in the mountain of presents she got, so mine will be unique.

Mother-to-be had commented very favourably on a rug that I had made for another friend, so I thought I would do one similar. Just one small problem, rug number one was made using lovely yarn bought in Australia. I don’t have a yarn stash as such, just left overs from projects, so this meant a trip to the LYS.

I came home with this, and started to make this

Problem is it looks bad, the yarn is too dark. Now I don’t know whether to continue with the pattern or whether it would look better knitted into a blanket. Gorgeous Man has suggested adding white wool to make stripes as that would lighten it up. He has a very good eye when it comes to stuff like that so I make take his advice, does anyone have any ideas? The varigation in the yarn is much more subtle than I expected and is quite dark.

Yesterday we went out to dinner last night. We don’t usually eat out a lot, since both of us like to cook, but this week we’ve been sick and a bit depressed, plus we finished work late so we went out to our local mall, . There is a pizza place there that has great pizza and then they have this (sorry for the quality of the photo, but the manager was giving me really funny looks)

 Banana and bacon pizza! Seriously, I can’t think of anything worse. We didn’t eat there (hence the manager’s funny looks) we went to Dodge City, which is done up like a South African version of an American diner.

Eating out in a new country is a bit of an adventure, not as much of an adventure as when I was living in China, but misunderstandings still occur and sometimes I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get. Last night was one of those times. I ordered a chicken health wrap, so I’m thinking: chicken, salad in a soft tortilla or something like that. This was what came to the table,

That’s toasted bread. I’m not complaining it was really good, but it struck me as funny that it bore no resemblance to what I thought I was getting.

Finally to close, a picture of a finished object. This little hat was made with yarn left over from a gift for a friend, who had a baby boy (they’re a fertile lot these South Africans) and is destined for the Hottentot Hollands Hospital.

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The news…

Yesterday I got the news that I have been expecting for the last 3 weeks, but hoping would never arrive. My beautiful friend Sarona died just after midnight yesterday morning. She was 34.

Right to the end her concern was for her family and friends. A few weeks ago we all got an email saying that it would probably be the last time we heard from her directly as her strength was fading and she knew the end was getting close. True to form the email was funny in the way only she could be, finding humour in the darkest moments and I laughed as much as I cried reading it.

I never met anyone who didn’t like her. She had the amazing ability to be able to make all sorts of people feel comfortable and welcome. As a teacher she touched hundreds of lives in ways we can’t begin to measure. When she left teaching she went into aid work with the Australian Government, she was working in Samoa when she ‘got the flu’. The flu turned out to be the leukaemia that killed her.

Rona and I met in our first year of university, we shared classes and were in the choir together, but we didn’t become close friends until our final year when we joined the college theatrical society. Rona was the first person I told when Gorgeous Man and I started going out, and she approved whole-heartedly.

We never lived in the same place at the same time for very long, but she was the sort of friend that you could pick up where you left off, and it was like no time had passed. One time she decided to come and visit us. She was living in Albury and we were in Bendigo. Hours past and she hadn’t turned up, we were starting to get worried (this was pre-cell phone days), finally we get a call. She had taken a wrong turn and ended up in Shepparton – a detour of at least 200 kilometres.

She fought as hard as she could, but in the end she made her peace and was ready to go. I’m too far from home to go to her funeral or her memorial fundraiser, the reality of living far, far away is starting to kick in.

When Rona wrote to me at the beginning of this year to say that the leukaemia had returned in a very nasty and mutated form I asked her what I could do for her from all the way over here. Her response was telling. “The best thing you can do for me is to live a happy life and write me lots of emails about it.” There’ll be no more letters, but the full and happy life thing I can do.

Sarona, I salute you. May you rest in peace my friend.

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This was my view from the car window on Friday afternoon as I came home from shopping

Spectacular isn’t it? The mountains are constantly changing, I can’t get enough of them.
I began a new quilt this weekend. I had some 1/4 square trianges left over from the last quilt so I pieced them into this:

I think I’ll space them with plain white squares and make a little cot sized quilt. I also began knitting a hat, but forgot to take pictures. Because the weather has turned cold again I have moved the sewing machine and assorted accessories back out into the living room. I have to say that Gorgeous Man is most tolerant of the mess. I’ll have to clean it up soon though.

Sunday morning Gorgeous Man suggested that we go shopping. We decided to visit Canal Walk, a very large shopping centre that we’d heard about, but never visited. On the way we discovered a junk market. We love markets, but this is the first one we’ve seen here. So we pulled over and had a bit of a look. There was a lot of junk. One thing we noticed was that they start late. Markets like that in Australia would begin at about 6am (and the dealers would be there even earlier) while here it was 10am and people were still setting up.

Canal Walk was huge and very ritzy. I discovered a yarn store and, when I asked about sock wool, was told of a store that allegedly has sock wool in colours (the only sock wool I’ve found here so far is brown and black), now I just have to psyche myself up enough to drive (on the freeways) somewhere new. I have a terrible sense of direction and also have trouble following a map. Maybe I’ll have to be extra nice to Gorgeous Man.

We had a great lunch from a little noodle bar I had egg noodles with chicken and vegetable stirfry and a peanut sauce. I love Asian, Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese. In Australia Asian food is much more common than here. A matter of geography and proximity I guess.

Fat boy continues to venture outside. Sunday morning, just as we were about to leave, we spotted him here,

This is our back wall, and yes, that is an electric fence on top of it. It came with the house. We are one of the ‘border’ houses in the security complex, hence the fence. I have to admit living behind an electric fence freaked me out a bit when we first moved in, but it is part of life here.

The lines in front of the wall are our clothes line. I really miss my Hills Hoist, this one is so low that sheets and Gorgeous Man’s pants sometimes drag on the ground.

The funny thing with the cat was that he couldn’t get down and needed to be assisted by Gorgeous Man. I’m sure Fat Boy would have worked it out eventually, I think sometimes he just pretends to be stupid and helpless.

I had great plans for Sunday afternoon productivity crafty wise, but I think I overdid it with the shopping. I’ve got a touch of the flu and when I got home I just crashed and slept. I should probably have stayed home Sunday, but when a Gorgeous Man offers to take you shopping (I got new shoes) and to lunch, how can you say no.

Finally, I seem to be unable to leave comments on typepad blogs, so if I usually comment on your blog and I haven’t been there lately that’s why. Does anyone have any suggestions for correcting this. I type in the comment and it just disappears…

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The mystery men

Everyday as we travel to work we drive behind what we have come to call the mystery men. This is a group of about 25 men, they stand in the back of a flatbed truck (quite a common way of transporting people here), and are dressed in red overalls and what looks like riot gear, hard helmets and plastic shields. They drive through the main street waving and blowing kisses at the people on the road, who generally seem to ignore them, like they are rock stars. The only time we have seen them off the truck is one afternoon when a group of them were at the local supermarket sitting on the wall with their plastic shields propped against their legs.

This is a mystery to us, we can’t work out who they are, or what they do. If there are any South African readers who know the answer to this please let me know.

I’m a product of 20+ years of Australian road safety advertising and at least twice a day I want to pull cars off the road and abuse the parents for not having their children strapped in properly. Now I’m not talking about the taxis or the back of bakkies (covered utes or jeeps) where the people have no choice about whether to put their children in child seats. I’m talking about the big Land Rover Discoveries with mum sitting in the front while the toddler stands on the front seat next to her, or dances unrestrained around the back. I’m talking about the Mercedes Benz where the father holds the toddler on his lap in the passenger seat while his female companion drives. Honestly don’t these people realise that they only have to break hard (and that’s not uncommon given the skills of the taxi drivers on the roads) and their child goes through the windsreen face first?

The weather has turned cold and grey again, a last burst of winter I guess. No big plans for the weekend. I’m feeling better than I did yesterday, but the throat is still pretty sore. Hopefully I’ll get some crafting done. There’s a quilt to do and some booties to sew up and a hat to knit… But most of all I’m looking forward to a few days without having to come in to work.

Thank you to those of you who left me suggestions and places to find patterns. I’ve printed a few off and will update you soon on how they turn out. I should also apologize to Gail for infecting her with the knitting bug.

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I finished this little pink jersey last night, it only needs the buttons.

This is the first garment I started knitting when we moved, and it brought great comfort to me. But that is a story for another day… I had intended this as another garment for the hospital, but it’s not very good and just because the recipient is poor doesn’t mean that they deserve dodgy work.

The main problem is this,

I taught myself to knit in the round from a book, which showed me nothing about casting off. So my question is this: How do I end the cast off so that I don’t end up with a gap at the last stitch and then have to pull it tight and stitch it down?

While I’m asking for advice, I really liked knitting from the top down in a seamless fashion (I hate sewing up), but I found this pattern really difficult. Can someone point me in the direction of some similar patterns on-line. Please don’t suggest books because you will only make me cry when I realise I can’t get them here (or if they are available, they are ridiculously expensive since they are imported from the US).

On a happier note. I’m currently cutting unbleached muslin to match these little fellows:

These were left over from the green quilt which went to Australia. (S should be receiving it today) and I’ve decided to try my hand at piecing without a written pattern. It’s just a very simple combination of traditional blocks (nothing too original), but still a big leap for me.

Since it is spring we have started sleeping with the windows open. All of our windows have strong bars, but no screens. The first night we did this I got eaten by mozzies. So I pulled out this and attatched it to the ceiling

Well to be truthful Gorgeous Man attatched it to the ceiling because I’m too short. I call it our ‘Out of Africa’ room decoration. The last time we used this mosquito net was during a heat wave in Brisbane when we took the mattress outside and slept under the back veranda to take advantage of the slightest cool breeze.

The cat is having a little trouble adjusting to the netting. He has a folded sheet on the end of the bed that he sleeps on (yes, I know I really should make him his own quilt), but he can’t find his way through the net. So I’m getting woken in the night by a little face next to mine as he peers sadly in, and I have to open it up for him.

I’ve lost my voice, so no choir rehearsal for me today. I’ve just got staff meeting to run this afternoon, some exams to mark and then I’m going home to vege on the couch.

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We are having a beautiful spring day – there is no sign of the cold front that the weather bureau has been predicting. Gorgeous Man and I went out to the garden at the baby sanctuary again today. This time no students came, but the organiser of the project was there and he brought seedlings to put in.

The capsicums (bell peppers) are coming along nicely.

We have some in straight rows and some in the circle gardens.

The brinjals (this is a new word for me, in Australia we’d say eggplant or, more rarely aubergine) have flowers so they should have very small fruit next week. This week we planted in spinach and tomatoes.

Here is Gorgeous Man watering them in. We’ll add more tomatoes, plus corn, broccoli and cauliflower next week.

Yesterday was also a fabulous day, there’s lots of sunshine, but the temperatures are still quite cool. I’m wearing jeans and a jumper at the moment, and we still have a quilt and a blanket on the bed. I finally managed to get a good shot of the mountain behind the campus. The building in the bottom of the picture is mine.

If I walk about 200 metres from my office I can get to a vantage point where I can see right down the mountain to the sea. If the weather holds I’ll try and get a shot of that tomorrow.

I did some more work on one of the charity cardigans last night. It’s nearly finished, about 8 rows on the sleeve and buttons, but the cat was starved for attention and kept insinuating himself on my lap. So I did the good ‘mummy’ thing…

Tonight is dodgy TV night – there is not a single thing on any of the 4 channels (I refuse to get cable) that I want to watch. So I should get a fair amount of reading and knitting or quilting done, it all depends on the mood…

May sunshine and rainbows bless your day.

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Music and choirs

I’m currently going to choir rehearsal three times a week. Twice a week is my regular choir, and the third is a large choir that comes together every year to present a Christmas concert – somewhere in the local area (haven’t got all the details on that yet).

It is made up of several existing choirs from the community and individuals (like myself) that the ‘master’ conductor has tapped on the shoulder and said ‘come and join us’. My regular choir doesn’t get involved because most of the students go home for the holidays.

Anyway, what my esteemed choir director did not tell me when he insisted that I join them was that the entire rehearsal would be conducted in Afrikaans and that half of the songs are in Afrikaans as well. So last night, in the sectional rehearsals I was sight singing Afrikaans Christmas carols and an aria by Verdi that had been translated into Afrikaans.

I figure if I can learn to sing in Italian and Latin then I can learn to sing in Afrikaans right? The sectional rehearsal really sucked though because I really couldn’t understand anything that they were saying and even though I asked the woman running it wasn’t very accommodating about repeating stuff in English – I am understanding the gist of most conversations in Afrikaans now – I’ve only been in the country 8 months, but specific stuff like musical directions leave me a little lost.

There was a girl from Zimbabwe there too, she walked out at the end of the sectional rehearsal. I’m glad I stayed though because once they put all the parts together the choir sounded awesome and the man who was leading the full rehearsal used a mix of English and Afrikaans to give directions. My director was sick and not there.

Language is interesting here. Most people speak at least 2 of the 11 official languages. I’m learning Afrikaans be default because people (that don’t know me) keep speaking to me in it. I really wanted to learn Xhosa, but I can’t get my tongue around the clicks.
I figure by the end of our 6 years here I should be able to carry on a basic conversation. At present my ability to listen and understand is much greater than my ability to speak. I’m really good at saying “Ek praat nie Afrikaans nie” (I don’t speak Afrikaans – for those language folk out there note the double negative) and “Hou hand et met you” (not sure of the spelling on that one – how are you?)

No knitting last night – singing instead. Though I think I need to look for a nice easy pattern to take to rehearsal. South Africa needs more knitting in public, and I have started cutting for a new quilt, but pictures will have to wait until I’ve made some blocks.

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I love to knit. I love the process of it, the feel of the yarn moving through my fingers, watching some thing substantial being created out of yarn and needles. I love the rhythm of knitting. I especially love knitting with variegated or textured yarn and watching the colours take shape. There is one thing about knitting that I don’t like. Sewing the garments together.

Yesterday I sat down with gorgeous man and watched a movie and, because I can’t just sit I sewed these up.

These little booties are for Hottentot Hollands’ Hospital. Public hospitals in South Africa are really underfunded, under-resourced and under-staffed. There is a group of women called the Hottentot’s Holland Helpers and they raise money to buy medical equipment, furniture for the wards and they also distribute clothes to the patients.

The hospital services the poorest of the poor, those without medical insurance of any kind, the homeless and those living in the informal settlements. There were children being born who were going home wrapped in newspaper because the parents didn’t have anything else. Now each baby born is presented with a package of clothes and other patients are given clothes if they need it. Often men turn up injured and their clothes are cut off them – this group will give them clothes to go home in.

I figured this was a good place to give some of my knitted items. Because I work I can’t go and give of my time in the hospital as a ‘helper’, but I can knit. I feel that there is so much need in this country that it would be completely self-indulgent of me to sit here and do nothing.

Other than that, work is continuing to plod along. Tonight is a good tv night. There’s actually 2 things we want to watch. Most programing is in one of the 11 official languages and seem to be mostly soap operas. There are some American shows that we are enjoying – The Amazing Race and Las Vegas. Mostly though we’ve taken to watching dvds and reading, and of course I’m getting a lot of crafting done.

Have great day.

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