Tuesday, 30 January 2007


Hey Samantha, your post and the comment that "anonymous" left about fire hazards reminded me of the state our dryer was in when R took it apart recently. Our dryer is 12 years old and hadn't been drying very efficiently for ages. It needed a part fixing around the door and when R went to replace the thing we found it had years of lint buildup inside, which of course is a hell of a fire hazard! We also ended up replacing the belt that turns the drum AND the heating element at the back. There weren't any socks in there though ;o)

My dryer now works much better and I definitely think these machines should come with a recommendation to vacuum them out every year for safety reasons.

More knitting

I love my Denise Interchangeable Needle set. I used a short cable for the sleeves and now I'm using a longer one for the body, with the same #7 tips of course. And while the sleeves are waiting to be united with the body at the underarms, I have left the stitches on some cables from the set with the black "buttons" on the ends.

Yesterday I cast on 180 stitches for the body and knitted three inches of ribbing, increasing in the last round to 200. I am hoping that my stockinette/stocking stitch gauge will average out to 5 stitches to the inch - it seems to me that the yarn varies a little in thickness, depending on which colour is wrapped around the grey, so I shall knit on and check my gauge again after the first couple of inches of st st.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Positive Role Model

Thought I would share with you the experience I had this weekend. I attended a camp for women which encompassed fitness (weight training & cardio) and nutrition. I had a fanatastic time making new friends, learning about topics I'm passionately interested in and more than that finding out how much more important it is for each and every one of us to reach out to each other.
The driving force and inspiration behind PHAT Camp is the fitness champion Jen Hendershott. She basically shares herself completely for a whole weekend by giving us what her own experiences have taught her in living a healthy, fit and balanced lifestyle. I went to camp knowing I would get sweaty (from the promised Hendershott workouts) but little known was that I would spend a weekend sharing, connecting and giving along with my fellow campers following the lead of Jen Hendershott and her wonderful staff.
Yes, it was exciting to have access to a well-known and well loved professional fitness icon that was open and willing to share her knowledge. More importantly though, it was rewarding for me to discover that her passion is in helping others and her fit body has been a tool in fulfilling this passion.
Wanting to be fit and healthy involves more than your body. I think it takes heart and a mindset to be your best and to love yourself despite the ups and downs that we face in this life so that you have more love to give to others. I believe that by taking care of yourself, you are the positive role model; no matter what your age, gender or occupation.
Make the committment to take care of yourself so that you can always be and give your best in life.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Sleeves are done...

The sleeves are knitted up to the armhole (18 inches) for my seamless raglan. I have been knitting in every available moment and I think I did pretty well to do them in three days! I started a new ball of yarn for the second sleeve and was very pleased to see that the variegation matches on the sleeves. Tomorrow, when my hands have had a chance to rest, I'll cast on for the body. I hope I get the gauge right, because I don't want to have to rip back - though I probably wouldn't have to redo the ribbing, and that's the part that I don't particularly like. I will put in some short rows up the back, as per EZ's advice, to avoid the "riding up in the back" problem. The last raglan sweater I made was seamed, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one comes together.

Looks like I'll be wearing this sweater before the cold weather is over!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Knitting progress

Here's a better photo of the yarn - I just ran outside and caught the last of the daylight. This is the first half of the first sleeve. I thought I'd knit a sleeve first to be sure of my gauge. Initially I had to use dpns as there were only 44 stitches but when I reached 56 I managed to stretch them around a circular. I'm using 4.5mm/US#7. Unfortunately, my gauge is slightly tighter on the dpns than on the circ, probably because the work is getting stretched as I knit, so I will have to wait until I've finished the sleeve and measure my gauge on the widest part near the top. I may have to adjust the body stitches, though of course my gauge might change again with a longer circ. Sigh!

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

A day in the life....

It was mostly a typical day at my house.....I was out of bed by 8am, and by the time the first kid showed his face, I was eating a late breakfast after my workout. I have to say that one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that you don't have to drag yourself out of bed at some unearthly hour to get the kids to school! Yesterday, I enjoyed the peace and quiet until after 11am.

I don't actually like calling what I do homeschooling any more. That word conjures up a picture of kids sitting down to lessons at the dining room table and mum being the teacher. I am pleased to say that I have found a unique private school with whom I can enroll my kids. Their philosophy matches mine - that children should be able to follow their interests, and in the process they will stay motivated and enthusiastic about learning. I guess I'd call it lifelearning or self-directed learning. Being a product of school myself, it's sometimes hard, but I have to trust that my children will learn WHAT they need to know, WHEN they need it.

Each week I send in an online report, telling my "learning consultant" what the kids have been doing that week. Unlike public school, where the only thing that counts is meeting the Learning Outcomes by following the prescribed curriculum, almost everything is a learning opportunity when viewed through the lens of lifelearning.

Today, after their late breakfast/early lunch, we took off in our van and paid a visit to the Salvation Army to donate some old clothes, dropped off our plastics at the recycling depot, and then stopped at one of my local yarn stores to meet author Kate Jacobs.

Kate Jacobs [ http://www.katejacobsbooks.com/ ] has written a book called The Friday Night Knitting Club and rather appropriately was signing her books at the yarn store today. I haven't read her book but I will certainly be looking for it at the library. It's about a single mother struggling to raise her 12 year old daughter in New York while running a small knitting shop. A friend of mine who writes articles for the local newspaper asked me to talk to Ms Jacobs on her behalf. The author was very approachable and helpful, promising to answer any questions that my friend had, and I left our email addresses with her.

Of course, one can't visit a yarn store without browsing the shelves. I went there with the intention of buying yarn for a sweater. I intend to make a seamless raglan for myself with the guidance of my guru, Elizabeth Zimmermann! I bought six 100gram balls of Marble by James C Brett. It's acrylic, but a good quality one. I've already used this yarn in a different colourway to make mittens, legwarmers and slippers, and I love the way it gently changes shades as you knit.
You probably can't appreciate the true colours from the photo above - they are earth tones - I saw a child's sweater in the store knitted up with this yarn and it was gorgeous. Hopefully my sweater will look as good.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at a friend's house with other members of our group of homelearners. The children had plenty of room to play indoors and some of them went outside in their snowsuits to check out the sledding opportunities. Unfortunately for them, our temperatures have crept above freezing this week, so it was a bit slushy, but my friend's house backs on to a slope that's perfect for sliding down. My oldest son, L, got talking to our host, J, about computers - L wants to be a graphic designer, and J used to do just that, and she offered to have him visit another time to spend time on her computer learning how to use the software. This is the sort of opportunity that one does not want to miss and we will definitely be taking J up on her offer!

This evening, after supper, the kids have had free time to do as they pleased. They have a lot of that, which I think is a good thing. I hate to be overscheduled, and I'm sure children do too.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The road less travelled

This poem was the inspiration for the sub-heading of this blog. If/when I work out how to put it in the sidebar without losing all the formatting, I'll do it!

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Photo Copyright 2004 e-Cobo and Nikolay Dimitrov

Sunday, 21 January 2007

More about raw

Sarah left a comment asking about raw food. (And yes, my children are enrolled with Self Design. More about that another time.)

It was about four years ago that I read the book that I mentioned before, Nature's First Law, and by the time I finished it I was totally convinced that a raw food diet is the best one for our bodies. Cooking causes changes in foods that can create disease. Microwaving, in my opinion, is even worse. I googled "dangers of microwaving food" and the first link was this one - http://www.mercola.com/article/microwave/hazards2.htm
I have read a lot of Dr Mercola's articles and he talks a lot of sense.

Ever since I read that book, I have eaten more raw food than cooked, though the percentage has varied. In Spring, I am motivated to eat lighter and lose weight for the swimsuit days, Summer is pretty easy (we have fruit trees in our yard and I can fill myself up with free organically-grown cherries, apricots and peaches), but come Fall, the weather is cooling off, the swimsuit gets pushed to the back of the closet, and comfort foods call. December, with its attendant celebrations, is the lowest point with its traditional mince pies and gingerbread cookies. So it's a cycle, and though I understand it, I wish I could stick to 100% raw all the time.

I have completed two raw weeks out of the three that I promised myself. My will-power wavered last night but I distracted myself with fresh Medjool dates (they taste like caramel) and got through it. Today, I made a large batch of muesli, which will last for at least a week with my husband and I eating a bowlful each day. Recipe is below - I doubled it today as there are two of us eating it. (R, my husband, has another name for it - shitzli - thanks to its ability to, er, declutter the colon!!!)

Mix the following ingredients together in a lidded container and keep it in the fridge. If possible, use organic ingredients.

2 cups steelcut oats (grind them up a little in a coffee grinder or food processor)
1 cup almonds (chopped up roughly with a knife)
2 cups raisins
8 dried figs (remove the hard stalk and cut into pieces)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup hulled hemp seeds
half cup sesame seeds (ground up a little in a coffee grinder)

When you want some for a meal, scoop up a cupful (or less) and put it in a bowl and add liquid. Ideally, use raw almond milk or fresh juice (not commercial pasteurized juice - it has no enzymes). Leave to soak for a while - a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight if it’s for breakfast - and add fresh fruit just before eating. I add a sliced banana and a grated apple.

I recently read this book
and it would be a good one to read if you're thinking of introducing more raw food into your diet.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Knitting Drama

Every knitter has something they dread will happen and for me that fear was realized today. I dropped a stitch. I’ve been knitting for years and have never dropped a stitch before - sure sometimes a stitch goes missing but since nothing is unraveling, I just cast on another stitch and carry on my merry way. But today was different. I looked in horror at the ladder of yarn the dropped stitch had traveled down. And this wasn’t at the beginning of a project - this was quite far into the knitting of my sock (that might be too small for my foot, but for now I’ll remain in denial about that particular matter). After wiping my tears away, I looked in my knitting instruction book under “dropping a stitch” and realized just how simple it was to pick it back up. Armed with my trusty crochet hook, I repaired my sock and carried on knitting. A bit of a stressful way to start the day but in the end I felt a real sense of accomplishment. Another step towards being a Master Knitter!

p.s. Happy Birthday Dad!!

Friday, 19 January 2007

Elizabeth Zimmermann

My Elizabeth Zimmermann books have arrived! I hardly ever buy new books, usually relying on the library for my knitting fixes. My mum sends money for birthdays and I had been reading the Zimmermania blog
so I decided to treat myself to Elizabeth’s five books - Knitting Workshop, Knitting without Tears, The Opinionated Knitter, Knitting Around and Knitter’s Almanac. At first glance, I see that the content of the books overlap somewhat, but I do love her style of writing and her practical attitude.

There is one point on which we don’t agree, however. She always used wool and thought synthetics a poor substitute. She may be right about that (and I must confess to a certain amount of envy when watching my friends experiment with felting) however I’m a vegan and am committed to living without animal products. I don’t eat them and I don’t wear them. So I use cotton, or rayon, or acrylic, or nylon, and have yet to try yarns made from soy, corn or banana fibre. I could not in good conscience use wool. If you want to know why, don't ask me - take a look at this site - http://www.savethesheep.com/

Thursday, 18 January 2007

<--- A Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookie and A Delish Date Square

This week I’ve been experimenting with recipes from Vive Le Vegan by Dreena Burton. All of the recipes I’ve tried from her book have been very good. She has wheat free alternatives for those of us avoiding wheat and her desserts are very low sugar (often calling for maple syrup as a sweetener) Today I made her Homestyle Chocolate chip cookies and they got thumbs up from my whole family. I even halved the 1/4 cup of sugar the recipe called for and I added pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and hemp seed nuts . I’m still working my way through her recipes but other ones we’ve enjoyed are her Delish Date Squares, Lemon Rosemary Potatoes, Energy Cookies, and Omega Ketchup. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy the recipes in this cookbook - I would recommend it to everyone.
Today we had the biggest snow fall in the history of mankind. I think I’ll be buying the weatherman a measuring tape because 5-10 cm were predicted and I’m pretty sure I shoveled at least that each of the four times I had to shovel. The piles of snow by the side of our driveway are taller then my son. After all that shoveling, I’m sure I could kick some butt in an arm wresting contest - as soon as I can lift my arms that is.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Frog in a Blender Smoothie

What’s red and green and goes around and around at 60 miles an hour? A frog in a blender!

Hence the name of my new smoothie recipe - if you don’t fully mix it up, it comes out of the blender in streaks of green and purple! :-P

This makes about three and a half cups - a BIG serving for one person, or two smaller servings. (I weight-train and the glutamine is an amino acid that helps with muscle growth and recovery.)

1 cup almond milk (see below)
1 tsp spirulina powder
1 scoop (5 grams) glutamine
1 tblsp raw pumpkin seed butter (you could use raw almond butter or tahini)
2 bananas
1 tblsp maple syrup
1 tblsp flax oil
1.5 cups frozen blueberries

Put everything except the blueberries in the blender jug. Don’t be scared of the bright green colour - you won’t taste the spirulina once everything is mixed together. Blend until smooth. Add the blueberries and pulse until they are incorporated.

Raw Almond Milk

I have a Soylife soy milk maker (now Soy Quick)
I used to make soymilk in it as per the instructions, and when my husband expressed a wish to minimise soy in his diet I tried making almond milk. It was OK, but would froth up a lot. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t need to heat it. The machine has options - grind only or heat only. So now what I do is soak the almonds (I use their measuring cup, but it’s probably about half of a regular cup) then put them into the stainless steel chamber with cold filtered water and set it to grind. The “milk” is ready in one minute! And it’s raw.

You could also put the soaked almonds into a blender with 4 cups of water and run it, slowly at first so the water doesn’t squirt out all over the place. You can strain out the bits before using the “milk” if you want.

The same method could be used with other seeds and nuts too.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Getting the hang of it

I can see my friends are getting the hang of this blogging thing. I'm looking forward to the fourth member of this blog, our friend Heather, coming back from her vacation and joining in too. I'm sure she'll have lots to contribute.

I have started re-reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I've read them all - Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, the Fiery Cross, Breath of Snow and Ashes (not sure if I've put them in the correct order there) - and I wish the next book was available now. My friends and I are desperate to know what happens to Claire and Jamie next. Anyway, I'm a few chapters into the first book again, and I'm enjoying it, even knowing what happens later, because I can look for the clues and connections that Diana Gabaldon strews throughout her books. She writes so well, and she claims that she writes without a plan (unlike J K Rowling, who I believe knew exactly how the Harry Potter series was going to finish up, right from the first book).

A quick change of subject now - every third Monday of the month I have a knitting night at my house for any homeschooling friends who want to drop in. Yesterday, I found myself between projects so had to dig around in my leftovers for something to knit. I don't have a stash - I buy yarn as I need it - I find it easier to do that, because when I have a project in mind, I know how much to buy. I had some red Bernat Satin left from knitting balaclavas for two of my kids last week. I also had some green from a scarf that I knitted for my nephew. The result was this cute little apple hat - the pattern was from a blog I read some time ago, but unfortunately I don't recall which one. Incidentally, only one person showed up last night - my friend Anne, who brought supplies for making paper beads. We enjoyed our crafting and tea and conversation.

I think I will be making more of those hats in different colours!

Monday, 15 January 2007

Walk away from knitting goofs

My girlfriends already know that yesterday was a rough one for me. They know I screwed up my latest knitting project (which was just one of many crappy things awaiting for me during the day). Which is a big deal for someone rather new to knitting. My previous projects have all been felted ones so gauge wasn't an issue. Okay, lesson learned, I will knit a gauge swatch first next time...sigh The beautiful beret will make a nice gift for someone's daughter even though I'd intended it for my own noggin. To salve my disappointment, I dropped the needles and spent some quality time with my sewing machine. I'm pleased to say that this project panned out and my oldest son will no longer have to wear the pj pants that were 4" too short for him (maybe now he will part with them so his younger brother can use them...) Hmmm... I guess I'm not setting a good example for Samantha and her UFO to-do list as I walk away from unfinished (read messed up) projects and go find another to do ;o) Hope that whole to-do list thing really works out for you, Samantha.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Almost FOs

Here's a photo of two recent almost-finished objects. The red sweater actually still has some ends to darn in, and neither sweater has the buttons sewn on the shoulders yet. The yarn is TLC Wiggles. It's a fun yarn to look at, with little multi-coloured "worms" wound around the plain coloured background yarn, but it's not so fun to knit. Those worms can catch on the needles and you have to be careful not to knit them as stitches. I guess they're about a 3 month old baby size - I didn't check my gauge, I just knitted the second size up (an old Emu Yarns pattern that I've had for years). They are for a friend who's expecting twins - a boy and a girl. I have learned two things from knitting these....(a) I like to make things once and then move on to something new and (b) I hate sewing the pieces together and darning all those ends in and I'm going to knit everything in the round and seamless from now on! My Elizabeth Zimmermann books are on their way from Amazon right now and I can't wait!!!

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Raw food rocks!

Raw food rocks!

I started a 21 day commitment to 100 per cent raw food last Monday. I always feel so healthy and energetic when I avoid cooked food. It's been easy to stick to it - until tonight when I served up tonight's dinner to the rest of the family. Those potatoes smelled so good, it would have been easy to eat one, but I didn't. My willpower is assisted by the fact that I have only committed to the 21 days...if I told myself that I had to give up cooked food for ever, my subconscious would rebel and I'd start craving something!

A few years ago, I read Nature's First Law
http://www.amazon.com/Natures-First-Law-Raw-Food-Diet/dp/0965353303 which convinced me that raw food is what we're meant to live on (it makes sense if you consider that humans are the only "animals" that cook their food and we're the ones who suffer from all those degenerative diseases).

I always lose weight when I go raw, which is my main reason for doing it, so it's easier in the spring and summer. When the cooler weather arrives in the fall, I usually am tempted by the usual comfort foods - soup, bread, potatoes. For now, however, I am enjoying the feeling of virtuousness ;o)

Thursday, 11 January 2007

This is a test

This is a test - have I done all the right things to get this blog up and running? My three friends and I plan to run this as a collaborative blog. We are all mothers of sons who learn at home, and have a diverse range of interests between us. I expect this will make for some interesting reading.