Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Miscellaneous ramblings

I woke up to a good 8 inches this morning. Now, get your minds out of the gutter, people, I'm talking SNOW!

Shovelling our driveway is definitely a good workout for the whole body when there's that much snow. And then I helped the kids shovel next door's drive too.

I'm feeling smug this afternoon - I have most of the dinner prep done and have done some knitting on the jacket. It's going to be quite long in the back, exacerbated (great word, that) by the fact that, as I mentioned before, my row gauge is a bit off, even though my stitch gauge is perfect. I hope I don't feel swamped in it when it's done.

I was sitting there feeling like I was in a time warp. When you're working on a piece that's decreasing by 4 stitches every 6 rows (for the raglan shaping) the rows go by faster and faster and you feel like you're knitting faster and you don't want to stop or put the knitting down because you just know you're going to be finished soon and....well.....I did put the knitting down because I wanted to post about it!

Tonight's dinner is the Tip Top Tofu Loaf from La Dolce Vegan (I made it a couple of weeks ago and everyone enjoyed it) and a pasta salad which will be dressed with a salad dressing from one of my other Sarah Kramer books. It's Maple Dijon Flax - but maybe I should call it Agave Mustard Flax, because I substituted agave for the maple syrup and yellow mustard for the Dijon. It tastes pretty good too. The true test will be later at dinner when the family get to eat it!

The house is quiet at the moment - oldest son is asleep (I did glimpse him briefly when I got up this morning, on his way to bed) and the younger two are playing some mysterious game that involves weapons made from Lego, backpacks which I am told are full of grenades and miscellaneous equipment strapped around their waists and tucked into their waistbands. Aaah, boys!

(Almost) Done!

Almost is sort of theme in my life. So many projects have been abandoned when almost done (I have a short attention span - I blame Sesame Street). I remember walking around in a lovely shirt I made for a high school project with the bottom still needing a hem. I had made it through the buttonholes, the interfacing, the piecing it all together. Yet it lived forever almost done, all because of a little hem that would have taken me all 5 minutes to sew up. (I'm sure Katherine is falling out of her chair at this thought)

So here we have my almost finished sweater:

Not the greatest photo, now that I look at it. However, it will have to do since taking the time to get another picture will cut into my sewing time and I would like to work on my almost finished ottoman throws.

I'm pretty proud of my sweater. It's flaws are subtle enough that when people see it, they will look at me with an impressed look on their face rather then a pitying one (you know the one where they pat your head and grimace slightly while looking at your finished project - or does that just happen to me?!) All it needs to be completely done is a good blocking, as the bottom seems to like to roll up. As you can see, (the awesome) John Robbins is giving me a hand for the picture but I obviously can't wear it like that. The hood also needs a casing for a drawstring, even though I don't want the drawstring.

I will set myself a completion date of... um... February 10th. Before February 10th, 2008(ish), I will (probably) post a photo of the sweater all ready to be worn.

On my needles now:

A kicky, little beret! I have been teasing my husband that it's for him and that my feelings will be greatly hurt if he doesn't wear it. However, he said to me this morning that if he has to wear the above kicky, little beret, then he will start making me clothes too. Do I back off or do I say 'Let the games begin!'?

Green, the new Red, White and Blue

I'm reading my blogs this morning with my first cup of tea of the day. Just read this post and it's brilliant. Wanted to send you over there to read it too.

Busy Moms go Green seems to be a fairly new blog - not too many posts yet - but what Imani has to say is worth reading.

Raw percentages

I plan to note my percentage of raw food intake each day here on the blog. It is not an exact science. For example, today I ate coleslaw for breakfast (yes, kind of weird, but it was left over from last night's dinner) so I put that down as 90% raw because of the vegan mayonnaise. Lunch was some bananas, mashed with roasted almond butter, so I put that down as 90% too. And dinner was a bean stew with some home-made bread sticks and some green salad, so that was about 25%. Add those three figures together, divide by three, and I get 68%.

Hoping to ease my way up towards 100%.

Monday, 28 January 2008


Woke this morning with discomfort in the tummy - I knew why - ovulation again. Seems to me that this time of the month is worse than period time. It just confirms what I already knew - that it's time to cut back on the stodgy winter foods and eat more raw.

It's interesting that eating raw food should help with "women's" problems, but of course the benefits are not restricted to that.

Jeans have been getting tighter over the last few months and increasing my percentage of raw food always results in weight loss for me.

I have plenty of motivation, apart from the fact I want to feel comfortable in my clothes (I don't know what I weigh, don't own bathroom scales, I go by how I feel).

I have three months to prepare for my Taekwondo black belt test. K and I have increased our attendance from 2 to 3 times a week and I have drawn up a study schedule for extra practice at home. The more strength and stamina I have, the better, especially for those flying kicks!

In four months we are going to Britain to visit our close family and I certainly want to look my best for that! The parents will be happy to see that we are healthy.

Now if I could just add in a little weight-training - but I HAVE to find time for knitting too! Maybe heavier knitting needles?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Sunrise Circle Jacket progress

So far, so good, with the Sunrise Circle Jacket. I started with the back. It's the easiest part, bottom to top, a couple of waist darts, and raglan shaping.

I swatched Thursday - stitch gauge was perfect though my row gauge was a couple of rows off over 4 inches. I forged ahead anyway.

I cast on and knitted a couple of rows, then put it away until the evening. Thursday evening was knit night - wahoo - with three friends showing up to knit and chat for the evening. Got a good start on the straight section of the back.

Friday and Saturday I worked my way up through the waist shaping. The piece measured a little more than that stated in the pattern, but I didn't think it would be a problem. However I started to worry when this feeling came over me that maybe it WOULD be a problem if the side seams didn't match. I thought that the side seams of the back (rows) would have to match up with the side seams of the front (stitches). If you haven't seen a photo of this jacket, the sleeves are knitted and then some increasing happens that results in two very odd-shaped pieces of knitting that are the fronts of the jacket.

I was considering putting the back aside and making the fronts first, but it was late and I put the whole thing away for the night.

Just as well - often the answer to a challenge seems to become clear with distance. I realised that there will be row ends at the front side seams, not stitches, and if my knitting gauge is a little loose on the back, it will be equally loose on the front. I am therefore going to go ahead and finish the back first.

I was hoping that this jacket would be finished in time for my holiday in the Spring, and considering how much has been accomplished in the last three days I expect to be wearing it well before then.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Go visit...

...simpleknits' blog to enter her contest. To celebrate 100,000 hits on her blog, she's asking people to send her links to free knitting patterns that use from 1 to 285 yards of yarn. Make sure you send it to the email address in the blog post, as comments don't count.

This will become a great resource for those of us who like quick project ideas to alternate with the longer, more complicated, projects.

Thursday, 24 January 2008


Today's health news is brought to you by Aflatoxin! The definition of this follows, thanks to medterms.com....

Aflatoxin: A toxin produced by mould that can damage the liver and may lead to liver cancer. Aflatoxins cause cancer in some animals.

The fungi that produce aflatoxin grow on crops such as peanuts (especially) and wheat, corn, beans and rice. Aflatoxin is a problem particularly in undeveloped and developing countries.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mycotoxin produced by two types of mould: Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aspergillus flavus is common and widespread in nature and is most often found when certain grains are grown under stressful conditions such as drought. The mould occurs in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains undergoing microbiological deterioration and invades all types of organic substrates whenever and wherever the conditions are favorable for its growth. Favorable conditions include high moisture content and high temperature. At least 13 different types of aflatoxin are produced in nature with aflatoxin B1 considered as the most toxic. While the presence of Aspergillus flavus does not always indicate harmful levels of aflatoxin it does mean that the potential for aflatoxin production is present.

I have a couple of links for you if you wish to read more about this lovely toxin -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aflatoxin and

I had heard about peanuts growing this mould when stockpiled waiting for processing. Seems like it's in many of our foods - nuts, grains, beans - that have been harvested and left in storage. What's the answer? Again, know the source of our food, know how fresh it is, preferably grow our own.

Dr Hulda Clark, in her book The Cure for all Cancers, says that she found aflatoxin in ALL commercial breads, but in no home-made bread.

So many people, when you talk about modern food production and distribution, or any "modern technology", say, "You can't go back". I say, we have to! Back to the days when food production was local, when each community was self-sustaining, when people ate fresh whole food that hadn't been denatured, processed and packaged in plastic.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Yarn in the mail!

I just love getting yarn in the mail, though as it had to come over the border from the US, I was stuck with a customs handling charge plus GST. Sigh!

This is Tatamy Tweed Worsted (teal) from Kraemer Yarns. Their website isn't really set up for orders outside the US, so I had to call them (oh yeah, their 1 800 number didn't work for me here in Canada either, so I had to pay for the call) but I'm glad to say that 8 skeins have safely arrived ready for me to knit a Sunrise Circle Jacket.

The yarn is 40% cotton, 60% acrylic, and feels very cottony and soft.

For some mysterious reason, I can't seem to find the pattern to link to, but it was a free pattern from Interweave Knits. Yarn Harlot knitted one and if you look here and scroll down you will see her wearing it. There are probably hundreds on Ravelry if you're a member.

This is the progress on the Holding Hands Mittens....

one regular mitten done (black with red stripes) and one more to make (red with black stripes) and then a sort of double mitten with two cuffs that will be worn by a happy couple out for a walk together! The pattern is here. Even though I went down a needle size, it's still a very roomy mitten (I suppose they had to be sized to fit men's hands) and I'm not sure that I like a loose cuff.

The question is....can I focus on finishing these mittens before I get distracted by the teal tweed?

Monday, 21 January 2008

and one more thing

Cass at Shut Up I'm Counting is having a 444th blog post contest - go there and enter, and say I sent you...

Waffling on....

Our family had a relatively active weekend. Usually our weekend consists of buying groceries (dividing our purchasing power between a health food store, a fruit and veg store, and a supermarket), going to the library, and having a wood fire in the downstairs family room in the evenings. Maybe a movie on DVD too.

However, Saturday we went ten pin bowling. It was a belated office Christmas party for R's work, and we spent a couple of hours there, bowling and eating! Not for the first time, the non-vegans in the crowd looked enviously at our vegan option, a herby, vegetable-y pasta dish, while they clogged their arteries with nachos (the tortilla chips were deep fried in animal fat - I checked - and were covered in cheese) and chicken drumsticks.

While I was bowling, I was hoping I wasn't going to hurt my fingers! After all, a knitter has to take care of her hands. In the photo above, you might be able to see a red area on my left hand, near the join between thumb and fingers. That's from burning myself while filling a hot water bottle the other night. The bowling did create a little abrasion on my right thumb, as the bowling balls were the kind with the three holes in them, but the main side effect was a sore muscle in my shoulder the next morning.

On Sunday, we went to the local swimming pool. I swam 30 lengths and R and I enjoyed the steam room and the hot tub while the two kids played - the oldest was still in bed and has expressed a dislike of water (maybe that's why he won't get in the bath!) so we didn't even bother waking him up to ask him if he wanted to come with us.

On the drive home from the pool, the sky was clear and the sun was disappearing behind the mountains. The colours were beautiful, golds and pinks, and the moon was high, almost full. A clear night made for a cold one. When I woke up this morning, I looked at the little weather station next to R's side of the bed (it is wirelessly connected to an outside sensor) and it was minus 9 Celsius outside (that's about minus 25 F). The photos I have interspersed throughout are of our windows which grew icy patterns on them overnight. We turn our thermostat down to 12 degrees at night (54 F) but by our bed, on the floor, in a corner with two outside walls, it was 7 degrees (45 F)!!! I am thankful for all the quilts we have piled on our bed.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Back to knitting...

Garter stitch is easy and mindless (which can be useful if you want to chat with your friends, watch a movie or read a book at the same time as you knit) but it can also get a little, dare I say it, boring! I went at least two whole days this week with NO KNITTING. Instead I procrastinated and got my knitting fix from Ravelry.

The withdrawal symptoms drove me to pick up the Tomten Jacket again and persevere. I was starting to wonder whether 3 balls of the "celery" green Bernat Soy were going to be enough to finish the jacket, so just in case I interspersed some "oatmeal" with the green and used it for the hood too.

It looks a very odd shape when laid flat for photographing, but as you can see the body and hood are done. I am very pleased with the garter stitch grafting at the top of the hood. I made one of these jackets a few years ago and I don't think I had the instructions to hand, so it looked seamed. This time, you can't see the join. Elizabeth Zimmermann's book, Knitting Workshop, has the relevant instructions.

I turned it sideways so you could see the shaping on the hood. You can also see the armholes; stitches will be picked up on the two sides of the armholes, then the sleeves knitted down, decreasing in the centre down to the wrist. I'll knit those in solid green.

But for now, this project will languish in my knitting bag as I am going to cast on for something else. Definitely a case of "startitis".

Thursday, 17 January 2008

This information could save your life

I want to tackle a serious subject today because it has been weighing heavily on my mind for a while. What I have to say is based on my own reading and my introspection and I feel I have to write about it here because I want to share some amazing information that I have learned.

The subject is cancer - the very word strikes fear into one’s heart - it’s probably one of the things that people fear the most.

A dear friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. After the initial shock, I wanted to find out more about the cancer and the treatment and what she was likely to go through, expected side effects and all. I borrowed a book from the library written by a woman who’d been through the standard chemotherapy/radiation treatment and was in remission. The book was good in one way - she explained the side effects that are possible as a result of the drugs/radiation, and that information may help me support my friend. However, I was disturbed by one chapter in the book in which she totally dismissed “alternative medicine” as unproven quackery. That didn’t sit well with me.

I have long been a cynic when it comes to standard medicine. Many people who go to their doctors with a list of symptoms are prescribed a pill to get rid of the symptoms, with no attempt to discover or treat the underlying cause.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, we may think we know why they have it - maybe they smoke, maybe they drink a lot of alcohol. But there are many people who do these things for years and never develop cancer. Why not?

I think that if we want to heal ourselves, we need to know the reason we got sick in the first place. Otherwise, any treatment will surely only be a temporary measure. With many cancers, there seems to be nothing obvious to blame it on. What could cause breast cancer? I had lots of theories. Plastics? Pollution? Tight bras? Pesticides? I didn’t know, it just seemed so unfair that cancer could strike indiscriminately.

I am reading a book right now that I think should be required reading for anyone who has cancer or wants to avoid it. This book has completely changed the way I see cancer and its treatment. It is called The Cure for all Cancers by Dr Hulda Regehr Clark. Picture me on my knees, in all seriousness, begging you to read this book and recommend it to your friends, especially if they have cancer.

Since reading this book, my fear has left me. I am relieved beyond measure because I have learned that THE CURE FOR CANCER HAS BEEN FOUND. Dr Clark gives complete and comprehensive information in her book which anyone can use to cure themselves completely, quickly and inexpensively.

Her years of research and treating patients have resulted in her incredible depth of knowledge of human physiology. She says that in every cancer case that she has treated, she has found a certain parasite in the body along with high levels of isopropyl alcohol. The full information is in her book, but to summarise, this parasite can live harmlessly in our intestines for many years without causing us problems BUT if isopropyl alcohol builds up in our bodies the parasite’s entire life cycle can then be completed within our bodies and THAT’s when the cancer can develop.

Her treatment is simple - de-parasitize your body - with a combination of wormwood, black walnut and ground cloves plus painless use of a “zapper”, a simple electronic machine which painlessly executes the parasites in your body, you CAN cure your cancer in three weeks. The combination is important, as you need to kill the eggs, larvae and adults. Once the cancer is gone, she goes on to explain how to ensure that tumours disappear and you regain complete health by cleaning up your body, your home, your environment.

I know there are many people who will not believe that it can be that simple. Why, if it’s that easy and inexpensive, aren’t more people following Dr Clark’s regime? Her books are available at the library for anyone to read. Why wouldn’t doctors be suggesting this course of treatment first, before the radical step of toxic drugs, radiation and surgery? Dr Clark’s treatment has no dangerous side effects and could result in many people avoiding losing parts of their body to the surgeon’s knife. I want those questions answered myself.

Again, my cynical side is stepping in, reminding me that there is a lot of money to be made in the cancer “business”. I have read that it costs $300,000 to treat ONE cancer patient. That money is going to the oncologists, the drug companies, the companies that make special machinery. Then there are the cancer charities - I refuse to give money to them. I have a number of concerns: that they may well be testing on animals; they may be spending so much money on administration and excessive salaries that little of the money received may actually be going to “research”; and that the money would be better spent on preventing cancer, by cleaning up our air, water, food and soil.

Now that I know that de-parasitizing the body can result in such a dramatic cure, I feel that there is something I can do for myself that will keep ME healthy. By regularly de-parasitizing my own body, surely that will improve my chances in staying healthy. This empowers me.

Amen to that!


What's acrylamide? Well, it's not something I can knit with, even though it sounds like acrylic.

Acrylamide is a toxin that has been found in certain foods. It seems that animal studies (and I will save my strong opinions against animal testing for another day) found that acrylamide is a carcinogen.

I just googled it and found articles about it from Health Canada and the FDA - link 1 here and link 2 here.

It seems that when a starchy plant food, like potatoes for example, is heated to a very high heat, this toxin is created. Foods like potato chips and french fries are at the top of the charts for this substance.

Those who watched SuperSize Me, the movie about a guy who ate exclusively at MacDonald's for a month and made himself really sick, I'm not just talking vomiting sick but dangerously ill, will have seen a man who claimed he'd eaten thousands of MacDonald's burgers and was quite thin and seemed healthy. BUT he never ate the fries. Maybe this was the secret to him not keeling over dead at the counter of his local MacDonald's. Maybe by avoiding the fries he was doing himself a big favour.

Anyway, back to acrylamide. There are varying amounts of it in many foods, baked or fried (oh look, another positive vote for the benefits of a raw food diet) and I have decided that I will not be buying any french fries, potato chips or tortilla (corn) chips from now on and will in fact avoid anything deep-fried.

Another consideration, if I needed reinforcement for this decision, is that we can't possibly know the state of the oil in which these things are fried. Just think of how many times it may have been used, reused, reused again.

I feel that if there was one thing we could all do to improve our chances for a long, healthful life, it would be to prepare our own meals from scratch. We cannot trust companies to keep out harmful additives and to care about the quality of what goes into our meals as much as we do. We may be able to read labels, but there are many things that get into our packaged food that isn't on that label, whether it's animal feces, oil from machinery, hair from a factory worker's head, or a million other things that can cause harm but don't have to be disclosed on the label.

Slow food rocks!


It seems like this local scene, I too have gone into hibernation in regards to posting on Four Friends.
I'm actually still working on ideas and projects, but have been posting those things on my blog, rather than on Four Friends. I thought I would manage to keep posting here even after starting my own blog - with the lofty idea that I would start posting more regularly. Ha ha. It's obvious that it hasn't happened yet. Lucky for me, I have wonderful friends with interesting lives and posts to keep you all reading at this blog. I guess I better start pulling my weight around here, or they'll be looking for a replacement... ;o)

Wednesday, 16 January 2008


Gosh, I'm feeling like I'm finally clawing my way into the 21st century by learning some new words! Not long ago I made a hat for my teen with "meh" on it (after which I had many people asking me just WHAT it meant). I just found this at unwords.com.........
1. (n.) A multi-purpose response, primarily used to imply a degree of indifference. Tone of voice and circumstance often implies a meaning. Can be used when you don't want to answer an awkward or embarrassing question, or if you just plain have nothing else to say, and you want the other person to interpret the "meh" however he/she chooses. As in: Q: "What do you think of my new dress?" A: "Meh." or Q: "What do you want to do tonight?" A: "Meh."

So now you know!

Now I'm heading my blog post with w00t - note the zeros in the middle. This is a term of excitement which derives, I believe, from Dungeons and Dragons fans saying "Wow, Loot!" At least that's what one site told me when I Googled it! If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me.

I am totally off topic here as my reason for posting is to tell you the winner of the book, bag and chocolate, and I am making you wait as I know you are all on tenterhooks (especially those who commented and whose names were in the draw). First I want to thank everyone who did comment, you said such wonderful things, and.........OK, I'll get to the point.........

The winner is.................

REBECCA! Rebecca, please email me at veganpal02 AT gmail DOT com to give me your address. Congratulations to you, and commiserations to the other hopeful entrants. I'm sure we'll have more giveaways in the future.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Pussy cat hat

I want to remind our dear readers that you only have until Wednesday morning (Pacific time) to leave a comment on our anniversary post and be entered in the draw for the bag, book and chocolate!

And while I'm here, I want to show you a little hat I knitted for a distant cousin of my husband who lives in Alberta. She had a baby daughter last year and we only heard about it in her annual New Year's letter, so I'm going to send this to her.

The pattern was on the ball band of the yarn, which is Phentex Merit. It's called a Pussy Cat Hat and has some rather nifty shaping to make the "ears". The instructions asked for 3 balls and #7/4.5mm needles. As the smallest size was a 2, I knitted it on #6 needles in the hope it would be more appropriate to a 1 year old and I shortened the neckband ribbing a little (after all, babies don't really have necks, do they)! It only took one ball which means the total cost of the hat was less than $1.50.

It fits teddy very nicely. I think this style is a good one for babies as it keeps the back of the neck warm without a scarf.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

My Bond Buttonhole Bag

I zipped into Zellers this morning, aiming to pick up some yarn to make a cute hat for the daughter of a distant cousin living in Edmonton. While there, I found this - some Phentex chunky acrylic in a colourway called Rustic Rouge. (Don't you just hate that combination of English and French?)

The yarn is very soft, made in Canada (that's a plus) and combines shades of pink, cinnamon and chocolate. I had a thought in the back of my mind that I wanted to make something for my mum's birthday in March, and a bag seemed like something she'd use.

This project didn't even get into my Ravelry queue, it went from idea to "finished object" so fast!

I am providing the pattern here, as I "unvented" it myself, and will link to it in the sidebar as usual. As the handle is formed like a buttonhole, I have used that in the name, and I hope I'm not breaching anyone's copyright.

My Bond Buttonhole Bag

1 x 300g skein Phentex Chunky acrylic yarn (Rustic Rouge used)
Keyplate #3 Bond Classic knitting machine
6mm crochet hook
My gauge was approximately 15.5 sts and 21 rows to 4 inches

Cast on to 58 needles with e-wrap. Starting with carriage at right, knit 6 rows.

Next row - with carriage on right, push the centre 16 needles towards you into forward holding position. Knit the first part of the row, stopping when the carriage reaches the centre. Lift the keyplate out of the carriage and slide it to the left, out of the way, while you bind off the 16 stitches in the centre. Make sure the last stitch bound off is transferred to the live stitch to its left, leaving those 16 needles empty.

I bound off using the transfer tool and the basic instructions in the instruction book. Push the centre needles back to non-working position. The yarn is then coming from the correct place to continue knitting the row. Move the carriage back to the centre, replace the keyplate and knit the rest of the row. Carriage is now on left.

Take a short piece of yarn (if you’re knitting from the centre of the ball, snip it from the outside tail) and e-wrap cast on to the 16 needles in the centre. Hang a small weight onto the end of the yarn. Leave the needles in forward working position with the latches open, so they will knit.

Knit 110 rows. For the first couple of rows after the hole, push the centre needles towards you into forwards working position so that they knit easily, then hang a weight (I use a bulldog clip with a magnet for extra weight).

Repeat the two “buttonhole” rows, then knit 6 more rows. Bind off.

Weave in yarn tails either side of the holes, adding a couple of reinforcing stitches for strength. Sew or crochet side seams (I used a 6mm crochet hook to single crochet along the outside of the bag).

Saturday, 12 January 2008

La Dolce Vegan

We've had this book from our local library this week. I borrowed it once before but wasn't inspired to try any recipes; however this time, the boys have been making meal plans and using the book as a reference.

I'm glad that they were willing to try some new recipes, though some of the meals we've made this week haven't been universally approved of!

However, tonight was a success! I made the Tip-Top Tofu Loaf, the Cumin-Fried Potatoes and the Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Wow, dinner disappeared like a trailer in a tornado. I own the first two books in this series - How it all Vegan and The Garden of Vegan, co-written by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. Sarah is going it alone in the third book, but it is full of all the good advice and fun stuff that I enjoyed in the other books.

"Quant" is finished

I learned a few things when knitting this headband. One: entrelac is not something I want to knit too often - too much fiddling around with picking up stitches and short rows. Two: lots of short rows combined with long straight needles combined with a knitted blanket on your lap is a recipe for annoyance. That's why I used the "knitting back backwards" technique so that when I purled back I didn't have to turn the work. Three: I like small projects that are finished quickly!

I didn't make it quite as long as the pattern suggested, as I wanted the wearer to stretch it out around her head to tie it, which will smooth out the entrelac. If this was wool, I expect one could block it flatter, but this is Bernat Softee Chunky acrylic, so it won't block.

I have made some progress on the Tomten Jacket, but it's a rather unexciting rectangle of garter stitch, so I will post a photo later when it starts to look more interesting.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Some numbers

I was looking at the figures last night. In one year, we posted 552 times. That's an average of 1.5 posts a day.

The most popular topic was Knitting, with about 25% of the posts. Second was Food and Chocolate with 19%. Third - Simple Living and Frugality with 14%.

When we started out, we weren't using the labels, but I'm glad we added them. After a while, we had so many we had to combine some of them under new headings so the sidebar wasn't a mile long!

Back in April we signed up for Google Analytics, which gives you all sorts of interesting info about who's visiting your site.

Since then, we've had 15,577 visits from 4,674 people in 1,624 cities in 70 countries. The maximum number of "hits" in one day was 295 on September 30th.

Thank you for the wonderful comments on our anniversary post. It feels good to think we're making a difference.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

It's our Anniversary!

Actually, I'm jumping the gun a bit. January 11th 2007 was the day of our very first post on this blog and I'm writing this on the evening of the 10th. I'm just so excited ;o)

To celebrate, we're giving away some goodies. This beautiful bag that Katherine made....

a knitting book that I have owned for many years (it's like new, I have never knitted anything from it, even though the patterns are lovely, including classics like arans and fair isles that will never go out of style)....

and Samantha is donating a bar of chocolate (brand as yet undisclosed - let's call it a mystery bar of chocolate!).

All three of these items will be packaged up and sent to one lucky person. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. And if each of you could recommend our blog to just one other person, that would be great.

We love to receive comments, so we like to draw out you lurkers now and again with these giveaways, but we hope you will comment more often so we know we're not just talking to ourselves)!

Edited to add: I forgot to give a deadline for comments...please respond by Wednesday January 16th and we will draw the winner then. And we are willing to mail anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Another Scarf

Thanks to the Irish Hiking scarf that Samantha posted previously, I was inspired to try to knit one. This is how it's looking so far. Samantha was right, cables are easier to knit than they look!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Is make-up making you sick?

Take a look at this article in the Telegraph. It confirms what I have known/suspected for some time. Putting this crap on our skin means it's being absorbed into our bodies - and the companies that use those chemicals don't give a f@#$ about our health (in fact, maybe they are being paid by the pharmaceutical companies to make us sick so we take more drugs!).

I no longer use make-up or nail polish (that's one of the most dangerous products) and I am being more careful to read the labels on the shampoo and moisturizer that I use. No parabens or sodium laurel sulphate for me.

The School of Life

Sometimes, when I say my children don't go to school, people will say, "Oh, you must be so organized", or "I could never do that", or "I wouldn't have the patience".
I get questions like "Do you teach them yourself?", or "Do you take a break for the summer?"

Well, the answers would be...not particularly organized, if I can do it, anyone can, and I am definitely NOT a patient person.

And no, I don't "teach" them, nor do we take any breaks, because we don't have a schedule and because we don't really "do" school.
The children learn from living their lives. It could be called "self-directed learning", "self-schooling", "life learning" or "enthusiasm-led learning".
But whatever you call it, they learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.
As a result of being immersed "in the real world" (in other words, being home with me, coming out grocery shopping, enjoying time with friends of all ages, planning and making meals, earning money with some part-time work) they are absorbing so much.Yes, there are going to be some "gaps" in their "education" but then none of us knows everything. I think, however, that some of the things they ARE learning are very practical as far as everyday life is concerned. My three boys have never been to school. Whenever you step "out of the box", there's a risk, and sometimes a niggling doubt in the back of your head, but if you can hold the belief that you're doing the best thing you can for yourself and your children at this particular time, then things have a way of working themselves out.

My now-teenager rebelled against workbooks at the age of 7. Being the first child is always hard, I think, as the parents are learning with you! Over the years, the children have had to endure a cycle of me getting insecure and thinking I had to teach them something, and then realising that if I step back and get out of the way they really will learn. And they learn it because they want to, which means that they will remember it and use it.
My teenager has totally immersed himself in his computer. I would like to see some balance there - eating, sleeping and computer time are his life right now. However, he has taught himself so much from building and using his computer, setting it up with Linux, reading library books, listening to podcasts and googling the information he needs, that his knowledge far exceeds mine.

Way back when the children were small, people used to say, "How are you going to teach them when they get to high school age?" I have said all along that we take it one year at a time and if they need to know something that I can't help them with, they can find someone who can (and mentors really do appear when needed).

Right now, the 12 and 9 year olds are loving being immersed in Lego and reading and listening to books on CD. They spent 3 hours playing outside in the snow today with their sleds. They have the time to just be kids.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Sweater Update

One week after cast on:

Yippee! I'm very pleased with how quickly it is coming together! I never thought about it when I picked out the pattern, but knitting a sweater in the round rocks! No seaming to be done at the end! I'm almost to the end of the body length, then I do a small pattern for the bottom. It will be exciting to start knitting the sleeves! I can't help but think of it as a vest right now, but once I start the sleeves, it will really start to look like a sweater. I have been diligently knitting, even though my sewing machine is calling to me. I know myself too well. Once I start sewing, this sweater will get left behind and wont be done by the end of January. I am so close to finishing - I just can't let that happen!


January 11th will be our blogiversary - one year of Four Friends and a Blog. It's been so much fun - I have loved to have this outlet for waffling on about my knitting or ranting about my peeves. On the day (Friday) I shall post about something you can win and how you can win it...

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Three hour shrug free knitting pattern

I know you've already seen a photo of this, but I wrote up the pattern for Ev of Strings 'n Things as it was her hand-knitted shrug that was the inspiration for my machine-knitted version. So here's my pattern, which I'll link to in the sidebar for anyone who wants it.

I used three skeins of Red Heart Soft Touch (I think they are 140g each) [worsted weight] on my Bond Classic, Keyplate 2. My gauge was 18 stitches and 25 rows to 4 inches.

Cast on 49 stitches with waste yarn. Knit a few rows, then change to the main yarn. Increase at each side of work every fourth row until there are 99 sts. (100 rows)

Knit straight for 125 rows.

Decrease each side of work on next row and every fourth row thereafter until there are 49 sts. Knit 3 rows even, then knit a few rows with waste yarn.

Remove work from machine. Pick up the live sts at one end with a #7/4.5mm needle, knit 6 rows of garter st for cuff. Repeat other end.

Seam sleeves for 15 inches or whatever fits you best.

(I was thinking of adding a border to the st st edges around the body, but actually the curling seemed to work well at snugging it around the body so I didn't do it.)

"Quant" - learning entrelac

This strange animal is the progress I made this evening on "Quant"...

a free pattern for an entrelac headband featured at knitty.com. Entrelac looks like woven knitted strips, but is actually only one thickness. Stitches are picked up and knitted in different directions to make small diamonds to give the woven effect.

I am having to follow each step of the pattern very carefully and have faith that it will turn out how it's supposed to.

This is the total opposite of the Tomten Jacket which is also in progress...so now I have a choice...easy...or challenging...when I dip into my knitting bag.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Seamen's scarf free knitting pattern

I have typed up my pattern for the seamen's scarf. Part of it uses the Knitters Symbols Font which looks great on my computer but doesn't translate into Blogger. I have saved the document as a pdf and I will be happy to email the pattern to anyone who wants it. Email me at veganpal02 AT gmail DOT com (replacing the AT and the DOT with the appropriate symbols of course).

New project cast on

My seaman's scarf is finished, and now I have moved on to some "celery" coloured Bernat Soy and have started a Tomten Jacket.

This time I'm using 4.5mm (US#7) needles and they feel much more comfortable than the larger ones I was using for the scarf.

I have made one of these little hooded jackets before. They are very simple. Knitted all in garter stitch with Elizabeth Zimmermann's usual practical approach. Minimal sewing. This is good for mindless knitting - maybe I'd better have a second project on the needles for those times when I'm looking for a challenge - perhaps some entrelac. Now that's something I told myself I would learn this winter. I have the yarn already, so perhaps tomorrow will be the day that I start on that!

Friday, 4 January 2008

U-neck vest

Weeell.....I was going to just sort of ignore the lack of progress on my u-neck vest but since Nicola put it in my knitting list I guess I better at least show where it's at.It's coming along. It actually does knit up quite quickly whenever I actually get to work on it. Will posting about it encourage me to get to it, and finish it off? Likely not. After all, it won't really be good vest weather for another month or so...it's still cardigan weather around here. (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it)

Teen beanie

You can tell it's been a quiet day at home...lots of knitting done. Oldest boy crashed out after long night on his computer. Younger two played with neighbour's kid, both here and next door. I've been making this - a beanie for said oldest boy!

It came out a little deep - when I put it on, it came well over my ears. Considering how much hair the man-boy has, and the size of him, hopefully it will fit him.

This was inspired by a T shirt he saw online with this very succinct message written on the front. Hope he likes it! I have left it where he will be sure to find it - draped across his mouse.

I used my Bond knitting machine for the straight part and hand-knit the crown and ribbing. It's made from one ball of black Bernat Satin and a small amount of the colour "silk" for the lettering.


Just in case you're getting that itch to be out in the garden...
this book should tide you over until you can begin to start your seeds indoors. What a wonderful book, full of all kinds of gardening information and stories, and inspiring quotes too.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; We will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.” -Baba Dioum

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Another post and then I really should get to bed!

Just a little supplementary post...I have been trolling around my computer, doing the usual stuff...checking emails, reading blogs, posting to this blog, dropping in to Ravelry. Here's why I spend more time on the computer these days...when I make some knitting progress, I find myself having to post about it in three places. Here, of course. On Ravelry. And in the knitting conference in the "virtual village" organized by the school with whom my kids are enrolled as homelearners. What's the next best thing to knitting? Well, talking and reading about it, of course.

I just updated my profile photo in Ravelry. Just for a laugh, here it is. And if you want to come visit me, my ID is NicolaKnits. See you there!

Scarf progress

Remember the scarf I told you about a couple of days ago? The one that I wanted to knit at least four inches on per day to achieve my goal? Well, in three days I have knitted 41 inches! Wahoo!!!

It's a good project - the first 15 inches have the interest of the textured/cabled pattern, then about the time you get fed up with that you switch to the ribbing. Then when you've had enough of 18 inches of ribbing, you get to return to the fun part and the cables again.

I only have 7 inches left to knit on this and it'll be done. No worries about this not arriving in time for FIL's birthday....as long as Canada Post and the Royal Mail do their bit.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The Up Series

We just watched the latest installment in The Up Series - 49 Up. I find this series of films to be absolutely fascinating. I'm so glad that it was recommended to me. In 1964 a group of seven-year-olds was chosen to be interviewed for this series. The idea was to show English children from different "classes" and to explore the Jesuit maxim, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." Every seven years after that they were brought together to be interviewed again and this progression of their lives was filmed. There is just something about this that gets me, I find it very touching. It might be seeing them all as young children (the age of my youngest), full of hopes and dreams and excitement, then watching them as they grow older. It might be seeing their faces and bodies aging, yet still seeing that seven-year-old child within those faces. Maybe it is seeing how some of them change and how some of them hardly seem to? Some get married and have children, some don't, some are grandparents in the most recent film. Roger Ebert calls it "an inspired, almost noble use of the film" and I think he has it right on. This film really does "honour the ordinary", it makes me see how fleeting and precious life is. It reminds me of what is important in life. It helps me to remember (and I can always use the reminder) that things are not always as they seem on the surface, and that all of humanity has the same needs. I highly recommend it.

Seaman's scarf progress

Here is the scarf that I cast on yesterday. I have made myself a goal of 4 inches of knitting a day so that I can complete it in 2 weeks. I am ahead of that at the moment.

The stitch pattern is from the Lion Brand website and is called Gingerbread.

It's a 6 row repeat which at first had me wondering whether I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but actually it's easy to memorise and it's growing fast. If you look at that link, their knitted sample shows three repeats across the swatch, but it's not balanced, so I added a half repeat on the right of the scarf to make things even.

The Bernat Soy yarn is quite pleasant to work with, if a bit splitty at times. I'm using the size of needle suggested on the ball band (5mm/US#8) which is fine for cables and drape, but if I was knitting stockinette I would use a finer needle.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

It's a hit!

I made a rather tasty stew for dinner today. My dear children tend to prefer plainer food, but now and again I rebel and make something that I know hubby and I will like and to heck with the consequences!

First I had to make seitan. Now, the first challenge is knowing how to pronounce it! Is it zyten, satan, say-tan? I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s a rather useful protein food made from wheat gluten that’s a good replacement for meat. I’m sure you can buy it ready-made, but it’s really easy to make.

You need wheat gluten, which is not the same as wheat flour or high-gluten flour. It’s JUST the gluten. I buy it from my favourite health food store. You *can* make it with ordinary flour, but it’s way more work. All you do is mix in some water until there’s no dry gluten visible and knead it a bit. It becomes VERY rubbery and weird-feeling.

Then you just cut it into little pieces (bear in mind it will double in size) and toss it into a large saucepan which is half full of boiling water, a couple of stock cubes, a splash of soy sauce or tamari, and a dash of VEGAN Worcestershire sauce**. (This last ingredient was an inspired addition today and it made for a very good result.)

Simmer for an hour. Drain it and use it as you would meat.

Today, I kept the “stock” and used it in the stew. I sauteed an onion, some very thinly sliced carrots (trying to get them in under the kids’ radar) and lots of garlic. Threw in a heaping spoonful of flour, then added the stock gradually to avoid lumps. Add the seitan and leave to simmer for as long as you like.

I found a few potatoes in the pantry, some broccoli and lettuce in the fridge, and that was our meal. I will definitely make the stew again - but double the quantity.

For dessert, I had been promising hubby I would make him a coconut cake for some time. Samantha’s book, Eat, Drink and be Vegan by Dreena Burton has a coconut cake recipe which I used for the cake part (leaving out the almond extract because I didn’t have any). However, the frosting in the book was made with silken tofu, vegan cream cheese and macadamia nut butter, among other things. R prefers to avoid soy as much as possible, and I didn’t have the second two ingredients, so I mixed Earth Balance Buttery Spread, some fine turbinado sugar, and some thick creamy coconut milk, and that made a yummy rich frosting to sandwich the two parts of the cake together. One warning....it needs to be kept chilled. Not long after I took this photo I found that the frosting had melted a little and had travelled southwards! I put it into the fridge until we were ready to eat. It was a hit! Everyone loved it.

**Ordinary Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it, which are not vegan!

Happy New Year