Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Slow going.

Everything's been a bit slow lately.

I'm still advancing slowly on the baby blanket - I'm up to the 540st rounds, which according to my calculations is 57% of the minimum size I want the blanket to be. I've joined on a new ball of yarn, using a russian join (the first time I've tried it and I love it - will use it for cotton yarn from now on!). I haven't taken photos but it looks just like it did in the previous photo, only bigger. I've got it on 120cm cables now. It feels like it's going really slowly but I don't think I will have any trouble getting it finished.

I completed my self-review part of the performance review cycle yesterday so there's just the review from my manager and the meeting to discuss it all to go. That's on Thursday morning. I've also got to write manager reviews for two of my three staff (the third is on leave so we will need to do his next week), and hold review meetings with them on Thursday as well. I hate performance reviews. I always feel like I'm failing in my job - we're overloaded and understaffed so as I see it, there's "doing well", and there's "doing well under the circumstances". I know I'm not "doing well" but I'm not certain if I'm "doing well under the circumstances". I guess I'll know on Thursday!

I seem to be tired all the time now, and I don't know why. I'm not getting the awful cramps and "other revolting digestive symptoms" that I normally get in a Crohn's flare so I don't expect that I'm anaemic. I have an appointment with the Gastroenterologist on Thursday morning so I guess I'll find that out on Thursday too. I was meant to go to Stitch n Bitch tonight but I've spent most of the afternoon crashed out on the couch and I feel washed out and bleaugh so I'm going to stay home. I feel awful as it's been weeks and weeks since I've been to SnB. Hopefully I will feel better next week.

If you've been thinking of buying any patterns on Ravelry, there are a lot of designers who are donating a percentage of their profit to the Haiti relief effort until the end of January. Casey has set up a special link so you can search all the patterns with some profit going to help Haiti. You can even see which patterns in your queue or your favourites will help. I've bought Owls and Leisl and Rainbow Dress(the big sis and little sis versions). There are only a few days left in January so it's a good opportunity to get some patterns you love and help out in Haiti.

If you don't need any patterns, you can always donate to a charity of your choice. There are lots out there who are helping in Haiti or continuing to help elsewhere in the world, because people elsewhere in the world don't stop needing help just because of a disaster in one place. My personal choice is MSF, for ...well, a lot of reasons that make sense to me, but I think you've got to choose where your money goes based on what makes sense to you. If you do choose to donate to MSF, let Stephanie Pearl-McPhee know so she can count your donation towards the Knitters Without Borders total. We're up over $1M so far and there are more donations that haven't been counted yet. Knitters continue to amaze me every day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can't blog, too busy knitting!

I've been in a bit of a blog slump lately.

Which is funny, because there's lots going on.

I've been knitting away on Margot, and she now has about 26cm of one sleeve (not certain if it's a left or a right, the pattern is completely reversible, so I guess it depends on which way around it is when I go to put it on). This is more sleeve length than is called for in the pattern but I've decided to make the sleeves full length.

After getting that far, I decided to enforce a go-slow on Margot for a bit, for a couple of reasons. One, I've found that knitting with the 30cm circular needle I'm using for the sleeve is hurting my dodgy wrist a bit so I'm trying to only do a couple of rows at a time, a couple of times a day. Two, and this is the more important reason, it suddenly occurred to me that my little sister is due to give birth to her first baby in about 15 weeks, and I didn't have anything finished for the little munchkin.

It was clearly necessary to redo the knitting plan and to get a move on.

New plan:

1. Dig the hibernating Little Petal out of the pile and sew on the remaining sleeve and buttons. I started this some time ago and put it aside when I started Margot. It is now all done, but is in desperate need of a good blocking. This is the 3-6 month size and I only made a couple of mods - I knitted the body in one piece rather than three, and did the skirt about 1cm shorter than called for in the pattern as I was concerned about running out of yarn. I didn't measure the leftovers but there wasn't much left. The scans are strongly indicating "little girl" at this stage, which is a good thing, as the Little Petal is unfussy, but in my opinion very girly.
Little Petal
2. Start a Felix's Cardigan, a Ribbon-tied Wool Vest or a blanket. I didn't start the Felix as I didn't have enough of one colour of superwash wool to do one in. There will probably be enough left over from Margot, but I'm not entirely certain and I don't want to run out later when I finish Margot's sleeves. I'm waiting on needle tips for my 40cm Knit Pro cable so that I can do a Ribbon-Tied Wool vest in the round, so I dug out the BWM Denim Cotton 8ply that was meant to become a dress for my (other) neice and started a Pinwheel Baby blanket.

Pinwheel Baby Blanket

I'm using my KP Harmony/Symfonie needle tips for the cotton as I suspected that the yarn might feel a little bit slippery on the Options nickel tips.

It's a pretty simple pattern, more or less - increase 10st in every second row, knit until your hands drop off, or something like that. I worked out that the minimum diameter I want the blanket to have is 1m. I'm getting a row gauge of 3 rows to 1cm, so every 3 rounds gives me 2cm more on the diameter of the blanket. It's deceptive at the beginning because it seems like you're getting heaps done, but then you realise that the rounds are getting larger and larger, and over time it feels like you've slowed to a crawl even though you're still knitting the same number of stitches.

So despite the really exciting nature of the recipient of the blanket, I realised that I was in real danger of losing momentum on the project due to the perceived lack of progress. My solution was to devise a small excel spreadsheet to work out how many stitches in each round, how much I gained in diameter with each milestone, and, calculated on number of stitches, the percentage of the minimum size I have completed. It's made it a bit of a race with myself - how fast can I get the next milestone completed, and it means that even on days like today when I didn't feel like I got much done, I know I did about 3%, and that the blanket is 28% of the minimum size. Since I only started on Saturday, I don't think I'll have trouble finishing by the due date!

Work is very busy at the moment - one member of my team is on two weeks leave, and we're lending one member to another team, so that leaves me, our remaining normal team member and one person we're borrowing as backfill for the person we loaned out. The borrowed person was off on carer's leave today, and is inexperienced in some of the systems we support anyway. Added onto that is the fact that it's performance review time so we're all needing to do our self-reviews on top of the ordinary workload. I see the point of performance reviews, but I hate doing them. I'm more in favour of continual feedback to my team so they always know how they're going. I'm always put in mind of all those report cards at school - "Alexia is a conscientious student and a pleasure to have in class", or the report I got for Textiles and Design in year 7 (and I'm paraphrasing from memory here) "Alexia seems to be an intelligent student but has no aptitude for this subject". Note: they didn't teach knitting that year!

So I will apologise now if there are few posts in the next couple of weeks and if what I do post is rambling, sparse or nonsensical. When work becomes a big mountain of stress, like it is now, I tend to get a bit tired and grumpy, so it's probably a good thing that I have my knitting to restore my sanity!

I hope things are less stressful for you at the moment, or at least, that you have knitting or something else to take your mind off it!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Zealand Trip: Part 3

Monday 28th December

It was raining steadily when we left Nelson so we didn't stop at any of the "pick your own berries" farms we'd seen on our excursion to Richmond the day before. I did get to buy some raspberries from a roadside stall later on in the morning. They were cheap, and some of the best raspberries I'd ever had.

We drove to Cape Foulwind and walked out to the viewing point for the seal colony.
Cape Foulwind
Seals at Cape Foulwind
Then we went to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks.  It was a stunning drive along the coast, more of those curvy roads again.
Pancake Rocks
These pancakes are a bit hard
And then on to Greymouth for the night. Gourmet dinner of baked beans and off to bed for the weary travellers.

Tuesday 29th December
Greymouth-Fox Glacier
We realised in Greymouth that it was starting to get cold. Cold and pouring with rain. Somehow in all the packing and planning, The Man had forgotten to pack either a jumper or his rain jacket so we started the day in Greymouth town attempting to find both. We managed to find a jumper and a rain poncho, then set off for Fox Glacier.

We drove up to the carpark at the base of Franz Josef glacier but decided not to do the walk in the rain. By the time we'd got to Fox Glacier township and checked into our motel, the rain had cleared so we went to Fox Glacier and did the terminal walk there. The guidebooks indicate that it's a 1hr round trip, and we were concerned about that with a 6 year old tagging along, but it certainly didn't seem like it was that long a walk. The glacier is stunning and breathtaking....and cold. I don't know why it surprised me that the wind blowing off a huge hunk of ice would be cold, but it did.
Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier
Waterfall, Fox Glacier
On the way back, The Boy fished a small piece of liberated glacier ice out of the stream and carried his little "iceberg" for a while.
The Boy with his "iceberg"

We had dinner at the Cook Saddle Saloon, then retired for the night.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Zealand Trip: Part 2

Saturday December 26

We popped into Christchurch city centre for brekky, picked up a local sim card for my phone (who wants to pay international roaming charges?) and got on our way. I called to check in with Mum and Dad, who informed me that the change to airline regulations had come through earlier than expected and I could have taken my knitting on the plane the day before. Facepalm! I wish someone had told me earlier!

Our destination for the night was Kaikoura and we decided to drive via Hanmer Springs, stopping off to take the obligatory photos of beautiful scenery on the way. 

We had lunch in Hanmer Springs but decided not to pay the fee to go into the hot springs as we would only have about an hour before we had to get back on the road.

In Kaikoura we checked into the Lobster Inn Motor Lodge and headed into the town for a look around. We picked up some supplies at the supermarket and went to the rocky beach. The greeny-blue water against the charcoal grey rocks was beautiful and we thought we could see snow on the distant hills, which made me upset that I had forgotten to bring the camera.

Kaikoura is famous for its crayfish, so we decided that we had to try some for dinner. The shop down the road that sold cooked crays takeaway was closed so we decided to go back to the restaurant at our Motor Inn, in a building with a large metal, wire and fibreglass crayfish/lobster attached to the front.

My plain steamed crayfish was much better than The Man's mornay, but we all enjoyed our meal and The Boy and I shared an Ice Cream Sundae for dessert.

And we didn't even have far to go to get "home" for the night!

Sunday 27th December
Kaikoura - Nelson
Disaster struck this morning. The Boy's Christmas present from Daddy and me was a DSi and games, to help occupy him in the car. He went to turn it on soon after we got up and it wouldn't turn on. We plugged it in to try and charge it again and all we got was a forlorn little orange light blinking at us. It wouldn't charge, either from the mains power or the car charger. The Man got online and found some forum posts suggesting it was an issue with the battery. We hoped there would be somewhere in Nelson that would be able to help.

We started the day by going back to the beach to get the photos we'd missed yesterday. Unfortunately there was a lot of haze so the colours weren't as beautiful as they had been the day before, but The Boy had lots of fun throwing the large, smooth rocks into the surf.

We drove north along the coast until the road took us inland towards Blenheim. We passed the airfield with the warbirds museum, noting that my Dad, a warbirds fanatic, would be distressed by the thought of anyone passing by without stopping!

We approached Blenheim around lunchtime. This certainly is wine country - vineyards almost as far as the eye could see, with stunning hillsides behind.

Eureka! There was a Dick Smith in Blenheim. Surely our DSi problems would all be sorted out. But no. They do not sell batteries for the DSi. We had lunch at the local Brumbies and got on our way again.

The road from Blenheim to Nelson wound up through large hills covered in pine plantations. At times it was narrow and tight and curvy and the driving must have been arduous for The Man. It was very beautiful, though.

In Nelson, we found our motel, The Carmel Court, then drove to Richmond in search of yarn shops. We found Cruella's, the home of Rare Yarns, and I bought some alpaca yarn that was marked down and some Misty in Jade to make a Victoria's Vest (well, at least I thought that was what I was buying. They agreed to post it for me so I didn't have to carry it, and when it turned up on Wednesday they'd sent Brushed in Jade instead. Oh well. They're close enough that I'm not going to make a fuss and try and send it back!) The boys fed the sheep that was out the back.

Hamburgers for dinner, then off to bed!

New Zealand Trip, Part 1

Friday December 25, 2009
We got up really early on Christmas morning as our flight was at 8.30am and we wanted to be at the airport by 6.30.
We woke the boy and pointed him in the direction of his present from Santa, a Transformers Devastator toy. of course, just looking at it wasn't enough, we had to open it, which meant unwinding what felt like 4 million little wire-ties. I gave up after a while and got the side-cutters out of my beading kit, but it was still tedious.

After showers, last minute shoving of extra stuff in suitcases, and an abortive attempt at breakfast, the taxi turned up 15 minutes early and we all piled in. The extra 15 minutes turned out to be a good thing, as the taxi driver ignored the new, quick route to the airport and took us the old way, which seemed to take forever and ever.

In the end, though, we arrived in plenty of time to check in, get through security and customs and have a cup of coffee before the flight.

Probably due to our relatively early check-in, we got seats in the front section of economy, where they have better seats with more leg room that they reserve for frequent flyers and nice people who check in early. We all watched movies or TV on the individual screens and got to Christchurch about 3pm local time.

We got our rental car, found our hotel (The comfortable but perfectly ordinary Holiday Inn on Avon), had a swim in their indoor, heated pool and sat down to think about dinner. As it was Christmas and very few restaurants/food outlets would be open, our hotel had kindly arranged a buffet dinner. It certainly sounded nice, but with a price tag of $89 per head , no discount for children, and the fact that one of us was, in fact, a child and the rest of us were tired out from a day traveling and were unlikely to be able to eat $89 worth of food, even if it was oysters, we decided to go into town and try our luck anyway.

Inner-city Christchurch certainly wasn't buzzing on the evening of Christmas Day. There were a few people wandering around, especially at the Cathedral, and the souvenir shops were all open so if we wanted to eat fluffy toy sheep and overpriced knick-knacks for dinner we were set. On the food front, there were a surprising number of sushi restaurants open but virtually nothing else. Since the Boy would sooner eat BROCCOLI than sushi, this was a problem. Finally we found the fast-food district, where the familiar golden arches beckoned. So this was how we came to have quarter pounders, cheeseburgers, fries and coke for Christmas dinner.

Back at the hotel, we encountered a problem. It doesn't get dark until about 10pm in New Zealand at this time of year. Between that and the fact that it was 3hours earlier in Brisbane, there was no way The Boy was going to go to sleep as it was "NOT BED-TIME YET!". We watched part of the Iron Man movie on TV and tried to turn out the lights and go to sleep at around 9pm but none of us were sleepy. We ended up getting up for a bit later on, eating some cereal we'd bought at a corner shop and going back to sleep much later.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Some late New Years Resolutions

I'm procrastinating about going through the holiday photos and compressing them for the web, or purchasing a Flickr pro account (I know which one's going to win, the Flickr pro account is much easier!)

So until I get that sorted out - some time this afternoon, I think - I will leave you with some resolutions for this year. Mostly I think that New Year's resolutions are a bit silly, as reviewing your life probably shouldn't be restricted to once a year, so maybe these are just some things I need to keep in mind this year. Call them what you will.

1. Purchase less yarn, use more of what I already have.  
I bought a lot of yarn in 2009. Due to the small size of our house and the blatant inadequacy of our storage capacity, there's quite a lot of yarn in all kinds of crazy places - in bags alongside the couch, under my desk, on my bookshelf, as well as the normal places like my knitting drawer, my wardrobe, and a stack of boxes in the shed. I'm not sure I've reached SABLE, but there's a lot there, and I could probably knit quite comfortably for the next year without running out, and without having to touch the acrylic. And the budget would be more comfortable with less money going out, too.

2. Pay more attention to my body.
I've been ignoring myself this last year, pushing through pain in my wrist, back, leg and arm, and allowing stress to get to me without doing anything about it. I've also been having a lot of late nights and sleeping badly, which has just made everything worse. It has all resulted in lingering pain, injury and scariness with my arm going numb just before Christmas. I think if I pay attention to what's going on, I can deal with the niggly stuff early, and prevent it getting worse. Well, it sounds like a good idea, anyway....

3. Pay less attention to my weight.
I had an eating disorder when I was younger and I think I retain a bit of a tendency to get obsessive about my weight. I'm lucky enough to be smack bang in the middle of the healthy weight range and I should be able to tell by how my clothes fit if I'm getting off track. I don't need to get on the scales every single morning and I certainly don't need to care about the decimal points in my weight, as I have been lately.

4. Eat better.
I eat a lot of crap. I resolve to attempt to eat more vegetables and less garbage. I resolve to try not to skip meals.

5. Exercise more.
This is a hard one. I am lazy. I get tired very easily, and with my Crohn's mostly under control, I no longer have the excuse of the chronic anaemia I had for years. I guess anything has got to be an improvement.

6. Hoard less.
I inherited the hoarder gene from my Dad. I'm not as bad as he is, and certainly not as bad as people I've seen on TV who cannot bring themselves to throw anything away, but I definitely keep some stuff that has no foreseeable purpose and should be discarded, donated or repurposed.

So there it is - that's what I'm going to be trying to keep in mind this year. What about you?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm back. Did you miss me?

Well, I'm back from my break. We arrived home from two weeks in New Zealand this morning. We got up at 3.30am Christchurch time and have done the flying and arriving home things today - the checkin, the big wait for the flight, the flight itself, collecting baggage, getting home, doing several loads of washing, mowing the lawn, downloading and watching David Tennant's last two episodes of Doctor Who, all those things you just have to do when you travel!

So I'm a bit tired, and this will only be a short post. I will try and get some stories and photos up over the next week or so.

My arm is doing well - it got a good rest over the last few weeks and I only had a couple of days where I got some mild numbness. My sore wrist is also back to normal but I will need to be conscious of it when I go back to work on Monday (*fingers in ears, la, la, la, la* - trying not to think about going back to work!)

I didn't get as much knitting done as I expected on the trip, because although I was a passenger and not a driver (it was a manual car, and I can only drive automatics, plus I don't think I can drive a rental car on my provisional licence), for the first 3/4 of the trip, the roads were very windy so I had to pay close attention to the roads to avoid motion sickness.

Still, I got the body of Margot finished, with a few bits ripped out and redone - I ended up making the body 3 inches longer than the pattern calls for, and I'm really happy with it now. I've just started one of the sleeves.

So I'm off to get dinner and probably an early night. See you tomorrow!