Baktus – Insert Pun Here

Life has been a bit mad lately, hence it’s taken me until late April to blog about a scarf that I finished in late January. But better late than never, right?

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Pattern: Baktus by Strikkelise.

Yarn: Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn (EQ colourway)

I have some pretty enormous love for Kauni Effektgarn. I bought this yarn a couple of years back now, and proceeded to hoard it because was clearly too lovely to use. I also had some trouble deciding on a pattern. The colours are beautiful, so I didn’t want to go for an elaborate design that would take attention away from the sheer rainbow glory of the yarn.

Well, it doesn’t get much more basic than Baktus (in the most excellent way possible of course). Plus about eleven thousand people had trodden the Kauni Baktus route before me (including the lovely Charlotte), to most excellent results. One of the things I tend to struggle with when it comes to craft is accepting the fact that I don’t actually have to be 100% original all of the time (any wonder I have anxiety problems). Clearly I need more experiences like this one to remind me that sometimes a choice is popular for a really good reason.

I didn’t follow the pattern exactly. I didn’t use the entire ball of yarn, for a start, and I must have been feeling uncharacteristically bossy because I actually removed quite a few yards of the second orange portion, just to make sure that the scarf ended in red. Left to its own devices, it would have ended in yellow and orange, which would not have been enough contrast for my liking. I’m definitely happy with the decision – I like it much more this way – and though I took out quite a large amount of orange, I was careful, and the slightly more abrupt colour change is barely noticeable, even if you’re looking for it.

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So there it is: doing my small part to brighten up Flagstaff station and the legal precinct on cold Wednesday mornings.

I considered giving it a silly name, hence the title of this post. I was knitting it upon my return to work after the Christmas break, so I considered all manner of silly variations on “Baktus to reality scarf”. However, I couldn’t quite do it, especially since it would just compound my guilt about making an un-blogged worsted weight test version that I can’t help but call Practice Baktus (no idea if that only rhymes in my particular non-accent, but try your luck).

 

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Best Laid Plans

And now, a blog post. Finally. I feel sheepish (geddit? Because I write about knitting stuff? Urgh… and now I feel dirty) for not posting earlier, but I’ve been run off my feet with things to do the last little while. Things that got backed up during the holiday and, well, the aftermath of the holiday itself.

The holiday, as it happened, could probably be described best by that most delightful of terms: omnishambles. Yes, my long awaited get-out-of-Melbourne trip did not end up being all that I had hoped. But humour is my all-time favourite coping mechanism, so let’s have a chat and a laugh about it anyway, right?

The trip started off well enough. We headed up to Myall Lakes National Park and did some camping. I’d visited the area a few years back and always wanted to return, as it really is very lovely. The sheer quantity of water always blows my mind (and this is coming from someone who spends most of her time on the coast).

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We got hideously mosquito bitten, but other than that, camping was excellent. There were some lovely walks to be found in the surrounding national park.

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Birds were everywhere, from kookaburras and ducks at the water’s edge to a small group of wrens flitting around our tent. And, a definite novelty: there were dingoes! (Dingos? Dingoes? Erm, there was more than one dingo?) And they were saucy. We saw one trotting happily past with a shoe in its mouth. Sneaky little bastard.

Sadly by early afternoon, rainstorms had rolled in, so we continued north so we could rendezvous with my father in Crescent Head, a little sea-side town that is one of my all time favourite places (and anyone who has read this blog for a while will vouch that I’ve seen my share of places). We spent a pleasant few days wandering the beach, cooking delicious food and watching Jonathan Creek with my dad.

And then, we had rain. For days. And then, unsurprisingly, came the floods. At first we laughed off the rain and enjoyed an excuse to loll around all day. Then I started to get concerned and insisted we go into the nearest larger town for groceries. Driving home again, the bridges had half a foot of water running atop them. The next day all outlying roads were closed, and the nearest towns were evacuated. Finding ourselves with the good fortune of being higher ground (and stranded regardless), we hid inside and ate delicious things. (what better thing to do when you’ve excess indoors time on your hands?)

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The weather let up a little after a few days of nothing but driving rain and furious wind; we were still stranded but we could at least walk around the town and to the beach (which was still, unfortunately, in no way safe for swimming). So much for our plans of spending an idyllic fortnight lolling around the beach and touring nearby national parks.

But at least we got some rest, right? At least after all that enforced idleness we were well rested and thoroughly de-stressed, right? Well, somewhat. Of course, we managed to completely undo that by the holiday’s end. Last weekend the roads were reopened and since I was due back at work, we packed up hurriedly and drove south through the still receding waters. We stayed in Goulburn overnight and, thinking we had a few hours spare in the morning, decided to check out the nearby Wombeyan Caves. We weren’t able to see the national parks further north, but at least we could check out some cool things on the way home, right? Well, we did see the caves, I suppose. And they were definitely interesting to visit. But on the way home, while driving along the poorly maintained unsealed road, a kangaroo leaped out onto the road. We swerved to avoid it. The car spun out, the car flipped, and we found ourselves hanging upside-down by our seatbelts.

No stress here, right?

I shouldn’t actually complain too much; if you’ve going to wreck your car in a rather spectacular accident, you couldn’t really ask for a better scenario than ours. Neither the Boy or I were the slightest bit hurt (my hat fell off and I scratched my shin, but that was about it). Thanks to a lovely man driving past, we didn’t even lose a single item of our belongings. We arranged a place to stay and a rental car with little difficulty. But still, not exactly what you want on your holiday. And it hurt to leave my poor old lady car in Goulburn, completely written off as she was. I learned to drive in that car. She was old, she was daggy, but I loved her ever so much. And she did well by us; the fact that we both walked away unhurt is evidence of how safe you always were when you were driving her. I may have sniffled the entire way from Goulburn to Yass (a mere 80km), and still couldn’t talk about her without choking up for some time after that. Vale, my dear old car. You will be fondly remembered.

And this is just the big stuff that went wrong. It was accompanied by a fistful of other annoying things that happened at the same time. My camera died, for no apparent reason. I buggered up one of my teeth and will now have to attend the dentist ASAP. My bike got stolen (apparently the universe is systematically removing my methods of transportation).

So ends the most ill-fated attempt at a holiday I’ve ever taken (even beats the Norwegian hell-flu incident hands down). Serves me right for tempting fate by going on a trip after writing a blog-post involving the following declaration:

“one of the things I’d like to do more in 2013 is get out of the city for some walking and sightseeing. There are so many beautiful places within an hour or so’s drive of Melbourne. I really have precious little excuse not to go out and get stuck in.”

*sigh*

Guess I’ll just have to beg for rides from friends for a while. Anyone in Melbourne fancy a hike and want company?

Still, it’s good to be home. And there’s no point in moping for an excessively long period of time over stuff you can’t change (for all that I retain my right to mope for a good 45 minute period about things including but not limited to: awry holiday plans, getting stuck in natural disaster zones, destroyed cars, etc). So I’m dealing with things by throwing myself into hobbies and home-improvement. If my holiday didn’t work, I’m bloody well going to make home as awesome a place as possible; a place that I will relish inhabiting when the weather starts to turn cold. My attempt at a last grasp of summer having gone thoroughly to hell, I am just going to tidy my scarf collection in welcome of autumn.

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It’s easier to knit for cold weather anyway.

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Escape!

It’s felt a little strange being in Melbourne for the whole of January. The last few years I’ve made myself scarce and headed north as soon after Christmas as possible. But this year it was time for a change, so instead of heading straight to the beach, we tried a different approach and drove into the Yarra Ranges to visit the Boy’s mum in Warburton. It’s a lovely place to visit, with so many lovely places to walk, tasty food on which to gnaw and rosellas swarming everywhere you look. (okay, I have a strong suspicion that rosellas don’t actually swarm… but perhaps they should? It would be cool, right?)

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The Boy’s mum’s place has no tv and no internet, so we spent the evenings reading, drinking multiple cups of tea, playing chess and listening to one of the other residents of the house practice on her violin. It was rather excellent, really. It didn’t hurt that the lounge room looks like this (excuse the crappy phone-camera picture). I spent a lot of time in that chair knitting away on an impromptu Baktus (stay tuned for that one).

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We did lots of walking, just as I’d hoped. We walked around Mt Little Joe (which then, erm, caught fire a week later – yikes!) and then bounded down the Backstairs Track behind Warburton.

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When we were done we soaked our tired feet in the Yarra (don’t worry: where we were walking it looks pristine and inviting and generally a whole lot less like this).

On our last morning we went down to the Rainforest Gallery in the Yarra Ranges National Park. It was lovely (though the text on the signs was a bit… interesting. I feel very strongly that William Shatner should do a spoken word version).

Still, very lovely! You like ferns? All the ferns you can handle right here!

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It wasn’t as long a get away as I would have liked, but it definitely scratched my get-the-hell-out-of-the-city itch. I’m hoping this little trip will set a precedent actually; I don’t really go in for New Year’s resolutions at all, but one of the things I’d like to do more in 2013 is get out of the city for some walking and sightseeing. There are so many beautiful places within an hour or so’s drive of Melbourne. I really have precious little excuse not to go out and get stuck in. I’m already making cunning plans for the next trip; if all goes to plan, it’ll be a little further afield!

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That Time of Year

Okay, so I went and fell into the void that is December. But in my defense, it’s pretty easy to do. I had a comparatively small number of Christmas obligations, but even so I found my time quickly devoured, what with the gift knitting, party attendance and miscellaneous end-of-year tasks. It was a great month though; plenty of fun, with the people I love best in the world, which is really what it’s all about.

I probably did a little less gift knitting than usual, for a number of reasons. For a start, my father went adventuring in cold regions a month or so back, so I’d only just made him a hat and scarf. And to be honest, none of my nearest and dearest really go in for knits, or for warm accessories. I love knitting for people, but I’m really more concerned with giving people gifts that they actually enjoy. I don’t exchange presents with that many people, so when I do, I like to do it properly, and the fact remains that regardless of the fact that I like to knit, not everyone wants knitted things, or not the people I know at any rate!

That’s not to say that this Christmas was knit-less. For a couple of gifts, I made knitted covers for glass jars and filled them with fun bits and pieces (okay, so sometimes it was cranes but shut up, that’s why!). Knitting the jar covers was more fun than you’d expect; because it was small scale, you could knit them fairly quickly, but still experiment. To be honest, I have no idea whether covered jars are practical, but it was fun!

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For another gift, I also made a second Dubious Victory scarf, this time in heavier yarn (to ensure I was able to finish in time!). I’m quite pleased with how it came out, and it consumed some yarn I’d had kicking around for approximately forever, so I was double satisfied (see below chin, sprouting grand zits of satisfaction!).

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Christmas Day itself I spent with family, eating far too much food. On Boxing Day the Boy and I took a trip out to visit his mother in Warburton. The area is far too lovely, so it gets a post all of its own. Pictures to follow!

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The Pursuit of Salad

I’ve now moved on to making cranes for other people, but I’m still enjoying my blue and yellow specimens from the last post. I’ve never favoured the sparse, minimalist approach when it comes to interior decorating – in other words, I like to stick crap everywhere – so cranes are a good solution, as they’re easy to hang up where ever you please. Also jars. I will put more or less anything in a jar. Exhibit A:

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Decorating the flat has been on my list for a while. I’m one of those people that always has a to-do list. Always. It’s a good habit, a bad habit, a coping mechanism, and so on. In fact, I usually have multiple to-do lists going at any one time. I have short-term lists for the next day or so, long-term lists for the next few months, lists for specific projects, etc. I even have ongoing lists full of things of which to remind myself; things that aren’t so much ticked off or completed as they are things at which I need to keep working. Inevitably, these ongoing lists contain a bullet point upon the lines of “Eat better”, “Eat more vegetables”, “Anna, eat some ***ing salad, for **** sake”, and so on. I’ve always struggled a bit with vegetables, which is completely ridiculous for someone who has been a vegetarian for over half of their life.

It’s not that I don’t eat vegetables. Ever dutiful, I eat vegetables a lot. It’s that, for the most part, I have a whole lot of trouble liking them. Blaming your parents for your current state is, I’m told, a time honoured tradition, so I’m choosing to attribute my veggie-apathy to my father’s tendency to buy the cheapest fruit and vegetables in the entire market, which were inevitably the ones that were hideously under-ripe (some fruits just shouldn’t crunch) or way past their prime. Now that I’m a grown-up who buys her own vegetables, I don’t have this problem, and as time has gone by I’ve found myself more and more willing to chow down on veggies for pleasure, rather than out of a sense of dreary obligation to my internal organs. But still, it takes a lot to get me actually excited about vegetables.

One of the problems is that I just plain don’t like most salads. Often, they just leave me completely underwhelmed. I think this is partially because I’ve never really been one for dressing on my veggies (I’ve always felt a super greasy coating on everything kind of undermines the cool and refreshing dealio that is the main appeal of salad). I also have trouble finding a way to fit salads into my meals. As someone who isn’t really a meat-eater, I don’t tend to eat that many meals that really require a side; my dinners are usually one bowl affairs and while it’s not that you can’t have a salad on another plate, it’s more that it feels a bit superfluous. And I am generally not the type of person who is ever satisfied by eating salad as a meal in its entirety.

Recently, I’ve been trying to tackle the latter point, reminding myself that even though I was brought up with salad being lettuce with tomato thrown at it, there’s no reason why salads can’t actually be more substantial. I’ve spent the last couple of years being pretty hooked on my version of tabbouleh, which sort of counts as a salad, so I thought it was time to take inspiration from that and branch out a little. And I’ve had some success. Last week I made a very well received salad with rocket, lentils and roast pumpkin, inspired by a wonderful lunch I had with some friends at Balderdash on a recent visit to my old neck of the woods. And then I delighted myself yet again with this pasta-salad-type-thing. (though being completely immodest and far too enthusiastic when it comes to cooking, I delight myself fairly often – the Boy’s enthusiasm is probably a more objective indication of quality)

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Yeah, I know pasta salad does not equal salad salad. But it contains leaves aplenty. So it’s as good a start as any.

A Most Excellent Pasta Salad, with spinach, rocket, lentils and tomato:

Ingredients:

  • Pasta (I favour orecchiette – aka little shells – because they form tiny receptacles for the lentils, and I love it when my food actively cooperates. Sometimes I use a mix of wholemeal and white pasta and this is lovely too)
  • Baby spinach (rinsed)
  • Rocket (rinsed and dried)
  • 1 x 400g tin of brown lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • juice of two lemons
  • olive oil
  • 1 x clove of garlic
  • ground cumin
  • salt/pepper to taste

Put the pasta on to cook, as per packet instructions (though mine lied. Blatantly). When it’s done, toss the baby spinach leaves into the saucepan with the pasta. Give the whole thing a brief stir and then drain immediately. Finely chop the onion, then put in a small bowl and cover with half of the lemon juice, leaving to stand for a few minutes while you get on with the rest of the preparation. Roughly de-seed and dice the tomatoes. Drain the lentils and give them a wash in the colander to rinse off the noxious can goo. Combine the rest of the lemon juice with the olive oil, finely grated or crushed garlic clove, cumin and salt/pepper. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl big enough to get the job done. Devour with enthusiasm.

The first time I made this I fried some thin slices of halloumi cheese and draped them over the top of the salad. I can’t recall the last time food made me so ridiculously happy…

…wait, yes I can! These tomatoes. They looked so lovely I had to take their photo.

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And then I ate them and we all lived happily ever after. Or something.

Happy December, everyone!

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Adventures in Coloured Paper

A short post today, because I want to go and be in the sun while there is still sun to be had. Preferably with some stone fruit or a mango. Summer fruit is still a massive novelty, since we haven’t actually entered summer yet. And my wonderful foundling balcony couch is a most excellent place to eat a mango. Or drink a beer. Or nap in the sun. The couch and I have not been acquainted all that long, but our casual friendship is quickly blossoming into something more serious. Why are there no rom-coms telling the story of the love between a girl and her beautiful, eccentric, reproduction-something-or-other type sofa?

Alas, girl cannot live on couch alone. She needs to work and buy groceries and do all of those other things that keep her supplied with mangoes. And with all of these things comes a certain amount of stress. I’ve always had some… issues when it comes to anxiety. I am an anxious person. In some ways I loathe writing that, because seriously, who wants to be the high strung, neurotic character of the story? And there’s a lot more to me than that. I am actually really easygoing. I have an atrocious sense of humour. I love to go on the occasional bender with friends. I have insatiable wanderlust. But I’m also anxious. And it’s been acting up lately, for whatever reason. I’m still deciding whether or not it’s gotten to the point where seeking help is probably a good idea, but it’s increasingly looking as if this might be the case. So it goes. I’m a grown-up and I’ll do what I have to do to look after myself.

But I digress. The thing about anxiety is that sometimes, when you’re feeling anxious, it is much easier to stay where you are and keep doing the thing you’re doing – anything at all – than it is to get up and go about your day (which can feel near impossible). And when you’re me, sometimes there is a stack of origami paper nearby. So you make paper cranes. So many cranes.

Excuse the scuffed-up old coffee table. (do you still call it a coffee table when nobody in your apartment drinks the stuff?) But seriously. 142 cranes last count. I just went into the lounge and counted. I learned how to make paper cranes when I was in primary school and we read about Sadako (no, not the girl from Ringdo some reading, people). Perhaps if I keep going to one thousand I can wish for less anxiety. Or at least a steady supply of mangoes.

But for now, at least I have some more colour for my room. Which makes me nearly as happy as couch-bound mango consumption. Happy almost-summer-time, bloggy people!

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A Dubious Victory

Before, during and since moving, I’ve been trying to reduce my yarn collection. I’ve never been very good at getting rid of things, and the creative hobbies only make it worse, encouraging me to hold on to all manner of random bits and bobs just in case I eventually encounter instructions or inspiration that calls for their use. But I do get tired of it, this collection of paraphernalia that follows me around. I know it will take me years to deplete my yarn stash at the rate at which I knit, which makes me start feeling guilty. I’m working on changing this feeling, because guilt is not a particularly constructive feeling at the best of times, and definitely not in the context of a pile of wool. But I’m also working on reducing the yarn. Two-pronged attack!

A few weeks back I started this scarf partly to use up some languishing yarn, partly to have something to occupy my hands while watching The Walking Dead (because zombies are a reason for zombies).  I’m quite keen on the result. But, upon finishing the scarf, I realised that it hadn’t really used up all that much yarn, despite a hearty stash-bust being the original goal. So a bit of a dubious victory. But if you’re going to have a dubious victory, it might as well result in a scarf.

I began with the idea of making a striped circular scarf, but decided upon further thought that I was a little bit tired of regular stripes. I also wanted to make something that was at least vaguely reversible, as I can never be bothered to make sure that I’m wearing scarves with the “right side” showing. Combining these two ideas, I decided to work stripes of varying width, worked in a mixture of stockinette, reverse stockinette and garter stitch, so that the colour change purl “bumps” were visible on both sides (I actually kind of like the look of them, so this made me rather happy).

 

You could use countless different combinations of different colours and stitches, but here’s what I did:

Dubious Victory Scarf:

Scarf is worked entirely in the round. Gauge is not crucial: I used a 4mm circular needle and dk/worsted weight yarn. I used three colours: blue, dark brown and light brown.

  • Cast on 270 stitches in blue.
  • Work 5 rows of garter stitch in the round (alternating knit and purl rounds), ending with a knit row.
  • Knit 2 rounds in dark brown.
  • Purl 3 rounds in blue.
  • Knit 2 rounds in dark brown.
  • Knit 3 rounds in light brown
  • Purl 6 rounds in blue
  • Purl 3 rounds in dark brown
  • Knit 2 rounds in blue
  • Knit 4 rounds in light brown
  • Knit 2 rounds in blue
  • Knit 2 rounds in light brown
  • Knit 3 rounds in blue
  • Purl 3 rounds in dark brown
  • Work 6 rows of garter stitch in the round in blue.
  • Bind off all stitches

That’s it! It’s so basic that I feel slightly foolish even writing instructions. But at least this way I won’t have to gripe about stitch count the next time I make one of these. Hurrah?

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