Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Ugly

Let's start with these socks ...



Remember them? Well, they just got uglier.

I'm not even sure why I haven't unravelled them and made something else but they are warm and I had already made one sock. (And it's only my choice of colours that makes them ugly as you will see if you check out the pattern.)

That was before I cast on for the second and decided that a scrap sock should at least look pretty. So I made a pretty sock (the 'good') and I unravelled the top of the ugly sock because I needed some more of the teal yarn.

But I still had a tube with a toe and a heel and decided to finish it with another yarn I had left over.


 

Which I did. But I'm dragging my feet on finishing the second sock (pun intended) despite promising myself to finish them before I start another project (yeah, right).

The Bad

I'm actually in love with these socks. I love the Fair Isle on the sole from the self-patterning yarn, I love that they are resoleable if they ever develop a hole (my modification), I love the pattern, and I love that DIL#1 loves them.







Which should make them 'good', right?

Except that they didn't start out as 'good'.

A week before DIL#1's birthday I asked her what her shoe size was (yes, I know, I left it rather late to even be thinking about knitting socks as a gift). She told me she wears her husband's socks. So I knitted a sock to the same size as those I had previously knitted to fit his feet, not realising that she meant that he was able to fit into her commercial socks. There's a vast difference in the 'give-and-take' between commercial socks and hand knitted socks, which we discovered when she tried them on.

Fortunately, the second sock wasn't finished and it was simply a matter of unravelling to before the heel and making the foot shorter. The first sock was a different story. I removed the toe and as many rounds as needed to make the sock the correct length, and then re-knit the toe. But picking up slipped stitches when all the 'slips' are going one direction (up) and you're going to be knitting the opposite direction (down) is not easy and I'm not in love with the finished result. (Yet even I can't tell which is which from the photos.)

Next time I'll check shoe sizes. (And I suspect there will be a 'next time' after observing DIL#3 flapping around in Son#3's oversized socks this weekend. I'm thinking there might be enough of that self-patterning yarn to do at least another two pairs and an upcoming holiday will provide ample knitting-in-the-car time.)

Apart from that, they belong in the 'good' category. So I'm going to place them there.

The Good

These are the scrap socks that I decided should be pretty. I ran out of the teal yarn and couldn't find anyone in New Zealand who had any in stock. So I added the green cuff. I also knit the sole of the second sock last in case I ran out of yarn and had to substitute another yarn where it couldn't be seen (hence the difference in soles where one is a slipped stitch pattern and the other is simple stocking stitch - and I had a tiny bit of yarn left over).

 





I love these. I've worn them so much that I'm surprised they haven't developed holes. The pattern, while it looks complicated, was easy and one I will probably use again. (This link is to the mosaic pattern and not a sock pattern but it's easy to substitute it into any basic 64-stitch sock pattern.)

And, lastly, this free pattern on Ravelry. Another complicated looking pattern, but the main colour is always only two rounds of stocking stitch and the contrast colour is knit and slipped stitches that stay the same for two rounds, and once you've knitted a few rounds, it's almost intuitive.

 


(Yes, I appear to be on a blue and green craze for my socks.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Surprises

Last weekend we had a lovely surprise visit from Son#3, DIL#3, and Son#5 ... which in turn led to some lovely family get-togethers. It seems like forever since we were all together so it was a wonderful surprise. (And I had to do a surprise shop since there wasn't enough food in the house for that many people.)

Yesterday I had another surprise. But first, let's go back in time ... back to when this blogger was a model teen (well, that's how I remember it).

At fourteen years of age I was diagnosed with hearing loss in my left ear. At the time it was a relief. That's why I had trouble learning words as a child; that's why I struggle to hear in group situations; that's why I can't pick out individual instruments when listening to orchestral music; that's why I have so much difficulty learning a spoken language (I did fine at Latin). I'm not stupid after all.

At the time I was told several things: the hearing loss was in my left ear and only at some frequencies; I would have no difficulty hearing normal speech; it was permanent and a result of having had meningitis at age two and a half; and nothing could be done.

I was okay with all that. I'd learnt to adjust to this hearing loss over time (and I still do things that I realise normal-hearing people don't do) and to compensate in many ways. The hearing loss was to me a personal and private reminder that God had His Hand on my life. I should've died from that illness. My parents were told I would. When I survived, my parents were told I would be severely brain damaged. I was sick a long, long time. So to survive with only (what I thought) minimal hearing loss was a miracle.

I still believe it was a miracle.

But yesterday I had my first audiologist appointment in over 35 years and I learnt a few things: my hearing loss is permanent and likely the result of meningitis (nothing unexpected there); I have moderate to severe loss in my left ear and mild to moderate in my right (I never had any reason to believe that I had anything but "normal" hearing in my right ear); I can hear bass tones such as men's voices but not treble tones such as women's or children's voices (so I can hear normal speech as long as it's a male speaking); and hearing aids could make a big difference.

Please repeat that.

Hearing aids could make a big difference.

After believing for thirty odd years that nothing could assist my hearing, only to be told otherwise, it requires some mental gymnastics to come to terms with the new understanding of me. I'm not sure I'm processing it very well.

Which is ridiculous. One would think that given the opportunity to improve one's hearing one would jump at it.

Or would they?

Because I have heard a new born baby cry. I have heard each of my children say "Mama". I have sat and enjoyed music. I can hear the birds right outside my window as I type this. I've woken when a child has cried in the night. I've learnt to hear in most situations. I don't particularly feel as if I've been disadvantaged.

Would hearing aids give me greater clarity, greater enjoyment? Or would background and other noises increase? Would it be an improved quality of life or not?

And if I chose to wear hearing aids (which given the type suggested and the fact that I almost always wear my hair up, would be visible), would people perceive me differently?

And there's the rub. At present I can decide who I tell of this unique aspect of me, but hearing aids would announce it to all and sundry.

And yet, while I'm trying to process all this, while I'm struggling with my altered perception of who I am, I can't help but feel thankful.

Thankful that I'm alive. Thankful that my diagnosis came in my teen years and not earlier because had it been earlier my early language learning difficulties would not have been put down to genetics or laziness and I wouldn't have been so strongly encouraged to speak clearly and to work at getting all those sounds right. I am thankful for a diagnosis that explained why I couldn't differentiate some sounds and helped me realise I wasn't stupid. I'm thankful that it's not genetic. I'm thankful that it is the only complication from an awful, awful disease that claimed many lives and left others in wheelchairs or with severe brain damage. I'm thankful that I have this sign of God's Hand on my life and His eternal love. And I'm thankful that something can be done, even if I choose not to do it.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Reason

This is the reason why over the past week it has felt that Spring has not sprung in our part of the world.


Look closely at the hills in the background.

Okay, I'll help you out ...


Still can't see it? How about this?


That is snow. Fresh snow. More than we often see this low even during winter. And when we do see it, we moan and complain about how cold it is.

It's been cold. Too cold for Spring.

But as the picture shows, Spring might be able to redeem herself ... if the sunny afternoon is anything to judge by.

Let's hope so anyway.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Yesterday

Yesterday we celebrated our second son's thirtieth birthday (Happy Birthday, Son#2). With two sons now in their thirties, I can't help but feel old at times.

But not too old to enjoy a grandparent-granddaughter date with our eldest granddaughter. After a meal at a 'real' cafĂ© (i.e. not a fast food chain), we took the tourist route and soaked up some sunshine and magnificent views.



 
By the way, she seemed quite intrigued with the idea that some of her uncles (two?) had slept up here, against the bars of the safety cage, for a Youth Group fundraiser!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What Was I Thinking?

I have had several "What was I thinking?" moments lately.

Some inconsequential, and some not so inconsequential. Some ridiculous and some ... actually they were all ridiculous. 

Such as this shawl pattern (beautiful, beautiful pattern that got lost in the colours I chose). I used twice as much yarn as the pattern called for but still ended up with a small shawl. However, it wraps around my neck as a baktus/shawlette/scarf/neck accessory and is deliciously warm. The toastiness of it is very important given our frosty mornings and the fact that I've been leaving home as the sun comes up (and managing to drench myself as I've tried to de-ice the car).




But it was a lot of work for a pattern that's hidden and has a million slipped stitches to catch at everything in sight (so perhaps not a good choice for work). Obviously I wasn't thinking.

And then there were these socks ...


Interesting way of working gusset underneath the foot (and which refuses to photograph).

Love the sole pattern I chose.



I actually love them but why did it take two weeks of them sitting finished in my knitting bag before I finally tried them on?

What was I thinking?

And, of course, there is this sock ...




No, no! These are NOT a pair.
Made of scraps, it's warm, it was fun to knit, it's lonely (I haven't started the second sock yet and it's been over a week), and it's different.

What was I thinking?

And, then, there was that moment ten days ago when I thought, "Okay, I'm stressed as team leader already, especially with having to present at our Christian Early Childhood Conference soon, and I don't know how I'm going to fit everything in as it is, so why don't I volunteer to move into the next area and act as team leader there while the management looks for a new team leader? It will only double my stress and workload and there will be other considerations such as I've not worked in this area for fourteen years, and the team is grieving their leader who has left, and I'll miss my team and the children I work with so much, so why not do it?"

I can think of many reasons why I shouldn't. But I did anyway.

What was I thinking?

 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Easy-Peasy Soaked Wheat Bread

I've read a lot recently about the value of soaking grains before using. I've been doing it with my oats for a few years now but have only just made the switch to soaking wheat for bread. If what I've read is correct, then wheat and other grains should be soaked, sprouted, or fermented before using if we are to enjoy their full nutritional value.

I love the idea and the taste of sourdough (fermented grain) but I've had little success with my sourdough starter lately. It always seems to turn a nasty looking colour that I suspect signals that it contains bacteria or similar that I'd rather not digest. Plus, it takes time and planning to have a sourdough starter ready when you want it.

Enter soaking.

It requires planning, but only a minimum of 7 hours ahead rather than several days (although you can soak for up to 24 hours).

And it can be done with minimum effort and in a  breadmaking machine. I know bread produced in a breadmaker isn't everyone's idea of perfect bread but sometimes even busy people want to enjoy the benefits of more traditional foods and rather than compromise on ingredients, choose to compromise on method.

Besides, if I had to do this all by hand ALL the time, I'd probably never to it.


There are definitely advantages to using a breadmaker. Let me name a few:
  • No mess. No effort. Well hardly any effort. Measure the ingredients, let the machine mix them to a ball, turn the machine off and let sit for 7-24 hours;
  • It can be all ready to go when you're ready for the next step. The recipe I first tried had the yeast and salt added on top with 1/4 cup flour. I don't do this, preferring to measure these into a small cup and adding when I'm ready to hit Start, but for those who like to use a timer, it is possible to set and forget;
  • If your breadmaker is like mine, the whole wheat/wholemeal cycle begins with a warming period. This is great as it brings the dough and the remaining ingredients (1/4 cup flour, salt and yeast) to the right temperature, and ensures a good loaf.
I'm going to share some recipes below but here are a few tips for adapting any recipe designed for use in a  breadmaker:
  • Place the paddle into the bread pan, then add all the flour except for 1/4 cup, liquid warmed to room temperature, sugar or honey if using, oil or butter if using, and an acid medium;
  • Suitable acid mediums include apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and cultured dairy. The rule appears to be 1 tablespoon acid medium to every 1 cup liquid. (You may use more but be careful if you choose to use lemon juice as your acid as it can apparently adversely affect the flavour.) You may wish to adjust the amount of liquid in the step above to account for the addition of an acid medium;
  • Allow the machine to just mix the ingredients and then turn off. I use my basic loaf cycle for this and then turn the machine off and unplug (necessary with my machine if I want a different cycle when I turn it back on again);
  • Cover the pan with either oiled plastic wrap or a towel and close the lid of the machine. I had better results when I covered with the plastic wrap as well as closing the lid;
  • Measure the remaining ingredients - 1/4 cup flour that was kept back, salt, yeast - and set aside. I also had a slightly higher loaf with breadmaking yeast rather than active yeast but this may have been because my active yeast was a little old and not so active;
  • After a minimum of 7 hours or maximum 24 hours, add the remaining ingredients to the bread pan and set to whole wheat cycle;
  • It probably pays to check the consistency of the dough when the machine is kneading to ensure it's not too wet or dry. My first two attempts I needed to add a little more flour, but had I not been around when the machine was kneading, I probably still would have ended up with a decent loaf;
  • Once the bread is baked and cooled, enjoy your softer and more nutritious loaf with, hopefully, less tummy discomfort (if you're prone that way).
This recipe for a breadmaker machine was the first one I tried and it worked fine. It worked so fine that I wanted to experiment. When I cut out wheat a few years back, I missed the Speckled Welsh Bread (also known as Raisin Bread) that I used to make.

For obvious reasons (at least to me) I decided to experiment with that recipe first.

I was pleased with the results and considering it was almost all eaten all in one weekend (not by me!), I think I can safely say it was a success.

Then I tried a popular yogurt bread that I've made in the past, and was pleased with the results. Again.

Right now I have another loaf of Speckled Welsh Bread soaking in my breadmaker, so I think it's time I shared these two recipes with my readers.

Speckled Welsh Bread
Into bread pan place 1 cup hot strong tea, 3/4 to 1 cup raisins, sultans, currants, or a mix, 2 tablespoons yogurt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 to 2 tablespoons honey or sugar, and 2-3/4 cup whole wheat flour. Set the machine to mix and turn off and cover once a ball has formed. Into a small bowl place an extra 1/4 cup flour. Make a well on one side and add 1 teaspoon salt. Make a well on other side of flour and add 3 teaspoons breadmaking yeast. Place 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon mixed spice on top.

After 7-24 hours, add ingredients in cup to top of dough in pan (remember to remove the plastic wrap first) and set machine to whole wheat cycle.

If possible check for degree of wetness/dryness during kneading cycle.

Yogurt Bread
I have several variations of this recipe, so if you have one you've tried and enjoyed, use that. Here's the one I tried using the soaking method:

Into bread pan place 3/4 cup warm water, 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 cups whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup white flour (or more whole wheat if prefer). Set the machine to mix and turn off and cover once a ball has formed. Into a small bowl place extra 1/4 cup flour. Make a well on one side and add 1 teaspoon salt, and on the opposite side another well and add 3 teaspoons breadmaker yeast.

After 7-24 hours, add ingredients in cup to top of dough in pan (remember to remove the plastic wrap first) and set machine to whole wheat cycle.

If possible check for degree of wetness/dryness during kneading cycle.

This bread is also nice with mixed seeds, such as poppy, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin added towards the end of the kneading stage.

If you try either of these recipes I'd love to know how they turn out.

First attempt on left using linked recipe above; second attempt on right using Speckled Welsh Bread recipe.

As for my sourdough starter, I'll keep it for making pikelets or pancakes (when it's not a funky colour).
 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Gate

DH decided to build a gate in our fence so that I could more easily access our home 'orchard'. I was in two minds as to whether we really needed it since we had to destroy our plum tree which was the only tree that really produced enough fruit to warrant our calling the area 'orchard'. Now said 'orchard' consists mainly of infant trees with a few low-yielding fruit trees.

But not only did DH decide we needed a gate, he also decided that he needed help. Lots of it!

All projects need a plan ...


 







 
  
 

The Most Adorable Granddaughter#5, after observing (and helping) all day, decided that we needed another gate and set about to mark it out herself ...









 
A job well done!