Sunday, 27 December 2009

Parrworld

Mr Gingerknits and I are both fans of photographer Martin Parr so we took the opportunity to break the Christmas eating too much and watching too much telly tradition to visit the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead to see his latest exhibition.

I was a little underwhelmed by his new Luxury series though there were a few photos which brought a smile to my face, especially the women dressed up for race day in Newcastle, holding cans of Fosters instead of the traditional champers.

However the exhibition on the 3rd floor was a winner. As well as displaying Parr's collection of photography which is an excellent exhibtion in it's own right there is his collection of "ephemera", Parr's term for his eclectic mix of everyday objects capturing world changing events. The blurb on the Baltic website sums it up better than I can so I'll just show you a few things which caught my eye.

Miners Strike plates

There was a lot of miners strike ephemera. These plates struck a chord. They were produced as fundraisers for communities. To me each plate represents a community ruined by Thatcherism.

Nazi Christmas Tree Decorations

Even more chilling were these Nazi Christmas tree decorations. Imagine hanging little books of Hitler on your 3rd Reich tree.

Baltic Gallery, Gateshead

One a more cheery note the soviet space exploration ephemera was a joy to behold. When I was a kid I was a space geek and would learn facts such as Laika was the first mammal in space as seen on the commemorative plate below and how Yuri Gagarin, a cosmonaut was the first human in space.

IMG_5320

I'm a hoarder, a clutterer, a collector. In an age where minimalism, blandness and uniformity are celebrated Parr makes me feel so much better about my love of kitsch, items for amusement and decorations in general. While I'm all for sustainability and using less there's something to be said for items that brighten your day. I was very restrained in the museum shop but did invest in some Parr ephemera. The badge will live on my Beijing Olympics bag and the chocolate bar will form my collection of art exhibition chocolate bars. That is, my collection, ahem, ephemera of one.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day

After the sedentary nature of yesterday my mum, Mr Gingerknits and I went for a walk down to Easby Abbey, one of my favourite walks in Richmond. It follows the edge of the river Swale, past fields to the 12th century Easby Abbey and the older St Agatha's church. If you're ever in the area try and visit the church as it has some medival fresco paintings which are well worth a look.

On the way we spotted Aberdeen Angus cows...

Christmas 2009.

hissing geese...

Christmas 2009.

and Easby Abby covered in snow.

Christmas 2009.

The walk gave me an opportunity to take a better photo of the Roses Red Beret I made for my mum last year.

Christmas 2009.

On the way home we spotted this Knitivity scene in someone's window...

Christmas 2009.

...and some house bling.

Christmas 2009.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Highlights

The field next to my parent's house looking a little different to yesterday...

Christmas 2009.

...listening to a Christmas service on the radio while in the shower and singing along with the carols...

...a delicious Christmas dinner with an international guest as well as friends and family...

Christmas 2009.

...walking our friend home in the snow

Christmas 2009.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope your day was as lovely as ours.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

In the bleak mid-winter....

We're staying at my parent's home in Richmond, North Yorkshire for the festive period. I've seen snow here before but never over Christmas. We're sleeping in the summer house in the garden as my MIL is in our usual room. I've been using my flip flop & hand-knit tabi sock combo to pad from the summer house to the bungalow but woke up to fresh snowfall this morning which was too deep for bare foot/sock bravery. Luckily my Dad appeared in the garden, shovel in hand, to clear the way and my mum brought us coffee. I'm easily pleased.

Christmas 2009.

Later in the day we went for a tramp round the field next to my parents estate (housing estate, not country manor). It was so pretty in a bleak mid-winter way.

Christmas 2009.

Yesterday I wore normal, shop bought cotton socks for the first time in ages. It was also the first time I had cold feet since I've been wearing hand-knit socks all the time. I'm back in the hand-knits now and intend to stay that way til March.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Festiveness

Yesterday was a gift wrapping day. I finished the socks I'd been making for our friends daughter on the way home from Thailand so just had to weave the ends in. They're knit with the beetroot yarn I made in the summer using my favourite toe up sock formula from the Evil Sock Genius.

B's socks

The girl I've made them for knows about them as I made the first sock with her foot in it, so to speak, so I wrapped them to look like socks.

Can you guess what it is?

I also put the finishing touches to the chutney I made last month. My usual deocrative technique is to write on the jar in a gold or silver pen however the label glue was impossible to shift so I came up with a folksy festive alternative.

Chutney

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Pickled pears

My mum mentioned the Georgian Theatre in Richmond, Yorkshire, where my parents volunteer, was going to be on the Hairy Bikers Christmas Special. I was still jetlagged when the programme was on so I was dozing on the sofa when the theatre was shown, however hearing the word pickle roused me from my slumber and these pickled pears made my mouth water.



They are very easy and quick to make. I didn't have any allspice berries so I added some ginger instead and also threw in a handful of fresh cranberries and walnuts to the mix for a festive flavour. I didn't have any lemons either so used a mix of orange and lime peel.

Pickled pears

The poaching liquor smelled so good I had to stop myself dipping a spoon in and it's a good job I made these before going to my parents for Christmas as I wouldn't be able to leave the pears for the minimum pickling period of a week. I can't wait to sample them with a good English cheese when I get back from Yorkshire.

Monday, 21 December 2009

4 lost phones, 1 happy friend

Our friend Emma has lost her i-phone four times. She asked me to knit her a bag which she could wear on drunken nights out which she could keep her keys, credit cards and most importantly her i-phone in.



I knit this on the diagonal, in the round alternating banana fibre (similar to sari silk but smells of rainforests) and cascade 220, then felted it to make a firmer fabric.



The cascade 220 bled like mad when I felted it. I wasn't impressed by a commercial yarn leeching so much colour. Luckily I have an old towel I use for felting but if I'd made a garment from it and then happened to get caught in the rain I would not be a happy bunny.

Despite that Emma loved her bag. There's something very satisfying about giving handknits in person. Emma didn't stop grinning and wore the bag for the rest of the evening. She's now convinced she won't lose another i-phone but I have told her if she loses the bag I'll knit her another one.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sweet and sour

It's festive and it's brass monkeys outside so I was in a baking mood today. I love fresh cranberries at Christmas time so made these biscuits from this recipe. It worked well with fresh cranberries instead of dried producing a tangy yet sweet treat. They didn't last long.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Power cut


We've had a power cut for the last 30 hours. No heating, no electric lights, no internet, no TV, no cooking, no kettle just as temperatures outside dropped below zero and my mother in law arrived for Christmas. One of the advantages of living where we do is there are coffee shops and restaurants just minutes away though I took advantage of the power cut and hibernated on Friday night which seemed to get rid of my jet lag. Another advantage was we had candles everywhere, this one in the bathroom casting a pretty shadow.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Fish and pineapples

Our wee Christmas tree looks much the same as it did last year though we've decorated our houseplant with some tinsel we found in Thailand.

What represents the mid winter festival better than some splashing fish....

Thai tinsel

and pineapples.

Thai tinsel

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Another critter from twitter

I've just renewed my Natural History Museum membership as it's one of my favourite places in London. A few weeks ago we went to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I dabble in wildlife photography and fantasise about having one of my pictures in exhibition. That fantasy is soon brought back to reality when I look at the superb entries in the show. It's worth a visit if you are in London. If not follow the NHM on twitter. Throughout December they are tweeting a link to a fantastic image every day. I love this one of a springtail on a snowflake.


Photo by Urmas Tartes Springtail on a snowflake via Natural History Museum

I must dig out my SLR and macro lens then maybe one day I'll join the hallowed ranks of photographers with the perfect decisive moment.

Mew or Rarrr from Laurie Pink

A few weeks ago I entered one of those random competitions which pop up on twitter. All I had to do was tweet "Rarrr" or "Mew" to win a dinosaur or kitten badge. Tweet I did, then forgot about it. Turns out I was one of the lucky winners so this arrived through the post from the lovely @lauriepink. The cute kitten badge was the main prize but the undercover chicken makes me chuckle. So thank you Laurie and keep up the good work.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Knitamorphosis

Remember the blood bath? Well that turned into this...



and this...



which then then knitted up...



into these for my best friend's birthday present.



The pattern is a p/hop pattern, the popular Cranford Mitts by Jane Lithgow. They are a pleasure to knit, the lace pattern is easy to memorise and the increases for the thumb merge seamlessly into the design. I made a few small modifications, I knit the mitts all in one colour, used a 2mm needle for the garter stitch around the fingers and knit a couple of extra rounds for the thumbs.

I'm currently working on a pair for myself, more on that later, but these were given the thumbs up by Louise who refused to take them off in the pub. Cheers. Happy birthday Lou and Happy Birthday p/hop.



PS The yarn is 4ply Bluefaced Leicester, I used about 36grams for the mittens.

100 days

I've just signed up for the 100 days project.

I thought of many positive things I could take up for 100 days, from the obvious exercise more and drink more water to things I've been longing to take up again but somehow haven't managed yet, things like drawing or learning to play the guitar. I know I wouldn't manage to keep one thing up for 100 days, I just don't work that way, but it did make me think about why I don't always achieve the things I dream about.

I'm a terrible procrastinator, so much so that I only signed up for the 100 days projects with 5min to go of the first day. My goal is to procrastinate less and therefore achieve more. This covers all sorts of things I want to do.

I like the idea of positive change, I'm looking on this as a secular equivalent to lent. I find the idea of giving things up depressing so the 100 days project is so much better than the miserable "I'm not eating x,y or z for 40 days". I prefer to replace bad things with good and try the unexplored.

So what will I try?

I will try to:

Draw more, even if it's just a quick doodle. I used to draw all the time when I was a kid, right the way through university. I stopped when I started work, I'm not really sure why but I've found it hard to get going again. I've bought several art books and I visit galleries all the time but by the time I get home I fail to get my sketch pad and pencil out. Actually they are out but my man pinches my pencils for his sudoku (he likes a 4B) and I use the paper for other things. This will change (though my man can still use my pencils).

Get boring paperwork out of the way rather than leaving it for weeks and months irritating me. Nuff said.

Strum my guitar and maybe learn a few more chords.

Learn a few phrases in a foreign language each week. I can speak French, Spanish and German badly. I'd like to improve in all three.

One of my ultimate goals is to finish writing a knitting pattern. My brain is full of ideas, my needles are overflowing with various projects but I get halfway through writing them down and my mind wanders and I get bored. I need to just knuckle down and finish one. There's also a fear of putting my work out there in public. While knitters are usually kind and friendly some aren't afraid to say exactly what they think in non-constructive ways. I know designers find this hard to deal with so I shouldn't be surprised that this puts me off. I'm going to have to lump it.

I am exercising more, I just need to stick at it and be patient with my healing leg.

I eat well already but I think I eat just a bit too much. I'm gong to watch my intake a bit more and see if that will help shift the extra weight I've gained this year.

I would add be tidier but I've been trying that for years, it's not going to happen.

Seeing how badly my blog every day project went I'm not expecting huge changes, just a few small ones, which is enough for me.

PS, I forgot to add, blog more. Durrr.