Z is for (New) Zealand

 

whale watching off Kaikura
whale watching off Kaikura

 

New Zealand got it’s name from the Dutch, who named it after the Dutch province of Zeeland.  The first European to land on the Island’s shores was Abel Tasman, a Dutchman, who is also the namesake of the National Park at the northern most part of the South Island of New Zealand.  

DB and I went to NZ in February 2007 and spent 3.5 weeks only on the South Island.  It was DB’s second trip there, my first.  We flew via Singapore.  You can’t really get much farther away from NL than NZ!  It’s 24 hours of flying, no matter how you try to shorten it.  The only place farther away is Fiji.

Looking back, it seems like a long time ago that we were there, like a lovely dream that fades too quickly.  We definitely plan to go back, hopefully in the next 5 years.  It’s not a cheap vacation, because of the flight, and we need to save up not only the cash, but also the time away from work, in order to make it worth flying such a long way.  The actual cost of vacationing in NZ is quite low.  We stayed mostly in hostels which can be very affordable.  Food is cheap and excellent.  We couldn’t help but look at the property sales ads and were drooling over acres of property for sale at prices lower than our little apartment in Amsterdam.  We couldn’t help but dream about living there in Paradise.

When I first started to knit in earnest, many many years ago, I had read about New Zealand wool and saw photos of the countryside.  From that time on New Zealand became for me a dream destination that I never thought I’d be lucky enough to really visit.  While there I bought a lot of NZ wool, went to a NZ version of the County Fair where I bought hand spun, and visited a “factory” shop in Alexandra and bought yarn.  Most of it is still in my stash – somehow too precious to use, or just waiting for the perfect project.

 

sheep at county fair - Wanaka
sheep at "county fair" - Wanaka

 

 

If you want to visit paradise, where people are friendly and don’t bother to lock their doors, where beauty surrounds you where ever you go, where life is relaxed and easy, then go to New Zealand.  But go gently and with respect for what the residents have been able to hold onto.

 

 

 

 

Mitts to Match – 1/2 FO

Last night I finished knitting the first Mitt to Match.  This morning I wove in the ends and sewed closed the little gap between the thumb and hand.  When I knit the second one I will write down the pattern.  It turned out really good I think!  It’s the first hand item (glove, mitten, finger(less)) I’ve ever knit, and just made it up as I went along, so I’m pretty pleased.  As you can see in the photos, it is bulky and chunky, which is what I wanted and with this yarn and brioche stitch I don’t know how else it could be.  It’s certainly warm!  

Stay tuned for all the details in a few days!





Running Update

I haven’t written about running for a while now. You probably think I’ve quit. Well I haven’t (quite). During most of December I was pretty lazy and only ran once or twice a week and not all that far. Sometimes I ran 8km. Sometimes only 5km. I joined a gym and then didn’t go. It’s been a struggle to stay motivated.

This last week I decided since I’m off work I needed to pick up the running and go outside in the daylight while I had the chance. It’s been very sunny the last several days, but REALLY cold. I’ve used all my cold weather running gear and didn’t freeze too much. Last Tuesday I ran 6.5km. Last Friday also 6.5km. This morning I went out to do a longer run and ended up walking part of the meager 5.5km that I was able to do. My left knee and upper shin and hip hurt. I think it’s all started with the knee and the compensation has caused the other left side parts to hurt now too. I’m guessing it’s because I was doing so little and then suddenly started running 3x a week again. Man, my body just needs to build up increases in distance or frequency SO SLOWLY.

My worry now is that I won’t be ready for the 10km race at Egmond in 2 weeks. Yup. 2 weeks! Yikes! I think I need to exercise the muscles around my knee but keep the weight off it for a week. That means going to the gym and cycling hard on stationary bikes and doing some weight machines. Ah well. I should be ok in 2 weeks.

Today I took a couple of photos with my iPhone while on my run. The first one is to show you how cold it is. The birds could do their Jesus imitation on the canal. 

The second photo is of a field full of WWII bunkers. They are boarded up now. The field is used for sheep.  I’m no WWII buff so I don’t know exactly what was happening here or what these bunkers specifically held (besides German soldiers).  It’s just very strange to see them.  I guess no one sees a reason to haul them out of the ground.

Finally Found!

I spent some time today unboxing moving boxes in the office.  There were 12 and now only 1 is left.  It’s starting to take shape, but still the desks are not in their final places and the electronic stuff is not set up yet.  But I’m getting there!  One thing in particular I was looking for was a little red notebook with all my notes and instructions for the socks I designed and knit and gave to my father-in-law for Christmas.  I finished the socks back in July and wanted to get the pattern written up long before December so that others could use the pattern for Christmas presents.  Ha!  We packed for our move in August and that was the last I saw of that notebook.

Until today!  You know of course where it was.  In the last box.  Natch.

These are the socks that I’m talking about.  I’m showing only 1 photo now and when I get all the notes written up into a real pattern I will post the rest.  The nicest thing about these socks, and what makes them great for gifts is that 1) they are for men and there aren’t very many patterns out there for men’s socks; and 2) they are really stretchy so that they fit a wide range of widths, making them easy to fit people who you can’t necessarily get a tape measure wrapped around.  You only have to worry about the length, which can be estimated if you know their shoe size.  The little cable ribs are knit without cable needles AND the toes are knit anatomically correct, slanting for right and left feet.  My father-in-law got them last night and just loves them.  They fit perfectly.  🙂

In summary, they are very simple socks that perform their function very well.  And now I can finally get them ready to share!

The in-laws were over last night for dinner and present exchange.  Here’s the above mentioned father-in-law enjoying the fireplace:

And the family learning a new game:

The men were struggling to keep the fire going all night. 🙂  It was a really fun evening and was worth every minute of work in the kitchen to feed everyone.  I hope we do it again next year!

In other knitting news, the mitt continues!  I’m up to the thumb “afsluiting” (closing off).  Seriously, the Dutch word was the only one I could think of for a minute.  My La Digitessa socks are sleeping for a few days.  I’m ahead of the KAL schedule so I don’t have to pick them up again for a few days.  I’m becoming a multi-project knitter!  That’s shocking!  And fun. 🙂

Mitts to Match

My Christmas days (in Europe you get two) were filled with movies, cooking, eating and knitting.  Even today, the 27th, there will be still more cooking and eating (DB’s family is coming over) but maybe not so much knitting.  Oh yeah, there was also a lot of internetting, and even Bas joined in:

I already knew that I would make something to match my capelet (Shadow Dance pattern) but didn’t decide until Christmas morning that it would be mittens.  I couldn’t find a brioche mitt pattern ANYWHERE, so I decided to just read up on mitt patterns from the Fall Vogue Knitting and go from there.  There are quite a few mitten patterns in this year’s issue.  I read a few patterns and saw that it isn’t rocket science and cast on.  I also decided to use needles 1 size smaller than used on the capelet, mainly because I only had 16″ circulars as the smaller version in the capelet needles, which would be way to big for the mitts.  I am using 3.75mm double pointed needles for the mitts.

I was just guessing how many stitches to cast on, and here’s what the first version looked like:

It looked HUGE!  In fact I measured it across the hand section and it matched exactly the measurements of the mitts in the magazine.  The problem was really the wrist.  It was the wrist of a vary large man.  The above photo is as far as I got on Christmas Day.  The next morning I frogged the whole thing.

Yesterday morning I started again with 4 less stitches (32 instead of 36).  When I finished the wrist length I changed the colors around and knit 4 rounds before starting the increases.  It’s looking good now and I think it fits pretty well.  I won’t be able to tell exactly until I finish it and wear it.  This is how far I got yesterday.  I hope to be finished in a few days with this first mitt.  Should I write down the pattern for others to make it?  Hmmmm, that depends on whether or not the result is any good!

Y is for YES!

This is a photo of my niece and her, now, fiance.  It was taken on 24 October of this year and one day later, while they were walking in a park in Turin, John popped the question and Mandy said YES!  They are such a cute couple and so obviously adore each other.  

At this time they are struggling to make ends meet and struggling to make their dreams come true.  Still, they believe in each other and I’m guessing they start their days with that YES in mind, keeping themselves going through the tough times.  

They haven’t set a date yet, but I’m sure that when the coming year starts to take shape out of the fog and haze of 2008, they’ll let us all know.  

YES is such an optimistic word and I’m generally an optimistic person.  It’s a good word to end 2008 with.  It’s also a very good word to start your life together with.  So, Mandy and John, YES to you and YES to your future!

(in case you want to know more….. Mandy’s blog here; John’s here; their joint business blog here)

Finally Holiday

 

Today really feels like the beginning of holidays, I guess because DB is now off work until 5 January too.  Today we celebrated by having that oh so traditional Christmas Eve treat – zak patat….

 

mine, with ketchup
mine, with ketchup

 

 

mine, and DBs with Andalusia sauce
mine, and DB's with "Andalusia" sauce

I’m just kidding about it being a Christmas Eve tradition.  Patat are just a tradition, any time of the day or night, any day of the year.  These are Belgian Frites actually, which are the best.  They are made from real potatoes, brown and crispy, eaten from a bag outdoors.  DB loves them and doesn’t get them often enough.  Me, once every few months is plenty.  But, as far as fries go, they are pretty darned good.

We were out and about today buying the last of the Christmas food and presents.  Our house could now feed a tribe for a week.  I think we will eat ourselves sick just trying to keep up with all of it before it goes bad.  Is it some biological drive that makes us want to fatten up and sleep?  Did our ancestors once hibernate?  Well, that’s what we are planning anyway.  We also rented 3 movies to watch and I hope to get a lot of knitting done.  Speaking of knitting, I’ve gotten this far with the first La Digitessa sock…

Nice, isn’t it?  The light is a little dark, but it’s so hard to get any decent light at all these days.  Talk about dark days of winter!  Not only are there so few minutes of daylight, but the sky is so thick with clouds that even at 10am it feels like 3pm.  Yup.  Time to hibernate!

A Whole Lotta Stitchin’ Goin’ On

 and not much Bitching!

Last night was Stitch ‘n Bitch in de Jaren in Amsterdam.  We ended up sitting in the worst place possible in de Jaren, but with all the Christmas shopping going on in the city, the cafe was PACKED and we couldn’t find anywhere else to sit.  The lighting was terrible and the seats were hard.  But that’s all we could find to Bitch about.  The rest was just Stitching and laughing and telling stories.

On my way there from the Central Station I took this photo of Dam Square.  The city was really busy and full of people.  There were a surprising number of tourists walking around.  Half the trams weren’t running (something about an accident, which blocked all the trams from coming up past Magna Plaza) and the weather was fine, so I walked the 15 minutes to de Jaren.

The usual suspects were there (minus Nancy and Cassandra – we missed you!) and some new faces were also there.  Basak was there for the first time, although she’s a regular on Ravelry.  Marjan was in town and made time to join our little group.  She was busy casting on La Digitessa so that she could also join in on the KAL. 🙂

We talked about all kinds of things last night – dreams, sleeping patterns, biology, computers and computer games, Barbie and other childhood toys.  It was a pretty lively group.  Maybe the Irish coffees helped.  Here are some photos:

How to try on a hat while knitting it
How to try on a hat while knitting it

 

Flying fingers and empty glasses
Flying fingers and empty glasses
And they say knitting is for grandmas....
And they say knitting is for grandmas....

 At one point we started talking about computers.  I heard things like “we didn’t get a computer until I was in High School”, “we didn’t have an Atari when all the other kids did”, “when I was in college we had to share computers”.  At one point I looked at Andy and said “I feel so OLD!”.  I really need to write a post about my life in the computer revolution.  You “kids” have no idea.  I was in High School when Pong was invented.  I learned to do Fortran programming using punch cards and handing them over to a tech who ran them through a machine as big as my living room in order to get a result to a quadratic equation.  You have no idea.  I have to save this long story for another day!

Oh! Before I forget… one last photo.  Here’s me in my finished Shadow Dance capelet.  I really love it!  Now, I have to make a hat to match!

 

Shadow Dance
Shadow Dance

Addendum to Yesterday’s Post

Sometimes I write blog posts so quickly, as a kind of brain dump, that I forget to write something really important!  Like yesterday for example.  I wanted to say that the best part of the Craftymarkt was the people!  We met up with Andy, Malia & Dagmar, and Hinke at Gary’s on the Kinkerstraat.  It was busy and humming in there.  I just love it when you find some place that feels totally comfortable, where the food is good, the service is good, and the people are great.  With all the English being spoken I felt like I was in San Francisco or Chicago or something.  It was very gezellig.  

Then we made our way to the market (everyone on bikes except DB and I who sadly no longer have bikes in Amsterdam; we took the tram).  There we also met up with basak (for you non-Ravelers, sorry about the Ravelry links).  We also saw our friend Gretske, who had a stall selling crocheted kids ponchos and stuffed Christmas decorations.  

So, on a cold and grey winter day, we laughed a lot and enjoyed each other’s company.  DB got to meet the knitting crowd and also found them to be fun and friendly, although he did zone out quickly when we started talking stitches and yarn.  

So, that’s what I meant to say yesterday, but forgot.

Christmas Tree

Yesterday, among other chores, we went shopping for a Christmas tree.  In previous years in Amsterdam we bought trees from the flower shop on the bridge on the Postjesweg, just where it becomes the Kinkerstraat.  We always got nice trees that stayed green and fresh for a very long time.  Now that we’re in Haarlem, we had noticed in previous weeks several places nearby where we could buy trees.  Yesterday we set out to find ours.

Well, what a surprise we found!  There were none left!  At the flower shop just north of the train station? None.  At the flower shop on our street near our house, none left.  At the Velserbroek tuincentrum (garden shop just north of us) there were 5 left, all very big and too big for us.  We ended up buying the last of the teeny tiny trees that they had left, sitting in his pot, looking lost and forlorn.  (Do you see a trend here?  I easily assign personalities to plants.  Call me crazy.)

Here he is now.  I repotted him into a big ceramic pot, hoping that he will survive his trauma of being cut and moved and now sitting with the indignity of lights and balls hanging from his limbs.  He does NOT have a name.  Yet.  Let’s see first if he lives.

Today we went to Amsterdam to check out the Craftymarkt near the Mercatorplein.  We saw LOTS of trees still for sale, at our old familiar spot, and at other places too.  So, we’ve learned one thing this week – if you can’t find a tree in Haarlem, go to Amsterdam and get one there.  That’s what cars are for.

Oh, and the Craftymarkt?  Quite a disappointment.  I was expecting something Christmasy and with some atmosphere.  It was small and stark and cold.  There were some nice things on sale, but next year I think they would sell a lot more and have a lot more visitors if they had things decorated and lively.  The glühwein was helpful though!