Saturday, April 29, 2017

a Kildare jumper for The Little Madam

I've previously knit and unravelled two garments for myself from this yarn (two extra large - as in 400g - balls of blackberry Stylecraft Special), neither of which I wore much.

This latest recycling of the yarn is going to get a lot more wear -

Here it is in its inert state...

Here it is being posed awkwardly...

...and here it is in action, so to speak...
Here's the Ravelry link.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

On the continual fall-out of my hair

It's been a week since I went to the doctor about my kamikaze hair. He prescribed me some stuff to tame my scalp and invited me to see him again in ten days if my hair is still misbehaving.

Well, it is.

The floors of my house are a real mess, as they are covered in black strands - as is my pillow. When I look in the mirror I'm reminded of a guy I once went tramping (hiking) with when I was at university. His head was mostly bald at the top but long-haired at the sides and back, like an egg wearing a fringe.

My progress in learning to tie a head scarf is very slow (if it is happening at all). Mostly I can rely on the pirate-style do staying on, but any other way soon fails and is replaced by one of my ever-reliable knitted hats. There are some really inspiring YouTube videos showing you how to tie a head scarf stylishly - but watching them is the only easy part.

At times like these I'm thankful that I'm still working from home. It means I don't have to spend more than a couple of hours in any one day in public, with my head inexpertly covered.

Did you know there are many websites that sell headwear aimed at women going the full-Sinead due to alopecia and chemotherapy?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stubbly like a kiwifruit

To save money, I only go to the hairdressers when my hair so long I just can't stand it any more.

If I had known two Saturdays ago that my hair was going to fall out, I might have opted to save my $42.

It started happening a week ago this morning - handfuls just fell off my head while I was in the shower. I run a hand through what's left of my stylishly bobbed locks and it comes away full of limp strands. I get out of bed in the morning and the sheets are covered in wavy black lines. The floor looks like that of a busy hairdresser's.

I'm comforted by the stubble that has appeared in the place of the escaped hairs, so it is growing back. But it's surely going to take months.

I really don't know why this is happening to me. Is it because  the day before, I had done my first dance class in probably two decades? And then took TLM and her friend for a hill walk later in the same day? Is it because my body is sugar-starved? (Not likely, despite my efforts to be sugar-free during the week). Or the result of two years of worrying incessantly about money? (But at long last the boy has got a contract and soon money will be flowing in - for a couple of months at least.)

My off-centre part is more like a broad, dried out riverbed.

When I dare to gaze in the mirror I am reminded of the wispy-haired bird-girl in TLM's book,"Eep".

Thankful that it's almost hat weather, I have spent Easter weekend with a knitted cloche practically glued to my head whenever it wasn't just the three of us. I like how it looks and all, but it isn't actually quite that cold enough to be wearing it indoors with the heater on.

Tomorrow I will try wearing a silk headscarf, gypsy-style. I will probably look ridiculous, but at least I can avoid sporting a comb-over.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Death traps

We have had it with the flies in this house - they buzz around my head, try to eat our food and die in inconvenient places.

I think it's worse than it's ever been. The only plus side is at least they aren't mosquitos or some other bite-y bug.

I am not at all in favour of fly sprays. They squirt chemicals all over the place and, anecdotally, don't actually work.

I did some googling research  and read that if you hang a plastic bag half-full of water plus a few coins in the doorway, the flies won't come into the house.

However the boy did not seem think this was good enough - probably because all the flies seem to be in the house already.

So he went out to and bought some fly paper (above) and a fly-catcher (like a dream catcher but icky-ier) (below).

Welcome to your demise, flies!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My fourth month of working from home

The "pros" of working from home:

  • I'm home when The Little Madam gets back from school
  • If the weather is beautiful I can easily nip out for 5-10 mins of sunshine without having to take up smoking as an excuse
The "cons" of working from home:
  • I have to consciously make an effort to get exercise, whereas before walking from work to home was effortlessly built in.
  • It's hard being part of a team if you only see them for a couple of hours once per week.
  • If I need to get anything in town I have to make a special trip.
  • If I happen to have all of the internal helpline calls directed to a phone that is in my possession, I can't easily take the day off if I have a cold.

I have a cold, perfectly timed for Autumn. My workmates have all had it - which is surprising as we are all working from our homes and should be less likely to infect each other. 

The boy had it all of last week. "That ache-iness and the headaches - that's just the beginning", he says helpfully. But just because it knocked him for a six all week doesn't necessarily mean it will do the same for me. 

For one, I make an effort to keep up my fitness. For two, I eat lots of fruit and vegetables. For three, I'm not a man. So fingers crossed, I have had the worst of it after two days.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The need for victim blaming

  • A woman was attacked while walking home from the pub? She shouldn't have been out walking in the dark.
  • Someone took all the produce and didn't put money into the honesty box? It's madness to leave your stuff out where anyone can steal it.
  • Young person can't get a job? They are probably lazy and entitled.

These are all examples of victim blaming. It's very politically incorrect to do so, but we've all heard (maybe even said) something like the above, often.

I think it's to do with believing in the cause and effect, and the need to have control. For example, if I work hard at my job I will get a promotion and a pay rise; if I take care of my looks, keep the house clean and cook my husband great meals he won't leave me for someone else. If I eat healthily I won't get sick.

But we all know these are not guaranteed. Good things happen to bad people. Financially responsible people can become homeless. Non smokers can get lung cancer.

I've been re-reading The Idiot Brain, by Welsh neuroscientist Dean Burnett. Quite apart from the fact that this guy writes like the Bill Bryson of medical writing (i.e. highly readable, funny and really enlightening), he provides a neuroscientist's view of why we as society victim-blame.

One factor in why we do this is is because we tend to find it difficult to empathise (obviously it varies from person to person), due to the fact that our brains are egocentric. He describes an experiment in which one person has to touch something nice while a second person has to touch something disgusting. The person touching something nice finds it difficult to sympathise with the other. However if both people have to touch something gross then it's easy for them to sympathise with each other.

The other factor is what he calls the "just world" hypothesis. The brain assumes that the world is fair, good behaviour is rewarded and bad behaviour is punished. If a bad thing happens to someone then they must have done something to deserve it. Because if they didn't, then that means it could happen to us, who are most definitely behaving well. Our brain is uncomfortable with the possibility that bad things could happen to us even if we don't deserve it. So it chooses to have us believe that it must have been deserved.

So there you have it - our brains make it hard for us to empathise with someone less fortunate than us and in fact makes us blame the unfortunate for whatever has happened to them.

(That doesn't mean we should just let it happen though.)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Time to target the muffin top

For years I've been eating like I still go to the gym every day, when of course I stopped going not long before TLM was born 11 years ago.

Ice cream, cakes, biscuits (cookies), chippies - damn my sweet tooth and taste for greasies.

Just like it says in just about every bit of literature you'll find about middle age spread, the extra weight has crept up on me and it only hit me a couple of weeks ago that I really have to do something about my "clothes shrinkage".

My bum lift jeans can no longer lift my bum, because they are too tight around the waist. My NYDJ jeans  will still zip up, but it's easy to see that they are having to work a lot harder than only a year ago. And the pretty maxi skirt that fit me just right last summer will no longer button up at the back.

Yep, it is time to do something about it.

A couple hours of Google searching ("lose spare tyre") and three fitness-over-40 type books later, I have settled on a plan of attack:

  • I already make sure I go for a walk every day - from here on every other day my walk will be interval-training style. Every time I hit an upward slope I'm going to go up that as fast as I can, then slow down for the flat and downward bits. Interval training is supposed to be good for targeting belly fat.
  • Will try to do stretches and mobility exercises...
  • I'm going to cut right down on the sweeties and greasies. None at all during the week, but letting myself have a treat or two during the weekend so I don't go postal. This is the bit that I expect will make the most difference.
  • I'm keeping a food journal so if I do fall off the wagon, it's all there on paper so I don't forget it.
  • I'll only have one between-meal snack mid-morning and another mid-afternoon (rather than whenever I'm bored or slightly hungry)
This only started on Tuesday so it's early days yet. I know that last time I tried to go sugar-free I only lasted a week. But that time, I was motivated only by the desire to be healthier. Fear of falling down the roly-poly black hole is a much stronger motivation for me at the moment. (Okay I also don't want to get Type 2 diabetes.)

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Another summer top (just waiting for actual summer)

Yesterday, at the start of this stormy long weekend, I made this top. It's made from a Liberty print fabric that was on sale at the Fabric Store.

I used Kwik Sew pattern 3161 (I've used this to made three other tops already); this time instead of having slits in the lower portion of the sleeves I sewed them closed, and I widened the neckline slightly for more room around the neck.

This is a great length for me as it ends at my upper hips (a proper tunic length just makes my legs look shorter). It's got the practicality of a shirt, without the bother of buttons or the discomfort of a shirt collar.

I'm so glad we went north for our holiday as thats really the only time we got to be in summer temperatures. Yesterday I was wearing corduroys and socks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Three nights in Roto-vegas

In the second half of our family week 'o' fun, we stayed in a two bedroom, two bathroom motel unit (Ascot on Fenton) that was close to town, the supermarkets and the shopping mall.

 Not that much non-food shopping was done though. The fruits of our shopping labours from this time is limited to:

  • one pair of tramping trousers with zip off legs for TLM, to replace the ones she'd paced because they are now too small.
  • one iPhone USB recharger because I mistakenly thought the boy was looking after packing the rechargers ("they're only, like, two bucks" he said. No they weren't. They cost 25 freaking dollars).
  • A Nintendo DS game for the boy because he finished playing the one he'd brought with him, and he'd foolishly neglected to pack any reading material.
The highlights of our time in Rotorua:
  • swimming in the Blue Lake
  • walking around Lake Rotorua
  • visiting Wai-o-tapu thermal valley
  • going up in the gondola and taking the luge down
We did also stop off at Huka Falls on the our first day coming into Rotorua - it was before that guy was arrested for boogey-boarding down the falls.

I'll leave you with a photo of the Champagne Lake...

One night in Turangi

On our way to Auckland we stopped off in Turangi for one night. Our motel (Judges Pool) was just across the road from the Tongarairo River so I had multiple walks along there. At this part of the river it was relatively calm and quite a few people were there sunbathing and swimming.

Unfortunately the long drive didn't do the boy's back any favours (yes I did some driving, but not as much), so he missed out.

Two nights in Onehunga

I haven't seen my elderly aunt in many years so the aim of our summer holiday was to go see her before it becomes impossible. We'd never been there before, but when we found her house and peered through the glass in the door it was pretty obvious that an elderly Chinese lady lived there.

It looked like a much tidier version of my mum's place, plus I could see some chairs that had been covered by a protective layer of plastic. A yellowing photo of her late husband had pride of place on one of the low tables which were otherwise decorated with doilies and Chinese ornaments. The remote was covered in a layer of clingfilm.

Once we were inside I was amused to see that she - like my mum - had a second fridge. It was in the garage, along with an assortment of pots, pans and woks, a cupboard full of dried ingredients and a couple of gas cooker thingies. The sheets on our beds smelled like the parcels we used to get from Hong Kong when I was a child and were decorated with florals on a peach background.

Needless to say we were pretty well fed those days, on pork ribs, soy sauce chicken, stirred green beens, almond cakes, coconut jelly and lashings of Chinese tea.

In case you were wondering,  I didn't get a chance to go to DressMart, which came up at the top of Google's list of things to do in Onehunga.

A new hat for summer

After my hat got covered in ice cream at the beach yesterday, I decided to make another one so that I could have one to wear while the other is in the wash. TLM is modelling the new hat.
The crown is made from strips of linen/cotton that I've woven into a grid (after first tidying the raw edges). The band is made from super-stretchy denim left over from my jeans-making and the brim is made from non-stretch denim also left over from jeans-making.

As you can see, I topstitched here and there in bright yellow but left the brim edge unfinished. I've encouraged a bit of fraying so that I could do some pre-emptive fray-trimming.

I won't show you the underside because it's pretty rough.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

There's no getting away from the fish-eye dart

The last pair of jeans I posted about were wrinkly at the backs of the legs - as you can see if you scroll down a bit to look for the blog post. But I was able to fix it, by taking in the inseams by about a centimetre all the way down and by resizing the back pockets.

When I say "taking in the inseams", it sounds like a simple thing to do - but it's not if the inseams are flat fell seams. Because they are, it meant unpicking the topstitching and seaming of the inseams, then unpicking the outer leg seams in order to restitch the inseams and re-do the flat fell stitching. In other words I practically took them apart and put them together again.

Unfortunately I don't have a non-blurry photo of the improved back view, so you are left with the saggy old lady butt view in the last post.

I made a second pair of jeans, this time using some rigid (but not raw) denim. It was way easier to work with than the super-stretch denim because the rigid stuff doesn't stretch out when you stitch over it.

Unfortunately I have not learned from all of the pants-making that I must do a fisheye dart on the back leg pattern piece in order to remove all of the excess fabric that results (which comes from having an apple-shaped body) -
Because it's rigid denim, simply taking it in at the inseams will make them uncomfortable to wear, so I'm thinking of just sewing a massive dart in the back of each leg so that they look a bit like this -
See - they are much less wrinkly now. But there is a crease under each bum cheek (which will become a seam if I proceed with my possible plan).

In the meantime I have been wearing them in and they are pretty comfortable now, though not as comfy as the leggings-like fabric of the stretchy jeans.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Time slowing down

For a long time now I've often felt that time was going way too fast, that I was running out of time to do all the things I want do in my life. Its made me anxious, panicky and sometimes (when I feel that time really has run out to do some thing) sad.

But I haven't felt this since I started working from home (due to our office closing down until certain repairs are done to make it quake-safe).

I'm not sure why, but I think it's to do with there being slightly fewer or different events to mark out the different points of my day - mostly not having to travel to and from work.

It's also helped by the fact that we are in the middle of Christmas and New Year holidays, and aren't doing anything much during this period.

The effect is probably going to wear off in a while, but in the meantime I'm happy with the feeling of time slowing down and allowing me to relax more.