Tour de Netherlands

I could get used to international travel, you know.

Well, the international bit anyway. The travel bit is crappy.

Sunday afternoon on the Leidsegeracht, Amsterdam

Amsterdam Radhuis at twilight

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This is not our backyard

I’ve yet to meet a Dutch canal I didn’t like.  This one is in Delft, home to the pottery, the memory of Jan ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ Vermeer and gentle Dutchness.

Just don’t spoil it by going to the university. Serious ugliness.

Colours from our backyard

Eucalyptus wool

These are the results of my eucalyptus and brown onion skin dyeing. From top to bottom: eucalyptus overdyed with 50/50 eucalyptus & brown onion skin; eucalyptus overdyed with 100% brown onion skin; eucalyptus only. I’m very pleased with how it turned out – the eucalyptus only I thought a little disappointing at first since I was hoping for more intense colour but I have come to appreciate its delicacy.

I’m looking at natural dyeing processes and came across the work of Sophie Cantie via whipup. I think it’s fascinating to look at the colours produced in different environments. I purchased Sophie’s Earth Palette and it is beautiful and inspirational.

For my next dye batch I hope to include different fibres – cotton or linen – and produce different shades. Cellulose fibres like these require a mordant for colour pick up and fastness. I tried out rhubarb leaves. Don’t. Simmering rhubarb leaves smell utterly foul. I have the stockpot out on the deck now and I’m not sure that I have the stomach to use it.

Eureka

In exciting developments ’round our place, the recipe for home-made deoderant (Hayley at Sew Green, via soozs) is an instant hit for me. I don’t like aluminium-based anti-perspirants but I do very much want something that works and this combination of cornflour, arrowroot powder, bicarb soda, coconut oil and essential oil is very definitely working. The Bloke has been gently puzzled by my insistence on trying this out and has delicately said that he has never noticed a problem before.

The recipe makes approximately 175ml which should be sufficient for 4-5 months (I suspect that might vary considerably depending on personal use and the season). Coconut oil is shelf stable for two years, so there’s no concern that it might go rancid. I did have some problems tracking down an Australian supplier of pure coconut oil and eventually found some here at Heirloom Body Care.

One last thing: the recipe calls for ‘several drops’ of an essential oil. Of a 12ml bottle of bergamot oil, I used 3ml and believe me, that’s a lot more than several drops. If you’re concerned about how much essential oil you’ll need for scenting and not keen to find out that you’ve used most of an expensive bottle, I’d recommend ti-tree, lavender or eucalyptus oils as strongly scented and cheaper oils.

A small glimpse of my other eureka moment last weekend:

From left to right: eucalyptus overdyed with 50/50 eucalyptus and brown onion skin; eucalyptus overdyed with 100% brown onion; eucalyptus only. The wool – New Zealand merino acquired from a destash a few years ago – has retained a soft hand and a delicate eucalyptus scent. I have about 350gm of the palest shade and about 50gm of the other two shades. I’m planning a stole, beret and perhaps some wristwarmers, each with some fair isle detail to bring out the different shades.

It was only after the skeins had been placed in the dye bath that I remembered a small but clearly important piece of advice: tie the skeins in at least eight places and not the standard four. Believe me, that shot does not convey the full tangled spaghettiness of all those skeins.

The last bit of eureka is Agence Eureka, a treasure trove of vintage French book and paper goodness. I particularly liked the old school book illustrations of ugly little Englishmen being soundly defeated by upright, tall, good-looking Frenchmen at a 1:4 ratio.

A new kind of personality test

By George, I’ve got it!

Your answers to the questions below could reveal everything you need to know about your personality.

These three samples are:

  1. Varieties of port; or
  2. Urine samples; or
  3. dye samples

I’m not actually sure what the answers would reveal about you, but if you answered 1 or 2 I’d be very happy to make your acquaintance.

Things to do with a hole in the sky

Imagine, if you will, a 35m gum tree standing near the fence, near all those woodchips.

It does leave quite a hole in the sky as the tree lopper said. It wasn’t our decision by the way; we’re in one of the councils who have relaxed vegetation clearing permits for a time so people can choose how to fireproof their property. This means that lovely as our landlords are, they decided to take advantage of this and take down three trees prior to subdividing the block. This tree hurt the most. It was a magnificent 25 year old gum tree and posed no block to subdivision as far as we could see.

Rather than let it all go to waste I had the Bloke ask the loppers to set aside a few branches for me – I haven’t read India Flint’s book for nothing. They willingly obliged and last night, as the sun set, I set about trimming leaves and branches. The leaves are grouped by new season growth (deep juicy green), older growth (longer leaves, drier and lighter green with a silvery film underneath) and the dead and dried (deep red to brown). Those last ones are in the box with bits of bark. The lass came and helped by going up to one of her cubby trees – a wattle – and bringing back some leaves and flowers. I did a tea test last night and the wattle flowers produce a lovely yellow that’s bright but delicate.

What amazed me as I was trimming was the colour of the new gumnuts. It took me heaps of shots before I got one with steady enough hands:

Australian fauna and flora is quite amazing. Except for the ‘stupid possum’ that keeps waking the Lad in the middle of the night.

A little bit of everything

I was flicking back through last summer’s photographs for something to brighten the place up. I think a bit of pink grevillea will do the trick.

It certainly makes me feel happier than listening to the Mad Monk, aka Tony Rabbit, aka the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But since he and his party seem to be doing a rather nice job of slowly screwing up their chances with the independents, I’m not feeling as ranty as I could’ve been. Indeed, I’ve been rather pleased by the sudden appearance of European-style minimum winning coalitions and the shocking idea that federal politics and government may require cooperation. I suspect a Labor government supported by the independents since that would be the only way to ensure stable government when the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate. At any rate, it’s going to be very interesting for a while to come.

My crafty projects continue at a pleasing rate: reworking the lad’s beanie so it fits – I’ll do a separate post on that because I’ve used some interesting construction techniques to fit his design; my plum jacket is reading for sewing up this weekend; I’ve cast on for Acorns in a lovely heathery foresty green; crocheting away on the flower rug with crescent mesh; and about to pounce on a couple of wristwarmers and berets for myself. The lass’ car rug fails to inspire me so I’m going to see if I can persuade her to change patterns. Stripy treble is not my favourite form of crochet. And sometime next week I will cast on for Red Oak in a chunky burnt orange. There’s another trip to the Netherlands lined up, this time for late October/early November, so I get the fun of more winter knitting.

The lad is having some occupational therapy assessment as part of our Asperger’s management plan. It means another two questionnaires for us and I decided to photocopy one so I could fill it in for myself. It’s all about sensory integration – how we receive and respond to information about our environment through our senses. Typically, aspies have a profile of sensory integration ‘deficits’, particular stimuli that trigger an exaggerated response. The professionals are beginning to understand that if you actually take this sensory profile as a means of understanding the person rather than just a guide to behaviour management (for example, moving away from ‘let’s avoid loud noises so he doesn’t have an aspie meltdown’ to ‘tactile experiences are a really positive way he can learn’) then maybe quite a few difficulties can be resolved.

The lad and I have a few things in common here. Auditory processing difficulties (loud noises, trouble understanding speech in some circumstances etc); high sensitivity to touch – which explains a tendency to wear the same clothes because they feel ‘just right’; strong preferences for certain smells or tastes, that sort of thing. The lad is quite happy to play with icky gel kind of stuff, playdough and what have you. I avoid it like the plague. I refused point blank to ever make playdough for the kids – I hated the smell and feel of it. It’s a good thing my mother stepped into the breach.

But there are other tactile experiences I love – yarn and fabric, clearly. I love the feel of different types of yarn running through my fingers, manipulating fabric for fold and drape. It’s heavenly. When I’m drawing I prefer to use charcoal or pastels, materials I can feel in my fingers, rather than pencils. Embroidery seems to me a fabulous way to draw, getting colour and texture and swirling them around.

Maybe I’ve figured out my sensory profile after all.

Goat in a tree!

So, it’s not just pea soup’s carpooling kids who have the goat spotting fun.

Bringing the kids home last night we were startled by a sudden yelp from the backseat. “There’s a goat up that tree!”

And now I know precisely which goat it is because this being a greeny urban fringe type area, there’s two goaty possibilities. I think I may push for a change of school route just to spot a tree-climbing goat.

A little ragged

Since I last overloaded this place with evidence of my craftly activity, I’ve been at a bit of loss for words. Or, the kind of words I feel comfortable writing here.

The craftly activity continues, in doctor’s waiting rooms, in the living room watching over an ill or stressed child, through the footy game, and in the evening quietly opposite the bloke. I’m aware of reporting what’s happening to some others around me but I find myself thinking (always the aspie), I’m not sure what I think about this. Neurotypicals would probably ask themselves how they feel about it. They might even know what they feel about it.

The lad continues to be ‘a bit complicated’ which I think is the understatement of the year. I was speaking to a neuropsychologist at the time, setting up some assessment sessions. Juvenile bipolar has been confirmed, his occasional paralysing anxiety is something that needs our attention, the learning difficulties are sometimes manageable and sometimes not. I can look into him and understand so much and know so little. What I do understand is the mood disturbance that I have too; the aspie difficulties with organising and planning and doing (certain things!) and revisiting my school days through the lens of my own learning disability. I know I can’t fix it but I can understand it and sometimes that leaves you feeling ragged at the end of the day.

Through all of this, he is beautiful and sweet and generous.

The lass claimed our attention with a sinus infection, willingly shared it with me, so we had two weeks of illness and antibiotics as well. I think we can walk with these physical and mental illnesses but only with reminders to ourselves to accept help, slowdown, and listen. Sometimes I remember to do those things.

But I always remember my knitting.

Falling flowers

38 flowers. Not bad, eh? Being laid off work for an entire week with a sinus infection can be productive in other ways.

They’re still to be blocked out for proper shaping and I’m planning a crocheted mesh background for the actual blanket bit. Something similar to a sashiko stitch would be interesting if I can figure it out.

A few of the clover leaves are small enough to fill some of the spaces and lead the eye around the blanket. The larger leaves of the original pattern I found too distracting. Plus I would have heard that little aspie voice every time I saw the blanket: if there were leaves on the ground with the flowers, they’d have to be autumn leaves, wouldn’t they? Or else eucalyptus leaves and they’re too big to work with the design.

And that voice gets a little annoying after awhile.

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