A birthday

A longish post today after a big day yesterday. Yesterday was a special birthday for my Dad (Poppy, as I call him). The big 8-0, and I spent the day by the bay with my parents.
  
If there is such a thing as a ‘typical’ eighty year old though, I can guarantee Poppy is not it. He doesn’t look it. He doesn’t sound like it. And he sure as hell doesn’t act it. 

  
Sadly, I have inherited this sense of humour.

When he’s not in his shed out the back, he can be found kayaking, boating, fishing or swimming around these beautiful bays and inlets. Or playing sudoku on his iPad. The tide was out so he and I didn’t go kayaking yesterday, just walking.
   
    
 Poppy is a creative man. A sculptor, woodworker, leather carver, drawer, painter. He is seriously talented. Here’s just one of the many amazing things he has made me. It’s even lined with sheepskin.

  
So M and I decided to stay in the creative line and each make him something to celebrate his 80th.

Traditionally I haven’t had much luck knitting Poppy anything he likes. He has liked a couple of neck warmers, but the first socks I made him were ‘too scratchy’. The second ones (made out of an expensive alpaca blend mind you) were also…… ‘too scratchy’. So we all decided Poppy has the most sensitive feet on the planet, mum got the socks by default, and no more socks for Poppy were produced.
I thought I may be luckier knitting him a nice vest, he likes vests, and he HATES the cold.
So this is the one I chose, Caldwell by Stephen West. 
  
I used Hayfield Bonus Aran. I have used it lots of times, I know it is soft and hardy, machine washable and I love the colours. I’m not really into reverse stocking stitch, so I did straight stocking stitch on both the front and back. I also did the i cord bind off in the contrast stripe colour, to tie the whole thing together a little more. 

  
He liked it. 🙂

The pattern was fine, although I don’t love the way some of the cables disappear halfway up the front. And the finishing took longer than knitting all the pieces combined! I do love the icord bind off though and will use this again. 
  
Details:

Pattern: Caldwell by Stephen West

Yarn: Hayfield Bonus Aran, cols. ‘barley’ and ‘dark grey mix’, 1x 400g ball of each

Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm 

Buttons: eBay, dark stained wooden toggles

Size: my gauge was off, so I knit a medium to get a large

Mods: changed reverse st st to plain st st on fronts and back. Used contrast colour for icord bind off.

M once more got out his favourite tools, the welder and the grinder (fortunately while I was in Tasmania, so I avoided the noise), and made Poppy this fabulous snail. 
   
 I frickin love this thing. 100% recycled materials. And what a smile. 🙂

  
We had been discussing sea snails, that Poppy and I saw on our walk.

  
Marine Gastropods.

So guess what the snail is now called. Gastro. More of that fabulous sense of humour. :/

I also made a few Paleo birthday creations (all grain, dairy and refined sugar free). Chocolate date balls and coffee ice cream were my own recipes, so no links for those. Poppy requested a Black Forest birthday cake, and I was pleased with how it turned out.
   
 This consisted of a cake, a chocolate ganache and a coconut vanilla cream, cherries and raw cacao nibs to finish. It was really good. The ganache took two hours to cook but was worth every second. Who knew you could make sweetened condensed milk with coconut milk!

I made chocolate biscotti too, this was a real winner. That’s why there are no photos.

Oh I also finished off my Possum slouchy beanie using my Tasmanian souvenir yarn, roughly based on this pattern.
   
 All in all, a great day. 🙂

   
   
B

Counting chickens

It goes without saying really, but I loved Hobart. And of course I did venture back to a yarn store….or two. 🙂
Salamanca Wool Store was my favourite. The selection was small, but the staff were really lovely and they had a lot of locally produced yarn. They also stock my favourite Knitpro Symfonie needles. I purchased this as my holiday ‘souvenir’, one ball made of Tasmanian Possum, merino and silk, and a circular needle to knit it with on the plane home. 

  
  I got this far into a slouchy beanie flying home. This yarn is DIVINE. So soft and warm. One day I’ll take out a personal loan so I can purchase enough for a sweater. 

  
  I also visited The Stash Cupboard. There was an impressive range of yarns, especially American yarns. This is one part of the shop (taken with permission). The service here was..less good? for lack of a better term, but I could not go past this sparkly sock yarn. I am such a sucker for sparkles! It is taking a lot of will power not to start another sock with this before I’ve finished some other pairs.

   
    

I also got these Chiaogoo needles which are ‘flexible straight needles’, a concept I was not familiar with, but I loved the idea as I can’t knit well with standard straight needles. Of course I could just use a circular but my various 4mm/US 6 circulars are often all in use, so this is a nice back up.
  
I finished my Drops Uni Fabel extremely pink socks, though I shan’t photograph them because they’re in the wash. I did finish one Drops Delight sock as well.
  
It was an awesome trip. I love the cold, but M hates it, which is why he didn’t come with me. Something that really pleased me was that the cold didn’t affect my autoimmune stuff, no Raynauds, no joint pain. I don’t usually talk too much about health, and I don’t want to count chickens before they’re hatched…but almost two years into a strict Paleo diet and a complete change of lifestyle, and it’s definitely working…. I wouldn’t presume to suggest it would work for anyone with autoimmune disease, but I did a whoooollle lotta research, which led me to believe that 1) getting off the medication was a great idea, and 2) that this might be the way to accomplish that. So far, so good. There was a paleo inspired cafe in Hobart too, Cafe Lola. The coffee was good, and I highly recommend the ‘Paleo Puff’. Sorry for the pic, I got it takeaway and had it by the harbour. 🙂

   
   A few photos to finish. I visited the Salamanca Markets on Saturday morning, they were large and fun, if a little on the pricey side. I recommend the natural fruit roll ups. I also took the Red Decker bus for a tour, including the Cascade Brewery, and visited the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum (where the guards are extremely friendly, by the way!). The exhibitions were incredible. The thylacine one even had me in tears. 

   
   
   
   
   
    

And now back home, after what feels like a lot of self indulgence, it’s time to turn outward for a little while with some gift and charity knitting. Not the possum beanie though. That’s definitely for me. 🙂

B

 

  

   
 

   
 

Week One in Paris

It’s been a long time since I have been in Paris. It’s an amazing, amazing city, so beautiful, and we have packed a LOT into our first week here. And I finally get to wear all my knitted things!! Woohoo!! Socks, beanies, jumpers, jackets, gloves, mittens…as much as I love Queensland, it sure is nice to be genuinely cold. Even got to wear my Fireside Sweater and my Amadeus. 🙂

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This week we have walked and walked, exploring on foot many back streets as well as the usual attractions. We have seen the Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Plantes, the zoo, the Marais, saw the Paris marathon, Notre Dame, Rue Mouffetard, Montparnasse, a Fat Tire night bike tour (SO much fun), the Louvre, a night cruise down the Seine, sunset tour of the Eiffel Tower, Monet’s gardens at Giverny, a Degas exhibition at the Impressionist Museum (*sigh*) and the Catacombs…(quality not great on some photos sorry, these are mostly snapped with my phone)

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We have an apartment in the Latin Quarter, it is quiet and beautiful, and I have still found time for early morning knitting….I only brought along some Drops Delight sock wool as it took up the least room in my bag. I should have done an afterthought heel because of the colour transitioning, but yeah, I didn’t. Still addicted to the Fish Lips Kiss heel. 🙂 The yarn is a single so slightly uneven and a little scratchy, but super cheap and I am really loving the colours.

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Next week I’ll be visiting the yarn and haberdashery stores on the other side of the river. There are some absolutely beautiful clothes around, but knitting? Not so much. Which has kind of surprised me given the climate. I have only seen a couple of hand knitted items the whole time we have been here, and I’m pretty sure they were on tourists…

The food, omg the food…we got an apartment because paleo can be tricky when travelling, and we wanted to be able to cook our own meals. The fresh produce available made this a really good choice, it’s hard to find restaurant meals that are grain, dairy, sugar, gluten free all at once, and frankly I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person at a restaurant, you know, the pain in the arse….instead we have had beautiful bacon, eggs, steak, salads, olives, nuts, salmon, chickens from the Rue Mouffetard (anyone who has read Paris Letters will appreciate this!), sweet potato was a little harder to find but it is available, coconut milk and fruit and berries are easy to find. We have eaten and eaten, but I think the walking burns it off again!

A few things I’ve been surprised by…
Whenever you try to practise your French, the French are determined to practise their English. 🙂
‘Do not disturb’ signs on the door are not taken literally (sleeping off my usual plane cold while M went for a walk, I awoke to find the housekeeper in my room actually trying to make the bed around me lol).
There are amazingly few people around in the early morning, a great time to wander through streets, along the river and gardens and buy coffee.
Smoking…whoa, the smoking! Electronic cigarettes are a huge thing, but still plenty of real ones around too. So weird to see ash trays on the tables at cafes again! Flashback to my teenage years in Adelaide! 🙂
A boulangerie on every corner…it’s been a long time now since I touched grains, but boy they make pastries look good here. My only concession has been a Florentine from the chocolatier. Almonds, honey, candied peel and dark chocolate…
Next week we are also making a little day trip to Belgium, where chocolate is part of the culture, and I’m all for respecting and absorbing PLENTY of culture….:)

B

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Paleo Christmas Creations

I first decided to ‘go paleo’ because I have an autoimmune disease – well, a couple, actually, is super crappy – and I read so many people in the same position had positive responses to the diet. Well, fortunately so did I, and I don’t intend ever going back to sugar, dairy or grains. However, to get fully into remission, I may need the extra nudge of a few months of AIP – autoimmune protocol – which is crazy strict and I am not looking forward to at all to be honest. So this Christmas, I shall be enjoying my last nuts, eggs etc. for a while and, although I’m aware it is counter-productive, I plan on eating enough to fully compensate for the forthcoming lack. 🙂

After spending a full year following the general paleo diet/lifestyle, I have a healthy collection of recipes. But true to form, I pretty much never follow any of them. A tweak here, a dash of something extra here….Urgh, it’s a sickness I tell you. I’m the same with a pattern or really any type of specific instruction. Not sure if that’s actually a sign of creativity or just passive aggressive rebellion…meh. Either way. 🙂

My favourite paleo chefs/cooks include Pete Evans, Diane Sanfilippo and Sarah Ballantyne. I also love Nom Nom Paleo, PaleOMG and Elana’s Pantry. I tend to read the recipes like a story, see how the parts make the whole, then go and experiment. So the following are not recipes as such, these are just my Christmas baking experiments this week, and I’ve included the links to what they’re roughly based on, if indeed they are based on anything at all.

First up was my favourite almond nougat cookies.

http://www.cheeseslave.com/paleo-christmas-cookies/

These are YUM, easy to make, you just mix it up, form into logs and freeze, and when you’re ready to bake you just slice off rounds. Like normal cookie dough but without grains, dairy or sugar. I don’t why the picture on that website looks like it does, they look nothing like that. And you can’t really flatten frozen rounds with a fork? Anyhow, for Christmas I added extra nuts and lots of spices to these, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. I can’t describe how good they smell when they’re baking! 🙂

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I make my own almond meal with a grinding blade in my blender. It works out a lot cheaper, and fresher too.

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M asked me a while back to make Paleo Nutella….I figured it couldn’t be that hard? Roasted hazelnuts, coconut oil, cacao, maple syrup, salt, vanilla…..I experimented with those ingredients until it tasted right. I turned the hazelnuts into a smooth nut butter first before adding any other ingredients. I have a Kitchenaid food processor…a shiny red one cos obviously they go faster…..I have never actually ‘loved’ it like I thought I would, but I concede it does do a good nut butter. 🙂

So anyway, the first batch of Nutella got eaten. In two days. By me. So I actually didn’t make any more for a while after that because apparently I have absolutely no self control. But when it’s for Christmas I’m generally okay putting things away and not touching them, so I made another batch this week, then dipped them in 90 % cacao chocolate. I did eat two. They were awesome. 🙂

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Then I did some date balls. I have found that equal amounts of dates and almonds processed in the food processor makes a handy mix that is a great base for truffles, and also a perfect ‘cheesecake’ base. And easy to remember the proportions too – 1:1. To make the balls, I start with the date/almond combination and add a touch of pink salt, cacao powder, a spoonful of coconut oil and some vanilla. But you could add anything, other dried fruits, liqueur, maple syrup, coconut, whatever. I rolled half in coconut flour and half in cacao powder.

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Then on to a cake…..the frozen vegan raw cheesecake is a thing of beauty….there are recipes all over the internet for them, but the one that originally inspired me was this one.

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2011/01/raw-cashew-dreamcake-2/

Since then I have made stacks of these, and all of them different. Chocolate, vanilla, blueberry, mango, pumpkin spice swirl….they are so yum. Here’s an old one I did.

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I don’t measure, I tend to just blend the general ingredients together and alter to taste. It’s basically a soaked cashew nut foundation, with added honey, coconut oil, vanilla and lemon juice (very important to give the cheesecake ‘tang’). You kind of get a feel for it after a while. If I’m short on mixture I will occasionally add some coconut cream to bulk it out. This Christmas I did and vanilla and chocolate spice one. Obviously can’t see much of it yet.

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And finally the gingerbread…these are based on this recipe

http://www.edibleharmony.com/paleo-gingerbread-cookies-cut-out/

With a bit of tweaking 🙂 honestly I can’t express how good they are! Gingerbread cookies are one of my favourite things at Christmas, and I was so surprised that a Paleo version could actually be BETTER than the grain and sugar filled one I had used for years before…but it was. And is.

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M requested an afro on his. I used raw cacao nibs. 🙂

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Well, considering I set this up as the Wolfberry Knits blog, there has been surprisingly little about knitting so far! That will no doubt change in the new year…I am working on a couple of patterns at the moment, here is a sneak peek of one….

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I’m still knitting my basic chic hoodie too, I really love the colour, ‘slate’, in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8ply.

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And as this is also a Ravensridge blog of sorts, here’s a pic of what happened here this week…a massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) storm one evening wiped out a heap of trees, including this one, which took out one of the chook houses too. Fortunately the chooks remained unharmed. They escaped and came back later in the night. Unfortunately so did a python. But M managed to evict him before any harm was done, and the house has now been temporarily patched and snake proofed once more.

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Poor old Vladimir. Rough night. (He’s a Transylvanian Naked Neck by the way, he’s meant to look like that.)

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So 2015 is going to be a particularly fun year… 2 books to finish, many more patterns to publish, a million things to knit and crochet and so far two trips organised, one to Paris and one to Helsinki……very excited!! 🙂 have been working hard on my French and Finnish. I will also be spending some more time renovating/restoring my studio, a 40ft long antique train carriage. That’s an adventure in itself and will post about that in the near future. 🙂 Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year! 🙂 xo

Hello from Vanuatu!

Although I’m starting this blog as a record of my creative adventures, it so happens that this week I’m in Vanuatu. And totally in love with it.

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Seriously, what’s not to love? The people, the food, the environment, the culture, the climate, all of it amazing. This is a ‘relax’ holiday for M and me after a hectic and at times draining year, and so far it is the perfect recharge. I’m an early riser anyway, but 4am in Vanuatu is spectacular.

That’s not to say I have left the projects at home of course. As if. In fact I have started a new one while I’m here, the Basic Chic Hoodie in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8 ply.

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Also am keeping a little travel journal. Tiny watercolour pics in a book I made myself after doing a bookbinding course online. It was only my first go at a book, so it’s a bit dodgy.

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Okay, so not much done yet. Will see how I go this week. Today we’re off to the Harbourside markets again to grab more fruit and veg (surprisingly easy to be Paleo here, even the restaurants have flat out Paleo options, which makes a nice change!), and then perhaps a snorkelling tour.