Pattern: Fern, by Ann Shayne. From Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines
Size: I knitted the size small, but blocked it to the dimensions of the size large. I did this on purpose as alpaca relaxes a lot in water, and I wanted the finished fabric to be quite drapey.
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, 50% wool, 20% alpaca, 30% nylon. Colours 1277, 1279, 1275, 1284, 1294, from Village Yarns, Cumberland, BC. Fiddlehead embroidery was done in Kauni Effektgarn 8/2, 100% wool, colour EK from Fun Knits yarn shop, Quadra Island BC.
Needle: 2.75mm and 3mm Addi Turbo circular, and Susan Bates steel circular
Tension: 32 sts and 32 rows over 10 cm (I blocked it hard to add length)
Cast on: February 10, 2009
Finished: May 27, 2009
Modifications: Used four buttons instead of the eight shown. Substituted yarn, including using a brown and a purple instead of two unavailable greens.
Notes: The fiddleheads were extremely -- well, fiddly. The designer's instructions for this part of the process were limited: "Chain-stitch fiddleheads at the hem of the coat as shown in the picture." A template would have been nice, but I managed to free-hand them well enough. It was trial and error - I ripped out about seven of them all told, and redid them - they looked wonky the first time around.

Click photos for a much better view.

There are meant to be buttons all down the length of the coat. The sample in the book has eight, and it looks wonderful (although in the book photos, all the buttons below the chest are undone to allow the lower 2/3 of the sweater to open up). I did try using eight buttons, but found in the end that simply using four at the top looked much sweeter.

The buttons are not identical. There are two of one style, and two of another. This ups the cuteness factor considerably.

Here is a view of the sleeve, set in with the stripes matching up. Don't think this didn't take careful sewing and clever easing - it really, really did. Thank T-Fal for upright-steaming irons.

You can't get an idea of the beautiful drape of this fabric from pictures, but here you can see it a little bit. It's light, smooth, and almost silky-feeling.

The coat is very long on my model - she is a year younger than Ruby.

Her mum was there for this photoshoot, and for a minute it was looking like I wasn't getting this sweater back. I said "You can't afford it".

Actually I said "I can teach you how to knit if you like."

Again with the matchy stripes on the sleeve seams.

Thanks to the darling little girl for modelling, and to her wonderful mum for giving me the sweater back.

And thanks to my Uncles Joe and Dave for commissioning this garment - it was a beautiful thing to create - maybe my favourite knitted item ever. It really kicked my butt at times, and in the watches of the night I often wondered if I'd ever finish, or if I'd end up hanging myself with my circular needle out of frustration...but I made it to the end and I'm glad I did.

Holiday Part 9 - Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands

This is the final installment in our Easter holiday saga. The last day we decided to explore more of the coastline to the west, past Peterborough. As we passed through that little town the girls saw a park which was begging for someone to play on it so we stopped for a while. Possum obligingly posed on one of the anchors of The Falls of Halladale (shipwrecked in 1908 on a reef only a couple hundred metres from the shore at Peterborough) which was set beside a monument in front of the park.Our next stop was The Bay of Martyrs where we walked down to the beach. This is where I took the photo which currently heads up this blog. HB took lots of photos here too.It was a lovely place for taking photos, and the Half-dozen were all in a good mood after their play at the park, so we took advantage of it.Huge clumps of seaweed littered the beach, which the children found to be rather interesting. Ducky requested her photo taken with this huge piece.Most seaweed I've seen was just a murky green/brown colour but this weed had shades of pink and red too.A little way along the beach was a rock with a hole in it - a fairly even, circular hole.See - just like a little window.And there's Dragon having a look through the window. He had fun climbing on all the rocks on the beach. Kitcat copied him and tried to climb up on each rock after Dragon had climbed down.Getting up and down was a bit harder for her as she didn't have Dragon's advantage of long arms and legs..........But she was determined to get up on every rock her big brother had previously conquered.HB and I did intervene when Kitcat wanted to follow Dragon up on the top of this rock. Mousie was happy to stay down on the lower part of it.So Kitcat contented herself with playing 'mountain climber' on a smaller rock with Teddy and Ducky.We went further along to the Bay of Islands. The survivors of The Falls of Halladale shipwreck had to row the 4.5 miles from Peterbrough to a sandy beach somewhere here at the Bay of Islands because there was no place to make landfall at the wreck site.The cliffs here are not as high as they are closer to Port Campbell and The 12 Apostles, but the colours and formations are just as striking.We drove inland to a beautiful little town called Timboon where we had lunch. As we followed the winding road through dairy country back towards the coast we found a boutique cheese making factory along the way.This rustic cottage business was surrounded by quaint sculptures set in beautiful flowerbeds.They were advertising cheese tasting so we decided to go in and sample their wares. Did you know that tiny wafer-sized slices of blue cheese actually tastes quite nice? Possum didn't like any of the cheeses - there were about 20 speciality cheeses on offer which were all cleverly named after the scenic spots in the area - but Dragon and the little girls tried nearly all of them. Dragon only liked the plain cheese, but HB and I both enjoyed the washed-rind cheese called "The Grotto" and we bought 3 different types to take home.A few kilometres down the road we came across G.O.R.G.E Chocolates, which also offered free samples. There was no way we were going to pass up on this so in we went to 'taste' the chocolate. It was delicious, but so expensive. I tried to restrain the Half-dozen, but the really nice lady kept telling them to "Try this one" so there was no stopping them except by dragging them out of the factory. (We did buy a few small packets.)

Once back at the camp ground we had enough time for a walk along Port Campbell beach before dinner. The camp ground is beside the river, which runs against the cliff face. There was a small cave in the cliff, and it was filled with cave-dwelling monsters!But when the monsters were coaxed out of their cave and onto the beautiful beach they jumped for joy!We couldn't go home without trying to get some more sunset photos along this spectacular coastline, so we returned to the Bay of Martyrs. The sunset was a bit disappointing, as it had been the previous three nights, because of low cloud on the horizon, but the colours in the tops of the clouds was pretty.
The carpark at the Bay of Martyrs was right beside the lookout, so the children sat in the car watching a DVD while HB and I took our photos. Possum couldn't decide if she wanted to take photos or watch the DVD (Miss Indecisiveness is one of her nicknames) so she opted to do both. See the DVD headphones on her head as she snaps a sunset photo out of the car door? This was the best I could get with my point-and-shoot camera so I left HB the dedicated professional to do his time exposures and bracketed shots while I went back to warm up in the car.The next morning we were up before dawn to pack up the tent as quickly as possible and make the 12 hour drive back home. I didn't think we would get home that night when it took an hour longer than we expected just to get to Melbourne, and then another hour to get through the outskirts of the city! But we kept plodding along - thank goodness for in-car DVD player! As we neared the pretty countryside between Albury and Holbrook the sun began to set, and I took quite a few photos out of the window of the car as we were travelling.I like the sun in this one.We arrived home about 10pm and it was so nice to sleep in my own bed, after having a shower in my own shower!

My dad recently commented, after reading my blog posts, that it seemed like we had a good holiday. I replied that "It is getting better the longer we've been home." The photos remind me of the wonderful places we went and the beautiful things we saw, and my memories of bathing 4 young children either in the showers at the amenities block or from a basin in the tent in the cold, and getting up 4 or 5 times through the night to take little girls to the toilet in the cold are fading as time goes by.

I don't think I ever will forget the midnight toilet ritual, though. Every time one of the girls had to go to the toilet (and it was cold, so they had to 'go' a lot) I had to fumble around to locate the torch, find my glasses and jacket, then put their jacket and gumboots on them, unzip the tent to go out, zip it back up, hike to the toilet block, wait for them to 'go', wash and dry hands, hike back to tent, unzip tent, go inside and zip tent back up, take off gumboots and jacket, tuck child back into bed, locate lost 'cuddly', kiss child goodnight again, wrestle myself back into my sleeping bag, try to get warm, try to drift off to sleep, try to ignore the snoring coming from all corners of tent (and sometimes from neighbouring tents too), finally start feeling sleepy only to hear the next one call .... "Mummy, I have to go to the toilet."

So ends our epic Easter camping holiday. HB is already talking about the 'next' camping trip ..... but I am still recovering from the last one! I agree with a fellow blogger (Erin from Raising Country Kids) who said, in her recent post about camping, the fun and excitement the children get from these family holidays is worth the trouble (I am still not sure about the freezing-to-death-all-night bit). The happy memories they have will ensure that one day they too shall pack up their families and take to the road for a camping adventure ...... and then they will understand what a lot of effort, planning and hard work their own parents put into those childhood holidays!!!!!

(Erin, I know that's not exactly what you meant in your beautifully-written post. I just know that I sure appreciate what my mum and dad had to do for our family camping trips a lot more now than when I was participating in them as a child.)

At Pics 'n' Poems there are more photos from The Bay of Martyrs and The Bay of Islands - click here.

If you say it, they will come.

Miles Copeland, as I live and breathe. I feel quite kerflummoxed, getting a comment from someone who has his own Wiki page.

To your comment: Fair points, certainly. Thin can be beautiful too, and in your chosen arena probably sells better. I concede that.

I tell ballerinas to eat more on a regular basis. Sometimes they hit me, but mostly they just cry. However, what I really want to know is....

what do you think about the sultan overlord thing, and will I get royalties?

Thankful Thursday - True Friends

I've seen this meme, hosted here, around the blogs a fair bit, and this week I just had to join in.

Lately I have been struggling with feelings of betrayal. You know how it is when someone who professes to be a 'friend' seems to constantly criticize and belittle you, your feelings, your preferences, your children etc.... get the picture?

That person belongs to a group from which I can't really separate myself - they are important to a friend who is important to me. You know? If I tell them how I dislike the way they are treating me, I know it will hurt others in the group who value that person. I have openly accepted this person into our group, encouraged them to join in, deferred to their judgment against my own, and even defended them to other members of the group. Other people say "Why are you standing up for that person after the way they treat you?" Then I know it's not just my imagination.

I have prayed about this and I felt like the Lord was saying "Just trust me, I can handle it." So when the criticism starts I bite my tongue and ignore their actions and comments as best I can, but on the inside it really, really hurts.

This doesn't sound very thankful, does it? But I am getting there.....

Two evenings ago I was pondering this issue, by way of writing a poem, when the doorbell rang unexpectedly. There on the doorstep was a friend bearing a small gift. They didn't stay long as they were on their way home, but they urged me to open the gift straight away.

I did open it ............ and I felt like crying. Inside was chocolate, and under that was a pile of little notes written by all my other friends telling me how much they love and value me, how they think I am a faithful friend and a great mum, and how they missed me last time they all got together. (I had to take Teddy, Mousie & Kitcat to speech therapy.)

So I am thankful for true friends. Friends who stand with you in good times and bad, and who support you when you're going through a rough patch. I am thankful for Christian friends who follow God's prompting and when He said "Write Mum-me a note..." they just did it without questioning.

"A faithful friend is the medicine of life." Ecclesiastes 6:16

By Jupiter!

Went to see the Be11ydance Sup'rstars the other day with eleven members of my troupe. Jeepers, what a spectacle. As a dancer I could appreciate the amazing skill level, but a few things really dampened my enthusiasm.

First, it was too Vegasy. It was so overproduced. Even the facial expressions felt choreographed...there was no spontaneity and little joy. The tribal fusion dancers were an exception - very intense and connected with the audience. However, even that started to wear a little thin.

Which brings me to my second point - WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE HAND THOSE GIRLS A SANDWICH. With fries. I mean, come on! BELLY dancing, people! Let's see some bellies! If I wanted to admire skin stretched over muscle fibres I'd have gone to the bloody World Bodybuilding Championships or whatever.

And, my third point - I think they should come out with a Bellydance Superstars Over-35 Division. These girls were mostly in their early twenties - hard to tell for sure through all the makeup though - and I feel that bellydance is an art form best interpreted through the lens of life experience. Everybody on that stage was so damn smooth, it was depressing.

Now - I'm glad I went, certainly. It was an amazing show and I was zaghareeting my head off along with the many other dancers in the audience. It's just that over the entire 90 minutes or whatever it was, everything acquired a plastic sameness. The dancers all looked alike - excepting any distinguishing tatts - and honestly it resembled nothing so much as a Mattel aisle at midnight when all the Barbies magically come alive to dance for their lightning-bolt-wielding warlock sultan overlord. (Which, right there - great idea for a themed choreograph. Possibly though it would end up being more adult-film-industry and less ethnic-art-form.)

It's a great show, purely from a "dazzle me" standpoint. There's a lot of impressive fitness and beautiful moves, not to mention really stunning costumes. But if you are an earthy type, like I am, who appreciates the more subtle beauty of Reality, you might find it a tad shiny for your taste.

Willo in limbo

I stopped riding Willow last Saturday and called the chiropractor. She wasn't any worse, but she wasn't getting any better either, and if she's ouchy in the poll I want to get that fixed before asking her to hold flexion there. Unfortunately, the chiropractor is totally ignoring me, so I'm casting about for someone else. In the meantime, Willow is enjoying being free-lunged and hand-grazed every day. There's a giant thought bubble over her head that says "I could get used to this."

Friday one of my barn-mates fell off her suddenly freaked-out gelding Bean and got trampled. He stepped on her forearm and lower back. She has some really impressive bruising, but is otherwise fine. Apparently her gelding thought the tiny Welsh cob pony Fishie was attacking him, and that's what set him off. Bean is not known for his bravery.

I've been steadily increasing my distance running, and also steadily increasing the pain in my knees. So today I visited the Eugene Running Company and got expert help in picking out some new shoes--Sauconys. They're supposed to stop my pronation. In my quick experimental jog outside the store I felt no pain in my knees at all, so I hope the new shoes solve the issue. Getting old sucks.

Since my last post I discovered more great running music: Flogging Molly. Celtic punk! I added "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" and "Devil's Dance Floor" to my mix.

Holiday Part 8 - The Port Campbell Coast

I've finally managed to get the rest of our holiday photos downloaded and sorted. This post is about the other fantastic formations along the Port Campbell Coast, such as The Blowhole. This is a scary place. See that big hole there? It is so big you can barely see Dragon on the other side. (If you click on and enlarge the photo you can see him just to the left of the 'point' of the arch. He's wearing a brown jumper.) That huge big hole goes right underneath the 'seemingly stable' ground and leads out to sea.When Dragon came back around to me he said that the place where I was standing to take this photo was right above another such hole!!!! The water here in the Blowhole is about 100 meters from the coastline. It travels through a tunnel and sloshes around in the Blowhole, causing more and more erosion each time is washes back and forth. And I thought I was standing on solid ground! There were signs along the fenced pathways in this area which read "Do not stray from paths - unstable ground." So the whole area must be undermined in this way and at any given moment a whole section of what looks like solid ground can just give way and collapse under you. We got away from there in a hurry!

The next formation we viewed had a scary name - Thunder Cave. The swell rushing along the narrow entrance to the cove, and through into the dark, echoing recesses of the cave, did sound a lot like thunder.... a rather watery kind of thunder. It was frightening to think what would happen if someone fell in here. (The information signs said the water was over 15 metres deep.) I kept a close hold on the little girls until we were safely back at the car.

We drove a few kilometres to the west to see some more of the beauties on offer is the area. As we were looking at the Marble Arch, HB pointed out to me that you could see the 12 Apostles in the distance. This photo is not very good, but if you remember my post about the 12 Apostles you may be able to make out the pillars of limestone, only from the other side.But the real beauty at this location is The Marble Arch.We spent quite a bit of time here watching the waves (they are mesmerising in most coastal locations - except those places which are sheltered by a reef or sandbar - but here even more so!) Possum helped Mousie get a better view of the turbulent waters below. HB and Possum took lots of photos too.
This looks like I am letting my girls climb a thin wire fence right on the edge of a 70 metre cliff. What was I thinking?!?! Well, it does look more dangerous than it really was, and it helped them pass the time while waiting for HB to take his photos.Just a little bit further again and we arrived at The Grotto. This formation must have been eroded mainly by rainwater as the sea has not yet claimed this section of the coast. It is close, though, as you can see through the arch.
This was another great spot for wave-watching and photographing. The girls played games on the bench while waiting for HB to shoot the perfect wave.The is the harbour of Port Campbell - the only sheltered inlet on the whole Port Campbell coastline. We had lunch at the park here and I had to keep a close eye on Teddy as she just kept inching closer and closer to the water.
"Hi mummy! I wasn't going to get my feet wet. Really! Well ..... my toes might have got a little tiny bit damp." After lunch we saw London Arch, which was formerly known as London Bridge. In the photo below I have very delicately and accurately drawn a diagram of where the original bridge used to be. People used to walk across the natural land bridge onto the island. In fact, there were two people on the island when the bridge collapsed back in 1990 and they had to be rescued by helicopter. I was lucky enough to have walked over London Bridge back in 1986 when my parents took my brother and I for our first visit to the Port Campbell coast. Here is a photo of it when the island was still connected to the land. By the way, that handsome fellow there (who was thinking to himself 'I hope she doesn't ask me to move any closer to the edge of the cliff for this silly photo she's taking.') is none other than the famous Wolf from Samster.com.When I was looking through my old photos I found this one. It's a sea lion. We had walked down the Gibson Steps and were exploring the beach at the bottom of the cliffs. I was running ahead and as I rounded a headland I found some huge boulders in my way. I walked around behind them and found myself face to face with this sea lion. I remember being shocked into silence for a moment or two as the sea lion and I just stared at each other (it was huge!) and then I started yelling "Hey Mum! Dad! Come quick! QUICK!! It's a seal!" but by the time they caught up with me the sea lion had decided it wasn't sticking around to listen to some strange land dweller holler in it's ear and it made a beeline for the water. Dad got there just in time to remind me to "...take a photo at least!" So this it what I managed to get .... the sea lion heading towards the surf right inbetween the feet of two of the 12 Apostles!

I thought I would be able to finish up my holiday photos in this post but I find there are just too many! So that means there will have to be a "Holiday Part 9" sometime soon. (Yes I know you all are just quivering with anticipation!) More photos at Pics 'n' Poems.