Archive for June, 2009

Sydney

June 26, 2009

We had a lovely time in Sydney last weekend, despite the rain. Oh the rain. How it rained. Here in Canberra we never get that sort of rain, so I’m never really prepared for it when it happens (something similar happened to us when we went to Melbourne in March).

We arrived on Friday night and checked in to our lovely hotel, cheap thanks to lastminute.com. If you haven’t discovered that site yet you are really living under a rock. The hotel had an aquarium in the floor—I could walk above the fish—which was very cool but kinda weird. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of it. We ducked out to chinatown for some dinner—if you’re in the area, do try Zilver‘s food. It’s just amazing, like no Chinese I’ve had before. And their prawn dumpling short soup is absolutely to die for.

On Saturday morning we headed to the artsy suburb of Glebe, for the very cool Glebe Markets. These markets are full of creativity, good humour and alternative style. You can get everything from vintage clothing and indie jewellery to secondhand books and international food. I love to visit every time we’re in Sydney, and my wonderful and very patient husband is happy to take me. This time, like last time, there were some amazing offerings and I came home with some beautiful and funky stuff.

leather bag, vintage shirt, monster threads tee and hoodie

peacock headband, amber ring, vintage porcelain pendant, domino pendant

The only downside was the rain. My goodness it rained. The markets are held in a schoolyard and there were puddles, and overflowing drains, and waterfalls cascading from tarps onto unsuspecting heads. We bought an extra umbrella. We sheltered under whatever cover was handy at the time. We still got wet, wet, wet. But hey, it was the Glebe markets nonetheless, and I wasn’t going to let a little rain spoil it for me. I had several stallholders ask me why I was so chirpy given the terrible weather—I had to reply that I was from out of town, and today was the only chance I would have this year at the Glebe markets, so I was going to make the most of it! But I was still relieved when we were done, and could duck across the road to the warm and dry San Churro, for Spanish hot chocolate and churros.

From there we headed back to the city, where I discovered that Morris & Sons was having a sale. I mean, who can resist half-price wool? Anyway, there are now three potential sweaters in my stash.

half price wool rocks

I also scored the coolest, most 80s-tastic sneakers on sale at Adidas:

high visibility

they’re now known as my fog shoes (as in, used for the same purpose as fog lights).

Saturday night and the reason we’d come to Sydney in the first place finally arrived. The Simon and Garfunkel concert! (really, it’s difficult to restrain myself from putting more exclamation points after that sentence). All I can say is that it was amazing to see them live, like a dream come true. I thought they would always just be one of those things I’d missed out on, like so many other events/fashions/bands/experiences, being too young. So when this opportunity came up I simply jumped at it—and I’m so glad I did.

They sang all the old songs, they told stories, they played some of their solo work, some of it accoustic and some with their very talented backing band. The venue was huge—we were up high and pretty far away—so I was glad of the large screens, the chance to really see it all happening. I was just so happy the whole time, and I feel really blessed that I had the chance to be part of it. I pulled out my record (yes, vinyl) of the Concert in Central Park yesterday, and it said on the front that that was ‘an historical event’. I think that term could easily be applied to the concert I saw last Saturday. And most importantly—Garfunkel still has the ginger ‘fro! :D

The rest of the weekend was slow and sweet after that. Sunday morning brought the sun, and a snatch of warm weather before we left Sydney (where did all that rain go?). We had brekky at a cute little place in Redfern called Strangers with Candy. Their website goes on about their great service, but for me the decor and the food were the stars. Do try it if you’re in the area—it’s a little hard to find but worth the effort. Their homemade hollandaise was the best, and lightest, I have ever tasted.

We stopped for lunch at Lerida Estate on the way home. I guess you could say it’s on the shores of Lake George, but that seems a bit odd since Lake George has been dry ever since I’ve lived in the area—people graze sheep and cows on it now. They make a very nice Pinot Gris there, and everything else I tasted was lovely too. I didn’t realise but apparently the area is also very big for truffles. It was truffle weekend and they had truffle-dog demonstrations and special menus. One man was buying some truffle while we were there—twenty grams cost him sixty dollars! I hope he enjoyed it.

Anyway that’s about it—sorry for foisting such a long post on you after a bit of a drought. More knitting news soon!

I wasn’t born 30 years too late after all

June 19, 2009

We’re going to Sydney this weekend to see Simon and Garfunkel play…I am wildly excited! Never thought I would have the chance to see this talented, amazing, famous, and—forgive me—retro duo play live. Squee!

Dad’s socks

June 18, 2009

It’s been ages since I’ve made a proper project post, but I guess travelling has got in the way of that. I left at home my (then) only bloggable project, and was travelling with Dad’s socks, which I didn’t want to spring before he’d received them. But the time has come—they are all done! Finished and blocking as we speak, to be posted to Dad as soon as they are dry.

socks!

Ravellers can view the project details here. The pattern is a basket weave rib, and the yarn is 100% New Zealand wool, about DK weight. Not a normal choice for socks I know, but these need to be sturdy yet warm socks for cold winter nights at home. I’m quite pleased with how well the yarn and colour work with the pattern. As I’ve said before, it makes me think of russian caramel.

socks2

(Note the clever camera angles designed to hide the fact that these socks are actually much too big for me!)

socks3

Actually I grew up thinking all knitted socks were thick and chunky like this. I never knitted as a kid, but my Oma (that’s my grandmother, she’s Dutch) has been knitting practically all her life. Every winter she used to make us a pair of thick socks to warm our little toes in bed and around the house—there’s nothing like handknitted socks to warm a winter’s night. She used to knit other things too—one of my favourite possessions as a child was the handknitted jumper, made by Oma, which exactly matched a larger one she made for my Mum. I think I also still have a tiny knitted tracksuit somewhere, which she made for my favourite teddy bear.

It’s funny that I never took to knitting as a kid, but it’s because of Oma that I decided to learn to knit a few years ago. Her knitted socks were always so comfy and warm, and fit so well, that I wanted to be able to make them myself (and also because I guess she won’t be around forever, and I’d like to carry on that tradition). So I guess you could say I learned to knit in order to knit socks. Once I started knitting I discovered the wealth of possibilities, of patterns, of yarns, and I got a bit scared by some of the techniques and ended up avoiding socks for three years. But I got there eventually, and now that I’m knitting socks for my family, I feel like in some sense I’m fulfilling my knitting destiny :)

So this is my fourth official pair of socks, and the second pair for family. I hope you like them, Dad.

socks4

Rainbow Wools

June 17, 2009

yellows

I know I’ve shown a lot of yarn and not a lot of knitting lately, but I want to take a moment to tell you about a local company whose yarn I just adore. They’re called Rainbow Wools and I first discovered them at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Canberra last year. Being such a lover of handspun and hand-dyed things, I gravitated immediately to the stall heaped high with thick, soft, slubby and curly yarns in so many amazing colours. At the time I was so caught up in the tactile experience that I didn’t get the company details, so later I was sorry I couldn’t look them up to buy more. I did however buy the most beautiful skein of their mushroom wool in a gorgeous hot pink. I was so in love with it that it became a scarf within days.

hot pink scarf

A few months went by. I loved my pink scarf and so did everyone else. Occasionally I hoped I might see the producer again, but I couldn’t really remember much about their other yarns, I just had this image of pinks and yellows and purples, fuzzy and soft and squishy. The stuff of stash fantasies.

Then in January, as we were taking a road trip down the NSW coast on our way back home to Canberra after Christmas in Queensland, we stopped in Bellingen, one of my favourite little towns. It’s the most gorgeous place—you really must visit if you can—but I won’t go into all its wonders now. Suffice to say that in a little craft store off the main street, I discovered some amazing, beautiful wool. Thick, slubby, soft, and with so many different colours. I think I managed to limit myself to five or six skeins, all on a different colour scheme—purples, greens, blues, pinks…bliss. That’s one of those yarns in the header pic of the blog. That’s how much I was in love with them. Over the next few months I took out this wool every time I looked through my stash. I admired it and snuggled it but didn’t use it yet. I knew the time would come. Only recently did I make the first project with this wool, and appropriately, it was a gift for a very special friend.

blues

However I still didn’t know the name of the company that made this wool, this wonderful addition to my knitting life. It wasn’t until I returned to the Bus Depot Markets for this year’s Celebration of Wool that my question was answered. Imagine my delight when I again spotted the stall piled with tasty, happy woolly goodness. At this stage I was thinking only of my pink scarf (which I happened to be wearing at the time), I didn’t connect it with the yarn I got in Bellingen until I started digging through the wares. Imagine my further delight on discovering that the progenitor of the pink scarf, and the maker of the Bellingen wool, were one and the same! It was like an epiphany. Of course I made sure I got their card, and predictably a few skeins decided they just couldn’t live without me.

So, I exhort all you knitters, go unto Rainbow Wools and be happy. Ever since the epiphany and the green beret I’m itching to knit something else with this beautiful wool. It’s like a good friend, a cup of hot chocolate, and a sweet little puppy all rolled into one—happy and comforting.

pinks

Home safe

June 12, 2009

Just a quick note to say that my luggage and I arrived home safe and sound. I’m now curled up on the hearth in front of a roaring fire because Canberra is damn cold…good thing I bought lots of wool, hey?

Boston from on high

June 12, 2009

On Tuesday Boston threw some of its apparently typical Spring weather at us, suddenly becoming chilly and grey. Despite the weather we headed into the centre of the city so Eduard could show me some of downtown Boston.

The first place we stopped was the Boston Common, one of the large parks within the city, and part of the Emerald Necklace. The frog pond was closed but I was delighted with the frogs nonetheless

frogs

and also with how beautiful and green everything was.

lake

More of those wonderful big trees!

Spring was definitely in the air, we saw a tiny duckling being shepherded (duckherded?) by its parents

duckling

and some nesting swans.

swans

After leaving the common we strolled down Commonwealth Avenue which was again beautiful, clearly the nicer part of town. Instead of the wonderfully rustic wooden houses of Cambridge, this area had stylish brick townhouses, just like you see in the movies.

stylish

After a quick lunch (and some amazing chocolates from Godiva’s) we went up the Prudential tower to the Skywalk Observatory, where you can see the whole of Boston spread out before you. An audio tour with colourful local ‘characters’ provided some interesting information about the history and landscape of the city, but the view itself was the real star.

boston

That square of green to the left of the big glass building is the Boston Common we walked through earlier. It was so cool to see everything spread out below you, and to see the differences between different areas—the straight streets and neat brick houses of Back Bay, the wooden houses of Cambridge almost hidden by their trees, and the river winding past Harvard, MIT, and many historical sites, such as the Old North Church (said to have a role in the beginnings of the American Revolution).

On Tuesday night Eduard called on some more of his fantastic local knowledge, taking me to a cute little French-Cambodian restaurant called the Elephant Walk. Again I managed not to take any photos, but the combination of new and different (and very tasty) food and good conversation was apparently too distracting.

On Wednesday Eduard had to stop past the office, which gave me the chance to see Harvard-Smithsonian for real. Like most old observatories, it still has telescope domes, remnant of the days before the city engulfed the area and light pollution made observing impossible.

dome

You can enjoy a view across Cambridge to the city from the roof of one of the buildings—it seems like a nice place to work.

eduard
On the way back home we stopped at Formaggio’s, the most amazing deli and gourmet food store I have ever been in. Ever. And I make a habit of going to these places. As it was my last day I couldn’t buy anywhere near as much as I would have liked, but I did manage a small haul that was consumable within the day.

tasty
That’s a gourmet sandwich, a pomegranite-flavoured softdrink, a packet of ginger cookies, a punnet of raspberries, and one turkish lavender-scented caramel. I did share the cookies, but the rest was no trouble for just me. Especially the raspberries. I love raspberries and live for when they’re in season. These ones are bigger than the sort we usually get in Australia, and while they weren’t yet as sweet as they probably will be in a month’s time, they were still delicious. And at four dollars a punnet, even with the exchange rate they were cheaper than they ever are in Australia. Bliss! I was surprised how easy it was to eat a whole punnet in such a short time, but they were half gone before we even got home (as you can see from the picture). And of course making up fun ways to eat the rest wasn’t too hard.

raspberries!

However the cutest purchase of the day was definitely the honey Eduard bought—check out the ingredients list:

honey
awwwwww. :)

All too soon after that it was time to pack up, travel to the airport and say goodbye. Boston has been great, and catching up with a good friend I haven’t seen in almost a year has been wonderful. One thing is bugging me though. I was delighted to see not only my first, but many (absurdly cute) squirrels in Boston—and I didn’t get a photo of any of them!

Exploring Cambridge

June 10, 2009

My time in Boston so far has been lovely—really chilled, and a nice change from the hectic week in Santa Fe. Of course, staying in such beautiful surroundings does help the feeling of serenity (ah, the serenity!).

On Sunday we had a pretty quiet day, as Eduard was feeling a bit under the weather. I must admit I was pretty glad to take it slowly too! It was a lovely warm, sunny day though, so we still managed to wander around Cambridge, enjoying the sun, the trees (the trees! the trees are huge!),

trees

the beautiful houses,

cambridge

and of course the gardens.

rhododendrons

It felt a bit odd walking around taking photos of people’s houses (I was worried someone would assume I was a spy, tackle me to the ground and run off with my camera, but apparently these worries were unfounded). But it was such a beautiful area that I can’t have been the first. Until now I always thought my dream house was a traditional ‘Queenslander’, but these houses are starting to make me doubtful—they’re so pretty. This is one of my favourites

yellow

(yellow with a red door—squee!) but they were all so different in colour and style

pretty tiles

and some were absolutely huge.

red

It’s perhaps a bit strange, but on my first impression of Cambridge I was reminded so much of Brisbane, a city I really love. Maybe it was the combination of sunshine and green grass? The humidity and the wooden houses with their rustic porches? Perhaps it was just a smell in the air—in any case Cambridge made me happy.

It was so lovely to have some proper summery weather and I’m not looking forward to the cold of Canberra on Friday. But of course there are many other reasons I’m looking forward to going home.

On Sunday evening we stayed in, tired after all that wandering around. I made pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil (soooo good to cook again!) and we watched some happy and comforting movies—gotta love Wallace and Gromit.

On Monday Eduard had to pop into work, so after a decent sleep-in I set off to explore downtown Cambridge, and in particular find a yarn store.

The walk to Harvard Square took about twenty minutes, but on the way I was refreshed by a cup of hot chocolate and a madeleine at Burdick’s.

chocolate

Again the walk was lovely—more big old houses, all maintained so beautifully, more huge spreading trees, and more sunshine. However I must have felt I had taken enough nosy photos of people’s houses by now, because I don’t have any photos of that walk. Though one of the streets had particular historical significance, as lots of the houses had been occupied by rich families and important people—I even found a house that was once the residence of both Washington and Longfellow, but it was closed to the public that day.

Once in Harvard Square I wandered around happily getting lost in pursuit of my yarn store. At one point I crossed the river and found I could see all the way to downtown Boston.

river

I like to think that the fact that I immediately realised I had to turn around and go back across the river is a bit irrelevant.

Eventually I found Woolcott and Co, and spent a certain time in intense but happy scrutiny of yarn.

woolcott and co

By this time I was becoming aware of the limitations of space in both my luggage and carry-on, so anything I bought had to be both unavailable in Australia, very special, and quite small. I eventually decided on three skeins—an alpaca blend sock yarn (!) that will become socks for someone special, and some ice blue wool/angora blend, which I couldn’t resist because I love bunnies. And these were very kindly wound into balls for me by the staff for no extra charge—how sweet!

all wound up

I had lunch at an Irish pub

irish stew and cider

and was then so worn out I wandered back to Eduard’s, where we spent another lazy afternoon and evening chatting, eating pasta and watching movies. Again the chillaxing was just what I needed, but we did manage to make a trip to see the sunset over a nearby ‘pond’ (more of a lake really).

lake

Such a lovely way to end the day.

Hello, Boston

June 7, 2009

My last couple of days in Santa Fe seemed to go by in a whirlwind of conference talks, knitting, and people. The conference dinner on Thursday night went off as expected—there’s always at least one Astronomer who shows up in some outlandish outift

o...kay...

but apart from that it was a reasonably classy night, enjoying the balmy evening on a terrace above Santa Fe. We were lucky enough to hear an address by Robert Christy, an elderly Astronomer who was (and is) definitely one of the giants in the field of Stellar Pulsation.

The conference ended mid-afternoon on Friday and I had a bit of time before the bus left to take us all back to Albuquerque, so I wandered around the town for the last time. While munching a tasty chocolate croissant (last one left at the bakery!) I wandered into the cathedral park where I found this band playing.

ande

At first I thought they were glockenspiels (they’re very like them) but later I found out they’re marimbas, a traditional Zimbabwean instrument. All tuned to different octaves, and with drums to help, it made very rhythmic but very chilled music—perfect for relaxing in the park. I bought their CD and can’t wait to listen to it.

The next morning, after a brief night at a forgettable hotel in Albuquerque, I was once again in transit. Albuquerque to Denver, then Denver to Boston, and to Eduard! One of my very good friends from Stromlo who now lives here.

The little I saw of Cambridge yesterday afternoon and last night was beautiful. Spring is in full swing here (such a lovely change from the cold of home and the dry of Santa Fe) and I can’t wait to explore it more today! I think I’ll be taking lots of photos. We walked to a lovely restaurant (with great cocktails, incidentally) for dinner last night, and I think I made the walk almost twice as long because I kept stopping to look at everyone’s garden. I’ve never seen so many rhododendrons!

Strange things about America

June 6, 2009

In which our heroine discovers that she may not be in Kansas anymore, Toto.

1. Most of the coffee is drip-filter (or ‘dripolator’, as Mum likes to call it), not espresso-based. At breakfast at my hotel in Santa Fe, waiters would wander around with jugs of filter coffee instead of taking orders for lattes. Incidentally, most of this filter coffee is pretty terrible. My room in the hotel has a drip filter machine (!)

drip filter

but doesn’t have a kettle, so I can’t make tea. (I’ve just checked in to my hotel in Albuquerque and it’s the same—drip filter, no kettle. Yet they’ve given me teabags…)

2. All the light switches I’ve seen are either upside down or sideways.

sideways!

Not a huge problem, just a slightly amusing spectacle for any hidden watchers, as it usually takes me a few moments to figure out why the light’s not turning on.

3. This one is probably peculiar to regions with a lot of Mexican food, but they seem to like chilli with everything. I went to a pizzeria for lunch on Sunday and managed to get a beautifully made, authentic Italian-style pizza

pizza with chilli

which was served with a shaker of chilli flakes, just in case I couldn’t handle the thought of food without chilli. I mean, chilli has its place, but it’s not often you find it in Italian food.

4. Tipping. How much am I supposed to tip? Can I refuse to tip if the service wasn’t up to scratch? Should I tip more at a fancy restaurant? Is it truly voluntary if restaurants enforce a tip for parties over 6 people? WHY don’t they just up the prices of the food, and pay their staff a fair wage???

5. There is almost no fruit or veg. I’m staying in a hotel in the middle of town, so I’m eating out for every meal. Most places don’t serve fruit or veg at all where I’m used to finding it (e.g. salad on the side when you buy quiche for lunch), and when you do get it, it’s often a tiny serve. Heavily processed or seasoned or dressed. And there are no supermarkets, grocers or convenience stores within walking distance, so I can’t even stock up on apples for snacks. By contrast, in the middle of Sydney and Melbourne, every corner has an IGA that at least stocks apples.

Mind you, I’m probably getting enough vitamin C from the lime juice in all those margaritas I’ve been drinking. No scurvy here. If it worked for Captain Cook, it can work for me!

6. Salad is served before the meal. In Australia, salad is served as a side dish to a meal. In Europe, salad is apparently served after the main course. Here, salad is your entree. I guess we all have our different ways.

7. Speaking of entrees…every restaurant I’ve been to here calls the first course ‘Appetizers’ and the main course ‘Entrees’. In Australia, we call the first course ‘Entrees’ and the second course ‘Mains’ (or something similar). During my first few days in the US I was involved in several conversations with waiters where we managed to just confuse each other about what size meal I wanted. I started to wonder who had the terminology right, but a handy francophone assured me that entree does indeed mean ‘entry’, as in, the start of the meal. A useful thing to know, but I don’t think I’m going to be arguing the case with any waiters—the less confusion the better!

I guess this is the joy of discovering a new country. There’s lots of wonderful things, lots of interesting things, and a few things that just seem strange. But as I said—it’s all part of the fun!

Goodbye, Santa Fe

June 6, 2009

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be leaving Santa Fe this afternoon, and spending the night in Albuquerque before flying to Boston.

The conference has been a great experience, as has Santa Fe itself. More updates on that later!