Archive for the ‘travelling’ Category

A fog rolling in

April 3, 2011

This may be my proudest FO moment yet, as this is possibly the most complicated thing I’ve ever knitted (yep, a quick squiz at my Ravelry project page confirms this is so). I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that I’ve only been knitting for five years, and have been doing a PhD for most of that time. Go me! (Don’t ask me about colourwork or steeks, though.)

This is my first Swallowtail, knitted in a yarn that might be the most beautiful in the world. Ever. Softness, colour, smoothness, sheen, stitch definition: it ticks all the boxes. I found it at k1 yarns in Edinburgh when I was there last year, and the label identifies it as Belle Epoque Hand Dyed Yarns silk sock in Haar. It’s 50% silk and 50% superwash merino but is lovelier than any wool-silk blend I’ve seen before. The friendly assistant explained to me that ‘haar’ is a sort of fog they get in Edinburgh, that rolls along the cobbled streets. I think the name is perfect.

I managed to knit this entirely without mistakes which is probably another first for me. Turns out the ‘no knitting when tired/drunk/upset’ rule actually works! This was also my first encounter with nupps, which frankly I don’t see the reason for. Purling 5 together was never going to happen for me even with a pure wool yarn, so I used the cheat of older and wiser Ravelers, i.e. slip 2 knitwise, purl 3 together, pass slipped stitches over. And even that was a harrowing experience. From now on, this girl is saying NUP! to nupps.

I guess they are kinda pretty though. But only kinda.

My misty swallowtail is raveled here. And unfortunately, you can’t buy Belle Epoque yarns online, so get yourself over to Edinburgh. And bring me back another skein too.


Day tripping

April 1, 2011

A few weekends ago we were feeling in need of a change, and decided to take a day trip up to Mittagong in the southern highlands. Once outside Canberra’s chilly grasp the weather grew warmer, sunnier, and there was the slightest suggestion of holiday in the air.

On the way we stopped at Fitzroy Falls, just outside Moss Vale.

Phil enjoyed being out of Canberra easily as much as I did.

In Mittagong we had lunch at a little cafe and spent several hours wandering around the big antique centre. I came home with a small owl, beautifully made in frosted glass. I find the cantankerous owls appeal to me so much more than the happy ones. Thoughts?

All in all, a grand day out.

Two pairs of red socks

March 27, 2011

I’ve finished two pairs of simple red socks lately.

The first pair are nice thick woolly house socks for cold winter nights, knit with some vintage red icelandic wool that was given to me by a friend’s mother. The way the weather has been in Canberra lately, they’ve already had a road test. Preliminary results are very positive.

The second, altogether more svelte pair, were knit with some gorgeous Artist’s Palette smoothie sock I picked up at Woolfest in the UK last June. The camera doesn’t really do the colours justice. You’ll have to take my word for it that they’re the most beautiful mix of reds I’ve seen in ages.

My red socks are ravelled here and here.

I’ve been rather busy

August 4, 2010



Dabbling in other crafts

And travelling!

And I promise to tell you all about it as soon as I’ve got a minute :)

Cloudehill Gardens

March 29, 2010

Phil and I recently had a weekend away in Melbourne, and instead of spending all of our time in the city we decided to spend a day and a night in the Dandenongs. This region is a mountainous, forested paradise only an hour from Melbourne. Of course we didn’t have time to explore all the gardens, little shops, and quirkily named restaurants, but the places we did manage to visit were all beautiful. There’s one place I particularly wanted to share with you.

Cloudehill nursery and gardens is located in the village of Olinda. The hosts at our bed and breakfast told us that Burke’s Backyard had rated it as one of the top ten gardens in the world, a claim which, having visited it, I can readily believe. Cloudehill is beautiful.

The garden occupies several acres of sweeping hillside with views to the tranquil Yarra Valley, and is surrounded by a forest of mountain ash. The garden itself is planted in the style of a formal English garden, with several different ‘rooms’, allowing different styles in different areas. There are herbaceous borders, rose beds, ponds, sculptures, trees, lawns…everything.

Best of all, you can visit Cloudehill at any time of year as there’s always something to see. Bulbs peeking out in the meadows, japanese maples blushing pink, huge rhododendrons, neatly topiaried shrubs.

There is a small charge for admission, from memory it was about $7, and well worth it. Attached to the gardens is a plant nursery and a restaurant—we didn’t visit either but both seem to have earned good reviews. The neighbouring gardens, Rangeview, are also accessible from the Cloudehill grounds, for the cost of a gold coin donation. This wilder, more foresty plot brought back strong memories of Enid Blyton books.

I would recommend Cloudehill to anyone visiting the Dandenongs. It’s beautiful, peaceful, good value, and lovely at any time of year. Even if you’re not a fan of formal gardens—and I’m not—you will love this one.

Summer bliss

January 26, 2010

Please excuse me if I’ve been away longer than anticipated, but I’ve been having the most wonderful summer. And I’d like to share some of it with you, if in a rather whirlwind fashion.

Before Christmas, I mentioned that Phil and I were heading north—to Queensland, to spend time with family, friends, the beach, and other important things. We were away for almost three weeks, all of which was just delightful. Although squashing all your obligations into a couple of weeks can be exhausting, for us it’s definitely worth it—we don’t really have a chance to see our special people at other times of the year.

The drive up (yes, drive—over 1100 km according to Google maps) was the easiest it’s ever been, perhaps because the oppressive heat arrived later than usual. And waiting for us in Toowoomba were family dinners, coffee dates with friends, and the familiar (if slightly awkward) atmosphere of the town you grew up in. But you have to make the most of where you are, and this is not difficult when surrounded by the people you love. And I have to admit a somewhat guilty pleasure in some of the things that survive in regional towns, but would never survive in cities. Like Christmas lights competitions!

Garish, but somehow satisfying.

Christmas day was lovely as ever—I love how being with your family or loved ones can turn a normal day and an unexceptional setting into something special. The little traditions are important too, like my family’s Christmas breakfast. To the outside observer, pastry and fruit may not be anything special, but to me they mean a lot.

And an afternoon spent with the in-laws at my brother-in-law’s house continued the perfect day—who could want more than lazing around, playing with the kids, and eating till you burst? That’s my kind of Christmas—laid back.

On Boxing day Phil and I headed up to the Sunshine coast with my parents, for a glorious beachside week. Cue plenty of swimming, walking in the sand, and lazing around on the balcony, with a side order of shopping and folk festivals.

Perfect. I miss Queensland beaches so much during the year—the southern ones are never quite the same. Maybe that’s partly to do with my nostalgia kicking in again.

Our beach week over, it was time to head back south. Stopping briefly in Brisbane to see some of our most special friends, we journeyed back, this time down the coast road. Like every year we decided to spend a little time in Bellingen—a sort of holiday from our holiday, if you will—time to spend with each other before getting back home. Ah, Bellingen! Have I told you of the wonders of Bellingen yet? Never mind, that’s coming later this week.

And since getting home—well, you know how time passes. I had a hectic first week back at work, and a week at a Summer School in Melbourne. And it has been SO HOT. I still feel like the year hasn’t really started for me, but I’m working on that. There has, of course, been a degree of knitting, and perhaps more spinning than usual, and the huge amount of cooking that normally happens when I’m in holiday mode. Ooh, I can’t wait to share it with you. But I don’t really want summer to end.

Blue Mountains adventures

November 7, 2009

Please excuse my silence over the last week—with only a three-day working week after our short holiday, it’s been rather busy here. But I’m sure you’re eager to hear how the Blue Mountains were.

We drove up to our cottage in Leura on Friday evening. Tired and disinclined to cook, we ordered Chinese takeaway in nearby Katoomba. It was while we were waiting for our meal that we discovered almost all the poles, signs and trees along the main street had been yarn bombed. A good start to any holiday, I think.

yarn bomb!

Our cottage turned out to be the loveliest little place, tucked away amongst the trees on the side of a hill, and surrounded by gardens. Inside had a quaint and homey feel, from the retro kitchen fit-out, to the wood-panelled bedroom and the brown tiles in the roomy shower. I was particularly taken with the sweet-smelling jasmine that trailed over the fence.


This is the view from the kitchen window. Lovely.

the view

On Saturday we explored the antique shops in Katoomba, and treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant right on the edge of the Jamison valley, with the most amazing views.

jamison valley

Sunday brought breakfast in a garden cafe in Leura, and a walk to Wentworth Falls. I like waterfalls—they’re so lovely to look at, to hear, and to swim under. Unfortunately (as it was quite a hot day) these ones weren’t for swimming in.

wentworth falls1

The falls turned out to be very high with several parts—above is a small fall near the top, just at the point where the track crosses the river. Below is the main part of the falls. We were standing at least 200m above the valley floor.

wentworth falls2

After climbing many steps back up to the carpark (and during the next few days Phil repeatedly expressed the wish of never seeing stairs again) we cooled off with an ice cream and continued down the highway to Faulconsbridge. Here we visited the Norman Lindsay gallery, a collection of Lindsay’s drawings, etchings, oil paintings, sculpture, watercolours and more that is housed in his former residence. Although I first discovered Lindsay through The Magic Pudding (as did every Australian child since 1918), these days it is his drawings and paintings that speak to me more. He had such a talent for making his subjects (both human and animal) come alive, and was definitely the most prolific artist I’ve ever heard of.

On Monday we visited ‘Scenicworld’—a name that smacks of tourist traps, I know, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds. After taking a steep, fast trip down the scenic railway to the valley floor,

steep railway track

we spent a lovely hour wandering through the rainforest on raised boardwalks, spotting aged coalmining equipment from the days before this was a national park.


We managed to catch a glimpse of the three sisters through the ferns,

three sisters

before taking the cable car back up

view from cable car

and hopping on the glass-floored skyway to the other side of the valley.

my feets

We managed to squeeze in a bit of scrambling over the Katoomba cascades before the storm broke and we headed back.


Feeling we’d now had enough exercise to last us the week, we slipped back to the cottage for a rest and a quiet evening.

On Tuesday we spent the morning in Leura, and caught the race on the radio as we drove home. All in all, it was a lovely a break—a good mix of exploring and relaxing.

Brisbane, part two

October 10, 2009

Thursday morning dawned on two ladies recharged for another busy (but exciting) day. Washed and dressed, Mum and I headed into the city to meet Tina for a girls’ day of shopping, coffee and gossiping. We caught up with her at Anzac Square, where you can stand next to the eternal flame on Ann Street and look over the Bottle Trees to the city beyond.

anzac square

Our first stop was a buffet breakfast at the Sofitel, definitely the nicest hotel in Brisbane, and without doubt the grandest and most varied breakfast buffet I have ever seen. It was lovely to take our time, lazily going back for more watermelon or croissants or poached eggs. Full to bursting and regretful that we couldn’t manage just another mouthful of that roast tomato, we started for the shops.

Our first stop was the heritage-listed Brisbane arcade. Filled with marble floors, panelled wood and stylish shops, it’s one of those places that Canberra is missing, with all its buildings no older than sixty or seventy years.

brisbane arcade

Here we found The Tea Centre, and Mum stocked up on some of the necessities. I picked up some of their Stockholm Blend, having tried it at High Societea on Tuesday. It’s one of those teas that I, a no-milk-no-sugar-thankyou-very-much purist, love—light, low tannin, and fragranced by a collection of flowers (no fruits or pieces of caramel in my tea, thankyou all the same). It goes very well with cinnamon buns, I have just discovered whilst writing this.

Avoiding the chain stores in the mall, we and our tea traipsed to Queen’s Plaza, in search of things a little nicer and a little different. There are some pretty fancy shops in Queen’s Plaza and while some are within my means (just), the rest you go to simply for the experience. So while Tina and Mum bought mineral makeup at Mecca Cosmetica, and I got some cute pyjamas at Peter Alexander, we went into Tiffany’s purely to feel like Audrey Hepburn, and only imagined making purchases in Alannah Hill. Soon our sore feet turned towards a cafe and a sit-down, but before long we were off again.

a welcome cup of tea

We eventually wandered back out onto the street, tired and hungry but carrying packages that spoke of success. Tina left to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Point, and Mum and I discovered that the hill up which we needed to walk had somehow become steeper since the morning. The sight of some Dalek-like sculptures on a corner underneath a huge fig tree did cheer us up though.


We spent a quiet evening at my Oma’s place, where I showed her my knitting and a knitting magazine I’d brought with me. After that we were more than ready for bed—it’s funny how the excitement of shopping can spur you on, but suddenly you realise you’ve got no energy left.

The next morning we were glad of the chance for a sleep-in, but were still up in time to meet Tina, Andrew and the boys at the Old Botanic Gardens for morning tea. Sitting under the trees was lovely, and the Gardens Cafe was much better than such cafes usually are.

family morning tea

Two coffees apiece was enough to get us going, and we all dawdled over the footbridge to Southbank, where Tina and her family could catch a ferry back to their apartment, to meet their lunchtime visitors. On the way, I couldn’t resist taking more photos of those amazing Moreton Bay Figs.

fig tree

After the others caught the ferry, Mum and I walked along the riverbank to the Art Gallery, where we spent a few hours before it was time to walk back down to Southbank for some lunch. I was particularly taken with the fountains outside one of the windows—I think they look just like dandelions ready to be blown apart by the wind.

fountain flowers

I grumbled a little at all this walking, but the cafe was worth the walk, and we did get the chance to put our feet up.

lunch on the deck

Lunch over, we caught the ferry back to the city, and soon we were meeting Dad at our apartment. He’d been working hard all week—unlike us! We took a few hours for some much-needed couch time, and then it was time to get ready for the big family birthday party.

Tina’s 50th party was held at the Brisbane Jazz Club. Inside a band played traditional jazz while couples danced, and outside we had a huge table on a platform next to the river, with a fantastic view over to the city. Tina’s family and friends, stylishly dressed, chatted, ate and drank the night away. It was lovely to see everyone, and lovely to be outside at night without catching our deaths. Andrew had arranged a bar tab so the champagne was almost endless, and Tina’s favourite cake—Sacher Torte—crowned the birthday table. Towards the end of the night some of us managed to make it inside to hear the band play, nursing a snifter of cognac. They were jazz veterans, relaxed and skilled, and the music made us sway and wish we hadn’t drank too much to dance.

Somehow, somehow, Mum, Dad and I managed to make it out of bed early enough on Saturday morning to meet Suzie at the West End markets. These are fantastic markets which I’d never managed to visit before—combination farmers’ markets, craft markets, trash and treasure, and international food fair. Held in a park in alternative West End, shaded by huge trees.

west end markets

Then we headed into West End proper for a much-needed coffee. On the way I finally managed to find some photo-worthy Jacarandas. These beautiful trees, come spring, replace all their leaves with lavender-coloured flowers, which later fall to make a carpet around the tree. They don’t grow in Canberra, and I miss them.


We sank gratefully into cool armchairs at the Three Monkeys, definitely the funkiest cafe I have ever been to. I ordered their signature drink—the Edith Piaf, a latte-style coffee that comes in a bowl. That’s not just perspective that’s making the cup in the background look small.

edith piaf

Saturday was also the lovely Emma’s birthday, so that evening I joined her family birthday dinner, under the stars in her parents’ backyard. We all wore sparkly party tiaras, at the insistence of ‘Chicken’, her gorgeous three-year-old.


On Sunday, Mum and Dad’s last day in Brisbane before heading back for work on Monday, the three of us took a drive up to Tamborine Mountain, behind the Gold Coast. It was good to get out of the city and see some nature. On the way we stopped at a rainforest treetops walk, and wandered through the canopy and along the forest floor in a happy daze.


tree with strangler fig


We had lunch in Tamborine Mountain Village, at a cafe in a converted house. We ate on the back verandah, with this view


and then explored some of the shops on the main street, discovering a very good chocolatier. All too soon it was time to drive back to Brisbane and then, after a farewell meal of Thai, for Mum and Dad to leave for Toowoomba. I’m always sorry to part with them and feel blessed that we have such an easy and friendly relationship. I spent a last night in the flat in Spring Hill, knitting and thinking about my wonderful family, and the wonderful week we’d had together.

On Monday morning Emma picked me up and I spent my last day in Brisbane with her and adorable, cheeky little Chicken. Even a few hours with an energetic three-year-old gave me a new respect for Emma! I don’t know how anyone does it. It was fun, and I amazed myself and made Emma laugh as I continually came out with old sayings and parent-jokes, that I hadn’t heard since my parents said them to me as a child. It’s funny how these things lurk under the surface, and appear unbidden on your tongue as soon as you encounter a child. It’s also funny how you never get sick of taking photos of children doing funny things.


My Brisbane trip came to an end that evening as Emma dropped me back to the airport for my flight home to Canberra. It’d been a fantastic week—packed with family, friends, shopping, food, happy times and nice places. I miss you Brisbane, and I’ll be back.


October 9, 2009

I know it’s been over a week but I finally have time to tell you all about my wonderful trip to Brisbane. I’ve been very busy since I got back, so remembering how lovely this trip was has made my week easier!

The reason for the trip was my Aunty Tina’s 50th birthday party. She turned fifty in mid-September, but since she and her family live in Perth, they waited until the school holidays to have a big party in Brisbane, where most of the rest of my extended family lives. Apart from the opportunity to see family (especially my parents) I have several good friends in Brisbane, so when Mum offered to help with my costs, I jumped at the chance.

We had an absolutely beautiful week—as I’ve said before, Brisbane is my favourite city, and it’s hard for me to imagine anything nicer than revelling in my favourite places in the company of some of my favourite people. We packed so much in that I’m going to split this post into two, or it would be unbearably long, so check back tomorrow for the second part!

I flew into Brisbane on Tuesday morning and Mum met me at the airport. This was such a treat—I’m used to flying on business and having to arrange taxis in unfamiliar cities, so it was lovely to see a friendly (and very dear) face at the arrivals gate. Our fun but hectic week started straight away, as I whisked Mum off for some mother-daughter girls’ time and some lovely high tea at High Societea in Clayfield.

high tea

This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever had high tea at, and going back for the second time was even more lovely than the first. Linen tablecloths, flowered wallpaper, pretty teacups, roses on every table, a huge range of fragrant teas, and dainty little things to eat on tiered trays. We had the Royal Ascot high tea which comes with a complimentary glass of Pimm’s. Perfect!

my pimm's and my teapot

After our tea we checked into our apartment in Spring Hill, just north of the city. It turned out to be much roomier than we expected, with two balconies—or I guess patios, since we were on the ground floor (hurrah for not hauling suitcases up the stairs!). Our front patio looked onto the leafy courtyard.


It was nice to have enough space to relax, as so often you don’t get that in hotel rooms. There was a respectable amount of reading on the couch

mum reading

and knitting on the patio.

knitting on the patio in the springtime

My brother Matt, who I don’t see very often, came to spend the afternoon with us, which was lovely. Later that evening we all went around to the apartment where my Aunty Tina, and my Uncle and cousins were staying, in popular Kangaroo Point. I wish I’d taken a photo from their balcony, it had a great view. It was great to see everyone again—these are the cousins that are closest to Matt’s and my age, and before they moved to Perth we used to play together a lot. I managed to get a cheesy photo of me and Matt, isn’t it great?

matt and me

You’d never believe he’s younger than me.

Tina, who’s an extremely talented quilter, gave Mum the most beautiful quilted wall-hanging in her favourite colours. I think it’s amazing and I’m very jealous. I love how those curls of green look just like young tendrils on a fern.


On Wednesday Mum spent the day with family while I saw two of my most special friends. Beautiful Emma and I went to primary school together, and she’s now the most creative hairdresser I know, with the best eye for colour. Seriously, if you’re in Brisbane, get her to do your hair. She did my hair, complete with awesome purple bits, even more awesome this time. Then we met the lovely Suzie—who I went to high school with, and is now doing her masters in archaeology—for lunch in West End. West End is a little bit different from most of Brisbane, which I like. I guess you could call it alternative—it’s full of different restaurants, chilled cafes and quirky little shops. We had lunch at an amazing Greek place, and enjoyed sitting outside in the breeze that soothed the hot day.

emma and me

After lunch Suzie took us to a new yarn shop in Newstead, Tangled Yarns.

tangled yarns1

Oh my goodness. It’s beautiful. I want to live here.

tangled yarns2

It’s like your dream LYS come true. A big, airy space with high ceilings and lots of natural light, let in by two storeys of windows. Beautiful yarns from Australia and all over the world (including several that are hard to find in Aussie shops, like Cascade and Malabrigo) arranged meticulously in clean white shelving. The most gorgeous buttons I’ve ever seen. Friendly staff who serve great tea and coffee as well as knowing their knitting inside and out. A big kitchen table to sit and knit around, or comfy armchairs if you need something more relaxing. Books, needles, patterns, knitted samples, and all the accessories you could possibly want. Heaven. It’s actually nicer than all of the yarn shops I visited in the US, and considering those left all the Aussie shops I knew in the dust, this really is something special. I. am. so. going. back.

But there is more to life than knitting, particularly when one of your party is a non-knitter with a limited attention span for yarn, and everyone is getting tired anyway. My two lovely girls dropped me back to Spring Hill (augmented by a sizeable yarn purchase) where Mum arrived shortly after. We decided on a quiet night, just popping around the corner for some comforting Japanese food. The tempura prawns were very good

prawny good

and the miso hit the spot perfectly.


Then we popped back around the corner for bed, anticpating the excitement of tomorrow.

An escape

August 17, 2009


We’ve just come back from the loveliest weekend away. So peaceful and quiet, just what we both really needed. We stayed in a secluded cottage surrounded by bushland at Bawley Point, where all you can hear is the birds and the breeze in the gums, and you never see any other people. We spent the whole time relaxing: sleeping, reading, knitting. Sitting in front of the fire. Enjoying the coolness on the deck. Lovely.

On Sunday afternoon we wandered through the beautiful little town of Milton, and had lunch at a very good vegetarian cafe. I was delighted to find a shop selling old wares and vintage pieces, and came home with two awesome bargains. A brown glass jug and four tumblers, all in the shape of owls (owls!)

owly goodness

which I can just imagine drinking homemade ginger beer out of, and a set of six adorable rose-patterned, gilt-edged trios.


I think this calls for a tea party. As soon as the weather warms up.

Even without these lucky finds it was a wonderful weekend—so good to be free of the distractions of home, to have time for ourselves and each other, and to be in such a beautiful place.