31 January 2009

Druid Mittens

They're done!

I have a little wool left, so I'm attempting a matching cowl.

Tomorrow, we'll have been in London for one whole year.

22 January 2009

Out with the old...

A lot of the things I started knitting at the end of last year, before the Christmas marathon, and at the beginning of this year need to be frogged. I don't know why, but nothing I started seemed to be going very well. My phildar pull came out like a teabag. The gothlet - well, I made a mess of a seam and the gauge wasn't perfect, which means I have to rip the whole thing. Back to square one. I used knitpicks wool that I didn't have enough of and in a colour that's been discontinued (I didn't know at the time, of course) for my druid mittens, and messed up the first one badly enough that there was no going back. Or, sorry, I mean there was nothing left but going back.

So here is the work that needs to be frogged:

I looked through ravelry to find if anyone in Europe had an extra skein of wool for my druid mittens. And I found someone! Seerosenhonig sent me the skein as a gift. It was such a lovely present, and it was just what I needed to get the project up and going again. Here's one, and I'm half done with the second.

In other news, I started washing my hair with baking soda and conditioning it with vinegar. I've been doing it for the past week. I happened upon this website, and none of the shampoos I like scored very highly. I never wash my hair more than two or three times a week anyway, so it's not noticeably different yet. Also, I was interested in the idea of using less plastic bottles - there's nothing to throw out, nothing to recycle. We'll see how long I last; I already miss the ritual of washing my hair with lovely, sudsy water. That said, my hair does feel really clean and soft and most importantly, it's not all tangled. Oh, and smells a little like fresh laundry. If you happen to do your laundry with baking soda.

19 January 2009

A "Mitigated" Disaster

It's a lovely blustery wintery day outside - bouts of rain from darkened skies - made all the more enjoyable because I'm working from home today and can just see it out my window, while I sit cozily inside.

I loved this Phildar jumper when I saw it, even though I knew straight away that it wouldn't flatter me (i.e. it doesn't have a waist!). But I decided to try it out anyway. And it's not flattering - it's too ... teabaggy.

But, it's not an unmitigated disaster, because I did learn something. I had read awhile ago, on Lien's blog, how to shape a neckline using short rows. I tried it here, and it worked perfectly. I'm hooked. Especially as I hate picking up stitches. And, yes, by that I mean that I'm no good at it.

So even though I was sorely disappointed by how this jumper turned out (I was ready to give up knitting yesterday night), I'm now looking forward to the next jumper, where I can do a short row neckline again.

First things first, though, I've got some frogging to do. Sigh.

16 January 2009

Life is Sweet

Today, I finally got my Christmas present from my sister.

I am so happy!

I got a lovely little red bag, and when I opened the bag, there were even more presents inside, including beautiful stripey pink and brown socks - my sister knows me so well - I LOVE pink and brown together! And some other goodies as well, and for Rog too.

It was worth the wait! And as I guessed, even better to receive gifts in drab January!

10 January 2009

How could I forget?

There is a whole street devoted to haberdashery shops - rua da conceiçao - or conception street as I like to call it. Nothing very exciting there for me, though if you like buttons, you're in the right place. On Rua dos Fanqueiros, though, there is a lovely shop with ceiling to floor and wall to wall yarn, their own brand - Brancal. A lot of it was partially acrylic, and I didn't see a colour in the pure wool that I "needed." Hard to believe, I know.

Lisbon - or what people did before the internet and telly

We just got back from a week in Lisbon. You want the good news first? Or the bad?

Well, since you ask, the bad news first - it's shorter. It was my first holiday where I couldn't wait to get home. To be fair, it wasn't entirely Lisbon's fault. It was a bad confluence of events that conspired against us: 1) we went for too long; 2) it was cold; 3) there is a limit to the number of meals you can eat which are mainly made up of chips and rice; and 4) we actually didn't need a (non-beach) holiday. Had the weather been better, or had we gone for a few days less, or if we could have found a green vegetable, or had we been working incredibly hard for the two weeks before we left, it would no doubt have been a different story.

That said, we still had some lovely moments, even some awe-inspiring ones. And we missed most of the cold snap in London.

The first day we were there, Lisbon just seemed like a bit of a fairy-tale old european city. You know the kind.

But it only took about 24 hours for its seedy underbelly to begin to show. This was a good thing. It made Lisbon less of a postcard and more of a real place. One day, walking down the Avenida da Liberdade, for example, we saw a large American with a slightly crazed look in his exthalmic eyes asking an elderly Portuguese couple for "anything they could do to help." He towered over them, explaining that he had left his credit cards, money and passport down south in the Algarve. The sheer improbability of this would have had me brushing him off without a word (how did he manage to get to Lisbon from the Algarve without money or credit cards?), but the woman was digging in her bag for some euros. As we kept walking, I happened to look off to the side, where a bag had been stowed behind a column; I couldn't help but think it was the American's.

Another night we were walking home after another dinner, when a homeless man approached us, saying - from what I could gather, as he spoke Portuguese - that he was Angolan, and had fought in the war. I said, in Spanish, that we couldn't help. He kept walking closer to me and muttering away, not in an entirely unthreatening way, but also not entirely in an unfriendly way. I don't like it when people impose themselves on me and I started to get irritated. Finally, after repeatedly saying no, I finally stopped short, stamped my foot, arms crossed and said forcefully and a bit loudly (I surprised myself), again in Spanish, "I said no!" He stopped short too, and then backed off.

We started out for Belém, in west Lisbon, on a bright, crisp sunny morning. We did the touristy thing, and headed straight for the antigua pasteleria, where we had pasteis do (or da, I can't remember now) Belém. Belém is pronounced something like "Blain" as if that were being said in French. I was reading somewhere, though I don't know if it's true, that Portuguese is such an old language that the Roman alphabet can't spell the sounds, unlike French, Spanish and Italian. This is why it looks so different to how it sounds. The little I learned before we went was from a website, which did it's best to explain how things ought to sound, but ultimately, I had no idea. And so even though I knew the words, I couldn't pronounce them, and ended up speaking Spanish most of the time, or sadly on a few occasions, I just added that "sh" sound to spanish. Yes, I said "grashyash." The only thing that made it better was the guy to whom I said it said it back as if it were normal.

Anyway, in Belém is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

While the cloisters, pictured above, are beautiful, there was some strange stuff going on. Clearly, when people aren't distracted by the internet, their minds homogenized by access to everyone else's minds, they come up with some amazing images. No doubt, these are also fed by the Catholic fear of hell. But the shape these demons take! Interestingly, amongst the unsurprising gargoyles, there were also lambs and a grasshopper. Each of the columns were carved completely differently. And, in fact, as I walked around the top level of the cloisters, I noticed that the sculptures on the pieces of stone that connected the arches to the walled balconies started out florid and abstract but became more and more animalistic and detailed.

This one, I think is a lamb. It's face is so close up against the stone statue in front of it that it's hard to tell.

This one, which is right behind the lamb, had this strange almost Aztec face, which faced upwards.

Another strange face in the cloisters (and homage to Brancusi):

Off along the sides of the cloisters, there were various rooms to go into. And so, it was an utter shock to walk through one doorway, expecting just another room, but instead to find this:

This is the Igreja de Santa Maria church, and it is awe-inspiring, especially when you consider that my vantage point is from the second floor: I'm shooting from a little balcony halfway up the height of the church.

Some other strange beings on the columns in the church:

One rainy day, we climbed one of the steep hills up through Alfama, and to Castelo, where there is a castle, that was once Moorish around 700ad (I think), but was then taken back four or five centuries later. It was raining so hard, that sitting in the little cafe in the castle, we saw this:

When we went outside, once the downpour had lightened to a drizzle, we saw them again:

In fact, they were all over, draped like cats. Do you see the little black smudge in this photo?

Here is a close-up:

There were cats draped about, as well, all over the place. During the heavy showers, they took shelter where they could:

Some other pictures from within the castle:

Overall, I am really glad we went to Lisbon - if nothing else, the mosteiro made it 100% worth it. Oh, I forgot to mention, I drank endless amounts of delicious espressos.