Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sock it to me!

Reality hits hard!  All holidays must end.  Good-bye tropical island and balmy weather (even when it's stormy).  Hello New Zealand.  Hello Winter.  Hello cold-chapped lips.  It's no surprise then, when I returned home from Fiji, I immediately took up the challenge to learn a new skill - sock knitting.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

An upside down fire; a girl's best friend.
Begin by putting your fat wood logs down below, pile smaller ones on top,
add fire-lighters and light.  Then....Walk away....!

An upside down fire within 5 minutes!
Our local Resource Centre runs adult education classes, amongst other great services.  I spied a knitting and crochet course being advertised.  Mmmmn, now my knitting skills stretch to humble scarves and beanies.  The latter item being one that I have flogged to death!  Made several for family members, friends and even to sell in our shop at kindergarten.  But finally one must concede to raise the bar in skill sets, so hence the sock class.

Well now, what was not evident in the advertising blurb, was that a certain level of skill is required to knit socks!  And there is of course, the cost!  Take the class cost (2 evenings @ $20) plus the cost of the needles and wool (merino+possum fur wool = $50 - I kid you not!), and these will be the most expensive socks I ever wore (if I manage to complete them!).  Soon after enrollment  last weekend, we passed a wool shop advertising 2 pairs of merino/possum socks for $35!!  Bloody hell!  Would've saved my purse and sanity had I just gone for that deal!  Anyway, I must try and complete this little project, even if I never knit another pair in my life!

3 week old project

Knitting socks on 4 x size 2.5 needles, using 2 ply wool, is an exercise in utmost dexterity and skill.  Both seem to be lacking, in my case.  The tutor explained that knitting is purely maths
I hunched over my toothpick-sized needles and groaned inwardly.  Maths has never been my strong forte'.  In fact, we were told to cast on 60 stitches, then to knit 20 onto each of the 3 needles (get the point - it is all maths!!).  Then we had to knit a row and continue - well, after knitting the first row, I realised I only had 19 stitches on one needle, so I simply sneaked one off the next needle and happily proceeded to knit the next needle of 20 stitches - hang on!  I counted only 19!  So again, I sneaked a stitch off the next needle - it seemed I kept on stealing a stitch to make up 20!  Really frustrating!  Recounted all the stitches - blast!  Only 59 stitches!!
Sock-knitting requires the patience of Buddha himself!!
I did not want to unpick my first 3 rows, where I had sneaked a stitch each time, so I boldly declared I would cast on the missing stitch and solve the dilemma I was facing.  The tutor rushed to my aid, and said it was perhaps not a good idea, as I might create a hole in the top of the sock.  Undaunted, I said, "that will be my sock air-vent!".  She saw I meant business, shrugged and said: "Okay."  But I guess in her books, it is definitely not okay.  So, here I am, with knitting homework I have to complete by Wednesday night (our second class).  I phoned another sock mate to get the next set of instructions last night - her homework is already finished!  So, once I have knitted the required number of rows, I suggested I swing by her place and she can show me the part labelled as "forming the heel flap".  There's a whole lot of instructions, with numbers and my eyes and brain can't be trusted to follow through.   Hopefully, I shall present on Wednesday night, half-sock in hand!

Back to the garden, we have been clearing weeds and preparing beds for the Spring planting.  I sowed some seeds on the weekend, keeping them indoors to survive the cold early morning and evening temperature drops and within 3-5 days, they had all raised their little green heads - so exciting!
Little Mibuna seedlings emerging
I have never, ever learned such a difficult task as sock knitting before!  I hate to be beaten and I am desperately clinging to my sanity, and sock knitting is definitely NEVER going to be my thang!  I'd much rather try multiple facial piercing than take up sock knitting as a hobby.  Stick me in the eye with the knitting needles!  It is driving me balmy! 3 weeks later and I am still on the first sock. I just can't seem to follow the instructions and ALWAYS have more or less stitches than I am supposed to have!  Bugger!

The painting masterpiece painted by all 4 members of our family,
simultaneously, about 6 years ago.  Such fun!
I think I am going to finish this sock, whatever it takes........ and then I'm going to frame it!!  Just like the family masterpiece above.  
Perhaps I'll enjoy the crochet class more, that I've signed up for in 2 weeks time.  At least there is only one crochet hook vs these 4 little toothpick-sized needles!  Do the maths!

Post Update 6.10.13:
Finally!  I have finished the little buggers!  Took a long time to make and for a nano-second when I had finished, I thought, maybe I should make another pair - then "Nah!".

The finished product

One of the most difficult projects I have gotten my brain around!
Never again!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Nature Watching in Fiji

Amazing jewelesque colours of the waters and reefs around the islands
This is less a blog and more of a photo album sharing.  I just had to share some of our images from Fiji.  We did a lot of nature-watching on Taveuni Island.  The following are images to remind us of the beauty of tropical fauna and flora.
My all-time favourite:  frangipani
The large variety of hibiscus (or is that hibisci?  Nope, Google tells me it's hibiscus or hibiscuses) on the islands is mind-blowing.  I love these beautiful short-lived flowers and grow a few hardier types at home.  After losing all 8 of mine to frost 1 year ago, I have planted my replacements in big pots, all ensconced in the warm inside solarium this winter.
A tiny little hibiscus with a long stamen

Bigger hibiscus

A stunning big flamboyant pink hibiscus
Reminds me of a flamingo

A pink hibiscus with brightly coloured stigma and stamens

I have a similiar coloured hibiscus at home

A stunning lotus flower, with fly.

A lot of the flora is very similiar to that we saw on Rarotonga.  Given that Fiji is a little further away from the equator than Raro, I guess the weather patterns are  still similiar enough to makes sense that the flora would be similiar. 
Amazing protea-like flower

(Please forgive my lack of botanical knowledge.  I welcome botany expertise.)  

The beautiful flowering pineapple!

Looks like a flower that Dr Seuss would have drawn!
Reminds me of seeing eyes peeping on the other flowers.

Another stunning flower.  There is also another deeper, darker cerise cousin to this one.

Another variety similiar to Dr Seuss's one above

Beautiful variations on the Bird of Paradise type of flower
which reminds me of gymnasts balancing on top of one another.
Great colourful red-toned leafy blooms contrast with all the greenery
 There was time to also spy on some fauna - some sadly, I wasn't quick enough to capture on camera.
Fat little crabby guy

A favourite bird for both Mike and I, is the stunningly colourful kingfisher.  We always get such a thrill seeing these gorgeous characters of Greek mythological fame, found almost everywhere we have ever visited.  There are always one or two on the bird walk here in our village but I have never been able to photograph the camera-shy birds till purchasing my pre-Fiji, new, super-smart Nikon camera! I used to have a great Minolta camera back when I was a student.  I loved nothing better than to sit quietly working out the best option for capturing the essence of the moment.  When it died a technical death, I was devastated, purchasing my momo aim-and-shoot digital which served me well up until now.  I am super-stoked over my new powerful-zoom shooting-eye!  It allowed me to preserve the moment in minute detail - kingfishers unaware of my spying eyes!

Beautiful Kingfisher

Capturing some of the coral on Natadola beach

Beautiful butterfly flutters by - so many different varieties flitting by faster than reaching for the camera could possibly allow!

Zooming in to spy on this little guy at Lavena

The teeniest gecko I've seen, on a banana

The ugly sisters... cane toads imported from Australia
They unfortunately eat the indigenous guys!

The fruit and veg selection in Fiji boggles the mind!  And it is all very, very affordable.  Some haggling may be necessary but mostly, we were more than happy to pay the asking price!  Shopping at one of the fruit and veg markets is such a pleasure - buying as "nature intended".  There is so much variety, a vegetarian paradise!  We had to limit ourselves, we felt like kids in a candy store!    Some stall-holders were slightly amused by our ooohs and aaaahs. Just wholesome, sun-ripened food.
Bananas of every size...lovely and sweet.  Lettuce and beans in the background.

Pineapples and watermelons - the more pricier items, given it was the Fiji winter!

Chillis - a small bowlful for F$1!

Sun-ripened eggplants were plentiful and very very cheap!  F$1 per plate!  

Green coconuts (not shown) and brown coconuts

It was quite thrilling to buy sugar in Fiji, grown and processed in Fiji!  Such wonderful stuff - there was no "white death" around (highly processed stuff), only lovely golden sugar.  As nature intended.

Sugarcane!  Trucks laden with the freshly cut canes.

Right, back to reality!  Got to get started on Spring seed planting and preparing the ground for growing some of these lovely foods we found in Fiji, right here in our own backyard.  There are 2 bunches of bananas out back, they should ripen up nicely in time for Summer!  Bring on the sunshine!!