Saturday, December 04, 2010

Stir-up Sunday

Last weekend was Stir-up Sunday, traditionally the day to make your Christmas pudding. I followed tradition and made my pudding on Sunday, having made my Christmas cake on Saturday.

I used Nigella Lawson's recipe published in How to be a domestic goddess. Alison made our pudding for us last year as we were without a kitchen until Christmas Eve, she used this recipe and it was delicious. I hope mine tastes as good.

We all had a stir for luck. I added some cleaned dimes so please hope that we remember that they are in there and no one chokes at the Christmas dinner table. I feel rather industrious with the puddings made and the cake marinating in brandy.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year in our now-traditional manner: with a trip to Disneyland. We were really lucky with the weather as rain was forecast, and although it was cold, it did stay dry.

Here we are on the Columbia sailing ship - a perennial favourite. The park was busier this year than it has been in the past, maybe because we were there the day before Thanksgiving rather than on the day itself. Either way, we still go to go on a selection of rides - bearing in mind that only 2 of us (Adam and me, and Adam to a much greater extent than me) likes rides!

We stayed in the park to watch the fireworks for the first time and it was lovely. The boys were particularly impressed with the fake snow in Main St at the end of the display.

The following day we headed out to Long Beach to stay on the Queen Mary. It turned out to be a fabulous trip for us. We stayed in the Eisenhower Suite - previously occupied by the President, as well as Bob Hope. It was lovely in it's faded grandeur.

There are a lot of exhibits on the ship's history and the boys were really interested in it's wartime service as a hospital ship. It also carried GI brides to the USA after the war ended which I found interesting - overwhelmingly the comments from the British brides were on how good the food was on board - I guess after many years of strict rationing it was amazing.

I loved the Art Deco details of the ships public and private rooms and it was particularly nice to go on deck at night and look at the ship and the port of Long Beach lit up. The Queen Mary has had a chequered history and I hope that money remains to preserve this lovely ship. If you are in the area I encourage you to visit - and, even better, stay on board.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Quarter Century

On October 6th 1985 I walked through the doors of IBM Richmond to start my career with IBM. At the time I was really excited to land what everyone told me was a great first job - never for a moment did I imagine that 25 years later I would still be there. What's more is that I am essentially doing a very similar job to the Systems Engineer job I started in.

IBM likes to mark this anniversary as a significant milestone, although I suspect that there are fewer of us achieving this longevity of service these days. You get to choose a nice gift (in my case a watch - liked the 25 years on the railways idea of a watch). You also get taken out for a lunch by your manager, fortunately I really like my manager so lunch with her is a pleasure.

I invited the members of my team, and former team, who are local, some of whom I have known since I came to the USA in 1997 and have been long-time colleagues. My guest of honour was Christina who came over from the UK to join in the revels (and also have a holiday).

Lunch was at the Californa Cafe and I had a lovely time. I ate at the California Cafe the first time I visited San Jose in 1992 and loved Los Gatos then. For a long time I hoped, but never expected, that I would come here to live.

Its been an interesting 25 years. I have stayed in a technical role which was something that IBM always promised; career progression on a technical track. I've been on assignment - once to Rochdale, Lancashire with Woolworths, and now to the USA (much better option), as well as travelled around the world with work. I've met a lot of interesting people and made some long-lasting friends (24 years with Christina for example!). While I'm rather shocked to realize that I'm old enough to have been working for 25 years, I've really enjoyed marking this milestone and reflecting on what has already been an interesting career - and it's not over yet!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thundercloud scarf

Kerstin and I both bought some fibre at Stitches 2010 from Redfish Dyeworks. If you ever saw her stand at Stitches you would certainly remember it for it's profusion of intense colours.

I chose this 50/50 mix of tussah silk and baby camel in a colour that reminded me of thunderclouds - although the dyer thought it was more like the inside of an abalone shell. Either way I loved the subtle mix of dark and vivid fibres.

I eventually spun it into a fingering weight 2-ply yarn. I warped my loom with a Habu yarn 20/3 bamboo in a deep purple. (Colour 3) and used my handspun as the weft. I am really pleased with how the colours are preserved both in the yarn and the woven fabric.

Now this is really a cautionally tale in weaving: I had some difficulty warping with the Habu yarn; it's very fine and slippery; but I did get the warp on and thought it was OK after some adjustments. When weaving I seemed to have difficulty maintaining an even tension across the warp. The truth became apparent when I cut off the finished item:

A lot of the bend in the scarf I was able to massage out before I tied off the fringe and blocked the scarf. It's certainly not noticeable that the scarf is not straight - but it's an excellent example of how poor warping can have a bad effect on your weaving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chick Chick Chick Chick Chicken

I had been mulling over a knitted doorstop for our back door when I saw a sample of this pattern knitted up in Yarndogs. They were running a contest to raise money for The Race for the Cure so I bought the pattern and entered the contest.

The pattern is Susan Anderson's Knit Chickens. I used the colourwork chart created by Ravelry user ElleM which is fab. Knitted in Blue Sky Alpacas aran weight cotton in Mint Green and chocolate brown.

I didn't place in the contest but the competition was stiff - look here for some of the entries.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I have been doing a lot of knitting - and little of it has made it to the blog lately. I am really pleased with this tam - but mostly for sentimental reasons. When I was little my Nana used to knit us sweaters - and I particularly remember shetland sweaters with a fair-isle yoke. This pattern really reminded me of those sweaters, and I knitted it in an authentic scratchy shetland wool!

The pattern is Needled's Doll Heid I knitted it in the same colours as her sample as I liked it so much. The yarn is Jamieson's Spindrift 4-ply in Mooskit, Peony, and Old Rose. The only modification I made was to add pigtails to the dolls.

I like this pattern so much, both the actual process of doing colourwork, and the finished item, that I have cast on a sweater with the same paper dolls pattern around the yoke. I have not knitted any fair-isle for about 20 years and now I have knitted this, I wonder why I left it so long.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Trick or Treat

Halloween rolled around again. We re-used and recycled last year's costumes:

Adam was Ron Weasely again (note Scabbers the rat). Fin decided to be a vampire - he was thrilled that Nigel actually had a bow tie for him to wear - clearly his vampires are more Hammer House of Horror than sparkly Twilight ones. He was most insistent on the white/grey face make-up as he said "Vampires don't have freckles"!

We met up with some friends and toured our neighbourhood.

I even joined in the dressing up. I painted on some moles - Fin asked if I had grown them specially for Halloween - I guess my make-up skills are pretty good.

The boys could barely carry all the candy they collected. Fin sorted his out into "groups" as soon as he got home.

Halloween gets more fun each year as they get more involved with the preparations.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Wig Wam Bam

(with apologies to The Sweet - YouTube link here)

Nigel trimmed the trees in the garden a few weeks ago. Rather predicably Fin was scavenging all the usable sticks and built this Tipi. He was very keen to point out that it's structured "in the old way" with the sticks tied together with vines. He wanted some bark or leather to cover it but had to make do with some fake suede I happened to have.

We both described it as a wig wam - but Fin correctly pointed out that it is, in fact, a Tipi. The cat really likes it and is often to be found lurking in it's shelter - but we only managed to get a blurry photo of her in it. Fin himself, just fits underneath.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Her ladyship

Does this look like your seat? I thought not. No, there is no room for you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lambtown 2010

A couple of weeks ago we visited Lambtown again. We last went 2 years ago to this sheep festival in Dixon, California. Now the event runs in October rather then August there is more incentive to head up there as it's not so stiflingly hot in October - although it was plenty warm enough. The show includes a variety of entertainment and wildlife.

Adam had fun snuggling with this Chincilla - he wanted one as a pet until we pointed out that Charlotte would think he had bought her a substantial snack!

This year Lambtown was combined with Calpaca - the California Alpaca show - and there were also alpacas to pet as well as sheep. We watched some of the alpaca show judging which was interesting. Some alpacas are more friendly than others (you really don't want an alpaca to spit on you!).

There were a number of other stands there - young farmers, 4H - here are the boys doing needle felting with the 4H.

Finally - we got to some sheep - here is some shearing. This chap is shearing the bottoms of the sheep before the shearing contest. This part is not something you do quickly. They also do this before lambing.

Again, we had a good day out at Lambtown; at lamb, saw sheep. Sadly no sheepdog trials this year (which was a highlight before), and the whole show seemed much smaller and less well attended than last time we went. Hopefully it will grow again next year.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Two boys

Fin's friend Alex went on vacation to Washington State this summer and visited an alpaca farm. He insisted on bringing back some alpaca fibre and chose a lovely soft grey. I spun it into what I hoped was a worsted weight. It was lovely to spin, very soft and easy to manage.

I thought that I should knit something for both boys so I combined the grey alpaca with navy Cascade 220 for snazzy stripes.

The pattern is Jared Flood's Turn a Square. I like the effect on the crown.

Alex was really pleased that I had made something for him - the idea seemed not to have occurred to him that I would. Thanks to both Alex and Fin for modelling the hats in 90 degrees...alpaca is warm!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Riding along on the crest of a wave

Well, not actually riding - more at anchor in San Francisco. This week the US Navy were in town for the annual Fleet Week. The boys and I went up on Monday as they had a day off school.

We did a tour of the USS Chief that was at Pier 37. The Chief is a minesweeper - and we learned loads about detecting, avoiding, and disarming mines. (The sailors told us that their favourite method is to shoot the mines out of the water!) We were shown around by Chief Petty Office Nissen who was both informative and entertaining. The boys were fascinated - especially when they had a go at 'firing' a browning machine gun. We pretended to shoot cars off the Golden Gate bridge!

I had a go too - and I could not even prime the gun (here Adam is being helped - I had to be helped too!). We had a great little adventure. We have not done this before and the boys made me promise that next year we could come back and tour a Destroyer.

Friday, October 08, 2010

How does your garden grow?

We re-planted our garden after the remodel. Our front lawn was in a very sorry state and we were looking for a more water-efficient landscape. We used some blue-stone pavers as a basis for the front.

We planted several varieties of thyme as a ground cover, with some beds of lavender. We moved the olive trees from pots in the back to the new front space.

We also wanted to get some space for a vegetable bed so had a 6' by 8' raised bed built. We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil, and onions.

We have had a great crop this summer and are now wondering what to plant once the tomatoes are finally over.

As a reference this is what the front garden looked like before:

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Ferretworld: Glad you were here

We had some visitors here at Ferretworld over the summer. Long-time reader (and sister) Gill, with family: Andy, Nancy, and Ned. We managed to fit rather a lot into the time. We started off getting some much-needed R&R at the nail shop after a long flight.

We managed a camping trip to Sunset State beach. The Americans introduced the Brits to s'mores (not surprisingly they were a hit)

We took a pony ride up in the hills above Saratoga with Flossie and Julie.

We hit the boardwalk - some preferred to enjoy the refreshments and the sights....

... while others made the most of the rides! Adam loved having some roller-coaster-loving companions and actually went on several of the rides with Gill and Andy. He persuaded me to go on the log-flume ride. Is that a smile or a grimace??

Definitely smiles here...

We went to the Aquarium where we ran into Julie and Flossie.

and ended up eating fish at the wharf in Monterey while we watched seals, and sea otters eat their fish in the water below us.

It wouldn't be a California vacation without a trip to the beach. We went to Rio Del Mar beach. Some of us just looked the part...

while others really did try to hang-ten..

it was something of a cultural exchange (here Fin and Ned pictured in a rare harmonious moment!). There was a strong Star Wars content, but the cultural activities included a talent show and a disco.

Cocktails in the garden...
We had a lovely time.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Ferretworld: wish you were here

We had a summer vacation in the USA this year and took the boys to Washington DC.

We had a fabulous time, even though our visit coincided with a heatwave - we did manage to cool off somehow. Here we are in front of the National Archive after we went to see the Declaration of Independence, among other things.

The boys assumed a very "them and us" attitude towards the former colonial power! We spent several days on the Mall hitting the museums. The Air and Space Museum was a favourite - here we are touching a moon rock!

We also took the time to visit the other monuments and memorials along the Mall. This was a favourite...

The Einstein memorial is hidden away to the side of the Mall and was deserted. One day we rented a car to get out of the city and visited Manassas - also known as Bull Run. It's the site of the first major battle of the civil war as well as a second battle on almost the same ground. It was a fascinating park with an excellent Junior Ranger program. Here the boys are brandishing their certificates from the program in front of the statue of Stonewall Jackson. Manassas was where he acquired his nickname: "There stands Jackson, like a stone wall" is inscribed on the plinth.

The same day we also visited the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum at Dulles which was excellent. Fin was thrilled to discover that they have a space shuttle.

We had a super time in the nation's capital. DC is very family-friendly with excellent public transport. We stayed at the Kimpton Topaz and the Marriot Wardman Park which both worked out well for us. I think we only hit a fraction of the things that there were to see and do - but that just leaves us an option to go back again!