Sunday, December 19, 2010
Have you seen this giveaway?

No, not me.. it's here.

Isn't that gorgeous? She's giving away 20 fat quarters from this range. What a lovely giveaway!


Monday, December 13, 2010
Our first Christmas tree


Thursday, December 09, 2010
Our big road trip part 6 (Philip Island)

We could not possibly visit Melbourne without visiting Philip Island. After all there are penguins to be viewed, right?

All through the preparations for the trip, I said to Chris,"gee, I hope it doesn't rain while we're there", and when we woke up on Wednesday, the day of our "penguin trip" as Alex called it, it looked like God was being kind to us and there wouldn't be rain. Sure it wasn't sunny, but there was no rain.

We set out that afternoon and arrived on Philip Island in time for afternoon tea. After a short stop at the first information centre we came across,w e decided to have a quick bite to eat and a drink at the Chocolate Factory across the way. It boasted fine chocolates and a factory tour. Sure, why not?

We were very disappointed when we got in and found they were charging a princely sum of $12 per adult (can't remember the child rate) for the factory tour. So we just had a look around, stopped for a slice of cake and some iced chocolate and went on our way.

Second stop, Churchill Island, which has a farm and lots of animals for Alex to see. Well,w e saw them too but I think it's more a kids' activity. Alex enjoyed going from animal to animal and he even managed to pat some of them.

This peacock was far from shy.

Little show-off!!

Alex also enjoyed the animal statues. he wanted photos taken with each one, and this is one I thought was pretty cute:

After that we moved on to the Koala Sanctuary. The koalas were mostly shy creatures and we strained to spot them. Mostly they were to far up in the trees for us to photograph and to keep Alex entertained, we played "spot the koalas". This little guy must have thought he was well hidden, but he wasn't. Alex found him and we managed to photograph him. Amidst all the cameras flashing and noise around him, he managed to stay very still and barely moved. There were jokes about them being stuffed animal props placed there as a tourist attraction.Had I not seen one of them move ever so slightly, I'd have been tempted to think that was true!

This not-so-little guy wasn't shy. In fact he looked to us as if he was wanting to eat Alex for dinner. It was, after all, close to dinner time.

"Mmm.. come here, little boy. Let me see how sweet you taste! Mua ha ha ha ha!"

As we exited the Koala sanctuary, it started to drizzle. Nobby's Centre next, where we saw wild birds nesting. The slight drizzle did not stop us getting out and walking on the foot path built around the rocky edge of the island. Lots and lots of noisy birds. Very fascinating. Chris took lots of birdy photos which I am yet to get off the other camera. By the time we got back to the car, the rain had become heavier. We weren't sure that going to see the penguins would have been a good idea but since Alex was so eager, we decided to hold off the decision for another hour while we went for dinner.

We had dinner at a Tex-Mex type place in one of the little towns on the island. Food was reasonable, and not as touristy as we thought it would be.. and prices were certainly not as high as we expected. As we left the restaurant, the rain came bucketing down. What were we to do? If we went to the penguin parade, we would definitely be drenched, even with raincoats and umbrellas and who knew what time the penguins were going to appear?? So we ended up driving round to the ticketing centre for the penguin parade with our pre-paid tickets and I ran in to claim a free soft toy for Alex and we had to tell Alex that the rains were too heavy and the penguins were probably not going to come out that night. Alex was so disappointed. I felt so bad for him. He clutched his little stuffed penguin and I am pretty sure he cried a little but he agreed that maybe we should go home and we can try again another time when we're in Melbourne. Yes, maybe next time..

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Our big road trip part 5 (Melbourne)
We pre-booked our Melbourne accommodation online. I receive newsletters from the Shortstay apartments people and in a recent newsletter they announced the opening of their new apartments on A'Beckett Street. having never step foot in Melbourne City before I just had to rely on their website and Google maps (yes, i do love Google maps) to tell me where the apartments were and whether they looked ok. We arrived and they were very ok indeed. City Tempo looked almost brand new and was at a very convenient location. We were, as we soon found out, only 10 minutes' walk away from Queen Victoria Markets, within stone's throw of La Trobe street where the city circle tram passed (a free tram service, I might add!) and not far at all from the busy hub of the city centre. At $149 for a 1 bedroom apartment, it was good value too.

Now what is it with us and apartments? Well, we realised earlier on that there is no way we can sleep with Alex in the same room. He wakes us up and we wake him up - not deliberately, mind you. So, we need him to be in a separate room for all our sanity, and a studio or hotel room just won't cut it. Ah, the joys of travelling with your offspring!

On that first evening in Melbourne we met up with an old friend of mine from school days in Malaysia. We had dinner at Tiamo2 on Lygon Street - Melbourne's little Italy, where the food was good and plenty, and then moved on to Brunetti for dessert. Have you ever been to Brunetti? The display of cakes and desserts is simply overwhelming. It's quite amazing, really and I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it before. After getting over the initial "wow!", we settled for a rather large macaron and tiramisu. I wish I had taken a photo. Unfortunately when there is food before me, I often forget to whip out the camera. You'll just have to take my word for it that it was pretty good, and I'll be going back again if ever I were to visit Melbourne again.

After an indulgence like that, we decided that we should walk home and attempt to work off some of the sugar and fat. I'm not sure that the walk was long enough to put much of a dent in our sudden weight gain, but it was certainly nice to see some of the city at night. We did not pass through the centre of the city but many of the places we passed were still busy, especially the eateries.

One of the little discoveries we made during our walk to Lygon street that day was that there are more Malaysian eateries in that little part of Melbourne than you can poke a stick at. Yes, really! I'm not sure whether any of them are any good but we did stop at one for a snack of kaya (coconut jam) on toast. I think it was called Little Coconut House.

Very disappointing. It was made with thin wholemeal bread. Who makes kaya toast with thin wholemeal bread?? The bread should be thick, but light and white. The kaya should be sweet and rich with pandanous and slight caramel flavours coming through. Aside from being sweet, our serve of kaya toast exhibited none of those qualities. Fail!

The next day, we explored Queen Victoria Markets, had breakfast there and then took the Melbourne City tourist bus from tehre to Chinatown. It was a pleasant, but long ride as the bus took us all around the city. We viewed the city from air-conditioned comfort, making notes of just where we wanted to get off next time to see more of the city. The bus had a pre-recorded commentary which told you what landmark we were passing and what there was to see and do at each location.

We stopped at Chinatown for lunch, but not before sending a text to our friend, Hui Leng, to ask where we should go in an attempt to try the famous Melbourne yum-cha (or dim sum). She recomended trying Shark Fin House on Little Burke Street. When we got there I was expecting to see huge queues like we see in Sydney yum-cha restaurants, as it was right in the middle of lunch hour, but we must have been lucky as we breezed right through the doors and were ushered to a table immediately. Good food, but we were a little underwhelmed. I am not sure what I was expecting but it was just "yum-cha", you know? It was good, but amazing?? I am glad we tried it anyway. Next time we're in Melbourne, we'll try a different place for comparison.. all in the name of research, no?

Our tummies now full of dumplings and an assortment of other yummies, we set off around Chinatown. Alex loved the stone lions along the street and I think we must have stopped at almost every one and taken a photo. a small (yes,very small, believe me) selection:

Poor little man - Alex's legs could only carry him that far before he needed a rest, and another.. and another.

He mastered "the squat".

Finally in an attempt to lure him to walk a bit further so that we could get back to the apartment for a rest, we promised him a tram ride. Can you tell he was a happy boy once we got to the tram stop?

However, it was good 20 minute wait (or more??) before the tram finally arrived, and boy, were we glad to see it!

That night we met Hui Leng and her family (sans daughter who was at a school function) for a very ducky meal at Old Kingdom, Fitzroy. In Sydney, Peking duck is normally served in two courses. Apparently, this is not the case in Melbourne, where it is served in three courses. So, 4 ducks later... we all walked out very over-ducked and very satisfied. This was to be the first of two ducky meals this trip...

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Another successful trade

About 2 months ago, a friend in Victoria, a fellow Wollmeise-aholic, asked whether I'd knit a shawl for her in exchange for some yarn. Would I ever!!

She chose my Salsa Roja pattern, which I was more than happy to knit again. She wanted it a little larger than the original version and provdied 2 skeins of Wollmeise 100% superwash in Magnolie Dark. It is a gorgeous colour and I truly enjoyed knitting it.

After adding a couple of lace repeats, the final measurement was about 180cm from side to side and about 100cm from top to tip. It was HUGE!

The hardest thing about this job was parting with the end result. I loved it!

I had half a skein leftover so I offered to make her a hat and she was happy with my petals and plumes pattern. That was definitely a quick knit, taking me about two nights and only about 40g of yarn. Easy peasy!

They finally left my hands today and is flying down to Victoria as we speak. I hope you love the shawl and hat, and enjoy it, Jen. Thank you for my beautiful skeins of WM! It was a pleasure doing business with you!

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Thursday, December 02, 2010
Ad break

Just interrupting the series of posts about our big road trip with a short ad break.

Celia's Basket is stocked up with yarns and stitchmarkers again. I may add a few more markers tomorrow but aside from that, everything is up, waiting to go live tomorrow night at 8pm Sydney time.

Someone asked me recently why I am now setting everything to preview before going live on Friday nights. Well, I was previously getting complaints that I stock the store at odd and unpredictable hours and certain somebodies - you know who you are :) - said that they kept missing out on the goodies they wanted. So now everyone can see what is going to go up and if you really want something, you know what time to jump on the store and snag it!

We are also introducing a new yarn this week. I have named her Beauty as she really is a thing of beauty - firmly spun superwash merino 4ply with a slight sheen. Put up of about 330m per 100g, there's enough for a pair of socks or a scarf. If you want a stole, you'll need 2 skeins. As I am winding these skeins off myself, if you want a larger skein to avoid knots, just send me a message through the store and I'll be happy to dye up a custom lot for you.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Our big road trip part 4 (On the road to Melbourne)

After 3 nights in Wangaratta, we proceeded to Melbourne, but not before I indulged in some woolly goodness. A knitter can't go to Wangaratta and not visit the ACS mill, can she? Of course not! So, on Monday morning before we left Wangaratta, we stopped off at the mill shop. Having recently attempted to take stock of what I have at home (note, the word is "attempted"), I was reasonably restrained, buying only some balls of Patonyle 8ply for a jumper for Alex and some cones of mill-end stuff. I'd tell you what they were if I knew. Most were unlabeled and I am yet to do a bleach or flame test on them. For $10 a bag, I figured it was worth the risk. What's the worst? If it were all acrylic or something equally yuck, I could use it for core spinning or donate it to charity. I have high hopes for the Patonyle 8ply. if it is anything like the Patonyle 4ply I have from years and years ago, it will wear like iron and I can make a slightly larger jumper for Alex and have it last a good 2 or even 3 seasons! I did indulge in a couple of balls of Patonyle 4ply as well. I intend to overdye those before knitting. I think overdyeing it may give an interesting effect, but first I need to re-skein it and I can't think of a more boring task!

Onwards we pressed.

First stop, Glenrowan. We were told it is a historic town. When we arrived, we realised that "town" was a little bit of an exaggeration. It was more like a village. There were a handful of shops along both sides of a small stretch of road, probably less than a kilometre in length. Still, we were there, so we got out to have a little look around. It was quaint. It was touristy. Everything centred around a Ned Kelly theme. It was Ned-this and Kelly-that, or Bushranger-something-or-other. There was a Ned Kelly Museum and a massive statue of the bushranger himself. Photo op!

Despite or initial disappointment, we did decide to stop fora breakfast/brunch and we were pleasantly surprised. We ordered a big breakfast, a sausage roll (home-made, or I should say "shop-made"?) and Devonshire tea. I wasn't sure what to expect of the scones. Very often , I am disappointed by the scones I find in Sydney as they are massive and bready and not the least bit scone-y. These were quite nice. Light, fluffy but not bread-y. They were large but not as huge as some of the monstrosities you find in Sydney cafes. It came with cream and strawberry jam. The big winner was actually Alex's sausage roll. It was a change from the commercial sausage rolls we were used to. The meat was not as finely ground as what you find in most sausage rolls and it had a nice tomato-ey flavour to it. The pastry was light and flaky and not overly greasy. We nearly ordered a second but decided that would just be overdoing it.

Next stop, Euroa!

Why Euroa? Well, Euroa is home to First Edition Fibres. Everything I have ever spun from them has been of good quality, and I could not pass up the opportunity to buy more, especially not when we were literally driving right beside the town.

This is what the place looked like. You'd be forgiven if you were to drive past it thinking it was just an old shed. We did.. twice, I think! We finally drove around the shed, and found a spot for the car out the front under some shady trees. I think Alex was rather unsure about getting out and visiting "the big shed". Neither was he impressed by the treasure trove of all things fibre-y in it. He did like their dog, though. Jacko. He was friendly but not overly so and wasn't boisterous. Not having grown up with dogs, Alex is never quite sure what to make of them, but he was happy to pat Jacko, and Jacko was happy to be patted.

I walked away with two bags of fibre. Nothing too serious, but we did have trouble finding room in the boot of the car for it after my slight enthusiasm at Wangaratta. Fortunately, fibre squishes easily and soon we were on our way again.

We finally reached Melbourne in the late afternoon. Not without some minor drama, though. As we approached the city limits, Chris asked me to look up traffic cameras in Victoria to see whether they need to be sign-posted like they do in NSW. Hmm.. why do you ask, husband dear? Anyway, I may as well tell you so that you'll know if you're ever to drive into Victoria. No, it does not appear that they have the same sign-posting requirements. It was rather handy having the mini laptop and mobile broadband connection after all.. even if I didn't really need it for maps at that stage. The Tullamarine freeway is a very very long road, as we discovered! I am pleased relieved to say that we have not received any traffic offence notices yet.

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Our big road trip part 3 (Rutherglen and Beechworth)
Day 3, and we were still staying at Wangaratta. Our friends left on that morning. Alex was sad to see his mate go and kept pestering us with question - "When will I see Caelan again?", "Is Caelan coming to visit us in Sydney?", "Can we move Canberra closer to Sydney?Why not?", "What about if we move Sydney closer to Canberra?". What is it with this child? We cannot move cities, no matter how much we want to!

Alex and Caelan had one last playtime together at the neighbouring park before we bade our friends adieu, and we left to go up towards Rutherford. This is when we made the discovery that perhaps my trusty pocket wifi isn't so trusty after all. Midway through our drive, my maps refused to reload!! It really wasn't the fault of the device so I should not blame it's reliability. The mobile broadband coverage was pretty much just around the Hume highway. the further we strayed from the highway, the weaker the signal. This was also when we realised that the roads in the area are very conveniently named. The road between Chiltern and Beechworth is called the Chiltern-Beechworth road, for example. So as long as we knew what was behind us, we could easily work out where the road would end. Very convenient when Google maps isn't working.

Our first stop at Rutherford was at the Stanton and Killeen winery. They had some really nice stickies, and I wish we had the money and space to bring home more bottles than we did. We ended up with some nice muscats. Their topaques (also known as tokays) were nice, but not as nice as the muscats. They let us try some of their 25 yrs aged muscats and wow! It had amazing flavour that lingered. I am no wine expert and don't know all the right words to describe it but it was very very nice. It was tempting to buy a bottle (or three) but we refrained. At about $80 for a half bottle (375ml), it would have been a very expensive drop. The trouble with expensive wine is that I can't bring myself to drink it! What a waste. The other wine worth trying there is the Auslese, which we ended up buying as well. It is a light dessert wine with lots of flavour but not in-your-face-sweet. I would describe it as a sweet Traminer-ish kind of wine.

Next stop was lunch at Rutherglen. We ended up at a pub, and the food wasn't bad. I had the poacher's pie which had beef and game in it. They never did say what sort of game meat was in it but by the two small bones I found in it, I'd guess that it had some rabbit or hare in it. It was tasty. They also served really good chips, much to the detriment of my disappearing waistline. Chris's lunch order was the mixed grill which was okay, but as mixed grills normally are, it was just average. Everything a little overdone, but there was plenty of everything. The chips were good, though. Alex had sausages and chips. Can you see a trend here? Well, aside from the chips, the steamed vegies were also good, but when you douse any food in that much butter, it has to be good!

poacher's pie
mixed grill.. notice the lack of vegetables??
sausages and chips. Alex was impatient.

The next winery we visited was All Saints. It's a lovely setting, with a "castle" built on large grounds. There was a rose garden to explore, a little lake (or pond??) you could sit beside for tea, and a cheese shop on the grounds as well as the cellar door.

We very quickly discovered that the rose garden would have been more aptly named the mosquito garden. We took some quick pictures before venturing off elsewhere for more photo ops.


We moved on to Beechworth after that. Google maps was still out of action (or at least our mobile broadband connection was) so we relied on a map that only showed the main roads, street signs and road names. We did end up in Beechworth without any trouble at all. The roads were mostly straight and boring. The town itself was interesting. It was quaint and quite pretty. There were many old buildings and interesting little shops for us to poke around.

Down one end of the street is an ice-creamery. Perhaps I have been spoilt by good ice-cream, as I was very disappointed by the ice-cream there. The almost fluorescent green pistachio ice-cream seriously lacked pistachio flavour. We also ordered rum and raising (which had 1 raisin in the whole serve) and another flavour which I can't remember. I don't know why I thought a small time ice-creamery would have excellent ice-cream, but I did. I now know better.

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