Thursday, December 20, 2012

First recordings of family Christmas found

wall_familyLast night I was knitting and watching BBC World News when this story caught my attention. Curators at the Museum of London found the earliest recordings of a family Christmas celebration. The recordings, made between 1902 and 1917, capture the holiday festivities of the Wall family in London (above). Back then, recording ordinary family activities was quite rare, according to the BBC report. The phonograph machine was cutting-edge dictation technology used in offices, not in family parlors.

Do check out the recordings on the BBC's website. They are quite special! Like the museum curator, I, too, got chills listening to their voices, especially of the seven-year-old boy singing.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Muddling through

What is there to say about the last few days? I have remained fairly strong and avoided the news as much as I can. It's not that I can't face what happened in Newtown, but more that the media coverage bothers me, the need for some of these outlets to report on a development first, even if that development is based on hearsay and ends up being completely wrong. So right now my thoughts and prayers are with the families in Connecticut who have suffered unbearable losses one can hardly comprehend. My watching or listening to the news doesn't change anything.

It was a quiet weekend around here, needless to say ... lots of snuggling with O, and a nice visit with my brother, who came up from Staten Island, where he was doing relief work, to finish up his classes here in Boston before he leaves for three months in Arizona where he'll be learning how to leap from puddlejumpers and put our fires. Yeah, he's a stud. His visit coincided with our buying some "new" dining room furniture on Saturday, so he was kind enough to let us borrow his truck (and muscles) to get it all inside. Big reveal TK after I finish organizing.

Then yesterday O and I went for a walk in the snowy woods to collect greenery for swags and garland. We ended up finding the best winter greenery in our own backyard -- Norway spruce and holly!

Today I've been mulling how much cellophane tape one family needs:

Cellophane tape attack!


Last week, after some fits and starts, I earnestly dug into my big project for the winter, an aran sweater:


Candide aran

I'm hoping that the knitting of this cardigan will give me an injection of self-confidence. I've been feeling very talent-less for the past year, even though I've done lots of knitting and completed some lovely projects. This sweater tests my abilities, I can assure you. But even I can see the improvement on this back panel. My knitting just past the ribbing is uneven in places, but as I gained confidence in following the pattern, my stitches have evened out. (Of course, I know that with blocking, the knitting will look 1000x better.)

Other things I've learned:

  • How to knit without a cable needle. Oh. My! Learning this skill will save me hours of time knitting this sweater. I was spending up to 30 minutes on some of the more complicated rows -- now I can finish a row in about 10 minutes, and my time improves with each knitting session. Cable knitting is a lot more enjoyable, for sure!

  • Notetaking is not for sissies. I learned this the hard way. I had to rip back a few times before I got it through my thick skull that some projects need thoughtful planning. Once I worked out some of the trouble spots on paper, it wasn't such a trial following a confusing pattern.

  • I really, really love charted patterns. This pattern is not charted. But it's pretty so I shall persevere.

How has your weekend been?


Monday, December 10, 2012

Knitting failure

It's madness in Hail Britannia's holiday workshop -- madness, I tell you:

Convertible mitts

The mitts on the left were knit with about 15 extra rounds ... not intentionally, of course. I only noticed the mistake when the mitt on the right came off my needles last night, after a satisfying two-hours of watching "my" team (yay gay goat farmers!) win The Amazing Race.


Today I'll be madly knitting a coordinating mitt for the correctly sized one on the right.

I take December off from teaching, and since it's a slow month writing-wise, it's my month to catch up on housework/repairs. So far, I've partially replaced a drop ceiling in the downstairs washroom and prepped a large hole in our kitchen ceiling for repair. This week I'd like to finish both tasks as next weekend is dedicated to getting our tree up and decorated. I wish I liked decorating more ... or more specifically, decorating a tree. I like putting greens around the house, hanging a wreath on the front door, and placing candles in the windows, but that's about it. Not a big fan of the tree. Maybe it's because when O was a baby, we decided to get a fake tree for safety reasons? Hmm, maybe this year we need to think about getting a real tree. Kristie, I'm thinking of you as I write this!

When I'm not repairing or decorating, I'm giving the house a deep scrub. Two weeks ago I took our kitchen exhaust vent apart and completely cleaned it. This was an all-day job, and by the time O came home from school, I was covered head-to-toe in grease. My husband is to blame for the grease: he eats a paleo diet, heavy on meat, and its by-product (fat) creates a mess around the stove. After the exhaust vent cleaning, I gave the stove itself a good scrub, inside and out. And I mean scrub ... I don't like using kitchen chemicals, so the job was accomplished through baking soda, water, a glass scraper, and sheer elbow grease. Even after a good long shower, I still felt like there was a coating of grease on my skin.

On tap for this week? A thorough cleaning of my office, which is sadly overdue, and lots of gift knitting and sewing. No grease in my office, but plenty of cat hair. Those last two tasks will be my reward. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fancy a granny who knits?

Now here's a great idea ... Grannies, Inc., a company where you can order knitwear knit by none other than real British grannies. Brilliant!

I almost couldn't believe Grannies, Inc. existed, but it's totally legit. If you don't have a British granny of your own who can knit, just hire one! It doesn't matter where you are in the world, or what you want knitted -- the site has some standard items like hats, scarfs, and mitts, but if you want your hired granny to knit you a pink jumper with purple sheep, she can most likely do it for you. The standard items are all knit in 100% merino wool spun in Devon, but if you're allergic to wool? They'll happily make substitutions. You can let your granny know how you'd like your hat knit, and the prices are reasonable given the labor (and love!) that will go into each hat -- for example, a medium purple beanie with white stripes will cost £34 (roughly U.S. $54.75). They don't even charge extra for moss stitch!

What I really loved about the service is that you can choose the granny you want knitting for you. I wondered if all the knitters had to be grandmothers, but it looks like some of the knitters aren't technically grannies ... just women who love to knit. What a great concept on so many levels. The concept supports the local economy, it keeps women working and producing a product that's highly valued, and it's preserving a handcraft. Love it!

Were I not a rabid knitter myself, I'd put in an order. Hey, maybe I will considering I have six pairs of mittens to knit by Christmas! Has anyone here tried them or would be tempted to try? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Daily Mail = Daily Laugh

I've often considered staring a new feature here on Hail Britannia called "The Daily Laugh," the sole purpose of which would be to mock The Daily Mail.

To wit: Yesterday's headline on a story about the Duchess of Cambridge, which read, "Girl who'll give Britain its first classless sovereign - Kate's injection of DNA changes House of Windsor bloodline forever."

Yes, Sherlock, DNA does that.

And in another story speculating on possible royal twins, the author points to the Danish royal court. "Last year, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark – that country’s next monarch – gave birth to twins. There was some anxiety beforehand that her babies might have to be delivered by caesarean section, leading to speculation that it would be the obstetrician who chose which child to deliver first and thus which would eventually rise to the throne." Where were the DM's factcheckers? While the Crown Princess will someday be queen, she will not be the monarch. That role will fall to her husband, the actual heir to the throne. And the twins in question are the couple's third and fourth children; there was never any question which one would "rise to the throne" as they are 4th and 5th in line respectively behind their father, older brother, and older sister. Good grief, why do I know this stuff. Why? WHY? I'm going to blame it on my childhood obsession with Tudor history.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Breaking news! Royal baby on the way!

From CNN.

From the BBC.

And the official announcement from the couple.

I admit it ... I like royal babies. More exciting than royal weddings!


Thrift store finds

Last week I finished a massive closet purge and discovered that I'm in dire need of bottoms. I have only three pairs of pants that fit me well, one of which is a pair of gym pants. And all my skirts are too summery for the winter months. It was definitely time for some clothes shopping.

Now, I dislike shopping for clothes but since I've discovered thrift shopping, it has become a lot more fun. You never know what you'll find poking through a rack of clothes at Goodwill, Savers, or the local church charity shop, plus I like recycling clothing. I would say that 75 percent of my working wardrobe has been acquired through second-hand shopping, except for underwear and knitwear. Of the remaining 25 percent, I'd say half of those items I've sewn and the remaining picked up at places like Target, like t-shirts. Many times I come away from a thrift shop empty-handed, but other times I score.

This weekend I scored.

A nice wool and mohair coat, $13.99. Jones NY, not exactly designer, but nice!

Gorgeous wool skirt from Talbots, $9.99

And a pair of jeans, which I'm wearing (paid $4.99 for them).

I've packed up the coat into my bike grocery bag for a trip to the dry cleaner -- I noticed a lot of hair on it (not mine) and it looks like it could use some spiffing up. It's a brownish gray, a nice neutral for all the colorful knit accessories I have. As for the skirt, it still had the original sales tags on it, and those fall colors of olive, maroon, and camel are totally my colors.