Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yarn Over: Hooked on Crochet

For the past, I don't know, seven years I have had the same new years resolution (along with lots of others that are a total failure by about March). The one consistent though was to learn how to crochet - I had lofty ambitions of granny square blankets like my Grandma used to make and cute beanies for my nieces. I decided that this year was the year - I wasn't able to bring my trusty sewing machine on our honeymoon adventure and I knew I would need a creative outlet, so yes this year I was going to learn how to crochet.

I packed with us in the camper a 3.5mm crochet hook and some 4 ply acrylic yarn. First mistake! I quickly realised this was what experienced crocheters used, I struggled through YouTube video tutorials and followed along with Pip's crochet lessons but basically I had no idea what I was doing! After lots of frustration and failed attempts at even the simplest of stitches I armed myself with new yarn and new hooks on our trip south at Easter. I even went to the little crafty wool shop back home and was encouraged by the lovely lady there who just told me not to give up! Yeah right, easier said then done, I was about to pack it all in and admit defeat.

One of my very first foundation rings - u.g.l.y!
Practice, practice, practice - at home in Thorpy in front of the fire with my very patient Mum

Back to YouTube I went, eating into our precious internet data usage. Things improved with the thicker 12 ply wool yarn and a metal 5mm hook...ever so slightly. I began to be able to crochet single crochet blocks, a bit wonkily admittedly as I missed or gained stitches along the way, but it was progress. I purchased this pattern on Etsy as it had plain blocks (which I was able to do). It was an 'intermediate' level but I was still ever the optimist!

Beginning to get the hang of it...
More practice, I kept missing stitches! 
The pattern I purchase off Etsy, I am making this in blue, white and grey for our new niece/nephew
Mastered plain single crochet blocks during Beef Week!

The 'simple' granny square still eluded me however. Apparently it was the basic of the basics for crocheters but I was like a bull in a China shop, all thumbs, I much preferred just working back and forth like knitting rather than 'in the round'. More YouTube lessons...

I persisted, and persisted, and persisted, all the while Matt was poo-pooing my crochet ambitions. We are expecting a new niece or nephew in October and I was determined that he/she would have a lovely crochet blanket from Aunty Em (albeit a bit wonky or not quite perfect).

And then....finally, finally, the penny dropped. I did my first granny square! It was like a switch had been flicked and I 'got it'. I was off and running, hooking around granny squares like an old pro. Well maybe not an old pro, but I was doing it. High fives all round and pats on back a'plenty. Woooo! 

My very first granny square! Colour change and everything. Yeah, I'm fancy like that.
Off and racing with the granny square production!
Now I was a woman obsessed. Not only did we have a new niece/nephew in October but my friend Amy is expecting Baby #4 in September. By now I was 'hooked' (har-har) and ordered some delicious Spud & Chloe yarn and some fancy-pants Japanese bamboo handled metal crochet hooks. Oh yeah, total professional. And when I started crocheting with this new glorious yarn, oh my! It was a bit exxy but so. well. worth. it! I've discovered the joy of crocheting with great quality yarn and don't think I could ever go back. Yes my name is Emma and I am a yarn snob!

My beloved Spud & Chloe yarn. It's delicious. 
Fancy pants new bamboo crochet hooks.
Colourful mini granny squares! 
The other granny square blanket I'm making for my friend's baby girl due in September.

I am now hooking my way around two baby blankets - a glutton for punishment. Now when I go back to the original blanket to do a square using the lesser quality yarn I cringe. Only the best for this little crocheter now! I'm so proud of myself for having the patience and persistence to master this skill, so out of character for me not to dramatically give up in a huff!

If you need me I'll be hooking my way around my 77th granny square...or something like that. Happy hooking!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Meet Carrie

* I found this draft sitting idly in my blog archives, I wrote it back in FEBRUARY! About time I hit publish...

I haven't even introduced you to our beautiful Carrie yet. How rude!

'Carrie' is our Carry Me Camper (get it?) which sits atop Matt's pride and joy, 'Luxie', his 2004 Toyota Hilux ute (champagne coloured I'll have you know). We bought Carrie in the middle of last year, after looking around at other campers, most of which we couldn't afford, but wanting to upgrade from our camping situation of swag in the back of the ute - although that did serve us well for many years on trips to Dargo, the Victorian high country, Fraser Island and around Tasmania. Carrie is actually third-hand to us, but was hardly used by her previous two owners. She has a roof top bed and a side canvas tent all in one. So this is where we sleep up top, high and dry from crocodiles when we get up north! We also put in a handy clothes hammock which holds our essentials. Matty has also thoughtfully installed lights (both white light and yellow light for less bugs) for some bedside reading.

Underneath our bedroom we have Carrie's kitchen. Let me just remind you that Carrie was an empty box when we bought her - and we decided we were going on this crazy honeymoon adventure around Australia and were going to live out of Carrie four months before hitting the road. It was a massive job we didn't think we could do, but with the help of some awesome friends and working late after work a lot we got 'er done! Oh and we planned the wedding in between. We needed a holiday!

We had drawers built to fit into Carrie - a pots and pans drawer and spot for our gas stove to sit, a pantry drawer and a slide out bench. We also splurged and bought a new 40L Engel, which is on a slide and tilt Matt customised. The pull out bench has got to be my favourite feature, everyone knows bench space in a kitchen is critical! If we want to stop for a quick lunch I can just whip out the bench and chopping board no worries. I like to think it has an industrial chef like quality ;) Above the stove are two canvas zip bags holding matches and tea/coffee/sugar. On the side of the fridge is a nifty canvas utensil holder. You can see we also hang tea towels off the fridge handle. The fridge lid can be held open by a strap Matt fasten to the roof/door. The plastic drawers did come with Carrie, but we've modified it to suit our needs better. The drawers hold everything from food and cleaning gear, to books, maps and toiletries, utensils and chargers. Basically, everything!

On the other side of Carrie is where we cram all our stuff - clothes, chairs, another Engel fridge (we might use as a freezer), table, solar panels, gas hot water, buckets, my craft bag, my camera bag, our Akubras and various pairs of shoes. There is also another big drawer which houses a lot of Matt's tools and miscellaneous things like the camp oven and fishing gear. Our table and solar panels are held in a cage custom built just for them so they don't move.

The back of Carrie holds our spare tyre (there is another one underneath Luxie as well) and our jerry can of fuel. Luxie is fitted with a long range fuel tank (137 litres), as well as a water tank underneath his tray holding 40 litres and another water tank inside Carrie which holds 50 litres. The spare tyre swings out to reveal a door we had cut in the back of Carrie. Inside are Carrie's legs, which are big and bulky and were a bit of a nightmare to figure out where to store! When we want to just take Luxie and leave Carrie behind we can put her on her legs safe as can be. Also in this hidey hole are things like shoes and blocks of wood incase our campsite isn't level. Our MaxTrax are also secured on the back, a wedding gift which I am hoping we won't have to use too much! But oh so helpful if we do find ourselves stuck in some sand. 

So there she is! She might not be much but she is home to us and we love her. She's cosy and snug in the 'bedroom', sheltering from the wind and rain in the 'dining room' and the 'kitchen' is very functional and suits our needs well.

Many thanks must go to Matt Farrell for all the welding work he did on Carrie, and our friends Elisha and Dan, who also have a Carrie and were a wealth of knowledge and good ideas. Carrie was picked up by Matt all kitted out the morning of our wedding. Yep, we were cutting it fine. But we made it. And now we get to sit back and relax!

On the move...

When we arrived at Malden we didn't really know how long we would be here, we had no idea what to expect - would we like it? Hate it and be gone in a week?! Love it and stay forever?! We came on this honeymoon adventure with the simple philosophy of "no plan is a good plan." Throwing caution to the wind and all that.


Now after five months of jackarooing and governessing we have decided to pack up Carrie and hit the open road again. Our friends who we stayed with in Boort at the very beginning of this adventure are headed north to thaw out their winter bones, originally planning to visit us here at Malden, but now we've decided we might meet them a bit further south. Four years ago (was it really that long ago?!) we went to Fraser Island with Matt's parents and brother, and loved it, so we have decided to return to the great sandy island for some 4WDing fun and camping with Tyler and Kate, two of our dearest friends and best man and bridesmaid at our wedding. 

After Fraser Island we plan to head north along the coast to Cairns where the next stage of the adventure awaits in the form of a trip to visit friends in Papua New Guinea for a few weeks. Can. Not. Wait! Bring on the warmer tropical weather, coconut cocktails, giggling little girls and Matt looking forward to work with the PNG cowboys and bullemacows again (we travelled to PNG two years ago also). 

So in two weeks we will be packed up and ready to go - off into the sunset again with just each other and the open road, sounds perfect to me as our honeymoon truly begins, along with making memories with four of our most favourite people.

* Photos kind of unrelated but are of our wedding, which I guess was the beginning of this trip, and the four people we will be spending the next few months with - Tyler, Kate, Glenn and Ange (oh and baby Pepe). See you all sooooooon!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mini Olympics

Something funky happened to some of my phone photos when transferring them onto my computer, hence the weird lines on a few - sorry!

Last week we packed our bags and headed the three hours to Longreach to attend 'minischool' - where the kids get to stay at the school with their classmates for five days, attend 'real' lessons with their class teachers at school (and do some yucky Naplan), do some fun activities as a group and hopefully have lots of fun. It's sort of like a school camp...but at school.

We stayed in the quarters at school, there in enough space for 50 people with bunk bed style accommodation, a big dining room and industrial kitchen. There were 17 grade five students, plus mums, teachers, governesses and some siblings doing school at the same time.

Here is Maddy in the classroom and getting her hair braided one night before bed by the obliging Miss Kate, a fellow governess...

And the result in the morning...

The theme for minischool was 'the Olympics' - quite fitting for this year and the kids really got into it! I remember at the same age the Atlanta Olympics were happening for me, and I was lucky enough to go to the US for the games, I can remember my Olympics fever as a ten year old! 
Kristy was the head cook for the week, and after planning the menu and racking our brains for 'Olympic' foods we decided that we could go around the world via the menu. We brought our world map from the Malden schoolroom and got the kids to pin where the food was from before every meal. The foods we tasted and countries we visited were...

- American hot dogs
- Japanese sushi
- Italian pizza
- Chinese chicken and corn soup with egg and ginger
- Australian gold and green jelly with a caramello koala
- Dutch (Vikings!) roast pork
- Mexican tacos
- English scones with jam and cream

And after some creative thinking we also came up with the following, bit of a stretch? Perhaps. But the kids loved it!

- Jamaican marshmallow and fruit skewers (featuring coconut covered banana...I thought it was Jamaican?!)
- Antarctic ice-cream bar (get it?!) with an assortment of lollies, chocolate, sprinkles, Cold Rock style
- Greek 'cheesecake', also known as jelly slice. After much googling I discovered that the ancient Olympians were served what was believed to be the first serving of cheesecake...so Greece it was! Obviously.

The kids got to enjoy some fun activities - early morning cricket in the freezing Longreach chill, a session learning all about opera with an Opera Queensland crew who are traveling throughout western Queensland spreading some opera love, practising for the end of year school musical and a great Olympics x-box/wii night where they all had to dress up as an Olympian. Tom was a clay target shooter, with a gun and earmuffs he looked quite the part. After watching some rhythmic gymnastics videos on youtube with me Maddy decided she wanted to be a gymnast, a leotard and a ribbon stick completed the look.

The week was exhausting but fun - a lot of cooking and consoling overtired kids! While I was away in Longreach the poor suffering Matt was back at Malden in the throes of a terrible feverish virus, which he is thankfully over now but seems to have passed a bit of it on to me. 

On the night before we were due to leave I think we all woke up listening to the heavy rain on the roof of the quarters at 4am. We packed up, did the grocery shopping and headed home, some others were not so lucky, either spending more time in the quarters or only getting halfway home before being stopped by the rain, road closures and rising creeks. This was our car leaving Longreach...bit full??

Back into the schoolroom at Malden, the creek has come up since we arrived home and we're once again flooded in - Alex and Matt have been boating out. 

Until next time!