Thwaite

For the last day of #blogjune in which I embark on a new knitting project.

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This is the men’s version of Thwaite, a cardigan designed for Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky yarn by Marie Wallin from the Rowan book British sheep breeds collection.

It’s a simple cardigan but with some neat detailing around the collar and the button closures. I would have been very happy to knit this in the Rowan yarn but this is one of those Rowan publications where they omit the smallest men’s size so those of us not built like rugby players are in a bit of difficulty. I wish Rowan would at least list the sizes they do have in their books.

I’m getting around the sizing problem by substituting a similar yarn with a slightly smaller gauge. The Rowan yarn knits to 13 stitches over 10 cm and I’m using Morris Norway which knits to 14 stitches which should come in at just the right size. I picked up the Norway on special at the Morris sale last year. It comes in a range of “natural” colours, mine is charcoal grey.

 

Special meals

For the second last day of #blogjune in which I mustn’t forget to order a vegetarian meal for the flight

It seems that I may be in the minority but I do love airline meals and have even been known to peruse airlinemeals.net when choosing an airline for my trip. It’s fun to browse the pictures of retro airline meals from the 1950s to the 80s too!

14193930839_4211647ba4_zSeeing as we are vegetarian we also get to order a “special meal” which does make you feel a bit special even down the back of the plane because you get your meal first. It’s amazing how often a fellow passenger leans across and says “I wish I’d ordered that”. I do wonder though why an airline meal can’t be as beautiful and tasty as what you can get on a Japanese train.

wpid-img_20140528_031945.jpgWe flew to Japan in May on budget airline Jetstar but you can still order a meal plan, which of course we did! Here is the vegetarian lunch on the way back home from Tokyo. In Australia I’d always choose to fly Qantas where I can. I prefer the service, I prefer the slightly more mature flight staff, and you get a meal! On an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Charleston last year the catering consisted of a glass of water.

I took a mid-afternoon flight on the way up to Brisbane last week so it was just a snack, but it was pretty good: a cup of coffee with a pack of almonds and cranberries, and cheese biscuits with dip. When the flight attendant came around later offering seconds I couldn’t resist.

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I flew home on Friday evening so scored dinner, a pretty basic pasta as it turned out. An Indian gentleman across from me had forgotten to pre-order his vegetarian meal and there were none to spare but the cabin staff tried their best and assembled a tray of bread rolls, biscuits, snacks and fruit. I think he ended up with more food than me.

You get a Rowie’s cake with the vegetarian option on Qantas, and Wayne loves them, so I always save the heart-shaped cake for him.

 

 

Trip to Brisbane

I seem to have fallen off the #blogjune bus somewhere around the half way mark but will try to rectify matters somewhat by getting in a couple at the end.

I’m just back from a two day work trip to attend Elsevier’s Asia Pacific Ebooks Forum which was held on Brisbane’s South Bank in remarkably mild weather for the middle of Winter. It was a very pleasant respite from grey and blustery Melbourne.

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There were librarians from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Canada! I was asked to represent Australia and presented a case study on ebooks at my library, Swinburne. Even among the Australian librarians we all seem to be doing very different things with ebooks so it’s interesting to hear what librarians are doing in other countries and the challenges they face. I was surprised to hear that there are hardly any ebooks being used in Japanese libraries, mainly because there are hardly any ebooks being published in Japanese, so the two librarians from Japan were certainly facing a unique challenge.

This was the first APAC Ebooks Forum I’ve attended. I believe they’re held every two years and are quite unique to our region. One of the Elsevier representatives told me that there are similar meetings held in Canada and Mexico but not in Europe or the US (I think that’s right). On the second afternoon there was an interesting workshop on authorship for librarians and there was discussion on using blogs to get started, and I mentioned our library’s staff blog Ideas come from everything which was created with just that thought in mind. I really should write up my presentation for the blog.

The Forum closed after the authorship discussion but because I misread the program and got the closing time wrong I booked myself on a much later flight than I should have. That did at least give me a couple of hours at the end to contemplate what we’d talked about and go for a walk down to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy some blue skies and sunshine before heading back to the airport and blustery Melbourne – and a very bumpy landing!

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Finishing line! Mustard jumper and Garden vest

For #blogjune – Some knitting projects finished

I’ve finally finished two projects that have been hanging around for a while. The seemingly endless mustard jumper, that I seem to have knitted three times, was finished last weekend. My head fits through the neck! Even better,  the rest of it fits me too. Yay!!

Although I only decided to rip out the crew neck and reknit it with a v-neck to deal with the practical problem of my head not fitting, I’m now really glad with how things turned out. The v-neck is pretty handsome, will just now need to find some shirts to go with it.

(There will be photos but I  soaked and blocked it and, what with chunky yarn and cold damp weather, it’s still not dry.)

wpid-wp-1403166783028.jpegLast night I finished a vest and I’m really pleased with how this came out too, so much so that I wore it to work today without even washing or blocking it at all.

This is the Harrison vest by Martin Storey from Rowan Dalesmen. The pattern is for Rowan Alpaca Cotton but I knit mine from a little over six skeins of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran in grey-green colourway”Garden”.

This is the first men’s vest pattern I’ve knitted that includes waist shaping. In the smallest size you cast on 73 stitches and then gradually increase to 81 stitches giving you a 40 inch/100 cm finished chest size at 16 stitches to 10 cm. It fits me perfectly – although I may need to do just a little waist shaping myself.

The aran weight vest is actually a great layering item for cold days like today with a warm coat, and I even got to wear a scarf on the train ride home tonight.

Travel tips for Japan

I’ve missed a couple of days but I’ve decided I’m now just going to “blog every day quite often” in #blogjune

For today’s post I’ve been inspired by Steph’s blog post of travel tips for her recent trip to New York and thought I might do something similar for Japan. In May we decided to try out Jetstar’s new direct Melbourne-Tokyo flights for a two week holiday based in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Japan Rail Pass?

It worked out cheaper for us to fly in/out through Tokyo and pick up a Japan Rail Pass than to fly one way through Kansai International, the nearest international hub to Kyoto, so we figure we got the rail pass for free. One return trip on the shinkansen (bullet train) between Tokyo and Kyoto will pay for a 7 day pass so any other rail trips you can work in after that are a bonus. You’ll need to purchase the pass before you leave home (we got ours from JTB Travel in Melbourne).

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You’ll be covered for free travel on most Japan Rail services. Seat reservations usually cost extra but JR Pass holders can make seat reservations for free at station service desks. You cannot use the fastest shinkansen services such as the Nozomi between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka with the pass – book yourself on a Hikari instead, just  a little bit slower.

Trains to/from Narita airport

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Our flight landed at Narita rather than the closer airport at Haneda. If you’re travelling on a rail pass that will cover you for the JR N’ex Narita Express. It takes over an hour to reach Tokyo where most trains split and some cars continue to Shibuya and Shinjuku. Count on up to 90 minutes from the airport to Shibuya/Shinjuku. All seats on the N’ex are reserved.

If you don’t have a rail pass, the privately run Keisei Skyliner is faster and cheaper than JR from Narita, just 36 minutes to the Keisei terminal at Ueno. You can transfer to the JR lines at Nippori, but it’s not much fun getting on a rush hour Yamanote line train with luggage (ask me how I know) so if you’re heading for somewhere like Shinjuku or Shibuya you might want to take the N’ex.

Hyperdia

Hyperdia is a free web site that allows you to search for any JR or private train in Japan. The iOS/Android apps are by monthly subscription but we just used the free web version on a tablet.  Hyperdia is great for checking long distance train times, it tells you connection details (including platforms at major stations) and you can exclude the premium shinkansen services such as the Nozomi which you can’t use with a JR Pass.

It’s also great for when you need to make seat reservations. We pulled up the Hyperdia screen for the train we wanted to book and showed it to the ticket clerks at JR offices. Easy peasy.

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Luggage lockers

There are luggage lockers at all major stations. The ones at Tokyo took Y1000 notes but some only take coins. At a huge station like Tokyo there are thousands of lockers scattered all over the station. We took a photo of the lockers and also of one of the nearby “You are here” station maps. I’m not sure we would ever have found our locker again without the photo.

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Money

Credit cards are becoming more common but it’s surprising how many places still only take cash. We also had problems with some places that couldn’t process a debit card (even Tokyo Disneyland) so you’ll need to have some money or be able to get some.

A lot of ATMs wouldn’t accept our ATM cards from home but we discovered that the ATMs at Seven Eleven stores not only take foreign issued cards but also have an English display. There are Seven Eleven stores EVERYWHERE.

Google Translate

We also loaded Google Translate on the tablet. You can load a language dictionary so that it will work in limited mode when you’re offline, although I’m not sure how helpful it is. When Wayne got a blister we tried to ask for help at a chemist shop but nobody understood anything that Google came up with, not even the word “blister”.

Maps

As Steph wrote in her blog post, we loaded the offline maps for the CityPro app for Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but the Japanese ones are a bit tricky to use. You can usually find large neighbourhood maps near major roads and train stations in Japan but don’t assume that the top of the map is north. Japanese maps seem to be oriented in the direction you’re looking, so north might be at the bottom or the side.

If you’re looking for a shop or restaurant, always try to get a screen shot of the little maps that seem to be on every business web site. It’s all but impossible to find anywhere in Tokyo just by the address but if you have the map and you’re in roughly the right area, show it to the staff at convenience stores who will try to point you in the right direction.

North/south or east/west?

In Kyoto, the signals at crosswalks make the sound of a cuckoo’s call if you’re crossing north/south and the sound of an owl if you’re crossing east/west. This may be helpful, but it is certainly delightful.

 

Asparagus

Day 13 of #blogjune  – in which we indulge in some some winter garden planning

One of my wooden raised garden beds needs a bit of attention so I headed to the hardware store near work one day last week to look for some galvanised wood screws.

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Unfortunately, or perhaps not, I got distracted by the garden department and some packs of dry-rooted asparagus crowns. Distraction seems to be something I’m prone to. I also went into the homewares store last week to get Wayne a glass bowl for his terrarium and came away with a frypan set.

(In my defence, the fypan set was half price, and I did also remember to get the terrarium. In my excitement over the thought of freshly picked asparagus from the garden I completely forgot about the wood screws.)

Anyway, the asparagus crowns at the hardware store looked pretty generic and the pack didn’t even list a cultivar so I passed on them and went to check the Diggers Club web site when I got home last night.

Diggers have several varieties including the wonderfully named Fat Bastard. I figured out that my 1200 by 1200 mm garden beds should be able to hold nine asparagus plants and Diggers also have a mixed pack of nine with three plants each of three different varieties: the old standard Mary Washington, a beautiful looking Purple, and our friend the Fat Bastard. I’ve just ordered them so they should be here in a week or so.

I was planning to plant the asparagus in one of the open beds but now I’ve read that strawberries and asparagus make excellent garden companions: the strawberries begin fruiting as the asparagus is finishing.

A mixed bed of asparagus and strawberries sounds heavenly, but Willy and Kuma also enjoy nibbling on a lot of our vegetables and strawberries would be quite tempting, so I think the asparagus and strawberries will need to go in one of the garden beds protected by the “Dog Proof Fence”.

When knitting goes wrong

For day 12 of #blogjune 

I love vintage knitting patterns and have quite a stash, mostly from the sixties, and have actually knitted from quite a few patterns such as the Brown Bear Pullover which I knitted earlier this year (and wore to work today!) and my most recent knitting saga, the Mustard Jumper.

Some vintage patterns are commanding prices that rival a brand new knitting book these days but we scored quite big at the Shepparton op shops a few months back where the going rate was 20 cents for a pattern or $1 for a book.

patonsMy lovely friend Kerryn has found a few wonderful bundles of patterns for me too, mostly sourced from country op shops and mostly wonderful. Except perhaps this one.

The knitted tank top is pretty gruesome isn’t it, although its saving grace is perhaps that it does distract one’s attention from the trouser situation.

The chap to the right seems lost for words. Quite so.