Monthly Archives: April 2014

and there’ll be all these rellies!

All these and more

All these and more

Let me explain at the outset that Dr B’s ancestry is Italian but, like many Italians, that means a lot of things that aren’t Italian at all. However, his is immediately and obviously that (after all, he was born there). Mine is largely Irish. Indeed, on my father’s side, it’s entirely so. My mother’s side is more mixed, with a predominance of Irish but also including Scottish and English, a mix to be found in many Australian ancestries. It’s all several generations back in my case. Nonetheless, Dr B and YoungB will insist on calling me the Little Leprechaun. I know they do it because they love me. 🙂

Dr B sometimes reckons the Italians have dibs on large families and clannishness. Personally, I think the Irish could give them a run for their money! For example, his father was one of a family of four, mine one of a family of six. (That puts the Irish in front there.)

In his father’s family there were Mario, Armando (Nonno), Franco and Maria. Only Nonno made the move to Australia, so most of Dr B’s family is still in Italy. Dr B certainly has no first cousins here, though YoungB has six (two on Dr B’s side and four on mine, though there are three siblings in each family; what was that we were saying about the Irish?). When you work out that Mario had two sons, each of whom has two offspring and some of those also have offspring; that Franco had four offspring, each of whom has procreated; and that Maria’s two daughters have children and some grandchildren, it’s easy to see how quickly you can get lost and tangled up in trying to work out who’s who, particularly when (in YoungB’s case) you’ve met only one of them. Then there are Nonno’s first cousins and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with many of whom we still maintain contact and with one of whom YoungB will stay for a few days at the beginning of his sojourn (those cousins met YoungB when he was about a year old, an occasion they remember but he doesn’t). More complexity. As you’d doubtless appreciate, this has all become suddenly very relevant and pressingly important because of YoungB’s imminent year in Italy: he needs to know who fits where!

As to Nonna’s side of things, that’s even more muddled because her mother married three times. Well, in a border zone where conflict was reasonably constant and with the odd global disagreement thrown into the mix, it’s perhaps not surprising that life was often short and you grabbed your chance when it presented. Nonna, who is Daniela, is also one of four (my mother was one of five; are the Irish still winning?), having two elder half-brothers Mito and Ennio and a younger brother Nestore. The naming patterns are quite different, aren’t they? Nonno was insultingly referred to as “the Italian” when he first moved to the area (although, to be fair, that probably wasn’t because of his name but the fact that he was dark, therefore obviously not a local, and came from somewhere considerably farther south)! There are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and Dr B maintains contact with some of them. As you’d expect, there are also first cousins and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When Dr B and I lived in Nonno’s village, which I often describe as being a bit to the right of Rome on the map, I met a lot of the rellies who lived there. Mostly they were on Nonno’s mother’s side of the family but there were plenty on his father’s side. Someone once recognised Dr B as belonging to that clan, merely because of his head shape. Or that’s what they said and, you know, that’s probably right since Dr B often looks like a clone of Nonno, specially as he gets older and wrinklier (says YoungB)! We calculated that, in a village with a population of about 800 for most of the year but swelling to nearly twice that in summer, he was related to two-thirds of them, and quite closely related to perhaps one-third. Scary! YoungB will visit that village as well as the one across the valley – the cousins have promised us that already – where there aren’t quite so many rellies but most assuredly they are there: children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Nonno’s first cousins.


an SOS from a young friend

One of YoungB’s mates sent out a call for help. To be precise about that, he sent out a request for a large, plain, long-sleeved white shirt. I was able to find one of Dr B’s old business shirts that met those requirements. It was clean but very crumpled but I said I’d be prepared to iron it (the sacrifices we make for our friends). And how is that at all relevant to sewing or knitting or anything else? I had to practically dismember the sewing room to get to the shirt.

I knew where it was: safely stashed in a bag, ready for some sorting and tossing that Dr B wanted to have a say in – and which, truthfully, was therefore never going to happen! – but because it was so safely stashed away and the bag was close to the bottom of the pile of bags, I had to move my sewing table, a basket of fabric, a couple of PDF patterns that take up altogether too much room, four suitcases (of varying sizes and usefulness) several bags of stored out-of-season sheets and the like plus a few other things that don’t really matter. In the meantime, the mate’s Dad had lent him a shirt, so there was no longer that immediate urgency. It’s still going off with YoungB tomorrow for him to hand it over, though, so that the mate can have it for emergency use (he has a bar and waiting job, so you’ll understand the panic that provoked his SOS when the sleeve on his present shirt ripped).

And now? My sewing room? Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. There’s no way in creation I’ll be able to do any sewing in it for at least a week, while I put things away – and sort out some other things while I’m at it – so, you know, there are downsides to being helpful! But what would you have done? I like to think of it as helping a mate AND getting rid of some of the clutter at my place (and I bet Dr B will never know). I reckon that’s a win, really, despite the work I seem to have made for myself. 🙂

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 26, 2014 in Knitting, Sewing


Tags: ,

opportunity for all

Fitness station or playground?

Fitness station or playground?

When we at Penrith and while there were no races of immediate interest to us, Dr B and I did a bit of walking. On the non-grandstand side of the course, there are a couple of fitness stations. Too good an opportunity to miss, you’d reckon? He thought so!

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Health, Rowing


Tags: , , ,

Croweaters but not Crows


Footy fans will recognise them as Crows colours. They're Croweaters, certainly!

Footy fans will recognise them as Crows colours. They’re Croweaters, certainly!

Variations of that image and others like it have been plastered all over the web, so I think it’s safe to assume I don’t need their individual permission. That’s near the end of the 2000-metre race so, if you think they’re looking a bit tired, you’re right.

In order for most of that to make sense, let me explain that by footy, I definitely mean Aussie Rules. The Crows are a South Australian footy team. And Croweaters is a term for South Australians. There. Has that helped? 🙂 That’s the official state uniform for South Aussie rowers.

(Also, apologies for the less than stellar image but they were rowing in the lane on the far side of the course. Even our 500 mm lens wasn’t doing much of a job at getting spectacular photos at that distance.)

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Rowing


Tags: , , , ,

singing our way out of the gloom

You know how there are days when you just can’t lift your spirits above the gloom, no matter how nice the weather – ours presently isn’t particularly, because winter is clearly on its way – or congenial the company or anything else? You know those days when you can’t get enthused about the chores (well, I suppose that’s why they’re chores) and even the usual things that help to cheer you up just don’t? I’ve had a few like that lately. They’re minor enough, if also real enough in the sense that while our income has dwindled to practically nothing, our expenses seem to be escalating and, well, you know, it would be less gloomy all round if there were a way to make ends meet. Ours are never going to overlap but the gap between them seems to be ever-widening. (I do not for a minute imagine or suggest that we’re the only people in this situation; it’s fairly universal, I know.)

Ours weren’t precisely like this, but close. Copyright remains with

Easter proved to be a delightful time to forget about the gloom. We baked – okay, Dr B and YoungB made strucolo and crostoli; I just pottered around and dealt with all the laundry and lots of cleaning – and we tidied up a bit so that we could have Easter Sunday lunch with Nonna at our place. This time, with the assistance of songbooks and a stricter adherence to which of us would set the key, we managed to have a very jolly and quite tuneful singalong even without guitar accompaniment (not for nothing are we musicians, it must be said). YoungB was interested to read the words for songs he’s been hearing all his life but hadn’t always understood. Now that he’s able to read and understand the Italian for himself – oh, yeah, did I say these were all Italian songs; because if I didn’t, they were – he’s much better able to join in, which he willingly did.

So, even if you needed some assistance to stay in tune and you, too, were struggling to sing with full tummies, I hope you had a cheerful and musical Easter celebration, whatever form it took.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Food, Musing


Tags: , , ,

along these lines

Eldest Son might have coped with pink but he'd never have worn green

Eldest Son might have coped with pink but he’d never have worn green

I said I’d share some photos of the Noro Silk Garden scarf. It’s perhaps the most expensive scarf I’ve ever made. It has long been a WISP that, you might recall, started life as a 40th-birthday present for Eldest Son. I was howled down when it came to the colour choice and ended up knitting him something much plainer. It’s true that perhaps the green would have been a turn-off for him. The difficulty, of course, was knowing quite how much green was in the mix, since both were described as predominantly blue. It’s not an exciting knit – it’s a long, straight, striped scarf when all’s said and done! – but the colours play nicely together. I blocked it, so it has softened and bloomed very nicely. The thick/thin nature of the yarn has made for some bumpy bits of edging here and there, but I personally think it adds interest.

I used four balls of yarn, two in one dye lot and the other two in a close but not identical dye lot. I couldn’t tell you the dye lot numbers, I’m sorry (I seem to have lost the ball bands). I can tell you that I cast on 42 stitches and, using size 4mm/UK8 needles, worked a 1X1 rib till I ran out of yarn. I did a crochet-hook cast on so that the ends would match, slipped the first stitch of each row and worked two rows from each ball, carrying the spare yarn tidily behind the slipped stitches, but that’s about it. The most interesting thing about this whole project, apart from the “Who’s going to get it?” saga, is that the needles I used were the first pair of knitting needles I ever owned. They were good then and, 50-or-so years later, they still do a fine job.

I hope you’ve been able to finish some of your WISPs this weekend?

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Knitting


Tags: , , , , ,

how hard could it be?

Colour-matching stripes as well as aligning them? It's harder than you might think.

Colour-matching stripes as well as aligning them? It’s harder than you might think.

Do you ever find yourself asking that question? How hard could it be for someone else to clean the loo or change the toilet roll or do any of the dozens of domestic chores that evidence suggests can only be done by one person and that would never be either of the males about the house? Yep, me too. All the time!

Sewing can have those sorts of moments as well. By way of background, let me explain that YoungB has a 21st-birthday party to attend shortly (there’ll be a few of them in the next couple of years) and, given that it’s late autumn and the mornings are darn chilly, we reckoned that a long, knitted scarf would be an ideal gift. Remember the Noro Silk Garden scarf? Yep, we decided that that would do the job nicely. When I said recently that I’d finished it, I wasn’t entirely fibbing. The knitting was certainly completed, but there were still the ends to deal with and it hadn’t been blocked. Those details have now been taken care of. The intended recipient is a young woman whose idea of a great birthday present is some homemade muffins or something equally useful and not wasteful. Therefore, we decided that a reusable shopping bag would make ideal gift wrapping.

Really, making a shopping bag should be easy and why not throw in a couple of matching lavender bags?

Really, making a shopping bag should be easy and why not throw in a couple of matching lavender bags?

How hard could it be to make a foldable, reusable shopping bag? It’s not. It’s just kind of fiddly and when you’re attempting it with minimal measuring tools, getting your lines plumb is more of a headache than you might think. And when you’re trying to cut it out late at night – that’s about the only time I ever do things! – sometimes the difficulties associated with making sure your stripes match are insuperable. I lined up the pieces beautifully but not in the correct order, so although the stripes align from front to back, they don’t match. The handles have the same problem (obviously; and there the stripes don’t even align). Never mind, it’s lightweight, made with bright, cheerful fabric (acceptable for the party theme of 80s or lots of colour), suitable for purpose and if I had half a dozen of them on hand to use instead of gift wrap, I’d be extremely pleased with myself. (Yes, you’re right, that’s certainly something to aim for; but let’s not call it a plan. Okay?)

Handmade fibre gifts from our household generally include a lavender bag. In this case, we decided on two because the leftover bits of yarn are part of the gift, just in case there’s ever any mending required, and they’re in a separate little bag of their own (plastic, in that case, for mothproofing purposes) along with an instruction card detailing the yarn’s fibre content and care. The lavender bags are made with the same striped fabric as the shopping bag and I made them without a hanging loop. All YoungB has to do now is get a card and nut out a suitably 80s costume. With Dr B’s wardrobe available for raiding, how hard could that be?


Leave a comment

Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Knitting, Sewing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

break out the recipe books

Easter, as I’ve often said, is a secular occasion for us: a time for special food and getting together with family. In a good year, I might sing with Middle Aunt at some of the services. Mostly, the food is what it’s all about. YoungB is reading aloud from La Cucina Triestina as I write (we’re trying some slightly different recipes this year). Tomorrow he and Dr B will make struccolo (the recipe here is nothing like the real thing but looks quick and easy and is probably very tasty if you want to get an idea of what I’m on about) and perhaps crostoli (try this for size). However you spend your long weekend, may it be a safe and enjoyable one.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Musing


Tags: , , , ,

nah, I can’t knit in the dark

Colour at the regatta course even when the days were grey (and they frequently were)

Colour at the regatta course even when the days were grey (and they frequently were)

You know how I had knitting lined up for two days of travel? Great plan! Dr B decided we’d drive all night to meet a timetable deadline. Turned out he’d got it wrong but that didn’t matter. We’d driven all night and I can’t knit in the dark. Plan scuppered.

You know how I was going to deliver the beanie (produced during the two days of travel) directly to its recipient? Great plan! Sydney’s a big place and getting from one end of it to the other requires more than a little persistence. Turned out that even with the best will in the world, we couldn’t work out a suitable time and place to meet. And there was a singer with a sore throat in the mix. Plan scuppered.

Rowing? Yeah, that was great. We spent a lot of time travelling but we spent a lot of time watching some really exciting competition. To our considerable distress, there were no concession prices for parking or entry. No matter what time of day you turned up, you paid full price (which seemed to vary from day to day, depending on the nature of competition on offer; that is, you paid an arm and a leg on ordinary days but they threw in a couple of bits of your torso on the day of the Interstate Regatta and I dread to imagine what the World Cup finals would have required. We didn’t hang around to find out). That was a nasty surprise and, had we not travelled halfway across the country simply for the purpose of being there, would have been a considerable disincentive. We’d originally thought we’d park somewhere relatively nearby and walk, thus managing a good bit of daily exercise. Another great plan, don’t you think? I don’t want to sound like a wimp, but there was a lot of heavy rain. And sometimes YoungB needed a lift to and from his accommodation when there was nobody else around to provide it. We shut up and paid up, but that was another plan scuppered.

And did we win? No. South Australian rowers had some wins and YoungB’s club won a few medals during the National Championships. South Australia rowed to silver for both the King’s and Queen’s Cup competitions (the men’s and women’s eights) during the Interstate Regatta, much to the delight of the crews and their vociferous, if not numerous, supporters. Realistically, in YoungB’s case, his crew was up against it: considerably the youngest, certainly the least experienced and with not one national rep, former or present, in its ranks. The other crews, without exception, had at least one – if not two or three – rowers of that calibre in their boats. Our crew was outmatched. Nonetheless, they started well and held third for a little while but couldn’t maintain that rate. They picked up their pace toward the finish line and rowed the final 500 metres faster than they’d done the previous 500 metres. They weren’t so far behind as to be completely out of the race. We thought that was a commendable effort. YoungB reflected, quite rightly, that there’s no shame in coming last at that level of competition, though it’s a painful experience for all that. More plans scuppered? In that case, no.

And photos? Yeah, there were lots of those taken. And none of them yet edited.

I came home with two-thirds of a beanie – oh, yes, there were hours of daily travel during which I did knit! – and a completed Noro Silk Garden scarf and there’ll be photos of those when I get around to it. In the meantime, there are mitts to be completed and we’ve had funeral of an elderly family member and Nonna’s health is failing noticeably faster and YoungB is rushing towards the end of his first term and we have all sorts of things to sort out for his year in Italy. And, you know what? Plans for dealing with any of those are still haphazard. But we’ll get there, no matter which bits are scuppered along the way. Though it’s definitely a pity that I can’t knit in the dark because I could maybe bowl over a couple of birthday presents while everyone else is sleeping, instead of lying awake tossing and turning and worrying. Knitting would be much more productive.

Whatever your plans, I hope you manage to realise a few. I’m counting the scarf as a success, even if it wasn’t truly my intention to make it my travel knitting. As a very wise fellow rowing parent once remarked to me, you take your wins where you find them. Therefore, I’m calling that a win, whether or not it was my plan.


Tags: , , , , ,