Thursday, June 30, 2011

A splash of red

I got a tad creative after reading Linda's recent crochet post, about a Queen Anne's Lace scarf. Winter here in Australia, is the perfect weather for scarfs and I'm wearing mine as I type this entry! It's a beautiful, vivid red scarf and has been created with wool. I quite like it. What do you think?

I'm not a fashion model, but the scarf looks good!

It's very warm and very light - a little scratchy, being wool and all, but nothing too annoying. I love wearing it. Sarah wanted the scarf as I was making it, but upon trying it on, declared it too scratchy for her. I don't mind, all the better to keep my neck warm.

Linda supplied me with a link to the pattern, and after several attempts, I finally got it right! I suppose the trick is to pick the right hook size for the ply of wool/cotton, because my initial attempts came out rather bumpy.

The altered pattern is on the left, the bumpy original on the right

I altered the pattern a little to fix it. Feel free to use the original pattern, here, or follow my humble attempt at alterations below:

In Australia, we do our patterns in rounds, and basically the scarf is made up with attached rounds (or motifs). It's not as difficult as I'm making it all sound, the stitches themselves are basic ones. I'll throw in a few pictures along the way, to make it a little easier to follow.

To start:

Chain 6 and join with a slip-stitch, to make a ring.

Round 1:

Chain 3, work 13 double crochets into ring. (Do not join at this stage) Chain 1, turn work. Single crochet into next 2 double crochets. *Chain 4, single crochet in next 2 double crochets*. Repeat (**) five times to make 6 loops in total. Chain 6, turn work.

It should look like this after completing round one ~
notice how it's not joined with a slip stitch

Round 2:

Slip stitch into first free 4-Chain loop. Chain 3, turn work. 13 double crochets into the 6-Chain loop. Slip stitch into the first single crochet of the first motif. Chain 1, turn work. Single crochet in next 2 double crochet, *Chain 4, single crochet in next 2 double crochets*. Repeat (**) five times to make 6 loops in total. Chain 6, turn work.

After round two

Round 3:

Slip stitch into first free 4-Chain loop of adjoining motif. Chain 3, turn work. 13 double crochets into the 6-Chain loop. Slip stitch into next free 4-Chain loop of adjoining motif. Chain 1, turn work. Single crochet in next 2 double crochet, *Chain 4, single crochet in next 2 double crochets*. Repeat (**) five times to make 6 loops in total. Slip stitch into next free 4-Chain loop of adjoining motif. Chain 6, turn work.

After round three and it's starting to make sense

Round 4:

~This is where I've altered the pattern a little - see where I've bolded ~

Slip stitch into first free 4-Chain loop of adjoining motif. Chain 3, turn work. 13 double crochets into the 6-Chain loop. Slip stitch into next free 4-Chain loop of adjoining motif. Chain 1, turn work. Single crochet in first double crochet, *Chain 4, single crochet in next 2 double crochets*. Repeat (*) five times to make 6 loops in total. Slip stitch into next free 4-Chain loop of adjoining motif. Chain 6, turn work.

Repeat Round 4 until desired length is achieved. Try it on a couple of times as you go. I didn't want a heavy scarf, so stopped when I felt it long enough to work. Once you've ended off your work, weave in the long strands and enjoy your scarf!

After round four and on and on it goes...

Basically the little alteration I made, flattened the centre of the scarf, making the ends slightly frilly. This may just be specific to the wool and hook combination I've used however. Speaking of which, I used an 8 ply wool (2 x 50g) with a 3.50 hook. If you want to follow the original pattern however (without my alteration) feel free to omit Round 4, and repeat Round 3 until desired length is reached

My scarf totaled 1.2m in length with 64 motifs.

I'm going to experiment with more yarns and additions because it's quite a simple (and enjoyable) pattern to follow. Thank you Linda for the wonderful idea which is keeping me warm and a tad bit more sophisticated this winter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Glad I snagged him

As I was writing the last post on our no-spend year, I went through some of our old wedding photos, so I could capture a picture of us on our wedding day. Didn't it bring back the memories though.

He was buff and handsome, while the glow in my cheeks came from being a blushing bride and six-months pregnant! We hadn't met our beautiful daughter then, but she was squirming in my tummy most of the day. Didn't I feel the extra weight when we trudged all around the Japanese Gardens for our wedding photos too. It was all pretty special.

So I couldn't resist...I just had to share more of the photos from that day, and to show you all why I'm glad I snagged him. Reason one:


He's a bit of a ham and loves to make people laugh. Our wedding party was seated under one of the pergolas at the garden we had photos taken, when our camera man suggested we crack open the bubbly. Dave decided as he was pouring the first glass, to pretend to be half-tanked already. This picture says, champagne ham anyone? Reason two:

Best man speech

Dave brings out the cheekiness of others. It's his blessing. It's his curse. This is his older brother placing a set of horns behind his head, with a table napkin, as he delivered his speech at our reception. Trouble much, should I be worried, LOL? Reason three:

Pregnant, on the dance floor

He's a great kisser and says the sweetest things sometimes. He comes across all cocky and confident, but inwardly he's quite shy and I get to see all those wonderful parts expressed in the one person. Reason four:

Did I mention he's a Chef! We catered our own wedding and I made the wedding cake. Dave goes to great pains to ensure his family always has good, healthy food on the table. Okay, pizza when we're really desperate but he prefers homemade pizza. Reason five:

He looks great in a tuxedo!

"What was that Chris, I didn't quite hear you..."

I said, Reason five: he looks great in a tuxedo!!!

"Oh, I knew I'd marry a shrewd woman with taste."

Of course you did Sweetheart, and here I am back at the Japanese Gardens in of those Doctor Who, timey wimey things we fans are so good at.

Toowoomba Japanese gardens

I made my own wedding dress, because being six-months pregnant with an ever expanding waistline, I wanted to wear something that would fit me on the day. All the gold embellishments and fringes - even some of the lace was carefully stitched by hand. I also made the bouquet because I didn't want the fuss associated with fresh flowers. My older sister's wedding had nothing but dramas with fresh flowers.

All of this resourcefulness however, was taught to me by a very special person in my life: my mum...

There are three generations of ladies in this picture, the last one was yet to be born. We all took part in the wedding in some way or another. Dave inherited all of us, and we inherited him.

Double trouble in the making, and yet I'm still glad for the day I snagged him...and he, me. What a lovely kind of trouble we are in together now. Life, with all it's ups and downs - how we've disappointed each other sometimes and yet made some kind of magic in between. He romanced me with cheese and wine in the beginning, even though I'm not a drinker. He joked about the cheese going off if I didn't agree to a date within two weeks, LOL.

My kind of guy - a little bit extravagant and a little bit frugal. I always hate to see food go to waste, how could I not date him. He played the food spoilage card and we were destined to be married!

Not a day with him has been wasted though. Not a single day...

If you want to join along, please blog about your dearly beloved and leave a comment. I'd love to see others, prepared to be as cheesy as we are, LOL. It's a great excuse anyway, to go through your old wedding photos and reminisce how your own story unfolded. And if you're a guy, don't feel left out, tell us why you were glad to snag "her". :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The no spend conclusion

Whatever happened to the no-spend year challenge we planned for 2010? Were you wondering if I was ever going to return to it? Like much of our life since moving here, everything takes it's good sweet time. Things need time - plants, seasons and grey matter for that matter, to filter all the nutrients of life into something useful.

My last entry on this subject, was back in November 2010 but in all honesty, the no spend year probably ended 3 months into the challenge.

I wouldn't consider the challenge a failure, simply because we didn't meet the allotted time or the agreed limitations we placed upon ourselves however. Because over the 12 month period we DID avoid spending on things we would otherwise take for granted. No more automatic trips for pizza when we didn't feel like cooking. No more weekly DVD rentals on cheap Tuesdays. It didn't happen straight away, but we ever so gradually became accustomed to making ourselves cook when we didn't feel like it. After a few costly late fees too, we decided to borrow DVDs from the library instead.

We got the end result we desired, which was to comprehend our spending habits, but more importantly, the behaviours we were thrusting upon our budget to meet. Which brings me to the really juicy bit of the challenge that's worth sharing too. Dave and I were quite naive at the beginning - as you would be with something new - but by conclusions end, we wised up to a very important fact...

If you're talking about financial issues, you're really talking about marital issues.

Chris & Dave, plus a bun in the oven!

If it wasn't for this challenge, Dave and I, may never have faced our individual relationship to money. Dave grew up middle-class suburban with a nuclear family. I grew up borderline poverty with a single parent. Therefore we had totally different ideas of what constituted financial security.

When life changed our circumstances (with or without a no-spend year challenge) we both wanted to alter the rules in favour of our individual vision of security. For example; when money slowly leaked from the bank account I wanted to cut spending more, to make it back up again. Dentist appointments are a pretty big leak, amongst other things. On the other hand, Dave wanted to keep spending on the things that made him feel like a successful working husband and father. He wanted to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Our kitchen, where many a discussion has taken place

Both of our approaches, weren't necessarily wrong, but we both couldn't appreciate each other's individual relationship to financial security. He was trying to say, let the family enjoy itself and I was trying to say, we will when we get out of debt. The stubborn force meets the immovable object, LOL.

What did we learn from all of this? Money has a way of dictating how people relate to each other. It also has a way of dictating how we relate to personal ability. Dave and I could have been ATM machines, the way we seemed to constantly engage via financial transactions: insert logic, expel cash. We didn't just do it to each other though, we did it within ourselves. How could we truly relate to our logic when it's all based around financial transactions?

The no spend year that was, then wasn't, then was again (only in a different format) has been a very enlightening one for this family at Gully Grove. It delves beyond mere financial considerations, and brings it back to the very basics of human nature - relationships. We are always free to have those, but how many of us choose to invest as eagerly as we do our weekly shopping sprees?

You can never have too many baskets though!

An interesting development which has tested this new found understanding, came through the Queensland floods earlier this year. There's a myriad of experiences I could describe during that time, but I'll single it down to the pure financial aspect. We lost a lot of our savings, recuperating from that experience. About $4,000 worth. A pittance compared to some people's losses, but for us it meant we couldn't get the wood heater this winter. Which means we're going to pay for another large electricity bill, now that electricity suppliers are increasing costs for power, yet again.

It also meant we didn't have the money to fix my car when it broke down (still waiting for the shop) and we now have our fingers-crossed, Dave's car doesn't succumb to the lovely new sounds it's developing. This isn't a big pity party for us though. We figured this is just another set of life circumstances which asks, what are you made of guys?

Obviously it's not money, LOL, but we didn't lose ourselves along with the savings account either. And that's really the trick question. How much ability do you have, when you take the emphasis off financial security? Because that seems to be the trend in our current economy. Money is leaking everywhere and people are finding themselves more vulnerable to the economy of transactions. When the ATM doesn't appease you with the cash carrot any more, where do you go from there?

The answer is back to ourselves, back to the things which make us human and unique amongst all other animals. We crave relationships to the things (and people) which are important to us. We have all appeared to have forgotten that along the way to pursuing financial security.

Bringing this back to our no-spend year however, what did Dave and I ultimately change in our behaviours towards spending? Well, Dave had to understand what happens to the money he earns. I actually took responsibility for managing our finances, because hey, I'm borderline poverty chick and can pay bills out of an old shoe, leftover roast and a one-cent coin that cannot be traded any more. This wonderful ability of mine appeases our debtors, but wasn't helping Dave register what all his hard efforts at work, actually achieves. There were limitations I lived with every week balancing the books, but he never understood it existed as a threat to our financial security.

Dave has since gotten in touch with his personal ability to understand money on a whole new level. It's not just something which represents personal freedom, it's also a responsibility that must be understood, to know what you can do with it. He's making real efforts to engage in that process first, before the enjoyment of money comes into it.

What did I have to understand more of, considering I'm probably one of the most responsible people with money I know - apart from my mother, LOL? Well, this is what I love about relationships. This is why I'm glad I married an immovable object, which refused to move out of the way of my stubborn force. He actually had a point and he stuck to his guns. My issue was with enjoying money and he showed me that.

You see, borderline poverty chick knew what it was like to go without shoes, food and merchandised toys growing up. I had lived something I wouldn't want my own daughter to experience (except for the merchandised toys part) and that has consequently made me super vigilant to every cent which crosses my palm. To the point, in fact, that I don't enjoy money.

I've since gotten in touch with my personal ability to let money go, without it being a heinous crime to my personal values. I really needed this step to understand my relationship to spending, and more importantly, to experience financial security in a different light. I can now appreciate that one person's version of "wasted" money, can be another person's version of a gift. Think Judas and Jesus, when it came to having his head anointed with oil. Judas rebuked the woman who spent the money on oil, instead of feeding the poor - yet Jesus said the oil had been saved for her to anoint his head.

Did you catch that part...saved? Yep, you can save money for all sorts of reasons too - like paying off debtors and/or giving gifts. The intent is always at the feet of the person who spends the money. From the outside, with our own version of financial security, we won't always see someone else's intent. Which is why I'm glad our little family at Gully Grove, has now come full circle.

We're better equipped to navigate what money actually means to our family - it's a cash carrot, not a relationship banquet we should be dining from every day. A very subtle difference, but nonetheless a very important one.

I think many people of our generation probably get snagged on the same confusion around what money is meant to represent. What can it actually achieve? They have been coaxed into believing money enables people, when really, human labour is what does anything. As lovely as that sentiment is, it's not going to pay your debtors (if you're in debt) money still does that job; but we should still be in control of our ideals and what we value first. Money should never be in control of ethical priorities. The person comes first, the money, last.

Do we really have a choice though? Yes we do, but it's never an easy one to stick to when life suddenly gets harder. Sharing that responsibility with someone else is harder still. Then again, you could stand to learn something really wonderful and unique about them that you didn't know before.

Ask yourselves: if my financial security was taken away tomorrow, what would I do then?