Sunday, 21 September 2014

knitting: invisible cast on edge

The absolute best tip Granny ever taught me was how to do an invisible cast on edge for a rib pattern. It is fantastic. You can see it here on this beanie.  Or you can't see it, which is the point.
It is clearer on this one.

It is fantastic and I use it every time I start a single rib. It wasn't Granny's idea: she found it in a magazine, but which one, I don't know, unfortunately, as I would like to give credit where credit is due. But I suspect it's one of those things that has been passed down for ages and no-one knows whence it began. It is not difficult. You just need needles two sizes larger than you will use for the rib, and a small amount of a contrasting colour yarn. There is a trick, in step 7 below, but it is a trick, not tricky.  Here's how to do it.

invisible cast on edge

What you need (in addition to what is required by the pattern you are using)
  1. needles two sizes larger than those required for the rib
  2. yarn of a contrasting colour to the rib

What you do
  1. Work out the number of stitches to cast on: halve the number of stitches required by the pattern and go up to the next whole number (e.g. If the pattern requires 40, you'll need 21; if it requires 41, you'll also need 21).  
  2. Cast on that number of stitches using the larger needles and contrasting yarn.
  3. Change the yarn to the correct colour for the rib.
  4. Purl one row, still using the larger needles.
  5. Change to the correct needles for the rib.
  6. Knit one row, purl one row, knit one row.
  7. This row is the "trick" row or the "pick-up row".  Once you understand the trick, it is really easy.  You will alternate between purling a stitch from the needle and knitting a "pick-up" stitch.  The pick-up stitches are "picked-up" onto the left-hand needle from the first row made in the correct colour.  See the pictures below.  The stitches to be picked up are easy to see because of the contrasting colour of the cast-on row.  
  8. Remove the contrasting colour.
  9. Continue rib according to the pattern.
Note: You will always end up with an odd number of stitches and so it works best when an odd number is required.  When I need an even number of stitches, I will follow all these instructions and then knit or purl 2 together at the beginning or end of the next row (i.e. the first row in step 9).

Steps 1-6

This is what it looks like when steps 1-6 are complete and turned ready for the pick-up row.   The stitches to be picked up are the yellow loops you can see amid the green.

Step 7: pick up row

i. Purl the first stitch.  All stitches originally on the left-hand needle at the start of this row will be purled.

ii. Identify the stitch to be "picked-up". The blue needle is pointing to that stitch.

iii. Pick up that stitch onto the left-hand needle.

iv. Knit the picked-up stitch. All picked-up stitches are knitted.

v. Purl the next stitch.

vi. Pick-up the next stitch.

vii. Knit the picked-up stitch.

viii. Purl the next stitch.  Continue in this alternating manner until....

ix. ...the row is complete.

Step 8. Remove the contrasting colour.

Viola!  You have the best cast-on edge ever.  Go-on... try it!

I'm interested in learning how to do invisible cast-off. Does anyone know how?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Sonlight Core E with younger children

Here are a heap of books for younger readers (approx. 6-8 years) that help explore the people, places and cultures of the non-Western world.  We are using them in conjuction with the Sonlight Core E* which is aimed at 10-13 year olds because I didn't want to do a separate core with my younger child.

Whether or not you home-school, whether or not you use Sonlight, these books are a great introduction to the Eastern Hemisphere, though they barely scratch the surface.  Some are fiction, some non-fiction.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

Colours of China by Shannon Zemlicka, illustrated by Janice Lee Porta, from the Colours of the World series (Lerner Publishing).  This series uses colours as a prompt to explore aspects of life and culture in a particular country.  This one about China covers topics such as agriculture, government, crafts and different people groups.  It includes the Chinese character for each colour, together with an pronunciation guide.  There is also a basic but clear map on the first page.
Celebrating the Chinese New Year by Sanmu Tang (Better Link Press).  Little Mei learns about the traditions her family follows for Chinese new year.  Very simple.
The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ed Young (Paperstar).  As we'd been learning about the rise and fall of different dynasties in China, along came this story of an Emperor who would have been disposed but for the fidelity of his youngest child.  Also featuring a kite, a pagoda and a Buddhist monk, it dove-tailed well with what we'd been learning about dynastic China.

At the Beach by Huy Voun Lee (Square Fish).  Xiao Ming learns to write ten Chinese characters while enjoying a day at the beach.  His mother is a great teacher and makes it look very easy!  The book includes a guide to the pronunciation of the words in Mandarin.
The Firekeeper's Son by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Julie Downing (Sandpiper).  A beautifully illustrated tale set in Korea in the early 1800s.  Sang-hee's father, the fire-keeper, must light the fire each night to start the message that travels one mountain-top at a time all the way to the King's Palace.  One evening, Sang-hee's father falls and Sang-hee must take his place.
Colors of Japan by Holly Littlefield and illustrated by Helen Byers from the colours of the world series (Lerner Publishing).  Green Tea, ninjas, cherry blossoms, volcanoes and memorials to Hiroshima feature in this colours of the world book about Japan.  Again, a basic and clear map on the first page and the colours in Japanese characters.
Journey Home by Lawrence McKay, Jr., illustrated by Dom and Keunhee Lee (Lee and Low Books).  Mai's mother was left at an orphanage during the Vietnam war.  She was adopted by an American family and has lived there ever since.  Now, Mai and her mother are going back to Vietnam to see what they can find out about their  family.  A moving story which touches on themes of war and belonging.
Children of the Dragon: selected tales from Vietnam by Sherry Garland and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.  It contains a brief introduction to (modern) Vietnamese history and culture and each folktale is followed by interesting information about the animals or customs featured in the tale.
Elephant Dance: A Journey to India by Theresa Heine and illustrated by Sheila Moxley (Barefoot Books).  Ravi and Angali ask their Grandfather about India and he captivates them with his stories.  Also included at the back is the score for the Elephant dance and easy to read information about geography, religion and culture, animals, food and spices.  (Also published as Memories of India, as in the picture.)
We all went on Safari: A counting journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Julia Cairns (Barefoot Books).  Follow a group of Maasai as they watch and count the animals they see on safari.  Numbers in the text are in English, but are given on the page in Swahili as well.  Also included is easy to read information about the Maasai people, the Swahili names used in the book, the animals seen on safari and facts about Tanzania itself (with a map).
Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and illustrated by Julia Cairns (Barefoot Books).  Adika and his mother go to the market to buy flour.  Along the way, he invites their friends over for a meal of pancakes.  He is confident Mama Panya can stretch that little bit to a little bit more.  She is not so sure.  What happens when all the friends arrive is just lovely.  We loved the depiction of village life, which is not so very different from Vanuatu.
South Africa by Michael Dahl from the Countries of the World series (Capstone Press).  This book has simples to read and understand information about the land, people, food, animals, sports, holidays and cities of South Africa. It features colourful photographs and a (small) guide to speaking Afrikaans.
Nigeria by Kristin Thoennes from the Countries of the World series (Capstone Press).   Again, this book has simple to read and understand information about the land, people, food, animals, clothing, games and celebrations of Nigeria in West Africa. It features colourful photographs and a (small) guide to speaking Yoruban.

* Note that these books are ones I have found and bought myself; they are not on the Sonlight curriculum nor are they recommended by Sonlight in any way.

In choosing these books, I was keen to have stories told not just from a Western perspective but from the perspective of the people themselves. This is not always easy as we needed them to be in English! I was also keen for samples of different languages and to obtain them from a wide variety of countries but (of course) was limited by funds. Most of these books were around $10 and were available in paperback from Book Depository.  There are a couple that we have ordered but have not arrived yet which I will include at a late date.

If you are interested in finding more books from around the world, do a search for any of these books at goodreads and then look down the page to "Lists with this book in it" and usually one of the lists will be books from that region of the world. Or just ask at your local library!

Monday, 15 September 2014

2015: back to the future

2015 was the ‘future’ to which Marty McFly went in the movie series, ‘Back to the Future’.

There were hover-boards, self-drying and self-adjusting jackets and flying cars with fly-ways lit by hovering lights. And of course, there were video-phones. In fact, this seems to be the only 'prediction' to have actually come to pass.

What do you think have been the biggest changes in society and culture since 1985?

I’m interested because in many ways, as we return to Australia next year, we will be going ‘back to the future’. It’s only been ten years, not thirty, but in many ways life in Australia has changed, and those changes have passed us by.

And so, what do you think have been big changes in Australian society and culture (for better or for worse) in the last ten years, since 2005?

I would be really interested to hear your ideas!

Sunday, 14 September 2014


My mother taught me to knit.  My grandmother encouraged me: pressing me to try more challenging projects; passing on tips and skills; purchasing wool, huge skeins of beautiful colours I have never seen the like of since.

I left it all behind when we came to Vanuatu.  Who would possibly want to torture themselves by sitting and knitting in this heat?

But after ten years I eventually noticed that beanies are very popular in our cooler month.  Then, remembering that one of my daughters had been given a pattern for a beanie, and having been asked for a donation for this year's Fund Raiser, I pulled out the needles, purchased the wool, and began knitting again.

I love it.  I love the process of creating something from nothing (in a manner of speaking).  I love being able to sit still and talk and not feel like I have to get up and do something.  I am doing something.  I love busy, working  fingers.

And, I feel like I'm doing something about getting ready for living in a cooler climate again.

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the beanies I made for the Fund Raiser, but here's something else I made.

The pattern on this hat and scarf is called "shark-tooth" although it, together with the gentle wave on the sides of the scarf, reminded me more of waves in the sea.  The yarn was 100% Australian Merino wool and was beautifully soft and even smelt of lanolin still.  So, for me this was a lovely blend of cultures.  

I obtained the pattern for the scarf here and modified the beanie pattern from here.  I was really pleased with the way they looked.  The only downside of the scarf pattern is that it  has a "wrong side", whereas I think scarves are better when both sides are the same and you don't need to worry about how you wear them.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

we'll be leaving Talua at the end of this year

a big thank-you from the bottom of my heart... 

Dear friends in the blogosphere,

It is with a strange mix of emotions that we write this letter to let you know we will be leaving Talua at the end of this year. We have great sorrow at leaving the people and place we have come to love deeply, but also overflowing joy at God’s goodness and faithfulness and at the thought of returning to our friends and family in Australia.

I especially want to thank you for your help and support while we've been here. Your messages and your comments, either online or via email have been a great source of encouragement and friendship to me. You have helped lift my spirits when times have been hard and responded to requests for help, however small, generously and immediately.

Many of you have also helped us by faithfully praying for us. In his retirement years J. Graham Miller, an important missionary to Vanuatu, said that when we are in life everlasting we may then look back and see that of all the ministry we have done, our ministry of prayer was, “incomparably the richest, the least tainted with self, the most productive, the most enduring.” We are still learning this, but each day we see more and more clearly that any fruit in our work here is the result of our brothers and sisters upholding us in prayer.

We will return to Australia at the end of this year and spend six months on deputation, home leave and long-service leave. Then we will begin whatever new adventure God has in store for us! We are open to working overseas again in the future. But more immediately we are considering whether to settle close to our families after being away for so long.

With love,
Rachael (and Glen, and the children)

(modified from a letter sent out to supporters)

Monday, 8 September 2014

Father's Day

What did you do for Father's Day yesterday?

Did you think about what you gave your Father?  What your child made for his father for breakfast this morning?  Did you think about the phone calls your children haven't made yet?

You.  Your.  His.  My.  Mine.

Do you hear the singular pronouns?  Did you use them?

Possibly the biggest difference I have found in living in Vanuatu is the community focus of celebrations.  Father's Day may or may not have been celebrated in each house.  I don't really know.  It wasn't much celebrated in ours, that's for certain.

But the community celebration has been planned for months.  It was both meaningful and beautiful.

When we first came to Vanuatu, I felt this sort of community thing was a bit, well, superficial and that if I didn't actually say it, it wasn't true for me; that words and actions done on my behalf were not really mine.  But I have changed, and now I think I understand more that even if things are said done as a community, they are still meaningful for the individual.

Together we celebrated our fathers.  We prayed for our fathers and we encouraged them to keep going in their responsibilities under God to care for, teach and love their families.  We even apologised for the times we make that difficult!

Community celebrations are more likely to be inclusive, and yesterday, that was a great strength.  Fathers who are away from their families were involved (even including three visitors), as well as those who don't have their own children but share the responsibility of caring for the children around them.  None of these men, though their day may have been tinged with sadness, were left staring at empty chairs.

Staff and student fathers at Talua on Father's Day 2014.

All the shirts were made especially for the occasion.   Salu-salus were hung.  Poems were recited.  Songs were sung.  Speeches were made.  Dances were danced.  Prayers were prayed.  And much food was eaten.  Much to my satisfaction, there was no cake to be cut, but instead two enormous lap-laps following the local tradition and significance of shared fellowship.

Was it just a reason to get together for a good meal?  Well, yes, of course it was a reason to get together and celebrate.  But it wasn't just that.  Not at all. 

And I wish my Dad had been there.