Thursday, September 27, 2018

Little Knitted Hats For My Babies

Last Friday it rained the whole day. There was thunderstorm and everything and I thought, perfect cool day to tackle double pointed needles!

Since knitting my first hat in January, I have been meaning to knit hats for my dolls and the only thing stopping me was a lack of circular needles small enough to fit round the dolls' heads. I love knitting on circular needles. They're so much easier to hold and manage.  I made a trip to Spotlight and after going through every size of circular needle in the shop, I came to the conclusion I'm never going to be able to find knitting needles for a 5 inch head. Also circular needles are ridiculously expensive, no? Someone told me to try magic loop and I gave it a go. However, my brain is saturated so I don't think I can figure it out yet. So the next option was to give dpn another go. I mean I've tried it before and it was so hard but I did manage to knit something.

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to start with making a hat for Neve, my favourite doll. (she's the pale white one) Her head is very small, like 5 3/4" in circumference. But the knitting gods were kind to me. After casting on the stitches, I knitted the stitches into 3 separate needles and by some magical spell, my hands somehow knew what to do. Which needle to hold, which hand to use. (I still haven't got comfortable with casting on 3 needles) I don't understand it myself because in my head, I don't really know how to use dpn. But my body (or rather my hands) knew. It's like my hands have its own separate memories! And I'm not afraid to put my work down because you know I have magic hands now.

Before I knew it, I had made a hat for Neve. I've always felt bad for Neve because she is such a tiny doll it's very hard to find or make outfits for her. I like her the most because she doesn't break easily. (she's made of rubber)

This is going to surprise you but I made the entire hat without using lifelines. With dpn, I knit very tightly so I can't insert a lifelife. I don't know how to knit loosely no matter how I try. Maybe it's a good thing because if the needles fall off I'm done for. I have 2 sets of dpn and both are made of bamboo. When I get better at dpn, I'm getting steel dpn if they exist.

Lammily has the smallest head, only 5" in circumference. But I made her hat larger to accommodate her big hair. Yep, same pattern and oh yes, something wonderful happened in the midst of knitting Lammily's hat. When I switched yarn colours, I started to SEE the rows. Previously I've always seen squiggles but now I see ROWS.

Dana, my Journey Girl doll has the biggest head. The circumference of her head is 12"! She's a giant compared to most of my dolls.
Dana does not sit very well but her standing pose is fantastic.

My knitting has improved so much in just a week. I'm starting to feel adventurous and have gone to ravelry to check out other hat patterns. This is literally the only hat pattern I know right now. I mean I can't keep knitting the same hat pattern, right?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My First Knitted Lace Scarf

In January this year, Kate sent me a link to a beginner lace scarf pattern. It looked like something I could make. Thanks Kate!

By February 1st I had completed 8 inches of knitted lace. Two days ago, I finally completed it. That means I took nearly 8 months to complete a simple lace scarf! But all that doesn't matter because I completed my first knitted lace scarf. No loose ends.

I've always loved lace. But I loved making lace more. I've tried crochet lace and tatting. I wanted to learn bobbin lace once but couldn't find a teacher in Singapore. Knitted lace has always seemed out of my league because I suck at knitting. This year my knitting improved a little bit. I finally could knit without using my toes to create tension. So I thought I might be able to knit lace which in my mind is something very difficult. Fortunately the pattern Kate recommended is very simple. The edges are knit stitch and in between, there are yarn over and k2tog. Pretty simple yet I screwed up so many times.

My first mistake out of many is I tend to drop stitches when I purl or yarn over. So counting stitches is a must for me. My second mistake is I lose track of my rows. There are only 4 rows to repeat yet I sometimes forget what I'm doing. Later I used 4 coins to keep track. One coin means row 1... I took a break from knitting during Chinese New Year (yes, that long ago) and when I picked it up again, I made a huge mistake. I skipped a row or maybe two and I did not notice it. So what I did was for the first 10 inches or so, I did every row correctly and after that because of the wrong row, my pattern got flipped. I only noticed the mistake after I had knitted another 10 inches or so. I was so frustrated. I had no choice but to rip back to a lifeline I had saved somewhere in the 8th inch. And I had to start from there again. Still it wasn't smooth sailing. I eventually decided I needed a lifeline at the end of every 4 rows. That way I'm assured of some progress.

After I returned from my Bintan trip, I didn't feel motivated to work on my bag patterns. Instead I decided to finish my lace scarf once and for all. And I did it. I knitted until all my yarn was used up. Oops. It didn't occur to me to calculate if I have sufficient yarn so the scarf is a little short. Just 36 inches long.

From knitting this scarf I discovered I really dislike heavy knitting needles. I used a 5mm aluminium needle and it was heavy as hell. I bought this years ago when I didn't know much about knitting. If I were to buy a new knitting needle, I would go for something very sleek and light and probably circular because it's easier to insert a lifeline.

I haven't gotten better at correcting my mistakes. Within the same row, I do have the ability to undo some mistakes but once it goes beyond the same row, I'm done for. I've watched a lot of videos on fixing errors and honestly, I don't think I have the brains to figure them out. I'll just rely on my lifelines. I'm still terrible at counting rows. Many people have sent me links to tutorials and when I go through the tutorials, I understand how to count. But when it comes to what I've knitted, everything is squiggles to me. I have no confidence my count is correct.

One thing that bothered me about my scarf is the head and tail don't look the same. I'm not sure what happened. I don't remember how I did the cast on but I binded off using the knitted bind off which is the only bind off I know. Maybe I should have tried to look for another bind off method?

I noticed that my tension got looser as the scarf got longer. I think I prefer to be a loose tension knitter. Consistency is something I have to work on. I have gained quite a bit of confidence in my knitting and I believe I am ready for something more complex. In fact I've already started on a new lace scarf pattern and I've completed 15 rows so far. Based on my experience, I should be able to show you the finished scarf some time in 2019.

It'll never be cold enough in Singapore to wear the scarf so I'm saving it for future trips to I dunno, Korea? (it's the coldest country I've been to) Today I braved getting rashes modelling the scarf in the humid heat. Please excuse the face. It's no makeup day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Wedding Banquet

The last time I attended a wedding banquet was in 2011. Since then there hasn't been a wedding in the family. There was a time when we would get wedding invitations after wedding invitations but those days are over.

Last Saturday, hubs and I attended my niece's wedding and since hubs has been craving a wedding banquet, I was glad he could go. The best thing about a Chinese wedding is the dinner.

I wore a Zara top with Denizen jeans. I don't own anything dressy so this was the best I could do. I'm glad I've lost enough weight to fit into the jeans. I miss thin Jane.

Ah yes, the dinner. Traditionally, the first dish is a platter. It's to whet your appetite. I have to say this is the best platter I've ever had. Hubs enjoyed it too.
I love the jellyfish. It's a little spicy, just enough to give a bit of kick. I only ate one piece of roast duck. When I reached for more, they were gone. The water chestnut shrimp roll was not bad either. We call it ngoh hiang. Sometimes it is made with 5 spice powder but some people don't like it. This one definitely did not have 5 spice powder. I love my mother's version and would nag her to make them during Chinese New Year. The salad prawn is a cold dish. I usually don't like mayo on my food but I love it on the salad prawn. I didn't eat the salmon toast because I thought it contained glutinous rice flour so I avoided it. I could be wrong.

This was Double Boiled Abalone Soup with Black Truffle and White Fungus. In short, a very plain soup. Each person gets one gigantic piece of abalone. It's chewy and I don't know the appeal but abalone is a prized food item in Chinese families. I really miss shark's fin soup! It's not the shark's fin that I enjoy but the way the soup is made - starchy and with egg. I guess the hotel couldn't possibly serve a simple starchy egg soup at a wedding dinner.

This was Slow Cooked Pork Bone Rib in Red Burgundy Sauce. I ate one quails egg and didn't like the sauce so I skipped this dish. Also I'm not a fan of pork. Hubs ate a lot.

This was Poached Live Prawn in Shiro Miso Soup. I'll be honest with you. The prawns were completely tasteless to me but I ate four because I love prawns.

This was Braised Duet Mushrooms And Conpoy with Seasonal Vegetables. This was quite good. My diet consists of a lot of mushrooms so this is right up my alley. The vegetables is dou miao or pea shoots, something I rarely eat. Conpoy is dried scallop, another prized food item in Chinese families. My kids get upset if I add dried scallop to their food. It's supposed to add flavour but I guess my kids are used to my bland food.

This was Steamed Fresh Garoupa in Traditional Way. I usually eat fish fillet because I'm terrified of choking on fish bones. So I gave this dish a miss.

This was Fried Rice with Smoked Duck and Crabmeat in Kimchi base. It was not popular. Lots of leftover. Hubs said it tasted like something he would cook. I couldn't eat this because I no longer eat rice.

For dessert, we had Sweetened Yam Paste With Pumpkin and Gingko Nuts. I like this but it was too sweet and remembering how hard it is to lose weight made me hold back from eating the whole bowl. I ate all the gingko nuts - another prized food item although based on taste alone, it's very blah.

And that was the 8 course dinner. In the past 10 course dinner was the norm. Nowadays it's 8. I wonder how many more years I have to wait before I get to attend another Chinese wedding dinner.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Visit To Bintan Where Time Drags

Last weekend, hubs and I went to Bintan. We've lived in Singapore for over 50 years and neither of us has been to Bintan. Bintan is part of Indonesia and it's only an hour's ferry ride away. My son went to Bintan when he was in Secondary School as part of a school trip his school forced on you so the school can claim to provide overseas experience. I remembered my son complaining how boring the trip was. But then again, my son doesn't enjoy travelling. Anyway, when hubs said he wanted to take part in the International Bintan Marathon, I surprised myself when I said, yes, do it. I surprised myself even more when I volunteered to tag along but as a tourist, not a runner.

Once I had said yes, hubs booked everything very quickly and before we knew it, the day had arrived. I had done some googling before we left and it seems there's nothing that appeals to me in Bintan. I don't like water sports, I don't golf and I hide from the sun. So what was I going to do in Bintan, I wondered.

We packed very lightly because we were only sleeping in Bintan for 2 nights. I decided to dress in every shade of green I own. Notice my bulging tummy? Don't worry. When we came back, it had gone down considerably.

On Saturday, we took a train to Tanah Merah MRT, exit B and took bus No. 35 to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. This is my first time at the ferry terminal. I didn't even know it existed.

At the immigration counter, my thumbprint was rejected and I had to suffer the humiliation of going to the Duty officer and have both my thumbprints and my face scanned. Luckily the computer accepted me so I didn't have to go home.

This was our ferry. I was surprised it was air conditioned.

I survived the one hour bobbing on the sea by staring at the horizon and one tablet of Novomin. There was a kid behind our seats. He was very annoying. I wanted to strangle him. I think it's a side effect from Novomin.

When we arrived at Bintan, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few dancers welcoming us with some niffy moves. Bintan might be promising after all. We found our shuttle bus to Grand Lagoi Hotel and went for the bumpiest ride of our life. I think my organs rearranged themselves several times throughout the journey.

After we checked in, we went to the Plaza next to our hotel to collect hubs' race pack. Hubs chose our hotel because the Starting point of the marathon was next to it. So convenient. The Plaza was very disappointing. Most of the units were empty and the ones that were open were very unappealing. So ridiculous. It looked like a ghost plaza.

While we were at the Plaza, I made the mistake of mentioning I wanted to eat. There was one restaurant, Cafe Helo or something and hubs said he'd read somewhere the food was good. Based on that, we entered the restaurant and ordered mee goreng (stir fried noodles) and chicken chop. Menus in Bintan have English translation and nearly everyone we encountered spoke some English. But when the waitress came back to ask me how I wanted my chicken chop done, I became very afraid. I asked for well done of course. Do people eat medium cooked chicken? When my chicken chop finally came after a very long time, I was almost afraid to eat it. It is cooked but very bland. I do believe it's the worst chicken chop I've ever tasted. The mee goreng was okay. I ate half of it.

After our meal, hubs said we had to go to town. Hubs who's in charge of our charger decided not to bring it because he explained that in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the hotels we stayed at provided phone chargers. Based on that, the Bintan hotel should also provide chargers. Except the Bintan hotel providers weren't aware of this arrangement. So we were screwed without our phone charger and it was critical we make a trip to Tanjung Pinang. We were at the resort part of Bintan and as previously mentioned, the Plaza was a ghost town with zero chance of finding a shop selling phone chargers. To get to Tanjung Pinang, we hired a taxi driver for 4 hours and it cost us SGD60!

Our driver, Arul drove us to a shop to buy a charger and sim card for hubs. Except the shop was very far away from our hotel. The roads were bumpy and before we reached the town, the roads had no lighting. In Bintan, the sun sets at 6pm and we started on our journey after 5pm. Arul translated between hubs and the shop assistants. It was very annoying that the items have no price tags so hubs had to bargain. I was pretty sure the sales staff could speak English but they refused to do so. After much talking hubs managed to get what he needed and Arul drove us to a shopping mall.

The mall was decent but we didn't buy anything. The frying pans were very cheap and I almost wanted to buy a bunch home. The return trip to the hotel was just as long and bumpy. I got a bit sick bouncing up and down in the taxi.

In Bintan, time travels very slowly. Plus we gained an hour when we crossed over. When we reached the hotel, the night was still young so hubs said he wanted to check out a Lantern Park.

It is literally a lantern park full of lanterns made in shapes of random animals. We had to pay to enter. It is a very lame attempt to entertain and as previously mentioned, there is seriously nothing to do around our hotel so we spent a few minutes looking at the lanterns. Next to the lantern park was a restaurant. After looking at the name of the restaurant, Warung Yeah, hubs said this might be the restaurant that had good reviews and not Cafe Helo. It seems Helo and Yeah sound the same to hubs. We decided we will eat there on Sunday.

Hubs' half marathon was at 5:30am on Sunday so we decided to call it a night. Although our hotel is a resort, it isn't in any way rustic. Very modern and it doesn't face the beach.

We have a balcony and the room is quite nice. Not cramped like in Taiwan. But the bed and pillows weren't comfortable. I went to sleep and after sleeping for what felt like a whole day I woke up and hubs was still lying in bed in his running outfit. I asked him why he hadn't gone for his run and it turned out I had only slept a couple of hours. In Bintan, time really crawls. I drifted in and out of sleep and finally when hubs was ready to leave at 5am, I was super sleepy and did not follow him down.

Around 6:30am, I woke up again so I went to the cafe to get my breakfast. The food was decent. I sat at the cafe for hours until hubs finished his run. Luckily I had a good run on my Candy Crush.

Some runners left for Singapore after the run but hubs had booked our ferry ride for Monday morning so we had a lot of time to kill.

We attempted another look around the ghost plaza and this time we saw Singapore runners also killing time. At a food court, we ordered murtabak. We have this food in Singapore and there are a couple of variations. This Bintan version is rather small but decent. Originally we had gone to another stall to order satay. The staff took a look at the fridge and after a long pause informed us that he was out of chicken satay. Hubs and I didn't believe the guy at all. We thought he couldn't be bothered to cook for us. He wasn't a very good liar.

I think hubs was a little sour I had stayed in bed instead of taking photos of him at the run. So I took a few pics of him at the stations to keep him happy.

Then I got trapped into taking pics for total strangers as well...

We finally checked out the infinity pool at our hotel. It's a very tiny pool. The water was cold.

After our frolic in the pool, hubs said we should take a hotel shuttle to Nirwana Gardens, another resort hotel to kill more time. Except we missed the bus by a minute. Did I mention the buses in Bintan are very punctual?

We managed to catch the next shuttle bus and Nirwana Gardens is just as boring as our hotel. Oh, while getting off the bus, hubs dropped his wallet. Remember he lost his wallet in Hong Kong? Since then, I've become the guardian of his wallet. It is exhausting let me tell you. Luckily I was on the ball and saw the wallet dropping to the floor.

Nirwana Gardens did have some handmade crafts which were priced ridiculously high. The dolls were SGD80 each.

Nirwana Gardens is very rustic. All the rooms in little houses were scattered in front of the beach.

The pools were nice. There were several. We had a lot of time to kill while waiting for our shuttle bus back to our hotel. I can't emphasize enough how slowly time moves in Bintan.

Gila Mee Goreng
egg noodles pizza
We finally got to eat at Warung Yeah restaurant.

We tried Gila Mee Goreng (crazy stir fried noodles) and no, we didn't go gila. It was pretty good. The satay was also nice. The egg and noodles pizza was a bit nothing. Although we have mee goreng and satay in Singapore, there are some differences. I do like Warung Yeah's version.

Monday morning, we had our last meal in Bintan - buffet breakfast at the hotel. We had to check out early to catch our ferry back to civilization. Then something happened. Hubs went to poop and unfortunately after he was in the toilet for 10 minutes, I needed to go badly. I asked him to come out and thankfully he did. Apparently in Bintan, not only does time pass slowly, our poop schedule got sync up. After I had done my business, hubs SCREAMED at me. He was so angry I had to poop when he was pooping. Or something. Anyway, it doesn't matter why he screamed at me. I was pissed he screamed at me. Seriously what's with people screaming at me? So I decided I have to colour my hair again. I think that will stop the screaming.

Our journey back was quiet and uneventful. A bit gloomy even because it was raining. Happily when we reached the north western part of Singapore, there was no rain. I was exhausted and slept for 4 hours once we reached home. We lost one hour when we crossed back to Singapore so technically I slept for 5 hours. Let me just say this, I freaking love Singapore. Everything is so convenient. I don't understand why some locals hate Singapore. Anyway, if you must know, I'm never going back to Bintan. Once is enough. Also, the next time I travel with hubs, I'm demanding a 2-bathroom suite.
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