Sunday, March 31, 2013

Educational ear candy

If you're at all interested in music history, the BBC's 'Sacred Music' (2008) is an excellent documentary series, and it's all available on YouTube. It's nicely in-depth, and best of all, the musical examples are sung by The Sixteen, an awesome and very experienced early music choir.

The first series covers Medieval chant and organum through to Bach's cantatas and passions. It's great to watch for the music alone! There's also a second series which covers later music, which is on my to-watch list.
We're really enjoying our documentaries at the moment. :)

Episode 1: The Gothic Revolution

Episode 2: Palestrina and the Popes

Episode 3: Byrd & Tallis: Singing the Lord's song in a strange land

Episode 4: Bach and the Lutheran Legacy

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hot crossless buns

Yesterday I made a very nice batch of hot cross buns with the crosses left off.
I was too lazy to put them on, and besides, they always taste disappointing compared to the rest of the bun! I used the recipe from Ladies, a Plate, my favourite baking book.

This is our Saturday afternoon tea, and a pretty Easter card my Oma made:

We'd planned to go to the Botanic Gardens this afternoon, but in the end a tea party was more our speed today. ;)

Friday, March 29, 2013


This Easter is a bit different from my usual mad choir overload! For once I don't have a full four days of choir in a row leading up to Easter - just the one. I guess this is because the Cathedral Singers isn't the main choir of St Pat's, so the choirboys will be doing the bulk of the work instead. It's nice because I get time off when everyone else does, but it's also a shame because Holy Week music is my favourite in the church year.

Tonight we're singing Tenebrae for Good Friday. We'll be doing some of the familiar Tenebrae motets by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), and the chant Vexilla regis. I know these well from my years in St Mary's choir.

Here are two of the Victoria motets, O vos omnes and Caligaverunt:

For comparison, here are two rather different settings of the same texts by Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613):

Because I can't resist, here are a couple of Baroque pieces for Holy Week. The famous eight-part Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti (1667-1740), which I had the pleasure of singing with the Tudor Consort a couple of years ago:

And the Première Leçon from Leçons de Ténèbres, Office du Vendredi Saint by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704):

Have a great Easter weekend, everyone!

Monday, March 18, 2013

So, I've been doing it wrong for twenty years...

Bra shopping, that is.

A recent bit of internet-browsing serendipity led to finally Doing My Research, and discovering that I, like many, have been wearing the wrong size for most of my life. At the age of 33 and as a person who sometimes sews/knits their own clothes, I feel a bit stupid. Why did it never occur me to just measure myself?

Proper bra fitting is one of those areas that mainstream shops/brands don't seem to take seriously. And it's important - additional back, neck, or shoulder pain caused by something as silly as wearing the wrong bra is something we can all do without, thanks.

My reading made me realise I've been wearing too large a band size with too small a cup size, which is apparently a really common problem. I never knew that it's supposed to be the band that holds everything up, not the straps. Therefore, the band needs to be snug (makes sense).

Also, I had no clue how cup sizes actually work: I assumed a B cup was for a certain size of breast, and a D cup was for another particular size. To my great surprise, this is totally wrong! The cup size simply corresponds to how much larger your full-bust measurement is compared to your underbust/band measurement. It's proportional, and therefore a person who wears a D cup or above might or might not look like a big-breasted person, depending on their band size. (This is all explained with proper diagrams in the links below.)

Armed with a tape measure, a willing helper, and this handy online calculator, I found that my suspicions were correct: I'm not a 16D after all. In fact, I need a 14FF, or thereabouts.

An FF cup sounds pretty gigantic, right? Well, I'm actually fairly normal-sized. Obviously I'm not small-breasted, but we're not talking super-boobs here:

Armed with all this info, and a starting-place in terms of probable correct size, I visited a couple of underwear outlet-shops yesterday.

I've always found bra shopping frustrating and waaay too time-consuming, and this expedition was no exception. I basically tried on every bra in each shop that was anywhere close to a 14FF (there really wasn't that much to choose from - most brands only go up to D in cup size), and with the help of the shop assistants, only found one bra that fit me well. Unfortunately, the cups were covered with lace - not good for me, as I live in tshirts - and the sides and straps sat too close to my armpits, which was uncomfortable when I moved my arms forward - as I would when using a computer, crafting, cooking, doing anything with my hands, really. So the search continues!

I did learn, after trying on what seemed like every bra on Smith St, that 14FF is probably my correct size, and that I need to look for bras with lower sides or with the straps placed further in from the sides (being able to move my arms freely is not an optional extra). The larger-cupped bras that I was trying on looked, to my 16D-trained eye, like things that elephants could use for parachutes - but when I tried them on, they looked just fine.
Assumptions, you are not helpful. :p 

Next, I'll try going to a specialist bra shop. First on my list is Brava, which calls itself "Australia's Premier Store for D Cup and Up". Wish me luck!

Recommended reading:
Are You Wearing the Wrong Bra?
On Sizing
Bra Fitting Basics
Fitting 101: Basic Guidelines for Your Best Fit
Does This Bra Fit? How Do I Tell?
Bra Fitting: Five Signs of a Poor Fit

Monday, March 11, 2013


It's been hot lately. A 'record heatwave' in fact. We're nearing the end (at last) of a run of ten days of over 32°C highs, and I'm pretty fed up. But icewater foot-baths and cold drinks have been helping, and I've been trying to distract myself with crafts while it's been too hot to go out.

I came across this excellent idea for making a scarf with 'random' stripes:
My Year in Temperatures by Kristen Cooper. It's a garter stitch scarf, with the different coloured stripes representing different temperatures over the course of a year. Naturally, I felt the need to jazz up the garter stitch a bit...

Mid-January (cast-on edge at the bottom) to March 9th (top).

I find it helpful to have a system of some sort for making random-looking stripes. A nature-related system like this one is especially good for giving a nice ebb and flow of colours.

I'm knitting this scarf for Willie, to record his year from one birthday to the next, in the maximum daily temperatures for wherever he happens to be. So far I’ve knit from mid-January to last Saturday, using temperature data for Melbourne from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology site. I'm knitting two rows (one garter ridge) to represent each day.

I chose a 4ply blend of cotton, angora, merino, and cashmere called 'shiny cotton', which I ordered as a skein set from ColourMart. The colours map to temperatures in 5° increments:

I haven't had occasion to use colours E or F yet...

I cast on 77 stitches using the long-tail method, on 4mm needles. This covers six repeats of 12 stitches, plus 17 stitches in total for the edges. This is the stitch pattern I settled on, which looks cool on both sides:

Garter zigzag stitch
RS rows: k2, k2tog, * k4, m1R, k1, m1L, k4, s2k1psso, * k4, m1R, k1, m1L, k4, ssk, k2.
WS rows: knit all.

Eyelet rows (for the 1st of each month)
RS: k2, k2tog, * (yo, k2tog)x2, yo, k, yo, (ssk, yo)x2, s2k1psso, * (yo, k2tog)x2, yo, k1, yo, (ssk, yo)x2, ssk, k2.
WS: knit all.

If you prefer to work from a chart (I do!):

(click to enlarge)

You can see the eyelet row here, marking March 1st.

I really need to learn a method for weaving in or hiding the ends as I knit, like this one: No loose ends. Otherwise I'll have a big job ahead of me!

I expect my brain will come back online once things cool down a bit, then I can try learning a new trick. ;)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

White night, bright lights

A couple of weekends ago, the Melbourne CBD was taken over by an arts and music festival called White Night. Many of the city's landmark buildings were lit up, and there were concerts, exhibitions, art installations, and general madness all night long.

I'm not a fan of big crowds and loud music, so I stayed home with some wine, books, and knitting. But Willie went out and enjoyed the spectacle, and took lots of amazing photos...

Flinders St Station (click to enlarge photos)


I think this one's my favourite.

These last three are all of the same building, as its light-show changed!