I’ve written before about the way that genetics seem to prove their own existence when it comes to the relationship between my little boy and all things mechanical. Despite being surrounded on a daily basis by a lot of cookery and craft and spending a lot of time out walking among woods and hills, he is fascinated by everything involving wheels, moving parts, buttons, switches and generally how things work. Okay, so his Daddy spends a lot of time on his bike, but actually he doesn’t get to see that very often- yet he is delighted by the sight of cyclists and bicycles. Whether it’s nature or nurture, he also has very good fine motor skills and is unphased by small buttons, different fastenings and unfamiliar lids- it doesn’t take him long to work them out so I have to be pretty vigilant!
This weekend held a treat for my mini-engineer (and his bigger engineer Daddy) when we went to the farm to see a bridge being pulled down…diggers and lorries and cranes oh my! For more information on why it was happening, see my MIL’s blog Town Mouse to Country House, but suffice to say that a certain small boy loved running up and down a dual carriageway closed to traffic, pointing at all the big machines, watching the sparks as steelwork was cut down and waving at all the men in high-vis jackets.
Okay, so ‘working’ weekend is a bit of an exaggeration, as there was an awful lot of home-baked goodies (mmm, brownies), chatting over cups of tea and scrummy meals while catching up with friends and free grandparent-provided childcare. However, I did manage to complete the first of the Flip-top mittens without any more swearing. It is by no means perfect (but blame the knitter not the pattern) but it does the job, and I love the zing of the turquoise buttons I bought.
Between Mum and I the quilt now has binding and I’ve begun the long, but relaxingly dull job of hand quilting. As the patterns are quite busy I’m just doing a sort of grid, following a detail in the way the blocks are arranged. You can begin to see how the finished result will be, and its intended recipient has already shown his approval, rolling around all over it!
>Red has always been a favourite colour of mine, and at the moment its warmth is particularly welcome:
Fresh tomatoes roasted in the oil of a few sundried tomatoes, with some herbs and a little of this for added warmth:
Later this was blitzed with some cream cheese to have over pasta. Simple but good. Simple is not the word that applies to my Snapdragon flip-top mittens- aargh! I’ve had to redo countless rows to get the cuff pattern correct, but they are looking lovely so far and the Artesano Alpaca is sooo soft.
And of course it’s all fuelled with redbush tea! This is my current favourite mug, as it holds just a little bit more than the others…
Not even the most ardently optimistic could possibly see signs of Spring just yet, but nevertheless, it did feel like on our walk today there was a little whisper of an idea of a promise that the dark and cold will recede. For a start, even though you’d be hard pressed to see any buds emerging, there was so much colour when we stopped to notice: rocks and tree trunks wrapped in acid green blankets of moss, the dark, bare bones of trees garlanded with opportunistic evergreens like ivy, baby beech trees (I think) with rust red leaves still dangling from their branches, asking to be shaken until they dance by small fists. As we drove through the gently sloped valley to and from Grizedale, through Oxen Park and Satterthwaite, yes we were spattered with rain but the light seemed…softer somehow and there were even a few of those eternal Spring optimists, the first lambs, let out in the fields here and there.
Yes, definitely reminders that the days are getting longer and that warmth will return, but for now warmth needs to come from a less celestial source and I can happily report that my feet are a whole lot warmer, as I finally finished the other sock…
Okay, I know it’s not the best picture, but when I began this Fairisle tank my burgeoning bump was, well, not burgeoning at all. And now that I’ve finally finished it’s going to take a bit of careful selection from my (limited) wardrobe to stop any pictures of me wearing it looking like the side of a lumpy, woolly house!
But I am very proud of this, my first big Fairisle project. I found juggling the different colours tricky, but not as bad as I thought. I managed the tension pretty well I think. I loved seeing the pattern emerge. I hated having a million ends to weave in at the end- when will I ever learn a proper technique for working them in as I go? I’ve taken quite a few breaks for some straight up and down, look at something else while you do it projects while this has been on the needles, but even so I don’t think I’ll be doing anything as complex or large scale for a while. I feel the need for quicker and/or less brain-taxing projects for a while.
I’m not really one of life’s completer-finishers in general- I tend to like to think stuff up, light the fuse then run away. The exception is when I’m making things, when I tend to be so desperate to see the end result the danger is I rush and bodge it. I think part of the appeal of crafting is therefore the exercise in slowing down and doing things properly. Even so, I can’t shake the urge to finish things, sometimes to the extreme. This was true of P’s top down sweater. For some reason I really, really wanted him to have it to wear today. So yesterday I spent a lot of the day finishing it. Wove the ends in, added the buttons, picked him up from the last day of nursery, popped it on him and…it was about 2 inches too short in the body and arms. Luckily, it being top down, I was able to unpick the ribbing, reattach the needles and add those extra inches. I was so determined that those inches were going to be added, ends woven in etc. that I worked all evening, into the night and fell into bed at half past one! However, this morning he tried on version two (the eagle-eyed among you will spot that the first pic above is version one). It was hard to get a picture as action boy was not for sitting or standing still for a photo, but it now fits perfectly and I’m really pleased with the result. This afternoon both P and I lay down for a nap. P woke up a couple of hours later and was looked after by his Daddy while I slept on for just a wee bit (try two hours) later!
There were two reasons for us making these gingerbread men together today. P has been spending a day and a half each week at nursery for the last couple of months as I was planning on getting some part time or supply work. Then of course we found out about little brother or sister being on the way and suddenly it didn’t make sense for him to be there anymore. He has loved his time there though, so the gingerbread men are his way of saying thank you tomorrow, his last session.
The other reason was that this winter I’ve been finding Wednesday the hardest day of the week to deal with as an at-home mum. Our friends aren’t available for various reasons, there don’t seem to be any playgroups on…even the library is closed. If there is a day of the week when being stuck indoors in a place that’s a long way from most of our friends and family spells a bad mood, it’s Wednesday. As P and I are going to be at home together for the whole week again after tomorrow, I needed to prove that, even on a Wednesday, we can have happy, creative times together.
I thought through the process of making the gingerbread men beforehand, as I wanted P to feel he was involved in doing as much as possible, without getting into tantrum-provoking situations where he wanted to do stuff that I couldn’t let him. So I made up the dough in the kitchen while he charged around the living room on his bike, wearing the crochet hat (mine!) that he seems to have adopted despite it making him look like a flower fairy. Once it had chilled, we repaired to the dining table, where he delighted in spreading out flour (I think we could have just done that and not bothered with the rest!), gave the dough a good squidge, brandished the rolling pin we’ve had to remove from his cookery set on safety grounds (think Conan the Barbarian), helped press the cutter down and carefully pushed the currants in for eyes and buttons- to his own unique designs of course. A little mess, lots of fun and no tantrums. We managed a Wednesday where we both smiled all day.
Especially when he realised that there was a really easy, and tasty, way to use up all those spare currants…
This recent blog post from Remedial Eating made me laugh, but also made me think a little bit about why I do all this crafting. There are so many reasons. Among them: it fulfills some sort of need in me that I don’t always realise I have until for some reason I can’t create anything for a while; it gives a very fidgety person something to do with her hands; it gives a very fidgety mind something to think about in quiet moments; nothing compares to the wonderful calm that is reached when you’re in the knitting zone; the satisfaction of having or giving something you know is unique. There are probably many more I could come up with, but with motherhood one ‘why’ has become even more important.
I knitted the little bear pictured before P was born, one of the few things my superstitious mind would allow me to make before his safe arrival. It’s from a Debbie Bliss pattern and a better picture and details are on my Ravelry projects page. Until recently P has not been fussed about soft toys, this one included. He’s certainly not been bothered about having them in bed with him. But since the New Year we’ve moved forward from a not-very-satisfactory sort of co-sleeping by accident situation to him sleeping in his own bed all night every night, meaning much better nights of sleep for everyone. At the same time, he has suddenly decided that Edmund Bear (named by C) is the perfect sleeping partner. It makes my heart sing when I put our little boy down for the night, or go and check on him, and that bear, made when motherhood was still a future mystery, is clutched firmly under his arm. When we go to get him up in the morning, the first thing he’ll do is point to Edmund and earnestly tell us all sorts of things about him, before dropping him firmly back into the cot- Edmund is definitely a bedtime bear, not for elsewhere. That’s a big Why.
P will probably be less appreciative of the latest project on my needles- I’m using all the leftover Felted Tweed from my Fairisle to make him a top down raglan sweater. This is partly because I’m waiting for some more of the dark blue so I can finally finish off- just the collar and armholes to do, but I ran out of yarn. It’s also partly because he needs a new sweater- and I’ll really try not to felt this one. P is a little bit too young to be that fussed about what he wears yet, but I’ll still be happy knowing that it’s my work that’s keeping him cosy.
Having been thinking about this post for a couple of days, it just happened that a couple of my favourite blogs to read: Soulemama and Sew Liberated posted today in a similar vein. Both are inspiring as ever and well worth a read.
We’ve got a bit of a thing for oranges in our house at the moment. Maybe it’s their gorgeous sunny colour on these dreary days, maybe we need vitamin C to stem the running of noses or maybe we just need the feel-good vibe that comes from releasing that wonderful citrus oil scent. In any case, as well as the marmalade (which did set and has been given a thumbs up all round), P gets quite beside himself at the offer of a clementine- I’m sure would eat them until he burst given the chance, while I sometimes just want to juice them and drink the ‘liquid sunshine’ and sometimes, like last night, want to cook with them.
This is a ‘Holy Eye’ recipe in the sense that it was inspired by the baking ingredients I had to hand, but like any cake, the measurements need to be right. My measurements are all in old fashioned ounces because I based them on the sponge recipe I learned as a child, when metric hadn’t really taken hold in the kitchen. Following a recent thread on Soulemama I’m going to attempt to give US measures as well, just in case someone from across the pond feels inspired to try it…
ORANGE AND ALMOND CAKE
4 oz (1/2 cup) butter or sunflower spread
4 oz (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
3 oz (3/8 cups) self raising flour
1 oz (1/8 cup) ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 oz (1/4 cup) flaked almonds
2 tablespoons any sugar
Preheat oven to 180c
1. Beat the soft brown sugar and butter together until creamy.
2. Whisk the eggs and gradually beat into the sugar and butter mixture.
3. Fold in the self-raising flour, ground almonds, baking powder and the zest of the orange. Keep remainder of the orange for later.
4. Spoon mixture into a greased or lined cake tin, approx 20cm diameter. Smooth top and sprinkle flaked almonds over the top.
5. Bake for around 35 minutes until cake is risen and springy to the touch.
6. While cake is cooling, juice the orange and put the juice along with the 2 tbsp sugar into a pan. Heat slowly, stirring, until sugar has dissolved.
7. Using a sharp knife, pierce cake all over the surface. Carefully pour orange sugar syrup over so that it sinks into the holes. Leave to cool completely.
Sorry for the quality of the picture- there isn’t a lot of decent light to be had around here. It’s just a shame you can’t smell it really- oh my goodness!
I’ve finally got a bit motivated about restocking my Folksy shop after my pre-Christmas success. A dinky little brown betty for one now has this ‘beehive’ style cosy made from Cornish Organic wool. To join it, the slightly larger brown betty is getting a humbug striped number made from more Cornish Organic and also some Sherington Flock Hebridean Wool, bought at last year’s Woolfest to make a hat I never got around to (think I fell in love with the cute sheep more than the idea of the headgear!)
As the tea cosies can just about be managed with P running around during the day (only one ball of wool to keep out of his way) I’m keeping the evenings for the Fairisle. The latest update is, I’ve reached the armhole shaping, so I’m steeling myself for dealing with armhole shaping while working either side of the neckline separately, while maintaining the Fairisle pattern. Yikes!
What’s on your needles?