>The unfamiliar first…This is the view from the saddle of my lovely old bike. Yep, that’s right, me, sworn off cycling for life due to the unspeakable horrors of any kind of incline has actually started to ride voluntarily and even (gasp!) enjoy it. Even with hills. Wonders will never cease.
Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but they can acquire new old treasure. This is another find from the farm (a seemingly endless trove of undiscovered goodies). Like the jam pan and chest of drawers before it, my Father in Law was quite happy for me to have this, which he would term ‘kelter’ (junk to the non-Lancastrian famers among us) on permanent loan. The only proviso was a share of the cakes I’m going to create with it. There’s a reason Kenwood has the good reputation it does, as this old Chef may have been grubby with years of neglect and maybe shows its age in the styling department but switch it on and it still goes- whether whisking, mixing, dough hooking or liquidising. I’m delighted.
New new treasure arrived in the post this week, in the form of this heavenly bundle of Manos Wool Clasica in ‘Ganges’. Mindful of my habit of running out of yarn before the end of a project I bought all nine skeins that were in the sale at Meadow Yarn . At the moment it looks like I’ll be using it to make a grown up version of Queen Bess but we’ll see.
Finally, new and unfamiliar yet somehow old too…M had some chunky coloured pencils among her birthday present and today she had her first try with them. Seeing her being so grown up is new and unfamiliar, yet babies picking up the tools of other family members and copying what they’ve seen is surely as old as the human race.
I know everyone says this, but I don’t really ‘do’ New Year’s Resolutions. However, this year, we have decided to try and reduce our reliance on supermarket shopping. It’s for a lot of reasons, including environmental and political ones, which I may or may not expand on at another time.
There’ll be more on how we’re trying to do this later in the week, but basically it’s a quiet revolution because most of the measures are things we’ve done before over the last few years, on and off. So it’s a question of trying to do them all at the same time.
Home-baking is obviously already a regular fixture in our house, but nonetheless we’d slipped into buying quite a lot of ready-made stuff recently, including bread, breadsticks (P’s snack of choice) and M’s weaning baby-mush (known as ‘goo’ in our house).
This week is the ‘start as we mean to go on’ week, so therefore I duly made bread and used some leftover pizza dough and a little pesto (not homemade, I admit!) to make some breadsticks. I then cooked up two carrots, an apple and four tinned prunes to make some goo. Carrots take forever to cook, so I went off and built Duplo houses with P….and burned the goo. Believe me, burned carrot, apple and prune does not smell nice. Nor is it easy to remove from pans.
However, if I gave up that easily I might as well just go to Tesco right now, so I had another attempt and made sure I stayed by the stove this time. An initial whizz with the handheld mixer followed by blending in the liquidiser and we finally had a good approximation of one of M’s favourite bought ‘goo in a pouch’ numbers. What’s more she ate it. So far so goo(d).
I don’t mind admitting that things got pretty fraught around here towards the end of last year. It was a bit about the build up of months of baby-interrupted sleep, a bit about a toddler pushing at boundaries, a bit about weather that kept us stuck indoors, a bit about sickness bugs, a bit about those irritating household things that aren’t about progress, just staying afloat. Anyway, I got so I really wasn’t having a lot of fun in my stay-at-home mum job- and as that job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week it meant not a lot of fun in general!
The New Year so far has brought better weather, better health, slightly more sleep and a calmer toddler, to say nothing of a better attitude on my part. The title of this post is a bit of a mantra for me at the moment, since I have one of those brains that tends to constantly race ahead and fret over and overcomplicate things.
The picture, meanwhile, is an activity I tried to help me practise what I (inwardly) chant. Some uncooked rice, sprinkled on a baking tray. Simple. The idea was that my boy and I could spend some time practising drawing lines, maybe even letters, together. A shake of the tray and we’d have a new ‘page’ to draw on. As it turned out, when we were ‘in the moment’ he didn’t feel like drawing, preferring to sprinkle and heap the rice instead. Which was fine really- maybe he’ll draw in it another day, maybe not. It turned out it was very peaceful and calming pushing the rice around and sprinkling it onto his palms as ‘rain’. And yes, a little bit ended up on the floor, but that’s nothing a vacuum cleaner can’t fix.
Believe it or not we played with a tray of rice for a serene and happy half an hour and while it’s not like he’s going to reject all the wonderful, thoughtful toys he was given for Christmas, I’m going to make sure I keep up the effort to keep things simple sometimes.
It’s not even a year since I completed this sweater from some yarn left over from a different project. It got a good lot of wear until the warmer weather, not to mention a bit of abuse when P, teenager style, pushed his thumb through one of the sleeves just below the cuff. Going through yet another as-yet-unpacked box the other day, searching in vain for lost Christmas stockings, I found it, along with the remains of the leftover yarn. I wasn’t quite ready to give up seeing him wearing it, since it had turned out to be one of those charmed unplanned projects that turn out really well, so I decided it was time for a bit of ‘make do and mend’- something quite refreshing in this season of spending and excess.
When I originally made this sweater, the difficulties of measuring a wriggly toddler meant I made the body and arms too short. I discovered this fact after I’d finished it and tried it on him, but then also discovered that the advantage of ‘top down’ sweaters is that you can undo the bottom edges, pick up the stitches and add some more. This came to mind when I found that P has grown a good few inches in arms and body over the summer, so I needed the sweater to ‘grow’ with him this season.
Here you can see the hole where P had stuck his thumb through the sleeve.
I inserted a circular needle into an unbroken row of stitches below the hole, then frogged the sleeve down to that point.
Then it was just a case of joining in the new yarn and adding a few more stripes and a new ribbed border.
Hole mended and inches added, it should last another season at least. Wonder how many years I can get away with it?!?
After a weekend of equal parts yuck- two children and a husband with nasty colds, disastrous attempt at fudge making, snow stopping friends and vital parcel deliveries arriving- and yum- a sister who made it over for Sunday lunch, fence panels mended and some rather good brownies made from salvaged fudge mixture- we are on the final march to the big day. Despite feeling the effects of rather a lot of missed sleep, I have got some ‘elving’ done and all the presents are sewn, blocked, finished off and wrapped with the exception of those still in the post (aargh!) and one more thing that I really, really will finish tonight. Other than that and a whole load of dull domestic chores, all we can really do now is wait and hope that the weather doesn’t scupper our plans.
I have also (somehow! I don’t know how!) managed to finish M’s winter woolly outfit. It’s a sort of dungarees that will hopefully solve the cold toes/ankles problem as it has integral socks. I made it using a free pattern called ‘Pepita’ on Ravelry by Martina Behm. I knitted it on slightly larger needles than the pattern specified, using Araucania Ranco Multy sock yarn (two different shades for a number of reasons, but it doesn’t really show or matter much) as M is at the upper end of the age range. As it turns out, the whole thing was in danger of being so huge she wouldn’t have fitted it until next winter, but a few reductions here and there means it’s roomy but not ridiculous. There’s a little more detail about that on my Ravelry notes. This weather is enough to make me wish they did one in my size!
Over on Soule Mama she calls it ‘elving’- getting all those jobs done to prepare presents for Christmas. It’s what I should be doing, but for some reason I just don’t seem to be motivated at the moment, despite running out of time fast! One distraction is getting hold of some more Auracania Multy so I can keep going with making this winter wooly for M. It’s going to be some dungarees with feet, made using a pattern from Ravelry. Even though I’m having to use magic loop, it’s quite easy knitting and I’m just enjoying the steady rhythm. I’ll elve later, I promise!
P had a twenty minute tantrum today. I think it was something about the colour of top he was wearing. He’s two years old, so looking for logic just isn’t worth the time. As I waited for the screams to fade down, I got on with making lunch and looked down into the sweet smiling face of my little girl, finding it so hard to believe that in a couple of years she’ll probably having moments like that.
However, for all that it’s tough at times living in the crazy world of the toddler, of course I wouldn’t change him, wouldn’t even freeze or reverse time so that he stayed the placid little baby he was. I know that the tantrums are all part of the process of him growing up, growing more and more into his personality every day.
So today’s blog is an indulgence, for which I make no excuses! It’s a tribute to what he’s becoming and a bit of a chance to remind myself that he does a lot more than scream and kick, this boy of mine:
Nobody said motherhood was easy, and with P being very ‘two’ at the moment I’m living proof. With my nemesis day, Wednesday, looming, I was determined that we’d survive without too many tantrums. So a domestic morning of singing and playing instruments, drawing on big sheets of lining paper, cleaning the kitchen and hanging out washing was in order.
I also made bread. Didn’t have time to knead it myself, so it was a breadmaker job for the proving process, finished off in the oven. Even without the soothing rhythm of kneading, just the smell and sight of new bread in the house is enough to give me a sense of wellbeing. Meanwhile, just before naptime, the delivery of a present for M (three apple trees and a pear tree- what a lovely idea!) provided P with his own therapy in the form of bubblewrap. He happily jumped, squished, stomped and popped as we wrapped up a morning that was more or less tantrum free. Hooray!
We’ve been very fortunate in recent weeks to see an awful lot of our extended family- nearly a full house on both sides in fact! This was very much how it was for both C and I when we were growing up, with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents forming important threads in the fabric of our lives. I’m very happy that the same seems to be happening for our little ones.
The occasion on the weekend just gone, which began with a car journey spent knitting, was a special centenary. 100 years ago on Saturday my paternal grandmother was born. Professional harpist, wartime bride, mother of two and much loved wife, you never hear those who remember her (she died when I was four, so I’m not among them) describe her as sweet or gentle. Instead you get the picture of a strong, witty, intelligent force to be reckoned with, for whom family was so very important. My Dad’s sister had the idea that to celebrate her birthday it would be great to have a family get together. This used to happen on that side of the family a lot when I was little, with Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations happening in either mine or my cousins’ family more or less every year. We were also lucky enough to have a Grandfather and Great Aunt who organised summer parties and St Nicholas Day celebrations for the lot of us.
And a lot of us there were. My ‘Mama’ (as we called her) only lived to see four grandchildren born. That number eventually grew to eight. On Saturday, as well as her two children, her son in law and daughter in law and her eight grandchildren, there were also eight great-grandchildren- P was in heaven with so many little ones to play with and I was pretty happy to catch up with cousins whom I haven’t seen for two years.
At a lovely country house hotel in Herefordshire (nice and central for a family coming in from London, Surrey, Manchester, Shropshire and Cumbria) we ate a fantastic meal, pored over precious documents that gave amazing glimpses of a life begun a century ago, had a slideshow of photographs and even watched a DVD of my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and parents’ wedding – they had a family friend at the time who was a home film enthusiast. We had a harpist to play who also, so patiently, allowed the children to explore her instrument. Perhaps most precious of all, we got the chance to catch up and reminisce with one another and to demonstrate to the next generation how wonderful and rich the experience of family life can be.