Monday, 28 December 2009

Festive Report

So we had a fabulous Christmas - since we had been quite planned and organized, everything on the Day itself ran smoothly: the kids had received everything on their Santa lists, plus lots of bonus extras, since they have a million excellent aunties and uncles. Who knew there was that much Ben10 branded merchandise in the world. And I'm glad DH thought of adding safety gear to their requests for a skateboard (Ben10, of course) and roller skates, as they were definitely necessary.

Our neighbors Su and Hannah came over to help us demolish a huge turkey dinner; Su's Christmas pudding was exceptionally good - on Boxing Day I kept telling DH that I could smell brandy really strongly, and where was it coming from since we didn't have any .... he lifted the lid of the tub with the leftover pudding in it, and - voila, the overpowering brandy aroma.

I had been trying to hold off a bit on posting here, since I wanted to put up pictures of my Xmas present, the little black kitten my son imaginatively called 'Inky', and the young tortie rescue cat we called 'Jewel'. However, neither would co-operate with the camera - Inky because he doesn't actually stay still long enough ( he was described to us as 'shy' and 'needing patience' but is in fact a perfectly normal, affectionate livewire of a kitten) and Jewel because she does not come out from behind her various hiding places, and then only very late at night to slink to the food bowl. She indeed requires time and immense gentleness. We got her from Frances at Ilona Cats, a lovely lady who certainly uses all the space she has for the various types of animals she has ended up rescuing, including two horses and a very effective guard goose.

Today one of my SILs visited, bringing MIL with her; we had a lovely day catching up, and popped into town - which was heaving with bargain hunters out for the sales - for some window-shopping, and an obligatory posh coffee. DH cooked dinner, a turkey and ham pie with the most amazing taste, and I shall have some of the sherry trifle later when my stomach has some room.

I have managed to finish three knitted items. Well, kind of finished. DD's Xmas sweater - done, and being worn today. Niece's birthday bolero - done and ready to post in plenty of time. DH's Sweater of Doom - out in a pile ready to go to the dump. I finally gave up. I simply cannot make the alterations work; and unpicking anything that is charcoal grey is almost impossible. The only reason that I'm not burning it ceremonially is because we're in a smoke-free neighborhood. If anyone knows of a shawl-collar men's sweater pattern that goes up to a size 54'' chest ( I did refer to Shrek before now, remember ?) please let me know.

the Sweater of Doom,
one year in the

DD's sweater,
James C.Brett
Bliss Baby DK

in red
Special DK
for my
youngest niece.

I've had good feedback on my soap gifts so far, and my sister is out of hospital and recovering nicely, as is my friend Mimi. I am very well-fed on proper food since DH is on holiday from work. My Dad is happy as Larry, even my brother sounds content. Ish. I don't like to jinx things, but this last week has been good .....

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow Day

So the last of the Santa presents had been hidden, and it snowed last night. Christmas feels like it's actually, properly here. About 4 or 5 inches of snow, and today all the schools were closed, the A12 was closed from Ipswich to Colchester, the A14 eastbound was closed, westbound was one lane only, the Orwell Bridge was at a stop - the big trucks couldn't get up the icy slope - and so it went on ....

DD and DS were thrilled, of course, and have spent much of the day outside getting colder and wetter as the day progressed. Now it has clouded over and is snowing again. I am hoping DH will be able to make it back to Felixstowe and then home without too much trouble - at least our car (mumbles 'Volvo station wagon') has some kind of special winter driving gear thing. That makes me sound like a loving, caring wife, but I'm afraid the truth is harsh - I need DH to trickle round Cambridgeshire this weekend to pick up my Christmas present from him - two new kitties. I am more excited and happy about that than my kids are about the snow, which just tells you, doesn't it ?

Today I have wrapped loads more soaps, and have put together everybody's presents, wrapped and boxed them, and put them in the relevant piles for transport: my sister's we will take over on Sunday, since Wisbech is so close, next door even, to Huntingdon. Well, it is on my mental map. DH has 6 siblings, and from last year they operate a kind of secret santa system - myriad and multiple blessings on the head of the person who thought of that - and that box is done and ready to go down to Kent with the SIL who is visiting us on the 28th. I even remembered to get DH a gift or two - fortunately I have an overdraft.

I am so full of seasonal spirit, I am even going to cook dinner. If he is able to get home. If I can't think of anything else I urgently need or want to do in the meantime. If the children behave. If the house is clean and tidy. If hell freezes over. Oh, damn - it has .......

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Goose is Getting Fat

Recreate in your mind's eye, if you will, that stylish Gallic amant, Pepe le Pew: ever calm and suave, he gambols, skips and caracoles gently, lightly and with seeming effortlessness through life, relentlessly if charmingly pursuing his chere amie, the cat.

In contrast, the cat, in increasing desperation, losing sanity and hope by visibly tormented degrees, zooms around frantically to escape Pepe's unwanted, malodorous attentions: eventually, exhausted by her frenzied despair, she succumbs to him.

In my mind, Christmas is Pepe, and I am the cat.

It started on Thursday, when I attended DD's school nativity play, 'Oopsy Daisy Angel' - I can tell you that she was the Best, Prettiest Shepherdess; after that, she and her class went to see the pantomime 'Aladdin'. Friday was a friend's birthday party; Saturday was dancing for her, her best friend and DS. While they were safely out of the way, we whizzed to ToysRUs in search of anything with Ben10 printed on it. Breathless with the hurry, we made it back just in time to pick them all up. We then tootled into town in the afternoon to pick up the things that Asda had managed to omit from our delivery, donating generously to the Sally Army band at the request of the kids.

Saturday night I babysat for one of my neighbors, which meant I didn't get home til after 2:15 a.m. It did mean that I untangled the mess that was my James C. Brett Baby Bliss DK; the way it is wound into a 'ball' means it just falls apart into an irritating, frustrating timesucker, very disappointing for an acrylic yarn, that is otherwise lovely, as far as color and texture go.

This morning I finished the accumulation of ironing, which, if I hadn't done it, would have meant both children and DH would have gone nekkid this week. While I was thus occupied, DH and DS made up a raiding party to my Dad's, for a Christmas tree, baking trays, and aniseed. After that, we made special Xmas cookies to go in gift bags for the children's teachers - I did the cookie dough, the kids cut the shapes out, DH made the icing. Their sense of color is .....different.

Having cleared up the aftermath that was the kitchen, we let the kids decorate the tree; there was a long, heated discussion over what should top the tree this year: the star, the china fairy, or the pink fairy. The star won; you can't quite see it in the photo, needless to say.

So here I am with my cup of Horlicks and a bag of pfeffernusse, absolutely shattered, with a week of school left to go (it's not school I mind, it's the cumulative 3 hours of walking to and from each day that I resent) and 12 days til Xmas Day itself. How will I endure til then ? It's like swirling around the edge of a maelstrom, the sense of inevitable destruction hanging over one like vultures hang over carrion. Well, in the absence of prescription drugs, I'll share Momma's li'l secret with you - caffeine, nicotine and sugar; we don't admit to the alcohol just yet.

And just because, I'll share with you my favorite carol, in a fabulous version by a marvellous group, Angelis:

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Well, my eyeballs are hanging out and my brain is fried - probably not the best time to blog, but 'wotthehell, archy, wotthehell'.

I have been spending the day with soap. First I unmolded and cut the Turkish Delight soap (layered pink and green, scented with English Rose fragrance oil and lemongrass essential oil) then I wrapped and labelled like a bajillion soaps. Well, OK, about thirty or so. It felt like millions, even though the process was super-speeded up by using sticky labels, and really nice greaseproof paper, instead of what I used to do, which was wrap them in tissue paper and then a cigar band: I like the idea of cigar bands, but I always had problems with spacing/positioning the words so that they appeared in the right place when wrapped round the soap. I branched out into color by using Christmas giftwrap for the festively scented soaps - still easier.

This is what about 30 lbs of soap looks like when it's curing:

Sorry if you thought you were going to get an interesting photo.

I spent quite a lot of time printing my soap recipes, MSDS information, costings etc - at some point next year, I aim to get safety assessed: I need to be able to sell my soap just so I can get some house room back. That is why my brain is fried; I can do figures, but it is not my favorite thing, so once I have found something halfway decent to watch on TV (History Channel, here I come) I shall resume knitting DD's Xmas sweater.

Speaking of DD, I watched the DVD of 'Twilight' with her, and now all the jokes and snipes I have seen online are making way more sense. I wonder if teenage angst is an American thing ? Or maybe I am simply too old to remember it. Or, maybe it's a vampire thing, following on from David Boreanaz, as Angel, the original brooding Vampire with a Soul .....

David Boreanaz

Now, that is an interesting photo. Although I always had a sneaking fondness for Spike. But then, I thought Iago was the only character worth paying attention to in 'Othello'.

Hopefully these pictures of my wrapped and artfully arranged soaps (by me, so not perfect) will also be of interest:

And for those of you who have made it this far ? There is a prize. Correctly identify (title and author) the quote at the beginning of this post, and you could win a free bar of gorgeous, luxurious, handmade cold process soap ... winner will be randomly selected: just post your answer in the comments section.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


Another grievous wound to the heart - my well-loved cat Ribbit died in my arms in the early hours of the morning after some major seizures. She was 16 years old, and had been getting a little creaky, but we did not expect this.

A companion to Margarita, my 18 year old cat who had to be euthanized about this time last year, Ribbit always maintained a physically kittenish look and appeal. She had a rent in the top of her right ear, proud battle scar of taking on a tom three times her size, who she vanquished with help from Margarita.

An excellent mouser with the softest of fur, she liked nothing better than to curl up on top of my head when I was sleeping. There is nothing like happycat dribble for styling one's hair overnight, and nothing like a contented purr for soothing one to sleep.

She also provided me with not only my main email address, but also the screen name by which I am known in all but one of the various internet forums and communities I have been a member of for the past 9 years - to the extent that when I have met people in real life, they address me as 'Ribbit'.

Later today, we shall go to a nursery and pick a rose to plant where we are burying her, in our handkerchief of a front garden; something beautiful and scented.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Fetch Me That Gin, Son

I have had the children home from school for the past two days, DS having transformed himself into a viler-than-usual snotmonster, and DD with a voice that sounds like she's smoked two packs of Marlboro a day for the last twenty years - just a tad incongruous for an almost-seven year old. And, of course, they have not been getting along; we're talking Vietnam rather than World War III, and at least the house is still standing and the indoor plants have not been napalmed.

In spite of this, I have managed to make 12lbs of soap since Saturday. First was a nice, fresh-scented soap which I am calling Lonesome Pine, and DH (who was in one of Those moods) called disinfectant; colored with white clay and softly swirled with French green Argiletz clay to give a lovely marbled effect.

Then yesterday I went to town on the frankincense and myrrh scented soap. I used unrefined palm oil for the base color, added just a titch of red dioxide to deepen it, and to add luxury and decadence, I added some shea butter. The gremlins were looking for me, however - I soaped with a 38% lye solution (to cut cure time) and hotter than usual, about 118 degrees Fahrenheit = instant heavy trace. I managed to avoid their malevolence by some extremely swift action, in terms of hurling it into the molds, and then battling it mano-a-mano to clobber it into some kind of submission. Ha ! I thwarted those soap daemons ! To drive their defeat home, I sprinkled the logs with natural frankincense and myrrh resins and watched gleefully as it went into full gel. So today when I unmolded and cut, I carefully brushed on some fabulously shiny, sparkly gold mica .... and I named it - what else ? - Three Kings Soap.

Preternaturally aware of the sudden and unexpected onset of Christmas, I soaped again tonight, using a lavender and bergamot fragrance oil, and colored with alkanet infused olive oil. Here is another magical transformation - alkanet colors the oil a marvellous deep, rich burgundy blood red; once the lye solution is added, it turns a dark purple. Wow. Topped with dried lavender flowers, that is now sitting in its gel phase. Thanks to my creative friends, to whom I howled for help, I had several suggestions for a name, and have tweaked my friend Chris' suggestion of 'Ionian Breeze' into 'Sicilian Breeze', which I think captures the sunny, Mediterranean, refreshing scents of lavender and bergamot.

I have also learned some new things today, things that made the whole soap-as-gift malarkey much easier - sticky labels from here. They have great free, user-friendly templates and software, and I can't tell you how much time that saved me, rather than plodding through trying to do it in Word. The only hassle I had was with my printer, which lost the ability to print in anything other than yellow; this was only a minor setback, although I did briefly consider what images I could use that would look fine in just yellow - ever for the easy life, that's me.

So here are a couple of pictures of the Three Kings soap in logs; as you can see, I'm not overgifted in the photography department, but I believe you can see the sparkles .....I shall try to persuade DH to get all artistic over the weekend, so that I can post some decent pictures ....

There just isn't enough time in the day, hence my selection of that particular tarot card. I hanker, I ache, I hunger, I yearn, I lust for time on my own in which to have nothing to do, to do nothing ......

PS. the challenge is to identify the song from which today's blog title was taken .....