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 .....

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Defeated by the Simple Things

Sigh. I made a batch of soap yesterday.

So I used the formula here to calculate how much oil I needed for the two wooden soap molds my Dad made for me. Even I can follow a mathematical formula, I thought. I was incorrect. I did the math, and it told me I needed 6lbs 2oz of oils. I used 6lbs. I filled 3 molds - luckily I had already lined a spare. I hope all my family and friends like orange and cinnamon, or slse we will be using this stuff for years.

My digital scales had taken a couple of knocks ie. the weigh plate had come off at least twice, between my DH and DS rootling around in the cupboards, and I'm not too sure of their accuracy anymore - not something I want to feel uncertain of when dealing with caustic soda, so I shan't make any more soap until the weekend when I can pick up a new one.

soap freshly poured in molds; then in 2nd picture, same soap in full gel

Today I unmolded and cut the soap. Enter another simple thing that defeats me - consistency of bar size. I weighed the 'logs', then drew lines at equal distances to give me the size of bar I wanted; for example, one mold contained 3lbs 12oz of soap; so to get 4 oz bars, I divided and cut into 15. Of course, the weights of the bars varied, sometimes by as much as 1/2oz.

Now, had I not been doing a stellar imitation of the Scarecrow of Oz today, I would have written down the weights of the soap from each mold, so I had a record for next time of how much oil turns into how much soap for each mold. On the plus side, it's curing on layers of greaseproof paper and the house smells fabulous.

Yesterday my neighbor Su asked me to pop in and switch on her slow cooker with the chicken in today at lunchtime. ''No problem'', says I, ''happy to help''. Firstly, I remember about it - always a good start, and an achievement in itself. I clicked the little switch, but it's an old slow cooker with no red light to tell that it's on; I even checked the wall socket. This evening she called me to thank me for the fact that her fish and chips were delicious.

So let's have a quick flashback to last week's knitting project, which was successful:

a lacy bordered baby cardigan for my BIL and SIL. They popped in for a cuppa on their way up to Norfolk last Friday, and were - or at least seemed to be - chuffed to bits with all the various bits I'd knitted for their bump.

So tonight I'm kinda thinking maybe I shouldn't do anything, you know, anything that requires any concentration, a modicum of thought, common sense or one working brain cell, as no doubt it will be doomed to failure.

I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain

(The Scarecrow's Song from the Wizard of Oz)

Monday 23 November 2009

Quiet House

So the vet told us we were doing the right thing. I cried. Well, actually, I bawled. And today when I came home from taking the kids to school, there was no old smelly dog grinning at me with his crookedy smile of snaggledy teeth, wagging his tail so hard his whole body moved with it.

In the post today was a condolence card from the vet.

I miss my shadow, who was never more than 3 feet away from me, who would get anxious if he was napping, woke up and couldn't immediately see me, then would have to search the house to find me even if I was only in the bathroom.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Tough Decision

So Maximus Pratticus has aged suddenly and totally not gracefully. We thought he was about 9 years old when we got him from the Leicester Stray Dog Sanctuary; and when some do-gooder took him from our car park just before Xmas that year, obviously thinking he was a stray in spite of him looking well-fed, shiny-coated, healthy, cared for, and being on a private car park, fortunately he ended up here. Perhaps he just has a stray dog face and mien. Since I'd registered him here, they called us and we got him back. The RSPCA thought he was about 13, which makes him over 15 years old now - a venerable age for any dog, let alone a stray with unknown history.

At the beginning of summer, he had a bout of kennel cough (apparently very common this year) which took a few months to clear, a flea infestation from who knows where, and a swollen abdomen that the vet thought was probably a cancer. His cough has come back, and his abdomen has swollen further; he can't walk very far, he can't manage the stairs anymore, he's uncomfortable (but not in pain) and has no quality of life anymore - he can't do any of the things he loves.

So DH and I had the Conversation, and Maximus is booked for his final trip to the vet on Saturday while the kids are at dancing. Next was to decide what to tell the kids. DH was leaning towards not saying anything. I felt differently. I know how I would feel (and would have felt at their age) if I went out somewhere and upon my return my dog had disappeared permanently, and that my parents had colluded in the deception.

The kids already know that Maxie is not well, so when I told them that he was going to Doggie Heaven on Saturday, it was not a huge shock to them. They were upset, but we focussed entirely on the fact that Max will be much happier as Doggie Heaven is just the place for him - the sun always shines, the grass is green, it is always warm, he can piddle on limitless trees, he can poop anywhere and everywhere he wants, there will be good things to chase, and he will be healthy again.

Maximus has been a brilliant first dog for the children - gentle, sweet-tempered and tolerant (totally opposite to me). We persevered through his separation anxiety (although we got through a lot of bleach) and even his aggression towards other dogs faded completely, once he felt settled and secure with us. His only downside was that he never played; he loved to run, a graceful loping hound gait, but wouldn't play - he thought anything raised or thrown was at him, not for him. And, whatever had happened to him before, we know that he has had the best love and care in his time with us.

So I drew some cards about this, and my question was: 'Is it time to euthanize Max ?'
The 10 of Pentacles fell out of the deck while I was shuffling. The 2 of Wands was the card I drew, and the 3 of Pentacles was at the base of the deck.

The 10 shows me a life completed, what was there to be given has been given; the 2 of wands shows me someone ready to move on, a new horizon; the 3 of Pentacles shows me we were right to discuss it openly and clearly with the children.

Maximus Pratticus when he was healthy

Monday 16 November 2009

Married Pastime

I have had a lovely weekend - on Saturday, we dropped both our kids off at noon to play with friends until 6:30. Woo-Hoo ! Free adult time with each other !

So, because DH can be a real honey, he took me to Felixstowe because I needed some buttons from Fabric8; while we were there, I got some wadding and some fleece for the cot quilt I shall be making. Some darning wool for my neighbor, and a pack of shiny, glittery bits for DD to do 'making' with completed my haul.

We popped into a church sale and got a baby cardigan to add to the pile for my BIL and SIL, who I am expecting to see this Friday, plus a couple of dolly outfits for DD's Xmas stash.

It was blowing a hooley, so we got a coffee and an cornish pasty and drove down to the sea front; the rain had started, and was coming in from the sea horizontally, and hard. It was fabulous, even if it was a seriously sad, married, middle-aged thing to do.

Also over the weekend, I have finished the baby hoodie I so dislike; I disliked it so much I knitted a whole 'nother baby sweater (the one I needed the buttons for) last week rather than sew the seams of the hoodie. Here they are:

Both from Patons Book 2990; the hoodie is 'Frankie', the cardigan is 'Bonnie' (with a star motif that doesn't show on the photo because of the yarn)

I have been searching for a simple baby hat pattern for two needles (as opposed to DPNs or circulars), but wasn't able to find exactly what I wanted. So here I am proud to present my first ever pattern that I did myself, for a simple baby hat for 0-3 months using Moss Stitch; it switches to stocking stitch during, as moss stitch and decreases look ugly, to me.

Yarn: DK (I used James C.Brett Harmony DK in multi, to match the cardi above)
Needles: 3.25mm and 4mm straight needles

With 3.25mm needles, cast on 67 stitches.

Row 1: K1 * P1, K1; rep from * to end
Row 2: P1 *K1, P1; rep from * to end

These two rows set up single rib; continue for another 4 rows (6 rows rib in total)

Change to 4mm. needles
Knit 1 row, inc. 3 stitches evenly spaced (70 st)

Row 1(WS): (K1, P1) til end
Row 2 (RS): (P1, K1) til end
These two rows set up Moss Stitch pattern. Continue until 8 cm (3 1/4 ins) from beginning, finishing with RS facing.

Changing to stocking stitch, knit 1 row decreasing 6 st evenly spaced (64 st)
Purl 1 row.

Decrease for crown:
Row 1 (RS):
*K6, K2tog; rep from * til end (56 st)
Row 3 (RS): *K5, K2tog; rep from * til end (48 st)
Even Rows from 2 to 14 (WS): Purl
Row 5: *K4, K2tog; rep from * til end (40 st)
Row 7: *K3, K2tog; rep from * til end (32 st)
Row 9: *K2, K2tog; rep from * til end (24 st)
Row 11: *K1, K2tog; rep from * til end (16 st)
Row 13: K2tog across (8 st)

Cut yarn, leaving a long tail. Thread a needle with the yarn tail, then pass needle through remaining 8 sts and remove sts from knitting needle. Pull tightly to close top of hat. Turn hat so wrong side is facing, and join seam. Weave in ends on WS.

I could not have done my pattern without the mathematical guidance of this pattern , for which I'd like to thank the creator, Jennifer Brown. I believe I have written my pattern pretty much as I knitted it, but if anyone has suggestions for improvement, finds glaring mistakes (or even minor ones) , please let me know.

Finished hat:

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Armistice Day

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is a music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted:
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

-- Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

The last three World War I veterans living in Britain died this last year: Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone.

I watched the special service to commemorate those who suffered, and those who died, in the Great War. The poppy wreath laid by the Queen was given to her by two Victoria Cross holders, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry and Trooper Mark Donaldson. I was awed to see two living holders of this rare and usually posthumous award.

I left the house to fetch my DS from kindergarten; we live close to the park, so I heard the church bells tolling, the guns, and the Last Post as I walked up the hill. I was almost in tears, I'm not sure quite why. War is not always pointless or futile. But we do not seem to learn from history.

How Long, O Lord?
by Robert Palmer (killed in action,1916)

How long, O Lord, how long, before the flood
Of crimson-welling carnage shall abate?
From sodden plains in West and East, the blood
Of kindly men steams up in mists of hate,
Polluting Thy clean air; and nations great
In reputation of the arts that bind
The world with hopes of heaven, sink to the state
Of brute barbarians, whose ferocious mind
Gloats o'er the bloody havoc of their kind,
Not knowing love or mercy. Lord, how long
Shall Satan in high places lead the blind
To battle for the passions of the strong?
Oh, touch Thy children's hearts, that they may know
Hate their most hateful, pride their deadliest foe.

Please support the British Legion.

I would like to thank the artist daliscar for his fabulous poppy image.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Bits and Bobs

So, my brother came to visit with me on Wednesday, bringing a new hard drive for my computer. He drove me far, far out of my comfort zone by insisting that I actually fit it. Under his patient supervision, I opened the casing and unscrewed, unclipped and in general footled about in the inside gubbins of my computer. Please to note, my confident use of the correct technical terms.

Alas, not everything was straightforward - it didn't work straight away, so it was lucky for me he was here to take over and do the troubleshooting; he also re-installed all my most necessary basic programs. I fed him dinner (pre-cooked by DH, naturellement) and we had a wideranging and in-depth discussion about Family. Which was quite surprising, as my brother hates to re-hash old history. So it was a productive and interesting evening, although the 2 a.m finish did nothing for my beauty or temper the next day.

Friday evening we went to a local fireworks display. It started to shower as we left, and by the time we got there it was pouring and quite windy - the announcer kept apologizing for the delays between fireworks, but the fuses had got damp. I didn't get to see any but those at the very start, as DS remembered that he doesn't like really really loud noises, and wanted to be taken home. So we trickled our way down the hill with the rainwater, while DH and DD remained to get soaked to the skin with our neighbors Su and Hannah; they arrived back shiveringly drowned in spite of having been dressed appropriately for a polar expedition. Therefore, Bonfire Night this year was a damp squib (no apologies for the bad pun).

Once we had sorted out Ingrid the Volvo's flat battery with a call to the efficient and inexpensive recovery people, Saturday was spent mainly ferrying DD and various friends to dance class and parties - I wish my social life was as varied and full. Or maybe not, as I don't think I have the stamina any longer to be on the go non-stop, as they are. DS got another pair of school trousers, as last week I had to wash them, his sweatshirt, shirt and coat every single day. It turns out he was irresistably drawn to roll down a muddy hill - of course ..... so I shall speak to his teachers, as I can't work out where the hill is on their perfectly flat and level playing field.

Sunday was on overdue visit to the optician for me, a contact lens check which was fine, and an eye test which showed that I am aging - I can't do close work or reading anymore. I have also been referred on to a specialist clinic as I have signs of glaucoma. I did a marathon load of ironing, installed a bunch more programs on my computer, and had a marvellous roast chicken dinner courtesy of DH. The only slight upset of the day was when vegetarian DD's cat Moonheart appeared over the wall of the garden with a live blackbird as her new playmate. Unfortunately, the blackbird had soon ceased to be, passed on, was no more, expired and gone to meet 'is maker, a stiff, bereft of life (thank you, Monty Python) - although the play aspect continued for some unpleasant while. Cue conversation about the cycle of life and how even pet cats always, always have a little bit of Wild in them.

Moonheart in ambush mode

We also put our boxes together for Operation Christmas Child ready to take to school tomorrow.

DD spent much thought and effort on what should go into her box; DS .... not so much; but I had commandeered - pardon me, I meant to say 'volunteered' - Daddy's packing expertise to the Cause.

And now, my favorite time of day .... everyone is in bed except me. Everything is finally quiet and peaceful. Time to put the kettle on and finish the baby hoodie - border done today, sewing up to do tonight, may have to buy suitable buttons tomorrow ......

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Life Gets Teejus, Don't It ?

From the final verse of a song my parents had on LP (remember vinyl ??), by Carson Robinson:

Grief and misery, pains and woes
Debts and taxes, so it goes
I think I'm gettin' a cold in my nose
Life gets teejus, don't it.

Trouble comes in threes, they say. This last weekend, my hairdryer broke (blowing its fuse every time it was switched on) and DH consigned it to the bin. It is one of the few times I need a hairdryer for the hairstyle I currently have. Boy, I hate straight hair and wish I could afford a perm - smudge of mousse, run your fingers through your hair, and - done.

Also this weekend, the washing machine quit working. It drained, but the drum wouldn't turn to agitate, or to spin. It turns out the carbon brushes had gone (whatever they are) and it was not cheap to fix. However, it is fixed now (thanks to my friend Mandi's uncle), which is a Good Thing, as I have had to wash DS' complete school uniform both yesterday and today, since he 'thlipped in the mud, Mummy'. I think he is really PigPen in disguise. It's not just the washing, of course, it's the getting it dry in time for the following day - in the cold, short autumn days which are all too often wet days too. My tumble dryer guilts me every time I see it outside tidily wrapped in its tarp. I want it, I want it, I want it, I really want it. Are you getting my message here ? I really want it. But, it won't fit in the house and sucks electricity like the government sucks money from taxpayers. The only meagre plus side is that I'm environmentally friendly by not using it, which puts me on some kind of moral high ground somewhere, no doubt. But a feeling of righteousness does not sustain me; global warming and climate change pale into insignificance when it comes to wet school uniforms.

So the third thing hasn't happened yet. Our theme this time is obviously electrical, and we have the rest of the week to go .....stay tuned and send mojo that it won't be either the computer or the TV. I can survive anything else.

In knitting news, I have completed the feather and fan baby blanket for my SIL's Bump; I found the pattern here; I may have mentioned that it is in James C. Brett marble DK yarn - a nice, soft acrylic that will wash and wear well.

Friday 30 October 2009

The K1P1 Virus

So, as predicted, I didn't go out last night. Instead, we had a takeaway pizza (dang those non-Jalapeno wusses that are my female relatives) and changed into our jammies; since my sister was involved, we drank alcopops rather than wine, but hey, I'm not too fussy where alcohol is concerned.

I found myself sitting next to Rebecca, the niece who'd said she wanted to learn to knit; stealthily I found a remnant ball of yarn, and handed it to her with a pair of 4mm needles. I showed her how to cast on, andthen how to knit; I said I'd show her how to purl when she told me she was happy with knitting. However, Rebecca is a southpaw, and I think this is why she has an interesting way of adding accidental extra stitches - winding the yarn to create a stitch anti-clockwise goes against how she'd naturally do it, and somehow she is yarn forwarding sometimes, thus creating the extra stitches.

Then my niece Annie came in from playing Crash Bandicoot on the PS2; she sat in the corner of the sofa watching her sister knit. So I sneaked out a second remnant ball of yarn, plus another set of 4mm needles. I showed her how to cast on and knit; then after a few rows of garter stitch, how to purl. That's it, she was off and away, quite comfortable with her new skills.

My sister came in. I chucked her yet another remnant ball, plus a set of .... you guessed it... 4mm needles. She cast on. I looked at her stitches, and asked her how she'd done it. She showed me - she was knitting through the back loop, which was making all her stitches slant to the right. In spite of my insistence that that was fine, as long as it looks like knitting at the end it doesn't matter how you do it, she asked me to show her how I got upright stitches, so I did. She was very happy with the result, and has completed a good 3 inches of ribbing, and about 4 of stocking stitch ... it's intended to be a scarf for her dog Charlie. He's a scarf-wearing kinda dawgie.

However, middle niece Serena was unpersuadable. She'd rather go do something 'dramatic'. I think she watched 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' with my kids.

DD was also missing, as at the age of 6 1/2, she is not allowed to drink vodka, which my sister apparently thinks is a necessary part of the knitting package. Who am I to disagree ?

So they are all in town now at Franklins, buying 4 mm knitting needles. And pretty yarn. No doubt my father will receive more emails like mine, begging for nice, inexpensive American yarns like Bernat, for the next time he's in Tenessee and fancies a 50 mile trip to Memphis to Jo-ann's.

As an infection vector for the K1P1 Virus, I believe my job here is done.

cropped for shy people

This is supposed to be a WYSIWYG platform, so why am I having issues with formatting ??

Wednesday 28 October 2009

The Halcyon Visitation

So my baby sister is coming to visit with me today, with my three nieces, and taking DD away for Hallowe'en weekend. This is all cool, as I actually quite like my sister, and I guess her girls are OK too.

What is not cool is that she has decided that not only do I need to get a life, I need to get out more. She tells me her girls are going to babysit, and that she has formed the intention of dressing me in her idea of going-out clothes and dragging me out for a night on the town. I love her dearly, but she's a Bling Ho', and I'm a Laura Ashley (on those days when I can kick my Frumpy Mummy alter-ego under the bed): no way on this earth would I wear her kind of clothes, let alone be seen in public in them. OK, it is Hallowe'en, but her costumes don't come with a mask, and I don't want to be asked for my tariff.

In vain have I protested that if she wants to make me really happy, take me out to eat, although I'd be content with a takeaway pizza. If you want to make me really, really happy, come with me to the local knitting group that I can never go to because I don't have a babysitter. And then, what would be great, would be to come back with a couple of bottles of wine, a crappy chick flick, and to sit and chew the fat with her and my nieces, of whom I see all too little. If you want to make me ecstatic, falling-down-talking-in-tongues happy - take both my kids for the weekend, not just the one I don't get enough time with already, and let me have adult time with my DH uncontaminated by any child.

Unfortunately, my sister is almost as stubborn as me. The key word there is almost. So I'm looking forward to a cosy girls night in.

Tuesday 27 October 2009


I finally figured it out. One of my favorite SILs gave me a coffee mug a couple of Christmasses ago, and on it was ''I only have a kitchen because it came with the house'' - she obviously has a pretty good handle on me. I don't cook.

I cook for the children, but fish fingers isn't real cooking. I might cook a proper meal once a month. I cooked my DH an English breakfast a couple of Sundays ago; he was still in bed, smelled the bacon etc. cooking, and thought it was the people next door having a cooked breakfast. It didn't occur to him at all that it was his breakfast, the poor deprived man.

I faced the Inquisition as to why ....was I trying to tell him something about the milkman's regular visits ? Had I broken something priceless ? Had I spent lots of money on something I shouldn't that we couldn't afford ? I don't drive, so he knew I hadn't crashed the car. It wasn't his birthday, Father's Day or our anniversary; he still views the whole event with deep suspicion. So much for being nice, huh.

Well, my fragrance oils arrived yesterday, and now I'm itching to make soap (qv: impatience); however, kids and caustic soda are a less than ideal combination, so it will have to wait. I also need some coconut oil - the price of which seems to have shot up in the last few months, but if I want good bubbles, I have to have it. While I was waiting, I was thinking, why don't I like to cook ? I like to make things - embroidery, patchwork, soap, knitting; I even do some things that might be considered nurturing, like gardening, houseplants, and tarot. Oh yes - and raising children. They all involve time, effort, and some degree of skill and/or talent. But, so does cooking. So why don't I like to cook ? It's creative, productive, tasty, and practical.

The thing is, cooking is transient. A couple of bites and it's gone. The ephemeral flow of tangs and flavors across the taste buds just has no longevity, even in memory. In this, cooking reminds me of housework (qv). When I make something, I want it to last a little while at least, not be gone in 60 seconds. Or less, when we're talking clean floors. Lucky for me I'm married to someone who originally trained and worked as a chef, and uses cooking as therapy to relax with - otherwise I'd either starve or OD on the additives in junk food - I'm eating one of his stuffed baked apples (a Bramley from my father's garden) right now; obviously, food cooked and washed up by someone else is always the best food, but I think it's the hint of triple sec that makes this particular culinary delight so extra-delicious.

So now I feel cleansed, even
righteous, having found a
philosophical and therefore profound and socially acceptable reason for not cooking that far surpasses my previous excuses of laziness, miniature badly lit kitchen, electric stove, lack of time, being a bad wife ....

Epiphanies are a Good Thing.