Friday 27 August 2010

How to Survive the End of the World

I had two horrible jobs hanging over my head that I needed to accomplish before school starts. Yesterday, since it rained all day, I managed one of them: I turfed out, sorted, cleaned, and re-stacked my pantry and all my kitchen cupboards, including the monster that is the under the sink cupboard. However, this time, some of the scariest stuff was in the pantry - I chucked some stuff out that had a best before date of 2008. I'm not sure that was entirely sensible, because when this comes:

maybe we would be needy and desperate enough to eat it. By the way, that is a Zombie Attack.

I tend to avoid such movies, and indeed, even straightforward disaster movies, because they make me worry about what I would do in that situation. Mainly because I have kids.

The Day After Tomorrow starring one of my favorite actors, Dennis Quaid, was just such a film: I was awake long after it had finished working out my Plan for survival. The Plan involves the pantry and every single duvet in the house, so it's a good thing it's now clean and tidy. The Key to Life is anticipation and organization.

So then housework is more intrinsically important to the longterm survival of the human race than I had at first considered, which kind of makes the everyday drudgery of it seem a leetle bit more worthwhile.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

WIP Wednesday 3

So the meme today is WIP Wednesday, and all I haven't got to show for it is Mini Diva's school cardigan, an old pattern I got from somewhere that is acres of stocking stitch only enlivened by a minor cable on the front side edges. So there's no photo of that seeing as how a) I can't stand the color and b) I'm only on the back, and it's boring to look at.

Instead we will talk about the end of the season: recently we've suffered from very high winds and heavy rain. Apart from having to pick up the tub the green beans are in quite a few times - and they are much the worse for being blown over - it has done for me 'matoes too, even though it was only a cherry tumbler bush, its low profile did not save it:

And while I was out there, I cut back the petunias very harshly: they were blowsy and done, so if they come back with just one more flush, that'll be lovely; but if they die - Gallic shrug - then at least they're tidy deaths. That's them, along with the dead lavender flower stems, lying in the messy heap there ...

I find it just all too melancholy, heart-sinking and weep-making, the turn of the season from summer into autumn: I despise and hate the winter with a vengeance, the short, cold, dark, wet days of perpetually feeling miserably yuk. And of course this year we have had a small, tiny, meagre, grudging summer - all the nicest, hottest sunny days were back in June and a bit of July; and since we had that horrible long winter that just seemed to drag on for ever, you'd think that'd be balanced out by a lovely long hot summer, wouldn't you ? Although I haven't quite given up hope of a summerly redux: an Indian summer ....

So I cheered myself up by posting off my Blog Hub Swap box to its recipient well before the deadline date:

I think they should get it either today or tomorrow ....

You can find a list of other bloggers taking part in WIP Wednesday at Tami's blog, here.

Friday 20 August 2010

Time Management

So as you might notice from the sidebar, I'm well into Day 5. And am becoming increasingly aware of a side effect that I don't really remember from last time.

I haven't stopped. My bed stripped and sheets not only washed, but dried, courtesy of the warm sunny day. Finished cleaning the kids' rooms, polished, cleaned their windows, beds remade anticipating their return on Sunday. All patchworking paraphernalia sorted out and put away again tidily in some form of order. Sewing machine packed up and away.

'Scuse me one second while I just go hang out to dry my second pair of floor length curtains today. I'll pop the kettle on as I go by for a nice cuppa tea while I'm chatting with you. Checked the temperature of the lye, it's just about right to add to the oils. Do that, stick blend, add fragrance, put in molds. Wash up all soapmaking stuff. Oh yes - tea; that's what I came in here for. Might as well have a bit of toast too seeing as how I forgot breakfast and lunch.

Go for a wee while I'm waiting for the kettle, and clean the bathroom window and mirror before I come out. Take out both the recycling trash and the real trash; remember to empty cat litter into real trash first. Take the guinea pig out to run on the patio while I get ready to do her cage. Toast is cold. Boil kettle for third time.

Are you still here ?? Excellent. Perhaps you can explain how to work a break into one's list of tasks/activities. I always used to do a carrot system ....say, do the ironing, then you can sit down and smoke a cigarette. But now I feel like I'm wasting time just sitting there, whereas if I was having a cigarette, I'd be enjoying that and merely pondering contentedly what else I was planning to do.

Being a whirling dervish does mean one gets a lot done, at least ....

But there is the hoovering and mopping to do yet .....

Wednesday 18 August 2010

WIP Wednesday 2

To be honest, I totally forgot about this meme today, so I've just been running around taking pics of what I'm in the middle of. And there does seem to be quite a bit, all at the same time, which is perhaps not the most effective way of getting things done.

Firstly, I transformed Mini Diva's room from this:

Over the course of approx. 3 1/2 hours, 3 full trash bags, and 3 loads of washing in the machine, to this:

And then I cut for curing some Lavender and Camomile soap:

Then the UK/EU soap swap box arrived:

which meant I needed to sit and fondle/gloat at all the posh stuff it contained with one of these:

And my plan for the evening is to attempt to complete this:

Monday 16 August 2010

What to Do

Well, last night was odd - DH went to work, and I was on my own. There is a difference when you know the children aren't there at all, compared to them being asleep in bed. Apparently Destructo Boy cried a little because he missed his Mommy, but on the spur of the moment I'd chucked a photo of DH and I together into their bag, and thus soothed, he went to sleep with it. Mini Diva suffered no such pangs of separation, of course.

The patchwork cushion and birthday tarot reading were well received by my SIL, who makes a mean lasagne and an even meaner chocolate/Irish Cream dessert; and I think Ingrid enjoyed blowing out the cobwebs, which is the result of driving at DH's preferred speed. I, on the other hand, have left indelible fingermarks in the armrest - but at least this time I managed to keep my squeaks of protest sub-vocal.

Here is the finished cushion:

In addition, last week I finished another addition to the Xmas gift stash: another Branching Out scarf, but this time in Sirdar Blur in the colorway 'Feather'; knitted on 8mm needles and blocked quite hard to make the most of the laciness of the pattern. I've called this one 'Autumn Leaves':

If you've stayed with me thus far, you must have already noticed my fabulous new header, created for me with much generosity by my friend Mimi: thanks so much, Mimi. I plan to use this on my soap labels and on my tarot readings. It is just what I wanted, something professional yet retaining my signature 'feel'.

You may also have noticed a small addition in my sidebar. I kind of don't want to make a fuss of it in case I lack the cojones to follow through, but at the same time, I kind of want people to know. So you are allowed to notice, but not say anything. How's that for a compromise ?

And since the world is my child-free winkle (nothing so grand for me as an oyster), I am off to acquire some cyber-psychopathic skills by stalking my Ravelry Blog Hub Swap partner ...

Friday 13 August 2010

Parental Rite of Passage

This was me the other day, sitting with Mini Diva for over an hour on our first visit to the Minor Injuries Unit. The MIU is for things where it's too much for the doctor to handle, but not enough to justify a trip to the A&E department.

I had been sitting on the patio with a contemplative cup of tea. The object of contemplation was whether I maybe actually ought to get dressed at some point today. My first inkling that there was a problem was Destructo Boy's piercing shrieks. My second was Mini Diva's scrails (= combination of scream and wail) joining in to create a deafening Panic Duet.

I dropped my cup and cigarette and shuffled as fast as I could (not dressed, see, and I can't run in my slippers as they fall off) to the sidewalk to quell the sources of the caterwauling.

On first glance, things didn't look too bad - two children, both with arms and legs attached; two kids' bikes, both in one piece; no cars in the road having screeched to a halt with one of my kids as the buffer stop; nobody else in sight.

Then I saw the blood - lots of it - and understood immediately why Destructo Boy was in meltdown: he freaks out at the sight of even something like this:

At least I know he's not a vampire. A quick check confirmed that although he was the one producing the most volume of noise, he was not the bleeder. That was Mini Diva, who, having crashed her bike, was pouring blood from the side of her head.

I hustled her home to the bathroom, leaving a trail that these two

would have had no trouble following. I sent Destructo Boy to get our neighbor Su, as a distraction for him so he would stop screaming; she came over and not only did a great job of diverting him, she mopped up the floor while I mopped up Mini Diva.

Once the torrent was under control, I could see that she had a small but deep gash that would definitely need a stitch or two. So I dumped Destructo Boy with another lovely neighbor, and begged a lift to the MIU with yet another lovely neighbor.

The nurses were lovely, and technology has moved on: Mini Diva is glued up rather than stitched up. Apart from a headache, cured by chocolate, fizzy pop, Calpol and sleeping in Mommy's bed, the only after effect is filthy hair that she is not allowed to wash for 5 days.

A small price to pay for such an excellent topic for the ''what I did in my holidays'' speech.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

The Purpose of Stash

We're hopefully zooming down to Kent on Sunday to ditch the kids at Nanny's for a week, as long as Ingrid the Volvo is amenable. Other than enjoyment for the kids, there is an actual purpose behind arranging time out of the maternal slammer on licence, but more of that in another post at a later date.

It so happens that Sunday is also the birthday of one of my SILs, and she is having a celebration. We can't simply do a drive-by jettisoning of the kids; well, we could, but it seems a tad impolite seeing as how we don't get down there often.

So began the quest for a suitable gift. DH suggested that since we seemed to have so many knitted scarves lying around, why not give her one of those ? knowing that one of them has indeed been knitted for her, since he'd selected the yarn.

I don't think that men truly understand the concept of having a stash. That scarf is part of the Xmas stash and is intended to be her Xmas gift. If we use it for a birthday gift, then it's no longer part of the Xmas stash, and what will we give her at that time ? Let alone that it's actually quite a warm August and woolly scarves are for winter.

Fortunately, stash comes in handy in times of gift crises like this. I headed up to my wicker chests full of fabric acquired randomly with no project or purpose in mind. This is what I selected from the jumble:

I unearthed the sewing machine, and then had a cup of tea - balm for any troubled soul - to engender the correct mindset:
  • I will be patient
  • I will take my time
  • I will do it properly.
I almost added 'I will not curse like a sailor' to the list, but a reality check got the better of pious aspirations. One must ensure one's goals are achieveable. Repeating this mantra, I set to work. By the end of last evening, I had produced this:

It is the front of a cushion cover in a traditional patchwork design called the Frienship Ring, Aster, or Dresden Plate.

Inside it, along with the cushion pad, will go a mix of herbs to aid sleep: lavender, hops, camomile, jasmine, lemon verbena, rose petals, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon sprinkled with a few drops of essential oils: camomile, lavender, benzoin, sandalwood and the tiniest smidge of May Chang just to 'lift' it. These are marinating with orris root as we speak.

Today's task is to complete the cushion: affix a back and seam it all together. Sew the herbs into a muslin pouch and insert. Sounds simple, doesn't it ?

First, I shall go perform the ritual to re-affirm the mantra: the kettle's on.

Monday 9 August 2010

RAK Extraordinaire

I have never been the recipient of a rampant act of generosity from anyone other than my immediate family and my oldest friend. Until this weekend, that is, when I received an overwhelmingly kind email from another friend, which was an offer to cover the cost of a safety assessment for my soaps.

This person had made the offer before, but I didn't take it seriously, thinking that they were just being nice. The email I received this weekend was somewhat more insistent this time, and reiterated that it was a no strings gift.

Well, I know the saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth, and you'd think it would be all too easy to snatch off their arm before they changed their mind. But I didn't.

I didn't because such a large random act of kindness is really not something I've experienced, so I wasn't sure what I thought about it, or possible consequences. I also didn't want to feel under an obligation. Mainly though, I don't think I deserved it.

I have decided to accept this incredibly kind and magnanimous largesse, and thank the Source that I have a friend like this.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Summer Soaping

I was recently made aware (thanks to Megan and Mimi) that I don't mention my soapmaking activities very often on my blog.

I'm not quite sure why this is, since my soap has quite a few fans, and I am proud of it; perhaps one aspect is the privacy barrier (or should I say secrecy) that seems to surround and permeate the actual soapmaking process when it comes to the makers.

There is plenty of generous and helpful advice about the generalities and sometimes some of the specifics of formulating a soap, but when it comes to recipes and safety assessments, people stay stumm. This is perfectly understandable, of course, when they have spent barrowloads of time, money and sweat working out their own version of soapy perfection; but it can be wearisome when one is pretty sure one is re-inventing the wheel.

And here is some of the batch I made today - amongst other (secret) ingredients it contains sesame oil, and is scented with YlangYlang and Patchouli. I really dislike the smell of patchouli, but I use it because my DH likes it, and I know of some few others .... The color derives from alkanet, and will not only lighten but turn more purple than blue after curing:

I'll probably call it 'Malayan Midnight'.

Thursday 5 August 2010


'Procrastination is the thief of time'.

If I didn't have the interwebs I would get so much more done. But then, I would be far less well-informed about all kinds of incidental oddments in the universe. But truly, for someone as nosy as me, the internet is an absolute timesucker, and as a choice, is a no-brainer when the other main option is cleaning out the morass of mingled muckheaps that is currently the children's bedrooms.

So while I've been waiting for my lye solution to cool down, I've checked out my friends' blogs, clicked on some of the blogs on their blog rolls, found the pattern I want to knit Mini Diva for Christmas (except I'll have to find out how to add a Fun Fur trim), matched the 6 balls of pink Sirdar Luxury Soft Cotton DK (picked up for 50p a ball in the Franklins sale) to a lacy bolero pattern, and am also on my third wash of the day.

So tired out by my exertions, I'm off for one of these:

Except that mine will not be so anaemic, as it'll be Assam, and in a much nicer - and more importantly - bigger, teacup.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

2nd Ravelry Anniversary

August 3rd, 2008 was when I joined the amazing online knit/crochet community that is Ravelry, it having been recommended by my friend Ania. I was just starting to get back into knitting again after a 30-odd year hiatus, as I wanted to knit Mini Diva a cardigan for school, being unable to find anything in that particular odd and unusual shade in the shops.

I've made new friends, found out more about old friends, learned lots of weird and wonderful things not at all related to knitting, discovered at least 3 hand-dyers with fabulous colors: Mimi (and I take all the credit for setting her feet on the path to dyeing addiction), Laura of Abstract Cat, and Joy of The Knitting Goddess; and have wonderfully improved and honed my knitting skills.

I have progressed quite a long way in these two years, from this Orangutan sweater (my first attempt):

Via this:

The first school cardigan in Patons Fab DK :Jade - and you can see the color is quite an eyeful.

And via 54 completed projects, to this, completed today:

A cabled tank top for Destructo Boy, for school, using Stylecraft Special DK in Midnight; the pattern is Sirdar 1912. The downside to his uniform color is that navy is dark, and hard on the eyes when knitting at night by the flickering, dim light of an eco-bulb.

Saving the planet is so inconvenient.