Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Festive Knitting and Reading

This week I am really enjoying reading the final Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. I'm only a few pages in but it's rather gripping! I've been saving it for a while to treat myself, and this is just the right time to dive in.

My first pair of socks are going well, and I have cast on for another pair. This time for my tiddly toddler, a much smaller task! The red swatch is for the boys' bluejay cardis. After the socks I will be more than ready for a l bigger project.

Wishing you all a happy and holy Christmas, and joyful new year.


Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Book Review for the Brave

It's been a while since I posted, and I think last time I showed you the little blue pullover. Well here it is again!

This little guy is the reason I haven't been around: boy has he been keeping us on our toes! After Sausages had a nasty cough for two weeks little Bob got it, and it turned into bronchiolitis. I remember Sausages having it as a baby, but not this bad. It was a very scary time during which we watched our little man fight for each breath. I am so grateful for the support of the NHS. Our GPs and the local pediatric nursing team were absolutely wonderful, and our family were fabulous too. I'm really glad we decided to move to be near them.

I finally finished the Gilded Flicker shawl. This was a test knit for Jennie, but I finished it nearly a month after the deadline. After taking this photo I was able to pin the longer edge into more of a curve, and I'll take some action shots for you when it's dry. This is very elegant, and puts me in mind of Jane Austen. I did watch "Death Comes to Pemberley" while knitting it, which might be why! I will be sending it to live with my rather elegant cousin Adelaide as a belated wedding present.

In need of a quicker project before I embark upon matching Bluejays for the boys (one from the baby pattern, one from the child pattern, same yarn), I cast on my first ever socks! Knitting socks is one of those things I have always meant to do but never got around to, and I thought I would seize the moment. These are the Rye socks from the Simple collection by Tin Can Knits. These are the largest size. I don't really know what possessed me to knit my first pair of socks in big man size, but there we are. Hopefully these will be a Christmas gift, but I haven't finished the first sock yet. I have to say it has been a pleasant experience, and I am sure there will be many more socks to come.

Now for the serious part: I have recently finished reading a most interesting book, Why Perinatal Depression Matters, by Mia Scotland. I am quite open about the fact that since Sausages' birth I have suffered from post-natal depression. It is the reason for my switch from academic career person to stay at home mother. When I saw this book being published I was very keen to get my hands on it, mostly because I thought it might be a way to help people who have NOT gone through depression to understand what it is like. I think the book does an admirable job of this, even though it is a herculean task. The chapter headings are: Understanding Depression; Brains and Bonding; What is Perinatal Depression; Fathers; Everyday Psychological Wellbeing Techniques; and Recovering from Perinatal Depression. I feel that this breakdown offers a good account of the important aspects of perinatal depression. One of the main themes of the book is one I wholeheartedly espouse: the idea that today we are expecting too much from new mothers. Many traditional societies have a set period after birth during which the mother is required to do nothing but care for the baby and recover from the birth. This often involves staying at home, or even in bed. Family members will rally round and care for the rest of the family and the home, and even the mother herself, bringing her meals etc. In this country we love a television programme about births in the 1950s, when new mothers lived in the communities they grew up in, surrounded by experienced women they had known all their lives, who could step in if things were going badly. Today having a baby can be an isolating event, and there is a lot of pressure to get back to normal, do the housework, have dinner on the table when your partner gets home, get your old life back. People treat maternity leave like a holiday, rather than the essential time of recuperation, care and bonding that it is. This book also focusses quite a lot on perinatal depression in fathers, and at first I was a bit irked that it was such a large part of the book, but I was fascinated to learn about the behavioural and hormonal changes in men over time that Mia believes have led to a rise in perinatal depression in men. I would really recommend that professionals, friends and family supporting new mothers who may have perinatal depression read this book, and that mothers themselves do when they feel able. It's probably not a good book to read on a bad day. There are no perfect answers to the struggle with this illness, but understanding is a great weapon in our arsenal,along with self awareness and self care.

To read something more lighthearted after that I whizzed through Amish Knitting Circle Christmas: Granny and Jeb's Love Story by Karen Anna Vogel on Kindle. A sweet but not terribly interesting story, and a window into another way of life. Up next will be the last Terry Pratchett I think. I've been putting it off because I know there won't be more to follow it, but I feel worn away by the past couple of months and I think it will be just the tonic I need!

Lots of lovely things from me this week. Are you ready for Christmas? Are you celebrating another festival? Do stop by and let me know what you're making and reading, and how you take care of yourself!


Saturday, 28 November 2015

Winter Breakfasts

Since I am very much stuck under a sleeping, wheezing toddler this evening, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share with you a couple of hot winter breakfast recipes that we have been making a lot recently.

The first is our beloved breakfast oaties. As usual for me, not so much a recipe as a general suggestion! Mix a mashed banana or stewed apple with enough oats to make a stiff mixture, add chocolate chips or cinnamon if they take your fancy, and bake for five minutes, until the tops start to look brown. These are, I have to tell you, the bees knees when it comes to easy breakfasts. My boys love them!

The second is my dairy-free, gluten-free, no added sugar tropical rice pudding. This has measurements, so pay attention! Mix in your slow cooker:

1 tbsp coconut oil
50g pudding rice
1 can coconut milk
fruit (I use frozen mango and pineapple designed for smoothies)

Cook on high for about one hour to 90 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed into the rice. This is very much a hale and hearty, rib-sticking breakfast for sending the family out into a cold day. It also does good service as a hot pudding!



Wednesday, 11 November 2015


We are all sick this week, so there has been little knitting and no reading. I do however have this delightful Finished Object to share with the Yarn Along this week:

The pattern is the Christmas Morning Vest by Jennie Santopietro of A Lovely Homemade Life. I am sooo pleased with this, it will definitely be my go-to sleeveless jumper pattern from now on.

This was my first attempt at duplicate stitch, and I thought it was pretty bad. I'm going to label it "rustic" and run with it. The Harry Potter font charts are rather magical!

I found two tiny matching buttons in the button jar, so this was yet another project knitted entirely from stash. It's for Bob (what, you thought his name was Robert?), and it will be just the thing for him to wear to a wedding in Yorkshire next week. I have no idea what I'm wearing, but that's a whole other kettle of fish, right?

Hoping you have all managed to avoid the germs!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

A Quiet Moment

Shh! Bob is asleep next to me, worn out from his swimming lesson and eating an enormous lunch. I have knitting, coffee, chocolate and my laptop, and a few moments to connect with myself and the outside world before he wakes up and I dive back into our busy, crazy playtimes together. Sausages has started to do a few full days at school, and Bob and I are indulging our own little romance. Yesterday we spent a happy hour assembling and disassembling a four piece jigsaw of an elephant!

This little top for him is coming on quickly, although it has not been my priority project. I had to switch down needles to get gauge, and the fabric is dense, but I like it more and more as I knit it up. I'm looking forward to getting it on him!

This has been my priority project. It's the Gilded Flicker shawl, released yesterday. It's a pleasant knit, and I love the patterning and yarn, but I think I may be a bit too tired at the moment to knit lace. I keep making silly mistakes and having to rip back and reknit. Which is making me angry! It's going to be delightful when finished though, so I will persist.

I have just about finished Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. The biggest thing I have taken from this book is the prompt to stop before responding to a tantrum, put my own immediate frustrations to one side in order to deal with my children in the way I really want to. It has also raised a few issues for me regarding my own upbringing, and I hope this will help me to understand myself and raise my children to be free from my foibles. I'm thrilled to be reading Why Perinatal Depression Matters next, a subject close to my heart.

Pop over to Ginny's Yarn Along too see what everyone else is reading and writing. It's a great place to discover new books and projects!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Day Off

This week Sausages had no school on the Friday, so we did this!

Then we were very tired and had a sleep.

The end


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

My laptop is down this week, so I am blogging from Husband's desktop. This is quite exciting, since I don't usually get out of bed after getting the boys to sleep. Tonight Bob has gone straight to sleep, and Husband and Sausages are chatting in the dark. I feel a little bit giddy!

I'm still working on Sausages' hat, which is about half done, but I am also working on this cute test knit above (for Jennie, since you ask). It's a long, shallow, scoop-shaped shawl or scarf, knit with 4ply in a garter stitch based lace pattern. I love the lattice, don't you? There are an awful lot of charts for this pattern because of the shaping. so I'm glad we have half term coming up to give me a bit of knitting time!

I'm also still reading Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, but it's slow going because it actually requires my attention. I popped into the library to return my audiobook this morning and they had a big display of creative Christmas books in the window. I took two! The librarian did assure me that they had others to put in their place. When taking them down I held some tinsel. It's started, guys! None of the projects in Mollie Makes Christmas tickled my fancy, but the Kirstie Allsop one is a lot more detailed. It starts with a countdown to Christmas preparation that starts in October. Suffice to say I am waaaay ahead of her! There are quite a few gifts, both bought and handmade, tucked into crannies in my study to keep them away from curious little eyes.

I also chose a new audiobook thingy for in the car. I started it today in the regular post-swimming lesson traffic, and I'm enjoying it. I also picked up this flyer below, from the self-service machines in the library. There are a couple of authors I like listed, so lots of new things to try, should I ever be at a loose end for something to read. Hahaha! With a big pile of fiction and non-fiction always waiting to be read, that may never happen. A girl can dream!

What are you crafting and reading at the moment? Are you deep into Christmas prep or does the mention of the word this early make you grind your teeth? Don't forget to pop over to Ginny's to check out what other crafters are up to!


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Finish Everything! Cast-On Everything!

 More Finished Objects to share this week! I have finally finished the second pair of lego mittens. The smaller pair will be for Sausages, and the bigger pair for a grown up friend of his. This is real, ladies and gents, Christmas gifts completed and in the Christmas organisation box!

I have also finished my beloved green shawl. I fell madly in love with this while knitting it. The pattern is so lovely, with eyelets at increasing frequency. I was skeptical about the ribbed edging, but I really like the way the increases form stocking stitch panels at the points. I had about a half to two thirds of a ball left when I had worked the border, so I just played a little yarn chicken and carried on for a few extra rows before casting off. It totally worked. The yarn is Sirdar snuggly baby bamboo, int he discontinued colour "pixie green." It's sooo soft. The shawl is wonderfully large and drapey. I could hardly be more pleased with it! The photo below is pre-blocking (and pre-weaving in of ends, obviously!), and it's laid out on my sofa bed right now, so hopefully I will get some more photos of it at the weekend. I may never take it off!

I almost forgot to mention, but I will because it will tickle my mum and sister: I was knitting this shawl while we were away for my cousin's wedding celebration. We stayed at this lovely air-b&b site with a chalet for the grown ups and a big lawn for us to pitch our tent on. It was really really beautiful, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by golden fields in the heat of the summer. There was just one drawback: it stank! It was right next to a maltings and the smell was overpowering! It worked its way into the shawl as I was knitting it, and has remained these months later. I was so happy to finally plonk it in a bucket for a bath, and am very hopeful that the scent will be improved soon!

This soaker is based ont he popular Snapdragon pattern. I have added an anchor from a collection of gansey charts, and increased the length. This will probably be finished today, but unfortunately Bob has decided that he doesn't wear a nappy at night any more. I don't know what I'll do with it. Sell it? Pack it away in case we ever have more children? No idea. 

Having managed so many FOs, I have been struck down by severe cast-on-itis. This hat is a simple one with no pattern, just a number of stitches worked out by combining the gauge with the measurement of Sausages' head. It will match his school uniform, to keep him warm on the school run. It's knitted in squishy aran merino, which is ironic, given that the garment I am matching it to is crappy acrylic compulsory uniform. I also have a couple of Christmas gifts that I am itching to cast on, and two test knits that should be interesting. I love test knitting! I am keeping all gift knitting small this year. I feel in the mood for small, quick projects. Hopefully I shall have something next and interesting to share with my fellow knitters next week.

I am still plugging away at Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, but in the car have got back into audiobooks. I often find myself in the car with Bob asleep, waiting to collect Sausages from school. Awkwardly his pick-up time is right at nap time, but these things change so quickly. It's nice to sit and knit and listen to a story, even if it is just five minutes here and there. I have just finished Fear Not. It was quite good. It was a bit slow to start because at the beginning each chapter seems to be a different character and story line, but after the half way mark they all come together to create a thrilling story, with an unexpected twist at the end. It has the usual slightly naive style of translated Scandinavian works, but I'd definitely recommend it, and will keep my eyes open for this author again. Now I am half way through That Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It's so well written, I find myself feeling all the emotions of the characters. Or maybe that's just me feeling a bit soft right now! I picked this up from the library not on CD, but on a preloaded single story MP3 player type thing. I have plugged it straight into my car radio and away we go! It's a lot less faff than changing 14 CDs.

What are you reading and crafting this week? Please pop over to the Yarn Along and Watcha Workin' On Wednesday to see what others are up to!


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Finishing Up!

I'm hoping that if I start this post while Bob is having his lunch, and carry on topping it up in spare moments, I might actually be able to publish it when the boys are both asleep, if I can make myself stay awake. 

I have just finished reading Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini. It's about one woman's project to knit a beautiful Fair Isle jacket in a year. I really enjoyed it, it was a breath of fresh air. I now have to learn to knit Fair Isle, but I think my first project will be something a bit more modest. I'm thinking this hat, and I'm adding a yarn pack for it to my Christmas wish list. I've had the pattern for a while, and truth be told I'm getting a bit obsessed with it. I'm rubbish at colour selection, but I know I'll have to make the ground more green, because I'm an Irish lady not a Scottish lady. To my limited experience, Scotland looks like Ireland with all the greens toned towards brown. I'm a bit nervous about making the selection myself though!

For my next reading I have moved on to Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort. I have tried to read this once before, but I really struggled with the author's tone. It's a bit patronising, which is not helped by the very large print and spacing of the text. As I get to be about half way through I realise that this book must have been read by my good friend Katie, who has helpfully distilled Aldort's wisdom and imparted it to me without my noticing. Everything Aldort says I can hear Katie suggesting at some time. This book affirms for me a lot of feelings I have about how to treat my children with respect; about not denying their feelings; about listening to them. For example, the practice of telling a small child that they are not hurt, or that they are "tough," when they fall over has never sat well with me. With my own children I ask "are you hurt or just surprised?" For us this has worked really well. My children know that they don't have to pretend to be hurt to get my attention when they need a bit of comfort after a fall, and that their feelings are important, just like their physical wellbeing. Being surprised gets a hug if necessary, just as a scraped knee does. Often they say "no, I'm ok," and never feign injury, which I feel is a vindication of my practice. They also have no worries about concealing their own feelings to make me happy or to "be good," which is something that I feel is very important. More next week when I have finished the book.

Knitting wise I am still working on the Lego mittens for Sausages and my green shawl. I have also finished a pair of WIPs that have been waiting for finishing for some time. They were both in need of zips. For a long time I have avoided putting zips into my hand knits. I mostly knit for my boys, and the thought of them mashing the fabric with a zip made me feel a little weak. I have made the hoodie before, and added toggles last time. This time I didn't feel toggles would go with the yarn, so I bit the bullet and sewed in a Zip. I have deliberately not let the fabric quite meet over the zip in an attempt to prevent knitting entanglement. The colours are awful in the picture, but the yarn is blue and pink plied together, and the zip is pale blue. It's not perfect, but I thought it would be awful, so I am pleased with it.

The sleeveless jumper is a Debbie Bliss pattern. I'm not a massive fan of Ms Bliss, but I am pleased with this jumper. I used black plastic toggles and a fawn-coloured zip. The arm and neck cuffs are folded double and stitched in place. It's going to be comfy and warm and practical. I really wanted to make it "camouflagey," and the Moorland Aran really does the trick. I have a fair bit left over, and I'm on the fence about making a second one for Bob. Sewing on all those pockets wasn't my idea of fun!

Joining in with the Yarn Along, Watcha Workin' On Wednesday, and Keep Calm Craft On. Do let me know what you are crafting this week, I'd love to hear from you!


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Snatched Moments

I have been sooo busy over the last couple of weeks. I have been working to get the w1Da project ready for the Southampton boat show, and then to staff the show and provide accommodation and sustenance for the rest of the team. Plus Sausages has started school, which has been a bit bumpy for all of us! Today I'm snatching ten minutes between the school run and swimming lesson to join in the Yarn Along and Watcha Workin' On Wednesday!

I knitted one whole mitten for Sausages to find that it was a perfect fit...for me! Fortunately mittens are their own gauge swatch, and I didn't cry when I ripped it out and started again at a smaller size.

I am nearly finished with Campside, and I love everything about it! The yarn is so drapey and shimmery, and the eyelet lace is gorgeous! The border is a rib, and I'm not sure that's going to be the right thing, so I'm thinking I'll run a lifeline in advance. The shawl is so floppy, I'm just not sure a rib will suit the yarn. I'm finishing this as a little treat to myself, since it is really time for Christmas knitting!

I've just finished reading Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham. It's my favourite of her books so far, very suspenseful! I found this little gem at my mum's. It has no cover at all, and I have reinforced the spine with surgical tape. My mum and I have a few books in this condition. It isn't because they aren't cared for, more that they are very ancient and we enjoy reading them!

I was having a big grump last week, so I decided to treat myself to a little yarn dyeing! The base is a stunning lace weight alpaca/cashmere/silk/sparkle blend I picked up from Belinda Harris-Reid at Unravel this year. I don't like red, so this is the rainbow re-designed by me! I have attempted to dye this as a shawl grad, with a little maths involved. Who doesn't love a nice maths problem with rules and right answers?! Perfect for my grumpy brain. I can't wait to see if it works out!

Do drop me a line to let me know what you're reading and crafting, I'd love to hear from you!


Monday, 31 August 2015

Baking Time

Over the last two months Husband and I (OK, mainly Husband) have done a lot of work on our little home. The best thing for me is that we now have a lovely functioning cooker! Here are some recent efforts:

Tear-and-share from my standard bread dough;

Chocolate cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Nice and chocolatey, but too sweet. The garnish is a mask from some spiderman sprinkles Sausages insisted upon;

Chocolate cheesecake cupcakes from the same book, probably the best thing I have made from this book so far. These are tasty, probably helped by my leaving off the suggested frosting, which I find too sweet;

Texas Cornbread from Mums Know Best by the Hairy Bikers. This is a much loved classic in  our house with baked beans. If you want to make it and can't get creamed corn, I just whizz cooked sweetcorn in my blender. Highly recommended!

What are you enjoying cooking at the moment? I feel autumn around the corner, and the lure of hotpots, stews, pies and crumbles. I'd love to hear your thoughts!