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I knit, I sew, I run, I look after children, I cook, I complain.  Sometimes all at the same time.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Film reviews with Julia

A film review for a Tuesday morning.  Why not?

Over the weekend, Simon went out to Shoreditch, and as I don't do East London by night, I stayed at home to babysit.  By the way, it totally is babysitting when you are sitting on the sofa drinking tea, eating biscuits and watching television, even it is your own biscuits and your own children upstairs asleep.  As part of my ongoing massive crush on Benedict Cumberbatch, I'd recorded Starter for Ten, David Nicholls' film of his own book.  Love knows no limits.

I've written before about my love of David Nicholls' work, and this one was well up to his usual standard.  Take an interesting idea, fill it with cardboard stereotypes, fail to round any characters out, and generally waste a stellar cast on an ultimately very poor film.  If you haven't seen it, the plot is roughly: boy from Southend dreams of being "clever" and goes to Bristol University, leaving behind his mates from childhood; meets beautiful girl, meets another beautiful girl, is utterly useless with both, joins quiz team, makes a massive mistake, finds self, goes back to University, first beautiful girl accepts his behaviour as part of him, kiss , the end.

All the interesting bits are surrounded by marshmallow - he's the first in his family to ever go to University, he's always wanted to know STUFF so has a fabulous general knowledge, and he's a real asset to a quiz team, but of course the quiz team captain is a massive snob and a stupid, know nothing Tory.  Of course, the first beautiful girl is an anti-apartheid campaigner, screaming to ban the bomb; how else would we know it is set in the EIGHTIES?  Of course his mate from back home, the really rather good Dominic Cooper, is on the dole and working for cash at the same time.  Of course the beautiful posh blonde is from Hampstead.

Actually, there was one good bit that genuinely made me laugh out loud.  Dear Brian (the hero) is becoming politically active, and writes a letter home to his best friend filled with things about FATCHER'S BRITAIN and how difficult things are for the WORKING CLASS, which his friend reads while working at his grim job in a badly lit arcade.  It's the lack of response that makes it funny; it doesn't sound that promising written down.

I watched Death Comes to Pemberley a few weekends ago, and I guessed what would happen within 15 minutes; same thing here.  DULL.  CLICHED.  BORING.  The cast is absolutely cracking, however, really, really good actors, and Mark Gatiss pops up as Bamber Gascoigne at one point.  I've read other reviews, and other people seem to think it was quite good, even "a spirited coming of age tale that remains charming and witty even as it veers into darker territory", so either I am far more intelligent than the average reviewer or I missed quite a bit because knitting a twisty cable is far more demanding than I thought it would be.  Take your pick.  

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance

It's been One Week, One Pattern, um, week, and I've been wearing my favourite pattern - the truly gorgeous Coco by the truly gorgeous teeny tiny Tilly.

I have 7 Cocos now, in all variations: a fleecy pink top, a Breton top, a spotty top,  a smoke grey (green) and white striped top, a blue striped dress (see below), a cherry print dress and a bright red dress (not blogged).   The pattern is so quick, I can make it in about 3 hours, including cutting out and finishing.  I still want to make a dark grey dress, a pink and white striped dress, a houndstooth one after I saw this one on the internet and possibly another fleecy top - perhaps in cream.  And of course, I really want to knit one; but I've got to make a dent in the stash first.  The dresses are so easy to wear as well, and this stripey one has been getting all the compliments recently.

Lucy took this photo.  It's from today, just before I started baking and icing the birthday cake.  I hate icing.  The cake tastes great, but it looks interesting.

More photos:





Blue stripes

Smoke grey (ie green) stripes

What fun, and I'm getting better at taking pictures of myself that hid my double chin.  Next year, I might even have a stable of Anna dresses, or Emery dresses, or a Lilou dress from Tilly's book or even TROUSERS.  Better get back to the running.  And sit ups.  And the dreaded Shred.  

So, thank you, lovely Tilly and thank you, Handmade Jane.  Hurrah for handmade.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

And it called our calculation perfect love

This time, six years ago, I was in labour with Lucy.  I'm not going to go into grisly details - no one needs to know that, and anyway, I don't really remember it all that clearly.  I had a semi-elective caesarian in the end - semi elective, because I was offered the chance to keep going for another 12 hours or so and then having a c-section, or just having one on her due date.

Fast forward 6 years, and these are my children today.

It was Hattie's first day at Nursery today.  Apparently she had a brilliant time, but can't remember what happened; she's learning fast.

It's been a pretty smooth road for the last six years; both girls eat most things except macaroni cheese, and I can clearly remember sleepless nights because they were so rare.  They've both been very healthy and are happy, confident, outgoing girls.  Lucy, in particular, is very keen on school, which has made everyone's lives easier, and her reading is really outstanding.  Hattie has an original mind, as I may have mentioned before, and told me this morning that I should go home after dropping her at Nursery, and she would see me at the weekend.  We are so blessed.  I don't like to go on and on about things being great, but indulge me just sometimes.  

I think I might be a bit drunk.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

That is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all

Term has started, and things are starting to settle down.  I don't know why, but the last few weeks of the summer holiday are just so chaotic and stressful and everyone gets on everyone else's nerves, so I lose the will to write anything.

The girls went to tennis camp for the last few days, and I managed to get some sewing done - in fact I made two Coco dresses in two days, which is fast, even though it's a quick pattern.  I say made, when I mean that I sewed everything together and only finished them yesterday, listening to Benedict Cumberbatch as TS Eliot in Tom and Viv.  What a depressing story; it was brilliantly done, so that you had intense sympathy for both of them all the way through, but actually ended up disliking both of them very much indeed.

This week, I am mostly wearing the same thing, because it is One Week, One Pattern week, the brainchild of Tilly and the Buttons, and this year run by Handmade Jane, so all the bloggers, all the sewing, all the fun.

I'll do a roundup of outfits at the end of the week, bet you can't wait.  I like this idea; the only problem was getting together enough Cocos so that I can wash them occasionally and not wear smelly clothes.  

Hattie and I are off swimming.  I asked her what she wanted to do for our last Mummy and Hattie morning, so now I have to do it.  I'll miss our mornings together.  She has an original mind - at the moment she is making a big experiment which involves wrapping a scarf around a chair and pulling it around the kitchen.  Having an original mind makes her both loud and tiring, but never, ever dull.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

An inspiration to us all

I am a Sewcialist, which means that I like to sew and tweet and blog about it.  I am also a Socialist, but that's another story.  This month, on the Sewcialist blog, we are thinking about people who inspire us to sew more, better, faster and using different fabrics.

So here are my inspirations. All photos are shamelessly TAKEN from their websites; bad writers borrow, good writers steal.

First up, Ysolda Teague.  I was a knitter before I sewed anything.  So my favourite designer is a knitwear designer, and so there.  My blog, my rules.  I've actually met her three times, twice at Loop in Islington, once with Lucy who pushed a lot of women out of the way because they were annoying her. Gosh, I love Loop.  I haven't been for ages, how depressing.  It's such a LONG way from Ealing though, and I'm so lazy.

Look.  Look at this beautiful shawl. So gorgeous.

This is on my list for this Year of Projects.  So gorgeous.  Look at the detail at the neckline.  

Ysolda has a whole heap of ebooks and real books for sale.  You can buy them on her website, and while they aren't for absolute beginners, they are perfectly knittable.  

Another knitter; Kate Davies.  Kate was an academic for years, but sadly suffered a very stupidly early stroke a few years back, and hasn't been able to work in the same way since.  Happily for her and us, she had a parallel career in knitwear design, and that is now what she does.  I've been reading her blog for years and years, and love her work dearly.  

Isn't this beautiful?  Kate's blog can be found here.

Roisin who blogs here is a maker and a doer, and a very creative one at that.  She loves a mad print, and has really inspired me to just go for it; I shamelessly, shamelessly copy her style where I can.  Shame I can't wear mad prints to work; the paint and the glue and the children mean I really don't want to ruin my precious handmades.  

Recent inspirations: 

See what I mean?  Such a creepily weird stalker.

Another designer - Tilly Walnes.  I missed the Great British Sewing Bee last year, what with going to Cape Town twice in a month, but I'm making up for lost time by stalking her shamelessly and making thousands and thousands of Coco tops.  I met her too, but was too shy/felt it would be too fangirl to take a photo, but she took one of me!  In my Coco!  SCREAM.  Anyway, you can find Tilly's blog here.  

Look how titchy she is; part of her skill is being able to make something that suits a teeny weeny little thing like her and a much more solid person like me.  

Finally.  She's not a sew-ist.  She's not a knitter.  She's a BAD COOK and a very funny lady indeed.  Esther Walker writes about her adventures in cooking here, and is always worth a read.  She inspires me to cook more, even if I don't.  She also inspires me to write about things in a hopefully amusing way.

So there you go.  Who inspires you?

Monday, 18 August 2014


If you have children of any description in your life, this particular phenomenon will not have passed you by.  There's something irresistible about the combination of children of a certain age and making things for the wrist; when I was at school, it was plaiting and knotting bits of embroidery thread to make sometimes beautiful friendship bands.  Anyway, plaiting and knotting is too old school for today's modern 7 year old on the go, so the LOOM BAND, a small elastic band that looks like something you used on your braces at night to keep your teeth in place, has been developed.

Basically, when making a loom band bracelet, you are making a chain of elastics in a herringbone pattern.  It's not hard, just a bit, well, dull and repetitive.  During this tutorial, imagine your loving child or children gazing at you in adoration and admiration.  They will, in no way, be bored, shouting at you that you are doing it wrong or whining that they want to watch CBeebies instead.


1. Buy a packet of three thousand bands for about a pound.  Immediately lose at least half of them under the sofa, in between the seats in the car, inside the washing machine.

2. Google "how to make a loom band", sit through a twenty minute YouTube video of a 9 year old American girl whizzing away.  Cry quietly.

3. Put an elastic band over your left hand thumb and forefinger.  Remove, put in twist, replace, ping elastic band across room, repeat.

4. Put a second loom band over the first, then pull the first over the second, gaze in awe at what you've just done, celebrate with small glass of wine.

5. Repeat until you have a chain of ten or so elastic bands dangling between your left thumb and forefinger.

6. Lose all feeling in the tips of your left thumb and forefinger.

7. Attempt to transfer loom band to other hand.  Ping whole thing across the room. Finish glass of wine, pour another.

8. Finally get loom band onto right hand, and continue to make the chain until it's about 25 elastics long.  Measure it against child's wrist.

9. Spend ten minutes fitting the hook to both ends.  Place lovingly on child's wrist.  Wait for praise or even thanks.

10. Finish bottle of wine.

My husband has just taught our eldest daughter how to make a loom band; I have shown her time and time again, but it's only when he did it that it took.  Weasels the pair of them.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

We're the heroes of this story, we don't need to be saved

Weeks 31, 32 and 33.  It's all gone by in a bit of a blur, so the pictures are from random points in the last three weeks.

Biarritz, Biscarrosse, Disneyland, the Natural History Museum.  The fun never stops at our house.

Portraits of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

There's Magic Everywhere?

Ah Disneyland Paris.  Where the American "how can I make your day better?" knocks up against the French "your day is of no interest to me."

It's really, really easy to be terribly world weary and cynical about Disney, Disneyland and all things princess, so I won't be.   Encouraged by my neglectful parenting, the children love all that stuff, although they were distinctly underwhelmed about the idea of a trip to Disneyland.  The reality of the thing was different, and they had an amazing time, and so did we.  The looks on their faces when we met the actual real Belle was worth the cost of the admission alone, and the firework display was fantastic.

The place itself is nearly 25 years old and parts of it really look it now.  Alice's Amazing Labyrinth is decrepit; the Queen of Hearts is supposed to jump out at you twice but doesn't, just shouts away from behind her hedge.  The paintwork is, in some places, distressed, in a manner that suggests neglect rather than a planned vintage look, and the attention to detail, which is meant to be the Disney THING, is sorely lacking.  There was a MASSIVE dandelion growing through Peter and Wolf's house in the Land of Fairytales, it just needed pulling out, plus why no Frozen ice palace?  There was fake snow, why couldn't they knock up an Elsa and Ana castle?

The trouble is, once you notice the flaws, it's really difficult to go back to being wide-eyed and naive about the whole thing again.

Thinking about it, all this degeneration was in Fantasyland, which is the most popular area, with the princess castle and the teacups, and the inexplicably popular Dumbo ride, and the rest wasn't too bad.  The Space Mountain ride properly scared both of us; it was far more extreme than we thought it would be.  The children were too small, and I was very glad that they couldn't ride it.  We did manage to smuggle Hattie onto the Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster, by going on it half past 10 at night when it was properly dark and no one cared anymore.  She was only a centimetre or two too small, so I don't think it mattered that much.

Some tips, in case you fancy this with your children.

Wait until they are at least 3, and able to appreciate it.  Hire a buggy if you don't have one; Hattie was a major pain in the bum the first day and a delight the second.

Stay in the Park hotels and buy a package; it ends up costing the same as a three day ticket.

If you stay in the Park hotels, you get access to a few of the rides early - from 8am until 10am.  This is why Simon and I were able to go on Space Mountain, and why we took the children on the teacups twice in a row.  We were also at the Small World ride first, and were able to have our third trip around the world in one of the first boats.

If you want to meet the Princesses, and why wouldn't you, send someone to queue up to get a time to see them, and take the children on the rides yourself.  It's better if it's raining, as no one wants to go on anything, and we were able to go on the Land of Fairytales boat ride, the funny little train, Snow White's adventure and Small World in the 45 minutes Simon was queuing up.  He gets 3G in France, so wasn't bored, and we were doing stuff and having a great time.

Meeting the Princesses is the best thing in the world.  A tip we were given, but left too late to follow, is to use your meal vouchers to have a meal with the princesses and other characters, and then top it up with actual cash money.  Apparently, this is well worth it, as Belle and Cinderella talk to everyone in the room and have photos taken and sign autographs, and it's magical for children.

Get up and going early, go back to the room for a sleep, then go back for an early meal and then a wander around the Park in the evening before the Disney Dreams Fireworks Extravaganza.  This was how we walked straight onto the Phantom Manor House ride, which terrified us, but the girls weren't bothered, and the Big Thunder Mountain.  Normally, both of these things have massive queues.

Try to leave your critical, adult brain at home.  Yes, most of the Princess stories are massively sexist and give unrealistic expectations.  Yes, Mickey Mouse isn't real.  Yes, it's a massive marketing exercise designed to strip you of all your cash present and future.  But it's also good fun, and if you can stand it for three days, go.

I'm not being sponsored by Disney, but wouldn't it be nice if I was?

In other news, I signed up to write for this site.  Do you think I am good enough?  I'm having a massive crisis of confidence about it.

PS I pinched the picture at the top from here, simply because none of my photos turned out that well.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

It's knitting Jim, but not as we know it

A knitlist update before I go off on one about Disneyland.

For the girls:
Hattie's cardigan.  DONE.

As you can see, the stripes do not match, although the pink ones are predominate, as per instructions.  She is indifferent to it, the little weasel.

A pair of simple socks each - DONE

Lucy's are a bit patchwork - I made one in the red/yellow/orange colourway, then realised that I was going to run out of yarn before I could finish the second sock, so I put the pink from Hat's socks in as the heel, finished them up with the original colourway, then had to finish the edging with green.  Lucy likes them not matching, and I've promised her a pair of orange socks that do actually match to make up for it.  Plus, two whole balls out of stash, just like that.  Gone!

Ringo and Elwood mittens in grey and brown
One of these for each of them - yarn bought, Lucy's is next on my list, after I've finished the sock.

For me:
Garter Yoke cardigan in that lovely blue - no progress
Finish the Wisteria jumper (not much to go) - too hot to think about
Finish the other Peacock Mitten in time for winter - will do in September
Coraline cardigan in either that same lovely blue, or in the other blue I've just impulse bought - Not yet
Petrie top with navy and blue stripes - still thinking; will need to buy yarn for it, and I don't want to do that
A knitted Coco (no link, because I am going to make it up and channel Tilly) - got some yarn for it
A pair of socks - didn't get to start in France, but will try to do them in the car in the next few weeks.

For Simon:
Reknit an unwearably large jumper - I've had a look in his cupboard, and chosen the one to reknit.  I need to take measurements and search out the pattern.
More socks. - I've done the toe and a lot of the ENORMOUS HULKING MAN FOOT of the first one.

 I stage my photos so well, don't I?


Owl Obsession for my new godson - got the yarn....
Hexipuff Quilt (I'm aiming to get 250/500 done by the end of June 2015)
The Weather in the Streets (should probably be finished by June) - weather written down for the past three months, nothing else done
Finish the bloody Elephants blanket - on hold
Lucy Attic24 Ripple Blanket - not started
Nicholas' POP blanket - I've done a few squares, but am being very slow about it

Myrna Cardigan

I'm not doing too badly at the moment.  The fact that I started it a month ago has made me far more focussed than I was last year.  Maybe it will all get done this time.  Knitting and crochet are far easier to find time for; I can do them in front of the TV when the girls are in bed, plus they are more sociable - nothing says LEAVE ME ALONE, I'M CONCENTRATING more than a whirring sewing machine. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What I did on my Summer Holiday

Back home again.  At least all the weather has stopped and there's no hurricane hanging around; it's lovely and sunny in Ealing today, which helps.

I don't intend to bore you rigid with 188 photos of our holidays, or a blow by blow account of everything we did.  If you have young children who are easily amused, I can highly recommend getting a boat to Bilbao (24 hours! You get a cabin! Get an outside one though!), driving to San Sebastien, going Eurocamping near Bordeaux and then bombing up the motorway to Paris and Disneyland.  

San Sebastien.  We were very relieved that the girls ate as much as they did; it would have been no fun at all going to Europe's gastronomic capital and having to hunt down a McDonalds.

We sat on the sea wall and watched the sunset.  After I looked over the edge of the sea wall to the drop to the rocks below, the girls came off the sea wall and sat on our shoulders instead.

The lake by our campsite.  Lovely and still; warm and shallow; bit like an enormous bath.  We managed to find a deepish bit - the water came up to my waist and the girls could paddle around with their rubber rings.

The Dune de Pyla.  Largest dune in Europe, apparently.  Quite tricky to climb too.  Good for the legs though.

A way to keep two children out of trouble on the beach.

The big bucket going splosh.  Fun being underneath, but not very nice if it takes you by surprise.

The smallest slide.  Hattie went up and down it about 50 times.  A day.  For 7 days.  

That will do for now, because other people's holidays are boring.  Also Eurocamps aren't sponsoring me, so I'm not going to say to much about it.  It was basic, but perfectly nice.  Better than I thought it would be.  We had a terrific time.