Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Made It 2013

If you are not interested in knitting, crochet or sewing, LOOK AWAY NOW.

I've made a lot of things this year.  Lots of bloody baby grows for a start, as well as two skirts for me, numerous things for the children, accessories, jumpers, massive blankets, everything.  Except I haven't made some of the things I wanted to make.  I didn't manage to knit from stash every time; in fact, the stash grew exponentially, and is still growing.  Stuff I did make from stash didn't take as much as I thought I would need - I made a lovely cowl last night; less than a ball of Rowan Big Wool used, now what do I do with the rest?  I didn't knit from the queue much.  I got a few things done, but mostly  I made stuff I wanted to wear or give away, sneakily adding them to the queue just before casting on.

Some photos:

Noah's welcome to the world blanket.

A skirt for me - measure twice, cut once, use a safety pin to hold in the extra three inches of fabric.

Handmade Hallowe'en.

A dress for Lucy.

Lucy's birthday blanket.  

A dress made from fabric chosen by Lucy.  It looked much better than I thought it would.

The smallest socks I can be bothered to make.

Cape Town socks, pts 1 and 2.

Cape Town socks, pt 3.  The purple shrunk like a bugger (non-machine sock yarn - WHY?), so they now belong to Lucy.

Simon's socks.

Emotionally distant, solves crimes by itself.

Conspicuous by their absence: a welcome to the world handmade gift for baby Robin (the blanket I was working on was just too annoying, so I am going to give it to Lucy for her 6th birthday, and make him something else); Christmas knitting (my family apart from my daughters and husband do not deserve handmade stuff); Hattie's Birthday Owl Blanket (suffered from being addictive to make, so was put away, half finished, in February and not resurrected until after her birthday); anything for Simon apart from socks (tall men do not get knitted for - thirty inches of grey knitting is boring).

There are more photos on my Ravelry page, which can be found here: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/sljuls?set=2013n&view=thumbnail

And for those of you who read this far (good Lord, why?), and aren't on Ravelry, there are photos on my flickr page here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juliaclare/

Sunday, 29 December 2013


Last Sunday of the year.  Last pair of photos of the girls of the year.  Funny.

I'll be doing it again next year; I know how pleased this must make you.  I was going to write a long thing about how much the children have grown, and all they've learned, and all I've learned from being their mother, but really, who can be bothered to do all that naval gazing, much less write it all down.  My children have taught me lots of things, and I hope that next year will be as much fun and as much chaos as this year has been.  Indulge me; I've put the first pictures from this year here too, just for contrast.

January: Lucy in her onesie, watching Tangled.
December: Lucy the big girl angel, very well behaved and beautiful.

January: Hattie in a rare moment of contemplation.
December: The grumpiest angel in the whole church.  She was very good during the Christingle, but resented wearing the halo, and discarded it as soon as possible.

I don't really think there's anymore to add to this.

Portraits of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.  And on and on and on, until they beg me to stop.

Saturday, 28 December 2013


It's been a funny sort of Christmas.  The children are having a great time, as is my husband; I am full of snot, and suffering from a very unpleasant tummy bug of some description.  I thought it was an extreme reaction to pseudoephrine, but after all this time, it can't possibly be; I haven't eaten properly for 4 days, and certainly can't face alcohol, so it's a great start to the New Year diet.

We've been trying to do family things, as it's so rare for us both to be off; yesterday, we went to see Frozen, which was fantastic.  It would be nice, just once, please, for a change, to have heroines with realistic body shapes, but apart from that, the film was lovely, the children absolutely loved it, and I may have cried a couple of times during the film, particularly at the sisters falling out bit.  Hattie, who hasn't been to the cinema before, sat on my lap for the duration, and was very excited, scared, happy, devastated and happy again at various points in the film.  She cried and cried and cried at the sad bit, but as it's immediately followed by the happy ending, got a bit confused.  She absolutely loved it, as did Lucy, and it was very refreshing to see two girls sorted things out for themselves, with the love interest just there to do the grunt work.

We were supposed to go down to Brighton today to see Simon's aunt; the family have gone, I'm here on my own, utterly shattered and completely broken after getting up, taking a wash out, putting another wash on, then making tea and toast.  I think I might just be forced to sit in front of the TV and crochet some more owls.  

Friday, 27 December 2013

Read it 2013

It's unlikely that I'll read anything else this year. Maybe an Agatha Christie or two, or perhaps I'll start "The Goldfinch". Anyway, here is the list of all the books I've read this year, with illuminating short reviews.

The Wild Places, Robert MacFarlane – gorgeous in every way
Bones are Forever, Kathy Reichs - rubbish
Tea Classified, Jane Pettigrew & Bruce Richardson - not very well written and too long
Falling Angels, Tracey Chevalier - too long
The Cleaner of Chatres, Salley Vickers – a bit soppy
The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin – thought-provoking
The Labours of Hercules, Agatha Christie – proper Christmas reading
Tigers in Red Weather, Lisa Klaussmann – not sure what it wants to be
Wildwood, Roger Deakin – devastating and illuminating
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeannette Winterson – devastating, poor woman
Where D'You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple – loses its way towards the end
Mountains of the Mind, Robert MacFarlane – gorgeous, I love him
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn – gripping, but not good
Sense and Sensibility, Joanna Trolloppe – bad in every way
The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry – very Irish
The Book of Summer, Emliya Hall – not very good
The Patchwork Marriage, Jane Green – predictable
Casting Off, Elizabeth Jane Howard – super
Confusion, Elizabeth Jane Howard – super
Marking Time, Elizabeth Jane Howard – super
The Bad Cook, Esther Walker – supper
Lifesaving for Beginners, Ciara Geraghty – poor
The Sorrows of an American, Siri Hustvedt – desperate
Sparkling Cyanide, Agatha Christie – strangely comforting
Frost at Morning, Richmal Crompton – can’t remember (damns with faint praise)
The Novel in the Viola, Natasha Solomons – poor
The Morville Hours, Katherine Swift – incredibly reassuring
No One Has Sex on a Tuesday, Tracy Bloom – how did this get published?The Light Years, Elizabeth Jane Howard – super (I love her)
The Private Patient, PD James – satisfyingly horrible
Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, Dervla Murphy – brilliant
Starlight, Stella Gibbons – not as funny as CCF, but good
The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy – can’t believe I’ve not read it before
American Gods, Neil Gaiman – funny and horrible
The Newlyweds, Nell Freudenberger – good, but a bit depressing
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson – pretentious
Vacant Possession, Hilary Mantel – desolate
The Gardens of Good Hope, Marian Cran – very much of its time
Dodger, Terry Pratchett – easy to read and funny
Hedge Britannia, Hugh Barker – leafy
Ines of My Soul, Isabel Allende – conquistador-y
Middlemarch, George Eliot – well worth an occasional re-read
The Rose Labyrinth, Titania Hardie – very bad indeed
Otter Country, Miriam Darlington - glorious
Raising Girls, Steve Biddulph - disappointing
In One Person, John Irving – riveting
Dead Heading, Catherine Aird – funny and satisfyingly gory

48 books. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Term is finished, and I have a stinker of a Christmas cold, just in time for tomorrow.  Massive doses of Lemsip, vitamin c and paracetamol are called for; along with hot toddies, hot chocolate, mince pies and hibernating.  We're back from a couple of days in the ancestral village, and now locking ourselves in the house until Boxing Day; the cranberry sauce is cooking, the turkey is brining itself, the chestnuts are being heated up in chicken stock, and the turkey giblets are being turned into stock for the gravy tomorrow.  All is domestic bliss.  For the moment.

From our "travels":

A cafe has opened up opposite my parents' house, and we took the girls there the other day after feeding the ducks.  A babyccino each and a large slice of cake stopped all moaning and tantrums. It's a real gift to the village, even though it does feel funny paying for coffee and being able to see into your front room.  

A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.

Sunday, 15 December 2013


Not waving, drowning.  Ofsted, the end of term, the Nursery Christmas Concert, Christmas, the Nursery children, my own children, pantomimes, Rainbows, swimming lessons, parties.  It's all getting on top of me a bit.

Still, I had a fun morning with Hattie on Friday.

She was very annoyed with me when she discovered the milk froth on her nose thirty minutes later.  Bad mother.

We decorated our tree.  

We went to a pantomime at the local theatre; it was good, but the best bit was watching the Rainbows and Brownies getting very stuck in to booing, cheering and shouting "Behind You!" a lot.  Lovely.  Lucy was a bit emotional - tired, grumpy, hot and generally under the weather afterwards, so soft hearted mother bought the teddy from Tiger.  An extraordinary shop.  Lucy loves it, has christened it "Hope" and carries it around everywhere; something she's not really done before.

Roll on Friday.  Please.

Portraits of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


I can't believe that it's nearly the end of the year.

We've just been away for 24 hours in Dusseldorf, just the two of us, which is the first time we've been so far away from the children together.  It was lovely, even though I was missing my little ratbags by this morning.  My parents were looking after them, and while they said that the girls had been very good, they were in no hurry to stay.  So we played a bit, we tidied a bit and we watched a bit of Tree Fu Tom.

Big world magic GO!

A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Another day, another trip to Whipsnade.  It's Hat's birthday on Tuesday, so this was her treat.  She's going to three; I can't quite believe it.

A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Oh help! Oh no!

It was Hat's party today.  There were a lot children in our house.  I made a gruffalo cake.  If this was your Saturday, would you go out on the Friday night and get so drunk that you threw up in a bin?  Thought not.

I've done it.  I wrote in the blog for a whole month.  It wasn't always interesting or particularly profound, but I did.  Haemorraged readers, mind.

More, with photos tomorrow.  Hurrah!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Food bank

I went to Tesco today.  Shocking in itself, I know.  It's Hattie's birthday party tomorrow, and having promised a Gruffalo cake, I need to deliver, so masses of cake decorating stuff was needed.  Even after the great cupboard sort of last week, I'm never quite sure what I've got, and I don't mind doubling up occasionally.  After all, none of it goes off and I will use it.

As I went in, two women representing the Trussell Trust approached me to ask if I would be happy to buy something for the food bank, and put it on the table at the front.  The table was not very full, which was quite upsetting, even given how early it was, and as I left, I heard someone being rude to the women, which isn't very nice either.  

I don't know how I feel about food banks.  On the one hand, people need helping, and giving them food when they can't afford to buy it is a very good way to help.  But it is like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg - it makes you feel like you are doing something, but does it really help in the long term?  Surely we should go upstream, as Desmond Tutu said, and find out why people are falling into the river. Of course we need to pull them out as well, but why have they fallen in?  Is it this ghastly bedroom tax, which seems to be totally unfair, or is it the benefits cap, which is also unfair - of course you should be given less money on benefits than you can earn working, but raise wages to a living wage, don't pull the rug away from under the most vulnerable in society's feet.  

I am very privileged.  I am middle class, well educated, intelligent, relatively wealthy, married to a wonderful man who shares responsibilities with me and I'm white, which makes a difference, much as I hate to think or say it.  I have two perfect children who don't have learning difficulties or special needs - Lucy is a bit deaf, but we think it's a temporary thing, and both of us have the education, the will and the power to make sure she sees the people who she needs to see in order to help her.  As part of my commitment to actually living my faith, I am trying very hard to look at the world through other people's eyes, particularly at school.  I must try to remember that the parents of my children do not have my privileges, and when they wind me up, I must bear this in mind.  I must, to use that terrible phrase, check my privilege.  

If you are interested in food banks or the Trussell Trust, look here.  Jack Monroe writes very movingly about food poverty; you can find her blog here.  You can check your own privilege by looking in a mirror.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Honestly, I am so fed up of explaining to my parents how normal people look after their children.  Don't bring them to school if they had seizures in the night.  SERIOUSLY.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Short and cross

The worst part of the worst week of the worst term is over.  Book Fair on Monday, curriculum meeting on Tuesday and Parents' Evening tonight.  I've still got Thursday and Friday to get through, but the worst is over.  We made over £400 at the Book Fair, which is wonderful; what is less wonderful is my WET colleague letting the children take the books home without paying for them.  I'm going to have to do a whole lot of demanding money with menaces; and she won't be doing my book fair again.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Taking Stock Tuesday

Making: A Paper Dolls jumper.  Almost at the dolls now. 
Cooking: An orzotto.
Drinking: Red wine.  Lovely, lovely red wine.
Reading: "The Attenbury Emeralds" by Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L Sayers.  About to start reading my library books.
Wanting: A holiday.
Looking: For Gruffalo crafts for Hattie's birthday on Saturday.
Playing: Even more Simpsons Tapped Out.  Totally addicted.
Deciding: On my and others' Christmas present lists.
Wishing: For more energy.
Enjoying: Watching rubbish TV.  More ancient Simpsons.
Waiting: For tomorrow to be over.
Liking: Cooking.  I made two Christmas puddings on Sunday.
Wondering: Whether I'll get my own way about next year.
Loving: My cuddly Lucy.
Pondering: Where next with babygros?
Considering: How to get the hell out of Dodge.
Watching: Candlelight flickering.
Hoping: That Hattie means it when she says that she won't wear nappies when she's 3.
Marvelling: At the speed at which children grow up.
Needing:  A wee.
Smelling: Supper.
Wearing: My amazing Forbrydelsen, self knitted jumper.
Following: An inclination.
Noticing: The end of Autumn.
Knowing: Things are going well.
Thinking: About absent friends.
Feeling: More relaxed than I have been.
Admiring: My New Hair.
Buying: Books.
Getting: Slowly a bit tipsy.
Bookmarking: Gruffalo stuff on Pinterest.
Opening: An Etsy shop.
Giggling: Over a Radio 4 adaptation of ~"Guards! Guards!"

Feeling: Thankful.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Handmade Monday

No pictures yet, but I am dangerously close to completing the Paper Dolls jumper.  Let's not get too excited though, it will probably take a couple more weeks.

I don't know what's happening at the moment; all I do is eat, sleep and work.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The collect for the day.  The will was stirred up, the fruit was plenteously brought forth and the reward will be a Christmas pudding on Jesus' birthday.

As per tradition, we all stirred and made a wish.  Hattie wished for a cat, a dog and a hampner; out loud, of course.

A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


I do not wish to mention the craft fair again. The good bits are that the product I make doesn't go off, so I don't have to chuck it and I paid for the table with earnings.  Oh well.  I've opened an Etsy shop now, so watch this space.

Apart from that, it's been an ok sort of day.  Stir up Sunday tomorrow, so I've getting all the Christmas pudding ingredients together in preparation.

Normal service will resume on Monday.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

is the Ealing 135 Christmas Fair.  I think I am as prepared as I'll ever be.  I can't find my nice wooden pegs; so will have to improvise hanging tee-shirts from the clothes airer.

My new hair is a bit too straight - I like it, and shiny and new is better than bushy and scruffy, but it is too straight, and I can never be bothered to straighten it, so I suppose it is a temporary problem.

I finished The Testament of Mary last night; a disturbing read, with lots to think about.  I think I'll have to re-read it soon.  I recommend it to any one interested in Christianity, atheism, how to start a religion, religion generally, or who has a particular interest in reading about details of crucifixion.  I don't care what the Roman did for us; what they did to us and to each other was utterly barbaric.  Do look the book up, it is jolly good.  You can buy it from here or here (probably).  I recommend Bookseller Crow on the Hill, by the way.  Via the magic of the internet, I can buy from a lovely independent supplier.  Hurrah for the internet.

I've put a round up of all the photos of the baby gros here; it's on Facebook, I don't know if you need an account to see it or not.  What I need is a website.  New Year's Resolution #1.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Randomly on Thursday

Reading: The Testament of Mary by Colm Tobin.  It's very good.
Knitting: Not at all, just more and more sewing.  I'm going to make a cream snood-y type thing for the winter.
Watching: Ancient episodes of the Simpsons.  Nice, thoughtless rubbish.
Eating: Handfuls of Smarties as a reward for all the sewing.
Plotting: Things to do after Saturday, 1:30.  First on the list is to be a bit more interesting and to stop losing readers at such a horrible rate. 

Please come to the Fair!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Final few days

I am aware how boring I am (now?), but I've really only two things on my mind at the moment.  The sewing pile is getting steadily smaller, and I am nearly ready for Saturday morning; fingers crossed I sell at least five.

The other thing is school, which ebbs and flows between good and rotten; not so much my children, who are lively and hard work, but not doing too badly, but all the STUFF around them. Today has been interesting.

Writing the blog every night when I'm tired and preoccupied is a bit of a chore.  

Things I want to write about:

CS Lewis
The bloke on the radio this morning suggesting that there should be no prosecutions for crimes during the Troubles.
The books I'm reading.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Monday, 18 November 2013

Sunday, 17 November 2013


More parties.  Hattie was invited to a party by one of her friends - a friend that she has made independently of us, and most importantly, independently of Lucy.  It was at a soft play area in Brent Cross; as these places go, it wasn't too bad.

She excelled herself with four ham sandwiches, two egg sandwiches, a packet of crisps, five pieces of cucumber and a slice of cake.

Lucy.  A future career beckons?  I hope not, but she had a great time, banging away.

Simon took this one at our friends in Ealing. 

The social whirl continues.

A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


1. Still sewing.

2. Simon took the girls to ballet and then Lidl.  We then had a 20 minute conversation about whether it is a pepperami or a pepperoni.  

3. Hurrah for articulate, assertive children.

4. I was in the kitchen at Messy Church today.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

5. Only a week until the Ealing 135 Christmas Fair.  I'm not stressed about it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Stuck record

I'm still sewing. I need an assistant.

This writing every day in the blog thing makes for some properly dull posts.  Sorry.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Sewing for Britain

It's good to do a bit of shouting sometimes.

Tonight, I am sewing baby gros.  So far, I have half made a Christmas pudding.  There is a lot to do and not very long to do it in.  

I'm getting a good sewing callous on my thumb.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


I like to think I am a feminist.

I believe in equal rights, in equal pay, in equal shouldering of burdens - childcare, mortgages, elderly parents.  I don't mind having the door held open for me, why not, but will open the door for others.  I like baking, cooking, sewing, knitting, home-making (not cleaning), but also very hard sums, painting and decorating, science and technology.  I generally wear skirts and boots, rather than trousers.  I changed my name out of convenience - I went from one man's name to another: to be really rational, we should have picked a new surname and used that.  I work out of necessity, but also out of choice - I know that sounds strange given how much I dislike my current role, but honestly, I do love teaching and helping to construct our new curriculum is reminding me how important it is.  I am not a lesbo-leninist or a separatist; those people scare the hell out of me.  I feel strongly that HER-story is a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of language, and reveals a deep and basic lack of education.  And if that doesn't age me, nothing will; I think that particular concept has fallen completely out of fashion. I don't think young girls using their naked bodies to sell things is OK, particularly as I don't believe that it is always their idea, and I'm not entirely sure that I agree with slut walking, as it uses a male perspective of what is sexy.  Just because I choose to wear a jumper doesn't mean I'm not sexy; actually, a grey v-neck with a ketchup stain on the front is just as sexy as a bra and knickers.  Particularly my bras and knickers.   March, sure, talk about your experiences, absolutely, but why dress like that?  It's far more comfortable stamping in flats than tottering in heels.

I am just so, so sick of women, some old enough to know better,  saying "oo no, I'm not a feminist, it's such an outdated word".  You are a feminist if you take full responsibility for the decisions you make, if you believe in equality, if you want an end to the "blame the victim" culture, if you believe in a woman's right to choose, if you vote, if you want the Daily Mail sidebar of shame banned.

If you don't like the word, grow up.  It's here to stay, so shout it out loud and proud.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Business Tuesday

I'm sure I've quacked on about my "business" before.  Anyway, here are two baby gros I am making for the Ealing 135 Fair on Saturday 24th November.  Perfect for Christmas!


Monday, 11 November 2013

Five Short Things About Today

1. Park Royal is a dump.  A massive, confusing dump.

2. I have a lot of sewing to do before the Ealing 135 Fair.  

3. A shark is a stupidly fiddly thing to sew.

4. If you are trying to get an 5-10 Oyster card for your 5 year old, it will take three sodding application forms to get it right.

5. I'm avoiding the sewing.  Can you tell?

Sunday, 10 November 2013


One of the many things that Hattie likes to do is show off.  She loves to make people laugh, and at the moment is practising different "faces".  This one is ANGRY.

Or constipated.

We were at Whipsnade today, looking at the new baby elephant - less than a month old.  I took some poor quality photos of him, as well as some of wolves, rhinos and things, which shall remain on the camera. 

It's not a bad one of Lucy, bit posed, but that's the only way she'll let me photograph her.  Vanity, vanity.

Photos of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Renegade Craft Master (Mistress)

This is where I went today: http://www.renegadecraft.com/london, which was a brilliant thing to do on a rainy Saturday.  It's always a brilliant experience spending time with crafty people, although it's quite depressing in other ways.  I'd really, really love to do some form of training in craft and design, just to be able to put some ideas down properly.  I can draw little cartoon-y pictures, but I've no real idea about anything else; shading is a big old mystery to me, as are fun things like screen printing and lino cutting.  One day I might even be able to make half a living from craft, although I fear it's unlikely.

The great thing this year was that some crafty types realise that people who go to these places like to make their own little items, so are selling make your own kits.  I've got three cross-stitch kits to work on, and I'm really excited about that.  I'll re-type that sentence: I'm excited about cross-stitch.

It's cheaper than going out.  Just.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Squeaking in

Today was slightly less damp than yesterday.  I suppose it's fair enough sending your child to school without properly potty-training her; why not get your child's teacher to do that?  After all, potty training is very hard, as is discipline, so get someone else to do it.

You can tell I've been drinking wine.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


If you spill red food colouring over the table and floor, it takes twenty minutes of mopping, cleaning, scrubbing and drying to get rid of it.  Ask me how I know.

Apart from that, today has been uneventful.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Nothing like a big blank page to stop all thought and creativity dead in the water.  Also, nothing like trying to write in the blog every day for a month.  

Randomly, on a Wednesday.

1. I am knitting away like mad, and making little or no progress on any of the projects.

2. The Ealing 135 Fair is looming, and my stock is currently about three baby-gros and a bunch of mixed size tee-shirts that are at the Post Office collection place.  Bum.

3. We've only been back at school 3 days, and I'm already ready for a holiday.

4. There's the horror of the Nursery Christmas extravaganza to get through first.

5. I need to make a Christmas cake.

6. Hattie will be 3 soon (3!), and wants a Gruffalo Party, followed by an Elephant Party.  Both of these require thinking, planning and doing.  The elephant party is a trip to Whipsnade, and she's agreed that it should be just family.  At the moment, for her presents, she wants a lion, a penguin, an elephant and a pretend cloud. 

7.  I can't seem to stop buying fabric, and now am the proud owner of two metres of wool blend tartan, and can finally make a green/blue tartan skirt for myself, in time for tartan to be in fashion again.  (Winter 2017) 

8. It needs lining, which is a world of worry and stress for me, so I am leaving it in a carrier bag and ignoring it for the moment.

9. I'll be able to wear it with my Peerie Flooers vest - estimated completion date Winter 2017.

10. I should probably start doing my Shred again before embarking on even more adventures in handmade clothes.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Waving, not Drowning

In the course of my daily life, I am often (never) asked what I've learned from this great journey we call EXISTENCE.  So, for those of you (us) floundering around helplessly in the dark, here is clarity from years of experience.

1. You cannot control other people's behaviour, you can only control your reaction to their behaviour.

Even when it comes to your children.  They are humans and they make choices.  They make ill-informed choices, and they don't understand the consequences of their choices, and need help understanding why they shouldn't make the choices they make, but we cannot control their behaviour, just guide it.  This is why I maintain a zen like calm at all time, especially when tired, fed up and hungry.

2. One adult should never have to apologise for another adult's unkindnesses.


3. Ask for help before you start drowning, not when you realise that you can't swim.

Tricky one for me.  I prefer not to ask for help, but I've realised that, especially when working in an environment I find difficult, I really need to ask for help as often as possible.

4. Work less, play more.

Again, a tricky one for me; today, I was doing my filing while the girls had supper.  Now they are in bed, and I am, what? Typing a load of rubbish onto the internet.

5. Find something you enjoy doing and do it.

I knit, hand sew baby gros, write a blog, make my own clothes, make children's clothes, cook, read, occasionally garden and spend time with people I love.  This makes up for my husband travelling, tantrums, doing the washing, washing up, tidying and working.

See?  Do those things, and life should be easy, straightforward, stress-free and filled with well behaved, happy children.  Just like mine is.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Handmade Monday

It was my birthday last week, Hallowe'en, and yes, I am very old, thank you Hattie. We generally bring in cake and things on our birthdays, and as mine was in half term, I thought I'd do something a bit different. Also, I like to show off.

The traditional food of my "people" is generally pretty unsophisticated: meat, pies, stews (Potjiekos) and very, very sweet stuff like fridge cake, melktart, koeksisters and Malva pudding. It's good food, suitable for working on the land and easy to make in bulk to feed the five thousand.  I have a rather wonderful book that I rescued from the throwing out pile called "Meat on the Menu in Southern Africa", and it contains such gems as "Royal Hamburger Pie" and "Mint Glazed Carrots with Peas"; I will doubtless have a go at something from the book - maybe the Roast Venison.  First, shoot your buck.

Anyway.  Ouma gave me a recipe from our family archives a couple of years ago, and I love making it.  It is a fridge cake, and toe curlingly sweet, with half a pound of icing sugar and a big box of glace fruit in it.  It also has a entire block of butter, and three partially cooked eggs, as well as Marie biscuits and desiccated coconut. It is entirely delicious, and very, very bad for you.  I used one of my precious boxes of Moir's Glace Fruits, including glace pineapple with a cherry in the middle, and unidentifiable green stuff.  I'm not going back to Cape Town for the foreseeable, so I'll have to get it sent to me from now on, along with the Provita and the Peppermint Crisps.
Great Aunt Nellie's Fridge Cake

Chop up a lot of glace fruit, measure out 450g of icing sugar, 450g of coconut, and smash up a packet of biscuits - if you can't find Marie biscuits, plain biscuits like Rich Tea should be OK.

Melt a 250g block of butter in a pan, adding three well beaten eggs to it in order to partially cook them.  (At this point, I could feel Ouma standing beside me, poking me for not turning the heat off or beating the eggs before chucking them into the melted butter, resulting in a bit of a scrambled egg mixture - hem)

Put the icing sugar into the egg/butter mix.  Stir like crazy, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into a flat dish, cut into small squares,  then put in the fridge for at least 12 hours.  If you line the dish with foil, it will make your life easier once it welds itself to the bottom.

Eat and try not to think of the calories.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

43/52 & 44/52

Oh blimey, another fortnight gone.  I forgot all about the photos last week; just went clean out of my head.

Here are the girls in the bath at my parents' house.  They don't usually look this, well, odd.

What a big tummy my little Hattie has!  She's still very much a toddler, not a child yet.  She clings to her nappies, dummies and buggy with a tenacity I can only envy, and drives us mad being a BABY (GOO GOO LILLEEE).  Lucy is, of course, far too grown up for all that stuff, and only just puts up with (urgh) SHARING (ugh) a bath with her (ugh) sister.  Mind you, she can still throw a tantrum that utterly, utterly floors me.

Norwich, Tuesday 29th October.  Simon's still travelling there once or twice a week, so we decided to go there with him in half term.  I still like it as much as I did in the summer holidays, but now term has started and I'm stupidly busy, I don't feel that we have to MOVE right away from horrible, horrible London. 

Mayfair, Thursday 31st October.  It was my birthday, and I had what I thought was a free glass of Prosecco at Pizza Express waiting for me.  Turned out to be a free bottle, which Simon and I shared, so the afternoon was a bit of a riot.  We wandered down from Mayfair to Buckingham Palace, then to Victoria, and actually, I do love London.  Very much.  Next time, we'll go to the South Bank and on the Eye.

Oh, in case you're wondering, Hattie has decorated herself with stickers, including a rather fine "mit-arsh", which is what you do when you are nearly three and have been given a big sheet of stickers to play with.  Happy days.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Hallowmas and other things

We had a Hallowe'en party today for the children.  Lots of dressing up, lots of running around screaming, and, rather gratifyingly, lots of tears at going home time.  It's All Souls Day today, the Day of the Dead, so I suppose we could have called it a "Dia de Muertos" party, but that just seems a bit too Islington for me; so Hallowe'en it is, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

I like to think I excelled myself with the pointless and fiddly craft this year.

These are from Mollie Makes magazine, and I enjoyed making them very much, despite them being far, far more fiddly and irritating things than I normally care to make.  I was going to do something clever like stick them in a hoop, or even onto a cushion cover, but in the end, I just blu-takked them to a window and left it like that.  

Another massively fiddly thing, but much appreciated by the children and parents at the party.  I only make them once a year, for Hallowe'en, so I suppose it's alright to take a lot of trouble over it all.

We've got another 28 days to prepare for Hattie's party.  Batten down the hatches, and prepare for THE GRUFFALO.  

Friday, 1 November 2013

The animals around us

My beloved children have introduced me to several new things: goldfish, screaming tantrums over the wrong sort of swimming towel, the concept of being good later at home, not out at the swimming pool, mice and headlice.  Another attack, how wonderful.  We are combing through with masses of conditioner at least once a day; Lucy is still infested, Hattie appears not to be.  Which is understandable: Lucy washes her hair at least three times a week, Hattie likes to keep lollipops and bits of sweet in hers.

I've mentioned the mice before; they are getting bolder and bolder, coming out in the middle of the day while I'm listening to Radio 4 and reading the Guardian (middle class) and I'm sure I see them all the time, although I suspect I'm mistaken.  I hope so.  I don't want to kill them, as I don't think that that will do any good; clean, clean, clean and fill any holes in the floor with bits of plastic.

The fish were Lucy's 4th birthday present, and she is intermittently very fond of them and neglects them horribly.  We have had several deaths, and a couple of trips up to Syon Park to replace them, but recently we have discovered a baby fish living amongst the weeds and stones and murk at the bottom of the tank.  Hurrah, and we hope it will survive, as baby fish don't always.  I've shown the girls, which might have been a mistake.

We also had a squirrel on the bird table a few weeks ago.  We had a friend to play, who rejected all food except strawberry jam sandwiches, and these were partially chewed and then discarded, so I threw them onto the table, expecting the massive magpies and pigeons to descend, but once the girls had gone away, we were visited by a large grey squirrel, who seemed very keen on the jam.  I took a few blurry pictures and instagrammed the hell out of them; now it just looks like a grey blob surrounded by magnolia leaves.

Hattie would like a "hampner" for Christmas; I suspect she will be disappointed, but maybe next year. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

WIP Wednesday

The great stash sort of a few weeks back has completely paralysed me.  I can't seem to write anything or start anything new, and I've just been half-heartedly plugging away at the WIPs ever since.  I did go to Ally Pally and a couple of bits and bobs and books came home with me, but generally, I've been working on the WIPs and not really making a huge amount of progress.  Good news though; the stash sort resulted in the appearance of a new WIP, a blue and grey sock I'd started but never got on with.  Boredom probably.  

Anyway, that is my life in knitting at the moment.  Not thrilling.  Actually quite dull.  Even for knitting.

The List:

*NEW* Blue and Grey Socks *NEW* - nearly at the heel of the first sock.
Elephant blanket - one stripe made.  Second stripe started.  Colours chosen for second stripe.  Just got to get on with it.
Peacock Mittens - one finished, bar the thumb (still)
Idlewood - still yarn
Owl Blanket - I've made another 2 owl squares, just 34 to go!  Hurrah. 
Hexipuff Quilt - run out of stuffing
Paper Dolls - ran out of yarn.  Bought more.  Put it in a bag.  Ignoring.
Peerie Flooers - nyeh
Ringo and Elwood mittens - nyeh
Alphabet Blanket for Noah - done
Granny's a Square Afghan - done

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


There are 10 weeks left until the end of the year.  How strange.  Of course, I should know this, it's Autumn, it's raining, it's cold and it's starting to get dark earlier and earlier.  I've taken 40 odd, and odder, photographs of my children, and I'm starting to realise that there is a pattern.  I have to take the photos quickly, with little thought to framing, background or anything else.  iPhone photos are good enough, and when you use Instagram, they even look sort of, well, good.  I'm tempted to make a book of them, just to show the girls.

Most of my photos are taken at parties.  These are from Laura's party on Saturday.

Butterflies and extreme cake decorating.  Sums it all up really.

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013"

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


A moment of madness a few months ago.  An impulse purchase that stayed in the cellophane, in the cupboard, for several weeks.  A sudden decision taken at the end of September.  A surprising realisation that I actually quite enjoy exercise.

I bought the 30 Day Shred from Amazon after reading lots about it on various blogs and in various places.  A good friend has done it a couple of times and feels happy, someone whose blog I like has done, and is doing it again.  I started doing it on the 30th of September, and have now done 12 days of it, not in a row, but mostly in a row.  I missed out this weekend (too hungover) and the first Friday (no childcare) but apart from that, I have been fairly good and done it.  Level 1 has been a horrible nightmare to begin with, and Day Two was utterly horrific, but recently I've found that it's got much easier, and much more do-able.  Weirdly, I find the first couple of exercises worse than the later ones - push-ups and jumping jacks are not things I like to do.  I still find the combined legs and arms things a real stretch, and tend to do the legs rather than the arms - partly down to a strange shoulder pain brought on by carrying Hattie and partly down to natural laziness.

I've lost precisely no weight at all, which is depressing really, and if anything I've put it on, but I measured myself after 7 days and I had lost 4 cm from my bust, waist and hips.  So the scales can do one frankly.

The whole family are joining in too.  A rare photo of me exercising, and it's only because I know it is getting smaller that I am showing a picture of my tummy.  You will notice that no one is phoning it in.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


My friend moved to abroad a while back, and has married and had a son.  This son is, according to Facebook, rapidly becoming a world champion tantrum thrower.  It has been raining in London all day, and we like to make our own entertainment, so here is the Croyden family re-enacting an epic tantrum.

Sharp eyed readers will notice that I am in the background.  I have not taken any photos this week.  Whoops.

"Photos of my children once a week, every week, in 2013".

Monday, 7 October 2013


I couldn't face sitting in front of the computer last night.

Lucy on Saturday, having lost her first tooth.  She has since lost the neighbouring one, and now has a gappy smile.  The tooth fairy has brought her £2 and a Little Miss book;  exciting but also distressing.

We took the girls to a Japanese festival in Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon.  This is a self-portrait with Hattie on my shoulders.  She is transfixed by the drummers of the Okinawa Sanshinkai; I feel a tribute to the music of the people of the Ryukya islands coming on.

"Portraits of my children once a week, every week, in 2013">

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

WIP Wednesday

For some unfathomable reason, I'm working on the Paper Dolls jumper again.  I love Kate Davies.  I love the way she marries traditional and contemporary, humour and wearability, whimsical without being twee;  I love her designs inspired by the natural world and the Shetlands; I love the way she uses British breeds and pure wool; I love the way she writes and I admire her determination to recover from her stroke a few years ago.

What I do not love are instructions that start "with cc1 and a 3.5mm circular needle, cast on 234 stitches using i-cord cast on and join for working in the round".  That they are then followed by "Work in corrugated rib for 2.5 inches" seems to add insult to injury.

Looking at my Ravelry notes tells me that I started this project in January last year, and have been either working slowly at it, or totally ignoring it for the last year and a half.  The only way to finish it is to knit it, so that's what I've been doing and just look at the progress!

The really obvious stripe is thanks to me not buying enough yarn (imagine!) to finish the project.  I am not very happy about it, but ripping out all that work? 

I've still got 3 inches to the underarms, and I need to decrease more - I have a slightly distorted body image and could probably have gone for the size smaller.  Or even the one below that. 

I love you Kate Davies, but "knit in thin grey wool until completely bats" is NOT FAIR.

Paper Dolls - trundling along
Peacock Mittens - one finished, bar the thumb
Hexipuff Quilt - nearly 150 puffs made, how terribly exciting, and the quilt is rectangular, which is pleasing
Owl Blanket - needs to move up the list, Hattie's birthday is the 3rd of December
Elephant blanket - baby not deigning to put in an appearance, so it'll be a Christmas present.  2014?
Peerie Flooers - I'm going to buy the yarn as a birthday present for myself from myself.  Sod it.
Ringo and Elwood mittens - were going to be a Christmas present, but I think that's unrealistic
Idlewood - still yarn
Alphabet Blanket for Noah - done
Granny's a Square Afghan - done


Your husbands might be good, but mine is clearly the best.

We went to Yarndale at the weekend.  Yarndale is a festival of wool, sheep, alpaca, knitting and crochet. My husband does not knit or crochet.  Yarndale is in the Yorkshire Dales.  We live in West London.  The distance between the two is 250 miles.  He drove up the M1 on Saturday and down the M1 on Sunday. Neither of the girls care to sleep in the car anymore.  We stayed in bunk beds in a family room in a Youth Hostel in Haworth.  My husband is 6 foot something.  The average Youth Hostel bunk bed is 5ft 10.  My husband finds it difficult to sleep in the same room as the girls.  I gave all my cash to the childminder, so he gave me all of his.  He didn't mind me singing Jerusalem as we drove through little villages and towns.  I spared him Wuthering Heights though; I'm a good wife.

Enough proof?

Yarndale was absolutely fantastic.  So many happy fibre addicts, carrying bags and bags of things; so many interesting and inspiring exhibitors; so many animals.  I was rather restrained and only bought two things; after spending such a lot of time with the stash, I was disinclined to spend money, and bought the wool for a baby blanket and a bowl.  Little but expensive.

There was yarnbombing in the trees:

There were crocheted blankets: 

And most excitingly, there was Lucy of Attic24 fame.  

I was a proper fangirl and couldn't speak to her at first, so came over with my own little Lucy from Attic27, and shamelessly used her as a way in to a conversation.  She was totally overwhelmed by the whole experience, but should be very proud of herself.  It was a fabulous event, and I'm really looking forward to next year.  Let's hope they pick a different weekend though so I can run the Ealing Half Marathon as well. 

As if.