Friday, 30 August 2013

FO Friday

Finally.  It is finished, done, bordered and the ends are sewn in and snipped off, and it is finally finished.  The birthday is in a fortnight's time, and I have made her present beforehand, an amazing feat.

For those who are interested: every single bit of DK/light worsted in the stash, often hand-dyed (by Lucy and I), often remnants from other projects.  Quite a lot of small balls were used up making this, so I couldn't make it again even if I wanted to.  I love it, Lucy loves it.  I used a 4mm metal hook, and a 4mm wooden hook, when I lost the metal one.  I hope she'll love it for years to come.

The list:

Alphabet Blanket for Noah - done
Granny's a Square Afghan - done
Elephant blanket (one stripe half made)
Peacock Mittens
Owl Blanket
Hexipuff Quilt (nearly 120 puffs made, how terribly exciting)
Paper Dolls 
Peerie Flooers
Ringo and Elwood mittens 

I may end up lengthening the list at this rate.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Things That Hattie Says

Harriet is very much a "say what you see" child.  Literal minded in the way that little children are, forthright in her opinions, and delightfully uncensored.

"You too old to walk"

Last week, we went to visit my parents; my French grandmother was staying for ten days.  She is in her late eighties, very infirm and finds it hard to climb the stairs.  Hattie went to kiss her goodnight, and as she struggled out of her chair, informed her that she couldn't walk as she was too old.  Fortunately, Granny adores Hattie and thought this was hilarious. 

"Why you have a beard?"

A visit to her godmother, involving a bus from West Ealing to Acton Central.  On the bus home, we sat next to an old lady going shopping in Ealing Broadway.  She was very pleasant, and seemed to genuinely enjoy chatting to the girls about this and that, and certainly didn't deserve Hattie's question.  Again, Hattie got away with it, as she found it funny.

"You having a BIG baby"

A friend is 7 months pregnant, and, thanks to excessive amniotic fluid, is measuring ahead of date.  She is hot and bothered and uncomfortable, and was a bit non-plussed by Hattie's tone of wonder and surprise about the size of her bump.

It's a bit "2 year olds say the FUNNIEST things", I know.  Hattie is genuinely interested in the world, and when she wants to know something, she asks.  When something interests her, and she wants to tell everyone about it, she does.  Social graces can come later.

Monday, 26 August 2013


What do you mean, it's not Sunday?  I'm all confused by the Bank Holiday, and that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

We were in Norwich again last week, accompanying Simon.  At the moment, Norwich is filled with gorillas; giant fibreglass things that are to raise awareness of local charities and to provide a focus for bored children on summer holiday.  We saw a handful of these gorillas; I wasn't prepared to spend a very hot day traipsing around Norwich with two increasing bored little girls.

I did toy with the idea of putting all 15 gorillas here, but actually, I think you get a flavour of the day from these pictures.  And I think you get an insight into my children's essential characters.


Some portraits of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.

I am not as fat as I think I am

I made a skirt today.  I measured myself carefully, twice, wrote down the measurements, drew up a paper pattern, cut it out, cut out the skirt from the pattern, giving a half inch seam allowance on all seams, and the skirt is enormous.  I've had to botch it a couple of times, cutting off a bit of waist here and there, getting rid of fabric all over the place, and I'm still swimming in it (well, paddling).  Either I can't measure, or I've lost lots of weight recently, without either trying or noticing.

Anyway.  My skirt has been bubbling away in my brain for a while, ever since I read this blog post here.  I bought the fabric from Ditto Fabrics - blue and white spots and a very contrasting grey roses fabric.  I'll definitely use them again, fast service, gorgeous fabric.  I used a button from stash, and the whole project went from this:

to this

in a remarkably short space of time.  I spent about a month obsessing over reading how to insert a zip, and worrying and worrying, and it was only on Saturday when I got the sewing machine out to make bunting for Lucy's birthday that I thought "it's only sewing, just do it" and just did it.  Frightening for a bit, but I did it.

I'm very happy with it, despite it being a bit too big.  Hurrah.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I Don't Know Why She Does It

I've been trying very hard to fall back in love with London again.  Last Monday we went in to central London, to the National Gallery, and wandered around, looking at ART.  Lucy had requested a trip in to see the Tiger painting, so off we went.

There's a Gromit at Paddington Station.

The paintings were inspected, tea was drunk in the National Tea Rooms, then a quick scoot up Piccadilly to Whole Foods, where we had expensive pizza and sandwiches for lunch.  Another food event.    Hattie found a stick, and kept on waving it at people, pretending to stab them.  A charming child.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a bit of a haze.  I know we stopped in John Lewis for yet more food, and that my wallet was decidedly when I got home, but I'm just not sure what we did.  It must have been fairly painless though, because I agreed to do it again the next day.  We went to the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens - a magnificent sandpit with a pirate ship, water, swings, slides, exploring, climbing and very annoying musical instruments.

The girls vanished.  We were there for about two and a half hours; we arrived at lunchtime, ate massively overpriced pizza - one day I will remember to pack sandwiches - and then queued for five minutes before going in.  It was wonderful.  I sat and chatted with another mum, and watched the girls play.  They ran around.  They climbed, they made sandcastles, and they were almost totally independent for the whole time.  At one point, Lucy asked me if she could explore on her own, and I let her; heart in my mouth, but it was so safe that I felt that it would be good practice for both of us.  She came back after about ten minutes, and then we all went to explore.

I'm not sure this counts as a Great Adventure or not; as far as I'm concerned, my boundaries were pushed by letting them play completely on their own and by letting Lucy go off on her own for a while.  I can't say I wasn't worried, but it felt liberating for all of us to just get on with it.  She even felt brave enough to use the hand dryer, which is wonderful.

So there we are.  Two trips into Central London.  Both relatively painless, both relatively easy.  I'm still not completely in love with the centre - too expensive, too many people, too many stupid people, but I'm a lot happier than I was this time last week.

Hattie is a proper little urchin in this picture; Lucy is reading the Evening Standard.  Londoners to the bone.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Handmade Monday

Blackberry and Apple Jam

1. Take your two daughters blackberry picking.  The older one will help, the younger one will come too.

2. Try not to strangle younger daughter after she runs away up the towpath, very close to the edge of the canal.

3. Take children to Waitrose to buy cooking apples, as they are not yet appearing as windfalls in either Hanwell or West Ealing, which are the only places you are prepared to look.

4. Put all ingredients in the fridge and get on with other things such as mopping up accidents, trying not to shout, light crying and serious gin drinking.

5. After children are in bed, get all ingredients out of fridge, sterilise jam jars in a half hearted manner, find recipe, put younger daughter back to bed, drink gin.

6. Weigh ingredients.  Discover that the ratios mean that you now need to peel, core and chop 7 apples.  Cry quietly.  Peel, core and chop 7 apples.  Cut hand with peeler.  Drink gin.

7. Make jam in standard manner; bung everything in a pan, boil until setting point is reached - forget to place saucer in freezer prior to starting jam making, so test for setting point on bottle of vodka.  Contemplate drinking vodka.  Finish gin, search vainly for bottle.

8. Pour boiling hot jam into boiling hot jars.  Get jam on hands, tea towel, feet and work surfaces.  Curse gin.

9. Put lids on jam jars and photograph.  Bask in all round domestic goddessness and pour a small celebratory vodka.  Top up with gin.

Sunday, 18 August 2013


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

I took the girls swimming on Thursday.  

I don't think that I need to say anymore about these pictures.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

WIP Thursday

Well, it still just about counts as a WIP, as it is not bordered or backed, and therefore is not finished.  I am so proud of this, apart from a few little wobbles, particularly around the "Q".  I took one pattern, a massively over-complicated lace job, and turned it into a colourwork pattern, using only swearing, two colours and lots of wine.  I might even make it again, as there is a little boy who I think might like one for his second birthday - next May, so a long run up.

Right.  On to the next thing.

Alphabet Blanket for Noah - so close to being finished!
Granny's a Square Afghan (needs to be the next item, as it is Lucy's birthday in a month)
Elephant blanket (got to get going on this as the baby is on its way around the middle of next month)
Peacock Mittens
Owl Blanket
Hexipuff Quilt
Paper Dolls 
Peerie Flooers
Ringo and Elwood mittens 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Out of Love with London

What have Bristol, Frome, Norwich, the New Forest and Littlehampton got in common?  They are all NOT LONDON, and places where I have visited recently and thought, yes, I could live here.  I'm having a bit of an "anywhere but here" moment, with severe house and space envy.  It's not that our house isn't a wonderful place to live - it is, we're opposite a park, and it's big enough and we're not on top of our neighbours at all - but, but, but the other places are just better.  They aren't in London for a start.

I used to love London with a passion.  I lived in Rotherhithe, I could walk to work in the City (I didn't), I used to walk from Soho to Waterloo after a night out all the time, crossing the bridge by the Festival Hall, and nipping in for a wee as I went passed.  The bus stop was busy enough to feel safe, but never so busy that you couldn't get a seat on the bus.  We went to Othello at the National on our wedding anniversary, (I know! so romantic) and I had a terrible pang of homesickness and nostalgia.

But now it's just a terrible pain to get anywhere in the centre, especially with the kids.  I took them in at the beginning of the holidays, and everything we wanted to see was closed for restoration, or off sick, or had gone to Amsterdam.  And it was heaving with tourists, and the tube was ghastly, and Hattie was a massive pain in the bum, and kept running away, although Lucy was wonderfully behaved, and held either my hand or the buggy whenever she was asked.  The only good thing was the number of people who helped me with the children - taking the buggy if Hattie was in it, watching them walking hand in hand and sighing when she wasn't; someone even held the girls' hands on the escalator at Oxford Circus when I was struggling with the buggy.

The friends we visited in the West Country have houses that are same size or slightly bigger than ours, but with considerably bigger gardens, and costing considerably less.  Everything is within walking distance: we wanted to go to the Bristol Harbour Festival, and to traipse around central Bristol looking for Gromits, and we were able to park near the centre and walk around.  No getting on and off trains, up and down stairs and escalators, no buggering about with tubes.

We went to Norwich for a romantic mini-break; Simon works with Aviva and it was our 6th anniversary, so I went with him, and the girls had a sleepover with Granny and Grandpa, so we stayed in a hotel and went out for a meal, as well as having lunch together two days in a row.  I walked round and round Norwich, shopping, browsing, stopping for coffee, and everything was close and everywhere was walkable, and it was just, for want of a better word, nice.  There's an enormous John Lewis, and a Marks and Spencers, and a Waterstones, and what else do you need?

These small cities are very easy to live in and have a good life - big enough to be not villages or sleepy market towns, but small enough not to feel like totally anonymous places where you wouldn't recognise your next-door neighbour if he stood on your foot in Tesco.  I have bad house and neighbourhood envy at the moment.  Realistically, we're never going to move from Ealing.  We've got Lucy into an excellent school, we've got good friends and good neighbours, and, while Simon can work from anywhere, nice places to live tend to attract teachers, ending up with a shortage of jobs, so I would be stuffed.  Plus, I don't think that the difference between our outgoings now and our outgoings then would mean that I wouldn't have to work.  I think the thing to do is to fall in love with London again; to battle PEOPLE and go into the centre again, to wander around and perhaps have an adventure or two in the great outdoors, starting next week with a trip to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Cooking on a Monday

My husband is travelling a lot this week; he gets all the glamourous trips - Telford tomorrow, Norwich on Thursday and Friday.  So I've made a list of things to do and things to eat.  A list that is set in stone and there will be no deviations from the list at all.  

Scheduled for today is a recipe from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, Zucchini Cakes with Feta and Dill.  He loves a "z" does Nigel, hence zucchini, rather than courgette, but that slight incongruity aside, the cakes are very easy to make and taste fantastic.  Well, the raw mixture does, the cooking will have to wait until Simon has finished his work for the evening.

Vegetarian food for a change.  

For those interested, and why wouldn't you be, we have been into London today, and seen all sorts of things in and around the National Gallery, including a giant blue cockerel.  As Hattie said "Why that chicken there?  Why it blue?"  Modern art does not yet appeal.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

31/52 & 32/52

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

For one reason or another, I didn't manage to post this first picture of the girls from last week.  We'd been to the National Theatre, to see Othello, and when we got back, I was still reeling from the impact of the play. It's a wonderful production, and it will be in cinemas soon, so do try to see it if you can.

I don't know, you leave them alone with their uncle for one afternoon and you come back to tattoos and motorbikes.  They had a wonderful time.

Today.  A strawberry split at Eel Pie Island in Twickenham.  Very little went on her dress, but quite a lot went in her hair.  We're trying to encourage potty use at the moment; we have some successes, then some setbacks, then she does a wee on the pavement.  Oh well.

Also today.  Also Eel Pie Island.  I tried to take one without her looking but she decided to pose and give me her cheesy grin.  

A lovely day out, and thank you Uncle Jamie for our ice creams. 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

10 Things I Wish I'd Known About Camping

As one of Nature's indoor people, I am probably one of the last people you'd expect to enjoy camping and the outdoors.  We've just got back from a camping trip to the New Forest, which was my first since I failed to complete my DoE back in the olden days.  Actually, I think I managed to cope with living under campus in France a few years ago, but that was very civilised, with a fridge, electricity and proper beds, so apparently that doesn't count.

Anyway.  Here are some tips for other library-dwellers and people who enjoy the indoor life.  If you are a seasoned camper, please add anything I've missed.  And please tell me how the hell you found my blog.

It gets bloody cold at night outside, even after a warm day.  Take more than a thin jumper.  This is what those Pick n Pay tops and horrible trousers are made for.

Pyjamas and a summer weight duvet are not good things to take.  Much better to put your GirlGuiding blanket on top of 1 million other blankets and lie on them.  A sleeping bag would have been much better, although they make me feel completely claustrophobic and frightened.  

Sleeping on an airbed is comfortable enough until the other person gets up and you roll off.  Also, when the other person decides to let the air out of the airbed, kill them.

Take socks.  Lots of socks.  Preferably handmade, woollen socks.  Preferably with another pair of socks underneath.  

Ugg boots, or similar, less expensive rip-offs, are de rigeur when walking from the tent to the loo.  

Some form of plastic shoe is advisable when walking on British beaches such as Milford on Sea, Littlehampton and Rottingdean.  The same shoes need to be worn in the water.

Everything you take camping will need to be washed when you get back.  I had a bath and the water went GREY.  My hair hasn't forgiven me, despite two loads of conditioner and a hair mask.  I did shower at the campsite, but it didn't seem to remove more than the top layer of dirt.

Do not attempt to wear make up or contact lenses.  A quick brush of the teeth and pulling the brush over the curls is sufficient for campsite glamour.

Everything tastes better eaten outside; a bacon sandwich cooked on a gas stove at 7:30 am is wonderful.

Owls are loud.  

We had a wonderful time, though, and the children loved being outside and having lots of space to play and run around in.  I've even started planning what I need to take on our next trip; buying a tent would probably be a good first step.

Friday, 9 August 2013