Friday, April 29, 2011

Dressed like a princess

My Great Aunt Marjorie was an ardent royalist; if there was a tea-towel worthy event she had the tea towel and the biscuit tin, and possibly even the tea cup.  When she moved to a retirement home from her little house in Bungalowland, Bournemouth, among the things that she left were two massive binders of a 50 something part series of periodicals on every possible branch of the Royal family.  They came home with us and my sister and I spent hours pouring over every detail of the spreads of Diana's evening dresses ( many of which were lovingly recreated in pencil crayon for our paper dolls), or the Queen as a young mother, or working out exactly how the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester are related to the Queen and why Princess Michael is called Princess Michael.

It's left me with a random font of useless information about the Royal family and a deep affection for all things pomp and circumstance and so from the moment that I got up at Kitty o'clock this morning, the telly has been on to watch all the coverage on the beeb. It was a lovely day and a lovely wedding for a couple that seem truly committed to one another.

Just as H and I have no recollection of Charles and Diana's wedding (we were just 1), Kitty is unlikely to recall anything of today in her long term memory but that seems to be no reason why she shouldn't dress up and enjoy it.  And yes, that does mean that it's totally appropriate to eat breakfast in your pyjamas and tiara I'm sure that's what all the real princesses do ...
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And after breakfast and before the ceremony started we whisked upstairs to put on our wedding finery.  I went all out and wore the pair of jeans that fits me and a shirt which at that stage of the day had yet to be blessed with smears of various partially masticated foods, and Kitty, well, Kitty stole the show:
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Although her real name isn't Kitty (the fake name is for her privacy seeing as she isn't old enough to choose for herself) you knew it was only a matter of time before I found a good t-shirt with her pseudonym and what better occasion than a wedding.
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When it was chilly she had a red cardie to put on over the top, and she has worn both blue and white and red and white stripy socks at intervals.  With the tiara to complete the look I think she's definitely a fashion hit!
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I'm not sure what she made of the service but she loved all the horses in the parade, and as you can see it's a miracle any of the photos are in focus as she bounced around on Daddy's lap the whole time.
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This afternoon we had a street party in my road and as I had Kitty in my arms I haven't got a single photo to show for it so I'm hoping the neighbours will send me theirs soon.  We attempted to transform Kitty's buggy into the 1902 Landau by adding a little Union Flag helium balloon to the front and swags of red ribbon along the sides and then Millie (age about 7) nipped home and lent us two pink my little ponies to tuck on the front so that it was horse drawn.

We had a BBQ, Bucks Fizz, sandwiches, party food and cake and then we all lined up for a group photo for posterity.  A lovely afternoon and a great celebration.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Under blue skies

Well it's been quite a week. The unseasonal heat remains omnipresent and oppressive with my car thermometer hitting 27 and Kitty's bedroom egg glowing an fiery red 25 (and that's in the shade and with the curtains permanently drawn to bounce the heat back out again). When dressed appropriately and with easy access to showers, ice-cubes and the Cornettos with the raspberry sauce down the middle it's been pretty nice and we've been out and about to enjoy it.
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This week not only saw Kitty discover strawberries but also reach the grand old age of 7 months on 21st , and H and I turned 5 yesterday, 5 years of marriage that is, adding up to a wonderful 12 and a bit years together. The boy has been off work this week so we've been out and about in the sunshine.

Yesterday we went to the pool to cool off at the end of the afternoon; Kitty thinks swimming is wonderful and is starting to co-ordinate some forceful frog kicks, she's clearly turning out to be a little water baby like her Mama. H and I passed her back and forth between us so that we could both go on the water slide - and yes we're both 30 and we both think water slides are fun. Actually I think it might be that we've both got a bit bigger than the last time we went on a slide and the added momentum made it a lot faster than I was expecting. It'll be a few years and another 25cm before Kitty can come on the slide with us but I think she'll love it.

In all of this I've done a little work on the knitting I showed you at the bottom of the last post, it's the Bellyphant Baby Cardigan for Kitty in Baby Cashmerino; I've finished both sleeves and just joined them to the body to do the raglan shaping, and I've been sitting at my spinning wheel in the conservatory under the fan, or in the cool of the morning with Kitty while H has a little catch up sleep.

I'm trying to work my way through my fibre stash in some sort of order, I've got some natural coloured wools that came from Wingham Woolworks that I'm saving for practice spinning, a bag with the fibre from the Socktopus fibre club, and a bag with the fibre from last year's Knit Nation. The Wingham bag I can park until I need it but I'm trying to finish the Socktopus bag before the Knit Nation Bag.

I'd spun up some Polworth and some fluffy angora/wool mix a while back but the rest of the six parcels had sat in the bag waiting for inspiration. I did a little lucky dip and pulled out this:
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It's pencil roving and by dint of it being the only loose label in the bag I declare it to be Knitwitches. Beyond that I have no recollection of the details but my guess is 100% wool.

I'd not played with pencil roving before and it is great fun because you aren't constantly stopping to break off another length, and as it's been dyed like that it has enough hold not to fall apart if you need to move it around.

I split it in three and spun for a DK weight 3ply et voila
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The daisy by the way was from H; we were reading a wedding anniversary website to find out what five years should be (wood), and it listed the appropriate gem (Sapphire), modern present (cutlery) and flower (daisy), so H picked me one from the lawn before he mowed it.
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The plan is that this will become something for Kitty, I've got 188 yards of the 3ply and another 30 yards of chain-plied leftovers, and she's now wearing a 12 month size so I'm thinking of either another Milo or something like this but I'm not sure that I've got enough yardage.

In the meantime the wheel seems a little empty so I popped my hand in and found ...
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It's from the Yarn Yard, 70/30 Alpaca/Merino and I'm spinning it as a DK ish singles.

Why is it that whenever I decide to do a singles or a navajo ply I start to think it would look better as a marled 3ply and whenever I do the 3ply and chain ply the leftovers I think it would have looked better all chain plied - it's a mystery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


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The sun was hot, the day was still, and I've been out and about with my camera for a little finished project photo shoot.

The project in question is of course Clara, sat patiently on the dresser for almost a week waiting for a sunny day to coincide with enough free time to play with the camera.
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I made a few amendments to the original pattern; I wanted to use up as much yarn as possible so I knit the garter section until I had 46 of my 113g skein left in the ball.  The original had used 50g for the garter and had 25g left on the skein afterwards but either the maths doesn't quite work, or there was a bit more than 100g on Sarah's skein as I ran out on the lace pattern with three rows to go so I pulled back three rows on the final set of arches to make it all fit and ended up with about a metre left over.

The design is by the very talented Sarah and knit as part of a knitalong with the girls of the Healing after Pregnancy Loss group on Ravelry; a kind of woolly group uniform for the only club where we all hope the membership never increases.  It honours the children we didn't get to know (in particular Sarah's daughter Clara, after whom the shawl is named) and a phenomenal group of women who I am proud to consider my friends.

If you like the pattern Sarah will be selling it here shortly to benefit March of Dimes

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All in all it's a gorgeous squishy little shawl/scarf that will be perfect for keeping me toasty warm should that ever be a requirement again - at the moment I strongly suspect we are having our summer so we're all rattling through the summer clothes before it's too late.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on the season, our house holds heat so even though the sun's been below the horizon for a while, the thermometer in Kitty's room still glows an angry red and gives me a frown face.  As her summer weight sleeping bag needed a good soak this morning before it met the washing machine this afternoon she's had to go to bed in her winter weight one - dressed in a short-sleeved vest, pyjama shorts and a cropped long sleeved cotton cardigan to try to keep both tummy and arms at a comfortable temperature.

But as Kitty has developed a charming habit of growing effortlessly out of her clothes while they're in the washing machine so that all of her sleeves are 3/4 length, and this little summer transplanted to spring is never going to last, I've done a little casting on:April 232

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sunshine on my window

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I am utterly unashamed of my absence from the internets this last week; the weather has been glorious and as this is/was our summer it seemed only right to enjoy it to the full.

Being on maternity leave and looking after Kitty is the very best job in the world and I wouldn't swap a minute of it but it can have it's own challenges, not as intellectually demanding as my paying job I grant you, but perhaps more physically demanding with nights interspersed with the adrenaline rush that hits as soon as a little whimper comes through from the nursery, not to mention the serious biceps I'm building humping around 20ish pounds of wriggly child.  But every now and then we have a day so fun that it clears away all the sleepiness, days that it's going to break my heart to miss when I go back to work.  And so it was that we ignored the dishes waiting to be washed in the kitchen, shut the door firmly on the ironing pile and spread a quilt in the back garden for our playtime.
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Needless to say, my little outdoor girl is a big fan of the garden. She wriggled around on her tummy until she could tickle her toes with the grass, and rolled over to see the birds and the tops of the trees and the one helicopter that skittered across our little patch of sky.
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I don't quite trust her not to eat any flowers, and as I'm almost certain that tulips are not on the edible flowers list we just admired them from a distance and played with a very chewable flower instead:
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It giggles too!
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And while littlest miss enjoyed her teddies and the great outdoors I picked up the needles for the first time in a while.  Kitty as you see, found this ever so exciting and can be seen making a bid for the yarn; once she's got hold of it she'll stick her little fingers straight in and wiggle them about - H thinks she's trying to knit.

The knitting in question was my Clara shawl in the Soccusu-X which Alice sent me as a prize for naming the colourway - JMW's Rain Wind and Wool (and yes the pun was totally intentional)

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It's a sweet pattern with special significance and the yarn is just divine; it's soft and lovely and there's cashmere ...(all together now say "oooooooh"). Clearly I'm not the only one with good taste in yarn as it attracted this little fellow along the way.
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Given that ladybirds are considered to be a symbol both of good luck and motherhood it seemed like a good omen for one to land while I was playing with my daughter.

The shawl is now finished and even blocked but as the beautiful sunshine has deserted us, and I even think I heard thunder earlier it's staying safely inside until I can find a good time to take pretty pictures.

I've got one more set of pictures from the other day, especially for Kitty's GodDaddy and Miss L who gave her the cutest, cuddliest little bunny for Christmas called Blossom:

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Now that looks like a yummy little ear...
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chewing teddies is fun
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Needless to say Miss Blossom is Kitty's favourite friend.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Time for cake

After all of that crazy rushing at the end of last week we came home and set ourselves up in the kitchen to get ready for everyone coming at the weekend, and lo there was cake:

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Raspberry Marscapone layer cake (recipe from Annie Bell's Gorgeous Cakes book)
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It's three layers of almond whisked egg sponge with a raspberry/icing sugar/marscapone mixture in the middle and pink icing on top - I love this cake unreservedly.

And next up
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Courgette cake (from Nigella's Domestic Goddess)
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The last time I made this cake I didn't have any lemon or lime curd so I just put some of the top frosting (cream cheese, icing sugar and lime juice) in the middle and I think I prefer it that way.  With the lemon curd in the middle it's still delicious but the tartness of the lemon can be too strong a flavour and overpowers the courgette.

Mmmmmm - cake! 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Radio silence

I didn't actually mean to go missing last week, actually I never do, but this time it wasn't just a case of the days slipping away from me, and nothing terribly exciting happening in the daily round of cuddles, nursing and nappy changes, this time I was knitting.

Full speed.

All out.

In just about any moment I had.

A good friend and collegue of mine is expecting her first baby in May, and as babies should always be greeted with knitwear, I knew I was going to knit her something at some point.  What I didn't quite realise was that as she has her whole holiday allowance to take before her maternity leave starts, she was going to finish work last week.

On Monday morning I discovered her last day was last Friday, and on Monday afternoon I started knitting. We'd talked a while ago about what she might like for the bump and the plan was to knit for her baby the things I've found most useful with my baby. And so, first on the needles, and no prizes for guessing this, the ubiquitous Baby Surprise Jacket.

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I've knit this pattern nine times now but it wasn't until Kitty arrived that I realised just how great a baby knit it is; the lack of seams make the arm holes really flexible for easing little new baby arms in to, the sleeves are the perfect length and the whole thing grows nicely with the baby - Kitty wore hers home from the hospital and was still wearing it at Christmas, long after she'd grown out of her vests and babygros.

The multicoloured bit is Opal 6-ply (colour 2020) and the yellow is my favourite Baby Cashmerino.  After a long hunt for good buttons I found these little ladybirds in the sewing shop in Kenilworth and knew that they would be perfect as ladybirds are supposed to be good luck and symbolic of motherhood.  They also fit through the button holes which I'll admit was a key selling point.

So by this point we've got to Wednesday night in the knitting marathon (although the buttons and the sewing up had to wait until Thursday lunchtime)

I picked up the empty needles on Wednesday and made ...
April 009
... a hat to match. It's a free Ravelry pattern (called Baby Beanie) that I discovered when I was looking for a quick little hat pattern fairly late on in my pregnancy to whip something up to match the green cardie that would be Kitty's first knit.  It was the first hat she ever wore, and when all the other oh so beautiful, cute and funny hats turned out to be too small for a little head that firmly hit the 95th centile (and yes 'ouch' is the correct response) it was the hat that I pulled out of the pile every time we left the house.  It grew with her until Christmas and even now the second hat that I made with slightly thicker yarn just about fits, although she's got other bigger hat for day to day.

And the best bit? that little loop - you can pull on the loop and ease the hat off a sleeping baby's head without waking her up, and for that I love it.

I cast off on Thursday morning before knitting and sewed in the ends at lunchtime and then both the cardie and the hat had a nice soak in some wool wash and a blow dry on the line.

And were we done? Oh no, that would be too clever.  I cast on:
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Three baby bibs, from the Mason-Dixon pattern, knit in a new-to-me yarn, Twilleys Freedom Sincere organic cotton dk. It's a lovely yarn and on 4.5mm needles it knit up to a nice soft drapy fabric, perfect for wiping little baby faces, and the garter ridges are great for catching drool and posset before it runs off the bib onto the baby, you, the sofa, the floor, etc etc etc (guess how I know this!).

I cast off the stripy bib first thing Friday morning and set the poppers quickly before everything was wrapped up into a little goody bag with some other useful new Mummy things (New Mama tea, a water bottle that you can flip up with one hand, and some essential chocolate) and headed to Birmingham.

It was lovely to see the team again, and the mama-to-be (who has the neatest little bump you've ever seen) and I think she liked her presents although I know she's unlikely to 'get' some of them until after the baby makes an appearance but it was great to be able to spoil someone who helped to spoil me back in the summer.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sunday for Mummy

It's Mother's Day and the neat little bump of last year has turned into a beautiful baby girl who loves her Mama and so today was very very special.  Little miss only woke up once in the night which was a real treat and then when she'd had her morning feed and was snoozing in our bed with Daddy I discovered that she'd been hiding little parcels in the bottom of her sleeping bag.

Now Kitty clearly knows her Mama well because the parcels had delicious chocolates and she'd even 'signed' her card - it was perfect.

My parents, sister and her hubby came up for the weekend so we all met up for church this morning and then went out to lunch.  Yesterday we all met up at Upton House to enjoy the sunny weather and the gorgeous gardens.

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Grannie enjoyed pushing the buggy (as long as it wasn't going up the crazy steep hill)
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Grandpa liked pulling faces and making Kitty giggle
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Auntie Zee brought her camera to really accentuate the mamarazzi experience
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And she and Kitty discussed thumb sucking techniques.
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Kitty is very like her Dad but has just the smidge of a look of her auntie as well, so it's always fun to see them together, and they have each other in stitches most of the time.
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It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, even if we couldn't go around the house because of a power cut.
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My cheerful little joy, you made me so happy when you made me a Mummy and I love you.  This was our first mother's day together and I'm going to treasure each and every one of the ones to come.