Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tiny Clothes

It's not a piece of clothing by itself, but a whole outfit that I've split off from the pile of things that no longer fit and tucked away in a box by itself.  A tiny cotton vest, covered in little yellow chicks, sketched in brown on a white background, and a white babygro with bright jungle animals, giraffe, crocodiles, elephants and monkeys.

Back in August I ran laundry loads of newborn clothes, lumbering into the garden to hang them out on the line, a string of pastel and white bunting announcing that we were finally getting ready to welcome our little bear.  Everything came in multipack form and I sat in the nursery chair, carefully sorting through to choose the very best, and very gender neutral to pack in my labour bag. Folded together with a few nappies and tucked into the bottom of the bag with a cardigan and later a little pistachio green hat; covered with water bottles, sweeties and the famous flapjack that went out of date before I went into labour.

After Kitty was born we sat for what felt like hours with her lying on my chest, stroking her hair and her cheeks, gazing in awe at this little person that was all ours.  Eventually one of the midwifes suggested we might like to dress her before she weed on us, and H took her to her cot to dress her, carefully fitting tiny floppy arms into sleeves no bigger than my thumb and wrapping her in freshly washed cotton and handknit love.
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She managed to fit into her newborn and 1 month clothes for another week or so and in that time I think she wore the vest and babygro a couple more times, and then our little girl had already started heading up to the 6' something that she seems likely to be. When I packed up her newborn clothes I pulled these two out of the pile and tucked them into her baby box with her cards, her hospital bracelets and other special treasures.

Soft through washing, and smelling of a mixture of laundry liquid and newborn baby, and tiny, so tiny that I can scarcely believe she ever wore them, they are my first night as a mother, in a hot dark hospital ward with a little animal covered girl soundly sleeping in the cot beside me. 

Inspired by this week's Writing Workshop Prompts at Sleep is for the weak

Saturday, June 25, 2011


In my earliest memory I am two and a half years old.  I'm climbing up a big flight of wide stairs clutching tightly to Daddy's hand up above me and gazing up at the enormous red cut out Father Christmas on the wall to the side of us.

As we reach the top we turn left into a room and there, just inside the door to the left, is my Mummy sitting up on a narrow bed.  Next to her is a clear plastic box on wheels, and there's something, or someone wriggling in it.  I must have been introduced to my baby sister, born earlier that morning, several weeks and one Christmas before she was due, but it's not that that I remember, it's that the nurse gave me a digestive biscuit, and I didn't really like it, but I ate it anyway to be polite.

I know that's a memory because there aren't any pictures but when ten days later, the camera caught me 'helping' Zee to open her hastily filled stocking I can't be so sure. I think I remember bouncing across the landing behind Mum in a squishy dressing gown, but do I remember it only because I've seen the photos so many times? It isn't as strong a memory as sitting perched up high on the leather covered seat of the dining room chair, dangling my feet, the leather cool against my legs, eating a slice of Christmas cake, and yet there's a photo of that.

Where does memory end and photos take over?

I think there must be a glimer of memory for the photos to stimulate it.  For example, I don't really remember a lot of my labour with Kitty.  My brain can remember that it was long and can tell me that contractions hurt but I can't recall the feeling of labour at all (thank you lovely mind-wiping hormones) and no amount of photos of a teeny tiny new Kitty can trigger it.
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I hope that Kitty remembers huge chunks of her childhood, whether biscuit related or otherwise, but it's unlikely that she'll remember that for H's firsth Father's Day we went to Hidcote Manor Gardens to meander along the Rose Walk and giggle at the curly tails on the new Berkshire pigs, or that she got new clothes for Mummy and Daddy's birthday, but it's unlikely. I, on the otherhand, am treasuring every moment tucked away in my heart. Every giggle, every smile is so very precious to me, especially as little Miss is starting to spend more and more time at nursery as I get ready to go back to work in July, and I miss her dreadfully when we're apart.

Whatever she does or doesn't remember, the digital age means that there are sure to be photos, and that gives me the perfect excuse to continue to be her Mamarazzi.

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Kitty, aged 9 months, reading us That's Not My Dinosaur on our birthday

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I'll leave it up to you to attribute the numbers to the people.  Yes, it's true, another birthday has come around again.  And with old age, clearly goes the inability to post about it on time (that would be Kitty's age, smack bang in the middle of the clingy phase).  Tuesday wasn't a landmark birthday for any of us. At 40 weeks it perhaps should have marked the time that Kitty had been out longer than she was 'in' but our little laid back girl has another couple of weeks to go for that.
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H's parents came to visit (and to take us out for a fabulous dinner - blackened cajun salmon with sweet potato mash and a pineapple salsa followed by Eton mess) and brought his cousin, Miss H, for some extra tuition before her final physics A-level exam on Monday, along with the appropriate remuneration (a tub of homemade millionaire's shortbread).

We've spent the days since in a blur of cake and equations, and I'm rapidly relearning things I didn't know I'd forgotten a good 13 years ago when I toiled over A-level maths.

But you didn't really come here to read how I was spoiled by friends and family, even if that spoiling did include purple sock needles (thank you Mandy, I love them), you came to see cake.

I know last year I said that if I made something cool and neat with columns you'd know I'd grown up. Well this year I ran out of time to do a story cake, and my cake is looking dangerously like something chic
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It's Raspberry Marscapone Layer Cake with pink icing and edible pink hearts (thank you A for my Christmas present glitter) from Annie Bell's Gorgeous Cakes book. It's a ground almond sponge filled with a marscapone, icing sugar and crushed raspberry mix, and it's damp and sweet and refreshing and I think it might be my favourite ever.

For H's cake, I had a very cunning plan, let down somewhat in the execution.

The inspiration is here, although I beg you not to look at the two side by side.

I really wanted to make him a stripy Celtic cake (green and white), and I carefully baked two nice square cakes, one green, one white ... and then it all went wrong.

Firstly, the two cakes were different heights, and I didn't level them properly.  Then when I cut the cakes into concentric squares I didn't get the measurements exactly the same on both cakes, so they weren't a snug fit.

The lemon sugar syrup failed to stick the strips of cake to each other, and an hour in the fridge only made it chillily unstuck.

It was at this point that, whilst wailing and knashing teeth, I lamented the fate of the cake on Twitter, which H sometimes reads ... oops.

Still, onwards, and upwards, I grouted the cake with buttercream and fondanted my smaller layer quite nicely, although the sides of the cake were a bit rounded so that instead of nice crisp corners I had more of an iced cob loaf that a layer cake.

For the second layer I was defeated by the width of my worktop, so I had to do a little patch job on one side, and then there was a little rip on a corner, so I did a little patch, and then another ...

I tried to pipe little green scallops around the edges but I was using ordinary icing not royal icing (because the latter tastes horrid) and it couldn't hold the pattern and turned into big soft green lines.  But this was at 10.30 at night, so I stuck the candles in and hoped for the best.
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H loves it, and it does taste really good thanks to the lemon sugar syrup and lemon buttercream so it's disappearing rapidly, which is very reassuring for the amateur baker who thought she had sunk to the level of cake wrecks.
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But before I disappear again, I do have to tell you about a very special present

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It's not something H or I gave to each other, or that anyone else gave us. Instead, this is a present for a little girl who lives all the way over the pond. Way back when a little girl called 'Heidi' was our Bamboo sponsor baby, I made a little lap quilt while I was thinking about her, and in my mind it became Heidi's quilt. I thought it might be for Kitty when she arrived but to me it was still Heidi's.

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Heidi was adopted last September, and I knew Pearl River had been in touch with her family. So I asked, and Pearl River asked, and Heidi's mum very generously said that we could send the quilt to her daughter. It was my favourite ever trip to the post office.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


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Da-da .... Daaa-Daaaaa...... Dadadadadadadadada

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A-geegee... A-gee gee gee gee gee. Ughrrrrrrr.

Hee hee hee

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(getting increasingly high pitched) dadadadada dededede
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Ahhhh. Mmmm

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'Iya Dadadada

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(Translation by the captivated hostage:
Daddy Daddy Daddy! 
I love you Daddy Daddy Daddy!
Strawberries - yum! Daddy or Strawberries?
dreams involving milk, teddies and bananas)

Happy Father's Day for the first time lovely Husband!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

As I look down

On chubby little hands off invisible wrists and sweet plump baby arms, fingers curled in the remains of a grip that faded as sleep came, the favoured thumb resting loosely on a bottom lip still sucking.

Soft newly washed hair and impossibly long eyelashes brushing creamy pink cheeks.

Pale pink cotton sprinkled with tiny flowers smelling of the little girl that sleeps inside it.

This is my here and now. And it's wonderful.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Kitty and the rose

Well it's not exactly sunny today, it's one of those days optimistically described as 'dry and bright', meaning complete cloud cover.  None the less it's a good sort of light for photographing creamy pink roses because nothing gets completely washed out by brilliant summer sunshine.  And we wanted the pictures to be good, because this is a very special rose.

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My father has a talent for choosing unusual but perfect gifts for people; every now and then he finds something that no-one else would ever have thought of, but becomes something very treasured - my Ancient Greek interlinear bible, a present for getting an A* in my Greek GCSE, being a classic example.

When he and Mum arrived with Kitty's Christmas present, he explained that a few days after her birth he was thinking about her name, and decided that if there wasn't a rose with her name, there really ought to be.  And so began a little research into roses, that ended with a bare stem in a sea green pot arriving at our house in January.
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It survived the frosts and the snow and slowly buds emerged and little green leaves unfurled and now we have beautiful fragrant creamy roses with a pink blush centre. It sits just outside our lounge doors and the scent floods in on a warm evening.
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A little while ago we received a parcel from Kitty's Grannie with an almost finished dress and matching bloomers, and last week I finished it off.  So her we have Kitty, in a dress made by Grannie, with her rose chosen by Grandpa:

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Of course, having got her all set up, I thought I might try to take some actual knitting pictures. I mean, what with this being a creativey type of blog and all.

First to be finished, the Bellyfant Baby Cardigan in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
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Next off the needles was the wonderful Sweet Bunting. It's a Cosmic Pluto pattern and as soon as I saw it on Laura's blog I knew it was perfect for little miss. It's Baby Cashmerino again with a little scrap of aqua Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK for the bunting string.

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(and yes that is what generally happens when the baby gets too near the flowerpot!)

Last but not least, the cardigan I made in Venice, the Silver Cardigan, but in pink Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK with pink heart buttons in the exact matching colour.

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They all have a little room for her to grow over the summer so hopefully she'll sport fewer 3/4 length sleeves in the future - although I love her Tulips Cardigan so much that she'll still be wearing it as a short-sleeved bolero.  Perhaps a bigger version should be the next Kitty cardigan on the needles?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

First tooth

Yes it's true. Miss Kitty has today cut her first tooth, her lower left front. Where before all was tense white gum, now there is a tiny sharp ridge poking through.
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It is sadly too small to photograph but after she bit H as he tried to check with a newly washed finger he assures me that it's very real.
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We are of course incredibly proud and just a little relived to find a good reason for the grump she threw yesterday morning.
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And with exquisite timing her rose, a Christmas present from Grannie and Grandpa, exploded into flower.

Tomorrow if it's sunny we'll take pictures of the girl with the flower that bears her name. I'm hoping to make this a yearly tradition but that presupposes that I can keep the rose alive long enough.

For now she's just proving that although she's Daddy on the outside, it's Mummy the bookworm on the inside, with the thrilling page-turner that is That's Not My Monkey

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A swatch, a sleeve and two pocket linings

That's the sum of a long weekend’s worth of knitting. And the sleeve looks remarkably like a rewound ball of crinkly Madelinetosh 80/10/10.

The dry swatch suggested that I was knitting a little tighter than the 16.5 st to 4” gauge for the Grown Up Hoodie, but when I swished it and laid it out to dry it had gone the other way. “Ah-Ha!” I thought, “as I fall a bit in between two sizes I’ll cast on the smaller size and it will end up a bit bigger”. Cunning, no?

The swatch stayed loose and floppy over the weekend and I merrily knit my sleeve, noting that it was currently more fitted than I really wanted but safe in the knowledge that my swatch told me it would grow.

Last night I finished the sleeve. And the pocket linings.

This morning I measured the swatch again. 17 and a smidge stitches to four inches. Grr.

A fast minute or two on the ball winder and it was all over. Alas poor sleeve I knit you well. The only saving grace is that the pocket linings are the same for the two sizes.

And now you hear me little jumper. If after all of this swatching and knitting and ripping, you have the temerity to be something less than perfect I will not only cut you into little pieces, bury you in the garden and deny all knowledge, I will, I will …..


You have been warned.