Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Today I have not ...

November 386

1. Re-started a top down hat 4 times before giving up and starting from the brim.

2. Started to machine quilt a bed sized quilt only to discover that I haven't got anywhere near enough thread.

3. Got frustrated with my sewing machine (and my ability to manipulate and use it) when the tension won't set correctly.

4. Had a tantrum at my sewing machine because the tension still isn't right even though I've got the settings how they should be.

5. Hidden under my duvet and sulked.

6. Told H that he could throw my sewing machine out of the window.  (He asked what he could do to help).

7. Held the screws to the footplate, while H took my machine apart and delicately removed a veritable pillow of fluff from its innards.

8. Sewn sample after sample to check that the newly set tension was going to quilt nicely.

9. Rescued the quilt in question from behind the sofa where it had been flung in a mixture of disgust at its (my) failings and denial of its existence.

10. Run out of thread.

.... I give no such assurances as to yesterday.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Unprompted and Unaided

The biggest worry of any parent who sends their child to nursery, even for the tiniest little while, has to be that they'll miss something important, some milestone that we'd want to have the first hand memory to recount to them when they're eighteen and think it's all very corny that you remember, and again when they're thirty-something, and know for themselves why it matters so much.

October 593 October 592

Kitty spends three days a week at a wonderful small nursery who love and cherish her only slightly less than we do, and have to my delight introduced her to glitter as a painting medium, and the actions to all the variations of Row row row the boat.  Working off the premise that I have to work, and despite my colleagues' assurances that they'd help keep her hidden under my desk Brittas Empire-style, she has to spend her days somewhere slightly more baby friendly than an office full of paper and bookcases, I couldn't be happier.  But as the pulling up turned to cruising, and the cruising turned into the occasional standing, I worried that I would miss out; that I wouldn't be there for her first steps.

November 022 November 035

Over the last week or so, she's worked on mastering a step-stumble-dive between H and me, and a little waddly walk holding onto one or two of Mama's fingers but for the rest of the time her high speed wiggle crawl and the cruising seemed to get her where she wanted to go.

That was then.  This evening, deciding that she'd had enough cuddles for the time being, she wiggled herself safely down from H's lap and the sofa, and stood, one hand on the cushions, the other stretched out in front of her.  And as the Strictly band bounced through the Charleston, she let go and stood there for a moment, bobbing her head and swishing her hands from side to side (think 'the wipers on the bus') before confidently striking out across the floor to reach me.

It may only have been three or four steps before she realised what she was doing and plomped to the floor to have a little think about it, but it counts.

November 048
Today, 26 November 2011, aged 14 months and five days, unpromted and unaided, our Kitty took her first steps.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Last November was bitterly ice-white; frozen, windy and cold.  This year I haven't even needed a coat yet.  The only signs of the march of the seasons are the shortening days, denuded foliage, and berries glistening on a damply dripping holly tree.

Today the fog wrapped us in a thick blanket of dank grey, smothering any plans for a day outdoors.  In truth, our only intentions were along the hibernation lines; a good roast lunch followed by chocohotpots for pudding, and a lazy afternoon with the very best company.

We've chatted, read stories to Kitty, chased her up and down her caterpillar tunnel, and sung tickling songs until she giggled for joy.

She discovered that godfathers give some of the best cuddles:

November 235
And if Mama isn't available to provide her hair as a comforter, other people's will do just as well.


So much of my crafting is in hiding now, and I keep being distracted by a most exasperating jigsaw puzzle of a Renoir painting that H started and I'm trying to finish in a vague attempt to reclaim the dining room table, but this evening I finished a book, and I knit a little:

November 241

More grey, I know.  The project is not yet fit for consumption but the book was excellent (and being a Persephone imprint, also wonderfully tactile).

Just don't let me forget to plant the tulips because I didn't realise it was winter yet!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday in pictures

November 182 November 188 November 198 November 204 November 211 November 226 November 222

Baking for a Children in Need cake sale tomorrow (hence Pudsey cupcake cases).  In order of appearance:
  • Banoffee Cupcakes from Gorgeous Cakes
  • Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes from Domestic Goddess
  • Carrot Cupcakes from Domestic Goddess
  • Passion Cake (banana, pineapple and pecan nuts in a cinnamon and ginger spice cake) from Gorgeous Cakes

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My creative space

November 138

For the most part, I don't mind my craft space being a bit messy.  I try to keep the rest of the house reasonably clean and tidy, although I'm never going to be winning prizes for minimalism, but my little room upstairs can fill up with lots of little projects in the making, things that I've pulled out for ideas that are still floating around my mind, and things that I've moved out of other rooms to make them look tidier without really having anywhere to put them.

I reached the tipping point last week and since then I've spent odd moments and scraps of evenings culling and rearranging and I think all I need now is a whizz over the floor with the hoover and I'm done.  The desk is clear and polished, my pens and scissors are lined up in the letter rack and I corralled all of my reels of thread from box, drawer and floor, into my pretty blue and white papier mache bowl to sit on the windowsill.

My fabric is in one cupboard, the yarn in another double cupboard, and my books and magazines are stacked and stashed on the shelves.  I even cleaned the windows in time to see the moon the colour of clotted cream rising through the clouds and the trees like the start of every cheesy horror film.

So now there are no excuses, nothing left to use to procrastinate.  I have space, materials, and occasionally time, it's time to see if I can turn some of my crazy ideas into reality. 

Friday, November 11, 2011


In a little red box at my Uncle's house is a small bronze oak leaf.  It is the decoration awarded for a Mention in Dispatches and it belonged to my grandmother.

Long before she became my Grandma Frank, a 20 year old Kathleen Douglas joined the WAAF and was sent to RAF Driffield not far from the coast of East Yorkshire. I don't know whether she was there on the calm and sunny Thursday in August 1940 when 50 Junkers Ju88 swooped in across the sea to pepper the aerodrome with 169 bombs, flattening all five hangers, a good number of ancillary buildings, and 12 Whitley bombers, but even the aftermath must have made an impression.

Kay worked as a mapping clerk, preparing the route maps for the bomber crews of 405 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force.  Sat here in a nice warm house on a damp November day, I can't imagine how it felt to prepare maps night after night, not knowing whether the map, or the men it belonged to would be bringing it back.  Airmen flew out and never returned, including a Canadian that she'd taken a shine to, and a crew that crashed unsuccessfully on the runway.  Noticing the maps that weren't there to be cleaned up for the next night can only have been heartbreakingly sad.

Later in the war she was transferred to RAF headquarters at High Wycombe for the remainder of her service.  Quite where she was based or what she was doing when she was Mentioned has been lost to the mists of time, we know simply that it was for her exemplary work.

There is a happy ending to Kay's story.  At RAF Driffield she had met the base dentist, my very patient grandfather.  They were quarantined together when some sort of lurgy hit their airfield, and rumour has it he proposed while they made glitter wax flowers together to pass the time. They married during the war and my uncle was born in early 1945 followed by twin girls:

KMF & FVF with twins 1947
(one of whom is my mum), and another brother and sister over the course of the next 10 years. 

FVF & KMF at sister's wedding
(Grandma with Uncle I, Auntie J and Grandfather at a family wedding in the late 50's)

She died in 1984 when I was still rather small and so my memories are mostly that she had blue flowery curtains.  We share our middle name, Mary, and perhaps a love of craft - glitter wax flowers anyone? But looking at photographs of Grandma, I know where I've seen her before; in posture and expression, she's my mother to a tee.
FVF, KMF with Pat and Mike
(Grandma, Auntie J, Uncle M, Auntie P, and Grandfather)

My generation will probably be the last to personally known family who saw active service in even the Second World War, and there are no longer any Veterans of WW1.  This year there seem to be fewer poppies, and fewer people out collecting for the poppy appeal.  Without those first hand experiences, the majority of us choose to remember, it isn't an inherent part of who we are.  But that in my mind makes it even more important that we do remember, and not just two World Wars' worth.

So this morning at 11, I'll be stopping to remember and be thankful.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Elephant Pie

My oh so cunning plan to cook my way through our cook books has had a side effect.  I've started borrowing more cookbooks from the library, and in doing so, discovered a few more must haves.  I'm still searching most passing charity shops for the now out of print River Cottage Family Cookbook, but my latest acquisition is more recent (a result of a catalogue search for cooking sorted by new releases), and was half price in Smiths.

I never got into The Great British Bake Off on telly; it seemed a little too X-factor, a little less Masterchef, but the book, ah, the book!

I genuinely could start at one end and work my way to the other, at which point we would be somewhat larger than we originally started and probably craving a strict diet of celery sticks and raw broccoli.  I'm going to have to eek it out over a few years.

I made a cake (and wrote about it here), and tonight, I made the recipe that convinced us that we needed to own the book, Somerset Pork and Apple Pie.

November 126

I say make, I should really say finish, for this is not a quick and easy supper sort of a recipe.  The pastry had four separate rollings out with fridge and resting times in between, and the filling stewed gently in the oven for two hours late yesterday afternoon (and set in motion the quirk in our oven that trips the fuses, plunging Kitty and I into darkness at that somewhat trying time of after snack but before tea.  She was not impressed when Mama abandoned her in her travel cot playpen to furret in the study cupboard for the fuse box).

November 123

This evening, I simply poured the filling into the pie dish, rolled the pastry out to cover it, cut out small baby elephants with the leftovers, and baked it.  If anything it tasted even nicer than last time thanks to the extra resting.
November 132
Lest you fear that the current swing of blog posts towards the strictly culinary is a hallmark of things to come, be not afraid, it's not. It's simply the hallmark of two things happening in my crafty life. 

One: my sewing room/studio, which is frequently used as a general dumping ground for things that for one reason or another do not yet have a permanent home, had become rather less 'overflowing with inspiration' and rather more 'overwhelming with overflow'.  I've spent two evenings tidying and I'm 3/4 of the way through.  It's starting to feel bigger though which is always a good thing, particularly as I need the floor space to do some blocking.

Two: I've knit ____ for ______ and finished ______ for _______.  I've just cast on ______ but had to rip back because the yarn was overwhelming the pattern.  Yes, it's that time again.  Come back in the New Year for a whole barrow load of finished knitting.  I hope.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Even brighter than the moon

November 053
I once said that if Kitty came home from nursery with glue on her knees and smear of glitter across her cheek, I'd be a happy Mama.  Yesterday she came home with a day report that said how much she'd enjoyed making a mess with glitter, and this firework.
November 059
It's been well coated with the glitter, which seems to be her current form of artistic expression; her Halloween spider on the baby-room mobile was the one with one side solidly armoured in silver glitter, and her firework sparkles from every angle.

We didn't take her to any displays this year, but we've seen a good part of a number of village displays from the upstairs windows.  Last night when I was putting her to bed the windows reverberated from the shock waves coming down the hill from the explosions up above the sports fields, and tonight a smaller scale display from some near neighbours had multicoloured bubbles of light dancing down the walls.

My concession towards Bonfire Night was two packets of giant sparklers; the first we lit before supper for Kitty to enjoy/hide from, and before we got the second set lit we got out the camera.

November 100

November 101

November 114
(the middle one is flowers).

To take them, I set the camera up on an 8" shutter at F5 and ISO 100 on a tripod pointing at the darkest bit of the back garden.  For the angel halo shot I set a rear flash (and stayed very still, which is why I look a little frozen).  Once we remembered how to make letters going backward we wrote our names (but ran out of space and time to do Kitty's), and I caught one scary shot where the sparkler had run out and I'd come out of the shot before the flash went off leaving a little sparkler writing and the ghost of my face.

My best writing shot however, is more of a statement of intent as to what I'm going to do for the rest of the evening:

November 079

Friday, November 04, 2011

Baby Bear's Chair

We took Kitty up north for a flying visit to H's parents and the rest of the extended family last weekend.

And there, waiting for her, was a very special present. In de-cluttering their house, friends of my parents in law had handed on a veritable playground of toys for a special granddaughter.   Some of them she'll need to grow into, and some will be passed on again, but sat just at the edge of  the collection filling the garage floor, was a chair.

October 665

A little rocking chair, perfectly Kitty-sized, and just right for our Goldilocks. It was love at first sight. She sat their delightedly and giggled at her Granddad, then tentatively rocked back and forward, clasping the end of each arm with hot little hands.

October 671

By the end of the weekend she'd progressed to climbing in and out and lurching back and forward while kneeling up and clinging to the seat back (NB Mama is not too keen on this), and discovered that if she first pushed the chair over towards the coffee table/bookcase/anything removed to a great height by cautious grandparents, it proved a perfect booster to get to all that exciting porcelain contraband.

October 682

She's growing like a weed again and a recent growth spurt caught me by surprise when I turned up to nursery to find that the ankle length leggings that I'd carefully packed as reserve clothes in the morning had become pedal pushers in the course of the day.

With that in mind, we brought home the little chair and I'm planning to refurbish the woodwork and paint it white, and re-upholster the seat and chair back, probably with the length of Cath Kidston strawberry print canvas that's been sitting in the stash for a while.

I so want to do this right, but I've never upholstered a chair before, the closest I've ever got was watching an episode of Kirstie's Homemade Home. Please, pretty please, if you know of any good resources, drop me a note in the comments.