Saturday, 17 December 2011

The tree is up!

We had a second dash round Plymouth for the last couple of pressies yesterday afternoon and I sat next to a lovely lady on the bus back to the car park who quite rightly admonished me for not having put a tree up for the girls yet. She lightly touched my arm and said "Do it tomorrow". So...

The girls had great fun decorating it, and I resisted the urge to interfere as the tree proceeded to be dressed and undressed over the course of the afternoon/evening. I had to re-glue one bird beak but everything else has survived intact so far! We only have a titchy plastic one this year as we're not around for the whole break and it seems needlessly wasteful to have a live tree in an empty house, but I am glad I finally got round to it.

So that's it! Everything is wrapped, we even got stocking fillers for the girls which I'll wrap tonight, and cards are sent. The last thing I have to do is a table runner I decided to make at the last minute for Jude's mum which so far looks like this:

I'm not even that sure how to put it all together or what to back it with as I've never made one (or even used one) before - I'm guessing I should put some kind of batting in it. We shall see how it turns out - it wouldn't be a creation of mine if it wasn't slightly wonky! Plus, now I've seen it in bright light I'm not too sure about some of the colours....

One of my birthday treats was going out for dinner and a film with a friend to Plymouth Arts Centre: the food was lovely but the film we watched, The Future, was poor, despite a promising start with a few giggles from us (though we had had a glass of wine before the film started). It was a great venue, particularly because they allow you to take your drinks into the film with you - very civilised! I dressed up for it too:

Thought I'd also share a pic of the girls enjoying their costumes on Milly's birthday!

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

And a Very Merry Christmas to You Too

Seems like a long time since I last wrote here as I haven't felt I've had much to say about anything, but as that feeling could end up carrying on indefinitely I decided to break the silence and dive right in....

We are heading inexorably into the festive season, which for me always brings a strange mix of heady childish glee coupled with an increasing sense of alienation from all the joyless hurrying hordes, shopping their little hearts out every weekend. Don't get me wrong, I've spent many a year scurrying along with the best of them, my hands twisted out of shape by the plastic strings of bulky carrier bag handles. The older I get however, the more I struggle with this rampant, ugly consumer frenzy.

An example of this is last weekend when we all took the Park and Ride into Plymouth to do our Christmas shopping. On the return journey, I watched as every single passenger struggled on board the bus clutching armfuls of enormous packages, each in a separate plastic bag, as I sat with our total purchases that day contained in two small paper bags. At home I have a pile of plain white tissue paper with which I intend to wrap our presents, which will no doubt be decorated by me and the girls with painted snowflakes and glitter. I bought a pack of cards from Jess's nursery featuring a snowman she'd drawn herself, any more that I need I will make myself. I have made as many gifts as my new-found craftiness and six-month-pregnant-looking-after-two-little-ones state can manage.

By no means am I saying that I'm leading some single-handed crusade against consumerism, I know there are many others who feel the same way, I think it just hits me harder when I do venture out into the tide of humanity because living as we do without TV and in quite an isolated rural situation it is very easy to build your own little world without being constantly bombarded by the need for material things. What I find most frustrating about this whole season, apart from the sheer quantity of crap that is heading straight into landfill in a few days' time and the senseless, guilt-ridden pressure to buy crap for people who just don't need any more crap in their lives, is the almost complete lack of warmth in the whole process - which is what the whole festival should be about.

This is how I probably look when Christmas shopping

In the bleakest, most dismal part of the year, a festival of twinkly lights and fires and colour which brings everyone together in warmth, love and companionship to share food and gifts and have a laugh together is surely a quite brilliant idea. Instead it has devolved into a grotesque mockery of a party, where people feel pressured to spend money they don't have on all this stuff. We've lost all sight of what we should be enjoying most and I don't see any way out as long as people continue to let themselves be sold the idea of Christmas and Santa's bulging sack.

The girls and I were in a charity shop last week and the elderly lady behind the till loomed over Jess and yelled "Are you looking forward to Christmas dear? And what have you asked Father Christmas to get you this year?" to which Jess looked at me then back to the crazy lady completely dumbstruck. Not only does she not have a clue who Father Christmas is (am I a bad mum? She's only three) but she wouldn't have the faintest idea what to ask for anyway. All she absolutely totally needs is to watch her daily three episodes of Charlie and Lola on BBC iPlayer for her little world to be complete.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Birthdays and celebrations on the way

We've been busy this week, starting our Christmas decorations:

And the present-making continues apace... in the end I decided to make both projects - at once!

Gap-tastic cowl above, lacy headband below

Milly squeezing the cat & me in my lovely handmade headband - thank you Lisa! :)

Milly's birthday is fast approaching - as is mine, which I feel very ambivalent about - so I have been secretly building up a stash of gifts for her. It's very hard trying to explain how to keep secrets to a 3 year old though - she's dying to tell Milly what she's got! Luckily she's not seen the main things - a cute monkey costume, which I think she will LOVE and facepaints - YAY!! I bought some for Jess too so she doesn't feel left out. I also ordered some helium balloons something I've never done before, which is really exciting. As usual I've spent my birthday money on gifts for other people, but I did treat myself to some overpriced but very yummy Cath Kidston hand cream.

So this week I have lots to get done - well for me anyway - birthday cake and card to make, finishing off knitting projects before their owners-to-be arrive for Mil's birthday this weekend, so I can stash them away and try to resist the temptation to get them out and show them off! Granny and Grandad AND Aunty Boo AND my sis are coming to visit which is fantastic - my sis lives up Lancaster way so it's a treat to see her, and we don't often see Aunty Boo either. Then Granny is taking Jess back with her for a couple of nights, which will be the first time she's stayed away from home.... she'll have such a good time! I had hoped to get out to the new River Cottage restaurant which has opened in Plymouth for a birthday meal this weekend but sadly it was not to be, fully booked. Bangers n'mash in the local pub instead methinks!

Have a lovely week!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Patchwork cushion



All finished! That's another pressie crossed off my list.... just a few more to go. Next up is a cowl-neck scarf OR a headband, I can't decide.

Both patterns are free downloads, but the headband looks a bit more of a challenge! I have only ventured tentatively out of the scarf knitting box, and that was to make a little bag, which to be fair, was also square, so I'm hardly out of beginner needles yet. Still it's good to stretch yourself a little!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Photos from our week

One of the best things to keep the girls quiet and absorbed together for an hour or so while I get dinner on: a bowl of cornflour and water! It looks awful afterwards, but because it's only flour it's easy to clean up. And if you've never experienced the weirdness of wet cornflour, try it! It seems in the space of a breath to veer between solid and liquid and back, very peculiar.

Milly is still obsessed with putting everyone to bed: last night I found this little scene on the table, she'd found a crushed shoebox for Piglet to sleep in, all tucked up under his cardboard blanket!

And here's a scene Jessie had set up before she went to bed: I found out this morning that they are all gathered around Eeyore because "he is sad". Aw. It shows how she craves order because she's made sure each type of animal is with its own kind - even Tigger has been put next to the zebras with his stripes!

Taking Lucky for a walk in Looe

The sea was cold and grey so we didn't explore very much, but it'll be a good spot to return to in the summer, lovely heaths overlooking the shore.

A rare photo of Mum with her girls! Looking lumpy. I did have to shove the camera at Jude for him to take it, but at least there's some record of my existence rather than always being on the other side of the camera!

And this is Jessie's look du jour (well all week really): crazy princess! Well, it's more crazy old witch, but this is the only costume she has... She is wearing a floppy crown I made for her third birthday, which is pretty, but quite impractical as it was cut out of fleece scraps. I want to make one for Mil as her birthday is coming up, but I think I'll use proper felt this time.

And the cushion cover is slowly taking shape. I added a little white border to the patchwork to help break up the design a bit; it was a bit fiddly (mainly because my lines are never straight!) but I think it works well. I quite like an idea I saw for a cushion back, where someone had cut out an old shirt and used the existing buttonholes to fasten the cushion, but I think for this I'll have to stick to a pillow opening, as I want to use the same fabric as the front, this lovely peacock blue. Originally this was an amazing full-length hand-made coat with a funny cape around the shoulders, which I'd bought in a charity shop years ago but never found a use for. I had intended to alter it so that it was wearable (back in the days when I used to wear outrageous clothes!) as I always find it so difficult to tear clothing up if it can still somehow be worn - a bit like writing in or ripping up books, something in me feels it is deeply wrong! So I'm glad that it has finally found a purpose, and hopefully it will give me the courage to tackle the boxes of old clothing I've kept but never dared to tear up for patchwork...

Monday, 14 November 2011


A finished project! Yay!

I'm really pleased with this little basket, it took a day to make from selecting the fabric to finished piece. Now I just have to decide who to give it to for Christmas! If I had planned everything properly I'd have made some pretty little soaps to put inside, but there you go.... looks like a visit to Lush is in order...

And here are a couple of pics of the process to show just how easy it was:

All the pieces cut out
Stitching the patchwork panels in a line to save thread!

We all had a lovely day out to the Eden Project on Sunday - well I say day, but we didn't get there until about 3pm so it was brief but lovely! They are offering Cornish and Devonian (?) residents annual membership for £5 which is fantastic so I'm looking forward to going back many times over the next year. It's really nice to be able to do things with the girls during the week when it's less crowded - it was packed on Sunday which was a shame as there were some great kids craft activities going on but there were too many people. And as it is one of my favourite places to go anyway, I don't need much excuse!

In the Mediterranean biome

And here's my next project to start:

It's going to be a patchwork cushion for my sister... yes, another Xmas present! I was quite happy with this layout until I started playing around with some bits of yellow and green silk to make it a bit more interesting, then realized I'd have to find something to stiffen the silk up with - interfacing maybe? - or it will drive me crazy sliding all over the place and I don't think it would work in conjunction with the sturdier pieces. So maybe I should just keep it simple.

Nice to be sewing again after so long!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Snowflakes & crochet

Been busy making these paper snowflakes: Mil's 2nd birthday is coming up and my idea is to hang these in her bedroom so that when she wakes up in the morning she sees them. They'll also double up as wrapping decorations for Christmas presents or just to hang up and look pretty! There's a great website which has some lovely designs and I was also inspired by How About Orange and her very pretty designs.

I'm getting a bit obsessed with them so I'm breaking off every now and then to work on a crochet box I've started (taken from Kirstie's Homemade Home); bit of a blurry pic, but you get the idea. This is the first 'proper' crochet project I've attempted apart from granny squares, so it's quite thrilling.... and I think I've finally got the hang of it now I've done the fourth side! The first three were all a bit wonky as I was just making it all over-complicated.... I had to borrow a book from the library to learn how to do the stitches properly, as lovely as Kirstie's book appears to be, it is very lacking in detail for a beginner.

Anyhow, that's on hold as I've run out of the wool I was using..... so I may have to finally start a fabric project, which I haven't been interested in doing for a while now. I thought I'd try this lovely tutorial by Ayumi from Pink Penguin which I bookmarked ages ago.

Generally I've been feeling much more positive since taking Bach Flower Remedies. Even after just a couple of days I felt more confident and calmer, quite amazing. The midwife was very reassuring when she visited and she also phoned to check on the progress with the doctor - none - which was kind of her. I rang the surgery and was told a doctor would call me back at some point that day, which he did, but I didn't manage to get to the phone in time.... he called back later that day and said he "didn't have time to deal with me as he was off to Cambodia for ten days" and that a colleague would call me back the next day - nice. As it happened, apparently she did try to call, but couldn't get through (?) and left no message so I had no idea she'd tried until the midwife told me. So, after wasting two days sitting by the phone waiting for a call I decided that it was just a waste of time.

All I had expected the doctor to offer was counselling or medication, neither of which I think would be particularly beneficial for how I've been feeling anyway. Aside from the rudeness of that first doctor who called, they are a pretty good bunch at the surgery but I do think I'm better just getting on with things as I am. At least I know that the midwife is understanding and she has offered to come and visit anytime I feel I need her to, which is really good, as I know how overworked they are.

As much as I hate feeling as shitty as I have been, I also think it's kind of healthy to go through this kind of thing: there are many shades of emotion in everyone after all, and what would be the point of forever being a sort of squishy pale pink? I'm not suggesting that it's a good idea to wallow forever in a pit of self-despair, but it is a part of who I am and it would be more unhealthy to just ignore it.

And here's a pic of my lovely smiling girl, who helps make my grey days feel much sunnier!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Rain face

Ooh, just what I need!

Today I finally accepted what my body has been telling me for weeks: I am clinically depressed. Last night I had a panic attack (which has never happened to me before) and was sat in bed, shivering with fear - terror - that something awful was happening/going to happen to me/the baby.

I have been very emotional with this pregnancy and experienced terrible mood swings, but had assumed (talked myself into thinking) that my symptoms were no worse than with either of my previous pregnancies, especially now I have two under-fives to care for. However, usually I've found that the second trimester is the eye of the storm for me, the time when I can really enjoy the idea of the baby in my body growing and changing every day, and make contact with her, by touch or thought.

Not this time. Every time I think of her, a flutter of anxiety starts in my belly, and if I continue to think about her - even positive, warm thoughts, the anxiety turns into a quaking loss of gravity when I start to panic that at any moment her precious hold on life - through me - is going to slip and I'll lose her.

Nonsense, of course - I know she's healthy and that I've carried two girls full-term before and have no (physical) health problems of my own - but that fear is very real.

So, the manic tidying, sorting, cleaning and clothes-washing can finally be put aside now I've stopped avoiding the problem and have started the process of getting help. As I'm back to having no transport now Jude's working, I emailed an NCT advisor and also got in touch with a midwife, who hopefully will drop by tomorrow morning for a chat. The advisor has offered to put me in touch with any support groups she can find in the area, or even just other mums to talk to, which in itself will no doubt help.

And just by acknowledging that I have a problem, already I'm calmer with the girls and more able to cope with the day, knowing I've made a positive step forward for myself and for the baby.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Another girl!

Lucky enjoying the sun

Well, I had my 20-week scan yesterday and she's a girl! Jude really would have liked a boy, and up until now we had been talking of 'him', so although he's obviously happy that she's healthy and everything's fine, there's a part of him that is a bit disappointed. I think he really wanted a 'mini-me' to share his love of power tools with.... the girls aren't the slightest bit interested so far!

More good news is that Jude's finally been offered a decent job working for quite a prestigious luxury yacht builder which he's really chuffed about. The slightly bad news was that he had to start the same day as the scan, so he didn't get to see little wriggler in action! Ultrasound scans are just incredible: even though I'm totally aware that there is a baby in there, kicking away, it's quite mind-blowing to be able to SEE the valves of her heart beating, and look inside her brain.... The sonographer was marvellous - she obviously really loved her job - and she talked me through everything she was looking at whilst she was taking all the measurements. Often they are so numb to the fact that the mother is actually looking at her unborn baby that they just go through the motions of pointing out legs and arms, rather than, as this woman did, talk in real detail about what she could see and why she was interested in certain bits, like the shape of the top of the spine. Absolutely fascinating.

Mind you, I have always been fascinated by the internal workings of the body, wanting to keep any x-rays I've had, in the hope of one day making some artwork out of them, sort of an inner self-portrait. Of course, to actually do it properly, I'd probably need to have some pretty major surgery so I can't really see it happening. It's also surprisingly difficult to get permission to keep your own x-rays.

Leaf and driftwood mobile 

Back at home, we've been doing some crafty stuff with leaves, making mobiles and such. Today the sun is shining fit to burst so we've had all the doors open and actually spent some time outside, which is a huge relief after days of unrelenting rain. Mil is recovering from a chest infection so I'm keeping her swaddled up, and she has a funny rash all over which the nurse at the surgery couldn't identify. It's particularly bad on her cheek, but apart from being a bit itchy it doesn't seem to be bothering her too much. She's improved hugely since she started antibiotics on Tuesday, from being a limp bundle of weepiness to back to normal cheeky monkey.

My new nursing chair!

I've also finally started sanding down a rocking chair I got from a fellow Freecycler, which I had intended to paint white, but am now considering leaving as bare wood, perhaps with just a coat of wax.

Milly sniffing the lavender in the sadly neglected allotment

So much to do in the allotment, it's quite dispiriting: every time I walk through it to feed the chickens with the girls I tend to have blinkers on so I can't see the extent of the chaos. I half-heartedly pull a few obviously wrong bits up, but as much as I want it to be fairly natural and cottage garden-like, it still needs a certain amount of maintenance which I don't feel up to at the moment.

Lavender grown from seed this year, with Cosmos still going strong behind

And still no progress with any material projects..... I just haven't felt the urge for a while, even though I have a gazillion ideas and am starting to panic slightly about the big I have to admit I am thoroughly distracted by Pinterest, which I've just joined: and as someone who used to obsessively cut out pictures from newspapers and magazines to keep for inspiration - a joke in itself as I don't think I've ever referred to them once - it is a magical tool. Finally I can stop hoarding pictures on my desktop and have them all in one place which doesn't involve building an entire new storage system around.... yay!

All in all, a good end to what has been quite a difficult week.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cherish Your Solitude

Eve Ensler
“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.”
― Eve Ensler

I found this quote scribbled on a scrap of paper whilst clearing out the crap yesterday, and it's reminded me of lots of things I hadn't thought of in a while.... like long train journeys through the beautiful English countryside, and also more difficult moments in my (past) life, when I was deeply uncomfortable with being alone. I say past, as I NEVER have time to myself any more, which, whilst being something I could never dream of doing without - my children and my husband have saved me from losing my way completely - can also be quite tough at times and can be accompanied by very conflicting (and often unnecessary) feelings of guilt and so never entirely alone really.

Last night Jude and I watched American, the Bill Hicks story which not only reminded me of what a great comic he was, but also how strongly he believed in himself and what he HAD to do. He didn't set out to be admired, he just knew he had to tell the truth, even when his own country in particular didn't want to hear it. And so he was (is) admired all the more for it. He was pretty outrageous, but he was funny and spot on with his world-view, and it's a shame there aren't more people in the public eye who are willing to say what they really think.

So now, I wish I could have offered this quote to my younger self - and watched more Bill Hicks before he died. It takes so long to learn how to live each day to its fullness, and to have faith in yourself and your heart.

We went walking on Common Moor last weekend, hence all the pics of horses. It was the first in a long time that I have stood still and been unable to hear any human sound. Although not quite complete wilderness, it did feel good to stand between sky and earth with no distractions. It would have been a good place to have slept out under the stars.

 ...the next time we go I'll take some replacement batteries for the sodding camera and get the photos I wanted to take of the perfect place to camp: next to a lake in an abandoned quarry.... beautiful!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Walking in sunshine and a tiny flutterby

After the painting session this morning we all went out for a lovely walk in the woods and Jude spotted this pretty little butterfly - the tiniest I've ever seen! I've just found out it's a small copper.

The girls had a great time, got completely covered in mud and had a good run around. We didn't fare so well on the foraging front as the squirrels have had all the hazlenuts and none of the sweet chestnuts were ripe enough to bother with... we did find lots of haycorns though!

And yes, this is a pic of Milly LICKING Jude's head - don't ask...

Then when we got back Jess and I created this out of the paintings from yesterday:

which Jess was really pleased with, as she's been waking up every morning for the last three days wanting to cut out the fish! Good day had by all :)


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