Friday, 28 January 2011

The Metaphor Scarf and Other Projects

So, I started knitting this shortly after baby was born. I saw this pattern on the Purl Bee and thought it looked pretty achievable. A really nice effect with minimum thought or effort.

I didn't bother buying the recommended yarn - I had a ball left over from something else that I thought would work, so I just got stuck in. And in between changing nappies and waking up all night and rocking a screaming baby and feeling sore, I knitted a row here and a row there.

And as I did so, I thought to myself how nice it was to do something that I could see growing and that would be finished, in the midst of this new crazy hamster wheel of a parenting life.

It will be a lovely metaphor I thought, a physical enactment of the effort I have been putting in every minute every day with this new life. Something I can hold and use, that shows how all those little stitches make something big and whole.

Hmmm. So I came to the end of the ball of yarn, and realised there was no more, and realised it was really rather short (as in you couldn't wrap it round your neck in any way which would stay on), and also rather stiff and scratchy due to using the wrong yarn!

I stitched the ends up to make a loop - the only way to make it wearable, albeit slightly peculiar. And now, instead of making me think of the hard slog of those early days and how I worked so hard and am achieving things however much it sometimes doesn't feel like it, it just makes me think of how doing knitting projects with (not enough of) the wrong yarn, the wrong needles and no preparation results in something a bit disappointing. Not such a lovely metaphor!

Having said all that, it obviously didn't teach me its lesson as I am currently embarked on another project with the wrong needles and the wrong yarn. When you have leftover stuff to use up and you want to start something NOW its just too tempting. I'm hoping I can estimate/bodge the adjustments I need to make to make it the right size. We'll see...

The other thing about that scarf though was that I decided I had to finish that before moving onto any other project. I have a list of projects I want to do - things like clearing out my wardrobe and putting photos in albums as well as things I'd like to make. This approach has been very succesful so far. I'm an excellent planner, a relatively good starter and a terrible finisher of things. Making myself do one thing at a time has been a very good discipline for me. After the scarf I got stuck into filing of important documents and papers, and have just finished that. Finished something! The feeling is quite unusual. (Whether this kind of efficiency continues is another matter... )

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

That's the way to do New Year's Resolutions!

They are so tempting. The allure of a shimmering mirage of an upgraded you. The moreish taste of self discipline and pointless achievement. The chance to luxuriate for a little while in the possibility that this time you might change.

But I have learned my lesson. I've done resolutions in the past. I've got all enamoured with them, believed in them, and then forgotten them or ignored them hastily and reverted to type.

I flirted with them this year. I let the ideas pop up in my head. I thought, 'I'd like to: grow vegetables - finish a knitting project that actually works - send people presents on time - eat hardly any sugar - create delicious veggie dishes and fruit-based puds every night - wear grown up night gear - change the bed every fortnight - have always stylish hair - be nicer to people - give more to charity - network at work - go on date nights - stop watching shit tv - crochet a blanket - keep house plants alive - go to yoga once a week - meditate every day - take brilliant photos - not leave the house looking like a bag lady - sort everything before it becomes a pile - stop having miseries - read more - blog regularly - keep things clean - write real letters to people............................

And then I walked away from all that in the comfortable knowledge that it will never happen. And I thought, 'Let's make this achievable!'. And brief.

I resolved to go to the dentist.

I haven't been since 2001 - keep meaning to but I have a particular talent for not actually getting round to doing things that are quite easy but non-urgent and sound to me like a bit too much effort.

And... I went! Slightly freaked out by the young and glamorous lady dentist - I thought they were all old men. But she was lovely and only found one little spot that needed a filling (my first ever). So yay.

The silly thing is, I know this resolution thing is quite arbitrary, and well, kind of a cheat, but even so I keep getting this satisfying feeling of achievement. I'm done for the year!

If at first you don't succeed, as the saying goes...

(....lower your standards, or cheat)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Cereal is not an uncommon dessert in my household. Shreddies are satisfying after dinner; crunchy nut on top of a little muesli a pleasant pudding, but for the truly luxurious experience, a good granola is the way to go. Oh, and you can eat it for breakfast too if you're that way inclined.

The shop bought stuff is expensive and making your own is not only very simple but makes your kitchen smell delicious. And you get to choose exactly what goes in, which is fun. Endless possibilities for combinations.

I've experimented with a few recipes recently, and finally found one I really really like, courtesy of the lovely Clotilde , whose granola formula gives you the basic principles from which you can experiment with the details to suit your taste.

So, mine went like this:
3 cups of oats, rye flakes and barley flakes
1 cup whole almonds
2 tbsps sunflower oil
6 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt

The above well mixed until thoroughly combined, then spread onto a couple of greased baking trays and baked at 150C for 30-40 mins turning every 10mins.

Then to the cooled mix, added:

1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/4 cup coconut flakes

Seriously good.

January's almost over!

Which is good, because whilst I do try not to wish time away too much, January is almost always a terribly miserable month. February is never much better, although at least it keeps itself to a more reasonable 28 days. I invariably start wishing I could hibernate around this time of year.

January started especially miserably for me with a bout of flu. I'm not normally a panicker when ill, but I have to admit to serial temperature taking and a little bit of the 'what ifs' over swine flu fears. Much easier to get sucked into the panic when there's a baby around is my excuse. It really wasn't all that bad - I managed to go out for a steak and chips lunch on day 2 so I was hardly on the edge of disaster.

Anyway, happily all in the past now, and what with that and then a trip back home to see the parents, I suddenly realised it's the 19th already which made me feel quite chipper.

Some very brief updates:

Sleep training - Ah, ha ha ha ha ha ha. 'Training'. Yep. I think I'm on something like day 40 and well let's just say all is not going as planned. Still, I'm actually quite okay with how things are at the moment so just going to be grateful for that and not stress it.

Reading - Nighttime wakings have allowed me to work my way through the entire archives of another blog - or two in one really - I've been following Fay's post-baby Baby and Wool. for a while but went all the way back to the beginning of the pre-baby Dreaming of an Aga . It really is nice to go through a whole blog start to finish and get a better sense of the story of things and it was a joy to go through craft projects, vegetable growing, house moving and baby growing with Fay. I got all inspired to make heirloom quilts and fabulous baby dresses. Then remembered I'm not so good at finishing projects and should probably just stick to the usual targets of keeping myself and babe relatively sane, clean and well-fed. Big believer in keeping things relaxed and achievable.
Cooking - I made this splendid cake for my blogoversary back in December. (A little late obvs, but the blog didn't seem to mind). Not a recipe to post, as it's just your bog-standard Victoria sponge, but my gift to you is the genius idea of sandwiching it with Nutella, Dulce de Leche and chopped nuts. I'm not really a cream and jam person. This was heavenly, and felt like a cake truly worthy of a celebration. I meant for it to have three layers, but I only have one cake pan so that would have been a bit of a mission.