Saturday, 31 January 2009

A Saturday in my life

For a while now, I have been following Willow's blog. And one of my favourite things is her monthly Day In My Life series of posts. I love the little snapshot into her life - the small details are so interesting. Several of the weekend newspapers run regular columns in a similar way - A Life in the Day in The Times and Writers' Rooms in The Guardian. It is peeping into somebody else's world just momentarily, that gives me such a thrill.

So here - as a one off - is a classic winter Saturday in my life. A day neither remarkable nor special, but just lovely in its ordinariness.
My children are now old enough to give me lie ins, which is AWESOME. I promise that I will never, ever take this for granted after the years of sleepless-baby-and-wide-awake-toddler, which, frankly, scarred my sleeping patterns for life.
I emerge downstairs at 9:15 to find C and O settled quite happily on the sofa watching CBBC.
I am wearing my favourite t-shirt of the moment which was Howie's t-shirt of the week sometime last month.
I appreciate that all you can see is mirror writing, but its still cool, no? No coffee. No workee. That's me.

G sets the table for breakfast and I tuck into a bowl of my homemade muesli.
I have recently discovered muesli base from Waitrose, which is a mixture of barley, oats, rye and spelt flakes with sunflower and pumpkin seeds. You then customise the base to make precisely the kind of muesli you want. Becuase people are very finicky about muesli. Some cannot abide nuts and some find sultanas all wrong. I like mine with big old chunks of fruit in it so I add lots of chopped prunes, figs, dried strawberries and sultanas.

After breakfast, I discovered that my children have turned into superheroes. They do this quite often. Today I had Clever Party Girl and Bogey Man (Bogey's my name - snot's the game).
G cycled to a swimming lesson at the endless pool in Canary Wharf and I reclothed the superheroes and then took O to her ballet lesson.
While O was at ballet, C and I bought croisssants for lunch.
After lunch I made some bread - a sesame and sunflower seed loaf - and twiddled around on the computer while I drank some coffee.
G and C did some research for C's project on the Vikings and O made a playmobil forest.
I knitted.
My evening at Stitch & Bitch London this week taught me how to increase, put stitch markers in and put stitches on a stitch holder. I'm attempting mittens now! Oh, and if you click into that link and scroll down, you can find a picture of me - looking very serious, concentrating hard and wearing black, which I only ever do if I am at work.
I cooked a biryani for supper, and then once the children were in bed G and I dug out a DVD to watch.
We could only manage 10 minutes of Mamma Mia...the singing! the squealing! the hammy acting! no! no! no!
So here I am, uploading photos, typing my blog and finding out what events are on in Trafalgar Square tomorrow for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
How has your Saturday been?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Small things

Making small things comes with a disproportionate amount of satisfaction. They are quick, they look cute, they’re simple and they use up those precious scraps of fabric or yarn that cannot be thrown away. What’s not to like?

I’ve been making a great many small things lately. It feels like what I need after all of November and December spent making C’s quilt.

I sneaked in these fabric covered moleskine cahiers in the last few days before Christmas. The instructions are in Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts. I love them. They are fun to make and even nicer to give away as presents. Don’t they look pretty?

In the New Year, doing such long hours at work, I stuck to small things that could be tucked into a short sewing session. I decided to make these tiny, fabric bookmarks.

I’m always turning down the corners of catalogues, recipe books and sewing books, and I realised I could easily make some bookmarks with more oddments from my vast basket of scraps.

My machine was not happy about sewing such thin fabric with a very small seam allowance, and I had a few sweary moments when I started. But a couple of hours later I had over thirty (yes! thirty!) bookmarks with which I am very pleased. And they’re perfect for marking the patterns I want to knit in my new book.

Doll’s clothes are usually a quick and satisfying project. And they’re met with charming excitement by small girls. I made this vintage Cloth Kitty for O for Christmas. She is an exact replica of the one I had at O’s age. I made the doll and her dress by Christmas, but there were other clothes that came in the kit which I didn’t have time to make. Last week I dug the kit out, and in a spare hour thought I’d make the sweet little frilly knickers in the kit.

Goodness me, frilly knickers in doll’s sizes are a complete nightmare. It took me HOURS. The shirring was stressful – I did it by hand in the end. But Hannah, the doll, is pleased with them and so is her owner.

Hannah is now looking through the Mini Boden catalogue dreaming of her summer wardrobe.

And I am moving on to bigger things. The quilt for O will need to be started soon....

Monday, 19 January 2009

What's beside the bedside?

So Ali asked me what was on my bedside table. Jewellery mostly.

There are pots, dishes, bowls, boxes and all sorts of proper places to leave my jewellery at the end of the day, but I never do.

In this picture I can count 10 pairs of earrings, 2 bracelets, one necklace and a brooch. There is another whole part of my bedside table that I didn't photograph.

The little pot of cream is Jasmine Enriching Cream from Neal's Yard and it is the nicest cream in the whole world. It soothes hands, faces, cuts, scrapes, bruises, toes - anything you like. Love it. I have little pots of it scattered around the house, the office and various handbags, so that I am never without.

I don't yet scatter my glasses about - I always have a pair on, or on my bedside table, but judging from my track record with jewellery and Neal's Yard cream, its only a matter of time, surely?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

10 leftovers my hens love to eat

  • Porridge
  • Last night’s cooked vegetables
  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Pasta (they like their carbs, these girls)
  • Apple cores or a whole apple (but they won’t eat just apple peel)
  • Raisins
  • Grated cheese
  • Sweetcorn
  • Plain popcorn

Well they might like the sweet or salted versions too, but I’m not that indulgent. Sheesh.

A video of my hens at breakfast time today. Queenie is the supremely fat (and greedy) black and white speckled one at the back. Daisy is the white one. She's the leader of the flock, and looking a bit smaller than the others because she's just finished her moult. Maud is the fluffy grey one at the front.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

A new knitter

A plan of mine for 2009 was to learn how to knit. Nice relatives gave me knitting needles and the book I wanted on Christmas Day and by Boxing Day I had taught myself enough to be able to knit my first little garter stitch square. Before 2009 had even begun, I had a growing pile of squares of different stitches and a plan to turn them into a blanket.

I'm loving it. The addictive qualities of knitting have completely taken me by surprise. That moment, late in the evening, when you start saying to yourself just one more row...and before you know it its gone midnight and one more row has turned into at least 10.
I'm learning with this blanket. A few wonky stitches will be part of its charm! And I aim for it to be so huge that nobody will notice them anyway.
At this time of year, as always, I am swamped at work. Staying late and working weekends. The knitting is helping me to relax and forget about balance sheets and tax provisions when I get home. Today, I even took my knitting with me on the tube for the first time. I didn't poke anyone accidentally with a needle so I may try it again.

And it seems that its not just me learning to knit. Check this out! I've put my name on their mailing list and I'll definitely be going to go along to their next get together.
Maybe my ambition of knitting gorgeous socks like the ones my mother makes is not too many years away.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

10 things to love about the middle of winter

  • Curling your hands round a blistering hot cup of coffee.
  • Clear pale blue skies.
  • The tingling in your cheeks as they warm up.
  • Wearing boots.
  • Hot water bottles in bed (especially when they come wrapped in homemade Kaffe Fassett covers…).
  • Slow winter stews. I want to make an oxtail one soon from this book that I was given for Christmas.
  • The morning’s milk staying ice cold on the doorstep.
  • The frost, making Epping Forest white and crisp when I drive past it in the morning.
  • A few hopeful snowdrop and crocus shoots poking through the soil
  • The knowledge that in a couple of short months the darkness will be receding and the days getting longer. Winter doesn’t stay wintry for long.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


I love that feeling you get when you’re so absorbed in a book, that it takes you a few minutes to withdraw from the world the writer has created and re-focus on real life. For a while the book is real life and it can be most unsettling to snap out of it and realise that you’re not actually sitting in an apartment in Siena or running through the woods in the Canadian arctic or whatever.

For me it takes both a well written book and some peace and quiet to achieve that. At home, with family and chores around to distract me, it’s rare that I am so absorbed in a book that I forget who or where I am. More usually it happens to me when I am on the tube, travelling to or from work.

And so it was this morning. I am reading Take A Look At Me Now by Anita Notaro which a friend lent me. It is not Booker prize-winning literature, it’s written by an author I’ve never heard of, and I really don’t like the cover, but I am finding it so absorbing. Sometimes that happens with the most surprising books – I just need to keep reading because I care what is going to happen to the characters.

I was sitting in a café in rural Ireland, wondering what was going to become of the little boy whom everybody wanted, when I dimly heard a train announcement telling me that this was Bank station. Change here for the the Waterloo and City line, the Northern Line, District and Circle Lines and the Docklands Light Railway. I hauled myself back from Wicklow to London and put my book into my handbag ready to get off at the next stop.

When I looked up I saw an extremely tall man standing right in front of me, rolling a crystal ball around on the back of his hand. He wore no coat but had a black zip-up top with a rather mesmerising swirly orange pattern on it. The crystal ball was the size of a large grapefruit and he rolled his hand around underneath it, so that the ball looked as though it remained still and serene while his hand writhed around below. He rolled his head around to match the rhythm of his hand.

I spent the short journey from Bank to St Pauls openly staring at this bizarre sight, wondering if I were being hypnotised. I only just remembered to get off the train right before the doors shut. On the way up from the platforms to the street I was mulling over the incident of the crystal ball, and still wondering what was happening to the book characters I’d left behind in Wicklow, when I nearly tripped over four identically dressed, very short men, each crouched over identical, old-fashioned, walking sticks as they hobbled off the escalator in front of me.

Again, more staring from me as I realised that they were identical quads aged about 60, complete with identical hobbling gaits and matching black homburg hats. How come they all had the same disability? Where did they get such cool hats? So very odd.

A few minutes later, standing in the queue at the coffee shop I was wondering if I had imagined it all. The imaginary book world in Wicklow and the real world in London were getting hard to tell apart. Books can transport you to places you’d never dreamt of, and it seems that the London Underground can too.


St Paul's station this morning; watch out - strange things happen in here!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Where I was 2008

I love the new year. I love that feeling of blankness stetching out ahead of me. All those new possibilities and empty pages in the diary.

I also love reminiscing, and as I ease myself into the new year (no flurry of resolutions here, just a one or two vague hopes and a few half thought out plans) I still spend a great deal of time looking back at the previous year. Usually I think to myself 'look how much happened!'

This is where I was in 2008.
Spring: at home with a new apron; collecting the new season's eggs from Queenie, my most reliable layer; walking to work.
Summer: in the south west of France for the May half term; at the uplifting madness that was the Secret Garden Festival (please note my boyfriend's chequer board haircut which seemed like an inspired idea after a few cocktails); driving up the M11 and being dazzled by the fields of rapeseed coming into bloom; in Cumbria for our summer holidays, bird spotting with the binoculars.
Autumn: cycling through Victoria Park on the way to work; sitting with C in the community centre as O did her ballet class after school.
Winter: walks to the local park; yomps through Epping Forest in the low winter light.
I can't even begin to imagine which photos I will put here at the end of 2009. Let's see what will unfold.