Monday 27 April 2009

Happy camper

Nancy happy reading, originally uploaded by Graham McCarthy.

Happiness is:

A good book, a sunny weekend, a couple of tents and some lazing about.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Ten things

Okay - enough navel gazing about the small and unimportant things. Here's what's on my mind today.
  • I finally found my missing bike lock key so I am all about the bike again this week. Helped by this amazing clip from YouTube, which has been seen over a million times, but is new to me. The railings! Cor.
  • I made some poppy seed rolls this morning and have taken twenty photos of them. This is surely some kind of sickness...TWENTY photos of bread rolls??
  • Last night I went to I Knit London after work for some social knitting. It was lovely and a world away from work worries. I think I'll go back. They have a bar, so you can knit, admire the amazing yarns stacked up around the shop, and drink Westons. Really what could be nicer?
  • C's favourite books of the moment are the Warrior Cats series by Erin Hunter - apparently big in the US but not so well known here. If you want an adventure story for older children that's a little bit different from the usual dragon or spy themed fare, give them a try.
  • The Archers at the moment is going through one of its so-good-but-so-frustrating phases. That Annette! Deeply irritating. And why are Tom and Brenda being such eejits? Usha's moaning about her marathon training is almost aggravating as my whining about Tesco's choice of cheese.
  • I'm sewing felt brooches - trying to use up some of my fabric scraps, but really just alarming myself with the amount of fabric scraps I have.
  • I need to get new passports for O and myself. My photos are truly awful, but so are O's which makes me feel a bit better.
  • I gave a neighbour some eggs, and she gave me some delicious handmade toiletries in return.
  • Is everyone else really missing Woolworths as well, now that school summer dress season is here?
  • I baked a cherry and almond loaf cake this morning too. Only took three photos of it. Much saner.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Small stresses - small pleasures

Why is it that small stresses get magnified, in a way that small pleasures do not? It doesn’t seem very equitable.

The car has been breaking down. That is a stress for me at the moment. It has been in the garage for a few days while the mechanics see if they can find out what’s ailing it.

So this morning, for the first day of term, I had to take C and O to school by foot and by tube – not by car. Despite having to carry all the extra first day clobber of PE kits, dinner money envelopes and re-discovered library books, travelling to school by public transport is one of life’s small pleasures for me. I get to chat to C and O and we have a long walk and a short tube journey together through the spring sunshine.

But when we got to the tube station, the tube was suspended, so we ran for a bus instead. We got on the bus, but there had been a major accident on the local A-road, so the streets were gridlocked.

So, no car, no tube, and a bus that is still sitting in jammed traffic five minutes after the start of the school day. From front door to desk it took me two and a quarter hours of travelling this morning - the children were late for school and I was late for work. That’s a stress.

Half my team have gone on holiday so there is more work than usual waiting for me at the office. Someone in Frankfurt doesn’t understand the numbers I sent them last week. His English is patchy and my German is non existent. We exchange frustrated emails and phone calls all day. That’s a stress.

The Tesco near my office doesn’t have the right sort of ham for tomorrow’s sandwiches. Nor does it have the variety of cheese I wanted. I buy wrong ham and wrong cheese and mutter darkly about how ‘this is why I shop in Waitrose’ all the way back to the office. That’s a stress.

There are small pleasures mixed in with these stresses though.

I am wearing a favourite summery cotton skirt that has been sitting in my cupboard all winter. And I am also wearing a clip in my hair that matches my skirt PERFECTLY.

At one point, sitting on the tube from school to work while it waits interminably for the signals to clear up ahead, I look up from my book and notice a whole haze of glorious purple-blue bluebells covering a bank up the side of the tube tracks.

The garage calls after lunch to say they’ve fixed the car and it wasn’t expensive. I can pick it up tomorrow morning.

I slot the last few pieces of the school summer holiday childcare jigsaw into place.

And the Cathedral bells are pealing - JUST for me, I am sure! - when I come out of the office this evening.

All small pleasures, but good ones.

And yet, when I get home this evening and my family ask me how my day was, my first thoughts are of failing transport, an unsatisfactory shopping trip and too many queries at work. I feel drained. Why do the small stresses dominate so? After a moan, I start to remember the small pleasures and think how silly I am being.

If you asked me now ‘How was your day?’ I would reply, “Lovely thanks! I walked to school this morning, wore a really pretty skirt, saw a whole bank of bluebells while I was on the tube, and sorted out the car and summer childcare!”

These small pleasures need a helping hand in being promoted – they like hiding behind the small stresses and are too easy to forget.

Saturday 18 April 2009

My strawberry girl

O has always loved strawberries.

In her first summer - when she was just 9 months old - she would squeal with delight when she saw them and then smoosh them into her mouth with her little fat fists, as fast as she could.

Then in the summers when she was at home during the week and C at school, she and I would go to the PYO and collect punnets and punnets of berries on my days off.

She's still mad for them now and helps me make the jam each year.

So her quilt has to be a strawberry quilt. The pattern is from Material Obsession - a book which I've had for over a year and which I keep coming back to for the delight of its photos. I am going to make this quilt, with appliqued strawberry panels and a mixture of light, bright aquas and pinks for the surrounding squares.

Today I spent a happy few hours cutting out and sewing the strawberry panels. Don't they look pretty in the sunshine?

The next step is cutting 184 four and a half inch squares from fifteen different fabrics for the sashing. Yikes. I am wondering if I can have it finished in time for this year's strawberry season?

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Easter Weekend

We've had a lovely mild Easter weekend - so different from last year.
There was some welcome rain for the plants and grass seed in the garden.
Some welcome chocolate for small people.
We finished one cake.....and started another.
And best of all - sewing was done. A pair of house trousers for G (I used the pattern from Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing and can highly recommend it) and a new dress for O's doll.
I love my daughter so much that I used up my last, precious remnant of Kaffe Fassett Paperweight in pink. There aren't many people I would do that for.

Sunday 12 April 2009

In concert

One of the things I swore I would do when I was pregnant with C, ten years ago, was carry on doing all the things I liked doing before I had children. I was not a fast learner and it took me over a year before I fully realised that my life had changed and I could not carry on doing all the things I did before I had children, in exactly the same way.
One of those items on my long list of "Things I shall continue doing, with children in tow" was going to see live music. I do still go to see music I really love, but not very often, and I pine for it. One of my favourite bands, Royksopp, played at the Royal Festival Hall tonight, and for the first time in ten years, rather than organising a babysitter, we took the children with us.

We took them out to dinner first, and filled them with pudding. They were excited!

I'm so glad we took them. The music was much more to our taste then theirs, but hey, we're the parents, so we get to choose the music. They can go and see things like Linkin Park or The Pussycat Dolls by themselves - when they're old enough to buy their own tickets. They loved the lighting, were rather amazed at all the dancing and screaming that went on, and had taken enough in to talk about all the different tracks we heard as we travelled home, rather dozy, on the late tube.

Even O, who fell asleep in the penultimate song.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Plain sweatshirts made fancy

Every summer C and O live in big, cosy sweatshirts or towelling tops. They are fantastic for camping, for blackberrying, for throwing on after a swim, for yomps through the forest and for all those many English summer days that don't turn out to be quite as warm as you hoped.

I embellished this top for C a year and a half ago, and the cuffs now only reach to a couple of inches above his wrists. O has had two years of wear out of a stripey towelling hoody from Mr Boden a bit like this one but can now barely get it over her head.
Hoodies are always good, because they are cosy when the weather is a bit chilly. It is surprisingly difficult to find plain, sweatshirt hoodies for children online, but I finally plumped for grey Fruit of the Loom ones from Amazon.
I jazzed O's up with suffolk puffs, button flowers and some plain running stitches. I will always like running stitch for its lovely simplicity.
My ideas for C's top took longer to agree. I suggested fish, which C declared to be 'soft'. He suggested lots of satin stitch embroidered skulls, which I told him were too fiddly. He then suggested an embroidered dragon, and we finally agreed on an appliqued dragon and yet more running stitch. I'm all about quick results this month.
The fabric is by Alexander Henry and I bought it from this shop on Etsy. I don't think there is a single Alexander Henry fabric I don't like.

Now C and O both look so cosy in their jazzed up tops, I'm looking round the house to see what else I can embellish. Surely most things can be improved with a suffolk puff or a bit of running stitch?

Sunday 5 April 2009

Things I have learnt

This weekend my younger sister was married to her soldier. I was very good and only referred to her as My Little Sister twelve times and My Baby Sister nine times. I shall now be referring to her as My Married Sister.

Things I have learnt as a result of my (Baby) sister getting married:

  • I get more emotional at weddings as I get older. I cried on the Groom's shoulder after the speeches, I cried when my Mother smiled at me in the chapel, I cried at the first dance and I cried when I saw my sister's place setting for dinner with 'Mrs' at the front of her name.
  • Maybe the crying is partly the champagne.
  • That sometimes the weather is just perfect.
  • That looking after children at weddings gets vastly easier with every year of their life. I barely saw C & O unless there was food on offer.
  • Small boys are in awe of real life soldiers, with real life swords. And spurs!
  • That small girls (and grown up girls) also love a soldier. Especially when they are wearing raspberry coloured trousers and carrying swords.
  • That my daughter is going to be TROUBLE in ten years time. She ran up to me, breathless, at about half past eleven in the evening and said "Mum! I'm dancing with soldiers!" and then ran back to the dance floor.
  • Please note the use of the plural in that last sentence.
  • That I should not share a hotel room with my children. Ever. One talks in his sleep and is prone to attacks of cramp in the middle of the night. The other snores like an old bear.
  • That family and old friends restore your soul.


With thanks to my father in law for some of these photos, and also to Sue and Katie and several others for their VERY kind words about this blog.