Tag Archives: new year resolutions

Puzzling…

Every time I open the box I have hope. Hope that this time it’ll be different, we’ll all bond over the pieces. Our faces intent, happy, satisfied.

I see other people do it. There’s possibly nothing my sister loves more than a good jigsaw. It’s like she got the puzzling lot genetically and it skipped me altogether.

I feel like I’m letting the kids down though, despite my best efforts they take to those little pieces like ducks to water (ooh – very hard to do watery bits – like grey skies…) The other day, scouring my local charity shop for wool jumpers to felt, Zeph and Ida found a gorgeous box of old dominoes and a 1000 piece jigsaw of a toy crammed attic.

Like Dickensian orphans they gathered round my knees with their loot, gazing upwards with huge pleading eyes. Pleeeeeeeeeeeese they begged.

I should have known better, I blame a residual christmas goodwill, families gathered round a table, egg nog kind of glow.

I bought the damn thing.

God knows we’ve got plenty of stuff to do here. Including some Harry potter Lego and a wet felting kit I’m longing to try. But this afternoon after the final thank you letter was done and posted we got out the box and began the ritual searching for straight edges.

Literally 20 pieces in and two gentle corrections of my sorting from my nearly three year old daughter  (the shame – the shame ) I knew nothing had changed.

I hate jigsaws.

Two hours later we still haven’t completed the sides and I have a tension headache. Zeph has just tactfully suggested a break and Ida is still putting together the top section of monotonous beam.

I can’t stop thinking how I could transform the pieces into a necklace and wondering where we’re going to eat over the next six months which is how long it’ll take if I’m in charge of the J project.

Before the kids went upstairs for bath and bed they came to tell me that they WILL notice if I sweep the completed bits back into the box and burn it while they’re in bed. Ida added with a baleful look under her eyelashes that she will cry if this happens.

Darn.

Looking at the thing – they’ve done nearly half. I simply cannot understand how. Maybe it’s some kind of disability like being colour-blind? I mean I like puzzles generally. Crosswords, so- duko – even those pointless word grid things. I’m not averse to a bit of monotonous work either. Sometimes it’s very soothing.

Jigsaws though. Chewing tinfoil.

It’s nearly back to school time and the holidays have skipped by. Looking back at last years posts I notice how the Thank you cards were a painful battle and see what a difference a year makes.  Me relaxing over Zeph’s writing seems to have made an enormous difference to his confidence, ability and willingness to set pen to paper. I make a mental note to try to remember this the next time I’m seized with the urge to micro manage his skills, convinced he’s going to end up in a clockwork orange style gang roaming the streets –  engaging in gladiatorial knife fights (too much late night Skins watching…)

So far 2012 has passed smoothly, of course we’re only six days in. I didn’t make any concrete resolutions. Just to keep plugging away at the old ones. Maybe to post a bit more. To feather our mouldy nest a bit more decisively this year, to keep selling stuff and to relish the moment I’m in. 

This year holds the possibility of many things. My two years clear marker, Ida’s third birthday in a scant four days. Zephs metoric rise in the cooking tea department. A hallway free of ripped wallpaper. A quince tree in the garden.

I flex my toes in pleased anticiaption.

Just got to do that jigsaw first…

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Have yourself a very merry Christmas…

  

Possibly one of my favourite things ever.

Our Christmas tree. Every year I see-saw over the price and the general non-greenness. Worries which I assuage by making a more environmental friendly, locally gown choice which ups the price but I usually capitulate to my inner child.

It’s probably our biggest christmas expenditure and it makes me so overwhelmingly happy. On a very skint year I can substitute a big bundle of branches or the bay tree in a pot from the garden but really, look – isn’t it toe-curlingly beautiful?

The smell is heavenly though I openly yearn for the Victorian candle clips I remember from my Nannie’s tree as a very small child which add a heady mix of toasted pine resin, bees-wax and candle smoke.

So far I haven’t convinced Steve who, although far from a health and safety enthusiast, says he has to draw the line somewhere. We have a happy mix of eclectic decorations though. Many homemade, a couple by me as a child. Some were gifts from my parent’s collection when I left home and we try to buy or make a new one every year.

This one is my very favourite;

 Bought on Zeph’s first birthday it’s the one I always look for first in the mass of tissue paper all our precious baubless are wrapped in. We managed to dress the tree on Steve’s day off this year so we all got to squabble over the lopsided robin, christmas robot and the sparkly pig and tell the story of each purchase and battered handcrafted effort.

We started with the Nightmare Before Christmas on in the background which Zeph watched obsessively as a toddler but swapped to The Snowman when Ida took against Sally in a big way.

This is Ida and I at the front of the bus on the way to see Jack and the Beanstalk. Steve’s lovely sister gave us a family ticket for christmas which was a brilliant present. Apart from Ida now having a giant phobia which causes trouble at night when she wakes up confused from a nightmare and mistakes Steve for the giant, (it’s the beard.) 

I’m feeling remarkably festive. Yesterday was my dad’s sixtieth birthday and we had a tea party. It was a perfect get together and I feel loved and loving as I always do after time with my family.

Tomorrow we have more visitors and I’m baking a ham which means the house smells of treacle and cloves and I feel bountiful on the food front. It’s raining heavily outside but I don’t think we need to leave the house now for the next couple of days and I have a deliciously cosy feeling of having pulled up the drawbridge fully provisioned and surrounded by my best-loved people.

With everything made, finished and wrapped I’m turning my mind to the end of the year and the start of the new. Although I haven’t kept up my post-a-day momentum from the beginning of my blog it is still a big and vital part of my life.

I have *met* the most fantastic people through it and had wonderful comments which have healed me and sustained me in a way I’m sure the givers have no idea of. I logged on today to post this and found a lovely blog award from Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles which I can’t wait to post about.

More than that it’s opened a space up in my head and helped me carve out time for my writing habit. I’ve been inspired by so many people to grow, cook, sketch, do things with my children – to notice the world around me – and I feel immensely blessed and full of hope and cheer.

So I just wanted to wish you all the Christmas you want, be it sparkly, festive, peaceful, spiritual or reflective. The sun is returning, the babe is reborn – let’s be full of love and hold back the dark and the cold together.

Merry Christmas!

Small Things – yes that’s you too Clarkson.

Ah Clarkson eh? 

Haven’t people got their knickers in a twist about it all? Yes, he said an ignorant uniformed oafish thing. Is this not how he makes his money?

Personally I think he’s an arse. Just like I did when I got up in the morning yesterday. I am furious, enraged and calling for some kind of action, from the bloody government not an overpaid under-endowed lout in stonewashed denim.

Also if anyone caught me ranting about my list of first-against-the-wallers they might well be appalled. Of course I understand that the man has a media platform and hence a responsibility but I still think the people I’ve heard expending energy on the slow news day story should redirect it to the real badhats. I’m looking at you Cameron *grrrr*

This is how bad my living room looks at the moment. Not only am I trying to finish off a couple of orders and prepare for a craft fair on Sunday – I am also whipping up a few animal masks for Zeph’s Xmas show of Roald Dahl’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

It’s involved me rooting through my boxes of fabric for scraps that look like feathers for a seagull, rooster, eagle duck and two chickens or fur for a sheepdog, donkey, horse, pig or two goats.  *sigh*  At least I get to hide here at the keyboard picking pva glue off my fingers (really – it’s addictive!)

I actually love making costumes for the play. In fact all dressing up, facepainting, denbuilding activities are a big hit here. We struggle more with the tidying up, clean jumpers, washed dishes, clean kitchen floor end of things.

I bought a new washing up bowl this morning. It might not sound earth shattering but it is purple. I’m trying to feather the nest a little. A clean sink definitely helps my mood. Although I don’t always succeed with my new years resolution of washing up every night before bed I usually manage a bowl first thing in the morning chaos. I think  a purple bowl is going to please me on a daily basis. That’s a good return on a £2.00 investment. 

As always – it’s the small things. Which I accept may not be riveting reading… 

Another small pleasure today is the cigar box of buttons my G’ma slipped me over coffee yesterday.

 

Buttons. Reliable joy.

Autumnal thinking

Ah – a successful afternoon, knitting while forcing the children to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s on film4 along with me.

 Zeph was in and out, playing a complicated Pokemon game in the garden – sporadically appearing to ask if it was still on and whether I knew Batman was on the other side.

 Ida is trying to encourage the appearance of a new hat on my recently acquired circular needle by watching me very closely and shouting “knit faster!” at startling intervals.

In between this I weep along at all my favourite bits – oh Doc – she just isn’t Lula Mae any more. Zeph joined us in time for the end. At the bit about the cages and Holly taking her’s wherever she goes he gleefully pointed out that was like what I say (obviously tediously often if it’s sunk in with him) about taking yourself to the places you go.

I observe sourly Capote got there first. In fact I rant off while counting my knit two pearl two’s about there only being five stories… I look up to an empty room. Pearls before swine I’m telling you, pearls before swine.

Today was a good day. We ran into a friend at the supermarket and had a spontaneous hour in the park playground. Sitting here now I’m reflecting on how good it is to see her, always and why I’m so rubbish at fixing up playdates.

Its been a long summer. Not in terms of being bored with having Zeph home, which has flown by and not in the sense of long balmy hot days lying in the garden watching bats flutter over a gin in the stretched out twilight. No, long in the sense of wading through shoulder-high treacle depression everyday.

Routinely after a miserable stretch I scan the horizon for some symbolic sign of change to cling on to. This year it’s the end of summer and the arrival of abundant fragrant autumn. Though Keats uses this season of mellow fruitfulness to think about  drawing to ends I always see it as new beginnings and possibilities.

Maybe it’s the new term. Pristine books, unmarked pages, clean pencil cases. Untested teachers, new starts, fresh classrooms. Not that I have any of these – still I can always live vicariously through Zeph – surely this is an offspring perk?

Anyway I’m scoring a line under summer and inhaling the colder evenings, bonfires and rotting leaves with pleasure and fresh hope. Steve and I have disagreed and I’m finally ready to let go of the grudge and start afresh with the falling leaves. I’m taking the children away to the seaside for four days in a caravan over the first weekend in september. Due to a breakdown in communication, goodwill and holiday booking I’m doing it on my own but am finally ready to look forward to it instead of resenting it with a bitter stone in my chest. 

I plan to take hardly anything, make everyone wear three layers to travel, purchase all food instead of cooking and buy some books down there so I don’t have to carry them. I also resolve to try not butt heads with Zeph and play up the team angle and working together to contain Ida. Also to employ bribery whenever necessary to maintain my sanity and to make Steve pay for it all. Most importantly to take notice of the all the beauty that’ll be there in the turning wheel of the seasons. To embrace the autumnal beach and not yearn for the summer one.

Succinctly, to live in the moment. This lesson’s a long one I think and I have to keep recapping. That’s okay – I get stuff in the end. Recently I realised how to move the wool whilst knitting ribbing. It’s all so obvious now and although tiny I celebrate my learning curve.

Brisk autumn breeze, please lift up the veil and let me see all the beautiful things around me. I will bake apples for you with butter and cinnamon. I will pile gleaming mounds of conkers in the corners of my garden. Eat blackberries from the side of the path and stain my fingers purple with their juices. Wear new shoes and start a fresh sketchbook. Collect a plastic bag of golden and scarlet leaves to rot down quietly behind the shed. Cook jacket potatoes in the edge of a bonfire. Honour you quietly but honestly and wholeheartedly. Lovely autumn, please blow some changes through me.

Beautiful Things

So due to the fore mentioned wobble I have fewer posts than I would like so, to reach my resolution pleasing 365 at the end of the year I may be playing catch up. I don’t care if this is cheating…it feels right in my head.

So here’s a round-up of my current BT’s. There are a few flowers – I don’t know if that’s a little WI –  it’s just they consistently make me happy.  That this thing, of intense beauty and fragility, is functionally efficient in every way. It pleases me. Hugely.

My autumn planted alliums are exploding like purple fireworks;

The peony buds are fatter and still covered in ants;

On Good Friday my Mum and Dad came to plant some potatoes at our house. I didn’t tell them I’d already put the majority of ours into the ground. Breaking my Mum’s GF embargo… We had some Charlotte’s left and she brought some pink firs so we planted them in bags and old pot; 

        In the morning Zeph and I attempted chocolate eclairs. We planned to painstakingly photograph our progress as, personally, I would have found a photograph of the dough “coming together” helpful. Sadly we completely forgot, in our excitement, to take any photo’s.

Bah.

They came out really well though. When we took them out of the oven they did look worryingly flat but as Zeph said later, jubilantly, “it’s the cream that makes them all fat.”

I also messed up the chocolate ganache icing thing. Three times. Luckily it still tastes great when it’s all grainy. We resolve to do it again, properly, with a piping bag, I’ll make toffee icing instead and Zeph will be in charge of the camera. Until this magical day check out these bad boys on my cake stand (obviously!)

   

On sunday we gathered at G’mas for an amazing day of lots of family, egg trails and far too much food. These are the pig cakes, Alice, who has the baking gene, made in honour of Steve’s porcine fondness. The sun shone and the kids tumbled about poking under leaves for chocolate eggs gleaming in their brightly coloured foil. Ida took great joy in coercing my Mum into collecting all the fallen camellia flowers and laying them out on the jumble find tractor that lives in G’mas greenhouse.

Aprons are de rigueur here you know.

The Big Smoke.

Huzzah! had the most amazing few days. My feet hurt though…

A few capital BT’s….

This is the kids romping around the V&A. It’s the first time we’ve been with them and they loved it. We looked round the asian rooms spending quite a lot of time peering at the Tipu Sultan tiger savaging a british soldier and the samurai swords and armour. I forced them round the new medieval galleries (selfish mum) where Z pointed out there was a lot of jesus… found the chaviest madonna and child I’ve ever been privileged to witness;

I mean, she wouldn’t look out-of-place in Burberry would she? A baby bottle full of coke, fag and some huge furry boots and I’d not look twice at her crossing Barton Street.

It’s true…I am a philistine. One of the galleries full of examples of architectural detail and architraving put me in mind slightly of a reclamation yard.

That makes it sound as though I yawned round it and I really didn’t – beautiful early examples of european altarpieces made me feel swoopy in the stomach, loved it.

Ida’ s ooooh face in the foyer at the blown glass chandelier which is one of my reliable swoopy items.

Though as J says, think of the dusting.

I mean that’s the only reason I’m not installing one.

Actually Idas ooooooh face features heavily in my BT’s. A stand out one was her first glimpse of a giraffe. She’s very fond of a few giraffe characters including the one who gets sent from the zoo and is toooooooo tall. I don’t think she had any clue how tall. After a good ten minutes big eyed looking she turned to me and said, “E’s very big” incredibly seriously. She also annoyed quite a few people in the walk through monkey enclosure who rushed over to see what we were watching so intently. It wasn’t a monkey, it was a squirrel. A very plump one who obviously does quite well on someone elses dinner. It’s no good tutting at us people, she’s two, the squirrel is easily as fascinating as a monkey.

My best bit was walking down the south bank with J – the chance to idly chat is a real pleasure for me and being with someone with so much twiddly arcane knowledge to share is amazing. Twilight is my favourite time and looking at the lights gleaming through the fogginess on the skyline felt noteworthy pleasurable. Under the bridge by the festival hall the sky was the most magical shade of purple pink and beyond the capabilities of my feeble camera to capture.

Had loads of amazing food – salt beef bagels from brick lane – silky dim sum dumplings (dipped ONLY in vinegar – and a recommendation beyond reproach, if only I had followed it fully..) in Jens cafe in Chinatown. A really astonishing pearl drink I had no high expectations for but loved and the greediest happiest Mexican meal where I got to try new stuff which makes me stupidly happy. Shopping today for bread, having planned a frugal beans on toast tea, Zeph and I got a bit carried away and tried to make some of the stuff we’d tried.

My first ceviche and it was really good – honest to god it was… and I recreated a tamarind drink that tasted, although not exactly like the one we had, good. Nobody vomited anyway. Our local supermarket couldn’t supply us with cactus but we got cactus juice (in case the tamarind thing didn’t pan out.) Apropos nothing… Please note the glorious orange of the mango…ahem.

Anyway my best BT has to be Steve being genuinely joyful and silly and playful with the kids. I already have a dread of the end of the holiday but am trying to note and store up all the lightness.

This is Ida insisting on kissing goodbye to all the white plastic rabbit just outside Spitalfields market .

She went round twice. It’s a toss-up whether she loved these, the armadillo at the zoo or J best. I am charmed by how much she loves my friends and reassure myself that it’s because she is so secure in my love she can reject me so freely. That is why isn’t it?

It feels luxurious to have too many BT’s to pick from – I will stop boring you with my very poor impression of a tour guide. I did really miss writing a post every day. It seems to have become a habit so quickly, good to know I can form socially acceptable ones as fast as bad.

We’re going back to london pretty soon – don’t panic J,(only one of the most beautiful and talented people I know..as you see slighty unnerved by giving her a link to this blog, honest to god it wasn’t my idea to take the trainset you know...) only a day trip to this: http://marchforthealternative.org.uk/ I’m taking the kids as well..on a coach…must remember to pack a good Meg & Mog supply. If you’re at all inclined do consider it…

Party animals

Ah  – it’s nearly eleven and we’ve just got in. Ida is fast asleep in the pushchair and I am hastily writing this because I’m pretty sure she’ll wake up as I PJ her and the resulting cuddling etc will take longer than I have left of today.

I’m determined to post before midnight for previously unmentioned reasons. Probably can drop the cloak and dagger stuff eh?

Had a brilliant family party for my aunt (hmm she’s only three years older than me…) A surprise one but she scrubbed up well. I think she may have guessed – we’re not the most discreet bunch. It was lovely to see everyone and the kids had a classic family party time. Lots of sugar, dance floor to themselves, various doting aunts and grandmas, cousins to race about with and in Z’s case hang about on the stairs with. Daring each other and sneaking cakes and cola. He had the chance to lay down some moves, premiere his new cart-wheel “move” and impress some three-year olds. Classic.

I contributed a few metres of bunting (heart-shaped) :

Various foods, including these  butterfly cakes that turned out yummy:

and my children were VERY entertaining:

sprouts and clean sheets

This is the last post for January which means I’m one twelfth through my unspoken resolution. Got to tell you it’s a commitment record for me. Whoop.

I really like some of the achievement style list and life goals I’ve seen around the blogosphere on my (far too regular) aimless wanderings. Turning some goals over in my mind I think the main one for now is to keep going, and be more present in the moment…. and wash up more. Plus a few more unspoken ones, actually saying or typing them will jinx them I’m sure so I’m not running the risk. 

I’m surprisingly cheerful considering today is a fail so far on all my get organised, be tidier, do some cleaning daily resolutions. Could be because I’m about to put clean sheets on the bed which means clean fresh beds to slide into tonight.

 Also there appear to be NO new spots today, break out the gin – which is hilarious because I have obviously already drained any spirit bottles left unadvisedly around.

I’m attempting a patchwork bag as a b’day gift for a friend who’s coming for tea on Thursday.  For some reason my sewing machine wants to thwart me in this plan, tangling and chewing my pieces at every opportunity. Maybe it’s a sign but since I really can’t afford to shop properly and am sticking to the house to avoid any kind of temptation. I’ll try again later once I’ve confined the spotty one to bed.

Lots of beautiful things today. Shopping with Ida was fun with lots of time for her to help pick all the veg – she examines each sprout in detail. Any that aren’t perfectly green and spherical are returned to the box with a tiny disapproving frown. My granny would be proud.

Thank you cards, no, really, thank you.

Thank you cards. Well we’ve made them –  the truly painful bit, writing them, has yet to be done. This is a little woman issue as well, bet Beth wrote thank you letters, she probably embroidered them. It’s all a bit Martha Stewart. 

 I honestly think it’s the right, kind and honourable thing to do but sometimes, as I loom over Z – painful sentence after sentence, like squeezing blood from a stone, I feel unbearably uptight and as though I should be wearing a gingham blouse…and a frilly apron.

The cards themselves look great! M&D got Zeph a truly brilliant a-z stamping set so we’ve just been messing around with ink pads,stamps and tissue paper. Ida did manage to stamp her entire face with a W and a P in green ink before I noticed but apart from that it went quite smoothly.

ah - glitter...

I find this is unusual for kids + craft activities. It’s always hard to resist the temptation to intervene but I  love the haphazard wonkiness of their creations. You can always tell the genuine article (it’s a bit shit) from a supervised creation.   Of course since my own crafting is slightly slapdash I think sometimes my family get confused. One of my scarves this year was mistaken for a Zeph present. I took a lot of care over those boho dropped stitches!

Despite making a concerted effort to resist making resolutions this year I have secretly been inwardly planning. This blog is one. I find it so hard to stick with anything. My kids and their father are the exception and I expect that’s because I don’t wash them enough (why are small children always sticky?) If I could just manage a year… Well I’m not exactly sure what that will accomplish – maybe I’ll find out when I get there. Am pretty sure it’s not going to be one of these cutting edge, exciting, meaningful blogs but many of my favourite reads are the quirky mundane ones. I think it’s probably because it makes you feel less alone. Also I enjoy reading about people avoiding washing up whilst I avoid my own.

On that note one of my internal resolutions was to wash up before bed tonight. Imagine! oh the dizzy heights.