Thursday, August 11, 2011

Living off the land...

There aren't many things as satisfying as going out into your own garden and getting the fruit and veg that you are going to cook for dinner. With all the rain that we've been having the veg have been pretty slow in coming (the tomatoes, now that there are any, are still all green, even in the greenhouse) but the fruit - oh, the fruit! - is amazing this year. We are having an absolute glutt of plums, and green gages, and apples and pears.

The green gages are all gone now, but the victoria plums are just coming online so tonight I went out there and I picked a little bowl full of them and made a dish that brings back a lot of childhood memories for me: Zwetschgenknoedel (plum dumplings), which is a dish from Germany / Bohemia. The plums are wrapped in a thin layer of quark dough (just quark, flour and a pinch of salt), are cooked in simmering water until they float. They are then cut open, sprinkled liberally with sugar and drizzled with melted butter. DELICIOUS!

Poor D was all shook up though, because he was having pudding for dinner. I think the idea of eating a sweet dish as a main meal is more German than British...

Of course the lads were sceptical, so I also dug up the first lot of little new potatoes (which were beautiful - aren't the first new potatoes always the best?) and grilled the obligatory fish fingers. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if there is any government recommendation on how many fishfingers one family should eat. I'm sure we are well over the limit!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Recap - May/June

|Listened to| My boys laughing and playing
|Read| Far too many exams and essays
|Watched| Mad Men
|Did| Marked and marked and marked. And when that was finished started on research for my next conference paper. Managed to secure a book contract. Also managed some knitting (pictures to come)
|Learned| Not to leave things too late
|Ate| Rice and Kimchi (my Korean heritage is making itself known)
|Drank| Peppermint tea
|Thought| A great many things, many of them to do with our expanding family
|Was happy| To see the newest addition to the household bounce around on the u/s screen
|Wished| for more time to spend with my family / to work / to sleep
|Planned| the coming year
|Bought| not much - trying to budget for a year of maternity leave. But I did get the newest Sookie Stackhouse novel (Charlaine Harris).
|Clicked| Soulemama

Friday, April 01, 2011

The trouble with wool blankets...

... is that they take so long to make!

Over the past year I've been working on a grannysquare blanket. Not all the time, mind, just on and off. Sometimes I'd work on it for a few days, then I'd put it aside for a couple of weeks, and so on. Still, you'd think that I'd have enough squares for a decent-sized blanket my now, right? RIGHT?

Yes, so did I. And in the bag it looked like I had LOTS AND LOTS of squares, well enough for a blankie.

So I laid it all out on the floor - or rather, I tried to, while the Tickster was determined to thwart my efforts by taking it all apart again.

The thing looks tiny!

I'm so disheartened! Honestly, I think I'll need about the same amount again to get a decent size. It's not that it isn't fun to crochet the squares, and it's a good portable project too, but we are talking another 60 squares or so. Ugh!

Maybe it wants to be a little lap blanket instead...

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Dear D and I had a child-free day today (thanks Grandma!) and we did what we like best - tinkering. D went out into the garden and tinkered with the car all day long (it needed it, believe me), which is his idea of heaven, and I did the same in the house.

I finally hung some of my pictures:

These are my Nikki McClure prints which I've had for ages and I've been meaning to hang, just like that, for equally as long. It creates some continuity with 'Congregate', which is presiding over the place where we hang the coats.

Anyway, we'd been meaning to hang these prints for ages. The holdup was that our walls are so bad, so every time we tried to hammer a nail into the wall bits of plaster would come off, creating a big hole in the wall and making the whole process of hanging pictures a nightmare of frayed nerves, swearing and bickering. Then a friend of mine introduced me to these:

They revolutionised our life! No more lumps of plaster falling off, no more wobbly, bent nails in the wall. You hammer them in and they are solid. There is the small draw-back of them being impossible to remove once they are in the wall - they will be there for eternity I fear. As I found out when I managed to whack one of the hooks off with a too-enthusiastic swing of the hammer. I had to put another hook in next to it because the damaged one coming out? No chance.

Anyway, I digress... The six pictures being up I felt inspired to do other things. I hung another picture that I bought recently. It's themed around a Morissey quote: "There's more to life than books you know, but not much more". I love it.

Together with Say's artwork (thank you so much Say, it makes me happy everytime I look at it!) this makes the living room complete as far as pictures are concerned. :-)

I was on a roll. We've recently ut some of the stuff in the sheds on ebay and today someone came to pick up a bathtub, so I had a good look around and dug out a tattered but quite cute little chest of drawers:

Battered but cute, no? I think I will whitewash it, because it's been painted before and it just doesn't get any cleaner than that. (Lorry made out of cardbord boxes and plastic trays sitting on the chest of drawers curtesy of the Bean)

I also dragged out another cupboard. It used to be full of tools at my MIL's. No idea where it was from originally, but D reckons it was someone in his family. Still have to take a picture of it but it has found a new home in our bathroom.

Sometimes, Grandma days are great! And tomorrow we'll take the lads to the carboot and then spend the day playing in the garden. :-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ten on Tuesday - Favourite Smells

What a strange one, was the first thought I had when I got this week's prompt for Ten on Tuesdays, but then I realised that there is a lot to think about when it comes to smells and in the end it was very easy to compile the list. So here you go:

Vanilla pods – I’ve always loved the smell. Delicious.

Christmas baking – of course all baking is lovely, but there is something about Christmas cookies in the oven and that smell of cinnamon and cloves, and Christmas spices that just encapsulates everything that is magical about Christmas.

The sea – that salty smell. Difficult to describe what it is about that, but I love it.

Spring – earthy, moist, fertile. There is a distinctive smell to spring, when the earth wakes up and the first fresh shoots are starting to appear. It brings it with it all the joy of the changing season and longer days and warmer weather and the promise of another summer spent in the garden.

Roses – delicate, fragile, decadent, delicious. Beautiful flowers, beautiful scent.

Mint – fresh and zingy. I love mint anyway – peppermint tea is one of my favourites, and just the whole idea of picking a few leaves and crushing them in my hand and getting this lovely scent from them is beautiful I think. Such a powerful scent from such an unimpressive looking plant.

Lavender – old-fashioned and nostalgic.

Babies – everything about babies is delicious. Especially newborns. Difficult to describe what they actually smell of, but there is something about their delicate and precious little selves and that warm baby smell, all milky and snugly, that is irresistible I think.

Fresh bread – what’s not to love?

Old books – yes, that weird, fusty, slightly mouldy smell of old books is one of my favourites. Don’t ask... I guess it has something to do with my love of books, not just to read but also as objects . Somehow that mildew-y smell is comforting and calming to me, reminding me of happy days spent hidden away at antiquarian bookshops and car boot sales digging through dusty old tomes. And yes, I do realise that this is a bit odd.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

Ten Things to Like About the Month of March

1. Crocus and snowdrops

2) Warmer days - there are still a lot of cold days, that's for sure, but you get the occasional warm day that makes you think you can smell spring and damp soil and fresh growth, and all those other things that make you realise that the earth is waking up again.

3) The days post D's exams which are soon. So March is always tied up with that lovely feeling of having the exams over and of having the summer ahead of us.

4) longer days - every day just a little bit more daylight

5) Gardening season is approaching - towards the end of February and the beginning of March I start getting impatient and I start looking through seed catalogues and clearing the shed to get to the puts for my veg this year. So exciting to know that in a few weeks time it's all going to start!

6) getting out with the kids more - playing in the garden, going to the playground...

7) the first leaves of the daffodils peeking out.

8) Things generally start happening - everything seems to speed up around this time

9) We start thinking about Easter - making things, talking about it all - with the kids these things seem to take on a whole new meaning.

10) And last but not least, Spring officially arrives in March

Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter days...

... can sometimes be fun. Not always, and I'm not really a winter person, but at this time of year sometimes there are days when the sun comes out and you get a hint of spring in the air. It never stays, because it's really far too early, but nonetheless, it's a bit of warmth and light in this grey season.

The last time this happened, a few days ago, we spent a happy couple of hours in the garden, and there are signs of life! Bean spotted a ladybird, and we all went round to spot all the fresh green shoots of daffodils and bluebells and the little white flowers of the snowdrops.

Then I tried to take a few pictures of the lads so I could get a canvas print done for my dad's birthday. It didn't go so well...

The little monkeys have decided to become photo-shy...

I'm doing a knitting update soon, but it's been so dreary that it seems just impossible to get a decent photograph of anything.

Ten on Tuesday...

... well, Ten on Friday, really.

Since I missed last Friday (it's been a crazy couple of weeks) I thoguht I'd use the 'Ten on Tuesday' prompt to list a few more of my current favourites.

I'm really into family, vintage, and design blogs at the moment. Probably because I'm STILL shuffling things round in our house. Hey! It's only been 4 years or so since we moved here and considering we still haven't finished doing the house up I think I'm doing OK. Brought a whole stack of picure frames downstairs today, washed the fine black dust off that's covering everything upstairs in the attic ever since we had the lath and plaster ripped down in one of the rooms up there, and have started putting new pictures in. I'm envisioning a kind of collage of lots of small pictures with artwork in them in the lounge above the sofa. We'll see if I can convince D, since it will be him who will attempt to put the necessary nails in our brittle walls. Our walls are terrible, which is why I'm not permitted to play around with hammer and nails - every time you knock those walls too hard a chunk of plaster seems to fall off. I guess that's what you get when you cut corners (and save money) and just put a skim coat of plaster on some really rubbish walls...

Anyway, as I said, design blogs are IT right now. I'm still reading my regular blogs, but I thought I'd share some of my new (and old) favourites. Here we go:

Soulemama - this is an old favourite. I just love everything about this blog. The writing, the photographs, how inspiring Amanda's take on life and family is.

The SleepyTime Gal - beautiful photographs, inspiring stories and ideas.

Made - it celebrates BOYS this year. I happen to have to of those at home. Need I say more? ;-)

Procrastination Mama - lovely blog, interesting links to other places on the web (MORE design blogs, heh!)

No Monsters in My Bed
- again, lovely blog, pretty photography, interesting links

A Beautiful Mess - Vintage, yay!!

Design*Sponge - I've liked this blog for quite some time. It's a good mix of new design, vintage, revamping of old things to give them a new look, and it always has good links to all sorts of design websites and shops online.

Bluebirdbaby - inspiring posts with beautiful photography

The Coffee Lady - quirky, funny and thoughtful.

Prairie Mouse
- crafts AND food. Need I say more?

Drago[knit]fly - crafts, sowing, quilting.

(Picture is of Kipper, lounging on a fence top, surveilling his territory)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Blog Inspiration Friday...

I was organising and tidying up my sidebar today. So many dead links... it makes me sad how so many beautiful blogs have disappeared over time. It shouldn't be, but it's always a shock to me how temporary everything is on the internet. There one day, gone the next. I like things to be constant, solid, possessing an object nature, a physical presence rather than this etheral lightness and lack of permanence.

It's made me think that I also need to celebrate what is there, and what I love now, today. So every week I want to post a link to a blog that inspires me, makes me think or act or that simply makes me happy.

I've picked Schlitzohren for today's post. There were many others I could have picked, but this is a new find and it was mainly this post that resonated so much with me, with what I've been trying to do these past days and weeks, sometimes succeeding more sometimes less, but always trying. It's always worth it. x

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Once upon a time on a rainy and cold Sunday afternoon in mid-winter...

... we took our new go-cart out to Bridlington. And you know, it's amazing how a homebuilt wooden cart with two lads in raingear can bring a smile to people's faces. We had at least 10 people comment on it, reminiscing about the carts they used to have when they were kids. Nostalgia is alive and well in Bridlington! ;-)

D couldn't resist squeezing into the cart himself together with Tick to race it down the ramp to the beach promenade.

Building sand castles at Bridlington South Beach.

Father and son...
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some Time Alone...

... can be something very precious indeed. With two little lads, our lives are full - gloriously, industriously full of play and laughter and business. It's wonderful but it's also exhausting, and it can be difficult to have so little time for each other and for yourself. D and my evenings are sacred. Once the lads are in bed we sit down together. Sometimes we talk, or watch TV or read, but we always treat it as time together, spent as a couple. It's important and it's precious, looked forward to every day.

But there still isn't much timee to be alone. Before we had children, D and I used to spend whole weekend days doing whatever we liked most... D would build or fix something in the shed / garage, and I would knit, sew, draw, read... We always had some projects on, there was always so much to do, and we used to 'meet up' for coffee breaks and lunch to tell each other about what we'd been doing.

Today, there is little time for that, so a while ago D and I agreed with Grandma that every few months or so the lads would have a Grandma day while we just... tinker. There is a real sense of decadence in those rare days - to get up and immediately launch into something and to know you don't need to stop until it is either done or the day is coming to a close.

Today, I decided to get the oil paints out. D got an easle and paints for me about... 2 years ago?... and ever since then they've sat in a corner of the dining room, waiting for that one day when they'd finally get unpacked and used. Since this is really nothing you can do with little ones around it's taken a while. ;-)

Now, I've painted before, not for a long while, but I used to love it and used to dabble in it on and off. Never with oil paints, though, so this is a completely new medium for me, and I was VERY excited to finally get to try. These two projects were supposed to be just starter experiments to see how I'd work with oil, but I'm actually quite pleased with them:

#1 Wakeful

Oil on canvas. Painted wet over wet. A red bird in her nest, wakeful and diligent in the silence of the night.

#2 Doodles

Oil and mixed media on canvas

This was really just that - doodling. The way I tend to doodle while talking on the phone. Just with oil and bits from the kids crafts box and a few pieces of ribbon. I didn't have a particular project in mind and just kept on filling in the blank spaces until it was - full.

Afterwards it ocurred to me that it looks a leeeeetle bit like the art of Mati Rose McDonough. I still have a print of hers somewhere, waiting to be framed. I wasn't conscious of this while painting it but maybe my subconscious was inspired by her?

And while I was so busy inside, painting and getting high on paint fumes, D was in the shed, making this:

A go-cart! How cool is that! It's entirely made from scrap, found in the shed - old bits of wood and bicycle wheels. The lads were so excited when they arrived back home earlier. D needs to finish up a few things this week, but next weekend we'll take it out for a ride.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ten Favourite Childhood Games

Curtesy of Carole Knits.

1) Clue - I loved this game as a child. The gardener did it with the candle holder in the library...
2) Monopoly - I used to play this for HOURS. Honestly, I wanted to play this game all the time and for as long as possible. Nobody in my family shared my fascination with it or my stamina.
3) Rummy - I used to go on a skiing trip with my gran, and my two great aunties once a year around Easter time. During the day I went to a skiing school for kids and in the evening we played endless rounds of card games. I used to be very good at this - now I can't even remember a single one of the rules!
4) Nine Men's Morris - again, as above. One of the games we played during our annual skiing trip. I used to beat the old ladies all the time. ;-)
5) I Spy - kept me entertained on endless car journeys
6) making up stories - I used to make up endless stories on long walks and entertain (or bore) my family with them. And I used to play a Tell A Story game with my gran on the phone where we would each have to think up a story and tell the other. We spent hours on the phone...
7) Make Believe - I used to love 'becoming someone else'. With friends I used to spend whole days being detectives, or indians, or farmers, or doctors and patients, or pirates,...
8) Dressing Up - my great aunt had a box full of dressing up stuff. Alternatively my mom's ball gowns and high heels would do too... ;-)
9) Reading - I was fanatical about books ever since my early childhood and used to spend whole nights reading under the duvet.
10) Mensch aergere Dich nicht! - a German board game that is fairly similar to the game Sorry! I think... We played this quite a lot when I was little.

It's done...

... actually, it was finished a few days ago, but I didn't have time to upload a picture. It was immediately hogged by the lads, which is kind of nice. They like to snuggle under it as they watch TV. :)

In terms of craftmanship this isn't that great. It's wonky in places, there are a few creases, and the trimming is pretty terrible. I forgot all about how to do this properly and fudged my way through it. The corners would make any seasoned quilter run away screaming. I don't really mind, though because this is not a gift - it's just for us to love and use. And it's already getting a LOT of use here from both the lads and us grown ups. I'm considering stitching a few more colourful hankies on top of the others to brighten it up, but for now I'll leave it as it is I think...
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Monday, January 10, 2011

I am shocked...

Well, colour me shocked. My last post was in 2009, when I had just finished the Primeval socks. So much time has passed, Primeval is actually on TV once again.

I declare, things will have to change. I acknowledge that with two very lively little lads and a busy job I don't have a lot of time for lengthy posts, but since Bean, older of the two lively lads, is developing both a crafts and photography addiction I should have ample opportunity for photoshoots. We may have to remodel the blog a bit - make it into more of a communal project rather than a solo enterprise, but that's an exciting change, no?

So, more photos, slightly less writing. There is also less knitting going on these days. Not none, but time is limited, and I'm doing a lot of crafts and mosaicing and painting with the little ones during the day and also some sewing at night, so things progress somewhat more slowly around here than they used to.

This is the plan:

1) posting approximately 2x per week. I have two days with the lads, so those might be my posting days.

2) one progress / crafts photo per week (we do a lot of STUFF)

3) one snapshot of our week (a still with very little comment) - everyone has those moments every day. Moments that you want to capture and that require very little commentary. So you'll get one of those

There may be more, but probably not every week. I don't want to overburden us with plans that we might not be able to live up to. Busy lives and all that.

So to start this off, here is my WIP right now:

This is my handkerchief quilt, made from old family handkerchiefs that I have kept and/or have been given over the years by members of both my and D's family. I kept them because I always rather liked those dainty little fabric square, some of them with quite exquisit lacework, others more utilitarian and plain, but each of them with a story to tell, with intricate monograms in the corners, mended patches, fine and at times brittle fabric. A little scrap of history, every single one of them. Not knowing precisely what to do with my little stack of handkerchiefs it ocurred to me that they would be perfect for a quilt, so I sewed them all together and backed them with a length of blue paisley fabric I had in my stash. Not finished yet, and far from perfect (turns out that handkerchiefs are really awkward to sew together - all that brittle fabric...), but very much anticipated as a snuggle blanket by the whole family.