Monthly Archives

July 2012




Tonight, after months of speculation, intrigue, leaks to the press and the arrival of well concealed packages, the truth will finally be revealed.

Yes, it’s the start of the Ravhellenic Games 2012.  Oh, and I believe there may be some party happening in East London, but that’s not really related, that’s all for Seb Coe’s Big Sports’ Day.

So as whatever song and dance extravaganza comes to a close (please Locog let us be proud of our country, not wincing) and whoever has been selected to light the cauldron steps up (please Locog let it not be Beckham – I know he’s done a lot to promote London and I’m sure he is/was a great footballer, but he isn’t an Olympian and we’ve got some pretty cracking Olympians around the place), I will cast on the first of my two projects in the ancient and venerated fibre-sport of Baby Dressage.

One, in the oh so fabulous 3 Irish Girls Springvale Worsted, is destined to be a Baby Surprise Jacket,
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and the other, in the most regal, most Cadbury of purples (which only arrived from customs/the post office yesterday) is to be a small cardigan for the most treasured of little girls (after Kitty, naturally) who surprised both her mama and her self-nominated knitter by arriving a whole heap early at the end of June. 
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Happily, the current heat suggests that she may not be suffering too badly for her cardie being a little tardy.

I will knit and knit and knit, on trains, in quiet moments at home, and even at the Games themselves, and I hope that in a couple of weeks time I’ll have two little knits to show that I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with the Olympics, but that I will be a Ravhellenic Champion.

Wish me luck

Family Kitty Motherhood

Snatched moments


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I think we’ve spent as much of this week outside as humanly possible.  Our garden, which we usually malign for being very shady thanks to an enormous oak tree twenty yards the other side of the boundary, is actually very pleasant on a hot hot day, and while I’m sat inside at the moment (small girl napping, chocolate cookies in the oven), I’m looking out on a ramble of sweet peas, a bright yellow slide and a flowery tent only outdone in it’s purpality (is that even a word – it should be) by the buddleia behind.  All we’re missing in a garden planted to be a butterfly paradise are the aforementioned butterflies, but I believe the cold weather has made life very confusing for them.

So far we’ve managed to keep all the Duplo on the quilt and out of the lawnmower, and after Kit’s godfather spoiled her rotten the other week with a surprise extra box, we’re putting together some serious construction.

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Lest you fear that the educational standards of an august institution not to far south of here were slipping about 10 years ago I should stress that neither God-Daddy A (MEng and structural engineer by profession) or H (also MEng but doing something he claims is more interesting professionally) were involved in the composition of this elegant see-saw.

Pooh and Piglet seemed to enjoy it anyway.
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It’s on our quiet days together that I get time just to simply sit and watch my little girl.  To all intents and purposes she is a little girl now; chatty, giggly, and showing every sign of having inherited the strong will of both parents (which means we’re in trouble!), but she gets away with it by combining iron will with a sweetness and joy that sees her tuck her favourite books into my work bag, and some playdough (in its pot) and a crayon in my handbag just in case I get bored on the way to work.  She’s taken to waving to all the people we pass on the way to nursery in the morning, as well as any passing locomotives, “ello tray!”, which in her mind also includes the buses coming and going from the bus station next to our car park.
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She’s pretty outgoing and very adventurous, and quite simply at almost two, has no concept that anything the big kids are doing should be beyond her.  It’s made for some interesting catching practice for both of us as she hurls herself around a playpark.

But then the curve of her cheek, the dimples at elbow and knuckles and that little crease that foreshadows a little wrist tell me that my baby is not all gone, she’s still the same little snugglebug who closes her eyes and sucks her thumb in pleasure at being rocked gently between sleeping and waking, who runs up to me for a hug and buries her fingers in my hair, twisting it round and round to the extent that I’m starting to get waves.

We’re on the cusp, leaving babyhood behind and starting new adventures, and who knows where they will lead us!
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Kitty Work in Progress

Daddy’s little helper


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It turns out H may no longer be the only artist in the family.  Miss Kitty seems to have rather a prodigious talent for emulsion art!

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We’ve decided that after nearly 7 years in this house we’ve had enough of the ‘autumn red’ in the downstairs bathroom, and after the carpet offcut that we laid over the cork floor tiles got too grubby to bear and was unceremoniously binned last year, it’s time for an overhaul.  We’ve got just enough aqua-laminate left over from relaying the conservatory and the upstairs bathroom to refloor – always assuming we can get the cork off and get back to the concrete underneath, and assorted pots of brilliant white, off white and calico have been unearthed from the garage to stand in as three layers of undercoat.

Eventually (I hope) it will be a gentle heather (Farrow & Ball Calluna), which looks grey on my monitor but in real life is not a million miles off one of the paler pinky-purple beach huts.  I’ve got plans to sand down the mirror surround and paint it to match and who knows, we may even (finally) buy a towel rail. 

But all this is yet to come.  First, white, off-white, and more white approximations.

H is chief painter and decorator and while I cooked supper, he decided that Kitty’s curiosity should be put to better use than trying to dip her duplo in the paint pot, and armed her with a small cheap and cheerful art painting brush.

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All things considered, she did a pretty good job.  For a one year old anyway.  It’s clear that all those hours with the aqua-doodle paint brush have not been in vain and most of the paint ended up on the wall, and quite a lot of paint at that.

In her 5 minutes or so of hardcore painting she covered a good few inches of wall, as well as adding some decorative splodges to her feet, her father’s painting shorts, and most impressively, a Cruella de Vil style streak to her usually honey brown curls.  She was whisked (protesting all the while) from one bathroom straight to the other, where all traces of such exciting afternoon activities were firmly removed with a flannel, although I’m sure I’m going to be finding traces of paint in her hair for a little while to come.

Cooking Family

Creating our own summer


That pesky jet stream, it lingers so.  Another day/week/month, another grey sky, more staring out of the window as rivulets of water cascading down glass blur the lush garden we can’t get out into.  It’s been time to cheer ourselves up by making a little bit of our own summer.

Now various colleagues and friends have solved their rain-drenched rustiness with trips to sunnier climes, and the goody shelf at work has boasted treats from as far afield as Australia, Southern Spain, New York (and Wales) in recent weeks, but our budget is a little more constrained and our tastes a little more homespun.

We took this

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And turned it into this:

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There’s nothing quite like the smell of simmering summer fruit jam to drown out the all pervading feeling of the world being wet and squelchy everywhere.  The fruit may have come from the greengrocer and not a local PYO (and to my chagrin the red currents aren’t British) but it’s none the worse for it.

And I discovered a great new use for my baby steriliser!

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(I did the lids too in a cycle with the other shorter jam jars).

The jam recipe started as the basic recipe in the Superjam cookbook but I’ve adjusted the quantities and kicked out the blackcurrants.  I use:

  • 200g redcurrants
  • 400g raspberries
  • 400g strawberries
  • 3tbsp fresh lemon juice

to 1kg of jam sugar.

After lots of chopping, stirring, splatting all available surfaces and implements with warm jam, I filled four and a half jars with bright scarlet jam.

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And of course, how else can you truly test a new batch of jam but with a family taste test, all sat in a row on the bottom stair with a newly bathed Kitty curled up between us smudging splodges of jam into clean pyjamas.

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It passed – and any trips back to the kitchen for another slice (the grown ups) shall hereby be decreed to be entirely justified.

The evening’s enterprise gave us several jars of jam, now stored high up away from tiny fingers in the top of my cupboard to see us through the cold dark months, or the rest of the summer as we like to call it round here, but more than that, it brought a sense of fighting back when after so much wet grey weather the dreary dampness of it all starts to seep into your brain casting a melancholy Eeyore-ish gloom.  It’s the same feeling you get sailing a yacht through a storm, or lying curled up in a sleeping bag in a tent listening to the rain lash down on the canvas; it’s an adventure, in this case a tiny little domestic one, but an adventure none the less.

Exploring Family Kitty Motherhood

How to entertain yourself on a two hour car journey


After a disastrous car journey with a then 4-week old Kitty in which she sobbed her way through an hour and a half of very slowly moving traffic because her newby parents hadn’t quite clicked that cluster feeding time meant ‘you must be in a house and not moving anywhere’ time, we’ve been pretty careful with planning long journeys.  Some trips we know she’ll be awake at least some of the time, but if we catch it just right she’ll have a nice little snooze and wake up ready to rampage whoever’s house we’ve just pulled up to.

So when we set off back down south last Sunday evening, we innocently imagined that Kit, full of Grandma’s best steak pie and chips and satiated with all the love, cuddles and running around time that a full complement of aunts and uncle can provide, would wave bye-bye to her Yorkshire family, curl up under her quilt, and drift off to sleep as the miles of M1 trundled under our wheels.

Not a bit of it.  She waved bye bye very vigorously, and then set about looking for leftover crumbs/ raisins/ hair bobbles secreted around her car seat.  By the time we’d got to the end of the road it was time for her next game – “shooooooes! Mama! shoooooooes!”

We took her shoes off.

“Shoocks!” The imperious princess demanded.

We took her socks off.

“Shooooooes!”.  They went back on again.

Now I pride myself on a relatively strong stomach but I suspect there are few people that can spend significant periods of time screwed up in their seat facing backwards dressing and undressing the wiggling feet of a one year old while travelling down the motorway.  I am not one of them.  So we moved onto Plan B (code name: time for Mama to bring out the big guns).otherwise known as a certain someone’s copy of In the Night Garden magazine complete with her favourite friends “Iggie”, “Pakka”, “Up-Doo” and “Tobiboo”.

Silence ruled (and I got to face the front for a bit).

In fact the silence continued so long we thought she might have fallen asleep, but no, there she was, still turning pages, a happy contented little girl.

Only as we approached the Coventry ring road did the magazine slip to one side and allow us to see how she’d really been entertaining herself:

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Someone had found the sticker pages in the middle.
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And spent the previous hour and a half carefully peeling them away from their backing paper, and artfully arranging them on her knees, her arms and in her hair (the one you can see reads “I found the ball!”).
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And finally, one for the chin to round it all off!

Next time we travel, I think we’re taking lots of stickers, although the decapitated Upsy Daisy discovered this morning attached to the side of the car seat took a little bit of explaining, and no-one’s quite sure how Dada’s console acquired a teeny tiny blue and red Haa Hoo.