Friday, 11 November 2011

C'est chouette.*





*When I was a kid and was learning French at school we were always led to believe that the usual Gallic exclamation of approval was "c'est chouette!" which apparently translates as "that's owl". I don't recall ever having heard an actual French person use this phrase.
Though I did once meet someone whose favourite way of expressing surprise was to exclaim "Oh la vache!". Whether P and R will these are "owl" remains to be seen, but they were fun to knit.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Show home.

C and I bought our house about 6 years ago just before we got married, and until recently it's suited us very well. However, now its two bedrooms and one "reception" room are beginning to creak at the seams. Every piece of furniture has something stored under and/or behind it, it is physically impossible to clear the kitchen drainer because we don't have enough cupboard space to put all the sippy cups etc. away, and with four people squeezed round our little folding dining table it is proving increasingly impossible to position hot dishes out of reach of two small children with arms like Mr Tickle and no apparent sense of self preservation.

So, we're trying to sell. Which is fine, but showing the house to prospective buyers does require a certain degree of housekeeping. And these days that's easier said than done with a toddler intent on throwing every article in the house onto the floor and a mobile baby with a domestic appliance fetish and a fascination with filth. So, a morning which starts with a plan just to do the washing up, run the hoover round, and then go out and do something interesting, generally ends up going something like this:

2011-10-15 10.01.14

7am: Get up - shower and dress - make beds quickly while C takes kids downstairs and makes breakfast [make mental note to go to the loo before C leaves for work].
8am: breakfast. [So far so good].
8.30am: C leaves for work. [Damn, never went to the loo!].
Clear the table - wipe the table/baby - pick up bits of food from floor/walls/hair - attempt to sweep floor in spite of baby clinging to and trying to chew the end of the brush. Meanwhile toddler empties toybox into middle of floor. Consider going to the loo but think it's too much effort to drag everyone upstairs and then come down again and I daren't leave them alone downstairs.
9am: Replace brush in kitchen and close gate to keep baby out. Place baby at far end of living-room and attempt to beat him back to the kitchen, get washing out of machine and shut gate again before he can get at the damned brush.
Realise baby has gone quiet. Discover this is because he has puked milk all over the floor and is happily paddling about in it and smearing it around with his hands. Retrieve baby and wipe up worst of sick with baby-wipe adding "wash floor" to the list of things to do before viewing.
9.30am: Leave toddler engaged in posting things into the stereo cabinet (which, in spite of the child lock, will open just enough to allow entry to a toy car/wooden brick etc.) and baby sorting through remaining toys in search of something small enough to choke on. Go into garden to hang out washing keeping watchful eye on kids through the patio windows.
*Return to house after having pegged only one item to sort out baby who has been sick again/ pulled himself up on the toy kitchen and got stuck/ fallen down the side of the sofa and got wedged/ is being ridden like a horse by the toddler/ is eating shoes or electrical cables or chalk that he has been supplied with by his helpful brother who reached it down from the high shelf for him.* [delete as applicable and repeat from * for as many items of clothing as are in the washing basket.
Return to house where baby is now standing up leaning against the back door howling, smearing it with sick/snot and won't move. After several minutes trying to tempt him to move to one side by tapping on the glass and pulling faces, give up and open the door very slowly in order to catch him as he falls out onto the patio.
Add "wash windows" to list of things to do before viewing.
10.30am: Attempt to get both children upstairs in order to change nappies and dress them (and go to the loo). Leave toddler pulling cushions and throw* off sofa (apparently in order to construct a rocket) and carry baby up.
Shut stairgate and return to retrieve recalcitrant toddler who won't come up of his own accord but is wittering about having found "a funny thingy" down the back of the sofa. Establish that said thingy is a) a vital part of some treasured toy that one or other of them has somehow snapped off; b) an equally vital piece of some item of furniture; c) something expensive and electrical that C has left within reach; d) something completely unidentifiable but which looks suspiciously as though it might have a bit missing which may have been eaten/posted.
Musing over identity of "thingy" is interrupted by ominous crash and wailing from above. Return upstairs with toddler to find baby has pulled the clothes airer down on himself and is trapped underneath.
Free baby and start to collect clothes together. Meanwhile toddler has swept a pile of Mr Men books onto the floor and is engaged in throwing handfuls down the stairs. Engage in brief tussle to get remaining books off him and put out of reach.
11am: Notice baby has disappeared. Go into bathroom to discover he has pulled himself up on the changing box, acquired and unravelled the loo roll and is now engaged in eating it.
Put loo roll on high shelf out of reach and prize soggy bits from between protesting jaws.
Change baby's nappy (despite screaming and struggling) and take him to toddler's bedroom to find clothes where he promptly throws up milk and half chewed toilet paper all over the carpet.
Try and to clean worst of mess off carpet with another baby-wipe which promptly disintegrates and adds to mess. Fetch hoover in desperate (and vain) attempt to improve situation causing toddler to run screaming from the room and baby to launch himself at it and begin chewing the nozzle.
Add "shampoo carpet" to list of things to do before viewing.
Distracted by loud hooting from our bedroom. Go in to discover toddler has pulled all bedding off our bed and used it to construct a train, wiping snot across most of it in the process.
Add "change beds" to list of things to do before viewing.
Sudden loud crash. Discover baby has crawled back into the bathroom and upended nappy bucket all over himself and the floor. Before have time to do anything about this toddler enters dragging the covers from his bed which he has decided to use as a cloak.
12 o'clock: Trap baby in cot and take toddler back downstairs and park him in front of Postman Pat.
Return to bathroom and finally sit down on loo to survey damage.

At 7am the beds were made, the washing up done, the floors swept and the toys tidy. It is now going on for lunchtime. The bedding is on the floor and liberally covered in snot. There are no cushions on the sofa. The floors are covered in books/toys/sick/crumbs and in the case of the bathroom unwashed nappies and soggy paper. I haven't even thought about the washing up which is piled in the sink. The toddler is still not even dressed, and what is more, I can't reach the bloody toilet roll!

* A throw which we have put on expressly in order to prevent him wiping his hands/nose on the sofa so that it still looks relatively respectable when we have viewings.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Last of the Summer Pants

This summer, after literally years of not quite getting round to it, I finally bought and used the Big Butt Baby Pants pattern that so many of my friends have raved about. And (unsurprisingly) I love it. That said it has taken me the whole summer to succeed in making three pairs of light summer trousers for each of the boys.

2011-09-06 16.51.02

2011-09-06 16.55.27

2011-09-06 16.57.57

However, in spite of increasing interference from a small boy with a fascination for electrical cables, especially that attached to my sewing machine foot control, I finally finished the last pair this week, just in time for the weather to go cold. Better start on some winter ones I guess.*

*My attempts at photography were not helped by the lousy weather and the aforementioned small boy!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside.

Recently we have been reading Mr Men books with P at bedtime, his particular favourite being Mr Bump.* In the course of the story Mr Bump takes the train and goes to the seaside, and P became determined that we should do the same. So, finding ourselves at a loose end on a suitably sunny Sunday, off we duly went to Weston-super-Mare where we had a lovely time building (and demolishing) sandcastles, splashing in tidal pools under the pier, having donkey rides, and going on the big wheel. And fortunately, unlike Mr Bump, no one fell off a boat into the sea, got their foot stuck in a bucket, or had to spend the night in a hole in the sand.**

2011-07-03 14.24.23



2011-07-03 15.41.21

*Sadly, P's devotion to Mr Bump extends to emulating his behaviour in other ways too. We recently booked to have some family photos taken, something we've been meaning to do since P was tiny, but even as I was inside making the appointment, P was outside with daddy falling head-first into the wall of the shop and getting himself a nice shiny purple lump on his forehead. He subsequently fell off his scooter onto the same spot - twice - and added a variety of minor cuts and scrapes to other parts of his face in the remaining few days before the sitting itself. He and his brother then also contrived to contract a cough-til-you-vomit style cold, so we must have presented the photographer with something of a challenge, variously covered in cuts, bruises, snot, and dribble, and all with huge bags under our eyes from a sleepless night!

On the other hand, I suspect Mr Bump didn't have to travel with First Great Western, and that his train therefore wouldn't have been delayed owing to a problem with the track, causing him to miss his connection and spend lunchtime on Bristol station instead of by the sea. He probably also didn't have to stand in the corridor of an unairconditioned carriage just outside the disabled loo all the way back, or carry two buggies, plus children and assorted accoutrements over the footbridge at Weston station, where there is no lift. Still, you can't have everything.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.

I don't know whether it is really true that little girls tend to be cleaner, tidier, and more fastidious than their male counterparts, but in many respects P does appear to be an archetypal little boy. Careering around the house in a seemingly perpetual fog of snot, dribble, and toast crumbs, he is never happier than when causing havoc of one sort or another. Every box must be emptied, anything that can be climbed on must be scaled, and anything squishable or smearable squished and smeared.

2011-05-27 10.10.12

This week he brought his inevitable boyness to bear on what is usually considered to be a more feminine pastime - baking. Trying to keep him entertained my mum and I decided we would make some gingerbread men together and get him to decorate them with currants for the eyes, and buttons - or so we thought. P however had other ideas. Having ignored our explanation of what the currants were intended for he scoffed the vast majority of his and then set about very carefully placing the few remaining ones between each gingerbread man's legs. Why? They were all doing a poo, obviously. Appetizing, eh?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Having your cake and not eating it.

Last week P turned two. Since his birthday was on a weekday we had a shop-bought cake on the day itself, which went to nursery with him so he could celebrate with his friends, and a family party the following Saturday. For this second second birthday celebration my brother manfully took on the challenge of helping me make a cake in the shape of Postman Pat's van.

Aiming for a fairly solid loaf cake to use as a base, we hit upon the idea of banana cake. Sadly, the resulting van was not perhaps as tall as it might have been since it took 20 minutes longer to cook than the recipe suggested, and once you have opened my oven door and established that a cake is not done, the only way to shut it again is to slam it hard. However, once it was jammed and marzipanned, and covered in brightly coloured royal icing and then repainted with yet more food colouring*, it began to be fairly recognizably a red van, even if it did look as though someone had slashed the tyres.


Postman Pat himself presented more of a challenge. Unable to buy or create convincingly flesh-coloured royal icing my brother constructed his face and hands from marzipan. This left him looking rather as though he had had a nasty shock,** but we decided it would do. We had reckoned without the effect of holding the party outside on a sunny day, however.


Shortly after being put in pride of place on the table in the sunshine, Pat's already pallid features acquired a sweaty sheen, as if he was suffering from the effects of a really bad hangover. An ill-advised attempt to draw on his glasses with black icing added to the effect by making him look as though he'd put his shades on. An hour or so later and Pat's condition was clearly terminal. Shortly after the lighting of the candle his head lolled to one side and his right hand dropped off.

However P seemed to be pleased with his cake, even if by this time it did appear to be decorated with the decomposing corpse of Greendale's favourite postie. Mercifully he didn't ask to eat any of it.

* Given the less-than-buoyant texture of the central cake, and the alarming number of E numbers in the icing, we established fairly early on that this was to be a cake for looking at and blowing out candles on, and commissioned my mum to make another one that was actually edible.

** Coming out to find his tyres slashed, perhaps.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Round and round the garden.

This time of year always reminds me how much I love having a garden. A few days of sun and the odd shower and suddenly everywhere is full of colour and bees. At the moment the alliums are in full bloom, as are five of my six clematis, the flag iris is out in the pond, and the poppies are ready to pop any minute.

And this year I had an extra surprise. The enormous number of straggly wallflowers my mum gave me a couple of years ago that never came to anything and I had pretty much forgotten about, turned out to be an enormous number of beautiful crimson sweet william, and they're now flowering merrily all over the garden. Just as well I never got round to pulling them out!

2011-05-07 17.32.41

2011-05-07 17.29.47

2011-05-07 17.34.02

2011-05-07 17.30.11

Monday, 2 May 2011

Time for bed.

Some time ago P decided he was too old to sleep in a baby sleeping bag any more so we splashed out and got him a cot duvet. However both of us baulked at paying £30+ for a cover with a design we didn't particularly like, so it was decided I would make some instead.

2011-04-29 18.28.01

2011-04-29 19.48.56

This week (thanks largely to the Royals and their extra bank holiday which meant C was at home and could take both boys out for a long walk) I finally finished the second one, so at last I can change the sheets on P's bed without having to make sure I get them all washed, dried, ironed and back on the bed in the same day.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A bit of fluff.

Our neighbours have a tree in their garden which at this time of year produces clouds of fluffy seeds which collect in great drifts in undisturbed corners of the garden and greenhouse, and indeed in the house if the weather is good enough to have the back door open. This year it has been more than usually productive. The greenhouse, in particular, looks like it's been filled with cotton wool and I have spent a lot more time than I'd have liked chasing fluff round the living-room with the hoover.

2011-04-27 11.20.32

Add to this the remarkable number of dandelions that the warm weather has brought out and it's difficult to go anywhere at the moment without coming back covered in fluff.

2011-04-27 11.08.59

It also takes an inordinately long time to get anywhere if you have a dedicated dandelion-clock aficionado in tow!

2011-04-27 11.09.52

Having a smashing time.

This year Greek Easter was the same day as it was here, and unusually the temperature was five degrees higher than it was in Athens (as my dad gleefully told all our Greek relations who called to wish us happy Easter). So we had a lovely family Easter in my mum and dad's big new garden, with delicious food including lamb souvlakia and tzoureki* cooked by my mum and my youngest brother.

2011-04-22 15.26.46

2011-04-24 14.11.53

We also introduced P to the traditional hard-boiled egg-cracking contest, a practice he took to with great enthusiasm.**

2011-04-24 17.24.26

* A sort of Easter bread/cake. My brother also made a marathopita ('fennel pie'), which was delicious but caused P much consternation since he was convinced there was grass in his bread!
**Strictly speaking the eggs should all be red, but the packet of dye I had included 5 colours and it seems churlish not to use them all.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Last Sunday was [probably*] my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Since they both enjoy making things, and since they have recently moved to a new house with a large, but currently fairly featureless garden, my siblings and I hit on the idea of buying them a weekend away in Derbyshire learning to make willow garden sculpture. It was a great success, not least because the weather was gorgeous, and they came back with the car packed to the gunnels with creations and with more willow for future projects. P in particular is very impressed with their handiwork.

2011-04-13 11.05.11

* I asked my dad which year they got married and he replied confidently "1972, because it was two years before you were born, and that was November 17th 1974". I pointed out that I have always been under the impression that I was born on November 18th 1973, and my birth certificate appears to agree with me, so we finally decided it must have been 1971 that they married, making it their ruby anniversary this year.

In the nick of time.

This is R. He arrived in the middle of January, in the middle of the night, two weeks earlier than expected and caught us all on the hop rather, especially since my parents weren't due to arrive to be on hand for the birth until the following day. However, thanks to the lovely Katie of Oxford Kitchen Yarns, who not only happened to be awake at 3am to be in receipt of frantic text messages, but also agreed to remain awake and to take delivery of a sleepy and slightly startled P while C and I were at the hospital, everything went swimmingly.


2011-04-10 17.33.12

Katie also gave us this beautiful tractor/tow-truck vest for R which I have been waiting impatiently to put him in. As it has short sleeves and it seems that makers of baby clothes in this country consider it unseemly for a <3month-old baby boy to wear anything other than pastel blue, light brown, or white (preferably emblazoned with vomit-inducingly cutsie critters/slogans), I immediately set about knitting him a navy cardigan to go with it. The pattern is the Lazy Daisy Baby Jacket, which is a pleasingly straightforward knit, and thinking it would be the work of a moment I started on the newborn size. Unfortunately R had other ideas: two months later it's finally finished. Luckily R is quite a dinky little chap and it should fit for at least another two weeks!

* At least two member of R's close family have remarked (somewhat unfairly in my view) that in this photo R looks like Hitler without the moustache. Personally I thought it was quite a nice one and one of the few in which his hair actually looks vaguely presentable, since usually it stands straight up on the top of his head giving him rather the aspect of a startled radish.