Overwhelmed

I’ve been thinking about writing here recently. Right now, I could write this exact post all over again – Knit therapy

Life is all just a bit overwhelming right now. Mostly it’s good, very good, but very full and busy.

Last week we were on holiday in Cornwall, which was honestly the best holiday I’ve had in a long while and the most relaxed I’ve been for ages. We enjoyed seeing a different part of the country, and Cornwall is truly beautiful.

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The boys being that little bit older now, we were able to get out and do some slightly more adventurous things together – long walks, a 20 mile bike ride and even a spot of parkrun tourism. We spent lazy afternoons crabbing in the harbours and eating fish and chips and fudge at the beach.

We nosed around craft shops and art galleries. I even found a yarn shop, though it was closed when we got there. The cottage we stayed in was lovely, spacious yet cosy, in a beautiful location. I really felt like I had space and time to breathe and relax. I read a whole book while we were there – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

Coming home, with a return to clutter and chaos and a busy week of work and activities felt overwhelming and oppressive. I forget how therapeutic crafting can be, yet somehow it’s also part of the heavy weight of physical and mental clutter. I have so many projects half done, half abandoned, half intended, waiting in the wings for the right time or the right tools or the right space. I end up in a brain fog where I can’t get motivated to do anything at all, but just waste any free moments scrolling idly, uselessly through my phone instead, finding inspiration without motivation, ideas but no decisions. But yesterday I picked up some knitting that I hadn’t touched in months. I only added a few rows, but it felt good.

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Pokemon cake

Yesterday was cake day again. Pickle had his birthday in the Easter holidays, but had to wait til now for his party, and his fancy cake. This year he wanted Pokemon. We trawled Pinterest together for some ideas, and then I got to work and came up with this.

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It’s my usual Chocolate mud cake recipe, filled and covered in chocolate ganache. I would normally cover the whole thing with rolled fondant icing, but it’s a job I hate, and get stressed about on cake day, and am rarely pleased with the outcome. One of my inspiration cake images used buttercream instead of fondant, so i went with that. Apart from not quite getting the colour I wanted, I find buttercream so much easier to work with. I use a scraper to get it really smooth and with nice sharp edges. The fondant motifs stick really well to the buttercream too, although it is a lot more messy when it come to cutting it and wrapping in paper serviettes for the party bags!

For once, I finished the cake with plenty of time to spare before the party. Birthday boy loved it – especially that he got a new Pikachu toy out of it!

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Winging it

I’m having a creative streak it seems. In the last few days, I’ve cast on two new knitting projects.

A couple of years ago, in my early days of knitting, I made a very basic stripey red and yellow garter scarf for Pumpkin. It’s terrible and tatty, but he still wore it last winter and probably will this year. Recently, Pickle has been asking for his own scarf to wear. He’s quite particular about what he wants – he certainly knows his own mind – and his ideas seem to be largely based on his brothers scarf. Yellow and blue stripes.

I trawled Ravelry with him for pictures, but nothing really matched his description, so the best thing to do, I figured, was just to wing it. He chose the colours he wanted out of my modest stash of Stylecraft Special DK and I got to work. I wanted something with a bit more structure to it than Pumpkin’s stretched and straggly thing, so I YouTubed double knitting and here we are.

It’s 25 stitches wide and I’m just going to see what happens as I go along. The double knitting is pretty easy once you get started and have figured out how best to hold the yarn.

I also spent some time trawling Ravelry for something new for myself. I had ideas of ripping out my very first cardigan, March Basic, which I’ve never really worn, and reknitting it into some sort of tunic. Whilst looking for tunic patterns, I came across something else which took my fancy.

Studying the photos and the various projects listed, I realised it used a leaf motif I already knew from a hat I’d previously made, and I could figure out the general construction. Since I wanted to modify the shape of the garment a fair bit away from the design I could see in the photos, I figured I wouldn’t buy the pattern but just figure it out for myself. I cant decide if that’s cheating or not? What are the ethics of not buying a pattern when you’ve been inspired by a photo of it, but want to change it? Answers on a postcard.

Anyway, I like a bit of knit-maths and can use a good brain workout every now and again, so I’m just going to go with the ‘wing it’ approach on this one too. There’s been a certain amount of ripping and tinking and fudging so far, but here’s what I’ve got.

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Do you always use a pattern or do you enjoy working things out for yourself?

Eat dirt!

Pickle has just turned five and just like that we’re out of that ‘early years’ stage of parenting. What!?

He’s been very much set on a chocolate birthday cake for quite some time but the decorative details have been harder to pin down, but with Minecraft as the general theme. When I started the baking process a few days ago, I had in mind a vague plan of some sort of Minecraft landscape with different levels and features, maybe a few trees and a waterfall. Once I had a large square slab of chocolate cake ready, and I invited Pickle to scroll through a few images on Pinterest with me, I had little inclination to do anything too complicated and he picked out a pretty straightforward simple block of dirt with grass.

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Looks straightforward enough, but cutting out small squares of fondant is more time consuming than one might imagine! Nonetheless, it turned out ok, Pickle was happy and it tasted good and impressed the other parents. I felt it needed something a little more on the top, but I ran out of time, materials and inspiration so left it plain. The candles were enough to add a little detail.

 

 

Leaves

I’ve had a quiet week, the like of which I’ve not known for quite some time! The usual school runs and children’s activities have happened as normal, but I’ve had no rehearsals and I’ve run no errands and done no shopping. I needed some downtime. That’s not to say I’ve done nothing at all. I’ve been working on two projects, one of which is still in progress, but I hope to reveal the finished object soon.

The second was a very quick win. I’ve been itching to cast on something different for a long time but have been steadfastly resisting as I want Crazy Stripes finished. I’m so bored of the sleeves though that I’m just not knitting at all. On Tuesday evening I gave in and dug a ball of yarn out of my stash. This yarn was destined to be a hat for Pickle. I bought it a couple of years ago with the intention of making him a Benjamin Bunny hat a la CBeebies Peter Rabbit cartoon. I tried coming up with my own pattern for it but after a couple of attempts, for reasons I don’t recall any more – it probably didn’t fit or didn’t look right – it got frogged and banished to the stash box.

On Tuesday it reappeared, a quick trawl of Ravelry was executed and knitting recommenced. By Thursday evening, it was off the needles and on Pickle’s head.

It’s called Leaf Hat available free on Ravelry. Its a lovely pattern to knit, but unfortunately isnt terribly well written. The guage seems off, although I was adjusting for a difference in yarn weight and for size, and the crown decrease instructions are particularly unclear. Fortunately, reading back through other completed projects often proved useful and someone had taken the time to rewrite that part of the pattern, so it was no bother in the end.

Pickle loves it and it fits well. I’d definitely consider making another! Perfect for cold weather. Maybe he’ll help with raking up the leaves in the garden over the weekend!

 

Fruition

Today, I am breathing a deep sigh of relief. To cut a long story short, after 4 different applications involving 6 different schools and 2 different local councils, 9 months of waiting and commuting, and 2 years of it occupying an insanely large amount of head space, we finally heard the very welcome and long awaited news that Pumpkin has a place at the same school as Pickle for September.

I can’t tell you how relieved and happy I am and how much lighter I feel. Physically lighter, like a huge weight has lifted. I can finally stop wondering and worrying and waiting! Two years of thinking and questioning, planning and hoping and just waiting and waiting has finally come to fruition.

Its funny how things happen all at the same time though isn’t it?

After four unsuccessful auditions, my fifth one finally resulted in a casting! I didn’t get either of the roles I went for, but I’m very happy to be a member of the ensemble for this one. It’s with a company I’ve not worked with before, so a foot in the door is a great start.

And as these things seem to go in threes, I’m also happy to report that my tomatoes have finally made their own move towards fruition and have at long last started to ripen!

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Sew busy

Today was a sewing day. Pumpkin went to his grandparents and Pickle was happily occupied with some new colouring pens and a few episodes of Paw Patrol. I felt the need to do something productive and spotted a T shirt of Pickles that has been put to one side for ages in need of a little mending, and so decided that this was a day for sewing.

I fixed the T shirt first, reattaching a piece of fabric across the inside of the front which covers the back of the embroidered picture to stop it tickling the tummy when worn.

Next up was a pair of Pumpkin’s school trousers that had sustained a knee injury on the playground a few weeks ago.

It was quite a big hole, so I patched it from behind with some iron-on mending fabric that I must have had for years as it was from Woolworths! It stuck pretty well, but I stitched it all the way round the edge for security too. It was a bit obvious on the outside so I folded some of the remaining loose fibres over the hole and darned them into place. Its not the best patch job, but hopefully its not too noticeable when worn at knee level and the trousers will last a bit longer at least!

Then I remembered a T shirt of mine that I never wear because the stitching had come undone and left a hole in the armpit (not a great look!) so I fixed that too.

Then, since I had all my sewing stuff out, I thought I may as well make a start on the great nametag sew-in marathon of the year. Pickle is starting reception in September so this week has seen a fortune dropped on new uniform for him. Pumpkin is also starting a new school in September, though as yet theres still a little uncertainty as to which one, so his uniform buying spree will happen closer to the start of term. Spreading out the sewing seemed like a good plan too.

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Now, lots of other mums think I’m nuts for using the sew-in type of name label. Just today I’ve seen rave reviews for both the iron-on stickers and the ink stamp type nametags and also a recommendation for the sharpie ‘write-it-on-yourself’ approach, but I dunno, I think I’ll always be a sew-in fan. Yes, its a faff and time-consuming, it makes my fingers hurt and I can’t believe how many I still have to do, but once they’re done, I know they’re not going to fade or fall off, they’ll last as long as the item of clothing does and once that item is outgrown or worn out, I can remove the label without a trace and I guess, even reuse it if I want to! They’re the same type of label that my mum used for me and my siblings when we were at school too, so it feels like a familiar and a sort of generational link. I even doubled up the initials so the same ones do for either child depending which way you fold it! Thanks mum! Its a labour of love and I’ll keep doing it for as long as my boys need nametags in their clothes!

What’s in your mending pile? Which type of nametag do you use?

PAW Patrol is on a roll!

So, we finally made it! Pickle’s birthday party, take two. Which means; cake, take two.

The cake has spent the last two weeks in the freezer, carefully wrapped in several layers of cling film. I got it out on Wednesday evening and left it in the fridge overnight. On Thursday I left it on the kitchen worktop during the daytime to ensure it was fully defrosted, then back in the fridge overnight to keep it fresh until I needed it on Friday. I was a little concerned that the fondant icing might have gone a little sticky, but I carefully cut the wrapping off once it was at room temperature and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was as smooth and dry to the touch as it had been before freezing.

My next concern was the taste and consistency of the actual cake. Of course there was nothing I could do about that until the cake was cut. Fortunately, it smelt and tasted delicious and the texture was just what it should have been so I needn’t have worried at all. I would certainly freeze a cake again in future. It would help enormously when timings were difficult.

So, on to the decoration. Pickle has recently become a big fan of Paw Patrol, so thats what we went with.

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The mini figurines were bought from a local supermarket. I used a printout of the Paw Patrol logo as a template for cutting out fondant and built it up in sections.

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I used a food colouring pen to do the lettering and fill in details.

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The pups were a big hit once they climbed down off the cake too.

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Tis the season to be jolly…

Christmas is stressing me out. I want to enjoy it, but what with a new house that is still fairly chaotic, school and preschool end of term activities and the quite-frankly-ridiculous amount of time I’m spending driving to and from schools, Christmas could really do with being postponed by a month or so.

It certainly didn’t help a couple of evenings ago, when I pulled out my gradually gathered pile of presents to assess before making a start in the wrapping marathon, only to find it woefully lacking. Given the amount of time and thought I know I’ve put in, not to mention the number of times I’ve been shopping already, I was distressed to say the least. (More shops have now been trawled and more online orders placed.)

So, when Pickle unexpectedly came down with a bug yesterday and then I started feeling ill myself, I took to bed with a certain degree of relish. Hubby insisted I rest in order to stave off any repeat of the disastrous Christmas of 2014, during which we were all struck down by a hideous bug and ended up feeding the in-laws cheese sandwiches instead of the promised Christmas dinner and then packing them off home again.

So, being fortunately not as ill as I could be, but resting in bed nonetheless, I have finally had a chance to work on the gloves that have been on the needles since last winter. Hubby wanted fingerless gloves but since the prospect of working individual fingers was the root of my procrastination, I convinced him that fingerless mitts would be just as good and look where we’re at now!

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I used Jeny Staiman’s Interlock Bind off which looks great and feels comfortable and I like much more than her JSSBO which I’ve tried before.

Just the thumbs to go and then hubby at least might get something for Christmas!

A blogging bat-hat-strophe!

I suddenly seem to be back on a yarny kick at the moment.

Pumpkin was invited to the super-hero themed birthday party of a girl in his class. I was reliably informed that her favourite colours were also pink and purple, so I hit upon the idea of making a hat in pink and purple, with the logo of a famous superhero, which I imagine is not the kind of combination that is readily available on the highstreet!

I found a charted pattern for the logo on Ravelry, and set to work. I’ve never done colour work before, so that was an interesting new challenge. My tension was a bit shoddy, as I struggled to catch the floats in evenly, and so the final logo was a little puckered in places, but overall not a bad attempt.

Unfortunately, despite thinking constantly all the way through the knitting process that I needed to get a good photo of it for blogging, I totally failed to snap any shots of it whatsoever, so you’ll just have to imagine how great it looked!

Pumpkin was also an utter disaster on the feedback front. He couldn’t give me any indication as to the little girls reaction when he finally gave it to her in class (only a couple of weeks after the party by which I’d intended to have it completed!) . Luckily I stood next to her mum in the pick up queue yesterday afternoon, and she told me it had gone down very well. How nice and reassuring it is to know that your handknits are appreciated!

World Book Day also inspired me to craft. Being the super organised mother that I am, I asked the boys what they’d like to dress up as for World Book Day, oh, about 4pm the day before, so we ended up with rather low-key costuming. Pumpkin went as Mog from the books by Judith Kerr, simply wearing a white T shirt, and a grey zipped jumper and grey trousers. He reluctantly submitted to having whiskers drawn on with eyeliner, but refused point-blank to wear the cat-ears-on-a-headband that his daddy had lovingly made for him. “I’m NOT wearing a headband, mummy!”

Pickle wanted to go as The Little Red Train, from the book sby Benedict Blathwayt, but since I didn’t fancy being up til the small hours engineering a train costume from a cardboard box, nor did I relish the thought of sending the child to nursery in such a costume, I persuaded him to go as Duffy Driver from the books instead. He was amenable, so a white shirt, blue trousers and (mostly) blue zipped top formed the basis of the costume. We dispensed with the necessity for a hat, since Duffy rarely seems to wear his, and the only thing that was required to complete the outift was a red tie. Short on time and short on materials, I settled on crochet as the quickest means of producing a tie. And sure enough, by the end of the day I had this:

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I’m not sure how fashionable a crochet tie might be, but a 2 year old fortunately doesn’t seem to mind, and he looked very smart!