There were so many wonderful comments from the Yarn Alongerslast week. I so appreciated all of the sage advice from wise mums of older children, assuring me my time would free up in the years to come. And then there were the handful of practical suggestions for grabbing at knitting moments during these hectic days. I've even had some success on that front, but more about that soon.
I'm still Eating Animals, or rather, reading about it. I've moved through chicken slaughter and the threat of bird-borne pandemics and I've sloshed about in a manure pollution problem, and now I'm pushing my way through a breeding sow's typical crate-bound gestation. This is serious business. The book is amazing and as un-put-downable as any good thriller, but the content is far more unsettling - and all of it, I have to assume, true. Already only halfway through, I'm wondering if I can ever buy meat of unknown origin again. Good timing, then, this move to the country where it's possible to purchase food direct from growers within a few kilometres of our new home. I'll be researching and exploring all of those options as soon as things settle down after the move. And I'll be pulling out my meat-free recipes, and seeking out new ones, far more often.
We're off on a long-planned holiday next week, so I'm on the lookout for a nice, easy, light holiday read. Any suggestions? Chicken slaughter and e. coli optional.
Having dispensed with old Grass Green this week, I've cast on a summer cardigan for one (or both) of my toddlers, and it's knitting up very quickly. "How?" you might ask. Well, I've come up with a bit of a device that helps me knit on the move. It's quite organic. Bodily, in fact. I've worked out if I tuck the ball of yarn down in my, ahem, cleavage, ensuring the yarn is a centre-pull ball, I can wander about overseeing playdough squishing and crayon drawing, changing the music, even tending to something on the stove, all without having to put the knitting down. I still need a hand or two to hold it (I'm yet to come up with that hanging feature I spoke of last week) but at least I can be mobile without all the putting down, picking up and putting down again. I'm assuming this is working for now because of the circular needles that keep it all close, and the fact it is a little kid knit without much bulk. Quite satisfying, though, at any rate.
The pattern I'm working with is called Jane - another from Tikki, a favourite of mine. I'm using Debbie Bliss Cotton DK in a soft blue. I might be planning all of my winter knitting in anticipation of our long and cold country winter next year, but I'll hold out for just a little longer with these light warmer-weather projects.
When the Showgirl was tiny, I used to envision the fun things we'd do when she was a little older and had more control over her limbs and bodily functions. I imagined the glorious afternoons we'd spend painting and colouring in and fashioning interesting and useful things from twigs and leaves. I even poo-pooed one of the women in my mother's group who said she'd be leaving all that messy stuff to the day care and preschool teachers. What sort of mother didn't want to fingerpaint, I thought, with only a hint of superiority.
Of course, four years later and hardened by reality, I've come to accept our home crafting sessions as a necessity that, while occasionally fun, must by all means be minimised, both in scale and in mess, as much as possible. I apply a formula that goes something like this:
quality of craft = time killing capacity + creative stimulation
(mess x labour)2
Or...amount of waking minutes child is occupied plus stimulation provided divided by mess multiplied by mummy involvement squared. Clear as mud.
There are loads of great books out there filled with kids craft activities, but so many of them are so convoluted and involve things like salt dough and beads and, eugh, glitter. And all of those things equal, in my opinion, big-time hands-on for mum. Which isn't useful, you see, because our long afternoon 'craft' sessions have become a vehicle for my own little obsessions in the crafting arena - the more an activity can engage them, the more time available to me to knit/sew/cook.
So with that in mind, I thought it'd be fun to blog about my five top kids 'craft' activities that fit the following all-important criteria: they are easy to set up and clean away, they are at least mildly creative and stimulating (ie they're not TV), they cause minimal mess and, most important of all, they require absolutely minimal mummy involvement, freeing her up for more important pursuits like casting on a new cardigan or trying out a new recipe.
1) The Sticker Poster
Take a large sheet of paper and a sticker book or four, and go! Lola came up with this one herself after receiving an incredible sticker book for her birthday. She has pulled it out dozens of times and quietly passes half an hour filling the blank spaces with sticker after sticker. Sometimes she chats about what she's doing, other times she's off on a reverie, no doubt imagining stories about the characters in front of her. It's the ultimate quiet pursuit. Baby sisters optional.
2) The Rainy Day Box
Our rainy day box is a tub purchased at Kmart, though I've seen variations all over the place. It's basically a box full of a gazillion bits and pieces for sticking and twisting and gluing and creating. Cheap, easy, opportunity-laden. Hint: If minimal mess is your aim, remove any glitter or glitter glue before handing it over to the kid. We like to pair this with the recycling craft tub filled with toilet rolls and tissue boxes and coffee trays. Just add good-quality kid scissors, sticky tape and glue. Hours of entertainment.
That old favourite, the playdough. We make our own by following the back of the cream of tartar packet, but instead of adding cold water and 'cooking' it, we add boiling water and just mix and knead it in a bowl. It lasts for months. The bubs have just discovered playdough joy and will happily pass half an hour in their high chairs rolling and pressing and, yes, tasting. We have a basket full of plastic moulds and shapes, as well as knives and forks and rollers. Lola also loves to raid my baking cupboard for trays to put her 'cookies' on. I do believe there's a batch baking in the oven as we speak.
4) The Scrapbook
They say never say never, but I am not and never will be a scrapbooker. Lola, however, has been into it since William married Kate and we set to work with the Women's Weekly and an empty book to record the occasion. Now she attacks catalogues and magazines with fervour, cutting out anything that takes her fancy, then she'll turn her attention to gluing the pictures into her scrapbooks. Great for improving scissor skills, and if you run out of paste (easy when a four-year-old is in charge), just make some gloopy glue out of flour and water.
5) Large-Scale Drawing
Clear some floor space, take a roll of blank paper (ours are from IKEA) and spread out a few metres of it. Stick down on all sides to secure. Place pencils and crayons around the place then let them at it. They can come back to it again and again as the day progresses, friends and visitors can get involved, and when they're all tucked up in bed sound asleep, sneak that massive artwork into the recycling bin 'cause there won't be a wall big enough to handle it. The next morning, repeat.
And there you have it. Ironically, I still have the 'crafternoon' fantasies - but they've morphed into a kind of Austen-esque tableau in which I sit serenely with my three girls, perhaps in a parlour of some sort, all of us working busily away on our knitting or embroidery projects, chatting amiably about our days, Bach playing softly in the background...
In the place we are moving to, the winters are longer and colder. That's not such a bad thing for a knitter. And you can bet I'm already planning my winter knitting, here on summer's eve. Jumpers and cardigans and cowls and toasties and throws and gloves and socks and scarves...
My Ravelry notes tell me I started this scarf back in February. That's a nine-month gestation, though two-thirds of the hard work were completed in the past week. It was a mission but, once in the swing of things, a satisfying one entirely.
Don't you love a quiet lead-up to Christmas? Time to shop for the perfect gifts, pen thoughtfully worded cards to your nearest and dearest, hand-make stylish decorations to brighten your home and hearth, plan a delicious Christmas menu.
We have a few things to get out of the way before we can start thinking about all of that yuley stuff. There's our much-anticipated week at the beach with a group of lovely friends. Then there's the wedding of the year, when my dear friend Amanda will marry her lovely Tim. My outfit is already arranged - miracle of miracles - so now I can concentrate on my two other jobs, making the wedding cake and singing at the ceremony. (Not alone, thank goodness, as I'm not really a singer, but it's a continuation of the tradition of this group of girls serenading each other on the big day.) And then we have the end-of-year celebrations at preschool, including the Christmas concert.
Oh, and we're moving house too. A week before Christmas.
It's been a busy week with lots of lovely social stuff. There was dinner and drinks with friends to start the weekend, and then an overnight visit from a dear old pal with her two little monkeys. Throughout both of those occasions I knitted. It seems as soon as I can grab a moment to sit, I gather up my needles and knit. I've been stealing a row here and a row there, several times a day, every day of the week. Knitting whilst chatting. Knitting whilst sipping. Knitting whilst watching 'The Slap' on the ABC (so good). Even knitting whilst working.
There was a brief, beautiful moment a couple of evenings ago when, bellies full of dinner, my three girls collapsed onto the rug, each with a book. Pearl lay on her back holding a picture book open above her. Lola sat flicking through one of her heavy storybooks. And Stella got busy with her favourite lift-the-flap books. It was a rare peaceful moment, made all the more unusual by the fact that when I snuck over to the couch to grab my knitting, none of them looked up, dropped what they were doing, ran to climb on me, demanded my attention. And so I knitted and they read.
And yet for all the clickety-clicking of the past week, I'm still going on the grass green scarf. It's not far from done, but still... And it got me thinking about other knitters, prolific knitters who seem to be able to churn out an adult-size cardigan in a week, socks in a day or two, huge shawls in the time it would take me to finish a few epic rows. I wonder are they super-fast in their technique or do they just sit and knit all day long without interruption? At times when I'm on a roll with my knitting, it seems I'm always searching, searching for extra hidden moments in the day when I can work a row or two, even a stitch or two, ever progressing towards the cast-off. But there's the fuss of pulling the knitting from the bag, arranging myself, finding where I'm up to. And without fail, I'll be interrupted to attend to an urgent request or break up a screaming match or wipe up a spill.
What I need is to be able to knit on the move. I need some sort of contraption that allows me to wear my knitting around my neck so it can hang there when I'm not using it, and is easily accessible when I want it. Like those reading glasses that hang on a necklace. It'll be streamlined, time-saving, efficient. I could knit whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, the sink to fill, the kid to finish on the loo - all those handfuls of seconds when progress could be made on a scarf or cardigan.
Think of the possibilities. Knitting at traffic lights, while jogging, waiting in line at the supermarket, riding a horse... I feel excited and slightly manic just thinking about it.
A wild afternoon wind late last week saw the neighbouring jacaranda dump its bounty in our courtyard. It was enchanting, like the first snow of an imagined winter. The Showgirl grabbed a bowl "for collecting". The sisters joined in, following orders dutifully. Small bare feet on a carpet of purple.
I'm kind of between projects. It feels a bit loose, a bit fancy-free. Of course, there are always works-in-progress, but most of them are off-season or destined for no-one in particular and so they remain "in progress", despite progressing nowhere fast. This week, having finally finished that cardigan, I picked up my grass green scarf, left dormant in a bag in the cupboard where things go to wait. It's been a slow burn, this scarf, a few rows forward, a few months of nothing, a few rows forward, more months of nothing. But after a couple of evenings of conscientious clickety-clicking with the alpaca silk georgette, I've doubled the length and feel closer to the end than the start. Always a good feeling with a scarf. I still have a ball of yarn remaining, so it should be the perfect length by the time that's been whipped and beaten in. I'm loving the colour, and the pattern is finally imprinted on my brain so I don't have to constantly refer to my notes. I might even finish it before starting something else. Or not.
My conscientious reading from last week has suffered a setback in the popularity stakes, being forced to take a back seat in favour of something fast-paced and exciting and not conscientious at all - 'Before I Go To Sleep' by SJ Watson. I do so love a book that calls out to me all through the day, even though it knows I won't have a chance to read until late at night. It's annoying (especially when everyone else is calling out too) but so satisfying when the clock finally ticks over and everything is done and everyone asleep and the pages can start turning again.
I've been staring at a list on the wall entitled 'Pros/Cons'. It's been many, many months since the decision was made that we would move out of the city and I've spent many, many hours during those months clicking away on real estate websites, looking at listings, ogling pictures, um-ing and ah-ing. There were a few houses that seemed OK, some that even seemed great, but they went quickly. Then a couple of weeks ago I found 'the one', perfect except that it was a little further away than we'd envisaged, and in a tiny village rather than a larger town. But the house, oh, the house - a weatherboard cottage with a wrap-around verandah and a beautiful, sprawling garden.
I half hoped it would be awful when I went to see it the week before last. In the photos, the front of the house looked a bit rundown. But when we pulled up, the rickety fence in the images had been replaced by a brand-new white picket fence.
A white picket fence. Did somebody say perfect?
I wasn't able to get it out of my head. I tried to talk myself down, but I kept seeing us there, living in those rooms, enjoying that garden. The GM came down for a second visit last week and he was smitten too...but for a few minor issues. And thus the list on the wall entitled Pros/Cons.
I think it's natural when something you've dreamed about for so long - years, even - is getting close to actually happening, you start questioning the choice, looking for the pitfalls, the potential problems, the reasons to stay put for a bit longer. But for the time being, pros have outweighed cons. We've thrown our hat in and it's up to the powers that be to decide if this is the house, and the tiny village, and the perfect white picket fence, for us.