I am a big fat food hypocrite. There, I've said it. I love food. I eat a lot of it. And I spend a large portion of my day shopping for, preparing, cooking and feeding it to my family. And thinking about it. I think about food an awful lot. I think about what to cook for dinner tonight, what I might cook for dinner tomorrow night, what I'd cook for lunch if I ever got around to inviting those friends over, what I'll have for lunch today. I think about whether I should eatlessmeatcutbackonsugarlowermysaltintaketrytogoorganiclocalveganraw. But while nothing puts a spring in my step more than seeing my girls chow down on unadulterated, un-'hidden' broccoli or carrots, I could pretty much take or leave the stuff.
I was a fussy eater as a kid. The only vegetables I ate were peas, corn and potatoes. I hated broccoli. Tomatoes made me gag. It wasn't until I worked in a cafe in my teens where the chef, relentless in her determination, made me try new things, that I started to broaden my horizons. And then there was a half-arsed trip into vego-land when I hit 20. I say half-arsed because, though my dedication was pure (to the meat-free diet as well as the vegetarian boy who inspired me), my application was flawed. I pretty much just swapped out meat for cheese. Nary a bean or lentil crossed my palate during that time. It probably didn't help that I spent most of my vegetarian years backpacking across Europe on a very flimsy budget - for two whole years it was all about the cheese sandwich, or variations on it. Cheese and mushroom pizza. Cheese pierogi. Cheese and spinach pastry. Fried cheese, thank you, Prague.
But I'm older and wiser now. And I have grown to really love good food. I love eating out. I love reading about food. I love flouncing about in interesting grocery stores (and boring ones too, I admit). I love farmers markets and dinner parties and the Bourke Street Bakery and Jamie Oliver and Maggie and Stephanie. And Hugh. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, food/farm spunk.
And I'm all about the home-cooked, unprocessed, local, seasonal, fresh, whole, when it comes to food for my family. I eat broccoli now, and lots of it. Spinach too, and tomatoes. A whole lot of good stuff. Meat, yes, that's back on the menu, ever since the day many years ago when I was taking a little nanna nap at my sister's house and was awoken by the gentle, persuasive waft of her lamb roast sizzling away in the oven. My arteries are grateful - there's far less cheese now as a result.
But for all my consciousness and conscientiousness and outright dedication in this area, I can turn on a food binge like no-one I know. No sooner are children in their beds than I'm seeking out chocolate in the fridge. Who am I kidding? I seek out chocolate most of the day, in various forms, often secretly. I'm not above ripping open a packet of choc chips from the baking cupboard. And someone should put white bread and chocolate in the same aisle at the supermarket, because they are entirely related in my world. We long ago converted to wholemeal bread in this house, but every now and then a craving hits, and it's very specific - soft white sliced bread with peanut butter. Slice after squishy, salty, sugar-laden slice. I might as well dive headfirst into a vat of hot chips for all the good it's doing me.
And sometimes the mummy martyr comes out. You know her? The fridge may be heaving with lovely blueberries and strawberries, there may even be bananas in the fruit bowl - $13 bucks a kilo until a few weeks ago - but at that price, I'm not gonna waste it on myself when there's a chance I can go to bed knowing my girls have eaten something fresh and fruity and oh, so wholesome that day. I'll just have a biscuit instead.
I won't go on. Suffice to say, when the bad food binge hits, there can be days at a time when I wouldn't recognise a vegetable if it walked through the front door and hit me over the head with a carrot. Except for when I'm lovingly peeling and slicing and steaming said carrot, then feeling my heart swell with 'good mother' pride as my little ones munch away on them for dinner.
OVERSIZED GARMENT. FINISHED PROJECT NOT FINISHED AFTER ALL.
I'm really growing to enjoy these weekly Yarn Along posts. While there's a bit of a theme developing around the topic of my knitting stuff-ups, it's good to have something that keeps me on task with the needles. Goodness knows, my productivity there waxes and wanes like the tide. And just when I thought I had a lovely finished project to report, pattern grief has struck again. The peachy-pink cardigan, all soft and pretty and girly, was meant for my littles. I knit the 18-month size. Gauge was almost spot-on. I'm almost entirely convinced I didn't misread the pattern. Yet the neckline is enormous. Enormous! I could fit both the twins in it together, side by side. Imagine the screaming! "Mine!" "No, mine!" "I do!" "No, I do." So, on a whim, I tried it on big sis and wouldn't you know? The perfect fit. Except that on her it's an itsy-bitsy crop-top.
So I've ripped out the hem and I'm lengthening it. I'm hoping the wool I have left will be enough. If not, I'm open to another yarn purchase. I'm always open to another yarn purchase, yes, indeed.
STOP PRESS. KNITTING CRISIS AVERTED. FOR NOW.
Note to self - if I ever need to make a doll with curly hair, I'll knit something, wash it, dry it then rip it out. Perfect corkscrews.
Oh, and reading? Still going along nicely with Patti Smith, thank you very much.
And thanks to lovey Lori for the beautiful red DPN pouch. Already put to good use, thanks, Lori!
I made this little top a while ago, but today it finally got its button and the Showgirl seemed up for a little modelling. The pattern is from Carefree Clothes for Girls - so much loveliness there. It's the same book I made this dress from earlier in the year, which has been criticised by some(one in particular) for not being "twirly" enough.
It's the Blouse with Crocheted Doily Trim. That's a real doily there. Granny would be proud.
And all that doily action got me inspired to pretty up a cheap Target top I bought the other week. I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, I'm not afraid to say it. And grey will always be fine by me.
Playing with paper dolls today. I'm thinking puffy little ladies in vintage florals, holding hands all in a row. And wondering if I can resurrect the beige disappointment by mixing it up with some fair isle. Much work still to do.
I'm a bit under the weather this week. A bit moany and groany and achy. It's always fun spending time at home with your kids when you're unwell, isn't it? Even if they don't catch the lurgy, the moany and groany bit is contagious.
Here are the lessons I've learnt around knitting this week:
1) Don't for a minute think that just because the babies are playing happily and independently for the first time all day that you can grab a moment to knit a row. My attempt at a sneaky sit-down the other morning resulted in a faster-than-lightning Pearl dive-bombing into my lap. The coffee, which was naturally in my hand at the time, spilt - of course - landing all over my soft peachy pink knitting. Sigh*.
2) Yarn on the computer screen is never the same as in real life. I ordered some more lovely Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino this week, swayed by the beautiful subtle mustardy yellowy olivey shade. It seemed a bit different, and versatile too, able to tone down all that girliness that wangles its way into my house in the form of pinkpinkpink. When it arrived, beige. Simple, boring beige.
3) This book is even more fabulous than I expected, having heard and read so much about Ms Zimmerman's work. The title for March - Difficult Sweater (Not Really) - is enough to win me over. I look forward to tucking in for a good chuckle.
I have a finished project drying on the backyard table, a Baby Kina in the aforementioned soft peachy pink. Photographs of that soon. And if one of my most beloved readers notices some cherry red yarn amidst that lot in the picture above and suspects it might be destined for a little something for her little someone, I refer her here with a reminder of how slowly things happen in this house these days... Who am I fooling? How slowly things happen in this house these years.
I recently read a blog post by a woman who wasn't sure if she should say it but, oh, heck it, she was a stay-at-home mum and she loved it. She'd found since having kids that all of her career aspirations had gone out the window and she wanted nothing more than to be at home raising her babies and nurturing her family. Good for her. But I was taken aback by the response - comment after comment of stay-at-home mums saying how misunderstood they felt, how they were made to feel ashamed because they were no longer in the work force, and that society only values you if you work etc etc. I was shocked by how divisive the topic was, and how much the word 'choice' was bandied about. 'Cause from where I'm sitting, if you're lucky enough to be able to choose not to work, then what's the problem?
Most of my friends and acquaintances who have kids work in some form or another, be it full-time, part-time or in their own businesses. I know a few stay-at-home mums, most with very young children, all who plan to return to the work force some time in the future. And the handful I know who don't work have the financial freedom to be able to make that choice. The reality is, for most of the women in my world, working is a necessity. Sure, there's a level of fulfilment, even sanity-preservation, involved in heading out to the office, but most just need the cash. Perhaps it's a Sydney thing - the city that demands a double income. There just isn't a choice.
And yes, yes, I know, there are always choices. There are always changes that can be made if something is important enough. You could leave the city, move somewhere more affordable, look for ways to cut costs around the house, eat beans three nights a week. Forgo the annual holiday. Get rid of the car. Sell a kid. It sounds so simple, but it never is.
I wonder how these working women would be if money was no longer an issue. Would they happily remain at home with their children all day? I guess it depends on the work they're doing, whether they consider it their career, or just a job, whether they'd feel fulfilled as a full-time mum, whether they have good childcare options.
I've been thinking about this stay-at-home/working mum dichotomy, and I don't think it's so cut and dried. And I also think there's a side-effect that the stay-at-homers aren't really delving into, and that's the dads. One thing I know for sure is that, unless you're really swinging in the big-time, if you're a single-income family then one of the parents is working out of the house a lot of the time. It's all very well that kids get their mum all day and night, but do they get any quality weekday dad time?
The GM and I have a slightly unusual arrangement. We're double income by necessity, and while my job isn't always fulfilling or inspiring, I do ultimately derive some satisfaction from it and look forward to my working days as a necessary 'break' from all the kid stuff. The GM is a rare breed - I know he isn't joking when he says he'd happily be a full-time stay-at-home dad.
This is a bit about our situation: We've both always shared the load when it comes to bringing home the bacon, though the GM has carried a bit more of the burden since I had our babies. We both work for the same company, and because the job isn't 9:00 to 5:00, Monday to Friday, we were able to manage things after Lola was born so that we could avoid childcare. I returned to work one day a week when she was four months old, and when she was eight months old, I picked it up to full-time while the GM had a few months of paid parental leave. After he resumed working, we began the juggle - with a bit of help from aunties and grandparents. There were a couple of days a week when I would drive to work with Lola at 3pm and do the baby handover at the office door. In I went to work, home went the GM and Lola for dinnerbathbed.
Things have been very different since Pearl and Stella came along. The twin effect meant that our company agreed to let us work from home, and now the GM only goes into the office two days a week, then he jams his other three days into two at home. I work three days a week, upstairs in the 'office' - spread out over an evening here and there and two full days when the GM looks after the girls. I haven't set foot in the company office, aside from a couple of social visits, for nearly two years.
We're both tired most of the time. Weekends are not sacred, though they should be. I am always working on Saturday, and often Sunday becomes a work day for one of us too. The reality of our situation is that when we're not working, we're usually single-handedly caring for the kids - two or three, depending on whether it's a preschool day. The GM and I get about 17.5 minutes* together each week, if you don't count sleepytime, and none of those 17.5 minutes are child-free.
And yet, this is our choice. And yet…we don't have a choice. We need the income. We're not comfortable putting our babies into childcare. We can't afford that childcare, at any rate. We are lucky enough to have an employer that accommodates us and a job with flexible hours. But what's most important, I think, is that our kids get both of us equally. They don't get me all day and Dad for half an hour before bed and on weekends. They don't get rushed out the door each morning to day care, then raced home in time for dinner and bed. And for all the downsides of working at home (and that's a whole 'nother post), even when we are working, our kids can still see us, talk to us, come up for a cuddle or a chat when they need to. It's like the best of both worlds - we're full-time stay-at-home working parents, by choice, yet without a choice.
And I think most other families - be they single income, double income, stay-at-home, work-from-home, home-schooling - don't have a whole lot of choice either. They're just doing what works for them. And making it work as best they can. Those that do have a choice about whether they work or not, lucky for them.
Well, that all looks very impressive, doesn't it? Two lovely packages of handmade goodness ready to send off to a pair of young men - my cousin's new baby boy, Cooper, and my nephew Oscar who turned one, ooh, about three years ago now (OK, the month before last). It would be impressive if there wasn't the very real risk that both boys will have outgrown the clothes before they receive them.
I've shown the two vests before here and here. I made each boy a pair of the fabulously funky Quick Change Trousers as well, with a mixture of new and vintage fabrics. And to top it off, Cooper gets a onesie with a very, very simple applique.
Tomorrow I'm off to the post office, and when I return I'll grab a very large texta to mark these two little tasks, finally, off the list!
I seem to have found my knitting groove again these past few weeks. Which is nice. 'Cause I do like to knit.
Here's my nephew Oscar's first birthday vest - only two months late. It's another Milo. Yes, I like this pattern, though if I knit it again (which is likely - this is number three) I might have to do something about those increases in the first row of stocking stitch after the yoke. They look like mistakes, and they're not, I promise.
The Milo lets one choose one's cable pattern, and offers up an XO. I got all clever and changed it to just an O. O, O, O, O, O. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar, Oscar, Oscar! I'm sure he can hear me calling, saying, "Hang on, little man, your vest is on the way..."
I welcomed them into my home somewhat reluctantly. All I'd seen, at preschool drop-off, was a writhing box full of icky grubs. So when I was asked to babysit the silkworms for part of the holidays, I said yes even though I wanted to say no. In any case, I figured Lola could do all the requisite picking up and putting down. I wasn't going to touch them.
I tended to them dutifully, foraging for their mulberry leaves and feeding them every couple of hours. I cleaned out their box every day and tucked them away at night. And what do you know, I started to quite like them. Within a day or two, I was picking them up without getting squeamish. Ooh, so lovely and soft and silky. They were due to spin their cocoons, so I knew we had something to look forward to. When the first one formed, I was mesmerised.
I think I became a bit obsessed. One night as I lay in bed drifting off, I imagined massive fat grubs slithering up the stairs to smother us in our sleep. Perhaps I was getting too close. I greeted them first thing in the morning. I checked up on them all day long. Sometimes I just gazed. If I was quiet enough, I could hear them munching away on their leaves. "Wouldn't you prefer to stay home and watch the silkworms with me?" I asked the GM a couple of nights ago as he was leaving to see some friends. Lovely silkworms...
I am transformed. (Insert metamorphosis metaphor here, if you must.) I feel like a long-held distaste for wriggly things has been blown away. Where to for me now? Could I have a pet tarantula? Slugs?
And suddenly there are mulberry trees everywhere. I discovered three new ones just yesterday on a walk I do several times a week, and I'd never them noticed before.
This morning I said goodbye and handed the silkworms back to the preschool director. The kids will watch as the others make cocoons, then reappear as flightless moths to lay their eggs. The house feels a bit empty without them. I admit, when I went to pick up my girl this afternoon, I glanced around, hoping to see my silkworms just one more time...