Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Hogmanay post

So, another Hogmanay, and this year we're at home. I'm knitting my garter stitch square and watching Tudor Monastery Farm, while drinking ginger-wine and lemonade. And cursing people who are letting fireworks off early!

I've ended the year with a little Hogmanay dye batch - red onion skins, brown onion skins and a few daffodil heads. Bunches of daffodils have appeared in the supermarkets very early this year so I've had daffodils on my windowsill since Christmas Eve, which has seemed a bit odd but added a welcome splash of zingy yellow.  I didn't do a huge amount of dyeing this year, so it was quite nice to end the year with a bit. It's still drying on the radiator and the colour looks quite nice as far as I can tell by unnatural light - I'd like to think it's 'old gold' but it might be 'mustard'!

It's been a very wet, windy, mild December, so outdoors is windswept but not bleak. The Boy and I went for a damp walk yesterday to blow away the cobwebs and took pictures of this hedge:

Lovely colours but it was surprisingly tricky to get a photo that got that richness of colour.

The other day I took apart the kids advent calendars (I'm not one of these parents who insist on non-chocolate advent calendars - I remember getting picture-only ones when I was young and they were fun, but I also remember my first chocolate advent calendar and it was brilliant!) for the recycling. I hadn't noticed the detail the good people at Cadbury's had included in their knitting-themed Christmas chocolate range.

Look - the inside of the doors match the squares behind! Nice colours too!*

I'm not going to do a review of the year - there have been good bits and less good bits but I find New Year pretty arbitrary. And I know in Scotland we're all supposed to go mad for New Year but lots of us don't, and I've not been that keen on it for a long time - I mean, who wants to welcome in January anyway?  Ridiculous, pointless month (yes, I know I said it's pretty arbitrary - I never said I was consistent). The nights may be getting imperceptibly shorter, but it's still a long time 'til spring. Blimey, that's gloomy!  I'm really not :-D.  I'm quite happy to be sitting peacefully at home knitting and watching television.

So Happy Arbitrary Calendar Change to you all!

* No, I'm not sponsored by Cadbury's. *sigh*

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Cracker joke

A classic of the genre!

Soooooo, 20 minutes until the final part of Death Comes to Pemberley, and I'm surprising myself by doing my fourth blog post in four days. Impressive for me! Of course, it's all trivia but that's just fine by me. My feet are being warmed by the small cat and I have my knitting ready to go - just a diagonal garter stitch square but it's what I'm in the mood for. Just before Christmas I got some rather nice wool from Lidl (sort of creamy-beige to grey, gradual colour change), and it's just crying out to be something comforting like a cushion cover.  So I'm knitting a square to see if it wants to be a cushion cover, and if not I can rip it back and see if it wants to be smaller squares sewn together into a cushion cover, or maybe something else entirely. I'm just like Michelangelo letting statues out of blocks of stone. No, really, I am.

Edited to add: Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine! Genius!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Dressing to match the walls

Me? Stealing water from the penguins? Must be somebody else you're thinking of.

I recorded part one of Death Comes to Pemberley last night and this evening I've watched that and part 2. I've enjoyed it so much I almost wish I'd waited 'til I had all three episodes so I could watch it back to back, but on the other hand I'm quite glad to have something to look forward to for tomorrow night. I don't know what the critics and the Austen fan-girls will make of it, but I'm loving it. I like Pride and Prejudice (book and 1995 tv series - not so keen on the Keira Knightley film) and I like mysteries, and it's working very well indeed for me. Besides which, it's just lovely to look at, especially on our new super-crisp bit-less-shiny television* - gorgeous, luscious colours and details. And Mrs Elizabeth Darcy, née Bennet, doing a cracking job of dressing to match the wallpaper. I'm not normally a big fan of turquoises and teals, but I was drooling over those walls already, and then she changes into a frock that matches! This is where I've been going wrong stylewise all my life..

Incidentally I can see why the critics and Austen fan-girls might be nervous - I've read a couple of 'sequels' to Pride and Prej, and they were, not to put too fine a point on it, complete shite. But this is most enjoyable. Also it gives me the chance to use my 'men in breeches' blog-post tag again.

In other news, I have iced the Christmas cake, much Lego has been built, we had a splendid afternoon when my brother came over today (to admire the Lego of course)  and pizza has been consumed by all. For the kids this is the second pizza this week. Tomorrow we're meeting with various in-laws for a meal at an Italian restaurant so I can foresee further pizza consumption in the near future. I may have to insist on a pizza-free zone for a couple of weeks to recover.

* Did I mention the television? A couple of weeks ago the boy Cat, he of knocking-over-the-Christmas-tree fame, knocked over a bookcase which knocked over the television which landed on the turret of Miss M's castle money-box. End of television. My Beloved was secretly pleased because he has the chromosome which has the need for new televisions at every opportunity and he thought the old one was too shiny - in that the screen reflected everything so that any dark scene would be dominated by the reflection of my beautiful beaded lamp floating in the corner like a luminous jellyfish.  I think he had a secret new-television-fund for just such an eventuality.  On reflection (ha!), we should thank the cat.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Of Penguins and Gulls

 Meet the swaabie.

One of Miss M's passions is Playmobil, and one of her presents this Christmas was the their Penguin Habitat, which includes penguins, penguin chicks, people, a bucket of fish, eggs, a bale of straw (we're not sure why - Miss M has decided it's to keep the eggs warm when the adult penguins can't be bothered) and a curious gull.  I love the gull - it has brilliant moulded wings. They could have just made it smooth-bodied but they gave it wings and, somehow, personality. We had a lot of fun setting the figures up and taking pictures, then Miss M sat playing with it for ages.

I find penguins hugely entertaining and fascinating and used to love watching Edinburgh Zoo's Penguin Cam until they got the pandas and it changed to dull-sleepy-panda-cam. I've just had a look though and they seem to have re-introduced Penguin Cam - apologies to Edinburgh Zoo if they did that ages ago, I just haven't checked for a while. So I'm not sure why when it comes to a toy penguin set that it's the very ordinary gull that I find so amusing.

The Playmobil penguins can slide down a chute into their pool, which you can fill with water and therefore get a satisfying splash. And the cats can drink from it of course. Because water from a dripping tap, a newly-drained bath or a toy penguin pool obviously tastes better than water from something as mundane as a cat-bowl.  That's basic cat psychology for you.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas knitting

This was my one bit of Christmas knitting this year - a Jayne hot-water-bottle cover for my brother. I aim to amuse.  I've learned from previous years where I bit off more than I could chew, knitting-wise.

I used DROPS Nepal, and made up the pattern - it was a really quick, easy, watching-tv kind of knit.

It's been a lovely day, everybody doing nothing much, nibbling on chocolate, and pottering around. But now I feel something like a zombie so I'm going to lurch towards bed, and as Miss M lost a tooth while eating her lunch I'll do a bit of Tooth-Fairying on the way. Hope everyone else had a good time too!

The Pickled Walnut Dilemma

Ah. All calm. All quiet. Frenzy over. Christmas Eve, the kids are asleep and I've got my feet up. My Beloved is playing Command and Conquer. One cat is looking a bit twitchetty and the other is sitting in an empty Amazon box, partly-chewed. The box that is, not the cat. The cat was at the vet today getting a jab and is feeling a bit sorry for himself. The same cat knocked the Christmas tree down the other day (he doesn't understand that he's Too Big now), so now the tree is weighed down with a suit of chainmail.  Which is the kind of thing we have lying around.

I made the Christmas cake last week, marzipanned it yesterday and should have iced it today but it didn't happen. It was never going to happen. I don't know why I ever thought it would. I ended up taking the kids for a longish walk in the dark and the cold and the wind and the wet at half past seven tonight to wear them out a bit as they'd been stuck mostly indoors for the last couple of days. The wind had dropped a bit this evening to what those of us from the icy north call 'a bit breezy' and the media call the End of the World. By the time we got home the kids were still hop-skip-and-jumping and racing each other to lamp posts, while I was flagging somewhat. Still, they went off to bed quite readily and are snoring happily. Or that may be one of the cats.

I was moderately organised this year. I didn't bite off more than I could chew with Christmas knitting. I bought Christmas cards in October (then put them in a cupboard and forgot about them until mid-December). I panic-bought more wrapping-paper than you can shake a stick at, should you so desire and I've really no idea why you should, and this evening found all the unused wrapping paper from last year. I had sellotape, gift tags and sticky labels all prepared. I had a brief panic when I couldn't find a present I distinctly recalled wrapping, then found it in the Amazon box that the cat is sitting in. And now it's all done! Well apart from icing the cake.

We don't really go over the top with food at Christmas - fairly generous portions but we don't feel the need to go for the full-on multiple-course feasting that others seem to do. We're probably having curry for Christmas dinner, except the Boy who is having pizza. We had roast chicken this evening so we've done the roast thing without being burdened by tradition or sprouts.

At this time of year I love to indulge my addiction to magazines and entertain myself with their outlandish ideas of what is desirable and necessary in the perfect Christmas. I notice that the perfect Christmas rarely involves the cat knocking over the Christmas tree, by the way.  Cats are allowed to look peaceful and sleepy and nothing else in magazine photo-shoots.  Occasionally you'll see a picture with a cat glaring at the photographer from behind a chair and you know the photographer hadn't spotted it and the editor is too distracted by the Farrow & Ball paintwork to notice.

This year's 'They're joking surely?' award for Christmas writing in magazines goes to this gem:

Apparently pickled walnuts are a storecupboard (not usually one word?) essential! What will I do? I don't have any! The shops are shut!  In fact, I've never had any! Ever! I must be failing at something, everything! And look - I need artisan honey! Are the bees the artisans? Do they wear smocks?

I should possibly point out that in one of those 'how .... are you?' Buzzfeed quizzes that was doing the rounds on Facebook, I came out as 0% middle-class. Zero. Maybe I'm too chavvy for pickled walnuts. I prefer to think that I'm just too posh for that quiz. Think I might be the Queen.

Ooh, it's 00:00, it's Christmas in this time-zone. Think I'll go to bed.  Season's Greetings of whatever flavour to you all!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

I could while away the hours, Conferrin' with the flowers..

Or browsing on Pinterest for that matter.  I don't while away the hours doing that, because I don't have enough hours (my diary is currently scaring me and I'm only a housewife), but I can imagine you could while away the hours there quite easily, given half a chance.  One thing I've found a lot of on Pinterest recently is book art - that is, making things out of books or out of pages of books. While part of me thinks 'oooh, clever, interesting, amazing', the rest of me is rocking backwards and forwards sobbing 'not the books, not the books'.  I just couldn't cut up a book. Not even one I hate, because I couldn't have a clever, interesting, amazing arty thing around knowing the words on it are from a book I hate.  Besides there are very few books I hate so I don't have books-I-hate piles lying round and I'm not going to pay for a book I hate am I? I can't convince myself that it's recycling to cut up a book I don't hate but am not likely to re-read either. Those go to charity shops for someone else to enjoy if they're in decent enough nick. So I suppose what I need is a book I like which is actually disintegrating in front of my eyes. Then it might be okay.

I can't cut up 'old pieces of sheet music' either. I do think sheet music is incredibly decorative and I have made things that could loosely be described as paper art (paper hearts stuck to the dining-room window) using it, but I found the music on a free sheet music website and printed it out myself.  Yes, not very green but not the horror of cutting into actual music. Actual sheet music presumably being sheet music not printed by me. I know, it doesn't make a huge amount of sense.

Newspapers don't count of course. I'll use newspaper for anything. I mostly use newspaper to dispose of the grosser findings in the cat litter tray. Though in fact, I rarely buy newspapers - the local paper occasionally for a quick glance through, knowing full well I'm going to be scooping cat poo onto it in five minutes. Sometimes it improves it.

Another thing I see a lot on Pinterest and elsewhere at this time of year is people using newspaper to wrap Christmas presents. I'm not sure if anybody actually does this or if it's just a things people do for magazine articles. They look to be suspiciously freshly ironed newspapers. And presumably ones without any bad news or shrieking headlines in them. Not sure I've ever seen a newspaper like that, meself. They do look lovely though.

I'm not a complete paper Grinch. Today I sat on the floor making paper snowflakes with Miss M.  We added glitter and everything (glitter everywhere, though mostly on me). My thing with paper snowflakes though is that they must be six-pointed*, anything else gives me that sense of not-quite-right that I also get from misplaced apostrophes (not the occasional typo, I mean catastrophically misplaced apostrophes, you know the ones). One of those stars was made at school by one of the kids last year and is based on a circle folded into four. It's only maternal love holding it up there. And a bit of blutak.

Since then the Christmas tree has gone up and I've thrown every bauble I can find at it. I know there are more baubles somewhere, my favourite ones in fact, but I've already sent My Beloved back up into the loft once for the lights and Christmas stockings. I don't do ladders very well since a falling-off-the-loft-ladder incident in my teens so our loft is terra incognita for me. There could be anything up there for all I know.

*For me. I'm not enforcing it or anything.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


I'm spending a cosy day indoors with Miss M, who is recovering from a sickness bug she had yesterday and is still a little peely-wally. It's been fairly horrible outside - high winds, rain, hail, sleet, snow (briefly) and clouds that look as if they're made from concrete but we're snuggled up on the settee and two-thirds of the way through watching The Wizard of Oz. Oh, actually it's snowing again now.

Miss M's bug came on really quickly - she was absolutely fine at school yesterday, and then we went to her swimming lesson straight after school. It was the classic Parenting Fail. As I parked at the swimming pool she told me her tummy was sore. Well, Miss M's sore tummy has been mentioned with consideration, as Mr Bennet would say, for a long time so I didn't think much of it. Halfway across the carpark she said ' Mama, I feel a bit sick'.
'Well, we'll see you how you feel once you get ins-'

That's right, ex-macaroni cheese all over the carpark. Good job it didn't happen ten minutes later when she was actually in the swimming-pool! The Boy, being squeamish, ran away - that's probably the reason he never gets ill then.

I hate it when my kids are ill - which to be fair, they hardly ever are. Miss M looked awful last night. Thankfully she stopped throwing up before eight o'clock, had a good sleep and woke up with colour in her face again and today she's been quietly doing jigsaws, playing on the computer and watching The Wizard of Oz.

Aside: Oh I do like the Wicked Witch of the West. Margaret Hamilton was brilliant!

I made a cake the other day. It was my half-birthday, good a reason as any. I share a birthday with the Boy so although we had cake then, it was according to his tastes and he prefers water icing which I find a bit sickly. I prefer butter icing, and as I'll only be 42 once, I thought a birthday cake for me, with butter icing and chocolate buttons on top would be just the thing. I'd intended to put a half next to the 42 but there wasn't room.  Actually I should have been making the Christmas cake, but I don't know if I can be bothered really.  I notice that although both of the kids supposedly don't like butter icing they've been happily scoffing my cake. Hmmm.