Welcome, nau mai, haere mai!
Come on in and stay a little while. . . you never know what you might find!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eat. . . Baked cheesecake

Baked cheesecake with a generous topping of homemade lemon curd
By popular demand from my work colleagues, today I am sharing a recipe for baked cheesecake, which I made over the weekend. The recipe was demonstrated as a "masterclass" with chef Donna Hay, on an episode of Australian Masterchef and I wrote the recipe down by hand. I took some cheesecake into work today to share, and was inundated with requests for the recipe so here we are:

Whilst I was on Donna Hay's website just now, I discovered that she has the recipe available there too, so here's the link for that - much easier to read and print out or email than my handwritten scrawl! As you can see from the photo at the top, our favourite way to eat this cheesecake is with a big dollop of homemade lemon curd on top. This recipe is definitely going to be kept for a rare treat though, as the ingredients were pretty pricey and it's hardly healthy eating. But it's sooooooooo delicious :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fold. . . Lettergramme - no envelope necessary

Following on from my Love. . . Snail mail post, I bring you a thrifty (bargainaceous) and fun stationery idea: The Lettergramme. It's a bit like an aerogramme and it saves you from having to find/buy/use an envelope. You write your letter on a rectangle of paper and then fold the letter up to become its own envelope! A4 paper is a really good size, but the only limit is your imagination (and your country's postal regulations on allowable sizes for letters in the mail!) You can use one sheet of paper or more, but above two or three sheets folded as one, it gets too bulky to fold and secure properly. I first saw this idea in an origami book many years ago. I think it was a Nick Robinson book, but am not sure of its title. I just found instructions for a more complicated "3D" envelope here on his website, but the version I am familiar with is much simpler. I have used it countless times over the years, and I hope you find it useful too.

Here's a photo tutorial for you. . .

First write your letter (here using my Lamy Safari fountain pen).

Fold your letter in half, like a book, with the words inside.

Unfold, and then fold two edges to the middle crease as shown.

Fold the top and bottom edges inwards, parallel, to make a (nearly) diamond shape.

Take the bottom right point and tuck it in under the top right diagonal flap.

Repeat the same on the left side.
Although it holds together well on its own, secure with sticker/sticky tape if sending through the mail.

Pop it in the post, and do your bit to keep Snail Mail alive!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Love. . . Snail mail

Photo credit: Contest entry by Kate and Hendrik www.eqcomics.com Source - google images
I really love "snail mail". There is something so special about being able to open a handwritten letter and know that the contents were written just for you. You can also include other tangible bits and pieces in a way that's impossible with e-mail and receiving a letter is such a lovely change from bills and junk-mail in the mailbox. 

I've had a very lengthy apprenticeship in writing letters. Of course, there were thank you letters every Christmas and birthday, and as well as that I wrote regularly to several friends during teenage years and upwards. For much of my childhood, my mum and I lived 100 miles apart, she didn't have a phone line and we used to diligently write to each other every week. Just telling each other the small details of our lives and including things like little drawings or poems or very occasionally an audiotape of us speaking to each other. Also, for years when I was a teenager and young adult in the UK, I wrote to a dear friend (VG) in Australia. There was no such thing as email and we didn't speak on the telephone as it seemed so expensive back then, but our letters would wing their way around the world, often "waving to each other at the equator" - it was uncanny how often our letters would manage to cross in the post! We built our friendship through letter-writing, not by any other means, after a chance meeting in Guernsey back in 1986. These two wonderful women gave me my apprenticeship in letter-writing - it was such a treat to be able to open the envelope, settle down and enjoy every word of the letter inside, then fold it up to savour again another day.

My mum continues the snail mail tradition to this day, writing weekly postcards to Sonny Jim. For me, email is so accessible (and yet, so impersonal) and long-distance phone calls are now within budget. But occasionally, I still dust off the fountain pen and write a good old-fashioned letter, and it is always a joy to write or receive one. Just last week I got a letter from my Australian friend VG, and it was as lovely as ever to hold her words in my hands, and to see that old familiar handwriting, which I have known for 25 years now. I started writing back to her yesterday - there is much to say. . .

Although letters have been largely superseded by emails, I have yet to fathom how the parcel post could possibly be replaced. Unless one day someone invents a contraption like the one in Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book! Willie Wonka invented a "Wonkavision" machine which was able to break a chocolate bar down into tiny invisible particles and send it across the room, where it re-assembled into an edible bar of chocolate -  but even that needed some tweaking, as Mike Teevee discovered to his detriment!!  Imagine going to the "Post Office" and watching as your parcel de-materialised in front of your eyes, only to "magically" reassemble itself at its destination?!

Nowadays, I am lucky enough to receive occasional parcels of loveliness from various friends, and I like to do my fair share of sending them too. One very dear friend in Wales (K) has an uncanny knack of sending me a parcel at just the right moment, sometimes with British sweets and biscuits that I miss (like McVities' Jaffa Cakes or Trebor's Clarnico Mint Creams) as an added bonus. She also sent me the most incredible hand-knitted lime green shawl for my birthday in late January, just before I started up this blog. In the last couple of weeks I have received several parcels of knitterly goodness from far away. . . all sent through the traditional postal service rather than Wonkavision! First, I received some pretty little stitch markers and a stunningly beautiful skein of yarn from an English ravelry friend, S, whom I have never met in "real life":

Hedgehog Fibres "Ink" sock yarn

It's by Hedgehog Fibres yarns, and the colours are so beautiful, whilst it feels deliciously soft. It's from the same friend who knitted me the beautiful Julia socks I blogged about here.

Next, my handmade Artist's Edition "Knitter's Manifesto" package I had ordered from Brenda Dayne of "Cast On" podcast fame arrived. All the way from West Wales! I'll let the pictures do the talking. . .

A Knitter's Manifesto package

A Knitter's Manifesto package

Cast On "Knit Rail" ticket

Knitting Sound Diary

If you would like your very own limited edition package of handmade goodness from Brenda, check out her online shop here. Over there you can also buy a digital download of the audio "Knitter's Manifesto" or the wonderful Welsh for Rainbow collection of knitting patterns and stories from Pembrokeshire.

Last week, a surprise package arrived from some lovely Northland ravelry friends I have never met. When I opened the package it contained the Hap Shawl book by Sharon Miller which I have been lusting after since I began knitting my Hap Blanket - be still my beating heart! What a gift! Thank you so much P 'n' B!!

Shetland Hap Shawls

Finally, a lengthy letter from my old friend VG in Australia, including a Michael Leunig cartoon. He's a favourite of mine, ever since I was staying with VG in Melbourne back in the 1990s and became hooked on his cartoons/observations in The Age newspaper. Receiving a letter from VG took me back to the many years when it was our only means of communication, and our way of developing and sustaining a long-distance friendship which has thrived for 25 years. . .

I feel so lucky and grateful to have such kind and lovely friends, both old and new :) Despite the fact that "snail mail" is definitely outmoded, pushed aside by email and text messaging, I think I will always prefer it over email (even though, ironically, I send far more emails than letters now). I hope the postal service remains viable for a long time yet - I certainly plan on continuing to support it regularly, with hand-written cards, letters and parcels winging their way into someone's mailbox!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Knit. . . Yet more alliterative knitting

Another stash of alliterative knitting today! What is it with "h" at the moment?!! I offer you hydrogen, Holden shawlette, hitch-hiker scarf and hexapuffs. . .

Hydrogen for Knitted Periodic Table

I have finished knitting my part of the Knitted Periodic Table project. I can still hardly believe my luck that I managed to get the first and most abundant element!

Ella's Holden shawlette

My cousin in the UK has now received the gift I knitted her as part of the "Handmade Pay It Forward" thing I signed up to on Facebook in January. So I can finally show you the Holden Shawlette (by Mindy Wilkes) which I knitted for E back in July. . .

Ella's Holden shawlette

On Wednesday last week we had a work meeting over an hour's drive away in Havelock, on the edge of the Marlborough Sounds. I managed to score a passenger seat rather than being the driver. Luckily I was well-prepared and brought this skein of Knitsch sock yarn with me!

Knitsch Flights of Fancy sock club - Hansel

Not only the sock yarn, but also the Hitch-hiker scarf pattern by the very talented German knit-designer Martina Behm. So I cast on as we travelled, with the skein draped over my knee. By the time we got back to the hospital (including some time daringly knitting at the meeting!) I had knitted 17 teeth of my "Hitch-hiking to Havelock" scarf. Also folded 30 paper cranes towards the 1000 cranes project whilst listening attentively at the meeting. Nearly there with the first thousand :)

Hitch-hiking to Havelock

The hitch-hiker is a great pattern. Looks great on, and is simple enough to be travel knitting, but has just enough with the increases and decreases to keep you interested (and tempt you to knit "just one more tooth" - 8 rows.) But the best thing about it is that it really shows off hand-dyed variegated yarns to great effect, and Knitsch produces some beautiful ones, all 100% NZ merino, dyed in Wellington.

The hexapuffs are coming along well for my Beekeeper's Quilt:

Hexapuffs - first 7

and that's it for alliterative knitting for a while. . .

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thought for Thursday - another way

Junction in the road. (Photo by Peter Jordan - Creative Commons License)

Both these things are true:
This is not the life I pictured for myself.
This is a very good life.

With thanks to a very dear friend, who shared this thought with me. . .

Monday, August 15, 2011

Eat. . . When life gives you lemons. . .

When life gives you lemons. . .

. . . make lemon curd! And little lemon cakes/muffins!

I was half way through making lemon curd yesterday morning when that well-known saying sprang to mind - "When life gives you lemons. . . make lemonade!" Saturday was indeed a lemon of a day. To quote Sonny Jim: "It sucked!" But it was purely coincidental that I started making lemon curd on Sunday morning - just a need to do something useful, over which I had control (albeit tenuous at the point where you add cold beaten eggs to hot melted butter, lemon and sugar!) So an enjoyable morning of lemoniness was to be my diversion yesterday. . . first I made the lemon curd and then when faced with all the lemon rind residue in the bottom of the sieve, I knew it was far too tasty to throw out, so made little lemon cakes instead!

Here's how. . .

Lemon Curd/Honey/Butter/Cheese

4 lemons
12 oz caster sugar
6 oz butter, chopped
4 large eggs

First, attempt to sterilise your jam jars by heating at 150C in the oven for 15 mins or filling with boiling water.

Put the lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter in a ceramic or glass bowl over a pan of simmering water (or a double boiler if you happen to have such a thing!) Don't let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.

Thickening the lemon curd

Stir it until the sugar dissolves and butter melts. Add a bit more juice if you think it tastes too sweet.

Beat the eggs in another bowl until well combined. Now for the scary bit - add a little bit of the hot mixture to the eggs, stir well then add the whole lot to the hot lemon, sugar and butter mixture. At this point you need to hope desperately that it won't curdle. If it does, try plunging the bowl into cold water and stirring like crazy.

Assuming all goes well, and it doesn't curdle (I've made it three times in the last year and it's never curdled yet!) stir it constantly until the mixture thickens. It will thicken more in the jar so don't expect it get to the final texture. This will take between 5 and 20 minutes depending on how fast you are heating the mixture (ie how daring you are being!) but DON'T LET IT BOIL!!

Stirring the lemon loveliness

Once your bowl of lemon loveliness has reached the desired thickness, pour it through a sieve into a jug.

Sieving the lemon curd

Next, pour the sieved lemon curd from the jug into your sterilised jars and screw on the lids. I did a double mixture and this is how much it yielded. . .

Lemon curd

Store in the fridge and eat within 2-3 weeks. Delicious on bread, toast, scones, as a sponge cake filling, inside lemon muffins, on ice cream etc etc. Good luck making it last 3 weeks!

You will be left with a lot of lemon rind and maybe a few small eggy bits in your sieve. . .

Lemon curd residue

Of course, you could just put this on your compost heap, but I couldn't bear to part with all that lemony loveliness, so decided to dig out an old lemon cake recipe from one of my handwritten recipe books of years gone by. I put the mixture in muffin tins instead of a cake tin though and omitted the lemon syrup glaze, as that suits us better for packed lunch treats straight from the freezer.

Lemon Cake

175 g/6 oz margarine
175 g/6 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4 tblsps milk
175 g/6 oz SR flour
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon (or ALL your lemon curd residue from the sieve!)
1 tblsp icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease and line  a 2lb loaf tin.
Cream marg and sugar till light and fluffy then gradually beat in lightly whisked eggs and milk. Lightly fold in sieved flour and lemon zest (or lemon curd residue).
Place in prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, then slightly reduce oven temp and bake for further 30 mins or until cake is golden brown, firm to touch and beginning to shrink from sides of tin. Mix lemon juice and icing sugar and pour over cake straight away. If using muffin tin cook for 15 - 20 mins only.

Lemon muffins using lemon curd residue

Lemon muffin


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Love. . . Writing

Over the last few weeks I have realised just how much I like writing. I've slowly worked out that in much the same way as you can get pleasure from drawing without being an artist, you can get pleasure (and free self-therapy!) from writing without actually being "a writer" per se.

Back in early July, as I mentioned in this post, I discovered that in times of emotional turmoil I felt a greater need to write than to knit - which took me completely by surprise. Well, yesterday we got more sad news and the fountain pen has been calling once again. It seems not to matter if anyone will actually see what I write - in fact there is a wonderful freedom in just writing and writing and writing, letting the fountain pen nib leave a trail of emotions, reasoning, bargaining and acceptance in inky form, safe in the knowledge that no-one apart from me need ever see it.

Even typing (at which I am hopelessly inefficient) has its own particular appeal, and after years of shunning blogs as far too self-indulgent I seem to have become an easy convert to the genre! Whilst I write each blog post conscious that someone else might read it, even if I had an average of zero page-views per week I would continue. I write it mostly for me. How much more self-indulgent could I be?!! In particular, I have returned to my "Love. . . my life" post anytime I need reminding that I have so much to be thankful for. Like yesterday for instance, when one phone call turned our world upside down and literally years of planning, hoping and dreaming suddenly blew away like dust in the wind. But a new day has dawned and though it may be a different future to the one we three dreamed of, planned and hoped for, it will no doubt hold many wonderful surprises and opportunities. This time of heavy-hearted sadness and loss will pass. We will keep on walking forward and remember to appreciate each day we have. . .

. . . and you can bet that I will write about it - on the blog, in notebooks, in scrapbooks and on the backs of old envelopes, but I will write. I will breathe and love and knit and write and cook and eat and travel and laugh and play and feel and surprise myself countless times, and find that this is how a life is lived. . . 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Knit. . . Hap Blanket, Hydrogen and Hexa-puffs

Here is the finished Hap Blanket, knitted from a pattern by Ysolda Teague. Ravelry link to the pattern here: Hap Blanket. It's a really simple pattern to knit, with a feather and fan lace border knitted around a central garter stitch square.  I talked a bit about the Hap Blanket's origins at the bottom of this post. Anyway, it was an enjoyable and quick knit which has yielded a snuggly and good-looking result - amazing to think that it is almost the same size as my three year epic project "fish blanket" and yet this soft and squishy blanket only took me just over two weeks! I used a discontinued yarn (bought on the cheap!) Cleckheaton Merino Spun, which is a felted single of 80% merino and 20% nylon.

Next up, I am knitting Hydrogen!

Glowing ultrapure Hydrogen - from www.images-of-elements.com

That is to say, I am knitting a 20x20cm square from New Zealand wool, to represent the element with Atomic Number 1, symbol H and relative atomic mass of 1.0079 for the Knitted Periodic Table project celebrating the International  Year of Chemistry. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element and I couldn't quite believe my luck that it was still available to knit, when I went to sign up in this New Zealand-based collaborative project!

Image from www.yearofchemistry.org.nz

All the details are here, but in less than one week all the elements and blank squares have been claimed by knitters around New Zealand and even some from overseas! There's an article about the project from the Royal Society of New Zealand here. The finished Knitted Periodic Table will be displayed at the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Conference at Victoria University in Wellington later this year, and  at selected locations thereafter. I started knitting my square tonight, and also need to knit three black strips to form the "H", as well as embroider on the atomic number.

First few hexa-puffs
First few hexa-puffs for my Beekeeper's Quilt

Finally, in this litany of alliterative knitting I have started knitting Hexa-puffs for my latest knitting project - the Beekeeper's Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits. It's an ingenious little pattern and if you click on the link there you will see just what a beautiful result can be accomplished! It's a paying pattern but well worth its price for the clever idea - I downloaded mine from ravelry. Talking of  ravelry I have named my project "The Beekeeper's Daughter" on ravelry, owing to the fact that back in the day my dad used to keep bees. . . It is a newly published pattern and just what I was looking for as a replacement simple, portable sock yarn project now my fish blanket is finished. Each hexagon is knitted individually as a little pouch, filled with a little puff of stuffing and then grafted together at the top. Eventually (many months/years hence), when I have got enough hexa-puffs (at least 200!) I will attach them together and voilà - a Beekeeper's quilt will emerge from this hive of activity!

So that's it for knitting activity at the moment. Have also been plugging away on a yarnification project, but more on that elsewhere. I'm still knitting a few rows here and there on the two lace shawls I am currently knitting, but more on those another time :)

Happy knitting, if that's your thing! And if it's not, then hopefully you have something else that gives you as much calm and relaxation as knitting gives me. . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thought for Thursday - Anne Lamott

"Dandelion clock" photo from Wikipedia creative commons

"You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp."

— Anne Lamott

Thanks to Wendy for this beautiful quote. . . I had never heard of Anne Lamott until yesterday, via Wendy on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eat. . . Afghan biscuits

My homemade Afghan biscuits
Afghans, at least in their biscuit form, were completely unknown to me until I set foot in Aotearoa/New Zealand back in 2002. But since then they have become one of my firm favourites! A deliciously short and crumbly chocolate biscuit studded with cornflakes for extra bite, enveloped in a rich and decadent chocolate icing and a walnut half to top it all off. Yum! If you don't have walnuts in your store cupboard, don't let that stop you - they are almost as delicious without!

Our tins have been looking very empty recently so this afternoon I spent a happy time in the kitchen baking Afghans. My recipe is based on the one in "Ladies, a Plate" by Alexa Johnston, but you will find an Afghan recipe in every Edmonds Cookery Book, and according to Alexa,  Afghans have opened the Edmonds' biscuit recipe section since 1953! No doubt there are plenty of other Afghan recipes to be found in other corners of the internet, but here's the recipe I use:


For about 24 small biscuits:
6 oz/170 g butter (Use margarine at your peril!!)
1/2 cup/ 100 g brown sugar
1 1/2 cups/180 g Self-raising flour
3 tblsps cocoa powder
2 scant cups/60 g scrunched cornflakes

Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line two trays with baking paper. Soften the butter, then cream it with the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add dry ingredients, mix well, then knead in smooshed up cornflakes. Put tablespoonsful of mixture onto the trays, leaving a small space around each. They don't spread much. Flatten slightly with your thumb or a fork and bake for around 15 mins. Cool on wire rack.

For icing:
3 tblsps water
3 tblsps caster sugar
3 tblsps butter
3 tblsps cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups/190 g icing sugar
Around 24 walnut halves (optional)

Heat the water, caster sugar and butter in a pan until butter melts. Simmer for 1 minute to form a syrup. Beating all the time, add most of the syrup to a small mixing bowl containing the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder. Add last bit of syrup if necessary. You are aiming to make a smooth, glossy, fudgy icing. Put a teaspoonful of icing on each biscuit and (if using), quickly press a walnut half into the icing. Leave to set.

Store in an airtight tin/plastic box. These stay fresh for 3 - 4 days if you can make them last that long!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Love. . . the simple pleasure of breastfeeding

Sonny Jim posing for the camera the day before his first birthday
This week is World Breastfeeding Week (more details here) and I didn't need much excuse to extol the pleasures of breastfeeding! It's many years now since I stopped breastfeeding my son (well, after all, he is 10 and a half!!) but it is a time I remember with great fondness. I wasn't breastfed myself, due to being a "distressed delivery", slate grey on arrival and having a very poor suck. Apparently, I had to be bottle fed with a lamb's teat, even though my mum originally planned to breastfeed me. So I didn't have personal experience of breastfeeding, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to breastfeed my son. It was free of charge, much less fuss than bottles and sterilising, and better for baby and for me as far as I could see. Luckily for Sonny Jim and me, we turned out to be breastfeeding naturals and he latched on immediately he was offered the chance, as if he had been doing it all his life. Or, as if it were the most natural thing in the world - which it is! My next-door neighbour was breastfeeding her son who was around 18 months when Sonny Jim was born, and she continued throughout her next pregnancy and then "tandem fed" both boys. I credit that lovely next-door neighbour with providing me with a wonderful role model - I could see that not only was breastfeeding natural and do-able, it was easy and enjoyable too.

First ever breastfeed 29.12.00
Sonny Jim's first ever breastfeed - 29.12.00
Breastfeeding is one of the best things I have ever done in life, and I freely admit I felt a bit sad when Sonny Jim reached the ripe old age of two and a half and our breastfeeding days dwindled away. Breastfeeding costs nothing, but brought so much to my life as well as Sonny Jim's. 

SJ breastfeeding 8.2.01
SJ "holding hands" with me whilst feeding - March 2001
As part of my current job I am involved in breast-feeding support and now I know only too well that breastfeeding isn't always easy for every mum and baby, no matter how determined the mum might be to make it work. I learnt so much from the "Global Online Lactation Discussion" GOLD 11 in May this year. Over 1700 delegates attended from 58 countries and in many cases each registered delegate shared the online presentations with many others in the local area, as happened here. The GOLD 11 experience was truly eye-opening for me and I gained a great deal from attending. The benefits of breastfeeding have always been something I feel strongly about, but the GOLD 11 experience really clarified that for me and I am determined to do more study in the area of breastfeeding/human lactation. . .

Project and photo by Caroline K

GOLD 11 really questioned my thinking. For example, one of the best known breastfeeding advocates, Diane Wiessinger, strongly promotes the fact that breast-feeding is normal-feeding and we need to think about our use of language around breast-feeding and how often we inadvertently present formula-feeding as the norm instead. For instance rather than talking about the benefits of breastfeeding, shouldn't we talk about the risks of formula feeding? After all, we talk about the risks of smoking rather than trying to persuade people of the benefits of clean air. She says that framing it as the "benefits of breast-feeding" presents formula as the norm, not breastfeeding. And yet we are biologically designed to breastfeed, human breast milk is undeniably the superior food for human babies and formula is a relatively new invention. An interesting perspective. Initially I sat there silently thinking to myself "WHAT risks of formula feeding? I mean, I know breast is best, but I didn't think formula was actually risky!" and it took me a while to see her point. Check out her website http://www.normalfed.com/ for accessible articles on "common sense breastfeeding". I am  really looking forward to attending the "GOLD 12" online video-conference next year.

Back to the personal side of things, rather than the global perspective. . .
I am going to share with you something I wrote around the time I stopped breastfeeding SJ. I think it puts across what breastfeeding meant to me. I incorporated it into a double page scrapbook layout which is part of SJ's scrapbook album about his childhood. The photo is from 14th March 2001, when Sonny Jim was two and a half months old and I wrote the "journalling" in August 2003. Anyway, this is what I wrote (name changed!):

LOVE scrapbook page 14.3.01LOVE scrapbook page 14.3.01
"Sonny Jim", we both used to love the special time we spent together breastfeeding every day when you were a baby. The IKEA chair in the conservatory was my favourite spot to feed you. I used to settle down on the chair with you lying on the "beeboo pillow" snuggled close into me, with a drink of water within reach on the bookshelf on my right. I remember the midwife said I should drink lots of water to help the milk flow! Sometimes I would put a magazine nearby where I could reach it too.

You would suck away contentedly while I sang to you, stroked your silky hair and soft, warm skin and and told you how much I loved you. Sometimes I would tell you a story or sing you songs and you really seemed to be listening. Every so often you would come off the breast for a breather and look up at me with those deep blue eyes of yours, which seemed so old and so knowing. 

I will never forget the quiet blissful sound of you drinking my milk, that beautiful sweet milky smell on your skin and my sense of achievement at watching you thrive on my milk alone. You often fell asleep towards the end of a feed and I would have to slip my little finger into your mouth to break the seal and ease you off me. 

The day when I took this photo was one of those days. I wanted to hold this moment forever so got out my old Canon SLR camera with black and white film to capture you peacefully sleeping with a tummyful of warm milk, before I carried you to your Moses basket. I only took one photo and luckily it worked! 

I used to wish that those days of being at home with you could just go on and on, but I reluctantly had to go back to work when you were 19 weeks old. I look back on those weeks at home with you as the happiest days of my life so far.

Love you always,

Mummy xxxxx

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thought for Thursday - I am human!

Rainbow flag  (from Out in UL)

I am gay
I am lesbian
I am straight
I am bisexual
I am transgendered

Originally saw this quote on "Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook" page. It spoke to me. . .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Knit. . . Octopus Socktopus toy and Transformational Wrap

Octopus Socktopus
I have wanted to make this cute little Octopus Socktopus for ages, and it finally reached the top of the queue! I made it from scraps of acrylic from my knit graffiti/yarnification stash, so that the 2 year old recipient's mother is able to wash it in the machine. The little boy who is to become its owner is a big fan of the Octopus Socktopus book by Nick Sharratt, and so I couldn't resist knitting him his very own Octopus Socktopus :) The pattern is a free one, "Socktopus" from www.knitty.com by Laura Edwards, available by following the link. It was fiddly to knit the heels, but a fun and fast project. I put a big "jingle bell" deep within the stuffing of the body, so when you shake the Socktopus it makes a dull "thunk" sound.

Octopus Socktopus
Top view

Octopus Socktopus
Underside of Octopus Socktopus

Then onto another stash-busting project - this time for me! The Circle Wrap has been a great project to use up some Patons Shadow Tweed yarn I bought on special offer a couple of years ago, and then couldn't decide what to use it for.

Transformational me
The initial working title was "Muddy Puddle"
It was quick and easy to knit and I like the look of it when worn. You start with 7 stitches, right in the centre if the back and then knit round and round in circles, increasing on alternate rows. To start with, it looked very much like a (big woolly) muddy puddle! The (free) pattern is "Transformational Wrap" by Rae McDonald, which is very fitting, as I started knitting it while in the midst of emotional turmoil a few weeks ago and used this project to knit my way back to my happy place :) thereby "transforming" myself as well as this old yarn!

Transformational me
"Breathe in!"

Transformational me
Secured with a shawl pin
I have a couple more finished projects to show you, but one of them has not yet been received by its intended owner, so I will have to wait till next time. . . However, I can give you a sneak preview of something else I am working on - a "hap blanket" based on the traditional Shetland "hap shawl" design, but morphed by young Scottish designer Ysolda Teague (one of my knitting heroes). There is a central garter stitch square with a feather and fan border with colour bands picked up and knitted around the edge. And that's about it - simple, but effective. This blanket uses a much thicker yarn than the traditional hap shawls, but otherwise the basic structure is very similar. I'm using some "Cleckheaton Merino Spun" yarn, bought a couple of years ago and now discontinued. It's amazingly soft and snuggly. For more info  on hap shawls and blankets, check out Ysolda's blog or get your hands on a copy of Sharon Miller's book Shetland Hap Shawls - Then & Now.

happy hap blanket
A few rows into the picked up border. . .