Sunday, 1 December 2019

Life since July

It's been almost a month since I started writing this post so I'd better get it finished before the end of the year races up to meet me.

Brace yourself for a massive news dump...

Let's divide this into categories, and we'll start with the youngest member of the family.

A - now three years old, dammit, and don't you forget it.  Anytime she hears the number three she exclaims, "That's how many I'm are!"

I remember that with J the jump from two to three felt big, and I've noticed it again this time.  She's using the toilet full time (still in nappies at night), pedals her big girl bike, tells me, "Leave now!" when I drop her off to kindy, and generally believes herself to be in charge of the household.  When I tell her, "You are not the boss here," she puts her pudgy hands on her hips and retorts, "Yes, I, are!"

I'm enjoying her more than ever.  If you can't tell from the above exchange she's bossy and funny and independent.  She adores her big sister and one of her favourite things to do is to list off everyone she loves, ticking them off on her fingers: "I love myself, and Daddy, and Mummy, and J, and Poppa, and Nan, and Grandpa, and..." The list is long and I think how lucky she is to have so many people to count.

Giving the Japanese garden exhibit at Pukekura Park a going over

Next up let's discuss J, my sweet and enquiring girl whose brain has gone berserk these last few months.  Boy is that girl ready for school.  All day long she peppers me with questions and facts.   "Do rubbish truck drivers enjoy collecting rubbish?  How high is the sky?  Did you know, pelicans are water birds.  What happens when we die?  How do plants make flowers?  What is air made of?  Does Father Christmas go to South Africa?  Did you know, the wind is caused when air heats or cools." And on, and on, and on ALL DAY.

Earlier this year she was very excited for school, but I didn't think she was actually intellectually ready.  Now, however, OH YES SHE IS READY.  That brain is so thirsty for knowledge it's exhausting.

The school has a fantastic transition program where the new entrants attend a program for an hour each week to get to know the school, their teachers, and their classmates, in the term before they start school.  We started attending the transition program a few weeks ago, although she won't be starting until late February next year (after her fifth birthday).  She adores her school visits and asks me every day when it's time to go back.  They've been handing out readers and she earnestly sits on the couch at home, pointing at the words with her finger as she was shown as she "reads".  Of course, what's actually happening that she's got the book memorised, but as an avid reader myself it's lovely to see this happy introduction to the world of reading.

She also loves to sit down with a sheet of paper and a pencil and draw any letters she knows the shape of, and then asks me what they are.  So when I say she's ready for school, the kid is ready.  Just three months to wait...

She's a prolific and (to my highly biased eye) quite talented artist.  She's able to add small numbers together, loves witches - her favourite character in Sleeping Beauty is Maleficent, would happily spend all day outside pottering around watering plants, picking flowers or walking through the paddocks.  She - in fact both girls - love to bake and I can't start even the smallest task in the kitchen without both of them dragging up a stool each to help.  It's worthwhile remembering that I dreamt of this stuff when they were babies and I was exhausted and a bit miserable.

Let's talk garden.  Since the weather has finally warmed up of course everything has sprung into life, including the weeds.

We've planted out a few veggies but after being super organised very early in the piece and raising some seeds, I kind of took my eye off the ball and now it's almost summer with not much actually in the ground. 

At the moment we've got onions and leeks left over from winter, beetroot, beans, peas, rainbow chard, broccoli, a couple of tiny tomato plants, and that's it.  Oh and the raspberry, which is covered in tiny green fruit and I'm beside myself at the thought of the bounty in a month or two.

Yes that is a lamb standing on its mother. This ewe is the most patient attentive mother you've ever seen.

This is Emily, my orphan lamb from last year.  In case you can't tell from that look, we love each other very much.

We've had numerous calves, including several fostered onto existing mothers which if I'm honest was a massive pain in the ass.

...But they are very cute so sign me up again for next year.

Gosh this is a very long ago photo of the vegetable garden. It's nowhere near this neat at the moment.

Another very exciting thing that happened (sort of) recently is my sister, who we'll call Auntie A, came to visit.  This was back in September and it feels so long ago now I can't believe it was only a couple of months.

She was only here for four days and the girls managed to both come down with conjunctivitis right in time for her visit, but we had a FAB.U.LOUS time, even with the kids in tow.  I'm not ashamed to admit we started drinking mid-morning although in hindsight maybe it wasn't the best idea because now I can hardly remember anything from our time together.

I do remember fun though!

And she was suitably appreciative of B's cooking

We managed one leisurely breakfast at the Federal Store

And of course I took her to Back Beach during a flying tour around New Plymouth where I permitted her to take photos out the window of a moving vehicle.

More exciting developments in my life recently include leaving the house!  In heels sometimes!  And make up!  As the girls get older it seems so much easier to leave them and actually have a bit of a social life.

It's no secret that I love being at home, and I really love my alone time.  But it's been nice to mix it up with some time out and about amongst grown ups too.

In the past month or two I've been to the races twice, and out to dinner three times, I think?  I even put a dress on for the races!  Novel.  As I said, it's been nice to re-enter the adult world, to have a reason to put on make up and curate an outfit.  Now I just need to work on my conversational skills so I have something to talk about besides my kids.

Is it worse to talk about your kids or your pets I wonder?

Last item on the agenda, and well done for making it this far if you're still with me, is knitting!  Yay!  Everyone's favourite topic!

I'm still click clacking away, and really enjoying myself.  I've even started selling some small items to a local baby shop. I'm not going to make my fortune but it's a nice way to have my hobby pay for itself.

At the moment they have two of my rompers available, you can find them here and here, NZ residents only, sorry!  I'm working on some more colours as we speak.

Since July I've made a sweater for myself, a dress for J, a couple of dolls' baskets for the girls, a dolls' sweater (and released the pattern!), a rainbow sweater for Auntie A, and another sweater for myself.  Whew!

Currently on my needles is another, ahem, sweater for myself, and as mentioned above more baby rompers for the shop.

One of the sweaters I made for myself. Terrible photo and I am actually happy with it, don't let the facial expression fool you!

Ok!  I think we're all caught up.

Next post will probably be following Christmas which, to be a total cliche, I can't believe is less than a month away.

Ok A is hassling me nonstop for some lunch so I'd really better go.  Hope you are well and looking forward to the end of the year and all that that entails. 

I'll leave you with this sentiment on that note:

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

My first knitting pattern!

I recently passed my second anniversary of the day I started knitting.  Or, to be accurate, the day I re-started knitting, having learned the absolute basics in primary school.

Anyway, over this past two years I've knitted quite a few sweaters both for myself and for my kids.  In fact my first ever knitting project was a top down sweater for myself.  Remember that?

Although she never wears anything I knit for her, my four year old frequently nags me to make clothes for her dolls.  And frankly I'm not sure why I don't, since dolls' clothes are projects which are quick to make, AND they don't have to be perfect.

This kind of making suits my style down to the ground!

Anyway, since she nags me about this so much, I often go hunting for a quick and easy dolls' sweater pattern but come up with nothing.  I've long been frustrated with the dearth (great word, right!!) of anything easy.  They all require seaming or finishing of some sort which I just cannot be bothered with when the recipient isn't even, you know, a living person.

I've made some fantastically simple sweaters for me and the kids, and after a while it dawned on me that surely it wouldn't be that hard to make one up for the dolls.  Right?!  How hard could it be?  I was definitely comfortable with the techniques involved in making a sweater, so all I had to do was dial the measurements right down.  And keep it as SIMPLE as possible.

Then J was given a toy dinosaur promptly named Dinosaur T-Rex (I know, super creative) which she insisted needed a sweater to keep him/her warm.  Well, dinosaurs are cold blooded.  They probably do need sweaters in our climate.  I also probably do need a real job because I thought, "Sure. Why not?"

I fiddled around and jotted some notes, ripped back many a time (and we all know how I despise ripping back), and came up with something.

Then, just to be sure, I knit another one with sleeves for A's dinosaur Queetie (don't ask me), and now... here we are.

I humbly present my first ever (free!) knitting pattern.  I've sensibly named it the Quick 11" Doll Sweater, but since the first recipient was Dinosaur T-Rex, I think of it as the Cold Blooded Sweater myself.

Enjoy, and if you knit it please let me know what you think!

Click here to download PDF now!

Quick 11” Doll Sweater (aka Cold Blooded Sweater)                        

A seamless pullover sweater in a small doll’s size
(to suit a doll of approx. 30cm/11” height).
Worked from top down, including a rolled neck, raglan shaping for yoke/sleeves, and seamless construction in the round, with either a ribbed or rolled hem. It can be worked on DPNs or using magic loop. The pattern offers variations for cap or long sleeves.

Needles, Yarn, Notions, and Gauge:                                       
·     3.75mm circular (at least 60cm/32”) for magic loop, or DPNs (or size needed to achieve gauge)
·     approx. 50g or 80m/87yd of DK/8ply
·     1x stitch marker in one colour (BOR marker), 3x stitch markers in diff colour
·     Waste yarn to hold sleeve stitches (for long sleeve version)
·     Tapestry needle
Gauge: 22 st x 30 rows = 10cm/4” in stockinette in the round

CO – cast on
     pm – place marker
st – stitch/es
     kfb – knit front and back
BOR – beginning of round
     sm – slip marker
k – knit
     BO – bind off

Using long-tail cast on (or your preferred stretchy cast on), CO 50 st.
Rnd 1: Join in round, place BOR marker, k10, pm, k15, pm, k10, pm, k15.
Rnds 2-6: K.

Rnd 7: *k to 1 st before marker, kfb, sm, kfb*, repeat between ** to end of round.
Rnd 8: K.
Repeat Rnds 7 & 8 five times more. St counts between markers should be: 22/27/22/27 for a total of 98 st.

Separate Sleeves
Rnd 19: remove BOR marker, move 22 sleeve st to waste yarn (or bind off for cap sleeves), CO 4 using backwards loop cast on, place BOR marker, CO 3, k27, move 22 sleeve st to waste yarn (or bind off for cap sleeves), CO 7, knit to BOR marker. You should have 68 st left on your needles.

Work in the round to desired length less 1cm/½in.
Work four rounds of k1p1 rib, or five rounds more of stockinette for rolled hem.
BO using a stretchy bind off (I like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off)

Move 22 sleeve st back onto needles, and pick up the 7 st under the arm, placing BOR marker between third and fourth picked up st, for a total of 29 st.
Work in the round to desired length less 1cm/½in. For tapered sleeve, work every eighth row as follows: k2tog, k to 2st before marker, k2tog.
Work four rounds of k1p1 rib, or five rounds more of stockinette for rolled cuff.
BO using a stretchy bind off (I like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off)

Weave in ends, using yarn ends where you joined sleeves to close holes in underarm if needed. Wet block.

Click here to download PDF now!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Of working, road trips, and school holidays

Hello, friends!

So much has been going on these past few weeks.  I've got a whole list of items on our agenda today.

Firstly, and just briefly, I'm now a contributing member of society!  I've rejoined the workforce... in about the most half-assed way possible.  Let me explain.

A couple of months ago my sister told me about some online typing work that a friend of hers had been doing.  No commitment, just log on whenever you want, and work as much or as little as you want.  It sounded like a perfect fit for both my skills and that old struggle of the full-time parent to find work that still allows you to be available to your kids when needed.  I'm not going to make my fortune this way, but I'm contributing and, most importantly, I'm freshening up my very rusty skills.  The flexible nature of the work is perfect for me.  We've been on school holidays here these past two weeks and I only typed one 10-minute file during that two weeks.  No leave to be arranged, no "real job" to juggle.

Next on our agenda is a major milestone in our life as a family.  We went on a holiday!  Ok, yes, it was only for 24 hours, and it was mainly because B had a welder to pick up from Tauranga, but we did touristy things and we stayed in a motel so I'm calling it a holiday.

We left home at about 5pm on the Friday night and drove to Rotorua.  Fish and chips in the car for dinner, and both girls fast asleep in the back by the time we arrived about 8.30pm.  Our motel was a bargain! ...For a reason.  It had probably been very smart in about 1984, with not a whole lot of updating since then.  I was just thankful that we only had one night there.

The thing is, though, the girls loved it. I mean, they LOVED IT.  They loved the little kitchenette with the tiny milks in the little fridge.  They loved the (horrible, lumpy) beds, the shower that only had about five jets, and they really loved getting up on Saturday morning and each having their own rocking chair from which to watch cartoons.  They didn't care that it was outdated or that we could hear the conversations from the room above us.

Still, we had a strict driving schedule to stick to so we were out of there early for a quick breakfast at ahem McDonalds, and a look at the lake...

...followed by a ride up the gondola.  This, J adored.  We got one of those stupid overpriced photos which I would have passed up except for the unbridled glee on her face in the photo.  Little A was less thrilled and kept her hand firmly on my leg the whole trip up and down.

The views were fabulous on that sunny morning.

Then it was back in the car to get to Tauranga to meet the guy to get the welder... YAWN.  Tradesman, tools, say no more.  There was a fair bit of sitting around in the car before we were off again.  Luckily I had a good supply of Chicken Crimpies to keep the kids amused while we waited.

Since we were all the way over there we decided to head into Mount Maunganui to give the girls a chance to stretch their legs before it was back in the car again for the long drive home.

It was very pretty, and you could definitely see that there was a good amount of money in the area, but what a pain to get into and out of!  I much prefer the remote west coast, thanks very much.  Although it was cool to see a white sand beach again.

Once we'd battled our way out of Mount Maunganui it was "Home, James, and don't spare the horses". Luckily A fell asleep so we just drove and drove until she awoke, just before we got to Otorohanga.  Then it was more McDonalds for lunch, another play in a pretty amazing playground, before hustling the slightly fed up troops back into the car for the last leg home.

We arrived home almost exactly 24 hours after we'd left.  I often forget how much smaller New Zealand is than Australia.  I calculated that we'd spent about 7 hours in the car.  Comparatively, if we'd driven that long from Adelaide we wouldn't even have got to Melbourne yet.

Considering what a roaring success the trip was with the little girls - they're still playing at "going to Rotorua" - this is something we're looking forward to doing a lot more of.  The driving distances are manageable, there is HEAPS to see, and the scenery is endlessly beautiful (snarky comment from J on our trip when I told her to look out the window, "Trees, trees, more trees".  Remembering the hot scrubby plains of my own childhood road trips I realised my kids will never appreciate how lucky they are).

Right, what's next?

Oh yes.  My little A turns three in September.  And that kid is on a mission to grow up overnight.  Other than sleeping in her big girl bed - yep, she's still in there almost every night, she has decided to toilet train herself, and she's finally learned how to pedal her tricycle.  This is huge, people, huge.

The toilet training, same as J, has all been entirely self-directed.  I still bear some deep psychological scars from J's year of toilet training so my expectations have been very low.  It's actually going great.  I don't want to jinx anything so that's all I'll say.

As I mentioned earlier, we've had two weeks of holidays from kindy.  They just went back on Monday.  The kindy is very play-based and relaxed so I can't say they really needed a break, but it was nice not having anywhere to be.  We arranged lots of playdates, we went to the park, and I got basically nothing done that didn't revolve around entertaining two small people.  How did I ever get anything done before??  Oh that's right.  I didn't.

The chimney sweep came to clear out our blocked fireplace which was deeply fascinating.

The weather was pretty terrible the whole holidays so there was a good amount of book reading by the fire.  And, dare I say it, these two have been getting along and playing beautifully together.

The complexity and detail of their imaginative play is at an all-time high.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and probably again many more times), I love this stage of life that we're in.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Have needles, will knit

Since I'm currently sitting in the frustrating limbo of waiting for yarn to arrive for my next project, I thought that today we'd take a wee look at the many bits and pieces that have been coming off my needles these past few months.

I've been deep in a making frenzy ever since my friend shared with me a quick and easy kids' cardigan pattern back in March.  Since then I've completed no less than twelve projects, which must put me in contention for a world record.  It's been intense.  And very rewarding.

So let's see here...

This is the pattern that started it all - the In Threes cardigan.  I had a veritable mountain of this grey acrylic yarn left over from when I made my first ever knitted garment (remember that?).  Since my kids are ingrates and act all excited for the things I knit until it comes to, you know, WEARING them, I thought if I make the cardigan out of this yarn that's just lying around, I won't be totally infuriated if it never gets worn.  Note the singular here: cardigan.  I was only intending to make one for J.

Anyway, as per usual she willingly tried it on for fit while it was in progress, and was very happy to go to the shop to pick out some buttons.  But, as per usual, now complete she has no interest in it.  Has worn it MAYBE once.  For an hour.  WHATEVER.

It dawned on me that apparently I would be making two of these things when we were picking J's buttons and A was also enthusiastically browsing the buttons for her own as-yet-nonexistent cardigan.  Okkkk.  We bought the buttons and as soon as J's was done I cast on the smaller size for A.  But then got confused being so close to finishing the last one and ended up making the bigger size again by mistake.  So A's is absolutely swimming on her and she also is not a fan.  MOVING ON.

Then, the same friend who sent me the pattern for the cardigan commenced an ambitious project, a beautiful lace shawl for herself.  We spent so much time discussing the pattern that I somehow ended up ordering some yarn and starting one for myself.  Oh boy was that shawl a joy to knit.  Some headaches through the lace sections but mostly I loved the whole thing.  The yarn is a silk/merino so it's incredibly soft and drapey with a subtle silky sheen.  It took weeks and weeks and many hours of knitting to complete.

What was next?  Oh yes, after the epic shawl project I wanted something quick and easy, so a Winter Morning head warmer which took all of 24 hours to complete was the perfect next project.  I used some fairly hideous yarn from the cupboard that I must have bought while having a psychotic break and/or PMSing.  It made for a suitably hideous head warmer which I LOVE!

Then it was a quick little hat which was supposed to be for a friend's baby except it turned out hilariously small so I kept it for my kids' dolls instead.

Then I started on a group of items for my sister's birthday which I can't show you as they're currently winging their way to her door.

Then I made a Milo vest to replace the too-small hat for that friend's baby.  So cute!  So tiny!

I made a beanie for B's upcoming birthday out of the most incredibly soft and warm possum/merino yarn.  Also not pictured because: upcoming birthday.  Not that he reads my blog *eyeroll*.

Now I'm dying to start on a challenging colour-work sweater for myself in some beautiful custom-dyed yarn, but I have to wait for the yarn to arrive in the post.  So while I wait I'm making another one of those Milo vests for my kids' dolls because I still have a cupboard full of icky acrylic yarn and the dolls seem like they don't mind synthetic fibres.

Having done so much of it recently, I've decided that there are two especially great things about all this knitting.

One: it has reduced the amount of time I spend on my phone.  No hands free to scroll!  That stupid judgemental screen-time report is being way less judgemental these days.

And, two: making things for other people is just a very rewarding way to spend your time.  When making something for someone you invariably end up thinking about that person a lot.  I'm not so much into the woo-woo but I do believe in intentions and - for want of a better word - vibes.  I like to think that there's love and good thoughts woven into every stitch.

Now if I could just get my girls to wear what I make, everything would be perfect.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019