Tuesday, December 31, 2013

culture vultures

Dulcie loves nothing better than a walk these days.  She's constantly trying to get her jacket and wellies on, saying, "No like it cool pram," which is her way of saying she wants to travel by foot.  I've given up trying to avoid the wet weather (it is pretty much a constant these days) and, besides, Dulcie really cheers people up in the rain.  She even had random people filming her great joy in the manky Glasgow puddles the other day.  No doubt she's appeared on the internet somewhere!  The crocheted monkey hat in the picture was not made by me (shocker!) but was found in a bush by my mum and dad.  They left it there for a week, but when nobody came to claim it, they took it home, washed it and passed it onto Dulcie.  She's suddenly become quite the little hat wearer as she also got a hat she's loving in amongst her Christmas pressies.
Magnus the mouse, now that he has a jumper, comes out with us now and again.  Dulcie would take him everywhere given half a chance, but it is quite stressful to be out with him as I know she'd be heartbroken if he got lost.  Here he is getting up to no good with a monkey in the Botanic Gardens.  We actually met a real boy called Magnus that day, all thanks to Magnus the mouse, social animal that he is.
Today Dulcie and I walked to the local library, hung out and read some books (and almost got in a fight with a baby when he tried to steal Dulcie's new umbrella) before going to a nearby cafe for a hot chocolate.  Dulcie LOVES hot chocolate.
Isn't this cardigan awesome?  My mum knitted it for Dulcie recently using a 1970s pattern.  She even used the leftover wool to make a wee matching Fair Isle mouse to put in the pocket.  Aw!

It's really nice to be able to wander to nice places with Dulcie and I'm glad we live in an area where we have such a lot to see right on our doorsteps.  The only major downside is that her legs quite often can't carry her all the way home again and she wants to be carried.  I do carry her for short bursts, all the while worrying I'll keel over and get an electric shock in the middle of the street.

Well, I haven't even mentioned the fact that 2013 is nearly over and 2014 is about to begin.  I'm valiantly trying to avoid a repeat of last year's negative New Year blogging, but I guess this is a hard time of year for anyone whose life is not all peachy.  So I'll just say I'm looking forward to a night of fizzy wine and far too many snacks (Dulcie allowing) and look no further ahead than that for now.  Hope you're having fun, whatever you're up to.

christmas day 2013

 Santa sneakily rearranged the whole room while we slept so that he could fit in this circus tent, which contained Dulcie's presents.  I don't think Dulcie could believe her eyes and raced around faster than the human eye could register, checking everything out.  Rudolph had even eaten the carrot she left out!  Wowsers!
 Here she is, happily investigating presents in the tent...
 ...and charging in and out with a chocolate Santa in her hand, tinsel round her neck and a swanky new hair clip on her head.
 Santa was not perturbed by the size of Dulcie's new stocking and filled it to the brim with all sorts of goodies - pyjamas, hankies, socks, hair clips, chocolate, bubble mix...
 Each item was carefully explored and considered before moving onto the next.
 Chocolate was all Dulcie claimed she wanted for Christmas, so she was happy to find that.
 And the obligatory tooter, of course.
 Perhaps Dulcie's favourite gift of all was this umbrella.
 She has wanted one for ages.
 I was immediately instructed to put on my jacket and boots so that we could take it out for a test-drive.
 All the way round the block, Dulcie exclaimed, "Mummy got her jammies on!" in a very loud voice.
 We broke off from opening presents to have Christmas lunch.  Dulcie enjoyed parts of it but was less keen to stay sitting at the table than she was last year.  We had to distract her with crayons and Peppa Pig on my mobile phone.  Don't tell Supernanny!
 After lunch there were yet more presents to open.  Because Dulcie played with each one thoroughly before moving on, the day became something of a marathon of unwrapping.  We were still going right up to bedtime.  "Come on, Dulcie!  Just one more parcel to go!  You can do it!" etc...
 Eventually the rest of us got to open our presents.  I got some lovely things that I might try to blog about soon.  You can see one of them in this picture, provided you can look past the general scene of chaos and carnage.
 And on Boxing Day there was yet more food and more presents when Dulcie's Granma and Grampa came to visit, in fine festive form, as you can see!

It was another easy Christmas for me since, as last year, my parents came and basically did everything for us.  Dulcie helped to peel some sprouts and make the trifle.  I sat on my arse and crocheted a stocking while stuffing my face.  One of these years I'll make Christmas dinner for more than two people... maybe.

Monday, December 30, 2013

some secret crochet revealed

Here's some more of the crochet I was working on in the run-up tp Christmas.  I made this fox for Dulcie (my mum knitted his scarf) using a pattern from this book, although I got my pattern free with Making magazine.  Actually, this pattern was the only reason I bought the magazine.  I'm so pleased I actually got round to making him.  He turned out to be so lovely and...
...you can see he was a hit with his recipient.  So far he's quite uniaginatively being called Foxy and has been cuddled a lot.
Another piece of pre-Christmas crochet was a commission from the big man himself!  Dulcie's favourite and most constant companion, Magnus the mouse, had asked Santa for a jumper.  Santa's crocheting elves were very busy so the job was outsourced to little old me.  I didn't have a pattern for this, just made it up as I went along, but Dulcie was beyond delighted to see that Magnus's Christmas wish had come true.  It was really good fun to design and make this little garment.  I think I might make more clothes for toys in the future.  Nothing like an utterly pointless hobby to fill those precious spare minutes and seconds, huh?

Our Christmas was lovely and Dulcie had a grand old time.  I'm hoping to be back to share some pictures tomorrow before December is over.  I also have even more Christmas crochet yet to share!  I'm crocheting so much these days that my blog can't keep up with it!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

what I swapped

Happy Christmas!  I'm writing this post in the past (ooh, spooky!) but scheduled it for Christmas Day in the hope that everyone in the swap would have received their decorations by now and knowing that I probably wouldn't be stopping by to blog about anything else today.  I'll be too busy opening presents and generally stuffing my face, I hope.  (I'm resisting the urge to type something morbid here...)

The Christmas swap ended up having enough people for two groups of six or so.  Being mad keen on the whole idea, I decided to put myself into both groups, meaning I had to make 11 decorations in total, but also meaning I would receive 11 decorations in return.  Since my sister was in one group and her daughter was in the other, I decided to make a different design for each group, but crocheted them both.

For one group, I made the crocheted circles in the top picture.  Why do I always use wool so bright that it ruins every photo?  Aargh!  But the ones with bright pink probably ended up being my favourites.  The pattern I used for these was the first few rounds of Attic 24's crocheted hexagons.  They were quick and easy but I loved the way they turned out.  I sprayed them with a little bit of starch once they were finished, so hopefully they won't curl up when they are hanging on people's trees.
For the second group, I turned to Attic 24 again (if you crochet, you NEED to visit her blog - she was also responsibe for the ripple blanket pattern) and used this pattern to make litle snowflakes, again super easy and really sweet.  I'm not sure you can see it in this picture, but I used sparkly wool so they are subtly twinkly, just like real snowflakes.

I got loads of lovely decorations in return and my tree is looking even more spiffing than usual.  I'm already looking foward to opening the Christmas decoration box next year and rediscovering them all.  

I did find the responsibility of having set up the swap a little bit stressful (it was super easy to organise but I felt personally responsible when participants starting getting short of time and stressing out) but that's not to say I wouldn't do it again.  So much fun!  Thank you to everyone who made the time and effort to take part.  I hope you all enjoyed it too.

Anyway, enough rabbiting on.  Merry Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

christmas eve... live update!

 I finished the stocking!  I've even finished it in time for Dulcie to hang it up once she comes out of the bath.  It's wonky and humongous (we'd better hope Dulcie is a very good girl every year!) but it is handmade and personalised and done!  I'm suffering from serious crochet overload and am looking forward to taking a week off from my hook before making a start on some more new baby gifts.  I'll show the other things I've been crocheting once Christmas Day is over.
 Dulcie is very pleased with her stocking, as you can see from this ravaging cuddle she was giving it.  She's been wandering around with it draped over her, wearing nothing but a nappy underneath.  Hopefully Santa will fill it with gifts tonight so she'll be able to appreciate it even more in the morning :)
And in other Christmas Eve news... Dulcie has been peeling sprouts, making trifle and decorating the Christmas cake.

Have a lovely day tomorrow, whatever you're doing.

christmas eve... live!

Christmas Eve so far has involved hanging these cardboard decorations on the chimney breast.  I got my parents to bring these with them as they had stopped using them once my sister and I got beyond a certain age and my mum wanted a more "classy" Christmas look.  I'm very happy to have them out on display in our house (I don't really do classy!) and Dulcie loves them, so I think we'll be hanging onto them.
 My mum, who even brought Christmas dinner with her, was out with the hoover, slaving away while I fannied about with the camera.  Please ignore the cat-ravaged furniture and focus on the semi-festive atmosphere...
Dulcie stole some tinsel from the tree and demonstrated a multitude of ways to wear it, which kind of undid all my mum's hoovering in an instant.  This is why I don't tend to bother.
And I am still crocheting like a woman possessed, as I probably will be for most of the day.  Can you tell what it is yet?  Yes, it's Dulcie's Christmas stocking.  The plan is that it will say "Dulcie" up the side, but at this rate she might have to make do with "Dul".  The colours are much deeper in real life - a dark violet and kind of a fluorescent coral.  I didn't have a pattern for this, which explains why it looks like a misshapen lump, but I'm hoping it turns out OK in the end.  I spent a small fortune on the wool to make it, but I hope Dulcie will use it forever more.  I'll try to post again later on to let you know whether I've managed to finish it.  I know you will be on tenterhooks, right?

OK, no time to hang, I'm getting back to my hook!

Monday, December 23, 2013

the pressure is on (for father christmas)

Here are my sister and I (I'm the short one on the left) with our Christmas stockings, I'd guess around 1984 or so?  Dropstitch superfans may remember that I used this picture before when I shared my sister's school diary entry from Christmas 1986

Stockings have always been my favourite thing about Christmas Day, with dinner coming a close second.   My sister and I managed to wangle stockings from Santa for much longer than seems fair or appropriate by using a cunning argument - if the thought of stopping them was ever mooted, I would object that Kerry had had stockings for more years than me and then Kerry would object that it wasn't fair for me to get one and her not to get one.  It was a watertight argument that Santa just could not wriggle out of... until my pesky sister left the country!  Now that Santa (finally) doesn't visit me any more, I have Dulcie's stocking to look forward to instead... if I manage to get it crocheted in time to hang up on Christmas Eve.  Pressure!

The following examination of the "humble" (ha!) Christmas stocking is taken from an article by Keith Waterhouse that was published in Reader's Digest, probably in the late 1970s, I would think.  My dad sent my sister and I a scanned copy of it a wee while back.  As children, our stockings did follow this line of thinking, especially the strict guidelines re the "heel-and-toe department"...  I thought it was worth sharing.  Enjoy!

"What the true Christmas stocking is, we will now go into detail.  We are dealing with magic here, and must be meticulous about our specifications.

"The true Christmas stocking is not a short sock, or a pair of tights, or a dumping ground for ballpoint pens.  Nor, for that matter, is it a shop-bought plastic mesh containing nothing but munch bars.  It must be knee-length, constructed of wool, and filled to the brim with good things.  It has got to be nothing less than a cornucopia of the five senses.

"First, it must satisfy the sense of touch by having many bumps and knobbly bits that may be felt in the dark by small fingers.  Then it must satisfy the sense of sight by containing shiny things in bright colours that will dance and glitter by torchlight.

"It must satisfy the sense of hearing by emitting a squeaking noise when squeezed and a rattling noise when shaken.  It must satisfy the sense of taste by containing, in the heel-and-toe department, a red apple, an orange wrapped in silver paper, a small quantity of nuts and a bag of chocolate pennies.  These items are essential.  Without them you have not got an authentic Christmas stocking, only a cylindrical parcel.

"Near the top of the stocking there should be other rations which the junior treasure-hunter may nibble while the exploration gets under way.  They may consist of sugar mice, gingerbread men or marzipan pigs, but they may not consist of munch bars.

"Now we will deal with the sense of smell.  This is very important, for the ideal stocking must have the smell of Christmas.  This, as I’m sure you remember from your own childhood, is a heady bouquet compounded of the scent of orange peel, marzipan and chocolate mingling with the pungent odour of painted tin.

"There are still plenty of corner shops that sell tin toys – clockwork cats that scurry across the lino, tin Catherine wheels that give out a rainbow of sparks, tin frogs that make a loud clicking noise when pressed between the fingers.  If you cannot get tin, get wood; there is still nothing wrong with an old-fashioned yo-yo.  But plastic toys, which have no aroma to speak of, have no business in a Christmas stocking.  To earn its place in that woolly cave of delights a toy must be a chunky, solid object that feels satisfactorily heavy when handled, and which smells new and exciting when sniffed at.

"A boy, of course, should have a toy trumpet or a mouth organ, a girl should have a small painted doll, and both must have a new torch by which to examine their booty.  There will still be plenty of room for completely useless fripperies such as paper fans, Chinese lanterns and cardboard snowmen.

"You may think that your children are too old or too sophisticated for such simple joys.  I promise you that they are not.  There is nothing on Earth to compare with the taste of a sugar mouse eaten at dawn on Christmas morning, and no electric train set or new bicycle will quite match the pleasure of a Christmas stocking that has been filled with thought and care.

"What you are giving, you see, is love.  And it is the taste, the sight, the feel, the smell and the sounds of love that will always be found in the perfect Christmas stocking."

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Dulcie likes to accessorise with things she finds lying about.  Fortunately for her, in our house there are always lots of things lying about - cat masks from Halloween to be paired with pyjamas...
...and hats from summer to be paired with wintery knitwear and owl slippers.  She's watching telly here hence the telly face.  (I'm sure you're not supposed to admit on your blog that your children watch TV, but I'm afraid she does.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

all in hand

I've received some lovely little things lately.  My mum sent this gorgeous glass fox decoration (by Sass and Belle) for Dulcie to hang on the Christmas tree.
And I got these lovely wooden buttons in the advent calendar from my sister.

Oh, wowee... as Dulcie might say.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Dulcie and I spent this morning making some sweet handmade treats to give to people as Christmas presents, getting close to satisfying my desire for communal crafting, though I think my "assistant" was probably only lured into participating because of the chocolate that was involved.  Here she is at her most useful - licking the bowl once we were finished.
We made these chocolate spoons, filled with chocolate, marshmallows and white chocolate stars.  You use them to stir your hot chocolate (or hot milk) and the chocolate melts and makes your drink even more chocolatey and delicious.  They looked very nice once we'd packaged them up in cellophane bags.  Dulcie found it quite hard to help with these, to be honest.  Spoons full of melted chocolate/bowls full of marshmallows plus the instruction not to eat just did not compute in Dulcie's mind!
She was a lot more helpful when it came to the "chocolate turtles".  Here she is helping to place the Rolos on top of the pretzels and doing a very good job of it too.
Aw, very proud of herself!  These turtles were stupidly easy to make and, having tasted them, I can confirm they are actually DELICIOUS.  I think we'll definitely be making these again.  My only advice is to follow the instructions to the letter.  I thought the Rolos didn't look very melty after the two minutes specified, but they were actually just soft enough to squish under the pressure of the pecan, while leaving them in for a minute or two longer made the caramel run everywhere.

I'm on the lookout for more activities Dulcie and I can do together, ideally crafty things.  Dulcie's attention span is slowly increasing and she's starting to take real pleasure in having made things, like the sparkly angel on top of our Christmas tree.  Do let me know in the comments if you have any great ideas for simple crafty activities to attempt with a toddler.

if this doesn't get you in the mood...

...then I don't know what will.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

best dungarees ever

I spotted these dungarees in a French charity shop when we were visiting my sister, but Graham pulled the veto card and I reluctantly left them behind.  And pouted a lot.  Unbeknownst to Graham, my sister overruled the decision and secretly bought them for Dulcie's birthday.  Mwahaha and hooray!
They honestly look like they were made to measure.  Dulcie chooses them to wear whenever she gets the chance (you can see in the top picture that she even colours her face in to match...) and gets compliments and gasps of astounded admiration (no, really!) everywhere she goes in them.  Even Graham has fallen for them big time now that he's seen them on her, totally converted from his original viewpoint.

Wow, you just can't fault these dungarees.  Don't grow too fast, please, Dulcie!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the sad story of my "festive" jumper

This autumn/winter I really wanted to find a cosy jumper that I could wear with jeans, one that would be not at all dressy but that would look nice, one that would be cosy without being itchy, one that I could wear day in and day out.  I did see a really cute jumper with rabbits on it in Tesco of all places (it had pom pom tails and everything!) but when I tried it on, it had weird '80s-esque dropped shoulders - not a good look on my unfemininely broad frame.  So I didn't find a winter jumper in the shops, but I did find this hideous cardigan in the back of my wardrobe.  I have never worn this outside the house (actually, I've never even worn it inside the house!) but today I decided to take a gruesome self portrait by the Christmas tree, so I could share its tale with you.

This jumper was knitted around 15 (?) years ago when my Auntie Kim was visiting from Australia and it was a family effort.  I'd expressed a desire for a ballet cardigan and had chosen (misguidedly) this wool to make it with when Kim came to visit and it got her reminiscing about all the unfinished knitting projects she and my granny had left abandoned in bags from Kim's previous visits to the UK.  Kim was determined this cardigan would not go the same way, so she and my mum knitted like women possessed while I contributed the straps that tie round the waist - a real family effort.  As soon as the cardigan was finished, I knew I wouldn't be wearing it.  I think my mum and auntie knew that too.  It was just too short on the body and, because Kim had gone all fancy and cast on using her thumb for neatness, we were unable to adjust it.  It was also, possibly, just too garish.  Oh, what were we thinking?  But, being a family project, I have never been able to bring myself to part with it.  I've only had it on for ten minutes as I type this and it's starting to feel a little bit scratchy.  I'd like to take it off.  Now that I have kept it for over a decade and photographed myself wearing it by a Christmas tree, do you think I could give it to the charity shop?

companionable crafting at christmas

I have some pre-Christmas annual leave this week, starting from today.  I have a mental to-do list (by which I mean it is all dangerously in my head rather than written down and so long that it is, well, mental!) but I decided to start my "holiday" by having breakfast in front of the telly, watching the Great British Sewing Bee Christmas special that I recorded earlier this week.  Oh, my!  It's so good, everything I hoped the original series would deliver that maybe it didn't always quite do.  There were lots of lovely projects and you could just feel the cosy comfort of communal crafting oozing through.  If I didn't have so much darn crochet to do (so far behind!) as well as many other more boring jobs, I'd be getting my embroidery hoop out right now.  Oh, yes, and Patrick, letting a little bit more of his personality become visible, is the perfect tailored-suit/Christmas-jumper wearing Christmas crush.  I'd say, "Phwoargh," right about now, but I doubt Patrick would approve...  Anyway, if you like any combination of craft and Christmas and handsomely well-dressed men, you should definitely catch it on iPlayer while you can.

Lately I've been craving the feeling of making things while surrounded by other people also making things.  I know it seems a strangely specific thing to crave, but it is an actual feeling.  Patrick (lovely Patrick) even described the same feeling happening while sewing for a living in Savile Row.  I remember getting this feeling during art classes at school and when I did evening classes in embroidery at the art school.  I also get a glimmer of it when my best friend lets me arrange a crafty activity for us once every 18 months or so.  I'm hoping I'll be able to find some regular or semi-regular activity to satisfy this urge in 2014, but I'm not sure exactly what that will be yet.  I have looked into evening classes at the art school again, have contemplated "crafternoons" a la My Paper Crane, have pondered crafty associations like the Scottish Handcraft Circle (with their mysterious lack of online presence/information) but so far haven't unearthed THE ONE.  I think I'm looking for something that will take some level of commitment/regular attendance but that will give me the freedom to make whatever I want, something that will be sociable but not too sociable, something formal but informal...  What am I looking for?  Just that feeling of doing my own thing, quietly creating while surrounded by others doing the same thing, chatting in quiet and crafty companionship.  Do you know what I'm looking for?  Please let me know if you do!

Right, off to tackle the first item on my to-do list... which is to write down my to-do list!  Wish me luck :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

keeping warm but cool

Dulcie's coping well with the weird warm-cold-warm-cold weather we've been having...
...heading out dressed for every eventuality...
...and oozing style and panache while she's at it!

Monday, December 16, 2013

father crispers

Our lives are all about Father Cripsers (as Dulcie likes to call him) at the moment.  This Father Crispers basket was quite hard to leave behind in the charity shop last weekend.
This one?  Er, not so much...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

what happened to november?

"I turned two!"

November was my least bloggy month of all time, probably less bloggy than some months before I even had a blog!  There wasn't any sinister reason behind it.  As well as various internet/computer problems and going back to work, we were just pretty busy.  Dulcie had her second birthday and we went on holiday to France to celebrate it with her cousins and auntie and uncle.
Here we are with my niece Elsie who is just about the same age as Dulcie.  We had to witness this sad face a lot while we were there as another feature of November was Dulcie's brief obsession with hair-pulling.  It got to the stage where poor Elsie cried every time Dulcie entered the room.  That's not why she was crying here, actually, but you get the idea.
My sister has chickens in her garden and Dulcie LOVED them.  She is still talking about the chicken who bit her finger and how she dropped one of their eggs and it broke.  She spent quite a lot of her holiday chasing them around the place.
If only we had a usable garden.  Dulcie was so happy to be outside.
On the day of Dulcie's birthday we stayed in and had a wee family party for her.  This is a rare family shot for us.
It was so nice for Dulcie to have her cousins there to celebrate her special day with her... and nice for her cousins too, I think.
My sister put on this amazing birthday spread.  Yum!
I made Dulcie this crazy chocolate hedgehog cake.  It was delicious (so chocolatey!) but looks-wise was a bit, er, creepy, but probably only because the icing was so full of chocolate, so maybe it was worth it.  My sister found the wooden ring round the cake in a charity shop.  It has 16 spaces for 16 little wooden people, each one with a different outfit.  We think the idea is that each year you remove one wooden person and add one more candle, so by the time the person turns 16, they have 16 candles and no people.  It's such a nice idea and we got to take this home with us so we'll be able to use it for Dulcie's cake for the next 14 years.
Here she is blowing out her candles, probably her favourite thing about the whole day.
The cake was a real hit with everyone.  Yum.
Other than birthday celebrations and hanging out in the garden, we had a reasonably quiet holiday.  Of course, we had a day of charity shopping, but we also made a day trip to a zoo, which had a pleasingly '70s-looking cafe...
...with a tiger right outside the window!  Here are Dulcie and Kim's reactions to spotting it.  Dulcie was very excited to have tea with a tiger like Sophie did.
The zoo was up in the Swiss mountains and was FREEZING!  Here's Dulcie, with her cousin Angus, wearing three hats in an attempt to warm up.  I love this picture.  What a couple of sweethearts :)
And here's a group shot with one of the tigers as it took a break indoors for a while.
I made this pink rabbit-eared hat for my niece Ruth's Christmas three years ago and it's still a little on the large side for her (oh, my shoddy knitting skillz...) but well worn and well loved nonetheless.  It was getting passed around between everybody.  So cold...

So, all in all, a lovely holiday.  Dulcie thoroughly enjoyed everything about it, including the plane journey - most exciting!  This was my first time flying since I had my pacemaker/defibrillator put in.  I was a bit stressed about it, but it all went OK.  The staff on the way back weren't exactly sympathetic (couldn't see any problem in sending Dulcie wandering through the security gate on her own with nobody to meet her at the other side - sheesh...) but it all turned out fine.  I always used to get frisked at the airport anyway for some reason (I must look suspicious) so it didn't make much difference.

Hmmm.  What else happened in November?  Well, we had a rare family get-together as my cousin's baby was being christened and that meant a flying visit from Dulcie's great-granny, the Cailleach, which was obviously a very good thing.

Other than that, I spent a fair part of my free time that month making my decorations for the handmade decoration swap, but I will wait a while to share them here, just in case some of them haven't reached their further-afield destinations yet.  And I temporarily felt quite well and happy for a while with some hope for the future.  Now I'm back to being a sickly and depressed curmudgeon, naturally, but hey, it was nice while it lasted!

Well, I think that is my blog all up to date really.  I do think of this as a diary of sorts, so I didn't like to leave a big gap like that, especially when something quite momentous and noteworthy had happened in Dulcie's life.  I will try not to disappear again, I promise.