Wednesday, 25 April 2007

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that if I'm going to keep up with posting to this blog I have to spend a little less time at the Bloglines website. The problem is I just keep coming across more and more blogs and flikr groups and adding them until I could spend the whole day just trying to keep up. After all, I think part of the point of the exercise here is to interact more with the blogging world rather than continue just sitting and staring at it.

My daughter has been teething for the last month also (4th of 4 top teeth hopefully making its appearance soon and then giving us all a break). This makes sleeping hard work for the little girl and at night time she won't fall asleep and stay down without being in bed with me. Consequently I have to go to bed with her instead of grabbing a few hours of time when I can actually focus on anything for more than a minute (which is the kind of time I find useful for writing among other things). You'd think this would have the advantage of me feeling more rested, being forced to go to bed and all, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be working that way.

The arrival of warm, even hot, weather has also been keeping me away from the computer. I've taken the girl out in the stroller for walks on a lot of days over the last week. Often she'll take a nap, sometimes we'll eat together. One day I met another mother and daughter who we chatted with. Sometimes I've managed to get some rippling in while we've been out.

I have been making slow progress on my ripple-along blanket, on my fourth colour. I'm making it wide enough to fit on our queen sized bed so one row takes a long time, and there are two rows of each colour so I don't think I'm doing too badly. I can't get too far before acquiring more yarn anyway since I want at least one more colour than I already have (I'm using greens, blue, purples, an off-white and I think I want some yellow and a dark brown which may just be for around the edge when it's done).

Much of the "free" time that I have had recently I've spent on being a bit more creative in the kitchen (since I have to cook it's somehow a more legitimate use of time than sewing). Last night I made pizza (ever popular) with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, kale and mushrooms (having made dough on Monday to rise overnight in the fridge). The night before I was more experimental having bought tilapia which I'd never cooked before. I did what I often do in such situations and searched at various websites for interesting looking recipes and then used them to make my own. So we ended up with this baked fish and vegetable dish with roasted (red-skinned and sweet) potatoes. Here's what I did, for future reference:
  • Heat oven to about 375

  • Roughly chop 1 large tomato and mix with crushed garlic (2 cloves), lemon juice (tbsp), herbs (basil & oregano) and a little salt and pepper

  • Put a knob of butter in baking dish big enough to hold fish, set in oven to melt. Meanwhile wilt 8oz spinach in steamer.

  • Spread spinach in bottom of baking pan on the melted butter. Place fish on top of spinach, then tomato mixture on top of the fish.

  • Bake in oven for 15 minutes or so

  • Serve and enjoy!

You will notice that there is also corn. I served up the food and then put some frozen corn in the juices to warm through and added it to the top (as per husband's request). There was quite a bit of liquid in the baking dish after I'd served out the food which I put into a jug -- I ended up using most of it on my potatoes. I think we'll be having this again.

Since I really love to bake (and eat the results) I've also been making cookies. I discovered this recipe for Flourless Nut-Butter Cookies at Baking Bites a while ago.
I really like it because it's really quick and easy to throw together. The first time I made it the cookies spread more than I was expecting, either because I pressed the balls down too much, or because of the nut butter combination perhaps (peanut, almond and homemade cashew). This picture is of my second batch of dough (made with peanut and almond butter) which if you clicked on the recipe link you will note looks nothing like the picture there. This is because I added some cocoa powder for extra chocolaty goodness, and used chocolate chips instead of Hershey's Kisses. (I don't really like Hershey's chocolate, particularly their milk chocolate, probably because I grew up in England and ate Cadbury's which I still bring from England and horde. Also these days I like darker chocolate.) I think they came out pretty tasty this way, husband agreed.

    Monday, 16 April 2007

    Things that caught my eye today...

    Chocolate 'better than kissing', at least according to an article at the BBC News website. Hmm...

    Also at the BBC, this time on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, a piece about Women War Artists. Apparently at the beginning of World War 2 there was a project to get artists to record scenes of everyday life to preserve "everyday town and country scenes it was feared would be lost" as a consequence of the war. The segment for Woman's Hour is largely a recording of three of the women artists getting together at the Imperial War Museum and taking a look at some of their paintings and talking about the project (listen online). I hope they put together an exhibition at some point
    On one of the crafty blogs I check via bloglines (I have little to no short term memory these days) I saw the "Reduction Tote Bag" which I now must add to my To-Make list. I try to always bring my own cloth bags when I go shopping and this one folds up into it's own little pouch, very handy. The pattern is at the Crochet me Magazine website which I'd not come across before. I'm not really very experienced at following crochet patterns but it may be something that I need to work on if I'm going to make the cute little Dodo someday.

    There are posts at various blogs I read today about the story of Baby Evelyn. I don't really feel as though I know the whole story but from what I've read it sounds as though the adoption process was handled horribly irresponsibly, and that now all the people involved are in for heartache (as is so often the case when adoption happens it seems). I've been trying to write more than that, but I'm not sure I can. I've thought a lot about adoption, especially in the last few years for various reasons, and I think it can be a wonderful thing but that it's hard for that to be true for the first families. I think I'll leave it at that since it's taken me ages to write this paragraph and I need my sleep.

    On a lighter note, I think I want one of these egg separators that I saw in a post at SlashFood today. It would probably get old quickly though, and I'm usually perfectly capable of doing the job with the egg shells so it's not as though I need such a thing. It's so interesting to me the things that I'm not grossed out by that other people (like my husband) are, and vice versa.
    And finally -- go and look at this beautiful picture of bluebells in the woods on a misty moisty morning, scenes like that make me ache to be back in England (much as I love New England).

    Sunday, 15 April 2007

    Wintery Mix

    We (husband and I) were supposed to be singing in a concert right now, the last of three with our local community chorus. However we got a call around mid-day to say the concert was being postponed because of the lovely weather we're having which has made driving hazardous, and leaving the house unappealing.

    In an ideal world this would mean I could curl up on the couch and get going with my rippling. In the real world -- the kitchen is a disaster area; all our laundry baskets (all four) are full of clean clothes that need putting away; the washing machine has a load of diapers in it that need attention; housework, housework, blah. Also the 9 month old little girl who lives with us likes to get attention and while her daddy is of course also home he's currently fighting off a low blood sugar attack and has things he wants/needs to do too so mummy's "it" as usual. Sigh.

    Good news is that I believe I have decided on the ripple pattern to use. I got some very helpful comments at my post on the Ripple-Along blog. I took a look at patterns online suggested by others, and a few more I came across myself. Unfortunately husband decided to try and back-up his computer so I couldn't print anything out to bring in the car with me. So I brought the crochet booklet I had, and studied Jess's comment which helped me understand the mechanics of ripples vs. zigzags and then did some experimenting on the car ride. You can see the two swatches I came up with on the left. They're basically the same width but have different increase/decrease combinations and methods. Maybe I'll try and write them down at some point but I don't really speak crochetpattern... Anyway, I believe I'm going to go with the bottom pattern which doesn't have holes where the decreases happen and is more of a wavy ripple effect which is what I was looking for. Now I just have to decide how wide and get going with the crochet hook!
    Commonplace jumble

    A recipe for chocolate almond cookies at Bunnyfoot that I want to remember to try out. (Also includes a good paragraph detailing some of the less appealing parts of having a newborn baby to mother.)

    Whilst on the subject of food, the NYTimes has an article with The Perfect Bacon Sandwich Decoded which includes an actual formula ("the formula evolved to establish the amount of force in the bite, expressed in newtons, and the level of noise, expressed in decibels, to make the perfect crunch"). I do like a good bacon sandwich.

    More articles that caught my eye:

    In the Independent: Are mobile phones wiping out our bees? Cheery reading. It mentions that 'Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left"', and lists things some scientists think mobiles could be doing to humans too.

    The GuardianOnline has an article from The Observer about Daphne duMaurier (Daphne's unruly passions -- Haunting mysteries, wild landscapes, brooding mansions and secret Sapphic desire ... welcome to 100 years of du Maurier) that I've been reading today. I haven't read a lot of duMaurier, and none at all for many years but maybe it's time again.

    I came across this set of pictures through looking at images tagged with Art Nouveau. I don't remember hearing of George Frederick Watts or Mary Seton Watts before so I'm very happy with this discovery! Already did a mapquest check to see whether it'd be a reasonable idea to spend an afternoon visiting the Watts Gallery and Chapel the next time we're in England (answer is Yes, hurrah!).

    Friday, 13 April 2007


    I've been watching all the rippling (and then the granny squares, and miters) that have been going on in the crafty blog world. My fingers have been getting itchy to join in. I looked through my yarn stash and pulled out some Red Heart Super Saver yarn that's been lurking upstairs and put it in a bag and looked at it. My daughter likes to pull the yarn out of the bag, rip off the label and start to unravel it...

    I haven't really felt as though I should be starting a new project right now since it's hard to find time to finish what I already have on the go. On the other hand I've been meaning to make more afghans, and with concerts the next three days there will be some time spent sitting in a car where something crafty I don't need too much concentration for would be most welcome.

    And then, just when we thought Spring was coming there's been a return of coldness. Cuddling up inside with sleet and snow coming past the windows renewed my interest in making afghans so I left a comment at the The No-End-In-Sight Ripple-Along website and started making a swatch.

    I have a booklet that I think I must have picked up at a Joann's store some years ago called "Rippling Effects" by Carole Prior. I've made a couple of the afghan patterns in there (and have another that's an UFO I found when searching my stash for yarn). Here's a picture of one, it's unfortunately the least interesting but it has the advantage of being on the bed and therefore easiest to photograph. (The other finished afghan is a lap sized one that lives in the car.)

    My problem is that I'm so good at procrastinating! I'm having a hard time deciding what stitch/pattern to use this time. There are some fancy ones I'm not going to do because I don't want to have to concentrate too hard! Most of the afghans in the aforementioned booklet are more zig-zag than ripple to my eye, and I think I'd like something that ripples. Somewhere I have a book full of knit and crochet stitches but I can't find it, grrr.

    Anyway, here is the swatch I made while my daughter was napping this afternoon (I photographed both sides, please excuse the fuzziness of the bottom picture). It is from the "Rippling Effects" booklet, (well, not the colour combination). I can't decide whether I like the way the colours change over, or hate it. And if I like it whether I should do single, double or more rows of each colour. This I should figure out before trying to make a whole blanket I think, except I want to start NOW. Help!

    What might help is if I could actually find my book of knitting and crochet stitches. I've been digging in piles of stuff all over the house for weeks to no avail. I'm just afraid of how sidetracked I'll get if I go searching for patterns on the Internet!

    Monday, 9 April 2007

    Knitting and felting and sewing, oh my!

    (Thinking of post titles, not my strong suit).

    I've started two different posts that are hanging out waiting for more thought and writing that I just don't have time for right now. I don't know what it is about me that makes me take it into my head to start new projects like this when life is at its busiest. Self-sabotage? I am in the middle of the busyness of Holy Week and next weekend's chorus concerts.

    But right now the baby is napping (for how much longer who can say?) so I thought maybe I could post about crafting I've been doing.

    Firstly an old project, made when I was at high school doing my GCSE in Textiles. It's still one of my favourite things that I've made. The back ground is felt that I made with a couple of layers of undyed fleece and then a layer of dyed fleece staggered to make a rainbow effect. The pattern is from a Japanese design book, it's a chrysanthemum, made by couching black tapestry wool with gold thread. One day I'll do more felting.

    These days I think it's safe to say that the majority of my crafting involves making things for my daughter (almost 9 months old). Between me, my mum and several knitting friends my daughter has quite the collection of knitwear (including some items that I wore when I was a baby).

    We've been mostly using cloth diapers, and at night using wool covers. Here are my first two pairs of "longies" (I've made quite a few pairs of short covers). They're made using the Aubrey Doodlepants pattern, although I tweaked it a bit (based on reading comments from people posting to the wool_soakers email list that I've been lurking on and avidly reading) adding more short rows and a wider gusset. On the pink pair I tried making the leg cuffs a bit flared/ruffly too. I'm pretty pleased with the way they turned out. The fit is pretty good, at least just at the moment.

    And finally some of my most recent projects -- my daughter's Easter clothes.

    There are two outfits, the first one (left) she wore for the Easter vigil on Saturday night. I made the pinafore from a 50s pattern (Simplicity 4018) I got at Mom's Patterns. The fabric reminds me of the foil wrapping for Easter eggs I had as a child in England.

    And lastly, here's what my daughter wore to the Easter Sunday morning service. The dress is knit from a Dale of Norway pattern (from booklet #142 which you can't see at their website anymore). I made several mistakes but couldn't bear to rip back and start again (what with time to knit being a precious commodity) so fiddled things a couple of times and it seems to have worked out! I didn't have time to knit the matching bonnet, and since I couldn't bear for her not to have an Easter bonnet on her first Easter I stayed up after she went to bed on Saturday night and sewed this simple one using eyelet fabric (which is probably more easterey anyway). My husband and I sing in the church choir so the picture on the right is of the baby sitting on the floor in the choir room being shown one of the hand bells before heading upstairs for church.

    Monday, 2 April 2007


    Having spent the last year or two gradually reading more and more blogs I've been wanting to jump in and start my own for a while now. Writing that first post is proving a difficult hurdle. That and thinking of a name for this blog. So, I'm going to begin by telling you where the name of the blog has finally come from. That will also hopefully give you an idea of what the blog will be like.

    I love the idea of keeping a commonplace book. When I was a teenager I started keeping notebooks to write down poems and quotations that struck me (as interesting/thought provoking/beautiful/inspiring...), I still enjoy reading through them, but haven't added to them for a few years now. One of the things I want to do with this blog is to note things I've come across that have interested me: poems and quotations, but also news articles, recipes, patterns, photographs and anything else that takes my fancy. It'll be a way to keep track of things for myself, and maybe it will also interest other people out there.

    My name is not Iris. I tend to be somewhat shy and I think I need to try and be somewhat anonymous to feel comfortable blogging. I'm hoping that starting this blog will help me feel more comfortable leaving comments at blogs I've been enjoying for a long time, and at new ones I've yet to discover. I'm also hoping that now that I have a place to post I will be more likely join in with some of the crafty "-a-long"type projects that I see around and itch to be a part of. Since most of the time I am busy being a mother to a little girl (or occasionally sleeping) finding time to do all that I'd like to seems impossible, however, I'm inspired to try by others out there who seem to manage!
    But to return to Iris. I love the flowers which is what first made me think of using iris in the blog name. Then I got to thinking more about the word iris and its various meanings and liked it more and more in the context of blogging about my life and my observation of the world around me: the idea of an eye looking at the world, filtering the light; the iris of mythology goddess of the rainbow being a messenger; rainbows different distinct colours blending together to make a whole.

    Commonplace iris
    I got to thinking of the other meaning of commonplace (the one that more readily springs to mind), and that also fits for me too. In many ways what I write about here will be ordinary, perhaps mundane or trite depending on your perspective. Things that I expect I'll be most likely to write about would be crafting, cooking, parenting, reading matter, everyday life. The commonplace. But as someone who spends her life doing a lot that could be classified as commonplace it's very important to remember that things that are ordinary can still be worthwhile. More than worthwhile.

    When it is their time to flower I see many irises. I might pass them by with barely a glance, but if I take a moment to open my eyes and look I can benefit from noticing the beauty in the commonplace.

    I don't know that this blog will always be beautiful, hopefully I will be able to avoid being overly trite and give anyone who happens to stop by something of interest to take away with them.