Thursday, 31 May 2007

Some finished objects

Today's been pretty hectic (I may report on that later) but it's been a while since I posted and I have some photos of finished objects and the baby seems to have gone to sleep (at least for the time being) so quickly...

I made muffins! I'd had this as a to-do in the back of my mind since I saw these raspberry muffins at Posy Gets Cozy the other week. Then I had one of those bananas that's only fit for baking taking up space on the counter (as often happens since I started buying lots of bananas as the baby fast-food of choice to have on hand). Perfect, banana muffins. The recipe (from the Bread Bible) is officially for banana nut muffins (and I did put some walnuts in) but I like chocolate with my banana baked goods. I made them for dessert, but have been warming up the rest at breakfast time and got a nice picture (on my new thrifted plates) in the morning sun. (Morning on the kitchen windowsill is the best opportunity for sunlit photos inside our house).

I actually completed and gifted the pointy kitty and matching dress that I mentioned (and gave a taste of) in a previous post. I'm quite proud of the dress actually, I did the facing properly, and mastered buttonholes on the machine and everything! I'm too lazy to go upstairs and check which pattern this is, perhaps I'll come back and rectify that later. I tried taking pictures of the dress a couple of times and none of the photos came out great, such is life. And then I realised after giving the gift bag that I didn't actually take a picture of the kitty with head attached to body. Luckily I had my camera there though so I made sure to take a few while the kitty was not being clutched tightly (I think she liked it). My daughter was a little sad to see the kitty go I think so maybe I will make her a stuffed toy for her birthday (I can't believe how quickly it's coming up!).

The bunny's still not done however. Since it's been a while since that birthday, and the little girl is expecting a sibling soon I think I'm going to make something for the new baby and save the bunny to give as a big sister gift when the baby comes (and we'll be saying special prayers for them because I hear they just lost a good friend who died in childbirth which is devastating at any time but when you have a baby on the way yourself, oh my).

(On a ligher note) I got some more sewing time this weekend. I finished a pair of trousers for myself (no picture). I cut the fabric in England at Christmas (when I thought I would have time to make stuff because my mum and Matt would be able to watch the baby... somehow it didn't quite work out that way, it never does), sewed several months ago and finally hemmed last Friday. I think they're tencel, but whatever the fabric is it hangs nicely and is cool and they fit pretty nicely and I feel good in them. I also almost have a new skirt for myself finished -- just need to finish the waistband, and I think it's just too long so I'm going to have to go back and turn the hem up some. What I did finish though was another pinafore for my daughter. I had this fabric that was a thrift store find which I thought would be a good candidate for a dress for Pentecost. I was going to try a different pattern but the fabric used to be a curtain and it was hard to find enough unfaded (or consistently faded) for the other things I tried so I went for the pinafore again. (It doesn't hurt that the pinafore is quick and easy to make of course.) I forgot to sew the lower set of ties in when I put the red binding on (oops) but managed to sneak in some ribbon. I'm pretty pleased with the outcome, and she happened to have a pair of pants that bring out the red to make it extra suitable for church on Pentecost!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Greenery with Bacon and Eggs

I've been following along at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge and have several recipes on my to try list (Chocolate and Beetroot Cake, Chard and Basil Fritters, Chicory with Herby Chicken and Watercress Pesto Sauce are at the top. The most recent post (Dandelions in the Post) inspired me to more instantaneous action. I've tried making something similar before - a warm bacon dressed salad - and it just wasn't satisfying but I always thought it should be yummy so why not try again?

What I made is a little different because I can't help but fiddle with recipes most of the time. Actually I did what I often do and went to a recipe site (epicurious in this case) and search for recipes of the kind I want to make (bacon salad) and read a whole bunch (including comments by people who've made the dish) then make up something based on what I glean from all that.

I didn't actually use dandelion leaves in the end, even though they have them at our co-op (so maybe next time), but thought I'd try some curly endive (as someone mentioned in the comments at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge site) . I also grabbed some cress to give a peppery hit, and happened to have spinach in the fridge already.

Since my husband is opposed to croutons in salad, and I saw a couple of recipes that used potatoes in various ways, I decided to have crouton sized pieces of fried potato in the salad. Yum.

So here's how I made my dinner salad:

  • I tore up some greenery (a mix of curly endive/chicory, cress and spinach) and let it soak. Meanwhile I diced four small redskin potatoes and put them to boil.
  • Cut some slab bacon (a quarter of a pound or so) into a cast iron pan as it was heating and fried until crispy, removed the bacon and most of the fat from the pan and set aside (I put the oven on warm and set them in there).
  • When the potatoes were most of the way cooked I drained them and fried them in the bacon fat (to which I had added a little olive oil and a splash of cider vinegar).
  • I drained the greens and put them in the salad spinner.
  • Once the potatoes started to crisp up I added the bacon back in (not the rest of the bacon fat though) and moved them to the oven to keep warm.
  • To the reserved bacon fat I added some walnut oil, cider vinegar, lemon juice and honey mustard to make dressing.
  • I poured dressing over the greenery and tossed to coat evenly. Then I mixed in the potatoes, bacon and a chopped tomato.

Here it is served up for dinner with eggs (hard boiled for my husband and poached for me).

Next time I'd either add more cress, or put pepper in the dressing. Also I used honey mustard in the dressing because I thought what with the bitter greens a little sweetness might be good but the potatoes added a sweetness so maybe next time Dijon mustard.

And to close this post a couple more food related links:

From the BBC: Tea 'healthier' drink than water
Which is excellent news because I do love my cups of tea.

And this article from ( via) ArcaMax:
Fast Road to Fat City - What price all those cheap burgers & fries? Science starts to find the unsettling answers. I must admit I did not actually get all the way through this article (it's long, I have a baby around most of the time) but the part I read had me interested, and kinda depressed. This is the part from what I read that stuck in my mind.
The average American consumer eats three burgers and four orders of fries each week. A typical American child now gets one-fourth of his or her vegetables in the form of French fries or potato chips. Half our nation's family food budgets are spent in restaurants, with fast-food operations and chains getting the lion's share of the spending.
I always thought potatoes counted as a starch more than a vegetable. Somewhere else I believe I heard that most of the nutritional value from vegetables children received came from corn (I forget where or when though so who knows how reliable the memory is). Also disturbing since it's not the most nutritionally valuable food item out there, and isn't it really a grain anyway? Maybe I have my food categorisation mixed up.

It's so tempting to have fast food when you're busy. I feel as though we get burgers and fries a lot and really we don't usually go more than once a week if that, still it's more than I ever used to and I want to cut back because even if she's not eating it yet our daughter is watching us and I don't want to set that example.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

More craft stuff, and some thrifting

I haven't really been doing much new crafting since my last post (although the kitty is now attached at the neck) but I have some old news, and a bunch of links to things that have caught my eye. So here goes.

Another soft toy that has been languishing for a year just waiting for a face so it could go to it's intended recipient. This time a WeeBunny (also from a free pattern at the Wee Wonderfuls site). I'm sure I stuffed it full when I made it but it definitely could use more innards now. The question is do I risk doing something that will make it unpresentable for another year, or give it as is and feel unsatisfied with my finished product? I think probably I will add more stuffing -- and if I rip the seam in the right place I can take the opportunity to give the bunny a tail which I neglected to do previously. When these are done and delivered I'm going to finally open up my Big Footed Bunny book for my next soft toy -- maybe I can make one for my daughter's birthday (or mine...).

Yesterday I got my husband to take a picture of me wearing my daughter with the mei tai I made the other week. It's in the sunshine and in focus so all in all a much better shot!

Next thing is that today I tied my daughter on my back (with a different carrier that I also made but don't have a good picture of yet) and went into town without the stroller which meant I could more easily go into some of the stores in town. So I went into one of the used items stores in town and came out with a couple of tops (one to wear as is and one extra large silk shirt that may well get refashioned somehow).

Then after a treat at the bakery and a few errands I went to the less stroller friendly of the thrift stores in town and poked around swiftly (since they were about to close by the time I got there). I came away with two little plates, a package of twill tape, some green fabric, a small piece of floral print material (?summer dress for my girl?), a queen sized bed sheet (not sure what I'll do with this but I thought it was cute) and videos of a British mystery series that I think my husband will enjoy. That all came to just under eleven dollars (and the videos were five dollars). I was looking for thrifting stuff at flickr and discovered that there's actually a Thrift Thursday group. Coincidence? So here's my first Thrift Thursday post. Not sure that I'll manage to do this regularly, I don't make it to the thrift store every week after all, but hopefully that's ok.

And now for the list of links:

I saw and admired this wrap skirt in the NewVintageWardrobe Pool at Flickr. I was excited to see that there are two tutorials available at Sew, Mama, Sew showing how to draft and sew a skirt of one's very own. Yay! I have a wrap skirt that I thrifted a while back which I wore for the first time a few weeks back and love so I was thinking of trying to figure out how to make more so this should help save me some time and brain cells! I don't know whether I'll be able to make one, or any skirt, in time for skirt month though.

Loving this summer dress, lovely fabric that I'd probably never have the courage to make into a dress. I'm surprisingly bad at judging what fabric I'll like in a finished garment, I'm working on it though.

I'm interested in trying out the Sunshine's Creations tutorial for mock cathedral windows sometime. I think I'd do it with batting inside and make a quilt.

Also came across this cute "Disappearing 9 Patch" Doll Quilt at Flickr which links to another tutorial I want to try out sometime.

Oh, so much to do and so very little time! I'm already blogging when I should be sleeping again (last night I went to bed at a relatively reasonable hour for fear of blocked duct threatening mastitis, oh the joys of nursing motherhood!).

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Picture post

I just wanted to share a few bits and pieces quickly.

My ripple-along blanket grows slowly. I stopped the other evening to take a picture (I'm afraid many of my pictures will be poorly lit due to bad timing and the fact that very little light gets into the first floor of our house once there are leaves on the trees).

Can you see the blur at the top of the first picture? That's my daughter swooping in to steal my crochet hook. Second picture is the best of the full amount of progress thus far (I've actually started another colour/row since that was taken) -- it's only taken me a month. But then I have so much help, when my daughter isn't taking my crochet hook (holding it aloft victoriously as if it's Excalibur or a magic wand, and then chewing on it), she's climbing all over the blanket, stealing my yarn or demanding my attention be directed to her needs (which is my main job at the moment after all).

This last weekend though I got to spend hours in the sewing room! We were going to a birthday party for a little friend who's turning 2. I started a present for her last year which I'm finally finishing up. It's a pointy kitty (a free pattern at the Wee Wonderfuls website), here it is Cheshire cat style (since the head isn't actually attached to the body -- last step still to be completed). I also made the birthday girl a dress from the same fabric as the body of the kitty. I don't have a good picture of it yet so I'll post it another time. (Also we didn't end up going to the party since the birthday girl is under the weather so I don't want to post the finished articles before they're delivered even though they're not likely to see them here.)

Even though I stayed up way too late sewing Saturday night it was totally worth it. I feel so recharged by getting something I'm happy with sewn! And, I'm totally excited that I finally figured out how to do buttonholes on the sewing machine (which I inherited from my husband's grandmother who doesn't sew anymore). I've tried and failed in the past. Then on Saturday I tried again, thought I'd totally messed up the sewing machine as it was stuck in the middle of the button hole setting and called for help. My husband sat there reading the manual and using judicious pressure until the mechanism started moving again. And lo and behold I could sew buttonholes! (I really should get the machine serviced, oh and oil it more often.)

Today I've been more creative in the kitchen. A friend came over and played with the baby for a while and I baked some cookies (mashed banana + oatmeal + baking soda + cinnamon&ginger + a little molasses and oil, based on the Oats & 'Naner Drops here) and some squash for my daughter. Later I cut up some past their best strawberries to mix with rhubarb I stewed the other day (see picture) which I topped with some crumble and baked for pudding (aka dessert) for me and my husband. Yummy! (I almost made muffins after reading this post at Posie Gets Cosy, but then I remembered the rhubarb and strawberries.)

And to end, since I didn't do my mother's day post, here is the hanging basket that my husband bought as a mother's day gift when we were at the farmer's market (I got to pick the colour). I wasn't sure I really wanted that to be my gift (time in the sewing room is pretty high on my wishlist after all), but they're hanging right outside the kitchen door and make me happy every time I catch sight of them out of the corner of my eye. My daughter's pretty excited about them too.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Parenting stuff

I actually started a post on mothering stuff for mothers day that my computer ate and haven't got back to reconstructing that. Here are some other parenting related things I've come across.

I gather (from articles that have popped up in my google news alerts) that it's been breastfeeding awareness week in the UK. I came across the BreastfeedingManifesto website (the actual manifesto is a pdf) which launched its campaign for greater awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding this last week:

Guiding Principles

The Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition looks forward to a society where:

  • Women feel enabled to initiate and continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish
  • Parents are supported to make informed choices about feeding their babies
  • Everyone is aware of the significant benefits associated with breastfeeding


The Breastfeeding Manifesto was produced in 2006 by over twenty UK organisations working to improve awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding and its role in reducing health inequalities.
The aim of the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition is to achieve widespread cross-party support for the Breastfeeding Manifesto, and to ensure that its principles are reflected in government policy and legislation in the UK.

Specifically, the Coalition’s aim is to ensure that the Manifesto is adopted by all of the UK’s main political parties by the time of the next General Election.

That sounds pretty excellent, they seem to have a lot of current MPs signed up in support already.

I also noticed the story about the mayor who's taken her local council to court for sexual discrimination [BBC and Telegraph articles]. I'm pretty sure there's more to the story than the articles can cover fully so it's difficult to know exactly what to think. Personally I can't imagine take on being mayor knowing I'd take office with a two month old (which she presumably did), and it's not the kind of job where you'd expect a 6 month maternity leave since surely that would be a substantial portion of the term of office? However I'm not a career oriented person in that way and it sounds as though she has a lot going on in her working life besides motherhood. Still, it sounds as though she got poor support from the council ["The council leader allegedly replied: 'Get him on the bottle as soon as possible.' " - Telegraph]
The council denied her the use of a civic car for her first month and for the rest of that year allowed her access to it only when she found or paid for an adult to accompany her. - Telegraph
I can't see why the baby couldn't ride in the car. I would think it's a positive example that mothers are capable of holding office, ditto for her breastfeeding the baby being the reason for the baby to travel with her. I don't think expecting her to have someone travelling with them to care for the baby while she's attending to her duties is unreasonable. With a newborn if you have a carrier you could probably get away with doing most things being a mayor would entail without a babysitter. But you never know when a baby might have a melt down or need a diaper change at an inconvenient moment so having someone available to deal with that would seem sensible.

I've been in meetings with babies present (my baby, and other peoples) and it does make you lose focus when you have to divide your attention between the proceedings and a baby unless the baby's nursing or asleep so I'd want a babysitter. And obviously her attendants shouldn't be expected to babysit, I don't imagine that was part of their job description. (Jane Swift got fined for having aides babysit.) Still the fact remains that there's a long way to go before society is set up to support working women breastfeeding in the way that medical experts recommend (go breastfeedingmanifesto organisation).

More Attachment Parenting

In my bloglines feeds I keep track of the ParentingSolved which in turn means I see when the "Pediatric Grand Rounds" get posted. I have yet to actually make it through the most recent Grand Rounds and a lot looked interesting, and I guess the next set is due to be posted already. Still I did go to look at the post recommended at Parenting Solved and also loved it, I want to go back and check out more of that blog (Laughing Baby: Adventures in attachment parenting).

And finally, I came across a link to an interesting and informative article at entitled A Tale of Two Diapers with some of the recent history of diapers cloth and disposable and information about environmental impact.

Oops... One more thing I forgot when I hit publish post.
10 Steps to Letting Dad Do It, an article at 100 hats by thismom. Now my husband is pretty excellent with our daughter, but his helpfulness goes in waves. Sometimes has to get to a point where I've become totally overwhelmed and can't hold it together before he notices I need help. Some of these steps I definitely need to internalise better. I'm not good at asking for help, and I'm not good at remembering that the glaringly-obvious-to-me-things that need doing are invisible (or not important to him). We do try to get together to brainstorm about how to parent, which is good. However, my husband's memory is abysmal and he doesn't always remember. Sometimes he comes up with a strategy we agree to try (and sometimes I'm doubtful) and I diligently try it for days, then he'll have her for a little while and it'll be too difficult (or he'll have forgotten) and do things differently and wonder why I get annoyed. This whole parenting together thing is hard, but not as hard as it must be to do it all alone so I'm very thankful to be with my husband.

And while I'm adding things to this post I just saw an article at the BBC -- Pre-birth apples 'benefit babies' -- "Children of mothers who eat plenty of apples during pregnancy are less likely to develop asthma, research suggests." It also says eating fish once a week reduces the baby's risk of eczema.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

In the News

I'm totally behind in even skimming the headlines at the moment what with the sleeping issues, but some things I've noticed:

Why France is so good at cancer care [BBC]

Children palliative care 'patchy' [BBC]

Happiness wins science book prize [BBC]

Illinois baby obtains gun permit [BBC]

Fortify 'bread with folic acid' [BBC] -- I know this has been debated for a while in the UK, and it's hard to argue with the reduction in spina bifida that's been seen in countries where fortification's been introduced already. The masking of B12 deficiency is a little worrying, and I've seen stuff in the news recently suggesting vitamin supplementation may not be such a fabulous thing after all though. I guess since it's so hard to get the amount of folate they recommend without supplementation, and so many women aren't paying attention anyway this makes sense. The FSA chair said: "I don't believe it is the ultimate solution. I believe it is the best pragmatic solution we can get."

Only tenuously linked to news, but I saw this at How about orange -- it's horribly addictive -- a game where you try to snap good photos of Superman flying around various cities for the front page of the Daily Planet.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Creativity links

Via a post at Craft: I got here:
"The KnitWiki is a community run knitting encyclopedia with patterns, techniques, historical information and a whole lot more!"
So far I've taken a look through some of the patterns and found a few for my to-do list -- I want to see what this evening top looks like knitted up, and I'm intrigued by this vest and panties combo.

Also via Craft: a link to a pattern for a paper craft toy owl which I want to try out. A friend of ours has her second birthday coming right up, and is an owl fan so I'm wondering whether I could make one the right size to put her present into...

At Crafty Daisies Heather is offering a "Learn to Crochet" 12 lesson course (online and free). Now obviously I know how to crochet at least somewhat but I mostly make it up as I go along. It'd be nice to be able to know what stitches are called and how to follow patterns. The question is can I manage to keep up? If she can post the lessons I ought to be able to really. So we'll see how that goes!

Another for the to-do list -- this cute baby/toddler hat helloyarn posted at flikr in the Crazy for Knitting pool.

Also catching my eye in the flikr knitting groups was a knit and felted toy ant

I enjoyed this week's "something for me" post at Parentdish by Jennifer Sharpen, she says:
The work I do all day tends to be invisible, and that's why I really like to take the time to knit a scarf, make ToothFairy pillows, or sew a skirt: it feels so nice to see, and even hold, the results of my work.
That's something I can totally relate to. Housework often seems to be only visible when it's not done, and when you finish it you have to start over right away anyway. Even the satisfaction from cooking something nice is fleeting because soon it'll be eaten, and you still have to do dishes. Making something tangible and (at least somewhat) lasting gives such a nice feeling! This week she's talking about loving photography, and I'm enjoying that more and more too. Sometimes I even take pictures of things other than my daughter or craft projects, and I aim to do that more. It's good to challenge myself to look around me more, and differently.

What I've been up to

I haven't given up on this blog project. There's just been a lot less computer time recently. I've got a few unfinished posts saved so maybe I'll come back and fill in some gaps later.

Last week my husband and I decided to try and shift our daughter's sleep schedule so we've been getting up earlier and therefore trying to get to bed earlier too. Though this may mean more sleep for all in the long run (fingers crossed) it's meant less over the last week, and certainly less "me time". (Also my husband had another business trip, and we had a concert with a chorus we sing with last weekend so extra rehearsals beforehand.)

My ripple blanket is still growing slowly, I don't have another picture just now, but soon.

I've also done some bits of sewing recently. I bought some onesies for my daughter a while ago that I really love but she was never wearing. We've been putting her on the potty in a very low-key attempt at "elimination communication" for a long time now and for that shirts are preferable. So I finally got around to chopping the onesies (straight across at the top of the leg shaping) and hemming them so the girl has some spring/summery shirts. It's such a quick and easy thing, and I can do it by hand rather than waiting for time in the sewing room and feel like I've accomplished something. And I'm so happy to see her wearing the shirts - I love the print and the slight puff at the shoulders... Perhaps I'll let her wear some of her other shirts again soon!

Then when I get time in the sewing room I can work on bigger things. I have managed a few blocks of time for sewing over the last few days (with some help from my husband).

I've been wanting to try and make a mei tai/asian baby carrier for a while now and had looked at several tutorials on the web (mostly via this wonderful site), found some fabric in my stash and just needed some blocks of time to cut and sew. I'd made a couple of pouch slings (easy but not the most secure) and a podaegi (which I like a lot but is a little trickier at times since you need to be able to sit or be spotted to tie the baby on).

The ABC is pretty straightforward to make, although I must admit I had to keep staring the diagram and thinking a long time to make sure I wasn't going to sew the shoulder straps inside! It seems to have come out pretty well and is comfy for wearing the baby (except that when she's tied on my back she likes to pull my hair, but that's not the carrier's fault!). I've tried a couple different ways to tie her on my back, and also worn her on my front. (The out of focus and poorly lit picture on the right she's in a high back carry, although i moved the waist ties down to the waist rather from around the chest after a while as that wasn't so comfy.) I think my husband's going to try this one out too.

I pretty much followed the basic mei tai instructions at but I did use a modification I saw which I thought made a lot of sense where the waist strap (which was one long piece is only anchored in the middle so that you can scrunch the body of the carrier in at the sides so it's more comfy for baby's legs. (If that was all gobbledygook to you here's the link to the tutorial where I saw the idea, it has diagrams.)

I think I will want to sew another one once I've worn this one a bit. Maybe next time I will pad the shoulder straps (I'll have a better idea of how far along the strap to pad). I'm going to think about whether I want to try a different angle for the straps too. Plus next time maybe I'll find some more interesting fabric for the body panels and make it reversible.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Difficulty of Knowledge

I came across this article: Prenatal Test Puts Down Syndrome in Hard Focus (NYTimes): With the increase in prenatal testing for it, some parents of children with Downs Syndrome are moving to educate people in general more about the condition. They're worried that with more testing there will be more terminations and fewer people with Downs and that could further disadvantage their children (oversimplification, go read the article if you can).

As I started reading the article I wondered whether these parents were being selfish in trying to pressure parents into keeping a child they didn't think they could parent so that their children would have more people with Downs around in the future. Then I was stunned to read in the article that "[a]bout 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion." I guess people do need to hear more about Downs in that case. I'm not saying that raising a child with Downs isn't going to be a challenge, that you're not going to have more to worry about for longer as a parent, but all the people I know with Downs are such valuable people. I can't imagine choosing to end a pregnancy with that diagnosis, although I know I'd be feeling even more overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting.

All the testing that's available now (and I'm sure that what can be tested for and how easy and "risk free" the testing is will only continue to increase), I see as a curse as much as a blessing. [add: another interesting article: Genetic Testing + Abortion = ???.] Same with fertility treatments, and testing for things like Alzheimer's, cancer, Huntington's etc. that you might develop in the future [see this interesting article: Facing Life With a Lethal Gene also in the NYTimes]. For some people it's empowering to have this kind of information available, for others it's daunting or even destructive. Even pregnancy tests you can take before your period is due can make you crazy if you're struggling with infertility, that's why after a few years of ttc I stopped taking tests until I was 18 dpo (which would usually indicate a pregnancy in and of itself).

When is it better to learn to accept what life throws at you as it comes, and when is "forewarned is forearmed" the way to go? One problem I see is that being forewarned doesn't always allow you to find a way to deal with the problem, sometimes it makes things more complicated/difficult. It can give an illusion of control where you have very little. I guess I think it's important to think about what the implications of the possession of greater knowledge are and whether we're equipped to deal with them before we move forward in some of these cases and I'm afraid that not enough people think that through.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Reading: The Orange Girl

One of the things I thought I'd do with the blog is use it to keep track of my book reading. Not that I'm getting to read as much as I used to. My main time for reading has been before bed but often the lights are out or the baby's snuggled up with me and so I can't read (which is sad not least because I don't always fall asleep easily).

The book I most recently finished was The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder. It's about a boy, Georg, who is given a letter written to him by his father. His father died when Georg was three. In the letter his father tells the story of "the orange girl" and asks his son a question. The novel is framed with Georg's own writing, telling about getting the letter and his reaction to it, then we begin to read the letter which Georg breaks in on every now and again with more commentary.

It's a love story, well more than one love story really I'd say because there's the orange girl but also a father/son love too. But also it tackles confronting death, it asks you to think about mortality (your own, and that of your nearest and dearest). It asks whether life is worthwhile; at one point Georg's father writes:

Would I have elected to live a life on earth in the firm knowledge that I'd suddenly be torn away from it, and perhaps in the middle of intoxicating happiness? Or would I, even at that early stage, graciously have declined this reckless game of 'pass the parcel'? We come to this world only once. We are let into the great fairytale, only for the story to reach its end!

Later Georg writes (contemplating never being born):

The world! I would never have come here. I would never have witnessed the great mystery.

Space! I would never have looked up into a glittering starscape.

The sun! I would never have been able to place my feet on the warm sea rocks at Tonsberg. I would never have experienced a really good belly-flop.

Now I see it. Suddenly I see the full extent of it all. Only now do I understand with my life and soul the meaning of non-existence. I feel the pit of my stomach heave. I feel sick. But I feel anger as well.

I'm infuriated by the thought that one day I will vanish -- and become nothing, not just for a week or two, not just for four or four hundred years, but for all time.

It's really interesting to read, and think. Georg's father is an atheist so his take on death is different to mine but that doesn't mean it isn't good for me to think about the questions he brings up.

Georg is a 15 year old and I think Gaarder does a good job of writing a narrator who a lot younger than he is (I think he's a teacher so that probably helps).

I consistently enjoy Gaarder's books. I don't know whether it's the use of language or tone of the writing, or perhaps the simplicity of the plots which at the same time ask you to consider complex questions, but I find his books very restful to read (thought provoking as they can be).

I'm curious as to whether there's something about Scandinavian languages, or life there because there is something very soothing about the turn of phrase in the writing. I know it's a translation, but I found I felt the same way about a novel I read by a Danish author a while back. And now I'm reading "Boy" by Roald Dahl and there's a little of that in there, and although he was British his parents were Norwegian and he spent summers in Norway so it stands to reason that might have an impact on his turn of phrase.

The first of his books which I read was "Sophie's World" many years ago when it was fairly newly out, I must get back to it one of these days, it's a nice accessible introduction to lots of different philosophical schools of thought.

Here's a final quote from The Orange Girl that particularly resonated with me:

I don't know if you've ever had that intense feeling of having done something completely futile. Maybe you've left home in awful weather and gone into town to buy something you really need, and you get to the shop at last only to find it had closed two minutes ago. Such things are infuriating, and most irritating of all is one's own stupidity. (Orange Girl, p82)

I'm afraid I get that feeling a lot, it's nice to read it articulated by someone else.

The linky part

The Recycled Yarn Tutorial - How To Unravel A Sweater (via an email list)

Artificial food colouring warning - "Parents are being advised by experts not to give their children food containing certain additives until the results of a new study are published." (BBC) (Also in the Guardian)

Through fire and ice - "The Norwegians' architecture stands up to glaciers, snowstorms and dangerous drivers - and it still looks beautiful." (Guardian)

The New Atheists loathe religion far too much to plausibly challenge it (Guardian)

Aboriginal Romeo and Juliet survive 40 years in the bush (Independent). Glen Stasiuk has made a documentary about this couple , Warri and Yatungka , who ran away together into the desert because tribal law forbade their marriage. They lived in the desert in the old traditional way for many years. They finally were brought back to live with the tribe during a drought in the late 70s that nearly killed them, but they died a few years later. The documentary is called "Footprints in the Sand" and features the couple's son returning to places he lived with his parents. It will be shown on Australian TV in the summer, hopefully it'll make its way onto US and UK telly too, it sounds really interesting.

Just like that! Tommy Cooper's final days - "He was the comedians' comedian, whose unique combination of surreal humour and inept magic captivated the nation. Now the producer of 'The Queen' is to dramatise the last week of a life which ended so dramatically - in the middle of a show" (Independent)
I didn't read this article (yet) but I distinctly remember sitting with my family watching the TV and seeing Tommy Cooper collapsing live on stage, not quite knowing whether it was real or not, the curtain coming down. I must have been about 8 years old, it's just a quick memory and I don't think I really knew who he was at the time, but obviously it made an impression.

And another quilt to make my fingers itchy over at Flikr -- "Crazy"
And pictures like this make me want to get more sewing machine time in to make clothes for my baby, and children of friends (and me...).

Friday, 4 May 2007

What I've been looking at today...

My husband's been away on business the last several days. By today I was getting a little crazy as the baby has been restless so when she wouldn't nap this afternoon I grabbed my ripple blanket and other supplies and headed to the park. Didn't get much crocheting done but she did nap on the way and we had a little picnic. Also we saw flowers and birds and dogs and other babies and some friends, and stopped in at an art gallery on the way home --- so many things to point at and exclaim over (mostly her but sometimes me too). All in all it was a very good thing to be out walking in the sunshine, lifted my mood considerably.

Today I haven't been reading much (not enough time for sustained focus) so this is a more image heavy post.

At Flikr:

  • This sonogram tapestry is such a great idea! I have pictures from one of my daughter's sonograms up on the kitchen wall where they'll probably fade but I like seeing them there. It'd be great to do something like this with them, and with the sonogram pictures we have from our first daughter. I don't really weave though, maybe I could do something with embroidery instead.

  • I enjoyed the story of the magic beans of oer-erkenschwick

  • I love this baby quilt; more inspiration to work on patchwork/quilting again. I always get carried away with the idea of doing fancy things, or using a lot of colour. Then when I look at quilts like this I realise how beautiful more simple patterns, and how I enjoy the cleaner look of white with colour. I want to make my daughter quilts, and there a few children of friends who are older than her that I had plans for too...

  • And here's my own contribution -- we passed this tree on the way to the park. I love this time of the year when the trees are flowering, seeing them always gives me a lift.

I like to keep an eye on the In Pictures section at the BBC website and was interested in the set Your perspective on the world: 28 April-4 May which is all pictures taken with pinhole cameras.

A How-To to bookmark (which I've already forgotten how I got to) on achieving jogless stripes when knitting in the round.

And last but not least, I was intrigued by this post at ParentDish "When kids art collides with an adult's mind" and saw some really amazing transformations where a professional adult artist uses children's art and takes it a step further.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

What caught my eye today...

I'm trying a new tactic today; starting a "what's caught my eye today" post in the morning and adding links over the course of the day. It feels much more time efficient! I'm so behind on bloglines though that this post is going to be very heavy on Independent articles because I had a lot of headlines to look through from them, and they seem to have lots of articles I'm interested in at the moment.

Picture of the Day

This stunning blue quilt, hand pieced and quilted. One of these days I'll get back to quilting, my husband would love a quilt like that (blue is his favourite colour).

At the BBC:

I notice that BBC4 is featuring The Edwardians through May, lots of interesting looking programmes. The one that caught my attention in listings was called "What the Edwardians sounded like" but the link seems to be broken. There are also Edwardian themed shows on music hall, food, Saki, photography, shopping and more. I hope some of the shows make their way to BBCAmerica but I won't hold my breath.
A crossover -- scientists have found multiple ancient texts hidden in parchment recycled in the thirteenth century to make a prayer book. I noticed an article on this story at the BBC a few days back, and today read the Independent's article (which I think has more information). I love the idea of finding lost texts hidden behind other old documents. And having taken A-Level Ancient history I have an inkling of some of the lots texts we think have been lost forever that it'd be so exciting to discover hidden in this way!

In the Independent

Covering up 'best protection from sun' - experts say wearing clothes and hats that shield us from sun exposure is actually preferable to just slapping on sunscreen. (also covered by the BBC)

Why Britain can't cope with gays in high places: We like to think that Britain is a pretty tolerant place, a nation in which diversity is celebrated, where our private lives can remain just that. But as this week's sensational 'outing' of Lord Browne demonstrates, for those in the upper reaches of society, homosexuality remains a powerful taboo. Paul Bailey reflects on why one man's shame reveals a much wider hypocrisy

The Mighty Quinn: Art and agnosticism: The artist's 'Angel' was meant to provoke a debate about the existence of God. So where better to house it than a cathedral?

Theatres to be banned from turning bad reviews into a show of support - I've seen this story elsewhere too. It does seem ridiculous that theatres and similar can get away with the false advertising of taking snippets of reviews wildly out of context.

Britain's maligned moths suffer drastic decline: Sir David Attenborough is turning his attention to the humble - but increasingly endangered - moth.


An article at the BBC looking at Embarrassment gives examples of embarrassing stories, talks about its physical symptoms and speculates as to why we get embarrassed (and the blushing, oh the blushing). I definitely embarrass easily, and agonise (for many years sometimes) over embarrassing situations that everyone else probably forgot fairly instantly so this is some comfort:

Instead of feeling awkward about being easily embarrassed, Professor Crozier says it's a sign of greater emotional intelligence.
"A prerequisite for embarrassment is to be able to feel how others feel - you have to be empathetic, intelligent to the social situation," he says.

Of course sometimes my greater emotional intelligence (if indeed I possess such) is over-ridden by my attempts to overcome shyness.

Embarrassment is a way of making us adhere to social codes so that we don't insult our friends, reveal our basic instincts or show too much of our private emotions. People who are unembarrassable are likely to be poor at reading social situations. So while everyone else cringes, they plough on, unable to pick up the sensitivities of the situation.

I think I can sometimes be the seemingly unembarrassable just because I'm pushing myself to not sit in the corner and say nothing and depending on where I am that leads to suppressing some sensitivities until words are out of my mouth, or (worse) I replay a conversation in my head later and cringe. Thankfully that doesn't happen too often, and at least it's only a temporary affliction. We certainly know people who don't seem to have much clue about social codes and make everyone else awkward.

I guess I'm not the only one interested in embarrassment; the article seems to be among the most popular stories at the BBC website at the moment.

Random Things

I have amassed a long list of links and articles to post. I wanted to write at least a little comment about a lot of them and haven't found the time to sit and write. So lest it look as though I've given up on this blog already, I'm going to skip to a few things I came across today and get back to the other stuff if and when I can.

First of all I was glad to see that Bill Moyers has a new show on (Bill Moyers Journal). Of course I forgot (or wasn't able to because of baby's needs) to watch it when it was on. The good news is that you (I) can watch stuff from the show at the website, and they have transcripts too! I watched the interview with Jon Stewart (being a Daily Show addict). It was interesting, not quite as excellent as I'd hoped, but thought provoking to be sure. The question of whether what the Daily Show does is journalism is an interesting one. Jon Stewart always seems emphatic that it's not, and I guess he should know. Seems to me it's satire rather than journalism, but it does seem that it's more than fake news and the interviews certainly get to be more like real journalism at times (there are some examples in the Moyers interview).

On a completely different subject, there was an interesting article about breastfeeding at the BBC News website today entitled "Lying down may help breastfeeding". 'Twas a little confusing to me -- they talked about lying down producing more of the mammalian nursing reflexes in nursing infants (because it's a more natural position than sitting up which seems reasonable). But then they're talking about the woman lying on her back with baby on top rather than side lying position which is certainly the position I think with other mammals I've seen nursing lying down (eg. cats, dogs, pigs), and of course some nurse standing (eg. cows, horses). Having said that I think the position's value is somewhat true in my experience. It actually took me longest to get the hang of side-lying nursing. But, when my daughter was pretty little I tried nursing lying on my back and it was quite good for us both (freaked out my husband a bit because he was afraid she'd suffocate or fall off but she had a strong neck from early on and could turn her head, and I was so hyper-aware of where she was I don't think she was in much danger of slipping off me even if I snoozed a little).

Oh, and also at the BBC News site, for those interested in Ancient History, read about "Gladiators' graveyard discovered ". There's an episode of Timewatch about it coming up. (That's a show I'd love to be able to watch on-demand, I love being able to keep up with BBC radio online, I'd love to be able to watch some TV too. BBC America just doesn't have a lot of what I miss.)