Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chore Wars

I have finally found something on the internet better than ravelry- and no, I'm not talking about foodbuzz, the foodie equivalent. We finally signed up for Chore Wars, and I am finally getting my housework done- slowly, and under protest, but I'm doing it. Why? Well, because a computer gives me stickers and gold and treasure when I do the ironing, the laundry or whatever other mindlessly tedious task presents itself, and that makes me happy.
What makes me unbelievably happy, however, is the fact that my two eldest sons are obsessed with housework as a result :) I can live with this, I tell you...

My Chore Wars character

It doesn't have to be housework- you can use whatever challenges you need to. It's working for us though- long may it last :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

This hit a nerve with me

Reading the new Knitty, I was struck by Tara Jon Manning's Mindful Knitting column. Although I keep pushing myself to knit, I suppose really, the sad fact is that at the moment I don't want to. It doesn't seem important to me, somehow, building rows of loops upon themselves to construct a garment. Or a square. Or anything else- and I have, truth be told, been feeling kind of bad about this, because knitting is my thing. It's what I do, isn't it?
Ultimately, of course, it isn't what I do. I'm a person first and foremost, and I exist mostly in relation to my kids (even though they drive me insane) and then to other people. I'm a die-hard natural birth geek, a passionate advocate not only for young families and homebirth and breastfeeding, the stuff of their being and their first days together but also those at the other end of the spectrum, who are moving into old age and having a hard time.  I am still more, much more, than the sum of any one craft or hobby. (disclaimer. I do not have a problem with anyone who has a c-section, through choice, emergency or any other reason. I'm just blessed to have avoided them. Ditto artificial baby milk)
Some of this, I suppose, is that I'm having a hard time trusting that the wheel is going to turn again and my time with needles is going to come back. If it doesn't, would that be so bad? Probably not, if truth be told, but I'll find something else interesting and exotic to do. For now, my favourite pastime is probably going to remain sleeping.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

UK Swap round 2

Part One: Crafting
Do you knit, crochet, or both?
I do both, but I'm predominantly a knitter.
What do you like to make?
Most of my knitting is for the kids, but this is my year of knitting for someone who will truly appreciate it- so most of the time, that's me.
Do you have a favourite project?
My favourite FO to date is the clapotis I knitted two years ago out of Hipknits aran silk.  It's so simple, and so yummy.
Do you have a favourite type of fiber or brand of yarn?
No- I'll try everything. I'm very fond of experimenting, but I can find more use for wool than I can cotton.
Do you have a least favourite type of yarn?
I'm really not very fond of acrylics.
Do you do any other crafts?
I'm also a spinner, and I'm learning how to make my sewing machine do what I'm told.
Do you knit in public? If so where do you like knitting and what is your "portable" project?
I can't really knit in public, as that would distract me and leave my adorable 2yo daughter free to do unspeakably awful things to humanity. It's rare I get to leave the house without her, so it's pretty much a non-issue.
What do you carry your "portable" knitting in?
Are there any knitting gifts (book, toy, yarn, item, tool) that you have been lusting over?
I always need more stitch markers, but I'd love a fancy tape measure.

Part Two: Your Favourites
What is your favourite colour?
I love soft blues and greens, often with some purple in too.
What is your least favourite colour?
Orange and yellows
What scents/smells do you like? What don’t you like?
I prefer not to use stuff with synthetic fragrances, but apart from that I'm easy. I've even learnt to love my two former dislikes- coconut and peppermint.
How do you like to pamper yourself? (bubble bath, hand creams, massage, manicure)
Sleeping always comes high on my list, but I also love reading, long hot baths and painting my toenail obscure colours (not pink)
What goodies to you like to eat? (chocolate, biscuits, sweets,crisps etc)
At the moment, I'm doing death by slimming world, so I am trying not to snack. I have a soft spot for dark chocolate though, and for fudge.
Do you prefer tea or coffee while you knit? Any particular kind? 
I drink both, but embarrassingly, as often as not I'll end up armed with a glass of Pepsi Max.
Do you listen to/watch anything while you knit? (TVshow-Along, movies, music, podcasts, audiobooks)
I'm rewatching Buffy during my quiet knitting times.

Part Three: About you, Living & Past-times
If you were a specific kind of yarn, which brand and kind of yarn would you be (and why)?
I'd be an unbranded skein of rustic, naturally coloured yarn- herdwick, Jacobs, something along those lines. Something with a distinctive style, but not much finesse.  Why? Well, I'm a very uncompromising take-me-as-you-find-me kind of girl, and I love knitting in sheep colours.
Where do you live in the UK? (General idea not address)
Have you always lived here, or did you grow up somewhere else?
Thank god, no. I grew up in Durham, went to Colchester for university and then spent another 7 years there.
What is your favourite place in the UK?
I love the Northumberland coastline more than anywhere else. We spent all my summer holidays there when I was a kid, and it's fantastic- the white beaches, the waves, the freezing cold water, the constant rain- I love it all. I'm a real water baby, and I'm struggling being this far from the sea.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Everywhere. This is going to be my 50th birthday present to myself- I'm going to go and see what the world has to offer, how other people live, what it looks like, how it's changing. I really want to go back to the Alps though.
What other hobbies do you have?
My life is generally spent running round after small (or bigger) children. I run a mother-toddler group and I'm a breastfeeding peer supporter, and in the rest of the time I'm keeping the house together. I do enjoy cooking, and do a lot of it, and love walking.

I took the picture above up at Seahouses, and I love it. It shows so many of my favourite colours, and I love all of the different blues and the way they work together, as well as the texture and contrast between the waves and the stones.  I love combining two extremes- colour or texture- to see what I end up with.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The ugliness inside.

As some people may have heard me mention recently, I received an anonymous letter recently with a portrait of a naked woman and the caption "who? ate all the pies" which apparently is a football chant. Well, it tells you how much free time I have to spend reading newspapers that I've only recently figured out what work of art it is: it is, in fact, a copy of the most expensive work of art painted by a living artist. I think, to be honest, i'm flattered. I've also seen pictures of Sue Tilley since (Lucian Freud's muse) and it has to be said, she's a babe.
On reading further, however, I found this article, which sums up my feelings about my body quite nicely. Yes, I'm fat. I'm morbidly obese, if you wish to be specific, to the point where it is a health issue, and I can acknowledge that my pregnancy with River would probably have been a hell of a lot more fun if I weren't carrying extra weight around. At the same time, my body is amazing- it brought four beautiful wonderful children into the world and I do feel that the extra weight has probably made it possible for me to breastfeed successfully, despite having to do some truly perverse things to my diet during lactation over the years- and most of this fat was laid down in the production of my children, whilst growing them and then, whilst nurturing them.
The thing that is bugging me most, however, is that two days before receiving the aforementioned cowardly item, I rejoined Slimming World as a postal member, and for the rest of his life this rotten slug is going to believe that my weight loss is a response to his abilities with a pair of scissors and a pot of glue. It's not. This isn't a Blue Peter session on how to slim your neighbour, this is real life. 19 different reinforced tyres isn't going to make us move, although it has to be said, it's offsetting some of the benefits of living with my father-in-law rent-free. What is being done to us is harassment and bullying of the lowest form. Whilst having comparisons drawn between me and this picture probably should be hurtful, I'm actually taking it as a huge compliment- because Sue Tilley is beautiful. And so am I.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's grim up north

except, of course, that it's not. Not any more, anyhow.
We spent the half-term holidays up in Durham with my mother, and spent a lot of time revisiting places I went as a child. The awe-inspiring Beamish museum, which is a fantastic and humbling reminder of where I come from. My grandfather served an apprenticeship down the pit as a farrier before being laid off at 21, as soon as he learnt his trade. He moved away from his home looking for the job he loved, working with the pit ponies, before eventually giving up and taking a foul job as a pump-fitter, working chest-deep in water keeping the pumps running to keep the shafts dry. I have so much respect for anyone who goes to those lengths to support his family, as I honestly don't think I could have stuck it out. He made damn sure that his children stayed far away from the collieries though, even though dad missed his 11 plus due to TB and so went to the secondary modern school- a way was found to get my dad to teacher training college, where he met my mum (on top of a rubbish heap)  and the rest, as they say, was history.
I'm only just old enough to remember working mines. I remember the miners strike of 83/84, and driving through the pickets and seeing slag heaps but I don't remember much more than that- it wasn't a big deal for me. I know that a lot of my dad's pupils at Bowburn, his first school, ended up working in collieries though and so were out of work when the pits closed. It killed a huge proportion of the county.
Anyhow- yes. Beamish is an open-air historical re-creation of the time when mining and heavy industry was common place and sets itself in 1923, the year of the highest ever coal output in Durham. They have a chapel, a school, miners cottages, a working drift mine, a farm and a replica town. Most of the buildings have been moved from original locations brick by brick, rather than built from new (the Westoe Netty is their latest acquisition) and as conservation goes, it's breathtaking. Sadly, my major thoughts were 1) cute animals, and 2) obsessing over the fabrics used. I lost a good five minutes of my life pondering cotton lace socks (they're not stretchy, so wouldn't they be terribly uncomfortable? Did people really wear them?) and well over half an hour was taken up making proggy mats. The boys, bless them, are obsessed.

Then another day was spent up at Bamburgh and Seahouses, which is my home from home and always makes me feel better. It did this time, as well.
Oh, and River has grown again.