Sunday, 29 September 2013

Life's Pleasures: Knitting

I'm a process knitter.

What I mean by that is that I'm not that bothered about the finished result. Which may explain why I very rarely have a finished result! I knit for the process. There's something so therapeutic about repetitive stitching, fingers moving swiftly, the juxtaposition between cool metal (or smooth bamboo) and soft yarn, counting silently to the rhythm of each stitch.

I used to while away long commutes with some kind of knitting project, rushing those last few stitches so that the row was complete before we arrived at my stop. I've struck up conversations with random strangers curious about that young(ish!) girl clicking away in the corner of the train. What are you making? Who's it for? I wish I could knit. Etc. etc.

Knitting takes your mind off things because it causes you to concentrate on the task at hand. You become so focused on the motions of your fingers that the cares and stresses of the world and all the busyness of life melt away into the background. It's just you. Your needles. And a ball of wool.

Since Ruby was born there's been very little time for such indulgent pleasures! Even if I started a project during naptime I would be waiting for her to wake up mid row, during a complicated stitch pattern. All kinds of stitchy disasters could ensue!


But then on my trip to DK Books, I was given this beautiful tome full of gorgeous, sweet, cute baby yarn goodness. How could I let this candy coloured book sit on the shelf collecting dust? And once again, I felt the urge to knit. I started the set of building blocks because surely I could knit 18 tiny squares in between naps and feeds! I've been working at a rate of one square per evening, and there are six stitch patterns to keep it interesting. What a fun project!

It's a gorgeous book with a great range of projects including clothing, toys and interiors. They would make beautiful gifts for the little people in your life or for that pregnant friend and each project is so achievable. If you've got a stash of baby soft DK yarn to get through then these projects are sure to make you want to pick up those needles!

And if you're a newbie knitter then the How to Knit section is among the best and most comprehensive I've seen, with clear illustrations and instructions for every stitch.

Check out the DK website for more information and to view sample pages.
Baby & Toddler Knits Made Easy, £16.99, Dorling Kindersley

***

Disclaimer: I wasn't paid to write these lovely things, I just wanted to share because I truly enjoyed the book. DK Books did kindly give me the book during an unrelated focus group but I chose to review it without being asked. Right! Glad we're all clear on that front!
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Friday, 27 September 2013

When God Wants to Tell You Something ~ Part 1

Recently I had a dilemma. It was an occasion where I had to make a choice and either option would have been a good option, but which option was the right option?

I was randomly chatting to a member of staff in New Look and it basically culminated in her practically guaranteeing me a part-time job. Ooooh, 50% discount in New Look? Guaranteed income to top up Jon's earnings (which we really need!)? Flexible hours? All seems like a good idea, right?

But here's the dilemma.

I'm in the process of building a freelance editing career. It's early days but I've already got some work and I'm confident I could get more but.... it's scary. There's no guarantees. I have to become self employed, deal with tax returns, and anything I do could potentially cause us to lose the few state benefits that we receive so it really needs to be worth it.

Which is why a nice little part time job was an attractive prospect. At first I was keen. Even an eight hour contract would garner me some cheap new clothes, an opportunity to meet new people and I could always do overtime if we were ever short on cash.

But then I started to think. Here I am, being a new mum, pastoring a church, making some great new friends and trying to build a freelance career. Throw part time work into the mix and surely something would have to give? And the first thing to suffer would definitely be the freelancing ~ after all, it's the thing that no one else is involved in.

I was torn. So, being a Christian, I prayed God, tell me what to do.

After which a series of events made it clear what the right decision was:

1. I had mindlessly thrown my dilemma out into the Twittersphere, not really wanting or expecting a response. But a good, very wise, real life friend tweeted me back {paraphrased}: 

"Don't look back in 10 years and realise you've wasted time building someone else's dream. Stick to your guns and build your own dream now. You won't regret it."

2. Our whole family was struck down with colds last weekend so we were absent from church. However, on bemoaning my dilemma to a friend afterwards she summarised the sermon for me into two points, saying that everything that was said was for me and my situation:
  • The root of all evil is not money, but the love of money.
  • HOWEVER, God has given you gifts. Use them to make money so you can sow that resource back into the Kingdom (ie. use it for good). You are blessed to be a blessing. 

3. I was watching How I Met Your Mother. Well, I wasn't really watching it, it was on while I was folding laundry and playing with Ruby. But through all the distraction, one line jumped out at me. It was the episode where Ted sets up his own architecture firm but spends all his time procrastinating rather than calling clients and pitching for work. He then explained his behaviour to Robyn {paraphrased}:

"I guess the longer I put off starting my own firm, the longer it can remain a dream. If I actually do it, then it might stop being a dream and begin to be just another thing I've failed at."



BOOM!

I then realised that was exactly what I was doing. I have been procrastinating. Picking up bits of work here and there, thinking that one day I could make a real go of it, but never actually getting around to doing it properly. And why? Because it's the dream! If I try then I could fail. 

I know that if I get a job in New Look I would be comfortable, I would even enjoy it, I would earn enough money to keep us afloat.

But it's not the dream.

The dream is still out there.

It hasn't been achieved. 

There's still so much to do.

And it's scary.

BUT, it's limitless. I can be whatever I want to be. I can set my own hours. I can do as much or as little as I want, depending on our circumstances. With the right projects, I can earn in one week what I would earn in New Look part time per month. 

Really, it's a no brainer! Just a scary, nothing's guaranteed no-brainer.

But when all these things happened over the course of one weekend, you could call it coincidence. But I have a hunch that Someone wanted to tell me something important. And so my decision is made, and I'm more determined than ever to make it a success because I am confident that, however scary, it is the right decision.

***

I don't often blog about my faith but I am often asked how I know God is speaking to me, which is quite hard to explain but when you have practical examples it makes much more sense. This is just one practical example. I have one more from this week so I think I will blog about that too. I hope that in some small way it might encourage you, boost your own faith, or help you to understand my own.
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Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Dose of Mamma's Guilt

This week, unusually, I was faced with a good ol' dose of Mamma's Guilt. 

Normally, I'm absolutely confident in my parenting choices. If you don't like our style, judge all you want, but at the end of the day everyone just does what it takes to get the family through the day sane and unharmed. So where did this sudden pang of the Guilt come from?

What was I feeling guilty about? Probably the age old issues that have plagued the minds of mums since the beginning of time!
  • Wanting to stop breastfeeding because sometimes I just want to go out by myself
  • Breastfeeding too much (ie. not teaching Ruby patience)
  • Starting to wean two weeks before the recommended time
  • Resorting to pre-packaged weaning jars & pouches rather than cooking up my own delicious purees
  • Taking her out of her bedtime routine
  • Skipping bath time because I was tired
  • Losing my temper with her when she woke up in the night and wouldn't settle back to sleep
  • Not realising that the reason she kept waking up in the night was probably that she was cold and it was me who hadn't supplied her with enough warmth
  • Resorting to Calpol too early
  • Leaving her to cry in pain and using Calpol as a last resort
  • Resorting to breastfeeding as a source of comfort rather than food
  • Co-sleeping because it's easier than teaching her to stay in her cot
  • Leaving her all alone in her cot
  • Wanting to spend time away from her to build my own career
  • Not making the most of the time spent away from her, thus rendering it time I could have spent with her
  • Not providing enough money for the family to ensure security in her future
  • Working too much so that I'm not there for her all the time
...And the list goes on! 

I don't know what came over me! I'm normally a very confident parent; I learnt very early on that you take a stand for how you want to do things or you allow others to steer you in all different directions, without any real purpose, to the detriment of your own child's wellbeing. Who cares what other people think! Who cares what Super Nanny says! Who cares how they did it in the old days or what the new fangdangled research tells us!

When it comes to parenting, nothing is ever the perfect decision. Everything comes with pros and cons. Every method or school of thought has an army of followers who are convinced they know best.

But, as the parent of your child, you do know best. You are responsible for that tiny life. Only you can know what is best for your own baby. Only you are with them 24/7, reading their signals and working out exactly what their needs are and how they are best fulfilled. 

So next time I get an attack of the Mamma's Guilt, shut it up, quick! Rise up! Be confident!

You're doing a good job, and it will all turn out alright in the end.

***

This weekend I have the privilege of featuring in Vicky Welton's Post, Comment, Love, (#PoCoLo) Newbie Showcase, hosted by Jaime Oliver; if you've come from there then welcome! If you haven't, I suggest you hot-foot it over there immediately to find a whole bunch of new blogs that you really should be reading!
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Friday, 20 September 2013

TRENDS: Cross Stitch

I'm no fashionista, and this is no fashion blog, but when crafts and mainstream fashion collide it's always worth a mention! Has anyone noticed the Autumn/Winter cross stitch trend? Everywhere I go there seems to be a penchant for the stitchy good stuff in the fashion world! Particularly in New Look & George @ Asda, but if you've seen others then do tell!


Cross stitch - often seen as the poor, frumpy cousin of more skilled past times such as embroidery or dressmaking, is actually one of my favourite crafts. Yes, it's time consuming and methodical rather than wildly creative with instant results - but that's the charm of it.


Here's 5 reasons everyone should have a go at this pixelated artform:

Anyone can do it!
Think you're not creative or crafty? But desperately want to jump on board the handmade, crafty train that's been picking up speed these past few years? Cross stitch should be top of your list! You need to be able to count squares, bring a needle up through a ready-made hole, and take it back down again through the next hole ~ and that is essentially it! Hard core cross stitch artists may disagree of course, and it could be argued that the skill is in perfecting a neat reverse - but no one looks at the reverse, so while you're getting good, it's all OK.

Quick to fix
I love knitting. Problem is, I can't correct mistakes. If I go wrong, I have to rip it all out and start again, which is why I have a zillion UFOs languishing in my craft corner waiting for the fixing fairy to come and work her magic. Go wrong in cross stitch and there's no need to worry!You just unpick the stitches back to where you made the mistake and carry on. There's no risk of anything unraveling, you haven't wasted any materials and as long as you notice quick enough, it doesn't waste too much time! Also, unlike knitting, it's really easy to come back to and know exactly where you left off which, in my experience, greatly reduces the risk of mistakes!

Typography is King
I love typography, quotes and words in all forms, and what better way to immortalise your favourite quote or lyric in thread than in a good ol' cross stitch sampler. The possibilities are endless!


Portable, cheap & requires virtually no storage
All these qualities are what, for me, places cross stitch above all other crafts. What other craft fulfills all three of these criteria? Knitting is certainly not cheap if you like quality wool (and whose yarn stash has outgrown under the bed?), papercraft has the potential to take over your house (and your bank balance!) and sewing requires some sort of desk if you're to use your machine on a regular basis. Cross stitch, on the other hand, requires Aida, needle, thread and hoop and off you go!

You're the artist!
Once you've mastered the basics of the craft, it's really easy to create your own designs (whereas in knitting I feel like you need a PhD in Advanced Mathematics!). Grab some graph paper or go freestyle, as long as you get the spacing right, you can pretty much create anything!



So, while the catwalk is acknowledging that cross stitch is cool (and we've known all along, of course!), maybe now is the time to give it a whirl. You'll be so on trend, dahhling, and the fash-pack will be banging at the door to get a piece of your skillz.

***

This weekend I have the privilege of featuring in Vicky Welton's Post, Comment, Love, (#PoCoLo) Newbie Showcase, hosted by Jaime Oliver; if you've come from there then welcome! If you haven't, I suggest you hot-foot it over there immediately to find a whole bunch of new blogs that you really should be reading!
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Monday, 2 September 2013

Back to School!

Don't you just love September?

It is one of my favourite months of the year. You have all the optimism of a new year ~ a throwback from our school days ~ woven with the last threads of Summer: a big hotchpotch of warmth, still light evenings, squished blackberries and new stationery.

If there's one thing in life that I'm notoriously bad at, it's keeping new year resolutions. There's something about January that is just full of darkness and dread. September resolutions, on the other hand, have held far more success for me.


Summer is waving us goodbye, it's time to get down to work. Time to achieve something. This is the (school) year that I will get good at XYZ or learn to do ABC. September is a definite starting point. We're back from our hol's, we have 113 days until Christmas (aren't you glad I told you that?), and we have to achieve 123 before then. Yes, September gives us the chance to make a last ditch attempt at making the current year count, before we start thinking about what we'll do in the following year.

So, what is it that I want to do to make 2013 count?

~ finish the craft projects that I currently have on the go (sounds simple, but you don't know how many there are, and I'm not sure I do either!)
~ practise my embroidery
~ make my Christmas presents, or at least a few of them
~ organise a big 30 birthday bash for my husband
~ get Ruby on solids, in a routine, sleeping through the night in her own cot (not asking for much, eh?)
~ take Ruby to visit my friend when she has her baby in October

That's achievable... right?

Well, now that I've got it down on paper (or screen) I'll have to do it won't I?! But let's look on the bright side, there's quite a bit of crafting included on that list. I better get started!

Do you make September resolutions? Please share!

***
I linked this post up at Sarah's Monday Club
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Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Baby Diaries: 5 months


You are 5 months!

That's nearly 6 months! Which is half a year!

I can not believe how fast time flies and that we've had you for such a significant period of time. But at the same time, I can't remember a life without you.

You've learnt to put your face to the side, so you no longer face-plant the carpet when trying to crawl. This makes for a much happier baby!

You can now spin yourself around in circles and are beginning to move backwards. I'm sure it won't be long before you're crawling. We can tell, you're desperate to get moving!

You weigh 11lb 5oz. Still a slow gainer, so much so that we have to take a trip to the doctors on Tuesday to get you checked out. I'm sure all will be fine though. They just need to look at your dad to see that you take after him!


We've managed to forge some semblance of a routine which has given me my evenings back! I'm looking forward to being able to sit and knit, or blog. But I do miss you upstairs and sometimes sit in my room listening to your baby monitor music so I'm still close by. It's quite relaxing actually!

You now sleep in your very own cot, which looks massive in comparison to your tiny frame! But you have settled in there fine, and are quite happy to sleep there so really it's just down to mummy to put you back after your night feed and you'll stay there all night (it doesn't always happen!).

You are getting very good at making happy sounds, and you have worked out that it is a good way of getting our attention and ensuring that we interact with you.

You're now starting to spend time away from me. I leave you with Nana for a few hours at a time so I can get back into a work schedule. I'm never far away but it still feels strange that I'm not looking after you. We just make sure I'm close by at feed time.

Next week we're going to start you on Rusks and Baby Rice. My breastfeeding days are numbered so I'm making the most of them while I can!

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