Some recent making for the school fete.  Pompom garlands inspired by Jorth’s.  I’ve become rather addicted to making pompoms, so great for using up small bits of yarn and op shop buys, and is there anything more cheerful than a woolly pompom?  They found their way on to hair elastics too.

Some more crocheted star garlands.  I have even taken to making the stars while driving to work, that is while I am stuck in traffic.  Makes a tedious commute more satisfying.

And hama bead necklaces.  I’ve been wearing one that my boy made me and got lots of good comments.  I also made a few scarves like the ones here.

I’ve always thought that when selling hand-made goods you never get paid for the time involved, so it’s not something I have dreams of doing full-time, but it was nice to have an excuse to make a few things to sell in this context.  And fetes are the place to pick up bargain hand-made goods.

I’ve been finding it difficult over the last few months to find the time and head space for adding to this space, my scrapbook of little things that make life happy.  My adorable twinnies are proving very challenging of late, and I seem to be leaping from cleaning up one disaster to dealing with yet another tantrum.  I was somewhat comforted to learn that 3 1/2 is an especially difficult age where littlies are seeking to learn through pushing the boundaries.  Hard.  Oh yes, and I have two of them.  Add testosterone-boosted Mr Six into the picture, and it’s not pretty.  Not usually one to embrace self-help books, I’ve been finding this one by turns frightening, comforting, challenging and compelling.  At least I know that it is a stage, and this too shall pass.  I’m just hopeful that I can deal with it in the most positive way possible.

But now, in a brief moment of respite as said children are frolicking in the botanic gardens with the usually shift-working Mr Foxy, I can add some snippets to the scrapbook.

Recently I welcomed the year of the dragon under the assumption that this will be a great year for me, having been born in the year of the dragon.  I was keen to mark the occasion and forced everyone to visit the new year celebrations at Box Hill.  Amongst the music and bustling stalls, we found respite at the Fo Guang Yuan activity table.  While the kids coloured in dragon puppets, I learnt how to make paper lotus flowers.

It had been so long since I had made anything, yet alone learned a new trick.  I just had to make more.  I used three kinder squares cut in half, but the instructions found here used an A4 sheet cut up, so it would be great for recycling used paper too.

In other news I have caught the Pinterest bug.  So dangerously inspiring.  My excuse? Bookmarking ideas for our new home.  Yes, it is really happening and we have the plans to prove it.  I’m also enjoying this magazine with its cute ideas and lack of reliance on costly items.

The last couple of months have been trying.  Somebody or other sick constantly.  Then we were burgled.  I’ve always been perversely proud that we’ve never had anything anyone would want to steal.  But then there was the laptop, so away it went, along with a few pieces of jewellery.  Things of monetary value that I never considered as such.  My grandmother’s engagement ring and enamel locket, the gold locket I got for my 21st birthday, and some gold earrings Mr. Foxy commissioned for me from a contemporary jeweller about 20 years ago.  The loss of my grandmother’s pieces is hardest to bear.

Then, unexpectedly, we bought a house!  Our own house, a proper one with a proper yard!  Despite looking at properties on and off for the last three years, I had just begun to worry that I would never have my own home – anything suitable was unattainable, anything affordable was unsuitable.  The elation of knowing that we don’t have to scour the real estate advertisements every week and spend weekends rushing to open inspections!

There’s one small hitch … we need to build on to it to make it big enough.  The prospect is daunting, but exciting …

A fine winter’s morning

+ lots of adventures to be had

+ 16 guests (as well as a smattering of siblings)

+ 24 cupcakes

+ 20 chocolate crackles

+ 18 savory muffins

+ not enough fairy bread and copious sandwiches

+ various chips, dips, vegetable and fruit platters

+ cake

= 6

(And a celebration for me of six years of mothering my rowdy, sensitive boy.  Long may he enjoy tree-climbing as well as computer games, and fairy tales as well as dvds.)

A sixth birthday is on the horizon, and bringing with it a big party.  There were so many friends to invite, that it just had to be the whole class.  I’m hoping that a local adventure playground can provide the entertainment, and a (hopefully very) little effort with the catering will make it special enough.

A castle cake was chosen by the birthday boy from a library book, and simple papercut embellished invitations have been distributed.  And there has been flicking through magazines and books for inspiration.  

So much of the food I associate with parties is based on a nostalgic view of such occasions, things that were special treats when I was a kid.  Fairy bread, cocktail frankfurts, butterfly cakes, sausage rolls.  I was excited to come across an updated recipe for chocolate crackles in last year’s Donna Hay Kids’ magazine, and had to try it at once.  Although it substitutes the traditional copha and cocoa with butter and chocolate, it still has that unmistakable texture and the contrast between smooth chocolately mass and airy crispness.  Yum …

Chocolate Crackles

(Here I halved the original recipe and filled about 20 small patty pans (the size down from the large muffin cases), and used a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, as opposed to all dark in the recipe, to make it more kid-friendly.  I also changed the method a little in dealing with melting the chocolate.)

  • 50 g dark chocolate
  • 50 g milk chocolate
  • 50 g butter
  • 1/6 cup golden syrup
  • 2 cups rice bubbles

Melt butter and golden syrup in a largish saucepan over a low heat.  When melted (but not boiling) add broken up chocolate and remove from heat.  Allow chocolate to melt into the mixture for a while then mix gently until combined.  Mix in rice bubbles until well coated.  Fill patty pans with teaspoonfuls of the mixture.  Refridgerate for 1 hour, or until set.

(Edited to add image from second batch of this recipe.)

Blogging has been a bit thin on the ground here, and knitting not much better, but there are a few small projects I haven’t shared here yet.

I couldn’t resist making the Kelp Scarf, designed by the lovely Michelle. (Ravelry link).   An organic, sculptural piece that can be looped around the neck a few or several times to form a longer necklace or snug cowl, this was a great quick and simple project.  The yarn is Lincraft Splendour, and I used the entire 50g ball with just a couple of inches to spare – most satisfying.  Such a soft and squishy yarn.  I’m not normally a fan of variegated yarns for myself, but the long, gradually changing colour sections and rich tones of this yarn, almost Noro-like, are appealing to me.

Quite some time ago I managed to complete two little tops for the twinnies.  The pattern is the Girl’s cap-sleeved spring shirt by Shelly Floyd. (Ravelry Link).  I had downloaded this pattern ages ago, as I loved the idea of this being knit continuously in the round in one piece – no seams!  I was worried I’d get sick of the rounds and rounds of stockingette, but this wasn’t the case, and the pieces grew quickly.

They are knit in Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 8plyin Honeydew and New Ochre.  I was worried that I wouldn’t like knitting with this yarn, as it is quite unyielding and string-like at first glance.  Not tactile and bouncy like wool.  However I was won over and understood why so many other knitters rave about this yarn.  It did produce a surprisingly soft fabric and wasn’t hard on the hands at all.  As this yarn isn’t very lofty, I didn’t like to go up a needle size at the body section as the pattern instructs, so increased 12 stitches at this point.

I’m happy that these cool little tops will get wear next summer too, as I was, as always, generous with the sizing.

Then there was a new little baby girl in London who required some handmade knitwear.  I actually started this before I knew it was for a girl, hence the gender-neutral orange.  The pattern is the Easy Baby Cardigan by Diane Soucy (Ravelry link), knit in Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8ply in Pumpkin.  Such a great little basic pattern, and again seamless apart from the top of the hood.  The hood seemed to take forever, but once I got to the raglan increases, things seemed to move along quickly.  Easily completed from a lovely BWM 200g ball, with enough left over for an improvised crochet dress for my orange-loving girl’s own baby, who returned sans attire from a visit to creche.

As much as I would like to show off some tasteful easter crafting, I must admit that my new obsession is Hama beads (or their Swedish cousin, Pyssla).  You painstakingly put coloured beads on a pegboard in a design, iron it to fuse the beads together, and you end up with a flat plastic beady thing.  Although the end product may seem somewhat dubious, it is incredibly addictive, and even my rambunctious five-year old loves making these.  We have recently made a suite of easter decorations together, and he has loved coming up with ideas for what to make.  It’s so lovely to see him quietly concentrating as he chooses and places the beads.  It’s obviously good for developing fine motor skills, but I think there is also that calm purposefulness that you get with knitting or any other repetitive craft.

For me there’s something comforting about the regular grid structure, and creating simplified and geometric patterns and designs.  Maybe it appeals to me in the same way that knitting fairisle does.  Perhaps Rex, who often gets frustrated when drawing when his pictures don’t come out how he imagines them, finds this structure allows him to control the forms he wants to create.   And working alongside the usually rowdy boy, quietly and calmly, is such a delight, as is witnessing his satisfaction at creating something. 

In other Easter making, I hope to get around to some egg dyeing before Sunday.  The pashka is in the ‘fridge and the chocolate is at the ready.  With more planning, I would have liked to create a version of Soile’s Easter wreath, which I think is so wonderfully witty, if faintly disturbing.

Fragrant green tea and fruit toast for an unhurried breakfast on the back step.

A thoughtful and generous package from the lovely Bells.  I recently won a contest to celebrate the anniversary of Bells’s wonderful blog, and was lucky enough to receive a perfect little project bag made by her own fair hands (I love the fabric combination), and a skein of the most swoon-worthy yarn from Knitabulous.  It is the 50/50 silk and wool blend 4 ply in Summer pudding, a lovely subtle rhubarby red.  What a glorious shawl this will make – maybe this one …  Thanks so much, Bells!

Shells collected from the seaside on the weekend by my boy.  I love how he marvelled over each one, no matter how imperfect, noticing the colours or sheen.

Hardly timely news, but young Mr. R started school this year.  There were no tears, just much excitement, pride in a new uniform and school bag, and a fair bit of uncertain clinginess.  I have always worried about this, as I tend to remember the less positive aspects of my own school days, but I feel reassured that current schooling methods are more sensitive to, well, sensitive kids.  What I wasn’t counting on was the extent of the change to our day-to-day life and routines.  Apart from the hectic double drop off before work, there is a whole new community that we are part of.  Kind of wonderful, but also kind of exhausting.

Went to places full of history and folklore

stayed in the city and by the sea

found cushions to match our outfits

and travelled home through places of nostalgia and remembrance.

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January 2022