Monday, December 17, 2012

Knitting for fidgets

Researchers recon that people who are fidgety tend to be slimmer than people who aren't.  I am the proof that that doesn't work for everyone.
I didn't used to be "delightfully Rubenesque" as one acquaintance described me (thanks Nat, that gave me nooooo end of confidence!). M. is convinced that I could model for Lely's Venus which sits in his favorite room (wonder why) in the British Museum ; not having recently seen myself crouching at my bath I can neither deny or approve of his assessment.
I also didn't used to be fidgety. I don't find it difficult to sit peacefully or to relax but I do have difficulty having empty hands. I sometimes fill the gap between my fingers with sketching, especially when I'm supposed to be looking attentive in meetings. **blush**
  Knitting however is perfect. I can do it while sitting as a passenger or watching a DVD; I do it in the cinema and sometimes (awkwardly) in the bath. I will pick it up while waiting for the kettle to boil or talking on the phone. I got an indignant huff from K. as I knitted during a card game (she won btw).  M. never gets impatient when I say "Hang on- just finishing this row", never ever suggests that I could be more gainfully employing my time and is happy for me to lounge across him with my knitting in hand in the evening while he reads aloud to me. I think its because it's almost always a jumper for him on my needles.

Earlier this week I finished another jumper for M.  This one is in Rowan's gorgeously soft and luxurious (machine washable) Cashsoft in Thunder. The pattern is from the book Warm Knits, Cool Gifts which is full of stylish practical knits and the authors include loads of information about adjusting patterns to fit your needs. So for Matt's Polo I shortened the sleeves (he doesn't like rolled up sleeves) and broadened the chest to suit him.

It was nearly 8 inches longer & wider because M. decided (while it was still damp and blocking) to try it on. I went... mental.  The poor man apologised in a tiny terrified voice. It felt like that moment where Galadriel is tempted by the ring.  Combine that with my "Rubenesque" (thanks Nat) figure and it makes me feel...

Not Good.

Jo x


Todays the day

Sanity escapes me as our belongings are
 rifled and settled into paper, boxes and bubble wrap.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Model of a charmless town.

We live in a town which on the surface looks like quite a lovely, woodsy sort of place full of niches to explore and what appears to be a community.  It has a nice population size of about 10,000.  People can be seen cycling, jogging and walking on the many many many paths that riddle dozens of parks and woodlands. There is an area with a man made series of streams and ponds and the whole town is surrounded on three sides by woodlands then fields.

Before we lived here (and M. just travelled here to work) M. called it Teletubbie Land because of the manufactured pond and hills that form the heart of the town. Really that should have given us ample warning about the real nature of the place we decided to move to- however temporarily. Now M. just calls it Unfriendly.

It has a smallish chain supermarket, a Dominoes Pizza, Subway, several hairdressers/beauticians, estate agents and a corner store which also hosts the Post office. There are a few cafes which cater to the lunch time needs of white collar workers.

If you were to wander through this town the first clue comes in the fact that Teletubbie Land falls in the middle of an area which consumes half the town and is just office blocks, headquarters and car parks (which you can see lit up all night long from inside). Next you will see the huge building project which is an enormous (for British standards) shopping center. Another clue comes when you realize that you practically have to accost people on the street to have your "hello", "good afternoon" or smile returned by the numerous cycling/jogging/walking people you pass.
 Next you realize none of the woodlands are managed- even the ones owned by the forestry commission have almost no undergrowth due to over crowding and lack of good husbandry. You cross only the occasional dog walker in the woodlands and when you look around only the squirrels appear to be thriving in this nature riddled countryside.
If you were to wander slightly further into the fields you would see... nothing. They are not grazed, or plowed or ostensibly used for any purpose whatsoever. 
That's not to say it has no charms or benefits at all: we see a lot of deer, practically daily, and there is apparently a LOT of hedgehogs as this autumn I've seen at least 4x more than I've ever seen in the rest of my 15 years living in England.

But how is it that a town perched in such a brilliant location with an abundance of resources and possibilities can remain so very charmless?
I believe it has a lot to do with the town's history and is a symptom of our times and follies.

When we tell people where we live the universal reply is "Oh yes- we always liked to go shopping there." The story is this: Whiteley's one claim to fame was an outlet center which drew shoppers and was poorly managed. The outlets were demolished in 2011ish and over the last year a new shopping center has been growing in its place with a lot of signs announcing its opening in the Spring of 2013.

I recently overheard a woman looking at the building works telling her son who was about 4 years old. "I'm so excited! I'm going to go [to the shopping center] every Saturday once it opens!" when the boy asked the obvious "Why?" the woman said with great conviction "Because that's what you do for FUN on Saturdays!"
An acquaintance told me "Oh we are so excited we can't wait for the shopping center to open this spring!"

We were astonished when we learned from a farmer at an agricultural show that a few decades ago Whiteley was a large Dexter cattle farm which has since been developed into the ghastly waiting room it is now. There are no chickens in the yards, no chimneys smoking from roofs and no farmers markets in the area. Sadly I believe we temporarily live in a community whose purpose and ethos is based on convenience and consumerism which is wholly dependant on nonrenewable sources of energy and lacks the simple human interactions which make a place a home.

What will we be left with in 50 years if this is the world we are grooming for our children?

xx Jo

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yarn along and Here we go again...

At present it is a daily struggle not to hyperventilate or allow my head to explode.  I'm not too worried about the head-explosion because the mess will just blend in with the carpets but I am a bit of a whiner when I pass out and get a bruise.

This is our living room as of this morning:

M. has gotten a job in California and is headed out tomorrow for his medical and to hammer out the details of starting dates etc (breath, breath, breath) and he will- God willing- be moving all our life across the ocean sometime around the end of December. I will follow with the children mid January (breath in, and out, breath, breath, breath).
Knitting at the moment is doubly important to me. I use it as a kind of  meditation: I'm not a fast knitter. When I sit and knit with my mother-in-law she has basically been knitting like a machine and has finished her project within a week and I am gently click clicking away on my project month after month. It means that I am forever growing my projects until I get bored and start another one. So I don't finish nearly as many as I start but I'm sure it keeps my blood pressure down and my brains off the carpet.
Growing on my needles at present is Delphine in a lovely golden-mustard coloured Rowan yarn. I own the book French Girl Knits which I ordered off Amazon on the weight of Delphine alone. In all honesty there are only three patterns in it I would wear so it was a bit of a wasted purchase but I adored  Delphine and Paloma so much I kept the book.
The yarn is Rowan Pima cotton DK in Dijon. Its so beautifully soft and has a lovely drape you don't always get from 100% cotton yarns. Delphine works up really fast. I had 10 cm on the needles (its knitted in the round) after just two days of picking it up when I had the chance. As lace patterns go it is super duper easy- a 4 row repeat with rows 2 and 4 being the same. The only hitch really was figuring out what the UK equivalent of 'Sportweight' yarn is which the lovely and very knowledgeable ladies in the knitting department of John Lewis were able to help with.

So here is me- going onward with my wonderful and terrifying adventure. Knitting in one hand and packing tape in the other.

Xx Jo

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Art night.

Tuesday night is my art night. I pack up my easel and canvas, grab my paints and brushes and head out to a nearby secondary school where I sit and chat and laugh and paint and get tips on how to use acrylics. In this case (like last year) this particular course was a gift from M. for my birthday. I like experiencing learning and is some ways it is a bit of an addiction. I pick up new hobbies quite frequently, get passably proficient then move on... its probably not a great thing to admit but I can do a lot of things only a little well. Occasionally some craft or art will meet all my needs for creativity and functionality and then I feel the need to do it all the time (knitting... my fingers itch for needles when idle). 
I paint in watercolour intermittently- usually to make gift pictures for family and friends ( a painting for M. of London South Bank can be seen on the wall here) and I love colour pencil painting (here) but I have been actively terrified of acrylics and oils. The solidity of the paint as you put on the canvas gives me a quaking of anxiety, feeling that whatever I'm seeing is going to look like a toddler sploshed it on. M. ever the pragmatist thought I really aught to learn to use acrylics so I can paint his mum a birthday present that is not in watercolour (they already have a watercolour of mine on the wall from a birthday gift in 2011for his dad).
The point of this post is not however the painting, or the picture, but the BOX. Ohhhhh yes the scrumptious little wooden beauty that houses my paints and brushes.
Also a gift from M. procured at our local car-boot sale for an astonishingly tiny price. Though I didn't know it was for me I was there and listened in awe when the vendor quoted such a ridiculously low price M. didn't have the heart to haggle with the poor man. It is old- no telling how old however- and it has a gorgeous patina of age which fortunately didn't wipe away entirely while M. was cleaning it up.
 My favorite bit?
The name and address of a previous owner written in an old fashioned scrawling hand on a stained, battered, peeling piece of paper stuck to the inside lid.
x Jo

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Jubilee Quilt

(drum roll please- or maybe a fairground organ like you get a British fairs)

The Jubilee Quilt!!!

(terrible photo, sorry- how do you photograph a 7 foot quilt??)
Perfect for cozy moments nestled with a hot chocolate and Pride and Prejudice while the rain taps against the windows and the sun has put itself to bed early for the night.
It has also been perfect for procrastinating doing things like ironing M.'s work shirts and hoovering the carpets! Not to mention making dinner for the family or washing my hair!
This is my first quilt in about eight years.  Note the lack of piecing... ahem... I chickened out of that bit.  However also note the plethora of applique! I started with one patch (the Corgi in a crown) and enjoyed it soooooooo much I had to just keep going. Then there is the freestyle machine embroidery... Kristy Alsop called it the "crack cocaine of the sewing world" and I totally agree. I settled with my new sewing machine, a piece of fabric and an embroidery hoop thinking I would just have a go at a little machine sketching and five minutes later I had finished the London sky line block! Its satisfyingly quick and creative, allowing a sense of freedom you rarely get when sat before a sewing machine!
A London Mayor
A Wee Highland Cow

Since we decided to move to the states I've been feeling nostalgic about all the little things in the UK that I will miss. Thus The Jubilee Quilt was born of all those little lovely quirky that I will miss. For example:  what other place can you find a cow that looks just like the Mayor of the capital city? Seriously.
So The Jubilee Quilt is full of things I love: Big Ben, postage stamps with the queen's profile, red squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, castles, post boxes, red phone booths and the London sky line. 
It has Highland Cows too but (sorry Boris Johnson) no Mayor of London.
 I've adored and continue to adore two special little critters in the quilt. LOOK at those! Does anything get cuter than a red squirrel's tufty ears? Like armadillos you see hedgehogs more often spread several feet across the road but this little guy looks just like the fellow that wandered into our garden a few weeks ago. I picked him up (much to M.'s horror as he moans "They have mites!!") and he squirmed then stopped and just stared at me. When I put him down- cause they are surprisingly prickly- he did this funny little "keep your eyes on the predator" shuffle away from me. So that is what my quilted hedgehog is up to.
It took a little thinking to decide what time Big Ben should read right in the center of the quilt. In the end it was M.'s very clever idea for it to read 8:12. It is not a significant time of day for us for any reason but it makes a tiny little puzzle for those of you who would like to work it out.
x Jo

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The patients recovering.

Thank you to everyone who kindly enquired and sent cards and flowers. We are really happy to report that Mrs. Moo is physically recovering very well from her emergency operation!
She is currently recovering in the very best toy hospital in the south of England. As you can see her bed has been made up with one of my best PIP Studio tea towels, Jessica assured me this was vital to Mrs. Moo's mental health.
Sadly Mrs. Moo's mental states is still very vulnerable. As she was being rushed to the surgeon after her pelvic floor collapsed the emergency crews neglected to cover her and unfortunately Mrs. Moo heared the surgeon's cries of "Mr. Moo" as her bean bag dangled out her bottom.
We are still in discussion with our solicitors as to whether or not to take the case to court.
x Jo

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September means birthdays.

Bath, Sommerset 
At last I am in the digital world again properly. After I sent our computer off for a repair in May (ages ago!!!!) It came back months later- broken. Seriously. I had a little tantrum and threw my toys out of the pram. There was much argy-bargy and pointing blame between the store which handled the repair and the company who manufactured and repaired the computer; eventually (another month later) one of them took responsibility and gave us a credit note for a new computer. So here I sit typing at our new shiny laptop.    I t   h a s    v e r y    w i d e    s p a c e d    k e y s     s o     I     m a k e    m a n y     t y p i n g     e r r o r s ! ! !
The long and short of it is I have a computer so I also now have photos!! Taken on my lovely new Canon EOS 600D (thank you to my sweetheart for that BIG treat after I... ahem... never mind what happened to my old camera).
It has been such a crazy busy summer. We've been all over and done so much I would have liked to share our adventures with you but I don't have the energy to make it interesting. So instead I will bore you with just whats been going on here in the last week... or so.

 J. and I both have our birthdays in September. One of us has turned 9, the other of us has kindly asked that her age not be published to the world. I will leave the guessing up to you.  Birthday cakes in the last year (due to popular demand) have almost exclusively come in adorable cup cake holders which look like tea-cups. Our cakes are always served on my great grandmother's glass cake stand which was a gift from my mother when I got married.

J wanted to have her birthday at Alice's Adventure Wonderland which is not so local now we have moved but lots of fun. K is too grown up for it all (though she spent many hours trying and retrying to work her way to the middle of the maze) and E is pushing the boundaries of finding it fun. The benefit of AAW (Alice's Adventure Wonderland) is that its never full and there are no queues so the girls run from one ride to another with a look of maniacal pleasure in making the most of every second. The most important thing was that we all enjoyed it and we enjoyed being together.
Other than that there has been a lot of quilting and sewing and untill this morning and very little homeschool. We are back to it today and it feels great to have a morning at home just focoused on home and learning.
Matt has had an interview for a job in CA and has just this afternoon had an invitation for another interview soooooo.... things are moving and in the right direction. His visa is approved, the qualification reciprosity is done and is better than we expected. All we are really waiting on is a job and to run down our tennancy agreement on this house before we move. We have to remind ourselves daily of the principles of  Matthew 6:24 and not to try to map out the uncertainties.
x Jo 


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Smells Funny Round Here...

Our move has been accomplished with some tears and many many many funny moments

Settling into a rental property is ... odd. 

First there is the smell: not Bad as such- it just smells weird like someone else's space.

Then there is the furniture: (this house came furnished) we are the proud renters of a lovely comfy pair of recliner couches. They are gorgeous really. Brown leather, soft and supportive... BUT... the recliners are electric! Whose stupid idea was it to put electricity in a COUCH?!? So not only are you tempted to sit all day but you aren't even required to twitch a muscle to recline back into a comfy slobby slouch or even a sweet sleepily flat repose! I can feel my muscles withering.

Third is the carpets: Im not a really fussy person, I would be happy to live in a shack with logs to sit on (so long as I wasn't asked to be Cold) but the carpets in this house are eye sizzlingly loud. You could fry eggs on my skull after looking at these carpets for 60 seconds.

So there are a few safe ways to view the following photo: look from just the corner of your eye, construct a pin-hole camera, or (for the brave) look quickly before averting your gaze.

I am sorry.

Jo x

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hairy lipbalm and other treasures

Yeah so... still here. Saturday we move and the following Friday we complete.
I forgot over the last 5 years what a pain it is to pack an entire home! I also forgot not to hoard stuff... like: 
does a person need 200 balls of wool?
and wouldn't it be far better to chose a sewing project before buying fabric!
oh yeah and btw: you don't need any more pretty notebooks!

Please don't mistake me I don't intend to give up any of those items (besides the token few to make M. feel better) but I must try to remember!

Today was the day we dismantled the girl's bunk beds which are three high. The bottom bunk sits only millimeters off the floor and has (unbeknownst to me) been collecting an interesting array of curiosities, rather like the song the Ompa-loompas sing for Varruca Salt but this one is about K. and E.:

A hairy lipbalm no one wants, 
a smallish piece of croissant.
Lego bricks and playdough blocks,
tiny gears scavenged from clocks.
A bookmark and a doll's arm
a long forgotten bracelet charm.
These disgusting curiosities
have my children left for me.
X Jo

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hold on Tight

Wow. Things are going fast now. Too fast for me to feel comfortable or settled. I am a careful, planned out sort of introvert. I like to know what I'm doing today, tomorrow and next month. House moving is not compatible with my natural tendencies. I have a struggle with Matthew 6 vs. 33. I remind myself daily to relax, just breath and God will look after us all one way or the other.

Still I waver between packing everything, panicking its not going to go through and fretting over where we are going to move to.  We've had so many car boot sales they all know us there now and complete strangers ask how the sale is going and when we leave.

 M has grand plans that we could camp through to the beginning of August.... Ahem. I could see it working only if the rain decides to grace some other country side. At the moment it seems like a ludicrous idea full of potholes but I would do it, if it meant sleeping next to M every night rather than living 100 miles away with his folks while he rooms down here.

So our home is a quarter packed, a quarter sold, a quarter mess and a quarter chaos. If I don't post for a little while either I've moved house and we are broadband-less or a towering pile of boxes finally toppled over and squashed me.

X Jo

Thursday, May 3, 2012

London Stitching Sneak Preview

 Having completed two projects on the trot did not mean I get to start on ideas I have set aside in an enormous "I want to be doing these" dream list... no. Oh no.
 I also have a pile of half complete projects which I've started in fits of boredom (half way through the back piece of a sweater), or temper (ripping out two thirds of the back piece of a sweater) or in a panic (certain I've just ruined the back piece of a sweater and have to put it away and just not think about it). Anyhow... I have a basket which sits in ignominy in the corner of our living room looking at me balefully with its accusations of neglect. As our house move is coming on I rather feel the need to complete some of these projects before evil forces beyond my control send them to the Island of Misfit Projects.

This particular one is so exciting and huge- I didn't realize what I was biting off when I started it. I got a bee in my bonnet last July looking at these stunning papercut maps by Famille Summerbelle. I am about 1/3 of the way through it but now all the preliminaries are out of the way its coming on much faster.

It is- for those who don't recognize it- a map of London (she says hoping people do recognize it... otherwise its pointless). I started with a regular map- of the tourist variety- with a nice size enlargement of the center of London. The difficulty with my map is that I wanted to combine the structure of a ridged street map with the artistry of doodled hand embroidery.  It is working but slowly. I am learning bits of history and fable and incorporating it into the detail of my map as I fancy. Unfortunately it means I don't know which streets I want to show and which I will be happy to disappear under a doodle before I get there.  I traced the map onto projector acetate with a permanent marker and then the experimental stage began!

 Firstly it became clear doing one small bit at a time without the map in-situ was resulting a a distorted map so I went back to the beginning. I tried seamstresses chalk, water soluble ink, pencil, etc etc etc for transferring a light version of the streets onto my white cotton. Eventually I settled on stitching all the streets with one thread onto the cotton.It would be easier with a light box- I however did it by eye with my acetate as a over-lay.
  I am enjoying it and it is easy to just stop for a few minutes and add a little bit more to it. It makes a very nice sitting with M. in the evening project as he likes to read aloud to me and I like to be read to but loath my hands being idle.

I think this could be a great way to map your own neighbourhood, or favorite coastline, or your own house with little doodles of your favorite things stitched in! I'm wondering about getting the girls to do just their own rooms in a 12 in embroidery hoop as part of a home school textile project.

This little bit is one of my favorite sections. I love China Town and Leicester Square, its always bustling, you can find really great food and the National  Gallery is just around the corner!

 X Jo

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cough-Cough... Atchooo


Sorry I've been away so long. We had a week away in South Wales visiting M's family and since then I've had a rotten cough and cold. I've been feeling very sorry for myself indeed!
However- I've gotten a LOT done in that time. E's knot cardigan is finished! I lengthened the pattern to make it hip length and left off the sleeve finishing as I thought it made the finished cardie fall strangely on the arms. Esther loves it and as it is more K's size than E's she is constantly defending her territory.
And then came this!!! I finished my first colour pencil (cp) painting. This was done entirely with wax based prismacolour pencils and many parts of it are over worked. I don't have the meticulous had require to create a really great cp painting but for a first attempt its not too bad.  

Or at least not bad enough that I wont let M hang it on our walls.

 I owe my love of this medium entirely to my cousin's genius. She has so much skill and beauty in her hands I cannot get anywhere near her artistry but she did encourage me to try. I would mention her by name if I didn't think she would be entirely horrified!

 CP painting is amazing- I would like to try my hand at water soluble pencils at some point but it's quite a challenge to get to grips with the wax based ones. The frame is from Ikea... I love their frames! This one came with the white matte and I cut the grey matte myself (as the painting was too small for this frame aperture but too big for the frame size down).


X Jo

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Monday To-Do List and BIG Plans

tea, iron, sew, tea, chocolate, knit, tea, cook, draw and did I mention tea?

That's it pretty much. Its been fairly manic around here so I'm looking forward to a day of pleasure; except for that big iron in the top-left which is not my favorite chore but when your husband decides the wardrobe and drawers must be malfunctioning... needs must.

The knitting is a jumper I'm making for E. The pattern is from the March 2011 copy of Lets Knit (not a magazine I usually buy but the pattern is sooooo delicious!).  It has lovely little knots (the photo isn't as clear as I would have liked) which give the fabric a beautiful texture and grain. And the yarn really is quite special. It is Sirdar Crofter DK in Granary 57. It knits up with a beautiful fair-isle style finish which looks more clear on smaller items than this. I've had so many people comment on it as I knit! I'm thrilled with the finish- a light summer weight with a lovely stitch definition. I will try to remember to post a final picture when I finish.

 I've let the cat out of the bag properly on Facebook now so I guess I can safely say that our plans are to move to the USA.  M has a greencard application pending which we have to wait for the next step. Our house is under offer and on the verge of exchange of contracts. So we are going to move a lot closer to M's work until we are within a couple months of emigrating, then we will (thanks to the very generous and gracious kindness of my in laws) live with M's parents until we have a set moving date.  At present it looks to be early 2013 God willing.

I can't wait. Literally cannot wait. I want to be able to go down the road and knock on a door and find myself a home where I know I will be welcome and loved. Where there is no tension or fear of judgement. I want to be able to talk about my family and loved ones with other people who know and love them too. I've missed so many years of being with them all I know going home now will be very different and nothing will bring my Mom or brother back but I can make the most of those moments I have left with the rest of the people I hold dear. This year can't go quickly enough for me.

X Jo

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sunshine, Friendship and Cake

There are some weeks when all the most wonderful things come together. They are unusual in their beauty and pleasure. Time passes slowly as every minute is filled with fellowship and the bliss of being with great friends. This last week has been so brilliantly memorable I expect it will take us a while to wear out the warm glow left behind.

So monday through friday went like this:

cooking, sunshine, cooking, cooking, sunshine, sleep

sunshine, reading, friends, sunshine, walk, play, icecream, sunshine, games, sleep.

sunshine, beach, picnic, sunshine, beach, rollerblades, sushine, park, ribs, games, sleep.

 sunshine, pancakes, gifts, Longleat, picnic, sunshine, play, fun, animals, Alice's tea, games, sleep.

sunshine, park, sunshine, goodbye, misssing, sleep.

X Jo