Monday, December 26, 2011


Argh...we've been watching Dollhouse, which has taken this long (2 years!) to arrive on New Zealand television (but at 9.30pm when I'd normally be gearing down for the night).

I found it quite dark and sometimes a real downer because I hated the concept of men and women essentially being pimped out to rich people to fulfill their fantasies. It was also kinda confusing - characters seemed to disappear with no explanation and others changed from being bad guys to not-so-bad guys and back again suddenly.

If it weren't for the fact that I was browsing a Joss Whedon magazine (a run-down of every episode of every tv series he's ever done!), I would not have realised that the tv network has been showing us the episodes in a completely mixed up order. Like, Epitaph Two coming right after Epitaph One - when they are each the final episodes to 2 entirely separate seasons. That might explain all the sudden disappearances and character changes!

Now I'm gonna have to order the DVDs from overseas so I can watch them in the proper order.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going public-er

I just spent an hour uploading my knitting projects to Ravelry. It was very satisfying to revisit my successes (my failures having nearly all been unravelled so there are no photos) and to have another brag about them.

Not that I'm saying you have to revisit them with me. Because I haven't figured out how you'd do that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I think this means that the camera DOES lie

My recent passport photo has been haunting me ever since I first laid eyes on that horrid image. How could I have aged so much since the last one, taken five years ago?
I toyed with the idea that maybe I shouldn't have grown out my fringe after all.
And I should have done it on a day when I washed my hair, for maximum volume.

Then I decided to have 'em done again, only this time I went to the pharmacy where I'd got my photos done five years ago. See, this pharmacy doesn't insist on you putting your hair behind your ears.

And you know what? I think I look just five years older after all.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

If Santa was a knitter...

I would get a year's subscription to Interweave Knits and Knitscene magazines, and every member of my family would receive hand-knitted expressions of love from me for Christmas.

If the boy reads this blog post there's a chance of the first one coming true.
And I'm working on the other one - this pair of heavily cabled cushions are for my brother and my sister in law. The colour of the yarn is more of a ginger colour than how it looks in the photo.

And this vest is for my mum. Yes, it is mid-summer. But she feels cold a lot.
The kids and the boy will be getting something non-knitted, because they prefer toys...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Surprisingly edible gingerbread dinosaurs

TLM brought home a wee notice asking for help with her school's fundraising sweet stall - as you do.
I didn't fancy spending 4 hours of my Saturday selling cakes and biscuits, because if it turned out to be a windy day my eyes would be bloodshot all day.
So I decided to use the dinosaur cookie cutters that TLM got for Christmas last year and make biscuits. The theory is, if you can make 'em look pretty they won't notice if they don't taste good.
Then, of course, I mentioned it at work and next thing I know there's an Alison Holst recipe for gingerbread men on my seat.
Turns out, it makes a very nice biscuit.

The photos are of the proportion I kept for home consumption, so you can't see that I made Tyranosaurus Rexes to go with the Stegosauruses (which, to be honest, look more like chameleons).

We went by the stall on Saturday (after voting in the general election), and it looked like most of 'em had been sold. A hit!

p.s. I won't copy the recipe for you because 1) it would probably break copyright laws, and 2) I can't possibly be bothered doing all that typing. But I think it was in last week's Dominion Post if you're interested.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

a seedling girl scout

I really want TLM to learn self-reliance and how to survive in the bush.
I want her to have a wider circle of friends and I want her to have opportunities to go camping.

So last Tuesday evening I took her to a local Pippins group meeting. (Pippins is the section of Girl Guides for girls aged 5 and 6.)

(I did think of calling the Scouts too, as an alternative, since they take girls now. But in the end I was too lazy to make that extra phone call.)
And she loved it. They went tree-planting at a neighbouring school, sangs songs, went for a rainforest walk and a ride on a flying fox.

Apparently they don't do the knot-tying and camping until Brownies (for the next age group up) - which is okay - and it's not God-fearing as it would have been in the old days - which is a relief. They might even teach her to crochet animals (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Never get your passports photos taken on bad hair day

We're planning on visiting the boy's family next year, in the UK. Hooray!

But then I realised that my passport, and TLM's have both expired (because the powers that be - bastards! - decided that NZ passports only last 5 years).

Which meant that it was time for my 5-yearly photo.

It probably wouldn't have made a difference if I was having a good hair day.

Maybe it's the harsh light, or the fact that I blank out anything truly ugly I see when I look in the mirror, or the fact that the photos are so severely cropped that there's absolutely no hope your fabulous outfit will distract the viewer from seeing your inglorious flaws.
But, ye gads I was shocked.

You know how certain sects recruit new members by offering free personality tests, whose purpose is to expose (or make up) all your terrible character flaws?

Well, I reckon if Botox-ers and cosmetic surgeons offered a free passport photo service, they'd become Bill Gates-level billionaires. Because when I returned to my desk I started looking up anti-aging products...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

not so gross domestic product

I've been left alone at home this morning - the boy has taken TLM out for breakfast at McD's and who-knows-what.
I could have spent my morning cleaning the house, which is what I did last time they went out without me.

This time, I've been productive in a more enjoyable way - after patching one of TLM's may knee-holed leggings, I set about refashioning a jumper of mine.
There are actually two of them - same style, different colours - which I bought last winter when I felt like I needed a warm, non-itchy jumper. The only place selling them seemed to be Ballentynes, a place I've always felt seemed like an old-lady shop, but had the widest range of woolies in town.
These are 100% genuine acrylic - nothing flash but at least I can wear those next to my skin.

I loved the cabled neckline and the colour, but the length is pretty tragic on me, no? (Plus it's still creased from being folded up and crammed in my drawer)
 So I decided to experiment on one of them.
I cut off the ribbing at the hem, zig-zagged both raw edges and dyed it a different colour. I didn't really dye it another colour. This is just the other jumper...
 The ribbing makes a lovely cowl for next winter!
(It's probably more flattering than the jumper, even post-alteration.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Proof of my lack of fitness

It was our AGM and we had to be there at 9am.
I was running late.
"I'll give you a lift" the boy offered.
At the bottom of the hill I rememberd my cell phone was still plugged in at home, so we had to return for that.
The boy dropped me off at the bottom of the stadium steps and I thought 'Yay I'm nearly there!"
Then I got to the top of the steps and realised that about I was still about a kilometre away from the entrance...
I ran and got out of breath...walked a bit... ran and got out of breath... walked...I huffed and I puffed and I got all sweaty...

and today my muscles are sore. I even have shin splints!

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I did in the school holidays

I have been taking time off for the second week of TLM's school holidays, and am having a great time (I can't speak for TLM but I reckon she's having fun too).
Although we haven't left town, I'm definitely spending money as though we were!

After days of buying yarn, summer clothes for me and TLM, books (including Conversations with Joss Whedon), lunches and gourmet ice creams, it was no surprise when I got a low-funds alert from my bank.

Yesterday I took TLM rollerskating - it was only her second time ever but she did get to the stage of being able to roll slowly for a couple of seconds without holding onto anything. Then we spent the afternoon at the beach where TLM got most of her clothes sea-soaked, and built a weird sculpture from bits of seaweed and dead crabs.

Today will be a lower-cost day - she's spending the morning watching Horrible Histories DVDs with a friend, and in the afternoon I'll drag her to a yarn sale near the beach (and if she's lucky there'll be beach play and ice creams to follow).

Love holidays.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On turning 47 and knitting a 60's style jumper

Isn't this a groovy rug? The boy bought it last Friday when he and TLM had a school holiday day-out. It goes so nicely with my new jumper...

In case you're wondering, I knitted the jumper out of some Patons Zhivago which I had already knit into cardigans - and unravelled - twice. Yes, this is thrice-knitted acrylic yarn and it doesn't seem to have suffered to0 much in the process.

The pattern is from Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits book -  I had to add extra increases in the body to accommodate the extra centimetres in my body.

So anyway, my 47th birthday came and went with little celebration, except that for once I shouted morning tea at work (vegan choco cake and cookies from Midnight Espresso) and the boy made extra-yummy gumbo for tea, with extra prawns and scallops. Mmm...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three hottie cosies, two woolly vests and a very flattering slanted gretel tee...

Just so you know I've been keeping busy knitwise,  I've made:
  • three modified versions of the Hygge Nook hot water bottle cosy (but different because I knitted two strands of doubleknit yarn together so it would be quicker to finish, and did a central cable rather than multiple cables)
  • the Back to School vest from Fitted Knits (attempted against my better judgement, only to have it confirmed that a ribbed pullover is only slimming if you are actually slim)
  • a modified version of the Blue Alvarez stripey cabled vest ( but mostly in a paua blue Cascade 220 superwash with narrow red strips at the top, and with a completely different cable pattern. This works much better than the other vest, but it will be my last garment in a yarn thicker than doubleknit, because it's really true that chunky is as chunky does)
  • the slanted gretel tee from Interweave Knits magazine
I have no photos of the cosies because they were all presents and now reside at my brother's place and my mum's place respectively.

I have no photos of the vests because I haven't gotten around to it and I'm seriously considering unravelling the ribbed one and remaking it into something less chunkifying.

But I do have a photo of the tee.
The armholes were worryingly tight, but once I'd wetted and dried it flat they seemed to expand enough to fit my giant armpits.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Getting into the spirit of the RWC

Despite minimal interest in watching sport, I still managed to gather enough enthusiasm to decorate my portion of the office with Rugby World Cup paraphernalia. In our office we all had to blindly choose two participating countries to support, and my picks turned out to be Canada and Namibia.
The Namibian flag is really quite pretty.

Of course, you already know what the Canadian flag looks like.

They've been talking about it in all the schools, so even TLM was excited enough to watch the opening ceremony (mostly just the fireworks display).

So in the next  weeks I'll be checking to see how the All Blacks do in their games, but also supporting the Canadians and Namibians.
I bet Flagz is making tons o' money...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More style tips from Auntie Violet

Ever since socks and undies have existed, men have known that you can put off laundry day significantly by wearing these items inside out on alternate days.

We can extrapolate this to women's wear, though maybe not with undies because women tend not to like that idea.

Here's one for those of you who like your tights matt, but can't afford cashmere ones - turn the buggers inside out! This also works great if your tights are all bobbly from too many accidental turns in the washing machine.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Unseasonally warm

Today I was faced with a dilemma; when you've gone to work in boots and thick tights and the temperature surprises you with a lovely almost-summer warmth, which is worse - sweating it out in the boots and tights, or wearing the boots without the tights (and possibly still be sweaty but at least your knees will be comfortably cool)?

I decided to remove the tights. Fortunately my boots are leather lined, so my feet weren't tooooo bad. I even walked home this way, but it did feel kinda funny to be so intimate with the inner landscape of my footwear.

Though I probably wouldn't have risked it in synthetic boots.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Turning six, getting influenza and touching snow

It's been an eventful few days -  The Little Madam turned six last Thursday and had her birthday party on Saturday. It was a joint party, with her best mate at school who is her "star twin" (because they were born on the same day). The weather was kind, the kids were mostly co-operative and the animal biscuits went down a treat.

The next day was a different story though. At basketball she bopped herself on the nose with her ball, then when we played catch she got the same ball in between her fourth finger and pinky. And then she got sick.

On Monday I took her to the doctor's, where she was diagnosed with the 'flu. I'd been worried when TLM said her neck hurt, but apparently it wasn't due to meningicoccal disease - so that's good.

But once she'd had her first dose of Pamol, she was all lively and alert - enough to enjoy watching it snow (we NEVER get snow here). And now we won't have to go to Mt Ruapehu in mid-Winter for TLM's snow experience.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Knit skirt

This skirt was supposed to be the one that I found in the book Knitting it old school, full of great, tongue-in-cheek re-interpretations of old fashions. (Actually, the best thing in it was the crochet mini dress made out of multi-coloured granny squares, but I'm about 20 years too old and missing about 20 cm in leg length for that one!)

The original pattern was in pumpkin orange, with a big border of diamond shapes along the hem.
But it wasn't to be, because I ended up completely redesigning the thing to get it to fit me properly. Also, I had a hell of a time knitting those shapes without getting any puckering.
Here's a shot of my third and final attempt before giving up -
It was when I was reading Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting without tears (so apt!), that I realised what the problem was. The pattern had three different colours on the same row, with strands being carried across up to 11 stitches. My last attempt was using a stranded knitting/intarsia combination but it didn't work.
So instead, I picked a number of more traditional Fair Isle patterns to do instead - 
And here's a shot of the whole garment (pardon the weird colour effect - my iPhoto did it and I don't know how to undo it. So the above photo is a more accurate depiction of the colours.
It's a very respectable knee-length, which is another departure from the original. I might even wear it to work on Monday if it's cold enough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mug shots of the aforementioned new winter coat

 Here they are at last, photos of the coat which stole my heart and my wallet.

As you can see, the voluminousness of the body of the coat is rather awesome (as in, really big). Though that is nicely balanced by the narrow sleeves (which, strangely, are exactly the right length and size for my arms).
 And here is the back of the coat. The tag calls this coat a cape, and I guess it is - it's a cape with sleeves.

There's no way I would, on paper, wear a cape. But a swing coat  - which this is to my eyes -  I would wear.
Here's a shot of the lining. Can you see that the inside of this rather posh garment is covered in burlesque dancers?

True, it's not the coat that Gok Wan (or any other TV stylist) would have chosen for me me. But it's pretty special and keeps me cosy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

If colds could be exciting

I have the cold that TLM had last weekend, and it's a cold like no other I've ever had.
Like, for instance, the fact that my shoulders and knee joints hurt.
And my teeth hurt!
I got it on Wednesday and now, on Sunday, my teeth don't hurt any more so I can put off visiting the dentist for another few months (or years).

I'm glad that I took this week off so I could hang out with TLM during the second week of her school holidays. I'll be out of action for at least the next few days,  but it'll be nice not to have to stress about using up my sick leave when the real winter has only just set in.

Also I'm getting lots of knitting (and un-knitting) done during this time.

Thank goodness the boy is so good at looking after us!

Monday, July 18, 2011

My new winter coat

I know that, as a short and stockily built woman, the last thing I should be wearing is a massive swing jacket of thick, nubby wool which is topped off with a luxuriant faux-fur collar.

When I saw it hanging in the World shop, I loved the black and red wool fabric and oversized red and gold buttons - but the fur collar wasn't detachable and the cape-like silhouette was going to make me look like the dwarf in Don't Look Back (old movie starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, if you're under 35).

So I tried on a different coat, which was similarly floaty but too long and had giant heart-shaped pockets that didn't open at the top (they unzipped at the sides). And then, because I had nothing to lose I decided to try on the gorgeous red coat with the neck-shortening faux-fur collar and the widening cape shape.

World is not a shop I enter frequently, it being a designer shop where a skirt at 50% discount will still cost over $200 (though it will be beautiful and look like nothing else on the street). So I was unprepared for the sweetly attentive saleswoman, an older woman who knew how to talk me into buying it. She told me how much the original price was.

Suddenly the fur collar was not at all irritating, the voluminous folds "draped beautifully". I lusted after it.

Dear reader, I bought the coat.
I had to - it was, like, 60% off and a World garment.

Of course, by the time I had got it home and tried it on again, I didn't look quite as classy in it as I'd remembered.  But it is still a beautiful coat which looks really special and is wonderfully warm. I don't care that it's not completely flattering, because if I only ever wore what was flattering my wardrobe would be full of black scoopneck long-sleeve t-shirts, black tunic dresses, black tights, black shoes and a black princess-line coat (which, even though a common item, would be expensive because I'd have to have it altered to fit me). Actually, that does describe most of my wardrobe - except for the coat.

When I wear my new coat I am reminded of when I was a teenager accompanying my mother to a shop in town that specialised in real fur, leather and suede coats and jackets. We went more than once and at one point she probably had about four coats of different styles, from that one shop (she always managed to bargain the retailer down to get a good price). While most of her coats have been passed on to others, she still has one coat which gets lots of wear now that she's elderly and feels the cold.  I'm just glad no-one has tried to throw paint on her.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

The season of the lurgy

first TLM was sick. Then the boy got what she had, and languished at home for a week (yet still able to produce an impressive amount of work, considering he seemed to be near death). Now I've got what TLM and the boy had. I think. Though fingers crossed it's just going to turn out to be a short-term bout of yucky coughing.

I'm taking the day off work, but not because I'm sick. It's because TLM is sick - again. A mere fortnight after she sneezed and coughed away a wallet-full of money in unused after-school care, the poor creature is now laying about restlessly on the sofa having already vomited twice today and once yesterday.

Such is winter in our household...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The tattoo jumper

Here we go. The boy is proudly wearing his new jumper for the third time in four days! Even though it is still about 10cm too short! Mind you, he's not likely to wear it without a t-shirt underneath, so he doesn't risk any hairy-belly can't easily tell from this picture, but the design is a bit bulgy and that's probably because when I floated the black yarn behind the patterned bits, I didn't do so loosely enough. Maybe it will all sort itself out in the wash...
This is the left sleeve, pretty much identical to the right sleeve....  

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I knitted it. He wore it.

There's a myth/old wives tale/cautionary tale, that if you knit your boyfriend a jumper (sweater) you will eventually break up. I think it's okay to knit for your husband though, because they're supposedly a bit more committed.
But that's not why I haven't bothered to knit much for the boy - mainly because it takes such a long time to make something that fits a man who's more than six foot tall and has a chest that makes gay tailors swoon.
Well, I did make him that Slytherin scarf. It took about the same amount of merino yarn as two me-sized jumpers. But he wore it, and stayed.

Today, I finally finished the Tribal Sweater (or, in Kiwi, the Tattoo Jumper), the one from the Knitting with balls book.

It was too short all over so I picked up the stitches at all the hems and added a couple of inches. I can do that because the hems are in stocking stitch not rib, and they curl up anyway. Apart from that, and many attempts at knitting the big octopus-thing on the front, it went pretty well. In fact, he's wearing it right now. And he's still here.

I'll post a photo at some stage, I just have to wait for a time when he's wearing it and it's not evening and we're not in a hurry to do something or go somewhere.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

the personal politics of caged pork

Ever since I realised that Kiwi pig farmers like to jam their animals into tiny cages, just as much as pig farmers do in the UK (and no doubt a few other parts of the world too), I have refused to eat caged pork.

Even though I miss pork sausages terribly, I don't miss them enough to condone what I think is a cruel practice.
But my mum is a big pork fan, and has only just given up on trying to deceive me into thinking that the stuff she bought at Pak n Save and roasted so deliciously ( going by the smell) is free range.
On the other hand, if I accidentally (really!) buy a sandwich which has pork or ham in in, then I'd rather eat it because to throw it away means that a pig has lived and died in misery for nothing.

Which means I have to be a hypocrite - I'll refuse to buy the stuff or eat my mother's offerings, but if it ends up in my fridge somehow then I'd rather eat it than throw it out.

I still feel a bit guilty though.

Friday, May 27, 2011

As soft as a baby's bottom

Gawd, is this what it's like to have normal, healthy skin?

I finally got myself an appointment with the dermatologist, months after being plagued by horribly anti-social itchiness and the complications that followed.

The day after I started on two types of antihistimines (one for day and one for night) and a steroid lotion (to replace two ineffective ointments), I felt my belly and it was soft and smooth.

In fact, my whole body is soft and smooth. I'm almost in lust with myself - several times a day I catch myself standing in the middle of the lounge feeling my tummy skin.

Okay, so I'm a bit dopey in the mornings because of the antihistamines, but it's a small price to pay to be (relatively) beautiful.

I also found a nice moisturiser that was both effective and completely non-irritating. It's a product which is custom-made for me by the lady who owns the Earth 174 shop in town; she mixed it up from almond oil, vitamin E and manuka honey, and will keep adding stuff to the recipe to see what my skin will handle.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Knitting for the boy

I offered to knit the boy a sweater, to make up for the fact that I seem to spend every free moment knitting (instead of wrapped around the boy or making him cups of tea or getting him a beer). At the library I found exactly three books of knit patterns for men.

The boy liked only one of the sweaters - not the one with cables all over, not the one with Ernie stripes, not the argyle vest... the only one he liked was a plain stocking stocking stitch crew neck with no ribbing at any of the hems, and a giant octopus-like symbol on the chest (plus baby ones on the sleeves).
(I think it was in Knitting with Balls). It was called the Tribal Sweater, although we call it The Tattoo Jumper (because we call sweaters jumpers around here).

So I started with the front, because the back is just boring old stocking stitch all the way up. And man, it is driving me crazy! First time trying to knit from a chart, and you can tell. I've been knitting the octopus back to front and with the leggy bits all pointing in the wrong directions. And then I've knit gaps into the graphic  and the strands are either too tight (causing weird puffines) or too loose (so I get a holey effect). And the tangles!

I've unravelled the thing 3 times now, before turning it into the plain ole back piece. I think I'll have to leave that front to last, when I'm a bit more practiced.

Cables are way easier - and I've only just started learning how to do those.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I had this idea that we'd be doing something special today, to mark Mother's Day.
But when the boy got up this morning moaning and groaning about dizziness and stomach pain, I knew that wasn't going to happen.
On the other hand, just having a day of full rest seems to have helped him get mostly better (though not well enough to risk eating my cooking). Maybe it was just a bad tv dinner.

And I can't complain that I didn't get a lovely card and a nice present (Gok Wan's Work your Wardrobe). The boy was as sweet as he could manage and TLM, as always, was a delight.
It's quite nice being a mum.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A knitted dress for TLM

I used the free knitting pattern called Oriental Lily, on the Ravelry site. The main part of the dress is made from an acrylic yarn called Robin Paintbox, and the lilac bands are from a single ball of cotton/acrylic Wendy yarn. The acrylic stuff was a bit on the plasticky side, but it was the only one with the right kind of variegated colouring, which I could be sure wouldn't cause any irritation.

holiday snaps

Here's a view of Mt Ruapehu from one of the walks we went on
 I didn't take many photos, and even fewer are sufficiently anonymous to post up on the Internet...
And this is the rather flashy glass basin in the flashy bathroom of our motel unit

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


What a lovely time we had! Who'd have thought that a long weekend in a town known for carrot-farming would be so much fun?

The best bits:
  • stopping off at the adventure playground in Levin, a great place that ought to be a tourist destination
  • hanging out with our friends
  • walks in the fern-y rainforest at the foot of Mt Ruapehu
  • TLM being really excited before, during and after our stay
  • TLM finding a new best friend in DOTH
  • the Easter egg hunt, in which the long-legged boy took on the dual roles as "hare" and Easter bunny, TLM and DOTH kept up with him most impressively, and I impressively kept up with them
  • watching Ricky Gervais on Sesame Street singing a "N is for..." lullaby (you had to be there)
  • the gorgeous golden-leaved deciduous trees that graced the land on either side of the bridge just before Taihape (on the other side of the big gumboot)
The bits that were less good, to balance out the universe:
  • having to come home on Monday
  • the rain on Monday, which prevented us from re-visiting Levin's adventure playground
  • lunch at McDonalds (again, on Monday) - I used to wonder whether I was just being a food snob; but actually I really hate the food and feel almost ill knowing that I'm completely wasting my calorie allowance by ingesting that stuff
  • none of the outlet shops in Otaki were open when we drove by, due to it being ANZAC Day, which was really disappointing because we were in the mood for a bargain-hunting spree and I wanted to check out the Kumfs sale
Technically, TLM and I are still on holiday as I've taken this half of the school holidays off work. So I have another 4 days of blissfully work-free days!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


We are going away for the long Easter weekend!

Even better, we are going with Make Tea Not War , Gamester at Large and DOTH (no blog as far as I know) who is similar in age to TLM.

We're not sharing accommodation so we'll get the best of both worlds - company when we desire it, but not when we're itching to go to bed and everyone else wants to stay up late and drink pear cider. Or something.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Like taking candy from a stranger

Today, TLM lost some of her childhood innocence.

Some strange guy apparently stood outside the school gate and tried to befriend TLM and her friend by giving them each a chocolate bar.

Having seen the statistics showing that "stranger danger" is a bit of a myth because most assaults on children are by someone known to them, I had not thought to impress on TLM that she should not accept anything from a stranger. How to be wary of strange dogs, yes. How to be wary of strange

So in that time squeezed in between getting home from work and after-school care, and her bedtime, the boy and I hurriedly tried to catch up on that aspect of parenting.

And TLM would ask things like, 'what if it's a bad man pretending to be a nice man?" and "what if it's a man who's a zookeeper?". In retrospect I think she was trying to find a situation in which it would have been okay to do what she did, which was to accept the chocolate (but it had peanuts in it, so she'd taken a bite and thrown it away). I think she got tired of me repeating the mantra, "if you don't him and we don't know him, run away from him".

She's sad and scared because her world has changed. And so am I.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Humpty Dumpty was a cannon

I've been reading a fascinating book about the meanings of nursery rhythms, Pop goes the Weasel by Albert Jack.
Although I haven't yet gotten to the history behind the eponymous rhyme (hope I used that big word correctly), I can tell you that yes, Humpty was indeed a cannon.

He was deployed in a famous battle between King Whathisname and The Other Guy and located at the top of the tower. As long as it was firing off great balls of lead from there, the home team was unbeatable. But the attacking army managed to do enough damage to the tower to make it fall from its perch and into the swamp below. As you'll have guessed, the King's men weren't able to repair it, and they lost the battle.

Humpty didn't become an egg until he was featured in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, by the way.

This book has been great for introducing (or re-introducing) me to many interesting snippets of English history, and there have been many a-ha moments where nonsensical-seeming rhymes suddenly made an awful lot of sense (and were likely to be about really awful events).

It's actually a lot like a good Bill Bryson book. And that might be the most effective description of this work I can come up with.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In the black

Woo hoo!
Sad as it is to have to squeeze family time into the weekends because we're wage slaves during the week, it's damn good to see there's actually money in my bank account. And that's after I've paid the bills.
Gosh, we can get our porch fixed...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a fairly bad day

Although this is the second consecutive blog post from me that is not upbeat, let me defend myself by telling you that we had a very nice weekend (there was a kids' party on Saturday and a trip to Otari Plant Museum on Sunday - and the weather was fabulous).

But I can't deny that, yes, I had a bad day today.
Firstly, I was feeling a bit down about having a nasty coldsore attack, and the promising tablets that I paid over $30 for did nothing to speed up their recovery (as far as I can tell).
Then, I pulled a muscle in my neck/shoulder region when I got out of the shower.
And I was still recovering from yesterday afternoon's marathon wait at the hospital, where my mother had an appointment at the eye clinic (1.5 hours wait! For a 5 minute consultation!).

But the thing that really made my day stink was when the boss called me into her office to put the kibosh on those "flexible" days (where I leave early one or 2 days per week to pick up TLM, and make up the time at home in the evening) she had agreed to on a temporary basis back in November.

It was as I'd feared 18 months ago when I first offered to increase my work hours due to the boy being out of work - it was easy to go from part time to full time, but possibly impossible to go back the other way again later.

My ideal would be to do short days twice a week and take the pay cut.
The boy's ideal would be for us to keep doing what we are doing for at least another few months.
The bosses ideal would (in my view) be for me to be commit as fully as the full time staff who don't have school age kids.

But then, I never did think we had similar brains.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Long lonely walks by the beach (LLWBTB)

There are beach walks which you do with kids - the public toilet is not improbably far away, the water is shallow, the surfaces are sandy, and the shore is littered with interesting bits of seaweed and shells.

There are beach walks which you do with friends - a bit like the above, but with plenty of potential bonfire locations and enough towel space for everyone.

There are beach walks which you do with a lover - a bit more remote and less family-friendly, no surf to speak of and preferably free of distracting nudists (which, come to think of it, applies to the kids' beach walk but not so much the friends' beach walk).

And then there are the beach walks you do when loneliness weighs heavily on you and you desperately need to be soothed by the sound of waves lapping against the shore. It doesn't have to be remote (my own LLWBTB is next to 4 lanes of traffic speeding to or from the airport), but it can't be very popular. Because all those people and their chatter get in the way between you and the water sounds. If it's lined by magnificent pieces of public art, then all the better to give you an alternative subject of contemplation.

Even though we might wish we didn't need a good LLWBTB, we should be glad to have one.

Monday, March 07, 2011

cardigan number 3

It was winter yesterday and today. Although I'm fully expecting it to warm up again towards the end of the week, I've been given a sharp reminder of just how much I dislike being cold.

So, while I started making a linen tunic a week ago, I've also started to make this cardigan - and hopefully this time I'll complete it and want to wear it outside the house (the first attempt has a ripply button band and desperately needs shaping, the second didn't even get that far because I used a non-shrinking yarn and a pattern designed for yarn that shrinks 10% in the wash).

I probably won't be quite as staunch about ripping out and re-doing - like, I'll do that if I drop a stitch but not if the stitches differ in size by a few nano metres.  I'm using a cotton/acrylic blend by Panda, in bright red. Quite possibly I've chose a colour that will look far better on TLM...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend fun - live animals and sleepover essentials

Yesterday we went out to Staglands, which is a wildlife-ish park about an hour or so's drive away. I've been wanting to take TLM there since she was a toddler, but wanted to wait until she was too old for daytime naps. Then we forgot about it for a couple of years...

Anyway I think I enjoyed it at least as much as TLM did - we oohed over the baby kune kune pigs, I was followed by vibrantly-coloured birds that made me think of flying fabric swatches, TLM got her photo taken with her head stuck in the stocks (that wooden thing that imprisons you by the neck and wrists), and I was butted by the head of a friendly retired Clydesdale horse.

The only negative thing about the whole trip was the wasp that kept buzzing around us while we lunched at the cafe. I was most annoyed at having to leave without finishing my nachos...

And today we went shopping for a new booster car seat for TLM, plus a bunk bed (so she can have a friend over for a sleepover). We ended up getting a metal-framed child's bed with a trundler instead, to allay my fears that whoever is in the top bunk might fall down the ladder during a midnight trip to the toilet and break her neck...

TLM was mightily distracted by the super-girly bed linen, but I promised we'd get her some of that if she'd only focus on the blimmin' beds.

Of course, now we'll have to get whole new sets of bedlinen and duvets etc, since the current stuff is only big enough for an American-sized cot (which I think actually means Texas-sized).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Planned weekend fun - it's the woman's job

We seemed to be in a bit of a rut at the weekends. The boy would sleep in until 9.30 or 10; TLM and I would either go out in the morning and be back with lunch by the time he was up and about; half of the afternoon was spent waiting for TLM to have her quiet time (usually a DVD on the sofa); and by then we'd have only an hour or two to do something together before it was time for TLM's dinner-bath-bedtime.

I'd often suggest to the boy that we do something fun. Sometimes I even suggested a specific activity, like going to Staglands (a wildlife park/farm park). Then I'd be disappointed when the weekend came and went, with no mention of it from the boy.

Then I found out that he'd been waiting for me to organise these things.

So last weekend we all went to a gallery out of town and marveled at an exhibition of fantasy art (after which the boy went home while TLM and I stayed in town to watch some Chinese New Year performances).

This weekend we'd intended to go for a bush walk up the hill and take a proper picnic (by 'proper' I mean with fresh rolls and nice sandwich fillings, rather the usual box of biscuits and two bottles of tap water).

But it turned out to be my nephew's birthday (I'm a bad auntie), so instead we went shopping for his present and went to their house to give it to him. Tomorrow I'll probably take TLM to the watch the CNY parade, but the boy is not a parade sorta guy so he'll probably be at home working.

Maybe next week maybe we'll go to Staglands.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Reasons for cheer

I was brought up to look at the dark and scary side of life (and there's probably a bit of genetics in there too). Although this should have been an advantage if I were a blues singer or maker of indie movies - well I'm neither.
So I have been researching how to be cheerful on the 'Net and the first five minutes have actually been quite fruitful.

Out of the 11 reasons to be cheerful listed on the lifehack webpage, I actually score pretty well. I guess I just need to see this more often:
  1. I'm alive
  2. my health - I wouldn't be the ideal human specimen that every alien probe dreams of, but then I don't have any life threatening diseases and, no matter how much I've moaned about my various health complaints, at least I can pass for normal most of the time. 
  3. I'm in a relationship with someone I love and who loves me
  4. I have family - a child, a parent (apparently a plus even if she knows how to push all my insanity buttons), a sibling, an in-law who is amazing, and a great nephew and niece
  5. I am in full time employment (a plus just 'cos I can't afford not to be)
  6. I'm doing something that adds value to society (by working for a non-profit)
  7. I can look back on my life and be proud of certain achievements (my travels, my efforts at painting, writing and sewing)
  8. I have something to look forward to (the day the boy is secure enough in his employment that I can go part-time, a trip to the UK to visit the boy's family - whenever they may be)
  9. a plan for the future - not really
  10. financial security - only just
  11. friends - I have been sadly slack in keeping in touch with my friends, but have been working on that. I managed to call two friends last month which is better that I've done in the previous 6 months.
That's about 7/11 and nothing to be sneezed at.
None of the above are especially glamorous or exciting, but I read somewhere that it's the little stuff that keeps us glad to be alive. I'm all for that.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

If I could have just one belated new year's resolution...

it would be to go part time again this year.

I've become far to precious with my time as I've gotten older and busier, jealousy portioning out my non-working, non-chore-doing, non-sleeping hours like a lost mountaineer trying to survive on half a peanut slab last until the rescuers arrive.

Because there's not much point being stingy with the stuff if it's not enough to give you pleasure.

On the other hand, I don't want to give up any of my interests, nor deprive myself of time with the people I like to be with.

Something has got to give. I hope it can be my work hours.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

pedestrians who don't look when crossing the street

There's been a bit of kerfuffle over the number of pedestrians who've been hit by buses since Manners St was changed from a one-way to a two-way street.

The street is well-served by traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, and buses aren't exactly hard to see.

So my conclusion is this - it's the gods' way of punishing jay-walkers.

Germ warfare

My brother won his battle with the horrible S. aureous bacteria. Though he was only allowed to go home yesterday, so he was in hospital for maybe three weeks. And he still isn't walking normally because his' back is stuffed from him being laid out flat for days and days.

My own battle, though far less serious, is ongoing. Only a week or so after recovering from the pimple-from-hell on my back, I now have one on my right arm. I tried bathing it in anti-bacterial solution every night this week, but Mr and Mrs S. aureous merely laughed in my face and turned up the heater.

Now, I'm no conspiracy-theorist - but I reckon there may be some kind of outbreak going on here. My brother, when he was in ICU, shared with several other patients with similar afflictions to his own. And when I tried to buy a new bottle of the anti-bacterial solution at the pharmacy, I was told they'd had a run on the stuff.

Someone is trying to kill the 10% of us who have vulnerable body bits.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A day in the tropics

You'd think it was spring rather than mid-Summer - one day it's cool enough to need a jacket, the next day it's warm enough to briefly consider going to work in shorts and a singlet.

It was apparently 29 degrees Celsius today, which is extreme in itself ('round these parts, if it's more than 25 degrees it's a heatwave). But it was super-muggy all day and then we got torrential rain.

It's just like being in Bangkok, except that you aren't on holiday, there aren't any tuk-tuks and the locals aren't smiling as much.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's been a long week

The first full working week since Christmas (which for me started in mid-December when school finished for the year) has been long and hard.

First, I've had to spend most of each working day answering supports calls emails about really basic technical things that those people should know how to do already.

Then, I notice a pimple on my back that just keeps getting bigger and more painful until I have to admit that I be getting another visit from the cellulitus fairy (last time was about 4 years ago).

But the worse thing that's happened this week is that my brother has been really sick with a bacterial infection he picked up, supposedly through a big cut in his hand while working on his house. He was in ICU for the better part of the week (since Sunday), while the doctors operated on him to drain unmentionable fluids from various parts of his body.

We were only allowed to see him for the first time last night. Of course, my mum insisted on taking along some home-cooked food to supplement the hospital meals. But then later one of the nurses told us off because apparently it's taking up too much space in the staff fridge (there being no fridge for hospital patients). Not that my bro has had much of an appetite anyway, but you know mothers worry about their kids not eating enough...

Anyway, we were told he'd probably still be in hospital for several more days at least. So I guess next week will be another long one.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Another denim reconstruction

So here is the tunic I made from two pairs of old jeans plus some scrap denim. I used a Simplicity 'Project Runway' sewing pattern, but don't ask me what the number of it is because my sister-out-law like the tunic so much she's borrowed the pattern and taken it away... Did you notice that I've only worn it one day and there are already wrinkles at the midsection? Well, it just so happens that those wrinkles used to be the backs of the boy's knees.

The front piece is from the boy's old jeans; the back is from one of my own old pairs; and the dark side panels and pockets are from some stretch denim scraps left over from my last attempt at trousers. Sorry if you noticed the glimpse of crepe-y armpit in this picture...

The feature of this design is really the rounded neck band, the button used to fasten it (it's actually sewn down - there's no buttonhole), and the resulting keyhole at the upper chest which I presume is supposed to be sexy without being revealing. The button is a spare that I had from when I was making my spring coat. I didn't do a great job of making the ends of the band perfectly rounded, but it'll have to do. I spent so much time top-stitching, taking in the torso (then re-topstitching) and putting in the zip only to rip it out again, that after a while I just wanted to finish it and move on with my life.

I used this lovely printed voile to line the pockets and the neck band. The hem also has a facing, but for that I used a lime green bit of quilting cotton (which I forgot to take a photo of).
Apart from the slightly Jetsons-look due to the overly-thick shoulder parts of the neck band, I'm really happy with the garment. I've already bought two more pieces of fabric (in bright violet and bright turquoise - Arthur Toye's was having a sale) to make long-sleeved versions of this - that is, when I get my pattern back. One thing to note, if you are a rectangular shape, is that by the time you've accommodated for the wider waist you won't need a zip to get in and out of it!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

home made grease

One of my Christmas presents was the book, 'Grow your own drugs: A year with James Wong', which is based on his television series.

Contrary to initial expectations, the television series is not a course for people who wish to cultivate their own marijuana and opium supplies. It's all about using commonly found plants (commonly found in the UK anyway - not sure about New Zealand) to make medicines, skincare and cosmetics.

I found it quite fascinating. My one gripe is that James Wong - boyishly handsome as he is - always seems to be talking to someone over the camera man's shoulder rather than to the camera, which I find really distracting (though not spooky, which is how I find those people with that particular type of blue eyes who look as they are staring right through you).

Anyway, the book I have is the sequel to the book of the series. It's got a number of recipes for a variety of skin ailments and allergies, as well as for moisturisers and hair conditioners. It's even got one for furniture polish!

So one day I plan to get myself some basic equipment and ingredients, and mix myself up some home made moisturiser (to start with anyway). Though that might have to wait until I've finished my sewing projects. Possibly after it's become too cold to sew, but before it's cold enough to want to knit. Well, some time....

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

...and that's what I did in my holidays

I think anyone who has ever been in a Western school must have had to write at least one 'What I did in the holidays' essay.

The only such essay of mine which attracted praise, was a 'What I did in the weekend' variation, which went a bit like "It was really boring. There was nothing to do." Go figure.

Well, today was the last day of my Christmas/New Year holiday, and it was not spectacularly eventful. But I had fun, the boy had fun and TLM definitely had fun (her holiday goes on for another month though, so it'll be interesting to see whether it goes downhill when she has to attend her school holiday programme):

  • We went to the zoo 4 times in about a week and a half.
  • We went to the beach the same number of times.
  • I got to start and finish a tunic in a voile fabric of a mesmerising navy shot with gold, as well as start and nearly finish a sleeveless tunic made from 2 pairs of old jeans plus miscellaneous denim remnants (photos coming at some stage).
  • We played new games on the Wii, including TLM's and my current favourite (because we win a lot) which is a sword-slashing test of reflexes and doesn't require much button-pushing (great for non-gamers like me).
  • And that doesn't include Christmas itself, nor New Year's dinner at my mum's.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Happy New Year!