Friday, 25 March 2016

Breathing Space

So maternity leave is officially over and I'm back at work (though since it's the Easter holidays I don't have to face the trauma of leaving my babies for another two weeks yet). It's so tough being a working mum - you really want to stay with your little ones every moment, despite all the trials and tribulations, but financially it would be tough and in some ways it's good for them to experience being away from mummy for a little while as it prepares them for the inevitability of separation when school starts.

This is something which is coming up way too soon, I will be a mess come September when J goes off to school in his uniform and I am not the person that he spends most of his day with any longer. A real watershed moment. He drew this little picture the other day - the first that really looks like something, and has started to come home from preschool talking about friends he has made and games he has played. He is really turning into his own little person, which is wonderful, but also bittersweet as he is growing further and further away from that tiny baby I brought home from the hospital.

Anyway, I'm trying to half-heartedly sell the return to work to myself with the prospect of being able to buy yarn for projects without too much guilt. I may even treat myself to some Malabrigo Rios with my first proper pay-check. In the meantime, I've been undertaking what will probably be my last big knit before work begins, Breathing Space by Veera Valimaki. I'm knitting it as part of the Interpretations KAL on Ravelry, and there are some lovely and diverse examples of the garment as everyone puts their own spin on it with colour choice and adaptations.

I have chosen to use Knitpicks Hawthorne fingering, shamelessly copied from another knitter on Ravelry (though she later decided not to use the yarn for her project after all!). I like the yarn - it's quite crunchy, but not too rough, and the speckled yarn is lovely. The shades I have used are Blackbird and Graffiti. The new Knitpicks UK website is proving very tempting at the moment - I have some Chroma Fingering and Stroll Tonal lined up for knitting socks after this project.

As always will Veera's patterns, it's so easy to follow and I love the interesting techniques - the short row stripes add interest and a touch of quirkiness to the project. I have been using Japanese short rows on all my projects that require them recently, as I find them neater, though if anyone can tell me a way to close the gap effectively after the short rows are finished and you go back to knitting in the round again I'd love to hear it - I'm always left with an ugly hole no matter what I try.


Sunday, 28 February 2016

An Extremely Busy Year!

So it's been another year without an update, but with a very good excuse as I've been getting used to being a mum of two. I'll be honest, this has been a lot harder than becoming a mum of one. People talk about the upheaval of becoming a mum for the first time and yes, it's different and sometimes hard, but I had been looking forward to having a baby so much that everything paled into insignificance compared to the joy of having him there.

This time, looking after the new one was pretty easy, but dealing with a now three year old whose life had been turned upside down was not so much fun, and was accompanied by constant mummy guilt that I couldn't be two people at once and give them both the attention they deserved. Couple all this with a husband completing a PGCE and starting a new job and J starting preschool last September and all in all its been stressful and challenging and non-stop at times. But I wouldn't change it for the world!

Here is a pretty recent photo taken by my sister in law of me and E, who is now 9 months old - can you believe it? I won't share too many photos of her on here for obvious reasons, but I felt introductions were necessary!

This photo actually doesn't look that much like her to me, as in reality she has the cheekiest face and happiest smile. She is so different to her brother in lots of ways - way more active, independent and social than he was. I don't think I have done anything differently in bringing them up, so it must just be down to personalities. They get on well, though it can be a bit of a love-hate relationship for J, especially as she is starting to crash in on his games and slobber on his toys (which he hates!).

So, as this is basically a crafting blog I want to get back to sharing my forays into my various hobbies. I think I had been knitting on the endless stocking stitch tube that is Boxy last time? Suffice to say it finally got finished and has been worn several times and I love it! I'll share another post on it soon.

I've also still been hooking the interminable ripple blanket which is pretty big now but still not finished! It gets plenty of use though, J cuddles in it most mornings and it often gets used for den building and other games, so I'm not too worried - I'll work on it as and when.

In the meantime, a lot more projects have been both cast on and finished. Probably the most recent one is the gorgeous Juniper by Veera Valimaki. Veera is probably my favourite designer on Ravelry and I'm so pleased with the garments I've made from her patterns. I've been rubbish at getting Ed to take photos of my finished objects though, so these were the best selfies I could manage with my iPhone!

I knit this inside out, which was a steep learning curve and probably means it's full of mistakes, but it really extended my skills and challenged me to understand my knitting rather than mindlessly follow a pattern, so it's all good experience. And there was no way I was doing all that purling! The yarn is Malabrigo Sock in Lettuce. It's the first time I've used Malabrigo yarn and I loved it. The colour is stunning, it just glows! And the yarn is soooo soft, it was a pleasure to knit with. I may have ordered hanks of two more colour ways as a result of this knit (whistles innocently).

I've got a gorgeous jumper in Sublime Superfine Alpaca dk on the needles right now - just need to finish the second sleeve. It's really cosy and a tighter fit than most of the garments I've knit recently but I think I like the change. May need to buy some boot cut jeans to style it with though...

After that, I think I've got a design from one of these little beauties on the cards:

Veera and my second favourite designer on Ravelry, Joji Locatelli, have released their Interpretations collections as three print books via the PomPom Press. I just had to get my hands on them and I'm so pleased I did - the designs are beautiful. I plan to knit Breathing Space from Interpretations 3 as part of the Interpretations KAL on Ravelry. I doubt I'll finish it by the end of April but it might incentivise me a bit!

I've got loads more knits to share, but will have to do this after I have grabbed some decent photos of them - I will get on it in the next few days. Hopefully I can keep up a little blogging momentum again, as it is lovely to read back over my posts and remember what we have been doing, but I know how easily time can move on when I have two little people clamouring for my attention!


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Imminent Arrival

So it's been a while again, mainly due to being crazily busy followed by even crazier exhaustion! But I thought I'd update where we are now.

The impending arrival of a newborn is such a turbulent time emotionally. You are desperate to meet this little person who has been growing inside you for the last nine months. Especially as for the last few weeks it's been giving you the kind of hefty kicks that remind you of its presence on a regular basis. You are extremely fat and uncomfortable (and need to wee every ten minutes. Seriously.). You are excited to find out if it's a boy or a girl.

But on the other hand there is a sense of trepidation. Admittedly not so much as the first time - you just don't have the time to dwell when you are trying to entertain a toddler all day! But part of you is thinking - will this be alright? Will I cope with labour? Will there be complications? It's something you can't avoid - childbirth is such a momentous event. It probably doesn't help that in my history teacher capacity I have taught a Medivine Through Time course that highlights the stark realities of childbirth and the survival rates up until about a hundred years ago. It makes you all the more appreciative of modern medical advances, and more inclined to scoff at people who go on about the superiority of natural childbirth etc - that would be the nature where 1 in 4 mothers and 1 in 5 infants died would it?

I am prepared to do everything I can to get this little one here safely, and certainly wouldn't rule out any intervention or pain relief I felt necessary. This is probably why I have no birth plan. I don't really think it's something that can be planned for and it feels like setting yourself up to fail. I'm going to go with the flow.

After that outpouring of my thoughts, I thought I'd share some other goings on in our lives.

We have been...

...walking in the memorial park...

...visiting open gardens and finding some fantastic sticks to play with courtesy of Gramps...

...visiting the garden centre and getting excited by fake chickens in the hen houses...

...and then getting to look after real chicks for the weekend, after they hatched in Ed's classroom at school!

We have also been to soft play (he loves these cars so much!).

And I've managed to do a bit of hooking on my ripple blanket in the evenings when I'm not completely shattered from the day's activities!

So to sum up: it's been busy, I'm tired, the baby will be arriving soon by whatever means necessary. And hopefully we have a lovely summer to look forward to as a family of four...


Wednesday, 25 February 2015


It's been an extremely busy few weeks chez Watson. Going back to work after the half term holiday has been a bit hectic and very exhausting as I struggle increasingly with my hips and back while I waddle around school, but I only have five more weeks to go now until mat leave and I'm definitely counting down! Thirty weeks now, I don't know where the time has gone...

In positive news, I was observed twice just before half term and got outstanding both times - I didn't stress too much about or plan for these so it was quite self-affirming when I got such positive feedback. It has taught me to rely on the fact that I am a good teacher who knows what they are doing and I should have confidence in that when I am feeling negative.

On the crafty side, I have been getting on with a few things in between work, looking after little J and collapsing on the sofa. Pocket Pal now looks like this:

I decided to knit the sleeves onto the jumper rather than setting in (as I hate sewing in sleeves!) - the pattern appears to have them coming out at right angles which is rather unusual so I hope it fits J alright in the end. The intarsia is a total mess of loose ends on the back so some rather extensive weaving in is going to have to happen too.

This is how my socks are looking - I haven't knit on these for a while but look forward to getting back to them as the pattern is interesting without being too difficult. I really like the magic cast on - it's so neat and again, will avoid sewing up at the end. I really like trying out new techniques and skills and my first pair of socks was top down so I'm shaking things up a bit with these.


I have also had a go at some more flourless mini muffins - double choc this time. I really liked these, especially after a couple of days when they tasted even better, but J wasn't a fan, I'm not sure why. I will just have to make some more for me!

Hopefully I can finish Pocket Pal in the next few days - I want J to be able to wear it in the next month while the weather is still cold enough. The socks are less urgent, but I don't want them to linger for two years like the last pair! If anyone knows where I can get some cheap sock blockers too, please let me know - all the ones I have seen are extortionate!





Sunday, 8 February 2015

Days out and Evenings In

It's been a few days since a blog post again, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy - far from it. We have been out and about a few times in the last week, and today we decided to make the most of our National Trust membership and the beautiful winter sunshine for a day out to Packwood House. We didn't go in the house today - we have done that before - but we did go on a guided tour round the yew garden and lake (as well as enjoying a cream tea in the cafe).

The view of the house across the lake is stunning - the lake was still partly frozen.

An amazing skeletal winter tree with one of the follies next to it.


Another of the follies - the Inside Out house. Ed and J went in while I took a rest.

We have also been making Peanut Butter and Banana flourless blender muffins. Extremely easy and much healthier than regular muffins. I found the recipe on Pinterest as I had several old manky bananas that needed using.

In the evenings, I've been quite productive on the knitting front. I finished J's little jumper a while back and decided to power through my second Sunday Swing sock that had been languishing half finished on the needles for two years! Yes, really. I even managed to follow the chart wrong and had to rip back half the foot and I still finished it. Quite proud of my perseverance on that one.

I then proceeded to immediately cast on another sock. I clearly don't learn my lessons. This time it is a toe up sock - the magic cast-on for these is so clever. They are called High Arches by Rhian DrinkWater.

I know I still have my Boxy and my blanket to work on, but the endless stocking stitch was getting to me on Boxy. So I cast on something else too, the Pocket Pal monster jumper from an issue of Simply Knitting. J chose this especially from my magazine so who was I to say no? I decided to use Drops Merino Extrafine - I was taking a chance, but the yarn is buttery soft, if a little badly spun in places. Hoping to get on with this speedily so he can wear it this year. Watch this space!







Sunday, 25 January 2015

Getting Through

Despite my promises to blog more often, I have allowed a week to pass without a post. Sometimes life gets in the way, but I am going to make the effort to post today to catch up with what we have been up to. The last few days have involved the following...

More slow cooking. This sausage casserole was not quite as successful as the Thai curry - despite being on high for 6 hours, some of the veg was still pretty hard and despite my sister's belief that you don't have to brown the sausages, I definitely would next time - they looked quite pale and unappetising.

I currently have a chilli con carne cooking in there - let's hope this one turns out well.

J and I have had tea parties in the lounge...

And baked chocolate chip cookies. I love this recipe - it's one I've had for years and I can't remember where I first wrote it down from, but it always turns out the nicest biscuits.

The smoothie making has continued - J is now very interested in this and helps me to put all the ingredients in...

Frozen strawberries and blueberries, plum, pear and grapes.


Very refreshing and quite thin due to absence of banana.

Mango, blueberries, plum and fruit juice...

Lovely - very sweet from the mango, but a bit over thick.

J's choice - frozen mango, banana and fruit juice...

Very tropical tasting, but again a bit thick. Sometimes you have to be careful with the banana too as it can overpower the other flavours.

I have also been to my friend's surprise baby shower - she is due ten weeks before me, which is quite exciting. It was a lovely afternoon, organised beautifully by her sister.

Unfortunately I nearly didn't make it to the party. On Friday I woke with an excruciating pain just above my belly button that got worse with walking/moving and took my breath away it was so intense. I have been through a C-section, and various ops and don't consider myself to be a total wuss but this pain really bothered me. I think it's natural when it's so close to your growing baby. However, the midwife saw me and said the baby was fine and the doc thinks I may have just torn a muscle. Trying to rest it up as much as possible today.

Chilling out in the evenings has allowed me to finish this audiobook:

I read this as a teenager and don't think I ever appreciated it enough. It is perhaps less 'showy' than Austen's other novels but is so bittersweet and satisfying, I really enjoyed it as an adult listener. Perhaps I can relate to the characters more.

Finally, I've been working on the crochet blanket this week and it now looks like this:


Perhaps not as much as I would have hoped to do by this point, but I'm happy with the colour sequence and at least it is progressing steadily. A few rows here and there will have to suffice at the moment.

Here's hoping for a happy and stress-free week.



Saturday, 17 January 2015

Peace at Last

Lazy Saturday nap time, so I've got a few minutes to sit down and update my blog in peace and quiet. I realise peace and quiet is something that is not going to exist in a few months time with a newborn around the place, so I'm trying to make the most of it now!

It's been a funny few days. Little J has been ill with an ear infection, bless him. Had a horrible Thursday evening when he couldn't go to sleep for more than half an hour without him waking up in pain - suffice to say I spent most of the night running up and downstairs trying to console him, not helped by the fact that Ed was out on a school trip till 11.30pm. So knitting time has been somewhat limited.

In the next half an hour, I plan on finally adding the buttons to and finishing this little jumper. It was knitted so quickly last year, it's shameful that it's taken so long to sew it up. I made a real hatchet job of sewing in the sleeves - there is a reason I am increasingly turning to seamless knitting patterns! I'm not the worst sewer (at least mattress stitch) but lining up sleeves, especially striped ones, I just don't have the patience for. The photo makes it look better than it is in real life.


The buttons I found for it are the right colour but a touch too small, so I'm going to have to reinforce the buttonholes I think - fun!

Smoothie fun has continued with a slightly more tropical theme. This one included frozen mango (I had to make a trip to Sainsburys as Morrisons selection of frozen fruit is somewhat limited), pear, grapes, banana and some orange and raspberry juice. It produced this:

Lovely and sweet, though the blender had a bit more trouble with the frozen mango than the berries I normally use so should have left it on a bit longer.
I have also been experimenting with the slow cooker. I found a recipe on Pinterest for Thai Chicken Soup which didn't require any frying beforehand - just what I was looking for. I don't know if it was because it was American, but the recipe was basically the same as the one I use for Thai curry, so I don't know why it was called a soup. It gave me an idea for timings though, so I threw everything I normally put in my Thai curry in the slow cooker, and because I was home added the chicken partway through and some of the veg at the end.
I was pleasantly surprised, having never had much luck with the slow cooker before - Thai curry is supposed to be runny so thickness wasn't an issue I suppose, but everything cooked beautifully. I have two more meal portions in the freezer ready for work nights too. It would be good to get a little arsenal of recipes together for when baby number two arrives, though most ones I have seen seem to involve some frying/boiling as prep which I would rather avoid if I can. Any hints/tips or recipes would be greatly appreciated!