Winter Comes a Little Early

As predicted on Wednesday, it did take all week for real snow to fall.  Friday night we had a proper dusting, though it took until Sunday – after nearly 12 hours of blizzardy conditions – for our lawn to be completely covered, that grass is getting long!

Although we had some great snowfalls last winter in the Lou, it was often just too cold for snow.  And the wee one only really got walking by the start of February, so we stayed indoors practising that skill until the weather improved.  So this weekend was his first real taste of snow. Like the sand, he was not really sure what to make of it at first.

This confusion may have been somewhat extended by the frocliky teasing of his Dada, who celebrated the moment by tossing snowballs at his tiny progeny’s legs…

We discovered the tracks of a local fox as we trekked down the driveway to see the condition of the road.

The drive was also peppered with pheasant and partridge tracks, and we saw lots of tiny birdy feet marks around the feeder we set up last week.

Later that morning we ventured into St Andrews, which saw rather less snow, and had a wander in the courtyard of St Salvator’s Chapel. We also had a cuppa and a little play in the Byre Theatre, which is fast becoming a favourite haunt as it is wonderfully child-friendly.

On the way home I scored a teeny rattan stool for Kazuo at the local Recycling Centre…I am hoping for more freegan bargains like that as we get to know our way around the community.

The next morning,  Dada got his comeuppance while horsing about in the deeper snow of the bottom of the garden…Kaz thought Dada’s tumbles in the snow were hilarious.

Figuring out how to ambulate in knee-deep snow was another skill altogether.  Something Mama had to help with…


…though it was worth the giggles that ensued when I let go for a minute…

The snow continues on today, and probably for the rest of the week, which is very early for the UK, and perhaps the most comprehensive dumping I have ever witnessed.  It is rather beautiful, but somewhat inconvenient – driving is kinda hazardous, the car got totally stuck in the icy driveway this evening, and the exchange of the faulty gas tank that should have been happened a month ago and was delayed until today has been indefinitely cancelled…and no promise when they will be able to fill up our unusually empty tank (kept low while waiting for the tank exchange) due to the adverse weather conditions.  We are now on emergency heating and hot water rations in case it takes them more than a week!

Akira managed to chug slowly into work in the car this morning, so Kazuo and I ventured out in a break in the snow and made tiny Mr Snowman, who is nearly covered again now!

After a skype chat to Nana, we decided to make a tent in the kitchen (c0mplete with teddies, books, the new stool and some fake sandwiches) and we have had a lovely snowed-in Monday morning.  I do hope I can come up with a few new tricks to get us through what might be a long week of keeping out of the cold.

Happy Early Winter to you All…

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Tasty Treats and Wild White Washing

Since we arrived in the cooler climes of North East Fife, Kazuo and I have spent rather more time indoors than usual.  This is partly climate-related, partly due to having to wait for my driving licence renewal (the tediousness of being mildly epileptic and having to rely on the doctor to say it is OK to drive, when I have been safely driving for over 20 years…)

This has probably resulted in Kazuo being a little less tiredy than he should be, and thus a little more reluctant to fall asleep for naps etc (though he still sleeps long enough when he gets there) and it has also resulted in a little more domestic goddessery on my part (though resources in that domain are still a  little limited).

Yesterday I baked some of these little darlings:

They are a slight variation on Allyson Gofton’s Fudgy Banana Muffins, I used raw sugar and added tiny white chocolate chips…and the pop and I have gobbled them all up in a couple of days, so you will probably see me searching for bigger trousers soon too!

White Choc Banana Muffins (courtesy of Allyson Gofton)

1 1/2 C Flour

1t Baking Powder

1/2t Baking Soda

1/2C Sugar

3/4C Mashed Banana

1T Golden Syrup (yes!  back in the land of golden syrup…)

1t Vanilla Essence

2 Eggs

150g Melted Butter

1/4C White Chocolate Chips (smaller the better!)

Sift dry ingredients.  Beat bananas, syrup, vanilla and eggs together.  Stir into dry ingredients and then fold in cooled melted butter and chocolate chips.

Spoon into paper cases in muffin tray, bake for 15mins (or so) at 220DegC.

Mmmmmmmmmm

Also…I have pretty much been doing a load or three of washing every day since we moved into Newbridge.  This is partly cos we are a grubby lot, and partly cos we have left our huge American washer and dryer set behind and are using a traditional British teeny front loading washer and NO dryer.  I am feeling environmentally virtuous about the dryer, but it does mean that the cloth nappies are a bit more of a challenge (enter obligatory nappy spraying activity…ugh!).

However, I have been without access to an outdoor line for over ten years now…so you may not begin to appreciate just how MUCH this image makes me happy , but it is a marvellous joy to be able to hang laundry out in the wild wind and find it nearly dry at the end of the day.  Shirley Hughes has a lovely poem in her book Out and About that ends… wild white washing waves at the sky/the birds are busy and so am I…and I am so happy to be busy with wild white washing right now!

Working?

This week I got my work permit in the post.  A month early – arrggh.  Now I have to look for paid work.  Yesterday I applied for a job running an after school programme in North City – quite the poorest part of the county and probably not even a real vacancy anymore (seems the non-profit website I used is a little unreliable)…but it made me dust off the CV and get my head around some letter writing skills again.  I am off to try my hand at applying online for some Med School research assistant jobs now.

I am looking for part-of-the-time-paid-work as we have a part time place for Kazuo at a daycare centre nearby that will be quite suitable.  I am not planning to go back to teaching here as I only want to engage in paid work for the social contact and to gather together a little fund for relocation expenses.

I think that the rest-of-the-time-unpaid-work takes up enough of my energy and enthusiasm.  Working outside the house again will be a challenge.  Frankly I am not sure how the super-moms do it…and I guess I have discovered that I need our family life to be my main priority for a few years yet, so paid employment that involves passion and take-home enthusiasm/activity might just be beyond my own personal remit.

At the same time, Akira has embarked on job-seeking and is getting some good responses…so we shall see how that impacts our future plans soon I guess.  All change again!

I am feeling a little wistful already about my days with my little man…and nervous about how his sensitive little soul will cope with daycare as he has lately become (predictably for his age) very wary of others, very clingy to Mama and Dada and very shy of other children.  Sigh…if only it was possible to stay home all the time, but alas, our lifestyle does not really allow for such luxuries these days.  Not working, with all the social strangeness that comes with it, is still quite an attractive option right now.

But on with the serious job of finding some other work…and on with the happy job of looking out for this one:

Winter Sewing/Crafting Pt II

Finally my poor sewing machine has made the journey to and from the Brother Repair centre in Tennessee and is home safe, sound and in great working order again.  But the wonderful generosity of Tarah meant that I managed to get a few crafty projects off the ground over the winter – especially given how ill we have been.  In my previous sewing post I mentioned that I had made some cushions for the sofa.  I finished their felt companions recently.  They do look a little duller than I expected, but they help to make the futon a little more curl-uppable.

After receiving my lovely button brooch from friends in the UK last month, I remembered that I had picked up a jar of old buttons while rummaging on the 61 Mile Yard Sale a couple of years ago.  So I ferreted them out and had a sort through.  It was pretty much dross, but I found enough to have a go soon at making a pretty hodgepodge of a brooch like the one I was sent, and the leftovers I glued together this week into some funny  little button/felt pins to brighten up my summer cardies:

I also managed to finally complete the bunting I have been making for Kazuo’s room.  I was in the middle of making his birthday bunting when I received Handmade Home for Christmas.  I hadn’t considered making a bunting a permanent fixture in the home until then, but I loved the idea of the single-word banners in this book.  So much so that I barely made any changes to the original idea on the cover – except to pluralise, use my own font and change the end images.  I’m not too good at dreaming up my own crafty ideas, though I usually use published ideas to fuel my crafts, but then I stumbled across the delightful toadstools that Janelle at Heartfelt was using to embellish her crafts.  They are so lovely and I am totally in her debt for the inspiration – I urge you to check out her Etsy site – her upcycled kids clothes are simply delightful!  Kaz seems quite taken with his bunting (a ‘baba’ – just like everything else beginning with/containing a ‘b’ – there are surprisingly many of those!) and it will hopefully create good dreaming karma in his little space:

We made a trip to Hobby Lobby last week (still so profoundly disappointed with fabric selections in this town…) so there are now a range of spring sewing projects in the pipeline.  Yayy for the return of the machine!  There may be more to come…

Winter Sewing – Part I

Cushions are my latest obsession.  I do go through phases.  They are nice and easy to sew, and I can construct a couple while Kazuo is sitting at the table watching me sew if they are cut out the night before.  Before Christmas, the only handmade Christmas presents I managed to construct were the two cream felt cushions I made for my mother-in-law.  I based the covers on a design I had admired at the 2008 Rock n Roll Craft Show at Third Degree Glass Factory.  I took them with me to London and got some inners from IKEA that fit beautifully and did NOT break the bank.  They looked substantial.

Acquiring similarly priced inners in St Louis is nigh-on impossible.  The cheapest I have found are twice the price of the IKEA inners, and much less robust.  So, with tarting up our plain old living room sofas in mind, I made a foray to my fav local Goodwill and got me a bundle of cheap old cushions that I can recover.  Not something I would do for a gift, but perfect for us as they are made of much better stuff.

Round one I managed to construct this week.  I was fortunate to receive some of the lovely paua-style fabric from Cushla’s that I had coveted in my Christmas Wish List (thanks Mum!) and so I used a little to make panels in the centre of some black cotton.  The cushions all have 12″ zips in the back so that they can come off and be washed.

One thing I want to know…how do crafty Mamas manage to sew with toddlers around?  I know my mother used to set up the sewing machine inside the playpen and have me outside pottering about, but I don’t think that Kaz would have a bar of that, and besides, we don’t have a playpen.  This week, I succumbed to food-bribery (to which I usually have a deep aversion), since I could not stop the pop from trying to use the foot control – kinda unnerving when the machine races away while your fingers are fiddling about by the presser foot!  So I trussed him up in his clip-on high chair, and gave him a couple of these tasty crackers, and one of the tiny gingerbread men we got in the UK.  Not a big treat, and nothing too filling, but diverting enough for me to sew up two cushion covers and keep Kazuo in a friendly state of mind.  We even played hide and seek behind the sewing machine.    But if anyone has any other bright ideas, then I am all ears.  I can’t sew when he is asleep, it is too noisy in our wee apartment.  And he is past being diverted by toys in the high chair, just throws them instantly to the ground.

Well, the cushions made it through production.  Here they are cheering up our rather muted living room:

Crafty Amazingness

Last year when I had a rare crafternoon with Julia (and my sewing machine jammed irretrievably), she was working on the most incredible paper cutting delights with some old Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedias.  Imagine my joy when she presented us with our very own masterpiece for Christmas:

Here is a side view, including the lovely old book binding – I’m pretty sure my father sold Funk and Wagnalls in the 60’s, so it was a doubly poignant gift:

Today I finally made it a wall in our dining room of arty little companions that I had been collecting up for sometime:

Here they are looking very much at home. I am so grateful for Julia’s crafty contribution to our decor!

Not Working Seems To Be Working…

…for now anyway.  After reading my lovely friend Mandy’s comment on yesterday’s post, I have spent some time today reflecting on things I have put out into the blogosphere in the past year, and musing on how not working feels now, after more than 18mths of the habit.  I have been inspired by, and feel some camaraderie with other stay-at-home-mothers who blog their daily lives.  It has helped immensely to read their thoughts and to feel that I am not alone, and indeed there are some very creative and interesting people out there bringing up their children splendidly…

In the past week I have found the erosion of my social position (if you could call it that) in the absence of paid employment more acutely than I have done this year.  Not sure why that is… nothing much has changed.  But I guess, like homesickness, these things come and go in waves.  So it appears I may not have really resolved any of the feelings of being all at sea that come from not working, rather just buried them beneath a patina of getting-on-with-it-ness (is that preoccupation?).

Nevertheless, on the whole it seems that the job of the homemaker generally sits well with me – for now.  I keep busy keeping the baby clean, healthy, happy and hopefully stimulated enough to be developing at a suitable pace.  I usually manage to keep the house tidy and clean, the pantry stocked, and food on the table.  Most weeks I also manage some sort of creative endeavour and/or some interesting outings and social engagements.  I am also keeping involved with some political activism of sorts and making an effort to stay engaged a little with the outside world, though often it is only the internet that answers for that.  As I said to Akira’s aunt last week, I do enjoy the quiet pace of life with Kazuo, and am reluctant to disrupt it in the near future, though the prospect of paid employment is looming on the 2010 horizon.  And one thought that bugs me, is that most women are expected to do all the things I mentioned above AND engage in some kind of paid employment… now where does the energy for that level of commitment come from?  How must the division of labour in the home shift to accommodate the working mother, and am I cut out for such a juggling act?  Even more interesting, how could my split personality (for surely that is what is required) impact on Kazuo, who currently has my more-or-less undivided attention?

Well, I don’t have much to show for today’s not-working, but one of the main activities was keeping the little man somewhat close to his usual sunny dispostion – seems he woke on the wrong side of the bed.  Here you can see us at the post-consolation-point, Kaz still in his sleep sack from his nap, but managing a smile after the hard work of cheering him up from a teary awakening has been achieved.  I am grateful for the tenuous and perhaps fleeting ability to still comfort him/get him to sleep with a little cuddling, a bit of patting and some soft singing.  I hope that persists for a wee while yet.

After the Nap

Helmet Free!

Well, it has taken me a while to get round to this – but I wanted to give a FINAL update on the helmet – it is all over!  We are still somewhat skeptical that it made any difference, or was really all that necessary.  But the fact remains that in the three months or so that Kazuo wore it 23/7, his head did round out considerably and one would never know that he’d had a flat spot at all.

Although he was not phased by having to wear his helmet, I am enjoying our little guy being more affectionate and cuddly without the impediment of the plastic.  He is having to learn (slowly and the hard way it seems) that the floor is hard, and that leading with his head when he rolls over, or indeed when he forgets to use his hands to balance in his pre-crawling moves, is going to result in a painful bump on the head.  We have had some wonderful bruises to the forehead in the past fortnight.

So Kazuo is getting on with normal life, helmet-less.  I am enjoying the new things he can do and the little things he likes to participate in around the house.  Here he is helping Dada ‘fold’ the washing.

Laundry Boys

And this was him, a little too bright and early this morning, in his new Nana-made sleep sack that arrived in the post from New Zealand yesterday.  He has more or less made the adjustment away from Daylight Saving without too much trouble, but this morning it was awake just before 6am, rather than his usual closer to 7am… and we were all feeling a little less than chipper.

Snuggly

Yesterday we had a visit from the Parents as Teachers parent educator, who suggested more stacking and nesting activities to stimulate Kazuo’s fine motor skills.  I had already been taken by these stacking boxes on the weekend, so a perfect opportunity to add them to the toy box.  They are by Sami, who also did the wonderful book of faces that Julia’s folks brought Kazuo a few weeks back.  He loves nothing more than destroying a tower of blocks.

Stacking

We have (as I have mentioned ad nauseum so far) been so happy with the wonderful sunny weather this week – and the weekend is set to be even better.  This morning was farmer’s market shopping, and we stopped at the playground on the way home.  Although it made him smile the first time, swinging really has been slow to catch fire for Kazuo.  A bit like his mellow, slow response to the swimming pool.  But the past few days he has really enjoyed the sensation of the swings, so this happy little outing made his morning.

Swinging

It’s been a long haul of physio and helmet wearing, but we are so glad to have our chimpy wee chap back to normal now, and to be done with all the trips to the children’s hospital for the time being.  They have taken good care of us, but it will be nice to have a few weeks leading up to the holidays that are not filled with appointments to keep.  And more cuddles and snuggles to come!

Culmination of Craft Week

The sewing machine and all my craft materials have been taking over the dining room all week, so I thought I better get finished up for a few days so we can clear the clutter.  Also, the holiday weekend has turned into a washout of St Louis-style monsoony thunderstorms, so indoors activities were the order of the day.  Since my Monday post, I managed to complete these little trousers for Kazuo made out of an old t-shirt from the Goodwill:Upcycled Trousers

I made this little proto-type shoulder bag for a friend’s birthday:

Heart Bag

And this triptych for our dining room, using some organic motifs I have been mulling about for a while:

Paintings

Here they are hanging on our big bare dining room wall:

Dining Room

And although I didn’t have to do much (or spend any money, thanks to a Walgreen’s voucher for free digital photos), I did make up this photo mobile that the Moulin Lab sent us for Kazuo, it was great to gather up photos of family and friends for him to gaze at when he is lying about in the crib:

Mobile

Here he is getting acquainted with everyone, (I got some wire to string it up above his bed as there was no way we could screw into the ghastly plaster ceiling) it’s a little distracting for bedtime, so it is handy that I can just pull the mobile out of sight towards the window:

Pop and Mobile

A satisfyingly creative week, but I have loads more projects swirling about in my head, so I guess it won’t be long before the dining room is overcrowded with crafty scraps again!