Barking

Sometimes I think I might be a crazy person. Especially when it comes to crochet.
An idea will drop into my head, perfect and fully formed, that will send me into a frenzy of wool and stitches. I won’t be able to rest until I’ve snipped and woven in the last end of yarn. And I won’t know until the moment the handmade gift is opened whether I’ve created something special and wonderful and right-on-the-mark; or lame, attention-seeking and deserving of pity.

I wanted to share with you my latest piece of insanity.

Mr Knightley’s sister, whom I’m going to call Audrey (if he were called Mr Darcy, I could call her Georgiana, I suppose, but I digress…), lives in a different city to us with her husband and two daughters: two-year-old Holly and newborn Eliza.  They also have three big and very loveable dogs.  Now, when Eliza was born, I put my head to thinking what I could make for her.  Unfortunately, my brain had other ideas, and thought instead of a great present for Holly.  I figured Holly might need a present more than her baby sister, babies get enough fuss!

Holly is devoted to her three big dogs, which is what gave me the idea.  What if I made her three toy puppies, modelled on her favourite playmates?  And the idea wouldn’t leave.  So I had to make them.

Crocheted Dog - Fudge

Here is Fudge, a brown Labrador, and the eldest of the three;

crocheted dog - jet

This is Jet, a black Labrador who is very excitable;

Crocheted Dog - Trumpet

And here is Trumpet, a black poodle, who is more shy and sensible than his friends.

Trumpet's Tail

And he has a curly tail.

Each dog has his own collar, bed and blanket in a matching colour.  I like to think this makes them all very Montessori.  I don’t like to think that pointing this out makes me all very pretentious sounding…

I didn’t want to forget Baby Eliza entirely, so I made Miss Doolittle a soft ball which makes a crunchy sound when you squeeze it. I spent many of my days testing various plastic wrappers for sound quality before putting the best ones in with the stuffing.  People think I’m odd.

Crocheted Ball

It’s not as round as I would like it, but thankfully Eliza does not yet understand the basics of geometry, so I think I’ll get away with it…

The pattern I used for the dogs is the very clear and well written “Puppy Love” by Beth Ann Weber on the By Hook By Hand blog.   The dogs’ collars, beds and blankets are my own design, as is the ball (which explains the wonkiness).

presents

And here are the presents all together.  My parents-in-law were travelling to visit Audrey and her family, so I packed it all in a shoe box (I resisted the temptation to use a “Hush Puppies” box), wrapped it nicely and gave it to them to deliver.

Now I was stuck.  I wouldn’t know until the gift was opened if the present was good or not.  And I wouldn’t be there to see them open it.  While the box remained closed, the present was simultaneously lovely and lame.  This is a paradox known as Schrödinger’s Dogs.

Thankfully, my sister-in-law called to thank me soon after they received the present.  Holly had fallen in love with the little dogs and had been playing with them all day.  Huzzah!

As for me, my fingers are starting to itch again!

Look Look Look!

I wrote another article for Seton Magazine. And they’ve totally published it!

http://www.setonmagazine.com/family/grandparents/absent-without-leave-learning-to-live-with-my-gadabout-grandparents

The editor added the subtitle, but it’s not entirely accurate.  My husband’s parents are not also my grandparents.  I live in Victoria, not Tasmania!

Look at me: stay-at-home-mum and part-time freelance author!

Ghost Post

Or “The Post Who Walks”

I’ve been doing a lot of crochet of late.  I don’t know why it is.

I can go for ages without picking up a hook and I think I’ve given it up, but then, for no reason, I get haunted by ideas for woolen items and my fingers itch for my crochet hooks and my over-abundant stash of yarn.

Here’s one of the latest creations my itchy fingers made.  It’s more than a little daft, which I think is why I like it so much.

Phantom Tea Cosy

I made it for my cousin Joey Ramone. (actually, he’s Mr Knightley’s cousin, but, along with all his good ballpoint pens, I like to claim my husband’s extended family as my own).  If you are Facebook friends with my blog, you might know Joey as a regular and supportive commenter (only he calls himself ‘Adam’) for both my and Matilda’s posts.  In fact, Joey has been very supportive of our homeschooling efforts all year, and it was his birthday and I wanted to say thank you.

Joey Ramone is a big fan of The Phantom.  I’m pretty sure he has a tattoo of Lee Falk’s most famous character on his arm (or leg?  I can’t remember…).  Plus he loves a cup of tea, so a Ghost Who Walks tea cosy seemed the obvious choice.  But, strangely enough, I couldn’t find a pattern for such a creation.

Phantom Tea Cosy

When I searched for “The Phantom”, I got a lot of hits for “The Phantom of the Opera”, so I searched for “The Phantom the Ghost Who Walks Crochet”.  Google asked, “Did you mean “The Phantom The Ghost Who Walks crotch?“, which I thought was highly disturbing.  No, Google.  No I didn’t.  You are sick, Google.

In the end, I designed my own pattern (oh, yes, I totally did).  It took me a while to understand that Kit Walker’s head is more of a rounded rectangle than an oval or a circle, and then everything else fell into place.  I had a go at drawing my design onto graph paper, and then hooked it in rows following my little pattern.  I made a basic cover for the teapot, finishing it with a button from Nan’s stash and then sewed the motif on.  I wanted to stitch “The Ghost Who Walks” on the reverse side, but it looked lame, so I left it blank.

Graph paper pattern

Joey Ramone was really happy with his birthday present and I was really happy with his reaction (I might have hopped around and clapped my hands a bit.)

If anybody would like a go at making a Phantom motif (I can assure you, it exists nowhere else on the internet!), drop me a line in the comments.  If enough people are interested, I’ll draw up a tutorial and post it in my “Hooky Business” section.

It would be really cool if The Phantom had a famous catchphrase that I could sign off with here, but I don’t think he does.  “See you in the Skull Cave!”? “Old jungle saying: tea cosy keep tea hot!”?  Nope.

Bye, then.

Looking back…

katelikestocreate:

My wonderfully talented sister wrote this about our grandmother. The little girl in the second photo is me!

Originally posted on EmilyofOldMoon:

A little over a year ago my dear, sparkling, much adored grandmother (or Mama as we lovingly called her) passed away. I wrote some words in my journal back then, when I had first heard the news. In truth, writing words down doesn’t really help the pain of the goodbye, but it can help try to capture in some way a mere slice of the vast joy that was the “hello”. Seeing as it was her birthday recently I thought I would post a little blog for her and include some of my journal writing from last year.

One of my favourite photos of Mama and me from Christmas a few years back- such joy!

One of my favourite photos of Mama and me from Christmas a few years back- such joy!

When someone transforms from a person who Is to a person who Was, so much changes. Suddenly your experience of them becomes that of an observer, looking upon their masterpiece of life- as opposed to seeing them as a person with…

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Awkward Post

cup cosies

Oh, Blog!

It’s been such a long time, and I’ve missed you like a person.

When we’ve been apart so long, it starts to get a little awkward.   I don’t know what to say.  I can’t just pick up where we left off, words pouring out onto the back of an old envelope as I wait in the car for netball to finish.  It’s not that easy.  We need to spend some quality time together and that can be tricky to arrange.

I can’t believe I missed your birthday.  And I never finished Art in August with you, even thought I have photos in my phone.  I’m sorry.

But, Blog, I’ve got some great news.  Lovely M (the patron saint of sanity) has volunteered to look after the kids for a couple of hours and sent me out to the library to write.

And, oh Blog, I’ve so much to talk to you about!

But first, we must have this awkward and rather self-indulgent post to break the drought.   Bloggy small-talk.

I hope you don’t mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Week Fail: Part Two.

Before I start, I just want to say I am mortified at the amount of time it has taken me to write the sequel to this post.  I’ve been knocked about with a nasty dose of the flu and my laptop has been misbehaving a little as well.  The problem is, the longer the break since my last post, the more I avoid writing the next one.  I didn’t mean to build up this much suspense!  You’re going to find Part Two a bit of a let down after such a long wait!  Oh well, here goes…

 

I woke up super-early on the morning of the Book Week Parade.  Partly because I had plans to get everything organised and to arrive at school with time to spare (I was determined to get it right this year), but also because I had an early morning Skype-date with my sister, Jan.  I don’t say ‘conversation’, because these sessions are more likely to involve my children climbing all over me and shouting at the computer as they jostle for prime position.  They love their Aunty.  And the camera.

As bed-time in Britain was fast approaching, we bid farewell to Jan and I felt the familiar pang of distance.  I miss my sister so much.  But now it was time for weetbix and toast and uniform and matching socks and The Bunny Spoon (no other spoon will do for Annie’s breakfast).  I needed to get cracking on my own breakfast, too.  I’m one of those types who needs a proper high-protein breakfast to function on any level.  On a good day, I will have eaten breakfast and hung a load of whites on the line before the kids wake up.  I enjoy this semi-annual event, I really do.  Today, I was running a bit behind, but no matter.  I was able to beat eggs and shout at my children simultaneously (thankfully I didn’t get confused and shout at the eggs whilst beating my children).

Mr Knightley emerged wearing some hideous running clothes.  He was leaving early to drop the car off for a service (and would run to work from the mechanics).  I reminded myself that nobody would actually see his olive-green windcheater as he always kept a clean shirt and pants in his office and bit back any fashion advice I might have been tempted to share.

It was as I was saying goodbye to my husband that Harry somehow managed to tip an entire bowl of soggy weetbix onto his lap.  Ack!  I got busy with paper towels and the laundry sink and found him a clean set of clothes (“I hate the stripy t-shirt!”).  Things were starting to get a little hectic.  My FODMAP-friendly omelette was ready, but nobody seemed to be wearing shoes and I still had to make the lunches (to busy constructing costumes to remember to do it the night before…).

That’s when the phone rang.

It was my husband.

Here’s the general gist of our conversation:

  1. Before Mr Knightley left the house, we swapped keys.  He was taking the family car to the mechanics, I would drive the car he usually drives to work (on loan from my sister).
  2. The keys to his office were in my hand bag.
  3. He had an important meeting at 9am.
  4. He was wearing a truly dreadful sweatshirt.

I gaped.   I almost cried out “But you don’t understand – it’s BOOK WEEK!” before realising that things that are desperately important in Mummy Land bear no relevance in the rest of the world.  This did give me a moment of existential angst, I must say.  But then I took a deep breath,  allowed myself one look at the truly delicious omelette and steaming cup of tea before turning the stove off, clamping a lid over the pan and swinging into action.

I slapped sandwiches together whilst shouting “Shoes!  Mail Bag!  Put that down!  Time to go!”.  Then I scooped up the costume bits and ushered everyone into the car (after retrieving Christopher Robin’s shoes from under the trampoline).  We managed to get to Mr Knightley’s work by 9:05.  He’d already had a shower, so wouldn’t be too late for the meeting.  Then we raced back to school.

Saucepans

We were late, we were so late.  We had to park miles away and walk through the school carrying  the costumes and back packs and Annie (she wasn’t wearing any shoes).  When we got there, the parade had already started.  The kinder kids were already on the stage.  I wheeled around to face Harry. “Let’s get your costume on!” I said, in what I hoped was a cheerful voice.

Harry shook his head.

“Come on!”  I trilled, trying not to sound too maniacal.  “look at all your friends!  Won’t it be fun?”  I was already trying to dress him.  Harry started to panic.  “No!  No!”  he wailed, “I hate this!  I hate the Saucepan Man!  I want to be Woody!”

We don’t own a Woody costume, nor is Woody a character from a proper book (not counting spin-off merchandise), but I don’t think either of these arguments were going to convince Harry in this moment.  “Just the hat?”  I cajoled,

But Harry was shaking and in tears.

I should have known by now, Harry doesn’t do costumes (remember Christmas Eve?).  In fact, I really should have been grateful he was wearing clothes at all.  I heaved a big sigh, folded him up in my arms and found a place to sit.  His tears and snot were warm against my neck.

Christopher Robin had already gathered up his tray of Marvellous Medicine and hurried off to sit with his class.  I realised, too late, that I had never weight-tested the tray with all of its contents.  It was really heavy.  Christopher’s arms wobbled as he held the tray and his voice sounded a little strained as he told the school he was “George and the Marvellous Medicine”.  But he got through it like a champion.

Marvellous Medicine

This was the point where I was planning to sneak off home, but Harry was still sitting on my lap, his face firmly buried in my neck.  I had asked him coaxingly a few times if he’d like to sit with his class, pointing out all his little friends, but he just shook his head, without actually removing it from my neck.  I was going to have to watch the whole darn thing.

It was around the time the Grade Fives were on the stage that Harry looked up from my neck.  “My tummy’s rumbling,”  he announced, “I haven’t had any breakfast!”

I realised, with horror, that the only weetbix Harry had encountered before I bundled him into the car was the bowl he’d tipped on his lap.  His tummy growled.  Mine growled back.

“I haven’t had any breakfast, Mummy!”  Harry repeated loudly and insistently.  Several teachers and parents turned to look.  I smiled brightly and tried to reassure Harry under my breath.  This was the day I was going to convince everyone that I had it all together and homeschool was working out just fine, thank you very much.  Would the Book Parade never end?

At last it was time to gather everything together and walk Harry to kinder.  But the student wellbeing teacher was honing in on me.   She looked at me with a glance that took in my face, barren of make-up, my bored-looking nine year-old, my dirty-faced, pyjama-clad two-year-old, and the quivering four-year-old firmly attached to my leg.  She gave me a trademark warm smile that seemed tinged with concern.  I smiled bravely back.

I think she was trying to talk to me about Matilda’s ‘transition’ back to school, but her face had somehow morphed into a hot cheese-chicken-and-spinach omelette with a fresh pot of tea on the side.  I nodded hungrily.

Omelette

At Harry’s kinder, his teacher was taking photos of all the children in their costumes before they took them off to play.  At some point, I will receive a book week photo of Harry, dressed as  Harry, baring his teeth disconsolately for the camera.

I think I’ll put it in a frame.

Book Week Fail: Part One.

Last week was Book Week (actually, by the time I post this, it might be a little longer, but let’s just pretend it was last week).  Here in Australia, at a certain time of the year, Facebook news feeds everywhere become choked with pictures of school-aged children in costumes.  They all carry the same two word caption: Book Week.  This is the week the Children’s Book of the Year is awarded and suburban libraries try to out-do each other in creative celebrations.  Book Week represents everything I should love, so why does the mere mention of the word fill me with a vague sense of nausea and dread?

I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself on Book Week dress-up day.  When you’re a stay-at-home mum, you don’t often get the chance to prove yourself.  There are no clear-cut KPIs and no performance reviews in my line of work.  It all pretty much boils down to two tests:  visits to the Maternal and Child Health Nurse and Book Week.  As you may know, my previous performances at MCH visits have been underwhelming to say the least.  Book Week, therefore, would have to be Kate’s Time To Shine.

In the past, I’ve been disorganized and turned up late with costumes that didn’t quite work, like the time Matilda arrived half-way through the parade with tangled hair in a generic fairy dress as ‘Silky’, a last-minute substitute after I discovered that a five-year-old couldn’t manage the sheer weight of a Saucepan Man costume when it was made up of proper stainless steel saucepans.  We were both gutted.  I had planned to bask in the glow of good-costume-approval and Matilda had devised plans to pretend to be comically deaf all day (maybe she still did: she’s not easily deterred).

 

Hand drawn cartoon.  A wild-haired Kate is holding a saucepan and looking disconcerted:  her five-year-old daughter has collapsed under the weight of her saucepan costume.  Caption reads "Enid Blyton versus Newton's law or universal gravitation"

Can you tell there’s a squashed child under all those saucepans? Can you even tell they’re meant to be saucepans??

This year was going to be different.  A week before the day and I was already thinking it over.  There could be no phoning it in.  No Shrek.  No Spiderman.  No Buzz Lightyear.  My children and their costumes would represent the richness and diversity of well-written children’s books.  The school librarian would nod approvingly and nudge the literacy co-ordinator.  “Do you see those children?  They will go far in life.  Their mother is doing an excellent job.”

I needed to think.  I majored in Literature in University.  I adore children’s literature.   This was a unique opportunity to exhibit my Sublime Literary Taste.  People would see me as a real-life Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail: how could you not know that?).

“What are you doing for Book Week?”  I interrogated Lovely M.

“Ugh!  Book Week!  Peter says he wants to bring his scooter.  Do you know any literary characters who ride scooters?” I shook my head doubtfully.  M sighed.

“Things would be so much easier if I had a little girl with red hair,” I mused, “think about it:  Anne of Green Gables, L’il Orphan Annie, Pippi Longstocking, Sunny Ducrow, Madeleine”

Nancy Drew,” added M, “Millie that red crayon girl”

“Do you think I can convince Christopher Robin to wear a red wig and a dress?” I asked wistfully.  M shook her head.  I sighed.  Lovely M started googling scooter-themed books.

Harry’s costume, at least, would be easy enough.  At some point since our failed Saucepan Man attempt, we had managed to acquire a set of lightweight toy saucepans (I promise we didn’t get them just for Book Week.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself).  Harry would be an adorable little Saucepan Man; I just needed to think up a decent costume for Christopher Robin.

I ran the idea past my siblings at Family Night.  They’re young and creative and don’t have kids.  This sort of thing is actually fun for them.   We were deep in discussion of proper construction methods of a giant peach and Cindy had just run off to fetch a teapot that looked a little like Aladdin’s lamp when Greg (or Peter) struck gold (they both are taking credit for having the idea first. I’m not getting involved)

“What about George’s Marvellous Medicine?”

The idea had real promise.  Christopher Robin could wear regular clothes and just carry a tray with ‘medicine’ ingredients on it.  Given that we were having this conversation the night before costume day, this plan had great appeal.

As soon as I got home from my parent’s house, I got to work stringing together toy saucepans and gathering household items to put on George’s tray.  I also filled up a bottle with water, put food dye in it and labelled it “Marvellous Medicine”, just to drive the point home.  When I went to bed that night, I was feeling rather smug.  My boys would look adorable.  My Facebook boast would get so many likes. For the first time ever, I was going to get it right on Book Week day.

At least, that’s what I thought.