Monthly Archives: December 2013

Special Birthday Edition

I meant to get this post up yesterday, the 15th, which was my birthday, but didn’t quite manage it. 

birthday cards

This is a quick, unpolished post, the electronic equivalent of scribbled notes, but I had to write something about today because it was so beautiful.  I want to capture it and remember it always.

I am 33 years old today.  When I sat in church this morning, as Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry trotted off to Children’s Liturgy and Annie happily defaced a Vinnies Christmas Appeal envelope, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my love-filled life.

roses from my garden

Last night, I had a group of dear friends over for a relaxed barbeque.  I had tidied the house and made it beautiful with fairy lights and candles and fresh flowers from my garden.  After we had picked at the last of the salad and the birthday cake crumbs, Mr Knightley lit a bonfire and we all sat around toasting marshmallows until the guitars came out.

I think it might have had something to do with the plastic cups of very lovely champagne (a Christmas present from her very generous student) that Lydia poured out liberally for all, or one of the most delicious and rather strong vodka cranberries that Lovely M kept making me, but I sounded AMAZING.  We all sounded AMAZING.  Like magical gypsy minstrels.  Those weren’t fumbled chords.  Those were highly sophisticated improvisations.  It. Was. Awesome.

By all rights, I should have felt rather poorly this morning, but I did not.  My children tumbled into bed with me and gave me presents and kisses.  My husband cooked me bacon and eggs (even better: he fed and dressed the kids!).  We got to church on time, too (this is big)

I was still feeling the love while Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry walked slowly to the front of the church in the Offertory Procession with the other Children’s Liturgy kids.  Harry solemnly delivered the corporal cloth to Father Jacob and then swiftly ran away, first in the wrong direction, then turning and racing back, almost knocking the priest and half the gifts over in the process.  Annie, meanwhile had quietly progressed to colouring the hymn books.

I felt so good.

These aren't from my garden, but a present from Bess

Later that day, I would eat brunch with Bess and George, my old uni friends ; my parents-in-law would drop by with a lovely present and my house would be tidy (win); and I would have a delightful afternoon tea at my favourite place with my parents, and brothers and sister (Jan’s in England, but was there in spirit).

I was yet to be showered in presents (and so was Cindy, my twin, who turns 23 on Tuesday), was yet to eat delicious gluten-free cake, but I still felt so good and so grateful.

At the end of the day, I would snuggle up with my darling love (my new curling iron) and my husband and watch a movie so compelling I couldn’t blog through it and post this in time.

A day might come that’s not like this one at all, when I feel blackness and despair.  Maybe I might feel consumed by anxiety, like I can’t cope, like I always fail.

Perhaps it might not be blackness and despair, but greyness and blah.  I might feel numb to joy, like I’m just surviving in a bland world of sameness.  I might forget how to be happy and just settle for smug.

A day might come when I really need this post.  When I need to remind myself that things aren’t really all that bad.

Things can be pretty damn sweet.

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Fun Run Fail.

T Shirt

So, it all began a few months ago when I realised I suddenly somehow weighed more than my husband.  All of Mr Knightley’s quiet and persistent bike rides to work and lunchtime swims were paying off.  I was now the heavier spouse, by a full 1.4 kilos.   This would not do.

So I figured out a plan.  I would download the Couch to 5k app and follow the baby-steps program until I could run 5 kilometres without lapsing into a coma.  At the same time I would sign up for a fun run to encourage me to stick with the program.  I would become Fit Woman.  I would post images of my fit and muscular self online with the caption “I lost all my baby weight in just two years!” and everyone would hate me.  It was the beginning of a new day.

At six in the morning, three mornings a week, I would toddle out of the door in my two sports bras (necessary) and my running clothes and listen as Johnny Dead, the friendly zombie trainer in my ear phones, told me when to walk and when to run.  I would like to say I bounced out of bed and ran with joy through the park whilst meditating on the wonder of nature, but I did not.  The whole time I had to run, I was thinking “I hate this.  I hate this SO MUCH.”  But I figured it was like medicine.  I just had to take it.  I didn’t have to like it.

I signed up for a 5k fun run that sounded like my sort of thing.  You wear white and run along and get pelted with different coloured cornflour so by the end you look like an extra from Doctor Who – Day of the Rainbow.  And then there’s this wonderful festival at the end where everyone dances and throws colour simultaneously in beautiful clouds “like nothing you’ve ever seen before”.  It was going to be awesome.

The weeks rolled by and I stuck with the program (hate it).  After a bit, I also went on that stupid no sugar diet for a whole month (after which I went to a doctor who said “don’t be an idiot: you should be on low FODMAP instead”).  How much did the weight fall off when I was running five kilometres three mornings a week and eating no sugar or carbs or – you know – food?  NOT AT ALL.  Not one kilo.  I’m not one to obsess over body image (most times of the month) and I went on the diet to fix up some health issues, not to get skinny, but I kinda hoped that weighing less than my husband might be a happy side effect to all that salad with no dressing.  Sigh.

I moaned about this disaster to my husband.  “You probably need to do more anaerobic exercise.” he said, matter of factly.  “Your body’s hanging on to all its fat because it thinks there’s a famine.”  Very interesting.  Very informative.  What Mr Knightley did not realise was that the correct response was “Oh, my beautiful darling wife.  You are the perfect shape and quite lovely to behold.  And, what is more, I would love you at any size.  Please, do eat some chocolate.” When I sulkily pointed this out, however, he promptly repeated the required response verbatim, and, whilst I declined the chocolate (sugar), I did feel a little better.

I don’t think I was breaking any speed records while I was on my morning training runs.  At one point, as I was shuffling along the path, a lady managed to overtake me WHILE SHE WAS WALKING.  But I would always do a big sprint for the final stretch.  I would imagine myself near the finish line, loping along like a gazelle, so gracefully that you didn’t even realise how incredibly fast I was moving.  My friends and family would watch on, mouths agape:
“Is that Cathy Freeman?  No – it’s Kate!”
“Kate?  But she is not sporty!  She is not athletic!”
“That’s what I thought.  But LOOK”

And all the kids I went to school with would be there – remarkably all still school-aged.  And oh, they would stare and they would call out:

“We were wrong not to pick you for our team, Kate!”
“We were wrong not to pass you the ball!”
“Go, Kate, GO!”

And I would burst triumphantly through the finish line and everyone would cheer.  All of my former PE teachers would rush in and hoist my slender frame onto their shoulders.  And not one of them would look disappointed or exasperated.  And off we would go to a little card table set up with little ribbons on it.  And I wouldn’t get a white “Merit” ribbon, or a brown “Participation” ribbon or a pink one that said “I Ran in a Race”.  I would get a blue one, on a little gold safety pin.  And it would say “First”.

Finally the big day arrived.  After negotiating hordes of people and jams of traffic, I stood with my sister Cindy in the “Start Zone”, stretching my limbs ostentatiously and bouncing from foot to foot.  A couple of my friends were in the race too, but they were taking their kids in pushers.  I informed them self-importantly that we would quickly become separated as I would be moving too fast.

After what seemed like an eternity, we shuffled through the “Start Zone” arch.  I thought it was the starting line, but it wasn’t.  I tugged self-consciously at my regulation white t-shirt.  I had ordered it months ago, thinking by the time I got to the race, I would be a ‘medium’.  I was wrong.

An hour later, we made it to the real start line.  Cindy and I rubbed our hands together and tried to muster up some of our original enthusiasm.   There were so many people it was hard to really run, but we jogged rather slowly, and I tried hard to look impatient, like a Serious and Important Runner.

We spent a lot of the race stopping and starting and trying to run around people who were, for some reason, walking in the opposite direction.  The track was often too narrow for anyone to more fast and when we got to a ‘colour’ section, everyone seemed to stop and queue up to get colour thrown on them.  I never really fell into a rhythm.  But it was still fun to be out running with my sister.

When the finish line came into view, I turned to Cindy excitedly, “Let’s run really fast to the finish line!” I exclaimed.  So, we darted off, nimbly avoiding the thick crowd of people who were walking slowly (and failing to keep left – ahem!).  I could feel my legs gearing up for a triumphant sprint.  The finish line was approaching, my speed was increasing … and then I had to stop short.  There was a bunch of people ahead of me taking a group photo.  Hm.  I scooted around them and started up again. And stopped again.  And again.  It would seem that everywhere I turned, people were stopping to take selfies and tweet their friends.  This was a moment, it would seem, so precious that it could not wait until AFTER THEY CROSSED THE FINISH LINE.  In the end, I performed a half-hearted waddle through the victory arch and stalked off to find my family.

Mr Knightley and my brother Greg (back from Japan!) were sitting with the kids at the side of the track looking weary and bored.  When they saw Cindy and me, however, they summoned up encouraging grins and cheered and took photos.  Cindy had to rush off to catch her train (the run had taken a lot longer than any of us had anticipated), but I was grimly determined to make it to the special rainbow end-of-race festival.  It was supposed to be magical.

We moved with the crowd at glacial speed to collect our colour packets and proceed to the party zone.  There was a sound stage with music playing and a small crowd of people dancing so enthusiastically I suspect they might have been paid to be there.  People around us were having little colour fights, but there were no amazing rainbow clouds, nothing that looked enchanting, like the inside of a dream.

I looked across at Mr Knightley.  He was Over It.  It was past lunchtime and we’d left so early that he’d hardly had any breakfast.  There were crowds of people everywhere and none of them seemed to know how to behave rationally.  I could see it in his eyes.  He just wanted to find a nice dark room and curl up into a ball for a few hours.  The relief that flooded his face when I suggested we go home confirmed this hypothesis.

I opened my colour packet up and had a brief powder party with Matilda.  I deliberately accidentally spilt half of it on the ground.  I’m the one who has to wash these clothes, you know.  Then we began the long trek to our car.

After we’d battled traffic chaos and dropped Greg off at his car (the closest he could find a  parking space was several suburbs away), Mr Knightley turned to me apologetically.  “If I don’t eat something soon I’m gonna go nuts.”, he said.

Which is how we found ourselves inside the nearest fast food restaurant stuffing our faces with Red Rooster Tropical Packs.  This is pathetic I thought glumly I hardly ran at all and now I’m eating bad food.  I’m never going to weigh less than my husband. 

Then inspiration struck:

“My darling love,” I cajoled, “you really, really must eat some more chips!”

Pippi and Lovely M’s Granny Square Tea Cosy

Free Crochet Pattern (C) Laptop on the Ironing Board 2013

tea cosy

This tea cosy pattern is designed for those sleek looking teapots that don’t really have much of a spout, but pour out of the top.  I’m sure the pattern could be modified to suit other types of teapot, but for now, we’ll stick to this kind.

You have permission to sell the finished products from this pattern but re-writing, re-selling, distributing, or copying this pattern itself is prohibited.

This is my first ever crochet tutorial.  I hope you’ll be patient with me and let me know of any errors.

another angle of the lovely cosy

I made these cosies with DK acrylic yarn (mine were Kmart brand) and a 4.5mm hook.  You will also need a button and a needle and thread to sew it on.

button detail

Here are the stitches used in this pattern.  I have used UK terms throughout:

Chain – “ch”
Slip Stich – “slst”
Double Crochet – “dc” (US sc)
Treble Crochet – “tr” (US dc)
Double Crochet Decrease – “dc2tog”
Treble Crochet Decrease – “tr2tog”

I had planned to give you a little description of each (you know “yarn over, insert hook, pull through a loop” and all that malarkey), but I think it would be better for both of us if you typed any stitch you’re unsure of into YouTube and watch one of the many excellent stitch tutorials available there.

Now, let’s get started!

Chain 4 in loop

To begin, ch 4 and slip stitch into beginning chain stitch to make a loop.

chain 3 - counts as first tr

Now ch 3 – this counts as your first treble stitch

2 tr into loop

Now work 2 tr into the loop you made at the start

work 3 more shells into loop and join

Now *(ch 3 and work 3 tr into loop).  Repeat from * two more times.  You should have 4 “shells” in your loop.  Ch 3 and attach to the top of your first 3 ch with a slst.  Fasten off and change colour.

Attach new colour with sl st in corner space

Now, attach your new colour with a sl st in one of the corner spaces (doesn’t matter which one) and ch 3.  This counts as your first tr.

work 2 shells into corner space

Work 2 more tr into the same corner space, then ch 3 and work 3 tr into the same corner space.

first granny square

Next, * (ch 1 and move on to the next corner space.  Work 3 tr, 3 ch, 3 tr into this space) repeat from * 2 more times, then ch 1 and join with a sl st to your original ch 3.  Fasten off.

Take a moment to admire your first completed granny square.  You will need to make enough of these to make a little belt for your teapot.  I needed six.  Also, because I can’t stand sewing squares together, I used the joining-as-you-go method, which I learnt from the lovely Lucy at Attic24.  Here’s a rundown:

joining as you go

Work the first two corners as before, then work your first 3-treble shell into the third corner.  This is the point when you would usually work a 3 ch space, but because this is the side you want to join, work 1 ch and then 2 slip stitches into the corner of the square you’ve already made.

joining as you go

Next, work your 3 tr shell as usual.  Then, instead of working a ch 1 space, work a sl st into the corresponding side space of the square you want to join.

joining as you go

Now work your 3 tr shell into the next corner and, instead of your usual 3 ch space, work 2 slip stitches into the corner space of the square you want to join and 1 ch.   Then work your next 3 tr shell and complete the square as usual.

two joined squares

Heave a small, happy sigh and admire your handiwork.

six joined squares

Continue in this way until you have enough squares to wrap around your teapot (if you were to make this for a traditional teapot, you would need two strips, which together are long enough to wrap the teapot.  In the next step, you would need to make 2 bridges to join both together)

joined thread

Join your next colour to your granny strip on one of the long edges, but not at the corner.  Dc in each stitch/space to the end.

little bridge

Now it’s time to make a little bridge.  Ch 3

little bridge

And bring the other end of your granny strip around and make a slip stitch into the first corner.  You’re making a little belt for your teapot.

dc around

Now continue to dc around until you get back to the start.  Join with a sl st to your original ch 1.

treble round

Now for a round of decreasing trebles.  Ch 2, *(2 tr, tr2tog) around, then join with sl st to ch 2.

decreasing doubles

And now some decreasing doubles.  Ch 1, then (2 dc, dc2tog) around.  Join with a sl st.

final round

Finish off with a round of double crochet.  Ch 1, then dc around.  Join with a sl st and fasten off.

Working the other side

Now flip your work upside down.  We are going to work into the other long side of your granny strip (as an aside, anyone who reached this page by googling “granny strip” needs to sit down and reflect on the direction their life is taking).  Attach your yarn with a slip stitch into one of the end corners.

working the underside of the tea cosy

You will be working in rows from corner to corner in a similar way to the rounds you just did.

Row 1: ch 1, dc in every stitch/space Row 2: ch 2, ( tr in next 2 st, tr2tog) repeat to end Row 3: ch 1, (dc in next 2 st, dc2tog) repeat to end

dc all around

Now do a row of dc.  When you get to the end, work 3 dc into the corner stitch.  Do not turn.  Continue working dcs up the side of your granny strip, around, and down the other side.  When you get to the end of the second granny square edge (about 2 cms from the end of the row), you’ll be at around the right place to work a button-hole loop.  The size of this will depend on the size of your button, but I will say ch 8 and join with a sl st to the same stitch.

Completed cosy

Then continue on your way, working dcs until you reach the other corner.  Join with a sl st and fasten off.  Dance a quiet jig (just a wiggle in your chair will suffice).

decisions, decisions!

Next comes the exhilarating task of choosing a button and the less-than-exhilarating task of sewing it on (you want the cosy to button up snugly under the teapot handle).

teapots with cosies

And you’re all done!  Just what you need to bring a snug, homespun touch to your (or your lucky friend’s) kitchen!

teapot

Like this pattern?  Think it needs some adjusting?  Please leave me a comment and share this pattern with your friends – they might end up making one for you!