Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Year of Finishing Projects, ep. 3

This one has been a while coming...

These are my children's Easter outfits (dresses for the girls, and a waistcoat (US: vest) for R. I only made the fox-print stuff, obviously. 

I used the Prudent Baby Snappy Toddler Shirt pattern (free!) for the dresses - I just extended them to dress length. I also lined mine because I had some lining going spare, and it saved having to use bias binding around the arm-holes. The pattern is really clear, very quick and pretty fun to sew! Just make sure you get the print size right (there are clear instructions on the website). Mx's dress was actually a bit big, so it should do her for a couple of years. 

The waistcoat/vest pattern is here  - also free, also fantastic. I only used two fabrics (lining and foxes) because I wanted the back the same as the front. I only used two buttons - three seemed too many for the age 2 version - and topstitched all around the edges for a sharper finish. 

I'd love to see what anyone else has been making recently - feel free to leave links in the comments !

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Five Favourites: To-Read

Earlier on this year, I owned up to having a Quite Ridiculous stack of books by my bed.
It hasn't got much better:

Just to make me feel marginally better about all this, here's a photo of Ze Husband's equivalent heap:

Counting up, I appear to have 18 books, compared to his 23... except... see that dark blue thing with the yellow rabbit-print edges in my heap? Yeah. That's my Kindle. With another... oh, quite a lot of books on it. Also, my copy of Kristin Lavransdatter is currently downstairs, which makes my heap look a lot smaller all of a suddden.

I've started making a list of things to read AFTER I finish the stack, which, quite conveniently, currently includes 5 titles.

1. Susannah Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
You may have noticed that this one is already in the heap. I cheated a bit and bought it early.

2. Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede
I've wanted to read this one since I heard about it on the Fountains of Carrots podcast. I think my brain must be wired in a similar way to theirs because you can almost guarantee I will love every. single. book they talk about.

3. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead.

4. Donna Tartt, The Secret History. 
I hadn't read any Donna Tartt books before The Goldfinch. It was long, it was bizarre, but I got into it in a way which has rarely happened since having children (attention span? What attention sp...?)

5. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.
I'm kind of embarassed to admit I haven't read this yet. Foucault's Pendulum has to be among the best books I've ever read. I also like Eco because of the way he works with his translators (professional bias? Well, yes). The Prague Cemetery was a bit disappointing, but I'm willing to give him another chance (possibly many other chances - see above).

I'm not going to include product links, because I think secondhand is generally the best way to go. If you're in the UK and buying through Amazon, look out for BetterWorld Books - they sell on ex-library stock and pass on the profits to literacy charities.

Linking up with Ashley for Five Favourites :-)

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Ten signs you might be a Catholic parent

  1. You've had to explain the difference between "missel" and "missile" on more than one occasion.
  2. Your toddler has been known to wander round the house singing to herself... in Latin.
  3. You spend at least ten minutes a week thinking up witty responses to "gosh, you've got your hands full!"
  4. Your house contains more rosaries than pairs of matching socks.
  5. You get a huge kick when your child yells "AMEN!" at the RIGHT point during Mass. (Oh. Wait. That usually happens during the sermon...)
  6. Somewhere in your house, you have a collection of blessed palms that you can't throw away and forget to take for burning before Ash Wednesday every year.
    Look familiar?
  7. You find Jesus at least once a week - often under the fridge.
  8. Your children have informed you that only THEY need biscuits after Mass, because "YOU got to eat Jesus bread".
  9. You've had to tell your children off for putting the heirloom Christening gown on a stuffed animal... AGAIN.
    Exhibit A.
  10. Last time the vacuum cleaner stopped working, it was because there was a glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary stuck in the filter.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Seven Quick Takes, episode 7: In which my children willingly eat kale

Hello t'interwebs! It's Friday again, which means it's time for 7QT...

1. I've just finished reading Sophie's Choice and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Knowing what the "choice" was before I read the book obviously changed the experience a bit, and Styron's approach to the Holocaust is nowhere near as shocking now as it was in 1979 (add to that the fact that I studied the historiography of the Holocaust as a specialist subject in my last year at high school, and it loses its originality). What I really didn't like was all the (really) nasty language, which almost made me stop reading before the end of chapter 2. You have been warned...

2. (Hides face in shame) So I may have made my children matching outfits for Easter... This is possibly the last year where they'll all be happy to be matching, so it was now or never. Also, I found a really easy dress pattern on the internet. More to come on that one once I've sewn all the buttons on and taken some pictures! (Mothers of the internet: please don't shoot me. I'm still on maternity leave at the moment and I only have ONE CHILD for six whole hours on a Thursday, which is when these sorts of things happen).

3. I had two heads of cavolo nero (black kale) lurking in the back of the fridge that I wasn't sure what to do with. In the end, I made kale pesto:

  • Strip leaves from kale stalks. Discard stalks.
  • Plunge leaves into boiling water for 1 minute, then drain, rinse in cold water and squeeze out most of the moisture
  • Place kale in blender with a couple of cloves of garlic, a glug (yes, that is a culinary term) of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a handful of blanched almonds 
  •  Find toddler willing to press blender button several times over the course of a few minutes. 
We had ours with roasted root vegetables (it being Friday in Lent and all), but it would work pretty well with pasta, gnocchi, etc. I have a jar of preserved garlic cloves in the back of the cupboard at the moment, so I used those: they have a fairly mild flavour and don't need cooking. If you're using normal, raw garlic, though, I'd suggest blanching it with the kale.
I suspect walnuts would be a pretty good substitution for the almonds, and it goes without saying that parmesan cheese would definitely add something... in any case, my kids ate it without complaining, so it's a winner in my books.

4. Also on a culinary note, I have oompa-loompa orange hands at the moment from chopping up butternut squash this morning. I just felt the need to share that. Sorry.

5. Last weekend, Mx asked me if her godmother had fixed Jesus. It took me a while to work out where the idea had come from... turns out she was getting "Jo" (her godmother - who also happens to be a doctor, so you can see where the fixing-people thing comes in) mixed up with "Dieu" (i.e. God). Nice idea, but... no.

6. Pointless philosophical reflection of the day: why is it so hard to find purple shoe polish? Hmmmm. Mx's boots are definitely looking a bit the worse for wear, and I'd like it if they could last until after Easter...

7. I had to change the names of two of my posts when I found out that "BabyLit" is actually a thing. They're now called Baby Edits. Vol. 1 is here and vol. 2 is here.

On that note, have a very happy weekend!

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Baby Edit vol. 2: Opening Lines

The premise behind Baby Edits is simple: let babies edit classic literature, and see what happens!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a toddler, being in possession of a toy, must be in want of whatever-that-is-his-sister-has.
 - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of breastmilk, it was the age of weanong, it was the epoch of cuddles in bed, it was the epoch of having to go to bed early, it was the season of nappies, it was the season of The Potty, it was the jumping-up-and-down-in-muddy-puddles of hope, it was the tantrum of despair. 
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Under-Threes 

Last night I dreamt I went to soft play again.
- Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

This is my favourite book in the whole world, though I have never read it, exclusively because another child is attempting to take it from me.
- William Goldman, The Princess Bride 

Reader, I chewed it.
- Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

For more Baby Edits, see Vol. 1, in which the babies edit Kipling...

...and seeing as there are five opening lines here, I'm linking up with Ashley for Five Favourites. Wooo!


Monday, 14 March 2016

Hymns of the Week: Palm Sunday, Year C

It's Palm Sunday this week... Easter is nearly upon us!

In our parish, we start outside, and the first hymn is sung as we process into church after the Palm Sunday reading.

Entrance: Jesus is Here (this is a new one - it's to the same tune as "Seek Ye First", but with different words. We're going to attempt it as a round).
Offertory: O Sacred Head Ill-Used (Bach used the tune in the St Matthew Passion, so it just seems right).
Communion: Soul of my Saviour
Recessional: All Glory, Laud and Honour

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Baby Edit, volume 1: If

Jenny at Unremarkable Files has published a couple of (very funny) posts about babies writing poetry, which got me thinking... what if babies were allowed to edit classic literature?
Here, with apologies to Rudyard Kipling, is what they managed to come up with this week.

If you can keep your toy when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can hurt yourself when all protect you,
And blame them for not saving blanky too;
If you can wail and not be tired by wailing,
Or being rocked to sleep, don't bat an eye,
Or being cradled, don't give in to cradling,
And make your mother weep and father sigh;

If you can sleep - but drive your parents dotty;
If you can pee - whilst perfecting your aim;
If you can meet with Weaning and The Potty
And treat these two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the words you've mangled
Repeated, on some future wedding day;
Refuse the car seat, until you are wrangled
Protesting, writhing, howling all the way;

If you can make one heap of all your pasta
And throw it in one game of dinner-toss,
And lose it, and then beg for a replacement
And never let them think that they're the boss;
If you can force your unsuspecting siblings
To let you have their food when they have none,
And be the top of your domestic food chain
And scream as soon as Mama says "All gone!";

If you can feed non-stop from dusk to sunrise
And only doze off after the alarm,
If you can be in charge, although you're pint-size
And make sure that things never get too calm;
If you can fill the unforgiving minutes
With sixty seconds' worth of screaming done,
Yours is the room and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a BABY, my son!  

Friday, 11 March 2016

Seven Quick Takes, ep.7: "chin up" edition

seven quick takes friday 2 

I am SO glad this week is nearly over, people. I don't want to be wishing my life away, but... whew. Mx and R were awake very early this morning, so they were pretty hard work by nap time. On that note, I'm going to stop complaining and find seven good things that happened this week.

1. Mx has recently started doing 20-30 minutes of "school" after nap time, and we've made some real progress on her reading this week. She was just a month too young to start school last September, but she's definitely ready, so we're doing odd bits of work at home. I don't imagine homeschooling in the long run, though - aside from anything else, Mx needs to be around other people All. The. Time, and I think school is the best thing for her. We'll see how it goes.

2. R is talking more and more. Most of his words are in French, but he does know a few in English, too. He also enjoys using them. We went to Mass this morning after dropping Mx off at nursery and he had a lovely time shouting "aaaaa-MEN! aaaaa-MEN! aaaaaaaaaaa-MEN!" all through the sermon. (Thankfully, the morning mass people are used to my children... I don't think it distracts them too much any more).

3. I finally got a neurology referral for a problem I've had since I was ten. Yes, this has taken a long time - not helped by the fact that our family GP thought I was just looking for attention as a teenager and told me to go and take some paracetamol. If any of you have experienced nerve pain of any kind, you will know why I wanted to throw things at him. 

4. Go and read Jenny's More Poems by Babies post. Go. Now. I'll still be here when you get back. It cheered up my Tuesday no end... and got me thinking about other things babies might write. Watch this space.

5. We're going up to Glasgow this weekend. A lot of our old chaplaincy friends have had babies recently, and group social events have got a whole lot easier now we're not the only ones who need to be in bed by 9.30 (yes, that's PM, not AM*). One of said babies is getting christened, hence the group convergence on Glasgow - and since Mx's godmother lives up there too, we're making the most of the chance to see her.

(*Scottish licensing laws are pretty liberal. Nights out there have been known to end at 9.30 am. Not mine, you understand, but... the possibility is there).

6. It's SUNNY! 

7. Two of my three children are asleep IN THEIR OWN BEDS at the same time. The baby is sitting on my knee and intermittently gnawing the edge of the desk/drooling on my leg. Not bad for 2.15 on a Friday.

That's all, folks - more 7QT over at Kelly's!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Pursuit of Yellow Stickers

What with weekly veg deliveries an' all, I usually manage to avoid doing a big supermarket shop more than once a month. We do have to go to the shop around the corner for top-ups of fruit, though (and occasionally milk, depending on how fast we run down the stock in the freezer - if Ze Husband is on a cereal kick, things can go downhill fast).

I tend to keep an eye open for yellow stickers (i.e. short date reductions) when I go shopping - there are often a fair few in the bread section of our local Spar, so if there are products I might by anyway, I bring them home to freeze.

Today's haul was not at all bad:

£6.15 of bread products for £1.52 - so about 75% off. That should help pay for our expensive book habit... and the vast numbers of bananas my children eat on a daily basis!


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Five Favourites: Things to Do with Butternut Squash

Goooooood morning the internet! 

As you may have noticed, it's Lent. For many families, this means eating less (or no) meat.
I find that one of the easiest ways to make a vegetarian version of family favourites is to pick a veg as a "focus" for the dish; our favourite "replacement" vegetable at the moment is butternut squash. 

Lent coincides with the hungry gap (the period when very few vegetables are ripe), so our veg box includes quite a lot of imports from further south or crops which keep well - leaving us with a pretty good supply of squash!

I don't really deal in actual recipes, seeing as the internet is full of them - these are more ideas. One thing, though: roasting your squash first really does make a difference in terms of flavour. If the skin is thin enough, peel it first, then cut into cubes. If the skin is a bit tougher, cut into rounds, then chop the edges off and cut into cubes as before. Toss the cubes in a little oil and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes. And then...

1. Pizza.  Homemade pizza, topped with cubes of roasted squash, rocket (AKA arugula) and mozzarella cheese. 

2. Risotto (orziotto). This is one of our favourites. Orziotto is just like risotto, but made with pearl barley instead of rice. In this case, squash goes well with peas, mint and parmesan cheese - and possibly a few hazelnuts for added crunch.

3. Lasagne. Use your usual recipe, but replace the meat sauce with roasted squash, leeks, (bell) pepper and rosemary. We had this last night and it was pretty good.

4. Moroccan squash stew. Cubed squash, tinned chopped tomatoes, tinned cooked chickpeas, a couple of carrots and an onion. Salt, pepper, cumin. Chili, if you like. Crockpot, low, four hours. Go.
(Good with couscous, or rice, or potatoes, or just bread).

5. Make friends.

Have a squash you don't know what to do with? Googly eyes and a touch of felt tip make all the difference. Just sayin', internets. Just sayin'.

(also, if anyone knows why my font keeps changing in blogger, please let me know!)

Linking up with Ashley for Five Favourites.