Thursday, 27 December 2007

Out of time

I wanted to post about the past year, but run out of time. We are flying to Berlin tomorrow in the early morning (what possessed me to book 7:40 am flight when it will take us at least 1.5 hrs to get to the airport?). Maybe next year will be a better one for regular thoughtful blogging. Have fantastic New Year celebration! And here is the quote that summarises how I feel about the year past:

Every life has its years in which one progresses as on a tedious and dusty street of poplars, without caring to know where he is. Of these years nought remains in memory but the sad feeling that we have advanced and only grown older. While the river of life glides along smoothly, it remains the same river; only the landscape on either bank seems to change. But then come the cataracts of life. They are firmly fixed in memory, and even when we are past them and far away, and draw nearer and nearer to the silent sea of eternity, even then it seems as if we heard from afar their rush and roar. We feel that the life-force which yet remains and impels us onward still has its source and supply from those cataracts.
MEMORIES. A Story Of German Love. From The German Of Max Muller by George P. Upton

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Crafting is contagious

After watching me crochet Cat’s scarf, my mum decided to prove to me that it is faster done by knitting. Since I don’t own any knitting needles she decided to use two of my crochet hooks to knit another scarf for the little girl at the phenomenal speed. Despite not knitting for at least 10 years, she is still brilliant at maintaining tension and reckons that she can knit something more complicated (like a jumper) without needing a pattern (I’m slightly envious of her great knitting skills). But knitting without proper needles makes things unnecessary difficult, so I went to the local charity shop and got few pairs of knitting needles.

Clive and I saw “The Golden Compass” on Sunday – beautiful sets, fantastic special effects, great actors, but somehow the film was missing a bit of the magic of the books – so I found it enjoyable, but not outstanding. However I loved many of the outfits and was wondering throughout the movie of how easy/difficult it would be to knit something similar to the coat and the hat that Lyra was wearing. When I told Clive afterwards that I loved all the knitted clothes, he wasn’t very surprised as he expected me to rave about them (I loved all the elegant clothes Mrs. Coulter was wearing as well). So since I now own knitting needles and am obviously obsessed about knitwear, I decided to learn to knit.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas, Everyone

P.S. I made it to the shops on Saturday, so well all had presents to open this morning. And I think the little girl had as many presents as the rest of us combined.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Upward growth

My sister, who loves rock-climbing, will be visiting us in early February and it looks like Cat is preparing for her aunt’s visit.

She also made few tentative steps on Wednesday on her own and by now she can make about 6 in a row without falling down, so we may have a walking toddler by the New Year.

Friday, 21 December 2007

In search of Christmas Spirit.

No matter how hard I try to prepare for Christmas it always catches me by surprise. During my childhood, being a very ordinary Russian family, we always celebrated New Year instead. Things didn’t change much after we moved to Australia. After more than 10 years of living in society that celebrates it I still need to check the calendar to find out the exact day for Christmas (without calendar I’m not sure if it is 24th, 25th or 26th).

This year I managed to send out FOUR Christmas cards, which is more than I did last year or the year before. In contrast my dear husband, who grew up with proper Christmas celebration, sent out cards to his family and all his friends long time ago. He also managed to get presents for his SA family (can I get some credit for giving him ideas and helping him find them?), our little family and my parents. I’m ashamed to say that I still didn’t get his present (at least I know what I want to get him) and since I’m not a big fan of shopping in general and shopping just before Christmas day sounds to me like the worst possible nightmare, he may have to wait for the New Year (or Russian Orthodox Christmas or Russian Old New Year) to receive his present. I should admit that I actually didn’t buy any presents so far. But I have plenty of time as I will see most of the people, who will be getting presents from me, few days after Christmas (or at least this is what I keep on telling myself).

We already received few presents. The earliest gift giver was lovely Julia, with who we had coffee and cake last weekend at the Louis Hungarian Patisserie on Finchley Road (photo above was taken by her as well). The evening was made perfectly magical by live piano music. Julia and I strongly suspect that the piano player was Russian as his entire repertoire was sweetly familiar to us. And we got a package from Clive’s cousin, who now lives in Japan (I think it’s highly exciting to have a cousin-in-law in Japan), but Clive is waiting for Christmas morning to open it (the tortures inflicted on others by Christmas traditionalists!).

This week I thought a lot about my lack of Christmas traditions. And my conclusion is that Christmas to me is much more about getting together as a family, having fun time eating, drinking and playing than it is about present giving or sending out cards. I can also create whatever traditions I want. Maybe I’ll decide to turn into Mrs Weasley and knit everyone a sweater next year (except I can’t knit). This year I’m starting with something smaller – I’m crocheting a little scarf for my cutest and most precious baby (it’s colour is actually closer to emerald – English winter light makes taking photos super hard).

In case I’ll forget to say it on the 25th – Merry Christmas to you, my Dear Readers.

Pay It Forward Update

About two weeks ago I received a package from Carol of Sand Fibers with the “Pay It Forward” gift.

She created it to match to the bracelet I ordered from her Etsy shop.

I love them both and hoping to wear them on my next outing without Cat. On my side I have few ideas for the things I can create for Rachael & Polina and aiming to send them off by the middle of February.

Saturday, 8 December 2007


(photo taken by my dad)

I fall in love very easily – with houses, cities, lakes, books, people, ideas. And from the first steps in Edinburgh I knew that I’ll love that town. Before our holiday one of my friends mentioned that she dreams of living there and I found myself repeating her sentiment. Edinburgh has everything to make it perfect for me: the beautiful skyline, the proximity to the sea and the hills, the wealth of history and culture, the cute little shops, the abundance of knitwear and relaxed atmosphere.

(another photo taken by my dad)

I drooled (figuratively) over all the beautiful designer knitwear and had to console myself with getting this little brooch by Hume Sweet Hume from Gifted exhibition at National Museum of Scotland. While there I again saw the Jerwood Applied Arts Prize 2007 exhibition and again I was totally mesmerized by Yoko Izawa’s work.

We visited the other standard tourist destinations, walked around a lot, Clive and I took advantage of having two very good babysitters and saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age and had a nice dinner at Mexican restaurant. Knowing that too soon I’ll be back to busy, frantic London I savoured every second of feeling happy, relaxed, comfortable. And to keep our relaxed mood, we decided to stay in Edinburgh for the whole week – so our trip to Scotland ended up being trip to Edinburgh.

Some of my photos are on flickr

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Cat's progress

I turned away yesterday for half-a-minute, only to find my child peacefully sitting on TOP of the bed looking at the book. I guess climbing on chairs and the couch is next and we shouldn’t encourage her by leaving books lying around where she can see them, but not reach as she stills dives of high places head first trusting us to prevent her from hitting the ground.

Today I was trying to demonstrate to my friends that Cat just sits down if I let go of her hands and of course she proved me wrong by happily standing un-aided. She can walk while holding onto one hand now, so hopefully un-aided walking will come soon as well.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Off to Scotland tomorrow morning for one week

Have a great week everyone wherever you are

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Rachael's Little Happiness Project

Rachael added a donation button on her blog (in the left sidebar) so now you can take part in getting some Christmas gifts for the Russian Orphans even if you don’t want to buy anything from her Etsy store.

You can read more about it in this post.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Welcome to Celine

I made my first amigurumi using the crochet pattern from here. Crocheting her was very fast, but putting together took forever. I had to remake the eyes and nose few times (please don’t point out that she doesn’t really have a nose) to achieve the result I’m at least semi-happy with. But I love the little bow and sticking out tongue. I can just imagine her staring wide-eyed at the world and exploring it, with the tiny tongue sticking out in excitement and concentration. (I have to credit my own little explorer for giving me the idea). But taking time to get to know someone helps to find out their name - so welcome to our home little Celine.

Looks like I’m at least one year behind on what is fashionable in the blog craft circles. I’m very keen to try making some felted beads, but need to figure out the easiest place to buy supplies.

I love the amigurumi creatures created by Pepika and wailintse

Pay it Forward

I was admiring Sand Fibers’ creations on Flickr for awhile now. And on Sunday night I somehow navigated to her blog despite my resolution not to look at any new blogs (that’s what happens when clicking around late at night). Her top post was invite to take part in Pay it Forward. Here are the rules:

I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a Comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange, and who make the same pledge on their own blogs . I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward.

So now I’m looking forward to getting a handmade gift from a person, whose work I find inspirational. And if you want to take a part, leave a comment.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Are you awake?

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.
Mitch Albom Tuesdays with Morrie

Rachael, whose life is full of purpose and love, opened an Etsy* store and 100% of her SALE PROCEEDS in November will be used to purchase Christmas gifts for children in a rural Russian orphanage. So spread the word or better yet buy something!

* You didn’t hear of Etsy? Oh my, lucky you. It’s the online store for all things handmade. I can give you a huge list of things I would love from there.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

This is the maker and the made;
This is the question and reply;
Judith Wright Woman to Man

Today these words popped into my head while I was contemplating the experiences I want Cat to have, the things I want to show and teach her, all the lessons I myself learned from watching her grow and all the changes her presence triggered in me. So I got out the small volume of Judith Wright’s selected poems and re-read Woman to Man, Woman’s Song and Woman to Child. They are such beautiful odes to the pregnancy, the birth and the motherhood. My favourite poets are women, because I feel their words resonate in all my being – my mind, my heart and my soul.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Another Brit

Yesterday my dear husband pledged his allegiance to the queen and finally became a Brit. Now he just needs to get a new shiny British passport and he’ll be able to travel to many more places without having to get a visa.

Monday, 29 October 2007

The baby class I enjoy

More than a month ago, with the beginning of the new school term, Cat and I joined the Gymboree’s GymCrawlers class and started going to the local library’s Story & Rhyme sessions for under 5s. Cat loved both types of new entertainment. I was impressed with the number of books and songs plus a craft activity the librarian manages to squash into 45 minutes sessions. It was fantastic to have a new place, toys and equipment for Cat to explore at the Gymboree while getting to hear more fun songs. And I loved seeing my child get so excited about being surrounded by other kids, having hundreds of books to pull of the shelf, loud fun songs, etc. But by the end of each 45 minute session I felt tired from too much noise, unfamiliar songs and the number of other kids.

Since we missed two Gymboree sessions while Cat was sick and the time of the usual session was becoming inconvenient as her morning (and the only one) nap was getting later, I decided to try another GymCrawlers session in later afternoon and a GymWalkers one in the early morning. There were 11 other children in the late Wednesday afternoon session plus 13 adults! It was too hot, too noisy, too crowded. I came out feeling dehydrated, exhausted and having a slight headache and in comparison our usual session and the library’s story time didn’t seem too bad.

On Thursday I worried that I won’t be organized enough to make it to 9:30 Friday morning Gymboree session. But as I’m usually brilliantly efficient in the mornings, we were the first ones there. There were only 5 other kids and 4 parents. The teacher was very sweet young woman, who I liked straightaway: she interacted well with the kids; had time enough to encourage and praise their attempts to crawl, walk, clap; played music at the normal not-loud volume, and managed to create very enjoyable experience for everyone. At the end of 45 minutes I came out happy and relaxed, feeling that I enjoyed my time there not only because it was enjoyable for my child. So hurray for “early” mornings.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


Childhood has its secrets and its mysteries; but who can tell or who can explain them! We have all roamed through this silent wonder-wood – we have all once opened our eyes in blissful astonishment, as the beautiful reality of life overflowed our souls. We knew not where, or who, we were – the whole world was ours and we were the whole world’s. That was an infinite life – without beginning and without end, without rest and without pain. In the heart, it was as clear as the spring heavens, fresh as the violet’s perfume – hushed and holy as a Sabbath morning.

MEMORIES. A Story Of German Love. From The German Of Max Muller by George P. Upton

Friday, 26 October 2007


Чтo такое осень - это небо.
Плачущее небо под ногами.
В лужах разлетаются птицы с облаками.
Осень - я давно с тобою не был.
DDT. Что такое осень

(I always think of this song in autumn. Lyrics in russian & english translation can be found here. And the video of the song here.)


So far the autumn was beautiful. Most days are exactly the way I like autumn days to be: the cloudless blue sky that looks softer than the summer one; the colourful foliage that reminds me how much beauty can be found even a simple leaf if I just stop to look at it; the crispy air that smells so familiar of fallen leaves; the occasional morning fog that makes everything looks mysterious, the morning frost that turns our cheeks bright pink and the gentle sunlight that streams around us like a tender hug.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Back to health & cheerfulness

Cat is back to her cheerful and energetic self. It is great seeing her crawling all over the place, pointing at things and babbling to herself and anyone close by.

My parents love letting Cat hold onto their hands to help her walk around the flat and therefore her “walking” improved dramatically since their arrival (I’m more likely to carry her around or crawl with her on the flow – crawling around the couch after each other provides lots of entertainment for both of us).

In the first week of them being here she also learned to climb on top of their suitcase. She keeps on trying to climb on the couch and the bed, but luckily they are still a bit too high for her. Though yesterday she got one of her legs up on the bed, but got distracted by something else before managing to get the other leg up. But she can (and does) climb on the little step in front of balcony door and moves along it, turns and headbuts the window, looking scary unbalanced to my paranoid mummy eyes. (My baby sister always complained about me being overprotective towards her. I’m sure Cat will do the same once she learns to speak)

She learned to pull herself up consistently and now can occasionally be found cruising around her cot by holding onto the sides instead of sleeping. And in the last few days she figured out how to sit back down instead of falling down, which used to be scary to watch especially after few times it ended up in blood and tears.
She is totally fascinated by her belly button and spends good chunk of bath time staring and pointing at it.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Reminder to plan

Семь раз отмерь — один отрежь.
Русская пословица

Measure seven times – cut once.
Russian proverb

I decided to crochet a necklace out of wire and beads using Solomon’s knot stitch. Very quickly I discovered that there were few tiny problems with this project. I have never done anything out of wire before except few rings when I was about 7 and some manual wire wrap circuits for my electronics/computer engineering subjects at university. I have never done Solomon’s knot stitch before. But worst of all I didn’t have any plan or design in mind. After stumbling about and getting totally confused in all the wire bends, I gave up and decided to use the simplest possible stitches to make a plain bracelet.

I’m still not happy with the end result and not sure if I will ever wear it. For now I’m going to hang it above my desk to remind me about the importance of planning.

And to practice Solomon’s knot stitch I’m crocheting a shawl for myself.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Still sick

Today in the morning, while I was working, Cat fell asleep in my dad’s arms. It was such a sweet sight. Before my parents arrived I wondered what type of grandparent my dad would be. I couldn’t really picture him in the role. Don’t get me wrong - I never doubted that he’ll be a wonderful grandfather, but my imagination just wasn’t good enough to envision the details of their interaction with each other. So it is really heartening to see how comfortable they are and how much they like being together.

She was acting more energetic today and slept better, but developed nasty sounding cough. Therefore I took her to see a doctor, who prescribed antibiotics and some nasal drops. :-( My poor little darling, I hope she’ll get better soon. Thank you to everyone who is wishing her well.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Teething + cold = misery

How many times before did I say that teething SUCKs? Can I say so again? Though teething combined with cold is worse, much worse. Poor Cat started getting runny nose on Saturday and she is still sick today, though by the end of the day she started to look better. Yesterday she was miserable while awake, but struggled to stay asleep. So lots of my time was spent holding her and rocking her to sleep – few times she did fall asleep after 20 minutes of rocking to wake up again in 30 minutes. At night I gave up and just kept her in our bed as she sleeps better snuggled next to me. In theory I support co-sleeping. In practice it doesn’t work very well for me as I end up sleeping around her at the funny angles and wake up with all my joints aching.

I’m grateful that my dad is here and thankful to him for providing lots of help to me and entertainment for the little girl. Mum is currently enjoying the hospitality of her sisters in Russia.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

An interlude

Conventional wisdom has it that reincarnation as an animal is a punishment for past sins, but perhaps it is a reward instead. Atleast a resting place. An interlude of grace.
Margaret Atwood "My Life as a Bat"

My parents arrived on Tuesday. Their presence and help make me feel relaxed and give me a chance to rest, to have idle moments, to spend time on my own.

The best parts so far: having a nap on Friday afternoon*; going out to a movie with my husband on Saturday (first time in about a year); almost not noticing Cat’s teething because there are so many people to entertain her (the top two middle teeth finally came through this week) and seeing the happy interaction between grandparents and the little girl (I’m extremely glad that they finally got to meet each other).

The bad part: knowing that they are going to leave soon first to travel around Europe and then to go back home.

There are so many things I want to get done while they are here, but I think I’ll have to be content with having the opportunity to enjoy sharing the load (and joys) of motherhood as in the last few days I didn’t manage to achieve much more than usual.

* My sleeping patterns are so messed up that I feel like a nap most afternoons and therefore being a bat sounds very attractive.

Monday, 24 September 2007

A rose by any other name

Unlike some families, my immediate family isn’t big on nicknames. We usually call each other by our first names or by words that label our relationships. I went through a period of calling Polina - cousin (but it has to be done in Allan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham style) and everyone else (including her now husband) followed suit until it reach ridiculous stage of people new to our circle being unable to recall her real name. I used to call my sister маленький (little one) and she would reply with большой (big one), but now she and I call each other маленький (little one)/ большой (big one) interchangeably depending on who says маленький (little one) first. During my childhood, when Polina used to spend summers with us, we ended up calling ourselves три корочки хлеба (three bread crusts) – sadly I can’t remember how it came about, I only know that it is a references to a movie Буратино (Russian version of Pinocchio). Polina and Anya used to call me Заяц (rabbit/bunny), as I used to love bunnies and the word looks similar to my name Зоя.

So my point is that I never was truly imaginative when it came to nicknames and I really struggle to come up with them now. So when I needed a new chat name I agonized for ages trying to think of something simple and likeable. At the time I had plenty of African violets growing in my flat (surprisingly they were the only household plants that consistently survived my neglectful attitude to “gardening”) and I thought that Violet will be a good screen name, but I didn’t want people to think it was my real name. At the time I also loved colour purple – фиолетовый (fioletovii) in Russian. And so I combined the two words to get Fioleta.

Eugene, I hope this answers your question.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


A black mouse on a red house.
A green house on a tired mouse!
Dr. Seuss "Crazy Colours"

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The ruffle scarf

I crocheted another scarf – I may have to base the rest of my new wardrobe around all the scarves I own. The pattern for this one is from Essential Crochet by Erika Knight. I love this book because it doesn’t have any bikini top patterns, that seem to be the obligatory for any crochet book, and makes the crochet look elegant.

And this is what happens when one tries to take a photo with a small child around:

Monday, 17 September 2007

The shaping of oneself

If the children and youth of a nation are afforded opportunity to develop their capacities to the fullest, if they are given the knowledge to understand the world and the wisdom to change it, then the prospects for the future are bright.

Urie Bronfenbrenner "Two worlds of childhood U.S. and U.S.S.R."
Sometimes I see a mention of a book, which sounds worth reading. I saw the name of this one and a very short description on Kate’s blog and I had to get it. It arrived last week at the perfect time – I had a stomach bug and on Thursday; feeling weak, sick and extremely tired; took time off work and house-work to rest. I slept during Cat’s morning nap and read big part of the book during her afternoon nap (rare occurrence now since she started skipping the afternoon nap four weeks ago). The timing was also perfect, because this is exactly the book I needed to read to help me sort out some things in my mind and in my heart. The new role of being a mother made me examine many parts of my own personality, my values, my beliefs, my skills, my attitudes, my insecurities. I get frustrated at my limitations, but even more at my inability to change fast enough to get closer to the desired self or still more at being unable to see clearly who I am and who I want to be. The book reminded me that there were many forces that shaped me - both good ones and bad; that I am a product of the two different societies in which I grew up; that the Soviet upbringing (even the softer one of the end days of U.S.S.R) in many ways went against my original character (or at least how I see my character to be); that after moving to OZ I swept away many of my pre-Australian childhood memories. I need to do more thinking. I need time to process the information I have, to re-read parts of this book, to read others, to accept my contradictions and to nourish myself.

At times it is hard to remember that there is a big world outside the small circle of my family. There will be many others, who will influence my daughter and shape her character. And I’m sure surrounded by thinking adults she will take active part in that shaping. I’m fascinated by what effect society and each individual in her life will have on her. I’m fascinated by how complex our human interactions are. For many years sociology was a background topic of interest and maybe it is time to take a more active part in studying it. I’m far from the perfection I seek, but I’m glad that I am seeking.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Rollmop! finally

Our local supermarket now sells rollmop. I’m excited because I had a craving for one since Paul reminded me of them in his May post.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Supporting characters

She screams Mama if she is tired or hungry. She lights up and breaths out Papa, when she sees him (and somehow it makes me jealous as I want to be acknowledged in fun making as well as taking care of her basic needs). And now she tries to say Кряк (the Russian version of the sound the ducks make). It is a common sound in our lives at the moment as she loves looking at the birds and local reservoir has many ducks, the duck monster progressed to making Russian duck noises :-) and one of the supporting characters in her* favourite book is a duck. I also think she is trying to repeat the word Тигр (tiger) after me. Her babbling and general desire to communicate certainly progressed in the last couple of weeks. Today she started waving goodbye and once in moment of utter mental tiredness I almost said “Sorry, I didn’t catch it. Can you, please repeat what you just said” in the response to her expressive babbling, because it did sound like she said something extremely intelligent.

* Potentially it is my favourite book (and not hers) as I love the simplicity of the drawings combined with the presence of small details that feed my imagination into expanding on the narrative. At the end of the book I love pointing at the smiling baby in the cot and saying «Ребёнок улыбается. Он знает, что сейчас придёт мама и возьмёт его на ручки» (“The baby is smiling. He knows that his mum will come and pick him up”). Though I always wonder where the parents are throughout the book and recently realised that parents don’t seem to feature in most of the kids books we have. I guess domestic and farm animals make cuter stories than exhausted parents.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

P.S. It is possible

Here is the quote for the last weeks thanks to Rachel, who is starting to sound more and more like a fellow book and blog addict:
"This time, like all times, is a good one, if we but know what to do with it." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, 9 September 2007

It is possible

I now worked for two weeks and I’m happy to report that working part-time (20 hrs/week) from home while looking after one 9.5 month child (thankfully a very undemanding one) is possible. On the good days it is actually easy, on the bad days I just have to remind myself that I would feel exhausted at the end of the day even if I wasn’t working.

We had to simplify and even scarifies some things to make this new arrangement easier on us. For example I now have dinner with Cat at 6pm and Clive eats something at work. This way I don’t have to cook something specifically for Cat, which she is likely not to eat anyway, and Clive and I have dinner at a reasonable time, instead of late at night (i.e. after 8 pm) and too close to our bedtime. Clive also gets up earlier in the mornings now, so he has time to do few simple household chores before leaving for work.

There is less time for myself, but there is some (I even managed to read all archives of another blog that I found recently). It is usually in the evenings and I struggle to use this time effectively as I’m definitely a morning person. I’m hoping I’ll be able to adjust to the new load/routine after the few weeks and will be able to find energy for reading, writing, drawing, crocheting.

We certainly are more organized about doing something fun on the weekends during our free weekend time. This Saturday we went to the London Zoo where Cat got to see real-life giraffes (she seem to be surrounded with giraffe toys and pictures at home).

I’m struggling to think of a quote for this week as even that requires time. Anyone has any good time quotes?

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Sharing the love for books

Last week Clive taught Cat how to turn the book pages. She loves doing it and again is so proud of getting one step closer to the independence from her parents.

She definitely is growing to love books: the first place she crawled to was one of our bookshelves and it is one of the places she will consistently go towards. I guess it is high fun pulling the books of the bookshelves and trying to sneakily chew on one of them while no one is looking.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Another charming book

It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly.
L. M. Montgomery “Anne of Green Gables

This book was in the kids section of the library, but I thought I’ll read it anyway since I heard good things about it (and I love reading kids books). I’m loving it! There are still so many books unread (even in my own small collection) and so many more wonderful treasures I may never get the time to read or may not even hear about. Do you have a favourite book or books? Is there anything else I should add to my extremely long list of books to read?

Driving around Suffolk

Short Version: We drove, we ate, we saw, we drove some more and more and more. (repeat)

Long Version: On Saturday morning we piled into a hired car and went to Suffolk. At first the M1 was deceptively empty. Enjoying the high speed we missed the M25 exit (M25 is a circular road around London) and soon hit the roadworks. The exceptionally slow pace forced us to take the first exit and drive on smaller country roads. It took us almost the rest of the day to get to our destination. But Clive loves driving, I love being in the moving vehicle, both of us love looking at the cute tiny English towns & villages and so we enjoyed the drive. We also enjoyed some nice food at the Royal Oak pub (I wish I could remember where exactly it was) and I decided that blues and greens are the best colours for Cat after seeing her in their highchair. Eventually we arrived to our destination - The Pond Farm.

The next day started with delicious English breakfast made from the local produce: Clive raved about the bacon and I loved the sausages (often I’m highly unimpressed by the taste of English breakfast sausages). We piled into the car again and drove to Framlingham to see the town (very small and sadly most of the shops were closed on Sunday) and their castle. The view from the castle wall was beautiful and while Clive learned some historical information from the audio-guide, Cat and I looked out for the flying birds in the hope of preventing her from eating my audio-guide.

At this point poor thing became really tired, so we went on another drive to give her a chance to nap and eventually ended up in Aldeburgh – a costal town full of people as it was fantastically warm and sunny day. We were told that the fish & chip shop there is great and this fact was confirmed by the long queue stretching along the building and around the corner, so we opted to eat at the pub. We also got a chance to see Suffolk Craft Society exhibition – Clive fall in love with Toby Winteringham's wooden mirror frame and furniture and I with Sally Pirkis' felt & silver bracelets and Lin Patterson's bright quilts and pillows. After a pleasant walk along the beach we drove again in search of The Crockery Barn, where Clive got some jam and I another highly impractical handbag. After another nice meal at the Old Mill pub, we came back to the farm to look at the cows, chickens, horses and pigs.

On Monday the breakfast was as delicious, but poor Cat wasn’t too happy as she is still (again?) teething. She didn’t sleep too well during the night and fall asleep almost as soon as we started driving. So instead of looking at the shops in Framlingham we drove to Woodbridge, spent few hours there walking around, having relaxing cup of tea and looking at the birds before heading back to London. By the end of our trip we stopped noticing the pink houses – there seems to be disproportionate number of them in Suffolk. Here are some examples from Woodbridge:

Monday, 27 August 2007

Go Baby, go!

After three days of sitting in the car seat, the pushchair, various highchairs and being carried around Cat decided that it was good time to use the stored up energy and on our return home she started crawling everywhere. It is such a joy to watch her – she crawls a bit; stops; looks at her new surroundings and back at where she came from all the while “talking” excitedly and pointing at everything; smiles proudly and crawls on.

Friday, 24 August 2007

P.S. Thanks Tanti

Tanti, thank you for your inspiration and encouragement. I doubt that I would make cupcakes without seeing your beaitfull creations

P.P.S. Since Clive's birthday is today, Cat is turning 9 months on Sunday and Monday is a bank holiday we are going away. I'm also starting work on Tuesday, so it's likely that I won't post anything until later next week.

Happy Birthday

She is always married too soon who gets a bad husband, and she is never married too late who gets a good one.
Daniel Defoe "Moll Flanders"

This is what I wanted to tell my grandmother when she was pestering me to get married. She believes that every woman should get married as soon as possible (as men like only young girls and anyone past eighteen is an old maid) and have a kid. While she wished me all the best, in her desire to see me married she often overlooked the more important part (at least for me) of finding a suitable person, with whom I’ll be able to share my everyday life happily. To her eyes women of my generation, searching for a perfect mate, appeared to be too picky and heading for disappointment, disillusionment and more importantly loneliness. I’m glad that I persevered, because eventually I found the person, who has all the good qualities I respect and admire in people; who makes me feel happy, comfortable and loved; who I love more and more every day. Happy birthday, my Dearest.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Easily amused

Cat discovered today that paper tears when pulled hard in opposite directions. Lots of excitement, giggling and paper pulling followed. Are you thinking something along the line of kids being easily amused? It holds true for adults as well:

Julia, Debbie and Dave competing at who can make a bigger bubble, whose bubble survives the longest, who blows the most bubbles, etc. Guys, thank you for the fun evening.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Work in progress

After procrastinating (or contemplating?) for few weeks I finally started few more projects (the answer to why it takes me so long to start anything remotely creative would probably make a good post if I ever find time to analyse my own mind). Here are some of them

But I need a tiny bit of help – does anyone have any good photos of cats and/or birds (seagulls, pigeons, ducks, swans or geese), which they’ll be willing to share with me? I know some of you have cats – maybe you can get them to pose for a photo shoot (though I suspect cats are as difficult to photograph as mobile children).

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Cat’s progress

Cat started pointing at things with her index finger. I’m excited about this achievement as it is nicer to have one’s nose touched gently instead of two slimy, sticky hands being squashed into one’s face. During our walks her hands fly around like little butterflies, fingers waving like the conductor’s batons as she chats away in her own funny language still monotone in the variety of sounds, but full of intonations. And you should see the look of pure concentration on her face when I point and name things or when I read her new books and the look of delight when she recognizes the words uttered.

As most kids her age she loves all the variations of the peek-a-boo game. Papa or mama, disappearing and reappearing from behind the couch, make her laugh hysterically. And yesterday she initiated the game herself by hiding behind the couch. Since she still haven’t mastered the art of successful crawling she had to lean/fall behind the couch and then push herself upright and sticks her head out from behind the couch. So much laughter and happiness and pride at being able to do yet another little thing by herself.

She isn’t very happy about being fed from the spoon, but will eat anything she can grab herself (including beetroot!). Which makes it difficult to get her to eat any meat and the other day I had to resort to mixing some chicken into her yogurt as it is the only thing she’ll eat consistently from the spoon. When I was little I refused to eat tomatoes and my parents pretended that they were oranges to get me to eat them (luckily for them they had some orange-coloured tomatoes growing in their garden). So sneaky of them I used to say and now I get to see their side of the feeding game.

At the weekend I realised that Cat can actually crawl: few times she did it successfully while being excited at seeing a toy she wanted, but she doesn’t seem to be able to coordinate her arms and legs once she becomes aware of what she is trying to do.

Sunday, 19 August 2007


strength came from accepting the contradictions of life rather than pretending life had no contradictions.
Erica Jong "Of Blessed Memory"

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Theory on life

My pet theory on life is that life is like a pointillistic painting: stand too close and all you see are the small dots, take few steps back and the bigger image emerges. Caught up in our everyday life we (or at least I) often forget to slow down, to stop, to stand back and allow ourselves a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Yesterday while trying to explain to my husband how I feel about our current life, I came up with a different image. I feel like I’m lost in a maze – there are constantly some decisions to be made, path to be taken. Should I turn left? Should I turn right? Either could lead me to my goal. Either can result in the dead end.

I feel lost. I’m no longer even sure what the goal is. I would prefer to see my life as a painting, even if all I notice are the points of colour.

Though writing about this helps. Whenever I write something like this down I end up smiling at my own ponderous musings. And I think a brisk walk in the park is also in order. Hope the sun is out and shining wherever you are, like it is here today.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

In search of Parent & Baby group

The weather took the turn for the worse. The rain is back. The cold gusts of wind make me feel like the summer is over and the winter is fast approaching. I’m dreading the coming of winter with its gloomy short days. At least my parents will be here for some of the time to keep us company. Occasionally due to the lack of free time I grumble about the time I spend on my Skype conversations with mum, but now I sorely miss our long chats while my parents are taking 20 days to drive from Townsville to Melbourne. Hope they are seeing lots of interesting things on the way.

So lacking adult conversation and not feeling inspired to visit any of the usual places I finally made it to the local Parent and Toddler group yesterday. As expected the kids were older than Cat. The closest in age was lovely outgoing one year old girl in the pretty dress, who was trying to master walking and every time she took a step her ankle bracelets would make a soft tinkling noise. There was a shy 18 months girl, who was observing the other noisy kids from a quiet corner. The rest of the kids were closer to 2 years and older. The activities they did and toys they played with were age inappropriate for Cat. I chatted to three mums, but was totally overwhelmed by all the noise and trying to keep Cat out of harms way. Cat seemed to deal with the noise better and after initial shock of seeing so many kids at once wanted to take part in the fun and to chew everything in sight.

One of the mums runs an earlier morning group and I discovered that this breastfeeding group described as “designed to support breastfeeding mothers” in the centre’s leaflet is actually the equivalent to Parent & Baby group. If Cat wakes up early enough from her morning nap I’ll try it next Tuesday as it sounded more appropriate for us. While fully supporting breastfeeding and believing that breastfeeding mothers need all the encouragement and help they can get, I wonder where non-breastfeeding mothers and fathers go. The area seems to be sadly lacking in parent support groups. There is another church group I know of, but it is also targeted to parents of Toddlers. The baby clinic canceled theirs due to the lack of staff. While waiting to see the health visitor at the baby clinic I noticed that many parents from the same cultural background know each other – so I guess if someone belongs to a cultural group numerous in this area (like Polish or Indian) they are able to find other parents via their friend network. But people like us, who just moved to the area and don’t have any friends with kids, end up being pretty much isolated. Once the school term starts I’ll try the story and rhyme groups at the local libraries and Monkey Music class. I’m hoping they’ll be more to my liking otherwise it could be a very long winter.

Monday, 13 August 2007


Since the contract isn’t ready yet my work starting date was postponed from today to 28th of August. I guess now I have more time to prepare. So far the only bit of preparation done was buying a small desk.
Previously I was using our dinning table and it was getting a bit annoying having to clear everything away before every dinner. I love having my own little corner. Now I just need to figure out how to childproof it before Cat starts crawling.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Let us enjoy life

Last week I stumbled on this quote

The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it.

And while I like my life, it is often easy for me to see negatives: the material goods I can’t afford, the countries and cities not visited, the opportunities missed, friends lost or never made. So this week whenever negative or jealous thought passed my mind I would try to stop, look around and take stock of all the good things in my life. We had trouble with our hot water system again and after being unable to take a warm shower for two muggy days I realised how many simple things, like hot water, I take for granted. For me noticing one good thing often leads to noticing something else pleasant and after a bit of perseverance in the positive thinking I can see my life unfolding in front of me in all its beauty and splendour. As usual it is the first step which is hard to make.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Vertical from horizontal

Cat continues the tradition of doing things for the first time while no one is looking. We just found her sitting in her cot instead of napping. I guess it means that now she knows how to get into the sitting position from lying down.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Book Quiz

Didn't I say that books were everywhere? :-D

You're Pale Fire!
by Vladimir Nabokov
You're really into poetry and the interpretation thereof. Along the road of life, you have had several identity crises which make it very unclear who you are, let alone how to interpret poetry. You probably came from a foreign country, but then again you seem foreign to everyone in ways unrelated to immigration. Most people think you're quite funny, but maybe you're just sick. Talking to you ends up being much like playing a round of the popular board game Clue.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Now the problem is that I haven't read this book, wonder if my library has it

Books are everywhere

Yesterday I took Cat to the Baby Clinic after 2 months break. This time she was highly interested in other babies: she stared at few of them and even tried to grab the foot of the little boy sitting next to us. And I marvelled at how tiny some of the babies were – I don’t think Cat was ever that small, though I’m struggling to remember how she looked like as a newborn. Maybe it is time to look through her old photos again. I keep on meaning to organize them into the album; I even borrowed a book on scrapbooking from the library, but it probably will take me years to get it done.

She finally got weighted (8.96 kilos) after waiting for more than one hour (our area’s health clinic is severely understaffed). I had a chat with a health visitor and was given the first bookstart pack with two baby books and information on reading & local libraries for the parents. There are two more packs: one given at 18 months and one at three years. I think it is a great programme to encourage reading, although I’m unlikely to think anything else since I love books. The bookstart website also has song sheets with illustrations and lists of good book for children. From the pack I found out that there is a company which publishes bilingual books and now I have to resist the temptation to order some.

We already accumulated a good sized collection of children books (though not so many ones suitable for the baby) as I discovered many in good condition in the local charity shops. My latest favourite finds are Lion’s Precious Gift with the beautiful illustrations by Amanda Hall and a book of rhymes Twiddling Your Thumbs by Wendy Cope – I love her quirky poetry for adults and kids. Clive and I finally accepted the fact that there is no curing of my book collecting addiction and bought two more bookshelves.

I think I can go on and on talking about books (did I ever whinge about our library having a borrowing limit of 12 books? It used to be 7 until recently. Seven is a very small number!), but I think I’ll stop now.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Adding beads to crochet

Last week in the middle of all the outings and before the visitors came I finally finished a tiny present for my cousin.

About two years ago I saw the Bead Crochet book by Bethany Barry in the library and despite the ghastly colours loved the projects in the book and the idea of combining crochet and beads (ok, I’ll admit that colour preferences are very personal and changeable and that some people will love the colour combinations in this book). After renewing the book numerous times I had to return it to the library. A bit later I bought another book(The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving by Carol Wilcox Wells), but for a total novice to beading the variety of ideas, skills, projects and beauty was totally overwhelming. And so it sat on my bookshelf for almost another year – I would take it out regularly; look through the pages excited at the prospect of learning to create something so magical, but fearful of complexity involved and possible failure I would put it back on the shelf. Finally one day I bought some beads and decided to try my hand at making simple crocheted rope. It took a very long time, but while making it I contemplated on how much my cousin’s friendship means to me and got inspired to make a card for her as well. I felt so happy to be able to express all my respect and love for her in few simple sentences. And I was reminded again that crocheting allows me to take a peaceful break from everyday busyness, to connect to my thoughts and feelings. Hence this small present for her ended up being a huge one for myself.

Полина, я тебя люблю

P.S. the quote on the front of the card is from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

What a week!

You may be suffering from burnout. With this in mind, do yourself a favour and stop trying to accomplish everything on your wish list…
This week horoscope from Australian Who magazine

I can’t believe that it is already the end of Sunday – so many things happened this week.

You already know about my Monday. On Tuesday Julia invited Cat and I for lunch and fed me some of my favourite things – grilled eggplant, fried chicken livers and salad. Cat enjoyed some of my eggplant – she’ll eat anything as long as she cat grab it herself and put it into her mouth, but she isn’t as eager to try pureed and mashed food offered to her in the spoon.

On Wednesday Clive took a sick day and it was great to spend some time with him even if he was a bit grumpy due to the cold. Later that day Olya arrived from Australia with cute Australian/Melbourne themed t-shirts for Cat. My aunt, who actually flew in on the same flight as Olya, came later as she decided to explore London first. It was great to see her play with Cat. Sadly we were very sleepy and tired, she due to jetlag and I due to not having full night sleep in a very long time, and didn’t get to talk as much as I wanted. She left very early the next morning as she wanted to see a bit more of London before departing to Berlin. I hope we’ll get to catch up again soon for longer.

On Thursday I left Cat with Clive, who still wasn’t well enough to go to work, and went to Covent Garden with Olya. We looked around some shops and had lovely lunch together. It was so strange not to have a pushchair to push – on the underground I would automatically turn towards gates for people with big luggage and prams, only to realise that I can go through normal ticket barriers. I felt so empty handed and somehow lost. I also noticed every baby, toddler and child and kept on thinking about my wonderful family waiting for me at home.

Julia had some classical music tickets for Friday night and she asked me to come with her. The small problem was that concert started at 19:30 and Clive doesn’t get home before 18:50, which didn’t give me enough time to make it to Barbican. So I planned to go to TATE Modern, feed Cat there and give her to Clive to take back home. But she slept most of the day (2.5 hrs in the morning and another 2.5 in the afternoon) and it was getting a bit too late to go to TATE. The weather was beautiful and I decided to go straight to Clive’s work area and walk along the Thames there. We had a nice stroll and Cat enjoyed looking at the seagulls and pigeons. Clive joined us as I fed her and after walking with them to Barbican station I was free. Barbican is one of my favourite places in London. I used to be there all the time listening to classical music, enjoying plays, watching movies and even went to one or two of their art exhibitions, so it was great to be back there again after a long break. I loved every moment of the concert, somehow classical music is never the same on the radio or CD, and we enjoyed some champagne in the interval. It was such a great break before coming back home to poor sick child, who wouldn’t sleep and spending next 36 hours comforting her.

Olya left on Saturday after taking part in trying to keep Cat happy. Clive had to go away for work. And Cat and I mostly cuddled in bed, on the couch, on the living room floor in front of TV.

On Sunday since she looked much better and it was getting very hot and stuffy in our flat (yep, the summer is finally back!) we decided to go to the park for a picnic. I’m very happy she doesn’t crawl yet, as we still struggled to keep her away from our food, the grass, Clive’s magazine and everything else. The only things she wasn’t interested in were her toys and her food. BTW chicken bone inside plastic container makes a great rattle. During late afternoon, while she slept, I collapsed on the living room floor and had a short nap myself. I’m looking forward to having an uneventful week.

P.S. I didn’t have enough energy to finish this on Sunday night, but I don't want to rewrite so lets pretend that I did post this on Sunday

Discovering the world: being sick

Poor thing had her first cold. She felt and looked totally miserable yesterday: runny nose, watering eyes, sneezing, and fever. And she couldn’t sleep – throughout the day and night I tried everything to get her to sleep and eventually she would fall asleep only to wake up few minutes later whimpering. But she still smiled and even laughed occasionally at us, at the funny noises we made, at her favourite toys, at books and her own reflection in the mirror.

After finally sleeping soundly for few hours in the early morning, she woke up looking healthy and energetic and is back to trying to figure out how to sit up and crawl.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The art of portrait

I never was interested in the portrait art, until I went to BP Portrait Prize exhibition in 2005 and while I didn’t like all of the works, I found all of them interesting in one way or another. They made me think about different painting styles, choosing the best pose, dress and background to represent the sitter and how much thought and love had to go into the paintings to capture the individuality and character of every sitter. It was fun to compare my impressions of the painted person to the information about them in the little notes beside the paintings. Often I found myself wanting to find out more without feeling that the paintings needed more explanations (I’m not a big fan of art that requires A4 page of text to be understood).

So yesterday since Cat only slept for one hour in the morning and sun was shining I went to the National Portrait Gallery to check out this year completion. I think this year’s selection was more uniform and there was less variety (though it could be that my memories of 2004 aren’t 100% correct). But there are still many interesting works to admire and study and think about. I loved the works that won the first prize and the young artist award. My other favourites were Kate by Vicki White (how I miss having a spontaneous cup of coffee with friends), Redhead (self-portrait) by Amanda Hext (reminded me my sister's hair), Amelie by Cassandra Szekely, Organia by Anastasia Pollard and actually many more.

On the way back I decided to walk to Green Park station and found out that Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition is only on until 19th of August. Anyone wants to join Cat and I on the outing to it before it ends?

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Purple of the fields

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it
Alice Walker "The Color Purple"

Clive was finally home all day yesterday after working previous two weekends (20 days of not having another parent in the house during daytime hours is a very long time). So we had fantastic day, which started with buckwheat pancakes and banana smoothies. Later Cat and I took Clive to the local park to show him the beautiful field flowers that are numerous after the recent rains. He brought his old SLR digital camera and took some wonderful photos. Now I’m on the mission to learn how to use it as it so much more advance than my one, but has some quirks and problems due to the age.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

If there are no hats around

If there are no hats around try using a piece of cheese instead. Few weeks ago Cat discovered that she can take her hat off. Now I put her hat on and straight away she takes it off - makes a very fun game, except than the sun is shining brightly and there is nothing to protect her pale skin from it. At home, since hats are not always handy, I put her tiny socks or her smaller toys on top of her head as she loves taking them off – they are a bit more challenging than the hat due to the smaller size. Recently she started trying to put objects back on her head and yesterday she finally succeeded with a piece of cheese. And I thought meal times can’t get any messier*eye roll*.

Friday, 20 July 2007

One day of sunshine

Yesterday the sun was out for a change and Cat & I went to Regent’s Park. Such charming place - tranquil, yet full of life and stories: romantic couples, group of young people relaxing with some guitar playing, kids practicing yoga, old men reading the newspapers, dog walkers with all sorts of dogs and the artist in residence selling his work.

Today MetOffice issued weather warnings for heavy rain with some torrential, thundery downpours. Therefore we’ll be sticking close to home, but will enjoy the weather show from our balcony.

But what’s up with the weather this summer? Hope you are having better weather wherever you are.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Punctuality, schedules and predictability

I used to be punctual type of girl, I’m so no longer. Now I don’t even set the exact time for meetings. Instead I provide the time interval, which can be as wide as 1 hour.

In the last few weeks, after Cat switched from three naps to two, we were able to establish reasonably consistent routine and working around her napping and feeding times I could predict the times of leaving the house down to 20 minutes. Until yesterday – I was looking forward to having a midday lunch with my dear husband at the Slug and Lettuce (ah, the memories of the free life, of drinking cider and beer with Ozzies and the food - I love their honey roast ham & French brie sandwich). As usual I put Cat down for her morning nap at 9. At few minutes past ten, I rejoiced that it looked like she’ll sleep for longer than 45 minutes, at few minutes to eleven I started listening for sounds of her waking up, at 11:20 I emailed husband to let him know that we’ll be late, at 11:45 I started playing out different feeding/afternoon nap scenarios in my head as it was getting close to her lunchtime, at 12 I called my husband to cancel lunch and at 12:15 she finally woke up. Three hours and fifteen minutes! I can’t actually remember the last time she had a nap longer than two hours.

Today she only napped for 45 minutes, so we made it to lunch and had enough time beforehand to visit Museum of London

and to see few old cars, buses, trucks.