Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Within arms reach

A while ago I had to move a set of plastic drawers with Cat’s clothes further away from her cot, because instead of napping she managed to get the top drawer out, spread the clothes all over her cot, turn the drawer upside down and climb on it to make loud stomping noise.

See this small bookshelf located just outside her cot? The bottom shelf is full of English books, the middle one has Russian ones and the top one houses the books from the library. (We actually have many more kids books, but others are for slightly older kids) Last night upon investigating loud crying I discovered most of the surface of Cat’s cot covered in library books, which she somehow managed to pull from the shelf to her cot. For now I’m going to put the library books to the other side of the shelf, but I wonder if I’ll have to re-arrange the furniture again. Choosing the best location for all our and Cat’s stuff is becoming more challenging than the advanced levels of Tetris. So if you don’t yet have kids and are ever caught playing Tetris instead of doing something more important just say that you are practicing a very important skill necessary for successful parenthood.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Banana & Blueberry Muffins

When I stopped working, I started baking. At some point I realised that I was spending too much time on it and our eating abilities couldn't keep up with my enthusiasm for trying new recipes. Therefore I made the decision to bake only once a week on the weekend.

However this weekend my poor husband and daughter came down with a stomach bug and the baking had to wait until Monday. My husband loves banana bread so I keep on trying out new recipes. These muffins were made following SouleMama's Blueberry & Banana Bread recipe, because I didn't have enough time to bake bread. Muffins were baked at 180 degrees for 25 minutes only.
My husband loved them, the Little Girl only had one bite (maybe she still isn't feeling 100%) and while I like them I suspect that I overcooked them as they taste a bit dry to me. I will have to find time to make bread using this recipe.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Online networks

Since I want to stay in touch with few old work colleagues, who are not on Facebook, I finally caved in and created an account on LinkedIN (professional networking site). On opening a new account I had to choose one option that describes my current employment situation: employed, a business owner, looking for work, working independently or a student. I hate labels when they are used to reduce something complex into a tiny easily explainable stereotype and I certainly didn’t feel that any of these choices describe me.

It was easy to dismiss the first three options. I’m not in the paid employment, though I certainly work hard everyday. I don’t run a business. I’m not looking for a new job. And for everyone who asked (mum, you aren’t the only one :-)) - I don’t plan to in the nearest future, as I enjoy having time to think, learn, plan, design and craft. I enjoy being able to sit still on my own with a cup of tea in the middle of the day in order to regroup and re-establish inner balance. I love being able to spend lost of time outside. I enjoy feeling that I can meet my obligations to my family and myself without overstretching to the breaking point. Few weeks back I saw this quote in my diary:
It is necessary to be somewhat underemployed if you want to do something significant.
James Watson (American scientist)

And to me raising a child is something very significant.

I could describe myself as a student as every day is full of lessons in the child development and psychology; in the needlework, painting and drawing; in self-discovery and self-improvement; in patience, gratitude and humility.

After considering all these and many more things I choose “working independently” option, only to find out that once profile is created it is possible to re-write this selection into unique professional headline. Though this could end up being even harder than Rachael’s six words challenge. I think opening account on Stitchin Fingers community instead would’ve been more enjoyable.

Saturday, 26 July 2008


Yesterday I made the wholemeal orange variation of Cloverleaf dinner rolls. I baked them for 25 minutes first at 200 degrees, but then lowered the temperature to 180 as the rolls were getting brown too quickly. They taste delicious, though I probably should search for a healthier recipe (six tablespoons of butter!). I found this blog via Yummy Colours of the Rainbow Flickr group, so maybe if I have these rolls for desert with some nice orange marmalade instead of cakes or biscuits they’ll be relatively healthy choice. Right?

Friday, 25 July 2008

Refreshing naps

Long past the days when I would collapse anywhere at any chance to get some sleep. Yet when I reach a point of feeling frustrated, irritable, unable to treat anyone with patience or compassion I know that it is time to get some extra sleep and after putting the Little Girl down for her nap, I curl up on the couch and have an afternoon snooze myself. And for me the best afternoon naps always happen in the summer warmth with a light breeze coming from the open window. Afterwards I feel cheerful, energetic and enthusiastic. Occasionally a regretful thought about all unaccomplished tasks passes my mind, but I chase it away knowing that I can accomplish even more in my refreshed state.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Fun playmate

Two mornings in a row we spent playing with my friend’s much younger brother, who was visiting for a short time with their parents. The Little Girl was totally mesmerized by him and wanted to follow him everywhere, specially because he had a range of play balls. If we got too distracted chatting to throw the ball back to her, we would instantly hear “Bum! Bum!”, which is her attempt at saying “Boom! Boom!” and the word she uses to mean ball. Sadly he went back to Australia and we can only dream about finding another such patient and fun playmate.

Sunday, 20 July 2008


Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again. For most, gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.
Richard Bach “Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story”
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story” is full of beautiful passages that I want to quote and joined my list of inspiring and re-readable books along with Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet", Antoine De Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince", Albert Camus "The Plague" and Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita". I haven't re-read "The Master and Margarita" for about four years, so it's time to pick it up from a bookshelf again - at every re-reading I discover something new in it.

I created this image after reading The Expansion of the Square tutorial and am itching to make more and to try out improved composition ideas once I get some dark-coloured paper.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The simple projects

I like having at least one project that is very simple and can be done few stitches at the time, while I wait for Cat to finish her dinner or she is busy looking through a book or playing with her toys. This time I choose to make another amigurimi from the Japanese craft book. My husband tried to remind me that I swore never to make another one of those ever again. As always crocheting head and body was easy, but I started loosing my enthusiasm once I reached the smaller parts making stage. The amigurumi supposed to be a robot, but for a long time we played with the limbless, earless and eyeless creature and therefore it was renamed into Orange Alien.

This week I finally crocheted the limbs for it, but gave up on trying to find energy to make it ears or eyes.

Yarn: Some unidentified cotton
Pattern: From Japanese book (ISBN 978-4-309-28103-2)

Hopefully my next simple project won’t turn into the same prolonged fight with myself to finish it. Mettetations always finds the best patterns and after seeing her recent shawls, I couldn’t resist making an Eva's shawl for myself.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

PIF done: one for Rachael

I wanted to somehow incorporate a reference to Rachael's four wonderful children. I had many ideas that had to be discarded due to the advanced level of skills required. Eventually I settled on making a 4-strand braided necklace.

There are also four small beads and the bigger bead has four little spots. I was so happy to finally finish this project that I made Rachael a set of matching earrings to go with the necklace.

Monday, 14 July 2008

PIF done: one for Polina

Pay It Forward (PIF) gift for Polina was actually finished back in February, but I didn’t want to blog about it before finishing Rachael’s one. It was inspired by Polina’s gorgeous bright summer dresses. While outside was grey and cold inside I was enjoying looking at the beautiful red, orange and yellow beads. And from them I made this spiral bracelet.

(Note: Sorry for quality of the photos, they were taken back in February - I'm glad to see that my photography skills improved in the last few months)

I loved the colours so much that I kept on wondering if I should make another one for myself. And then I made few small mistakes and decided that this bracelet wasn’t good enough to be given to someone else. Excitted about having a good excuse to keep it, I started wondering if Polina wouldn’t prefer something less geometrical and more flowery. So I got out Carol Wilcox Wells' The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving book and used their flower pattern to crochet a new bracelet for her. I also tried making a seamless join. It didn’t end up being so seamless in my case, but not too bad for a beginner.

While in Odessa I was happy to see Polina wearing the bracelet with one of the dresses that inspired it in the first place.
(Note: This photo was taken by my husband)

I'll post about PIF gift for Rachael tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Three favourite rhymes

Incy Wincy spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed poor Incy out.
Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain.
And Incy Wincy spider climbed up the spout again.
English nursery rhyme


We have a CD of nursery rhymes and Incy Wincy spider is Cat’s favourite song. She keeps on asking for it, by trying to do the action of Incy Wincy spider climbing up the spout with her little fingers. I heard this song so many times in the last few days, that whenever I have a quite moment to myself to relax or think I end up singing it instead. This little rhyme is also preventing me from thinking of any other quote for today’s post.

The other favourites are “Five little ducks went swimming one day” with the loud quacks and attempts to imitate the hand actions from the Little Girl; and “Old MacDonald” – Cat does a very good “Ee-I-ee-I-oh” sound now.

(I don't have a picture of ducks, so a swan will have to do instead)

Out of the 26 songs on the CD Cat only wants to listen to these three, I hope, for my own sanity, that she’ll progress to a wider range of favourites or will get tired of this CD altogether.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

(Re)discovering: the fun of building indoor tent

Since it was raining for most of the week I had to think of new activities for us to do inside. Yesterday I tried to build a tent to play in and totally lost track of time. I loved both building it and playing inside. The Little Girl looked very confused at first, but soon joined in the fun.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Enjoying embroidery

Once while looking at the marks made by my daughter I saw a bird, so I grabbed a green crayon and traced the seen outline directly over her marks.

I was very excited at the result, because I knew that if I tried to sketch a bird from life or draw one from the memory, unable to simplify, I would get horribly lost in the small details. Therefore I wanted to use this drawing for something.

While in Japan I saw embroidered buttons and brooches with the embroidered centres and lacy/crocheted outer. I also bought some lovely linen fabric.

On my return after looking at PurlBee's tutorial I made three buttons: bigger one is 29 mm and smaller ones are 23 mm in diameter.

For now I don’t have any plans for them, but this was the first embroidery project that I enjoyed doing. All the previous ones were way beyond my skill level and therefore ended up in frustration.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Six words

Rachael recently attempted to summarize her life in six words. After reading her post I attempted a simplified task of describing the last few years of my life, as everything before childbirth feels so distant and slightly unreal. Yesterday, while unable to sleep due to the milliard thoughts running through my tired head, I finally came up with:
Emotional rollercoaster aggravated by sleep depravation.

“A bit dramatic” my husband would probably say amusedly and I agree, but it isn’t easy to think of six right words. Why don’t you try?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Reusable shopping bags

While we were in Japan our supermarket finally decided to introduce reusable bags and started "encouraging" the customers to buy them by removing the usual plastic ones. I’m all in favour of the reusable bags, but there is one tiny problem with theirs - they are also made out of plastic. Luckily I accumulated a small collection of totes that are used for carrying our shopping home.

Top left one was made by my wonderful cousin especially for me and bottom right one I bought from talented Raspberry.

And last week I added another one to my collection.

Pattern: Elisa's Nest Tote
Yarn: Rowan Cotton Glace

Just as I finished it I found a list of 35 free grocery bag patterns, so I may try making another one in the future. Maybe crocheted one?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Thank you to my parents

Do you ever wish you could go back to your childhood room and take a slow look around at, let’s say, age five, seven, or fifteen? ...
In order to preserve in my mind some of my favorite spots and the flood of memories I treasure with them, I now try to take photographs of those spaces from time to time while we’re still really living in them.
Amanda Blake Soule “The Creative Family”

When I read these lines in Amanda’s book I started thinking about my own childhood and the room in which I spent most of it. There are some things I remember well, like the bunk bed my dad made for my sister and I out of their old bed; but there are plenty more memories that are hovering on the edge of my visual eye, fleeing just as I’m about to see them clearly. Then again sometimes a memory jumps out and I’m surprised that I could ever forget the colour, the smell, the item or the event it summons.

With my dad, originally uploaded by Fioleta.

Thinking back to our tiny two rooms flat, I unexpectedly remembered that at some stage we had a swing hanging in one of the doorways. And this memory made me think of all the things my parents did with the limited resources at hand to enrich our lives: we always had access to various magazines (DYI, art, travel) and books; they were happy to buy us craft and art supplies; my mum had patience enough to teach us to crochet and to knit (I’m not sure why I never picked up the second one until now); she knitted us beautiful items of clothes that I still remember while most of the store-bought once disappeared from my memory forever; they took us on the trips to Black Sea, Moscow and St Petersburg; they borrowed money of everyone they knew (bank loans didn’t really exist in Soviet Russia) and bought a summer house next to river Don.

With my mum, originally uploaded by Fioleta.

I suspect that my parents would say that they did many creative things out of necessity, but they must’ve enjoyed them as well as they managed to share the enjoyment of gardening, cooking, fishing, making things with me. The hard task of being a parent is often under-appreciated, but since becoming one myself I feel the need to thank my parents for being decent, hard-working, fun, caring and loving people.

My dear parents, I’m proud to be your daughter. Thank you for every day you've been my parents.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

New camera

My husband recently bought me a digital SLR camera. At first I just rolled my eyes and joked about his newest camera buying addiction. I’m not a very gracious accepter of gifts. I still haven’t read the manual and need time to get fully comfortable with the heaviness and behaviour of the camera, but what a pleasure it is to know that I’m not limited by the capabilities of my camera and can work on improving my photography skills. Every time I download the photos to my laptop I’m struck by one or two that while not perfect are beautiful and very special to my heart.

Today I stumbled on TweedleBee blog & shop – she makes adorable quilts, baby blankets, toys and is currently having a give-away on her blog. Looking at the items in her shop makes me want to have another baby and I won’t even bore you with stories about my daydreams of making quilts.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Discovering the world: sand and sea

While in Odessa The Little Girl got to experience walking and playing in the sand for the first time. At first she totally didn’t like the feel of the sand and tried really hard to avoid standing on it. Every time I would try to put her down she would cling to me with all her strength and lift her legs up as high as she could. However, when I put her down on our beach blanket she was happy to grab handfuls of sand, let it go and see the grains fall down. Soon the blanket was covered with the sand and the Little Girl finally braved walking on it to try to get to someone’s beach ball (she loves playing with the balls at the moment). Later Clive and she built a sandcastle and she was perfectly happy to crawl all over it.

She was slightly unsure about the sea water at first as well, but warmed up to it very quickly (I wish the water would warm up to us as it was very cold). She enjoyed walking in and out of the water, looking at the tiny waves, searching for the wet stones (collecting stones is another recent love) and even managed to fall face down into the water ones. Somehow I find it sad that she didn’t get to walk or play in the sand earlier. I noticed that all the kids playgrounds I saw in Russia had sandy surface unlike the asphalt one of England – the sand probably has it’s on downsides, but I think I would prefer it to the hard grey asphalt.

The photo above was taken by my husband using his "new" (at least to him) Mamiya camera.