Poem for a Thursday

Shamelessly stolen from Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness. I hope you don’t mind! As I am grieving a close relative at the moment, I have turned to the wonderful Mary Oliver, who always provides comfort and grace. I chose this poem because I saw these lovely swans on the way to the funeral. And while it isn’t necessarily about death, somehow it rings apt. I hope you like it, too.

The Swan

Across the wide waters
something comes
floating–a slim
and delicate

ship, filled
with white flowers–
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn’t exist
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
it rearranges
the clouds of its wings,

it trails
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband’s company–
he is so often
in paradise.
Of course! the path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination
with which you perceive
this world,

and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings
touch the shore?

– Mary Oliver 

New year, new plans

Okay, maybe my plans aren’t really that new. Every year I seem to think about the same things. I have had a pretty good idea of who I am and what I want out of life for a few years now, though there is always room for improvement. I don’t have the gumption to stick with New Year’s resolutions, but there are a few things I’d like to work on this year. In no particular order:

Poetry  – I have neglected poetry in recent years. Once upon a time I not only read it, but also wrote it, and I feel quite sad that it’s not something I do anymore. This year I’d like to incorporate it into my life again. I’m not sure how, though, as I need to be feeling reflective before I can read or write it. Perhaps I will steal Jennifer‘s idea and post a poem here on a regular basis. I would also quite like to write one poem a month.

Home – My house is, quite frankly, a disaster. I have never been tidy and suppose my home reflects all the tangents my mind takes. But recently it has been bothering me that everything is just so disorganized – the reason there is stuff everywhere is that it has no specific home. This year, I’d like to work on getting more storage and *gasp* maybe even decorate, budget allowing.

Blog – Clearly I have been neglecting my blog. I am also realizing that while I’m happy with Pastry & Purls, it’s not quite what I wanted it to be. I really wanted to be a little reflective and also practice my writing. Finding a balance is hard, though – I don’t want it to be a chore, but I do want to write more meaningful posts. Hmm. Any suggestions?

What are your plans, goals, or intended themes for 2019?

A year of motherhood

Photo by Summer George Photography
Photo by Summer George Photography

Somehow I have made it through an entire year of being a mother. This is nearly as shocking as the fact that the baby I gave roast chicken to tonight has been alive for a whole year.

And what a year it’s been. I would love to wax lyrical, but I am too tired and don’t think I can share anything original. Motherhood has been surprisingly full of cliches: nights of sobbing, the joy of baby snuggles, the indecision of feeding choices, the excitement of watching her explore. But there have been so many little moments and little rituals that we’ve been fortunate to share as mother and daughter, or as a little family. I thought I would record a few here:

  • Watching Mabel see snow for the first time
  • Hobbling down to the dining room in the maternity ward, pushing Mabel in her little bed
  • Lying on the bed, Mabel on my chest, Pippa on my legs, trying to stay awake (and eventually deciding that wasn’t worth it)
  • 11 p.m. family walks to McDonald’s to get her to sleep
  • The words of encouragement from other mums when I fed Mabel in a cafe/public the first few times
  • Reading Little Bee at bedtime, until Mabel decided she’d had enough & started crying every time it came out. Oops.
  • The delight on her face when she squished a strawberry for the first time
  • The overwhelming sense of responsibility and terror when I registered her at the GP
  • Her first wave, at a near stranger in a cafe!
  • Endless night feeding sessions
  • The sobs, clenched teeth, and occasional scream or walk out the door when I couldn’t get her to sleep
  • The agony of her screams with reflux. God, just haunting.
  • Finding my “these are people I would still want to hang out with if I wasn’t a mum” mum group through our local breastfeeding support group

It’s such a cliche, but I do feel so blessed to have Mabel. She’s an excitable, engaged, curious girl full of enthusiasm for the world around her. She may be little, but she is not shy or restrained. I can’t wait to see what will change next year.

Motherhood itself, though, is a whole different thing from Mabel herself. I guess maternal instinct is a real thing, as the urge to spend time with and protect Mabel is pretty overwhelming sometimes. Getting the balance between our needs right and trusting that other people can also meet her needs will take a long time. I still feel like a terrible mum several days a week! Unsurprisingly these feelings still usually revolve around her sleep. She’s always been a rubbish napper but done better at night. But the nights that I can’t get her to fall asleep (Yes, we are naughty and still put her to bed asleep instead of letting her go to sleep on her own. You can’t judge me for this any more than I do. :() are just the worst. In fact tonight I passed her over to her dad crying after trying for 40 minutes. I mean I was crying! She was screaming because something unidentifiable was clearly hurting.
Another surprising thing is the way I still think about the miscarriage. One of Mabel’s middle names is the one we planned to use; it’s the main reason she has 2, as I worried it’d make me think about the baby too much, but R wanted to keep it. It is a lovely name, though, and someone we know (who doesn’t know about the miscarriage or name history) prefers to call her that. I really struggle with it as it feels like a litte pinprick to the heart every time, but equally I don’t feel comfortable sharing the reason behind this with this particular person. How do I find the balance of remembering and moving on? I really didn’t expect I’d still think about it most days and can’t help wondering if it’s normal.

But there are positives, too, like those memories above. I love seeing her face when I come home, and especially love watching her when both her dad & me are around as she is clearly just so happy. I wouldn’t exactly say that cliche of “the smiles make it worth it” (*vomit*) is true, but I have been surprised by just how much fun I have found being a mum. Long may it continue (but let the nighttime sobbing stop now, please).

Half FO – baby sweater

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’ve been knitting a very squishy and very pretty sweater with the aim of having it ready for some professional pictures that we’re having taken ahead of Mabel’s first birthday.

They were taken a couple of weeks ago and the sweater was…kind of done? After staying up until 1  a.m. knitting and distracting Mabel with Strictly Come Dancing in the morning, I just got it into a wearable state 30 minutes before the photographer arrived & sewed on a button while she set up. A victory of sorts, though annoyingly she only just fit into it and taking it off was a challenge. Oops. Also, the neckline just didn’t work, possibly because I was literally knitting fast and loose. Suffice it to say yesterday was not my best day. There may or may not have also been tears of mum guilt in the afternoon for prioritizing knitting over, well, everything.

She did look very cute, though, so I am going to persevere with trying to correct/modify it. Blocking it post-photo session made a massive difference, though the neckline is still a mess. I think I may try to block it again as well; it still looks a little short to me.

I am unsure what to do about the neckline. Starting over might be best. It was definitely the hardest part to knit, but somehow it hasn’t turned out to be the right shape. It is the cable pattern, just knitted on larger needles sideways using short rows. The stitches kept slipping off, partly due to my speed which made my tension go off kilter and partly due to extremely slippery needles.

Faults aside, it is quite a pretty sweater and I’m glad I made it!

Random Friday thoughts

  • Why has Mabel suddenly decided only to nap while being held again? Or to nap so much better for her dad than me?
  • 3 weeks til I’m back at work, eek!
  • I have a job interview next Friday. This is mostly good, but how am I supposed to come up with answers or examples when I haven’t been at work for almost a year?
  • Is it actually possible to save the environment in a society that uses (needs?) mass production and large scale farming? If local production came back in a bigger way, would we lose some benefits of modern society? Feeling pretty pessimistic about everything these days.
  • Will I ever get to knit again?
  • Why are all my dream jobs incompatible with where I want to live? Someone please drop Kew Gardens into the Cotswolds, please and thank you.
  • Will I ever get to write a real blog post again?
  • I don’t like myself very much sometimes, but I think that is linked with a low level feeling that I am a bit lazy and not fulfilling my potential.
  • Will Mabel learn to walk before she gets her first tooth?

Making a garden

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much Mabel seems to dislike the allotment. We finally had one day a few weeks ago when she played happily while I weeded, but alas, it’s really too late to do anything there this year. Given that I never spent lots of time at the allotment, I am surprised by how much I miss it!

The positive side to this is that it has meant I’ve shifted my interest in plants to making our yard look a bit better. Well, at least one corner of our front yard. A bit at a time is a good gardening strategy, right? Only one part of our front garden (and back, for that matter) has any soil rather than grass or rocks, so I decided to start there. When we moved in, there was an ugly and diseased shrub there. I have let this little corner get overgrown with weeds every summer. I haven’t even given much thought to what I wanted to replace it with.

I started last summer, when I bought meadow rue at Kiftsgate Garden. Then this year I was in Homebase and saw a bleeding heart for £1 and couldn’t resist. And that in turn got me to thinking about what would look nice with a bleeding heart…so it all developed organically. I persuaded a friend to take me to a local nursery, where I bought a white rue and two peonies (one white, one dark red). I guess now I’m committed to a garden with perennials and anything that self-seeds. So far I’ve planted:

Rue – two kinds


Japanese anemone

Bleeding heart



Columbine (aquilegia)

Euphorbia (technically I didn’t plant this)

It is so nice to see flowers when I step outside! It makes me really happy. I also have plans to treat myself to a fancy Miss Saori hydrangea; I walked past one this summer and fell a little in love. Some Japanese irises might look nice, too, and I may just chuck some wildflower seeds in. I have also bought a dahlia and a white butterfly bush which will stay in pots until I’ve decided where I want them (definitely somewhere in the back).

I’d love to make the whole garden a little more bee friendly, too. Lavender is the obvious choice, and I will probably put some in, but to be honest I am not really a fan of the smell. Does anyone have any suggestions?

FO: vintage drawstring bags

It is both wonderful and rare that I make something that I am truly happy with. None of my projects are perfect, and while these bags are no exception, I can say that these are one of my favorite sewing projects so far. I am really pleased with the fabric combination. The vintage seersucker is also one of the loveliest fabrics I’ve sewn with. I guess it’s nothing fancy, but it really is just so sweet!

These are another christening present, but because the sewing was more time consuming, I only embroidered initials.  The two fabric idea came from the Liberty Book of Home Sewing, but I didn’t follow the pattern in the end. The bag in there was open at the top right side, which I didn’t want. In the end I followed an easy tutorial created for Beads of Courage bags. Frustratingly I cleared my history and can’t find the exact one I used anymore.

I think it’s the colors and fabric combination that makes me so happy with this project. I found the seersucker in a charity-cum-vintage-haberdashery/fabric shop and knew it was the perfect fabric for the recipient. There wasn’t much of it, so a toy tidy wasn’t an option this time. My mum friends suggested making a drawstring bag as I wanted to make a useful present again. The striped fabric was the most suitable matching fabric I had in my stash. It is from a vintage cotton Etam skirt that I shortened several years ago (and no longer fit into, sob!). It is lined with plain white cotton. The bright green embroidery and hot pink ribbon keep it from being too shabby chic, I think, and give it a light modern side.

This was a time consuming project, to be honest, but I think these will be very useful. And now that I’ve mastered the techniques, I already have a couple planned for us, including one to hang by the dining table to store bibs in. Life is all about weaning these days!