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

Foxglove

Japanese anemone

Bleeding heart

Astrantia

Salvia

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!

FO: Toy tidy

A member of my NCT group recently christened her baby, and although I was unable to attend, I still wanted to make something special. I decided on a toy tidy after looking through a book of sewing projects for nurseries. The ideal gift is always something useful, I think, and because this was just squares I had hopes that it might be easy and quick. And thankfully it was, enough so that I’ve also managed to write a blog post about it! Hooray!

The idea of a toy tidy is that it can be hung over a door; it has pockets little stuffed animals or toys can be tucked into. I had the idea to use adjustable ties in the hope that it could be used more flexibly, perhaps tied on the end of a bed or on a wardrobe dowel. My only concern is that the pockets may be too small to be useful. However, the family I’ve given it have a dog and often go for walks in the country, so I’ve no doubt the little girl will be picking up bits and pieces in a couple of years — this is the main reason I wanted to embroider “Felicity’s treasures” on it. I hope she will think it’s special.

The background fabric is some vintage (ish) yellow and blue striped fabric I bought a few years ago. I don’t know nursery colors for this family, but I think yellow will suit them. I wanted to use contrasting fabric to make the whole thing a little more fun, and this blue floral fabric is from a skirt I found in a charity shop and picked apart for the fabric. A reliable source tells me it’s Liberty! It looks lovely against the soft yellow. The pockets are double sided for extra sturdiness and then simply attached with zigzag stitch. I also added a layer of thin batting in the middle for a little more body. Hopefully it will be able to support any toys that end up in it.

I can’t remember the name for the style of ribbon I used as ties, though I want to say cotton twill of some kind. It is also from my stash, and the blue thread used to attach the pockets is vintage. I’m quite proud that I managed to make a present using only stash materials! Some people might not see that as a virtue, but I’m pretty sure this family would.

This was an excellent choice for a first post-baby sewing project – bright, straightforward, and quick. It probably took me about 3 weeks to actually finish, but probably only about 4 hours (babies, huh?). It’s also made me look forward to more sewing again; there are a few more christenings coming up, so plenty of opportunities.

A life update

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Life has continued apace here, and as Mabel is still not sleeping through the night (please tell me that’s normal?!) spare time is very scarce and usually spent cleaning or knitting. *sigh* But I did want to check in here; maybe once a month is a reasonable target? I don’t know how mum bloggers find the energy – I admire them so much! I am really missing writing here, and indeed doing stuff that is worth writing about. Also, with Mabel around I am often reduced to one hand, which means using my phone rather than my laptop. Writing is much more comfortable on my laptop, though, as is commenting. I am feeling very sad that recently I’ve not been commenting on many blog posts as it seems to keep failing on my iPhone. So I’m sorry if I used to comment and seem to have stopped – there’s a good chance I’ve tried and it didn’t work. 😦

In general things have been pretty mundane (in a good way), but here’s a recap:

A trip to the U.S.IMG_2280

We had been going back and forth about when to visit my family so they could meet Mabel since she was born. I was keen to go as soon as possible, while R wanted to wait. In the end, my grandmother’s death was the push we needed to get us to go sooner rather than later. Sadly we couldn’t organize the trip quickly enough to attend the funeral, but nonetheless we thought a visit would cheer up my dad (who also lost his partner of over 20 years earlier this year). It certainly did the trick! He was thrilled to meet Mabel. So were my sister, nieces, and mom. Mabel was on her best behavior and impressed everyone, hooray! She even did really well on the flight, which involved 2 layovers, and on a nearly 6 hour train trip between St. Louis and Chicago. Hopefully this means she’ll grow up to be a traveller. 🙂 It was also nice to be home and see my mom’s garden.

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In front of our family tree, which Mom planted as a wedding gift.

A slow return to hobbies

Mabel is now sleeping well enough that I can stay up for an hour or two after she’s in bed, which means I’ve been able to think about other things. I’ve done a tiny bit of reading and a tiny bit of knitting (more on that soon, hopefully) and thought about projects. The tricky part will be deciding which projects to pursue – which ones are actually manageable.

Spring & the allotment

Isn’t life so much better when it’s warm outside? I am so glad I don’t have to wear a jacket every day now. The sunshine makes me so happy, too. And the flowers, and the blue skies…I know it will rain a lot and be quite grey over the next few months, because England is even in the summer, so I am doing my best to revel in it while I can. News about the allotment is unfortunately less positive. I have not managed to keep up since having Mabel and it is now a properly overgrown wilderness. I have only managed to plant two rows of potatoes all year! This is mainly because Mabel hates the allotment. Really hates it! She screams every time we go, so I can’t leave her to play and do digging like I planned. It’s such a shame, but I think that might mean it’s time for me to give it up. We shall see.

Hitting 6 months as a momDSC03670-1

Mabel turned 6 months old today! I can’t believe it. There have been concerns about her weight since she was only a couple of months old, and unfortunately those are continuing as she is still dropping percentiles. She is still exclusively breastfeeding, so of course about 90% of the time I am convinced it is my fault. We’ll see what the pediatrician says when we see him in a couple of weeks. We’ll have introduced solids by then so fingers crossed that helps. In spite of this, though, Mabel is the most active of all the babies I know. She wriggles and rolls and tries to stand, though she is rubbish at sitting. She is also super curious and reaches out for anything within range. She seems particularly fond of paper, and keeping her from eating it is already a challenge as it tears if I try to take it out of her hands. She also finally enjoys playing with other babies, which is super cute.

BPSW8957On a personal level, I am now actively enjoying being a mom. I finished my CBT a couple of weeks ago and something has definitely clicked. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I am starting to feel more confident. This is probably in part because Mabel is generally a content baby now. Not working feels much more normal than I anticipated, too. I have also finally started to make real new friends; luckily I met a group of people who I have more in common with than being a mom. In particular, we’re all fond of charity shopping, hooray! I think this has made everything feel a lot more manageable. At least socially…not going to lie, I have definitely still not gotten the hang of doing housework while looking after her. The next hurdle is starting to think about going back to work. The plan is that I will go back to one of my jobs earlier than the other. But the truth is that I think I may struggle with going back to work 4 days a week as I initially thought; I am going to miss her so much. She is also already showing signs of separation anxiety and often cries if I leave the room or if anyone, occasionally even her dad, holds her. It’s exhausting, but at least it means I know she loves me; I have to cling on to that because most days I still feel like a failure at least once.

So that’s my life in a nutshell. What have you been up to?

 

5 happy things – early spring edition

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Hooray, it’s finally spring! There may have been snow a few weeks ago, but flowers are blooming, BST has started, and I haven’t had to wear a hat every day, so in my book winter has now passed. Thank goodness for that. I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my mood recently, so I thought I’d share a few of the things that are standing out, just to help me get back into the swing of blogging (if Mabel allows me to carry on!).

CBT

When discussing my PPD with doctors/health visitors, I decided to opt for CBT rather than medication. Medication can be really helpful, but for me it was always going to be a last resort rather than first. I had a feeling it wouldn’t take too long to get myself sorted out, and I think I’ve been fortunate enough to be right. While I still struggle with nights sometimes, overall I think the CBT is helping me cope better. I’m finding the counselor’s recommendation of analyzing the emotions that accompany or trigger particular thoughts particularly helpful, and I think it is helping me pause/reflect more during my bad moments.

Sling

I am still not especially confident with using Mabel’s sling, but I have to say having the option of using it is amazing. A few hours out without a pram is a real treat. Before I had her, I remember that I couldn’t imagine myself pushing a pram, and one of my few regrets is that I didn’t learn more about babywearing before having her or sooner after she was born. My pram is bright and fun and really convenient, but I have to say I hate feeling like I’m in everyone’s way. Also, do you know how many charity shops you can get into with a pram? Not many! Good for my wallet, yes, but it makes me a little sad to be missing out on potential treasures.

Plans for making

Does spring make anyone else feel more creative? Almost as soon as the days started getting longer, ideas finally started pouring back into my head. Obviously I am aware it’s not realistic for me to assume I’ll actually find the time and/or hands to do everything, but some are probably achievable. Plus, it’s so nice to think about something related to my pre-Mabel identity. So far potential plans include a wrap nursing dress, the embroidery sampler for my friends (a belated wedding present), and a baby cardigan for my jobshare partner who is due to have her baby any day now!

Cooking

Busyness is now the new normal, and I think I’m finally starting to (slowly) adjust. In the past couple of weeks I’ve actually been able to cook proper meals again. Today, for example, I made scones. Bliss! I love being in the kitchen again.

Flowers

Nothing says spring like flowers. 🙂 It is so nice to see a friendly bloom when walking down the street, whether that be in a garden or at the local flower stand.

I know this is brief, but I would love to hear what’s made you happy recently, too.

Recent reads, February

img_1459I am so happy that I managed to read a couple of books this month! I am really missing my hobbies, and it feels like a big accomplishment to have learned to read one-handed while feeding Mabel. Finishing a book feels even more amazing! Both of my reads this month (okay, since November) are popular recent (by my standards) titles centering around women’s relationships and roles in society.

Women and Power: A Manifesto, Mary Beard

I’ve not read anything by Beard before, but was looking forward to this after a friend recommended it. In the end, though, I gave it only 3 stars on Goodreads. The subtitle of this book is <em>A Manifesto</em> and for me that’s where it fell short. To be fair, this book is based on a series of oral lectures, and I find this often doesn’t translate well into written books. The intention/purpose is different, and so inherently are the means used to achieve those. More on this later in the post. The upshot is, I judged this book as a manifesto and to me, it wasn’t a good one.

Beard is a classicist, so I guess it’s no surprise that the parallels she drew between Greek and Roman civilization/literature and today’s society were compelling. It was frankly depressing to read about how the same stereotypes about women that were established so long ago continue, though – think the Medusa figure, women speaking in public being shrill, etc. I found these discussions fascinating, but to me the book never really went further than this into the territory of being a manifesto. Beard does pose questions about what we can do to change the situation and says the only way to change things is to change the structure and how society perceives what power is. The ideas were interesting but I found them underdeveloped; I would have loved to see Beard cite some modern feminist theory, perhaps. I think this is where the lecture/book difference comes in. For me it’s acceptable for lectures/speeches to be a little off the cuff and have fewer sources in a way that I’m not happy for books to be. The notes/bibliography at the end were great, though! Overall I’m glad I read it; I would recommend it to others, and it was thought-provoking at the time. I’m not yet convinced that I’ll find it memorable or worth rereading yet, though. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

This novel is much acclaimed, both critically and amongst my friends, so it’s another one I was looking forward to reading. It tells the story of two girls growing up in a poor part of Sicily and is set in the 1950s; it’s also the first in a quartet. I really enjoyed it! I’m not sure it 100% lived up to the hype, but it was an excellent, engrossing book that I would probably read again. I am a sucker for <em>bildungsroman</em>, and this novel is pretty good as an example of the genre. The writing is clear and precise, and the character development is excellent. I also found it a realistic portrayal of childhood &amp; often made me think of moments from my own. I wasn’t absolutely sold on the beginning (it felt forced, particularly when the rest flowed so well), but am looking forward to seeing if that short narrative is further developed in the rest of the quartet.

I’m continuing the theme of female authors by reading Louise Erdrich at the moment. I’ve also got Knitlandia on the go. I bought the latter to read in hospital when I had Mabel. How naive! I’m enjoying it, though, and should be able to finish it this week.

Have you read either of these books? Any other female authors I should be reading this month? I’d love your thoughts.