Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Recipe: All Day Apple Butter (Slow Cooker/Crock Pot)

I think I have mentioned this recipe in previous posts, and this is an excellent time of year for me to post it. The apples in this region are ripening, and we're coming up to Mabon. I grew up with apple butter in Indiana, every autumn, and I remember going to Nashville, Indiana, and seeing the pretty jars with the gingham cloth covers. Buying it in the grocery store wasn't just didn't seem to have the right texture.

After emigrating to England, apple butter was one thing that I really missed, so I set out to discover a recipe that I could make myself and found this one. It is very much tried and tested, and my English friends that I can convince to try it end up falling in love with it, and can't wait until I do my annual batch.  I store it in recycled plastic takeaway tubs, and I generally have seven or eight for my fridge (and it lasts for a really long time in there), and the rest go into the freezer until Witchy Kitty finds out that I've made it, then one goes home with her, and one or two go to American ex-pat friends in Digby. The rest get used throughout the year, generally pulled out when I have friends over and have made (an attempt, not perfected) gluten free scones.

For those of you that have never tried it, the way that I explain it to the sceptics is that it's like an apple conserve, and really nice on bread, scones, toast, pork, turkey, etc. You can use it in other recipes, as well. I have a mini pie maker that I have yet to test out, and I'm contemplating making apple butter pies. It is dairy free, gluten free, and pretty much free from everything else unless you have issues with spices, sugar, or apples.

Here's the recipe:

5 1/2 to 6 lbs of apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped (you can use any type of eating apples. I prefer red or golden delicious, as these are common varieties in Indiana)
4 cups of white sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon (I use rounded tsp, but I adore cinnamon)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Place the apples in a slow cooker.  In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.  Pour the mixture over the apples and mix well.

Cover and cook on High for 1 hour.

Reduce heat to Low, and cook for 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.

Uncover and continue cooking on Low for 1 hour.  Stir with a whisk, if desired, in increase smoothness (I'm also known for using my potato masher).

Spoon mixture into sterile containers, cover, and refrigerate or freeze.

I know that I got this off of a website, but, unfortunately, it's been a decade, so I can't remember where it came from. 


Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week Off (yet again)

Again, this week has been a complete fail on picking up my stitching. I'm not normally as busy as I have been lately, and I don't normally go to bed before 9pm, as I have been for almost the past week and a half. I'm putting my foot down and actually going no where tomorrow, and aiming to get back to my stitching. At the very least, I'd like to finish that first page before starting college next week. Fingers crossed.

But, I will at least post a recipe tonight, and tomorrow I will be posting this last week's suggestion from Pagan Blog Prompts, because it's a rather apt topic.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Joy Pockets (300811)

OK, I am a day late, but I was sidetracked last night with snuggling with Witchy Kitty's Cub. For being a stay at home mum, I feel like I've been super busy lately, but I struggle to figure out why. But, here are my Joy Pockets for the past week (don't forget to check them out at Bohemian Twilight).

  • Still having Yule and Christmas on the brain, I was rather pleased with myself for coming up with the perfect gift ideas for the Imp's grandparents...all handmade and within my pathetic budget. I've felt bad for the past several years that I haven't been able to send anything at all to my family, and to find something perfect is exceptional.
  • Having fantastic neighbours. I have one neighbour that takes my bins out every week because I'm dreadful at waking up on Monday morning. Yesterday, the neighbour behind me made an exuberant search and managed to capture one of my delinquent quails that boldly jumped out of the hutch while I was sorting them out and made a mad dash for it. She was found, safe and sound, next to his bins after a half hour/45 minutes.
  • A girly night that didn't wind down until 2am. It was a fantastic Friday night.
  • Sharing a meal with friends, and my attempts at gluten free chicken gravy turning out amazing on top of cheesy mashed potatoes and stir fried chicken and red onion.
  • Waking up for one of my normal stirrings to find both cats in bed with me. Loki has always slept with me, and was by my hand. I moved my foot to find that I kicked Florence and she didn't shift. Florence joined us in December of last year, and she's never slept with me before...she normally sleeps on the Welsh dresser downstairs. She's been extremely cuddly since the rearrangement of my bedroom.
  • My family in Maryland and North Carolina being safe and sound after the hurricane. My cousin and his wife lost a few roof tiles, and my brother lost a couple of that missed the house and landed in the woods instead.
So, what has brought joy and a smile to your face this week?


joy pockets

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Desperate Need to Rearrange

Hello, everyone. My name is Mel, and I am admitting to having a problem. I am a serial furniture rearranger.'s out there. I have a need to rearrange furniture. When I was still living with my parents, and when I had more space than I do now, I had to rearrange the furniture every three months or so. I'm sure that I absolutely drove my parents crazy with it. They'd walk into my bedroom and I'll have managed to rotate the entire thing by myself.

I've lived in this house for just over two years, and haven't been able to figure out how to rotate the furniture because of the way that the rooms are laid out. I live in a Victorian two up-two down terrace, and in some areas modernisation has not been its friend. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic place, and perfect for just the Imp and I, but I can't move the furniture around. I have gas fires, an alcove with a cupboard built specifically to set a telly on, and a sofa that was gifted to us that only fits along one wall in the living room. The dining room is bigger than the living room, but I can't flip them because there's no place suitable for the telly.

Upstairs is a whole different story. We have a lot of heavy furniture. Some of it's ours, some of it belongs to the landlord. I have four bookcases in my bedroom, alone, that were taking up an entire wall. I have been agonising over this for a long time, because it's really been bothering me. As much as I adore my books, my bedroom just seemed consumed by them. I suffer from insomnia, then my sleep is rubbish, then I don't want to wake up in the morning.  The Imp's room was worse...she had three wardrobes and two bookcases, as well as a huge, dark set of drawers, her bed, a wooden doll's house, and the rest of her toys. She rarely actually played up there, and I couldn't figure out why because she still had loads of space (we both have nice sized double bedrooms).

I finally snapped on Monday. I've been slowly having a sort out for the past several months, being harsh with myself and getting rid of things that are just taking up precious space. I couldn't avoid it any more...I had to succumb to my desperate need to move furniture, and our bedrooms are the only place that it could happen. I helped the Imp put all of her toys into their laundry baskets, cleared the bookshelves off, then proceeded to rotate it all. She helped me pick bits up from my bedroom floor and shift books off and on the shelves. In her room, I shifted two bookcases, her bed, a doll's house, and two wardrobes. I added a wardrobe from my bedroom, and swapped her massive bureau with the smaller one from my room. In my room, I shifted four bookcases, a large dressing table, a big telly on a stand. my bed and the nightstand. Even though I've added another wardrobe to her room, the Imp's room feels a lot more spacious and balanced. Yesterday, I hardly saw her because she was actually playing up there...I was shocked, to say the least. Since Monday, she's actually kept her room tidy and helped me make her bed every morning.

The difference in the feel of my room is amazing. I've actually felt the need to go to bed at a decent hour...last night, I was up there within a half hour of tucking the Imp in. I didn't go to sleep straight away, but I relaxed quite nicely with my Kindle and the telly. I'm actually getting a little more rested with the sleep that I have, and I'm not struggling to wake up in the morning. The energy is actually feeling like it has a better balance.

I was chatting with Witchy Kitty yesterday, and the overall energy in my house has been feeling a lot better. Ever since I've moved in here, the house has had it's own special personality. Over the past year, it seemed to have changed, to almost being depressive. The house spirits haven't been very happy with me, and I wasn't seeing it. I was struggling with relations with my friends, my own stress, depression, and loneliness. I've finally managed to work my way out of my own personal funk, though, recently. I finally received the confirmations that my childcare will be funded for my return to college to do the course that I started last year.  I've made a definite decision as to what educational path I will be taking. My friends are coming around more often, and we're back to everybody not being so low. And I've made a definite decision to redecorate. The first of the paint will be brought around this weekend, so I can get a start on the living room and dining room, to be followed by the kitchen, bathroom, the Imp's room, and finally my room.

It's almost like the house is happier that I've made some decisions, and that I'm settling within myself. I've always had a deep desire to move about, but since moving into this house, I've felt like a real homebody. It's been a difficult thing to accept, I think. When I was looking at houses, I actually refused this one, because the rooms felt too small and the previous tenants smoked like chimneys. I have had a deep desire to move to the other side of the country to be closer to a friend, but this is the first place in either Indiana or England that has actually felt like my true home. I moved out of my parents' home when I was 20. Counting that move, I have moved around 16 times, including moving back in with my parents, and have been classed as homeless twice. I'll be 35 next month, and I now have a deep desire to stay put. I'd honestly like to be able to understand why it has taken this long for me to find 'home'. I used to want to travel all of the time, and now I rarely ever leave the city. My ideal holiday is going and spending time in Cardiff with my dear friend and her boys for a week.

I've managed to get the furniture shifting out of my system this week, and once I get it all painted, this house will be like new. I'll be restarting college in a week and a half, and I've got everything together and ready. I know where I'm going and what I want to do. I've fully recognised what I need and want mentally and emotionally, and, with the support of my family of friends, I'm almost ready to take the leap to find it.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week Off

I've been rather busy over the past week, so not much of my cross stitch has gotten done. I'll be counting next week as week 7. I hope you're all having as fantastic a week as I've had.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Joy Pockets (220811)

It's actually been a busy one for us this week, so not a lot of cross stitching done, but a lot of giggling and laughing.

  • The arrival of our fluff babies! Five gorgeous quails, four girls and a boy (in two separate hutches...poor George has to wait until the next batch to get some company). I've posted a couple of photos at the bottom.
  • The Imps ecstatic giggling when bouncing on the harnessed trampolines in town. One of the best £3 I've spent, just to hear her giggling like that.
  • Finally winning the battle of my downstairs, and getting it to a point that it now fairly easy to keep up the tidy. 
  • Being able to appease my need to rearrange furniture (there will be a post around this tomorrow or Wednesday!)
  • Barbecuing on Saturday with friends. Being able to introduce people and everybody getting along together like a house on fire. We're already planning Yule, and at least one other meal before then. There was a lot of laughing going on, and I think we finally finished at around 1am.

Gertie and Gertrude


joy pockets


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week 6

Again, I've not been able to get as much completed this week as I wanted to, but I had a bit of a shock today as I was working on more of the dark brown stitching. The shapes of leaves all of a sudden popped out, and that gave me the biggest boost--that I'm actually getting somewhere. I'm now at a point where it's a lot of scattered colours, in small bits. I'm not sure if I will finish it over the next week or not, because I'll be busy, but fingers crossed. If not by next Wednesday, then by the following one.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Joy Pockets (150811)

  • We're now in the home stretch for the arrival of our quails, and I'm stupidly excited. We're just waiting for the arrival of the food and feeders, which I expect either tomorrow or Wednesday, and the birds will be arriving on Saturday.
  • The hilarity of wet cats. I needed to bath my cats to give me a fresh start to sort their skin out. My boy, Loki, is absolutely loopy and loves water, so he didn't mind being dumped into the bathroom sink full of warm water and baby shampoo (and after a generous dollup of body butter for extra dry skin rubbed into his fur, his neck is almost healed). Florence didn't enjoy it at all, but she was funny because her fur soaks up water like a sponge...on top of leaving a huge puddle in the bathroom carpet, she looked so pathetic it was difficult not to laugh (her neck is improved, but was a lot worse than Loki's in the first place).
  • The first Christmas gifts are now hiding in the cupboard under the stairs. It's a joint gift for the Imp and I from her Grumpy, and we managed to get a really good deal, so shopped early. I already have Yule and Christmas on the brain, and have for the past month or two. I've already forewarned Angela at The Pagan Mom Blog that my excitement for this year is likely to start creeping into my posts pretty soon. I think the reason that I've got it into my head to start preplanning is because since I started this college course before, I know what's coming, and I want to have everything superbly organised so it's very little effort when the time comes.
  • The Imp's current fascination with chickens. When we visited a friend who has some recently, we hardly saw her in the house because she was out chattering to her rapt audience and feeding them the grass that had been growing between the flagstones in the path.

The Imp and her audience

The Imp and her audience
joy pockets


Friday, 12 August 2011

Rhiannon, Dduwies Cymraeg y Lleuad, Faeries, ac Ysbrydoliaeth

Or, Rhiannon, Welsh Goddess of the Moon, Faeries, and Inspiration.

OK, so I can only read a few odd words and street signs in Welsh. Google Translate is my friend. But it is the one place that I actually feel like it's home, and I plan on going there in the lifetime that life and funds allow. That's just it, isn't it? Life. I have dreams, plans, and goals, and every time I think that I'm getting close to actually accomplishing something that will give me a step higher, life gets in the way and kicks me down. It happens to a lot of us. Some people just wallow in self pity, and fall further down, never trying to fix what could be an opportunity for a different path.  Some of us can pick up, dust off, and just carry on.

I try to be one of these people, as difficult as it can be, that dusts off and carries on.  I've had failed relationships and marriages, one of the marriages ended in a very ugly way with my boys deciding to live with him and not speak to me. I've been classed as homeless a couple of times, including sleeping in a car in a car park on a North Sea beach at the beginning of winter.  Each time something happens, I push through the biggest part of my broken heart, because if I don't carry on, who will do it for me?  Especially now that it's just me and the Imp, my 3 1/2 year old daughter.

I draw my biggest inspiration from my patron goddess, Rhiannon. I was drawn to her from the beginning of my path as a Pagan, and she has steadfastly remained by my side as my strength and comfort. I was called to her before I even knew that Wales was a country-principality in its own right (I emigrated from Indiana to England over a decade ago. I've been a declared Pagan for longer than that).  She was supposed to marry an immortal like herself, but instead she chose to marry a mortal prince, and in joining him, the faery world was closed to her. After the birth of her son, the servants that were supposed to be watching over him after the birth, in order to allow the new mother to heal. One evening they all fell asleep and woke to find the baby gone. So they wouldn't be punished, they killed a puppy and spread its blood on Rhiannon and scattered the bones, to make it seem like she had eaten her own child. In his grief and anger, Rhiannon's husband sentenced her to wear a heavy horse collar at the castle gate, to great visitors, tell them of her criminal story, and carry them on her back to the castle. Because of respect for her humility and grace, very few took up her offer to be carried.  A few years later, a farmer and his wife arrived. In the middle of a storm, he found an infant crying in the middle of a field. He and his wife took in the child, and when the story of Rhiannon reached them, they realised that the child belonged to her and sought to return him. Her husband, Pwyll, returned her to her place of honour at his side, and Rhiannon, in seeing that her husband and the people were ashamed, forgave them, understanding why their beliefs had been misplaced.

When anything goes dramatically wrong in my own life, I think to the story of Rhiannon. She held fast through her burdens, and when things got better she didn't continue to weigh down her heart.  It is a very difficult thing, at times, especially when people persist in reminding me of the worst that has happened, when they think that I should remain bitter and grieving. I personally can't carry on for too long in a constant state of grief. Too long of that carrying on makes my physical health decline. That's not good for me, and not good for the Imp. I've found that the best thing for us is for me to get up and carry on. I do find it difficult to not hold a grudge, and I fully admit that there's two that I still strongly hold. But I have yet to be given a reason to forgive  those two people because I'm still tormented on a regular basis by the consequences of their actions.

Stevie Nicks, in 1976, performed my most thought-provoking song for the first time:

Yes, she was singing about a Welsh witch, and the lyrics are quite simple, but it regularly brings the images of my Goddess to me, with the metaphorical use of some of her symbolism, of songbirds (she's also represented regularly by horses and dragons) and birds in flight. Though the wings of a bird is a very delicate system, there is great strength that allows them to fly in even the strongest of winds. A bird does everything with their whole heart, as Rhiannon survived everything by the strength and courage of her heart. And I will carry on doing the same, and teach my daughter to do the same.

Topsy-Turvy of the Mischievous Heathen

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"Celtic Myth and Magick" by Edain McCoy, Llewellyn Publications (1995)

This was originally posted on 12/07/11 over at The Pagan Mom Blog

Cartoon Giggles

We watch a lot of cartoons. Part of it is that if the Imp is watching the telly, I tend to be watching it with her. The other part is that I admit to still having part of me that's a big kid. I do limit the cartoon watching, though, because too much "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" melts my brain cells. I can say that at least most of what she watches is educational, but, you know what? Sometimes we need to watch cartoons that make us giggle. 

I find that, nowadays, almost all of the cartoons that are aimed at the Imp's age groups is a constant onslaught of educational items...counting, colours, morals, etc. It is a fantastic thing, but sometimes a kid just has to be able to stop and watch something that they don't have to think be able to watch it for fun. I introduced the Imp to Looney Tunes this week, and I don't think I've ever heard her giggle at something like she did while watching the Road Runner and Wyle E. Coyote. And when Wyle E. Coyote fell, she was gasping in shock, and saying "oh no!" until she realised that he was ok. She also loves to watch classic Batman, with Adam West, where she comments "They're really silly, mummy."

I've been thinking about this, comparing cartoons that are aimed at the Imp today to cartoons that were aimed at me when I was in her age bracket. Unless we watched PBS for Sesame Street and 321 Contact, the cartoons were just to make us laugh. Some of the early cartoons during the week were mixed in with Cowboy Bob, who taught us our morals like how to be nice. But it wasn't non-stop education like what the Imp is presented with now. It shouldn't have to be...they need to have a break from it, time to be a child and have a giggle. The classic cartoons also taught us a range of emotions, that not everything is fluffy and bright all of the time. Take Wyle E. Coyote, as an example. He shows a range of emotions through all of his segments. Joy at when he thinks he's found the perfect solution to catching the Roadrunner. Frustration when it doesn't work, and persistence to keep on trying. That range is missing in a lot of the modern cartoons. 

The Imp and I don't just watch cartoons, either. When she is up, I make sure that things aren't definitely for adults, but we watch a wide range of programs together. Star Trek and Star Wars, Doctor Who, Britain's and America's Got Talent (she actually tries to dance along), Music Videos, etc. A year ago, I was actually told off because we watch the news every day. Seriously?!? So many children are sheltered nowadays, they don't know what the real world is like. We don't watch much of the national news, but we mainly watch the local news, which isn't as harsh as the national news. I've even gotten the occasional idea of a day out for us by watching the local news. 

The point is that we watch it together, and we talk about what's going on. We sing along to theme tunes and music videos. When we watch the educational cartoons, the Imp counts along, and shouts out the shapes or colours that they're looking for, and we chat about what is going on. When we watch anything else, we chat about what's going on as well, and giggle together. In the process, she learns that she can giggle, but that not everything is all fluffy, sugary nice, and cutesy.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week 5

I did actually attempt to post this last night before bed from my mobile, but it obviously didn't make it through. when I checked the laptop tonight. I am successfully trying to take time away from my laptop being on all of the time, but I do find that instant messaging on my mobile can be a bit awkward, and Facebook doesn't always send my messages through. 

As for my cross stitch project this week, I'm still frustrated that I'm only on the first page, but I'm starting to see the spaces filling out even more. I'm coming across a lot of highlighting colours, and more and more definition coming into effect. I still don't see myself finishing the page over the next week, but we can keep our fingers crossed. I think it's probably the most that I've ever worked on before, so I want to keep pressing on. 


Monday, 8 August 2011

Joy Pockets (080811)

It's been another quiet one for us this week, though with the Imp it feels like something is always going on.  Here are my Joy Pockets for the week. Don't forget to visit Monica at Bohemian Twilight if you're interested in joining in with this fantastic meme.

  • Having the opportunity to spend lots of time in the woods, and making me brave enough to explore our little woods near us. Our day at Lincolnshire Forest School on Saturday really made me see that the Imp is ready for that extended exploration, and she's fantastic at it. On Sunday, we wandered to Boultham Woods, and I let her take the lead. 
  • The Imp telling me, spontaneously during our walk yesterday, "I'm really having fun, mummy!", as she searched for 'sweeties' (blackberries...which aren't quite ready except the occasional bitter one).
  • Being caught up with my paperwork. Ok, this one might seem strange, but I hate paperwork. But I managed to get all of my financial forms into college as soon as I received them, because I had all of my evidence in order before they arrived. 
  • Being able to find a reasonably priced replacement for the power switch that I broke on my netbook (when replacing the wireless card). Now to figure out how to get it installed tomorrow, with the assistance of a friend.
  • The arrival of our new hutch for the soon-to-be arriving quail, and the reality that hit when I got it put together on Saturday evening.
  • A fantastic friend that I met in college last year moving just a bit down the road from me.
  • Continuing to watch things grow in our garden. Our pumpkin is starting to go orange, some of the sunflowers are bigger than my head, and the smaller ones have loads of gorgeous flowers on one plant, and it's so heavy I'm going to have to stake it tomorrow.

joy pockets

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Forest School

I'm going to shock a lot of people. I actually turned my mobile phone off today and left it in my bag in a minibus. It actually isn't surgically attached to the end of my arm, surprise surprise. Today was the Imp's first trip to the Lincolnshire Forest School with her nursery, and they make the first session one that the parents attend so we can have an basic idea of what they will be doing during their eight weeks of attendance starting in September. I'm so grateful for her to be able to have to opportunity, because I worry about her missing out on some of the experiences that I had while growing up...I loved camping and traipsing through the woods but I now don't have as much opportunity to do it, and I know that it will be different here in the UK than it was growing up in the US.  But the whole concept of Forest School...well, wow, I would have killed for the opportunity to be able to do what she will be do at 3 1/2.

She wasn't scared or nervous in the slightest. You would have thought that she belonged there in the woods. They had simple games aimed at their age...searching the ground for 'treasures' to add to a forest crown (a band of green card with a strip of carpet tape that they could stick their 'treasures' to), playing Hide and Seek,  and building fairy houses (the Imp wasn't interested in that, actually). They were also given a lot of time to explore and play to their own whim. The Imp has developed my tendency to wander off (they're going to love that with me not there :P ), and she had no interest in what the others in the group were doing. A lot of them started off quite nervous and wanting to stick by mum. Not the Imp. She marched off without looking back, looking for more 'treasures'. Her best find was the newly-ripened blackberries that were scattered everywhere. She went through every bramble in the area to have a munch. And the first few brambles she stopped to have a chat to them, and I heard her thank one of them after she put a fat berry into her mouth. That's my girl...I'm so proud of her thanking the forest spirits for her treats. She was definitely a girl on a mission for the entire time.

I think that part of the reason why she wasn't really interested in sticking with the group is because the other girls were a bit older (going off to school in a month. The Imp doesn't go for another year), and the boys were a bit younger, so not in her preferred social circle. The other reason is that she has a mind very similar to mine, and she spends a lot of time in her own little world. My auntie used to regularly call me a 'space cadet', and I fully admit that I still am.

But the man that was running the session I think was highly impressed with her. I think he was shocked that she had so much confidence on arrival. But when he asked if any of the kids had spent any time in the woods yet, I was the only one that had raised my hand. The woods behind us are only small, but we do walk through their regularly. We might wander back tomorrow, in fact, to see if we can find enough blackberries to make a pie or crumble. Going back to my last post on Family Chores, I've always encouraged her to have a lot of independence and she's really good at exploration.

The Imp had an amazing time today, and so did I. It was amazing watching her stomp through the woods like she owned them, and finding her amazing 'treasures'. Granted, if you ask her what she did today, all you'll get is an excited 'I got to see Sara!'. Sara is her favourite nursery teacher, and she's not been there since the middle of July, when they had their end of term party.

I'm looking forward to her having more sessions. It's a shame that I won't be joining her, but I look forward to her telling me all about it. I do wish that I had photos of today, but I thought that it would be a good idea to leave my mobile in the mini bus. Part of it was because it was raining off and on, and I've already lost a phone to 'damp damage'. The other part is because I would have likely tripped over trying to snap her every movement when I needed to be able to experience this with her, full on.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Family Chores

Like everybody else, I dread housework. I even admit to procrastination. I have been doing a lot better about it, but I still have my off days. While we had a few hot days, my kitchen built up a bit because it was too hot and humid for me to stand there. Ok, I know it wasn't as hot here in England as it has been in the States lately, or for as long, but I detest the heat. A beach holiday is my idea of a nightmare.

Since it's been a rainy day today, with a cooler temperature, I couldn't procrastinate on the dishes any more. I didn't realise that I would have assistance, though. The Imp, at 3 1/2, decided that she wanted to help, so grabbed her own tea towel and started drying cutlery and putting it away in the drawer. She didn't ask if I wanted help, she just cracked on with it, happily singing her little head off.  One thing that it made it me realise is that I need to start cleaning the floor first instead of last, because I caught her spreading the tea towel on the floor, stacking in a pile of utensils, rolling them up, and then carrying it all over to the drawer in a bundle.

It also made me realise how fantastic it is that the Imp and I work so well together as a team. It's just us, and I'm so used to watching parents struggle with their toddlers, especially in the 'terrible twos' and, a term that some of my friends have used, 'Threenager'. Don't get me wrong, we both have our off days, and we're both argumentative, stubborn mules. But we can, and do, work together to keep the house up now. She's fairly reasonable about tidying her toys up (at least downstairs...her bedroom is a bombsite, but I don't care as long as I have a path to her bed).

Sometimes I'll get frustrated at her, but I do get down and help her if she's struggling to get started. That's the whole point...I help her, but I don't do it all. It wouldn't be fair for me to expect her to be able to cope with all of it, and it wouldn't be fair for her to expect me to be her maid. It's all about letting her join in and think it's all her idea. There are certain chores that I ask her specifically to do, like keep her downstairs toys in a reasonable array, and to put them away before bedtime (though I forgot to remind her this evening, so they're all still sitting in the living room). She's responsible for putting her overnight nappy in the bucket in the morning...I don't have to ask on this one. She puts all her dirty clothes in the basket in the bathroom, helps me load the washing machine, and she pegs all our underpants on the lowest part of the outside washing line. But all of it she started on her own. I just have to ask her if she wants to help...sometimes I don't even have to ask, she pushes her way in.

Our team work has panicked people in the past. The Imp has joined me in the kitchen from the start. She spent a lot of her infancy in a sling, watching me cook. Now, the moment that I step into the kitchen, she's up on her step right next to me. A year ago I didn't get the big knife far enough back on the counter, and I walked in to find her with a potato on the chopping board, cutting it into slivers that she said were chips, and putting them in the roasting tin. She hasn't touched the knife since, but she watches me like a hawk with my every movement, and comments (nags at me) on making sure to keep my fingers back because the knife is sharp. When I have the oven door swung open, she stops where she is, or backs away, until I have it shut. All I have to do is tell her I'm opening the 'hot hot'. She's in charge of the vegetable cupboard and refrigerator, including when putting shopping away. I'm not even allowed to touch the fridge. I'd hate to think what it looks like, but she knows where everything is. Her first real words were all regarding cooking and veg.

I see a lot of parents, even of teenagers, that wait on their kids hand and foot. Ok, whatever floats your boat. But I feel that with the Imp learning things young, and learning how to work as a team within a functioning family unit, she'll have a stronger upbringing. I can hope that as an adult, she won't dread the necessary evils of having to do housework. I'm trying to improve my procrastination, so she sees me getting what I don't like to do done before what I enjoy doing. It's a struggle at the moment, but I do promise that I'm improving. Since ditching the dining room table, we're finding the living room and dining room easier to keep up, so it doesn't take us as long to tidy up. It's even quicker with both of us doing it, and more enjoyable. She actually lifts my mood up, because her random singing under her breath is almost constant, really cute, and makes me laugh.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Cross Stitch: Wheel of the Year - Week 4

Well, I'm a month into my Wheel of the Year wall hanging. I'm not as far in as what I had hoped for, but I still feel like I've done quite a bit. I'm a bit in awe at there being six or seven shades of chocolate brown, all mixed in together. My eyes can only discern three or so of them when looking, but I'm sure that once the project is complete, it'll be all about the light hitting it. I've also managed to tarnish my needle. If it starts squeaking any more than it is now, I might have to find a replacement. That'll be the first hand sewing needle that I've ever worn out. I regularly do it on my machine, but not my hand needles.

I thought I would add a photo comparison of where I started, compared to where I'm at tonight. I'm getting ready to stop for the evening, because I've been battling a weather-migraine (seriously...we need a really good storm and my head will be happy).

The beginning of the project

Where I'm at tonight. It's not all browns, reds, and golds any more. You can't see them well, but there are also greys, pale blues, dark green, and light green.


Monday, 1 August 2011

Joy Pockets (010811)

It's been a quiet one for us this week, but there's always positive things for us.

  • Spending loads of time with the Imp, even if it's just watching her play with her cars while I work on my cross stitch (though she is absolutely fascinated with it, so I really must find a kiddie-friendly alternative...maybe for her 4th birthday in January).
  • Our sunflowers starting to open this week, and how much they brighten up our drab back garden.
  • Weeding in the garden taking less time as the proper plants take over.
  • Having a new 'project' to do research to start up, and the reality hitting that it's going to happen really soon, with the Imp's grandfather buying us a double hutch off eBay, that will be housing our soon to arrive quails
  • Getting to meet a friend's menagerie, and having a first look at what will be the new additions to our family (start of our menagerie :P )
  • The letters arriving from the college with my September schedule, and the excitement that it's all going to start properly this time. Last year, I had been called up off the waiting list and started a fortnight late and couldn't get childcare funding. This year, my funding paperwork is all sorted, I'll be starting on time, and I have a clue as to what to expect.

joy pockets