Thursday, 31 January 2008

A call to (culinary) arms

The Germans are coming! To the barricades! Dont mention the war!

Seriously, the Germans are coming - the first tranche of clan Beloved for 2008 invades arrives next Wednesday. Beloved's younger brother Frank, his wife Katja and their 3-year-old, Maya. I'm really excited because it will be great fun to have them visit, but I'm also a little apprehensive.

I am pleading for your help, dear friends. Have mercy on me and my kitchen!

I thought our family were big eaters, until I met the Beloveds. They are seriously big eaters. Actually, theyre quite normal for the Germans in general; if you've never eaten out in Germany (or a German-themed restaurant), then buckle up your appetite and hang on.

Here's a meal Beloved had (just him, its a single serve) in a pub one night. Just a regular pub. Its a sort of mixed grill, and those long things opn the left are crumbed, deep-fried asparagus with hollondaise sauce. Then there's pork, steak, turkey and fried potatoes. And a salad on the side that you cant see.

Thats a frypan folks, a 25cm (10") diameter frypan. Holy hardening arteries, Batman, charge those paddles.

Anyway. Our visitors are big eaters. Last time they visited, with two other friends, between the 4 of them they used an entire 400ml bottle of sweet chilli sauce on one bbq meal.

That in itself doesnt usually frighten me, I just make more, but they are also very conservative eaters.

Frank has a saying: "the farmer eats what the farmer knows". In Bontkirchen, the farmer doesnt know Italian or Thai or Moroccan or Mexican or Indian or Chinese. Or anything that doesnt eat grass.

Bang goes three-quarters of my repetoire.

I hesititate to say he's a "fussy eater", he'll usually give something a try, but he's certainly a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Katja is much more adventurous, and often bemoans that Frank's tastes are pretty pedestrian.

Its also very warm here right now, so my usual fall-backs of stews and casseroles are off the menu.

And there's only so many bbq's we can have a week without endangering the local cow and sheep population (and my sanity).

So, I'm after your suggestions for quick and easy fare that will fit the bill. My requirements are:
  • filling
  • quick (I work!)
  • not too challening to the tastebuds
  • not too heavy on the budget
  • child-friendly (but non-fussy kids)
So far, my list includes things like spag bol, schnitzels (Ja whol!), meat with sauce (eg. steak with mushroom sauce), pasta bake, roast chicken.

Seriously, I'd love an email or some ideas in the comments. Please!

You dont want to see a grown pregnant woman cry, do you?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

I like the green grass under my shoes

Recently Canberra's very own Jejune had her OMFG Im in Vogue blog competition, and little old me won a prize!

Jejune very generously shared some of the her own Knitting Art products, which Ive been coveting for the longest time. If you're not familiar with Jejune's knitting-themed art, you must drop by her site and have a look. She's terribly talented and and her work is fabulous and I'm very privileged to call her a friend.

Here's my lovely prize:

Some cards featuring several of her prints, a fridge magnet of Shiraz Socks and a lovely personalised bookmark. Ignore the chocolate....just keep walking, nothing to see here. Don't get between the pregnant lady and the chocolate. (Yes, that does mean you Beloved!)

Thanks Jejune!

And another thankyou.....

for everyone's supportive, sympathetic and helpful comments on last night's (awfully verbose) post. I really, really appreciate your thoughts and shared experiences.

Some comments also gave me hope that it is possible to overcome the odds, learn to live mindfully and see that there can be another way. Which certainly gladdens my heart.

I won't dwell anymore on the subject, but will continue and extend my own New Year's Aim of living more mindfully myself.


Monday, 21 January 2008

Children learn what they live

Those who know me well know that I often feel the need to talk about stuff, that I have to share experiences to try and understand my feelings, get some perspective and try and find a way forward.

I had an experience today that affected me very deeply, and even though I've already downloaded on a couple of understanding friends and discussed it at length with Beloved, I'd like to share it a bit further. This post is really a record for myself, so I'm sorry if it's rambling or overlong or pointless.

My office is about 10 minutes walk out of Civic (the CBD part of Canberra) and to get to the main shopping area I need to cross the main road through the city. I was waiting at the pedestrian crossing for the lights to change, and noticed that on the other side of the crossing were two women and two children.

One of the women was holding the hand of a little boy, aged about 4 or so. He was clearly trying to get her attention, although she was talking with her companion. She would turn to him every few seconds and say loudly "Quiet!", "Be quiet!" and then finally "Shuddup!". With this last word she reached up sideways with her right leg and kicked him, quite hard, in the back of the thighs, hard enough that he staggered forwards a step or two.

He started crying and his mother dragged him back to her side and turned to continue talking with her friend. I was quite shocked that first, she would quite deliberately hurt her child, and second that she had no issues with doing it in public, at the side of the busiest road in the city.

We all waited another 15 seconds or so for the lights, and the little boy was crying and still trying to get his mum's attention. I felt sick and appalled.

Just as the lights changed and the cars came to a stop beside us all, she turned to the little boy and raised her hand. "Are you gonna shuddup? Just shut the f*** up will ya?".

The little boy cringed away from her, and she said, again very loudly "Come on!" and pulled him across the road.

I had to force myself, after a couple of seconds, to step off the curb and cross the road, walking in the opposite direction to the woman and little boy. I wanted so much to stay on the side of the street and confront her, to say "do you have any idea that how you're treating your child will affect him for the rest of his life?". But then if she had no qualms about kicking, hitting and swearing at her son in public, then she wouldn't take very kindly to being embarrassed by a total stranger.

So I took a deep breath, stepped off the curb and crossed the road. By the time I got to the other side, I was crying. I felt ill. (Can we blame the hormones at this point? Makes me feel a little less silly). I kept my sunglasses on, walked very purposefully the 100m or so to where I was to meet Quilting Mick for lunch, and thought I was doing a fairly good job of holding it together. Until QM saw me, and exclaimed "Oh George, what's wrong?" (clearly not such a good job then). She very kindly listened and sympathised and discussed and distracted me with socks and yarn and noodle soup. Thanks QM. Then I went back to office and emailed Bells, who was sympathetic and understanding and distracted me with the steek jacket. Thanks Bells.

Maybe that mother was having a particularly bad day, and her son's behaviour was the last straw. There are myriad variables and circumstances that I don't know from those few seconds contact.

We've all had those days; I've had countless, when I'm fully ready to give him away to a passing stranger, but I don't kick and swear at PJ. I talk to him sharply, I withdraw my attention, I abandon whatever we're doing and come straight home, I take away things he likes, but I never physically or verbally abuse him. I had the feeling from the way they interacted, that this behaviour was quite usual for the mother and not unexpected by the child.

Perhaps this incident, even though it only lasted about 30 seconds, has affected me so deeply because my hormones are all arse-about, or perhaps it's because I'm beginning to realise how much of a social and economic divide has developed in our country in recent times. So that people who don't have access to resources and facilities (because they can't pay for them) just use the skills and tools they were taught by their parents and peers. (Although I'm sure it's not isolated to the results of 10 years of Howardism in Australia.)

How many people out there are parents, who have no idea how to be parents? Who don't know how to give a child the skills and tools they need to deal with conflict, anger, stress as they grow up? Because they were never given the same skills by their own parents. If they grew up in a household where it was normal to use violence and shouting and threats and anger to solve problems and deal with stress, then they think that's the way to deal with it in their own households. I am coming to believe that children learn what they live.

I worry now that the little boy I saw today will probably be yelled at or hit again today, or tonight when he doesn't want to go to bed or eat his dinner. That when he goes to school he thinks it's OK to hit other kids who make him mad or to throw stuff when he gets frustrated. That he wont have any respect for his mum, or any other women he meets, and so wont tell her when he goes out. That he'll get into fights when he's a teenager, that he'll hate authority and start rebelling by stealing cars or throwing rocks through windows or spray painting the underpass. That he'll leave school early because he doesn't deal with the structure and rules and will only be able to find unskilled work. That he'll wind up getting a girl pregnant when he's still a child himself, and find himself having to work to support a family he didn't want. And that I'll see him in 15 years at the pedestrian crossing, telling his kid to "shut the f*** up or I'll whack ya".

Maybe I'm a cynic, a glass half-empty kind, and he'll be a whiz at maths and economics and go onto to uni and work for an international merchant bank and live on the North Shore of Sydney with harbour views. Or he'll find himself an apprenticeship and train as a builder and make more money than you and I will ever see and marry his childhood sweetheart and have gorgeous kids and love them within an inch of their lives. But it feels like the odds are quite firmly stacked against him, and he'll have to fight every step of the way to break out of the cycle. On the other side of the coin, I know that not every kid whose life takes a rough path comes from a home where they don't have love and support and kindness, and that all the love in the world can't stop them self-destructing. Life is certainly not so straightforward.

Beloved and I work hard, every day, to do our very best to give PJ a safe, loving, supportive and happy environment. Yes, we have boundaries ("the" is not the most used word in the English language: its "no" by a country mile), and we have conflict and we have tantrums and we have meltdowns, but we work really hard to be consistent and explain things to PJ and be firm but fair.

It's hard; every day I question myself and how I'm approaching things; I read books and talk with others and Beloved and I are constantly reviewing our approach. But some days, oh, some days, I am within a whisker of lashing out, through frustration and anger.

But I don't; I never do. I walk away and go to another room and take a very deep breath (or cry or scream or yell at the cat). Even though I realise I am lacking in many qualities I wish for my children, and can't be the ideal parent, I do my best every day to teach the skills they need to navigate through a sometimes hostile and difficult world and find their own path and be happy and safe. If PJ goes off the rails, it will be because he made the choice, not because he had no choice.

Perhaps what hurts even more is that I don't have the first idea how to help kids whose parents aren't able to give them that happy safe place and those skills, or how to help the parents who were never given those things themselves. In a civilised, affluent society, surely there must be something we can do?

But I've already downloaded enough (if you're still reading that is!) and that is probably enough for one post. And I'm crying again so I can't see the keyboard (damn hormones!).

I think I need to go and give PJ a hug (and try not to wake him! Silly Mama!) before I try to forget that there are so many things I can't change.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

WIPs in crisis

My task for this weekend was to get my WIPs into order: do an inventory, assess the priorities, and formulate a plan for getting them off my worklist so I could get onto all my wish-list projects without too much guilt.

Oh dear.

It seems I have a teeny-tiny problem with finishing stuff I've started. But then anyone who has given up checking on the WIPs and FOs list on my sidebar might have twigged to that.

I'm not going to do a pictorial inventory (no point killing off your download limit as well as mine); a list will give you sufficient idea of the magnitude of my problem. We know how much I love a list.

In no particular order:

1. Isabella - cast on 21/10/07, 20 rows completed

2. Dashing - cast on July; 1 mitt and about 15 rows of second mitt complete

3. Spider socks - turning heel on second sock

4. Monkey socks - cuff and one patter rep complete

5. Beloved's Jet jumper - cast on 1/12/07; about 50 rows of back complete

6. Cable vest for PJ - cast on 2/01/08; half of back complete

7. Branching Out - cast on January 08; only half a dozen rows complete and will probably be frogged

8. Adult cable beanie - up to decreases but still need to work out pattern

9. Checkerboard dishcloth - one pattern rep complete, but using 2 strands 4 ply together and cant memorise pattern

So you see, I have some work ahead of me. To borrow a turn of phrase from Beloved, this needs a little more thinking. I would welcome any advice on how to approach what has become a very hostile knitting basket, full of truculent and nasty WIPs.

And all the while there are a dozen more projects calling to me, and yarns in the stash begging to have some attention paid to them.

While you're contemplating that, I would like to canvass opinion of the final WIP, as I have been undecided about it for some time.

10. Baby singlet in Happy Spider hand-dyed.

This is most of the back of a baby singlet in Ms Spidey's Pansy colourway. I'm not convinced.

So if you comment on nothing else (and let's face it, I don't really need more grief on that list), answer me this:

Frog it and go for socks or a BSJ, or persevere?

The lines are now open.....

Monday, 14 January 2008

New Year FOs

Because it's been too hot around here (and because I'm feeling too fat and too tired) to do much more than this:

knitting has been limited to small things. (PJ and I are discussing whether or not the Australian cricket captain should have resigned in the wake of the recent controversy over sportsmanship. I say yes; he's a softie and says no. Just in case you were wondering)

After Bells and I went on a little cotton finding mission a couple of weeks ago, I have been feeling the dishcloth love (yeah I know, you all discovered that about a hundred years ago - I'm slow on the uptake).

I do love Anchor Magicline. Violent psychedelic colourways and all.

The pattern is Garter stitch lace from the Dishcloth Boutique. How much fun are dishcloths? I've cast on another straight away.

The little tags you see attached are for this project that I've signed up for. Performance anxiety means this is the first thing I've done, but I've got another in the works. More on that another time.

The second hot-enough-for-ya? FO is a Roll Brim baby hat for some friends in the village, Jens and Melanie, who have just had their first baby, a little boy called Janne. I love this pattern - dead easy and super quick.

It's in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran, a little darker blue than has shown up here. This is, in my opinion, the perfect yarn for this hat. Lovely and soft, and although not machine washable, a beanie isn't a high-wash item.

So, hopefully that's broken the FO drought.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a cuppa, a dishcloth and the couch waiting.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Baby did a bad, bad thing

When Amy and Bells published their No Guilt Stash Manifesto a while back, I was in there with bells (haha! no pun intended) on. I've been known to spend a little on yarn in recent history, especially since my initiation into the world of indie dyers, sock yarn and (mmmm) luxury fibres.

Ok, even the not-so-recent past. If you buy Beloved a beer, he'll gladly tell you about the 2kgs of yarn we hauled to Germany and back, so I wouldn't be bored during the 4 months of snow-bound winter I spent there in 2004-05. (I knit less than half a jumper, and we hauled it all the way back. Did you know you can still go outside when it snows? Whoda thunk it?)

So I embraced the Manifesto, confident it would be a little shield against the comments Beloved had started to make. Like "more yarn? When are you planning to knit that?".

Little did I know that I would be clinging to the Manifesto like a drowning man to a lifeline, reciting it like a desperate rosary in the wee small hours when the oblivious snoring of Beloved beside me amplified the guilt of a little.....slip. A minor brain snap.

No amount of manifesto-ing was gonna ease this magnitude of guilt. Marx and Mao would have to go into business together to manifesto my way out of this one. This was nuclear-strength guilt.

I blame QuiltingMick. If she hadn't gloated about her haul at our LYS, Cassidy's, $2 yarn sale, I would have blithely sailed on, ignorant to the temptation, my integrity intact. Check it out she said; I was there on the weekend, and they didn't have so much, she said. Just some Totem, some Cleckheaton Country. A couple of boxes worth, she said. It's probably all gone. She said.

But really, I'm hardly to blame. It's a knitter's nature.

I mean, wouldn't you? Just cruise along in your lunch hour to see what they had? At $2 a ball? Around 60% off? Of course you would. Of course I did.

They still had a couple of boxes worth. And a table full. The store manager had just been to their other store, on the other side of town, and picked up all the stuff that wasn't selling there to bring it over here.

I don't suppose you've got a box I could use, I asked. I may want a couple of projects worth.

She handed me a plastic shopping basket, and then showed me the other stuff that was on sale that she hadn't had the chance the mark down yet. Over here. And here. All this in these racks.

I think I may have blacked out for a while. Thirty minutes and four trips to the car later.....

There was still some Totem.

There was still some Country 8-ply, there was Caressa, and there was some Cleckheaton Machine washable 5ply.

There was some Jet.

There was some Bluebell 5ply.

And then there wasn't much of those left anymore.

Just in case you lost count on the way through, that's Two. Hundred. And. Ninety. One. balls of yarn.

Oh dear.

It took me three days to work up the courage to open the car boot again. Yup, it was still there.

Oh dear.

Did someone say they had a pattern for a house-cosy?

Friday, 4 January 2008

Georgie's List

As I noted yesterday, I need to become more organised so that I'm more efficient at using my time. On thinking over last night's post, I realised I get bogged down and can't-be-bothered because there are just too many options for using any spare time I have. So I faff around with everyday things or dawdle along on the computer, and never really get started on anything of substance.

So, in the interests of disclosure and accountability, I give you (fanfare) The List:

  • clean out wardrobe and throw out anything not worn in last 12 months; put clothes that fit right now to the front

  • clean out and reorganise PJ's room; move baby things to nursery

  • go through PJ's toys, store anything no longer used (too young) and relocate most to his bedroom

  • declutter store/junk room that will become nursery

  • organise nursery

  • spring clean and update blog

  • tidy knitting corner in lounge room

  • review and tidy stash

  • review WIPs and planned projects list; prioritise

  • update Ravelry

  • clean out linen cupboard

  • establish system for weekly menu planning

  • clean out pantry

  • declutter kitchen cupboards

  • go through boxes of kitchen stuff in garage

  • declutter spare room

  • clean out cupboards in guest room

  • go through boxes of materials from study

  • set up sewing machine and organise accesories

  • review sewing projects and prioritise

  • clean out bookcases

  • organise loose recipes into folders and organise magazines

  • go through, cull and print digital photos

  • put printed photos into albums

as at 5 January 2008.

Hopefully, by posting publicly, I will succumb to the weight of expectation and guilt and be able to post progress every so often. Feel free to indulge in public butt-kicking. I respond well to humiliation.

In the meantime, I'd better get in one last faff for old time's sake and contemplate the procrastination opportunities this list presents.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Taking aim

The mere fact that my promised post about my thoughts on the incoming year is 2 days overdue (4, if you count the fact that I should really have posted on the first) should give you a hint about the sort of things I'd like to tackle in 2008. Does it count that I've basically broken the resolutions aims I haven't even formally made yet?

I've never been one for making resolutions, since I'm both very bad at deciding what I should resolve to do (aside from inanities such as "be happier" or "world peace") and very bad at keeping anything more specific. My resolution for 2004 was "to give blood" (remember that one, kms?) and I still haven't done it!

So this year, I am making some aims rather than resolutions (thanks, Donna Lee!).

I know I am a procrastinator of the highest order, which can lead a lot of useless diversions, laziness and "can't be botheredness".

Whether it's cleaning the bathroom, going that extra mile at work, starting a new knitting project (especially on a deadline - make that doing anything on a deadline) or unpacking those boxes from the move in February (that's Feb 1997, when I moved to Darwin), I would quite often rather hang about and think about it than get stuck in and just do it. If I do start, chances are I'll get part-way through and get distracted and it never gets finished. (OK, between you and me, usually Beloved finishes it. One of the myriad reasons I adore him!)

It's strange, because I feel compelled to be organised; I have been know to make lists of lists I need to make, and am never more productive than when I have clear goals, tight deadlines, and (perhaps most critically) people who will be affected by the outcome.

So for 2008, I aim to live more consciously, instead of just thinking that I'll deal with it tomorrow. By this, I mean consciously make the decision to suck it up and do whatever task is at hand. Consciously work at my parenting skills; consciously identify and work at my weak points at work; consciously plan so that the week goes more smoothly.

I think, for me anyway, the key to this is be more organised: keep a running list of tasks, use my diary religiously, consider myself as one of those who will be let down if I don't complete a task, make tasks short, focused and realistic.

Another important part of this aim will be to declutter the house. I am a world-class hoarder. No further evidence of this is needed that the fact that it took us TWO shipping containers to move our belongings from Sydney to Canberra earlier this year. Two adults (who have cohabited for 7 years), one toddler, a dog and a cat should not have that much stuff. No wonder I can never find anything.

I'm not going to sign up for a seven-things style declutter (yet!), but will try and include one task each week that moves towards this. Lets just see how we go with this one, shall we? Remind me to check in in about a month!

Of course my 2008 aim extends to knitting. The first 10 weeks of pregnancy really knocked me about and knitting made me feel worse; I fell out of the habit of picking it up at any spare moment.

In the vein of being more organised, I want to use tools such as Ravelry and this blog to keep track of WIPs, plans and stash more rigorously. I aim to set aside time to maintain and nurture both these things without feeling guilty about neglecting other things. I would also like to use the blog to try and document goals, tasks and progress, knowing that someone will read it and know whether or not Ive at least tried to do them.

I will also (please don't read this bit, Beloved - I know you'll use it against me) knit as much as possible from my stash. This isn't by any means a full-on commitment, just a promise to check what I have and try and knock over some of my planned projects before I buy more yarn.

So, there you have it: a wishy-washy non-committal kind of almost-promise to think about trying to work towards becoming a better person.

It only took 4 days of procrastinating to get there!

Reflections (or other naff post title of your choice...)

Lots of my blogging mates have been reflecting on the past and coming years; I've been thinking a lot about both too. Because I wouldnt know brevity if it leered at me, offered to buy me a drink and tried to feel me up, tonight I'll reflect on the past year, and tomorrow will think about the coming one.

2007 has been a very interesting year, not least of all because I've joined both the blogging and local SnB communities. The insights and friendships that both have given me are nothing short of inspiring.

We moved to Canberra in February 2007, and I shortly after went to my first local SnB gathering. As an introvert, I would never have had the courage to do it if I didn't already know kms, and persuade her to introduce me, as it were. I was dead nervous (she had to meet me outside the cafe - no way was I going in on my own! They might eat me up!), but it's been one of the most rewarding things I've done in the last year. All of the Canberra SnBers are wonderful, and many have become friends. So thankyou all, bloggers and non-bloggers, for enriching my year in so many ways, and making me feel so welcome in a new city.

As a new blogger in 2007 (you may have noticed I'm always just about the last one to notice something interesting going on!), I have been amazed, excited and overwhelmed by the friendship, generosity and support of fellow bloggers. Who would have thought you could become such friends with people you've never met? And I've had the pleasure to meet quite a number of fellow bloggers in the flesh - even better. I don't want to name names for fear of leaving someone out, but if you are a regular or sometime reader, commenter or not, thankyou for making me laugh, cry, think, knit and feel compelled to share my own experiences with you.

Knitting has waxed and waned a little for me this year; I've had maybe a dozen or so FOs, maybe twice as many UFOs and more wishes than I can count. Stash enhancement has featured strongly (stop giggling down the back - I'll blog it soon) and I've discovered the joys of luxury and indie yarns. Oh, and the web as a source of patterns, and the bottomless pit that is knitting books. Just what a hoarder loves - more stuff!

My year has had myriad other ups and downs, too many to document (and many I'd rather forget), but as I am extraordinarily lucky to have supportive and grounding family and friends, an amazing husband who indulges me and a little boy who teaches me something new every day, the ups outweighed the downs many times over.

Thankyou to everyone who enriched my life this past year. I am lucky indeed.