Thursday, 30 December 2010

For the Love of Light Fittings

Do you want to see a very happy Meggie? Just switch on the lights...


I was a little bit worried about Megan's love of light fittings until I Googled it and found that she is not alone in this particular fascination. She coos and squeals and giggles and smiles endearingly whenever she sees one of her favourite lights, but only when they are on, of course. This is the one in her room, her dad is treating her to a rare close-up view.

The one below is in my parents' sitting room, and as you can see, it looks a bit like a big-nosed, smiley face. She loves loves loves this one. I can't figure out what the actual lights themselves would be in relation to the face, but he's a jolly fellow, don't you agree?


She loves it so much that when she found it had been decorated with holly for Christmas, she took one look at it and cried. The holly was duly taken down, and peace was restored.

One of the great things about having a reliable smile-making object in the room is that you can make use of it to get a lovely photo like this:


Happy Christmas, and all that. :D

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Still Snowed In

Meggie's first snow :D


No chance of outdoor work!


A view down the valley:


The trees are stark and beautiful.




My dad rescues the potatoes from the freezing cold shed:


The holly bush beside our house is bursting with berries:


We've got plenty of wood, and it's cosy inside :)


And Meg's got a very toasty pixie hat, ha ha...

Megan's Hands: Pics

Caught in the act!
(Note my slinky, sneaky, paparazzi approach!)

Are these fiddle-player's hands? That left hand falls naturally into a perfect bow-hold...


Creeping up without Megan noticing, I see her look of complete concentration:




Megan's left hand remains (as yet) undiscovered... How strange to be watching these developments taking place. Everything we (as adults) take for granted has to be learned, bit by bit. It wears me out just thinking about it.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Megan's Hands

Megan has found her hands. Well, her right hand anyway. She holds it up and stares at it in awe as though it were a creature from a distant planet. Meanwhile, her left hand is waiting in the wings. I can't wait to see her face when she finds two aliens - interacting!

This afternoon I tried to take a photo of her complete absorption in this strange, natural phenomena, but unfortunately she is very camera-aware, and any sign of a camera in her vicinity causes her to stop doing interesting things in favour of staring worriedly at the lens. I can't pretend that I am not to blame, I am. For the last month or so I have been showing her photos of herself (and little videos too) on the camera screen, so I think her self-consciousness comes from this. Silly Mummy! It's all my fault!

I have tried turning my back on her to get the camera ready, hoping she'll think I'm doing a boring (but important!) Mummy Thing and go back to her interesting hand. But every time I check on her by peeping over my shoulder, I find her looking back at me with a cynical expression, thinking So this is what Mummy does when she's out of the room, pretending to be busy. She stands somewhere, preferably facing a wall, and peers over her shoulder hoping no one is cottoning on to the fact that she's just hanging around suspiciously.

I shall endeavour to take a sneaky pic tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Tangled Yarn's One Year Anniversary!

Horray!
*Sounds of party poppers popping*

Today is the anniversary of my very first blog entry!
*Cheers and whoops of delight*


I just had a quick nostalgic peep at my first posts, and was reminded about the One Hundred Days project (which - alas - seems not to be taking place this year, the old website is no longer there). I was also reminded of my very first (and only so far, thank goodness) bitchy comment, which I have left for the sake of authenticity.

Looking at my attempts to get rid of the clutter whilst unknowingly pregnant (and completely exhausted because of it) reminds me how things have changed over the last year, and how different my life is now. I won't list all of the differences, but in the last year I have stopped touring with Ember (after ten years of travelling and performing with my musical companion), moved to a secluded smallholding, had a beautiful baby, written a novel (ha ha), and started making crafty presents for Christmas... And I've done a fair bit of de-cluttering too, obviously! :D


Anyway, I must leave these celebrations as I'm in the middle of making some felt finger puppets for Megan's Christmas present. Thanks for supporting me and reading my blog! Here's to another year!


*All photos found by searching on Google Image, and rather over-excitedly applied, sorry about that!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

NaNoWriMo Winner!


Yesterday I completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge! At the beginning of November (when I couldn't resist picking up the gauntlet, perhaps because I saw it as some kind of antidote to babybrain), I had no idea what writing 50,000 words would feel like, or even if it would be possible. I discovered that it is possible, but only with the aid of the stats page on the website, and a particularly competitive personality. And a baby who will sleep for at least forty five minutes at a time. And by cutting down on washing and feeding myself. And by risking my relationship with Phil by sitting in front of my laptop for far too long every evening.

50,000 words is a lot of words - it works out at about 66 pages on NeoOffice. If I am to actually turn it into something I'm proud of, it will take a lot of editing. I imagine that if I edited out all the crap I might end up with a short story, ha ha.

Here is a Wordle word cloud of my text - giving greater prominence to words used most often (yes, the main character happens to be called Walter - how did you guess?!):


If I were to do it again (would it be possible with a 14 month old? Are there enough naps in the day by that age?) I think I would probably do a bit of planning ahead, rather than just writing what came to me on the day, though I did enjoy the freedom of the stream-of-consciousness method. And I would have to make sure I didn't fall behind right at the beginning as I did this time, 1667 words per day is much more do-able than 3000, which is what I was having to come up with towards the end.

That blip (above) on day 15 was when I was convinced I would be able to write more than I actually did, which shows how optimistic I was feeling at the time!

And that's the last you have to hear about it for the time being :D

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Novel: Halfway There!



Yes, I am still very behind, but today I passed the 25,000 word mark, horray! According to the stats, at this rate I will finish on December 10th - which is too late to win the challenge - so I'd better get my act together.

I still feel fairly optimistic (although I'm going to need a new burst of inspiration plot-wise and a few more hours in the day) and I'm looking forward to printing out what I've written and doing some editing. As the NaNoWriMo website says, if you're going to edit your novel, you'll need words to edit, so the writing of 50,000 words is really just the beginning. I'm getting a lot out of this challenge though! I haven't had the chance (or the kick up the whatsit) to write for such a long time, though you'd have thought it would be impossible with a new baby to take care of.

I promise that Megan is receiving no less care than she would have otherwise, my priority is (of course) being the best mum I can be. The novel comes second, OK? :D

Now, I'd better get on with it.

Limiting Awake Times


Megan is eleven weeks old! And I can't believe that the last post I wrote about her was on the 15th October, wow, I am SO SLACK. A great deal has changed since then, and I feel that I have learned a lot (stuff I wish I'd known earlier) and we are all a lot happier because of it.

I was given a book called 'Baby Sense' which features a chart showing the maximum recommended times for each baby age group to stay awake. I was amazed to find that the 6-12 weeks baby should only be awake from between 60-80 minutes, before being helped to sleep. Wow, that's a very short period of time! But when I started implementing these rules, I found that Meg could send herself to sleep if I put her gently down on a fleece on the bed, covered her with a couple of blankets and then lay next to her. The dummy helps enormously with this too. It sounds funny to say it now, but I was really surprised to see her closing her eyes and drifting off, after all the hard work it had taken to get her to sleep previously. But previously I had had no idea about awake times, and she slept on the boob or was rocked and sung to sleep when she became hysterical. Basically, she was a fussy, screaming baby because she was always being stimulated until she was over-tired. The book explains that babies can't edit out the stimulation they are constantly receiving, unlike you or I, so they are overwhelmed by what they see, hear, smell, feel, etc., they can't even block out the feeling of their clothes against their skin.

So now I'm starting to feel more in control of my life, and Meg is so much more content. She hardly ever has to cry anymore as I keep an eye on the clock with regards to awake time, and can see immediately when she starts to get hungry (always bearing in mind what time she last fed). I wish I'd known this earlier, but at least I know it now, and can share the information with all of my friends who have also recently become new mummies. :D

And here are some pics of Megan I took a couple of nights ago, the hat (made by a lovely friend of my mother) seems to bring out some very amusing expressions:




This little cardigan is a bit of an heirloom - my brother and I wore it when we were tiny too, and I think Meg looks quite dramatic:

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Novel Update

The "novel-writing" is continuing when I get a chance (although Megan seems to be sleeping a lot less than usual in order to keep me on my toes), so I thought I'd share my stats with you (rather than any actual writing, ha ha).


As you can see, I'm well behind. Those blue towers of my word count are supposed to be up there with the purple diagonal line of the Daily Goal. But the great thing about these figures is that they're actually helping me to believe it might be possible to write 50,000 words this month - I can finish on time if I manage 1970 words per day... Better keep going then and stop procrastinating... But uh-oh, I think I can hear Meggie stirring...

Friday, 5 November 2010

25 Minute Documentaries



I'll admit I'm "a bit" behind on the novel writing thing (so far I have written 4237 words instead of the 6667 I should have done by now), but something I've been enjoying lately is the plethora of short documentaries from the Unreported World series on 4OD. Isn't 4OD fabulous? It beats trying to type 1667 words with one hand, and you can watch the entire back catalogue of Peep Show there as well, which came as a rather wonderful revelation to me.


I was totally addicted to the documentaries on the brilliant (and free) Top Documentary Films website, but now that I've seen so many (and trawled happily through most of the categories), I'm getting into these short reports. They last about as long as a feed (25 minutes), so whilst Megan is having a meal I get a treat too :D

Monday, 1 November 2010

50,000 Words in a Month


Guess what? I've signed up to National Novel Writing Month, which means that I am joining many thousands of writers all over the world in writing at least 50,000 words over the course of November. Last year there were 167,150 participants, and the concept has captured more and more writers' imaginations since its humble beginnings in 1999 when 21 people signed up.

Don't ask how I expect to find the time or motivation to achieve the goal of writing 1667 words per day, or what I plan to write about - I've decided to wing it, inspired by the instructions (on the NaNoWriMo website) to write now and edit later. I like the idea of stream of consciousness writing, knowing that amongst the rubbish there may be some pearls. Anyway, forcing myself to have the discipline to write such a huge amount is a great challenge, and will hopefully help me to develop my technique.

It's day one, and so far I've written 1717 words. Success!
Anyone want to join me?

It's very exciting! :D

Friday, 15 October 2010

Playtime!

From the baby forums I've been browsing, it would appear that every baby is different, and some babies are OK with sitting in a bouncy chair or lying in a moses baskets while mummy gets on with other things (some babies are easy, it seems!) - Megan, however is not OK with that (Megan is not easy). She likes to be held at all times, with one exception - she loves to play on her changing mat! Thank goodness there's somewhere I can put her down without causing epic dismay. However, the mat is not a place of relaxation for Megan, it's an active play centre where she repeatedly works herself up into a frenzy. Relaxation only really happens when she's asleep, and sometimes you have to work pretty hard to get her to close her eyes too. On the play mat (no longer a changing mat!) she exerts herself physically and vocally - it's the only place where she tests out all of her cute baby sounds - little coos and shouts of delight, a constant commentary on her surroundings - all the while thrashing her arms and legs around.

In this little video (sorry for the poor quality!) you can see some of her favourite things: Mr Bear is the fluffy brown teddy on the left, and her face lights up when she sees him (thanks Auntie Emma!); the strange-looking Whoozit (on the right) from Auntie Carole is an award-winning developmental toy which has many fun features including a rattle, mini mirror, squeaky sound and high contrast black and white concentric circles; and not visible in the video is the lovely homemade mobile from Auntie Kate which hangs above the mat and is the only thing which brings Meg back to a state of calm after she's thrashed and shouted herself into an unsettled froth.



video

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sleep vs. Desperate Lullabies


Wow, I can't believe that the time has passed so quickly, it feels like Megan is growing and changing before our eyes! Well, of course she is, but I had no idea things would happen so fast - I've barely had time to catch my breath since the birth, and already she's five weeks old...

It's true what they say about babies - that once you think you've got a routine you can rely on, they go and change it completely... To begin with Megan was sleeping for nice long periods of a minimum of one to three hours or so, and when I put her down, I knew I would have time to have a bath, or do the washing up or put the nappies in the washing machine, or whatever. Now she may sleep for four hours, or four minutes. Nothing is certain! And the same applies to the night feeds - she was sleeping two to three hours between each feed and going back to sleep on the breast, but now she tends to stay awake after her second or third feed - which means I find myself singing desperate lullabies to a wide-awake baby at around 5:30am every night/morning. It's not been so bad, I've had to resign myself to doing nothing other than Megan-related tasks (a decision which has reduced my feelings of frustration and anxiety no end), and I can't be annoyed with her when she's so cute and smiley and playful.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Megan Hunter May


Squiggles has a face! Squiggles has a name! Squiggles has taken over my life since she has emerged, blue and warrior-like from the watery depths of the womb! Introducing Megan Hunter May...

At 42 weeks and 5 days, we were persuaded (read mildly threatened) to go into Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth for an induction after two nights of contractions at home (which had disappointingly amounted to very little in the way of dilation of the cervix)...

I shall share something of that later, when I don't have to type one-handed with a weighty baby firmly attached to my left boob. But for now I just want to update you with some pictures of Megan, born at 7:23pm on 3rd September 2010, and weighing 8lbs 6oz (to the surprise of the midwives):


Phil cried real tears (probably of relief) when Megan arrived, and has fallen head over heels in love with her:


Every day Megan seems to get a little bit more interactive, and we see a little more of her cheeky personality:


Proud mum signing out :D

Monday, 30 August 2010

Chocolate Courgette Loaf

No, no baby yet. But plenty of baking!

After confessing to my friend Lesley that we are being overrun by marrows, she brought my attention to a Green & Black’s recipe which can be found in their Chocolate Recipes book. It came as a surprise to me that we could turn those giant watery squashes (or at least 225g of them, anyway) into something completely deliciously rich and chocolatey...

Here's the recipe if you fancy giving it a go... :D

Chocolate Courgette Loaf

Ingredients:
  • 175g very dark chocolate
  • 225g courgettes
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 2 medium eggs
  • A 2lb loaf tin
  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F / gas mark 4
  2. Brush the tin with a little oil and line the base with greaseproof paper.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl. I used the bain marie method.
  4. Finely grate the courgettes.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix in the sugar and grated courgettes.
  6. In another bowl, beat together the oil and eggs. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients. Then stir in the melted chocolate.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 55-65 minutes.
  8. When the loaf comes out of the oven leave it to cool in the tin for at least 15 mins as it is very fragile when hot, then remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.
Before application of cartoon-style icing:


After application of cartoon-style icing:


Splurge! :D

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A Delicious Marrow Recipe

Squiggles is late. Nine days late so far, and I must admit I'm getting impatient! Since the arrival and passing of the due date on 16th August, it feels like I'm waking up on Christmas morning over and over again, only to be told that it has been put off until the next day. You start to feel like Christmas will never come. It becomes harder and harder to believe in Christmas. You start thinking maybe you made Christmas up. Then you get a punch in the ribs (from the inside) and Christmas is real again, it's just not here yet.

Anyway. Why am I thinking about Christmas? Oh yes, because the weather has turned. To begin with we didn't quite believe it had turned for good, but now everyone seems to agree that there's a distinct taste of Autumn in the air, a cold and damp nip... The mushrooms are out (every day I go for a walk and spot at least three new varieties (new to me, anyway) from weird, big, black rotten toadstool things to tiny, delicate, bright red mushrooms. My dad thinks he's found an abundance of Death Caps. Which is worrying. But there are edible mushrooms too - nice creamy white (familiar looking and smelling ones) with blushing pink gills. The only problem is that we already have so much food from the garden that it's hard to make sure everything gets eaten before it goes off.

I've been admiring the developing nuts and berries on the trees alongside the lane (I'm trying to walk Squiggles out, which has meant I've had a good excuse to explore the surrounding area), and looking forward to picking and making use of them when they're ready. We've got loads of hazelnuts (and cobs), rowan berries, sloes, elderberries and acorns, as well as blackberries and wild raspberries by the stream. Being mostly at home (rather than regularly leaving to go on tour) has been such a great change, and has made me realise how over the past few years I've been logistically unable to keep an eye on the wild harvest, it would always be a matter of luck if I happened upon ripe berries or nuts... Now I see them every other day, which is giving me a chance to really get a feel for the turning of the seasons, as well as time to think about what I could make with them when they are finally ready. I'm pretty sure I'll be telling you about it as it happens!

Now, what to do about all of those overgrown courgettes?! OK, marrows. They're massive, and we just can't keep up with them! Yesterday I found myself meditating on the stripey green marrow which has been sitting on the kitchen worktop for about a week now, and wondering what to do with it. I've made plenty of Marrow Provencale over the past month or so, so I needed an alternative to that. I started thinking that I could stuff it, knowing I had half a packet of brown lentils taking up room in the back of a cupboard somewhere... Anyway, I happened to mention this idea to my mum and she gave me a delicious recipe which turned out beautifully - it comes from one of Nigel Slater's cookbooks, but is also to be found online here. Click on the link and go right to the bottom of the article. :D I served us half the marrow each, accompanied by a small portion of lightly boiled French Beans. I couldn't manage all of mine, half a stuffed marrow is quite the mountain of food. Now that I look at the recipe again, I see that it is supposed to serve 4. Yes, perhaps that's what I'll do next time, ha ha!

Right, better go for another walk in the rain. Ah, what a blissful August, eh? Ha ha.
Here's a pic my mum took of me at 40 weeks:

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Abundance


Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been alternating between making preparations and resting up ready for the arrival of Squiggles. In fact yesterday was my due date, so clearly Squiggles plans to be fashionably late. Aside from that, I've also been trying to help my mum to stay on top of the vegetable garden in all of its abundance! For the first time in my life, I'm in a position of having too many courgettes, and feeling the pressure of seeing them turn into marrows virtually overnight... This could become stressful! Even more than the marrows, we have a glut of cucumbers - especially the round Crystal Lemons - it's making me think 'if only we lived closer to the road, then maybe we could set up a roadside stall...' Perhaps it's time to approach one or two of the little vegetable shops in town to see if they'd like to offer them up for sale?


A couple of days ago, we found ourselves making an assessment of what needed to be done in the garden, with the results showing that every bed needs something doing, whether it be weeding between the sprouting broccoli, digging up the potatoes or harvesting the runner beans. I took it upon myself to gather all of the ripe tomatoes, cucumbers (both Crystal Lemons and the long green Marketmores), as well as the runner beans and French beans. Yesterday I finally made use of a recipe for Runner Bean Chutney which was given to me by a friend who couldn't over-emphasise how good it tasted, but the mixture turned out quite runny so we'll see whether or not it was worth it when it's reached the three-month maturity stage.


I've been feeling quite frustrated with my suddenly slumping energy levels, especially when it comes to keeping the house clean (which I feel is important, as we are planning on having a homebirth!) - it seems like every day I only manage the washing up and maybe a small area of hoovering before I'm worn out, which means I'm only succeeding in staying still, despite all the effort. The kitchen and living room floors are covered in bits which have somehow come in from outside, and the cats are trying to gradually dye the stairs carpet a deep, rusty red (adding a little more colour with each new catch), and the bathroom is somehow coated in dust... Maybe it's always been this way, but the 'nesting' instinct has suddenly brought it into sharp focus? Also I'm afraid that I'm somehow on the way to becoming a housewife (albeit not a very good one) and that Phil will assume more and more that his input is no longer necessary... Hmm, it's not all good in my world right now, I might as well admit it.