Saturday, 28 February 2009


With today being the 1st of March, it seems like a most excellent day for Resolve and Resolutions. It's been a tough week emotionally here at Chez Chaos, for many reasons, but I've come out of it with some deeper understanding of myself.

I lost- well, you can argue it's been more than half of my life- barely functioning due to depression. I've never actually allowed myself to acknowledge that depression profoundly and deeply influences who I am. For most of the time, I am mildly dysfunctional and would rather sit on the sofa than get on with life and live it. I'll forget things, get it wrong, be unable to cope with a problem or a crisis. Often, the depression will take a minor problem- like money- to a huge, insurmountable crisis. Sometimes, however, things get so bad that self-abuse starts creeping in- neglecting myself or overeating.

Critically, my teenage depression has had a legacy on my education. I made it through school with decent results, but that wasn't because I worked or learnt anything. That's because I'm a bright girl with an outstanding memory, I can write a decent essay and I can cram when I have to and I'm told to. When I'm faced with self-directed learning- like at university, like now, with my entry-level OU course- I don't have the skills I need to succeed. I didn't learn them. And the old black dog of depression, soaking up all my time way back then in my teenage years is a large part of the reason WHY I didn't learn the skills that mattered. If education is, in fact, a whole of life process then the end exam results are not what matters. What matters is that you learn how to learn, a lesson that will carry you throughout your life, and if this is what counts then I failed. There's some pretty hefty lessons in there for me as a parent as well, feel free to extrapolate and discuss if you wish.

I have a plan in place for how to deal with this, but that isn't what's most important. For me, it feels like I need to acknowledge this, acknowledge the huge impact that depression has had on my life in order to be able to move on and past it. It doesn't matter what other 31 year olds are doing, for I am me and my experiences are my own. I have resolution, in and of myself. It feels good.

Oh,and if you're reading, Rachel, thankyou.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Mothers Day Project.

There are many things I hadn't expected to think or to feel as I stitched the name of Jessica Ann Ellis on to a simple piece of fabric yesterday for the Mothers Day Project. As I worked the stitches that I haven't done in several years now, I hadn't expected my mind to wander back to primary school, or to wonder whether Jessica was taught cross-stitch at school. My mind spontaneously wandered even further back, to antique samplers worked with the names of anonymous women long gone and long forgotten. My daughter climbed on my lap and asked to help, pushed the needle through for me whilst her brothers watched Tom and Jerry cartoons. At one chilling point, she looked at the screen and said "he's dead now" and I did not understand that she was talking about the TV. Death isn't real when you're 3. When you're 31, often it's very vague too.

After I finished my stitching and wondering who this stranger was, I turned to the computer and what I read there is heartbreaking. Jessica hadn't had time to become a mother yet, she was only 24 when she died- the same age as my baby cousin. She had skills and talents I've never had- she was an athlete, loved hunting and fishing with her family and had trained as an army medic. She was stationed in Baghdad when she died working as a medic with a team of engineers. She saved lives, literally, and personally, not just as a member of the armed forces. Her hands meant that some of her colleagues made it home safely.
I wonder how her life would have taken shape, whether she'd have met someone as special to her as my husband is, have kids of her own. I wonder if she'd have grown into her own skin in her late 20s and early 30s, the way I did and so many of my friends have, or whether her job gave her that gift of self-acceptance already. She sounds like one of the girls. One of the lads. A heck of a lady. The first comment here made me think.
I want to add something profound and meaningful here, like "let her death not be in vain" or something along those lines, but the truth is that it would be singularly meaningless. She's never going home to her family, and there are so many other families grieving right now as a result of this senseless war. I just don't have the words to express my anger and grief at the futility of it all. No more, never more.

Saturday, 21 February 2009





Oranges and yellows aren't normally my favourite colours, but I love these. A splash of cheerfulness in the middle of a sea of mud.
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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Half term means wind, and sludge, as the last of winter vanished and left us with the dim prospect that spring might happen one day soon. So we did the only thing you possibly can do at a time like this, and headed for the coast. We got wet, and windy, and a bit wetter, and a little bit windier. We discovered that sand doesn't taste good, even if you are only a year old, but the seaquarium at Weston does suprisingly good french fries. We painted in the sand, and made ginormous footprints, and rode on the poor minimum wage donkeys. These beasts, they have one heck of an attitude. I know donkeys have a reputation anyhow, but there was a real air of chain-smoking rebellion about this lot. They WERE the donkey equivalent of the Tesco cashiers who can't be bothered to interrupt their private conversations to remove a couple of hundred quid from your wallet for the monthly shop. But they made the kids happy, and for the rest of the day they galloped up and down shouting "carrots, carrots, carrots" and giggling wildly- this being, you understand, the verbal command necessary to increase productivity. Perhaps someone should tell Messrs Brown and Obama?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


I've been thinking a lot about textures at the moment- my knitting basket shown above has an eclectic and unusual mix of blends in there at the moment. There's the cashmere of the Wabenschal, the itchy, scratchy, earthy feel of the mystery yarn from the charity shop, a litle crochet cotton all piled onto the banana fibre bowl, balanced on the polished rosewood veneer. My needles are wood, bamboo, metal- I love how sensual this craft is.
Outside, too, texture is everything. Every footstep is critical, landing safely on the crunch of snow, the squish of grass or mud or the stomp of tarmac. A patch of ice is likely to send me tumbling, yet again, to the ground. In the kitchen, I have a gloopy pulp of orange juice and pith, waiting for the magic of heat and sugar to become marmelade. The stickiness that is a boy and a banana.

I have two major works in progress. A simple bag for myself, where the addition of some friction, the slide of soap, the heat of water will take the hairy yarn down to a thick, solid, dense fabric. Simple magic, especially when done with a washing machine, but I never cease to be amazed. The other, of course, is lace- where a pattern is created with a simple sequence of increases and decreases. Simplicity itself, but fun and fulfilling.

What about you? What are you working on?

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Sunday, 8 February 2009

River's Rainbow Gansey

Well, several months after I finally started it, River's gansey is completed, buttons and all. It's knitted from chain-plied handspun yarn from a roving from HandPaintedYarn, and I think I used about 220g here- and the purple is BFL aran from Jeni at Fyberspates. And I love it. If it isn't the first project from my handspun i've finished, it's certainly one of the first, and the colours, the way it sits together, just work for me. It's an extremely snug jumper for a cuddly little lad.
The pattern is f.pea's Organic Guernsey, which River was wearing in a different incarnation a whole year ago, and I love this version as much as I did that one. I used the larger measurements, and it knits at a more generous gauge, and so it fits the boy pretty well.
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One of the things on my new, improved domestic management schedule is to bake on Sundays, so that we have cakes and biscuits in for lunchboxes throughout the weeks, and as I swept a pair of doughnut pans off the shelves in Lidl the week before Christmas, I have been itching for a chance to use them. Therefore, Sunday morning this week was taken up with a batch of these beauties, which are, frankly, simple enough that a child of 3 can make them with minimal help from adults.

The recipe:
200mls milk
2 eggs
250g self-raising flour (or plain flour pimped with baking powder. I'd probably use two scant teaspoons here, as I think mine were somewhat over-risen.)
150g sugar. Reasonably, you could take this down to 100g or possibly even less, especially if you're icing them.
1 tablespoon oil.
Pinch of salt

Employ the kitchen mixer of your choice (in my case, the 3yo) to combine all ingredients together. Use a spoon, as the batter should be slightly too thick to whisk effectively- it's definitely a dropping batter rather than a pouring batter. This batter should make enough for a tablespoon in each divit, which will be plenty. Honest. Less really IS more here. Bake for 10 minutes until firm all the way through and remove from the oven. If necessary, replace the holes in the doughnuts with the handle of a wooden spoon.

We poured a glace icing over the top, but I don't recommend it- just dunk it instead and for the maximum amount of added crap possible, dunk the iced side into sprinkles. Clean the kitchen whilst the icing sets (with both icing sugar and flour involved, there was more white powdery stuff inside than outside today) and then eat. Both good, and very, VERY quick and easy.
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Friday, 6 February 2009

Global Warming? Really?

We're having a snow day. Again.
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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Blank canvas.

Today is the third snow day. The ground is partially covered in white snow, obscuring the signs of new life underneath, the fresh grass, the budding leaves on the trees, the treacherous bad ice. In many ways, it feels like a metaphor for the new blog, all pristine and crisp and unsullied by human hand.
So, about me. I'm a 31 year old woman living in England. I have four children, no paid employment, a husband and a dog. More about them later, no doubt. I'm a socialist and a feminist, which will probably colour my writing from time to time. Oh, and I like to spend my free time knitting and crafting.
This is not my first blog. The previous installment is at, but these days I'm not feeling sweet and I don't give a damn whether I'm meeting some artificially imposed standard of Attachment Parenting or anything else. I am me. Hear me roar, or purr. I may waddle like a penguin, but that doesn't mean I don't have a beak that will rip you open if I'm in the mood. I can be whoever and whatever I want to be. This journey is not yet over.