Looking Forwards.

Flabbergasted. That’s the best word to describe my response to this package, delivered by hand, last weekend.

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It contains a stack of my own letters, written twenty years ago to a dear friend. Confiding, probably moaning a lot, grieving, figuring stuff out…at least that’s my best guess because I haven’t managed to take more than a cursory glance. I read two lines and felt dizzy. 1996 to 1998 took me from a failing PhD project, through a bereavement, to engagement, marriage, moving to Italy and my first pregnancy.

I hate reading back on my writing. It’s like hearing a recording of yourself, ugh.

Still, that stack is just sitting there. I’m not sure I want to look back? What would you do?IMG_5555 (2)

The break from making school lunches and the Mummy-Taxi service has gifted me lots of quiet moments to faff about with my camera.

Filling a vase with flowers from the garden is one of my greatest pleasures and the first Spring gatherings seem the most joyful of all. These small flowers don’t have a huge impact in the garden but, gosh, don’t they look lovely when you take a close look.

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This tiny jug belongs to Small Girl’s doll’s house. It hardly holds a drop of water but can accommodate a teeny weeny bouquet of forget-me-nots. Good things, small packages, a little silliness, big smiles.

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All that’s missing is a chick…IMG_5478 (2)She’s eyeing up that egg with a suspiciously greedy look.

Oooh, and this one too:IMG_5539 (2)

I didn’t spot the greenfly until just now!

I spent an evening happily churning out little baskets from Eleanora at Coastal Crochet’s lovely pattern. Small girl happily accepted the task of filling each basket with mini-eggs and then we used them to decorate our Easter Tree. It’s a bit wonky and things keep dropping off it with a thud. IMG_5568 (2)

But still, it has made me happy.IMG_5556 (2)

Prepare yourself now for the silliest, cutest picture this side of Easter…this put such a smile on my face…ta-daaah:

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The evenings have stretched and we’ve had glorious golden light streaming in. Our den, a miserable dark cave in winter time, has come back to life. This is the view from my desk if I swivel right. Everything seems lighter, brighter, a little bit easier.

It’s time to look forwards.

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Have I mentioned how much I love April?! I have? Can you blame me?

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Relish, Reindeer and Melomakaronas.

Christmas Preparations.

Hah! Say that with your mouth full of cookies.

The sky is hanging about 12 feet above the ground. It’s not raining, exactly, but the finest mist is dangling there in the most exasperating fashion. It feels like a slight weight, a downwards pressure on the shoulders and the spirits.

I am feeling tired, perhaps under-caffeinated (more on that anon) and in dire need of cake.

If you fancy a delicious morsel pop over for a look at my melomakarona recipe and review of The Little Christmas Kitchen. I worked hard to make this a good recipe and it really is.

melomakaronasMelomakaronas are delicious Greek cookies, soaked in a spiced honey syrup and traditionally eaten at Christmas. We devoured (I say we because I don’t want to admit that I ate so very many) dozens of them as I was testing this recipe. The book, The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver was also a real treat. I didn’t expect it to have much bite but it caught me by surprise and really hit a nerve. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for holiday reading.

I went all out, hell for leather, on the Christmas preparations last week. The only problem is that there is almost no light at all so I have very little photographic evidence of my efforts. Here is one candle-lit photo which pretty much encapsulates my week:

Christmas Preparations.

Rudolf was the high-light. Isn’t he adorable? He is my very first crocheted toy and I am more than a little enamoured.If you are tempted, you can find the pattern here. He may get stuck with the name Rudolf Gilmore as I made him while watching The Gilmore Girls with my daughters. Anyone else watch it? It was terrible. Less said the better.

I realised in panic, as I opened my last jar of rhubarb chutney, that I was in imminent danger of having NO CHUTNEY FOR CHRISTMAS! Action stations were assumed, my most humongous pot was excavated from the dreaded corner cupboard and filled to the brim with the stuff of toasted cheese sandwich fantasies. We call it fakeymaloe relish, it’s not so far off the real McCoy and you can find my not-so-secret recipe here.

Chutney crisis averted, I moved on to emergency mitten replacement for the Small Girl. If these look like exactly the same mittens I made last year it’s because they are, but one size bigger. I used the same ball of cheap yarn that refuses to come to an end regardless of how many Barbie dresses and babydoll blankets I make from it. The Small Girl is content because they match every other pink thing in her life and I won’t be heartbroken when she inevitably loses one of them (never both). Just looking back at last year’s mittens I was reminded of this post which I must try to bear in mind as I strive to resist strangling my Teenage Son in the run up to his Christmas exams.

So, we were going well (errant teenagers aside) with the reindeer and the mittens and the twelve jars of chutney and then…disaster struck…my beloved Burleigh mug took a nose dive off the arm of my chair, bounced a couple of times and skidded out the door to the hall where it spun around dramatically before striking a tragic handle-less pose.

It has been carrying a chip on its rear end for months now but that didn’t bother me. This mug is a champion, a hero amongst mugs. It can hold thirty percent more than the average mug which is just exactly how much more coffee you feel you need when you reach the bottom of an average mug. This ergonomically-shaped mug also keeps coffee hot for a good forty minutes which is exactly how long you need to drink a thirty percent longer cup of coffee. Also, it’s very pretty. And my favourite colour. Sob.

I was quite prepared to live with a handle-less-chipped-but-otherwise-perfect mug but when Husband attempted to fill it he discovered a fatal injury. Scroll back up to the photo and see if you can spot it.

‘Yes, you can still use your mug,’ he assured me, ‘but only if you are willing to approach it sideways on and never have more than an inch of coffee at a time.’

The family have little pity. They are all greatly relieved that I, as opposed to anyone else, broke my own mug.

Since then, I have achieved nothing. Zilch. Nada.

I have sliced the top off my left index finger bringing a halt to all yarny activity.

I have thrice stepped in dog poo and some incontinent, foul fowl has taken a shine to the windscreen and bonnet of my car.

The laundry basket has complained to the laundry basket union about over-time and over-crowding.

I ordered pizza for Sunday dinner.

There is every chance that my Husband is writing to Santa as we speak requesting a proper, functional housewife as his old one appears to have broken down.

Here…the man said it:

 

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Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Crocheted nativity scene.

My Grandmother was not prone to profanities. She was, however, inclined to call upon her celestial guardians at those moments when life demands a verbal explosive. ‘Mary, mother of God,’ might have been an appropriate reply to some surprising and mildly unpleasant news; that the bus fare had increased by five pence or a magpie had shat on the clean sheets. ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus,’ was reserved for dire, genuinely heartbreaking calamities. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph,’ came somewhere between these two. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were beseeched upon in moments of exasperation. In fact, the intercession of  Jesus, Mary and Joseph was so frequently implored that it sometimes seemed they had taken up residence in some netherworld spare room at the back of the house.

‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who let the fire go out?’
‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the immersion was left on all night!’
‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, get down the stairs, your dinner is getting cold!’
‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we’ll be late for mass, the bell is ringing.’

It has been proven that cursing and swearing can alleviate pain (Scientific American article here). I imagine Jesus, Mary and Joseph brought a similarly analgesic effect to Granny’s days.

None of that has much to do with crochet but those were the thoughts that were running through my head as I stitched up this little holy family.

Crocheted nativity scene.

The pattern is from Whistle and Ivy and a pure joy to work from. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I couldn’t resist making a second little holy family.

Crocheted nativity scene.

So now, there is a little Jesus, Mary and Joseph convention taking place on my kitchen table.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph convention.

You know that I’m a 44 year old Irish Catholic, right? That means I was a child before the scandals broke and a parent after. I’m willing to bet that most 44 year old Irish catholics have a deal of inner conflict about the Catholic Church.

I don’t want to get too deep here, but just to say that this Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Jesus, Mary and Joseph that (almost) kept Granny sane, will always have a place in my home at Christmas.

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(Phew, I thought this was going to be a quick and cheery bit of Christmas crafty stuff. I don’t always know what’s lurking beneath my fingertips.)

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Just one sentence about the Irish book awards.

The overall prize at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards, The Eason’s Novel of the Year, was won by Mike McCormack‘s book, Solar Bones, which I picked up in Waterstones last week and put down again thinking I might read it another time when I’m not so tired because, well, to be honest I was intimidated by the fact that it is written as a single sentence, all one sentence and no full stops, except one at the end, I suppose, and that just seemed a bit too Joycean (I failed at Joyce, twice, in my teens and got scared off trying again) so I took the easier route and chose Graham Norton’s Holding which, as I wrote about yesterday, I completely loved and clearly I was not alone since Graham won the Irish Independent (darn it but these sponsored prizes have unwieldy titles) Popular Fiction Book of the Year which was not in the least surprising and nor was I the teeniest bit surprised to read that Liz Nugent won the Ryan Tubridy Show’s Listeners’ Choice Award for her book, Lying in Wait which I wrote about here and which has been milling around in my head ever since I read it as I keep thinking about poor Laurence, especially with the weather turning so wet and miserable, and hoping that he has made good his escape although that seems about as likely as my succeeding in getting a night of unbroken sleep of which I am so clearly in desperate need and more so than ever having remained awake all night last night for fear that my beloved Teenage Son, and member of the Irish delegation to the European Youth Parliament (that possibly sounds more impressive than it really is but I am very proud of him all the same), would miss his bus to Dublin, and therefore his flight to Hamburg, which didn’t seem unlikely at all given that I was met in the kitchen at 5.45 AM by another dog diarrhoeal incident (you may like to revisit the previous incident, here) the noxious whiff of which could not be ignored and on top of that (not literally) said EYP delegate was wandering around, in extremely unparliamentary attire, at twenty-five minutes to bus-leaving time looking for a pair of socks while I scoured the hall table for a second glove but, fear not, I got him to the bus and now I must spend five days worrying that he will keep himself safe and wear two socks at all times and you won’t believe it but Ryan Tubridy just this minute announced on the radio that it is snowing in Dublin so good job I insisted on that second glove and good job also that I finished my crocheted fingerless mittens, the pattern for which I have already managed to lose, sorry about that, and which I am wearing right now while I type to my great advantage and comfort but not yours, you cry as you read this nonsensical, but mercifully odourless, verbal diarrhoea so I will tell you about just one more thing which is that you should take a look at the National Book Tokens Find The Books competition which looks impossible to begin with but then you get a run at it and are fooled into thinking you might actually get all the clues but ultimately you are stuck with one that drives you crazy for every waking and trying-to-sleeping moment of the day until you finally beg your Facebook friends to put you out of your misery and that smartass who happens to be the person who told you to write something, anything he said, which turned out to be this blog (so that’s who to blame if this is doing your head in) bings back with the correct answer in seven seconds flat which is at once an enormous relief and gigantic anti-climax, at least that’s how the Find The Books quiz went for me last year so if that sounds like a good time to you (as it does to me, honestly) take a look and be prepared to help me when I get stuck and decide to close this ridiculous post with a massive, and long overdue, FULL STOP.

book review of Liz Nugent's thriller Lying in Wait.Holding by Graham Nortoncrocheted fingerless mittens

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