Sunday, December 20, 2009


Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.
Kahlil Gibran The Prophet

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Decorating for Christmas

Decorations: Rainbow Fish
Yesterday after making the snowmen, we decided to decorate the living room in time for today’s Christmas party. I thought Katya’s favourite part will be gluing glitter, but trying to draw circles using a compass for a first time was much more fascinating. And while she still can’t really draw a circle on her own, now I know how to occupy her if I need some time to myself.
Making Decorations
The other day my friend caught me trying to explain to Katya what the parallelogram is and she thought I was totally insane. But my family is full of geeks, so it seems to me so natural that my daughter is fascinated by various shapes and wants to know what they are all called. I should actually remind myself the Russian names for the three-dimensional shapes. Maybe our household needs a comprehensive picture dictionary – I used to love looking through one when I was a child.
And I was very happy to use some of the strange sparkly paper I have.
Decorations: Blue Bird
At the moment the decorations look more suitable for a birthday party, but hopefully the guests will bring some tinsel strands to add the right amount of sparkling Christmas goodness to our bunting lines. The bunting above is from Driftwood and below from I'm a Ginger Monkey.
Decorations:Sea Horse

Friday, December 18, 2009

Perfect morning

Making snowmen
followed by hot chocolate
Hot chocolate
all before 8:30 am

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Typing on Blackburry
Катя нажимала кнопочки на старой, выключенной Blackburry. Вдруг остановилась и задумалась.
«О чем думаешь?»,-спросила я
«Как дальше писать сказку»

Katya was pressing buttons on old, switched off Blackburry. Suddenly she stopped, looking thoughtful.
“What are you thinking about?” asked I.
“What to write next in a fairytale”

BTW the scarf, which she is wearing, is part of the Christmas present we received from Driftwood in return for Australian Quilting magazine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First snow

The guests left today as promised. And we had our first snow of the year. Not very much as you can see from this photo, but we managed to make a tiny, about 4 cm tall, snowman in the park - sadly I didn't have my camera with me.
First snow

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas traditions

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh

Recently one of my friends, who doesn’t like the commercial side of Christmas, asked me about our Christmas traditions. I laughed and if you read my blog for awhile you’d laugh as well. Is buying a present for one’s husband on Christmas Eve a tradition? If it is, I broke it this year by getting his present back in November.

Despite of feeling that I personally don’t have any Christmas traditions (while my husband has plenty) or maybe because of my perceived lack of commonality between my own and my husband’s traditions, I managed to write her a very long email. And writing that email was the perfect step towards my decision to attempt to spend next year exploring celebrations from our (and maybe even other) cultures, in the attempt to figure out what really works for our little family.

This year our Christmas celebrations are turning out to be somewhat ad-hoc and slightly strange. The tiny plastic Christmas tree, given to us by our friends few years back, is standing in my daughter’s bedroom on her request, which we were happy to oblige due to the lack of good place for it downstairs. The Christmas lights are hanging in our bedroom, because this is the only place truly off-limits to our toddler visitor, who I don’t trust (potentially wrongly) not to try to pull them down. Together with my daughter I started decorating the house. I’m hoping to involve her into writing Christmas cards, baking and wrapping presents.

Snowflake Shadows

She learned two Russian New Year songs about Fir tree and now sings them randomly and whenever she sees anything remotely resembling a Fir tree. At the moment she is trying to master signing Jingle Bells by constantly asking to listen to it online.

Jingle Bells

I thought it would be fun to hear the jingle sounds during Christmas, but since we don't have any horses or reindeer I hanged some bells on our front door tied with the round brocade knot and the cross knots. According to ”Chinese Knots for Beaded Jewellery” the round pattern of the round brocade knot denotes good fortune, so it felt appropriate to have it next to the entrance to our house. I even bought the Christmas wreath to hang on the outside of the door.

I don’t want Christmas to be about getting large amount of presents and toys, but rather keep it as a celebration of our family and friendships, of our differences and similarities, of the gratitude for having food on our table, the roof over our heads, the skills and drive to make our surroundings and our life beautiful, of our joy for life.

Sucker for punishment?

Visitors left on Thursday late evening and came back today with the promise to move out on Wednesday. Fingers-crossed. I find it very hard to share a house with another parent, who has a different parental style to me and makes parental decisions with which I don’t always agree.

Ironically, I looked after my friend’s son few times previously and was surprised to discover that looking after two toddlers isn’t that much harder than looking after one. I guess having two kids in the house is the best possible preparatory experience all of us can have for a time when we’ll decide to add more children to our family, even though I suspect it’s still pretty different from actually having to parent two kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The cake for belated birthday celebrations

Birthday Cake
...but cakes have such a terrible habit of turning out bad just when you especially want them to be good. However, I suppose I shall just have to trust to Providence and be careful to put in the flour.
L. M. Montgomery "Anne of Green Gables"

The birthday girl requested a chocolate cake with multi-coloured sprinkles. At first I thought I'll make flourless chocolate cake, but the process of melting the chocolate bars sounded too laborious. Just for a moment I considered buying one. And eventually made Chocolate Zucchini Cake. I'm so glad that it turned out tasting delicious and very moist. The birthday girl helped to decorate it - leaving a toddler with a box of sprinkles without supervision isn't a very good idea.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's that noise?

A friend and her almost three-year old son needed somewhere to stay for one week and our house was the only sensible option. With them they brought some of his plastic button pushing, light flashing, music making, battery-operated toys. And since my daughter doesn’t have any she loved playing with his today. At some point there were three of them singing three different equally horrible tunes all at ones. I have “A is for apple. D is for Dog” stuck in my head together with that unnatural extremely happy, over-enthusiastic voice that only battery-operated toys for babies and toddlers seem to have. That voice all on its own makes me feel irritable, stressed and grumpy. I think I’ll listen to some peaceful classical music before going to bed tonight. I'll need a totally different state of mind for getting through tomorrow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Wood Pigeon
But if objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born - a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun, that pour down the rain, and fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe still goes on.
Thomas Paine "The Age of Reason"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I thought this was a crafty blog?

I guess I was wrong, as the last entry that has something handmade in it was at the end of July. Wasn’t July like yesterday? No? Give me a second while I’ll try to figure out what months it is now. Ah, yes – November. I guess I should be happy that it isn’t yet December, but probably should start stressing about all the Christmas presents that need to be made. Though maybe need is the wrong word to use. “You don’t need X, you just want it” my husband keeps on telling our daughter, who screams about needing the tiniest things in the tone of voice that implies that her life depends on them.

Anyway, here are most of the items made since the end of July (there are more details on Ravelry):
Crochet fruit & veg
Crochet fruit & veg
The set of fruit & veg I made for a friend's daughter's first birthday present.

Crochet banana and carrot
The only vegetable & fruit I managed to crochet for my daughter before I got extremely bored with making fruit & veg.

Crochet autumn heart
An autumn heart for my husband. (pattern: MyGurumi Pop-Heart)

Crochet mouse
A mouse for my "mad scientist" sister from this pattern.

Looks like crochet is my comfort craft – when everything else fails I can still crochet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quotable Sunday

I see the moon, the moon sees me
Under the shade of the old oak tree.
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the one I love.
English nursery rhyme


My husband left today for New York. I choose to stay at home this time as the traveling to a different time zone is not very conductive to finding one's daily rhythm. It worked out to be a very good decision as both my daughter and I are sick and would be unlikely to be allowed on any international flight, specially with her coughing non-stop.

I wanted to attempt to take a photo of the moon, but sadly (or luckily for my unskilled in the night-time photography self) there is no moon tonight despite the sky being clear of clouds. So here is a random autumn photo instead.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The year of visitors

While the last year was the year of travel, this one turned out to be the year of visitors. I experienced so much joy chatting to people I love, sharing daily tasks with them and having some adult company during the day. New comers to London also remind me how magical this city is, how much there is to see and to do here. After five years many sites, customs, events that appeared amazing became familiar and marching through my daily life I forget to notice the beauty and wonder that surrounds me.
Royal Observatory Greenwich
Royal Observatory, Greenwich Park

I always find it fascinating which small details various people notice. The latest visitor to London was surprised at how tame the birds and the squirrels are, so when we went to the local park I couldn’t resist taking some photos for her.
Fearless pigeons
Fearless goose
Fearless squirrel
However there is a slight drawback to constant flow of guests. In between welcoming and saying farewell I swiftly lost my daily rhythm. And I rely on it to carry me through the days as much as most toddlers do. Without it I feel lost, dejected and unenthusiastic. It is so easy to spend my evenings in front of TV. Yet it’s exactly the wrong thing to do, so I’m slowly working towards re-establishing my routines. This week I serendipitously stumbled across Are So Happy blog, whose author is currently writing a series of posts on daily rhythm. She also posts a quote with a photo every Sunday – maybe it is time for me to resurrect my “quote of the week” posts under a new name. See you tomorrow with a quote.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where to take a tourist in London?

My sister is here for a two-week visit, which I know will feel all too short.
And where do you think we took her on her first day in London?

Feeding goats
To the closest farm.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oxford and bookbinding

A bit more than a week ago I accompanied my mum to Oxford. Like any dutiful tourist I attempted to take photos of the beautiful buildings, only to realise yet again that I much more prefer to photograph small things – like leaves, cobble stones, flowers. And there were plenty of beautiful multi-coloured leaves around. What? Autumn? In my own little la-la universe it is still middle of July.
Yet the other day I wrote a list of… well, I can’t describe them in any other way, but New Year resolutions. Is one more likely to accomplish the desired goals if they are set at the beginning of October instead of January?

I’ve been to Oxford twice before so for me the highlight of our visit was “An Artful Craft: Fine and Historic Bookbindings from the Broxbourne Library and other collections” exhibition at Bodleian Library. The mastery and the variety of skills that went into creating the books on display were astonishing. I’m sure I was forgetting to breath and had a slightly mad glint in my eyes. I only wish another crafter, who just started learning about bookbinding and already created some gorgeous notebooks, could also see the exhibition. And she just started her own blog, so if you have few seconds head over to Lemony Leaves and welcome her to blogosphere.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Russian honey cake

I'm not sure why I decided it will be fun to try to bake a proper cake for the first time in my life with a help of a toddler.
Spreading the cream
I ended up feeling rather stressed, the kitchen was covered in flour, but the 15 Layer Russian Honey Cake turned out OK (even though ours has only 8 layers).
A Russian food blogger calls a very similar cake "younger simpler brother of the traditional honey cake", but after reading her traditional recipe (in Russian) I doubt I'll find enough courage to try making it. Yet, it is my favourite cake, so maybe...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lighter, cleaner, better

I think I discovered a cure for my bookoholism – painting a bookshelf was very time consuming and an oil-based paint gave me mild headaches and left me feeling slightly nauseous. But the pleasure of putting all our books up in the nice single rows somehow dulls the memory of the hours spent painting. The sight of the white bookshelf and the multi-colourfull & multi-sized books makes me smile. I am one of those people, who gets the desire to stroke the books when I pass by them.
We are acting like the downstairs renovations are finished, but there are still few little things to get done, like painting the skirting behind the refrigerator and making curtains.
I’ve uploaded some photos of the ground floor prior to renovations to Flickr, in case you want to see the changes for yourself.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Everynight after we put Katya to bed, we paint. Two coats of primer/undercoat and two coats of final paint on the ceiling, the walls, the skirting, the bookshelves. There is also sanding, masking and vacuum cleaning. So far only the ceiling in one room is completely done, as we can do only one coat per night. Therefore we'll have to continue next week and maybe the week after. But this weekend we are off to Birmingham for Festival of Quilts. It will be wonderful not to breath in the paint fumes for at least one night.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Random quote

22:37 - Tired after a busy day and almost three hours of painting, so a random quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran :
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Not always an angelic child

Today I went out by myself for few hours (first time in weeks, not counting the rushed morning trips to the supermarket) and it was great to slowly choose few books in the library, to look at fabrics for curtains & pillowcases and to lunch with a friend. I returned home to find the exhausted husband staring at the sky and the trees outside; the toddler sleeping after a long tantrum and her room looking like this.
After a tantrum
She is usually very well behaved in public, so people often get the wrong impression that she is a perfect angelic baby; who never screams, throws things, stubbornly refuses to do whatever is asked of her, but peacefully plays on her own for hours with cute little dolls.

Actually it annoys me at times when people comment to me or even tell her what a "good" girl she is, while meaning that she meets their expectations of good girl behaviour at that point in time. I probably wouldn't mind so much if their comments mentioned something specific, which they found likeable, but the general sweeping "good girl" label really bugs me. And the assumption that she likes playing with dolls and our house is full of pink stuff is pretty funny to me as she always runs to the boys' clothes section in the shops (well, they have Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob The Builder and Robots) and keeps on asking for the construction toys. I can't remember the last time she played with a doll, though she does play with little people characters from Lego and PlanCity. Her favourite pastimes at the moment are building insane staircases out of Lego Duplo (with some help from parents), drawing weird patterns on her body (maybe I should hide all the pens) and gluing stickers.
She is usually subdued at the playgrounds, but take her to a museum, big supermarket or hardware store and she will joyfully run around in circles. She has lots of opinions and definite knowledge on what she likes and doesn’t. Sometimes it feels like she talks non-stop, though it usually takes a while before she talks to the new people. She is just a normal toddler, with her own oddites, good and bad habits, loud and quiet moments, joyful singing and inconsolable (at least to her at the time) tantrums.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Silly me(Photo from 29 July 2007)
My husband and I were recently chatting about Star Trek and suddenly I realised that one of the reasons he loves me is because I can be extremely goofy at times. And I love that I feel safe to be extremely silly around him. There is no judgement or embarrassment afterwards, just a lot of laughter.

Back when we just started dating I requested quicksand, waffles and apple crumble. Eventually I got a waffle maker via my work (thanks to an award point system) and learned to make crumbles myself. I’m still waiting for a trip to a place that has quick sand. However today our living room has this:
New bookshelves
I’m a hopeless book addict and now I finally have enough shelves for all of my books. I’m so much looking forward to pulling them out of the boxes and choosing a place for each one of them. Should I sort them alphabetically? By topic? Size? Or colour?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An artist

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Pablo Picasso

Drawing: Sewing Machine
Katya's drawing of my sewing machine. The wiggly bit in the bottom right corner is the presser foot lever and it looks almost exactly like the real one. After trying to explain her drawing to me without much success, Katya finally climbed onto my table to be able to point to my sewing machine and the parts she drew.
Drawing: Mushroom
Katya's drawing of a mushroom. A new friend (she has a son, who's only one month younger than Katya) gave us pryaniki (Russian gingerbread biscuits) made in the form of the mushrooms and I think they made an impression.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Short weekend

We were supposed to be preparing the downstairs walls for painting; but the sun was shining outside, the skies were blue and since rainless weekend summer days are rare in England we decided to spend the day outside. (there seems to be plenty of sunny spring & autumn workdays) After looking through my big bag of travel brochures and changing my mind few times I settled on going to the Hall Place & Gardens.
Hall Place
It was lovely to look around the House and to walk in the Gardens. Of course as always I took too many photos of the flowers.
In the evening we did prep the walls and will probably attempt to paint them over the next few evenings as my poor husband has to work tomorrow. And painting the walls with no one else around to distract a toddler is just asking for trouble.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Not in control

There is so much beauty, knowledge and wisdom hidden in the blogosphere that when I need advise or information I often turn to blogs instead of books. And that's my excuse for not blogging for the last few days - I went a bit crazy with reading the archives of the new blogs I found. I'll label the time spent as research and learning instead of wasted.

Allow me to enquire how man can control his own affairs when he is not only incapable of compiling a plan for some laughably short term, such as, say, a thousand years, but cannot even predict what will happen to him tomorrow?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
(I think I'll re-read it again sometime soon)

I'm trying to come to a decision on something and the more I read and think about it the more I know that I already decided long time ago and now just need to let go of the desire to pretend that I can control uncontrollable and start following the path I choose long ago.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Pigeon outside my window

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two weeks later

As of today we have a working fridge! And an oven (though I didn't try using it yet, there are too many controls - may have to read the manual)
Downstairs renovations
After two weeks of odd food, Katya finally asked for peas. She loves frozen peas and good luck to anyone, who offers to heat them up - warm peas trigger bouts of loud screaming. After explaining my inability to produce frozen peas, we went in search of a place that has peas on their menu. No luck (to my horror I found out months ago that the local pub serves tinned peas with their fish & chips! yuck). But fortunately the local veggie shop had some fresh garden peas and they were met with enthusiastic approval.
Shelling peas

Now I wonder how long it will be between Katya realizing that the fridge is working and asking for the frozen peas.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I wish

Here’s the truth: if you want something, you can have it, but only if you want everything that goes with it, including all the hard work and the despair, and only if you’re willing to risk failure.
from Clockwork or All Wound Up by Philip Pullman

Some wishes are carelessly uttered and are as easily forgotten. Some dreams are harboured deep inside for a long time and become part of our being. I had few of these hidden dreams for a very long time. They grew and shrank as my life followed its unique course; sometimes they hid away even from myself; occasionally I would re-examine them only to put them away again for later. And now I have the chance to turn them into reality. But remember that old saying “Be careful what you wish for”? So I need to think carefully about the implications of finally living my dreams and how they will affect the rest of my family. And to help myself focus and to find some time for contemplating my future I created a little dream book by altering an old kids board book.
Dream book
The stamping of the flowers didn’t work, especially after the little hands grabbed the book before the stamped images had time to dry. I didn’t want to repaint the cover, so used some of Katya’s glitter and shiny shapes to fix (or at least somewhat hide) the problem. The butterfly was crocheted from one of My Picot’s patterns and hand-dyed together with some fabric using Procion MX dyes.
Dyed fabric
I know it sounds silly to spend time on altering a board book in order to carve the time required for the self-reflection, but doing something with my hands helps me to relax and switch off from daily tasks and worries.

If you want to try your hand at modifying an existing book for your own purposes Art Junk Girl has a post with Chunky Book Tips on her blog.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lucky me

I learned to crochet as a child and crocheted on and off for most of my life, so it is one craft area in which I feel reasonably comfortable. It is also one of the things I can do while Katya is awake. So when talented Barmyowlscoo mentioned having idea for the quilt with crocheted doilies I offered to make some for her.

Swap package
In return she sent me all these goodness: tinny owl, kiddie fabric (I should write down all ideas I have for it, so I can choose one and get it done), potholders created by herself and a painting set for Katya (not included in this photo as the Little One wanted to try it out straight away). Here is a close up of the potholders - aren't they gorgeous?
Quilted potholders
Why do I always feel that I got a much better package than the one I sent?