Sunday, December 26, 2010

This year's favourite Christmas song

I haven't posted any quotes in the last two weeks, because I don't have anything appropriate to this moment of my life - I have many I wrote down years ago, but somehow none of them seem right. I used to read 2-3 books concurrently and to slow down my reading jot down the bits I liked; now I usually struggle to get through one book for a long time and avoid the ones with the complicated plot or too many characters.

However, today I have a musical one. I was tired of hearing “Jingle Bells” over and over again from my daughter, who learned it at the kindergarten, therefore got us Ella Fitzgerald’s “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas” CD and fall totally in love with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – you’ll probably be able to tell why I feel sentimental about it if you listen to the words.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stocking Fillers

Back in Russia, when I was a child, we didn’t celebrate Christmas (it being a religious holiday and religion, while not exactly prohibited, being strongly discouraged and mostly not mentioned), instead we celebrated, in a very similar fashion, New Year. I don’t remember us getting gifts such as toys (though we probably did), however each child always got a bag of sweets, which contained chocolates, various types of lollies, zefir and one or sometimes even TWO mandarins. Zefir is similar to marshmallow, but bigger, softer and fluffier on the inside and crustier on the outside. Both zefir and mandarin were a special treat – as average simple family in a small town we were unlikely to be able to find either one (but especially mandarins) in the shops at any other time than before New Year.

Mandarin & Zefir

This year I got a packet of zefir from a Russia shop. The ones in my childhood were always white and not covered in shaved coconut, however Katya and I shared one yesterday and it tasted and smelled exactly like I remember. The smell of zefir and mandarins is the smell of winter celebrations to me. I’m slowly accepting my husband’s Christmas traditions and starting to mix them with my own New Year’s ones, so this year each stocking will contain a pink zefir and a mandarin.

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. I hope there is lots of laughter and joy in your house, plenty of food on your table, many wonderful people around it and some present for everyone under the tree.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dancing to fun music

Katya and I spent five days mostly in bed or on the couch due to the horrible flu. Today in the morning, when we felt significantly better and had some energy, I couldn’t resist giving Katya one of the items that was supposed to go into her stocking – Dan Zanes and Friends’ CD Family Dance. It turned out to be great for dancing and jumping around and being totally silly. Who can resist being silly to the “All around the kitchen”? Here is the video of it from their YouTube channel:

(BTW did you notice the orange dress in the video? I definitely need to learn to sew so I can make one like that for myself as I totally love it.)

And according to Dan Zanes & Friends website they are coming to London in February – maybe we can go and see them live and be silly in public.

I want to ramble on about music for kids, cloth for boys and sewing, but I better go and see if I can make five stockings in the next 32 hours.

Monday, December 13, 2010

First fatality

We had our first fatality – Ozzie the Goldfish died last night. I shed one or two tears for the poor thing in private. Never thought I’ll get attached to a goldfish, but surprisingly they all have their own unique personalities and one can get to know them pretty well (and get attached) while watching and taking care of them everyday. Katya didn’t seem too perturbed, but when we went swimming pretended to be a dead fish by floating on her back without moving and demanded stories about the dead fish. She loves stories - everything has to be turned into a story – “tell me a story” is her most common demand. I wish I was a better storyteller.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Knitting socks will have to wait

Did I say I'm going to attempt to knit a pair of socks for myself? I think they'll have to wait until after Christmas as my plan to make only one handmade present snowballed and now I'm making two time-consuming ones for Katya and few tiny ones for various people. Oh, I also promised to make FIVE Christmas stockings.

Before the snowballing effect took place, I made another crochet flower brooch out of leftover Noro Kureyon Sock (here the ones I made back in summer)
Flower Brooch

Ironically as soon as I managed to use up most of it I found a gorgeous blanket pattern and ordered more Kureyon Sock yarn in different colourways, so there could be many more flower brooches in the future.

I managed to crochet two snowflakes before loosing interest and finding the paper ones we made last year to decorate the kitchen window.
Winter Window

And to keep my child's legs warm I knitted a pair of legwarmers from the yarn I bought online for my husband's hat. He is happy with blue one, but wants an yellower orange - I have a pretty good idea of the colour he'll like, but can't find it anywhere.

Katya, who sometimes refuses to wear COTTON knitted-looking dresses, because they are scratchy!!!, actually loves the legwarmers and wears them inside and outside everyday. However, she requested a green and yellow pair, because now it is her favourite colour combination. So maybe I'll never get around to knitting my pair of socks.

I wonder how other multi-crafters choose their next project and if they ever end up making anything for themselves or just keep on producing items for their family and friends.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Teaching & learning

One thing has remained with me above all - how little I did as a person, and how much came about through the children in my care, and through their efforts. The more I learned to know them, the more I realised that they were constantly teaching me. They were not encumbered by the heavy baggage of material knowledge that adults possess. They seemed to have resources that were fresh, inspired, and full of star wisdom. My best moments were those in which I was truly open to what the children had to teach me. For that, I am deeply grateful.
From "School as a Journey" by Torin M. Finser

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It snowed

It snowed last night and all day today and is still snowing.

Making tracks in the snowWe left our tracks on the white snow blanket, while singing silly songs about it.

Snow-penguin Made a snow-penguin (it had to be a PENGUIN) :-)

Birds in the snow And created a story about the birds lost in the snow.

Penguin in the snow


Katya (at about age three) "I want a sister, a brother and a baby"
Ultrasound Photo 20weeks
Well, she is getting a brother in April.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finished knitted hat

Unlike people in some other parts of England, we don’t yet have snow on the ground, but everything was covered in frost in the morning. I love frost – it looks beautiful and magic, but doesn’t disrupt things like snow and ice do.
Autumn gives way to Winter

Same as previous two years we aren’t exactly prepared for the cold winter. However I recently finished knitting a hat for myself, which should keep my ears warm. I finished it despite making silly mistakes (extremely silly ones, which made me shake my head in disbelief when I discovered them), having to frog and restart, knowing that I can crochet a reasonable hat much faster and wanting to give up. It fits. It looks good. My husband, who usually looks slightly amused and at the same time worried about my sanity whenever I display my latest crafting project to him, likes it and wants me to knit him a hat!
Autumn gives way to Winter

It felt extremely uplifting to make something. The success proved to me that there is some progress in my acquisition of the knitting skills and hopefully it will push me into tackling other harder projects. I may attempt knitting a pair of socks for myself. I have to say that getting rid of the TV was a great help. It appears that I’m unable to concentrate enough on knitting while watching crime shows, but listening to CraftLit is perfect – my knitting progresses at reasonable pace without mistakes and I get to listen to good books.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Please allow me to introduce to you
Goldfish Ozzie
Shubunkin Milly
and Stripe
Goldfish Stripe

Katya named the first two and got stuck on the name for the last one, so I suggested Stripe. Yes, I know, my name suggestion wasn't very imaginative. I like the names she gave the fish and am glad that she didn't come up with the silly ones like the ones she is creating for the baby (the most memorable so far was Ballooney).

I never thought that watching fish can be so addictive, relaxing, funny and energizing. We are spending silly amounts of time sitting in front of the aquarium, but it is such a pleasure to be able to stay still for a bit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Fly Agarics
It must have been an endless
breathing in: between
the wish to know and the need to praise
there was no seam.
from the poem "Butterfly" by Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bye-bye TV

Good bye TV
TV gone

Welcome aquarium
If everything goes to plan we'll get some goldfish this weekend.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn Holiday

The summer went by really quickly and we haven’t traveled anywhere or did anything worth mentioning. And as the days started growing colder and shorter we decided to have a break and to explore English countryside. The initial plan to visit the New Forest fell through, as we couldn’t find accommodation due to some event taken place in the area. A brief discussion established that I mostly wanted to see open fields (after years of living in London, surrounded by houses in all directions, I was starting to develop a mild case of claustrophobia), my husband wouldn’t mind visiting a castle, Katya wanted to go on the old train or visit a farm and none of us wanted to go very far. There are not that many castles in the South East England and soon we had our new destination - Bodiam Castle.

Drawing of Bodiam Castle
Katya was so impressed by the castle (I think it may be the first real one she saw) that she produced this drawing of it and castles are now added to her list of the most fascinating things, which includes trains, birds (specially penguins, ducks & chickens) and dinosaurs.

At Tenterden station
The great advantage of Bodiam was that to get there we could travel part of the way by Kent & East Sussex railway and so another requirement was satisfied. I was joking for the last few months that we should set ourselves a mission to visit all the old railways in England and at Tenterden station we found a tourist brochure, which list them, so our railway mission could become more than a joke.

The next day we visited two other National Trust properties: Sissinghurst Castle and Bateman’s, home of Rudyard Kipling. If you know about my addiction to the printed word you’ll probably also know that I’m unable to resist visiting the places where writes & poets lived, worked and created.

It was cold, grey and drizzly day; Katya was getting tired of looking at the old houses and somehow we agreed to drive towards the sea and ended up in Hastings. I discovered that my child loves the sea, her face lights up when she sees it, she wants to run around and play and laugh.
The sight of the grey clouds and the waves, the feel of the wind and the rain on my skin brought back memories of my family ending up on the beach in all sorts of weather in the first few years after we arrived to Australia. And in some way I like being at the beach more and feel more connected to the sea on the grey days full of movement and empty of people.

In the best tradition of my family we bought some fish & chips to eat sitting on the ground scanning the horizons for the clouds threatening stronger rain.

On the last day we drove to Rye just because there is another one close to Melbourne, in which I holidayed few times with my parents, and I love visiting English towns that gave their names to the Australian ones. The highlights of the day there were seeing another castle and eating at the Mermaid Inn, which proudly boasts about being rebuild in 1420.

The Mermaid Inn
As usual there are more photos are on Flickr.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010


The problem is that wealth ceases to move freely when all things are counted and priced. It may accumulate in great heaps, but fewer and fewer people can afford to enjoy it.
Lewis Hyde “The Gift”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Labels and haircut

Last night I missed a step while walking downstairs and ended up on the floor in a lot of pain. I feel pretty silly about spraining my ankle in my own house and frustrated at the limited ability to move around. As the result today we are spending most of the time on the couch and on the floor: reading books, making puzzles, watching TV and sending strange emails and SMSs to my husband (my daughter seems to be at the stage of the total fascination with the letters and the various form of communication, which also includes making and sending birthday cards). In reply my husband sent me a link to this article about another study into how mothers’ working choices affect the childrens’ weight. Does it seem to say that thoughtful parenting, healthy eating and physically active lifestyle are the keys to raising a healthy/happy/etc child? I feel that most studies like this one (or at least the way they are reported in the media) raise a lot of questions without providing interesting or helpful answers. Maybe I would feel differently if the news reports included graphs and numbers.

While trying to find (unsuccessfully) the actual numbers to see how significant the differences were I stumbled on this article. How many of us think of ourselves in terms of the job titles? How many of the mothers would label themselves a janitor and a psychologist? Maybe I should add a hairdresser to the list of my titles. 10-points to Rachael for spotting that my daughter has a new haircut. Few weeks ago I got frustrated at the tangled mess that her hair was becoming and timidly trimmed a bit off. The success of doing it myself spurred me to try cutting her hair even shorter yesterday and after watching this video on youtube we ended up with this (I obviously need more practice and better scissors).

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Signs of spring
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
Edward Thomas

The snowdrops were photographed in Brighton more than two weeks ago. There are signs of spring all around, but the winter's cold and rain don't seem to want to pass. I long for the spring and all it brings: the warmth, the blue skies, the sunlight, the promise of new discoveries and accomplishments, the lifting of the soul, the renewal.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Knitting in the round

I was looking after my friend’s son on Saturday, so spent most of the Sunday feeling that it was the first day of the weekend, which may explain why I totally forgot to write the usual post with a quote. Ironically enough on Monday my husband stayed home due to a bad cold and I managed to complete a number of the boring household tasks only to end up with a splitting headache by the end of the day. The only cure for which was to go to bed early preventing me again from blogging or crafting.

Anyhow on Saturday I was very glad to discover that I can now knit (albeit very simple things) and look after two toddlers. I too clearly remember the time just two years ago when I needed extremely quiet and peaceful environment to manage knitting few stitches without getting horribly confused or knitting them a wrong way, which meant that knitting was reserved for evenings and progressed dreadfully slowly.
Knitted balls
The two balls knitted from leftover Noro Kureyon Sock following the pattern from Itty-Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson are my small addition to a hat requested by a very good friend.
Hat for newborn
The hat (pattern by Ginny) was so easy to knit and will hopefully help me break my fear of attempting to knit wearable items. I’m so much dreaming of knitting socks for myself as my feet keep on getting too cold every time I go outside this winter.

Unlucky for my sock-knitting plans upon seeing the little hat my daughter requested I’ll knit her one (multi-coloured, orange and red and yellow) and when we looked on Ravelry to find the perfect pattern, she also requested another hat, a toy and a vest. And wait, she also wants four knitted balls, not three as requested previously. Hopefully I have enough Noro Kureyon Sock yarn left, as most of it was used up in knitting a long rainbow snake.
Rainbow snake
I'm glad my daughter likes it despite the fishy face, which is result of me improvising instead of following a pattern, .
Rainbow snake
My husband also wants a beanie hat – light brown with orange and blue stripes, but thankfully is happy to wait. So maybe, just maybe, by next winter we’ll all have hand-knitted hats and socks to keep us extra warm.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crafting in 2009 and now

I finished more items in 2009, than I did in 2008, but only because I added some of my drawings to the final count.
Finished in 2009 Part I
1. Necklace for Stagasaurus (c365/134), 2. Necklace for Sister-in-Law (c365/135), 3. Finished (c365/145), 4. Matreshka border, 5. Jellyfish (c365/147), 6. Small stamps (c365/149), 7. Pan Chang Knot necklace, 8. Drying handdyed fabric (c365/154), 9. Apple pin cushion (c365/155), 10. (c365/156), 11. Doily (c365/158), 12. Square pincushion (c365/159), 13. New bag (c365/162), 14. New flower stamps (c365/163), 15. Yellow & purple (c365/164), 16. Head scarf (c365/167), 17. Another head scarf, 18. Finished Picnic Blanket (c365/171), 19. Strawberry skirt, 20. One more doily done (c365/175)

Finished in 2009 Part II
1. And aother one (c365/177), 2. Dyeing (c365/178), 3. It's starting to click (c365/179), 4. I am here (c365/180), 5. Day-dreaming (c365/183), 6. Dream book (c365/184), 7. Hexagons (c365/185), 8. Almost finished (c365/186), 9. Added a handle (c365/196), 10. Basket (c365/202), 11. Ready to gift (c365/204), 12. No more veg! (c365/208), 13. Autumn heart (c365/209), 14. Tiny mouse (c365/214), 15. Flower brooches (c365/217), 16. Quickly finished (c365/223), 17. Jingle Bells (c365/231), 18. Grey & Yellow (c365/232), 19. Airplane Octopus (c365/234), 20. Last item made in 2009 (c365/235)

I wonder how productive I'll be this year as so far I only have three completed items. Having a larger final number of projects completed isn’t the goal in itself, but in a small way it is a good enough indication of how well I avoided getting into the negative and self-critical attitude, which prevents me from finding time to do what I enjoy. So far this year I was having lots of fun partially by breaking my resolutions. I can’t really say that I made a New Year’s resolution not to learn any new forms of craft, but I thought it would be a good idea to concentrate on improving my existing skills. I haven’t lasted long. I found a book on papier-mache at the charity shop and took it as a sign to try making something simple. Luckily my husband can get newspapers for free from his office at the end of each day, so I didn’t have to break my second resolution to avoid buying new supplies unless I use up something I already have.

I also finally tried needle-felting, which I was yearning to do for the last couple of years. Amusingly enough when I just discovered online crafting community, I felt like everyone was trying out some sort of felting, while now every second crafter seems to be re-discovering or trying for the first time spinning. I’m glad that spinning sparks no interest in me whatsoever. I may be tempted to dye some yarn though.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The artists of being alive

And yet, I know artists whose medium is Life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel, or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased Life. They see and don't have to draw. They are the artists of being alive.
"The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation" by Frederick Franck

Sunday, February 7, 2010


If - as I hope - the how-to tricks with ellipses don't work for you either, there is no other way of drawing a sparrow or an eagle than to draw it ad infinitum, until the bushes on our paper are fuller of birds than any bushes ever were, and you know sparrow and eagle inside out, having been them yourself.
"The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation" by Frederick Franck

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I was recently taking a long bath, partially because I like to, but mostly because we no longer had any working showers in the house. And the realisation of my own uniqueness suddenly hit me. Let’s see how many Russian women, who lived in Australia and are now living in UK and are married to South African and love painting, drawing & crafting do you know? But this awareness of my exceptionality went beyond all these and other random attributes I may be able to list about myself. I used to say that we are all unique, but this was different. For the first time I marvelled at how beautiful, precious and special I am. Not because of how I look or what I do or don’t do, but just because I am. And how I feel about myself or my current place in life at any given point in time doesn’t change the fact of my uniqueness.

I’m afraid that by this point you are rolling your eyes in the amusement or the incredulity at my self-centeredness. But do you know what the logical conclusion of that realisation is? I can’t do anything, but believe that each one of you is unique in a very beautiful and precious way. And I hope that instead of raising an objection to my momentary ability to treasure you and myself, you can smile and celebrate yourself as you are at this moment in time.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Begin it now

This is the quote that my sister-in-law shared with me in Cape Town:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back… Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come this way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Is there something you want to begin today? I want to re-start drawing daily, because it is one of the most enjoyable things that I can imagine doing. Since I struggle to find time to do things that are purely for myself, I may have to be a bit more accepting about the amount and the type of drawing that gets done everyday. Today it was the face painting.

Face painting

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Discovering the world: using a knife

Cutting butter
She can now cut cucumber and butter all by herself.
Buttering toast
The only problem is that she doesn't seem to be interested in eating anything, but the food made by herself.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I’m back (yet again)

I took this photo of the snow and a robin planning to wish you all Merry Christmas, only to discover on trying to upload it that our Internet router died completely. And then we went to Cape Town at the exact time when I needed to escape the multiple levels of confusion, stress and self-doubt, in which I was slowly wrapping my everyday life. And there, having time to sit still without thoughts of n0t-done housework and ever-growing ToDo lists nagging at the back of my mind; I achieved some sort of clarity and found some answers. They were scattered like little gemstones through watching the children play joyfully and freely, the sincere warmth of family and friends, slow evening conversations and accidental book choices. Ah, I discovered that looking through my sister-in-law’s books is a dangerous activity for someone who already has too many dreams and interests. I finally got to read up on permaculture and now want to attempt to grow a bit more than just carrots.
Carrots in August 2009
Carrots - August 2009

After glancing through a book on cob building I’m dreaming of building a small round house for my studio one day. And do I really need the desire to try out Papier Mache for the first time in my life when I’m already struggling to figure out how to find time to practice crochet, knitting, drawing, sewing?

And then we were back to London covered in snow and grey clouds and somehow this time the subdued colours of my surroundings didn’t trigger the feelings of dejection and gloom, but made me feel at home. And yet, in Cape Town from the first breath of warm air I felt sharply homesick for Australia.
Eucalyptus leaves in Cape Town
Eucalyptus leaves in Cape Town

Home is where the heart is. Sometimes it feels like my heart is shattering into ever smaller and smaller fragments, but I also know it is getting filled by being able to observe the beauty of so many different places and various people.

And eventually the Internet was fixed and I am back here. But I have a chest infection and am on antibiotics for a week, which are making me feel very weak and worse than the infection did on its own. I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions regarding regular blogging, so no promises about the next time I’ll write.