Today is World Book Day and, as an avid reader, I heartily approve of anything that encourages kids to read and be excited by books. However, in my household, there is very little encouragement needed, as my eldest child would read every single waking minute if she could, and the younger one was up late enough last night reading Tintin comics that I had to collect her early from school because she was so tired.

Last week, Devil got invited to go to a special Book Day event on the Southbank, and she got to choose the character she wanted to portray. Coincidentally enough, she is in the midst of a full on Rick Riordan love fest, that has recently seen her conning her grandfather into buying her a 550 page "early birthday present" by said author which she then finished in less then 24 hours. So naturally, Annabeth Chase was her costume of choice.

Cue clueless Mum: "What does Annabeth wear?"
(insert long suffering eye roll of doom): "Mum...she wears skinny jeans, trainers and a Camp Half Blood t shirt."

long pause

"She also carries a dagger."

I decided (wisely) to leave the dagger part of the costume to those in the family with greater facility with wood and metal (i.e. Dad), and bent my efforts to a Camp Half Blood t shirt.

Step 1: find orange t shirt. No problem - thank you H&M boys section.

Step 2: get Camp Half Blood logo onto shirt.

Now, here's where things get a bit tricky. My drawing skills are pretty minimal, as a number of magazine editors who have reviewed my design proposals will testify. And the logo required is pretty specific. So off to the Great Google I went. Thankfully, with out too much trouble, I was able to discover a lovely Youtube video (complete with link to a print out for the logo) that showed how to make your own Camp Half Blood t shirt in a few easy steps.

Fairly straightforward, right? Get freezer paper, make stencil from print out, iron on to shirt, color in with Sharpie, peel off freezer paper and off you go. Except there's one little problem...Reynolds Freezer Paper is not widely available in the UK. At least not in the time frame we were talking about. So...

I found a couple of websites that insisted you could use plastic carrier bags to replace the waxy layer on the paper, but had no luck whatsoever with that tactic. Things were starting to degenerate into panic (on my part) until I remembered the rolls of contact paper that I'd gotten at the beginning of the school year for covering books. Bingo!
print out, contact paper and greaseproof paper

I covered the logo with the contact paper, and stuck it to the greaseproof paper to keep it all together. Out came the X-acto knife.

Many minutes later, there was a stencil and a t shirt ready to go.

Then I peeled the contact paper/stencil off of the greaseproof paper and stuck it to the shirt. The greaseproof bit went inside the shirt to keep the ink from soaking through.

let the coloring commence!

Devil wanted to help, but eventually lost interest.

We could have cut out the inserts for all the letters, but it was easier to just leave the centers un-inked.

And finally, we were done!

Behold, the fearless and super-tough Annabeth Chase:

She was totally thrilled, I was totally thrilled at how it came out, and she wore it for three days straight (including to the event on Monday). This might be my most popular costume yet. And all it took was a marker...

Tour de Flee...pause, rewind: a Letter to my Daughter

So right about now is when, historically, I would be posting scads of pictures with piles (small or large!) of handspun yarn that I've been cranking out over the last twelve days. However, this post is going to be about, and to, my oldest child:

Dear Devil,

Yesterday was your last day of school for the year. That is an exciting thing, but this year I think it's particularly important to stop and take stock of what you've experienced this year, and acknowledge that it has been Very Hard.

In September, you bravely set off to start Year 3 at a new school. Hard enough, right? But further complicated by the fact that you were moving from a school with one class in your year group (of three year groups) to a school with five classes in your year group, and six (!) years worth of students. In other words, from a school of about 55 kids (not including the Nursery because really, they're too young) to a school of more then 300.

The first time you cried in the car on the way home because your best friend said she wasn't going to be friends with you anymore was in late November, and it absolutely broke my heart. We had endless discussions about how sometimes people say things, without realising they may really hurt someone's feelings, and that it was important to remember that friendships fluctuate, and people change. It's helped that the time course of relationship changes in your peer group is on the order of hours or days rather then longer, and who your best friend is can change over the course of lunch.

Over the course of the last two terms your attitudes and responses to the vagaries of 8 year old girl social dynamics have changed so much that I feel a bit like I've gotten whiplash as you've rushed by. Now, you can tell me about who your new BFF is, and who is friends with whom, and who's not, and all the intricate ins and outs of the social hierarchy with relative equanimity. I can not begin to express how big this is for you, and how much time and work you've put in to getting there.

But here's the thing: for an extremely bright, self-confident little girl you have a remarkably thin skin. I don't think I realised how sensitive you are until this year, when my approach of "Oh well, never mind, she'll be friends with you tomorrow..." was met with floods of tears and general hysteria as if the world was ending. Because for you, the world was ending, in a way: it is critical to your happiness that you have a best friend, someone you can count on to have lunch and play with on the playground and sit with in class. Maybe it's the age, maybe it's the change in the size of your peer group, maybe it's the combination of Very Strong Personalities amongst the girls in your class in particular, but the whole mix has been something of a perfect storm of pre-teen drama.

The most important change I think I've seen in you this year is this: your sensitivity, while still there, has been tempered with a bit of distance, and the experience that even if J says you're not her friend anymore today, by the end of the week the two of you will be thick as thieves again. You are a lovely, loving little girl who has managed to come through a serious social challenge with her confidence intact and strengthened. And I am so proud.

Love you kiddo,

Crochet-ing along

Life is pretty busy at the moment, and I'm trying to squeeze in a little bit of yarn play here and there among the other, far-less appealing commitments that need to be tended to. I've found that the crocheted squares I'm doing for a blanket for Dev are the perfect little amuse-bouche at the end of a long day.
Dev's rainbow blanket in progress (1)
I find myself whizzing through a bunch of centers, and then doing the alpaca edgings on three or four at a time - it feels very productive to all of a sudden have four new finished squares at the end of an evening!
Dev's rainbow blanket in progress
Once those two are done, I'll have 26 finished squares. I figured out last week, however, that in order to make a more-or-less twin sized blanket, I need (gulp) 120 squares. Ouch! I'm either going to have to start buying All The Mini-Skeins, or accept that it is not likely that it will be done by Christmas.

I had some other crocheted items appear in my life this past week - my new Potholders!
2013 Potholder swap
The patterns (from top left and going clockwise) are: Fudge by Jan Eaton, DROPS Extra 0-843, and the Wool Eater Blanket by Sarah London. I love them, and plan to hang them in a place of honor in my office instead of using them - they're way too pretty! This swap was lots of fun, and I'm looking forward to taking part again next spring. 

7 years, 7 months and (just over) 7 days

Dear Devil,

Well, well, we are. Your seventh birthday was in March, and here it is November and no birthday letter? Mother-blogger fail in a major way. Let's see if I can fill everyone in on what's been happening with you.

And boy, has a lot been happening with you. In your seventh year you weathered a number of challenges with ever increasing aplomb. You dealt with a serious increase in academic demands while your Year 2 teacher tried to get your class ready to move on to primary school. You overcame your fear of the unknown in stellar fashion, and discovered that sometimes taking a scary step into the unknown can work out really well.

You built on that new confidence by happily jaunting off to a very strange foreign country, and tried all sorts of bizarre and strange things - riding on an elephant, eating some very different food, and spending a lot of time in a car not going anywhere very quickly - and were enthusiastic about most of it.

Then came September, and a brand new school. I was sure that on the first day, I was going to take you to the bus stop to go off on your own, and that I would have to do some serious damage control to get you onto the bus by yourself to go off to the unknown. Boy did you surprise me! The bus pulled up, you gave me a kiss goodbye, and happily hopped on and sat down. Off you went. Your transition to a school approximately five times the size of the one you left has been amazingly smooth. You've made friends, you've settled in to your new class and your new schedule, you've even taken up new pursuits (stay tuned for many maternal complaints on violin practice in the Twitter feed).

To be fair, we still have our struggles - you have a pretty short fuse when you're tired. Or hungry. Or upset about something. This usually manifests as yelling either at me or your sister. I think I'm finally figuring out strategies for minimizing the tantrums that inevitably erupt. Surprisingly, the toughest times are when something has happened at school to upset you, and if I give you a chance to tell me about it and get it off your chest, that seems to make things much better. I just need to remember to give you the chance, and I'm working on it baby.

I am daily filled with awe and inspiration at the person you are and the person you are becoming. I love you baby.

Mummy (although sometimes it's Mum, and there is some serious adolescence-foreshadowing going on these days....oy)

Quelle disaster!

Over the Easter holidays, we took a lovely long weekend trip over to Paris, via the ever-fabulous Eurostar. On our previous trip to Gay Paree, the girls were three years younger, and it was the end of July (which means the end of Le Tour!), so the city was hot and mobbed. It's a much nicer and calmer place to visit in late April (with a 5 and 7 year old vs. a 2 and 4 year old), and spring was everywhere.

Devil had so much energy that she managed to get caught on some ironwork outside of Notre Dame, and tore a hole in her Sprout Tappan Zee that her Mummy so lovingly knit for her last summer. Argh!
She managed to not only put a hole in it, but also to snag and snap the bind off in several different places...
We came home and the sweater sat on the shelf in my wardrobe for about five weeks - I just couldn't face it. Then, last week, on the eve of a trip to chilly, rainy Somerset for part of the half-term holiday, I decided to get on with it already and fix the damn thing.

First step: remove wee hedgehog button and insert a circular needle through a row of stitches above the hole (note appropriate beverage companion).
Second step: unravel the bottom edge, picking out the little scraps of unusable yarn, and spit-splicing (with appropriate beverage) the rest.
Third step: pause and admire your handiwork (conveniently not documenting how off you were in the row of stitches you picked up).
Fourth step: reknit the bottom two inches of cardigan. Don't forget button hole. Reblock, and then pack still damp sweater in the back of the car to finish drying on the way southwest.
Wiktory! I had a big ball of yarn left over that I had ready to draft into the bind off if needed, but I think I ended up knitting a couple of rows less this time around, so I had plenty for the bind off.

Dev still seems enamored of the sweater, and Boo is looking longingly for another cardigan, made of softer yarn. Must sort through handspun stash and see what would work for her.

Question: does this count as an FO post? Methinks so...