Just what sort of sign are you waiting for?

My rescue boat, sent to me by The Universe

I’m going to tell you a story:

It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.

As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. “Climb in!” shouted a man in the boat. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. “Heavenly Father,” he said, “I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?” God gave him a puzzled look, and replied “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

I first heard this on the West Wing. A priest is counselling the President on the possible commutation of a death sentence, which the President eventually doesn’t follow through. Bartlett laments how he prayed for support but none came, and the priest points out that various wise people came to the President that day, what more did he want, what was he waiting for.

It’s a really interesting parable, and one that is quite salient to me. I’m having somewhat of an early midlife crisis with regards to my career and passions and am not sure where to go. I am considering embarking on a Master’s degree, but it is an enormous financial and time commitment at a time when both money and time are scarce. I keep trying to figure out whether it is what I really want to do. Doesn’t help that being outside the academic and psychology arena I don’t really know what the realities of the course and career prospect are.

In desperation I picked up a book in town last week, called Coach Yourself. But before I talk about that book I want to briefly mention another book that I have been reading, called Screw Work, Let’s Play, by John Williams. Now Mr Williams doesn’t seem to have any formal psychology background, but I bought his book because he is a keen follower of Barbara Sher, who I mentioned before: she coined the term ‘scanner’ to describe people who try and do lots of different things. The main premise of Mr William’s book is that you shouldn’t be languishing in a job you don’t enjoy, work should be fun, and there is a niche out there for everyone, such as the woman who started up a mobile chocolate van. The book encourages you to go out and follow your dream, everyone should be in a job that they love. He isn’t the only one championing this. Only last month there was an article in Psychologies magazine about portfolio careers. In this agile world with technology at our fingertips we can be a gardener by day and an artisan chocolate maker by night. And it is true that the internet has opened worlds, markets and audiences previously unavailable to the common person. We can start up businesses with just a laptop in our front room, and we should, we owe it to ourselves. Apparently.

The problem is with these books and articles is their lack of realism. I imagine most of the case studies who give up the shackles of the Big Corporation to become a therapeutic gardener or life coach have a small nest egg to cushion them from destitution. They are probably not living at the edges of their overdrafts and credit card limits. There is also the small matter of the fact that not everyone can give up their day job to follow their passion, even if they have the money to, unless their passion is for clearing up vomit in a police cell, serving lukewarm breakfasts in a service station or keeping the sewers clear. Tough jobs but someone’s got to do them. On a thread on Mumsnet that I started on the topic someone said it was a “horribly middle class idea of wanting to play” and to some extent she was right. It’s a modern problem of wanting the world to be exactly how we like it. It wasn’t that long ago people had to work just to live, now we want to live to work.

Anyway, back to the most recent book, Coach Yourself. This is written by a couple of Actual Psychologists. Now that’s more like it. I like my self help with a dash of evidence based theory. I haven’t actually finished the book, but I am three quarters of the way, and it is the most realistic book have read on the subject. I will probably go into more details in later posts, but the salient points that I have taken from this book so far are: Ambivalence is normal, and there is always a cost to making changes. All these other books and articles go on about following your dreams, as if you know what your dreams are, and it’s so easy, you just need to get off your arse and do it. Seriously, there is one called Get off your “but”. If it was that easy we’d all be doing our dreams jobs, we’d all be thin and healthy. The book I have been reading acknowledges that it’s not that easy, there are costs, and you should be prepared for them. The costs may be to your time, to your energy, to other parts of your life. And we may always wonder if we made the right decision, that is a fact of life. It’s ok to have mixed feelings about change. It says “You don’t have to be 100% committed. 51% is enough.”

My head nearly exploded at this revelation. It’s so contrary to anything else I have read with regards to personal development. And it’s right. If you wait to be 100% committed to anything as daunting as a big life change you will never do it. And it takes me back to my original story. I’m not expecting a sign from God, and even if I was, what would that sign look like? How would I know? How do I know if I am making the right decision? The answer is I don’t, and I may never know. But I’m feeling more ok with that fact.

Now, don’t take this to mean that I have made my decision yet. I haven’t, that would be too convenient wouldn’t it? But, I’m no longer waiting for an unknown sign. I don’t expect a communique from the Universe. I’m just looking into the pragmatics of doing the course and seeing if I feel like it is kind of the right thing. I’m not at 51% yet, but if I hit it, and I can carve out the time and money, I’ll do it. But I won’t be screwing work just yet, someone has to pay the bills.

Crochet bag for a little girl

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This is a little bag which I crocheted for a 2 year old. In fact the 2 year old in question is one of my yarn bombing comrades here, the fairy on the end. Little girls love bags (little boys may love bags too, but I only have little girls, albeit one who wants to be a boy. But she likes bags too). We have hundreds of the things, hiding all kinds of treasures (or bits of food) all over the house.

So, this little bag was – altogether now – quick and easy. Yes, you know the score by now. If you want to see beautiful crochet blankets or experimental crochet clothing, this is not the blog for you. I have the attention span of a gnat. That’s probably doing gnats a disservice. I have the attention span of a gnat which has an attention spam problem. There, that should save me from any gnat-instigated litigation.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the bag. A rectangle crocheted in trebles (UK), folded into a pocket. I added a little shell stitch edge on the flap, and crocheted down the sides. The strap was just a foundation chain and a row of double crochet, just sewn onto the top of the back of the bag.

You can’t quite see the colours properly on the picture but the dark one is a dark green. I wasn’t too sure about the colours. We recently moved my sewing cabinet into the spare room in an attempt to put the girls into a bedroom together. We lasted 3.5 days before cracking and moving the crying baby back into her own room (that’s an improvement, the last time she lasted till 10.30pm). Anyway, the cabinet is still in Iris’s room so if I want to start any projects in the evening I have to use some of the multitudinous balls of wall in some of the baskets and bags around the house that trouble DH so much.

Anyway, hope you are all having a good week so far. I really enjoy all your comments so keep them coming, apologies if I don’t always get around to replying. Thanks for reading :)

Danger: Men at Work…with needles and stuff

On Friday the Guardian reported the latest from the trial of Anders Breivik, the man killed 77 people in a gun attack in Norway last year. One of the motivations he has given for the attack is the “feminisation” of Norway. He said “Suddenly boys are supposed to start knitting and doing crochet and cooking,” complaining that gender roles were becoming reversed.

Well, this is a post to celebrate those role reversals. Far from being dismayed at the emergence of men on the craft scene, I am impressed by it. As a feminist, I am keen that men don’t muscle in on a traditional female area and try and take over, after all, far more doors have been closed to women for many years than have been closed to men (and still are – fancy a round of golf ladies?). But the male crafters that I have seen are simply men who craft, carving their own small niche in the crafting blogsphere.

First up is The Crochet Dude, who is rather well known in the US. who even goes so far as to run a Crochet Cruise. Now that sounds like my kind of holiday.

Next up is Michael at State of the Craft. He is a keen quilter and blogs with a sense of humour, and quilts with a keen eye.

Rugged Flair is quite circumspect about his position as a male crafter, but still pursues his main passion, which is for collage:

digibudi is a very talented crafter. I got side tracked by so many cute projects like this cupcake pillow that I had to really search hard to to find evidence that the blogger behind it all was really a man:

My final choice of men who craft is Matthew of One Man Crochet. I must admit that this one is a personal recommendation as his the brother in law of a good friend of mine. But even if he wasn’t, I’d still be recommending you look at his website. He is a relatively new blogger, doesn’t have a shop or a business, he just crochets for the love of it, making gifts for his wife and friends. But most of all I love his little crochet avatar, a wonderful likeness.

So, while we women take back the craft, subvert it and make it a symbol of choice rather than lack of it, we can make a bit of space for the men out there who want to get in on the act. After all, we all know that crafting – the needle, thread and yarn sort – is relaxing, beautiful, practical, and gives us an enormous sense of achievement. Don’t mind the men being a little late to the party…as long as they bring wine.

New categories menu for my blog

Just wanted to give a quick heads up about the new categories menu bar I have across the top of my blog. I have been branchingabout a bit with my posts recently. I know the idea of lots of different things is the whole emphasis of my blog, but it started out mostly craft related. I didn’t want to put off those of you who come just for the craft with my feminist diatribes or psychology insights if you aren’t interested. Now you can just select the category you want and you will see only the posts relating to that category.

I have Born to Shop, Forced to Work to thank for the technical help, she succeeded where  google, and various WordPress forums failed!

 

Bread, the food of life

A few months ago I was inspired by this post from Sally Donovan and for my birthday I requested being signed up to an ‘artisan’ bakery course.

Last Sunday was the day of the course, and I returned full of inspiration, and, well lots of bread! Now, I don’t want get too personal, but I will admit to you all that I am currently following Weight Watchers. Two children, 3 years of breastfeeding and sleepless nights have left me with a bit of a mummy tummy (how cringeworthy is that phrase?). The WW diet is going fine actually, and is not that hard to stick to. But I have spent most of my late 20s with this ingrained belief that bread is somehow bad for you. Cutting out bread as a way of losing weight is a fad that regularly comes into fashion. But how bad for you can a mix of water, yeast, flour and salt be? And therein lies the problem: most breads that people by from shops, and yes, even some bakeries, have many more ingredients, and are produced quickly. The course that I attended was all about slow bread, left to rise for up to 12 hours. This slow rising allows the gluten to open up and break down, making a more delicious, longer lasting, and easily digestible bread.

The beautiful view from our teaching kitchen

On the course we did two bakes: we made rolls from scratch, which were left for only 2 hours or so, a quick rise; and a loaf of bread using premade dough which had been left overnight to bulk rise.

The beauty of the slow rise bread is that you have the benefit of time, warmth and sugars in the dough which help the yeast do its job, meaning that you really don’t need to do a much kneading as you might think, nor as much yeast.

First we mixed the ingredients for the rolls, kneading, leaving for five minutes, chatting, kneading again, leaving again, for about half an hour. Leaving aside that dough, covered in a carrier bag – yes, it was all very technical here! In fact the most technical that it got was the use of this natty little scraper to mix the ingredients together without getting too messy.

Next we were given some of the slow rise dough to knead and shape. Taking care not to use too much flour, so the dough still remained moist we folded the dough into a ‘belly button’.

Next we made Mickey Mouse ears to fold in and shape the dough into a longer shape, then pinched the seam like a Cornish pasty. The dough then went into a bread basket for final proving.

Mickey Mouse ears - this shapes the dough and adds air into it
Bread basket or 'banneton'

Before putting it in the oven the dough was scored to allow the loaf to rise even further in the initial heat of the oven. A slight dusting of flour was followed by a quick spritz with water to ensure a nice crust.

10 minutes at 230 degrees in the oven then turned down to 200.

Look how big it is!

Out of the oven looking definitely rustic!

Then on to the bread rolls, shaping them and dipping them in seeds, or brushing with egg, or dusting with flour (stops them going too dark). Sorry, I don’t have a photo of the finished rolls. But I do have one of our lovely lunch. Homemade bread, made by Dede (the course instructor), some gorgeous local cheeses, and various pickled veg, delicious!

At 2pm it was time to go, with armfuls of bread and rolls, inspiration for future loaves, and plenty of tips for airy, flavoursome bread.

The fear surrounding bread and wheat products, perpetuated by women’s magazines, the Atkins Diet and faddy food intolerances, neglects the traditions going back thousands of years of bread as a food of life. That’s not to dismiss real medical issues such as coeliac disease, but other complaints of bloating and stomach upsets are more likely to be down to the overly processed nature of modern supermarket breads, even the ones they peddle as fresh.

Bread is part of the traditions of many cultures and religions, indeed bread is seen as the symbol of Christ himself. The hot cross bun is a symbol of his return from crucifixion. In the Bible Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, not steamed fish and a side of edamame beans. Now, those who know me know that I am an ardent atheist, but you can’t deny it’s pretty hefty symbolism. Bread is prominent in most cultures, the Jewish Challah and matzo, German Stolen, Indian Naan and Chapatti, Italian ciabatta. It’s significance is often religious, but ultimately it is social and familial. Breaking bread together is a traditional way of welcoming people into your home.

It’s no coincidence that ‘bread’ or ‘dough’ are used synonymously with money. Bread is the lifeblood of the world. The same few ingredients can make things as diverse as croissants, pitta bread and steamed dumplings. Bread is amazing, and anyone can make it. So, put away your Atkins book, put down that Kingsmill and go and buy yourself some yeast.

Here is a link to a simple bread recipe.. So what are you waiting for? Just your dough to rise!

Harts Barn Craft Centre, Forest of Dean

This is Harts Barn Craft Centre, where the bread making course was held (and paid for by DH for my birthday in case you were wondering!) I really enjoyed the course and would recommend something similar to everyone. For details of your local courses and more information on why real bread is so brilliant check out The Real Bread Campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TV shows you shouldn’t miss, even though they don’t air anymore

I don’t really watch TV. I don’t mean that in a wanky way. We are not against screens in this house. DH and I are currently both concurrently on computers, with the West Wing on in the background. But we don’t watch soaps or other random crap on TV. What we do watch in large measures are DVD box sets. I love the comfort of watching familiar episodes of good quality TV drama or comedy. I just wanted to share with you some of my favourites, in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching them, along with some classic scenes.

The X Files

Ah, this is where it all began, my love affair with American drama. If you were by chance in a coma during the 90s, the X Files was a series about two FBI agents, Special Agents Mulder and Scully; the believer and the sceptic. The two scrappy and dashingly attractive public servants were charged with investigating the X Files, a raft of unexplained mysteries, ranging from a giant murderous tape worm to also murderous shape shifting aliens. Fox Mulder, battling a legacy of a sister, kidnapped by aliens, searches through the X Files in search for answers to his sister’s disappearance. Dana Scully, medic and scientist, is assigned to work with him, to try and debunk his work, which she manages to do less often than you might think. Together this dynamic duo, sexier than Batman and Robin, cross states and continents to discover the truth about extra terrestrials.

This series was the backdrop to my teens. During a my college years a kooky friend and I would have all night X File marathons. We would copy down our favourite quotes, cut out articles referencing the series or the main actors. We were, to put it mildly, obsessed. Now, I’m not really a sci-fi fan, I’m what the online fan-geeks call a ‘shipper’, my main motivation for watching the program was the relationship between the two main characters. The platonic relationship continued for about 8 of the 9 or so seasons; threaded through the nearly 10 years, was an emotional connection that couldn’t be broken by kidnapping, faked death, or seduction by various single episode characters. Despite rumoured (and contested) rifts between the lead actors, the chemistry on screen was electric. There is no doubt that the characters were in love. Us shippers lived for a look, a touch of a hand, an off the cuff remark. We lived for the will-they-won’t-they, mollified by dynamite storylines of government conspiracy, freak shows and alien life. And did they? Well, I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it through to the end. But I recently discovered videos on You Tube, dedicated to shipper moments from the X Files. They have been put together by even geekier and more dedicated shippers than me. They take me right back to my teenage years and remind me of being in love for the first time. Sometime I want to watch the whole ten seasons from start to finish but in the meantime I’ll keep watching these videos.

 

The West Wing

Without doubt one of the best, most intelligent and sassiest dramas ever. Yes I just used sassy, it’s the only way to describe this show. Running from the late 90s for about 10 years, the West Wing charted the highs and lows of the top people in American politics. From the Messianic President Bartlett, down to the weird yet indispensable assistant Margret. The West Wing never played to the lowest common denominator. Even on the sixth fourth viewing, I still often haven’t a clue what is actually going on, but it never matters because it’s about the process and the characters. The West Wing made politics sexy. The clear left wing liberalism of the writers meant that you always felt that the politicians were working for the greater good, just like you hope they are, but never believe in real life.

The West Wing is noted for it’s development and judicious use of the “walk-and-talk” filming technique, where the characters engage in lengthy dialogue while walking along the West Wing corridors. It added a sense of dynamism to the dialogue heavy show. Aside from the brilliantly paced script, the next best think about the West Wing was its casting. Originally meant to be a minor character in a show about the West Wing staffers, Martin Sheen stole the show as the President, frightening clever, with a self professed folksy charm, President Bartlett commanded loyalty that most politicians can only dream of. Scrumptious Rob Lowe played the naive but idealistic Sam Seaborne. Richard Schiff perfected gruff pessimism with a hint of witty charm, and Bradley Whitford the politically astute deputy chief of staff who you just want to mother. Allison Janey was the woman we all wanted to be, powerful, charming, passionate; a classy dame among a den of testosterone.

DH and I watch this show again and again, always getting something new from it, still gripped by the cliff hangers that we have watched numerous times. If you haven’t got into this show, then I really recommend that you do. The beauty is, that despite starting well over a decade ago, and finishing 7 years later, it just doesn’t seem to date. This is one addiction you won’t regret starting.

 

Sex and the City

My feelings for this show have changed a great deal over the years. The original premise was four sexually adventurous women living glamorous and romance filled lives against the backdrop of New York City. Carrie, the main protagonist, is a journalist who writes a column about sex, for which she seems to get disproportionately well paid, given her Manolo Blahnik habit, and the fact that she, nor any of the other main characters, appear to ever eat a homemade meal (yes, these are the things I notice nowadays). Initially the show was about friendship, and, basically, sex. Talking about it, doing it, not doing, doing it in all kinds of positions. I was at university when this originally aired, and me and my girlfriends emulated the show, not so much the copious sex, but the talking about it. We were a generation of sexually unafraid and explicit women. We felt like we had discovered our own brand of feminism. These sisters were doing it for themselves. Of course we weren’t, and neither were the characters on the show. Ultimately it was all about getting the guy. And to do that you had to be successful, rich and beautiful, as well as sexually promiscuous.

Sex and the City was ground breaking, and it gave women a dialogue with which to communicate with each other about sex, masturbation, and relationships. Even if the show didn’t portray reality, it allowed us to find out from each other what was normal, and what wasn’t, and to even be ok with the not normal. I still watch this for nostalgic purposes. It reminds me of being young free and single. Great series of its time. Don’t bother with the movies though, they’re awful.

 

The Big Bang Theory

Ok, this show is still airing and is the current amour du jour for DH and I. It follows the life of two geeky physicist flat mates, their two equally geeky scientist friends, and their beautiful blonde bimbo neighbour. Yes, there are stereotypes a plenty here, but somehow with the sharp humour in the show it doesn’t matter.

Sheldon may be a stereotypical geek, highly intelligent, scoring quite high on the ASD spectrum, but he has become a cult figure, a hero for all those geeks out there. And Penny may be a poorly educated, shallow blonde, but she befriends the socially inept quartet, and anchors them in reality, teaching them how to conduct relationships with other lesser mortals.

Later we have the comic excellence of Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon’s female counterpart. She is played by Mayim Balik, a real life neuroscientist, Jewish spokesperson and high profile attachment parenting advocate. Amy is a straight laced girl-geek, seduced,quite literally, but her friendship with the cool and popular Penny. Raj is an Indian, curry hating, selective mute, who cannot find a girlfriend, but finds solace in his close friendship with Howard, the only member of the four who doesn’t have a PhD. His sleazy brand of charm wins the affection of Bernadette, another highly educated member of their social circle, and they are currently the only two to hold down a stable relationship.

 

The characters are played with equal amounts of humour and sympathy. Brains are celebrated over beauty and fashion sense in this programme. While it treads the familiar ground laid by friends and other group sitcoms before it, The Big Bang Theory brings the cerebral edge to an a otherwise well-worn format. Oh, and the theme tune by the Bare Naked Ladies is ace:

 

So that’s my favourite four. There are many more series that I haven’t yet got into, but would like to try: Mad Men, Borgen, The Good Wife, The Wire, late seasons of 24. The beauty of the DVD box set and services like Netflix are that you can watch these shows whenever you want, as often as you want, and without having to wait a week till the next episode. The biggest problem is stopping yourself watching them through the night, and having West Wing style dreams!

Little owl

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Ignoring all the other projects I have on the go or am planning, I whipped up this sweet little owl yesterday. Sometimes I just want a ‘quick win’ project that I can get done from start to finish in a couple of hours. This was one of those projects.

It is done in single crochet in the round, amigurumi style, with felt for the eyes, beak and wings. The inspiration came from the amusing blog Scissors & Steam. This little owl is a gift for a friend’s daughter but I have a feeling I’m going to be knocking a few more of these out, they are so easy and quite satisfying. It’s nice to feel a sense of achievement in an otherwise half-finished life.

A finished Mumsnet blanket

Regular readers might remember that I have contributed squares to a couple of blankets which are made as a group project by a bunch of women who for the most part have never met, for people they have never met. The people who these blankets are destined for have been bereaved in some way, and the blankets are a way of sending a little bit of comfort.

 

While often derided as just ‘words on a screen’ Mumsnet, and other forums, are places where relationships are formed. I’ve never met most of these women, yet many of them have been there for me in my darkest hours. But my darkest hours have been nowhere near as dark as those who have lost husbands or children.

 

These blankets are usually hand delivered to these families, bristling with energy; a collective unconscious. I’m sorry to say I didn’t contribute to the blanket pictured above. But there have been others that I have contributed to, and there will be more. I just wanted to post the picture of this piece of work. It’s amazing that scores of disparate people can make so many different squares that come together to look so beautiful. And some of the people who have made these squares are complete novices, trying out a new skill to lend support to a stranger. And let’s not forget the donors provide money or yarn to the cause. You can read more about this blanket here. In the meantime I’m just going to marvel at the blanket, I just need to get this thing out of my eye…

Psychocraft. Or something.

Recently I have been having somewhat of a career crisis. My job is fairly respectable, but I just don’t love it. I like the idea of it more than I like doing it. It is actually the job I wanted to do before I left university, but the reality wasn’t quite all it is cracked up to be. I was always very career oriented and felt like I was destined for big things. Having children tempered that somewhat, but the biggest factor has been a loss of confidence in my abilities. I did really well at school and university. I’ve got a Masters degree you know, and I got a distinction. I don’t get to say that very often, much though I often want to when at work I am having to grapple with a task like trying to get 10 people in a meeting together.

 

I studied psychology at university, but by the end decided I didn’t want to be a psychologist. After 5 years I didn’t to want to spend any longer at university or in training, I wanted to be getting on with my career. Hmmm. That worked well didn’t it? It turns out actually maybe I do want to be a psychologist. Or a writer. Or a professional crafter. Therein lies my problem. I want to do so many things, I’m afraid to commit.

A few years ago I found a fantastic book in a charity shop. It was pure fate that I found this book, someone had obviously given it away because they didn’t rate it but for me it was like a window into my soul. One man’s trash and all that. The book was What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything? The basic premise of the book is that some people just flit from one activity to another, never sticking long enough to go deep; never really feeling like they have achieved anything. The author, Barbara Sher, calls these people ‘scanners’, and lists several different reasons why these people behave like this such as fear of commitment, looking for their niche, or simply just a need for novelty. Scanners are sometimes derided as dilettantes (hello, have you seen the name of my blog?) but often they are their own harshest critics, feeling like they are failing or not achieving anything. To read this was amazing, the book described me to a tee and Barbara goes to great lengths to reassure scanners that they way they are is perfectly normal, and can be harnessed. One of the suggestions is to try and combine your passions which is what I have attempted to do.

 

I mentioned that I might actually want to be a psychologist. Well I am considering doing another MSc, this time in Occupational Psychology. I could do it part time and through distance learning, but even so, with two young children and a job I couldn’t do it for at least another year. I also want to give myself time to figure out whether it is what I really want to do.

 

In the meantime I am spending my time crafting (God, that is such a wanky word, I cringe every time I use it!). But much as I love making stuff, I don’t find it intellectually stimulating. Now before all you other crafters lynch me, I’m not saying its not difficult, there are some amazingly talented people out there. Crafting can be technically and physically challenging, but trying to understand a pattern isn’t the same as trying to understand why someone behaves in a certain way. So I’ve tried to put some psychology into my crafting, I’m combining my passions to create Psychraftology. Craftology. Psychcraftisvism. Psychocraft. I can work on the name.

 

I have three items to showcase for you as part of my new genre. The first is based on the Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory, or the MBTI. You may have heard or it and even taken it. The results come in the format of 4 letters, E or I, N or S, T or F, and J or P. If want more info about what these letters mean check out this website. The MBTI is a licensed test which can only be administered by licensed practitioners, but this website has an example if you want to find out you personality type. For the even keener reader I recommend the book Please Understand Me II, which is slightly different from the MBTI but maps directly onto it. For the record I am an ENFP, which incidentally is quite commons for scanners.

What's your type?

These are going to be badges, but for now they are just buttons. They are cross stitched MBTI types so you can wear your type with pride! The are cross stitched on 22 count aida which is used to cover self-cover buttons. You can remove the button bit, which I have done, and super glue a badge backing onto the button, which I haven’t done yet.

 

Exhibit number two my cross stitched interpretation of a Rorschach ink blot. “Why?” you might ask. Well, why the hell not.

Tell me what you see...

The Rorschach ink blot is traditional projection test used to assess personality characteristics and emotional function. Tell me what you see in mine and I will tell you if you are crazy or not.

 

The piece de resistance in my show and tell today is an embroidered diagram of the brain, showing labelled lobes and some well known areas of the brain. Broca’s area is involved in the production of speech, and Wenicke’s area in the understanding of it. The visual cortex is where we start to process the images that come from our retinas. They travel along the optic nerves to the back of our brain, the parietal lobe. The brain is a marvellous thing, and we should nurture it, look after it, and not take it for granted. There is an excellent documentary on BBC iPlayer about the brain. It’s available for about another week so watch it while you can.

My brain is pretty and full of flowers and lace.

For me, this embroidery is about using a craft that is more often used to depict twee little birds and flowers and fluffy things, and creating something with a little more depth. If you like this you might also like a brain colouring book. It certainly helped while away those hours studying neuropsychology at university.

 

So, these are the projects that I have been working on for the past couple of months. I’d really appreciate any comments you have. You are probably going to see more and more psychology related stuff, not just crafting, on here. Does that put you off? The main thrust of this blog has been crafting, and it is certainly easier to market a niche blog. I’m debating whether I should branch out into a new blog, but as someone pointed out, the USP for my blog has always been about doing lots of different things. Any comments will be welcomed.

Home is where the heart cushion is

This old thing? We just call it home.
Erm, other people call it Middleton Lodge, home of Lady G's Cookery school.

We live in a rented house. Yes we are mature married adults with two children and we don’t own a house. This mostly doesn’t bother me. In the current climate I am glad we didn’t listen to the family members who insisted that we get one of those 100+% mortgages a quite frankly we’d be screwed right now.

 

It bothers me sometimes. I can’t think of any of our friends who don’t own their own house. Every now and then I have a bit of a freak out thinking “OMG we’ve got no mortgage we are going to be working until we’re 105 or else we are going to be destitute on the street “. But my issues have only ever been financial ones. The last two flats we lived in were fab. The first one was a raised ground floor Victorian flat. It had an avocado bathroom suite, which let me tell you, I loved. As I went blinking and bleary eyed into the bathroom to do my morning ablutions I was soothed by the calming green and wood panelled bath, rather than a glaring white thing. The flat was in a fashionable area of town, with leafy avenues and poncey shops. The alcoves either side on the marble fireplace were bowed with the weight of our books. I loved it. Our last flat was On the first floor of a beautiful Regency villa. The living room was over 30 long and had 4 original 9ft sash windows. The flat was lovely and bright and big, and we had furniture and wicker baskets slung casually around the rooms, and our furniture was just the right side of shabby chic. We bought a massive 4 seater sofa, which conveniently hid all of Betty’s toys behind it. Both these flats were minutes walk from the fashionable town we lived in. In both these places I felt completely at home.

 

Both flats were sold from under us. The first when Betty was 3 months old. The second when I was 6 months pregnant and had a toddler. We were devastated. We now live in a boxy new build, nearer to the not-so-fashionable city, in walking distance of a Co-op and the school. One the upside we have central heating and double glazing. Our energy bills are next to nothing. We have a garden for the kids to play in. We have two floors; no snotty cow above us stomping around in her stilettos; no slacker below us, filling our flat with the fumes of stale marijuana. But this house feels a small and boxy, we are crammed into a suburban development in the middle of more suburbia. Our 9ft sofa that was dwarfed by our old flat now looks monstrous, and the shabby chic furniture looks shabby shit against the magnolia walls and plasticky doors. But mostly, it has no soul. It’s definitely what you would call a ‘first-world problem’ to feel depressed by a house, especially a brand new one, but I can help but feel a little down about it sometimes. DH feels the same. The house almost sucks the soul out of us. What an awfully trite complaint, hey?

 

Anyway, there is a point to this soul bearing, and it is that in this house more than any, we have had to work at making it feel like home. We can afford to move. We’d be mad to. Our landlord isn’t going to sell anytime soon, we have a garden, and a garage, it’s near Betty’s school, and needs absolutely nothing doing to it. Flat no.1 that we lived in hadn’t been decorated or remodelled in 20 years. We just have to make the best of it. But making a place feel like home when you have a constant sense of impermanence is hard. Much of it depends on the flexibility of your landlord, but you have to find ways of making the house feel like it is your home, adding your stamp without the stamp duty.

 

The reason I’m writing this blog post now is because recently I was discussing the issue with another blogger Life of an Expat Parent and she decided to host a link up. We want to have a series of posts about how to make a house a home. Most home style books and blogs rarely take into account renters and the lack of permanence and control we have over our houses. A lot of the crafting I do is to this end. Some of this will be familiar to my die hard readers, but to those who haven’t been following my blog I hope I can offer some inspiration.

Cushions are a really easy way add a bit of your own style to a house. I prefer an eclectic assortment. I say assortment; I have two currently, but am working on more. Cushions are really easy to make yourself, and simple cushions in bright fabrics can be a quick crafting win. These two took a little longer, more details on the heart cushion here and the wolf one here.

 

Blankets are another way of adding a bit of colour to your living space. Unfortunately due to being whatever the opposite of a completer-finisher is, blankets are my nemesis. These crochet squares never quite reached their dream of becoming a beautiful blanket, but were destined instead to brighten up a cheap upligher.

This cute chalkboard is great for keeping track of your shopping list, writing messages to other members of your family, or just doing seasonal drawings. It’s easy to make and easy to put up and take down. For the record, toothpaste is meant to be good for filling holes left by nails (caveat: I’ve never tried this!).

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We’ve had this stool since we lived in flat number two, where we could afford to have random pieces of furniture strewn around. Now it just gets moved around the kitchen out of the way according to which cupboard I need to get to. Or else the baby takes it so that she can reach something she shouldn’t have. We originally bought it from an antique shop but I expect a forensic analysis of the paint samples would date it to circa 1990. Anyway, I thought it was time to tart it up.

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A lick of paint and some easy crochet circles and it looks fresh and bright to match our new, modern and often messy kitchen.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of the vintage/retro/nostalgia fashions that are popular now, nor am I a fan of ultra modern or contemporary fashions that will date. I am really inspired by the bright fresh colours and Scandi sleekness of By Frydd, and the eclectic mix of decor in Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers.

And this one is on my wish list:

 

And finally for cheap furniture and accessories that aren’t completely devoid of style you just can’t beat Ikea. So in essence, renting a house doesn’t mean you cant make it feel like home. There’ll be more from me on this. My home is still a work in progress.