Easter at home

Thought I’d better do something about the lack of content here. I’m still only taking photos on my phone (something I plan to fix within the next month) but these are better than nothing. This morning Antonia totally bailed on the Easter egg hunt (she’s not into sweet things and couldn’t see the point) but Felix declared today to be one of the best days of his life. He woke up early and put two fleeces on and went for a solo ‘expedition’ with Whitby to the forest to check if Easter Bunny had been yet. She hadn’t. Luckily Easter Bunny managed to sneak out quietly before making waffles.

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Easter starts early in Norway (it’s closer to a week than a weekend) and it’s been so lovely to have this time to potter around with the kids. It’s been filled with everything good: gardening, hiking, crafting, baking, reading, knitting, hanging out with friends, and wandering down to our little beach. With some cleaning and sorting thrown in as well. At times (especially Friday, when Antonia had a fever all day) there has been a bit too much screen time for the kids, but it’s always worth it when we manage to peel them away. Michael’s been making a real effort to take Felix hiking – he complains a bit but I think he’s getting better. We’ve been pushing Antonia a bit too, though if we make her walk anywhere it’s slow going as she likes to roll around on the ground every 20 metres or so…

It hasn’t been entirely without challenges but on the whole it’s been really nice, and exactly what we needed. We finally sold our old house on Tuesday, and we had a somewhat stressful few days of emptying our loft and basement before we handed over the keys. (We’ve thrown a lot of stuff away but are still not sure where to put everything, so will have to get rid of a bit more.) But it’s been so nice just to slow down and hang out with the kids and enjoy being here. I remember really enjoying staying in Norway for Easter two years ago, when Antonia was still a baby. We tend to try to get to Germany for Easter, but last year that was so gruelling that we’ve decided to take a break from that particular endeavour. It’s just not warm enough yet to make it easy to hang out there with the kids.

Also it is just so lovely to get the chance to cultivate a few of our own traditions. We’ve never spent Christmas in our own house with the children (in fact we’ve only ever spent Christmas in our own house once, when I was eight months pregnant with Felix). So it feels special to have this time just for ourselves, to have an egg hunt, to make the hot cross buns. You can’t buy them here and Easter just isn’t the same for me without them. Felix helped make them so they are quite rustic to look at but they were delicious. They have orange rind, apple pieces, sultanas, dried apricots and cranberries inside, and plenty of spices. We spent last Easter dreaming about this house and deciding to try to buy it – we had a look at it the day before we left for Germany, and bought it the day we returned. I looked out of the window this morning and saw a squirrel preening itself on a tree branch. It is good to be here.

Yesterday we walked down to the beach after dinner. The sun had come out. We had to pester Felix terribly to get him out of the house, but as soon as we got to the beach he saw that the little wooden landing was in the water again, and he clambered out to it straight away, deciding that it was a magical vehicle that could be a boat or a plane or a car. Antonia was more or less happy to go with his storyline (“you’re fishing in the air now, Antonia, not the water, we’re flying.” “Ok”). He navigated us to magic land and cloud land and beach land, fetching rocks to throw into the water to get the “bad guys”. And it was pretty perfect.

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One of those Sunday mornings where everything goes right. We made an apple cake early in the morning and Felix insisted on peeling and coring the apples himself. Antonia helped me make the cake batter and put the apple pieces on. Then my dear friend came over with her two children, and the apple cake and cream went down a treat, and then somehow we ended up with play-doh and matchsticks out and the kids played happily for ages.

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Saturday was nice too – we played in the park for hours and hours, and had lunch in the cafe across the street. We kept bumping into people we knew. Felix had an icecream with his best friend while Antonia napped in her stroller, and when she woke up she was ready for action once again.

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Just for fun here’s Felix, just a little younger than Antonia is now, riding the same horse. (From this post from July 2012.)

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Weeknights II

The scene, 5pm: Felix happily copying numbers printed on a box, while I read a book to Antonia. You guys look happy, says Michael. I’m going upstairs for ten minutes.
Felix: Can I Watch?
Me: No.
Felix: But why? I haven’t Watched all day! I need to Watch!
Me: But I like to hang out with you and do things. It’s boring otherwise.
Felix: Can I paint my box?
Me (deep breath): ok.
I go to hunt for paints. I cut up plastic bags to put under the box so he won’t get paint all over the table. I find him a different top so he won’t ruin his nice white one. I find the paints. I find the paintbrushes. Antonia finds my old sunglasses and puts them on. Then she starts crying cos they fall off her nose.
Me: I’ll find you some other sunglasses, Antonia.
Felix: Not mine!!
He follows to make sure I don’t give his sunglasses to Antonia. I find Michael’s old sunglasses. She puts them on. She cries because they fall off her nose. I find a paper plate for Felix’s paint.
Me: What colour do you want?
Felix: What? (Antonia cries and cries.)
Me: What colour?
Felix: White. No. Blue.
I squirt out the blue paint and pick up Antonia, still screeching. He does one lack-luster brush of the box.
Felix: I don’t really want to paint.
Me: ???
I put his paper plate in the bin. I wash out the paintbrush.
Felix collapses on the sofa in tears.
Now Antonia wants to paint.

Yellow

I finally finished another jumper for Felix, the aptly-named ‘troublemaker sweater‘. I worked on in all autumn, while the leaves on the birch trees turned exactly that yellow, and then fell away, one by one. Now all the leaves have gone. It is November and November is grim. Maybe the yellow jumper will brighten our days a little. It is huge; it will fit him next winter, too. I love it: it is knit in alpaca and is super-soft, super-stretchy, super-warm. I am particularly pleased with the casting-off around the neck – I had to unpick my first attempt as there was no way it would fit over his head, but now that I have mastered the surprisingly stretchy bind-off, it would probably fit over mine! Felix is a creature of habit and did not want to try it on. ‘Green!’ he begged, ‘green!’ (He wears his green jumper every day.) I hope he’ll get used to it soon.

20 months

20 months sounds very close to two years old – how did that happen? I don’t have time to write much this month, but you are gorgeous, sweet, gentle, funny, cheeky, chatty little thing, and I love you to bits. (That’s the jumper I knitted, btw – you wear it most days!)

You really love drawing and riding your bobby car, preferably at the same time.

You have strong opinions and prefer your shoes and socks to have stars on them. Whenever someone leaves the room (or hangs up on skype), you say: ‘more Grandma/Poppa/Garry/Linda/Robert/Nea/Charlie?’ Every Wednesday and Saturday morning you ask to see ‘Dama’ and ‘Poppa’ on the computer, and you squeal with delight when they appear.

You talk a lot and your memory is amazing. It’s so funny to hear about what’s going on in your head. You’re getting proficient at doing simple puzzles and putting duplo blocks together. As always, you love water, which is lucky because there’s a lot of it around at the moment.

You love to make a mess (inside and out), and then declare with concern: ‘messy!’ Last week the first thing you said when you woke up was: ‘Clean the floor! Clean the bath! Clean the bed!’ I can hardly keep up with you, but you certainly make me laugh.

Mountains

Still alive, still knitting, and therefore not blogging much. And I can’t even find my camera just at the moment so I can’t show you my more than half finished jumper – only one sleeve and a collar to go. I’m ridiculously pleased with it, but it won’t be cold enough for Felix to wear it for several months, unless he were, say, on the top of a mountain. The weather has been gorgeous here over the weekend and we’re making the most of the last summer days. Michael took these mountain photos in Austria and I’ve been meaning to put them up for a while. We took three legs of a cable car to get up there, and the landscape was so bleak and rocky, it was like visiting the moon.

Little artist

I’ve been sitting on these photos for nearly a month now, but Felix was doing some lying on his tummy on the floor, drawing, again today, so I thought it was a good time to post them.

Felix and I survived the first week back but we are so happy it’s the weekend now. August in Norway and the autumn is just around the corner – there is a chill in the air most evenings. It’s rekindled my enthusiasm in knitting, which is severely cutting into my blog time. I’ve discovered two-colour knitting and I’m hooked. I’ll see if I can convince the photographer to take a picture of my work in progress tomorrow, although I can’t promise anything because I think he finds few things as boring as knitting. Anyway, awwww. Isn’t my little guy sweet.

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I’m afraid I’m going to regale you with yet more pictures of you know who. We’re going to Germany next week so maybe we’ll get the inspiration to take a photo of something else. Michael took these in the garden on Saturday. We were out there for hours, on Sunday too. You can follow the progress of the weather by the gradual reduction in Felix’s outdoor wear over the last few posts!

It’s pretty fun watching Felix gather up the courage to explore the garden. It reminds me of watching our kittens discover it, nearly two years ago. By Sunday he was crawling all around, pulling the little pine cones off the sticks, turning around to check whether he was allowed to eat them or not. His favourite thing is to crawl up and down the stairs to the deck. He’s getting pretty adept at it. He’s also pretty happy with the swing that Michael strung up on our tree.

I think all the sun we’ve been getting lately has done something funny to my head, because despite the even more dreadful than usual night’s sleep we got last night, I feel so happy. I have been enjoying work lately and Felix has really adjusted well to being in the barnehage. I often get to see him during the day for short periods, and he’s even beginning to get used to that, and is not crying quite so much when he spots me.

In other news I recently had an article published in Bøygen, a journal put together by some Masters students at the University of Oslo (ooh, and I just discovered that the title refers to a great troll-snake, from the Peer Gynt story). It is a really beautiful little journal. The theme of this issue was ‘place’, and they have essays in Norwegian and English about the role on place in literature in places as diverse as Norway, Israel, Australia. The essays are interspersed with black and white photographs, mainly of Oslo. It really is lovely and it’s a bit of a thrill to be a part of it.

In the small pockets of time between child-rearing, working, and folding laundry, I have been reading Anne Enright’s Making Babies, a very beautiful collection of essays, recommended by Blue Milk. And I have been knitting. I’ve started one more vest for the little guy. It’s quite addictive. It was in this cabin, just outside the Glacier National Park in Montana, that I decided I absolutely needed to learn to knit. It was something about the self-sufficiency of the little cabin in the woods that didn’t even have electricity, and seeing Felix wearing a cardigan knitted by my Nanna. I thought it would be a satisfying thing to do. I was right. It has exactly the right balance between challenging and soothing; it is heartening to see your progress even if it is slow, the texture and colour of the yarn between your fingers is lovely, and there is something entirely wonderful about seeing your own child all snug in a jumper you made for him.

A little birthday party

Today some close friends came over and we had a little birthday party for Felix. Good friends are so precious. In this photo you can also see: Felix’s lion, which was a hand-me-down from a very lovely lady in Idaho Falls, who has a son a couple of years older than Felix (Felix adores this lion, so my cake was an attempt to approximate it); the curtains my Grandma gave us; the coffee cups and milk jug my Nanna gave us for our wedding; tulips which reminded me of the ones you can see here; a vase which was a birthday present from the barnehage; a delicious cheesecake made by my lovely Norwegian friend; a colourful bowl that my parents gave me when I moved to York; a candle holder that Michael acquired many many years ago, long before I met him; and the gorgeous cardigan that my Mum knitted for me while we were in Australia, shortly after these photos were taken. So although we are a long way away from our families, we were pretty much surrounded by love. And Felix seemed to like the cake.

The little guy had a good time playing with his birthday presents and his new friend Pearce.

In the background in this one you can see the walker that we spied in a shop in Adelaide, but Michael’s parents bought for Felix in Germany. It was a happy day. Surrounded by love, indeed.

Can’t stop knitting

Now that I have a knitting guru on hand I’ve finally started to knit Felix a cardigan! Mum helped me cast it on last week and Michael managed to catch the moment on camera.

I’ve been hard at it ever since. In fact, the only reason this post is finally being completed is that I’ve made another small mistake and I have to wait for Mum to get home to fix it before I can continue. (Before I leave I’m going to have to do a couple of sampler squares to practice picking up dropped stitches…)

I love these photos so much.

Craft morning

I took Felix to my Nanna’s craft morning today.

He ate strawberries, we ate strawberries and cupcakes and pikelets with jam and cream.

There’s quite an amazing story about how my Nanna met these women in the first place, but I’ll have to tell you that another time when I’ve got the details straightened out.

We had such a nice time. The closest I got to doing any craft was showing them the pattern of a cardigan I’ve decided to knit once I find some yarn that will work. They were very encouraging, but I was blown away by the projects they were working on!

Felix enjoyed playing with one of Nanna’s golliwogs.

I’ve had to put my postcolonial qualms aside, for these are truly impressive creations.

I am teaching myself to knit

You may never hear from me ever again. (Go have a look at Michael’s awesome Rodeo photos instead.) But yes, knitting. I am reminded of a picture book I had as a child, about a girl who wouldn’t stop knitting. Eventually she knit an entire circus tent. I’m not that far gone yet but after a shaky start I’ve figured out the basics of knit and purl. Then I tried to do that ribbed stitch, where you have to keep alternating them, and failed miserably. Now I am knitting Felix a scarf. It’s not quite living up to my ambitions, but I guess you’ve got to start somewhere.

Thank you Nanna!

My Nanna (my Dad’s Mum) reads this blog, and when she read what I wrote about not knowing what to get for the baby, she promptly sent over some cardigans and booties she has knitted for him! We love them. They will be perfect to keep him warm. And I love the little pearl buttons. I remember when I was a little girl I loved little pearl buttons. I miss you Nanna. We both send our love.

For anyone wondering, here’s the bump in progress, at almost 30 weeks. I get a shock whenever I glimpse myself from the side. It looks much bigger that way than it does from above. He is starting to feel like a bit of a lump in there. Last night he decided he wanted to lie sideways for a while and kick and poke me, which wasn’t much fun. But sort of amusing all the same.

Aside from that, it has been cold. The forecast says cold and colder. I’ve been struggling with the November blues the past week, not to mention the never ending head-cold which developed into a nasty sinus infection. It’s hard knowing that just about now it’s sunshiny and gorgeous in Australia.

Here’s the frost on the balustrade of our deck. These crystals cover everything, every morning. Well, until it started snowing yesterday. I took these frosty pictures on Friday morning, but I haven’t raced out to photograph the snow yet. When you know it will be a pretty constant companion for the next five months or so, you lose the sense of urgency…

The frosty mornings are beautiful though. It’s hard to capture on camera the puffy yellow clouds of the sunrise shining through the iced branches of the trees. And things are coming together. We’ve spent the weekend snuggling in front of the fire, eating soup, figuring out how to better insulate our loft. My doctor prescribed me some antibiotics on Wednesday, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. And I have my winter boots.

Easter

Michael’s parents arrived yesterday for Easter. They seem to like our little house! Although it’s raining at the moment we saw a deer sauntering along our driveway this morning, so Norway is still doing its best to impress. Yesterday we spent the whole morning sorting things out – vacuuming and tidying, clearing the third bedroom which had remained a sort of dumping ground from our move, putting the back seats back into the car and cleaning that up a bit, and wandering around our driveway and garden picking up all the bits of rubbish and cigarette butts that had been hiding under the snow for three months (the previous tenants weren’t the tidiest folk). It all looks pretty good now. Then Michael went to pick up his folks and I put a banana cake in the oven.

It’s lovely to have them here. The weather’s looking up for tomorrow, but I don’t think anyone really minds just relaxing in the house for the moment. We had a lovely slow breakfast of coffee and jam and bread and cheese, and now Monica is getting stuck into our little pile of ironing. (She really really loves ironing and folding clothes. I used to feel a bit funny about that – in regards to our clothes – but I am totally over that now!)

Anyway, here’s the current status of Henry. I reckon I’ll finish Jane Seymour’s head this weekend. First there’s about fifteen essays left to mark, and a novel to read for my class next week. But it’s so, so excellent to have six days off!

Slowly

In the last week we’ve bought a tumble dryer and ordered a dishwasher. Moving up in the world. And some hooks to hang towels on. And lights for the stairs. And summer tyres for the car. I made waffles for breakfast on Sunday. I’ve been making progress on Henry. We’ve stumbled on, alongside our interrupted and interrupting grief. I am so unbelievably glad it is Easter break now. Easter starts on Thursday in Norway, but at the kindergarten we have Wednesday off too. I plan to mark essays all day. It will be brilliant.

The snow has all but gone. The land looks strangely naked without it. Brown and rubbed thin. As though the whole world could just collapse from exhaustion. But it won’t. It will just catch its breath a while longer, while the birdsong already haunts morning with dreams of colour. And before we know it, it will be May, beautiful May, though that still feels as distant as a foreign country.

Update: for old Henry posts, see here and here and here.

Catherine Howard’s hat

Last weekend I picked up Henry and had a go at Catherine Howard’s hat. She’s the one on the right. I have been avoiding the hat, as it is fiddly. And stitching brown thread is boring. But it will look good when it’s finished. It’s purple on top. With a feathered plume. After twenty minutes of happy stitching, I realised I was using the wrong colour. The symbol for colour I was using was a sideways ‘M’, when I needed to be using the upright ‘M’. So I dutifully unpicked it all, got the right colour out, and started again. And then I realised the last colour I’d done was wrong too. So I stopped. I need to decide whether to unpick the last thread, or just sew the two different coloured browns the wrong way around. I put it away.

A friend once told me her mum always said: ‘unpicking is progress too’. Which is true, and when you think about it like that it’s less painful. But still painful.

My Les Murray chapter started to come together today, very nicely. I realised the reason I had been stalling on it was the amount of unpicking required. I finished this chapter in a long night of rainbow-coloured fish, quite some time ago. My supervisors were very keen for me to produce a whole chapter, with arguments that built up, rather than just a collection of  ‘oh look he’s referencing the Middle Ages’ fragments. So I poured my all into it, and stiched it together, and forced it a bit. And they were pleased with it. They said yes, you’ve finally got it now. And I was happy, and I knew I could go on and write my next chapter with no problems at all, and I did, and they loved it first time.

But when I reread my Murray chapter at the end of last year, I was horrified. It was filled with grand statements that I didn’t really back up. It didn’t engage terribly well with secondary sources. It was awkward and naive. Ugh. Not all of it – some of it’s quite nice. But it kept glossing over really interesting things, rather than exploring them.

All it has needed is some unpicking. Some loosening of threads, to fit in some more details, some cleverer observations. And it’s been nice. Quiet, gentle, slow. Because this kind of attention is slow. But I think I will like it by the time I’ve finished it.

PS. To see the cross-stitch in larger than life detail, click on it twice, and zoom around. It’s pretty cool.

Bushfire quilt auction

The lovely Anne has an fundraiser auction over at her site. She makes the most beautiful quilts, and is auctioning off one of the two following styles, any size up to a single quilt size (you can choose which sort and if you choose the first sort you can have it customized to whatever colours etc you like.) All the money paid by the winner will go to the bushfire appeal. So if you like the look of these and like the idea of helping the bushfire survivors, head over here. Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested!

A stitch in time

The lovely Nancy drifted over here a while ago and fell in love with my Henry. So much so, that she decided to have a go herself! She’s working a slightly different pattern, but it’s just as wonderful. Go and have a look! I promised to show her my progress, which isn’t a lot given the time that has passed, but it’s slow going and there are many other things which demand my attention. I remember so clearly starting Henry’s left sleeve (well, his right, our left) in our lounge room in York. This cross-stitch has accompanied me through many houses! I stitched some more last night, stitching myself into this new life, here.

(M, last night: ‘That’s a real labour of love. What do you think about when you’re stitching it, how nice I am?’
me: ‘I’m more concentrating on not making a mistake…’)

We got back to Norway on Tuesday. It is good to be here, though most of my stuff is still stuck in ‘uncontrollable customs delays’. Why oh why won’t Norway join the EU? There’s a sign at the airport: ‘Who needs the EU when you have Norwegian?’ (That’s the name of the airline). Hmmmm.

Well, I have a conference paper to finish and a thesis to contemplate. See you!

Henry the eighth I am I am

Well, apart from the somewhat more than frustrating fact that my favourite person is too far away for my liking, things are going quite well around here. The thesis is progressing in its own inimitable way. Which means: sometimes fluently, sometimes excruciatingly. But it grows. Revising my latest chapter sometimes feels like putting gilded roofs onto a beautiful castle, and sometimes like attempting complicated surgery. The body of the chapter lies sprawled before me, broken and bloody, as I try to remember what I’m supposed to be doing to it.

When it all gets a bit too much, I do a bit of this:

I’ve been working on this for years, on and off, and I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve nearly finished Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, but there’s another four wives, as well as the border adorned with Tudor roses, and all the back-stitch and French knots and beads (yes!) to go on at the end. But there is something immensely calming about working on such a long term project. Especially as it involves no major decisions or structural problems. I follow the chart to the letter, and it comes together! I’ve worked on this cross-stitch in York, Leeds, Norway, Austria and Germany. The threads bind my life together.

This kind of thing reminds me of both my grandmas. My mum’s mum knits and makes bobbin lace. She also used to make lots of clothes for us, and several wedding dresses! (We’ve been informed homemade wedding dresses are no longer on the menu – fair enough too.) My dad’s mum has painted and dressed hundreds of china dolls, made many lovely teddy bears, embroidered huge tapestries, and now makes the most amazing quilts. As a young girl, I loved nothing better than sitting with one or other of them, tapestries or bobbin cushions on our laps, watching tennis on tv into the wee hours.

At about the age of fifteen, I decided craft was a waste of time, as I was an artist. Now I suspect the distinction between art and craft is not quite so clear. Even what I would regard as art involves a fair bit of craft – skill, and attention, and time. And, counted cross-stitches aside, much of what is called craft is actually art anyway. It’s nice to have it to turn to. I like the richness of the threads, the motion of the needle piercing cloth.