Monday, 30 December 2013

Little Owl @ 20 months

20 months!  Doesn't that sound all so grown up!  A very dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy this month and its just made me realise how far Little Owl has come from those hazy new born days, she's definitely not a baby anymore!

After bobbing up and down for a few weeks, I'm pretty sure all four canines have finally broken through!
Signs and Speech
Little Owl's communication is coming on brilliantly.  When she first started signing, it was all about immediate wants, it then moved on to things she was observing such as passing seagulls and dogs.  But now it has progressed onto her telling me about things that have happened in the past.  A couple of weeks ago I got home from work and she couldn't wait to tell me that Granddad had been to visit, that the cats were outside and that she had eaten all the snacks in her pot!
What's new?
Little Owl is down to 4 floats at swimming!!!  However, she is struggling a bit with that so I don't see us dropping any more any time soon, especially with the Christmas break but hopefully we will be swimming daily in India so we can catch up!

Little Owl has also started reacting to CBeebies - she'll get up and dance when they play the music in Show Me Show Me and even copies the moves on Carrie and David's Pop Shop!

Finally, Little Owl is getting better control of her fork and insists on holding a knife too, pointing the tip of it to the food her fork is on - it looks like she is using it properly but she doesn't understand that we cut with it!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

So here's my last knitting post of the year and I really hoped to have a finished jumper to show off but I'm afraid an Angel costume got in the way of those plans.
I managed to get the final sleeve finished before the Angel crisis hit and my mother-in-law translated the finishing instructions for me - it was only then that I spotted the instructions in English were on the next page!  I had thought they were for the next pattern, but once I knew the translation I realised they were for this jumper!
The instructions said I had to pick up the stitches at the neck with the dark green wool but then purl the first row in the orange.  I had only ever picked up stitches before by kinda tugging at the knitting and creating loops but seeing as I had to pick them up in a different colour I figured that this wasn't the 'proper' way of doing things! 
I dug out my knitters handbook, looked at the various methods (none of which included 'kinda tugging') and decided on using the crochet hook method where I poked the hook through the knitting and pulled the dark green wool back through and then threading it onto a knitting needle.  The neck was then knitted on a round needle which I quite enjoyed and was ever so excited when it was finished and I could cast off.
IT DOESN'T FIT OVER HER HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So near and yet so far... could cry but I am so tired, I must admit I swore... maybe next week eh?

My little angel

Twas' the night before Christmas, well, not quite, it was actually the Sunday before Christmas and I was doing some last shopping of presents before the next day of wrapping, when I received a text from Papa Owl telling me that Little Owl needed an Angel costume for Christmas Eve!
I'd love to say that by the 22nd December everything was ready for Christmas, that by Christmas Eve I could spend the day watching Christmas movies, but I had suspicions I would be up to the wee hours finishing off the last little bits.  I'd love to say I was the type of mum that could just whip up a costume in the beat of a heart, but I fear I more like my own mother where this sort of crisis is best solved by spending money on a costume someone else has made!
But it just so happened that I was in a shop that sold, well, everything, or nearly everything.  I had a hunt about and found their Christmas costumes - a snowman and a Christmas tree... wasn't sure how well that would go down in a church nativity... so what I bought instead was a metre of white satin and a ball of wool that looked like tinsel but was much softer.  I also happened to bump into a friend who when I explained my crisis, sketched a little diagram on a bit of paper for me.
A year ago, when Papa Owl gave me a sewing machine, I had never ever used one.  I've had a few lessons at The Owl and Sewing Cat this year, and have made a few cushions single handed too.  But clothing... this is way beyond me!
Now I'm sure anyone with any experience can look at this and tell me where I went wrong, and I can see now that it was just too tight across the chest, so I ended up undoing it under the arms.  The wool needed finger knitting it to make it thick enough but with wings borrowed from another friend, in the end I was delighted with the result!
Little Owl loved her first nativity!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

Don't you hate it when Christmas shopping gets in the way of knitting?!!!  I am a committed internet shopper, which means its an evening task for when Little Owl is in bed.  I only started my shopping on Monday and with a carol service on Wednesday evening, there hasn't been much time for knitting! 
So here is the second sleeve, not quite finished.  Am I going to reach my goal of completing this jumper by Christmas?  I feel so close but with a tree to decorate and presents to wrap I'm not feeling that confident! 
Oh, and a pattern still to translate...
So how is everyone else getting on?  If you take a peek over at Toby Goes Bananas you'll not only see a completed elf hat, but a rather cute Toby modelling it!
Don't forget to pop back next week to see if the jumper makes it under the tree!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

This time next month I will be in India!

Gosh - doesn't that sound close?  But with a week until the jolly red man drops down the chimney its really taken a back seat at the moment!

The important thing is that we now have our Indian Visas - actually, in the end I was really impressed with the service - I posted our passports off on the Tuesday and they were back in my hand on Saturday!

I've also started to gather a few little bits together that I want to take. 
I know what you are thinking... that's not a lot for 10 days away with a toddler huh? But these are a few bits that I don't want to forget!

The yellow packet contains disposable bibs that I got given as a freebie when Little Owl was small... I've never tried them as, well, I don't often use disposable nappies or wipes but I figured as I have them, then I might as well use them. 
Several people have recommended that I take plasters instead of stickers on the plane so Little Owl can stick and re-stick without getting them permanently stuck to the plane!
The earplugs I got for Bonfire as Little Owl refused to wear her ear defenders this year!  She seemed quite happy to have them in her ears so worth a go!
Finally my bling!  There will be one night where we put on our new saris (yup - going to buy another one) and dress up in our finest to enjoy a traditional Maharashtrian dinner.  This will be the first time I have visited India since I got married and am looking forward to being able to wear my Mangal Sutra.  My trefoil earrings are also for this evening, they don't come out often as they are very 'geeky girl guide' but they have fond memories for me, I bought them in Taxco, Mexico when I spent a summer volunteering at Our Cabana.

So um... that's it!  Think I'm going to be panic stations in the new year - particularly as I might have a new job or two!

But I've learnt the sign for gecko!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Shhhhhh.... she's sleeping!

I'm a bit nervous to type this... so come closer and I'll whisper...
Little Owl is sleeping all night!
Its not every night, but its happened enough to not be a one off...
Her best night was 13 hours - 7pm until 8am!  Although we're not actually sure what time she is waking because the real magical bit is that when she wakes in the morning, she plays with her toys in her cot instead of calling Mama Mama MAMA!!!
Little Owl did follow this mammoth sleepathon by waking the following night at 11pm and refusing to go back to sleep until gone 1, then up again at 5... so we're not out of the woods yet...
But there is, just a glimmer of hope on the horizon!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas Wreath

Christmas is slowly beginning to make an appearance in the Owl household... The decorations have come down from the loft, the tree has been bought, and a holly wreath has appeared on the front door thanks to Papa Owl!  He took some photos and has put together this guide to making your own wreath.

Stage 1  Cut yourself some leylandii and some holly from your garden.  It's good to get a mixture of ordinary and variegated holly to give some contrast in your wreath.  You will also need a wire florists ring, a ball of garden string, some florists red berries, florists wire, ribbon and a pair of secateurs.

Stage 2 Attach one end of your string to your wire ring.  Take a good handful of leylandii and tie it onto the ring.

Stage 3 Continue wrapping your first handful of leylandii until you there is about 4cm left.  Take another handful of leylandii, tuck the twiggy ends under your first bunch and carry on wrapping, keeping the string really nice and tight. 
Stage 4 Carry on doing this until you have completed your ring.  Tie the string off to the wire ring and cut.  Now take your secateurs and trim your wreath to get rid of any loose bits of leylandii sticking out.  Be careful not to cut your string.
Stage 5  Cut your holly into lengths of about 10cms at an angle.  You can now start to stick them into your wreath. 
Stage 6 Continue placing the various types of holly into your wreath, until you can no longer see the leylandii.  It is useful to look at your wreath from a distance to see how balanced it is.
Stage 7 It is best not to use natural holly berries as they can attract birds who will subsequently eat them and make a mess on your door!  The florists berries are easy to get hold of and don't lead to the same side effects!  Take a couple of berries and twist them together, wrap a piece of florists wire around them and use that to stick into the leylandii. 
Stage 8  Make yourself a bow with the ribbon.  There are many ways of doing this, let your imagination run free.  Again use the florists wire to attach to your wreath.
Stage 9  Make a loop out of the florists wire and attached to the back of your ring which can be used to hang your wreath from your door.

Many thanks to Papa Owl for kick starting our Christmas decorations off... really must get around to buying some presents soon!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

It feels like I have made loads of progress on the jumper this week. 
I finally untangled the great big knot that I had last week and have managed to complete a sleeve!
 And made a start on the second one!

It feels like the end is near... and so I glanced to the end of the pattern to see what was next and....


The sleeves are the last bit on there.

On the English version at least.

The other 3 languages have 'finishing' or 'assembling' instructions at the end... so part of the challenge this week is to translate the German, French and Dutch instructions to see how to finish the jumper!  Its not just a case of sewing it together, I will need to pick up stitches and knit on the neck... I have a pretty good idea from the picture in the pattern book but would rather know for sure!
I feel so near and yet so far!
So how are your knitting projects going this week?
Take a look on TobyGoesBananas to see if Sarah has managed to finish the elf hat in time!
Also joining in on the knitting fun is the lovely Kerrie from Wife, Mum, Student Bum who has been knitting scarves for her family... if only they didn't leave them at school!

If you are a blogger and have posted about a knitting project recently, leave a link below and I'll include you in next week's post!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Natural Sensory Play

Little Owl just loves to explore the outdoors and we are very lucky to have a park nearby with several sets of swings, large grass areas, a café, plenty of ponds and some great wooded areas too!
The leaves on the floor at this time of year are just great fun and we don't get to walk very far as Little Owl wants to stop and look at everything! 
 There were sticks...

 And plenty of leaves!
We took a small bag with us so Little Owl could take some of these things home.
Two days after our visit to the park, I gave Little Owl her bag of bits and let her explore.
 At first she took one leaf out at a time, looked at it then put it back in. 
The holly leaf caused a lot of interest!
 After a bit, Little Owl realised that she was only seeing the same leaves over and over,
and it was time to empty the bag properly!
 She had a great time exploring the different textures.
 Watching the leaves fall back to the table.
In the park, Little Owl is always distracted by the next thing she has spotted and so it was great to see her taking her time over all the items.
After Little Owl had finished, most of her collection went in the bin
but I kept a few interesting bits to come out again.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Brooklands Barn - Three Score Years and Ten

Recently my old man reached 70, an achievement we felt couldn't go unmarked and so the clan decided to gather!  My parents still live in the house where we grew up, which while plenty big enough for them, my two brothers and I, it doesn't have enough beds now we all have partners and there are four grand kids in tow. Oh, and not forgetting a dog!
So the search began to find somewhere that could house eight adults and four kids and that's when we came across Brooklands Barn.  It looked perfect, not only did it have more than enough beds - it even had a swimming pool! 
Brooklands Barn is located just outside Arundel in West Sussex.  The complex itself has 3 separate apartments which can be hired individually, the smallest of which would be perfect for a small family or even just a couple. We hired the larges apartment called the Barn and Greystones, one of the smaller apartments.
Papa Owl and I were the first to arrive, the sun had just set and it was a very cold November evening.  While delighted to see it was a traditional Sussex barn, I was worried that the large windows taking up a good proportion of the walls on either side, would mean it would be quite chill inside.  However, my fears were unfounded as the Barn was toasty warm when we entered!
The ground floor of the barn is a large open space which proved perfect for our family gathering.  The open plan kitchen was spacious and had everything you could need - although another large saucepan might have been helpful.  The dining table was big enough for us all to sit together even though there wasn't enough beds in the main barn for us all.  On the Saturday evening we hired in a chef who was recommend by the owners.  It was a lovely way for us to be able to celebrate together, no one had to cook, but meanwhile, we didn't have to worry about Little Owl practicing her vocal chords in a restaurant!  Actually, this was when the open plan living space was brilliant.  The kids had their main course while we tucked into the starter and then they took themselves off to the other end of the room to watch X Factor!  Little Owl thought it was brilliant to be with her cousins but also able to wander back to me and have a bit more to eat!
The upstairs of the barn was equally spacious, with another seating area on the mezzanine floor and four double bedrooms with ensuite, two of which could also be arranged as twin rooms. 
The second apartment we had was called Graystone and was accessed across a courtyard.  We were lucky with the weather, that although it was cold, it was dry.  Even so, I'm glad we decided to keep the kids in the main barn!  Graystones was much smaller then the barn, but it was equally as beautiful with 3 double bedrooms and  its own kitchen/living space. 
All three apartments faced into a central courtyard, but they also faced out to the beautiful Sussex countryside with outside seating in their own private areas.  The above was a secluded courtyard behind the Barn.  As well as this table, there was another that would seat at least 10.  I can imagine it would be perfect in the summer.  You can just make out the table in the picture below. 
Looking at this photo just makes me want to go back to Brooklands in the summer!  The building to the right houses the swimming pool.  Despite the cold November weather, the pool was toasty warm.  Little Owl and her cousins loved splashing around in there, and the adults had some fun as well!  There was a shower room too so you could get changed before going back to the Barn.  It really did make the icing on the cake!
Arundel itself is less than a mile away which makes it walking distance in my book!  It was a little bit sticky in the mud but a lovely walk by the river.  However there is plenty of parking in Arundel if you would prefer to drive in.  Yes that is a castle and a cathedral you can see!  Arundel also has a train station with trains running direct to London which makes it easily accessible. 
It was a fantastic weekend. Its not often our family all get together like this - in fact it was the first time Little Owl had met one of her Uncles as he lives in Australia.  Brooklands Barn was the perfect setting for us all and we hope to go back one day!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Knitting Fridays

The back is finished at last!  After a couple of false starts,
I have finally finished the back of the jumper.
So now its onto the sleeves.  I had hoped to knit both simultaneously like I did with the legwarmers but I only have one ball of orange and one ball of yellow. But I have made a start on the first sleeve...

 I would have got further but the light green ball got itself in a bit of a knot,
and I have spent the last 2 nights trying to untangle it!
With hindsight I should have just cut the yarn and start again...
Over on Toby Goes Bananas, Sarah has nearly finished his elf hat! Pop on over and take a look!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Indian Visas

Indian bureaucracy is second to none and I was first introduced to it back in 2002 when I applied for my first visa.  I was fresh of a plane from Mexico, suntanned and jet lagged, facing a 9 day turn around to get myself a flight, visa and bags repacked for 7 months in India.  I had been given some advice on which visa I should be applying for and an accompanying letter to support my application.  However the visa I was told to get, didn't appear to exist and the letter contradicted itself and didn't leave me with much confidence!
I headed to India House, just off The Strand to see what I could do.  I went to the ticket counter on the outside, was issued my ticket (think it was pink and a bit like a deli ticket) which meant I was to go upstairs to apply for my visa.  I remember a large room with dark wooden counters on two sides, somewhat reminiscent of an old fashioned Post Office and lots of seats. 
I waited my turn, my number was called and I approached the desk and handed over my passport and visa form.  Having got up early to get the train to London, my jet lagged fuggled brain wasn't thinking clearly.  I was answering the questions asked but not adding any additional information, I was thinking in straight lines.  My Mum sat in a chair behind me, could tell things weren't going well.  She had been watching everyone take their turn at the desk, observing the process and could tell something wasn't right.  She leapt to my side and said "have you given them the letter?"  "What letter?" said the lady behind the counter and I passed over the letter.  Apparently that changed everything and I was told to go into the waiting room.

The waiting room was off to the side, a smaller square room at the back of the building with a window overlooking a courtyard at the back where I was to wait until my name was called (no longer a number).  Looking out over the courtyard, things took a surreal turn - my mother announced "I've been here before".  Apparently, in the 60s she had attended a Traction Rally Annual Dinner on The Strand with my father.  This courtyard had seemed a good place to park until they returned to their car in the early hours to find it had been blocked in.  They were left with no choice but to knock on the door and ask for someone to move the car...  the story goes that the door was opened by an Indian man in his pyjamas wearing a turban who was none too impressed.

I had images in my mind that my mother would be recognised some 40 years later and my application turned down but to my surprise, my name was called and I had been granted a visa that did not exist!

Today it is slightly different.  The visa process has been outsourced to an agency and so it is easier to apply on line.  There were some slightly confusing questions, especially for Little Owl but once I had worked out that her education status was "below matriculation" and I entered her occupation as "other" and specified "child" it was then just a case of plugging away at it.  To support Little Owl's application, Papa Owl and I had to write a letter to the High Commissioner of India to give our consent for her trip to India.  For my application I had to check with my parents where they were both born as well as with Papa Owl.  I also had to list the countries I had visited in the last 10 years... but the box wasn't big enough!

All that was left to do was to get our photos taken -

put it in the post and keep our fingers crossed that our passports will be returned before the Christmas postal rush!
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