mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: miscellaneous

School Camp

Everyone is excited about school camp. The Muffet, because she’s the one going and is the least sentimental of my children, she won’t miss us even slightly. The boys, because there’ll be no more arguments about what to watch on TV. Us parents because of the lack of fighting when any one of the three is removed from the group. But then there’s the Camp List…

It’s more a treasure hunt list than anything else. They’ll only be gone two nights. Yet here I have a closely typed A4 page of essentials to be packed if you don’t want your daughter to die of exposure. They’ll be staying in a cabin one night and a tent very close to the cabin the next, but that hasn’t stopped a whole group of parents with only one overprotected daughter being convinced that they’ll be eaten by bears. Or worse, get all muddy.

Muffet has a father who has actually been to war, so is very excited to be packing some of his Army kit. The sleeping bag, the camelback water pack, the sleeping mat, the giant waterproof bag are all khaki. Also one of those shawl arrangements that men in Afghanistan wear over their heads when caught in a sandstorm, you never can be too prepared. But what child of twelve whose feet are going up a size every six months has more than one pair of sneakers? I can’t buy the ones in Kmart for four dollars, they may well dissolve if they get wet. It’s Volleys from Target for the spare set of shoes in the pack. I wasn’t planning to get her new track suit pants until winter, so she’s also going to have to put up with ones from Target as well rather than the velour ones I was going to have to go on a quest to find. Thermal underwear, oh come on. Next. Torch, I’m sure we have one somewhere, I may have to pay the Horror two dollars to find one for me. Plastic plate, bowl and etcetera, we definitely have a picnic set somewhere that someone gave us for Christmas about ten years ago, or possibly as a wedding present. Two fleece jumpers, no way. I did go up to the Kathmandu outlet store to get her a zip up fleece jacket that is so bright that she may not need that torch, but I wasn’t buying two. She won’t wear jumpers, none of my kids like pulling them over their enormous heads. She’ll have to pack a track suit top or something.

I thought we had everything covered until she tells me this afternoon that she needs mid length shorts for wearing under a harness. I suggested she borrow a pair of the Horror’s, they’re a similar size. Her reaction indicated that she may have misheard me and that she thought I suggested she actually eat his shorts. We may have to do some work there this afternoon, there’s no way I’m going back out to the shops. Undies, sunscreen, insect repellent, framed photograph of her brothers, all checked. We’re nearly ready for camp.

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How do you do it?

I was asked again last night. “How do you do it?” Three kids who, with a whoop and a holler, have joined everything their expensive schools have to offer, two choirs for me, two jobs plus soccer for my husband, committees galore for both of us. It’s very simple, really. There’s this thing, you may have heard of it. It’s called a calendar.

Of course, a paper calendar has no chance with a schedule like ours. I use Microsoft Outlook, and we put EVERYTHING in it. Every kids activity (use the recurrence function), every birthday party, every P&F meeting, every doctor’s appointment. My husband even puts reminders in it for cleaning the pool or calling people. His brain is full of cricket statistics, he has no room for minutiae. Then we synchronise every day with both my phone and my husband’s. Even the Moose is starting to occasionally load the family calendar onto his laptop. Early in our marriage my husband proposed this system and he used our mutual sanctimoniousness to get our whole lives onto it. “Well, you couldn’t possibly be going to the pub after soccer, it isn’t in the calendar”, is rarely heard any more. Our relationship has been a long struggle for moral superiority. I think I pinched that from Marge Simpson.

Here’s what the evenings for this week look like:

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The rule is that if there’s space in the calendar, you can go ahead with the proposed activity. Saves all that marital bickering about who told whom what and when. Synchronising has occasionally been a problem. We do it manually with a cable to the computer at the moment. I tried synchronising it with Google Calendar and it crashed the entire computer. I also tried iCloud but ended up with duplicates and even triplicates, so we’re waiting for either technology to catch up with us, or for us to go completely Apple. It may happen. Stranger things have.

No, I don’t think we’re trying to fit too much in. All of the kids activities have been volunteered for, in some cases begged for. They must be completing their homework with ease and getting sufficient sleep if they want to cram something else in. And what would I be doing with more time at home? Cleaning? Watching TV? Tchah. When we do all see each other, we have much to talk about. Much.

So what I want to know is, how do those of you who don’t use this system do it? How do you ever remember to get anywhere?

Swimming Carnival

Not the one I made the cape for, that was last week. My daughter’s swimming carnival was a high school one, all girls, so the swimming was well organised, the cheering was shrill and the costumes were elaborate. The one I’m telling you about today was the Horror’s one, full of primary school boys and therefore much more dramatic.

One starts off the day of a swimming carnival by dropping the swimming child at school so he can get the bus to the pool with his friends. This leaves me time to go and get a reliably good coffee from the local coffee wranglers for me to consume while I spend an hour being grateful that I never usually need to deal with this kind of traffic. This morning’s half hour snarl up Lyons Road appeared to have been caused by an elderly man attempting to reverse park in front of a school, ignoring the execrations of the commuters whose road he was blocking. He wanted to get in perfectly parallel and he had all the time in the world.

Upon arriving at the pool and parking some blocks away I went to locate my last born. All the kids sit in their colour coded houses on concrete steps, and the parents squeeze in with them. I could feel my hair curling into a perfectly spherical pom pom around my head in the humidity even before I’d squashed in between the new Irish kid and the Horror and some of his wrigglier friends. I thought he was bad enough, but one of his mates managed to kick me in the shin, the foot, both elbows and numerous times in the back by the end of the day. Perhaps next time I should bring a sharp stick.

My favourite bit of the primary school swimming carnival is watching the eight and nine year olds swim. It’s usually their first ever carnival and they’re full of excitement and a can do attitude. A highlight came early on in the freestyle when a little one started struggling at the twenty five metre mark, causing a strapping young student teacher to strip off his shirt and dive in to the rescue. Most of the potential rescues were identified before the kids jumped in, they were put in lane one so they could be hauled out at the side. One little kid leapt in for the start of the breaststroke only to immediately realise he couldn’t swim at all, he was gaffed and pulled in within seconds. Another little champ managed to swim the twenty five metre breaststroke entirely in butterfly. I don’t think I could swim twenty five metres of butterfly.

Girls schools do elaborate chants to support their houses, with melodies and verse and one that springs from house to house like a musical Mexican wave. Boys shout their double syllable house name (if it’s a single syllable they stick in a diphthong) followed by three claps. My ears are still ringing. They don’t sit still and watch their colleagues swim, they wrestle and draw on each other and play scissors paper rock and drum on the garbage bins and make hats out of their towels and stand and sit and lie down and head butt each other. No wonder the teachers in charge of the audience not falling in the pool (almost a continuous line of them) looked filleted by the end of the last relay.

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The once a year swimmers like the Horror only get to go in their age races for freestyle and breaststroke. He managed to come third out of five in the freestyle (the last two hauled themselves to the finish line on the lane ropes) and fifth out of eight in the breaststroke. He did point out that that heat was won by the under ten overall champion, so good on him. He’s starting squads this very Thursday morning, so next year I can do a lot more cheering.

Super for Beginners

I was going to write about the lemon ricotta muffins which are currently holding off my kids from eating the cat, but they’re going to have to wait. For I have spent the day deep in treasury and I think there’s a lot about super you don’t know. In fact, I’m sure there is.

You may think that you don’t need to know about super. What would I, a humble housewife, have to do with it anyway? I, my friends, am treasurer for the Sydney University Graduate Choir. They employ a conductor, a rehearsal pianist, orchestra members and soloists. They all have to be paid super. It’s all very unpleasant, but it’s true, I’ve tried to wriggle out of it. Not as hard as the musicians have, though, they hate all that financial stuff, except for the getting paid bit. If you are a not for profit, an association, a company, a family trust, incorporated or not, you have to pay super if you pay any individual over $450 in one month. It doesn’t matter if they give you an ABN or come through an agency, or if they try to have super waived in their contract, you still have to pay it. It doesn’t matter if they’re still studying at the Con. It doesn’t matter if they don’t even have a super fund. You have to pick one and set them up and pay it in there, causing them innumerable headaches in later life.

I tell you what, there’s a niche in the market for someone to cater to organisations like us. Medicare, don’t ask me why, run a clearing house to make it easy for small businesses to pay super to their less than twenty employees. Because of employee choice, most employees will have different super funds, which means that every quarter you have to make a payment to each of those twenty institutions, each of which have their own logins and methods of payment. Through Medicare you can just set it all up and type it in like a spreadsheet. We can’t have that though, oh no. We have more than twenty employees. Usually not all at the same time, and many of them only once before they become too expensive for us to afford. So after I pay their super I’ll get letters from their super funds for years after wondering why I’m not paying in a quarterly amount. I just toss them in the recycling. The system isn’t set up for organisations like ours.

There’s also the fairly important matter of calculating the amounts you are required to pay. Well, it’s just 9%, everybody knows that. Ah yes, but 9% of what? It took me ages to figure it out, I’m not the type just to tap it into a Super Calculator, I want to know what’s going on. We pay our artists nice round numbers. Say we agree to pay a lovely young soloist $600 for a moderately taxing role in the Messiah. $600 is the total amount we’re prepared to fork over, we’re not paying super on top of it. You might think that you calculate 9% of $600 and take it off the total, but you would be very very wrong indeed. $600 is the bucks that they get in their bank account plus their 9% super so, follow me closely here, $600 is actually 109% of the payment they get. You divide the $600 by 109 then multiply it by 100, shove that into their bank account and spend three hours attempting to put the rest into their super account.

Man I hope I’ve got all that right. Do you want to hear about the Register of Cultural Organisations next? It’s almost as riveting. Oh, and there’s the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission just fired up, it’s the next thing on my list to fill my fluffy little head with. Keeps me off the streets, you know.

Pedicure

I have noticed in recent years there’s been a bit of a divergence in beauticians. There’s the traditional ones that stick you in a tiny room to do their thing and play dolphin music at you. There are the scary ones where everything is painted white and the ladies wear lab coats and they’re more than likely to do something to you that really should require a medical degree to administer. Then there are the ones that I go to. Usually in shopping centres, they consist of a large room full of massage chairs and manicure tables, the staff are Asian and I suspect pick a name tag out of a bucket when they check in in the morning. There’s also some rooms out the back where they’re happy to give you a vicious waxing, but their main business is fingers and toes.

I really like a pedicure at these places. I’ve tried a few, and I have a favourite, Channail at Burwood Westfield. The polish stays on for weeks and weeks without chipping, they’re unlikely to have at your feet with a razor without asking, and they chat to each other in Chinese which means that I don’t have to think of something to say to them. They also put your thongs on before applying the polish, a simple idea, yet surprisingly not universal.

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I noticed a few things at my most recent visit. Almost no one gets red any more. When I first started getting my toenails painted, which was during my fecund years, everyone had a small variation on blood red. Those getting acrylic nails were almost all from the Mediterranean, and application required a tool that looked like an angle grinder.

These days everyone is getting gel nails. I keep my fingernails short, I can’t imagine wanting to glue on talons. What happens when you scratch your bum? You certainly wouldn’t be playing the piano with them. I use my fingernails as tools, my left thumbnail is particularly useful as a knife guard. No manicure for me. Also it involves getting the beautician a little too close, my feet are a comfortable distance away, there’s very little chance that anyone will breathe on me during a pedicure. Although a morbidly obese woman nearly sat on me after losing her balance stepping into her foot bath. It’s going to take me a couple of months to recover from that. Lucky Channail pedicures last so long.

Do it Yourself

I thought I’d better cram two days worth of efficiency into Monday, as tomorrow looks like being a day of lying down with a cold cloth on one’s head as the road melts outside. So I leapt out of bed and got myself up to Bunnings to get some batteries, latches and what I discovered were called casement stays. Then on to Logan’s pianos for a piano book for the Horror to stop him playing the one song over and over on the piano. Then off to the gym.

I really do want the windows in the lounge room to stay open. Apparently they are casement windows and they need a little brass stick arrangement attached to them to keep them open. I got out the set that I’d purchased at Bunnings and had a good look at them. They looked like the ones elsewhere in the house – thank goodness we have them elsewhere in the house or I’d never have known where to start, they didn’t come with instructions. Then I thought I’d have a shower, and perhaps some lunch to fortify myself. OK, back to the casement stays. Actually, no, I might fit a latch to the back gate first, that will be an easier warm up job. It swings shut in the wind and shudders itself loose, so it needs to be hooked back. Well, the latch I’ve purchased is way too small for the job. Back to the casement stays.

I spend ten minutes extracting it from its shrinkwrap with a screwdriver and a large pair of scissors while fending off questions from the bored Muffet. “What’s that?” she asks. “You’re just asking me because you’re bored, you don’t actually want to know, and you’re going to ask more annoying questions when I tell you what it is” I reply, knowing that it won’t stave off the inevitable. “I don’t care, what is it?” “Casement stays” I sigh in reply. Fortunately the Horror does something more than usually annoying and is kicked at by his sister. He delivers what sounds to me like a sincere apology. I test him by asking him to empty the dishwasher. He does it. The Muffet, instead of graciously accepting his apology, shouts at him. I ask her to apologise now and give her brother a kiss. She eventually does, but then has to run off to wipe her lips with Dettol and go sulk in her room. That’s got rid of her.

I sit the casement stays on the window they’re going to keep open. My goodness my dear, that windowsill is really filthy. I dig out some Enjo and give it a good wipe down. OK. Right. I go back to look at the existing casement stays in another room, opening and shutting them. I consider taking a photo of them. No, no, I can remember. I get out my 2B pencil and draw around the bit that will sit on the windowsill and the bit that will attach to the window. Then I get out my ladies drill and drill tiny holes where screws will go. I’ve learnt from long experience that it’s faster to do this than to try and force the screws straight into the wood. Dagnabit, flat headed screws! Who uses them any more? They’re extremely annoying to tighten even with a manual screwdriver, and a power drill just jumps out of them. Heigho. I finally manage to attach everything, but when I shut the window, the latch doesn’t sit neatly on the poking up bit. I unscrew it and redo it, not even saying any rude words. And look! I can keep my window open.

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For an encore I attach the latch that was meant for the back gate to the outside bathroom door, to stop that blowing shut while I hang out clothes. Got it in one.

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Of course, if you had the kind of job that paid you $200 an hour, you would not attempt this kind of thing yourself, you’d get a nice young man in with a bag of functioning tools who never had to unscrew anything and reattach it the right way up. But I think you know what my hourly rate is.

New Year’s Resolutions

I wasn’t going to do this, but I’ve been reading a lot of celebrity ones and getting annoyed. Most of the resolutions from people I actually know are pretty good, have some self control and be nice to people. That’s a very fine thing, but not very interesting and more like lifetime rules than new stuff. You want new stuff, something you can tick off a list. Here’s mine.

Wear more lipstick. Actually, this is a long term one, I’ve had this on my list ever since I wore lipstick to school pickup one afternoon and someone asked me if I was having an affair.

Wear an apron while baking. I do have a nice apron, but I was rather put off it when I grabbed it to wear for the first time and found it adorned with a dead huntsman spider. I must get over this baseless fear and protect my clothes from butter and dried flour.

Shout at my husband more. Most people are too scared to, so I’ll be doing a public service and it will make me more assertive. He may not like it, but he can go suck a lemon.

Spend less time with my children. That’s also a long term one, I never seem to achieve it. I should send them on more holiday camps and expect them to get themselves home from school. Unfortunately society and my husband like us to eat dinner together, but see above.

I’m pretty happy with my weight and my exercise regime has kept a physio and a sports doctor in full time work, so there’s nothing to be done there. I may have to accept my advancing old age and swim more often. You can’t ask me to enjoy it though.

Another long time one has been to list my handmade jewellery on some kind of ecommerce site. I have been waiting for the time when I can just wave my phone over the lot and it will set up automatically, but that may be some years away. It is certainly something I can tick off a list, so I’ll leave it on. My phone does take pretty good photos, so that will help.

Drink more coffee. I really love coffee and I have a low tolerance for it. Some extremely carefully selected scientific studies show that it’s pretty good for you so long as you’re not pregnant. Over many years I’ve worked up to being able to drink a large one every day. This year I want to be able to have an extra small one on top of that if I want to without feeling as if I’ve been kicked in the kidneys.

Lastly is a household thing I’ve been meaning to do for years, fix the windows in the room we call the lounge room, despite having no lounge. They have some heritage name, but they’re like doors and need some kind of stick arrangement to keep them open instead of slamming annoyingly shut every time there’s a slight breeze. I’m putting this one down with a deadline, I want it done before the end of the month. I shall keep you posted.

This is my one hundredth post. I started this thing with the aim of finding something interesting to write about every day in the life of this overpriveleged housewife, after many social gatherings at which I’ve been very politely asked what on earth I do with my time. There are only so many jokes you can make about playing tennis and painting your toenails. I may still continue writing a daily post, but it seems more likely that it will end up being weekly. I’ve been very surprised and rather touched to have so many readers. Thank you very much for your attention and your feedback, I hope it’s shown that us stay at home mums aren’t complete layabouts and that there are lots of things in packets that you really don’t need to buy.

I now need to finish assembling the Horror’s bike. I’m having a lot of trouble with the front brake, possibly because someone is sitting on the instructions.

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The Hobbit Review

Those of you that didn’t like the Hobbit movie or found it boring can go suck a lemon.
Admittedly, it isn’t for everyone. It is exactly tailored to people like me. I spent a lot of time in Middle Earth in my youth, way before there were any decent movies made about it. I taught myself the Angerthas alphabet, featured in Thorin’s map. I learned quite a bit of Sindarin. I read not only the Silmarillion, but the far more disjointed Unfinished Tales. I took for myself a Sindarin name, and here it is, rendered in Tengwar.

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I am a hard core fan, and was delighted with the job Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit didn’t bother with trying to be a stand alone movie. It assumed that you had a working knowledge of Middle Earth and were aware that it was the first in a trilogy. All those people that thought it went on forever and nothing really happened, they should have gone to see Skyfall. This movie was not for them.

Well, I’m glad we’ve got that established. I’m looking forward to seeing it in 2D when we get the DVD, because I found the 3D experience to be a little unnerving. I appreciate it was new technology, and was certainly nothing like anything that has gone before it, but it made me feel like I was in a Disneyland ride. I’m not sure what it was, something about the lighting, or some weird perspective thing made me feel like I was being tricked and it was off putting. I also hate wearing the glasses, especially as they have to rest uneasily over my own glasses.

I really liked how fondly they treated us fans, with the cameos by LOTR characters and the music. I thought the bit with Galadriel and Saruman was very important and well done, despite not being in the book, and how old is Christopher Lee now? Hang on, I’ll look it up. He’s NINETY!!! A month younger than my grandma, and she hasn’t starred in any blockbusters lately.

I felt like the massive amount of nose and hair and eyebrows the dwarves had going on hampered their performance a bit. I agree that Richard Armitage spent a lot of time scowling and brooding, a very similar performance to that he gave in Robin Hood, but that’s really what Thorin does if you’ll go back to the text. I’m glad Gandalf got to get a bit of fighting in, rather than just standing about looking wise and saying memorable stuff.

I thought there were some overly cheesy moments. I really didn’t think Bilbo rushing in to save Thorin from Azog’s minion worked at all, Bilbo really shouldn’t be starting to earn his place until the second film. Much of the action inside the goblin’s lair was frankly unbelievable. But I LOVED Gollum, and I thought Radagast was a good inclusion too, and a past Dr Who!

I’m really pleased Peter Jackson has been allowed to lavish such attention on this story. We had a lovely time in the car going home discussing what dialogue was and wasn’t in the book and where they’ll be able to stop the next movie and how much a mountain troll looked like a cave troll. We’ll have to go again these holidays and next time I’ll remember to wear my dragon earpiece along with my Evenstar, Mordorable T-shirt and One Ring that I wore to today’s viewing.

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Entertaining

No, really, I do like entertaining. I know I have tendencies towards the antisocial (No! I hear you cry in shocked amazement), but I really like having friends over for a meal. I like planning what to feed them, I like them to bring kids over to play with mine and have them all end up in the pool, I like to compare notes on other ways of being mums and dads, wives and husbands, breadwinners.

Because it’s a joint effort, there’s a point in the entertainment where my dear husband has to put meat over a flame. Unfortunately our elderly barbecue caught fire a few weeks ago, and there was nothing we could do except push it into the middle of the verandah and wait for the conflagration to die down, then put the corpse out in the cleanup. That meant that some ingenuity was required to satisfy the primitive in my life’s companion while entertaining English friends today. We dug out the old Weber from under the house, filled it with bits of old fence and put the rack from my precious new oven over the glowing coals that resulted (who knows where the original grill got to). It actually did a reasonable job. We quite liked the idea of cooking on an old fashioned style barbecue, one that wasn’t plugged in to anything. We didn’t cook anything fancy, my man likes his meat straight. He will occasionally condescend to barbecue a prawn, but there was no way I was going near any fishmonger this time of the year.

A jolly afternoon was had by all, and after the debris was cleared away, I realized that if I was going to be providing dessert for our large family Christmas, I may want to add one or two things to the baked goods already prepared. So tonight I’ve done a pan of brownies (I’m pretty sure you’ll find that one on the blog), a custard tart that looks like it may have actually worked!! and am about to begin the first step of what I traditionally bring to Christmas – cinnamon rolls. I’m pretty sure cinnamon rolls will be blogged about tomorrow if I get a moment to steal away from the hordes of children.

So that’s how I spent Christmas Eve, doing two of my favourite things. Sharing a meal with friends and baking for the the people I love. That’s uncharacteristically sentimental of me, is it not? Although if anyone else pops up claiming to be bearing the TRUE meaning of Christmas I shall go so far as to gnash a tooth or two. Looks like it’s time to take that tart out of the oven, I can’t believe I’ve finally made one where the custard hasn’t been eaten by the pastry! What I’m not going to be doing tonight is cleaning up my kitchen, that can wait until Boxing Day. This is what it currently looks like.

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I have big plans for that pineapple. Something else to stay tuned for.

What am I going to wear?

Being the volunteer Treasurer for even a moderate sized not for profit organisation is often an invisible but very time consuming position. I’m a bit of an expert now on the super guarantee contribution for employers and what I don’t know about the Incorporation of Associations Act of 2009 really isn’t worth knowing. I’m also fairly familiar with all the ways an organisation such as ours can accept money and the ramifications and costs thereof, but where is any of that going to get me in my real life as a housewife? Nowhere at all, but you do occasionally get a very sweet perk like the one I’m going to tonight.

Tonight the University of Sydney farewells its beloved Chancellor, Marie Bashir, and I’m invited. Marie Bashir is an absolutely extraordinary, inspirational woman. Constantly cheerful, kind, really interested in the thousands of people she meets, funny, down to earth and possessed of boundless energy and enthusiasm. I’ve met her many times, but sadly each time I just stand there with my jaw hanging restfully down instead of engaging her in sparkling conversation. She’s the patron of our choir and has managed to come to all three of our concerts this year. She popped in the back door of our concert last weekend, startling our president who was waiting out the front for the big car with the flags and the aide de camp. She said “oh, I get sick of those aides hanging around all the time, so I thought I’d just drive myself”. The University is apparently having huge difficulty finding a replacement, but her husband has said he’d like to actually see her from time to time and not just on TV, so she’s agreed to slow it down a little.

I’m going to be leaving in about two hours, so no time to make any new jewellery. I’ve dug out of the wardrobe a black lacy Review dress that I pinched from my youngest sister some years ago and never returned. And I have just the necklace to go with it.

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I actually made this for a charity auction at my daughter’s school, but then they annoyed me quite a lot, so I’ve kept it. I’ve made a few of these as commissions in different colours. It’s a pattern I found in a Bead and Button magazine a few years ago, it’s quite tricky to start, especially if you’re using a lot of colours, but once you’ve done a couple of points you can let your mind wander. It takes me weeks to make, but I haven’t made one in a while so I might have a look at what other of my formal outfits this pattern will go with. It’s really light and flexible, but it has a tendency to travel from the central if you turn your head a lot.

I really can’t wear the ankle brace. No amount of fur trim or jingle bells is going to make it any better, so I’ll have to wear flats and not trip over anything. Harder than it might sound, I’m relatively clumsy. I hope I don’t get punished by having to wear it for a few more weeks. Don’t tell my doctor!