What’s going on

Not much, actually. I get up in the morning, bring my kid to school, try to squeeze the maximum value per minute out of the 3 hours of hands-free time this gets me, lose time surfing the Web, bring the boy back home at noon, throw together some sort of meal or another, try to do things while entertaining the kid until he falls asleep, see my husband off to or back from work, volunteer at the local library once a week, shop for groceries, do laundry… and knit when the stars align. Pretty uneventful but that’s how life is. Sometimes there’s a surprise: eating out with the extended family or the kid falling ill on a Friday afternoon… And then it’s routine once again. But it’s not the repetitiveness that gets me down: I kind of like my days to be predictable. If I can fit a healthy amount of fun into an ordinary day, I’m totally OK with it.

november-mini

See what I mean? Who needs fancy entertainment if they can have this?

What truly gets on my nerves is that I receive no answer from the knitting magazines, yarn companies and design editors I wrote to what seems like ages ago. Just a word, huh, guys? Something beyond the machine-generated “Thank you for your submission”? Are you that busy? What’s maddening about all this magazine business is that one has to wait for months before an answer comes – and not necessarily a positive one – and that multiple submissions (that is, sending the same pattern to several magazines simultaneously) are strictly discouraged. And in the meantime your patterns and ideas just lie there and you can’t even wear what you’ve knitted – for fear of spoiling the only prototype you have… It’s sooo slow! In a world where one can connect with people instantly and where everyone is on-line 24/7, the knit mag business is somehow managing to stay light years behind – and get away with it.

Which makes me think that it’s maybe time for me to go indie. I believe in my patterns: Liffey has scored 138 projects on Ravelry alone and, as I have discovered, it has been translated into Russian, so you can double, if not triple, the count (the funny part about this unauthorized translation is that I’m myself a Russian speaker, so they could just have asked if had a Russian version of the pattern instead of going the hard way). Anyway, what I’m saying is that my patterns aren’t that bad. In fact, I think they’re getting better all the time (you should see the one I’m working on right now!) and I’m doing my best to make them both knitable and knit-worthy. So… shall I make the leap?

Say it in broken English

Whoa, it’s been nearly a month since my last post! Time passes way too quickly, especially when the weather is warm and there’s so much to do outside (and away from the computer)… So, where do I begin? Shall I tell you about my planting odyssey or about Mr. Toddler’s speech explosion? Or maybe show you some nice pictures? Or would you like to see my current (absolutely, mindbogglingly gorgeous) knitting WIP? Or hear about my recent… er… “moderately productive” attempts at writing a new pattern?

Oh the hard choice! But wait, there’s one thing that beats them all! Last night my little rascal looked at me with sweet eyes and said: “I wove you!” like he really meant it. Now, if there’s anything that can melt a woman’s heart…

dandelion

Baking news

This is by far the funniest thing I’ve ever baked…

First take a good look…

po3

What are they? Muffins on steroids? Mushrooms? Alien life-forms?

If you’re not familiar with them yet, let me introduce you: these are popovers and they fully deserve their name! Technically speaking, this is liquid batter cooked stiff right in the middle of a supernova-like explosion. The broccoli shape is the fault of the muffin pan and gravity: bake them by zero G – and they’ll probably be round…

Now, how about more pictures?

po1 po2

One just can’t help smiling, right? This is surely going to become my favourite cheer-up recipe (by the way, you can check it here). Make them with kids of any age for an instant mood boost with the bonus of a sugar-free treat. Devour them “as they are” or fill them with cottage cheese, crab salad, jam, dulce de leche or any other mixture that makes your heart go pop for a more substantial, relatively guiltless snack!

The drawback of this recipe? These beauties take a full 40 minutes to bake and they should be eaten hot from the oven, so they’ll probably disappear sooner than you can say “popover” and leave you with nothing but a memory (and a mess in the kitchen). This sort of reminds me of the eternal “housewife’s curse”: you spend your time fighting like crazy against the entropy in your life and all you end up with is more mess… You clean the house – it gets dirty again, you cook the meals – they vanish like they’ve never existed… This is why every housewife needs a camera: to catch those precious moments when the place is clean, the kids happy and the popovers hot, and crisp, and steaming!

That’s all for today, kids! Have a nice week-end and behave yourselves!

Kids vs tablets

tech2

Like it or not, modern babies are born directly into the world of technology. I was 20 when I had my first PC. My son, aged two, operates the touch screen of a tablet like he’s been doing it all his life (which is actually the case). I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, computer literacy is as important a skill as being able to read. If the humanity doesn’t want to be taken over by the machines (it isn’t science fiction any more, it’s what serious guys like Stephen Hawking predict), we should teach kids to tame the beast and, as it’s often the case, learning begins by playing.

There exist tons of apps designed especially for preschoolers and most of them are quite decent, so the rule when you choose is “try and see”. Besides this, I have set the following criteria: free apps that have no pop-up ads and don’t require access to my personal information. Of course, I also pay attention to the graphics and the content: nobody wants their kids to see scary, ugly or inappropriate stuff. With these restrictions, there’s still plenty of choice. Here are a few of our favourites of the moment:

  1. Scott Adelmann puzzles. There’s a great variety of themes, ranging from pirates to Easter bunnies. The puzzles are easy and well drawn and, once completed, they become interactive: you can move objects, make sound effects and pop confetti. The free version includes four puzzles for each theme. The only drawback is that every theme has its own app that should be installed separately but then, you can only choose the ones you like, which is not so bad if you think in terms of memory saving.
  2. Samo Coloring For Kids. As its name suggests, it’s a colouring app. The palette is impressive, the outlines clear and the whole app is very neatly made. Warning: adults can be tempted to steal the game from their kids!
  3. Pizza Maker Kids. And Ice-cream maker. And cake maker. And pretty much everything else maker. The pizza design is very realistic, with lots of free ingredient options (there are paid options too). The feature I like most is that you can play with your pizza once it’s ready and cooked!
  4. ABC Handwriting. One of the best letter tracing apps I’ve tried so far. It includes capital and small letters and numbers from 0 to 9 and offers a choice between guided and free writing. It’s also equipped with a sound on/off button, which might help preserve your sanity for awhile, until your kid discovers what it serves for.
  5. Toddler Aquarium. The free version only offers 5 letters but the app is very well made and probably the one worth paying for. Features include letter and animal puzzles, matching shapes and learning words, all with sound support, as well as a team of cute crabs cheering at every successful move.
  6. Simply Colors Lite. This app includes six colour related games based on matching, sorting and following simple instructions. I like this game for its simplicity and clear pictures: no distractions is sometimes a good thing!
  7. Kids Math. While it might be a little complicated for a two year old, this app features very cool graphics and a series of math games. Definitely a keeper.
  8. Simply Sea Life Toddlers Lite. The free version includes three games: playing hide and seek with sea animals, completing a puzzle and following instructions. Personally, I adore the splash sounds in the puzzle.
  9. Winter Snow Clean Up. My kid is currently very keen on cleaning (virtual, that is), so he loves this app. The game includes two spaces to clean: a room and a yard, and a dirty puppy to brush, soap and shower. Unfortunately, the game bugs from time to time but we still keep it.
  10. Kids Socks. This is one of our first apps and still a favourite. It’s a cute sock matching game with lots of cheering in the background.
  11. Pixelesque. This one is actually a program for geeks who want to create pixelated game characters. I occasionally use it to make colourwork patterns for knitting (remember the Vaders hat?) and my son loves to play around with it, changing colours, filling and erasing the “pixels”.
  12. Laugh And Learn series.  Created by a toy manufacturer, these apps don’t require buying the toys (which is often the case with this kind of apps). Cute, friendly characters, nice songs, three languages to choose from – what’s not to like? Maybe just one thing: the sheep in the apps says “meeeh” instead of “baaa” – but who has no faults? Make sure to check corresponding cartoons on YouTube, you (ahem! I mean, your child) will love it!

I could go on and on (we have lots of apps that I rotate regularly) but I suggest you rather go and see for yourself. Your tablet-wielding kids will thank you! Well, they probably won’t but you’ll be able to keep your offsprings busy and gain some knitting time into the bargain!

One last thought… Toddler locks are useful but most aren’t free of charge, and for the moment, we survive without. Here’s what you can do to minimize the potential damage:

  1. Reserve an entire screen for your kid’s apps and insist that he cannot touch anything else. Like really insist. Every time you hand him the tablet. Hopefully, one day it’ll end up by sinking in.
  2. Hide your apps from the main screen: you’re the adult, you know where to look for them!
  3. And the most efficient: activate the flight mode. If your kid does find his way to your account (he will), at least he won’t purchase anything or publish his game score on your Facebook wall, or open something unsightly in the browser. He’ll still be able to erase your contact list, so keep an eye on him all the same!

Raising a reader

reader

When I was a kid, reading was pretty much the only way of spending free time. Of course, one could go outside or watch TV, or play with the dolls, which I duly did, but peering into a book was my top of the list. The library was just a couple of blocks away and I went there religiously, at least once a week: no wonder all the librarians knew me by the name and I was allowed to take home whichever books I wanted, including those you cannot take home. From adventure stories to the encyclopaedia of entomology, my reading range was quite impressive, it was like I could never have enough…

In my University years, I became a pickier reader: I had my favourites. Literature studies provided material for “broadening the horizons”, while my old friends were always close at hand for a cosy, relaxing time: rereading and rediscovering has become a new guilty pleasure of mine, and I have never pushed it as far as during my son’s first months when I could often be found sitting up in my bed in the middle of the night, breastfeeding, one arm wrapped around the baby and the free hand holding a smart phone…

I’m not sure if these breast-reading sessions are to blame, but one thing is clear: this boy is a real little bookworm. He has started early: at the age of 18 months he already had a library card of his own and at two, he’s a happy owner of 50-something books (and I didn’t count the magazines). His books are stored on the bottom shelf of the bookcase where he can pick them whenever he wants and I’m glad to see that he does reach for them, every day! His “passion for literature” often manifests itself in the evening and, although it has spoilt many of our TV nights, I keep encouraging him (and reading to him in whispers while we’re watching yet another film) because in my charts, the magic of the “blue screen” will never rank as high as the magic of a good book. I don’t know if his interest in books persists but he can count on me to keep them coming: it takes a library to raise a reader!