Knitting blankets for premature babies

I may have mentioned in a few of my weekly round up posts that over the past few months (probably since autumn) that I have been knitting two baby blankets. I was approached by an agency who was running a campaign called #Knitforwinter and asking bloggers to knit blankets and beanie hats for First Touch, a charity that supports premature babies and their families.

Knitted blankets for babies

I’m a total beginner at knitting – I was taught the basics by some friends a few years ago when I read a news story saying that penguins needed little suits to be knitted for them after their feathers had been damaged by oil spillages. Who could resist that?! At the time though I didn’t have any experience of knitting and despite trying, I couldn’t get it as the pattern was far too intricate for me. So instead, a friend started me off on something really simple: a scarf. A really thick, chunky knit scarf which meant it was really easy for me to see exactly what she was doing and be able to copy to learn. I learned how to cast on, knit (not purl, just knit) and that was it. I didn’t get much further than that.

So when I was approached again, with premature babies in need, it was another worthy cause that I couldn’t turn away. Especially as this time there was a pattern aimed at beginners – the blanket – which only required you to know how to cast on, knit and cast off. And of course, then stitch all the little squares together at the end. I made a lot of mistakes and had to watch a lot of tutorial videos on YouTube but I got there.

It’s taken me a long time to do but I’ve really enjoyed knitting in the evenings. Some weeks I’ll knit nearly every evening while I’m watching TV for an hour or so, other weeks I won’t knit at all. It’s been especially difficult while we’ve been getting into different Scandi noir series; subtitles and knitting do not mix well!

But I’m surprised at just how relaxing I’ve found it, and just how satisfying it is to have a little creation. To be able to see your progress.

Knitted baby blankets

The end result is a little messy in places, but hey, these blankets are my first EVER knitted creations so I think I’ve done pretty well. I really hope that they help some little babies to keep warm, and I think I’m going to continue my new found hobby!

If anyone else would like to support the campaign and download the knitting patterns, you can do so here.

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When failure isn’t failure

I was thinking recently about the time I really stuffed up a job interview for a role within the public sector. I was told that I was too offensive to work for the organisation.

That’s right. Anyone who knows me – or reads my blog regularly – will surely think this is ridiculous.

Let me explain.

Tree at sunset

I was having an interview for a multimedia position which involved producing and editing videos, writing news stories as well as community management of social media channels, if I remember correctly (this was a good few years back). It was quite an intimidating interview – me on one side of a long table, and a panel of three judges, sorry, interviewers on the others. Straight-faced, no nonsense. I don’t think any of them even cracked a smile.

They were keen to communicate their equality and diversity policy and asked for an instance of a time when I’d worked with a diverse group or a group of minorities (or words to that effect, in all honesty I can’t quite remember the exact question) and how I adapted or what challenges I came across or something like that. I told them about a time I’d written an article for a gay magazine distributed in Soho. The magazine was called Fuck.

Little did I know, despite continuing with the rest of the interview and completing a few writing exercises afterwards, that it was at that exact moment that I failed the interview. They told me afterwards it was because one of the interviewers could (note, not was) but could have been offended by the F bomb. They weren’t offended, but that was irrelevant, they could have been.

Now, I understand this to a point. Some people don’t like any swearing whatsoever.

But it’s about the context. If I’d have said “I fucking wrote for this gay magazine, right” then point taken. That’s unnecessary. But when I’m telling them the name of a publication title, one that they’ve asked about, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Doesn’t the title of the magazine help to illustrate the diversity point further? Isn’t it a tongue in cheek name that helps to celebrate the diversity of the LGBT community?

Perhaps not, perhaps I should have said the magazine was called “F star star K” or “a naughty word beginning with F” while I blushed and giggled.

It’s something I still think about this day.

But the fact that I didn’t get the job tells me that it wasn’t the job for me. I mean, the interview and work environment also told me that it wasn’t the job for me. I don’t have a mouth like a sailor at work but I also don’t want to be worried about the odd “Shit” slipping out. Obviously an actual shit slipping out is a real problem but that’s what spare pants are for.

At the time, although I sort of realised I wouldn’t have felt comfortable in the role because of this, I also saw my rejection from the role as a failure. I was a failure for not getting a job I applied for.

But in hindsight, it wasn’t failure. The job wasn’t meant to be. But not only that, it’s taught me a lesson about myself that I can learn from. When I was younger and job searching, I used to apply for just about anything that I could do on paper. Regardless of whether I felt I might actually want the job. Regardless of whether I liked the sound of the role and whether I thought I might fit into the work environment. If I could do the job, I would apply. If I was offered the job, I would accept it. It never occurred to me that I actually had a choice in the matter. I didn’t have to apply for a job with a company I wasn’t interested in working for. I didn’t have to accept a job that would be working for a person I didn’t like.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that something that feels like a failure at first, may not be. It’s easy to say ‘in hindsight’ but something that initially feels like a failure might be a lucky escape. It might be a valuable life lesson. It might be an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself, to take a step back and think about who you really are or what you really want.

Don’t let someone tell you that you’ve failed. You haven’t failed. You’re living your life!

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Weekly round up #49

Ciao Bella!

I hope you’re all having a lovely relaxing Sunday morning. Let’s start by catching on my Sunday last week. It was my best one in a while.

I spent all morning lolling around in my pyjamas (a belated celebration of National Pyjama Day the day before) catching up on emails and reading blogs. I made myself eggs and avo on toast. Pretty perfect Sunday morning, right?

In the afternoon we spotted a gorgeous mirror being advertised for free on our local Facebook community page. There are always lovely things being sold or given away – I’ve given away plenty myself too – but you really have to be on the ball. If you don’t spot an item within five minutes of it being posted, it’s gone. So I was well chuffed when I spotted this corker of a solid pine mirror one whole minute after it had been advertised. We walked to a house five minutes round the corner to pick it up a few hours later.

Solid pine mirror

Isn’t she a beaut?

Obviously it’s not been put up yet, it’s only resting up against our dining room table.

But I’d only been thinking recently how nice it would be to get a big mirror for our downstairs hallway. As we’re in a Victorian terraced house, there isn’t much natural light in the hallway so I think a big mirror will brighten it up a bit. Plus it’ll be great for checking my make up just before heading out the door!

Afterwards, as it was so warm and sunny we felt like we should celebrate with a quick drink so we went for a cheeky pint in the local pub. Afterwards we headed back home to retreat to the sofa for a Netflix binge.

I bought some beautiful daffodils which have been making me smile every time I sit in the front room, and I happily discovered some bluebells in the garden.

Through the evenings this week I’ve been happily tucking into Almond Dream dairy-free ice cream. Has anyone else tried it? It’s delicious! I’ve only seen it in two flavours: Mint chocolate chip and salted caramel and I have to say the caramel is my favourite of the two.

Almond milk ice cream

And in case you missed my big news this week, I had another post published on Buzzfeed and this time it was about my home town, Northampton. It’s a little tongue in cheek, it has a little place in my heart really 😉

19 Things Everyone Who Grew Up In 90s Northamptonshire Remembers

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Feta and sundried tomato pasta recipe

This is such a light, healthy – and most importantly, quick to make – dish. Perfect for spring time.

It also requires very little cooking so even the most shy of cooks can give this one a go; and it can easily be made gluten free.

I use gluten free brown rice pasta but use whatever pasta you like. The sundried tomatoes I bought came in sunflower oil, so although I did drain them off, I kept a little of the oil so that the dish wasn’t too dry.

Feta and sundried tomato gluten free pasta

I’m all about adapting recipes to your own tastes so feel free to experiment. For example, if you want a vegetarian version, skip the pesto or make your own vegetarian pesto. Please do tell me if you make an adjustment to this dish that works, I’d love to hear about it and try it for myself!

The below serves one.

Ingredients

70g dried brown rice pasta

30g feta cheese, crumbled

3 sundried tomatoes, chopped roughly

Handful of olives, halved

1 tbsp pesto

1 tsp sweetcorn

Method

1. Boil the pasta till al dente (I find about seven minutes does the job for brown rice pasta).

2. Drain the pasta and mix in all the ingredients.

3. Serve and season well.

Et voila!

You could serve this with a lovely side salad for spring or summer evening meals with friends too. I can just picture the scene, sitting in the garden with a bowl of pasta and glass of wine in hand, ahhhhh.

Feta and pesto pasta recipe

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Are we headed for burnout?

So many of us are constantly stressed and tired. We feel like we can never switch off and are ‘working’ from the moment we open our eyes to the moment we close them.

I did one of those Buzzfeed-type quizzes the other day, the kind that you always see on Facebook, which was asking questions about your vice foods to tell you what kind of personality you have. Ok, I know it’s ridiculous and was probably the brainchild of a drunk koala bear but bear with me. I normally fare well in this kind of quizzes. I used to love this sort of thing in teen magazines when I was, well, a teen. What’s your ideal career? Who would be your dream boy band boyfriend? And so on. They normally tell me I’m brilliant just as I am and that’s why I love them.

But this new one? It told me I’m a stressed workaholic. Seriously. All the other results were happy and floaty and ‘oh you’re so creative’ or ‘you’re the kind of generous person that devotes your life to a cause close to your heart’. But me? Anxious, neurotic and pulling my hair out, apparently.

And it’s true, I definitely feel the stress from being busy. I’ve written a lot recently about trying to cut back on social plans, saying no and pushing back on anything that might compromise my health and worsen my migraines. But I noticed that for every one thing I’m removing from my life and each thing I’m saving time on, I’m filling with something else. I’m creating gaps in my diary and then swiftly filling them.

Anxiety about being busy

So I’m busy, I’m (relatively but not worryingly so) stressed and I’m tired. But I keep piling more on my plate.

Combine that with the pressure and competition, almost, of sharing your “I’m busy” badge of approval proudly on your social accounts – we’re all competing to show we’re more busy than each other, right? – and it’s surely a recipe for disaster.

Furthermore, add to that the supposed “furniture of the future” and we’ll soon be hassled and hunted down by technology everywhere we go, even when we retreat to our homes.

That’s right, apparently future household furniture will be fitted with technology and synced up to our devices. No longer will we be able to put our smartphones down on the coffee table for a ten minute break from Twitter, if we can indeed even master the willpower to do that. When we do try to switch our brains off, the coffee table will be ‘talking’ to us, encouraging us to buy that thing sitting in our virtual basket or respond to that 9pm urgent email from our boss. (NB not my boss, she’s great).

I read in a recent issue of Stylist magazine that this really is how the future home will be.

Burnout is inevitable and it’s surely only going to get worse as we welcome technology within the minutiae of every aspect of our lives. Changing your baby’s nappy? There’s an app for that. Putting away your clean washing? No need, your tablet will read your mind and do it for you, mere mortal. Ok so our technology can’t do those things (*yet* as far as I know…) but it doesn’t seem implausible, does it?

I’m even starting to feel like keeping on top of chores is becoming a chore in itself. Any blogger worth their salt now has a Bullet journal which is an all singing, all dancing planner that helps you to schedule and organise every tiny detail of your day, week, month or project. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good notebook and planner (I still have a Filofax which I love) and pretty stationary as much as the next hipster blogeer. And part of me would love to hold and caress a Bullet journal but I also can’t help but think the mere act of deciding how to use it, setting it up and keeping on top of it would cost me time – and stress – rather than save it.

I recently rewatched an old episode of Black Mirror, the dystopian and futuristic TV series created by Charlie Brooker that considers the darker side of technology. If you haven’t seen it, check it out immediately on 4od. The episode I was watching was the White Christmas one. Don’t read ahead if you don’t want a spoiler of sorts…

A high maintenance character is effectively cloned. A tiny digital copy of her consciousness is created and is put in charge of organising her daily schedule and all household chores so the real version of herself doesn’t have to lift a finger. The digital copy is essentially a mini slave, trapped forever in this dystopian universe unable to do anything but serve her master.

My point is, in a way, it feels like that’s where we’re headed! We’re becoming versions of ourselves that are hard taskmasters, bound to work 24/7: sending emails, organising meetings, servicing the car, cooking dinner, doing the dishes, cleaning the house, looking after the children, going to the gym… the list goes on!

We can’t do it all. Something’s got to give. We need to accept defeat or stop taking so much on. And we need to stop being so harsh on ourselves. We need to slow down and we need to learn to say no. And we all need to stop bragging about being busy, it’s not big and it’s not clever! I hope that one day we can brag about how little we have to do and how much spare time we have on our hands.

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