Latest Entries »


It was late 2004  – no longer autumn, but not quite winter – and the trek through the woodland was like walking through a rainbow (albeit a cold one). Glorious halos of bronze and red crowned proud trees against a backdrop of crystal waters and sharp, blue skies. My world looked like the pages of a story book – illustrated in perfect, rich detail with strong, beautiful colours. I couldn’t have asked for a better setting against which to fall hopelessly in love.

I was living in southern Denmark at the time – it wasn’t where I’d planned to spend my 19th year, but the world (and somehow, miraculously, my dismal grades) had taken me there regardless. It was my second year of an undergraduate degree in Scandinavian Studies and with no further planning than, “I’ll book my flights, pack my suitcase and go,” I now lived an ocean away from my homeland. To me, it was magical – like someone had waved a wand and transported me to a world I’d never seen before.

And in the midst of it all, was a man. I’ll try to do everyone a favour by downplaying just how hard I fell for him – anyone reading this probably knows me (and by proxy, him) and it would just be awkward and weird – but given the chance I could describe that first meeting with paragraph after paragraph of gushing, chick-lit-esque prose (sans ‘member’ – I’m not that kind of girl!*) . Suffice to say that it really was love at first sight. Etched in my mind until the day I die is the way he walked across the school courtyard and glanced back at me over his shoulder as I returned from my walk amongst the trees. Only, I’d been stomping through the woodland to try and forget someone else, to persuade myself that I was now a woman of the world – jet setting to foreign shores and in no way upset at the loss of a partner from gray Aberdeenshire. I tried to tell myself that I didn’t need to meet the attractive blond man I’d just seen, that I needed to touch his golden, curling hair even less… I even tried to set up a meeting for him and a friend of mine in an effort to save myself the inevitable heartache further down the line when I had to return home.

Only it turns out that I couldn’t live without him. Not then, or now.

I lived for a year in Denmark after I finished my degree. It didn’t work out. We moved to Britain and thrived. We’ve been happy here, raising two hilarious children. They have my husband’s glorious, golden looks and my appetite for olives and malted milks (not at the same time). Our daughter is already smarter than I am – a real powerhouse of quick thinking with a heart of gold. Our son adores animals and food, and animals as food. I am confident that as they grow, they will make beautiful additions to humanity.

These two, brilliant and bright souls wouldn’t exist were it not for the EU. I couldn’t have gone to study in Denmark for that year, nor could that beautiful viking man have come home with me, back to my little Atlantic rock peopled entirely with tea addicts and those with a genetic predisposition to discussing perfectly average weather as though it were anything but.

I could tell you all about how that man did not steal a job, but created one. I could tell you how he is self-employed and brings in taxable revenue from outside of the UK – money we would not otherwise see. I could tell you that no Brit will ever be qualified to do his job as translators are required to translate only into their mother tongue, and where – if not in our household and those similarly placed mid-north-sea – will you find a Danish-speaking-Brit? I could tell you how we make a conscientious effort to spend our money locally, how we research where our food comes from in order to support local farmers. I could tell you about how we chose a Nissan, based on the fact that it was produced in the UK. I could demand to know how those of you who fall in love with a Brit have more of a right to live together as a family than those of us whose partners were not born on the same scrap of land. I could ask how my going away to study and bringing my new knowledge back to our little island is a bad thing – because it’s not, by the way, it’s an amazing thing which only benefits us.

But I won’t. What I’d like to ask of you is that while you’re deciding which way to vote tomorrow, to consider things other than immigration. I know… I just wrote a whole screed about how I was an immigrant in Denmark and how my husband is one here… but stay with me.

Despite being part Danish and a bilingual family, ours is pretty much the same as yours. Our babies have two parents who love them very much. None of us get enough sleep, we eat more sugar than we should, can’t function without tea and are more than usually interested in the weather. I can’t say it loudly enough – PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, regardless of where they’re from.

You shouldn’t be voting on whether someone with an accent can live here or not, despite what the major campaigners on both sides are saying. What I’m asking is that you look at what the EU actually does in the UK… like open doors academically which might otherwise have been closed. Like make it possible for those running small businesses to easily bring in taxable revenue from overseas. Like making it possible for those from the UK travelling within the EU to present an EHIC card and receive free medical treatment that might otherwise be charged. Like protecting UK workers from attempts to introduce unfair UK labour laws.

Look at what the papers are telling you over the next 24 hours objectively. If something sounds wrong, check your facts. This website is a mine of information about the times the UK press hasn’t been honest about what’s happening in Brussels.
Obviously I’d urge you to vote ‘remain’ but even if you don’t, I do ask that you vote because of issues outside of immigration. Because EU immigration isn’t an issue. There’s no ‘us vs. them’, there is only us. And please, even if you believe that we are paying more the the EU than we are getting out, remember that some things aren’t quantifiable in terms of money – Sterling, Euro or otherwise. By joining with the other nations on the continent we’re helping to build a bigger world, one which can not be torn down by wars and segregation. The more countries which stand together, the fewer countries there are to fight one another. It is in all of our interests – now and in the future – to pool our wealth, our knowledge and our passions. Because as cliched as it sounds, love must win. And the more we understand about one another – and therefore about ourselves – the more love can prosper.

And the sooner we smudge our borders** then the sooner there won’t be any immigrants, there’ll just be a migrant workforce.


*That’s not a ‘anyone who puts out on the first date is a slut’ comment, just for the record. It’s a ‘I don’t use the word member‘ comment… just so we’re clear.
**Again, let me be clear, I’m all for national identity and customs. But pride in our heritage is not the same as nationalism. Scotland is a convenient and beautiful example – it’s easy to name so many things which are inherently Scottish, but we’re still a functioning part of a larger whole.

A beginner’s guide to meal planning

Feed Yourself For £1 A Day

So you want to spend less at the supermarket? There are four little words you need: Meal plan. Shopping list.

Search through your cupboards and write a list of what you’ve got. And I mean everything – half-eaten jars of peanut butter, that weird looking bit of cheese which has been around forever but hasn’t gone off, those healthy snacks that everyone buys with the best intentions and then never eats… Everything.

Then sit down and figure out what you can do with the food you have. You’ll probably surprise yourself – I can usually manage at least one meal with what I’ve got in, if not more. Things like chickpeas and canned tomatoes are the basis of so many tasty dinners that if you’ve got them and some spices you can usually rustle something up. Next step – which meals have you almost got enough to make? Write down the…

View original post 625 more words

Gender Neutral

Humour me. Just for a second.

There. Didn’t take long, did it.

Now repeat after me: EVERY TOY IS ‘GENDER NEUTRAL’. Every toy is for girls or boys. Even if the damn thing says, “Toys for boys,” it’s a girl’s toy if it’s owned by a girl, regardless of what the text says. My sewing machine says ‘Jones’ on it – that doesn’t mean that only Harrison Ford can operate the damn thing.

The end. Fuck you, Goldie Blox. Fuck you, the-“I’m not buying my girl pink Lego”-camp.

Fuck you all. You’re making it worse! That you can’t just give your girl any old construction toy, that it has to be, “For Girls” makes you part of the problem. That you won’t buy something because it’s pink and that’s apparently stereotyping makes you part of the problem. If your son asked for pink Lego, I’d bet you’d get it for him, because that makes you open-minded and progressive. Well, if you wouldn’t do the same for your daughter, you’re just as fucking sexist as the next prick.

Fuck you.

End rant.


It’s been a long time, but I’ve started writing again.

I’m still not touching any of the great works I’d had planned, but instead I’m trying something completely new. Or rather, incredibly old-hat. I’m writing with Biro on paper.

The last time I did this was in my various classes at school. I’d have my work on my desk, get bored of that and then take out my identical-looking jotter (which I’d thieved from the RE department) and used it to pen stories in. And my goodness, I told some stories! Great pirate airships taking on authoritarian Zeppelins, fairy tale characters in reality TV shows somehow solving crimes*,  epic treks through mountains and valleys all ending with unsuccessful heroes lying forgotten on a moonlit beach…

There’s something about the process of totally narrowing the world around you to a small square of paper and some black squiggles which really focuses my mind. I used to be fine working on the computer, but that was in the days of dial-up and expensive software – when there was so little to distract that a word-processor really was just like using a very good typewriter.

Aside for aiding my concentration, the whole process has really made me aware of the details in what I’m doing, and how such small things as a character’s morning ritual – do they have breakfast as soon as they get up, or do they nurse a cup of tea for hours? – can say a great deal about them.

Some of my favourite examples:

The Bloc Party song, Trojan Horse; “You used to take your watch off, before we made love/you didn’t want to share our time with anyone.” I mean, it’s pretty perfect. It’s succinct, poetic and tells us a crazy amount about the person it’s describing without using a single adjective. Beautiful. Wish I’d thought of it.

Elton John’s Tiny Dancer; “Pretty eyes, pirate smile.” The juxtaposition of pretty and pirate just really does it for me. I think it hints at a darker side to the girl’s personality.

The age difference between Shepard and Garrus; Yeah, Mass Effect was always going to feature somewhere. I freakin’ love this game and I’ve played through most combinations of options now… and to be honest, ‘Shakarian’ never used to by my favourite coupling. I really loved Shepard and Thane to begin with – he had a grown up family whilst no previous significant others were mentioned for Shepard. The difference in where they were with their lives made this a fascinating pairing (to me at least), especially seeing Shepard with Thane’s adult son in the final game. I played through the Garrus romance simply because he’s great and I’m a completionist, but I never really invested in it. Until I read somewhere** that Garrus was younger than Shepard by about four years – which altered the dynamic to the point where I invested heart and soul. And I’ve no idea why that number made such a difference for me, but after learning that, the relationship felt warmed and wholly more satisfying.
Joe Abercrombie’s character ‘Dogman’ in the First Law trilogy; Just before every battle, this guy needs to pee. It is such a tiny detail and it’s only ever mentioned in passing (pun not entirely intended). It just makes him feel human, despite the incredible things happening in the world around him. I actually think that’s the main beauty in Abercrombie’s writing – he’s taken the time to make the people seem whole and plain, and as a result even the incredible seems plausible.

I still haven’t figured out which little details will make my characters special – I guess if I’m doing a good enough job I’ll find out when I come to type up all of those paper scribbles  – but I hope I can come up with at least one sparkling example I can be proud of.

*I’m not making this up – that’s actually one of the best things I’ve ever written. Little Bo Peep makes an epic private eye.

Dear Facebook…

Or more specifically, “Dear everyone posting about Denmark and the Dolphins via that Chinese site“:

Firstly, it’s not Denmark – it’s the Faroe Isles*. It’s the same distinction as Australia and the UK. So… you know, not cool.

Secondly, they’re whales, not dolphins** – not that that makes bludgeoning them any better but get your facts right.

Thirdly, What do you think reposting a poorly translated story is going to do? If you want to make a difference, either go to the Faroe Islands and protest this thing, or – more sensibly – donate to/volunteer with WWF, Peta or a similar charity with some clout. In fact, why not write to various animal charities and ask what they’re doing to prevent this and make your choice accordingly.

I’m so damn sick of this popping up on my news feed (seriously – it’s been up there at least 4 times in the last 2 hours) that I can’t keep my mouth shut anymore.

THINK. Don’t post.

* “under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark”.
**Long-finned Pilot Whales to be exact

If you’d like to learn about this phenomenon and pledge your support in a way that actually matters, you can read about the hunting here:  and then visit Peta here:

FYI – this is not me endorsing Peta. I don’t see eye-to-eye with them on lots of points, but since it’s the first charity actively engaged in this campaign that google threw at me, I’ve included the link anyway.

This one is all about picking your wool well, much like the shawl I made last year.

Personally, I like chunky things like Sirdar Big Softie, but this formula will work for any wool. A word to the wise though – pick something washable and tactile.

Basically, knit 10 stitches of stocking stitch for about an inch. Measure how wide the swatch is in cms. Measure your head and divide the head measurement by that of the swatch. That’s how many x10 stitches you’ll need (so by example, if my head was 54cm and my swatch was 4cm wide, I would get a number of 13.5 – 135 stitches). Then, you make the number of stitches divisible by 6. I usually go for a lower number than the original (so in the example, I would pick 132 to cast on). 

Then, you knit about an inch in rib stitch (if you want a rolled brim, just begin in stocking stitch). Continue in stocking stitch until you have a length of knitting from your eyebrow to your crown.

Begin to decrease on a knit side – (knit 4 k2tog) all the way along the row. P the next row. (Knit 3 k2tog) . P the next row. (Knit 2 2tog) until end. P next row. k1 k2tog to end. P next row. K2tog all the way along and pass thread through remaining stitches to finish. Sew up the seam by grafting.

To this you can add long strips of knitting to make rabbit ears, short triangles for  cats, crochet some flowers and stitch them on, add some buttons, line it with fleece or extra squish… the possibilities are endless. Personally, I prefer a good fat wool and some needles to match, but whatever floats your boat, really.

Wondering  where I’ve been?

Well, my house is up for sale, for a start. We’re moving to Scotland in an effort to be closer to family and to live the proverbial Good Life. So aside from tidying like a mad-woman, I’ve been crafting my little socks off, making exciting things like these crocheted butterflies which will become bunting…


and which I’ve traded for a Christmas gift. I’ve also been busy making hats, baby sweaters, cowls, mittens… you name it, I’m knitting it.

Because that’s a wonderful thing about social media. I’m always quick to bad-mouth facebook and the like, but it can be a wonderful way to connect with like-minded people. And with all manner of craft-swap groups out there, it’s easy to find people  willing to trade the amazing things they make for the amazing things you make.

And if you’re not crafty, there are  still some great ways to acquire gifts without parting with money.

Freecycle seems like a really stingy way to go, but if you have young children, then they’re not going to care whether a toy kitchen is pre-loved or not. They’re just going to be thrilled that they’ve got a toy kitchen.  In a similar vein, you can always arrange swap parties with friends. Everyone brings unwanted toys/clothes etc. and puts them in a pile and then you leave with things you think your child will enjoy more. The group of women I’ve been doing this with have made a childrens clothes library from what’s left at the end. Bundled into age, the clothes are ready for whichever member sprogs next to use free of charge. If you don’t have the space to create such a thing, you could always donate any surplus to a local women’s refuge or charity shop.

Finally, you could try your hand at earning money through online surveys. Valued Opinions has always paid off for me, and I’m really getting into Global Test Market. Also, if you’re with Vodafone’s PayG plans, you can collect your FreeBee points and spend them on shopping vouchers. There’re both Sainsbury’s and Amazon available so you could even put them towards your family feast, or give the Amazon ones as a gift in itself.

And now, for some shameless pictures of some of the things I’ve been making. Remember… I’m open to swaps.





What if I were to tell you that you could give a lovely gift of homemade vinegar by doing doing little more than slurping half a bottle of wine. You’d call my a filthy rotten liar, no doubt, and give be the flogging I deserve.

Except I wouldn’t be lying.

Go and drink have a bottle of wine. Go on. Right now. I won’t tell. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the remaining half bottle, pop the cork back in and leave it alone until Christmas*. Stick it in a fancy bottle, wrap some ribbon or something around the neck and bask in the impressed ‘ooo’s and ‘aaa’s of your recipient.

Then go drink another half bottle and  make some for yourself.

*In all seriousness, the process takes around three months, so get quaffing now for the holiday season.

Braced for impact.

And so here I am – stood on the precipice of making myself vastly unpopular. Here goes anyway…

I am absolutely, totally and utterly against the banning of porn.

As in, I am livid  that such a thing is being proposed. To avoid my inevitably terrible paraphrasing, here is the point that Husband made on the issue, pasted from his facebook wall:

What really bothers me about this debacle is that the discussion is now centered around feasibility and enforcement, when the very premise is dubious at best. 

So Cameron believes “online pornography is corroding childhood”. This could only ever apply if they are allowed access to it, and censorship is not a solution for bad/lazy parenting. Many ISPs already offer an opt-in option for filtering such content, and there are plenty of other FREE filtering solutions out there for the ones who can be bothered to look for them. This move seems to be aimed at those who can’t be bothered – and as such, it only serves to perpetuate the problem.

I for one don’t want, expect or trust the Government to parent my child(ren). That is my responsibility, and if I need help, I will ask for it – I will, however, not ask someone else to do it for me. But as usual, you can always count on Cameron to deflect attention away from the real issues and try to spin a “vote winner” at the same time…

I feel that hiding the truth from children is far more damaging than acknowledging the fact that the world isn’t perfect. A better idea – in my opinion – would be to try and prepare them for it as best we can. I would like to see open discussion about porn – highlighting the differences between loving, respectful sex and what is portrayed in the sex industry. A better use of the money this ridiculous venture will cost would be to educate teachers and parents on how to deal with such conversations as they arise. Let’s give our children some credit – explain to them that porn is out there but that it isn’t real life. Explain that certain things are and aren’t appropriate and that situations with which they’re uncomfortable need to be talked about. Hiding porn away creates shame, and shame leads to secrets  – why, when charities like the NSPCC are advocating open discussion – is the government looking at adding more layers of  secrets and shame to something which should be talked about.

And people are talking about it – or the ban at least. As far back as September 2012, the Daily Mail called a petition to instigate an opt-in  on porn, a “crusade to protect children”.

Only… what’s that down the right hand side of the article? Half naked ladies! If newspapers were actually worried about porn and erotica being a danger to children then page  3 would be a thing of the past and pictures like the one in question wouldn’t be present. The hypocrisy of the thing is blinding. Yes, some porn is degrading to women, but so is the idea that we’re only worth the brand of clothes we can  afford.  Since sexualised advertising, hideous ‘articles’ and idiotic stereotypes  are everywhere – rather than confined to a computer screen – I would rather they were tackled first.


Because that’s the thing – I can’t possibly know what my child is looking at when she’s out and about, but I can tell what she’s looking at when she’s at home. I can keep the computer she uses in family space and open discussions with her about what she finds online. I would never – with a filter up or not – think to let a child, or young teenager take an internet capable device into their bedroom where I can’t see what they’re doing. That goes for phones and games consoles as well. In the end, I think this ban is creating complacency. “The government has stopped porn being available on my computer so I don’t need to look at what my child is doing.” The type of filters being used look to be easy to circumvent – The Pirate Bay on  BT connections, anyone? – and there’s no reason that tech-savvy children won’t be able to do that with this proposed ban.

There are a myriad of other issues involved here too – if the government can ban porn (presumably because people are too embaressed to stand up and say, “Oi! No! I was watching that!”) then what comes next? Do they ban sites which talk about the porn block in an uncomplimentary fashion? Then any site which talks about the government in a less than favourable light? It sounds extreme, but it’s something to consider. Then, there are the somewhat fuzzy lines between what is art/acceptable nudity and what is porn/erotica. Will images of Greek statues be banned? Or breastfeeding mothers (see recent ‘nurse in’ against facebook)? But those are topics for another day. This particular rant was simply to discuss the flawed logic in introducing such measures to ‘protect’ our children. And when the whole reason for bringing in this ridiculous law is so tenuous, shouldn’t we be diverting our attention to something that matters…? — A petition against the block. —  A Daily Fail article about a petition calling for the block in the first place. — Excellent post which deals more with the technical side of things. — discussions about the topic on a  popular parenting forum. Be warned – some answers will make you want to slap people across the face with a wet kipper, regardless of which side of the fence you’re sat on. One of the  really thought-provoking arguments is from Julie P (791) – “I have 2 teenage boys, 1 of whom is very tech savvy – in many ways, more so than me and his dad. I do not have and never intend to have, any filtering software, because I know how flawed it is and how easy it is to circumvent. However, what I do do, is talk to my children about the stuff that is on the internet, and we discuss the issues around it. We have talked about porn and the risks associated with it. I have always found that to be a far more effective method of handling the whole issue.

I have no problem with the opt in system. The problem is clear, that most people haven’t got the faintest idea what it is, and I am sorry, but this post is a perfect example of the lack of understanding.” (The post she was referring to: “I have 3 young daughters and to be honest I don’t want them seeing that on the internet. Its all over rated. Everything is sex this sex that. Its a load of rubbish.”)

I also urge you to watch: The Simpsons Marge vs.  Itchy and Scratchy and Adventure Time’s Business Time – the first deals with how one form of censorship can lead to another, whilst the second involves protecting the populous by imprisoning them… go figure. — finally, this being the case, if the government actually follow through on this proposal then their effort at increasing connection speeds across the country will have been for nothing ;).

More tiny trousers.


My leggings ripped today in the most epic of fashions – right across the bum. Oh yeah. That gaping hole there was big enough so that the world and his daft aunt Tiffany could see my Sesame Street pants.

In any case, being half way through reading Lucy Siegel’s book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World, I couldn’t quite bring myself to chuck them out. But, as the old saying goes, what can you do?

Well, you can turn them into soft baby jeans by cutting one line and sewing two. Using the same principals I covered when I turned hoodie sleeves into jogging bottoms, these took about ten minutes to make and you could customise* them in all kinds of cute ways – odd buttons, sequins, embroidery, iron on patches… whatever, really.

Anyways, all you need to do is cut around the crotch of a stiff pair of trousers which fit your child. I tried cutting around leggings and tights in the past, pulling the elastic to the max, but always ended up with skewed sizing. Denim all the way here, from now on.  To get the length right, line up the bottom of the ‘model’ trousers with the bottom of the leggings.


Once you’ve done that, you end up with two very short legs.


Assemble these as per this post.

And voila:


A tea-party in jeans.

Does anyone have any more good ideas for making toddler clothes from adult items? Anyone got any awesome upcycling tips for the coming cull of my wardrobe?


*Not sure the spelling of ‘customise’ here looks right, but ‘customize’ with a z looks wrong too. I’ve decided to go UK style-e and stick with the s… those in the know, please forgive me if it’s incorrect. 😉