Category Archives: Family history

Made in Italy


Made and photographed at our kitchen table, many years ago

You’d probably agree that it’s a cheerful thing to receive family photos. It’s especially cheerful for me as a knitter when they’re showcasing handknits. What is more, the photo that arrived at lunchtime showcased a handknit Made (by me when I was living) in Italy. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes! But, sure enough, that little, blue angel top is still going strong these many years later. The ribbons didn’t survive all the washing that four children entailed, or perhaps it was a nuisance. But the rest of it is in practically mint condition and still helping to keep a baby warm.


  • Sirdar pattern 3285
  • Yarn: 4-ply Snuggly Baby Yarn (and that is most likely what I bought when I first used the pattern to knit for a friend in New Zealand). For the pictured top, I would have used whatever baby yarn I was able to purchase from the local shop. Plainly, it was a quality one!
  • Needles: The pattern calls for 3.25 mm needles, which I expect I used.

May all your long-ago handknits come back to haunt you so beautifully 🙂


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sometimes you just have to


Dr B was so worried that we’d get a birthday cake he didn’t like. We may have overcompensated 😀

When it comes to birthdays, most of us would be happy with a cake, as long as it wasn’t burnt or too dry. Right? Dr B has been worried for weeks that we’d get him something he doesn’t like. He even announced, in very worried tones, that he’d better order it himself. I told him that was a bad idea, as YoungB and I had already taken care of it… But, until it turned up, I don’t think he was at all convinced.

When you need a little pick-me-up, that’s a tiramisù (generally considered to be a dessert originating in Dr B’s part of Italy; so perhaps he has reason to worry about how good or bad it might be here Down Under, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic).

Never say he isn’t spoilt rotten!


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Notts not Yorks

Individual Yorkshire puddings. Image from BBC Food

Please excuse and forgive, and read this with your best Yorkshire accent: My “bake them in muffin tins” Yorkshire pudding recipe were gived me years ago by a Notts friend.

OK, as you were.

I reckon if it’s good enough for her – they’re right next door to each other, after all, and this appears to be common practice – then there’s absolutely no reason why I can’t do it. So, every now and then, I do. I will point out that, my own Yorkshire ancestry notwithstanding, roast beef wasn’t something we ever had when I was a kid – that was for rich people; and we weren’t – so its accompanying pudding simply wasn’t in my culinary lexicon. We occasionally had dumplings in stew, but they’re quite different.

Dr B’s first wife was from Birmingham, and I’m led to believe that one of her regular meal offerings was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding so he – oddly for an Italian – has a particular fondness for that combination. He expressed a wish for some tonight.

YoungB was in the kitchen again, and the menu was roast lamb (rather than beef) and veggies with (individual) Yorkshire puddings. I had an advisory role with mixing up the pudding batter, as the recipe is in Imperial measures; but my scales have dual markings and he has a good head for conversions. Dr B was in charge of instructions for the gravy, which he said was going to be made “properly” and “traditionally”. Yeah, nah, I wouldn’t reckon so.

In all the years he and I have been together, he has never made “real” gravy. He will always make some tasty approximation, but starting with flour in the pan, browning it over heat and scraping in the bits and pieces and pan juices while slowly adding water or stock as I learnt when I was a girl? That’s really not in his culinary lexicon! Tonight he used cornflour, I note, shaking my head sadly, and adding it to – well, no matter. It was tasty and a good workable and common enough approximation of gravy but clearly I will have to attend to YoungB’s education in that regard at some later date 😀

May you, too, have individually tasty treats with your dinner, whether or not the gravy is traditional.


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YoungB’s toes were once irresistibly tiny, too. Hard to believe how many years ago that was 🙂

About to celebrate YoungB’s birthday, and arranging to have an on-screen call with the rest of the family… these are trying times worldwide. Both YoungB and I are still at work, but unsure as to how much longer that will be the case. Other businesses and government departments have already implemented shutdown and work from home, where feasible. Retailers are reducing their trading hours and shopping centres are no longer crowded and bustling. But we are still out and about, whether or not we should be, and public transport is still being used by too many people.

To brighten the world, there’s another new baby cousin in the family. We’re not going to be able to visit to check out her toes, although I’m sure they’re every bit as tiny and irresistible as her cousin’s. In fact, as irresistible as any baby’s tiny toes, as the above photo illustrates. Yes, it’s blurry. The focal point was not on the toes; they’re a happy inclusion. If you could see those feet now!

I’m still working on the crocheted blankets. As I’ve said, they’re extras – likely to be christening gifts – but I am continuing to work on them. If we do go into shutdown, I might have more time to dedicate to the final rounds of both.

Wherever you are, I hope all is well with you and yours.


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ten tiny toes


Aren’t they just the cutest little tootsies?

We have a new little cousin in the family, and we visited her when she was only a few days old. Who could resist those tiny toes?! Mind you, the rest of her is pretty irresistible, too 🙂


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we made it to 2020


A good way to usher in the New Year: surrounded by greenery and family, while enjoying good food – the Skilly valley

Lately it seems that I reach year’s end wondering how the coming one could possibly be worse than its predecessor, and being optimistic about the new one turning out well. Yeah. You really have to commend my optimism and enthusiasm, but note that they have often been mightily misplaced.

Of course, no year is entirely bad, but one that commences with the sort of workplace upheaval attendant upon the CEO’s sudden and unexpected departure – in effect, his simply never returning from annual leave then being replaced by a far less experienced person – is unlikely to progress well; nor did it. Long before the redundancies were announced, staff were already leaving and others of us, of whom I was one, already seeking alternative employment, with all the attendant stress that that entails.

The amount of mistrust, distrust and general ill-will and ill-feeling you deal with in such a workplace climate rapidly wears you down physically and emotionally. I know I’ve said previously how grateful I was to Youngest Aunt for her unfailing support, and I reiterate it now: I wouldn’t have survived without her.

But I did survive, and I survived the job-hunt merry-go-round. It’s true that my new job is a short-term contract position but also true that it is probably likely to be renewed. Reassuring, but really not reassuring at all until I receive confirmation. I know my work ethic and eye for detail are appreciated by my fellow team-members and the section managers, and that they were partly responsible for my being offered the job in the first place. So I’ll blow my own trumpet and say that I have good, high-level skills and – all things considered – I remain a reasonably fast learner so I know I’m pulling my weight in the team.

The funding areas in which I work have the capacity to generate truly positive outcomes, and it’s rewarding to read some of the final reports that come my way. Otherwise? It’s totally disheartening and demoralising to be associated with a government department whose broad umbrella covers some of the most unfair and draconian social programs ever seen in this country. For this dyed-in-the-wool unionist, let me simply say that there are days I feel like the worst sort of class traitor, simply by virtue of that loose association.

YoungB is still enjoying his job, whose intensity will increase in the next week or so as comparison cases start rolling in. When his contract expires next December, there might be some opportunities in another department. He has so far proved himself to be an asset because of his Italian language skills, pleasant manner and his general ability to communicate clearly to a lay audience, the last of which saw him invited to return for one of next year’s annual fundraising gigs. We have to hope that these other skills will be seen as too valuable to lose. We also laugh that they effectively give the lie to a wry comment from YoungB’s Year 12 home group teacher that he would need more than charm and good looks to get on in the world. Ya think?! 😉

We said final farewells to a few elderly friends this year, but all the OS cousins are still with us, so in that respect 2019 wasn’t such a painful year as the few before it. We are all in reasonable health and there have been no medial dramas elsewhere in the family.

In sum, how was 2019? Pretty much the same as every other year: a mix of good and bad; and losing my job was perhaps the real downlight (if that’s the opposite of highlight). If I had to pick one overwhelming positive feature that helped to counter the negativity, it would be the security provided by all sorts of support and assistance from my family and friends. I anticipate that 2020 will have similar ups and downs, but family and friends will remain a constant. Also, there will be some new babies in the family, which will alter the family landscape again in the loveliest way. Christmas 2020 will be a very different experience.

Very best wishes to all of you for 2020, and may it hold lovely new experiences for you, too 🙂


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Posted by on January 2, 2020 in Family history, Food


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Christmas Down Under


YoungB helped with the decorating this year. I loved how he was able to leansout and casually pop the star in its position 🙂

We had a thoroughly enjoyable, if exhausting, Christmas Day: coffee and panettone for a late, leisurely breakfast; opening presents; a long Christmas lunch to which everyone contributed varying amounts of effort; and then – well, I just collapsed in a heap and YoungB took himself off to the beach! Dr B and Eldest Aunt watched TV. In the evening, we sang, then sat around and took turns to read aloud the first few stories from Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo. All in all, a lovely way to spend time.

However and whatever you celebrate, I hope you’ve been able to spend time meaningful time with loved ones.


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We managed Christmas in the middle of a building site. And I’m still using the same carol books 🙂

Our house has more than a few cobwebs, not only because I’m pretty bad at remembering to get rid of them but also because, thanks to our raked ceilings, they are often in such high places that they’re not terribly obvious. I get the brush out now and then if I happen to remember.

When it comes to brushing away mental cobwebs to learn some new-to-me music, I have to admit that remembering is something my fingers don’t do as well as they once did. Youngest Aunt and a friend are singing a couple of hymns at a wedding in January, and asked if I would accompany them. I’m more than happy to do so.

Youngest Aunt didn’t have printed music for either of the hymns, but they are not particularly difficult. I managed to locate both via online sources. One was simply the words and melody with a chord chart. I don’t claim great expertise in that area, but it wasn’t beyond me to work out, and Dr B – who is, after all, a composer – gave me a couple of helpful tips. All I need to do now is practise to make sure my fingers can deal with the bits we tweaked!

While I was able to find online versions of the second hymn, they were all more complicated than what Youngest Aunt’s sung version suggested. My idea? Ask Middle Aunt, who is a practising – as in, current – church organist if she had access to the music. Enquiries elicited the response that, yes, she did. A PDF arrived via email the next day. Don’t you love technology when it works?

I’m swapping between them, to keep my mind and fingers nimble, but they’re surprisingly similar and I have had a few tired moments where I can’t make the transition from one to the other without also making mistakes. Hence the practising 🙂

With regard to the photo, taken at YoungB’s first Christmas, we really were in the middle of a building site. I might add that, 80 per cent completion of the pergola notwithstanding, the circularity of being unable to do things – because A is clogged and B needs to be cleared but B is packed to the gills with C and until A is empty it won’t change – is still with us, these many years later.

May all your building projects be truly completed when they are finished 😀


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lamenting for thy hand, Belinda


Re-creating an earlier costume and in part replicating the “lying on a funeral pyre” pose

I am not good at fancy-dress gigs. It’s historically verifiable that my Mum was very good at such things, even thrived on them. Occasionally, however, I don’t mind making the effort for a good cause. Themes are helpful but not always appealing. You might remember my long-ago agonising about what I could do that would be suitably jungly for a family birthday party!

This time, the theme was Queen for a Day. Many years ago, I shared the role of Dido in a production of Dido and Aeneas. The costume was not too extravagant, so I thought I could approximate it without too much effort. That’s what I did. I didn’t have any suitable old sheets, so I bought a length of cheap, narrow, cotton fabric. I folded it end to end, cut it, then sewed the selvages together, so that I had a piece of fabric about the right proportion to go around me twice and leave ends that could be tied at one shoulder. I didn’t hem anything, but I painted the edges of the resulting rectangle with a bronze fabric paint.

Tyrian purple being the name of the game for the real identifier, I bought a length of purple velvet (from the reduction table) and did nothing at all to it. When it came time to dress, I simply fastened the velvet to the front of the costume, and wrapped it around. I reckoned that later it would keep me warm (this proved to be a good plan). Although my original costume didn’t involve a crown of any sort, I decided that this costume would. I made a coronet from a metallic gold ribbon decorated with Phoenician-blue dots. Dr B insisted it needed a ruby. Of course, they’re the sorts of things I have lying around the house! I made do with a small stick-on red rosette.


The idea’s the thing. Right?

Because I could – meaning that I still had them in my jewellery box – I wore the earrings that were part of my original Dido costume. The other Dido had slightly different earrings, which she described as hubcaps. Mine weren’t.


More chandeliers than hubcaps, but they’ve survived remarkably well for cheap costume jewellery 🙂

May your long-ago bits and pieces now and then come in useful for theatrical purposes 🙂

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Posted by on November 25, 2019 in Family history, Sewing


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rolling along


Local wine, ideal with our shared seafood platter. Photo copyright Chain of Ponds Winery

So it was Father’s Day last Sunday and we celebrated by taking Dr B to a late lunch at a favourite, nearby eatery. It’s always noisy, but waiting until after the worst of the rush helped keep the volume bearable. We had coffee and cakes elsewhere and were ready for a nap by the time we came home!

That might have been because of the delightful wine that YoungB selected for us. We brought home the unfinished bottle, along with half a pizza. That was dinner organised!

I hope your Father’s Day was an enjoyable occasion 🙂


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Posted by on September 3, 2019 in Family history, Food


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