Monday, February 28, 2011

Miles of Tiles

Gingerbread Mammy phoned me on Sunday to give me a run-down on all the action in our town. This is often like the Births, Deaths and Marriages section of a major newspaper, except that there is often an indepth genealogical footnote to each entry ("Lisa Kenny had a baby by C-Section. That's Lisa Kenny from the Dry Cleaners, her mammy worked in the Winkle's newsagency at the weekend - remember the blondie-haired woman with the funny eye who used to sell the Cadbury's Creme Eggs after Easter Sunday mass? Her grandda had the greyhounds and we used to see him walking them down by the railway every morning on the way to school?" etc.
I have no idea who any of these people are.)
She also keeps me up to date on my father's antics - he has a new laptop. He had another laptop that was (helpless pause), well, it was pretty good and then there was a new laptop on the market that could (helpless pause) - do other things that the first one couldn't so they exchanged it for this new one which can do (helpless pause) other things. She thinks.
"But it's an Apple," she adds. "By the way, you haven't posted on your blog recently, missy."
"I know," I say. "But I've loads of photos of the blankets I've been working on, so I'm going to put them up later on."
Miffed pause.
"Ah, we're not very interested in crochet," she says. "We prefer the other kind of posts."
I suspect my parents are primarily interested in posts in which they play the starring role. And with this introduction, I hope I have kept them happy for tonight.

Now, on to the crochet.
This is what I'm up to now:

The pattern for this afghan - provisionally entitled the Tiles Afghan (because they look like ... well, tiles) - is being tested by half-a-dozen dynamic crocheters that I have locked up in a top-secret facility, guarded by FBI agents and a pack of vicious dogs. While they are checking the pattern for incidences of my (in)famous numerical fuzziness, I've been trying the pattern out in different ways. This is a baby blanket in cream and denim blue, which I call the Dutch Tiles Afghan - because the pattern looks like Delft tiles.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mrs Gingerbread vs The Customs Office (1:0)

RAoK stands for Random Act of Kindness - and it is, as the name suggests, simply a nice deed that you do for a random stranger, with no other intention or purpose other than to squirt some goodness into the universe. This week I was the recipient of a RAoK from Shelley in California. She sent me Big American Yarn in gorgeous colours, as well as crochet hooks and Kool Aid, jelly beans ... and, best of all, a lovely letter. That's right - a real letter, a handwritten letter, a funny and interesting letter that we read in the car and then re-read at home. It was like Christmas Day again  (but better because my Christmas Day this year mainly revolved around disinfecting the toilet after my stomach-flued husband had had his evil way with it.) It was such a lovely and kind gesture, I was really touched - I just can't tell you how it brightened my day ... my whole week, in fact.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Gingerbread and I set off to Battle With The German Customs Office because my parcel had been - shock, horror! - impounded. The cheek! This meant we had to drive out to an industrial estate where the customs office (an eerily quiet building full of people sitting at desks behind glass windows, staring at their hands or computer screens) is located. Many German bureaucrats have the amazing ability to make you feel guilty without you having done anything wrong. It's a marvellous piece of psychological manipulation, especially for obsessively law-abiding citizens like myself. I'm slowly beginning to suspect that this skill is part of their training course - they might even have final exams in Glaring 101, How to Narrow Your Eyes Evilly and Snorting in Disbelief: Masterclass. ("Once again, Heinz, but with feeling! I want to to inject even more incredulity into that snort! Sneer, if you can! That's right! Excellent!") Whereas in other countries you are assumed innocent till proven guilty, some German bureaucrats like to simply presume you're guilty and they have you do the work of proving your innocence.

When I went entered the parcel office, the three officials were slouched at their desk, glued to their computer screens. I handed over the notification and one of them s-l-o-w-l-y went off to get the box. He dumped it on the counter and handed me a scissors.
"Please open it!" he barked.
So I did. I unpacked the Kool Aid ("Look, Kool Aid!" I said to him. Not impressed) and the crochet hooks ("Wow, crochet hooks!" Still no flicker.) And the jelly beans. ("Oooh, jelly beans! Would you like one?" Narrowed eyes.) And the yarn - then his beady little bureaucratic eyes lit up. He picked one up and gave it a squeeze to make sure there was nothing inside.
"Is there any medication in the box?" he said hopefully. "Foodstuffs? Meat? Dairy products?"
I tipped it over so he could look inside. Nothing.
But he wasn't finished yet: we had a little argy-bargy about the price of the yarn, but he finally accepted that the German government was not going to turn a profit in 2011 on the basis of the customs fees on my meagre and inadvertent yarn-smuggling activity. Clearly disappointed that his day had not been livened up by the discovery of a kilo of cocaine hidden in Red Heart Super Saver, I was allowed to take my present home.

Where I unpacked it on the coffee table, took a quick photo in the last ten minutes of bright light, then left my goodies there so I could admire my present all evening. Look at my pyramid of yarn: isn't it just lovely? I can't wait to rip the labels off (carefully) and get started on something really cool.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Am Colour Starved

I like this pattern, I really do. It lets me do all kinds of weird and wonderful things with colours. This is the tester-blanket for a pattern I'll write up as soon as possible. I started off in another colour subset, but I need a model blanket for the pattern picture. So I decided to use ALL my colours (and we all know that I don't shy away from colour. Nom, nom.) I have enough blankets to cover almost every shabby chair and sofa in the Gingerbread House (= no mean feat, let me tell you) so this one is going to be a present ... maybe for my youngest niece, a toddler who seems to enjoy dancing around in little more than her mother's half-finished crochet blankets.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gnomic Advice


Okay, it has nothing to do with real gnomes but I do love a pun.

Good morning, folks! It's time for a dose of Stuff-You-Already-Know-But-Here-It-Is-Again. Today's topic is relationship advice. I like to think that in a parallel universe I am writing self-help books based on my paltry 2-year marital success or, indeed, hosting an afternoon talkshow in which I state the obvious but disguise it as a profound psychological insight, but in this world I get to torture you instead.
Cackle, cackle. (See my previous post. I'm practising for my twilight years.)
Category: Relationships
Subcategory: Housework
Gem of Wisdom: If it bothers you, it's your problem
1st Amendment:  If it bothers you, it's your chore

Wow. Knocked your socks off, didn't I? Well, like many people in the throes of a relationship - to man, woman or beast: this advice applies to all - you might have a somewhat different approach to cleaning than your other half or halves (thirds? quarters?). Cleanliness might be next to godliness for you, but it might be next to, say, the cornflakes for your partner. In our case, neither of us is enamoured of housework and very often cleaning the Gingerbread House becomes a very dusty game of collision-course 'chicken': who can hold out the longest? I don't think I need to tell you that my husband has beaten me at Let's Ignore The Dreck about 5980 times since we moved into our home. Up until now I've been annoyed by it: why doesn't he vacuum the floor when the dust has taken on tumbleweed proportions? Why doesn't he scrub the bathtub when the white enamel turns grey ? Why am I the only person who knows where the rubbish sacks are kept or why we have a bottle of Cif under the sink? I mean, he'll good-naturedly (and thoroughly) clean anything I ask him to. But I have to ask him to and I kept expecting that to change.

But today I gave up. That's it: I gave up.

Let's go back in time a bit:
When we moved into our house, we had no cooker. So we bought one and then went looking for a nice gas hob for our new/second-hand kitchen. We stood in the display kitchen at IKEA and admired various cookers on display. I wanted a simple, 4-plate hob with an easy-clean surface. Mr G. wanted a five-plate megacool gas hob with a wok plate in the middle. ("Wok! Phwoarh!") He stood at the display unit and played with the pieces, his hairy face alight with joy. Disturbingly, he was making a lot of whooshing noises, like something going up in flames ("Brrrrooooooosssshhhhh!") as he twiddled the knobs.
"Let's get this one," he said decisively.
"No," I said, "Let's not. Look at all of those bits - they all have to be taken apart and cleaned. It's massive, it'll be a pain in the bum to scrub that every week."
"Pssshaw!" he said, "Tusssshhh!" and all kinds of other don't-be-silly noises. "I'll clean it! I don't mind!"
And he did.
Once. A few days after we bought it.
Since then, I've been the only person who minds that the shiny stainless-steel surface is covered in a sticky goo of over-boiled pasta paste or dried-in coconut milk. I mind so I clean it. It bothers me so it becomes my chore.

Now, I knew this going into this relationship almost a decade ago. I did, I swear. But I didn't want to accept it. Today, as I stood at the cooker with my sexy yellow rubber gloves on and the citrus smell of oven cleaner wafting about my person, Mr G. strode by, on his way to plaster a wall on the ground floor of the house.
"Cleaning the cooker, eh?" he said jovially.
"Indeed I am," I answered, scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing rock-hard spinach off the steel. The hob had acquired a patina of dried-in food that you couldn't help but see.
"I didn't even realise it was dirty," he said airily and picked up his plaster bucket.
So I give up. I accept it, I finally accept it: when it comes to housework, I'll just do it myself it if it bothers me. Or ask him to do it if having to do it myself bothers me. But there is NO POINT getting annoyed because he hasn't done it without me pointing it out.
The End

P.S. Mr Gingerbread voluntarily plastered walls today. This piece of advice does not seem to apply to DIY. But that's the subject of another post.

Friday, February 18, 2011


You might have gathered that I'm slightly ... odd. No, that's not true: I'm probably very normal but I like odd. And odd likes me. I am what my mother terms a "nut magnet" (not least because it takes a nutty person to know a nutty person. And she would know. If I am nuts, it's not off the ground that I licked it.) The following will illustrate this. I am not exaggerating, just recording for posterity the type of person that like to shoot the breeze with your very own Gingerbread Lady.

I was in my favourite shop today, the 99c Store. It's a wonderland of oddness, so I normally feel very at home there, browsing through the piles of all-in-one onion choppers, wooden hearts left over from Valentine's Day and battery-operated staplers. Today I espied a stack of nifty clear plastic boxes, not unlike the one in the photo above, but this box was see-through. As I was examining them and wondering what you could store in them (yarn? Yarn! No, too small. Oh, well.) I heard a voice at my shoulder: "Excuse me, what are they?"
I turned to see an elderly man - no, I turned to see an old man beside me. He was almost doubled over with a hunchback, and he had a shopping basket full of knickknacks in his gnarled hand. He must have been in his mid-eighties. At least. Being a Friend of the Elderly, I showed him the box and demonstrated how you could open and close the lid.
"Handy, isn't it?" I said.
"It is," he replied. "Could you give me three of them, young lady?"
So I took three down off the shelf and placed them carefully in his basket. And went on with my shopping.

Ten minutes later we both ended up at the cash desk. I studied the trinkets on display while he placed the items in his basket on the desk.
"These boxes are wonderful," said the lady at the cash desk in a conversational tone. "They're very practical."
The old man peeped up at her. "They are," he said, "They're perfect for my collection of chopped-off fingers!"
Yes. Read that again.
The lady's jaw dropped open. The old man cackled - yes, cackled - and she looked at me desperately. I bit my lip and shrugged.
"They're the perfect size to store fingers in," he continued, "And you can see them because the boxes are transparent. Cackle, cackle."
The lady at the cash desk looked at me, bewildered. And visibly gulped.
"I'm only joking," said the old man.
And then he turned to peep up at me mischievously.
"Or am I? Cackle, cackle."
At this point the lady was clearly unnerved. She packed his stuff into a plastic bag and pushed it across the desk to him, making sure their fingers did not touch. He slowly wrapped his hands around the handles and shuffled off. Grinning.

"I hope he was joking," she whispered to me (it was taking him ages to make his way to the door of the shop: shuffle, shuffle, stop. Shuffle, shuffle, stop.) "Should I call the police?"
Given that our would-be digit-collector could barely get his own fingers around the door handle much less around a knife or similar chopping implement, and given the decidedly naughty twinkle in his eyes, I reassured her that he probably was joking.
"Nuts," she said, tapping the side of her head. "Every now and again we get a complete nutcase in here!"
Readers, I couldn't help but feel that it was somehow my fault. They flock to me. But at the same time part of me was hoping that I'm feisty enough to scare the bejabbers out of salesladies for the laugh when I'm an octogenarian crippled with arthritis.
Cackle, cackle.

Phew! OWOH - done!

 And the winner is ...
Cobblestone Creations! Hurray!

The One World, One Heart giveaway has just come to an end and I've finished my door-prize just in time. In order to give the winner a choice, I decided to make two blankets in two different colourways -

The lollipop blanket on the right quickly got out of hand. Before I knew it, the colours were running riot. It's bright - yes, it is - and a little bit rambunctious. I really don't know what happened there. Have you ever had the feeling that your project has had the upper hand on you?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Conversational Gambits

"... and we have to teach them conversational gambits!" my boss said enthusiastically.
And I tuned in again.
I was in the middle of a long conference about changes to the oral exams at our school. Students learning English have to hold a twenty-minute conversation about various topics, and we were discussing the various skills that they had to learn and practise - among others, conversational gambits.

Gambits. Gambits. While the rest of my colleagues nodded enthusiastically and made notes, I rolled the word around in my mouth: conversational gambits. I love words. I especially love words that are used so infrequently that hearing them again is like discovering a forgotten €10 in your jeans pocket. Gambit: delicious!

If that weren't weird enough, sometimes I re-assign words to people I think they describe. Thus, one of my husband's friends is called Gambit in my head. Gambit is one of his best friends: a tall, loud, blond guy who is both incredibly endearing and dreadfully irritating at the same time. One of his most annoying habits is ... well, his conversational gambits. À propos nothing, he throws a mystifying and cryptic segue into a running conversation, effectively killing communication, as we all momentarily stop to gape at him - and that's his cue to hijack the discussion with a long monologue about a subject of his choice. For example:

Me:  ... and that's why it'll be interesting to see how things pan out in Egypt, don't you think?
Friend #1:  Yes. Although I must admit that I didn't realise that things were so politically instabile in the country. That did surprise me.
Friend #2:   You're right. I mean, Kate and Tim were in Egypt on holiday in December and they said -
Gambit: I bet Steve Jobs didn't think realise that turning up the brightness on the iPad would reconnect to the network!
(Astonished silence.)
Friend #1:  Sorry, Gambit? Steve Jobs? iPads?
Gambit: Interesting that you should mention iPads, Friend # 1, - I just happened to buy one yesterday! Look, look at this - see, you can open this file ...
Friend #2 (weakly): ... and Tim said that the Egyptian government ...
(Friend #2 shuts up.)

Mr Gingerbread has the patience of a saint, I swear, and good-naturedly plays along when Gambit throws one of his conversation killers into the mix. I, on the other hand, drive poor Gambit nuts. My tactic is to note his contribution and swiftly steer the conversation back to the topic we're all discussing. After nearly a decade, I'm very, very good at it:

Friend #2:   You're right. I mean, Kate and Tim were in Egypt on holiday in December and they said ...
Gambit: I bet Steve Jobs didn't think realise that turning up the brightness on the iPad would reconnect to the network!
Me: That must have surprised Steve, I'm sure. Anyway, I'm sure it'll have a devastating effect on the tourist industry. No doubt a lot of sectors are already feeling the effects of the unrest.
Gambit: See, some people say that there's a glitch in the iPad and adjusting the brightness reconnects the internet.
Me: Apparently all of Eygpt was without internet access for a couple of days. I wonder why? 
Gambit: I wonder if you can buy iPads in Cairo?
Me: As far as I can tell, many of the city's shops have been forced to close till things settle down. What did Tim and Kate say about their holiday in Egypt, Friend #2?

And so on.
It's cruel, yes it is, but the alternative is to be locked into a one-man conversation about a toy of his choice or a topic only he knows anything about. The rest of the conversationalists hang around hopefully, waiting for him to take a breath, so we can jump back in and get the discussion back on track. Our little Battle of the Segues adds an extra frisson of excitement to conversations: who's going to win, me or Gambit? What are we going to talk about, the latest Christopher Nolan film or Gambit's new hard-disk drive? Will we all discuss our weekend plans or listen to a lecture about Windows 7? And I do it sweetly and gently, kind of a cross between a conversational ninja and a chitchat geisha: Release date for the iPhone 5? Pow! The future of USB cables? Bang! How to progress to level 93 in an obscure mass multi-player online game that involves wizards, potions and magic boots? Ka-pow!

I am the queen of conversational gambits!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

Ugh, Valentine's Day. Apparently he's the patron saint of lovers, but I'm beginning to suspect that he's the patron saint of florists, chocolatiers and card companies. When I first moved to Germany in the middle of the 1990s, both St. Valentine's Day and Hallowe'en were practically unknown and viewed with suspicion as nasty, Anglo-Saxon, madey-uppy kinds of holidays that had no place in the German tradition. And to a certain extent they were right. Germans got along perfectly well without either of them - German children managed to survive childhood without the opportunity to trick or treat, and I'm more than certain that the vast majority of people who are made to feel inadequate about their singledom in the midst of this heart-and-candy cornucopia would manage quite nicely without it, too. But in the past decade, both holidays have become increasingly common and particularly the latter has been snapped up with gusto by chocolate / card / flower / trashy knick-knack companies that see an opportunity to make a few bucks.

Nonetheless - and this is the inherent evil of Valentine's Day - one wakes up hopefully on the morning of this Unholyday and checks for chocolates ... just in case. And, inevitably, my snooping for pralines (which, I must confess, would put a truffle pig to shame) ends in vain. Why does this surprise me? I don't know - but it does. Every year. Valentine's Day has that effect on people: there's a chance that chocolate might be involved and it's impossible not to get your hopes up. But, really, I should know better: Mr Gingerbread used to get very het-up about St. Valentine's Day: he used it as an excuse to launch into a rant with all kinds of -isms. Its basis is in commercialism! cultural imperialism! globalisation! (not strictly an -ism, but it's a main thread of his rant.) And, essentially, he is protesting against all of these evils by ... wait for it! You're going to be surprised by the extent of his political activism! ... by ... yes, wait for it ... doing nothing! There - that surprised you, didn't it?

Nowadays, he's mellowed. I still didn't get chocolates today but, thankfully, I was also spared the rant. When I pointed out that today was Valentine's Day, he puckered his lips, plunger-style, and leaned in for a smacker. The extent of our romantic interplay was me beating him off as he dived on me with big, moist, fishy lips for a "Valentine's Day kiss" (never have three words sounded so ominous. Shudder.) But true love is not dead in the Gingerbread Household: I made him a cup of tea and gave him three of the remaining five chocolate chip cookies (and if you knew us, you would understand why this is a big deal) and he let me sleep for ten minutes longer this morning (again, see comment in parenthesis above). In Gingerbread terms, these are tokens of unbridled passion, so I really shouldn't fuss.

Now I'm off to check the cupboard with cereals and dry goods. Maybe he hid my chocolates in there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back to Normal

The day after I posted about the One World, One Heart giveaway, I woke up and put water on for a cup of coffee. While I was waiting for the water to boil, I just checked my blog ... and almost keeled over when I saw that overnight I'd had fifty comments. Good grief, I thought. I'd expected a couple of dozen, but the present count is well over a hundred. The thing is, I promised to visit other people's blogs in return - and I have. And it's been fascinating, very much like having a poke around someone's living room and looking at all their precious things. I've commented on some, not on others because although everyone's work is really lovely, I know that my twisted luck would decree that I win something that I have no use for ... and I'd prefer objects to end up with the people who will appreciate them most.

In any case, after a couple of sessions of intense blog-hopping, I've had to return to my crocheting or, quite frankly, I'll get nothing done. This is one thing I'm working on... the colours aren't right, but the pattern is. It's simple, it works. And in the right colours, it will make a very nice afghan.

Mr Gingerbread has been watching me make these and is quite fascinated by the process. Truth be told, so am I, because it says a lot about the way the brain works and how we translate mental images into something physical. This is not a complex pattern, but intricate things like doilies are: I mean, imagine translating a mental image of a lace doily into an actual piece of work ... and then (gulp) writing the pattern down. Although not a doily fan, I take my hat off to the clever women (and occasional man) who design them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One World, One Heart - Giveaway

Lisa from A Whimsical Bohemian takes on a gargantuan task every year - this year for the fifth year in a row. She organises the One World, One Heart campaign, which is basically a compilation of participants that want to invite people over to their blog for a little look around ... and offer them the chance to win a "door prize" if they leave a message. Emily at The Nest did it last year and she's got a cute but cheeky-faced little doll as her door prize this year, so I thought I'd join in.

Because spring is coming and pregnant women are everyone (before you ask: I'm not. No baby cookies in the Gingerbread family), I decided to make a Kitties-in-a-Row baby blanket. Like this:

So if you know someone who'll be experiencing the Mirkel of Birt sometime soon, this might be a nice little pressie for her (and him, indirectly.) But I'm going to make this one ... in a mystery colour combination. What do you think? How about ...

Girly pinks
Lollipop colours


This blanket will measure approximated 65 x 80 cm and it will be made of baby-friendly, fling-in-the-washing-machine acrylic (those of you traumatised by tales of scratchy American acrylic can rest assured that this German stuff is very nice and soft). Ours is a smoke and pet-free home and my hands are always sparkly clean. February 17th is the closing date and you will be informed within 3 days of this date if you have won.

So if you are new to this blog, do have a little poke around. I'm The Gingerbread Lady, by the way, and I'm an Irishwoman living in Germany with my German husband. I educate The Youth of Bavaria to varying levels of success. When not pounding my protegées with the vagaries of English grammar, I do all kinds of crafty stuff - mostly involving yarn - and blog on a regular basis about my nearest and dearest, who are now afraid to tell me anything for fear it will end up in cyberspace - bwoahahahhaaa! (= evil laugh)

So do leave a comment and feel free to make your favourite colour combination known :-) Just remember to be contactable through your own blog (which I will visit. Yesirree. I'll swing by to have a look atcha) so I can contact you if you win. Hurray!

P.s. Oh my goodness. I've just spent an evening reading - literally - 34 different blogs (yes, I'm coming to see you if you leave a comment - and I have so many more to see ) and my mind is boggling at the collective creativity. But how am I going to get my crocheting done???

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kanadian Kool Aid

Kind Cori from Edmonton sent me some blue and green Kool Aid yesterday. I was sitting at the table when it arrived, planning my housework.
Perhaps I exaggerate: I was drinking a cup of tea, looking around at the state of the place and thinking, "Look at the state of this place!" In other words, I was in the Critical Housework Planning Phase. But I couldn't just ignore such a thoughtful gift, now, could I? No, I couldn't, so I did a little dyeing instead.

The red is a bit of a mistake. I had about 100g wool and I didn't want to spread the colours too thin because I wanted to keep the green and blue as vivid as possible. As a result, I added red and ended up with a kind of lollipop-coloured yarn, the kind of lollipops your parents forbade you to eat because the artificial colours put you on a sugar high. Brilliant!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Missing In Action

Maybe it's the time of year. Perhaps it has to do with something meteorological - air pressure or a warm wind from the Alps. It could be age, old age setting in. Or I'm quite possibly just losing my mind.

Let me explain: I'm quite stressed at the minute. I have a lot of exams to correct. My mind is full of small, fiddly details like the names of students I have to talk to or get grades from, or colleagues I have to ask about something, or things I have to get or do at home. Dozens of things - dozens and dozens of random bits of information. As a result, I'm increasingly finding myself somewhere without a clue what I'm doing there. For example, in front of an open fridge, staring at a packet of butter and an unopened bag of tortellini.
"Why am I looking in the fridge?" I wonder. "Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? No?"
And I close the fridge again and return to my work-room. Only to remember about half an hour later that I had wanted to take a frozen chicken out of the fridge to defrost. Minutes later, I'm in front of the fridge again with a bottle of Coke in my hand, wondering why I came downstairs to get a soda when I don't even like the stuff.

The next day we have toast for dinner.

Recently, I found myself in the photocopy room at work, blankly staring at a colleague.
"I came in here for something," she said. "I wonder what?"
"I'm having the same problem," I said.
We stared helplessly at one another till the gentle whirring of the machines reminded us - we'd come to photocopy. That's why we were standing in the photocopier room with sheets of paper in our hands.
"Sometimes I think I'm losing it," said my colleague. She looked at me blankly again. "How many copies am I making, I wonder?"
I couldn't help her. I was too busy staring at the photocopier console wondering what day it was.

Worst of all is the fact that my husband is not much better. I can't rely on his razor-sharp mind to keep me on track because when it comes to remembering everyday details, his mind is as sharp as a blunt butter-knife. He's as bad as I am - or worse. Yesterday morning when the alarm rang, I told him I was going to pop out to the baker because we had no bread for breakfast.
"Really?" he said. "I thought we had some bread left."
"No," I said, "We had that last night. What do you want from the baker?"
"Mmmm, I'd like - "
And there was silence. Readers, he'd fallen back asleep ... in the middle of the sentence!

We're in our mid-thirties. It's only going to get worse. I'll have to start carrying around a little notebook so I can write my goal on it before I leave a room: Get hammer from toolbox to fix the nail that's sticking out on my desk. If I don't do this, I'll return with a handful of screws and a spirit level. I might even have to step over my sleeping husband on the way. I now have a startling vision of us Gingerbreads as senior citizens: me walking in circles in the kitchen, him falling asleep between verb and object.

Please enjoy me while I'm still lucid, readers.

Socks Are Not The Boss Of Me

When Gingerbread Mammy was a young 'un, she was - apparently - a champion sock knitter. This is the legend she perpetuated all through our childhood: "You should have seen me turn a heel! I turned the best heels in the class!" Apparently, she churned out socks at the speed of light but although we saw her produce the occasional scarf or baby sweater, we never got to see the Mythical Socks. Readers, this is the challenge Gingerbread Mammy and Gingerbread Lady are going to undertake when I get home in spring: she is going to teach me how to knit socks.

In advance of this great mother-daughter bonding session (which will probably be gatecrashed by my other sisters, first to mock and then to sulk because they're not being taught to knit socks and then to mock again because you can buy a 5 pack of socks for €2.99 at Primark), I have taken to the needles myself - I'm kind of like Rocky in training for the big fight. Yesterday evening I tackled double pointed needles again.

First off, for the crafters amongst you, let me just say that I tried the Magic Loop method and knitting with 2 circulars. They seemed awfully fussy: lots of dangly wires and pulling and yanking. Besides, many years ago I saw a woman at a doctor's surgery knitting with DPNs and she did it so neatly and daintly that I fell in love. I became determined to learned. I tried, and I tried, and then I tried again. Each time ended in a blue cloud of cussing: starting off with DPNs is like playing cat's cradle with an evil steel octopus. Those needles are very poky and if you don't keep an eye on them, they'll entangle themselves in the yarn, your hair and - most bizarrely - the lace of your bra (through two layers of clothes!!)

But yesterday I got beyond the starting horrors and managed about two inches:

 Now, I know you're all very kind people, so you'll rush to reassure me that it's not too bad for my first attempt. In fact, it's dreadful. In a couple of places I purled instead of knitted and vice versa. My stitches are wobbly and when you turn it inside out, you'll see that I even managed to drop a stitch twenty rows back and I didn't notice:

But I showed those knitting needles who's boss! = Me! And I have about a dozen minor puncture wounds to prove it, but they're not the boss of me! So, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I'm going to rip back and start again - and I'll keep at it till I can produce a piece of ribbing that actually does not look like something the cat dragged in.