Tag Archives: Canberra

An end of year wrap up

I have been very quiet here over the last few months, although still using Instagram and Facebook.  I think social media goes in cycles – sometimes it is about the story, sometimes it is about the image and sometimes it is about the conversation.   It seems timely, then, when the year is about to roll over, to capture a bit of the last 12 months in story, image and conversation!  (All this without sending anyone to sleep. Hmmm….can I rise to the challenge?!)

This year was a big year for my little family with our move to a new nest and rural life.  At this point (days away from the 12 month mark) I can honestly say that I do not regret the move at all.  There are days when yet another drive into town makes my heart sink, but for the most part even the commute (20 minutes to most places I need to get to) is extremely civilised!  We now have 12 hens, 5 sheep, 2 dogs and 4 goldfish.

We bottle fed Poh Poh from when she was about 6 hours old and all fell in love with her.

We bottle fed Poh Poh from when she was about 6 hours old and all fell in love with her.

We welcomed Milo into the household to join Dottie the crazy terrier. He gets a lot of cuddles.

We welcomed Milo into the household to join Dottie the crazy terrier. He gets a lot of cuddles.

We leased one of our paddocks to the neighbours so we also get to enjoy their horses.  The gardens are beautiful and my parents do a lot of work to maintain them (I say guiltily!)  We named the property as a birthday gift for my Dad (who is a Deacon) and the same friend who made the sign also made a custom ordered signpost for the garden as a gift for both of them.

The sign for our property made of jarrah from Western Australia by the very talented Michael from Wood and Wax Studios.

The sign for our property made of jarrah from Western Australia by the very talented Michael from Wood and Wax Studios.

The garden signpost with a few of the places my parents have lived marked on it!

The garden signpost with a few of the places my parents have lived marked on it!

Also on the family front we had a wonderful family gathering in September to celebrate my parents’ 70th birthdays – with two of my siblings, and 6 of their siblings, plus partners, along with lovely friends, joining us for about 4 days.  We have now established that the house can accomodate 9 extra people, and cope with two camper vans. It was a huge highlight for all of us.

In October we went camping after a (much too long) haitus.  It was perfect!

My favourite spot to camp. With this view from the kitchen, there is little to complain about!

My favourite spot to camp. With this view from the kitchen, there is little to complain about!

Big changes in the house included replacing the very, very, very busy carpet with something a little more neutral, and starting the mammoth task of painting.  With the newly opened Ikea store in town light fittings are next on the list!!

Before and after with the carpet replacement!

Before and after with the carpet replacement!

On the sewing front I have been busy. I had a two month break when I injured myself in an altercation with my boy, but returned and have been busy ever since.  For a woman who was intent on being a bag designer I seem to make an awful lot of baby products now – but they sell well, so I am not complaining!  After putting my on-line shop on vacation mode about a year ago, thinking it would be for a month or so, it is still not open.  The upcoming holiday period is a great opportunity for me to sit down and plan what the next year is going to look like – and how I am going to run my business is a big part of that.  I have developed a pile of new products over the last few months, including gift sets, teething blankies (with really soft bamboo velour backing), bibs that can have a dummy clipped to them, fabric covered journals, and a pile of Christmas decorations!  They have mainly been sold through Shop Handmade, with a few custom orders here and there.

A boxed gift set with blanket, bib and teething ring toy - part of my new product range.

A boxed gift set with blanket, bib and teething ring toy – part of my new product range.

Teething Ring Blankets with soft bamboo velour and cotton - they feel sooo nice!

Teething Ring Blankets with soft bamboo velour and cotton – they feel sooo nice!

Fabric covered journals for keeping all your notes looking good!

Fabric covered journals for keeping all your notes looking good!

I have also completed two very special custom orders for people who wanted cushion covers made using clothing that was special to a deceased grandparent, as gifts for their family.  It is a privilege to be entrusted with cutting up these garments that hold so many memories, in order to create a lasting momento.

These cushion covers were made from two shirts that my customer has kept of her grandmothers. I was able to keep the button detail of one shirt, and to add a strip of the fabric on each back too.

These cushion covers were made from two shirts that my customer has kept of her grandmothers. I was able to keep the button detail of one shirt, and to add a strip of the fabric on each back too.

Life with my chicks has had it’s ups and downs – as it always does, but as the year draws to a close there is a feeling that we might be making headway with some of my boy’s issues.  We had to change doctors and counsellors during the year when his both left town, and although it has been a drawn out process to get everyone up to speed we seem to be there now, and to be gaining extra support to assist in supporting him.   The girls have both grown a lot this year, in size and maturity, with the eldest chick even doing household chores without complaining!  Wonders will never cease!

I will spend the next few weeks thinking about what is next for this little bird, and my business and my family, and hopefully will appear here with a little more frequency than I have been!

I hope that this year has treated you kindly, that you have been loved and supported, and that the New Year brings joy, creativity and peace to you.

 

Rural update #489

Guess what?  It is still winter.  I know – who would have thought?   We are deep in the midst of the short days, frozen mornings, thick fogs, and wood fires.  There has been a significant investment in thermal underwear, ski jackets and gloves – and that is just for around the farm!  Although, much to the disappointment of the children we haven’t had heavy snowfalls on the property so far, there have been some in the area, and the snow on the mountains around the area certainly makes for icy winds.  It is that time of year when finding a spot in the sun, behind glass, warms your bones and makes it hard to leave.  And when the sun across the ground in the late afternoon makes everything glow golden.

Afternoon sun|a little bird made me

The number of livestock on the property has grown.  No more dogs (yet) although we have been introducing Dottie to a friend’s Labrador who is quite obliging and lets her be in charge and boss him around, so we will see how that goes.  No – we have progressed to horses. Even better – they aren’t ours!  We have leased our big paddock to our neighbours who have quite a few horses, and they are keeping some in the paddock (which helps keep the grass from simply feeding the kangaroos).  The artist-in-residence is beside herself with joy, and goes to visit them several times a day on the holidays and weekends, and every afternoon on school days.  She will have a riding lesson with the neighbours tomorrow and could not be more excited!  Dad has great plans for collecting the manure for the garden.  The boy thinks that he might learn to be a blacksmith so he can make horseshoes for them.  The eldest is a bit bemused by all the fuss, and  I just like the sound of gentle neighs and harrumphs across the night air when I am lying in bed – true country life!Horses|a little bird made me

The 11 chickens are now all sharing one coop and run, with little drama so far.  The white and black (unknown breed) speckled ones should start laying soon, which is good as our original brown girl is coming to the end of her laying life.  The shells of her eggs are getting more and more fragile and she only lays one every few days now, rather than one a day as she used to.  She is healthy and spritely though, so I am sure that there will be great debates about what should happen to her once she stops laying.  (Dad being practical and farmer like, and me being sentimental and protective like!)

The big news is that we are having a party to celebrate Mum and Dad’s 70th birthdays (which are about 6 weeks apart).  Apart from the obvious Pinterest frenzy that I have gone into (decorations, drinks, presents, signs, more decorations…..) it has also turned my mind far more sharply to re-decorating.  As I type I am sitting surrounded by swatches of carpet.  YES!  The ugly multi-coloured casino style carpet will be replaced soon!  I have found the carpet I want (seriously – anything with a 25 year guarantee on wear, stains, colour, etc will get me in) but the colour?  Boy that is a tough one!  And why is the carpet so important?  Because once we choose the carpet we can choose the paint for the walls……. etc, etc, etc!  Grey, beige, greige, mushroom, oatmeal, silverfern, koala, chirp – these are all names I have been considering. Really – what colour is ‘chirp’?

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I am not sure how much will actually get done before the party, but it has turned everyone’s mind to the topic.  The boy has asked to trial sleeping in the spare room to see if he likes it better than his room.  He wants dark blue walls, which to be frank is an improvement on his previous request for black.   The artist in residence has created her own Pinterest board with decorating ideas and has settled on a colour scheme (aqua, pale pink and gold).  We have spent quite a bit of time discussing how to best carry out her ideas.  (There will be recycling, freezer paper stencils, a staple gun, and fabric involved in the current iteration of the plan!)  The eldest is just desperately trying to avoid any suggestion that she might have to change rooms (hers is the biggest by far!)

We stayed home for the school holidays.  This time last year we had our spontaneous trip to Hawaii.  This year life and funds are significantly different, and the weather was horrid, so we stayed home.  We had friends come to visit, and family!  My nephew managed an evening with us whilst in town on a school trip (he lives on the other side of the country) and my cousin and his wife came to stay for a night, which was so much fun.  The kids caught up with friends, had pyjama days, and we played cards, watched movies, went to appointments, etc.

I took the artist-in-residence, the boy and one of his friends, to the theatre to see the Flying Fruit Fly Circus performance ‘Under the bed’ at the Canberra Theatre Centre.  (The eldest declaring that she was too old for such things.)  It was the first time I have taken the boy to the theatre and it was the perfect performance for it – it started at 6pm, and went for one hour.  He enjoyed it, although he and his friend talked non-stop through it.  Their commentary was amazing at times – where adults might cringe at a mistake like a dropped hula hoop they were marvelling that it was only one that had been dropped. At other times it had nothing at all to do with the show.  I tried to shush them without stressing them out but it had little effect. At the end of the performance the people in the row in front commented that they might be the two biggest chatterboxes in town, but it was mostly good natured.  I was a bit amazed at how I coped and didn’t let it stress me out.  I explained afterwards that they weren’t misbehaving – they were just coping with this new experience by talking it through.Theatre tickets|a little bird made me

By the end of the holidays I was exhausted, and sick.  Having the kids back at school was a relief on one level, as it meant that I could sleep and recuperate, but stressful on another level, as the boy has not coped with the return to school.  I am learning more each day about how to work with him, and by Thursday night had got to the bottom of what was bothering him, so today was actually a good day for him.  I feel like it is one step forward, two steps back at the moment, but then I look back at where we were a year ago, and have to recognise that we have come a long way.  Learning more about how his mind works, and how he interprets the world around him helps, but then trying to convey that to his teachers, my parents, his father, etc becomes exhausting.

For now though, carpet swatches and Pinterest boards are calling my name.  (Yep – its Friday night and I am partying hard here on the farm!)  I hope that you are well, and that your weekend is full of creative moments.

Oh – and if you want something to cheer you up and entertain you, check out the page called ‘My Awesome Life’ on Facebook.  Very clever stuff.

 

Making stuff!

I have been back at the machine making stuff this week.  And it feels good!  I am itching to get back to making bags – it has been too long – but for now I have been working on more baby accessories to meet demands in the Shop Handmade.

A couple of weeks ago I starting playing with sewing plastic to make waterproof bibs.  Many hours, and frustration later I realised that I needed a different approach.

Crooked bias binding, uneven stitches, lots of swearing, and slipping layers......

Crooked bias binding, uneven stitches, lots of swearing, and slipping layers……

And of course the answer was simple – use the laminated cotton that I already have!  Doh!

Would have been better if I had looked at the direction of the pattern when I was cutting it out!

Would have been better if I had looked at the direction of the pattern when I was cutting it out!

So a series of waterproof bibs, with soft bamboo lining so that they are still comfortable for a baby to wear, are now stocked in Shop Handmade.  And I have made a few with pockets on the bottom.

Waterproof bib|a little bird made me

I remember thinking that pockets on bibs were weird, until I had my own children and realised how handy they can be for little ones to scoop out the dropped biscuit, grape, spaghetti, etc that they have dropped!  (Good thing these are washable!)

I suspect that I didn’t share with you the other product I made for the Shop a few weeks ago – hot water bottle covers and heat packs. (Well, it is almost winter you know!)

01d39dc2367d17fc1aa424c89e72d66a2dfc19b63301120f43b86debf606b3cda25f7936f14f9510af4f01454d7539687514b5577aedeafe9f2cf44eee8857This week a customer asked for a set of hand-warmers as a gift for a traveller, so I had fun playing with a design for these. You know me – they couldn’t just be plain!

Handwarmers|a little bird made me

I have also been working on some more nappy change mats to restock in the Shop.  Loving all the bright colours!Piecing together nappy change mats|a little bird made me

I am also a little bit chuffed to be the featured designer on the Handmade Canberra website this week.

Now to get back to the machine!!  I hope that you are having a productive week.

Film stars

This morning, for something completely different, the chicks and I took part in filming a promotion for Canberra that focussed on the Shop Handmade. Normally for such a big deal I would stress about what to wear, my hair, makeup etc. what the chicks were wearing, how their hair was, etc…. However this morning was so cold I abandoned all fashion selections and went for warmth instead, in my own slightly different style. (Seriously, when you have turquoise coloured hair you don’t look traditionally fashionable anyway).

My eldest chick decided, quite adamantly, that she didn’t want to participate, but the younger two loved it! I heard the middle chick telling the director that she just wanted to ‘be a star’. The joy of being 10 years old and confident! Even better my boy, my beautiful boy who faces so many challenges, held it together and had fun all morning.

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As it turns out, the success of the morning had to be paid for. Tonight involved meltdowns of the proportion we haven’t seen for a while. A reminder that I can never take the good stuff for granted. I had started to get complacent and plan social activities for us as a family. One of those lessons that I, apparently, need to learn again.

However it did confirm something else I had already worked out. Having my parents living ‘next door’ meant that the girls could go there for respite while I handled the drama. And we ended the night calmly. Which meant I sat on the couch and finally watched the movie ‘Pitch Perfect ‘. (A friend had threatened to de-friend me if I didn’t watch it!! And we have tickets to a preview of the sequel as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, so I gave in to the emotional blackmail.) As someone who normally doesn’t sit and watch TV, it was just the break I needed! Even better, the copy I have includes the singalong lyrics! Danger, danger!!

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Tomorrow is a new day.  The weather forecast is still dire, but the school holidays mean that we will find friends to keep everyone busy, and I will try to remind everyone to be kind – including to themselves. (And will do my best to apply that advice to myself!)

Finding time

I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time!  When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time.  I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do.  This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.

Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities.  I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life.  (Not just once!).  The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives.  I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better.  Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes.  I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation.  (Usually.  Definitely not always.)   When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down.  (Sometimes).  And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea.  Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.

Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!

I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre.  (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!)  I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it!  It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!

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The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

This weekend just past was also very special.  The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra.  I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level.  The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight.  Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too.  They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art.  Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist.  She was thrilled!

The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support.  They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend.  This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!

I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night.  I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house.  I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own.  We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away.  I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food.  Oh my goodness.

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The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly!   I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts!  (The owners are also delightful people!)

017b44bb4b29c63f9f742e0e02f00cabd99df22e73I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup.  And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself.  Talk about bliss!

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week.  Hmmmm…… the best laid plans!  Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.

The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot.  (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!)  I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.  I like it!  Maybe I should make some more…..    where is that ‘to-do’ list again?

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives.  We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!

And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind!  It is just so lush!  The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads.  Drool.

01336619eb5f8a927b88032198547f2c2f9f3620e1Now to decide what to do with it!  Choices, choices, choices!

I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.

 

 

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

Wrapping up the year

This year has flown by!  I swear that as I get older, time speeds up and the year seems to have only just settled into it’s routine when it finishes!

My absence from the blog has been longer than usual.  Sometimes life gets so busy that something has to give – in this case it was my blog, and my business.  Not forever, just for a short time while other things work themselves out.

The big news is that as I am writing this I am taking a break from packing up my house.  I know!  You turn your back for one minute and all of a sudden I am moving house!    And that is part of the reason for the blog break – a whirlwind of decision making, house preparation, house hunting, etc has been occurring over the last few months.  With my significant drop in income this year, and some complications that saw me have my children live with me almost full time (no complaints here) my finances took a dive and it was time to say good bye to the ‘executive style house’ in the ‘good suburb’ and look at different options for my chicks and I.  Fast forward a few weeks and my parents (who live overseas) were visiting, and helping prepare my house for sale.  One thing lead to another and now they are moving to Australia (again) and coming to live with the chicks and I on a new property that we have bought together.  Again – I know!  Huge changes!

The new property is about 20 minutes from where we live now, and is in the country.  Yep – we are going to be ‘farmers’.  Well, not really – it is only 20 acres and the land around here isn’t particularly fertile, so we won’t be primary producers, but will have lots of room for animals as pets, room to run, ride (bikes), play, etc.  There are two houses on the property so my parents will have one, and the chicks and I the other.  The ‘big house’ as we are calling it is truly big – I have choices about which room I will use as my sewing studio, and the chicks will all have space for desks in their rooms.  The chicks will attend the same schools as they would have if we had not moved, but will catch the bus a bit more (it goes past our driveway).

A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house

A sneak peek of the front garden at the new house

2015 is looking very exciting as a result.  With my parents in residence I will be able to work more, earn more, develop my business more, and still continue to support my chicks.  The possibilities are endless!

Wrapping up this year and all that has happened would result in a blog post of thousands of words.  2014 has been eventful, to say the least.  A few brief highlights instead then:

  • The Human Brochure that I am part of is definitely a highlight.  I have met some wonderful people, seen amazing things, and been exposed to parts of my town that I didn’t know about.
  • Finishing up my career as a public servant was momentous, but right.  No longer being defined by my profession has been liberating, and I have enjoyed discovering more about myself and my strengths throughout the process.
  • Creating beautiful things continues to give me immense joy and my confidence grows on a daily basis.
  • My eldest chick has finished primary school and heads off to high school next year!
  • Selling my house has been emotional but is the right decision.

On the downside there have been some of the toughest times this year.  My previously reasonably amicable relationship with my ex-husband is now gone, and I have had to make some really hard calls about what is good for my children.  Adjusting my life to parenting a child with special needs has been a long process that has challenged me on every level.  I have been exhausted for a large part of the year.

But overall, looking at the good, the bad and the very ugly, this year has had more highs than lows, and I am finishing on a good note.

To entertain your eyes, a brief selection of some of my recent sewing projects follows – custom orders, Christmas presents, and new ideas.   I hope that this year is ending on a good note for you too, and that 2015 brings new adventures and excitement and love and laughter for you all.

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