Tag Archives: Canberra

Spring!!

The air is lighter, the breeze is warmer and everything seems just that little bit easier with Spring finally kicking into gear.  (Of course the grass is also longer and I need to buy a lawnmower, but let’s not let practical facts get in the way of the enjoyment!)

I have been busy, but not with anything I can show you here.  Filling out paperwork.  Paperwork about my son’s special needs, paperwork about child support and why I think I should receive it on behalf of my children, paperwork about how I would like my children to be supported by both their parents. Numbers, facts, dates, numbers, and histories.  My brain is full of it, and my bench is covered in piles of papers sorted into piles (until I realise that one supporting document from one pile is needed to support the issue another pile is addressing, and then chaos reigns supreme.)

It isn’t getting me down too much, but it does mean that all sewing, creating, etc is on hold while I address it all, and still try to be present with the kids.  That is a bit dangerous because it means that I have time to order……fabric, notions, bits and bobs.  As little packages of zips, of fasteners, of webbing arrive my kids roll their eyes at how boring it all is.  and I get excited at the possibilities that each little package holds.  I have so many things I want to be making!!

Webbing and key fob notions..... so many ideas!

Webbing and key fob notions….. so many ideas!

I am using the time productively though – I have finally started a products and prices page (you can see the link at the top of this page) so that those of you who want to place an order now have some reference points to do so!  I still plan on re-stocking my Etsy shop, but this can help in the interim!

However the two most exciting things to report are that I now have an iPhone 6 which means that my photos are so much clearer, and that it arrived in time for a behind the scenes tour of Floriade, our annual floral celebration.  It was beautiful being there before the crowds arrived, with the morning dew on the flowers and the air so clear.  I may have got a bit carried away with photos…….These flowers were planted after a Floriade spectacular a few seasons ago by apprentices who used a bull dozer to plant them randomly along the shores of the lake.

These flowers were planted after a Floriade spectacular a few seasons ago by apprentices who used a bull dozer to plant them randomly along the shores of the lake.

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

These giant snails next to a floral wall spelling out Floriade are beautifully colourful!

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!

Tulips, tulips, everywhere!

The theme of Floriade 2014 is Passion.  This is the automotive garden reflecting the passion people have for their cars!

The theme of Floriade 2014 is Passion. This is the automotive garden reflecting the passion people have for their cars!

The view from the Ferris Wheel allows you to see the plantings from a different perspective!

The view from the Ferris Wheel allows you to see the plantings from a different perspective!

Passion for fashion reflected in the argyle and houndstooth patterns, while art is reflected in the garden of coloured pencils!

The family, with all it's wonderful diversity, was represented in this garden, and the plantings are surrounded by figures representing different family groups.

The family, with all it’s wonderful diversity, was represented in this garden, and the plantings are surrounded by figures representing different family groups.

The family garden from a different perspective!

The family garden from a different perspective!

I have also started on a fitness and health campaign, and, although I am still struggling to get out of bed each morning, am starting to enjoy the benefits of eating healthy, tasty and nutritious meals and regular exercise.  (I know!  Who knew that the experts were right?!)

We have a few days left until our two week school holidays, a camping trip, some birthdays, and hopefully some time to get out and about and have fun with my chicks.  I hope that your Spring or Autumn has started some new habits or new joys for you too.

Pottering along

I have been tagged in a blog-along thingy to write about why I write.  This is not the post that will address that.  However thinking about the blog, my business and how it all fits together has been bubbling away in my mind.  When I started the blog I worried that I posted too often and bombarded my followers.  Now I feel that I have abandoned my blog, and my readers.  I have been reflecting on why this has happened and realised that writing here at some point shifted from something that I loved to do, that was like therapy, to something that I had to do but couldn’t seem to find time for.

I have decided that I want to rediscover some of the joy I had from blogging, so will try to post little bits and pieces more regularly.  I think I have also been trying to balance not writing about all the hard stuff in my life, and when things are really hard it means that I don’t write at all.    This, then, is a quick snapshot of what is happening in my life at the moment, with little bits of the hard stuff included.

After years of juggling a high pressured career, and being an organised single parent, and having a neat and tidy home, cared for garden, and an organised house, now that I am home full time I seem to run late for everything, never catch up on folding and sorting the laundry, have truly dirty floors, and forget important dates on a regular basis.  I don’t seem to have time to blog, to sew, to bake, to hang out with my friends, and yet I am allegedly a ‘lady of leisure’!  Now part of it is getting sucked into the vortex of the internet and losing time that way.  But there is more to it than that.  I suspect it is going to take me a while to adjust to this whole concept of creating my own structure, rather than responding to the structure of an office job.

I am setting myself small targets this week.  First of all to clear the back order of custom orders that I have.  Then to spend a day working through the house from front to back and returning it to order and cleanliness.  (I almost added five more things to the list, but if I can do these two I will be very happy!)

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

I am also back to wondering about the ‘scope’ for my business.  After deciding that I would focus on bags and accessories I find myself making bibs, doing a custom order for bunting, making up heat packs stencilled for another custom order, cushion covers for yet another, whipping up a pillowcase for another, and generally drifting back to making anything that comes along.  This might be contributing to my feeling of being overwhelmed!  I can’t make everything that exists under the sun, no matter how much I want to!  What I can do is choose my scope, and stick to it, and make those things really well.  (Gee – did that sound like a pep talk to you? )

Custom ordered appliqued bunting.  (I love the colours she chose!)

Custom ordered appliqued bunting. (I love the colours she chose!)

Bags and accessories and bibs.  That is a broad category.  It is enough.  This might be my new mantra!

On the topic of bags I can share that I designed and made a laptop bag for my eldest chick earlier in the week.  She has her own laptop now, in preparation for starting high school next year, and in moving between her father’s house and mine it has looked a big too naked and vulnerable being carried in her arms!  I decided that she needed something that reflected a bit of her personality, but could also grow with her.  This is the end result!

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

I have had some great feedback on the bag and am thinking that adding this style to my bag range is worth a try.

I can also update you about further developments for the artist in residence.  After her successful appearance at the exhibition, and being approached to sell her painting, this week she had one of her drawings appear in our local newspaper to launch a survey of the Gang-Gang – a native bird that is the faunal emblem for Canberra.  Needless to say she is thrilled and I couldn’t be prouder.  I am going to have to start recording a portfolio for her!

Gang-gang

Gang-gang

My beautiful boy is still struggling with school, and with coping that anything that changes the direction that he thinks he is following, but we have managed to have one fantastic day this week, and a couple of good recoveries from incidents.  The good moments, or days, make the not-so-good ones easier to cope with.  He is now living with me 100%, after some changes in his father’s life meant that it was best to change our care arrangements.  I shared on Facebook that I was fortunate to have him living with me, then added that I am not trying to be a hero, or downplay how difficult it is to parent him, but if I don’t see myself as fortunate I will probably break.

So here we are.  Pottering along with life, trying to work out how to survive financially, caring for my children, and having a creative brain that is in constant overdrive with new ideas of things to make.  I am pretty lucky really!

I hope that you are having a good week.

More human brochuring!

Last week I made an attempt at keeping up with blogging about all the amazing adventures that I have been having during the ‘discovery phase’ of being part of the ‘human brochure’ for Canberra.  And now I am behind again!  The human brochure blog is up and running, so I will put my detailed posts in there, and instead share my personal highlights here!

Last Friday night we were invited to attend a restaurant called Poacher’s Pantry, which is about 20 minutes outside Canberra, for an evening hosted by a group called Poacher’s Way.  This is a group of businesses who have joined together to promote the food, wine and tourism of the region.  This is one of those places that I have always heard about….. and never been to.

The delightful line up of Eden Road wines - all of them quite delicious!

The delightful line up of Eden Road wines – all of them quite delicious!

The delight of not just attending, but attending with all of the Poacher’s Way group represented was infectious!  I didn’t get to see and taste everything on offer because there was just so much goodness to be had – but did managed to strike up a conversation with one of the most flirtatious members of the group who happened to be offering tastings of his wine.  So I tasted the full range…… and it was a very good range!  I am going to have to do a cellar door visit to Eden Road Wines to sample a few more I suspect!

There were beautiful handmade chocolates, beautiful baked goods and cheese, suitably firey chilli oils, a dessert garden that included chocolate ‘soil’, delicious duck pancakes, and a coffee cocktail that was superb!  The baristas from one of Canberra’s great coffee houses, Two before Ten, prepared a cocktail using cold brewed coffee (steeped for 18 hours), freshly squeezed Granny Smith apple juice, and tequila.  (They told us that they came up with it while messing around one day.  Sure……)  Anyway – it was a beautiful and surprisingly fine blend of flavours!

The '101' cocktail from Two Before Ten baristas

The ‘101’ cocktail from Two Before Ten baristas

We had to be ushered out in the end as I think we would have stayed for hours otherwise!  Adding it to the list of places to go back to under my own steam!

The next event that I made it to was an evening at the newest brewery to open in Canberra, Bentspoke Brewery.  I am not a big beer drinker, but thought a tour would be interesting.  It wasn’t just interesting – I learnt a lot about making beer, and cider, and was educated on how to properly taste beer!  One of the beers has oregano added to it, rather than a sweet herb, and it was light, fragrant and delicious!  The cider, however, was the winner.  Made with local apples it was made with brewers yeast so that the fermentation process didn’t remove all the sugar and flavour, so had no added sugar or concentrate – and was crisp, fresh and tasty!  (Oh – and the bar snacks were amongst the most delicious I have ever tasted!)

On Saturday I spent the whole day hanging out with the humans from the ‘Family Fun’ group and being shown around Canberra looking at ‘family fun’ options.  The first stop was the Australian Institute of sport where we were able to access parts of the AIS that aren’t on the ‘normal’ tour.  That was quite interesting.  We were told that a particular swimming pool as a high tech as they come.

Hi tech pool at the Australian Institute of Sport

Hi tech pool at the Australian Institute of Sport

The delightful Tom Edgar with one of our 'humans' Jemma, who is a good sport too!

The delightful Tom Edgar with one of our ‘humans’ Jemma, who is a good sport too!

I was internally scoffing because really, how high tech can a pool be?  Turns out it can be very high tech.  Oops!  In addition to all sorts of interesting things around how the water is filtered (using diatomaceous earth), and the length of the pool can be adjusted, it is also fitted with underground cameras and cameras that run on tracks along the bottom of the pool, which mean that 3D images can be created of the swimmers so that they and their coaches can study their stroke, etc, to see what can be improved.  Pretty fascinating!  We also got to watch the Commonwealth games gymnasts training, see fencing, basketball, and to hang out with a very cool, and very tall, olympic volley ball player, Tom Edgar.  And the icing on the cake?  They gave us water bottles full of water!!

The miniature figure on the toilet with a newspaper!

The miniature figure on the toilet with a newspaper!

The rest of the day was not quite as exciting as we re-visited Cockington Green and the Dinosaur Museum.  However it was good to see things in daylight and to be able to look without children to chase – and I did manage to get a better picture of the figure on the toilet that I wrote about, plus Freddy Kruger and Jason from Friday the 13th (I was corrected about my confusion over horror movies!!)

Freddy and Jason duelling it out in the sunlight

Freddy and Jason duelling it out in the sunlight

We also went to Questacon, the National Science Museum.  I have been there many time, but not recently and it was interesting to see new exhibits and to see old favourites.  Our guides conducted experiments for us – including spraying our tongues with food colouring so that we could see our taste buds to determine if we were supertasters or not.  Mine was strangely close to my hair colour!

Blue tongued Aussie?

Blue tongued Aussie?

There are a few more events to attend, and I am looking forward to them, but am also looking forward to focussing here on my normal posts about life in the nest and sewing!

If you are interested in reading my more detailed posts on my ‘human’ experiences around Canberra, and those of my fellow ‘humans’ then check out the website – Human Brochure.

Being a brochure – Part 5 – National Treasures

Warning – Images that I have included in my photographs include images of Indigenous Australians now deceased

You may find a bit of a theme appearing in my posts about the Discovery Events I have attended as part of the Human Brochure.  Me thinking that something I was about to attend might be a little ho-hum, naff or dry, and then being more than pleasantly surprised and quite blown away by how awesome it has been in reality.  It does mean that I have been gushing a bit about my experiences to anyone who will listen.  It also means that I probably need to raise my expectations a bit!  The next event definitely falls into the category of me gushing about it afterwards.

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) occupies an old building in the Parliamentary Triangle (as the precinct is known), along with various concrete bunker type buildings in the various light industrial areas of town.  My main experience with the National Archives has been applying the archiving rules to my work as an employee of the government, so that my files are saved, destroyed or a combination of both, in accordance with the rules set down for such things.  In the back of my mind I guess that I had thought that the NAA was in charge of all those files and bits of paper, and that it involved lots of dry and dusty paper piles.  Of course, as usual (it appears) I was wrong!  (Seriously, how much humble pie can one blogger eat in a series of posts?!)  What hadn’t occurred to me is that government records are more than just paper files produced by public servants.  Government employees have taken photos and videos, items have been owned by the government that form part of the records, and our country’s history, from the very beginning, is held in government records.

Talk about a light bulb moment!  This means that the exhibitions at the NAA are rich, diverse, and unique.  To have a private tour of two of the three current exhibitions was a very special privilege for me.  I think that all of us who attended were touched in different ways by the exhibits that we saw, but my reactions were definitely based on my own personal experiences.

We could choose two exhibitions to see during our visit.  I decided that I didn’t need to see the exhibition on researching my family, given that I am the immigrant in my family (which I may have told people a few too many times on the night!).  Instead the first exhibition I saw was the permanent exhibition, Memory of a Nation, with the extremely wonderful privilege of also being able to visit the Federation Gallery.

Larrakia Treaty

Larrakia Treaty

In the Memory of a Nation exhibition I saw video taken by ASIO of the Communist Party, a whale tooth, the briefcase carried by Harold Holt, (an Australian Prime Minister who disappeared while swimming in the ocean and was never found) and the contents of the briefcase.  The original Larrakia treaty is on display,  as are the travel documents required for non-white Australians to travel.

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The good, the bad and the ugly of our past is on display.  The application of the White Australia Policy, the way we as a nation treated the indigenous owners and inhabitants of this country, our involvement in war, the development of political parties, and government photos of people with no names, dates, or locations recorded.  I need to go back and spend more time looking at the displays in more detail.  Each new case I looked in had me shaking my head in wonder.  I want to take my children there to show them the history of the country they live in, to see the full story.

01071b43cb4995f14f459bf72ce240aea5f536e6e1One of the interesting aspects of this exhibition is that there is a wall full of black and white images, called ‘Faces of Australia’.  These are all images taken by government photographers, mainly in the 1950’s and 1960’s to show Australia as a prospering nation.  Members of the public are invited to examine the images and identify themselves, family members, locations etc.  We heard a few stories of people who had done that and once again, the personal entering the story made it easy to connect with the items on display.

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01dd156ee6f4f7279bc5eff7cb5dbaaeae95fb6b0e01f5f7345d655b4ad6f284f42a258aaf226fc29807For me, with no real history in Australia other than my own, the section of the display that really captured my attention was the bit that I could relate to personally the most.  There is a section devoted to the justice system.  It includes photos of the members of the High Court, a wig worn by one of the judges, and various other documents and images.  I was able to share with my group that wigs are still worn, and that when I first started out as a lawyer in the 1990’s there were Supreme Court and District Court judges in Sydney who would refuse to allow a female solicitor or barrister to appear before them while wearing trousers.  A couple of women I was speaking to were quite shocked by this and it reminded me just how far we have come in some regards in a relatively short time.

The highlight of this exhibition, though, was being able to enter the Federation Gallery and examine the documents that are housed there.  These are the documents that establish Australia as a colony, and as a nation.  They have Queen Victoria’s signature on them, 0110cc65ef4646241f8708ba035cd9dcbb3a9a446dand bear her seal. 01a7b2cc481c7f6839b74e0bccb47912b8f8581da7 I had never previously contemplated that bearing a seal might be more than a stamp on a piece of paper.  These seals are large medallions made of silver, with the rope coloured and woven symbolically that attach the medallions to the paper.  They really do ‘bear’ the seal – if it was all held up the weight of the seal would rip the paper I suspect!  For the purposes of conservation photography of these documents is not allowed, but the NAA staff had very kindly arranged for a facsimile of the main document to be available for us to photograph. (just in case you thought I was being very disrespectful!)

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Curator Amy Lay

 

 

After that wonderful experience we moved on to the second exhibition of the evening.  I had chosen to visit the exhibition called “A Place to call Home”, 0120404c3130bb7c443064973c008a4ed6cc3587e4and we were very fortunate to have the curator of the exhibition, Amy Lay, to talk to us about how the exhibition came to be.  This collection tells the story, through photographs, of the migrant hostels in Australia from the 1940’s through to the 1980’s.  The images were all taken by Immigration Department photographers during that time, and again, most did not have the details of the locations, people, or dates recorded.  Given that this was the time that my father’s family migrated from Europe to New Zealand, the images certainly struck a cord with me.  Amy explained that many had been taken as a form of propaganda, to show the Australian public that the migrants were ‘just like them’, and to encourage acceptance of them.  01f3bc3c99d4ce183023bc54b0830e1a97cf57de57Many of the migrants were displaced people following the wars in Europe.  Many of us commented on the differences with how the current arrivals of displaced peoples are treated, and how the expectations of the Australian public are managed.  (For the record, my personal opinion is that our government policies (from this and the previous government) that address the treatment of people claiming refugee status are inhumane kneejerk reactions to a problem that is nowhere near as dire as the media would have us believe.  But that is just me.)01ab0f20cf7f9dbb8dd5ae7ecd7ce4615eb1ff1cce

There is a larger exhibition planned for later in the year that will include items from the migrants and the hostels in addition to the photographs.  I will be visiting that exhibition too.  Migrants are an important part of this country’s history, and how we treated them in the past, and treat them now reflect on our society in important ways.

Do you get the feeling that this event roused all sorts of memories and emotions in me?!  It really did.  I can’t believe that prior to this the closest I had come to the building was to use the carpark if I had a meeting at the Attorney General’s Department or Prime Minister and Cabinet, and had forgotten to book a car-spot!  So much richness sitting just metres away!

What I didn’t see, and what I want to go back to examine a bit more, are the collections of items that were previously banned in Australia under censorship etc.  Now that should make for some interesting tales!

 

 

Being a brochure – Part 4 – getting social

One of the things that I didn’t expect with this whole ‘being a human’ thing was getting to meet and hang out with all the other ‘humans’, and being introduced to people who are experts in their social media fields in order to learn from them.  (Okay, so I really didn’t think any of this through at all did I??)

The highlight of the experience for me so far has been meeting the other humans who are part of the Human Brochure.  It is because of their company and contributions that I have been able to enjoy the Discovery Events so much.  We are an eclectic bunch, and bring different strengths and levels of engagement to the event.  Which means that it is fun getting to know other people, but also means that I am now viewing everyday life around me in a very different way.  There are some extremely talented and dedicated photographers in the group.  As a result I look at the spectacular sunset out my back window each day and know that it will be captured, and captured beautifully, by at least 3 or 4 of my fellow humans.  Following them on Instagram is a delight!  People with a passion sharing their passion in beautiful images is a wonderful way to spend some time each day!

A brochure of humans reflected in a sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden

A brochure of humans reflected in a sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden

I am sure to leave someone out if I try to recommend photographers to follow from the group, so instead will recommend that you look at the feed on the website to see the daily amazing images these people post!

Humans collaborating on an Instawalk

Humans collaborating on an Instawalk with Lauren Bath

There are amazing food bloggers, elite athletes, mummy bloggers, people who can manage to be using social media for instant responses while still holding down their day jobs, Uni students, fashionistas, and the list goes on.  Some have a massive social media following, while others are smaller and more ‘niche’.  What we all have in common is that we use social media, and we love living in Canberra!

Some human profiles!

Some human profiles!

The organisers of the Human Brochure arranged two different sessions for we 101 to spend time with experts in the field of social media.  The first session was held with two travel writers, Kerry Heaney and Christine Pfieffer. 01951d571adf3051d665e71771bc08d752870dfae2

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It was interesting hearing their advice on using social media from the travel perspective.  Some of it doesn’t translate well to those using social media for business etc, and some of their experiences were quite different from mine, but it was certainly a privilege to hear their perspectives.  Kerry is a food and travel writer, while Christina specialises in travel video blogs.  Her list of photographic equipment certainly had a few members of the audience getting animated!

 

Floating head installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Floating head installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

 

The second was an Instawalk with Australia’s top Instagrammer, Lauren Bath.  I didn’t really know what to expect of an Instawalk, but soon realised that whether I learnt anything about using Instagram more effectively or not, it was a great way to meet more of the ‘humans’.  We had a rainy grey morning, but with the Sculpture Gardens of the National Gallery close at hand, the conditions made for some awesome pictures!  And we did get to pick Lauren’s brain about the most effective ways to use Instagram to promote Canberra (our aim in the brochure) and generally.

Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Industrial remnants (my interpretation) installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

The interesting aspect of all of this, however, is that many of the ‘humans’ are in fact experts already, so learning from them has been of benefit to all of us.  The photographers have been sharing their tips, lenses and shoots with each other – professional and non-professional, and many a discussion has been had over twitter vs Instagram, how to manage a number of platforms, and various other aspects of social media.  Which means that the learning isn’t confined to the two workshops – it is ongoing and collaborative, and really quite inspiring!  I know that I am going to walk away from this experience with a whole lot more than just a deeper knowledge of the town that I live in.  New friendships and new skills are the absolute icing on the cake!

Sculptural plants and curved concrete in an installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Sculptural plants and curved concrete in an installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Being a brochure – Part 3 – taking the kids along for the ride

The reality of being a parent meant that I haven’t been able to attend all of the Discovery Events provided by our local tourism industry as part of the Human Brochure experience.  I had been very keen to attend the event at the National Portrait Gallery, but had to enjoy it through the photos, posts and tweets from other ‘humans’ who attended.  I also missed a night tour of the National Botanic Gardens – but did discover that such things exist, and am keeping that outing up my sleeve for one weekend with the children as something a bit different to do!

The next event that I was able to attend was one where I was allowed to take the children.  The boy has been quite on edge recently so I was very unsure how a public outing would go, but was very pleasantly surprised.  The outing was a night time tour of Cockington Green, a miniature world based on one with the same name in England, and of the National Dinosaur Museum.  This is where I have to confess that I had not visited either of these places during either of my periods of living in Canberra, and that I thought they would be a bit ‘naff’ I was happy to attend as a treat for the children but was not really expecting very much from them.  I am happy to report that I was wrong!  Very wrong!  (And look – my admission of ‘wrongness’ is even in writing as proof that it does happen sometimes!)

Our group started at Cockington Green, and after two of the younger and single ‘humans’ decided that they needed to adopt a child for the night, in order to fit in, my boy was renamed ‘Jamiroquai’ and ‘adopted’ by them for the night.  Against all my predictions he behaved beautifully for them!  (of course!)  I have since had a conversation relayed to me where he said “Excuse me adopted-mother, I need to have a conversation with you.”  On reflection, giving him two adults who were just interested in him was the perfect ploy to guarantee no stress!  If only I could magic them into other scenarios on a regular basis!

The detail on the miniature exhibits was impressive, as were the humorous additions such as an outhouse with an open door showing someone reading the paper on the toilet, and two figures who, on closer inspection, turned out to be Freddy Kruger and the Chainsaw Massacre-ist (or whatever you call the main character of the horror movie!)

Nightmare on Elm Street meets a Chainsaw Massacre?  Lucky they are in miniature!

Nightmare on Elm Street meets a Chainsaw Massacre? Lucky they are in miniature!

We also had a train ride around which gave us a different perspective, but to be honest the highlight for all of us was having the chance to speak to the model makers themselves.  The time, attention to detail, and ingenuity they show is amazing and hearing their stories about how different pieces came to be was very interesting.  Again, the privilege of being able to have the ‘inside story’ and the personal touches that it brings really made the experience very rich.  The whole site is a family business, started after a trip to a miniature village in Cornwall, and the owner/guide for the evening was telling us that he had just returned from his first trip back to that site in the week before our visit.  He had been a child with his parents for the first trip, and this trip was about 40 years later, so he had been fascinated to see what they had translated into the Canberra version, and the differences that had developed along the way.  Of course the kids were most impressed by being allowed to have a free icecream at the end of that tour!

Motorbikes parked outside the pub in a tiny town!

Motorbikes parked outside the pub in a tiny town!

We then walked across the road, crossing paths and swapping places with the other 50-odd ‘humans’ and ‘children of humans’ who had started at the National Dinosaur Museum.  I had met the curator, Phil, at the Human Brochure launch event, so knew that he was personable and had worked at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, but really didn’t know what to expect.  It had been billed as a ‘torch light tour’ so my kids were thinking ‘Night at the Museum’ and that was in fact one of the first questions Phil was asked.  He responded by saying that the animals wouldn’t come alive, but that he would bring them alive with his stories.  He wasn’t lying.  His knowledge, delivery, humour and timing held the whole audience enthralled.

A whole group of enthralled mini-humans learning about dinosaurs

A whole group of enthralled mini-humans learning about dinosaurs

Phil asking the question - When is a mammoth not a mammoth?

Phil asking the question – When is a mammoth not a mammoth?

They even have movie cells from 'A Land Before Time' on loan and display!

They even have movie cells from ‘A Land Before Time’ on loan and display!

The eldest chick had tried to get out of attending the evening, thinking she was too old (at eleven) for such things.  She loved it!  There was enough interesting scientific information to get her attention, and enough humour to capture her imagination.

Fossils galore!

Fossils galore!

01dcdbd373a34e402014b133133f0be9e166dc2f87The artist-in-residence also enjoyed it, and loved working out puzzles and finding that her answers were correct.  She has been studying geological formations at school so was fascinated with the fossils in particular.

More amazing fossils

More amazing fossils

 

Prehistoric lobster perhaps?

Prehistoric lobster perhaps?

As for the boy?  He was in his element!  He found another child equally as interested, and they declared themselves the ‘experts’.  It was really a very fascinating night out, and a place that I will be taking the chicks to visit again.  The range of exhibits was amazing – fossils, bones, dinosaurs that come alive on sensors (and give middle-aged blue haired bloggers a fright) and objects that can be touched and interacted with.

Four rows of teeth on the jaw of the Megladon (aka a very big shark!)

Four rows of teeth on the jaw of the Megladon (aka a very big shark!)

The next ‘discovery’ event that I attended was another where the children could also attend.  This time it was the Royal Australian Mint, where all the coins in Australia, and quite a few around the Pacific, are made.  Although the staff here put on a wonderful evening, this one did not go quite as smoothly for us.  The boy was hyped up and wanting to amuse and entertain everyone and was escalating all evening to the point that I thought we were about to see one of his melt-downs.  Luckily (?!?!?) the eldest chick fell ill and we had to leave in a hurry.

Watching the dancing robot Titan, and the busy robot Penny hard at work

Watching the dancing robot Titan, and the busy robot Penny hard at work

Before we left we did get to see the robots on the factory floor (a huge highlight), hear ghostly tales from the CEO, and hear of forgeries and the history of currency in Australia.  We also were able to press our own $1 coin as a souvenir which was a great way to end the tour.  I think I would like to go back without a hyped up child, and without a crowd, and just wander slowly through and take in all the exhibits, as there were some really interesting things to see, if you weren’t trying to head off a child who was asking whether the robots could become weapons in the hands of psycho killers, telling the CEO how to deal with his employees (suggestions that included machine guns and money) and hugging the story teller who was meant to be a statue.

Spooky tales of forgery at the Royal Australian Mint

Spooky tales of forgery at the Royal Australian Mint

In between trying to calmly control the boy I did learn some interesting things.  I had always assumed that the Mint produced our bank notes as well as our coins.  Turns out that I am wrong (again!!). Not only are the notes produced by a different agency altogether, the responsibility for producing notes and the responsibility for producing coins are managed by two separate branches of government – one through the Reserve Bank and one through the Department of Treasury.  Another of those great bureaucratic anomalies that has historic significance, but perhaps not a great deal of economic efficiency in this day and age?!   It was also interesting to hear that the Mint has to produce a certain number (that my brain has already lost unfortunately) of coins each year in order to maintain the number in circulation. I think it was around 300,000 a year that disappear – down the backs of couches, in the bottom of bags, etc.  That is quite a lot of money when you think about it that way!

The highlight was definitely the robots – so I am going back for a visit, even if it is just to see them again!

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Being a brochure – Part 1 “The Launch”

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the kick-off event for the Human Brochure, and how everyone was worried about meeting each other, what to wear, etc.  And I haven’t really written much since.  Partly because I was flat out preparing for the markets, and managing family issues, but partly because at some point we will have a separate blog for our ‘brochure’ blogs.  But if I leave it much longer, as usual, all my words of wisdom and wit will have dissipated.  (And probably have a bit already!)  However if I write about it all in one post it will be pages long as our experiences have really been quite wonderful – and varied – so I am going to write a series!  (Wahoo – so professional!)

The launch was really quite wonderful.  It was held at the Nishi Gallery, in the New Acton precinct of Canberra.  This is an area that has been developed/re-developed over the last few years and it really is quite different from any other part of Canberra, and is very special.  I haven’t spent a lot of time there of late.  When I first found myself single again, a few friends and I would meet at the very lovely Parlour Wine Room.  It was one of those places where I didn’t feel daggy and old, even when surrounded by pretty young things, and where the wine, food and atmosphere was sophisticated but fun.  In short I loved it.  Then there was a terrible fire and the bar was badly damaged.  It reopened recently but I haven’t made it back since then.  And of course in the intervening period I have had major life changes which have meant that I have really become quite hermit like.  It is ironic really.  At a time when I am growing into my own skin and feeling more comfortable about where I am in life, I have also been battling a feeling of not fitting in socially anymore.  So the opening event was an interesting challenge for me on several levels.  Would I feel out of place,  would I hate socialising again, and would I wonder what on earth I had signed up for.

The answer to all of that is ‘no’.  The other ‘humans’ selected to take part in this adventure are lovely, warm, and open.  The opening event, held against a backdrop of an exhibition “Straight Face” by the artist Luke Chiswell, was wonderful.  A great atmosphere, beautiful food, interesting talks, and a chance to meet and chat with some of the other 101.  While all the photographers were whipping out their cameras and phones were taking selfies left right and centre, my phone stayed in my bag all night, and I was okay with that (until I came to write this post and realised that I had no images to attach to it!).  My words are my strength and I didn’t want to be missing any of the action by fumbling around trying to take a picture that wouldn’t work as well as the many others that were being taken. (well – that is my justification now – but don’t worry – I learnt my lesson and have pictures for the other events I have attended!)

We had a welcome speech by the head of ACT Tourism which made me realise that this whole adventure is really quite big.  Unique.  Pretty awesome.  And I get to be part of it!  I truly hadn’t appreciated the depth of time, effort, planning and industry involvement that was going into this until that night.  Here I was thinking about whether they thought I was doing an okay job using social media to talk about where I live.  What I hadn’t appreciated was that Industry would be working so hard to make sure that I had amazing things to write about.  The launch event really showed the high calibre of organisation – and of expectations – involved.  Very humbling to be included once I understood a bit of that side of things!

After the event was over we were invited to go to the bar at Hotel Hotel, just next door, where the bar staff had created a cocktail in our honour.  Called ‘Fog at Hive No 6’, it involved honey collected from the Hotel’s beehives near the lake (hive number 6 of course) and pashmak to represent the fog on the lake.  I declined a taste (which I still regret) as I was driving and needed to get home to respond to multiple missed calls from the chicks who were ringing to complain about various things happening at their father’s house (!!)  Hotel Hotel is an amazing building and experience.  I am going to take up their offer of a tour and write more about it because I am a little bit in love with it, so take this as a place marker!

After that, there has been no more discussion about what people are going to wear to any function!  We been provided with two sessions/workshops on using social media, and we have attended Discovery Events.  These are events designed by our local tourism industry to showcase what they have to offer.  We were able to RSVP to as many or as few as we liked.  I wanted to attend them all!  Reality, and children, and life meant that I had to pick and choose, and have had to cancel a couple that I thought I could attend, in order to address reality, children and life.  But the events that I have made it to so far have been amazing.  Stand by for the next instalment in my ‘series’, which I promise will include photos!!

If you would like to see amazing photos I recommend searching #humanbrochure on Instagram or Twitter, or looking at the website Human Brochure as there are some very, very, very talented photographers in our group and their images are just beautiful.

 

A long weekend

This weekend just past was a long weekend in Australia, in celebration of the Queens’s birthday.  (Which is amusing really as her birthday is actually in April.)  Anyway, it means a three day weekend, and who am I to argue the semantics of whether we should or shouldn’t be having a day off in June?  It also means that winter has started, and, more importantly for me, that the Handmade Markets have been held.

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I know that I have written about these markets before, and that I am a bit biased as a stall holder at the markets, but they really are quite fabulous.  The standard of handmade, Australian made, goods that are available is very high, and the diversity is wide.   (and to show that it isn’t just me that thinks so here are some links to media coverage of the markets! ABC news coverage, Canberra Times article)

I have been working flat out over the last weeks to ensure that I had enough stock to take to the markets, and that it was of a sufficiently high quality.  (Which explains my relative quiet here on the blog – I have been busy sewing!)  It definitely paid off.  I was very happy with the presentation of my stall this time (learning and refining each time I do a market) and with the bags and bibs that I had on offer.

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Making bibs for the markets

I had planned to make pencil rolls to take to the Market as well, and had left them as my last bit of sewing to do on Friday.  Until the mailman delivered a parcel from Spoonflower (that I had ordered 5 weeks earlier) and I was compelled to wash, cut and sew the fabric into bibs – it was too cute for words!  Needless to say – no pencil rolls.

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Very cute fabric from Spoonflower

Then, to top off an already exciting day, I had a mid-afternoon mail delivery of a magazine called ‘Love Sewing Australia’ which is a new publication released by Practical Publishing, an Australian publishing group.  Why was it so exciting?  Because a pattern that I wrote was published in the magazine!!  I was approached to submit a project back in January/February and prepared a tutorial for making an Oma tote (named after my grandmother, Oma) and a yarn bag – a pouch with holes for yarn to feed through so that you can knit or crochet on the go.  And there it is, in radiant colour!  The magazine is available in Coles supermarkets and newsagencies here in Australia.  I might have to go and buy a couple of spare copies!

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Page 22 of “Love Sewing Australia”

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The markets were busy.  I was on my feet all day of each weekend, with few exceptions, and talking to the most amazing customers.  I think that attending markets and interacting with customers is the icing on the cake for me.  There are so many wonderful people who want to talk about products and learn about them, and who are interested in what I can provide them, that it is really energising.  They were also so busy that I had to do a bit of sewing on Saturday night to re-stock in time for Sunday!  (Luckily common sense kicked in so I only made a few bibs, then went to bed – I was bone weary!)

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There were two big differences in my experience of the markets this time.  The first was that I didn’t need to call on my friends to help out with last minute prep, or set up.  However I did utilise my children.  The artist in residence spent time on Wednesday night attaching stickers to bags and cutting out care instructions.  Then on Friday night the eldest chick rode her bike to my house straight from school (while the other two were still at their father’s house) and helped all afternoon, and into the evening, with packaging, counting, cutting, labelling, etc.  Then she attended the markets all day Saturday and helped with the set up, and served customers.  She interacted with them, told them about the products, made small talk, and made a few good sales!

The morning sun made for warmth on a cold morning, but not for great photos!

The morning sun made for warmth on a cold morning, but not for great photos!

The artist-in-residence attended on Sunday morning but was a little shy and didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers on her own.  That, of course, was okay too.  She did join in a conversation with a lovely couple who overcame her shyness by talking to her about things she was interested in, and she was able to tell them that she is having a painting submitted for an exhibition shortly.  They were suitably impressed and asked for her name so that they could say they had met the famous artist when she was a child – and that made her day!  (They also bought a bag, so that made mine!!)

The second difference was that customers knew me from the last market, and came looking for me specifically!  That was a real buzz!  I had a great position on the side of the market hall, which meant that there was room in front of the stall for people to chat without blocking the stall, and they could browse without feeling they were holding other people up.  I was also interviewed for a TV show by the delightful Kitty von Tastique whose hair colours put mine to shame!  This is definitely not my best angle, or shot, but a selfie was required!

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The interesting thing that I am finding about the markets and my products is that I am constantly growing.  I am developing my ideas, my style and my approach, and feeling more comfortable in my skin every day.  Being able to say, quite honestly, “This is my full time job” felt good.

I also had my very first experience of someone being openly shocked at my prices.  Of course it happened when another designer I know, who has attended one of my mentoring sessions, and who also makes fabric bags, was at my stall.  I had just been giving her a pep-talk about how her prices were too low when a lady came and admired my bags, decided that she liked one, and then asked the price and recoiled in horror, thrust the bag back at me and said ‘Oh no, I won’t pay that” and walked away!  I didn’t mind personally but thought that the timing was more than a little ironic!

For now, though, I am back in the sewing room, making new stock for my Etsy shop, for the Handmade Shop, and filling custom orders.  I also need to catch up on my posts about my experiences in the Human Brochure – they have been amazing!

I hope that you had a great weekend too.

The first day of the rest of my life

Today marks a ginormous step in my life.  Three weeks short of 22 years as a public servant, from today I am, by choice, self-employed.  (Well I did hint at changes that were coming!)

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging at work and at home.  One challenge on its own would have been fine, but being challenged on both fronts left little room for respite – which is how I came to be in the state I was at the end of last year.  With amazing support from my employer I have been able to take leave for the first half of this year, to rest, recover, and think about how I want to live my life.  Having green fields in front of me has been an uplifting experience – I have sorted through so many different possibilities in my mind (sea-change, tree-change, runaway-from-it-all-change) and am very happy that I have settled on the right path for the chicks and I.  I am going to spend my time focussed on my family, on building my creative business, on supporting other creative people to reach their potential, and on living life in a meaningful way.

And that, my friends, is why I died my hair blue!  That outward expression of claiming my life as my own was a small step towards looking at how I want to live, who I want to be, and how I want to grow.  The sense of freedom is immense!  My biggest fear is I will get into a habit of slacking off and playing instead of working – but I suspect that my bank account will motivate me to get over any tendencies in that area!

The first step is getting past this weekend successfully.  It is the second Handmade Market for the year, and I am working very hard to prepare new stock so that I can have some wonderful selections on offer.  The new sewing machine has been in overdrive!  It arrived last week, and after a bit of learning, tinkering, adjusting, etc I am getting the hang of it!  I will write more next week to give you all the details and do it justice, but for now – some shots of the arrival and set up!

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Two very big and very heavy boxes!

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I did it! (All by myself!)

I have also been able to use my new teether bits as a result of the new machine.  I am very happy with the way they look, feel, and handle – so will be launching them at the markets this weekend!  I had a bit of a production line (manned by my staff of one – me) yesterday so have a good range of colours and patterns to showcase the new bits!

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It also sews leather and denim beautifully so I am working on executing some of the ideas that I have been carrying around for a very long time in my head!

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This bag is made from supersoft leather, with the fabric detailed flap. Sewing the leather was a dream with the new machine!

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Other exciting news in this very brief summary of an amazing week, is that the launch of the Human Brochure that I spoke about last week was extremely successful.  Since then we have attended a number of delightfully wonderful discovery events and started to get to know each other – and really I cannot imagine a nicer bunch of people to be hanging out with!  I will write more in the next week about the events so far as I want to do them justice.  At the moment I can happily report that I have a huge crush on a part of Canberra called New Acton, have had my eyes opened to so many, many, many wonderful things in my own town, and am learning on a daily basis!  If you are interested in seeing what we have been up to have a look at the Human Brochure website where you will see so many beautiful photos from my fellow humans you will want to visit here straight away!

Phew – this might be the shortest summary of the most exciting week I will ever write – but the sewing room is calling me, and the Market countdown is on….so stay tuned for more updates!  (and if you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, following @alittlebirdmademe is a great way to see quick snapshots of what is happening during this exciting time!!)

I hope that you have had a great week, and that you are also finding little bits in your life to give you joy and excitement.  Just remember – today is the first day of the rest of your life too.  Get out there and embrace it.

 

Being human

This week I am able to announce that I am officially human.  Even better, I am a local human.  I am one of 101 local humans selected to be part of a ‘human brochure’ about Canberra.  My chicks think it is hilarious that I am now a local human.  Over the next couple of months I will meet my fellow 100 humans and we will get to visit all sorts of VIP events at local attractions – many of which involve food and/or alcohol, and places I haven’t visited.  The chicks get to attend a few events with me too.  Then we get to spend time sharing our experiences in our local region, using social media, culminating in a weekend in October where we can show our city off to family from out of town.  It is a pretty big deal.

Of course, you know me – part of me is terrified about all the juggling of competing priorities, about letting myself put me first for once, about meeting all these uber-cool fellow humans and remembering that they have all been fooled into thinking that I am uber-cool too.  The other part of me is really excited about getting to go out and have fun with adults doing cool things!  If you follow me on any of the social media I use (instagram, twitter, facebook – oh my I am so cool these days) you will see the hashtag #humanbrochure appearing and you will now know what it is about! (and I promise I will try to reduce my use of the word ‘cool’, given that it isn’t actually that ‘cool’ these days.)

Of course, with the confirmation that I am human, comes the realisation that I am a mere mortal, and therefore fatally flawed.  Which isn’t really a surprise to anyone!  The notification about being human also arrives at the same time as a whole slew of good things, and an avalanche of challenges.  Life.  Gets you every time doesn’t it?

Good things first (then you can choose to skip the challenges if you want!)  I was selected as part of the launch of a new feature on Ebay where you can make your own collections of things that you like.  They selected a pile of bloggers and other people to create the first collections, to set the scene for the launch.  So far I have had two sets of 5 collections approved, and am working on a 3rd.  I tend to use Ebay for very functional things, so taking the time to stop and look around has been interesting.  One thing I have learned, very quickly, is the importance of good product shots.  I have been aware of it for selling on Etsy for a long time, but really hadn’t thought about it in the Ebay context, until I was looking for images that would hang together well.  Oh my there are some shockers out there.  One image of a gorgeous vintage porcelain piece had a background of a piece of uncovered, dirty rubber foam.  Others showed delicate things for babies sitting on the carpet for the shots – which just didn’t work!  The whole image of Ebay as a place for bargains might be the reason, but given the amazing array of good available there, I suspect that the move to collections might start to have an impact on the way people choose to display their wares.

The next good thing was lovely feedback from a customer, lovely feedback from a colleague, and a request to be allowed to quote one of my blog posts in someone’s book (!!!) all within a day or two.  It is a bit like getting a compliment from a random stranger while walking down the street – it makes your day!  I have also managed to have some of my items on Etsy make the front page after renewing my involvement in my teams on the forums – one of those cases where promoting others really does help yourself.

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This one made the front page of the US site, so massive exposure for my bag!

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The middle chick is currently directing the shooting of a video that will star the boy, as an entry in a competition to represent the local milk company.  Whether they win or not is irrelevant as they are having so much fun making it, negotiating the story line, and adding special effects – it is hilarious to listen to them!

And finally, I was able to sit down and make my first bag using the leather I recently purchased.  It is very different from sewing with fabric – not just because of the bulk of the leather when dealing with seams etc, but because it seems to stretch and move when it is sewn (despite my judicious use of clothes pegs to hold it together) and unpicking (which I did a LOT of) leaves holes in the leather that don’t disappear like holes in fabric do.  Still – the results are so different to fabric that I think I will continue learning and practising.  I am considering investing in an industrial machine – I suspect that would help a lot!  For this one I used some leather from a piece of milled hide, a part of a sleeve from a suede jacket a friend sent me, and lined it with an indigenous print cotton.

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As for the challenges?  My boy.  That beautiful soul who snuggles in and remembers the most awesome details about conversations you have had years before, who loves to be able to help, who fills my heart with joy.  Once again we are back to dealing with challenges.  The respite gained after the trip to the chiropractor was short lived.  I suspect the change in houses over the weekend contributed to it.  For a boy who doesn’t deal well with change, moving between houses each week is challenging.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  Divorce sucks.  It doesn’t just suck because the adults are hurt and grieving. It sucks because the children who have no control over their environment get hurt, over and over, for years after the fact.  I struggle every day to think about how I can reduced the impact of our family circumstances on my boy.  There are no simple answers.   However his school continue to find ways to support him to feel okay about himself.  When a relief teacher did something in reprimanding my boy that still makes me shake with emotion, the boy was able to come home feeling good about himself (and completely unaware of how upset I was) because the executive teachers made sure that he was safe and felt wanted and useful.  God bless them.   We are entering another phase of analysis and diagnosis with yet another specialist.  The next few months will be challenging.  Again.  Thank heavens that when he is good he is awesome!

Heading into the weekend with the rounds of winter weekend sports, children who need to be ferried from friend to friend, and all the other activities that seem to fill our days of ‘rest’ I am hoping to be able to get a little bit of sewing done – and finishing those last few rounds on the rug for the girls’ room!  I’ll check back in and let you know how it went!

Have a great weekend, wherever you are!