Monthly Archives: April 2013

Serendipity

The last few days have been delightful. The children returned from their holiday full of stories, and very happy. To listen to them the highlight appears to have been a smorgasbord at a flash hotel in Jakarta, which included a room full of desserts, a chocolate fountain as big as the eldest chick, and sushi that was ‘ruined’ by ‘crazy people who put fish eggs on it – why would they do that?’. I suspect that this only became the highlight as it was the last thing they did before heading home. Judicious cross examination by their mother elicited further details of snorkelling adventures, seeing exotic animals, and watching Balinese dancing. They were so tired on the first night that the boy fell asleep in my arms on the couch – something he hasn’t done for years.

We have spent the days since their return preparing for the return to school and the start of the winter terms (shopping trips for underwear, shoes, warm clothes, etc.) I took the three of them to the hairdresser and it was interesting to watch them negotiate with her on their chosen styles. The eldest went for a shorter version of her previous cut (a bob with the fringe grown out) ‘but with more shape to the back’. The artist-in-residence was quite specific about wanting a bob that was longer at the front than the back, and then longer on one side and shorter on the other. Very chic – especially for 10 and 8 year olds who are surrounded at school by girls with long hair. The boy just wanted ‘something cool’ (i.e. something with product that sticks up a bit!) So interesting to watch their style develop, and their individuality shine through, without any prompting by me.

I then had a moment of serendipity. I have been planning for a few weeks to move the eldest chick into her own bedroom. I have also been exploring some better fabric storage and had thought about a chest of drawers for my bedroom – thinking I could decoupage or paint it to fix it up a bit. Then I had changed my mind and was thinking that one of those boring white melamine cupboards would be better for the fabric. I had settled on the bed that I was going to buy for the eldest, and then on some cupboards from the same shop. I borrowed a trailer from a friend to move the queen size bed that was in the spare room back to its owners, with the intention of buying the single bed etc and transporting it home. However, just before we started the bed move I checked my email and looked at my emails from ‘freecycle’ and saw someone offering a 6 drawer pine chest of drawers, and a trio bunk – one with a double on the bottom, and a single on top. So my plans changed and I picked up free drawers and a free bed – so now the eldest chick feels very sophisticated having a double (which also gives me more options for accommodating guests now that there isn’t a spare room), the middle chick finally has a desk in her room for her drawing and writing, and I have a lovely piece of furniture, that matches my existing bedroom furniture, to store my fabric in. And no money was spent. The gods were smiling on me!

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The new bed, midway through the move.  Some lessons in bed-making appear to be in  order!

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New fabric storage!

Of course, this meant that the rest of the weekend has been spent moving, cleaning, sorting, rearranging, and then cleaning again. So we are starting the week, and the school term, all set up in the new arrangement (and almost de-cluttered…..almost).

Another delight of the weekend was the boy deciding to build a tree house in the backyard. He loves to climb a particular tree that he discovered when his grandmother was visiting. She did that thing that grandmothers do and spent time with him, patiently, which gave him time to find out how to get up, what to do when he was up, etc. Now he shimmies up like a monkey – and has moved various pieces of timber up there, from which he has hung a bag of toys, his binoculars, a torch and his Frankenstein mask (of course!) So much fun to be had with such simple things. It reminded me of my own childhood and the dreams I had while climbing in our peach trees and how many times I hauled bits of wood up, with plans to build a tree house (which – given the size of peach trees, was never going to work!).

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In amongst all of this busy-ness, I managed to sew! I have been enjoying making more pencil rolls – 10 so far this week, with more to come. I haven’t managed to list any in my Etsy shop yet – they are all spoken for already.  So my aim is to make more this week, and to list some in the shop.

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I also wanted to make something for my niece who has a birthday in the next couple of weeks. She is turning 9 and is beyond ‘toys’, and has enough gadgets. So I decided to appliqué two tops for her. I am quite happy with the way they have turned out. Combined with a pencil roll (because I really am enjoying the perfect blend of fabric and function) her present will be in the mail in the next day or so, to (hopefully) arrive in time for her birthday.

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The other delight of the weekend was that realisation that as the children get older, I don’t have to do everything on my own. The girls helped to carry the pieces of the new bed, the chest of drawers and mattress inside from the trailer. The middle chick helped me to dismantle and remove the loft bed that had formed bunks in her room. The boy washed the very dirty car, and the eldest chick did the baking for their school morning teas for the week. The boy sorted through his dress up box and made a pile of the costumes he wants to give away, and the girls both (after some nagging by their mother) sorted through their bookshelves and buckets of toys and identified what they are ready to give away. The end of this little bird having to do it all might actually be in sight!

Of course, as I have been writing this post, the middle chick, and artist-in-residence, has announced that she has chosen her costume for this year’s Book Week parade (normally some time in August) and that we need to buy some silk fabric to make it, and it will be a nice dress that she can wear when it isn’t a costume.  While tucking her into bed I found her plans for the costume on her desk.  Guess there is more work for this little bird yet!

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I hope that you have had a lovely weekend, wherever you are, and that the week ahead holds joy for you.

Little joys and cake

My children will be home in a couple of hours. Hugs and excitement and piles of dirty washing will abound! So I am enjoying my last few moments of peace and looking forward to the love that will run through the airline arrival gates. I have friends who say ‘You must miss them so much’ when they are away. I do. But it isn’t an ache-that-can’t-be-filled sort of missing, it is the quiet gaps that highlight their absence. I have had four years to get used to them being absent for a few days or a couple of weeks at a time. I know that when they are with their father, or their grandparents, they are loved, cared for, secure in their place in the world and as safe as they are when they are with me. Instead of being sad I get to just savour a small piece of time for myself. The change to proper autumn weather has meant lovely colours, crisp mornings, and a snuggly bed, all of which has added to that feeling of having a little bubble of time for me.

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You would think that after four years I would be good at arranging to fill the time when they are away with all the exciting grown up things I miss out on when I am being a full time single parent. Wrong. While they have been away I have had one lovely dinner with friends, and have done nothing else social! I have started watching a DVD of the TV series ‘Revenge” that a friend lent me, which gave me time to crochet and build on my afghan, but that is about it in terms of being wild and crazy! I am okay with that though. I have put in 10 and 11 hour days in the office to catch up on some big issues I needed to work on, I have sewn, and have tried to get a few credits in the sleep bank! So I think I have used my time well, and am ready to face the return to their routine, school, winter sports, pottery classes, running club, medical appointments, lost lunchboxes, etc!

I had a little bit of joy yesterday when I won the ‘tastiest cake’ competition being run in my office as a fundraiser for Legacy, a charity that supports families of our defence services. I made a Raspberry Ripple Cake – a recipe I found in a magazine 10 years ago that has never failed me (well – except the time when, sleep deprived and pregnant, I put bicarb soda in by mistake). I was so excited to win (a gift voucher for a cake decorating shop) that I announced it at my team meeting – talk about immodest!

So – I thought I would share the recipe with you.

RASPBERRY RIPPLE CAKE
 300g frozen raspberries (thawed slightly)
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
 125g unsalted butter, softened
 1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Icing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm spring-form tin.  Place raspberries in a bowl and lightly crush them, reserving a  tablespoon of their juice to make the icing.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in a separate bowl, and then stir in eggs.  Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream, mixing  well after each addition.  Spoon about a third of the cake mix into the tin, then spoon over half  the crushed raspberries and any remaining juice. Repeat with the next  third of the cake mix and the rest of the raspberries, and then top with  the remaining cake mix.  Bake for 50 minutes – the cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the  centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool before turning out and icing.  To make the icing, add the melted butter to the reserved tablespoon of  raspberry juice. Slowly stir in the sifted icing sugar until the icing  is a nice runny consistency and spoon over the cake.

Another little highlight was a lovely evening of reminiscing with my sister, her husband, and friends online after we learnt that a house that we had lived in while we were studying at University had burnt down (which was sad as it was a lovely Federation cottage, but not too bad as no one was hurt).  My parents owned it when we lived there, but we shared it with friends, and it remained as a rental for some time after that, so there were many years of great stories to share.  As my brother-in-law said – it feels like yesterday, but it was 25 years ago.  So nice to have a trip down memory lane with so many laughs (many at each others expense!)

I also managed some sewing – some pencil rolls and an art folder as part of an order for my sister. Once again I was reminded of how much I find sewing to make me feel good about the world. How lucky am I?

 

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To add to my list of joys, today is a public holiday, ANZAC Day, and I have tomorrow off work to spend the day with the children, so I have a four day weekend!    Time to play, sew and prepare for the return to school.

I hope that you have found some little joys in your week so far.

A quilt for the boy

I have finished piecing the quilt top I am making for my boy.  I have realised that at some point I forgot to swap the piecing around as much as I planned, so there is one piece in the bottom right hand corner that stands out as being ‘back to front’, but given the overall scrappy nature of this one, I can live with it.  So, while I don’t love it as much as I might, now that it is all together it is growing on me!  I will outsource the quilting to a local quilter as, if I wait to do it myself, it will be ready for his grandchildren to use!

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As usual I can see all the mistakes, mismatched seams, uneven widths etc….. but I am reminding myself that the overall effect is what others see, and that, as I noted yesterday, the boy will love it because it is his.  He won’t care about seams, patterns, or anything else.  He will spot the pictures from Dr Seuss, Batman, Star Wars, the aliens from his baby quilt, the bright colours, the fabric from his pyjamas, the pirate ships, and the stars, and will know that it is all about him.

Autumn planning

Autumn has finally hit Canberra – it is dark when I get home from work, there are piles of leaves everywhere, and last night I turned on the central heating for the first time this year.  The first frost is predicted for tomorrow morning, and the way that the air feels this morning, I believe it!  It has been snowing in the mountains and the wind is carrying that icy feel very effectively.

This week I had a day trip to Melbourne for work.  The meetings were extremely worthwhile, and I managed to see a beautiful friend for 10 minutes before heading to the airport on the principle that 10 minutes was better than not seeing her at all!  I took my green bag and it had the traditional airline lounge photograph but I have to say that amongst all the traditional Melbourne black and grey it did stand out as I was striding about the city with my glamorous companions.

Then on Thursday I attended the beginner resin workshop I mentioned in my last post.  I loved it!  It was amazing to see the different products that each of us produced when we were all presented with the same options in materials, colours, shapes etc.  I decided to go for a sea feel so used a transparent green tint, with a blue metallic powder (love) and then a swirl of a rich blue at the end.  Although I can see where I can improve on buffing the end results, I was completely delighted with the colour results!  So if any of you are in the Canberra region I highly recommend checking out the Canberra Creatives site – not only do they have great classes, but there is a mega craft day at the Downer Community Centre on 4 May that looks amazing.

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So after a week of interrupted evenings and some fairly long days in the office, trying to manage the ever increasing workload, by Friday night I was ready to collapse in a pile when I got home.  However, after doing a bit of tidying up and sorting through little piles that had collected, it occurred to me that what I needed was some sewing (of course!!).  I have been struggling with getting to the quilt I started for the boy last year, and have been feeling all of those pointless emotional responses like guilt, avoidance, etc.  So last night I pulled out what I have done, came up with a plan, and starting sewing and cutting.  I am working on having 6 large blocks that I will then join with sashing, and then make up any size shortfall with a border.

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This quilt is a classic example of what not to do – I didn’t have a plan when I started, hadn’t calculated block sizes, and kept changing my mind at each point.  I don’t love the result – but can live with it, and am filing it away as a lesson learnt.  The next quilt will have a design and a plan, and will probably be much more fulfilling to make!  This one will end up like an explosion of colour and pattern and be very scrappy – but I know that at the end of the day the boy will love it, no matter what, because I made it, just for him, and with love.

The rest of the weekend is looming before me, full of possibility.  In fact so much possibility that I am almost (but not quite) frozen with indecision!  I want to make a Tova tunic dress from some lovely fine corduroy (the cold weather is pushing me that way!), to start on orders that my sister sent me when she heard that I was finished the last batch (thanks sis!), and to make a bag design I have been playing with in my head.  On the practical front I need to clean out the children’s wardrobes for the seasonal change over, clean out their toy boxes before they return so that things can disappear to someone who will use them, and attend to a bit more de-cluttering.  So much to do and so little time – I think I will start with a cup of tea and contemplate it all!

I hope that you have a great weekend, whatever you are doing.

New ideas in the quiet nest

The promised creativity bubble created by my quiet household has come to fruition!  At the same time I am able to spend a bit more time in the office, catching up on the work I feel I haven’t quite been getting to over the last few weeks.  The end result – I am tired but happy, and it is only Monday!

The weekend saw me finish the trio of bags in the lovely pug fabric, for a friend and colleague.  I discovered one of the downsides with using Spoonflower fabric – it changes colour when ironed with a hot iron – and of course the ironing is essential for adhering anything fusible…..  I didn’t come up with a solution to address attaching interfacing so had to just try to minimise the ironing as much as possible (of ourse this morning on my way to work it suddenly occurred to me that I could have just used a different fabric for that piece!) but instead of my preferred fusible fleece option I used bamboo wadding/batting and then quilted it to the fabric.  I am happy with the result.  Of course, as always I look at each piece critically and notice what I will do differently next time – definitely a longer flap on the satchel bag, and perhaps on the ipad.  But overall I am happy, and more importantly the person who ordered them is happy!

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 So then I moved on to the next order I had waiting for me.  I have been thinking about this one for a while, after another lovely colleague asked me if I made aprons as she wanted one as a gift for a family member.   I found a number of patterns online that had pieces of what I thought an apron might look like, but none that had all the aspects I wanted.  So I designed my own!  As always it took about three times longer than using a pattern would, as I had to work out each step as I went , but I love that process of problem solving.  She had asked for a vintage style apron with a sweetheart neckline and a full skirt.  She chose fabric from my stash and then I suggested that it would be nicer if it was lined, so we decided on gingham to highlight the fabric and to tip the hat to the vintage styling.  So it is a slightly over the top apron in terms of effort – hand pleated ruffles and skirt, fully lined, and with two pockets with ruffled trim.  I wanted to have an adjustable neck-strap but didn’t want a tie as that gets annoying, caught in hair etc.  (I am short and have a short torso, so aprons never sit on me where I want them to – hence my desire to have an adjustable strap  -it is ALL about me after all…..!!).  Anyway – I finally had a brainwave and made buttonholes in the end of the strap that wasn’t attached, and sewed a button onto the lining.  It took a while to work out how to make buttonholes that wouldn’t see the strap rip apart at the slightest bit of wear – but then I decided on inserting a piece of interfacing into the strap tube and hey presto (I did feel a bit like a magician) it worked!

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I am very happy with the end result – although working out what to charge for it is the usual problem.  My initial calculations of time and materials had it being charged as if it were a ballgown!  So back to the drawing board….  and while I still think it is high, I always think my prices are too high until I do some price comparison and realise that I am around average for Australian prices.  (And really if that is my biggest drama my life is pretty good!!)

Now for the first time in quite a while I have no orders waiting to be filled.  Time to think about what I want to make while I have the chance!  I will have to mull on it overnight I think!

The other thing I am mulling over is a rearrangement of the house, which also highlights a need for better fabric storage – the piles of plastic crates in my bedroom are beginning to take over and are ruining the zen vibe of the room (that is so tongue in cheek).  I am toying with the idea of finding an old chest of drawers and doing a Pinterest makeover with fabric or scrapbook paper.  Of course I am also toying with the idea of cleaning out cupboards, toy boxes, etc while the kids are away.  If I don’t watch out they will be home again and I will still be toying, and there will have been no doing!

One of the great things about my quiet house is the ability to listen to my music without negotiating with the terrorists children.  My playlist for the weekend has included the album “Get Up” by Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, the self titled album by Busby Marou, Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a bit of restrospective listening to Indigo Girls, and a great shuffle mix that has everything from nursery rhymes through to hard rock – a little capsule of my life in a different form!  Such bliss.

I nearly forgot – I do have one new exciting creative endeavour coming up this week to share – I am doing a Beginner Resin Workshop on Thursday night.  I am looking forward to it – a whole new medium to play with!  The workshop is run by Canberra Creatives – and they are also building a creative directory, so tonight I took the plunge and submitted my details to be listed.  Getting to know people in the local creative community will be fun I think – all those new people to share ideas with in person, rather than just hiding online like the closet agoraphobic that I can be!

Off to dream about new creative ideas.  I hope that you have had a lovely weekend and start to your week.  (The weather here is so delightful it is hard to believe we are half way through autumn so it was hard not to have a great weekend.)

A slow return

Perhaps I wrote too soon last week with my grand announcement that I was back – as I have been remarkably absent ever since!  Nothing drastic – just life getting in the way of my aspirations to create and write.  However I seem to have achieved enough in my non-crafting life to allow me to return to some creativity again, so do have some achievements to report!

The life that got in the way?  My mum went home (after an amazing effort and gift of her time to both me and my children) and the reality of parenting meant birthday parties to deliver children to, groceries to buy, a house to clean and tidy and the ever present Mount Washmore to climb and attempt to defeat (if you can defeat a mountain.) Luckily I also had time to catch up with friends and had several drop in for a cup of tea or glass of wine on Sunday afternoon in rolling succession – a lovely reason to not be crafting!

Then the school week began and with it the new arrangements for childcare.  On the whole they seem to be working well, although I am finding that I don’t have enough time at work to feel that I am on top of my job…..  so some tinkering with the plan might be in order when school resumes in two weeks.  I spent a lot of time at school at the beginning of the week to address issues with the boy, but then he got in the groove and had a good week.  In the meantime discussions with therapists, reports from teachers and a low level feeling of despair about the whole situation meant that crafting wasn’t happening.

But then last night I remembered the therapeutic benefits of crafting and hey presto – I got out some fabric, the ruler and a plan and away we went!  I am feeling much better and I am back to planning my next project!  The timing to get my sewing groove back on is brilliant – the children are going away to visit their father tomorrow, for almost two weeks, and while I will miss them, it means that I have lots of time to do things for me without interruption!  I may even make dinner plans with some friends.  Just the thought of uninterrupted sleep is enough to make me giddy with excitement!

So what did I make? The first part of a set that I am making for a lovely friend and colleague who is a pug breeder and general dog lover. She asked me to make her an ipad over and a bag for her keys and phone for when she is at dog shows. I pointed her to the Spoonflower website and she found some fabric made by a friend’s daughter that depicts two pugs – one that my friend bred and one that she used to own! So that made her choice easy! Last night I made the ipad cover and am happy with it. I padded it with bamboo batting and fusible fleece and lined it with flannel so it is super soft for the screen.

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Next on the list is the pouch for her keys and phone for dog shows – she wants to be able to hang it of her shade shelter so I am working on a wrist strap with Velcro concept….. to be completed on the weekend!

I thought I would also share a photo of the progress on the afghan I am crocheting.  I tend to work on it while at the children’s martial arts class or when watching TV – but as I rarely watch TV it is mainly at classes.  I haven’t been weaving in the ends yet, but am happy with the random colour scheme!

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So, without any big announcements about being back, I am quietly hopeful that I will have more creative endeavours to share with you over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime I hope that you have all been well!

Return from Easter

I am back!

Back from a week of no computer, no responsibility, no children and no routine.  Back from an unintended break from blogging, sewing, crafting, and cooking.  Back from a fuzzy head – almost.

So – where have I been?  As promised/predicted/threatened I went on a road trip to Byron Bay to attend Bluesfest – a five day festival of music based loosely on a celebration of blues and roots music.  In reality there is probably more non-blues music than blues – but no one cares.  The countryside around Byron Bay is spectacular, the weather is temperamental, and the lifestyle is very relaxed.  The people who attend Bluesfest provide a lovely cross section of society – ranging from older retirees in their neatly ironed shorts and shirts through to the barefooted, dreadlock wearing hippies, with everyone in between.  I reckon I fall right in the middle of the range – and I am okay with that!  I did get good wear out of my two Tova tunics – and actually remembered to get a photo of myself in one!  (My photographer went a bit crazy….. and I am pulling a face in most but there are a couple that show the shirt….)

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Camping on site at the festival is part of the fun – you get to know neighbours, compare which bands you have seen or want to see, and share the joy in finding a clean toilet, stocked with paper…..  and compare gumboot styles as the rain hits and causes mud that has to be squelched through to be believed.

So did I enjoy it?  For the most part – yes.  Driving there and back on my own was tiring (it is about a 15 hour drive including breaks) and affected my enjoyment (I slept early on the first night and missed seeing Chris Isaak, which I regret).  On the way there I stopped and camped overnight on my own – and enjoyed the experience.  On the way home I pushed through and did the trip in one day – not as enjoyable.  I did find that looking for geocaches was a good way to break up the trip, so will be doing that again.

My ‘campanion’ (pun intended) was suffering from ‘man-flu’ and ended up leaving on the fourth day.  The rain was depressing and meant that there was mud and hot steamy crowds…..  so I found parts of it quite challenging.  There was a moment on Sunday night when I put myself to bed early and lay in the tent listening to the rain, and the sounds of a Ska band blaring through the rain, when I wondered what on earth I was doing there – and whether I really needed a life lesson in coping with anxiety and depression right at this point in time.  But – the next day the sun was out, I ended up having a nice day on my own and I got to hear/see Paul Simon singing, which moved me much more than I expected, and it all seemed worth it.

Highlights?  Meeting some lovely new friends in the campground, finally seeing Ben Harper in concert, seeing Robert Plant and Paul Simon, and Busby Marou, discovering new music through the band Current Swell, and hearing other legends like the Counting Crows, the Steve Miller Band, Bonnie Raitt, and a plethora of great blues artists.  And going into Brunswick Heads for a swim in the ocean.  Such a simple treat!

So now I am home, and back to the challenges of life as a single parent.  By yesterday afternoon I was completely overwhelmed – yet another meeting with teachers at school about my son, making new childcare arrangements after the babysitter’s timetable changed, trying to think about groceries, homework, housework, gardening, paying bills, caring for animals……..etc.  So I went to bed, convinced that I was getting sick.  This morning I felt dreadful but got up and went to work, and then to an early morning chiropractor appointment.  I quickly realised that in fact I wasn’t sick, or overwhelmed.   I was in pain.  Once I was ‘adjusted’ properly the world seemed quite decent again – and all the little bits and pieces that had been threatening to pull me under last night were quite manageable again.  A good lesson in being aware of the impact of pain on my mental and physical wellbeing!  (and a good reminder that dancing in gumboots, driving long distances, getting tumbled in the surf and sleeping on an inflatable mattress for a week aren’t good for my back…….)

My mum will go home on Saturday after her epic effort in looking after my children, then in a week the children go on holiday to visit their father.  So my mind is slowly starting to turn back towards creative thoughts.  Some bags, some patchwork, a kindle cover or two……  my sewing fingers are getting itchy…..!

Lessons learnt?  Keep things simple, enjoy the moment, and don’t forget to dance.