In a fit of getting organised about how I approach my blog, my shop and my business future, I have decided to move to a self-hosted site. My website address will remain www.alittlebirdmademe.com but I won’t be found on the wordpress.com site anymore. I hope that those of you who follow me here will continue to follow me after the move, as I have lots of exciting things planned for 2014 that I would love to share with you!
Given that I am moving the site myself, of course, there is every possibility that things could go wrong, so wish me luck as I embark on the scary prospect of moving a year’s worth of work and memories!
My house is quiet and peaceful, the sun is shining, and the next two weeks are stretching out in front of me in a sea of unplanned possibility. What a treat!
I hope that your Christmas celebrations were full of joy. I was very fortunate and am happy to report that my day was just lovely. Our Christmas Eve celebrations with our friends went well and both desserts were successes! (More to follow on that soon!) The chicks were well behaved, and reminded me about leaving food for Santa, hanging stockings, etc. The boy gave me an early Christmas present, including a drum roll to announce it, by not just tidying his bedroom, but making his bed, arranging all his soft toys in lines on the bed, his shoes in his cupboard and putting his dirty clothes in the basket. It might sound like a small thing, but he was so excited to be doing such a good job and to have done it so well, that it was a gorgeous gift!
We read the Nativity story and talked about what it must have been like for the shepherds to see a heavenly host of angels singing and how freaked out they must have been (I love the perspective of children!). And then I had my second special gift – an uninterrupted night of sleep, with no children trying to wake me until 6.30am! I managed to stay in bed until 6.45am which makes it officially a two hour better sleep-in than last year! We had a lovely morning with presents, sharing, Lego building, Wii playing and laughing before I took them to their father’s house where they spent the afternoon and evening in great happiness. I spent the afternoon and early evening with friends at their house and had the most delightfully relaxing, happy day. Nothing overboard in food (although the Christmas trifle was a thing of great beauty and taste!) or alcohol (although a few champagnes were enjoyed a lot) and just lovely time being with friends. I talked to my parents on the phone for an hour and received the reports of the day for the rest of my family who were gathered in New Zealand and was happy to hear that they also had a lovely day.
Which means that gifts have been delivered, and the few that I remembered to photograph can now be shared! After I made the boy a hat for his birthday Mum commented that a hat would be a nice present for my father, and that if it could incorporate some orange, in honour of his Dutch heritage, that would be great. So this is the result! He informs me that it is a snug fit, which suits him as it won’t blow off easily.
My parents have recently acquired a campervan/motorhome and are very excited about the trips they will do in it. The chicks and I decided that we needed to make some gifts for the motorhome, so we used some of the middle chick’s new fruity fabric design and made placemats and a tea towel for the van. We had also wanted to make them some cushion covers for the van but time constraints meant that I only managed to make one – but I think it is pretty cute, so will have to try for another one to match it for them!
I also made a present for my grandmother, Oma. She will be 98 in February. She has 10 children, about 24 grandchildren, and (I think) 23 great-grandchildren. She was never very tall but she shrinks further every year, and yet her heart, her energy, her love for us all, and her sharp mind, never shrinks. When I was talking to my ex-husband about having a second child he was worried whether we could love another child as much as we loved our first one. I was able to illustrate that love is not finite by using Oma as an example. Each of her 10 children knew that they were loved, and that she knew them as an individual, not as one of a group. So when she requested a bag to carry when she is going out to play cards or mah-jong, or on a day trip I was delighted. Then I heard her instructions were that it was not to be an ‘old-lady bag’ and she would like something in pinks and blues, with short handles, and I was further delighted, because that very statement sums up my Oma. She doesn’t want an ‘old-lady’ bag, because she still doesn’t feel like an old lady. So this is what I made for her, and what my parents delivered to her earlier in the week on my behalf.
I am told that she likes it (which makes me very happy) and when I posted the image on my facebook page I received a lot of positive feedback, so I am thinking of making a few more in this style and calling them the “Oma bag”!
The aftermath of Christmas can often be a let down, but for me, having kept our Christmas simple, it is just lovely. I am pottering around the house tidying up, putting the children’s presents that they left here in their rooms for their return, deciding which leftover dessert I will have for lunch (so, so bad I know!) and reading some books that Santa brought me.
Now – before I sign off I have to share the desserts that I made. I have no photographs (of course!) but do have recipe links to share. The first was Salted butter caramel ice-cream. Oh. My. Goodness. It is soooooo good. Although it required a bit of standing at the stove stirring and worrying about whether I was going to burn the caramel, by following the instructions it turned out well and was declared a hit by adults, and two of the chicks. (Which meant more for the adults!) The recipe is by David Lebovitz and includes a link to tips on making caramel – great, clear instructions, and with a delicious result!
Of course, the recipe calls for 5 egg yolks, so that meant that I had 5 egg whites to use. The solution? The traditional Australian/New Zealand (there is great debate about which country it belongs to) dessert – Pavlova. The crispy outer meringue with the gooey inside, whipped cream on top, and fresh fruit (mango and passionfruit in our case) on top of that, is a favourite in our household. The recipe that I use, and that has never failed me, is by Donna Hay.
I have one slice of pavlova left, half a tub of the salted caramel icecream and a serving of the trifle made by Mrs B for our lunch yesterday. The best bit? I don’t have to share it with anyone!!
I hope that your Christmas aftermath is a relaxing happy one and that are also enjoying some delicious leftovers as you spend time doing things that you like.
I hope that your Christmas is full of joy, love, creativity and laughter.
The chicks and I are off to a good start with the creation of our first ever gingerbread house (from a gluten free kit that my mother found for them). It may not be stylish, but it was made with love and fun and laughter by the two girls and I. We have wrapped presents (and quickly exchanged one that I had bought in error – phew!) and are preparing for some good friends to join us for the evening. We will eat desserts (all of which have potential to be stunning, but all of which have potential to flop due my errors along the way). We will read the Nativity story, we will listen to carols, and we will enjoy the company of people we love as we remember why we are celebrating.
While we proceed towards a sugar-filled/fuelled evening (which may include a glass of wine or two for the adults) I want to thank you all for your lovely encouragement and support on this blogging journey so far, and to wish you a safe, happy and joyful holiday season!
A few posts ago I commented that I was aiming to keep Christmas simple this year. I almost forgot that decision and for a couple of days there was beginning to revert to my usual practice of saying yes to everything and over committing myself. I was imagining piles of homemade gifts for teachers and teaching staff, for friends, neighbours, family, etc. I was thinking I could squeeze in a bit more sewing for other people, to offer to have other people’s children over so that they could have some time to themselves, to be creating Christmas treats by the trayful, and to be putting on the most wonderful Christmas festivities we had ever seen.
Then reality hit, I began to get overwhelmed, and I was forced to remember that this year I can’t do all the things I normally do – and that it won’t matter. So teachers received bought gifts, (with two exceptions that I will come to in a minute), I have made a donation to my charity of choice instead of making/buying gifts for my girlfriends, I have accepted that the kids don’t count their gifts and it won’t matter if one is getting one more than the others as they receive so much anyway, that a pile of fresh stone fruit (including mangoes) is better than plates of fudge, and that instead of sitting at the sewing machine I can sit at the table or on the couch with my chicks and give them the best gift of all – time. I had a practical conversation with the chicks about whether they wanted to participate in the Christmas eve mass or just attend this year (participating involves two rehearsals) and quietly cheered when they all decided to simply attend. I asked their Dad to take the eldest chick to a birthday party being held within a very busy shopping complex so that I didn’t have to navigate the other two through the crowds, and also asked him to take the chicks to see the Christmas lights at a house that has broken a world record for the most number of bulbs, so that I don’t have to try and deal with a crowd and three chicks on my own, and I reminded myself that the only person who expects all of this from me, is me.
The results? During the week I had time to sit with the middle chick and make an origami dress Christmas ornament. (We both agreed that if it was a real dress we would want to wear it!)
I finished the last of my Christmas orders today with pleasure instead of pressure.
I had an afternoon of craft with the middle chick and the boy, experimenting with embedding objects in resin to make Christmas ornaments (and will hopefully have results to show you in a day or two!) The eldest chick and the boy and I played Monopoly for over an hour before it got too much for the 7 year old boy.
(Yes that is his piece sitting on one of my railway stations….about the time he realised that I had become a slum lord and started to go off the game! Must remember not to be so competitive when playing against someone soooooo much younger than me!)
The situation was saved though when three chicks had a water fight to cool off after the heat of the day and I was in charge of the hose, with instructions that I wasn’t to be a target! (Still can’t believe that I got away with that one!!) In other words – by keeping it simple I have had a wonderful day with my chicks with no anxiety attacks, no yelling, and no crying. (And that was from all four of us!!!)
My body is giving me clear signals when I have pushed too hard, or taken on too much. I can’t pretend for more than a few hours that I will be able to juggle lots of balls as I normally do. It just won’t let me anymore. Initially I was resenting this restriction, and feeling constrained, inadequate and that I was a failure. Now, however, I am starting to accept that there are benefits to keeping things simple, and stripping Christmas back to the things that are important – family, love and joy. Time to just enjoy my chicks instead of being worried about tackling the next thing on my list. Time to have them cuddle up to me on the couch while we watch a dodgy Christmas DVD with Danny de Vito in it. Making little things for each other instead of going out and buying more and more and more.
With that sense of simplicity I can share an image of the only handmade gifts that I presented to teachers this year. The middle chick’s fruitastic design on the linen-cotton canvas from Spoonflower made into tea-towels. I might have to make some more!!
I have learnt a lot this year, about my passion for creating things, about my need to find a proper balance in my life, about the challenges of raising a child with special needs, about the fact that superwomen run out of puff after a while, and about the importance of family. This lesson about stopping to enjoy time with my family instead of feeling the need to do everything, and do it well, is possibly the most important lesson I have learnt. As we go into Christmas it is my fervent hope that this is a lesson that I remember, and apply, every day from now on.
I hope that you are able to find the simple joys in your Christmas or holiday celebrations, and that you are able to feel the joy that it is meant to bring, instead of the pressure that so often accompanies it.
The last few days have been flat out busy while we have tried to prepare for my Mum’s departure back to New Zealand today. She was with us for eight weeks in the end, and wrapped us all up in her love and helped us get through some of the roughest patches we have had in a while. I am trying hard not to think about her not being here, but have noticed that there is no one offering to make me a cup of tea, reminding me to drink more water, bringing in the washing, planning the evening meal, or giving my chicks their own little piece of attention in the midst of a busy house. Oh boy will we miss her.
But in the quiet space following her departure I have managed to load photos of some of my latest creations onto my Etsy shop, and have decided, in celebration of my successful market, and because it is Christmas, that it is time to have a sale. So if you enter the code XMASSALE in the coupon section at the checkout at any time until 21 December, you will received a 20% discount on your order. There are some smaller pieces that are just right for stuffing stockings too! My little Christmas thank you to everyone for supporting me this year.
I have had a break from sewing today while I cared for my sick middle chick who has tonsillitis, and ran various errands. One of the errands was to collect the finished memory quilt from the very talented Raylee at Sunflower Quilting. This was the quilt that I was asked to make using a sarong and a light cotton island shirt that my housecleaner and her husband wore for their beach wedding in Fiji. I am thrilled that I can present it to her before Christmas! I hope that you can get a feel for the finished product from these photos – my designated quilt holders (the chicks) had left for the day before I remembered to take the photos!
I will start sewing again tonight to finish some custom ordered superhero capes in time for Santa to pick them up for their recipients. Then I will be cleaning up the disgrace that my sewing space has become and then……wait for it…….moving all my sewing things into the spare room and claiming it as my own! Although the two oldest chicks were desperate to go back to having rooms of their own, they now have rooms of their own at their father’s house, so I decided that it was time to be selfish and have a room for myself. I will keep a single bed in there so we have room for visitors, but the rest of the room will be my domain! (And it just happens to have the best aspect, and therefore light, in the house!) All that room for fabric storage! Danger, danger, danger! All that clutter removed from my bedroom! Peace and tranquility shall return! (hopefully.)
Part of the craziness of the last few days was my attempts to finish all the presents that I wanted to make for Mum to take with her to New Zealand to deliver to the rest of my family, who are gathering for Christmas there. I can’t show you any photos yet (and of course forgot to photograph a couple of things) but am happy to say that I was able to tick everything off my list (once I simplified the list of course!)
So now all I need to do is remember where I have hidden the little bits and pieces I have gathered for the chicks, wait for the postie each day (she is currently doing two deliveries a day, bless her!) and stumble through the days until the 25th when the chicks leave to visit their father’s family in Victoria and I have a quiet house for a couple of weeks.
I hope that your Christmas preparation has not been two busy and that you are faring well amidst the seasonal chaos.
The weekend continued well with a different crowd at the markets on Sunday. I loved meeting customers, fellow stall holders and people who were just browsing. I came home with a smile on my face!
Now to finish the custom orders, the family presents and Christmas preparation before I hit the New Year running! Oh – and to list some new things in the shop and have a pre-Christmas sale!
After months of wondering whether I was doing the right thing having a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I would have enough stock, whether my stock would sell, what to wear on my feet, what to wear on my body, how to carry money, and every other worry you can imagine, plus a few extras, I have successfully finished day 1 of the two day markets – and survived!
Having my super-assistant Mum in residence has been such a blessing. In the last week she has sanded, painted, hammered, sewn, and then still made cups of tea and sandwiches for me each day! With her help my shelves were finished, the screen that I bought from the recycling centre at the tip was completely renovated, a perfectly fitted tablecloth for the trestle table was made, labels were sewn onto my packaging calico bags, price and care instruction tags were attached to each item, necklaces were packaged, plastic crates were washed, bags were cut out for me to sew, and……lots of other things were achieved! (Oh my – as I write the list of things that she contributed to help me out I am overcome with emotion. I have a very, very, special mother.)
In the meantime I was sitting at the machine producing just a few more bags, a pile of zipped pouches and coin purse key rings, and sleeping a lot! (Gee – Mum did do a lot didn’t she!!) Wait – I also drilled holes, screwed hooks in, prepared inventory, priced the goods, made discount coupons and price signs and a few other things. (Phew – I feel a lot better now!) As my last bit of sewing preparation, last night I made us an apron each – mine with a zipped compartment for cash. I made mine first – and then worked out how to do it better and made my assistant’s apron with a lot less fuss and error!!
The chicks have been spending time with their father and his fiancé this week, and settling into the new routine of having two houses. But they were still thinking about me and my stall. The eldest chick bought these shiny Christmas ornaments to add to my decoration (and sticking with the bird theme) and the middle chick presented me with this origami ornament that she had bought at a stall at school. The boy just gave me a hug. Pretty good all round really!
The Christmas markets hold an interesting mix of goods, stall holders and customers. A few other Etsy sellers also have stalls, so it was lovely to meet people and put faces to the names and voices to our communication! Mum and I attended last night and set up our display furniture,
then took the boxes of goodies this morning and set up the display.
I decided yesterday to be sensible and purchase a trolley. I love it! I haven’t taken a photo of it yet but will be showing it off within a day or so! It converts from an upright, hand-cart style, to a flat platform style so it is very versatile. I discovered this morning that I can load all my stock onto it and move it in one trip (if there is someone to help me over the bumps…….). And the icing on the cake? It is bright orange! Perfect for me!
The question of course is ‘How did you go?”. The answer? Quite well. I sold a number of bags, pencils rolls, pouches, a cushion cover, and pendants. (The pendants are made up with the fabrics that I use for the bags etc, mounted under glass in a silver tray, or under resin on a scrabble tile. The Dr Who ones and children’s fabrics were the most popular.)
But more importantly I was able to talk to people and hear what they liked, what they were looking for, and to talk to them about the different possibilities with bags, art folders, etc. I took three custom orders – two for pencil rolls and one for a bag. (We had a great time designing it on the spot with fabric from three different bags to be used in the style of a fourth bag!). I handed out cards and postcards to people, and had some wonderful conversations with people who didn’t necessarily buy anything but were interested and had great ideas. And most important of all – I had fun!
I had two official assistants – Super-Mum was with me for set up and the morning and then my wonderful friend and supporter Ms C took the afternoon shift. Mrs J also arrived to deliver coffees, admire our work and do a little shopping, and other friends and colleagues dropped by – and some even bought things! I really am blessed! We will be back there again for the day tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what the day brings. One thing is for certain though – after dipping my toe in the water to test it out, I can confidently say that I will be applying to sell at other markets next year. (And that I will finish my business plan so that my path is clearly set out!!)
In the midst of all of this excitement I am also turning my mind to Christmas presents for my chicks and my family. Hmmm….could be time for just a little bit more sewing…….
I hope that the lead up to Christmas is treating you kindly and that you are finding joy in the simple things.
While I am a bit absent here with my frantic stall preparation (which, I must note, is going very well, with lots of help from my assistant little bird, a.k.a. Mum) I am featured as a guest on the lovely blog belonging to Gnomeangel!
Edit – 15 Jan 2014.
Angie has taken her site down, so I am reproducing my post here, as I would like to still share it with you.
The Pollyanna effect.
Some years ago, as my marriage was falling apart and it felt like everything else was too, a friend of mine accused me of putting on a Pollyanna face to the world. By this she meant the world of Facebook (which was my only social media platform at the time.) I remember wondering what else I was meant to do. Should I post every hurtful conversation I had with my ex-husband and rant and rave about how unfair it all was? Should I air all our dirty linen in an effort to score points with ‘our’ friends? Should I list my faults and my sins as if in a confessional in an attempt to explain that it wasn’t all his fault? I certainly didn’t write posts that were deceitful or full of pretence, but if things were pretty bad and I was sitting at home curled up in a ball crying, I simply chose not to post.
I have reflected on the Pollyanna effect since then. (For anyone playing along at home who doesn’t know, Pollyanna is the story of a little girl who finds the good in every situation, no matter how dire.) I have decided that I am okay not sharing every aspect of my life online. I don’t have a problem with those who do, but tend to avoid becoming embroiled in their dramas, miseries and pain – I have enough of my own for now.
I also acknowledge that most of us are playing the Pollyanna game – posting images that show the good in our lives, rather than the bad. When I photograph something for my blog, I try to avoid including the week old mountain of unfolded washing, the grass that is two weeks overdue for a mow, the smears of heavens-knows-what on the glass sliding doors. I argue that it is because I want the reader to focus on the object of the photos, but we all know that it is vanity and wanting to present my best side!
I have always presumed that most people understand that what we read in a post, see in an image on Instagram, or read in a tweet is a mere glimpse into the world of that person, and is probably showing the best part of their life, rather than all the dirt and grit that goes along with it. Any dirt and grit that is shown is there to illustrate a point because the author chooses to include it.
But a recent conversation with a young person who was staying with me, gave me pause. She was complaining about the duplicity of an ex-partner who had said he wasn’t going out partying but had posted a photo on Instagram, smiling with a girl and a drink. As she raged about ‘how dare he lie’ I took the plunge and asked her whether judging his actions based on a photograph – a moment in time, with no context – was the right thing to do. She didn’t like my logic. And she didn’t have to – I am not her mother.
Perhaps it is a generational thing (because after all I am over 40 and therefore ancient) or perhaps we all just see the world in a different way. What I do know is that I will be trying to teach my chicks that you can’t make a decision or a judgement about someone based on one tiny glimpse into their life. Hmmm…. perhaps it is the lawyer in me wanting to make sure that decisions are evidence based. Whatever – I am still happy to admit to adopting the Pollyanna effect. I will have an authentic voice. I will share the bad – but it will come with the good, because I need to know that there is a balance in all things.
I hope that you have the ability to find the good in your life this week.
A quick mock up of my stall in the family room this morning has me feeling much more relaxed about it all! I might come up with another way of holding up my banner though……
It is that crazy time of the year again. Each year I vow and declare that I won’t be caught up in the flurry of December activity. This year I set myself up to fail that vow back in August when I booked a stall for the Christmas markets! So please excuse my regular updates while I deal with December and all that it entails.