winter whimsy :: the gardening raccoons

paper cranes

by a wintry window

You tricksy Melbourne weather, you!  Both this morning and yesterday morning, I awoke to blue skies and sunshine – it was lovely!  So appreciated!

But before the hour was even out, you’d sent in the heavy clouds, gusty wind and rain.  Sigh! And to think, I’d coveted the delicious hope that by the end of this weekend, the top half of our newly acquired ($20 on eBay) Estey pump organ (circa 1880) would be scrubbed, all its lovely golden wood grain revealed.  No chance.

snoozy fu

needle felting

So after a morning shuttling the Year 12 child back and forth from a Japanese examination workshop – not the examination, just a 3 hour workshop on how to prepare for the examination – there was little else to do but embrace the indoorsiness of it all.

Julian settled in for an afternoon with his guru – Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – we will know all of Hugh’s puns and witticisms off by heart by the end of the year.  Fu snuggled up beside him.  Abby scorned homework and spent hours needlepointing little dolls of her favourite characters from her latest anime passion – a series about volleyball players ?!

And I jumped into the marvellous paper lover’s edition of Flow that came out a couple of months back.  Now, I’m really dreadful with this kind of thing.  I gleefully buy it.  Reverently look through it – often over and over.  Sigh over all its loveliness … and then do NOTHING with it because it’s too special to use.

Which means it never gets used.

cutting

extra bunting

modgepodge

Well, not today!  A gloomy wet day was the perfect day to pull out the saved prettiness and put it to good use.

Now we are a paper doll family – I indulged something shocking when Abby was little.  We have a vintage suitcase full – Little House dolls, Narnia dolls, American Girl dolls, Russian Royal Family dolls, Curious George dolls … including more that were saved from my childhood.  But frankly, our paper doll playing days are over.

Yes I know, we should all be embracing more play, but it’s not happening.  So I took Flow’s dear little paper Raccoon doll and her outfits, had Abby scan them in to the computer, copy and flip one (and it’s costume) around, make another copy child size, popped them all on a USB and in between that workshop shuttling, printed them off at Officeworks for the grand total of $3.75.

laid out

I laid them out on a recently bought Muji wooden tray – like a little stage set, complete with a little string of Flow bunting …

bunting

fresh flowers

… then chose the lightest spot in the house to sit – at the old singer in the dining room window – and set to glueing and sealing it all with ModgePodge.  Julian was obligatorily horrified – why would I DO this to a perfectly nice wooden tray.  You’d think he’d understand by now, hmmm :-) Anything plain is just waiting to be Lilified.

In fact, I’m thinking of buying another wooden tray and the Phoebe Wahl paper dolls from Taproot and make Julian a FARM version.  He’ll love it.

looking for the bare bits

And so flew past a couple of sweet hours.  Hugh took his first pigs to the abattoir (yet again), made Parma ham (yet again), went diving for scallops (yet again), made lamb mince pies to sell so he could afford a goose for Christmas (yet again), had his Christmas eve gatecrashed by his apple cider / skittle mates (yet again) – whilst Julian ooohed and ahhhed with ever-growing excitement and regular detailing of next years plans to Abby who jabbed her needle up and down whilst answering “Mmhmm!  Mmhmm! Mmmhmmm!”  She’s very excited by the prospect of farming ;-)

done

closer look

flat

And now we have a dear little wooden tray decorated with gardening raccoons that we can use come spring and summer when all we want to do is sit in a sunny warm garden with good food and a drink or two by our side.

Ah winter – you delivered a topsy turvy one today, but it simply didn’t matter.  There was too much goodness to be found inside to notice.

 

whale watching – mosaic style

with basket

glass prisms

work bench

After an intense week of learning on the new job, I awoke this morning with utter joy.  I have three whole days off AND today coincided with one of Merryl’s weekday morning workshops which meant I got to play mosaics in her beautiful studio for almost 3 hours.  Ah the bliss of it all!

shelves of glass

new cutters

I’m working on my second piece and it’s rather large.  The board is 1.2 metres by 90 centimetres.  That’s a lot of wee tiles and pieces of glass to cut, shape and glue.  Good thing I’m utterly bewitched and Merryl’s studio is filled with warmth, colour, creativity and lovely, lovely women who sit about the long work benches and chatter whilst they work.  Did I mention it’s bliss?  Oh it is.

cutting green triangles

This scene is one from my head.  I made it up as a cross stitch a few years back – “The Whale and her Girl” – but this version is slightly different.  Instead of the girl standing on the hilltop with her telescope, she’s inside her home looking out a large picture window.  Before her is my dream view.  A sun rising all goldy pink and orange against the sparkly sapphire sea.  A hilltop to her left, covered in Norfolk pines and crowned with a sturdy white lighthouse, resplendent in its royal blue trim.  An old fashioned ship, festooned with billowing white sails, bobs amongst the roll of the waves.  A glistening seal lolls about on a rock.

laying out the base

But even whilst it’s an imagined view, each of the elements speaks to my sentimental heart.

The sapphire sea?  It’s the east coast of Australia – the waters of the glorious Pacific Ocean which I’ve lived on for most of my life – stretching from Rainbow Bay on the southern tip of the Gold Coast, Queensland all the way to Eden at far end of New South Wales, the southern boundary of the lovely Bega Valley which we will soon be calling home.

And the sun?  Well it’s no surprise to you folks that I’m a huge fan of the sun, its light and warmth.  I didn’t have a clue about the reality of Seasonal Affective Disorder until I came to Melbourne.  Now, I cannot wait to get back to east coast, where the sun will rise over the sea each morning – and at the same time as me.

glueing the grass

The Norfolk pines?  I haven’t a clue who decided that the beaches of east coast Australia all needed to be edged in Norfolk Pines, but by golly, what a fabulous decision that was!  All the beaches of my childhood are trimmed with these lovely giants – Coolangatta, Rainbow Bay, Harrington, Crowdy, Clarkes Beach at Byron … I only have to see a stand of Norfolk Pines and I am instantly at home.  I shall plant a row of them on our farm and when I’m old and wobbly of memory, they shall be my good friends.

harrington norfolk pines

:: Harrington ::

norfolk pines

The lighthouse?  Well it’s my simple version of James Barnett’s favourite design.  He was the Colonial Architect for colonial New South wales in the late 1800s and was responsible for the 3 lighthouses that are so very dear to me – Byron Bay, Crowdy Head and Green Cape.  His lighthouses all have the same look – strikingly white against the blue of their ocean backdrops with royal blue trim.

Every summer as a child and then teenager, we holidayed at Byron and the fortnight was not complete until we’d trekked all the way round the beaches – Clarkes, The Pass, Wategos, Kings and finally up to the lighthouse which in those days had no safety fences, but did have goats grazing on the hillsides, and we’d take flattened cardboard boxes with us, so as to slide down the grassy front cliff face into the legs of our fathers who stood on the edge, stopping us from hurtling off and onto the jagged rocks below.  It was thrilling!

from the back

Crowdy Head was down the road from my grandparents’ cottage at Harrington.  You couldn’t swim at Harrington – the Manning River enters the ocean there creating wicked rips and enticing ferocious sharks. Instead, we would pile into Nanny’s hot station wagon and drive along the sandy track through the bush scrub to Crowdy.  It was so humid and sticky along that road.  There was never a breeze to be felt and the cicadas positively screamed through our open windows.

crowdy lighthouse

Then, just when we thought we would never get there, we’d pop out of the bush and there was the magical Crowdy Bay curving round in front of us, the lighthouse perched up on the cliff to our right.  We’d have a lovely long swim, ride the waves in on our boogie boards, dig in the sand, poke around the rocks.  Sometimes we’d call into the Fishing Co-op.  Often we’d drive up to check out the lighthouse and I’d recount my Famous Five induced fantasy which involved living in this lighthouse and defeating smugglers, and then back we’d go to Nanny’s.  By the time we got there, we were just as hot and frazzled as before we started.

grandad

Green Cape Lighthouse is a much more recent addition to my family story – I only visited it for the first time a few years back.  It was such a long drive in from the highway – a terribly remote spot south of Eden – but when we finally saw it standing proud on the edge of the fiercest of coasts, I recognised it straight away as one of James Barnett’s children.  The wonderful white. The smooth dome of the attached cottage – just like Crowdy.  The splendid blue trim.  Oh yes, this was one of my lighthouses.

But even better, I had my dear old Grandad by my side as we explored this beautiful lighthouse and its surrounds.  He was a little bit frail – we just didn’t realise how frail an old body could become! – but he was so determined to soak up every moment of that day.  He read all the signs describing the history of the lighthouse and its keepers.  He walked along every perfectly maintained path, slowly round each building taking in every detail, all the way down to the cliff’s edge so he could truly appreciate just what that light was protecting the ships from.

And he chatted to me non-stop.  Grandad was such a great talker.  We marvelled at the remoteness and how much effort must have been required to bring in all the supplies.  We chuckled over the tennis court, built by the government so that the lighthouse keepers and their familes could be the social beacons of the south.  We harrumphed over the ugliness of the modern light and its ghastly skeletal structure that has replaced the grand original.  We were saddened by the memorial to those who lost their lives aboard the Ly-ee-moon steamer.

round-401x600

When we finally arrived home Grandad settled by the window, looking out across the sea, with my laptop, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading the stories collected by the lighthouse keepers and their families who served at Green Cape, and filled us in on every detail.  

Oh I loved my Grandad so much.  We had such a special bond, he and I.  Maybe it had its roots in the very fact of being the eldest granddaughter (thereby sharing the most time with him of any of the other grandchildren) and living so close to him for most of my life.  But we shared so much more as well.  We both loved adventuring, exploring, history, and the stories of people and their places.  Best of all, we loved sharing each others company.

So Green Cape lighthouse – it will always tug at my heart.  I will look at this mosaic and smile, remembering all the fun, adventure and romantic notions James Barnett’s lighthouses have given me.  But most of all, I will think of Grandad and imagine him there beside me.

smiling whale

The billowing sailing ship – Master and Commander to be sure.  I adore those books – and really liked the film too.  In fact, you know that last scene, when Jack and Steven are in the captain’s cabin playing a duet, whilst the sailors, marines and officers beat to quarters – that’s from the String Quartet in C Major by Boccherini – “La Musica Notturne della strade de Madrid”.  And it’s the joyful music that my dear Grandad walked me down the aisle to when Julian and I were married.  I can’t decide which was luckier – to have married Julian, or be presented at my wedding by the finest gentleman I’ve ever known ;-)

My romantic heart does love a dashing naval commander and his intriguing nature-loving sidekick – such a fabulous addition to the high seas. Mind you, you’d never catch me out there aboard ANY boat. I can appreciate their loveliness just fine from the solid shore right here.

upside down lighthouse

As for the seal – well she’s a regular feature of the Fishpond (that’s what the little harbour is called) in Merimbula.  Every day when Mum goes walking with her friend Jo and Lucy, the little seal pops up onto the rocks near the bridge, lolling about all sleek and glistening.  Lucy stops and pushes her head under the railings for a better look and Mum and Jo chat to the seal.  She’s apparently an attentive listener but has dreadful teeth and is a bit smelly :-)  I look forward to meeting her and just love that Merimbula has resident seals!  It truly is such a magical place and very soon will be part of my backyard too.  Oh my goodness!

hands

I do find that every time I turn my hand to making, what I’m really doing is telling part of my story, expressing part of who I am, in yet another way.  Sentimental but true.

When we are in our farm cottage – it’s settlement next Friday, can you believe that! – I hope to hang this mosaic on the east facing kitchen wall that is without a window.  This will be my window – looking east across the Mumbulla mountains to the ocean, with a view that will warm my heart and set off a flurry of story telling every time I catch a glimpse of it.

Ah I can’t wait to get back to Merryl’s for more cutting, shaping and glueing!  With the whale, the hill, the Norfolk Pines and the lighthouse finished, I think I shall get stuck into the ocean itself with that rising sun.  Oooooh I’ve gone tingly all over just thinking about all the lovely colour.

 

oh these lengthening days!

folded

I was late leaving work today.  Always happens.  As I hurried through the garden to the carpark, my new boss called out “See you later Lils (Lils?), go home and make the most of this sunshine!”

Oh I didn’t need a second telling.  After a positively frosty fortnight with very dark and often wet and windy days, this afternoon’s sun had been calling to me for hours!

coffee and thread

I made a coffee, gathered up some thread, scissors, needle and a needing-to-be-bound quilt and hot footed it outside.  Glorious!  The sky was blue.  The clouds were as fluffy and sweet as new spring blossoms.  There was SUN glinting on the oak’s bare branches.  And with that quilt tucked over my lap, I was delightfully warm.

blue sky and sunlight

little girl

blossoms and thread

But the best bit?  Oh folks … I could see to stitch until 5:45pm.  That’s right.  5:45pm.  You know what that means, don’t you.  We are tilting back towards the sun.  The days are stretching longer.  Spring is round the corner.

Which means summer is round the corner!  Which means it’s almost the end of the year!! Which means it’s almost the end of living in Melbourne!!!!! Which means we will be packing up and moving to the beautiful Bega Valley in the blink of an eye.  Well … almost :-)

sunlit clouds

tucks

Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!  Words cannot adequately describe how happy this makes me :-)  See this here photo of scissors – it was taken at 5:45pm.

Tonight I won’t even need to look at my bookmarked sunrise and sunset webpage, because I sat outside – dry and warm – and stitched until 5:45pm.

scissorsMy heart is singing.

 

how to survive night shift :: the tale of a colourful shawl

from front of chair

There are many knitting projects stuffed into many baskets around Bootville.  All started with much enthusiasm.  All still loved.  And oh I am looking forward to finishing and wearing them.  But there are weeks when carefully knitting a sleeve on double pointeds with regular decreases is just too much like work.  Let alone unravelling an Icelandic yoke to reknit with less rounds.  Oy!  That one fills me with dread.

arm

So when I had my first block of night duty, I needed something warm, colourful and comforting with which to busy my hands and provide some sort of normal during the late afternoon hours that are all you have between a day of sleeping and another 11 hour overnight shift.  across top

I sure found just the project … The Sunday Shawl by Alia Bland. a.k.a. The Little Bee NZ.  A crocheted shawl in DK weight that literally leaps off the hook!  The pattern is perfectly written – so easy to follow even with the most night duty addled mind.  For many peaceful hours you just crochet back and forth and back and forth, creating a simple, ever growing triangle.

close up of edge

By the time you get to the colourful border, you are ready for a bit of adventure and there’s just the right amount – a variety of stitches, none of them too complicated.  And …. here’s the really good bit … because it’s crochet, if you make a little mistake somewhere and don’t wind up with quite the right number of stitches … you can bodge it a little and no one will ever notice ;-)  Ahhhh the easy going nature of crochet … knitting is never that kind to clumsy fingers/mind!

beautiful back

I had the dark purple Cleckheaton DK in my stash – bought it from Wondoflex’s bargain basement.  And the colours were all found stuffed into baskets around the house from different projects.  So good – I didn’t even need to leave the house. It made for lovely afternoons – just what I needed in order to confront looooooooong nights with double the patient load.

corner

Night duty is weird.  The whole hospital seems to be asleep – except the patients – they rarely sleep.  All activities apart from nursing are pared back to the barest of essentials.  The throngs of people – doctors, allied health, orderlies, visitors – they have all vanished.  The lights are mostly out.  The whole ground floor with its shops and cafes is closed.  Only a skeleton staff of ward nurses bob about in the lamplight.  Doing obs, giving meds, helping patients in pain or providing bathroom relief.

And then there’s the Hospital in the Night nurses – they are true Florence Nightingales – created as a support to the halved number of ward nurses, they are highly experienced professionals who roam the hospital with pagers – need an urgent IV site, they come; need a complicated dressing changed, they come; have more meds than you can possibly deliver in a short space of time, they come; have a four bed room turned into gastro isolation at 2 o’clock in the morning, they come and STAY until everything is under control.  Oh, by the end of my first night, I LOVED the Hospital in the Night nurses and the moment they appeared I knew everything would be good.

including side

Then there were my ward sisters – I was very fortunate to work with my preceptor for the whole block – she’s a gem – an excellent nurse and incredibly supportive.  And our team leader each night was wonderful – supportive, highly skilled, buckets of experience and friendly.  Yep – it definitely makes the night flow well when you are in it together.   In the back of my mind, no matter how out of my comfort zone I was, I knew I would get through it because those around me would never let me fall.

putting it on

from front
wearing it

So the ingredients for a successful block of night shift – awesome ward sisters who have taught me so much, super hero Hospital in the Night nurses who can always be counted on to ride in and pull off the otherwise impossible, and a colourful Sunday Shawl to fill in those spaces that are neither days or nights and bear little resemblance to normal life.

I have loved wearing the Sunday Shawl to work on early mornings and late nights, tucked around my shoulders, its vibrant colours literally making the sterile corridors of the hospital glow.  I am definitely the only nurse who arrives looking this colourful :-) I’ve even had people comment in the lifts.

But this week, I gave it a lovely wash, gently stretched it out to reveal all those lacy crochet bits, and dried it in the back garden during a rare day of sunshine.  Then I folded it up and posted it off to a wee farm.

I hope the love and all the super hero nursiness that is stitched into it brings the marvellous farmer a bit of extra cosiness and comfort during these chilly months.

When it warms your shoulders, know that this shawl came to life alongside the encouragement, vast experience and potent skills of a powerful group of women who dedicate themselves to the care of others *

And now … well I’m about to start another block of night duty tonight (oh my!) but first I may well need a trip to the wool store :-)

* I do work with wonderful male nurses too – but there were none on duty during my first block of night duty :-)

 

mosaicing at Merryl’s

mum

Oh the frabjous day!  I’ve been pausing at the glittering windows of Merryl’s Mosaics – filled with awe at the beauty she and her students create – for as long as her studio has graced Glenhuntly Road.  Several times a year I pronounce to Julian and Abby “That’s it!  I want to go to Merryl’s and learn how to make mosaics!”  And yet it’s never happened.

second night starting point

But with the end of our time in Melbourne rushing towards us, and the recent death of Grandad, there was no more waiting for the right moment.  It had to be done!  Mum was coming from the sadness of Brisbane to spend a week with us before returning to her home.  Abby was on school holidays.  I had a week of days off before starting another fortnight of night duty (ugh!).  Perfect opportunity for finally calling Merryl and finding out just how her workshops ran and what we needed to do to start laying tiles.

tiles

It was ridiculously easy.  Isn’t that the way?  I always um and ah and um and ah and fret and hesitate … and yet, when I rang, she invited us to attend that very evening – no tools or supplies needed, she supplies everything, the workshops run for 2 1/2 hours, there’s a flat workshop fee that reduces when you bring family members and when you visit more than once in a week.  And there are sessions offered 3 nights a week and 5 mornings.  So delightfully flexible.

abby

And you just have to visit Merryl’s website and read how she came to start her mosaic workshop – very inspiring :-)  A passion for colour and design!  A desire to create a community of supportive creativity for women!  Merryl’s a woman after my own heart indeed. tiles with pencils

Within moments of arriving, we were settled at her huge work benches, our chosen wooden boards in front of us, tools by our side, and a breathtaking array of tiles and pebbles and glass laying before us.  The ultimate child in a candy store experience.

trees

I’m making a Hamsa (found in Jewish and Middle Eastern cultures) which represents the Hand of God and is said to protect your home from the evil eye.  Traditionally, they are highly decorated with an eye nestled into the palm.  Mine has a much simpler design – inspired by the beautiful art of Tomie de Paola, I’m creating a Hamsa that represents our little farm and when we settle in just 26 days, I hope to take my finished Hamsa and hang it on the walls of our little farm cottage.

Mum’s making a striking platter based on a Moroccan design.  She has cut and laid her tiles with painstaking precision – it is beautiful!  And I can’t wait to see how those rich blue stars leap when she’s filled in and grouted her background.

And Abby – she’s making a wallhanging based on a design from one of her favourite web based graphic novels.  You should see her in action – within moments of starting she mastered the tile cutter and grinder, carefully shaping her sparkling purple tiles to fit her meticulously measured curves.

end of second night

Oh we are so looking forward to returning next week!  And my pinterest boards are filling up with favourite pieces and designers … and birds.  I’d like to start a series of round pieces inspired by the work of the English mosaic artist Martin Cheek and representing the birds of the Sapphire coast.  And pieces for the garden.  And for the bathroom and kitchen of our strawbale home.  And for our paths.  And our exterior walls.  And …. And …. And … :-)

Thank you Merryl!

 

plates on the dresser

black corner

Now this is a bit backwards.  I made Julian yet another quilt for his birthday this year – I never intend doing this, ’cause frankly, Julian is not an especially quilty person, but I always seem to find just the perfect fabric for him in the weeks before his birthday, so find myself enthusiastically buying up a few metres of it and then presenting him with yet another quilt.

Last year it was the Wild Things quilt, this year it was the Periodic Table quilt, previous years … well I know I’ve made them but I can’t quite put my finger on them at the moment – they were clearly terribly perfect for Julian ;-)

If you have a magnifying glass handy you’ll notice I even chose the background fabrics carefully – there’s cameras for his love of photography, and wooden rulers for his love of precision and old tools, and seaweed for his love of snorkelling …

periodic table

I based the design on a striking quilt I found via Pinterest (you need to scroll down a bit to see the quilt I’m talking about).  Oh the hours I can spend (waste) on Pinterest! There are so many exquisitely beautiful quilts out there!

with leaves and shadows

I adored making the Periodic Table quilt, and was so thrilled with the finished quilt top that I straight away started another based on the same design – this here Plates on the Dresser.

A bundle of Anna Maria Horner fat quarters had landed in my lap from the wonderful Cotton Factory in Ballarat, and I’d noticed the perfect “wooden” fabrics up at Darn Cheap, so the minute I’d sewed the last row onto Julian’s Periodic Table quilt, I set to putting together this pretty thing.  Only I didn’t quilt and finish off the Periodic Table – which is why you are seeing the Plates on the Dresser first.

Backwards, huh.

along the back

So here’s the Plates on the Dresser.  I pieced my wooden shelves, then added the plates using first vliesofix to adhere them, then whizzed around the edges with a close zigzag stitch.

red and yellow edge

For the quilting, I used …. a vintage woollen blanket :-) I quilted a sort of peony shaped flower onto each plate and then did squiggly wiggly over the rest of it – blending the thread colours to the different plate and wood colours.  I never like my squiggly wiggly standing out – all I can see is faults – I like it to sink gently into the fabric.

blue corner

And then a nice piece of stripey reproduction for the binding – like a piece of ornate wooden trim.

pink in sun

Oh I do love it!  And well foresee myself making many more!  I know there will be a lovely gathering of fabric that will jump out at me and bam! – off I’ll go again. Very satisfying.

marmalade in the sun

This one has such a rich, old fashioned look to it.  I can just picture a huge old wooden dresser – the kind you’d see in the kitchen of Downtown Abbey – but instead of holding immaculate collections of perfectly matched and expensive china, it is stacked with the higgledy piggledy leftovers of generations worth of dinner settings that are now only used by the servants.  Just the kind of colourful, thrifty chaos I’m fond of.

with lucy

I think the pinks and reds in this one below are my favourite …

favourite piece

Anna Maria and I are definitely kindred spirits – I adore the busyness and rich saturations of her designs.  Nothing is ever subtle or understated.

like this plate

pegs

blankety back

sky

Sigh … just looking at it now, hanging there in all of it’s full wintery glory, makes me want to head up to Darn Cheap, stock up on a heap of Rosalie Quinlan’s, and make a red, white and blue version for summer.

full quilt

But right now, this Plates on the Dresser quilt is the perfect addition to our cold, dreak, wintery days.

so cosy

All that quilting has made it so heavy and warm.  Just right for snuggling under whilst knitting or reading or embroidering … or WiiU playing …

how it lives

… but I suppose I should really go quilt Julian’s birthday quilt … five months later.

farewell my dear old Grandad

Well hello there!  You’d thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you?!? No of course not – in fact, I feel rather sad to have been away for such a long time and promise that I shall NEVER be away for so long again.  Never!

What’s been happening around Bootville?  Well – lots.

the cover

Dear old Grandad finally passed away on the 10th June.  It was early Wednesday morning – well before the winter’s dawn – and I awoke with a jolt, just knowing he’d left.  I sent Mum a text – she was there with him – and sure enough she replied a few minutes later to say he’d taken a last raggedy breath and then there was no more.

Despite knowing that this was inevitable, oh I lay there and sobbed.  Forty five years I’ve had my dear old Grandad by my side – so extraordinarily blessed …

walking-down-the-aisle

grandad-and-lily-wedding

… and then he was gone.  Just like that.

So there was a sad trek to Brisbane for the funeral – family came from all over the world and despite some horrendously stressful moments, there were many more moments of love and joy as those that I love gathered together to send off a truly beautiful man.

the quilt

At the viewing we snugly tucked him in with his favourite quilt – one of mine that he has used every night since the stroke 18 months ago – it has survived two hospitals and a nursing home, it was clearly meant to be grandad’s.  In his hands lay his old Akubra to keep that hot Australian sun off his old bald head, and the little black wallaby I stitched him earlier this year was tucked into the crook of his arm – to remind him to always take the adventurous path.

grandad at the postoffice

grandad and his milkshake

grandad by the water

We chose music for his service that brought us to tears – a service which was held in the very same church that he married Nanny in almost 70 years ago.  The Reverend gave a heart warming sermon on St. Paul’s theme of the triumph of love over all else – she was magnificent and her words and compassion gave us so much comfort.  We scattered beautiful flowers across his grave – a secluded spot that I was relieved to find rang with birdsong.  Grandad loved birds.  We all pitched our photos together and created a slide show of Grandad’s life that expressed the joy and love he found in his family – one that we have watched over and over and still cry every time.  We took every opportunity to toast our dear old Grandad and his wonderful life until we all went our separate ways a few days later.

rainbow bay

I think for me the moment I felt closest to his spirit was on the beach at Rainbow Bay the day after the funeral.  Abby, Sacha, my nephew Oscar, cousin Maddie and I built a life sized sand sculpture of Grandad – Sandy Grandad.  It was truly therapeutic and as the day went on, more and more of my family arrived to set up camp around him.  The seagulls strutted their stuff across his chest and legs, nearby children dug in the sand and splashed in the glittering shallows, surfers paddled out to meet the dolphins, and families strolled back and forth.  Life in all its gentleness and beauty went on around him – just as it should.

his head

the flag

abby building him

his walking stick

with grandad

By late afternoon, there he lay, quiet and content – walking stick in hand, Akubra stuck on his head - waiting for the evening tide to come for him.  The setting sun turned his beloved bay into a silvery sparkly blue heaven. I stretched out beside him with Maddie and we reminded him how very much he was loved, what a fine old fellow he’d been, and how much we would miss him.  They were an exquisite few minutes – ones I shall always hold dear in my heart – and I’m so glad I was there with other cousins and aunties who loved grandad just as dearly as me.

face in shadow

“… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim … “
( from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians)

heart

My dear old Grandad lived these words and so it is with a sad but grateful heart that I farewell him.

Grandad, you lived your life with such good cheer and never missed an opportunity to extend love to all those around you.  I hereby promise to do my best to follow your very fine example.

Cheers Grandad!

the unexpected quilt with a square

so many threads

There’s been a bit of quilting this past weekend.  Perfect weather for it – grey, gusty and wet – we even had early morning thunder and hail!  And this here quilt needed to be finished.  It has been sitting on the sewing machine, needle in the down position, since I fell over at work 3? 4? weeks ago.  You see, I hurt my hand – a graze that took an age to heal and a strained wrist – all that 45 year old weight landing on one little joint and all.

Ahhhh … as my Nanny says, “You always were awkward Lily!” But back to the quilt …

square testing

T’was a completely unexpected quilt.  I went to Spotlight with a loyalty card that said 40% off if you finish the bolt.  I was pretty excited.  There were several delightful ranges that I’d been eyeing off and I figured this was too good a bargain to pass by.  Alas – I was one day late.  My card had expired.  I was a little peeved and there was definitely some seething as I stomped away from the counter.

But then, I spied my favourite Reprodepot red floral on the $8 table so I figured I’d grab all that was left.  Sadly it wasn’t that much.  That morning I’d also seen an instagram from the lovely Kristin Shields of a little dolls quilt she’d seen in an exhibition.  It had a small repeating square off centre in a sea of background.

Edited to add: Thank you Kristin for directing me to the marvellous original – here’s the link - it’s by the wonderful quilt maker Chawne Kimber!  You must visit her site – her work is very inspiring.  And you’ll see that whilst I’ve totally taken her idea of the little repeating square within a sea of background, mine lacks her energy and movement – she has a wonderful way with colour, complete mastery of modern patchwork and beautiful quilting – her concentric circles are to swoon over :-)

That would be a good use of the red Repro fabric – I just needed some contrasts for the square.  So feeling stingy but determined to walk away with a goodly stash of spoils/fabric, I picked out some blues, yellows and a white.

with bits

Once home, it was quickly obvious, my Repro would not stretch to the square as well.  Never mind – Kaffe is here!  Everything always looks marvellous with a bit of Kaffe :-) Yes? Of course yes!

tried it lengthways

Then it was one to fiddling around with my square.  It wound up MUCH bigger than in the sweet little quilt Kristin had shared.  Hmmm … so having it completely off centre just looked wanky.  It seemed my square would live at the bottom of a long quilt.

quilting the lines

love the lines

the binding

Until I brought it out into this morning’s glorious autumn sunshine and realised – it wants to be a sideways quilt!

finished

Oh yes!

squiggly wiggly

the square

more of those lines

sideways at square

I quilted the red floral with my standard squiggly wiggly.  But the square I quilted with closely spaced straight lines.  I didn’t measure them – just by sight – and some are a little off.  I unpicked the ones that truly offended, but the ones that are left, I’m happy with.  Someone once told me there were no perfectly straight lines in nature – so that’s my mantra :-)   

gently blowing

squiggly wiggly from the back

And of course, it’s quilted onto a beautiful butterscotch coloured, pure wool, vintage Laconia blanket. So toasty warm.

still a lot of threads

As you can see, I’ve not yet finished sewing in all the threads :-0  I counted them last night – with all those start and stop lines and the natural running out of the bobbin during the squiggly wiggly – there are at least 350 ends.  Hmmmm … they can be done whilst I’m snuggled under it – the cold weather will be around for several months – should be enough time!

better corner
on the bed

Ah yes.  An unexpected quilt with a square.  Totally unnecessary.  There are so many more tucked into every corner of Bootville that need finishing and quilting.  But hey.  Colour just makes me swoon.  And red?  Well that’s even better.

 

the building of a tensioning frame

the rug

For my recent birthday, Abigail gave me this beautiful McAdoo Rug design for needlepunching.  Melts my heart – she’s our Merimbula mermaid for sure, reminding me of the lovely mornings Julian and I snorkel down at Bar Beach, collecting mussels for our breakfast as the morning sun splashes like champagne across the water.

measuring her up

Now, surprisingly enough for someone who does as much patchwork as me, I’m not the best at measuring.  Trying to work out what dimensions my frame should be left me in a tizz – I just cannot visualise what’s needed!  So Julian took over – thank goodness – because he understood all that I did not and quickly worked up a simple design for the tensioning frame I would need to needle punch my mermaid rug.

making the cut

Of course, the fact that he got to use his newly purchased drop saw thingy was an added attraction :-)  Something nice and easy to make as he got to know the ins and outs of this fabulous new tool – purchased for our upcoming house building adventure.  Window sills!  Adirondacks! Kitchen work benches!  Courtyards! A deck by the dam! Oh yes, there will be much fun had with this little beauty!

the laser guide

He even had to admit to liking the laser guide which he earlier dismissed as a bit gimmicky.

the bits

drill press

lucy

Within an hour or so, we had the frame screwed securely together – Julian even countersunk the screws – such a lovely finish!

Now Julian doesn’t think there’s anything special to this – he called it a quick knockup – but given it will only be useful for rugs of this size – anything bigger or smaller will need it’s own frame – I think it’s bloody awesome!  I adore that my man can take $20 worth of materials and quickly knockup a frame just to indulge my whims.  Sigh!

countersunk

Then it was onto the bitey tacking which provides the tension.  Oy!  When we caught our fingers on those little points, we sure knew about it.  Now, Amy Oxford uses tacking with THREE rows which she declares to be the best – but at our local hardware store, two rows was all there was to be had.  We’ll see how it goes.

adding the tacky bits

Julian even knew to position the tacking with the tacks facing out – so as to provide maximum tensioning.  I’d have never thought of that – he’s so useful.

so bitey

Time for testing!  Just as Amy Oxford says, all those little tacks don’t tear at the fabric – they just hold it nicely in place.  And it’s even easy to reposition.  Excellent!

tensioning the rug

pulling it taut

The only thing I need to add now is some thick felt over the tacks so as not to shred my arms whilst needle punching.  I think I have some in the felt suitcase – hopefully!

a merimbula mermaid

Isn’t she gorgeous!  I’m so looking forward to starting.  I have most of the wool I will need – I’m using the lovely Dutch woollen felt from Winterwood Toys – sliced up into 1/4 inch strips with the rotary cutter.  Hopefully it will work a treat and look marvellous.  I tested some out already and it makes lovely nubbly loops.  If not, we’ll have lots of felt for applique and doll making :-)

ready for needlepunching

I’m just not sure I’ll ever want to stand on her.  Hmmmm …. after all the hours that will go into making her – not to mention the funds! – stomping our great big feet on her might be too stressful to bear! Maybe we could become a shoeless house …

Oh Julian, you are such a gem xxx

 

everyday eden :: a quilt

finished

So, as expected, this nursing gig is taking up vast amounts of my time and energy.  Even when I’m not at the hospital, I find myself thinking about it regularly – especially how I could be doing better and hoping I survive the year!

a start

I’ve definitely landed in an incredibly high acuity facility which can sometimes make for very demanding shifts – when I fret about these Julian says “Just remember, next year when a patient like that arrives you’ll be saying – you’re THAT unwell – off to Canberra or Sydney with you!”

on the ironing board

But there is certainly still a lot of creating going on here in Bootville – more than ever, it’s what keeps me sane – allows my mind to unravel and soon after I sit down to needles and thread, fabric and wool, I am once more in a state of cheerful, imaginative peace.

pinned and ready

This little quilt – a single bed size – which I finished a couple of weeks back – makes me especially happy.

soaking up some afternoon sun

Not only are the delicious warm colours my favourite – but the gorgeous centrepiece of each block is a fabric called “Everyday Eden”!  How apt is that!

tousled in the sun

Eden is the little fishing village perched at the southern end of the Bega Valley.  When we drive east from Melbourne, we trundle across hundreds of kilometres of Victoria and then, soon after finally crossing the NSW / Victoria border, we hit Eden – the southern most village on Australia’s East Coast – and we know we’re back to our beloved Pacific Ocean and almost home to Mum’s.

quilting

It was such fun hunting through the stash, looking for just the right fabrics for the strips of this almost log cabin.

on with the binding

Of course there’s Kaffe – I firmly believe EVERY quilt looks good with some Kaffe – and lots from a lovely bundle I so generously received over Christmas from the Aussie Christmas Quilt swap!

on the line

Then onto a lovely cosy thrifted wool blanket.  No squiggly wiggly for this one – instead, in the centre of each block I quilted one large concentric, wobbly flower.

backing blanket

The borders were so narrow – such a 70s fabric – organic cotton with yellow and orange guitars – they didn’t need any quilting.

sunny house

joyful girl

headless but in love

flower girl

cheerful friends

groovy guy

Mmmm … look at these groovy folk – don’t they look as though living in Eden is pure bliss!  It’s a sign!

border and binding

hanging up

At the moment, this sweet quilt is laying on the spare ‘oom bed.  But – if all goes to plan, and our fingers are STILL crossed – we will need many quilts to line the walls of our next abode – a temporary one whilst we build our strawbale home – so I reckon the more the merrier!

blanket magic

We will also need plenty on the beds – yes, there will definitely be a time in the next couple of years when all my quilts may even become Julian’s best friends :-)

speckled with shadeAh colourful quilts – you do make me so happy.

 

jeeping

photo

We’re one step closer to our wee farm in the beautiful Bega Valley – we have the means to drive down our driveway and up to our front door! Our own little Jeep!

filled with boats

I must confess, I have always been critical of people who drive huge four wheel drives in the city – the kind of people that have a massive Land Cruiser with street tyres that are only driven to school drop off and the supermarket because it makes the owner feel safer.  I just don’t see the point.

sunlit greens

But all the land we looked at over Christmas needed four wheel drive access once you left the road – in fact, some of the roads were even beyond our station wagon.  And so we had to reconsider our transport options.

chip buttie

Julian would definitely need a farm truck – the Toyota Hilux seems to be the truck of choice in the Bega Valley and from all reports they are very reliable and sturdy.  I would need something to drive to work – a little Jeep would not only be good for this but without the roof would be awesome fun to drive around the lovely beaches of the Sapphire Coast in summer.

But not on the beaches!  I’m absolutely opposed to driving on beaches – we’ve sucked up enough of our land for compressed highways and roads on which thousands of animals die every year – I think it’s environmental vandalism to drive along our beautiful sandy beaches. Get out and walk for goodness sake!

knitting

So, after much looking, we found a nice little second hand number that will hopefully give us many years service.  It also has a tow bar so we are buying a trailer and will be able to cart things up to Bega each time we visit throughout this year – hopefully making the end of year move a little less of a mammoth undertaking.

bare feet

We picked her up yesterday – I’ve named her Sylvia – and as soon as we brought her home, packed the picnic hamper and headed for the beach.  At first the day was very grey and cool – so roof on for our trip down the bay – but whilst we sat by the shore, munching our fish and chips, the clouds finally broke up and it turned into a glorious afternoon of sun, sparkle and warmth.  Off with the shoes and roof!

little boats coming home

by the waters edge

such coarse sand

paddling

treasures

green

However, Abby quickly found that the back seat is rather exposed without the roof – so she hopped into the front with me and Julian luxuriated in the windswept wildness of the back all the way home.

He adored it! Reminded him of his teenage years by the beach in Darwin.

in the back

So much fun!  And so exciting to be moving closer and closer to the next part of our journey :-)

in our garden

(And little Sylvia will mostly be a homebody this year – spending most of her time sitting on the driveway with the camellias and cotoneasters – I still think four wheel drives in the city are an indulgence!)

 

the thoughts of a very new nurse

I’m counting it as a blessing that I’m able to see the good in almost every shift combination I work at the hospital.

An early? Oh it’s so lovely to be home by 4.30pm and have a slow, peaceful late afternoon and evening extend before me.  A late?  I love a morning at home – get up with the family, make breakfast, take Abby to school, potter about with my patchwork and chores then meander on into to work for a 1pm start.

A late followed by an early?  Yes, I come home utterly exhausted after that morning shift that followed a late shift with just a few hours in between for sleeping, but it’s almost like getting 2 shifts over in 1 – bargain!

And even when there’s a long stretch of days before me – next week I will work 8 out of 9 days – 4 days on then 1 day off then 4 days on again – I remind myself, with such gratitude, of the lovely days off that will follow.  That’s right … I am such a Pollyanna :-)

jumper

Mind you, my Pollyanna skills have been put to the test this week with the rather dismal breaking down of our car.  Our car will be with the mechanic for the next week and when we pick it up, we will be almost $3,000 poorer.  Ugh!  That means rides to and from the hospital on the back of Julian’s motorbike, and when he isn’t around, looooong,stuffy, motion sick inducing tram rides.

But then, this afternoon, home from an early and sitting in our back garden with my knitting, a cup of tea, a brisk autumn wind and the late afternoon sun, then later inside preparing supper, I was thinking about the patients I cared for today and realised with a jolt that I needed to practice a bit of what I had preached only a few hours earlier.

In turn, this gave me the opportunity to reflect on my last 10 weeks or nursing, of all that I am adjusting to, the practical experience I am gaining as a nurse, and importantly, how I look at and listen to my patients each day, and how this shapes my relationship with them.

cup and wool

Throughout my degree, we were constantly reminded that each patient we care for is unique.  That our nursing and communication with them has to be guided by their individuality and their needs.  Whilst I always believed this as a student, it was not until I was standing in a room with four utterly different people before me that I appreciated this.

And I have to add, that in the first few weeks, the whole experience of nursing as a new grad was so indescribably overwhelming that I was probably more focussed on getting all the obs done, all the medications delivered, and actually making it to the end of the shift without having a nervous breakdown than to really notice who my patients were and how best to support them.

needles

This last couple of weeks – things are getting a bit smoother.  There are still moments of panic and things that I simply don’t get done and have to hand over at the end of my shift to the nurse taking over from me.  But today I was able to tick off each of the tasks on my planner AND find the time to appreciate who each of my patients were and try to meet more than just their physiological needs.

It’s a humbling experience, let me tell you.  So I thought I would share just a few of the things I try to practice each day.

Most of my patients are quite old and have several things going wrong for them.  Each person deals with this in a different way.

Some are cheerful and make funny little jokes which remind me of my grandad.  These patients have an inspiring outlook on life – philosophical about where they are, full of gratitude for what they’ve had, and cooperate with everything you ask them to do.  Without fail, each of these patients I’ve met, come from families that share so much love.  They speak of their partners and children with such love, appreciation and joy.  They want to be at home with them.  They look forward to what time they have left, no matter how short or compromised it may be.  I so look forward to seeing these patients each day.  And with every laugh and little story we share, I am reminded of the incredible power of love.  Of how rich love makes our lives and how much it nourishes us.  And so, when the shift ends and I am at home, I remember to focus on love ’cause that’s what will make everything else happen.

splash of gold

Other patients – especially when they’ve lost a lot of their independence – look up at me with angry, confused or distant eyes.  I totally get this.  Being very ill and coming towards the end of life can be horribly undignified.  And I’ve noticed that this is even more so when English is not that patient’s first language.  I can only imagine how isolating that must feel.

Accidents happen.  Bodies need washing.  And sometimes all these patients can do is lay there staring up at us, at our mercy, as we roll them from side to side so that we may change their pyjamas and sheets for the 3rd time in as many hours, push pillows under different parts of them in an effort to relieve the pressure their poor old bodies are under, and pull them up the bed so that they may breathe easier.   At these moments, I look into their faces and try to imagine who they were before their illness took over.  Who they were when they were younger and fitter.  What these eyes before me have seen and loved.

Illness does not define a person.  Nor do tired and broken bodies.  Inside what we see on the bed before us, is a person who has lived – had passions and ambitions, created a family, worked to support them, enjoyed holidays with their partners and children, laughed over family dinners, been enchanted by the arrival of grandchildren.  Keeping this at the front of my mind as I care for these patients, really helps me find every bit of compassion and love I have, no matter how awkward or unpleasant the task at hand may be.  I hope they feel this.

leaves

Other patients are much younger and yet are confronted by very serious illnesses and a future that is full of medical intervention and uncertainty.  These are the patients I truly have to listen to closely because it is their experience, not mine, and I need to make sure I am very sensitive to this.

Some of these patients have experienced a life so completely different to my own and can be a bit difficult to care for on a psychosocial level.  They might not take responsibility for their own wellbeing and no matter how hard we try, make very little progress.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.  So I listen.  And listen.  And then listen some more.  I imagine them as they were when they were little and wonder what forces shaped them, what they struggled with.  Some might think this is naive – or even patronising – as adults make their own choices in life.  Yes, that’s true.  But as Abby would describe it, there’s always a back story somewhere.  Working to catch a glimpse of that backstory gives me patience and empathy.  That goes a long way towards creating a rapport and caring relationship with someone I have so little in common with.

potatoes

 

Other patients are terribly anxious and afraid of what might come next.  Again, it’s really important to gauge their approach to life and what’s important to them.   For some, they’ve rationalised all of what’s before them according to their belief system and simply need to be listened to with compassion and respect.  No point sharing Pema Chodron with someone for whom control and structure is essential.

But yesterday I cared for a patient who was so very anxious and it became obvious a bit of Pema could be comforting.  So we talked about understanding that some things are just beyond our control and thus, letting go of them can actually help us feel a little less uptight.  We talked about how we can choose how we respond to situations – we can be overwhelmed by them or look at them as another step on the journey.  We laughed at how this choice might feel a bit contrived at first but how with practice, it can become easier and feel more genuine.

And I shared a strategy that I find really does work for me … that the experience at hand – be it life changing surgery or a broken down car – might feel horrible and overwhelming.  It might make us feel anxious, our stomach tied up in knots, our breathing faster, and make it difficult to think of anything else.  But we don’t need to turn these feelings off.  They are what they are and are a perfectly reasonable response to the situation at hand.  Instead, I try to acknowledge these feelings – just sit with them – and then remind myself that they won’t hurt me and sooner or later, the experience at hand will be resolved and the feelings will go.

My patient really liked this idea and shared later that it had helped make their day a bit more bearable.  Given all that is standing before this patient, and all that they’ve been through, it was very humbling that something I shared had made a difference.

chicken

So you know, a broken down car is just what is happening at this moment.  It too will pass and life in Bootville will return to normal.  Shifts will be late and early, stressful and rewarding.  Weeks will be long.  But there will be lots of love.  There will lots of time with my family.  Dreams and plans will continue to grow.  Suppers will get cooked.  Jumpers will be knitted.

And just think of all the moments I have before me to grow in experience and knowledge.  All the fascinating and lovely people I will meet and care for.  All the opportunities I will have to give.  All the times I will stumble, fail and learn.

This nursing life is a rich one indeed.