This morning was another cold, dreary, grey, flattening sort of morning. Melbourne specialises in these. I have to exert a lot of energy to rise above it. But the last few weeks, as I’ve been waiting for application acceptances and grad year interviews, I’ve been a little bit wobbly on the rise. Checking emails every 5 minutes. Fretting over imagined, terrible outcomes. Wondering how I’ll ever make it to October 14th without having wasted 2 months ripping off all my cuticles.
Oy! So, instead of working on the Spring House which continues to cover the kitchen table, I tipped my needlepoint wool onto the library table and curled up under the lamp to work on my Norwegian Queen. Did you know the Norwegian word for Queen is “Dronning”. I must say, to my English speaking mind, this doesn’t conjure up the most regal notions – instead, it makes me think of a right bore of a queen, “dronning” on and on and on in a pompous and repetitive manner to her ladies in waiting about all the things the King (Konge) does that annoy her.
Yesterday, when I was thinking of all the things I could do with this wee needlepoint, I looked up lots and lots of ways to say Queen. The similarities were mostly expected – except for the enchanting Hindi word. You want to know some? Course you do – in French they say “Reine”, in Spanish it’s “Reina” and in Italian it’s “Regina”. Yup – just as expected. But in Hindu it’s “Rani”! How cool is that!! That Sanskrit and European languages share the same root is so fabulous! Just tonight I heard that lovely Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, say that the thing he really began to feel when he was floating above our improbable jewel like world was the collectiveness of it all. Such a beautiful thought – and precisely why they say Rani in India and Reine in France.
You want to know some more – all right! In Russian they say “Koroleva”, in Czech they say “Kralovna”, and in Turkish they say “Kralice. Must be a connection there. In Malaysian they say “Ratu” and in Arabic they say “Malikah”. In Japanese I think they say “Joo” and in Vietnamese they say “Nu Hoang”. The one that made me laugh was the Maori – “Kuini”! Isn’t that gorgeous! I wish my Norwegian queen was a “Kuini” but I suppose I’d best make peace with the fact she’s a “Dronning”.
Anyways – etymological diversions aside – the needlepoint. I was at a bit of an impasse. I had – improbably – chosen gingernut brown for the background and spent last eve furiously filling and filling and filling. Then realised this morning that I couldn’t possibly fill in around all those little red flowers – they would VANISH into the gingernut. As I sat there, calculating how many hours it would take to pull out all that gingernut, I looked up and realised what was clearly inspiring me when I first settled on warm brown – this here print on the library wall!
I’m afraid I cannot remember the name or artist, but it is from the early American colonial period – one of my favourite periods of art. I just love the wonky perspective and proportions – grapes hanging from huge trees ready to torpedo the small farm houses and the garden that looks ripe for sliding down the steep hill – of gingernut brown! I’ve always looked at this painting and thought how the artist must have painted and painted the brown hill and then got to that beautiful weeping willow and thought “bugger, I can’t possibly paint in between all those delicate leaves, I know, I’ll paint around it.” And at the moment I was GLAD I’d chosen gingernut brown and knew just how to deal with those red flowers :-)
Then, I practised that ancient sport of “well, before I start a new piece of brown, I’ll just check the emails again.” Do you know that game? It goes like this – “before I wash the dishes, I’ll just check the emails again”, “I’ll hang out the washing and then I can check the emails again”, ”I won’t check the emails again until I’ve added three more rows of bricks”, ”goodness, I’ve been out of the house for 45 minutes, it’s time to quickly check the emails again.” Course you do. But this time – oh thank my lucky stars – there was the email I’ve been waiting for. A grad interview at the Royal Children’s Hospital for next Friday. Yes! Phew! Now I can get on with life.
Folks, I waltzed into the kitchen. I cleaned up with a spring in my step. I laughed with delight at the thought of baking for lunch :-) And so I pulled out a real favourite – Hugh’s soda bread from his lovely “Family Cookbook”. It’s such a good, solid recipe that allows for all manner of interpretations – today it was dates and oats. I just followed the basic recipe – eliminated the sugar (I always do that) and substituted 50g of oats for 50g of flour. Yum!
Popped it into the oven and did some more washing up. I must admit – I do like washing up in winter. I love filling the sink with straight hot water – no cold – and then plunging my hands in. This year I’ve either developed asbestos hands or the plumber turned the water heater temperature down when he last visited. Either way, it’s bliss. Fogs up my spectacles. The steam rises around me and floats away from the dishes as I stack them on the drainer. Oh yes, washing up, one of winter’s pleasures.
Then, whilst the soda bread baked, I got to playing with the beet tops from last night’s supper. Chopped off the leaves for the rabbits. And then, was so entranced by the ruby red liquid that dripped from the stems, that I chopped them up too and boiled them up in a bit of water. I have plans. Next time you pop into blockaday I shall either be showing you something marvellous. Or you’ll be laughing until you cry over what happened to those beet stems. We’ll just have to wait and see which it will be.
In 25 minutes, out came the soda bread – all bursting with scrumptious, piping hot dates. I hacked off some thick slabs, carefully layered them with thin slices of cold salty butter and gobbled them up at the kitchen bench. Yum!
Washed the butter from my hands, wrapped the leftovers for tomorrow morning’s breakfast – Hugh’s soda bread is marvellous toasted – and returned to my Kuini-Dronning. Spirits lifted. Belly full. New ideas for birds and borders and purposes in my mind.
Take that you dreary, winter Melbourne morning!
… to swing by Bootville, in the mid-afternoon, when school’s out early, the late winter sun is setting the back garden aglow, and the sweet scent of jasmine is wafting across the grass, don’t knock at the front door. Come down the side, and through the gate – we’re in the garden!
kick off your shoes … it’s okay, the dog hasn’t chewed a pair in years. She’s so grown up now :-)
we’ve saved you a chocolate and raspberry sponge from Aviv’s!
pull up a corner on the picnic blanket – we’re reading a lovely new picture book (yes, we still love and buy picture books!). It’s all about what happens when you decide to throw caution to the wind and dare to do something a bit different. With fabulous pictures. And it’s Japanese. And it’s by Mitsumasa Anno – what a gift to the world he is!
Fu will come bounding up every few moments to tell you all about a yummy stick she’s just found or an evil pigeon with dastardly plans she was brave enough to chase off. To protect us, of course. She’s not afraid of evil and dastardly pigeons. It’s her job.
Abby’s writing a new story – currently planning out all the characters and locations – so she’ll probably ask you to contribute a name or an occupation – the crazier the better.
Perhaps you’d like to pull out whatever it is you love to do – bit of knitting, a good book, some stitching. If you’ve come empty handed you’re welcome to play with my new Pride and Prejudice paper dolls. But I reserve the right to pop them all out. You can put the stands on – they’re a bit tricksy.
Aren’t they gorgeous! And Fu didn’t steal a single one. I told you she’s getting grown up at last.
Then, whilst Abby gets down to the nitty-gritty of her tale, I might sneak a peak into my new novel. You don’t mind do you. I had to buy it. As you can see, it’s called “We are all completely beside ourselves”. This is one of my favourite phrases! I use it ALL the time. I am regularly completely beside myself – usually with delight, anticipation, or anxiety. My response to Abby’s tales of school is usually “Goodness, the teacher must have been beside herself”. When Mum tells me what the extended family are up to, I reckon they’re completely beside themselves as well. Even my patients’ families are beside themselves – well of course they are. As for the patients – they’re usually too sick to be beside themselves.
See – I had to have it. And it’s by Karen Joy Fowler – I was completely beside myself with delight when I read her “Jane Austen Bookclub” especially when the only guy in the club suggested they read the Master and Commander books. Practically leapt out of bed I was so beside myself at that point :-) ”Yes, yes, yes!” I shrieked to Julian, “Of course the Master and Commander books are utterly perfect for the Jane Austen fan. Karen Joy Fowler and I are kindred spirits!”
“Uh-uh,” he replied. He very rarely gets beside himself, completely or not.
And when the sun tips just that bit far to the west, and the air becomes colder and damp, we’ll traipse back inside and have a nice cup of tea. You can choose which Moomin cup you’d like. If you really want to endear yourself, I’ll let you unpick the remaining 12 windows in my patchwork house that need their curtains hung, whilst I “hang” said curtains. It will be a lovely afternoon, I promise.
You just have to remember, if it’s mid afternoon and the late winter sun is out and the jasmine’s flowering – we’ll be out the back.
There was a sleepless night – we call it “hover sleep” here in Bootville, that kind of sleep where you’re not really asleep, not quite awake, but oh so aware that dawn is creeping closer and closer. Followed by another early morning, grad year interview – intense occasions after which I can always think of much better ways I could have answered their questions.
The rest of the day needed to move slowly, gently .. with a good dose of uplifting. And, as is so often the case, such balm was found in the warmth of my kitchen, a little green machine that hums like an old Hornby train set, and a table scattered with fabric.
:: late winter always means pyramids of lovely, juicy oranges – the perfect time for some marmalade brewing. I’m following a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe which calls for a good overnight soaking. Slowly, slowly …
:: not so slowly enjoying yesterday’s Nigel Slater’s marmalade loaf baked into cupcakes – with sultanas because everything tastes extra yummy with sultanas
:: my first pickling efforts – using Andrea Chesman’s “Pickled Pantry” - my cabbage has been soaking for a few hours after mashing the salt in with my fingers – it’s almost time to add the next ingredients …
:: a new cast iron pot – bigger than the last! perfect for slowing cooking a lovely joint – pork, beef, turkey – as long as it’s hot and flavoursome I don’t mind. But first – this new pot needs a nice slow curing.
:: this season’s first posy of jasmine – slowly, slowly spring is tiptoeing in
:: savouring a thick and frothy hot cocoa after school – and still, after all these years, spending our afternoon tea debating Snape’s virtue. He is hands down my favourite Harry Potter character – alas, Abby will never see it my way :-)
:: things are moving slowly on the kitchen table – it’s looked like this since Friday – but the work has been nonstop!
:: there’s only one way all these little seams come together and that’s slowly …
… but oh so pleasing.
:: lamps were lit very very early
:: corners were tidied and reorganised
:: the perfect vintage blanket was unearthed from the sewing shed
:: mail from Japan was rescued from the leaky mail box, delighted over, and ideas were hatched
:: borders were chopped and stitched and pressed – the material so very pretty it made me wonder what else I could do with it
:: the girlie was collected and supper was shopped for
It was that sort of day :-)
There’s a sort of stillness to the house at the moment. A sense of waiting. The much longed for change of seasons is almost here. Yes, there’s still plenty of shivery cold, but every morning the sun rises that bit earlier and I throw open the windows, declaring it fresh. Just this morning, I noticed the jasmine dressed in her spiky pink buds, mere days away from bursting forth with her beautiful perfume. The old hibiscus is popping out bright green leaves (the first in years) and the gnarly magnolia’s furry buds are slowly opening. I want to ride my bike to the shops. Bake fruitcake. I always want to bake fruitcake in spring. Set up camp in the back garden. Plan for Christmas. Ditch the stockings! Wear sandals!
But not yet. It is only the first week in August. There’s weeks and weeks to go of winter yet. So, I shall keep savouring the days just as they are presented to us. Wrap my hands ’round another cup of steamy tea. Tuck a quilt ’round my lap, heavy and warm. Admire the bare elegance of the tall planes and elms that line our streets. Enjoy the sharp slap of the air on my cheeks when I step outside. Layer up with wool and shawls and sheepskin slippers when I’m at home. Make the most of that lovely, safe feeling of cosiness that comes when the sky is dark, the rain is constant, the air is frigid, and the family is all at home, curtains drawn, candles lit, warm and busy.
And today, with all the DMC7928 stitched up, I turned back to a quilt top I started way back in summer when the days were long and hot. One filled with bees swirling their way round and round the garden, little puffy golden chicks and an unexpected red cross in the centre. I had all the chicks and bees stitched up and I don’t know, it just looked a little too simple. So I chopped out the middle – literally – and added a little red (no matter how hard I try, I always end up adding a little red). Then I loved it. Now, just a few weeks away from graduation it’s kind of funny – I’ve made the perfect nurses’ quilt :-)
After snapping it on the line, I laid it on our bed and do you know what – I think it may need one more border – a nice wide one – maybe 5 inches deep. In red? Then it will be extra cosy for our bed. And even more suited to being tossed over a teepee of sticks and opened as a first aid centre :-)
Tomorrow – with the forecast filled with grey and rain – I shall find this quilt a blanket, turn the kitchen radio to Classic FM, eat more mandarines, and get squiggling. It will be a lovely winter’s day.
I truly do find that my imagination runs the richest when I’m sitting quietly, hands busy with simple repetitive work. Slipping the needle up and down, filling in large swathes of background on a needlepoint for hours on end may sound dull to some, but to me – goodness, I can build and decorate a whole farmhouse in this time, let alone plan the garden and name all the animals.
This morning our old house is cold and shadowy. Abby is buried deeply under her quilts, sick with a sinusy cold. Julian is working from home in the library. I’m sitting in the spot most likely to catch a speck of sun, filling in the background of a Kaffe Fasset needlepoint I started when Mum had her eye surgery. That’s a few years back, but certainly doesn’t make this the oldest needlepoint in my stash – eek! I was working on it this Christmas past – sitting out on the front porch of Mum’s lovely beachside home – when I decided it would be really rather lovely if I turned it into a circular cushion. A lot of extra background would need filling, but we’ve already established I enjoy that :-) So here I sit, the needle slipping up and down and up and down, metres upon metres of 7928 being woven into the canvas.
And of course, this got me to dreaming. Unconnected thoughts and ideas. Until I hit upon the rocking chair sitting across from me. Now, Mum and I each bought one of these rocking chairs from the opshop a few months back. They were a good price and we could imagine all kinds of pretty dressing up. We even bought fabric! Mum took hers home in pieces and I don’t know that said pieces have yet moved from the garage. Of course, that could well be because dear Mum spent 5 out of the first 6 months of the year in Brisbane caring for Nanny and Grandad. After a quick clean, mine was moved into the corner of the living room where I had dreams of gently rocking in lovely comfort whilst doing all those things I like to do.
However – it proved to be a very hard uncomfortable rocking chair and literally hurt my bottom after sitting on it for only a handful of minutes. Weird I know. Totally put me off. All thoughts of reupholstering and painting vanished and the only future I could foresee for this rocking chair was being shoved back into the car and returned to the opshop.
And yet today, as I sat needlepointing, I began to think of other needlepoints I wanted to make. Of the loveliness of the soft brown canvas I was working on. How I needed to order some more from Karen at the Quilters’ Store. How it was just the right width for the rocking chair across from me. How it was really quite a pretty rocking chair. How I could needlepoint it a new cover. Then I could work some miracles on the seat with a bit of webbing and a good piece of foam. And then paint the frame that Parisian black with the ever so slightest edges of rubbed gold.
But what to put on the needlepoint … a rural/coastal scene – like those naive scenes of 18th century American artists where segments of the landscape, its buildings, animals and people are tumbled together with no regard for proportion. A Norfolk pine in the top left hand corner with a kangaroo feeding on the grass below. Green Cape lighthouse in the top right hand corner – with a couple of black swans strutting about. Merimbula Bay with a lovely whale across the middle. And a sunrise of course. A combination of my appliqued hotwater bottle cover and my Whale and her Girl cross stitch pattern. Then, on the seat – that extra comfortable seat with its webbing and foam – a farm house with a row of flowering plums – a wombat, some sheep, a bunny or two, an echidna. Oh yes.
My needle flew faster and faster. I should order the canvas right now! I should get to work on the design RIGHT NOW! I should drag that rocking chair outside THIS MINUTE!
Then I sat the current Kaffe needlepoint canvas atop a thrifted foot stool. Huh! Perfect fit. Now that’s a project that could easily be finished in the next week or so. Then there’s the fox chair just begging for more attention.
Hmmm … perhaps this very very exciting rocking chair revival should be a reward for first finishing off this lovely rich floral piece and the fox chair. That would be sensible.
So in the name of Elinor’s good sense, as opposed to my usual choice of Marianne’s sensibility, I’ve jotted down my notes here so I won’t forget. Maybe I’ll allow myself some fiddling on the computer with the layout. And meanwhile, I shall keep filling in all that 7928.
Oh yes! Such good imagining! I’m so excited!
Monday morning … Abby returned to school, Mum and Lucy headed back across the Gippsland to their beachside home, and I had the whole day ahead of me. It was so bleak and cold – with a heavy hand of dampness to the air – the lovely thing to do would be light the lamps, make tea and settle into an armchair with my knitting and a nice audio book. Yes!
No. As those of you who follow along on my Instagram might have noticed, there’s been quite the DMC wool caper going on here at Bootville over the last week. Spotlight – Australia’s large fabric/craft/homewares merchant – has decided – in all its wisdom – to stop selling DMC embroidery wool. Instead they are going to stock Semco. What? I hear you say. That’s right – Semco. A much cheaper range of wool – poorer quality, far smaller colour range and let’s face it – who designs wool embroidery and needlepoint for Semco – um, nobody. I sought out the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight store and had words – thoughtful, reasonable, polite, grown up words but words nonetheless. I didn’t want her to be under any illusion that replacing DMC wool with Semco was in any way a considerate thing to do for a business that purports to love and support creativity and those who create.
In fact – I related the story shared with me by the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight 15 years ago when they stopped selling needlepoint canvas – the manager that suggested Spotlight’s business model at the time was to stock what all the local independent stores were stocking, undercut them on price because they could, then once they’d put the little independents out of business – drop any lines that weren’t highly profitable for them with a quick turnover – like needlepoint canvas. She agreed that yes, that did seem a reasonable assumption to make and no, she could not understand the logic of the national buyer at all. Nice! During those years I watched 4 stores I regularly visited and attended classes at – all run by imaginative and passionate women who DID love and support creativity and those who create – who put their whole lives into building communities of creativity and passion – close because they simply couldn’t compete with the juggernaut that is Spotlight.
Does this make me spit my teeth out. Why yes it does. But we won’t go any further down this ranty path :-) Suffice to say – I have spent the grocery budget and more on DMC embroidery wool – it’s just hard to stop when it’s only 25c a skein, you truly adore needlepoint and wool embroidery, and you know it’s going to be that much harder to buy from now on.
And to make the bundles of wool piling up on my sideboards and bookshelves even sweeter – I’d recently hard rubbished a dear little chest of drawers that I thought would be perfect for storing my suddenly growing stash. I had visions of Julian cutting me little thin dividers of ply and all my wool neatly and numerically arranged. As it turns out – I’m hopeless at judging size and it’s a wee bit on the small side. There’ll be no little thin dividers of ply :-) Instead, there’s mildly organised squashing. Oh well.
So back to Monday morning – I put on my dirty clothes, dragged the chest out into the driveway and got to work. I was hopeful it was a job for my usual friends – steelwool and metho – alas it was a stripper number and I had to go buy a tin of toxic burning jelly – ugh.
I scraped and scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed until all the old varnish was off, my fingers were stiff and frozen, and my nose was dripping onto my shirt. There was certainly more I could have achieved if I’d wanted to put in another day of sanding – but I didn’t. Julian was home on Wednesday morning and I needed this baby oiled, inside and stuffed.
By Tuesday night it was!
There are four drawers – first is neutrals, greys and browns. Abby and I debated over many of these colours – it would seem I see purple everywhere whereas Abby swore black and blue it was grey. I capitulated. Next is yellows, oranges and greens – no problems here. Third down are the end of the greens, the beginning of the purples and the all the blues. I feel a bit light on with the blues but … the drawers are full so I’m not sure if I’ll go back for more. Finally – the rest of the purples (sans all those lovely purples Abby shoved into the grey and brown drawer), all of the pinks and reds. I DID go back for pinks – and oh my, I now have a lot – I probably have enough to needlepoint bed curtains!
Oh I am such a lover of colour. I keep opening the drawers and just staring dreamily into all that gorgeousness. And yet – as I begin to think of new projects I feel a shiver of fear – oh no! I can’t use my lovely colours! If I use that green there’ll be none left. They’ll run out! Yeeeeeees. Wee bit irrational.
And the chest of drawers – despite its quick turnaround, I’m very pleased with the end result and think the lovely flamey grain of the wood has come up a warm, syruppy treat. I do love me some old and pretty wood :-)
Here it is – tucked into the corner of the library. I hung a needlepoint over it to make it feel at home – one of the first needlepoints I did – stitched through the summer of Abby’s birth. It’s from Mary Norden’s book of Folk Needlepoint – the Swedish Horseman – he has a mate who’s just waiting on the background to be finished. One day they’ll hang side by side. And it’s a lovely match for the chess set – the top of the chest really didn’t come up that well – totally different wood to the rest – no warmth at all. So an all covering chess board is just the ticket. With a little art deco mirror (from my Nanny Dougall’s beach side cottage in Harrington) and a sheep’s skull (Grandad collected for Abby when he went way out west with Mum a few years back) to give it that old library feel!
Look at that – so much prettiness. I just want to sit down, finish the needlepoint pattern I’m working on – it will be a cushion cover based on Turkish rugs that will fit a 24 inch square duck feather cushion insert I have – and get stitching. Alas, I have a clinical portfolio to edit and deliver to university by this afternoon. I’d better hop to it.
And shut that tempting drawer.
Not last weekend but the one before – with one week left for me on placement in the ICU – Julian left for yet another overseas work trip. Ugh! It was a very dreary weekend. Cold. Grey. Abby had a Sunday full of friends and an outing. I was home alone. Too frazzled to settle down to nursing papers, grad applications, or lovely stitching projects. Too petulant to do housework. Too tired to read – I’d have just fallen asleep. So I did a little shopping – which was when I discovered the Great/Dreadful Spotlight Sell-out of DMC Embroidery Wool – then came home and rearranged the house!
Nothing like a good rearrange to soothe the spirits, busy the body and give me that immense feeling of satisfaction of a job well done :-) It was all for a good cause. With Abby now in the midst of her last two years of high school, she really needed a dedicated and low stimulus (i.e. not her bedroom which is full of posters and books and comics and dolls and laptops and all other manner of distraction) environment to settle quietly into each evening for a solid stretch of homework and study. And so was born The Library.
I moved the big desk with its big computer out of my room (I only have two papers left to write for my degree so no longer need a dedicated study spot) and into the front room (which we didn’t use much anyway), filled the corners with bookcases, three armchairs with a back-up in the hall for comfy quiet times, and moved the three seater sofa into our bedroom. This also required a complete bedroom rearrange – shuffling the bed, dressing tables, and Julian’s wee gentleman’s wardrobe. Blimey – by the time I finished around 8pm that night, I was buggered.
Now – not only does Abby have a great spot for her work, but I have a lovely, sun filled window seat for reading, knitting, stitching, or stretching out for a quick nap! And soaking up this morning’s delicious (but oh so chilly) sunshine – a cheerful, wooly, quilted cushion – I give you The Suncatcher!
It was a completely spur of the moment creation just before placement started. On a cold, late afternoon, Mum was at the kitchen table stitching Abby’s Debutante’s dress – her idea of bliss. Julian was at the stove cooking – his idea of bliss. Abby was on the floor of the living room, drawing and skyping with Sacha- her idea of bliss. And I was flipping through an email from Pinterest – with no bliss – when I spied a picture of all these little coloured circles paired up and stitched into rows. They looked like beautiful macaroons and their pretty colours instantly brought a smile to my face. I cannot remember how they were presented – as a cushion? wall hanging? tote bag? I don’t know what sort of fabric they used for their circles or for the backing. And even worse – I can’t remember who the original artist was and nor can I find the photo again. It would seem I was so excited, I didn’t even pin it to one of my boards. Hmph!
I did, however, get snipping, and by the time supper was on the table, I had 50 little circles of felt cut and paired (all from the exquisite selection at Winterwood Toys). Now, I’m sure they could have been cut more evenly – specially with one of those nifty circle cutter press thingies. But you know me – I’m not a stickler for perfection. I love colour and texture and the whole doing thing. Having it put together in a pretty and sturdy way and then put to good use is all I need for my dose of bliss.
After pairing my circles up, I pinned them out – combination of eyeballing with the occasional use of a tape measure – onto a lovely lovely lovely piece of wool fabric that looks like hessian – oh it is so beautiful with the prettiest halo – which I found at Darn Cheap Fabrics up the road. Of course, it was bought for another purpose, but I never let that stop me ;-) I then pinned this – using safety pins – onto a piece of vintage blanketing for extra sturdiness – those little macaroons of felt carry a bit of heft which the woollen hessian just doesn’t have.
Then – using my walking foot, I stitched straight down the middle of each column of macaroons. Quilted it into checks. Add a border of tumblers in pretty Konas. Whacked on an envelope backing of cocoa and white checks and bound the edges with a nice neutral. Abby picked it out for me – I tend to get carried away – you know, more is always more. Abby has a lot more discipline then I when it comes to fabric choices!
Oh I do love this cushion so much! It doesn’t matter where we put it – its beautiful, rich, cheery, furry colours catch every last drop of sun and bring a wonderful light to this often dark and wintery home.
For now – it’s sitting on my window seat with me and I’m about to sit here in the sun with my cup of tea and have just a little fiddle with this new needlepoint pattern before I write my pharmacology log that’s due in tomorrow! Truly – just a little fiddle ;-) You believe me – yes?
My it’s so cold at the moment. Our breath is frosted even in the kitchen (no! don’t give in! don’t give in! leave the heating off!).
But oh it’s so lovely to be home, home, home! This being day three of my return to a time of quiet and domesticity – and I’m loving it.
Today – it’s been all about the kitchen ….
:: cooking supper early so that it will be rich, warming and ready for the family when I return home late from babysitting.
:: trying not to eat all of Julian’s pumpkin pie (sans pastry) one slice at a time.
:: shuffling chairs – and plotting their repainting for the umpteenth time – so as to tackle some …
:: kitchen table quilting – the recently thrifted kitchen stools are perfect for quilting – they wind up and down so can be made just the right height – no more stiff neck!
:: I shall serve dinner in this little sweetie tonight – also recently thrifted – Mesterkokken “Flamingo” from Norway – from the fabulous Jewish thrift store up the road – they have the best European crockery
:: fiddling with a new needlepoint pattern – something to soak up the thousands (yes, literally) of skeins of DMC embroidery wool I’ve recently “accumulated” – and baffled as to why it’s skewif – huh!
:: gloating over the repurposing of a hard rubbish bookcase – has been sitting on the front porch with sneakers on it for the last 2 years – perfect fit for the end of the kitchen table – and perfect for all the pretty and useful things (clutter, says Julian) I like to keep handy :-)
:: smiling each time I catch a glimpse of these dear little napkin rings – can’t decide whether to use them straightaway – save them for special occasions – or just wait until we have 3 so we can ALL delight in their sweetness (will Julian really care if he has a plain silver one? probably not)
:: so pleased to have found these placemats I made – oh, 16 years ago – from an old Alison Lester calendar. I think they need a couple more coats of sealer before we use them. Add to the to do list.
:: my little furry companion. She longs for toast and crepes and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie and onions and carrots and mushrooms and speck and sausages and left over roast potatoes and … and … and … pretty much any food that touches my hands.
The perfect kitchen – in the gorgeous Bega Valley of course – is something I regularly dream of – and collect pictures of and plot and plan with Julian and Abby and Mum. It will have huge windows, and a wooden burning stove, and a set of window shelves facing the sun for herbs, and comfy chairs for cosying and cook book browsing and radio listening, and a walk in pantry, and a pretty white sink with a fabulous tap, and glass fronted cabinets for our glassware and china, and a cork floor (I LOVE cork), and loads of bench space, and the perfect spot for each appliance …
But right now, when there’s a lovely long stretch of days (weeks! months!) before me with not much to do but care for my family, this little kitchen here in Melbourne will do me just fine :-)
It’s been a bit of a crazy time here in Bootville lately. My poor old Grandad has had quite the year, suffering a heart attack in January then a stroke in April. There have been many trips to Brisbane, quite a bit of extended family angst, and many big changes. Through it all, my lovely Mum has dedicated more than 20 weeks out of the last 26 to caring for Nanny and Grandad – something she does with inspiring patience and love. She has lived with them – first Nanny and Grandad, whilst Grandad recovered from his heart attack; then with Nanny, whilst Grandad spent many long weeks in rehab following his stroke.
Every day she helped Nanny up, prepared her breakfast, helped her dress, did the chores, arrived at the hospital just before lunch so she could chat with Grandad’s therapists and physicians, help Grandad with his lunch, back home to Nanny, make Nanny’s lunch, do the laundry (always lots when someone’s in hospital), do any shoppings, sometimes take Nanny on little outings, start supper preparations, back up to the hospital, help Grandad with supper, settle him cosy in bed for the night, back home to Nanny, share supper, support Nanny and listen into the wee hours of the morning, as Nanny navigated this strange and unsettling new time in her life, send off the daily family update to our aunts and uncles and cousins who are scattered across the world, then to bed, always with an ear cocked to make sure Nanny was okay and didn’t need help.
In amongst this, new living arrangements had to be sorted for Nanny and Grandad, and the awkward and sad process of packing up Nanny and Grandad’s home began. I’m in awe of my Mum and the grace and the strength with which she navigated these tricky waters. Nanny and Grandad are now safe and comfortable in their new home. But wow, there has been a significant toll on the extended family and I doubt things will ever return to the way they were. At many times, I found myself grinding my teeth as I contemplated the strange and fraught family relationships that have emerged.
But this period has also seen a strengthening of the closeness between Mum and her lovely sisters Mary, Cate and Jackie. Their love and the passion with which they advocated for their mum and dad was often the one light of many difficult weeks. As I write, Mum, Mary and Cate are there in Brisbane – they’ve packed the last boxes of Nanny and Grandad’s precious treasures and pieces of Nanny and Grandad’s furniture are being shared amongst the siblings – visiting with Nanny and Grandad, taking them on wee adventures, making peace with this new phase of their old and frail parents’ lives.
I know I’m so very very priviliged to be a 44 year old who still has her Nanny and Grandad and I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful times we have shared with them – many, many happy, funny, silly, creative, adventurous and beautiful memories. But there’s still a little bit of me that feels a sense of loss. The family home – that has been recreated wherever Nanny and Grandad have lived (they were irrepressible adventurers) – is now no more. The familiar and comfy velvet armchairs and sofa with the old standard lamp softly glowing – lighting the stitches of countless knitted jumpers and crocheted rugs. The long heavy dining table with all the chairs – so as to squash in as many children and grandchildren for Nanny’s feasts of pumpkin soup, roasts and sponge cake, as possible. The elegant dresser, its glass doors illuminating Nanny’s treasured Lottie collection. The twin beds with their electric blankets – oh my, how Janie and I loved these as little girls, arriving on cold dark nights after the long drive south. Nanny’s fabulous sewing table and her trusty Bernina. Grandad’s hall stand with his Akubra hat and walking stick. His outdoor cupboards stuffed full of all the handy little things he MIGHT one day need. The old fashioned kerosene lamps he used to light each night on the back porch so he and Nanny could sip their evening drink whilst looking out at their garden. All of these will colour my stories and memories for many more years to come – but we will never gather there again as a family, with that wonderfully comfortable sense of familiarity and belonging.
In amongst all of this, Mum came down to Melbourne to help Abby and I prepare for Abby’s debut. Yes! The Debutantes’ Ball is alive and well here in our corner of Melbourne :-) Abby needed a long white ball gown with elbow length gloves. It was such a blast! And part of these preparations involved MAKING the dress for which we needed Mum’s overlocker – which was at home in Merimbula. So, two weekends before the ball, Mum and I hopped in the car and set off for home. The first time she’d been home in over two months. We took our time – soaked up as much sun as we could, marvelled at the ocean’s beauty, visited with sweet neighbours and of course, headed up to Tilba for cheese … and a little, late afternoon adventure to a new for us spot - Mystery Bay!
Now Tilba is a wee village nestled into the side of Mount Gulaga – a very spiritual place for the local Aboriginal people. And I’ve been told a really beautiful story about this Mother Mountain and her children. Mother Gulaga had two sons – Baranguba and Najanuga. One day, they asked if they could go play – Mother Gulaga said yes, but reminded them not to go too far because the sea would come in soon. Najanuga – the smaller son, obeyed and played just a little in front of Mother Gulaga’s feet – he is now the small rocky hill that sits between Tilba and the ocean. Baranguba – the older son – ran out to the ocean where he laid down amongst the fish and the dolphins and the whales – and there he stayed, a rocky island visited by local Aborigines in their canoes for thousands of years – we now call him Montague Island and it is a seabird refuge with a lighthouse. Legend has it that the bond between Mother Gulaga and Baranguba was never broken, and if you stand quietly on her summit and press your ear to her rocks, you can hear the dolphins as they play around Baranguba, her adventurous child. A Tilba local also told me that ANU scientists, studying the hundreds of underground springs and streams in the area, put dye into the springs on Mount Gulaga and sure enough, the same dye came out in streams and ponds on Montague Island. Local Aborigines refer to these sources of fresh water on a rocky ocean crop as Mother Gulaga’s tears. Amazing! I love stories such as these, and the rich and meaningful connections Aboriginal culture makes with its landscape.
You can just make out Montague Island in that photo above. It does indeed look like a person stretched out sleeping. But you can get a much better view of it from Mystery Bay. So – despite the cold and encroaching sunset, down we went. There were a few brave souls on the beach – some fishermen, two women riding horses, and a few children digging in the sand. It is an incredibly beautiful spot. The bay is littered with large sharp rocks and to the north side, a collection of caves, hollowed out from the cliffs. Very Famous Fivish.
It was a beautiful, if fleeting, visit and I’m so looking forward to taking Julian and Abby back there on a glorious summer’s day. The Far South Coast – it just keeps jumping up with more beautiful presents for us every time we visit. According to the neighbours, there’s also a little beach there – Billy’s Beach – that has the best shells ever. Mum and I didn’t find it – sunsetting and all that. But we will …
And you know – Mum, Mary, Cate and Jackie – as I’ve sat here and written these words, the story of Mother Gulaga and her children seems so very very pertinent. Even though Najanuba is the one sitting at Mother Gulaga’s feet – the obvious child who didn’t leave. And even though the ocean has washed in and seemingly cut Mother Gulaga off from her other much loved, adventurous child – Mother Gulaga and Baranguba are inextricably bound. He can still see her from where he lays in the ocean, admire her strength and beauty, and revel in the courage and love she shared with him as a child. She too can see him – she knows that he is part of her, that he shares her history, that he reflects her beauty, courage and love. That long cord that still holds them together will never, can never be truly broken. Forests and farms may grow up between them. Waves may crash around them. Sometimes those dolphin songs may be a bit harder to hear. But that long and ancient cord is incredibly strong and eternal – they will always be Mother and Child.
:: the sofas are crumpled with quilts … speaking of the cold but cosy nights we are having as we move past the winter solstice and once more towards the sun
:: so many corners filled with so many projects … a little dabbling in last summer’s crocheted cotton throw, and turning a doily pattern, written for fine mercerised cotton, into something so much chunkier and more colourful – plans for something silly and wonderful!
:: the back door opens to the first blue sky in days … look at our funny winter trees – the oak still dressed in its autumn leaves, the flower buds already colouring and tentatively venturing out on the magnolia
:: first morning in ages that I haven’t had to take the umbrella with me on my morning visit to the chicken and rabbits
:: more signs of our strangely bothered climate (look around you Prime Minister Abbott and Environment Minister Hunt – you woefully ignorant, head-in-the-coal, intellectual and moral pygmies!) – the birds never touch these berries so nor shall we. As for the magnolia – best flowers it’s ever produced – even if they are several months early
:: wintery mornings call for tea and honeyed crumpets, then more tea, and more tea and more tea and more tea … as for those artichokes – they’re just so pretty but I’ve never cooked with them – hmmmm ….
:: smiling at our newly thrifted kitchen stools. They absolutely don’t fit in our kitchen, but we’re tolerating them there at the moment. Red re-upholstering would be just the ticket – yes?
:: making the most of the few hours I have at home before heading into the hospital for a late – making time for my home’s ordinary everyday needs as well as sneaking in a bit of creativity every day is essential for maintaining a cheerful perspective during these long and intense weeks of placement! When I don’t do this – and focus manically on the here and now – the long hours, the constant learning, the stress of new and tricksy things, the relentless insomnia – I forget that what I am living right now, is not what the forever more is going to be! Pinning out a quilt, chatting to the chicken, tidying the corners of Bootville is a good reminder that nursing will be an extra string to my fiddle, not the entire orchestra.
:: how DO these pins get so entwined! More baffling then coat hangers.
:: two left over strips of festive vintage blanket – perfect for a Christmas banner – and perfect time to start thinking about this as we turn the corner of the year! Oh how I love Christmas :-)
:: and finally, as I pull my hair back and clean my teeth, I am reminded that viciously rubbing one’s eye when it’s itchy is NOT a good idea. Oy! I look as if I’ve been in a pub brawl! My poor eye!
So – any moment now, one of my fellow nursing students will be pulling up outside my home and we shall choof on in to the hospital together for another afternoon in the ICU. It’s full on my friends, full on. I’m seeing things I never knew existed – and lots of things that are not usually visible. I’m caring for needs I had never before imagined. But when, for the first moment, it feels a bit overwhelming and a sense of horror begins to creep into my thoughts, I look into my patient’s face and all I feel is love and empathy. It goes a long way.
Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long! And a heart felt thankyou to all the lovely folk who visited here last week. Thank you so much for your kind words – I look forward to catching up with more of your lovely knitting this week!
I really think – hope – that 2014 is going to be the year I finish lots of knitting – as opposed to just starting :-) Saturday morning saw me brave the techniques needed to finish off my Stevenson Sweater (raveled here) – a whole lot of sewing in of ends (not difficult, but ends that with hindsight and a little more experience, I did not need to create) and the grafting of the armholes with kitchener stitch. Not only does Kate write lovely patterns, including lovely armholes, but her beautiful book “Colours of Shetland” provides excellent and simple to follow instructions for kitchener stitch. Really, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.
Actually, I do. I think a lot of my not-finishing-things in a timely manner can be put down to this silly thought – if I don’t finish them, then I don’t have to assess whether or not they are a success. If the cardigan is never finished, then I never have to critically look at what I’ve made, identify where I can improve, and seek to improve my skills. Unfinished items are just lovely to work on – they don’t have to be anything. Do you know what I mean? When it’s actually finished, then it has to stand on its own two feet. Yes? Do you ever experience this feeling? Sometimes I can become completely bogged in it. Has even been known to stop me from giving people presents I’ve handmade for them.
Well, mayhaps 2014 will not only be the year of finishing, but a year of growing. An opportunity to look at what I finish, be grateful for the loveliness I have created, enjoy my projects for being an illustration of where I’m at skill wise, and look forward to using that skill again, only next time, with a little more finesse. Or maybe, appreciate that not everything has to be perfect and that I can love my knits for being my knits and not fret over their shortcomings. That would be even nicer :-)
(my lovely photographer and her very natty new shoes she very sweetly agreed to come to the beach with me- icy wind and all – to indulge me in my photo wanting)
Anyways! Back to the Stevenson Sweater. When Kate first shared glimpses of the projects in her Colours of Shetland book, I fell instantly in love with this stranded knitting, short sleeved jumper. I loved the colours, loved the stripes, loved that it was styled on lighthouses which I adore, and loved the story behind the Stevenson lighthouses! I read the book Kate recommended – it was fascinating – if you have a thing for lighthouses, like me, I highly recommend it. I devoured it in 2 nights and wished it could have gone on forever.
So, I put Kate’s book and the beautiful Shetland Island yarn required for this jumper (and the Puffin Jumper which is also waiting for a finish) on my list for Father Christmas that year. And sure enough, there it was under the tree for me on Christmas morn. Funny story – I was too busy on Christmas Day to pick up the needles but come Boxing Day, I couldn’t wait to cast on those golden stitches. Mum and Abby went out early – shopping – Aunty Anne (who was staying with us) caught the train west to spend the day with old school friends, Julian was engrossed in a Christmas book and I – well, I was beside myself with anticipation. I laid my yarn out on the round table in the living room. I placed my needles beside it. I made a cup of tea. I went to fetch the book – and couldn’t find it.
I searched the house. I tore the house apart. I looked under every chair, table, bed and sideboard. Piles of books and magazines were scattered, helter-skelter. I even looked in all the tote bags and the car. I pestered Julian. I rang Abby and Mum – several times. I looked for over 2 hours, all the while growing more frantic (cranky). How could I have lost the book in less than 24 hours!!! It seemed manifestly unfair! I had been waiting for this moment for almost 2 months.
Then, finally, I searched under the front passenger seat in the car. And there it was. I had given it to Mum to look at on Christmas Day as we drove to the airport to collect Aunty Anne – and she had put it under the front seat. Don’t know why. But she did. Then we both forgot about it. Sigh!
(This is me looking askance at a person swimming!
Port Philip Bay is freezing in summer let alone the last week in autumn)
Most of the body was knitted on Mum’s front porch. The perfect spot for a lighthouse sweater. Sitting there drenched in sun, buffeted by the seabreeze, pretty parrots and kangaroos in attendance, the beautiful Pacific Ocean rolling and sparkling before me, little fishing boats darting across the Bar. All the while, dreaming of lighthouses and when I would wear my Stevenson Sweater to our lighthouse – the Green Cape Lighthouse. It’s not been there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.
The Jamieson Jumper weight wool is truly gorgeous to work with. I adore it. It’s got a lovely lightness to it, a sweet fuzziness, and it just melds together so beautifully. Their colour range is lovely too. And it’s from Shetland sheep who’ve roamed Shetland Island, been sheared there, their wool spun there, dyed there, and then these beautiful little balls of yarn made their way all the way down here, from the top of the world to the bottom of the world. Magic, yes? I want to knit in Jamieson for the rest of my knitting days.
Well now, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from finishing the Puffin Sweater (wait til you hear what happened to part of that pattern – oy!). Well except, that I’m knitting a stripey jumper for Mum. And still have Julian’s Argyle to finish.
But right now, I’m about to hop into bed with my copy of “The Lighthouse Stevensons” and another old favourite – Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” – I heard her on the radio the other day and she was so marvellous I want to read all her books over again.