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.

afternoons in the summer backgarden

 

Living in Melbourne for the last 5 years has granted me an entirely new appreciation for the sun and its warmth, for brightness and colourful cheer.  One could almost call it an obsession.  See, in Brisbane, it is almost always hot and usually sunny.  There is so much colour and brightness it almost verges on the garish, and our upper legs were usually stuck together with sweat!  Gosh – we thought it was terrifically exciting to have a cool grey day and couldn’t wait to break out the woolies – even if it meant we had to sit under the swirling ceiling fans to really enjoy wearing them :-)

But here in Melbourne there are soooooooooo many bleak grey days that when the sun does shine I cannot bear to sit inside.  I’m not overly fond of sitting by myself either so, if there’s family around I drag them out into the garden too.  We set up the banana lounges (hard rubbished from an incredibly posh house on Beach road in Sandringham!), lay out a quilt and cushions, bring out our reading, drawing, knitting, crocheting, sewing … whatever takes our fancy, make up trays of drinks, tea, snacks, and soak up every last moment.

The dogs, of course, come voluntarily … they think its fabulous when we “play” in their territory.  They rush around and make sure the cheeky rabbits are behaving, those dastardly birds are staying away, and that there’s no alarming or new smells to be found,  then they flop down next to us, their eyes squinty shut in the sunlight and snooze. Oh we do love them so!

Now, we are heading into the last weeks of summer … soon the leaves will fall from the oak, the days will become so much shorter, the sitting room, with its cosy lamps, will become our favoured spot.  But for now – we will take every summery moment that’s offered, with even the humblest parts of the backgarden aglow and colourful

It’s so good for my soul.

curry plant

sun dappled quilt

mum knitting

a basket of wool

turquoise feet

even the washing basket glows

surely the last potato

lucy

Fu

child

tea

mum and tea

such a rainbow of a cardie

the bag

So I had this bag of Zara I bought at Wondoflex’s Annual Spring Sale.  I was certain there would be something I could do with it and the colours were oh so pretty.  Within minutes of arriving home, I found the perfect pattern – Alpinia by Claire Slade.  So pretty.  Simple.  And could probably be made using just these three hundred grams. But in the months leading up to Christmas, I had so many other projects in the knitting basket (oh alright! baskets!), that I simply couldn’t justify casting on yet another cardigan.

the wool

But once we were home from our summer holidays – during which I so adored knitting Mum’s Pitch – and work/school was in full swing – oh I so longed for a quick and pretty knit.  Absolutely nothing else was rocking my boat, so I hunted down the bag of Zara, printed off Alpinia, bought some new needles (that’s one of the more irritating dilemmas of having too many things on the needles – you run out of needles), and got stuck into the loveliness that is creating a knitted yoke.

the yoke

Folks this is truly the perfect knitting project.  A beautiful yoke.  Pretty eyelets.  Easy peasy super squeezy construction.  Sheer pleasure to knit.  And boy did it knit up fast!  I can’t wait to knit another!  Maybe a wonderful green one.  Yes, definitely green.  Maybe I’ll even call into Wondoflex tomorrow on my way to work and find just the right green ;-)

finished

So here’s my Rainbow Alpinia in all its crazy, stripey loveliness (ravelled here).  Now the 300g would probably have done it – I have quite a bit of pink left over but I by the time I reached the body, I didn’t want it to be overwhelmingly pinky so I headed back to Wondoflex and bought two more balls – mustard and more of the purple.  With hindsight, I should have bought some more of that dark aqua I started with, just to tie it altogether a bit better – oh well.

close up right

See, I’m reminding myself that part of knitting from just scraps – $10 scraps at that – is definitely the discipline of making do with what you have.  I probably would never have chosen some of these colours by themselves but thrown all together, I love every stripe.

back

edge of seleeve

pinks and yellows

yellows and purple

lovely eyelets

Alas, I have only had one opportunity to wear it and that was certainly stretching it – truly it wasn’t really cool enough, but hey!  When you’ve knitted your little fingers off in less than 2 weeks, of course you want to pop on the new cardie and give it an outing :-)

back of yoke

buttons
close up of front of yoke

And what pray tell am I doing here … why casting on the next knit!  Mum and I are having a wee bit of a competition.  We’re both knitting up Heidi Kirrmaier’s Climb Every Mountain.  Me in a mauvey gray, Mum in a bluey grey.  Both Cleckheaton, both from Wondoflex.  I’m definitely in a Cleckheaton mood at the moment.  Now, Mum should really win this little event as let’s face it, she’s retired and I’ve just joined the working world.

knitting the next one

However, it would seem that despite a truly dreadful knitting technique, I’m quite a fast knitter.  Makes no sense.  My dear old Nanny is perpetually puzzled that anything wearable makes its way off my needles. But there you go :-) Dreadful, but fast, accurate, with pretty decent tension …. and at the moment, very productive.

It’s all about squeezing in a row here, and another row there and then, as Nanny would say, “Boom done!”  - it’s finished and on my back!  Very satisfying indeed.

 

a little koala

regathering

After working my first weekend – which really, from a nursing perspective, is no different to working a week day, it’s just that sense of knowing that my family and most of the community are enjoying their rest from the working week whilst I’m still working on – today was a much appreciated home day.  It was a little cooler than it has been.  The dining room was full of pretty light.  The house was quiet and tidy.  And there on the piano, was my little koala, started way back in October I think, and still in a scattering of pieces.

pieces

I haven’t used a commercial pattern.  I’ve drafted it myself – from scratch, over and over and over and over.  There have been several versions – some of them truly funny in their dreadfulness.  I finally settled on this design – and set about preparing the body for the arms, legs and head.

patches on the inside

My idea was to machine sew stabilising patches – like joints – on the inside of the body, then machine sew the back of each of the limbs onto the front of the body – through the joints.  Thus protecting the limbs from being prone to tearing off.

looks like a pie

And it worked really well!

turning out

Until my final head turned out way too small. Argh!  Abby tells me – she of the immense doll making experience – that even if the drawn head looks more than fine on the drawn body – and even if the unstuffed head still looks fine on the stuffed body – it will look like a bad case of microcephaly once stuffed.  Apparently you need to make the head BIGGER because when it is stuffed it sort of shrinks.  So the first head had to be discarded.  Bum!  And the body unstuffed.  Double bum!  It was soon after that, that the koala found herself abandoned on the piano.

head and stuffing

But today, I was determined to finish her off.  So much time and effort had gone into the creative process, and the fabric was so pretty.  It just had to happen.  Thus, the knitting was laid aside.  A cup of tea was made.  A story tape put on.  And off I set with my stab stitch and blanket stitching.

pinned patches

at last

And as often happens, when projects have been left idle for a loooooooong time, the finishing off was nowhere near as arduous and lengthy as I expected.  However, it did require an unexpected trip to Winterwood for stuffing.  Oh well – I’ve never been one to say no to a trip to the lovely Winterwood :-)

in amongst the curry plant

close up of face

with log

close up of leg

Finally, with the late summer sun just tilting over the trees, my sweet little koala was finished and ready for photos.  Isn’t light funny stuff – she looked positively spot lit in the setting sun – I was waiting for her to burst into operatic song.

little paws

like shes spotlit

Here’s the back – I ladder stitched her head onto the front of the body.  I like this construction – will definitely do it again.

from the back

And here she is in a tree!  Looking right at home, I might say.  Even if it isn’t a gum!  We don’t actually have any gum trees near us – all very European – oaks, elms, birches, and ornamental fruit trees.  There are some gums down at the Caulfield Park but they are sooooo tall there are no branches even remotely low enough for me or my little koala to reach.

in a tree

Never mind.  It’s only another 11 months and we’ll be in the beautiful Bega Valley and there will be PLENTY of gums for her to spend her days in.  And next – I have the fabric for a little wombat, a black wallaby, and a whale.  They’ll be the Bega Valley Collection.  And maybe I may even write up the patterns – with stories.  Now that would be truly lovely!

looking up

7 edwardian chairs :: a mother daughter tradition

beautiful detail

Late last year, just after I’d had one of my huge and infamous rearranges – where the front room was dismantled, its furniture redistributed about the house, the living room shoved into the front room, the dining room recreated in the middle room, and the kitchen transformed into a working kitchen divided by a sideboard with a lovely cosy study / armchair area set up in the nook – I decided what I “really needed” was a lovely armchair to sit in the corner of the dining room, in front of the bookcases.

I scoured the opshops, the footpaths … and a long time favourite, good old eBay.

At first, my imagination was filled with those extravagant French styled armchairs with their ornately carved backs, rolled arms, Queen Anne legs, and outrageous floral velvet upholstery.  I found a lovely pair in Sydney – green and cream velvet floral – awesome price – but they were in Sydney.  I even considered driving up and fetching them – what an adventure that would be!

Hmmmm … I would have had to have a towbar installed on the car and bought a trailer.  More then possibly a wee bit extravagant.  But Julian was away for the month and anything seems possible when Julian’s away :-)  However, when I ran my grand plan past Abby, she merely raised her eyebrows and went back to her books.  I took that as a no.

In fact, there were heaps of lovely armchairs in Sydney and all at good prices.  Here in Melbourne – no, no, no.  I rarely saw any, and when I did, they were way out of my price range.  So I loosened up my expectations and quickly found a gathering of seven Edwardian chairs – two armchairs and five dining chairs – in various stageses of reupholstering – that were an incredibly reasonable price, right here in Melbourne.  No one else bid on them and a few days later, I was the gleeful “winner”!

the chair

Now, there were six more chairs than I had originally anticipated buying but I figured a pair of armchairs was always better than just one lonely one.  And five gorgeous dining chairs would always come in handy.  Most extraordinarily, I bought the whole lot for just $120.  Can you believe that?!?!?  Seven beautiful Edwardian chairs for less than $20 each.  Oh my goodness.  I felt like I was robbing the previous owner, but that’s the spin of the eBay wheel, isn’t it.

However, it did mean two trips to bring them home which turned into an all day adventure whereupon I also got to meet a sweet family and hear a lovely, lovely story about my new chairs.  And as I’ve mentioned before, I always love furniture that comes with a good story, and this one is especially touching because it describes just the kind of relationship and adventures I have with my lovely mum.

tricky bits

In the late 1960s, a young woman – recently married and hoping to start a family – hunted through the antique stores with her mum for Edwardian dining and arm chairs they could restore.  Her mum had been taught upholstery by an elderly aunt – the young woman vividly remembered going to visit her great aunt in the countryside where she would play whilst her mother and great aunt would work away at their antiques and upholstery.

Eventually she too learnt the skills and when she was setting up her own home, she and her mum knew just the chairs they wanted.  They found these seven, brought them home, and set to work.

Their work was slow, meticulous and employed traditional techniques.  The chairs were carefully webbed.  Their springs were handstitched with jute twine.  The backs of the armchairs were buttoned through hessian that covered carefully layered and stitched coconut fibre and upholstery wadding.  Calico lining and upholstery fabrics were perfectly stretched and tacked into place with blued tacks.
beautifully webbed

But then the young woman fell pregnant with twins and it was hard to find the hours needed to keep working on the chairs.  Nevertheless, they kept at it, bit by bit, and her little girl (one of the twins) was now making her own memories of playing in the garden on weekends whilst her mum and grandmother upholstered chairs.  She thought it was just what mums and grandmothers did!

This bit made me laugh – that’s exactly what Abby thought when she was little.  When asked what she got up to on the weekend, she would answer “Oh stripping with Mum and Nan as usual!”  People were always a little bemused by just what “stripping” was.

However, life became busier and busier.  Eventually the great aunt – bestower of all upholstery knowledge – passed away and then so did the young woman’s mother.  The chairs moved further and further into the dark corners of the garage and were almost forgotten.

Then, decades later, the time came when the young woman was now becoming older and more frail herself and needed to sort through a lifetime’s belongings and move into a smaller, more easily managed home.  And there – in the garage – were the seven chairs.

gathering of tools

The chairs brought back so many lovely memories and she was in a quandary about what to do with them.  She felt sad that she and her mum had not managed to finish them.  But she no longer possessed the skills required to finish them off, and even if they were finished, had nowhere to put them in her new home.  Nor did her children need or want them.

No antique dealers were interested.  She couldn’t imagine giving them to an opshop – even less putting them out for hard rubbish.  So her son-in-law offered to put them on eBay where hopefully someone would see that same beauty and promise spied by her and her mother all those years ago.

tapemeasure

Well, I think the perfect person did ;-) Together, the older lady and I examined the chairs – ooohed and ahhed over the lovely woodwork, and delighted in the still excellent upholstery.  I described my experience with upholstery – I spent two years attending weekend classes at the Holmesglen TAFE here in Melbourne – and we discussed fabric and braid options.

We talked embroidery, knitting, patchwork and antiques.  And I shared funny stories about the furniture adventures Mum and I have had, our methods for restoring furniture, and the lovely treasures we have found over the years, and filled our homes with.

It was a lovely day, and the woman, her daughter and son-in-law were all delighted that the chairs had not just found a very suitable home, but a much valued tradition of mother and daughter, working together, would be continued.

positioning the roses

measuring

So this weekend, with my Mum newly returned from her Christmas adventures in Canada, we tackled the loveliest of the chairs.  Look at that carving on the back – it is so beautiful!  I wonder whether it was intended as a dining chair or whether it sat on an altar in a lovely old church.  You know how in Catholic and Anglican churches you often see beautiful chairs lined up for the different attendants to sit on during mass, yes?  Now, this one sits at my desk in the kitchen.  It’s just perfect.

fiddling with corners

tacked corner

And I found the perfect toile in the sewing shed – bought for something else of course, that never eventuated, but that’s the way things go sometimes.  It’s a linen/cotton blend with a lovely firm hand.  Just right for upholstery and such an appropriate pattern for chairs that have elegant, swirly flowers and leaves carved into their wood.

tucking in the edges

flattening the tacks

I daresay, Mum and I too will take our time with these chairs :-)  Let’s face it – we’re no professionals and every step taken is checked against my notes and books, then ummmmed and ahhhhhed over and carefully tested before we settle on the best way to move along.

And who knows, maybe one day soon, Abby and I will be finishing off a couple for her future home.

pondering the back

adding some blanket

And of course, there are funny mistakes that need to be ripped out and redone.  After doing such a careful and satisfying job on the seat and front of back, we completely lost the plot on the back of the back.

We were so engrossed with getting the rose perfectly centred and balanced along the edge, we failed to notice we had moved the fabric 3 inches up and after tacking it down, it had no HOPE of reaching the bottom!  What silly billies!

Another moment that had us in fits of laughter was when we finally realised – after a whole afternoon of wondering why the staple gun was not working properly – all the staples were loose, no matter how hard we pushed, and had to be banged in the last few millimetres with the hammer – that the setting had been bumped from 6 (nice and tight) to 2 (hopeless).

loose staples tight staples

However, that’s just the way mother-daughter restoration rolls.  Don’t you think?  Full of experiments and victories, flops and giggles, hours of pleasure, the creating of wonderful memories, and a life-long, shared appreciation of the old and lovely.

Yes, these seven Edwardian chairs have settled into our home beautifully.  It was meant to be.

pitch :: a cardigan

front on

It was just meant to be.  If you follow along on Instagram, you might have seen a cardigan I knitted up whilst on Christmas holidays.  It was one of those serendipitous knits.  There I was, with almost four weeks of lovely peace and pleasure stretching out before me, and I’d forgotten my knitting basket.  Which, I might add, meant I forgot dear Sacha’s Christmas present – a rich plum coloured version of Kate Davies’ iconic “Owls”.  And it was almost finished – oy!

right corner detail

However, Mum now has a sizeable stash of wool, courtesy of dear old Nanny.  No need to visit the local yarn store.  There were kilos and kilos of wool, in all imaginable colours, neatly stacked in Mum’s/Nanny’s downstairs dresser. And there amongst them, was a bundle of navy Cleckheaton Country Naturals that I had foisted upon Nanny, a couple of decades back, when I was completely bamboozled by a herringbone vest pattern.  All frogged and meticulously wound back up into balls.

back detail

I could just picture Grandad winding the little Toyota wool winder whilst Nanny unravelled my knitted pieces.  Nanny would probably have been sitting on one of the gold velvet armchairs.  Grandad would have been at the nearby dining table.  Nanny would have a fresh cup of tea in front of her.  Grandad would have the paper opened beside the wool winder, weighted down with his glasses case.  They were probably watching an obscure old movie that Nanny recorded in the wee hours of the morning.  That wool would have wound up so quickly – winding wool was a dance the two of them had long ago memorised the steps to and they never missed a beat. It made me smile, and I took the balls upstairs to find just the right pattern for 10 balls of 8ply wool.

front corner detail

That wasn’t hard – I’ve had Pitch at the top of my list for a few months now!  A truly lovely pattern – such a pleasure to knit and so simple to follow – by Susan Mills, for Classic Elite.  It knitted up nice and quick.  A few rows in bed as I watched the sun rise over the sea.  Another few on the front porch with my coffee.  Several in the car each day as we drove round and round the Bega Valley looking for land.  More at the beach.  Back to the porch.  In bed at night as I listened to the thundering waves of Tura Beach.  I do so love knitting.  And this had the extra special sweetness of being wool with family history.

front yoke close up

I cast it off just in time to wear home – a cold and drizzly journey that turned into!

cobargo button

Then today, I popped it on and asked Abby to take some photos so I could share it with you here.  Now, I must confess, I can be a tad difficult when I get Abby to take photos of me in my handcrafts – I remind myself of Dawn in our all time favourite film “Hope and Glory” when she smacks her little brother Billy on the head when he draws the stocking seam up the back of her leg crooked.

No! No! No! I grizzle.  The light’s all wrong, take it again.  Oh no – the composition’s all wrong – you’re supposed to be taking a photo of the cardigan not the rabbit hutch with a scrap of cardigan.  And on it went – with a few giggles but a fair dose of exasperation on both of our parts.

Until finally, Mum appeared and demanded “Give me the bloody cardigan to wear and YOU take the photos just how YOU want them and let poor Abby get back to what she was doing!”

shoulder detail

Awesome solution.  Abby was delighted and quickly disappeared.  Mum buttoned up the cardigan.  I fiddled with the camera.  And what do you know?  The cardigan looked so lovely on Mum that by the end of our little backyard photo shoot, I said “You simply have to keep it – it can be another Christmas present – it looks so good on you!”  Mum was very pleased.

It will be perfect for her in Merimbula, especially through the often chilly Autumn and Spring months when she’s out and about – gardening, walking on the beach, reading on the porch, sewing downstairs – and doesn’t need long, heavy sleeves getting in the way.  Something that snuggles her back and shoulders will be just right.

reading from side

So there you have it – the wool that travelled from me to Nanny, from Nanny to Mum, from Mum back to me, then from me back to Mum.  From an unfinishable vest to a lovely cardigan.  And a sweet side effect of all this wool swapping – I can now buy some more wool, guilt free, to knit another Pitch for me!  I’m thinking a nice grey.

Actually, I can just picture one of my gardening Aunties wearing one too – what do you think Auntie Jacqui?  Do you too need a Pitch for those cool Dunedin summer days?  What colour would you like?  We could all be matching!reading

We will be the family of Pitches :-)

p.s. the lovely buttons are repurposed cedar from a Cobargo artisan who sells at their local co-op.  The perfect buttons for a Bega Valley Cardie!

 

looking for land

bega in the distance

As a regular reader here at block-a-day, you would know by now that almost from the time we arrived in Melbourne five years ago, we’ve been making plans to leave.  Whilst the past five years have granted us some blessings – a wonderful school for Abby, a chance to gain my nursing degree and train in one of the country’s most highly esteemed hospitals, and the opportunity for Julian to really push his career a long way – Melbourne just isn’t our cup of tea – and so we’ve been …

Looking for land … getting ready for the big move … turning dreams for our future into reality …. oh yes!

We’ve just returned from a wonderful summer holiday, full of trips to the beach, snorkelling for our breakfast, visiting our favourite lakes, national parks, and local features, gathering of bountiful local food and cooking up a storm, and hours of wonderful chilling out on the front porch just revelling in the beauty and freshness of the Bega Valley and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.  I can truly say that in 22 years of being with Julian, the last 4 weeks is the closest and loveliest we have ever shared.

And much of this time was spent driving up and down, and back and forth across the Valley.    Each adventure would start with a gathering of addresses, plotting them in Julian’s map app, collecting hats, water bottles, camera, occasionally children (they were much keener on lounging about at home!) and off we’d go.

At first, there was great enthusiasm and excitement.  We were quite sure there would be lots of land out there and we’d find that piece with our name on it in the first week of looking.  Ha! HA! As all you experienced land/house lookers out there know, it was bloody hard work!  And we quickly became the Goldilocks of land lookers.

Some were too small.  Some were too big.  Some had no trees.  Some had too many.  Some had no water.  Some had so much we would have spent our lives in gumboots.  Some were too close to the main road.  Some were so far off it, we gave up and did 30 point turns on narrow, windy, rocky dirt roads and quickly scampered back to something a bit easier to traverse.

walking down to the lake

gentle slopes

cows

We quickly befriended a real estate agent, learnt about subdivision law, water rights, tree protection, the beauty of a well built dam, the obvious signs of a dodgily built one, the magic of spring fed gullies – Bega is blessed with an abundance of these – and easements.  By the end of the second week, we could recite for you the list of available land in the Bega Valley – and point out all the positives and negatives.  We visited land where the only positive was catching a glimpse of the local wildlife.

echidna

We visited land where you stood looking back and forth from the photos on the iPad which really looked inspiring – to the heavy tangle of bush in front of you – that was perched on a sheer cliff with absolutely no sign of the supposed dam, shed, fencing, and gentle cleared slopes.

But the funniest expedition of all – one that I know we will be retelling for many years to come and laughing until tears run down our face – was the “too good to be true land”.  The agent gave us the address and off we went.  Dirt road – but pretty good condition – with a lovely looking collection of neighbours along the way.  Exquisite northerly aspect.  A big dam.  A grove of trees.  Heaps of cleared pasture.  A wee cottage.  Two sheds.  Established fruit trees and a grape vine.  Solar.  Water tank.  Holy moly – we were beside ourselves with excitement – and it was all within our price range.

We raced back to Bega – debating all the way what to offer – should we just give them the asking price – let’s face it, there were no negatives on which to quibble.  We were planning our first morning there … and the next 30 years worth.  We plonked down with the agent and expressed our delight.  He looked a bit cautious.  I added – “There was even an Atomic coffee maker on the stove!”  ”What stove?” he asked.  ”In the little cottage!”  I answered, amazed he hadn’t noticed it.  ”What cottage?”  he asked, looking more perplexed.  ”Where were you?”

Turns out there are two properties on this road with the same lot number and both for sale.  The dream property – at double the upper end of our budget.  And another – a rather inhospitable, south facing, steep, heavily forested one. Yeeeeeees.

 

west view

old school

small dam

view north


under the ree

looking out from the grove

grapes

letterbox huddle

magnificent gum

After that debacle, we re-grouped.  Revisited our lists.  Reprioritised the list of essentials.  By week 4 we were planning on making do.  But still we ventured.

We visited more duds – and mused over the tendency of some land holders to subdivide the useless corner of their property that they were never able to do anything with, clearly in the hope that some city folk who only needed a house with a view would snap it up.

And cursed and praised the NSW state government for changing the legislation a few years back that blocked the further subdivision of valuable rural land, post a report that declared the regular chopping up of food producing land into hobby farm/house blocks would eventually put the state’s ability to sustain itself at risk.  Totally support this.  But it does make finding a smallish property just that bit trickier.

We walked across fields in hot sun and pouring rain.  Our car was befriended by 4 young steers who licked all our windows and used our side mirrors to scratch their heads.  We counted wedgetail eagles on the prowl and redesigned the chicken run.  We fed a horse that then traipsed along behind us for the rest of our exploration, nudging us with her head every now and then.  Shared supper with a farmer as we watched the clouds catch amongst the tree tops and rain settle in for the evening.  Ate blackberries and collected weather worn animal skulls.  Watched kangaroos casually lope across the garden.  Sat quietly by a creek as a wombat trundled out of his den and down to the water’s edge.

Our budget grew as did our plans.  We visited beautiful blocks of land and met some truly lovely people.  I have to say – it certainly left us with the knowledge that we will moving to a strong, friendly and forward thinking community when we finally close the door on Melbourne life in January 2016, and head north to the Bega Valley.  All three of us are so excited.

I don’t usually like saying “I can’t wait!”  I always feel as if it sounds impatient – totally failing to live in the moment and make the most of what we have now.  But folks we can’t wait.


more valleys

fence with lichen

trees and clouds

purple flowers

through the shed

walking with the farmer

bunnies and blackberries

apple gum

a glade on a hill

wombat den

hoppy visitors

So, without wanting to jinx ourselves – because this land buying is tricky stuff – we hope to have very exciting news soon.

For now – we have so many lists – opshop trips, dump trips, shopping lists (well, for the imediate future, this really only has two things on it – a Hilux and a trailer), to-do lists, and planting lists.  Julian is filling notebooks with plans and ideas for our strawbale home.  We are both reading and re-reading our books on planting and growing and raising.  We’re regular visitors to the NSW Department of Primary Industries online Fact Sheets.

And of course, I’m working hard at my nursing – hoping to learn heaps and develop my skills so that the Bega Hospital will snap me up!

This weekend just past – we started!  One trip to the opshop.  We’ve dismantled our raised garden beds.  And investigated stove options.  Such good stuff!

Only 50 weeks to go :-)

the Roslyn quilt

front

Ages back when my quilting machine was on the blink, I went through a phase of tying my quilts.  This coincided with a period of feeling rather overwhelmed by machine quilting.  Nothing I attempted ever looked good enough to my super critical eye.

I decided – with a humph! – that I would tie everything with perle cotton.  A sure fire way to turn the mounting pile of finished patchwork tops into cosy quilts for our laps and beds. However, I also remember writing that one of this method’s benefits was that later, should I want to – or should my confidence with the machine increase – the little cotton knots could act as basting and I’d be able to machine quilt the piece, pulling out the ties as I went.

Well, guess what!  That’s exactly how it worked :-)  This here little quilt – made from charm squares my Mum bought home from her last trip to Canada – was tied a couple of years back and popped onto the back of our sofa.  Its lovely woollen blanket backing cosied our laps and its very cheerful colours warmed our shadowy living room.  But there was something extra special about this quilt.

Its blanket backing is a New Zealand Roslyn Health blanket – you can read all about it here – woven literally down the road from one of my sweet Aunties.   She needed a special quilt this year – or last year now, I should say – so it seemed very appropriate that I share this little one with her.  I gave it a gentle wash and set to requilting it – with my funny flowers and swirls – just in time to send it home to her for Christmas, with my uncle who was in town for a conference.

She just loves it – especially the provenance of the blanket – and they were going to take a drive to see if they could work out where the Roslyn Woollen Mills once stood.  Isn’t it amazing that such a vast establishment, one that made the most of all the beautiful wool produced by New Zealand and its many sheep (they even wove woollen bathing suits!), one that employed so many hundreds of people, one that then shipped their lovely products all around the world, could then be quietly subsumed by a growing town, and one day not be there at all.  My Aunt and Uncle, who have lived in Dunedin for many years, did not even know of its existence.

the label

the back

close up of quilting

After thinking about this requilting for most of the year, it had to be done lickety-split in the week after finishing the teacher’s Christmas presents and sending Mum off to Canada – and us preparing to travel up to Merimbula for Christmas.  A bit of a rush to be sure.  And the weather wasn’t at all compliant – lots of rain and grey days – so there was a last minute, frantic gentle pressing with a warm iron to remove the last vestiges of damp! Ah well, we got there in the end.

I’m very pleased with my little flower trees, but my border quilting still needs a quite a bit of refining.  I think I’m pedalling too fast which means there are a lot of “whoops!” and “oh dear” and “bugger, that wasn’t where I meant to go”.  Practice, practice, practice, hey?!

so windy

left hand side

bottom

closeup of yellow

So now this sunny little quilted blanket has journeyed all the way back to the small town on the chilly southern coast of New Zealand where it was originally woven many many decades ago.  It lives folded neatly on the back of my Aunt’s sofa and she’s already sent photos of it being put to good use on their regular chilly nights, draped about her knees as she sits before her fire, planning her beautiful garden beds.

Such a lovely adventure for one little quilt.

portrait

not a creature was stirring

appliquing the banner

Well, this little design has pleased me so much I’ve made it twice in the last week – with plans to make it again :-)  Once for an Instagram Christmas swap …. and once for someone’s present – shshshsh! And I’ll certainly make it again :-)

I just adore those little sleeping faces tucked into their quilty bed.  I think when I make it next, I’ll make some more faces – it could be a pattern with a variety of many faces and you could choose your own!  There could be all different sorts of boys and girls.  Teddies!  Dollies!  Dogs!  Cats!  Racoons!

It could be a veritable Ten in the Bed!  Hey – now that’s a fabulous idea!  Oh yes!  A much bigger quilt for a child with 10 in the bed and then words embroidered in blocks throughout the quilt.  Cute.

I got the idea for the little faces from a dolls quilt I’d seen on Pinterest where they embroidered the faces using a simple running stitch.  Here it is

And the felt applique – well, I just adore felt applique.  I often dream of making children’s books with felt applique.  I would love to do one of the animals we live with at Merimbula.  And then stories about children in Merimbula at times over the last 150 years …

I dream big.  I just need the organisation and discipline to sit down and do something about it.

adding the lace

You don’t need to know this wee quilt was pinned onto a vintage blanket, do you?  Because you know of course it was.

pin pin pin

And each room I worked in – piecing it on the little green Husqvarna in the front room – appliquing in the dining room – quilting in the spare ‘oom – my dearly loved sweetheart followed me round with her laptop.

Reading funny things out to me.  Working on her drawings.  Showing me what she’d designed next.  My, how I do love her.  I am especially grateful that even though she is a teenager and all, she still loves to spend time with me.

We have a lovely relationship.  We are both very blessed :-)

my companion

Unfortunately, one thing I’m not is Anne from Green Gables.  Do you remember how she reckoned she never made the same mistake twice.  She always learnt her lesson.  I don’t.  I regularly make the same mistake over and over and over.

Just this afternoon, as I lay on my bed tired and having one of those silly moments when I didn’t know what to do next (cooking supper would have been a good thing), I noticed my skirt was covered with little bits of thread.  They’re from all the unpicking I do.

Mmhm.  I am the queen of unpicking.  I looked at that minty strip of green with its red balls the first time I sewed it and thought – I could quilt it with a contrasting red and it would look really pretty.  Well it didn’t.  So I unpicked it.  Second time – I thought, I can DEFINITELY quilt in that green stripe with red – I just need to do it nicely.  Aaaaaaaaand I had to unpick it.

Same with the appliqued band.  Abby said warned “No!  Mum! It didn’t work the first time! Remember!  The foot kept butting up against the felt heads!” I cheerfully replied “Yes, but I know what to look out for this time so I can do it better.”  I didn’t. Unpick! Unpick! Unpick!

Tonight, I’ve got 4 rows of top stitching to unpick on two pillowcases.  The first one didn’t work.  Did I stop and reevaluate.  Nope, I just kept going.  Sigh.
quilting

tulip

But squiggly-wiggly?  It’s a bit hard to go wrong with that – I do love it so.

red tulip

Now here is Lily-Anne trying to learn … I thought maybe I could fit more of the verse on if I wrote the words out on paper as I guide to how big to make the letters.  It didn’t work.  Oh well.  I’m hopeful that the letters will become finer and smoother with practice.  I’m a huge believe in Practice :-)

I’m thinking of doing a Christmas carol next.  I just can’t decide which one – We Three Kings?  O Come All Ye Faithful?  I love both of them.  No! No!  O Little Town of Bethlehem.  With little appliqued houses.

didnot help

closeup of ginger

Look at the sun hitting the felt – doesn’t it make the texture so utterly beautiful.  And I love perle thread.  I know I said it above, but I adore felt applique.  It is my hands down favourite stitchy pursuit. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

close up of coco

writing

tulips

the whole

There you go.  A wee quilt of little people dreaming of Christmas.  That will be us in just 13 short nights !

And it was pure bliss making it.

 

the teachers’ presents


crafting table

Hmmm … it’s just occurred to me, as I uploaded these photos and thought back to the crazy busyness of last week, that this is my second last season of teachers’ presents.  It truly is so unbelievable it gives me a jolt.  Surely it was only yesterday that I cross stitched a Prairie Schooler Christmas Sampler for the lovely Mrs. Solomon and sewed it into a little hanging quilt as a thankyou for a wonderful Year 1.

That’s one of the curses of just one child.  There’s no second and third etc. go round.  Nope – only one chance to get it as close to right as you can.  And no time for savouring.  But I also know how privileged we are to even have one go and for that I am grateful.

We’ve always given teachers’ presents.  Maybe because I spent so many years working in education, I know just how lovely it is to have a student and her family recognise the contribution I made to their year and present me with something sweet and thoughtful.  I’ve always wanted to pay that forwards.

And I want Abby to understand how important it is to show gratitude – it’s a sign of respect and affection.  Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety, but gee whizz, I think there’s a little less gratitude bumping around every year.  I want her to be one of those lovely people who are remembered and appreciated for showing gratitude.  It’s not hard or expensive – just a bit of time and effort.

Also – I am so very grateful for all that my Abigail has been given by her teachers.

She’s not the most straightforward of students and, apart from a couple of grim years half way through primary school (the Year 3 teacher – we seriously wanted to present her with the dirtiest lump of coal we could find – she was a drunk and a bully), has been blessed with lovely teachers who have always recognised her strengths, enjoyed her quirks and cheerfully walked the extra mile.

As for her high school teachers – my goodness, they regularly reduce me to misty eyes and choked up throat they are so wonderfully thoughtful, compassionate and encouraging.  No matter how grey and wobbly I become, I will never forget the incredible contribution they have made to our lives and will cheerfully sing Star of the Sea’s praises to all.

However, with the plethora of teachers Abby has in highschool, we’ve whittled down the handmade gifts to those who are TRULY marvellous.  For the rest we whip up a more generic but still homemade gift.  This year Abby chose her Japanese teacher – Mrs. Devine, her textiles teacher – Mrs. Pearson, and her Legal studies teacher – Mrs. Maraschello.

Well – no surprises who this cushion is for :-)  I am always a little dubious about themed presents – we can blame my Year 10 Music Teacher for that – she told us at the beginning of the year she HATED musical gifts.  But Abby assured me Mrs. Devine loves Japanese looking things so I dug this piece of simple sweet fabric out of the stash – I like to think it’s quite elegant and not at all corny – and found some pretty calicos to go with it.  I worked up the patchwork on the computer and quilted it with one single large chrysanthemum. It just seemed to need a yoyo in the middle.  Mrs. Devine was delighted.

japanese cushion

little people

The lovely pink and red fabric and the floral used for the binding are MADE in Japan – so that was an extra bonus!  And the blue check made me think of all those lovely indigo woven fabrics to be found in traditional Japanese textiles.

corner

yoyo

The crazy tote went to Mrs. Mara.  We gave her a cushion that last time Abby had her in Year 9 – Abby thought a bag would be a nice alternative for this year.  This was a truly last minute gift.  I had been mulling over the design for a few days and the night before Abby wanted to give it, even DREAMT about how it could go together.

So, Tuesday morning I was up at 5 knowing just what to do.  I cut and sewed the strips, used a dinner plate to make the circular bottom, added a heavy piece of cardboard (chopped out of the back of a large drawing pad) that I covered with the same red lining as the bag, lined it, added the strap and catch, sewed the two cylinders together and voila!  A tote.  I adore it.

And the funny thing – Abby left the Christmas card on the dining table.  Then popped the present on Mrs. Mara’s desk without a note.  Yet, that afternoon Mrs. Mara sent a lovely email saying as soon as she unwrapped it and saw the colours and lovely sewing, she knew exactly who it was from and loved it.  That brought a happy smile to this mum’s face … and the daughter’s too.
the bag

side on

the toggle

princess

lined

flat bottom

Mrs. Pearson’s cushion.  Same pattern as Mrs. Devine’s.  A few different fabrics.  Same chrysanthemum.  And yet it looks so utterly different!  So busy and hot and energetic compared to Mrs. Devine’s cool, quiet elegance.  Hmph – amazing what colour can do, huh!  I used precious Owl and Pussycat fabric because Mrs. Pearson is a fabric guru and I knew she would recognise and love it.  She did.

owl and pussycat

close up quilting

looking across

pink corner

For all my cushions, I use Ikea feather inserts – they just keep their shape soooooo well.  They can be completely flattened to pancake thickness by a sleeping dog, then with a few punches, be brought back to looking plump and gorgeous.  And, hating zippers like I do, I always use a simple envelope back – but I like it to cross over by a good 20cm.  That way there’s no gaping.

cookie jar

The rest of Abby’s teachers – and darling Bob, the lollypop man – each received a jar with the layered ingredients to make Donna Hay’s Choc-chip and Cranberry Oat Cookies.  Recipe included.  They were a big success.  Highly recommended.

Next year – our last year of teachers’ presents – will probably bring more presents for the same lovelies.  But there will be an extra special one for Bob.

Apart from my grandad, Bob is the loveliest gentleman I have ever known.  From the very first day he has shown Abby such friendship and enthusiasm for everything she does.  He waves to me every morning when I drop her off.  And I make sure to come at least 10 minutes after the bell rings every afternoon, because sure enough, Abby will be standing there with Bob and they’ll be chattering away about what they’re both up to, flipping through Abby’s drawing books, carefully inspecting her latest doll, or he’ll be nodding enthusiastically whilst she tells him her latest story.

He’s like her grandad.  (Apart from my dear old grandad, poor Abby completely lucked out in the grandad stakes).  I’ve got those teary eyes and a lump in my throat just writing this.  Words cannot express how grateful I am to Bob for being there for Abby everyday.  I know that she knows that even when some days are a bit hard, there’ll always be Bob in the afternoon.  He’s a school treasure.

So next year, for Bob, there’ll be a quilt – with stars of course.

 

pointy little Christmas hats

Well hello there!  Goodness – the last two weeks have just zipped by.  In a flurry of making.  Mostly Christmas making.  A little bit of birthday making.  Busy fingers indeed, with many hot creamy coffees to kickstart early morning stitching (one morning I made a bag between 5 am and school drop off!), and steamy cups of tea to keep the fingers moving into the wee hours.  So much to show!

looking down

But first … the dreaded GRAD YEAR!  I realised the other day – well, actually I was reminded by a lovely reader’s concerned email- that whilst I had blabbed all over instagram about the grad year applications, I hadn’t written about it here.  So, here it is! On the 14th October – an hour later than I thought was the designated time – I received an offer.  My first preference – The Alfred.  And last week I finally received my contract – I will be working a 4 day week (phew!) in the Renal, Endocrinology and Rheumatology Ward.  Also a first preference.  All that fretting ….

I really like more complex nursing where the patients have conditions that affect them systemically – where you’re constantly assessing and caring for the whole person not just one thing (I’m not at all cut out for the likes of orthopaedics – too production line).

I also like patients that hang around for a bit (not so good for them of course) because I really like building relationships with people and their families.  And Renal and Endocrinology – well that’s a growth industry in our western societies at the moment so the skills and experience I gain will stand me in good stead.

I hummed and haahed over these preferences.  I really really really would have loved to work at the Children’s and initially made them number 1.  But then … they are on the other side of town – so dreadful travelling – horrible public transport – no train, only tram with a change in town that requires running helter skelter down two blocks and up 1.  Car is no better – shocking traffic coming home from earlies (can take up to 2 hours to travel less than 10km) and often bad starting lates as well – and difficult, expensive parking.

Secondly – when I spoke with people in the know in Bega they said that if I applied to the new Bega hospital having done my grad year at the Children’s they’d be all “oh how nice.”  But if I applied having done my grad year at The Alfred, they’d be all “Woo-hoo!  Sign her up quick!”  Even my pharmacist yesterday was excited by the Alfred – it’s such a big hospital – and the state centre for so much, that I will see HEAPS.  And I loved working there in the ICU.  It’s a great place – especially for a learner like me.

So – as of the 12 January, 2015, I will be Lily Boot, Registered Nurse (Grade 2) at The Alfred.  Extraordinary really.  Really.  I arrived in Melbourne 5 years ago, with a basic BA, years of tutoring and boarding school work behind me, a smattering of retail experience and my horizons extending only as far as the dear little bookshop I worked at up in Elsternwick.  And I loved it.

But once that began to wind up – and Abby was settled into high school – and Julian busy with his work – and dreams of moving to the country/beach and building our own straw bale home began to take shape – I needed something else.  Something to fill up those long empty hours.  Something to challenge my mind.  Something to give me skills that would allow me to both contribute meaningfully to my community and give me a decent living so that our country/beach/strawbale dream could become a reality.  And nursing just ticked all the boxes.  I still can’t believe I did it!

I think back to that first year – travelling into town 4 days a week, sitting in classes, grasping exactly how they wanted me to write an essay (scientists are so different to humanists!), picking my way through the throngs of noisy teenagers I shared my classes with.  It was so weird.  I was really scared about losing my sense of being – of stopping being me – stay at home mum to Abby, wife to Julian, stitcher, knitter, home potterer.  Still am a bit.  And the end goal of BEING a nurse seemed ridiculously far away.  Oy!

But the take home message dear reader – do it!  Doesn’t matter how old you are (I was by far the eldest in every class and on almost every ward).  Doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past.  Just do it!  Pick that thing you’ve always thought might be good and jump in feet first.  It will be scary and overwhelming and make you think you’ve utterly lost the plot sometimes, but if you just keep plodding away, it can happen.  I failed Biology in high school – which was 25 years ago – and yet I topped my University Physiology and Anatomy class.

Honestly, I think as adults – especially creative adults like us, who enjoy a challenge, learning something new, keeping busy – we are so well suited to starting something new.  We’ve sorted almost everything else.  We’re know we can’t afford to stuff around – time, money, family, responsibilities and all.  And we know how time flies.

We’re so much more efficient and capable than those lovely, ditzy teenagers (said with complete affection – I made many lovely friends amongst my young classmates! – and they’re only just like I was when I was their age) and we’ve just had so much more experience at LIFE, that so many things make so much more sense to us than them.

So – if you want to make a change, come over here so I can wholeheartedly throw my arms around you, give you a big hug, and say “Of course you can!!!!!!!”

Okay …  onto pointy little Christmas hats …

pink one

So Mum’s gone to Canada for the holidays – we have family in Vancouver – and at the last minute – of course it was last minute – I thought it would be nice to knit each of the little cousins – there’s 5 of them now – a pointy elfy hat for Christmas.

I could just picture them all at Aunty Mary’s, the snow falling outside, the lights twinkling inside, and all five of them lined up – in height order – with their pointy knitted hats.  What a cute photo, huh!  So a couple of days before Mum arrived (her flight left from Melbourne), I began knitting and at first I was able to use wool from the stash.  Awesome way to finish up leftover bulky yarn and I didn’t even have to leave the house.  That’s my kind of crafting.

Biggest first – for my dear little 8 year old nephew Oscar.  Thank goodness I did the biggest first.  I would have hated knitting the biggest at 1:30am the morning Mum left.

one hat

Then I knitted the littlest – for my cute little 3 month old cousin James.  That was a blitz.  One episode of Zen, on iView, at my desk, and it was done.

2 hats

Then there were three middles starting with my busy little 3 year old cousin Caleb.

3 hats

But then there were no new colours for the next two – only rehashes of the previous three – bit ho-hum.  I just had to go down to Wondoflex and for some reason, there never seemed to be a good time – until 2 days before Mum left.

Which meant I knitted one for my sweet little 18 month old cousin Frankie before I cooked Abby’s birthday supper the day before Mum left.

funny little points

And finally knitted the last one for my funny little nephew Sam on the Thursday night AFTER Abby’s birthday supper. I think I cheered when I reached the decreasing rounds.  And danced about as I cast off.  Well staggered’s probably more accurate.  It was very late.

However, I can now tell you, dear reader, that if you need to knit a heap of presents in a very short space of time – the Fuzzy Little Shapka Hat is the real deal.  Awesomely easy, quick, lovely, doesn’t even use a whole ball of bulky … ticks all the boxes it does. Ravelled here.

5 hats

And when the fam send me that photo – of all 5 little heads lined up in their stripey pointy elfy Christmas hats – I’ll be sure to show you :-)

 

better than malted milk :: a cross stitched chair

before

I had a wee bit of the glums today.  It happens.  Usually a week or so before my period.  Must be a huge hormonal swing of some sort.  I feel it creeping up, find myself feeling very sad, wonder why life is so hard, then remember to tell myself … ah, you feel glum because it’s just that time of the month.  So I stood in the pantry doorway and ate malted milk powder from the jar.  It didn’t really help.  And it made my mouth gummy and I choked a bit and had to dash down a glass of water.

Much better to text Julian in Las Vegas so he knows you feel glum and will call (which he did, straight away, he’s lovely like that).  Then find something simple to do that will let you just be with the feeling but also allow you to find some sweetness. Tried and true recipe for beating the glums.

So today, I vacuumed.  It wasn’t especially sweet, but it did make me feel virtuous – I loathe vacuuming – actually, I loathe all housework.  This allowed me to look at the bathroom with a critical eye – the bath tub had the blue bentwood chair and the clothes hamper sitting in it.  Not exactly conducive to bathing.  So I pulled it all out and cleaned the bath.  Again – big ticks on the virtuous scale – I loathe cleaning the bathroom.

Then I had the blue chair to do something with.  And as I looked at that lovely blue rattan … I thought of something I’d seen on Pinterest!  Check it out … cute as! Simple.  And something that would definitely provide a bit of sweetness :-)
book and fabric

So I got out some red gingham … I bought this gingham at the Vinnies in Bega on our spring break.  It was 5 metres for $3.  Only it was half price day.  So I got 5 metres for $1.50!  I made a skirt with a floral reprodepot trim, now I’ve cross stitched a chair, and I still have heaps left!  That’s a sweet bargain.

And I flipped through one of my all time favourite cross stitch books for a pretty pattern that had just the right number of stitches – couldn’t be more than 24 squares.

the pattern

Perfect!  And making this snowflake on that beautiful blue with the red and white gingham would look very Nordic.  Sweet and perfect!

the strips

I cut (hacked) my strips (just with the scissors) 3 squares wide.  Man do I love fabric that comes with self cutting lines.

fu

Settled onto the hallway floor with my sweet companion.  The only thing she won’t do with me is vacuum.  She’s a sensible dog.

stitching

And set to work.  As more and more of the pattern appeared, I felt those glums subsiding.  I felt stronger, more cheerful … content.  Especially when Abby came home.  There’s nothing like the lovely company of my Abby, Julian, or Mum to shove those glums away.

done

And in less than 2 hours … voila!  I must add … this is a hard rubbish chair.  Picked up from the footpath on the Nepean Highway on our way to Southlands one day.  It has a pair – the pair doesn’t have a seat.  I’m now inspired to finally buy that rattan and fix it just so’s I can cross stitch it!

Can you imagine a farm house kitchen with these lovely bentwood chairs in all different colours pushed in around a scrubbed table, all with red gingham cross stitch?  Oh I can.  It will be an immensely popular photo on Pinterest (hee! hee! hee!) And the best bit is – I see these chairs on the side of the road regularly – yes!

seat

closeup back

texture

Sigh …. look at that nubbly texture … so pretty.  And I love how, with a wee bit of distance, the gingham makes it look like wonderfully thread variegated yarn.

sideon back

And the  colours …. swoon!

side on

Yes, a quick bit of gingham cross stitch was a lovely balm on what was shaping up to be a pretty flat day.  And for that I am very grateful.