flower girl :: a mosaic

before the skin

You knew it was inevitable!  I did.  For a while there, I thought mosaics might be different … that I might stick to one project until it was done.  Perhaps I was misled by the structured nature of attending workshops – couldn’t show lovely Merryl and my fellow workshop creatives that I was fickle and hopped from one project to another :-)

looking down from the top

Then I realised … most of them did!  And when I walked in last week, despite my whale and her girl looking so lovely, despite not having been for a week because of the flu, despite really wanting to have my whale and her girl finished and hanging on the wall in our little cottage at Wombat Hill … I found myself cautiously asking Merryl

fig and poppy

“Would it be okay if I started something else today?”

with the skin

“Of course!” she smiled.  “Did you have anything in mind?”  Oh yes!  My head is always bursting with dreams of what I could make next.  I wanted round.  Something that could be used outdoors (so concrete board).  Something with a face.  Something with flowers.  Something that could be finished a bit quicker (isn’t that always the way … and yet seldom works out that way!)

lengthwise

Merryl found me a board.  I quickly gathered some of my favourite tiles and put together a simple geometric border … then once that was on, began sketching in my face, my flowers …

hydragena

… and have spent the last 4 blissful visits to the mosaic workshop thinking up ways to make my flowers and filling out my flower girl’s face and cardigan.

flowers on the left

Perhaps it will be a table top – the rather chunky amber coloured beads at her neck would make for a bumpy rest for a plate or tea cup, but you know, I would know it was there and so would avoid it.  I’ll just have to make sure I’m always the one that sits at that side.
looking up

Or perhaps I’ll hang it on the wall of our porch at Wombat Hill.

looking across

There is something so wonderful about cutting and placing all these little shapes – I especially love using squares and rectangles – such as in the face above – always makes me think of ancient mosaics and cobbled paths.
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I wonder if I shall finish this one before starting the next!

 

red :: white :: blue

the view

Here’s a simple quilt.  Red, white and blue.  One single motif in the middle.  Inspired by the individual bolts of fabric, found at Darn Cheap.

Sewn up super quick.  Then stuck on my quilting sewing machine for many many many weeks.  Progress was so slow.  Not helped by a whole bobbin’s worth of quilting that had to be unpicked because of dodgy bobbin tension.

Not helped by starting my new nursing rotation.

Overshadowed by all the fun I am having with my mosaic.

Finally finished whilst staggering through the worst flu-thing I’ve had in 8 years.  As I sat sneezing on the first day of sickness, I wodged a tissue up my nostrils and sat down to just FINISH the bloody thing.  Then lay on the sofa, whining and coughing and sneezing, quilt draped over me, to sew down the binding.  Then read and slept under it for the rest of the week, intermittently panicking over the five shifts of work I missed, and melodramatically wondering whether I would ever feel normal again.
from the side

Good to know, though, that this bit of sewing works well as a warm and comforting quilt.  Can’t have too many quilts, right?

pattern

safety pins

starting

It’s the first quilt I’ve started since Grandad’s death.  The first quilt I’ve ever made that I haven’t sent him a photo of so that he could see what I was up to.  Grandad loved that I quilted, but still offered objective criticism.  He’d tell me which colours he thought worked really well and which were not pulling their weight.  Which techniques he thought showed I’d really put some time into the quilt, and which he thought were obviously a quick fabric fix.  And if I suggested any doubt, he’d always remind me of the value of pulling things apart to start again if the end result truly wasn’t right.  But also of not seeking perfection – a vanity he thought stymied both the creative process and the joy to be found in making.

Grandad also loved that I quilted onto vintage, thrifted blankets.  Like many of his generation, he was disappointed in the loss of Australian manufacturing, especially the wool industry and its accompanying small rural mills.  And he could never understand how someone could prefer a doona over a well made, nicely checked Australian pure wool blanket.

He also loved a good display of thrift – there’s not much that’s thrifty about our modern day patchwork and quilting – we flock to designer fabric labels and gobble up glorious, high quality cotttons that we carefully cut and piece to make something beautiful.  And yes, it’s undoubtedly useful, but Grandad loved to ponder that earlier purpose of patchwork – the gathering of small scraps from clothing which were saved, then carefully curated to make warm bed coverings for families.  He loved that I eschewed expensive battings and backing fabrics and just whacked my quilt tops on blankets rescued from the opshops.
from the back

finished quilt

lovely smooth texture

squiggly

binding

But whilst he may not have seen this quilt, I was able to include some fabric I know he loved – the binding.  It’s from the fabric I used to sew his little black wallaby – the one he is buried with.  And as we were driving up to Wombat Hill on Friday afternoon, the car packed to the roof with bits and bobs for the cottage – quilts, crockery, lamps, the Lotte sideboard – we were almost at Mum’s, there was only a skerrick of light left, and there, standing on the side of the road on one of the last sharp bends between Eden and Pambula, was a beautiful little black wallaby.

You often see kangaroos by the road – in the late afternoon there are often dozens gathered on grassy verges and in parks – but not wallabies.  They are shy little, solitary things, and much prefer to stay nestled back in the bush.  This little wallaby stood alone on the bend, just watching us speed on by.

loop

It was a sign :-)on tree

Dear old Grandad mightn’t be sitting up in his armchair in Queensland, on the other end of the phone, listening to all of our exploits, but oh, he is with us every step of the way.

Every plan we make, fence we strain, trailer load of supplies we buy and unload, fruit tree we plant, vegetable garden we till, compost pile we nurture, chook run we build, animal we feed, Grandad has already laboured over the same, and is loving that we are now continuing on with a way of life he thought was marvellous.

It’s a good feeling.

lilly pilly jelly

with the basket

The previous owner of our wee farm was a big tree planter!  He and his dad (an arborist) planted a grove of walnut trees (which were burnt down shortly after by a neighbour’s out of control grass fire!), a grove of native hardwoods which cover the hillside in front of the cottage, and a superb windbreak that encircles the cottage and its garden.

too high up

They planted the windbreak with natives so as to encourage the local birdlife – immensely successful! – and in one of the top corners is a cluster of lilly pillies.  This tree belongs to the myrtle family, grows very tall, has vibrant, waxy green leaves, and produces thousands of little pinky red berries which the local wildlife love.

Like most Australians, I have grown up with lilly pillies and yet have been woefully ignorant about the edibility of their berries!  It wasn’t until this year, whilst watching Tilba River Cottage, that I realised how delightfully useful they could be!  Cordials!  Champagne! Ice cream!  Jams!  And such a pretty pink :-)

D72_0547

So my first harvest at Wombat Hill Farm – lilly pilly berries.  Collected with dear little friends that came over to help celebrate our first weekend at the farm.  In a rope basket of course!  Unfortunately most of the berries were so high up we had no hope of gathering them.  But enough were picked for one little jar of home grown goodness …

liquour

I followed the recipe and instructions from the Forster State School in New South Wales – which just so happens to be around the corner from where my grandparents lived by the sea in the Manning Valley – meant to be I say :-)

lemons

Added the juice from one of Mum’s lemons …

jam pot

Honestly, I’ve never had jam set like it!  I don’t know whether Mum’s lemons are especially high in pectin – or perhaps lilly pillies are?

set

But it was obvious this lilly pilly jam – jelly! – was not going to be dolloped.  By the time it had cooled in the jar, it could be sliced like quince paste and possessed such an intense flavour that it was best served in small amounts.

on bread

In fact, our lilly pilly jelly tastes brilliant with Erica’s divine 3 year vintage cheddar cheese from South Coast Cheese at Tilba – they were made for each other.  Perfect!

the solitary jar

So now, I reckon we need to plant more lilly pillies – luckily, they are very fast growing – and work out how to gather all those up high berries so as not to waste them.  Unlike Paul from Tilba River Cottage, I will NOT be climbing our lilly pillies with ropes and safety gear and shaking the berries down into waiting sheets.

But I do want many many more jars of this lovely stuff, that’s for sure!

 

a whale of a time! *

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During these wintery days in Melbourne, squeezing in a couple of hours before and after my nursing shifts at Merryl’s workshop is the highlight of my days.  I utterly adore it!

starting the hair

Last week, I got stuck into the girl in the window’s fair isle jumper – still have a way to go – the bottom row needs finishing and then there’s the shoulders to work in the same pattern and a pair of plain sleeves.  Then it was onto her hair – braids and black velvet bows and all.  I use the glue (you can see it above) to create the lines I want – it’s very forgiving.

shapely head

I’m pleased with how the hair turned out – looks perfectly hairy.  But those bows took some work.  Oh I cut and tried and cut and tried and cut and tried before I was satisfied they bore even the slightest resemblance to bows.  Oy!  They were the trickiest thing I’ve done yet.

finished plaits

velvet bow

This week, it was back to the whale and her sea.  First I laid out her spout of water using little pearlescent tiles I cut into fours and then set on point … that was super quick and satisfying.

about to become spouting water

Then I added the sea’s horizon – which of course begged for the building and rigging of my sailing ship! Such a simple layout but I do think it’s very sweet – it nestles into that wavy horizon just right.

don't want to stop

Oh and I added my soaring birds – Cape Petrels – they must be a lazy, sun loving flock who haven’t yet headed back to the Antarctic for spring breeding :-)  It was funny – because they are rather scatty looking things, I kept absent mindedly trying to brush them off my board … and would then remember, no! no! they’re birds! they’re meant to be there!

spouty

pink tiles

a scattering of tiles

Today, there were many things I COULD have worked on.  I could have finished the fair isle jumper, or the grassy hill, or the lighthouse light, or the whale’s wave, or the sea … nah!  I really longed to make that sun rise … so I did :-)

looking towards window

… and started adding a few curves to the sky … it was bliss.

with glue

spout

I just love how the little sailing ship wound up heading straight for the sun rise, tucked into the dip of the wave and the rise of the sky.  Captain Jack would no doubt approve and I dare say Maturin would enjoy the birds swooping and diving.

so glossy

Still so many wee tiles to cut and place – hours and hours worth – but now all the elements swirling in my imagination are now firmly glued down.

I was on such a high when I arrived home, Abby suggested I start up a drop in mosaic workshop next year in Bega!  Maybe I will :-)

* you’ll have to excuse such an obvious pun
– it’s my Bob Belcher side coming out :-)

 

Wombat Hill Farm

view with dam

:: north to Tilba ::

Well folks, after many many years of dreaming, planning, studying, working, saving …. and lots and lots of looking …. we have finally bought our first home.  It’s a 42 acre farm in Brogo – a lush farming community in the Bega Valley, Far South New South Wales.  A small farm by Australian standards but to us beginners, an enormous amount of land!

view with mountain

To our north are rolling hills and pastures looking up towards Cobargo, then Tilba.  To our west, I suppose it’s the Great Dividing Range – the mountains that lead up to the plains of the Monaro and Canberra.  To the east (above) is Mumbulla Mountain, a sacred place of the local Yuin people, and just over that, the beautiful Pacific ocean.  Behind us, to the south, is Bega – a really sweet little country town where I hope to work in the newly built Bega Hospital.

lavender

We first looked at this property last Christmas.  Oh it’s a funny story :-)  All our nights were spent looking at properties on line, in the morning we’d check in with the real estate agent, then plot our list of places to visit and spend the day driving round and round and round the Bega Valley.  It wasn’t long before we were running out of suitable places to look  … and the more we looked, the longer grew our list of requirements!

We wanted to be no more than 30 minutes from Bega – no point seeking a more environmentally friendly life if I was going to spend my working days guzzling petrol.  We wanted to be off the highway, but not miles along a dodgy dirt road that would be a pain to navigate in bad weather or after a late shift at the hospital.

We wanted more than 15 acres of land, but not more than 50.  We wanted established trees, but not ones individually covered by council protection orders.  We wanted good access to water, but not on a creek or river because that would seriously restrict any future dam building.

We didn’t want to have to cross an easement to get to our land, and after meeting one potential neighbour, we weren’t that keen on others crossing our land!  We didn’t want to be in a gully that would be soggy or flood.  But we didn’t want to be perched on a rocky ridge.  And we wanted good soil.

Oh and we wanted to be north facing with a lovely eastern aspect as well.

Demanding huh!

rosemary

daisies

We first looked at this lovely property over the summer holidays – I even wrote about it at the time :-)  The real estate agent had sent us off to look at 100 or so acres on a short stretch of road off the Princes Highway.  He gave us the lot number and directions and off we went – hopeful that it might be a good one.  We found the road easily enough and just off the highway was the usual gathering of letterboxes and sure enough there was a letterbox for Lot 3 – with the street number listed as well.  Excellent!

The road wasn’t too bad – dirt, but reasonably graded.  There were neighbours all along – not close together by any means, but several other small farms with lovely trees, dams and plenty of horses and ponies – there was even an echidna toddling along the verge.  It was looking good.  When we arrived at Lot 3 – well, it took our breath away.  There were 2 huge sheds, a cottage with a beautiful garden and fencing, two huge water tanks, a cattle race, fruit trees – and lovely undulating land stretching north before us.  I was hopping from one foot to the other with excitement.

Now the fact that the for sale sign belonged to a different agent didn’t seem to matter – we just expected our agent had only recently picked it up.  And there was a local couple there who had come to check on their horse – which was on agistment – the owner of the property, their friend, was in Melbourne for Christmas.  They were friendly and perfectly happy for us to look over the land.  Julian and I bounded off.  Abby and Sacha were a bit more hesitant and reported to us later they heard the couple say to each other “Do you think these people are on the right block?” “Nah!”

fu

It was amazing.  And even more extraordinary – it was within our small budget.

We spent a good hour walking around.  There was work to be done for sure – lots of fencing and the pastures needed a lot of work, but there were plenty of trees – some of them truly majestic – and two dams, one of which was fed by a natural spring.  The cottage was a bit funky but perfectly neat and serviceable with a fabulous porch draped with a lush and fruiting grape vine, looking straight up the valley to Tilba.  I was practically hyperventilating by the time we gathered the kids and got back to the car.

I wanted to go straight back to the agent and say “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!  We’ll take it!” and slap down the deposit.  But we’d promised the kids lunch at Bermagui first.  And Julian didn’t want to appear eager.

What ?!?!?  It was perfect!!!!  Of course we were eager!!!!

cleaning out my gumboots

:: de-redbacking my gumboots ::

lots of firewood

By the time we got back to Bega we’d decided there was no point trying to bargain the price down – it was a huge bargain already!  We plonked down at the agent’s desk, me oblivious to Julian’s instructions to be calm.

“What did you think?” he asked.  “Yeah, it’s got potential,” Julian replied cautiously.

“It’s fabulous!” I squealed “You didn’t tell us about the sheds, or water tanks, or cottage!”

The agent look puzzled.  “What cottage?”

“The little green cottage with the porch and grapes and fence and lovely garden!” I was so enthusiastic.

The agent stared at us for a moment – then began to laugh.  “No, no, no!  That’s not the property I sent you to – that’s the other side of the road, belongs to a different agent and is half the land and twice the price!”

It was a deflating moment.  But kind of funny too.  Honestly – we laughed about it for the rest of the holiday.

lots of bracken

:: lots of bracken – we need weed munchers – a.k.a goats! ::

dragging his spoils

But the property he’d sent us to – it was pretty grim and ticked no boxes.  So back to searching.  We finally found one that was not quite what we were after, but very beautiful and put in an offer that we pursued until Easter.  However, after extensive consultation, it was obvious we were never going to be allowed to build on it thanks to the Bega Valley’s very restrictive new shire plan.  So on Good Friday we had to admit defeat and go back to the list we’d gathered at Christmas.

There was nothing new to look at and we revisited all the old ones.  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Then Julian suggested, why didn’t we go back and check out the lovely one we’d gone to by mistake.  Nah, I said, too much money.  But he pointed out our options were exceptionally limited now, thanks to the new Shire plan, and we were eligible for a lower deposit on this one because it had a dwelling and power.

We contacted the RIGHT agent and back we went.  It was as fabulous as we remembered.

pastures

the deam

:: the spring fed dam ::

The views were beautiful.  It was north facing.  The soil was rich, black, wormy and friable.  There were excellent water resources.  The owner had planted a lovely grove of hardwood.  It was less then a kilometre off the highway.  Only 20 minutes to the Bega hospital.  Under 50 acres.  And plenty of wildlife – frogs in the natural spring, wombat burrows everywhere, exquisite bird life and kangaroos bursting out of every grove of trees.

crappy fencing

:: part of our hardwood grove ::

our tree

:: my favourite tree ::

We put in an offer.  Two hours later, the deal was sealed and our deposit was down.

This little farm was just meant to be :-)

wombat burrow

:: one of many wombat burrows ::

boulder

:: our land is covered in these rocks – very typical in the Bega Valley
– Julian wants to build stone walls with them ::

mum describing her hard work

:: whilst we went walking – to gather star pickets
– mum gave us our housewarming present –
she gleefully chopped down some really unatttractive plants
that had gone bonkers beside the house ::

first meal

:: our first meal – potato and leek soup, Honour bread with Bega butter, and chocolate guinness cake :: 

So after so many years of dreaming and planning, on Thursday at 3:30, Julian, Abby and Fu picked me up outside the hospital, car and trailer tightly packed, and we made the long drive east to Mum’s.  The next morning, bright and early on a glorious day, Julian and I met with the owner.  We had a lovely long chat about his plans and ours.  He filled us in on our neighbours, gave us tips on the equipment he was leaving.  Keys were exchanged.  Off he drove.

There we stood.  On this beautiful piece of land.  We’d done it.

Oh there is so much to look forward to, so much to create, so much work, so much love.

After 24 years together, we’ve finally bought our first home … Wombat Hill Farm …

winter whimsy :: the gardening raccoons

paper cranes

by a wintry window

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

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

snoozy fu

needle felting

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

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

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

Which means it never gets used.

cutting

extra bunting

modgepodge

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

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

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

laid out

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

bunting

fresh flowers

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

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

looking for the bare bits

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

done

closer look

flat

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

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

 

whale watching – mosaic style

with basket

glass prisms

work bench

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

shelves of glass

new cutters

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

cutting green triangles

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

laying out the base

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

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

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

glueing the grass

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

harrington norfolk pines

:: Harrington ::

norfolk pines

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

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

from the back

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

crowdy lighthouse

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

grandad

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

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

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

round-401x600

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

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

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

smiling whale

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

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

upside down lighthouse

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

hands

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

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

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

 

oh these lengthening days!

folded

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

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

coffee and thread

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

blue sky and sunlight

little girl

blossoms and thread

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

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

sunlit clouds

tucks

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

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

scissorsMy heart is singing.

 

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

from front of chair

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

arm

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

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

close up of edge

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

beautiful back

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

corner

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

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

including side

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

putting it on

from front
wearing it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

mosaicing at Merryl’s

mum

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

second night starting point

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

tiles

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

abby

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

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

trees

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

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

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

end of second night

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

Thank you Merryl!

 

plates on the dresser

black corner

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

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

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

periodic table

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

with leaves and shadows

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

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

Backwards, huh.

along the back

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

red and yellow edge

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

blue corner

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

pink in sun

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

marmalade in the sun

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

with lucy

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

favourite piece

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

like this plate

pegs

blankety back

sky

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

full quilt

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

so cosy

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

how it lives

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

farewell my dear old Grandad

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

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

the cover

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

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

walking-down-the-aisle

grandad-and-lily-wedding

… and then he was gone.  Just like that.

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

the quilt

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

grandad at the postoffice

grandad and his milkshake

grandad by the water

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

rainbow bay

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

his head

the flag

abby building him

his walking stick

with grandad

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

face in shadow

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

heart

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

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

Cheers Grandad!