oh no!

oh yes!  Shhh!  Julian hasn’t seen it yet.  Well, he might have.  He did walk past it this morning – it was in the boot, he was on his way to work.  But I think he was too preoccupied waving goodbye to me whilst bemoaning the muggy heat.   He didn’t mention it.  Of course he may well have seen it and just decided to block it from his consciousness.

I spied this little number last night.  It’s all the fault of the weather.  If it hadn’t been ridiculously hot, I would have cooked a lovely supper (well, hopefully lovely – might have been ordinary :-).  Instead, I was flaked out on the sofa telling people that breakfast cereal with cold milk was a perfectly good option.  They disagreed.  So what was I forced to do?  Go to the fish and chip shop.  There I was meandering down Alfada street – relishing every moment of the car’s airconditioning – when I spied a gathering of furniture on the footpath.  Hmmmm ……..

… looked like a sideboard to me.  Its back was to me – but in the darkness I could spy an arched backrest and horizontal planks nailed across the back.  Odd – the backrest said art deco, the planks suggested much earlier.  Definitely worth a closer look on the way home.  Which I did … and almost gave up on it.  Even in the gloom I could see that this poor art deco sideboard had been doused in a red cordial coloured stain.  Ugh!  And it was shiny.  Ugh! Ugh!

However, come this morning, the sideboard was still dancing around my mind – I knew exactly where I would put it and what I would use it for – so I took Abby and Rina for a quick squiz on our way to school.  Rina looked appalled that her Australian “mum” liked other folks’ junk.  Abby was a bit sceptical.  See, she’d totted up the number of sideboards that currently reside in Bootville – that would be four – and she reckoned five was too many.

I must confess, I still needed convincing – all that red cordial was unlikely to come off easily which meant painting the sideboard.  And I couldn’t imagine it painted.  So I drove by again after dropping the girls, and this time inspected it in the daylight.  Yes, that stain/varnish was just as hideous in the daylight.  But oh my, it did have the loveliest curvy shape and lines.  Deep cupboards, deep drawers.  Oh the potential!  The owner was in his front garden with the builders who were measuring up his renovation.  I said my good mornings and inquired as to the status of the sideboard (Yeah … like I didn’t know it was heading for the council’s hard rubbish muncher).

“Oh that!” he replied “You’re welcome to it!”  “Marvellous,” I said with a smile – already having lowered the back seats and positioned the pink rug I keep in the back just for this purpose – protects the tailgate when I’m loading furniture.

“I’ll help you lift it in!” he added, strolling down the drive, “Actually – mate!”, to his builder friend, “You can help me.”

“Yeah right!” said the builder with a grin, “I saw that one coming.”  They picked it up and slid it in.

“You’d never have managed that, love”, the owner said to me.  Oh really!  They don’t know Lily Boot!

An hour later, after Julian left, I tried to concentrate on my pintucking.  I truly did.  But that sideboard was calling from the car – and besides, I couldn’t fit both the girls in at pickup time if I left there.  So out it came – lily style – and I decided to just give it a wee scrub with the metho to see what the red cordial did.  Lo and behold!  It came off.  Woot!  Which meant that I then spent the next four hours wearing my fingerprints off my fingers.

Oooooooh!  Look at that – nice.  There’s still a hint of pink in some parts of the grain, but I kinda like it.  It’s like the sideboard is holding on to a little bit of its story.  It will give it a rather unusual warmth. And I simply could not have painted over that lovely wood – I’m a complete sucker for art deco veneer.  This sideboard is perfectly matched to Lotte’s sideboard and the Gentleman’s Wardrobe.  It was made for us.  I can’t WAIT to get stuck into over our long weekend (Labor Day here in Victoria on Monday) – I reckon I’ll have it finished by Monday and in situ.

“Where?!?!?!?”  you may well ask dubiously.  You’ll just have to wait and see – I have a cunning plan.



Thank you so much, dear folk, for all the lovely words you shared in yesterday’s comments.  I wish I could send every one of you some
May Gibbs goodness & a lily-pillowslip :-)

I am so inspired by your enthusiasm, I’ve added a few more details to the giveaway – your very own copy of Alison Lester’s Magic Beach
to read whilst snuggled up with your pillowslip, & I shall embroider your name – or anyone else’s name that takes your fancy – on the pillowslip & bag.

Remember – you have until Sunday to enter.
I shall draw a name at 8pm Australian Eastern Summer Time & announce it in this week’s
~ loveliness found ~ post.

Thursday mornings are sooooooo good.  No classes.  No predawn departures.  A morning when I can share a lingering pot of tea with Abby … make some pancakes for breakfast … have second coffees with Julian.  Completely spoilt.  I know that for the next 10 weeks I shall really treasure Thursday mornings.

After enjoying such a civilised breakfast this morning, I actually buckled down and finished the chores before picking up a needle or fabric.  That’s extraordinary willpower on my part.  Oh yes … there’s many an afternoon when, with half an hour to go before I need to collect the little girlies, I frantically – ineptly! – squeeze in as many chores as I can and end up racing out of the house cursing my earlier frippery.  But not today.

Thus, it wasn’t until morning tea had come and gone – without tea, because it’s too damn hot – that I sat down with Fraulein Heidi on my lap.  She’d been sitting – headless – on the craft table for more than a week.  It was becoming rather disconcerting.  So a crocheting we went.

That part didn’t take at all long.  The stuffing – a little longer.  Truly, I find stuffing more of an art than sewing, knitting or crocheting.  Dang it’s hard to get it right.  But what took FOREVER was creating Heidi’s face.  It’s such a marvellous thing that needlefelted features can be ripped right off with nary a sign that they had ever been there.  Always makes me think of that skit from Sesame Street – the one with the orange who rolls out of the fruit bowl, the kitchen bench becomes her stage, rubber bands, the dish mop, other bits and pieces become her facial features and then, under a spotlight, she sings opera.  Do you remember that one?  I loved it.

Anyways … back to Heidi’s face.  On went excessively rosy cheeks.  And off they came.  On went multicoloured (I was trying for hazel) eyes.  And off they came.  She had no less than 5 pairs of lips before I settled upon one that didn’t make her look like an alarming ventriloquist’s dummy.  At one point, her eyebrows sat rather smooshily on top of her eyes.  No good. And I tried a felted nose – which made her look like a Muppet.  Her cheeks came in.  Went out.  Moved down.  Back up.  It’s amazing how a few millimetres difference in cheek positioning can be the difference between looking like Abby from “My Family” (and no, that is most certainly not who we named Abby after!  I first met the name Abigail in the brilliant Ruth Park novel – an Australian classic! – “Playing Beattie Bow” – I was completely besotted) and something a little more girlchild like.

Without moments to spare (stolen moments that meant I could only wash half my hair) I quickly plonked a roll of soft, flimsy white linen onto the kitchen table – bought at a thrift store in Richmond for $5 – and worked out the right shape for a petticoat.  It shall have pinch pleats at the front, with wee eidelweiss embroidered around the neck and a fine crocheted lace at the hem.  A buttoned back – the kind that Laura and Mary would have to do up for each other.  These dolls of mine – their heads are so big, I doubt I shall ever make them anything big enough to pull over them without giving the dolls disturbing neurosurgery.  And then I shall make Frida a petticoat too!  And a paper pattern, so that I may do it as many times as I like!  And you could as well!

Of course, the petticoat is the start of Heidi’s layers – there’ll be a wee brown skirt, white puffy blouse and bodice next.  And I’m hanging out for the winter knits – I bought a wee Clover pompom maker the other day and I can’t wait to knit Heidi a beanie with a pompom on top.

‘Twas funny … after snipping up the linen, I had to dash … school pick up, afternoon tea, homework at the kitchen table, cool baths with long chapters of Little House in the Big Woods – in which everytime I mentioned the cold or frost or snow or howling wind, the little girlie flung herself back in the bath, imploring the heavens to grant her the same – little girlie dropped home, Music Festival with big girlie, take-away dinner with Rina … and then, finally, I plonked down on the sofa and there she was.

Fraulein Heidi – sitting in the armchair across from me.  Looking so sweet, I expected her to start talking any moment.  Made me smile.


some sweet australian please (a giveaway!)

Oh my!  I’m so thirsty … so thirsty.  I don’t know if this is a consequence of the rich gravy Julian made for supper’s pork cutlets, or the fact that it’s still dreadfully hot at 10.30 at night after a dreadfully hot day.  If you’d been peering into our dark garden, a few moments ago, you’d have seen me drinking from the hose, in between watering the wilted herbs and vegies.  Yes I did.  It was damm fine too :-)  I thought about holding the hose over my head, but then worried that Rina, our sweet exchange student, might notice and think her new mother (she calls me “mum” – cute!) was a bit weird.

Instead, here I shall sit and share what I discovered today.  I can now hook up an IV infusion – very thrilling stuff, seriously! – I can prime it, calculate and set a gravity fed line, give a bolus injection into a bung, calculate and set a pump fed line, calculate and set up a burette to administer drugs, and say “I don’t think so!” in my best Elastogirl voice when a pushy post-op nurse (played by our teacher) tries to talk me into taking a 16 year old girlpatient (dummy) back to the ward when her oxygen sats have dropped below 90%.  Woot!

I discovered that you can do wicked things to the bread dough if you are using a wet method.  Such as, mix 3 cups of flour with 5 cups of water, when you’re supposed to mix 3 cups of flour to TWO cups of water.  It was 5.50am – my eyes still hadn’t focussed – clearly my brain hadn’t.  Nevertheless – the dough (slops?) rose like a hot air balloon – 24 hours later I drained at least a couple of cups of whey like water off the dough (rather unattractive) – the dough rose again – was still dreadfully moist so I kind of slopped it into the dutch oven – baked it, and lo and behold it turned into a beautifully risen, crusty topped loaf of bread!  Amazing!  Of course, I haven’t yet tasted it – steamy hot bread holds no appeal when the weather is equally steamy and hot.  I’ll let you know tomorrow whether it was edible.  We still may chalk this up as an Anne Shirley moment – something never to be repeated.

I also discovered that Spotty has a new range of May Gibbs Gumnut Baby fabric.  Swoon! It’s so gorgeous.  You see, I was on my way home from my IV excitement and needed to call in to the shops for groceries and fabric – for Rina’s welcome pillowcase and laundry bag (apparently, Japanese students prefer to give you their dirty laundry in their own individual bag – that’s cool :-).  Now I’d intended to buy some of this sweet mermaid fabric – Abby thought it was darling and her tastes run to those of teenage Japanese girls.

However, there – next to the mermaids – is the May Gibbs fabric.  I grabbed a bolt in every pattern-way ’cause seeing it – loving it, poring over it, remembering the tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Raggedy Blossom and Mr. Lizard and the Banksia Men – reinforced something I had been thinking about – and working on – in Merimbula.  You might remember, we had so many wonderful adventures and each came with its own set of fabulous wildlife – flora and fauna – landscapes, history, people and stories.  Each evening as I related the day’s discoveries and delights to the family, wrote about them in my journal, and sorted through my photos, I reflected on the notion that we Australians aren’t especially embracing of what we have, right here, in front of us.

Very rarely do you see an Australian animal used in a “cool” design – the t-shirts and lunchboxes and greeting cards and notebooks and tote bags are instead more often decked out in European/North American bears or foxes (introduced pests and Boot Family Enemy Number 1) or rabbits or squirrels.  The animals of the African plains or tropical jungles of Asia make more appearances than those that share this land with us.   As for our plants, flowers, trees and birds – they rarely score an appearance.  There’s a real cultural cringe around kangaroos, koalas or wombats.  Yes, they appear on our coins, coat of arms, and you can find plenty in souvenir shops, but anything else is often considered a bit kitsch. Tourists embrace them.  The locals – not so much.  The only place I regularly see them (apart from my purse) is dead on the side of the road.

And it’s not just the tangible, living-right-now things we ignore – we Australians are pretty good at ignoring – and getting rid of – what came before.  The other night, when I was researching and writing about Roslyn blankets from New Zealand – I discovered that the New Zealand government and universities had collected wonderful histories and photographs about this company – it’s factory, people and goods.  It was like dipping into a marvellous dress up box and having whole new worlds revealed.  So I attempted to find similar styled sources about Australia’s wool manufacturers – almost nothing.  Certainly nothing I could turn into a story with pictures.   Such a shame.

Yes, there are historical societies and archives somewhere – but here in Australia local history is a fringe activity and hard for the average Jane to access.  For some reason, Australians are neither especially fond of or interested in what came before.  The dramatic parts, yes – Gallipoli, the Kokoda Track, Ned Kelly (this last fetish IS cringeworthy – the man was a violent thug), the odd race horse, and of course, football.  But the stories of our first peoples, the white pioneers, the enriching waves of non- English migrants from all over the world, the thriving industries and country towns and villages of yesteryear, where people lived, how they lived, what they loved …. not much care or love bestowed upon these stories.

There are some truly lovely Australian books for children – Alison Lester springs to mind in an instant – her stories and illustrations speak of such a love for Australia, its people, animals and environment.  Fifteen years on, when we read Magic Beach it is still a slow, enchanted read.  When I walk onto our favourite beaches I hear her words and see her pictures.  But as soon as we step away from the Kinder Years there is little available “Australian” to keep nurturing our love for and fascination with what is right on our doorsteps.

So anyways – what I’m trying to say in my usual rambling way – is I want to embrace some sweet Australian please, ’cause I’m as guilty as the next person of dabbling in this cultural cringe. Since those long summer days by the beach, my head has been bursting with patterns and plans for quilts, appliques, embroidery – all manner of handwork – that tell Australian stories … of lighthouse families, and farm children, of black rock wallabies and the grey kangaroos that stop by Mum’s lawn for their nightly entree.  Of fisher folk and  shopkeepers.  Of the ancient and crumbling mountains of Tilba Tilba, and the dazzling waters of the Sapphire Coast.  Of gumnuts and lizards.  Of elegant black swans and grizzly wombats.  Of a little boy who spent his summer holidays delivering milk to the beach campers, drawn fresh from the urn and poured straight into the camper’s jug. Of a little girl who took her mama’s shopping list down the street to the butcher, the greengrocer and the corner store to collect the ingredients for that night’s supper and pull it home behind her in the little wagon her papa built.

Until these plans turn into more tangible things to share, I now have my May Gibbs fabric.  Rina has a pillowcase.  She almost has a laundry bag (I ran out of rickrack!).  And there’s enough for a lap quilt for both her and us.  I daresay my delight with this fabric will run further – mayhaps a nightie?  The loveliest part of this particular fabric purchase is that the marvellous May Gibbs bequeathed the copyright of her Gumnut stories and illustrations to the Northcott Disability Service that cares for more than 10,000 families with children with a disability in New South Wales, and the Australian Cerebral Palsy Alliance.  So with every inch of fabric we buy, money is given to support very vulnerable groups in our community.

The best bit of this long post – I want to share this little bit of sweet Australian – so, I’ve made up a small gift for one of you kind readers – 6 fat quarters of May Gibbs fabric that will come wrapped in a Lily Boot / May Gibbs pillowslip that is popped inside your own Lily Boot / May Gibbs laundry bag. Leave a comment below and I will draw the winning name on Sunday.

Now, I need to go fetch my umpteenth glass of water.  And go to bed.  With the fan blowing on me.  Night-night!


it’s the little bits

We have a special guest coming on Wednesday – an exchange student from Japan!  Abby is SOOOOOOOO excited.  The spare ‘oom is almost ready – just need to make up the bed and give the dressing table a dust.  As for the rest of Bootville – the front porch needs a little tidy and perhaps an extra scrub of the shower is in order.  Ummm … I think that’s about it.

However there are always fresh little bits that can be added too!  Don’t you think?  A little bit of sweetness and colour here and there when someone special is coming to stay.  There were two tins in the bathroom that certainly needed something.  I do love me a repurposed tin.  Once that food is out, the possibilities always seem so enticing … and so we have tins all around the house – holding cutlery, hair ties, knitting needles, rubbers, pencils, candles, reels of perle thread, bits of lego, random playmobile folk …  More than half are prettily attired but some sit there on the shelves looking like this …

… useful yes.  But more than a little bit ugly :-)  So, in honour of our Japanese exchange student’s visit, I’ve dressed up these bathroom tins.  That and Julian said he would throw them out if they continued to look so blah. Fine!  I’ll dress them!

So after classes yesterday, I searched out some fabric from the stash.  Crocheted up a wee border from a mangled ball of jute twine that was in the bottom of the bottom kitchen drawer and little bit of Lamb’s Pride Orange.  And set to covering.

Ha!  Much prettier.  And whilst crocheting the jute twine was a bit tedious in the initial stages – twist, twist, twist! – I really love the finished effect.  Looks very Marie Claire Idees … or maybe it’s just my 70s childhood showing.

The red riding hood fabric was almost allowed to speak for itself – almost.  This is lily boot sewing – I’m rather incapable of keeping things simple :-)

Yes, much, much, much better.  And they coordinate so cheerfully with the bathroom’s quilted lampshade and appliqued curtain.

Now I’m sure the exchange student will be quite oblivious to these repurposed tins.  I, however, am a firm believer in the notion that it’s the little bits that make our home.  And if those little bits are covered in lovely fabrics and stitches – even better.