the family photos

Jan
2013
27

posted by on chatter, family, far south new south wales

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Okay.  These are utterly and completely family photos.  Taken on Mum’s front porch  - where the colours are so pretty and the view so exquisite – the morning before the aunties and grandparents left for their northern homes.  A small memento of their special summer together – three sisters with their mama and dada.

‘Cause you know, there comes that time in life when these moments are extra, extra special because you don’t know if you will be blessed with them again.  So to all the cousins and aunties and uncles who visit here at blockaday … here they are.  Enjoy :-)

I brought fresh, creamy jersey milk home from Tilba, Julian found the malt at the local store, and we whipped up a malted milk for Grandad.  He loved it.  I think it has become his signature drink.

Nanny’s favourite chair, favourite blanket, favourite cuppa, and her very own lily-made, summer pyjama pants.  A sweet combination and just right for keeping her frail old body snug.

Sharing a giggle … something we Cottams do so well …

… and sharing the love … we do that well too.

See, we learnt from the best.  Sixty seven years of love and still going strong.

And then it was time to say our goodbyes.  Look how much the youngest has grown … look how much the oldest has shrunk!  Oh my, ageing is such a powerful force.

Surely it was only a blink of the eye ago, that Nanny was sitting at the beach, a tall and strong woman – an indefatigable gardener, a quilter of precision, a curtain maker extraordinaire, a fabulous cook at whose crowded table all the grandchildren loved to gather – my wee babe on her lap.

Thank you so much, you wonderful sisters (and Uncle Kevin – the behind the scenes master of logistics!), for bringing us all together for this summer by the beach.  It was magic.

 

home

Jan
2013
26

posted by on chatter, family, homely

6 comments

Oh I do find it so hard.  We drive back across the Gippsland, the car filled with sand and salt, the fishing rod bobbing behind my head, and as the signposts declare fewer and fewer kilometres until we reach Melbourne, my spirits sink lower and lower.  I never feel as if we are coming home.  ”Home!” my cranky self-talk grumbles,  ”I’m not coming home.  I’m simply returning to that place where we live at the moment.”

I have even been known to burst into hot, fat tears when the road declares we are now on the Princes “Freeway” – as opposed to “highway”.  See, when we are on the highway, there still seems to be the possibility that we might just turn around and head back to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  As opposed to freeway which screams “huge, busy, dirty, concretey megalopolis up ahead!”

We pull into our drive.  The summer vegetable garden is completely dead.  The grass is crisp and golden.  Fast food wrappers have blown down my driveway.  I have never eaten a Subway in my life and when in this mindset, find it infuriating that I have to climb into my garden beds to retrieve the detritus of other people’s bad habits.  Don’t even mention the cigarette boxes and empty cans of beer that are tossed over our little front fence.

I unload the car straight away, keeping my sunglasses on and my lips firmly pursed. By the time night falls we’ve washed the last of the beach off, and it’s time for bed.  Rambling through my head is a blogpost full of self pity and petulance.

But then, thankfully, a new morning arrives.  I make tea.  I sit at our lovely yellow kitchen table.  I sigh.  Perhaps I’ll scrub the kitchen floor.  Yes, it surely needs it – in fact, I’m quite sure it’s been almost a year since I’ve scrubbed it.  Horrors!  I DO sweep it daily.  Wipe up spills when they happen.  Run the mop over it each fortnight.  But it’s this hideous fake stone looking vinyl that has grooves almost as deep as the Great African Rift (well they certainly seem so to the mop!) and what with a prancing dog, Melbourne weather, and Boots who never remember to take off their outdoor shoes, that dirt just becomes EMBEDDED.  After long enough, the dirty version even begins to look normal.  And besides, there are so many better things to do than scrub the kitchen floor.

So I fold a towel for kneeling, fill a bucket with hot water (which is refreshed many, many, many times), gather the bathroom cleaner and scrubbing brush and get stuck into it.  It’s incredibly satisfying – in that gross kind of way – watching the ground in grime disappear and the swirls of fake sandstone emerge.

And as I scrub, it feels more and more like home.  The lovely, cosy, comforting sense of home I felt and adored before I headed east just two weeks ago.  I even begin to look forward to all the busyness, excitement and pleasure of the new year starting up again.  Before long, the kitchen is filled with the fragrance of dinner slow roasting in the oven.  After several hours of back-aching work, mostly everything is sparkling and fresh and ours. Very soothing.

Before long, out comes the fabric and yarn – those wonderfully comforting friends.  I bake muffins. I pore over newly arrived cross stitch patterns. I put the crazy (Abby thinks they’re creepy, and Julian is smiling patiently.   Yes, I think they’ll be heading to the sewing shed pretty soon!) Dutch dolls I found in a Bairnsdale op-shop in the front window – they inspire a giggle every time I walk past them.

Yes, of course it’s home.  This is where my lovely, funny, crazy Julian and Abby are.  Silly Fu, and the manic chickens.  A sweet little old house filled to bursting with Bootville.  No it won’t be forever.  But it is now and as the saying goes …  ”Grow where you are planted!” Oh I will – just as long as there is a dirty kitchen floor to remind me :-)

 

posted by on beach, crochet, far south new south wales

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I know!  Another lace handkerchief crocheted whilst sitting on a summer’s beach.  I did just this last summer too.  It must because the dear little fabric store, down in the town, sells these lovely pure cotton handkerchiefs.  Right near them – a basket full of reduced DMC crochet yarn.  It was just too much to resist.

So – with my supplies packed, I headed down to Bar Beach early in the morning, bought my coffee, and set up in my favourite nook – amongst the red rocks, my feet in damp sand, the waves washing so close.

It is a glorious way to start the day … sigh!  I so wish I could begin every day like this.  Julian tells me I’m greedy – to just relish the moment.  I try :-)

The only distraction?  The seagulls – squawking and chasing and posturing.  I feel a felt seagull coming on.  Of course, the other distraction is a more primal call of nature.  After an hour, that wake up glass of water, cup of tea with Mum, and coffee by the sea is more than I can stand and I have to bungle everything back into the basket and tear back up the hill, practising those “now, pretend those muscles are a lift and imagine them rising up and up – floor 1, and 2, and 3, and 4″ exercises the physiotherapist at the prenatal classes taught us!

So the hanky was finished on the front porch – so sweet.  I made up the design as I went round – and am quite pleased with it.  But I wonder what it would be like if it were finer (I think I said this last year too!).  Like the ones my Nanny Dougall made.  With one of those crochet hooks where you can’t even see the hook without a magnifying glass.

Hark!  I hear more hankies calling!  ”Come and buy us! Come and buy us!” they are saying.  Oh really?  Alright.

bush fire

Jan
2013
21

posted by on chatter, far south new south wales

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Well, there’s been exciting times down here on the Far South Coast.  Exciting, that is, when your heart is racing, your mouth is dry, the butterflies have escaped your tummy and are fluttering up and down your arms as well, and you simply cannot sit still for longer than 30 seconds before you have to jump up, peer anxiously out the window and then refresh the Rural Fire Services website.

Thankfully, we were a few kilometres away from the bushfire that swept through the Milligandi – Yellow Pinch area on Friday.  At first, with an incredibly gusty and hot wind blowing from the north on a record breaking 44.7 degree day (that’s 112.5 fahrenheit for those of you in North America – eeeek!), the fire was heading in the direction of our small town here by the beach.  However, with the predicted Southerly change sweeping in bang on time, the fire turned back on itself, jumped the Princes Highway instead and headed back up towards Bega.

Abby and Jules had been to the supermarket for a spot of air conditioning and dear Abby was so spooked by the incredible smoke and glow in the sky, that her suitcase was packed within five minutes of her return home.

All afternoon and evening, the helicopters thundered overhead, filling their water barrels from the Top Lake.  I don’t know how successful they are in fighting fires – I saw a documentary on Australian bush fires last year that cast doubt on their effectiveness – a notion that is reinforced when you see  just how modest in size those water barrels are.  And as the small stream of water is flung down onto the blazing bush, it seems to practically evaporate before it hits the ground.  But without doubt, as they roar off towards the smoke, their barrels swaying precariously, they raise the spirits.  You can’t help but think that everything is being thrown at this fire.

We were also so terribly aware of – and so incredibly grateful to – the devoted and courageous firefighters – volunteer and paid – who line up against the flames.  True heroes.  I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like – the heat, the roar of the flames, the unpredictable nature of the battle, the bitter air … oy!

By the time the fire was contained, there were a couple of homes and farm sheds lost and large tracts of bushland burnt to a crisp.  I’m sure there would have been many hundreds of native animals killed.   It’s a very sobering experience.  My thoughts and prayers are with those folk who are experiencing it first hand, both last week and as I write, and to those who have lost their homes and belongings.  Even more so, my thoughts are with the family of the man who died in fires at Seaton on Friday.

Now, the temperature is a much more civilised 27 and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that conditions will remain a bit more civilised, especially in the Warrambungles and the North East Gippsland, allowing the fire crews to get things under control.  Oh my – so much loss.  It seems that we are in for a long, hot summer.

posted by on family, far south new south wales, knitting, travels

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Now my old Grandad is an intrepid adventurer but when he saw this staircase last week, even he had to admit that he was perhaps past climbing 84 steps.  Such a shame :-)  because at the bottom lies a remarkable treasure – the Blue Pool.

Built in the 1930s – a Great Depression Project that was spearheaded by the enthusiasm and financial support of Mr. Bill Dickinson, a local philanthropist –  it is an Olympic size swimming pool created from the naturally formed rock pools that existed at the base of the southern headland at Bermagui.

After Mr. Dickinson stumped up the original funds, the New South Wales government, local community groups and individuals came up with the rest of the funds required, and after a bit of dynamite, concrete and a lot of hard work, Bermagui had two beautiful salt water pools (there’s a wee pool for children as well), refreshed by the tides and proudly maintained for the last 70 0dd years.  In fact, the Blue Pool’s water quality regularly tops the state, never receiving less than perfect marks.  And such pristine conditions have led to very happy flora and fauna – most of the swimmers had on their masks and snorkels so as to marvel at the wildlife.  I can’t wait to go back with ours!

The water temperature was what I’ve come to expect down here in the far south – gaspingly chilly at first touch, but then lovely once your heart has restarted.  Abby wondered whether warming her front on the edge would improve things – it didn’t!

It is truly amazing to swim so close to the foaming, wild waves of the ocean and yet be in such a sheltered and safe environment.  Long periods were spent, chin resting on folded arms, watching the deep, churning sea throw itself at the rocks.  And oh the colours of the sea down here – utterly entrancing.

Just as lovely as the swimming was exploring the rock pools – there were so many and they were rich with life, colour and pattern …

Inspired by Kate Davies’ gorgeous new book, I could see colour combinations for knitting everywhere – and feel quite inspired to try working them into some textured designs – in fact I think Kate’s Betty Mouatt sweater would be a very fine place to start.

As for this massive rock that guards the north end of the pool – I expect to lick it and find it is made of honeycomb!  It is so beautiful.  And closer to the water’s edge, it has many crevices and small caves that the girls were eager to climb and explore – until they looked closely and realised they would be sharing the spaces with hundreds of little dark blue soldier crabs :-)

After our swim, we headed to the rocks to warm up, doing what we like to do best.  Jules read, the girls chattered, and I …

… came well prepared of course!  With my Stevenson sweater on the needles, all I needed was to find a sunny spot on the rocks and knit.  Wasn’t hard :-)

And look at that – the rich golden bands of the Scottish lighthouses practically matches the flora filling the pools behind me (I’m very ignorant about these things – lichen? seaweed? flora covers it all :-)  Lovely.

Honestly, at the risk of boring you, or sounding like an employee of the Sapphire Coast’s Tourism Board, you truly MUST visit the Blue Pool if you are ever in this neck of the woods.  It is exquisite!  You will spend your entire visit ooohing and ahhhing.  As well as marvelling at the hard work and vision this small community had – their determination to create jobs and cheer the town up – over 70 years ago – and in doing so, provide a unique and beautiful environment for those that came after them to enjoy.

Minus the change rooms.  They washed away!

to the lighthouse

Jan
2013
15

posted by on family, far south new south wales, travels

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After almost an hour of twisting, turning, sliding, plummeting, inching, and bumping along the most alarming dirt track I have ever adventured along, this is the sweet sight that greeted us.

Oh with what relief we stretched our legs and trotted off, these gorgeous, freshly whitewashed chimney pots – almost luminescent against the deep blue sky – beckoning us on.

The first building (and information board) to greet us – the telegraph office – which pleased Grandad, a morse code operator and enthusiast, no end.  He learnt his skill as a young man during the second world war and then put it to good use in all those post offices he worked in – in those days the post office supervised the bulk of Australia’s telegraphic and telephone communications.

Then the three keepers’ cottages … with front porches and lawns to swoon over … I think that looks like the perfect spot for an hour or so of knitting or reading.  Don’t you? :-)

And at last, the lighthouse itself.   Green Cape Lighthouse.  Built in 1883 – the first cast concrete lighthouse in Australia, the most southerly and second tallest in New South Wales.

There’s a wonderful story shared here by Beryl Royal, the daughter of lighthousekeeper Jim Duncan.  Beryl spent five years of her childhood at Green Cape (pre World War 2) and describes a fascinating life that included homeschooling, the ABC’s Children’s Hour and Argonauts’ club, fishing, whale watching, pet wallabies, the thrilling arrival of the three monthly launch with their supplies from McIlrath’s in Sydney, and the endlesss maintenance of the lighthouse.  She declares it a wonderful childhood.  You really should take a peek at her story – it’s enchanting – finally convinced Grandad of the positive power of the world wide web.

There’s something about lighthouses, isn’t there?  Ever since reading Five Goes to Demon’s Rocks, I have been bewitched.  They truly do belong to a more romantic era – making such a courageous and resilient stance against the mercurial ocean – one that we, as tiny humans could not.  They are our guardians – their lights flashing out over the seas whilst we shelter inside their elegant walls.  Oh the sentimental inside me thinks it’s a terrible shame they are now all automated – and some, including Green Cape, no longer even used.  There’s now a dreadfully utilitarian and ugly metal skeleton tower here to splash that light out over these heavy southern waters.

Ugh!  A naughty, irresponsible part of me hopes that this ghastly thing comes twisting and clattering down in a storm.  Obviously, I would never want any ships or boats put at risk – but how satisfying would it be to see this ridiculous, ugly,  glorified ladder put in its place and it’s older, magnificent neighbour restored to its rightful position.

One feature that did DELIGHT us was this wee story board.  It describes Green Cape as being not just an out flung bastion of government services and provider of safe passage, but a centre for the local settlers and farmers to gather and play  … thus, the tennis courts.  And the lighthouse families (’cause they preferred to employ lighthouse keepers with families, so as to best create “normal” and cheerful wee communities in these isolated places)  were expected to take their roles of organisers and hosts seriously.

I cannot even begin to fathom how local families travelled to this lighthouse for a tennis party but oh standing amongst these lovely buildings, I could see the hustle and bustle.  Trestle tables set up on the deep and sheltered porches, laden with food (including roasted black swan, parrot and wallaby!), children running about with their dogs, daring each other to silliness,  mothers exhorting them to stay away from the edge! whilst sharing their tips for coping with the hardships of bush life, horses tethered further back amongst the melaleucas, fathers smoking their pipes and passing on the news of the day.  I wonder how many tennis balls were lost to the sea!

The natural landscape is equally as lovely – breathtaking in fact.  And there is supposedly a lot of wildlife – especially black rock wallabies, grey kangaroos, and seals.  Sadly we saw none – but there was certainly plenty of evidence …

… I tried to introduce the girls to a spot of scatology but they were majorly unimpressed.  So I took photos of all the different types I spied – perhaps if we are homebound by terrible weather and we lose all power to everything except my camera and all internet access except to my laptop, I may be able to twist Abby’s arm later in the holiday.  Fat chance!  She’d probably choose sleep as the only acceptable alternative :-)

Whilst Aunty Annie and Grandad meandered back to the car, the girls and I sprinted ahead to check out the Ly-ee-moon cemetery.  It’s a small and sad memorial to just 24 of the 77 folk who lost their lives when the Ly-ee-moon, a passenger steamer that travelled between Melbourne and Sydney, drifted onto the rocks on a calm and well lit night – with the lighthouse burning I might add – and was broken in half.  Lighthouse keepers did their best to rescue as many as they could and spent the next few days retrieving bodies but alas, the loss of life was great and most ended up lost to the sea.  The captain and his first mate were tried in Sydney for manslaughter (yes, strangely enough, they were among the 17 who were pulled alive from the sea) and whilst they were acquitted, they were stripped of their offices by the Maritime Board and forbidden from ever holding a license again.

Each little white washed rock marks a grave and there is a small memorial listing the known names.  Most of the children listed were unnamed … for example,  M. Hamilton and babe, H. Fotherington and daughter, etc.  And then there was “Two unknown men with German accents”, and “A Greek, granted passage at request of Cook”.  The cemetery is several hundred metres deep into the melaleuca forest.  And whilst you can hear the roar of the ocean, the trees meet overhead, obscuring any view, and the air is still and eerie.  The neighbouring bay is not called Disaster Bay for nothing.

So add Green Cape to your list folks!  I wouldn’t advise taking Green Cape Road in the rain – beggars belief what would happen if you tried – I think it would be more like skiing then driving, and you’d quickly come to an abrupt stop thanks to the heavy forest.  But on a fine dry day, pack a picnic and plenty of water and head out south of Eden and along the Green Cape Road.  You’ll have a marvellous day and come home with a head filled with beauty and stories of bygone days, ears ringing with the thunder of the ocean, and the phone number for the accommodation folks at the New South Wales National Parks – yes!  You can holiday in the lighthouse keepers’ cottages!  Eeeeeeeeee!

grandad

Jan
2013
12

posted by on chatter, family, travels

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Our first day of our summer holiday by the beach and I was given the privilege and delight of taking my dear old Grandad on an adventure.  Soon after midday, we tootled off to take the long road to Tilba Tilba – home of Erica’s beautiful cheese.   Grandad had long heard of the prettiness of this historical village and was very keen to wind round those mountain roads himself, sit in Erica’s cafe, and marvel at the beautiful countryside.

It is such a picture perfect wee village.  I can so imagine living there.

We shared lunch at Erica’s cafe – including malted milkshakes using Erica’s latest from the farm product – beautiful, rich, creamy Jersey milk.  Grandad couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed a malted milkshake and made sure to slurp up every last drop. Oh yum!

She’s now selling it – unhomogenised – from her farm shop.  If you ever find yourself nearby, treat yourself to a milkshake and make sure to take a bottle home.

Next door is the old community hall.  It has served as a roller skating rink (when it was first built in 1901 – can you believe that!  - they built a roller skating rink back then!), a storage hall for the cheese from the nearby cheese factory, a dance hall – whose floor was admired for miles around because of all that butter milk that sweetly dripped from the cheeses into the wooden boards – and now, a community arts hall.

At the moment, it is hosting an exhibition of local interests.  Tilba – at first glance – looks like a tourist shopping strip.  But as the community exhibition proclaims, there is so much more to the people of Tilba than a bunch of shops.  There’s one gentleman’s collection of antique motorcycles, a collection of psychedelic vintage aprons, a photo montage of a family’s dog from the moment she arrived as a sweet pup, to her death a couple of months ago, the works of several local artists, an exquisite hard carved Windsor chair, quilts, baskets woven from the willows lining the Bega river, a collection of black and white photos of Tilba from 1985 to 1995 … Grandad and I had a marvellous hour, carefully reading and inspecting the exhibits, and then a wonderfully long chat with the local photographer who was caretaking that afternoon.  It was brilliant!  What a beautiful idea huh?!  A exhibition of a community’s interests.

Then, we simply had to cross the road and check out the post office.  Grandad began his career in the post office, as a telegram boy, when he was 15.  He rose quickly through the ranks and travelled the east coast of Australia with his ever growing family, working in post offices from Barcaldine in the far west of Queensland to Launceston in Tasmania.

For the last couple of decades of his career – those that I knew – Grandad was a Post Master and oh, how we loved visiting him at work.  He would set us up at the huge wooden counter at the general post office in Kempsey, supply us with scraps of brown wrapping paper, and give us the huge round racks that held all the ink stamps and we would stamp, stamp, stamp to our hearts’ content.  When we had produced our masterpieces, he would staple the sheets of paper together into books for us.  It was such fun!

Grandad’s history with the Post Office is so enmeshed with my family’s history, my childhood, and how I “know” Grandad that I always feel such a connection to post offices – especially the old ones.   I drive my family batty when we are out and about in the countryside.  I squeal, “stop!  quickly stop!  there’s the post office!  I need to take a photo of it for Grandad!”

Our journey home, took us along the coast road.  First, we boinged down a dusty track, broken up with cattle grids and gates, to the Tilba general cemetery which is perched on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the sea.  It is breathtakingly picturesque … Grandad loved it and we stopped many times for him to whip out his camera (oh my, it must be hereditary!) and take a few snaps.

Then, we meandered through the farming fields, forests and beautiful fishing villages of the Far South Coast, noting the loveliest spots that we simply must return to.

Without doubt, number one on the list is The Blue Pool in Bermagui.  Wow!

But without doubt, the highlight of the day was having my Grandad by my side.  This beautiful old gentleman is a born adventurer and it was so wonderful to be able to provide him with the opportunity to explore the unknown.  And oh, he did so enjoy it.

There were several times, as we drove along, that Grandad spoke wistfully about how much he loved driving.  How buying a new car was always such a thrill.  How there was nothing better than to pile the family into the car and simply drive.  Discover somewhere new.  Enjoy getting away. The wonderful feeling of escaping the every day.  And how very sad he was when the time came to hand over his license.  Admit that those days were over.

After one such moment, I squeezed his hand, kissed his cheek and told him how special it was to me – who has so inherited his love of “the drive” – that after spending my childhood driving around in the back of his beloved car to the next adventure, I could now treat him to the same.  He gave a small smile, and replied that he supposed it was, yes he supposed it was, but it wasn’t quite the same nevertheless.  As much as he loved exploring with me, there was just this wee little spot inside of him that still wished so fervently that it was he behind the wheel, strong and capable, and me, small and excited, in the back.

I can’t hold that against him.  No, I can’t.

 

plums

Jan
2013
11

posted by on chatter, preserving

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… if you pull up at this sign

… and follow this sun-baked, dusty track just around the bend

… with one sweet girl to help pick and one to mind that the fluffy one doesn’t get into the long grass – this is TICK country!

… you reach a wild plum tree, lavishly garlanded with rich red plums

… its ancient and twisted arms and legs, almost the only thing preventing the bank of the railway track crumbling into the field of cows beneath

… we came prepared, with the canning pot to fill

… not that we filled it completely, only half

… there’ll be more ripe treats to pick on our return – hopefully, there may even be blackberries

… but not the funny, little gnarled apples – even if we ever discover them ripe, I daresay they will all have been munched by the local wildlife.

… we returned to the car, mama pleased as punch with the harvest, friend charmed with such an Ann of Green Gables adventure, daughter composing an opera describing the hell that is summer cattle flies.

… time to move on, there’s still a few hundred kilometres to go

getting ready

Jan
2013
08

posted by on cooking, family, homely, our furry children, patchwork, quilts

6 comments

Eeeeee!  As I write, Abby is at the birthday party we have sat through the last week’s heatwave for.  Hmhm.  Instead of heading up to Merimbula soon after Christmas, to hit the beaches, swim, laze and walk in this beautiful coastal village, we have sat here in Melbourne and SWEATED.  Profusely.

At least, here in the city, we’ve not had to endure terrible bush fires and for that I’m very grateful and very sad for those who have lost so much.  However, in another hour, this much prized birthday party will be over and we will be free to hop in the car and tootle across the Gippsland to my waiting mum, grandparents and aunties.  Eeeeeee!

We’ll leave in the morning – so today, we’ve been getting ready.  In all of the usual ways.  Digging out the clothes we’ll need, dusting off the boogie boards, packing the sunscreen, choosing which books to take, making sure we have enough clean knickers, bottling roasted tomatoes, sewing promised pyjama pants for Nanny, making quilted lampshades, cleaning out the rabbit and chicken houses, shopping for extra forks and spoons, whipping up a batch of fruit mince tarts for Grandad, pinning out a finished quilt top, stencilling tshirts for Oscar and Sam … you know, all of the essential stuff that simply must be done before we can hop in the car.

:: the daughter was dragged out of bed bright and early (10am) & we hit the shops for tshirts, cutlery, a bookish present for tonight, fabric (one always needs fabric)
& fresh mulch for the rabbit and chickens
… this involved bribing her with brunch at BreadTop ::

:: can I tempt you with a Granita?  how ’bout I just try to grab you?  No?  Fine, I’ll lay flat on my back & wait for you to sit on my head.
Awesome!  Got you!  Now in you go.

This wee dance, which can last up to 20 minutes, is how Abby has to begin the job of cleaning the rabbit house because Fu knows what we are planning
the minute the thought crosses our minds & “cooperation”
is simply NOT in her vocabulary ::

:: whilst Abby shovels, I quilt.
That’s fair, isn’t it?  Of course it is :-)  ::

:: there were two lampshades to make … almost identical,
to sit on Nanny & Grandad’s bedside tables.
Did it occur to me to sew just one 12 inch lampshade quilt
& then slice it in half horizontally?
Not until I’d started the second one (forehead smack) ::

:: we finish together, me sitting in the garden chair in front
of the rabbit house,  glue & pegs by my side.
Her, spreading mulch & giving Miss Hinchcliffe
plenty of cuddles before we leave ::

:: & before I finish bottling those tomatoes … a quick test of the lampshade
… oh yes, they work just fine ::

Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I have a bit more to do before hitting the sack.  We’ll see how much gets done and how much just gets shoved into a bag to be enjoyed in Merimbula :-)

posted by on chatter, clothes, family, knitting, patchwork, sewing

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Huh?  She’s fifteen, when does she nap?

In the morning of course :-)  For hours and hours and hours.  My eyes pop open and body stretches around 6am every morning.  It’s truly an effort to stay in bed past 7am.  Besides, I love the freshness of the new morning – the light, the soft air, the amazing promise a new day offers.  She sleeps through it, without a murmur.

And – it’s the holidays – so there’s no breakfasts to cook, lunches to prepare, school runs to make, classes to attend, essays to write …  Whilst the teenager naps til 11am, it is unadulterated me time.  Bliss :-)

I linger over my coffee, knit a few more rounds, mosey on out to the sewing shed, add some more rows to the seagull blocks, put the sleeves in my new dress.  Back inside, put on the washing, tidy the family room, make the bed.  Back outside, water the garden, gather the skirt, cut out the final corner squares, cut up some more strips of lawn.  Back inside, hunt through the lace box for just the right piece, pick through the buttons for the perfect ones.  Such a productive time.  Just like when she was a tiny wee thing, and those few precious hours of respite/napping a day filled me with energy and enthusiasm for all the non-mothering things I could squeeze in.

These days, when she’s finally up, we sit at the kitchen table together and over brunch, plan the afternoon ahead.  Its just as blissful in its busy mama-daughter way.  This afternoon, however, a friend is over.  I can hear them laughing and shrieking and chattering – it’s nonstop.  Music to mama-ears.  So there’s been even more stitching …

I’ve been channelling my inner Geena Davis a la Beetlejuice.  One of our family favourites – Jules loves the revolting antics of Michael Keaton, Abby admires the gothic cynicism of Winona.  Me?  I watch it for Geena Davis’ dress – and the wallpaper, and the teeny tiny model of their town.  But mostly her dress.  I loooooooove her dress.

Of course, the down side to teenage napping is that the teenager is still perky and energised at 11pm, wanting to know what we are going to do next.  Do I want to watch a movie?  Do I feel like helping her with this sewing project.  Are you for real!?  I’m exhausted and ready for bed!

Oh sure!  She says, I’ll come and chat to you in there.  And so she does.  Relaxed and lively at the same time.  Filling my sleepy head with descriptions of characters I’ve never met, plans for new drawings, ideas for what we can do tomorrow.  My replies become slower and more nonsensical and after a while, she gives up on me and heads off to her bedroom where she occupies herself til the wee hours.

And then it all begins again.  Oh I do love the summer holidays.

posted by on chatter, family

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In this new year, I’ve decided that our Sundays should be slow.

Lovely, creative, even full … but slow.  No rushing to get things finished.  No hurtling from one end of town to the other.  No frantically squeezing in the impossible before Monday comes around again.  No catching up on housework, homework, nursing work.  Kind and thoughtful words only.  No demands on each other’s time.  No guilt.  Slow and gentle.

There’s but three weeks until Abby’s new school year commences, that means three weeks until babysitting starts up again.  Six weeks until university goes back – and oh, it’s going to be such a full year – acute care, preliminary and advanced.   Long, intense placements in busy acute care hospitals.  As for Julian – well, he works so hard all year round.

Already, I feel a bit daunted.  Not ready for such busyness.  How has the long summer break begun to disappear already?  :sigh:

So …. Sundays should be … need to be slow.  Wake up slowly, share a slow and peaceful breakfast.  Potter about our home, giving ourselves time to recharge after the previous week, a long and lovely day to exhale before the new week begins.  A day in which we look after each other.  Enjoy each other.  Allow ourselves to move gracefully into the demands of the new week.  Not in a panic that oh-my-god it’s here again already.

We practiced today – just Abby and I (Julian’s away for a few days) – and we did okay.  We could do better.  We have another couple of Sundays to practice – to tweak this slowness. Figure out how best to plan ahead for slow.

I think it will be good.  A bit like landing on Free Parking when the Monopoly board is full of hotels and greedy landlords.  A moment to go “phew!”

… slow and steady – completing another step on an ongoing costume project – blue sleeves.

… pottering along with slowly building quilt blocks and coming up with a workable bodice pattern.

… a simple dinner put together with those ingredients that are at hand, that require very little preparation, and produce very little washing up.

… a peaceful evening – our favourite distractions accompanied by some delightful BBC drama.

What do you think?  Do you need to build some slow into your weekends?  Are you already doing it?  Let me know how you do it – how you would like to do it – how it works for your family.

I’m keen.

posted by on clothes, family, sewing

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Yesterday morn, before being completely won over with excitement at my drop waisted dress, I was actually cutting out a new sun frock for Abby.  We found this darling apple fabric – 100% cotton lightweight drill – at Spotlight.

I’ve not previously been a huge fan of Spotlight – the quality of their fabric was never that great, the selection was limited and my suspicions regarding their business model were reinforced the day a manager in a Brisbane store told me (she was clearly having a bratty day) that “No we don’t sell the canvas for needlepoint nor will we ever be selling it. We don’t care that one is pretty useless without the other, we simply sell the DMC wools cheaply in order to put the small competition out of business and when that goal is achieved, we (spotlight) will reduce our stocklines to the basic cheap and easily moved items.”  I was floored to say the least.  And cross and depressed, given how many independent embroidery stores Brisbane had lost by that stage – the very reason I was in Spotlight.

However, this year has seen quite a revolution at Spotlight – our two closest stores – Carnegie and Moorabbin – have delightful staff and the dress fabrics have been plentiful and gorgeous.  There’s not a visit goes by that I don’t fall in love with at least 10 different fabrics.  Their Japanese lawn is exquisite and they’ve had the Denise Schmidt patchwork fabric – yum!  One of my Spotlight “friends” tells me they have a new buyer and that the staff are all freshly inspired and excited both by what he’s brought in and how much it has pleased the customers.

Anyways – back to the apples.  Yet more lovely fabric which Abby thought was charming and requested some.  So’s we didn’t end up with two metres of fabric that just lurked about the cupboards for months on end, I made her trawl through the pattern books and find a piece of clothing she’d like made up in the apples – this is her choice.  Quick, cute and versatile.  Perfect for the hot days we are currently sweltering through and it will look wonderful, come the cooler weather, with a turtleneck or collared blouse underneath and thick tights.  As you can see – Abby practically glows in the dark she’s so pale, so she donned a wee cardie to keep the sun off her shoulders – sensible child that she is.

And now – she and Jules are off to Momoku – a local Japanese cafe they visit each Saturday for lunch.  It’s their thing.  Me – I’m sitting down to a large bowl of chopped up watermelon, feta and olives (thanks Nigella!) and then … maybe some knitting, maybe some patchwork, maybe I’ll make a start on the lilac dress.

But first I think I might vacuum – then, no matter what comes after, I shall feel oh so virtuous.  Yes, that’s a good plan.