where i bring home a new sewing machine and make pillowcases


finished cases


Ahhhh the weekend!  Oh boy does it take on a whole new dimension when I’ve just spent the week either starting work in the wee dark hours of the morning or lurching home much closer to midnight than I’m used to.

How did we spend those precious weekend hours?  Those that weren’t consumed by sausage making that is.  Well … Saturday morning Julian and I indulged in a new shared passion.  Op-shopping.  Oh I know.  I’ve been an adoring (compulsive) fan of the op shop for years.  But Julian – not so much until this past month or so.  Now he not only agrees to drop into one we happen to be passing, but SUGGESTS WE GO!  Which is just what we did on Saturday morning.

Our current favourites – down the Mornington Peninsula.  Some real treasures down that way … crystal glasses for my Fronti and Julian’s Canadian Dry, amazing Pioneer headphones from the 1970s, sweet thick flannelettes, thick and colourful pure wool blankets made in all those Australian woollen mills that no longer exist, marvellous leather coats also from the 70s, those very useful pyrex and firestone baking dishes, a wonderful recording of Martin Shaw reading The Hobbit – a lovely companion for my long and late drive home from the hospital after the late shift.  Something new and wonderful every week.   At one store we haunt they even have a genuine Made in England Goblin Teasmade.  Be still my racing heart.  We’ve not bought it.  It’s $90.  I secretly think it would be perfect for my bedside table.  Julian thinks it’s a little bit appalling.

But my absolute favourite thing to look out for is … sewing machines.  I confess.  I adore old sewing machines.  There are a few living at Bootville now.  Nowhere near as many sewing machines as bicycle frames I might add.  But a few.  And the weekend just past … we found another one.  Julian called me over to shelves full of mismatched bits and pieces and asked what immediately jumped out at me.  I scanned the shelves back and forth and honestly couldn’t pick out anything of great interest.  “What!” he hooted.  “Look at your feet!”

Oh there!  An almost immaculate 1956 Lemair Helvetia.  Gorgeous shiny curvy body.  Intact cords and foot.  Tested.  With it’s box of attachments – lots of intricate feet, nine spare bobbins, and two screwdrivers.  An equally appealing price tag.  Even guaranteed by Good Housekeeping :-)  We quickly sealed everything back in its carry case and lugged it up to the counter just in case anybody else was thinking of breathing on it.

As soon as we got it home, we shoved aside the currently in use vintage sewing machine (a dear little mint green Husqvarna I literally pulled out of a huge rubbish skip) and set up the Lemair.  It even had a reel of Coat’s thread on top – didn’t they make thread so thick back then – fabulous stuff.  Plugged it in and sewed.  Immaculately.  Motor purring away.  Stitches being elegantly placed like fat grains of arborio rice in the straightest possible rows.  Magic.

So Sunday, when I wasn’t helping with sausages, I sewed and sewed and sewed.  Pillowcases, hair ties, a wee flannel quilt … hours of blissful sitting at the craft table in the living room with my new old sewing machine purring away.  Hot milk and cups of tea at my side.  My family bustling about.

cuting the border

cutting the background guarantee panel had hot milk foxes liberty on the bed

What more could a tired, home-starved girl want.  Nothing, I tell you.  Absolutely nothing.  And I even have lovely new pillowcases on my bed – leaping foxes and radiant Liberty blooms.  Yes, there’s a lot to be grateful for indeed.

making sausages

getting closer

Is it a look of devotion? “Oh how I do love my humans!  They play the best games.” Anticipation? “Oh my goodness!  The smell!  The growing mound!  It must surely be for me.”  Concern?  “Maybe they don’t realise I really really really really want to help them?  Perhaps if I lick my lips again they’ll understand.” Worry?  “I’ve been sitting here patiently for ages and I don’t think they’ve even noticed me!  Perhaps a little bark will remind them I am beginning extra patient and good.”

Yes, it’s sausage making time.  One of Fu’s favourite kitchen activities.  Not that she gets any treats whilst we work.  But she’s perpetually hopeful and attentive.


Saturday, we stocked up on supplies from our wonderful butcher in Carlisle Street Balaclava.  There is nothing this talented fellow doesn’t make or sell.  Sunday, Julian pulled out the mincer and got to work.  With a bit of inspiration from Stephane (above) and guidance from Hugh.  Makes us feel that our country life is that bit closer.

mincing handle apple

This month we made four kilos of pork sausages – Julian made one batch of sage and one batch of fennel and nutmeg.  I made a batch of Hugh’s apple, spice, brown sugar and sherry.  With each batch, Julian fries up a little patty before we stuff the skins to make sure we like the flavours and don’t need to add anything else.  Yum!


And this month we tried our hand at our first salami.   Plenty of paprika – smoked and hot – a bit of chili and a good whack of salt.  It’s now hanging in the laundry.  Darkening by the day.  Looking very salami like.  We have to watch that it doesn’t develop a crust or a slime – don’t both sound revolting! – as both would impeded the salami’s ability to dry.

When we think it’s ready – six weeks? – I shall let Julian try it first.  Give him forty eight hours and make sure he doesn’t die.  Then I shall be excited and we’ll make pizza with our own salami!


Now all we need to make this even more fun are our own pigs …. and a bit of land … and some fences … and a farmhouse … and ….


the starting of a book bag

the needlepoint

Another op shop treasure … there were several to choose from, lined up in a neat row on skirt hangers.  All finished.  Hours and hours and hours of stitching.  None framed.  What an absolute treat to bring one home and put to lovely use a kindred spirit’s wonderful talent.

I shall use this needlepoint as the flap on a brown corduroy book bag.  Lined with the owls below.  With a gusset of red corduroy.  Bound with a rich orange print.  The whole thing will be very 70s.  If I added macramed tassles, I could just imagine Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore show carrying it – I thought she was so pretty when I was little.  And wanted to dress just like her when I grew up :-)

Not that I shall be adding tassles … the bag in my mind also reminds me so of one of my favourite all time novels – Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido – her first and very very best.  I first read this way back when I was a very impressionable teenager just starting out at university.  Oh how I wanted to be Katherine, how much I adored the Goldman family and their fabulously eccentric house, how in love I was with the Goldman boys, how disappointed I was not to find any Goldmans at the University of Queensland …

I can just picture Katherine carrying this book-bag-to -be on the train, on her way to visit the Goldman’s, stuffed full of papers and novels and knitting.  Jonathon would like it.  Roger would pretend not to notice.  Jane would think it gorgeous and they would talk about making.

the owls the book

You should definitely read it – you’ll love it.  In fact, I think I shall take it to bed with me right now.

Because that is where I am going.  It’s 10.40.  I’ve just arrived home from a late shift – I’m on placement in an orthopaedic ward.  There’s lots of analgesia, antibiotics, antiemetics, neurovascular obs, TED stockings, drains and the finest wee needles of anticoagulants.  Sweet patients.  Patient nurses.  Good stuff.

Think of me when 4.45am rolls round.  I’ll be crawling back out of bed to toddle off for an early shift and do it all again.

And maybe tomorrow afternoon there’ll be a bit more book bag making.  That would be good.



delia duck



This is Delia.  We found her at the op shop.  A bit battered.  Tatty tail feathers that suggest she may have had an unfortunate encounter with a wily ginger critter.  She needed a wee bit of tender love and care.

A good sanding.  A rich oiling.  Some sweet clothes for outings.  Ah yes.  Delia loves to visit.  And this being Melbourne, she needed a warming shawl, a pretty skirt and a wee felt hat.

DSC_9878 shawl embroidery

Oh how I love making these simple little pieces.  I knitted the shawl whilst glued to the television the night of our battle for prime minister.  Crocheted a lacy trim.  Added some embroidery.  Delia’s a french duck.  She has a thing for fine detail.


The skirt/apron was whipped up from scraps lying on the table.  For my aprons, I fold the  fabric in half lengthways so the  bottom hem is the fold.  I sew the side seams right sides together.  Turn out and vigorously press.  Put two rows of gathering thread in the top of the apron.   Gather them up to fit.  Then finish with a quilt binding style waist band/tie.  Very easy with a lovely sharp and neat finish.  Of course, it too needed crocheted trim.

felt box

putting together the hat

Finally the hat.  So fiddly!  I cut two small circles of felt – the size of a twenty cent piece – and stitched each of them to a band of matching felt – kind of like a little felt drum.  Stuffed with fleece.  Then I added the felt flowers and stitched a narrow pink ribbon to the underside of the hat to hold it in place.  Delia is smitten and refuses to take it off – she even wears it to bed!


beak up

ready for outings

Abby felt so cold, she wondered whether Delia needed wee leg warmers as well.  Delia just shook her head and pooh poohed such a suggestion.  Apparently French ducks do not wear leg warmers.

However, she did request a pretty button with which to fasten her shawl.  I acquiesced.  A felt one was made in the style of Delia’s favourite peppermint lollies.




full length


So there you are!  All ready for your outings.  Now you just make sure, Mme Delia, that you are home well before dark falls.  You wouldn’t want to run into another wily ginger fellow.

Besides – we’re so fond of you, we like you sitting atop the sideboard in the family room.  Just the right spot for quick quack-chats and strokes as we walk by.

accidental knitting


Yesterday certainly finished with a bang.  Watching the news tonight, I was still shell shocked and even shed a few tears when they showed Julia sitting, silent and sad, at the very back of the chamber.  Reminded me of the antics of those monkeys that live in the temples in India – a challenger male comes down, beats the crap out of the leader male, leader male is banished to the wilderness for ever and the rest of the monkeys all sit there quietly, hoping like mad they don’t cop it next.  Only this is happening in our parliament.  Completely bizarre.  Oy!

And there I was worried about the knitting.  My darling Mum is attending her local branch meeting of her political party of choice tomorrow night – she plans on taking her knitting.  Go Mum!  And as for Lesley’s idea – love it! – a solidarity of knitted kangaroos – I’ve already checked out the pattern situation – there’s a Cleckheaton one available as part of a booklet of knitted wild animals (I wonder if that’s the one Julia used) or a Debbie Bliss one in an out of print book.  Hmmm … have to see what I can find.

As for today in Bootville – why there was some knitting of course :-)  Of the accidental variety.  I was at a favourite oppie and there, on the top shelf in the craft section, was a huge ball/bundle/nest of what looked more like slightly ribbony strips of slightly felted fleece than yarn.  645 grams of pure wool, made in New Zealand by Twilleys (I thought they were English) in the mid 1970s.  They called it spin knitting – slightly spun yarn that the knitter “finishes” as she knits.  Very curious stuff.  I couldn’t possibly have left it there.

twilleys spin knitting

Once home I went straight to Ravelry – where there is no record of this yarn on their awesomely extensive database – and found myself a pattern that fits perfectly with the weight and tension swatch of my curious spin knitting yarn, and will hopefully only need the amount of yarn I have.  An old fashioned Icelandic cardigan (Hela), knitted in the round with a fairisle pattern on the yoke, a steeked front and I’m pretty sure they’ve used a zipper (can’t quite remember and too lazy to go back to the dark living room to check).

I thought I would simply venture down the road to Wondoflex for some 12 ply  to use for the fairisle – but after perusing their range, there is nothing that would look good up against my very “organic” looking yarn.  Hmmm … just checked Morris and Sons – they don’t have much either.  The only 12 ply yarn either shop carry that doesn’t look incredibly machined are the Noros – and I don’t think Noro would work well for fairisle – too bumpy.  Maybe I’ll just have to order some of the Icelandic Lopi from here – a warm red, pale bluey-grey and maybe an orange?  Ooooh now that would be nice huh!  I’ve knitted with Lopi before and it’s a slightly felted single ply – not as ribbony as my curious yarn, but I think it would still sit well with it.

As for how the curious yarn is knitting up – it’s an absolute darling to work with and super quick!  The stitches are sitting so neatly – lovely and fat like plumped up grains of arborio rice.  And it’s still rich with lanolin so my hands are buttery soft and I smell ever so slightly sheepy.  Amazing that this could still be so after almost forty years.  And the crinkly, sparkly plastic bag in my dreadful lamplit photo?  The label advises I leave the ball/bundle/nest in this tautly fitted wrapping and simply pull gently from the middle otherwise I am liable to create the most unholy yarn tangle ever before seen.  Because the whole 645 grams is in one length.  No joins.  Truly amazing.  Oh my god!  Can you imagine?  It would be worse than the time Fu knitted with two skeins of 3 ply possum yarn in the hallway.  Actually, that’s a good reminder … must put sheepy smelling yarn out of Fu’s reach – it may just be too tempting.

strange wool

I wonder how this yarn was received when Twilley’s released it?  I wonder how many years they produced it?  Have any of you dear readers seen it before?  There’s a book of patterns for it – found it on eBay – located in Canada.  That’s a long way from home.  How I would love to find more!  I shall add it to my op-shop look-out-for list.  Pure wool yarn is one of my favourite every op shop finds – it happens soooooooo rarely.

so much already

Now – it’s after midnight.  The house is very quiet and cold.  I really should go to bed … but that spin knitting is looking so fetching, I might just need to add a few more rounds before sleep.

whereupon we combine knitting, vintage embroidery boxes & the prime minister’s needles

edited at midnight to add:  and just like that (clicks the fingers) we lost our first woman prime minister. Abby and I feel quite sad.  Deposed by the greatest spoilt brat of all time.

See, yesterday Julian printed out the argyle charts for me from his vest pattern which meant I could start knitting the front of his vest today with all those little balls of wool which insisted on rolling round and round the floor in an infuriating way which meant I was hunting about for something to put them in when I remembered the vintage embroidery box that I restored a few weeks back that just needed the hinges re-attaching and whilst I was thinking and gathering all of this I was reminded of last night’s very spiteful attack on our prime minister Julia Gilliard for KNITTING.

box with wool

Now without doubt, the PM has had some dodgy moments over the last four years.  But she’s also achieved some very fine things and has at the same time been subjected to the most revolting personal attacks – many very sexist.  Attacking her for KNITTING – with claims that it made her look like an old crone, a man in drag, and completely out of touch with real women – is just the dizzy limit.  For god’s sake – the poor PM has to have some down time and why is knitting in any way an unacceptable choice.

The whole attack was not just petty – and yet another example of how poor Julia will be crucified no matter what she does – but demeaning to an art that is both useful and beautiful, too everybody who has ever picked up a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn, and trivialises the hours put into every jumper that has warmed a child, every pair of socks, beanie and scarf that has kept the chill at bay from one point of this planet to another, and every cardigan that has been worn with pride then carefully handed down to the next generation.

close up of the inside lid

Anyway, I felt inspired to drop Julia a line so I thought I’d share it here along with the pictures of the pretty embroidery box, now employed as an argyle ball holder  (scroll to the botton for the before shots :-) …

Dear Prime Minister Gillard,

sitting on the fence

As a woman, feminist, student nurse, passionate advocate for the rights of children, women, people with disabilities, and refugees, campaigner for environmental sustainability and animal welfare, and KNITTER, I would like to congratulate you on the lovely photos and story that appeared in this month’s Women’s Weekly.  I think your knitted kangaroo was very sweet and a lovely, thoughtful and personal gesture.


 I don’t actually read the Women’s Weekly, but saw the corresponding article on the ABC news last night and was outraged on your behalf by the snide, spiteful and immature comments made by Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and Trish Macrossin.  They clearly pay no attention to what their constituents get up to in their spare time.  We are not all passive consumers, chained to commercial media, believing every word of drivel served up to us by those who regularly seek to incite, demean and divide.  In contrast, like you, many of us seek pleasure and peace in creating something with our own hands.  And this does not make us less of a person or worthy of contempt!

the lid

I am so disappointed by the sexist culture currently flourishing here in Australia – especially with regard to you – where it is now even considered acceptable to ridicule, in a completely sexist manner, a woman who chooses to spend her precious personal time knitting!  No one challenged the rights of Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne, Nigel Scullion, Barnaby Joyce,  or Peter Garratt, all who appeared in front of a stove on Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet program, to stand up in parliament because they knew how to cook!

the lining

How dare people suggest that because you know how to wield a pair of knitting needles, that somehow makes you less worthy of your role.  The depth to which our public commentary will stoop knows no bounds and is sadly indicative of a dangerous tendency for so many in our society to be shallow observers rather than valuable participants.  

the unicron

If more people spent time exploring the real issues that beset this country, as well as turning their own hands to a bit of sustainable creativity, instead of constantly looking for opportunities to tear down, we would be a much richer, more compassionate, and productive society.

at the foot of the tree

 I knit in public all the time – on trains, in parks, cafes, at the beach – and regularly have such lovely chats with people of all ages and backgrounds – from rambunctious little Jewish boys at the local playground, to the heavily tattooed young man on the train, to the hardworking owner of our local Chinese takeaway, to the frail elderly ladies I have nursed in hospital, to the busy young students I share many of my days with –  who want to know what I’m doing, how to do it, what part knitting has played in their families’ lives, and how much they would love to try it. 

the cane

Knitting brings people together, creates goods that are both beautiful and useful, and expresses how much we think of someone, when we are prepared to dedicate the time it takes to knit them something special, warming and comforting.  

carrying it

I appreciate your knitting was probably seized upon by a publicity person as a means to help create a more human-you.  Be assured – it caught my eye!  There are many things you have done during your tenure that I applaud, and sadly, many things that have left me very disappointed.  However, to attack you over your practice of an ancient, incredibly intricate craft that has been perfected by both sexes and in cultures around the world for thousands of years – is infuriating.  

bursting with wool

It is also a petty, ignorant and sexist attack on all those hundreds and thousands of people in our community who seek to create something unique and beautiful with their own hands, suggesting no man in his right mind would do so and any woman who does is not to be taken seriously.

yours sincerely,

 Lily Boot

I do wonder how she gets up each morning.  It must be so dispiriting to be constantly attacked – even when you try to do something nice (she has knitted a kangaroo doll for Prince William and Princess Kate’s babe).

Whilst I am very aware the PM has many more important things on her plate a silly little part of me hopes that some aide reads my email and as the PM is striding off to another ghastly meeting, the aide is able to say “Hey!  We got a funny email from a voter who thought your knitting was cool and that the naysayers were totally out of line.”

It’s a forehead smacking time we live in.

Here are the before photos … found at a local op shop.  Have been searching for more ever since, but alas, no luck.

the ghastly before shot more awfulness the stuffing

How funny are these little lumps of stuffing!  You should look out for a little vintage embroidery box, dear reader, and if you need some help to recover it, email me and I’ll walk you through it!

Three huge huzzahs for all those who make things with their hands! 

wintery scenes

beach flying birds

Oh it has been so cold here in Melbourne.  The mornings have been exceedingly frosty.  The grass is dusted with white.  My breath fogs my glasses – whilst inside.  The windscreen is hard with ice, demanding that we dawdle in the driveway for a good five minutes, waiting for the heater to turn it to slush.

too cold for the shed

Such has been the cold that one of us insists on tinkering with his outdoor toys at the kitchen table!


The young one is making the most of her lovely squishy, warm, snuggly honey-bunny – newly arrived companion for Miss Hinchcliffe who has been a bit lonesome since the deaths of our sweet little guinea pigs.

scrubbing the dresser

dresser doors

Whilst the crazy one has been more intrepid, determined to get that dresser scrubbed down, sanded till it gleams, oiled and inside before the next spell of rain.  Complete with newly built and collaged doors.  Who’d have thought a mitre box and tenon saw could be such fun.

the sun

chopping wood solstice bonfire

And then the Solstice came.  On a day glowing with sun (albeit, super cold) with a rich blue sky that sang of the summer to come.  Julian chopped wood.  The Solstice bonfire was lit.  We sat as close as we could, plates of slow roasted pork and pumpkin upon our laps, marshmallows waiting to be toasted, strawberries (from Queensland) waiting to be dunked into the chocolate fondue.  As the flames danced and crackled, we looked up into the frosty, moonlit sky and cheered that our earth was tilting back towards the sun.

Who cares that we are only 22 days into the first month of winter.  From this point on, each day reclaims just a minute more light, pushing us gently on to spring.

tea little squares pieced border blanket label

Whilst we wait, we remind each other how much we LOVE the cold!  Make more tea.  Fight over who gets to wash up in that lovely hot water.  Linger by the stove.  Fill and refill the hot water bottles.  Beg Fu to stay still on our laps and just cuddle!

And I dig around in boxes and cupboards, pulling out half finished blocks, long forgotten fabrics, and almost done quilts.  Piling them onto the table, the must-finish-this-winter list growing longer and longer.  And promise Julian that tonight! tonight!  I’ll start the argyle pattern on the front of his vest.  And sneakily knit another two repeats on the much less daunting baby cardigan.

And look out at that dresser …

a little staggering

pin cushion strips

Ah, the weeks have surely flown!  Excruciating exams are over.  Monumental essays are submitted.  I have the barest week to catch my breath before my acute care placement starts at an inner city hospital.  Oy!

Frankly, I am a bit over it at the moment.  I regularly wonder what on earth possessed me to take up studying again at this time in my life.  Everyday I hear myself, Pinocchio style, whining “I want to be a real adult … with a part time job and some money in my pocket who never has to memorise the pharmacokinetics of anticoagulant medication or spend her evenings answering practice quizzes.”

And I’m cursing the clinical office for giving me the very last placement of the semester that coincides perfectly with Abby’s school holidays – so no much needed winter together time for us – and finishes the day before the new semester starts …… and I’ve just deleted 8 more lines of ranting about all the other things that are making me tear the skin off my cuticles at the moment.

This too will pass and remember that we are not supposed to be blue skies and cheery happy all the time – I’m so glad I read that in the newspaper the other day.  A modern misconception that is.  And one that only sets us up for feeling as if we’re failing.  Deep breath!


with fruit

So this week …. I’m hoping, so hoping, that I’ll find a sweet rhythm that allows me to enjoy the prettiness that is laying about our home.  And let me make the most of long afternoons with my dear girl (that will be easy).  And relish cosy evenings with nothing to do but be.  There’ll be stitching and knitting and collage and scrubbing and polishing and building and maybe even a little bit of painting.  I want to be busy-productive-creative-satisfied.  I don’t want much do I.

There was a bit of most of this today.  But my head is still all cluttered and my nerves all frazzled so there was a decided lack of sticking-to-it and motivation.  And quite a bit of licorice eating.  And tetris playing.  And there might have even been a bit of weeping into my tea.

However, lingering over the colours below is providing quite a balm to the spirit.  See silly Lily – there is value in stopping to check the contents of the camera and throw some words onto the computer, because, despite all the dreary busyness that has been the last few weeks, there were moments of loveliness.  Such as the moments below when I declared that before I could listen to another dreadful lecturer read straight off the powerpoint, there was a need for a little slicing and stitching and laying out.

Wee clotheslines, poison greens, cheddar yellows, and rich reds that climb up and down and up and down again.  Yes …

my first rows richness favourite red clotheslines looking up the mountain must keep going

… yes!  Oh the colours!  They are so beautiful.  I do love me some reproductions – and think poison green and cheddar yellow and rich red are the loveliest of them all.  With Heather Ross’s clotheslines for some added quirkiness :-)

And thank you to the dear readers who checked in to see if we were still all well and good here in Bootville.  Your sweet concern was a lovely spirit lifter.  I needed it.


a little bit of beeswax

bee shop

For 12 years now, I’ve been dropping into the Parkdale Apiarists’ supplies for beeswax.  It’s a lovely place, full of mysterious pieces and shiny equipment I would just love to own and use.  There’s something especially captivating about a store that specialises in just one fascinating thing.  That has shelves laden with bespoke tools and tokens that only a person with the right wisdom and skill is able to identify and use.  Mmmm …. I can wile away hours in such stores.  Inpsecting, wondering, impressed to the enth degree.  Maybe one day I will be in the market for some lovely wooden hives, smokers and honey spinners.

Right now – it’s just the beautiful, creamy yellow, richly scented wax I come for.  Blocks and sheets for candle making.  Oh how we do love making beeswax candles.  Abby’s been rolling them from the exquisitely formed sheets below since she was a toddler.  We fill old electric jugs with them and pop them on shelves and in corners, waiting to be used in the glasses and candlesticks around our home.  And whilst they burn quite quickly, there’s something especially lovely about the glow and scent of melting beeswax.

sheets of beeswax bubble

[ for the curious, we use an electric deep fryer to melt our wax, you’re able to control the temperature really well, it’s very safe, there’s no chance of the beeswax scorching,
& it’s a very easy cleanup ]

In the last few years, we’ve been filling all manner of interesting glasses and bottles, cups and bowls with wax.  My favourite are a set of chubby silver plated mugs I found at the  oppie.  I give them a rub up with silver polish first, then fill them wax and wicks and set them along the windowsill.  They gleam with such warmth and magic.

Last week, the making of candles was declared the perfect treat for little girlies who had finished all their homework earlier in the week.  We rolled long straight candles, filled glasses which, as they cooled, looked more like delicious creme caramels than candles …

fixing the wick pouring it in creme caramels

… dipped our favourite autumn leaves in to the wax, so as to preserve their lovely colours …

serrated edged leaf oiling it up

… and made some very special candles in a terrific cake mould Julian brought me home from America several years back.  I had to think a bit about how to attach the wick given the wick needed to come out of the top of the candle (where there was no such opening) rather than the bottom.  We decided to use blue tack.  We cut the wicks to size, then coiled up the bottom inch or so and wrapped it tightly in a thick ball of blue tack.  We then rolled this ball in a bit of macadamia oil (which we also used for oiling the cake pan), then set it in the middle of the “top” of the shape, attaching the rest of the wick to a wooden skewer in the usual way.

working it out filling the mouldIt worked a treat!  Once the candle had hardened (we left them over night), we turned them out of the mould, trimmed the excess wick off flat with the bottom, then carefully dug the little ball of blue tack with its wick out of the top of the candle.  The blue tack was a little sticky, but it eventually came off with tweezers.  I thought about adding more melted wax to the top, to fill the resultant hole, but was a bit nervous that it might melt the shape, or run down the sides.  So instead, with the candle lit, I carefully scooped around the hole to neaten it.

ladybug ladybug lit

Just lovely!  Our lady bugs, dragonflies, bees and butterflies have made such cosy candles on these dark and cold winter nights.

And oh how clever the little girlies feel!  They’re already working on their Christmas present giving lists … and could I suggest that all the recipients stock up on matches!


the most dogged hard rubbishers ever!

That would be me and my mum!  And boy oh boy!  Did we earn this title today!

the drawer

It all started with this very unprepossessing drawer.  We brought it home last night.  It came from a dresser that was lying on its back, in the dark, on the side of the road.  We had to bring the drawer home.  We couldn’t tell what era the dresser was, how well it had been made, nor what sort of wood it was.  Now the drawer mightn’t look much to you, dear reader, but to me and my mum it looked more than promising. Lovely solid wood, a good old fashioned construction, and as sturdy as, with the sort of reinforcing that speaks of a craftsperson who wanted that to which this drawer belongs to last a long while.

So, first thing this morning, we went back.  Of course we went back.

The first time we went back with a bag of tools, prepared to pull the dresser apart and shove it into the back of the car piece by piece.  See, we’d forgotten about the drawer’s sturdiness with it’s reinforcing.  This dresser was not coming apart at all.  Nor would it fit into the car.

So we had to go back again … with the trolley.

the find getting it onThat’s right.  We took the fridge trolley (I knew it was a good investment Jules!) and despite moments of doubt, regular collapses into hysterical laughter, and cheered on by the helpful interventions of many lovely folk along the way, we wheeled this lovely old kitchen dresser all the way home.  Almost two kilometres.  Along a path that included a RAILWAY CROSSING, several traffic lights and two sets of tram tracks.


A lovely young man with long curly locks and a skateboard stopped to help us wedge the dresser onto the trolley, and I swear, if he hadn’t been on his way to classes at a nearby university, he would have wheeled the dresser home for us, so impressed was he with our hard rubbishing spirit.

Whilst he was wriggling the dresser into position, a beautifully dressed woman, walking to the station, stopped for a chat, told us how she’d admired the dresser the day before, agreed with us that it was too nice and sturdy to leave on the side of the road, expressed how marvellous it was someone was giving it a new home, and wished us the best of luck on our trek.

Then, before we reach the afore mentioned railway crossing, a young man, tending to a very posh garden, dropped his tools and dashed out to us to “fix” the positioning of the dresser on the trolley.  “No! No! No!” he cried cheerfully,  “Let me make this easier for you!”  and proceeded to flip the whole thing upside down.

So funny lovely.  I do find that when you let go of the ordinary and expected, when you’re not afraid to look a bit peculiar, oh the lovely people you meet :-)

This is what it looked like arriving at the railway crossing – lots of steep and narrow gutters to navigate with an exceptionally heavy trolley and its dresser.  Eeeek!

crossing of dread

The other way … completely inhospitable.  We stood there a good long while contemplating our next move.  Oh how we giggled and shrieked and plotted, whilst many a driver-by stared at the two weird women with the dresser on the trolley.

However, we gathered our nerves and decided that it was best to walk/push briskly across the road whilst the boom gates were down.  There’s no pedestrian crossing on that section, but with the boom gates down, there ain’t no cars going in any direction.   It took us three trains to feel prepared enough.  The fourth time those gates came down, we hot footed it across, jelly legs and all, Mum pushing, me steering, both of us hoping for the longest train crossing ever.

the railway crossing

And it worked!  Only then we discovered the narrowest bit of footpath in the whole suburb and had to shove the dresser through it sideways/lengthways.  Much to the bemusement and worry of a fellow who actually stopped his car and got out to help – telling us we would never get it home sideways like that.  So, once through the squeeze, he helped us shuffle the dresser back into the gardner’s more sensible position and we demonstrated our previous pushing prowess – he was suitably impressed.  Well sort of :-)

jelly legs

Ah look!  Here we are at the last set of lights.  Feeling as if we were on the homeward run.  I stepped back to take a photo … and the dresser blew over.  Yep – that was another moment of hysteria and leg crossing.  And another lovely young passerby stopped to ask if she could help :-)  I tell you, wobbling home a huge antique kitchen dresser on wheels is a good way to gauge community spirit.

the last set of traffic lights

Finally, it was through the gate and down the drive.  Not before another sweet young fellow – dreadlocks, cigarette, headphones and all – stopped and asked if we needed a hand.  When we explained this was actually the end of our trek, he was so tricked, wanting to know all about it.  I tell you – hard rubbish brings folk together.

home at last

So here it is!  Sitting neatly up against the house, the eaves protecting it from any rain that may come this way – this is Melbourne, the rain never falls heavy enough to wet under the eaves.


And what are we going to do with it, you may ask?  Well … it’s not quite decided yet.  Mum would like to take it home and put it in her downstairs room as a bookcase and fabric storage dresser.  But there’s the s*l*i*g*h*t problem of getting it there.  Wheeling it to Merimbula is obviously out of the question.

So I reckon it will probably stay here for now and become part of MY fabric storage.  And then, when we Boots make that move to the coast in a few years time, it will come with us, all nicely restore and polished, and maybe it will finally reach Mum’s downstairs room.  Or it may move into our Merimbula kitchen as a pantry – now I think that role would truly make this dresser happy.

against the wall

As for this here chair?  We left it there.  There’s a limit to how many armchairs one needs.  Even I can see that :-)  But we did test it.  You can never be too sure … and if you would like it, drop me an email and I’ll let you know where it is!

we left the chair


A little story today.  A bit of a fable.  The sharing of this experience prompted by a lovely chat I had today with the checkout operator at the supermarket.  An opportunity – no matter how Pollyanna-ish it may seem to some – to stop and think about the amazing opportunity we have, every day, to influence another person’s experience.

A few months back, I was riding the tram home from classes.  Not long after leaving the city, a very dishevelled youngish man boarded the tram and skittered across to the bench opposite me.  His clothes were very poorly kept and worn.  He had no shoes on.  His hair was lank and badly cut.  His skin was awful – the sort of skin that has almost no life left in it.  It was grey, marked with many sores, and grimy.  He had track marks on his arms and home made tattoos.  His teeth were in a terrible state.

He shuffled and his movements were jerky.  He muttered to himself, kept his gaze averted and picked at his sores.  When he did look up, his expression was agitated.  Fellow passengers gave him long stares, then quickly looked away lest he should notice them watching.  No one chose to sit near him.

Having just spent several months studying and working in mental health, he looked so like many of my patients when they first arrived in the acute ward.  So vulnerable.  So unwell.   I smiled and said hello.  He ignored me.

Shortly after, a mum and her little girl boarded the tram.  The little girl was about 3 years old.  Very jauntily dressed and bouncing along, humming to herself.  She had that gorgeous confidence and joy little people have. Her mum sat down in front of the vulnerable young man, the little girl beside her, standing on her seat, holding onto the seat rail and perusing the rest of the tram with curiosity.  The next thing, she began to sing, bobbing up and down to the music she created.  She wasn’t sure of the words, so just sang la-la-la to the tune of an old Australian cricket cheer – C’mon Aussie C’mon.

This made me and a lot of other passengers smile.  Oh my, the number of summers my sister, cousins, friends and I chanted along to this song.  The little girl noticed the vulnerable man and really seemed to be making an effort to catch his attention.  Bopping up and down and cheerfully singing, all the while watching him carefully for a reaction.  After a few choruses, he looked up.  He watched her for a few more silent moments. He stopped scratching at his arms.  His eyes grew less fearful and you could literally see the jerky tension that had defined his earlier movements, slide away.  He began to grin.  That only encouraged her more.  Her singing became ever more enthusiastic, the dancing more vigorous.


[here’s the ad from my era for those
who cannot even begin to imagine what I’m talking about]

The next thing, nodding his head in time to her rhythm, he began singing the words along to her tune.  Oh my, she was so delighted, and kept darting looks at her mum as if to say – look at me!  I’ve made a friend and he’s singing too!  The young man was delighted.  The whole tram was watching and grinning.  It was magic.   Pure and beautiful magic.  He was no longer an eyesore to be kept under careful but discrete observation.  A small, funny, sweet child had given him an opportunity to join in and it had made such a difference to how comfortable he felt at that moment.  It truly did.  You could see it as clear as day.

My stop came up shortly after.  I hopped off the tram, bursting with love and my eyes wet with tears of awe.  I don’t think I will ever forget this wonderful moment.

Every time we interact with somebody – be they the person serving us at the supermarket, the person standing at the pedestrian crossing with us, the person sharing an elevator – as well as those we know well and share our daily lives with – we are given the opportunity to contribute something to their lives.  We are given the chance to share love, good cheer, a listening and compassionate ear, simple observations, even a song!  And when we do we create or reinforce a bond, a connection, that has the power to really make a difference.

I know this to be so true.  Many of my patients have described the huge difference this connection can make … to an elderly patient who experiences such loneliness, an anxious patient who feels overwhelmed by what is before her, a young patient with schizophrenia who feels so humiliated and worthless.

The woman at the supermarket today described it to me so eloquently – the value a customer who makes eye contact and cheerfully chats with her bestows upon her working day (and how very grateful she is for this), compared to how long the hours seem when she only encounters those who snatch and snap or are completely disengaged and uninterested.

And I can assure you, there have been countless, wonderful times when the friendliness and generosity of a person I’ve found myself next to has shone warmth on a previously not so great day.  I’m sure you have to :-)

I’m not Pollyanna-ish enough to think a little bit of singing and dancing on the tram is enough to transform a very vulnerable person’s life.  Who knows what the young man felt capable of when he hopped off the tram, or what choices he made.  But he had a moment of happiness.  He was included and wanted.  That has to be a good thing.

So today, after writing an essay on human dignity, chatting with the woman at the supermarket, and remembering the little girl and the young man on the tram, I just wanted to say … let us find moments to share joy everyday.  It has the potential to truly enrich the lives of those around us.  I think it’s the most important responsibility we have each day.  What do you reckon?!