… sorry the blog hasn’t been working properly the last few days … wordpress had changed things … & I hadn’t upgraded … Abby worked it out … Julian fixed it … & hopefully all is fine now :-) …
I know … it is supposed to be my quiet, much anticipated day. And nothing awful happened. Nothing awful has happened all week. I just feel a bit wobbly. Bit prone to self pity. A few tears. That terrible introspection where I sit and dissect everything I’ve done for a week and found myself wanting. Thankfully, the weather was tremendously cooler today , so I curled up on the sofa. I watched several episodes of Great Ormond Street Hospital (so inspiring) and Midsomer Murders ( I want to live in one of those villages). And knitted … knitted …. knitted … and just about finished Abby’s owls. Only have to graft the armholes (that’s what that wee bit of thread is you can see hanging under Abby’s arm!), weave in the few ends and then give it a little wash and blocking.
This is quite awesome. Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I bought the yarn and cast on. That’s a record for me. Started and finished in two weeks. And I cabled. Now, I have cabled before – many years ago, on a pair of arm warmers for Abby – but I was a bit nervous about it. No probs. Does cabling make you nervous? It’s not at all bad – I didn’t even have a cable needle – I just used one of the circular needle ends – you know, the needly bit that screws on to the cable – and it worked just fine. Getting the sleeves lined up with the body of the jumper – now that had me fumbling for almost an hour. Nothing wrong with any of the knitted pieces or the instructions – I was just fumbly and awkward. Must be the wobbliness.
And the girlie loves it. Julian is in awe (and wondering why his cardigan hasn’t been finished with the same enthusiasm). But Abby won’t let me put the buttons/beads on for the eyes. Hmph! Now folks won’t know that’s what those pretty cables are – owls. But I guess what other folks think about Abby’s new jumper is neither here nor there, is it. What other folks SHOULD know is that Kate Davies is an awesome knitwear designer – she’s my favouritest of favourites ever. This is my fourth Kate knit – her patterns are brilliant, they are wonderful to follow, and her knitted goodies are a complete pleasure to knit and wear. If you haven’t yet tried one of her patterns out, rush over to here and choose one. Abby’s already chosen her next – the Warriston sweater – and I’m mad keen to get started. All I need Kate to do now is knit her Tom a sweater and then all three of us Boots can go out in our “Kate Davies”!! Oh I am such a geek!
Oh, and the sideboard’s in. Looking spiffy and very useful. Here’s a wee glimpse of what it’s up to. When the handles are on (j-u-l-i-a-n!) I’ll take some more photos. We’re now thinking that when we have our own home, we shall have a free standing kitchen full of gently restored old sideboards instead of newly bought pieces. Just one modern piece for the sink. Mmmmmm … there are more sideboards out there for me yet :-)
Now, I shall finish my water and hop along to bed. Tomorrow begins a new adventure for me … volunteering/learning to garden at Ceres, the wonderful community market garden in north Melbourne. I’m so looking forward to it. Another step towards our little place in the country.
Wobbliness be gone! Oh – and I’ll take much nicer photos of the Owls Jumper tomorrow – outdoors with light – ’cause it really is a MUCH nicer colour in real life than it looks here :-)
Way back in spring 2012, Mum rang me one day to see if I’d like a new hat for summer. She was at a little boutique in downtown Merimbula and had found some very sweet, inexpensive crocheted paper hats. I was keen so she picked out a sky blue one for me and one for herself – I can’t remember what colour yours is Mum!? Brown – olive?
Anyways … I wore it everyday during our lovely lovely summer holiday at the beach. And then, on the dreadfully hot day when the bushfire struck, we were cutting out four inch squares of lovely soft Japanese lawn. Because of the length of fabric we had bought, there was a very narrow strip left over from most pieces. Hmmm …. what to do …
- here I simply must insert these gorgeous photos of Mum’s cosmos
she is a wonderful gardener (I don’t take after her at all)
I took these on our last day in Merimbula & completely forgot about them
until tonight, when looking for photos of the hat …
ooooh! and see this stump? I can’t remember whether I’ve shared this, but where Mum’s house is, was once the family owned dairy farm that provided Merimbula with all its milk – very appropriate given just how much we Boots love our milk – at first we thought this fence was a gardener’s folly, but now wonder if it is, in fact, a remnant of the farm. Such a lovely thought. Back to the hat …
After a few more days thought – and a lot of hat wearing – I decided to thread some through the hat – mayhaps a couple of rows around the brim? So there, on our last day at Bar Beach, with seagulls a-watching, I began. I used my crochet hook to pull the lengths of fabric through – up, down, up, down. To start and finish, I simply tied a knot at the end of each length of fabric nice and close to the hat.
By the end of that night – most of the hat was covered! Oh it’s the old lily story. Once started, couldn’t stop. I even unpicked the hem of the brim and wove a piece of fabric around that – like a very simple whipping.
I love it … such a cheerful and colourful hat … and a little bit wonky. Perhaps a bit like its owner? :-) And it’s had SUCH a good workout over the last couple of weeks. Here’s the finished product whilst on duty at Birdrock Beach …
And at Mt. Martha’s Gelati Bar. Three marvellous features – it’s instantly identifiably as mine, has a lovely low brim so offers wonderful protection from our aggressive sun, and is wonderfully crumpleable – I just squish it up and shove it in my handbag or basket – and when it comes out, it looks just like it did the day it arrived!
Thank you so much Mummy darling for thinking of me – it’s grown into my favourite hat ever :-) And if you should want your hat to match, just send it my way ;-)
p.s. hope you love your cosmos photos xxx
We went to the zoo! On the hottest day of our heatwave so far ….. (that sound is me hissing through my teeth) … it was lovely. But excruciatingly hot. The best part was when I stood under the canopy sprinkler with the kookaburra. I just wish they’d turned the tap on a bit harder.
We started with a quick airconditioned stop to plot the route followed by three hours of walking. I think the only critters we didn’t see were the echidnas – I don’t know how we missed them, we just did – and the wombats, they had sensibly taken to their underground burrows and weren’t coming out for anyone.
There were wonderful pelicans – my favourite …
- this fellow had one very skinny leg and one normal chubby one,
don’t know why, but the poor thing looked a bit lopsided -
- these two were so funny, they did everything in unison,
perhaps they were escaped circus pelicans –
Abby wanted to take this wee fellow home – a Tasmanian Devil – they are so cute. Look at his amazing feet – they almost look like ours, don’t you think. Poor little dears – they are at risk of extinction due to a horrible facial tumour disease that has spread like wildfire through their wild populations.
We met an incredibly charismatic emu, who after winking to get our attention, gave us a wee curtsey and wandered on over.
She then got quite frisky – practically charging Rina who responded in typical teenage girl fashion – squealing – which amused the emu no end!
But then she changed her mind and did a big poo instead … much to the raucous amusement of every child in the vicinity.
Very satisfying … and off she went …
There were snoozing bats …
chortling peach faces …
not laughing kookaburras – this one was too busy having a good soak under the
lots and lots of kangaroos and wallabies, conserving their energy in the shade …
and of course – koalas – what every Japanese school girl dreams of …
they are such funny things … this one was maintaining his balance with his forehead – smooshed up against the tree, his arms and legs sticking out skew-if. Much of the eucalypt foliage you can see is actually this …
Very clever – and apparently, very expensive.
Julian loved the reptile house – such a boy – he had an alarming or funny story to match every inhabitant.
Look! It’s a long necked turtle – relative of the two Julian rescued on the back road between Bairnsdale and Sale last year. He was a marvellous little swimmer and hasn’t he smiled nicely for the photo.
There was also a lovely Platypus House – Abby’s favourite, and a Nocturnal House – it was like a circus! But both were so dark, photos weren’t possible so you’ll just have to take our word for it – they were marvellous, and their little inhabitants utterly enchanting.
Yep, it was a lovely afternoon at the Healesville Sanctuary. Heaps of interesting information and a wonderful focus on living sustainably and gently with our smaller, native neighbours. And I would love to go back … in winter.
make sure you get to the bottom of this week’s ~loveliness found~ post
to check the winner of the May Gibbs giveaway!
again, thank you all so much for entering and leaving such lovely comments
- I only wish I could send all of you a pillowslip!
p.s. & if you would like to share your ~loveliness found~ moments from this week
- & I would so love it if you did,
please leave them in the comments (links always enjoyed :-)
~ the acorns are making promises they can’t keep, the carrot seedlings are exploding, thank god for indian summer cocktails ~
(freshly squeezed beetroot juice, a twist of lemon, traditional bitters,
a splash of Cinzano, soda, & a whole lot of ice)
~ finally getting the hang of things …
making the little green machine zig & zag,
& whizzing along with that magic loop ~
~ one day closer to filling these drawers,
oh how I love before & after photos! ~
~ the season of birthdays is over … the new one will arrive before I blink
… oh my she’s growing up so fast ~
… and say sorry for every occasion on which I have been a bit dismissive – alright, downright sneering – about the beaches of Port Phillip Bay. I’m truly sorry.
Today I have been forced to eat almost every harsh word I’ve ever uttered regarding the rights of Victoria to claim that there’s lovely swimming to be had in Port Phillip Bay. Yes, I’m prepared to admit that we have just had the best summer’s day I have ever had in Melbourne – it FELT like summer – it LOOKED like summer – it TASTED like summer and it was spent on Birdrock Beach, Mt. Martha.
This greeted us from the top of the wooden stairs that tilt one way then the other, down, down, down the steep, fire red cliff.
Under the shadows of thickly canopied trees, through patches of brilliant sunlight …
… until we reached this. Oh my. My heart was all aflutter. My eyes open wide with delight. A huge grin on my face. This is our fourth year in Melbourne. How did we miss THIS! A hasty camp was established under the only bit of shade on the beach and a picnic lunch quickly gobbled before we hit the water.
A bit tentatively at first. After all – this bay is fed by the Bass Strait and Great Southern Ocean – warm currents are likely only to be enjoyed if you – or someone nearby – spend a penny! But – the weather here in Melbourne at the moment is frightful – another day over 36 – so that cold water felt utterly delightful, and Abby and I squiggled into our swimmers as quick as could be.
This being Rina’s first ever trip to the beach – first time she had ever stood on the sand and let little waves ripple over her feet – amazing! – she decided to stick to paddling and photos.
Ahhhhh folks. I have never felt so at home down here. At first, you must pick your way across a very rubbly section – next time I will certainly bring some old rubber soled sneakers. Then – you think you’re going to hit a lovely patch of sand – ’cause you can see its soft creamy smoothness through the sparkling water. But when you get there – it’s ROCK – smooth, velvety, sand-coloured rock. And the water’s still only up to your thighs. Any deeper demanded the tricksy navigation of more rubble. So there I stayed – bobbing – floating – allowing all the heat that has been building up in my body this week, to slip away. It was so good.
Little waves plinked and plonked around my body as they hurried into the shore, sounding like a delicate xylophone. Laughter and jesting floated over to me from a small group playing frisbee in the water. Out in front of me, a trio of young men scampered across the rocks for which the beach is named, looking all the world for like they were walking on water. Around them, the rocks’ regular inhabitants – the sea birds – were fluttering and strutting. The deeper blue waters were filled with small darting yachts – in neat rows, they flitted in and out between vivid orange buoys.
My fingers and toes turned to prunes. I caught myself absent-mindedly sucking the salt from the end of my plait as I did when I was little. If only we could have set up a wee wooden caravan there on the edge – something quaint and old fashioned, stocked with wonderful books, thin cotton sheets, soft pillows, yummy food, and cold drinks – we could stay for the next week, swimming for hours, pushing that nasty heat wave away with our cool, shrivelled, salty hands. Oh can you imagine how utterly blissful that would be. Bugger school! Bugger university! Bugger work! I think that if the temperature is over 35 – then it MUST be the summer holidays, regardless of what the calendar says.
And what a treat being able to share it with Rina. In a usual March, we would have been driving up into the mountains to admire the trees’ autumn finery, wander the lake’s edge at Daylesford, hunt for mushrooms in the forest. Not this year. Rina was enchanted.
However, all good things come to and end. Eventually we had to brave those stairs – this time, trudging up and up and up through wilting steaminess. Every time we turned back to the sea we wailed! We would need another swim to cool off by the time we reached the top. It seems to me there’s something not working quite right with this arrangement.
On the way home we stopped for icecream at Chill – Mt. Martha’s Gelati Bar – highly recommended …
… stopped for a super quick play on this ship – I was waiting for it to sprout leaves a’la Quentin Blake’s divine book “The Green Ship” …
… and made our final stop for the day here …
… why yes, this truly bizarre sight is real. That’s why I snuck a photo. CPR dummies under the trees in Frankston. First time I’ve ever played this game on my way home from the beach. However, I’m not complaining – if I hadn’t had to be in Frankston at 5 pm to spend half an hour pumping their flaccid chests for thirty counts before pushing two breaths into their funny little mouths – over and over again – we would never have made our way to Birdrock Beach.
And you thought I would once more try to end my post with some meaningful and poetic words – ha!
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.
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!
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.
Oh my! This is Abby’s new toy – a scroll saw. She saved her pocket money for weeks and weeks, and on Saturday morning headed off to Hare and Forbes Machinery with Julian to make the grand purchase. Even Fu was enamoured with this marvellous toy! And the best way to spend my birthday Sunday – why it was watching, helping, encouraging and celebrating Abby’s amazing persistence and skill as she set about carving her own wooden toys.
There I sat, in the shade, her Owl sweater on my needles, watching with sheer delight as she and Julian worked it out. First they drew straight lines … then curved lines … then angles … Abby doggedly cut and adjusted and improved her technique for over three hours. Yes, my wee perfectionist was determined to get it right, but also, there was a lovely and gracious acceptance – possibly for the first time in her life! – that when we try new things, skills will come slowly and only after much practice and patience. It was the perfect birthday present for this mama.
Eventually she felt confident enough to explore the possibilities of the cookie cutter collection (see Jules! I told you that collecting in excess of 100 cookie cutters was not a waste! ). First a simple duck, then a pig, then a rabbit …
By mid afternoon, she was ready to try her own designs … along with much thicker wood and different styles of blades! She wants to make characters that emulate the design of Ostheimer – profile shapes with bevelled edges (my use of the word bevelled is completely amateur so just insert the right one should you know what I mean ;-) – so Julian also showed her how to use the Dremel for adding extra dimension.
She drew her doll, traced it onto the wood, and slowly, slowly cut – Julian by her side, offering encouragement. It was AMAZING! Look at the detail of the hair! In and out, in and out she went.
There was only a brief halt to activities for dinner, and then it was back to the painting. Unlike me, who whacked the paint on my simplistic little farm girl as quickly as I could – making a few messes along the way – Abby waited patiently for each coat to dry before adding the next colour or detail.
And now she has this gorgeous doll! As well as a long list of other characters, animals, objects and dreams she would like to draw out of wood. I’m in awe of my fifteen year old girlchild-woodworker. Awe! Who knows where this new skill and passion will take her!? It will be such a delight to see.
As I said, best birthday present ever.
~ a new to us, gorgeous vintage chess set … enticing us to plonk down
at the kitchen table and share yet another game ~
~ the sweetest daughter – sharing her time and talents ~
~ family … learning / fun / exploring / teaching
… the perfect back garden Sunday ~
~ my wonky – but fabulously fun! – first attempt ~
~ her extraordinary, first time marvel – oh my! ~
~ another birthday – 43! – and the candles are no longer lit because of
the huge chunk of long, streaked-with-grey hair that caught fire
whilst the birthday girl (moron) leaned across the birthday wreath
to blow out her candles – ahem! – age would appear to be dulling her brain ~
p.s. there are no photos of the fiery spectacle – Abby and Mum were too busy gasping with horror whilst Julian was grabbing the dog quilt with which to smother me. I, however, upon seeing the flames out of the corner of my eye, simply clapped my hands over and over the flames, putting most of them out, whilst turning to the sink where I doused the remaining singed bits in water … the stinky burnt mess fell into the sink and Abby trimmed up the remaining hair with the dressmaking scissors.
An almost fitting end to the week.
phew … it’s been a big week here in Bootville. Classes started afresh for the academic year. All 7am starts – very tiring for this out of practice would-be-nurse. And in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a fox broke into the chooks’ house and killed Benny and Souffie – ripped out their throats. It was my fault. I’d been leaving the door to their house open over summer as the nights have been so hot and still. I didn’t want them to feel hot and yucky. Now two are dead instead. So stupid!
It was so horrible. We were woken by the terrible noise made by the first of our girls to be killed – she cried out in such terror and agony whilst her sisters went bonkers with fright, banging and flapping about the house.
By the time Julian had exploded out the back door and raced through the garden to their enclosure, the next girl to be killed cried out in the same horrible way. Meanwhile, poor Nog and Lettie had managed to get out of the fox’s way and were frantically trying to get out the gate – in fact, they ran out as Julian ran in. We found Nog pretty easily – she was hiding in the Vietnamese basil, but Lettie secreted herself so well, we didn’t spy her again until well and truly after the sun had risen.
Poor, poor Benny and Souffie. I know death is part of keeping animals, and anyone who’s ever kept chickens has experienced Mr. Fox at least once. But boy oh boy … when Julian carried their still warm bodies out of the enclosure to put them somewhere safe until morning when we could bury them, I cried. When I cracked my next egg, the following day, I cried. Abby cried. It was awful. But the way of the natural world I guess. My Uncle Keith used to lose his chooks to carpet snakes – ugh! He’d go down in the morning and there’d be a carpet snake – too fat with all the chooks he’d eaten to get back out. Family consensus is, if we were chooks and the occasion arose when we were about to become another animal’s dinner, we’d rather a fox than a carpet snake. Though scant comfort at the moment, I must say.
As for Mr. Fox – we didn’t even see him leave he was so quick and sly. We have carefully searched along the perimeter’s edge – we think he got in where the chickens had themselves dug a small hole under the wall of their house, where it butts up against the sewing shed. The fox could have gotten under the sewing shed – as does Fu, but the thought a fox would do it simply hadn’t crossed our minds because he would have to have gotten into our garden first, which has quite sturdy 6 foot fences – and then, with a bit of wiggling, through the hole and pop! into the house.
I’ve since read that foxes can spring over a six foot fence from a standing position on the ground. Good grief. I’ve also read that the end of summer is a prime time for an increase in attacks as the spring born cubs learn to hunt for themselves. And here in our neighbourhood, an abandoned house which was home to a huge number of foxes, was pulled down last week – maybe those foxes have found new homes closer?
Extra mesh has been dug in, heavy rocks have been laid on top. Regardless of the heat, that chook house door will be securely shut every night for ever more. And – just in case it works – we’ve taken a leaf out of Hugh F-W’s book and are peeing on the fence. Well – you know, peeing into a container and throwing it on the fence. Folk wisdom suggests the scent of urine – especially male – deters foxes. Others say it does nothing at all. Might as well give it a go.
Meanwhile, Nog and Lettie are stumbling on. Nog lost a lot of feathers – you can imagine that the fox grabbed her by a clump of feathers and when she jumped, they just came out – she has bald patches between her shoulder blades and around her tail and butt. She looks a wreck – but seems pretty confident still. Nog’s always been a bit dim.
Lettie, on the other hand, has no visible signs of attack at all, but is a nervous wreck. She’s always been very sweet – always talks to me when I go near, drops herself at my feet ’cause she loves to be carried and stroked, a very friendly and relaxed chook. Now, if she was human, she’d be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The first day, she stood by the water bowl with her head drooping and eyes closed. It was so sad. The next morning when I opened the door she stood in it silently, and every few moments, would put her head and look one way, then the other. She did this for a good five minutes before deciding it was safe to come out.
But today, Lettie’s made herself a dust bath and is dozing in the sun. And Nog’s being Nog – bumping about, chattering away to herself and munching grain. No eggs since the attack – I’ve read this is very normal. And they may never lay again. We’ll see.
So – big week. Tiring week. Sad week. Oy. By Friday, I needed something to soothe my spirits – some new wool from Wondoflex’s bargain basement (only open Fridays and Saturdays and literally in the basement) – 12 ply for $25 for a bag of 10 balls. Perfect for knitting Abby her 2013 jumper – Kate Davies’ Owls. Round, and round and round – and on those 6.5mm needles it’s rising like well yeasted bread.
Hopefully next week will be a bit more gentle. Autumn has certainly arrived with a jolt.