now i shall have to sew

needlepoint cross stitch scarf ostheimer mandarines jasmine chickenThere’s a sort of stillness to the house at the moment.  A sense of waiting.  The much longed for change of seasons is almost here.  Yes, there’s still plenty of shivery cold, but every morning the sun rises that bit earlier and I throw open the windows, declaring it fresh.  Just this morning, I noticed the jasmine dressed in her spiky pink buds, mere days away from bursting forth with her beautiful perfume.  The old hibiscus is popping out bright green leaves (the first in years) and the gnarly magnolia’s furry buds are slowly opening.  I want to ride my bike to the shops.  Bake fruitcake.  I always want to bake fruitcake in spring.  Set up camp in the back garden.  Plan for Christmas. Ditch the stockings! Wear sandals!

But not yet.  It is only the first week in August.  There’s weeks and weeks to go of winter yet. So, I shall keep savouring the days just as they are presented to us.  Wrap my hands ’round another cup of steamy tea.  Tuck a quilt ’round my lap, heavy and warm.  Admire the bare elegance of the tall planes and elms that line our streets.  Enjoy the sharp slap of the air on my cheeks when I step outside.  Layer up with wool and shawls and sheepskin slippers when I’m at home.  Make the most of that lovely, safe feeling of cosiness that comes when the sky is dark, the rain is constant, the air is frigid, and the family is all at home, curtains drawn, candles lit, warm and busy.

mandarin holly hobby tea boxes inside

And today, with all the DMC7928 stitched up, I turned back to a quilt top I started way back in summer when the days were long and hot.  One filled with bees swirling their way round and round the garden, little puffy golden chicks and an unexpected red cross in the centre.  I had all the chicks and bees stitched up and I don’t know, it just looked a little too simple.  So I chopped out the middle – literally – and added a little red (no matter how hard I try, I always end up adding a little red).  Then I loved it.  Now, just a few weeks away from graduation it’s kind of funny – I’ve made the perfect nurses’ quilt :-)

ribbon pieces sewing machine stitching rumpled

After snapping it on the line, I laid it on our bed and do you know what – I think it may need one more border – a nice wide one – maybe 5 inches deep.  In red?  Then it will be extra cosy for our bed.   And even more suited to being tossed over a teepee of sticks and opened as a first aid centre :-)

finished corner pegs chickens with the chickenTomorrow – with the forecast filled with grey and rain – I shall find this quilt a blanket, turn the kitchen radio to Classic FM, eat more mandarines, and get squiggling.  It will be a lovely winter’s day.

~ loveliness found ~ 11/52

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 or share a link to your place!

prettiness of seams

little bit of stitching

~ making some time to put one little square of fabric with another
& finding just as much prettiness in the finished piece’s
thickly layered seams as the richly pieced front ~

clouds that hsve been piped into place

~ marvelling over clouds that look as if they’ve been made of
a good, stiff icing & then piped into place ~

knitting

~ allowing the peace of knitting to soothe my frazzled nerves ~

abbys new craft project

~ full of awe and admiration for Abby’s latest crafty experiments
this time, iron on paper transfers ~

boxes of photos

family photos

 ~ so grateful for my lovely, lovely Julian who has spent the best part
of his weekend scanning in hundreds of my funny old family photos
providing me with heaps of giggles and lovely moments of “ohhhh ...” ~

abby restaurant

bento box

~ after twelve days of everything Australian, we celebrate the end of a lovely
homestay experience with a little bit of local Japanese ~

casting on second sleeve

car knitting
~ making the most of long drives in the car, very much needed airconditioning
& obliging/long suffering daughters  ~

cosy inside pouring rain outside

~ giving thanks for an afternoon of good drenching rain,
whilst enjoying the warmly lit cosiness of inside ~

swedish folkart

~ relishing the creativity shared in this bloggy community
Kate’s new/vintage Swedish folk art book …
& dreaming of ways to interpret such quirkiness ~

leftovers for breakfast

eggs

~ the feathered girls swoon over homemade pesto pasta for breakfast,
& I almost cry with relief/joy that they have recovered
enough of their oomph to lay an egg ~

lost thongs
soft

~ putting a pair of abandoned/lost thongs to good use
on a late evening, soft, grey beach wander ~

battling the red queen

Winston had his black dog.  I have my red queen.  Melodramatic I know.  But Kim, you hit the nail on the head yesterday when you commented on hormones.  Part of me truly hates to say this … I feel as if I am playing into every patronising, patriarchal notion of the hysteria of women … but, before the tangible arrival of the red queen each month, she sneaks up on me with poisoned sceptre and my spirits plunge from really cheerful and energetic to horribly glum and slothful.  And, as I age, I’ve noticed the pitch becoming ever more obvious.

When I feel the sadness descend, at first, it feels as if life is grinding to a halt.  Everything around me seems difficult, I become so focussed on what’s inside my head rather than the everyday loveliness and normality of what’s around me.  Then I remember to remind myself, no.  This is just my period about to arrive.  This feeling will last a day or two (hopefully not three), and then I will bounce back and everything will be perfectly doable again.  And it is.

I’ve even come to the realisation that I have to share with Julian and Abby.  They are so sweet – they smile sympathetically, nod knowingly.  It’s a secure feeling, knowing that they know.  And I don’t just fall down into a heap.  Instead, I plough on with everyday things.  Waiting for it to pass.  So that’s what I’ve been doing the last few days.  I’ve MADE myself cook dinner.  MADE myself make the bed.  MADE myself vacuum.  These things don’t banish the red queen, but they give me a small feeling of competence and control.

Yesterday morning, I started at Ceres – and it was sooooo good.  I spent a lovely morning in the autumn sun, harvesting the last of the little tomatoes, making up plumply fragrant bunches of basil for the market, pulling out the spent cucumber plants and chopping up the remaining, battered cucumbers for the chickens.  It was very therapeutic with so much to learn, the people lovely, and I’m looking forward to next week.

dutch cream potsbasil

When I could feel myself becoming VERY frazzled, yesterday afternoon, I slipped out into our back garden with some handquilting.  Letting the needle slide in and out, and in and out.  Feeling the lovely cool breeze of the much longed for change wash over me.

yarn and scissors

made some linesedges

 

Listening to the increasingly crunchy leaves rustle.  Noticing our little feathered girls regaining some of their confidence and feathers, as they chatter and bustle about, delighted with their succulent, seedy cucumbers.

bits of brown

cucumberswahts this

nogs funny feathers

Last night, I finished one book – Sally Vicker’s new novel “The Cleaner of Chartres” which I loved – Agnes is such an endearing character and the setting is beautiful.  And had a long, warm, sweetly scented bath with a new book – Beth Gutcheon’s “More Than You Know” – utterly different time and place and story, but certainly intriguing thus far.

Do you find your hormones wreaking havoc on your emotional state?  What does it feel like for you? What helps you move through these times?  Do you hate admitting it!?

 

fox

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!

Oh my.

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.

 

at last, the party …

… and oh what fun we had!  The day bloomed bright and hot and as I stumbled sleepily into the early morning kitchen,  needing to bake and ice the birthday biscuits, the beauty of the world outside my window filled me with such anticipation.  I LOVE birthday parties :-)

By the alloted time,  a friendly fellow stood by the porch, waiting to greet the guests … why it’s Turnip Head! Gigglingly crafted by Abby, Emma and finally, because of his extra whacking of the stake into the ground skills – Julian.

Then it was off to the back garden …

… where the early arrivals garnered the shady spots, the birthday girl (trickily disguised as Totoro) finally took her place upon her birthday “throne” …

and even the iced biscuits sweated on a hot, hot, hot afternoon …

Wonderful, silly party games were enjoyed by all … there was “goldfish” catching – a traditional Japanese game in which we substituted grape tomatoes for the goldfish and chopsticks for the nets …

Another Japanese favourite was accompanied by hoots of laughter and shrieks of horror … blindfolded watermelon bashing …

the end result of which was thoroughly enjoyed by both the fluffy and the feathery …

Then, as the heat intensified (serious Melbourne heat folks with that scorching, dry, wilting wind tumbling in from the north west) these gorgeous girlies settled on the picnic quilts under the oak for the less rambunctious games – guess that quotation (all from Studio Ghibli films) and celebrity heads (ditto!)

After prizes were won and eaten before they too could melt, the girls headed back to the table for sushi …

… and finally, admitting defeat, into the relative cool of the house.  Origami was folded, the birthday cake was lit sang to and gobbled up,  studio ghibli films were watched, eight girls and two excited doggles slept on the floor of the family room – chattering and laughing well into the wee hours of the morning.

I stood in the kitchen, their merriment filling my heart,  No-Face and the spirit statues observing me quietly from the garden …

Oh  I was hot and weary but there was a second, icy cold beer in my hand, my husband and mother by my side, and nine very happy teenagers in my home.  The birthday party that took so long in coming had been very very well worth the wait.

the fullness of tuesday


I’m a girl who works best to a deadline.  Provide me with long, endless days of no commitments – nothing to do except exactly as I please – and I am all a dither.  On the rare instances that this happens, I mooch about, lost and lonely, waiting for the rest of my family to come home.  Yep, give me hours on end of “me time” and I usually end up with not much to show for it.

But give me a cut off – must leave the house by 3.25 at the screamingly latest – and I am a flurry of activity.  Such is a Tuesday.  We start early – orchestra rehearsal for the cellist in the family starts at 7.30pm – and by 7.45, I have every minute until school pickup for the little girlies packed full.

Today, it was gloriously sunny and silly hot – a day of energy and promise – and oh I had plans!  Of a line full of washing sparkling in the sun, a quick whip around the shops, fresh summery starts in the kitchen garden, the preparing of food for tonight’s supper (to be put on by Abby before I return home from babysitting) and some more for those suppers when none of us want to cook, podge for the feathered folk, bread that rose like a tall tale, second coffees on the front porch with my very first issue of the delicious Molly Makes (oh my! this magazine is so me, me, me!), and some super quick skirt making in a quirky dachshund fabric that makes me smile and think of my dear little Toph.

Oh I made the most of every second.  There is some sweet chicken scratch that could be stitched whilst collapsed on the sofa, but you know, now, all I can think of is a nice bubbly soak in the tub and an early bed.  A fit ending to a full day.

 

today i’m loving ..

.. wiggling out a new space for a crafting spot for Abby
- in the family room, by the window
- the cedar desk was hard rubbish thrifted from down the street
- the top is put together with reclaimed floorboards
from an old community of arts hall in northern NSW,
bought & kindly cut to size from these very lovely and knowledgeable fellows..

.. busy chooks, scratching through the mint patch
- which reminds me
there’s more chook proofing yet to be done to the garden ..

.. the tidiest bedroom I’ve seen in months
& it’s mostly vacuumed too ..

.. julian’s hard rubbish find – a set of six chrome chairs
- he’s scrubbing them down with a fine steel wool
& taking them into their new office space ..

.. a little girlie who asked if we could tidy up the courtyard
as the most fun thing she could think of to do
during her afternoon with us
- she even left a little floral arrangement
on the table so it would look extra nice when Julian came home ..

.. looking up with laughter to see that Fu was watching us
from the spare ‘oom bed ..

.. my all-time favourite scent of jasmine
- the ultimate sign that spring is on its way
- so pervasive that it even manages to disguise
the permanent smell of rat pee in the man shed ..
(what? your man shed doesn’t smell of rat pee? huh!)

.. baby-sitting that provides so much more
than just extra dollars in the weekly purse
- two “only” girls enjoying the cosiness of big & little

.. watching my unwanted table, placed neatly on the front footpath,
leave in less than 5 minutes with a gentleman
who first joined me in the garden to politely enquire
whether I was sure I no longer needed it ..

.. then turning back to see this ..

.. & knowing that when I walk in,
I shall be surrounded by warmth, love & happiness ..

 

 

sunday

Oh pretty sky!  You are such a welcome sight :-)

The sunniest spot is mine …

… with my feathery and furry critters close by …

… and a hat, ’cause it’s so darn sunny!

Julian’s bike twirls from the hills hoist in the sunlight, sparkling like a steampunk mobile …

The potato plants have doubled in size and are stretching out their leggy heads to catch more of the light.

Instead of hot tea, there’s lemony water by my feet …

And a tray for my almost-finished-steeking supplies … it’s taking soooo long.  I am repeatdly picking up stitches, adding in MC and then breaking it off, knitting on the wrong side here and then the right side there.  And because I only have one 4.5mm circular needle, there’s a lot of threading and unthreading waste yarn.  It’s one of those games that I’m so unfamiliar with, I’m all thumbs and stops and starts!

But look below … can you spy a finished steek sandwich!  Yep – and there’s no sign of anything falling apart – amazing!

Thank goodness for slow, sunny weekends at home with my family.  They make the long, dreary winter weeks bearable.

steadily

Every moment, think steadily to do what thou hast in hand
with perfect and simple dignity,
and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice;
and to give thyself relief
from all other thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius, Book II, Meditations

So that is what we did today.  After several days of both tumult and peace, I looked at what needed to be done and with my daughter by my side, we did it.

The potatoes were fenced (from the marauding chickens), as was the herb garden (ditto!)

The guinea pig/rabbit enclosure was completely shovelled out, refreshed with sweet smelling straw and the guineas were given a pedicure and bath.

The garden was raked, and raked and raked and then raked some more.  Order was restored, what needed to be put away, was put away.

Seeds were planted … an optimistic start on the spring crop!

The chickens’ coop was also shovelled out and refreshed whilst the chickens danced cheerfully about my feet.

By the time we were done, the winter layers were stripped down and our legs tired.  But oh we were pleased as we surveyed the neatness.  It was achieved simply and with affection.  There too was much relief from all other thoughts.  Marcus knew what he was on about.

The sky darkened, we dragged our weary but cheerful selves indoors to warmth and comfort, a little drawing, a little embroidery, good music, the baking of chocolate chip cookies for tomorrow’s school lunch, and upon Julian’s arrival home, deserved boasting and a torchlit tour of our efforts in the garden followed by several rounds of after dinner “trouble”.

Today was good and I am thankful.

 

a wee quilt for the bread

I know.  I know.  A quilt for the bread?!

Jane, one of my students from many suns ago,  told me that her mum so loved quilts she had made them for all the pets as well as family members.  These were country folk so I’m guessing there were a lot of pet quilts.

I was incredulous.  How could you ever be so mad as to make quilts for the pets?  They would get dirty!  They could be wrecked!  Yes, I was young.  Naive.  Truly hadn’t realised the depths that could be plumbed when you have a fetish for buying large, expensive lengths of fabric and cutting them into pretty scraps so that you can then spend hours sewing them back together.

Now, I can say … Hello, my name is Lily and not only have I made pet quilts, but today, I made a quilt for the bread.

I was putting away the fruit and veg and groceries.  Practicing making and drinking tea with tea leaves in a pot, rather than with one of those “vulgar” teabags.  Trying to be more elegant and all.  And there was last night’s loaf of bread.  Sitting on the bread board. Looking so forlorn and … well … downright unprotected.   It needed something. Something pretty – and you know, I try to live by William Morris’ maxim … “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Ah!  You might remember.  Didn’t you make a bread bag a few years back?  With an appliqued dresden plate?  I did.  But, I made a really yucky fruit loaf a few months back that was so hard and dry we didn’t want to eat it, and then forgot about it, as it sat there atop the fridge … going mouldy.  Yep … the dresden plate bread bag ended up stuck to the unloved fruit loaf with mould.  Eww!

Today, two 49c Ikea tea towels and a few scraps of fabric later … and we have a quilted bread bag.  Oh the bread was so happy.  It glowed with relief as I tucked it in and pulled that red drawstring tight.  And now the bread is hanging in the kitchen, with those two layers of teatowel and a wee quilt (batting and all) keeping it that little bit fresher and happier.  This baggy quilt is both useful and beautiful – Mr. Morris would approve :-)

As for the chickens … they watched the bread quilt photo shoot with undisguised and loud envy.  They’ve now declared, being unionised and all, that if they don’t get a quilt for their nest asap, they will be forced to escape and find Jane’s mum.  She’ll make them one.

p.s.  I literally pulled these scraps out of a cupboard – first three would do – and now so love the combination – gingerbread brown, primaryschool blue, and 1930s yellow – that I just know that there will be hours spent at fatquartershop this evening, creating similar combinations in my shopping cart!  Good thing I can’t remember the new paypal password!

 

weekending

ahhh … a long weekend.  Such bliss.  We are …


:: cooking and eating our way through Hugh’s new cookbook – Veg – though Abby is not sure the recipes could be considered authentic Hugh seeing as he has lost his curly mop!

:: casting loving and longing looks at the two new gorgeous skeins of wool that found their way to Bootville on Friday – Beaverslide for arm warmers and Araucania for socks (red socks to wear with my newly dresdenised skirt!)

:: finishing the first sock and frantically knitting the second so that I may dive into that afore mentioned gorgeous wool

:: counting the emerging spring beans and hoping for magical ones

:: spending the afternoon in the garden with Julian, Abby and the feathered girls, still marvelling at the beautiful eggs they present us with every day, and watching with an amused and careful eye as Fu learns that she may WATCH the chickens, she may FOLLOW the chickens about, she may even SHARE their podge (when they let her – Benny has no qualms standing up to Fu) but she may not TOUCH the chickens – those chickens are OURS not hers.

:: wondering why it is that MY feet turn black when gardening in my old chewed up crocs, whereas Julian’s feet stay clean?

:: turning today’s eggs into pasta – and pondering the pasta drying rack Julian’s finally constructed me after 10 years of whining :-)

Wishing you a lovely weekend with those you love – and plenty of what you love too …

 

chickens heart watermelon

She doesn’t look too sad, to be tied up, does she?

It’s just what has to happen when the girls are out and about.  With one of us sitting there with the doggy girl – she’s not immune to a sudden, hopeful lunge if one of the chooks comes too close.  Mind you, all those wings a-flappin’ and scaly feet a-stumblin’ is enough to make Fu back off quick.  That and a quick yank on the leash :-)

Otherwise, it’s inside for Fu and the girls get to wander in blissful peace.  Oh they love it so.  Their run is very roomy – with two big trees for shade, lots of good digging and grabbling opportunities.  And their coop is very sheltered.  But nothing beats a stroll around the lush green summer grass of the backgarden.

Especially when there’s watermelon on offer.  Chickens just LOVE watermelon.  Mum told me last night that her Grandad – old Grandad Lyons – used to regularly chop up watermelon for his girls – in big chunks so there was hours of juicy sweet entertainment until all that was left was a thin green rind.  Seems not even the chickens like the rind :-)

And Fu?  Well, even she let down her guard in the end …

… until they were back inside the run that is.  Then SHE ate the green rinds.  ’Cause she’s in charge you know :-)