magical mystery bay

looking out to montague island

It just goes to show what a difference a tide can make.  Last week we ventured up to magical Mystery Bay.  Abby’s first time – only our second.  And this afternoon the tide was waaaaaaay out.  Oh – it was an utterly different landscape.  Even more enchanting.  Montague Island was crisper – especially through Mum’s wonderful new binoculars – and almost enticing to me who is terrified of boats.  There was a funny gathering of birds on the far rocks – perched right on the jagged edge with their wings fluffed out like butterflies as if they were trying to catch treasures from the wind as it passed them by.  There were rock pools galore – worlds for miniature people, mermaids, pirates, their ships and treasure.  And the green.  Oh the green.  Sharp rocky fields of it.  It was thick, velvety and so beautiful, turning the broken rocky landscape into an aerial landscape of lush green hills and valleys.

fields of green

miniature mountain rounge

looking for shells

Mum searched for shells and driftwood … and made little movies with her iPhone to send to Grandad so many thousands of kilometres away.  He loved it – especially the roar of the waves.

watching the birds

inspecting needelpointing

Abby watched the birds, inspected the sea’s washed up relics … and eventually settled down on the park bench to needlepoint.  Oh my, she’s her mother’s daughter, isn’t she :-)

washing

I – being the only one with bare feet and legs – explored the rock pools and was made chief shell washer.  As I picked my way over the vivid green rocks and through the sun warmed pools, my mind was full of stories and plans to make the little felt people that could play them.

Wee fisher folk who catch the tiny, darting sparkling fish with the finest of fishing lines and nets.  Rock fairies who dwell in the deep holes of the steep, black rocks – like the cave homes of ancient China – decorated with the soft pinks and greens of the rock pool gardens.  Their little children who gather the sea snails and race them along the slippery rocks as the tide first slips away.  Tiny but fierce pirates who know all the routes in and out of the miniature bays, hiding their treasure in the sharp crevices of dagger like cliffs. And plenty of merfolk who dart about the rock pool gardens, tending to the sea weeds and coral, and collecting the soft green moss for their beds.

rock pools

sea gardens

like a model for pirates

washed up seedy thing crab underwater ponytail

blue bottle

I haven’t yet thought of a role for the blue bottles.  There were plenty – such an amazing array of sizes and shapes but all with that exquisite colour.  Always makes me think of the laundry “blue” that my Nanny Dougall kept to brighten the whites.

Doesn’t this just make you think of a face!? A sea troll who was caught out by the sun, doomed to squat there by the water’s edge for long centuries, the fierce, battering waves slowly wearing him away.  First his limbs, then his body until all that is left is his surprised face until it too is no more, his story forever washed away.

is that not a fac

Of course, this just has to be the bony spine of a long ago sea monster who was washed up one stormy night, too scared to crawl any further up the sand, to weak to return to his home in the sea.

spine

Mum and I are both especially fond of the fragments of sponge and coral that are washed up, drained of their colour and life, but still so very very pretty …

hunting for garden treasure texture funny critter sea witch hand chimeys
treasures lovely greys and sands me

And then, with the sun beginning to set, it was time to bump across this spindly, old beauty and head for home.  Isn’t it such a delightful bridge.  It’s wooden and rattly with the lake on either side filled with the most glorious of reflections, black swans, herons and egrets.  Picture perfect every time.

bridge home

Another magical day on the Sapphire Coast.  Oh I am so looking forward to when it is my home.

hoppity-hoppity

Well!  You’ll need to settle down with a lovely cup of something to read this one!  The lovely and creative Rebecca of Needle and Spindle asked me to participate in this little bloggity hop, where we get to ramble on about the whole creative process as it fits into our lives.  It’s taken me hours to collect all these thoughts and put them down in some kind of order, but I do hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did thinking about it, and perhaps it will add a little light to the creative chaos that is so often on display here at block-a-day :-) And once you’ve ploughed your way through this, you can follow the links back to read how other lovely, like minded folk approach their craft.  It makes for inspiring reading.

What am I working on?

I always have so many different projects on the go.  I adore planning a new project, and starting it provides a thrill that literally makes me smile and jig about and even squeal a little.  But finishing – well, I can honestly say, it just doesn’t give me the same zing. Bizarre but true.  I am definitely more seduced by the crafty doing than the crafty finish. Is this a good thing or not?  At the moment I think it’s a good thing.  Starting new projects is my way of recording all the ideas that swirl around my head.  And you know, giving these started projects lots of time to marinate – moving them in and out of the doing zone – gives me a chance to refine them, improve them, adapt them to new purposes.  All good things.

purple knitting

So – what am I working on?  On the knitting front, I am currently knitting my Mum a grey and red stripey jumper (that has to be finished in time for her to take to Canada at the beginning of December), my Abby a vivid purple Lopi jumper that it is now too hot to wear (ah, there’s always next year), my Julian an argyle vest (truth be told, those needles haven’t been touched for months!), and a cinnamon coloured cardigan for myself that has a fair isle band around the chest and upper sleeves.

Patchwork – definitely the black, mustard and turquoise triangles.  Started as a simple star that has just kept on growing and growing and growing.  It really is quite addictive.  And everytime I think, that’s it! no more rounds! I find another piece of lovely fabric and quickly start cutting.  And my Spring House version of the Winter House.  And my fox faces.

mustard and black winter house

fox faces

Embroidery – Working on my Norwegian Queen.  I got heaps and heaps done last week in Merimbula and am really pleased with her progress.  I’m keen to finish this one, because then I want to make a Norwegian King!  I’ve also dragged out my Hawk Run Hollow Village cross stitch – quite the epic project.

cross stitch cross stitch box

Applique – oh the fox chair!  I am completely in love with the fox chair.  It’s been slow going but very very satisfying.

fox face

Upholstery – Putting hessian, lace and cross stitch together to recover an old English Oak card chair I found by the side of the road.

appliqued chair

Crafty – I’ve recently bought Salley Mavor’s book “Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects” and oh, it is truly enchanting :-)  I’ve just made a wee doll of Lucifer – he’s part of a Michaelmas mobile – he’s been pushed out of heaven and is suspended amongst the starts and blackberry leaves and berries.  I foresee many many more of these little folk.  They are such fun to make.

felt doll

Sewing – tshirts and skirts for summer.  My first two tshirts- great successes – shrank when I washed them.  So they’ve been handed down to Mum’s lovely neighbour and I’m now a devoted preshrinker.

skirt and tshirt

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the thing that really defines my work is my lack of concern for perfection or the “right” way of doing things.  Soon after I became really interested in making in my mid 20s, I became obsessed with things being perfect.  Lines had to be dead straight.  Corners had to be precise.  Errors were intolerable.  Evidence that it had been MADE rather than conjured up out of the air meant I had failed.  And I didn’t think anything I made could stand up to being touched or used by anyone. It was horrible.  Stressful for everyone – I remember a friend taking me for a walk through the university garden one lunch time to show me that there were no straight lines in nature.  And my husband declared that if something I made couldn’t be USED than it simply wasn’t of any use.  After a few years of this my making ground to a halt because I knew I could not make things perfectly.  I decided that the only craft I was any good at was cross stitch – making those little crosses neatly on strictly gridded fabric met my need for order and the perfect finish.  I literally gave all my wool and knitting needles to my Nanny and declared that I would have to save my few finished quilt tops up until I could afford to pay an expert to quilt them. It was all rather crushing.

Then, after finding the bloggy world of making and being so utterly inspired by so many incredibly talented people, I began making again.  I also began blogging  and strangely enough, that encouraged me to just keep going.  There was always a new blog post to be written ;-) I began playing with many different techniques and genres and it was so fun that I slowly let go of that perfection.  I wanted to be a maker – a sewer, a knitter, a crocheter, a doll maker, a patchworker, a quilter, an appliquer … I really worked at teaching myself that the beauty of making was in the making.  I didn’t want to be a passive observer, I wanted to actively create.

quilting

So my seams are not perfectly straight and my points are sometimes missing. I cheerfully re-chop things if they don’t fit, and if I realise I’ve missed something on the pattern I can usually rejig it so it works. My quilting is higgledy-piggledy and I never bother with batting and backing (vintage blankets all the way).  I don’t care what patchwork fabrics are the latest or what colour background the cool quilters are using.  I cheerfully make my clothes out of old tablecloths and curtains.  My quilts are made from fabrics gathered here, there and everywhere.  My knitting is almost always dictated by what my local yarn store has dug up for the bargain basement this week.  My furniture is gathered from the side of the road and brought back to life with elbow grease and Danish oil.

blanket quilting

I just keep swimming the Lily way and when I’m finished, what I’ve loved making is free to be used and worn and dragged and squashed and crumpled up and that’s all good.  If the candlewax drips onto the appliqued table cloth that’s fine.  If the armhole stitches are wonky – so what, the jumper is still eminently wearable and cosy.  If the little visitor dirties the felt doll, oh well, it looks loved.  I don’t even blink when Mum’s old dog pees on my quilt or our dog wipes her chicken wing juicy chin on my crochet floor rug.

cushion in the sand

That’s not to say my work is clumsy or I am careless.  But I think handmade needs to flow in a way that fits in with everything else that is going on.  It’s not a precious art form that I set aside a few hours for each day/week or a finished item that needs to be guarded.  My work is simply part of our lives, often created amongst the dishes we’ve just eaten from on the kitchen table, and as such, never needs to be perfect or cosseted.  Just lovely. And useful is good too.

Why do I write and create the way I do?

You might have noticed,  I have no problem with writing on and on and on (I have never been able to write to a word limit – such a constant problem with my academic work :-) and whilst my punctuation is sometimes erratic, my style is rather formal. But, this being my blog, I can write however I like.  And I think it probably reflects both the constant chatter in my head, and my love of richly detailed, more old fashioned literature (oh Charles Dickens – you can take as many pages as you like to describe a house!) Honestly, I do talk to myself most of the time.  I think it comes from spending a lot of time at home alone – first as a stay at home mum, and now living in Melbourne where I have no family or friends to visit.  Instead, I potter about, doing the chores, looking after Abby and Julian, writing essays, or making – a constant stream of quiet chatter keeping me company. Describing what I see around me, what I could do next, how I could proceed with a project, what tack I’ll take on a paper, what I’ll talk about with Abby when I collect her from school, what I’ll write about on the blog, what’s infuriating me in the news, what my worries are for the future …  And so my writing reflects this same tumbling chatter.  If you were sitting here beside me, I would sound exactly the same in person as I do in writing :-)

Why do I create the way I do – hmmm … I like to do things the old fashioned way.  I don’t like our society’s emphasis on new and modern, fashionable and sophisticated, fleeting and disposable.  My grandmothers and mum taught me the basics of all my making.  Nanny Cottam taught me to knit when I was 8, crochet in my teens, and her love of patchwork inspired me when I was in my early 20s.  We went to classes together and have spent countless days side by side at her place, running up clothes, curtains, sofa covers, patchwork etc. on the machine, looking through magazines and books together, plotting our next projects and purchases … my dear old Nanny Cottam is without doubt the most important creative force in my life.  Her admonition when the going gets tricky “Now, let’s just sit down and we’ll have a quiet look at it” will guide my creativity for the rest of my days.

Nanny Dougall – who sadly died when I was just 11 – is another huge influence in my life.  She was the queen of making do, making from scratch, using what she had, and appreciating beauty.  She taught me to handsew when I was little – we made a wee doll’s quilt from little squares from her stash.  She started me on my embroidery career – first with making wonky white crosses on blue gingham, then moving on to a Holly Hobbie embroidery kit.  And whilst we cared for her during her last weeks, she taught me to make pompoms – I was so amazed with their cleverness.  My little sister and I were devastated to wake up one morning and find that she’d died overnight – she was going to teach us to crochet that day.  But whilst I never had the chance to spend the time with her that I have with Nanny Cottam, it is what she left me that helps shape my creativity.  I have her crochet books, her carefully embroidered doilies, the beautifully crocheted and knitted jumpers and cardigans she made us, the fabric scraps she gathered, the spools of crochet yarn she inherited from her mother, pieces of pretty china, her piano stool, her tin chest.  She appreciated what she had, she carefully gathered what was important to her, and she celebrated beauty.

And then there’s my Mum.  She’s an exceptional seamstress.  She sewed all our clothes when we were little and most of them when we were older.  She sewed my school uniforms, my ball gowns, my  pregnancy clothes, Abby’s bunny rugs … There has always been a sewing machine set up in the centre of the home, ready to go.  Everything we’ve ever seen and liked is matched to the refrain “We could make that”.  Mum gave me the invaluable belief that we could make whatever we needed or wanted, and we could make it beautifully.  She also let me make stupid things really badly.  When I insisted that WAS what the Vogue pattern said to do, she just shrugged her shoulders and said “alright” and I wore the jumpsuit with the lining sewed in with  the seams visible and fraying.  That was awesome parenting Mum!

So yep.  I’m wordy, old fashioned, hopelessly sentimental, determined to do it for myself, and yearn for the days of old when people DID things instead of simply shopped for things.

How does my creative process work?

Hmmm … I think my work is very much shaped by my confidence with that particular genre.  When knitting, I tend to stick very carefully to what the pattern says because at this stage in my knitting “career”, I don’t have a good understanding of how knitting patterns are created.  All those shapes and increases and decreases are all a bit of a mystery to me.  I mean, I know how to do them, but I don’t know how to put them together myself.  Thus I am very happy to bow down to the creativity and skill of those that know so much more.  However, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the magic of knitting – how did people come to think of winding yarn around sticks and pulling it in and out in different ways to create all kinds of wonderful stitches and build beautiful, warm, hardy fabric.  I love that.  It makes me feel incredibly connected to something that has intrigued, delighted and protected people for thousands of years.

sewing feet

In most of my other work, my increasing confidence with how things are put together has led me away from the patterns of others.  I like to draft my own patterns and most of my projects are inspired by what I see about me, what my family likes or is doing, and especially thinking up ways to add extra handmade decoration to our home and the festivals we celebrate.  I adore decoration – I remember seeing the film “Carrington” when I was at university in the late 1980s, watching Dora Carrington and her friends embellish everything around them, and thinking yes!  That’s exactly what I want my world/home to be like.  Colourful, rich, detailed, so very connected to the past, unique to me and my family (I have a loathing of the homeware catalogue look) and most importantly handmade.  I want my work to please me and be lovely and useful for my family but I also want it to show the world what it is we love and value.

craft table

The grill door on an Art Deco block of flats in Fitzroy becomes a simple quilt. The photo of a fox in a English rural magazine marries the lovely rounded shape of a hard rubbish chair and becomes a piece of embroidered and appliqued upholstery.  The lovely artwork of my Nanny’s Figgjo china collection inspires me to recreate it as embroidery.  I see a pretty piece of fabric in the shop and wonder what it could be, what it could go with – it can be as simple as wrapping hebel bricks to make a bookshelf or trim a skirt.  A book of antique samplers inspires the start of a huge and complex quilt with hundreds of tiny pieces and seams.  A collection of coloured china on the draining rack makes me want to sew a quilt or knit a stripey jumper capturing just that light and colour.  It comes from everywhere, my creativity

dresser

Most of all, it’s very spontaneous and cheerfully repurposes what was bought for another project because at that moment, it’s the perfectly right thing to do.

Wow!  We made it to the end!  Now.  I am supposed to be linking you to another maker however, with the end of the school term, a quick holiday in Merimbula, and Julian’s departure on a month long work trip to addle my brain, I’ve not lined anyone up.  I’m so sorry.  However, I am sending out some emails right now so I will let you know where to visit next as soon as I can :-)

While you wait – go make something – it’s just so good.

skirt trim.

 

 

the sort of gardening we’re good at

new leaves by my side basket of yarn under dog

Since there’s nary a green finger between us – I’m hoping they’ll grow when we turn our hands to gardening our own land – our best “gardening” is enjoyed in other ways.  With wool, and cotton, and needles, and hooks, and books, and bikes, and tools, and paper, and pencils, and good food, and lovely company.

So, when a magnificent spring day burst forth, that’s just what we did :-)

julian raleigh buds

Out we went, soaking up that sun and warmth.

rabbits lunch

hat crochet sticking out from my chair basket with flowers

And when, at last, the air cooled and the sun dropped, we celebrated the day and the lovely “gardening” we’d enjoyed …

and of day treat

Have I mentioned how much I love spring!

 

if you should happen …

… to swing by Bootville, in the mid-afternoon, when school’s out early, the late winter sun is setting the back garden aglow, and the sweet scent of jasmine is wafting across the grass, don’t knock at the front door.  Come down the side, and through the gate – we’re in the garden!

take off the shoes

kick off your shoes … it’s okay, the dog hasn’t chewed a pair in years.  She’s so grown up now :-)

saved one for you

we’ve saved you a chocolate and raspberry sponge from Aviv’s!

picture book trying to count seeds

pull up a corner on the picnic blanket – we’re reading a lovely new picture book (yes, we still love and buy picture books!).  It’s all about what happens when you decide to throw caution to the wind and dare to do something a bit different.  With fabulous pictures.  And it’s Japanese.  And it’s by Mitsumasa Anno – what a gift to the world he is!

Fu chewing her stick

Fu will come bounding up every few moments to tell you all about a yummy stick she’s just found or an evil pigeon with dastardly plans she was brave enough to chase off.  To protect us, of course.  She’s not afraid of evil and dastardly pigeons.  It’s her job.

pencil case filling a new notebook

Abby’s writing a new story – currently planning out all the characters and locations – so she’ll probably ask you to contribute a name or an occupation – the crazier the better.

playset paper dolls and book

Perhaps you’d like to pull out whatever it is you love to do – bit of knitting, a good book, some stitching. If you’ve come empty handed you’re welcome to play with my new Pride and Prejudice paper dolls.  But I reserve the right to pop them all out.  You can put the stands on – they’re a bit tricksy.

proposals lizie darcy tableau

Aren’t they gorgeous!  And Fu didn’t steal a single one.  I told you she’s getting grown up at last.

writing novel reading

Then, whilst Abby gets down to the nitty-gritty of her tale, I might sneak a peak into my new novel.  You don’t mind do you.  I had to buy it.  As you can see, it’s called “We are all completely beside ourselves”.  This is one of my favourite phrases!  I use it ALL the time.  I am regularly completely beside myself – usually with delight, anticipation, or anxiety.  My response to Abby’s tales of school is usually “Goodness, the teacher must have been beside herself”.  When Mum tells me what the extended family are up to, I reckon they’re completely beside themselves as well.  Even my patients’ families are beside themselves – well of course they are.  As for the patients – they’re usually too sick to be beside themselves.

See – I had to have it.  And it’s by Karen Joy Fowler – I was completely beside myself with delight when I read her “Jane Austen Bookclub” especially when the only guy in the club suggested they read the Master and Commander books.  Practically leapt out of bed I was so beside myself at that point :-)  ”Yes, yes, yes!” I shrieked to Julian, “Of course the Master and Commander books are utterly perfect for the Jane Austen fan.  Karen Joy Fowler and I are kindred spirits!”

“Uh-uh,” he replied.  He very rarely gets beside himself, completely or not.

And when the sun tips just that bit far to the west, and the air becomes colder and damp, we’ll traipse back inside and have a nice cup of tea.  You can choose which Moomin cup you’d like.  If you really want to endear yourself, I’ll let you unpick the remaining 12 windows in my patchwork house that need their curtains hung, whilst I “hang” said curtains.  It will be a lovely afternoon, I promise.

You just have to remember, if it’s mid afternoon and the late winter sun is out and the jasmine’s flowering – we’ll be out the back.

slowly … slowly

There was a sleepless night – we call it “hover sleep” here in Bootville, that kind of sleep where you’re not really asleep, not quite awake, but oh so aware that dawn is creeping closer and closer.  Followed by another early morning, grad year interview – intense occasions after which I can always think of much better ways I could have answered their questions.

The rest of the day needed to move slowly, gently .. with a good dose of uplifting.  And, as is so often the case, such balm was found in the warmth of my kitchen, a little green machine that hums like an old Hornby train set, and a table scattered with fabric.

brewing marmalade marmalade recipe

:: late winter always means pyramids of lovely, juicy oranges – the perfect time for some marmalade brewing.  I’m following a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe which calls for a good overnight soaking.  Slowly, slowly …

marmalade cupcakes

:: not so slowly enjoying yesterday’s Nigel Slater’s marmalade loaf baked into cupcakes – with sultanas because everything tastes extra yummy with sultanas

cabbage mushing the cabbage

:: my first pickling efforts – using Andrea Chesman’s “Pickled Pantry” - my cabbage has been soaking for a few hours after mashing the salt in with my fingers – it’s almost time to add the next ingredients …

new pot

:: a new cast iron pot – bigger than the last!  perfect for slowing cooking a lovely joint – pork, beef, turkey – as long as it’s hot and flavoursome I don’t mind.  But first – this new pot needs a nice slow curing.

jasmine

:: this season’s first posy of jasmine – slowly, slowly spring is tiptoeing in

snape

:: savouring a thick and frothy hot cocoa after school – and still, after all these years, spending our afternoon tea debating Snape’s virtue.  He is hands down my favourite Harry Potter character – alas, Abby will never see it my way :-)

untidy kitchen table

:: things are moving slowly on the kitchen table – it’s looked like this since Friday – but the work has been nonstop!

little pieces

:: there’s only one way all these little seams come together and that’s slowly …

house

… but oh so pleasing.

an iced bun sort of day

lamp

:: lamps were lit very very early

threads delia teddy

:: corners were tidied and reorganised

blanket

:: the perfect vintage blanket was unearthed from the sewing shed

books flowers red and blue

:: mail from Japan was rescued from the leaky mail box, delighted over, and ideas were hatched

machine cotton reel seam spots

:: borders were chopped and stitched and pressed – the material so very pretty it made me wonder what else I could do with it

supper

:: the girlie was collected and supper was shopped for

iced bun:: slices of iced bun were munched and tea sipped as outside yet more and more rain melted into the ground

It was that sort of day :-)

 

rocking chair dreams in a cold house


basket of wool
lopi lamplight christmas pudding

I truly do find that my imagination runs the richest when I’m sitting quietly, hands busy with simple repetitive work.  Slipping the needle up and down, filling in large swathes of background on a needlepoint for hours on end may sound dull to some, but to me – goodness, I can build and decorate a whole farmhouse in this time, let alone plan the garden and name all the animals.

This morning our old house is cold and shadowy.  Abby is buried deeply under her quilts, sick with a sinusy cold.  Julian is working from home in the library.  I’m sitting in the spot most likely to catch a speck of sun, filling in the background of a Kaffe Fasset needlepoint I started when Mum had her eye surgery.  That’s a few years back, but certainly doesn’t make this the oldest needlepoint in my stash – eek!  I was working on it this Christmas past – sitting out on the front porch of Mum’s lovely beachside home – when I decided it would be really rather lovely if I turned it into a circular cushion.  A lot of extra background would need filling, but we’ve already established I enjoy that :-)  So here I sit, the needle slipping up and down and up and down, metres upon metres of 7928 being woven into the canvas.

shadows quilts

And of course,  this got me to dreaming.  Unconnected thoughts and ideas.  Until I hit upon the rocking chair sitting across from me.  Now, Mum and I each bought one of these rocking chairs from the opshop a few months back.  They were a good price and we could imagine all kinds of pretty dressing up. We even bought fabric!  Mum took hers home in pieces and I don’t know that said pieces have yet moved from the garage.  Of course, that could well be because dear Mum spent 5 out of the first 6 months of the year in Brisbane caring for Nanny and Grandad.  After a quick clean, mine was moved into the corner of the living room where I had dreams of gently rocking in lovely comfort whilst doing all those things I like to do.

However – it proved to be a very hard uncomfortable rocking chair and literally hurt my bottom after sitting on it for only a handful of minutes.  Weird I know.  Totally put me off.  All thoughts of reupholstering and painting vanished and the only future I could foresee for this rocking chair was being shoved back into the car and returned to the opshop.

scissors and wool other closeup closeup

And yet today, as I sat needlepointing, I began to think of other needlepoints I wanted to make. Of the loveliness of the soft brown canvas I was working on.  How I needed to order some more from Karen at the Quilters’ Store.  How it was just the right width for the rocking chair across from me.  How it was really quite a pretty rocking chair.  How I could needlepoint it a new cover.  Then I could work some miracles on the seat with a bit of webbing and a good piece of foam.  And then paint the frame that Parisian black with the ever so slightest edges of rubbed gold.

But what to put on the needlepoint … a rural/coastal scene – like those naive scenes of 18th century American artists where segments of the landscape, its buildings, animals and people are tumbled together with no regard for proportion.  A Norfolk pine in the top left hand corner with a kangaroo feeding on the grass below. Green Cape lighthouse in the top right hand corner – with a couple of black swans strutting about.  Merimbula Bay with a lovely whale across the middle.  And a sunrise of course.  A combination of my appliqued hotwater bottle cover and my Whale and her Girl cross stitch pattern.   Then, on the seat – that extra comfortable seat with its webbing and foam –  a farm house with a row of flowering plums – a wombat, some sheep, a bunny or two, an echidna.  Oh yes.

My needle flew faster and faster.  I should order the canvas right now!  I should get to work on the design RIGHT NOW!  I should drag that rocking chair outside THIS MINUTE!

scraps needle on the footstool

Then I sat the current Kaffe needlepoint canvas atop a thrifted foot stool.  Huh!  Perfect fit.  Now that’s a project that could easily be finished in the next week or so.  Then there’s the fox chair just begging for more attention.

Hmmm … perhaps this very very exciting rocking chair revival should be a reward for first finishing off this lovely rich floral piece and the fox chair.  That would be sensible.

So in the name of Elinor’s good sense, as opposed to my usual choice of Marianne’s sensibility,  I’ve jotted down my notes here so I won’t forget.  Maybe I’ll allow myself some fiddling on the computer with the layout.  And meanwhile, I shall keep filling in all that 7928.

Oh yes!  Such good imagining!  I’m so excited!

rocking chair

kitchen day

My it’s so cold at the moment.  Our breath is frosted even in the kitchen (no! don’t give in! don’t give in! leave the heating off!).

But oh it’s so lovely to be home, home, home!  This being day three of my return to a time of quiet and domesticity – and I’m loving it.

Today – it’s been all about the kitchen ….

lentils and cup

:: cooking supper early so that it will be rich, warming and ready for the family when I return home late from babysitting.

pumpkin pleasures

:: trying not to eat all of Julian’s pumpkin pie (sans pastry) one slice at a time.

chair shuffling

:: shuffling chairs – and plotting their repainting for the umpteenth time – so as to tackle some …

quilting

:: kitchen table quilting – the recently thrifted kitchen stools are perfect for quilting – they wind up and down so can be made just the right height – no more stiff neck!

new to us china

:: I shall serve dinner in this little sweetie tonight – also recently thrifted – Mesterkokken “Flamingo” from Norway – from the fabulous Jewish thrift store up the road – they have the best European crockery

needlepoint pattern fiddling

:: fiddling with a new needlepoint pattern – something to soak up the thousands (yes, literally) of skeins of DMC embroidery wool I’ve recently “accumulated” – and baffled as to why it’s skewif – huh!

repurposing chelves

:: gloating over the repurposing of a hard rubbish bookcase – has been sitting on the front porch with sneakers on it for the last 2 years – perfect fit for the end of the kitchen table – and perfect for all the pretty and useful things (clutter, says Julian) I like to keep handy :-)

erzgebirge

:: smiling each time I catch a glimpse of these dear little napkin rings – can’t decide whether to use them straightaway – save them for special occasions – or just wait until we have 3 so we can ALL delight in their sweetness (will Julian really care if he has a plain silver one? probably not)

alison lester

:: so pleased to have found these placemats I made – oh, 16 years ago – from an old Alison Lester calendar.  I think they need a couple more coats of sealer before we use them.  Add to the to do list.

she likes

:: my little furry companion.  She longs for toast and crepes and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie and onions and carrots and mushrooms and speck and sausages and left over roast potatoes and … and … and … pretty much any food that touches my hands.

The perfect kitchen – in the gorgeous Bega Valley of course –  is something I regularly dream of – and collect pictures of and plot and plan with Julian and Abby and Mum.  It will have huge windows, and a wooden burning stove, and a set of window shelves facing the sun for herbs, and comfy chairs for cosying and cook book browsing and radio listening, and a walk in pantry, and a pretty white sink with a fabulous tap, and glass fronted cabinets for our glassware and china, and a cork floor (I LOVE cork), and loads of bench space, and the perfect spot for each appliance …

But right now, when there’s a lovely long stretch of days (weeks! months!) before me with not much to do but care for my family, this little kitchen here in Melbourne will do me just fine :-)

following the little mountain’s footsteps

vegie garden chilies

It’s been a bit of a crazy time here in Bootville lately.  My poor old Grandad has had quite the year, suffering a heart attack in January then a stroke in April.  There have been many trips to Brisbane, quite a bit of extended family angst, and many big changes.  Through it all, my lovely Mum has dedicated more than 20 weeks out of the last 26 to caring for Nanny and Grandad – something she does with inspiring patience and love.  She has lived with them – first Nanny and Grandad, whilst Grandad recovered from his heart attack; then with Nanny, whilst Grandad spent many long weeks in rehab following his stroke.

Every day she helped Nanny up, prepared her breakfast, helped her dress, did the chores, arrived at the hospital just before lunch so she could chat with Grandad’s therapists and physicians, help Grandad with his lunch, back home to Nanny, make Nanny’s lunch, do the laundry (always lots when someone’s in hospital), do any shoppings, sometimes take Nanny on little outings, start supper preparations, back up to the hospital, help Grandad with supper, settle him cosy in bed for the night, back home to Nanny, share supper, support Nanny and listen into the wee hours of the morning, as Nanny navigated this strange and unsettling new time in her life, send off the daily family update to our aunts and uncles and cousins who are scattered across the world, then to bed, always with an ear cocked to make sure Nanny was okay and didn’t need help.

In amongst this, new living arrangements had to be sorted for Nanny and Grandad, and the awkward and sad process of packing up Nanny and Grandad’s home began.  I’m in awe of my Mum and the grace and the strength with which she navigated these tricky waters.  Nanny and Grandad are now safe and comfortable in their new home.  But wow, there has been a significant toll on the extended family and I doubt things will ever return to the way they were.  At many times, I found myself grinding my teeth as I contemplated the strange and fraught family relationships that have emerged.

But this period has also seen a strengthening of the closeness between Mum and her lovely sisters Mary, Cate and Jackie.  Their love and the passion with which they advocated for their mum and dad was often the one light of many difficult weeks.  As I write, Mum, Mary and Cate are there in Brisbane – they’ve packed the last boxes of Nanny and Grandad’s precious treasures and pieces of Nanny and Grandad’s furniture are being shared amongst the siblings – visiting with Nanny and Grandad, taking them on wee adventures, making peace with this new phase of their old and frail parents’ lives.

I know I’m so very very priviliged to be a 44 year old who still has her Nanny and Grandad and I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful times we have shared with them – many, many happy, funny, silly, creative, adventurous and beautiful memories.  But there’s still a little bit of me that feels a sense of loss.  The family home – that has been recreated wherever Nanny and Grandad have lived (they were irrepressible adventurers) – is now no more.  The familiar and comfy velvet armchairs and sofa with the old standard lamp softly glowing – lighting the stitches of countless knitted jumpers and crocheted rugs.  The long heavy dining table with all the chairs – so as to squash in as many children and grandchildren for Nanny’s feasts of pumpkin soup, roasts and sponge cake, as possible.  The elegant dresser, its glass doors illuminating Nanny’s treasured Lottie collection.  The twin beds with their electric blankets – oh my, how Janie and I loved these as little girls, arriving on cold dark nights after the long drive south.  Nanny’s fabulous sewing table and her trusty Bernina.  Grandad’s hall stand with his Akubra hat and walking stick.  His outdoor cupboards stuffed full of all the handy little things he MIGHT one day need.  The old fashioned kerosene lamps he used to light each night on the back porch so he and Nanny could sip their evening drink whilst looking out at their garden.  All of these will colour my stories and memories for many more years to come – but we will never gather there again as a family, with that wonderfully comfortable sense of familiarity and belonging.

In amongst all of this, Mum came down to Melbourne to help Abby and I prepare for Abby’s debut.  Yes!  The Debutantes’ Ball is alive and well here in our corner of Melbourne :-) Abby needed a long white ball gown with elbow length gloves.  It was such a blast!  And part of these preparations involved MAKING the dress for which we needed Mum’s overlocker – which was at home in Merimbula.  So, two weekends before the ball, Mum and I hopped in the car and set off for home.  The first time she’d been home in over two months.  We took our time – soaked up as much sun as we could, marvelled at the ocean’s beauty, visited with sweet neighbours and of course, headed up to Tilba for cheese … and a little, late afternoon adventure to a new for us spot  - Mystery Bay!

down to the sea

Now Tilba is a wee village nestled into the side of Mount Gulaga – a very spiritual place for the local Aboriginal people.  And I’ve been told a really beautiful story about this Mother Mountain and her children.  Mother Gulaga had two sons – Baranguba and Najanuga.  One day, they asked if they could go play – Mother Gulaga said yes, but reminded them not to go too far because the sea would come in soon.  Najanuga – the smaller son, obeyed and played just a little in front of Mother Gulaga’s feet – he is now the small rocky hill that sits between Tilba and the ocean.  Baranguba – the older son – ran out to the ocean where he laid down amongst the fish and the dolphins and the whales – and there he stayed, a rocky island visited by local Aborigines in their canoes for thousands of years – we now call him Montague Island and it is a seabird refuge with a lighthouse.  Legend has it that the bond between Mother Gulaga and Baranguba was never broken, and if you stand quietly on her summit and press your ear to her rocks, you can hear the dolphins as they play around Baranguba, her adventurous child.  A Tilba local also told me that ANU scientists, studying the hundreds of underground springs and streams in the area, put dye into the springs on Mount Gulaga and sure enough, the same dye came out in streams and ponds on Montague Island.  Local Aborigines refer to these sources of fresh water on a rocky ocean crop as Mother Gulaga’s tears.  Amazing!  I love stories such as these, and the rich and meaningful connections Aboriginal culture makes with its landscape.

You can just make out Montague Island in that photo above.  It does indeed look like a person stretched out sleeping.  But you can get a much better view of it from Mystery Bay.  So – despite the cold and encroaching sunset, down we went.  There were a few brave souls on the beach – some fishermen, two women riding horses, and a few children digging in the sand.  It is an incredibly beautiful spot.  The bay is littered with large sharp rocks and to the north side, a collection of caves, hollowed out from the cliffs.  Very Famous Fivish.

fisherman patterns in the sand rocky montague island standing on the point a clash of waves sea jewells sunkissed rock moon two little rock children the next little inlet the caves sunset

It was a beautiful, if fleeting, visit and I’m so looking forward to taking Julian and Abby back there on a glorious summer’s day.  The Far South Coast – it just keeps jumping up with more beautiful presents for us every time we visit. According to the neighbours, there’s also a little beach there – Billy’s Beach – that has the best shells ever.  Mum and I didn’t find it – sunsetting and all that. But we will …

fire

And you know – Mum, Mary, Cate and Jackie – as I’ve sat here and written these words, the story of Mother Gulaga and her children seems so very very pertinent.  Even though Najanuba is the one sitting at Mother Gulaga’s feet – the obvious child who didn’t leave.  And even though the ocean has washed in and seemingly cut Mother Gulaga off from her other much loved, adventurous child – Mother Gulaga and Baranguba are inextricably bound.  He can still see her from where he lays in the ocean, admire her strength and beauty, and revel in the courage and love she shared with him as a child.  She too can see him – she knows that he is part of her, that he shares her history, that he reflects her beauty, courage and love.  That long cord that still holds them together will never, can never be truly broken.  Forests and farms may grow up between them.  Waves may crash around them.  Sometimes those dolphin songs may be a bit harder to hear.  But that long and ancient cord is incredibly strong and eternal – they will always be Mother and Child.

 

little travelling cups

cups simple tool ball of thread scissors

Such a grey and icy day.  The light was thin and scanty.  So, I did as Lucy does, and followed it – to a little sofa under the window, piled high with quilts and cushions.  Cosy indeed.  Supplies were gathered.  Plans were hatched for a set of little travelling cups that my Aunty Anne found for me.  She knew how much I loved the set Nanny and Grandad kept in their car’s dashboard when I was little.  Anodised.  In a brown leather (probably vinyl) zippered pouch.  I thought they were ever so cute and loved it when Grandad would pull them out and Nanny would fill them up with usually forbidden sweet and fizzy drink and pass them round.

Now I have my own – sans the zippered pouch.  Ah well – that can be sweetly remedied.

stitching top almost done adding the bottom

I’m not a huge fan of sewing with zippers or vinyl so chose the felt route instead.  With a wee bit of needlefelting, blanket stitch and my secret ingredient – elastic!

secret ingredient elastic at work

Natty huh!  Keeps the bottom from falling off my travelling cups and stops it from crumpling down when I put the top on!


trying it on

done

the snail the raspberries in my hand

The quiet snail, taking his time, enjoying the journey, seeking out treasures, stopping to make the most of the loveliest bits.  Just like us Boots when we go travelling.

It’s the only way to go, don’t you think :-)

 

 

and then the cold and grey arrived

chimneys

Ah this weekend heralded the true beginning of Melbourne’s cold season.  Grey, drizzly days where the damp seeps into your bones and no matter how many layers you accumulate, you can still feel the cold.

Saturday we went to the movies – a very unusual event for us  in Melbourne given the price of cinema tickets here.  And it was Abby’s choice of film – Captain America, the Winter Soldier.  But it was fun nevertheless.  There’s something about disappearing deeper and deeper into a cinema – up the stairs, down the corridor, through the sound-proofed door, fumble along a pitch-dark passage, then into the dazzling light of screen-lit, steeply climbing rows.  That was followed by an afternoon of quilting whilst the rain pattered down outside and Julian cooked supper – a slow roasted beef that filled the house with its aroma and made the kitchen so warm the windows fogged up.

Sunday was the day I was waiting excitedly for.  I had supplies and family all ready for an adventure to Warburton and Mt. Donna Buang where I was hopeful we might see a sprinkling of snow, given the cold snap that had arrived with its snow to 1200 metres.

Alas, I woke at 6am with a dreadful migraine.  I staggered out to the cold kitchen, took my medicine, crawled back to bed, out again (the pounding right eye was accompanied by nausea), back into bed, out again, in again.  It was awful.  Finally, 2 hours later, I fell back asleep.  By 1pm the headache had reduced to a dull thumping in the back of my skull that turned into a swooshing rush of blood everytime I moved my head.  The rest of the afternoon was spent on the sofa, sometimes knitting, sometimes sleeping, sometimes watching “Jonathon Creek”.  Julian went in to work for a few hours.  Abby did homework. Great day – sigh.

gutter golden leaves

These things happen, don’t they.  But it wasn’t all a write off.  After finding that crocheted headkerchief in my stocking drawer the other day, I got to thinking up some more ways to make wintery headkerchiefs.

I don’t know why, but I am very fond of scarfy things tied round my head :-)  Cotton squares folded into triangles for summer, soft silky vintage ones from the op shop that slide off so quickly I spend more time tying them on then wearing them.  I’ve made bundles of Heather Ross’s summer bandanas from her Weekend Sewing book and worn them all year round.  And I love looking at the things other women tie round their heads – be it for religious, cultural or just plain practical-for-the-weather reasons, oh there are so many pretty ways to cover the head.  Those delicate muslin caps the Amish women wear, the folk head scarves of Eastern and Northern Europe, the gauzy wraps the women of India and Pakistan drape round their heads, those exquisite beaded and embroidered concoctions they wear in Mongolia – all so beautiful. I even love how the Queen ties those silky scarves under her chin when it’s cold.

I don’t know why we’ve moved away from headscarves and hats – such a shame.  Such potential for adding lovely hand work and colour to our days.  And oh, how I do love colour.  So first up on Friday night – a multicoloured crocheted headkerchief.  Using up scraps of Patons and Cleckheaton’s DK in the colours that just happened to be in the bag.  I made the triangle first, then added a band across the front that buttons underneath my hair, then a picot edge.

crocheted from back

crocheted from side

Then yesterday, in between the sleeping and the head throbbing and Jonathon Creek – another triangle – this time knitted – from Debbie Bliss Tweeds – simple increases on each side and down the centre – another crocheted band across the front with a button – another picot edging.

holding tree

from the back

shoes through the grass

close up at back

behind trunk leaves

photogrpaher

(thank you dear Abby for taking photos of your silly mama!)

Must say, today its warmth was very welcome – my it was cold and grey.  But working at my desk, with my headkerchief pulled over my ears (oh yes, might have looked a bit quirky bit it sure was warm :-), my shawl wrapped over a thrifted cashmere cardigan and my lambswool slippers – well, I was almost toasty.

one red leaf

Now – I have some nice olivey-green Malabrigo, a crochet hook and a cup of tea at hand.  My head is still aching a bit – hoping tomorrow I’ll wake up bright and sparky – and there’s a cosy evening of stitching ahead of me.  The best way to enjoy a Melbourne winter.

in a sunday kitchen

cosySunday morning in the kitchen.  At first, the rest of the family sleeps on and it’s just me, a cup of tea, the radio and my dishcloth knitting (I’m working on filling a jar with colourful dishcloths – it’s a very nice way to start the day).  Slowly they join me.

reading

coffee

Julian brings his reading and wiles away an hour or so.  But then, after second coffees, he goes for a bike ride, needing to be outside on this crisp but sunny autumn day.

hill climb racing

cinnamon toast

I tempt Abby out of bed with toasted sourdough, lashings of butter and the left over cinnamon sugar from yesterday’s homemade doughnuts.  She’s always content to draw up a seat and keeps herself amused for hours.  Hill Climb Racing is a favourite this weekend (recently introduced to me by a little patient), but she also works on school assignments and progresses with her crochet.  Oh my, her crochet!  Wait til you see the pattern – it’s gorgeous stuff!

last chicken

Outside, our last chicken struts her stuff, so pleased to have the back garden all to herself …

fu

Fu assumes her favourite position – watching the world go by from the front room …

lucy

And Lucy curls herself up in a corner of sunlight …

barley ingredients spices

I start supper early.  Spicy Barley, Butternut and Apple Porridge and its simmering keeps the kitchen toasty.

tea and soup

The embroidery basket comes out, followed by the laptop …

embroidery wool

I have plans for some rather large jars with unusual and special contents :-)

pattern ready

The afternoon deepens – Julian, who has returned home and joined in the Hill Climb Racing fun, declares it cocktail hour.  And roasts a lovely leg of pork.  He’s good like that.

cocktail makers chaos

After hours of drawing and tweaking – and lots of added input from Abby and Julian who know just how that dolphin should look and what colour the lettering should be –  my pattern is ready and just before supper is about to served, needle comes to fabric.

cross stitching

savoury barley and butternut porridge

The kind of day – so restful and creative and productive and happy – that fills us with inspiration for how we want to build our kitchen in our strawbale home.  Plenty of room for cooking and making and storing, a lovely huge window for growing and sun soaking, perhaps even a pair of armchairs for reading and tea sipping, and a loooooong table with lots of chairs for days just like this, when we are so content to let everything else spin on without us, and stay right here in the kitchen.