making pancakes and good memories

Yee-ha!  I am sitting here on the sofa; Julian has pedalled off to work (god bless his hard working soul!), Abby is making the most of her last day of summer holidays and is sleeping in, Toph is curled up beside me, my very first issue of Marie Clair Idees is on the other side (found it at a newsagency in Brighton yesterday – never seen it before in Australia!), the fridge is making a very strange noise (but we won’t mention this in case it stops altogether – shush!), and we are ONLINE!  Awesome!  Just in time for my geeky boy and huge Apple fan to sit and watch Steve Jobs’ presentation of the new iPad.

But there’s more to life than wireless laptops -  yeah, really, there is.  Abby and I have been visiting Brisbane (which Abby said was bizarre given we had only just left) to spend time with my little sister and her wee babes who are visiting with my mum all the way from Vancouver.

Here’s Sam – he’s about 14 weeks old and truly divine.  His head is so round and velvety – I spent hours rubbing my check on it whilst breathing in all that baby loveliness.  When awake, Sam makes lots of little grunts and snuffles – especially when he’s feeding.  Oh how I adored it :-) Janie would bring him in to me each morning when he woke up and I would give him his bottle and then we would snuggle for a few hours, whilst he slept – absolute bliss.

sam

And guess what both he and his big brother Oscar (almost 3) loved – my wool!  Sam would lay on the chaise lounge, between my legs, snoozing, his little feet massaging the ball of  New Zealand alpaca/wool that I am knitting bedsocks for Abby with.  He would end up with little bits of pink fluff all between his toes!

oscar-and-sam

Oscar was completely intrigued by knitting – he loves all kinds of making – and would stand there inspecting the knitted fabric, the needles, the wool.  Then, whilst we read – we did lots of reading, Captain Pugwash, Hairy McLairy, Curious George – he held the ball of wool in his lap and would massage it with his hands.  It was so sweet.  What a shame I didn’t have my swift and wool winder there – Oscar would have been delighted!

But he and I had good times aplenty.  He loves to cook – this boy can concentrate for as long as it takes if there’s “making” to be had and we made cupcakes and playdough and pancakes and more.  On our last morning, it was apple pancakes for breakfast.  He donned his little apron (a Save the Children family hand me down from Aunty Jackie – it needed a few modifications to make it small enough and he LOVED it) …

on-with-the-apron

Up at the bench with a chair, the mixing bowl, spoons and measuring cups – and not to forget the wet cloth to wipe fingers after breaking the eggs.  The best bit was grating the apple with our old Italian grater …

apple-pancakes

First he had to build it – pull out its tripod legs, insert the grating disk, and add the turning handle with its big red knob.  Then he packed it full of apple and turn, turn, turn.  I do believe it’s the ultimate device for getting little people interested in cooking.  Especially boys – every boy I’ve ever shown it to has been fascinated.  Beats the pasta maker every time.

watching-for-bubbles

An ongoing safety lesson about using the stove – gas makes it so very visible for little people and thus so much easier to understand the “hotness” of it.  Finally, learning to watch the pancakes’ bubbles form and pop.  Every single moment of standing at the stove was filled with wonder and joy for Oscar.  He never tired of it.

making-stacks

And what’s a little cooking without a little song!

Ten pancakes, cooking on the stove
Watch their bubbles forming, cook them nice and slow.
Along comes Oscar and gobbles them all up,
Lick, lick! Yum, yum!
Pancakes in his tum.

(now if you know the song “Wet washing, drying on the line” – a Playschool favourite here in Australia – that’s the tune to use – and change the name as needed :-))

Such a simple song delighted Oscar (and reminded me of the wonderful times Abby and I have had making our own music over the years) and when we were ready to leave that afternoon, he was playing on the back deck, singing to himself, “lick! lick! yum! yum!” over and over again.

with-frozen-raspberries

Just as good as apple pancakes – the frozen raspberries.  Each one that he popped into his mouth on that hot and steamy Brisbane back porch, was greeted with giggles and gasps of “Oh!  Cold! Cold!”

this-is-oscar

Thank you dear Oscar and Sam for sharing your special holiday with Abby and I.  We made such lovely bonds and good memories.  And I had the chance to enjoy the magic of mothering little ones for just a few days.  -sigh-

we heart cows

genoa-white-cow

Upon leaving Brisbane, we had days where there were more cows than people sharing our journey!  They are beautiful animals.  So careful, still, and wary.  Their coats have been thick and healthy, their eyes luminous and alert, their “homes” wide and rich with plenty of shelter. All of this has been very heart warming, especially after watching with sadness as farming friends and their animals suffer the droughts of western Queensland year after year, and watching with great horror and revulsion the documentary Food Inc.

in-the-field

My mum was visiting a farming family a few years ago, and commented at a dinner that it was lovely to see “happy” cows at this particular farm – i.e. cows that roamed pastures.  Another farmer at the table was most dismissive of her comment and assured her that his cows – farmed factory style, in a huge feedlot – were a damn sight happier than any of his neighbour’s cows because they knew their food was coming every day, come rain, hail or shine.

her-wild-eyed-mate

Not being a cow, or having first hand experience at farming cows, I don’t suppose I can comment with any authority.  But gee whizz, after meandering down the east coast of Australia and its beautiful dairy country, I know where I’d rather be … if I was a cow.  And I’m pretty sure I know which kind of farmer I’d rather be.

through-the-looking-glass

I know there are terrible stories of hardship and heartache.  A Christmas card from a dear family friend, relayed the sad story of her cows, starving and thin out west, who frantically race along the fence line whenever a car passes, in the hope that it is her truck bringing them their meagre allocation of grain.  Another farmer we know has been farming his land for 4 generations.  At the end of last year he sat and cried as he confessed he simply had no more money and no hope of making a living from his farm ever again.  Another family, farming olives, have received the same price for their olives from Woolworths (one of the two giant Australian supermarkets) for the last 15 years, whilst the cost of farming and living continues to rise.  A dear couple we met on our journey had to give up their cattle and dreams because they had no control over the price they received at market and that which they were offered didn’t even come close to matching the cost of raising the cattle.

in-the-mud

There is something so very broken in the way we are farming.  There is land being farmed that is simply not suitable for farming.  There have been decisions made and enforced, especially regarding water allocations, that are ludicrously unsustainable and immoral.  But there is also such an incredibly deep, deep lack of respect for our farmers, their families, their land and their animals.  Goodness me!  I know it’s stating the obvious, but how on earth do we expect to live if we destroy our farms through our greed and ignorance!  Oh yes, that’s right … we will be forced to endure the ghastly industrialised food of Food Inc.

bruthven-cows

I also met, on our journey, a delightful lady in Bega – one of Australia’s great dairy towns.  She married a dairy farmer and they have produced milk for the Bega cheese factory for the last 20 years.  She shared lovely stories of her hundred or so cows that roam the fields around her house, feeding upon the lush grass as mother nature intended.  She explained how they are milked each morning and evening, how her family keeps a large metal drum of fresh milk in their house, and the children scoop up cups of milk from it throughout the day, whilst she makes their own butter.  She described the terrible smell of clover in the milk – apparently it’s still fine for cheese, but at that time of year, they buy store milk for drinking.  She described a life that certainly sounds rewarding and sustainable.  And so reassuring that those supplying a big producer like Bega, are still able to farm in a traditional and humane manner.

happy-cows

Yes, if I had to be a cow, I’d like to be a dairy cow on the east coast pastures of Australia.  It looks to be a pretty good life.  And since I’m unlikely to turn into a cow any time soon, I sure would like to be a dairy farmer!  Julian and I spent hours talking about this as we drove along – you know us, we are HUGE lovers of all things dairy.

Now that we are here in the big city, we still talk and plan and dream about it.  Maybe we will – Boot’s Organic Dairy.  Abby’s sure keen, and when I suggested she will have left home by the time we are in a position to act upon our dreams, she was amazed that I would even think such a thing.  “Are you kidding!”  she exclaimed “I’m not moving out if you’re going to have a dairy farm – I’m going to farm with you!”

And, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a big change in the Boot kitchen, with cow and pig now off the menu.  Apparently they are too beautiful to eat.  I’m torn over this.  I appreciate and respect Abby’s decision, but I must admit to being more closely aligned with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s way of thinking – we only have these amazing animals because we have bred them so carefully for so many centuries for our consumption.  Thus, what we simply must do, is ensure that these animals live lives of health, comfort and dignity – and that these same qualities are afforded to them at their time of death.

If not, what right do we have to depend upon them for our survival, or worse, gobble up greedily without thought of the poor animal’s welfare, the farmer’s livelihood, or the earth’s health and longevity?

None.

spotty-nose

play

stitching-outside

After some dreary weather, when summer cloaked itself in dark grey and delivered us lovely rain, albeit chilly days, the sun finally burst through the clouds this afternoon and treated us to some glorious warmth.  We took a good walk – turning and turning down one unfamiliar side street after the other.  Then, once back home,  the two legged and four legged inhabitants of Bootville gathered up supplies and nestled into our cheery back garden.

doggle-sunbathing

And it was very good.  :-) It was one of those afternoons that is totally unscripted.  There were no plans made, no special supplies purchased, no discussion or debate about what could or should happen.  Just pure, joyful, imaginative play for all.  Whilst walking the doggles, Abby provided a constant patter, embellishing the names, lives and adventures of our furry children as well as creating a whole kennel of amazingly accomplished comrades, the favourite of which was Trixie Twinkletoes Trot-a-lot Delight (Lauren Child’s Parisian Poodle).

By the time we were back home “The Pink Poodle” – a newspaper for dogs – was ready for writing up.  Abby donned her pink poncho (thrifted from a church jumble sale for $2!) turning into Trixie Twinkletoes, and sewing supplies were retrieved from the sewing house for both her and I.

pattern-drawn

Trixie needed a bone – drawn onto some left over suede from Abby’s Book week costume

stitching-the-bone

it was stitched up …

harvesting-the-stuffing

stuffing was harvested …

snacks-and-stuffing

and then, after snacks, the bone was stuffed and ready for play.

red-roses

Whilst stitching, I threw balls, scratched behind ears, admired feats of acrobatic dogginess, finished off knots, helped turn-out, and added the last closing stitches to Trixie’s new bone.

Yes, Abby’s 12 and starting high school next week.  She is passionately interested in animal welfare, takes an informed interested in local and international politics, loves to shop for clothes with her Nan, play Wii with her Dad, and spend hours discussing the merits of Twilight and New Moon with her friends.  But she still loves to play and that fills my heart with relief.

Over the Christmas season, we had dinner with some lovely friends who have a daughter just a few months younger than Abby.  They have played together since they were toddlers and have always had lots in common.  But all of a sudden, at their home for a long and leisurely dinner and play, Abby’s friend no longer played.  Instead she hung around the adults, wanting to talk jewellery and boyfriends and hairstyles.  Poor old Abby was mystified.  She had looked forward to this annual event for weeks, talking about about all the things they would do and the fun they would have.  Her bag was packed with her swimming costume and doll clothes’ sewing supplies but it was just not to be.  When not trying very hard to make sophisticated conversation with the adults, the friend lay on her bed and read.  In the end, swallowing her tears and trying hard not to feel foolish, Abby gave up and played with the five year old brother.  He was delighted with the attention!  But it was a difficult and uncomfortable evening for Abby.

I am not sitting in judgement of this child and her actions, but I do feel a little sad for her – and Abby! -  that she is already turning away from the magic of childhood and the freedom of playing.  It is a topic that is talked about so regularly in the media – the sexualisation of our children, especially daughters, the failing of our education systems to let children be children and encourage them to explore and learn through creativity and play, the obsession of many parents to push their children into countless after school activities and focus entirely on their child’s academic achievements.  The disappearance of long, peaceful hours of playing at home and being children.  Why have we let this happen?

Over my years working at a girls’ boarding school, I have seen so many little girls arrive at the tender age of 11 or 12, still thinking of themselves as children, looking like children, wanting to be children, missing their homes and toys and parents, but within days feeling/recognising the “need” to cast aside this “childishness” and assume the mantle of a savvy teenager.  It’s an aspect of boarding school I really dislike.  It’s an aspect of these pre-teen years that really bothers me and one that I have tried hard to play down for Abby.

In true old lady style, I tried over and over to impress upon the girls at school that they had YEARS ahead of them as adults, when they will have obligations, jobs, responsibilities … they should hold on to these young years of freedom and fun.  As you can well imagine, my pleas always fell upon deaf, incredulous ears :-)

playing

So here we are, in the back garden and my daughter is a dog called Trixie Twinkletoes Trot-a-lot Delight.  I couldn’t be happier.

more melbourne moments – berry picking

lonesome-peach

Something else we’ve never had before … local berry and fruit farms.  Well – at least, not too far away.  Whilst Abby’s much-loved friend Sacha was visiting, we trooped off to Yileen – an organic berry and fruit farm perched on the edge of the tiny village of Hallston, nestled deep in the beautiful Yarra Valley.  It was quite the epic journey.

bales-of-hay

fallen-down-farm

The mostly dirt road twisted up many hills, threaded its way past countless rolling fields of lush pasture, bales of hay and cows, and tumbled down, down, down into deep shady valleys.  And we got lost.  Of course we did!  Stalled under a huge tree, aside the Hallston Community Hall, we gave up on the GPS and called Farmer Jenny for advice.

rows-of-berries

roses

In lovely country style, directions were provided with good humour and warmth, and within minutes we found ourselves over our heads in berry canes and bushes.  Belted Galloways (I think that’s what they were called – cows that is) grazed in the fields of MooGrass (Jenny’s husband’s side of the farm), roses scrambled over fences and climbed outbuildings, countless birds that I have only seen and heard in books and documentaries trilled amongst the trees, bees hummed to us as they vied for the sweetness of the berry bushes, and we picked buckets of lush, sun-warmed berries in the hot, hot sun.  38 degrees celsius.  Boy was it hot, still and fragrant amongst those bushes. It was a magical sensation.

blackberry-flowers

finding-the-best

sacha

Good thing Farmer Jenny’s son makes organic ice creams with his mum’s berries.  After we’d had our fill of berry picking and had the only ripe peach on the farm land at our feet, we sat in the cool of Yileen’s garden under a majestic Indian Bean Tree, where Jenny served us iced water and fresh icecream with berries on top and charmed us with her stories of life on the farm and their latest dear little grandson.

It was a goooooooood day.  I cannot wait to return – and we have the low down on berry picking now.  Early December for raspberries and mid-January for blackberries.  Farmer Jenny advises we ring regularly to check ’cause each year, she has a platoon of local jam makers all poised and waiting for her beautiful berries to ripen.  Once they come a-picking, they leave no stragglers!

berries

indian-bean-tree

After travelling to Yileen via Grand Ridge Road – a road that truly lives up to its name – Jenny suggested a different route home for its superior scenic qualities.  We were doubtful this could be true, having spent the previous journey ooohing and aahing at every bend, but she was right.  Our homeward trip was glorious and by the time we hit the motorway, all three of us were dreaming of our future as farmers.  And after admiring so many cows, Abby’s even given up on beef.

grass

valleys

She hasn’t, however, given up on enjoying the moment in that beautiful way that only children can.  On the way home, she and Sacha had a riotous time painting their faces with berries.  They ate the good ones and those that were a bit smooshed, were used as paint.  They had several different looks – the 18th century French, the richly decorated tribal, and then the plain silly.  Strangely enough, they didn’t want to get out of the car at the shops with their chins painted berry red.

applying-the-berries

berry-beauty

We Boots enthusiastically recommend berry picking for a great day’s fun.  What better way to celebrate the bounty and beauty of summer – and now we have a freezer full of yummy berries!  :-)  Thank you Farmer Jenny for sharing your glorious part of the world with us.

melbourne moments … memory boot

The internet around here is still very wobbly (dratted 3G modem – according to Julian this is network service on par with AT & T – we’re up for 5 minutes – and down for 5 – up for 5 – down for 5).  As such, I compose posts in my head throughout the days, and never get around to writing them!  Apparently tomorrow, we will have full-on, proper, official, working, reliable internet.  Cool.  So – instead of regular updating – we have snippets of what we’ve been enjoying over the last fortnight.

mama-reading

Our new life in Melbourne brings with it daylight saving.  That’s right, after decades of debate and a couple of unrefutable referendums, Queensland has stoutly refused to embrace daylight saving – does this make it the only state in Australia without daylight saving?  Certainly on the east coast it is.  But here in Melbourne, the sun rises an hour later (making it oh so hard for me to get out of bed each morning) but sets an hour later.  That coupled with being so much further south provides us Boots with a previously unexperienced and beautiful twilight.  Mmmm … twilight.  Such a lovely word, and such a truly lovely time of the day.

abby-reading

And our new back garden is so very lovely.  Very green and leafy and private.  Hour upon hour is spent lolling on the grass, sinking into the cane chairs and relishing the warmth of the sun, the coolness of a gentle breeze and the soft hours of late sunlight.  There’s been much reading, drawing and knitting … and also games playing.  Our favourite for a quick after dinner laugh  – Memory Boot.

pooper

I had such fun making this for Julian’s Father’s Day – choosing the photos, cutting the wood, endless coats of mod podge.  Now, here in Melbourne, it is such fun to play.  Every block that is turned over generates an exclaim of “Ice-cream at Cleveland with old Nanny and Grandad!”, “Cello picnic!”, “Yum!  Papa’s epic chocolate mousse production!”  “Sacha and I at the beach!” and so on, so forth.  All of them lovely reminders of our family and friends, who, no matter how far we roam, will always be with us.

julian-reading

Whilst making Memory Boot, I really only thought about it as a handmade memory game.  Now, it has transformed into a sweet, funny and joyful celebration of 2009.  Already there’s talk of Memory Boot 2010.  Perhaps in years to come, there will be many little bags lined up on the games shelf, each containing a record of our family’s good times.

Can you imagine taking down a particular year and playing it with family and friends of the future?! I know I would have been delighted as a child – even now as an adult! – to have had such a game to share with my cousins, aunts, uncles and nephews.  What a hoot it would have been as the photos grew older and older, funnier and funnier!  And all the while reminding us of the love and good times we share.

tiles

stacks-of-tiles

And so we have the making of a new family tradition … the choosing of photos to represent what we loved about a year, dividing up the tasks … sawing, sanding, pasting and painting … and then hours of playing together. My idea of perfect :-)

memory-boot

the time has come, the walrus said …

… to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax; of cabbages and kings.

Yep, we are a couple of hours away from being on the road.  The car is packed to the brim.  Mum’s house is looking so empty and lonely.  Mum is feeling empty and lonely.  Abby is off camping with friends.  Julian and I are about to head south.

We’ve been so busy the last fortnight … a week in Melbourne unpacking the house.  A week in Brisbane celebrating Christmas with our family.  All so bittersweet.

Now, after a busy year of discussing our family’s future, planning for it, changing the plans umpteen times, dreading it, looking forward to it, it has arrived.  Oh my, I have shed almost more tears over the last three days than the off-shore cyclone has dumped rain on our sodden town.

Both Mum and I keep re-reading Carrie’s inspiring post on being the Queen of our homes.  The Queen simply would not fall to pieces and sob despondently :-)  No, she would be strong for her family, appreciate the love, privilege, security and comfort of living with Mum for the last 18 months; and look forward to continuing to share that from a distance during our working weeks, and in person during the wonderful holidays that will come often and soon.

But, we’re a bit wobbly at this.  Good thing I have a 5 day road trip to share with Julian … we will be meandering down the east coast of Australia, round the bottom and up to Melbourne.  And Mum has her sister Mary visiting from Vancouver, my sister Janie and her wee boys, Oscar and Sam arriving in a fortnight; and Aunty Mary and Aunty Anne coming in today for diversional therapy.

And then, there’s skype, virgin-to-virgin free mobile calls, emails and of course the blog, for us to share our days, offer our love and hold hands when we need to.  Thank goodness for technology.

So, I’m signing off again for another week.  Hopefully, by the end of the weekend, there will be a degree of normality in our lives (including a found camera battery charger), a settling in to our homes for both Mum and I, an establishing of new routines and pleasures.

For now, my heart is breaking … I already miss my beloved Mum.

there are needles, and wool, and pens, and paper …

at-the-table

Sadly, with preparations for Christmas and Saint Lucia’s day progressing with good cheer and peaceful spirits, we are back to eating supper on our laps!

Every table in the house has been commandeered for stitching …

abbys-reindeer

applique

hoops

embellishing

wrapping-paper

wrapping

ready-for-the-post

cutting

pop-pop

sticking and opening

advent-calendar

knitting

brother-and-sister

collecting

memory-game

And when the moment finally comes that we have parcels ready for posting, we jump to it, fill the bags …

parcels

… and race off to the post office, desperate to make the 12.30 closing (gee whizz Australia Post!  couldn’t you show a wee bit of Christmas cheer and have extended hours for the holiday season!), and ignore the fact that we haven’t cleaned our teeth, or brushed our hair, and are wearing our garden thongs.  Hopefully we won’t see anyone we know :-0

off-to-the-post-office

p.s.  hours later … credit where credit’s due, we drove into the GPO in the city at 12.20pm and, with great Christmas cheer, patience and good humour, the post office staff there just kept on greeting customers and stamping parcels, loooooong after the short hand reached 12 and the long hand hit 6.  Merry Christmas lovely post people – may you be rewarded with friendly customers and short journeys home at the end of a busy day :-)


Abby and Ita

I simply couldn’t write this yesterday.  I was too sad.

Abby was a little bit wistful, carrying a brave face, and making the most of her last day at her beautiful school – St. Ita’s.

The tears welled up in my eyes as I farewelled her teacher first thing in the morning, and gave him his Christmas and End-of-Year gift.  I came back for the End of Year Mass and handing over of the leadership candles from the Year 7s to the Year 6s – which my dear girl carried down the aisle, leading the procession – a bit braver, promising myself I wouldn’t cry for Abby’s sake.  But the tears came again, and again, and again throughout the beautiful ceremony.

And when Mrs. Savage – a teacher whom has never even had Abby in her class – gave Abby a big hug, exclaiming “Oh my darling girl!  Goodbye!  I will miss you”  that was the end of me.  Mrs. Hutchins had to give me a hug.

However, despite its sadness, it was an incredibly affirming time with so many teachers and children and parents coming up to me to say goodbye and to tell me how much they loved Abby and would miss her.  This reminded me of how much Abby has grown during her time at St. Ita’s.  Their love, compassion, acceptance and encouragement has helped my girl find her strength and her voice.  She will carry this inside her forever.  Oh dear, I’m crying again.  Such is why I couldn’t write this yesterday. I’m hopeless.

I’ll tell the rest with photos …

the-doll

signing

procession

mr-burns

drop-off

For the afternoon, Abby attended a pool party with all her friends from class – it was a wonderful way for her to finish the year and didn’t give her a chance to feel too sad – she was too busy having a marvellous time!

And me … well I thought about going shopping, heading down to Tangled Yarns and buying the yarn and pattern to make a gorgeous knitted linen tunic – but I am trying to be more frugal and to remember that the acquisition of stuff might make me feel good for a couple of hours, but then, that rush of euphoria will wear off and I will still having the same feelings carousing through my mind and body.  So I went to the hairdressers instead.  Hairdresser therapy.

hair-therapy

We talked all afternoon, shared stories, anxieties, dreams and it was very good.

knitting

I even started some Christmas knitting.

all is love

The day after twelve has been full of love.  We’ve had the essential Christmas shopping … ie. that which cannot be handmade.  We’ve popped corn and filled lolly boxes.

lolly-boxes

popcorn

There’s been a few hours of stitching in preparation for tomorrow.

stitching

Beloved friends have visited (and one’s sleeping over!)

best-friends

We’ve been to the movies … Where the Wild Things Are … and it was magical and wonderful.  Do you know, Max eventually decides that the Wild Things don’t need a King – Alexander (the goat) doesn’t even believe they exist – no, Max wishes instead they had a mother.  I agree, mothers are wonderful beings :-)

at-the-movies

I think Carol Ann and I enjoyed it more than the children – they loved the Wild Things and the adventure – but as mumas, we watched that dear little boy and could see our own children.  Their faces, the way they move their bodies when they’re sad or frustrated, the focus on self, the despair when they cause pain to those they love.  Spike Jonze does an exquisite job at capturing what it is to be a child.  And – we could see, when wars were being fought and clods of dirt hurled at each other’s faces, that it would end in tears … we mumas just know these things don’t we.

Do go!  Go!  But don’t take your little ones.  It is more a film for older children and adults.  Oh and listen to the soundtrack – it is awesome.  We play it LOUD, with the windows down, singing at the top of our lungs.  Well, at least Carol Ann and I do.  Abby covers her face and cringes :-)

sushi-training

squished-in

Finally, to end two days of birthday celebrations, my girl and her lovely friends filled a booth at our local sushi train restaurant Ginga – whilst we mumas sat across the room – and they had a wonderfully funny, silly, and “sophisticated” time.  Each time we looked over at their dear sweet faces, they were aglow, laughter pouring out of them, hands waving with hilarity, and an awful lot of soy beans eaten.

soy-beans

Oh today has been so very good.  Now we just have to get through tomorrow – the last day of school.  Fingers crossed.

twelve

My wee sweet girlie is twelve.  Twelve!  Wherever did the last twelve years vanish to?  The day of Abby’s birth is crystal clear in my mind – the wonderful surprise of whether she would be an Abby or a Joshua; the utter, utter exhaustion when we arrived at our room, me hoping she would have a nice long sleep ’cause I was just too tired to be of any use; the dear little pink outfit my mum raced up to the hospital with; the quaint yellow floral, vintage hospital nightdress Abby wore, her little arms bent up above her head, her little legs lifted high in the air thanks to the bulky cloth nappy.  Each memory is carefully etched in my mind’s eye.

And now today she’s twelve.  And glorious – a lovely girl, full of love, compassion, wit, jolliness, imagination … just a lovely girl.  And what more can we, as parents, hope for.

Last night, as I was putting her to bed, she asked if the table would be all set up specially for her birthday.  Of course!  I replied. Good, she smiled and snuggled into her pillow. And so it was …  Out came the birthday tablecloth, bunting and birthday chair bag.  There were gifts, and cards, and pancakes, and chocolate crackles to share at school.

cards

nan

birthday-bag

breakfast

chocolate-crackles

And once the wee girlie was out of the house, wool/silk flowers to make for the table.  Whilst shopping for Abby’s birthday dinner, I was around the corner from Tangled Yarns (yet another place I will oh so miss when we move) and just couldn’t resist this gorgeous silk/merino Malabrigo after seeing this.  It was a delightful way to spend a couple of hours on the back porch – you know, preparing for the busyness to come :-).

growing-flowers

This afternoon, we visited one of our favourite bookstores – yes, bookstores are Abby’s and my first preference for whiling away the hours – Coaldrakes, where we had hot chocolates (it was actually cool and wet here in Brisbane today!), gingerbread and lots and lots of book browsing.  And then home again, to prepare for the special birthday dinner.  Abby chose the menu – Crumbed lamb cutlets, Potato Dauphin, a tomato and fresh pea salad, and lemon meringue pie.  Delicious. It has been a wonderful day and a beautiful evening.  The big smiles say it all.

table-aglow

delight

lemon-meringue

candles-molten

all-blown-out

Birthdays are just grand!

the day before twelve

The day before twelve is always so exciting – not only is it the last sleep before the birthday, but it’s the first day of Advent – we open the first door on the calendar, pull out The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder and begin our annual reading, and ogle over our new edition of the Christmas Carol.

That perhaps sounds a wee bit extravagant, but for the last few years, there has been a marvellous newly illustrated version published just in time for Advent – just begging for our attention.  Last year it was Quentin Blake - a huge favourite in Bootville.  His illustrations are so very jolly and energetic.  This years addition/edition is courtesy of the eerie and incredibly talented Brett Helquist – the cover sends shivers up my spine.

Now if you have never read A Christmas Carol – and seeing one of the many film adaptations simply does NOT count, no matter how fine some of them are (our favourite is that with Richard E. Grant and that fellow from Star Trek – what’s his name?  Ah! Patrick Stewart – he is amazingly perfect as Scroogee and the music just makes me cry with happiness) – you MUST.  It has some of the finest descriptive passages ever penned in the English language.  I am newly mesmerised and delighted each reading with Charles Dicken’s incredible skill with words.  I have to constantly stop an re-read paragraphs to Abby, just so she really hears the magic.

But I digress … the day before twelve.  Yes, every year the day before the birthday is a day of beginnings as well waiting for the real thing.  But today, it was also a day for endings.  Our last cello picnic and lesson.  Oh we have so enjoyed the cello picnic.

I collect Abby from the drive through at school, and then, because we are woefully feeble and lazy, we drive slowly around the corner from school, and down the steep, steep hill to the park on the river.  As I gather together the bits and pieces …

laying-the-blanket

Abby dances across to our tree, where she lays the picnic blanket down …

shoes-off

sheds her shoes and socks …

mango

and we flop down to books, word puzzles and afternoon tea.  A favourite lately has been a juicy mango and the alphabet game. We lay back, the newly and thickly greened tree providing a beautiful cool canopy against the heat of the afternoon, and chatter and play and laugh until it is 4pm.

the-roof-over-our-heads

Today’s themes for the game were Christmas, Halloween and Feelings.  You start with A and then work your way through the alphabet each coming up with a word or name for each letter that represents the theme.  Neither of us are above a bit of “imagination”.  Film characters last week saw the birth of X3PO (the retired one) and his brother Y3PO (the confused one).  Today saw the advent of Christmas Gnomes and Halloween Zebras.  It is such fun and Abby adores it!  Whenever we are sitting together, quiet and occupied with the task at hand, she comes up with a theme and off we go.

the-present

Before we could embark upon today’s game, there was a present to write in.  A funny, silly book for the lovely Mr. Patrick, Abby’s cello teacher.  “How to Be the Best at Everything” Mr. Patrick has been a wonderful teacher.  He is young, enthusiastic, a performing musician, and a teacher that is less focused on following the strict AMEB schedule, and more interested in nourishing a vibrant group of young musicians who play by ear as well as written music, improvise their own pieces, and have a lot of fun.  After two years of learning from the book, Abby told me she was ready to let the cello drop.  But 18 months with Mr. Patrick have renewed her enthusiasm and she is avidly looking forward to continuing to learn and play her cello in Melbourne.  Yay!  As with the piano, I am under no illusions that Abby will grow up to be a virtuosic musician.  But I would love her to experience the incredible fun, energy and camraderie of playing in a group – be that an ensemble or orchestra – and the beauty of creating music at home.  Mr. Patrick has brought her to this place and for that I am so very grateful and happy.

The book was well received.  Mr. Patrick is taking it straight home to the WC where all the best books are kept and read regularly.  (Oh how I applaud such irreverance – the girls thought it was hysterically funny!) And much of the lesson time was taken up with learning to hypnotise a chicken, a.k.a. Caitlin (one of the violinists).  Honestly, as corny as it sounds, and as grateful as I always am to receive lovely gifts, there is so much more delight in giving rather than receiving.  I barely heard the cello crunching across the bitumen, as Abby floated from the classroom to the car with the joy of a great last lesson.

So another end.  Another goodbye.  We’re doing okay – we feel wistful, and talk about this regularly, but there’s no tears yet.  Instead, there are smiles as we appreciate all that we have had.  And I’m sure there’ll be more of this, regardless of what city I’m waiting in …

in-the-car

The cello picnic served us well.  In a busy school day, it gave us three quarters of an hour to rest, to be still, to be together, to enjoy.  And oh we surely have :-)  Now it’s up to us to find a new opportunity when February rolls around. We will.  Now I’ve got to go – it’s the day before twelve!  There are presents to wrap, a table to clear and set, and cards to write.  When really, I’m ready for bed.  Maybe I’ll set the alarm and get up early ;-)

the thankful muma

the-girl

There are many moments in the life of a muma when she is so very thankful.  Thankful that she was given the privilege to guide a little being through the first part of her or his life.  Thankful for her child’s good health and wellbeing.  Thankful when she finds a “village” to help support her child.  Thankful for the wonderful joy her child gives.

beautiful-evening

Last night was one of those moments when I was thankful for all of the above.  We celebrated the end of the school year and the coming of Christmas with the Christmas Carol Concert.

the-excitement-builds

Families gathered on the handball courts and feasted on a lovely barbeque; children dressed in red and green raced round and round, filled with excitement and Christmas enthusiasm; and as the sun set, the stage lit up with song and dance and laughter.

It was a magical evening and oh I glowed with thanks for the wonderful community my dear girl and family are fortunate to be part of.

abby-performing

Abby’s class performance was wonderfully funny and energetic.  The girls trooped on, assumed the above “Sound of Music” posture and sweetly sang the first half of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  Then, with a dramatic change of pace, the girls melted into the background and the boys leaped forward …

the-boys

They were a HOOT!  The audience was rolling around with laughter, which only revved the boys up even more, and with tears of mirth running down my cheeks, love formed a huge lump in my throat and I wanted to capture this moment and hold onto it for ever.  If only … :-)

cool-blue

Now, another busy day is done.  After yesterday’s mammoth Ikea haul (the vast majority of which, I should explain, went to the school where my Mum is Head of Boarding) there was a dressing table and wardrobe to be built for Abby’s room – soon to be Oscar’s room – and then Nan’s spare bedroom for little people.  Two pieces of Ikea furniture in one day.  Hmmm … similar experience to yesterday.  A bit too much Ikea at once can be quite off-putting.  Thus, I felt a pressing need for some more quick, gratifying sewing – a blue and green theme today.  It looks so pretty and cool.  I’m quite in love with these streamers and shall be making some with a Christmassy theme.

With the furniture built, I found we needed some bookends.  There was a moment, or several, when I was ready to grab my purse and head out to buy some.  But in the spirit of thriftiness, I chose imagination instead and came up with …

thrifty-bookends

… mason jars filled with pebbles.  Nice and sturdy and quite charming :-)  There’ll definitely be room for such penny-saving in our new home .. and probably even these jars!

I do so love being a muma.