comfort stitching


It is well documented that sitting in a cosy armchair, in your flannel jammies doing some handstitching with your muma and dada sitting across from you with their books, and your puppies snoozing lazily on the sofa is the best medicine for the angst that can accompany a day at high school.


Oh my sweet Abby – she does struggle sometimes with the social minefield that is a school of girls – I would once have said teenage girls, but now know that it starts WAY earlier than that.  And my Abby, she’s a quiet, shy soul.  When she settles into her niche, she is cheerful, witty and well-loved.  Until she finds that spot, she is a wee bit fragile, easily buffeted, nervous in new social situations.  And today was one of those days.


As per our new routine, Abby hops off the train from school, walks up the street to say hello to us in the bookstore, has a browse to see what new titles have arrived, drops into Aviv’s (the most awesome bakery) next door for afternoon tea, then heads home.  Today, there were a few tears so I suggested as a soothing balm for a morning’s awkwardness, she design and stitch a new outfit for Dollie.  I arrived home shortly after to find a very cheerful, very relaxed, very satisfied girl.


My girl creates such prettiness with her needle and felt – I am in awe of the wonderful designs she comes up with.  I’m especially pleased that when our world needs some righting, we have learnt to turn to soul nourishing things – a family game, stitching, reading, cooking together, re-building bikes, snuggling up on the sofa, cuddling the doggles.


And this dear little creature is what I found nestled into my pillow on the morning of my birthday last week – my heart sang.

a day by the beach

The weather is hot, dry and windy.  The drive is long, dull and slow (the freeway has at least five roundabouts in a 10 km stretch – funny freeway).  The beach is not very beachy for us Queenslanders, but the food is yummy and there were some pretty bits and bobs to look at through the lense.

Perhaps if the weather was fresher and less, I don’t know, it felt as if despite the wind, there wasn’t much air and that the sky was pushing down on us in a hot and fusty way.  There was a lot of gritty and dull.  I do think on these hot hot days in Melbourne, the best place to be is at the cinema, family by your side, chocolate in your lap, soaking up the cold air conditioning, losing yourself in a wonderful story and cinematography and just waiting for that cool change to come.


this is such a funny photo – there are so many layers!  Me at the back, taking the photo, behind me the beautiful Norfolk Pines, Abby and Julian in the middle on a park bench, and then diners in a cafe at the front.








oh the exquisite prettiness – it is an unfurled pine needle – so perfect.


I have a thing for post offices – especially old ones and their post boxes, always makes me feel close to Grandad.

Wishing you a lovely weekend whatever the weather :-)

it’s a birthday


Ah he’s so young that Julian. Only 39 times round the sun.  Happy Birthday dear boy!

As we have such a rush in the morning – well, I don’t but Jules and Abby do – we decided to create a new family tradition.  Simple, everyday breakfast with a quick birthday kiss, a quick round of “Happy Birthday” and then the anticipation of a special birthday evening.  And it has been just lovely :-)


I was ridiculously hopeful that I could start and finish a new birthday quilted banner to hang for this evening – oh I have stitched my little fingers to the bone today.  But when I noticed it was 3.30 and I was still in my pyjamas, unshowered, the breakfast dishes not done, the beds unmade; it was time to let go.  It will keep.  There are more important things to do.




Abby and I set the birthday table, late this afternoon, with the special birthday cloth, bunting and candles.  Abby ironed a few of our prettiest pillowcases for the presents – regular size for the regular size and small gifts, bolster size for the bigger, awkward gifts – and made the card.  I picked some flowers from the garden – fuschias and bougainvillea for prettiness and holly (yep, we have a huge holly bush) for green.


Pre-dinner yummies were laid out, dinner was cooked and … finally … the dogs barked frantically, the back gate clunked and the birthday boy was home. It was really lovely!  I thought we would sit at the table for dinner – being a birthday and all – but Friday evening is our pasta and Pixar night.  Julian and I cook the pasta from the film “No Reservations” and we all curl up on the sofa and watch a Pixar film (Abby and Julian’s favourites).  So the next thing, the birthday table is stripped …


And re-set on the living room floor for the Birthday / Pixar / No Reservations Pasta picnic!



Now, we’ve had pasta and banana splits, Nemo has been found, and it’s time for bed.  I’ll have to finish that special birthday banner tomorrow … and wait, Abby’s making bracelets with the hundreds of buttons I’ve left lying on the sofa.  Better that than Toph eating them.  And Julian’s building birthday lego – some little boys *never* grow up.


The loveliness of being at home with your family.  Good night :-)

bits and pieces for sharing


After three very focussed days, my mind was a-wandering today.  I attempted to sit down and look “quietly” at my knitting – taking a quiet look is the means to solving any knitting dilemna according to my old Nanny – and whilst I realised where I’d gone wrong in the last row knitted (2 weeks ago), and some quiet looking showed me what I should have done, and did, I promptly hit another prickly hedge, and no amount of quiet looking delivered the path through. Bah!  I’ll have to go out tomorrow to the wool store and get some help.  I honestly think if we keep reading knitting patterns we will surely have the most flexible and active brains in old age.  Who’d have thunk there was so much jiggery-pokery required to knit a pair of bed socks.

Never mind.  Onto the sharing.

:: Julia Butterfly Hill ::extraordinary, inspiring, beautiful and so very very wise.  After enduring my ramblings on love yesterday you must listen to this.  Wow!  I was clearly channeling this girl yesterday and she puts it so beautifully.  When you’ve finish with “Pro”, take a listen to “Disconnection” – I believe so fervently in this.  And in another moment of serendipity, Abby had to write a prayer yesterday for homework on the theme “Make Everywhere your Home” .  We sat in the back garden for glorious late afternoon hours – the sun sparkling and the sky blue, but the southerly breeze whispering through our hair and over our arms that autumn is almost upon us – chatting about the idea of everywhere being our home and putting it into a “prayerful” context – and Julia’s notion of “Disconnected Consciousness” is exactly what we had came up with!


Abby wrote, just as the New Testament demands that we love our neighbour as we love ourselves; so too should we think of how much we love and depend upon our homes, how we care for them and protect them and then look upon the environment as our “home”  When we make these connections with people and the amazing world around us, we are forced to stop and think before we act – they become real, important, essential to us in a way that they never will if we continue to stand aloof.

:: LibriVox :: omg!  OMG!  This is seriously cool.  I have spent the most delightful time listening to “The Stories Mother Nature told her Children”.  You must listent to it – it transports you back a hundred years to a time when you wore a straw boater whilst playing in the garden and Nanny scolded you if you came in with a muddy pinafore.  And a beautiful way for little ones to connect with the natural world in such a whimsical and imaginative way.  Now, the reader of the first chapter has a sweet and naive voice.  Delightful to listen to because it is a person who loves to read and wants to share and I really enjoyed her accent. After her comes a very crisp English accent.  I want to believe that both of them read The Stories Mother Nature told her Children when they were little and so loved them, they wanted to share the magic.  I could picture them both sitting up in their respective beds, answering their mama every ten minutes, “Just one more and then I’ll turn the light out, I promise!”

Not only is this a good tale, but the whole existence and operation of LibriVox rocks my boat.  The books are pretty much anything published before 1923 and thus out of copyright.  When LibriVox chooses a new text, they announce it on the forum and VOLUNTEERS – yep!  you or I! – select a chapter/chapeters to read.  You don’t have to audition, you don’t have to fill in an application, you don’t have to compete for a position – you just need a microphone and be able to read.  Then, you submit your audio file and you have contributed to the global ownership of a vast library of audiobooks.  Oh I go tingly all over just writing this!  I’m hoping to make my first recording soon and will let you know when it is ready :-)


[ nice deep hem  glues over the edge very smoothly ]

:: Hoop-i-ness :: As I unpack my sewing supplies, I have discovered SO MANY wooden embroidery hoops.  It wouldn’t be unseemly to think that everytime I visited Spotlight, I bought a few more.  So there’s been quite a lot of stitchy hoop-i-ness going on.  Doilys, appliques, embroideries and visions of many more.  Experience has taught me a few things along the way.

~ Don’t stint on the excess fabric, it sits much better when you get to the glueing part if you have a good few inches to play with. A shy, stingy edge will buckle and sit lumpenly – which is yuck. A deep edge can be smoothed out evenly and leave no wrinkles or creases.


[ stingy hem clumps and buckles = yuck ]

~ Not all pegs are created equal.  Wooden ones are generally okay but can stick to the edge and have to be yanked off.  Regular plastic pegs seem to poke into the surface fabric and create little hillocks.  Not a good look.  Make sure you adjust them before leaving your hoop to dry.  Pegs from Dunedin, New Zealand, received for Christmas from your Aunty are by far the best.  I don’t know why and I don’t where else to get them and I only have 16 so I’m not sharing :-0  But they have a nice thin, sharp and roof-shaped grippy edge and stand nice and straight when the hoop is drying and they don’t stick.  Look out for these pegs – in the photos, they are the yellow and green ones.


:: Let your child move away from your side :: Now that she is in high school, Abby has embarked upon the wonderful world of public transport.  There hasn’t been a moment more empowering or confidence building since she started walking.  My, how independent, resilient and competent she feels.  Just to watch her stride off in the morning fills me with pride.  And do you know what she did yesterday afternoon?  Julian had given Abby his old mobile phone the night before, so she called me from the shopping strip before she boarded the tram on the way home and asked if she could stop at our favourite European bakery and buy us a special afternoon tea with her pocket money.


[ coffee-creme filled doughnut for Abby, coffee and almond meringue for me, and Abby's raspberry, banana and yoghurt smoothie special ]

My heart just burst.  I know, I’m easily thrilled.  Abby’s thriving in her new role as high school girl.  I’ve stood back and let her skip along ahead and it is very very good.



can there be more words needed than these …


I don’t think so.  This week, more than ever, I find myself reading and re-reading these words, absorbing them, then doing my best to imbue my words and actions with such love.


Actually, I lie.  I do have more words.  At the risk of turning this space into a wee bit of a pulpit, I’d like to share something I learnt about expressing and modelling love through my words.  Must add at this point, this is something I still work on.  I fail regularly, but think about it daily and hope that I am improving with age :-)


A few years ago I sought advice from a paediatric psychologist on how to help Abby deal with anxiety.  She was often nervous and negative about the smallest of things.  The psychologist asked me to think about how I spoke when with Abby.  “Oh!” I exclaimed, “I try really hard to be sensible and calm. To praise in a constructive manner.  To discuss things with her in a positive and interested way.  I try hard to be patient and loving always.  Sometimes I fail, you know, but all parents sometimes fail.”

“No,” said the psychologist, “I asked how you spoke when WITH Abby.”  I didn’t get it.  Surely I’d just answered her.

“What do you say when a person does something that annoys you in the traffic?”

“Oh,” I said, “Ahm, well I probably comment on their recklessness and stupidity and am irritated by it.”

“What do you say when you see someone you don’t like wearing something you think looks dreadful?”

“Ahm, I probably make some kind of silly comment.”

“Do you talk about family members or friends who have done something that really bugs you and have a little rant and rave about how ridiculous they are being?”

“Yeeeeeees.  Sometimes.”

“What do you say about people in the news who you disagree with?”

The psychologist had so many examples of how I could be modelling super critical, judgemental, derisive, and negative behaviour in front of Abby.  It had never occurred to me.  I was dumbstruck.  I was aghast.  I was trying so hard to be a good parent.  The teetering stack of parenting books beside my bed surely testified to this.  And yet, Abby was understanding from my daily behaviour – especially my words – that there are many people and instances out there that are bad, that hurt us, and that the way to respond to these is negatively.  And almost worse, to a child’s mind, that this negativity would not only apply to friends, family and strangers but also, eventually, her.  My homework that week was to cut back on the criticism and look for opportunities to praise others.


Because it is not just how we treat our children that teaches them how to interact with the world, but the way we treat those around us. This is an essential part of being a parent that I had failed to learn.  I was so busy looking inwards to my little family that I forgot to show my child to love that which is beyond our front door.  There is simply no need to dwell on the irritating, the stupid, or the “wrong”.  This was reinforced for me years later when I took part in a Buddhist workshop on “Negative Feelings”.  Boy what a lot of energy and time we waste without even thinking!  The more we do it, the more cranky, frustrated and sad we are.  And the more we are encouraging our children to live this way.


Love – even though I am believe in Facta non Verba, I still think words are incredibly powerful.  How we use them has a profound influence on those around us – and whether they choose love or intolerance.

So I’m remembering to choose love when using my words – let us fill our words with love’s patience, kindness, hope and faith.


p.s. the dark smudges on the applique are where Toph walked across it in order to reach the acorns on the window sill.  As dogs do.  What!  Your dog doesn’t climb the furniture and walls to eat your belongings?  huh! [deep breath]

the prettiness of a good ruin

As I walk through the city, let alone my own home, I look up and around and am constantly in awe at the level of decoration we have blessed our buildings with over the centuries.  It doesn’t matter which civilisation you study, the human love of adornment is everywhere and ever present.


Our drive through the east coast countryside of Australia provided us with many beautiful churches, post offices, pubs, and farmhouses to admire.


And admire and photograph we did.  I particularly love how such attention was lavished upon utilitarian buildings.  Both Julian and I especially love the skill and artistry that was put into brickwork.  I often think of it as the “boy” version of knitting :-) All that marvellous texture and pattern.


Even more enchanting are the ruins!  Boy do I love a bit of tumble-down, paint that is barely holding on to weathered boards, fences that have crumbled to their knees, roofs that have accepted the wild dominance of the vine, whole houses that shelter shoulder high grass rather than families.


This has a wonderful, still beauty and our drive was punctuated with many shrieks of “Pull over!”  followed by both of us backtracking to “the spot”.



And then the competition was on.  To see who would get the better shot – the Nikon D80 (lily) or the Ricoh GRD (julian), and who was prepared to go that bit further, i.e. braver or nosier!



We would hop back in the car and share pictures – and I have to say, there was a lot of graciousness and learning opportunities to be had from each side. Here’s two of Julian’s beauties …



Then there was the oddly delightful … clearly a very unfortunate fellow :-)


Not to mention the plain annoying … come on Taree Shire Council, pull up your socks.  This was the only colonial lighthouse we saw on our drive that was poorly maintained, shabby, lacking any kind of historical information boards … and they’ve even pulled down the lighthouse keeper’s cottage rather than turn it into a guest house or museum.


I visited this lighthouse frequently as a wee girl (my paternal grandparents lived in the nearby fishing village of Harrington, which I must say, also looks greatly unloved) and I am sure it was bigger and grander and whiter and more noble then!  Time and carelessness, plus 30 years of growing up, sure do change things :-)


There’s been so much readying lately here in Bootville.  This week’s readying has been both exciting and daunting.  As a muma, I am filled with amazed pride and wistful memories that here we are, ready for highschool.  Oh my goodness, wasn’t it only the other day that we were ready for 3 year old kinder.  It’s oh so trite, but the time has simply disappeared.

Abby and I have spent marvellous days together, sitting at the kitchen table creating unique covers for her notebooks.  Over the years we’ve had wrapping paper, scanned images from favourite picture books, and cut-up picture books from thrift stores adorning the covers of Abby’s notebooks.  This year – perhaps in a statement of individuality – a positive resolve to reveal to the 175 fellow 12 year olds she will spend the next six years with who she is, what she loves, and how she spends her time – Abby wanted us to draw the covers of her books.


Out came the family draw paper (honestly, this is the best value purchase I have ever made from Ikea – it is carted around the house to be used for all manner of things – it was even taken to Brisbane on our recent trip!), our favourite colours of pens, pencils and crayons piled up in front of us, and we divided the pile of notebooks in half and drew.  And drew.  And drew.  Abby declares her finger is sore from drawing!


Even if I had sat and mulled over it for hours, I don’t think I could have come up with a better way of sharing the days before this huge new adventure.  It gave us hours to chatter and just sit peacefully with each other.  Every now and then, a new topic would come up – all manner of things.  We discussed the books she has read over the holidays, the films we have seen.  We reminisced about the people we spent our holidays with and how we will keep in touch – Abby and Sacha are big fans of the written letter.

We pondered the horrors of war and genocide (I’ve just finished reading “The Book Thief”, often with a pointy chin resting on my shoulder whilst someone reads along with me) and the power of words.  We’ve talked about “knowing” people and keeping safe (after seeing The Lovely Bones together – yes, there were elements that were terribly frightening and soul breaking sadness -and it sure wasn’t the best film ever made – but with Abby starting to catch public transport and visiting the local shops by herself and with her friends, it was a timely topic.  Not that I believe the world to be a dangerous place full of people that must be feared and thus ignored – but I do think it is important to at least talk about that murky line that can be so hard to find).

I could feel us moving into a different part of our relationship as mother and daughter.  Even richer and closer.  And yet I understand, that with the coming of highschool, there will be difficulties and dramas – that’s what happens :-)


And last night, to celebrate this milestone, I hung new streamers above the kitchen table especially made for Abby – her school colours and emblem – and we shared her at-the-moment-favourite dinner – free range Charcoal Chicken and Chips.  Then, Abby took one of the felt appliques and stitched it onto her new school bag.  A little bit of muma-made homeliness perhaps, as she finds her place in a new, huge and busy community.



(this felt streamer is super quick and satisfying to make … using wool felt, I drew 24 white circles and 24 navy circles with a glass tumbler and coloured pencil.  I cut them out.  Then I made a star template out of paper (scraps of family draw paper from the notebook covering), pinned it to the red felt and cut out 96 stars – this was a wee bit time consuming.  Then I simply placed a pile of navy and a pile of white beside the sewing maching, with a pile of red stars.  I placed the star in the middle of a circle, and started stitching on the machine (using my walking foot) from the edge and straight through the middle of the star.  Without cutting the thread, I fed the next circle (alternate colour) and star through.  I have two streamers of 24.  Then I turned it over and added stars to the back of each circle so the streamer is double sided – and looks pretty no matter which way it twists – I used red thread so it was easy to follow the same line of stitching on the back.  If you are tempted to try it and need some better instructions, please email me!)

So here we are this morning.


Hair is done.


Bag is packed.


It’s time to go.  My girl is ready.

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.


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 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) …


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 …


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.


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.


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.


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!”


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?





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.


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.


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


it was stitched up …


stuffing was harvested …


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


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 :-)


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


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.



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.



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.




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!



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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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 :-)