sharing the crochet

molly makes pattern basket of colour

Each time we visit the Bega Valley it feels like we are yet another step closer to our dream of moving back to the east coast.  We always spend some time checking out the realestate – driving around houses by the sea, bumping down dirt roads looking at land. Some of the houses are instantly checked off the list.  But the land – oh I can always imagine great things for the land :-)

One piece we looked at these holidays was the perfect distance from the town and hospital – many huge and beautiful gum trees, hills worthy of the Sound of Music, lush grassy fields with big boulders tumbled here and there, a sparkly dam.  By the time we’d pulled up, I’d chosen just the right spot for our straw bale house, planted the flowering plums along the drive, and built a little wooden jetty on one edge of the dam with places to sit and a row boat so that Julian can take for me for romantic little rows across the water whilst I hold a parasol :-)

Abby, however, was more fixated on one of those boulders under a distant tree.  ”It’s a dead cow,” she declared. “Rubbish!” I said, “It’s just one of those boulders.  ”Yeah, a black and white one with legs,” she replied, sharpening her focus on the binoculars.  ”It is not!” I insisted, “How could there be a dead cow!” “Well, there is,” she winced, and passed the binoculars.  She was right.  It was definitely a dead cow.  We couldn’t decide whether that was a bad sign or just one of those things.  This is the country after all.  We crossed our fingers that the nearby farmer was about to discover his dead cow and moved on to the next address.

The other lovely aspect of visiting is our growing friendships with some of the locals, especially one of Mum’s neighbouring families.  An IT dad, a craft-loving mum (Shauna), three little boys, and all great beach lovers – such fun!  And this holiday, after a lovely long rainy-day lunch with them, Shauna and I hit the local yarn store for supplies for an impromptu crochet lesson.  Even more fun!

Mum had just the right pattern – a granny square blanket in the Molly Makes Book of Crochet and we spent a lovely couple of hours mastering the crochet hook, chains, and eventually a granny square.

recording the first chain shauna

Shauna is a natural – very persistent, heaps of enthusiasm, and a keen eye!  We practiced and practiced – I would slowly do a round, pointing out each step whilst she watched – maybe do it again. Then I pulled it out, passed it over, and Shauna would try.  It worked really well and by the time she headed home, she had one complete Granny Square and another started.  We were all on a crochet high!

And she hasn’t stopped!  Each night, a new granny square pops up on the Instagram :-) and should she run into any complications, she can always pop across the road to Mum who will be able to set her back on the right path.  Even nicer, she can pop back across the road and sit on Mum’s front porch, with the beautiful Sapphire coast before them, and they can work on their projects together.  Sigh – such envy!

getting the hang of it very nice edge Just as the dead cow boulder was probably a sign that that wasn’t the perfect block of land for us – I can see signs in everything – I do declare that this lovely afternoon of sharing and making with the neighbour was DEFINITELY a sign that there are great things to look forward to we too become happy residents of the beautiful Bega Valley.  Shauna, Mum and I are especially looking forward to woodwork classes with these great women – Two Sheds Workshop :: Woodwork for Women – with a view to making our own Adirondack chairs.

Just imagine the fun we’ll have – not just meeting more great people, learning all those skills, and making our own beautiful furniture – but then all the hours we will have sitting in them with our stitching.  On a jetty, overlooking a dam, with no dead cows in sight.

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.

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

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.

 

finally – the stevenson sweater and a book about lighthouses

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long!  And a heart felt thankyou to all the lovely folk who visited here last week.  Thank you so much for your kind words – I look forward to catching up with more of your lovely knitting this week!

last of the kitchener stitch

I really think – hope – that 2014 is going to be the year I finish lots of knitting – as opposed to just starting :-)  Saturday morning saw me brave the techniques needed to finish off my Stevenson Sweater (raveled here) – a whole lot of sewing in of ends (not difficult, but ends that with hindsight and a little more experience, I did not need to create) and the grafting of the armholes with kitchener stitch.  Not only does Kate write lovely patterns, including lovely armholes, but her beautiful book “Colours of Shetland” provides excellent and simple to follow instructions for kitchener stitch.  Really, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.

Actually, I do.  I think a lot of my not-finishing-things in a timely manner can be put down to this silly thought – if I don’t finish them, then I don’t have to assess whether or not they are a success.   If the cardigan is never finished, then I never have to critically look at what I’ve made, identify where I can improve, and seek to improve my skills.  Unfinished items are just lovely to work on – they don’t have to be anything.  Do you know what I mean?  When it’s actually finished, then it has to stand on its own two feet.  Yes?  Do you ever experience this feeling?  Sometimes I can become completely bogged in it.  Has even been known to stop me from giving people presents I’ve handmade for them.

Well, mayhaps 2014 will not only be the year of finishing, but a year of growing.  An opportunity to look at what I finish, be grateful for the loveliness I have created, enjoy my projects for being an illustration of where I’m at skill wise, and look forward to using that skill again, only next time, with a little more finesse.  Or maybe, appreciate that not everything has to be perfect and that I can love my knits for being my knits and not fret over their shortcomings.  That would be even nicer :-)

yellow stockings the beach my lovely abby

on to the next sotp

her cute shoes

(my lovely photographer and her very natty new shoes she very sweetly agreed to come to the beach with me- icy wind and all – to indulge me in my photo wanting)

Anyways!  Back to the Stevenson Sweater.  When Kate first shared glimpses of the projects in her Colours of Shetland book, I fell instantly in love with this stranded knitting, short sleeved jumper.  I loved the colours, loved the stripes, loved that it was styled on lighthouses which I adore, and loved the story behind the Stevenson lighthouses!  I read the book Kate recommended – it was fascinating – if you have a thing for lighthouses, like me, I highly recommend it.  I devoured it in 2 nights and wished it could have gone on forever.

So, I put Kate’s book and the beautiful Shetland Island yarn required for this jumper (and the Puffin Jumper which is also waiting for a finish) on my list for Father Christmas that year.  And sure enough, there it was under the tree for me on Christmas morn.  Funny story – I was too busy on Christmas Day to pick up the needles but come Boxing Day, I couldn’t wait to cast on those golden stitches.  Mum and Abby went out early – shopping – Aunty Anne (who was staying with us) caught the train west to spend the day with old school friends, Julian was engrossed in a Christmas book and I – well, I was beside myself with anticipation.  I laid my yarn out on the round table in the living room.  I placed my needles beside it.  I made a cup of tea.  I went to fetch the book – and couldn’t find it.

I searched the house.  I tore the house apart.  I looked under every chair, table, bed and sideboard.  Piles of books and magazines were scattered, helter-skelter.  I even looked in all the tote bags and the car.  I pestered Julian.  I rang Abby and Mum – several times.  I looked for over 2 hours,  all the while growing more frantic (cranky).  How could I have lost the book in less than 24 hours!!!  It seemed manifestly unfair!  I had been waiting for this moment for almost 2 months.

Then, finally, I searched under the front passenger seat in the car.  And there it was.  I had given it to Mum to look at on Christmas Day as we drove to the airport to collect Aunty Anne – and she had put it under the front seat.  Don’t know why.  But she did.  Then we both forgot about it.  Sigh!

walking to the jetty
there was a fellow swimming

(This is me looking askance at a person swimming!
Port Philip Bay is freezing in summer let alone the last week in autumn)

the crazy folk the bag from the front close up of neck and shoulder

Most of the body was knitted on Mum’s front porch.  The perfect spot for a lighthouse sweater.  Sitting there drenched in sun, buffeted by the seabreeze, pretty parrots and kangaroos in attendance, the beautiful Pacific Ocean rolling and sparkling before me, little fishing boats darting across the Bar.  All the while, dreaming of lighthouses and when I would wear my Stevenson Sweater to our lighthouse – the Green Cape Lighthouse.  It’s not been there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.

on the jetty watching the boat raglan sleeve

The Jamieson Jumper weight wool is truly gorgeous to work with.  I adore it.  It’s got a lovely lightness to it, a sweet fuzziness, and it just melds together so beautifully.  Their colour range is lovely too.  And it’s from Shetland sheep who’ve roamed Shetland Island, been sheared there, their wool spun there, dyed there, and then these beautiful little balls of yarn made their way all the way down here, from the top of the world to the bottom of the world.  Magic, yes?  I want to knit in Jamieson for the rest of my knitting days.

with the jetty behind photos for mym

Well now, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from finishing the Puffin Sweater (wait til you hear what happened to part of that pattern – oy!).  Well except, that I’m knitting a stripey jumper for Mum.  And still have Julian’s Argyle to finish.

But right now, I’m about to hop into bed with my copy of “The Lighthouse Stevensons” and another old favourite – Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” – I heard her on the radio the other day and she was so marvellous I want to read all her books over again.

my favourite locals

There’s so much life down here on the far south coast.  Wombats trotting doggedly along the road’s edge.  Gently, spiky little echidnas clambering up the storm water guttering – oh my goodness, their legs are SO short, I don’t know how they manage.  Ringtail possums sitting in amongst the toys on the bookshelf in the attic – seriously!.  Tall, loping kangaroos gathering on the front lawn each evening for a grassy snack.  Cockatoos and lorikeets galore.  So much of this makes us giggle – it truly does look like the Australia many folks overseas imagine we all live with, all the time.  Kangaroos on the front lawn indeed!

I’m very fond of the smaller, less flamboyant locals too – my good friends the sea sponges that hunker down on the rocks at Bar, the everpresent and always crazy seagulls that strut about us when we visit the beach, and the thousands of bees that are currently adoring the Red Flowering Gums planted by a very wise soul with an eye to future beauty and shade in the carpark of a recently built local shopping centre.  Come along, I’ll introduce you …

favourite rocks oysters smothered funny little hillock of brown and green standing proud lonley open middle open closed big red hello sway in the current smiling at me:: we head over to the rocks that lie on the far end of Bar :: as we near the water, their smooth red and black backs become home to old oysters, snails, tiny crabs, and eventually … the sea sponges :: when first you notice them, they look like a rather ugly clumping of weed and sand ::  then you look closer and realise the rocks are encrusted with marvellous gatherings of soft yet sturdy chimneys :: those that are currently washed by the tide or sitting just under the water open their star shaped eyes, you peer down through the rippling water and oh – such a pretty coral red and if you peer even closer, one or two slits of deep black at the very bottom, tucked safely away in a corner ::  the sponges sway with the tide, seeming to breathe gently, collectively, in and out, in and out :: my favourite bit, when they squeeze shut their eye and squirt a lovely long stream of crystal clear sea water up into the air – makes me laugh every time  :: truly they smile at me, and in my imagination, they hear me when I talk to them, and reply with bobs and squirts, openings and closings ::

have cracker redone the bread dance screaming

:: oh they are such funny little thieving things :: always on the lookout for bounty but not very good at keeping what they find :: today’s prize – one of them steals Abby’s crust from her lunch box :: we say to them, just eat it!  stop with the posturing, dancing and squawking! :: but oh no, these two make such a fuss, they draw the attention of a dozen of their competitors and without even noticing – their too busy proving to each other who is the most fierce and worthy of a crust –  their morsel is stolen, the victor swooping away to the rocks to enjoy her prize in peace ::

with leaves little bottoms sticking out so many high up and more a little hoverer:: I walk back to the car from the shops – icecreams and stone fruit in my bag – and think how pretty the flowering red gums are :: their incredible fieriness against the vivid blue sky suggests that the air about them should simmer with heat :: instead – thousands of bees :: swooping and diving and wriggling their little butts deeper into the blossoms :: the air vibrates with their energy :: as I snap away with the camera, people stop and say “Yes, aren’t they pretty flowers … oh wow!  look at all the bees!”  Yes, you find so much more when you stop ::  I am so grateful for the clever and thoughtful person that chose these Australian beauties :: we’ll come back in 10 years and it will be magnificent – a glow of red that sailors will surely glimpse from the bay as they scoot past ::

come for a walk

supper has been cooked and shared :: the beautiful summer light still softly dusts the sky :: a salty mist slowly slips in across the bay, laying its folds lightly over mountains, forests and beach ::

Come for a walk …

arriving the beach lowering sun running in and out footsteps getting darker footsteps with little holes bubbles feather grains of sand tumble weed clouds bird tracks bird with the red beak back the other way our own lamp post

a narrow sandy track takes us through a small forest of gums, she-oaks, tea trees, coastal grasses and softly twittering birds that are readying themselves for bed :: suddenly the forest parts, the stillness is broken, and there before us is the roaring swell of the bay, curving round to the small village of Pambula ::  the sun behind me glows fiercely, turning the forest we’ve just left into an inky black silhouette  :: a funny little gull trots after the departing waves, searching the wet sand for his supper, then, as the waves return, he turns smartly and bustles back towards the dry sand, keeping his toesies dry, back and forth and back and forth he goes until, as we draw closer, he elegantly, slowly, lifts his wings and hovers just out of our reach ::  following his footsteps :: but stopping all along to observe and enjoy – such as the little air holes in the buoyant, wet sand that seem to breath in and out – who is living down there? :: then, lost in thought, the waves rush back in and my feet and skirt are wet ::  not many leftovers on this beach – a pelican’s feather, a small shell nestling countable grains of sand, the marvellous little tumble weeds (I’ve no idea what they’re really called) that flitter wildly along the sand,  spinning up and down and round and round until the wind dies, a small hillock in the sand snags them, or a wave mires them in sogginess ::  the sun slides ever lower ::  we turn back for home, a little trail of claw prints leading us on :: they belong to this beauty – a sooty oyster catcher – he’s joined the funny gull for supper ::  our cliffs, still touched with a hint of the sun’s pinky warmth, the blunt head of which always reminds me of the whales that sail these waters, their babes tucked in beside them :: finally, our beachy version of Narnia’s lamp post – the dog off leash sign marking the path that will take us back through the forest, back home ::

christmas

Such a merry Christmas round here with moments of …

the boot

:: packing ::

last minute sewing

:: last minute stitching ::

under the tree

:: receiving ::

gifting

:: giving ::

tieing the pudding

:: tying ::

steaming

:: steaming ::

dancing

:: dancing ::

cooking

:: cooking ::

brining

:: brining ::

snacking

:: feasting :

reading

:: reading and re-reading old and new Christmas favourites ::

relaxing

:: relaxing  ::

picture making:: reflecting on and sharing what
Christmas means to us and why we love it so ::

Thank you for all of your encouragement and friendship throughout 2013.
It means so much to me and so often provides the extra oomph I need to push me through the busy and demanding times we often find ourselves in.

I do hope you and those you hold dear are enjoying a wonderful festive season,
whatever your special celebration, and that there is much love, kindness and joy.

a spring garden

I should be writing my presentation for tomorrow morning.  Last one for the year.  I have just one hour before it needs to be submitted.  I have never felt less motivated.  So – as a precursor before writing (there’s been several of these this afternoon – just check this website, just check this newspaper, just have a cup of coffee, just make a slice of bread and butter, just put out the bins, just … just … just …) here’s some lovely photos of Mum’s spring garden.

A perfect, hidden away piece of magic, full of blossoming shrubs, hundreds of roses, fruit trees, and bulbs.  Home to noisy possums, daring lizards, beautifully coloured birds, fat goldfish.  Nestled away from the salty winds of the sea, into the cosy side of the hill, framed by forest and cottage …

nectarine tree lobelia daisies candy pink bottle brush azaleas possum house black eyed susans pale pink stormy sky with pencil pines

: sigh :

‘Spose I should really write that presentation now.

 

on the front porch

from the porch

It’s my favourite spot – Mum’s front porch.  Just a narrow strip, wide enough for a pair of Adirondacks at one end, the old miner’s couch in the middle, two rows of vibrant red geraniums and a couple of potted herbs under the kitchen window.  All carefully positioned to soak up the sun.  Within moments of arriving, moments of waking up, moments of coming home from the beach, we head to the front porch.  Almost always with stitching in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.  And I have to confess, I can become lost on the front porch.  Perfectly happy to sit there for hours on end.

The mighty Pacific, in uncountable shades of turquoise, sapphire, aquamarine and sun-kissed silver, rolls gently in and out of the bay.  Framed at one end by the glowing red rocks of Long Point, and the tumble-down cliff of Haycocks Point at the other.  In between, the little village of Pambula nestles into the heavily forested hill to my right.  Behind it, Mt Imlay rises ever so slightly, like a sponge cake whose top has just broken, reminding me of the white pioneers who arrived just 150 years ago with their pigs, seeds and saws, and what isolation and ruggedness they battled.  Mitch’s Jetty, painted in a selection of ice cream blues and pinks and yellows and greens, sits quaintly in the middle.  Hundreds of mostly little boats bob about in Fishpen – which is also home to many carefully tended oyster farms.

Just before we move along to Long Point on the left, the sandy tip of the main beach a-l-m-o-s-t reaches our favourite Bar Beach, stopped only by a very narrow stretch of water that is carefully navigated by the fishing boats as they come in and out of Fishpen. When the tide is in, Fishpen and the Bar are smooth and deep with those magnificent shades of blue (they don’t call it the Sapphire Coast for nothing).  When the tide is out, huge sandbars appear everywhere, reminding us that this perfect little harbour has been slowly filling up with sand over the last several thousand years.  One day …

From the porch we can hear the bellbirds in the forests that surround Mum.  Flocks of sulphur crested cockatoos scream overhead.  Pairs of beautiful rosellas and lorikeets come to visit.  The shy rosellas, in their vibrant plumes of red and blue, sit atop the weeping silver birch.  The jaunty lorikeets fly right in and strut up and down the railing, winking and talking to us as they jig and bob.  On most afternoons, huge grey kangaroos hop lazily out of the forest and down the grassy footpaths, stopping on the front lawns to have their afternoon tea.  In the morning, the same footpaths are covered with piles of their pebbly round droppings.  Sometimes, a timid and solitary wallaby will sit at the top of the street, staring out to sea as if she too is captivated by its beauty.

It truly is my favourite spot, especially with Mum or Julian or Abby at my side – or all three!  As for the doggles – Lucy gives it a cursory glance, “yeah, yeah, see that every day” and then sprawls out in sun to sleep and when that becomes too hot, she slides under one of the chairs.  Fu – well she’s her mother’s daughter!  The second she realises we are heading out to the porch, she throws herself out the door.  She bounces up and down the length of it once or twice, checks out what we are doing, whether we have anything nice to eat, then sits Sphinx-like in the far right corner, her head up and alert, eyes narrowed, turning this way and that, her ears and nose twitching as they catch all of the wonderful sounds and scents.  She misses nothing.  Every now and then she turns back to me, a big laugh on her face, as if to say “did you see that!  did you hear that!  isn’t it awesome!”

We humans chatter and laugh and read and stitch and draw.  We sip our early morning tea, eat our breakfast, often our lunch too, enjoy an afternoon coffee, take out late afternoon nibbles and cocktails.  I sit, sunglasses and hat on at 6am – the early morning sun is blinding – and quietly breathe it all in, trying to tuck all of that beauty and magic inside, so that I may take it back to Melbourne with me, holding it close as a reminder of where we want to be in a few more years.

box and violinst

olives geraniums cushion lucy Fu close up fu fu watching the street mum stitching mums pleased mum starting number 2 wind is up

Then, just as happens on the beach, the wind can come up, fierce and cold, whipping pages of out of books, throwing scissors and threads off the table and scuttling off the edge of the porch and down to the garden below.  Hair blows into my eyes and mouth, my eyes squint up tight.

It’s time to quickly gather our things and seek refuge inside, knowing this is what life by the sea is like, waiting for it to pass, before eventually popping our heads out the front door to see if it’s nice outside for another wee sit on the front porch.

early morning

 

at our beach, at our magic beach

favourite spot belongings

dimpled rock

cross stitch

My favourite spot.  Nestled in amongst the glowing red and honeycombed rocks, the turquoise water tinkling close by.   Cardigan dropped within moments.  Cross stitch on my lap.

tall bird setting out gulls fighting for the rock

Sea birds gather.  Small black ones duck and dart amongst the gentle waves.  Every now and then one catches a fish and must frantically throw back his head to choke it down before it escapes.  The seagulls preen and strut, fighting over the perfect perch.  Right near my spot, the surfers enter the water.  See how they have wetsuits on?  I don’t have a wet suit and despite the best of intentions, when that first wave splashed my knees, it was sooooooooo cold I dared not go in, lest I developed an atrial fibrillation!

water turned wild

Then, after a lovely long sit in the sun with my Christmas cross stitch, a fierce wind comes up as the clouds darken and stomp across the sky! What was tranquil and gentle becomes stroppy and impatient.  Within moments, those sweet baby waves are rushing up the sand to catch my quilt.  It’s time to retreat.

circling gulls

And yet, by the time I’ve gathered my things and climbed back up the hill, the clouds are looking sheepish, declaring they didn’t really mean it.  The wind drops a little, as does the sea.  The silly seagulls forget their earlier quarrels and dance loopy dances in time with the wind.

Such a magic beach.

the packing of a wee suitcase

This wee “genuine hide” suitcase came from … you guessed it!  Mr. P’s dumpster.  I love vintage suitcases so had been on the lookout for one each week.  It wasn’t until the very last week (yes, I know, ’tis sad, but it does appear that there will be no more dumpsters outside Mr. P’s home) that this little treasure appeared.  Filled of course.  Mr. P filled everything with everything else.

Now? Why it’s packed with my version of the good things in life and coming to Merimbula with me.  Eeeeee!  I have a WHOLE week with no classes.  So tomorrow morning – with my trusty travelling companion, Fu – I am jumping into the car and heading up to Mum’s for a few days of sun, sand, swimming (serious, I bought new bathers, just ignore the two cold fronts lurking in the Bass Strait), lounging on the front porch, and lots of good quality pottering (aka sewing).

empty suitcase

~ there’s the sweet fabric Abby chose to line the wee suitcase with, so that I may pick Mum’s brain on how best to line it …

fabric for lining

~ some stretchy red cotton and pattern to make my first ever pair of leggings.  Don’t worry, I shan’t be wearing mine with SHORT tops – I have nice long, concealing smocks in mind …

leggings

~ some new white t-shirts for Julian …

tshirt

~ quilt fabric carefully chosen by one of my little girlies who’s moving to Sydney next term (bit sad about this) …

fabric and gloves

~ aha! the long smock to go over the red leggings, already cut out …

smock

~ a pair of trousers, recently thrifted by Jules, which need their cuffed hems taking up (please Mum) …

trousers

~ & my current infatuation … an absolutely gorgeous Danish cross stitch book which the lovely Kristy from #castoncastoff gave me when she came for tea this week  … she went home with Mr. P’s lemon juicer :-) …

cross stitch

There – it all fitted!  Well sort of.  I had to pop the three cross stitch thread boxes and the jar of quilting safety pins into a separate bag.  Now – do you reckon that if all these projects fit into one wee “genuine hide” suitcase, that means they are eminently do-able in the four short days I will be at the beach?

full

Hmmmm … I know.  Possibly a bit hopeful.  But I do thoroughly believe in being prepared :-)  Now I just have to find me a belt to hold this suitcase shut.