if you should happen …

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

take off the shoes

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

saved one for you

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

picture book trying to count seeds

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

Fu chewing her stick

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

pencil case filling a new notebook

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

playset paper dolls and book

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

proposals lizie darcy tableau

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

writing novel reading

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

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

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

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

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

kitchen day

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

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

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

lentils and cup

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

pumpkin pleasures

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

chair shuffling

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

quilting

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

new to us china

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

needlepoint pattern fiddling

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

repurposing chelves

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

erzgebirge

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

alison lester

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

she likes

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

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

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

tidying the mess – part 1

pin cushions and binding

Well … this afternoon, Julian, Abby and Sacha headed out to the airport.  I was left standing in the kitchen wondering what to do.  Research for next week’s essay or studying for tomorrow’s philosophy quiz were completely out of the question.  Vacuuming … could be very valuable given the amount of Fu fluff that is everywhere, but deadly boring.  Hmmmm …

I could sit and mope.  Bit dull.  And wouldn’t be useful.  No, not at all.  I could plonk onto the sofa, maybe knit, maybe watch some television.  This I almost did … but then I looked around at the terrible mess that has overrun the craft corner and table and decided some serious tidying was in order.

french general heidi grandads hat

knitting

in the shopping bag You know the kind of tidying when you SEW your way through the piles.  Yes :-)  My kind of tidying.  Terrifically practical.  Marvellously productive.  Immensely satisfying.  And so very, very necessary! So I started with this here bag.  Packed since our CHRISTMAS holiday to Merimbula and shoved under one piece of furniture after another since it’s return home.  Yes, there’s been some serious avoidance where this bag’s concerned.

not much to go

I even started with the most guilt inducing.  Abby’s Christmas present … her Moomin quilt.  Finished but for the final border across the bottom.  That should be easy enough to tackle in the time it takes for one to drive to the airport and back.  In fact, there was enough time to finish the quilt top, give the front room a vigorous, proper tidy, walk up to the shops for a few groceries, and cook supper.  Win!  Win!

finished

looking up

with pegsOh I do love how this sweet quilt has turned out!  The only newly bought fabric is the red background with the little mushroom houses, foxes and dwarves.  The rest is from the stash.  The Moomin fabric and the gorgeous pieces of Marimekko were gifted to me several years ago by the loveliest woman in Finland.  Thank you so much dear Anne!  I knew the time would come when there would be the perfect project for them :-)  The other bits and pieces were collected here and there.

closer

moomin mama moomin little my

In designing it, I started with the Moomin fabric.  I didn’t want just plain squares, but DID want something that would let all these dear little characters sing.  Thus the darker borders (Marimekko) with the clean and vivid red, pink and white floral corners, and finally, the crisp black and white spot that reflected the simple black and white drawings of Jansson’s Moomins.

The poison green represents the round and round and up and down of the Finnish forests in which the Moomins make their home.  The feed sack turquoise with the little children in their pyjamas with their pillows … remembering how, when Abby was little, she would hop into bed and I would pull over the armchair and read and read and read.  Filling her sleepy, dreamy head with Moomin adventures and magic.

The next border – the squares of red and the wonderful boughs with twinkling baubles (I think this is a William Morris fabric – not sure) will remind us that this Moomin quilt was made for Christmas.

little houses in the woods in the grass corner

Finishing the sides is a red and white Scandinavian fabric – a tilt to the Moomin’s cultural heritage.  And last but not least … the whimsical red fabric, the flower-filled, blue summer sky, and a bit more Marimekko.  They’re little houses, see!  In amongst the trees.  I was thinking of the little summer cottages the Scandinavian folk build in their forests and around their lakes.

You can read it in or out.  I like out to in.  We start in the summer cottages amongst the tall tall trees – slightly magical in itself – reading Tove Jansson’s wonderful tales and poring over the quirky pictures.  Then, at night, when we’re asleep, we’re able to wander through the valleys to Moominland and tag along on the many adventures these dear little folk have.

waiting for her

Yes I do love it!  I can even imagine myself, years from now, reading the Moomin books to Abby’s children who will be snuggled under this quilt.  For now … here it is on her bed, waiting to hopefully bring a smile to her face on what will be the first quiet night we’ve had in a long while.

To finish it, I have the perfect blue and white checked blanket to quilt this flimsy onto and I’ve promised the girl child it will happen before the weekend’s out.

p.s. oy!  when I pegged the quilt top onto the garden swing it was immediately obvious that I’ve put the left checked border on upside down – bugger!  That’s what you get for late night Christmas sewing.  I foresee a bit of unpicking.

moomin stencils (with a little embroidery too!)

Call me silly, but over these long summer holidays I walk into my kitchen and the busyness of the day is spread out across our table and it just looks so pretty and engaging that I get a little thrill about the loveliness of our days at home together.  There’s our afternoon cup of tea – with the cosied teapot putting out steaming cups half an hour after the first.  The River Cottage Preserves book – looking for a little guidance on how best to proceed with my 6 kilos of roasted tomatoes.  There’s the needlefelters from earlier in the morning, a lily-designed needlepoint I dug out of a bag and am quite delighted with – just need some more wool to continue, and the perle thread box.  And – Abby’s Christmas sneakers.

Yes, Mum will testify, I truly thought I could start and finish these on Christmas Eve. Yep, I did.   Did I meet this ridiculous goal?  No, I didn’t.  There’s a big surprise.  But today was the perfect day for a post-Christmas finish.  With that afternoon cup of tea at my side, I plonked down in our very aromatic kitchen, wielded the embroidery needle, and man! They turned out cute as!

I must confess, the paint didn’t adhere to the sneakers very well – no matter how many coats I applied, it just kept vanishing.  Julian wisely pointed out that they would have a ton of sizing on them – water proofing and all.  Ha! So the mushroom colours were not as vivid as I had expected, given previous success with tshirts.

However, once I added the embroidery – especially the wee strands of grass – I think the mushrooms really came to life.  As for the girlie’s response – I know I’m onto a winner when she says, as she ties the laces – “These are so cool!  Can we buy another pair of coloured sneakers and paint Meeku (Japanese vocaloid) on them!”

Why mushrooms? Seems teenage girls – especially those into cutesy-Scandi-Japanese stuff are really into mushrooms.  They also look sweet with the folk from Moominvalley. Which can be seen below … the birthday t-shirts.  More freezer paper stencilling and a wee bit of embroidery.

Firstly – Snufkin … Abby’s hoping to costplay as Snufkin later in the year.  That’s a costume that’s going to take a lot of mama’s time and ingenuity.  Until then, I rather love the tshirt and would like one for myself …

And Little My (yes, our dear old guinea pig was named after this chaotic & diminutive madwoman).    It was fun using two colours – nothing fancy, just had to keep a very steady hand – heightened my desire to learn how to screen print.  Oh what fun we could have with screen printing!

Little My and Snufkin both lent themselves to the silhouette style of freezer paper stencilling – their shapes are so distinctive.  I thought the Hattifatteners would turn out really well too – then, as I visualised the finished product – I realised I would be painting my teenage daughter a tshirt that would look like it was covered in c*nd*ms with funny hands.  Y-e-e-e-e-s. Not quite the dress code I encourage :-0  Haven’t yet tried Moomintroll – I think he would just turn out looking rather blobby.  Hmmmm … needs more thought.

So there you go.  The birthday tshirts and finished sneakers.  I’m so lucky and glad that my girlie still loves the handmade.

what we did with two sleeps to go


: choosing : measuring : slicing : pinning : stitching : folding : delighting :

: needle-felting : blanket-stitching : embroidering :  pleasing :

: ruffling : appliqueing : not-overlocking : fuming :

: cursing : threading : cursing : threading : cursing : crumbling :

: zigzagging : ironing : delivering : giving :

: sweating : wilting : melting :

: sliding into bed :

what we did with three sleeps to go

… to the sewing shed …

:: stitching & hanging ::

With the last stitches made, it’s time to hang our sweet gingerbread from some pretty piping.  And then … onto the piano.  Oh I do so love the blue of this blanket – it shall always remind me of the beautiful blue sky summer days we enjoyed in the this week before Christmas, 2012.


:: gathering & hemming ::

My favourite nightdress pattern – switched around with the buttons at the back.  And a lovely vintage doily for the bodice.  Needs some extra steam where I inadvertently pleated the front of the bodice onto the skirt whilst sewing the waist seam.  And some overlocking and the buttons – pah!  trivialities all of them :-)  Then, this year’s nightdress will be all ready to lay upon my girlie’s pillow for her to pop on after midnight mass.



:: quarters of inches & half square triangles ::

Oh dear, I’m either very silly, ridiculously optimistic … both?  Or maybe, simply carried away with Christmas spirit?  Yes, let’s say that – makes it all sound so jolly! When I found this small piece of Moomi fabric yesterday, I quickly decided to ditch the skirt I had planned to make Abby for Christmas, and whip up a Moomi quilt instead, seeing as all things Moomi had been requested.

It is a make it up as I go along quilt – with a make do mentality – all the fabric is from the stash – and if that long piece of sashing needs to be pieced from four odd lengths, then so be it.

The nine patches are now done, and in the morning, I shall sneak back out to the sewing shed with the sun, tea in my hand, the fluffy one no doubt trotting alongside me, and finish the border – there’ll be houses hiding in amongst a Marimekko forest.

Oh this will be such a lovely, fresh and sparkling quilt – and there’s that beautiful blue blanket for its back.  I know Abby will put it to good use, snuggling under it in her bed, draping it round her whilst reading in her armchair under the window, taking it with her on long drives, curling up on it in the backgarden …  she’s so very satisfying to sew for, this girl of mine :-)  (Either that or she’s an awfully good tricker!)

How are your Christmas preparations coming along dear folk?  Almost there?  Feet up and done already?

So looking forward to the morning!

scenes from a birthday weekend

:: Saturday dawned early – there were last minute birthday gifts to paint (which then had their finishing touches embroidered on at 2am the following morning/night!) – good thing teenagers sleep late.

:: doors were re-hung by she who is the most adept at wielding the screwdriver, glass was polished and polished and polished and polished until we gave up and bought Windex (oh my, this sure does work!) and Lotte was given a moving time bath and carefully stacked in her new home.

:: a very late birthday present (only found on Friday afternoon, side up on the nature strip of Dandenong Road – 4 lanes of traffic either way) was discovered, claimed by the daughter as the perfect addition for under the window in her new room, stripped, and DRIED after it was inadvertently left in a freak shower of rain (whilst I drove the daughter and friends to the movies – oh how I cursed every rain drop and every car on the way home to my drenched chair).

:: the loveliest of birthday breakfasts – cloth wrapped, home made presents, hydrangeas from the garden, the birthday wreath reminding me that fifteen years have passed since that first love filled birthday morning, poffertjes with melted butter and icing sugar … and Julian, straight off the plane and into the candlelit kitchen just in time.

:: whilst the papa-daughter team raced Mario Karts, the birthday dinner was prepared to the accompaniment of button making, button pulling and general upholstery – what everyone’s kitchen looks like on a birthday afternoon.

:: and now, the day after the birthday, the daughter is at school, the husband is at work, the dog is at my feet, and I am left to bang the last pieces into place (don’t you love my high-tech upholstery gadgets – a wee antique silver salt spoon used to locate the screw holes for the arms) before getting stuck into teachers’ gifts (patchwork for the most-loved and peppermint bark for the little-bit-loved) and party decorations.

Sooooo looking forward to Christmas preparations – they will be so relaxing after all of this :-)

moominy

“today we must do something very special, for it will be a glorious day!’
Snufkin.

Doesn’t Snufkin have the loveliest approach to living :-)

Oh we do so love the Moomins here at Bootville.  We’ve been hanging out in Moominvalley since Abby was a little girl with first the novels, then the story cd (read by the lovely Hugh Laurie), then the very kind and generous Anne of Finland sent us our own Moomin mugs and towel and fabric and music!  The day that box arrived was like Christmas!  Then the hardcovered Moomin comics – they are true beauties.

Surprisingly enough, Abby has never got into the animation – either the stop motion one (I think it’s Polish) or the drawn one.  We’ve watched a few minutes here and there but I don’t know – maybe it loses a bit of its mysterious magic when human voices are added to Moomin folk.  Mind you – I’ve just looked at photos of the wee puppets they used for the stop motion and oh they are so gorgeous.  Maybe we need to give it another go.  You can check it out here and see what you think :-)

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a huge revival of Moomin here.  I don’t know what brought it back to the fore of Abby’s imagination, but first the novels went off to school to be read from aloud at lunchtime and shared out to the friends – only one of whom had previously encountered Moominvalley.   Drawing ensued – lots and lots of drawing.  I’m told even Emma – who is not a drawer – has decided to hone her skill – practicing on Moomin and the Snork Maiden.  Even the teachers are getting into it – the English extension teacher is ordering them for her children.

But guess what happened on Tuesday eve!  Abby had come home from school and after doing her homework, cooked dinner.  Julian came home from work and helped.  I came home from babysitting and we all sat down to a lovely roast chicken and salad.  Then we cleaned up.  Then Julian and I plonked ourselves on the sofa  - and just as we were pondering what to do for the evening – or if indeed we had the energy for anything – Abby flew into the room, most distressed.  She’d left Volumes 1 and 4 of the hardbacked Moomin comics on top of the Myki (wretched ticketing system) machine at the school train station – oh dear.  Naturally, she and I headed off straight away to see if they were still there – and on the way we had that conversation that mothers and children who have lost things have.  ”It’s not the end of the world.  It was a simple mistake – everybody leaves things somewhere at some stage in their lives.  We can replace them.  You never know they might still be there (4 hours later).  Maybe someone from school noticed them and thought ha!  I’ve seen Abby Boot with these books and will hand them in to lost property tomorrow.”  I stopped at the bottom of the station and Abby pelted up the ramp – moments later – she was back – with the books.  They were still there, neatly pushed to the back corner of the Myki machine.

Truly – I thought they would be.  If I saw that, I would think, oh dear, some poor soul has left their lovely books here – I’ll push them to the back and hopefully they’ll come and get them.  And I think that’s how most folk around here think – we’ve seen stuffed toys tied to lamp posts and wee shoes and mittens and beanies placed neatly on fences with big pebbles weighting them down.  Abby was over the moon. (I was relieved – oh the tears and guilt that I could foresee!)

Last weekend – it was stitchy Moomin.  On Friday (a pupil free day) Abby and I set off to Winterwoods nice and early for supplies – lots of felt and fleece and fresh felting needles.  Then to the oppies for a lampshade.  Then home to set our fingers to stitching.

Abby made a beautiful Snufkin – he has dear little trousers and a smock, a marvel of a hat with a leather hat band and a wee feather, a back pack with straps for carrying his bedroll, needlefelted boots and a knitted scarf.  Oh, I have adored watching Abby’s creations grow over the last few years.  They are becoming ever more detailed and complex as her skills become both finer and deeper.  She also whipped up a Moomin but declared him a little dull because he has no clothes – poor Moomin :-)

She’s drawn the patterns for the Snork Maiden, the Snork brother, the Hemulen and Little My.  As for me – I’m working on an applique for a cushion I started many suns ago on Mum’s back verandah.  But upon pulling it out of the heap on Friday, I discovered there were elements I no longer liked.  So the top two thirds of the tree were pulled off as were the yo-yo flowers.

On went a deep and long hedge of berries at the foot of the mountains – lingonberries or cloud berries?  The tree grew once more, this time in felt not fabric and I’m adding long wavy streamers of fern stitch and the trunk has been covered in cable stitch.  And given Moomin was glancing up into the tree, a bird has been added – a rather cheeky looking fellow who’s probably teasing Moomin.  New flowers have grown – felt of course, with embroidery – laisy daisy stitch for the stamen and a simple cross for the petals – still to decide what to do with their stems.  And there’s now the Hobgoblin’s hat waiting for Moomin under the tree.  I might have mentioned this before – I ADORE making pictures with felt and embroidery and I tell you, the moment this post is finished and published, I’ll be back on the sofa – washing up be danged – plying that needle some more.

The lampshade – we found a marvellous oblong one – like a tallish round one that had been flattened.  It’s for Abby’s desk lamp in her bedroom – with a Moomin scene stitched onto of course.

And we have supplies for a Moomin house – in felt.  We have wonderfully thick, thick blue felt for the walls – with a bottle of stiffy to be painted on for extra oomph – brown felt for the roof – which Abby is embroidering to look like shingles – and a wee bag of uniformly shaped pebbles for its stonework foundation.  Hopefully this weekend will see it begin – three stories with windows cut out, and little porches for the front and back doors.   Abby wants to set it all up on the seasons table – we will have a dear little Moominvalley for Christmas!

I do so love creating with my girl – and I especially love that we’re such good friends with the Moomins again.  Bliss!  As for you, dear reader, if you’ve not visited Moominvalley you simply must!  They are wonderful tales – with that marvellously strange, slightly dark Scandinavian edge.  Good for little ones and their grown ups.