Strange craft conversations

My mum's given me some doll and toy making books to look after while she moves house. One of then has become a major part of my inner craft life (where I dream about making). It's from 1983 & it's Japanese but in english. The instructions are amazing; beautiful & detailed. But some of the illustrations I find a little disturbing...

Mum & I had a conversation about this one. I asked, so are these babies that have died & gone to heaven?  Mum thinks they could be, as afterall it looks like heaven. We ponder the concept of making such a doll. Then we read the title, der. They're in the land of unborn babies, waiting to be born? Of course.

Big fat issues

I'm going to get straight to the point here & say that I'm fat. Not a little bit overweight, curvy, pleasantly plump, voluptuous or any other euphemism. I've been called all these things & more besides. I prefer the simple three letter word FAT.

I would also prefer not to be fat, but honestly, I don't obsess about it constantly anymore. I make most of my own clothes & know where to buy anything else in my size. I go to a gym that is frequented by a diverse range of people with equally diverse shapes, sizes & levels of fitness. Most of my friends & family are within the normal size range. Although I should point out that on my Dad's side, they have to work damn hard at it. Curse those hefty Saxon genes. And most importantly I'm pretty happy with my life right now.

However the topic of body size has come about from doing the refashionista thing over at wardrobe refashion. This been a bit of discussion about it in the support forum & I have discovered that it's really, really hard to take portraits of myself in the garments that I'm making. Pictures that do my creations justice & that I would consider posting on the internet, that is.

This got me to thinking, are there any pictures of me that I like? Even if I am fat in them? So I went through my photo albums & through Gerards album's & through my mum's albums. Mmm, there's actually not very many photos of me at all. It would seem that not only do I place myself in the role of photographer at family gatherings but I'm a bit camera shy too. So maybe I have some big fat issues around pictures of me.

Gerard has a few, mostly taken on holidays. There are some head & shoulder shots, one or two slightly lewd shots & very few full length shots. Of the full length photos, I quite like this one, taken 6 years ago when we were camping at Lake Mungo in NSW. And I really like this one. Both of these photos are in big landscapes where I suppose I don't seem quite so big.

The washed out colour also seems to minimise those pesky double chins and weird curves. And as they're holiday snaps, I'm happy & relaxed.

Most of the more recent photos of me have been taken by my stepfather, Lance, also a big person hiding behind the camera. This photo was taken when I was at my fattest ever.

When Grace was three months hold, I had an episode of postnatal psychosis, which led to me taking zyprexa, a charming medication which increases your appetite, decreases your metabolism and makes you sleep alot. When you're not eating sweet carbohydrates, that is. In six weeks I totally stacked on the kilos, wrecking all the effort I had put into not gaining too much weight during pregnancy. Here is the evidence. However, I love this photo. I'm home from hospital, I'm laying around the backyard in the sun with my daughter Grace, who is eating a parsley stalk (hopefully for fun & not in preparation for teenage dieting). It's a very happy time, no matter what body I'm living in.

Since then, I've been to the gym, been strict with diet & portion control. I've lost about 16 kilos (about 37 pounds).  So now I'm 3 or 4 kilos under my prepregnancy weight. The lightest I've been since about 2001. It was hard work & needed to be done but I'm over it for now. Having too much body fat is a simple result of an energy imbalance ie not enough energy expended for the calories consumed. But changing your life so that you have a thin(ner) body rather than a fat one is riddled with complexity. If you feel continuously guilty & shameful about your body because it is fat, it will be very hard to invest the time, money & effort into eating a regular diet of good quality healthy food. It will be hard to go swimming or do yoga or go to the gym. Paradoxically I have found that doing these things makes me feel better about my body even when it is fat.

Dieting is hard. To lose a kilo a week, for me, requires extreme discipline & fussiness with regard to food and a complete dedication to going to the gym every second day, in addition to being more active with housework, gardening, walking etc.  It also requires that most of the time, I am a little bit hungry. This drives me nuts & can turn me into irritable monster mum/partner who totally fears the presence of chocolate in the house.  I also find it somewhat alarming to change shape quickly. Yes, it's delightful to get compliments, encouragement & praise for my effort. Yes, it's thrilling for clothes to suddenly become too big but somehow the me that lives in this body needs time to adjust, time to get used to being a little less big. Because fat is also about comfort & safety, about defence against the outside. It's a way of securing the perimeter. 

This photo was was taken at a street party in March this year, wearing a dress I made & a hat made by my sister Betty. Check out those tuck shop arms. I do still want to lose weight, mostly so that I can demonstrate to Grace that genes are only half the story. Maybe she'll inherit her father's build & tend towards skinniness, no matter what. But if she doesn't and she gets my build, and if she gets fat, she needs to know that she is still good enough. That she can still love & be loved. That her body is part of her active self & not just a form to be gazed upon. And she needs to know how to be healthy even if she gets the cursed fat genes.

So how does one take a good photo of clothes on a plus size model? I decided to surf around the internet & find out. It helps of course if you are really gorgeous & not too plus size like the models at entitled. This is my favorite plus size catalogue though, the clothes are funky & look well made. I also liked igigi which has a variety of different sized models & some interesting information on designing for larger sizes. It was hard to come up with any more. Most sites have either really daggy, polyester looking clothes and/or don't use models at all. Never thought I'd be saying I want to see models, but if I was going to consider buying clothes without trying them on I would need to see them on a person somewhere in the realm of my size.

The house is a mess, but at least there's not dead rats everywhere...

I have to admit, I've let the housework slip a bit lately. There ares cobwebs in corners, the toy pile in the study is growing, there are odd bits of clothing strewn around, I'm behind on the washing, the front yard's full of weeds and the list could go on endlessly. When I thought about washing the floor on Friday morning, I immediately thought of a weekend of gardening & mud & put it off (again). Even Gerard is starting to notice that there's gunk on the shelves in the kitchen. And he's a fan of the Quentin Crisp approach to housework.

Quentin Crisp was famous (among other things) for not doing housework & for saying in his autobiography that the dirt didn't get any worse after four years. G saw a show about him on TV and has claimed ever since that you don't need to dust because areas of the house that are well used stay relatively dust free.

My own standards vary wildly depending on how busy I am, how depressed I am, whether we are likely to have vistors that I either don't know well or who I think will have scary standards of their own, whether I need to see beauty & order and how energetic I feel. At the moment although a really clean & tidy house would be delightful, there are so many other things I would rather do. Like write, or sew, or garden, or go visiting or simply hang out with Grace. So I'm really only doing what I consider the bare minimum.

In the new financial year, when I go back to work part time, G will be home one day a week. So we're talking quite a bit about the division of domestic labour. Because he wants to stay home more & for me to return to work at least a little.  So I keep saying, this means you have to do the housework & this includes folding laundry. And he says, well yes. And to be honest, he's not too bad at doing housework but his standards are a bit different. When he starts noticing that things need to be done & suggests a day of joint action then I know I've really let it slide. And this morning he came out with the statement that was such a classic that I had to make it the title of today's post. No dead rats. Indeed. Something to be thankful for.

I've been admiring these orchids that a friend grew (how clever, mine never flower). They send an intoxicating scent through the house. Covering the odour of dead rat. Actually if you look up to the top left corner of the picture next to the curled up pendulum of the clock, you can see a cobweb. Normally I would edit such dreck out but tonight, in the spirit of slacker housekeeping, I'm letting it hang loose.

WIP Friday#2

I like this idea of WIP Friday because what's happened both times is that I've spent some time on to my sewing projects and this makes me happy. First up today, I cut some more pieces for the blanket I'm making out of men's dressing gowns. Then I pinned them all together.

Next up, I started on a skirt I'm refashioning from a dress I bought at the op shop. The fun part of this was finding objects from around the house for tracing circles. These will go on the front.

I'm enjoying this project, mostly it's going quite smoothly, only one unpick & one waistband cut & redo. Hopefully the skirt will be OK enough to wear to work in a fortnight. Sigh. I'll have to think of a new day for sewing.

Later while Grace had her afternoon nap, much of which she spent bouncing around her cot (quite happily I might add), I sewed all the squares I had pinned & got a good start on the skirt. Now I'm going to go catch the end of Veronica Mars on telly.

What does she see?

Today rolled in with a seething dankness that is very Melbourne. It wasn't all that cold or wet, just grey, damp & dank. There was a sour light this morning that sat in the back of my head like a migraine. Maybe I'm just tired. This week was really busy & although I like taking Grace out & about, it gets very tiring because she doesn't understand that she isn't allowed to rearrange the hosts CD collection, shuffle out onto the street or pull things off the shelf at my sisters shop. If I growl at her, she cries. So I try to contain & distract. Sometimes it works.

So it was very pleasant to spend a day at home where there is not really anything that she can damage or hurt herself with. I decided to do only the bare minimum of domestic drudgery and we spent the day in a kind of parallel play. I read while she banged pots & pans in the scullery. She unpacked & repacked toys & oddments while I cut & prepared sewing. I tried on sewing projects & she pulled all the shoes out of the wardrobe. She dressed herself in daddy's hat & (clean)undies while I pinned & snipped. 

And we took some photos of Graces favorite activity, looking out at the garden through the cat door. Our house is very old fashioned & there are no floor to ceiling windows, so unless someone holds her up to a window Grace can only see the sky. So she looks out the cat door.

Sometimes she looks out the cat door & cries, especially if I've gone to the (outside) toilet or I'm hanging washing & it's too damp for her to play on the grass. Most of the time it seems to be a happy experience. So today, I asked myself what does she see? I got down on the floor & took a look.

It's a bit of a bleak look up the garden path at the moment which is a pity because really there's quite a lot happening in the garden.

 There's coloured leaves..

And the wallflowers have started blooming.

The native iris is in full flight...

I took these photos while Grace was having her morning nap & felt quite cheered. Hopefully I'll get some time in the garden this weekend. This afternoon after the damp had cleared a bit, I took Grace for a garden tour & we played with the wind chimes. Then she had a shuffle up & down the path & over the grass. She got quite muddy but I think it would be a pity if all she saw of the garden was the view through the cat door.

Little girls in dresses

Grace mostly wears trousers, tshirts and jumpers with either woollie booties that my mum knits or soft soled shoes that I bought on impulse. Most of her clothes are in strong colors, there's a bit of pink but it doesn't dominate. Some days it all matches, other days depending on what stage of the laundry cycle or how many changes of trousers she's had, the combos get a bit freaky.  She can go through 3 or 4 pairs of trousers in a day because she bumshuffles, wears cloth nappies at home and I let her play in the dirt.

Every now and then, either because there's a special occasion or because we're going somewhere flash, I put her in a dress. Her dad loves to see his little girl in a dress, as does her nan and I guess I do too. This dress, which my mum made out of recycled Liberty Lawn was a favorite last summer.


The other day mum and I were at the opshop with Grace (a treat for me because mum was entertaining Grace & stopping her from creating complete chaos) and I found a box of 1950's patterns for 50c each. Most were for elegant ladies wear but there were some childrens patterns. This is my favorite..

It's seems quite difficult to find what I'd call proper little girl dresses, in good colors. There's lots of dresses, most of them are pink and many of them are weird. I won't buy anything that has slogans, words, branding,  strange adult styling or that needs to be handwashed. Any dress I make for Grace at the moment has to be very short, on account of the bumshuffling, & probably worn with trousers or leggings. Maybe this will change when she starts walking, which is not looking like it will happen any time soon. She's heading on to 14 months now, so I guess she's going to be a late walker.

Sometimes I worry about what she'll want to wear when she's older and how long I can keep her in childlike clothes. Part of me hopes that she might be a tomboy & want to wear pants all the time, at least until she's 18 or so. But then I do like the dresses... 

Proud to be a union member

When I was at uni & going through the radical student stage, the only person who supported me during family dinner political discussions was my nan. My nan also taught me how to compost, how to make jam, how to make do & all about opshops. Nan believed passionately in the importance of family & in standing up for working people.

She saw herself as one of the ordinary people, not rich, not well educated but doing the right thing. I remember in particular, Nan explaining to me that Labour Day was really the eight hour day, celebrating eight hours work, eight hours rest & eight hours play. And that this was an important victory for working people, won through union struggle. I think she might have understood alot about work/life balance.

I am bothered by the Howard Goverment's industrial relations reform which erode the rights & conditions of workers, and particularly bothered by how it will affect those in low paid jobs. I think Sooz put it well in an eloquent post about what's happening to the Spotlight workers.  Also under threat are our rights to collective bargaining and fair resolution of industrial disputes. Not only are working conditions getting worse but our ability to fight back is going to get a lot harder. Read all the details here.

I'm in the process of negotiating my return to paid time paid employment. So far there have been no problems, but I've been on the phone to my union several times over the last couple of weeks with questions about my right to access part time hours after returning from maternity leave. This is not one of the five guaranteed minimum condition under the new legislation. I am so aware of how generous my working conditions are. Without them I wouldn't have had the option of time at home with Grace. The union has been very helpful about these & other questions. (No, I can't write about where I work on the internet because I might violate the APS code of conduct & lose my job. Sigh.) However, I feel that I know exactly where I stand. And that should issues arise at some point down the track, help is just a phone call away.


Where did my weekend go?

Well, for a start I got to have a long long sleep on Saturday morning. I love Saturday-sleep-in day and think everyone should get one day a week when they are encouraged to sleep in, read in bed or some other similar luxury. Of course, because I stayed up very late on Friday night reading blogs & well, faffing, I didn't get quite as much sleep as I would have liked. Still it was lovely.

The the day slipped away from me and I rushed around like a mad thing because I had invited friends over for scrabble. The house needed to be whipped into some sort of order, I needed to buy food & I had to bake because I had promised cake. As it happened, I spent far to long at the supermarket chatting with sister Betty & her man Cam. I love bumping into people I know at the supermarket, it makes me feel like I live in a community. Doesn't happen often enough.

For refreshments I bought this cheapo Brie that is very close to its use by & some biscuits. I think I have bought most of the supermarkets stock of this batch of brie because it is so nice & ripe. Also bought olives, mandarins & avocado and the first reasonably priced winter strawberries from Queensland...

The smell of these strawbs was just incredible. They tasted pretty good too. And I bought stuff for the cake. Here's the recipe;

Dead easy chocolate cake

  • 1 1/3 self-raising flour
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder (Dutch process if possible)
  • 1 1/4 brown sugar
  • 125 butter, soft but not melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup of water

Preheat the oven to 180C, grease & line a 20cm round cake tin.

Place all ingredients in a bowl & beat with electric beaters on high for 2-4 minutes until pale & silky smooth.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until done. Cool & ice or eat warm with cream.

Or be like us, ice warm AND eat with cream. I iced it with a tooth numbing icing made with icing sugar, cocoa, a little butter & water mixed to a thick consistency.   I got this recipe from The Age Sunday Life a couple of years ago & it is a consistent favourite. It's not the best ever chocolate cake & it certainly isn't a keeper. But it is as easy as a packet mix & much, much nicer, especially if you use good cocoa. I think this one didn't turn out as well as it has in the past because my small electric beaters are on their way out, & the mixture didn't really achieve aforesaid pale & silky consistency . But it was still quite edible.

Grace was very interested in the scrabble game & also loved the brie & stawberries. As for chocolate cake, well she had a little piece after her lentil & barley soup & was still shrieking after her bath! Talk about an exciting sugar high. Almost as exciting as my very convincing scrabble win. G is no longer reigning household scrabble & chess champion.

On Sunday morning I managed to get myself to the gym. Much groaning & many attempts to find an excuse not to go, but I did quite enjoy it once I was there. Attendence has been slipping as there are too many things I'd rather be doing. Still, another kilo has slipped away, despite the cake. G outdid himself on the domestic front & by the time I got back we were more or less ready to head over to my mum's to help her & stepdad shift plants to our house for a while. They're in the process of relocating to our side of town. Much lifting of heavy pots & cursing. I found myself mostly chasing or holding Grace down as mums house is not at all small child proof at the moment. It was so exhausting, I almost wanted to be shifting plants.

As is often the case, mum had lots of stuff to give me. Some toymaking books (on loan during the move), some new thermal underwear that was on sale & she's had around for ages, a new jumper for Grace & a toy that I instantly recognised from my own childhood.

I don't think I played with this clown much or it wouldn't be in such good condition (eventhough his clothes need a wash & iron). My favorite toy, a purple denim Eyeore, was loved to death & is no longer in existence.  Mum used to make these & other toys to sell & from all accounts did pretty well at it. She's looking forward to revisiting the toymaking when she has more time.

By the all time this was done & the washing bought in, it was tea time. I managed to get G to feed Grace & make dinner as I still hadn't had time to iron his work clothes. A good trade, I thought as there was much laundry shuffling to do. I am a bit obessessed by laundry at the moment & have been writing about it at Mrs Washalot .

I managed to get a little computer time before a late dinner spent watching Big Brother eviction. I know it's lame, I'm really too old for Big Brother , but I love this show. G says I go into a trance & won't let me watch it every night (it also clashes with the ABC news). Probably just as well. Then I flaked on the couch & watched The Society Murders which dramatised a shocking murder in Melbourne several years ago. I remember finding the case very sad when it was on the news. Although I love to see Australian drama on TV (rare treat these days), I found this story quite disturbing. Not really the relaxing TV I was after.

WIP Friday

Sometimes my projects seem to drag on forever. That's my life with a small child, I think. But I do love making things; the sound of scissors crunching across the table, the meditative whir of the of the sewing machine, the excitment of a new piece of fabric, a design clicking over in my head while I hang out yet another load of washing. So the idea of show & tell in the form of WIP (Work in Progress) Friday introduced by Fiona at hopskipjump is an idea I can fully relate to. And it's an incentive towards at least a degree of progress.

This weeks craftiness is the beginning of a quilt/blanket for our bed inspired by an article I read in Country Threads from August 2003 about Wagga rugs. Waggas were originally made by colonial men from flour sacks. Later during the depression women made waggas from whatever warm material was to hand. Although made from necessity, of course many were creative & beautiful.  You can read more about waggas here if you like. I'm such a sucker for craft & quilting magazines from the opshop and mostly these magazines just feed my fantasy craft life. But reading about waggas last year got me thinking.

For a while I've been a bit obsessed by mens dressing gowns. You know, the old woollen ones. I love the fabric, the colours, the checks, the way it is warm, light & machine washable. So a couple of months ago, I bought three dressing gowns from a local second hand chain at a very reasonable price. They just hung around taking up space until the cold here in Melbourne moved me to action.

I started cutting them up on Monday. Throughout the week the squares lived on the sunroom table with the washing & the cat (of course). Every afternoon, I cut a few more squares while Grace played with bits of material on the floor & found new ways to create chaos.

This afternoon, the squares got smaller & smaller as I worked through each piece of material. Until I had a lovely pile of squares. And a box of skinny bits which, in the spirit of using everything, may well be made into a new rag rug.

I am pleased to get this far. Hopefully I'll be able to snatch some sewing machine time over the next week or so.

Much as I like the idea of being part of things like Friday WIP & Wardrobe Refashion '06 , I think I have to say at this point, that I don't think muppinstuff is going to be a craft blog. Sure I'm going to write about making things sometimes but those posts will be nestled among posts about the garden, mothering, the perlious state of our nation (I'm absolutely hating the new IR laws), about stuff that goes on in my life & around me. Yes, there will be banality, trivia & pretty pictures but I think it could get quite gruesome on occasion.

Some days you just get lucky

Even though I didn't sleep well last night on account of having to get up to go the toilet & then having racing thoughts about blogging, I did have a pretty nice day. Sometimes when I'm tired, it's barbed wire inside the eyelids, sometimes the day goes all floaty. Today was floaty and sunny.

I'm loving having a way to write again but I've just started to tell friends & family that I'm blogging and I've had some comments & email (thank you for both). It's at once thrilling & scary to have people read what I write. Apologies to anyone I should respond to but I do get very tongue tied (in a keyboard/internal censor way) when I try to write an email & it can take a while. I'm also finding that I get very tongue tied in the same way when it comes to leaving comments on other peoples blogs. Hopefully these things will pass with practice.

Anyway, after Grace & I attended mothers' group we had lunch with sister Betty, a fun part of our weekly routine. Then I went to do some shopping on the way home & popped into my favorite opshop where I found this...

How much? I asked. $1, the man said, but everything's half price today so it's 50c. How about $2, I said, thinking this is just far too much of a bargain even for a cheapskate like me. $1, then, the man at the op shop said. I still felt a bit guilty. Despite being nearly 40 years old, the book is in near perfect condition, apart from the inscription in the front.

I'd never heard of Rupert Bear before, so I did a web search. I must have been under a rock. Here is a Wikipedia entry &  The followers of Rupert Bear ,a fan site just in case you've been under the same rock. I'm looking forward to reading this to Grace when she's a bit older. The stories are in verse and very charming. And the illustrations, well ..

How cute can a bear & his little friends be?

There's no author or illustrator credit in the front pages of the book which I find very strange. Theres also no date except in the This Book Belongs To area indicating that the book was given as a gift in 1965. The paper & printing look about 60's too. Illustrations are signed by  the books creator Mary Tourtel. However given that she retired in 1935 I'm guessing that our new book is a reprint or collection of older works.

Getting to know my onions

This afternoon was perfect weather for winter gardening, calm, clear & not bitterly cold. So I got out in the garden & planted the seedlings I bought yesterday. Usually I leave seedlings around until they start to suffer, then feel stressed & panic plant.

The first hour was spent preparing the bed with about six wheelbarrows of wormfilled compost & mulching with peastraw. Following last summers tomato disaster, I've moved to a four bed system that I learnt all about at thevegetablepatch . (This site doesn't have links to each page but if you look up crop rotation in the how to index, you'll find what I'm talking about.) The first bed is well underway with brocoli, lettuce, broad beans, snow peas, spinach & coriander.

The second bed, I started today with onion seedlings. I grew some red onions from a bundle of slips last year & they were a big hit with G who loves onions. This year I tried to grow some onions from seed, they came up OK & then just died in the damp. I had never thought of growing onions from punnets until I saw Peter Cundall on  Gardening Australia showing primary school kids how to plant onions. It's much better value than buying them in a bundle. I got about 80 from each punnet. First I separated out each onion plant... Then laid them sideways in a trench.

Then covered them with soil. Apparently they will turn themselves upright within three days. The  two remaining vegetable beds are lying fallow until spring and were fertilised & planted with seeds for green manure.

I read in one of my old gardening books, The Australian Gardener by Leslie H Brunning 1942, that "Any variety of onion pulled in the young state makes a Spring Onion" and that main crop varities such as Brown Spanish may be sown direct as late as July /August and thinned. Might try this, as I never seem to have any success with spring onions & I quite like the idea of lots of onions. Before last year I had dismissed the idea of growing onions because they are so cheap to buy. But, as I discovered last year, home grown onions definitely superior to shop onions in flavour, almost to the same extent as tomatoes. There's also something really good about deciding you need an onion for your salad & then picking one fresh from the garden.

I also planted some flowers, iceland poppies, austral stock, cineraria (which I hope will self seed) & a new ornamental sage. Not worrying too much about weeding the garden, just planting so that in spring we have a glorious bounty of flowers & vegies.

Tissue box cover

We went supermarket shopping this morning, all three of us, which has become almost a Sunday morning habit and is more fun than you'd think. It's quiet, Grace loves the outing & shopping together means no mid shop phone call consultations or post shop recriminations over bad brand choice or lunch needs.

Anyway I bought a box of tissues. We don't normally buy tissues, being greenie hankie user types. I know this disgusts alot of people but hankies are quite clean if you wash & iron them. Nothing beats a hankie when you've got a runny nose or you've been crying alot. Anyway, the reason I bought tissues was because the other day I bought this at my favorite opshop.

It is a crochet tissue box cover and it was only $1 & it's green (my favorite colour). Someone's obviously put a lot of time& skill into this & although I can't imagine why one would think to make a green crochet tissue box cover, I do really like it. Now we have tissues for guests or whatever.

I always get a bit of a thrill when I buy something from the Don Bosco opshop. It's run by volunteers, has cheap donated goods and is very community orientated.  And to top it off, half the money raised goes to East Timor. The other half goes to another worthy cause, the name of which has slipped my mind.

Because grief is not linear

Over the last few days I've been reading Feather Crowns by Bobbie Anne Mason (Vintage 1993). It's about a woman, Christie, who gave birth to quintuplets in 1900. People came from all around to see the babies. Subsequently the babies died. I wont go into what happened next or the other narrative threads as what really moved me was the portrayal of Christies' grief & anger. And the interactions between the grief (or suppresion of grief) of other family members.

I've added this book to my pile of grief & loss culture that I've been collecting ever since September 2002 when our son was born & died at about 20 weeks gestation. Many things happen when a baby dies. For a while I hated my partner, desparately wanted to leave, go anywhere. Often I felt like my insides were full of stones, heavy & stretched with no room for any feeling at all. I could watch television far more violent than ever before or after. And then several months later, camping by the sea, after losing yet another pregnancy, I became so afraid of snakes & reptiles that I could not leave the path, even to walk on rocks or sand. I became a compulsive reader of books about pregnancy loss & once you start looking there are quite a few. But what I really wanted was narrrative fiction & art, work that would feed my soul & assure me that I was not alone.

Last night I stayed up late, faffing & browsing around other blogs. I happened on a series of links that lead me to reading some blogs by women whose babies had died. Mostly close to term, which I imagine to be even worse. At this point I'm not going to share links because eventhough the blogs are public, I don't know these women (even in the cyber sense) & I wouldn't want to intrude. Not without asking first.   And I found myself weeping. In front of the computer. Big wet sobs.

Then I realised how far we have come. How much joy Grace has bought into our life. In a sense having another baby has validated the enourmous sense loss we felt when little Frank was born/died. Ah, that's why it hurt so much, mattered so deeply. But every now & again it all comes rushing back & I remember what the kind & gentle doctor at our local community health centre used to say to me when I'd rage against the unpredictability of it all. Janet, she'd say, grief is not linear.

This morning was sleep in Saturday, a day I look forward to more than I can say. Grace came into say hello & have a story, then I snuggled under the doona to finish Feather Crowns. Afterwards, I lay there looking out at the cold grey Melbourne winter & thought about what I had read in blogs last night & about our son. I pondered how I was going to write about him, whether I should set up a separate blog. Then I thought, that's silly, my son & the sadness that he's gone is as much a part of who I am as are my photos of dahlias or the things I make. I'm not going to exile anything that isn't happy & upbeat to a separate place of darkness. Anyone who doesn't want to read will just move on.

Then I started to think about how I don't have a really nice photo or memento of little Frank, nothing that I could show people or put on the wall. And I thought about telling Grace. Frank was born alive and he is listed on her birth certificate. I did tell her, the day after she was born, that she has a brother. More sobs. Gerard came in & we had a talk. He still thinks about Frank too. How could you ever forget? He reassured me that Grace will know & that we can take her to the place were her brothers ashes are scattered later. The sobbing started to subside. G went & got  Grace up from her nap & we all had a cuddle in bed. The day got a whole lot better after that. 

Cat and mouse

This morning I watched Tony, our grumpy old black & white cat cavort on the grass like a kitten. It was awful, he had a mouse that he would allow to escape for varying amounts of time before pouncing. Again and again, and again. The poor mouse looked wet & shivery as it tried to escape the clutches of the evil Tony.

Luckily for the vermin who share our house Tony is generally a lazy creature, content to sleep away his days in one of his many sleeping spots. But not today. At one point I thought I should do something but then I thought, no this is Tonys' job. You see, we live in a crumbly old house & there have been mice in the walls ever since I moved in, way back when. Back then they were so bold that they would dart across the living room as you were watching TV. My cat, Patsy, soon took care of that. Then Patsy went missing & despite our best efforts to find her, never came back.

The mice returned with a vengenance. One morning while I was sleeping, a mouse came onto my pillow & ate a peice of my hair from my fringe. True, you could see the gnaw marks & I saw the mouse escaping. Needless to say this freaked me out. I have never been comfortable with the idea of ratsack ( I hear it's an awful death) & the idea of traps also horrifies me. So I went to the animal home that very evening & chose Tony.  His job is to deter the mice from entering our part of the house.Sometimes it gets ugly but mostly he succeeds in a low key sort of way & all creatures, including us, are happy enough.

If you have a garden, there's always something to eat...

Lunch today was looking a bit grim as I hadn't had a chance to go to the shops (waiting for the electrician to come & fix the heater in the bathroom) & we've almost run out of fruit & veg. I thought, well, I'll go & see if there are a few beans left. No, it's definitely now too cold for beans. So I had a look around & this is what I came up with; silver beet leaves, garlic tops & pea shoots.  Not bad for a winter garden that has pretty much slowed right down.

Add a couple of mushrooms, a very bendy carrot, some marinated chicken strips from the freezer, some noodles & we have yummy chicken stirfry. Grace was most pleased. I think this is her favourite lunch, none gets thrown on the floor or fed to the cat!

Tonights dinner was also supplemented from the winter garden, egg pasta with pesto made from pine nuts, garlic, lots of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme & marjoram. I think I like this pesto almost as much as basil pesto. It also works well with other nuts, especially almonds. Observant cooks may notice the absence of parmesan. I used to buy this great italian parmesan from one of our local shops but G is vegetarian & we recently discovered that this cheese is full of rennet. I haven't been able to find a rennet free parmesan worthy of the name.  So we are doing without. I miss parmesan!  

Grrr it's cold

I'll try not to keep banging on about it, but I reckon this is one of the coldest winters we've had in Melbourne for a while. It's definitely one of the wettest. Maybe summer just erases each memory of the previous winter, to be completely forgotton until that moment in late autumn when I decide that it is definitely too cold to wear sandals anymore & I get out the suitcase of winter clothes packed away last spring. Unpacking the winter clothes this year I thought, with a full blown case of winter amnesia, surely it won't be cold enough for thermals, they're only for camping & going up to the hills. Aren't they? But I unpacked them anyway. And what have I been wearing for the last week? Thermals. Light woollen thermals layered with normal clothes. And woollie socks, beanies, scarves & coats. Not beanies & scarves inside very often, we do have some heating.

This morning the mist was heavy enough to make the news & cause chaos at the airport. When I took this picture at about 9.00am it didn't seem too bad.

As it cleared, I realised just how much the fog obscured. The weather forecast promised sunny breaks but it was grey all day. Perfect for SAD, but I'm fighting the SAD. I've bought some light orange tinted sunglasses & they cheer up the landscape when we go for our daily walk. Also I think going to the gym & lifting weights helps.

Unfortunately I couldn't go to the gym today, eventhough I got a place for Grace at the creche, because she has a cold & is streaming great gobs of snot. I've been trying to teach her how to blow her nose but she just laughs at me. The creche has a very firm no sick children rule, so although she doesn't seem at all challenged (eating, sleeping, playing as normal)& doesn't even have a temperature, we stayed home. I'm wondering a little about this rule, though, because I think this is where Grace caught the cold in the first place. And how sick is sick? Is a sniffle sick? What about a little cough? Obviously, if she is really sick she'll stay home but it seems that at the moment every baby & small child I know has some degree of snottiness.

I've nearly finished my first official wardrobe refashion project. Not sure whether it's going to turn out but hey, that's always a risk when I try something new. One of the things that held me back yesterday from quality sewing time was my inability to perform simple administrative tasks on the net. I was trying to send a friend some photos I took at her daughter's birthday. Outlook was not co-operating, neither was the program that comes with the camera. I set up a Flikr account but it's going to take a while for me to get my head around using it. Every new thing just seems to take so much faffing until it clicks & I can work with it. I feel like such a late adapting technoklutz. Anyway I managed to kill our internet connection (with the camera program, I think) & my password was quarantined because bigpond thought I might be a hacker. I must say the the gentleman on the phone at aforesaid bigpond was very helpful & patient while sorting the problem out & was also able to explain to technoklutz why the problem happened in the first place.

Mostly about my tree dahlias

Depite my despair about my looming return to paid work & the gloomy onset of a grey Melbourne winter there's been a burst of garden joy in every day. I see them when I walk up the street to our house with Grace in the stroller.

I see their petals fallen onto our neighbours dour clipped front lawn.

I see them out the scullery window while I do the dishes. They are there in the morning when I hang the washing out & again in the afternoon when I bring it in.

They're beautiful when the sky is grey, beautiful when the sky is blue.

We have a lot of tree dahlias, they're an ideal plant for a renters garden. You can propagate them from a piece of stem, they grow really big in a year, bigger & better in two.Over summer they form a pleasing green backdrop to any sort of garden bed or a screen for a fence or ugly view. Then in early winter, a flush of big blousy blooms. If you have to leave your garden, you can just cut off a branch and have a dozen new plants. And if you get sick of them, they're non-invasive & easy to pull out. Not that I could imagine that, every year I grow more & more attached to them.

On another note, I started my first planned wardrobe refashion item this afternoon. Just as I hit the sewing zone & my jumper remake was starting to take shape, there was a plaintive wail from a little girl. It wasn't one of those dreamy days when I can sew while Grace plays alongside with her toys or indeed anything other than the pedal to my sewing machine. I've tried putting myself in the playpen, but she either wails & howls or finds a way to move it so she can play with my machine pedal or the power board. Too scary on too many levels. So I guess the jumper will have to wait until G is around to co-parent or one night when I'm not falling asleep. 

I'm quite excited about the whole wardrobe refashion thing. It's something I have been doing on & off for ages, sometimes because I can't find stuff I like that fits properly, sometimes because of money & often just because I like doing it. Hopefully I'll get lots of new ideas & stretch myself a bit. And end up with savings to spend on fun things like shoes..

My other work

This week I've been talking with my employer about returning to work after 14 months of maternity leave. I really don't want to go back but it seems like everyone expects that I will, feels that I should. There seems to be an expectation that being in proper paid employment will be good for me. That being at home with Grace is not enough. Not enough of what, I'm not sure. It's definitely enough work, not that caring for someone little (or big) & running a household really seems to count as real or worthwhile work these days. As far as job satisfaction goes, looking after Grace is definitely up there with the best I've ever had. And so much more besides.

In some ways I feel like I've only just got a handle on what it means to be someone's mother. A very slippery handle at that, but enough that I can branch out a bit & take some time for myself. To write, to read, to make.   I guess in that first year there were some pretty difficult times, what with a stressful pregnancy and then when Grace was very little, my brush with insanity (post-natal psychosis). We've moved past all that & mostly things seem to be going OK. Our weeks have settled into a rhythm that's mostly pleasurable. It's not as if we spend great chunks of time doing wildly interesting mother daughter activities, but more the little conversations & interactions we have along the way. The raspberry competitions while I change her nappy, Grace following me to the laundry - pulling herself on up on the step anxious to see what I'm doing. Her shuffles about the house on Gracie missions pulling & banging pans & tuppaware, strewing toys & scraps of material everywhere and bringing me objects to inspect. Then there's the meals & excursions we share, and the fun times in the garden or visiting/hanging with friends & family . Then it all slides into a relaxed weekend when all three of us can spend time together without having to do lots of housework.

Part of me wishes that I could say to G, "you're the man, therefore your job is to earn the income & mine is to look after Grace & the house." And I know that that's the way it works in some families.  But not ours. I have a permanent position with conditions that are about as family friendly as you'll get working for anyone but yourself. The pay's OK too. G does contract work, with gaps between jobs & he wants to spend time at home looking after Grace. My mum also wants to spend time looking after Grace. If I say no, that's my job & I'm not sharing, that'd be wrong on so many levels. Grace will probably be delighted to spend more time with her nanna & her daddy.

I'm feeling that returning to work 2 days a week will be OK. Everything will get done, it'll be a bit harder to find time for myself but not impossible. When it goes to 3 or more days, then I think I'll be really stretched. I think I've been really lucky to be able to have this time at home with Grace. Lucky that our situation is such that we can live on a lowish income for a while if we want, without stress. Lucky that I have a job that allows me to take unpaid leave for up to 2 years & return part time. And most of all lucky that G & my family have been supportive of me having this long off work. So many women have to return so much sooner.

Back in the days before I had Grace, when I was planning my maternity leave, 14 months seemed such a long & luxurious amount of time.  Now that time seems to have disappeared, just like those newborn days, into a kind of time travelling vortex. Oh well, I'd better make darned sure that me & Impfey enjoy our last few full time weeks at home together.