Spring is near

Eventhough it is still beastly cold in the mornings, the days are getting longer and there are signs that Spring is on her way. The first blossoms are out. The top one is a pink prunus street tree, the one underneath is next doors almond tree.

Buds are forming on our apricot tree. I pruned it too severely year before last and we had almost no fruit last summer. This year is looking better.

And the chickweed is growing so fast you can almost see it grow. Apparently you can eat this stuff as a spring green. Our garden becomes overrun with it every year.

Some plants are suffering from the frosts we had last week but I'm not going to cut back for another few weeks until all danger of frost has passed. The blackened leaves protect those living underneath.

Grooving at the gym

Last night I forced myself to go to the gym on the way home from work. Even though it was late and I was tired and so didn't want to go. But I did. Once I was there it was OK, sort of fun in a sweating and struggling sort of way. I am not losing weight anymore, so I need to eat more and excercise less. Oops, that is so wrong, I need to eat less and ..

One of the best bits about going to the gym after work is that the music is way better than during the day. Much more upbeat. They were playing Rock Lobster by the B52s an old favorite of mine, took me back to high school? I almost felt like dancing. Then I remembered all the dancing phases of my life, so in no particular order, 10 favourite tunes for bopping around my loungeroom...
  1. Rock Lobster by the B52s . Released in 1979, this was on high rotation at high school socials and even in the early days at uni. I have vague memories of a motion in the ocean party.
  2. Firestarter by the Prodigy. Memories of dancing all morning in the middle of a big dirt dancefloor surrounded by forest at one of the best parties I can remember. Gentle sunlight.  A really cool campsite. A long drive home. Would have been 1997/98.
  3. Holiday by Madonna. I loved this first album, released in 1983, with a passion. It was quite uncool in the lefty/alternative circles I mixed in. Luckily some of my friends also liked it and I then made some new friends. Who also liked to go out dancing and led me to places where where I was introduced to queer culture and became a bit of a faghag.
  4. Chocolate Jelly by Jasper Van Patterntangle from the Clan Analogue Twenty Disco Greats. I have no idea where I bought this CD from or why (lucky fluke?), but it was sometime in 2000, pretty much after my time of going to parties was over. This CD always gets me moving. It's a bit sad that it's mostly been doing housework.
  5. Temptation by New Order. Released in about 1987. I love this song, it reminds me of smoky university parties, hot nights, cold nights, too much beer, unrequited love and long walks home.
  6. Sexx Laws by Beck. G & I went to see Beck play in Melbourne a few years back. I felt like we were the oldest people there but it was a great concert. While I really love some of his folkier music, he does a rocking hip swaying a dancing tune. Another housework favourite.
  7. Venus, the Bananarama version in all it's eighties trashiness. I know that it would be cooler to say the Shocking Blue version, but I'm a big dag and always preferred the Bananarama version. That ad even makes me want to bop. I know, it's sad.
  8. Ancient Future by Third Eye. This came out in the mid 90s. Playing this always take me back to my first ever outdoor dance party in the forest. A couple of hundred people dancing in a clearing near a paddock. Some fluoro art work. The scene got bigger really quickly and even if I wasn't too old, I don't think I would like what it's become.
  9. Staying Alive from Saturday Night Fever by the BeeGees. I remember trying to see this movie when I was 15, but it was R rated so I didn't. It is my favorite musical, just love the opening and the end is so sad. And as for the dancing, all I can say is John Travolta was cool.
  10. Believe by Cher. This song was playing when G walked into the club were I was celebrating a friends' birthday. From where I was dancing, I spied him in a sea of people and remembered meeting him some years before. The rest is history.
I kind of miss going out dancing and going to see live music. We do go out to see music sometimes together when the babysitting stars aIign but G doesn't really like dance music & I don't really like the rock/punk he prefers, so our music dates have to be in the middle somewhere. He did convince me to go with him to see the Neil Young Greendale concert which was sublime. And I know that there will be more music dates. Sometimes I tell myself that after Grace is all grown up, I'll become a disgraceful old age pensioner and go dancing and partying again. But I think those days were gone even before I became a mother. Possibly never to return. There is always the loungeroom and the gym.

I think things are getting better

I've been suffering from the winter blues. Tired and achey and always a bit on the verge of catching something. The housework has been getting me down, as have the piles of unfished sewing and neglected corners of the garden. Not to mention the cold and wet. To make it worse, G is pretty grumpy too. I feel like we need a change of scenery, maybe a weekend in the country, but each weekend has been packed to the brim. Which is good, but..

Anyway, as I am quite fearful of becoming depressed and needing to be put on medication, I had a bit of a look at my life. Here's what I decided:

  • More sleep. In bed by eleven, no matter how interesting the computer/book/telly/craft project. Only to be broken when I know for certain that I can sleep in the next morning or when there's obscenely good red wine on offer or it's new years eve or some such.  I tried this last night and already I feel better. Still tired, but better.
  • Go to the gym, go to the gym. Yes, it's time consuming, inconvenient and sweaty, but it's better than feeling crap. There's something about being stretched all over and really warm. Went yesterday and it was fantastic.
  • Accept that work/life balance is tricky. I had a good talk to the maternal health nurse at Grace's 15 month checkup. Talking out some of my feelings about going back to work has taken at least one knot out of my neck. It is OK to feel that working 2 days a week is enough for now.
  • Step out of the routine occasionally. I didn't go to mother's group today. Usually I'm a regular but it was nice to let Grace have a longer morning nap and to read in front of the heater for a while. Sometimes I get so caught up in racing through our days that I forget that we can have a different day every now and then.
  • Spend a little time every week cleaning a corner that's bugging me. I did the shelf above the stove today. It didn't take that long. Now I have something pretty to look at.

So now I just have to figure out when we can have that weekend in the country.

Self portrait as a sewer

This afternoon was lovely. Grace went off for a long nap at about 2.30. Winter sun shone through the sunroom windows as I sat at my sewing machine, whizzing my way through a huge pile of easy mending and altering, while Mum sat at the other end of the table handsewing some leather soles onto some bootees for Grace, who is almost walking and constantly outgrowing her footwear.  I felt my anxiety melt as we got through some of my neglected piles of sewing. We talked about this and that, conversation going back and forth between different topics.

One day Grace will most likely sit at this table, or one like it, with her very first sewing project. We'll show her how to make stitches and how to cut. Point her in the direction of translating ideas into physical reality. Already she likes to play with scraps and bundles of fabric. She strokes and drapes different pieces with obvious delight in the contrasting textures.

I grew up with people making things all around me. Women sewed clothes, knit jumpers, made crochet bedspreads, boiled jam, covered chairs and baked cakes. Men fixed cars, installed heaters, mended broken appliances, renovated houses, built shelves and other useful things. Everybody got involved in the garden. A little bit of painting, photography and embroidery went on, but they were sidelines, hobbies. It wasn't that we were poor, but in the sixties and seventies, it was just what ordinary working people did. At least it was in my family. I certainly didn't consider that most things we made were in any sense creative and as I got older I wanted bought clothes. Clothes that were the right brand, just like everybody else had.

How the circle turns. Now I consider handmade clothes the height of luxury. Not just in terms of individual fit and design, but also in time. Time to sit and sew and chat with the sun coming in over my shoulder.

Many more self portraits here.

Added later - I was aware that the title "self portrait as a sewer" could refer to well, waste disposal. But that's how we refer to being one who sews in my family, as "a sewer". As in "I'm a gardener", or "not really a knitter". Doesn't work with "crocheter".  And it was late and I couldn't think of any other title so apt.

Trash and treasure

The weekend didn't quite turn out as I hoped and planned. No time was spent in front of the sewing machine, none whatsoever. So my WIPs are still WIP. And thinking about the weeks ahead, there's not much chance of progress from WIPs to finished, usable objects. Not unless I sew at night. I don't really like machine sewing at night. I like to sew in daylight and when I'm not tired. Better for not getting into an endless cycle of unpicking and resewing (and swearing).

We did however squeeze in a trip to my favorite weekend market, sometimes more trash than treasure. The last few times I've come away almost empty handed, but yesterday I was in the zone. I was on the lookout for some more challenging toys for Grace, but I didn't see anything good. (Maybe we might check out the toy library). Mostly what I bought were books, a kooky craft book which no doubt will feature later, some childrens' books and some nice melamine plates and bowls for camping and picnics. The stall holders were in fine form, throwing in little bonus presents for Grace and doing deals. My favorite deal included this cloth doll, for about $2. She's old and a bit grubby, obviously well loved.

I seem to remember seeing this type of doll somewhere before. I tried to identify what type of doll she might be from the internet. All I could come up with was a picture of something similar called a jester doll on ebay from the 1920s. I don't think she's that old, but it's hard to tell.  I'm debating whether or not to wash her gently. I'm afraid she'll come apart, but she is quite dirty and would probably be a lot prettier after a bath.

I love it that she is so obviously handmade. I particularly like the small even stitches down her back. I like to imagine some mother making this doll for her little girl. Maybe once some of my WIPs are finished, I might make one for Grace.

Frosty mint leaves

No WIP tonight. It's got to the stage where work and progress in the same sentence as craft is a bit of a joke. I could post some pictures of some mending or of the mending piles still waiting for attention or of pile shuffling that's been going on. But I'm not going to. Hopefully tommorrow I'll have time to sit in front of the sewing machine and attack those piles. Before they take over the house. Then I can relax and have the space to do some fun stuff.

This morning when I got up it was close to zero, very cold for inner Melbourne. I waited for the sun to come up and sure enough Jack Frost had been to visit. The back bit of our yard was covered in hard crunchy frost, the sort that crackles under your foot. The frostiest I've seen it since some time in the 90's. So after breakfast, I snatched a few moments in the backyard with my camera.

This is a close up of an artichoke leaf. I think it looks like one of those spearmint flavoured, leaf shaped lollies. Yes, mint leaves.

This is the frost on the green manure crop in the resting veggie patch. You can see little frozen droplets of water, ready to glint in the sun. It would have been fun to catch the sun sparkling on the frost as the day dawned but I was beginning to run late for work as it was. I ended up not leaving enough time to defrost the car. It took several buckets of water and some serious wiping before I could set off. I was late, but so was almost everyone else. The frost being an excuse. I'm looking forward to checking out how the garden has survived. Most things are petty hardy. And those that aren't have been planted in frost protected spots. We'll see.

Take what you need, you think will last

Watching the news has become an issue again in our household. I don't like Grace being exposed to images of war and violence, but don't feel justified in asking G to turn it onto something else. I too, am horrified as we watch events in Lebanon unfold. We were talking at breakfast yesterday morning about what we'd seen on the 7.30 report the night before. In particular, the self righteous Israeli spokesman, so sure they were standing on the moral highground. G said that it reminded him a little of when a kid is picked on at school and then attacks. And everyone says well, he started it. No allowance being made for the goading that may have prompted the attack. Not that I want to get into right or wrong here...Obviously, it's so much more complicated than that but well, it's sad and depressing.

I've been watching images of mothers, babies and children being loaded onto ships and other transport. These images seem archetypal, despite the modern clothes and strollers and I feel I've seen these pictures many times before. Just imaging leaving my home and maybe other loved ones in a hurry brings a tear to my eye. As does the fear, sadness and sorrow that seems plain to see. Not to mention the physical discomfort of being a refugee. Part of me feels I should watch the news and be informed, the other part of me wants to avoid all media.

I'm also getting this sort of George Orwell, nineteen eighty-four feeling, that it's all the same war, distant with just the names and details changed by some mad bureaucracy. But I do know it's real. Just like I know that during my lifetime there's always been a war going on somewhere or other. I grew up with the Vietnam war, constant Middle Eastern conflict and Northern Ireland on the news in the background. My internal soundtrack features Joan Baez singing Bob Dylan songs. My parents used to play Farewell Angelina on long car trips and I know the lyrics to most of the songs by heart. Although some contain very violent imagery, they used to bring me strange comfort. For example, the second last verse of Farewell Angelina

King Kong, little elves
On the rooftoops they dance
Valentino-type tangos
While the make-up man's hands
Shut the eyes of the dead
Not to embarrass anyone
Farewell Angelina
The sky is embarrassed
And I must be gone.

The title to this post is from the opening line of another Dylan song, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, also very apt for these times.

How to start a blog

This post is especially for my friends and family who are considering starting their own blogs. You know who you are. I'm imagining in a couple of months a list of people I know in my daily life with their own blogs. I can hardly wait!

What's a blog anyway?
Basically a blog is a type of website where most of the content is in the form of a journal. When updated, the most recent content appears at the top. Other content, such as archived content and links to other blogs, often appears in a static form at the side or below. These links are your gateway to blogland and fun to explore. One blog leads to another and so on. People write blogs with all sorts of focus; personal blogs, mommy blogs, knitting blogs, cultural studies blogs, craft blogs, garden blogs, product blogs. There are also group blogs and independent commercial blogs, the list is endless. Many people, myself included, don't stick to one topic. Type almost any subject + blog into a search engine and be amazed. Your idea for a blog is as good as any other.

What's the best platform?
After looking at what everyone else was using, I decided to use one of the services that provide the software and host the content.  For me it was a choice between blogger and TypePad. I briefly considered Wordpress, but decided I didn't have the technical know how. Blogger is free and there's lots of nice sites in blogger, but anything beyond the basics seems to require a knowlege of HTML or using one of the free designs out there. But the biggest drawback of blogger for me was the lack of categories. I like archives. I like reading my own and I like reading other peoples and I like to read them sorted by subject. So I decided to use Typepad. I started with the basic package but couldn't customise the design enough, so I went for the mid level package. This costs about $12 AU a month, which is cheaper than most other hobbies I've had. Anyway if you start with one and don't like it, you can always swap your content over to another.

It's all so technical, how will I ever learn all this stuff?
Blogger and Typepad both have pretty intuitive interfaces for anyone who has ever used a wordprocessing package. They also have detailed help sections. I found the series on beginner blogging by problogger really useful. Also misszoot has lots of good information. There's a world of information on blogging out there for the finding.  The biggest technical challege for me was working out how to use the program that came with my digital camera. I still haven't got my head around using flickr or technorati or how feedburner or blogrolling or bloglines work. There's a limit to how much I can absorb at once, so I've stepped back and concentrated on learning the basics first. It took me a couple of weeks to get my site looking close to how I wanted and I think it will be an evolving process. I think that the best way is to get something up and running, write your first post and learn as you go. (I've read quite a few first posts out of curiosity and most are pretty vague and, dare I say, dull. Your first post doesn't have to rock the world, you just have to begin.)

Will anyone read my blog?
The first few weeks, I didn't want anyone to read mine. So I didn't make it public and I didn't tell anyone the URL. So my stats reflected that I was the only reader. Then I started to think that readers might be cool, so I started telling friends and family that I was blogging and if they showed interest, sent them an email with the URL. I also joined wardrobe refashion and self portrait challenge and have started being a little less uptight about making comments on other blogs. Some of my topics seem to come up in google searches. All these things generate page views, but it's hard to know how many regular readers there are. Probably not many at this stage and I'm happy with that.  

What about security and privacy?
After discussing it with my partner, I decided that I wasn't really concerned about anomynity. Anyone who reads muppinstuff and who knows me in the offline world will know it's me. I don't talk about blogging at work but if someone from work found my site, I'd be OK with that. I still wouldn't talk about it at work. People on the whole are too busy to care. I've left my comments open and unmoderated and would probably only change that if I wrote about something really controversial and had more readers. If someone was to say something nasty, I'd just delete their comment and ban their IP address. However, I did decide to get a Gmail account to use on the internet so that if things go amiss I can ditch that without having to change my bigpond account. I don't use my last name and you can't find muppinstuff by googling my full name. Also discussed was photos, G and I are both happy for photos of us and Grace to be published. One friend was horrified that I would put photos of Grace on the internet, but I figure we all go out in public anyhow, what's the difference?

What's this commenting business?
Blogging is meant to be interactive. If someone writes something that touches you, or is helpful or prompts a response in you, you can leave a comment on their blog. For some reason, I found this really difficult at first. With practice I'm getting over it because everyone likes comments. The normal rules of good behaviour apply. Some people respond to comments with email, some don't. I don't because email freaks me even more than commenting and I don't want huge volumes of email correspondence to attend to. I've decided that I'm going to respond to comments by commenting on my own blog. Weird, but lots of people do it.

Rules, what are the rules?
There are no rules. It's anarchy. For those who need rules, you have to make them up yourself. Lots of people write a post with their rules of engagement. I like this and this. Beyond playing nice, I don't know what my exact rules are yet.

So there you go, I hope to see some new little bloglets in a month or two.

Here comes the rain again

Wet sodden garden. Everything is dripping. Cold and dank. Laundry crisis. Everyone is a bit itchy and scratchy. We have cabin fever. Visitors drop by, we drink coffee and eat homebrand light fruit cake. Commiserate about the scandalous price of rental properties in our suburb. Apparently $340.00 a week now gets you something that may or may not be habitable. I would have expected polished foorboards, nice kitchen and bathroom, light open plan living and a dishwasher. Not necessarily so. And it is all very competitive, with many applicants for each house. Once again I feel lucky to have this house, even with crappy carpet and dodgy window frames. Sitting in the warm kitchen is nice, despite the laundry everywhere.

I go shopping and bump into people I used to know at the supermarket. They have children now and had heard about Grace on the grapevine. It is pleasant, old irritations hardly surfacing. I go home and find the day has got better, even if it is still wet and cold. I make cupcakesfor the mother's group toddler birthday party on Sunday and listen to country and western music. Later we eat vegaterian pea soup and watch Dr Who, followed by a dvd and an early night.

Ms Annie and the WIPs

So many sewing projects going on. I do a little of each here and there, telling myself that progress no matter how small, is progress. Am I kidding myself? I've thought about ditching the blanket and moving on. Everynow and then I purge my sewing space of projects that will never be finished. I think I do want to finish the blanket, even if it ends up being used as a camping blanket. Probably I'm having mid project doubts, thinking it's going to be too weird, too rough, too homemade. I know these, in themselves, are some the reasons for making a blanket in the first place. But still the doubts come, is it worth the effort? Is making anything worth the effort? I could just go and buy a blanket or continue using one of the many fine blankets we have in the linen closet or hanging around the loungeroom. But it isn't about needing a new blanket or economics, it's about this idea I had, seeing how it would turn out, what I could learn along the way, enjoying the making. Need to remind myself that it is a hobby, not a do or die quest for perfection.

I have done some piecing, and am nearly up to having all big squares for the final piecing. I'm starting to think of edging possibilities. The squares are sitting on top of the elegant fruit box of strips to be turned into a rag rug, which is sitting on top of the cot doona I need to make a cover for, now that Grace is old enough. On top of the squares are two pairs of pants that have had the first lot of felled seams ironed and are awaiting attention. Must get to these pronto as I am facing a serious wardrobe crisis. On top of all this sits the latest steiner doll , Ms Annie.

I am really enjoying making these dolls. I think they may have become my winter making something in front of television obsession.  I might try some other small handsewn toys too. The small stitches and gentleness of them is very soothing. It doesn't seem to matter if they are imperfect. Of course I'm always trying to improve my stitching and technique. However,for some reason, I am not making these dolls with big ideas of how they will turn out and am happy for the features and adornments to evolve as I go. I think this is why they are so relaxing to make.

Self portrait as Grace's mum

I've chosen this picture for my first self portrait challenge because becoming Grace's mother has changed my life and sense of self in ways that I never could have imagined. Grace is fifteen months old now and I'm starting to feel like I know who I am again. The same old me but different. Maybe even better. Happier.

I was 41 when Grace was born. I always knew in a vague way that I wanted to have children but when I met my partner, Gerard, this knowing became urgent and heartfelt. Only we didn't realise at first. Many times during our first six years together thoughts of getting pregnant and staying pregnant dominated my life. Everyday now, I feel lucky. Being part of Grace's life is the best thing, ever.

One of those days

Tonight I was so pleased when G came home. To be able to hand Grace over and say, your daughter wants a daddy cuddle. Then of course she did what she's been doing most of the day and immediately wanted to get down. This is followed by leg clutching, arms reaching up and wailing. Then wanting to get down again. Each cycle taking less than two minutes. It's exhausting.

To be fair, the poor little mite may have been suffering from an elusive mystery illness. Yesterday Grace had a temperature and was grizzly. It was quite high so I called the doctor but couldn't get through. So I gave her some baby panadol and a cool drink and went to shower and dress. Before giving the doctor another call, I took her temperature again and it was back to normal. Decided not to go to the doctor and sit in the festy disease ridden waiting room afterall. Slight temperature on and off again today, but eating and no signs that anything is wrong apart from grizzling and clinging. We'll keep an eye on things. Mum came over today, so it wasn't too bad.

After lunch, there was some sunshine and it's been quite windy lately so it was dry enough to let Grace loose in the garden. This is her absolute favourite thing, she gets really excited and quite dirty. But what's an extra pair of pants to wash in exchange for half an hour of no grizzling? Maybe she's bored being inside alot. I know I am.


I enjoyed being in the garden too and managed to pull some weeds and plant some very stunted seedlings from the seed box of failure. I'd moved from using polysterene fruit boxes to waxed cardboard for my seed raising. Bad idea. The soil stays too wet and the seeds germinate but don't grow well. I'm going back to polysterene. Not very organic but these boxes have just the right balance between water retention and drainage. And the seedlings thrive.

50 thoughts about blogging

  1. This is my 50th post and I'm going to mark the occasion with a list.

  2. I'd sort of heard of blogs before May 2006, but I'd never read one.

  3. G had one about 5 years ago, but I wasn't interested.

  4. None of my close friends or family have blogs, yet.

  5. I think I've told most of them about muppinstuff.

  6. I tell people because knowing that friends or family might read my blog imposes some necessary boundaries.

  7. And because I like having some readers.

  8. When I used to write short stories, they were mostly autobiography too.

  9. Most of the time when I wrote about other people, they were pleased to be in one of my stories.

  10. I'm hoping this will also be the case with blogging, but I guess you have to be careful not to tell someone else's story.

  11. I really enjoy my other blog, Mrs Washalot which is only about laundry related matters. It doesn't have many readers and some people don't get it. I'm cool with that.

  12. Actually muppinstuff doesn't have all that many regular readers either.

  13. As I go on this bothers me less and less.

  14. If I keep blogging, I will find my little niche in blogworld.

  15. Sometimes when I write, it feels all clunky and clumsy. I'm trying to let it go rather than overediting.

  16. It all gets buried in the archives anyway.

  17. I chose Typepad over Blogger because of the categories, which I think make more meaningful archives.

  18. And because Typepad is prettier, I think.

  19. Not that there aren't some very pretty Blogger pages, but I'm picking you'd need to know HTML or be very clever.

  20. I really like reading blogs, sometimes reading blogs distracts me from writing one.

  21. Every week I discover a new corner of blogland and all the different lifestyles I come across amaze me. I'd never considered what it might be like to have 12 children to look after (found while looking for laundry links) or that one might want to post naked pictures of oneself on the internet (Typepad most recently updated list).

  22. Making comments sometimes freaks me out. Especially if what I've read is personal, difficult and/or profound and all I have is banality in response and yet feel compelled to comment. True foot in mouth territory. 

  23. But I have a go, because blogging is meant to be interactive. It's getting easier.

  24. I love getting comments, who doesn't?

  25. But I also don't mind if readers lurk. I'm a lurker too.

  26. Learning to use a digital camera has opened my eyes to the world around me.

  27. I like the ease of mixing words and pictures.

  28. Every now and then I think I should do a gardening blog, a cooking blog, a craft blog and then one where I write about stuff.

  29. But I decided not to separate all these things that are part of my life, except for the laundry.

  30. I'm sure one day that I will blog about something that is either really mind bogglingly stupid or dumb or that crosses some boundary or that offends someone. Or all of these things, all at once.

  31. There are a couple of new blogging projects lurking in the back of my mind, because really I am just not busy enough already.

  32. Mostly I blog in the late afternoon after I have done my housework and other bits for the day. While Grace is napping. After she wakes up she often sits on my knee while I browse or download photos.

  33. I also like to blog after dinner, unless there's something good on the telly or I decide to dust off the sewing machine.

  34. Why watch media when you can make your own?

  35. I try not to stay up too late but it can be seductive, the quietness, the peace, the tap, tap, tap of the keyboard.

  36. A while back, I was obsessed with finding and reading articles on blogging etiquette.

  37. I'm the sort of person that likes rules, even when I don't exactly follow them.

  38. The absence of a standard set of rules in blogland discombulated me somewhat at first.

  39. One day, I'll write my own set of rules because well, isn't that what one does?

  40. I haven't really figured out what my blogging rules would be yet.

  41. I doubt whether I will ever enter the swap scene. I'd be too worried about being an under or over swapper.

  42. I've been thinking about redoing my visiting links and about the selection criteria. I like the idea of my visiting list being the starting point of where I would send someone new to blogland on their first exploratory journeys.

  43. It fascinates me when bloggers refer to their blog as if it were a physical place. I know that blogs are physical inasmuch as the data is stored on a server somewhere but I think the feeling goes much deeper than that . I'm starting to have it too.

  44. I wish there was a spell check on muppinstuff. There is on Mrs Washalot. Sometimes my crappy spelling means I have to find an alternative word.

  45. When I look at my stats and referrers, I love to click on the google searches and see what collection of words has sent someone to one of my pages. Gardening and cloth nappy topics are the most common.

  46. Learning my first two HTML codes was so very exciting.

  47. I can do a link and an email address, hopefully my repertoire will expand as required.

  48. My favorites are bulging with all different blogs but there are some I visit very regularly.

  49. I've noticed that while my favorite blogs have different levels of self disclosure, they are also autobiographical in some way.

  50. Sometimes it is not what you say, but what you don't.

More books please

One of the big charity opshops in my suburb has the most amazing book section I have ever seen in an opshop. It's big but not too big, and roughly sorted into paperback fiction, hardback fiction, kids books and several non fiction categories. Nothing is sorted by author, but it's small and well presented enough that you can scan each row. Every month or so, I spend an hour there on a Saturday afternoon by myself checking the shelves at leisure. This weekend's haul was pretty good. Some novels, a feminist non fiction title, a Richard Scarry book for Grace when she's a bit older.

My tottering bedside "to read" pile is now rich with choice. I've been buying most of my general reading at this shop for years now. Books range from $2 to $5 with most around $2.50. The turnover is high and I find that most books I would want to read turn up here sooner or later, even some that are quite obscure. I often find newly released books in good condition. I've thought about joining the library but while I enjoy libraries in theory, as a place to research or spend time reading, I find the time pressure to read and return books stressful. Or I forget and end up with fines to pay.

This way I can keep the book for as long as I like. Most books don't find a permanent home here and either end up on a market stall, given away or returned to the opshop.


For the last week, I've reading and hearing about the anniversary of the London bombings and having strange this-is-where-I-was-when-this-happened feelings. I remember watching the London bombings unfold on a TV set fixed high on the wall behind unbreakable perspex in a locked psychiatric ward of a Melbourne public hospital. That very morning I had woken up in a strange place, not knowing who or where I was. The two explanations I had come up with were either that I had done something very, very bad and was in prison or that the space time continum had warped and I was the main character in Woman on the edge of Time by Marge Piercy, a book I had read and loved when I was at uni. Watching riot police and bombing victims on TV, I thought the latter and that the world was coming to an end. As I was to be told many times over the next few weeks, I was not well.

The signs that I was not well had begun to show a few weeks before. Strange stresses in what had been a post baby bliss started to erupt. During a shopping expedition to buy a cot for Grace who was still sleeping in a bassinet in our room, I slapped Gerard during an argument. This was something I would normally never, ever do. Then about a week later there was The Savers Incident, a shopping spree where I spent over $150 on clothes I would never wear and stuff that I would never use. Given that this is a secondhand shop, this meant bags and bags, so much so that I couldn't walk it all home in the bottom of the pram. I knew it was wrong when I was at the checkout, but couldn't stop. Later that night, trying things on, I took the tags off items I knew I would return. The next day mum came over and helped us exchange most of the stuff for more sensible items. Even then I was still filling the trolley with funny things, like lurid polyester sheets, which I hate. Mum would say, you don't want that do you? I'd reply, no, then put it in the trolley.

At this point we started asking for help. Something wasn't right. We saw the maternal health nurse who agreed that something was wrong. She started talking mother baby units. Then I started seeing doctors. My theory was that as I was losing weight, all the pot I had smoked in my youth was being released from my fat stores. The doctor thought I might have post natal depression. But I knew I wasn't depressed, it was way weirder than that. It was freaky, I became obsessed with Big Brother. I tried to breastfeed Grace constantly and couldn't sleep because I had to be checking her all the time. I couldn't remember that I had just checked her. Needless to say Gerard became very worried and called my sister who called the rest of my family.

Eventually it was decided to take me to the hospital emergency department. I have very disjointed memory of this, shapes, patterns on the floor, different rooms, windows and the cat scan machine which I thought I was the circle in Stargate. Next thing, I woke up in a self harm proof room with a foam mattress and very small window. I had been diagnosed with postnatal psychosis and put on some very heavy duty medication.

A couple of days later, I was moved to a larger ward, which believe it or not was actually quite pleasant. There was an art room, TV lounge and snacks appeared magically at all hours of the day. There were lots of people stranger than me walking around. Watching television, it was apparent to me that the world had gone crazy. My family visited everyday with Grace and after about a week I was moved to a mother baby unit in the outer suburbs.

My memory was still very shaky. Every morning I would have to ask the other patients or the staff why I was there and constantly sought reassurance that I hadn't done anything bad.  It was some weeks before I was allowed to leave the building without a worker present. Grace seemed to take it all in her stride. She was just over three months old and took to the bottle without a fuss, she was happy being looked after by Gerard, my mum and my sister but equally pleased when reunited with me. In hospital, she started sleeping through the night. I think the hardest part was being separated from Gerard. He visited heaps, even stayed over but he was separated from his little family which wasn't good.

The mother baby unit was like a cross between boarding school and what I imagine prison to be like, with some therapy thrown in. There were group meetings or activities morning and afternoon, consultations with specialists and dodgy art therapy that I used any possible excuse to get out of. As the hospital took public and private patients, women were from varying backgrounds. Most were being treated for post natal depression or anxiety. One had a very irritating personality disorder and I was not the only person to have issues with her. On the whole though, I became quite close to these women and their babies. We got to know each others families, shared stories and bitched about the staff (most of whom were quite nice, but in such a hierarchy bitching is inevitable). As far as public health services go, it was pretty good.

I was very lucky to have a huge amount of support from family and friends who did beautiful things like ensuring that there was never a day when I didn't have a visitor, even though it was a very long drive.  And who bought me the exactly right things from home. An afghan rug. Things for Grace. Crochet supplies. Gerard's thoughtful selection of CDs, the ten best I would want to be on a desert island with. We have different taste but he knew exactly what I would like. I played The Handsome Family Singing Bones and Beth Orton's Pass in Time over and over. Too much snack food. Photo albums. And of course, answers to my constant questions.

Why did this happen to me? Hard to say. Apparently it is one of those things that happens to a small percentage of women out of the blue. I was probably more at risk having had depression before. There's also been discussion since that I might have a mild underlying disposition towards being a bit bipolar, or having, as one doctor put it, a wider range of moods than normal. Having a complicated obstetric history may also have put me at risk. After Grace was born, I was joyously happy and often quite energetic. I thought that everyone felt like this after the miracle of having a baby. Especially so, after many unsuccessful pregnancies. Apparently not. It stunned me to learn as I recovered, that the extent of my happiness and the amount of energy that I had in the months after Grace was born, was not normal.

Once we were out of hospital and home again, I got well very quickly. I was off all the medication by Christmas and had started a gym program to lose all the zyprexa and lithium weight. There's a fifty percent chance that if I have another child, (at my age unlikely, but still possible) that I would have post natal psychosis again. Now I go and see a a psychiatrist every six weeks or so, just to make sure that I am well. I try to be careful about getting enough sleep and leading a balanced life but sometimes when I get a little stressed or anxious, I feel a hint of the mental disorder that I felt then and worry about getting sick again. The doctor reassures me this is normal and quite understandable. But most of the time now, I feel (normal) happy and quite sane. And it feels good. Really good.

Wip#4, A little doll and thinking about squares

I thought that I wouldn't get to sew at all this week due to an anxiety laden return to paid employment. But the sky hasn't fallen in, Grace was fine and the household routine hasn't collapsed.  I'm not that great a housekeeper anyway, and now there's even less pressure to excel at it. It is only two days a week and maybe I'll even like the break from nappies and washing and never being able to get anything done. And I'll get paid, something which I probably can't afford to overlook.

When my anxiety about returning to work started to get the better of me, I decided that I needed to watch more television. And that I needed some hand sewing to further centre me. So I decided to to follow the steiner doll tutorial from sooz. I was pretty slapdash to begin with, drawing the outline straight onto the material with a dressmakers pencil, altering as I cut. The materials used were from what I had hanging around, an almost felted jumper, some material from the blanket I'm making, scraps from old t-shirts, ends of embroidery cotton. I found I couldn't leave the face featureless, it spooked me out too much, so ended up adding simple eyes and mouth at the last moment.  My favourite feature is the hair, made from an old pillow underlay. It just came to me, stitching away, immersed in my doll and Lost.

I'm not sure whether she could be considered a true steiner doll and there's a lot I'll do differently next time (like include a neck) but this little doll (or should I say troll?) was one of the most pleasureable and satisfying projects I've done in a long time. The smallness, the feeling of wool in my hands, the lack of need for perfection, the making it up as I go along. We haven't named her yet, but Grace has already claimed the little troll doll as one of her own; to be scattered and posted out the cat door and lost and picked up and carried and and deposited in all manner of strange places.

Earlier in the week, I sewed some squares of the wagga rug inspired patchwork blanket thingy that I've been making forever. I still haven't reached the stage of having all big squares, but I have enough to lay out on the table and consider how I might put them together.

I've never done patchwork before and I'm learning alot. When I cut the squares I was, like I am quite often, a bit slap dash. Cutting one piece off another, instead of using a set of pieces with the seam allowance factored in. Now they are being pieced in a crazy patch manner. When I was joining the smaller pieces, I was quite random, now that the pieces are larger, I would like to have rules for how they go together. So there is a sense of order. Due to the randomness of the early pieces and that each dressing gown yielded differing types and amounts of pieces, the rules may take some thought. And they might not be obvious to anyone but me.


When Grace was a newborn, she slept in a bassinet in our room & I used to listen for every little sound & gurgle. If they stopped, I'd have to get up & check her. At about 3 months she moved into her own room just across the hall. Still close enough to hear when she cries but not so close that I can hear every little sound. It was supposed to make me sleep better, but it didn't, not for quite a long time. Every night I worried, sometimes about SIDS but mostly about nameless, unformless things that could come in the night & take my baby away while I was asleep. Grace is 15 months old now & I still check her before I go to bed. I can't sleep unless I do. It must be instinctive because every mother I've asked does the same. I asked my mum when I'd stop & she said, oh no, not for a long time.

Sometimes I wake in the night & debate whether to go check her again. Mostly I don't & sometimes I fall back to sleep with that nameless dread lurking round my pillow. Then when I wake, I hear little chatter sounds as Grace plays in her cot or conversation if her dad has got her up already. If I get the chance it is truly magnificent just to curl into the doona & doze slightly listening to the morningsounds of my blessed little family.

Road trip dreaming

Going back to work tommorow and I'm already thinking of how long it might be before I can take a nice long chunk of leave. I found this at Savers yesterday and almost didn't buy it because we are being overun by books here. But I don't often find anything good about camping, so I'm glad I did.

Published in 1976 by Rigby limited. The front cover alone has me considering the possiblities. We'd need a bigger tent, now we are three. Or maybe we could sleep out under the stars and awake to mornings like this.

Our last road trip was in the winter of 2004. We made the pilgramage to Uluru. We camped in the bush and at road stops along the way. Often we slept in the back of the station wagon.

Other places we pitched the tent and settled in for a few days.

We saw amazing sights everyday, even when we weren't looking. Our pace was slow and we checked out opshops in country towns. I read books and wrote in my diary. Gerard played his guitar. We went for walks and took photos. We did a lot of nothing. The camping set up was improved with the addition of some new cooking equipment and a table. We still took too much stuff but got really good at pitching camp and packing up. I wonder if a road trip could be fun with Grace?

Broad bean beauty

It's only Tuesday and already the week feels like it's coming to bits. Grace is not her usual easy going self, she's just learnt to pull herself up to a standing position and is holdong onto furniture, wobbling and then falling on her bottom. Lots of tears, lots of needing to be cuddled. She's also being unusually fussy about food and resistant to having a nap, even when she's so tired you can see black circles under her eyes. And on Thursday, I'm going back to work. It's only part time but the whole process has been one of negotiation. With my employer, my mum and with Gerard. It will be OK, but I feel sick in my stomach and I'm not sleeping too well.

This morning I struggled to get through the simplest of tasks and hadn't even done the dishes when my mum arrived for her usual Tuesday visit. I am so lucky that she does this. So while she watched Grace bumshuffle around the garden and get muddy, I jumped around the vegetable patch and got into my broad beans. I am so into broad beans. Home grown broad bean and coriander dip, broad bean pasta, broad bean soup. And I love to watch them grow. This is the half row I planted in the legume/brassica rotation. I think it's time for another sowing.

Next year I might try an early autumn sowing, as the self seeded plant at the edge of the the big bed, which has just been sown with green manure, has set flower already. Unless we are really unlucky with frost, I think we might be in for an early broad bean treat.

Aren't they lovely? I can't wait to have a whole row of them all flowering. When there's a whole row, sometimes you can smell them too. Subtle but sweet.

Thinking about Big Brother

I've watched Australian Big Brother right from first series. At the beginning of each season I have a conversation with myself about watching too much telly, watching too much bad telly, watching telly that is voyeuristic and unwholesome (I won't let myself watch Law & Order or SVU anymore because I think it is too grisly to be consumed as entertainment). And at my age, I am not in the Big Brother demographic anymore. But each season, after comments about how boring the new housemates look, I am drawn in.  G likes to watch the ABC news, so I don't get to watch every night. But I watch enough to know what's happening.

Anyway on Saturday G told me that he heard on the news that two of the Big Brother housemates had been evicted for "sexual misconduct". So of course on Sunday night, I watched the weekly round up, drawn to the drama of it all. It felt like those times at work or school when something big has gone down, no-one is telling but everyone is milling around going, "what happened?" It was painful to watch Camilla in tears, disturbing to see some of the other reactions. So this morning I got on the net, to see what really happened (anything to delay Monday vacuuming).  The most graphic account (including dodgy pictures) can be read here. If you're interested in newspaper coverage there are lots of links here.

As the series has developed, entry into the Big Brother house has almost seemed like a rite of passage for an elite cross section of Australia's young and photogenic. There's lots of talk about "enjoying my time in the house" and it not being about the money (not that there's much of the 1million prize left after fines). I think many housemates look forward to the eviction experience, the walk down the gangway with thousands cheering, the chance to get up on the couch with Gretel and the media whirlwind afterwards. And the afterparties. And maybe getting a job on television. But the biggest prize of all is the possibility of becoming celebrity, even a minor celebrity.

Now is about the halfway point of the show where things starts to get interesting. The fluffier characters have been evicted, the personalities of the housemates have emerged, the stress of communal living and of being watched 24/7 is starting to show, dramas petty or not are playing out. It always astounds me what the housemates are prepared to do knowing that millions are watching. Maybe they forget. The casual way in which housemates "pash" or "play around" disturbs me. In my twenties, the scene I hung out in was just as much about sex, drugs and music as these kids are. Yet, as it was the early eighties, we didn't have mobile phones or the internet or such an obsession with gym sculpted hairless bodies. Looking back it seems so much less trashy. Perhaps because of the absence of having to be really "hot" so we could take our place in the "raunch culture".

While in no way condoning the actions of John and Ash, I'm interested in how they might come to think that this is an acceptable way to act. Big Brother seems to actively cross this raunch culture with a type of adolescent innocence. A slumber party atmosphere prevails, where bed hopping and secret conversation after lights out are common. Where there's a pole dancing pole in the bedroom. Big Brother directed games (like truth and dare) and tasks (like having to kiss each housemate), while childish, are designed to create intimacy and break down boundaries. Big Brother provides ample opportunity to dress in often provocative costumes and act out. Practical jokes, living on staples, adhering to the rules of the game and the whole nomination process feed conflict. Housemates are encouraged to discuss how they feel with each other. And there's not that much to do. So place this in the context of the "raunch culture" and competion for celebrity and you get a place where it would seem almost anything goes, as long as you are wearing your microphone and don't discuss your nominations.

It seems pretty clear to me, despite what Camilla said on the Sunday show, that what went down was sexual assault. That Camilla made it clear that she did not consent to being "turkey slapped." Although some of the behavior on Big Brother is pretty out there or skanky, depending on your point of view, you'd think John and Ash would know that holding a woman down is just not on. That no means no. And that with cameras everywhere, that your actions are being watched. That ultimately your actions would be judged by millions.  And yet it still didn't stop them.  

Dreary sunday

It has been raining and grey most of the day. I know we need the rain. I know it's good for water storage, good for the farmers and good for the garden. But it's dreary and it gets me down. I managed get out of the house and go to the gym. Normally this cheers me up. Even watching the hardy swimmers in the steaming outdoor pool failed to amuse me.  Today I felt like I was doing my duty and was glad when it was over. Not in a good way. Before going inside I took this photo of the streetscape through the car window.

Later after a shower and lunch I was still moochy and irritable. I tried to channel my inner pollyanna and to find something bright and happy. I thought about how the rain deepens colours, something I often really enjoy in summer. Then I saw Mr Clicky in the back of the Nylint truck on Gerards' workbench. Mr Clicky is a favorite toy and Grace often posts him through the cat door.

 I think he looks quite cheerful on top of the truck on the wet grass. After playing with Mr Clicky, I felt a bit better.  But I am so hanging out for spring.

Planting garlic

Yesterday was quite sunny & I managed to get out in the garden for an hour or so and plant some more garlic. I've decided after much reading and thinking to plant the garlic in a perennial bed, rather than in the four bed rotation used for annual vegetable crops. My hope is that I will be able to harvest what I need, some to dry, some to replant and that I will be able to leave some to flower for decoration and seeds.

I bought the garlic to plant from the supermarket rather than the nursery. Even though it comes from Argentina, it is cheaper and a type of garlic I like. I'm not a fan of the small white garlic. In my experience it doesn't grow well in Melbourne and when it comes to using it, all those small cloves are a pain to prepare. I like a large cloved, strong flavored garlic.

The last lot I planted from the supermarket about six weeks ago are doing well. I've heard that there's a small risk that imported garlic may not sprout as it may have been treated. We'll see.

The perennial garlic bed is in a mostly sunny spot next to an apple tree. Hopefully the garlic will assist the apple and help repel codling moth. Even if it doesn't, I can't imagine ever having too much garlic.

WIP Friday#3, so little progress

Pretty much the only crafting that's being going on around here for the last week has been in my head, which is actually quite busy. I did pin together some of the squares for my wagga rug. They are now being used by the cat as a pillow for his sweet head. Lucky beast.

So for my WIP friday I took some photos of our cat, Tony and of my sewing space where he is reclining in glorious winter sunshine.

Oh I forgot, last weekend I made a skirt which can be viewed here. Gosh, time flies.

Big fat issues #2

Golly gosh, I think women (are all refashionistas women?) might love to look at fat photos & read about fat issues. A wardrobe refashion post always generates a bit of traffic to muppinstuff, but the last couple of days have surprised me. Still, that's what attracted me to blogging, a chance to get up on my soapbox & say what's on my mind.

To those who commented, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I also appreciate it's a bit of a minfield for many women. I think it's interesting that two out of three comments came from women that would not be in any way plus size. I am reminded once again that body image issues affect all women, irrespective of size. Often in very serious ways. Sometimes I think that thinner women might also get much more in the way of intrusive comment. If you're big, people tend to tiptoe round the issue for fear of offending but if you're smaller, people feel a lot freer to voice their opinions. I can think of one old friend in particular for whom this was the case. Hmmm.

I would like to share what started my change in thinking about fat issues. I was a thin child (like most kids of the sixties & seventies). As a teenager I thought I was fat, but looking back at photos I now know I mostly wasn't. However for most of my adult life I have been overweight to varying degress. Back in the 1990's when I owned a cafe in partnership with my mum & sister, I had a major depressive episode/nervous breakdown.  This was bought about by the stress of the business, my unhealthy lifestyle habits and an innate tendency towards depression & introspection. After the storm passed & I was on the mend, I had the opportunity to do some extensive counselling with a really kind, smart & tough psychologist. Who also happened to specialise in eating disorders. When I told her that I didn't think I had an eating disorder, she replied that she'd never met a woman who didn't, to a greater or lesser degree.

Over the course of many months these are the things that changed: I learnt to eat regular meals, I started eating breakfast (so very difficult), I learnt to eat good quality healthy food first,  I began to recognize when I was fatbashing myself, I started to accept that I was an OK person. Some habits didn't change until much later; ie going back to exercise & giving up smoking. But that was the turning point for me. Now I think the best course of action is to strive towards healthy meals, regular exercise and positive realtionships, and to get on with life. Life is short & precious and so much more fun if you feel OK about your physical & mental health.

And this is what I've been cooking lately, pea and ham soup. I used to make this a lot in winter when we had the cafe. Did you know the world is divided into pea and ham lovers & haters? Well I think it is. Some people would swoon with delight and others would recoil in disgust. G being a vegetarian is a recoiler so I've had to throw open all the windows & give the house a good old airing. Grace, when first presented with pea and ham for lunch pushed the offered spoon away. Oh no, I thought, my daughter is a recoiler too. But after a few moments she picked up her spoon & fed herself pea and ham soup with her spoon, for the first time ever.