Too shy

I've been trying to work out exactly when this photo was taken. My best guess is the summer after high school, before university. I would have been nineteen and just returned from summer holidays with my family in Port Moresby to start an arts degree in Melbourne. So it would have been March 1982, more than half a life time ago. There are not many pictures of me from this time as I was so painfully shy. This one must have been taken in one of those photo booths in the city, perhaps for an identity card. It is not the sort of thing I would have done for fun. My first thought on seeing this photo is youthful innocence. But when I look closer, I see behind the shy good girl face. At high school I was a good student (except for maths), a boarding school prefect, someone trusted by adults. But I also smoked cigarettes, told lies, got into scrag fights with other girls, incited acts of rebellion in other students, played around with boys and broke whatever rules I thought I could get away with. And due to my shyness and perceived goodness, I got away quite alot. There was even one occasion I remember when I came forward and owned up to an act of wrongdoing and wasn't believed. Someone else copped the blame and the punishment. Luckily it was a really good muck-up* so I didn't get in trouble with the other girl as a consequence. Shyness and goodness are not the same, but for some reason the shy are often thought to be good. It's a bit funny when I look back on it now but at the time it was a peculiar and sometimes painful type of enclosure.

Check out other self portraits of enclosure here.

*muck-up, a boarding school term for an organised prank, joke or some sort of chaos involving a number of girls and often undermining the authority of the mistresses. The best ones were where the rules were followed but made to look ridiculous. One incident that comes to mind was a boarder's weekend excursion to a big park in the middle of winter. It was freezing outside and we were not permitted to wear trousers. So word went around and we all dressed in the most clashing and non-matching outfits of skirts, dresses, stockings and accessories that we could put together. No rules were broken so no-one was in trouble, but I can still see the tight lipped rage on the mistresses face.

My favourite flower and a window

I have been spending what time I can in the garden. There is so much to do. Seeds to plant, weeds to pull out, seedlings to go in. And my favourite flower in the whole garden to admire.

I don't know the botanical name, to me it is the orange poppy. I bought the first orange poppy many years ago on a garden outing with my mum and nan. We found a fantastic cottage garden nursery near the Daylesford botanical gardens. The first one barely survived, but self seeded. It's quite a tough plant and seems to grow best in slightly difficult situations, like between paving stones. Sometimes the plants survive from one season to the next, sometimes not. The seedlings come up here and there but are difficult to transplant. I've tried collecting the seeds and sowing them where I would like them to grow but that doesn't seem to work either. So now I look out for the little seedlings and protect them from harm. There are only two in bloom so far. Later on, each plant will have a mass of orange poppies.

Yesterday as I walked home from a quick visit with Grace to my sisters house, I noticed two of these windows. The house is a fine old 1930s bungalow but fairly scruffy. Not that you can really tell in the dark. But what a lovely old window.

How quick she grows

It seems like only yesterday that Grace was this delicate little thing (thing being a term of endearment in our household) who liked to be wrapped in blankets and nestled in my arms. Now she is all action and movement, and quite difficult to photograph. I don't get quite as many cuddles as I would like, either. She really only wants a cuddle when she has hurt herself or is sick, neither of happen very often (thank goodness). Sometimes in the morning she climbs up on the bed and climbs all over me, prodding me with cold little hands and hitting me on the head with books. Or goes tickticatica which is our word for tickling which she loves and partially satisfies my desire for more cuddles.

On work mornings I get up first and make porridge for Grace and myself. G gets Grace up and we all sit around together. I'm not really a morning person at all and get quite annoyed if anyone tries to be too talkative with me over breakfast, especially if the conversation involves politics or current affairs. I don't mind others talking amongst themselves but have very little to say this early in the day and will read a book if I can get away with it. Grace gets this, G doesn't. Grace is also a determined and independent eater. She manages a spoon well, even if she doesn't always choose to use one. She also likes to have the top taken off her drinkie cup and rarely spills any. Unless she decides to play pouring, which is quite another matter. Actually, she very rarely spills food on the floor either.

Grace has turned out to be a late walker, which has really only worried me when the maternal health nurse offered a session with a physio. One of the other babies at mother's group who is very close in age to Grace is only just ahead of her, his mother is not worried and I have decided not to be. Anyway, Robin Barker author of my favorite parenting books BabyLove and The Mighty Toddler, says that it's quite common for bumshufflers to be late walkers. Grace still gets around at a mighty fine clip with this method. It's very funny to watch, as her bum lifts quite a way off the ground. Still, I don't think walking is far off. She's been pulling herself up and cruising around the furniture for a few weeks and has become an alarmingly adventurous climber. Last week G made her a wooden trolley from specifications I gave him from Baby and Child by Penelope Leach. Instantly Grace used the trolley to pull herself up and walk along.

Unfortunately, the reason G has had time to make this so quickly is that his contract ended a bit sooner than expected so he is at home during the day. I'm hoping he will find something else quickly but until then, I am going to enjoy having more sleep and time to do some things, and resist the feeling that I should increase my hours at work. Well, at least until I have to. Turns out that G finds being at home all day with Grace quite exhausting and I guess one benefit of our situation is that he is under no illusions about the nature of looking after a little one and doing housework. And yes, he does do it.

As you can see, the garden is just bursting forth. My favourite orange poppies are starting to blossom and the weeding is out of control. The plum tree is shedding fragrant blossom everywhere and it is sometimes warm enough to wear sandals in the middle of the day, just. Grace has just discovered the world of chairs. She climbs onto the big rocking chair in her room, the big white couch, the couch of shame (so named because that is where guests who have had too much to drink are supposed to sleep) and onto my chair. She also climbs onto her little chairs, the one in the loungeroom and the one in our room. She always looks so pleased with herself and often plays with her clothes (from the dirty clothes basket) or a book. 

Other things that Grace really likes at the moment are; buttons that turn things on and off (the radio in the kitchen, TV remote controls, Gs computer, the answering machine and my clock radio), books and papers of all kinds (and she rarely destroys them anymore), exploring the garden, shuffling through the shed (only under supervision), Tony the cat (he is so over it), her clothes, tins and pans and things to hit them with, playing Boohbah on the computer (she will stand next to my desk and use the mouse all by herself apparently - G reckons it amuses her for a good ten minutes), eating, drinking, going out, coming home, anything with sugar, being whizzed around in a cardboard box and hanging out with any of her people. Most of her toys she seems to be ambivalent about. Things she really hates are; having her nappy changed, being denied access to any part of the house or garden and spending too long at Savers.  Can't say her I blame her.

I'm finding that I really love family life. It is better than I ever imagined.


I am not the quickest adapter of new(ish) technologies and I have been really struggling with taking digital photos. It's a bit like sewing, where the gap between what I imagine and what I produce can be much wider than what I would like. After a while I began to wonder whether it was the camera's fault that many of my pictures were blurry and just wrong. I was taking many, many photos to get just one or two that I was happy with. Then I read this and this post over at Posie Gets Cozy. I've been reading Alicia's blog for a month or two now (slow, I am slow) and have often admired her photos. When I read what camera she uses, I was pleased because I use an older version of the same and then my heart sunk a little. It isn't the camera, it is definitely me. So I read the article and followed all the links. I read and learned. I've also been reading digicamhelp, which I found through flickr (cruising photos and checking the properties to see what sort of cameras people are using, before I knew it was me and not the camera).

It's not like I want to be a total photo head, that's not really my thing. I just want to get the basics right enough so I can get the pictures I want without too much fussing. Anyway the biggest revelation was about how digital cameras focus and the effect of camera shake. Although I read the instruction manual, I never got the importance of half depressing the shutter to focus and holding the camera still until after the picture is taken. This is important. Very. Der. So focused shots have been the exception rather than the rule. And now I know why the tripod self timer pictures tended to focus. Revelation!

So on Wednesday afternoon, I raced around the backyard in the fading light to practice. I love how with the flower picture, I can see my fingerprints! I know that when I am really on top of this, that the petals will be completely focussed too, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself here. And with the glass tops, I can see the dust on the window sill. Not that I am proud of the dust, just that I can see it.

My next practice excercise will be low light with the tripod and no flash. And some good pictures of Grace and her new talents, like pushing her trolley and climbing onto the couch. My faith in my camera and my ability to learn how to use it properly has been rekindled. I am so excited.

Craft in my perfect world

Five months ago, when I first discovered the world of crafty blogs, I knew immediately that it was a world I wanted to be part of. Or at least I thought I knew. As I started blogging and reading more and more blogs, crafty and otherwise, doubt set in. Could I really consider myself a crafty type at all? Were the things I made good enough? Do I spend enough time sewing or being otherwise crafty? If I was going to have a craft blog, did it have to meet certain criteria? Is this how I see myself anyway?

A month or so in, I decided that muppinstuff wasn't going to be a craft blog because there were so many more things that I wanted to write about, and that I am at heart an autobiograpical sort of writer. Back in the nineties, I studied professional writing and editing and wrote a lot of short fiction (which I liked) and part of a novel (which I loathed and will probably burn one day). Most of which was openly autobiograpical. On the surface I stopped writing because I became involved in a family business that took all my time and energy but I think the reasons are more complicated than that. Something to do with art consuming life, maybe. Or perhaps a lack of bottle. So, more than a decade later, when Grace turned one, as I looked around for a creative pursuit, blogging presented itself as an ideal way to get back into the habit of writing regularly again. The craft blog scene was kind of like the lure, the bait. The writing was the line that reeled me in and got me hooked.
Doll face string holder from "Handcrafts" by Kit Harris, Books for Pleasure, Paul Hamlyn 1972

Craft of various sorts, but mainly sewing and crochet, is something I've done all my life. Until now I haven't really given much thought to whether or not I was any good at it . It's just something that I share mostly with my mother and sister. We talk about fabric and ways of doing things, help each other out on projects. My sister makes a living designing and making clothes. I've had the odd thought in that direction too, but in reality my office job is a much easier choice in terms of life work balance and the need to earn an income. Also, I don't want my hands to ache and my brain to reel from something that I do more or less as a hobby. And that really, I don't have to be that good at. Which is why, when I don't rush or try too hard, sewing and other craft are relaxing.

It's not quite just a hobby, because making clothes and other craftiness (and the garden, but that's a whole other story) is actually an important part of our domestic economy. Over time G and I have evolved a lifestyle where we make and mend, create and do. We both like op shops, trash and treasure, hard rubbish hunting and gifts (incoming and outgoing) of not quite cutting edge technology. This way we can live on a modest income and still have cash to pay for luxuries like broadband, concert tickets, holidays and shoes. And save a bit. And feel good that we are not buying lots of stuff that will end up in landfill. Neither of us is all that keen on working outside the home full time, and we do battle for shed and sewing machine time. My favourite piece of furniture is the TV table that G made out of wood from the shed and the year before lasts hard rubbish.

So why do I begin to doubt myself when I see the craft of others on the internet? Looking around there are obviously many people more skilled and/or talented than I am. Some work I see, and I just gasp.  I'm so inspired.  But I also see work that is less skilled than what I might do. Again sometimes I am inspired, or pleased to see someone having a go or at maybe at an earlier part of their crafting journey than I am.  To be clich├ęd, it's all good. Yet still the doubts niggle. Doubts that weren't there before I started blogging.

So what to do in the face of doubt? I seem to be collecting old craft books that feed my inner craft life, losing myself in pictures of pyjama dolls and toilet roll covers. Seeking comfort from pictures of the things I remember that were made for fun (as opposed to need) when I was growing up. Thinking about what I would and wouldn't make, how I might translate a design or idea. Keep on making things when I can (taking into account life with a small child who thinks reaching for sewing machines and pins is fun but the  playpen is not) and trying to learn not be too hard on myself for doing less, or even less well than I would like.  I don't know, maybe I should just get a grip and remind myself that it just doesn't matter. That I have chosen this life of being a kind of slacker sewer/gardener/baker/trashy novel reader in between doing the everyday work of living. And that is an OK choice for now.

Sunday at the trash and treasure

Coburg trash and treasure wasn't that good from a buying stuff point of view this weekend. It was windy, which dampened my enjoyment of poking around and amplified the grizzles of little one. She was after sweeties by the second row, which really is far too scary even for me. Yes, I admit to occasionally giving Grace a liqorice allsort (or two) so that I can shop, but not very often and not that many. So we went off to meet a friend and her little bub all snug in the baby bjorn and for a little a play at the playground. Grace likes watching the bigger children and climbing, standing and tottering around the edges of things.

I took this photo at the beginning, before we started shopping and the wind got to me. It looks so late winter/early spring to me. The trees are still bare, but the weather is warming up so quickly, you can almost feel the plants getting ready for a big growth surge.

So much better for a big sleep

Today was Saturday sleep in day and somehow after getting up and toasting a crumpet to take back to bed and having some play with Grace, I managed to sleep in until 1.30pm! Surely a record, post life with child, that is. In my old life, I sometimes slept very, very late. Especially after a big night out. No such foolishness anymore. Still it was beautiful to sleep, and read, and think, and then sleep some more.

I had planned to spend the afternoon gardening but by the time I showered, dressed, ate and had coffee, there wasn't all that much of the day left. And all this took a long time because I felt very slow and tired, but in a good as opposed to sleep deprived sort of way. I managed to spend about an hour and a half weeding the vegie patch and checking out what was doing what around the garden.

Above are tritella, a bulb from South Africa which are from my Nan's garden originally. They are naturalising well, even though they do tend to get run over by the lawn mower before the first flowers come out. Below is our gnarly old plum tree. I often fantasise about chopping it down as it is full of cutleaf moth and gall wasps. But the plums make the most sublime, if somewhat fiddly, jam. And it is shady. And it isn't our tree to chop down anyway. Not that that would stop me, but it is a big tree and somehow central to the garden. I'm hoping that I'll be home on that perfect spring day (bound to happen soon) when the sun is shining and there's a gentle breeze and the air is full of softly falling petals and a subtle blossom aroma. If I am, I'm going to sit under the tree for a while with a book and a cup of tea and just take it all in.

As I tended my onion patch today, I reflected that it has been spectaclarly unsuccessful. Hardly any of the onions I planted as seedlings in June have survived. I don't know whether I planted them badly, or whether they don't have enough sun (our vegie patch is a little shady in winter) or whether they don't like the pea straw mulch. I pulled out all the pea shoots and weeds. Not many onions there. So I'll try some onion seeds soon and see what happens.

Little red dress tutorial

The theme for whiplash this August is wardrobe surgery, something I quite enjoy. I'm finding it quite difficult to get time at the sewing machine at present, but nothing motivates me like a deadline, so I thought I'd have a go. Once again I was reminded that while sewing for children is good, sewing with children is not. Not to worry, I did finish, Grace has a new spring dress and I learnt alot about the process of writing a tutorial. As much of this was done after dinner, many of the pictures are even more dodgy than the daylight ones taken in the wind.

This tutorial shows how I made a dress for my one year old daughter from an adult jumper, using an ordinary sewing machine. I sew quite a lot of knit fabric without an overlocker (serger) and find it fairly simple. I avoid using super stretchy knits and look for fabric like heavy weight cotton lycra, wool or cotton knit. I always test the stitch I am going to use and never pull the material through the machine, except when gently stretching a ribbed band. My machine does have an overlock type stitch but more often I use a simple zig zag as it is quicker, just as effective and uses less cotton.

You will need an old jumper with some ribbed banding. I used a cotton knit (as the weather is warming up here), but a machine washable wool knit will give much better results, as the fabric is softer and will sit better. Cut off the ribbing and the sleeves, leaving the body of the jumper intact.

Draft a pattern for the bodice onto newspaper, using an item of clothing that already fits, such as a t-shirt or jumper.  Check that the arms fit neatly into the bodice.

Lay pattern pieces out on the adult jumper. Allowing about a centimetre seam allowance, cut the sleeves from the sleeves, on the fold. Cut the bodice from the top of the jumper. After cutting fold one side in half and make the front neck opening a litttle lower than the back neck opening. Leave the side seams intact, this will form the skirt. If the hem is not ribbed, leave that too. Cut the banding into strips about three centimetres wide.

Set up your sewing machine. Test zig zag stiches on some scraps. I like to use a zig zag stitch that is long but quite close together. Although I leave about a centimetre seam allowance, I like to sew as close to the edge as I can but sometimes this will cause stretch material to pucker. It is often better to sew about a centimetre in and trim afterwards . This is why I test the stitching (and sometimes why my daughter needs to grow into the things I make her).

Sew the tops of the bodice together, with some narrow ribbon or wool underneath the stitching. This will stop the shoulders seams stretching.

Lay the sleeves out flat and pin to the arm opening. Stitch with arm side to the top.

Fold the ribbing in half and stretching gently as you sew, attach ribbing to the right side of the sleeve.

Measure a length of folded ribbing by gently stretching around the neckline. Join so you have a circular band. Pin in place with the join at the centre back. Attach with zig zag and overstich with a straight stitch, as with the sleeves.

 Fold the seam pointing back towards the shoulder, so that seam is underneath and topstitch with a straight stitch.

Pin the sleeves, underarms and bodice with right side facing in. Stitch with zigzag, Turn the right way in, you have now finished the bodice.

Mark the skirt top for gathering. I usually gather about half the material in the centre front and back. To my eyes gathered skirts look better with deep concentrated gathers rather than sparser more spread out gathers, but follow your own feelings on this. Sew with the longest straight stitch on your machine. Pull the top thread so that it gathers, tie the ends.

Pin skirt to bodice, right sides together with the gathered side uppermost. This will make it easier to stitch the gathers neatly. Stitch, making sure that the stitching cuts neatly across the gathering.

Turn the dress right way out and making sure that the top of the skirt gathering is pointing towards the neckline,top stitch with a straight stitch where the bodice and skirt join.

Turn up hem and stitch. I like a nice stiff hem on this style of dress as it makes the skirt swing out a little. I tend to use two rows of straight stitching with a row of three step curved zig zag in the middle. Press and try to fit onto your wriggling toddler.

All finished. I thought I might be able to get Grace to model her new dress but she's all movement at the moment, so it was not to be.

Rebaking my childhood

I don't know whether it has something to do with watching my sister Betty move house, but for the last couple of days I have had an insane desire to cook some old family favourites. Last night I made lemon butter with some lemons from someone at my stepfathers's work. The lemons looked a little old and I was worried that I'd forgotten how, but it turned out perfectly. Gorgeous yellow and very bitey and exciting, just how I like it. When we were at boarding school, every so often, my sister and I used to stay with Nan and Pa for the weekend. Sometimes Nan would give us a little jar each to take back to school as a treat. In those days boarding school food was truly excreable and we would arrange to meet in the box room and eat those little jars of deliciousness small spoonful by small spoonful.

Looking through my Nan's recipe book, I couldn't find a recipe for it. She probably made it from memory. I did find however, a recipe for chocolate slice made with weetbix. I loathe and detest weetbix with milk, it makes me gag even thinking about it. But this little slice, yummo. Very crisp. Very easy. It's not one that my mum used to make, but her country relatives did and I remember it well. Leafing through Nan's book, I noticed that it was filled with recipes for sweet baked goods. Only one or two savoury recipes. I remember that Nan's savoury cooking was very good, but plain. Biscuits, slices and cakes that's where the glory (and recipe swapping) was. I love this old book and am going to transcribe, and convert to metric, all the recipes that I remember. I'm also going to try and write down my own recipes. Hence my new(ish) project, eater.

The other dish I made today was egg and bacon pie. Mum, Grace and I walked around to Betty's new place for lunch. The pie was still warm and juicy. It's not something G would like (being a vegetarian and all) but it hit the spot today. We were total barbarians and didn't even have salad with it.

In a tent

The other weekend I had the idea that if I pitched the tent under the clothesline that Grace would play in and around it for hours and I could garden without having to constantly chase her. I also had in mind some particular photos to take. Alas, the little blue tent I had in mind and thought was in the laundry has been given to the opshop, probably in the pre-baby nesting frenzy purge of excess stuff. Grace, of course wanted nothing more than to grab my camera. And then to scoot off and bumshuffle around the garden. Still, it was nice to lie in the tent for a while, smelling that tent holiday smell and contemplating future camping holidays.

Lots more self portraits here.

Vicarious moving house thrills

It's all happened so quickly but my sister and her man have finally found a good house and moved in. Yesterday as I helped a little, I said goodbye to one of my favourite views. I used to enjoy this panorama every time I approached their old house; the sky, the flats and the big yellow chip that marks the end of the freeway.

Betty said today that she thought that I was more anxious than she was about the possibilty of not finding a house in time. The owners of their old house are planning to put it on a truck and move it to the country and then redevelop the block. I have to say I was pretty worried. Partly because it makes me feel insecure thinking that there might be no good houses to rent in our suburb at a reasonable price. And partly because even just the thought of having to put all your stuff in storage and find somewhere temporary to live just freaks me out. Bigtime. Even if it is not me and my little family but people in my bigger family.

Anyway it has all worked out rather well. The house is charming, the timing is perfect and it is closer to the tram than their last house. When Betty first told me about the new house, there were two main concerns. One was that it smelt a bit musty and the second was the kitchen sink.

The musty smell is already being chased away by a flurry of cleaning and movement and open windows.  The sink kind of illustrates kind of how I feel about some of the features of old houses. Charming, but is it practical? I love the original old cabinetry (which continues along the wall) and the old lino and the kooky retro wallpaper behind the sink, but it is rather small and there isn't much space for stacking either clean or dirty dishes. In my house (which I have rented since the late eighties) I committed an act of vandalism to make my scullery workable. I ripped out some of the cabinetry and built shelves and it now works really well. But our house was in such terrible condition at that time, that I think all the landlord has noticed on his inspections has been improvement. No doubt Betty will figure out how to make it work, she's very clever like that.

The house is in pretty original condition and looks like it has been well loved. It even has old tools and bits of ephemera to discover. Inside the linen press I found this, old sticky tape and all.

It has been fun exploring the new house, oohing and ahing at each new discovery. Imagining how it might look with furniture and decor. Making endless useless suggestions that probably drove my sister batty by the end of the day. Part of me craves the thrill of a new house and part of me is terrified of having to pack and unpack all those boxes and the ensuing chaos. When I moved into the house I live in now, I vowed to stay put. And I have. For about 18 years I think, which is a long, long time for a rented house. I think I've been lucky but maybe also a bit chicken.

They also have a delightful old Hills Hoist in the backyard. At lunch today, I shyly mentioned that I had written about her clothes line in Mrs Washalot and that I hoped she didn't mind. She said I could write whatever I liked as long as I kept in mind that she'd probably read it. I think I'm being nice but sometimes I worry about boundary issues (as in telling the stories of others). Anyway, I am so glad they found a good house. Phew.

Form nerd

Last night I put off doing the census for as long as I could by reading almost every blog on my favourites and following the links and checking for updates on the SPC site. But I knew that I wouldn't be able to sleep unless I did it on the night it was meant to represent. I was modern and did it online like I do with tax and banking (what speak to a person? not if I can help it). As I got stuck in I really started to enjoy it. Weird. Maybe it's the bureaucrat in me but I quite like to tick boxes and it gives me a small pleasure to think that our little lives are being added to the bigger picture. Not that it will probably do any good in any meaningful sort of way, but I feel like we have been counted.

Some questions made me think. In particular number 48, "In the last week did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work for their household?" Blood oath I did, I thought and went to check the more than 30hours a week box and then I had a little think and checked the 15-29 box for each of us. Maybe I'm not as overwhelmed by housework as I think I am or maybe I'm getting very quick at it. Or am I forgetting some and not counting it? Anyway, I went to sleep with this question on my mind, because heaven forbid that I should fill out an official government form incorrectly.

In the morning, Grace reached onto my desk and then bumshuffled around the house with it before finally placing it the bottom of the stroller, ready to take to mother's group. I just made it today, at least 15 minutes before everyone else had to go, held up by pesky washing up and laundry chores that I just cannot leave the house without doing. Perhaps I need to loosen up a bit.

Garden play

It feels like spring will be here soon. The days are getting longer and warmer, buds are bursting and my garden is full of weeds. I can feel that the garden will have a really big growth spurt quite soon and there are a million things I want to get done in the next week or so. Like weed the onion patch and sow some more seeds and seedlings, sow more broad beans and snow peas, more lettuce and spinach and coriander. And help the existing snow peas onto their trellis. And plant all my cuttings and heaps of flower seeds.

Today while my mum was here to chase Grace around the garden and stop her from eating rocks or cat food, I knocked off a job that has been on my to do list for about three months. I lined some wire baskets with tea tree bark from the street trees near my mums house and planted them with succulents and hanging cactus to be hung on the fence and off the shed. I also repotted a few plants that are struggling and moved them to better spots. I'm not  good at remembering to water so my pots have to be tough and hung where they will get rained on.

It was so good to be working in the garden with the sun on my back. I just want to do it all again tommorow but probably won't because Wednesdays are a whole different sort of day. I'm also feeling the need to finish my winter sewing projects so I can start on our spring/summer looks.

In the scullery

One of the more charming features of our crumbling old home is the scullery. It's basically a very small room off the kitchen which contains the kitchen sink, lots of stacking space for dirty dishes and shelves for clean dishes (and camera, because taking pictures of housework is so much more fun than actually doing it). The main advantage of a scullery is that it makes keeping the rest of the kitchen tidy easy, even when hosting a barbeque or other social event. When I was young and this house was the scene of wild(ish) parties, people used to cram into the scullery, sometimes for snogging, sometimes for conversation. If I ever get to design my ideal kitchen, it will have a modern version of the scullery, but with a dishwasher.

As I washed the dishes this morning, Grace bumshuffled around the house destroying all our efforts at childproofing. If she could reach something, it was on the floor. Trying to get everything all picked up for long enough to do the weekly vacuum tests my patience. I feel very lucky to have become a mother at my age but sometimes the housework overwhelms me. Still, despite the presence of the kitchen sink, I do quite like being in my scullery.

View many amazing self portraits here.

More treasure

Yesterday, which now seems a very long time ago, we went to the Coburg Trash and Treasure market again. I don't know whether I'm watching collectors on the ABC a bit too often, but I'm on a roll. At the moment I like old plastic, old photos and books, especially old children's books.  I've pretty much always liked this sort of thing but chancing on the blog ephemera opened my eyes to ways of collecting photos. I've decided to concentrate on snapshots of childhood and domestic life. Hopefully my collections will grow slowly and not take up too much space. Otherwise I'll have to have a stall myself and put some of it back in circulation. But at least I will have had the joy of possession for a while.

The best book I have bought for a long time is this one.

It's in really good condition, which is unusual for a book like this, and it has these beautiful cut outs so that you can see parts of one page from the one on top. I tried to capture the cut outs with the second picture but really only succeeded in washing out the colour. Underneath where Mrs Noah is washing the floor of the ark (yet again) is the rest room for bats and owls. This one will have to be read to the small child (who still likes to eat books) under close supervision.

This plastic baby was another find, and I didn't even have to pay for it. The stall holder gave it to Grace, who wanted to eat it before it had been washed. Yuck. We did end up buying a rather hideous truck slash robot that talks when the dump truck is emptied from her stall. Hours of delight for both G and Grace.

In the background is another new toy, which Grace also loves and is carting around the house alot. I still haven't found a set of wooden blocks or a standing activity centre thing, but I think she has enough to play with at the moment. This sunday, the Coburg market was really buzzing, nicer weather has bought more stall holders out of hibernation. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, even the regular dealers who seem to have lots of interesting stuff at low prices, perfect for this market.

What's your inner flower?

Apparently I'm an echinacea, "you are a health conscious person, both your health and the health of others. You know all about the health benefits and dangers of the world around you." Hmm, those who know me well may not agree.

I am an

What Flower
Are You?

Anyway, it's a pretty fun sort of quiz. I noticed it while checking out bekka's self portrait challenge. The quiz is from garden blog, this garden is illegal. I can see there is a whole new part of blogland for me to explore. 

If do the quiz and want to display the picture and link on your blog, you need to add the snippet of code provided using the Edit HTML tag in the window where you post. It took me quite a while to work that one out. Another victory for the technoklutz! But oh no, I've lost the border, still a bit klutzy..


I love baking. Heaven to me would be a well paid gig in a beautiful kitchen with a view of a lovely garden, someone to wash up after me and no time pressure (which rules out cooking in a commercial kitchen). Recently I've started baking the odd cake or biscuit on the weekend, even though I know it's not good for my waistline. But it is good for my soul. This weekends effort was yo-yos, inspired by wanting to eat these by tiny happy.

Baking yo-yos for me is always about a search for perfection. Here are some of the more perfect ones I made. There are none left. Even the less perfect (but still delicious) very, very brown ones have been eaten. I've written the recipe on my new project, the recipe blog. There's not much there yet, but hopefully it will grow and I will then have all my recipes in one place.

 As they were baking, I was talking to my mum on the phone. She has some very definite ideas on yo-yo perfection, not browned, lemon icing, not too big. I agree on the not too big and like lemon icing myself but G thinks they'd be nicer with chocolate icing (which I'm open to trying). I also like them very crisp, just short of browned. My oven is quite dodgy, so all over yo-yo perfection is hard to attain. I also asked her whether there was a difference between yo-yos and melting moments. According to my mum, melting moments are much softer in texture, often made as a forcer biscuit and contain cornflour instead of custard powder. This led to a long and convoluted discussion about who of her country relatives cooked what biscuit or slice and so on. So much family history in a biscuit.

House of the snufflekins

We've all come down with the snuffles and sneezes. Not really sick but not crash hot either. Grace is suffering the most, with big gobs of snot streaming out her nose constantly. I've tried to teach her to blow her nose but she just laughs and starts to shred the tissue. G was tired from going to see Radio Birdman. He's been telling me how great it was ever since he stumbled (quietly) in during the wee hours. I had to remind him several times today that he has already told me how great they were. Glad he had a good time, a happy G is quite fun to have around the house.

So it was a great excuse to have a very very slow day of sitting around in my dressing gown, sitting in the sun, chasing Grace and wandering around the garden in my ugboots checking out what's doing what in the garden.

At this stage, it's all in the detail. Small flowers emerging from big bushy bits of foliage and weeds. Snow drops are new to my garden, planted last year. There were lots of naturalised snow drops in the remenant bush near where I grew up. I guess they'd be considered an environmental weed now. Nigella, or love-in-mist, is self seeding through much of the garden. Every now and then I throw another packet of seeds around, because you can't have too many. The foliage is feathery and graceful. Buds, flowers and seed pods all have beautiful shapes. Lots of weeds. Not to worry. Must plant more seeds, cuttings and seedlings. Planting is the key to a good summer garden. Weeding can wait.

G was also made very happy later today by the victory of the old dark navy blues. Footy has been a source of constant dissappointment to him some years now. I try to comfort him by saying that it will get better. It is no comfort though, because the only thing that matters in football is winning. I enjoy going to the footy with G, but only if there is a good chance of victory. Going when there is no chance feels (to me) like punishment. There was much prancing around and playing of a certain record and the singing of a certain song late this afternoon. Go Blues!

One of those days

Today has been one of those days. I was so late for mother's group that they were all gone by the time I got there. Somehow the morning just got away from me, eventhough I had two loads of washing on the line by half past nine and resisted the urge to faff on the computer. I was struggling with the folding and the dishes and having a shower and feeding the child and preventing the child from hurting herself. It hasn't felt this out of control since those early days. Doesn't help that I have a big sore spot on my head from where I bumped into a door frame last night.  I'd gotten into bed and then thought that I'd forgotten to turn the heater off and just had to get up and check. It was dark and I was tired and boy, oh boy did it hurt. Looks like there's going to be a big shiny bruise too. Oh well.

Yesterday I turned my back for two minutes and in that time, Grace managed to find and hide my car keys, sunglasses and the phone. I spent over an hour looking for these things while she napped. Grace has also developed a fondness for standing next to the radio in the kitchen and turning it up as loud as possible. Then she holds onto the shelf underneath and sort of jiggles with a big smile on her face. I can understand when it's music, but the local ABC?  And I worry about damage to her ears. So I did a little more childproofing.  G thinks it is a bit wrong, but as I explained, elastoplast can be lifted and restuck a number of times. Probably won't be long before Grace figures that one out. Still, one of G's solutions to Grace's habit of turning off the computer while one is in the middle of something has proved surprisingly long lasting and effective. Maybe not being able to see all those flashing lights makes it less tempting for our little angel.

After finding my keys and sunglasses in the bucket of sports equipement in the hallway, I came to this arrangement. Not very glamorous and I think I am going to miss having the nice arrangement of objects and the woven mat on the hall table. You can also see one of the other unlovely features of this house, the paint finish on the doorways. Not as evil as the carpet, but close (repeat to yourself, you are lucky to have this house, at this rent, in this suburb). Anyway the arrangement on the hall table was just too tempting and far too much work. There are also bitemarks appearing in this piece of furniture, adding no doubt to the patina of age.

We also have a shelf above the little table in the kitchen which is quickly becoming a repository for all manner of items required to be at hand or removed from her clutches. I think that little pile might have to be next on my slow decluttering agenda.

The phone was found sitting on the concrete outside after being posted out the catdoor. It has now been moved to higher ground. I don't want to remove everything from Grace's orbit but I guess it's going to be a while before she learns not to pull everything apart. I'm trying to save "no" for a few key things, like not hurting the cat or sticking her fingers up my nose.


For the first week of the August theme, enclosed spaces, this one just jumped out at me. In our cars we are in our own little capsule, zooming about amongst others also in their own little capsules. When we go out together as a family, it feels even more so. Especially when whooshing along the freeway from Werribee back into town. We only have one car and don't drive all that much during the week, aside from the odd trip here and there, it's mostly just the weekly supermarket shop and my 10 minute commute two days a week. On longer weekend drives, I quite enjoy being a passenger. Gerard's good driver and I feel safe and relaxed. It's a chance to do nothing much other than chat, listen to music and look out the window. Some of our happiest times have been on long road trips together. On one night stops in the outback, we often slept in the back of the car and occasionally if it was rainy or windy would even eat dinner sitting in the front. Hopefully Grace will enjoy camping and long distance car travel when she's older. At this point she either likes being in the car or it's the worst thing in the world (which she's quite vocal about) or she sleeps.

Many more self portraits here.

Little friends

What a lovely weekend! On Saturday afternoon, we had some visitors from tassie and as always, it's nice to catch up. Grace was very excited to have two little playmates,  Aisling, who's three months younger, and Xavier who's three. For a 15 monther and only child like Grace, an older child who will pay her attention is a real treat. When there's a mass of older kids, they tend to run in packs which is not so fun for her. But this was great, Xavier played with Grace and let her follow him around. There was even a moment, before nap time when all three got down among the toys.

And then there was cake and tea and beer. I made a little friend when I offered Xavier the icing spoon to lick. Probably should have asked his parents first. Luckily, they weren't too fussed. When Grace saw cake and cream, she got even more excited. Not to mention the thrill of trying to use a fork (whisked away moments later).

 The children spent much time grinding cake into the carpet which gave me a kind of perverse pleasure. How I loathe the carpet in this house. At least nothing can make it worse. Then high on sugar, the two older children bounced on the furniture. At least Grace didn't squeal for half an hour like she did last time after cake.

On Sunday we went to visit some old friends of G's in Werribee. The little boy Fin, is about Grace's age. When he awoke from his nap, Grace was already playing with his toys. Fin didn't seem to mind, just got down on the floor and played alongside her. How different it is, looking after your child in someone else's home. Particularly when you don't know them so well. Fin doesn't really eat sweets so I'll know not to have slacker chocolate cake when we return the hospitality. Grace pulled out all Fin's toys which stressed G a little. I figure that when visiting homes with children of a similar age, that sort of behaviour is expected. Grace made a bit of a mess at lunch, also expected. What did surprise me was how friendly Grace was with lots of new people. Usually she's a little reserved at first.

And I got some sewing done, and the ironing. G also mowed the lawn and manged to have some time in the shed. And I got to watch the new Dr Who which I am becoming very entranced by. Such a lovely weekend.

Passenger shots

We did a day trip down to Werribee on the weekend. It's been a while since we all bundled into the commodore and went for a drive as a family. A drive that involved leaving our cosy little suburb and immediate surrounds, that is. G drove while Grace and I enjoyed being passengers. I don't think there's anything I find much more relaxing than being in the car, watching scenery go by, listening to music, having a chat and of course, playing with my new(ish) toy.


I love the element of chance involved in taking pictures from a car window. G and I have taken quite a few of these types of photos on our road trips over the years but with a conventional camera, you're much more limited by film, the cost of developing photos etc. I'm finding playing with a digital camera quite exciting.