the christmas

A long time ago, when I was less than half the age I am now, I spent a cold, dark, lonely and somewhat bewildering Christmas in Ireland with my then crazy boyfriend, his family and neighbours. Only they didn't refer to it as Christmas so much as "the Christmas" which seemed to encompass both the nativity and a range of festivities spanning the Christmas period. And I guess that I've started thinking about it like that too. Because it's a big responsibility when you're mum and most of the social calendar arranging, present buying, childcare gift baking, family negotiating, task planning and the Father Christmas delivery falls to you. Maybe I'd have an easier time of it if I let go a bit more, but truth is I care about it more (or in a different, somewhat more obsessive way) than G, so I don't. Simplicity eludes me. Perhaps that's just something I need to accept.
Nonetheless. It was all pretty good on the day. Some people, who shall not be mentioned, drunk a little too much on Christmas Eve and I worried the day would be a complete write off but we all got up at eight with nary a hangover in sight and had breakfast before opening presents in the lounge room. I'm mean and make Grace wait because there's no way she's eating Christmas chocolate on an empty stomach and besides, being an only child, we're the only company she has for this little ritual. So far she's OK with waiting. And it is one of my favourite parts of the day. This year, Grace took her time and examined each gift, sometimes having a little play before moving on to the next.
We suggested she open the pillow case from Father Christmas first and it was filled with a mixture of useful things and stuff she'd like - fuzzy felt and Dora the Explorer hair clips and bracelet (I know Santa sold out, but that bracelet, she adores it). Then we did the family gift exchange. And yes, she loved the doll and her clothes. She even loved that I'd made then all her. Which was very pleasing indeed. She wasn't so thrilled with the bongo drum from G but I think once she sees it in action and realises that it is a pirate drum, she'll change her mind. And the DVDs hit the spot. She sure loves a DVD, that girl. Grace and I bought G a CD he really wanted and I bought him a record which is a beautiful object, but I'm not sure how much he likes it yet. I received an interesting looking book and the new Angie Hart CD which I really rather like (yes, I was a closet Frente! fan back in the day).  Grace also received heaps of Lego from the extended family - fun, fun, fun. I'm even getting good at it. Oh, and G got a rather special and unexpected gift from my Dad, too. 
After presents in the morning, I finished off my cooking for lunch, including a very ordinary bean salad, an onion tart that didn't live up to expectations and some hand made after dinner mints that were freakishly good despite containing raw egg white and dodgy chocolate. I also took some White Christmas, so that we could all have our seasonal fill of bad fats. Christmas lunch was very pleasant. Oysters slipped down (yum, I love oysters and should definitely eat them more often). Grace tried a prawn. The chicken was delicious, the potatoes crispy, the pudding came out of the bowl in one easy motion and Nina had bought this non-alcoholic ginger apple drink that was utterly gorgeous. People seemed to like this years family calendar and the afternoon seemed very adult and smooth (except for the frenzy of Grace unwrapping her presents) and towards the end, I realised just how much I missed Betty and her family. A bit more chaos and child energy would have been a good thing. Somehow the lack of all that made things feel not quite right to me. And that feeling grew as a nameless, shapeless thing all day. Once I knew what it was, I could do something and so we all skyped (which had kind of been the plan anyway) and suddenly things felt a lot, lot better.

And on boxing day I slept until 12. And kept on relaxing after that. Because I quite like the bit when the Christmas is all done and dusted for the year and I can put my feet up, eat left overs and dip into the shortbread and Christmas cake from mum. Oh yes, indeed.

I guess I am a Christmas kind of person

Well, I've wrapped all the presents. The family presents are under the tree in a tottery pile and another pillowcase of gifts from the fat man is lurking in my wardrobe. Tomorrow night we're having Christmas eve drinks here. This was initially an idea of Gerard's after I said no to having Christmas lunch at our place (kitchen too small to eat and prepare food in plus only one day off work before Christmas day equals recipe for me being a stresshead) and then he abandoned it, thinking no one would be interested. But somehow we invited one set of neighbours and then another. So it's starting to look like a party after all. No cooking though, just nibbles and drinks. And crazy, excited children.
Last weekend, I had a conversation with a friend about Christmas and they're not doing Christmas this year, not even in an alternative way.Although I can see her point of view and it's such a personal thing that I wouldn't even dream of trying to convince her to change her mind, I'm surprised at how confronting I found the whole idea of opting out of Christmas altogether. It's been running through my mind all week at work, superimposed with the photos here. (Christmas 1972, I would have been eight. We lived in Ringwood in a street that I'm not sure exists anymore. I love that photo of Betty and me under the tree in our new nighties. And how cool was my mum?).  Of course like many people, I skipped a couple of years as a young adult but now that I'm a parent, I find myself wanting to recreate the Christmases that I had as a child. Christmases that I loved and found terribly exciting and now I'm getting to relive that. We were very lucky to have parents that made Christmas fun without being too overwhelming and there was always a big (in my child's mind) pile of presents that we would rip into. Some were practical things like towels and nighties or new dresses made by my mum. I loved those new dresses and there are many photos of Christmases past where Betty and I are wearing our new dresses.  
Then there were the big Christmas lunches. With the sense of ritual and dare I say, obligation. Perhaps also a side serve of tension at times. Especially as we got older and definitely around the time my parents separated. There was one truly awful Christmas that year and I think I refused to see them together for a few years, but it's all good now. I loved those lunches as a child and I still do now. Especially towards the end when the presents have all been handed out and I relax into it all. And this year I've enjoyed the preparation more than I have for the last couple of years. I'm less tense, more settled into this house. And yeah, I'm starting to accept/understand my role in this family as far as Christmas goes. Sometimes I think we get too worried that we'll overdo it, but I think that hasn't happened so far. In fact I'm quite looking forward to being there when Grace opens her presents and having lunch at Mum's. Tomorrow I just have some food shopping and prep to do and then it's relaxo all the way. Yay.
So anyway, that's me for a couple of days. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who read here! See you on the other side.

it's beginning to feel alot like Christmas....

It is beginning to feel like Christmas. Last weekend I completed my Christmas shopping!!! Everything bar our contribution to Christmas dinner for which I will shop either tomorrow (baking) or on Thursday (fruit and salad bits). That's not to say the Christmas shopping was all smooth sailing.... Thursday after my shrink appointment found me wandering aimlessly about town, getting this and that - time that I could have spent being more focused and decisive. But that got me thinking and the next day, I wrote the mother of all lists and checked it twice. And aligned it with our postal schedule.
So last Saturday, Mum and I took Grace with us to the city on a previously planned trip to look at the Christmas windows and have lunch in a cafe (Grace rather likes having lunch in a cafe). The windows were not as exciting as I remember from my childhood. OK but too tasteful for my taste. I prefer Christmas with a good serve of sparkle. When Grace started to crack, Nana took her home on the train. Leaving me with a good couple of hours to race around and order our family calendar. It's become somewhat of a tradition in our family and while they're not super cheap, they are lovely and this years came out rather well. Even if I do say so myself. Making the absolute agony of photo selection worth it. Then I raced around looking for kids books and Schleich toy animals which Betty and I have agreed make a good one or two at a time present. Far better to have a smaller collection of nice toy animals than lots of crappy ones. Grace adores playing with these and makes little scenes, so I have made her and Ruby a play mat each which is just some green quilting cotton with a blob of blue felt for a dam sewn on. Grace (hers is not a Christmas present) is already collecting tin cans for water tanks and thinking about how to make houses - I predict cereal box construction soon. Anyway, David Jones used to have a good range of these toys but not anymore and Myer late on Saturday afternoon was Christmas shopping hell. Chaos and disorder and far too many children that had spent far too long in the city. I grabbed some of the last few farm animals on the shelves and made a mental note for next year - online or make a mid year trip to a proper toyshop.   
 On Sunday morning, Grace and I put up the Christmas tree. But only after G and I had a big fight about stuff that doesn't even bear mentioning. Yes, it really is beginning to look like Christmas, isn't it?  Far better to get that one out of the way. Grace was very adept at decorating the tree this year and I'm letting go my preference for evenly spaced decorations. The tree leans anyway and we enjoyed doing it together which is what really counts. It looks like G has already hidden a little wooden ornament in the tree and I'm wondering what I might make this year. I have an idea for another tree for the mantel piece to go with this one. Quite different, and more sparkly but doable I think. Then after we finished the tree, I went down to Brunswick and spent some time in a bookshop, spotlight and savers and I was done. Making it home in time to spend an hour or so at the community get together in the park. Yesterday we wrapped and made cards with these crazy stickers from savers and all the parcels to Queensland and Tasmania are in the post. So barring industrial action, they should get there by Christmas day. What a good feeling that is. Breathe out.
And today, I cleaned up after my jam making activities last night (not a great batch, cloudy, sour and scummy - it's been a while since I jammed but my jam mojo will surely return - I can feel it), did some washing and mending, booked a camping holiday for January and got ready for the next stage which is about making and relaxing. Dinner was spent relaxing with some friends. Nothing much has to be done now. Just a few more presents to be wrapped. And a bit of cleaning (maybe) and baking. Yep, it's beginning to feel like Christmas this year will be OK.

love of liberty

One thing I've learned about me and craft weekends is that a warm up project can be a good thing. One that is easy enough to get right and ease into the feel of the machine again. This time it was especially true and I decided to work on one of my long term re-fashion projects before starting on my big project. A while ago I bought this hideous shirt from the opshop opposite the doctors. We were there with Grace and it wasn't a good opshopping moment so I grabbed it in a hurry, without much thought for the simple reason it was made from Liberty Lawn and 50 cents. I adore Liberty fabric and can rarely afford to buy it new and if I do, have to hold onto it for a while before I lose the fear of cutting it. Anyway over the years, I've found a few pieces in opshops either as pieces of fabric or as garments that could be reworked. And it's a fabric that seems to wear and last really, really well.

Later when I got the shirt home, I realised that it had deep tucks/pleats and that I might get something for me out of the pieces, despite Grace laying claim to it.Over the next few weeks (and months), I washed, unpicked and pressed the fabric and realised that although there were a couple of stains and some faded bits, I could probably get a camisole top for me out of it. I'm really very pleased with how it came out. The fabric was a joy to work with and sewed like a dream despite being fairly lightweight. As it's too brief and bra strap/bingo arms revealing for work, it will be a casual/round the home top but I'm thinking I'll have it for years. Not bad for a re-fashioned 50 cent shirt from the opshop. I'm now also thinking of using a precious purchased liberty piece I have in the suitcase under my desk to make a peasant top. One that I could wear to work and round about. Because I know I'd love it and it would last and because I don't think I could have too much liberty lawn in my wardrobe right now. Even if it the weather has taken a cool turn since November.

sunday in the country and a collaborative calendar

Yesterday was awesome and I'm still on a bit of a high from it. A country drive to Warburton in convoy with some friends. Lunch by the Yarra river, soaking up the views and the absolutely gorgeous weather. Absolutely no child issues, like no rolling around on the grass not eating lunch because we're not all sitting on the rocks. Snort - yeah, I had you there for a moment didn't I? But truly it was grand. I've been thinking about it all day today in the best possible way.
Then having missed most of the market because we left a bit late and relaxed a bit long over lunch, we drove up to the rainforest galleryat the base of Mount Donna Buang. And it was sensational. There was a walk amongst the tree tops where you could look down onto the forest floor. Then we went down a zillion steps and walked around the forest. It was so beautiful. It's all on metal boardwalks so there is a lot less damage or litter than what you would normally see. And you can't lose your children. So you can walk around staring at the trees and playing with your camera. Lovely. Highly recommended and a balm for the spirits.

****Collaborative Calendar****
In other news, I'm honoured and delighted to be part of a collaborative calendar for 2010 project with Mary and Suse. We all have our own individuals styles and I think it's amazing the way the photos came together. I'm going to buy one to use as my computer desk calendar - it seems a very apt and handy thing to keep in my blogging space. The calendar is hosted on Mary's redbubble and you can see it here. Yay!

craft weekend like no other

It's a funny thing that you can keep going to the same place, with the same people plus a few newies and it will always be different. It will always be good, because how could the combination of wonderful company, absence of domestic drudgery and uninterrupted craft and sleep time in beautiful surrounds not be good? But sometimes there are things from outside the craft weekend cocoon that alter the experience. Not always for the better.

This time, the issue was driving related. I keep thinking that I'm done telling the story of how I nearly lost my life to an idiot driver, but clearly I'm not. It's better than it was and I'm still driving because obviously you still have to live your life and all. Anyhow on Friday morning, I left home a bit later than planned but was well on time to pick Kim up from the airport. It was fabulous to meet her and it was like we'd know each other for ages, which I guess we have. The drive to Lancefield was lovely and as we were so early, we hung around opshopping and having lunch. As you do. Then as I went to turn right into Sewjourn (which is a short, short distance from the centre of town), an old school ute with a mattress standing in the back swerved around me on the right. He missed hitting me on the drivers side door, but only just.  He skidded back onto the road and fishtailed for another 300 metres, nearly colliding head on with a car coming the other way. A car that was a long way in the distance when I went to make the turn. The whole thing was so fast, so unexpected, there was no time to react. He must have been going well over 100K in a 60K zone. It is luck that we are all OK. Or he was playing some sort of dumbarsed joke. In which case it is still luck that no-one was hurt.
 The woman in the other car, who had her gorgeous nineteen month old daughter with her, stopped and had a cup of tea with us. She was pretty shaky too. Everyone said it wasn't my fault but I kept wondering whether I had checked my rear view mirror before stopping to turn. Had I been aware enough of what was going on around me? Because I was the driver, and as far as I'm concerned, that means I was responsible for the safety of everyone in the car. And then of course, I kept hearing Grace's words before I left, Mummy, please don't go, I will miss you.*  Later after a debrief, after calling Gerard and some tears, I became "normal" again and slipped into craft weekend mode. And pretty much it was great, expecially when I was occupied and engaging in talking and crafting. But in those dreamlike times between waking and sleeping, thoughts about what could have happened, including all the possible scenarios and consequences played through my mind, reminding me of some of the disturbing thoughts I have had when I majorly depressed. Ick. So this week, although I have thought about it less and less, my general level of anxiety has been pretty high. And I haven't been sleeping as well as I would like. Still as Gerard said, the worst didn't happen and for that I am extremely grateful. And in writing this, ready to move on. Sorry if you just came here for the craft.
Anyway. Let's talk about some of the good part of craft weekend shall we? It was great to see Suzie, Di, Ellen, Sandra and Suse again. And to meet Kim and Angela. I love those moments when people arrive. It's so exciting and the weekend is all ahead of us and full of possibility. On the first afternoon, in between telling everyone about our close shave, I worked on refashioning this hideous shirt I bought at an opshop a while back. It's taken me ages to unpick, but as it's Liberty Lawn, it's worth it I think. It is now a hot day top with tied straps and I'm pleased with how it turned out. Pictures to come.

On Saturday, I launched into my main project - The Poppy Doll from Hop Skip Jump. First up, I just have to say what a great pattern this is. Well worth buying if you want to make a doll for dressing. I did toy with the idea of making a doll without a pattern, but I'm glad I didn't as it's a Christmas present for Grace.  I used linen instead of doctor's flannel. Partly because I liked the idea of linen and partly because there's nowhere around here to buy doctor's flannel and I ran out of time to get some online. As it turned out, I couldn't find a good linen either and ended up buying a dress from Saver's to cut up and that worked perfectly. The linen is a close weave and has been washed enough to give it a nice soft feel.  Pictures are on Flickr - but no more until Christmas because I don't want Grace to see. I'm pretty sure she'll like this doll, she's seen her on Fiona's blog and asked me if we could make one, so I'm taking that as a good sign. I also made some doll clothes; a ballet skirt, a dress, a skirt and a t-shirt. Oh, and some rather racy underwear (black lace, black fold over elastic and red t-shirt material was all that I had, so that's what I used and I don't think it's too inappropriate). Sandra made some ballet slippers and gave me the shoe pattern and I made a little pair of mary-janes. And I have more clothes in mind. I think this doll will need a little suitcase!

The last project of the weekend was a dress for Grace. So I would have something to bring home for her. I had some more Liberty Lawn and perhaps I should have made the dress I had in mind out of that because the dress I did make hasn't gone down all that well. Perhaps I shouldn't have listened to Grace tell me she'd like a dress out of the black material with animals on it and gone with my intuition. Oh well.

There's lots more I could say about all the good things. We ate really well. It rained, which is always good. We listened to beautiful music and shared stories. Laughed. Swore. Drunk some wine and got a bit silly. Stayed up too late. Watched the creation of many gorgeous things. Admired Kim's beautiful quilt and were present when she made her first dress, with a placket! Yep, despite the shaky start, it was all really good. I love craft camp. I love that I get to go. That I am that lucky. And I'm already looking forward to the next one.

*Grace does say that quite a bit at the moment. Like when I go to work. Or to the supermarket. As it turned out she had a rather good weekend while I was away and organised a playdate with a friend from childcare, went to dinner in the park and a clothes swap where she got a barbie and a helicopter. And had a visit from Nana. Nonetheless she was delighted to see me when I got home, which is always nice. Ooh, how I enjoyed coming home and hugging my people.