craft camp debrief

Oh how I was looking forward to this last craft camp just gone. I missed the last one as it came right at the end of the week when mum's small cell lung cancer was diagnosed. She was out of hospital by the Saturday but it was a pretty heavy week and I don't think I would have had it in me to go to craft camp. But I missed it, I missed seeing everyone and I missed the Queen's birthday craft camp being part of the rhythm of my year and I missed the injection of new winter clothes into our wardrobes. And since then things have been a bit tricky here, I miss my old job (in ways), I miss the structure and the money. The new things I am doing remain a great big learning curve. Also we are looking at changing Grace's school and well, mum still has cancer. So when this craft camp rolled around I was pretty damn excited and looking forward to a break and all the good things of craft camp. I voted by post, I cut everything out, I was organised.
It was so great to be there. Really it was. To hang with (most of) the lovely women. To hang out in the studio on Friday making mini bears and chatting. To take in the view. To just be there. If I could bottle that Friday night Sewjourn feeling, I would. As it was I stayed up far too late on Friday night, chatting. By the time I went to bed I was spinning and overtired. When will I learn? Saturday was lovely too but come 6.05 pm on Saturday night just five minutes after the polls closed there was talk on social media that the coalition had already won.  I think I suggested after tea that we turn on the telly. Half of us headed to the telly and the other half to the studio. It was quickly apparent that things were not looking good. At one point I cried. Silent, wet tears. Thinking about what it might mean for my little family. Oh well.  And I think to say that the election result was a great big downer, was not at all understating it. It wasn't like it wasn't expected but I did have that tiny wee little bit of hope. Kind of like when your footy team comes back from being 40 points down at three quarter time. Unlikely but while there is hope, there is hope. Except now there isn't. Not for a good few years at least.
- On Sunday, it was also obvious that some of us really weren't well. I had a few sniffles and sneezes but didn't think much of it. It was nice to get home and hug Grace. She immediately loved her two mini bears Adam (after Adam Bandt) and Annie. They are now the children of Grizzle and Bluey. She was less thrilled about the clothes I made but those mini bears are pretty damned cute.I put most of my stuff away and enjoyed being home after the break. The next morning...... lurgy time. Yuck. Sick as a dog. And five days later I'm still hacking up a lung. Grace and G have been sick too, although not as bad. Seriously there were a couple of days that were awful. Including one day where I just couldn't get warm. And a spiral into despair. I'm more or less better now, except for a hacking cough (I get this every time I have a cold or flu - must be from being a smoker back in the day). Grace and G have both recovered quickly. Very sneaky little bug.
- Still, it was good to go to Sewjourn and hang out with the lovely women. I sewed a t shirt for me and one for Grace. A denim pinafore and most of one for Grace. A summer dress, two mini bears and two zippered pouches. And I have a whole heap of things cut out and ready to go. Because, as usual I was a little over ambitious. Oh, and on Sunday morning I got up early and meant to go back to bed but there was fog. I love fog! -

so much to learn, grasshopper

In the lead up to the last market, I discovered a few things. Stuffing woollen toys with polyfill is a linty, linty business and no amount of brushing will remove the film of polyfill from the outside of the toy afterwards. I'm thinking of fillings other than polyfill and also thinking of making a kind of cloth funnel to help with this but in the meantime I googled lint removal and the answer had me going d'oh. Sticky tape. Wide packing tape wound around my fingers. Very effective. The bears went to the market with their ears pressed and lint free. I was very proud of them.
I also discovered that even though I didn't leave everything until the last minute, I was pretty busy the day before and also that I am still capable of a painful, chest tightening panic attack. Even though I knew there was nothing much to worry about, really. It's not really about the market per se. More about my slowness in moving any of my endeavours to a better paying basis. There is just so much to learn and do. The market was not a failure but also not what I would call a success. Although I think I did better than some other stalls but not as well as the stall next to me which was really well thought out and set up. Indeed I spent quite some time watching the lady and her stall. Lots to learn there.
I need to get the paypal thing on my phone working. Or find another one. The PayPal customer service is really pleasant but they tell you different things about how it works. One section says there is a card reader and another says not. They also said it would work way before it actually did. Anyway, it really needs to be working before my next market. I also should design and order sew in tags for all my toys and sewn goods. I don't really like tags in toys myself but you would be surprised the number of people that have asked or commented about this. I have found a tag that I think will be soft and not too obtrusive so maybe it will be good.. Also need to devise a label for the wooden toys, perhaps a brand or a stamp, get proper business cards, design and print a card for the buttons, make/get a box for the buttons, agree on a finish for the buttons, learn all about shopping carts and various components for my website, finish said fecking website, find a way to make a banner for my stall (the computer prints wash out), work out a feasible stall set up and get G to make the props. Then I need to also make things. This is the fun bit but sometimes it gets lost under all the other stuff. I really need to get cracking on our Christmas season stock, replenish the nibbles, lizards and soft jumper toys,  develop a small bear and make some clothes for the big bears.

And I need to vote. Because I'm going to craft camp! Yay!

a room of my own, more or less

A while ago, in the midst of mum being sick, I had this idea about having a handmade business. And that was that I needed more room to sew. As this meant pretty much kicking G out of the study, I was reluctant to put forward the idea. But truth was, he couldn't get to his records anyway and his computer (that he found in hard rubbish) had died after a couple of years. I kept dreaming, sewing by by the light of the window, somewhere to keep my sewing supplies. Having more of my fabric in the house as opposed to in the shed. Then one night, after we'd had people around for drinks, I put the idea to G and he was surprisingly supportive. Pretty soon after we started moving things around. There were a few days of pain and then it was done.
- - It's amazing how I felt afterwards, like I had been given this huge gift. In the midst of what was a pretty terrible and draining time. Also that I was loved and that what I was doing was deserving of space and consideration. I work in this room nearly every day and while it isn't yet how I imagine it will be post renovation, there is (more) space and light. When I sew in the afternoon the sun shines on my shoulder. I still don't have quite enough space to put things or store fabric but I'm not looking at a whole lot of unused stuff taking up that space. And it is a whole lot better than I had before.
- G has a corner by the doorway for some of his stuff. The records are either in the lounge room or the shed and everybody uses the computer. Sometimes people use the computer while I sew which is pretty friendly. I feel quite lucky.

ps I could have been a bit more careful, and removed some elements from the photos but I feel disinclined to retake them. So a bit of unedited real life in each.

catch up

The first time Mum was in hospital, the oncologist kept saying cancer very definitely. We had been avoiding the word, talking about the lump and the mass. I started crying and she asked if I needed her to stop talking for a minute. It's been at least two months since then and I can definitely say the word now. Cancer. Mum has cancer. She's just had her third round of chemo and it is all kinds of shitty. I have to keep reminding myself that chemo is not the cancer. And that what works or passes for a routine one week might not be the same next week, or tomorrow even. I am trying to keep on with my own life as best I can while still trying to help Mum the best I can.

I said to Mum just after her first chemo that I was thinking about a bear and she rifled through her books and found me a pattern for a bear. It was pretty daggy but the construction method was intriguing. So I went away and thought about bears and bear ears. Eventually I came up with a bear, made it and left it on the kitchen table for Grace to discover in the morning. She loved it and named it Grizzle. I kept working on the pattern and I'm pretty pleased with the bears now.
- Signed up for the Sisters Market a week ago and suddenly feel the need to get my website done and tend to all those little details needed for a proper stall. Business cards, paper bags, table, display stands of some sort and a way to take credit cards.  And I need to make bears and other items. It's fun but a little nerve wracking. But I need to be working in some form. The other work comes and goes and at the moment it's a bit gone. I know it will be back but I need to work on having several sources of income. Or I will have to go back to customer service and I don't want to do that. It's good to be there when Mum needs me and not to be worrying about whether I can take this or that day off. Also I think my days of customer service are done.
- The website has been a saga. I signed up for one host and made a big mistake and they weren't helpful at all. In fact I think they even told me the wrong thing and were patronising about it. Eventually I signed up for another host and they are much nicer. They have been helping me transfer my domain name and the tone of their emails is lovely. I think they genuinely want to help. Transferring my domain name has been like a saga quest. I didn't set up my google apps properly after registering the name through blogger earlier this year but after much searching and some trial and error I found a way in. It's convoluted but seems to have worked. Now I just have to wait until the weekend and then I can work on my website again. Oooh shopping carts, you excite me.
We didn't get to go away over the school holidays, a combination of Gerard's work, things with Mum and my commitments. So despite protests from the little one, we went on a family day trip. We decided to go to Avalon beach taking in as many op shops on the way there and back as possible. The beach features in Rats and Cats which we saw a while ago. It was great. Beautiful in a ramshackle way. Cleared the fuzz out of my head for a while.

Mum will have her fourth round of chemo next week. It makes me think of the dementors. It's hard and I'm just trying to focus on her being well again afterwards. Hopefully it will give her a really good amount of time.

light a fire

Winter solstice has well and truly been and gone. I had visions of a community event in the park but what with all that's been going on, I just couldn't do it. Instead we invited a few of our friends from around here over for a fire. With everybody bringing soup, bread or sweet treats. We built the fire up high and there were sparklers too.
After soup and bread, the children retired to the lounge room with a big plate of cake and biscuits to watch a movie. There were at least eleven children all crammed in there and mostly they were beautifully behaved. The house wasn't even that trashed. We washed out the bowls and spoons (note to self - a big pile of opshop cutlery and some melamine bowls would be useful for such occasions) and grown ups had soup and bread too. It was a beautiful clear night with a nearly full moon. Just perfect for sitting round the fire with a few drinks. Sometimes you've just got to light a fire.

what can I say?

There is a big thing going on in my life. It's not about me so although it affects me deeply, I can't really write about it. That will probably change at some point but even then, maybe not that much. It is so sad and difficult but there are tiny little bright spots. And I'm kind of busy and kind of not. I don't want to go to bed at night and when I do, I lie on my back with my thoughts racing so I shift position and they still race. Eventually I sleep and then I want to sleep in because bed in the morning is so warm and non confronting. Staring out the window is pretty appealing too. Everyday life seems to be taking a bit of a back seat. But I am making an effort, gym, work, hanging out with people, posting cat pictures on facebook, having dinner. Going to see newborn babies. That sort of thing.
Sitting in the car. As you do. Not crying but today has been shitty and sad. Again. And then there was this thing going on between parents at my daughter's school. I most probably shouldn't write about that either but we are so on the nose because we are on the wrong side of this so bugger it. It has been so ugly and nasty that I wish I hadn't weighed in but for various reasons, I did. Not badly I don't think but it sparked another wave of nasty emails. And then at a kid's birthday party one of the parents tried to talk to me about it, about why my friend was so wrong when I didn't think they were, and this parent kept going on and on even after I asked her to stop. I told her that we were thinking of other schools, which we have been for a multitude of reasons even before this nasty little episode, and she said in quite a patronising way that maybe that was a decision we had to make. It's a hard decision for lots of reasons but we shall see. We went to see another school yesterday and it gave us lots to think about. It's something I could do without at this point but even with the first thing going on, I think we need to make some decisions.

this is (one of) their worlds

The other day, I noticed that Grace was talking into my phone. It sounded like she was commenting on something. Her comments were clear and polite, and really positive. Just as I would expect. But still! After some investigation it turned out that she was commenting on the pet shops of other players in a game she plays on my phone. The kids comment on the class blog at school, so I guess this is a natural progression. Even so, this is not school, and I worried. I worried about what might happen if she got a nasty comment or if she came across someone with evil intention. And when I tried to talk to her about it, she just clammed up. What to do? Well, there was to be no computer or phone until we had a talk.
A week seemed like a long time but eventually we did have a chat about it. We talked about being nice and how I would always trust her to do the right thing but that other people might not. We talked about cyber safety and not giving out your personal details and about telling mum or dad if anything seems a bit funny. And there's a new rule. Grace is allowed to try new things like this - if they're OK for kids, if she's not under age (so no facebook until 13) and if they are appropriate. But she has to talk to us first so we can check them out and help her set them up properly if necessary. Deep breath. I hope we're doing the right thing. It feels right but still. More deep breaths.
So last night I set Grace up an email address. On gmail, so really she now has the whole google world at her fingertips. Like google+ and google chat. Another deep breath. We went back over the rule about asking first before trying a new thing. So yeah, I think we might spend some time learning about email safety and how to use it well. As well has finding some friends and family members for her to practice emailing with. I wonder how long before she gets an email telling her she has won some lottery?

when life gives you quinces

Our quince tree was laden with fragrant golden quinces this year and was bending right to the ground with fruit.  But I was busy working and just sort of ignored the tree as many of the yellow quinces fell to the ground. Rotting in a sweet smelling decay all along the path to the front door. Some quinces left on the tree showed signs of hungry possum scratches.

The job ended before it was finished and I was pretty sad about that. I'd worked hard and I thought I was going in a good direction, but apparently not. Oh well, I guess these things happen, especially when you are new to something. I shouldn't really be too sad, because apparently I will still be paid, another job which may be boring but is well paid and should go for quite some time is on the horizon, as is a website project which involves lots of fantastic artwork and some useful technical learning. Message to myself, sometimes when something looks like it is just right and too good to be true, really is too good to be true.
And you could say the same about my quinces too. The other day I gathered up all the fallen quinces and then decided to pick what was remaining on the tree. I thought I would stew them to have with yoghurt and give some to a quince loving neighbour. So first I photographed them. As you do. With my new lens and my phone. Then I went inside to cut them up. Argh! Full of pear and cherry slug! Not one quince was edible. I'm  terrible at controlling things like pear and cherry slug and coddling moth. I'm thinking that I either have to get good at it or the quince tree needs to go. To be replaced with something productive and not so high maintenance.

computer graphics

Life is a bit sameish at the moment. I get up, drink a big glass of water, do stuff on the computer, maybe have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast/brunch, do more stuff on the computer and so it goes. Until I go to bed and get up and do it all again. So I thought I'd post a unicorn from my Pinterest board of unicorns and as it happens, it's quite topical.

We are not an Apple family. PCs and Android all the way, but now I find myself contemplating buying an iPad, not just a tablet but specifically an iPad. It feels like crossing over to the dark side. Grace's school now has a one to one iPad program and although you can use the school iPads, if you don't have your own, you can't take them home. And I don't think, given what I have seen of the school's approach to technology, that the kids will go much beyond the basics at school. And I want Grace to be a competent and imaginative technology user. There's more to it than educational apps. We're talking about making a blog together and I'm thinking that might be a good way to pull a few things together over time. In line with the school's approach to technology, they are taking the children on an excursion to the Apple store. Despite how wrong I feel it is to expose children to such slick marketing in the guise of education, we are letting Grace go. And we have said she can get a t-shirt. How my little PC heart quakes. G is going to go as a parent helper, so we will get all the dirt.

Sigh. I really wish Grace was more into the idea of changing schools.

Oh I think we might go and see the new Bindi Irwin movie tomorrow. I'm quite looking forward to it really.

shirking not working

I feel like I shouldn't be writing here. I'm in one of those must work every spare minute type of situations. Kind of partly my own making, partly not. It's a collaboration, and it's paid so I guess there's another reason why I should be working not shirking. Who knows. Anyway, I guess I can own the feeling that I have bitten off a bit lot more than I can chew. Something I was pretty upfront about. But I think I somehow glossed over in my mind how hard the learning curve can be.There has been some very hasty learning, lots of crash testing, much googling and watching of youtube and vimeo. Oh, and the super scary reset this morning. But just right at this minute, right now I do think we more or less have a website the client might be happy with. There's still a bit of work to do but I can see it. And if no-one likes the colours (I'm trying to do bright but I think my tastes really run to murk) well, I can easily work up another colour palette and enter some numbers in boxes. I seem to be entering a lot of numbers in boxes, padding this, nudging that, checking my notes and having moments when I think the internet or my computer is broken. But it has all come together. Even better than I expected.
My neck is cricked and my walk today wasn't long enough. I'm thinking I might take Tuesday off and go for a swim and a spa. The boundaries between working and not working have become even more unclear. Just then in the middle of my blogging time I had an idea about how something might appear on the phone, so had a look and a fiddle. Another task crossed off the list. Half way towards making a decision about how I might present the images. This afternoon I had a nana nap and spent a lot of time thinking about the difference between padding and margins. One day soon all this is going to be second nature and I'll be able to whip up snazzy little websites at the drop of a hat.


Grace is eight now and has quite obviously entered middle childhood. She still likes playing with her Sylvanians and soft toys but has also developed quite an interest in the news. Behind the News on ABC3 is a favourite and I know I complain about some of the shows on ABC3 but BTN is great. They talk about most of the news, including issues like refugees in detention, at an age appropriate level. Everyone seems to comment on how lovely and well behaved Grace is. And she is. Except perhaps when she is not, which really is not very often. Indeed she is delightful company, full of affection and joy. With an occasional touch of anxiety which it is possible she may have inherited from me. Grace is becoming more and more competent with various bits and pieces. And evermore independent. After much family discussion we decided that she is allowed to cross some of the non major roads around here on her own and she is very careful about it. Sometimes she rides down to the local convenience store for milk or bread. Of course I worry if she is gone more than five minutes but oh, she is so proud of herself. As are we. And it is useful and helpful too. I asked Grace what her favourite thing is and she says her favourite thing is Artic Foxes.
- We had a party for her last weekend. A big party in the park. Grace wanted to invite lots of kids from school and their siblings. We didn't worry too much about it, the park is spacious, lots of parents stayed and it is just some food and games. Right? We made mountains of fairy bread, a big fruit platter, nori rolls, hummus and cucumber and carrot, pastries and a big birthday cake. There were also potato chips and a big pot of home made raspberry lemonade. The icing on the cake was a bit sloppy but otherwise the food went pretty well. Gerard was well involved in getting the party organised and Mum helped me heaps too. Luckily the rain held off.
- We had organised lots of games. Musical pillow cases, the chocolate eating game from my childhood and of course, the home made pinata. And games were where we came a bit unstuck. Grace invited quite a few of the boys in her class and while the girls wanted to play the games and follow the rules, a couple of the boys were really disruptive. Indeed after one boy ran off with the chocolate from the chocolate game, I had to warn him that if this behaviour continued that I would have to speak to his father. I expect some rowdiness and high spirits at a birthday party and the warning that I would speak to a child's parents is not something I do lightly. And I would expect that once I gave that warning that that the child in question would pull their head in. It has always  worked in the past. But no! It got worse. We had spitting in the punch and elbowing of another parent who said something, we had stealing of lollies from the little kids when the pinata burst, we had my mother trying to protect the little children in the pinata scrum and the lie that my mother slapped a child, we had a few children colluding in the lie and a child riding past my mum and yelling liar at her and then some children played a game in a corner of the park in which my mother was tried and the sentence was to "kill the old woman". Needless to say, the parent was spoken to, it was established that my mum didn't slap anyone and the child apologised to me and Grace after school on Monday.

Most of the children didn't know what was going on and had a great time at the party. So the party wasn't ruined for them. Mum was actually quite philosophical and big about it. I was kind of shell shocked and lay on the bed for an hour afterwards, deep breathing, thoughts spinning through my head. I wondered if we had done something wrong with the party. Too many kids, too much sugar, games that were too rough and competitive. There is some discussion amongst the parents about the wisdom of pinatas and I'm not convinced we should do them. However Grace and Gerard really enjoy the annual pinata making ritual. It should also be pointed out that when Grace was upset she didn't get many lollies from the pinata, the girls all gave her one. Even one girl who had only got two herself. So we did a general re-distribution and the girls were happy. For all their intense girl world interactions, those girls are really very sweet to each other. Anyway if there are any future pinatas, Grace and I have agreed that the lollies will be gathered and put in a communal bowl for a grown up to allocate. But yeah, I could change my mind on this, but I don't think we will be having another party with boys until Grace is at least sixteen.

strange fruit

Out in the backyard, you can tell Autumn is here. The tomato plants are still going but have crispy edges and no good tomatoes. No green tomatoes either this year which means no home made chutney for my cheese sandwich lunch. On the up side there have been many delicious figs to be picked and eaten in the glorious Autumn sunshine when I'm brave enough to step through the (probably not any more) snake infested pumpkin vine. And we have a pumpkin. A big Jap pumpkin grown from the compost. Also from the compost and most intriguing of all, three very small cantaloupes. They don't seem to be growing any bigger but I'm wondering if they will still ripen? Maybe I should cut one open and see.
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And the last strange fruit has been the babaco. A friend gave me the babaco tree for my birthday some years ago and I kept it in a pot. After we moved here I planted it in the ground. The first couple of years it didn't do that well and lost some limbs in the wind, but the pruning seems to have resulted in stronger growth. Last year it started flowering and now has lots of fruit. I've been watching one particular fruit turn yellow from the kitchen window and the other day it fell to the ground. At first I was reluctant to try it, it seemed so strange and unlikely to be growing in our backyard, so it probably over ripened a bit. But when I did cut it open for a taste, I found I quite liked it. Very juicy, a bit sour and sweet with a lemony, strawberry, champagney taste. Would be very good as a juice too I think. I offered some to G and he spat it out. Wonder what Grace will think. - -
In other news I am planning to go and buy a new camera lens today. Not happy with my photos and needing to take photos for this website I am working on. Can't justify a new camera yet, so I thought I might see if I like using a prime lens. Maybe it's not the camera but me, but a new lens seems like an easy way to change things around a bit.

no more google reader

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I'm pretty sad that Google Reader is going. It was easy to use, not fussy and the app worked perfectly on my Android phone. I'm doing the Feedly thing but the Android app is crap (you need to log in each time and it is sloooow) and it seems harder than it should be to subscribe to new blogs (perhaps I'm missing something). Bloglovin' doesn't even have an Android app. So I thought I would sign up for both and go with the one that I find least annoying. Maybe another option will surface?

new world of work

The other night I dreamt that I used up all my stash and that as a consequence all my boxes of fabric, thread, yarn, buttons, bits and bobs were empty. Utterly empty. I can't remember if there was a part of the dream where I had a great time using everything up but there was a kind of an exhilarating feeling. And an utterly empty desolation. I'm sure there are all sorts of ways to interpret this dream but I think it must be to do with the making and the markets and this other job that I know bits of but need to learn as I go. Actually I'm learning all of it as I go. It's mostly good. I am enjoying this making so, so much. My head is buzzing with ideas and things to make and although most of my ideas don't turn out as I imagine they should, I have received enough positive feedback at markets and on the internet to think maybe I am on a good path. That if I keep working hard, that it will come.
--But maybe it won't. There is that risk there. At the Ceres Harvest Festival market last weekend there were lots of great hand made goods for sale, really beautiful well made craft  But not so many people, and not many of them in a buying mood. I get that. I live in a small house and funds are finite so I am very select about what I buy myself. So I find myself wondering whether the hand craft market is oversaturated. Is there just so much out there that business is spread really thin? Do you have to be really, really good and really unique to stand out? Or was it just part of the up and down of going to the markets? Obviously as I've only done two markets, I probably need a bit more experience before voicing a solid opinion on that one. But as I'm looking around the hand crafted market place and noticing more and more, it does seem that there is an awful lot of hand crafted goodness out there. Which is great, but I don't think finding your place in the hand crafted market is necessarily a simple thing.
- A whole lot of things came together last week. I have someone to work with for the craft business, in the sense that we are going to share some stalls together and I am working with another local person to develop a website for a kindergarten. I feel really lucky that it's come together like this. But a tad anxious too. I have skills but I really need to learn some new ones - quite quickly. A steep learning curve. A bit like starting a new job. Oh wait.... The difference is that instead of having a workplace induction, I'm in charge of all my own learning. Which is awesome in a way. Even so, two days before my last market I had the most insane chest tightening, teeth hurting panic attack. It was really annoying because my rational brain was saying you will get this, it's all doable, you are good at learning new things, you are living your dream. And my monkey brain was going freak out, freak out, freak out. Stupid monkey brain.

So yeah, big learning curve. I have thought about whether I should share work stuff here, but hey now that I am boss of my own work place I can say whatever I like within reason. No code of conduct, the consequences are all my own. So if I feel like it, I can document my working life here on my personal blog however I choose.

Photos are from the market. I can't wait to do it again.

first craft camp for the year

It's hard to express just how much I was looking forward to my first craft weekend at Sewjourn for the year and hanging out with my special craft camp people. It was very exciting! Lovely to see everyone and lovely to be at Sewjourn and sew and knit and just be. As usual the food was stunning (although I did forget the all important dip part of my lunch - but oh well it came out OK) and it was just delightful to be cooked for and nurtured in that way. Coming bang smack in the stinky Melbourne heatwave, it was nice to be somewhere slightly cooler and with air conditioning. Nothing like trying to sew in a hot sweaty little study so it was great to have a break from that. I think apart from a quick visit to the shops on the first day, the only time I went outside was to go between the house and the studio.
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There was much um, crafting. I made two tee shirts, some not quite right (yet) horses, some little bags, some little brooches with my wooden buttons and a sample tea towel lunch bag. Samples for my craft stall. Lots of development to do there. Grace was delighted with my horses and when I said she could have one, she immediately chose the first and wonkiest. The one I thought had the most issues! Oh well, back to the drafting table with that one.

Thank you to Suse for being the organisational mastermind, thank you to Jenny and Suse for driving and thank you to all the craft camp women who make such a lovely weekend away in so many ways. Most of us don't really blog any more so I am not going to link but you know who you are. Thank you. Mwah.

february cousin visit

Yes, I know that it is nearly the end of March and the cousins came to visit during the first week of February. Grace had several days off school and although we cleared it with the school first, there was a little tension around that. There were lots of visits with Papa Robert and Nina including the somewhat underwhelming Aquarium and dinner at Pizza Plus. There was Nana's 70th birthday party and dinner. Also hanging out at the pool and lots of just hanging out. Then they came and stayed for a couple of nights, in a tent in the backyard with the snakes.
. .
As usual, it was intense in parts. All that normal family visiting compressed into two too short weeks. But, sigh, how I loved seeing them and how I miss them now. I don't think I took a particularly great set of photos this time but here they are.

happy making

A bit over a week ago, some school mum friends gently suggested I put my craft stall money where my mouth is and do Suitcase Rummage. I hummed and hawed, debated whether I could make enough stock, whether it would be good enough, whether I would sell anything or whether people would throw rocks at me. I still don't know the answers to those questions but I am glad I signed up.
Design cuddle tested by Grace Making toys has been fabulous. Sure it feels a little bit endless making the tenth little bunny but I have loved the feeling of toys emerging out of my hands and of seeing them come to life. Of Grace "cuddle testing" and wanting to have them all. It was great going op shopping to buy another suitcase and finding a whole stack of exciting tea towels. Love the buzz of sewing away on my sewing machine and listening to my eighties playlist on Spotify and dreaming up new toys to make. Feeling the ideas come tumbling in. But mostly it has been great to be busy. And to realise that the feeling of working, of purpose, doesn't have to be linked with work like my old job. So even if making craft doesn't end up being my thing (although I think I would like to do this for a while), it feels good to have felt this different feeling of working.
Wistful bunny. Next up elephants
Tea towels in new suitcase
I will be at the Darebin Kite Festival on Saturday 02/03/2013 with a couple of suitcases of soft toys, wooden buttons, wooden houses, a couple of chopping boards and maybe some needle cases and pincushions. Quite excited really. Please come and say hello if you pass by.

neither here nor there

The night before last we went for dinner at a friends house. They loved my broad bean dip and I loved their chicken casserole. So much so that I attempted to replicate it last night. But I guess that's neither here nor there. Cooking is something I do almost every night now and I'm trying to do it better but it's hard. Everything is hard. All I want to do is drink icy drinks, read books and take afternoon naps. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And in a weird sort of way I miss work. I miss the pay going into my bank account every fortnight and although I know that it's kind of crass to talk about money, I worry about it a lot. There's a funny conversation I've had with a few people about what we're doing. It comes up because I imagine it looks like we are living on thin air. Not true, and really it is totally OK. Absolutely it is. But still I worry. And seek to economise so as to spin out what we have for longer. But yeah, work. I also miss being someone who tells others this is the way it goes. Sorting out problems. Hanging around in the tearoom with my colleagues. And having a ready and socially acceptable answer when people ask me what I do. And oh yeah, having a world that's a away from here. Here is good but sometimes it all feels like it is falling around my head. I wouldn't go back to that work because the good aspects of working, in the end, didn't outweigh the crap aspects of the actual job. People remark that I look different, like a big weight has been lifted from me and I suppose it is true, leaving work has been good in that sense. It had to be done. But not working is not quite the paradise I imagined it would be.
There's a temptation for me to lurk at home more than I should. Our friends are so not the sort of people who would judge me for being unemployed and I suppose any other judgement I imagine is more in my head than from anywhere real. Oh actually, that's not quite true, in my last job, workers used to judge the unemployed frequently and sometimes quite harshly. Anyway the lack of structure in my life is starting to grate and although Grace has liked having me around, she has been disappointed in her holidays in a teenagery sort of way (at least that's how I imagine teenagers to be and I am probably wrong there). I have ruined her life and her holidays on a regular basis. There have been tears and slamming doors. It would have been good to go away but we couldn't agree on what to do and the idea never really got of the ground. In hindsight a camping holiday in Tasmania might not have been the best thing this year anyway. I don't think it has really been that bad, there have been some outings, play dates and activities. And anyway, we are gearing up for a big cousin visit tomorrow and that should be pretty fab.
So the other night, one thing I really enjoyed, apart from the company of course, was a visit from the lovely and delicate Twiggy. She sniffed me out and jumped onto my lap and spent quite a bit of time being patted, having her picture taken with my phone and purring. It's quite a privilege to be chosen by a cat other than your own and she stayed on my lap until the children started patting her and then she was off. I'd had a bit to drink when I took these photos but I like them, they capture the noir of the evening and Twiggy in her Twiggyness quite well I think  I'm glad school is back tomorrow. Grace will have some time off to be with the cousins but I am going to get busy. I have plans and I don't know if they are reasonable or if they are going to work but I think just getting busy might be the best strategy at this point.

renovations begin

We had a grand renovation plan from back when we first moved here. It's been refined and improved and we even had an interview with an architect. It was an ambitious plan and one we were not sure we would get approved by the council as it involved shifting the front door and building a hallway along the side of the house. Our house, indeed the whole estate in which we live, is subject to a heritage overlay, being one of the most complete returned servicemen estates in Melbourne. These houses while cute, are very, very small, with minimal sized rooms - think a small workers cottage but with more windows. Sometimes it feels a bit odd that there is so much restriction on what you can do with them. On the other hand, they are well built, quite light if you have a good aspect and just big enough.
. Our original plan would have given us a hallway (I really miss having a hallway), a big kitchen, a separate dining room and a sizeable lounge room. There would have also been a guest room, a revamped study for me and a big covered deck. There would have been room for most of our furniture and it was a killer plan, if I do say so myself. We would have needed to borrow quite a bit of money to do it and while we'd worked out that we could afford to make the repayments on the amount we wanted, the banks didn't agree. Then I quit work, so that was off the agenda for this year at least. About the same time we started talking about what we could do if we didn't any borrow money at all. And so plan B was born. We have gone through each room and worked out what we could do to make it meet our needs better. For example in the lounge room we need space for an extra armchair now that Grace is bigger.  Mainly so we can all watch telly or movies together. We need big bookshelves so we can get all our books out of the shed. The kitchen is not so easy. I can fit the fridge in the kitchen, as opposed to in the laundry, but then I can't fit a dishwasher. People seem to think we really need a dishwasher but it comes at the expense of cupboard space either in the kitchen or the laundry or sun room so maybe we can do without. I still have some thinking to do on that one.
We're going to open up between our kitchen and lounge room (but with cavity sliding doors for extra flexibility), improve and enlarge my study/sewing room, build a guest room which will also be Gerard's music room/study and then there will be a big covered deck with a sink and pizza oven/bbq. There are also plans for a new linen press, a preserving and bulk food storage cupboard, a camp equipment locker as well as various small ways to improve the bedrooms and laundry. If it all works, it will be good. Maybe not as fabulous as the original plan but a substantial improvement on the current space. We haven't drawn proper plans yet but have been wildly imagining each space. However as we know the direction we'll be taking, Gerard has started on some on the jobs to fix up parts of the house that we had delayed because they would have been affected by the big plans. Like fixing the front porch. He has repaired rotten timber, filled cracks, mended brickwork, added some wood work and basically made it look whole again. There is still a way to go, some more rotten timber to be repaired  some glazing and painting to be done and some tiling and lining. I'm also going to have a go at removing some crappy old paint from the bricks and concrete. Not quite sure how it's all going to go this year but feels like a beginning.

the peyton place snake saga continues

So the other day, the hot day, we get back from grocery shopping and lots of the neighbours are clustered around one of the houses, the one known as the chequerboard house. I say to Gerard, uh oh, I bet the snake is back. We go and see what's going on and sure enough one of the women came out her front door and was about to put her shoes on and saw a big snake on her driveway. One of her sons shows me a picture on his phone and sure enough it is a big snake. The snake has gone under the next door house (the chequerboard house) and they have people from the council there and the snake catcher is on his way. Everyone is eating fruit from their fruit shop which is in a big blue bowl on the bonnet of the four wheel drive. I really hope they catch the snake.
We go inside to put the shopping away and Grace is put on snake catcher watch. I don't want to miss them finding the snake. I want photos and I want a chance to see it and confront my fears in a safe sort of way. I also want to know that is gone. Although apparently they need to release captured snakes into suitable habitat less than 5k away and a lot make their way back into suburbia. The snake catcher arrives in a van the makes it pretty hard to mistake what he does. There is lots of standing around. We show him our snake skin in a jar and he and the men from the fruiterer's house and the chequerboard house poke around under the house. They have torches and spades. Not the snake handler, he has a sack and a long steel stick with a hook on the end. Our neighbour pulls some boards from his under house. It looks like these guys mean business. Another neighbour tells me how she found two empty snake eggs under a geranium bush at the bottom of her garden. She looked them up on the internet to confirm what they were. Apparently brown snakes are egg layers - I should google to check but I have the fear sort of under control and I don't want to mess with that. I feel a bit sorry for the woman who saw the snake on her drive way, she told me she didn't sleep for two weeks after we had our snake incident. I totally get her fear. Anyway, it appears that the snake (and possibly her children) is ranging around the court. There are houses nearby that still have mice, so I guess the snake has a territory.

Anyway the snake catcher did not catch our snake and as we all dispersed, I mentioned the brown snake to our next door neighbour who was arriving home and he said in an unpleasant and boorish manner, heh snake, whatever. I'm from Mildura and we have black snakes, brown snakes. I thought well, snakes are not the usual thing in North Coburg, and you'll be thrilled when the snake you are not looking out for bites your pit bull puppy. He wins the prize for the most unfriendly neighbour yet. There's now a whole new dynamic around the snake in the court and chequerboard man is being pressured into cleaning up his somewhat jumky backyard by his next door neighbours (the fruiterers) and the council. It is quite a thing. Gerard is booked to help load the skip, when it turns up.

reading in 2012

Last year was a pretty good year, reading wise. All things considered. A huge improvement on 2011 when I read so few books that I almost felt that I'd lost the pleasure of reading. Ah, the pleasures of a half hour here and a half hour year. Reading in the lunch room, in waiting rooms, when I should be doing something else, in bed, on the tram. Highlights? Definitely the Harry Potter series. Why did I wait so long? I thought Grace was ready for it but not quite. But me, I slurped them up. Books and movies. I also made a mistake when buying the last two books and bought two of one and missed another. So I read the Half Blood Prince on my kindle and discovered that I actually do like reading on the kindle. And I can read in bed much easier on the kindle, and without glasses. And it's much easier to carry around than a great big book. Other highlights were The Secret River and the Stieg Larsson books.

At the moment I'm reading the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey and I started off quite liking the stilted prose and slow moving and somewhat predictable story lines. I was going to read the whole series but now I'm not so sure. Maybe there's a reason I didn't also read these back when I was reading the Darkover books by Marion Zimmer Bradley in the 80s. Maybe I'll read something else when I finish this one and see.
Books read in 2012
The Chronicles of Pern, Anne McCaffrey 1993
Light Christmas reading. Dragons, new planet, space settlement. pedestrian writing. I don't know why I bother but it is strangely soothing. Back to mum.

Eragon, Christopher Paollini, 2004
Pretty standard quest book but with dragon. OK. Back to opshop.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel, 2009
I tried to like this, really I did. But I just couldn't get a lock on the characters. I loved watching the Tudors on TV and I really wanted to read something a bit more literary about them. Perhaps my lack of knowledge of the Tudor period let me down. Opshop/clothes swap.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling, 1997
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling, 1998
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban J.K. Rowling, 1998
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K Rowling, 2000
Harry Potter and the Order the Phoenix,  J.K. Rowling,2003
Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince, J.K. Rowling (on the kindle)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling, 2007
Oh the Harry Potter series! I lived and breathed Harry Potter for a good period of time in 2012. It was sufficiently engrossing to read at work during lunch time. Each time I finished a book, I watched the movie. I think my favourite book was the Order of the Phoenix but my favourite movie was the last one. So not the ending I expected. Grace is a little young for most of the movies and they don't hold her interest anyway. I'm thinking of somehow procuring (library?) the Stephen Fry cds and listening to them together - perhaps this winter.

Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver, 2000
Enjoyed this, a bit slow in parts, but the sections come together in a satisfying way. Pass on to mum.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snickett, 1999
Another kids book that I really enjoyed. It's a bit stated and genre-ie but I quite liked how bad things kept happening to the children and how they tried somewhat unsuccessfully to overcome these things. Looking forward to reading more. I also like the drawings and the presentation of the book. Very cool. One for Grace when she is a little bit older so I'll put it in her bookcase to discover when she is ready.

The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson 2007
I didn't think I would like this as much as the first, but I did. I think I also read the final book in the series during 2012 too. Total page turners and about as gory as I can handle. Actually maybe a bit over my comfort threshold. I tried to watch the Swedish movie and it was too scary for me, even though I knew what was going to happen.

The Secret River, Kate Grenville, 2005
Thought this was brilliant. I could imagine coming to Australia as a convict and then the life as a free man with family on the Hawkesbury. Hope I come across the sequel at the opshop. Might lend to mum.

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder 1958
Loved this. As thrilling as when I first read it, actually maybe even more horrifying and rewarding as an adult. Can't wait to read all the others. Keep in the hope Grace will enjoy.

The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold, 2007
A dour but strangely compelling little book about a woman who accidentally (maybe) kills her mother. Opshop.

The High Cost of Living, Marge Piercy, 1978
Pacy, feminist, gender bendy or as the moderns would say - intersectionality. Might keep.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski, 2008
A great big book about a deaf mute boy on a farm who is unable to call for help when his father dies and what happens to his family subsequently.Pretty good but back to opshop.

Rowan and the Travellers, Emily Rodda, 1994
Love reading these kids books. Need to hide in Grace's bookshelf so she can discover it herself.

Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain, 2012
I bought this after watching this TED talk and being very moved by it. I've always felt that maybe there was something a bit wrong with me even though I know it's OK to be an introvert. What was great for me about this book is that it places a value on introversion. I'll be keeping this one.

Truth & Beauty, Anne Patchett, 2004
This was pretty good. Autobiographical account of a complex friendship. Pass on to mum.

Miss Smilla's feeling for snow, Peter Hoeg, 1992
I did enjoy this although I found it a bit slow moving in parts. I'm sure there were cultural references and subtleties about the Greenlanders that I didn't get. Back to the opshop.

The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver, 2009
Another one I couldn't finish. It should have been great given the subject matter but I just couldn't engage with it. Opshop.

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks, 2008
This was beautiful and I even liked the way it jumped around. Dad got a copy for Christmas. Back to the person I borrowed it off (see I can return books).

The Colour of Water, James McBride 1997
About someone growing up poor and black, with a mum who was white but wouldn't admit it. Interesting. All about family, race, poverty and getting through school. Might pass on to my mum.

The White Earth, Andrew McGahan, 2004
01/11 The best book I have read in a long while. I love the way the story unfolds and is quite different at the end to what you think it might be in the beginning. The sense of place, of entitlement, of ownership and how that is overlaid with history and complication and savage wrongdoing. Awesome. A keeper. Although I would lend it out I suppose.

A place called Lantern Light, Ellen Miller, 1975
01/11 Bought at the Camperdown opshop because I liked the cover with its outback landscape and because it was about traveling from Lake St Clair in Tasmania up to Western Australia by car before the Nullabor was sealed. I loved this book and read it in a day. The story was a bit stated but the descriptions of traveling resonated. As did the relationships. One for the history/oz lit shelf.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, 2002
01/11 - I struggled to get into this book at first. Maybe because we were camping. But something had me persist and midway through I was hooked and searching out time to read. But the ending puzzled and disappointed me, I thought I must have missed something between Gen and Roxanne in my haste to get to the end. Maybe I'll read it again. Maybe not. It wasn't that great. Good but not great. From the opshop - might pass on to mum or clothes swap.

snake, your name is fear

A week ago I was pretty pleased with the way I was getting over my fear of snakes. I'd stopped anxiously scanning a room before entering, I'd decided I could go to the clothes line in thongs and without that awful tense fear in my chest. I'd decided that it was monkey brain stuff and that I could control it. Had worked out that humans are not natural prey for snakes and that being bitten was not actually my worst fear - there are after all spiders like redbacks or white tailed spiders that can give you a nasty bite and I'm not afraid of them. Also if you get bitten, you go to hospital. And anyway when was the last time anyone in Australia actually died from snake bite?

So a couple of nights ago we're having dinner outside and afterwards Gerard is watering the vegetable garden and he calls Grace and I over. I know he wouldn't be calling us to come and see a brown snake but still I am reluctant to go. He cajoles and I resist, but eventually we go. And there just by one of the tomato plants is some reptile skin. It's not a whole snake skin but it looks like snake skin. It is moist and fresh and straight away I begin to freak out. So, it wasn't a snake on the move after all  It is living in our freaking backyard and wrapping itself around our tomato plants to shed a skin it has grown out of. Not only is the snake still here but it is GETTING BIGGER. Just writing this is making my chest constrict and my stomach ache.
. . The next day, I ring the snake handler who came out the first time. He chats for a while about snake habits and seems to think that our yard may be part of the snake's range. Doesn't think there is much point in coming out to find and catch the snake unless we actually see it. Says that if we are worried that we should wear shoes in the back yard. He does talk to us on the phone for quite a while but it doesn't make me feel better about a snake in the veggie patch.

Over the next few days the fear grows and grows. I'm hallucinating snakes and don't even feel safe inside, even though that first time Gerard and the snake handler went through the back of the house really thoroughly and really there is no evidence of a snake being inside. And the sloughed snake skin was outside. I talk to people about the snake and people seem to get wise and tight lipped when I say it is a brown snake. People think brown snakes should be caught. I also hear lots of snake stories  About my neighbour who has had three separate snake bites. A dad at Grace's school who was standing neck deep in a river and a snake tried to beach itself on his neck. And about another woman who jumped into the Yarra river with friends after a music festival and emerged with a snake around her leg. I wonder if I'll ever be able to swim in brown water again. Another friend on Facebook mentions that the shamans believe snake energy is really powerful. I'd like to believe that somehow our house is blessed but I'm almost too fearful to google snake energy. Let alone useful information about how snakes behave..
Eventually I decide I need to do something and ring the council who put me on to the Department of Sustainability who put me onto some private snake handlers, including the one I have already rung. What I really wanted was for someone to say, oh no you can't have a brown snake in your yard, we'll send someone over and they will totally take care of it. I ring another snake handler and again, he's really nice, and again he doesn't think there is much point in him coming over unless we actually see the snake. Which really is the last thing I want.

Now five days later, I have a hold of my fear again. We've decided that you need to wear shoes to take the compost out and go in the veggie patch. But that thongs are OK on the grass and at the table outside. We're going to clean up around the backyard a bit more but probably not enough to eliminate all snake habitat, because it's nice to have some bushes and greenery around. And also we have heaps of building material that we have scavenged for the renovation project. It's saving us a heap of money that pile of weather boards so it's not going anywhere. I decided that what I needed was to engage with my space more so I spent a day cleaning out the study. I moved all the boxes and baskets, vacuumed behind things. The few things I couldn't move or see behind, I got Gerard to investigate with a torch. As he said, the snake is not that small, so hiding places are more limited than you would think. The study now feels very snake free. And you know, maybe it was a blue tongue lizard skin. But maybe not. Our house actually feels very rodent free for a change. Being afraid isn't going to make a bit of difference either way. I just have to learn to live with the fact that there are snakes around here.