Wednesday, October 24, 2012

our children in crisis: the power of we

Did your child sit down to start their final high school exams last week? What a rough week for them- all their hard work throughout school, all your support in getting assignments done, studying for tests, overcoming challenges with peers, culminating in one big pressure-point week. Were they stressed? Too nervous to eat the breakfast you prepared for them? Did they chatter too much in the car on the way to school, or not enough? Such a momentous time, one of the rites of passage into adulthood, and they will get through it because you have been there all along, you are there today, able to provide love, support and security.
One child didn't make it to their exams. He was arrested the night before with three other mates, on a charge of robbing buses over a period of time.

Another child sat the English exam yesterday, after an altercation with the emotionally abusive father of her six-month-old baby, from whom she had been hiding for a month.

Some of our children, our Australian, lucky country children, are living extreme lives of chaos and anxiety. Cyclical poverty is just the undercurrent, the common thread. Good people are trapped by circumstance (there, but for the grace of god, go I), beautiful children are born. Beautiful children are damaged into adulthood. The opportunities aren't the same. I have worked with lots of good people. Good parents and their good children. Little kids with blackened, or removed, front teeth from a simply lacking diet. Your diet probably would be lacking too, if your town had no food shops (unless you count the vending machine in the pub), and you had five kids to cart on public transport and extremely limited funds. Kids who found it more comfortable to sleep on the dirt under the house when mum's friends came over. Kids who could barely look at you sideways, or would erupt in the most violent outbursts imaginable, if you looked at them sideways. If you are unaware or doubtful of the shaky ground on which some of our children live, please watch the Four Corners episode about Claymore, one of Australia's concentrated social housing areas.

As I agonise over the decision to buy store brand milk or make the switch to organic-unhomogonised, I take a moment to be grateful for the luck that saw me born in the time and place where I was. To have had attention and language as a baby. To have been fed and read to as a three year old. To have been asked How was school today? To have been safe and unhurt. To have been loved and nurtured. I feel a shudder of helplessness. Or maybe it's just the cold of the milk fridge. Not very far from my privileged, but ordinary, upbringing, there are kids struggling. I don't know what the answer or solution is. Obviously, I believe education is one of the keys. The only thing I can say for sure, is that it is compassionate, empathetic people who make a real and lasting difference in the lives of kids who are struggling. Of people who are struggling.

Want to help? Withhold your judgement, but give your compassion freely. Close your eyes for a moment and really imagine, how much of a priority you would give to your child's homework if you didn't have enough money to replace the blown light bulbs. You may like to sponsor an Aussie child, through the Smith Family. A monthly donation of $39 makes sure a schoolkid in our lucky country has breakfast in his belly, pencils in his bag, the opportunity to attend excursions, and a person involved in their life to support them at school. A couple of keys, to open the door out of poverty.

(Blogging for BAD, inspired by Eden)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

portrait project: bringing it all together

What will you be doing with the portraits you have been taking each week? When I have finished taking all my portraits, I will be compiling them all into a digital photo book. I have done this before and have been absolutely thrilled with the results.

I used PhotobooksRus for my printing in the past, and I can't sing their praises highly enough. The quality of the binding, paper and colour of the printing are all so beautiful. I have spent many a happy moment sitting and pouring over my beautiful albums. My favourite part is that the lovely, slimline A4 books sit neatly on the shelf; it's not a cumbersome task to take them down to look at.
 The software provided by PhotobooksRUs is simple to use, but still feature-packed. I'm pretty savvy with Adobe Photoshop, so I was relieved to find lots of the editing features are quite similar, but in a more user-friendly way. I love the range of page formats to choose from, and the flexibility to add your own backgrounds to your book. Basically it's just a matter of downloading the software to your computer and loading your photos into it. From there, you can choose to have as much or as little control over how you photo book comes together. You can choose the fully automated option, or design each page layout yourself.

A 20-page, A4 photo book costs $59.50, with additional pages at 99cents each. Beautiful followers of happiness.stuff and nonsense (within Australia) can take advantage of a lovely deal.

A 70 page A4 photo book for just $45!

Leave a comment here, and I will email you the purchase details (make sure I can reach you!). I can't tell you how rewarding it is to get that album in the mail. Even if you aren't ready to print your 52/Portrait Project, this might be a great opportunity to give photo book printing a go.

Disclaimer: PhotobooksRUs are a company I have used in the past and have been very happy with the product and customer service. I received no money or products for this post, just the great discount for our 52/ Portrait Project community.

Monday, October 15, 2012

nourish: caramel cheesecake apple dip

Yeah. OK. Nourish might be wishful thinking here. How about we go with indulge, instead? Inspired by something similar on pinterest.
Grab these:
a tin of sweetened condensed milk, boiled for three hours to make caramel (or a tin of top 'n' fill)
a pack of spreadable cream cheese
icing sugar mixture
squeeze of lemon juice
half a packet of sweet biscuits, bashed into largish crumbs
4 or 5 of your favourite apples, cut into slices

Do this:
1. Spread you caramel into the middle of the plate. I only used half a tin, with the other half being saved for a higher purpose (eating directly out of the fridge with a spoon)
2. Sprinkle over your crumbles.
3. Beat the cream cheese to soften, then keep beating as you add in icing mixture and lemon juice to taste. Schplopp the cheesecakey-icingy mix over the top of everything else and spread with a spatula.
4. Place the apple slices around the edge of the plate for dipping and scooping. You will have to make a group decision about your feelings on double dipping.

Enjoy! What are you cooking this week, good looking?

Friday, October 12, 2012

in the event of inclement weather

I can always...
...make plans...
...listen to the sweetest tunes ever (buy Sarah's delicious album here)...
...consume my body weight in leftover birthday cake (which turned out more of a fudge brownie- baking soda and bicarb are not the same thing)... some monsters roll in from my lounge...
...finish something... and learn (last night I followed the bathroom cleaning routine in this book, so sparkly and proud!)...
...continue with this trickiness (yes, they are wine charms being used as place markers).

Lots and lots of options! What are you doing today?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

in stitches: Bonnie bonnets

I have been reinvigorated, and have been busily finalising the design for my summer Bonnie bonnet, for my little shop Tuppenny Lane. I am very, very happy with the shape and fit, and ready to roll up my sleeves and make a decent amount of them now! These two are heading off for very, very belated (or very, very early- depends if you're a glass-half-full or -empty person) Christmas gifts for two gorgeous baby A's I know.

Modelled by my little E.
Catching up with the cool creatives over here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

growing things: first harvest

OK, so it's small scale. But I'm calling it. We ate something that we grew ourselves. Two somethings, actually: bok choy and some coriander. I've been nibbling those delicious coriander leaves for a little while now, and they are so fragrant! I love watering the veggie patch in the afternoon, and getting a mild waft of coriander perfume. The bok choy grew weird, tall and gangly, but we ate it anyway. I made a rice salad with bok choy, coriander, capsicum and corn. Yum.

My beautiful nana-in-law visited over the weekend, and brought the best gifts ever: some goodies from her veggie garden (spinach, snow peas and mixed lettuce leaves), a tea cosy that she knitted and a little nasturtium plant. I find it curious, the things that make me so very happy these days. She also looked over my little garden and gave me bits of advice. When our lunch out was curtailed by poor weather and sleepy babies, the fresh harvest nana brought formed lunch. Perfection.

I'm enjoying recording my growing journey here, and catching up with other growers over here. Do you keep a garden journal?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

in stitches: knickerbockers

A birthday gift for a little three-year-old girl. Smocked dress with crochet sleeves. Aqua knickerbockers with vintage fabric trim. Two buttons on the cuff mean the pants can be worn below the knee, or above. Perfect for exploring rock pools. Got my tiny brain whirring to make the short even more gorgeous- perhaps a flat-front waistband with a tie on the next ones. Definitely a pocket for collection of sticks, rocks and shells.
Looking at lovely creatives over here, today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

making a token effort

Three hours into the hump-day of school holidays, I heard the words spew forth from my mouth;

Will you just go outside? You've been in front of a screen for hours!

You may or may not have found my incredulous tone somewhat hypocritical, considering that I was perusing blogs and texting my sister at the time. Sometimes, you've just got to drop the whole bundle so you can pick up your sticks and make a better arrangement, right?

The thing is, I really like TV. I have loved lots of series in my lifetime, particularly dramas. TV has always been part of my life, like sitting up watching black and white movies with my mum when I was sick. I like escaping at the end of the day, but at the same time resent the time sucked away, just mindlessly staring.

And the worst is watching the mindless stare in my babes. Eyes transfixed, ears unhearing. Imagination stunted. The horrific reaction of a three-year-old when it's time to pack the iPad away. I know that TV, especially children's TV, whilst being physically passive, is actually emotionally and intellectually hyper-stimulating. I don't want our routine to be dictated by the big black box, I don't want the first thing we do when we wake up or come home to be switching on the telly.

Solution? Our super-special token system. Each kid gets three tokens per day, each token is worth half-an-hour of screen time. Anal-teacher-me really wanted to crack open photoshop and make up some lovely tokens, but I ended up outsourcing the graphic design to an up-and-coming seven-year-old I know.

Whilst I seriously admire (and secretly wish for) no actual TV, I know that cold turkey wouldn't work for our addicted little gang. So this is my attempt to reign it in a little. Here's the rules:
  • non-commercial channels only, and only ABC3 when the littles aren't around.
  • half hour outside play between each token use
  • a whole movie costs three tokens, except on Friday, which is movie and pizza night at our place
  • no google or youtube on the internets. Pre-approved sited only thanks!
  • tokens will be taken away for inappropriate use or chucking a tantie when time is up.
  • bonus tokens may also be earned for being gorgeous/helpful/kind/just because we like you.
Today was lovely, fingers crossed it continues to work! How do you keep a handle on the screens at your place?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

style and nonsense: sole love

With friends like these, who needs...friends? Folks, meet my new best pals, Mary May. These gorgeous girls came to me from the amazing Sole Society, after I won a contest on the gorgeous Beetle Shack. Lucky, lucky me. Being the classic martyr mama that I am, I don't own fine shoes like these. So it stands to reason that I haven't taken these babies off. They are so comfortable, after molding themselves to my feet. Proper, good shoes, made by hand, with quality materials.
I'm wearing my new favourite skirt- vintage, tribal, high waisted, found in the op shop for six bucks. I also won a pair of Stu Wedges in Pine, which are yet to make their debut, and are equally incredible. Thank you, Em. Thank you, Sole Society.


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