Saturday, November 23, 2013

in stitches: kensington pants by terra's treasures tested

I received a copy of the Kensington pants PDF pattern for free to test.

I love a quick, easy sew. My laziness is only matched by my love of quirky, individual design features. Terra's Treasures has just released the Kensington Pants PDF pattern, and I got to take the pattern for a spin, making the shorts version for my small girl. With a sweet yoke waistband, contrast piping and gathered patch pockets, these duds are truly my cup of tea.
Printing, piecing and cutting the pattern were a breeze. The colour-coded sizes were very easy to follow, and the pieces matched up with beautiful precision. I loved the layout of the instructions too, easy to read and follow, with lots of pictures. I used up some peachy-pink chambray from my stash (op shopped) with some vintage sheet floral for contrast. I sewed up the shorts in a size 2, shortening the length a tad and adding a contrast cuff to the bottom. I also made a sweet little top to match, using the free Perennial Dress pattern from Sewpony (this one is super cute too!).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

simply living: a less toxic life

I received a copy of Less Toxic Living to read prior to its publication.

Our fourth seachange anniversary is coming up early next year. I can't believe we have been here for almost four years, and yet I can. Our little man was a baby in a sling when we arrived at these sandy shores. We have changed such a lot in that time, not just our growing family and moving homes.

Living close to the sea has had a profound effect on how we see the world, and how we live in it. You can't see the rainwater wash directly into the ocean every day, and not be offended by the visible rubbish, and question the toxic things that can't be seen in the water.

And so, in those four years, we have gradually made mindful changes. Really just small things, one at a time. In a completely imperfect, trial-and-error kind of way. There has been some really simple changes, and some new things to learn, in an effort to live more simply. Remembering bags for the grocery shop. Packing school lunches in reusable containers, minus the pre-packaged snacks. Making my own laundry detergent. Growing some food. Keeping chooks. Composting.

None of these are new things, revolutionary things. But that's my point today. We can minimise toxicity in our lives in very simple, everyday ways. I recently read Less Toxic Living by Kirsten McCulloch (with a whole bunch of fantastic co-writers). You may know Kirsten from her ace blog Sustainable Suburbia. It was such a pleasure to read, full of great mini-guides for living a less toxic life. Information about toxic chemicals in common plastics, cosmetics, cleaning products, candles and toys. And information about what you can use instead. My favourite part? No panic-mongering. Just useful, sensible ways to reduce toxins. You can tap into a section that grabs your attention or interest, work on that in your life, and see what impact it has. Easy! I became quite interested in the idea of using plants inside to filter toxins in the air, so guess what my next little project is?

I would absolutely recommend Less Toxic Living as a springboard into living a greener life. If you are already a bit conscious of reducing toxins, this would be a great resource for family or friends new to these ideas.

You can download Less Toxic Living for free as an eBook. If you download before December 3rd, you can get some special bonus treats: some handy printable guides for your fridge and wallet, a free chapter and recipe from Alexx Stuart's Real Treats and a discount voucher from Queen B candles. Lovely! Just pop in the code HAPPINESS to get your free goodies. If you would like to purchase a paperback copy of the book, you can do so here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Monday, November 11, 2013

I've found myself saying, just lately

Wow! How did that pumpkin get there?

Yes, darling, grown-ups have stomachs, too.

Guys! You have got to remember to put away your textas!

Does anyone know where I put the keys?

Does anyone know where I put my glasses?

Does anyone know where I put- is anyone listening at all?

Thanks little mate, I think this dress is the most beautifullest, too.

I'm in here. In the bathroom sweetie. Just in here. Yep going to the toilet. Poo. Oh, hey, you got the door open, that's cool. No thanks, I don't want any sultanas.

I'm not missing bread at all! (eye twitch) Or pasta! (twitch, twitch)

Where are your pants?

I'm not sure which minion is my favourite, kiddo. Maybe Kevin?

Just lay down and close your eyes! It's time to rest and relax! Right now!

I think a diamond gem would have more power than an emerald in a battle.

I want to marry you again.

(breathe  it all in, these fleeting moments disappear like the grains of sand forming the seashore)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

for me?

I have keenly attuned my brain to ignore any longing or desire to do stuff that is just about me for the past couple of years. With all the kid stuff happening around us, I have found it easier to be resigned to living a life around them, to avoid disappointment. I've learned a weird acceptance with a day that revolves around meals cut into small pieces and naptimes, and that's cool.

But just lately, there is a shift. I returned to work, just one day a week. I felt that clever, passionate part of my brain spark, like the engine of a car having sat idle over winter. It's creaky, and a little rusty, but it's still there!

With this change has come a side-change in me, and how I think about myself. I have suddenly realised I can do some stuff for myself! And I've been struck with an urge to make outrageous goals for myself.

For example: Swim the length of my beach point-to-point. Considering my absolute lack of fitness and skill, a one-kilometre swim is a perfectly achievable goal, right? Well, it will be, given time and some hard work. I have begun swimming lessons- they do those for adults too! Although I felt a bit silly to begin, I am really grateful to take the opportunity to get a good technique to build upon. I even hopped in the pool to do some training laps when my big boy had his lesson at the weekend. It's a little thing I guess, but I'm celebrating this change- moving my body into its next season, where it won't be used to feed or grow babies again, but is now free to do other interesting stuff.

So I'm off to my grown-up swimming lesson this morning. I am going to swim that beach. I know this because I am working towards it. And also because there are the best hot chips in the kiosk down the other end.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

in stitches: w pants by blank slate patterns tested

It's a bit rewarding to make things by hand. Sewing clothes for kids is absolutely not cheaper than buying items you can pick up in big stores, but has a largely increased smug-mum factor. Sewing is also more time- and space-hungry, so with my sewing space in disarray and returning to part-time work, it's a good thing there are fabulous PDF patterns getting around.
I was given a copy of Blank Slate Patterns' W Pants to test. As with all Blank Slate patterns, this one is packed with options: three lengths, sizes 12-18months to 8 years, lots of nifty details such as welt pockets, full fly and belt loops.
I have fallen for these patterns. The instructions are so clear, and I love that this patterns suits a range of skill levels. A beginner could pick this pattern up and make the most basic option, then work through the more complex details as their skill set develops. You might know the gorgeous designer of Blank Slate patterns from her blog, Melly Sews.
I think my welt pocket version with contrast waist look awesome. I used a cotton drill for the main fabric, and a chevron print corduroy for the contrast.
I will be cracking out this pattern again, there are summer shorts required! Oh, bring on that lovely warm weather, Spring.

Monday, August 19, 2013

top tips for enjoying a girls' weekend in wine country

I was so excited to be going away with my girls, that I told someone It's so long since I've been away with friends! Yes. Well. I had never actually been away on a girls' weekend. I was not into doing my hair as a kid, I can barely coordinate an outfit that is clean, let alone stylish. I hated dancing, preferred Lego, or those little cowboy and Indian figures, or reading. I'm not a tomboy, it's just that frivolous, competitive female relationships kind of freak me out. I have three true friends. One I have known since birth, because she is also my baby sister. One I met on the first day of Uni. And the last I met on her first teaching day. I don't clean my house for these few people, nor do I expect them to let me know that they are 'popping in'.

But, since the great sea change of 2010, the opportunity for pop-ins has been greatly reduced. So my very clever husband, along with their very clever husbands, organised vouchers for us all for mothers' day to go away together for a weekend. To the Hunter Valley. And cheese. And wine. And while we were there, we somehow hit upon a magical combination making for a really great weekend.

1. Go with people you trust. Because at 1am, there are really only certain people who should see you singing Bon Jovi ballads into a wine bottle, writing indiscernible to-do lists, or hysterically laughing at screaming goats.
2. Take a pregnant friend (congrats, sis!). Driving? Check!
3. Stay somewhere awesome. I can absolutely recommend the villas at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, and Pure Traveller for organising a great deal.
4. Leave the mum guilt on the freeway. Pick a point in the journey (Brooklyn bridge for us) to leave concerns about the kids behind. Maintain this inner bliss even when greeted with text news about pregnant cats and vomiting children.
5. Eat, and then keep eating. Don't you dare even think about dieting. There is cheese, and pate to be consumed, folks! And breakfast!
6. Do a 'proper' tasting session. We happened to visit Lindemans for a booked-in, paid-for tasting (thanks to one of the clever husbands), and it was fabulous. None of us being particularly knowledgeable about wines, it was a great start. Matt, our tasting guy (there must be a more appropriate term here) was really relaxed, and quite OK with the fact that our little group was more Kath and Kim than Pru and Trude. Just so you know, $260 a bottle chardonnay tastes marvellously expensive. And it turns out, I'm a spendy drunk!

I had such a glorious weekend, and approached the following fortnight of rolling illnesses and mundane cleaning tasks with vigour. It has left me with a renewed appreciation of my dear friends and our clever husbands. Oh, and port and blue cheese. Who knew?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

hi-ho, hi-ho

It's back to work I go! Actually it's been two weeks since I returned to my job. That one that I left four years ago to make a sea change. That one that I wasn't going back to because I would be embraced by my new town and would have local job offers to trip over.

The good thing is, I loved that job when I left, and I still do. I'm good at it, I like the bit where I get dressed, wear shoes the whole day and talk to grown ups. I teach small children, so there are all the obvious rewards that go along with that (there is nothing like teaching a kid right at that moment where reading kicks in, it's my absolute favourite).

After four years, though, I'm a little different. In lots of good ways, but in some ways that have me questioning things that I would have done or accepted four years ago. My first day back felt like a kick in the face. Such was the realisation that all of the relationships I had spent lots of hours, days, weeks and years building up with kids and their families had evaporated over time, and I was starting afresh. I have a lot of work to do, to build those relationships up from the ground. It will not be easy, but I know that learning won't really start to happen until I can get an 'in'. So I am drawing on the patience I have learned through yoga. I am planting that Mona Lisa smile on my face, and approaching each difficult moment with an acceptance that it will all take time. And all I really have is turning up each week.

It's fortunate timing that my school is heavily invested in building relationships with students at the moment. We were shown this video as a reminder of the importance of the relationships in a child's life. *(Trigger warning for violence, persevere if you can, there is relief at the end)

I am enjoying the bonuses of returning to work, that aren't directly work related. Yes, the commute is an hour and a half each way, but I get to spend that time with my hubby. Yes, I'm away from the kids and home for a day, but it means that the kids and grandparents get to spend time together (which is making everyone very happy). So although being so incredibly anxious about how on earth I would be able to balance and juggle, it turns out that things tend to balance themselves, if I just let them.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

crafternoon delight: microwave puffy paint

I am not the biggest fan of crafting with small children. It seems a little too much like work to me. But now that we live somewhere that actually rains from time to time, and have children who are into being creative, I have to concede it's time to put aside my own fear of playdough in the carpet and get to it. This week, we painted, in a scientific way.

Microwave Puffy Paint Recipe

1. Mix equal parts self-raising flour and table salt.
2. Add water, stirring, to a thick custard consistency.
3. Add colour.

We blobbed paint onto little mini-canvases (a cereal box cut into squares) using cotton buds. You need nice thick painting. Squeezy bottles would work a treat for this.
Then zap the masterpieces into the microwave (we did 30seconds on medium. You will know if you have the wrong setting if you set the painting on fire), and marvel in the crafty puffiness.
Uses recycled materials? Yes
Need to buy expensive things from an art store? No
Keeps children occupied? Yes, until we ran out of card. I think they would have kept going, too.
Creates something to keep? Not sure, I think the mini cakes hanging on the wall may attract vermin at some point. More of a 'process, not product' activity.

Have a lovely crafternoon!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

in stitches: heidi and finn chevron dress pattern review

I have been carefully looking at our consumption of clothing lately as a family. Not really doing anything about it, but feeling rather guilty about grabbing cheap, mass-manufactured garments as our kids grow (and grow and grow!). I walk a fine line, balancing precariously between what our budget allows, and the clear ethics in buying quality and taking more care of it. I have an automated response to kids clothing sale racks in large department stores: grab a couple for now, and a bunch for next year. Especially t-shirts, because knits are so difficult to sew, right?

Well sewing up this dress has proven to me the value and ease of sewing easy-to-wear, comfy play clothes for kids, using knits. The Chevron Dress pattern by Heidi and Finn is a fantastic design to cut your knit-sewing teeth on, and the instructions hold your hand right the way through.

The bodice is a simple shape, lined to avoid tricky bindings, and fits comfortably without gaping. I loved the clever way this pattern put the top together.

The skirt features a pieced chevron shape, utilising different coloured or patterned fabrics. I used a soft grey and white stripe, teamed with a rusty red and bright white. There was some very smug self-satisfaction as I pressed the centre-front seam open to reveal a perfectly-matched chevron.

The elastic in the waistband is probably the trickiest part, but once you master using a zig-zag stitch to sew elastic directly into the seam allowance, you will be able to use it in many applications. I like to use a three-step zig-zag stitch and clear elastic for this.

I added a couple of belt loops to the waist as I sewed the top and bottom together. I plaited together three strips of the knit fabrics I used in the dress to make a chunky tie belt. I love the nautical look the colours and the ropey belt give.

So now I am on the hunt for knit fabrics, so I can make all manner of play clothes for the kids. And a couple more cute chevron dresses for the little miss.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

sustainable sustainability: think, eat, save

Happy World Environment Day! Did you celebrate in a small or big way? I have just, finally, peeled off my soil-encrusted gardening clothes after an exhausting but richly rewarding day spent in our community garden with the kids.

Our lovely chooks are nicely nestled within their home in the EcoGarden. Finding this second home has opened my eyes to the notion of thinking outside the square- or even your home- when looking to lead a more sustainable, gentle life. Community gardens provide the opportunity for people to grow where they otherwise may not. Today I noticed how much potential, beyond the weeding, planting, harvesting, a community garden can offer.

1. Instant playgroup. Within moments of arriving at the garden, my children were dirty, wild, runny-nosed creatures of the sunny wintry outdoors. They ran around the garden beds with other kids, some familiar and others strangers. They showed visitors the ins and outs of caring for our chooks. The mums had the opportunity for a chat and a breather.

2. Green spaces are healthy spaces. You can't help but roll up your sleeves and break out a little sweat when there is a glorious strawberry patch to be tended, ready to rest over winter, and hopefully reap rewards in the warmer months. I exercised before I even noticed.

3. Sharing across generations. Our garden has the fortunate situation, surrounded by retirement villages and early childhood services. What a vast wealth of knowledge to be shared. What a spectacular opportunity to build social networks for people far from family, a little lonely or just finding themselves with a bit of extra time.

If your spaces at home are providing you with excuses not to grow some food, why don't you find out where your nearest community garden is? I wonder if there is some space for you to plant some snow peas, have a chat with someone new, take a book and relax for a spell? It really is as good as it sounds.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

still life: my kitchen, a.m.

My kitchen has become a place of work and learning. I have discovered new-old ways of nourishing my family, frugally using what we have and safe ways to clean. I enjoy the space, it is the original kitchen and makes no accommodation for lots of bench top appliances. It works. It is a working kitchen, not a display kitchen. It's a place I feel happy.
Collected things I love to look at, serving purpose. Seeds collected and drying, citrus cleaner steeping.

My next task awaits.

Tools at the ready.
Growing food from kitchen scraps.
The first tomato growing experience provided much learning. And not many tomatoes.
Poppi's African violets. I have warmed to their delicate ways.
Linking up with The Beetleshack Stills. Wishing you a moment of still in your day today!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

in stitches: heidi and finn downtown hat

PDF sewing pattern received for free for testing and reviewing purposes from Heidi and Finn.

It's starting to cool down here. The beachside breeze is getting colder and decidedly stronger. Hats that cover little ears are in order.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to test Heidi and Finn's new pattern: the Downtown hat. I got stuck in, using a range of stretch fabrics I already had, and had made up four hats in 24 hours. A lightweight green one, two fleece and a check polar fleece. I found the polar fleece the best fabric for this pattern- it has a good amount of stretch, with enough thickness to make the hat look nice and sturdy. I love the way the ordinary fleece sewed up, but would suggest going up a size for this less-stretchy fabric. The interlock fabric was a little trickier to sew, but makes up a lovely light-weight hat perfect for season's change weather. The instructions in the pattern were so easy to follow and provided this stretch-fabric novice much-needed support. I loved the pattern so much I took the kids to the fabric shop and let them choose a print from the polar fleece range. Thirty centimetres of a 150cm wide fleece fabric is ample, and with a half price sale on, each hat cost under two bucks!

And, seriously, how cute do they look?
 Have you been sewing lately? Are you using what you have? Have you ever made a hat?

Monday, May 20, 2013

a bad case of the mumdrums

As I slid my clean clothes into their drawers last night, I did some boring maths and realised something a little sad. Approximately 72% of my clothing worn the previous week was pyjamas. The next 14% was trackies (exercise gear not used for exercising), the rest was undies. I wore nothing that required ironing, and stuck to my gardening clogs for all-about-the-town shoes.

The fact that all my clothing ends in 'ies' rings alarm bells.
Let's face it, my self-standards are slipping. Have slipped. Are now non-existent. I have succeeded in becoming invisible under that pile of dishes, on the school run, putting away the laundry. Nobody notices me, so it doesn't matter what I look like, does it? The more ordinary I look, the more invisible I want to be. The more invisible I am, the less I need to care.
I wish I could say, I really don't care. I don't care if you judge me based on how I look. That what I wear bears no importance on my abilities as a human, that my value is so much more than my stretchy pants. Because essentially, morally, this is what I believe. But I know that this is also not the issue.
My invisibility-ugly cycle is my own doing. I make excuses to avoid booking a hair appointment- there isn't any time! I allow soft squishy rolls to gather around my belly- exercise is impossible with little kids! I don't meet up for coffee or lunch- toddler needs to nap! I don't believe that anyone would find me interesting or worthy, so I avoid social interaction with humans over the age of eight. Which just isn't right, really, is it? Who am I to presume to know what other people see? I am deliberately making myself invisible, to purposely avoid social situations.
It's time to pick myself up by the furry lining of my gardening clogs, put on some big girl pants and get on with stuff. I am making sure I miss out on a whole bunch of life by being invisible. But it's so comfortable, being invisible! Comfortable, but not fun. Hiding is not living. I'm not really sure where to start, though. Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

when you run out of babies

Today we celebrate our little one heading out of babyland and firmly planting her competent feet in the toddler arena.

I have been a little grumpy. She has been a tad unwell. I made a chocolate cake, iced it like my mum used to, and just went with it.

We had a little party over the weekend, entirely un-pin-worthy. It was family and friendfamily, kids we have all known since pre-birth. Party games consisted of small children (and perhaps some adults) hurling themselves down a sheet of plywood on a hill on various wheeled devices. Food was home-made hamburgers and milkshakes (not a stripy straw or small glass milk bottle in sight). We thought it was time to call it a night not long after the disco ball and glow sticks came out. All perfectly lovely and totally lacking in cool.

My pregnancy and birth of this little one was a changing time for me. I am amazed to reflect back and see that we do things quite differently, as a family. We are different parents to our three, than we were to one and then two. We have changed and grown with each new child born, and now we face a new era.

A end to baby times. No more candy-striped bunny rugs in plastic bassinettes. No more fuzzy soft heads or transparent toenails. No more exhausting nights and exhausted days. I know we are firmly in Toddlerville now. She has refused to take off her new pyjamas for the last two days. She has long blondish hair that falls in her face and which she swoops out of her eyes with great flair. She can tell me My tummy hurt and Stop it, Mummy. Shhh when I sing silly songs. It's a good place to be. I am seeing brief opportunities for self-development; I had forgotten that existed!

I am looking forward to more fun and surprises with this girl. I am excited to see her wicked humour develop further. I know she will take enormous physical risks over the next year, and I know that I will probably helicopter less than in previous toddler times. I know that she will be watching me closely and listening to me carefully, so I will endeavour to show her love, patience and kindness.

Happy second birthday, Baby Mine.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

defining mothering: we're doing it wrong

One of the most fascinating things I've discovered since our sea change three years ago has been the ever-changing outlook of the beach. That girl looks different every single day. Some days are like a lake, other days are tumultuous and wild. Some days there is a vast expanse of sand to walk on, other days we scramble over a narrow stretch covered in weedy debris. I initially felt unsettled by this daily change. Nervous, because every day didn't necessarily fit my preconceived definition of 'beach'.

Whenever I try to navigate the parenting landscape, I'm struck by the need to define the indefinable. Attachment parenting, helicopter parenting, laissez-faire, retro, instinctive parenting, passive parenting, authoritative parenting: at some point, so far, I've defined my self as each of them. But there is not a single one I could pick to define our parenting choices throughout. Because, like most parents, we are of the "make the best decision we can, with the knowledge and resources we have at the time" school. Our family unit model has changed, growing over six years to include one, two, then three children. We have had combinations of full-time working mum, stay-at-home-dad, part-time working mum, full-time working dad, stay-at-home-mum, with spatterings of formalised long day care, before and after school care and grandparent and uncle care.

Today, I am letting go of the desire to define myself as a 'type' of parent. Because that inherently leans towards placing value on one type over another. It has taken me some time to accept the ebbs and flows of the beach conditions, and know that every circumstance is in some way ideal; not just the sweet, sunny days. Rugging up in warm clothes and meandering around the rocks on a windy day gives us an opportunity to see things in a different way. I never expected our circumstances to involve an extended period of full-time leave from work, but I am very grateful for the time and the lessons I have received in that time.

This parenting work is truly a task of building the plane mid-flight. Children are growing, their needs are constantly changing. Adults are evolving constantly, too. Circumstances around finances and values (and how to align the two) are always shifting, and vary wildly between families. From now on, I will stop working so hard to label what I do (and what you do, too) as a parent, and work to enjoy the connection and the ride.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

sewing with PDF patterns: Summer Maxi Dress by Heidi and Finn

I was lucky enough to be chosen to receive the Summer Maxi Dress pattern for free as a pattern tester. I haven't received any payment or product for writing this post.

I am a bit old school with my sewing. I learnt to use paper patterns, mostly New Look and Simplicity, Vogue if it was something fancy, at my mum's knee. Cutting out the pieces from the brown wafery paper on our brown carpet. Pinning the pieces to the folded over fabric (right sides together) with the small victory of squeezing the pieces on less fabric than the pattern recommended. Following the instructions, codes and symbols for 'cut on fold' and little triangle matching notches. Later, I studied Textiles and Design through high school, and learned more again from my Home-Ec teacher mother-in-law-to-be. Like cheaty nifty ways to put pants together.

Now back to sewing garments years later, and I wondered what all the excitement was about PDF patterns, which you purchase online and download for instant sewing gratification. I couldn't see the point in paying almost the same amount for a pattern which I then had to print myself. So I stuck to my old school ways.

Then I answered a pattern tester call, on a whim, from the amazing PDF pattern designer, Heidi & Finn. And I got picked! Which was very nice indeed. Here is how I found the process of using a Heidi & Finn PDF pattern, as an experienced sewer, but a PDF pattern novice...
Firstly, when using a PDF pattern, you need the ability to download, view and print it. You may get an instant download upon purchase (like if you buy from Heidi and Finn's new Craftsy store), or you may receive your download via email fairly quickly (remembering that designers may be sleeping when you purchase if you live in different hemispheres). Set up a folder on your hard drive where you keep you patterns, and 'save as' to download. You will need Adobe Reader to view your pattern. I was a little nervous printing, as there is a difference between standard US paper and Australian, but no worries, it printed perfectly. Before you print, check to make sure that your printer scaling setting is set to 'none'.  Check the little one inch square on the first page to make sure the print size is correct.
Next you need to trim and align the pages, and join together. You can either cut out the size you need from here, but I like to keep the initial print as a master, then take a tracing of the size I need on tracing paper, or cheap greaseproof paper. I do this with my paper patterns, too.
Then it's simply a matter of following the instructions provided with the pattern to assemble your garment. And this is where I had my little epiphany about using PDF patterns as opposed to commercial paper patterns. As I was following the Heidi & Finn instructions, it felt to me that I was hanging out with a clever sewing friend, drinking tea and learning some cool new techniques. The steps are clearly written, with very little sewing jargon. There are fabulous photos, clearly linked to the steps, to show you what your progress should be looking like. If I was new to sewing, this Heidi & Finn pattern would be a fantastic start. There is even a tutorial for making your own bias binding! Superb! The Summer Maxi Dress went together very easily. As with all Heidi & Finn patterns, you don't need fancy equipment, and you will have a gorgeous, individual piece.
I was inspired by summery images of my childhood: sunny boys, fringed beach umbrellas and stripy towels. I picked up this lovely beach-coloured stripe cotton and added some crisp white cotton bias binding and pom-pom fringe. If the question is in regards to pom-pom fringe, I think the answer is always 'yes', don't you? I think my little girl enjoyed wearing her new pitty dess.

stuff and nonsense hints for sewing with PDF patterns:
1. Buy quality, especially if you are learning. The instructions will be clearer, the size gradings will be more accurate. You will be more likely to have success and come back for more!
2. Take your time printing to get the settings right. Check and double check before you cut into your fabric.
3. Save your patterns somewhere central by choosing 'save as' rather than sending them into a random downloads folder in the bowels of your hard drive.
4. Read through all the instructions before launching a sewing assault.
5. Trace each size onto tracing paper, keeping the printed pattern as a master. I find the lighter paper much easier to pin to my fabric, and I like knowing I don't have to print each new size.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

navigating the blind corners

I wonder what's coming next? As the weather is changing around me, I feel as though I'm stepping around a corner, into a great unknown.

My dear friend and I joke all the time about parenting young children; the moment you get breastfeeding under control, they start to need food. They finally sleep through the night, then begin teething. Decisions are made, love is given, under tired eyes and on shifting sands.

I have finished having babies. There. My littlest, surpris-ey girl is almost two. Will soon be out of her cot, and after three babies and three different homes, I never got around to decorating the nursery. The shame! I learned early that my parenting energy and skill is limited: I can choose to spend it on making it appear that I'm across things, or I can invest it in just plugging away. Getting small people out of bed each day, making breakfast, wiping noses, cooking dinner. Teaching, loving, instilling. It's difficult to remember that this time is short. I seem to be continually being delivered the same lesson: shifting sands.

As I am tip-toeing over shifting sands yet again, I'm finding it all too easy to get caught up in doubts and worries about what my next contribution might be. I am no longer the proud mama holding a fresh baby. My kids are growing up, worthy of space to develop their own identities. I felt a gentle unravelling this morning, when my nearly-four-year-old came out of his room fully dressed. A few of the strong stitches binding me to those tasks of filling the needs of others, unpicked.

Gradually, suddenly, our babies will become independent beings. If we do our job well, we will make ourselves redundant. I know I am other than mama. I know my darling and I will hold hands when our babies are grown up. Just as fulfilling needs of little people takes energy and effort, so does developing myself and my other relationships. And the sands are shifting just a little, just enough to allow a redistribution of my energies.

As for those corners? Who knows what's around there. That's the fun of running on shifting sands, right?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

new chicks on the block

I am a proud mother hen of around three weeks. We have settled the girls into their new home, at the coop within the EcoGarden at our local neighbourhood centre.

Neighbourhood centres are a bit fab. Ours is set in a little community hub complex, nearby a preschool, long day care centre, community health centre, youth centre and mental health outreach. What a great place! I went there last year to attend a weekend organic gardening course, got chatting to another lady, we discovered the unused coop and the plans began. We are both in positions where keeping chickens at home isn't possible right now, so taking out a lease of the EcoGarden's chicken coop presented an ideal solution.

The rainy Friday arrived for me to collect our 12-week-old pullets from the breeder, who does a regular off-the-back-of-the-truck (literally) order and pickup through a produce store a little way from home. I stood in the fat plopping rain, waiting in line with my rapidly-soaking cardboard box. I laughed nervously as the farmer put my twelve ordered ladies in the box, couldn't help but think how undignified it was to hold them by the feet! The reality of caring for real, actual livestock struck me when I picked up my heavy, warm, life-filled box, only to smear chicken shit all over the front of my shirt.

Three weeks on, the girls are growing, enjoying a range of kitchen scraps and becoming used to small children in gumboots. They are getting named as time goes on, the white one with caramel is called Butterscotch, one of the black ones has been called Shadow Hen, I picked the greyish one as Ethel, one of the red ones is Rosie, and my little guy has named the fattest black hen Larry.

We visit daily to check their food, water and clean what needs cleaning. The kids are so very enamoured with the whole thing. We are all learning so much. I am already deeply affected by seeing the range of activities undertaken by the girls throughout the day. Connecting my new understanding and respect for chooks with choices I make when shopping for eggs (only for a little while longer!) and chicken meat is quite confronting. But so very worthwhile.
Rosie wonders...'Who IS this awkward bird?'


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