26 December 2014

Christmas 2014

My photo record of Christmas this year starts and ends with Winnie, our ancient and increasingly decrepit pug.  She is a constant in our days, following me around the house on her arthritic legs, weeing on the carpets, whining for food and providing the soundtrack to our days with her chronic snoring. Poor old thing, we'll miss her when she's gone. 
Apart from a few photos of the present opening most of the photos are of the food - a very non-traditional selection of gnocchi, paella and salads as well as turkey and ham. I toasted nuts in my new frypan ( a gift to myself) and made gravy in my new saucepan ( a gift from
Craig). We had 24 for lunch and were grateful that the weather was perfect for eating outdoors as we wouldn't have fit in the dining room.  My lovely mother did nearly all the washing up, the kids had water fights and played badminton, my eldest sister and I sang carols - she's a wonderful musician. The kids joined in sporadically but weren't much interested which was fine. I always felt awkward when the adults sang carols when I was a kid too, 
At the end of the day we spontaneously decided to go over to my eldest sister's house for a swim and a bite to eat. I think we all wanted to prolong the day a bit. Tomorrow the Perth cousins arrive and my girls are so excited. It is so lovely seeing the cousins together, forming their own connections and bonds. 
I had an interesting chat with my brother in law about his own family history and his sole surviving relative on his father's side. That story, that history will one day be lost.  Our family changes too. What seemed so important fades away. We've made our new traditions and our children will make theirs - keeping what they like, discarding the rest. Really we have only now. 

24 December 2014

The Nativity - A Miniature Christmas Scene

I had such fun making this tiny nativity scene.  I painted all the little wooden people and then made clothing for them, the animals are all miniaturised versions of the animals in Karin Neuschutz's 'Sew Soft Toys'.  I can't find an internet link but I know that l'uccello stock this book.  I just photocopied the patterns at 25% and cut them without a seam allowance as I stitched by hand in blanket stitch rather than sewing right sides together and bagging out.  They were too tiny for that.  The only things I didn't make were the gifts from the wise men, though the gold is not right and I'll have to see if I can find something better next year.  I put these in our nativity calendar and the girls took it in turns opening a drawer each day.  Luckily four goes evenly into 24 or there would be fights.  I snuck a mouse in - not traditional I know, but Nina adores mice and I reckon there would be one near a stable.  I was so pleased with how it turned out  - exactly as I had hoped, which is a very rare thing. 

I always do lots of things at Christmas, or at least in the month leading up to Christmas. We always have a gingerbread party and I usually make lots of shortbread and often we make some decorations (this year painted gumnuts). We always make Christmas crackers, with fortune cookies and one dollar scratchies.  The kids still make all their presents for each other and their friends, which is pretty time consuming, and I usually make the kids something each, most often a dress. Cherries are always the sign that Christmas is near and this year I splurged on a whole box, which I've never done before. It was so luxurious for everyone to have as many cherries as they felt like and still have some the next day.

So even though Christmas is always busy and I always do lots of things, there has been a different edge this year. One of my sisters is very unwell and so all the activity has an air of keeping oneself busy and distracted, as well as a particular poignance to it. She came to our gingerbread party and we talked whilst keeping up brave faces for the kids - hers and mine - and I expect this is the reason that the door of the gingerbread house is wonky and the whole thing has a rather rushed look to it. We won't find out for a few more weeks exactly how bad things are, and of course we are hoping that the news is better than we fear. It seems a bit farcical to write about the little things I've been doing and making, whilst in the background this massive, life changing event is unfolding, and yet it also seems wrong not to record our Christmas season. And however powerfully something like this puts all our other petty concerns into perspective, still those petty concerns remain and have to be dealt with. This blog is, after all, about small matters, not large matters!

I appear to have misplaced the letters to Santa Claus which were rather delightful. Ruby began hers by hoping that Santa had been a good boss, as the elves need someone responsible - so proud that she's already identified the potential for exploitation in the relationship between capital and labour. Grace is hoping for a parasol and a beret (she really was born in the wrong era), and Nina asked for a briefcase (!). Lily is beguiled by almost anything she sees in a toy shop - a Jemima doll, a Strawberry Shortcake, a real live Minion please! And Ruby just desperately wants an ipod and swears she is about the only (nearly) 12 year old in the whole world not to have one.  I struggle with the whole technology thing. It does seem that most kids her age have something - a pod or pad or phone - that enables them to link in to social media and communicate with each other and by comparison we seem the most ludditish parents on the face of the earth. Lots of schools require an ipad but ours doesn't and so far she has only been able to really engage by using my phone, which obviously I control. I've held the line because I fear that once she has a device of whatever kind, she will disappear into a world of constant texting and surfing.  I don't think she's particularly interested in games, it's Instagram and social connections that fascinate her.  I know that rules around usage can be established, but I suspect that those rules rapidly become a battleground where parents are thrust unwillingly into the role of enforcer. And I'm not even sure what rules are appropriate - how much time is too much? how much privacy is reasonable? where can she take or use the device?

Once she has a device, and I know that it is inevitable eventually, I fear that she will never  again scoot round and round on the deck for hours, making up plays and stories. I worry that she won't write or draw as much - or at all.  I wonder if she'll still play with her sisters (admittedly this only tends to happen now when she is bored, but with a device, perhaps she'll never be bored?). And I am not sure that she will continue to read as much - or at all.  I also wonder whether I am totally overreacting and whether I'll look back on this dilemma in the same way that I look back on worrying about kindergarten and think how ridiculous I was.

The year, to all intents and purposes, is over. Craig and I have finished work, the kids have finished school, the concerts have been performed, the presents bought and wrapped and tomorrow the business of preparing the house and food for Christmas begins. I'm half thinking that if I am super efficient with all of that, I might just have time to quickly rustle up a couple of Christmas dresses afterall.....

18 December 2014

The Gruffalo

Lily's plasticine Gruffalo. You can't really tell but those dots are 'Gruffalo spikes'. 

14 December 2014

Drunkard's Path

In our revamped dining/sewing room I finally found the time and space to finish this drunkard's path quilt. I made the blocks back in June, and did nothing with them for the next six months. As is the way with these things, it all came together pretty quickly once I finally took them out again. I'm happy but not thrilled with this one. The blocks were time consuming to make, mostly because I am no great shakes at sewing curves, and they were more complicated than the blocks in any other quilt I'd made (Which isn't saying a lot, my quilts are generally very simple). I love the fabrics in this, but I'm not sure I really showcased them well. I was very unsure of what to use for sashing. I nearly went with something much brighter - even orange - which made it a more arresting quilt, but eventually decided on this rather reserved grey. I had in mind a charcoally binding and indeed the fabric I bought was called 'Coal' but when I got it home it turned out to be a bluey-black, more than a grey, and I'm not entirely convinced. In addition to which I made a complete hash of 3 out of 4 of the mitred corners. I'm not exactly sure what went wrong. I can't even bear to show a picture. I'm sounding much less happy and more critical than I feel, it's just that, considering the effort that went in to it, I hoped to really really love it and I'm not sure that I do. It's the way of things though, isn't it? It's very unpredictable what will work and what won't. At least for me.

10 December 2014


Every year our jacaranda gets off to a slower start that the other trees in the neighbourhood and I think to myself 'oh, it's not so spectacular this year'.

And then a few weeks later its blooms intensify and I remember that it just takes a bit longer. Why do I struggle to trust in the reliability of the beauty of this tree?

My mum's Alzheimers is progressing, inevitably, and Lil has been dragged to various appointments and assessments with me, largely against her will. Mum's pug collection was a rare moment of delight and connection between Mum and Lily as they played with them, lined them up, and 'taught' them on Mum's bed.

We dragged the kids to the Emily Floyd exhibition at Fed Square with the promise of the Noodle Nightmarket at Birrarung Marr afterwards. But they loved the exhibition and we didn't have long enough there for them. Lots of hands on stuff for kids to do and lots to absorb as well. We are a bit crap at getting around to all the many great things on. A resolution for the new year, perhaps, to see more of my own city. I've been hopeless at that this year.

We revamped our dining/sewing room. It's quite a spectacular room, with this wild crazy wallpaper, but it had horrible curtains I'd never liked, a ceiling painted in multi-coloured pastels that I'd loathed (the ceiling is gorgeous pressed metal but I'm not a fan of that style of painting even though I understand it's true to the period). This amazing nouveau box window badly needed repainting and so we did it in glossy black to match the doors and skirting boards, did the ceiling white, took down the curtains and got a new table that actually seats our family plus guests.   When I say 'we' I mean we got proper painters to do it.  I was so impressed by them I started to fantastise about chucking in my job and becoming a painter.  It seems to me that it would be a hugely satisfying profession.  Each day you'd see a measurable change  -'I painted that much, it looks much better'.  We've got a new sideboard that accomodates nearly all my fabric and notions and will get a window box built in for my machines. I think this might mean that I can actually keep things a bit tidier and we can use the room for, you know, actual dining without the drama of having to move all my sewing stuff out.

It's a lovely place to sew.

There have been occasional ice-creams, amongst other treats. Tooth flossing has entered our daily routine.

We had a slightly disasterous night away where we had no water, except the nearly continuous rain that fell outside. Grace and Lily picked wildflowers and saw kangeroos, but it wasn't the relaxing mini-break I had been hoping for amid the busy-ness of the end of year.

Ruby and Nina continue to confound me, alternating as they do between thickest of thieves and cruelest of siblings. I'm trying to learn how to stand back more, to be supportive without intervening too much. These are hard lessons and I feel I'm a slow learner.

Meanwhile Grace and Lily make shops and schools, potions, medicine, restaurants, gardens, pick bouquets, bicker, cry, laugh, cuddle, set up massage tables and dog training schools and make Pokemon islands, raise babies, read stories and walk imaginary dogs.

I can't help reflecting on the year and the contrast to last year when at this time we were in New York, or about to go.  After our three months away I vowed to make several changes, including seeing more of my friends, stressing about work less, and making more time for various things I had decided were important, like seeing movies, reading books, taking a class or two.  In all truth I have not managed to implement any of these changes and if anything have seen less of friends, been more stressed about work and done less of the many things I like doing!  On the upside, my resolutions are ready-made for 2015.