25 June 2012

The Unintentional Quilt - or quilting for non-buddists

I'm mulling over my next big quilting project. It will be for Lily, when she moves into her own bed, and I'd more or less decided on the colours, when her recent frequent and adamant declarations that 'pink is my wavourite'  threw a small spanner in the works. Pink is not one of the colours I'd picked.
Anyway, whilst letting that quilt mentally gestate a while, I was taken by the colour and fun of these fabrics by The Quilted Fish (there are a few other fabrics in there too). I decided on a variation of the fat quarter quilt from Material Obsession and suddenly, without really intending to make a quilt at all, and certainly without any reason to make a quilt, I whipped up the top in a couple of nights. Of course, like all quick little things, it didn't turn out to be quite so speedyMy slap dash habits meant that I had incorrectly calculated the size of the top, which meant I didn't buy enough backing fabric, which meant that I had to add a panel, using all the off cuts of the fat quarters plus a few extra fabrics.  As it turned out this was a pleasing use of leftovers, though significantly more time consuming.  A friend had given me a can of basting spray, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  I've always pinned the quilt sandwich before, and I can't say that using the spray was any quicker  but I do think it held things together better whilst I was quilting (probably more a testament to my poor pinning).  I didn't like the smell of the glue so not sure if I'll use it again.  Given that the quilt was so square and the blocks so large, I wanted a fairly small and detailed quilting pattern.  I decided to pick out various patterns and sort of quilt topographically around them.  About a third of the way in I decided it was a disaster and resolved to unpick it all the following day, but a night's rest made me see it differently, and now I'm rather pleased.  It turned out to be a surprisingly time consuming way of quilting though, much longer than the stippling I've been favouring lately.  I'm still learning free motion quilting and have a long way to go, but I'm definitely improving.  I bound it in Robert Kaufman charcoal quilters linen and now I have a reasonably large quilt with no purpose or destination in mind.  Though it was a kind of unintended quilt, brought about solely because some fabric took my eye one day, and though it was not planned or thought through or even measured properly, it was also a fortuitous kind of thing.  As always with quilting I learned some new things, tried some new things and improved some skills.  And it brightens a grey day.

24 June 2012


Wasn't feeling up to a gazillion people and a big hullabaloo to celebrate an event that, for me, is really mostly about the utter adorableness of children in mittens with laterns. A few friends, a walk by the creek, and back home for hot chocolate, shortbread and meringues is more our speed. The rain held off just long enough.

Sunday Sweets

Girl in pyjamas looking out the window

Close up  with mobile in foreground

When we were kids we were given our age in cents each week to buy Sunday sweets at our local milkbar. This was when most lollies were 1c or even two for 1c, although I do remember that 'mates' were 2c - good value, though, those rock hard chunks of toffee covered in chocolate would last for a good half hour. I remember finally being able to afford the sticky licorice 'Choo Choo Train' at ten, though the coveted 'White Knight' was still two years off. Not sure when Sunday Sweets were phased out and it's not a tradition I've continued with my kids, but I did get this sweet picture from Ruby this morning.

22 June 2012

Rain Rain

What do you do when it rains and rains and rains?

We made ice boats (thanks to Playschool for the idea), we sorted through a big pile of fabric donated to our school's craft stall and I even got to stitch the binding on my latest quilt.

Without snow to make the world exciting, and without the sort of extreme temperatures that give you an excuse not to leave bed, there is something about the endless drizzle of Melbourne winter that very quickly turns things miserable.  I wonder how many years it will be, post drought, before I can complain about rain without feeling guilty.  I thought I'd never see Melbourne green again, and I really am grateful to have done so, but I wouldn't mind if the rain just stopped for a bit.

How about you? Memories of bucketing out the bathwater onto your shrivelling plants still too fresh to wish the rain away? Or sick of discovering new leaks in your roof with every downpour? We have the leaks that occur only when it rains rally really hard, and then different leaks when the rain is light but constant. I am too scared to find out what this means about the state of our roof but it can't be anything good....


Yesterday, for a brief time, all the children were asleep or out of the house and it was tidy for a bit. Normally things look more like this.

18 June 2012

Just a typical day

Lily asleep in her dirndl

Today we all got up late despite a new alarm clock and this led directly to an argument about getting ready and a decision on my part to take no involvement whatsoever in the getting ready dramas but to leave it all to them (I helped Grace and Lily) with the consequence that we didn't leave for school until 9.08am. At work I spent a lot of the day investigating the carcinogenic properties and other health risks associated with fibreglass insulation as well as the dire potential health effects of formaldehyde and the very unfortunate consequences of failing to adequately repair post-partum tears. I told a bloke that I couldn't take on his case. I looked a a very big pile of documents but didn't read them all. I heated up the leftover chicken tandoori which had not been a hit with my kids, despite how delicious they thought it smelt whilst in the oven, and ate at my desk whilst catching up on a few blogs I like to read. I spoke with a good friend who told me that my daughters who had given me such grief that very morning were entirely delightful on their trip to Sydney, and discovered a colleagues newborn baby had just had surgery. I chatted with another colleague, 35 weeks pregnant with her first, and felt old-in-a-good-way, and remembered how it felt to be leaving work for the first time to have a baby, and how unknown the experience was. Craig emailed me to say he had to go to Sydney suddenly for an urgent hearing tomorrow, was that ok? We spoke about the kids bickering and whether there was any solution. My friend emailed me to ask whether Ruby is interested in Net Set Go. Perhaps the answer to the bickering? Another friend emailed me to see whether we could catch up for dinner and the first date that was suitable was 1 September. I bemoaned the fact that the only chocolates left in the fundraiser chocolate box were pineapple freddo frogs, and then someone organised a fresh box which included honey nougat logs. I had two. I rang Kim to say sorry I would be a bit late and rode home through the light rain and sang 'Wild Mountain Thyme' but I could only remember the chorus and a few odd lines. I got home and Nina told me a very long story about how she had finally found Mousey Brown in a suitcase after several weeks of him being missing. Ruby tried on a pair of my jeans to wear tomorrow for dress up as your favourite storybook character. She is going as Harriet the Spy. With a turn up of the cuffs and a belt she can fit my jeans now. Nina got into her Laura Ingalls from 'Little House in the Big Woods' costume which led to Lily wanting to put on a dirndl that Grandpa and Alex brought back from Austria. She is sleeping in it now after refusing to take it off. I read Grace a chapter of 'The Folk of the Faraway Tree' and Beth got accidentally stuck in a fairy ring in the Land of Enchantments. Grace is Beth (Grace and Lily always pick the character in each book that they 'are' which often leads to fights) but we've read it before so she knows Beth gets out. The big girls didn't get a chapter of Spiderweb for Two because of the bickering so finally it was lights out and I had a shower and am about to make a cup of tea and do a bit of quilting. Just a typical day. Pretty good day actually.

15 June 2012


Dear Mousie,
I'm quite sure that Jill will not survive.  We saw the Doctor yesterday and said 'we will be very very very lucky if he survives'.  So that makes it quite surtine to us that Jilly will probably/defintly not be comming back to school.

12 June 2012


Even a cold sea calls them.

11 June 2012


Grace likes to take my camera and do photo shoots sometimes. Often I go through and mostly delete the blank walls, and multiple shots of carpet that she takes, but this afternoon she managed to capture perfectly the winter sunshine and the day we shared with Nanna and Pa. Happy 50th anniversary Ron and Jean.

08 June 2012

Owls, Cats, Blood, Gore

I've been making owls and pussycats in pea green (leaf) boats.

Ruby started doodling on the nearest pad of paper. In her version, the owl and the pussycat go to sea in a beautiful pea green boat, but then the owl wakes up to find the cat is eating his wing. 'Help' he cries, 'Help me Grandmother'. His grandma responds 'Weeeeell you were silly enough to think you were going to marry a cat, so....'

I love the gory drawings, the blood dripping from the cat's mouth. What happened to my sweet innocent little girl? The scribbly handwriting on the side is this recipe from Kim. Check out her spring onion pancakes and pork dumplings - all my favourites.

07 June 2012

Stop Work

Our teachers were on strike today and I had an unexpected day off work, which made for a leisurely morning of lego and tea.

I'm from a long line of school teachers. My father, grandfather and great grandfather were all teachers. Two of my sisters and many of my friends are teachers. Not one of them does their job with anything less than admirable dedication and a hell of a lot of unpaid overtime. I can still name all my primary school teachers, even Mrs Schoenberg who only took us for a term. She told us her name meant 'beautiful mountain'.

I wish the strike would get our teachers everything they deserve, but, knowing it wont, I hope it will at least get them what they are asking for.

03 June 2012

The Lircus

Grace practising some circus skills

Craig took the big girls to Sydney on the train this weekend. Having two kids out of the house changes things in interesting ways. I'm reminded of that Play School standard about the little old lady whose house was a squash and a squeeze. She was advised to bring all the animals inside which made things even squashier, but then, after she took them all out again, the house seemed just the right size.

When I only had two children, I'm sure that a weekend alone with them wouldn't have seemed like a holiday, but now, with Ruby and Nina in Sydney, having just Grace and Lily is a breeze.

They've spent a lot of their time playing in a large box. They mostly get on very well, these two, and aside from occasional cheese sandwiches and requests for milk, don't make a lot of demands.

As a blatant bribe to Grace to not be upset about missing out on the Sydney trip, I bought tickets to the circus - or 'lircus' as Lily says, still unable to pronounce her 's' (should I be concerned about this? I confess to finding it utterly adorable - we now all call it the lircus).

Triangle Man gets an outing

It wasn't a hip 'circus arts' type circus. It was an old school circus in the car park of a distant suburban shopping centre, in a cold big top that was less than a third full.

The men and women were skilled jugglers and tight-rope walkers and hula-hoopers and magicians and the children loved it. I came away with the slightest feeling of depression, ruminating on how tough it must be for these performers to make a living, the years and years it must take to hone their skills to receive only desultory applause from jaded youngsters. They must do it for the love of it - after a turn in the spot light, there they are selling you a hot dogs and showing you to your seat. I worry that these old circuses won't survive. I'm sitting there, doing the numbers. Most of the audience are children who pay only $25 a seat. There wouldn't be 200 people here, and even if they all spend an extra $10 on drinks and food, can the return possibly pay the wages and the set up costs and the public liability insurance and and and. I guess they're tough, these circus folk. They've weathered hard times before, they'll do it again. I hope.