24 December 2012

p.s. Are your reindeer still interested in carrots?

Cutlery has been counted,

preparations have been made,

treats have been left out. I think we are ready. Merry Christmas, see you in 2013.

23 December 2012

The Gingerbread Party and other Christmas Traditions

It's become a tradition over the past five years to have a little gingerbread decorating party for the girls and their friends.

The first year I made eleven complete houses for four year olds to decorate. It took me days of work, making the gingerbreads, assembling the walls, waiting a night for them to harden before attaching the roofs. I went through kilos of icing sugar. I can hardly believe it now. This year it was just your basic gingerbread men and women.

I didn't even make a house myself for the first time in many years, and I am totally fine with that. I have kept to my commitment to do only that which will bring me more joy than stress. A few things have gone by the wayside: I have written nary a Christmas card; we bought our gifts for all the teachers; I haven't baked for the neighbours and I'm not going to get round to sewing up fabric bags for gift wrapping as I keep intending to.

I'm have finally figured out that I have a tendency to plan too many things and then feel a bit resentful of everything on my plate. I'm getting better about scaling back and accepting help.

We did made the crackers yesterday. It was a last minute thing and I was prepared to let that go too, though I've been making the Christmas crackers for about 20 years now. But it was easy and the kids all helped. I already had the snaps, the cardboard was cut up packing from the many parcels that have been arriving lately and the wrapping was odds and ends from presents already received (thanks Sasha, for the yellow paper and the beautiful mug it contained). The stickers were a free download from here. They are filled with a mint chocolate, a $1 scratchie and a fortune cookie. I do have two more Christmas dresses to sew. Ruby and Nina's are done, I'll do Grace's tonight and hopefully have time to get to Lily's on Monday. It is one tradition I would like to keep, especially as there will be nothing else handmade this Christmas. Lily's quilt has not eventuated this year and I am still struggling to get an idea of what it will be, despite having bought some fabric for it months ago. Perhaps 2013 will bring inspiration.

The jacaranda is on it's last legs now and the heat today will no doubt finish it off, but the flowers lasted nearly four weeks and I think it was the most spectacular year it's had, at least since we've lived here. The ground is now a carpet of fallen flowers. All feels calm around here. After the high of the party this morning we have battened down the hatches and are trying to keep cool. Shades are drawn and the girls are sprawling on chairs and the floor with the ceiling fan on. It's Christmastime.

21 December 2012

Class Act II

After the success of the quilting project with Nina's class, I decided to give it a whirl with Ruby's class.

She is in a 3 and 4 class and she was initially concerned that the grade 4 boys might not be too keen on sewing. Her class teacher on the other hand, was extremely enthusiastic.

I decided to limit the colour range to just yellow, red, black and white, and hunted out all my fabrics in these colours. The kids selected the four fabrics they thought worked together to make their blocks. The piecing was all done by the kids using my machine. As ever, I found that even the most recalcitrant sewer perks up when it comes to using the sewing machine.

The class have been doing tessellated patterns. The teacher was interested in working with triangles and squares and fitting them together. Each block has four squares, consisting of two triangles in each square. As they starting working on their squares, I could tell that this quilt would come together beautifully.
They also chose a word to embroider, to make the border. The quilt will stay in the class even when the children move on, so the word was intended to represent something they felt they wanted to pass on to those children coming after. I did have to talk a few kids out of choices like 'fart' and many children really really really wanted their word to be their favourite animal, but in the end I thought most of the words were great: Friendship; Welcome; Energy; Live; Share; Peace; Belong; Fun; Hi; Greetings; Hope; Happiness; Joy; Hug; Together; Respect; United; Friends; Cute.

There are twenty kids in the class and their teacher did a block as well, which didn't make it into the quilt; 21 being a much more difficult number to piece than 20, so I made the final block into a cushion to go with the quilt. It was made up to fit a cushion insert I had in the cupboard.

Once again most of this project was made from my stash, though I did buy some fabric for the backing and the binding. As always the best bit for me was getting to know Ruby's class mates a little bit, and seeing the very different ways different children approach the same task. Even things like tracing the template lines onto fabric, pinning the squares together and cutting out the fabric presented real challenges to some kids. I am becoming more and more convinced of the importance of handwork, especially now that there is so much focus on digital dexterity that it is perhaps easy to lose basic skills like cutting and tracing. It was such a pleasure to spend my Friday afternoons in the company of these bright, interested children, listening in on their conversations, observing their small kindnesses to Lily, who accompanied me each week, and, at the end of it all, putting the pieces together to give them a quilt they can be proud of.

18 December 2012

Stainglass and scarecrows

Just a few bits and pieces.

Stainglass:  A quilt I've been working on with Ruby's class.

Scarecrow: Grace and Lily made this.  I like the hair.

Socks and new shoes: and chunky little legs.

Spiderman: decorations by Anton.

Swans: Black, with nearly grown cygnets.

Shortbread: gifts for colleagues.

Sausage rolls: Required at any Christmas party.

14 December 2012


Does anything evoke Summer quite as strongly as the sound of cicadas? I remember finding the empty shells in our lemon tree as a kid, and once being woken to one sitting right on my window sill. I could hardly reconcile the brown husk with that vibrant green animal.

This is Grace's ceramic cicada, with gum leaves added for wings.

12 December 2012

December is:

End of year barbeques (that aren't rainy and wet after all);


Finding decorations in unexpected places;

Watching your big sister be a seahorse in her kinder concert;

Pine cones from Kim's new neighbourhood;

Tan marks and mozzie bites;

Waking up to find your Emily Floyd prints newly enhanced;

Getting the silver ready for Christmas day;

Angels of course;

Planning the Christmas dresses; and

Wearing as little as possible (if you are three).

11 December 2012

200 people can't be wrong

Eduardo the Elephant was walking along when suddenly he heard a squeak. What could it be?

This is an old book Nina made that I recently found again. The making and writing and sewing round here is all under wraps for Christmas right now.

08 December 2012

The Trees

I was starting to think that our jacaranda tree wasn't going to come to the party this year. I should have had more faith. Just as I started to notice a little purple blush around the neighbourhood the first flowers bloomed on our tree.

I thought perhaps it was going to be a disappointing year for our tree. But then, within days, it opened into its full glory. For two weeks every year, a bit longer if we are lucky, this tree gives me a thrill every day.

And then, of course, there was the other tree that arrived today.

It was stinking hot, too hot even for Lily to stick to her guns and insist on wearing long sleeves.  She chose nothing instead.  Her legs are a mess of mozzie bites.  I said to her "Did you get those from the trampoline the other night?"  She looked at me like I was thick and said "No, I get them from 'quitos."  Of course.

We've got 30 people coming tomorrow for a barbeque and of course the cool change will come through tonight and tomorrow will be cold and wet.  Isn't that the way of things?

Nevertheless, the barbeque is a good incentive to get the garden in order before Christmas.

that's me, in the bauble!
Those weeds are no longer, replaced by 2.5cubic meters of mulch, with plans to plant things after the holidays.

Both trees now look fabulous.  I do love the Christmas tree, but even all decked out it can't compete, in my book, with that spectacular purple explosion.

05 December 2012

Letters to Santa and an unexpected visitor

Ruby 'I like cute things and yeah'

Grace - 'hug, mini chimney'

Nina - 'if I had to deliver ALL those presents it would be quite hard'

Lily - 'toys, I want'

We live in a very urban environment, so I am usually delighted when nature makes itself felt: the raucous laughing of the kookaburras by the creek, the screeching flock of lorikeets (I think they are) that settle in the gum each evening, even the pesky possums. But the news that our neighbours had seen an Eastern Tiger Snake in their garden, or 'nake' as Lily would say - is more nature than I'm comfortable with.

Suddenly those ideas that foreigners have about all the venomous beasties that threaten Australians seemed slightly less laughable. My kids run around barefoot all the time, and the weed situation is not (ahem) always kept under control. Plenty of lovely long native grasses, and a nice sunny deck to lie on for any passing snakes. One blind terrier that won't see them and one black pug whose only interest is snaffling dropped food present no threat.

Our neighbours called the 'snake man' who couldn't find it and reassured them that it wouldn't be settling in their garden. It was most likely passing through, kicked out of its creek environment in a territorial dispute, and making its way to the more popular snake habitats of Alphington and Ivanhoe, where gardens are bigger and more likely to incorporate the large rocks beloved of these reptiles. To get to our neighbour's place from the creek it would have had to cross a very busy bike path, two sets of railway tracks and a bitumen road. That blows my mind. I'm a bit 'good on you snake' and a bit 'bugger off and stay by the creek whydoncha?'