30 January 2013

Warning Signs

Warning! Please be alert that if you are Listening to these albums the song aren't ALL in the right order. Thank you. 

Missing!! Mr Popanally's sword! the original one! Its very sad and we want it back! Please look for it! It looks like this: it's actually really much smaller than that.  If you find it then Deliver it to: Ruby and Nina's Room or if you see Nina give it to her.  Sorry I'm in a Hurry.

Bonjoir mersier. us girls we NO talk your laungage. please take us to cafe and get us a prase book. Thank-you

Dear Mrs Slencer, I am awfully sorry about Kaitlin I don't know whats come over her. Shes locked herself in her room and I've been knocking on the door for about half an hour now.  She can't run away because the window in her room is awfully stiff but I will give her a note to tell about what you said.  Thanks Miranda Buckley.

Missing Miffy 'Four'  block.  These were the letters written on it. FGH.  If you find please return to "the playroom", "Ruby and Ninas Room" or "Grace and Lily's Room" which ever ones closer.  Thankyou.  Please sign if you have read and LISTENED To!  Pens  Look down!

A phrase book might be more practical if you don't talk the language, but a praise book might also come in handy.

29 January 2013

New Frontiers

Grace's rocket to the Moon

Grace starts school this week.  It is a new frontier for her, but not entirely unchartered territory.   The whole school routine is so familiar to her, having watched her two older sisters make their way through it over the past four years.  There are moments of anxiety (getting sent to the principal looms large which is kind of a joke, given the relaxed nature of the school she is attending), but she is otherwise largely unfazed by this particular milestone.   She'll dutifully agree that she is looking forward to it, when questioned by grown ups, but I am not convinced that she feels either excitement or dread.  It is simply something that is going to happen, in the way that things do, when you are five.

I know I will miss her on the days I am home without her. She and Lily are a tight little unit when their big sisters are not around and I expect that starting school will see some change in that, as she moves into a different world, makes school friends and perhaps has less time for three year old play.

Lily starts three-year-old kinder too, and though it will only be two three-hour sessions, I have some significant doubts about how ready she is. My other girls have all been near the oldest in their classes while Lily will be one of the younger ones, with all the consequential 'younger' behaviour: still not great about sharing; inclined to resolve issues by going the whack; more than willing to scream to get her own way. I guess three-year-old kinder teachers are used to all that. Anyway I've always thought that the point of three-year-old kinder is for kids to learn how to be out in the world with other kids without their parents mediating every encounter. Forget alphabets and numbers, there are far more important lessons.

28 January 2013


I needed half a metre of Kona Charcoal to complete a quilt I'm making as a gift. My local fabric store has a $10 minimum spend before you can use eftpos and I had no cash on me. The half metre of fabric cost $6 so I needed to spend another $4 to put in on my card. I searched around the bargain table and found this fabric which I thought would work for an apron for Lily. It seemed very kitcheny and a bit 50's to me, which I always think of as a high water mark of apron wearing (I'm thinking Marion Cunningham from 'Happy Days'), though I confess to being an apron wearer myself.

When I first started sewing my friend Paula gave me a lesson and we made two little aprons for Ruby and Nina who must then have been four and two (Do you remember that Paula?). We still have those funny little aprons, made out of improbable materials that I had to hand, like faux suede and calico, though they no longer fit. I made Grace a groovy orange apron with a striped pocket similar to the aprons in this post but somehow I'd never got around to making an apron for Lily.

Half a metre turned out to be more than enough. I could have made two if I'd used a different fabric for the ties.

Lily loved her apron and the other girls were pretty keen on it too and requests were made for new aprons all around. The next day I got an email from my fabric store alerting me to a 10% off sale they were having that very day. It all seemed serendipitous and so different colourways were chosen and purchased. I sewed up these aprons, varying the design a little from Lily's to make the gathered waist line wider than the top. These took a bit more fabric. Grace's used half a metre and the others three quarters of a metre with some remnants.



The new aprons then led, unprompted, to a desire to cook. My friend Meredith had given the girls 'The Silver Spoon for Children'a few years ago. This is a really excellent cook book for children as it is aimed at children cooking by themselves and it takes them through every step in order and with clear explanations so that they have their pot of water boiling away while they then go and chop veggies or whatever. The recipes are simple but not 'kids' recipes. They are actual dishes that I would want to eat. Ruby wanted to make risotto, a very simple one with cheese and saffron, and she wanted to do it all by herself. I'm rapt to see her chopping onions properly. (she wore goggles to keep from crying)

Nina decided to make pumpkin damper. I cut the skin off the pumpkin for her, but she did the rest. (the recipe was from the internet)

Grace and Lily 'made' jelly from a packet.

So, what started as a quick trip to the shop to finish a quilt, ended four aprons and one very tasty dinner later. I realise that the fun for the kids was definitely doing it by themselves without my interference and I am keen for both the interest and the independence to continue. I'm not great at not interfering so it is a big challenge for me, too.

20 January 2013

Flopsy Cat

After the success of Peanut, Grace wanted to make a toy of her own.

We used an old wool knit top of mine that had laddered beyond repair.

I helped her (a lot) with the machine sewing, and sewed him together. She did most of the stuffing and most of the face embroidery.

She is justifiably thrilled with him.

19 January 2013

Feeling Clever

I'm feeling clever tonight for two reasons. One is that I had to go to Sydney on Thursday for work, and thus missed most of a 41 degree day in Melbourne. And the other is that I didn't have to go to Sydney on Friday and thus missed entirely a 45.8 degree day there. For everyone in Sydney, my deepest deepest sympathies. That is a ridiculous temperature.

On the day that was not 45.8 degrees in Melbourne, we headed to the McClelland Sculpture Garden. I got the idea from Suse who had mentioned it in this post. I can't believe I've lived nearly all my life in Melbourne and have never been. It is a fantastic place to go with kids. We spent 4 hours there, including a picnic lunch, and didn't see it all. We had to leave eventually as the kids were tiring and Lily was refusing to walk any further.

At every turn there was something to surprise or confound or delight. The kids said more than once 'it just keeps getting better and better'. They were particularly taken with a working traffic light stranded on a bitumen island in the middle of the bush.  The red man laughing at the pig is enormous, as is the sea urchin of recycled bike tyres.  The yarn tree provided a place to rest and ponder just when we needed it.   It is lovely to watch kids around sculpture;  they respond so naturally, without analysis or artifice.  The day was hot and cold and wet and sunny.  Typical Melbourne day.

17 January 2013


Nina drew a picture of her 'dream dog' and called him Peanut. Then she wanted to make him. I had misgivings; she had a very definite idea of how he would look and it seemed complex to render him in 3D. Nevertheless we tried.

He is far from perfect but you'd have to agree he is pretty cute.

Then, while I was busy with other things, she worked for a couple of hours on a 'headdress' for him. It's a 'professial headdress'. Peanut's great grandfather was, apparently, a professor. The headdress has been handed down to the eldest in the family, all of whom have been professors, until Peanut. He is the youngest in his family and not a professor, but luckily the 'P' on the back works for Peanut too.

This story was all worked out as she stitched and cut and sewed. The only input I had was to hammer on the press studs.

Add caption

Now there is a Peanut stick puppet. Perhaps he'll be 2013's Mousie Brown.

15 January 2013

Getting back in the Groove

I haven't sewn a stitch or picked up a knitting needle since the night before Christmas. I repeated a decision I made last year to take books rather than crafts away on holiday.

Since we got back I've been at work and catching up on the business of the house, including an oven that is on the blink for the third time in as many months. At what point does one decide that fixing it is throwing good money after bad? I hate just getting a new thing when an old can be mended, but I have already spent almost more than a new oven would cost. I just don't know when or where to draw the line. Maybe this latest thing to break will be the last thing and I'll get 10 more years out of it. Or maybe it will just be the latest in a list of hundreds of things that could go wrong. It's already had a new element and a new cut out switch and a new suppressor and a new fan belt and I really wish I knew something about ovens....

Anyway, after several weeks of not making anything other than the occasional dinner, Sunday presented the time (only one child was home) and space (the 'dining' room still cleaned out from Christmas) in which to start a new project. It was so enjoyable to spend a few hours with my hands on fabric again.

Nina worked on her own little project which inevitably required a lot more help from me that I had hoped. Not that I mind helping her, but the things she chooses to make are usually tiny and frustrating. I wish I was a kinder and more patient teacher. At some point when we sew together I usually mutter something grumpy about the miniscule or impossible design she has envisaged. She finished it today and I'll show it when I get around to taking some pictures. It's pretty adorable.

I am disturbed by just how quickly the dining/sewing room descends into a state of chaos.

13 January 2013

The Christmas Dresses

I finished all four dresses, and though they were a very rushed job, and it shows, they have been by far the most successful in terms of being worn. Lily, who one could politely term a fickle dresser, loves hers (it's the front one in the photo above) and literally wore it every day we were away, and sometimes at night too. Luckily it is a very light Japanese lawn which dries in minutes so I could actually wash it occasionally. She chose her fabric and also requested that it be long sleeved, which makes it a perfect light cover in Summer. Her friend Gully asked her why she always wore the same top, to which she scathingly replied that it was a dress, though it is rather short.

Grace also chose her fabric and decided on details like that she wanted pockets and elastic at the sleeves. I gave up trying to keep the dresses a surprise  I really love this fabric and was pleasantly surprised that she chose it.  I don't always have luck letting the kids choose their own material.

One issue I have had with Grace's dress is that because the fabric is so thin, it has ripped where the pocket attaches, presumably from her putting her hands in the pocket and putting strain on the seam.  The seam held but the fabric tore.  Any suggestions for avoiding this?  Is there some sort of reinforcement I should be using?  It hasn't happened with Nina's which has very similar pockets.

Nina's dress

Lily's dress
Lily's dress is the same fabric in a different colourway as Ruby's dress from last year (which is now Nina's dress and which actually was always a tad short - another reason I decided not to keep the dresses secret so I could do proper fittings)

Ruby's dress (with creases from packing I couldn't be bothered ironing out for the photo...)
All the dresses are a very light japanese lawn and all from Spotlight apart from Nina's apples which was from Rathdowne Remnants.

I didn't have patterns for any of the dresses and basically copied dresses they already have that still fit and modified them all somewhat.  They really are not very polished pieces (although I did do French seams given how light the fabric was) but I do feel that I am getting the hang of how garments are put together, even in my very rough fashion.  They all actually look quite a bit better on than they do on the hanger.  Grace's and Nina's especially are a smock-like style which doesn't hang well.

And, even if they are less than perfect, they are worn and appreciated, which is so much more satisfying than making something than no one will put on.

11 January 2013

More Things to Do When you are Bored in the Holidays

Make plasticine food and sell it to passersby.

There's a buck ninety coming your way RSPCA.

10 January 2013

Things to Do When you are Bored in the Holidays

Draw cuts and bruises on yourself and your siblings and take photos of them;

Please note that no children were actually hurt during this activity.