29 May 2014

The Old Pug

Old Winnie; sun seeker, lap dog, clicky nails on the parquetry floor.  She cocks her head and turns her opaque eye to me, hoping for food.

27 May 2014

Crime and Punishment

When I was a child I was obsessed with robbers, and believed that they came to our house every night, not to take anything, just to lurk in cupboards and freak me out.  So I was amused to see Grace's weekend entertainment: this 'Robber Weekly' magazine, which kept her amused and chortling to herself for quite a few hours.

I love the names she came up with: John Dickly, Thomas Stoe, Dick Beensly, Marshel Owen (the only female robber in the band), Oscar Pleed, Matt Tissly, Joe Deen and Marct Tistoe.  Don't they just sound like a list of convicts?

The Punishments 'Stay out in the cold with no food; Stay with me but no food: Do chores for me'.

And the Crimes: John Dickly stole the boat that peapol were on and sank it.  Thomas Stoe stole the line of 'i's (family joke).

25 May 2014

The Harvest Festival

With the run of warm weather we've been having it's hard to believe that winter is nearly here. Our annual harvest festival seems to be getting bigger each year. As well as soup and pumpkins there were also pizzas, preserves, cheeses and wines.  There was lantern making and face painting and drum lessons, story telling and dancing. There was the annual veggie sculpture which is always a great display of creativity. But I didn't really see any of it as I was so busy setting up and running the craft stall. I couldn't properly capture the 'tree' I made out of a branch of our neighbour's fejoia tree, for displaying handmade (& knitted!) necklaces. Despite what I considered the aesthetic success of the tree-as-display-stand, it didn't work very well as an actual showcase. The necklaces only sold once I took them off and put them front and centre on the table. As always it was interesting to see what did and didn't sell.  Elizabeth made a bundle of poi in great fabrics and they walked out the door.  Wooden Mine Craft figures that hadn't sold at the fete were incredibly popular today. Scarves and beanies did well, as always, but hand knitted jumpers didn't do much business, even at the absolutely bargain basement price of $12. Admittedly many were in small sizes that wouldn't fit school age kids and all had been donated by various grandmas. We rely on the kindness and productivity of these women, many of whom are only peripherally linked with our school. They make the bulk of the beanies and scarves and countless bags, knitted teddies and other goodies that form the backbone of our stall. 
I had the heartbreaking task of telling a little girl that the 10c she proffered wouldn't cover the $10 price tag on her chosen item. She looked in confusion at the number 10 on the coin and back at me as I tried to explain the difference. 
Martina made beautiful patchwork scarves out of old jumpers and did an equally beautiful job selling them off. Sarah bought up big and then dropped her bag and smashed a jar of beet root preserves that was also in it. Why did it have to be beet root? Clear popular winner of the day was the $1 lucky dip which we used to move some items that have been lingering round the stall for a few fetes and festivals now - mostly badges and brooches and other little things. 
Poor Lily found the day a bit exhausting. By late afternoon she'd had enough and the uncomfortable plastic chair was as good as it was going to get for a nap. Next year no doubt she'll be racing around as a little preppie herself but today she didn't leave my side. It was nice to have her there. 

22 May 2014

Meredith and Joan and Julie - a collaborative quilt

I'm not the neatest worker

My friend Meredith lives in Berlin, makes things, has a fine eye, studies German, cooks delicious food, explains colour theory, gets organised. She flew back home to see her dying father, arriving just in time to say goodbye. Afterwards, sorting through the accumulations of a lifetime, she kindly thought of me and brought me a bag of fabrics and cottons belonging to her late mother, Joan. I never met Joan, but I'd heard of her thriftiness and industry. She made all the clothes for her family, taught Meredith to sew at age three, and didn't like to waste a thing. In my bag of goodies were bundles of fabric, carefully rolled up with other fabric scraps that Joan had obviously thought might work well together. Some of the fabric had labels: 'good white shirting';'cesarine or sail cloth, washable easy care'. Some was packaged for charity sale, carefully measured down to the inch.

It was a challenge to see if I could make something from these fabrics that felt true to their heritage - something that wouldn't be out of place in Joan's house perhaps - and that also pleased me. This is what I came up with.

Liberty print backing
'Cesarine or sail cloth'
'Good white shirting'

The only fabric not part of Joan's stash I used was a bit of white from some old shirts of Craig's (I feel that Joan would approve) and some linen for the binding.  It feels like a collaborative effort and will shortly be making its way to Berlin where hopefully it will provide some memories of home, family and friends.

19 May 2014

Back to the 50's

Kinda hard to recreate the 50's in a Federation house.
The Chocolate Game

This is what they're all hoping to get a bit of....
The Cake.  Yes, I know. But it tasted fantatsic and every singles skerrick was eaten.  That's mango swirl icecream there.

When Ruby and Nina were little I thought I was pretty clever to have had children born two years and one day apart. One party, all the friends and family catered for in a single event, easy peasy. Of course the parties weren't actually that easy peasy, and by the time Nina was in kindergarten the sorts of games and activites that were suitable for 4 year olds didn't really cut it for 6 year olds. And thus ended joint birthday parties.

But now, doing parties on back to back weekends is, I admit, pretty tiring. However low key I think it'll be, it always involves at least a major tidying the house (and clean up of my sewing room whihc is also our dining room - not a small task), a fair bit of thinking and planning for games and such and quite a bit of cooking.

Because Nina was born the day after Ruby I always feel a bit guilty that her birthday comes in the wake of the previous days excitement and treats and cake and goodies. So I do try pretty hard to make sure that Nina's party doesn't feel second best, or like an after thought (even though one year we did delay it by six whole months.....).

This year I reckon we put on a very good show. Despite what I said in the previous post about not focusing much on the decorations, Nina wanted a 50's theme (we've been watching 'Grease', that's the only explanation I can come up with) and decorations seemed the only way to make that theme actually resonate. I couldn't think of much about 50's culture itself that I really wanted to replicate in party form. So we played Elvis and decorated with polka dots and bunting and the kids got decked out in skirts and bobby socks and that sufficed.

We played old fashioned party games, most I remembered from my own childhood - the chocolate game, passing the life savers toothpick to toothpick, musical statues, hot potato (our reverse sort of pass the parcel which avoids the need for a billion layers of wrapping paper) and various team games. I'm always pleasantly surprised by how much kids, even sophisticated kids with lots of technology and entertainment at their fingertips, still love party games. Warms my heart. The cake was, of course, the standard ice cream cake with lollies thrown on it. I swear these are getting worse with each party. Pretty soon they'll just be a carton of icecream and the guests can add their own lollies. I'm not sure that anyone will care much.

13 May 2014

Cafe De Paris

Ruby turned eleven last month, but her birthday was during the school holidays and we didn't get ourselves organised until this past weekend to have a party.  Unwittingly I organised it on Mother's Day, but I like to think that I gave the other mothers the gift of a few hours alone while their off-spring pretended to be in Paris for the afternoon.

Ruby has long had a fascination for Paris.  I rashly promised to take her when she is sixteen and that won't be a terribly painful promise to keep.  I turned 18 in Paris and that is the last time I was there, sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur, trying to smoke, trying to be cool, with my glamourous friend Susan who had moved there to study, and feeling like anything was possible.  Hard to believe that was 25 years ago.

Anyway, her party was 'afternoon tea at the Cafe de Paris'.  We had macarons and eclairs and 'champagne' and petit fours, as well as party pies and cocktail franks and entirely un-French party games, such as the new-to-me 'chubby bunny' (look it up, it is most decidedly not sophisticated), pin the mouth on the Mona Lisa and a blindfolded makeover which produced some hilarious results.  There is nothing quite like the excitement generated by a group of ten and eleven year old girls. 

The cake was the now traditional ice-cream number, hastily decorated with curly wurly bars, maltesers and strawberry and cream 'flowers' at the base.  It didn't look all that flash but it tasted delicious.  And the really lovely thing about kids this age is that they are old enough to appreciate the effort involved and young enough to still be thrilled by the lollies.

I was especially pleased at the costumes we managed to rustle up out of existing clothes and a bit of ribbon I already had.  We only had one beret which went to Ruby, but an old bowler hat, french braids and a moustache gave a frenchish air to the others.   Lily went as a mime.  Perhaps it was the mask of face paint, perhaps it was because she was meant to be silent, but she was suprisingly chatty and confident, playing all the games and even holding hands with some of the guests - very unusual for our Lil, master of the baleful stare, the dirty look and the pouty lip.

I'm getting these birthday parties down pat now.  I'm learning where it pays to expend energy (orgnise the games and activities, have yummy fod that will get eaten) and where it doesn't (decorations, fancily decorated cakes).  Even given that Ruby and Nina shared a party for the first 7 years, I've still hosted 25 birthday parties, with another one this weekend.  I guess I should have figured a few things out.

06 May 2014

Tiny happy people

I've become a little bit obsessed with these tiny little wooden dolls lately. It's something about the very easy versatility of the wooden form - a few dots and a dash, there's a face, a lick of paint for a dress. It's also something about the little scraps of felt or lace or linen that it takes to make them undressable.  Nothing is quite so frustrating as a glued-on hat to a child. But truthfully it's just the tinyness of it all. I'm rediscovering my lifelong love of the titchy tiny, a love I had largely shelved until I had children.  Nina's thrill over (for example) the mini toothpaste you get given on airplanes, reminds me of my first visit to Southeast Asia and where I discovered pharmacies full of tiny products - mini shampoos and tiny packets of band aids and single cough drops for sale.  I can't really explain why these things are appealing. I can't understand myself why I can spend hours sewing a tiny red linen cape lined in grey with a tiny buttonhole, when I often can't be bothered measuring things properly. Why do I like cutting out tiny autumn leaves, or making miniature cucumber sandwiches but hate making sure my lines are straight? One sort of attention to detail I am all over, the other totally not. 

02 May 2014

Fantastic Mister Fox

I saw a pattern for Felix Fox, by Cynthia Treen Studio at my local fabric stop in Jamaica Plain last year.  How far away and long ago that already seems.  I bought the pattern, meaning to make it for Nina for Christmas but there were visits to New York and Washington and things to do that meant sewing took a back seat.  Also the pattern called for pipe cleaners to be inserted in the arms and legs for positioning and I couldn't for the life of me figure out where to buy pipe cleaners in Boston.

Instead I sewed him up for her birthday - I would have liked him to be a bit more orangey, but the only orange felt available at the time was a bit bright, so he is brown instead.  And for some reason his smart red suit looks rather like pyjamas, but that's okay.

I added the satchel, felt envelop with letter from Mousie Brown, and folder with tiny presonalised pencil and miniature note pad.  This is so very up Nina's alley (and also so very up mine).  I did try to make a cat (but without a pattern) for Ruby, but that is still a work in progress.  My first attempt came out as a possum/rat/bilby cross.  Definitely not feline.