Sunday, December 27, 2009

How To Make Boiled Tripe Appealing

Any expert picklers out there? Anyone with the requisite taste for preserved walnuts? I’m in need of serious encouragement. For weeks I have been living with the Mr’s latest venture – a vat of green walnuts soaking in their salty brine. With the post-Christmas lazy days, no-one-out-of-jim-jams-for-24-hours hibernation going on, the Mr deemed it walnut drying time.

Ugh. Be grateful I still haven’t worked out how to blog a smell. It’s a nasty, cloying stench – sweet, with a nasty bitter aftertaste – one you can actually (ok, almost) taste. Like mangoes – with the obvious mangoes-are-delicious difference. Apparently I just need to wait until these delicacies are black and withered and then I get to help demonstrate our ‘try anything once’ policy for the anklebiters. Usually that would be no issue – I happily try most anything, including boiled tripe, (so far the only experience requiring light therapy). This time I’ll be wearing one of these:

I’m counting on unmitigated nasal pain to see me through the whole nasty sensory experience.

PS. After eating a pickled walnut and deeming it delicious, I have agreed to eat everyones’ hat.

PPS. Which guarantees an entirely unpalatable experience either way.

PPPS. I hope your festive celebrations were wonderful and there are long, lazy, free-from-pickled-walnut days to while away...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Many Sleeps?

This last week before the big day, always, always catches me out and every year I promise myself NEXT time I’m online shopping in October. Thing is, I still haven’t tackled the vile shopping centre and there is every possibility that my status as Giver of Dodgy (handmade) Presents Auntie, is soon to become Giver of Petrol Station Chocolates Distantly Related Lady. It’s not that I haven’t been doing stuff. I’ve been busy making piles...

Felty piles:

Postal piles:

Right in the nick of time for the inevitable postal strike.

Actually, that’s what this week is really all about: curve balls. There have been many of a sleep-depriving nature. I’ve been existing on white marshmallows at two in the morning and the Recommended Daily Gelatin Intake has been rocketed off the scales so when my head finally hits the pillow, I’m wide awake on a sugary high. Nice.

So, she’s not the only one who looks like this:

Although I’m not permanently sporting some Atrocity in Pink – worn in an 80s-tennis-player/sweatband style and something best photographed in a blur.

In the meanwhile I have my eyes firmly on the prize. Christmas will be wonderful and overwhelming and manic and noisy and I know by the time evening rolls around, it’ll be kids in bed and the Mr and me slumped in front of our annual DVD ritual. Not that either of us expect to make it through the first without nodding off (although the opposite happened the year we watched 28 Days Later – an appalling choice with all that Christmassy goodwill – and then had to sit into the wee hours, through an inane, straight-to-video flick, which did do the fending off of the nightmares trick).

Happy holidaying and Christmas everyone – whatever you’re doing may it be a glorious day, with much joy and colour and laughter and warmth (especially if you live in the snowy bits).


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drum Roll...

Small print studied (there wasn’t any), official adjudication in place (although he wondered off to make coffee), at 12.10pm my washer-up-er assistant drew the five lucky winners of the Tea Towel Giveaway.

Drum roll, fanfare, etcetera...

1. All names scrawled on to bits of dish cloth:

2. Thrown into the bubbly mix:

3. Swirled around (forever, because this made quite a bubbly mess and was deemed to be the ‘best bit’ of the whole ‘ordeal’):

4. The five lucky winners drawn:

CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS! Please email me at with your address details and I'll have your nominated tea towel quicksticks in the post (for a possible pre-festive washing up arrival).


Try this:

Diana from Searching For Sporadic Surprises
Christina from A Little Bird Told Me...
Vic from Punky & Me
Mrs Smith
Mary (without a blog)

Many thanks to all who entered!

PS. I have a few left over but not a single bit of pre-Christmas inclination to organise that online shop thing. But feel free to email me if you’re faintly interested in a 100% linen, handprinted tea towel at $15 plus postage.

PPS. Now enough tea towel already, I'm off to do some festive fa la la-ing (that would be carolling by candlelight)...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ends and Begins

Bear with me while I have a Sooky Mummy Moment? It’s been a high pressure week of tying things up – amongst it: Christmas card making, school concerts and parties, packing up, festive plotting and conniving, working through volumes of proud kid achievement – until finally it’s Friday and it’s time to breathe in cruisy starts to summer holiday mornings.

Before I do, this afternoon I walked into another Hall of Mirrors, took a good hard look at myself and realised afresh, I am One Wimpy Mama. I am not the mother of a Grade Six kid who is about to spread their wings and try a new adventure. But standing in the final school assembly today, bidding farewell to the ‘big’ kids and some already missed teachers, there were sooky tears, a lump in my throat and the requirement for a seriously concerted effort to hold on to the dignity. I couldn’t believe how those kids had grown. How they stood with their feet on the ground. They looked comfy in their skins. They sang with their arms raised to the stars and you could tell they’d remember this for a while – longer even. So I had a big grin disguising that wobbly lower lip and just like that, the school year is over and summer really has begun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What’s Hot, What’s Not and Who Wants a Tea Towel?

(longstanding Myrtleandeunice preference for bad news first – so as to end on high)

1. Falling off the blogosphere lately.

2. Possibility of Santa no-show. Haven’t tackled Christmas list. Christmas list, scrawled on back of envelope, not sighted for three days.

3. Running out of advent ideas. None of the envelopes have anything in them ahead of time. Three minutes prior to opening, some festive-ish activity-lette is concocted and we all come over Christmassy. Quite a pace to keep for an entire countdown.

• Arriving at realisation that my brain needs a rest PRIOR to inevitable meltdown. Far better to take a January bloggy break and launch a year with energy and clarity, rather than continue this ongoing flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants malarkey all the way into 2010.

• The Afternoon Play on BBC Radio 4. A constant companion while working and current source of sanity. I wish Australian radio did drama as well as the Poms.

• Ability to switch Advent idea at a moment’s notice, thus catering for tired kids, unimaginative parents and a tray full of fundraiser mangoes (‘eat one whole mango each!’ Hooray!)

The Giveaway: Tea Towel Anyone?
I may not have a Christmas list happening, but I have been toying with some of that printing stuff. In festive giveaway style, five tea towels are up for grabs. I’m happy to ship internationally and no need to be a follower or whatnot. Just include which tea towel you would prefer. Printed on 100% linen with a dry sense of humour. I’ll draw the five winners midday Sunday Melbourne time...

Option 1
Wash the dishes
Dry the dishes
Turn the dishes over
(the line that requires a handstand)

Option 2
All washed up and hung out to dry
(a statement which is all about the tea towel and not, under any circumstances, to be taken personally)

Loobylu is the hostess with the mostest for Hot and Nots but it’s quite possible that every other Hot and Not-er is busy doing something constructive – like dealing with the last items on that list...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Still Flying By Seat of Pants (Except On Ice)

Today a special small someone turned one. Friday, a certain someone realised at 4.59pm that Amitié probably closed in one minute. Most fortunately, there was a beyond-the-call-of-duty scenario and this (will I EVER get my act together?) certain someone was able to fashion a Gilbert the giraffe between the festive soiree-ing and the ice skating. At least the skating was pulled off with great aplomb, as the someone remained elegantly-ish upright – albeit with wildly gesticulating wobbling – much to the kids’ crestfallen disappointment.

Even though every opposing seam, other than the one that matters on the top of Gilbert’s head, matches so beautifully I was moved to point it out to the Mr (who grunted faintly), Gilbert does work.

The middle kid roadtested him as part of his Africa scene. While there is a strictly ‘no introduced species’ policy, correct scaling seems not to be an issue and Gilbert was declared to pass muster.

You can buy your own Gertrude, (who’s bigger) and Gilbert pattern by Audrey & Maude from Amitié (and other places). Just so you know, Amitié tend to have their doors tightly closed weekdays at 5pm sharp.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Creative Space

This week the creative space is beside itself with excitement. Somewhere in the last few weeks (following on from that screenprinting course) I was hit by the most brilliant notion. I have managed to secure a temporary-ish studio space. My Grandpa’s revamped workshop at the back of my Dad’s house, is available for my use, in exchange for some finishing touches: electricity, water, er, a back door. Wow.

Weirdly, my Dad acted as though he had expected my call all along. It took not one jot of convincing or negotiation. As I hung up the phone, I was reminded of a Saturday night, 11pm, somewhere in my final year of high school. I had a sudden urgent need to get to a town, four hours drive away, to photograph salinity-affected farmland for a major project. Dad and I hit the road at a quarter past midnight and were back 24 hours later. I reckon my Why The Heck Not? moments are inherited from him.

If the Christmas Shopping Gods are not with me this week, the Table God is. I picked up just the ticket for the princely sum of five dollars. The ink, screens, other bits and bobs arrived this morning and I’m nearly ready to dive in.

Best of all and against all odds, Pa’s workshop still smells like Pa’s workshop. Every time I walk in there, I get this bit of song in my head:

Do you remember that night in September
When we were young and life was mellow.

...which I have just Googled and now know to be completely wrong. It should be:

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.

For the eighteen years I knew him, my Pa whistled, hummed or sang those two lines, most of the time standing at his workbench in his wonky-ceilinged workshop. But I think I’ll stick with my childhood lyric interpretation.

Everything feels just right.

Pop on over to Kirsty’s for the last pre-Christmas Creative Spacers...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Can’t Talk Must Run...

No time for punctuation there’s a Softie for Mirabel flying out the door in a last ditched express postal effort to meet a December 10 delivery deadline some in the house are pleased to see the back of Elsie the Dog by Kate at Two Little Banshees pattern found in the More Softies book while I’m looking forward to a nice cup of tea comprehending that Christmas is on the veritable doorstep that the planned festive craft projects have made like lemmings off the side of the nearest cliff and concluding that living vicariously through the rest of the bloggy world and just popping by for a nice visit is actually all there is on the agenda now phew

Get any of that?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Birth Story (Number One)

OK. Time to put the brakes on. And not only because there was a birthday kid, two rollerblading cohorts, a skateboarding brother and a two year old running frenzied circles inside the house. Grandma Myrtleandeunice was the instigator of it all. It’s not like she keeps her rollerblades in the boot of her car any old day.

Except it isn’t any old day for us. The eldest kid is now eight and my right foot is fumbling for those brakes. Crikey, life happens fast.

Grandma featured eight years ago too. As she was leaving for the airport in Melbourne, I was waking to breaking waters. There was just time to catch her on the phone, warn of a possible airport non-appearance 24 hours later. Poor sausage. She paced the aisle of the plane between Melbourne and Singapore while I wafted back to sleep from the sheer boredom of nothing else happening.

In true first birth style, there were two false-alarm tube trips to St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London, lugging all the informed paraphernalia of labour. This included, but was not limited to, a bucket: to sit on and rock about in circles (truly a ridiculous stunt even when not whale-like), a pillow: for on top of bucket (we were advised of hospital shortages. I’m not kidding) and a bottle of Evian spray mist.

The same Evian spray mist was on hand for the second and then, (pure, bemused habit), third birth. I have only ever sprayed the thing once: during the long haul flight back to Melbourne, because this birthday kid was having a mammoth, pass-out tantrum. I remember wondering if it would calm her down. Pah! This kid calms when she’s ready.

It took much negotiation to steer 48 hours clear of the hospital and avoid the dreaded artificial induction. After Mum’s relieved arrival through customs, she poured raspberry leaf tea down my throat and accompanied lumbering laps around Clapham Common. The Mr prepared hot curries and hot baths. I shake my head and grin to remember how I HAULED MYSELF OUT OF BED THREE TIMES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO PERFORM STAR JUMPS. A memorable visual image. All in the name of beat-the-clock, get-this-baby-moving desperation.

This first birth, so opposite to the last, was pure inexperience, naïveté and foregone conclusion. The Mr and I arriving at hospital, the nagging discomfort of the canula pulling in my hand, the belly monitor tethering, the artificial kickstart to labour. All while trying to balance on a bucket. Although the Mr proved most dexterous at toppling-bucket-wife-catching, the kid refused to play ball. There was more and more and yet more syntocinon until this exhausted, star-jumping, labouring mother finally hit the wall.

An epidural agreed upon and administered before an anaesthetist lunch-break, went agonisingly awol. Failing to take effect on both sides of my body, I lay on my back, half-paralysed, like an insect doing death throes – furious at the anaesthetist’s airy assurances all would be fine in a minute or two.

Through the one and a half hours I writhed and begged for the anaesthetist’s return, I can clearly recall a focus on the window high above the ground and what clearly seemed to me the only reasonable avenue of escape.

When the anaesthetist reappeared to have another go at that epidural, I could not catch my breath between contractions. The Mr must have held his own breath as he battled to hold me still and tight. With the blessed relief of a functional anaesthetic, I was able to calmly but alarmedly watch as my poor bloke fell away in a dead faint.

Twelve hours ticked by, the Mr recovered from his mild concussion and I (apparently) ‘laboured’ through the epidural. When it was time for the scheduled eight o’clock ‘pushing’, I lay helplessly, ridiculously, on my back – waiting for contractions, to ‘bear down’. On what, exactly? With a cheersquad in attendance, I failed again and again. A ventouse called for and the Mr, remembering the birth plan and huff and puff class advice, questioned the situation and asked how necessary this was. ‘Not necessary, if you want a blue, floppy baby’, the response. And so she was born.

A beautiful bundle, surreal to behold. I couldn’t fathom anything of all that had happened. In fact, the fathoming took weeks. The Mr cottoned on much more quickly. He doted and held his sweet girl most of the first day.

The 24 hours, in hospital, after the birth, could not end quick enough. The ongoing indignity of various rushed agency midwives yanking a breast in the approximate direction of a ravenous babe, more of the cheerleading proclaiming the attachment ‘just right’, (so... there’s supposed to be blood?). Even my generally mild-mannered Mum, saw what was happening, came over all feisty and lioness, protecting her brood.

In the end, this baby and me, we worked it out. At home, in the (mostly!) calm. We watched each other for long stretches of time, saw what each was about, understood we are much the same.

Happy birthday, sweet rollerblading, upside-down gymnast, giver of great hugs eight year old.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Place And Yours: Wherever I Lay My Hat, That’s My Home

By the look in your eye I can tell you’re gonna cry.
Is it over me?
If it is, save your tears
For IIIIIIIIIIIIII’m not worth it, you see.
For I’m the type of boy who is always on the roam,
Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home.*

(The Paul Young version because I have lived all this time until five minutes ago, without knowing Marvin Gaye was the original commitment-phobe, singing floozy).

The very lovely Pip is letting me play My Place and Yours Theme Queen this week. In true themely queenly style, I would love to know, what object would you take wherever you roam, because it makes your house feel like a ‘home’?

We can’t all be as minimal as Paul and his hat. During working stints overseas, there were a small number of objects that followed me everywhere. Marrying the Pom and having Kid Number One in London meant there were a few more treasures of sentimental note to ship to Melbourne. That first three months back here was spent living in an empty house shell. A veritable Christmas in July it was, when the boat landed with our belongings. Sure, we were getting along just fine without them all, but after we unpacked, it was amazing how good for the soul it was to have some of our history about the place.

What are the treasures in your house that signify ‘home’? Is there anything that reminds you of a childhood, a life overseas, a loved one? Is there a blanket you always curl under, a teapot that brews the perfect cuppa? Do you have a ‘Droopy Dog’ like that one above – a twelfth birthday present who fits perfectly in the crook of a sleeping kid’s arm and who may or may not have ventured to Europe in a backpack, ahem, three times?

I can’t believe I just ’fessed up to that.

Is there something that always goes up on your wall (the clock, not the husband) no matter where that wall is?

Any supremely breakable thing (only five left) that you would ship back and forth across the world four times, if only because they are just the best for drinking warm milk – and when all the shelves are bare they sing with lovely colour?

Anything that reminds you of a workplace or a time in your life when there was a little more ‘out and about’ and less of the home in time for the eight o’clock kid bedtime?

Do you have an inspire wire or three, usually chock-a-block with the stuff that fills family life: photos, feather collections, arty stuff? Even if it is currently overcome by a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-cos-you-nearly-forgot advent calendar?

Are there some books that are like old friends? Ones that are prepared to wait out the current crochet obsession?

Do you still use something aged because you love the muscle involved in making coffee, the smell of the grounds and the fact that your friend saw it in her parent’s garage and knew it was THE perfect birthday present?

Your turn – what makes your place your home? Pop on over to Pip’s and sign up to play!

* My apologies if Paul Young, is now in your head. At least this time it’s not Galumph Said The Little Green Frog.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Creative Space: Wrong, But Not Wrong Enough

Ages ago, I promised the nearly-eight-birthday kid a Miss Madeline dress. It’s fraught, this sewing for the Anklebiter With Opinion. I’m as confident as I ever could be about the blue fabric, but nothing was working for the contrasting waistband as I waded through the stash last night. In the end, as the Cinderella hour ticked by, I reasoned that this could be a good thing. The kid is into some unexpected colour combination. As a compromise, I went with something that wasn’t terribly wrong but also not that right.

Therein lies my mistake. This is what the kid chose to wear today:

• Bronze Mary Janes/white ankle socks
• Striped mauve/deep purple leggings
• White, green, yellow patterned skirt
• Red t-shirt with pink sleeves
• Light blue, WILL-SHE-NEVER-TAKE-IT-OFF? headscarf.

Ghastly. Still fathoming how she makes it work. Now revisiting stash for anything waistband-ish which is simultaneously fluorescent, striped, polka-dotted, holographic.

Pop on over to Kirsty’s for some easy-on-the-eye Creative Space action...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Best If You Stand On Your Head

11pm last Saturday night and what with one curve ball and another, I still needed a couple of designs for Day Two of the screenprinting course on Sunday. Channelling Sooz and Kate and a certain Tea Towel Swap more than I first realised, this (Australian?) skipping rhyme took my fancy:

Wash the dishes
Dry the dishes
Turn the dishes over

(I’m betting there is but an odd reader, of the oddest kind, standing on their head).

Then there was a speedily cut leaf-ish stencil...

...and an experiment using one of the critters from one of my cards:

So after completing that highly successful Stop Procrastinating Now! course, then waiting nineteen years to get my act together, guess what? I came home. This Myrtle And Eunice is not done with screenprinting.

WHAT. TOOK. ME. SO. LONG?!?!?!?!?

(There’s a moral in there somewhere).

PS. I promise I’m not letting any cats out of any bags – these aren’t for the swap.
PPS. Unless I hit a brick wall, in which case I hope like heck March is far enough away for these to be long forgotten.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Supporting the new addiction...

...with the slightly-less-new hook addiction. Passenger seat crafting of the birthday kind. Crocheted, buttony hair ties for embellishing the celebratory pressie. You can whip up two of these in the time it takes to get from my place to Myuna Farm (where there is a veritable world of under-eight birthday partying previously unbeknownst to moi).

More speed, less haste on the way home. I have three up my sleeve for next week. Which is a great help because there’s a birthday girl dress yet to begin. Yikes!

Christmas? Did somebody say Christmas?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Creative Space: Design For The Bin

Nineteen years ago, I was tossing up between two short courses offered by the Centre for Adult Education. The first was an intensive screenprinting course and the second was titled Stop Procrastinating, Now! The best solution, I wisely figured, was to deal with the procrastinatory issues and then dive headlong into the messy stuff with ink. Pah! Last Sunday I finally got around to the first of that two day screenprinting course.

This Sunday is all about using some processes and learning to fly – a bit. We have homework – a design to prepare. I am awful without a brief. All the possibilities, all the prediction and second guessing over which solution will be earth-shattering, world-changing, climate cooling. Can you hear the dreaded, debilitating, ugly, perfectionist gene rearing it’s head after a long, (prompted by kid arrival and necessity), sabbatical? The self-sabotage version follows closely behind. With only two days to vaguely test the screenprinting waters, you’d think I’d cut myself some slack and get on with it.

I have endless ideas and none of them the ‘one’. My Mum, who knows nearly everything, has advised me to ‘design for the bin’. Enjoy the process, expect some disaster, shout out loud at the wins, embrace the happy accidents, see the curve balls. Learn. Inspired by this (sign up now!) Swap*, I ordered an excessive thirty linen tea towels. A tea towel provides at least a bit of a brief. Thirty blank canvases of potential. Or not.

I’m giving it a whirl.

* Fear not, fellow Swappees, these are for practise play only (we have a lot of wet dishes).

Hop over to Kirsty’s to see some no-pussyfooting-around Creative Spaces...

EDIT: 100% linen tea towel ‘blanks’ available from here!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Place And Yours: My Collection

There was, up until last year, a skeleton* in my closet. He belonged to the Mr and migrated all the way to Australia from the UK only to be given up for some paltry sum to a worthier cause. I miss reaching past him to find my clothes and sharing a moment of closet irony, although the fallen-off fibula was wearing thin – always rolling out the opened door.

There are other body bits around the house. The collection of dolls eyes bought by my father-in-law...

Macabre and beautiful.

Or just plain weirdy.

There is also a pair of right legs. During an eighteen month stint freelance designer-ing for The Body Shop in London, there was an attic clear out. How could I resist body parts from The Body Shop? The Tube ride home was memorable. Many will understand that Oxford Circus station is slap bang in the middle of things and somewhat bizzy at rush hour. There we were, squished like stand-up sardines, all winter coats and damp Evening Standard newspapers. Me holding my legs in the air. There was much carriage bewilderment. In true middle-of-winter, London style, no one said a thing.

We’ve yet to unearth their destiny. At the moment they make excellent swords for playing Knights and look alarming when stuck to the ceiling. Mostly I like ’em because they remind me of a time a long way away.

Thanks to the lovely Theme Queen Kate – and pop on over to Pip’s to find a veritable collector’s paradise...

* Not a real skeleton. A medical model, to clarify.