Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eye Spy: Something Soothing

My name is Tania and I haven’t had a haircut in eleven months.

It’s true I hacked at it myself a while back, but only because the last experience was so undignified and awful and inspired such a level of ‘cross’ that I convinced myself that with curly locks no one would ever know. As from today, I have a new ‘do’. And I didn’t fess up to the truth about me and the kids’ craft scissors when the hairdresser looked puzzlingly at the varying lengths of my hair, politely asking where I last had it cut. Because I have also had an end-of-winter-pick-me-up on the colour front, I was at the salon for hours, looking wild and eccentric in public – hair done up in it’s foil squares, (very Buck Rogers in the 21st Century), knitting maniacally.

While the time out ON MY OWN and the knitting bit was soothing in itself, it’s the hair wash that was the best bit. Even though I am 38 and still need to sit on a phone book in order for my head to uncomfortably reach the sink thing. Even though the removal of the foil bits from my hair is always extremely painful and has me doing labouring mother visualisations and breathing exercises, the ninety second massage is worth the preceding hell. Not enough ‘o’s in that kind of sooooothe.

Seventy seconds in, I opened my eyes to check I hadn’t left this earth, decided the cracked, discoloured ceiling in this funky, all-designer-look salon was decidedly unheavenly and closed them again. The last twenty seconds was spent pondering the general lack of attention to salon ceilings (Michelangelo-inspired art anyone?) and feeling sympathy for the owner of the establishment who was either patently in DIY denial or had never stopped to have a head massage.

Despite the pre-haircut similarities, this is neither me, my new ‘do’ or even Chewbacca from Star Wars. This is another member of the family who has a date for a fur-do next weekend. Esme prefers the soothing tummy rub option over the head massage.

Thanks to Aussie Waffler for choosing this week’s ‘Eye Spy’ and Cindy for the hostess-ing with the mostest-ing...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Creative Space: The Germ of an Idea

I keep coming back to Dorothy’s magical red shoes for my Quilt Project square idea. The only glitch is, I haven’t much of a clue how to make it happen. As per usual with this crafty malarkey, it will be on a wing and a prayer – and a steep learning curve of the embroidery (or something) kind...

I reserve the right to decide at the eleventh hour that Dorothy’s magical red shoes are a decidedly bad idea and come up with something entirely unrelated, but nonetheless red.

Click your heels and head on over to the Hostess with the Mostess (of Creatives Spaces AND quilty projects)...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Ten Minute Tidy

I’m pretty sure I have never, ever said this blog was all about the craft. I wouldn’t have thrown myself into that sort of deep end what with everything else going on, plus the steep learning curves, including the very recent discovery of the function of a free motion foot (nothing, as it turns out, to do with Rolf Harris or Jake the Peg).

Recently, my six year old, who has been having an all ’round tough time of things lately, forcefully declared that school was horrible because he hated pack-up time. And so it was, that a piece of straw came from out of the blue and broke this camel’s back. Enough was enough. Time for this kid, this family, to get over themselves and embrace the neat. Neat-ish.

For nigh on the last month we have had an all-in, rowdy, manic, around-the-house tidy, straight after dinner. There is cheerleading, there is coaching, there are (usually) high fives at the end. There is a timer. All together now, everybody: THE TIMER IS OUR FRIEND! Providing everyone puts in real effort, ten minutes is all we do. Sometimes we don’t finish, but when the timer rings, the kitchen is clean, the dishwasher is on, the main living areas vacuumed and toys put away. And for the rest of that day, that is enough.

One night the Mr and I were too tired to contemplate the Ten Minute Tidy. We gave it a miss and after the kids went to bed, we spent a few hours working in the studio. As midnight approached we started a clean up to get us through breakfast the next day. It took us a good forty minutes. Never again. We are heavily into this sort of child labour.

Even though we have been going less than a month, it is a theory that is working on a whole lot of levels:

1. The kids know we are not going to randomly or spontaneously demand house cleaning (= less parent nagging/kid whinging).

2. Ten minutes is long enough to hold small person concentration, maintain some sort of enthusiasm for the cleaning (did I mention the cheerleading?) and still get a surprising amount of stuff done.

3. It’s been good for me learning to let go of the perfectionist gene. Which would I prefer? To have the seven year old wipe down the table and miss a couple of spots? Or have 100% of the table spotless because I cleaned it myself, from now until eternity? An absolute no-brainer. Besides, with all the practise, there are now less missed spots. And, and it’s a big ‘and’ – the kid feels capable.

4. Daily vacuuming may seem excessive, but I am constantly dumbstruck by the amount of sandpit that can be crammed inside a pair of kid shoes. Besides, there has to be some clean-up fun (like watching sucked-up bits whizzing around the inside of the vacuum cleaner).

5. With all that housework done, I can get away with more craft time. I told you this blog was all about the craft.

6. Everyone works, everyone reaps the benefit, everyone appreciates the effort. There’s just a few issues to work through with the two year old Chief Shoe Put Away-er...

Monday, August 24, 2009

She Wore a Starrberry Beret (sing like The Artist Formerly Known as Prince)*

Now with only eight sleeps to spring, I have finally cracked it – the two year old has a winter hat. It fits her, (she looks slightly less bald than in the earlier attempt) and it was roadtested (successfully) over three hours while partying at the park/hanging upside down at bewildering heights, off play equipment intended for eight year olds. Even though she loves party hats she loves her Starrberry beret more.

The excellent freebie pattern is courtesy of the clever Mel at M*. The pattern is adult-sized, but I snuck in some extra decreases and wing and prayer-ed it, also because the (OOOH! Look, now it’s blue! OOOH! Look, now it’s pink!) sock wool bought from Sunspun has become a bit of an obsession. Only not for socks.

PS. There’s an adult-sized Starrberry Beret giveaway going on even as I type. Pop on over to see Mel quick sticks to be in with a chance for your own custom-coloured hatty statement.

* It’s put a smile on my dial and a boogie in my walk, even though I have just woken up the kid. If you are the right demographic (i.e. about my age, you seriously need to go HERE, right now – and turn up that volume to LOUD).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Unproven Theories and Wotnot

I have a theory that one of those island bench wotsits plonked in the middle of a bright airy kitchen is the key to household harmony. After conducting a semi-official survey over the last decade or two, it’s bleedingly obvious to me that the kitchen is the hub of any house. Or at least houses that ooze welcome and warmth: the ones that feel loved and properly lived in. The bit of my theory that remains somewhat untested is that communication with kids – particularly older ones with hormones – works best when it looks as though you aren’t paying attention. There’s always stuff to be doing in the kitchen and an island bench has gravitational pull. I’m betting that it’s entirely feasible to chop carrots and have the simultaneous lowdown on the latest kid saga.

We do not have an island bench wotsit. One day we will. We just need to make a whole heap of space by knocking down three load-bearing walls surrounding the existing kitchen while figuring out how to keep the roof where it’s supposed to be.

In the meanwhile, I find knitting to be an excellent substitute. While it looks like I am immersed in the stitchery (because I still can’t knit without looking), it’s really just a fine motor skill version of sitting in a comfy chair, meditatively rocking back and forth. Good conversations happen around knitting. Although I do have a somewhat alarming tendency to throw extremely direct questioning into the mix, then seemingly submerge myself in a tricky bit of the pattern. The on the road bit of Thursday’s 24 hour road trip was spent entirely knitting and nattering, as was much of the evening huddled around an extremely cosy fire with close friends. Food for the soul. Also a new top for the two year old:

The photographic honeymoon period is over. The kid is now calling the shots. Use your imagination and look at the ingredients here and the free pattern here. I made allowances given I had neither the correct size circulars, nor the appropriate wool and the pattern is for a three to five year old. I just couldn’t go past the variegated sock yarn (with its ‘OOOH! Look, now it’s red! OOOH! Look, now it’s green!’ appeal) and the fact that the entire top is easy peasy, knit in the round and without any of that joinery malarkey at the end. More food for the soul.

EDIT: My apologies, but it seems that the free pattern has turned paid pattern, although sizes are now available up to a child’s 8-10...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Creative Space (Just Like Thelma and Louise, Only Not)

After a week of so-busy-my-feet-have-barely-touched-the-ground-ness, I’m off on a 24 hour road trip á la Thelma and Louise. There are some small differences between the movie and my reality, some of which include:

1. Brett, aka Thelma (or Louise – whichever one did most of the driving) is a pal from way back and a bloke.

2. We’re hiring a car so it’s unlikely to be anything boxy, vintage, American or with road-trip street cred.

3. As far as I am aware, we are not on the run from the law. The sole purpose of my journey is to hang out with another gorgeous pal, (who admittedly spent her youth doing a lot of criminally underage clubbing) and drink non-stop tea on her verandah.

4. The journey is three hours, each way. As far as I could tell in the movie, neither Geena Davis or Susan Sarandon had yet discovered their inner craft. But six possible hours unpunctuated by kid “Are we there yets?” or “I know I didn’t need to go to the toilet five minutes ago when we stopped but now I’m desperate” is too good to pass up. Between navigation duties, I’m starting a top for the two year old based on this free pattern and using that yarn below, even if it does mean frogging one completed sock (ten months on, it’s apparent odd sock issues are too deep-seated to warrant the knitting of it’s pair).

Go visit the Queen of Creative Spaces and see what all those other crafty souls are up to...

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Tangent, Four Coasters

Before I get down to the point of things, this summer, come hell or high water, I’m drinking my first mint julep. It’s a long while since I studied The Great Gatsby in my final year of high school, but by jolly I was smitten. Such is the influence of this book, (despite the tragic stuff – including the bit about a character called Myrtle meeting an unfortunate end), that every summer I frequently, fleetingly yearn for decadence, parties and Gatsby-esque frivolity: everything a mint julep delivers. While I haven’t an inkling what such a drink would taste like, although I am aware it involves whiskey and presumably mint and hopefully not Creme de Menthe, I have conviction that a mint julep really, really would deliver because:

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald tells me so for a whole book except for the end bit when it’s all gone whiskey sour;

2. because I am a basket case after half a glass of anything.

The Point of Things
I finished those coasters I was going on about last Thursday. Aside from an extended and irritating sewing machine conniption, they were a fun make. Problem is, the fun-est bit was the sketching and the thinking of ideas (anything drink related with a fabric detail and a simple outline I could half feasibly navigate a sewing machine around).

The bit involving the actual stichery was fraught with tension issues (mine and machine) and all my spontaneous energy gave way to pulling the machine apart to see if a dust and polish would solve stuff. It did, as it happens, but at a cost. To me, things look a smidge too considered and that one, top right in the pic below, looks a convincing bikini but doubtful ice cubes.

I also reckon they could do with an extra bit of pizzazz(?). Not that the frail winter/spring sun does ’em any favours. I have no doubt they’d look divine, shot on a sultry, summery late afternoon with a background tinkling of pre-party laughter, long shadows, the smell of the sea and after only half a glass of mint julep...

The whole coaster notion was inspired by Tiel Seivl-Keevers, and her lovely versions in the Meet Me At Mikes book...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moving A Mountain

So much for Tuesday’s twenty-two-sleeps-until-it’s-Spring-knitting-storm. Winter is so last season. Spring is right here. Right now.

I know this, because the seemingly permanent geographical feature in our laundry, has been reduced to a mere ‘Two More Washing Loads And Someone’s A Domestic Goddess’ blip. A blustery, twenty-one degree Saturday, was a blessing for this Mum, after a tough couple of days. While I’m not about to shout it out loud or anything, there is therapy to be found in hanging washing on a line, finding the glimpses of sky, the crisp smell of blown about, clean laundry. There is a quiet to be stolen in commandeering the trampoline for folding and sorting and a tiny snooze-let in the sun, camouflaged from the rest of the world by a stack of pyjamas and a teetering odd sock pile.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Creative Space

This week it’s page 86 of the Meet Me At Mikes book, the raw ingredients and some creative thinking via more dead stick drawing. Not because making fabric coasters has anything to do with dead sticks and ink, but because it's interesting scribbling ideas with slightly unpredictable thick and thin ‘stick’ lines and blots of blackness. Every time I try this, my scribbles start out all tight and measured and end up all loose and quirky-like and then my kids reckon I ‘draw awesome’.

You know where to go to see what everyone else is up to this week...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Comedy of (Morning) Errors AND Hearty Thank Yous

You know those mornings when you wake up from the deepest of sleeps and can’t for the life of you fathom what day it is? It sort of feels like a Sunday, so you stretch long and lazily, but freeze mid-way through, because Sunday was only three days ago and BY CRIKEY IT’S PAST EIGHT O’CLOCK AND IT’S ACTUALLY WEDNESDAY AND I FORGOT TO HANG OUT THE SCHOOL CLOTHES TO DRY LAST NIGHT AND ISN’T THERE SOME EXCURSION PERMISSION FORM FOR THE ELDEST THAT SOMEONE NEEDS TO FIND/SIGN (mental note: weigh up advantages and otherwise of teaching kids to forge signature) AND HAVE WE SERIOUSLY RUN OUT OF MILK? WHO HAS BEEN DRINKING THREE LITRES OF MILK?

You know those mornings? That was mine. Just as the kids were digging in to a dried cereal breakfast (the lukewarm water wetting agent option unanimously rejected), there was a knock at the door. Am I the only one who can never answer a door in peace? Must the entire family follow at my heels while the dog provides a rousing accompaniment to every RAT-A-TAT-TAT? I’m not my best on the best of mornings. And I was wearing my You-Can’t-Seriously-Be-Trying-To-Sell-Me-A-New-Electricity-Plan? look. Fortunately for the postie at the door, he came bearing gifts. In a flash, the sun shone, the birds twittered, there was milk in the cereal, we were all dressed and ready to be at school on time.

Thank you, Lauren, for saving the day. And for my giveaway wins of gorgeousness, crafted in a favourite Ink and Spindle fabric:

I have realised I should probably get out more or blog about less. Either I must enter a multitude of giveaways, or I am on a winning streak that should prompt a quicksticks trip to the nearest shopping centre to enter in one of those car raffle thingies. For some recent winnings, my delayed, but nonetheless hearty thanks to...

Daan of MaandagDaandag for bundles of stamped stationery lovelies:

To Grace of Going to Graceland for an excellent shopping/market/quick-throw-the-swimming-gear-in-the-bag, bag:

And to Nicole of Craftapalooza fame for my apple pincushion complete with matching spiky accoutrements. Not only do I feel like a real craftster now, but it has replaced the use of the voodoo pincushion, so I am now, inevitably, a much nicer person. Whole (sewn together) apples and kits available for purchase from the soon-to-be-open shop.

Hope your own day is of the smooth sailing variety and only punctuated by the knock of a door-to-door salesperson if you happen to be in the market for a new electricity plan.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Comedy of (Woollen) Errors

In a last minute sprint to bedeck us all in wintry-hatted goodness (there are now only twenty two sleeps until Spring), I have been knitting up a storm. Selfishly, but mainly because once I’d cast on Brooklyn Tweed’s Porom beret, I couldn’t stop, I concentrated on my own head first. That ended in tears.

The last stitch cast off, I plonked the beret artistically on my head, interrupted the bedtime story and proclaimed “Voila!” Cue peals of laughter. Apparently, and so suspected by my own self for thirty eight and a bit years, I DON’T do beret. Unfairly, the seven year old does. After an all ’round beret try on, with the Mr assuming irritating background artiste-like posings, the eldest kid scored.

My uneasy relationship with wool does not end there. Given the beret was somewhat on the large side for a seven year old, and it still needed to be blocked, I, in my unerring wisdom, spontaneously opted for a shrinkingly hot – not lukewarm – water blocking. Taking great care to avoid stretching or wringing and whatnot, the beret, nonetheless, appeared to grow before my eyes. Still clinging to a dream world, I placed the damp beret over a small salad bowl (as opposed to the medium sized version prescribed by Mr Tweed) and ordered it to make like a Land of The Giants character and shrink.

Voila! The seven year old’s new mushroom costume.*

There’s more. Last night I crocheted two hats for the two year old. With one round remaining on the first version, I realised I’d be lucky to find a newborn for it to fit. Only then did I discover that Vallieskids, the generous supplier of the free pattern, lives in Maine, USA. In Australian language, that would be a hat full of treble, not double crochets. Worse still, the youngest has inherited something of my headgear gene. Even in version two she looks as weirdy as I do in a beret. Had I used a flesh-toned wool she’d look entirely bald and strangely textured.

Snaffled with nary a backward glance by that pesky seven year old...

* any learned wisdom gratefully accepted and heartily appreciated

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eye Spy... Inspiration

This is my inspiration bible. Five hundred and thirty three pages showcasing musings, collections, incongruities, useless information, wit and an art for looking sideways. Alan Fletcher, the late great designer and ‘visual jackdaw’, has featured on this blog before, with the nicest gates this (or that) side of the world and the prompting of some dead stick drawing.

The Art of Looking Sideways looks pretty because Alan Fletcher was a designer. But it’s not a designery tome. For me it’s a springboard to somewhere else. It’s an appreciation for the quirky, the unexpected – for finding joy in the unlikely. Because I can never solve a problem by actually thinking about it, it’s occasionally a book for prompting an around-about-and-upside-down route to a brilliant idea.

Some entirely random samplings:


Never has a scuzzy, chewed-on pencil looked more High Art.

Waste not the dregs lurking at the bottom of your cup.

Ticket stubs collected over many travelling years, possibly with anchovies.

A complete mystery to me since I live with a someone (obviously English) who thinks tea does the same thing as water.

Just. Nice.

The small text says: ‘This is my signature. I always do it slightly differently to confuse potential forgers.’

Go that way.

‘I found this fish on the beach’. Of course he did.

I own two copies.

Inspire on over to Cindy’s for more Eye Spyers...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dream Weaving

TinnieGirl is hosting a celebratory giveaway* and the only catch is that to enter, you need to leave a comment describing your dream. There I am, with the comment thingy up and ready to go (and there is a really nice birdy stencilled painting on offer) and at that point TinnieGirl marches me into the Room of Mirrors. Do I even have a dream? I used to have a dream. Fifteen years ago I was plotting to overtake the graphic design omniverse. Somewhere along the way, I stopped glamourising all-nighters and delegation and administration and started making decisions based on my response to: “will I regret this when I’m sixty?”. Back then, sixty seemed old. For reasons of necessity I’ve nudged that up to ninety, but the theory remains the same.

I don’t have any dreams for big, tangible things. Should I have? I have lots of hopes. Stuff like kids growing up to be resilient adults, comfortable in their own skins. Oh, and for the Mr and I to eventually find more time for the ‘us’ and to not go out for dinner to a lonely fish and chippery along the beautiful St Ives coast in England to eat chips and mushy peas** with sauce in squirty packets at a wobbly formica table while staring blandly over each other’s shoulders and not speaking once – like the seventy-ish couple I saw in the summer of 2001. I hope that even when the Mr and I are that creaky, we opt for the takeaway version and bury our feet in the sand – even it it does mean fending off the feistiest gulls south of the Arctic while arguing over whose turn it is for the crispiest bit of fish.

I don’t seem to spend any dreaming or even waking moments visualising the perfect house on top of a mountain (although I love a nice spot of architecture perched on a hilly bit) and I don’t seem to lust after great fortunes (although I don’t wish to nervously count my pennies or not go to the latest Amitié sale*** if I desperately need a something for an as yet unidentified project). It may well be that I’m a bit busy with the now. Or it could be that I don’t spend enough time gazing up at the sky pondering which direction I could fly.

* You have until Sunday, Cinderella time
** The Mr says, for the record, that he misses mushy peas
*** On now, today, even as I type – until 8pm

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Creative Space

Given there are only 27 sleeps until Spring has officially sprung, it is a somewhat belated realisation that I may just well own a beret-wearing gene. I’m knitting Brooklyn Tweed’s delicious Porom pattern and I. Just. Can’t. Stop. It’s a crafty addiction worse than anything to date. I have crossed a line. The creative space follows me everywhere – so much so that I have my kids on Traffic Light Duty. I can generally squeeze in a few pattern repeats before three anklebiters scream GREEEEEEEEN! GO! GO! GO! in my ear. None of that amber-warning, easing-into-things malarkey for them. The thumping headache is coming along nicely thanks, but so is my new-to-me fashion statement.

Zoom on over to Kirsty’s for more My Creative Space...

PS. Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed is a (gasp!) male (gasp!) knitter/designer who owns a blog oozing woolly style. You can access his patterns via Ravelry.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Odd Sock Club

There’s never a matching pair of anything around here. After tearing my hair out over this for six years, I finally decided it was easier to bring the co-ordinating world over to the dark side. So far the eldest and I have managed to sign up two non-family members to the Odd Sock Club. Every morning at three minutes before school, we have a speedy but nonetheless official meeting to compare the oddness of sockery. Stripes teamed with spots tend to prompt most exuberant high fiving.

Needless to suggest, the transition into this household has been a smooth one for this little monster. Not only is Claire’s pattern uber easy and straightforward, but he is made from ONE sock. Unfortunately the Pope will be converting to a non-Catholic religion before this one is ever likely to be reunited with his twin. Not that he’s bereft of a whole load of cheesy love.

Sock Monster pattern tested for Claire at Craft Schmaft and available for imminent purchase.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Songs In My Head and a Froggy Tutorial

Galumph went the little green frog one day,
Galumph went the little green frog.
Galumph went the little green frog one day,
And the frog went glumph, glumph, glumph.

But we all know frogs go,
La di dah de dah,
La di dah de dah,
La di dah de dah,
We all know frogs go,
La di dah de dah,
They don’t go glumph, glumph, glumph.

(Just one of the many interpretations of ‘Der Glumph’).

Siiiigh. When the lovely Melanie from M* innocently left a singalong comment on my last post, I knew I was in for it. There has been nary a waking moment since, when I haven’t had the above rattling about inside my head, or out and proud in the shower, the car, while making dinner, at the dinner table, etc, etcetera. It’s a catchy tune that has stayed with me for days on end before. The kids also caught the bug. Just when I thought I’d finally moved on to a half-decent Johnny Cash-style rendition of The Gambler, a kid would appear humming galumphs.


Here’s the promised Hot Frog pattern and tutorial. Click here or go and pootle over via the sidebar there.

Or pop over here for the Playschool, Benita Collings and Noni Hazelhurst version of ‘Galumph’. At your peril.

In which case, you’ll be needing to hang out with Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers and The Gambler when you get “too tired to sleep” (because there’s nothing pretty about ‘Galumph’ in your head at three in the morning as you lay staring into the dark).