Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Meet my new best friend and constant companion. The origin of my rant against Amazon. I paid the postage and it was STILL worth it. This is a really good book, and it has hit me at just the right time. I was just lying in that cooking slump where every meal is a complete chore and total bore. As my sister once said, I just want them to invent a new vegetable I'm not sick of yet.

What's so great about this book to me is that it isn't just a whole stack of new recipes, it is an opening to a different cuisine. American food is on the face of it not dissimilar from ours and the recipes are kind of like ones you've used before. But there are some interesting variations in method and ingredients, and even in proportions of ingredients, that mean the dishes all come out startlingly unlike anything I've ever cooked before.

I'll try not to get too diverted on my usual thing about how ironic I find it that America still uses imperial measures (the very paragon of modernity can't make it to decimal! snigger snigger snigger) and say that making sense of the recipes is sometimes a challenge for reasons aside from measures. One of these calls for 12 patty pans, or suggests zucchini as a substitute. Now over here patty pans are something you cook cup cakes in so the mind fairly boggles with what they might be. There are other references I don't get, like some sauces and certain kinds of chillis, but I'm sure I'll muddle through. Me and Google.

But the other thing I like about this is how perfect this stuff is for my current life style. The one pot prepared ahead meal. While I confess my appliances are getting more than their fair share of a workout all of a sudden (these meals are not labour free) I seem to be able to space the cooking out over the day to accommodate Wil and Amy's comings and goings adn still have dinner on the table and extra in the freezer for another day. Tonight was Senagalese peanut, two nights ago Brazilian chicken.

I've been thinking a bit about rejigging our routines, in a similar vein to someone else out there. And now that the little discreet one off job I took looks like turning into something permanent I need to face up to the reality that I have more to do than time in which to do it. I seem to be very attuned at the moment to the pressures of our life and the impact it's having on us as a family. Always hurrying, always crabby, always trying to steal time to chip away at the ever expanding to do list, always taking short cuts. Always eating take away because things really hit the skids at 5pm here and wrangling 2 kids whilst whipping up dinner is just beyond me. And I'm mindful that this is a phase in our lives that won't last forever but it feels good to be making a small inroad into it.

I've also been focusing on getting a few half finished things off the in process list, knowing that the work commitment is going to be ramping up and crafting time will be even scarcer. And because I hate having more than one thing on the in process list. It creates a kind of psychic pressure I have no defenses for. It's easy to jettison something off the to do list (well, relatively easy) but I am a completer by nature so half finished stuff keeps me awake at night. Literally.


I cut out this top for myself about two months ago, before the weather got cold and it has just sat there looking at me all forlorn like. It is made from the most beautiful New Zealand Merino knit and you can't tell from the photos (yes I should have taken more time and care but, you know, I didn't) but it is a deep rich olive. It's been sitting ignored because I haven't had time to even turn the machine on of late, but also because I was a bit stuck on what to do so it was something more than just another plain top.

I'm a clothes conservative at heart, especially when I have a really nice fabric I am scared to waste, but this is not something I like about myself. I long to be a stylish and creative dresser. To wear interesting and unusual things and to take fashion risks. I also want every outfit to work and for there to be a minimum number of things in my wardrobe and no waste. And as a big loud girl I also kind of feel the need to try and make myself be a bit less than I am, to be a bit quieter and more invisible.


How's that for a bag of competing aims?

So here is a plain top with some stuff put on it to make it seem more interesting but not so interesting people might actually look at me. Oh god, you're all looking at me now aren't you? I'm hopeless aren't I? I so lack the confidence of a good dresser.

There's also a bit of doll progress. I may even make Amy's birthday present deadline. Or not.

I took a bit of time off from the to do list and spent a quiet Sunday with my mum. Just one suburb away, but it's like a whole different country. A much richer and more stylish country. Lucky I had a really cute baby strapped to my chest or I may have been ejected.

We walked through the local shops, of which there are not many, but enough to inspire total consumer envy. There are a lot of nice things out there to be bought I tell you. And I resisted everything except a very wee pair of cute shoes for Wil. Photo to come.

I am in love with this wall of poetry, what a fabulous tribute to an obviously much moved person. Community in action.
Despite starting the long and melancholy process of learning enough about my mum's affairs to deal with them on her behalf when the time comes, I had a really lovely day. It was so nice to be out of the way, not looking at the cess pit at home or trying to get stuff done, but still feeling comfortable and easy. Isn't it funny that no matter where my mum lives, even in the places I've never shared, it still feels like home?

We got home in enough time to admire all the work D had done without us there to distract him and now the bathroom actually looks like a room. When the floor goes int tomorrow we'll barely know ourselves. How I love a clever nook.

Amy got a go painting with the roller, which was great and managed to write off her one almost long enough pair of leggings. I really should have done a run of sewing for her winter wardrobe this year but I've been pushing through to make do with last years. My poor neglected girl. Lucky she gets a birthday soon to distract her.

And now I'll go off to feed a poor poorly babe who can't stop coughing and has a stuffed up nose and will no doubt be up all night again.

Friday, 27 July 2007

visiting

It's been a while since I spent a whole day out in the world. Me and the travelling roadshow that is a napping breastfeeding spewing just starting on solids five and a half month old boy. Plus the knitting of course. Hitching a ride with a friend, visiting another, putting a face to a familiar name and catching a life while it's still brand spanking new. I won't make you drool with tales of excellent views and baked goods. That would be mean.

But I will say how I am thrilled in a girlish and (I'd like to think) endearing way every time I meet up with people from the blog world. It still surprises me that anyone wants to meet me or read me and that they don't run screaming once they do.

And I will say that in my experience the strike rate for meeting excellent people through the blog world is considerably better than in everyday life. Not a perfect score but certainly much closer than I get elsewhere. Thank you lovely people, you do restore a girl's faith in the world.

Also a chance to visit the new premises of the felt dealer. This is not so much a shop as a parallel universe. Sandra, you wow me anew with each visit. So much inspiration in such a small space.

Might you need a bit of felt? Here's just a few colours to choose from.
Or perhaps you'd like to make your own felt from rovings and batts?

Or a kit with all the bits to make a felty gnome or woodland creature (or a needle felted car - can you believe that cuteness!)
Perhaps a new felt home or play mat is what you were after,

or some handcarved wooden animals or a teeny tiny wooden pram?

No, of course not. What you really need is a couple of rather large knitted chickens.
Some days the number of things I want to make is just so overwhelming I think I might burst.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

with this ring

There are very few things in my life I am truly wedded to. I've shed my skin quite a few times and often the people who get to know me are given to say things like, is there anything you haven't done? I've always been a person who believes that my life is richest when I am experiencing new things.

Of course on the inside things stay pretty much the same, even if they continue to evolve as I get older and wiser. It's just the outside that can appear new.

I think the only thing I can say has always been there, on the outside, is my family. For seven years now I have worn this ring every day as a celebration of the sisterhood of my family.
Three separate elements representing my mother, my sister and myself are embedded in an imprinted monal medallion and then set in a ring. My sister and mother have subtle variations on the same ring. The artist who made them for us, Marion Marshall (sorry no website), spent a long time talking to us and trying to design something that really captured our relationship as well as us as individuals. I could go on about the stories it tells me, but that's another post.

Given my feelings on the transience of the world outside it's not surprising that I have not married. Both my heart and my head tell me that a good number, more than half, of relationships do not endure and I've always thought marriage was like signing on for a contractual obligation you had no capacity to know if you would be able to fulfill. People who go on loving each other stay together and those that don't should part ways.

I have other problems with marriage for me.

On the church side, I just don't have a meaningful connection with that institution. This is not a statement about my spirituality, it is a much more intellectual thing about what churches are and what they do and how binding I would find a commitment made to it's structures.

On the civil side I see the policy makers' definitions of marriage and cohabitation and de facto and significant other as being increasingly interchangeable. I feel no need, nor do I believe I should have to get married to understand my relationship as real. Perhaps if people who got married really truly did ride the waves of better as well as worse for as long as they both lived, I might see that ceremony as something other than what I do.

D and I have been together for nearly fifteen years and I feel more committed, more wedded to him that ever. Maybe if I felt trapped by marriage during the times when we have found it hard to work together I might have left. But I haven't and I am aware that each and every time we choose to work through a bump in the road we do it because we believe in each other and what we are together.

And if ever I had any doubts then having Amy changed that. We may not have married but we now have a living breathing commitment to each other in the form of our children and no matter what comes or goes from here on out, we will always be a part of each other as a consequence.

So when Amy was born D commissioned this ring for me (also from Marion). I love every thing about this ring. It is solid and heavy and strong and tells the story of how two parts come together to embrace a whole new element. A perfect fit. Showing great foresight he had it designed so I could add another ring above it should our union be blessed again.

So I've had the pleasure of not just acquiring another ring to celebrate Wil, but of thinking through what Wil means and how our union has evolved. And I love this piece to bits. It is made by Yuri Fujiyama (purchased here. drool drool) and inspired by Japanese sashiko, which I didn't know when I picked it out but which, given my obsession for fabric and Japan seems entirely predestined.

I look at this and I see the way I have softened, the way organic forms have taken over the hard lines and careful geometry of my pre-child life, the way things are all about layers on layers of different elements glimpsed here and hidden there. But the basic elements, the raw materials are still all there, just in a new configuration. Yuri writes that her pieces are light and yet durable and that's so much more how I see D and I these days. So much less of a burden on each other and yet so much more strongly bound.

So we haven't had a ceremony and I haven't worn the dress and we haven't re mortgaged our home for all our friends to eat rubber chicken but...you know, these rings and all they represent are my daily reminder of what I am wedded to. And I am as happy about that as any bride could be.

Monday, 23 July 2007

parallel lines

I have two quite different posts jostling about in my head. For a couple of days they've both been turning over and playing leap frog for who comes first.

In truth they co-exist.

The first one goes like this.

My life is currently filled with this,

this

and this.
Weekends spent amusing an almost five year old with jumping castles, birthday parties, dress ups,
and trips to the sky.

There's also a lot of pleading to 'do photoing' by this one

but it's hard to complain when she captures this view of the boy that I wasn't paying attention to
(and don't I look like the sad and tired old bag I am?)

It means I am spending a lot of time looking at this

and this

and in the process ruining my neck and back because even though Wil isn't big for his age, he's too freaking big to be hanging round my neck for hours on end every day but he's so much better behaved this way that like generations of mothers before me I am sacrificing myself, my health, my SANITY for the happiness of my children. Excuse me while I adjust my freaking halo.

This doesn't stop me sneaking moments to admire other people's mother's in law's (I am sure I have made at least two grammatical errors there, perhaps three. Stuff it.) fine crochet work on the sly and taking photos of it over the head of said boy.

(I have a growing obsession with crocheting a blanket, but that's a whole other post. So is my overuse of parenthesis.)

And my mum and sister just got home from a wee jaunt to Vietnam where it was STINKING HOT and the fabric flowed free - linen and silk for this lucky girl.

Lord alone knows when I might ever have the chance to sew it into anything. But I can still dream.

There was also this totally amazing little bit of whimsy.

A perfectly balanced little dragonfly bobbing on a single point. Love it.

Since they got back there's been some other stuff going on, some dark and scary stuff, some sad and humbling stuff. Some stuff perhaps I shouldn't post about, but which, well, is just too big to ignore. I can't bring myself to talk about it in real life because I don't want to deal with other people's thought and fears and advice. For now I'm just trying to work out how to be with it.

The other post goes something like this.

My mum gave me all her knitting needles and crochet hooks on the weekend, and her collection of buttons (quite a few of which I remember from my childhood - like the upholstered buttons from our old armchairs, before they were recovered in the seventies...).

Such inheritances are normally a cause for celebration, for hilarity and memory trawling - oh god I remember the coat these buttons came from, I remember when you bought those needles for knitting that hot pink bat-wing jumper I had in the eighties...guffaw guffaw chuckle chuckle.

But it is hard to be happy about this windfall.

You see my mum gave me all this stuff because she can't use it anymore. She is losing her sight. Very quickly. Not in that gee I'm getting older and needing better glasses way but in that I woke up this morning and I can't read the paper anymore way.

In that I have a disease kind of way. Macular degeneration to be more precise.

We've known for a long time this was coming, and for years she has been seeing on borrowed time, defying expectations by retaining decent sight for much longer than expected.

And all of a sudden it has started to bite and everything about her life has changed. No matter the forewarning we've still been taken by surprise.

The end of her knitting career is hardly the greatest concern facing her but for some reason this little thing has really hit me. I mean it goes without saying that this must be a truly terrifying and distressing time for her, that starting to lose her independence, dealing with her vulnerabilities, facing her mortality must loom large for her every time she goes to do something she has always done without even thinking before remembering that she no longer can. It must be infuriating and devastating to look at a face she knows so well and have it no longer make sense.

And I can't even imagine how alone and scared she must feel and there aren't words for how much I wish I was able to do something and how willing I am to do what I can. How much I treasure her.

We are problem solvers my mum and I. We put aside so much to set to the task of working out what comes next, of how to develop systems and get advice and arrange things so we can keep going, so adversity doesn't lay us out. And she's doing it with gusto and it seems to be keeping her, me, us, from falling into the abyss of knowing where it is we are really heading. From regressing to the little girl who sees God in her mummy and can't cope with knowing it ain't so.

I can imagine solutions to so many of the problems blindness brings, to getting around and having things fixed and things read, because it is the work of the mind that counts and however compromised a solution, the reading and writing and doing can be outsourced to a large degree. But the making of stuff is where the mind and the hands and the eyes are as one. I try to imagine a life without knitting, without sewing and making, but I can't.

That collection of needles, bent and worn, with the odd ones and the ones missing their ends and the buttons that are reminders of projects past make me so very sad. Because, well because there is no solution for not being able to knit and sew anymore is there?

I am not a highly visual person and how I understand the world and read people and think about things owes more to concepts than images. I am sure for other people the idea that they may not be able to see the faces of their loved ones, or a beautiful sunset or work of art is a thought too painful to bear. But I think for me, when my genes kick in and the world has started to distort and look strange it will be the needles and sticks I'll be looking to find a good home for and restless hands I will have to confront.

For now I will be setting myself the task of not just looking out at the world, but really seeing it too. And trying to better understand what seeing really is.

Friday, 20 July 2007

the rails

Things aren't gelling well right now.

The knitted doll project is just one problem after the other. I think I got the pattern mostly right despite instructions seemingly designed to confuse, but the sewing up is a disaster. The pattern implores me to use three needle cast off or crochet slip stitch instead of conventional sewing up and I liked the idea of a lovely uniform seam. The pattern is also adamant that Ineed to sew up with wrong sides facing.

But I just don't get it. I don't have live stitches so three needle cast off requires me to pick up a gazillion stitches, perfectly evenly around small irregularly shaped knitted pieces. So I tried crochet, but I get a seriously raised ridge across the seam, and I can't seem to get the tension right so the seams pucker. I've had to redo them quite a few times and clearly the whole thing is headed for the disaster zone. Maybe I should just go the regular kind of sewing up?

So I switched projects. Not a habit I promote, since the abandoned project usually ends up permanently binned, but since I switched to a sewing project rather than another knit I figured that would be OK. So I'm making a doll and it is not being kind either. Suddenly all the little finishing details seem to be getting me down and going wrong.

And both these projects are ones I have been looking forward to and trying hard to make time for and feeling confident about. So having them both go pear shaped really sucks.

So after a couple of nights looking forlornly around for something to occupy my hands that will not compound my feelings of failure and frustration I decided it was sock time. Only I still can't seem to find a good pattern and I saw one on someone's blog really recently that was perfect and now I can't remember where I saw it...so the Colinette Jitterbug has gone back in the bag. Sigh.

Thinking through this mozz thing I went back to what I think is the best method for shaking the mozz. Do something quick and easy.

So out came the 127 Print. I originally bought this to make Wil's hoodie, but then Simmy sent me some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and that was a done deal so I was left with this mini stash awaiting an aran weight project.

We have so loved the baby yoda I knitted from this pattern in the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino that I decided I would try and make it in a bigger size. Wil is so nearly too big for the first one and the pattern is so lovely and simple I am confident (hear that? CONFIDENT!) I can successfully take it up a size.

It is the best baby knit I did for Wil - practical, good looking and a quick knit. The only modification I'd make to the original pattern is to make it a little bit longer. So I'm aiming to do a 6-12 month size. Check back here soon and you can either see another disaster on the pile or help me celebrate.

I do like the way this yarn knits up.

On a more edible note, D was given some of this as a thank you for doing some teaching and can I tell you? It's exceptionally good gear and helping me through my project devastation. Get yourself some if you can.

Monday, 16 July 2007

felt the fear and did it anyway

I am totally ashamed to admit I have owned a Gocco for nearly a year (or perhaps more?) without using it.

I felt totally intimidated by it.

It was partly a technical thing, having never printed anything ever before using any kind of system at all, I was sure this was all going to end in tears.

But the other reason, the real reason, is that I just don't think I'm very good at making images. I'm far too functionalist it seems.

It's not that I can't recognise good work when I see it (Hear that Lara, Shannon, Kristen, Prints Charming and Sprout? I'm talking about you). I'm just not gifted in the graphic arts.

But an impending five year old birthday needing invitations and a slow Sunday stuck inside was a great excuse to face my fears.
The artwork isn't mine, so I didn't have that worry and on the technical front I figured her mates would be pretty forgiving.

I loved that Amy could do a good portion of the process on her own and that as widely promised it was easy and produced a really good quality image. Next time it's going to be fabric and perhaps even something from my pen (eek!).

It's the first time we're venturing out of the house to hold a party and those of you who were here this time last year may recall my feelings on the matter.

No, I haven't sold out!

But with a backyard somewhere between construction site and rubbish tip, it's no good place for a crowd of children. And I just don't have the heart to start Amy down the path of exclusion just yet. Asking her to choose a limited number of children to invite is so foreign to her. I gave her free reign and she listed 30 friends (and I'm sure a few more will pop up over the next week or two).

So we've hired the local traffic school (hence above art work - princess on bicycle). It's kind of like a big backyard isn't it?

Oh and yes, er, there will be lolly bags.

I know, I know, pure evil. Maybe I have sold out?

But as we got the Gocco running hot Amy got so excited about printing matching lolly bags that my slightest hint that we might skip the bags was met with total resistance. And I just thought what the hell, you know? I promise they will be mean lolly bags.

And there will be no other gratuitous games or prizes or entertainment. Except maybe a really lame, low rent treasure hunt. Maybe.

House works continue on. I am so looking forward to lying in bed or sitting on the floor and looking out at this. Of course there's a lovely garden to be made before that, but the new room is really taking shape and it isn't hard to imagine how fantastic it is going to be. All that North and West light is going to make this the best possible place to be all through winter and right now as we shiver and moan it is a most welcome day dream.

And I'm sure I will not remember all the phone calls and explanations and complaining it has taken for the glaziers to get the glass (pretty much) right or the times I told Amy in far too stern a voice to go inside while I balanced a spewing and whinging baby over my shoulder and told said bloke that yes, I do want it fixed even if he doesn't want to fix it. And the times I rang D at work and then the joiner and then D again and then the glazier and made sure the rubblish guy took the things off that pile, but left those ones over there behind all while I burned the lunch and dropped Amy's kinder snack box all over the floor and baked cupcakes and Wil didn't even get a nap and the neighbour who came for morning tea surely thought I was a lunatic.

I'm sure I won't remember any of that.

Nice view, eh?

And I don't say it often enough (although I think it so very often) that I think D is amazing. An amazing designer, an amazing worker and builder. He's an amazing dad and partner too of course, but standing in this room you get a sense of just how amazing the inside of his mind is. I am so very grateful we get to share in this vision of his and that he has done this wonderful thing for us. Thanks D, you are the best. The bestest of the best. As Amy would say, I love you infinity plus a hundred plus a hundred.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

could you, would you make this guy?


Ages ago I was approached to make a toy on consignment. There is a story to the request which involves a deep attachment to a stuffed friend and the loss of the said friend and a really sweet guy who wants to get something like the original made as a surprise gift for the bereaved.

How could I say no?

So I said yes.

And now I am ashamed to say I simply don't have time to follow through. I am so overwhelmed with, well, everything, that I just couldn't do the project justice. And I feel really bad about it and I'd really like this guy to locate someone who can make something really special for him and his friend.

So please, if you'd like to take up the job, or just talk to the sweet guy about it please email me and I'll pass your details on.

Sliding right along

Witness almost complete external facade

Witness sexiest doors in sexy town

Witness biggest pile of crap in crap town

Witness most serious self portrait in preschoolers town

Witness the messy five month old breakfast in messy town (yep that would be zucchini)