Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wool in the White Cupboard

This is the white cupboard. It's the white cupboard that used to be my Grandmother's medicine cabinet to be exact. And when you first open it you still get that whiff of old medicine. It's only recently become white. And it's only recently been allowed to reside in our living area. Even more recently has there been wool in the white cupboard. So here is the story of the white cupboard, and the wool within!

My Grandma lived in a true seaside house on the east coast of Australia. She and my Grandfather bought the block which was across the road from the beach. They bought it before living by the sea was fashionable, when your average couple could afford a patch of land where now you pay squillions of dollars. You see, there is nothing between that house and the beach except bush. You lie in bed and hear the ocean roar, you open the window and smell the salt, you cross the road and walk to the beach barefoot. The house they build themselves, on weekends when they brought the family with five kids and camped on the block. The house itself was just two rectangles, one for living and one with bedrooms, joining these two rectangles was a hallway. And in the hallway lived this cupboard. Full of medicines. Jars, bottles and potions.

When my Grandma had lived out her days by the sea the medicine cupboard came to live at my house. I loved it. I loved the smell of it and the way it took me back to that hallway in the house by the sea. But not everyone in my house loved it. You see it was this rather ordinary brown colour and dingy looking. And when one doesn't have the emotional attachment of the smell of medicine of a cupboard in that seaside house, well there is no magic to see past the brown.

So, I decided to wave the magic white paintbrush over the cupboard. After many coats (turned out the 'paint' was a stain and once I'd started I had to continue!) it looked a rather different cupboard! Everyone in the house thinks it's a lovely cupboard now. And it is a rather handy hiding storage spot for all the games and some of our arty stuff. All pristine vintage glass on the outside...

But chaos on the inside...... and that, my friends, is just the top shelf!

Well. To get to the wool part of this story. If you've read this post you would know that there had been a bit of wool floating around this house. And the balls of wool seem to be growing in number too, strange isn't it?! I've also found that balls of wool and children don't mix, I had to find a place to store it and quickly. Out of sight and out of reach! The cupboard seemed ideal but where in the cupboard???

Not in this drawer, though now all the paintbrushes are together.

 Nor in this section, though I MUST do something with these gorgeous little shoes one day! 

Finally I took everything out of the cupboard, put some things elsewhere, put some things in the donation box and the bin. Then I carefully put the remaining things back in the cupboard whilst holding my breath and crossing my finger and toes... It worked, see, here's the wool going in! Looking all lovely in a basket of it's own and with my very precious instruction book that I need so much in the basket too. Right where it's easy to find - yay!

Please excuse the stray dab of yellow paint on my pointer finger, I nearly got waylaid in the paint drawer it was almost too tempting!

Ah the joys of an organised white cupboard! Not only does the cupboard look pristine on the outside, the inside is (almost) neat too! It'll never be perfect whilst there are multiple sets of hands trying to store and grab their games and art stuff in there. Who am I kidding, as if small hands 'store' things! Unless they've actually learnt the lesson of clean-as-you-go from Monday's blog. But I am very pleased to have a place for my wool in there. Small things people, small things. 

What have you organised in your life lately? I've also been trying to organise my week days and the littlest girl, it generally means working out just what I have to say 'no' to. More about that some other time. I'm still working on it and probably will 'til I have my very own seaside house along with the wisdom of age. Huh! We can all dream hey? About wisdom and seaside houses!!!

'Til next time.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hello Willow!

Well hello Willow! This was the shot I left you with on Friday. And now for some explanations. Last weekend we were out at the farm and going out in the ute (utility/truck) to help with the sheep. Anyway, along on the way we came across a willow tree branch that had fallen across the fenceline and across the track. The chainsaw was in the back of the ute and so we thought we'd 'tidy up' as we went - am wondering how I get this thought to reoccur at home, the concept of 'clean-as-you-go'. It's a simple mantra isn't it?! But when does it happen at home??? Well, a similar thing happened out there as happens at home; No-one stayed to help! Mr Chainsaw got on the job, the boy took off up a pile of rocks and I started taking photos....

There were these really cool berries, I'm not sure what these are but I am sure the farmer doesn't love them! Not with these thorns getting into the sheep wool. Definitely good for a photo though.

**Update: This is apparently a briar bush**

However, I wasn't completely ignoring the chainsaw and when the noise stopped I headed back over to help 'tidy up'. Remember that's what was meant to be happening, not a photo session! So we stacked all the willow branches up for a future bonfire. As we stacked I couldn't help but notice that the canes (or twigs) of willow were still a bit green. Which means they will bend. Do you see where I'm going here? You can bend them into circles, and circles make wreaths. And I like wreaths!!! Especially rustic ones made of canes like these. I already have a couple hanging in our courtyard. Hmmm. 

So when Mr Chainsaw moved on to the next tree up the track I told him I'd catch up shortly to help.... and then I set to work right there in the pile of branches. Our girl stayed with me and we quickly broke off canes of similar thickness and started twisting. It's pretty easy. You just break off a couple of canes, point half in one direction and half in the other. Hold them together in one hand at about halfway and twist the them ends til they meet. Then twist additional canes into the circle. Start them at different spots and tuck each end into the canes already circled together. 

By the time Mr Chainsaw had finished the next tree we'd managed a wreath each and we broke off a dozen or so canes to take with us. When we reached the ute the eyebrows were up. What were we going to do with them, and what about those extra canes? Ah, never mind. Let's just continue to clean-as-we-go!!! We'll explain later.

The wreaths and canes were thrown into the tray of the ute and eventually made it home. I casually sat them in a corner and waited 'til Monday. Then, when they had all gone off to work and school, I started to 'foof'. And what fun it was, arranging pretty housey things!!! For more definitions of 'foofing' check out Sarah's blog @ 'A Beach Cottage'.

I have this cake stand. It entered this house via a delicious brown couriered cardboard box months ago, I haven't yet managed to put a cake on it :-) The surface is a lovely, glossy white that invites all sorts of other things to happily sit on it! The wreath collection was a rustic mix. Some macadamia nuts in a vintage glass jar. Macadamias are a native Australian bush nut that are extremely good. They are bliss raw, roasted or in biscuits with white choc chips! Yum! Next to them we have the wreath. And a stone, I think from the creek. It's rough to hold but just the right size for the palm of your hand. Actually I saw in a shop yesterday some hand warmers with gorgeous grey knitted covers (little hot water bottles for your hands/pockets!), this stone would be just right for that. Might have to try it on a cold day, heat it to a toasty temperature on our fire and pop it in my pocket before I go walking! Bet I'd some more raised eyebrows from the farmer and Mr Chainsaw ;-) And then there is the candle holder.

I bought two of them years ago to use as chrissy pressies for some lovely girlies. Well, I found other presents for those girls and these candle holders have been with us ever since. They live a nomadic existence in our house, moving from room to room and place to place. They are made of some sort of very matt stone-like ceramic. When you light a tealight candle in them they cast the best shadows. All of those little triangles flicker around the room! They are lovely. And all that loveliness comes from a sensible, easy to purchase little candle.

And here's the whole ensemble sitting on my red chair. It came to our house from my lovely Dad's shed complete with multi-coloured paint splatters. I spray painted it a gloss red and it brightens our front entry.

So there you go. 

A willow across a fence can lead to many things! Including cleaning as you go. It even led to cleaning at home 'cos I found that a spider had made his home under my stage prop. This red chair had a HUGE web woven through it's legs! And we can't have webs on the blog! It's the one place I can count on to stay clean.... So I cleaned them off as I went.

Now this cleaning thing, it's a lifelong lesson that I try and repeat to the kids EVERY day! Pick up your pj's, put your plate on the sink (or in the dishwasher!), pack the lego up, yadda yaddda yadda. I remember the mantra from my very first casual job as a impressionable teenage McChick (McDonalds staff member!). And I remember it every day as I walk from room to room carrying items back to their place of origin - argh! Ah well, maybe it'll sink in one day. They might remember the lesson from when we cleaned the willow up from across the fenceline!

In the meantime, I'll go have another cup of tea, admire my wreath and eye off the wisteria in our courtyard that is nearly due for a pruning! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Creek

Well it's Friday. So we're again at the farm. For more background on the farm check out the first post explaining it all here. We're in a different spot this week. A wet place. Especially for kids! Gumboots are the best foot attire...

At the farm there is a creek. It's just a little creek. It flows (nearly) all the time and the water at this time of year is lovely and clear. And very cold! We go there for bush barbecues (I see another post coming to explain our version of a bush barbecue!). Every time we go to the creek one of the kids ends up very wet. Funnily enough it's nearly always the same kid, they say there's one in every family, we know which one it is in our family. There are also a lot of rocks along the creek bed! They create great mini waterfalls and also irregular surfaces to clamber about on. We once found a tortoise nestled snug in the rocks, he was very shy and only showed us one eye after we sat and sat and waited for him to bring his head out again. He blended in so well his shell looked like a greenish, mossy rock too.

But even better for me, the creek has lots of spots to sit and take photos!

The creek has a busy history. In the gold rushes of Australia this spot was filled with (mostly) Chinese immigrants. They dug and washed many tonnes of dirt with the waters of this creek. When we walk the banks here we find remnants of their labour, channels dug above the water line redirecting water to washing/sluicing areas and lots of holes! Now this creek is part of a farm, it's all much quieter with just sheep and cattle wandering by and the odd kangaroo. There are fish in the creek but they are even more shy than the tortoise! The shot below shows a lovely little calm spot of the creek:


Interesting things still happen at the creek now though. It provides a different sort of gold now. Life gold, or richness. You see, when we go there our family slows down. We sometimes just sit, happy in the sunshine. We poke sticks into the fire under the barbecue. We take walks up or downstream and the kids always throw stones into the water. We move our chairs to escape the smoke of the fire and to chase the shade (or sun in winter!). We sometimes come home tired, wet and smelling of bush smoke, but we always come home happy!

On this particular sunny day recently some people wandered off upstream and found a very interesting tree root (photos further down), and our the boy became a superhuman with the aid of a long stick whilst clambering about the rocks (spot him if you can, he was wearing camo pants!). The creek creates all sorts of watery, rocky adventures for the whole family. What's even better is that it's all happening in the fresh Australian air  and everyone sleeps much better for it.

On this creek visit I decided to try out my shutter speed setting and try for a 'moving-water' shot. Here are some of the images that I kept (I deleted thousands!). And I must take the tripod next time! These are of the same little waterfall from the same spot. So to start we have the full waterfall...

Then the detail shot of a conveniently central mossy rock surrounded by cascading water.

Warning: Sunglasses required. Sorry! I liked the light in the flow of the water, somehow makes it seem surreal and mystical.


This next location was the source of the above seen group's gazing... they had found this little waterfall. The three of them were checking out the colours in the rocks under the water when they realised that there was more than rocks in this spot.

It was really cool 'cos sitting just below the water surface and 'growing' from one side of this rocky channel to the other (across the creek!) was a twisting tree root. You'd wonder what had made it venture across there. Rocks had banked up against the root and the rocky channel walls further add to the effect. The root was twisting around and created a hole, or whirlpool effect, and through it all the water flowed. Add in the sunshine. Plus the ripples in the water! Just lovely!

The last lovely thing to mention about the creek today is that it has great trees. Different to the other farm treescapes. Especially nice are the casuarina pines and the willows. I admit to having a slightly ulterior motive regarding the willow, Monday's upcoming post will have lots of willow in it and here is a sneak preview...

Well, it looks like we're off to spend some hours at the farm this weekend so we'll definitely be getting our share of fresh air. The wind is quite ferocious here today with a decided nip to it. A good day to stay inside with some willow to play with....! See you on Monday. Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Beanie for the Boy (& Girl)

Last winter I decided to learn to knit. Nothing too crazy about that is there? Lots of people are learning to knit, it's nearly a cool girls game! Weeellllll, it's just that my mother is a fantastic knitter and has been since I can remember. So I had a brilliant opportunity to learn when I was living at home didn't I? I could have learnt all the fancy stitches and how to use circular needles and all the other knitting-type things that I can't even imagine. Now I live too many kilometres away to duck around for a knitting lesson.... lucky for YouTube! You see, I discovered that there are many other people out there who can knit too and they have made these great little videos and popped them on YouTube just for people like me! Good on them, I say!

SO. I learnt to knit. Just. I could do the basics. I could knit and purl but only after I'd checked in with my other learning resource to work out which stitch was which:-) My other learning resource is a fantastic little book .......given to me by my mother inlaw (another knitter of note). Casting on was mastered, along with increasing and decreasing. The ultimate was learning to cast off so I could finish my first scarf! In total I made one beanie and two scarves last year. The beanie was really too big, but I told my gorgeous girl it was to fit over her pony tail and keep her ears warm - which it does very well thank you! But really it was all very basic. It was a short career which disappeared with the cold weather.

As Monday's mandarin post noted, the cold weather is setting in again. And the knitting thing has resurfaced. You see, there are now two little heads bobbing off to school each morning in the fog and frost. Being the proper mum that I am I wanted those heads warmly clothed and in school uniform colours as well. There's the knitting challenge..... a beanie for the boy and girl.

After a quick trip to Spotlight I was equipped with wool (acrylic actually, it's tougher for the hurly-burly of school). Then I hunted about for my needles and that trusty little book. And after a quick refresher, 'cos I couldn't remember anything from last year, I started casting on and knitting. I love the look of the knitted piece, those ripples almost look like a clam shell! Plus, it feels so lush.

After knitting to the point above something made me pause (knitting is compulsive you always just have to do 'one more row'). Lucky! One quick hold-knitted-square-to-head measurement showed me this boy wasn't going to fit in this beanie. So I started again, which is always good practise isn't it? Eventually I got to this point and checked that it would cover his head and ears... It looked pretty right. Phew.

This next shot was a bit of a mistake but I like it :-) 

While I was happily knitting away I was trying to casually gauge the boy's level of commitment to his beanie. You see I was showing plenty of commitment to this beanie, I even knitted in the car on a recent daytrip. So I wanted to know that he was going to be as least as committed as I was. He could then continue where I cast off (and yes, I meant that pun!). It didn't seem too promising though, oh he wanted a beanie alright, he just didn't have the vision to see how a piece of knitting would become a beanie. Until I decreased and cast off. Here it is just waiting for a sewn seam.

Then he was in. He got it! He could see it was a beanie. His beanie.

Overnight (well it happened that way for him) a beanie was built. One quick seam, a few knots and we had a beanie for the boy. This shot is him modelling one version of how he is going to wear it. Apparently. I was going for the skull-cap look, he's done something even more extreme. His imagination is MUCH more developed than mine! We'll see how it stands up to the playground ribbing. But at least his head and ears are warm. And yay for kids with character (controlled character though!).

That's not the end of the story though. As soon as the girl saw this uniform-blue version she was asking questions.... hers from last year is a pale lilac (!?!). Her choice! And I wasn't proficient enough to decrease and then cast off so it's of the stitches-drawn-in variety. Mind you, after decreasing to a centre point whilst my fingers tried to play twister, I'm quite the fan of her basic beanie! But what's that saying? What's good for the goose is good for the gander? Well, we had it in reverse, the gander got the beanie first. And the goose wanted one.

Well, of course I made her one too! I was quite happy to, I need the practise! I dropped one stitch in hers, bummer. Don't tell her though, it's near the seam and you can't really see it. Actually one of the photos below has it in it, see if you can spot it! Here she is, grudgingly posing after a long day at school. She's our girl with gorgeous hair.

And so we have a beanie for the boy, and girl. I'm actually thinking I'd quite like one! The girl could do with a pony-tail fitting version too. I even hunted through the old needles in the 2nd hand shop today! Maybe this is the year to increase the job description, I just might try for more than two scarves and one beanie. Who knows?! But at least two little bobbing heads are already warm and happy. 

Hope you are warm and happy too!

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Afternoon Segment

Mandarins are back! The weather is quickly cooling off and the new season's fruit is appearing in the shops. Amazingly, every member of the family loves these, and that is very rare for a piece of fruit (or any food for that matter). So we're buying up BIG! I almost buy these by the dozen.

So last week I made the first purchase of the first mandarins of the season! That afternoon the kids and I were sitting in the sunshine happily partaking of them and some-one just happened to put a segment of mandarin down on the table with the sun behind it. Well I rushed for the camera and these are the results.

The kids were very patient, even suggesting different 'poses' for the mandarin segments and it's components:-) Aren't kids fingers/hands/toes lovely?!

I like this shot below with the reflection and shadow having a little competition about who will dominate the shot. Of course neither do. The mandarin segment with it's bright colour and juicy flesh wins over them both!


The peel got a photo too. Well with the background light highlighting those 'holes' (I am sure they have a proper name, but I can't think of it right this second!) and the rough edges I thought it was worthy.

Even the plates complemented the afternoon tea setting - I planned that of course;-) I wish I could honestly make that claim! When we've just got back from the school pick-up run, no matter whether we've driven, ridden or walked, there is no time to think about what colour plates would work in the photos! It's just one rushr to get the plates filled and onto the table so the 'noise' stops. Noise being the polite word for the sounds coming from juvenile mouths. Whinging is probably more realistic. Anyways, the plates looked nice!


We've a deal in our house, if you want food/drink then you take whichever colour plate/cup is on the top of the pile. I do concede that when I hand the plates out I do tend to allocate colours with blue for boys, pink for girls, but they are not allowed to get precious about colour!

These photos must be slightly out of chronological order, or the children are more patient than I give them credit for, or they had an extra mandarin. Guess why? With the rate that they ate those first ones down I would never have been quick enough to get a shop of half a mandarin! I was lucky to get segments to stay on the table for long! Am thinking I must just have been a lovely mum and let them have another mandarin given they were the first of the season, how nice of me;-)


Here's the last shot. Lovely little fingers again. Interesting light. And a gorgeous kid.

Well, there's an afternoon segment with me, or rather us. It's a tough time of the day with tiredness nearly peaking and so much to be done before bedtime, but sometimes I really do try and 'soak it up' as the kids love sharing their day's details with you and the light is so good for photos. 

Hope your Monday is sunshiney. We have sunshine now the fog has cleared, I got some photos of the fog so if they are any good I'll share them! Catch you.