Wednesday, 11 June 2014

in which I sew cushions and remember why I prefer to knit

I really should not listen to ladies on the internet who say things can be whipped up in 5 minutes. Unless they're talking about meringues. Still, it is good to tackle sewing projects periodically, if only to remind me how much I love to knit.

You'd think if I made the same mistake on every single sewing project I'd learn and get better. But no. I suspect with knitting there is much more time for me to notice I am doing things backwards and that piece is THE WRONG WAY AROUND. Anyway, I tried to channel my mum (ie competent and composed, and swearing a bit less) and eventually got there. 

Am rather chuffed with the result - finally I have done something with the fabric I printed at the workshop last month. The brown rainy fabric was in my stash and I stopped by an op shop this morning to grab a few cushions to recover. Instead I found two inserts for $1 each. Sweet!

The ladies were inspired by my morning coffee doodle, and the Billy Bragg line, "And there's you, a little black cloud in a dress"; although I made the cloud grey so it wouldn't be so dark overall. The suitcase was hard to include, not helped by the fact my little template insets stuck to the ink on the first printing and as a result all but one are blobby. Still, in my head she had a suitcase even if I can't recall the song explicitly saying she's leaving, so I wanted it there. I was rather keen on capturing an idea, or a "song image", rather than working from the aesthetic of what the sketch looked like and how the fabric would look. Given my head is full of hundreds of songs and drawing is not my strong point that seemed to work well.

In other news more worthy of a six-month wait to update, on monday I ate the first ever apple from my new apple trees (number 35 - plant mini-orchard). Tasty! I wasn't expecting to get any in the first year, and had completely forgotten one was growing. I hadn't noticed it since it was small and green so was delighted to find it ripe and ready. Can't get much fresher than this.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A New Year’s plea to the women (and the men) in my daughter’s life

Blimey it’s 2014. Time for some updates, but before that, an off-list project of mine.

Let’s start with background. While it’s true there are a complex set of influences acting to create a young person’s sense of themselves and their body, and while we live in a culture that has a toxic view of how women should look, and is shockingly pervasive in how it communicates this to girls, I believe this holds true: what YOU say still matters.

Right now my daughter - that's her up there with the groovy sunglasses - thinks her belly is awesome. She lifts up her top and drums on it and giggles and beams with delight. It’s heartbreaking to think how soon she will start despising that belly, and other individual parts of her body, and spend the rest of her life trying to fix herself.

Research indicates that the most powerful role model for a girl’s healthy self-image is her mother. But it’s not just me under pressure to perform. My daughter has clever grandmothers, independent aunties, and energetic cousins. She is taught by kind and thoughtful carers. You are her closest female role models, and whether you realise it or not, even whether she realises it or not, she cares what you think. Of course it matters what men say about women too. But the creation of her “self voice” will be most strongly influenced by the women in her life. Your self-flagellating words will model for her how to be critical of her own body. Your comments about other women’s bodies will normalise for her that it’s ok for women to be mean when discussing each other.

We might not be able to unthink what we’ve been taught, and most of us might struggle with contradictory feelings about our bodies. That’s ok. But we choose our behaviour. We choose our words. I’m trying to do this with my daughter and I would love all the women in her life to support us. I know some of you already do this consciously with your own daughters. For everyone else, here’s some specific ideas to consider:

Don’t say negative things about other women’s bodies

This toxic behaviour may feel so “natural” you don’t even notice that you do it.

So you were out at an event and saw a woman who was quite large and you feel her fatness is somehow a vital part of the story. Don’t say it. Don’t comment on the dress or top she was wearing, and how unflattering it was given her size. Don’t say you were tempted to give her exercise tips. Philanthropic of you, I’m sure, but no. What you’re really being is unkind, while my daughter is listening.

Don’t talk about that obese couple at the supermarket who stuffed their trolley full of chips and sugary soft drinks, and how they made you feel really healthy. And how you were tempted to give them eating tips. Don’t tell us that your friend has lost weight and she looks fabulous. Don’t tell us your workmate is too skinny.

The way we talk about other women is learned behaviour, and we CAN change the way we do it.

Don’t criticise your own body

You might not be fully on board with the idea that your body is wonderful. That’s fine, but don’t talk about it in front of her. Don’t say you have “tuck shop lady arms”, or “a big fat belly”. No “thunder thighs” or “huge bum”. Don’t tell us your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. In fact, don’t talk about dieting at all. Talk about exercise keeping you “healthy” and “strong”.

If you do think your body is wonderful, hurray for you! Feel free to share. But don’t say you’re wonderful because of all the weight you’ve lost. Or be mean about pictures of how you used to look. That person is still you and the message is still a nasty one.

Praise your body

I’m not saying we should live in a weird amorphic vacuum where we pretend that bodies don’t exist. How about you tell her some of the awesome things your body has done? What about

How much fun you have in body combat class
The time your legs carried you for that half marathon
The time you broke your arm and the bone healed itself
All those really cool things your fingers made that didn’t exist before
How you got that scar where your skin grew back together or
The time you created a new human being inside of you.

I can’t stop the awful ideas about female bodies that our culture is bombarding my daughter with, but I can call myself on the bullshit I say, and call out others too. So Happy New Year to all the awesome women in my daughter’s life! Let’s work on showing her how much we respect ourselves and each other.

Coming soon, some listy progress updates and some substitutions too.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

#35 de-grass, build shade shelter/bird netting, plant fruit trees, in the mini-orchard area.

This one took a while. But finally, done! We have two apples, a plum, and a plumcot.

#7 run city-bay fun run faster than I did last time

Last time (after Elly, before Martha) was 1 hour 24 mins. This year, 1 hour 17 mins. Awesome!

#40 gingerbread house

School holidays seemed like a good a time as any to have a go at my gingerbread house. While I know they can be tricky to stick together, I wasn't very inspired looking at pictures of all those boxy rectangular houses. I wanted something quite different. Instead I went with modular construction, with design influence from art deco. I also wanted to see not only the curves mixed with corners and sheer walls, but the bare bricks too.

Last night Elly and I mixed up a giant batch of gingerbread cake, then baked muffins and a shallow flat cake in our giant german cake tray. This morning - bricks, icing, and assembly! Elly's favourite parts were of course the periodic taste-testing, shooting the icing out of my clicky icing tube thingo, and shingling the roof. He lost interest during the build itself and took himself off for a ben10 break, which left me to potter on in peace for a bit.

 Mmm gingerbread. Enough to sink a battleship, I think.

Design taking shape. I did a rough sketch and cut the blocks based on the radius of the circular pieces, then improvised a bit.

Butter icing lightly flavoured with chocolate. Do you know what happens when you chop up and microwave a milky way bar? If not, go try. It's a bit like microwaving marshmallows. Whee!

Most of the deco buildings I looked at had flat roofs. Or as Elly said, "no triangles in this house".

Testing the bricks again, just to make sure.

Yep, they're ok. Now for the roof tiles. Elly chose smarties.

The combination of curves with sheer walls turned out really well. And quite art deco! I also wanted a portico out the front. Check out that little pillar at the left corner, and curved lintel over the entrance - love!

Must remember when eating there's a toothpick holding those pillar pieces together. She's got curves all the way around the back.

And because he kept trying to stick his head into the cake pictures, a posed one to finish.

Gingerbread house, done!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

On job satisfaction

On this morning’s run I listened to two interesting podcasts. One was a Richard Fiedler conversation with historian Sheila Fitzpatrick. The second was a Life Matters segment about the dilemma of being stuck in a sensible but boring job. Clearly I related to both of these podcasts in a different way. In the shower afterwards, where I do all my good thinking, I mused about my reaction to the second. To be honest it was a 5 km run so I didn’t get past the opening where a question was posed and reacted to. But I generally have an annoyed response to these sort of discussions where people who have either paid off their mortgage or found someone who will pay them to do what they love enthuse to others about the benefits of their truly engaged and fulfilling lives. And encourage others to Make A Change! My perspective on this has crystallized further recently as I've reduced my working hours to spend more time with the kids and been actively focusing my out-of-work time on doing more of the things I love. Life sometimes does feel like a crazy juggle. So here are my thoughts on the subject.

I have a sensible job. It’s a decent job. I get paid well for what I do, and I think I’m pretty good at it. But I’m not passionate about it. I don’t love it, and if I’m not kept really busy there are times I will be bored and need to fight against my disengagement to keep being productive. But this does not mean it is a bad job, or a job not worth doing. I don’t believe that it is the equivalent of a Victorian workhouse treadmill where there are no outcomes except for my own exhaustion.

I work for an organisation which has an agenda and tries to make change happen in the community. It’s a government agency so of course I make a productive contribution to budgeted outputs and outcomes. But regardless of the what of the work, there is this simple fact: I earn an income. That’s what I do there. We could be baking pies or counting frogs or killing cows. It’s a job. A good honest exchange of my time, energy and skills for money. I’m not sure how precisely we have started to think about this economic reality as some kind of dishonest thievery of our precious time.

I think about my family history - there’s generations of hard working people who struggled every day to feed their families, to buy shoes for their kids and more than one pair of clothes. They were farmers, coal miners, and factory workers. My granny would find my office job an unbelievable luxury and my paycheck ridiculous. I look at the rest of the world and the staggering number of people who live below the subsistence line. In that context of poverty, degradation and disadvantage, sometimes happening within our own communities, the very modern notion that work must be self fulfilling or else it is a life half-lived seems self-indulgent. It’s a rich person’s conceit.

If you have a job you love, if you spend your days being paid for something you are also passionate about, that’s great for you. That doesn’t give you any moral right to project this as a universally desired value onto others, to imply or suggest that a those with jobs they don’t love are “selling out” or living less of a life.

In fact I could equally argue that mine is a life of perspective and balance. I value my own time so much more, and appreciate the sense of connectedness and peace and passion I can bring to the activities I choose to do outside my day job because I have had time away from them. It’s a compromise but I know it’s a compromise.

And having said that, it is now time to go out and play in the garden in the gorgeous spring sun and get that feeling of connectedness I get when I touch bare feet on green grass. I promise more updates soon!

Friday, 28 June 2013

bit o' boasting

I would like to take this opportunity to mention how fabulous my mother is. Of course, most people have a fabulous mother, but I rather think my mum is much fabulouser. There have been many demonstrations of this over the years.

On this particular occasion, she has made Martha the most exquisite 2nd birthday present. I must admit also that Martha, Elly and I have all been playing with it since its arrival on Wednesday night.  As you read you must at no time imagine that Martha is standing nearby, protesting vociferously that someone seemed to be hogging her present for the time it took to take these piccies.

First there is the wee cabbage patch doll, with hair and eyes to match the birthday girl. Note the snuggly PJs.

Because while in her PJs, every girl needs a place to sleep. This one has her own handmade basket (which naturally travels with convenient handles) and wee pillow and quilt.

But wait... every girl also needs clothes to wear. Cue a handmade case, zippers down each side.

And inside... a change of clothes for every occasion.

Oh yes, these are actually handmade outfits mum has sewn. Would you like to see a fashion parade? Or course you would. Cue some funky music.

I forgot to take a photo of the matching blue bucket hat, as was distracted by discovering this green skirt with trimming.

This pink top has to be my favourite. I mean Martha's favourite. No, dang it, I mean mine. Does it come in medium ladies size I wonder?

She isn't nekkid under there, either. To cover the cabbage patch nappies, there's some wee white bloomers.

Another yellow and green combo. As she says to Martha, I love your granny "this much".

But I've a few yellow things. Is there anything red? Any perhaps some stripes?

And if I fancy rumbling around in activities a skirt isn't best suited for?

And if it should turn chilly? Can I rug up warm? Why yes, and in style.

Martha was feeding "baby" this morning with her wee bottle. I tried to snap a picture as that would have been a perfect way to end this post. Alas she would have none of it. So I shall have to leave you with this cuteness instead. Nice work, mum.