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.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Another DIY colour toy - tangrams!

I adore tangrams. They're nifty and neat. Geometrically beautiful yet creative. Also easy peasy to make your own. I started with a $3 pack of foam sheets from the cheapy shop.

If you can't remember how to make tangrams from a square there are many internet sites to help you out. This is a nice one you can use to make a paper template. Of course, my foam rectangles were larger than the A4 paper I started with, so I used it as a reference instead.

Make yourself a square. Then use the corners to mark one large and two smaller triangles. You can be neat about it and draw the shapes with a pencil, or you can wing it like I mostly did.

Cut these out, and put the two smaller triangles aside. With the longer side of the triangle at the top, fold up the point to give your self a crease. Here if you measured it might be more accurate but for my purposes this is close enough. Give the foam a good press to make a line.

Then cut along this line.

Put the bottom triangle aside. Now fold the top piece in half lenthwise.

Cut down the middle. Then for the right piece, I used my trusty quilting ruler to line up with the bottom right corner, to cut it into a square and triangle, like so:

Put the square aside. Take the small triangle and use it as a template for your last cut. Flip it over, and place the right angle on top of the right angle of the remaining piece on the left.

One last cut, and you're all done! Hurray!

Now you've done one, it's really fast to use the pieces as templates to cut out some more.

Aren't they pretty? I'm going to make up a bunch of cards with a gazillion tangram ideas that the kids can try to copy. In the meantime, they can freestyle.

Easy DIY colour toys

I know from pinterest I'm not the only crafty nerd who gets excited and inspired by paint cards from hardware stores. I think it's Taubman's that come in this nifty circular shape with a slit to the centre. 

Slip a bunch together and you have an adjustable rainbow wheel.

I used an idea from pinterest to make this matching game:

I've also been working on tangrams... stay tuned!

More woodwork - a loft bed lift

One of Elliot's privileges of turning 5 was having his reversible Ikea bed turned up the big boy way. For anyone not in the know, this is one of the most popular beds for little kids. I've promised him some curtains to cover the new hidey hole below. In the meantime, I was distracted by a request for a lift.

Naturally, I sketched a few ridiculously complicated mechanisms with multiple pulleys and a crank winder. Then I picked up some cheapish awning pulleys from Lincraft, and mocked up a more sensible little hand pull model.

Of course Elly's first reaction to this was to run to the bedroom to look for the real thing. Sigh. Must stop making these projects seem so easy. Later that afternoon he came with me to Bunnings to get our supplies. We bought some 40x18mm untreated oak that matched the bed frame, a cleat, some 3mm awning cord, a hook and some support brackets. The blue basket was $3 at Neds. I kept the natural oak finish and sanded down the corners at the top for appearance's sake. And here's the finished product.

If I made this again I would use all screws instead of nailing the t-junctions. That was just sloppy woodwork, but the metal braces seem to have done the trick with eliminating any wobbles. Hard to get good photos in Elliot's room as it's a tad gloomy. Here's a dark action shot. Doesn't help he's wearing a hoodie!

It took him a few tries to get the hang of the cleat but then he was whizzing the torch and water bottle up and down like there was no tomorrow. Mission lift - a success!