December 30, 2010

bargain joy

Anyone that knows me knows I love a bargain.  I'm not a hoarder (at least I don't think I am) so I don't just buy things because they are a good bargain, but it definitely sways me when I'm considering a purchase. Lately I've been very considered when spending money and I'm proud of the moments when I've been so strong as to walk away from a clear doozy of a cut-price item because I know I don't need any more stuff.

But, even though I said I wouldn't brave the sales this year, I needed a sheet for our bed so off I went to Myer.  I picked up the sheet (40% off, thank you) and on the way to the checkout spotted a lovely pile of decorative boxes covered in that unmistakeable Orla Kiely print.  "50% off" it said.  So I had a little lookie and found this king size duvet cover, green (Ollie's favourite colour) and covered in cars (Ollie's favourite thing).  50% off.  Slightly hesitant, as this still meant that it was a little overpriced (the original price was $179 so even at 50% off, this seemed like a lot for something I am most likely going to cut up and turn into... cot sheets, pyjamas, anything else), I took it to the cash register, where it was in fact, not 50% off, but three hundred thousand percent off.  $31.  For some lovely fabric and a sweet, reusable box too.  Joy.

aforementioned quilt

Here it is, the finished quilt, washed, dried and ready to send away. And after all those rainy days here's a little bit of sunshine too.

December 27, 2010

all done!

Quilt finished!  OK, I didn't machine quilt it, I tried and failed and I wasn't happy with how it was going. With time of the essence, I decided to hand quilt this gift to our nephew on his first Christmas.  And I know it wasn't ready in time for Christmas (and it would have been had I persevered with the machine quilting) but it's not too late, and the fact that I hand stitched it makes it feel like even more of a personal achievement and I think it will be worth the wait given the love that's gone into the thousands of little stitches.

After deliberating over the colour for the binding, I chose an orangey red fabric from the City Weekend range for Oliver + S.  Initially I was going to go for a safe, lime green colour but found this sweet dotty print and I'm glad I went with it.  I love how it looks against the turquoise blues and it looks a little different.  Binding the quilt was something I found tricky last time I made a quilt (the only time I've ever done it), but I used this great little tutorial to remind me how to do it and actually, binding the quilt was one of the most enjoyable bits of the process for me.

Now onto the next project, a quilt for my little boy Max for his first birthday, which is now just over three months away (really?!).  That one I'm planning to hand quilt, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up on the machine quilting, which I'm determined to master next year.  The list of what I'm going to do in 2011 gets longer and longer.  It's going to be a big year!

December 24, 2010

holiday love

This year's holiday card from us to our dear friends and family, using home made tissue paper snowflakes.  We decided against sending out cards this year and for the first time we sent an email, not only to be green, but to save a few pennies as the list of those we love grows longer every year.  I love to send cards, and maybe we will next year, but for now, this seems like the right way to go.  Happy holidays everyone.

all wrapped up

One of my favourite things to do is to wrap gifts. Wrapping Christmas presents and thinking about the person you are giving to whilst enjoying mulled (or white, depending on where you are) wine and a Christmas movie playing in the background is a complete joy for me.  So, last night, I did just that and made brown paper packages look like the holidays using butcher's twine, some inexpensive red and white paper from the newsagent, red ticking (which I love) and the tissue paper snowflakes I got carried away making for our holiday card.

Contrary to how it seems, we haven't spent much this Christmas, a toy for each of the boys, an inexpensive paddling pool (if it ever stops raining) for them both and a metal lawnmower that I managed to find for $20, which judging by the way Ollie plays with the one at day care and at his friend's house, he will love.  Oh, and since Ollie decided Santa would be bringing him a green car, a little Matchbox car that fits the bill.  Ollie's come such a long way this year.  We've had so many highs and lows, but I feel as though we have turned a corner, and on balance, he's been a good little boy, just learning his way in the world.  Santa would be proud.

December 15, 2010

first christmas ornaments

I finally got round to baking some salt dough ornaments (using this recipe) while the kids were asleep the other day.  Ollie helped.  Well, he played with the salt dough as if it were play dough while I cut out a few ornaments and poked little holes in the top with an icing nozzle, but that was the point.  It took a couple of attempts to dry the ornaments out (and the second attempt left them a bit too brown) and we didn't have any cookie cutters that were suitably festive but I thought it wouldn't matter what shape they were once covered in red paint and glitter.  And they ended up being a bit lumpy but I suspect this won't be the last time I do this, so there's plenty of time for technique improvement. (Especially if I want them to look like these or these!)

So, last Sunday, after spending the morning with The Wiggles (which was a hit, by the way, and I should think Ollie was the only child there who didn't know who The Wiggles are), I got the paint, glitter and brushes out and ready while the boys were asleep and an afternoon of painting and glittering followed.  I was really keen to do this type of activity with Ollie; I want him to be a part of making something that he can gift so that he can begin to understand the importance of doing good things for others and what it feels like to put your heart into the process.  And even if he doesn't understand, just doing it makes me feel good, and his involvement is a reminder of how these little things that we do with the kids are so rewarding.  Anyway, at the very least, Ollie was captivated for a good hour or so by splodging paint (he asked for the green) sprinkling glitter, then collecting it back up and putting it back in the impossibly small container it came in.  It's a start.

And now we have a dozen festive and sparkly tree ornaments.  They won't pass any tests for being fancy, but I think they look great, and they twinkle just lovely against the fairy lights on our tree.  They're going to make a great gift for his grandmother, day carer Sue and for us, his mama and papa, who end each day exhausted, recounting little stories of what the boys did and said that made us laugh, cry, tear our hair out and burst with pride, sometimes all at the same time.

December 10, 2010

hair cut

After a belly full of pancakes for breakfast, we finally bit the bullet and cut little Max's wild, wild hair!  I have never cut hair before, so this was very nerve wracking.  I got pretty close a couple of weeks ago but chickened out and put the scissors away.  The scissors were my Fiskars sewing scissors, not the best for cutting hair and way too big, but the sharpest ones in the house.

And it looks ok!  The curls on top probably made it easier since you can't really tell how haphazardly it's cut, but I reckon he looks pretty smart but we've still managed to retain some of his curly wildness.  Of course I got a bit too confident once I'd done Max's and there was hair everywhere anyway, so I thought I'd trim Ollie's hair.  Big mistake.  The back looks ok but his fringe is plain square and silly and I daren't try to correct it, I know I'll make it worse.  Ah well, it will grow out and at least I've taken some of the hair off the back of his sweaty little neck, which is particularly so on this 30c day.

Will did a good job of distracting and keeping the boys still;  Ollie was really very good and quite accommodating of the hatchet job his ma was doing (Dr Seuss helped).

And now onwards to enjoying a four day weekend. Will has taken some time off work and we're planning to potter around the house, take the boys to kids' story time at the library, decorate salt dough ornaments (which actually seem a bit soggy, so I need to work out how to fix this before too long), go swimming and hang out.  Oh and there's a birthday party and... The Wiggles.  I can't believe we are taking Ollie and Max to see the so-far-banned-in-our-house Wiggles.  Are we starting something we are going to regret?  Probably.  But they'll love it.  Four day weekend.  Woo!

December 7, 2010

christmas tree

We put up our Christmas tree last weekend.  Yet again, I lamented the lack of a real tree as we hauled the plastic tree out from the loft, which is apparently a very English place to store one's fake Christmas tree.  (Where else would you store it?)  Every year I buy a few more ornaments, so our collection of mainly red and lovely decorations is now as old as our relationship and I still remember the very first Christmas tree we had together in London.  It was (of course) real, and lasted long enough to make our house smell and feel... like Christmas!  But this year I didn't buy any ornaments.  Instead I'm hoping to make salt dough ornaments with Ollie - or at least make the ornaments and let Ollie decorate them (I don't know how much he'll understand they aren't for eating if he sees the cooking process).  I think it will be a sweet addition to our decorations and we'll make a few extra to give to grandparents and aunties and uncles.

Ollie got a little bossy and obsessive about putting baubles on the tree without any help (and we only broke one - not bad), but it was the first year that we were able to get him involved and excited about adorning the tree with hundreds of lights and ornaments.  Max slept through the whole thing and woke to find Christmas in his home.

It's December but it doesn't feel Christmassy, not even with the tree twinkling as I write this.  It's not cold, frosty, dark... atmospheric.  I pine (no pun intended) for home, friends, family, winter and mulled wine at this time of year more than any other, and I will never feel the spirit of the holiday season while it's hot, sunny and humid.  This is my 7th Christmas here in Australia and every year I think it might be the last as we think about our future and whether it will be here or back in Europe.  Every year I think I miss out on really truly enjoying an antipodean Christmas by thinking too much about the experience I could be having back home which perhaps isn't as special as I remember it to be.  Maybe this year will be different.

December 6, 2010

quilt top complete!

This post was going to be titled 'making a start', then it was going to be called 'quilt in progress' but much to my surprise, I've made more progress on this little project in two days than I gave myself credit for!  

And here it is, a quilt top, which I started two days ago, now complete. I think it took about 8 hours from first cut, which is pretty good going since it's only my second ever quilt.  I'm hoping to machine quilt it and I've bought a new walking foot for my little sewing machine.  I'm not sure how I'm going to go about it, but I've come this far and I'm determined to give machine quilting a go.

It's a Christmas gift so I'm keen to finish the quilting soon so that it will be ready in time - another reason for machine quilting.  And time (as ever) is scarce as the next few weekends (including the holiday season) will most likely be occupied by us working on the house as recently we've managed to create more jobs than we have the time (and possibly) the skills to complete.  (Cleaning the outside of our house seemed like a good idea until it became apparent we actually need to paint it).

And so, after all my procrastinating, I'm really happy with how it looks so far.  All it really takes is that first cut and some commitment (and little boys that sleep).

December 4, 2010

pizza night

I am trying to keep a little ritual going in our house that Friday night is pizza night.  We like to make our pizzas from scratch (using Jamie Oliver's pizza dough recipe and Giorgio Locatelli's tomato sauce recipe), which isn't hard but it does take a bit of forethought and time, something I don't always have when I'm looking after the boys.  Will and I used to do Friday night pizzas more regularly before we became a family and now that Ollie seems to be more enthusiastic about eating new, different food, I'm keen to get it happening again.  At the very least it means we don't have to think about what we're having for dinner one night of the week.

Anyway, last Friday, we managed to make some delicious pizzas and it made me want to do it again and every Friday.  And then, when the boys are a little older, it can be pizza and movie night.  I see us hiring a kid friendly movie, and maybe one for us to watch after the kids are in bed, and they'll help us make the pizzas and then we'll all eat them, yum.  Won't that be cute?

December 1, 2010

countdown to christmas

I came across this magazine via a favourite, Sweet Fine Day a few weeks ago, and it's going to be the inspiration for all my holiday gift giving, wrapping and cheer this season.  I'd like to think I will be making most of my gifts this year, but since it's 1 December and my sewing machine is hidden under a pile of laundry, it may not happen.  At the very least, I am going to make the ginger shortbread on page 128 and if it's as good as it looks, it'll be a sweet gift for our friends and neighbours.
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