Sunday 1 December 2019

Car crashes, illness, aged care and a bushfire or two

Hello my blogging friends,

I haven't posted here since July this year due to an unusual year of family commitments and accidents and illness. I've only been able to see a few of your blogposts and leave a few comments here and there. I've made nothing crafty and my craft space is a mess.

My house is full of dust and now ash from two out of control bushfires burning towards the coast (South Coast NSW Australia) about 60 kms and 20 kms away from our house as the crow flies. My sister on the Central Coast has been in a similar situation, living every day for weeks with the threat of evacuation and losing their house.

My partner was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier in the year which has returned after treatment. One of my sons has a mysterious vomiting problem that doctors can't find the cause of. He spends one or two nights every week vomiting all night. And no, he doesn't do drugs, alcohol or cigarettes and it's now a year since we started getting ultrasounds, blood tests, gastroscopy, and even a brain scan. Still nothing is known and no remedy in sight. He's learning to drive as well, on his good days, so I'm the number one driving teacher. 120 hours of practice takes a long time!

My aging Mum became ill this year and needed support. I've had to put her house (interstate) on the market for sale, and sell her possessions which she didn't need any more since she preferred to be looked after in an aged care facility. Mum didn't want to move to the coast where we live. She hates the humidity , and we don't have air-conditioning in every room. Also she's afraid of the bushfires here as we are surrounded by thick bush - frankly, so am I! Even though the aged care institution is under review and has failed to meet current standards, my Mum feels happier and safer, and says the food is simple but good, using locally sourced veges.

So I've had many trips interstate, three garage sales and a constant stream of stuff on FaceBook's Buy Swap Sell. We have a garage full of stuff to sell, and our lounge room is now a storage and clearing depot for stuff I've photographed ready to sell.

Aged care is so expensive, and a room of your own even more so. I hope to be able to allow Mum to stay in her own room for as long as possible. The paperwork has been phenomenal, and understanding the costing system and your rights takes a lot of research. It's so much better to stay in your own home if at all possible, but more difficult for those without a partner to lean on each other.

This has been the hardest year of my life so far. My poor blog has been neglected, and I am drowning in paperwork - paying extra bills, medical bookings, researching things of Mum's to sell like massage machines I've never seen before, hoping I am pricing them fairly. I'm a full time Personal Secretary (unpaid) at the moment.

We bought Mum's car so our teenagers would have one to share, but on the way bringing it home my eldest son hit a kangaroo and wrote off the front end, which an insurance company would write off rather than fix. Too sad. Luckily a neighbour fixed it up over a couple of months, but it was another expense we didn't need. A few days ago I reversed into Terry's car when he parked behind me down hill on the sloping driveway, where he never usually parks. The garage was closed and I thought the car was inside as usual. I couldn't see it as it's so low - a Mazda sports car. I thought I'd hit a wheelbarrow and got out to look. Ouch!

I did manage to attend two climate action rallies as I am so worried about the lack of action by Australian politicians to alleviate the effects of climate change. Australia is selling coal to China, and will not meet the promised paltry Paris commitments. I am embarrassed to say that Australia, by aiming to be one of the seven largest producers of fossil fuels, is actually becoming a major driver of the climate crisis. Our Prime Minister thinks our increasing bushfires have nothing to do with climate change, and even refused to meet with our major fire fighting  leaders recently.

So any precious time I have has gone into supporting the world's school children on their school climate strikes, and I have joined Australian Parents for Climate Action and campaign with them too.

My sign for the School Strike

So I'm sorry but I don't think I'll get to make any Christmas cards this year to send out. I was meant to put up the Christmas tree this afternoon with my daughter, but the bushfire became upgraded to emergency because of high winds, so we practised using our fire pump instead.

Sunrise in smoke seen from our house

You can't even see the mountains at the back where there are two bush fires burning.

The latest Currowan bush fire picture from The Bay Post this afternoon

So, I'm off now to finish the final amendments to our fire plan and print it out ready as we watch and wait to see if the fire is blown our way.

I hope to be back blogging soon, but this could go on all Summer...

Thursday 18 July 2019

A Generous Spirit

Something special happened to me recently. Just out of the blue, totally unexpected.

Once a month I meet with a local gardening group to share seeds, produce, expertise and occasionally, muscle. We weed and dig and admire each other's garden's, sharing cuttings and a delicious afternoon tea where we all contribute our home-made cakes and biscuits. One of the gardeners, Belinda, brought along her childhood doll to show us (well, me mostly, as I'm an avid collector and maker of various treasures).

Belinda produced  a hand-woven basket she had used for her own babies when they were small, with a lumpy towel inside. It was exciting to unwrap her. Sadly, her eyes were stuck shut as she'd been stored a while and the blinking weights had become gummed up.

I was totally gobsmacked when Belinda offered her to me to enjoy, to appreciate and look after. The doll, an antique German bisque doll with a composition body, had been given to Belinda when she was about 13 by a friend of her mother's. Belinda called her Josephine, shortened to 'Josie'.

Since this doll was made in 1910 and about 109 years old, I was worried about how to open her eyes without damaging her. I checked the Internet but didn't feel confident to attempt it. That night, I rang the convener of a Sydney Doll Fair, who gave me the number of  'The Doll Doctor,' Barbara Hancock. She kindly explained how to peel back the wig, check the head markings and fix the eye blinking movement mechanism from inside the head. What a relief when her eyes moved after several moments of gentle prodding! After cleaning her eyes with a cotton bud, she was as good as new. How amazing to think she is still in such beautiful condition after all these years.

Here she is wearing the smocked dress Belinda made for her in school sewing classes. What a sweet dress! Belinda decided to hold on to her dress.

The doll was uniquely numbered and marked, made in 1910 by Armand Marseille, who was born in 1856 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of an architect. He emigrated to Germany with his family in the 1860s. In 1884 he bought the toy factory of Mathias Lambert in Sonneberg and started producing porcelain dolls' heads in 1885, after acquiring the Liebermann & Wegescher porcelain factory in Köppelsdorf. At the height of his business, the factory produced a thousand doll heads a day. These were produced until about 1930.

I love this vintage floral fabric which Belinda's Sewing teacher gave her to use.

I spent the next day rummaging for suitable clothes for her to wear, dressing her in them, and photographing her. She is quite large, about 60 cm tall, and vintage baby clothes fit perfectly.

That afternoon I made a collaged hanging for Belinda with heartfelt thanks. I tried to find fabric scraps that matched her dress, and kept to a vintage colour scheme. I included a feather from one of my Laced Wyandotte chickens as Belinda had loved her own Wyandotte chickens years ago.

Lace Collage

Here's Josephine wearing her vintage crocheted silk dress which I had collected and mended.

I've given a delighted Belinda her wall hanging, and she's seen the new outfit, and taken her smocked dress home as a momento.

Lace Collage

What a generous-hearted gift, and I am still stunned! 

Thank you, Belinda!

Here she is with a new friend...

This special gift reminds me of other kindnesses I've received over the years. Once when I was going through a hard time in my thirties, a lovely gift of $200 appeared in my mailbox, in an unmarked envelope. I never did know for sure who it was, but I suspected a gentle family who I used to visit. I was feeling sad as I'd gone through a couple of years waiting for a court case over workplace stress, and broken up with a boyfriend. With that money I bought a beautiful Birman kitten who purred and snuggled with me for 21 years, bringing so much happiness. 

This is a collage I did of Tara after she died. Her full name is in the frame... Her Serene Adjacency, The Lady Tara Fluffy Bum.

Birman cat

Now it's my turn to offer some kindnesses back to the universe as the opportunity arises...

I'd love to hear of special gifts of kindness you might have received or given, too.


Tuesday 4 June 2019

Hand made cards

Hello my friends,

It's been quite a while since my last post here. Sometimes life takes you away from the screen. My partner has been in hospital but is now recovering well and we are catching up on all the balls we let fall...

I haven't done much creating, but I have painted our deck and stairs which were sadly in need of repair. These cards are ones I did a while ago...

Hand made cards

 The bird's egg and nest is a serviette which I tore. I added an egg tag which fits into the front pocket, and finished with a paper flower and a netting piece of a lace doiley. Very quick and simple, it was a last minute rush.

Hand made cards

This image of Maud Fealy is stitched onto hand-made paper layers over a scrapbooking paper, embellished with a lace scrap, daisies and pink butterfly.

Hand made cards

The cardboard frame was perfect for this beautiful baby, layered over hand made paper, an embossed texture, stamped script and a snippet of lace, and finished with a satin ribbon.

Hand made cards

Hand made cards

Next, a baby card suitable for a boy. Over a grey-blue scrapbook paper background I added a leafy wreath, white butterfly wings, a tiny flower and seam binding bow, an embossed gold crown and some buttons.

Hand made baby card

I like this cheeky boy's smile.

Hand made baby card

I have been doing some photography when I can, and I edited this image of Willow in photoshop. She has the most beautiful eye colour.


Here's Willow again...


Here are pictures of our deck before and after I painted it... what a huge job! It took about two weeks to do three sets of stairs, two small decks and the main deck.

I think I'm just in time - a couple of boards will need to be replaced, but when T is quite recovered...

What a sucker for punishment I am - no sooner did I finish painting the deck, I started the next garden project - putting in rocks to hold back the soil and mulch... luckily I just finished these projects before the cold change hit us. Now I can be cosy and do indoor stuff.

Despite the lack of rain since January, my roses are still blooming in June, along with hibiscuses...

Pink rose


I wish you a happy Summer if that's where you are. We are now in Winter, having our first rain in months and our first cold weather. Here, we are cold when it gets down to below 15 degrees Celcius during the day. I love the cosiness of being indoors during wind and cold rain. No excuses for creative output now! And time to catch up and be inspired by my blogging friends too.

Saturday 6 April 2019

Up-cycled Coat Hangers for Vintage Clothes Tutorial

Dear friends,

Do you have some special vintage clothes you'd like to display to enjoy them? Perhaps a vintage baby dress, or a wedding dress to bring out of the cupboard?

I decided to play with some trims and doilies to decorate some plain coat hangers so they could add an old-world feel to vintage baby dresses and clothes I want to photograph and display. This ivory satin baby hanger was an op shop find.

I chose a small doily which had a minor stain (part of the vintage look). It had an open weave, so I folded it to work out the half-way point, then mounted it over the hook.

I snipped off a a piece of another doily and a short lace motif from a roll of recycled lace I collected from an old garment. The centre hole was just large enough to thread over the hook. You can experiment with wrapping a piece around and securing it with some small hand stitches.

A length of cream satin ribbon can be draped around the hanger - enough to tie a bow plus a little extra, about 40-50cm. You can trim it at the end.

Fold the ribbon around the hanger from front to back, and tie a bow at the front of the base of the hook.

The finished hanger - mine needed no sewing as it stayed nicely in place.

Here it is with a vintage baby's slip which I embroidered with a bow and some grub roses.

Here are a few more ideas... a satin button as the centre of the flower motif. I hand-stitched each end so the doily wouldn't slip off.

Starting with a padded hanger makes it a quick and easy project with great vintage style. Here I've added some pearl beads, an ear-ring and a velvet rose as accents.

These apricot shades are my favourites...

I'm joining Wen for Simply Neutrals # 55 over at her blog, AppleApricot. Come and join us for a feast of neutral beauty.

Sunday 17 March 2019

A New Perspective on Problems

Hello my friends across the world,

I'm focusing on natural beauty and our precious world today as I join Wen's Simply Neutrals Party # 54. It makes me feel better in the face of all that's happening in my life at the moment. I haven't had a chance to do any arty stuff at all, but I can share some of the beauty I've observed, and an inspiring experience.                                                           

These are some hydrangeas from my garden this Summer just past... I love the gentle pastel shades with their tonal variations.

Below, a single leaf with rain drops I noticed on the ground  - we haven't had rain in so long, and it's raining now. So comforting after a long hot Summer breaking heat records again.

Life has been such a roller coaster lately. It seems everything has been breaking down at once.

After spending two weeks loading software and moving data across, my new computer worked like a dream. Then it died mysteriously after a week. My teenage son built it from hand selected parts, and we are having trouble working out which part has died. It's so frustrating in a house of computer junkies, now I am using a horrible old, slow laptop with a worn out space bar and vowels 'a' and 'e', and I am missing my passwords, my favourite software and photos...

Our household has also been suffering blackouts day and night due to a faulty earth leakage detector, then our air conditioner leaked water all over my favourite vintage books from 1890 ( I almost cried!), our hot water system died (cold showers!), and my car battery left me stranded. It was getting ridiculous, and we were feeling so frustrated.

On Friday it was the day of the world school student strike for climate change. Both our younger teens were sick. We wanted to go to support our local kids but my partner had an urgent medical appointment in Canberra, so we decided I would represent us all and join the march in Canberra. As my partner nobly put it, "My health problem really only affects one person and our family, but climate change affects us all."

So I marched with the school students in Canberra for two hours (my arms are still sore from holding up my sign!). What an uplifting experience it was to be alone in a sea of people all keen for action and democracy. It gave me a fresh perspective...

It made me see most of our problems as "First world" problems - our luxuries letting us down. How lucky we are!

Listening to the students' speeches, reading the signs they carried, and seeing so many standing in support of a clean energy revolution via the media later was heartening. The school students were joined by university students and thousands of adults young and old. Many stopped me and asked to take a photo of my banner, and people congratulated me on my signs. One of the photos taken of me held a surprise  - graffiti angel wings in perfect place!

Some people didn't like that sign as much as the other side:

I think the words "intergenerational theft" are powerful, dark and guilt-inducing. Maybe it was too negative. But I spent all the previous evening trying to hone what I wanted to say so I could add my own voice of support to the students' march. 

I liked this sign in particular:

The media in Australia has been largely very supportive, with many making the point that most of the world's most educated and eminent scientists are in agreement that leaders must take urgent action to try to slow the effects of using fossil fuels or face more floods, bushfires, famines, sea-level rise and hotter temperatures.

Some of the students' signs were funny, some were sad to see, showing their fears. Many young children took the opportunity to express their concerns at the microphones.

It was rewarding to be out of my comfort zone, talking to strangers and making warm connections with them, being part of the action. The School Strike for Climate Change happened in 1769 places in 112 countries around the world. 16 year old Greta Thunberg who inspired the first school strike for climate change last year has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I know these pictures don't all fit the theme of 'Simply Neutrals' (perhaps 'carbon neutral' is stretching it?), but I'm joining Wen on her blog, AppleApricot, as I know she feels a close connection to nature too.

Wishing you time to tread in peace among trees soon.