Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New skill / New fabric stash

When I was in my teens, I made my first patchwork quilt. It was mainly constructed from fabric scraps, was totally uneven, had blocks that weren’t quite rectangle, and was backed with a strange satin-like material that was always freezing cold in winter. But, for a first attempt and absolutely no one to guide me, I was pretty proud of my little misshapen quilt.

Sadly, I realised a few weeks ago that it’s in desperate need of retirement, as it’s been washed so many times that it’s both frayed and sun-worn. But it kept me warm on the couch for more than 15 winters, was loved up by the kids, and provided added padding in Lou’s bassinette when she was a babe. Which, I think, is pretty good innings for a badly made anything.

But lucky me! Yesterday, my lovely friend Michelle and I booked into a beginners quilting course, at the Quilter's Corner. I’m just a teeny bit obsessed with this lovely place; Liisa always seems to stock the most beautiful fabrics, and everyone is just so friendly, helpful and so wonderfully creative.

I’m totally bursting: I can’t wait to start!

My new fabric stash – beautiful, huh?

So looking forward to learning a new skill and meeting other local beginners…


Monday, June 27, 2011

What's in a name?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately.

It’s because I’ve been writing this set of stories for the longest time, and the tale I’m working on at the moment has a nameless main character. Which, shouldn’t really matter, but it does. I guess it's because I’m a firm believer in a name meaning something, and even having the ability to shape your character (even if it’s only in my constructed fictional world). So while I’ve been wondering about my child-characters name and how this single word defines her, it’s prompted me to look over the old Shakespeare musing – what’s in a name? And does a name fit to a person, or does a person grow into a name?

Definitely the hardest name choice to date would be naming our children. David and I struggled over names for days once our babies were born – and argued (in a friendly way) about all the names we loved or hated during those long months leading up to their arrival. For my first pregnancy and babe, I was so utterly convinced that I was having a girl, that when the doctors placed our small wriggling son onto my belly, I was absolutely astonished: A boy? Really?

It took us more than a day to find a name for our wee lad because nothing seemed to suit him. Luckily, I had, at some stage during the pregnancy, jotted down the name Judah into my journal – I liked the biblical history behind the name; it spoke to me of strength, tenacity, determination. His name also has a wonderful pictorial representation - the mighty lion, battle ready. We’re all for double meanings and finding significance in the everyday – and were delighted when we found that it linked so beautifully with daddy David’s English/Viking heritage, both represented in a similar way by the lion.

But, best of all, when we held our tiny newborn son and spoke his new name over him, it just…fit. It became him. And over time, he grew into this mighty name.

The second pregnancy came quickly and blissfully – and when our daughter was born, there was only one name for her: Lyra.
Lyra is actually a constellation – images of the cluster of stars show a rainbow of beautiful colour, and one of the brightest stars in the sky, Vega. The stars form the pattern of an ancient lyre – or I guess, a guitar. Our small family loves music; it’s been a common love between David and I, and we’re so fortunate that our children seemed to have inherited this absolute love of music as well. Both of the kids were introduced to music in utero – crackly, but much-loved jazz records, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, BB King and Bob Marley, lots of impromptu guitar playing, lots of made up melodies and a dash of classical thrown in for good measure. We loved the connection between this beautiful name, the musical influences and love of music that we were trying to instil into their young lives.

And little Lyra Meredith so suited her new name.

But unlike Judah, sweet Lyra is mostly known for her pet name, Lou. Judah was only 14 months old when our girl was born, and Lyra proved to be quite a mouthful for one so young. So, cooing to her one morning while still in the hospital, I played around with nicknames - and Lyra became Lyra-Lou, which was shortened to Lou, and then affectionately extended to Lou-Lou. And it stuck.

The hardest part about choosing names – especially for children? The fact that you’ve got to speak them and love them for the rest of your life. And maybe, because I’m a writer and love words so much, I so wanted to find names that meant something – to us, yes; but also names that were strong, beautiful, different.

If you have children, how did you choose their names? Do you place importance in the meaning behind a name?


Ps. I was apparently named after legendary actress, Natalie Wood, but few people, if any, call me Natalie. Actually, when my whole name is said, I feel like I’m being scolded; I’m so used to being called Nat or Nattie that anything else feels like I’m in some kind of trouble from my mama. Are you like this too - more comfortable with your nickname than your given name?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grateful #14 - What are you thankful for today?

Happy weekend, lovely readers!

I’ve always been a big fan of getting things done around the house. We’ve got a list as long as my arm of things that we’re keen to do to our airy, light-filled home, but we’re realistic – some of our must-haves may never happen; others may take ten years to complete. I’m ok with that.

I’ve wished big wishes for a studio space here, and quite frequently lapse into crazy daydreams about building something wonderful in our leafy backyard. And even while my imagination goes haywire, I’m aware that my musings are not really about a fancy-shmancy space; it’s more about having a room that belongs to me - where my books are safe (from babes who have taken to sneakily ripping random pages), and where I can work on and leave out whatever project I happen to be doing, without the threat of inquisitive sticky fingers wanting a look too. A place where carefully cut material will stay exactly where I left it, bobbins won’t disappear, and pins don’t have to be monitored. A quiet place, with a door to close, and lots of light.

(Oh dear. Even as I’m writing this, I feel horribly selfish for all the mine, mine, mine! connotations in the previous paragraphs… but, creatively minded or not, I’m sure you know what I mean)

So, with all of that in mind, this week, I’m very, very grateful for:

My lovely new sewing space.  It started with a fold-up table I found in the shed, and the realisation that we actually had space in our bedroom for a sewing nook. Oh happy day! I eagerly scrubbed down the table, moved all of my bits and pieces into the bedroom, and set up right in front of the bright bay window, overlooking the vege garden and the street. I’ve been sewing in there daily, and it’s such a treat! A closed door to keep everything safe, and a cheerfully lit corner with a lovely, leafy view.
And then, Dave, partner-carpenter extraordinaire, found a bench top in the magic shed that he’d saved from a dismantled kitchen, and he spent an afternoon sanding it back to brand new honey-coloured wood. It’s going to be stained, sealed, legged and fitted to my bay window spot to make a semi-permanent sewing space.

I’m so happy; can you tell? And so grateful for a small space that’s all my own in the busyness and bustle of our family home. It’s my little, neat, organised piece of handmade heaven.

What are you grateful for this week?


Ps. Linking up with the wonderful Maxabella Loves – and you can too! Link your grateful post here, or write your grateful list in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Six Things...

I like learning oddments of information about people.
You know, the small tidbits that may give depth to a person’s character, but actually offer no real usefulness (except maybe being an insight into their quirks, or how they work). For example, this week, I learnt that my partner had a plate when he was a young man to fix his teeth, and that the plate was fitted incorrectly leaving a dint in the roof of his mouth. Random, and kind of useless - but interesting to me, none-the-less.

So, in the spirit of random facts, here’s something you may not know about me:

  1. I really, really, really love filling out forms. I’m not exactly sure why, but give me a booklet with hundreds of questions, and I’m in survey heaven.
  2. I can’t roll my r’s, twist my tongue, raise one eyebrow or whistle very loud. But I am double jointed in my fingers, and can stretch and spread them quite far apart. Which is the most useless skill of all to have.
  3. My favourite book of all time is The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. I love her – I think she’s just the wisest, most beautiful writer. And I was over the moon to find a children’s picture book by the lovely Margaret at our local library, that she wrote and illustrated in the 60’s called Up in the Tree. It’s delightful.
  4. A quirk that I think a lot of people have – I can’t sleep with a cupboard door open in my bedroom. Not even a little crack. And up until a few years ago, I also used to casually glance under the bed every night, to make sure there was nothing underneath – even though my logical brain would shout out “This is RIDICULOUS!” I somehow always manage to re-check the locks twice, and re-lock my car at least three times before bed.
  5. I’ve always been a bit forgetful; if I don’t write it down, I probably won’t do it. So, I have a diary and a notebook that go with me everywhere, which is filled with scribbles and notes and cryptic messages (that I sometimes can’t quite remember what were supposed to mean).
  6. We have a resident carpet python who currently resides in our roof cavity; the last skin we pulled out was more than six metres long. There are also a few ‘babies’ that turn up every couple of weeks, which are only about three metres in length, and who are so tricky at camouflage, that you’ll walk past them a few times before totally freaking out.
A ‘baby’ we found outside a few weeks ago.

Got a random fact or quirk about you? I’d love to hear it! Post it in the comments section below…


Monday, June 20, 2011

This glorious morning...

Making me smile today:

Image from here. (As said by the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll)

Happy Tuesday!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spirited Sophia

Spirited Sophia skips about - her arms are flapping wings;
She swoops and leaps and chortles, giggling as she sings:
“Today I’m a bird – no, a lion! Or wait, a shrieking bat –
I’m a tall necked giraffe, a bleating lamb, and a prowling cat.
I love the way that penguins slide and the graceful gazelle leaps;
And I’d love to be a slow brown bear, in a hibernating sleep.
I’m a busy bee tumbling into flowers, pollen all stuck to my legs;
I’m a slow moving rhino, a long-legged spider, a puppy sitting up to beg.”
“Oh my, Sophia – what a changeling you are!” I say to her with a smile,
“You’ve a whole zoo in your imagination; perhaps I’ll stay a while?”
Sophia beams her biggest grin, and leaps into the air –
“And look! Now I’m a fierce dragon, breathing fire without a care…”

Available now in our Etsy store, or meet her at our stall at Mathilda’s Market on the 6th of August!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grateful #13 - What are you thankful for today?

I remember my beloved grandmother saying, a very long time ago, that life goes by in the blink of an eye once you’re an adult, and to never wish your young days away. At the time, I was in my early teens and impatient for the idea of what being a grown-up really meant; and I wished with all my might for a decade to hurry up and pass, so I could do all the wonderful things I’d been dreaming of.

My Grandmother, Renee, as a young mother in India

I’ve been remembering my grandmother a lot lately; small, wise, softly spoken woman that she was. And she was right – as she usually was – time does slip away from you when you’re a grown up; weeks turn into busy months, and months tumble into years, and things happen faster than you could ever imagine.

With that in mind, this week I’m grateful for:

Timeless-ness. I’ve had to explain to the kids quite a lot lately about doing things ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’ or ‘another time.’ It’s still such a tricky concept for them to grasp, because everything is NOW! or in an hour, and the prospect of waiting, even a day, is often met with wails of disapproval.
But goodness, I like their idea of ‘right now’ - it’s so wonderfully spontaneous, and it sometimes makes me wonderfully spontaneous too.

Old fashioned advice. How wonderful is it to be given a good piece of advice?
(Alright, I freely admit that I’m not always 100% receptive to it; but when it’s relevant, done with kindness and in the spirit of genuine sharing, I do love and welcome it)
My Grandma was very good at advising in the gentlest, most considerate way, and it’s something that I’d like to emulate in my own life. Sometimes, I manage quite well; other times I’m so far off and rambling and should just keep my random pieces of advice to myself, thank-you-very-much. But in spite of my bumbling advisory tactics, I’m so grateful for the small tidbits of advice I’m personally given on a week to week basis, from trusted friends, family, chance-met strangers, my partner and even my children (who know all about everything and anything), because most of the time, it’s done in love and given in kindness, which really is a wonderful thing.

What are you grateful for this week?


Ps. Want to play too? Link your grateful post to the delightful Maxabella Loves, or write your list in the comments section below x

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nat + Internet = Blog Love

I read a LOT of blogs.

To begin with, it was as market research, as Kim and I decided whether a blog was a much-needed addition to our small business. And then before I knew it, I was adding this blog onto my favourites tab, following another ten, finding and following a post that someone had written about this thing that I love…. And now, well – it’s all very time consuming and delicious and only a teeny bit obsessive.

I do have a regular crew that I check up on almost every day. Sometimes, when the kids are fighting/throwing things/screaming because they can, I make tea and switch my mama mode off, and read a beautiful blog. Because it frequently preserves my sanity; and because I’ve always been a fan of escaping; and I quite like the idea of learning about someone else’s online world, however real or imagined it may be.

So, a big dollop of blog love is going out to the following writers, for allowing me to dream, imagine, laugh, understand, sympathise/empathise, and think creatively; you’ve made my escapist breaks during the day a lovely place to be.

Her Library Adventures. The loveliest, most beautiful space about writing, vintage fashion, thrifting, sewing, and books. I love the way Sophie writes, her eclectic style, and the fact that she’s sending out hundreds of handmade postcards to readers who’ve emailed in, wanting old fashioned snail mail. And that she teaches literature - well, that's just the icing on the cake.

Maxabella Loves. My favourite mama blog. It’s a refreshingly honest read about being a parent and other random musings, and it always makes me smile. It’s easy to relate to, funny, quirky and beautifully written, and is a must-read with my morning cup of coffee.

Geninne’s Art Blog. A beautifully talented freelance designer and illustrator/artist who has a thing for birds.  The thing that I love the most about this blog is that it celebrates the natural aspects of everyday – she finds inspiration in the simplest things. And she’s amassed interesting collections of stuff all over her home. Ah, to live an artistic life…

BrisStyle. Kim and I joined this amazing group earlier in the year – it’s a handmade collective of very talented people who make make their lovely products in Brisbane. This blog lets us be sticky-beaks and to see what everyone else has been up to in and around our beloved city.

(The Rabbit and the Duck handmade goodies are available here.)

The Rabbit and the Duck. Shannon’s blog was actually the first I started following on a slightly obsessive basis. What do I love? She’s got the most envious studio, with stacks and stacks of beautiful material, makes lovely little wallets (which I own and LOVE), clutches, journal covers, and collects vintage pieces for a her new side venture, The Dotty Apron. And she writes beautifully.

Do you have a set of favourite blogs that you visit regularly?



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding Inspiration

I find inspiration in everyday places.

Whether it’s walking into a material shop stocked to the hilt with beautiful fabrics, or brainstorming about what new thing I can make for my sweet niece or handsome nephew for Christmas, small slices of inspiration can be found hiding in every nook and cranny. You just have to know how to hunt it down, and how to recognise it when it’s finally found.

To help my inspiration process along, I collect things – beautiful buttons, ribbon, material, or interesting knick-knacks that I come across. I’ve often found that having these little bits around can spark an idea, remind me of something precious from my childhood, or just give me the nudge to try out a new idea.

And something I’ve always loved – drawing and sketching – also plays a big part in my creative process. My house is filled with bursting journals and random scraps of paper covered with little images, which may (or may not) become the beginnings of something in the future. I’ve often found that the practice of sketching can lead down a path which may not have been planned, but which sees the creation of something you may not quite have imagined yet.

Sometimes plucking an idea out of the ether seems like a total impossibility. And sometimes creativity gets… stuck. When all things fail, I always try to look for a need (which somehow relates to your area of skill), and attempt to fill it in a different way. Like, for example, I noticed that when I started making our Quill & Ink dolls, that there were only a few options on the market for dolls for boys – real boysy cuddling companions (who like getting dirty, climbing trees and making mud pies almost as much as their owners do). And after a little thought, finding some old fashioned names, and sourcing the perfect fabric, it was a lot easier to take the leap to make Charlie.

Charlie, Spencer, Luca & Thaddeus
My two-cents worth of advice?

1. Enjoy the process! Creativity, imagination and making something new are amazing things.

2. Take notes while you’re experimenting and making, so that when you’re happy with the final product, you can re-create it.

3. Don’t worry if things go awry; few things ever go smoothly first time around, but you’ll learn lots of valuable lessons, and what not to do for next time in the process.

How do you find inspiration?


Friday, June 10, 2011

Grateful #12 – What are you thankful for today?

Welcome to winter, Brisbane!

This week has been frosty, and it’s all anyone can talk about. I’m so sure that every winter is the same, but I seem to have winter amnesia every year, and never remember the teeth-chattering, frosty breath, scarf wearing cold until it actually really is.

The good thing about real winter weather is that it brings lots of sweet snuggly cuddles, steaming mugs of sweet milky tea, and comforting layers of blankets, doonas and warm flannelette sheets. This year, we’ve also become a family of porridge eaters; we even ate it for dinner tonight because it’s so deliciously nourishing.

So, aside from winter weather and honey-laden porridge, this week I’m grateful for:

Friends who love food, cooking, eating, and sharing just as much as I do. This weekend, we have lots of lovely friends coming over for a wintery afternoon BBQ to welcome a pair of sorely-missed nomadic travellers home.
I’ve been seriously dreaming about this feast for nearly two weeks, and this is why -
Imagine: A big open bonfire outside, fireplace lit and roaring inside; marshmallows for toasting on found twigs, a wild boar roasting deliciously on a spit, lovely spiced mulled wine, cheese wheels for nibbling, rich gravies and warm bread, lots of hearty winter salads, baked potatoes roasted on the bonfire coals and topped with lashings of sour cream and bacon, decadent self-saucing puddings, and sweet syrupy cakes.
It’s absolutely my idea of foodie heaven. And that we get to share it with the people we love most in the world – well, it makes it all the more delicious.

Young Flaubert, looking dapper and important. Image from here.

Madame Bovary, and French writer/wonder, Gustave Flaubert. I’ve had a rollicking good time re-reading my absolute favourite book this week. Beautiful Madame Bovary (Emma) is spoilt, absolutely self-centred and self-absorbed, in love with the idea of love, and bored to distraction with her neat little life, married to a bumbling doctor in a small country town. She’s the perfect 19th century anti-heroine, who cures boredom and emptiness with obsessive, suffocating affairs, smothering her lovers with a careful mix of helpless heroine in need of rescuing, and a va-va-va-vooom! bombshell act which leaves them coming back for more (well, for a while anyway). There’s also a very long drawn out (and quite amusing) death scene right at the end - it's wonderful.
I just love this book; and I'm so grateful for a great bedtime read.

Independence. I stopped dragging my feet, and began toilet training my nearly-three-year-old this week – and it’s all gone so smoothly that I’m left with very little mop-ups and a very proud heart. I love Judah’s new found toileting independence, and I love watching him strut around post-toilet, pleased as punch, knowing he’s doing such a good job. I've even overheard him telling his little sister, 'I did it all by myself!' which is just the loveliest thing to hear.

What are you grateful for this week?


Ps. Linking up with the lovely Maxabella – and you can too! Link your grateful post up with hers here, or write your grateful list in the comments section below x

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Preparation and chocolate biscuits are the key…

Image from here.

I’m watching the weeks go by. You know that feeling? Where things are flying past so quickly and you’re feet are barely touching the ground, as you fly from one thing to the next?

I’ve got this crazy map/plan for the next ten weeks, with endless lists of tasks to accomplish at the end of every week; and yesterday, I realised that my system wasn’t working, because I actually wasn’t crossing anything off.

And I was a bit devastated.

But, today is a bright, shiny new day, and systems are meant to be changed and tweaked; and I’m going to take the weekend off (really off, no teeny projects squeezed in for good measure, or out of guilt for the work I should be doing) to re-evaluate and try to figure out a better way to do things.

I've had a small brainstorm this morning, and this is what I came up with:
1. No “I’ll just check my mail/FB/Blog quickly” during the day. Total time vortex.
2. Edit my to-do lists and focus on the most important project first; allow for breaks, tea and biscuits. I like the idea of rewarding myself for ticking off a big project too – something to work towards.

But I thought I’d ask:
How do you stay on task?
What systems do you have in place to get through busy weeks?
How do you stay creative when you’ve got lots on the go?


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A delightful discovery...

There’s a part of my garden that I never really go – a little pocket tucked away, no plants that I’m crazy over, lots of spiders, old broken webs, a resident carpet python hiding somewhere nearby. So you can imagine my surprise this afternoon, to find these lovely flowers in full bloom!

I think they’re camellias; and the tree is all in bud with dozens more to come.
Aren’t they just the most romantic flower?

Did you discover anything amazing or beautiful today?


Monday, June 6, 2011

Adventurous Abigail

Sweet little Abigail has joined me for cake, but is dreaming into the sky;
She picks up her cup, leans back in her chair, and releases a little sad sigh.
‘Will I go to my new home soon?’ she asks, sipping on her tea;
‘I’m lonely for my small young friend, the one who’s meant for me.’
‘I’m sure you will, my little love – the time is almost here -
some sweet soul will snap you up, to bring their baby cheer.
Don’t fret, lovely Abby,’ I say to her, ‘Your friend is on the way;
You’ll soon be playing adventurous games and dreaming the day away.’
Abigail smiles at me, and I know she’s thinking of you,
about the day you’ll finally meet, and all the things you’ll do.
She gathers up her treasure map, a torch, and bag of supplies
And skips off for another quest, under bright-blue morning skies…

Abigail is available now through our Etsy store - or meet her at our stall at Mathilda’s Market on  the 6th August x


Ps. All our gorgeous Quill & Ink Handmade tri-fold cards are now ON SALE!
Were $8 ea, now only $5.50 + postage. Check them out here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Grateful #11 – What are you thankful for today?

And look! We’re in June already! This week has been a blur of things and stuff and to-do’s being ticked off, but in amidst of all the chaos, this week I was grateful for:

The loveliness of cooking something brand new. I often get into a little rut regarding cooking, and tend to make the same easy things over and over again when I’m short on time. But lately, I’ve been making an effort to try a new recipe a week, and it’s been quite nice making simple, hearty dishes into new family favourites.
This week we tried a delish roasted pumpkin, green bean and feta salad with lovely marinated lamb steaks, and a chicken and spinach potato bake, with a creamy bacon and mushroom sauce. And while it’s nothing fancy, it’s a tasty change from the usual suspects.

Pigtails and Plaits. One sunny, summer afternoon a long, long time ago, my very patient Grandmother taught me how to braid my dolls hair, as we sat together on her bed, silent but enjoying being together. It’s been such a long time since I thought about that memory; but it was the first thing that came to mind as I plaited my little daughter’s hair for the first time this week. It made me grateful for the simple skills that are passed down from generation to generation, and the sweetness of the memories associated with their learning.

What are you grateful for this week?


Ps. Join in! Link your Grateful post back to the lovely Maxabella Loves, or write your grateful list in the comment section below x

Image from here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pattern #2: Embroider me!

So, I had the loveliest time embroidering with the Brisbane Brown Owls a few weeks ago – learning a new skill and being around other creatively minded people was just wonderful!
I’ve been so hoping to use this new skill in my next ‘One Pattern a Month’ pledge, and have been on the hunt for the last couple of weeks for the perfect free pattern to tackle. And lucky me! This morning, I read a guest post on Soule Mama by Charlotte Lyons, who had made the sweetest gift for Soule Mama’s newborn baby girl, Annabel.

Isn’t it sweet?
And Hurrah! A free pattern!
We’ve got lots of lovely new babes being born around us at the moment – just another excuse for me to bring more handmade into the everyday.

Want to join in too? Download Charlotte’s easy-peasy pattern here, and follow the instructions here.