Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This won't come as any news to anyone over the age of about, ah, two. But we're a bit excited. Gardens grow!
First Sunday in November

three weeks later

We've grown a few straggling veggies before. We generally manage at least an abundance of basil over summer, thanks the lovely Herb Fair at our local Community Centre on the first Sunday of every November. But we have a lot of neighbouring gum trees, and limited time, and water restrictions, and enthusiasm that rapidly tapers. Things haven't often thrived.

Then we looked afresh at this patch down the side of our driveway. Fabulous sun. No overhanging trees to shade or suck out the nutrients from beneath. Just begging to be composted, built up and planted with productive plants. And on the first Sunday in November, we were ready for the Herb Fair, which also does a great trade in exciting vegetable seedlings.

We have eggplants, zucchini, capsicums, chillies, loads more tomatoes we grew from seed, a random marigold (companion planting) and of course, basil. Out the back we've planted more tomatoes and zucchinis, plus two varieties of pumpkin.

Every morning Andy does a little tour of the garden and usually invites me out to view some momentous unfurling of leaf or bud. We've been watching a lot of River Cottage on DVD (we discovered this fabulous series only about 10 years after the fact!) and he's fancying himself as a bit of a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Well, they both wear glasses and have a penchant for really bad puns. Yay, I say.

More 'growth' also probably inspired by Mr F-W is our incubating eggs. Right now we're on Day 18 out of 21 and I'm so very excited. I've snuck some away from our broody chooks a few times to 'candle' them (i.e. shine a torch light through them). As far as I can tell, things are looking promising. It's all I can do to stop myself cracking one open for a look-see. But I read somewhere that you must not handle the eggs after Day 18 so it's all up to nature now.

And lastly, how about a bit of personal growth? Yesterday I had a small road-ragey incident. I didn't let loose any rude gestures or words, but I'm positive the lady concerned had a fair idea how I felt. Well, about an hour later I sat down in a meeting with some important new clients and it dawned on me. It could have been one of them. It wasn't, but it could have been. And I could have royally... messed it up for everyone. (I was wearing a dress in a fairly unmistakeable floral fabric!) So, I hereby vow to the world at large that I will never express anger or frustration to other road users again. No matter how bad my day, no matter how difficult it was to get the four-year-old to eat breakfast and get in the car, no matter what other drivers may do. I'm in charge of me, and I will be better than that.

Oh and I should probably add, no matter how hard it now is to reverse the car out of the driveway with the addition of our awesome new garden bed.

- Jane x

Sunday, November 27, 2011

27th November 1999

McLaren Vale, South Australia. I was lucky enough to marry this lovely man (who looks like such a baby here!). He makes me a better person. Twelve years! I hope with all my heart that we are able to spend decades more together.

- Jane x

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

alien heads

So, when your kids assume with their daunting faith that Mama can whip up just about anything on the sewing machine, this is where you end up.
Jasper 'needed' three alien heads for a drama presentation this week.
Here is the inspiration image he and his friends had Googled up:

I did suggest large balloons and papier mache might be the go for good alien head shapes, but he insisted on fabric. And what else is one to do on a day at home with a mildly ill four-year-old, than sew alien heads?
I like the spookiness of the (unintentional) blur here
Fabric: a polyester-spandex remnant with a suedey-kind of finish, and double layers of black tulle for the eyes. Thank you, fabric shop around the corner.
Extremely technical details: I just made a basic hood shape and filled in the front with a flat piece, then zigzagged on elastic around the bottom at the back to pull it in, and added darts at the front to help it sit better. I think they add a certain skull-like menace, too. Nostrils done in fabric marker. Voila, three alien heads.

- Jane x

Sunday, November 20, 2011

hardcover blog

I'd heard about having blogs printed into books. Since one of the main reasons I blog is to keep a bit of a personal, sewing and family archive, this seemed like a good idea to me.

Especially when Inder recently mentioned that she was shut out of her entire Google/Blogger setup for a while and had potentially lost everything. (Thankfully she didn't.)

I'm hopeless at making photo albums. Our wedding photos are still sitting about as tiny proofs in a plastic bag, almost 12 years down the track. So the notion of acting right now and getting something all made up and delivered to my door with a few clicks was just perfect for me.

I used Blog2Print, and my book came in the mail last week. I'm delighted! What a keepsake to look back on in years to come.

an index! so exciting!
you can choose to have the comments printed or not, I love comments :)
For anyone interested, here are my thoughts about it:

- For what it is, the price was pretty reasonable. (My book is over 200 pages, full colour, hardcover, delivered to my door, all for around $100.)
- It's dead easy, it really does it all for you.
- The cover options (as far as I could tell) were pretty basic and the stripey one I picked is a bit naff, but I don't mind.
- The photos all turned out smallish, although I make most of them larger on my actual blog.
- There may have been more options and ways to alter the layout, but I don't have a lot of patience with these things and so just went with 'that'll do'.
- Isn't technology just freaky, and marvellous?

- Jane x

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Gingerbread Man

Ooo dear, I just read someone's blog post that made me feel quite snarky. Gosh I don't know why I can't seem to shake the snarkiness, even though I know it's so unimportant. Many people - including some I know and care about - are dealing with far bigger, actual real things. What's with the snark? You are unwelcome and unnecessary, snark.

So I'm going to smack myself about the face with some stuff that makes me feel happy. Blessed. Grateful.

One of Clem's favourite things in the world is making gingerbread. He's my little Gingerbread Man.

It's all about the tasting along the way... thankfully they're cooked in a good hot oven!

The recipe we use is Excellent Gingerbread Men from and I completely recommend it as easy, quick, kid-friendly and always a success.

We were testing out Christmas shapes. I managed to volunteer myself to help something like forty kids at Clem's Kindy make gingerbread on Monday. Daunting, but if I keep myself in the right frame of mind it should be joyful and memorable, as well as inevitably frustrating, noisy and messy! I know it will mean a lot to Clem. Also to another little boy who turned up at Kindy last Wednesday even though it wasn't his regular Kindy day. He thought gingerbread was happening then and he didn't want to miss out. Eek, the pressure is on!

With Clem in his final pre-school year right now, I'm feeling a sense of almost-panic about wanting to eat up every possible moment of fun time with him. I fully realise he will work this to his very best advantage, and we will be making an awful lot of gingerbread in the next year. Bring it on.

Oh, and I'm going to throw in this photo from a couple of weeks ago, just because it makes me smile. Snark banished.

- Jane x

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Operation Scarecrow: mission accomplished

You see that big market umbrella cover? We made that! My friend Han and I, we made that, on this little hard-working machine just above.
You can see the beginnings here.
We've spent maybe four or five sessions on Wednesdays whenever we can manage between work, kids, home, blah blah. It's been a challenge, and a lovely opportunity to spend time with a dear friend and her sweet baby girl.
what is this sewing thing you are doing?
Even though we made a muslin, the entire process has been a bit of a 'don't count your chickens' exercise until we put the final cover onto its frame. It worked better than either of us really hoped. We even managed to salvage the large eyelet-thing from the very top of the old cover to re-use.
Hannah's very basic-model new Singer machine just churned through multiple layers of outdoor fabric with a denim needle and thick Gutermann thread. There were a few 'choking' moments but nothing a bit of unpicking and gentle persuasion couldn't remedy. Pretty impressive and has raised the notion of new sewing machines a few notches in my eyes.
Now, 'count your chickens', yes that was planning for a little segue.
In chook news, we have two melted-together broodies on the one nest of twelve eggs. Every day for twenty minutes we plop them out for a little eat-drink-poop-stretch-the-legs and then they're back to this position. Four days our of twenty-one down and counting!
Chargold the young pullet was not accepted by the feathered friends at my parents' coop so she's now in a large cardboard box in our house, pending her own outdoor accommodations to be built on the weekend.
Oh and I took one of our rats to the vet for the second time this week, he's now on antibiotics and thankfully responding well. $69 later.
Pets. Sheesh. We also have a box of silkworms but right now I'm thinking they might make a nutritious snack for one of the chickens.

- Jane x

Sunday, November 13, 2011

chook psych

We're learning a lot about chickens right now!
Yesterday we had a delightful experience driving up to a property in the hills to fetch fertilised Wyandotte eggs and a new young pullet. The chook breeders were a lovely couple on a heavenly property with wandering peacocks who roost in giant oaks grown from acorns from Sherwood Forest... you know, generally more breathtaking charm than you can poke a stick at.
As well as eggs and a chicken they offered us coffee, lemonade, biscuits, peacock feathers for the boys and a chance to feed carrots to their old horse. I think they were lucky we didn't set up permanent camp. There are some genuinely lovely people around, aren't there?
Anyhow, back we came with our eggs.

And our new three-month-old Wyandotte x Australorp, named 'Chargold' by Jasper (she's charcoal with gold flecks).
The broody hen settled beautifully on the eggs.
um, that's the bottom of a cat litter box, the most practical thing we had to make an easy-access brooding nest!
Our other Wyandotte looked on for a while, then climbed on as well. This morning they were spread out so evenly across the eggs they looked like some giant melted chicken with two heads.
Later in the morning we discovered these two out in their yard, pecking about, taking dust baths, eating and drinking and preening like they'd never been broody at all.
Oh no! The eggs!
In the nest house was little Chargold and a clutch of abandoned eggs.
How? Why?
Thinking, thinking, Google searching... theory: little Chargold still cheeps like a newly hatched chick.
These chickens had been been snapped out of their broodiness because Chargold's cheeping had told their (small) brains that the eggs had hatched! That sweet little noise tells a mother chicken that it's time to get off the nest and out and about with her new babies.
Funny girls.
The upshot of it all is that Chargold has gone for a little holiday with Henny, Penny and Julia Gillard, the three pampered hens who live with my parents. (Julia's a red hen, of course.)
Ms Broody settled back well on the nest, fluffed out her feathers and tucked the eggs under with her beak. We're hoping they didn't cool down too much and are still viable.
The other chook (who seems to have turned broody since the fox attack) has been shut out of the nest house to give the original broody some peace.
We've finally given these two big ones names. I was feeling guilty somehow, as if not naming them had meant we left them unloved and vulnerable to fox attack.
Being Silver Laced Wyandottes, they're now Lacey (on the nest) and Doily (the other one).
Chargold can come back when her voice 'breaks' or the eggs hatch, whichever comes first.
Phew. Complex, hey?

- Jane x

Friday, November 11, 2011

not-so-fantastic Mr Fox

Or Mrs Fox? Could have been. In any case, somebody ate one of our lovely chickens two nights ago.

We've been keeping chickens in our backyard for over ten years now. Although visitors have sometimes asked about the fox threat, we've never seen any evidence of them before. After all, we live in a rather suburban area and the idea of foxes roaming the streets seems faintly ludicrous.

However, the evidence seemed pretty clear yesterday: small hole in the fence, lots of feathers, only two chickens left where there once were three.

The two who are left seem like they've had a bit of a horrible experience, poor girls.
I've had to actually physically remove them from the nest to make them have some food and water.

The one of the right had gone broody anyway. See the smaller comb? She's been on the nest for several weeks now and has kind of shrunk all over. In fact we'd just decided to get her some fertile eggs to sit on; something we've never tried before. The other night we er, hatched this plan over a couple of wines, and I Googled "fertile eggs Adelaide" and hastily added "chicken" on the end. Voila: Chooknet, and the promise of gold-laced Wyandotte eggs (same as our girls but different colouring) by the weekend. Dontcha love the internet?

Anyhow the chookyard has been reinforced with rocks and wire, and we plan to roof the entire thing with more wire netting. There was actually already a small hole in the wire where the fox got in; we'll be more vigilant in future. We'd only had to worry about chooks working their own way out before.

In the meantime we're shutting the girls in their nest house each night. Still hoping to get the fertile eggs over the weekend. And maybe another full-grown chicken to help convince ms. non-broody that the yard is safe again. Wyandottes apparently make excellent mothers and I've been researching how to look after a hen and her clutch.

We're nervous for our girls, but determined that this won't stop our chook-keeping.

And I suppose I can still enjoy Fantastic Mr Fox, the movie. After all, as he keeps telling Mrs Fox, he's a wild animal. Even if he's not native to Australia, and introduced by some tally-ho nincompoop who wanted to hunt. Grr.

- Jane x

Monday, November 7, 2011

Can you make mine next? Is that mine?

Those sort of words make for a happy (if slightly hurried) sewing mama.

Charlie directing the photo shoot, telling Jasper to take the ChupaChup out of his mouth
It was a Spoonflower t-shirt-a-thon last Friday night and Saturday morning. Once I was on a roll these really didn't take too long.

There was enough left from a yard of the caravans to make the front of Clem's, because he wanted caravans just like Charlie. Jasper requested the 'Science Alphabet' as soon as he laid eyes on it.

I can't rave enough about how lovely this organic cotton knit is. The base colour is natural/unbleached and the colours all come out just a little soft and faded-looking (although the print definition is sharp). It's just so nice for garments.

Clem seems to have a standard set of moves now for photo shoots, which involves a lot of hands on hips and wiggling about. Oh yes and he's still wearing those pyjama pants (and often the pink top) 90% of the time!

I'm a bit peeved that the twin-needle stitching on the hem of Charlie's t-shirt has already started coming undone. I thought I'd mastered it with the combination of Singer 348, twin stretch needle and polyester thread. Bugger.

If this doesn't work out, I'm seriously going to think about investing in a coverstitch machine. It's no fun when something you're so happy with is coming apart before the first wash. If anyone has any words of advice on coverstitch machines, I'm all ears.

Well all ears apart from maybe a couple of nits up there too. EW! Yes I found a couple of head lice on me. Scrub comb scrub comb potions lotions hot wash towels and sheets imagining creepy scalp feelings... big boys are all clear, Clem is on 'maintenance', Andy has taken the cue to go No.2 on the clippers and I'm almost wanting to do the same! Yickity yick yuck bletch.

- Jane x

Sunday, November 6, 2011

somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must've done something good

My niece looked after the boys last night while Andy and I went to see an opera. When we came home and I headed to bed, I found this on my pillow. File under "most precious possessions ever".

- Jane x

Friday, November 4, 2011

oops, I bought some more Spoonflower

So, um, look what the postie brought. More Spoonflower organic cotton knit. 

They're having a free shipping offer soon, even on international orders. I found that out after this package arrived of course. But nyah nyah, mine's here already.

Tempting as it is to just sit around stroking this fabric lovingly, I knew I had to get working on it and justify my splurge.

The boys need t-shirts and Charlie got the first one. Sleeves and neckband are from a scrap of unbleached cotton rib knit given to me by a work friend.
I think I've made this big enough to accommodate this ten-year-old for a while; he seems to grow every time I turn my head.

Pattern was Ottobre Best t-shirts yet again (I'm certainly getting my money's worth from this pattern!), but this time I went for the straight-cut version rather than the more fitted one.

On a completely different note, we've had our first brush with head lice this week (brush - geddit?).

I was in the shower with Clem and noticed something in his hair. I think it's pretty amazing actually that we've managed ten years of lice-free parenting until now. Pure chance I would imagine.

I posted on Facebook about it and the flood of marvellous advice from experienced friends has been overwhelming. Tiny little buggers incite some very strong feelings!

So I think I've got the whole 'how to break the cycle' thing sussed, but time will tell. We're using only natural products with teatree oil, eucalyptus oil etc but theoretically they should be more than adequate.

It was a little tempting just to get the clippers out and shave dear Clemmy's head to get rid of all the teeny, tiny, clingy lice eggs... but I don't think I could do that to his curls.

After rinsing out some lice treatment, he was walking very, very slowly and carefully out of the shower. "Hurry up," I said impatiently. "I can't, I've got eggs in my hair!" says he.

(This is the boy who recently had two bee stings in three days, both times while holding an egg from the chooks in each hand, and didn't drop a single one.)

Right... so I've just brought the topic around to yucky bugs again. I hope your week has been bug-free!

- J x

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the muslin that made me go "yeah, nah"

I may finally have to face the awful truth that I am not an illustration of a groovy young thing in the sixties. Boo-hoo.
yeah! hey that's me in the centre with the red hanky isn't it?
nah. I don't hate it but wouldn't buy it, you know?
Let's ignore the one sleeve thing and the safety pin 'buttons' and the random fabric belt for now and look at the shape.

The fit was not bad; I loosened a little into the seam allowances around the hips but that's all.

I was slightly concerned about the shapeless bag potential of this pattern on me and I think, suspicions confirmed. Not dreadful, however not flattering enough to bother with making 'for real'.

And didn't they like their 'short' sleeves long in the sixties? Modesty or fashion I wonder?

There are better dresses out there for my shape. Like something with an actual waist. Lesson learnt!

Yay for doing muslins then, however dull it might be. I think this means I have to muslin up another pattern. Oh well, silver lining: it's a great way to use up odd coloured threads left on bobbins.

- Jane x
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