Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Things You Can Do When You Are Bored At Home

You know you would think this would never happen to me. Being bored at home. I have four kids ranging in ages from 12 to 2 so this house is never still. Actually it's a little bit of a mad house at times and I'm the main offender for never being still. There's always someone to clean up after, someone to take to ballet classes or kindergarten, food to cook, clothes to clean, more mess to clean up and, if I'm lucky, lots of sewing I want to get done.
But occasionally, just occasionally I do get a little bored. Now I'm at home A LOT. And I really mean most of the time. Having kids it's difficult to get out, and since my husband is either shearing or doing farm related things the majority of the time, it's not often that we do go out and do things. You know, things like go on picnics or go to the beach or the zoo or the movies. Being a large family these sorts of things can be very limiting too because can get expensive. I'm actually planning on taking the kids to the movies this summer holidays and trust me, I'm starting to save my pennies now!!

So being quite a professional at the whole 'staying at home' thing I have quite a list of things to remedy the vague possibility of being bored, (when I'm not washing, cleaning, cooking, tidying up or tearing my hair out!)

I used to be an avid reader, you know, that nerdy kid with her nose always stuck in a book. I used to read with a torch under the bed clothes at night. THAT type of kid. I don't get as much time to read nowadays but I still can get lost in a good book and will often sit up in bed for hours reading, much to the amusement of my husband (who does not read). Books can be expensive so perhaps join your local library, although if you are anything like me I'm addicted to new books and I'm always adding to my collection. Something about the smell and feel of a new book. And the way the pages aren't creased and the cover is so glossy. Mmmm. I know. I'm weird.


Ok, before you think “Say what?! Isn't that housework?” Yes, it is. Technically. But have you really ever got stuck into all your random stuff and had a good clean out? Trust me. It's ridiculously therapeutic and highly recommended. You never know what you will find and it's especially good to do before Christmas, right before you introduce a whole swag of new toys into the house. I went through my boys things just the other day and managed to get rid of a WHOLE box of toys. Really. True story.


Ok, so we've established my love of sewing and how I'm slightly obsessed, but sewing, like any crafty hobby is a fabulous activity to have waiting in the wings if you are starting to get a little bored. I know I can lose myself for hours in bundles of fabric and metres of thread and it gives me some relief from the monotony that can sometimes be my everyday life. Plus there is nothing quite as satisfying as creating something. I can clean up all day after the kids but five minutes later there is a mess again. At the end of my day of sewing I actually have something to show for it and it's brilliant!


I've said before in previous posts that I'm not a huge fan of technology, particularly children and technology (!), but to me technology is a little like fast food. Everything in moderation. I'm not opposed to my son using his new Leap Pad, which I bought to help him learn, (so thumbs up for something educational) and I will while away an hour every now and then perusing Pinterest and my eldest is quite fond of the games on his iPod. I know a lot of people like to play online casino games which I think is alright too every now and then. Once again, everything in moderation.

Cooking and Baking

We all need to cook, whether it just be throwing something together for the evening meal or creating something magical. Baking isn't for everyone but I do happen to enjoy it and find it can relieve the boredom. With four kids I need to keep up a ready supply of snacks so “Cookie Robots” are something I bake often, (which are just chocolate chip cookies but my kids name them “Cookie Robots” because of the movie 'Despicable Me') and any time there are manky bananas (which is a fairly regular occurrence), I'll whip up a banana cake. Which reminds me....there's manky bananas waiting in the kitchen for me right now.....

Monday, November 23, 2015

Why Writing is Real Work

I don't really get personal here on my blog.  I offer a few snippets into my life here and there, and I certainly don't like to get controversial, and definitely don't like to get grumpy, but there is one thing that irks me.  Why is it that some people seem to think that writing is not a 'real' job?  What is that?

Now I'm not talking about blogging and how I think that bloggers deserve to be paid or HAVE to be paid.  Certainly not.  I, for one, am perfectly happy not to be paid for my blogging because I enjoy writing and as I mentioned once before in a post entitled How to Not Blog For Profit, for me, my space is somewhere that I can get my 'fix' of writing and enjoy what is sort of like computerised 'scrapbooking'.  On the other hand I'm not opposed to financial reward, don't get me wrong.  If people choose to blog for money and are successful at it then this is wonderful.  It's great to be paid doing what you love.  Since posting my article about 'How to Not Blog For Profit' I have gone on to write my first sponsored post (see it here), and enjoyed the process very much.  I worked with a great brand, enjoyed the collaboration very much as it combined my two loves (writing and sewing) and yes, it was lovely to be financially rewarded for my efforts.  I have four kids, Christmas is coming up, I have crazy bills, we all need to eat!!  BUT, for me, blogging for payment is not the end all of everything.  Yes it is great, and I really appreciated the opportunity and would love to work with the company again, but I don't let the need for chasing the almighty dollar clash with my enjoyment of blogging.

What I am really talking about here is writing in general.  Freelance writing and those who have that thing in them.  That THING that makes them a writer.  That little voice in your head that you just can't ignore and no matter what you do somewhere inside you a book is dwelling, just desperate to get out.  I remember seeing a newspaper cartoon once, you know the sort, one with just four simple drawings used to tell the story.  The poor chap is lying on the couch moaning to a psychiatrist about how he just can't help it but he just knows there is a book inside of him and he wants to know how to 'get it out'.  The psychiatrist goes on to inform him that regrettably he is doomed to be a writer.  Funny.  But not.

I am actually (technically) a writer, having studied professional writing, as well as photography, at university and also later completing an Advanced Diploma in Freelance Journalism.  On paper it says I can write, but the need to write goes back way further than that.  I kept a silly personal diary from the age of 11 and wrote in it religiously until about the age of 35, which naturally changed over the years from "I had tuna casserole for dinner" to "I think 'XYZ' is the hottest boy in school" to the tragic "the love of my life has left me, I can't live without him"...blah..blah..blah...blah.  (Just to clarify the love of my life did come back and we are now happily married with a whole swag of kids!)

I also have, until fairly recently, been writing and taking photographs for a magazine that is published quarterly, but I also have had articles published in other regional magazines and also a national magazine, my absolute favourite publication called "Country Style." 

Anyway, here is my gripe.  Why is it that when you go looking for freelance writing work, particularly in online sites, that you find a writing job listed with the payment for it being "No Pay".  WTF???!!!  No pay??  Do writers really like to work for 'No Pay'?  Do we survive on air alone?  Are our bodies so highly advanced and so finely in tune with the universe that we don't require food to eat and money to pay for it?

I spent approximately 6 years at university, roughly the same time as someone who studies to be a doctor.  A DOCTOR for goodness sake.  Actually to study for a Bachelor of Medicine in Australia it's a 5 year course, so I'm one up on them.  So having said that shouldn't I be earning a decent wage too?  This is why I am constantly finding it weird that there are people who don't think writers deserve to be paid. 

Another example.  The magazine I was recently writing for.  This fellow was paying me half of what I should have been getting, comparing it to the going rate (actually it was the going rate that I received for previous jobs years ago so in reality it should have been more than this), but his excuse was it was all he could afford.  And I was supposed to accept this?  Initially he did promise that later I would start to receive more, and even at the start of this year I was told that as the magazine was going so well (apparently) that I would be getting a pay rise...which of course I never saw.  And then of course when I did ask for a little more financial reward for writing an article that was twice as long as usual (which I was asked to write one twice the normal length....I didn't just do this on my own) resulted in a very rude email telling me that they were trying to "keep their costs down" and that they "give me plenty of work".  Now WTF is this???  A writer is not a cost.  A writer should not be looked at as a liability.  A writer supplies your content so should be seen as the greatest asset you have.  Without the stories all you have is a book of ads and no one wants to buy a magazine that is simply a book of ads.  I am not telling you all of this to have a whinge and bad mouth this particular...shall we say...'***hole'...but this is the type of thing that writers have to deal with.  It seems that even authors don't have it much better, with book deals really not earning the creator that much, considering it most likely took them years to write.  Even if they are paid $10,000 for their book (which I have a feeling it's not even that much), spread that over two years and that's not a whole lot of moolah. 

Why why why??  I keep asking myself this and finding only despair within the answer. 

On the flip side however, it seems that there are some that do see writing as an actual job and are happy to pay properly for a piece of writing, whether it be web content, a magazine article, an advertorial or even a blog post.  There are people that see the value in what you do and it leaves writers with the faint hope that one day we might come in contact with these spectacular beings. I mean there are even writers out there that make a fabulous living and their words have moved mountains, brought about change and inspired generations. 

But in the meantime, for a lot of us, we plug away at our computers, or fill our journals with endless scribbles, unable to stop because it is what makes us tick and life worth living.  So my message, to all you other writers out there...keep on plugging away...because perhaps, just perhaps, that pot of gold is at the end of a rainbow somewhere.  And my message to those who want to hire a writer.  Writing, truly good writing, is a talent that not everybody can do.  Sure, everyone can write a sentence, but not everybody can make a difference with what they say.  Remember that and write out a cheque that reflects the professional service you have just received.  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sew Many Pretties

I just had to share this gorgeous rag doll with you!  No, I didn't make it!!  I'm not that clever although one day I hope I can make dolls this beautiful!  I found this on Etsy and bought it for my little ballet obsessed 2 year old daughter for Christmas.  I can't wait to see her face on Christmas morning when she opens up this present!

These lovely ballerina dolls, as well as other handmade fabric dolls, can be found at Sew Many Pretties and are created by Tricia Salmon.  She is in the United States and runs this Etsy store, which has so many pretty dolls it is impossible to choose.  It took me ages to decide on which one I was going to get.  I tossed up between about four ballerinas before I finally decided on this one!
Tricia specialises in cloth dolls, rag dolls and baby tag dolls and she also likes to create ballerinas, princesses and holiday dolls, so have a look at the cute Christmas dolls available now.
I was really impressed with how quickly she arrived and that she was packaged up in a pretty pink drawstring bag.  Love, love, love!! 
You can also catch up with Tricia on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Christmas Santa Sacks

Getting into the Christmas spirit I was very busy last week sewing some Christmas Santa sacks for my kids!  Usually I drag some boring old pillow cases out of the linen cupboard, attach a hastily scribbled name tag, and leave these out under the Christmas tree.  However this year, with the help of Spotlight, I have been able to create proper sacks for all the kids presents using some of their gorgeous ranges of Christmas fabrics.  I was also able to buy ribbon, bells, felt, thread and all the other crafty bits and pieces I needed to get this project done.
Spotlight has a few themed ranges of Christmas fabrics, including 'Nordic Christmas', 'Merry and Bright' and 'Glam Christmas', which is a range of black and gold bling!  I decided to go with the 'Nordic Christmas' range, which is inspired by the Scandinavian lifestyle using simple whites and highlights of deep red and grey, and also the 'Merry and Bright' appealed to me, a range that is getting back to basics with fun splashes of red, green and blue.  Black and gold bling did sound very glamorous but as my children range in ages 12 to 2, and the eldest is a boy, I thought what I picked out was more appropriate for them.

I decided to work with the 'Nordic Christmas' range of colours for my daughter first, as well as working in a ballet theme (of course!), because she is crazy about the ballet.  Finding a ballerina printable template online I printed that out and set about cutting out a fabric ballerina.  It was fiddly but I got there in the end!  I also bought some lovely spotty red tulle to create a little tutu for my ballerina, just to give it that something extra.

With 'The Nutcracker' in mind I didn't think it was a bad thing to combine ballet and Christmas, and with a few well placed stars and hearts I was really happy with how this one turned out!
As I still class myself as a beginner sewer I decided to keep these as simple as possible, going for an easy sack or pillow case shape, using a plain white broadcloth for each.  I brought the colour in with each by going for a strip of decorative fabric across the bottom.  I love the rustic natural shade and the silver stars on this cute fabric.
I decided to go with the 'Nordic Christmas' theme for my 12 year old son too.  His Christmas sack design was a little trickier to come up with because I didn't want it to be too 'young' for him.  I figured he is a bit past Santa, Snowmen and Reindeer so came up with this geometric star pattern.  I was so pleased it turned out!
I think with this design I'm pretty safe that it will survive a few more years before he becomes 'too cool' a teenager to partake in Christmas!  Although do they ever really outgrow Santa??!

For my two middle boys, who are 6 and almost 5, I just had to go with the fun 'Merry and Bright' theme.  I decided to keep them simple like these first two, as I don't like fussy designs, and bring out the colour with the wide stripes of fabric on the bottom.  I picked up some coloured felt, pretty blue star 'jewels' and got to work making a Christmas tree and a Snowman!  I'm not very crafty (as in I can't draw!) but I was happy with how these turned out.
I was able to work in the 'blue' with the Christmas tree sack.  This one is for my six year old.
I love this Christmas tree fabric, it's really cute.  My five year old is a big ball of fun, and when I thought about what sort of 'Christmasy' thing could best describe him it could only be a jolly Snowman.  There was a bit of glue involved with this fellow, but so far he's holding together well!
I had great fun making these as they were nice and easy and came together quite quickly.  They'd be a great project for kids who are able to use a sewing machine, even with a little help from adults, as it is all just sewing in a straight line.  I hand stitched the Christmas tree, Snowman and Ballerina bags when it came to the decorations but I did use the machine for the big star, sewing on all the individual diamonds to create each point.  These are also great because there really is no limit to how you could decorate them...your imagination can run riot!
My kids love them, especially because I tied bells to the ends of the ribbons, (which are the ties of the bags) and they have been having fun making them jingle!
Thank you to Spotlight for providing all the gorgeous materials!  They have stores dotted around different locations all around Australia so you are sure to find one near you or you can shop online!
Happy Christmas Sewing!!
* This has been a sponsored post.


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Monday, November 2, 2015

Sewing: A Boo Boo to a Woo Hoo with a Tutu

If you are a regular visitor here you may have gathered that ballet features pretty regularly in my household.  Never having been a ballerina myself I find this rather odd, but quite delightful at the same time.  With the countdown to my eldest son's dance concert growing ever closer it's getting all rather exciting, and my little girls obsession with all things satin covered and tutu topped has not waned in the slightest.  It probably doesn't help that I keep making her little ballet outfits.  Anytime I find ballet print fabric I snap it up and worry about what I'm going to do with it later, and so far the only Christmas present shopping I've done (where did the year go??) has involved ordering ballerina dolls.  But seriously, all she does is dance around the house, and two days ago I caught her standing at the 'barre' (the chest of drawers in my bedroom), with her hand placed gracefully on the handle and she was doing plies in first position.  She's TWO for goodness sake.  Where did she learn this??

Anyway, she has a few dress that she loves because they have a little tutu arrangement going on, and everyday she wants to wear what she wants to wear (what the??....I'm used to little boys who don't care less what I throw on them....since when do two year olds care about their outfit?) is a tragedy of epic proportions if all of these are already in the wash.  So I decided to make her a tutu, going off a simple wrap skirt pattern that I found in one of my sewing books.  It was quite easy, involving layers of bridal tulle ( that part wasn't easy.. cutting up and working with bridal tulle), and some grosgrain ribbon.  So I measured her up and layered up all the frothy pinkness and sewed over layers of bulky fluff and ribbon....only to discover that it didn't quite fit in the tulle didn't meet up at the back and there was a decent gap for her butt to hang out.  Not wanting a 'hospital gown version of a tutu' on my two year old I decided to NOT throw it away in frustration but to instead work with it.
 My simple solution?  To sew a skirt in beautiful fabric and attach the wrap tutu skirt over it, putting the gap and a nice big pretty bow at the front.  I was so pleased with how it turned out and it was something of my own creation.  A blend of patterns it may be, but it's a start for perhaps designing a line of ballet inspired clothing....perhaps!

I have also thought, what with all this ballet going on around me, that I might give in and start dancing myself.  Some of you may know that I suffer from terrible chronic back pain at night, a result of arthritis in my back (probably a mix of a birth defect...I'm sure of it...and having so many babies so close together)...and I desperately need to strengthen my core muscles.  I have recently gone to the podiatrist and now have orthotics in my shoes (as I also have dicky feet!) and hopefully this will I am thinking that once I get used to standing and walking correctly (instead of like a demented duck) and I have had ten dozen remedial massages to untwist the mess that are my back muscles...I might be able to start exercising.  Now I hate repetitive exercise (read 'the gym' here) and that sort of thing, it just doesn't float my boat and I can't get motivated to do it.  But I thought that if I learnt classical ballet...and I mean really learnt how to do it very technically correct, paying attention to getting it right and not hurting myself...that it should strengthen every underworked muscle in my body...which is an awful lot of muscles...and things might start to improve.  I also used to do dance a bit when I was younger and loved it, I was one of those musical theatre types, so what better way to stick with it if it is something I would enjoy?  I will keep you posted but I also make a solemn promise.  You will never see me in a tutu!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sewing: Coco, The New Travel Dress

I made a dress!  For myself this time.  I've made several for my little girl, and even one for my niece, but I have never attempted one for myself.  There's something about sewing dresses for grown up big girls...they look so complicated.  This, however, was a fantastic 'starter-offer' for beginners like me.  It's another pattern by Tilly Walnes, it's called the Coco dress, and can be found on her blog Tilly and the Buttons. 

It was my very first attempt at putting in sleeves in ANYTHING so I was pretty excited that they went in without a hitch!  This was also the very first time I had sewed with a knit fabric, and this one is fairly stretchy (the dark blue fabric I'm pointing the finger at here), and without an overlocker, that was a whole different kettle of complicated fish.  Well, not really complicated, just a challenge to cut out (especially when you decide to lay out your pattern and cut it at NIGHT....idiot're half blind and can't see well at night...and you were using a dark fabric...what on earth were you thinking....????)....and you have to be careful not to stretch the fabric as you sew.  This wasn't that big a deal really, and I was pretty happy with the end results.

I will briefly explain the little tin of 'English' tea in front of my face, just in case you were wondering the relevance of this.... (it actually reads "Keep Calm & Carry On" on the tin).  I made this dress with my next year's England trip in mind!!  I saw a really comfortable looking dress on my favourite clothes shopping website (Birdsnest) and it looked perfect for sitting on a plane in....for a really long, long, long time....but the price tag was also really long, long, I figured that finally getting around to making this Coco dress would do the trick nicely.  This navy fabric is that type of lovely cosy soft knit fabric that you wouldn't mind wearing to bed, so I thought, BINGO....the perfect dress for the plane when I head off to England next year to visit my husband (who will be shearing over there for a couple of about my excited explanation of this trip here).

Anyway, I also changed the pattern a little, adding on this contrasting fabric around the hem.  I thought it added a little bit of something to it.  I also really loved this spotty fabric, but when I went to order it they only had a tiny amount, so I decided to go for the solid navy (which was probably a better colour that would be more flattering on my "cuddly" body, particularly in this knit fabric that tends to show off all your.....well.....fat bits......)....soooooo....I decided that I would get enough of the spot fabric so I could add this contrasting hem, the cuffs (which were also optional with the pattern) and the pocket (another optional extra!). 
The pattern itself gives you a few different options, as a matter of fact, where you can choose to do a top or a dress, with the choice of adding a sort of rolled collar, the cuffs on the sleeves, having long sleeves or 3/4 length or adding the pockets.  Tilly's original Coco dress is this stripey version here with the little yellow pockets.  To add the contrasting fabric on the bottom I had to be a little bit cunning and cut a strip off the bottom of the pattern, making this the template for the spotty fabric, but making sure I still remembered to add seam allowances to join the navy fabric with the spotty one.  It took a little bit of fiddling but it wasn't too bad....even for my rusty mathematical abilities.

Nearing completion of the dress (which really only took me a day and a half all up when you work it out) I ran into a bit of a conundrum where I had no idea whether to have it with no pockets, with one pocket or with two pockets.  Ahhhh....the dilemma.  I asked my eldest son and he thought one pocket.  I texted these photos to my Mum......
No pockets....
One pocket.....
....or two?

My Dad thought two pockets.  My Mum thought no pockets.  And then there was my son who thought one pocket.  In the end I decided that I did like the look of two pockets but figured it would drive me batty trying to sew them on evenly....and then if I stuffed that up I'd have to walk lopsided to hide the fact that my pockets were I went with just one.  What is your pocket based opinion??

In other news, while I was having my 'pocket dilemma', my daughter was getting into my bathroom cupboard...
....and trying on my lipstick!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sewing: Bags, a Skirt and the Vegetable Garden

I really must apologise that this seems to have turned into a sewing blog.  It was never intended to be so, but now it's all I seem to do.  I'm constantly covered in bits of cotton, (I go out and find myself picking bits off my clothes) and I seem to be measuring time in the amount of projects I get completed.  It has, however, helped me on the road to living a more simple life because time has indeed seemed to have slowed down and there's nothing really technological about sewing.  Yes, I know you can get fancy 'touch screen' sewing machines, but mine is a simple common garden one with a couple of dials on the front that go 'clunk clunk' when you switch modes.  I don't have an overlocker (nor do I want one) and don't sit with an iPad in front of me reading the instructions from downloaded patterns.  Instead I like to buy the pattern (the paper version) or use a book.  Like the one above.

Yes, I did make the Farmer's Market Bag again, (first attempt here) this time using this light green fabric with the white flecks for the front, the fancy half circle pattern fabric for the back and the front pocket (which looked really snazzy) and the red was for the lining.  I made this with my big sister in mind and popped it in the post yesterday.  It's a surprise, which I'm assuming she doesn't read my blog (?) so hopefully it will be a nice thing to get in the post either tomorrow or Tuesday.  Or the day after that, depending on how slack the postman is. 

I then decided to make another one because I had some of the grey leaf fabric left (which I used for the original one) and I had found some other leaf fabric which was going to match it perfectly.  It also has grey leaves as well as pink and gold ones too.  I just had to do it again.  See....
I thought it turned out rather well!
Once again I ignored the instructions where it called for a bit of Velcro to hold the flap of the pocket closed and used a button instead.  This was another I found out of a collection that I got from the Yarragon Vintage Market up the road.  It's a lovely gold colour which suits the gold leaves.  Bonus! (And why I'm getting so excited about buttons now I have no idea.  Mid-life crisis??)
After finishing this last night today I decided to get back to making clothing.  I had fabric left over from one of the pinafores I made my daughter so I decided to use that to make up a little skirt.  It was nice and quick and one of those great ones that are easy to put on (as it is just secured with elastic), which is perfect when it comes to dressing wriggly two year olds.
In other news, I have finally managed to take a few more steps down the simple living path, or should I say sustainable living, and I've put some vegetable plants in my new veggie garden.  It's been a bit of an ongoing saga because I had to get my husband to make the veggie boxes, and that was in between being busy with shearing jobs.  But he did a great job and last weekend he got the soil for them so now I've been able to put some plants in.  Tomatoes were the first thing I put in, one of them being an heirloom variety, and yesterday I got a few other bits, such as baby spinach, cos lettuce, basil, mint, zucchini and strawberries.  Today I even found a raspberry plant at the supermarket so I had to have that too.
My daughter has rearranged the little tags that I popped under each plant, so unfortunately I now have no idea which is what....but there is a Black Russian and a Tommy Toe and something called a Grosse Lisse (I think) and some other one that I have completely forgotten the name of.  I really want some cherry tomatoes too but the nursery didn't have any, although they are expecting some tomorrow.  My four year old is crazy about tomatoes so I want to have lots of cherry tomatoes out there for him to gorge on, otherwise he'll gorge on the big ones and there will be nothing left for salads.  Yes, there is a method to the madness.
There are already some strawberries on my strawberry plants (although they are still green) but I think it will be a race between me, the kids and the birds as to who will get to eat them.