Saturday, November 28, 2015

What I'm Thankful For

We obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia, this was because of something that happened in America, so why would we.  But what a fabulous reason to get festive!  Doing some research into the whole reason behind Thanksgiving and I'm suitably impressed.  I mean, not only do you guys get to eat turkey (nom nom nom) but the fact that the Pilgrims shared their harvest with the American Indians, and that they showed thanks for the help they received from them, I'm all for it.  There are some gigantic life lessons that should be brought forward to today's world, not only messages I'd like my children to learn, but the current world climate could take a few leaves out of this book too.  Let's be grateful for what we have and, yes, let's share it with others.

So even though the Thanksgiving season has just finished it got me thinking about what I have to be thankful for, and even though I sometimes grumble about my life, and moan about my back pain, and sometimes (actually, quite often) yell at my kids, I do have a lot to be grateful for.
This Guy

This hard working shearer is my husband and I've never been more grateful for somebody in my life.  He stuck around when I told him he didn't have to and he's loved me ever since.  He sweats it out everyday, bent over a smelly old sheep (actually about 200 a day really), so that we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear and all those other luxuries that make up our lives.  He's a fantastic father and step-father, kind and caring, loving and fun to be around.  He is sporting some mighty fine mutton-chops in this photo (it was taken last year) but they are (thankfully!) no longer on his face.  But mutton-chops or not, I love him anyway.
Boys Dance Too

This is my eldest son.  He started doing classical ballet at the start of this year and he is a natural.  I know I'm his Mum and all but he is really good at it and had me completely gobsmacked while I was watching him doing his first class.  He took to it like a duck to water and now, just after a year, his teacher is recommending him for special classes that The Australian Ballet School will be running next year.  This is THE best school in the country and if anything is going to help him achieve his dream of dancing for the Australian Ballet this is his chance. Words can't describe how proud of him I am or how grateful I am for this opportunity.  For a twelve year old he is mature, well spoken, driven and always helps me when I ask him to!
My Six Year Old

He's quiet, he's thoughtful, he's gentle, he loves cars and riding his bike, he is very good at playing the piano (he's only been learning a few months) and he has Autism, which doesn't define who he is.  He has challenges ahead of him but he tells me he loves me and gives me lots of cuddles. He was an unexpected surprise but he was a truly wonderful surprise and I am always grateful for him.
My Brown Eyed Boy
 
This little fella will be turning five in January and will be starting school together next year with the six year old.  Two of them in the same class! (do I feel a bit sorry for the teacher?!?)  He has an enormous capacity to love and is incredibly caring.  He hugs his little sister and rushes to greet his six year old brother when we pick him up from day care, giving him a hug and a kiss and is genuinely excited to see him.  He's funny and clever and loves drawing and trains and when he sees me flinching with the pain in my back he will run over and start rubbing it better.  Strangely, even though he is touching me so lightly when he does this, it feels remarkably good.  It's like he has some sort of magic healing touch.  He also loves foxes (hence the face paint), although he's very keen to go hunting with his father and "shoot the foxes."  Go figure.
My Little Ballerina

So after having three boys I suddenly have a girl.  I didn't think it was possible but here she is.  She's obsessed with ballet.  She's two and she lives in a tutu and gets about saying "and pointe and pointe" (while pointing her toes), "and spin" (does pirouette), "and tutu" (and will do a lovely curtsy whilst holding out her tutu).  She recently stole the show at my sons ballet concert when she got up on stage during the interval and proceeded to entertain the audience, running about and doing her 'ballet' and dropping the most gorgeous bows.
This was it.  I actually have this on film and should share it with you.  The audience were clapping and laughing and making the appropriate "isn't she gorgeous" noises.  It was very funny and what I think is the start of years of ballet concerts and me endlessly sewing sequins on costumes.
She's cheeky and sweet and head over heels about her Dad (and he's crazy about her), she loves ballet and dancing and more ballet and just a bit more dancing, as well as Angelina Ballerina.  She's very spoilt, (of course), owns more tutus than any girl I know and is going to self combust with excitement when she finds out that next year she will be doing a proper ballet class at the very good school that her big brother goes to.  To put it bluntly, she will lose her s**t!

She is also prone to falling asleep in weird places due to her insistence that she DOES NOT have a nap during the day when she clearly needs one.... Observe...
It's often a common occurrence to find her asleep while wearing a tutu.  No doubt dreaming of dancing.
This Dog

This is Pip.  She's my husband's working dog.  She's a kelpie and she's gorgeous.  She's the nicest dog.  She doesn't normally live at home with us but stays out at the farm, or is even up north with my brother in-law.  My husband doesn't like dogs in the back yard, nor does he really like domestic pets.  He's grown up with dogs being a working tool and when they are done for the day they go back on the chain.  They are well cared for, don't get me wrong, but they are not for cuddling.  I miss having a dog as my kelpie Kate ran away almost two years ago.  But over about the last three weeks Pip has been living with us and I have been spoiling her rotten.  She' actually been helping get me out of a bit of a slump.  I mean there is only so long you can live with chronic back pain and no sleep.  Two years and I'm a bit over it and she's cheered me up no end.

And then there's the little things, like my roses...
They've gone ballistic this year because we had such a cold winter.
 
Then there's family and friends; like my parents who are always there for me, my in-laws who have been so generous and welcoming.  My sister and brother are just a phone call away and my best mate Meaghan, who I unfortunately don't get to see a lot due to busy lives and distance, but she is always my best mate and our friendship will pick up where it left off every time we see each other.
 
Speaking of friends I am also thankful for my lovely blogger buddies, Stephanie, Kiki and Bianca.  You guys are all quite a bit younger than me, yet you still accept me into the fold, and although I am yet to meet any of you, I love you all and am eternally grateful for your friendship.
 
I hope you all had a very Happy Thanksgiving.


 
 













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 WOW....it 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!)
Reading

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.

De-cluttering

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.


Sewing

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!

Technology

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)...it 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?)....BUT...it 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 (ok...so 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 her....as 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 help...so 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!