Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pin cushions and planter boxes

The kids and I have come to Melbourne to spend Christmas with the family (more fossil fuels guzzled to get here). We left Sam at home with Kuta the dog... who, while we're away, is allowed to live inside the house. I'm not sure how long that arrangement will last since she has been farting constantly and the smell is noxious!

It's the first time we've traveled without Sam and the kids are missing her terribly... well intermittently, presents seem to be a suitable distraction and temporary replacement for mothers love. ;)

Mum and Dad's veggie boxes are producing food now, yesterday we picked cucumbers for our Christmas lunch, there are tomatoes, not ripe yet, pumpkins, zukini, carrots and the beetroot looks like it's ready to pick! Also the apple and apricot trees are covered in leaves and have grown heaps since we planted the dormant plants back in April.

raised beds
Raised Bed veggie garden a couple of months later

raised beds
Beetroot! (and the edge of a carrot)
Since we were last here mum has been on a Quilting tour of the USA. Her trip of a lifetime with a bunch of other quilters from her Knotties group. The primary reason for their trip was to attend a quilting convention in Texas but to get there they criss-crossed the country visiting quilting shows, shops, displays and museums. I thought I'd post a couple of the photos she took which I found most interesting.

This quilting mob are a funny bunch, they buy expensive materials and spend a fortune trying to replicate an art form which was born from necessity, scraps of old material, respect for the value of fabric, innovation and resourcefulness.

horse and cart field
Amish farmer riding cart past a plowed field

6.11.2012 America Quilt Tour 262
Amish kick scooter

Textile Mill

One of the places they visited was an old textile mill, apparently the ladies all thought it was a wonderful magical place... When she was young my mum worked as a seamstress in a sewing factory, she has worked in the mills and remembers just how magical it was. Noisy, smelly, dangerous! No proper ventilation, no heating no air-conditioning... In summer it was hot and noisy in winter their fingers froze and fumbled with the unforgiving machinery which would not discriminate between several layers of fabric and the thin fingers of a poorly paid factory worker. Many fingers pierced mercilessly on the factory floor. She was finished with that business by the time I came on the scene but I remember she always had a sewing machine at home and most of my early clothes were either hand made or heavily patched up hand-me-downs. You would think she'd be well and truly over sewing after working in those sewing factories but once we'd all grown up and left home mum took up quilting and has become more productive than ever! She's made quilts for everyone in our family... and extended family... all the grandchildren and great nieces and nephews and even the people living with my brother in supported accommodation. Everyone loves mum's quilts! 

Monday, December 17, 2012


Bleary eyes aren't great lenses for reading but after a full 7 hours sleep I was awake, the house was quiet and I had a great book. After a coffee and a wander around the garden I fell into a comfy lounge chair and picked up that big fat book by Paul Kelly 'How to make gravy'!

HAPPY Drawing by the boy

A chapter for every song in his A - Z kit, every story a slightly different angle, and I'm connecting with every word! The writing is pure! Clear.... A thousand lies couldn't be more true. When I reached a really interesting chapter, Emotional, I heard the bedroom door creak and eldest child came out of her room. Also bleary eyed but keen to chat... It often happens like this, just when I think I've got some time to myself... This chapter surprised me. Paul Kelly's writing can do that. Shifting from amazing introspection to compassionate empathy.

As I read Emotional' I realized that I had misunderstood the lyrics of his song. It was not about what I thought it was. Kelly recounted the intense experience of visiting people in the Baxter detention Centre and the disgraceful treatment of those stuck in the Woomera hell hole! The scenarios are quite familiar to me since they started converting Darwin into a giant emigration detention centre! The sad and horrific stories are not uncommon among people I've met who have been transferred from Christmas Island or those who dread being sent out to Nauru. Living in limbo, having their hopes and spirits crushed at the whim of the Immigration Department who consider punishing them as parto fo some master plan to deter others from seeking safety in Australia. 

As I tried to read this unexpected chapter, which I found particularly interesting, on account of there being at least four detention centres within half an hour drive. my daughter decided it was time for a meaningful conversation about the nature of dragons and unicorns.... I persisted with the book and tried to answer her questions along the way, luckily the chapter was quite short, Kelly got his message across loud and clear, didn't waste any words and told it like it is!

I am so glad he has taken the time to tell this story and that he felt it was worth including in his book. So many Australians couldn't give a flying f-ck about the way Refugees are treated! It seems all the country is now against these people but here's one of our national heros openly declaring his compassion for them, he even wrote a song about it!

My head is swimming with emotion! Love for my kids, connection to the legendary song writer and mostly thoughts of the people I've been meeting at the DAL just down the road from where I live. The latest arrivals are from Iran. They shared their stories with me about the terrible journey across the sea from Indonesia. They all have hopes to see their children grow up in a peaceful place and to learn English and to be happy. It's nearly Christmas and a group of local people I'm involved with are trying to get Christmas presents for the kids.... nearly 180 of them (kids)! We've only got $10 to spend per kid and there's just 9 sleeps until Christmas so the next few days will be busy.

When I'd finished the chapter I put the book down, my was swimming with ideas and emotions. Thinking about the gifts I've got to find with a very limited budget I jumped up to grab the discount store brochure from the dining table... maybe something there. As I strode forward I kicked over my coffe cup! "NOoooooooo!"

Coffee cup with a crack

My favorite coffee cup! I smashed it! The cup I got from the Op Shop two years ago. That one I love with the romantic 1950s Hawaiian scene, with the girls dancing and the colonial American tourists and the flying boat.... Oh... Bleary eyes and foggy mind! Why do you mock me!

I'll try to fix it, no big deal really. What's a broken cup? I heard a fella got charged for smashing up some plates and shit in one of the detention centres! If you fuck up in detention and smash something they can charge you with destruction of property. I reckon if I was in there I'd break every frigging cup I had. What good is a favorite cup!

CROSS Drawing by the boy

Monday, December 03, 2012



It was my birthday recently and Sam gave me this fantastic card. I love it and I have to share it!

 Hand Made card from Kenya

This is by far the best 'thing' I've been given for ages! It's like a fusion of stuff that I really get a kick out of!

  • Hand made paper
  • Bicycle theme
  • Recycled materials
  • Fair trade
When I opened my card I was besotted with it! The texture of the paper, the delightful image of a couple of figures riding on a tandem bicycle, copper wire (I don't know why I just like copper... it's a beautiful metal)
Stuff like this just sends me off into some kind of romantic ecstasy! Why? I dunno. I guess I suffer from a kind of phobia of being surrounded by 'Fake plastic trees'! (like in the Radio Head song)
If you've seen the film Soilent Green and you remember the scene where  detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) tastes  a tea spoon of 'real' strawberry jam then you can imagine the experience.

Handmade paper - When I worked at the University Library I often felt like I was wasting away, stuck inside, ordering stock, doing library stuff which I'd half trained for but was never really interested in. It got pretty tedious! But once a quarter, I think, a copy of the Hand Papermaking journal would  arrive. It had fascinating stories from around the world about people who make paper. It's an art! The thing I liked best though was that the journal always came with samples of the paper. They were all unique. All had different qualities, some made from rice husks, some from elephant poo, seriously you can make paper from all kinds of plant fibre and the results can be awesome! I would really like to make my own paper. I've had a few goes at it with mediocre results but one day I will have the time and I will learn.

Bicycles - No need to explain this one! The other gifts I got for my birthday were a copy of the Save the Children book titled The Bicycle and a Bike Side T-Shirt from New Internationalis magazine... Here's a quote from the book:
One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle   - Michael Palin
 Recycled materials -  This is just one of those things that I've grown up with. I don't know how but it goes beyond not wanting to waste anything. I actually get a kick out of reusing or recycling stuff. I love to see things turned from scrap into something useful and if I can do it myself I feel like the king of the world. Some possible reasons for this obsession might be:
  • Watching the 'Wombles' on TV as a kid
  • Wearing mostly hand-me-down clothes for most of my youth. Most of my jeans had been patched so many times the legs were too stiff to bend properly.
  • Not having a bunch of money to by new things whenever I want them
  • Being a little treasure hunter who'd rather find what I need than buy it
  • Being too tight to actually buy new stuff even if I had the money
Fair Trade - Because I hate bullies and greedy bastards. And I foolishly grew up believing that as an Ausie it was my duty to demand that everyone should get a fair go... I think that little myth was a bit like Australia's National Anthem... If you look more deeply into it you'll discover that it wasn't meant to apply to everyone.     ;) Check it out!

Anyway back to the card. It was produced by a group called Kick Trading from Kenya and she ordered it from the New Internationalist Magazine HERE.
I have always hated greetings cards. They seem to be a huge waste of money, but according to cultural protocol a necessary purchase if you want to keep your friends and relatives happy, well at least my mum is always happy if I can say "Yes I bought them a card!". These cards cost not much more than your average piece of cliche junk from the newsagent. I might even willingly buy a batch.