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Friday, December 30, 2005


Blimey, it's hot! In Melbourne we only expect hot weather in February, really, when the children go back to school. But we've had lots of hot weather already and I am frankly sick of it. We don't have proper air conditioning - there is an ancient unit in the study, so I can read blogs in comfort! But the study is tiny and I can't spend all day in here without going mad.

Funnily enough, while writing this, a friend just phoned to ask us round to share her airconditioning this afternoon!

The swimming pool is coming into its own and I think Wombat had five swims yesterday. Of course this meant he ended up with sore eyes - though he insisted his eyes were not sore, which would have been more convincing if they had not been puffy and half closed at the time! It usually takes me all summer to even get a faint hint of bather strap marks on me, but I came close to getting sunburnt yesterday - not something I try to do, certainly.

Christmas was lovely. George's family was all relaxed and cheerful and we had a great time. It was quite cool, which seems impossible to believe only a few days later. (The forecast for tomorrow is 42C, which is 107F). The food was excellent and plentiful but a modified version of traditional Christmas food, so lighter and healthier but still just as yummy. My contribution (apart from crisps for hungry moments beforehand) was a huge pavlova, masses of fresh berries and a bowl of cherries. Unfortunately I decided to make the pavlova in Moe rather than make it here and try to transport it down there, and using a different mixer and different stove resulted in a less than perfect pav - never mind, everyone else seemed to like it! Berries are in wonderful, plentiful season at the moment, and I ate huge quantities of them - mmm, boysenberries!!

Much extravagent gifting occurred, of course. Wombat was thrilled with his Nintendo DS, Nintendogs and the complete set of Futurama DVDs. Baby Bear paraded around in her new clothes and jewellery. (They both got books and other DVDs as well). George gave me a lovely silver bangle, the kids gave me earrings. We gave him DVDs, Borders book vouchers and a polished ammonite paperweight (he collects interesting paperweights). George's mother gave me a cute red necklace made out of beaded beads, and his sisters were most inventive - one gave me a gorgeous patchwork bag she had made (she makes lots of them) and the other gave me 50 balls of white yarn she had found in a market to experiment with dyeing!

Since we came back I have been wilting in the heat, swimming, and dyeing yarn. (It's been a bit too hot to spin, though I have managed some knitting in the evenings sitting in front of a fan). I have dyed three lots of sock yarn and intend doing another lot this afternoon, and five balls of the Christmas yarn are in the dye pot at the moment. I have to say that sock yarn does not take up the dye the way pure wool does - hardly surprising, of course - but all my dyeing is experimental and I just love the way it often turns out differently from what I might have expected.

I have finished the basic stuff for the Scarf Exchange Scarf and will do more on it next week. I am trying to finish off a pair of socks I have been knitting for George for ages, so that I can knit up some of the sock wool that I have dyed. And I want to get back to my Diamond Patch jumper, which I started last summer and then forgot about. I haven't done much of it but I really want to get on with it.

And now I can think of nothing better to do than hop in the pool!

Thursday, December 22, 2005


The washed and dryed skein of kinky barbed wire relaxed a little, especially after I gave it a good 'twang' or two when it was dry. No pics as the camera is en route from Sydney.

Have spoken to George about this supposed trip to Sydney - he is as p****d off as me with his company for taking so long to decide and then organise it, too. He has told them that unless all arrangements are in place by tomorrow morning he is withdrawing his offer to go up there for two weeks to work fulltime for them. He also told them that if they thought he was getting cross, they should talk to his wife!

Not that I feel any better about going. It;s not that I mind going to Sydney, I like visiting there and it would be fun. It;s the fact that I do not know, still, whether when we leave here on Christmas Eve whether we are going to his mother's for three days, or going there and then driving slowly to Sydney, spending two weeks there and then driving slowly back - the best part of four weeks probably. I just can't get my head around the lack of decision. I hate leaving things to the last minute and that's what this feels like. I would much rather, at this stage, just spend the holidays here, but to have George around a bit more than he has been.

I am still ploughing away on the secret scarf exchange. I decided that I wanted to make myself one too, but that I would have to do them both together for various reasons (can;t go into details because she knows who she is!) That means that I am now 3/4 of the way through the two and I am bored, but I daren;t stop because I will lose momentum and might not get it done in time. Especially if we go away for a month - if we do there are a couple of projects that I want to sit down and get on with that have been very neglected. There's a particular something about what I am knitting that is making my neck hurt, which normal knitting doesn't. I know what it is but I can't find any other way to knit this particular thing and I just want that bit of it over and done with.

Enough whingeing, let's get some more secret scarf done tonight at least!!

Very Bah Humbug again

Not happy, not looking forward to anything at the moment. George is in Sydney three days a week and it is getting harder amd harder to cope with things in his absence. Every single week there is a crisis of some sort while he is away that I have to deal with on my own. The kids are getting increasingly feral without him around and I feel myself turning into a fishwife as I try to control them. Then when he is here he is tired and bad-tempered and doesn't want to deal with anything. The last two weekends he has barely been at home as he runs around doing things for other people, not for us. I just want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head, permanently.

On to more cheerful things - I have started spinning again! I learnt to spin two years ago, with a series of lessons from the Guild in Melbourne, with a great teacher. I did lots of spinning throughout 2004, using some of the masses of fleece inherited from George's mother and sister who were delighted to get rid of it! Their spinning enthusiasms are over nd done with but they had a smallish flock of fleeces stored away between them! But no matter how much practice I got I still always seemed to overspin and I still can't work out how not to do it. But I had fun, and spun various skeins of yarn which I dyed in various colours and have used in scrumbling and other odd-ball stuff.

For some reason I haven't really touched the wheel this year and it has languished in a corner gathering dust. George bought me 2kg of fluff last year to turn into a jumper for him and I think I was abit afraid of trying to actually produce that much consistent yarn that wasn't overspun. But finally my fingers started itching to spin again and I dusted off the wheel last week and steeled myself to have another go.

Yesterday I plied some stuff I had spun a year ago and then forgot about. I was glad to see that I could remember how to do it without any problems! But I was horrified at just how overspun it was. When it was plied and skeined and I took it off the niddy-noddy it kinked and curled and looked just like barbed wire. It is soaking at the moment and I am about the wring it out and hang it to dry, hopefully with some weight on it. I only want to use it for crumbling anyway so it doesn't really matter.

And then I got the bags of fluff out and started spinning. It;s mostly cream wool with a small amount of alpaca and mohair, and has little flashes of colour throughout it in blue, green, yellow and red. (Are they the alpaca and mohair? I don't know). I can see it as a nice rustic jumper with some simple cabling. I;ve spun half a bobbin so far and yes, I am still overspinning. What am I doing wrong? I've even checked in a spinning book and as far as I can see I am not doing the things that cause overspinning. More practice, probably.

I attempted to teach myself to navajo ply yesterday, too. That was interesting! I had that feeling of needing three hands. I sort of got the hang of it though I doubt if the resulting yarn will be useful for anything except extreme novel effects in scrumbling. I wanted to learn this because, although I have so far spun undyed yarn and then dyed it, I am tempted by those lucious space dyed rovings I see everywhere, but don't so much like the candy-cane effect of plying that sort of stuff. (It has its place and I would do some of it like that, though). I definitely need more practice before I let myself loose on good stuff to navajo ply!

I am going to do some more spinning today because I do find it soothing, and I really, really need soothing! It is Thursday, and I still can;t a definite answer out of George about whether we are going away on Saturday for three days orfour weeks! I don't even want to go away for four weeks but he has been dithering about us all going to Sydney for two weeks while he works there. We did this three years ago and it was all right, though very exhausting for me because he was of course working for sixteen hours a day and I had to amuse the kids in a strange city on my own. (Not that Sydney is strange, as such! Just that I have an appalling sense of direction and find unfamiliar places hard work). And now he has turned his phone off so that I can;t ring him and complain that he never talks to me!!

Not only do I want Christmas to be over and done with, I think I want everything to be over and done with.

We haven;t wrapped his presents yet - at this rate they won't get wrapped as I am feeling unChristmassy towards him in a big way!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What's That?

And this is what Sirius did while we were taking photos of the possum. She stood on her hind legs and danced around on them for ages, including dancing backwards. She was absolutely intrigued! When we finally chased the possum off she raced after it until it was safely in a tree. Posted by Picasa

Get me down!

This is a brushtail possum, also common here. It is much bigger than a ringtail, about the size of a really solid cat. We found this one climbing up a pole in the carport one night. When it reached the ceiling of the carport it realised it was stuck and couldn't work out what to do next. (They are not the brightest of creatures). You can't pick up a possum - they pee furiously on you and scratch you ferociously - so we had to poke it with a broom to get it to go down. It peed all over the broom handle and then scampered off. Posted by Picasa

Who Turned the Lights on?

This little cutie is a ring tail possum. They are very common where we live and many people dislike them because they eat roses. Well, they don't eat ours (why should they when next door is a positive Maxims of roses compared to our McDonalds?) and we love them. They are noctural and are rarely seen in the daytime - but this one couldn't sleep and was wandering around in bright sunlight. Posted by Picasa

No I'm Not!

Sirius says that, contrary to popular opinion, she is not spoilt at all! Posted by Picasa

Spoilt Dog

We have a very spoilt dog! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

And the pool. Although it can't be seen that easily, it is a boomerang shaped pool and as such is an icon of Australian pool design - apparently it was designed as an amalgam of the standard rectangular pool with the Hollywood inspired kidney shaped pool. We get a lot of use out of it! Posted by Picasa
This is the patio leading out from the family room, which we use as another room in the summer months - even on mild winter days! There is a big built in barbeque just out of shot on the right. We've just bought a big glass topped table that can sit 12 so we have no excuse for not entertaining! Posted by Picasa

My house

I started going through some of the older photos we have on our computer and decided that some of them might be interesting to post on here. This was taken of our house in summer 2001, I think, but it hasn't changed much since then. That isn't our car, we had visitors at the time who had hired a car in NSW. We love our house, even if it does have lots of structural problems. It is 40 years old and when it was built it was a really advanced design - inside it is designed to 'bring the outside inside' and has huge picture windows. Posted by Picasa

Not quite so much bah humbug

I have recovered a little Christmas spirit due to an unexpectedly nice night last night.

It was shaping up to be the night from hell. Baby Bear had a concert (called at a week's notice, natch!) at school. Christmas Carols were happening at Wombat's school at the same time. Wombat does not do singing, group activities, etc, including listening to same. Last year was so horrendous that I still feel sick when I think about it. As George wanted to attend, being President of the School Council and needing to press the flesh, we agreed that I would just stay at home and he would go on his own. Then we got this notification that Baby Bear was doing this Christmas Soiree, and couldn;t work it out.

Finally we decided that George would drive us to her school in time for the concert, return for the Carols with a medicated Wombat who would hopefully at least behave for his daddy, if not exactly enjoy himself, and that when the concert was over I would phone George and he would leave with Wombat and come and get us. I approached this with much trepidation, Wombat having thrown a small wobbly when told that he would have to go to the Carols after all.

To all our surprise, he actually behaved beautifully, enjoyed himself, and even ended up singing with the rest of his grade. I almost cried when I saw this happening! Baby Bear's concert was wonderful, and when I phoned George he raced over to pick us up, leaving Wombat at the school, and we got back in time to see him singing with his grade. Accompanied by the slice of pizza and the 'lemonade' thrust at me by my thoughtful friend B, it topped off a lovely evening.

Baby Bear's concert was rather hot and sweaty (we were waiting for the cool change) and I could see that the parents in the audience with water bottles had done it before! There was the usual mixture of awfulness and considerable talent that you find in any school musical performance, even at a school like Blackburn High were a lot of really serious musicians go. Needless to say Baby Bear is definitely one of the best! (And I am not just saying that - honestly, I am a truly proud mummy, but her teachers say it too).

She had told me she had a surprise performance, and I read through the programme and assumed she meant her solo on the flute - playing Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which she did extremely well and got a much better tone out of her flute than almost anyone else there. But I realised what she really meant when she and her friend A got up to do the final small group piece, and only A was holding an instrument. Baby Bear sang Deck the Halls and I thought I was probably swelling with pride visibly. She has the most fabulous voice and we are hoping to get her some voice training next year. There was much applause - she was the only person to sing a solo, or in fact to sing at all except for the choir at the end - and I think a lot of people were thoroughly impressed.

So it was a far nicer evening than I had expected and I am feeling far happier about the time of year!

Today Wombat had an EEG so George and I spent the morning at Monash Medical Centre with him. Unlike this time last year, he cooperated fully, so I will be more included to accept the results than I did last year. We shall wait and see.

George dropped us off at Chadstone Shopping Centre afterwards, and he went to work while we did a little shopping. I got some calendars that I had wanted to round out the Christmas presents and he got to spend his pocket money on some dance game for the Gamecube featuring Super Mario. Anything that combines computer games with actual exercise has to be a good thing! He is busy playing it now and seems to be jumping around all over the place!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Yummy Helen's Lace!!

This delectable little pile is three skeins of Helen's Lace from Lorna's Laces. It is a laceweight 50% wool and 50% silk and it really does have a beautiful sheen to it, it's not just in the photo. I;m not entirely sure what to do with it - each skein has something like 1200 yards in it, which is enough to knit a smallish shawl but not enough to knit some of the really big elaborate ones I would like to try. I think I will use one skein to knit the pattern that comes with the yarn inside the label, and then maybe use the rest to knit lace scarfs. I am not an accomplished lace knitter but i want to improve my skills, and I would rather knit four different lace scarfs (I presume I will be able to get two out of each skein) than two more small shawls. The colours are just divine and I wish I could have got it in every colour it comes in!! Posted by Picasa


It's quite warm today but probably not quite warm enough to get me into the pool, which will still be a bit chilly. The kids (and friends) are about to go in and so I might be tempted in a couple of hours.

I spent yesterday in bed with a migraine. It;s been ages since I got a full-blown migraine, so I guess I should be thankful. Today I am in that slightly fragile state that comes in the wake of a migraine. Fortunately we had a quiet weekend planned. Or rather, I did. Baby Bear had a birthday party to go to yesterday, which she thoroughly enjoyed, followed by playing at a carols concert. George has been helping our lovely big nephew move house. He babysat for us on Friday night while we went to George's work Christmas do (which was OK but very noisy and the food was only adequate - no I didn't have a hangover yesterday, I didn't drink much at all).

The mystery scarf continues to grow, slowly. I have been experimenting and have abandoned a couple of the experiments, though I will keep them in case I can use them in something else further down the track.

I have been spending a lot of time recently reading blogs and looking at other people;s work and wondering why they are so prolific when I, who stay at home, doesn't have a job and would apparently have acres of free time, take so long to do anything. I think I answered my own question - less time reading blogs and wasting time, more time creating!!! I procrastinate too much and spend too much time reading magazines and stuff on the computer. It is good for inspiration but there must come a time when I have to actually USE the inspiration instead of thinking about it!

Wombat has just announced that he won't go in for a swim if the others don;t go in, and they don't seem to want to. So I have just offered to sacrifice myself for a too cold swim with him. At least I will get some exercise!!!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Another peyote stitch bracelet

This bracelet was a slightly different application of peyote stitch. It is made up a series of peyote shapes, each constructed separately, and then sewn together, a bit like crazy patchwork. Then I added accent beads and a couple of peyote stitch flowers that I had made. It was VERY time consuming, far more so than the freeform peyote, but I really love the effect and I will definitely use this technique again. I used a variety of glass and plastic beads, mostly from Lincraft, but also leftover from another project that I had done (which isn't quite finished and photographed yet) which we very high quality glass beads from Beadalon in the US. Posted by Picasa

Bah Humbug!!

I HATE DECEMBER!!! The hype about Christmas, the crowds in the shopping centres, the rising hysteria in the schools, it drives me nuts. Don't get me wrong, I love presents (both giving and receiving!), I love spending Christmas Day with George's family (who actually like each other, don't fight, and have a low-key but still yummy Christmas lunch every year). But why do we have to have 24 days of idiocy beforehand? I;ve done most of my present buying, but I do still have to go to the shops for the normal stuff like everyday food, and the shopping centres are horrible at this time of the year. The schools are ridiculous - all the fuss and rushing around over Christmas preparations and end of year stuff - it was slightly easier in England where Christmas and the end of the school year were six months apart. Here, because the school year ends just before Christmas, we have a double whammy.

Children on the autism spectrum, like Wombat, do best under a quiet, humdrum routine, with no excitements or discombobulations. Just what we don't get in December! His teachers do their best to make sure that he is kept as quiet and on routine as possible, but the rest of the school is becoming increasingly excited and hysterical so it's hard for him. He gets worse and worse until Christmas, after which he calms down again. It doesn't matter that we keep Christmas low key at home, it;s all the external influences that wind him up. I suppose I could homeschool him and get rid of the TV and all electronic items and never let him mix with any other children, but I don't think tactics like that are appropriate anyway.

George has a million and one functions throughout December, hardly any of which I am invited to. Mostly client functions at work, but also for all the voluntary committees he is on. This keeps him out of the house many an evening in December, which I dislike. This year is at least twice as bad because he is also spending three days a week in Sydney at the moment. I feel like a single mother during the week, stuck with a disabled child going increasingly haywire, and an overhyped 12 year old as well.


Once Christmas has passed things quieten down. George will be taking the last three weeks of January off, and that's when we will really be able to relax and enjoy ourselves. We won't be going away, just lying by our pool and doing simple barbeques for friends. I can't wait.

Knitting stuff - I have been struggling with ideas for the International Scarf Exchange and have finally reverted to my original idea for the scarf. Now that I have settled on that it is going great guns. But as my scarf recipient managed to work out who I was (I;d never make a secret agent, blew my cover immediately!) I will not say anything about it until it is finished and received, which won;t be until February, probably. Suffice it to say that it is coming along nicely and I like it so much that I am making a similar one for myself too!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My first Beaded whimsey

This is the first of what I plan to be a series of Beaded Whimsies. This term was apparently used in Victorian times for bead embroidered animals and the like and is also, or possibly mostly, applied to similar items made by Native Americans. I;ve only done a little research on the name, so please advise me otherwise if I am wrong!

This is totally my own design, bead embroidered onto some colourful patchwork material (which you can only see on the back, which is unbeaded). I am new to bead embroidery and find it easiest to do on a flat piece of fabric, so I did the embroidery on one piece of the fabric, then folded in the raw edges and whip stitched the two together, right side out because you can;t really turn beaded stuff. Then I stuffed it with polyfill, finished off the whip stitching and covered all the seams with enough beading to hide them. I know most people do the doll/thing first and then bead the stuffed item, but I am finding that really hard to manipulate right now.

I am planning a series of these. The current one in progress has stalled while I knit things, though. I really loved doing this!! The beads are a mixture of glass and plastic beads, nothing exotic or expensive, all from Lincraft I think. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 05, 2005

My first attempt at freeform peyote

This is my first real attempt at freeform peyote. I had a go last year but hated the results so much that I discarded it and forgot all about it. This bracelet is much better than that first attempt! It is made with a variety of seed beads and other glass beads including pearls and flower beads. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 02, 2005

I'm so excited!!!

Today I enrolled in the Box Hill TAFE Diploma of Arts - Studio Textiles/Stitch. I've been wanting to do this for about three years, ever since I realised the art potential of fibre beyond knitting other people's patterns.

I was initially slightly put off because at first glance it seemed to be heavily biased towards embroidery. I don't have anything against embroidery but I am not a natural at it. I've done lots of cross stitch over the years but always following other people's patterns, and never had the desire to design in it. But having checked out graduate exhibitions from this course on the web I have come to realise that there were all sorts of textile arts being used by the students and today confirmed my feelings - I was told that they had 'lots of fibre people' and that I could use any textile media I wanted to, so long as I experimented! I got really excited when they said that there are always some students who want to explore 3D work in greater detail and that they had studio facilities for that - I do want to do this, very much indeed!

It's every Friday during term time, for three years, plus lots of homework, about the equivalent of another full day a week. Some of the subjects sound boring - OHS, that sort of thing, but being a TAFE I would expect subjects like that, and the bulk of the course is design theory and practice. Dyeing is apparently a big favorite, so my eyes lit up when they mentioned that!

I'd forgotten the delights of enrolling at tertiary institutions - fill in this form, get it signed, go downstairs to the cashier, be redirected by the cashier to another room, go back to cashier, go back upstairs to give in my receipt number, wait while they find the form I filled in half an hour ago... but it's all done and dusted and I am officially a student for 2006! It felt very odd indeed getting a student card - the last time I had one of those was in 1987, and prior to that was my very first uni one in 1979!! Baby Bear was with me, it being her curriculum day, and she rudely laughed at the photo and said 'Mum, why are photos of you always so awful?' Well, she was certainly right!

Then we went to the Box Hill S'n'B. Baby Bear has been aching to go all year but I was afraid she would be bored. She was, though very polite and well behaved. In the end I gave her some money and sent her off to Diva (cool jewellery shop) to buy a birthday present for one of her friends and to spend some of her pocket money. By the time she had thoroughly done over Diva (and found a pair of earrings that she said would be perfect for me - I went back there on the way home and bought a pair of diamante skull earrings, how could I resist!) it was lunchtime so we ate and then went home - to be greeted by an answerphone message from Wombat's teaching aide saying that he had run out of medication. At that stage it was a good hour and a half after he should have taken his lunchtime dose so I had to hare over the school. Fortunately he was OK, we are trialling a new medication and it really seems to have worked so far.

I asked if I should do any preparation over the summer before the course starts in February, and was told to read everything inspirational I could find in the textile/fibre field and maybe start keeping a scrapbook of ideas. So I shall spend happy hours reading some of my many books!!