Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grateful for op shop crochet serendipity

The week that I started my crochet classes I had an amazingly serendipitous op shop find moment. While ferreting around in a book pile I came across this 70's beauty for $2. In fact there were also 3 others in the series but this was the only one all about crochet. Kind of clinched that doing the class was the right decision. Now that I've almost got a handle on the basic stitches I thought I'd let myself have a better look for some inspiration.

And frankly I'm really torn as to which one to whip up for Legoman first........

Can we justify the granny square vest if he doesn't have a horse to share long meaningful looks with? And could Legoman pull off  a belted vest  while gondoliering down the Brisbane river?

Is the too tight v neck jumper with matching turtleneck impractical for a Brisbane Summer and does it only work if you are a human Ken doll? Can he bring self respect to a cream cable crochet cardi if he doesn't have a comb-over?

Too many options, Legoman will just have to wait until Fathers day I think so we can choose something really spesh.

This just brings back memories of my own crochet bikini which seemed to really have issues staying on in the surf as far as I remember. Did not seem to stop me wanting to wear it I might add. Could Roboboy require long term therapy if he was photographed wearing belted crocheted swim shorts?

Now this one  I could actually see myself wearing over a black skivvy, but there is no way my hair would EVER behave like this. A few years ago I did actually have my hair blow dried straight by a hairdresser. I crept home to get Legoman's opinion only to have him look at me with fond concern and point out that I looked just like a pound puppy. Not quite the look I was going for so the curls have been back to stay ever since.

Maybe I just need to stop getting ahead of myself and knuckle down and finish this:

I'm loving this stripy crochet number. This will become the back of my cushion. I managed to do all this today at a work conference. It is really easy to listen and crochet at the same time, some pauses for taking of notes but these rythmic stripes are super as you can zone out and not even worry about following a complicated pattern. Grateful for crochet, conferences,stripes and Legoman taking care of the smalls for me today.

I'm trying to link into but not exactly sure what I'm doing. Grateful for being able to mess around and have a go.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Meet my new best girl Queenie

Well it appears that I dropped enough hints about what I really really wanted for my birthday. My very own red retro cruiser bicycle. With a BASKET. I have been wanting a bicycle with a basket for the longest time. For the last 6 years though I have either been pregnant or with a small child attached to me which it makes it somewhat difficult to get the freedom to ride a bicycle. Now that Liongirl has recently turned 2 , it suddenly seemed like an option.

She arrived last week in pieces but spent a few days at our local bike shop as Legoman was not confident in his bike assembly skills. Riding her home today with my new skater girl style helmet was pure bliss. We have miles of bike tracks near our house and normally I am out pounding them with a double pram but not today. Today it was just me and Queenie, feeling the breeze and the sun all over us.

I don't know where the name Queenie came from. About a week ago I was reading someone else's blog who had just bought a vintage caravan and was considering name options. Queenie came to me then for the lovely caravan but I think it really suits my little red bicycle.

A girl called Queenie would be fun and vibrant and happy to be the centre of attention. She would probably have long red hair that would be super shiny and flick around her shoulders. And she would be defiantly unconventional. Queenie would love to have a wicker basket but we will make do with the wire one for now, infinately more practical with all the rain we have been getting around here. And she has put in a request for a bell that that seems quite reasonable to me. The gorgeous white seat and handle grips that she has been stalking on ebay will have to go on her long term wishlist.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cushiony love

This was my birthday present to myself. I am incredibly difficult to buy for and I did not have complete confidence that Legoman would come up with the goods so to speak. In hindsight this was unfounded as he did well but said present will not actually be in my possession until tomorrow so the lack of confidence cushion is completely justifiable.

I love everything about this cushion. Love the colours which are from  the more tasteful corner of a  70's colour palette. Love the birds and birdhouses which are very whimsical. Love the fact that choosing the cushion involved a prolonged spell in a real actual homewares shop sans children. I haven't actually been inside a homewares store for about 3 years due to the logistical nightmare involved. Too many things that are white, breakable, non edible but appear chewable and the fact that the planned surgery for my 6 extra octopus arms and eyes in the back of my head  is considered cosmetic and unfortunately not funded by medicare.

So I lingered, so long in fact that I'm sure the owner was suspicious I was stuffing goods into my bag to nick them. It was frankly a little overwhelming to have all the time I wanted. Rather than doing that quick scan for a gift, choosing in light speed and beating a hasty retreat, I could look at everything and poke around all the bits and bobs these sort of stores have in baskets and packed into shelves. Birthday nirvana. Made possible by my mother who will hence forth be known as Feng Shui Nonna- she is the one constantly dispensing unsolicited feng shui advice on Betsy and all her flaws eg that massive pile of dirt that had to go by mid February.

So, like all precious things, the cushion is now a favourite with the kids who are constantly incorporating it into all their loungeroom cubbies, sneaking it into prams and even one reckless attempt by Liongirl to stuff it into her booster seat at the dining table! I am trying not to get too attached as I have concerns about staggering out into the lounge one early morning and finding all those birds being hand coloured with felt pens........

On a more positive note, Roboboy appears to have made a friend at school. Actually he claims there are two friends but I only have proof that one is reciprocated. Like most boys he generally refuses to give up the goods on the details of the day but seems to consistently be talking about the same two lads all the time.
As I have mentioned before Roboboy is definitely quirky - that's on a good day. On a bad day, lets just say he is COMPLICATED. And that means that making friends is not a given. He had one mate in kindy last year and was lucky enough to be a long term friend of the most popular girl in class which I'm sure massively boosted his social standing.

I was very curious to see what kind of boy he would be drawn to make friends with. Interestingly he has sussed out another boy who also has the stamp of quirkiness. But his main friend appears to be his complimentary opposite- very social, very physically adept and really friendly. They tease each other and his mate (lets call him Monkeyboy as he can shimmy up a street sign faster than you can blink)  loves nothing more that hoisting Roboboy up and carrying him around and this also appears to be a mutually positive experience.

So then today I had a long chat with Monkeyboy's mother. I have discovered that his family do not own a car at all ( we have one and a scooter and I thought that was tricky), that he is vegetarian of his own choosing and that his mum wants 7 children ( having already produced 3 boys of which MB is the oldest). I am hoping that having environmentally sustainable leanings and a love of large numbers of children allows them to overlook our carniverous status and Roboboy and his complicatedness. Now I just have to give them enough notice so that they can walk from the next suburb to get to Roboboy's birthday party in a few weeks time!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pair of pretty pale peachy pink pillowcases

Last Thursday Legoman and I  had to venture out to Ipswich to pick up some essentials from Bunnings- our two closer stores were both flooded and have not re opened yet. I was secretly excited as I had been wanting to get out there to ferret through the op shops for months but couldn't justify the drive. The only downside was that Legoman would be tagging along, questioning with a raised eyebrow the intended function and necessity of each purchase. He is really only fun to shop with if there is a man chair so he can sit and play Farmville on his Iphone for the entire duration , or if he can be dropped off within an Apple store and left for a few hours. He does know how excited I get about ferreting and following the motto he has extolled for the decade of our marriage : Happy wife = Happy life, he was quite accepting of the whole op shop trawl.

And what a time was had! Unfortunately, several photos were out of focus so will post those tomorrow. Can you believe these gorgeous pale peach pillowcases. They were sold as a pair for $1. I don't expect Legoman to agree to these on our bed so Liongirl will get these beauties (he hasn't seen the embroidered peacocks that are heading his way yet). Also found this tablecloth which went straight to the trestle table.

I love the blue hydrangeas with the pale beige background. Unfortunately in this shot it  highlights the ugly blueish grey floors that have not yet been banished as I am having committment issues over the right floor colour.

We found a mountain of kids books for 50 cents each, most of Roboboys favourites are obscure op shop finds that involve machines/construction/inventions. He has very specific likes and dislikes so is quite easy to shop for. He verges between disinterest and loathing for anything Thomas train, dinosaurs, pirates or any merchandised superhero. He is fantastic to take to a Toy shop for as long as you keep him out of the Lego aisle he doesn't want anything.

The other thing we always keep an eye out for are obscure old games. I had some awesome games from the 70's as a child and Legoman also has a weakness for the old cardboard box of competitiveness. Ever wondered what Nintendo were doing back in 1970, before the person who invented the Wii was even conceived?

Say hello to Challenge Ball.

Unfortunately the instructions appear to be in Japanese or maybe Korean, but interpreting from the picture it appears to involve 2 people wearing goggles, floundering all over a mat while attempting to place coloured balls within rings while their fellow party goers give them instructions. Despite a thorough search of the completely intact and suspiciously unused set we could not find the LSD that would actually make such a game really really FUN. We did decide at a pinch that several hours of tequila slammers would probably replicate the required experience. We did also consider perhaps breaking it open for Roboboy's 5th birthday and see what the kids make of it, perhaps with some complimentary  mocktails.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crochet cushion taking shape

Yesterday was the final of my three Saturday afternoon crochet classes. I had been under pressure to complete those 6 squares before the class started in order to be able to sew them together and start the back panel. This resulted in several crochet cramming sessions - while watching a movie, driving to Caloundra (no I was not crocheting and driving, just being a busy passenger and trying not to get motion sickness)  in the waiting room of an appointment for Roboboy and while clothes shopping for Legoman.

Starting off is still the hardest part and there were many occasions of unpicking, redoing the first 4 steps then pulling it all apart and doing it again and again. The hardest part about being a beginner is that you have no idea how it is supposed to look and if you make a mistake you can never be sure how far back the mistake goes so sometimes it is easier to pull it apart and start again.
It is heartening to know that I now understand how to replicate the 3 main stitches- double, treble and chain but I am a little concerned about how that translates to reading a pattern and producing something that looks acceptable.
Luckily Anne has given permission to pop back to class to get any tips that are required which is a great relief as being sent home to complete the back panel and sewing it all together unsupervised is a little disconcerting.
My next plan is to finish this piece then go back to choose some new colours that will work better in my lounge room and design a  new cushion cover that will compliment a recent cushion purchase from Caloundra. (photo tomorrow when the light is better of  both the cushion  and some new fabric finds from Thrifting Thursday.) Then I hope to start work on some hair clips, hopefully not too ambitious for a recent beginner.
I am really enjoying the portability of this as a craft, so easy to take your hook and a small bag for wool/project and just sit down anywhere and steal a few extra rows. It is also getting more social as now I can actually crochet and talk at the same time. Can't really watch a screen or give eye contact though  that could be months away!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A little bit of sunshine

I have to confess that the reason we haven't been around is that we snuck away for a little bit of sunshine and a lot of sand and sea. Do you think it sets a bad precedent to already be wagging school in the third week of prep? He missed a little bit about dinosaurs ( not really Roboboy's cup of tea anyway) and gained  a lot of hands on experience in castle and moat building, waterslides, boogie boarding and exploring rock pools.

I love this image of Liongirl forging her way ahead of me in hot  pursuit of the waves. It was the longest continous distance she has ever walked without wanting to be picked up. She was also quite put out when I called out to her and she stopped only to discover I had slowed her down for a PHOTO. Not happy Jan.

Don't you wish they made grown up sunnies like these pink numbers? I bought a new pair at the Caloundra markets and she had to choose a pair too. Scary seeing her perch them up on her head like I do!
And this photo is going straight to the desk at work - and all that colour coordination of outfits and umbrellas/boogie boards/shoes was completely not planned either. Actually Liongirl may have matched the shoes to the togs now that I think about it.

We stayed at wonderful place at Moffat Beach Caloundra that was surrounded by trees on the beachfront. This was the view from our deck. We were very close to where the river joins the sea - you can just see it on the left side- and this creates a wonderful shallow pool great for littlies who are scared of big waves. Perfect for paddling, practising on a boogie board, building castles and creating waterslides for baby dolls. We spent several late afternoon hours here every day.

The morning hours were spent here:

Repeated trips down the resorts super waterslide, warming up in the spa and then wandering over to the other pool (yes 2 pools) if one needed a change of scene. The resort is a little dated, definite whiffs of 80's landscaping and decor but for little kids by far the best beachside place we have ever stayed in. Everything you need was in walking distance of our unit- even great cafes and some gorgeous shops. I only drove three times- once to Coles for supplies, once to the fantastic Sunday markets and the last time was to ferret through the 5 opshops that can be found down the main street. I am already planning the next trip back. Oh, yes it did actually rain  nearly every day that we were there but despite this a good time was had by all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day of unexpected treats

Today I was so lucky to have an unexpected lunch time treat. An actual lunch break involving leaving my office to appreciate the blue sky, smell the summer air and shake off the whole work vibe. A whole hour to myself, guilt free. My job is challenging, intense and inspiring. It is also completely not in the slightest bit creative. And twice a week I spend a 10 hour day in a room with no window and an airconditioning vent that leads directly to the tearoom which means I spend hours smelling other peoples toast. I can't really remember the  last time I didn't work through my lunch break but  I'm pretty sure I only had one child.

And so there is only one thing to do with a whole hour of freedom at midday.............stake out the local op shops near my work.  Unexplored territory, an  untapped treasure trove of fabric delights. I have loved op shops since I was about 14 and exploring Melbourne with my paltry $4.50 an hour hair salon floor sweeping wage. Back then it was vintage dresses, ballgowns and kaftans. Now that I'm all grown up I've moved onto fabric, sewings bits and bobs and childrens books. Although potentially the right dress could crop up at any moment.

There are so many things to love about thrifting, but for me it would have the be the treasure hunt aspect, not knowing what you may find when you ferret through that box/basket/rack or shelf. That rush of delight when you unfold something amazing and second rush when you discover it costs $2. Not to mention the socially conscious aspects of reducing, reusing and recycling (to quote Bob the Builder). Really there's nothing not to love except maybe the faint layer of grime on your palms at the end of a good search.

Today was a complete boon in all respects.

Two pieces of beautiful fabric with a hint of nanna smell, an unopened pack of panda butter yellow ribbon and a set of cotton reels. The background paper was from a nearby craft store, the colours from  my favourite corner of the colour wheel.

Not to forget a gorgeous vintage book complete with politically incorrect bovine with obesity issues and a hint of an eating disorder.

Roboboy loved it, especially when she eats her own hat.

And who would have thought such a treat could happen on a work day, and a  Friday at that. Now to decide where best to use this vibrant paper.........

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ever wanted a feature laundry?

I realized I had dangled the carrot of our "feature laundry" and then didn't get back to sharing the goods so to speak. Now we all know about a gorgeous feature wall ( either a standout colour or wallpaper), water feature (think Jamie Durie) but not everyone is so truly fortunate to have a laundry as a feature.

One of Betsy's previous owners obviously were not quite sure where to put the laundry, I kind of imagine the discussion going something like this..........

Honey, where are we going to put the laundry?

Hmm, well there is no downstairs, the granny flat means going outside and the lack of deck roof means I'll probably get wet......Oh yes and I've already carved up the kitchen to make another bedroom so the obvious place for it would have to be in the LOUNGE ROOM. Oh, yes and lets put it in the northeast corner so it gets the BEST LIGHT and has that gorgeous view of the FRANGIPANI TREE.

See that big custard yellow cupboard in the corner behind the lounge, well mostly it actually looks like this :

Dirty washing on view for all to see, a pile of discarded and likely musty clothes that can sometimes form a trail all the way down to hall to the bathroom. Nothing like being able to see Legoman's smalls while eating breakfast......

In an attempt to be positive about the feature laundry I have drawn up a list of the benefits of such an item :
1. no excuse about having to go outside or downstairs to do a load any time of day
2. Roboboy has been trained to take his pyjamas straight there from his bath
3. The dulcet tones of an ecowash are always in the background to make a girl feel productive
4. If you have the dryer on as well the kids have to concentrate REALLY hard to be able to hear their ABC kids which means less energy for ratty behaviour
At this rate I'm sure in no time I'll be upselling it as a most wanted design feature............

Actually it's already part of the grand plan to overhaul the kitchen and reclaim our loungeroom, there are definitely plans in the pipeline. Don't laugh but it could be going into the potential ensuite instead! More about that later as that is just another of Betsy's little design quirks.

By the way, the only reason there are no kid accessories overtaking the lounge was the quick tidy up done for the sake of visiting relatives from interstate. I am going through a transition phase of trying to get rid of some of the kiddy clutter and replace with things I actually like but suspect this could take  a little while so consider it a work in progress. I do have plans for some homemade cushion covers though, perhaps some eclectic colourful floral long as they are complimentary to taupe of course.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crochet progress and a paint makeover

Amazing but in the last 5 desperate minutes of that crochet class something clicked and I seem to have got it. This is the progress from the last two evenings whiling away time that would normally be wasted on trashy TV. The only minor issue is that I have no idea how to properly finish a row or add a new colour so have been making that up as I  go. Could bode very badly in terms of the whole thing completely unravelling if I so much as sneeze, then again maybe Anne can work her wonders with that in hindsight. I can't wait to get back to my next class on Saturday to re learn these important bits so I can continue in confidence. I'm also loving the colours, they are actually a little more muted than this in real life (that pale bluey colour is actually a grey) and I can't wait to see the finished cushion on my lounge.

Despite the stinking hot weather I also managed to finish painting the back wall of the house and am really liking the white duck with white trim. Remember this?

Well have a look now.....

Note how artfully Bella has draped herself over the table in the centre of the shot. She followed me outside for the photo shoot- I told you she was angling for a Home Beautiful cover shot. Or maybe she just knows that the colour brings out her highlights. The trims all need another coat but I am pretty happy with the pale wall colour. It really lightens up the space and makes it feel alot bigger. The only thing really bugging me now is the hideous blue grey floor. This is the problem with starting a makeover - the part you have done makes everything not done even more noticeable. So before the week is out I'll be back at that paint shop getting ready to tackle those floors.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Teeny tiny crochet from an uptight learner

Finally the day arrived for my beginners class in crochet. While I was really excited to be doing something creative I had a little anxiety about whether my brain would actually choose to connect to my hands as this is not one of my strong points. I had no trouble at all with steps 1 and 2 which involved choosing 4 wool colours and remembering the teachers name. Then it all pretty much went pear shaped.

 She then  showed us at what seemed like lightning speed  the 3 main stitches we would need to whip up a cushion  and left us to copy her. The other two ladies picked it up pretty quickly while I could not get past chain stitch. Well finally almost at the end of 2 hours of dropping stitches, being unable to find the right hole and constantly reversing the way to pick up the thread I managed to produce this teeny tiny specimen and I am so proud of myself. Along the way I tried really hard not to think about the fact that Anne could do this at age four and that the reason my square was so tiny was that my wool tension was too tight. Anne was happy to inform me that this was because I was uptight and needed to RELAX ( not one of my strong points).

I think it is so amazing that with one needle and some wool you can create something that turns corners, joins colours and creates a 3 dimensional object. And even more amazing is that some woman somewhere years ago worked all this out by herself! Bring on the granny squares- I am ready.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The girl has quirks

I really love the word quirky. Probably because it is one of those rare words that can have both positive and negative meanings simultaneously and if someone describes you as quirky you can never be completely sure if it is a compliment or an insult.

Betsy has more than her fair share of quirks and I thought it was about time she shared.

This one probably takes the cake as it is quirk of heritage status.

This is the splendid peekaboo window with direct access between the open plan dining/loung area and the master bedroom. I suspect it has been designed to allow light from the north east facing living area into the south facing master bedroom. I also suspect it came from an era where couples had 14 children and privacy did not exist. Needless to say with 2 small children who follow us into the toilet it is not actually causing much issue currently and is quite convenient for spying on the kids at breakfast while I get dressed. It especially freaks them out if I they catch them being naughty and they don't realize how I know what they are up to.
The other positive is that is a perfect sized ledge for my earring tree which has dual roles as both  a bedroom and dining room sculptural installation.

Then there is that little issue of wall colour. The previous owners had the good sense to repaint the bedrooms in a nice neutral off white- a little muted and yellowish for my liking but in the white family so quite  acceptable for the time being. Unfortunately they did not continue onto all the living areas and hallway which are a perfectly custard shade of yellow- you can see it in the background of these two photos. Let me just say that when a decent amount of that external blue has had the white duck makeover, the custard will have a very short lifespan.

Lastly there is the piece de resistance- the feature laundry...............but more on that tomorrow as too many quirks can just be overwhelming.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's all in the name of a duck

Well finally after 6 long months Betsy and I decided that we had had enough. The blue frock had to go. Neither of us were sure of the vintage of this  hideous blue outfit but figured it would have to be late 80's or early 90's at best. And frankly if I had been wearing something from that era for the last 20 years I would definitely have some issues.

So we set out to choose the best frock colour that would highlight all Betsy's assymetric and gorgeous bungalow charm. I had in mind something pale with brownish greyish tendencies, something a little more stylish and refined and a little less brash diner waitress.

Who knew there would be so many options?

So we managed to narrow down to 17 colour swatches before we had to take a pause to mull and reflect and try them in different lights. Then I chose my favourite and bought a sample pot. It looked good but it was a little hard to tell with all that blue around and maybe it was too similar to the neighbours and not grey enough. So I bought 2 more with more grey, but I didn't really like either of their names- Greylocks ( reminded me of  goldilocks past her prime) and Silkwort ( a silkworm with warts). Interestingly I didn't like either of them when tested on the wall.

And that got me thinking, could the power of a name be putting me off a colour? Apparently there have been entire research projects dedicated to whether us girls buy more lipstick if is called cherry kisses vs plum pout or something equally silly. And at that point I realized I had been thoroughly won over by my original colour when I first read it's name and liked it more and more as I looked at it on the wall. So here's to WHITE DUCK half strength for Betsy's first proper frock. It's a little bit grey, a little bit brown and a little bit green- just what we were looking for.

I  have a real fondness for ducks, especially white ones. I had a a pet duck as a child, called Oswald (my father's middle name) and even at age 9  I was aware  this was a name  much better suited to waterfowl than a person. Unfortunately, as my dad had been saddled with such an unfortunate  name he had no qualms inflicting it on my half brother, several years after his duck namesake had moved on. Poor Oswald had a meaningful and committed relationship with a pair of wellington boots that lived at the back door and his declarations of love were witnessed every day though the window while we were having dinner.

Roboboy also has a fondness for ducks having named a pair of local ducks that we saw every day while riding his bike to kindy. Action duck and his sister were always there whenever any rescue operation was required whereby Action Duck would activate his power cell ( that purplish green patch of feathers under the wing) and a long winch of rope would unwind for any complex rescue.

And the best duck moment was the very special birthday duck that paid us a visit on Liongirl's birthday back in December. We heard some stranges noises high up in our poinciana tree and lo and behold found a solitary duck 20 metres in the air, perched on a branch singing happy birthday in duck. He then flew off and has not been seen since.

So welcome the white duck and hopefully when it's the size of a ballgown and not a hanky Betsy and I will still like it. If not, a girl can always do with more petticoats. Here is a little shot of the work in progress.....