I’m very unsettled at the moment. You may have noticed.
Each day, I bounce from room to room, from project to project. I hit upon something that takes my fancy for several hours – throw myself into it – it’s delightful – I’m delighted – I’m going to do marvellous things with it. Then, the next morning, I’m back to bouncing.
Feverishly filling in a giant crossword book I found. Spending waaaaaaay to long playing mahjong on the computer.
The one upside to this state, is that slowly, bit by bit, each room is getting a good shaking out and organising. This only seems to happen by creating an unholy mess first. And sometimes, the crosswords overtake me and the mess lurks about for a few days.
The reason for this chaos. I am at a completely loose end. You see, it’s a funny thing this nursing business. You know how there’s this perception that there are never enough nurses. Well that’s only sort of true. The degree we undertake these days, to gain our registration, is so very very university based – with so little clinical practice – that no one wants to employ a newly graduated nurse. She needs way to much training to be safe and useful. No one except nursing homes.
They’re usually desperate and will cheerfully snatch up a new graduate and put her in charge of 40 – 80 residents. She will be the only registered nurse on duty and will be expected to provide medication to frail and vulnerable people she’s never laid eyes on before and accept complete responsibility for their wellbeing. It’s a recipe for disaster – the examples of which hit the coroner’s court. Mention working in a nursing home and newly graduated nurses shudder with fear.
And so we have the graduate year. I think almost all of the hospitals have them. The big public hospitals have big intakes, the little private hospitals have little intakes. And they all have hundreds and hundreds of new graduates applying. And guess what – there are nowhere near enough graduate places for those who are graduating – at least a third of graduates will miss out. Makes you wonder where they wind up.
Do they just grit their teeth and head to the nursing homes, fingers crossed that they don’t kill a poor old soul? Do they go rural (another whole can of worms)? Do they do agency work – as terrifying as nursing home work – imagine a ward in a hospital where you know nobody, don’t know how they do things, have never walked those corridors, navigated that drug room, met those patients, and you have almost no clinical experience – nice! Do they go bank (casual work for a particular hospital – not quite as bad as agency – at least you stick with the one hospital)? Or do they wind up in all sorts of random places where they will never develop the skills they’ve studied for – like doctors’ surgeries and schools and occupational health and safety things. All of these alternatives to the real thing send chills down my spine.
Where does this all leave me? Well – I achieved a good GPA. I have great clinical reports and glowing references from really good placements. I put in my four applications for a grad year – you are only allowed four – and you can only apply one year (theoretically you can apply every year, but you will always be considered last after your first go – so given there’s a shortage of places … ) I received three interviews at 3 big public hospitals – all of which I had been to as a student and had great references from.
The fourth application – a private hospital where I’d also had a great placement and really clicked with the senior nursing staff – I missed out on an interview – they emailed me one hour after applications closed to advise me. I was HORRIFIED to have been dismissed so quickly so queried their decision. Turns out they didn’t like my clinical reports – I used my last two reports which were from the Royal Children’s Hospital and The Alfred ICU – two of the most sought after placements – this private hospital wanted general medical or surgical. Really? Bugger them.
I had my interviews. The first two were up quick. The third was a few weeks back. I think they went well. Hard to know. And now – I have no clue as to what 2015 will hold for me because we don’t find out until October 14th!!!!!!! Can you believe we have to wait that long. My first interview – at The Alfred – was on August 5th. That’s 2 1/2 months wait. Aaaaaaaaargh!!!!! And get this – the final joyful bit of the whole torturous process – we only get one offer. That’s right. Even if all the hospitals who interviewed you want to offer you a grad year, you will only hear from the one you listed first, so you better make sure you ordered that list just right. AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGHHHH!
For this marvellous process, we say thank you to the State Government of Victoria and their canny little program ComputerMatch.
So, until October 14th, I am bouncing around, fretting hourly about whether I will get an offer. Rehashing those interviews and thinking up 20 ways I could have answered each question better. Filling out yet another crossword. Wasting more time on mahjong. Not finishing my quilts. Not writing up my crochet pattern. Not working on my needlepoints and cross stitches. Not finishing off that yoke on Abby’s sweater or Mum’s stripey sweater or Julian’s Argyle. Not upholstering the footstool. Not painting the front porch chairs. Jeeez I’m slack.
Instead, I’m hating that here I am – with months of blissful home time – and I am not using it wisely. I am flitting about chaotically – perpetually lonely and seemingly unable to finish even one thing. Wanting the day to pass quickly so that Abby and Julian are home. Incredulous that another week has disappeared. Sad that the weekend vanished in the blink of an eye. Longing for the year to just jolly well slow down. Wishing I could hack into ComputerMatch and get an offer now so that I can stop THINKING about it all of the time and just settle down to being lucky Lily at home.
Man, I am all over the place.
If you happen to follow my instagram, you may have noticed that I picked up a truly dreadful piece of hard rubbish a couple of weeks back. I was on my way into university to have documents certified for the final grad interview the next day, when I spied an old 60s (?) desk outside a block of dodgy flats. It was perched amongst a heap of awful rubbish – the kind where you wonder what on earth the people who threw it all there were thinking and why on earth didn’t they put it in their wheelie bins – but I could spy potential.
I checked the time – still had an hour to get to uni and get my documents sorted. I pulled over, flipped the back seats down and approached the desk. Ugh. It was filthy. But I had a vision :-) I picked the desk up – the drawers were full. Gingerly, I opened them – the top drawer had mostly old sewing stuff – but all damp and full of rubbish as well. The next three drawers were worse. There were old cards and family photos – some in frames – and just so many bits and pieces. And it was all icky. I have a very high ick tolerance – but this was … shudder-worthy. I spied a couple of barely filled shopping bags – stinking of cigarette ash – and carefully tipped the contents of the drawers into them. Shudder.
By the time I was done, my hands felt revolting and I only had 20 minutes before the clinical office closed at the university. Hopeless. So it was back home with the desk. Unload. A thorough hand washing with the hottest water I could bear. And a couple of hours later, when the clinical office was reopened (they keep the most unhelpful hours), I set off once again.
I sent Mum several photos of my fabulous find – oh yes, she exclaimed, I can really see why you just had to stop for it. NOT. It was grim. The top was a complete write-off. The drawer handles were buggered. The legs were scratched. It had even been grafittied. Oh it was grim.
But I just knew it’s old timber would come up lovely and just where it would fit perfectly into our home and lives. So last week, on a warm sunny day, I pulled on my summer work clothes and a hat, gathered supplies and set to work, removing all that grime and spray paint and old varnish. Sadly, it was not a metho scrub moment. It needed the full strength paint stripper. And even that was tough work. But as soon as I began washing the stripper off, I could see that old timber beginning to gleam.
I am the worst at anthropomorphising – I always imagine the timber of my furniture sighing with relief as I scrub it free of decades of dirt and varnish. Then, it must wriggle with delight as I rub in the Danish oil. It’s the very odd occasion I can bring myself to paint bare timber – I imagine the poor grain suffocating under the heavy wetness of paint. Awful! So Danish oil it is.
I spent many many hours pondering what to replace the top with and finally settled on a thick piece of ply from the hardware store that I would cover with some lovely Orla Kiely oilcloth from The Fabric Store in Fitzroy. I even drove in and bought the jolly fabric – and it was even lovelier in real life than it was on the screen.
But then, I called into Ikea on the way home for new knobs for the desk drawers – the old ones were crap – I love their little black brushed metal knobs – and checked the bargain corner (of course). There was a kitchen bench top that I had admired online but dismissed from consideration because it was way to expensive. Only this one wasn’t. It was a display piece with scuff marks (which rubbed off in seconds with a bit of steel wool) and dramatically reduced. Eeeeeee!
In a perfect world, the top would be a bit smaller – but hey! All the more space to craft and it sits as sturdy as. Can you believe the transformation?!? I’m in awe. Look at how that timber gleams. The knobs are so cute. It’s a miracle!
It wasn’t until I looked at this photo later that I realised you can still see the outlines of the tagging. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed that panel. It’s ply – and that spray paint just got deep into the grain and – well, that’s the best I could do. But you know – in real life you just don’t notice it. And besides – it’s quite funny really. It’s like this conservative, simple, modest little desk is having a wink and saying “Oh yeah, I’ve seen it all!”
And the scratches – most of them are gone – there’s still a few of the deeper ones left, but the wood came up so beautifully rich and syruppy that now they’re just character. Signs of a life busily led.
Now, just in case you didn’t get a good look at the desk top, we have before … hideous old fake wood melamine WITH GRAFITTI ! And after – beautiful, solid, smooth, crisp, clean wood. I’ve oiled it too.
And look who looks right at home there! By the way – have I ever told you the story of this little green machine – my Husqvarna Viking 21 (circa 1950s)? She too is hard rubbish. Yep. I found her having her cords chopped off by a very grumpy man behind an op shop. ”Oh no! I exclaimed, “that’s a beautiful old Husqvarna!” ”It’s rubbish.” he snarled, shoved her back into her original tartan travelling case and HURLED HER INTO A SKIP!!!! ”Oh that’s terrible!” I protested. ”You don’t know what you’re throwing away!” And I promptly climbed into the skip and pulled her back out. He ignored me.
I took the sweet little green machine straight to the sewing machine shop in Camberwell where I have my machines serviced and they fixed her up. They had to find new cords for her power and foot, but they did. And the service man said she was that kind of beauty they just don’t make any more. He loved her – and loved the story too. She sews like a dream – lovely straight, strong stitches, and makes the prettiest hum. If I’ve told you all this before, I am sorry :-) I’m getting a bit like dear old Grandad – can’t remember which stories I’ve shared with which folk! But it’s such a good story anyway – yes? :-)
And here’s a glimpse of the sweet little desk all set up and ready for action! Wait til you see where she is!
p.s. I was right to stop wasn’t I :-)
Since there’s nary a green finger between us – I’m hoping they’ll grow when we turn our hands to gardening our own land – our best “gardening” is enjoyed in other ways. With wool, and cotton, and needles, and hooks, and books, and bikes, and tools, and paper, and pencils, and good food, and lovely company.
So, when a magnificent spring day burst forth, that’s just what we did :-)
Out we went, soaking up that sun and warmth.
And when, at last, the air cooled and the sun dropped, we celebrated the day and the lovely “gardening” we’d enjoyed …
Have I mentioned how much I love spring!
The morning may have dawned extra cold and foggy – but after a trip to my favourite Wondoflex for some extra balls of crochet cotton – the rest of the day was gloriously spring, spring, spring!
I spent it on the front porch, baking so warm in the sun that after shedding two jumpers, I simply had to get changed into a skirt and tshirt – which of course, proved a little chilly once the sun began to set and the night chill set in. Ah, the change in seasons – keeps me on my toes.
And what filled my hands – why Granny Christmas Baubles of course! All the photos for the pattern are taken, just setting it out now.
There was also a little extra something put together this afternoon – in a medium completely new to me – bamboo and wire – it was a bit fiddly. But I think tomorrow – with some extra tweaking – it will be just right. Especially when there’s more Granny Baubles finished for hanging.
It all started here. Wondering what I’d get if I didn’t add any increases to a granny circle. A-ha! A granny bowl. A very wee granny bowl. It sat so prettily upon the table. It was a jewel like jelly fish washed up on the sand. A very pretty jelly wobbling on a fine china plate. A limpet covering the low tide rocks with a floral carpet – oh I can’t wait til the summer holidays – Abby and Julian, I’ll need your help!
Or it could be half a Christmas bauble. Oh yes. I could definitely see Christmas bauble potential. So, instead of rising from my desk and doing some of the sewing that awaits me on the kitchen table, I gathered my balls of cotton and began more trebling.
I do declare, choosing the colours to put together is such fun. And they rarely turn out exactly as I think they will. Well actually, I can’t really picture the finished combination when I start so as I finish I find myself thinking “oh that’s what you are – you’re so pretty” or “really? hmmmm …. “. Funny enough, when I show my family and ask which ones they like best, they almost always like the ones I’m not so fussed on. Goes to show. One person’s perfect cup of tea is another person’s dishwater. Or something like that.
Now it was obvious that there needed to be two of each little granny limpet. But true to Lily form, after hooking up the first two, I dedicated the rest of the day to making the first half of each bauble. Because it was fun.
Until I had a wee pile of granny limpets. By this stage, they made me think of patchworked echinacea. So because my lawn has no spring bulbs shooting and summer flowers are a long way off, I planted my limpets, just to see if they could indeed have a floral future – and they so could! Wouldn’t they be so sweet lining a garden path for a birthday party! You’d have to finish them off properly with a felted wool ball for the echinacea head, and have them firmly attached to the stick. With a couple of felt leaves embroidered with the names of the party guests – then they could pick theirs and take it home as a party favour. Much better than lollies. Oh my goodness Abby – have another birthday party dear! A flower fairy party. What? You’re 17 this year and flower fairies just aren’t your thing any more? That doesn’t matter nearly as much as indulging your mother’s fancies!
Sigh. Well, despite it being a FABULOUS idea and I SHALL do it one day – for myself if needs be – these limpets are destined for more jolly things. And so I stitched their shells together – turned them into ocarinas it did – and stuffed them with fleece. Now there was a brief interlude when the first one – the yellow centred one below – had a crocheted yellow border finishing it off. And it was as irritating as the chicken pox. It just didn’t sit right and I confess, I was disappointed with the effect and cursing as I fetched Abby from school. I’ve spent all day making these bloody things and there’s six of them and now I don’t really love them.
But when I got home, ripped that yellow off, and SEWED the two shells together with the same thread as the final border …. oh. The chicken pox feeling cleared up immediately and I was much pleased. I also changed the pattern slightly from the first yellow centred one. It had chained spaces between the granny clusters – which made for a slightly floppsy integrity. So they’re gone – making my limpets much tighter and more bauble like.
I am very excited about this pattern – I hope to make many more – for our tree, for Nanny and Grandad, for Abby’s school teachers, for Mum to take to family in Vancouver at Christmas … I think they’ll make marvellous little presents. Quick to crochet. Frugal with the yarn. Just right.
And I did announce, via Instagram, that the pattern would be here tonight. But it isn’t. Sorry. I have written out all the instructions but I would like to take several more photographs to illustrate some of the more difficult-to-describe-in-writing steps. And put it together really nicely as a proper pattern you could print off with my “pint of cream” details. So that will happen tomorrow when there’s plenty of light to take nice, clear photos and I can coerce Abby into helping me with the layout. Hope that’s okay and you didn’t have your yarn and hook ready and waiting. Yeah right :-)
I also had a rather good idea involving some little secret bits to put inside … you’ll see.
joining Ginny and her yarn-a-long! I highly recommend checking out the other lovely people who link to this – you’ll see so much prettiness :-)
You know me – always longing for the sun and warmth. And yet I do sooooooo love knitting and the wearing of all this knitty goodness. The current knit that I am just desperate to finish is the Lopi sweater I am knitting for Abby.
It’s in a beautiful wool – an old old yarn – Cleckheaton’s Angora Supreme – that we found in the bargain basement at Wondoflex a few Saturday’s back. Initially, I passed over the bundle of 8 balls for just pennies (can’t quite remember but it was less than $30 and there’s 140m on each ball so a wonderful buy) but then I figured it was lovely quality wool and a great price so I picked it up after all.
When Abby saw it, she was delighted! Hawkeye purple she tells me – she being a dedicated Marvel fan. And she thought it would be super with some white and lilac and dark lilac for a Lopi sweater. And she was right. She always is – has an eye for colour this one.
As per all the Lopi patterns I’ve tried, the body knitted up lickety-split. They are such wonderfully simple patterns. And oh how I love that simple, repetitive, meditative knitting. Round and round and round and round. Then the sleeves – up they went. And then onto the yoke.
Now the yoke has certainly been time consuming – intensely patterned with sometimes three yarns in play at once. But I do love stranded knitting - my challenge is keeping it loose enough at the back. Once all those strands are layered, it does make for an exceptionally warm jumper. Like wearing a jumper WITH a shawl. Perfect.
It did feel a bit funny the other day – sitting on the porch, my cardigan discarded, lapping up that sun like a cat – with a big hefty pile of Icelandic knitting on my lap :-)
When I looked down into my basket, I was also struck by the contrast between my vintage basket, my Lopi pattern (same as has been knitted in Scandinavia for generations), my vintage Cleckheaton wool … and the iPad. I almost always knit from the iPad these days. Whenever I pack my knitting basket, the iPad gets slipped in too. Isn’t it brilliant! I just love being able to browse Ravelry – I start by looking at everything and then wheedle it down, adding my search criteria one by one. Then buy my pattern, download it and bam! I’m off. Can’t imagine knitting any other way. So totally different from when I first began knitting and we had to rely upon those cardboard folders of patterns – purchased from the shop, one or two at a time. And rarely exactly what I had in mind anyway. Now – the whole world sits there at my fingertips. The truly wonderful upside of being connected to this new world.
As for reading … I’ve been re-reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. This book is so densely packed with fascinating information that I am forever discovering something new and tweaking how I cook for my family yet a little bit more. These days, I’m especially keen on cooking suppers that can be served in these dear little pots. We found 12 at the opshop the other day. They are Denby Gypsy – apparently very rare in Australia – haven’t been able to find any others on the old ebay. So we’re eating lots of soups and stews – we even had our porridge in them the other morning and I must say, they keep the food very hot.
On the fiction front – I’m adoring Karen Joy Fowler’s “We are All Completely Beside Ourselves”. Oh my goodness – the narrator is so utterly relatable. I find myself nodding and laughing and wincing along with her. And I’m also reading William McInnes’ “The Birdwatcher” – totally different, set here in Australia starting in Melbourne then moving up to North Queensland. Both are landscapes so very familiar that it is a very poignant read – I love reading about environments I have lived in – such a connection. And the characters are very appealing – it’s not literature, but it’s a lovely read and I really enjoy McInnes’ voice. I have Inga Simpson’s “Nest” to pick up from the bookshop tomorrow – also set in North Queensland and I think I shall need Ian McEwan’s new novel “The Children Act” too. Very pertinent but more about that next week!
Now – I’m off to bed on this cold cold night – The Birdwatcher awaits me.
I started my spring flowers – from the Paton’s Modern Crochet booklet – when this was my view – last summer at Merimbula. I sat out on Mum’s front porch and crocheted a few, here and there, in between swimming at the beach, adventuring, reading and generally just lazing about with my family.
But the day we drove home from this lovely holiday, Grandad had a heart attack and so began a rather chaotic year, with urgent trips to Brisbane, more illness and family upheavals, my final semester of studies, long clinical placements, many essays and the nerve wracking process of applying and interviewing for grad year placements.
Those poor little spring flowers – such a lovely and potent symbol of a holiday filled with light and warmth – were shoved into a basket and forgotten, whilst the balls of cotton were – ridiculously – left falling out of this sweet sewing basket …
… which of course, couldn’t be closed and looked perpetually messy and irritating in the corner of the living room.
Yesterday found me trying to push this basket under the craft table with my foot, whilst balancing a pile of patchwork fabric on my arm and carrying cups of tea for poor Abby who has now had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics we finally got last week for her persistent sinus infection. Nice! Needless to say, I couldn’t push said basket between the desk leg and chair leg, so handed out the tea, dumped the fabric on the piano (where all fabric lives) and took a closer look. Wondered where the little squares were. Found them shoved behind the rocking chair. So pulled them out too and ooohed and ahhhed over their pretty colours.
There were 39 finished – I thought about how many I still needed to do – 105. That would make 144 which would make a nice 12 by 12 blanket. Add a few lovely border rows and I’d have a sweet spring blanket that’s almost 1.4 metres square. Can’t you just see it folded over the end of a lovely vintage cane cot!? Good thing I have one :-) And so was born the notion that I could crochet a few each day in this, the first month of Spring, and have my lovely flowers ready for our return trip to the beach this summer.
I stacked the balls almost neatly in a rectangular basket – now named “working basket” – stored the finished squares in the lovely navy basket and sat down to time just how long it takes me to make one square, and thus see how feasible it would be to crochet 4 a day for the first 15 days, then 3 a day for the last 15. My first effort was a bit fumbly and I found I needed to follow the pattern carefully. But by the time I was up to the fourth little square, I had rediscovered my rhythm with these flowers, the pattern flowed easily and I was able to crochet one square in 30 minutes. Perfect.
Today, with the sun out, there was a wee bit of lining up and admiring … oh, it really is going to be such a pretty blanket, isn’t it!
Some fiddling with the wee flowers awaiting their ecru borders …
And a little naming of my favourites – I do love that pea green with the reddy-pink and pale blue – and that dark blue looks just lovely with the pink and soft red.
Now – baskets are sorted. I have two more balls of ecru (will obviously need many more, but this was all spotty had) and 8 little squares have been finished.
Fingers crossed I can maintain the momentum – only 28 more days and 97 squares to go!
Silly old Melbourne’s been playing tricks on us lately :-) Delivering up late winter days of beautiful blue skies, heaps and heaps of sun, and warmth! Only then, just when we’re shoving the jumpers into the backs of the wardrobes, it throws us cold, wet, grey days – several in a row – just to remind us it is still only late winter and to put our slippers back on.
Oh all right. Fair enough. I’ll keep the slippers beside my bed and rejoice that I have lovely handknits to pull on when the cold fronts storm in. But! When that sun comes out …
… I shall sit on the front porch and soak it up.
I shall embroider my very summery Fox. Crochet my spring flowers. Fill in the background of my Kaffe flowers. I may even get stuck into some Christmas decorations and presents.
Because I have finished my nursing degree. I have been to all my grad year interviews. I have several months of nothing more important – and perfect – to do than look after my family, potter about our home, and throw myself into the myriad of unfinished crafty loveliness that fills up all the corners of Bootville . And summer is almost here.
This morning was another cold, dreary, grey, flattening sort of morning. Melbourne specialises in these. I have to exert a lot of energy to rise above it. But the last few weeks, as I’ve been waiting for application acceptances and grad year interviews, I’ve been a little bit wobbly on the rise. Checking emails every 5 minutes. Fretting over imagined, terrible outcomes. Wondering how I’ll ever make it to October 14th without having wasted 2 months ripping off all my cuticles.
Oy! So, instead of working on the Spring House which continues to cover the kitchen table, I tipped my needlepoint wool onto the library table and curled up under the lamp to work on my Norwegian Queen. Did you know the Norwegian word for Queen is “Dronning”. I must say, to my English speaking mind, this doesn’t conjure up the most regal notions – instead, it makes me think of a right bore of a queen, “dronning” on and on and on in a pompous and repetitive manner to her ladies in waiting about all the things the King (Konge) does that annoy her.
Yesterday, when I was thinking of all the things I could do with this wee needlepoint, I looked up lots and lots of ways to say Queen. The similarities were mostly expected – except for the enchanting Hindi word. You want to know some? Course you do – in French they say “Reine”, in Spanish it’s “Reina” and in Italian it’s “Regina”. Yup – just as expected. But in Hindu it’s “Rani”! How cool is that!! That Sanskrit and European languages share the same root is so fabulous! Just tonight I heard that lovely Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, say that the thing he really began to feel when he was floating above our improbable jewel like world was the collectiveness of it all. Such a beautiful thought – and precisely why they say Rani in India and Reine in France.
You want to know some more – all right! In Russian they say “Koroleva”, in Czech they say “Kralovna”, and in Turkish they say “Kralice. Must be a connection there. In Malaysian they say “Ratu” and in Arabic they say “Malikah”. In Japanese I think they say “Joo” and in Vietnamese they say “Nu Hoang”. The one that made me laugh was the Maori – “Kuini”! Isn’t that gorgeous! I wish my Norwegian queen was a “Kuini” but I suppose I’d best make peace with the fact she’s a “Dronning”.
Anyways – etymological diversions aside – the needlepoint. I was at a bit of an impasse. I had – improbably – chosen gingernut brown for the background and spent last eve furiously filling and filling and filling. Then realised this morning that I couldn’t possibly fill in around all those little red flowers – they would VANISH into the gingernut. As I sat there, calculating how many hours it would take to pull out all that gingernut, I looked up and realised what was clearly inspiring me when I first settled on warm brown – this here print on the library wall!
I’m afraid I cannot remember the name or artist, but it is from the early American colonial period – one of my favourite periods of art. I just love the wonky perspective and proportions – grapes hanging from huge trees ready to torpedo the small farm houses and the garden that looks ripe for sliding down the steep hill – of gingernut brown! I’ve always looked at this painting and thought how the artist must have painted and painted the brown hill and then got to that beautiful weeping willow and thought “bugger, I can’t possibly paint in between all those delicate leaves, I know, I’ll paint around it.” And at the moment I was GLAD I’d chosen gingernut brown and knew just how to deal with those red flowers :-)
Then, I practised that ancient sport of “well, before I start a new piece of brown, I’ll just check the emails again.” Do you know that game? It goes like this – “before I wash the dishes, I’ll just check the emails again”, “I’ll hang out the washing and then I can check the emails again”, ”I won’t check the emails again until I’ve added three more rows of bricks”, ”goodness, I’ve been out of the house for 45 minutes, it’s time to quickly check the emails again.” Course you do. But this time – oh thank my lucky stars – there was the email I’ve been waiting for. A grad interview at the Royal Children’s Hospital for next Friday. Yes! Phew! Now I can get on with life.
Folks, I waltzed into the kitchen. I cleaned up with a spring in my step. I laughed with delight at the thought of baking for lunch :-) And so I pulled out a real favourite – Hugh’s soda bread from his lovely “Family Cookbook”. It’s such a good, solid recipe that allows for all manner of interpretations – today it was dates and oats. I just followed the basic recipe – eliminated the sugar (I always do that) and substituted 50g of oats for 50g of flour. Yum!
Popped it into the oven and did some more washing up. I must admit – I do like washing up in winter. I love filling the sink with straight hot water – no cold – and then plunging my hands in. This year I’ve either developed asbestos hands or the plumber turned the water heater temperature down when he last visited. Either way, it’s bliss. Fogs up my spectacles. The steam rises around me and floats away from the dishes as I stack them on the drainer. Oh yes, washing up, one of winter’s pleasures.
Then, whilst the soda bread baked, I got to playing with the beet tops from last night’s supper. Chopped off the leaves for the rabbits. And then, was so entranced by the ruby red liquid that dripped from the stems, that I chopped them up too and boiled them up in a bit of water. I have plans. Next time you pop into blockaday I shall either be showing you something marvellous. Or you’ll be laughing until you cry over what happened to those beet stems. We’ll just have to wait and see which it will be.
In 25 minutes, out came the soda bread – all bursting with scrumptious, piping hot dates. I hacked off some thick slabs, carefully layered them with thin slices of cold salty butter and gobbled them up at the kitchen bench. Yum!
Washed the butter from my hands, wrapped the leftovers for tomorrow morning’s breakfast – Hugh’s soda bread is marvellous toasted – and returned to my Kuini-Dronning. Spirits lifted. Belly full. New ideas for birds and borders and purposes in my mind.
Take that you dreary, winter Melbourne morning!
… to swing by Bootville, in the mid-afternoon, when school’s out early, the late winter sun is setting the back garden aglow, and the sweet scent of jasmine is wafting across the grass, don’t knock at the front door. Come down the side, and through the gate – we’re in the garden!
kick off your shoes … it’s okay, the dog hasn’t chewed a pair in years. She’s so grown up now :-)
we’ve saved you a chocolate and raspberry sponge from Aviv’s!
pull up a corner on the picnic blanket – we’re reading a lovely new picture book (yes, we still love and buy picture books!). It’s all about what happens when you decide to throw caution to the wind and dare to do something a bit different. With fabulous pictures. And it’s Japanese. And it’s by Mitsumasa Anno – what a gift to the world he is!
Fu will come bounding up every few moments to tell you all about a yummy stick she’s just found or an evil pigeon with dastardly plans she was brave enough to chase off. To protect us, of course. She’s not afraid of evil and dastardly pigeons. It’s her job.
Abby’s writing a new story – currently planning out all the characters and locations – so she’ll probably ask you to contribute a name or an occupation – the crazier the better.
Perhaps you’d like to pull out whatever it is you love to do – bit of knitting, a good book, some stitching. If you’ve come empty handed you’re welcome to play with my new Pride and Prejudice paper dolls. But I reserve the right to pop them all out. You can put the stands on – they’re a bit tricksy.
Aren’t they gorgeous! And Fu didn’t steal a single one. I told you she’s getting grown up at last.
Then, whilst Abby gets down to the nitty-gritty of her tale, I might sneak a peak into my new novel. You don’t mind do you. I had to buy it. As you can see, it’s called “We are all completely beside ourselves”. This is one of my favourite phrases! I use it ALL the time. I am regularly completely beside myself – usually with delight, anticipation, or anxiety. My response to Abby’s tales of school is usually “Goodness, the teacher must have been beside herself”. When Mum tells me what the extended family are up to, I reckon they’re completely beside themselves as well. Even my patients’ families are beside themselves – well of course they are. As for the patients – they’re usually too sick to be beside themselves.
See – I had to have it. And it’s by Karen Joy Fowler – I was completely beside myself with delight when I read her “Jane Austen Bookclub” especially when the only guy in the club suggested they read the Master and Commander books. Practically leapt out of bed I was so beside myself at that point :-) ”Yes, yes, yes!” I shrieked to Julian, “Of course the Master and Commander books are utterly perfect for the Jane Austen fan. Karen Joy Fowler and I are kindred spirits!”
“Uh-uh,” he replied. He very rarely gets beside himself, completely or not.
And when the sun tips just that bit far to the west, and the air becomes colder and damp, we’ll traipse back inside and have a nice cup of tea. You can choose which Moomin cup you’d like. If you really want to endear yourself, I’ll let you unpick the remaining 12 windows in my patchwork house that need their curtains hung, whilst I “hang” said curtains. It will be a lovely afternoon, I promise.
You just have to remember, if it’s mid afternoon and the late winter sun is out and the jasmine’s flowering – we’ll be out the back.
There was a sleepless night – we call it “hover sleep” here in Bootville, that kind of sleep where you’re not really asleep, not quite awake, but oh so aware that dawn is creeping closer and closer. Followed by another early morning, grad year interview – intense occasions after which I can always think of much better ways I could have answered their questions.
The rest of the day needed to move slowly, gently .. with a good dose of uplifting. And, as is so often the case, such balm was found in the warmth of my kitchen, a little green machine that hums like an old Hornby train set, and a table scattered with fabric.
:: late winter always means pyramids of lovely, juicy oranges – the perfect time for some marmalade brewing. I’m following a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe which calls for a good overnight soaking. Slowly, slowly …
:: not so slowly enjoying yesterday’s Nigel Slater’s marmalade loaf baked into cupcakes – with sultanas because everything tastes extra yummy with sultanas
:: my first pickling efforts – using Andrea Chesman’s “Pickled Pantry” - my cabbage has been soaking for a few hours after mashing the salt in with my fingers – it’s almost time to add the next ingredients …
:: a new cast iron pot – bigger than the last! perfect for slowing cooking a lovely joint – pork, beef, turkey – as long as it’s hot and flavoursome I don’t mind. But first – this new pot needs a nice slow curing.
:: this season’s first posy of jasmine – slowly, slowly spring is tiptoeing in
:: savouring a thick and frothy hot cocoa after school – and still, after all these years, spending our afternoon tea debating Snape’s virtue. He is hands down my favourite Harry Potter character – alas, Abby will never see it my way :-)
:: things are moving slowly on the kitchen table – it’s looked like this since Friday – but the work has been nonstop!
:: there’s only one way all these little seams come together and that’s slowly …
… but oh so pleasing.
:: lamps were lit very very early
:: corners were tidied and reorganised
:: the perfect vintage blanket was unearthed from the sewing shed
:: mail from Japan was rescued from the leaky mail box, delighted over, and ideas were hatched
:: borders were chopped and stitched and pressed – the material so very pretty it made me wonder what else I could do with it
:: the girlie was collected and supper was shopped for
It was that sort of day :-)