peonies + pippi

My sister gave me these beautiful beautiful flowers last week. She brought them home from the market on wednesday, as a little surprise gift.
They arrived as tight buds, and have slowly unfurled over the days to this full glorious bloom.
I love their pungent, earth, musky perfume.
Sometimes we (Sylv + me) say to each other that we don't deserve fresh flowers unless our house is nice and tidy. But sometimes the nice and tidy doesn't happen, or stay for long enough. And beautiful flowers are what one needs to ignore/life with/tolerate the mess that happens with two small (crafty.messy.playful) children combined with the rest of things that happen in life. {yes, my house is a mess again!}.

Thank you Sylv for these very very beautiful flowers. I'm enjoying watching and enjoying them in our front room. And even taking some fun little photos with them.

{these two are fuzzy, due to low light-photography conditions, 
but i love the shapes and lines and colours. don't they look like frilly dancing dresses! 
especially with that ripple of pink along the top edge of the petal.}

We are reading Pippi Longstocking at the moment. I bought it, on a whim, at the bookstore, in mind to keep it for a Christmas gift for the kids. It's illustrated by Lauren Child, of Charlie + Lola fame. The kids are loving listening to the crazy antics of Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking. We've been reading one or two chapters each day for the past three days now, and they both sit and listen with rapture at the funny things pippi does and says. And wait for the great pictures of Pippi rolling out biscuits on the floor, or riding her horse to school.

I love that they are both old enough now to sit and listen to chapter books. Old classics are the best way to go - we've been working on Wind in the Willows (which I think they are a little too young for still). Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox, George's Marvelous Medicine and Charlie are also much loved readers.

Craft Hope Giveaway

So, here it is - The Craft Hope Book - in all it's handcrafted goodness and "spreading the seeds of hope one stitch at a time". It was on my desk waiting for me yesterday afternoon (I'm sure Mishi was disappointed that it wasn't for her, but happy enough to see the lovely book anyway - with lots of great projects and pretty pictures to look at).
I love the format of this book, easy to sit and look at, easy to have by your side while you're sewing or making, easy for the kids to look through. {Easy for me to find the page where our project is.... the lucky last project in the book}. And all the special heart-warming photos of smiling and happy children.

There are so many bloggers here, who I love reading and am inspired by. A very short list includes  {BlueYonderRanch} Stefani,  {Soulemama} Amanda, {One Red Robin} Jhoanna, {Maya*made} Maya, {A Foothill Home Companion} Molly, {Geninne's Art} Geninne, as well as a whole heap more. The full list can be found on the Lark Crafts site.

The projects in this book at achievable and versatile; there's a great assortment from quilts to bags (yes, my stencilled book bag) to sweet dolls, dresses, and carved stamps. Make them for yourselves, a gift for friends or family, or send them on to one of the many charities mentioned (there's often more than one charity for each project, as well as ideas for local to you options).

I have one copy of Craft Hope :: Handmade Crafts for  a Cause to giveaway. To enter, please tell me what crafting you would like to do to help out your community (be it near or far community - world or local) or those in need. I'll keep the giveaway open until next Friday 10th September, some time late in the evening. I'll even sign the book especially for you - and perhaps there'll be a little extra something in the parcel as well.......

crafting for hope

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival in the post of my copy of Craft Hope:Handmade Crafts for a Cause.

I am more than proud to be included in this beautiful looking book. A book that is more than just about the projects and designers; more than just about the bloggers and artists; it's about a global community doing something to make a change a difference.

All the projects in the Craft Hope book have a related charity, allowing you to do more with your crafting skills - helping people on the other side of the world, or around the corner. By doing something we all love to do (sew, knit, crochet.....) we can give love, warmth, respect and hope to someone in need.

There's a Month of Hope started over on Lark Craft (the publishers). Jade's {Chikaustin + Craft Hope founder + mother of 3 under 5 + extraordinarily amazing woman} story starts the month off, so go and check it out. She's spent many many months putting this amazing book together, as well as continuing on with the charities that Craft Hope support.

I'll be having a giveaway of the book, when I receive my copy. In the meantime, increase your chances by checking out these two giveaways - Chikaustin + Craft Hope.

little house

I've just recently finished reading this quite excellent book. 
In fact, very excellent. You should go and borrow it from your local library, and read it. If you're inclined that way. 
It's Little House on a Small Planet. And, it's about exactly what it sounds like it's about. About the small house movement, co-housing, community living.....
In reality, people have been living in small houses since house began. In caves and under ferns or bamboo or leaves to keep off the weather and protect from the animals. And on this small planet of ours, many many people still do live in little houses. People share one room with extended families - living, cooking, sleeping altogether.
I imagine that these people are happier and more content than anyone who lives in a big house can ever be. Can a mansion bring you happiness?

There are endless reasons why small houses are ideal living. Let's start at one that makes a difference to your daily routines - less rooms means less cleaning; who wants to clean 3+ bathrooms, 5 bedrooms, a formal living / dining room, and a family room every week. Think about all the extra time you'd have if there was only one bathroom, 2-3 smallish bedrooms, and one beautiful living / dining space. IN my experience, with kids, it doesn't matter how much space they have - they keep on making it messy; they'll fill one room, then move to the next. And, they also will not stay in their own rooms, but will hover around you, under your feet, on top of you. 
Yes, okay - my kids are still young, and you may be right in thinking that as they get older they'll want the space of their own. But I didn't; as teenagers my siblings and I did our homework in the lounge room {we didn't have a dining table to sit at - being floor livers}, around the family. Part of family life.

Other reasons, which are more thoughtfully environment and financial are the heating and cooling costs associated with a larger or smaller home. To air condition a big house costs a lot - a lot to your pocket, but more importantly, a lot to the environment. Mostly you're cooling rooms that you don't actually spend much time in. {But the workings of A/C mean that you need to keep it on to regulate the temperature, in case you want to walk into the room for a few minutes}.

Heating costs are the same. It's so easy to turn on your gas or electric heater and crank it up to warm the whole house, isn't it. And the electricity/gas bill comes and you get a bit of a shock - but pay it anyway, and forget come next Winter. {Again, I think I barely need to mention the environmental costs, and I don't figures to quote to you anyway. Common sense tells me that it's too much}.

Then there's the cost of actually building your home - regardless of if you build it yourself, pay someone to build it, or buy an old home already built a long time ago {you'll want to renovate that one, won't you}. The materials that go into building large houses can be expensive and costly to the environment, not to mention your mortgage. {Do you know what mortgage means - it's from old French & English, and means 'death pledge'. Lovely, hey!}. And then there's the extra furnishings you need to make all those rooms look like a proper home. 

Also, bigger houses means you have less land around you. Less earth and soil under your toes. Less space to plant trees or veges, or sit in the sun, or run around exploring with your children. 

Little House on a Small Planet is a book that shares stories with people who live in some of the smallest homes (in the USA). It's not a design book, or an architecture book, rather a viewpoint into how you can live, how you can change your life (your current home or your future home) to learn to live and love a small home.
{The one disappointing thing about the book is that all the zoning and planning rules are for USA, and don't apply to Australia - so other research material is necessary; my dad, I'm suspecting!!}.

It's not all touchy feely; it also has many interesting and eye-opening facts and figures and information. But it's the families and the stories that I loved the most. The ideas and ideals; but the ease with which it is a natural way of living - no heroics, just life.

Yesterday we looked at some land {and I left my camera in the car, so no photos or the beautiful trees and moss and fairy homes}. Perhaps it's our land. We are still talking and thinking and deciding and planning. So, of course, I am back to the drawing and planning of our home. Thinking of the spaces we need - what we really need, not what we might want. How do we use our space, can we use the same space for different things. 

We are lucky to live in a part of this Earth where the Winters are fairly mild, and outdoor living happens for most of the year. So vast open verandahs, and easy constant access to outside is essential, practical, expected. A fireplace for those few cold Winter months, where everyone settles in one room to keep warm, and huddles under the blankets and jumpers instead of "turning up the heat".

I'd love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the small house. How big is your home, how do you use your space, does your home have any exciting design features, how do you feel your family would go living in a small house (less than 100metres square, I think).

Just a few other small house reading ::
Small Home Style
Cohousing, Small Home Movement
Tiny House Blog
House of Fallen Timbers

*images are, from top - bottom:; little house on a small planet (middle two b/w images); revelations architect EDGE house (bottom two).

the girl who ate books

I have just finished up reading the second of two novels I've read in the past two weeks. This, for me, is quite unusual. Since having kids I barely actually read novels. And also, since discovering blogs, I barely read much else!
There was a time in my life when I would stay curled up in bed, or tucked into the corner of the couch, reading, devouring and having to finish just one more chapter of my book. Many times I'd start and finish a good book over one weekend. I'm not a particularly quick reader, in fact, sort of on the slow side - as I like to read each and every single word, and don't like to skim over words (which I know was the reading style of some of my school friends).
So, anyway. The Wednesday before last I had a few quiet moments in the city, while Mishi was asleep in her pram. I decided to visit the library. I plucked a few books off the shelves at whim; based on the name of the book, the cover illustration, and a small snippet of a randomly opened page. 
While neither of the books were amazingly life alteringly fantastic, they were both remarkably lovely to read. And had great moments in them; moments of relating to my life right now as well.
Ari was intrigued by the name of "The Palace of Strange Girls", by Sallie Day. He kept asking me about it, what was happening, what the strange girls were, where was the palace, etc. I really enjoyed the story woven in about the father who worked in the weaving cotton mills, the moments of him with his daughter telling her about the different weaves of fabric, and how he knew by touch what each one was, and how they were all made. And the pain and angst of all the mills being closed down in post-war England.

"A Box of Matches" by Nicholson Baker was a detailed, finely tuned story. Every day a middle-age man wakes up early, before sunrise, in the freezing cold of January Winter. He lights a fire, and tells us snippets and memories and dreams. He tells about the hole in his sock that irritated his toe, or about the feel of taking a big bite of apple - so big that it feels like your mouth is jammed open and you have to work out how to loosen it. Those tiny little details of life; set in the dark of the morning, he has to feel for the coffee machine and the fill the water and scoop just the right amount of coffee. And the way he feels for the coffee filters, spreading his fingers out so as to make sure he only picks up one and not all of them. Oh - I do love a story that so accurately details those miniscule aspects of our days. There is not plot as such, just each morning a new fire, with new segments. 
I do think that I will try to remember, when I'm next at the library, to find some more books by Baker. And I'm going to pass his name onto my brother, who very much likes to write, and who I know appreciates those little small tiny moments. Almost laboured over with detail and explanation.

Today Ari asked me to write a book with him. Perhaps over the holidays we will sit down together and do just that. I'm not sure what he wants it to be about, or what my role will be (as his illustrations are as amazing as his imagination and story telling skills).

***** This blog title is a reference to an excellent book we have "The Incredible Book Eating Boy" By Oliver Jeffers. {"Lost and Found" is also a beautiful book}.

***** Also, I added some beautiful images to my tumblr page this evening. Some simply glorious flowers from House on Hill Road {who takes many beautiful flower photographs}, as well as a few others. Do stop over and have a look, if you feel so inclined.

**** It's 12.24pm. It's raining now. Very slowly and quietly. The house is fast asleep, quiet and still. I can hear cars down the road driving on a wet road. I'm not worrying about the washing on the line, now wet - at least I hung the school uniforms and Mishi's favourite pants on the inside line, so they'll be dry.

in the reading chair

Each night at bedtime, this week, I have been reading Wind in the Willows to the kids. There are few pictures in this, mainly writing. Beautiful, lyrical words, tumbling out of my mouth. 
I'm so enjoying reading this to them. They lie quietly in their bunk beds, listening. I read by the light of the illuminated world globe. 
Sitting on my second hand cane chair. With my Red Seed Studio cushions - some new ones that I made for a little photoshoot (for a magazine).

Last night they both fell happily to sleep, listening about Rat and Mole and Toad on the open road, in their canary yellow caravan. 

We have a copy of this version, illustrated by Michael Hague. The dustcover is torn and fallen off, so our cover is a brown cloth with gold lettering. Quite beautiful to hold and read. 

Inside is a note, written with ink and a beautiful hand:

" To Michele, 
                With much love 
                                    January 1981"

{And yes my siblings, I do understand that this means that it is officially my book, but for now it is. For now we are enjoying it, and loving it. As I'm sure you're enjoying and loving other things.}

building up my library

i'm building up my library of design, craft and inspiration books. whatever i may pass it off as, my Sydney holiday bags came home a tad bit heavier!
oh - we visited the most intoxicating bookshop, Kinokuniya. Sylve + i could have spent all day in there. i think we showed quite a good bit of restraint in our purchases. also, their prices seemed actually cheaper than i had anticipated.

i'm going to try and review them for you over the coming weeks, as i know i really enjoy having little insights into books from other artists and crafters. oftentimes seeing the cover (on Amazon, etc) isn't enough to let me know if a book will be as beautiful as i imagine. if there's one in particular that you are interested in hearing more about - do let me know and i'll write about it first.
if you happen to visit Sydney anytime soon, do visit Kinokuniya; but make sure you plan a few spare hours for the pleasure. and have lunch at the little cafe right at the exit; we had a delicious homemade soup with cheese and apple (very Japanese, serving us some apple pieces - a lovely and thoughtful end to a simple meal).

The Garden at Eichstatt (though mine is a different cover) - beautiful botanical prints.
corsage for weekday ... accessory for everyday - sweet little flowers and corsages broken into 'weekday', 'corsage for sweet lovers - date', 'sometime get dressed - party', 'saturday and sunday with sunshine - weekend'. The styling is just lovely. And the patterns at the back, while written in Japanese, are very easy to understand with well illustrated instructions.
Felt Work Fun - felt things - bags, necklaces, accessories, seat bags, carpet and other little trims and details. Has templates to photocopy or trace, and fairly easy to understand instructions (written in Japanese).
Happy Homemade vol 2 - clothing for children age 5 and up. i'll let you know how easy the patterns are to use, when i get started on them. Suitable for girls and boys
Start Walking - for boy and girl - clothing patterns for younger children up to about age 5. The instructions look very easy to understand, excellent illustrations.
Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge - this will be one that i use and love for the rest of my life (i'm assuming). A pretty pink ribbon ties the pages together. Many many hours of inspiration in this, i can tell.
Juxtopoz Tattoo (for Sam) - this looks like a very intricate and amazing display of some fantastic artworks - bodyworks. it's organised by each artist, which is a really good way to find a style or artist you particularly like, and follow their work. check out this link to see some of the images - it is very very mind blowing that people can draw/ink like this, and that people can withstand that pain.also in the pic is the newest MixtapeZine, issue 10, which was waiting for me when i got home. a bowl of random sewing things - pins, scissors, and assorted clutter. and my new toy - it's all mine and i don't have to share it with anyway. sweet little thing it is. and did you know that Mac has the greenest 'puty you can buy (or so their marketing literature says).

(face) book list

Just found this on someones facebook - you know a link from a link. That sort of thing. Not that I'm over there too much, don't care at all for the whole facebook thing.

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Put a % after those you've read a portion of.
3) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
4) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
5) Tally your total read and put it in the title.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen ()
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien ()
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte ()
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling ()
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (X)
6 The Bible ()
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte ()
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (X)
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman ()
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens ()
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (X)
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy ()
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (%)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (%)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier ()
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien ()
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ()
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger ()
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (?)
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ()
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ()
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald ()
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens ()
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy ()
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (x)
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh ()
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky ()
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (X)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (X)
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (X)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy ()
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens ()
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (X)
34 Emma - Jane Austen ()
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ()
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (X)
37. Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (X)
38. Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ()
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden ()
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (X)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (X)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown ()
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (X)
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving ()
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins ()
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (X)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy (%)
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood ()
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (X)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ()
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel ()
52 Dune - Frank Herbert ()
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons ()
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen ()
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ()
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ()
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens ()
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (X)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon ()
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (X)
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck ()
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ()
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ()
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ()
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas ()
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac (X)
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy ()
68 Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding ()
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie ()
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ()
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens ()
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker ()
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett ()
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson ()
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (%)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (X)
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ()
78 Germinal - Emile Zola ()
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ()
80 Possession - AS Byatt ()
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens ()
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ()
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker ()
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro ()
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert ()
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry ()
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White (X)
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ()
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (X)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton (%)
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (?)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (X)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks ()
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams (X)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Toole ()
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas ()
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (X)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (X)
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo ()

Hmmm. There's some on that list that I'd like to read; some that I'm pretty sure I have read but couldn't tell you what they were about; some that I read in school (because I had to - but loved all the same); some that I know I'll never read; some I've read but want to read again. And, I can't even think about what ones I love, or what I would read on that list. Oh, and I know I've read at least a few of the Jane Austen ones, but can't remember - you know they all sort of meld into each other after a while. (And one can hardly get Mr Darcy or Miss Elizabeth Bennet out of their minds, hey :: photo just for fun; don't know where it came from, sorry).

I'd love to hear your favourite books; either on this list or not. Tell me what I
should read. In my small moments of quiet time. What's your most loved book of all time.

just like that

A couple of nights ago, I sat down on the couch. All curled up. Trying to keep warm. I got out the fantastic little book that Sylve gave me for my birthday. Super Stitches Crochet. With heaps of excellent little tips and step by step instructions, it's a book about learning the crochet stitches and designs, rather than patterns to make actual projects. Which means that I can learn how to read a pattern, and what all the abbreviations actually mean, and pretty little stitches, that I can make my own patterns (or try and follow some) - but really, I'm not so good at actually following directions, patterns, recipes.Anyway. Granny squares. Being so well written, combined with the fact that I took the time to follow each process (generally I *think* I know what it's going to say, and barge ahead), I made perfect granny squares. Not like these ones. And I'm hooked, again. Just like that.
These are bigger than regular granny squares. I was going to make one really really big one, and that be the blanket. But it started getting a bit floppy, and I thought it best to make smaller ones and use their seams as a sort of strengthening. Don't know if that will work or not, but now I'm making lots of squares in all different colours and variations.
Yarns are: Chilli pepper organic Australian wool, Woolganic. And some beautiful hand dyed upcycled wools that I bought at the The Little Market at Avid a few weeks ago, from Rowena.
I don't anticipate this will be finished for this Winter, so we'll aim for next one.
Also, Just Like That is one of my most favourite ever books. Check it out if you like a bit of dark humour, real life writing, and beautiful intimate details. All with a background of a neurotic Jew - sounds fun hey. Believe me - Lily Brett is a fantastic author, try her short stories if you don't want to delve into a whole book.