The Beach in Winter

I like having a winter birthday. I like it because Canberra does winter well. We have clear blue skies, bright light, chilly air and in July, the daffodils are starting to open their yellow heads.

Birthday weekend at the coastBut this year I headed to the beach for my birthday, specifically the beach where my parents live on the coast of New South Wales. I love a bleak wintry beach, partly because I love the grey skies over foamy waves but mostly because there are almost no people on the beach in winter.

We took Alice and her mum with us. Originally the plan had been to go fishing on my dad’s boat on my birthday. I wanted to catch a snapper. I don’t ask for much. I just wanted to catch my own dinner. Two weeks before my birthday my dad selfishly sold his boat. Alice bugged him all weekend about it. ‘Grandad why did you sell your boat?’ I think he regretted that decision. Four year olds are brutal. Don’t let those cherubic faces fool you. They know how to dig the knife in!

Birthday weekend at the coastNonetheless, it was awfully nice to be out of town, to feel the salty wind on our faces and to share my birthday cake with a four year old who was determined not to miss out on the candles, the cake and the after dinner sparklers.

Birthday weekend at the coast

I loved knitting on Mollymook Beach while Sean and Alice admired the waves. That was a definite high point. A belly full of fish and chips, a bit of sunshine, someone else doing the active stuff. It was nice. That’s Alice and Sean you can see there in the distance.

Birthday weekend at the coastAfter much begging on Saturday, when we saw two little girls swimming with their mother like it was the height of summer, we made a deal with Alice. On Sunday we could swim. By ‘swim’ we meant ‘roll up our jeans and paddle’. She was over the moon.

Happy Alice at the beach.One day when she’s older I’ll tell her that her ploy to get us to paddle turned out to be the greatest moment of the weekend. The three of us held hands on Hyam’s Beach, where the rip was strong. We held hands and got way more than our ankles wet. We watched a pod of dolphins pass by and laughed and cheered as the waves licked our jeans.

Birthday weekend at the coastIn Alice’s language, it was ‘super special’. We were ‘super happy’ and not at all cold.

And in knitting news, I gave both Alice and her mum new hats over the weekend. A Meret for Fee, and a Lavender for Alice. They posed for a photo together.

Birthday weekend at the coastThey both look lovely and I realised as I took this that it was the first time I’d done knits for both of them at the same time. I was pleased with the result.

I consider this the happiest of birthdays. It pays to get out of town some times and do something different.

Bells

Summer Days

Christmas and New Year has been quiet here. Not hosting Christmas means there isn’t really a lot to do in terms of baking or menu planning. That was all in the hands of my in-laws this year.

Christmas day saw us drive out to the country, to Young, the cherry capital of Australia. The landscape is dry, windswept and beautiful.

On the road to Young.

When my father in law saw this photo he said ‘that’s Australia at Christmas’. Well, one part of it anyway.

Most of our time off has seen us being at home, just being. It’s at once a much loved way to spend summer – away from crowds – and at the same time strangely subdued. I do have the sense that there’s life and excitement happening elsewhere but I’m happy to just potter here and have the odd day out, visiting here or there, seeing people when the mood strikes but mostly just focusing on withdrawing a bit from having to be anywhere. I can garden, knit, read, do odd jobs I’ve been putting off and hide from the reality of the world a little bit. It suits me. It suits us.

And so my afternoons often look like this.

Christmas and new year 2012/2013

Sean bought me new set of Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks for Christmas (from SuzyHausfrau) and I’ve been digging through bags of years old cotton to replenish my stash of dishcloths.

Over the break I’ve sewed, decking Alice in new summer clothes. I explained to a friend the other day that the reason to make so much stuff for her now is because the time will come when she no longer wants my simple homemade items (maybe it won’t, you never know) and I can make stuff for her now that gives me experience and new skills. It’s fun. This dress turned out to be too tight across the bodice but it’ll do for now.

Christmas and new year 2012/2013

And this skirt, which the designer said would take an hour, really did only take an hour. She loves owls.

New skirt. At the coast.

There was New Years’ Eve in the city with Alice. Ice cream, fireworks and fun.

Christmas and new year 2012/2013A ride on a sheep statue (it was just pretend, she explained).

Christmas and new year 2012/2013We did get away for a couple of days though – to visit my parents with Alice while her parents had a break. It is nice to be somewhere else for a bit, even if home is where you want most to be.

Christmas and new year 2012/2013

The inlet just near my parents’ house is perfect for toddler swimming. She even put her face under. She felt very brave and none of us got sunburned given it was our first proper afternoon in the sun with less clothing on than we normally wear.

Christmas and new year 2012/2013

Now that festive stuff is over and the slow pace of days has settled into a gentle rhythm for a bit longer (I’m not back at work for a little while yet) I plan to sew more, keep working on the garden, have an airing of the stash (will wait until Sean goes back to work for that – there are some things he does not need to see!) and continue my general withdrawal from the world. 2013 begins not with a bang but with a quiet, sun filled dawning.

Bells

The Contented Chook

On Sunday during lunch, I looked under our lunch table and this is what I saw. Thank goodness I had my phone nearby to take a photo.

Winifred

It’s Winifred looking every bit the fat, contented chicken. We try not to have the girls up on the deck with us while we’re eating. They’ve been known to attempt a table leap for food, or your lap. Mostly it’s just, and I say this with love, a bit annoying when hungry chickens harass you while you’re eating.

Even more so if what you’re eating is actually chicken. That’s weird and we’ve had moments where we pause, a drumstick hovering between plate and mouth, alarmed. I’m not opposed to pet eating per se, but it’s not a place I wish to go at this point in my chicken keeping life. It’s hard enough to massage oil into the cold, featherless body of a bird I didn’t know before putting it in the oven.

In the meantime, I just savour moments like this one, where someone, in the case it’s Winifred, wants to be quietly nearby, peaceful and content.

It certainly helps to remember such images when I’m cursing them for eating my potted lettuce.

Bells

40

On the last day of my thirties, a decade I was glad to leave behind, I got on a plane and flew to Melbourne with Sean. I spent the last night of my thirties eating tapas at Movida and watching my first Broadway musical ‘The Producers’ (yes I realise I wasn’t seeing it on Broadway, what can you do?). We completely loved it. The energy! The lights! The music! All  of it surpassed what I expected of a show that to me sounded like something to try rather than something we’d definitely enjoy. How wrong I was. A funny, high energy, altogether impressive experience under the spire of the State Theatre.

spire

It was a nice way to see out the decade. The long, difficult decade.

I spent most of my thirties in pursuit of motherhood and we can all see where that got me. Us. Childless.

Would I do it again if I had my time over? Probably. You can’t change the past and at the time you’re living through the hardship, you are doing it with a deep, powerful  hope in your heart that it will work out. Everywhere around you couples are welcoming their first, second, third happy bundles and you’re standing there with empty arms and an unforgiving uterus.

A spare room that deep down you fear will never become a nursery.

And there were miscarriages. Losses I will carry with me forever, scars and memories.

There was no way to know at the time that it wouldn’t work out. There were no guarantees, no magic charms to give us what we longed for.

But there were lessons. There were gifts. They come in the form of the charming little people who are part of our lives now, just not born of us. We are grateful and we are willing and able to be loving adults in the lives of our nieces and nephew – we are adults who bring with us, amongst other things, a decade of longing and hope which only serves to inform our humanity and our capacity to live and to love.

It was with this knowledge that I greeted the milestone of my 40th birthday, in the city of my birth, our second city, Melbourne. And lest you think I spent most of it staring glumly into glasses of wine mulling over my empty uterus and childless life, fear not. I went to Melbourne to eat, drink and be merry and that’s exactly what I did. Ironically, this was easier without the ‘burden’ of children. Bittersweet irony, really.

Portrait of a happy pub knitter. #melbourne #festivalofhelen

I turned 40 in the style I hoped for: eating, drinking and knitting my way around some great restaurants, cafes and pubs.

me in melbourne

We saw the excellent and highly informative Napolean exhibition the National Gallery of Victoria.

napoleon

And we ate, on the night of my birthday at the stunning, top rated Attica Restaurant, our first experience of Molecular Gastronomy, which was nowhere near as intimidating or wanky as I feared it might be. It was in every way a night to remember, and to me, far more satisfying than a big, emotionally draining party. As an introvert I’m much better at a small, quiet dinner than a big event.

Melbourne. Sunday morning. Swanston street.

And what would a trip away be for me without at least a photo of knitting and a glass of wine? This one was taken at lunch on our last day, where we sat in a lane way Italian cafe and ate pasta and drank wine and farewelled, with a little sadness, our lovely little holiday where we’d done all the things we hoped and from which I was returning a 40 year old woman.

As if there was ever any question what the My Obsession #julyphotoaday subject would be.

It was everything I wanted it to be.

Bells

Recognition

In all the time that Alice has been part of our lives, I’ve been knitting for her and around her. I can’t imagine there’s ever been a time when she saw me and I didn’t have knitting needles in my hand even for a few minutes.

And yet she’s never mentioned it. I have struggled to think of a time when she pointed out what I was doing or showed an interest  but it’s never happened until recently. Last week when she was here she found a crochet hook in the lounge room and asked what it was. I got some yarn and made a little chain. She watched. She took the hook in her own little hand and waved it around the yarn, got bored and walked away.

It was a tiny moment, short lived, but enough to make me wonder if maybe at last she’d noticed I’m always doing this thing with stuff in my hands.

I wouldn’t say I’m desperate to pass on the love of making things to her – if she never knits or crochets or sews it’s ok. But it’s struck me that in all the time it’s been going on right in front of her, it jus doesn’t register and, you know, being three she asks about everything. Everything. All the time. But not this. It makes me pause to think.

Then recognition came in the strangest and loveliest way. There’s a book she loves. It’s called The Gruffalo. Do you know it? A lovely book about a little mouse and his encounter with a beast in the deep, dark woods. It’s a clever story. She adores it. Recently we saw the little movie and the movie of the sequel and we were all delighted.

I found a stuffed toy of the Gruffalo and knew I had to buy him for Alice. Here he is.

gruffalo

He’s a cute, cuddly monster. Here’s how Alice looked when she met him.

alice and gruffalo

To say she was happy is an understatement. Instant love. Very gratifying.

But for me, the best bit was yet to come. A little while later she said, and I’m still not sure if it was a question or a statement, ‘Bells made it!’

Really? She thought I made the Gruffalo? What a lovely, inflated view of my skills she has. Or as RoseRed said, Alice can’t distinguished between bought things and things I’ve made.

Either way (and who knows all the time what goes on in the strange little minds of toddlers anyway!) what this proved to me is that after all the cardigans, all the dresses, all the cakes – every little hand made thing I’ve given to Alice in her three short years, the fact of what I do has at some point sunk in.

Alice knows I make things and that I make things for her.

It’s the loveliest kind of acknowledgement. I’m happy now that she’s never asked what I’m doing when I sit with her and knit. She doesn’t have to ask. She just knows.

Bells

Knits for Little People in 2011

Continuing on in the series outlining what I made in 2011, I’ve gathered together all the knits I made for little people in 2011.

Most were of course were for Alice – because little girl knits are just the best. I made only one for Willem which, although a sizeable and significant project, looks rather lonely. I’ve got plans for him this year and they’re all exciting!

Little People Knits 2011

1. alice in tshirt, 2. In Threes Cardigan, 3. Alice in her new purple cardigan, 4. jane cardigan 2, 5. Alice’s Acacia top, 6. Willem’s Jacket, 7. Baby Surprise Jacket, 8. Blue and Silver Baby Surprise Jacket, 9. Alice’s Swirly Hat, 10. headband – close, 11. acacia3, 12. Alice. Purple Cardigan. AFP Park

I absolutely loved making two Baby Surprise Jackets, almost back to back.

Blue and Silver Baby Surprise Jacket

After years of meaning to get around to them, dressing two lovely newborns in them was just so special.

Baby Surprise Jacket

The red one in particular was extra special because it went to a baby I didn’t know, requested by a grandfather who felt his first grandchild should have something handmade – a job that would have been undertaken by his late mother. That was lovely.

My favourite Alice knit was the In Threes Cardigan.

In Threes Cardigan

It came together so beautifully, and I love that I made it from leftovers from Willem’s Alex Jacket. It made them even more connected.

Willem's Jacket

There is a world of fabulous patterns for little people out there – and before I knitted extensively for children I really didn’t know how satisfying it could be. When Alice shows up at our house with her bag for the weekend and packed inside are garments I made, it makes me smile like a lunatic to dress her in them in the morning and watch her run around the  yard or markets in something that came off my needles.

There will be more of this in 2012. I’m absolutely certain of it.

Bells

Thirty Projects – 2011

I think 2011 was a good year for my knitting. Looking back, I can see I dug deep into my stash and used some yarn that had been there for a while – and which in some cases I’d been saving for goodness only knows what. Why save? Use it up, I say. And use it I did in 2011. I had fun.

Finished projects 2011

1. Kai-Mei socks for Adele, 2. 198yds. of Heaven, 3. Featherweight Cardigan, 4. Willem’s Jacket, 5. Knotty Gloves, 6. veyla1, 7. Alice’s Swirly Hat, 8. Dashing mitts, 9. headband – close, 10. honey1, 11. Baby Surprise Jacket, 12. Alice in her new purple cardigan, 13. Embossed Leaves Socks, 14. Alice’s Acacia top, 15. Egeblad Doily, 16. In Threes Cardigan, 17. Nutkin socks, 18. Blue and Silver Baby Surprise Jacket, 19. jane cardigan 2, 20. Lilac leaf shawl, 21. karise shawl close up, 22. willem and alice pose, 23. mintfizz, 24. purple ball, 25. silver ball, 26. green ball, 27. acacia3, 28. Early Mornings Beret, 29. polly jean socks, 30. Adele’s Swirl Hat

Over the coming days I’ll do a retrospective of different categories. It’ll be for my amusement mainly but it’s always fun to share.

Just going through the photos from last year this morning has made me stop and think about what I knitted, what yarn I used, where my energies seemed to lie. I felt like I knitted almost entirely for Alice in 2011 but as you’ll see when I do that write up, it wasn’t that much at all. Not when I think about how many items for her I looked at and thought about knitting.

And I really thought I made more cardigans than I did.

The year ahead is always filled with so much promise. I recall at the start of 2011 wondering what I’d be able to look back on when the year was over, what plans were fulfilled and which were abandoned.

There were a few abandoned plans this year, several pieces of lace that never came to fruition, a couple of cardigans that I ripped out and are best forgotten.

But generally, as long as I’ve got a lot of happy knitting memories to look back on by the end of the year – lots of colour, a range of fibres, projects of different sizes and a few new skills thrown in, then I feel satisfied.

And if the people I love most are wearing some of the results of all those countless stitches and hours devoted to their creation, then I think it’s safe to say I can feel pretty good about my productivity and the fun I’ve had with it.

Here’s to a bright, colourful and ultimately squishy and soft 2012.

Bells