Monday, December 12, 2011

the stuff we have (two)

This bit is about him.

I'm afraid I won't do him justice. You'd need to come on over and sit at one of our Sunday open-house brunches, have him poach you an egg and grill you some bacon like you were sitting in a cafe. Within minutes you would get a sense of him, and the mad house we have going on. He's a very hands-on parent, so there will be a child in his arms (and probably one in the hall having a time out) while he's whipping it all up.

You'd instantly notice just how much he adores me. Still after seventeen years and four babies, you'd notice, because he'd hug and cuddle me and tell you that I am wonderful. I always get a little self conscious 'cause I don't believe I'm that great.

You'd definitely score one of his amazing stove-top Lattes, no swanky coffee maker machine for him. You might have to wait an hour for it, cause he has his own time zone and it's always on slow. He'd almost certainly ask if you'd like to see his compost heap whilst making you coffee. He'd grab a hand full of it, all black and pungent. He loves showing off the balls of worms. That isn't a double entendre. Great whacking big gobs of wriggly pink worms. (I swear, not an entendre!)

Only this way would you actually get the feel of him. Three hours later, waiting for a second coffee and he'll still have you discussing the economic fall of Iceland. This is where I'll be slowly backing away, cause the "end of oil" talk would probably be coming next, and that one I am a little freaked by.

My partner has always veered slightly off kilter.

He always thinks we can make do with anything or nothing. He is a real romantic like that. He leaves his whole country behind, his whole life, to be with me and he brings one bag! When we were first together, in the two months between him arriving and us getting married, we lived in my painting studio. We slept on foam blocks, our room was partitioned with sheets from my glory box, he made furniture out of cardboard boxes. Good furniture, too.

I have such great memories of that time in my life. I think it was the only time I really fully immersed myself in his free spirit. I'd come from a really sheltered life, my father was quite strict. My husband represented a new life, an escape. And I was madly madly in love.

I knocked the nomadic stuffing out of him, though. I didn't know I was doing it but I did.

Although I'd taken a big chance in just being with him, I began to take less and less chances: The $85,000 house we passed up on, the keys to the cafe we gave back, even the offer of a commercial art gig I said no to. Wasn't I meant to be the free spirit? I was the artist, he was the nuclear engineer.

Then once we had kids, while he was out protesting the war and getting bashed by cops, I wouldn't take any risks at all. I scoffed at his container house idea, I resisted (passively) having chooks. We did not make the tree change.

I just assumed it would never happen. We had kids (two, then three, then four) and he had job and made far more money than I had ever earned painting. I was comfortable in my position while he grew to dislike his more and more. I had little experience with compromise, as there was none in my house growing up. I didn't even know how adults were supposed to communicate. We'd talk, but in the end things would just stay the same.

We have a funny way the two of us of getting around each other. We made a deal (when we first got actual furniture) that we'd have five years on a mattress and five years on a futon. No points for guessing who wanted which one. I have become so overly cautious, I always think of the worst things that could happen to us, even when it came to what we slept on. We're up to the futon for the second time, now.

I cringe every time he remembers these bargains we made, ones I sometimes make in haste to get my way. Ones I'd rather he forgot.

The most recent bargain he's called in was the "We'll take turns working" one, from before we had kids. It had been building slowly, over years, his discontent. He talked more and more about living simply, about being self sufficient, about moving to Daylesford.

I am kind of interested. But it is when I'm interested that I get a scared to entertain the idea. I think "I'd better not get too keen or it'll actually happen." Because if you let him, he'll make stuff happen, just to see where it goes. I'm terrible like that, I've been a real dampener on his free spirit.

But he's the only person I ever met more stubborn then me. As of last month he works three days a week. He's here when the kids get home from school, he has taken over our garden (another area where I can't compromise), he has planted a herb spiral on our nature strip "for the community." He is getting us all outdoors for dinner. He's never been happier.

Despite my initial panic at the massive salary cut, I am finding that there is a glimmer of that old simple studio life creeping in. There is a chook in our garden now. I am letting him be himself, I am learning to compromise. I have let him bake some of our bread.

For the baker's daughter, that's a pretty big deal.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

the stuff we have

I'll tell you a little something about a shift we are making. This part's about me.

I'm a city girl, always have been. But I have never felt materialistic, I never cared too much for the latest trend. My wardrobe isn't filled with shoes, in fact I have about seven pairs, only about two of those do I wear much.

My make-up bag is a bit sad: I have an old mascara, a 'smut black' MAC eye shadow from when I thought I'd try to be more girly, a lipstick which (hussssh) I also use as rouge and an Aveena face cream costs about 12.00, and one toner which was a gift.

I get my hair done every six months by my sister and I always claim I'll be back before the three inch regrowth, but I don't. Same with my eyebrows, a friend does a wondrous wax on me about every three months, again I get to the three week mark and think I'll go back cause they looked so good.

Most of my clothes are thrifted purely because I refuse to spend a fortune on clothes and since learning to sew it's even harder to pay for new clothing. My eldest daughter likes her country road clothing but again some we have bought on sale and most of it is handed down. My other children all wear hand me downs and they don't care or notice.

I only take the nice stuff I mean I don't want them looking like ragga muffins!

And also because I can be choosy. Because, I do realise, I am incredibly lucky. Lucky to be born where I was and to be able to be choosy. I have seven pairs of shoes!

But still, I'd always thought I was low maintenance. Simple.

Seventeen years ago I married a semi-hippy US navy boy, one I'd only actually known for only two days. And corresponded with for 18 months, so that's all right. When we did eventually meet again on my 23rd birthday, we had next to nothing. In fact he came here with $45.00, one bag, and one guitar he could only play three chords on.

I will never forget the vision of this young man making his way toward me in a big Navy coat torn off jeans, walking boots a goatee and a guitar strapped to his back, he was last off the plane having been detained by customs for quite some time.

I knew right then that somehow we'd be Ok. (We spent the 45 bucks on a hotel.)

His bag contained a Sylvia Plath book, a Navy coat (one for him and one for me, actually), our love letters, a few bits of clothing, and a book titled "Living Cheaply with Style: live better and spend less."

It was a long time coming, but the next bit is about him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

my advent calendar

final daystwelvelayoutlucky for some3
after midnight
This is my advent calender is made from recycled and linen fabric scraps. Usually I make this one, from white small paper bags, but I wanted one we could keep for at least a couple of years.

The backing is from an old Ikea waist apron in a heavy cotton linen mix, which was in the bargain bin for a dollar.  Of course we bought about ten, over time they have been immensely useful.  The pockets were cut out from a muted palette of lilacs, yellow and natural. 13x11 cm including seam allowance of 1 cm, they were pressed and ready for embellishments. I didn't try being precise, I wanted some slightly smaller.

The fun started when it came to numbering them all. I chose to mix it up, some were stamped in black Versa ink, some were appliqued and others had larger numerals drawn on in a fine liner. I even attempted embroidery on one. If I'd had more time I would have bought fabric inks or pens, however I was already on day 3 when this was finally done. I never really intend to need to wash this so permanence of the inks didn't really matter. I do know from experience that the Versa ink sets up when ironed, use a thin muslin over the top though. (This would also look wonderful with some of the children's drawings on the pockets or that they help out writing the numbers. My eldest helped out on some sewing as well.)

I suggest strongly that the pockets are pinned on at the four corners, it's a tricky thing to sew on twenty-fine pockets, but it gets easier when you are halfway.

Right along the top I sewed down a 3cm hem open on the ends to allow for a dowel, I used one of my husbands million salvaged bamboo sticks. Finally some heavy twine or string on the dowel ends to keep it in place.

In previous years I always filled my calender when it was hung this year I am going to fill the next days pocket the night before, just because I have a sweet toothed 2 year old, who'll no doubt not really like the idea of waiting.