So many things happening at the moment. Mostly small, a few bigger ones. A first haircut. A final day at preschool. Putting up a Christmas tree for the first time in this new home. A birthday (mine). Eating blueberries straight off the bush in the back yard (that one was mostly Milla). Hanging pictures. Preparing for houseguests. Dinner with friends. Listening to carols. Baking. I made Blurb photo books with the family photos for 2010 and 2011. The spare room is now tidy enough that someone could sleep in it without running the risk of being crushed by an avalance of haberdashery.
There has been a bit of sewing too, there will be photos eventually. And I'm knitting a cardigan for a yet-to-be-finished doll. We're keeping Christmas simple this year, doing the bits we love, that make us happy (like the City of Sydney Christmas concert in Hyde Park, a real tree, decorating gingerbread houses with friends, easy catch ups with family) and ditching the bits that make things stressful (too many activities, Santa photos, shopping centres).
I'm looking forward to Christmas, and to taking some time out afterwards to spend with friends and family and go to the beach. We will eat mangos and leftover ham. And catch up on reading books, watching DVDs and lie in the hammock. Bliss.
We stayed at the beach from Boxing Day to New Years Day, and it was so good to have time to relax together*. I didn't knit, sew or play on the computer. Instead we got up early to paddle in the rockpool, swam in the ocean, saw some movies, watched The Killing on DVD**, I read books and lounged in the hammock. It felt good to have time with family and to think about the past year and plan for the new one. Now we're home, M is back to work and today is the first day of a month of Ali, Milla & I hanging out together before the term starts. Ali has helped me make a big "things to do" list, a mixture of making things at home, visiting museums & galleries, playdates and activities outdoors (if you are in Sydney this site and this one have lots of good ideas). I think it will be fun. I'm very aware that this is the last year before my baby starts school, so I want to make the most of the time together, and the days seems to go so much smoother for all of us when we have some kind of activity out of the house planned.
*Relaxing actually began on Day 2 of the holiday, after we purchased baby gates. Day 1 was spent chasing Milla up and down stairs.
** The children did not watch The Killing on DVD. Obviously. Or go to the movies.
The movies I saw were:
Melancholia - thought provoking, beautiful to look at, but profoundly depressing. And it frustrated me that Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsborough) had such wildly different accents even though they were supposed to be sisters. Although perhaps I am petty to be concerned by such things in the face of a rogue planet heading towards the earth.
Midnight in Paris - pure escapism, and wonderful to look at. I loved it, and it's made me want to read "A Moveable Feast" again, since so many of the characters from it were featured. The costumes in the 1920s scenes were beautiful to look at, but I couldn't work out why Inez kept wearing horribly unflattering shirt dresses in the contemporary scenes. But perhaps this was meant to contribute to her unsympathetic demeanour.
And I read:
Design*Sponge at Home - a birthday present from my mother-in-law, this is lovely to flick through. Just like a print version of the site, really.
Homer & Langley - my brother gave me this for my birthday and it is great, although again hardly a feel-good novel. It is so beautifully written though, and its brevity stops the subject matter from being overwhelming. Definitely one to read again.
Seam magazine - another present from my brother, this is the start-up issue. Lots of good stuff inside, and beautifully photographed.
Monocle magazine - my brother, who is obviously the source of all good reading material, gave this to my dad for Christmas and I borrowed it. It is interesting & beautiful to look at & full of inspiration. I am tempted to buy myself a copy of the same issue just to keep for reference. Or subscribe, but it's quite expensive.
1Q84 - I was forced to buy this for myself when I ordered some Christmas presents from Amazon UK and needed an extra item to qualify for free postage. So far it is fantastic. I know Murakami isn't everyone's cup of tea (a friend complained that he read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle when home with the flu, assumed that the strangeness was due to his high fever, and was shocked when he re-read it sans fever and found it equally hallucinogenic) but I love his style and am really enjoying this one.
Homemade and Food Safari - I don't spend much time looking through cookbooks these days, which is a shame because trying new recipes makes the grocery shopping and cooking much less of a chore. I found Homemade at the library, and it has lots of tasty and not-too-fiddly recipes. Last night we made lamb burgers with blue cheese from it, which werea nice change to the regular homemade beefburgers I make. Food Safari is based on the TV show and each chapters features a different national or regional cuisine, including lots that I enjoy in restaurants but have never tried cooking at home. This year I want to get out of my cooking rut; we eat way too much pasta. A few years ago I got in the habit of menu planning at the start of each week, pulling out a cookbook, picking 5 things and then putting the ingredients down on the shopping list. Since Milla's been eating solids I've been doing much more basic cooking, to try and make one dinner that we can all eat (hence the pasta) but I'm lucky to have children who are fairly adventurous eaters and it isn't the end of the world if I have to make a separate meal for Mark and I a couple of times a week. If anyone has suggestions for good weeknight cookbooks please let me know.
I finally finished the felt ball wreath. I love it, although I might change the bow. Ali's campaigning for gold, and I think he's right. I am very happy that I made this, even though it drove me crazy at times. I used balls from an eBay seller, and the Pickles tutorial, and a foam wreath from Spotlight wrapped in strips of burlap-type fabric. I used thread to attach the balls, as per the tutorial, but then everyone who saw me work on it said, in bafflement, "Why aren't you using a hot glue gun?" The answer is that I haven't got a hot glue gun and I'd never used one, but it would have been a good investment. Although I do like the slight wonkiness that the threading gives it - the ones made using glue guns (like this and this) are lovely but much more regular. I think I'll use a glue gun to secure some of the balls before I put it away after Christmas, which will hopefully keep it looking beautiful for next year.
(Oh - and if you like the look of a felt ball wreath but are not insane enough to glue 150 felt balls on yourself, you can buy a very nice one from here, for only slightly more than the cost of the felt balls. I didn't see this until after I had made my own, obviously).
There are pros and cons to a birthday that's close to Christmas. But one of the advantages is being able to claim an extra generous gift as a "Joint Christmas and Birthday Present", which is how I came to unwrap an overlocker on Sunday morning. I've been coveting one for years, and the clincher was using Kirsten's in Lancefield - so fast, and such a nice finish. It came with white thread, and I haven't attempted changing yet, so all sewing for the next little while will be in pale colours. I have already finished two t-shirts, which I will photograph if it ever stops raining, and am a total convert. I know lots of people manage to sew knits successfully on a conventional machine, but I am not one of them, and I wear t-shirts and thin woollen knits almost every day so I am very happy to finally be able to make my own.
Milla likes this one because it plays Jingle Bells (over and over again), and My First Christmas because it has textured glittery stars and a pop up nativity at the end.
We've been watching a few Christmas movies and shows too. I got The Grinch DVD but it wasn't very good - much less charming than the book. Just more evidence for my theory that there are no good movies with Jim Carey in them. The Mr. Bean Christmas special has been a big hit though. And I loved watching Love Actually when it was on TV this week - it's a bit cheesy, but that's okay at this time of year.
Christmas is creeping up quickly, and I'm feeling surprisingly relaxed and well organised*. Ali and I collaborated on the cards this year - I printed the trees with the gocco, and then he decorated them with glitter glue and stickers.
Quick, easy and fun. And now in the post.
The wreath is on the door - the one I made two years ago is still looking pretty good (tutorial here).
The tree is up, and it smells amazing. I was worried that Milla would knock it over but she has been really good - she takes off the decorations she can reach and moves them around, but the bottom of the tree has all the felt and fabric ones so that is fine. It looks so pretty with all the lights on, and we've been playing carols so it all feels very festive.
And we spent a rainy afternoon this weekend decorating gingerbread houses with friends. I did the same thing last year, but this year Ali stayed to help which he absolutely loved.
Now I just need to finish a tiny bit of Christmas shopping, wrap presents and pick up a ham. And spend some time relaxing, catching up with friends and family, and enjoying these last few weeks of the year.
* I think this is because I have decided to cut myself some slack this year - no homemade presents, apart from some jam, and deliberately not planning to do too much. Instead I'm trying to buy handmade things or support small local businesses with the Christmas shopping. Much less stressful.
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. We did - Ali was so excited and since it's the 4th Christmas we've spent in this house it feels like we're starting to build some family traditions... a tray of mangos and a big bunch of Christmas bush, and our stockings (with one extra this year, for Miss Milla). This year there were also some things we tried for the first time, like a children's concert at the Opera House on Christmas Eve, putting out snacks for Santa and the reindeer, and reading Christmas story books (my favourite is this one, because of the gorgeous Rob Ryan illustrations, but Ali prefers the Grinch). It was so exciting to see Ali's face on Christmas morning when he came downstairs to find the snacks gone, the longed-for Buzz waiting for him, and presents under the tree, and then we spent the rest of the day catching up with the extended family. Now we're taking some time to be quiet, to play with new toys, reflect on the year and enjoy some time as a family of four.
On the weekend I had my first attempt at gingerbread house construction. My friend Kath, her mum and I spent a few hours chatting, drinking coffee and decorating our houses with lollies (and eating some as we went). It was such a nice way to spend a hot afternoon, and a great break from the pre-Christmas busy-ness. We used Anna's Gingerbread House kits from Ikea, and stuck the whole thing together with icing. The house is now safely wrapped in cellophane to protect it from hungry children and ants, and I'm going to take it to a family Christmas party on the weekend. I don't really like sweets so much - chocolate is a completely different matter - so for me the decorating was definitely the best part, I'm happy to leave the eating to someone else.
I just finished reading Breath by Tim Winton and it was fantastic. I have this block about Tim Winton books, we were forced to read a couple at school and analysing them and writing essays took all the joy away, so now whenever I see his books I expect them to be hard work. But when I started reading this one I was completely immersed straight away.
I've been avoiding the shopping centres as much as possible this Christmas... lots of shopping at local markets and small stores, and online. Nearly all the Christmas shopping is done now, the cards are posted, and the interstate presents have been sent. I have a few teacher gifts to make, and a couple of final things to pick up to go with presents (luckily none of them require a trip to the mall) and then we are ready to go. I'm planning lots of wrapping this weekend, although I'm not game to put presents under the tree until Christmas Eve... I think that might just be too much temptation for a 3 year old who loves unwrapping.
I have 2 days left of being 30 and found a grey hair yesterday morning.
Miss Milla is 9 weeks old now and being generally wonderful. I feel much less tired than I remember being with Ali at the same age - I'm not sure if this is because she's sleeping better, or if I'm just used to less sleep. She does all those textbook "tired signs" that I thought were just invented by baby health nurses to make me feel bad - she starts moving jerkily and avoiding eye contact, and then if I wrap her up and put her in her basket she puts herself to sleep. Magic! I was convinced that the self-settling baby was an urban myth, because Ali fed to sleep until he was about a year old. I know babies change all the time, so am not counting on it lasting but it's very nice while it does.
Milla & I had an excursion (by bus!) into the city yesterday for a meeting, and stopped by Gaffa near the QVB - for anyone in Sydney it's definitely worth a visit. Galleries and workshops upstairs, beautiful handmade things in the arcade downstairs, and a great coffee shop. I ate smoked salmon on toast, fed Milla and watched all the busy office people hurry past.