Wednesday, June 25, 2014

knits and pieces

IMG_9989 Hello! How are you? Is it hot where you are or freezing cold like it is here?

Here it is seriously cold, that sort of cold that seeps under your zillions of layers of clothing and chills you to the bone. That sort of cold that makes it look like twilight all day long. That sort of cold that burns your skin and stings your nose when you breathe. That sort of cold that feels difficult and heavy. And to be honest I started this week feeling quite crap about it all. Winters are looooooong here and this is just the very beginning.

But then while I was driving home from school drop off and planning the rest of my Monday in my mind, it occurred to me that if I worked it out right I could have a lovely winter, we all could. Winter in fact is when a lot of my favourite things to do, make the most sense: baking, knitting, eating soup, crocheting, reading long novels, playing board games, drinking lots of hot coffee and peppermint tea, crafting with my kids, listening to podcasts in the bath, wearing thick stripy tights and getting stuck right into a TV series and watching it on my lap-top night after night after the girls have gone to bed.

With these happy winter thoughts always at the back of my mind, and two home fires blazing at all times, I think I might just be able to have a happy winter after all.

Oh did someone say knitting?

Well first I knitted Miss Jazzy a pair of slippers in her chosen colours.

Ravelled here.

Then I made myself a pair and wow I LOVE them!!

So often making the same thing more than once drives me a little crazy, but these slippers are so quick and fun to knit that I would have even been happy to knit a fifth pair. But, I was told in no uncertain terms that Miss Indi would not be giving up her uggs in a hurry and no thanks. Teenagers eh?!

After that I knitted her a beanie in her chosen black. And it almost killed me. You know how you can barely see the design in the photo? Well that's how it was to knit. I was squinting and carrying on the whole time. At one stage the stitches even came off my needles in my basket and I had to rip it out and start again from the band, ahhhhhhhhhhh. I only hope she wears it now.

Ravelled here.

Then I pulled down the basket with last winter's blanket project in it and knitted a pink square. The 43rd square in this book. I had thoughts of knitting a bit and then stitching it all together bit by bit...

IMG_0009 ....until Miss Jazzy came home from school yesterday with freezing hands and a request for some little fingerless mittens. She chose the wool I'd bought at a garage sale years ago and I found a pattern and cast on. Now Miss Pepper says she needs pink ones next.

Ravelry details here.

So that's me, happily sitting by the fire wearing my slippers, finishing off Jazzy's mitts so she can wear them to school tomorrow.

What have you been up to?
What's you best winter warming trick?

Big love,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alphabet Journal out-takes


One chilly afternoon not last autumn but the autumn before, photographer Kim Daly and her husband came to our farm to shoot some photos for Alphabet Journal. Our family with our tangly hair, our mismatched boots and our raggle-taggle clothing got to work amongst the autumn leaves making a campfire in the garden and cooking damper on a stick.

At that stage we didn't know a lot about Luisa Brimble's dreams for Alphabet Journal. We didn't know if it would be an online magazine or print, we didn't know when or how often it would come out and we didn't know what it would look like when eventually it did. But we adored all the little scraps of info we did know about it all the same; a few favourite contributors, stories of families, stories of real life unstyled and true.

The Alphabet Journal photo shoot felt like the first magazine shoot in a long time that we didn't have to clean up for, that we could just be ourselves, that we were enough.

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We had a gorgeous time together cooking and eating, feeding the fire and knitting, and just hanging out enjoying each other's company. And Kim wandered around us snapping photos on her proper film cameras, answering all of our questions and politely tasting all the camp-fire cooked tasty morsels she was offered.

By the end of the day our bellies were full, our clothes smelled of smoke, we all felt like old friends and we were dying to see what this magazine would look like when it came out.


One year later, and with our Jazzy on the front cover!!!! Alphabet Journal the magazine was sent in hand wrapped brown paper packages tied up with string, to homes all over Australia and all over the world.

Alphabet Journal feels beautiful in my hands, smells comforting when I bury my face in it and is filled with 160 pages of inspiring, real, gorgeous, messy, interesting, true stories. Alphabet Journal is such a treat. Our family feel absolutely thrilled to have played a little part in helping Luisa Brimble's dream come true.

On the very first page there is a bit that reads ;

Alphabet is a magazine for people who make a home together. We believe that a home is a lived space and not a showroom. We believe that when families return to the basics - acts of gratitude, curiosity, collaboration - they are writing the kinds of living stories that are meant to be shared. This is where we share them.

Thanks for the photos Kim, thanks for the beautiful magazine Luisa, congratulations to everyone involved in Alphabet Journal issue A. We love it and can hardly wait for the B issue.

Big love to your family from ours.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

the path

IMG_9965 IMG_9964 IMG_9963 Last Thursday Little Red Pepper dressed up to celebrate the end of Fairy Tale learning at school and I rugged up in two pairs of woollen socks, tights, leggings, a singlet, a long sleeved top, a woolly jumper, cover-alls, a rain jacket, a scarf and a beanie. She looked adorable and I could barely move.

A few days earlier, the principal of the girls' school had asked farmer Bren if we could come and lay some pavers between the preps' classroom and the main building where the high traffic and the wet weather had made a muddy, slippery mess. One parent had donated the pavers and we filled the back of the ute with shovels and trowels, a rubber mallet and a broom and we drove to school to get to work.

First we marked out the winding path, then we cut out the dirt and grass and levelled it, filled it with buckets of sand-pit sand, laid the pavers, banged the pavers in, poured sand over them, swept the sand in the gaps and cracks, built up the edges with the dirt we had dug out and then stomped on the whole thing back and forth a few times to make sure it didn't move.

And although we had chosen Thursday because it wasn't meant to rain, I think it was one of the coldest days I can ever remember. The clouds were so low that we couldn't see Wombat Hill right behind the school, the ground I was kneeling on felt like a wet block of ice and I'm certain my fingers and lips were blue. But gosh we had fun and laughed a lot.

I loved spending the day off the farm with Bren working hard and doing something really constructive. I felt warm and fuzzy every time a teacher or parent or student walked past us and chatted and thanked us, I loved how excited the kids were with their new path and I enjoyed that exhausted feeling of a job finished and well done at the end. But by far the best bit was at home time when we stood with a bunch of school people at the end of the new path and watched as one by one people danced and moon-walked and shuffled back and forth down the path. There was so much laughter and silliness and happy community feeling. It felt like we were part of something wonderful. Something really good.

I have no doubt that by next week the path will be just a path, used but not really noticed, but that afternoon it was something more.

Later on after we got home, showered, changed, had a few cups of hot tea and finally thawed out a little, I told my farmer boy that that day had been one of the happiest I could remember. I feel like we are so lucky to be a part of such a special school, so blessed to be able to spend our day together getting stuff done and I am so grateful for the kindness we receive in return.

And then my farmer boy told me that he believes that the real key to happiness is doing things for other people.

Yeah!! Real, true happiness is not a selfish act. Real true happiness comes from giving and from community and from a place of generosity.

And then I had one of those moments where everything becomes really clear and makes sense. I love it when that happens. Now I can't stop thinking about how to put all that into play in a bigger way in my life.

I hope you have what you need friends.

Happy solstice!


The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.

His Holiness Dalai Lama

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

snapshot of now


I feel like I have a thousand things to tell you. There's so much going on my mind, in my heart and in my life. This morning after I took the girls to school, tidied the house and took part in a lovely girl's photography project, I sat down and started this blog three times.

I have three incomplete blog drafts sitting in my post list and now this is my fourth.

But I think this one will work because just before I sat down to write it, I spent a few minutes walking around snapping photos of things that tell the story of me now. Twelve photos that represent a bit of a snap shot of my life at the moment (minus the girls of course because they are at school). So I think instead of being overwhelmed with details I'm going to write a sentence or two to go with each photo and that'll be that.

Simple, right?!

OK, let's do this.

HARVESTING - rhubarb. There is just so much rhubarb right now. I cut and tied this bunch to give to a friend this morning but forgot. I think I'll make a cake for the girls for afternoon tea now instead.

I'm a little bit obsessed with tying things up with string at the moment. Somehow the winding and the tying make every package just that little bit prettier, don't you think?

IMG_9940 READING - These two books. Finished one and a hundred pages left of the other. Possibly two of the best books I have ever read. I'm trying my hardest to slow down and make the last pages last longer but it's impossible. I only hope the next book I pick up is as good.

IMG_9925 MISSING - salt. About a month ago my grandfather was told he had to cut salt right out of his diet. My grandfather and I have always shared a deep love of the salty. We were the type of people who added salt to a dish before even tasting it. If you were looking for the salt shaker at a meal time you could always be certain it was next to one of us. When he was told to cut salt out for health reasons I was devastated for him. It actually made me cry. And then I decided to cut salt from my diet too.

I haven't added salt to a dish for a month. I miss salt like crazy.

WAITING - for rocket. And for all the veggies that are sitting still in the icy cold ground waiting for the winter equinox and the days to get longer so they can put on some growth and feed my hunger for salads.

IMG_9942 CROCHETING - well I'm not actually crocheting anything right now, but I do need to darn in the ends of my May motifs, photograph them and write up a blog post about #MotifDayMay before it turns into July.

IMG_9901a KNITTING - woolly slippers. I love that Miss Pepper chose odd colours for hers. I love that she sleeps with them on the shelf next to her bed and I love that she took them to school today to wear them in class. Miss Jazzy's are next.

IMG_9931 LOVING - my farmer boy's new house rule that every member of this family must pick and eat at least one carrot a day, everyday. Yay!

IMG_9957 CARRYING - chunky wool and fat knitting needles in a cute basket wherever I go.

IMG_9944 SEWING - right now I really should be outside helping farmer Bren prune the apple orchard but instead I'm alternating between writing this blog and sewing leaves. But firstly it really is just too cold outside. And secondly, I've got this space in my new craft area that I just painted white that I think needs to be surrounded by a leaf wreath. Hopefully the reality looks as pretty as it does in my mind. Hopefully also, it warms up a couple of degrees in the next little while and I can get a couple of hours of pruning in before pick up.

IMG_9961 WEARING - great quality, wool socks for the first time in my life and marvelling at the difference they make in terms of comfort and warmth. Until now I have always been too mean to spend much money on socks, but all that has changed from now on. Wow!!

I would really like to learn how to knit socks this winter. If you have an in-the-round, snugly fitting, simple sock pattern, I'd love the link.


IMG_9938COOKING - spinach and kale and all things green and leafy in every meal. It makes me feel like a better Mum when I know my girls are eating such garden goodness.

MARVELLING -  at the fact that you can cook haloumi in your sandwich press. I know!! I had no idea you could do it either. Indi saw it on a blog somewhere, told me, we tried it and it works. I can't believe I spent so many years frying it in oil, splattering my kitchen with oil, and burning myself with flying bits of splattering oil. This past week we've enjoying the squishy, melty cheese without the hassle of the big cleanup. So great!

IMG_9879 OPENING - the pages of Zoe Phillip's new book The Time of Our Lives. It is such a gorgeous book and I think the photo she took of farmer Bren and Bingo Maremma might just be one of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen.

OK, that's me all caught up now.
How about you? What are you harvesting, reading, missing, waiting, crocheting, knitting, loving, carrying, sewing, wearing, cooking, marvelling and opening?
Care to share?

Big love


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Three months later







I had no idea that I'd been holding my breath until I found myself waiting my turn to see my breast surgeon yesterday.

Sitting waiting for my turn on the third floor of the hospital, my farmer boy reached over and put his hand on my leg to stop me jiggling it. I hadn't even realised I'd been jiggling. But after I stopped jiggling my leg,  I started tapping my toes, then opening and shutting my fingers, then scrolling through photos on my phone and then I started jiggling my leg again. It seemed I couldn't sit still.

For days I had answered anyone who had asked that I wasn't nervous about my three month breast check up. I felt confident that the lump had responded well to anti-biotics and time and shrunk so small that I had to really feel carefully to even feel it at all. And sometimes I couldn't. For three months I had been taking Chinese herbs and tissue salts and homeopathics. In three months I had been working on and changed so much of the way that I dealt with my world and it was feeling wonderful.

And for months I had kept my left breast lump incident at the back of my mind to keep me moving forward. I told the story of what had happened often. I kept the conversation open with my girls. I cried whenever I heard stories of women dealing with their own lumps. And on Monday night, just before bed, I sat down and reread the blog posts I had written back then.

I never, well hardly ever, read my old blog posts. Sometimes I look back at the photos but not the words. The words make me feel strange. Those times have passed, things have moved on. But reading through those blog posts took me straight back there and reminded me of how fragile things are. How quickly things can change. How important it is to live the moment. And how terrifying those days were.

Yesterday morning we waited for about an hour to see my doctor. My farmer boy read his book and I jiggled. I felt anxious, out of control and right back there three months ago. Eventually we were ushered into a different consulting room from the usual. A mirror image one. I felt disoriented and paced the three steps back and forth from the window to the door, over and over until the doctor came in.

He asked about my lump. I told him it had shrunk so much that it was barely, barely there, but that I was disappointed that it was sometimes still there at all. He told me he thought that if there was a lump, he'd probably need to remove it, but he'd decide after he'd felt it for himself. I stripped down to my jeans, lay on the table and told him I hoped he had warm hands.

He felt around for a bit and then told me the lump had gone. That he wouldn't have to take it out, because it wasn't there anymore. He said he didn't know what had caused the lump and the infection in the first place, but that it had disappeared. When farmer Bren asked, he said that if I had presented right then for the first time that he would tell me it was all clear too. But he asked me to come back in another four months to keep an eye on things. To keep me in the system.

And then we took the elevator down to the street and I exhaled. And I laughed. And I jumped up and down a few times. And then we celebrated with coffee, with black skinny jeans and with the most delicious lunch.

Again, I have no idea why I am allowed to walk away from this so neatly and easily. Why I am allowed to fold up all of my worst fears and put them up on the highest shelf out of reach. But again I am enjoying the luxury of hindsight and foresight. I am seeing the beauty and the fragility of all that is my world. And I am using this experience to go forward and keep living my life in a mindful way. I am more grateful than I have words for.

These are the links to the four blog posts that I wrote back then. I'm not sure I have ever done this before, but somehow it feels right, like it completes the picture.
My left breast.
I choose kind
All clear

I hope you have a gorgeous day my friends. I hope your sun comes out and shines on your face.

Now go and check your boobies.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to make a decision


IMG_9830 Last year, while I was doing the publicity for my book Vantastic, I found that at some stage in almost every interview I did someone would ask me about the process of decision making. How did we decide to go on a six month caravan trip around Australia? Where did the idea come from? Why did we need to do it? Once we'd come up with the idea then what did we do? And why on earth would a family of five make the decision to leave the comforts and safeties of their own home and business and make the risky decision to set off on an adventure? Why indeed.

Considering the fact that I was doing most of these interviews a year and a half after we'd returned from our trip, it was often hard to remember all the minor details that led us to the decision making time three years before.


IMG_9834 For the past couple of weeks we've been making a similar decision. We've been discussing and planning our next adventure. Another possible trip, another lot of crazy thoughts. But this time I've been aware of the decision process the entire time. I recognised the seed of the idea when it was planted. I watched and noticed how we as a couple looked at that germinating seed from every angle, discussed the pros and cons, analysed the dreams and the realities, our fears and expectations and then introduced it slowly and carefully to the girls and then our extended families.

This time we left the idea as an idea for a while not making any concrete plans or doing anything to make this dream come true. 'This is what we are thinking about doing' we'd say, and it felt safe because it was only words. Words are so easily spoken and then forgotten.

Until a few days ago when someone asked us for potential dates and we realised that it could all be happening less than a year from now and it was time to knuckle down and do some research and write some emails. But before that we had to make the decision to actually do this. Were we serious? Did we really want it? Could we really do it? How on earth were we going to make the decision to leave the comforts and safeties of our own home and business and set off on what sounded like another crazy adventure?


IMG_9825 We talked, we wondered, we dreamed and we googled, and then I flicked open page 124 of Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things. A page I'd marked a few weeks ago and now knew exactly why. An interviewer asked Cheryl what she does when she doesn't know what to do about something and Cheryl replied;

I talk to Mr Sugar and my friends. I make lists. I attempt to analyse the situation from the perspective of my "better self" - the one that's generous, reasonable, forgiving, loving, bighearted, and grateful. I think really hard about what I'll wish I did a year from now. I map out the consequences of the various actions I could take. I ask what my motivations are, what my desires are, what my fears are, what I have to lose, and what I have to gain. I move towards the light, even if it's a hard direction in which to move. I trust myself. I keep the faith. I mess up sometimes.

And then my sister Meg emailed me with a quote out of my Dumbo Feather article. She quoted me!! I had no excuse not to listen.

My feeling is that there's never going to be a right time for anything. There are excuses for everything. The caravan trip taught me that you can do it. How do you know what's around the corner? I felt that really strongly while we were away. Everyone we spoke to had these amazing stories of why they were away. And most of them were because something terrible had happened in their lives and they were recovering. Somebody had had a horrific heart attack, someone lost their job. Crazy things happen. So you just have to live now. Your family are so precious, time is precious. They're more important than schooling or the same olds. So that caravan trip really gave me the courage to think that we've got to live our lives. We've got to take control of them and engage with them. Not sit back and be passengers.
Not long after reading those two paragraphs I sat down and wrote an introduction letter, this is who we are - this is what we want to do. I sent it to farmer Bren for approval and edits and once he sent it back I took a deep breath and sent it on. Now we're waiting, (and pressing refresh on my email a few times too many each day).


IMG_9832 This is how we made this decision. I promise to fill you in on the details as they become a firm plan. I'm excited but also a teensy bit terrified. I'm nervous to even press publish on this post. But I guess all the great adventures have to start somewhere.

Now to make the next big decision for our family, what to have for dinner tonight, lasagna or felafel and salads?

Be well and make the good decisions lovely friends.



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