Garden magic.

The Fairy Garden

Despite my best efforts I have let winter get the better of me again this year. I have really felt the oppression of the grey skies and the claustrophobia of day after day hiding from the rain. Even when outside I’m wrapped in so many layers that I don’t feel fully free. The first signs of spring have appeared here and there and I can already feel myself breathing a little easier. September 1st is the unofficial first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere and it is my absolute favourite day of the year. Spring brings hope and restoration and rejuvenation.

Little Fearse has been asking me lately if she can plant something. They have been talking about gardens a lot on Play School and I think she has got the green thumb bug from there. I’m still stalling over that veggie patch and am not a confident gardener, but I felt as though maybe I could manage a small succulent garden. Of course, I did already have a small succulent garden in the bathroom which I managed to kill, so time will only tell whether I do any better with this one.20140820_125042

I took her to the nursery to choose some pretty succulents and then we took some cuttings from a couple of plants at home. At the op shop she chose a little shell, a miniature bird bath, a tiny little gentleman bear and an old Christmas angel to decorate her little fairy garden. She was super excited and kept saying things like “This is fun! This is a good day!

The three of us made it together. Little Fearse got a kick out of throwing dirt around with the trowel and BP got a kick out of teaching her how to squeeze the pot to get the plants out and I got a kick out of being outside.

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When her garden was finished I made the most of the sunshine and set up a couch my Mum picked up from hard rubbish and restored for us. We always intended to paint the cane coffee table (something Mum’s cousin picked up from hard rubbish for us) the same colour, but I’m tired of waiting for it to happen. There are enough different greens in our yard for it to not really matter anyway. I added a few more potted plants and created a little oasis, ready for some yard fun during the spring and summer.

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I’m feeling really excited about the change in seasons. How much are you influenced by the weather? Do you enjoy all seasons, or have a preference for one?

Mama xo

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The Winter of Contentment.

We really challenged ourselves in April. I mean, more than usual. Every day in April we were working on the Minimalist Game, putting together the dolls’ house and working around the (worthy) challenges of avoiding the supermarket. It was a great, eye opening month, but I was glad when it was over.

I feel like I spent most of May catching our readers up on April and now we’re here and it’s June and in many ways, I’ve run out of words. So here, instead, are some pictures of fun BNNish stuff I’ve been doing lately.

The Fearse Family DIY Cress Men

Making Cress Men on Easter Sunday. Little Fearse asked to see the “Cress man and cress lady” every morning and gave them a kiss hello until their hair was ready to eat.

The Fearse Family DIY Scrap Material Rag Doll

Making a Jemima style rag-doll from a very sketchy pattern in the 1980 edition of Play School’s Useful Book. Little Fearse helped choose all the materials and even sacrificed her favourite (but very worn) PJ pants for Jemima’s striped leggings. An old pair of jeans was used to make feet and the rest were scraps found at the bottom of my material bench. One of her arms has already fallen off twice and she was given a much nicer Jemima for her birthday anyway, but it was a really fun holiday activity to do together.

The Fearse Family DIY Old Jeans and Place Mat Tool Belt

Making a tool belt for a friend’s third birthday using a place mat, old jeans (the waist band of the jeans was used as the belt part – vintage buttons were added to make it adjustable and they even kind of matched the place mat) and tools collected from the op shop and market. I looked at lots of tutorials for these but ended up making my own by combining different ideas. Worth exploring!

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Curtain Material Zoo Skirt

I used some vintage curtain material to make my first ever Little Fearse skirt, using a combination of this tutorial and this tutorial. I made this one for a special trip to the zoo. It’s very zooey

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Fabric Scrap Dolls' Bedding

Little Fearse has been asking me for awhile to make blankets for Maggie in the dolls’ house. Yeah, true, this did take me al of about three minutes to sew, but I love the material Little Fearse chose from my new stash of vintage fabric scraps. I look forward to whipping up some more blankets for the rest of the dolls’ house inhabitants.

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Scrap Patchwork SKirt

Using the same lot of vintage scraps and a similar concept to the zoo skirt I patch worked some of my favourite scraps together and (lacking elastic) I used an op shopped skirt (with bonus shorts inside!) and attached my patchwork to the skirts original waist. I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out.

You know, Winter isn’t my favourite time of year, but I’m really determined not to let it get me down this year. I hope that with the satisfaction I gain from these mini projects (plus lots of reading, which I’ve been indulging in more and more lately) I will while away the gloomy days and bring on Spring a little faster.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Library

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

 

The thing I love the most about the library is that it wasn’t a library when we began. It wasn’t an anything. In the time the dolls’ house had been played with it was simply a landing. No furniture, rarely used in play, just there. I’m not sure what inspired the library, probably the desk that came in the raw wood set from eBay. Here’s the nothing room before we began…

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If you know me, if you’ve been reading along – you’ll get the library straight away. This was all Mama. If Big Poppa had his way this would probably be a music studio. If Little Fearse was designing it? I dunno…a zoo? A museum? But it was up to me and I made a library.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (The Library)

I pretty much love everything about the library. The bookshelf is simply a printed out picture of a bookshelf from the ‘net modge podged to the wall. If I had time to be fiddly would I customise the books? Chuck in my favourites? You know I would. Maybe a future labour of love. When Little Fearse unveiled the dolls’ house Marge was sitting drinking a cup of coffee. The first thing Little Fearse said was “Ooooh, coffee!” It just struck me as a place Marge would enjoy, hidden away from her needy family.

I made the chair. I had grand plans to make a whole lounge suite, but I ran out of time and fortunately our friend donated the suite for the living room. I used the material from some old curtains that hung in my parents’ first house. This chair is not perfect, but I kind of love it. I wish I had a full sized one to lounge in (in my own study, of course). I got the pattern from one of the books referenced in our first post. Big Poppa cut the wood, my brother Loc helped file them down to size. The rest was done by me. It was exceptionally fiddly and took a lot of glue and a surprising amount of material, but I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

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The table came with the lounge suite and the lamp with the bath and second toilet (see in the background of the lower level – I kind of figure a household of 8 needs more than one toilet).

The desk is one of the secrets of the dolls’ house. It was raw wood with blue shelves (you can see from my dodgy paint job some of the blue coming through). I painted it with some of the guache paints we got at the Reverse Art Truck. It’s not ideal, but it was the best I could do. The map on the desk part is the block BP and I lived on when we stayed in Brooklyn for a month in 2009/2010. I am kind of annoyed at how the desk turned out, but I still love that it bears that map and that I managed to find a way to memorialise the map without having it hanging around, useless forever, with a bunch of other sentimental paper bits and pieces.

The gorgeous brass pot was found at the market with the two photo frames (in the bedroom and living room). I think it’s beautiful.

For those who’ve stuck with me throughout the tour – thanks. I wish I’d been more organised and published the whole series at once, but we live, we learn. This really has been a labour of love (the house and this ‘blog tour). I appreciate you coming along on the journey.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Bedroom

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house make over

 

The bedroom was a pretty unimpressive shade of 50s pale green before the makeover. Like a less dazzling version of our new bathroom green.

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Someone who has had the in person tour of the dolls’ house asked us why Marge and Homer sleep in the same room as the kids. Well, aside from relegating the kids (or the parents) to a cupboard under the stairs we didn’t really have many options here. This room is our designated bedroom for all types. Grandpa Simpson sleeps here, Krusty the Clown sleeps here, Doctor Hibbert sleeps here. Everyone sleeps in this room. This has, so far, caused no major problems in the dolls’ house. I’ll let you know if any arise. (Let’s also note that it isn’t that dissimilar to our own house where Little Fearse’s bed is in the part of our bedroom probably designed as a dressing room…)

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (The Bedroom)

 

The best features of this room come from the same angel who gave us the best features for all the other rooms; the gorgeous fireplace and the double bed. The bed needed a bit of work. One end was detached and the mattress as covered in a faded striped fabric that was fairly heavily marked from years of play. I reglued the bed head and searched through my fabric stash to find this gorgeous vintage material featuring kids and cats in silhouette. I wish we had a bed spread like this on our bed!

The double bed mattress before updating the material.

The double bed mattress before updating the material.

We found the beautiful vintage photo frame at the market with the one in the living room. The photo was taken at our nephew’s school fete in the photo booth. We both really loved this picture of Little Fearse and thought it would make a very cute addition to the house. Lil Fearse was pretty stoked to find herself on the mantle.

The camera came from the container of bits and pieces from the op shop. There is also a camera case somewhere that hasn’t yet made it into the house. The wardrobe and bunk bed came from one of the eBay lots. I stained the wardrobe slightly to make it less raw. There is a cradle somewhere that went missing somewhere between purchase and putting the furniture in the house. I’m sure it will show up one day. The pram and tiny baby (Little Fearse’s absolute favourite thing in the house…she loses it constantly, though) came from the same set.

The map on the back wall is another secret of the dolls’ house. It is from a map of Geneva that my parents used on their trip there in the late 60s. Don’t look too closely, I accidentally cut it out upside down!

The other secret of the dolls’ house in this room is the Mos Def poster (I can say that, because he wasn’t Yasiin Bey when this photo was taken). This photo was on a gig flyer. It came from our pretend honeymoon (pre-actual honeymoon) in New York when we booked out a suite in the Hotel Chelsea and went to see Mos Def play at midnight in the Highline Ballroom. I can say with certainty that it was the best gig I have ever been to. I love that we can commemorate that in the dolls’ house.

I hope to one day add a rug, some curtains, maybe more pictures to the walls. I’d like to add some clothes to the wardrobe, too. Future endeavours.

The last room will be one that is very close to my heart, the library.

Mama xo

Dolls’ House renovation: The Bathroom

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

 

You’ll now be accustomed to our drab before shots. Here’s this one.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

It has been been pointed out to us that the bathroom in the dolls’ house is ridiculously large. This is not unlike the bathroom in our actual house, which is the size of a single bedroom. Not only is the bathroom ridiculously large, but it is also absurdly non-private. I kind of like this about the bathroom, but maybe one day I’ll make some little folding screens to go around the toilet and bath. I’d also like to add a shower one day. Here she is, all jazzed up.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (Bathroom)

The bathroom (slash laundry) was painted with some green paint left over from a side table we did up for Little Fearse’s bedroom before she was born. (You know, the one she still doesn’t sleep in.) Admittedly the paint job is a bit rushed. We decided against adding curtains due to time restraints, but I’d like to add a sheer curtain some time that can stay across the window. Just to add a bit of privacy, you know? 😉

The ironing board, vacuum, washing machine, mop, bucket and broom all came from a set Little Fearse’s Nan bought for her at Aldi. You never know what you’re going to find in that place.

The toilet was from our dolls’ house angel (the piano and table and lounge suite friend…I think she really needs more credit for this house than we do at this point). It’s a very cute toilet actually – I love the chain and the fact that it’s porcelain. The bath was bought with a set of random things on eBay. It was a simple raw wood bath. BP painted it white and added the hook for a tap. I found the rubber ducky, soap, shampoo bottle and a small hair dryer that is in one of the vanity drawers in amongst the container of things I found at the op shop.

The vanity is one of the things I am most proud of designing. It is also the thing that Little Fearse likes destroying the most and I have had to reglue the sink and mirror several times already. This started off as a baby change table purchased with other nursery stuff on eBay. It was raw wood with red handles. I painted it with the wall paint and the handles with the gold paint we got from the Reverse Art Truck. BP screwed a hook into the top for the tap. I glued one of the bowls from the kitchen on top for the sink and glued a mirror from an old purse to the back (it’s plastic but quite reflective).

As well as curtains and some screens we plan to frame some small paintings from a MoMA guide to hang on the bathroom walls.

Next room: The Bedroom.

Mama xo

The lies we tell ourselves about luck and happiness.

For many years BP and I led a kind of blessed life. A few years after meeting my Mum offered a tumble down house she owned, rent free, until its demolition paperwork came though. It seemed a shame for the house to be empty while they waited, especially as BP and I were separately paying rent in different houses. BP and I never intended to move in together having had less than fun experiences with former partners, but the opportunity was too good to waste. This three month experiment in living together extended into two years while the permits were way laid. Eventually the house (which was in very bad condition) was heritage listed and had to be sold rather than demolished. On the up side, BP and I found we quite enjoyed living together, despite our initial reservations.

Over those two years we saved a deposit for a house, travelled to New York twice, got engaged and were married.  Things were really great – BP’s music was doing really well, I scored my dream job. Shortly after buying our own home I got a permanent position at my job and then we discovered we were pregnant with Little Fearse. We had a beautiful second honeymoon in Thailand. I had a wonderful pregnancy, an easy birth and we found ourselves with a perfect bundle of joy.

There were times where things didn’t go according to plan. Two months after Little Fearse was born BP lost his job, but he found new work relatively easily and started on his current path of study. Going back to work with Little Fearse was 9 months old was hard for all of us and finding the balance between parenting and teaching was an initial struggle.  These minor setbacks didn’t impact on our overall happiness.  When Little Fearse was about 14 months old we became pregnant quickly and easily with our second baby. Things were really coming up Fearse.

Sometimes we felt untouchable. Mostly, though, I worried about when our luck would turn. When were the scales going to balance? What was going to strike us down? I couldn’t feel happy without also feeling a sense of doom. On a bad day it was like I was sabotaging my own happiness.

Since our miscarriage in September and our subsequent failure to conceive I have often found myself heading down a pathway of thoughts that is not at all healthy. Things are bad now because they have been so good before. We didn’t appreciate our happiness enough. It’s our turn to feel hurt and failure. Our luck has run out. Why should we have happiness when other’s don’t?

I have to keep reminding myself that life doesn’t work like that. Life isn’t fair. Some people go through their entire lives never experiencing any real disasters, other than the “ordinary” grievances we all have to endure eventually. Others experience much more pain, or ill health, or tragedy than they could possibly deserve.

If life were truly like this the same kids wouldn’t show up to school every day tired from looking after their siblings all night because their parents can’t, or without food, or with bruises on their bodies. It’d be shared between all the children, like a roster – and those kids would have ‘lucky’ days where they had great food for lunch and a new iPad waiting for them when they got home.

I spend so much time touting the line to my students “life isn’t fair”, why have I allowed myself to believe that we are really ruled by some cosmic scales of justice? For most of us life is made of ups and downs. There are black spots, there are bright spots. There are times where life cruises with a few speed bumps.

The reality is, this blip in our lives is just that, a ‘blip’.

One day in the future I will have accepted that I am going to be the mother of just one, beautiful, perfect child. Or, I will find myself Mum to a chattering, chaotic hoard of kids. I will feel happy again. I hope at that time that I can truly feel my blessings and not be afraid of what comes next. I hope that I will be able to live in the moment of joy and no longer feel afraid of when my luck is going to turn. I will be happy without being afraid.

Mama xo

Hot Days: An Ice Age Adventure

The middle week of January was a scorcher here in Victoria. The heat started around 35C and grew to 43C by the end of the week. The house was hot, the yard was hot, the car was hot. Everything was hot. BP does not cope well with the heat. He gets hot and bothered fast. It seems that my daughter also suffers from this infliction. She also shows the heat in her face quite alarmingly. She goes beet red and stays that way until the weather breaks. I used to think she was somehow sunburnt, but I’ve learned now that it is her body’s way of telling me how hot she is because she isn’t yet able to. (I personally love the heat, but this post isn’t about me.)

I started my preparations for the week on the weekend before – freezing fruit salad; buying frozen yoghurt (something Little Fearse had never eaten before); freezing bottles of lemon juice and water; obtaining a variety of foods that could be cooked outside on the barbie; cleaning out the wading pool, and preparing an Ice Age Adventure (inspired by this Frozen Ocean Animal Rescue).

This took a couple of days to prepare. First I had to purchase some toys, as Little Fearse didn’t have any figurines that were quite the right size or weight. I headed to the op shop hoping to find some sea creatures, but instead I found a couple of dinosaurs, a lion and a snapsnap. Uh, sorry, a crocodile.

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Paired with two heavy little Muppet toys I layered these in a large bowl of water, starting with the heaviest. I let each layer freeze for a few hours before adding a new layer and new water.

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Luckily we were passed down a chest freezer from BP’s Mum just before we had Little Fearse. Lately I’ve been really conscious of it getting a little low on supplies, which means it’s using much more power than it should be. With the addition of several bottles of icy water and this Ice Age Adventure it was running at a much more optimal level.

We waited until Friday, when the house was at its hottest, before we unveiled the adventure. We decided to do it in the bathroom where the tiles would keep us cool and used the wading pool instead of a tub. This ended up being a great idea as it turned it into a kind of swampy pool at the end, adding to the whole atmosphere of the experience.

I started off using a spray bottle of coloured water (our blue and green food dye was very dark) and two containers of pink and green salt. Next time I think I’d stick to plain water and green salt. This is what gave it the best colouring as you can see in the pictures.

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A few tips:

– Little Fearse was a little young to do this alone. She did more watching and celebrating of animal freedom than actual ice-scavating. She still loved it, but either tee up an older child or adult to help your under 2 year olds.

– Sometimes the ice could get sharp, briefly, as it melted. Not sharp enough to cut, but sharp enough to hurt. Be wary of this when supervising your child.

– Very slightly warmed water in sqeezy bottles (like the sauce and mustard bottles we ended up using, over the spray bottle we started with) are more effective and easier to manage for little hands.

– Using ‘new’ toys rather than toys your child already owns has the extra excitement that comes with new toys. Little Fearse was really excited about getting the lion and crocodile out most of all and this kept her focused and attentive. We’ll try and find a way to rotate these out in our next toy cull. We do plan to do another Ice Age Adventure and will collect a few more toys for that. It’s EASY to find this style of toy in op shops or at the market. You could work on a theme – African animals, dinosaurs, sea creatures, little dolls etc

What activities do you share with your little ones on hot days? Any tips for surviving the heat? There is still a good deal of heat left in our Australian summer yet.

Mama xo