Monday, 24 December 2012

Why do we expect so much?

                                      In this western culture that I have grown up in,
                           there is an expectation that Christmas Day should be perfect?
                           This expectation seems to continue through the generations,
                          placing stress on families who feel that they should be doing their best
                                    to make it a perfect day, just like the picture books.

                                           The picture that we are painted as children is....

                                            Happy families around the Christmas tree,
                                                    Stockings filled with presents,
                                                   snow drifting outside the window,
                                                Turkey cooking and plum pudding.

                                                           Not here in OZ
                             It is hot hot hot... and  thunderstorms are predicted this year.
                                       There goes the picnic we had planned.

                                        So already the climate here creates a picture
                                           that is different to many children's stories
                                      suggesting that a southern hemisphere Christmas
                                               can't be as perfect as in it is in the northern part of the world.

                             Must we  pretend it is winter here with fake snow decorations?
                       Must Santa sit in the noisy shopping centres in his North Pole thermals
                                     when the temperature is calling for a nice swim?
                                   Why do we eat food at Christmas time
                          that we would not usually cook in the summer time?
                  It is all for the sake of a Northern Hemisphere picture book dream.

                               A winter Christmas is good if that is where you are.
                                 But if you are in the land of the sunshine
                                     why not rejoice in the difference?
                                             Well some do.
                                        However there is still a suggestion that
                               it is not as good as the white Christmas dream.

                             I have to admit that I do do the turkey and the ham
                                 and that my family do seem to look forward to it.
                                             Usually I do it for Christmas eve
                        so that we have salads and cold leftovers for Christmas day

                                How many people in the Northern Hemishere
                                manage to have a perfect Christmas anyway?
                              Even with all the weather patterns going their way,
                                how many manage to paint the picture perfectly?

                                      In my mind there is no such thing as perfect,
                                                          and I like that,
                                                 it makes life interesting.

                          Family gatherings are always full of different personalities and needs.
                                                    Different dietary requirements.
                                    Different ideas of what makes a perfect Christmas.
                         Everyone has to make compromises with large family gatherings,
                             it is good for the health to be able to accept differences
                                               as long as everyone else can also accept....

                             My daughter and I decided to make our tree purposely wonky this year
                         to acknowledge all the wonky bits of life that we regard as important to us.


                                                 We have several friends and family members
                                              that are struggling with health issues at the moment.
                                                    How can Christmas Day be perfect for them?
                                                                  But these people are perfect to us :)
                                                                       Deb L, Andrew J, Neill D, Bala,
                                                                                 love to you all.

                                                          There is also those who don't have family to be with.
                                               Christmas time makes a very lonely time for those people
                                                         when compared to the picture book dream.
                                                  How can they have a perfect day when society places
                                                         a pressure on them that is hard to avoid.

                                                    So many people are struggling financially
                                                but they still go and spend money that they don't have,
                                                    on things people don't really need or want,
                                                   in an attempt to make the perfect Christmas
                                                                   for their friends and families.
                                                                   They then become stressed 
                                                        at how they will pay off their credit cards.

                                                                       Stress over food....
                                                            stress over presents.....decorations.......
                                                            Who will go where and when
                                                                 and what will they bring
                                                                   Stress! Stress! Stress!.....

                                         Surely this is not the way to make a perfect Christmas ???

                                             I have always been one for making things at Christmas.
                             I loath the whole commerialism that starts around September these days
                        and works itself into a frenzy by Christmas eve and then it stops for two days
                           while families are toiling in their homes trying to make peace and happiness
                                                          in a very unhappy and hectic way
                                                      with food and stuff, stuff and more stuff....
                                     Half the time people feel a little disappointed at the end of the day
                                                    and then the post Christmas sales start.

                                   Now all this sounds like a big bit of ....BAH HUM BUG.... I know...

                                                    Hahaha....perhaps my mum is talking through me.
                                                 She was always festive when we were growing up
                                            but once we were adults she became a Christmas anarchist.
                                                Although she did love to come to my place for a feed.
                                                                     I miss her so much.

                                                I do love to cook up a storm for my family
                                                               and I love to give presents....
                                                              Especially if I have made them.


Though as the family has got larger
and I have got older it has become more difficult to make so many things.

When I was younger and my three eldest boys were little
I always made their main Christmas present.
One year it was a huge paper mache´
 Castle Grey Scull and Snake Mountain,
because I hated the whole plastic toy industry.
Another year it was a basket of dress up clothes featuring
Superman, Spider man, Monkey Magic
and an assortment of piratical and super hero accessories.
In my eye they were much better than the plastic stuff....
I'm not sure the kids always thought so at the time :D
but a lot of love went into them !

As I have got older and now a grand mother
my energy isn't quite able to keep up with my idealism
but I still do my best to fight commercialism.
Perhaps that's why my mum hated it as she got older too.

I have to take a deep breath
when I go to the shops at this time of the year
and force myself to slow down and
not get caught into the national Christmas stress

                       Life is too short to waste time
                  stressing over the impossible  "perfection".
                      Every ones Christmas day will have good bits
                             and bad bits....just like any other day.

                           Most of us love our friends and family,
                                   even with their differences and
                                   maybe specially because of their differences.

                                                   Often it is the difficult bits
                                     and the people that it is a bit uncomfortable to be with
                                                 that create interesting situations
                                         that have the most important lessons to learn from
                                                and the best memories to laugh at in the future.

                                            I am glad of the bumps and bruised bits of my life these days
                                                          I embrace them as they give my life character.
                                                            They remind me of how lucky I am. 

In fact Christmas day for me is doing things with people
who rarely see each other as a group
it is like a wedding, people gather for the occasion
If it didn't happen then they may not get around to see each other .
It is all about a motley crew gathering and enjoying their mottles.

I am afraid my head has had great difficulty with the gift side of things this year
I think my age is getting the better of me
or maybe my late mum's Bah Humbug is sinking into my bones.

Grandchildren have been my focus
Everyone else just gets jolly old me
with a glass of something nice...
and some goood food to share with me.

My main gift to me and my family this year has been a huge clean up.
So we can have visitors  to stay in a nice environment ;)

I have painted rooms
and used the plinths from the exhibition as storage.

My verandah studio got REEEAAALLLY bad in the lead up to our family exhibition
and then even worse again after the exhibition,
when lots of stuff was piled back in and no time to sort it out.
 I became busy in other ways
like going away to teach,
and general family hoo ha.
and the mess grew.....and grew....
This is how bad it got UG!

So I have been trying to clear my world a little for the start of the New year..
It helps me to have a goal when there is a mountain of mess to climb
This is how it is looking now :)
Still more to do, but much better.

 The front verandah is all planted with herbs and veg.
So this happy cooker can pick the odd herb.

It is all ready for teenagers to hang and grandchildren to come and play.

 The real task now is going to be my real studio!!!!!!!

 OH MY!!


( Now THAT will take some time yet!!!

But it will be a joy to work in once I have done it.

Here is my panettone recipe for Adriana 
 I always make it in time for Christmas.
We slice it in rounds , 
toast it and serve it with mascapone and stewed berries for breakfast.


But as this blog is about the imperfect Christmas....
I have to say that I really mucked up the panettone this looks like elephant dung....
I was trying to do 3x the quantity and I think I messed up the proportions :(
The question now is.... do I want to try again ?

Yes I have already started :)

Happy Christmas all.             


Monday, 17 December 2012

A gift of inspiration.


This post is about how life can bring unexpected surprises.

                                         How new friends bring a sharing of new happiness

                                                      and sadness as we embrace friendships.

                                                 We live in the Blue Mountains in NSW Australia.
                                                              All our children have grown up here.

                                                             We have some pretty spectacular friends.

                                                     My eldest 3 boys went to the local public schools.
                                              That was fine but I didn't get to know the parents very much.
                                                            Then my step son Gabriel went to Korowal, 
                                                                an independent school in the mountains
                                                                     that starts in kindy and goes to year 12.
                                                           It is an artistic and musical school community.
                                                              We were delighted with Korowal for Gabe
                                                                  so our daughter Mara has also been there
                                                               since kindergarten and she is now in year 10.

                                                          Starting in kindy means that it is possible to make
                                                              long standing friendships and as parents
                                                  we have watched each others families grow and change.
                                                                            A pretty special situation.

                                                                 Mara and her (now) boyfriend Ruben
                                                                 have been close friends since year 2.
                                                      I find it very special to see such a young romance
                                                                                 based on friendship.
                                                                    These two friends can argue a point,
                                                                      be competitive in a game of cards,
                                                            agree or disagree on the musicality of a song.....
                                                                  say what they think and feel to each other
                                                                     and continue to be strong in themselves
                                                             but at the same time they are devoted to each other.
                                                                 I have not seen such a healthy connection
                                                                          in such a young romance before.

                                                          For however short or long this romance lasts for
                                                                   it is great to see these two young people
                                                        discovering what romance is in such a healthy way.

                                                              OK... well I had to say all that to set the scene.

                                                             There has been a lot for these two young friends
                                                                        to handle over the last few weeks
                                                                       and they have been courageous
                                                             and understanding, way beyond their years.
                                                                            Both towards each other
                                                                          and in support of Rubens family.
                                                                     You see Rubens wonderful family
                                                                           have been greatly challenged
                                                                            over the last couple of months.

                                                                          I have been finding that as parents
                                                                      and as friends of parents there has been
                                                                                     much to hear and feel
                                                              and I really don't know what to say or do to help.

                                             So I just want to acknowledge how great these two kids
                                                    are handling their complex world at the moment.
                                                       I love and respect you both so much. xx 

                              Rubens step dad, Neill Duncan is an awesome musician,
                                              originally from Christchurch, NZ.




                                                      He is a creative force and inspiration,
                                                                not only as a performer
                                                                but he also teaches music.
                                             He has 3 other gorgeous children and is a great dad.


                                7 weeks ago Neil was diagnosed with a cancerous lump in his arm.

                                     Our wonderful school held an end of year benefit concert
                                                  for their family as Neil has been unable to work
                                                               and over $4,500 was raised.
                                                  What a special school family we have!

                                               Since then he found out that the sarcoma
                                                    did not respond to the chemotherapy.

                                              He now faces amputation of his arm this week.

                                               As an artist I use my hands every day to express myself
                                                         I am so deeply saddened by Neils story.

                                                             So I have been drawing him.

                                                  But sadness is not a word that should be used
                                                         in the same sentence as Neil Duncan


                                                                   Neil is a man full of stories
                                             and every one of those stories is full of inspiration.
                                                       I have personally only heard a few
                                                       but I can tell there are many more. ;)

                                                              This will be his next story
                                               and it is bound to be even more inspiring.


                                                In the face of this life changing time
                                       Neil and Rachel decided to have a big final gig.

                                                    A send off party for Neils arm.

                                              This man continues to be a creative inspiration
                                                         even in the face of adversity.

                                                             Musicians came to play.
                                                       Friends came to dance and sing.
                                                 It was a performance I will never forget.

                                                           It was not possible to cry
                                           because it was full of love and joy for what has been
                                                 and full of courage for what is to come.

                                     It is an honour to have heard you play with both arms Neil
                                           and it will continue to be an honour to know you
                                                        and hear you play with one.
                                                       You are a very special family.

                                                  Unfortunately Ruben could not be there
                                   as he was being a wonderful big brother and caring son,
                                                     helping to look after his young siblings
                                                    at his grand parents place in Queensland,
                                                        while Neil has his operation.
                                                              We missed you Ruben.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Tied up with Colour in Bathurst

                                   This post is particularly for the students and teachers 
                                  in my Tie Dye workshop at All Saints College Bathurst

                                              After 2 days of collecting plant materials and
                                     a full day of packing the car chock full with dye stuffs
                                                     I headed off at 5.30am last Monday
                   all ready to give a 3 day dyeing workshop at All Saints College in Bathurst.


                                        The first day was about dyeing from the environment.
                                Cotton and silk fabrics were washed and wrapped with onion skins,
                                         Coreopsis flowers and eucalyptus leaves and then
                                                   tied or clamped around sticks, pipes.





                                       The bundles were then put on to simmer in the herbal brew 


                                     After simmering we left them to sit in their warm bath overnight


                        We took them out the next morning to dry in their bundles on the window sills 


                                                      There they sat for the next two days


                                    While they were drying we got on to dyeing some silk tissue
                                  with the bright fibre reactive dyes that I get from Beautiful Silks

here is the link for the technique that you can use at home

.... I had to modify it a little 
so that we could cook the many pieces of fabric in our limited time frame
that these creative students produced

You can get the dyes and silk through this link


                                                         a lot of fun was had by all






                                                  LOOK HOW MUCH THEY MADE!!!!!

                                            On the last day we opened our first bundles
                                                      to see what had been brewing





                                                for more info on the natural dye process
                                              have a look at the books by India Flint

                                                       The results were subtle this time
                                                                   but quite lovely


                                           They also dyed some socks and shirts
                                      that I had soaked in Soda Ash the night before

                                              Unfortunately there were some very keen dyers who
                           didn't wait for me to explain the change in technique for the different fabrics
                           and put vinegar on the garments that I had carefully soaked with soda ash.

                                                          vinegar = acid....         soda = alkali

                                                             So the soda ash was washed off
                                                          and they were unable to get a stable colour

                                                         Never mind, it is all a learning experience.




                                      Jarred was particularly innovative with his ties
                                             It was so great to have him in the class.

                                             Thank you all for being an awesome class
                                      It was great to hang out with you all over those 3 days


                                            Other classes running at the same time included


                                                                cake decorating

                                                      under the tuition of Selena Seifert from
                                                                     Wild Valley Art Park

                                                           This group also helped Selena
                                        make the big mosaic at the back for the school wall

                              and here are some of the glorious skies that Bathurst treated us to
                                      as we enjoyed  and a glass of wine in the evenings
                                                with our hosts, Lesley and Neil,
                                          who very kindly accommodated Selena and myself
                                                    over the run of the workshops

                                                       HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!

                                                                 Have a great holiday ....
                               You could do some dyeing if you are looking for something to do ;)