The Art of Escaping

This blog has been missing some crafty goodness lately. I admit it. I've had a very busy June and July with a trip to NZ, then my husband's trip to NZ, and some illness thrown in for fun.

Truth be told, I'm feel very very tired at the moment and I'm struggling to find my crafting mojo. I think it's due to a combination of the stress our family has had to cope with over the last 2 years and the fact that we haven't had a decent holiday with just the four of us since 2009. On top of that like so many Sydney families we play the commuting game, with Mr J out the door before 6 in the morning and not home again until well after 8 in the evening. It means that Ben doesn't see his Dad for 4 out of 7 days and I feel very much the solo parent most of the time. We've been a Police family for a while now so I am used to the funky hours and periods of parenting on my own. I have to be thankful that the kids are older now and it's not as hard as it once was - with a three year old bouncing off the walls and a newborn baby for example. The thing is, it all adds up.

I feel like I've been carrying a sack on my back and every day someone adds a teaspoon of sand to it. It was barely noticeable at first, but it's oh so heavy now. Every morning I heave that sack onto my back again and carry it throughout the day. By late afternoon I'm worn out.

I have some things planned to help me find some balance again until we can take that much needed holiday over summer. I had a good think about what I need to feel calm and relaxed, what hypes me up and what brings me back down again. For me, I need to be out in the open air with lots of space around me. No rushing, no craziness. I love trips to the city but it's not where I need to be right now.

So. In August, sometime, we will go camping for a night or maybe two. A National Park, big trees, torches, cups of tea and chocolate biscuits, roasting marshmallows, giggling with the kids, telling each other bedtime stories. Yes.

For my birthday in September, a road trip. Up and over the mountain to the Central West. A farm house, the markets, an old gold mining town, a stack of newspapers to read, wine by the fire and a roast lamb for dinner.

Until then, I do what I always do when I'm feeling a bit bogged down. I dream. I research on the Internet, I get books from the library and stack them beside my bed. When I lie in bed at night in the dark and for the first time in 15 hours no-one is asking me anything - I dream and plot and plan. In the past it was always travel destinations. I've spent hours researching things like villas in Tuscany, how much money we'd need to live in India for 6 months and domestic flights in Mexico.

But this time, it's all about land and it's all about houses. So in the absence of something clever to show you that you can make at home, I'm going to show you what I've been dreaming of over the last couple of months.

What do you dream about?

My Day

Morning. What's everyone up to? Today is one of my two child free days a week and after two busy weeks of school holidays I wasn't quite sure how to fill up my very quiet day. I ended up being a good girl and doing an hour or so of housework this morning and I put a casserole into the slow cooker. I love slow cookers. I smile on the inside all day when I remember that dinner is already sorted!

This week my prize from Kara of Make me Pop arrived. She lovingly designed this great robot winter hat for Ben, who as you know, has a thing for them. He was so thrilled with it that he wore it all day. He even took it to bed with him. His favourite colour is orange and he requested ear flaps so when he opened the parcel it was all very exciting indeed.

This weekend we're flying solo with J off to New Zealand tonight for his mum's wedding. Our super cuddly boy was sure to fit in as many daddy snuggles as he could before he left.

 And today I was nominated for a 'Very Inspiring Blogger Award' - thanks Tracey!

Here are the terms for accepting the award:

  1. Display the award certificate on your blog - check!
  2. In your post, link back to the person who gave you the award
  3. Present 7 awards to inspiring bloggers, create a post linking to their blog and leave them a comment to tell them
  4. Post 7 interesting facts about yourself.
So first things first, thank you to Tracey of for your lovely comments on my posts and for this award. I had a quick nosy at your blog and I can't wait to have a proper read.

My seven awards are going to:

Sezza Knits - For beautiful and inspirational knitwear. Sarah is the knitter I wish I could be!
Rosie teapot - For clever, honest business advice and posts that make me smile.
Opshopaholic - Because this Wellingtonian opshopaholic takes me back to my teen op shopping haunts.
Blue Teacups - Because Kylie's posts about cooking, crochet, gardening, and her family speak my language.
Kara McMurray - For amazing knitwear and crochet like the hat Ben is wearing in the photos on this page.
Live Green for a Week - For inspiring me to do better.
No Added Sugar - For amazing healthy recipes and what I like to call "alternative baking".

And my seven interesting facts....
  1. When I was 2 I was given a giant sized jar of gherkins as a birthday present because I loved them so much.
  2. I have a Japanese tattoo from the nape of my neck to my tail bone (my first and only tattoo).
  3. When I'm stressed out I research travel destinations.
  4. I'm a gypsy at heart and love to move (and move...) but finally at the old age of 33 I want to settle down.
  5. I took ages to learn to drive and wasn't driving confidently on my own until I was in my early 20s.
  6. J and I decided to go home and have a baby while sharing a Sprite outside a huge Fort in Rajasthan, India.
  7. This week I have been researching living in a Yurt while we build a house.

This is the inside of a Yurt. It's like a huge tent with a wooden frame and a cool dome at the top of the ceiling. With solar power and a composting toilet (J needs convincing on that part) we could almost be self sufficient. And when we're finished building, we could rent it out as holiday accommodation. Am I crazy or is this an awesome idea? Would you live in a Yurt?

Make it Monday - Upcycled Storage for your Home


Upcycling something old into something practical and functional for our family is one of my favourite things to do. Repurposing a beat up piece of wood or transforming a piece of furniture into something beautiful is heaps of fun, and it's budget friendly too.

Here are some ideas to get your started:

These shutters are often found in council clean ups or at salvage yards. Paint it a retro colour and you have a great system for sorting your mail. From Apartment Therapy.

It's rustic and such a clever use of space. Love this idea! Check it out on Apartment Therapy.

This hanging rack is made from an old cot/crib. The side of a cot can be used for hanging so many things - such as fabrics, neck ties, scarves, and towels. From The Art of the Rs.

A clever way to repurpose a skateboard into a shelf from Home to Life.

If you're drowning in kids artwork like we are then this could be the solution for you. A couple of months ago my husband and I made this kids art display using a salvaged piece of wood and some metal letter clips. For instructions see Art Display.

Have a great week everyone!

A quilt for Jemima

Last Friday my lovely Jemima turned 8 and following our family tradition of giving at least one home made gift I was happy to finally hand over her quilt.

I started the quilt topper back in February when the cold nights of winter seemed far away indeed. I used a mix of Heather Ross fabrics and some vintage pieces I had collected from thrift shops over a  period of a few months. I had the squares sewn together in a couple of days. And then it sat, for 5 months, in my craft cupboard where it would look at me accusingly every time I reached inside to grab something. I borrowed beautiful books on quilting from the library and watched many a YouTube tutorial but I could never gather up enough motivation to finish it.

On a craft shopping trip a couple of weeks ago I decided on impulse to get it finished for Jemima's birthday and I bought the cotton and wool wadding there on the spot. What I didn't really think about at the time was that it was school holidays, meaning zero secret squirrel sewing time. The week before the big birthday was a rush of party planning, school holiday entertaining, and stolen minutes furiously stitching downstairs when I thought no one would notice. I really had no idea what I was doing, and as it's my first quilt I wanted to learn as I went. I started with some machine quilting (with no walking foot, which I will never attempt again), then I made some bias binding which I hand stitched on, and finished with some tying.

It's not perfect. It's no where near perfect. But it's made with love and Jemima adores it, which is all that really matters in the end. 

Things I discovered:
  • If they ever decide to canonise people for Craft Sainthood my younger sister should be first in line. She single-handedly machine quilted a queen size quilt for our mum last month on her little Brother machine, on a small kitchen table, with no walking foot. And it looked amazing.
  • You can't have too many safety pins basting the whole deal together. 
  • Cut the backing fabric and wadding bigger than the top. Trust me.
  • Even if you can see all of the imperfections and ugly bits, it's likely that no-one else can.
  • And.. quilting makes me swear like a sailor. That's all.

Ten years since

Today J was cleaning out the cupboard under the stairs. When we moved into this house we shoved everything that wasn't essential under there and most of it has remained unpacked. Over time it's become a jumble of boxes and junk so today seemed as good a day as any to have a good clear out.

Half an hour later he handed me a magazine with a smile. It took me a good few seconds to realise what he was giving me, and then I saw. It wasn't any magazine, it was my magazine. 

When I was 23 I entered a design competition through New Zealand's leading fashion magazine. The prize was Young Designer of the Year, a title I never dreamed I could possibly win. At the time I was making and selling a few A-line skirts made from remnants of designer upholstery fabric and I used the same idea in my submission. To go with the pale green floral Ralph Lauren fabric of the skirt I matched a soft peach silk that I found in an Indian shop on Auckland's K Road. I knitted a sorry looking swatch of blue wool for the cape and sent it in. A few weeks later I was walking home from the bus stop when the editor of the magazine called me and told me that I had won. I couldn't believe that my ideas had been chosen and was really excited, but the moment I hung up the phone I started to worry.

I'm a naturally shy person and the thought of having coffee with the face that looked out at me from the editors page of Fashion Quarterly made me ill. I fretted over what I should wear, what on earth I would say, how I would come across to her. The photo shoot was fun to watch, but it took hours and hours and in all of those seconds and minutes I felt incredibly awkward and like I should be more extroverted and fun. I feared they would see me as disinterested, which was the furthest thing from the truth. At the end of the day the photographer decided to shoot a couple of pictures of the model in the silk blouse I designed. It was more for fun than anything, but I remember the stylist saying that she liked it.

A couple of weeks later I received another call from the editor to say that they had chosen the photo of my blouse for the cover of the Spring issue. It was the first time they'd ever used an 'undiscovered' designer for the cover, a huge honour.

A tour of the publishing offices was my favourite part of the prize, I love to write and working for a fashion magazine was a huge dream of mine at that age. I so wanted to ask about work experience there, or at least indicate an interest in that sector of the industry - but I couldn't seem to find the words. A big part of the prize was work experience at WORLD but it never happened, mostly because I didn't push for it to happen. I was secretly relieved because the thought of being there for a week was terrifying.

For a couple of months my magazine was in all of the shops, and huge over sized covers where hanging in book store windows.

It's been 10 years since that whole whirlwind happened and I still have weird feelings about that time in my life. I wish I could have been braver and taken that opportunity with both hands. I wish I had been able to show them just how passionate I am about the industry and how I much I wanted to work for them. My regret was such that for the last few years I've avoided even thinking about my magazine and I certainly haven't wanted to look through it.

Today I decided enough was enough and it was time to sit down and have a flick through.

What did I see? I saw a fresh faced 23 year old woman, an interesting design, and some lovely comments from both the magazine and the designers who judged the competition. I saw an amazing life experience, a huge achievement, and something to show my children later on in life. I didn't see the regret any more.

So from now on I've decided I'm going to keep my magazine around where I can see it and be proud of it, not thrown in a box under the stairs. 

Rainbows for Jemima

On Friday Jemima turned 8 and yesterday we celebrated with an afternoon of rainbows. This party has long been in the planning, with many ideas bantered about and images furiously compiled on Pinterest. This year I wanted to keep things relatively simple. We had 12 guests including the birthday girl and her little brother and the kids had a hand in most of the decorating. When you're a creative type it can be hard sometimes to let go of the reins and let kids do things their way. This year I was mindful throughout that this was Jemima's day and I tried (as best as I could) to respect her creative decisions! I'm pretty passionate about creating special events on a tight budget so I gave myself $100 for the whole party including food.


There are so many rainbow themed invitations available online now and I very almost bought a digital file. In the end I decided to buy some plain white cards and envelopes for $2.50 and some water colour paints for $7. Jemima and I painted the stripes on the cards and she worked on the rainbows for the envelopes on her own. For the inside I downloaded an Avery label template. I used the template in Microsoft Word to write the details of the party along with a little picture of a rainbow. When the invitations were dry we stuck the labels inside the cards. She loved making her invitations and was so proud of how they came out.

For the decorations we made streamers with embroidery hoops and crepe paper strips, tissue pom poms, and a garland made from paper doilies that I painted in rainbow colours. We ordered some helium balloons in rainbow colours  for $1 per balloon (huge hit with the kids). The tablecloth is a white sheet we had lying around topped with a rainbow flag we found at a thrift shop.

Instead of a long table we bought three small side tables from Ikea for $9.99 each, now that the party is over we'll use them as kids craft tables. I didn't include those in the budget as we needed them anyway. As a cheap decoration we used left over rainbow wrapping paper ($3.99 a roll) on each white table and on the wall in a rainbow shape. The colours on the back wall are paper lace doilies which I painted using water colour paints.

On each small table we had a photo of the birthday girl in a frame that she painted herself. I bought three frames for $1.99 at Ikea.

For the main table I made 'Raindrops' water bottle labels using Avery shipping label stickers. The bowls were on special at Ikea for .99c for 6, they also had some bright plastic cutlery for .99c a packet so we bought those and used the spoons for our jelly cups.

We kept things pretty simple with some ordered sushi, a platter of 'rainbow' savoury food, and a platter of 'rainbow' fruit. We also had layered jelly cups, rainbow popcorn, and some chocolates. The day started with a craft activity which was making rainbow fairies out of wooden clothes pegs. I pre-cut up some rainbow fabrics and made tulle wings before the party started. We had a cupcake tower instead of a cake with little rainbow straps and marshmallows.

For gift bags I created these little 'gold at the end of the rainbow' treats using recycled baby food jars and candy. The tops of the lids had glue applied then were dipped in glitter. We put these in some clear cellophane bags with a rainbow pencil and eraser, a rainbow lollipop, and a some beads and cord to make a bracelet.

The rainbow theme was so much fun and really easy. It gave me a lot of freedom to do things cheaply and make a lot of it myself. Jemima had a wonderful time and declared it "the best party ever", as a mum you can't really ask for more than that.

Sushi $15; Ikea bowls and cutlery $5; Crepe streamers $2; Invitations supplies $9.50; Paper doilies $1.50; Balloons $12; Tissue paper for pom poms $2; Glitter $1; Candy $5; Pencils for gift bags $2.50; Lollipops for gift bags $4.00; Beads for gift bags $2 from thrift shop; Flag table topper $5; Craft supplies $15; other food supplies $15; Frames from Ikea $1.99.  Total $98.49


There's something about Katoomba. Fresh crisp air, breath taking scenery, a cool urban feel in the middle of a National Park, and some of the best vintage stores around - what's not to love? Every time I go up the mountain I feel like I'm at home, which must have something to do with it's resemblance to Wellington's hilly landscape and icy winds!

It's an average of 7 degrees colder in the upper mountains than at our house, which can be just the thing on a 41 degree summer's day. In the middle of winter it can be a little brisk, which I kind of love because it's an excuse to wear our hats and mittens and drink hot chocolate.

So come along with me on a little stroll around Katoomba, if you're ever in or around Sydney I hope you'll make the trip to the upper mountains, it really is a very special place.

The first thing you'll notice about Katoomba as you come up the Great Western Highway is the 1930s style buildings. I love the character of both the shop fronts and the houses in the upper mountains.

There are loads of cafes to choose from along the main road but more often than not we end up in Blue Hour. There's always something gluten free on the menu here, and the kids love sitting in the window booth.

Without a doubt my favourite store in Katoomba is the food co-operative. I visit here every 1 - 2 weeks to buy gluten free flours, nuts, beans and lentils, and sweeteners like agave syrup. The kids love visiting too!

And of course you can't go to Katoomba without dropping by Echo Point. This is us back in May having our last picnic dinner of the autumn:

Love you Katoomba!


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