Salad Days

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Quinoa, edamame & roast pumpkin salad

I have become obsessed with salads of the unleafy kind lately.   Particularly mixed with grains – Freekeh & Quinoa have become a weekly treat.  And what a TREAT!  Tasty, good for you superfoods that have gorgeous texture and play nicely with a wide range of flavours.

Freekeh is made from roasted green grains – which could be wheat but can be other grains too.  The texture is somewhere between rice & barley, and it is cooked prior to using by boiling in water.  Boiling in stock adds another dimension to your dish.  We have had it hot, and cold, and I love it in a salad with cooked onions, slowcooked lamb, pomegranate molasses, spinach leaves and pine-nuts. Squeeze a lemon over & add chilli salt as desired.

I just can’t get enough of Quinoa either.

Quinoa, Edamame & Roast Pumpkin Salad (serves 3)

  • 1 cup Quinoa + water as recipe packet specifies
  • 1/2 cup (or more) shelled Edamame Beans (available frozen from asian supermarkets)
  • 1/4 butternut pumpkin – diced and roasted in Olive oil
  • Handful toasted pine nuts
  • 2 (or more) large tomatoes diced.
  • 1 spring onion chopped into small slices
  • handful of flay leaf parsely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • splash of olive oil
  • Chilli salt
  • Ground Black Pepper

Cook 1 cup of Quinoa (yields about 2.5 cups) according to the directions on the packet and leave to cool.

Add shelled Edamame Beans to the cooling quinoa and leave until lukewarm.

Add tomatoes, roasted pumpkin, pinenuts, spring onion & parsely & toss.

Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper to taste & toss.

Serve with some kind of grilled or roasted meat, or on it’s own as a vegetarian meal.  Would also be great with crumbled fetta or goats cheese tossed through.

Are we there yet?

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The view from my studio yesterday as it poured outside.  Bliss.  Tin Roof, Tom Waits, and excellent company.

I’m not the kind of girl who usually starts the year with resolutions.  Sometimes I’m halfway through the year and still writing the wrong year.  It’s just another day y’know. The days go so fast.  They really do.  Especially when you watch TV. I watch TV,.  There isn’t even anything good on…

This year feels different though, and there’s been quite a lot of ‘aha!’ thinking that has crept up on me in the last weeks and pushed me to some important crossroads that I hope are pointers to the kind of year this is going to be for me.  I need to be strong.  I need to put myself first a bit more.  I need to stop defining myself by what I do in a practical sense, and move forward a bit more.

There have been so many resolves in the last year – to spend an hour a night being creative.  To make more, to sit less, to eat less, to talk more, to have my website clean and functional.  FAIL.  On all fronts.  Enormous fails.  There has been wallowing. Helplessness. Guilt.

And yet it was a great year.  My kids are thriving, we have done some amazing things and had some truly wonderful experiences, but in many ways I have been rudderless.  Stressed by big decisions to be made, and how those decisions might ripple outwards. Anxious about not being able to give more to communities I belong to.  Wailing at the absence of any sort of muse.  It has been a year devoid of art which has been an experiment of sorts (unsought).

It’s been a year of watching.  Of grief (mine and others).  Of enabling others freedoms.  Quite a lot of it spent in some sort of suspended readiness with no firm plans.  I’d say it sounds like a lazy year but nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m glad to see the end of 2013 to be honest. A lot of it was not fun.  

A lot of it was very stressful.

In thinking lately about what gives me joy, apart from the love of my wonderful husband and kids, it’s those moments of freedom that are usually found when knee deep in an inspiring project of the creative kind.  Pushing through the frustrations of discovery to find new skills and techniques.  Watching how the tiniest dab of crimson can pop next to khaki in a section of a canvas and push things off in a different direction, and having the freedom to pursue that guilt free. Looking at the world with an artist’s eye again and seeing inspiration in the world to keep me hungry.  And I am SO hungry to be in the studio.  It’s having things ready to go; idea; materials; time; deadline.

2014 will see me pursuing structure more – making order on Saturdays to free me for painting or inspiration on Sundays.  Scheduling deadlines and being more disciplined.  Not giving in self-imposed guilt.  Re-claiming the ‘exhibiting artist’ status because it is true.  Charging others in my house with responsibilities instead of feeling like I should be doing it all.  Waving off complaints instead of giving them weight.  Getting OUT there again.  And so far – it’s been good.  A good 3 days studio time in the past week, and something decent to show for it, apart from the smile on my face & the glint in my eye that means I am working again at something wonderful and feeling good about it.  2014 is going to be GREAT.  

I am making it so.   

whooosh!

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It’s Christmas.  Again!

I love Christmas, always have, but these days the man and I agree it’s the delicious rush leading up to the big day that brings the most enjoyment.  The day itself is ace – but bittersweet too, because, in increments it is over quickly and gone.

Don’t get me wrong – I panic in the leadup trying to think of presents, getting presents, wrapping presents, making presents, sending presents, eating presents… BUT, the carols, watching decorations going up in the streets, oddly fascinating tours of electric decorations draped over neighbourhood houses, the making of christmas food while listening to cheesy music (Arcade Fire Anyone?)and general excitement are FUN.

Hope you are enjoying your leadup too, and that the sun is warming your back.

 

multitude

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Some ideas are like moths – fluttering at the brightest light they can find.  Chasing it even though it means it will break them and damage their tender wings.  Can’t be helped.  Must be done. Forget the cost.

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Some require you to bury yourself deep.  Working away quietly until that need abates and you emerge feeling satiated and industrious and thrilled at a job well done (even if nobody else notices).  Sorry – lunch? See what you can find in the cupboard, I need to keep going here.

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Some, by the simple fact of being YOUR idea, mean that the execution is yours alone.  From start to finish, and that’s what makes it special, and has the double gift of bringing you knowledge and bringing something unique into the world.  It’s a gift, and a responsibility, and a pleasure, and a burden.  And a JOY.  Blessed are the self-obsessed (wish I could go that deep without guilt).

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Some ideas are incessant.  Nag, nag, nag.  You can’t quite get to them, but they are there gnawing away at you at regular intervals.  Quiet for a month, noisy for weeks, forgotten for a day, back the next twice as loud.  I have had some going on for YEARS now.

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And then there are the bees, requiring constant industry to keep everything running smoothly, drowning out the noise of the ideas and gently draining the energy levels in keeping the hive active.  Fed.  Clean. Uncomplaining. Don’t get me wrong.  I like chanelling the bees and knowing that I am contributing to a happy home, but sometimes, I’d like to take off my striped jumper for a bit and indulge in one of my other multitudes.

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The problem is, like so many other creative people I have multitudes.  Today I read that’s like having 35 windows open in your browser.  I think that’s certainly true some days.

As Confucius says – he who chases two rabbits, captures none.  What if you have 6 rabbits?  And a job?  And an art practice that needs attention?

How do you figure out which rabbit is going to be the best one?  How do you figure out whether any of the rabbits is worth chasing at all?  Or whether bee keeping is enough in itself?

Let me know if you figure it out eh!

 

 

 

Shaksuka to share

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shaksouka

I’m back from another wonderful craft camp at Sewjourn.  Time to sew and chat, and share meals with a most fabulous bunch of ladies.  This time was difficult for me – I seem to be in the middle of a wardrobe crises – probably brought on by a combination of prolonged jetlag, change of seasons and return from a conservative country.  I forgot all my long learned lessons about what works for my body shape and tried all sorts of things that were never going to work.  Frustrating.  All my own fault.  I still made some good things, including a Cabarita Tee which I love, and some Noodlehead pouches - one of those beautifully and thoughtfully designed constructions that take a bit to wrap your mind around and then you are never the same again.  Brilliant.  I still don’t know how it works….

As a result of sewing malaise & frustrations the food was my highlight.  Everyone cooks (or shares the cooking) of a meal – which gives you the time to thoughtfully plan and prepare a meal for nine friends that will sustain the heart & soul.  It is such a pleasure to sit down, take a break and chat without the noise of sewing machines.  We had some truly spectacular meals, and it’s one of the major joys of craft camp for me.  Suzie suggested we share some recipes, so here’s what I cooked for Sunday Brunch:

Shakshuka (Serves 2-4) as brunch, though in feeding nine I multiplied by 5 and made enough for 10 (or 20).

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
2 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric, ground
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes (diced)
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 tsp honey
2 bay leaves
4-6 free range eggs (allow 2 per person)
Additional salt to taste

Method

Sauce (prepare the night before to allow the flavours to deepen)

  1. Saute the onions in a large, deep saucepan with the olive oil over low-medium heat until translucent.
  2. Add minced garlic and ground spices and saute for another minute or so until they become aromatic.
  3. Add the tomato paste and fry until it thickens and colours slightly.
  4. Stir in tinned tomatoes, honey and bay leaves.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium-high until sauce starts to boil and then lower to a simmer.
  6. Finish with additional seasoning to taste if required then turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Shakshuka

  1. Warm up the sauce and put it into a wide, shallow skillet or frying pan (I had a huge quantity, and used two large deep roasting pans instead).
  2. With the back of a large tablespoon, make an indentation for each egg into the sauce, allowing for enough room so the eggs won’t spill over into each other.
  3. Turn the heat on to medium-high and bring the sauce to the boil (we used roasting pans instead)
  4. As soon as the sauce reaches a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the frying pan with a lid (or cling wrap/foil if you don’t have one) to retain heat and help cook the eggs more evenly.
  5. Cook for around 5-10 mins, depending on whether you prefer your yolks runny or hard. Make sure to keep an eye on the eggs and check in on them every minute or so to see if they’re done so they don’t overcook.    Our eggs went into a highly unpredictable oven – what should have taken 15 minutes took 25 to start cooking, then 5 minutes to cook, resulting in hard cooked eggs which should have been runny in the middle.  Dang.

Serve an egg (or 2) in a generous amount of sauce with a couple of slices of toasted sour dough bread. If cooking in a small container add some goats cheese or fetta & some cooked chorizo).  Finish with a drizzle of some good extra virgin olive oil.

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flight to zurich

The view from Lindenhof

When life presents you with an escape, particularly a temporary one, no matter the adventure, I think one should always say YES.  Grab it with both hands and then think about the logistics later.

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So, when the beloved husband being his super-creative self, was offered the chance to work for his head office in Switzerland, we got very excited and started planning an adventure.  Zurich!  On our own!

An adventure I benefited from with the freedom to explore, while he slaved away, but an adventure noneless, in beautiful Switzerland.

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It’s not often one gets the opportunity to explore a city quietly, sans children for 2 weeks, following ones nose, and just seeing where laneways and twists might end up.

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I kept a diary of sorts for the kids to read through, full of strange things we had seen – like a busker in Berne with an act that consisted of hiding under spangled fabric with a stick poking through a hole in the middle.  The stick had a puppet head (if you could call it that) that opened and closed its mouth making a snapping noise.  That was it.  It went in the book. We paid him/her for bravery.

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Flamingos at the Zurich Zoo -they come from a cold climate.  Incongruous nonetheless.

I went to the Zurich Zoo, a day trip on my own that was wonderful, and confronting.  There was a fabulous Masoala rainforest dome that was hot and humid – while it was cccold outside. Awesome.  The hippo enclosure was so inadequate it brought me to tears.  Ditto the gorillas.

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Grounds of the Reitberg Museum

The Reitberg was a fabulous experience.  Not so much for the exhibitions – though they were great, but because the grounds were sensational, the buildings themselves beautiful and carefully thought out, and  everything was beautifully presented.

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Swiss Carnival Masks at the Reitberg.

By far the most emotional experience of the trip was had on the first full day, when D & I went to see an exhibitions of prints by Edvard Munch.  An artist so close to my heart for most of my life.  Retrospectives of his work are not often seen in Melbourne, and the few we have had have always been highly emotive & been highlights for me.  The first when I first moved to Melbourne on my own (back in the dark ages), the second, when Z was born and I took her in a pram and she blissfully slept as newborns do, while I wandered and sat, and breathed it all in.

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A poster for the exhibition.

This exhibition at the Kunsthaus was no exception.  Shared with my soulmate in a new country, I was so overwhelmed I had to sit often.  There were tears of joy and disbelief and it was incredibly moving. So nice to be sharing that big experience with him.

The riches of the Kunsthaus didn’t stop there – and while we avoided the very old art for the most part, there were rich seams of beautiful works at every turn.  One room casually had some Van Gogh works opposite some Monets (as you do), which brought D close to tears himself.

Works by Cy Twombly and Rothko, Giacometti, a room full of assorted surrealists.  All very surreal in itself as an experience.  I should have gone back.  I didn’t want to spoil the magic.

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We caught a train to Bern.  We should have been more informed about Bern, which became a pretty place to second-hand shop and eat lunch.

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We missed the museums and galleries that were probably there.  We didn’t know Einstein lived there.  We saw lovely rooftops and mountains.  We had some very good chocolate.

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The next day saw us on a train to Lucerne – lovely Lurcerne, which was mostly closed on a Sunday, but was perfect for wanderers looking to escape the crows and see the buildings themselves.

We took a 2.5 hour boat trip around lake Lucerne, where my camera ran out of batteries early on, so The snow tops are etched in my mind.  spec.tac.ular.

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And there were bugs.  At the strangest most dated little museum with an ancient echidna that looked like it has been stuffed with a shoe box, and a koala that was almost unrecognisable.

The bugs though, were fabulous!

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We had amazing Sunday buffet brunches at Imagine at Rail City.

Mexican in Zurich’s colourful old town section (we loved the old town with its cobbled streets and grungier feel) with too much Sangria and a chilly walk to the tram.

And italian, italian, italian.  Weirdly, we couldn’t even find any swiss food.  Italian food everywhere.  There were some great places near us in Milchbuch (the suburb we stayed in), but we just craved some Thai.  The lack of vegetables was staggering!

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It’s a conservative city.  People sit in the extremely punctual and tidy trams with their hands neatly folded in their laps.  Almost everyone is polished and tidy and the few people we saw who made fashion statements executed them deliberately, not casually.

I secretly craved some chaos, but soaked up the amazing chocolate with coffee at Globus, the perfect-every-time Bretzel Koenig, and the ease at which one could fit in.  The uniform seemed to be skinny jeans tucked into boots, with a warm jacket, and straight hair.  I was set.  I took skirts and felt like a freak, so lived in my one pair of jeans.  My boots need re-heeling,  The shopping was not inspiring but basics were readily available.  I liked it.

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I’ve been asked a lot since coming back if we would consider  moving there…

It’s shocking how comfortable one gets in life.  Living spaces are small and expensive.  Everything is expensive actually.  And on the whole people and places are not as bright as they are here.  The light is so different (Australia is blinding), and people assess you as you walk down the street – in a cold way.  It’s not aggressive, just an assessment which is probably flattering in its own weird way.  People smile a lot more in Melbourne.  We missed our home.

We missed the kids.  We missed our cat. We missed grunge & the rich design scene.

But I think we’ll be back…

 

 

 

Growing

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I was never a ‘baby’ person.  Other people’s babies were lovely sure, and nice to cuddle and pass back, but I never craved a baby.  A child on the other hand was a different matter.  For many years before I had my own, I knew I wanted that to be a part of my life.

Someone to watch over, nurture and marvel at. Someone to surprise me with their funny tricks, and to teach things to.

The truth is, the teaching is thoroughly in reverse most of the time.  My kids have taught me so much, and this year has been a REALLY big one on so many fronts, mostly because my kids are getting to be so much bigger.  Independent. Capable.  Big.

This morning I read this post, which made me laugh for all the right reasons, and brought one of my biggest lessons from this year back to me in full technicolour.

I have always believed that I may be their mother, but that doesn’t make me their dictator.  It’s a dance between what they want, and what will work for their own benefit/happiness/growth/safety.  I listen more than plan.  Almost everything is open for discussion – if only to say why it’s NOT going to happen.  I flatter myself that they are rounded individuals with a balanced view and uncommon consideration, because they are part of the process.  But there are times when we all need to check ourselves and ask if what we are doing is right.

It was a shock to realise, for instance at the beginning of the year, that my eldest would be going to high school in a year, and didn’t have basic skills such as crossing a main road on his own.  We drive most places, and walk together too, but I rarely just send him off to play in the traffic, so when a classmate’s Mum suggested they walk home together one day a week crossing main roads and letting themselves in for a few hours instead of doing after-care I was confronted with all sorts of fears and trust issues. Big ones.

They were fine.

And responsible.  And better for the freedom and trust.

When we came to making fairly major decisions about schooling for high school years, and our best option would involve an early move, I stressed majorly about the sadness that might bring.  There were tears at first, more than one heart was shaken.  It took a well meaning reminder that we are the grown ups for a reason, and his life experience was too short to be part of making such hefty decisions to give me the strength to make the decision and deliver it, but it was an important lesson to me that we might be in all this together, but someone has to be the bad guy for good reasons sometimes.

He is fine.

And there has been excitement in the change, which was unexpected for all of us, and has so far been brilliant.

Somebody wants to go to a concert and can’t.  There has been heartbreak there, but it’s just not possible, and I’m getting better at not feeling bad for saying no, and accepting that the consquences also bring gifts of patience & trust & knowing that with more planning things might be possible.  The difficulties don’t have to be all ours, and it’s OK for them to learn to ride and roll with them too.

Crikey – the GROWTH!   The freedom!

I am sure the teenage years will bring dramas and high emotion.  Risks, and deceptions discovered, and boundaries stretched to the limits (which is how it should be) but the gifts in parenting come unexpectedly and a firmer heart is one of them.  Never thought I would say that, but there you go.

And there is the knowledge that a tree that bends and moves with the wind will grow stronger, and be more resilient. And a happier adult too, because troubles will be easier to roll with.  At least, that’s been my experience.

 

Epic Failures

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featherweight fail

 

There’s a lot that goes unblogged.

I don’t talk about failure much.  What went wrong in small ways.  Where it fell over and how it upset me for an hour – a week – a month.  Longer.  If it’s a big problem it’s not usually mine to talk about.  If it’s a small problem I can cheer myself up pretty quickly and get on with life until I check in here again.

And I don’t mind problems for the most part – especially if they are of my own making because you learn things. Truly.  For every stumble there’s a reminder that feet should be lifted higher or eyes more carefully focused.

Except with knitting.

Knitting is a meditation for me.  Nights spent with needles in hand, gently involved in making something that will be a pleasure to wear when its finished (one hopes), and a kind of marking of time spent.  Captured hours in a sense that are a reminder of a good winter, or comfort in a bad one knowing that the last stitch will bring a new beginning of some kind or other.

So it’s disheartening to me to finish a project and find it unwearable.  Unsalvageable. Unloveable.  Unflattering.  It feels like the biggest betrayal.

I don’t know how many stitches there are in an average garment, but they are completed one, by one, by one, by one.  All of them.

Which is the mystery of a finished garment – that it’s made with SO many stitches, and such care, over such a long time.  And why I only knit for myself these days because it’s not fun to spend that amount of time on something that may not be honoured in the way it should.

And also – why it is SO hard when (despite numerous fittings in progress) a finished garment is washed and tried on for what should be that ‘whoot’ moment, and instead it’s like a bucket of cold water is tossed over your head and you realise that the time is gone, and all those stitches will be undone if the precious yarn is to be honoured the way it should be.

And when even the yarn lets you down it’s outrageously awful….

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The blue project up above is in the process of being unravelled.  The yellow, is a complete and utter failure.  I can’t do anything with any part of that.  That’s my winter evenings captured there in those 2 projects.

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So I’ve cast on again.  Hoping to make good on 2 failures in a row.  So far so good.  I may have said that before…..

And I’m quite excited about this!  Thank you Amelia.  Which may just be the end of my fitting woes, because all I want really, is a perfect cardigan.  That’s not asking too much is it?

I’ll let you know.

Grate

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produce 002

This gathering from the garden just does not get old for me.  It brings me such joy to be able to trot out and grab a few stalks of celery, some rocket leaves for a sandwich, a cabbage for soup or herbs on an almost daily basis.  And the chooks are laying nicely – which gives as as many eggs we need, some to give away and lovely company.

There have been cauliflowers too, which are teaching me not to be greedy.  It’s so hard to know when something is right for picking when you are growing it yourself.  Cauliflowers in the supermarket are big things – ours are a dainty 2/3 size.  I made the same mistake in summer with eggplants, which I was waiting to get to the correct size, only to see them drop off the vine and fester in the hot sun.

I lost almost all of them sadly.

The cauliflowers are growing quickly – but go from tight little florets to overblown loose shapes in a few days.  Small, big, bigger, blown,  Still perfectly edible, but a looser texture.  The chickens have had one all for themselves that just got too sparse.

Our favourite way to eat cauliflower has been roasted with some olive oil chilli salt and a liberal sprinkling of cumin.  So good.

And a new discovery – Cauliflower ‘rice’ – which is a total game-changer.

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Cauliflower ‘Rice’

 Take one head of cauliflower, cut the florets off, and cut stems into pieces.  

Grate the cauliflower using the grating disk attachment of your food processor, or by hand, or with a mouli, and then pile into a large container and microwave for 4 minutes.

Done.

I have to confess that I was unsure about this – but given a surfeit of cauliflower and a night without kids, I made a stir fry and we had it atop the ‘rice’.

Damn good.  And I reckon something that could easily be mixed into normal cooked rice to add a vegetable without anyone being any the wiser.  Because the cauliflower is slightly undercooked – the texture is similar to steamed rice, and the flavour is not overpowering.   With a sauce, or stew as a suitable distraction I honestly don’t think it would be discernible.

Low on carbs too.

 

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kidwear 001

Not pink -red striped with red.  And just a tiny bit of pink for the dots.

When Miss Z was born, over 8 years ago I swore to myself that I was going to make (almost) everything for her, for the sake of sustainability and having unique things, until that became embarrassing for her.

I was expecting that would be teenager territory – not age 6.

We hit a patch there where she didn’t like what I made, didn’t know what she wanted, couldn’t even find it in the shops. What she wanted – it turns out was to dress like a lady.  She wanted grown up clothes – that they obviously don’t make for small girls.  Don’t and shouldn’t, because no girl should climb a tree in a chiffon evening gown. It’s a hazard for the climber and the dress.

That’s my opinion anyway…

We hit a terrible stalemate that lasted for years.  YEARS.  Where I would make stuff that was rejected.  Where we would go shopping to find NOTHING.  Where she wasn’t making style statements of her own or anyone else’s making, and clothing became kind of irrelevant and frustrating.  Not comfortable, not ‘her’, not fun.

Which would have been OK if that’s what she wanted, but she didn’t really.  She loves dressing up – is very keen on looking eccentric and pulled together in her own  way and wants to feel pretty.  And the shops still seem to have very little that fits, is comfortable, affordable and ticks her ‘not cutesy’ boxes.

So I’ve started sewing for her again, and we seem to have reached an agreement, now that she is taller, and the sewing patterns that seem to work best for her are ladies patterns cut to the smallest size and made with some alterations (waist, hem, shortening etc.).  She is THRILLED that she is wearing ‘ladies’ clothes, and that we can make things for her that are unique and that she can have input into.

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It’s so nice to make something that helps her feel more like herself and the person she wants to be.  It’s hard work being a kid and trying to find your ‘you’. And I have to say that I love that’s she’s so fabulously nutty and doesn’t want to be like everybody else.

It’s wonderful watching her grow.

 

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