Friday, May 30, 2014

Let It Go

I was a crafty mummy last Friday. And Saturday too, but the building site got the best of me. 

There does come a point however, where you have to Let it Go.    

For a bit.

"Put down that screwdriver and step away from the Renovation, ma'am".

For two months in between school runs I've found myself  sanding and retouching paintwork.  Breaking screw heads off into the back of wardrobe handles, shopping for taps and tiles and so much more.

Last Friday we encountered a bunch of warped tiles in our lot which added a rat-run across town to the tile shop (just before school run) to my schedule. I also had to 'be there' for the shower-screen measuring guy, to tell him please just make the damned thing fit (and when he did it looked too big). Then my Saturday was held to ransom by the rubbish removal guys. Who left that pile of broken tiles and debris in the middle of the lounge????

But somehow I reached deep down into my self - got in touch with my inner-Nanna and I managed to cough-up a little creative couture for our lovely friend Blythe.

This was a promise to She-Who-Worships-Pink-and-Now-Also-Blue. An overdue promise at that.
But our little poppet has been so understanding of my newest preoccupation.  She's even been helping out - on the weekend helping cleaning, sitting quietly drawing while I screwed and filled, sanded and attached things in other rooms.  She's given advice (good advice) on colour schemes and fixtures.

Today she chose the handles for the new bathroom vanity  - OK I vetoed her first choice of  brass teddy bears.  But since we've discovered she has she has quite a good eye for aesthetic balance (except when it comes to bear handles) we gave her final say on whether they should be attached vertically rather than horizontally and she chose well.

She sat on the new toilet bowl - not yet attached - to see if there was enough leg-room between the loo and the larger shower screen. Then we made the tallest of the cabinet makers sit on it too just to be sure.
Just quietly, I really enjoy making my builders do embarrassing things.

Anyway my girl deserves a little treat and this teeny-tiny costume was it.  She's a beautiful and unique doll our Blythe and she makes a wonderful Elsa. Now Pinkster has a friend with a matching costume to hers.

I've been asked by another mum, where you get this lovely creature and you still can although mine is vintage (from 1971 the year they were both launched and spectacularly flopped).

You can buy Blythe dolls on line, they're reproducing them in Japan but they cost a bit more than Elsa herself (yes even at the scalpers' inflated E bay prices)

A Blythe can cost anywhere from $300 up to $800.

But her eyes change colour! She has a world of wigs and accessories to make even Barbie turn pea-green with envy and let's face it, she's hauntingly lovely with those enormous peepers of hers.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ceiling's the Limit

Today I have not been crafty.  Yet it is Craft Day.

I haven't forgotten, it's just that there was a big ugly ceiling in my way.
An ugly unpainted ceiling with a hole in it to be exact.
This is why I was scrounging small pieces of plaster board yesterday, from my neighbor's builder.

So my Friday finish this week was to patch and sand, and patch and sand, and patch some more.  I was eating plaster dust, everything went foggy with my safety glasses coated in plaster dust.

I treated myself to a new toy: a cordless orbital sander. It does the job but standing under that puppy is like having someone sift flour over your head.  And today was not only hair-washing day, but for a change I was having a rare Good-Hair-Day.  That is until I stood in a plaster board blizzard.

I filled the hole with my fifty-cent-piece sized Gyprock patch, I filled the edges with white goop and sanded again. And again.

Then I painted. Is there anyway you can roller paint onto a ceiling without getting covered in pin-prick spots? I don't think so.

I was a mess and I am now very tired. So no craft today.

But wait!
There was one other thing I whipped up this week and today I completed the second version.

That is my I Spy game but it's a bit like a scavenger hunt too. I put the first of these together to keep She-Who-Worships-Pink and her friend quiet in the car; the twenty minute monologues were driving me nuts.

The rules are that you can make a tick for as many times as you see anything on the list.

If it’s a photo/ graphic image, you must find something the same.

If it’s a cartoon, you can find something similar, like a poster on a bus or building or a toy in a shop window.

Pinkster and I walked to school the other morning with a good friend and her adorable little boy. I'd printed off two double-sided copies onto card and the kids brought pencils. It was so much fun seeing the energy and enthusiasm they poured into collaborating and finding as much as they could.

So today I've completed two versions in PDF format: one for my US readers and one for the Aussies (with our own roadsigns and post boxes).

If you have any trouble with the links please let me know and I'll email you the PDF right away.

Wishing you many peaceful journeys.  Good luck :0)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Life Less Glamorous

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In my jeans-bag today, I carried, several invoices, a power drill, a box of drill bits, a small saw, a piece of Gyprock (plasterboard) that I'd scrounged from someone else's building site, a saw guide thingy, my purse my phone, keys and doggy poo bags.

I had a call from the cabinet maker as we were leaving for the school run, then another from the tiler just after the bell rang. Try discussing logistics with a Tradie while about 100 noisy kids are racing past you from assembly.

In my capacity as a building project manager I was to be on-site on my 'tod' today after meeting with the cabinet designer to measure up and choose granite and laminates.  Yesterday I'd played hopscotch all over Sydney, picking up bathroom fixtures, ordering basins, buying tap mixers, trawling warehouses and collecting samples.

I made it back in time to pick Pinkster up from school, settle her with her French Coach and then set off again to take the trash out on our building site.

Today I was a bit lost. I get like that sometimes - there's so much to do I loose my focus. But the tiler had to put all his efforts into another job so it was time for me to sort out the bathroom ceiling before the wall tiles made it to the top.

There was a hole from the old light fitting and some plaster patchwork that had to be tidied up, and it all needs to be painted before the tiler gets back on the job.

So that was my afternoon; after gathering, buying and  packing more supplies and equipment - screwing on wardrobe board handles (except one broke) I patched and sanded a bathroom ceiling.  This process is not unlike doing porcelain fingernails (if you've ever done your own). You need to slap on the product over the gaps before it hardens, wait for it to fully dry, sand it back, then fill in with more product and sand again.

Except this is a really big bloody fingernail and it's above my head, which is pretty disastrous for my poor neck, having had one too many whip-lashes. Note to self: must make a booking with the chiropractor for Saturday to work out the cricks in my neck.

The tiler called tonight (while I was executing a bottie-wipe) full of apologies, because the other job is running behind.  I made his day at least, when I said I needed another day for sanding and painting the ceiling.  Incidentally in my spare time, I am trying to do my best as a single parent (Mr Frenchie is still in the US) and I'm three quarters of the way through writing a best seller. (I  hope). I could just do with a few more hours in my day.

Pretty much everyone else is happy. Including my chiropractor who can probably order his next Porsche going by the state of my C2 vertebrae.

Still loving my tool bag :0)
PS: One thing I haven't had time for is grocery shopping. We've run out of coffee and toilet paper, so it'll be a tough morning tomorrow.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bag Lady

Today my handbag carried a couple of wardrobe handles, some door knobs, a binder holding- receipts-color samples and bench-top finish brochures, also my cellphone, a roll of doggy poo bags, my purse, reading glasses, sunglasses a tape-measure, mini-iPad, a boy-scout style utility knife, rubber gloves and a make-up compact.

Since I've morphed into a building site foreman (woman) my day-to-day teeny trendy Vespa shoulder bag had to go.
For the duration of my renovation I need something sturdy (I've already ripped the lining of the Vespa by stuffing too much into the pockets).
It also needs to be big enough for a binder, some tools, tape measure, bits and pieces of random metal and timber, but with handy external pockets for smaller items such as car-keys, lip balm and phone (that will likely get mashed by all of the above).

I used to wear a tool-belt, but the landscapers that worked on our deck teased me mercilessly. After I went shopping in a trade tool supplier and saw the kind of calendars they hung on the walls, I totally 'got it' and stopped wearing that thing immediately - practical as it was.

This is NOT a look I want to be associated with
 So after a couple of hours light sewing and seam ripping I have something practical and modest and I only get teased when I need to unzip the fly to remove larger items:

This is such an easy bag to make:

Cut a pair of old jeans off just below the crotch and open up the inside leg seams. Open the front seam to just below the bottom of the fly and the back seam almost to the back yolk.  Fold these pieces over to flatten out both the back and front then top stitch them in place. Trim off the excess fabric on the inside - bind or zigzag it first if you want to stop fraying.

I used a leg off-cut to cut out an oval for the bag bottom, I used heavy stiffening (i.e. cut up plastic meat trays from the butcher) to give the bottom some support. If you do this make sure your stiffening is smaller than the fabric oval by your seam allowance measurement. This way your machine wont choke trying to sew three layers of denim plus a chunk of stiff plastic.

The easy way out is to just sew front and back together at the bottom and forget a base altogether - it looks just as good.  For me it just wasn't as sturdy for carrying lumpy heavy random stuff.

Oh and I almost forgot the straps: I used some scraps of garment leather I had lying about, but old belts (especially using the buckles as a feature) work well too. Again just be mindful theyre not too thick because again your sewing machine just might choke. If you don't have old belts laying about check out the local Op-Shop.

I love making stuff out of old jeans - when this renovation's done with, I'm going to pull out some more denims and get creative - maybe the Pinkster could do with a little jeans bag of her own and another denim cap..

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Monday, May 5, 2014

A womans work..

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I think it was specifically at the point, mid-morning, where I was supporting my weight on the bathroom window sill, elegantly squatting over an imaginary toilet marked out in pencil on bare cement, that I asked myself; "am I out of my depth here?"

I am project managing a building site and I'm making it up as I go along. Much to the amusement/ bemusement of my Tradies: affectionately known as the A-Team . They're all mates, and that makes my job easier because they co-ordinate, but best of all they're pedantic, perfectionists and clean.

The plumber was trying not to laugh and I was saying: "No, this will work - I have long legs right? - but most of that length is from knee to hip, so it's a good indicator."

He gave a resigned shrug and said, "OK, shuffle back a bit you're on the edge of the seat there," he looked like he was going to laugh. We were trying to measure out how much space was necessary between the toilet and the shower.

After my undignified squat on 'the imaginary throne', showed us we had ample space,  I made him (because he's broader than I am) stand in the imaginary cubicle and put his hands on his head. Elbow to elbow this , very scientifically, gave us the minimum measurement for the width of the shower. "You don't want to whack your elbows on the screen while you're washing your hair" I explained.

But this was just part of my day. Aside from being hair washing day, I'd already cooked breakfast for She-Who-Worships-Pink, packed the lunchbox, got her ready for/ and to, school (just in time) walking rather than driving for a change. I delivered her forgotten water bottle back to school, called the plumber twice on the road, stopped into Reece Plumbing and ordered the toilet pan, went back home for my reading glasses (God knows what I paid for that toilet -I couldn't read the invoice for the life of me).

I also experimented with tile removal using tools I bought six months ago for a job at home that's still not finished.  I watched a YouTube "removing tiles without breaking them" video first before going live with a hammer and chisel.
I was so proud; the tile I was working on slipped into my hand with neither fuss nor breakage and without damaging the render underneath.  Fueled with a certain smug enthusiasm I then went tile shopping.

After school run, while Pinkster danced her legs off in Jazz Ballet I popped home again, printed, paid and  filed invoices.

This new job as a building project manager (which pays as well as my writing - hah) started a month ago when we bought a one bedroom flat as an investment.
It was dated, run down and had an 'original' 50s bathroom in grey and pink.  The toilet bowl was pink, the sink was pink, the towel rail was pink, the soap holders were pink the loo-roll holder was pink, the tessellated floor tiles were grey and pink.  Even She-Who-Worships-Pink thought it was the ugliest bathroom on the planet.

But as real estate agents are fond of saying in these cases - it was: "Full of Potential". That is certainly true, but realising that potential (between 10am and 2:30pm) was more than I'd bargained for. You see it also had 1950's plumbing too and that is where the budget blow-out will no doubt come from. Not helping the situation is the Strata Managers (BCS) who have turned out to be as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike with their response(or lack thereof) to water-leak emergencies, general information, repairs.. um even responding to phone calls.

So that was my day. The Orange dog, on the other hand, had an excellently indulgent day, starting with the walk to school with the usual hugs and petting from a ton of uniformed kids. On to the flat for some more petting and fuss from the plumber and his apprentice. Then a walk on the foreshore where he scored more fuss and adoration from two strangers. At Reece plumbing supplies he lay on his back in the showroom - legs akimbo with no less than four sales people taking turns rubbing his belly.

He was a bit disgusted to have zero attention in the tile store but after a drive through KFC where he was compensated with half a box of popcorn chicken, his fragile ego was forgotten.
The walk back to school and Ballet class, is always a guaranteed cuddle-fest but two little girls in leotards kept him company today while I took Pinkster in and helped her get changed.

Tomorrow I have to order carpet and buy bathroom tiles by end-of-day. I need to meet with the tiler on site first thing (after school run) and discuss what and how many I need to buy and what we can do to cover up the ugly mottled and broken peach monstrosities that serve as a very poor imitation of a kitchen splash-back.

I'm guessing tomorrow will be another day that I won't see the inside of a gym, lunch with anyone, get a haircut, pedicure, flu shots, Botox, or even a quick coffee with a girlfriend.

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One Mother Hen

Friday, May 2, 2014

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Loud

The neighbours are driving me nuts.

You can live with early evenings and late mornings punctuated with loud drunken guffaws.
But the 3, 4, and 5am screaming matches and tipping over metal garden furniture onto brick pavers is seriously un-fun. Especially since their nocturnal playground is directly under our bedroom window.

  The sequel to Sleepless in Sydney recently published on The Bub Hub..this is where I really take the gloves off...  read more here..

Fashion Flash Back

This post is both; a bit of a flash-back and also about flashing your back.

I would like to apologise up front to those of you I might alienate with my unbridled contempt towards very feminine fashion. I think the Duchess of Cambridge looks fabulous, I just wish fashion buyers would put something else on offer in-store for those of us who's style is different.

Just sayin'.

I love my little girl to pieces, but not her taste in clothes; when we go shopping together she makes me try on what, to me, are the most extraordinarily ugly dresses.
Always uber-girly; always floral (with a strong bias on Liberty prints)  and more often than not flouncy with pinched in waists and full skirts.

I'm not a girlie-girl or a flouncy flowery dress person.

I'm more of a style-fan of Marlene Dietrich and Audrey Hepburn. I like straight uncomplicated lines and I NEVER wear florals - unless it's a Vintage 60's shift-dress the likes of these..

I hate gowns that resemble meringues with a passion so the last ball I went to I wore a custom tux with a backless fly-wing shirt inspired by the 1983 movie Flashdance .

I've always loved wearing suits. I used to go to a lot of balls, and the 'who's-wearing-the-best-dress? contests' used to make me gag, so that's why I decided to opt-out and join the guys.

Suits are classics, if they're cut well, they're dead sexy, ageless, timeless and you get a nice warm jacket as part of the deal with pockets which beats the hell out of dancing around your handbag.

So I thought, for our weekly 'crafty' I would talk about my conversion of a simple halter top into a fly-wing shirt.

I used a McCalls pattern, wish I could tell you which one, but there are quite a few vintage patterns on Etsy that would convert well.

Something like this, cut down, would be ideal.
I cut a pattern for the Dickie front laying tissue paper over the front pattern pieces. As my shirt front pieces had darts for the bust shaping I made sure that my Dickie fronts didn't cover these.
Then I took two pieces of my main fabric and pleated them before cutting them to shape (with allowance for turn-under).
After that, I pinned them to the shirt front panels and top-stitched them in place, lined up with the centre front (leaving the turn under for the front facing clear).

I sewed the  facings and side seams, attached my modified collar and left the button holes till last.  I wish I could give you a short cut for the fly-wing collar, but how you do this depends entirely on your original pattern's collar and you just have to tweak it until it looks right. I always experiment on paper first, even pinning or using sellotape to add pieces to the pattern.

Adding pearl or glass buttons and satin ribbon, gives it an even more formal finish. If I were younger and still had a six-pack I would do a cropped version with a fringe of beads along the bottom. Sadly I still have the beaded fringe I bought to do that, but not the six-pack. 

So here you have it; my timeless masterpiece (eh-hem) and back-flashing flash-back to Flashdance:
 a movie that launched several iconic fashion looks most of which enjoyed a renaissance in later years (even legwarmers!).

Thank God the monster shoulder pads didn't quite make it across the line the second time around.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Funny Girl

I am thankful for laughter. Except when milk comes out of my nose. .
Woody Allen

"A day without laughter is a day wasted."
Charlie Chaplin

This girl makes me laugh. Even way back in day care her teachers enjoyed her fabulously quirky sense of humour. She can find fun and humour in practically anything. For example the other weekend were walking The Orange Dog at one of our local leash-free parks. Like many parks on Sydney's Lower North Shore this one was on the water front.

So while we're throwing the Frizzbee and Buddy is doing his best aerial work catching it mid-air, a wedding party arrived  with a photographer.
The bride and groom posed for several smoochy shots with the water and boats as a romantic back-drop.  That was until a UFO of the orange kind flew into frame with a cobalt blue saucer shaped thing in his mouth.

Nanna was with us and she pointed out that our Orange acrobat was 'spoiling' the wedding photos. Pinkster and I looked at each other both of us catching on our, minds zipping into comic overdrive. I said, "Can you imagine their wedding photo album?" "People will look at their photos and wonder what that orange streak is with it's teeth reaching for some blue thing!"

That was enough for Pinkster and she laughed so hard she nearly wet herself. We both did a few impersonations of Buddy's various frizzbee-catching-facial expressions. And she laughed even harder. I love her laugh. One day I'll record it into a ring tone and she'll make me smile all day long; I'll stop moaning when the phone rings.

When we got home she decided we had to make our own UFOO (unidentified flying orange object) wedding photos:

She was chuckling the whole time she worked on her pictures then she made me draw one for her (the first in this lot) but decided to add wee falling onto the groom's head.

She riffed on the wedding theme and came to a boy at her school who apparently says, often, he's "in love with lamb chops". So then she drew his future wedding photos with his beloved chop in a wedding gown while he's, all dressed up, trying to shoo away all the dogs trying to snatch his bride.

She has quite an imagination. Her teacher tells me she can't wait  to see what Pinkster comes up with for this term's narrative exercises. Me either.

Well tonight it wasn't about drawing weddings or flying dogs either.  She was in the bath and although the water was toasty warm she told me she felt cold.  I offered to put on the heat lamps, which we rarely use because they're blindingly bright, and this is how the situation deteriorated:

She called out to me half an hour after I tucked her in; "Mummy! I cant sleep.  Your glasses are in my bed!"


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