February 07, 2016

SUMMER 2016 || PINNING THINGS 'GRASS IS GREENER'

HOW quickly things can change from one month to another. My January post had me back at my old job for the start of the new year, and this post has me starting a new job. I'm not kidding you that when I leaped, I really leaped. I was making plans to leave my former job. I commuted four hours daily and my directors were aware I was looking to leave the early starts, long days and inflexible hours behind in 2016 - at least for a little while.

Rather, one phone call was all it took to set me on the path of an opportunity close to home, working with a grassroots community organisation moving from organic growth to strategic growth. I'll be setting down a communications strategy and implementing processes and ways of working that the small, already busy team and their customers can work with. I can't wait to dive in. The contract's for six months and I've got my eye firmly on what needs to be done while preparing for what comes next.

This is going to be one busy and, hopefully, fulfilling year. I'm ready for it.


THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: Maybe if I start on these this month I should be able to wear then when the weather turns cool. I am a fan of the leg warmer.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Spinach balls with pesto sauce. I'd make enough to ensure there was something to pack for a work lunch. I'm going to have get better at preparing my lunches the night before. I was spoiled in the city for lunch choices but it wasn't great on the waistline and cost a fortune. I'm going to be a lot more controlled, on both fronts.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: Green boots. Need I say more? I don't really need new work attire, but if these boots were to come into my life, I wouldn't be complaining.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: I actually think this would make a stunning, if not over the top wallpaper of furnishings fabric. My partner and I bought a delightful mid-century single rocker for $50 at the op shop last week. The fabric on it is great but needs a clean up. We're also thinking about reupholstering and something like this would be on my short-list.

#flashback: I was trying to keep the summer holiday glow alive, without success.

January 31, 2016

SUMMER 2016 || JANUARY... I'VE DONE IT


WHAT a start to the year. So many people I know have had a really, really tough start to the year, and that's the case here too. But there have been good things. Things to savour and look forward to. Even things that can only be described as a leap of faith.

It is a leap year, after all.

In JANUARY:

I WENT TO… Melbourne. I was there for work but went early and took a weekend to see friends and explore. It was just what I needed, a 'not-really-a-holiday' holiday. I spent a day with a friend going through a tough time. We wandered and window shopped. We ate. We knitted. We bitched. We whined. We let it all out. Another friend I hadn't seen for years - so long ago I was meeting her adorable pre-school age son for the first time. We chatted over dinner preparation, walked around her garden and her neighbourhood and late in the evening we bid our farewells with promises not to leave it so long until next time.

I ATE… While I was in Melbourne and whenever I am away from home I like to eat breakfast and make it a big one. Then I'll hunt out a fruit smoothie for lunch, and eat a light dinner. The Huevos Sucios, or Dirty Eggs, breakfast at Archies, in Fitzroy, was capital 'B'-Big with an egg, hash browns, avocado and spicy bits. It's not clean, green, Paleo, sugar-free or anything close to a fad diet. Eat it and enjoy, I say. Closer to where I was staying in the CBD was The Mess Hall. Simple fare with a bench to prop yourself up at and watch people passing in the street. I also stumbled upon the hipster haven Seven Seeds. It was next door to where I was due for a meeting. I dunno. I love flavour and something a bit special for breakfast - it is, after all my favourite meal of the day - but this menu was completely overdone for my taste, as was the price.

Thank you too for all your Melbourne dining suggestions. I found Vegie Bar and will be checking out Gazi on my next trip.

I OP SHOPPED… I've been to Melbourne for many a weekend but never been to Camberwell Markets, despite people telling me I'd love it. They were right. It's a great rummage of a weekend market. I picked up a 1970s corduroy jumpsuit, cute Italian-made leather boots and a fistful of vintage sewing patterns, all for under $50. I also picked out a couple of lush looking chilli plants to gift to that night's dinner hosts. Camberwell Markets, I'll be back.

I MADE… A change. A big change that I hope will lead to more making. I quit my job. Gulp. Yup. I quit my steady pay-packet, uber-professional, UN agency, city-based job. An out-of-the-blue offer was made and it ticked all the boxes for where I am at right now. It's a short-term contract, four days a week, close to home, working with a grass roots NGO dedicated to serving its local community. I've missed working in my local community and with people who are both professional and pragmatic, but also creative and innovative. It's always sad to leave behind work you're proud of and a family of people with whom you share your working day, but my long commutes were starting to take their toll and when the opportunity came knocking, I grabbed it. I leave in a week and can't yet get my head around the extra time I'll have to run, garden, read, volunteer, spend time with family and friends... and make. Watch this space.

I READ… Audio books are pushing me through my reading. I sped, quite literally, through Liane Moriaty's The Husband's Secret. It was a book club recommendation but I guessed the major plot points pretty early on, so doubled the speed at which it was read on my iPod and zoomed through. A bit ho hum, really. Not one to speed through was Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood. Her writing is stellar, but it's not likely to leave you with much faith in the human race.

#image: With all the changes, my garden has been neglected, but even a neglected garden bears fruit. Tonight's lentil fritters were served with tomatoes and cucumber straight from the garden.

January 26, 2016

THE QUESTIONS I AM ASKING THIS AUSTRALIA DAY


WHERE did you spend Australia Day? Beach? Barbecue? Beer garden? How did you spend it? Perhaps you made a statement and stood with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Perhaps you were celebrating our newest Australians, or welcoming our newest migrant arrivals - the handful of Syrian refugees that are, right now, making a home under our big, blue, safe skies.

Perhaps you were listening to former army chief David Morrison as he received his Australian of the Year accolade.

I did. I listened to Morrison speak on ABC radio this morning while driving to my stepdaughter’s house to help pack the last of her belongings before she closes a chapter on a broken and regularly violent relationship. The irony of where I was headed on this Australia Day, while I listened to the 2016 Australian of the Year talk of the big shoes he has to fill to follow the work of outgoing awardee and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty, was not lost on me. No.

Rather, I wanted to ask Mr Morrison - a man true to his word, I am sure - how many of the men he served alongside have gone on to respond with aggression and violence in their homes and among their families. Did he know the man who has - through his own poor and inexcusable responses and exacerbated by the service he has done - turned the lives of my family upside down, and, did he know the army was helping make men like him?

Of Ms Batty, is conversation and awareness enough when mainstream services can turn away from the weakest to protect the interests of those with power? I suspect she would tell me, no. If I was to go on and tell her how, this week, a real estate agent made my stepdaughter feel ashamed and embarrassed simply for trying to explain she was in fear of losing her good rental record because her husband – a man previously arrested for causing malicious damage – may destroy the rental home listed in both their names; I fear Ms Batty would simply face me knowingly, and tell me that, yes, this continues to be so.

She may, like so many others, ask whether my step-daughter is safe. And I would answer, I do not know, but today, this Australia Day, she and her one-year-old son are.


:: The women who did not find safety.
:: This happens every two minutes.
:: What Rosie says needs to be done now, yet isn't.

January 10, 2016

FIRST DAY BACK TIPS TO BEAT THE POST-HOLIDAY BLUES


AND just like that we're back. Back to work. Back to commuting. Far from shimmering coves and leafy bush walks.

As I've been back a week and am already interstate ready for two solid days of work meetings on Monday and Tuesday, I thought I'd share how I eased into the first working week of the new year.

1. SORT OUT THE INBOX
I filed and cleared a swag of emails from my inbox before the holidays. If you haven't done it already, make it your 'must-do' of the first day back.

Create a filing or tagging system for your emails. Anything that can't be automatically deleted move into those files, or tag accordingly. If there are items you have been procrastinating over, find a way to get rid of them.

If it's a piece of information you wish to store, find another way, like creating a digital note or index file in an app like Evernote. If you can't handle another online password, go analogue. Duck into a stationery supplies store and buy an indexed notebook and write down your must-keep notes.

2. PLAN A HEALTHY ROUTINE
I don't know about you, but my eating and exercise habits really took a hit at the end of the year. I was tired and stressed and it makes for the worst decisions. Bought lunches, too many coffees, too many sweet treats. Not only was it bad for me, it was costly. I have mentally added up what the weekly spend was - you don't want to know.

First week back I did a healthy shop of foods I could easily carry to work and would look forward to through the day. I added a herbal tea for those times an afternoon caffeine craving might strike so I'd have a better alternative. Though I didn't add a gym routine to the first week back, I have one planned for week two. One thing at a time, right?

3. PLAN SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Post-holiday blues can hit pretty hard in that first week. My partner and I have already been talking about scheduling weekend adventures close to home, but also a bit further afield so we have things to look forward to. They're simple things, like a bush walk somewhere new or a bike ride to a cafe for breakfast, to bigger things like a weekend away camping. They're fun to plan and knowing you've got them in the calendar helps when those workplace niggles start to bite.

4. BOOK TIME OUT WITH A MATE
I messaged a girlfriend I knew was in the city to see whether she had time for lunch during the week. Even though I'd planned a week of healthy lunches, I allowed for a lunch date to socialise and check both brain and body out of the office. When I take a packed lunch I tend to stay in the office and eat it - especially when the weather is wet and windy, like it was in Sydney last week. It means I end up taking calls, talking shop and not getting up and out to stretch the legs. Booking in a lunch date is the perfect circuit breaker.

Each of the above are no brainers and I am sure you have your own versions of getting across your constant to-do lists and ways to maintain your physical and mental health at work. Whatever you do, if tomorrow's your first day back at work this year, or perhaps, like me, your second, I hope you're able to ease your way back in.


January 05, 2016

SUMMER 2016 || PINNING THINGS TAKING IT EASY

I'M back at work this week, but I enjoyed a week of taking it pretty easy. I don't want things to slide from slow to "whoa", so I'm trying to stay organised and keep on top of stuff. January and February are shaping up to be busy months.


THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: I am running a fabric printing course for teen girls later this month. We'll be using cheap and easy techniques that pack a lot of visual punch, and I've been collecting a little inspiration.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Chilli salt, lime and watermelon. Too easy. 

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: I've been making new clothes from garments I've cut down. They're simple in shape and design and I've been thinking through different printed and sewn embellishments. Brooklyn-based By Rachel Rose has got it just right.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: Ola Liola's beautiful flowering gum print is sold out but what a gorgeous permanent reminder of the gums coming into bloom right now.

#flashback: It was all about summer colour this time last year.

December 30, 2015

SUMMER 2015 || DECEMBER... I'VE DONE IT


WHILE we've had a few hot days on the coast, it's been a pretty mild summer here thus far. Sadly, others can't say the same. Dangerous fires at one end of the country and dangerous rain and flooding at the other. Those well out of harm's way has more than the usual to be grateful for this Christmas.

In DECEMBER:

I WENT TO… Work and home. Work and home. With so much to do in December, we kept it pretty light and easy and didn't stretch the load, or budget, too much.

I ATE… My weight's worth in Christmas cheer. So. Much. Food. We've all declared dining will be much lighter next year. I saw Bradshaw and Sons Boxing Day tradition posted today and think we might implement that idea too.

I OP SHOPPED… A new dress for work - in the usual '80s tradition I am want to go for.

A second dress: an embroidered muumuu for want of a better description. The fabric is great though. Colourful, Mexican-style embroidery. There's enough fabric in it to make it into something else and I have the scissors and sewing machine out.

And finally, new-to-me shorts and a couple of sewing patterns, one of which I'll try out on the muumuu.

I MADE… Actually, I unraveled the knitting I started last month. I kept the pattern going and went to check the instructions only to find I'd left the knitting magazine behind in Coolah - some six hours away. Needless to say I liked how the thrifted stash was knitting up, so dug out a new pattern and have the yarn back on the sticks.

I also finished my annual Christmas homemade decorations. I found this idea on Pinterest, made up a pattern and stitched up a storm.

I READ… Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples. This is young adult fiction set in Afghanistan. It tells the tale of a New York woman living in Afghanistan and wife to an Afghani doctor, and the story of a farming family living in an area under the control of the Taliban. It's a sad but honest read of life in Afghanistan, and sadly too many other conflict-riddled countries around the world. Whether a young adult, or just plain old adult, it's worth the read.

#image: A bladder cicada found dead but complete thanks to being out of sight of the garden's butcher bird and magpies.

December 27, 2015

I’VE DONE IT: TOP HOLIDAY READS FROM MY 2015 LIST

DO you ever think about how many thousands of words you’ve written in emails, text message, blog posts, comment replies over the years? Or how many you’ve read? I’ve written and read a library of words this year, but only cracked a dozen or so spines of actual books.

The remainder of my reading has, in the main, been emails and reports. So many reports. So many emails. In fact, I spent hours of last week cataloguing emails and replies. But, now, I have a week off with no plans and many, many books.

If you’ve managed to carve out time for holiday reading, here’s my suggestions from this year's reading list.

1 / 2 / 3

4 / 5 / 6

7 / 8 / 9

10 / 11 / 12

Happy holidays, and happy reading.

:: Brain Picking's best children's books of 2015
:: Top booksellers pick their best reads of the year
:: ABC Radio National presenters choose their summer holiday reads


December 21, 2015

IF VINTAGE CHRISTMAS TREE DECOR COULD TALK

THERE are op shop finds, garage sale find and car boot finds... and then there are finds like these vintage Christmas tree decorations and gift trimmings. For a mere handful of loose change, they came home with me.

I think these are Russian-made moulded tin ornaments. If you know more, do say. 

The mushroom was glass, and I think the Middle Eastern looking vase is too, though how those fine handles have survived the decades, I do not know. All the pieces came wrapped in old Christmas paper napkins, which I of course smoothed out and kept the best of.

I have vague recollections of boxes like these in my mother's own collection. The colours have worn off most of the baubles, but they still sparkle in the box.


Australian made "Gay Gift Tye" and "Glam Gift Tape", most of it as good as new and used on this year's wrapped gifts. The gift toppers are Japanese made, backed with stiff old florist wire and printed paper labels.

I hope they're all decorations that have been hung and loved through the years. Gosh, what stories could they tell? 

December 14, 2015

SUMMER 2015 || PINNING THINGS F#&* IT'S CHRISTMAS

OKAY. Nobody panic. We might be days away from Santa and his elves noticing that things are not peaceful, full of joy or even merry, but we can salvage this. We can. No, seriously. We got this.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || make and do and cook and eat for christmas

THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: No tree? What? Are you seriously that disorganised? Forget it. Make yourself some giant snowflakes. Even better make them out of recycled newspaper and tell people you're making a statement about climate change by refusing to chop down a tree and subtly nudging people to remember the snow-themed anomaly.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Gingerbread is really not that hard. It's not, and not having the fancy cutter to make Gingerbread People (the gender neutral version) is no excuse, especially if you can just roll a tablecloth over it, and, bam, you're done. Brilliant. People will be thinking you've come over all Martha Stewart.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || drop dough on and hang on the wall for Christmas
THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: Elk has you covered - one stop shopping, at least for the adults, and so long as you get it done by Sunday. It delivers and if you add a couple of dollars to your order, you're helping the world's children - see who said you weren't all peace and goodwill at Christmas.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: I am guessing if you're this disorganised, you probably have done nothing about writing Christmas cards and are feeling a little awkward about those you have received. No worries. Hang them like this, Instagram it and tag your friends with a 'thank you, love the card, yours is in the mail'. Forgiven.

#flashback: Damn it. This time last year I had one Christmas card. This year none. Is it me?