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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I loved Christmas when I was a child; the anticipation, the visiting the store Santa in Bayards (a family dept store now long gone), explaining to Santa what presents I'd like and then eating the free 'fairyfloss' that the store gave out. We'd have chicken for Christmas dinner and it was such a treat. It's hard to imagine these days that chicken was a special occasion meal. I remember I really wanted Roast Chicken like my friends would have but we had a type of casserole with tomatoes, onions, butter, olive oil, potatoes and of course chicken pieces. It was delicious though and years later I started cooking 'Stufato' myself although minus the lashings of butter. On many Christmas days, my father worked and they were quiet days with just my mother for company. Actually that's not quite true...I would be eagerly 'devouring' new books I'd been given as presents so I enjoyed the company of books. My father died in January 1967. He had been very ill in hospital but he was allowed to spend a few hours at home on Christmas day. I think I started to go 'off' Christmas then. Looking back, I wonder why we didn't go to other people's places to celebrate Christmas in the years following???? We didn't really have much in the way of family in Brisbane so that could partly explain it.
When I married, my inlaws lived in Melbourne and occasionally we'd visit them for Christmas and then my MIL started to come up quite regularly. Both mothers were widowed. Gradually Christmas started to become enjoyable and when the girls were born I was completely back to the excitement etc of the season with decorating etc. The tradition of having the big dinner on Christmas Eve came about when I found out my mum was turning down offers of Christmas lunch with friends because she felt obliged to have lunch/dinner with my family. By celebrating on Christmas Eve, mum could spend Christmas Day any way she liked. When I met Bruce, he liked the idea of Christmas Eve so it continued. My brother and his family consider it a tradition to spend Christmas Eve at Aunty 'Ria's as well.
For a little while Bruce and I found Christmas day a bit of a trial. Bruce's girls would come for gifts after breakfast, then we'd be at my brother's for lunch (yes we'd dined with his family the night before) then Bruce's brother's for afternoon tea and evening meal...It was too much so now we just go to David's (brother of Bruce) for lunch and the girls do gifts on Christmas eve. For a number of years we've gathered at the home of Bruce's cousin, Pamela for a cold buffet meal usually a week before Christmas. Our meal is also rarely a hot roast meats' meal as there are so many to feed and that's a lot of vegies to peel!!! We have BBQ or sometimes cold meats and salads but always plum pudding and custard.

We have a tree but over the years I've replaced the decorations. I have lots of handmade ones which are old but mostly the tree is covered with decorations I bought on our UK/Europe trip in 2008. I'd post a photo but I need Bruce's help to get out all the boxes of decorations from the high cupboards in the bathroom. In my classroom each year I have displayed a knitted Nativity which I bought at a craft market years ago. I've never been 'chipped' for having such a thing in my room and the kids love to move the figures around and ask lots of questions about how the little figures look like pictures on some Christmas cards.

Bruce and I always send a Christmas letter with our cards (last year some went electronically) and cards we receive are hung on some cord strung across the loungeroom. I love buying gifts and all the wrapping and on Christmas Eve, we all squeeze into the lounge after dinner to open our gifts. I usually end the evening by serving at the Midnight service. I had a break from that last year but am doing it this year as Father Rod was stuck with no one to serve.

This year, the girls are doing Secret Santa; so they each only buy for one sister. I think I'd like to go that way too. In recent years I've been overwhelmed with the generosity of my family and the gifts they've given me. I've experienced a feeling of even a type of sadness as I know I don't need this much 'stuff'; I feel guilty that I have 'excess' while others have so little. No one whom I've confided this feeling to, understand. Perhaps they think I'm ungrateful??? Next year I vow to make more gifts and even this year, I'll make my infamous (lol)rumballs (with brandy tho') and package them up for my colleagues next week. One colleague will get a knitted throw. I may get some time as I said in my previous post to make a few more gifts for a cousin and sisters-in law. It won't be long now....and I do love the laidback Boxing day and the following days up to new Year's Day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Retirement is getting closer...

At lunch yesterday with 'old' friends the topic of my impending retirement came up a few times. Some couldn't understand why I was using my Long Service Leave to ease into retirement; why not take the leave in cash some friends asked? One of my friends also works for the state government and she nodded's about money! Now I know that my first post was all about turning my back on consumerism and being 'happy with less' but it also pays to be a bit canny and work with the systems. By taking LSL I'm still accruing Rec Leave, LSL, sick leave and coasting along to the next pay-rises in July, all without going to work. As I turn 60 in May, when I do access my Super I won't pay income tax so my small pension will go further perhaps?
I've been doing a few things in anticipation of finishing paid work. Yesterday I joined a local patchwork shop's  'The Patchwork Tree' (here) 'Possum Club' and look forward to classes and regular social sewing events. I also plan to go to some of the 'sessions' that Gabrielle organises at the American Yarns, here as, for example, on Monday nights I soon won't be exhausted at 5.30! I'm really fortunate to live so close to a number of special stores. Near American Yarns is another patchwork shop and over at New Farm (another suburb on the northside of Brisbane) is Tangled Yarns here. And at the last Craft Fair I discovered a woolshop off Shaw Road in another close suburb. So lots of exploring coming up.
On a more mundane level I have been putting a lot of effort into clearing my classroom; giving away useful items to young staff, putting a lot of paper into the art/recycle boxes and heaps into the Visy bin (recycler) and other things into the ordinary bins. I've had to be ruthless as I have no space here at home for school resources any more. Space at home is for stashes, both fabric and wool/yarns. Today I brought home many of the containers that I've used at various stages in my classrooms. They represent a fair bit of money outlayed and will be useful for storing stash or items in the laundry cupboard which is my husband's territory. I also have brought home display folders that held various teaching resources. All those photocopied items and patterns will now have a new home, at no added cost. I think that the way things are going that on my last day Dec8, I should be able to achieve my goal of walking out with just my handbag and spare umbrella! Quite an achievement if you consider what I started with late last term.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Lead-up to Christmas

Every year at this time I regret not having made more of an effort to make gifts for the people in my life. Will that all change next year when I am retired?? This year I even subscribed to the 'Fairies in My Garden' gift of the month program so I could be organised. I have a delightful pile of projects completely untouched except the initial drooling over the contents when the monthly package arrived. This year I also did an online course with Judy Hall from 'Punch with Judy' in the uses of the 'Pleating tool'. Had a lot of fun working through the lessons but no gifts have emerged from that exercise.
However all is not lost in the 'make a Christmas Gift stakes'...I have made a knitted throw for my teaching partner of the last 2 years and after school finishes for me on Dec 8 there is still time to make something for a friend who uses blue for her Christmas decorating....after all I have the blue Christmas fabric and the patterns. lol

Francesca's Rug

Shortly I'm heading off to a Christmas lunch with a group of friends which we call the 'Newmarket Mums' as we all lived in the area and got to know each other when our children attended Newmarket State school. We bonded through Tuckshop roster, P&C Meetings, sewing Bees and Fete Committees, street stalls and raffles. We meet for coffee each month on the last Sunday of the month Jan-Sept, lunch in November and don't meet in December and have been doing this for years. Today we have Secret Santa and my gift is something I bought from a market; a net table throw, very useful in Queensland. But a niggly thought in my brain keeps saying...'You used to sew all sorts of could have made something yourself...' on and on 'it' nags! lol Maybe next year in the next stage of my life!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Quilting Cause; For Families of NZ miners lost in the tragedy.
Here is a link to Shirley Goodwin who is co-ordinating 'The Healing Hearts Quilt Squares'.

When Things go wrong!

Yesterday a few disappointing things happened to me but you have 'to take the good with the bad I reckon'. I tend to 'beat myself up' blaming myself and making myself miserable when things don't go as planned but I'm gradually learning to stop that and be a bit more philosophical about disappointments. I have been working on a knitted throw on and off for a month or so and it's about 60cm long. It's my 'no brainer' design of simple garter stitch chevron pattern using lots of fancy yarns to get that luxury effect with little effort or real concentration. But something went wrong yesterday; something that had never happened before. In the 'new bit' I had knitted yesterday 2 huge holes appeared. So I pulled the knitting off the circular needle and pulled out a few inches. I examined the yarn and it seemed strong and not moth damaged. Then I tried to pick up the 185 stitches but using fancy yarns makes this a nightmare. I didn't seem to be able to do it at all. This had never happened to me before! So instead of unpicking the whole rug, I zigzaged the end on the sewing machine to stop the unravelling and then crocheted over the zigzag with a simple double crochet edging. It's most probably will be a cat rug now or...I may make it into a cushion as the yarns are lovely.
The story doesn't end there...later that night I was reading a craft mag in bed and started reading an article about 3 women who earn a living with their crafts. One question was asked of all there', 'Have you ever had any crafting disasters?'. They all said yes but 2 made a similar observation...'The important thing is how you handle the disappointment of something going wrong' ... and I thought how true!
This is one of my 'Chevron No-brainer' Throws. Someone actually paid me money for this one!

The rug I was working on was not for any particular person. I was just trying to get a little stockpile of rugs so if a raffle prize is needed or someone is having a traumatic time and need cheering up...well I had some throws in reserve. I still have one spare so that's not too bad. With the hotter weather coming I'm going to knit some 'kite shapes' to sew into a rug next winter or so. As well,on the 'Jimmy Beans' webpage they have some great projects called 'scarves into throws' where you knit a number of narrow rectangles and then stitch them into a throw. These projects avoid the heat of knitting throws in summer.
PS still don't really know what happened yesterday; it could have been carelessness and I dropped some stitches...time to move on and work on something else while the cat get's used to his new rug! lol

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This is an example of my knitted slipstitch throws from the 1990s. Holding it up is my daughter Jen

Yesterday I attended a reunion lunch with friends from my school days. I sat opposite Glenda who was in my class all throughout primary school and then high school although she left school early in our Grade 12 year. All the ladies at the lunch talked about our school days but somehow we got around to talking about how girls did sewing once a week. We mentioned the samplers we made, the aprons etc but Glenda and I remembered knitting a washer (facecloth) out of cotton in Grade 5. I remember thinking what a daggy thing this washer was...but now it's very trendy among the 'knitterati' to knit washers and dishcloths!

Still looking back...I learned to knit at the end of Grade 2. My mum was always knitting and I was always pestering her to teach me. Finally she relented and I started with some plastic needles and some red 4 ply wool. It was supposed to be a scarf and I remember the holes in it and the wavy edge but I had knitted something. A few years later I had a go at knitting dolls' clothes from patterns in mum's English Womens Weekly. I remember those turning out quite well so I must have been able to read a pattern. Didn't do too much knitting then for years as wool was so expensive. Started knitting again in earnest after I started working as I could afford the wool!

Started knitting throws instead of crocheting them when I gave up work to stay home with my girls. Knitting used less yarn than crocheting. I discovered 'slipstitch' patterns at that time and still use them today. They're easy, as, despite being multi coloured, only one colour is used per row. As times goes on, I'll put some of the patterns I use on this blog to share. I'm planning to do lots of knitting when I'm retired...even dishcloths!

Friday, November 19, 2010


This weekend is a busy one with not only social commitments but also it's the last weekend before the class reports are due to be ready for the Principal's perusal on Monday 3pm. Reporting has changed so much in the years I've been teaching. (I started in 1971!) We used to have a card that was Ed Dept issue and we handwrote them. Then schools started designing their own... and we handwrote them. At one school where I was teaching they had 'whiteout' that was coloured blue to match the card colour; so if you made a mistake you didn't have to write out a whole new report card.

The next innovation in reporting was completing reports using computers. Most of the early 'computer' reports that I had to use were created using 'Word' and the formatting was woeful, but still we soldiered on. I know of one male teacher who refused to do them this way and was given permission by 'admin' to handwrite them. I had discovered the wonders of 'cut and paste' and 'auto' something so actually preferred the computer reports. Then 'people' developed computer report templates with inbuilt, drop-down menu, comments...speeded up things tremendously!

The next stage in reports happened a few years ago. Reports are done on-line, through Ed Qld's site, 'One School'. Formatting is great and it's easy to navigate but if something happens to your internet connection (Like what happened to me yesterday) you are in trouble. Sometimes problems occur such as 'out-ages' (?) or the system gets really slow or as in the case for me with the reporting this time, the program freezes.

The Administrator at school controls access to these reports. At 3pm on Monday the site will be locked for class teachers; you won't be able to change or enter details. This way they catch who ever has not finished the reports by the correct time. People with a higher clearance than the class teachers can then access and check and change if necessary the reports...usually the Principal and head of Curriculum.
But I've kept the best till last...This is the last lot of reports I'll have to do!!!! I don't think I'll miss testing, piles of resultant marking, collating results and filling in reports and parent interviews in my own time! Roll on retirement!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Rowan, Ion and Harry
This morning I'm privileged to be attending my nephew Ion's year 12 Graduation Ceremony over at Kedron Park High. Needless to say I'm very proud of his achievements. I didn't meet Ion until the day of his 6th birthday party in December 1999. Until then I didn't know he even existed...or his father, mother, older brother and sister and baby brother! I had been brought up as an only child but knew my mother had a daughter from a previous marriage and who lived with rellies in NSW. But I also apparently had a brother who had been given up for adoption and he finally tracked me down in December 1999. What a lot of emotions I can recall from that time in 1999...getting to know a whole new family and being able to use the term-'my brother...' My mother was still alive at that time but in a nursing home. She and my brother spent some wonderful times together; he was so 'good' with her. At first I felt so sorry for her giving up a child like that; I couldn't even imagine what it was like. Then I went through another phase of being angry with her- shortlived thank goodness as it's no point being upset with things that you can't change! She died a few days after my 50th birthday and Harry ( my brother was named Rosario by my mother and his adoptive parents re-named him Ralph but he's known as Harry)was there to help and support me. They had had 18months together where she was quite 'with it' and then the last 6 months weren't so good as the MS really 'flared up' and took away her swallowing mechanism and speaking was difficult. And my life was to continue to change...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scary Stuff

Well, I've done it...started a blog of my own! I have very little idea of what I'm doing but hopefully it will work out. I'm at the stage of my life where I question my embracing of consumerism. I'm starting to realise that I can be happy and contented with 'less' rather than 'more'. I've made the BIG decision to retire at the end of the year and I plan to explore a number of options of what I can do with my life.