Sunday, 30 October 2011

Number Crunching

Do you ever feel like your identity is made up of an overwhelming array of numbers?
I have 45 followers on my blog, 4707 total views, an average of 80 views per post, and a total of 186 comments.
I have 408 friends on Facebook. 116 likes on my Tickle & Hide page. 30 of my friends like my page. Likes are down 2 from last month and I have 700 less news feed impressions but 500 more active monthly users (I don't even know what that means!?)
On Etsy, I have 150 people who either like my store or an item. I've had 4500 views. 26 sold orders.
I've had 422 views of my Flickr photostream. That's the only numbers Flickr will give me, but if I pay $24.95 a year, they promise:
  1. Be enthralled by graphs and charts!
  2. Learn which of your photos are popular today, this week, or over all time
  3. Discover where your visitors are coming from
  4. See how they found you
  5. Thrill at a helpful breakdown of your photos
...more numbers.

Thankfully, my scales still don't work (you can read that story here) so I have no idea how much I weigh!)

After my last blog post, a recipe and fun photos for Christmas decorations, I set the lap top open on the couch and continued on my way, looking after the kids, hanging out the washing. Every so often, as I'm in the habit of doing, I'd walk past and hit 'refresh' on my stats page to watch the views come in.
But this time, even three hours later, there was nothing. No one was clicking on my link. No one was interested.
I actually discovered later that my stats counter has gone on an early holiday. But it still bothered me that I couldn't measure the response to my post. I checked Facebook. People weren't commenting, weren't liking, reposting.
I took a little while (I'm ashamed to admit) to realise that I don't want to be doing what I do for your approval. I don't want to spend my day informing myself of my personal worth with the selection of numbers available. And so, instead, I went and had a picnic on the lawn with the kids. (Tully, who was told he could choose one thing from the fridge to bring out to share with us, very excitedly emptied a whole bag of shredded cheese onto a plate and presented it to us proudly. It was just too cute and funny to refuse, so we had shredded cheese, carrots and mandarins for lunch.)

I wrote here about my disappointment last month at not being chosen as a finalist for Stitched in Color's Autumn sewing competition. While outside, munching on cheese, I remembered that I wanted my creations to be an expression of me, not what raises the numbers, or gets chosen.

Then, yesterday morning while drinking my coffee, I was scanning through my blog reader and saw my name. I doubled back. I had been chosen as a finalist in the next round of the Celebrate Color comp! I kept reading. I have TWO items chosen! I couldn't believe it! I quickly posted on Facebook to tell everyone to vote for me. Then I went back to check out the competition. One finalist, who had made a beautiful autumn quilt, had over 500 followers on her blog. And she had already written a blog post asking people to vote for her. Another had over 1000. Why did they need to ask for votes? They have blog sponsors, don't they get free fabric all the time? (The prize includes loads of beautiful fabric) I could feel that ugly, black creeping feeling I get when I start to compare, start to feel ripped off. Added to that was my frustration that I couldn't even see how many people were coming to look at my blog as a result of the announcement!

I couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was driving home from my place and her car broke down. It was another break down after a long expensive string of them over the last 12 months. She went home, made herself a cuppa, went outside, and accidently locked herself out of the house. She called a friend. During the conversation, she said to her friend, "I'm think I'm going to have to just spend the afternoon chilling out on the green grass."
"Just think!" her friend replied, laughing "You are on the green grass!"

It is not on the other side.

So I wanted to write this post to share my experience of the last few days, let you know my exciting news, being chosen as a finalist, let you know where you can vote, if you want to, (HERE!) and then close the laptop and build a train track with Tully. Then this afternoon, my friend Rossi is coming over to sew with me. We've decided to order pizza for dinner and then stay up into the night to create up a storm for my up coming market.

Yep. The grass is pretty green on this side.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Big Ideas for Little People: Flour Clay Christmas Decorations

We all know we should do craft with our kids. It's in the rule book. But it seems that every time I try, Tully is interested for 30 seconds (after 20 minutes of preparation) or we have a tantrum because no, Mummy will hold the scissors and you can use the crayons, or we both just get frustrated because we thought it would be more fun or more at his level.
Well yesterday, we had a crafting breakthrough. We made flour clay Christmas decorations! And at every stage, Tully was able and interested. I can't promise it will be like this for you too, maybe it was just the weather, but I definitely recommend giving this one a go if you have toddlers!

You will need:
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 3/4 - 1 Cup Water 
Mix all the ingredients together in the above order into a dough.

Kneed and then roll your clay till it's about half a centimetre or a quarter of an inch thick. Any thicker and your clay may crack in the oven, but you could always experiment with 3D shapes if you wanted to.

Make your desired shapes and stick on grease-proof paper and put holes in the top with a straw.

and pop it into the oven at 100 degrees C or 250 deg F. (We learnt the hard way that my instructions were in imperial and my oven, metric. Burnt to a crisp!!)

Cook for at least an hour. We needed more.
Then you can decorate them! We took ours to playgroup today.

Then, thread a ribbon or string through the hole and you're done!
There's all kinds of personal touches you could make. Hand prints (in the clay or with paint), sparkles, little art works. I think they'd make great gifts for grandparents or kids who might like them plain so they can paint them themselves.
Have you got other ideas you could add, what would you make? Share them with us!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I left my heart in Eastern Europe

This photo was taken almost 13 years ago. I was just 18, sleep deprived (it was the day after my year 12 formal) and nervous with excitement. A group of five of us had flown to Poland to stay in a 500 year old castle in a tiny, poor village near the German border. We would teach English, hang out with the local kids and families and drink a lot of sweet black tea.

I remember arriving that first night. It was cold and white and mysterious, driving along the little lane to that big old palace. Inside was warm and inviting. I remember feeling surprisingly at home. (Later, when I traveled to other parts of the world, I would expect that same feeling, thinking I was just a born traveler. But it was reserved for that part of the world alone.) We were welcomed in, we were shown around. The castle had been used as a German army base during the war, left in ruins and bought for a steal by Australian missionaries who had cleared, cleaned and rebuilt 3 storeys of rubble into a warm haven for recovering alcoholics, the local poor, the disabled and anyone else who happened to travel through. I wanted to stay forever.

I almost did. At the end of our six week trip, I called my parents to ask them to cancel my ticket. I wasn't coming home. There was a position supervising the resident missionary kids as they completed their homeschooling. Mum and Dad so generously helped cover the cancellation fee and gave me their blessing. We drove the other Aussies back to the airport, waved goodbye and came home. My own little flat on the third floor of an old castle. My first time living out of home.

Immediately I fell in love with the people, the language, the food, the life. I'm sure I was a terrible teacher. I was 18, my oldest student was 14 and became a good friend. I was disorganised, fun, well meaning. They knew how to walk all over me and I let them. But gosh, I loved them. I felt like I was living in some amazing novel.
There was a beautiful Polish family living next door to my apartment. They had a new baby, the youngest of five. And whenever I heard her cry, I would knock on their door and ask if I could cuddle her and we would look out the window and sing. I would enjoy the chatter of her three and six year old siblings. (Later, people would laugh at my 'three years old's accent' when I spoke Polish. Now that I have my own three year old, I laugh at how it must have sounded too!) And then, I started to enjoy the attention of her oldest brother. Tomek.
We dreamed of marrying into this beautiful country, beautiful family, raising Polish children, staying in this fairy tale forever. I called my parents again. Told them I wanted to stay longer. I would come home for Christmas and fly back. To marry, to teach, to drink sweet black tea the rest of my days. This time, my folks were less excited.
Once home, back in the familiar sweltering Christmas heat, they convinced me to stay, to study, to grow up, to wait. I went out to Bourke, in outback Australia, to work on a cotton farm, and study about life and culture and the Bible and decide what I wanted to do with my life. It was there, incidently, that I met Tim, though we wouldn't marry for another five years. Life looked and felt so different back in my own country. I was so different. Tomek and I broke up. And I decided to do youth work in central west NSW. Then I decided to go to uni. Then I decided to marry Tim. And each year a new decision, none regretted, would take me further and further away from that little village.

Just after Tim and I married, I was awarded a scholarship to study Russian in St Petersburg. After almost 3 months in Russia, we travelled through Poland so I could show Tim where I had begun adulthood.

And it all came back. The language, the smells, the taste for tea without milk. I saw Tomek and his family again for the first time in ten years. We spent the day with him and his beautiful wife and son in Prague. I was home again. And again I wanted to stay.

But we didn't. We continued on our travels, came home, stayed at university, had babies. And here I am! Living on the coast in a house in the suburbs, sewing and raising children. I'm so glad I'm here. But I do hope, one day, our decisions will take us there again, for longer than a couple of weeks.
Getting ready for Christmas this year, I wanted to do something that expressed my love for those people and my heart for those who have so much less than I. Each year, The families in the castle and an American church in Germany put together Christmas hampers of food, staples and special luxuries, for the local poor so that they can celebrate a joyful, warm Christmas also. For the month of November, I will be donating 20% of all money from my sales to contribute to these hampers. Now when you buy your special Christmas presents from my store, you'll be giving twice!
You can read more about Elim Christian Center in Poland here. Over a decade later, many of my friends, Polish and Australian, are still there, welcoming all kinds of people, promoting tourism to boost the local economy, training local women to sew the most amazing nativity scenes to sell to bring in an income for their families, providing care in the local orphanage.

I have been astounded at the response to my little Etsy shop in the last two months. Thank you! I look forward to being able to pass on the blessing.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Decisions, decisions...

Well, this is the lovely little dress I made for Jessica, whose mum Lauren won my giveaway earlier this month. (excuse the photos, my camera is dying a slow death. Now that Tim has a job (woohoo!), I'll be able to save for a new one!) It was good to have a reason to try out the pattern, experience how long it took, which bits were tricky (the sleeves!), how much fabric it used (heaps!), how much I would want to sell it for and why it's important to read the instructions first. (I cut TWO pieces the wrong way around!)

The sleeves were quite fiddly. Would you buy it without sleeves? And what about the random tie hanging off that side. Would it be better to have just two long ties and a buttonhole rather than 4 short ties? Oh, but I hate buttonholes!

Those kids are pretty special aren't they? I see so many kids I know in them. I think that's why I'm so drawn to it. That little boy on the bike is Tully. And that beautiful girl on the elephant is just like our little friend Ella. Can you see your kids?

So I'm not really sure where I'm going to take this one. I do really love it. I worked out I would have to charge $79 to not be paying myself sweatshop rates. It would be nice to have something in the shop bigger than size 2. Do I keep looking around for patterns that use less fabric/time? Do I just make a few and see how they go?  Feedback please!

Thanks! xx

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Big Ideas for Little People (and big people too!)

Aaah! I feel like I was sailing through October just fine till I saw it was the 19th! November is a very busy month for me. I have 2 Christmas Markets on and a very exciting Christmassy surprise (details soon, I promise!).
So to help me with "Big Ideas", I've asked a few crafty friends to help me bring you colourful ideas for Christmas gifts over the next month or so. If you have a great idea for handmade Christmas presents (to do with or for kids), please email me and you and host a "Big Ideas" too!

A couple of weeks ago, when we were dropping Tully and Pop off at the airport, Eve happily crawled in and out of the chairs, entertaining and blowing raspberries at charmed onlookers. She had a red t-shirt and jeans with a flower on them (which you couldn't see while she crawled around.) I was asked THREE times, "Oh, he's adorable, what's his name?"
It wasn't the first time. Eve practically lives in her brothers old clothes. Partly because people give boys t-shirts and girls dresses (and T-shirts are much more comfortable and better for eating banana or porridge) and partly because she looks so good in blue!
So last week, I asked my friend Anna from Feathering Nest to send me some of her fun little appliqués so I could give Eve's blue and red tops a more feminine touch. (I had considered getting a t-shirt that says, "I'm a girl and my name is Eve" or something to that effect.) I also got her to throw in some boy ones. (Do you, like me, have a 3 year old who refuses to wear anything that doesn't have a rocket or guitar on it?)

 My mum bought this jumper for Tully on a super special. And I just placed the appliques where I wanted them, ironed..

...checked they were stuck on, and then I'll do come hand stitching around them tonight with a glass of wine and the TV on!

For Evie's, I had this navy bonds top which looks so cute on her and placed the little bird in the centre.

There! Easy peasy! To make appliques yourself is easy, well, easy to understand. For me, it involves a trip to Spotlight to get the Visoflix (adhesive), choosing fabric, cutting out a shape I'm happy with, ironing to the adhesive and then following the steps above. With Anna selling them for 50c-$3, I'd recommend checking out her cute range. The top photo above is the little top her son Isaac wore to his first birthday on the weekend. Amazingly cute! And just perfect for someone you might know who'll be spending Christmas eating ice-cream and running under the sprinkler like we do here!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

This is when the washing gets done...

This is when the washing gets done at my house.

This is when it gets hung out to dry the minute it finishes in the machine.

When it gets taken off the line the moment it's dry.

This is when it gets folded neatly before it's placed in the basket.

And when it's put away on the shelf, 
bypassing the usual two-day stopover in my bedroom.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Baby Brain

I finished this winter jacket for Eve Lily last week. I was so happy with how it turned out until I put it on her and started to take photos...

Doesn't it fit her beautifully? And if we lived on the northern side of the globe, it would be perfect for the up coming winter. Lots of room to grow or put layers underneath...
Wait a minute...I thought as I tried my best whistles and raspberries to get Evie's attention... it fits her now. Did I really cut a size 0?
I double checked. I did. I can't believe it. We're about to head into summer here. What was I thinking?

I decided I could just sell it in my shop and make Eve another.
Then I found this:

RED THREAD!? Where did you come from? Did I forget to change the bobbin thread after I sewed up the dark pink side? Can I still blame this on baby brain after 10 months? How did I not notice this earlier, like back when it would have been easy to unpick??

So it may just have to wait for the next baby girl born at the right time of year (on the right side of the globe) to be given as a gift. When I forget what a disaster this was, I still really love it. I love the way Anna Maria Horner's 'Folksy Flannel' range goes so beautifully with her 'Drawing Room' Home Dec range. How the deep pink and orange of the Drawing Room is highlighted in the berries and houses. It's what I look for and love most about putting colours together and making reversible clothing. It's the kind of thing that makes me feel like I'm doing what I should be.

Jodi. x

I'm linking it in with Celebrate Color