the CD and the atlas: lessons learned in the lead up to Christmas

My Grandpa lives by the sea. We went to visit yesterday and spent a few hours with him, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee brewed on his camp stove in the afternoon sun.

He’s in the process of moving house and let me choose some of his books to take home. One is an old atlas with the inscription: “To Mary with love from Graeme Xmas 1960.” A message from my Grandpa to my Grandmother.

We have been looking through its softly worn pages today. In the lead up to Christmas while my heart is  beating faster and faster with increasing overwhelm, I can’t help but reflect on this little gift with wonderment. Imagine, opening up a present from your partner on Christmas morning to find a lovely book with a short message in the front. I like to think it was wrapped brown paper, and perhaps tied with white string. It is this kind of simplicity and thoughtfulness that I yearn for in my every day life. We are overcome with monstrous loud flashy messages and it is easy forget that we don’t need to buy each other and our children bigger and better things in order for them to be happy and healthy and cherished and loved.

At birthdays and Christmas I stick to this motto from Jodi Wilson:

something I want, something I need

something to wear, something to read

Even still it is easy to get distracted and carried away and panicky and compare-y. We have to stop doing this.

Gramps also offered me some CDs of classical music. “Ok,” I said, “but can I have one that isn’t frantic. One that I could listen to on a Sunday afternoon. Something calming. No violins?”

“Hmm. Well that isn’t how I approach music at all.” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I walk over to my CDs. I think of one I’d like to listen to. I put it on, then I sit down on the couch and I listen to it. That is how to engage with a piece of music. If it’s on in the background it might as well be anything.”

“Ok. But what if you’re me and you’ve got three screaming children and you have to cook dinner and fold the washing and feed the dog and it’s 1pm and you want to put your pyjamas on and you’re not really thinking about developing a relationship with a piece of music but you would like something to listen to… in the background?”

He stared at me for a moment, laughed, then a few minutes later handed me this, and we listened to it in the car on the way home.

The CD and the atlas. I’ve been thinking about them both since yesterday. The purity and the restraint and the slow and the time. I am so rushed. Even when I try to slow down, there are so many external things wanting my attention. Children, animals, schedules imposed on me and so many rules. Rules! So many!

It’s been a timely and gentle reminder. Now when I look at my Christmas list, I am not looking at things to add, but places I can pare down, things that I can make, things that I can replicate to create a bit of flow, areas that I was perhaps getting a little carried away (do the girls really need another story CD? What will really make them happy on Christmas morning?) I think it’s important to remember that the presents we buy and/or make for our kids are just the beginning for most families on Christmas Day. For many, including us, there will be a number of shared meals that day, and many thoughtful gifts and presents to open. To keep it simple and quiet in the morning at home, we are actually doing our children a favour and allowing them to enjoy the excitement ahead.

Will you start your Christmas morning slow and steady this year? Do you have many people and engagements to whiz around to during the day?

it’s that time again…

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I always promise myself that I will be organised at Christmas time, that I won’t be scrambling around in a mad rush and I won’t be forced into buying things that compromise my values because I’ve run out of time! Alas, I am rather behind schedule and my list of things to make is gigantic… we are half way through November and shit is getting real in my sewing room.

I am quite the overachiever and apparently love nothing more than a late night sew-fest and the pressure of doing things at the last minute. As much as I hate it, I can’t seem to shake my ways. Oh well.

I’ve talked so many times before about buying nothing new at Christmas and supporting handmade and so on and so on. Apart from the fact that a Christmas-crazed shopping centre is my absolute worst nightmare, I love the feeling of really thinking about presents and putting the effort into cutting and sewing and making and giving something genuinely unique. I’m not sure if the people on the receiving end of my gifts feel this way… but it’s the thought that counts, right? This year I am going about Christmas in my usual fashion, however we are buying a couple of things for the girls – a wooden kitchen, a bike for Birdie and maybe a scooter for the Pixie. Unfortunately I can’t make these things. I did try to purchase the wooden kitchen secondhand but have had trouble finding what I am looking for. Two years ago we gave the girls a beautiful waldorf style doll’s house and I was lucky enough to find this on my local buy swap and sell site! So if you keep an eye out – you do find.

This year I’ve been making star garlands, pictured above, little shorts, and crocheted tiaras mainly. Most of the little folk in our circles will be receiving variations of these this Christmas. I’m also planning on making a dress each for Birdie and Pix, and something else… I haven’t fleshed out the list properly yet. I make all my family granola every year so will also be continuing with that tradition.

This is also my first year to make teacher gifts now that Birdie is at kinder! I am yet to decide what to do for our teacher folk, I’m thinking granola or a star garland. Any tips?

What are you making? Are you a mad shopper at Christmas? Do you write lists? How do you keep the madness at bay?

 

 

buy nothing new christmas // the first of a new series

A few years ago, in the spirit that I like to do most things in – completely last minute – I decided I was going to have a Buy Nothing New Christmas. There seemed to be a lot of chit chat going on in the blogosphere about having periods of buying nothing new, and nothing motivates me more than a challenge! So I dove in head first and have to say it was such a satisfying experience that I have *almost* done it every Christmas since. In fact, I was so motivated, my Buy Nothing New challenge continued for the first six months of 2011!

It made me realise not only how much we consume needlessly in our daily lives, but how much we can do without, and more to the point, how much great stuff is circulating the planet as rubbish, because we are constantly, obsessively, compulsively replacing things that are still in perfect condition. It truly is a sad state of affairs.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my bookmarked (now who’s old fashioned?!) ideas with you over the coming weeks, so if you are thinking of having your own Buy Nothing New Christmas, there will be plenty of creative ideas here. Of course the other option is to buy presents at an op shop or an online vintage marketplace like etsy so that you are giving unwanted items a new life, rather than supporting the business of waste.

If you think this is all a load of hoo-ha, check out this video and it might give you a new perspective. On a larger scale, and if you have a bit more time, I love, love, love this movie. Maybe you could chow down with a bowl of homemade popcorn and watch it tonight? Yes, do it! Watch it!

Now to get us going, here are some wrapping and gift presentation ideas:

// Gift bag tutorial: Petite Purls

// Cute placard idea: Flax and Twine

// Paper globes to decorate presents: Tiny Happy

// Simple gift tags: A Little Hut

// Make your pressies extra cute with these free printable moustaches! : Marie Claire

I have loads more in my bookmarks and also on my christmas pinterest board, but I think five is a respectable number. Over the coming posts I will share gift ideas for babies, kids, girls, boys, ladies, gents and so on.

What do you think? Are you feeling motivated? Do you think you can do your bit to slow down our crazy consumption obsession this year?

a belated christmas post

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I had no time after Christmas to post a little update. Four days post the big one we were packing and cleaning and packing and tidying and packing and trying to get organised. It felt like groundhog day trying to get us and the kids out of here. On the 28th we were finally On. Our. Way. down to our family’s little country hideaway. We got back today and we are lucky enough to be heading off again on Thursday in the opposite direction to spend time with the other side of the family on the coast. I feel blessed to have these little hideaways that our parents generously allow us to visit. Without them we would not be in a position to have a holiday for a very long time.

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Christmas came and went and for us is always spread out over a couple of days with the various groups of family we have. It was the first year that our biggest kid really got into the spirit of it all and went to bed tingling with thoughts of Father Christmas, reindeer and surprises to open the following morning. I remember those days so well and am reliving the thrill of it all through her big brown eyes.

IMG_2888Like I have spoken about before, I am very conscious of not have a house full of discarded toys, but instead having meaningful and well loved things to play with. The biggest attends Montessori once a week so much of our play is inspired by the beautiful Montessori setting, but I also really love Steiner environments and philosophies as well. I am not qualified in either and what we do is just a mix of things I have seen, liked and feel comfortable with.

She was given a lot of lovely gifts on Christmas Day, which I predicted, so at home that morning she just had a few simple presents to open, the main one being a secondhand doll’s house that I found on a local Buy Swap and Sell group. Well worth checking out on Facebook to see if you have one near you! I was so thrilled to find this secondhand as I feel uncomfortable about our throw away society, and like to re-use things where possible and instill this value in my children. I couldn’t care in the slightest that my child is getting something that isn’t ‘brand new’ and if anything I think it adds to the character and value of many of the things she owns. The well loved doll’s house in the picture above is a perfect example of this, I love it, and I think I am having more fun playing with it than she is!

This Christmas was probably the most joyful day I have had, the build up, the advent calendar, the excitement… I really am loving Christmas again and am so pleased to be starting new traditions with my little family. I should probably admit now that at 11pm on Christmas Eve I realised that I didn’t have anything for the littlest as I had spent so much time focussing on the biggest. Bad Mother Alert!!! Luckily I had a few things in the shop that I could wrap up at the last minute. Sorry darling baby.

What traditions do you celebrate with your kids? Do you celebrate traditions that you didn’t as a child? I’m interested to know as we started celebrating Winter Solstice last year which is something we never did as kids in my family. This year we will also celebrate Valentine’s Day as a day to show our friends and family how much we love and appreciate them (puke, sorry.)

* Does my littlest not remind you of a tiny wee possum? She is such a little pixie.

an advent calendar

Last year I wrote a bit about the meaning of Christmas for me and my crew. Christmas had become all kinds of nasty for me and I’m just so thrilled to have a teeny weeny family of my own now to regenerate the spirit of Christmas in me… It’s for this reason I was ever so desperate to make the biggest her first advent calendar this year (and engage in any type of Christmas event/tradition possible). We never had an advent calendar as kids so it’s not a tradition I have been a part of before, but I feel really strongly about developing our own family traditions that we take part in each week or month or year to enjoy and look back on with fond memories.

IMG_2759I began scouring pinterest to get some ideas… there were sooo many! I finally decided to make one with little gifts hanging from a stick, as I had collected some from our yard and around the place which have been driving Prince Charming nutty as they are continually falling over in the corner of our study. They are such beautiful sticks though, he just can’t seem to see that! Nevertheless he was thrilled that I was finally using one for a project. Little does he know that come the 25th of December this pretty little stick will be going back to my stash once it is no longer in use. Until this post arrives in his inbox of course, drat!

Anyway, I had all manner of creative ideas about the bags I would sew and numbers I would carefully stitch onto each one, then it was Friday 30th November and nothing had been started… so I scratched that and made this instead. Is that a nice stick, or what?

IMG_2754The ones on pinterest and the one in my head looked a lot better, but the kid has been more than thrilled and I am getting a bit of a kick out of that each day when she climbs up on a kitchen chair to help me cut down a gift. I have cheated somewhat and almost all of the gifts are Christmas decorations we already had, in the hope that being two and a half, she won’t remember them from last year. So far, success! There are about four which are actual gifts for her, things I had lying around the house like a bouncy ball, a stamp, a little purse and something else which I can’t remember. The last gift isn’t there yet but it is going to be a small card from me telling her (and next year one for each girl) how special she is and mentioning something wonderful she has achieved that year. I’ll punch a hold in it, date it and put some string through it and she can hang it on the tree. I thought that might be something nice to look back on each year when we are decorating the tree and can read through cards from previous years. We’ll see!

IMG_2768The wrapping paper is recycled pages torn out of our Melways (the city map book for Melbourne) which has become obsolete nowadays with iPhones and google maps and those things you get in your car which tell you where to go (I don’t have one). It seems I hardly need these things anyway as there is something in my genes which prevents me from getting lost. It’s weird. When I got my licence my friend and I went driving and thought it would be an adventure to get lost somewhere and have to find our way out. She had a great time as every bend we went around she was lost, but I couldn’t join in because I always remembered how to get out. I’m a bit like a homing pigeon.

I digress. It’s late. The advent calendar. Yippee, it’s up, we’re having fun, we’re into it, we’re all about Christmas here at our place.

Night all xo

an unintended pause

I’ve had a very long and unintended break from this space. I never seemed to get back into the flow of writing and thinking after Christmas and summer holidays. All of a sudden this little blog seemed to be drifting further and further away from my daily life and thoughts until I almost forgot that I used to visit here every day.

But here I am again, writing and thinking and wondering where to start again after so long!

 

and the birds were singing, to calm us down…

Sigh.

Laura Marling. Holidays. Barbeques. Sleep ins.

I’ve left them behind and shuffled back to the city. I’m itchy. And not because I had head lice about a month ago for the first time in my 29 years! Just that niggling kind of restless itchy. As I sat there laboriously wrenching that nasty little comb through my conditioner soaked locks, I dreamt of Christmas and the time on the coast that was to come. And now I’m back.

I listened to the tunes of Laura Marling while I was giving birth.

And I listened again over summer as I sat under the ancient oak next to my mum’s caravan.

We were on summer holidays. We took a breath. A deep inhalation before the new year begins and begins and begins. Just the three of us… and our beloved dogs of course. The bunny was sent on a private retreat with some family and off we went.

Our first night at the van proved anything but restful with Nell coming down rapidly with her Daddy’s cold. We finally got her to sleep at midnight only for her to wake every hour after in fits of snotty wails and sobs.

The next day we took shifts with her so the other could sleep. A slightly rough beginning to our holiday but as Mum said in response to a miserable whiny text message I sent her: “At least you are on holiday! No schedule. No time restrictions.”

Yes. She was right.

It’s a quiet part of the world, where mum’s caravan sits in country Victoria. Not a traditional holiday destination which is partly why we like it so much. It’s just twenty minutes from the beach and in amongst rolling hills and fresh air.

After the caravan, we drove down and around a few bends of coastland to the hustle and bustle of the seaside, to the in-law’s beach house. By the time we arrived home two days ago we had had such a well rounded break. We contemplated the Christmas season. The sudden halt after the rush was welcomed, but each year it seems almost abrupt.

We’ve been back in the big smoke for just two days now, and already I feel almost as though I never left. I’m trying to hang on, desperately, to those holiday things. You know the ones I mean. Holiday type things like getting up for a walk each morning and taking in the air. Seeing the sea, going for coffee, reading the paper. Suduko! Ah, Suduko. Heading out for a walk at 5pm and not looking at the clock. Eating dinner late and only ever barbeques and salad. Never being able to find your shoes because you haven’t been wearing them. Not having to change into your pj’s when you get home because the clothes you’re already wearing are comfy enough. No fuss.

There are a few things I had the time and the space to think about. Things I want to do this year and be. I don’t want to have too many goals because then I’ll get disheartened. But a few is nice, I think. A few little ideas to keep you on track, to remind you of that time in summer you sat with your barefeet, a glass of wine and an open heart under the evening sky.