Saturday, 24 June 2017

Nap mat for Alex

What I thought would be a weekend project turned out to take three weekends... plus another two weeks to photograph and blog about!

I can't remember when I bought the Curiosities & Mischief book (by Nancy Halvorsen) but I do remember it was the 'nap mats' that convinced me to buy it. Something between a quilt and a sleeping bag, but either way a cosy and useful project to make for the kids.

After being inspired by a sample pack of Cinderberry Stitches 'Greatest Adventure' fabric range, I decided this would be perfect for a nap mat for Alex. So after my full fabric order arrived I couldn't wait to get started...

As I said above... Three weekends later and it was finally done! It wasn't so much that it was time consuming but rather my time was constantly consumed by other things! The instructions in the book were relatively easy to follow, I just needed to convert from 'yards' to 'meters' when ordering the fabric. I chose to hand stitch the binding down so this slowed things down too.

I'm so happy with the final product though! And Alex seems thrilled with it. Sofia is eager to get hers—I've bought the fabric, just need to get started.

Until next time x

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A bunch of birthdays

The first few months of the year is full of birthdays for our family... Starting with mine in January, ending with my Mum's in April and in the middle somewhere was Al and Alex. Plus a few more thrown in for good luck!

Al and his sisters who visited as a birthday surprise
Al and I both celebrated significant birthdays so combined and had one big celebration. The idea started as an 80's party, but ended up being a cocktail party—Al organised the music and got the yard ready, I did the catering and got the cocktail menus and 'making station' set up, and the guests brought the alcohol! Rain in the lead up to the party had us fairly anxious but in the end it was a great party. Unfortunately we forgot to get many photos during the night, but the memories will live forever :)

One of the few photos taken at our cocktail party... 
Immediately after Al and my combined party, I turned my attention to organising Alex's 6th party. Last year he had a simple home get-together with some friends, so this year I agreed to his request to go to an indoor play centre for his party. I honestly don't know why I didn't agree to this type of party before!! Out of around 6 party rooms all of different themes, Alex chose the 'space' room... and then other than inviting his friends and making the cake, there wasn't much I needed to do! The staff were great, the party was completely catered, and best of all—no clean up for me!!

I could have ordered a cake but making the the kids' birthday cakes is a tradition I've been enjoying doing. Following the space theme, Alex chose a space-ship... so after consulting Pinterest for some ideas, I came up with a design. An easy Thermomix chocolate cake and some store-bought icing (ok, so I cheated a bit!)... and just like that, a space-ship cake was created.

Some candles in the base as blasters, and I had a very happy birthday boy. Can't believe my little man is already six years old!!!

Until next time x

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A couple of small projects...

I was reminded a few days ago that it's been a while since I last posted here! While sometimes weeks (and months) go by and I don't post because I have nothing to share, this is not actually the case this time... I have a couple of finished (yes, finished!) projects that I'm yet to share here, it's just been finding time.

First off, I needed an excuse to have play with my new sewing machine. I'd been meaning on practicing my dressmaking skills and making Sofia a dress pretty much since I knew I was expecting a little girl... but for whatever reason I'd never got around to. I found a pattern I purchased a while ago, some fabric from my stash and got cutting and sewing.

I used Butterick B4172 pattern in size 2 (with adjustments for Sofia's weight and height), and the fabric is a cotton from Tilda Quilt Collection by Aimee Dove White. I'm pretty happy with the result, although next time I make this dress I'll finish off the seams a bit better. I recently hemmed some pants and played around with different overseam stitches on my machine given I don't have an overlocker.

I then got started on a small project I've been wanting to do for a while... the 'Zippered Case' from The Simple Life book by Anni Downs. It took a few sessions of stitching the main design and cutting the little squares out. I was struggling with my big cutting ruler for such tiny squares so headed to my local sewing store with a voucher my step-sons gave me for Christmas and invested in a smaller one!

And before I knew it, it was done! Hemming pants, fixing Alex's bunny, making a bunting for a party we had (to celebrate both my and Al's birthdays), and some other odd jobs has kept me sewing but nothing else really worthy of sharing.

The kids watching me make a card for my mum's birthday
My work should calm down soon, and with the cooler weather and shorter days my poor bike will be getting less attention.. I'm hoping this will mean when I'm not busying myself with the kids, I'll have more time to stitch, hopefully do some hand-quilting, and of course update my blog with my progress!

Until next time x

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A new decade, a new machine

A bit over three weeks ago I turned 30... the start of a new decade! On reflection of my twenties, I can't believe how much happened. The years were quite eventful, starting with my first move to Canberra just before turning 20. I completed two degrees, started my career in the public service, had my two beautiful children, moved overseas and back to Australia, bought property (and sold property), travelled, and so much more.

With my beautiful children, November 2016
I'm roughly were I had hoped I would be by the time I turned 30, with the only real unexpected impacts to my life things that were ultimately out of my control... and with the advantage of hindsight really good for me. I enter my 30s with an amazing family, a wonderful partner, a promising career, and a comfortable life. I've had some challenging times which have made me stronger and grateful for all the good in my life... and now I find myself happier than I could have imagined.

Al and I in Spain, April 2016
For my 20th birthday my beautiful mother gave me my first sewing machine (I think this was mainly so that I wouldn't take her machine with me when I moved to Canberra!). My Janome 6019 has been a faithful friend and a great machine which has served me well... together we've created so many projects and I can't think of a time it ever gave me any issues. Then, about five years ago I discovered the Husqvarna Opal machines and fell in love... a smooth machine, with automatic needle up/down function, scissor function, wider neck ideal for quilting... but the price, just a tad more than my Janome and outside my budget at the time. So I decided I'd save up, and give myself the machine for my 30th birthday.

Late last year I went into my local sewing shop and, as I often did, went around to see the sewing machines. And there it was... my dream machine, but a slightly upgraded new release at an introductory price! A lay-by was started and a week before I turned 30 I brought my baby home. Welcome little Husqvarna Opal 690Q to our family. I shall call you... Opal :)

I've decided to keep my old and faithful Janome. She'll be my second machine ideal for when I do a class or if Opal goes in for a service. I'm also hopeful that in the coming years Sofia might show an interest in sewing and the Janome would be perfect for her to learn on... I was probably around 5 when mum first taught me to sew (and simple square bags galore did I make!).

Looking forward to sharing with you some projects with my new baby... I've already started a dress for Sofia, however it was a bit wide so I need to take it in a bit and then attach the zipper.

Until next time x

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Travels around Tassie—Tullah to home

From Tullah we headed to Cradle Mountain, which despite growing up in Tasmania I'd never before visited. And it didn't disappoint... after not seeing much at all at Freycinet due to the weather, this time the weather put on a perfect show—not too cloudy, not too windy, and not so hot that we couldn't have a pleasant day.

Cradle Mountain
Here we parted ways with our friends Tony and Esther as Al and I had booked in to spend the night at Cradle Mountain Lodge, while they had decided to stay elsewhere and spend some extra time in Tasmania. The next day, after a final short walk around the Lodge, we slowly made our way to Devonport to catch the ferry, taking a slight detour to Mole Creek where we stopped in at King Solomon's Cave to have a look.

Stream behind Cradle Mountain Lodge
King Solomon's Cave
From the cave we continued, picking up some snacks for our evening on the ferry. The Tasmanian component of our trip had come to an end... but we still had a few more nights until we would be home. We arrived into Melbourne at 5:30am and after grabbing some breakfast and coffee (after waiting for the cafe to open!) we spent the day shopping! What else does one do in Melbourne?! In the evening we went for Italian on Lygon Street, unexpectedly catching up with a friend also visiting Melbourne from Canberra, before collapsing in a heap back at our hotel after a long but enjoyable day. From Melbourne we journeyed to Mt Buller for the final two nights of our trip away, and a bit more mountain biking. We always stay at the same lodge, and this time we pretty much had it all to ourselves meaning it was quiet and relaxing way finish off our adventures... although the mountain biking was a bit disappointing.

We decided to start the day with our old Buller favourite, the Delatite River trail.... but oh how we were disappointed. The flow that we remembered had completely disappeared, replaced with recently bull-dozed fire-trails and then in other sections what appeared to be all the collected rubble. Apparently the aim of this work is to improve drainage of the trails and by next year it should be back to the amazing mountain biking we've experienced in the past... but for now, the trails are pretty much ruined. We weren't rushing back to do that trail—so off we went to find the other trails, buying a lift pass to do a few runs down the enduro/downhill trails (without having to keep riding to the top of the mountain!). We soon realised just how much Derby had spoiled us... overall, the trails are Mt Buller weren't nearly as nicely groomed, as smooth, as flowy, or even as picturesque as those we had ridden in Tasmania. But the sun was out, they were still fun to ride, and they presented different technical challenges to those of Blue Derby.

Unfortunately, one of the trails was a bit too technical and I went over the handlebars... I kept riding for the rest of the day, but by the next day a combination of muscle fatigue and the fall meant I was feeling quite sore. With a six-hour drive ahead of us to get to Canberra, Al and I decided it was best to just hit the road and head home.

On our trip I got to spend time with family, get to know some friends a bit better, push myself to try new things, and visit places I've never been to before. We kept active yet came home feeling relaxed and ready to get into the year.

Al and I at Cradle Mountain

Until next time x

Monday, 16 January 2017

Travels around Tassie—Derby to Tullah

On new year's eve we reluctantly left the trails of Blue Derby to continue on our journey. Our destination: George Town, located north from Launceston on the bank of the Tamar River. It was a picturesque setting to see in 2017, and unexpectedly had a great firework display! 

The last sunset for 2016
We spent two nights in George Town and used it as our base to explore Pipers Brook, where many of the best Tasmanian vineyards are. My favourite was Janz... we learnt heaps about the traditional method of making sparkling wine and came away with a pretty special bottle (we have a couple of special birthdays this year, including my own next week!).

We were really keen to do some mountain biking at Hollybank Reserve near Lilydale, however the sign pointing to whiskey tasting at the Leaning Church Vineyard (also in Lilydale) distracted us... this enticing option seemed like far less effort given our legs were a bit weary from Derby!

View at Leaning Church Vineyard, Lilydale
From George Town we set the GPS to Tullah (to the west of Cradle Mountain), via Launceston. We stopped at Cataract Gorge, where it seems the peacocks know how to put on a show to distract tourists from the gorge itself.

We finally pulled away from their beautiful display of feathers to find the best spot to get a photo of the gorge... and then I fell. All the bike riding and I'd been fine, yet walking around (mind you, in heels) and I manage to draw blood. Can't take me anywhere! So back to the car, and off the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm (near Deloraine)... I needed cheering up ;) After lunch, ice-cream and the purchase of an obligatory purchase of some fresh raspberries, we continued on our journey. We were determined to get to Montezuma Falls—Tasmania's highest waterfall and not far from Tullah, where we were staying overnight.

The lake behind our accommodation at Tullah
From Tullah, it's about a half-hour drive to the Montezuma Falls car-park and then a three-hour return walk to the falls themselves... but as they allow bikes, we jumped on ours and managed it in a lot less. We did get pretty muddy doing it this way though! The walk (or ride) is quite flat and gentle, following an old tramway through rainforest—or 'wet sclerophyll forest' as Al was trying to teach me, then proceeding to laugh at my pronunciation!

Arriving at the falls, we left the bikes to one side to take in the view from the suspension bridge. Then, walking up to a platform closer to the falls, the view of this natural wonder was just magical. I have to say, Tasmania has some wonderful, albeit often hidden, treasures.

Until next time x

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Travels around Tassie—Hobart to Derby

A couple of days after Christmas, some friends of our from Canberra joined Al and I in Hobart. The weather was miserable but with Sydney-to-Hobart yachts already arriving and the Taste of Tasmania having just started, there was still plenty of buzz in the city. The next day, after a pancake breakfast with mum, we said goodbye to the kids (who stayed with grandparents for the school holidays) and started our drive towards a small town called Derby, in the north-east of Tasmania.

Pancakes with the kids and Mum before leaving Hobart
The quickest way to Derby from Hobart is via the Midlands Highway up the centre of Tassie, however as it was our friends' (Esther and Tony) first trip to Tasmania, we decided it would be more interesting to go up the coastline... first stop: Devil's Corner winery to stretch the legs, taste some wine-tasting, and grab some lunch. This winery, apart from great wines, has a great view and is well set up for a light lunch. A great place to stretch the legs!

From there we soon turned off the road north to take a detour to Freycinet with the hope of seeing Wineglass Bay. Unfortunately the weather still wasn't clearing up meaning the view was somewhat hindered by fog and mist! However we enjoyed the walk to the lookout, and Freycinet itself certainly shows off Tasmania well.

We still had a couple of hours to travel to get to our overnight destination, so after a few happy snaps we clambered back in the cars to continue on our journey. We made a quick fuel and groceries stop in St Helens before then turning to go inland a bit towards Derby. This small-town with a population of just over 200 people was once a mining town with a population of 3,000... and is now home to Blue Derby, some of the best mountain biking trails in the world. In fact, it will host an international mountain bike event later this year! Needless to say, a visit to Derby has been on our wish-list since building of the trails commenced in 2015.

Our bikes in the store room at our accommodation in Derby
Blue Derby certainly didn't disappoint! We got up nice and early the next day to start exploring. Due to the expansive network and distances between trails, we organised shuttles (we used Vertigo MTB) that would take us to the start of each trail. There were a few sections requiring a climb—which worked in our favour as it slowed us down to be able to take in the incredible wilderness around us. It wasn't long before Al and I had reached capacity on our phone cameras! With all the trails it didn't take long before we were on the descent—and between the quality of the trails and the surrounding environment, it had to be the best gravity riding I've experienced.

The trails were so well-built and absolutely amazing... enough technical sections to keep things interesting, a few particularly technical sections to keep it challenging, and enough smooth, flowing sections to keep things incredibly fun! There were sections we chose to walk through, and other challenges that I couldn't believe I was able to do.

I think I had a ridiculous grin on my face for the entire time we were at Derby... which was only a day and a half, and no where near enough time to do the place justice. I think three days would have been perfect, however our schedule was too tight on this occasion... but we'll definitely be visiting Blue Derby again!

Until next time x