Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a Pink Christmas

I think I said before that a Summery Southern Hemisphere Christmas just isn't suited to red and green.  This year I am choosing a pink and yellow theme.  I've got pink roses and white lilies, yellow gift bags, and pink and yellow crackers.  We do have our little fake tree which is green, but most of the decorations are candy colored.

About ten days ago, I finally started to make preparations for Christmas.  We have been so bogged down in house problems that I almost thought we wouldn't have Christmas this year.  Just lately though, I let that go and accepted that we are staying put in our temporary city apartment through early January.

Being in the city has its advantages when it comes to shopping, so I could get a few ideas and pick up a few things almost every time I left the building.  One thing I did miss out on though is an Advent Calendar.  I usually get a chocolate one for the girls to help count the days and get excited for Christmas.  This year, I was late buying one and by December 8th, they were sold out of every store.

Funnily enough, not having it has made it difficult to keep track of how many days we have left.  There was a guy on the corner right near here who was hawking (here they call it sprooking - I'm not sure how to spell it and I don't care because it is a horrible word and a horrible activity).  He would talk into a portable mike and speaker "come on in ladies, only 6 days left till Christmas, we have designer shirts for only $39....." on and on.  So anyway, I knew how many days were left if I went by there when he was in action.  It is hard to sense Christmas coming on without the normal clues: snow, dark afternoons, candles and fires twinkling.

It is more like a party that everyone in the city is having on the same day.  In a way, when you think of it that way, it's kind of fun.  I don't know what every one else does, if they have traditions or not, but I want to have historic consistency so we can look back over the years at the familiar threads. I know that a lot of Aussies do have BBQs and swim in their pools, and I guess they have presents.  Like most things here, on the surface, they seem like a slightly different version of what we are used to in the US.

The things that we always do are: have Bangers and Mash on Christmas Eve,  I make the girls PJs and they open them and wear them.  I make stollen bread on Christmas morning and we have it with eggs and bacon and orange juice (the sausages and the bacon are veggie for the girls and meat for the boys). We visit friends or family in the afternoon but always stay close to home and just chill most of the time with the 4 of us.

decorating the sylvanians for the nativity scene.  Are they 6 and 10 years old?

It was Hannukah first, and we used birthday candles for want of anything better.

Noah and Valerie having fun cleaning up on Christmas Eve.

My camera was stuck on a wrong setting so all the photos look like Instagram.

Christmas dinner in pink and yellow.  

We did most of that this year with a few changes.  For the first time EVER, I am not giving them pyjamas.  I didn't have a machine and really didn't have the planning or forethought to manage any handmade gifts. This is a little bit sad, but we will get through it.  The girls did not get up at 6 a.m., and we won't be going carolling in the snow.  Mostly, the difference is that even though we are together as a family, we are a different family.  We have one teenager and one adult child.  David and I are older too, and we are in different phases of our lives.  Thankfully, we are all happy and healthy.

We have our nephew Noah here from California! and we had a few friends over for lunch and games (yay Apples to Apples).  It rained all day which made it more cozy and a lovely day all together.

This year has been full of changes - some small and some big.  It sounds corny, but it has been about letting go and moving on from some things and trying to hang on to others.  Hanging on to friendships, and family connections, and traditions.

Merry Christmas!  To everyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, have a relaxing break.  Enjoy the winter or summer.  Peace Out! XO

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday Meditation

this was taken out the hotel window at noon on the official 3rd day of summer
Today is the first day that I have been able to just sit and relax and not worry about getting something done.  (I can't do any house hunting because we have paid for a month at yet another temporary apartment where we will be moving next Saturday.  We decided to secure something so we won't be homeless or moving at Christmas and New Year ).  I finished my Fabric Design portfolio/application and got it in on time.  I finished my one year basic stitching course at the Embroiderers' Guild and turned in my folder and final projects on time even though I wasn't sure I would be able to with all the crazy house stuff that has been distracting me.
watercolour design for fabric

design for silkscreen t-shirt print

design for screen print fabric - sorry the photo is terrible.  the actual color is  grey-green on white

some of my embroidery work.  the other photos are on my computer at the house.

my pulled thread final project yellow and green on white linen with a teal coloured fabric under layer.

I was proud of myself for getting it done but I don't really feel a sense of accomplishment.  I don't feel happy about it.  Maybe that will come later or maybe not.  There is a little bit of relief but also a feeling of loss that the thing is over and ended in a small way.  Obviously, I will still do needlework, and my fabric printing may actually be just taking off if I get into that program, but the push to complete the tasks and all the nervousness that goes with it, is over.
I realize, looking back over my life, that there have been so many things that I have started and either never fully applied myself to, or just plain quit.  I always thought that it was the anxiety of not doing well enough, of failing, that caused me to hold back.  But I think maybe there is also a fear that success might feel empty and leave me with a "what now" dilemma.  I don't want to sound too dramatic because thinking about this is not devastating in any way.  It just makes me think that I have to work on enjoying the process, and also have a plan for whatever next step I may want to take.

Right now, my next step is to sit by myself and enjoy the quiet, foggy day.  I am going to make myself some tea, listen to the drone of the air conditioning, and stare at the barely visible boats drifting in and out of the harbour.  Then I think I will look for a pattern on Ravelry to make myself a crocheted summer cloche.  I had one when I was about 10 years old made by my amazing Aunt Earline.  It was white with strawberries on it.  It was a very tight single crochet made of cotton yarn.  I loved it and would wear it now if I still had it.  That is what I have in mind for this project.  I got some beige yarn and a little bit of teal to make a stripe or some contrast.  hopefully I will have time over December to make it, then I can still have time to wear it to the beach and whenever it is sunny.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Long and Unwinding Road

So I guess we are in the stage called "Getting Used to It".  It is still upsetting, but no longer shocking when we look at the disaster that was our former home.  I still worry, but I am not so panicked when I try to imagine where we will be living on Christmas day.  I am still annoyed, but also somewhat charmed by the inner-city lifestyle of thousands of mostly young people buzzing to and fro at all hours. I have gotten used to it.  I have gotten over the part of my psyche that says "no, no, no".  

We have looked at about 13 different houses or apartments and the only two that were equal to what we had before the fire were way above our budget.  In the end, it looks like our only option may be to wait out the reconstruction and live in temporary housing until we can move back in to our old place. There are still so many unknowns about our situation, so many frustrating things that we have no control over, but while we are waiting for it all to become clear, we have to go on with everyday life.  

Spring is well underway, and Summer/Christmas is approaching.  We haven't done a thing to prepare for that.  We need to make plans for holiday (as in vacation) activities, get tickets to shows, schedule get -togethers, etc.  Otherwise, we will be back in school/work next fall saying "how did summer get away from us?"  We can't just sit and mope in our temporary housing.  

Last year we went to see a ballet at the Opera House.  We took a short trip up the coast, we had a big Christmas dinner at home, and we went to the Harbour to see the New Year's Eve fireworks.  This year  we will be hosting my nephew and we are really looking forward to showing him around.  There is a lot to see in Sydney, but I also want to organize a short trip down to Pebbly Beach so he can hug the kangaroos on the beach and have parrots eat out of his hand.  Hopefully it is not too late to get a hotel room down there.

This is going to be the first year that I am not making the girls pajamas for Christmas.  My sewing machine was ruined in the fire and I don't have the space (mentally or physically) to sew anyway.  Everyone is insisting that I make my traditional Stollen christmas bread. Even though I won't have my kitchen and I am not really in the mood, I will probably do it anyway.  I don't think we are going to make a big deal about presents since being homeless makes one not want to accumulate.  But somehow we have to get in the mood and celebrate.

Mira and I went for a walk on Sunday through the city, through Hyde Park, and down through the Botanical Gardens to the water.  It was a warm, balmy day so we stayed in the shade as much as possible and looked at the flowers and birds.  In the city the shop windows had Christmas decorations and music playing.  We have been commenting that Australia needs to have its own Christmas symbols and things that represent a summer holiday.  Snowflakes and pine trees just don't make sense even if they are plastic and glittery.  We did see some bright yellow displays with shorts and summery items that we approved of.

Besides thinking of Christmas, I have finished my TAFE application portfolio and am just about finished with my year long Embroidery Guild course.  It has been difficult to accomplish all that with the upheaval, but it has also been a grounding focus for me.  Drawing and Stitching has been like a meditation forcing me to be calm and to look away from the train wreck of our housing situation.

The other thing that has been happening at this time is Mira and Valerie's end of year.  Mira has moved back "home" for the summer after finishing her first year of university, and Valerie is winding up year 10.  She had tests and camps, and dances to go to and she was adamant about not letting our housing  chaos disrupt or take away from any of that.  In the end, it all worked out and she is almost done.  She had her formal dance last night and I took her to get her nails done, then her friends came over here to get ready.  I still don't like the latest fashion trend of short skirts and super high heels, but I have to say, they are nice, responsible, beautiful girls.  They are really living the life of the city dwellers and they are tougher than me.  

This has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with - partly because it happened so suddenly and through no fault of my own.  It was thrust upon us and we have had so little control over the process.  The process of readjusting has been painful and slow but I am starting to just barely see a way forward.  I don't know if it is good or bad to be able to accept an f-ed up situation, but the reality is I am getting used to it.

My final project for EG

a parrot in some kind of cool tree at the Botanical Gardens

Magnolia trees in bloom

a bird perched just right

loads of lilies everywhere

the wisteria were mostly gone but the shade was nice

some kind of pineapple palm

a mock quince

David Jones window with a fab D&G dress

this was a good Xmas window

this is the one that seemed wrong

strike a pose with those blue nails

giving me attitude 

The girls before - aren't they sweet?

beautiful Valerie

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How Do We Afford This Rock and Roll Lifestyle?

edible signage
We took a break from the stress and disappointment of house/apartment hunting to go to The Harvest Festival.  This is an all day outdoor music, art and food festival in the same style as Glastonbury in the UK, or Lollapalooza in the US.  This one was only one day, so no camping out (thank god) and the food and art was pretty minimal.  The music line-up, however, was MASSIVE (as they say here) and excellent (as Wayne would say ... party on Garth).

There were 3 main stages and various other small stages with music playing constantly all day and into the night.  I like music, but there is a lot that I don't like, and at my age I really don't like to sit or stand around listening to things I don't like.  Luckily the bands were almost all to my taste, and some of them were actually my favorites.  I don't know if they were trying to appeal to old ladies, or if my music is just coming back in style, but the young folk and I were bopping up and down and side to side for most of the day.
one of the community groups - Sea Shepherd

the start of the day was less crowded

bluegrass stage atop a coffee truck



The bands we saw were: Los Campesinos, The Dandy Warhols, Cake, Beck, and Sigur Ros.  We also heard some bluegrass, speed punk girl band, and really great 80s surf punk style band that I am sorry I cannot remember the name of.  I bought earplugs but didn't need to wear them.  Except for the disappointing Dandy Warhols who were somewhat snarky and blah with really bad sound mixing, everyone else was crystal clear and harmonious.  They all engaged with the audience and played their rock and roll hearts out.

We took the train out and back to Paramatta, a part of town that I had never been to and probably won't have much reason to go back to.  It was easy, convenient and inexpensive.  No driving or parking or worrying about drunk drivers.  Hooray for public transport.

We were not completely exhausted when we got home, and I only thought about the housing monkey-on-my-back a few times.  So, it was a good day and a nice treat for David's birthday. (We celebrated that on Friday by staying in with just the 4 of us with homemade pizza - by Mira - salad, wine, ice-cream cake from Messina, and gifts).
Mira and David with the cake

Panic is sinking in as we look but don't find any affordable and suitable places to move into.  It only takes one, and I hope it comes along in the next two weeks.  The cost of basic, decent housing in this city makes the rock and roll lifestyle seem like a bargain.  I don't know how people do it, but I am getting too old to be without the basic comforts of home.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Standing Still in a Whirlwind

So much has happened and my routine has been so disrupted that it is difficult to write.  But I guess it is times like this that need to be recorded the most.  It is times like this that I will need to look back on and say " WTF !!".

We are still out of our house.  We still don't know where we will be living come Christmas.  I can't believe this is my life.  It feels like it is happening to someone else, or like I have dreamed it in some strange, surreal nightmare where things are really bad, and yet, not so bad.  We are desolate, and yet we are living in a dee-lux apartment in the sky.

above the rainbow!

watching the sailboats in the harbour from our room

I brought my lucky squirrel to make my room seem more like home

We are on the 66th floor with a panoramic view of a gorgeous city.  We have three bedrooms (Mira is back with us because she is done with school for the year), three televisions, three computers, AC, shopping and restaurants below us, fireworks out the window, rainbows in the clouds that we are above... it is real, but it isn't.

our new temporary living room
We can't just hold our breath and wait to resume business as usual, so we are playing out two story lines at once.  We go to work and school, go grocery shopping, try to keep up with friends and activities in the city.  At the same time we are going through piles of dirty, smokey clothing, ruined appliances and furniture, talking with real estate agents and insurance adjusters.

One of the strangest things is the sense of complete lack of control over time.  I have no sense of what will be real or normal on any given day.  I have no idea if tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year will see us back in a quotidian routine.

This is a good time of the year normally.  Summer is approaching, Christmas is around the corner.  School is wrapping up.  There are lots of fun things happening around the city.  Mira and Valerie both have party invitations for New Years.  I would love to be able to go see a ballet at the Opera House like we did last year for Christmas.  David's birthday is next week and we are going to a music festival (The Harvest Festival) on Saturday.
The Jacarandas are in bloom all over the city signalling Spring

We went out last Saturday night to a pub with two of David's colleagues and their wives (both expats from the UK).  We had some great food and wine, and laughed our heads off about Botox,  tattoos, and having adult children.  I didn't want to go because I was feeling drained, but I was really glad I did.  I keep thinking about what Deepak Chopra said about how there is abundance everywhere in the world but that you have to be willing to share yourself, to open yourself up and give what you have in order to be in touch with that abundance.  I think sometimes I am not.
The girls and I at The Empire Pub in Leichardt

We had some visitors in our temporary digs.  Kit came by to have tea and catch up on both of our situs.  She is such an amazing, creative and kind person.  She always seems to be on the crest of some wave.  Nichole and Aaron also came over on election night.  We drank champagne then went downstairs to Din Tai Fung and had soup dumplings.
one mermaid admiring another -that would be Kit

Two Saturdays ago we went to the Surry Hills neighbourhood festival.  It was the community party for our supposed neighborhood, even though we aren't living there now, we are over the age of 25,  and technically, we live in Redfern.  Still, there was happy music and a festive atmosphere.
are these guys supposed to be happy?

Surry Hills Festival
Today was the Newtown Festival that I had to miss because I went with my daughters to see an exhibit of Karl Lagerfield photos called "The Little Black Jacket".  It was all about Chanel and her iconic jacket.  We went down to Walsh Bay (the same location as the designer wool exhibit that I saw a while back).  It was a beautiful day and the style, spirit, and creativity in the photos was inspiring.

me with photos from the exhibit
I realised though, that two teen-aged daughters have more fun on their own, and I would have been better off  exploring art with a friend or by myself or going to the Newtown festival, or walking over to the park that I can see from the window of our hotel/apartment.  I don't know what was happening there today, but when I looked down I saw crowds of people, white tents in a circle, and people riding camels - yes, camels.

not wearing black, but still fashionable

Through all of this I have been determined to get my portfolio done and my application in to the fabric printing course at TAFE.  It has been a stressor but it has also been a grounding and calming factor.  I have been spending my free time working hour upon hour, day after day, drawing, painting, designing, creating images that I feel good about, that I would like to look at, to wear, or to produce to represent myself.  I am almost done and will turn in the application before the end of the week.  I am crossing my fingers that it will be enough.  I could use some good luck and good news right about now.