Sunday, February 26, 2012


I didn't do a post last week because I was busy. Somehow doing takes the time and creative pressure away from writing. I did still think about writing, and my reflective mind was still winding away. I do want to write so that I can keep track of, and process all that has been happening.

Last week-end, David and I went down to the Botanical Gardens. It was a lovely, sunny, day, and we went by ourselves, so it was kind of a date. We strolled around, looking at the bats and the plants, and taking lots of pictures. We walked all the way home, past the market at Taylor Square, and through our charming Surry Hills neighborhood.

I spent the rest of the day Saturday, most of the day Sunday, and part of the day Monday, working on my embroidery project for my course. First, I organized all my threads which were in a huge wadded knot. I even made little cards to wind them on, and trays to keep them separated. It was a long process, but I am very happy with the outcome. I also thought up and planned my portfolio project, then I did some research and design sketching. Finally, I did some stitching.

I am going to have all my assignments for the stitching course relate to the theme of Famous Female Textile Designers. I am going to sketch designs inspired by these women, and then, I am going to stitch them. In the end my portfolio will be an archive of textile design history as well as embroidery history. I am very excited about this even though I realize it is a large undertaking.

I also finished the backing on the quilt that I made for Mira, got the batting, and brought it to a quilters house to have it machine quilted. I was hoping to have it done before Mira went off to college, but that didn't happen. I still need to sew on the binding (this will happen as soon as I finish writing). Anyway, it looks great, and the weather is really too warm to need a quilt yet.

The biggest occurrence, one that has me torn up with mixed emotions, is the departure of Mira from home. Obviously, we have been planning this, and looking forward to it for years. We are so proud of her, and happy for her that she was accepted into University of Sydney, one of the top universities in the world, and was chosen to be part of Sancta Sophia, a lovely and prestigious women's residential college. But, the bitter that goes with the sweet is that she is not around anymore. We don't see her everyday. We don't go to sleep or wake up in the same house. We don't get to share all of her experiences. We miss her.

It is hard for us, but it is made easier by the fact that she is already having a fantastic time filled with new friends, independent but protected and supported experiences, and lots of fun. She is being challenged as a person, growing as an adult, and doing so quite happily. It is hard not to get corny or overly sentimental about it because, actually, it is such a milestone. It is really a new phase, and the beginning of the rest of her life. It is a time when new challenges and opportunities are all around, but there are such good structures and venues in which to succeed.

It is a milestone for me too, as a parent. It is a time when I let go and step aside. The upside is that I get to have more one on one time with my younger daughter, have more dates with my husband, and maybe even do a few things just for myself.

The photos are: a Laura Ashley fabric that I got recently, flowers, birds, and bats at the RBG, street shots in Surry Hills, my practice stitching and some of my threads, Valerie, me and David on our lastnight out with Mira, at the Eathouse Diner, Mira's new room, the old, quaint, bathrooms, and the courtyard at Sancta Sophia, saying good bye and good luck, at the end of the night.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Summer's End

We are halfway through February. It is actually Valentine's day today, but the season, the weather, and the upside-down calendar, says that it is the dog days of summer with autumn just around the corner. As I said in my last post, it has been a mild and wet summer, so the shift is harder to notice. The days are starting to get shorter and the nights slightly cooler.

I try to flip the calendar in my mind to help me understand where I "should" be. I drew a clock before we left Arizona, with the months where the hours would be. Australian months were directly across from those of the Northern Hemisphere. For example, January = July, February = August, etc. So March will be September. I still have embedded in my psyche that September = Autumn and back to school. March = snow melting, and Spring rains around the corner. So, I say "March = September = Autumn". It is very confusing, and I do feel a little confused most of the time. I don't know if I will ever get switched into this southern groove.

Anyway, school has started up. David and Valerie are back to waking up at 6:45, and Mira goes off to college in 2 weeks. At work we are clearing out the beach towels and focusing on stocking new yarns. Everyone seems to be getting prepared for a little winter nesting, although it is still about 4 months away.

We decided to do a few last minute family activities before the Summer holidays were over. We went out to dinner at our favorite dumpling restaurant - Din Tai Fung, we went on an overnight trip up the coast, Valerie had a little party at our house with a few friends, and David and I had a date night where we went out to dinner and a concert.

The trip we took was just two hours up the coast to Newcastle. It is a small city/large town. I think the town is driven by the energy of their university, and tourism. It reminded me a lot of Santa Cruz, California, where I went to college. For a small town, it was pretty hip. There were lots of galleries, cute gift shops and cafes. People seemed relaxed and stylish. The town is surrounded by beaches and there are victorian baths and a lighthouse. It is also a major harbor with large cargo ships coming and going all the time, hauling Australian minerals to Asia.
It was an interesting drive there and back through all the really small towns that seem much less penetrable. I really liked Newcastle though, and I felt like I could see myself living there under different circumstances.

Lastly, I just want to mention the fun that David and I had on our night out. We went to dinner at a stylish little restaurant called Berta. They serve creative Australian cuisine with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. They do a lot of meat, so we had to choose from what was left. I took a picture of the white fish sashimi in squid ink and fresh samphire. It tasted better than it looks in the photo. We also had lacinato kale with white beans, delicious mussels in a sauce I can't remember, and something else that I can't remember. Anyway, it was charming and fun even if it was more than we would usually spend on dinner.

We walked from the restaurant through some small back streets where we came upon a "pop up art exhibit". The graffiti was done on paper that was glued to the walls. The whole thing was very cool and magical. No one else was around and it was almost like seeing silent ghosts.

The concert was in the Sydney City Recital Hall off of Angel Square which I had never been to. It is a small venue and really relaxed but nice. We saw one of our long time favorites, Lambchop. If you don't know of them, they are kind of a hip, alternative, folk band from Tennessee. The lead singer is the force behind the band and his voice is amazingly deep and hypnotic. He was very down to earth and friendly towards the crowd which made the music even more enjoyable.

It has been 8 months now since I moved here. I won't lie. The adjustment is difficult, and it is not over yet, but somehow, with the help of the seasons, time goes by. Looking back, it seems to go fast, and I think I am enjoying being a city girl. At work, they added the 60's song "Downtown" to the music loop that they play everyday. I've got it, along with other songs, on my personal soundtrack.

(the photos are, from the top: architecture in Newcastle across from our hotel, me and David at the restaurant Bocados in Newcastle, you gotta love a town that has public graffiti art, knit bombed light posts, and historic convict barracks - Newcastle, the beaches, the ships, and the lighthouse - Newcastle; the pop up gallery art near Alberta Street, ugly but tasty sashimi, and bird cage chandelier outside the recital hall.)

Monday, February 6, 2012


Apparently, we are having one of the wettest summers that Sydney has ever seen - almost 5.5 inches in the month of January.

Coming from Arizona, I welcome the moisture. I love the lush botanical growth, the pitter patter on our tin roof, and the way it makes my old skin feel dewey again. The fact that it is overcast and rainy makes my first January in the Southern hemisphere seem a little more familiar. However, since it is summer, the temperatures stay in the mid 60s to high 70s even when it is pouring, so it is warm, and there is really no need to brace oneself against the wet. Umbrellas are good if you are going to work, or anywhere indoors where you have to be presentable, or where wet clothing might be uncomfortable. Otherwise, you could be like a kid, and just walk around and play in the rain. It could be a misty drizzle, or a bucketing downpour. You couldn't use your umbrella anyway if it were a wind-whipped, pelting shower. Luckily, we have a dryer and a dehumidifier, so we can keep mold and mildew from growing on our clothes and walls.

The moistening outside seemed to be going on a little bit too long though, and I was missing the beach and my swimming. Everyone was talking about a weather report that said that Sydney is expecting only 3 days of sunshine in the month of February. I was planning on going over the week-end even if it was raining.

Saturday, I got up early and went on the train to the suburb of Concord West to attend the first meeting of my basic stitching course at the Embroiderers' Guild. You may be wondering "why is someone who has been stitching and doing textile arts most of her life doing a basic stitching course?" Well, this is a one year course that covers proper technique, materials usage, terminology, and history of all the basic embroidery stitches and categories. While I have been stitching since I was a child, I have never had a course, and, let's face it, my techniques (while creative) are messy, unorthodox, and full of holes.

We meet for six hours, one Saturday per month for 10 months across the year. We cover selected topics, practice technique, and get assigned a project to work on over the month. In the end, we have a portfolio of our work, reference materials, and a certificate. There are ten of us in the class, and hopefully, we will have a few friendships at the end of the year as well.

I am really hoping to refine my skills, get inspiration and be more productive, and enjoy the support and fellowship of working in a group. After the first class, I feel that it is going to be pretty much what I had hoped for. The women were all very nice, the teachers were friendly and knowledgable, and I found myself really wanting to hunker down and focus on stitching some beautiful projects. They even have a library full of wonderful books and a shop for supplies. I borrowed three books on design motifs, techniques for left-handers, and use of color.

Anyway, it was raining when I was on the train. It was just cloudy when I walked from the station to the guild headquarters, but I was glad because that made it easier to sit inside and stitch all day. By the end of the day, the sun was shining and steam was rising up from the ground. I got off the train at Redfern Station, the station closest to my house. I could have taken it all the way into Central Station and gotten a bus home, but I needed to stretch my legs, and the sun and warm breeze were captivating. I enjoyed the 25 minute stroll even with the heavy, book-laden bag on my shoulder.

If we had a car, I would have driven to the beach and jumped in the ocean, and that would have been a perfect way to end a lovely day. Instead, since I didn't have the energy to do the bus schlep, I resolved to get up early and go Sunday morning.

David went with me. We were there by around 10 and, already, there were masses of people. I guess everyone was desperate to get their beach time in after all the rain. Also, there were several groups of lifesaving schools and trainers doing their workouts and drills. After noticing all the people, I immediately noticed the size of the waves and the wild, rough churning of the water. Lots of people were in the surf and swimming all over so I didn't think too much of it. I always swim between the flags (this is the life guard safety zone), so I thought it would be wild but fun to bob around in the waves.

When the water was just at my knees, a wave came and hit me in the face. I thought I should get beyond the crashing so I dove under the next wave and got to where the water was up to my shoulders. This is where I can usually bob over a wave, dive under it, or ride it back onto shore. So, when the next wave rose up, and I tried to swim under it, I was surprised, and a little nervous when it tossed me around. I was just able to stand up, catch my breath, and make sure my swim suit was still on, before another one peaked.

I tried to dive under it, but the force of the churn threw me around like a rag doll in a dog's mouth. Salt water was forced up my nose and I couldn't hold my breath. Fortunately, the water wasn't deep so I was able to straighten myself out and pop my head up quickly. Also, it is just sandy, no rocks, so there wasn't any danger of knocking into anything, other than the people around me. At this point I was thinking only of getting out of the water and back on shore where I could catch my breath. More and more waves were quickly rolling in. Luckily, a nice young man near me was able to talk me through the next wave and help me ride the next one onto the shore.

I stumbled up to where David was lying, unaware of my drama. I was full of adrenalin, and my suit was full of sand, so I asked David to wait for me while I went for a swim in the Ladies Pool, just up the beach. When I climbed down the steps and jumped in the water, it felt like even more of a blissful haven than usual. I swam four laps opening my eyes under water and watching myself drift through the clear, sparkling sea. I floated on my back and stared up at the blue sky. The waves were occasionally crashing over the side of the wall, but it was more exhilarating than threatening. I went to the changing room, toweled off the last of the sand, and put on my dry clothes.

David told me later that that day had been a record day for surf rescues - 700 people all together on the Sydney beaches! No fatalities, but one boy is still missing. It is supposed to rain all this week but I may go swimming at the Ladies Pool next Saturday either way.

(the photo of the embroidery is from )