Saturday, 3 March 2018

February 2018

Hi everyone!  We made it through another month!

My February started with finishing up as the Treasurer for our schools Parents and Citizens (P&C) association.  I did the job for two years, and starting uni this year, I wasn't sure of the time I'd need, so decided to hand it over to the next person.

The Little Big Fella's cricket has been going pretty well this month.  He's a bit "I don't want to go to cricket", but he enjoys himself when he's there and before we signed him up we asked him to commit to the whole season.  It's a team event so having someone drop out part way through would impact on everyone else.  And we wanted him to complete a season of something to help him learn the life lesson of commitment.  He's improving and gaining confidence, and even bowled someone out this morning!

I've continued with our local art society this year (I LOVE it!) and our theme/challenge for February was "love".  So I drew my husband.  Here's the photo I worked from and the incomplete drawing:

Since then, I've finished the ear, added a bit more shading to his face generally, and splashed some water colour over the left side of the page.  If you're lucky, I'll remember to post the finished product next month.

The Big Fella is back home, and after doing a few weeks of day shift finishing up some of the stuff for the new trainees, he's back driving and working awful shifts.  Seriously, whoever makes these things up has no concept of sleep patterns or family life!

But, working weird shifts means he's often home during the day and he's inspired to finish our plans for our back patio area!  We started by finishing off the herb garden and pizza oven area (see the last photos of it here).  The Big Fella and his mate laid the pavers properly, and then the Big Fella and I moved some of the stones from under the back ramp to fill in the rest of the garden (we laid weed mat first in the hope that we can keep those under control).  We pulled out some of the older plants, added more potting mix to the top of the garden, and put a few new plants in.

So, after a year and half, here's the finished product:

We're loving it!  It's easy to use and has exactly the feel we were hoping for.

Unfortunately we've had some warm weather this month (warm as in 45 degree Celcius, 113 Fahrenheit) so some of the new plants have died, but a lot of them have survived and we're eating our way through lemongrass, taragon, rosemary, thyme, basil (regular, Thai and lime), oregano, chives, and chillies.  Bring on pizza oven weather!!!!

I had a bit of time in my front garden as well, and I'm LOVING the bird of paradise plants we have.  The pink in the middle of this leaf, and the up close texture in the sun... LOVE!

Once he finished that lot, the Big Fella and another mate pulled out the ramp from our back door in preparation for putting in stairs and an outdoor kitchen.  Which was kind of a good thing, because they found termites in it!  So the job keeps getting bigger, and we'll have a few months of something like this:

But now we have temporary stairs so it's all good :-)

I started online orientation for uni this month, with a bunch of 1 hour sessions.  Some of them have been repeats of info I got last year doing the Study Link subjects, but I've garnered extra suggestions in almost all of them, so it's been worthwhile.

Doing the online sessions at the dining table was getting a bit wearing, so we decided to move the guest room furniture into our room and set the guest room up as my study/art room.  I don't have any photos for you yet, but here's the guest room before it was moved.  Now all that matching furniture is in our room, and all the junk that was still piled in the corner is... in the living room :-(  I'll get there :-)

The weird thing has been going from sleeping in a big, soft king size bed, to sleeping in a smaller, harder, queen size bed.  The Big Fella and I are NOT used to touching each other in the night so we kept half-waking whenever either of us rolled over.  We're slowly getting used to it.

My first "actual" uni subject has started and I'm already behind in week 1.  There's a LOT of reading.  Thankfully my previous tertiary experience tells me that I'll settle in and find a rhythm, because otherwise I'd be seriously freaking out (instead of just general freaking out).

The girls I met last month all got together for another dinner out and I met some more new people.  I think it's good for me to keep meeting new people.  I tend to get caught up in my own little world, so being with others (especially new people) reminds me that the world is not about me.

I also got together with the art ladies for a social night, which is always fun.  They're so good for me :-)

Our final bit of news for the month is that the Little Big Fella has started learning to play the flute.  He's in Grade 4 this year, so is eligible for instrumental music lessons and he chose the flute (choices were flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and percussion).  Like cricket, he had to commit to playing (and practising) for the whole year.  He was SO enthusiastic for the first few nights (including wanting to sleep with it) but it's tapered off already.  I'm guessing that when he learns a couple of specific notes (rather than just blowing to get a sound) he'll up the enthusiasm for a couple of days and we'll go round and round the motivation cycle for the rest of the year.

Or he could surprise me!

I hope you've all had a good February, and I look forward to "seeing" you next month!

Friday, 2 February 2018

And that's a wrap - January 2018

Hello friends and family!

Yes!  The blog is still live, even if I only wrote in it three times in 2017.

I was showing someone my Cars today and thought how long it's been since I wrote here.  So, I thought I'd try to at least do a month-by-month summary of what's going on in our lives this year.  You never know!  I might even stick to it for the whole year :)

We had the privilege of having the Big Fella's family with us for Christmas, which was really wonderful.  Unfortunately I was still a bit stressed out from all the "stuff" leading up to it, so I wasn't as gracious a host as I would have liked.  Thankfully they were gracious enough to let it slide, and we all had a pretty good time :)

It was actually the first time we've all been together since the Little Big Fella was born, so it was pretty special!  Crazily enough, we didn't actually get a photo of all of us together!  But here's a couple I did get :)

I did a treasure hunt for the Little Big Fella's major present (a PS4).  He had a little envelope in the Christmas tree that he opened, which had a bit of a poem/riddle to solve to find the next clue.  I think there were six clues, which he worked out very quickly and he really enjoyed the process (as well as the present).

Everyone left by December 28th, and I didn't have to be back at work until January 3rd.  So, despite having a list longer than my arm of things I wanted to do, I pretty much sat on the couch and read my Kindle (1-3 books a day) and watched Netflix.  I kind of wondered why I "wasted" so much time, but now that everything is back in full swing I absolutely know.  I was exhausted!

Seriously, I need to keep a lid on things a bit better this year or I'll be a nervous wreck by the end of it!

I recalled the joy of receiving actual letters in the mail when I was a little girl, so I've decided to try to write a letter a week.  I'm not doing great at keeping at it, and I'm only a month in, but I think it's something I'd like to keep trying at.

I'm starting a course at university this year - a Bachelor of Social Work (hopefully with honours) at Charles Sturt University.  So January included a couple of pre-study subjects to make sure I know my way around their online learning environment, and learning/remembering referencing systems and all that joy.

Oddly enough, I actually enjoyed all that.  So imagine how much "fun" it'll be when I get into the "real" subjects!

I got to celebrate the birthday of my friend and hairdresser in January.  And at the same time met some awesome new potential friends.  We had such a fun night we decided to make a habit of it, so about once a month we'll all get together for dinner and a drink or two, with or without the kids.

I had to do a photo for my uni student card, so while I was dressed up for my night out with the girls, I took a photo that I'm actually pretty happy with :)

I finished another painting this month as well.  Our challenge was to use one colour, and shade/tint it with black/white.  I'm happy with how she's come out.  I love the shape her body makes and the sense of movement in her hair and dress.  And the feeling it reminds me of from when I used to dance :)

The Big Fella has been assisting in a training school for the past 14 weeks.  The first and last 5 weeks were at a town down on the coast about three and a half hours from home.  It's been tough, but a LOT easier than before we first moved up here and the Little Big Fella was so much younger.  We're excited to have him back home again for the foreseeable future!

The Little Big Fella and I drove down one weekend to hang with the Big Fella, which was a fun break from routine.  We did some shopping, eating (of course!) and general hanging around.

I was amazed by the creativity in their public spaces!  They had multi-purpose spaces that were functional, interesting, creative, relevant to their area and generally well thought out.  I think I'm going to need to get in touch with the people who design our public spaces and see if we can come up with some good ideas to bring people together creatively.

I surprised the Little Big Fella with a trip into our biggest close town to see the live show of Deadly 60.  He really enjoys the TV show, and seeing it live was really cool.  We ran into a bunch of friends there, which made it extra special.  Then had some Hungry Jacks before the long drive home.

We're back on a health kick this year, hoping we can make it more of a long-term lifestyle change.  The Big Fella and I have put a bit on over the last few years and we're uncomfortable in our clothes.  Add a bit of hot Queensland weather and you have the inspiration for getting back in shape.  So far I've lost 2kg, which is a nice, steady loss for me, and I seem to be taking to the routine well enough.  The proof will be in the pudding, though!

So that's pretty much January!  Fingers crossed I'll see you again in about 28 days :)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Crazy, busy May

Oh Lordy, it's been a busy May this year!!!  Actually, it started straight after Easter with a school disco on the first day back.  I believe I actually blogged that one!

The following week was ANZAC Day, essentially the Australian version of Memorial Day, for my American friends.  We had a fairly quiet day at home, because I knew it would be my last quiet day for a while.

We had a P&C (parents and citizens) meeting  on the Wednesday, then all hands were on deck in for our local May Day Fair.  May Day is a big deal in our town, which has a very strong set of unions.  The unions put together a big fair, providing free rides, plenty of food and drink, a car and bike show, and market stalls.  All the local not-for-profit groups take up the market stalls (and make a bit of a killing, to be honest!), and there is a rodeo and fireworks throughout the weekend.

Our school's P&C had the opportunity to purchase a donut fryer and dispenser and a slushie machine.  I am SO glad we had so many volunteer parents and teachers throughout the day because it was mayhem!  One of the new teachers at the school is a face painter, so she set up at one end of the tent and couldn't quite believe how busy it was (I think she finally got a quick break around 2pm).

We completely sold out of our slushie mix and donuts, and people even waited up to half an hour for the donuts!  They're a massive hit and were the talk of the town.

In the evening we sold glow products before the fireworks and sold out of those as well!

It was a massive day for the committee members, who were there from 6:30am to 8pm.  And none of us could look at a donut for a day or two after!

The Big Fellas and I went and saw our doctor the following week to arrange for vaccinations for our cruise in July!!!  We're getting very excited now and have finally received our check in details and been able to collect our tickets!

My parents came up for a bit of a flying visit that week, too!  It was SO good to have them here!  I took the three days off work to hang out with them and give them a bit of a tour.

The first day was a bit overcast and cool, so we mostly sat inside and talked and played a word game on mum's phone.  It was perfect for a bunch of introverts :)

We balanced our introversion by having our good friends over for dinner and trialed the new wood-fired oven!

Yes, that IS the largest skewer you'll probably ever see!

We still need to do the paving properly, and we're going to fill in the gaps with stones (probably a bit safer than wood chip!), but it's basically done and it's VERY good!!!!  Here's a closer view of the "art" the Big Fella and I did together:

It catches the light differently throughout the day and ask you look at it from different angles.

The next day Mum, Dad and I did a bit of a walking tour, going to the local coal centre for morning tea and checking out the coal museum and Japanese garden.  Mum and Dad grew up in a coal area in Victoria, so it was really interesting going through the museum with them and hearing a few stories, while they learned a few things about the process of coal mining that they hadn't known.

On our last full day, we drove to the closest large town and out to the dam on the other side.  We had a picnic lunch and did some rock-hopping (the Little Big Fella got the day off school and LOVED jumping around the rocks with Grandad!).

We all took photos (I've got some cool ideas - an abstract and a mini masterpiece) and the weather was beautiful.  We stopped for a coffee and poke around the shops before heading home.

The Big Fella and his mate left on a deer hunting trip that morning so we made sure to get a photo of all of us before they left.

Mum and Dad flew home on the Saturday, then the Little Big Fella and I went to the skate park in that town before KFC for lunch, a quick stop at the shops (and a quick hello to our Principal and her kids) before heading home.

I'm pretty sure I sat on the couch, reading for most of that evening and Sunday.

The following weekend the donuts made a reappearance at a Family Fun Day held by one of the pubs.  It wasn't overly busy, which was pretty lucky because there were only two of us running it (as opposed to a minimum of 4 or 5 at a time during May Day Fair).  Again we sold out and turned people away!

The next day was a clean up day and meeting of our Art Society.  I got to work outside with one of our oldest members, and she is an absolute crack up!  She kind of reminds me of my Grandma before she had her stroke - she's quick witted and spritely and willing to help everyone.  And, oh my Lord, she is funny!

Speaking of art, the week was full of it!  The local high school runs an art show each year and it's quite a big deal in the area.  I got two of my pieces framed and I was so happy with how they came out!!!

I also submitted two other pieces, but they were really to support the high school, rather than because I was overly happy with them.

I got SO sick on the Tuesday!!!  I woke up fine and went to work, then during the morning my nose started running and by lunch my body was aching and I was sneezing all over the place.  I packed up and took all my germs home with me, then spent the next 36-odd hours fighting a fever.  I finally woke up on Thursday feeling normal temperature and it was such a relief.  I was fully exhausted, though, so ended up staying home Thursday and Friday.

Friday evening I stocked myself full of cold and flu medications and nasal spray and ventured out to the art show to see what it was all about.

People, I have SO much to learn!!!!  Some of the art there was a-maz-ing!!!!  I was inspired and humbled by the amazing talent shown there!

It was great to see a whole bunch of people from the Art Society, as well as local friends.  I also ended up having a good chat with a guy who contracts to us at work and his wife.  They live about 6 or 7 hours away and he hasn't worked with us for over a year, so it was great to catch up a bit.

It turns out his wife is an artist, who also teaches, and she gave me so much in the time I got to speak with her!  Little tips, comments about why some paintings just didn't quite "work" (apparently their perspective was off so it didn't quite ring true), techniques that she used in her submissions.. it was awesome!

She ended up winning "Best in Show" and "Best Oil/Acrylic" with a painting of two horses that was stunning!  So I guess she had an idea of what she was talking about :)

I didn't win anything, but did get merit awards on both my framed pieces.  And throughout the night people (some I had never met before) complimented my wave painting.  It was quite a surreal experience, to be honest.

I ended up going home before the night was through (the medications started wearing off, I think), but got a text message from my friend - my wave painting sold!!!!

Honestly, I was (and still am) stoked and amazed!  I mean, I really liked it and was proud of it, but I didn't think anyone would really want to buy it at the price I had on it (all pieces in the show had to be for sale, and the school took a 25% commission on all sales, so by the time you include the cost of framing, time and materials, the price I put on it seemed a bit high to me).

So, now I feel like my personal bar has been set higher.  I want to improve, and try new things, and push myself, and read and watch videos and talk to as many artists as I can, and attend workshops and, and, and... paint!

But, ultimately, I'm doing all of this because painting makes me happy!  So, I think I'll keep going for now!

This last week has been a bit crazy with trying to catch up at work after being sick, and I've had a bunch of appointments after work.  But I've had a nice, quiet weekend and feel peaceful this evening.

The coming week will be cool!  The Little Big Fella has a sports carnival on, and because I knew far enough in advance, I've taken the day off to go and watch him.  He is SO excited that I'll be at school with him ALL day!  It makes me a little teary, actually, because this is the first sports event that I'll be able to be there for the whole day, rather than rushing in to watch a little bit on my lunch break.  And seeing how happy my not-so-little boy is about it melts my mummy-heart.

So, hopefully I'll take a few photos and tell you all about it soon :)

Before I finish off, I wanted to show you some of the gorgeousness that's been in my garden lately.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Dancing with my baby at the disco

I'm disappointed that I didn't get any photos of tonight.  My son's school had a disco and I got to dance a couple of dances with him.

It was so much fun!

And exhausting!

And hot!

And loud!

And awesome!!!!

I loved the look in his eyes as we danced.  He was having a blast and loved dancing with his mum!

The Little Big Fella turned 8 at the end of last month.  I only have about 10 years left of him living with us.  And he probably won't want me around for a decent part of that time.

So I store the fun, laughter, craziness and love of these moments in my heart.  Because these are the "good old days" that I will want to remember well into my old age.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Work in progress

I joined the local Art Society this year, and while I haven't made it to many gatherings, I've definitely found a group of people that I like to be around!  They're SO encouraging, have great tips and suggestions, and (unlike almost every group I've come across here) not inclined to gossip.

One of the things the Society is doing this year, is having a "project of the month".  Each month a member of the group presents a concept, process or subject for everyone to try throughout the month and present to the group.

It's been really interesting seeing various interpretations of the themes.  For example, the first theme was "apple and cup".

One lady drew two possums, one eating an apple, and one checking out a cup.

One lady painted the view from her kitchen window, incorporating the apple and cup on her bench top.

One lady drew an apple and a cup with her non-dominant hand.

Another filled a page with various references to apples and cups.

The friend who introduced me to the Society did a cartoon-style picture of two Leprechauns brewing apple cider, showing the process all the way from the apple to the cup.

Last month's challenge was "seascape" in any medium.  I was initially inclined to do an abstract painting similar to this:

I think something along that line would be within my perception of my abilities.  And I like the colours :)

However, the resident artist who set this particular challenge didn't say anything but had an expression that I interpreted as disappointment.  So I looked again.  And this photo caught my eye:

Something about the light, the colours, and I guess the impact of it visually really caught my attention.  But it would most certainly be a challenge to do anything like this!!!

I couldn't let go of the idea though, so I bought a canvas and looked at the colours and shapes, probably for a couple of weeks.

Finally I made a start and blocked out the main shapes and colours.

The only problem was, I didn't like it at all!!!  The shapes weren't right, and the colours just weren't encouraging me to keep going.

Luckily, working with acrylics means it's REALLY easy to go over it again!!!

Okay, now the shapes are on the right track.

I decided to start with the sky - a small area that felt less intimidating.

Happy with how it was going, I had the courage to continue, adding colour to the water.

By this point I realised that there was no way this was going to be a photo-realistic painting.  And after my initial disappointment, I let it go and let the painting come out whichever way it would.

And then, I felt like I was done!  I hung it on the wall to look at over the next few days, just to check if I felt the need to adjust anything.

A friend from the Society private messaged me when I put that last photo on Facebook and suggested that the mountains might need a bit of detail, even though the original photo didn't have it.  I've had a few attempts at it, and agree that the detail is needed, but still haven't been able to "finish" it.

I got a parcel in the mail around that time, which I was pretty excited about.  A range of palette knives to play with!!!  So I tried them out with my variation of a painting I have in the cycle of wallpapers on my work computer.

There are several things I don't like about it, but it was a quick, fun play, and I got to try a few different techniques.

Then I decided to do something that I might like to decorate with.  It began like this:

And is now ready for stage two:

As well as painting (and a bit of drawing), the Big Fella has "encouraged" me to walk around town with him five nights a week.  We have two main routes which take 30 to 35 minutes, and we talk as the Little Big Fella rides his scooter up and down the paths.  It's been good to reconnect!

The Big Fella and I also started working on our little backyard garden.  When we first moved in, there was a huge hunk of concrete, a palm tree and several yukkas and spiky plants.  Not our idea of a great garden.

And the weeds!!!  Oh my Lord!!!  The whole area just keeps growing weeds as soon as it's damp!

We have a vision for the patio area, and wanted this garden area to be an extension of it.  But although we'd been tossing up various ideas for the last 14 months, we hadn't reached a joined vision.

I bought a magazine (a rarity for me) with house decoration and design ideas and came across a few features that I thought we might like.

We were discussing this garden area on one walk and suddenly joined a bunch of ideas and it all came together in our heads!  Join this with the change in weather (thank God for cool nights and not-dripping-with-heat days!!!), and the Big Fella was off!!!

I got home from work one day and the palm tree and spiky plants were all gone!

The next day I come home to half the fence missing, an extra piece of framework on top of it, and cinder blocks laid out in a rough design.

The next day I helped paint the back panels and put them up.  I also had the rather fun (and very messy) job of adding the texture coat.

Back to paid work for me, but the Big Fella started construction of "The Gallows".

The next few days didn't appear to get very far, but there was plenty of background and preparation work going on.  Including mixing gravel, sand and cement.  The Little Big Fella got involved here and helped shovel.

It was SO funny to watch and listen!  The Little Big Fella worked SO hard to lift a little bit of gravel on his shovel into the trailer.  Meanwhile the Big Fella shoveled around 15 heavily loaded shovel-fulls!

And the incessant chatter that is always involved when the Little Big Fella is around these days was gold!

So now The Gallows are in, the edge of the garden is back in place, the extra panels on the side are up, and the base is ready and waiting for the main piece to arrive later this week.  The garden bed itself is ready to go up, once the extra bricks arrive.

The Little Big Fella and his mate from next door desperately wanted to go motorbike riding this weekend, but the Big Fella has been working nights.  So this afternoon I helped take them out to an area where locals ride pretty regularly, along with the neighbour's dad.

We have a beautiful sandstone escarpment nearby, and views of it and the green grasslands were SO good for my soul!!!

While the boys rode, I took photos of the interesting textures and shapes around, as well as the escarpment itself.

Then I finished a book I've been reading, and started selecting the colours I'll need for my next Art Society project.

As we packed the bikes up, the sun was starting to set and it was just beautiful!  I felt refreshed and lifted.

When I got home I was hit with the discouraging reality that tomorrow is the last of my four day weekend.

There are things that need doing in preparation for the coming chaos.  Deadlines are about to hit.  Hard.

In that single moment, I crashed from the highs of my renewing afternoon, to the lows of my current reality.

And I saw how much I am a work in progress.  And just how far I still have to go!

My life is not difficult in many ways!  I have a great husband, my son is an entertaining joy, we have the financial stability that dreams are made of!

And yet, I struggle.

I suffer from doubt, insecurities, loneliness, a sense of purposelessness, and periods of depression.

And just when I feel like I'm getting a handle on myself and making progress toward a goal I can't even define, I am slammed into the ground again.

Like the first stages of my wave painting, I'm not happy with how things are shaped.  Like the beginning of our garden, things are messy!

But I spy a little light on the horizon.
A tiny piece of hope.
A sense that all is not lost and I am actually moving toward... something!

So simultaneously alongside a sense of... grief? at the end of my day of "freedom", there lies a sense that good is on the horizon, maybe even great!  And that this particular work in progress has some pretty impressive potential.