Sunday, 12 May 2013

An Open Letter to my Mother

Dear Mum,

I always poo-hoo Mother's Day. Why should I need a particular day to tell you how much I love and appreciate you? I should do it all the time - but I don't. And we do need a special day to say: Thank you, I love you, you are wonderful.

This year I feel even closer to you as I can celebrate as a mother too. Although Jack is not quite one, I already have some first hand knowledge of how much goes into raising a child, and you did it three times! Since becoming a high school teacher I am also horrified that I was once a teenage girl and that you had to deal with that - I am sorry and occasionally a little ashamed.

Then as I have gotten older, we have developed such a wonderful friendship that I honestly cannot imagine being without. We can share common interests and you are always there for phone calls at impractical times, usually to reassure me that what I was doing with my baby was actually fine and giving me the confidence to trust my instincts. But perhaps most importantly you are my only mother and you pull me into line when needed and tell me off when I deserve it. No one else can do that and get away with it and I appreciate the lengths you go to even now, to make me a better person.

This year in particular my heart aches for you on Mother's Day having just lost our Nana, your dear mum. I look at the two of you and can't imagine wanting better or stronger role models.

I love you, I appreciate you, you are wonderful.

Clemmie xxxx

Friday, 22 March 2013

Love Where You Live: Ten great things about Canberra

In no particular order...

  1. Parklands - so many amazing places to walk and ride, open spaces all over the city.
  2. Autumn - such an amazing contrast of clear blue skies and changing foliage on beautiful sunny days.
  3. Cool nights - you can always get a good nights sleep.
  4. Free attractions - Always something to do, amazing galleries and museums.
  5. The National Portrait Gallery Gift Shop - privately owned and run but has the most amazing range.
  6. Getting places fast - as long as it's not during the small window of peak hour in the morning and evening.
  7. Questacon - for children of all ages.
  8. Markets - such variety and on every weekend.
  9. Question time - who doesn't like a good comedy?
  10. History - Love retracing the steps of the people who have made Australia what it is today.

What do you love about where you live?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Single Parent Survival

It's been said before, but I gotta say it again: How do single parents manage? My husband has been overseas for work for two weeks now and we still have a week to go. His new job will be taking him on many business trips (lucky him) and it is my intention to not only survive these trips, but to thrive. The problem remains though, how on earth do you do it?

The day hubby left on his exciting trip I started getting flu symptoms (may have been the start of some mastitis - but that's another story) but of course I couldn't stop and rest and ended up getting bronchitis. It can generally be agreed that it takes the same energy to run a house for two adults and a baby as it does for one adult and a baby, except there is no one to share the work with. The same amount of dishes, the same amount of household tasks but the only time you have to achieve these jobs in when the baby is asleep.

I've been lucky enough to have my dad come and stay since the end of last week which has enabled me to have some sleep ins and to get on top of the house chores. But, how do single parents do it? I have one baby and my husband is away for three weeks. I can't begin to imagine how single mums do it 24/7 with more than one child.

So, I salute you single parents of the world, whether you be full time or part time as I find myself now. I hand it over to you, how does one thrive being a solo parent?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

To Wean or Not to Wean

Is there any right answer to that question? The whole issue is causing me grief at the moment so I'm putting it out there: I think I want to wean my baby. He's almost 9 months old after all and is combination fed at the moment since I couldn't keep up with a growth spurt at the start of the year. I'm producing next to no milk, yet I still feel this horrible pressure to keep feeding him!

At a recent weigh in, baby Jack had dropped from consistently being on the 50th percentile for weight to the 25tth. Meanwhile he is still consistently 50th for length. I know the percentiles are only a guide, but a 25 drop is a worry to me. Add to that I'm coming out of a sinus infection a couple of weeks ago and currently have bronchitis - all contributing factors to perhaps why I'm not making much milk.

Mothers today have information overload. There are too many forums and webpages all telling you conflicting 'facts' and stating that their way is the only proper way to parent. I think it's important to switch off the computer and google search, and just ask your inner mothering instinct 'What will be best for my baby?'.

The answer for me? Wean. It is time.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Anyone can Stipple - Even You!

If you don't know what a fat quarter or stippling are, then you may not like  to read this post. But, if you quilt, expert, beginner or otherwise - I encourage you to share.
I got into quilting really only since I was pregnant. I got some crazy idea I'd make a funky patchwork quilt (see fandango quilt on this blog) to keep me warm whilst chilling out on the couch waiting for my winter baby. Well, in true Little Mama fashion I bit off a little more than I could chew and needed much advice from Big Mama. The main thing I had completely underestimated was the skill required for Free Motion Quilting. I had selected this beautiful swirly Paisley motif and of course - had to get Big Mama to finish it for me.

Lesson 1 - walk before you can crawl and practice, practice, practice! And that's just what I did.
Animal Border - The Deep End!
I started off drawing small, simple patterns on pretend quilts and just kept going until I had relatively few jerks and therefore a smoother and more even stitch. Before long I was able to transfer these skills to a real project when making the Raggedy Farmyard Quilt for my son. Nine panels, all with a different Free-Motion pattern really put me to the test, but also gave me a world of confidence. The border on this project also had a continuous animal pattern which was probably the most difficult thing I'd done to date.

Lesson 2 - Watch as many tutorial videos as possible. I know I haven't done any - something to work up to. But by far the best site for free motion quilting and stippling tutorial is Leah Day's 'Free Motion Quilting Project'. Her videos are fantastic and her commentary makes everything so much easier. I think almost every filler I used on the Raggedy Farmyard Quilt was one of Leah's.

First Stippling Attempt
Lesson 3 - Just give stippling a go! Despite having got quite good at following a drawn line with my quilting, I was very hesitant to do the traditional stipple (a bendy all over random quilting pattern) yet this is one of the things that first drew me to quilting after I saw the amazing work at the Adelaide Quilting and Craft Fair in November 2011. The thing that probably helped me the most with real stippling was something Leah Day said on one of her videos - pretend you're drawing with the machine. Before then I had been so worried about what I'd do and where I'd go. When I got that concept of drawing in my head - it was easy. I didn't even do a practice (although I shouldn't admit to that).

Summing it up - Have a go! If I can stipple, anyone can. If you muck up it doesn't matter and no one else will probably notice. I made a couple of mistakes on the picture above but you'd have to look closely to find them!

Please share your attempts! I'd love to see what other people are making!

NB: All my free motion quilting so far has used the BSR - Bernina Stitch Regulator, so I'm probably cheating a little bit.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Educational Toy Heaven

Up until now, I haven't publicly promoted a businesses on my blog, but last week I came across the most amazing store that I have to share the word. Unfortunately this information is only really relevant to Canberra residents but I know the store is working on the website.
'childplay toys' is hidden in a suburb of Canberra and I stumbled upon it when searching for a specific cotton needed to finish a quilt order. Turns out the cotton didn't match (different dye lot), but the potentially wasted trip was saved by the treasure trove next door. When I entered this unimposing store, I wished I was 10 again so I could play with all the wonderful toys. Wooden toys, puzzles, books and everything in between. The staff were amazingly warm and welcoming and baby Jack had a play in a designated area while I raided the shelves. I was able to browse at my leisure but was also offered suggestions on products which I ended up buying and encouraged to try new things. I only wish my husband had been with me so we could both act like children again. Maybe it's the point of having children, gives us an excuse to relive such wonderful parts of our youth.
About 20 minutes later I walked out with a bag full of goodies which included a birthday gift for one of my friends, bath toys and others for Jack, and some learning tools for my French teaching. What joy! Check them out - they put out regular updates on FaceBook but if you can make it to the store - do it!
Some of my loot!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Tantrum Trauma

My baby is not old enough to throw a tantrum, though I'm sure I will witness many in the coming years, yet time again I'm hearing stories from my girlfriends of the most amazing displays of irrational meltdowns. We've all seen it, usually in the most public of places. Children are inconsolable, usually about the most mundane situation, and no matter what their desperate parents do they will not calm down.

I see various responses from parents, all with their respective psychological theory behind them. Some look embarrassed and try to shuffle the child quickly to the nearest escape route. Others just stand there calmly waiting for the child to regain composure. Then there's always a bit of bribery, time out or good old scolding to call back on as well. 

I guess the question I want to ask is, is it ok for strangers to interfere when an unknown child is chucking an all out fit? I say no. It's not. But sometimes you would just love to distract the child long enough to get the parent back in control. I'm a nice person, I just want to help. Ultimately it's not the 'nice' person who tries to help. It's the 'I know better than them' person and is anyone ever really going to snap a strange child out of a full on tantrum?

So tell me, what are your tantrum stories? Please share your tips on how to avoid all out, kicking and screaming fits.
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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Egg Allergy Debrief

I'm usually pretty good in a crisis. I keep calm, at least on the outside, and help others to manage the situation. Maybe it's a teacher thing - taking control and telling everyone else what to do. Well this past weekend, my 'cool in a crisis' label wasn't simply shaken, it was smashed. I can safely say I've never been so frightened and unhinged before in my life. And why is it that when something happens to our children, it's ultimately ourselves we worry about?

Sunday evening, my husband was getting things started for dinner as I sat down to give baby Jack is his dinner. I had been meaning to give him egg for ages and now that he is over 7 months old, he can handle a few lumps and bumps. I scrambled a fresh egg and had little success getting him to eat. He was happy to taste, but I guess the new flavour and texture put him off. He would've had less than 1/4 tsp of egg so I gave up and finished dinner with some of his favourites.

Just as I was wiping Jack's face at the end of dinner, I noticed that it was very red. I quickly showed my husband and before our eyes, the rash was spreading and small swollen whitish lumps started appearing. This is when I lost it completely and am oh so glad Tim was home. First I was going to ring the GP helpline, but couldn't get my fingers to dial the correct numbers. But as the reaction seemed to be getting worse we just jumped in the car and headed for the hospital. 

I got in the back seat with the baby, and as we are in a new city, tried to work out which was the closest emergency room for children. I'm trained in first aid and as a teacher have had extensive anaphylaxis training, but on school children and adults, not babies. I didn't know what to look for or what to do. In the car Jack didn't seem bothered at all by the reaction he was having. Then he started blowing foamy bubbles from his mouth. I'd never seen him do that before so it started me freaking all over again even though it is perhaps completely normal baby behaviour. A quick call to 000 (Australian equivalent of 911) and a wonderful paramedic was giving me excellent support and reassurance. 

When we got to the hospital Jack's face rash had gone down quite a lot. Over the next hour or so he vomited 5 - 6 times and the rash spread to his back and shoulders. The hospital staff were wonderful and caring as most medical professionals are, and the reaction was soon under control with some steroids and antihistamines. Three hours of observation later, a very tired little boy and his shaken parents went home. I left the hospital feeling completely empty. The massive adrenaline rush had left me with a downer that lasted well into this week. No wonder my poor baby was fussy all of the following day. 

From here we are going to see a paediatric immunologist for further testing. According to our GP a subsequent exposure would produce a more severe reaction so I've stocked up on phenergan and have taken on a new life's mission to keep my baby boy away from egg. As always, I have been amazed at everyone's kind support and excellent advice from other parents of allergy sufferers. And without our lovely Canberra cousins coming to the hospital for support - Tim and I would not have eaten that night! 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

One day = one new skirt

After doing so much quilting and intricate projects of late, I forgot how quick and satisfying dressmaking projects can be. At the Adelaide Quilting and Craft Fair last November I bought a wrap around skirt pattern ( and finally made it today. It was quite a simple pattern and so I started and finished it during Jack's naps. How wonderful! The skirt is completely reversible so it was basically like making two skirts and stitching them together.
I bought some matching fabrics at the Spotlight sale so the whole thing ended up costing about $20. Bargain! However, the rings that the ties go through cost $15 at the Quilting Fair - not a bargain. I reckon you'd be able to to get them cheaper somewhere else, or even make big button holes instead. I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy they were to put on though, just snap the two parts together by hand.

As I was trying to complete this project on a budget, I found the most suitable cheaper fabrics, these ones were $8 per metre. However, if I had an endless budget I would've gone for a black backing fabric with a metallic asian print on the front. Great in theory but at $20 per metre it was a stretch.

What would you do to mix up this pattern? Do you think this is the sort of product people would like to buy online? How much would you pay for it?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Baby, Please Sleep!!! A story about loving your baby to tears.

Morning cuddles with Jack
I have the most adorable, healthy baby boy. The problem is, he is growing like there's no tomorrow and earlier this month, he had me well worn out. In just under three weeks, baby Jack put on 470grams. That's just over a pound for my friends in across the ocean. During this growth spurt, jack was downing 3 - 4 solid meals a day on top of his regular breast feeds. This was not a major problem. What was bothering me were the two-plus feeds per night. Now Jack has never been one to sleep through the night. At six months he was still having that 3am feed and I really didn't mind at all. But I did mind feeling like I had a newborn again, sometimes waking evert 2 - 3 hours. Whilst I realise extra feeds during growth spurts creates more milk, I lost 4 kgs in three weeks (that's just under 9 pounds) and could not continue.

After a quick visit to the doctor and a my mother flying in to help, the decision was made to add a supplementary formula feed to Jacks diet. Great in theory, terrible in reality. Jack would take one taste and reject it. We tried, bottles and sippy cups, but he just hasn't got used to the taste yet. Ultimately this hasn't mattered, as with my mum staying I was able to get lots of extra rest and I guess Jack was over his growth spurt. 

Just when I thought things were going back to normal, my lovely child who had recently become cuddle dependent to go to sleep, cried and cried and cried at bed time. Try as I may, I could not get him to settle down. I sang, I rocked, I shushed - yet he cried on. And, what inevitably follows when you cannot sooth your child, I cried and cried and cried. It was time for a change.

It's time for a shout out to all my lovely facebook friend mummies who were so generous with their advice and support when I was at breaking point. With their help, a week ago we started a new program of 'controlled crying'. I hate that term so instead like to say 'self settling'. And, it was marvellous. We never let Jack cry for longer than 5ish minutes without going in and giving him a pat to calm him down and very quickly, bedtime became a much less painful event. By the end of the week Jack was even making happy sounds when I put him to bed instead of crying as soon as I put him down like we had in the past. 

The greatest development from our new routine is night sleeping. Without really intending to, Jack is now sleeping through the night. I give him a feed going to bed at 7:00, then a dream-feed just before I go to bed, usually about 9:30. For the last four nights (don't breath unless it changes something!!) Jack has slept from the dream feed till after 6:00. It's wonderful! 

What I've learnt

  • Stick to your routine. If 7:00 is bedtime, then it's bedtime every night whether the baby seems tired or not.
  • It's much easier to listen to someone else's baby cry. 
  • Try not to cry when baby is upset as it just makes everything worse.
  • Being strong and taking the tough option makes life much easier in the end.
  • Ask for help. My wonderful mum flew in and saved the day.
  • I have the greatest online support through social media. It's a fantastic resource when you live away from friends.
So one week on, whilst we still have the odd difficult bedtime (it just took me 45 minutes to get him to go down) generally nap time is a simple and happy process for Jack and I. If you are thinking about changing your baby's routine, this method is not suggested for children under 6 months, but worked wonders for us. Good luck and stay strong!
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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Baby bibs - Appliqué with the Embroidery Machine

A couple of weeks ago I finally got up the courage to try appliqué with my machine embroidery unit. Turns out - it's really easy! The instructions on the site are really simple to follow. All you need is a printer and some spray glue on top of your normal machine embroidery supplies. The simple process is as follows.
Appliqué using embroidery machine

  • Select and purchase a design. 
  • Print the DL template file and cut it out.
  • With a little bit of spray adhesive, stick some stabiliser to the appliqué fabric. 
  • Trace around the wrong side of the template onto the back of your chosen fabric. Cut it out.
  • Place chosen garment fabric into the embroidery machine. The first thing to be stitched is the outline.
  • With a little bit of spray adhesive, place your appliqué fabric exactly within this outline.
  • Complete the rest of the embroidery using your machine instructions.
I love this little monkey design. It goes so well with the backing fabric and really is a quick process. My motivation to appliqué the traditional way is waning! 

Inspired by the birth of a friends baby I got busy with making some bibs. The embroidery machine makes it so easy to personalise them and they make such a great, practical gift. 

Buy Monkey Bib Here.


Print the DL template onto thick paper so you can you use it again later.
Remember to cut out the template out reversed on the stabiliser so the good side of the pattern fabric is the right way around. 
Cut the appliqué fabric out a tiny bit smaller than the template.
Be careful with the overspray from the adhesive. I can't wash it off my cutting board!

What ideas do you have for a bib pattern? Let me know what to do next!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Silly season? I say productive season!

Lion Quilt Project
How on earth has it been the best part of two months since I wrote a blog post? Incredible. Moving states and having Christmas meant time has just melted away! We had a very quiet Christmas at home. I'm a bit of a Christmas grinch who had to go out and buy a Christmas tree because I was made to feel guilty I was robbing my child of his first Christmas. Whoops! Never the less, baby Jack was well spoilt and we enjoyed lots of family time at home. 

My main project leading up to Christmas was a quilt for my dear friend's son's 1st Birthday. After the success of my animal appliqué quilt for Jack, I chose a lion template and made a lovely play rug for the little boy. The border was two rows of 4" squares. I used a lovely green pattern for the backing and the bright quilt will be perfect for playing and napping. 

What not to do
Putting the pieces together
I was really happy with the finished product and used the machine embroidery attachment for my sewing machine to do the quilting on the patchwork. The pattern I chose were cute little lion/feline footprints. I learnt the hard way what not to do when using the machine to quilt though! The overhang of my backing fabric was tucked underneath and got stitched to my quilt! It is so difficult to unpick and I hate to admit that I did the same thing THREE times! Oh my! The appliqué used the same as technique as the farm animal quilt and I'm getting quite good at it. I blew up the lion template from A5 - A4 which made the tiny pieces a lot more manageable and a better size for this type of quilt.

I also made a lovely quilt label using the embroidery machine. You must always put a label of some type on your quilts. They are heir-looms and will often last longer than their maker. 
Putting the pieces together with the help of a light box.

Just today I finished the cousin of this lion quilt that had different patchwork around the border. Instead of the 4" squares I had one row of 6" squares made of two triangles - not sure what that's called. I also left more space around the lion itself for free motion quilting. Something I worked out long ago is that if you're going to the effort to make something - you might as well make two! So, I had already cut out the appliqué pieces and ironed on the applifix. This made the making of the second quilt a bit less painful in the early stages. I probably like this quilt better than the first one as the yellow fabric border lifts it a bit and I enjoyed doing some more free motion quilting around the lion. 
Progress shot for Lion Quilt 2
What projects did you get up to on the holidays? Was it a productive time for you?