Stress…… Relief

Last Friday morning WeBlow blew 45 cubic metres of mulch on the garden.


This means I can ignore the garden for six to seven months, apart from tackling weeds. There are still smaller jobs around the garden to do, but nothing on this scale.

What a absolute, profound relief.

After some work gigs on Friday and Saturday, I spent Sunday sitting in a chair, aching with exhaustion after sleeping for 12-13 hours. Thinking back over the last three months, we’ve done a heck of a lot of physical work. We’ve done it on weekends around social occasions and on weekdays in the mornings, pushing my usual morning work and domestic tasks into the afternoon and shrinking the time I have to write and putting me behind schedule.

It’s been stressful, too. First waiting for a planning permit, then preparing the site for the landscaping, then preparing the site for the mulch. Plans were made then constantly altered. Each day I either pushed us both to get out and do the work, or if sickness or inclement weather prevented us I used that time planning and organising. So many times I felt a bit desperate as I realise each job is going to take two, three or four times as long as I’d estimated. We did 8 to 10 hours of raking and digging over the embankment, post-landscaping, about that much just sweeping the muck off the court surface, and at least double on other tasks all together. All the while I was only too aware that the only way anything could be done by each project deadline was by taking time away from important things, like visiting my parents and work.

We also had a housewarming, two birthday parties and two dinner parties in that time. I guess we didn’t have to, but the housewarming happened early on, it would have been a shame not to celebrate Paul’s 50th, and I’d arranged the dinner parties when I’d given up on getting the permit. Thankfully we have good friends who offered to help out during the 50th, which made it less exhausting. It’s going to be a long time before I feel like having people over again, I suspect. Not because I don’t want to see my friends, but just thinking about the hour and a half of dishwashing I did after the last party makes visiting friends them rather than inviting them here far more appealing.

Now the organising and stressing falls to Paul, as the garage build begins. The concreter is one of these “we’ll start some time next week” kinds of tradies, which would drive me nuts. But Paul doesn’t seem bothered.

I slept for 9 1/2 hours last night and I’m feeling more rested, though I haven’t a lot of energy. I’m off to Supanova at the end of the week, which I’m looking forward to. Two of those to get through and I’m done with publicity and can concentrate only on writing.

Though there’s Christmas to get through. Actually, I think this is the first time in decades that it feels like I’ll be less busy rather than more – and I might not mind working through the holiday season so much either. It’s going to feel like a holiday, compared to the last year and a half!

The Second Ten


I tried filling shapes with watercolour paint one evening while watching tv, which didn’t turn out quite as I imagined because the card sucked in the paint more than proper watercolour paper does. I may revisit this idea, though not replicate it exactly, on better paper.

Then in the next sit down session I got the courage up to try some stamps, growing more confident and creative as I went. Some I coloured with pencils, others I used coloured stamp inks.

The green one was tweaked in a later session.


The one with the little kiss stamp will have a “Thank you” or “Congratulations” stamped on the front depending on the purpose I use it for.

More Blingle, With Tinkle

A late jewellery-making post, delayed because this was a gift and I kept forgetting to give it to the recipient…

Ages ago I bought some colourful Tagua Nuts, otherwise known as ‘vegetable ivory’, and made this necklace:


While I liked it, I never wore it. Mostly because it didn’t go with anything I was wearing. It was dismantled, and I was considering putting it and the other tagua nut pendants among the jewellery supplies I’m culling, but when I put them all together, I realised the colour combination reminded me of a friend. What could I make that used all pendants in the one piece?

A bracelet, it turns out. A charm style bracelet:


It makes a very satisfying clatter, this one. Unlike the one I made for myself a year ago, which makes a wonderful tinkle. Sound is an under-appreciated aspect of jewellery. I’ve bought pieces because they made a lovely noise. Maybe I should consider other, more deliberate musical jewellery designs next time I get the itch to make some.

The First Ten


Despite being surrounded by stamps, for my first cards I played with washi tape. Ideas evolved with each card, and by the end I had moved on to using stickers (the little cats and red dots) and then stamping (the roses on the red dots). The card with the map washi tape feels unfinished to me – perhaps I’ll stamp an appropriate sentiment on the front when I go to use it.

My First True Sampler

Okay, I have made a sampler before. I wove one when I first got my table loom to familiarise myself with it and working with four shafts. But this is the first sample I’ve done one for a project.


Why? I couldn’t decide which colour yarns to match with two of the three metallic yarns I want to use as borders of a shawl. Weaving a sample helped me work out which combinations appealed most.

The answer? Gold with the redder purple. Silver with the bluer purple.

What it has also told me is that the two purples and the navy look great together. Unfortunately, Bendigo Woollen Mills isn’t selling this yarn in 200 gram cones any more. You have to buy 500 gram cones. And at $35 a cone that makes multi-coloured projects a touch expensive.

Dreaming Big, Thinking Small

What with the preparations for the landscaping and garage, and the post-landscaping pre-mulch tasks, birthday parties, coming book publicity, Paul’s half year assessment, and the looming end of year madness, we’ve had rather too much on our minds lately.

My creativity gave a couple of coughs and twitches, then died.

This worn out brain can’t contemplate the WIPs. They’re all too large and involved. The only one I’ve managed a little time on has been the olive handspun fabric, because it’s easy plain weave and isn’t demanding on the hands.

The jewellery twitch has passed. It was good for producing short term satisfaction – a quick fix of achievement. I think I need that right now, so I’m looking for something else to provide it.

The printing supplies box came out a week ago. I usually make wrapping paper, but what I really need is a stash of greeting cards. So I’ve been cutting up cardboard and brainstorming. An idea came to me. I have doubts but haven’t talked myself out of it.

100 cards by Christmas.

Each one unique – no repeats. Some themed (wedding, Christmas, etc.) but most just simple cards that I can then stamp “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations” or “Get Well Soon” inside as needed. Some using stamps, some not. Some that I can do while watching tv.

100 little achievements. I like the sound of that!

The Best Laid Plans

I took two weeks off recently, starting when the landscapers started work and 3000 title pages of my next book arrived to be signed. So not really a holiday, but a break from the writing routine. My mind needed it. My body… well, I don’t know.

Recently I asked my doc to investigate pain I’ve been getting in my hip and lower back, that my physio couldn’t explain or treat. An MRI later and it turns out I have a perineural cyst. The good news it isn’t life-threatening. The bad news – at least according to Doctor Google – is they don’t go away. I’ll be seeing a neurologist in a few weeks to get the official lowdown.

General advice out there is to avoid prolonged sitting or standing. I’ve found that I’m quite comfortable while being active. In fact, I’d noticed for a while now that I get very fidgetty when I try to sit and work. I want to be active, and I figured that was a good thing.

At the beginning of my break I injured my right hand while sweeping, so to ensure I’d get the title pages signed I had to avoid using my hands as much as possible. So no using hands, no sitting or standing for long periods… I nearly went out of my mind with boredom by the end of the first week.

I had to find something to occupy my mind. Once the landscapers were done I could leave the house, so I went to the Horticulture and Gardening Show on a very humid Friday. The next Sunday we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens to take portrait reference photos of another friend. I’d forgotten how fabulous the gardens are and now want to go back and wander around some more. The following, much cooler Friday I joined friends on an op shop crawl.

Trouble is, all that activity was also wearing me out. My body started begging for a rest.

By the end of the second week I’d figured out that I could occupy my mind with researching plants for the courtside garden. This involved sitting at the computer, but also lots of getting up to grab books or photograph things, and not a lot of typing.

First I took six photos of the courtside garden and got Paul to create a panorama. Then I went virtual plant shopping. Once I found a suitable plant that I liked, I’d find it on Google Images, take a screen grab, open the file in Photoshop and delete the background. That would be inserted into a layer of the panorama file at around the right size, with a label added. Then I was able to duplicate and move the plant around.

This is what I ended up with after a couple of days:

Courtside Plant Plan

It’s very roughly done, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to give me something to play with between now and next autumn, when planting can begin.

Turf Out, Rocks In

A couple of weeks ago we had landscapers here. They removed the rest of the tennis court surface.


They removed our old rotting sleeper wall and the brick drain below it, and cleared the weeds and dead plants in the garden bed.


That’s my kind of weeding.


And they built a new rock retaining wall at the edge of the court slab. Some of the rocks were pretty big:


The final result looks amazing.


Though a visitor decided it needed an extra little something:


We now have a pile of bricks to clean…


And a garage to build.

On the gardening front, this ticks off most of the items in the first part of the to-do list – “A Garden With No Structural Issues”. We’re in the process of digging swales into the courtside garden bed, which is the last item.

The second part of the to-do list is “An Easily Maintained Garden”. We’ve covered the poolside garden with plastic in the hopes of solarising all the weeds before the mulch goes on, including hundreds of little blackberry seedlings coming up. I’m hoping well have this and the courtside bed covered in mulch by December. Then the garden goes into summer mode: watering and weeding only. It’ll be too hot and dry to do anything else.

The Seed of an Idea

I’ve been watching the Classic Car Show of SBS and, probably only because I’m in jewellery making mode, I’ve been fascinated by Jodie Kidd’s. In one episode she was wearing very long chain earrings that just about brushed her collarbones. I haven’t work earrings in years. There hasn’t been much point since my current haircut hides my lobes. But what if I made them long enough that the sparkly ends dangled below my hair?

Of course, I had to make a necklace to match.


I seem to be at the end of the jewellery-making twitch. There’s something I’d still like to make, but after that I think I’ll pack it all away again.

At the moment the dining table is covered in my carved and commercial stamp collection and my head is full of ideas for making greeting cards.