My friend Nyssa in Tassie has just had her first baby, so these gifts were sent on their way yesterday.
Isn't that little boat cute! It's the first taggie I've made and I'm so pleased with it. Having not made a softie for ages, I'd forgotten just how much stuffing they take; thought I'd never finish filling it. It was a free pattern online; sorry, I don't remember what blog it was from, or when I found the shape for the bookmark (which I included just in case Nyssa ever has time to read, which is probably not at the top of her to-do list at the moment).
The little boots are a 3-6 month size (don't they look HUGE!) and are from Hadley Fierlinger's fabulous book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies. And the bag is a free pattern from Lisa and Sarah at Spoonful of Sugar Designs. This little bag is my favourite quick gift and with the addition of some nice smellies (Cath Kidston hand cream in this case) or other goodies it's a lovely present. I've made so many of these but still haven't made one for myself (or at least when I did I gave it away). The next one's definitely for me!
I love making and giving little gifts and these were all products of my wool and fabric stash, which made the process even more satisfying. I hope Nyssa and her precious little boy are as happy to receive them as I was to make them.
I've always hated hot weather. My Celtic body thermometer insists that anything over 25 degrees is way too hot. And the high temperatures we've been consistently having here in Ballarat have been way way too hot for me - think up to 42 degrees some days. Being retired, I can choose to stay inside in air-conditioned comfort. My garden is feeling it too and although no plants have been lost, all are wilting in the heat, just like me.
But while I love my garden, I don't rely on it to provide me with food. And with no current water restrictions, apart from being sensible and careful and not wasteful, I can still give plants a shower in the cool of the early morning or evening.
And there's the thing. We rely on our farmers to provide us with food - the beef and lamb for our roasts and barbecues, the grain for our cereals and breads, the wool that keeps us cosy. But with the long-term drought conditions being experienced in many parts of Australia, it's a struggle. You only have to listen to or watch the news to realise how dire the situation is.
Blogger Chookyblue lives on a farm in NSW and her posts about lack of water, about having to handfeed stock because there has been no rain for a long time therefore no grass, about the increasing cost and decreasing availability of feed, about handrearing newborn calves because their mothers simply cannot provide milk, about having to slaughter breeding stock, about dust and constant worry are heartbreaking. Her stories and photos give a personal slant to what we see/hear on the news.
Here, with her blessing, are a few of Chooky's photos.
A bone-dry dam
With all the discussion of the pros and cons of industry assistance at present, it's to be hoped the Government will take quick action to help out, because this vital sector is doing it very, very tough.
I don't know where January went - oh yes I do, I was having fun hanging out with my girl Rosy, who was visiting from China. She's lived there for nearly 8 years, teaching English to little Chinese children at various kindergartens in Shekou, which is in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. She loves it.
We all loved being together, having meals out or cooking at home, watching telly, chatting, you know, just normal everyday family stuff, which was very special because we don't get to do it very often.
It was great to have her here during her Chinese New Year break, which is our summer, because apart from the hideously hot first week it was good to be out and about in the sunshine. Other times she has been back in winter and we have all stayed inside and moaned about the cold (winters in Ballarat are long and chilly).
I was really keen to take Rosy to see the film Saving Mr Banks because she loved the Mary Poppins books when she was young and worked as a nanny for several years (minus Mary P's parrot-headed umbrella and carpetbag, of course). We enjoyed it. She made a gorgeous button bracelet from some very smart black and silver buttons purchased from Spotlight, which is always one of her must-visit places. I think that Millrose Cottage at Ballan has been added to that list following a breakfast catch-up with my friends Jodie and Annie and Maria and a forage around the gorgeous patchwork shop. Some nifty last-minute sewing by her wonderful mother LOL added three cushion covers to her luggage.
She and her dad talked about cricket and footy (I was very happy to dip out of those conversations, being generally uninterested in sport) and she spent lots of time with our dogs.
We were all sorry when she flew back to the country she now calls home; it was such a happy, relaxing time for all of us.
I handed over my Initial Heart Swap goodies to Shez this morning when we met for coffee at the Upholstery Gallery in Ballarat, one of my favourite places for coffee and browsing, so now I can show what we made for each other.
Shez made me this gorgeous cushion.
And after spending quite a while wondering what to make and changing my mind umpteen times, I decided on these smaller items. I really enjoyed making them and enjoyed being able to hand them over in person. Many thanks to Shez for the appreciative response, and for the lovely gift she made for me, and to Cheryll for organising such a fun swap.
After a quiet Christmas and New Year, it's been a week of socialising.
Firstly with the lady on the right - Shez and I met for the first time last week after being blogging and FB friends for a while. It was good to meet her at last - and to discover that I'm her partner in Cheryll's Initial Heart Swap. Which was pretty funny, because guess what - she's MY partner. And yes, it's a secret swap! She handed over a big bag of goodies which I haven't opened because I haven't finished her gift/s yet. What fun! And who says the camera never lies - Shez is really MUCH taller than I am!
My new friend came with me to meet my old blogging and real life friend Cathy the next day. Cathy and her daughter Georgia were having a few days in Melbourne and had decided to come up to Ballarat and visit Sovereign Hill. It was terrific to see Cathy again; she's lots of fun (and rather cheeky LOL) and to meet Georgia.
And I've been spending lots of time with this girl - my daughter Rosy (our only child) back from China for a short visit during her Chinese New Year break. Unlike me, she's enjoying our heatwave (and so is her dad). Lots of relaxing, lots of chats, lots of laughs; it's great as of course we don't get to see each other very often. We'll probably be a bit more active next week. And I must take the Christmas decorations down; they were left up for atmosphere as she doesn't get to celebrate Christmas in China. We exchanged gifts - I made a huge stocking from a Spotlight panel and crammed in two Christmasses worth of gifts and presents for Rosy's last birthday too. Postal arrangements to China can be a bit dodgy; in fact the first lot of Christmas presents in the stocking had been posted to her and not received and finally made its way back to us. My husband and I enjoyed our usual quiet Christmas - but Christmas in January 2014 has been REALLY special!
I took part in three Christmas swaps this year and have been very spoilt by my lovely partners.
This was my 4th? 5th? year of taking part in Chookyblue's Secret Santa Christmas Swap; it's always fun. The international swaps are particularly special I think because they seem to make this big wide and often troubled world smaller and friendlier - but then all swaps (and swappers) are special too. I love stalking blogs and choosing patterns and changing my mind umpteen times about what I am going to make and knowing that people who are making things for me will be going through the same process.
This year I made gifts for Dagmar in Germany, who was fun to make for. I can't show what I made her as she hasn't posted yet, but I was tickled pink when she sent me a 'thank you' gift of one of the fabric postcards she makes. We have had some nice emails back and forth too. Dagmar's blog was new to me but now I'm an avid reader; she makes some amazing things and as a keen traveller has been to many amazing places.
I've already shown the Christmas decoration Grethe in Norway made for me - and how about this table runner as my 'under-the-tree' present. I love it and it looks so good on my coffee table. Thank you so much, Grethe.
.Maria sent me so many goodies in the Santa Sack swap organised by Cheryll. I kept two for under the tree, tucking them away in the giant Christmas stocking she made for me. Don't you love that little red hen - I certainly do. And how nice to have another Christmas table runner. Maria, you were such a great swap partner - thanks heaps.
And these were the lovely handmade pillowcases from Sharni in Maree's 6 items swap - now looking gorgeous on our bed. Sharni sent me lots of lovely things which I have already displayed in a previous post - and it's thanks to her that my collection of handmade Christmas ornaments has increased dramatically.
I've been in touch with all my partners and they know how much I appreciate their kindness. It IS a small world after all!
Meet my new friend - he sort of burst out of the parcel Maria sent me in Cheryll's Santa Sack swap (I've already shown the gorgeous stocking she made). Isn't he colourful and cheerful - I do hope he's not too noisy first thing in the morning though!
I love the Christmas tree potholder, which is currently sitting on my kitchen bench looking cute and Christmassy - and would you look at the trim on that tea towel; I know another chook-loving friend will be so jealous.
And that's not all - there are still two more parcels stashed away in that stocking. I wonder what they could be - I'll find out on Wednesday. Thank you so much, Maria. This has been a fun swap. Go to Maria's blog to see what I sent her.
As mentioned in my previous post, Sharni was my partner in Maree's 6 items swap. Here's more of what she sent me - something to read (craft mags and two patterns she designed; how clever is that) something for the sewing room (a box of Christmas fabrics) and something that smells nice (lovely bathtime smellies). Thank you, Sharni; the ornaments you made look so lovely on our Christmas tree and there's another parcel left for opening on Christmas day.
I really appreciate the thought and time Maria and Sharni put into making these gifts for a stranger, and Maree (now tripping overseas, lucky duck) and Cheryll put into organising these swaps. Thank you all so much.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my place. The tree is up at last, after a mammoth and necessary house clean, and the special table runners and wall quilts I've made over the years are on display.
And just as I was thinking to myself this morning that we could do with a few more tree ornaments, the postie arrived with a big package from Sharni, my partner in Maree's 6 items Christmas swap. And among the many beautifully wrapped parcels were these ornaments - aren't they gorgeous! I can't wait to open the other parcels, but apart from a little bit of shaking and wondering, I'm being good.
This huge stocking stuffed with pressies is from Maria in WA, my partner in Cheryll's Christmas swap. I'm a bit embarrassed because the parcel I sent her was a lot smaller, but it does contain lots of things I hope she'll like.
And this one is from Grethe in Norway, in Chookyblue's annual Secret Santa Christmas Swap, which is always a pleasure to take part in. What a cute little stocking. The parcel came with stamps. not just those boring postal stickers; one of the stamps features the famous Norwegian painting The Scream. Not Christmassy but I'm thrilled to bits with it; you don't see one of those every day!
Of course I can't show you what I made for my partner Dagmar in Germany, but I can show you the ornament I sent her. Yep, it's a moose - she's a fan of these animals so I was pretty lucky to find this drawing to stitch, knobbly knees and all (the moose's not mine, just in case you were wondering).
We've all been in touch with each other - it's lovely to get to 'know' other people; even if we never meet we can still be friends - that's the beauty of this bloggy world.
So a huge 'thank you' to swap organisers Maree, Cheryll and Chooky, and to my generous, wonderful partners.
And now I'll show you what I've been making lately. These two bags are on their way to my young niece and nephew in NZ. The strawberry bag is a Joanna Figueroa pattern and was nice and easy to make (although I did groan my way through stitching the 12 leaves) and the toy bag was easy too - and I love that fabric (from Spotlight).
I love reading, stitching,music, my garden, my dogs and my family.I chose Little Red Hen as my blog name because I'm short, used to have bright red hair and as a wee Scottish girl growing up in New Zealand was frequently called Hen, a Scottish term of endearment.