Monday, 29 July 2013

hard waste - really?!

Mum's eagle eyes spotted these lovely dining chairs in one of Melbourne's hard waste collections.  Now they weren't looking exactly like this at the time, but she could see the potential and whipped them in to the boot of the car.  My step-father did a wonderful job of attending to the fixing and painting and they're breathing some fresh air into our house.  The paint I chose was from Taubmans - Green Imp and Violet Eclipse.  I wonder what their old owners would say if they saw them now?!  Or how much they would pay for them if they saw the chairs for sale in a shop?!
And this child?  He will give you an idea of how delighted I was to hear our washing machine finishing a cycle only moments ago.  It flat out refused to work on Friday and I've had the technician tinkering with it this morning - for what will probably be the last time, unfortunately.  We've had the machine for over eight years and I've never been entirely enamoured of it, but I'm not quite ready to see it go.  I asked for brand recommendations and our technician said he doesn't really give them these days, as everything is so bad!  At a pinch, if you were going for something cheaper he would say LG, if not, it would be Asko or Miele...  roll on tax refund!  It's sad really, as I can see the connection between throwing out two perfectly repairable chairs and whitegoods that are really made to break down so you buy something new.  I see little point in introducing carbon taxes and other environmental initiatives when you know, at heart, it's not going to make any difference to the poorly made goods out there...  In the meantime, we will fix and recycle what we can, but it's pretty disheartening all the same.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

the bet: two months down, five to go

It's been over two months since I had cake, lollies, alcohol or any kind of junk food - a record for me.  I've made a bet with Joe that I'll abstain from the previously mentioned delicacies until my big December birthday.  Some days have been fine - in fact, I've been surprised with how easy they've been.  But others I could eat my arm off, I want lollies so badly - they're what I miss the most!  I've even had to bake for the family and not lick the bowl...  how boring.  Hopefully I'll last another five months - don't worry, I'll let you know if I fall off the wagon!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

building for the first time - lessons learnt in the 33rd house...

We've heard you need to build at least three times to get it right and I'm starting to believe in that wisdom.  Some of our irks are easily remedied and others will take time to sort out.  One thing that's really bugged us was that we only had one row of tiles around the bench surrounding the sink.  All it takes is a large tray to scrape against the plasterboard and it knocks off a bit of paint...  not ideal in a wet area.  Thankfully, we have friends building with the same company and when their tiler came to town last week, he popped in and did that extra row of tiling for us.  We're delighted with the results, particularly as it cost the princely sum of.... $20!  Bonus!
Our ensuite window is another problem area - it was all fine and dandy to look at the house plans,but when it was built we realised that a low window in the bathroom facing the street is not ideal.  The kids' bathroom has a horizontal window roughly the same size as the above, but is obviously...  horizontal.  It's above head height and a much better design.  Anyways...  I looked for a slatted blind to suit this area, but it was going to have to be custom made and very expensive (as this area is smaller than the ready-made sizes).  I whacked up some wrapping paper and left it there instead.  Until this curtain came along...
I'd had this fabric ready and I was waiting for some of that alleged free time that is meant to happen every now and then.  Realising it was nothing but a vicious rumour, I set myself up and made the curtain anyway.  I didn't make it the full length of the window because of the trees.  It's a bit hard to see in the pic above, but we have some rather lovely large gums visible from the bathroom window that I like to look at - I thought a cafe style curtain would give us the privacy we need, but also let in the light and the view of the skyline...  And if we ever build again, we will know that a portrait shaped window at the front of the house - in the bathroom - is not a good idea.  Lesson learnt - check!

Monday, 22 July 2013

winter posies

Did you see that patch of sunshine?  Just for a moment?  It's been very wet around here and the days have been cold and grey.  It's been fantastic to get some rain but it will be nice to level it out a bit...  It's been a very unproductive start to Term 3.  Tom and Jono came down with a fever on Tuesday night and by Friday, I had all 3 kids home with a nasty virus...  and me as well.  We lay low over the weekend and I'm hoping that this will be the end of it for now - touch wood!  I managed to put together a small posy from one of the garden beds, then there was a special treat in store...
Daphne!  My plant has been living in a pot for a few years now and we managed to plant it out in the autumn.  It's been so happy to finally be in the ground - and the proof is in the picking.  This is one of my all-time favourites and I won't be stopping with just one.  I did actually manage to strike a cutting last year, but it didn't last once I planted it out...  Will have to try again this year - apparently December - January is best.
Our first jonquils...  there are more bulbs to flower, but I'm not quite sure what will be coming up.  It's fun waiting and watching...  I left these outside for a couple of weeks on the plant and they were still flowering.  I figured it was time to have them inside for a few days.  It's lovely to see parts of the garden becoming colonised (!) as we make our beds - a total of 4 now.  We also planted out three trees last week - two double flowering peach (weeping) and one ornamental plum - hopefully they will give us all a nice show in spring...

PS Hopefully the posies will take my focus from the huge amount of capeweed that is choking out my lawn.  I've resorted to pulling it up by hand as I'm not keen on chemicals being used in the back garden where the kids play...  I really have my work cut out for me!

Monday, 15 July 2013

art for the laundry - why not?!

Who says you can't put art on your laundry wall?  Not me!  These canvasses go a long way to taking the focus from the dull green colourbond fence outside our laundry window.  I may have gone a bit high with the sunflower, but it's hard to concentrate when three children, a dog and a cat come begging for dinner when you're in the middle of hanging pictures!  And I probably should go back and straighten everything up with my spirit level, but there aren't any straight lines in nature, are there?!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

skater dude

Ever since he was tiny, Jono has avidly watched his older cousins on their skateboards.  He was happy to join them at our local skate park yesterday and try some tricks of his own.  He knows he can do everything they can, which gives his mother small heart failures!
 Look, I can even go backwards!  And in my blundstones!
There is no doubt the daredevil is strong in this one...  wish him luck!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

developing character: writing insight

I've enjoyed this extra time to further develop the first 50 pages of my manuscript.  They are now off on their merry way to Brisbane and will be under consideration for a development program.  Having hastily sent them off a fortnight ago - to meet the original deadline - I found out the date had been extended until 12 July.  I have worked since then, scrubbing, cleaning, adjusting, polishing, wishing...  and have now posted them off again.  During this time I've been wondering about my main protagonist and the development of her character.  Would she do this?  Would she do that?  How do I best portray her reactions?

Last night, I gained an unexpected insight from 'House Husbands' - have you watched that yet?  Sunday nights are busy here with rival viewing commitments ('A Place to Call Home' needs to be recorded, while we watch 'The Time of Our Lives' - gosh it's riveting around here!! Oh and lovely to realise they're all quality Australian productions!), so I've been watching HH on catch-up tv...  Anyway!  One of the scenes showed an actor doing something so true to form, that I realised it doesn't matter what your protagonist does, as long as it's in - or out of - character and you explain it as such.  Does that make sense?  For me, it was a revelation - and from such an unexpected source!  It's given me the confidence to further develop Emily (there you go, easier to call her by name!) and her character in whatever way I like, as long as it makes sense and what she does is explained as such.

And the television viewing - who knew what great research it would provide?  Don't they say that inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places?  And character resolution as well, obviously!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

the writer's edition: month 4 check-in

Four months?  Really?  Is that all it's been?  Because it feels as though I've been at this story for a hell of a lot longer!  I guess that's what happens when you leave something sitting in your bottom drawer for years on end!

But seriously...

Of all these past few months, there have been two rather crucial and pivotal stages - the first, to actually come out of the closet and admit that I was writing - scary!  And to be talking about it both here - on my blog - and in the real world has become easier with practice.

The next really formative moment was last week when I rushed to get the first 50 pages of my manuscript ready to send away for entry to a development program.  This saw me really looking at the entire structure of my story and having to ensure it was taking the correct lineal path - no easy feat when I've really been concentrating on separate scenes until now, rather than sequentially threading them together.

I've questioned characters - even culled a couple - but have been able to pull their scenes in and incorporate them into other sections of the story.  And even this week - as I rework those 50 pages again (now that the deadline of the manuscript development program has been extended) - I have a firmer grip on where the story needs to go and how I will get there.

It's exciting!  It really is!  I'm so grateful I have the time now - until this year, our entire focus has been consumed (and I don't say that lightly) by getting in to our own home.  It felt so out of reach for so long and had started to feel as though it would never happen - not without major sacrifices to our family life (which thankfully, in the end, didn't have to happen).

And now here we are - six months in our new home - and I have a manuscript of over 55,000 words.  The next month is not so much going to focus on the daily word counts (which will inevitably grow), but rather focus on the storyline and sorting it properly from beginning to end.  No doubt, bringing me closer to the end itself!

Until next time!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

filtering the narrative voice (in pictures!)

The past week has been the most productive, structurally, of any so far in my writing.  Recently, a new narrative voice crept into my writing and I've been using it to prepare my manuscript for submission to a development program.  I talked about it with Kate and likened it to applying a filter over a photograph.  As with these picmonkeyed hydrangeas, the original sits at the left.  The version in the top-right corner has a lomo filter - it's brightened (to the point of highlighting) the centre of the image, then darkened the exterior.  The lower image has a cross-processed filter, deepening and almost adding a grittier layer.

Now, the original image (at left) is lovely as is - but you can see the difference made by applying these filters.  Whatever you think is the most successful is very much a personal opinion and as for myself - I have had some trouble making my choice!  But the new narrative voice is succeeding and it's most like the Lomo - vibrant colours with deep saturation...  at least, that's how I hope it appears! And for the next few weeks, I'll be working through the rest of my work and applying the Lomo - wish me luck!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

because even deadlines are subject to change...

Did you ever leave an exam early, only to find there was actually another hour remaining and you could have used every minute?  Yes?  Well, picture this:

Last week I found out about a fantastic manuscript development program and spent every spare minute sharpening and correctly ordering my first 50 pages.  They were to be in Brisbane yesterday afternoon, which meant sending them by 5pm Friday afternoon (which would be in a push in itself, considering we live in regional Victoria).

I had other deadlines to meet during the week and a trip to another town that took up my valuable working time.  On Friday, it was down to the wire.  At 4.30pm I still had the synopsis to write, entry form to fill, plus do a final sort through and print the entire document.  Of course, I ran out of paper, had to substitute some good card stock, ask mum (who had come up for afternoon tea with the kids) to take care of my entry form and then I still had to get to the post office...

This was one of many times I was grateful to live in a small country town - there was no peak hour traffic slowing me as I took the 3 minute trip to the main street and I was able to park outside, without having to look for coins to shove into a meter.

I climbed the post office steps as the doors were being closed for the day - the rather desperate look on my face enough for them to let me in and post my precious parcel...  phew!

The next morning, I read through the 50 pages that had gone in the post and saw typos and other errors that made my face flush - I hadn't had time to do a final proof read due to the time factor.  I was mortified and hoped the centre would see past them and just concentrate on the story.

Then, on Sunday, I was telling my older sister about the program and found that the deadline had been extended until 12 July - I don't know quite when this happened, as I'd been on the website during the week and didn't notice the date change...

...  Perhaps they might allow me to resubmit?  I made a rather desperate phone call yesterday, explained I'd sent things off in a hurry and would really love to make use of the extra time.  Thankfully I found a sympathetic ear and I will now spend the next week or so checking and double-checking for typos and grammatical errors.

If there is a moral to the story, let it be 'always check the fine print' - it may look as though it's set in stone, but sometimes even deadlines change (and may the changes always be to your advantage!).

Monday, 1 July 2013

looped crochet scarf - in progress

As someone who's not a great pattern reader, I prefer to fiddle around with the stitches I know and see what happens (otherwise known as 'making it up as you go along!).  I started out this scarf with the four rounds (in green) which were all made together, each separated by a single chain.  I worked from there and started the looped/scalloped pattern after a few rows.
I fiddled around with this patten last week in a blue and yellow, but the colours weren't quite working.  The yarn in these images is a Cleckheaton Bamboo and has a delightful shimmer.  I haven't used it before, but it seems to work up well with a 3.5mm crochet hook.
 It all fits in well with the vintage chair I recovered recently.
 The scarf is for my auntie, who has just turned 70.  The present will be a bit late, but hopefully better late than never... and it just shows that you don't need to be able to read patterns to be able to crochet, just a little imagination.  I guess it's a bit like being able to play music by ear, but not how to read music...

PS Guess how I learnt to play music many years ago?!