Saturday, June 20, 2020

6 Months later..

6 months ago, on this day, a fire ripped through our beautiful little hills community and tore many lives apart.
My "forever" home was one of the unlucky ones.
It stills seems somewhat surreal that in a matter of minutes we went from this:

to this:
and the very next day we lost one of the most influential people in my life, my dear Nanny.

6 months on, it still hurts.

Losing Nanny will always be with me, but I know she is at peace and with her beloved Wally, and I still feel their presence in my life more than you would imagine.  I can look at this photo and smile, and make her recipes and feel happy.  She is closest to me when I am pottering in my garden, or mucking about with house plants, and when I see a great sunset, and when the kookaburras and parrots come to visit at the house site.

Losing the house, and the tragedies that overtook our little town that day, and since, still hurts.  The Recovery Centre are now talking about the "fire scar" and I kind of like that analogy since some scars are big and ugly and visible, and others are private, or internal, or hidden.  No one else knows how deep your scar runs, or which days it hurts the most, and I think that is true for almost everyone who was living in our area at the time.  We certainly don't have the monopoly on grief and loss.  I am reminded of this daily.  Our poor little town has been through so much, and some scars take much longer to heal than others.

I had to really think about whether I wanted to write this.  Our journey has been quite a public one and I wasn't sure whether I wanted to "mark" the anniversary or even acknowledge it, but you know what, it takes a village to get through something like this, and I am so very often reminded of that too.  Our "village", and all of those who've supported us in so many ways deserve to know how we are going.

We live in an incredibly special place and we have been helped through this by a multitude of friends, family, total strangers.  We live in a lucky country, and have received help from Federal and State and Local Government, and numerous aid agencies and community-minded individuals. 

Our rebuild will be "the house that love built" and I like to fantasize about a big open house warming in the front paddock when the house is to lock up stage to say thank you to everyone who made it possible.

So 6 months on, where are we at?
The rebuilding process is slow.  Our block was the first cleared in South Australia.  Green Industries did a tremendous job and the State Government picked up the hefty bill.  Our insurance company (RAA) have been fabulous to deal with and we were given a total loss payout.  Our mortgage company (Aussie Home Loans) and our local broker (David Hartas) really looked after us and we will certainly be re-mortgaging with them.
James' shed went up in April.
We are rebuilding with Oakford Homes (whom we built our first home with at Nairne 13 years ago)
Oakford are excellent to work with and have provided equal amounts of compassion and common sense.  We have faith in them and know that we will have a house we love at the end of it.
We were fortunate to find a tiny rental in Lobethal and it has been wonderful to be able to remain connected to the friends and community we love so much.
Our plans are currently with council and we hope to have final approval and a start date very, very soon.

In the meantime, I go out to our "home" most days.  Even without our house, it still feels like "home"  I still get that same goofy smile when I turn into the drive. I still love the sound of birdsong - the kookaburra that laughs at me a few times a week, the parrots that swoop in and pinch my rosebuds.  It is still my "Haven on the Hill"  I love it still.


Big blessings to you.
Keep smiling,
Nell
xx

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Taking Stock Holiday Edition

Grief is such a weird thing.  It just up and hits you when you least expect it.  I can be having a perfectly good day and then the smallest thing can just whammo and all of a sudden you realise that your eyes are leaking again.

We continue to have a series of unfortunate events happening to several of those around us.  This is a trend that has continued from late 2019 and honestly doesn't feel like it will be clearing anytime soon. It makes me sad, and sometimes it makes me bone-numbingly tired..like I just want to crawl into bed and sleep for a really long time and then wake up to a world made new without all of the current pain and angst.  The scenes in Italy, my beloved Italy, and New York..not really any words big or meaningful enough.  My heart is just so sore.  There may have been a fair bit of self medicating with alcohol and chocolate.  I have put all thoughts of diet aside for the moment.  This year is NOT the year.

Throughout all the blah, good things are still happening and I am still trying to find sweet, simple pleasures where I can.  We are in full-blown Autumn now, and I find myself turning to nourishing soups and stews, and home-cooking, and candles, and warm socks and knitting projects.

It has been a funny kind of holiday.  Hasn't really felt like a holiday.  Part of me could still do with another week before going back to work, and another part of me craves the "normality" of work - even though nothing is really that normal there either at the moment.

I am taking enormous pleasure in spinning (my new wheel and I are now like "peas and carrots") and knitting (especially a big basket of wool scraps that Tanya dropped off this week - it feels wonderful to have "scraps" again) and slow, meditative stitching.

So here it is, the April list:

Taking Stock
Making: vivid orange monster socks and scrap mitts for ACAN
Cooking: Irish Soda Bread and Potato and Leek Soup
Sipping: Ginscato - dangerous!
Reading: Just finished "Knitting" again - such a perfect, comforting, cozy holiday read made even more special by the fact that my friend Anne gifted me one of her author's copies to replace mine.  Such a special gift.
Looking: At a lovely big basket of wool scraps, and the most amazing Dorset buttons (thanks Tanya!)
Listening: To wind howling outside
Wishing: The year was done with already and everyone was in a much happier, more optimistic, place
Enjoying: Too many Lindt balls
Eating: Chocolate and scorched almonds
Liking: my beautiful brown leather boots (gifted from a friend who can no longer wear them)
Loving: how well my kids are coping with this whole self-isolating covid experience
Buying: a bit of stash enhancement (would have been Bungaree this weekend!) and clothes for Hannah for her birthday
Watching: Anne with and "E" - this is my second go at it as the first time I couldn't shake off the fact that it is soooooo removed from the books.  I'm enjoying it now that I am treating it as a completely different series in no way related to those beautiful books
Hoping: That my friend might finally give me back my Downton dvds so I can binge watch season 1 this weekend
Needing: to cling fast and hold tight to small, simple pleasures
Wearing: Olive corduroy skirt (yay for Karma East)
Following: lots of crochet patterns and home vintage ideas on instagram, and lots of home studio ideas on pinterest
Noticing: how much I miss the social interaction with my "support crew" - how different the holidays are without them
Sorting: colours for a test shawl - how can I have about 10 skeins of sock wool and still not have 2 skeins that play nicely together?
Getting: mildly concerned that I can't think what I feel like making for tea
Saving: chocolate wrappers and toilet rolls for Maddie's covid "making" projects
Bookmarking: recipes, and a gazillion knitting projects that I will probably never get around to
Coveting: more wool, and more buttons, and the luxury of a space big enough to quilt or scrapbook
Feeling: emotionally drained and missing my friends and my old life, but grateful that we are all safe and have a roof over our heads and financial security to get through this
I know this crazy time too will pass and hopefully before we know it, restrictions will ease and life will feel more "normal"  I am full of gratitude for the many small kindnesses people are still showing to help us through.
Photos next time I promise, and hopefully more optimism too!
Keep smiling and stay safe,
Nell
xx

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Strange Days Indeed..

So since the 20th of December it feels a little like I have been living someone else's life.  Things just keep getting weirder and weirder. 

The 20th of December started like any other Summer day.  It was my first day of the school holidays to really get things done - wrapping presents, paying bills, writing Christmas cards..

My friend Kathy dropped in with my Christmas Swap Parcel and some self-selected Christmas fibre.  We had a cup of tea.  My phone beeped.  My contract for teaching first Semester back at the little school that I love had just been approved.  Kathy left, and as she did so, the first of the spotter planes flew over.  "Here we go" she said, giving me a hug, "Stay safe"

Soon after the CFS app alerted us that a fire had started at Fox Creek.  I know that road well and knew that with the strong winds and steep terrain it would not be easy to contain.  Hannah's friend began texting her, "Are you leaving? It is getting closer! It is heading towards Lobethal"

We kept checking the updates and I asked the kids to pack an overnight bag "just in case"
I am thankful that the Sampson Flat Fires had taught us to be better prepared.  Our "fire box" was right by the door.

My dear friend Jacquie messaged me; "If things get hairy you are welcome to come here for a cuppa"
Within a few hours the smoke plume was looming larger, the wind had picked up,  the water bombers kept flying over and Lobethal looked like it was in the firing line.

James was on a job at Mt Torrens.  We talked on the phone and I told him we were preparing to leave.  He said he was almost finished and would come home after, just hold on until he got home and we would make a plan.

Within the next half hour Hannah's friend was getting panicked and social media was beginning to heat up.  We made the decision not to wait for James and to just go to Jacquie's until it all blew over.

We loaded the rabbit, the kids' baby and school albums, our wedding album and a few favourite framed photos into the car, along with the electronics, and, as an afterthought, James's precious guitar.  I did not take a single craft project, even though there was a half-finished shawl on the table, socks in my handbag, and I moved my jumper project off the albums to put them in the car!  I was wearing my daggiest undies and my favourite (but almost dead) bra.  Although I had asked the kids to pack an overnight bag, I took the plastic bag with my clothes off of the emergency supplies box to put more albums in!

On the way to Jacquie's I reassured the kids.  "You're not worried are you? My house burned down when I was a little girl.  We are not in a high risk area.  I wonder what the odds are of your house burning down twice? I give our house a 0.28% chance of burning down" WHAT ARE THE ODDS??

The kids and I had a lovely visit with Jacquie and Lily and Paul. Our bunny, Marmalade got to play with Lily's bunny, Billy.  Jacquie and Paul were so good at keeping things calm and happy as the situation in Lobethal ramped up.

By about 3 o'clock it was pretty evident that we would not be going back to Lobethal that night and we got the devastating news that our neighbour across the road had lost her house.  Nicole is the epitomy of a good neighbour - we have reciprocal pet-feeding rights, and my heart just broke for her.  I also knew, at that point, that our odds had dramatically gone up.  I knew that if the fire jumped the road, or an ember got into one of our gum trees, it was all over. 

We left Jacquie's and went down to Aldinga to my inlaws' beach house.  The beach house is our "home away from home" and my kids have had their own beds there since Maddie was a baby.  James's parents arrived shortly after we got there and then James came down after work.

He had been there for about 10 minutes when we got the call that we had been dreading.  I am thankful for two things - we were all together as a family in a safe place when we got that call.  We heard from a trusted family friend, who called us from our driveway, to tell us that there was nothing left.

Just like that, my dream home, my happy-as-a-pig-in-mud, Haven on the Hill was gone.  Since then, life has been surreal.

The days and weeks after the fire are a blur - a strange mismash of waiting in line, filling in forms, shopping for something more than the clothes on our backs.  Let me stress that we were some of the lucky ones.  We felt loved and supported from all sides.  We still do.

It has been a very strange time.  We have seen the kindness of strangers, and felt the power of love from friends and family and community.

We also understand that we are not alone in our grief. Our little town has lost so much.  There are many who have lost much, and there are also those who may not have had physical losses but have been emotionally scarred.  It will take time for our town to heal.

It has taken time, lots of time, to be able to think and process before writing about it here.  I wasn't sure that I would.  I wasn't sure that I would ever blog again.  It was only the fact that I scrolled back one night, looking for photos of our beautiful home, and saw so much of our life documented here, that made me want to document this part too.

The day after the fire we lost my beloved Nanny. That is a whole other blog post for a whole other time.  We also lost a second cousin, in the prime of life, totally unexpectedly the same day.  The day of the fire was my brother's birthday.  The day we lost Nanny was my Gubby's 99th birthday.  It seems just so incomprehensible.

February brought fresh heartache with the funeral of a sweet baby girl (some of you may have read about Dot's battle with Mito on facebook)  Our little town, already awash with grief, is still grieving anew for this beautiful little girl and her family.  She will be loved and remembered.

And then in March, James's Aunt lost her battle with cancer.  Four funerals in three months, two of them children.  Tough stuff.

And now, well now, we have this new crazy situation unfolding.  I was down to a class of 7 yesterday.  Almost half of our school were away.  It feels as though we are just waiting for them to make the call to shut schools.  All sporting events are off.  Many other events are cancelling (including the awesome Bungaree Ravelry Retreat I go to each year)  Quarantine/home lockdown is looking more and more likely.  Ironically, at home, in the old house, a fortnight's staycation would have filled me with delight.  Here, in this little rental, without familiar things, without a substantial fibre stash, or any freezer space, or indeed, any room to get away from each other when we need to, I suspect it may not be quite so much fun.

We will get through this.  I know that, but it does feel like our lives this year are not really our own, like we are in some strange holding pattern, and sadly, I am already looking forward to 2021.  I love that quote about "What will you do with your one extraordinary life" - it goes against my nature not to live life to the fullest, but I suspect that this year might be more about treading water, and grasping the small, sweet, simple moments with both hands.

Until next time, may you enjoy health, happiness and love,
Stay strong,
Keep smiling,
Nell


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Australasian Blog Hop - October 2019 Hawthorn

Well hello!
Welcome to our Australasian Blog Hop for October!
Did you arrive here from Maz's blog or are you a regular visitor? Either way I am happy to see you here and to showcase this month's Close to My Heart feature paper pack "Hawthorn"
I adore the colours in this one - rich Autumnal tones (which perfectly match a lot of my wardrobe)  Clearly I am not the only one who loves these colours as at a recent Close To My Heart Event several of my friends and our beautiful president were all wearing Hawthorn colours!

It really is a very versatile and easy to use pack and I love how it works for more masculine pages too!

First up, the Craft With Heart Subscription pages - if you haven't yet signed up for Craft With Heart I really can recommend it.  These pages come together so quickly and easily and really need only your favourite adhesive.  Because there are two double page layouts for each month you end up with a stunning album at the end of the year for less than a dollar a day!  You may notice that I rotated the pages to work for my portrait photos. 



Next are pages from our Make it From Your Heart Volume 3 page 6. 
This is a great layout for adding flip flaps to get extra photos onto your page.  I love the way the leaves from this month's Stamp of the Month worked in so well on this one (and how amazing is our new "Paprika" cardstock?)  The really great thing about this layout is that it really only needs one strip of 4 x 12" patterned paper and a couple of teeny strips - a great layout to do right at the end of a scrapping session to use up those last few precious bits!

The plaid in this pack works really well for my daughter's school uniform so it was easy to modify the Hawthorn Scrapbooking workshop kit to suit her school album.
Lastly a couple of quick, masculine cards using our stitched frames and the Hawthorn Cardmaking Stamp set (C1798) which has a great range of masculine images.  The thank you card used up some scrappy zip strips and offcuts from Hawthorn and Mix In papers and the "Thank" was cut out from the "Thankful" stickers in the Craft With Heart Subscription pages while the "you" was stamped.  I like to get extra mileage out of my scrapping supplies so if ever a title or embellishment doesn't work on its intended page then you just use it somewhere else!


I hope you enjoy using Hawthorn as much as I did.  Don't forget to put in an order with your consultant as this one will be gone for good at the end of the month!
Now hop on over to Lauren's blog to see what she has been busy creating.
Until next time,
Happy scrapping,
Nell

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Taking Stock - October

Hello again! I have just come back from a glorious weekend in Tassie at our Close To My Heart Business Builders and then a week on the Eyre Peninsula with my family so I kind of feel like I need a holiday to get over the holiday but my love cup is certainly full!

I realise it has been such a long time since I updated the blog and to be honest, like many bloggers, I've been thinking about whether I let it go or not.  Photos have been my big issue (Samsung at home/Apple at work - Luddite girl in a digital world etc) but I think I may have worked out a sneaky way around that so we will see what happens. 

I have missed the accountability of regular Australasian Blog Hops so expect to see them making a comeback!

Anyhow, along with a few photos, here's what I'm up to:

Making : a mess - actually multiple messes all over the house as I try to do lots of last minute things before school starts tomorrow
Cooking : pork roast for tea
Drinking : copious cups of coffee in my new CTMH mug (love it!)
Reading: "The Expected One" - kind of similar in style to "The Historian" with shades of "Da Vinci Code" - not hooked yet but it is well written
Wanting: a holiday to get over my holiday
Looking: at the lavender outside the kitchen window which seems to have gone nuts while we were away
Playing: Stacy Julian podcasts on my phone
Deciding: to be more intentional (about my teaching and my business and my relationships with the teens)
Wishing: I had just 2 more days of holidays 
Enjoying: the blackbirds' antics out the window
Waiting: for lots of lovely new teaching resources to turn up in the mail
Liking: that I got to see a little bit of Hobart before I flew home last night
Wondering: how I got so lucky
Loving: That we are all home under the one roof and that hubby washed and changed sheets while I was away (it's the small things!)
Pondering: whether I will get some spinning time tonight
Considering: how to make the most of my day off this week
Watching: in between shows at the moment - just finished "Afterlife" and loved it, now not sure what to watch next. I haven't seen Better Homes and Gardens for a couple of weeks so I am wondering if I may finally have kicked that habit? Is it time for a new Friday night routine (gasp!)
Hoping: for an uneventful week at work (although it is a full moon!?!?)
Marvelling: at the unexpected strength of individuals in our community
Needing: to regroup and find some quiet reflective time
Smelling: pork roast (yum)
Wearing: skirts and t-shirts (my unofficial Karma East Summer uniform)
Following: teaching ideas on pinterest
Noticing: the weeds that have invaded with the warmer Spring weather
Knowing: my limits
Thinking: of the term ahead
Admiring: my friend Mel (an extraordinary human being)
Sorting: spelling sheets and lists of high frequency words
Buying: timers and counting games and big dice online
Getting: over a headache
Bookmarking: crochet shawl patterns
Disliking: waking up with headaches - think it might be time to go see my remedial masseuse.
Opening: Scotch Finger biscuits (nothing like them with a cup of tea for the ultimate comfort food)
Giggling: over Dan's "tick tock" that he created while I was away
Feeling: grateful for so many wonderful holiday memories
Snacking: on roast almonds
Coveting: beautiful wooden toys from Lyrebird
Hearing: gentle hum of the oven and the sound of Bathurst racing in the background
Knitting: trauma teddies for the charity project, a beautiful stranded yoke test knit, and hats for the market stall (slight addiction to Helix knitting at the moment - I seem to be a bit obsessive when I learn something new!)
Scrapping: a delightful new Christmas project from Close to My Heart
Grateful for: all of it; this beautiful life!

Until next time, I hope this finds you well, happy and living your best life!
Keep smiling,

Nell
This crazy chick got her "pirate teeth" in 3 separate dentist visits this holidays!


Helix knitting - the new obsession - perfect for using up precious scraps of sustainable merino

Coffin Bay - so good to finally get my Dad here even if the fishing wasn't great!

Close to My Heart Business Builders Australasia - how funny was it that my two lovely friends and I all turned up in the same Saffron colour! Love these girls and the positive influence they have on my life!

Mum and Dad brought my niece with them - such beautiful holiday memories for these two sweet cousins

Saying goodbye to these two never gets easier but we did have such a glorious time!

I got to play "tourist" in Tasmania last night (thank heavens for daylight savings!) This is the entrance to St David's park

Our beautiful Close To My Heart President, Monica Wihongi - I couldn't resist a photo when we are both wearing matching colours for this month's Hawthorn paper pack!  Monica has the rare gift of making every single person she comes into contact with feel special and unique. She frequently uses her presentations to tell me exactly what I need to hear at that moment in time! 

Moments like these make my heart soar - my Mum playing checkers with Mads and her cousin - just an ordinary, everyday moment made so precious by the fact that we don't get to spend much time with these two very often.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Taking Stock - Mothers Day Edition

Hello again! It has been too long hasn't it?  There have been some technical hitches (hello new computer) and a hiatus without my digital camera while it was holidaying with a friend in Japan, and basically a whole heap of life getting in the way, and me not being sure I had anything to write about.  Anyhow, a quick list to get back into the groove:
Making : a test knit - the Cadence Shawl by one of my favourite Rav designers -  I am on the border now and it feels like every row has a gazillion stitches
Cooking : nothing today! It was Mother's Day so my beautiful kiddos made pancakes with orange cinnamon butter for breakfast, and then cauliflower and bacon soup and raspberry chocolate tart with homemade truffles for lunch with the Grandies, and then my hubby did chips and bacon and egg and mushrooms for tea (because no one was really all that hungry!)
Sipping : decaf coffee
Reading: "Cousins" but then I am hunting out my old copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird" so that I can read it before I read the sequel
Looking: at my beautiful new bookcases
Listening: to the end of Shrek (playing in the background) - but most often Nora Jones or Van Morrison on Spotify
Wishing: I had more trt work coming in
Enjoying: A reasonably clean kitchen and loungeroom and a cosy wood fire
Waiting: For the electrician to install our t.v. above the fireplace so that we can rearrange lounge furniture the way we want it
Liking: The effort my kids went to creating a lovely day for their grandmother and I.
Loving: How thoughtful they are becoming
Buying: porcini and truffle salt from the markets (we have eaten almost a kilo of mushrooms since Friday - it is made right here in the hills and it is SOOOOOOO good!)
Watching: "Hunt for the Wilder People" (it was my Mothers Day request)
Hoping: the work situation picks up a bit soon
Needing: to sort out so many little things for my scrapbooking workshop next weekend
Wearing: leggings and skirts and boots, leggings and dresses and boots - my informal Winter wardrobe
Following: a lot of knitters on instagram
Noticing: how comfortable our new (old) couches are - I was given the Chesterfields my inlaws had when my husband was a little boy. I've always loved them.  They have that worn, warm, comfy feel and in the afternoon light the leather just glows.  I love them.
Sorting: donations for our Cancer Council auction
Getting: edgy about the amount of jobs to get done this week, and now I've found out that our tax is due too - gulp!
Saving: up to do the music room
Smiling at: my new antique basket and the beautiful succulent bowl that was made by a clever local 14 year old (both from Recreate at Mt Pleasant - which is just the most gorgeous little sustainable/cooperative shop)
Giggling: at the antics of my kiddos and their friends on our day out Friday
Feeling: warm and loved and appreciated by family and friends
Hearing: the steady sound of rain - oh, sweet, sweet sound
Obsessing: over what I am supposed to be doing with my life right now? About to start on a few new work ventures and not entirely sure whether to be exhilarated, terrified, or what?  It has been quite an emotional time to not be on staff at kindy this year.  I have enjoyed doing relief work back in schools after 17 years (even though it was scary) but I miss kindy terribly and seeing all the photos of kindy and bush kindy on social media has been torture.  
Wanting: to get back into blogging again properly (including photos!) and to get back into the blog hops.
I have a couple of big weekends coming up with our National Scrapbooking Weekend next weekend and the Spinners and Weavers Guild Open Day the weekend after that,
I hope you are keeping yourself busy too!
Keep smiling,
Nell




Friday, February 15, 2019

I Heart Us Australasian Blog Hop

Oooh! This one has such fresh, pretty colours and beautiful sentiments!
Welcome to our "I Heart Us" Australasian Blog Hop for February.
Did you arrive here from Megan's Blog or are you a regular visitor here? Either way I hope you will "hop" your way around following the links.  We love to share ideas with you all.

I found that the "I Heart Us" paper pack lent itself beautifully to quick, easy double paged spreads.
First up I wanted to share the Craft with Heart pages for this month.  I am absolutely loving how easy and effective these pages are.  Every month I have 4 beautiful, easy to customise pages to add to my album.  It is making it so much easier to keep up to date with my scrapping!


At a recent scrapping event a friend was working on an entirely different paper collection using the "Olivia" pattern (from our Make it From Your Heart books, featured on the Close To My Heart Blog in December)  I adapted it to work for the "I Heart Us" paper.  If you don't own our Make it From Your Heart books I totally recommend them for stunning patterns that work with any paper!  They are my go to when I am a bit lacking in inspiration.
 How awesome are our new cut-apart sheets? I love that they are such an easy way to embellish pages.  I have used foam tape to pop those flowers up (I love giving a bit of added dimension with foam tape or dots!)


So there you have it. Easy, happy pages with clear bright colours.  This is such a great paper palette to work with!  I paired it with Bluebird and Carolina cardstock, and Raspberry and Mint.
Enjoy your scrapping this month.
Now head on over to visit Maz and see what she has been creating!
Keep smiling,
Nell