Hello from the other side. (Of thirty five.)

I have never been a person who enjoys exercise. I struck it lucky genetically, never had to work at being thin, could eat everything under the sun at stay at 50kg. Then it was 55kg. Then it was 60. And 65. Then I hit my thirties.  I had two children, one of whom didn’t sleep for 15 months (9 of those I was working 12 hour days, full time load).  I became some sort of permanently exhausted pigeon and boom! 75kg. BMI of 29, which for Asian descent with (comparatively speaking) finer bones is basically obese (or a beast, as I’ve heard it said 😂). 

Let’s add depression to this load to carry. Killer of all joy. “Exercise to boost your endorphins, it will help your mental state!” We’ve all heard it.  As a health professional I have to spruik it. 

“Try just going for a walk around the block, look at your neighbours’ gardens, get out of your head!” But here’s the thing. When you are so deep in it, when you’re tired, you have small children demanding your attention, you’re trying to keep all your obligations and plates in the air… it’s all you can do to get out of bed when the alarm goes. And you get through another day. And you’re exhausted all day and fall into bed at the end of it.  And then rinse and repeat. And repeat. And then you’re staring down another year, you haven’t planned any holidays, you’re fed up, strung out, snapping at your kids, your husband, angry at the world because you just want a sleep in, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. 

There’s a lot to worry about in this world. Raising small humans increases that stress by a factor of, oh, I don’t know, 2305857391845 times?  They say you need a village, and oh boy howdy do you. Someone to talk to about your children, is this normal? Is yours doing this? Why is there screaming? What the heck is a leap and why does it result in MORE SCREAMING?!  Am I damaging them by doing this? Am I failing them by not doing that? 

This technological age is fantastic in that you can be supported by someone 800km away at 3 in the morning (Thanks Em! 😘), but horrific in that there is SO much more access to questionably credentialled pseudo-experts telling you exactly how you’re ruining your child’s life. And at 3am in the morning, it all *seems* to make sense. 

We should be ensuring they get an hour of active play a day. We should be feeding them a rainbow of fruits and veges. All snacks should be GMO free, additive free, taste free, fun free, hand picked by fairies at dawn from your own garden. Except when you’re cutting their fruit into fun shapes and putting faces on their Pikachu shaped rice balls using nori. You shouldn’t tell them no, it damages their brain pathways. You should praise them for effort, not aptitude (yeah, so ok that one makes sense). 

Somewhere along the way I got so caught up in trying to do everything for everyone that I needed a reset. Time to stop, look up, look at the big picture, set some goals. Because when you’re so focused on just getting through the day, that becomes all you do. And when you don’t plan for things like holidays or days to do things for yourself, it turns out that you don’t GET days to do things for yourself. 

Last year I made the decision to try something new and signed up for barre classes. It was outside my comfort zone but something I thought I would enjoy, and as a whole I’ve stayed with it the longest out of anything I have tried, fitness-wise. I met great people, became friends with my tenders (barre-tenders, get it?) which provided the support and the community to keep coming back to it in spite of breaks and regardless of time away. 

I’m lucky that my husband will happily pick up the slack where I’ve been dropping it – that he cares for our girls full time, that I get time to do things for myself without the resentment or injustice that parenting can breed. I’m also lucky that he’s smart enough to recognize that when I have time to do things for myself, I’m not a raging jerkhole. 

I’ve made new friends in this little interest of mine, and it’s opened up new opportunities for me.  So here goes.

Dear 35yo Me,

If I told you that in 1 year you would be up on a Sunday, squeezing a C25k session in before a double barre class and walking home, you probably would have slapped me. 

If I told you that you were booked in to go to Phuket for a wellness retreat, you probably would have laughed at me then told me I was an idiot with more money than sense. 

But this will happen. I promise you it gets easier. That crushing sensation? The drowning feeling? It goes away. You just need to have some faith in yourself. Set some guidelines for parenting and drown out the rest of the noise. Yes, try and be active with your kids. Choose your words to them carefully. But if you listen to them, you will learn so much more than anything the web tells you. 

Cut yourself some slack. Your children are burning so much energy learning, taking things in, forming new pathways developmentally. If it’s easier for you to give them chicken nuggets and chips with some cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks so that you can sit down for a spell and have a hot cup of tea WHILE IT IS HOT, do it. Your mental health will thank you (or is it me? The time space continuum is hard).

Realize that winter will always be hard, and that you will have more energy as the days get longer and the sun shines brighter. 

Sit down and spend a few minutes planning your week, it makes it so much easier and you’ll feel less stressed. 

Your children will become more self sufficient and will play well together. Yes, there will be screaming, but on the whole you have two bright girls who love each other. You will be able to have a shower without feeling like there is a stopwatch going. You will even be able to sit on the couch and do something like read a book while they entertain themselves. Crazy, right?

I’m not saying you’ll get it together in a year. But consider making some small changes. Try and get out of bed when you wake up, regardless of how tired you are. Spend a few minutes with a mindfulness app (Headspace is a new discovery)  – I know it sounds wacky and New-Agey, but it’s really just having 3 minutes to yourself to breathe and not have a million things whirling around your head.  Try and make healthy food choices, or at least pay attention to the deliciousness of the less-than-healthy choices so you enjoy what you’re eating and don’t just shovel it down with the guilt and the emotions. 

We are all a work in progress. But at least try and enjoy the work. Don’t take it so seriously, it’s life. No one gets out alive. And if you need some more advice, in the words of the great John Lennon: 

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Don’t be so busy, but make other plans. Don’t measure your life out in coffee spoons.  

Take time to stop and look around. And relax. Future you isn’t really a preachy dick. I’m actually kind of fun. Some days. 

Take care of yourself,

Catherine. 

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Jade & Kali

Embroidered pillowcases

One of my friends recently eloped to NZ. I decided in celebration of their marriage, pillow slips would be a great idea. Also, because sometimes they’re apart from each other, I decided to make them one each so that they could each have one even when they weren’t together. Okay, so I originally planned to make 4, but I was lucky to even finish this pair!!!

i know the picture isn’t the greatest, but I finished stitching them the Tuesday before they arrived on Friday, and I had work and kids, so it’s a miracle they even got washed, let alone ironed. If you want ironed sheets in my house, you’ll have to do it yourself!

So congratulations, Jade & Kali, we hope you’re very happy together and wish you every joy in your new adventures!

Glitter hot glue gems

I bought a Mod Podge Hot Melts mould in the shape of gems, and have been filling them with plain hot glue and decorating with nail polish. I experimented with glitter with mixed results – if there was too much glitter in the mould, the hot glue didn’t melt around it and the surface of the gems was bumpy where there were piles of glitter rather than smooth. Through trial and error, I figured the best way was to spread the glitter in the mould using a finger, so it was evenly distributed, then pour the glue. Of course this was the most time consuming way. I have ideas involving static electricity, charging the mould and then glittering and tapping off the excess, but that experiment will be for another day. In the meantime – aren’t they pretty?!

Shiny!
Shiny!

Excuse the blurriness, it was just a quick snap and now my daughter has hijacked them to play with. I was thinking I could make a whole lot and use them on cards, hair clips, and of course, play gems for Sophie!

The options are endless!!! So…to the glue gun, my friends!!!

Forays into watercolor

image Botanical GInspired by the amazing Lindsey at The Postman’s Knock, and this particular post, I decided to try my hand at some botanical letters. While I certainly didn’t get these done in the 30-45min time period, I can certainly see where with practice you could whip them up easily.  And I had a blast colouring them in using my Peerless Watercolour palette from Beth at OliveMeArtsie.

These will go to dear friends as birthday presents, I sure hope they like them!

Upcycling. Winning all around!

Sophie (2yo) is currently on a huge dress kick and wants to wear dresses all the time. Being winter here at the moment, she’s pretty good about letting me layer her with multiple long sleeved shirts and trackies underneath (did I mention that she’s currently anti-jackets/jumpers/hoodies/warm outerwear too?).

This is extending to sleepwear too, so I was on the hunt for cute knits when I stumbled upon this tute.  Which was perfect, because I currently have a bag of t-shirts that I love too much to give away, but no longer wear.

I had some narrow elastic, I had some time to myself (not true, I made my husband entertain the baby), and as usual, everything took longer than usual…but it’s done. In an evening! And I guess I can whip up more now I know how. I can only improve, right?

Time for bed. Goodnight, all, and send sleepy wishes my way so my 5mo will let me snatch more than 2 hour intervals tonight….

It's flawed, but I did this!
It’s flawed, but I did this!

Juggling

I don’t know about anyone else, but I used to be a one project woman. Start a cross stitch, finish a cross stitch, choose another.

My biggest problem was more patterns than I could stitch. Now…. Excuse me while I wipe tears of laughter. What do I have going right now?

Let’s see. There’s the embroidery for the girls’ quilt. I’ve stalled at “N for Nest” because of …

… the wedding card I STILL haven’t finished since the present broke, I said I’d post it to them and hence the pressure of finishing has eased. Then there’s…

…the piles of bias binding I decided to mass produce thinking it would be easier. I’ve made 3 and I have 1 pinned to sew, cut press, and another huge piece that needs re-marking before cutting because I didn’t actually have a 45 degree angle and that was why my marks didn’t match up!

Oh, and then there’s the bibs and bamboo fleece I’ve cut for Em because she’s a major dribbler, but ALL of these projects (4!!! 5 if you include the cross stitch I abandoned…6 if you include the phone cases I’m designing for my husband and I…) been put on the back burner, because in addition to going back to work next week, I decided to do this course. And accept the better lettering challenge. SEVEN. SEVEN PROJECTS.

I am crazy.

Project #8: Adventures in bias binding

I have a pile of fat quarters and remnants that have been earmarked to become bias tape ever since I read a continuous bias tape tutorial.

Of course with 2 other projects on the go, this is the appropriate time to have piles of fabric heaped on the table as a work in progress. I’m slowly making my way through – I’ve marked them all with pin lines and I can pin them at my leisure then stitch them all. The cutting and pressing takes a bit longer, but in the mean time I made some pretty cards to put it on and started with the brightest, happiest fabric!

Here is the fixings for my bias tape cards:


Rotary cutter and mat, glue, old cards, IKEA straws and some scrapbook paper.

I had all of these things at home, so I just glued my card on to pretty scrapbook paper, pressed it under heavy books while it dried so it was flat and bubble free, trimmed it to an appropriate size (I chose 6″x4″), cut my straws to 3″ lengths and cut them down one side to form “bumpers” that will (hopefully) stop the tape from creasing.

Et voilà! Bias tape!

Project #7: Dribble bib

Miss Emily is nearly 4 months old now and has had the dribbles for over a month now. Cue the scramble to unearth the bibs from wherever I hid them when Sophie outgrew them.

Some lovely friends got us a couple of Nuby dribble bibs and they’ve been excellent, so I got to thinking.

I have some (tonnes) of bamboo fleece that I ordered, thinking we could stuff Sophie’s pocket nappies with them. I ordered it, washed it, cut it to nappy stuffable size, and then…it never got used.

I figured I could refashion it into dribble bibs. It’s natural coloured so I figured I could add some colour with a blanket stitch, maybe do seven bibs in rainbow colours. Then I had to run out the door to go to my sister’s house, so I grabbed my bag with the DMC Perle 5 variations floss in it, because I have been wanting to play with it and I figured, hey, multiple colours! Here is a great tute on blanket stitch if you need a refresher.

I couldn’t get 2 identically sized pieces out of one piece of fleece, so I cut one template of the bib (just laid the bib on top and cut around it roughly), then the “back piece” which basically was the triangle bottom part of the bib which ended maybe an inch from the ends of the straps. And then there was a little left over so I made a third piece that basically sits around the neckline and down into the triangle. I figured that was where we’d need the most absorbency!

Then I started my blanket stitch, added a few wonky lazy daisies and a snap at the back, and it was done! Probably took me about an hour, all told. And it turned out so cute and I have all the fabric, I may just make some more!

Cat xoxo

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Project #6: Finished!

It’s done, hooray! And in time for us to go traveling. Unfortunately I vastly underestimated the time required to stitch my wedding card, and the present I stitched and mounted in a frame suffered a breakage en route, so we had to attend the wedding empty handed. But it does mean I can stitch it more carefully and send a perfectly stitched piece, which will be nice.

So, pics of the finished product:

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The opened out case, with the extra pocket and tie detailing, reversed scissor pocket, and adjusted needle book.
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The left hand panel. I added in a tie so I had the option of attaching additional pieces eg: a thread ring that would sit in the pocket but might possibly slide out. I just knotted 4 lengths of perle 5 floss and stitched it in with a loop, also in perle 5 floss.
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The centre panel with scissor pocket and needle book. I reversed the scissor pocket because I am left handed, and also changed the needle book from portrait orientation to landscape orientation. This also allows me to drape the case over a chair arm if I need to.
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The right panel with the 2 pockets.
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The filled case. As we were flying, I tied on my thread cutter in lieu of scissors. I also have a pincushion ring attached. The left hand panel pocket holds 2 project cards of floss, and the right hand pockets hold my metallic floss bobbins (metallic floss doesn’t bear up well on project cards!) and my Thread Heaven. You can see one of my embroidery blocks in the back “project pocket”.

They say pictures tell it better than words, so there you go. Reflections: if I were to do it again?

– I’d consider a contrasting fabric. The co-ordinating colours looked great in the store, but the straps and binding didn’t pop because of that. So while it was a safe option, next time I might consider taking more risks!

– the quilting of vertical lines echoed the pattern so made the outer quite boring. While I am just practicing quilting, it might be worth trying something different on a small item like this where mistakes won’t be as obvious and don’t really matter!

If you are interested, I’ve found the pincushion ring to be invaluable, no more clenching the needle in my teeth while I coat my floss in Thread Heaven! You can find them here, along with an array of delightfully geeky patterns. Jacqueline is just lovely and her store is well worth checking out.

That’s it from me today!

Cat xoxo