I do have a little thing about coats and I rather like to have a wardrobe full of them,
even though the recent temperatures are hardly autumnal - we shall not speak of this.
So when I saw Lisa's little pixie coats I left a comment saying 'oh if you ever do adult sizes...' and she did!
This pattern is a very simple one and comes together super quickly even though it is fully lined. Due to the lack of winter (some Australians may argue with this) that Adelaide experiences, I made my coat in a drill with a polycotton lining. I double topstitched the edges and rolled up the cuffs to show off the lining.
Note to self - do not iron polycotton on the linen setting! Thankfully I did that on the little button loop at the beginning while redemption and spare fabric were available.
I was one of a group of people pattern testing this for Lisa before she released the pattern for general sale. It's a clever thing to do I think because you don't want to be discovering errors after the release.
I am really pleased with this. The length is perfect for throwing on and it is roomy (just in case you wanted more than one layer - I never bother!).
If you want to get your hands on this pattern it goes from ladies 6 to size 18 and all the information is here. For today and tomorrow only Lisa is offering an additional 25% off with the code LADIESPIXIE.
One of the things I loved about this as a PDF pattern is that there is a clever trick where you click your size and that is all that prints out. It makes the cutting out so much easier.
For most of my readers (I am assuming here) we are used to being in the majority we haven't been refugees, or the odd face in the sea of faces that are similar. I think it's important for majorities to do all they can to understand what it is to feel on the outer.
I was really interested to read Cat Thao Nguyen's moving memoir We Are Here. Nguyen is born in Thailand in a red cross refugee camp after her parents made the extremely treacherous journey on foot from Vietnam through the jungle of the Khmer Rouge Cambodia to escape persecution. Eventually they find themselves in Sydney with nothing except a sarong gifted by the man who risked his life to get them across the border into Thailand.
When I started this read I thought I might end up overwhelmed and unable to finish but Nguyen has such a vivid and captivating voice that I actually read this one very quickly, I usually find memoirs slow going. By the end of the book I was a little bit in love with the author and I'd still be very keen to have her for dinner! I have talked about the book with so many people since I have finished it.
Mostly, I finished the book so challenged about the ways in which we as a community, and more specifically me as a individual, reach out and make connections with new arrivals. It helps to paint the picture of how huge a transition it is to arrive somewhere that everything, every single thing, is alien and foreign and you have to start from the very bottom. So often I thought, where was a local family who could have just given a friendly word, advocated, passed down hand-me-downs?... It's made me want to get more involved in the lives of people around me.
It's also made me realise again how much pressure is carried by children who have to play adult roles in order to keep the family moving and accessing information and how important it is for us (majorities) to try to make the way as easy as possible.
There is something in this story for everyone - my favourite parts were when Nguyen Speaks about seeing a photographic installation of Vietnamese sewing rooms around the world and the power of recognition that moved her to tears, "He delivered to me the type of validation that comes with a published artwork carrying the core themes of one's life... it was the beginning of my understanding of the transformative and healing powers of creative art." There are some pages folded over and underlined in my copy.
So much good stuff. This book has the power to tell stories that need to be told.... stories that are the backbone of emerging new societies in every country around the world. The world is ours to share and we need people who can translate it for us when we can't understand it and who will hold up painful truths that we need to acknowledge.
I applaud and congratulate Nguyen on a wonderful, moving book that has challenged and inspired me on many levels. And I'd like her to know - I have a space for her in my diary if she's ever in Adelaide.
Initially I thought I would make another maxi dress but the fabric made me think that I might end up looking like I was straight out of a holly hobby photo shoot (in a bad way, not sure that there would be a good way but I'm open to suggestions!).
Sadly the light in our room was most punishing for using the self timer so you are stuck with in the mirror shots.
I love this fabric, strawberries make me happy.
It is a very simple make - I lengthened the top part significantly to make it over the ladies and gave it a little extra width as well. Aside from inserting a zip (which isn't tricky) I think this is a great beginners dress. The design makes it flattering for the curvy lady and the aline skirt hides all sorts of bits and pieces as well.
So I am continuing with my great commitment to read, read, read (making up for lost years when I was studying and only read what I had to, was working and felt too exhausted, was mummying smalls and couldn't manage anything!).
The Iron Necklace by Giles Waterfield is a novel that crosses generations and borders. The book opens in the years immediately before world war one. Irene - English, marries Thomas - German, bringing their families together and leading her to settle in Germany. As the novel unfolds each of the characters is drawn into the war, lines are drawn and loyalties are challenged.
The novel moves between members of both families and how they respond to the war. Mainly the story is Irene's and to a lesser extent her granddaughter Pandora's. As Irene's loyalty is tested does she side with her husband and his family or her country and her family?
The novel is one that lingers, threads of different stories weave together to make the whole and of course there is the awful knowledge for the reader of just what will unfold for the characters in the second world war - which is not directly dealt with.
I enjoyed this novel - it's more high brow than chic lit and the characters are complex. If it was up to me I would have added some kind of family tree or list of characters at the beginning because there were so many that it took me a while to work out where I was each time the narrative moved to a new character.
A good read for anyone who likes complex family stories and historical settings. Winter evenings with a steaming cup of something hot. I'll be recommending it to my mama.
Zafir by Prue Mason is part of a series of books called Through My Eyes, each is a stand alone novel about children living in contemporary conflict zones.
Zafir is 12 when the book opens and 14 when it closes. During that time his life and circumstances change dramatically. Once a privileged child of a well respected surgeon by the end of the novel things are hugely different (because, you know, I don't want to spoil it for you). The book is set in Syria in 2011- and accurately captures the events that unfolded during that time.
This book is well written, it feels contemporary and I know that young readers the world over will be able to relate to Zafir, his best friend Rami and Eleni. They are in essence 'ordinary kids', like those everywhere, who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
This year the school I teach in is made up 50% of children whose mother tongue is not English. Reading it reminded me that I have no idea of the 'whats, hows and whys' people have encountered to find themselves in a new country. We ourselves are in a new country and our whys were so easy - it may not be true for the children I meet any day in the classroom or the people I pass on the street.
As the internet shrinks the world we are faced increasingly with the reality of those who are forced to see, flee and live through terrible, terrible things. If nothing else, this story brings light and understanding the things that have recently happened, and are still happening, in Syria.
I have already recommended this book widely as a text for using with older (11+) readers in schools, the writing, the issues and the ways in which social media is used would all be excellent discussion points for a group of readers. More than that though, I think this is a book we should all read - this is our world, these are the conflicts we inherit and, as much as we can, it is important for us to really understand what it is to be caught in what was your home and is now a war zone.
If we can truly empathise with people who haven't lived our journey then surely we will build more compassion and tolerance as we move forward.
One of the most important books I have read this year. I will be seeking out the others in the series too - even though it breaks my heart to read them.
So I have kept up my reading pace, trains and less tv does help, and read a couple of darker stories.
Sweet Damage by Rebecca James.
Last year I reviewed Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by the same author and I am equally impressed with this psychological thriller. Tim, surfer and restaurant worker, finally gets off his ex-girlfriend's couch when he scores and amazingly cheap room in a beautiful mansion near the beach and his work. His only flatmate, Anna, owns the house and has agoraphobia but he figures her shyness and withdrawness is manageable.
As the story unfolds so do the strange happenings in the house and as Anna's past comes to the forefront things start to get complicated. This book is one of those ones that draws you in and then when you start to think you've got things figured out it flips you on your head.
Pacey and engaging I read it fast because I was so drawn in to the story. If you like a thriller that doesn't involve guts and gore and you like feeling a bit breathless while you are reading then I think you will really enjoy this. James is able to weave story lines that twist and turn and leave the reader working to keep up. * The book does contain several sex scenes and some swearing - I would probably recommend it for an older audience than the younger end of 15-18 suggested.
Gun Control marks the 40th Cliff Hardy crime fiction book that Corris has written - which in itself seems incredibly impressive to me. This book follows Hardy, a PI, as he investigates a suicide to find out who put the gun into the young man's hands. What follows leads him along all sorts of tracks which seem to cross over and intertwine until justice and truth are finally realised. Hardy aligns himself and is forcibly aligned with an interesting group of characters from both sides of the law.
Politicians, gangs, police none are safe from his investigative eye.
This kind of crime fiction is an easy read, not too taxing it resolves in a good way and includes some well drawn characters. *There is some sex (mild) and a lot of swearing in the book.
I decided, after looking through some of my pinterest inspiration, to make a 'princess and the pea' one. I stitched it up one night in front of the tv and when I showed it to The Atlas he said 'the princess and the pea' straight away. It was one of his very good moments - a man to cherish right there!!
One of the children at school asked me on the day I wore it - is that you in bed Miriam? (they call teachers by their first name here) That made me laugh in a kind of cringe-y way, no not me in bed! No I replied it's the princess and the pea - do you know that story?
For the record I am definitely not stitching myself in bed - that would be like an awkward nude of your dinner host hanging right above the table where you are trying to have dinner and make polite chit chat. Okay, maybe it would be nothing like that but it would still be odd.
Anyway I have 2 more to make. Such simple projects and doable in an evening - I love those kind of projects!
What should I stitch next into my teeny tiny hoop?
love you more than a correct stitching interpretation xxx
Sometimes teaching is like herding cats, (which the myth busters well and truly proved is impossible), a room full of people seemingly going in any direction but together or the direction you want.
Teaching can feel like scaling an impossible mountain in a pair of stilettos and a party hat.
Mostly I realise what an absolute joy and privilege it is to be left to care and guide for what is most important to people.
This week these are the things that have made me smile as I have met a much of new people in small bodies:
Did you build that dress? How many years does it take to make a dress?
and when we were using fabric scraps from my sewing room and they pulled out a matching piece to the dress I was wearing -
(gasp) you cut up your dress!
Kids say the best stuff. You are never long without something to smile about when you hang out with them. That's not to say it's all peachy and there aren't any teacher eyes (I'm sure you've seen those before) happening.
Teaching is one of those jobs that is demanding on every front - energy, emotion, problem solving, relationally ... the work is never, ever finished and there is always something you could do better or more or another resource you could make or a plan to refine or an assessment to do - it is a relentless job in the way parenting is.
You have to be able to muster courage and patience when you feel like hiding or shouting or throwing in the towel. You have to be the adult but you also have to engage the child in you - you have to find the balance between steering the ship and inspiring the sailors - even when it's time to scrub the decks.
I think most children start the learning journey filled with a sense of wonder and possibility and I think as teachers we can lose that so quickly when we look at the demands put on us from every direction. Sometimes teaching doesn't feel like taking a group of unique, interesting and potential-filled children on a journey as much as it feels like a train station where you are constant being harassed by people who aren't on your train for things they need - records, data, notices, permissions, health and safety...
That's not a reflection on where I am at right now it's a reflection on teaching as a profession which it seems is often run by someone at the top of the pyramid (in government) who has never taught and who is trying to make schools run on a business model.... it makes me sad.
Somewhere, somehow we need to try to hold on to learning first for the joy of learning, engaging with potential, and taking children on a journey. Targets, nationalised tests, league tables, and grading in many cases do nothing for each student or for the integrity of the classroom programme. Maybe they fit a catch cry for accountability but they don't really, not in the things that matter.
Truth is there are going to be fabulous teachers and there are going to be rubbish teachers and all the national standards in the world are never going to make a difference to what I want from a teacher - a person who can continue to be committed to my child on their good and bad days, a person who genuinely loves to learn, a person who can inspire, lead, guide and meet my children where they are and knows - or will work hard to find out - how to build a pathway from where they are now to the joy of new knowledge (even when the new knowledge is totally tedious like a spelling rule).
Am I a perfect teacher? Heck no! Some days I do pretty well and other days I know I miss opportunities. As a parent there is no one whose job is more important to me than the people who teach my children and that is both motivating and terrifying to me in equal measure as I teach other people's children.
If you know a teacher give them a little hug today and don't tell them they should love their job because of all the holidays (let's not go there) tell them what they are doing will have lasting effects, thank them for what they are doing well, tell them something nice your child has said about them, remind them that their job is one of the most important jobs in the whole world - because there are leaders and criminals and parents and environmental activists and authors and artists and politicians and researchers and all sorts of children that will be adults in every class.
Children are the best, children are also our future and let's all of us take that responsibility very seriously.
Who was a teacher that made a difference for you? And why?
love you more than a pile of completed marking xxx
Living in Adelaide in the summer is not easy for me - once the temperatures start to soar I feel my heat anger (h-anger, if you will) start to set in. I really would happily spend the whole of summer inside and never venture out into the heat at all... I dislike it that much.
So it's good for me to be caught by beautiful outdoors things in summer.
Next to the trees where the boys slack-lined on Saturday, (which happened to be very hot and sticky) there was a group of enormous trees and singing and flying and landing and hanging were hundreds and hundreds of bats.
I have never seen a bat in the wild.
I thought bats were nocturnal.
It was absolutely incredible and very awe inspiring to see these creatures/mammals flying around and nesting in the trees and to hear them singing (is that what you call it?).
That night seeing the bats was Bounce's grateful thing for the day, I think it was mine too.
The last 2 years I have participated in the 52 project where you take a photo of your child every week.
It might be true that I am several years behind in printing my photos, yes! but I have managed to upload the 52 (ish ++) photos from each week of last year. I did the year before too and it makes me happy to think of these being a little record that belongs to them as they grow.
The boys are thrilled to have these and we have so enjoyed looking through them and talking about our memories of the year that has been.
Now to get the photos from 2014 organised and printed. I'm a convert to photo books now so much less work than getting photos and an album and putting them all in... I'll add that to the goals list.
Happy memories for 2 special boys - sorted and done. Are you up to date with printing your photos?
Sometimes I wonder that even though children these days are so well photographed how many of them will have any physical records or if they'll disappear with the speed of technology??