Crafting in times of sadness, heals the soul

In times of crisis humans collectively get together to help each other and get stuff done! After feeling so overwhelmed at the mass destructions and loss with the Australian bushfires (that are still burning) I wanted to help. I saw online that the Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild were looking for items for all the rescue animals, so I started doing a few at home. Later I discovered that our local library has a MakerSpace and asked if we could use the room and get a group together to sew for the animals. I was so excited when they said yes as long as I organised it. It was such a surprise that I have had to put study on hold for a few hours this week to make it happen. So I advertised on the Good Karma network and at the gym and got a group of 5 to 7 people for the three days this week to help out with ironing and cutting fabric donations and sewing on the four machines at the library.

While we were working at the library, the librarian shared the above article with us and it was so exciting to see the love for all the animals plus we got to confirm who we were sending the pouches too at our local hub in Melbourne.

So by the end of the week we have made close to 100 between our little group and have cut out some liners ready to go next week. We are planning to do some more sewing this week on Thursday and Friday to keep the momentum going! All with for the animals ๐Ÿ˜€

Oh and if you are keen to help the animals they need monetary donations to transport everything around this massive country of ours.

Now I better get back to my assignments and study for this week!

Wishing you a very merry Chrissy

Finally, I have some time to write what have been going on for the last couple of weeks. It seems like a while ago, so here goes! There has been a lot of awesome Chrissy celebrations with my work friends and then I got a cold from late nights studying writing an essay, going to work early, hanging out with kids and their germs and feeling run down. So last weekend was pretty quiet, which gave me time to catch up on wrapping prezzos and all that jazz. Then came the last week of my teaching placement, which was intense as it was all about wrapping up so all the kids work, placing their crafts in their goodie bags, getting the kids ready for the singing presentation to their families with a fabulous spread of food and saying goodbye to the kids who were transitioning to school. I have to say it was full on!

I have enjoyed my time in early childhood hanging out with the 3 to 5 year olds. The educators I worked with planned a tie dye afternoon so that the children could wear them for their performance, the one on the left is the one we all tied together with rubber bands for the kids and used the tie dye kit and the one on the right is using a food dye which worked just as well. It was very well executed where we used lids of big plastic boxes and the kids used the bottles of dye and just spread it on their t-shirts. You would think 3 year olds this is gonna be crazy but we managed to do it in a good amount of time and not much dye was on the kids, as for me I had blue hands for days!

The other fun project I managed to make with the kids was vegan gingerbread – this was a tricky one, as the dough was a bit dry as we could have messed up the ratio of flour to wet ingredients which was nut butter and golden syrup. This cooking project was with very enthusiastic 5 year old children who were eating the dough scraps that even fell on the floor. Their biscuits are cut out here and they were cooked but were quite dry when they came out of the oven, so it was certainly an interesting experience! Next time, I would consider smaller groups and doing the project multiple times.

The gingerbread house on the right is made by my daughter who loves to bake, she did this one over a weekend with making the gingerbread one day and the next day we researched the royal icing which would be the mortar to hold the house together. It was an very delicious recipe which is even better as we could snack on it after we took some pics.

I also finished my tree skirt for our makeshift tree this year! I managed to wrangle a bunch of leftover yarn to make this very colourful crochet tree skirt which is sitting underneath our stash of pressies this year. For a family who was pretty disorganised about Chrissy I feel we managed to get it together reusing the paper from our move gift wrap!

And our house is looking amazing, we can imagine checking out James working in his study, checking out who is coming to visit down our hallway, looking through windows while doing the dishes and looking up we have a roof! It is so exciting to see the progress since our initial deep dig in the ground and now the house is framed and ready for its details of the windows and doors, the black charred timber, weatherboard and brick for the exterior. The beautiful recycled timber Tasmanian Oak floors and the kitchen and bathroom with their terrazzo floors. We even went shopping for the kitchen yesterday and trying to find a stovetop and oven that will serve our cooking adventures, so good though so overwhelming!

Its time for a break now, so our builders will have time off and be back into it after New Years where we will see much more unfold. I am so happy to be back home and to be able to wish my friends a very merry Chrissy at long last ๐Ÿ˜€

Happy halloween

Well the time has come to get back into the study zone after my month of catching up on stuff. While I was free to catch up on stuff, I was investigating vegan makeup options. I found this great brand with a perfect price point in Sydney called MOMMA. So I ordered their samples to check the colours for a BB cream which includes a sunscreen (you need it in Australia) and found the perfect colour. Their lipsticks are just divine, long lasting and super smooth with shea butter. They also have a mineral matt powder to dust all over the place, as you can see in the pic! Anyway it is good to know that I have found a local makeup company to gather my makeup supplies and know that no animals were harmed in the process. Thanks to PETA for the extensive list.

Last week was Halloween and it was hot as at 32 degrees celsius. For me it was very strange to experience a hot Halloween. For the last 12 years it has been autumn in the northern hemisphere. So I ditched my costume and just wore my sundress and became a tourist for the afternoon to take the girls from my daughters school down to the shops for a bit of trick or treat action. Next year when we move into our house, I reckon I will be more festive for Halloween, as all my costumes are boxed up in the garage it was a bit of a mission to dig through it all.

Speaking of the house build, here it is and I am standing on the back deck in the picture on the left looking over to the dining room and lounge. The other pic is I am in the laundry looking towards the hallway and stairs. It is so exciting to see the progress this week but this week it is raining and fingers crossed we can see some more action this week!

Winter holiday in Queensland – Part 1

Winter break and it was time to head on up to Queensland to get some sunshine and maybe if you dare a bit of a swim! We stayed at this lovely Air Bnb near my families house and enjoyed some peaceful times by the pool watching the birds come and visit every day.

This little fella had a couple of other mates who came by to visit each day. I love magpies so much and their morning song reminds me that I am home again.

The kiddos really were a bit excited about having a pool where we were staying so they braved the chilly water and hopped on in when it was nice and sunny – which was most of the time.

We spent some lovely days with my mum and dad and went down to the beach for fish and chips at Suttons Beach. The kiddos love going there to collect hermit crabs and then they build them little homes out of sand.

We were in an area that I was not really familiar with even though I went to primary school down the road. Behind where we were staying were many new developments and the urban planning has included many parks within 15 minutes of where we stayed. I enjoyed walking around discovering new places for the kids to play on and this obstacle course was the perfect spot for challenging their times on how quick they can get across. Afterwards we found this interactive fountain and the kiddos got drenched on a winters afternoon!

The afternoons for me were spent by the pool knitting a scarf with the beautiful yarn I scored in Sydney – this is Hedgehog fibres yarn with a pattern with intentional holes. It was so relaxing to sit by the pool and listen to my audio book and watch the birds fly home for the evening.

“Speak good words or remain silent”

Stealthy like this cat who lives near our other house is how I felt this week – into a routine of gym in the morning and back afterwards to study and write and edit my assignments for Uni. I can see the light at the end of the teaching period now with just one week to go!

Friday I found an injured possum on the road and called Wildlife Victoria to help but their volunteer did not arrive in time and the poor creature had died when I came back after the gym. The little fella got run over by a car outside my daughters school and I did not want the school kids to see it so I had to get a box to dispose of the poor fella. So he was put in the big bin at the school, so sad! Later that arvo I need to be with some peeps and volunteered with some lovely people at Peppertree Place Nursery just up the road from my house. It is a very special place which has been reopened recently and I serendipitously wandered by one day and asked if I could volunteer with them, Friday I was weeding and digging in the earth for nasturtiums and chatting about possum proofing their garden beds.

My community circle is opening up now and my daughters friends mum has a local business called Smalt (Smoked Salt) and it is just delicious. So on Friday I ordered some and it was exactly what I needed to inspire me in the kitchen for Friday nights dinner. I made an amazing tzatzaki with locally made felafel and a huge salad it was so delicious. And for dessert Smalt fudge which is divine, we have managed to eat most of it this week – we will be ordering some more soon! Such an splendid end to the day.

Oh and my bike is back with me, it is so good to be back on the trail with my bike and over the weekend I went on the bike track that goes for kilometres right next to our house. The ride on Sunday in between assignment writing was perfect for a brain break and it was so fun, there were hills and it was then I realised my tyres needed to be pumped and my chain needs to be greased after its journey across the sea.

I went on my first excursion with my daughters school on Wednesday to the Islamic Museum of Australia. We went by tram with 21 kids and 2 teachers and 4 parent volunteers in the icy cold winds of Melbourne winter we walked to the tram, hopped the tram, walked again, hopped another tram and walked again – the kids were done by then! Still they were excited to be there and so was I.

It was such a wonderful experience learning about Islamic religion and culture. The educator Sharene was so engaging with her anecdotes and stories. I enjoyed hearing about a story of the Prophet Muhammed and how he would not even kill an ant to start a fire. To me this resonated with my knowledge of Buddhism and not killing any living things. After the presentation and the museum I had greater insight of Islam and how important it is for me have an understanding of neighbours in my community.

This man on the ceiling was an Islamic inventor who tried to fly off a mountain in Morocco – he tried but failed but what was missing on his flying contraption was the tail.

There were so many informative displays explaining Islamic faith and the 5 pillars in one gallery space where a friend of mine was explaining in greater detail about each one to me about praying 5 times a day on their prayer rug and its connection to yoga, which I connected immediately with my yoga mat.

Another space focussed on art and this was my favourite area. The beautiful embroidered piece of cloth is from Mecca and is only a part of a massive detailed piece which you see later in the museum in the architecture area.

The art was charming with the peacock mosaic catching my eye – it was an art piece that you could touch to feel the detail in the tile and mosaic. The arabic calligraphy is another element that I was enjoyed and the detail in the geometric art and tessellation in design detail is what I love. The surfboards were created by an artist in Sydney, with another interesting story which I will have to research next time I visit.

Presented in this display is the history of calligraphy in Islam and is viewed as and expression of the highest art form, again this was interesting to me as I always viewed it purely as Chinese calligraphy. In this calligraphic style I am drawn to the swirls and interesting pattern detail.

The connection of Islam to Australia was fascinating as I had read about this in my Indigenous studies but it only touched on the connection with the trading of the sea slugs with the Aborginals of Australia. The gallery space shared greater insight with the connections to famous Australian Muslims and the cultural connections to Australia. It is interesting how this connection can spark such a fascinating display of culture that everyone needs to experience – this is what education is about to break down the walls of ignorance and open our eyes to others. And in our education session, the kids played a game to sort out this quote, by Prophet Muhammad “speak good words or remain silent”. Just beautiful. Peace.

Let us eat

With all the excitement of moving into our new pad I totally lost it last week with getting an assignment in, meeting our architects and builder, going to the chiropractor and the delivery of our stuff from California! Yep it was a big week but at least we managed to go out for lunch with our friend to the Boot Factory for a delicious chai. For lunch, I had Cauliflower Black Turtle Bean Felafels with Beet Hommus and Smoked Bocconcini, amazing – I am so in love with the food there and the bonus is that this cafe is only a 10 minute walk away from our new digs ๐Ÿ˜€

Saturday was my early Mothers Day lunch at Smith and Daughters, a place I have been wanting to visit each time I have visited Melbourne and finally my wish came true. An all vegan menu and so delicious I will so have to go back for the Feast Me set menu next time! This time I enjoyed food from the brunch menu with the Meatball Sub, a Holy Basil cocktail and delightful little balls of sugar donuts, bombolini as a shared dessert – I felt so good after that incredible meal complete with a sugar high!

So on Monday we met our architects and builder to tie up some last minute changes before the contract papers go through. I am so excited that things are moving along – the colours for the interior of our house are above, as well as the black charred timber for the exterior and the white stone for the kitchen with the terrazzo for the bathroom and the colours for the kids rooms in the foreground – whew it is a huge project that is going to take 12 months to completion. And the pic next to the new house is The Great wall from America in our garage from our house in California. We went through many boxes over the weekend and all I can say is that it is time to donate more stuff to the Brotherhood of St Laurence – why did we ship so much stuff back?!? My craft supplies have to seriously be culled, boo hoo or I gotta get making ๐Ÿ˜€

And last Saturday was election day – the first time I had voted in Australia in 12 years! I remember I did a absentee vote for Kevin 07 when I was in Vancouver, Canada but since then I lost the privilege of voting! Anyway we went out to lunch with friends at my favourite place in Melbourne CERES at the Merri Cafe and I enjoyed a lovely flat white and the most amazing bowl of goodness the Merri Poke Bowl, so so good! The kids enjoyed the playground and they took me up into the treehouse and down into the termite hole and bombarded me with bark as a surprise – not cool! The weather was 21 degrees and it was an absolutely divine day.

As for Sunday the results of the election were appalling but sure if the fear drives the masses to vote for conservative governments then we just gotta keep fighting. We have to block that stupid mine up North and make sure the forests and land is taken care of in Australia that is why I have volunteered for the Greens – seriously we need the people power to stop this madness, climate change is real people and we do not need to blast the earth for more coal! Australia has plenty of wind and sunshine, the investment in renewables would be the best thing this country could do – but no, again thinking of the short term gain with no foresight for the future. Well there are enough people who have had enough plus I have seen this madness in America while I was living there when the Dump was elected and how depressing that was! What I saw was the energy in people to rise up in response to the bullshit that was being spouted, we just have to kick against those pricks and the time is now!

The Entitled

This morning on the way to school I was chatting to my son about quitting my Education degree due to the frustration of the education system in place that is following the style of the United States. Australia looks up to Mother America and loves to follow in their footsteps and this included standardised testing and reporting to ACARA – based on NAPLAN (the literacy and numeracy multiple choice test). I read this book on the weekend about a teachers struggle with the changes in the education system and it left a horrible feeling in regards to motivating myself to finish this teaching degree. The book is directly from a teachers perspective, things I have also experienced in the classroom but on a grander scale – the kids behaviour and the lack of responsibility from the parents with regard to modelling good behaviour to their children. I aways like to weigh in the positive and negative, but this book really had an effect on me that had me reeling with disappointment with the Australian education system to a point where I felt it was pointless to complete my degree, as the changing tides point to standardised testing and more reporting where the time devoted to actually teaching is pretty minimal. Though this teacher put her heart and soul into the profession she was burnt out mentally and physically after 16 years. Within the book, her teaching experience spanned classrooms in the beginning with the UK, Canada and different schools in Australia.

My son said to me, “Mum why do you want to throw away all the hard work that you have done for the last 3 years?”
I told him, “I read this book last week and I am very disappointed with the state of education in Australia, plus my friend shared with me an article about parents bullying teachers because their kid got in trouble.”
He said to me, “You mean parents who are entitled?”
To which I responded, “Yes, these parents who do not take responsibility to discipline/give consequences to their own children but who love to complain if their kid gets in strife.”

As a strange twist of fate there was an article in the Good Weekend last week that was given to me by a teacher friend of mine. After reading the article and examining it from an educators perspective who are trying their best to work with the class of around 24 children, where each child has their own needs as individual learners there needs to be consequences/firm discussions regarding behaviour. As a parent you just have to take the responsibility and act appropriately – I mean, the parents behaviour in this article is just ridiculous, what kind of modelling is that to their children? To me it screams I am a squeaky wheel and if I chuck a tantrum I can get what I want. Sure you can, fool, but not without the litigious consequences and these parents are getting sued for their bad behaviour and they deserve it. If you cannot raise your child to be a responsible human being in society than why bother having children, seriously!

After reading this I had to do research online to see what is in the media about teaching in Australia and it is so depressing, a few searches online just leads to negativity. There is a teacher shortage in Victoria and they are hoping to enhance the reputation of teaching through raising the ATAR (score required to enter the degree program) to entice school leavers. I have to agree with the article above that the approach to employ mature age students within teaching is the way to go as I think if I had attempted to teach when I was just out of school it would have knocked my socks off and I would have been in hospital.

Now with some experience in the classroom (albeit within a class where the students want to be there working as an art teacher) and my full time job in 2017-2018 as a Teacher Assistant has helped me analyse where I wanted to be. Ideally, I would love to be in an environment very similar to our school in California within a child led environment with a focus on project based learning and inquiry. I am trying to find these places in Melbourne but they are few and far between. I have to say we are lucky my daughters inner city primary school embraces the model of creativity, collaboration and communication within their projects and I was happy to see this when the students shared their work ๐Ÿ˜€

When studying at Uni, it seems you are looking through the profession with rose coloured glasses and the focus is on the learner. Whereas in reality the teaching environment is a tough one with issues of bullying from both parents and students. This is something that our society needs to get over and we need more shining examples in society like Jacinta Arden. We need parents to have the guts to be responsible for their kids behaviour and model good behaviour. Before researching behaviour and psychology, I would look at kids at the park and wonder why the behaviour was so off, then I would meet the parents think to myself, “I get it now, you are a bit off yourself.” This translates to the classroom and the behaviour resonates from parent to child and from child to child, and I have seen some interactions that have me wondering, “Where on earth made you so entitled to behave like this?” And then I meet their parents! This ongoing feedback loop and the expectations from teachers is just so unreasonable. In a professional environment, would parents behave this way? Maybe?

Writing this has helped me gather my thoughts and think about my future with 12 subjects and 4 practicums to go which means I am less than half way through my degree program, so maybe I can continue and work as a social experiment? Though really there needs to be a heart in teaching and you need to love it – and yes I do love being with the children and seeing them learn, it makes me happy to see them smile and share their learning with enthusiasm. In amongst all this stuff in the media there is no real mention of the most important factor – the learners in a classroom. Which at the end of the day is what matters the most about teaching, the children. As a takeaway at the end the book Teacher by Gabbie Stroud, it says:

The best answer I can give when I’m asked to suggest solution is that Australia needs a dramatic re-imagining of what education could be in this great country. Fundamental to that re-imagining is time spent dreaming and considering what is possible. We need to contemplate not only what we should teach our children, but also how we should teach them. And we must start valuing our teachers.

I have decided I will carry on and get through it – if only to encourage students to be lifelong learners and appreciate that learning is a process which can be fun. To Australia, let’s break out of the mould and the failed education systems around the world (who focus on data and test scores) and innovate learning in the classrooms using school models such as High Tech High, take notes from real life education visionaries such as Ted Dintersmith and watch his film Most Likely to Succeed and follow exemplary education examples such as Finland and New Zealand. Oh and I found a secret to the optimal learning environment is where the teachers, parents and the students stand together as as a community of learners, at our last school in California – where everyone is involved and respected. These are the exemplars I will call upon to propel me forward and complete this degree program to eventually exercise these approaches with students in 21st century learning environments.

A venomous friend

It has been one month back home in Australia already and the time has flown by. This relocating business has really been intense! I have completed my draft for my last assignment which is two lesson plans for Teaching Science and Technology, so now to proofing and getting it submitted while the kids are at school so I can enjoy some free time. Nope, the kids are still at home on school holidays as the school has two pupil free days and the kids are back on the 31st! Sounds like I am counting down and yes I am as the time is coming that I will really lose my shit as this solo parenting this is getting stale!

I have had to get up early and take morning walks around the neighbourhood to keep my mind in a sane state of being and my Qi Gong really helps but not having one minutes peace is really starting to grate on me. Even when I try to get them to bed early they are still chatting, god help me when school starts and I have to get them out the door in the morning?!?

As I am walking around these gorgeous streets of my hood full of so many homes with character, I am taking pictures of how I imagine our garden to be when our remodel is underway. The succulent garden above is just superb as an addition to the streetscape outside someone’s house, the little rocks super easy to care for but not so good for scratching chickens in the garden? I have fallen in love with the princess gum tree as we need to choose a tree for our garden as part of the plan, the flowers on the tree are stunning. Hopefully, it will work out though at 6 metres tall it may be too big? We will see – I am so excited about the remodel and being back at the house is really making me think how amazing it will be when it is finally done.

We have a little venomous friend out the front of our house – she is a Redback Spider – here she is with her little woolly ball egg sac fully of 250 spiderlings. She is a very protective mama of her little spiderlings and we see her come in and out of her hiding spot about 8 feet above us in the eaves of the front of the house. One day she will die (they can live for up to 2 years) but for now, I am respecting her space and letting her be, the Redback will bite if disturbed but otherwise they live in peace and we can leave her alone. I was a bit concerned about the spiderlings so I contacted the Melbourne Museum and they said the spiderlings take to the wind on little threads of silk and find other places to make webs and survive – that is if they survive. It is funny when I first saw her I wanted to kill her but now I am protesting for her life and the kids were trying to buy bug spray at the supermarket today, thing is you can kill this one but there are more spiders out in the garden and around the house so they will always be there. At least we can observe her and see what she gets up to in her little safe haven – catching other insects for us while she is up there.

The final countdown

The countdown is upon us and each day is flying by so quickly. I am in such an emotional rollercoaster at the moment as I am so happy to be going back to Melbourne but very sad to be leaving so many cool peeps. But the good thing is I will be home! There are going to be some huge hurdles, especially with everything plus study. My major problem at the moment is finding a rental property in Melbourne where we are remodelling so its easy for the kids to get to school. I am manifesting a lovely place close to the schools where we can walk to easily and has great access to the shops as I will not be getting a car as yet. Having to start all over again is not a very exciting prospect but it is going to be another adventure in the kids’ lives and for me, I will be so happy to be back in Australia. California has been a fun place to live but I am so ready to be with my family again. There are friends here who feel like family which is wonderful. I have really missed being with my family and sharing special times over the last 12 years, it is going to be so good to reconnect again.ย 

At the end of last week, my friends organised a farewell party with some incredible food and an 80s dance party complete with my friend DJ/VJ Nik. We had such a fun time together dancing to many 1980s songs, dressed in our 80s outfits, after we had filled our bellies with some delicious Indian food – I mean look at that amazing table of delicacies!! We have known each other since the kids were preschoolers so it was such a special way to say farewell and I am sure our crew of travellers will come and visit down under one day. I am so grateful for having such thoughtful and special friends. As part Sri Lankan I am an honorary member of the crew – we have always enjoyed going out for birthday dinners and have shared many a delicious cocktail together. I will miss each and everyone!ย 

My house is looking very bare with all the pictures taken down and now I am ready to pack my bags. The fridge is white again after I took all my magnets off and the furniture is being slowly given away on NextDoor. The study with all my craft/study/books in it is being slowly whittled away as it has been so hard to give away fabric and all my craft stuff but I think, “would I make something out of this in the next 2 years?” So the usual answer is, “Maybe not!”

Managing time will be interesting next year especially the beginning of the year with the two kids, me and study. Looking for a rental will be high on the agenda and once that is done I can hopefully fit in time to write my essay due on the 14th January (I have to get my head into being in the same time zone!). I am going to take a bit of a break this weekend and go visit friends in Portland!! My whole being has been swept away into organising, giving away, moving stuff on, cleaning out and finally going to Hope Services to donate boxes of our stuff. I still have the plants to give away but I can leave some jobs for my hubby – I need to concentrate on organising the bits that I want to take with us and hopefully it will fit in the house. But the plan is to make the study into a room so movers can come in and put it into boxes. Then they will send it away on the $6K container to travel to Melbourne. The cat now has her import permit but has about 7 more steps to follow with the Australian Government rules on bringing her back to the country, my hubby’s job. I think once I have gone through this sweep of cleaning the study this will be it. After Portland, it will be serious business of getting stuff into my cases to take with me to live out of for the next 5 months or so which means there definitely needs to be a coat in there with Melbourne’s weather. Currently, it is summer and pouring with rain.ย 

Oh, and it is Christmas too very soon but that is something that the family has to forgive me for as this whole move is taking up most of my thoughts and energy. So I do not think Santa will be bringing stuff into this house this year – our gifts are the experience of flying away direct for 15 hours direct to our home city. Friends have told me that I am brave to be doing this but even though I have called California home for the last 12 years, your home will always be where your heart is. And my heart is back in Australia.ย 

The excitement of remodelling our house is happening in 2019 as well but I will think about the first step of getting back first, settling down and then school for the kids. After all that, the build will start and I absolutely love the design of the house it will be amazing to actually have a comfortable house to live in. Where we are now there is no insulation so we wear coats in the house in the winter and its like having air con inside in the summer. I have really enjoyed this house, but to live in a house that the whole family has their own space with a place we can entertain with the open plan living we always dreamed of will be a reality is very exciting. I am also imagining the chickens in the garden and the cats (the kids and I hope to adopt more cats!) around the place and having a BBQ (I never BBQ as I am a vegetarian!) with some wine and friends, just like here. It will be good to be back again, who knows what else the future will hold? I feel I will be truly happy again.ย