Monday, 28 May 2007

Where are my parents?

This much I know: my parents are somewhere in the desert, in Australia.

This is not very helpful, since 44% of Australia is desert (and a further 37% is "semi-arid"... I think that included our backyard).

Mum called a few days ago and said, "I just thought I'd say bye, we're leaving in half an hour" – as if they were going to pop out to Grandma's. They've been planning their desert trek for a while, but evidently didn't tell any of their five children much about it.

I emailed my brother a little while ago and said, So, are Mum and Dad going to Ayers Rock, or where? He emailed back:

"They left in the Landrover. Stan and Glenys went too, they took plenty of food and will be gone for a while. Hopefully Dan knows where they went."

Yes. As a family, we have it so together.

So sweet!

Julie of South Street Designs (puffluna on Etsy) made this lovely treasury called "Some of the Sweetest Sellers" – and she included my little lovebirds blush notecards in it!

This made me very happy.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Just like candy!

My latest thing: candy-boxes full of stationery! All the pretty sweetness of a box of chocolates, but they last longer (and you won't feel guilty afterwards).

They're called Card Candy. It's a whole lot of Pepperina Press stationery (bella figura greetings, chopsueycocktails sets, candybox cards as well as vintage bird and sweet lovebird notes) arranged in a lovely silver-colored brushed metal candy box, all tied with ribbons and resting on pretty pink raffia paper.

They make perfect presents – the pictures you see above are of the Card Candy boxes people bought as graduation gifts, and the picture below shows one of several sets that were sold for Mother's Day. I think they'd be good for birthdays, myself.

And credit where credit's due – it was my father-in-law's idea that got this rolling. He wanted to send a graduation gift that would be "like getting flowers, but better". Ta-daaaa! They're in my Etsy store now...

Friday, 25 May 2007

Everyone needs a Vespa

Jeweler Jennifer Cora chose my Ciao Bella Vintage Vespa card for her "Should I Buy A Vespa?" treasury – which is both a fantastic collection and an important question.

The answer is yes, of course. A resounding yes. We bought ours ... let's see ... three years ago, but it's pulling a little Rip Van Winkle in Princeton, Texas. Having a bit of a snooze while it gets restored. But it is going to be fab-u-lous.

Nathan's been obsessed with Vespas since our first trip to Italy (well, the trip when we first met...). There's definitely something about them that magically makes you a bit more hip and a lot more carefree than your everyday self. And turns you, necessarily, into a risk-taker, a devil-may-care type: "Nervous about cobblestones? Afraid of potholes, moi? Never! Ride on!"

Maybe I'm a bit obsessed with them too.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Shiny new wedding site

I love this brand-new Etsy Wedding blog – and not just because my cards are featured on it! (Thanks!)

Fun idea – Jen of onesmallstar is helping to plan her sister's wedding in Vegas this summer and, in her own words, "came across the following unusual items and wanted to share them with brides out there tired of swarovski crystals and freshwater pearls!"

It's a great-looking blog already featuring plenty of fantastic, off-beat finds from talented artists.

And I'm just a sucker for anything wedding-related, so you know I'll be watching it...

A billion boxes

I think our possessions are multiplying while we sleep.

We are not people who keep very many things. Seriously. I used to be, but Nathan has a disorder (I'm sure it's a disorder) that gives him irresistible urges to throw things away... all the time. So we're not pack rats, hoarders, or people who like to have "stuff".

So why is it that every time I go to bed feeling I've just packed half the house into boxes, I wake up to a new reality: there are a billion boxes left to go.

I have a theory, but since it involves mischievous elves and nefarious plots I'll keep it to myself. There's no need to sound insane.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Crunching the numbers

Berry runs a few quick calculations on how much of my time she can waste – I mean delightfully occupy – today.

It's a kind of joint multi-national project with her little cousin C in South Africa. His mum calls him "The Ministry for Stamping Out Productivity".

Disturbingly accurate.

. . .

Moving out

Everyone's packing up and moving. We're surrounded by towers of boxes, and in our little corner of the neighbourhood alone, six families are leaving for new stations.

This mountain of boxes is part of Mike and Marianne's move. We've been within a stone's throw of them for the whole three long years of residency – Mike and Nathan work together, and we lived on the same street on-base in Mississippi, and after Hurricane Katrina sent us up here we ended up next door to each other.

They left for California yesterday, where Mike's going to start his fellowship. We're really going to miss them.

We leave in exactly two weeks. Despite the endless packing, I'm not sure that's really sinking in yet...

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Brides everywhere...

I love weddings and I love being chosen for Etsy treasuries – so this was good: jewellery designer onesmallstar put my Bella Figura "Happily Ever After" card in her bright-and-shiny wedding-themed treasury!

Saturday, 19 May 2007


After Annie and Fred's ceremony, the stairs were awash with little girls in white dresses playing with their activity bags – putting on silvery rings, playing with stickers, eating crackers, drawing in their notebooks... (For weddings where children will be at the ceremony, activity bags are an excellent idea).

Speaking of excellent things – see that velvety rose clip in Berry's hair, with the little sparkle in the centre? That was one of my very clever Etsy acquisitions. I also got some adorable little white flower clips for her to wear to Aaron and Sue's wedding (see picture below). Everywhere we went, people commented on how cute she was with those clips in her hair. So... nice work PamperingBeki! They were a hit.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

You Deserve Cake

Finally I listed this new You Deserve Cake graduation/congratulations card on Etsy. Inside it says: "You're one smart cookie".

I'm also going to sell a version that just says "Congratulations" inside – you know, for people who have done awesome things apart from graduating!

But it's graduation season; cleverness is everywhere...


Pajiba has just put out a semi-subversive 10 Hottest list that includes John Krasinski, Jon Stewart, Natalie Portman and Paul Rudd.

I'd just like to know (1) if they have been reading my journal and (2) why I didn't think up an excuse to post a picture of John Krasinski much, much sooner.

(Jim makes my heart beat fast.)


I may not be the next Top Chef, but I am determined.

I took another shot at the disastrous pasteis de nata (see post below) and ta-daaaaa!

It's actually quite presentable, isn't it. A little light on the heart-stopping, adrenaline-pumping, flame-fighting madness – but quite presentable.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Domestic goddess (of fire)

My sister Katharine is an amazing cook. I am usually a reasonable cook. There is a huge difference, and it should not be trifled with.

Marianne asked me to bring a dessert to a dinner party and, it being Mother's Day, I decided to try being domestic. And that's how I started the fire.

We're not talking a little bit of smoke, or some blackening. We're talking a sheet of flame leaping out of the oven and blackening the stove top. We're talking a thick haze of smoke throughout the house. We're talking a mad scramble for fire extinguishers, and my husband dumping water all over the pan.

The picture above shows my disastrous, hilariously charred (and soggy) attempt at Portuguese pasteis de nata, the recipe my accomplished sister gave me. The picture below shows the way they should look.

From now on, I'm sticking to art. And I'm handing in my apron. I just don't deserve it.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Here's To You...

A brand new card for graduation season!

The inside says, "one smart cookie"...

This week I designed two new vintage-inspired graduation/congratulations cards for the Bella Figura collection, and this is one of them. It sold the same day I listed it on Etsy – but there are plenty more.

I really have to get organised and list the other one, too. Just as soon as I get all these custom orders out...

Friday, 11 May 2007

Preschool girl

Berry's first day at preschool... yes, she's way young for it but it'll be good for her to play with other kids and have fun learning while we're working on the big move. Plus, she has a very gorgeous Wiggles backpack – naturally she needs somewhere important to take it.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Cinco de Mayo

I don't even know if I spelled that correctly – it's a new holiday to me, but fun! We had a big party out by the old planes with all the Army doctors and their families, and we (the three Air Force families) played host. The kids had a pinata and Berry somehow got hold of her first-ever lollipop (for all of a minute before I removed it and became the least-popular-mummy-ever).

[The picture: Mike, our friend from next door, is helping Berry take her swing at the pinata...]


One day only: my bella figura Thanks {You're Sweet} card is featured as the Pick of the Day at Poppy.

Lovely surprise for a Thursday!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Today was gorgeously sunny and breezy and carefree – a true Northwest Spring day – so I left all the doors and screens open to bring it inside. When Berry and I came back from playing across the road, she pointed in the kitchen and made her bird sign and a little bird noise (the bird noise has sounded more like a kookaburra since Australia).

Surprise: there was a tiny bird sitting on a chair in the kitchen! It wouldn't go out any of the doors and kept trying to crash into the picture window, so I had to catch it and release it outside myself. First though, I caught this photo of the little bird sitting on top of Berry's Easter basket.

(It's a little fuzzy but hey, it's a wildlife shot!)

Monday, 7 May 2007

Tagged: Seven Random Facts

I've been tagged – twice in one night! Both hojpoj and skinnylaminx tagged me for Seven Random Facts. I'm new to this, but Heather wrote:

"Here are the rules:
- Write down 7 random facts/habits about yourself on your blog
- Then choose another 7 people to get tagged and list their names on your blog
- Leave a comment on each tagged person's blog, letting them know they have been tagged and to read your blog."

Here goes.... Seven Random Facts About Me

1) I was always, always the shortest kid in class (and shorter than the classes below me). I was forever picked last for sports and put last in line for school photos, until Grade 11 when I apparently grew six inches overnight.

2) I grew up running gloriously wild in the Australian bush with my three brothers, my sister and the kids nextdoor. No shirt, no shoes, no problem :)

3) I hate the lame Disney-fied Winnie-the-Pooh with a fiery passion. It is very bad for the image of the real Pooh, who is a very earnest character.
I have watched The Princess Bride more times than I can count.

(Two facts in one point? I don't know what you're talking about!)

4) I have a photo of my husband that was taken about an hour after we first saw each other (we held up our cameras and snapped at the same time...bizarre.). We met on the overnight train to Venice when I foolishly asked him directions. We spent the next three days hopelessly lost, and didn't care much.

5) I've been drawing obsessively for as long as I can remember. I made my first card at age five; it had angels pencilled on it and a message exhorting my parents to "love each other like the angels". What a preachy kid...

6) My father-in-law chose my wedding shoes.

7) The Capuchin Catacombs in Sicily are etched in my memory as one of the most fascinating places I've ever been. They are haunting, and strangely beautiful, and beneath the surface they speak of family, love, society, death, hope and eternity.

Well, now I'll tag some other people and hope they haven't already done this!

MagicJelly, JulesAndShell, IvyLeaf, PamperingBeki, PamelaMichelle, TabithaEmma, MissMishMash

{Um... the photo is of Heidelberg Castle, and is here because I'm basically incapable of posting without a picture. At least it's random too...}

Northern Exposure

On the return leg of our Cascade-crossing letterpress expedition, we were looking for a place to stop for dinner and found ourselves in Roslyn, Washington – the tiny, quirky town where Northern Exposure was filmed. I watched perhaps three episodes of Northern Exposure way-back-when, so I'm not very clued in (I didn't know the cast included John Corbett! – later of Sex and the City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame). But I do know that the show was set in the Alaskan wilderness, and I have to say Roslyn does a very fine job of looking the way I'd expect a remote Alaskan town to be...

With Berry in tow we avoided The Brick, which was made famous in the show and still seems to be the noisiest, most happening place in town. It's on what qualifies as the "main drag" and had a small crowd of interesting types gathering to watch bikies spinning their wheels on the corner outside.

I walked up to the Roslyn cafe, which is Roslyn's Cafe in the television series (they reworked the mural on the side for that) and I also – in the space of a block and a half – discovered the scene of the radio station (it's next to a furniture store) and the place that was Dr Joel Fleischman's clinic (it's a toy store that still has his name written in the window).

We also walked by the tiny Roslyn Theatre, which is heated by a wood fire and seems incredibly cosy, even from the outside.

We had burgers at the little diner opposite Roslyn Cafe, which was closed, and sat directly under the huge signed poster of the beaming cast. When we first moved to Washington I discovered Roslyn's claim to fame in a guide book and decided I'd like to go there. When I realised it was almost three hours away I decided it wasn't very practical. At all. So... this was a little wish granted in the middle of a larger mission. Lovely!

Sunday, 6 May 2007


I can't wait to get my lovely letterpress all sparkly-clean and ready to roll. I can't wait to start printing!

But I have to wait (and wait and wait) until after we move, and settle in, and get everything set up in my new studio.


It was exciting to see our bella figura Thanks {You're Sweet} card in this feature on the WHAT Design site, among other gorgeous stationery by independent designers!

A treasury of treasuries...

I've been fortunate to have a lovely string of appearances in some great treasuries on Etsy lately. For those who don't know, an Etsy treasury is like a mini-gallery, usually with a unifying theme. Etsy users who are lucky enough to snag a treasury slot can create a visual list of their favourite items on Etsy for everyone else to visit and comment on.

LisaDuvall put my bella figura Hello Sunshine girl in her fun "Lovely Ladies" treasury (above).

SpaceOddities' bright treasury featured the Birthday Thrills Vespa girl...

TaraHogan featured my bella figura Thanks You're Sweet card in her "Paper Paper Paper" treasury...

Eliwell chose my Candy Box Thank You notes for her pretty "I Can't Believe" treasury...

And my Happily Ever After card was part of this fabulous treasury by Omo.

Thanks to everyone who chose Pepperina Press cards for their treasuries – it's always an honour!

The Letterpress Saga, Part Three

If you ask me, a forklift is the very best way to move a letterpress. We learned that the hard way.

Steve used one to move my new (oh-so-old) Chandler & Price platen from his letterpress wonderland into the back of the Penske for the big haul across the Cascades. It was beautifully simple; the easiest possible way to do it.

See? The easiest thing ever... assuming you can operate a forklift...

The trouble began when we finally got the truck home around 10.30 on Sunday night. We were worn out and looking forward to getting the letterpress move over with – long day, lots to get done, and soooo much driving. Instead, we spent the next four hours in a slow-motion nightmare that seemed destined to end with the complete destruction of my beautiful century-old letterpress.

(I told you there was drama.)

The Penske truck has a lift on the back, touted as a good thing for safely lowering a letterpress – no doubt by someone who's never laid eyes on a letterpress. But when we get the lift going, we discover it sits at an alarming downward angle. Maybe an angle of 5 degrees – maaaaaybe – but any angle at all is alarming when you're moving a letterpress.

Our friend and neighbour Mike comes over to help us – a move he'll regret for years. But thank goodness for Mike. First of all, before becoming a doctor Mike was an Air Force engineer (and evidently a sucker for intellectual rigor) and an engineering consultation is definitely needed for this job! Second of all, we need at least three people working against the letterpress, which for four long hours seems determined to hurl itself onto the concrete from a height.

Nathan and Mike spend the next four hours discussing, planning, strategising, inching the letterpress around on the pallet jack, testing the lift, and throwing around worrying phrases littered with "top-heavy" and "torque" and other words I don't want to hear. I look after Berry inside and tell myself I can't look I can't look, and then I pray pray pray, and then I peek through the blinds obsessively at five-minute intervals, then I go outside to "help" (fret) as often as Berry will tolerate (thank goodness for The Wiggles). Every attempt to get the pallet jack with the letterpress out onto the lift is disastrous. The letterpress is incredibly heavy, uneven, unstable, top heavy, and unstoppable once in motion – basically everything you don't want in a fragile piece of equipment that you're trying to move. On the first attempt, the press actually teeters on the edge of toppling over the lift and on to the ground. I swear. I'm not a fainting girl but I could pass out. Like Steve says, one slip and it's scrap metal.

Eventually (because boy oh boy is this story long in real life) Mike decides it can't be done. Not really, not safely, not without the very distinct possibility of smashing 1000lbs of metal and 100 years of history on to the floor of our carport. I can't bear the thought. But Nathan, having come this far, isn't backing down. He and his pallet jack are getting this letterpress down, come hell or high water. I'm beside myself.

A lot more strategizing. Even more alarmingly, every single one of these strategies ends this way: "And if it goes, it goes. Everyone duck." The common theme is the demise of my treasured press.

Marianne (who along with Mike must be sainted, pronto) gets out of bed at 1.30am to babysit Berry while the other three of us start putting our marginally-least-foolhardy plan into action. We lock the lift up, manouevre the letterpress on the pallet jack to the inside (truck) edge of the lift, attach ratchet straps from the top of each side of the flywheel back into the bars on each side of the inside of the truck (confused yet?) and then try to inch the pallet jack out on to the lift. Mike and I hold tension on the ratchet straps and Nathan moves the press forward, inch by eternal inch. We keep running into trouble. The press won't go over the lip between the truck and the lift – not without using rocking and momentum – and momentum is the enemy of the letterpress move.

We get it past the first lip (stuffed with cardboard) and then the second lip becomes a problem and refuses to be stuffed. It's dark and cold and we can't see what we're doing, and the press is heavy against the ratchet straps. We stop constantly for Nathan to measure how much further we need to go, to get the pallet jack all the way out onto the narrow lift. It's crucial that we don't go any further out than we have to, because the lift is terribly narrow and the downward angle becomes more alarming with every inch. The press wants, very much, to rock forward on the lift and slide over the edge.

Our plan is, when the pallet jack gets all the way out on to the lift, the lift will dip downwards and the press will start to pull forward toward the ground – hard. Mike and I will pull back on the ratchet straps, attached to the flywheel at the front end, as hard as we can, while Nathan jumps down and lowers the lift. I keep asking, How will I know when to pull? and they say, You'll know.

In the end, we're all pulling straps and switching places, and I'm not even sure who lowers the lift – only that there's a heart-stopping moment where the lift goes up instead of down, and that when the letterpress reaches the ground intact, we nearly collapse with relief.

Oh my, it's a letterpress miracle!

Things to come out of this experience:
1) moving a letterpress is not for the faint-hearted, easily tired or weak-armed
2) trucks with automatic lifts are not as useful as they sound
3) our neighbours deserve champagne and medals
4) go get you a forklift

And of course, the biggest thing to come out of this experience... a whole new shiny- magical- new world of letterpress to explore. I can't believe my luck.

Oh yeah... we're moving again in four weeks. Anyone got a forklift?


Wednesday, 2 May 2007

My press

This is my century-old Chandler & Price platen press "in the wild", if you will... right before we loaded it into the truck.

I'm looking forward to returning it to its former glory – or at least getting it close.

The Letterpress Saga: Part Two

When we arrived at Steve's place, in a tiny town on the other side of the Cascades, we found a letterpress wonderland. Seriously, he has everything – a Chandler & Price Old Style like mine, another larger letterpress, an incredible linotype machine (about 1886), a Rosback punching machine and an impossible-to-find Rosback Pony Six, just to name a few.

He's been collecting all these amazing old machines from all up and down the West Coast, saving them from disrepair – or, worse, destruction at the hands of scrap metal merchants.

He has an entire workshop/studio set up as a traditional print shop, and it's stunning. I got a tour of the whole place and learned so much – and that was before the letterpress lesson.

This (above and below) is the linotype machine, which Thomas Edison described as "the eighth wonder of the world". Introduced in 1886, it revolutionised the printing industry by allowing printers to set a complete line of type using the Linotype's 90-character keyboard (below). Previously, they had to set movable type by hand – one... letter... at... a... time...

This (below) is Steve operating his C & P Old Style – it's just like mine except it has a treadle. And of course, is currently much, much cleaner! My next time-consuming job will be cleaning every inch of this monster, making it immaculate and ready to run...

I got enough stuff from Steve – furniture, leads, quoins, paper, ink, quads, chases – to last a lifetime! Also a composing stick, a stone, a furniture cabinet, type cases, a key, two planers and a line gauge.

Next episode: the exciting stuff. The hours in which we do not know whether the letterpress will see the morning...

Cupcakes cupcakes

My sister still hasn't handed over the recipe, but these are the cupcakes we made for little C's first birthday party in Australia. We had a big cupcake-icing-and-decorating-fest / competition (everything's a competition in this family, but there's rarely an agreed winner) and people got very creative.

A few of the stand-outs: a pig, dracula, a prawn (shrimp, Americans), a turtle, a dragonfly...