Saturday, 29 December 2007

Berry's Big Christmas

Berry had two complete meltdowns on Christmas day (one in the morning, one in the evening) as well as one minor spin-out.

It turned out that the excitement and the avalanche of presents were a bit more than she could handle, so we put away a lot of gifts unopened. We decided they could wait until we have "Australian Christmas" in January, when my parents come over from Brisbane.

But the day wasn't all little tantrums and big presents* – she organised Grandpa and Tine into lots of games, played in her sandpit, danced with her daddy, played with her prized Dora umbrella and nearly gave poor "Woo-woof" a nervous breakdown from lots of chasing, pats and affection.

[*Gift disclaimer: while we are very lightweight "Santas", Berry's countless and ridiculously generous grandparents more than compensate. Anyone would think Santa had spent most of the night at our house...]

Friday, 28 December 2007

Poor Sisyphus

Poor Sisyphus... I'm starting to think I know how he felt.

I'm an organised person and a hard worker, but what does that count for when chaos runs against me and the work has no end?

The house wilfully slides into disarray on an almost daily basis, the two-year-old wreaks havoc without even meaning to (the worst havoc is preceded by the dreaded words: "I help"), the laundry piles up despite my obsession with seeing the bottom of the hamper... and I'm not even mentioning all the business-related work or household "admin" issues, or the fact that I'm actually meant to play with said toddler. There's no rest.

I grew up in a family of seven in a tiny old house, and I'm starting to see with alarming clarity why our mum sometimes declared there was absolutely no point in the struggle. "Why buy food?" she'd sometimes ask no one in particular. "It'll only get eaten."

I could carry on, but I have to go. Sisyphus needs help with this rock.

Monday, 24 December 2007


I bet you didn't know toy horses were meant to be Christmas decorations.

Nor did we, until Berry showed us.

Berry's Nanna gave her a Pasture Pals set of collectible horse breeds before Christmas. She spent quite a while corralling them neatly on the floor, and then: light bulb. She started perching them in the tree. They each sat quite neatly on their own branches, and we became perhaps the only people in the state with two-inch Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Pintos, Clydesdales, Shires and Lusitanos adorning their Christmas tree.

And Berry's likely the only toddler in the country who now calls horses "tree-cows". We can only hope she'll shake that off before primary school.


Thursday, 20 December 2007


Berry was awake from 2am to 4am last night. I do not know why. It was awful.

Nathan was on call again so it was just me, and I walked her around and around and around the house, patting her back and singing to her. I got her a bottle, found her bear, and tried lying on the couch with her. I talked on the phone to Dad in Australia (who helpfully pointed out how many people try for years and years and never get a baby) and then to my sister in South Africa (because she's sympathetic and entertaining, and excellent at not making me feel guilty – and because Berry often falls asleep when I'm on the phone, so it was worth a shot). Over and over Berry seemed to doze off, but no – the second I put her down she'd pop up, awake again.

Two. whole. hours.

By the end, the last time she called out from her mattress "Up Mama! Cuddle! In there!" (toddler-code for: Pick me up again and carry me around and around in the living room) I snapped and said, "Stop! Mummy's very cross with you!" She howled theatrically for about 30 seconds, then abruptly fell asleep.

So I was forced to lie awake staring at the ceiling, feeling terrible about myself and realising what a bad mother I am, et cetera.

You know: the usual.


Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The big question

In theory, I'm not a big fan of tattoos, or of jewellery on men, or of facial hair, or of large leather wristbands, or of the vaguely unwashed look.

So why does it all work, here?

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Whiskers on kittens

I had to gaze at the walls and pace around nervously for a long time before I came up with this design.

It's a fun custom Christmas card project I completed earlier this month, and it needed to show: Kristen and Brian; their cats Dusty and Maisy; a lot of holiday spirit and some moving boxes (they're in the process of relocating from Manhattan to a riverside home of their own, north of the city).

Kristen loved the retro style of my Bella Figura collection, so I pulled all the details into a sweet 1950s-inspired design full of off-register colours, melamine shades and boxes and kittens. We actually ended up with more kittens than originally planned – Kristen had sent me photos of herself and Brian and their two cats, and when the card was nearly done, one more photo came in. It was Oliver, a tiny little bit of a kitten they'd rescued.

Really, who can say no to a brand-new kitten at Christmas? So Oliver made his Christmas-card debut just in time, playing with an ornament near Kristen's feet (you can see him in the picture below).

I love custom projects – they make me think in different directions and come up with creative solutions and stretch myself. They also make me nervous at the start – every time! Staring at a blank page (well, screen) with every idea and option as yet untouched can be daunting. And sending the completed design to a client for the first time feels, to me, like walking out on a stage. But the process is inspiring, and the rewards are fabulous. I love knowing that little drawings can help capture the spirit of a moment – big or small – in people's lives. I love the feeling of having done a great job, and breathing that sigh of relief!

It's always a little stress at the start and a lot of happiness at the end. A bit like Christmas, really.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Love and Gingerbread Latte

I know Starbucks is a "big bad multi-national" and I'm supposed to shun them, but I can't help myself. The first time Ren Evans bought me a Gingerbread Latte, I fell in love.

It was December 2000 and I was fresh off the plane from Australia (actually, crushed and exhausted off the plane from Australia), landing in the USA for the first time. Nathan's brother Ren was picking me up from the airport in Dallas because Nathan, who I hadn't seen since we first met in Europe, was in New Orleans taking finals. Ren and I had never met – he arrived at the airport with "Helen. Blonde. Australian. Japan Airlines" written on a post-it note. So it was an odd little arrangement, really.

Ren and Chad, his mate from the lumber company, picked me up at DFW and took me on an impromptu tour of Dallas – lunch at a revolving restaurant overlooking the city, dessert at a place that I think was called Love And War In Texas, and shopping at a mall called The Galleria which, to my amazement, had an indoor ice-skating rink. It also had a Starbucks.

Ren asked if I'd ever had a Gingerbread Latte. I hadn't. In fact, I'd never been in a Starbucks before (I lived in Before-Starbucks Brisbane). "Come on," he said, "They're genius." He bought me a Gingerbread Latte and although I was an avowed coffee-hater, he was right – it was genius.

So I blame Ren. That's where my soft spot for Starbucks started, and I can't shake it to this day. It mainly surfaces around November, really, when they bring out the Gingerbread Lattes again. But I may have a larger problem on my hands: Berry has decided Starbucks (or "Cake. Shop." as she calls it) is one of her favourite places.

The first Starbucks for our little part of the world opened in November, and we pass it every day. We go on little "dates" there, the two of us, more often than I should admit. She already thinks the large red chair in the corner belongs to her, which creates trouble when another customer has the nerve to sit in it. She likes to have milk in a big-girl cup, and dance to the Christmas carols and practice her jumping on the carpet.

She is a Seattle baby, so perhaps I should've expected that she'd have a soft spot for Starbucks too. But I'm going to blame her Uncle Ren anyway. He can take it.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Chic – twice in one week!

Hot on the heels of a great write-up on Chic and Charming, Pepperina Press appears on Wickedly Chic!

Liz of Wickedly Chic has chosen the Bella Figura cards for a fabulous feature in the Indie of the Week section (scroll down a little to see it).

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Ye Olde Feral Rabbit Angel

I'm right about the feral-rabbit-angel, aren't I.

After several requests, I got my pregnant self up on a chair with the camera, to take a picture of our scary tree-topper. I know it's a tradition – it's been in Nathan's family for longer than I could say – but it's all wrong, and shouldn't be considered a Christmas decoration.

Halloween, perhaps?

(No wonder Berry cried.)