Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Eve in the kitchen

Santa didn't go hungry. Despite previous baking disasters, I can actually scrape by in the kitchen – and Berry loves to "help" me cook.

We built a gingerbread house ("Can I stick it? Can I help? This so much fun, my mommy!") and baked chocolate chip bikkies for Santa ("Can I stir it? Can I pour it? You a good little yady, mommy...") and we made a rum cake with a wonderfully alarming amount of spiced rum in it.

There are pictures of the house and the cookies. As for the rum cake, you'll just have to trust us that it was outstanding.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Round and round the Christmas Tree

It's Christmas Eve back home in Australia, so the koala on our tree is going to demand a beer and some cold chicken any minute now.

This one was never intended to be a Christmas decoration. Five years ago a drunken sailor in New Orleans heard my accent, and he grandly and determinedly presented me with the koala. He insisted I keep it. Because every Australian needs another clip-on koala...

...but I've become quite attached to him in my homesick times and he clings so neatly to the tree. Berry loves to put him on a different branch whenever she walks by.

I'm very fond of our tree and its eclectic (ok, odd) mix of ornaments. Apart from the koala, some of the highlights are the inscribed 1980 Christmas ball ("I was about to chuck this out," Nathan said, "but then I saw 1980 and I thought whoa, that's old.")

We have the mouse painted on a glass triangle with 'Nathan 1979' gold-penned on the bottom, and Berry's Hello Kitty snow-globe ornament is a new addition this year.

Then there's Santa painted on a crab shell, from Louisiana.

Below we have the photo-frame ornament with the picture of Berry in Germany when she was one year old, rugged up in her baby polar bear jacket (shame you can't see the ears).

And my husband's in the gallery of photo ornaments too – at 11 years old. Vintage, baby.

The old ceramic pony in the glass bell is just one of scores of other ...interesting... ornaments we have around here. Don't even get me started on Nathan's 1980s shrinky-dink holly wreath or his 1970s paper-and-wool constructions.

But the weirdest decoration of all – the crowning glory of all that is bizarre and inappropriate in ornament-world – has to take a long break from Christmas appearances. That's right, Berry is still frightened of our tree-topper, the inherited Feral Rabbit-Angel.

Weird, pasty little human hands. Leering hare face. In an angel costume. She's right to be scared, isn't she. She caught one glimpse of his awful little head poking out of the Christmas box and started a rapid-fire, "No scary reindeer, mommy! No scary reindeer!"

So Feral Rabbit-Angel is banished to a box in the garage until next year, or the year after, or the year after that, or whenever he can learn to STOP TERRIFYING THE CHILDREN, ALREADY.

Okay now. That's better.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Triumphantly merry and bright!

My first Christmas cards on the letterpress! Now that everyone has theirs, I won't be spoiling any surprises by showing them here.

I printed these on my trusty Chandler & Price Old Style letterpress using polymer plates I designed myself.

The midnight blue and the silver are printed on separate print runs (and separate days, as it turned out) with a complete press clean-up and oiling in between.

Nothing like some silver ink on the press to get things feeling festive...

Special care has to be taken with two-colour jobs, to make sure the registration is right. A little misalignment will have the elements of the design printing in the wrong places, and that's never a happy thing.

But these worked really well! After a bit of fiddling round with the gauge pins to get the registration spot on, we were away.

Last step: print the press name and web site on the back (being careful, again, to keep the weight of the impression from showing through on the other side).

And ta-da! A whole stack of shiny letterpress happiness!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Ruh roh

A couple of weeks ago I was joking that Kickbaby might learn to crawl properly before Christmas, and then the tree would be in grave danger.

Yeah. Why did I think that was funny?


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Cut and paste!

You don't even want to know (and nor do I) how many hours I spent on this design, but I was really happy with the way it turned out.

Kristen and Brian wanted another custom Christmas card reflecting their lives and pets and passions, and I was a long way down the making-a-collage path before I realised I was in pretty deep.

I spent days scrapping various drafts and living in a blizzard of paper bits. Eventually I dug my way out of the photos and magazines and catalogues – Crate & Barrel, J.Crew, Paper Source, Land of Nod – and put the finishing touches on this scene. Delight!

(I should say: these cards were finished back at Thanksgiving, but I didn't want to spoil any surprises by posting them here too soon!)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Why we need a Sunday School...

Tried to introduce a bit of the real reason for Christmas to Adelaide this morning. I got about three sentences in before she interrupted, hands firmly on hips.

"Dammit! I don't wike baby Jesus in books! That scary. [Pause.] Baby Jesus is kangaroo? I don't want to wisten to it. It scary."

I clapped my hand over my mouth so I wouldn't laugh, I told her we don't say "dammit" and I said baby Jesus is our friend, not scary. I went to the computer to see if I could quickly find a more effective Christmas story. She sidled up next to me.

"Look mommy – Google! I wike Google."


Helen as a good Episcopalian mother: FAIL.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Complete chaos.

Yes, Kickbaby is triumphantly crawling now, and he achieved this level of wreckage in about seven minutes flat. He was so pleased with himself.

I assume I have about eighteen more years of this to look forward to...


Friday, 12 December 2008

Totally tangential

Berry, looking at my Facebook page:

"Mommy, who that girl is?"
"That's Jodie."
"Is she your friend?"
"Yes, she's my friend."
"Is she nice?"
"She's very nice."
"Oh. [Pause] Does she have a purple penguin?"
"No, she doesn't have a purple penguin."
"Oh. What happened to it?"

You know, because everyone starts out with a purple penguin. Some just get lost along the way.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Santa with an "Rrr"

Uh-oh! Berry has just clipped her first hurdle in adjusting her pronunciations to account for her mother's Australian accent.

Surrounded by Americans, she's learned to automatically add "rrr" sounds to the words I pronounce as "pahk" and "freeza" and "cah" and "dishwasha". She does it even for words she's never heard before.

It's a nice compensation – pretty seamless, helps her blend in with everyone else. Unfortunately, it means she now calls the jolly fat man "Santerrrrr". You know, because obviously mummy just forgot the "r".


Monday, 8 December 2008


Last night Berry told me, "Mommy, I setting the table be-cause, when I not working I get sad and cross."

This morning, Kickbaby is crawling backwards, and crying piteously because he's not getting any closer to the elephant he's trying to reach.

I'm now taking bets on who's going to need therapy first, and how much I should be setting aside to pay for it.


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Orange, pink and pretty

This email from my sister-in-law Shelley, in London, made my day:

"I accidentally bought orange flowers, when I knew I only had pink wrapping paper at home. For a few moments, I thought my present would clash... but then I went to my card drawer. I am chuffed, chuffed, chuffed."

Brilliant use of the Ciao Bella card!

(I should tell you the Vespa on the card is bright pink; for some reason it's looking decidedly un-pink on my screen...)

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Halfway there

Letterpress printing is always slow, but sometimes it's really slow. Especially when you create the design yourself, from scratch. I've been working on this project since early October, and I still only have one of the two colours printed.

These berries were pretty enough to be inspiring, so I made several sketches of them one sunny afternoon.

Berry helped by bringing out her crayons and working alongside me. "You drawing a plant, mum-mum? That pretty."

Several weeks passed while I refined the sketches, scanned them, created the final design in Illustrator, and sent the separations away to have plates made.

I needed the berries again to mix the right shade of ink. I got it, even though it looks orange on the press!

Each colour has to be printed separately on the press, with a complete cleaning in between runs. I've only printed the red berries so far, and I'm still looking for enough time to print the leaves – so I can't show you anything!

I promise when they're finished, I'll share.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Quote of the day

Berry, standing at the top of the driveway in her white mary-janes, naked as a jaybird: "Hey guys! Let's go for a walk!"

Monday, 24 November 2008

Look out here we come

Just when you're noticing motherhood is a whole lot of lather-rinse-repeat, the baby sprays Gerber pears in your eye and you think, "Well, that's something different."

Kickbaby has just turned six months old, and it's like a little milestone alarm has gone off in his head. First tooth: check. Sitting up unassisted for long periods: check. Wanting solid foods: check. Making valiant efforts to crawl: check.

Yesterday I sat him on his duckie blanket in the toy room and stepped around the corner to unload the dishwasher. When I checked on him a minute later he was on the other side of the room, lying on his tummy and playing with Berry's musical Dora van, calm as you please.

I missed it that time, but I've seen his vigorous commando-style floor scooting several times since. He's very efficient with it, which means (alas! alack!) I'll have to keep a much closer eye on him from now on. And, like, pick small stuff up off the floor.

At his six-month well baby appointment today he weighed 21lbs 4oz (9.65kg; 95th percentile) and he measured 28in long (71.25cm; 95th percentile) and he tore all the paper off the examining table in a delighted frenzy of crinkling. He loves paper, and his spoilsport mother never lets him play with it. Something about a choking hazard.

Oh, and his head measures 18.5in (a whopping 47cm, and way off the top of the chart). That point of interest is for Jules and Mark, two boys with "good-sized heads", as my Nanna liked to say. Kickbaby has a very good-sized head.

He talks now, too. His favourite (well, only) words are "Ba! Ba!" and "Dada". The latter, of course, is to thank Nathan for the endless hours he spends pacing the floor with Kickbaby in the middle of the night.



Thursday, 20 November 2008

Une petite fille...

Here's a custom baby shower invitation I just finished. I loved this job – one of those times where everything just clicks. Of course by the time I was done I wanted to leap on a plane to Paris....

(Oh – the mama-to-be is an amazing musician who lives in Paris... I wasn't just applying random Frenchness!)


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Great artwork of the '70s

I was busy beating my head against a little late-night creative block when this popped up in my in-box. Under the subject line "Great artwork of the '70s", my mum scanned in this Red Riding Hood drawing I did when I was in grade one (that's five years old, for the Americans).

Note that every hand is determinedly depicted with five fingers, despite the fact they end up looking like baseball mitts. Accuracy, ah yes.

The wolf says "Mm", Red Riding Hood says "Ooo", and that, I think, pretty much sums up the story...


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Winkin Wogs

Berry got a set of Lincoln Logs for her birthday, but she's sure they're called Winkin Wogs. She plays with them constantly, usually leaving it looking like a tiny colonial village has exploded on my studio floor.

I had both kids in the studio while I was working the other day and (cue "should've known better"-type music) I turned my back for a few seconds. Almost immediately, Kickbaby gave a startled yowl.

"I did poke him in the head," Berry said matter-of-factly.
"I did poke him in the head with a Winkin Wog."

Of course. Clarification makes it all better.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Good mamas like parties, don't they?

I don't care what anyone says – kids' birthday parties are sent to test us. Even the best of them are noisy and tiring and full of little battles. They hurt. They make me want double espressos and wine and a quiet corner, and perhaps a sleep.

The fairies and princesses were cute though. And everyone was gracious enough to put up with Kickbaby's sporadic teething-related yowls. But oh, afterwards I just wanted to hurl myself into bed.

(Before you feel sorry for me, I wasn't even the one hosting the party.
I know.
I really am that fragile.)


Monday, 3 November 2008


Chantal and Dave tied the knot on Saturday – hooray!

I've been working on custom-designed pieces for their wedding all year, and now that they're married it won't spoil any surprises to show you some of their stationery here.

Chantal chose peonies as the inspiration for her entire wedding stationery suite, with her wedding theme colours of fushcia, navy and lime.

The picture above shows the wedding invitation and RSVP card... they were enclosed in navy folders along with menu selection cards and direction cards. Here is the menu...

It's so long that I didn't manage to fit the end with all the cakes in the photo!

Above – the escort cards... and here's the wedding program...

... the peony design extends on to the back cover, and the text inside is navy. And here's the sign for the groom's chair:

(There was also a Bride sign, which was much more ornate!) The sign below invited guests to write down their best advice for the newlyweds on small notecards...

The table numbers (below) were framed ...

...and Chantal had a brilliant idea for a "Vice And Nice" table, with cognac, cigars and chocolates. The sign below was framed and placed on the table.

There were Welcome stickers and Thank You stickers (I don't have pictures of those) as well as these little notes for the welcome baskets...

...and finally, the brunch invitations!

Hopefully when Chantal gets back to D.C., we can show you some pictures from the big day...