Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Can I bribe you with a photo?

I have at least seven excellent reasons why I'm too busy to write properly at the moment, so I'm going to see if I can get away with posting a cute picture instead.

Here, Berry and Kickbaby are reading A Home For A Bunny. When I was small, I made my mum read it so many times that she can still recite the entire story – word for word – three decades later.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Deep down, I'm a pirate

Given her fears, I won't tell Berry... but these are my newest letterpress achievement. They're the "Deep Down, I'm A Pirate" notes, and two of my brothers got them as birthday presents this week.

Jules said they made him want to write to someone, which in my book is the highest compliment a boy can pay to his sister's stationery.

So thank you. And: aarrrrrrrg.

Friday, 17 October 2008


On Wednesday, my brother turned 31 and got bitten by a monkey in India.

Aaron – you should know that when Mum called with the news, I gasped, and Nathan laughed. I trust this leaves you ample time to adjust your Christmas list.


Thursday, 16 October 2008

A very bad night

Embarrassing admission: I didn't know croup still existed.

I honestly thought it was a yesteryear kind of thing, like smallpox or polio – the last time I heard of it, Anne of Green Gables was heroically dosing baby Minnie May with ipecac syrup to save her from a midnight 'attack of the croup'.

There's nothing like finding out you're wrong firsthand.

On Tuesday evening Kickbaby startled awake with a strangled yell. A yell that kept on going, and kept on sounding strangled. I thought he was hungry but he refused to eat, arching away and flailing his arms, and every exhaled cry sounded like a seal bark. He – and I – got more and more frantic while Nathan called the ER.

The pediatrician said try a room full of steam or bring him in, so we stood in the bathroom with the shower on full-blast hot, sweating and trying to soothe our slippery, desperate, barking baby. It was awful. After about three-quarters of an hour he calmed down enough to sleep.

An hour later he woke with another yell, and this time it was all so, so much worse. Every breath was a long, strangled wheeze that made his little body rigid, every cry was a huge bark, and at every moment I thought surely he didn't get any air that time, except he would cry again so he must have. It was incredibly frightening. He stopped thrashing around long enough for us to get his exhausted little body into the car seat and put a sleepy Berry in the car, and we all rushed to the hospital on base.

Croup in a five-month-old baby is serious stuff. Their airways are so tiny that the inflammation can block them off. A toddler or a child with croup is miserable, but pretty safe. A baby is not. After two doses of epi mist didn't eliminate the stridor (showing the inflammation was severe) they gave Kickbaby two steroid shots and x-rayed his chest.

I was astounded that they haven't come up with a more humane, gentle way to keep babies still for x-rays than this device (let me assure you, the calm 'hey check it out, I'm trapped in a tube' attitude of the toddler pictured is not typical, and a little baby looks even more pitiful strapped in there). But it turns out they get a better chest x-ray image if the infant is crying vigorously. It also turns out that the whole procedure makes you want to deck the tech and sprint off into the night with your helpless child.

I digress...

Judging from the x-rays it was lucky we'd headed for the ER when we did, and Kickbaby was admitted to the hospital. I spent the rest of the night and the whole day by his bed, relieved the steroids worked so well and hoping we could take him home at night.

Kickbaby did sleep at home last night – he actually slept through the night which is unheard-of for him. This morning he's congested and croaky, but otherwise a brand-new little man. Me – I'm exhausted, relieved and grateful. And newly enlightened about croup.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


A French giraffe to the rescue!

Kickbaby has been teething – or acting for all the world like he's teething – for the best part of a month. Gnawing savagely on everything he can get his hands on, drooling incessantly (sorry to ruin your smooth image, Kickbaby) and squawking about it all quite loudly.

Since I won't buy something made-in-China and potentially toxic to put in my baby's mouth, I googled "BPA-free teethers" and the adorable Vulli Sophie La Girafe popped up. I was startled at first: twenty dollars for a teether! But then I found out it's handmade in the French Alps from all-natural non-toxic rubber, decorated with non-toxic vegetable-based paint – and has been made the same way since 1961 (hence the cute retro look).

She is now, hands down, Kickbaby's favourite toy. I would've paid double for the wonderful peace it's given me – I wish I'd known about her sooner!

My friend Pauline is French... if I discover she knew about Sophie La Girafe and was holding out on me, there'll be trouble.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

New life in the old press

The press is complete.

For the first time in... well, who knows how long... there are no pieces missing.

Thanks to Briar Press (where I found the parts) and Nathan's Dad (who fitted said parts), my 1902 Chandler & Price Old Style now runs like a dream.

The dramatically and dangerously worn lower roller saddles are gone, replaced with intact – and original – saddles and springs (below).

The lower bail, missing since long before I owned the press, has been replaced with an original bail from a parts press.

The 14-inch pulley, which previously had the press running at an alarming 18 impressions per minute, has been replaced with a 7-inch pulley plus a new A-belt. The press now gives a perfect 10 impressions per minute – much safer for my fingers and my jumpy nerves.

I actually sat down and did maths to figure out what size pulley we'd need to reduce the press speed enough to produce the desired number of impressions per minute. I mention this to illustrate my abiding devotion to this letterpress – mathematics and I are deeply suspicious of each other, and prefer not to mingle.

A final and wonderful touch: a really pretty hardwood platform for me to stand on while I'm working. My press is mounted on a platform seven inches high, which makes it very (well, comparatively) easy to move around using a pallet jack, but too high for me to operate. For a six-foot-two man it would be perfect. For five-foot-six me, the hardwood platform makes it perfect. Believe it or not, Dad didn't custom-build it for me. He built it as an absurdly attractive base for a dryer, but it didn't work out. When he brought it down from Dallas and put it next to the press, it was an exact fit. I can't believe my luck.

Of course, now that everything's peachy with the press, I've had no time to print. My very first photopolymer plate arrived today to great fanfare (from me), and even that is going to have to wait.

But when I find myself with three baby-free hours, believe me – I'm ready.

Friday, 3 October 2008


You know that feeling you get when you see something so fabulous that you wish you'd designed it?

I look at these plates (plates! I know!) and feel green with envy because (1) I really, really, really want them and (2) I really wish they had been my idea.

But they were Rosanna's idea. So. Maybe one day I'll buy them, and they'll sit gorgeously in my house while I create brilliant things with my letterpress.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Large and in charge

At least now I know why my back hurts so much.

At four months old, Kickbaby is 18lbs 12oz and 27 inches long. Depending which chart you believe, that's hovering around the 90th to 95th percentile. It makes for a pretty unwieldy baby.

I was trying wrangle him into a onesie the other day when it occurred to me: maybe he's yowling because this thing is too small. Even half-on, the outfit was sausage-skin-tight and he was miserable... so I had to put all his 9-to-12-month clothes aside for Goodwill and go tackle the 12-18 month racks at Gymboree.

When we were out running the other day, the contractors down the street offered him a "heavy lifting" job on the spot. So I figure if this expensive habit of whipping through the sizes continues, I'll just send him out to work.