Friday, 13 February 2015

Looking back

A FEW DAYS AGO I had a tiny rant on Facebook over the type of paper some magazines are using these days.  I completely understand that sandpaper/used bandages paper is somehow good for the environment, but I want to see clear, glossy images and sharp text when I spend my money on a magazine. Blame it on my age.

I know where it all comes from.  When I was a young and naive sixteen year-old way back in the late Fifties, fully trained in typing and shorthand, I joined the now defunct K G Murray Publishing Company in the Subscription and Promotion Department.  My shorthand quickly flew out the window which I didn't mind at all, as I hated it.  My main duty was to type the address stencils, which were similar to colour slides in appearance, for new subscribers to the various magazines.  This entailed wetting the stencils with a sponge roller, dropping the ribbon in the typewriter, and bashing down as hard as possible so that the typewriter keys would cut through the stencil.  I then was required to file them and print them onto labels when the latest issues were ready to mail. Boring.  Mind-numbingly boring, particularly as our office was located at the wrong end of town.  The upside was that my lovely boss would ply me with Superman and other such comic books to take home to my young brother, as well as any magazine I liked, fresh off the press.  Some were a little too risqué for an innocent teenager of the Fifties.

Things brightened up considerably by the time I turned seventeen, when the whole company came together under the one roof at Clarence Street, a mere couple of blocks away from the retail heart of Sydney.

There at my fingertips were David Jones, Farmers and many fabric stores to roam through at my leisure.  Every Thursday I would meet my mother for lunch and we would browse the fabric and fashion floors of the large department stores, take in a fashion parade, or wander through their china and kitchenware departments.

And this is where my dislike for the modern form of environmentally friendly paper originates. You see, back in those days the cheaper end of publications produced by K G Murray were printed on similar paper stock, obviously to keep the costs down.  This was offset by their jewel in the crown, the Australian House and Garden Magazine and other more up-market publications such as Wheels Magazine and for the fashion conscious, Flair Magazine.  They had glossy pages mixed in with the sandpaper variety - modern times!

Now that we were all located in the one building, I came face to face with the House and Garden editor, Beryl Guertner.  She was a living legend and I was terrified of her.  After all, she was so old (about forty at the time) and these were the days when you deferred to legends. She was a pioneer in the industry and was around long before Vogue Australia or Vogue Living.  I recall that she was always well dressed and had a strong personality which as a seventeen year-old I found to be a little intimidating.

The Subscription and Promotion Department settled happily into its new home on one of the upper floors which we shared with the Art Department.  The tedium of preparing those wretched address stencils was offset by being able to mingle with the artists.  Occasionally during non-rush periods I was permitted to watch them set up the production pages of the numerous magazines. I was fascinated.  Obviously there were no computers, so everything was done manually.  If a magazine editor or the Art Director weren't happy with what they saw, the whole page was discarded and the process began again.

They were heady days in publishing, but in the end I realised there was more to life than punching out address stencils, so at the more mature age of eighteen, I reluctantly handed in my notice and moved on.

Life took off and I had many adventures before finally settling down to married life.  I am grateful to our modern environmentally friendly magazines for reminding me of the thrilling days of publishing in the late Fifties.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Everything old is new again

I guess it's true that every cloud has a silver lining.  Our cloud came in the form of not being permitted to hang any of our pictures on the walls of the unit where we spent the last three years.  The silver lining is that there are no such restrictions in our new home.  All our paintings and pictures as a result were sulking in a storage cage in the basement of the building.  I'll spare you the dramas of reducing the huge pile of possessions which were sharing the space with the paintings, suffice to say we somehow successfully reduced it to what would fit into our actual unit.  With no storage cage in our new home, life is so much simpler.  Another silver lining.

We are waiting for a professional picture hanger to take care of the larger pictures, but in the meantime we figured we could look after some of the smaller works on our own.  The walls are solid brick with no gyprock to hammer picture hooks into, so we bought some of those adhesive ones which guarantee they will hold certain weights.  We'll see.

First picture up was one of our daughter Maz Dixon's works, naturally.  So far it hasn't fallen down and it's been up an hour already (that should get her heart racing).

These two works have always hung in our bedroom and it's like Christmas all over to see them back where they belong.  Mary Cassatt has long been an artist I admire and her picture, Child in a Straw Hat, is my favourite.  These two have also been up for an hour without falling down, but I'm not silly enough to have either one hanging over my head when I'm in bed.

Even having a calendar up on the wall is exciting, and looking at Margaret Olley works every day is not hard on the eyes.

Now for a confession.  We have quite a few paintings and pictures.  They have to go somewhere while we decide which ones are going up where and which ones will have to sadly part company with us.

And where else would you store them but in the guest bathroom?

It's the perfect conversation starter and as long as our guests don't take a shower, we'll be fine.

The Christmas break was a good time step back from sewing, but pretty soon I was ready for the new year.  The grandchildren needed beach bags for their holiday away with their parents so after consultation with their mother, this design was chosen, as it also has lots of pockets inside to carry those seaside treasures such as shells, dead crabs or whatever it is that children fancy today.  

Our quilting group met this week for the first time since the Christmas break and what a show and tell one of members had.  A relative had survived World War I only to be murdered in the Middle East in 1920 while on active duty.  Her cousin in England was a direct descendant and had ordered two poppies to be placed at The Tower, one for himself and the other for my quilting friend.  It arrived with some of the soil still attached and it was such a thrill to see one of these famous poppies close up.   

Some time back I had purchased a pattern by Amelie and Henri.  I am a great admirer of the designer Kerri and this pretty dress was waiting for some spare time to be made up.  It is so 1920s with its drop waistline, lace and pleats, not to mention the big bow. 

I came across the perfect black and white fabrics last week and decided it would be my first Hot Fudge item for 2015.  Australian buyers can also find it here.

So as you can see, everything old is new again.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Down Under

In my life I have spent two Christmases in the Northern Hemisphere and loved them both. To shop in the freezing cold adds a certain air of excitement to the experience it has to be admitted.  Having said that, I was raised to expect the season to be hot and in my heart that's what really makes it Christmas.

We attended the children's vigil Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve, so we were able to sleep in a little before the family gathering with the gift unwrapping frenzy followed by lunch.

Of course there was Christmas Bush - what respectable household wouldn't have a vase of it on full display?

On such a beautiful day, al fresco was the only way to dine.

Model planes were discussed in detail - they transcend all generations, male generations that is.

After lashings of turkey, ham, vegetables and salads liberally washed down with Moet and wines of the red and white variety, there was the traditional pudding which our daughter made using my mother's recipe.

Or pavlova and fresh berries for those who preferred a lighter end to the meal.  All the more pudding for the rest of us!

Tony admits to having five helpings.

Miss E had been lusting after this style of hat for some time, so when she finally had one of her own, it stayed firmly on her head until she was water bombed by her brothers.

And why wouldn't they be smiling.  Our daughter and son-in-law are off to Rome for three months in the second half of 2015, one to paint and the other to write.

 Our other son-in-law, the father of our grandchildren, enjoys the challenge of me not catching him on camera.  He has it down to a fine art, ducking behind something at the last second, but I am a patient woman.

There was time for a few quick games of Angry Birds before the boys decided enough was enough.

Time for a quick change of garb and to bring out the big guns.

No one was safe - not big sister ...

... nor Aunty Maz.  Grandparents were considered untouchables, as it's not much fun water bombing slow moving objects.

The local water dragon sensibly camouflaged himself until it was all over. 

We really missed our Queensland family and one of these Christmases we will celebrate together, with all seven grandchildren and their parents.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


Since we returned to Sydney a little over three years ago, we have started a tradition of visiting the city at this time of the year to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and to do some shopping.  Little did we know that two days after our visit Sydney would be thrown into turmoil with the hostage situation and the terrible consequences.

All Sydneysiders are feeling pretty crushed and the events are still raw in our minds.  I'm finding it difficult to come to grips with the fact that three innocent little children are today without their mother or that a young coffee shop manager just doing his job has lost his life.  God bless you both.

Despite these tragic circumstances, our city is rising above it all and life is slowly returning to normal. Therefore I have decided to show what it was like here last Saturday, before we grabbed the world's attention for all the wrong reasons.

Our first port of call was the Queen Victoria Building, with its stunning Christmas tree soaring through three levels and ending under the magnificent glass dome.

The upper level has the most wonderful toy shop which I suspect is designed more for doting grandparents than children.

A little further along we came across these gorgeous glass baubles waiting to be personalised.

Imagine my delight when we emerged from the Queen Victoria Building to discover that the streets were festooned with patchwork banners.

After a refreshing coffee and wholemeal scone, we did a little more window shopping.


Part of the ritual is to visit the David Jones' Food Hall ...

... if for no other reason, just to see what ridiculous price they have put on their cherries each year.

Still, they make everything look so wonderfully tempting, we quickly get over the cherries.

We had already purchased our panettone, but were sorely tempted to buy one of these, even if we threw away the contents and kept the box.  However, sanity prevailed.

The Christmas display windows had children of all ages enchanted.

This lovely young lass and her colleagues bopped along to the music and sold reindeer antlers in aid of children's cancer research.

I wish you a very happy Christmas and most importantly, hug your loved ones.