Monday, July 30, 2012

the books we read

Last week Daniel started reading The Hobbit to Che. I watched his little face as he was introduced to Bilbo Baggins and then I listened to all the questions he had for Daniel. Later the same day my boys went for a walk to see the hobbit house - a home near us that's built into a hill, complete with round windows and a grass roof. Really, truly, it exists. 

Whilst in Melbourne Che purchased his first ever Tin Tin book (top photo). I stayed at the cafe breastfeeding Poet but lucky for me Tamara captured this gorgeous moment; the excitement of a little boy who, with his very own money, bought his first comic. 

Books are such a big part of our life. At least once every day I'll find Che curled up on his bed flicking through the pages of a story book. Sometimes I'll join him for a lazy afternoon reading session and every night, without fail, there's a bedtime story before slumber. So what are our favourite reads? In my opinion, you can't go through the first few years without reading:

  • The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Andrew Joyner, is a rollicking rhyme based on a Tibetan myth. Comical pictures, loveable characters and an upbeat's one of the best.
  • Little Cat and the Big Red Bus by Jane Godwin, illustrated by Anna Walker, is a heart-warming story complimented by the whimsical artwork of one of my favourite artists. 
  • The Amazing Machines series by Tony Mitton - these ten books are written in verse and feature quirky animal characters as they explore a variety of vehicles and machines. I stop each sentence half-way through and Che finishes. Sometimes I read the entire sentence and change the words (and then he changes them back) - tricks encouraged by his Montessori teacher. Each book has a glossary at the end with vehicle-related words...perfect for pre-schoolers.
  • anything by the wonderful Shirley Hughes. The queen of children's picture books, Shirley infuses everyday scenes with beauty and warmth. I love how she glorifies the work of the muma and recognises the wonder of nature and the seasons. We're currently reading Dogger, Out and About and The Big Alfie Out of Doors Book
  • The Way Back Home, How to Catch a Star, Lost and Found and Up and Down - all by the fabulous Oliver Jeffers. These tales of adventure are dreamy and fanciful - perfect for little imaginations. 
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury - I'll admit that I may have shed a tear or two when I first read this book as a new mum. It so accurately captures the joy of having a baby and the illustrations are precious.
  • Hello Baby by Jenni Overend and illustrated by Julie Vivas is a beautiful celebration of home birth - an honest and realistic depiction of the journey. I recommend it to all my pre-natal students who are preparing their children for a new sibling or seeking a comforting story about labour and birth.
  • Alex and Lulu - Two of a Kind by Lorena Siminovick is the sweetest story about best friends. The illustrations are beautiful and the characters....utterly adorable. 

As we begin to venture into chapter book territory I am most excited about The BFG, Pippi Longstocking, James and The Giant Peach and Matilda.  

Of course, there are a plethora of gorgeous children's storybooks out there. What are your favourites? 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

on taking photos

I write this post as someone who loves taking photos and not, by any means, as a professional photographer.

A few years ago I took photos with a point and shoot camera on the automatic setting. I have always admired beautiful captures but back then I had no inclination to learn about ISO, aperture or shutter speed.

But the more photos I took the more control I desired. I started talking to Daniel about composition (think in thirds!) and I tentatively began asking about the technical aspect of photography. I said something along the lines of...."I want to take a photo where the foreground is in focus and the background has that lovely blur." *

I learnt to shoot manual on a canon A570  - a budget compact camera that cost, at the time, about $150. You see, cameras don't take photos - photographers do. You don't need a fancy, expensive camera to take a good photo. You just need to know your camera, learn how to use it and take thousands of photos. 

And by thousands I mean tens of thousands. Shoot, shoot, practice, shoot and snap some more. 

I was so daunted by the photography language that it honestly took me ages to get my head around the settings. It really does take time to know your camera and learn its intricacies. Eighteen months ago Daniel bought me a Panasonic GF1 with a 20mm 1.7 lens (also known as a pancake lens) and I have been shooting with it ever since. It's a micro four-thirds camera, not a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) - what does that mean? I don't know! See, regardless of the fact that I've been shooting manual for a few years on a camera that I absolutely adore (I take it with me everywhere!) there's still so much I need to learn. I think my strength lies in composition and most definitely not in the technical side of photography. I understand the basics but there's still a long way to go.

Hence I'm attending one of Tim Coulson's photography workshops. Tim's invited me to speak at next weekend's The Nursery. I'll be talking a little bit about my experience with him - how he interacts with his subject and shoots with emotion and then I'll be modelling for the workshop participants. As a bonus I get participate in the day and ask lots of questions (I have a list!). I'm intrigued to learn about his organising/editing/filing of photos as I currently have eleven "to-be-sorted" folders and four folders titled: "autumn." I realise this isn't good and for Daniel (Mr Virgo) this is possibly the worst example of photo organisation. If you are interested in attending The Nursery Tim is travelling to Melbourne in September and plans to host workshops in every state in the next year or so. Email Kesh at hello (at) to express your interest. 

I'm more than happy to answer any questions you have in the comments section. While I definitely do not have the wisdom or knowledge of Mr Coulson I do know a little bit about taking photos...

For those new to manual photography, this poster is fabulous! 

*I later learned that this is called 'shallow depth of field' and the lovely blur, when combined with beautiful light, is called bokeh. 

The Nursery - a review

Photo by Tim...because choosing my own photo to illustrate a 'photography' post was just too hard.


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2012."

Che: He talks while I shoot. I sat him there, on my new Bentwood chair (side-of-the-road find), and he told me a story about monsters in the dark while I watched the sun move across the wall.
Poet: Since turning one she is more expressive, more animated and a whole lot more daring (she climbed onto the dining table today). One is fun. 

There's quite a few of you playing along with 52. Leave a link to your latest post in the comments section.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

spring : turn of the season

A few nights ago I stood at the kitchen window and smelt spring. It was still and calm and a relief to welcome that fresh-with-a-hint-of-warmth scent. I've been thinking of it since.

Mid-morning every morning Poet and I walk along our street and visit the local gallery for a coffee. We spy the first signs of the new season; cherry blossom buds, almost-opened daffodils, fallen camellias against a duck egg blue fence. 

Today while she slept I wrote a list of herbs and vegies that I'd like to plant. Mint, basil, flat-leaf parsley, rocket, baby spinach, rainbow chard. My society garlic has lasted through winter - the hardiest of herbs it infuses my pasta dishes with rich flavour and gives each and every salad a little kick.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

garden party

In between rain showers the sun stayed out long enough for us to enjoy home made pizzas, pumpkin soup and cheese muffins. In Mama and Popa's garden we gathered to celebrate Poet's first birthday and while she was a little overwhelmed to begin with, it didn't take her long to fall in love with balloons, pizza crusts and gift wrap.

We've only ever had a few parties for Che but I think I've learnt my lesson when it comes to organising birthday celebrations. Children are happy to be together. End of story. They don't need fancy tables laden with gourmet food, they don't require perfect decorations and they most definitely do not need a plethora of planned games. 

Together with family and friends we ate and drank and talked about vegie gardens and babies and school next year and how it all goes by so fast. At our feet children played with the Grandparent's stack of toys, the little red wagon and new giant bubble blowers.

When the rain fell we bundled inside to watch the birthday girl blow out her candle. We drank tea, ate my all time favourite birthday cake (the jam and cream sponge from Falling Cloudberries) and unwrapped special gifts.

It was simple and beautiful - just perfect for little Poet. 

thanks so much to virginia from lovely little parties who sent Poet some pretty flower garlands, tissue poms poms and cake decorations. Colourful and happy and just right for our garden party. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2012."

Che: wandering and chatting. It's what we do.
Poet: birthday morning breakfast with accompanying ooooooohs

If you have started your own 52 project then please leave a link in the comments section...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


She was unsettled last night so when midnight came round we sang her happy birthday and she sat up in bed, proud as could be, bobbing her head to the tune. 

This morning she delighted in paper, refused to wear her party hat and played peek-a-boo more times than I could count. 

Poet Winter is one and she blew out her own birthday candle. Sigh. I will always remember watching her as she gobbled up her first piece of cake, wore that little top-knot so well and fed like she did as a newborn - eyes wide, contentedly grunting.

Che made her a card yesterday with a scattering of gold stars and a big red heart. He said to me: "A heart, for love. Because I love Poe Poe."

We do love you Poe Poe. So much. Happy birthday beautiful girl. You are pure joy and one year ago today you changed our world, forever.

Monday, July 16, 2012

spider boy

Che returned home from a visit to Bunnings as a tired and very emotional spider boy. When I greeted him in shock he got all teary: "Mum, it's really just me, it's Che Che."

I disregarded those tears at the time but in retrospect they were the first sign that things weren't quite right. By dinnertime he was bedridden with an awful headache (his first) and continuous vomiting. 

And I can't believe I'm saying it so soon it goes.

Call me a hypercondriac but my thoughts went straight to meningitis. Headache and vomiting - not a good combination. Thankfully the GP shared my concerns and proceeded to rule out the scary virus before declaring that it was just a bug. But nasty bugs and lightweight boys can get a little serious and as per doctors orders we prepared for a trip to the hospital with our dehydrated little one. Daniel was in Sydney so while we waited for him to come home I gave Che teaspoons of water and encouraged him to eat hydrating iceblocks. I packed spare clothes, warm socks, vegemite sandwiches and apples for what could have been a long, tedious wait.

Thankfully he began to keep fluids down and when he started asking for pizza and a banana smoothie I exhaled sweet relief. But there was no way he was getting pizza for dinner. He went to bed a little hungry and slept for eleven hours.

Today he is ravenous and happy and I'm opening the windows and burning eucalyptus oil to rid our home of germs.

Despite his persistent pleas for smoothies I'm being boring and responsible and feeing him toast, apples, noodles in chicken stock and a bit of fresh orange juice. I'm strengthening that little belly because come Thursday, we'll be eating cake!

winter germs, be gone. please.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

paper & twine

In the lead up to the children's birthdays, as I gather ribbon to tie around presents and jot thoughts and wishes on cards, I look at what I've bought and always put something back in the cupboard.

In this age of excess I'm wary of giving them too much.

For almost five years I have observed Che create imaginary worlds and make-believe characters. He has built towers and rockets and pirate ships. A pile of toys has occasionally attracted his attention but a small basket of miscellany always inspires beautiful play. He places more value on a handmade bow (imaginary arrow) than a store-bought truck. 

So when it comes to buying for celebrations I remind myself that simple is best. I stumbled upon a rhyme when Che was only little and I repeat it to myself when considering gifts:

"...something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read..."

Poet chose a brown haired boy earlier in the year and I couldn't think of a more perfect gift than a sweet Steiner doll for her first birthday - a forever companion. Che is giving her a few books and I found a delightful pom pom hat for her little garden party. I decided that the rainbow could wait till Christmas...

So tell me, how do you decide what to gift your children? Is simplicity harder to achieve as they get older? And if there's a really long list, how do you prioritise?


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2012."

Che: I suppose it's only natural that as we prepare for Poet's birthday, he talks about his 5th. Apparently almost-five-year-olds aren't that keen on portraits, even if the op-shop is the next stop.
Poet: Those bottom teeth - crooked yet completely endearing. 

Friday, July 13, 2012


On Thursday she turns one; an entire journey around the sun. I can see that time in the length of her limbs and hear it in the words that she speaks. But because I am her mother I will always wonder why it was so fleeting.

The light is the same as it was last year but now I carry her on my hip as I reminisce about my belly.  I'm so thankful for the friend who visited that morning and captured us as we wandered in and out of days; patiently waiting for Poet to come. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

a truly wonderful giveaway...

Poet turns one next week and I've been reminiscing about her first year. While I was pregnant I gathered the essentials - every day items that were both practical and beautiful - and I used them over and over and over again. I want to give you an idea of what I found most useful in the first year - the organic cotton clothes I couldn't do without, the wraps I used to swaddle her and the nappy change essentials that ensured a clean, happy bottom. Buying-for-baby can be overwhelming but in my experience simple, quality essentials are all you need.

I contacted my most-loved baby brands and I'm in awe of the response I received. I'm absolutely delighted to announce this fabulous giveaway. In detail, the winner will receive:

1. a gorgeous set from Nature Baby - one of my very favourite baby brands - including organic cotton drawstring booties (they stay on!) in red stripe (3-6months), an organic cotton knotted beanie in red stripe (0-6months) and an organic cotton kimono jacket in "down to the forest" print (3-6months) - valued at $64.95

2. Tortellini Cushion by studio skinky - a fabulous breastfeeding support cushion, it saved my back and arms in those first few months - valued at $99

3. aden + anais bamboo swaddles....possibly the softest fabric I have ever touched, these bamboo wraps feature stunning designs and are ideal for balmy, summer days. I've used them as a wrap, pram cover, blanket and sun shade - 3-pack valued at $44.95

4. ...because every baby needs a handmade softie in their life. Little Leroy the Lion is hand printed in Melbourne by the very talented Hello Milky - valued at $20

5. Nature's Child certified organic cotton face wipes and award-winning bottom balm are regarded by many mumas as absolute necessities - valued at $28.90

6. eco nino organic change mat covers are stylish and practical. Choose from either a stripe or plain fabric design - valued at $34.95

7. Queen Bee Milena Nursing/Sleep Bra; incredibly comfortable and supportive, I wore it in the last weeks of pregnancy, during labour and in the first few months. For the muma this is a must have - valued at $32.95

8. A soothing instrumental CD to you fill your home with calm tunes and a beautifully handmade rattle for the baby who's ready to play. Both by Dragonfly Toys and valued at $50

9. Oh the l'il fraser wrap - we used one every single day in the first six months of Poet's life. We wrapped her tight to sleep and she stayed snug and happy for hours on end. Winner gets to choose two wraps in any colour/stripe pattern - valued at $59.90 

10. Hazyjane pants are handmade from vintage linens and both my children have worn them every.single summer. They are cool to wear, made with love and keep milky skin protected from the sun. These pants are a size 0 and valued at $26

11. Because a little vintage is most definitely essential, this sweet romper from one claire day is quirky and cute - valued at $25.

12. Grey and white looks gorgeous on a newborn and this stunning collection of essentials is a dream come true. Purebaby is an Australian fashion label that creates organic clothing and accessories for babies and children and they have generously offered the following: three-piece set in feather print, knitted coat in soft grey, three-piece knit set in soft grey, knot hat in grey stripe, cable knitted cashmere blanket and newborn pack in soft grey feather - valued at $340.25

13. Welsh Merino Wool Slippers from Fawn & Fox are super soft and lined with sheepskin - a necessity in the winter months. Winner gets to choose colour (cream, fire brick red or slate grey) and size - valued at $65

To go in the draw to win this bundle of goodness (valued at $890!) all you need to do is be a follower of Che & Fidel (over there on the right) and leave a comment with your email address below. For two extra entries you can share this giveaway on facebook or post about it on your blog. I'll use the random number generator to choose a winner and announce it in this post on Thursday 19th July.

Best of luck!

Update: Comments closed. Thanks so much for all your entries. The random number generator chose #48 little wild moose. Oh gosh Jess, it seems your friend who is about to birth twins will be very lucky indeed! xxx

graphic designed by my friend and fellow creative Lena from VISIONFIELD Design House / PLAYFIELD 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

on working from home (part two)

Early last year we took a leap of faith and since then I have been working from home

I really struggled to step back into a professional role after I became a mum. I can be complacent and, for a while there, I meandered to and fro; should I, shouldn't I. 

Thankfully, Daniel is my greatest love and, by far, my greatest challenge. He encourages me out of my comfort zone even if I take months to budge. We talked about my degree, my portfolio of published work, my ability to write a clear, succinct sentence. And he questioned, over and over and over again, why I was so hesitant to approach editors, completely unwilling to submit story ideas.

While I didn't say it at the time, he and I both knew that I was absolutely fearful of rejection. I'm a perfectionist and idealist - I don't take failure or criticism well. I've had my fair share of "constructive criticism" in my career, soul destroying at the time but in retrospect a professional blessing.

I eventually found work - permanent writing work and the publishing company allowed me to work from home. Months later, when I was 12 weeks pregnant with Poet, Daniel left his job and decided to pursue his own business, installing home theatres. It allowed him the freedom to choose his hours and embark on an entirely new career path -  making films, not watching them. We had no idea where to start or who to talk to. But we did know that in order to make it in the film industry, he would have to work for free. Work on set, for long hours, for days on end, for free.

And that's when my words began to support my family. 

Without expecting it I stepped into one of the most empowering roles of my life. As a result I'm a much more confident woman. Daniel became a stay-at-home dad and has revelled in the opportunity to spend his days with Che before he goes to school. He has been with Poet for every day of her first year. Together we share a deeper respect for professionals and stay-at-home parents; we've done both, we get it. 

There are some weeks where it's overwhelmingly hard. Sometimes I'm overcome by mother guilt and feel torn between work and mothering. There are days when I would love to go to the park or the library but  the rush of deadline cannot be ignored. I now know the ubiquitous juggle of the professional parent.

In and around the everyday busyness Daniel has pursued what some would call a fanciful dream. I wholeheartedly believe that he'll succeed. I have never doubted him but my support has, from time to time, wavered. I am so proud of his honesty and determination yet completely bewildered by how long this may take. I like a plan and right now, nothing is for certain.

Because I'm a dreamer I often joke about being thanked in his Oscar's acceptance speech. And because he's a realist he says: "Not in this lifetime baby."


Last week Daniel left for four days to work on set in Sydney. I complained about him leaving like I usually do and he reminded me of why this is so good.

The next day I overheard Che talking to the lady in the op-shop: "My mum writes stories and teaches yoga and my dad makes movies." In the midst of all this our children are witnessing us as we work creatively. "We're doing what we love." - and that is everything. 

Photo by Tamara

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Of course, in the midst of illness and slow, Daniel left for a few days to work on a film set in Sydney. I wanted him to go and I didn't want him to go and I wonder if that strange feeling of confliction will ever subside.

I decided to take Poet to the doctor late in the week. Her flushed cheeks and shallow breathing started to really concern me. I went with my intuition and booked in to see my GP, Georgia, the very same day. I love Georgia - she's thorough, realistic, humorous and incredibly respectful of my desire to do things the natural way. She confirmed that it was a severe flu-like virus and that Poet's right ear looked rather swollen and red. Perhaps that is why she fell; her balance affected. I left the surgery completely reassured and, thankfully, with a little less nervous energy within. 

I'm happy to report that Poet is almost back to her normal self (she's currently pulling Che's hair and eating a tissue). She is absolutely ravenous and hence the kitchen and the floor contains the remnants of fruit salad, vegemite toast and vegetable soup.

This afternoon I decided to ignore the mess and photograph my new stoneware ceramic bowls and a delightfully odd collection of spoons. Somehow this simple, delicate kitchenware has lifted my mood. And for that I am thankful.

And thank you for all your sweet messages of concern about Poet; I read each one aloud to her. She was a little confused, but happy.


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2012."

Che: He comes grocery shopping with me every fortnight. And I always take a photo of him in the empty carpark (because we get there early to avoid the onslaught of oldies on pension day).
Poet: It's been a pretty awful week. I left her on the couch twice to go and make a cup of tea. I came back to find her like this. Oh. My. Heart. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

and so it goes

Just like I had planned we all went to bed early on Sunday night, ready for the week ahead. 

By 7.30am Monday morning Poet's attempts at acrobatics failed miserably and she ended up on the floor with a swollen and bleeding nose. She now has a swollen black/blue/purple nose and is in the midst of the flu - her first. She is feverish, lethargic, glassy-eyed and miserable. 

And so it goes.

Perhaps it's just pure coincidence but both my children have been terribly sick and suffered their first major fall just weeks out from their first birthday. Maybe I was naive to think I'd get through the first year without illness or injury. Maybe it's the necessary step before we sing happy birthday - a transition of sorts. From my experience with Che there is always a significant shift in awareness after a fever so I'm awaiting a more alert and lively Poet when this virus finally leaves. 

For now though our days are slow. My plans for the week have been pushed aside and instead I'm spending my days nurturing, nourishing, consoling. I always think, in instances like this, that the words I share with my students as I prepare them for birth, are actually the perfect words to prepare them for motherhood.

Just like the birth journey we cannot always control, each and every day we surrender and ultimately we just have to go with the flow

And so it goes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

a giveaway (perfect for the school holidays)

A few fabulous reads have made their way to me in the past few weeks so I've decided to bundle them together and give them away. Winter school holidays are perfect for long, lazy reading sessions by the fire and what better way to celebrate than with new tales.

1 & 2: BIG Kids Magazine is the kind of publication that I dreamed about as a child. A contemporary children's art publication, it celebrates imagination, creativity and self-expression. I've got the first (now sold out!) and second issue to give away. Creators Jo and Lilly are currently pulling all-nighters to get the third edition to the printers on time - due out in November! 

3: We are big fans of Oliver Jeffers in this household.  I love his whimsical illustrations, Che loves his grand stories of adventure and discovery. His latest creation in hardcover is The Hueys in The New Jumper, a quirky tale about standing out from the crowd. 

4. First it was a film and now Hailey and Andrew Bartholomew, along with the artistic talents of illustrator Alarna Zinn, have turned Ruby Who? into a book. This gorgeous story is both sweet and poignant, a gentle reminder to celebrate the beauty of YOU.

To enter this giveaway all you need to do is be a follower of Che & Fidel and leave a comment with your email address. I'll announce the winner on Friday 6th July and pop the parcel into an express post satchel on Monday morning. 

Good Luck! And if your kids are on school holidays I hope you're staying in your PJs ALL day.

graphic designed by my beautiful friend Lena from visionfield design house

Update: Comments closed. The Random Number Generator chose #22 - Imogen Eve...congratulations lovely one. Some treats for your littles x