Winter in Sydney is like (late) spring for us weather wise - absolutely glorious, sunny, bright days. The boys were determined to go to the beach and swim! I joined them once and found the water too cold, but lying on the sand I felt perfectly cosy and content. We explored the rock pool shelf at south Cronulla beach as well as the gentle Kyeema bay. We also had a special city adventure; taking the train into the Opera House to see the very funny and ridiculous play "Mr Stink" with my family - followed by a stroll through the Botanical Gardens. Imagine my surprise coming across such abundant nasturtiums in the herb garden - I'll take the sight of those scalloped leaf cups over a tall skyscraper any day!
At the beginning of 2022 the idea came to me for a new quilt; one for our bed - to mark twelve years of marriage. I'd long been inspired by the beautiful handmade quilts by Sara of Farm & Folk. How playfully she used natural dyed fabrics in traditional designs. So I set about creating my own star block quilt entirely out of linen scraps from my stash - all the colours I love and have used in various other projects over the years - black, blues, greys, greens, oatmeal, taupe, brown, burgundy, pinks.
There would be twelve stars; one for each year of marriage. Each one different, each one a homage to the seasons of life Alex and I have journeyed together.
The star blocks emerged quickly over that first summer - it was addictive to sew the triangles and piece them together on my machine. Next was the play of arranging them in different combinations until I was happy with the balance of dark and light, colour and movement.
For the in-between squares I used a mix of dark blue and black linen that I had left over from sewing the Tea House Dress a few years ago and a black Ogden tank for a friend. I wasn't sure how this would work, but I knew I wanted to make the top of the quilt entirely out of fabric I already had - even if it meant a bit of creative seaming,
The edging was the leftover of oatmeal hemp-linen scraps from my hinterland dress. The backing fabric I did end up buying new (on sale) from the fabric store. A glorious blue and white linen chambray which is reminiscent of a summer sky.
Everything was tacked together and ready for the hand quilting - my favourite part of the process! But I just couldn't find the time or will to start it. So the quilt sat dormant for more than a year. It's curious how creative processes ebb and flow - the motivation to finish can be so much harder to muster than the initial beginning of the thing!
I bought some beautiful silk-cotton thread from my local fabric shop in blue and sage green and cream - I decided to make simple lines. Once I began I couldn't stop - the process of threading those tiny, even lines was so calming.
Finally I reached the last step - sewing the edge of the quilt - which I did with a simple folded edge binding and an invisible hem stitch.
The completed quilt now lies on the edge of our bed, keeping our winter toes warm. It is a homage to our marriage - to the beauty and the struggle, the adventures and the seasons, the commitment to learn more about ourselves, and always - to love each other well //
I think mice are rather nice;
Their tails are long, their faces small;
They haven’t any chins at all.
Their ears are pink, their teeth are white,
They run about the house at night;
They nibble things they shouldn’t touch,
and no one seems to like them much,
but I think mice are nice!
It started with this poem which we discovered in a book of poetry for children. Ever since Archer has had the words to explain his love of mice - those little ears and teeth, long tails and nibbling instincts. So when it came time to think of ideas for his 6th birthday party, a mouse theme was suggested. And of course, I simply had to honour this poetic whim!
There were mouse meringues and mouse shortbread, a mouse cake (orange zest and vanilla) and various mouse games: making mouse ears, mouse, mouse, RAT! Pin the tail on the mouse, mouse egg and spoon race, What's the time Mr Cat? And a piñata which was not mousey but made by the birthday boy and I into a number 6. My mum gifted him a beautiful book called "Mouse's Wood" which we've been reading and exploring the magnificent illustrations for days.
How can my littlest son be six already? Though it's hard to believe, he is every bit a wonderful six year old; he can read a book to himself and ride a two-wheel bike and help collect eggs. He loves school and music and adventures and cuddles and sloths and lego and... mice!
Here's a link to download a set of three coloring in pages I designed around the theme of spring: Australian native flowers, a jolly wombat and the daffodils that come out in abundance around my town in this season...
I drove the boys up to Sydney with me for the beginning of the school holidays. Our cups were filled with the sublime - cousins and family, hugs with my mum, playground adventures, Lebanese pizza, salt water, sandy feet, urban sounds, city birds and glorious sun rays. Sydney will always be the place I grew up: the city I studied and explored on train, bike and foot. It's where I got married, where I discovered Arabic and jacarandas and heavy metal. Fostered faith, found friendship. It's loud and chaotic, overdeveloped and overwhelming, and the traffic makes me want to give up driving forever - but it's gloriously diverse, colorful and exciting. It's the ground on which I lived for two thirds of my life. I am glad to return and say to my children: this is the city where I was born //
Walking in the forest on an autumn afternoon. The gentle sun filters through every crack and bug-eaten leaf. It is a lesson in shadow and light, in life and decay. Underfoot the crunch of leaves, the snap of sticks, the remains of a dead fox or two, the slow gurgle of the river. The forest is a hidden world, sheltered from the wind, and creaking with willow limbs, oak, elm, holly, hawthorn. Foreign and familiar. Stooping down we see the tiny cyclamens blooming in lilac magnificence, mossy stumps and spider threads. Three boys and a man sit perched in a high up branch. I hear them laughing as I pack my camera away and feel the dappled light on my face //
Twelve years growing a marriage and most of those spent learning how to farm regeneratively and raise little men, rising at dawn and retiring long after the sun has set. Not a day passes without a hearty conversation between us, and that's the privilege of living with your best friend; of sharing the best and worst of your selves and still feeling safe enough, loved enough to keep at it. We have gathered twelve years in our hands; seasons of comfort and difficulty, of joy and anticipation, of drought and abundance, of adventure and mundane life, gritty and awful, faithful, golden loveliness. We have worked hard to understand each other better, to listen, to hold carefully a thing that sometimes feels overwhelming fragile, or momentarily obscured. We are still leaning how to rest, to nurture what's separate, to invigorate the mingling. Marriage is play too, ridiculous and sweet. To grow a life together is not always to agree or know the way forward but to know you belong beside each other and that's enough. The path ahead is glittering faintly, and we're bound to fall short, to disappoint and delight, but there's promise too. So much goodness yet to come //
Mr 10-year-old wanted to have his two best mates over and camp under the oak trees, so with the loan of his kind auntie's tent it came to pass. There was much chatter and reading by torch light, movie watching and trampoline jumping and a rather unstable Minecraft inspired birthday cake complete with marshmallow "snow blocks", blue jelly "water blocks", chocolate cake "earth blocks" and marzipan creeper and pigs. We made it together and it was fun to create and deconstruct!
For as long as I have known and loved this child of mine he has been most himself, most relaxed outside. Surrounded by grasses and wide open sky and beetles and creatures of all sizes. I pray he will always return to the nature that brings him fresh perspective and peace, and know the love of the Creator behind it all.
"To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before--
The miniature gaiety of seasides."
-Philip Larkin, To the Sea
We returned last week from our holiday by the seaside. Our first time off the farm as a family for more than four years. We sunk our feet and hands into the warm sand. We felt the cold rush of salt water over our bodies. We caught waves and watched tides come in and out. We explored rock pools and gathered seaweed. We found shells of many colours and sizes and sometimes ones with little whelk residents still inside. We watched the clouds roll and the water froth. We listened to the birds chattering in the gum trees. We walked under coastal teatree and huge banksia trees and flowering bottlebrush. We read books in bed and in the park and on the beach. We caught a ferry and saw a giant petrel take flight. We squished moon snail egg sacks in our hands and bought fresh squid from the market. A seal swam under our feet on the pier. We made a sand octopus and many a sand castle. We ate fish and chips too. We delighted again and agin in the gifts from the sea //
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...