Last week I was presented with the choice of 20+ fridge magnets and an invitation to choose as many as I’d like. The magnets were created by a friend from original photographs that he took, in and around Perth. He combined the images with words to create positive messages for himself – and then decided to share them.

The art work is terrific and part of me wanted to grab all 20 and whack them up all over my fridge. But instead I showed some restraint and spent a bit of time sorting through to see if any of them really leapt out at me and said ‘take me home’.

What I discovered is that, although they’re all lovely, only two of them really resonated with me on that particular day. One because it’s who I am and the other because I need the reminder. 

I must have looked at those magnets dozens of times since I put them up. Whenever I open and close the fridge, there they are. They remind me to take a mental step back from rushing around and be present in the moment  – and they’ve made me smile. Every time.

So thanks, friend, for sharing your thoughts and smiles. They’re greatly appreciated. Smiles are huge and happy and lovely and can totally make someone’s day – especially if they’re shared.

So here are my smiles, dear tea leaf readers. I hope they work for you too – and that you share them around 🙂

Autumn’s well and truly here and there’s a distinct nip in the air in the evenings and early mornings.  MissMolly’s noticed the change and isn’t impressed:  Doberman’s really don’t like the wet or the cold! 

But it’s not just MM that’s noticed the change in the weather. At work and at home I hear comments about the shorter days, longer nights and that winter’s definitely on the way. Doonas are coming out of storage, blankets are going back on beds and jumpers and scarves are back in fashion.

So what do people who’re living rough do when the chill weather starts to roll in? And is there something we, as a community, can do to help?

The start of an answer to these questions came to me when a couple of friends donated a whole lot of 8ply yarn and some completed crocheted granny squares, suggesting that I ‘put them to good use’.

Right. The logical thing was to turn the rest of the yarn into squares too. Then we use those to make small blankets and donate them to the local support services to distribute to people in need.

I recruited a group of people who already knew how to crochet, learned the basics myself and we’ve been crocheting in what seems like every spare minute ever since. Between us we’ve produced a large number of squares, taught a few people how to crochet and completed several blankets.

Each square takes about an hour to make. We’ve chosen to make our blankets 5×6 squares, so that’s approximately 30 hours of crochet per blanket. Then the squares are crocheted together, a border is added all the way around and all the little yarn-tails are sewn in to tidy things up. This probably adds at least 10 hours to each blanket, making it about 40 hours per blanket. 

FAQs

Will there be enough blankets for all those in need? No, never.

Will they be appreciated? Yes, most definitely.

Will they be looked after and last? It really doesn’t matter, does it? They’re gifts, made with love and hope for people in need. It’s enough to have been able to make them.

Will we continue? Yes. The need hasn’t gone away and won’t in the short term.

Can others join in? Please do. We have spare yarn and crochet hooks. Join us for our monthly community craft session if you can, otherwise work on squares when you have spare time and let us know when you’d like them picked up.

How to crochet a granny square for our community blankets

You’ll need: 8 ply acrylic yarn, 4mm crochet hook, small pair of scissors  and some spare time

Instructions: We’ll teach you how at our craft sessions (1st Friday of each month, 7 – 9pm), or you can use either the video instructions or step-by-step ones. They’re both good introductions to making basic granny squares.

Size: Try for 10 rounds per square – and it’s up to you to choose whether to make them all one colour or to do them in a variety of colours. 

In short, we could really do with some more crocheters to help us out. Every square created gets us one step closer to another blanket and another person kept warm this winter. So if all you do is make one square, it’s one square more towards a great outcome.

The phrase reading the tea leaves carries loads of connotations, most of them based in urban myths and folk tales. It’s an idea that brings gypsies, clairvoyants, dim rooms smelling of incense, tall dark strangers and dire warnings to mind.

Practitioners refer to it as tasseomancy and sell it as way of divining the future by interpreting the patterns left by tealeaves in the bottom of a cup.

Reading Tea Leaves, 1906. Harry Herman Roseland

Of course, since most people tend to use teabags these days (rather than loose-leaf tea), the practice may have lost a little currency. Somehow reading the teabag doesn’t have quite the same vibe. It just sounds soggy… and messy.

But it seems there’s always a workaround if you’re really keen. No tealeaves? No problem. Apparently coffee grounds or even red wine residue can do the job instead. Who knew?

It might just be me, but neither of those options sounds any more appealing (or reliable) than the soggy teabags. But perhaps that might be a side issue for those searching for signs, portents and clues to help them deal with the indecipherable future and our rapidly changing world.

Whatever works, I guess.

So, do I examine the dregs of my beverages for signs and portents? In short, no.

I’m a pragmatist, which means that I simply accept that life happens and cope with it to the best of my ability. The world changes and I can’t see how inventing rituals could provide me with any comfort or insights. So I don’t read the tealeaves. Nor to I examine my coffee grounds or red wine residue – other than to note that a refill is required!

My Teacup in the Sky mosaic, 2015

Even so, one of my siblings refers to reading my blogposts as ‘reading the tealeaves’ – which is what took me down this particular tunnel.

I’m pretty sure that’s simply because my blog’s called Teacup in the Sky. But since Sibling#3 lives a continent away, it’s just as likely that these posts provide him with some tools to build a picture of a sister who migrated across the world half a lifetime ago. Since the posts are generally a brain dump of something I’ve been mulling over, that’s not an unreasonable assessment.

Teacup in the Sky is a tool that helps me to explore ideas, to express myself and make connections. But my virtual tealeaves are nothing more than that. I doubt there’s much to be gained from looking for patterns or trying to analyse the content for insights or seven-deeper-meanings.

Even so, it has made me wonder how carefully people consider what they post online — and whether readers do, in fact, look for deeper meanings or life-clues in the posts.

Today saw the start of a trial series of community workshops at our local community centre. We’ve been very excited about these sessions, which are tailored to suit a specific clientele.

Broadly speaking, women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds face the double whammy of cultural diversity and gender when applying for jobs in Australia. This infographic from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a significantly lower rate of participation in the workforce on the part of this group compared to other women in Australia or, indeed, men from CALD backgrounds.

Once we’d identified this need, we wanted to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for women from CALD backgrounds who are interested in trying to jump that barrier and find jobs in Australia.

The notion of a safe space that’s also a learning environment resonates strongly. My experience and background have taught me that learning is most likely to be successful in complex situations if external interference is limited. And yes, of course the real world is full of complicated situations and the work environment is no different. But until we have the tools to deal with some of those situations, that’s almost beside the point.

So what is a positive space? In an artistic sense, positive space refers to the main focus or subject of a picture rather than the background – which sometimes called the negative space. Together these form the picture as a whole, but there are times when the subject of the picture needs all our focus in order to reach its potential.

Socio-cultural situations are no different – and this is where a positive (or safe) space fits in.

I believe this sort of space should be empowering. It should be somewhere that individuals, whether marginalized or not, can come together to achieve their goals without fear of judgement relating to age, gender, ethnicity, race or cultural context.

In the best of all possible worlds, these positive learning spaces – whether they’re at school, university, convention or community centre – should be inclusive, accessible spaces that can allow us to be who we are and provide a level of affirmation, support and care.

Does this concept open the door to misuse? Quite possibly. But the door that we’re trying to open is one in which an opportunity for best outcomes is created for the participants. In this scenario, we’re simply trying to provide a space from which people can then take a step forward into a future that they’ve imagined for themselves.

The workshops cover a wide range of topics, from generating a resume to interview techniques. It also provides an opportunity for participants to practise their spoken English, pick up on local slang and learn a little about the Australian workplace. I’m sure everyone will have fun exploring just what can be achieved over the next few weeks.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really not cut out to be part of that happy band of people who seem to revel in the process of turning a ‘nice little fixer-upper’ into something amazing. This revelation came to me soon after we decided to embark on a long delayed renovation project. In our wisdom (!) we chose to do the interior and exterior at the same time. Perhaps not the most cunning of plans, all things considered.

Stage one was the removal of a dilapidated in-ground concrete swimming pool. Measuring 4.5 x 9.5 metres, it sloped steeply from 1.2m to 3m in depth. This epic water feature was installed well over 30 years ago and the original owners made a range of interesting choices at the time. These included a rough pebble aggregate surface across the entire interior, which had the dual ‘benefit ‘ of clinging to algae highly effectively and also abrading the knees and elbows of unwary swimmers.

Despite this, we put the pool to good use for many summers. But eventually too much of the aggregate surface was breaking away, some tiles had started to crack and fall off, and the pool surround had dropped. It was clear that the pool was in need of a serious (and expensive) facelift – or removal.

After costing the options, we chose to option three: remove and replace with something more suitable. After traversing the dangerous DIY ground of ‘oh yes, we could just do the job ourselves’ for a while, we went hunting for tradies with skills – and younger backs. They started by demolishing a three metre section of our back wall to provide access for machinery and workers, trucking in vast amounts of soil, building an access ramp (from that soil) to manage the drop from street level. Next came the diamond tipped saws to cut through the concrete and steel reinforcing embedded in the pool shell and brining in an excavator and bobcat to haul away the one metre square sections, each of which weighted about a tonne.

And that was just the start. The entire backyard rapidly turned into a luna landscape and we spent weeks stepping over drop sheets, avoiding paint tins and coping with endless quantities of sand everywhere.  After many weeks of tradie-wrangling, dog management and sleepless nights, things started to take shape. We’re not quite done yet – things simply take longer (and cost more) than expected – but we’re almost there.The dogs have coped with all this about as well as could be expected, although the little one did end up needing to see a dog whisperer to manage her stress-induced aggression. And there are certainly days when I know just how she feels, which is partly why I’m so impressed with a friend of ours who has (almost) single-handedly renovated most of her apartment in one month – and remained calm throughout, despite minor disasters such as falling off a ladder and crashing through newly assembled cabinets!

© F. Diprose