Dressed to Arrest

“You have the right to remain silent…” – excerpt from the Miranda Rights warning.

Farm safety. Not a topic that many who knew me in a previous, outlawdish cowgirl life would feel I was qualified to pontificate about. However after four months in solitary, maternity-leave confinement, I was craving a chance to break the silence and perform an out-of-subject-teaching-area classroom hijack.

Whether it was the wild, what-not-to-do-on-a-farm tales or the over accentuated Aussie accent, my series of Farmwise Forum lessons stole the children’s attention just long enough to see out the twenty minute sessions of die-dactic tutelage and realise an invaluable booty: a pair of “un-local” kindred spirits.

Like us, Leanne and Jack – a Mountie (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) family and the organisers of the forum – were used to having to squash life into a couple of suitcases and re-acclimatise to the idiosyncrasies of new and sometimes hard-to-crack-into codes of community rule. Upon learning of our temporary transition into a close-knit rural Canadian town, our courageous new cronies took us under their experienced outsider wings. For the next eighteen months, I, Scott and baby K1 would regularly be treated to guided, sight-seeing tours of some nearby – within 3 hours drive! – natural treasures: the desert coulee’s of Writing on Stone National Park and the township of Waterton (based at the foot of the Rocky Mountains)…to name just a few.

As with most pious, agrarian Albertan communities, Thanksgiving is a big deal. Drawing the short straw for the public holiday shift, Jack landed border patrol duties for almost the entirety of the harvest celebration. As if having a sixth sense for the mouthwatering aromas of a perfectly cooked, prized Hutterite turkey, Jack walked through the front door. After unbuckling his mid-calf length black leather boots, he flopped in enervated fashion, into his seat placed at the head of the dining room table. After a restorative non-alcoholic glass of on-duty bubbly, he then regaled us with tales about his day of munitions takings. In the interests of hustling to the chase, I thing it was fair to say that the sleepy border town police station’s stronghold had realised a sizable investment of purloined, semi-automatic weapons seized from cowboys hoping to take advantage of a reduced, vacation day police force.

Fare-welling our now familial friends was always going to bear a heavy emotional load. So as to soften the parting blow, when our Canadian venture came to it’s post-doctoral-contract end, Jack presented Scott with a collectible gift: his felted woolen Forces jacket…from a previous life as an intrepid fighter pilot. For almost eight years of subzero, winter morning cycling commutes to work, Scott has donned the formidable blue blazer and successfully kept out the icy temperatures as well as seen off some rather aggressive, bike-hating bullying tactics by many a curmudgeon car driver.

Inspired by Dad’s Canadian habiliments – and an overindulgence in criminally themed Lego blocks and books – a recent fancy dress party saw me raiding my scrap materials bin for a selection of old clothes and used fabrics that would see K1 and K2 dressed to arrest…or be arrested.

For those keen on seizing the prize for the best of the fancy dressed, my whistle-blowing secrets for environmentally conscious Cops and Robber Costumes:

Resources:

2 x pair of jeans (thank goodness for Jean Therapy!)

1 x long sleeve collared cotton shirt

1 x black T-shirt

1 x old, black (or another dark colour) business shirt (adult sized)

1 x baseball cap

1 x flourescent vest

2 x belts

elastic

yellow, nonstretch fabric

old, white singlet

blue permanent marker or paint pen

newspaper

white paper

Handcuffs, baton, duffle bag and mask:

Almost all of this part of the costume comes from a single business shirt.

Handcuffs:

Cut the cuffs off the business shirt. Cut both the length of buttons (starting from the collar) and the length of button holes. Starting from the top most side of the first button, cut into button strips of approximately equal lengths ensuring that you snip just in front of the proceeding button. Repeat for the button holes.

Join one button hole strip and one button strip by zig-zag stitching together the two strips at the points farthest from the button/button hole. Repeat for the remaining strips. Just like Christmas ring bunting, join together each button hole and matching button to make a length of 6 – 8 rings. Attach to the cuffs using button-less strip.

Baton:

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Roll up several sheets of newspaper to make a paper baton and secure with a rubber band. Cut one of the business shirt sleeves down the main seam and lay out flat. Place the baton on top. Leave 1.5cm of fabric at each end of the baton to stitch. Cut a rectangle of fabric that will be large enough to encase the baton (including a 3 cm seam allowance on the long edge). Stitch (right sides together), using a 1.5 cm seam allowance, around the outside of the rectangle, leaving open one short end. Turn to the right side. Thread the newspaper baton into the fabric sleeve. Turn over the top one centimeter of fabric at the open end. Press and stitch closed.

Duffle bag: on a white piece of paper, draw a large (block lettered dollar sign). Pin this onto the yellow fabric. Cut around the outside. On one of the side panels of the business shirt (front), trace around a side plate (of 18 – 20 cm). This will form the base of the duffel bag. Calculate the circumference of the plate and then add 3 cm for a seam allowance. For the body section of the duffle bag, create a paper template using the previously measured circumference (plus seam allowance) as the width. Choose a height length that will allow you to use almost all the back of the business shirt. Pin the template to the back of the shirt. Cut out.

Pin the dollar sign to the middle front of the main body piece. Slowly stitch around the outside of the applique. Pin together the body section of the duffle bag (right sides facing) at the raw edges of the longest sides (height). Using a marker pen, place a mark at the raw edge 6 cm and 8 cm from the top. This will form the casing of the finished product. Using a 1.5 cm seam allowance, stitch down the side of the fabric until you reach the first marked point. Leave the two centimeter gap un-stitched. Stitch the remaining length. Press the seam open. Fold two centimeters of the top edge over to the wrong side. Press. Fold over another four centimeters ensuring that the folded edge does not cover the hole. Stitch together near the base of the folded fabric to form the casing.

To attach the base (don’t mind my tracing error), pin the base and the body together. Right sides facing. Stitch using a 1.5cm seam allowance. Turn the bag in the correct way. Cut a few pieces of string or a cord and thread through the casing by attaching a safety pin to the end.

Mask:

Measure the circumference of your child’s head. Get creative and sketch a mask template (without holes) onto a white piece of paper equivalent to the circumference of your child’s head. Ensure the thickness of the mask at the back of the head is large enough to encase the elastic. Cut out and pin onto the other sleeve of the business shirt. Cut out two masks. Pin the elastic between the two mask pieces at the back. Using a close, zig-zag stitch, go around the outside of the mask. Hold the mask up to your child’s face to approximate the eye holes. Draw, cut out and stitch around the inside of the holes using, again, a close zig-zag stitch.

Police Shirt and Cap, Prisoner Shirt:

Police shirt: once again, get your creative, police badge drawing skills on and create a star shaped template out of white paper. Pin onto the same yellow fabric used to make the dollar sign. Cut out. Place onto the cotton, collared shirt at the breast pocket and stitch around the outside.

Cap: draw a rectangle (wide enough to sit on the front of the cap) onto a white piece of paper. Pin onto the yellow fabric. Cut out. Write the police departments name on the front in paint pen. Pin onto the hat at the center-front. Stitch around the outside.

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Prisoner Shirt: draw (onto a white piece of paper) and cut out a rectangle large enough to sit on the front of the black prisoner shirt. This is the prisoner identification code. Pin this to an old singlet. Cut out. Write the police department at the top using paint pen and then the prisoner identification code below. Pin this to middle-front of the black shirt. Stitch.

Your once darling children are now dressed and ready to steal…or arrest the Fancy Dress show!

‘Gette Dressed in Cream

At the age of four, I developed Post Traumatic White-Dress Disorder.

On the morning of my cousins wedding I had awoken even earlier than usual. Knowing that my mother had committed to a pre-wedding day all-nighter, I was especially keen to see the results of her sewing bender.

Like all of her previous creations past, my mother’s finished garment was nothing short of exquisite: love at first sight. From the mid-thigh length, two tiered skirt to the crescent shaped collar and gathered sleeves, every part of the creamy-white cotton lace dress embodied princess-esque fineries. Adorned with a matching pink sash and child sized fascinator – made from fabric off-cuts and up-cycled buttons – I was ready…at 5.30am…for a day of confetti throwing and champagne popping gaiety.

By 10.30am the four year old fidgets had set in. While dad finished milking the last of the post-calving herd and mum grappled my older brother, Charlie, into his Paige Boy vestments, I decided to put my eager energy to good use. Recovering a couple of recently fallen eucalyptus branches from the dew swept ground – and taking great care to avoid the cow pats – I slowly began coralling a recently birthed calf toward the dairy.

As I reached the gates of my destination, the seemingly docile calf let out a rather startling bellow and made a sudden change in direction, escaping my outstretched, wood-winged hold. Within seconds, mother cow – previously grazing on post-birth clover – became alert to her baby’s plight and came ferociously charging toward my now fleeing form. In full frightened flight mode, I threw all previous veils of caution to the wind and bolted as fast as my gum booted legs would carry me, toward the homestead. After clearing the first 50 yards in frocking good time, I stole a glance behind.

Before my stupified and now semi-concussed mind could register my feetal error, I was supine. Resignedly I lay in dead stillness, staring helplessly up at the cumulus clouds making their way across the mid-morning spring skies. By the time the cloudescope had ceased spinning, my once creamy-white dress was sodden. Overcome with dread about my mother’s inevitable reaction and crestfallen at the state of my now grey, day-old-aborted-placenta shade of dress, I trudged forlornly the remaining few yards home.

Upon hearing of my wedding morning travails, the two sisters of my bride to be cousin decided my spirits could do with a little up-lifting. For the remainder of the ceremony and most of the reception later, I had reached a state of contentment. The helium balloons – so adeptly tied to my now “complimenting” fascinator – drew many a flattering comment and proved a great distraction to those vying for top position in the bouquet catching stakes. At the conclusion of the day’s celebration, the remaining guests filed their way out through the church hall doors to watch the bride and groom race off into the mountains on their two-wheeled, tin-canned motorcycle. While mum strapped, Tommy, my then baby brother into his capsule, Charlie and I stood on the top step steadfastly waiting out the gale force winds for our turn to be locked and loaded into our old Holden Commodore jalopy. After a sudden yanking tug, I glanced accusingly at Charlie before staring in horror at the sight of the last of my mothers painstakingly intricate handiwork being carried up, up, and away into the sun-setting skies above.

I had never been one to believe in fairies, witches or superstitious curses but just to be on the safe side I made myself a promise…

..from that day forward I would never again accoutre in cream or white…

…with one exception.

Ten year’s ago, I once again donned a royal quality gown comprising an array of pure silks and traversed the red carpet of a 13th century built Oxford college chapel. Many year’s previous – on my final day of highschool – I was bequeathed, from a mother-away-from-home mentor (Kaytee), a priceless gift: a recipe book replete with some of her family’s favourite meals. In addition to making some mean CWA (Country Women’s Association) style dinner delights, Kaytee is also an extraordinary seamstress.

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Whilst Kaytee’s formidable red and blacked hued wedding dress stitching saw me keeping true to my solemn promise, in the cooler autumn months I regularly succumb to temptation and indulge in my favourite of her delectable dishes.

Fit for the regal hearted, I present to you a recipe to ‘Gette Dressed in Cream.

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Kaytee’s Cream of Courgette Soup

60g butter

750g courgettes, finely sliced

3 medium sized potatoes (optional), peeled and cut into large chunks

3 rashers bacon, diced

2 cups stock

1 tbs basil (sage or oregano), finely diced

½ c cream

fresh chives, finely sliced on the diagonal

salt and pepper

Before heating the butter in the pot, send the kids out into the garden to fetch the courgettes, harvest the herbs and dig up some more of those pots of gold.

On a medium-low heat, melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan. Add the courgettes and bacon and fry until the courgettes soften. Add the stock.

Bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for 10 – 20 minutes or until the stock has reduced a little in volume. Cool slightly then blend till smooth. Return to the heat and stir through the cream and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with the chives and serve, with some buttered sourdough bread, to your regal hearted friends and family.

Revolutions to School

Once upon a time there was a little red man. One morning he woke up, got out of his little red bed, collected his little red towel from his little red linen cupboard and began to enjoy a refreshing morning shower. Presently, he heard a knock at the door. Begrudgingly, he turned off the taps, hurriedly wrapped himself in his little red towel and made his way to the front door. Greeting him on the other side was a little green man. Just when the little green man was about to launch into his sales-pitch spiel, the little red man dropped his towel and all was revealed! The little green man, startled and affronted by such indecent behaviour, unheedingly ran across the street…and was hit by an oncoming bus! What is the moral to this story?

The family is dressed. Tummies filled. Bags replete with homemade lunches, readers and other pedagogical paraphernalia. Everyone is ready to begin the school day. Just when you feel it’s safe to tick off the last of the efficiently-organised mum boxes you round the corner at the end of your quiet suburban street…

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…only to be met by a peloton of vehicles all vying for an “on time” position in the infamous school morning chase.

Back before fat-wheeled – battle of the desk job bulge – tyres gained excessive traction among the pedal biking elites, my brothers and I were all too familiar with the concept of all terrain cycling. After racing down our “Dry Weather Only” road succeeding drought breaking rains, arriving at the bus stop mud-streaked and with tread 3” thick from accumulated mud clay was somewhat of a normal start to a day at the education mill. Not wanting to rob my own children of such heroic commuting anecdotes, I’ve kept the tradition alive…with the added benefit of some top quality all-weather kit. Rain, frost or summer heat-wave shine, each school morning sees our two-wheeled, pedal-power team sailing past the egregious morning hold-up. Impregnating the rapidly expanding craniums with with sounds of birds, rustling greenery and indulgent post-morning-play chatter, my children arrive at the school house in good spirits and with synaptic clefts at the ready: a mindful way to begin the learning day.

Last Friday (22nd March) was National Ride2School Day in Australia. Being a strong advocate – one of many in our community – for any activity that sees our little one’s bodies exercising their way to the school gates, I am keen to bestow my revolutionary wisdom upon all those willing to don the helmet and bell.

Before you front up at the Tour de’ School starting line…some tips to get your wheels rolling:

  1. Read the terms and conditions: make sure you bone up on the road rules for your state, territory or jurisdiction as there may be some variations. For example, in my town, cyclists need to have a bell and helmet and are required to cycle on the left hand side of the shared path. We are also allowed to cycle over zebra crossings…an exception to most other places in Australia thanks to our large cycling community. It is also good to establish some family rules too…such as always waiting at crossings for the rest of the team to catch up and…to avoid sibling squabbles…who gets to press the buzzers or cycle at the front.
  1. Devise a race strategy: many roads lead to Roome (…school room that is). I like to take my children through a diverse range of traffic situations: the more the “road-ready” better. Whilst a series of safe, quiet streets may be tempting, it can rob you of a teaching opportunity. My cycling route includes: school crossings (with a supervisor), zebra crossings, busy highway crossings (with multiple intersections), back streets (requiring on road cycling and therefore hand signals), foot paths and bike paths.

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  1. Enlist a support crew: or atleast ensure you always carry some essentials such as an old rag (in case the chain comes off), plasters, tissues and a bike pump. If you know how to change a tire (…one for a later post) then tyre leavers and a puncture repair kit come in handy too. If you happen to form a small break away (…from the driving tradition) then you can always ask one of your co-cycling team to lend a hand should you ever have a bingle.

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  1. Win! As with anything new…committing to cycling each day is a true game changer for many families. It may be best to start small and choose one day a week to saddle up or just commit during the summer school terms. Whatever your choice…I implore you to stick with it…it will pay dividends! In the not too distant High School future…your teenragers will relish in the psychological freedom that is getting from A to B without that big, fat, gas imbibing C!

Oh…and as for the moral to the story

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…don’t cross the road when the red man is flashing!

After over four years of school-cycling commuting, there is still one thing I continually have to drum into my kid’s helmet-wearing, flagging afternoon skulls (or usually a last minute grab of the backpack)…and that is: “Always look for the green man before you leave the curb!”. Check to make sure that the buzzing sound (for the pedestrian light) is for the road you are about to cross!

On your marks…set…get cranking!