Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shaker Style Rug update

I've been a little more adventurous with my knitting this week. One square is a more complex pattern. It shouldn't have been hard but I found myself unpicking it quite regularly - maybe it had something to do with knitting in front of the TV. Anyway, despite the unpicking frustration, another three squares are completed, two in garter stitch (plain) and one in a leaf pattern.

Leaf Pattern
(multiple of 10 stitches)
R1: p
R2: k
R3: p
R4: p
R5:*p5, k5 repeat from * to end
R6: k1, *p5, k5 repeat from * to end
R7: p3, *k5, p5 repeat from * to end
R8: k3,*p5, k5 repeat from * to end
R9: p1, *k5, p5 repeat from * to end
R10: k
R11: k1, *p5, k5 repeat from * to end
R12: p3, *k5, p5 repeat from * to end
R13: k3,*p5, k5 repeat from * to end
R14: p1, *k5, p5 repeat from * to end
R15:*k5, p5 repeat from * to end
R16: p
repeat R1-R16

Monday, March 30, 2009

Belindas Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

Sown seeds of:
Peas - Masey Gem
Broccoli - Romanesco and Di Cicco Early
Cauliflower - Paleface
Kale - Nero di Toscana
Snow Pea - Roi De Carouby
Spinach - Bloomsdale and Viking
Lettuce - Rabbit Ear
Silverbeet - 5 colour

And for the flower garden:

Beans - Blue Lake
Cucumber - Apple

This year I'm attempting NOT to buy any more seeds but to use what I have. Some are out of date but by sowing them thickly I'm still getting more than enough seedlings. Some seeds quickly lose their viability, such as parsnip, so they do need to be discarded if out of date. The cabbage seeds I planted last week are already up and growing strongly despite being 2 years past their use by date.

Planning for The Future

Menu Plan for this week:
Monday Fettuccine Carbonara and garlic bread
Tuesday Curry and rice
Wednesday Fish, chips and salad
Thursday Soup and rolls
Friday Lentil Burritos
Saturday Home made pizzas
Sunday Leftovers

Working for the Future
  • Cleaned out all my seed packets, threw out those that were very out of date
  • More decluttering

Building Community
  • Voluntary work with a local youth organization
  • Read the local newspaper

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tea Towel and Pot Holder Swap

I'm participating in the tea towel and pot holder swap from Down To Earth. My swap partner lives in Colorado in the US. I thought I would make something with an Australian theme so a quick hunt through some pattern books and I came up with the idea of gum blossom and wattle. So far I've just started the tea/dish towels. The pot holders with have a cut down version of the same pattern - I think!

I've stitched the design on a calico panel and this will be stitched to the bottom of the tea/dish towel as a bottom border. I still need to finish the gum blossom and the wattle in the bottom panel in the photo above and the top panel needs quite a bit more work.

I quite like the design but I'm concerned about how durable it will be - tea/dish towels do a lot of work and get washed often. I've cut out the shapes and used visofix to fuse them to the calico then blanket stitched around the shapes. The stems are backstitched and the gum blossom is made from colonial/french knots.

What do you think - will it be hard wearing enough or should I come up with an alternative idea?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Home Made Gift Ideas

You've decided to make some of your gifts this year but what are you going to make? I start with grand plans but they often need to be modified as time is an issue. I love the pattern I found for a crocheted shawl but I would need to learn to crochet first. That's on my long term list. Some ideas for gifts are below. Search the internet for ideas, the library, visit craft stores, markets and keep your eye out for stuff you could make yourself.


The hardest people to think of gifts for.
  • If they are a keen cook you could pot some herbs in attractive pots.
  • A gardener may like some open pollinated seeds, bulbs or seedlings.
  • Fair trade coffee or chocolate
  • Something special baked by you
Sites full of great ideas

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Home Made Gifts

This year in an effort to be a bit less commercial and more mindful (not sure if that's exactly the word I'm after) I'm trying to make most of our gifts for family and friends. Its a challenge.

Last Christmas the aim was to make half of the gifts. I didn't come close. The problem was that homemade gifts take time and thought. Its easy to hit the shopping centre and buy all your gifts in one afternoon. You certainly won't be making them all in one afternoon. Time is definitely a big factor, especially if you need to learn a skill to make your gift.

Is it cheaper to a make your own? That depends upon what you decide to make. My homemade pure olive oil soap works out at about $1.00 a bar. Buying a similar bar of soap would cost around $5.00. OK the commercial stuff looks a bit prettier - I didn't colour mine. I made a few batches and used essential oils to scent them. Wrapped up in coloured tissue paper they looked and smelt pretty good.

Some of the items I sewed cost about the same as buying the ready make item BUT this was largely because I had to buy all the materials - fabric, cotton, elastic, buttons etc. I've now got a bit of a stockpile so the things I'm making now are a lot cheaper as I already have the cotton and some fabric etc. Making it yourself means your gift can be unique.

Do people want to receive homemade gifts? That's the big question. What's the point of all your hard work if no one wants it? This really did worry me, would handmade be seen as inferior? I think the answer to this one is it depends on the recipient and what you make. Teenagers are the worst. They are into designer stuff, label stuff and electronic stuff. Chose things to make that you can make to a high standard and like any gift, chose something the recipient will like. I have one niece who loves the bright coloured clothes I make her, her sister wouldn't be caught dead in them.

My challenge this year is to try and make half of the gifts we give. A home made gift has more thought behind it. Home made is kinder to the planet - you produced it not some smelly factory in China. They also need to be practical gifts - something that will be used not just more stuff to clutter up homes. If its not handmade then the next best thing is to buy something from a cottage industry or fair trade.

The first thing to consider is probably - can I cut down our list of gift recipients? Some years ago we agreed that adults would no longer receive birthday gifts. Instead we send a card and call them for a chat. It works well. At Christmas time the adults give a gift to one other adult, we rotate the gift giver/recipient each year. Everyone receives and gives one gift.

The big question - what to make? There are hundreds of internet sites bursting with ideas. There are some wonderfully creative people out there. Visit your local craft store, many have samples made up to stir your creativity, borrow books from the library and while you're there see if your library subscribes to any of the many craft magazines available.

Remember to plan ahead, make something the recipient will like and make something you will enjoy making.

Have fun,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shaker Style Rug update

I've been busily knitting away - mostly while watching TV of an evening. It seems that 3 squares is about all I can manage in a week. This blanket is going to take a while. That's OK though, its satisfying to see my little pile of completed squares growing.

More purple squares this week:

The first is stocking stitch - alternative rows of plain and purl.

Next is the simplest stitch of them all - garter stitch, all plain knitting. All my garter stitch squares will have a design embroidered on them before the rug is complete.

The last square is a little different. Its hard to see but it is a reverse ridge.

Reverse Ridge
(any number of stitches)
R1: k
repeat R1-R8

Next week I think its time for another colour other than purple - green maybe.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Belindas Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

Sown seeds of:
Peas - Masey Gem
Cabbage - Red Dutch and Green Acre

Tomatoes including my first Black Russian of the season
Beans - Blue Lake
Cucumber - Apple

Planning for The Future

Menu Plan for this week:
Monday Lamb cutlets with veges including cauliflower cheese
Tuesday Aunty Beryl's chicken (slow cooker)
Wednesday Curry and rice
Thursday Quiche and salad
Friday Lentil Burritos
Saturday Irish stew (slow cooker)
Sunday leftovers

Working for the Future

  • Cleared some branches overhanging the house to reduce fire danger.
  • More decluttering

Building Community
  • Voluntary work with a local youth organization
  • Attended our local Community Fire Guard meeting

Thursday, March 19, 2009


One of the first things I did when I decided to slow down and live a simpler and more rewarding life was to make myself an apron. I already had a couple of aprons but didn't often wear them. One was made at school many years ago. It seems an apron is still the standard first sewing project at school as my daughter's one and only apron was made at school.

One was handmade and embroidered by me when I was about 10 years old. I'm astounded I had the patience. Its all hand sewn. A friend made me an apron some years ago. She dyed it and hand painted it. Its gone a lovely soft blue colour over the years.

I wanted simple, practical, inexpensive aprons that could be washed often. I bought some cotton drill fabric (about $3 per metre) and some ribbon belting ($3 for 5 metres). I used the ribbon belting to make the apron ties which was quick and easy. Each apron cost around $5 each. It would have been a bit cheaper to make the ties from the drill but would have taken a bit longer to sew.

The plain two coloured aprons are drill which is hard wearing and launders well. The cream apron is calico and was hand sewn over 30 years ago.

The embroidery on the apron.

I nearly always wear my apron when I'm cooking now. Putting on my apron means its down to business time. Strangely, it makes cooking and doing the dishes less of a chore.

My latest apron - just because I really liked the cupcake idea.

Sewing my own aprons also meant getting the sewing machine out and dusting it off. It was a simple way to start sewing again. So grab some fabric, get creative and make some aprons!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yummy Muffins

The rain fell again yesterday, its a lovely sight after weeks of heat and bush fires. I'm hoping that today will see our main water tank full - big yeah!! I'm back to doing the laundry and not collecting the wash water to bucket on to the garden. Its great not lugging heavy buckets of water around although I do admit it was becoming a bit of a ritual I enjoyed. I would empty the water at the end of the day while chatting with my daughter and playing with the dogs.

So what to do on a wet day - bake of course! The house always smells wonderful with home baked goodies in the oven. Savoury muffins are my latest baking fad. They are great for school lunches, with a salad or soup for lunch or as a snack anytime. They freeze well which is a bonus.

Update: A glorious sight - the main water tank which supplies our home is now full. It overflowed this morning. Its amazing what a difference a week makes -last week our tanks were at their lowest levels ever, this week one is full and the other about 1/3 full.

Bacon and Onion Muffins

280g/10oz plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 eggs
250ml buttermilk or yoghurt
5 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 rashers bacon - finely chopped
1 small onion - finely chopped
1/3 cup grated cheese (I use parmesan)

Cook the bacon and onion in a frypan until the onion is soft and the bacon crispy.
Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda to a bowl - sift together.
In another bowl beat the eggs, add yoghurt and oil and mix well. Add bacon, onion and cheese and mix well.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and just combine. Spoon into muffin tins, bake at 200C/400F for 20 minutes.

Spicy Salami Muffins

280g/10oz plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon paprika
2 eggs
250ml buttermilk or yoghurt
5 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small red capsicum/red pepper - finely chopped
100g your favourite salami - finely chopped

Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and paprika to a bowl - sift together.
In another bowl beat the eggs, add yoghurt and oil and mix well. Add capsicum and salami and mix well.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and just combine. Spoon into muffin tins, bake at 200C/400F for 20 minutes.

You could spice these up by adding chilli flakes and/or hot paprika instead of sweet paprika.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shaker Style Rug

I'm not much of a knitter. I really like hand knitted things but it takes me ages to produce anything myself. I would love to be a speedy knitter but I'm not. Part of the problem is I have a medical complaint which gives me sore shoulders and hands if I do something like knitting for any length of time. My knitting tends to be done in front of the TV and in short bursts.

I've found what I think is the perfect project for me. Rhonda at Down to Earth has invited us to knit along and make a shaker style rug. Perfect - I can use up left over bits of wool, the squares are small so not heavy to knit and you can pick it up and put it down as you please.

I had some purple wool so my first square is purple. I'll embroider a heart on it when I get some red wool.

There was still plenty of purple wool left so the next square is also purple but this time with a pattern in it. And you guessed it another purple square. I've still got enough purple wool left to combine with another colour to make a stripey square.

The patterned squares will add some texture to the finished rug and let me practice some new patterns.

Happy knitting,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge Update

Sowing seed or Planting

Finally it has rained!! The water tanks are filling so now I can start planning my winter garden.

I'm still harvesting tomatoes, celery, basil, beans, strawberries and parsnips.

Planning for The Future

Menu for this week:
Monday: Curried, honey, mustard chicken and potato bake
Tuesday: Chilli con Carne
Wednesday: Tacos using leftover chilli con carne as filling
Thursday: Going out
Friday: Going out
Saturday: Going out
Sunday: Curried sausages (slow cooker)

Working for the Future
  • Cleaned up all my stray bits of paper with recipes, patterns etc into a 'Home Manual' folder
  • Cleaned up and sorted through the 'important stuff' box - school reports, birth certificates etc
Building Community
  • Voluntary work with a local youth organization

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Belindas Back to Basics Challenge Update

Its been quite a while since I did an update for Belinda's challenge. The recent bush fires have upset my routine. Evacuating and the constant challenge of keeping the property clean and tidy just in case a fire did come through, took up most of my time. Now the fire danger has subsided there is time for the normal everyday stuff.

Sowing seed or Planting

No seed sowed recently - partly because of the fires and partly because I'm running out of water. Hopefully the rains will come soon.

Harvesting: tomatoes, beans, celery, strawberries.

I fertilized a lot of the potted herbs with a generous dollop of rotted horse manure and potted a few up. I was given a very healthy stevia plant so that was given a nice new pot.

Planning for The Future
I'm back to menu planning. Its a bit different at meal times now as our son has moved out to attend university. Suddenly we have leftovers. I'm still getting used to cooking for three instead of four, especially as number four ate a lot. I still freeze him meals to take back to uni with him (its a mum thing).

Tuesday Fish, chips and salad
Wednesday Aunty Beryl's chicken in the slow cooker
Thursday Vege slice
Friday Chicken lasagna
Saturday Omlettes and bread rolls
Sunday Spaghetti

Working for the Future -

Building Community -
  • Voluntary work with a local youth organization
  • Had morning tea and a chat with a neighbour I hadn't seen for quite some time.
Learn a new Skill
  • Participating in the knit along at Down to Earth. I'm knitting a shaker style rug. So far I've only completed one and a half squares so there is a long way to go.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Yet Another Bag

My daughter wanted a casual bag and liked the design at http://vintagericrac.blogspot.com/2008/01/1-hour-bag-tutorial.html. She modified it a bit as she wanted a flap over the top and she wanted it a little larger to fit in her many bits and pieces. We bought the denim fabric together. Its tough, hard wearing and certainly has a nice casual feel about it.

The teenager is happy with it and it passed the fit to be seen in public test.

We have had a little more rain overnight which is a wonderful thing. Our water tanks are still very low but at least the fire danger has passed for now. Maybe life can start returning to normal.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Yesterday the weather was forecast to be extreme - very strong winds and hot temperatures. With two fires burning close to home we decided to evacuate. This is our first evacuation for the fire season. We have stayed home other days but the warnings for Tuesday were dire. Everyone was on edge.

I packed on Monday and we left Monday night to stay with a friend. The dilemma was what to pack? Its a strange thing going through your home and deciding what to take and what gets left. So what did we take?

  • 2 large dogs and their food, bowls, leads and bedding
  • 2 rabbits and their food and bowls
  • 4 chooks and their food and bowls
  • clothes
  • bedding
  • photos
  • birth certificates, insurance papers
  • the kids treasure boxes
  • a plate that was my grandmothers
  • binoculars that were my husband's great grandfathers
  • a number of computers (we work from home so without these PCs there would be no income)
  • a few small valuables
That's it. Not a lot but its the stuff we would miss. We took two cars. Mine was the one full of animals. It was an interesting drive.

Luckily the weather wasn't as bad as forecast and the containment lines held. We even got rain. Most welcome lovely wet rain. We've had some wind damage at home, just a few fallen trees.

I hope everyone else stayed safe and we enjoy the cooler weather forecast for this week.