Monday, December 24, 2012

Seasonings

Season Greetings.

Seasonings?

Yes, Seasonings. :)





However you call it in your parts, have a safe and happy one!

Happy Seasonings, all.
xx

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Advent Tree - Tween made for tweens

Saturday morning saw me listening to the radio while taking some time to savour a cup of tea before starting the day - often a rare event for me. As I sat, listening with half an ear to the chatter focusing on craftiness..Festive craftiveness in particular, my mind wandered to how many plans I had in this area and how little I had actually achieved. The craft heart inside me felt weighted down by a million balls of unknitted yarn, bags of unspun fleece and the fabric piles that are threatening to take over my craft area.

As the conversation shifted from giving gifts of handmade to creating for oneself, my ears perked up. Advent calenders were mentioned, something I love the idea of but cringe like nothing you've seen before when I come across the mass produced ones offering a square of cheaply made, most likely un-ethical chocolate for each day's treat...

And yes, just like you, I have seen those organised people posting on their blogs sharing pictures of their beautifully made, patchwork or felted calenders, made long before the call of the festive season. But what of me? Unorganised soul, sitting slumped over my cooling cup of tea, pondering over the lack of such a handmade delight on this, the 1st of December?

My ears pricked up even more as the radio guest's talk veered towards time-saving ideas. An advent tree! Made with envelopes! One for each day..filled with a trinket of love, perhaps a good wish and a homemade treat. Oh yes, this is exactly what we needed. Something quick to make, and easily delegated to the tweens' of the household, for those would be the ones enjoying it most.

I raided my drawer of stationary from days gone by when I used to post actual snail mail Envelopes! 24 of them. Numbered as so. These were divided up into three piles of 7, one pile for each girl with three left over for mama to fill. They were distributed with instructions to decorate and fill with items you might like to receive yourself.

While they were plotting their tokens of kindness, I went outside and gathered up an armful of fallen branches, stuffed them in an oversize vase and strung some pretty yarn around them.

The envelopes started making their way back to the 'tree'. Full now with secret goodies inside. Made by one sister for another. A good exercise in thinking for others, not just themselves which is so often the case.

A little sneaky co-ordination has taken place with the rostering of who opens an envelope on which particular day, being sure that the token has been made by another, and so on.

And the opening has commenced! A little origami delight and a handmade chocolaty treat for the youngest made by the middle one. A chewy treat for the dog last night as Sunday is a 'spare day' for us. What will tonight's opening reveal? I can only guess! I love the fact that they have made it for themselves, with more thought put in than could ever go into a cheap supermarket calender. I think there may be a friendship bracelet or two hiding in there, along with a handful of jokes that kids don't seem to tire of. Perhaps even some beads to make a bracelet..but shhh, that's one's just between you and me. The most important thing is that they filled them for each other with thought and love. x

The Advent Tree. A slight change from last year's Wishing Tree. 

Do you craft at this time of year? Do you have a handmade Advent calender? Perhaps it's a beautiful patchwork one, or even a wooden one with little doors? What kind of things do you put inside?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Slow Living - Month 11

I can hardly believe this is month 11!The year has literally flown by and we are feeling ourselves being swept up in the festive whirlwind that the end of year inevitably brings. Join me as I take a look back on the past month, reflecting on different areas of our lives that we are trying to slow down in.

Feel like doing the same? Just leave a link to your blog post written in this format at the bottom of this page and enjoy hopping over to see what others have been up to, hopefully gaining some new ideas and inspiration.  For a detailed description of each category, click here.  

{Nourish}

We have been enjoying the appearance of barbecue dinners once again as the weather warms up and the evenings are still light. Salads are also happening here a lot lately, with a busy schedule they are easy to prepare and totally healthy too! Water kefir came to the rescue this month after a nasty little tummy bug that left me sprawled on the bed and dehydrated. A couple of glasses of the strange brew felt like I was on the mend again, and the thought of those probiotics making their way into my insides made me feel good all over, no joke. :)



{Prepare}
errrr....surely this drought will have to end soon, right? It must, I say. It must!

{Grow}

ok now, lets see! We have pumpkins in, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchinis, button squash, potatoes, beetroot, radish, lettuce, capsicums and eggplants (both the lebanese variety which seem to prefer our cooler climate) and corn scheduled to go in over the next couple of days. Surely out of this we will see some hearty summer harvests? 

Harvestwise, we are consuming garlic, eggs, raspberries, potatoes, radish and  mizuna/lettuce. 




{Reduce}
Gates were a big feature here this month with a poochy companion to contain. All made from scrounged timber and modified to suit. I do love a quirky gate!

{Green}

I have big news to report here...I have been washing my hair with bicarb/baking soda instead of the usual homemade soap! It was the low supplies that caused such an event and I'm pleased to say that it really works! A tablespoon in a cup, dissolved in a little warm water and poured through the hair, massaged well and then followed with a vinegar rinse leaves my hair feeling clean and fresh. And many thanks to the person who suggested aloe vera as a hair de-frizzer last month..I've been trying this too and am totally impressed! So thankYOUU!! 

My daughter also was bitten by the largest bull ant I've ever seen this week and I immediately reached for the lavender oil to soothe the site. This stuff really is miraculous. 


Lastly, our soap stocks were replenished with a morning of soapmaking with a friend..see 'enhance'. 


{Create} 

a few crossovers here such as gates and soap. Things are mostly quiet on the sewing/yarn fronts with energy being focused elsewhere. 


{Discover}
Over the past month I've been discovering my own neighbourhood! It's only taken me 6 years to do so, but walking a dog is the best way to get out and explore your immediate surrounds. I am covering areas I didn't know existed and am keeping fit at the same time! A new app: mytracks is fantastic for keeping me up to date with my speeds, routes and various other statistics. 

Online, I recently came across an inspiring blog started by a couple who have ridden up the east coast of Australia on their push bikes, researching slow living, sustainability and self-sufficiency along the way. For more info, see here: Simple Lives. Very inspiring, I'm looking forward to reading more of this interesting journey soon. 




{Enhance}
This month I helped out at two of my daughters school camps, one being a practice bike ride before they embarked on their 'real thing' the following week. We were lucky as the weather was glorious and the 40 kids or so cycling were a dream. 
I also supported our local neighbourhood house by booking a stall at their pre-Christmas craft market - a lovely morning was spent chatting with a friend who shared my stall. 

The same friend also came around one morning and we spent some time making several batches of soap to hopefully cure in time for Christmas. It was lovely to pass on my knowledge that I have gained in this area so far and watch as she became inspired to try different combinations in the future. We made four batches of cold pressed soap and split them to end up with an assortment of each. Our soaps made were: Oatmeal and Honey, Lavender and Rosemary infusion, Garden herb (made by grinding up her gorgeous pot pourri and a Calendula and Chamomile - also made by grinding up the dried herbs (grown in our vegetable gardens). 




{Enjoy}
November saw the return of warm days at last (!), loads of doggie walks, veggie group sessions with abundant cakes and gardens exploding into growth, not to mention Oma's birthday!

I also enjoyed a trip into the city with my youngest to see the Christmas windows and we took the chance to stroll through the Queen Victoria markets on the way back, stocking up with fruit along the way. One on one time with one of your own is so important and something we should do more of, they just love it!






How were things in your world, this month?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Garden update - Nov 2012

Gosh it really has been the longest time since I've done a garden update! My reasoning is that the Slow Living catch ups each month take care of it. But it's so nice to look back over the months..(years even!), and see the changes that have evolved in our outdoor space..

Garlic is out!
After neglecting to water it during a dry patch, our garlic decreed it was time to be pulled by doing the predictable yellowing of the leaves and inevitable flop. Oh well, the bulbs are not as large as last year's, but with close to 200 of them, they should be enough to see us through the next twelve months.

Ladders have been implemented in the hopes of rampant pumpkin vines. I have several varieties planted here and after a meager pumpkin harvest last year, am hoping for the best..

Our first quinices ever! I do hope they'll stick around and not do that fruit drop that seems to happen so often with other young fruit trees..

Oh, look, a gate! Made from scrounged twigs from our property. A most time consuming exercise, but charming I suppose, in it's own rustic way..
Let's hope it stands up to the rigours of a funny little dog..

Cherries are turning. This variety is a Sunburst..I think! They seem to have survived the attack of the black aphids - picking off infected new growth and applying sticky bands to the trunks seemed to do the trick.

The raspberry walk this year is actually that - an unobstructed walk! This is quite a step up from last year's jungle scramble..
Hooping the canes has helped enormously in keeping them contained. And oh, look at that..would that be another quirky gate made by yours truly? I think it might be. I do love a gate made from scrounged materials.


First currants ever, exciting!

Tomatoes are growing well, given their semi shaded position..

And strawberries always seem to perform better for me in pots and planter boxes rather than the ground. I can see a project of strawberry planter boxes happening sometime in my not too distant future..

I hope you're enjoying your garden as much as I am here! There seems to be so much to do at this time of year, but a little each day slowly marks the 'to-do's' off the list.

Fingers and toes crossed for abundant summer harvests! :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fitting the 'slow' into our fast paced lives.

I've been enjoying a little bit of time away from the blog lately, and as a result the quiet headspace that comes with such a break. Thoughts seem to flow much better when I am unplugged. Ideas form and solutions to otherwise impossible problems seem more accomplish-able (a word?).

It did however, get me to thinking just how much we try and pack into our 'slow' lives. Speaking from my own perspective, I know how hard it is to stay true to one's values and ideals while trying to fit everything else in that our fast pace world throws at us. If only our schools, workplaces and communities would oblige things would be so much easier! But they don't, and they aren't so we find ourselves forming our own way of a slow existence that works uniquely for us.

For instance, take the work that happens inside the home for those embarking (and already) on the slow living path. Household cleaners, body products and homemade gifts. Not to mention edibles - homemade yoghurt, cheese and other dairy delights, bread made from scratch and homemade stock to boot! It never seems to end and is something I consider a full time job in itself. I really do take my hat off to couples (and singles too!), working outside of the home, raising a family and staying true to their own slow living values. Or those working inside the home, raising a family and homeschooling no less.

Where does it all fit in?

Does something have to give to include a new 'necessary' function for the home, a 'must have' for the well being of the inhabitants? Speaking for myself, I find it incredibly challenging trying to fit in all the 'necessary' home jobs, let alone managing to fit in anything extra, such as a little vegetable gardening on the side, fruit tree tending, entertaining thoughts of keeping a milking goat and so on. Not to mention a touch of creativity for the soul along the way. And property maintenance! Lets not even go there. Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a time when we will 'catch up', a time when the property will be functioning in such a way that only minimal maintenance is required and systems are well and truly in place for growing and harvesting our own food. That is my dream day, oh yes!


So getting back to my original thoughts on how to balance out a slow life in a fast paced world, I jot down a few notes for my own reference. If they happen to help you out a little too, then so much the better.

1. Do not be too hard on yourself, you are only human and can only do so much in a day! Very important to remember.

2. When things just don't seem manageable on the home front, it is OK to purchase!. Ethically of course, but perfectly OK!! Farmers markets, local fruit, vegetable and meat growers, roadside stands, whatever is your thing. Ditto for handmade gifts, wouldn't it be lovely to have a fully stocked 'gift larder'? But when life throws you hectic times, buying local and handmade is nearly as good for the soul as making something yourself. Support local bakers, makers and hand crafters. If you yourself are one, you will know first hand how much effort, time and thought goes into making something to sell.

3. Laugh. Sometimes no other response is needed. Enjoy this crazy ride we call Life and learn from it. We all make mistakes and the most important thing is to learn from them, as cliche as that sounds. It's true!

4. Prioritise. Prioritise. Prioritise. Yes it's obvious, but do what's most important today, and work down the list for the week. Some things can go untouched for ages, as they slowly move up that list of priorities. You will know when it's the right time to get onto it :)

5. I'm a big one for bulk tasking. Washing, cooking, gardening. It saves so much time from flitting between tasks when you focus on the one thing for a good solid couple of hours. Well, perhaps not washing, I don't think I could focus on washing for that long! But it's true that I prefer to wash in loads in a particular day rather than scatter it out over a series of days. Cooking is a big one here and I really need to follow my own advice more and double batch cook meals more often. This saves so much time, stress and washing up, it is well worth doing on a regular basis.

6. Following on from 5, menu planning. Something I really need to get back to. Things just seem to function much more harmoniously when there is a plan for the week. None of that five o'clock stress about what to suddenly whip out for dinner. The meals themselves also seem to be much more enjoyed and well received when they've been plotted and planned. Yes, best get onto that. ;)

7. Plan out the tasks for the week and write them down. Try to check off at least one 'forward progress' task a day. By this I mean, something out of the ordinary routine of life of meals, washing, transporting children,  work and so on (fast paced life, remember?). Get to that batch of soap that you've been meaning to make for months. Less time will be spent actually making it than the time you've wasted stewing over getting around to it! Very true. Dig over that new garden bed, it will take an hour, tops! Tomorrow, paint that gate and the following day, hang it! Forward progress people, a little each day will get us to where we want to be. ;)

8, 9 and 10 + - Tell me your tips, I would love to hear!

I think we could all learn from each other here, so please share your tips for how you go about keeping true to your Slow Living values while wading through the busyness of life. You're a clever bunch, the monthly Slow Living catch ups reinforces this every time!



Enjoy your Monday out there, peepsicles.  :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Smoke signals

The weeks have been crazy busy around here. There are summer plantings to go in, hectic schedules for end of year activities, a handful of markets to attend (and prepare for!) and a new dog to keep us (me!) busy! Not to mention all the mundane jobs around the house that never seem to go away,  meals to cook and a dog enclosure to create! You get the picture, don't you. I'm sure it's quite the same at your place, this end of year bustle that won't see relief until the quiet days of January.

On the plus side, I did manage to plant 50 tomato seedlings grown in newspaper pots last week, which I was so pleased to do. My dream is to one day grow enough tomatoes to bottle, and, being occupants of a shady property I figure the more plants the better in the hopes of getting (abundant, shhh, don't want to jink it) fruit! Let's hope so, anyway..


In between times, we have been eating loads of leeks from the garden, along with carrots and silverbeet. In fact, I cleared a bed in preparation for some tomatoes and in the process filled the fridge! Don't you just love 'shopping' from your own backyard? My favourite way to use up assorted garden offerings is still our ever trusty standby, garden harvest fried rice...
{sage}
A woolly package was sent off to some new parents in the family. I have to say I was relieved to get this project completed. Knitting, or rather finding the time for it, seems like such a luxury right now..
Checkheaton baby 4 ply merino. With little time or patience to spend on a detailed pattern right now, I followed the 'colour as the focus' line of thinking. I'm really liking variegations in this yarn! 

Poppies are arriving. Whoop!


The 11yo and I each had a stall at a local market today. It was great fun as her chum came too, as well as The Chum's mum, my good kefir sharing friend who is also a wonderful vegetable gardener. She also happens to make the most divine pot pourri, all grown without chemicals in her own garden and dried with the utmost care. We enjoyed sharing a stall together..

It was so nice to sit and catch up, do a spot of Christmas shopping and enjoy each others company. The time just seemed to disappear!


It's been nice to fire up the little chiminea again and cooking in it is such fun!
Today it was pizzas. A batch of dough made with 600g of flour is enough to make four medium thin crust pizzas for us..just right for a garlic one for a starter, one for the tweens to share, a mamma creation and a pappa one to his liking! With enough for lunchy leftovers the following day. ;) I honestly can't remember the last time we ate a takeaway pizza! 

'Smoke signals' are always the highlight of such dinners. No sooner is the chimney lit, there are hands stuffing twigs in there, waiting for them to heat up and start to burn, only to extinguish them to form the much loved 'signals' to wave about in the breeze. One of the many benefits of eating outside, which we are loving doing with some warmer weather making an appearance here lately.

Enjoy the weekend out there, people! (Are things crazy busy at your place too?)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Slow Living 2012 - Month 10

It's that time again! Time to look back on the past month and note achievements and progress of all things Slow.  If you feel inclined to join in, please do! Just leave a link to your blog post written in this format at the bottom of this page and enjoy hopping over to see what others have been up to, hopefully gaining some new ideas and inspiration.  For a detailed description of each category, click here.  


{Nourish} I'm embarrassed to say but this has been The Month of the Cake. There is a good reason though, it happens to be the birthday month around here. On the plus side, we have been consuming LOADS of kefir, both of the milk and water variety, which surely has to have a positive counter effect, right?


{Prepare} Aha, yep, as with last month, zilcho! Really, this is not preserving/bottling season around here! Does taste testing a few of hubby's home brew offerings count? All for evaluation purposes, of course ;)

{Grow} Tomato and pumpkin seedlings are going well and will hopefully be planted out in the next week or two. I must make an effort and put some zucchini and bean seeds in this week. I've noticed that the cherry trees have tiny fruit on them and made a ghastly discovery yesterday in the form of black aphids! They were clearly being farmed by a substantial population of ants so I have made an attempt at a couple of homemade 'sticky bands', which will hopefully keep the ants down on the ground where they belong!

We are currently harvesting silverbeet (still, ugh!), lettuce, leeks, carrots (just! They are about to go to seed), parsley, kale, spring onions and celery. Oh, and eggs. Plenty of eggs! I really don't know what I'd do if we didn't have eggs..


{Reduce} I happened to scrounge a handful of fence posts this month after sighting them on the side of the road with a 'free' sign attached! It couldn't be better timing as we need to install three gates to secure the backyard into a dog home zone. Newspaper pots were made for starting off seedlings but my most favourite scrounge of all this month was a new/old sewing machine. I do have a soft spot for sewing machines from previous eras and just could not walk past this little gem in the op shop when I discovered they were having a half price sale! $20 and it actually still does zig-zag, which is more than I can say for my later model Janome!


{Green} I've made a big effort this month to cut back on driving where I can. We have ridden to school and the shops on a few occasions and when we are running short on time on other days, will drive half way to school and walk the rest of the way, doing the same in the afternoon (it's actually a little too far to walk all the way!). Keeping a dog is the best exercise motivator around! 

I have also been reaching for the bicarb as a natural deodorant as the weather warmed up and this week I had the comfrey ointment by my side after I ridiculously pulled a back muscle while making the bed. Pfft! I know, absolutley ridiculous. Using the ointment, I was back to my normal self in just two days. 

Create
Loads of sewing took place this month (on the new/old sewing machine, whoop!), plus a little knitting. I finished a dress that had been on the backburner for way too long that I wore to a wedding and I also managed to crochet up a few coat hanger covers, which was a complete first for me! I remember my nana making similar covers to fund raise for fetes! 



{Discover} I am SO enjoying revisiting cherished sewing patterns from my stash - in particular the Enid Gilchrist designs. There is something so satisfying about drafting up patterns onto brown paper! I have also been studying a book I found in the bookcase - The New Dog Handbook, which is full of loads of useful info on all things doggy. I also was introduced to an interesting site: Herbs and Oils World when I had my homemade comfrey ointment featured there.


{Enhance} October saw action at spinning group, the local show, veggie group and the Suitcase Rummage. All enjoyable events out in the community.

{Enjoy} Last month was a huge month, enjoyement wise - hence my sporadic posting of late. Tween birthdays, an interstate wedding, a  poochy pal, an ugly frock party, school productions and Oma's Halloween celebrations were all on the agenda. Yes, a fun filled, action packed month indeed! Life is good.


So, tell me, how was YOUR month?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Of Late..

Of late, we've been walking our new companion, Harry, regularly. Trying to incorporate a little exercise into the everyday, a poochy pal is surely the best way to do it!

He is settling in so well with us, I couldn't be happier. He is currently on the eldest's bed snoozing, tonight it may be the middle tween's and then tomorrow, it will most likely be the youngest's. Nothing like a roster to keep things in check. My only concern is our front fencing and the cars that like to speed around the bend. Until I can sort out a solution, he is on a retractable lead when outside with us, and then let free inside the house. He loves a trip to school and is slowly sniffing out the neighbourhood (and leaving his mark!). 

New yarnings were cast on...

In the form of a vintage vest pattern. It's been a while since I've done any knitting and the arrival of a new baby in the extended family was enough motivation to get the needles out again!


Strange things continue to brew on the kitchen bench...
{water kefir}

I have been crazily sewing up little girls smocks to sell!

I think I am fast becoming addicted to fabrics from yesteryear, I find them so sweet! Last weekend saw the Suitcase Rummage back in town and I took myself, the 11yo and her chum down for the day where we enjoyed a fun day out..
It was lovely to meet a reader of my blog (hello out there!) and have a little chat, as well as talk to a lovely blogger who had her stall close to mine. Several stall holders had returned from the previous rummage and it was a really nice feeling of a growing community.

After the 11yo's stall commenced with a quiet start last month, it really went off this time around! She sold out of her origami cranes on string and had quite a few takers for some cards and origami fortune cookies! As you can imagine she was totally stoked and absolutely made her day!

This week I have been a tourist in my own town.

Do you ever do this? I can't remember the last time I was up at the top of the mountain viewing the lookout, but with my mum entertaining an overseas visitor, it was a great excuse to join them.

And there is nothing quite like a friend's 40th birthday celebration calling everyone to wear their 'Ugly Frocks' to get one feeling good!
A houseful of guests in their ugliest, most hideous frocks (or shirts), their 'formal thing gone wrong', was a most successful recipe for a party!

Enjoy your Sunday, people!

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