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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Three Part Harmony

If you are ever stuck for an idea for a card, you can always fall back on a classic "recipe"
3 colours / 3 elements / 3 parts.
I've spoken about the power of three in my other posts on "Accenting on a Budget".
If you limit yourself to three colours, you really can't go too far wrong. In retrospect, most of my disasters are because I have tried to add too much. Again a good formula is to pick three colours similarly placed on the colour wheel, or two similar and an opposite for accent.
In this card, I have divided the space by three, used three colours and the three part quote was a happy co-incidence. I have used three elements; metal (pin), water (ribbon) and air (feather) 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Autumnal Change

We've had our Indian Summer and Autumn is here. Time for a change to match my frame of mind.
This is the dinnerset I bought in Oatlands at the beginning of the month. It's a totally sentimental buy.
Its made by J & G Meakin and called "Chinese Lanterns" from the Studio range, made around 1960.

When I was about five years old, I can remember visiting one of my mother's uncles in Toowoomba. My brothers and I squatted in his vegie patch delighting in these fruits that we called Cape Gooseberries. Bitter sweet bite sized golden orbs encased in dried papery sheathes. To me they were right out of the fairy story books that my mother used to read to us about fairies painting damson plums and dressing themselves in these papery lanterns.

Mixed in is the mustard coloured Bessemerware that my maternal grandmother used everyday. I loved the bowls and oval plates when I was growing up, perfect sizes and easy to handle for young hands. The orange crotched doily was made by my paternal grandmother and I have never had an opportunity to use it before (not an easy colour to work with) so I feel very nostalgic and also very cosy with the bright colours of Autumn to cheer us. They seem to glow against the wood.

When you look closely (you can click on the top picture for a closer look) you'll see the little characters have also changed. These are from the days when I worked for Royal Doulton.
 This is definitely the last dinnerset though because I haven't got anymore storage room!

Thrifty Household Economics

It's very rare for us to go to the "big" stores. A lot of food we source from the garden, fresh in season and stored for out of season. So far I have bottled (canned) 100kg of food this summer.
I buy flour, vinegar spices and delicatescen type items from the local hospitality supply store once every couple of months. Incidentals we buy from the local corner store (who is quite competitively priced and stocks a lot of Australia made product).
As for cleaning products I use mostly water and enjo cloths. We buy washing powder in a big 20kg bucket when it is on sale at the hardware store. For ways to make washing powder go further see my click here for my Laundry post
We use one box of cling wrap a year (usually covering platters) as we use Tupperware for food storage and food transportation.
I don't miss shopping in those supermarkets one bit! 
A lot of what we buy is in bulk; it's cheaper that way, it uses less packaging and it takes less freighting (ie: I use petrol economically to fetch it less often and less packaging to dispose of too), it has less of an environmental footprint this way.
There is no use driving across town chasing specials if you are going to spend $10 on petrol "saving" money!
There are two requirements for shopping this way; planning and flexibility.
You need somewhere to store bulk items for a start. You can't buy 10kg of flour and then put it in the garage, you have to store it so that it is accessable and vermin proof. Through trial and error you get to know very quickly the quantities you need to get you from month to month.
I say flexibility, because sometimes you will see something on sale that may not have been in the budget but is going to save you a heap in the long term.
For instance; I bought 1kg of peppercorns for $10 because the bag was an end line and it was split. The peppercorns weren't going to go off, but I did have to find $10 in my tight budget. The average supermarket price for peppercorns is $1/10gm....THAT'S $100 PER KILO buying it that way!!!
Another thing I do is to go halves in some larger items with family members; like a whole ham or a wheel of cheese etc.
So be prepared but flexible if you can. Know what you can store. Know what things cost.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Decorating Candles

These are another great idea for the presant box. I bought quality plain cream candles from IKEA and using rubber stamps and tissue and wax paper, created unique personalised gifts for a fraction of the cost from a lifestyle store.
It's better to spend the extra on a quality candle as you will get a more professional look. Buy a discount store candle and even with the embellishment, it's still going to look like a discount candle and they don't burn as well either.

It's a really easy technique found here using a heat embossing tool, so supervision for that part is recommended for children, but it is a creative project that they would enjoy.
These make great Christmas gifts and remember Mother's Day coming up soon too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Knit With Me

Knee rugs and bed blankets are one of the most common ways to use up wool remnants and over the years I have crotched many. When I came across this stitches pattern book it gave me just the resource I needed to make a knitted patchwork rug. There is nothing nicer than a sampler.
Won't you knit with me?
I've no real plans other than I have a lot of 8ply leftovers and a lot of blue tones. I propose to use needles 3.75mm-4.5mm depending on the wool type and bulk. I rather think the squares will vary in square size but that's all part of the patchwork and scrap idea.
If you can knit and purl, you'll be able to manage these squares. If you have any furry wool remnants like "feathers" then use it for plain knit stitch pieces. Plain wool plys will showcase the patterns beautifully.

Something simple to start off. A 7 x 3 flat rib
For my first square I'm casting on 47 stitches.
Row 1: *K7, P3* ending with K7
Row 2: *P7, K3* ending with P7
Repeat these two rows till you have a square (it measures the same across as it does up)
I'm starting off with a cobalt blue Aarlan Royal leftover and a pair of 3.75mm needles.
I plan to knit a square a week at least......hopefully....
Come knit with me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Edible Ornamantals

These days the design focus in the garden has changed so much that we no longer purchase ornamentals for the garden. Everything coming into the garden now is edible (the exception being the "fairy walk" I am developing for future grandchildren). It is still possible to have formality and pretty borders though.
These garlic chives have been a lovely lush green grassy edge that we have regularly raided for colour and flavour, especially for our egg dishes and home grown potatoes. Just look how pretty they are now with their pretty delicate white flowers. Graceful enough for any formal bed and very, very low maintenance. Of course a packet of seed for these is very inexpensive too.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pop Art Plate

Looks a bit like Pop Art!
We had friends over for dinner and made a side of mixed tomato vatieties with Spanish Onion. 
Super simple dish but was a real stunner at the table.
The magenta of the onion rings offset perfectly the various reds and golds of the tomatoes. 
A plain white plate lets these colours do all the talking.
The varieties here include; Beefsteak, Oxheart (the most amazing aroma), Grosse Lisse, Roma, Hillbilly (gorgeous gold) and another cherry variety that is a stunning rose pink.

Now is the time to reflect on the best plants and their fruiting characteristics and save seed.
has a really great article about saving tomato seed.
Soon I will post the pattern and examples of the seed packets I make for my saved seed which also make great presents for keen gardeners

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Modern Conveniences

Still picking beans! The Blue Lake and the Scarlett Runners are coming towards the end but the Purple King's are just starting. There is no room in the freezer so am bottling (canning) them now.
To help me get through these mountains, I have purchased a modern convenience.....

It powers through those beans in time and having the two slots is particularly good because I have such a broad variety of beans.
When Craig had it pulled apart for some maintenance and sharpening, we marvelled at the beauty of the design. It is mainly iron cast in the one piece. We mused for some time about a designer, creating the moulds and about the processes required. Our hands lingered over the grindings that someone did to finish off the rough edges before everything was painted and assembled.
It has a label on the side, "SPONG made in England"
 Things are still manufactured today of course but not quite in the same way as a piece like this.
I wonder often, if with all our new found technology in manufacture, we aren't losing lots of valuable skills to our detriment.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dolls Dresses

Recently a vivid memory hit me out of the blue and it inspired me to write to my Aunt and share it with her.
It had occurred to me that she probably had no idea that she was instrumental in such treasured childhood memories.
When I was little, about 5yrs of age, my mother's sister, who had three little girls of her own, made me some beautiful dolls clothes for the doll I called Hambel (yes after the doll on Playschool!). She was about 12" and the hard plastic type with closing eyes.
The two dresses I remember vividly were like the one above in fig.A. One was a blue floral and the other an orange floral with a bit of lace trim, very typical pattern types of the late 60's. They had press-stud closures at the back and I loved to dress and undress my dolly, I felt like such a caring mother.
Regularly I would ask mother for a bucket of soapy water to wash my dolls clothes, just like a good mother, and hang them out to dry on my mini clothes line.
I got a phone call from my Aunt a few weeks later (I had forgotten about my quick note of shared memory) and she told me how touched she had been and also the tears that had come to my Uncle's eyes when she read this memory to him. We laughed and talked and shared: her memory was sewing all those fiddly press studs! I told her how much I loved them and how wonderful it was for tiny fingers, snapping them shut with satisfaction.
Something so little and inconsequential....something so instrumental and bonding.
There is much debate now about children mimicking such stereotypical behaviour in play.
It dismays me that motherhood and housekeeping are not valued aspirations or valued roles.
 I would be even more dismayed if I hadn't remembered to tell my Aunt how much I loved her thank her for the memories in my life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Card Making

My style of card making is collage. I'm always on the look out for things to re-purpose and I love to swoop when Craig is clearing out his wardrobe. He wears his work clothes till they are rags, so the only pieces worth salvaging are the labels and buttons.

Have you ever noticed how beautiful some labels are? Some of them are small works of art in their own right. Gets me to wondering about the people who must have the job of "label designer". Someone has to design the size and colours, the decorative motifs and the information.

The card above also includes some of the inner-pocket calico type fabric which had worn quite soft and thin as you would imagine, and I was able to stamp right onto it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finding the Moment

I've made it a practice, every single day, to find one moment.....
the one that goes with....
"It doesn't get any better than this...."

If you look for one moment everyday where you can apply this sentiment, then you will know contentment and bring the balance and perspective back into your world. It doesn't take any time and it's free.
We all have bad days, but in amongst that 24hrs, I know there is always a moment of bliss, or contentment, or beauty, or satisfaction.....
Sometimes it's the pleasure of crisp white sheets dried in the breeze, stiff on the bed and smelling of pure
The smell of fresh baked bread through the house...or even better....buttered still hot.
That wonderful feeling of "good" weariness after a job well done. Sometimes it's just the feeling of sheer satisfaction!
Or your aching feet cooling off in a bucket of water!

Or it's the simple beauty in our surroundings.....
You start to realise just how easily you can find pleasure and find a reason to be grateful.
It's focusing on the small things....
perhaps it's the very everyday things that we take for granted that are the most awesome.
When you find such a moment don't forget to say...
"It doesn't get any better than this...."
it's one of the most powerful positive (and very Aussie) things to say.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mariner Shells

Sunday was "poodle picnic" day. About every six weeks, we get together with the other dogs from Bella and Lucy's litter at Kelso Beach, close to the mouth of the Tamar river. When the tide is out, the flats extend for a long way and you can see Bass Straight and the Low Head lighthouse across the way.

We always pack a gourmet picnic and it's only a very earnest rain that will keep us away. The dogs run for miles chasing birds they will never catch, splashing through warm shallows and picking up scents. It is a fascinating beach for combing because of the variety of things washed upon the shore. We particularly spend hours looking for the tiny mariner shells as seen above. These grow on a type of seaweed and have luminous shimmering colours. The tradition of stringing mariner shell necklaces is a very old aboriginal custom handed down by the Palawa women. It is a particular skill practiced by only a few Flinder's Island women elders. The shells require cleaning and grading and are strung in patterns and take many hundreds to make a necklace. In the old days they would have used sinews from the kangaroo's tail.

It is thoroughly engrossing and mesmerising, catching glimpses of colour like a flashing peacock feather, ever so tiny. These shells above are no bigger than my little fingernail.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Accenting on a Budget Part 2

In the previous post, I talked about colour, harmony, balance, the elements and the power of three.
There is another "3" that the human eye naturally prefers when processing visually, and that is triangles.
The eye prefers to alight and view easily a group that relates well in structure, texture and colour but is particularly pleased by varying heights that naturally step the eye up. It doesn't have to work hard and can visually process the group quickly for interpretation by the brain. The eye likes to see and flow, not jump around from object to object.

Monochromatic schemes are particularly easy and pleasing; that is a scheme of different shades of one similar colour group. This way you can particularly play on texture. For an accent, a couple of pieces in the colour that is opposite on the colour wheel to your main one will always co-ordinate. One of the interesting
things about the eye is that it looks for the opposite colour naturally when confronted by the intensity of one. This can be seen in operating theatres: the bright intense red of blood under bright lights has people seeing green spots before their eyes and can lead to dizziness and nausea. By providing drapes and gowns in green, the eye is "rested" from the intense red and is automatically pleased with the counteracting colour it needs.

Again the above is achieved very inexpensively with vases and curios teamed with candles and pebbles and cloth. When the season changes, I too will want to see warmer tones around me. I'll put away the blue hues and perhaps bring out some orange or chocolate. Instead of shells, I might use pine cones, seed pods and woollen knits.

I remember a time many years ago when on an outing, a picnic or somesuch, we were travelling by bus because having a car was an expense down the priority list. One of my daughters said to me,
"We're really pov (poor) aren't we Mum?"
I replied to her then (and believe it firmly still),"We may be poor, but we will never be poor in spirit".
Though you may be striving for a simpler life, with less consumerism and more frugality, do still nourish the spirit and surround yourself with beauty and simple inspirations. It makes your house a home. It makes me a happy homemaker.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Accenting on a budget

I've said it before,
I'm a visual person.
I like to see beautiful things in harmony. I like colour and texture and you also know already about my passion for china collecting. I like to see things ebb and flow with the seasons. I know I am not alone here because there are millions of lifestyle and home magazines sold every month.  Much of that is about the treadmill of consumerism, which is not all bad; the economy of countires is built on supply and demand, the needs and wants of consumers. The only danger is if you lose your sense of priority and buy into the whole "x is out and y is now the new thing", then we become societies of throw away.

So to keep it fresh and interesting here in my nest without spending a fortune, I revolve and re-invent. Yesterday's teapot is tomorrow's vase, and we all know you can never have too many vases. I was in retailing in for many years and know a thing or two about visually selling. There is an order to things that the human eye looks for. Colour has a huge effect on us psychologically and physiologically, but that's for another day.

Summer decorating is usually dictated by whatever theme we have decided for Christmas. Last year coming out of winter I really felt compelled to surround myself with yellow and white teal blues. I wanted the feeling of the beach, the freshness of a sea breeze and the scruch of white sand, the texture of driftwood and pebbles and the patterns of shells. 

In the bathroom, instead of a vase of flowers, I chose to fill it with shells and coral etc. covered with water to accentuate their colour and luminosity. I tip and re-fresh the water every week and it makes me feel cool just walking into the room.
The photo at the beginning of the post is the cetrepiece of the dining table this season. It's a woven placemat that I bought so cheaply years ago as an oddment of three, and I can't tell you how much use I have had from these odd three. The candles are set in white sand and look just as effective if they were in jam jars but the secret is three. The eye is happy to see things in groups of odd numbers; it is especially happy with trios. The pice of cork driftwood is to "ground" the centrpiece. I have found that people unconsciously are happy to see a harmony of earth/wood,wind, fire, water and metal. How many times have you said, "hmm there is something missing..." I bet if you look at it with fresh eyes, you'll realise it was your own inner spirit looking for balance.
So the water...(in a fashion) free...the inconsequentials....inexpensive ages old pieces. I spent nothing for a new look.

So today I leave you with the these things to ponder; the effect of colour in our surrounds, the power of three, and the harmony of elemental composition. How many times have you seen it in everyday life? How often have you unconsciously used colour, balance and harmony? Have you ever thought that a pure stainless steel kitchen leaves you cold (not enough earth/wood)? Consumerism isn't a totally evil thing, you just shouldn't totally buy into it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Most Asked for Recipe

I make this Apricot Loaf a lot.
Translucent orange orbs slightly gooey contrasted with the meaty crunch of a pumpkin seed kernal.
It has no butter, no eggs and it's a very flexible recipe that I fiddle depending on what's in the cupboard.
It can be frozen or it keeps for days.
It travels well.
It is healthy, wholesome and great for lunchboxes.
It can be sliced and buttered but we love it plain and simple.

It's humble looks are very deceiving, and thats why, as soon anyone bites into it,
it's my Most Asked for Recipe.

3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin seed kernals
1 cup of All-Bran or crushed Weet-bix
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 1/2 cups of self raising flour
1 1/2 cups of milk

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the milk and mix. Bake in a greased loaf tin in a moderate oven for about
50-60 mins. Stand in the pan for 5 mins and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.....
(though this cake is often cut warm too in our house)

To fiddle; you can cut back the sugar, you can use skim milk if preferred. I have been known to use Cornflakes or Bran flakes if thats all there is to hand but I would increase the ammount by an additional half cup. I've used dates, sultanas, cranberries. I've used chopped almonds, sunlower kernals, pecans, macadamias....
If you use wholemeal flour, splash in a little more milk.
I have never substituted the coconut or the rolled oats. I have not fiddled this for a gluten free version.
I have been making this cake for 25 years now and don't even remember where it came from but I hope it will keep you in good stead too when you are raiding the store cupboard to whip up something quick.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oatlands Tasmania

I went to Oatlands today, which is in the midlands. I went on a whim and chasing another dinnerset!
It is a very old and picturesque town with lots of churches and sandstone buildings.
I was utterly captivated by this gorgeous gate.
Where does it lead? What was it for? Was it a loading dock or were there once steps?
I adore gates....especially mystery ones.
Look at the work that has gone into this....the measuring, the bending the welding. It's a work of art and an art that is becoming more and more rare.....
DON"T get me started on that stone work!

Another beautiful find in Oatlands was the Companion Bakery. They are dedicated to making bread in true artisan fashion. They use organic flour with their own fermented levening process and then cooked in an original wood fired oven. The trip is worth it for the pide bread alone which mt mother and I devoured on the way home. Salty, tangy, oily and subtle rosemary. The town has almost got the original flour mill working ( a distinctive landmark of the town) and it will be the perfect compliment for this dedicated bakery team for a true slow food process.

Australia's third oldest flour mill (1837), standing 50ft tall and with walls 2ft thick. Soon to grind again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Apple Isle

This is how my apple tree looked last year. Loaded to the hilt, plenty for us and plenty for the parrots and many other birds in the upper branches. This year it's a different story after Craig pruned the tree. Tasmania is also known as "The Apple Isle" and once was the major exporter of apples to Europe until the 1970's. Half of those orchards have disappeared now but apple trees love and thrive in the Tasmanian climate.

A lot of Craig's work is as team leader for crews of tree planters. Many of the people who work for him are back packers and come from many different countries. The work is hard and often mountainous and physically demanding but they get to see a lot of spectacular scenery and close encounters with wildlife. On the way home from the bush, Craig will spot an apple tree growing on the side of the road and stop the trouppie for everyone to pick apples. A really refreshing treat for weary workers.

These trees are sprung mainly from apple cores thrown from passing cars. Most people wizz by, never knowing they are there. These apples are great to cook with. Kevin West who writes Saving the Season suggests making Apple Jelly with Chardonnay and Cloves . I just love his blog and his passion for flavour experiments and the rejoicing in heirloom varieties.

If you live in Tasmania, make a plan to search your minor highways and roads. Take the family for a picnic and gather some apples. I will tell you that there are a number of trees along the road from Exeter to Winkleigh and along the Frankford Hwy too. Remember to be safe on the roadside, don't hinder any passing traffic and be mindful of others property and don't climb farmer's fences. You'll need to take a basket, a hat, your sense of adventure and a step would be handy too.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Assimilation in the Fowl Yard

The chicks are now eight weeks old are becoming hardier. In the last week they have started to put themselves to bed at twilight and bed down for the night as a group with established sleeping positions. Prior to this they would be awake and sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night. It was not unusual to hear them chirruping away at 2am, playing and eating. There used to be lots of jostling and a continually changing sleeping circle.

The shed on the left is where the large girls roost and lay. It is made of tin and fully wood lined inside. During the winter, bales of straw are piled along the exposed sides for added insulation.

The fencing type of set up on the right of the picture is the chick's expanded home. It is fully enclosed with wire to protect against predators and also has a tin shelter with a light that is still permanently on day and night. This week we will start withdrawing the light but gradually raising it further and further away from the chicks. They now have their primary feathers and an established sleep pattern.

Both fowl and chicks have been able to see each other for the last couple of weeks through the fence. In the afternoons now, the chicks enclosure is opened and the fowl have been mixing freely. We have been very surprised that there hasn't been any pecking. At this stage there is no serious competition for food or sleeping perches, even so, we thought there would be some dominance displays. It won't be long though before the cocks start to realise they are different....hopefully not for another 4-5 weeks yet.

I was photographing them at very late afternoon, hoping that the camera could pick up the irredescent purple and brilliant blue green sheen that gleams in the sun on their glossy black feathers. Unfortunately I was unable to capture the colours.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pterodactyls and Sail Boats

Another job crossed off the list. I have done some more singlets in size 0 which is a popular size. When I was having babies it was all pastels, sailboats and 3ply wool. Now people like bright and conversational.

When I was 5, I had NO idea what a Pterodactyl was....come to think of it, I don't think I even knew what a generic dinosaur was. But I did know about Flowerpot Men and Big Bird (the yellow talking kind as opposed to the Pterodactyl)

I have a knitting project I really want to do but I have told myself I must finish off a couple of jobs before I can begin it. So the next thing on the finish list is a boys jumper that I put away last winter having completed the front and back. I was knitting it for the charity that was taking jumpers to an icy Tundra somewhere but the charity folded. Luckily I know a beautiful 10 yr old Tasmanian boy whom I think will love it and find it useful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Remedy for Chickens

This is a big jar of medecine for the chickens.....
It's raspberries mashed into water and is a great cure for diahorrea in chooks.
The little chickens have been going nuts over the not so fabulous tomatoes and I think this is what has led to some loose motions.
So they are back on pure grain and the raspberry added to the drinking water. This fixes them within 12-24 hours and they LOVE raspberries even more than tomatoes.
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