Monday, February 20, 2017

I was inspired

I was inspired by a picture of a quilt in the facebook group "Quiltville Open studio" and I have reinterpreted what I saw. I wasn't going to start something else until the mountains quilt was done, but I thought I would tidy up my solid scraps and started cutting! Here is what happened. It is up on the design wall and is called "Cheer up!". I am thinking of yellow and black 9 patches as a border. It is making me happy just looking at it. 

In other quilty news, I have pinned my mountains quilt. Dora took quite a shine to it! 

Just a posy of hydrangeas from the garden in a op shopped vase.
Because I can!

Oh, and finally -I am thinking about putting another page in the blog, to store my favourite thrifty recipes. I made a wonderful Sri Lankan pumpkin curry the other night that included making curry powder from scratch. It was fragrant and wonderful! Will see how I go, but it would be a way to keep them in one place and share them at the same time.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Back from the Mountains of Mordor

Do you  name your quilts? I find that my quilt often gets a nickname as I sew. This one has been the "mountains of Mordor" from the Lord of the Rings novel, in which the hobbits travel away from safety in their valley to the dark mountains where all kinds of nastyness dwells.

As you will read from here  I had some problems with these blocks which are made from op shopped shirts. In fact,  I nearly threw them in the bin! After all, this is my hobby, and if it doesn't bring me joy, well I have the right to stop!

After a while I thought I would see if I could resurrect them with a setting which would give them some wriggle room. Creativity emerges out of difficulty, I find!

I added a scrappy border and am quite pleased with the result.

There are mountains with the light behind them, and mountains lit up with dark skies, and low-contrast blocks like misty mountains. 

I have found a lovely fabric for the backing, which was a doona cover I found in an op shop. It is 100% cotton and made by IKEA. In fact, they are still on sale for $30! I paid $9.25 for the cover and 4 pillowcases.

So that is what I have been doing, whilst keeping out of the unseasonable and torrential rain we have been having. The poor farmers have been flooded out in the wheat belt, and the Swan Valley low lying vineyards have had some of their shiraz wiped out! 

The rain caused our grapes to start splitting, so I harvested them yesterday. 

Quite pleased with this first crop from our vines.

My brother has also given us some more plants from his garden which is soon to be demolished: we now have 2 blueberry bushes, as well as some lovely ornamentals. When the weather decides if it is still going to be summer, or if we are in autumn already, I will decide whether to plant them out or leave them under shade for a bit longer. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Going slowly -real life, really free techniques

This week I have been thinking about the slow life -and how so many people will be 'getting back into the swing of things" as school goes back in Australia, and life takes up after the summer break. Soon if you ask someone how they are, they will reply "Busy!".

I have also seen a lot of books and courses on offer for people who want to live more simply and just slow down. We seem to be aware, as a society, that things have got out of control and we want to slow down,but often don't know how.

I thought I would offer my own, life tested and really free slow living tips, because I use them and they help. You are welcome.

1. Do one thing at a time. 
I used to pride myself on being able to multi task: minding the children whilst cooking a meal whilst washing some clothes whilst listening to the radio whilst.....Now we constantly check our phones -I still see lots of people trying to drive whilst doing this, which is plainly dangerous. One of my young relatives puts the phone in the boot (trunk) so that she is not tempted.

On the train, whilst everyone is checking their phones, I try to just look out the window on my way to work. I watch for birds, or changes to the trees on route. I watch the sky. I daydream.

Do one thing at a time. It is easier on the brain, it enables each task to happen quickly and carefully. Studies have shown we can't give our full attention to two things at once. It  helps to put a timer on, if you get distracted and can't concentrate on the task at hand: set an alarm for 15 minutes, say and see how much you can do before it goes off.

2. Say no more often
I like to be helpful and useful, so I used to say yes to more than I could actually achieve. Over-promising is a sure way to either disappoint someone or find yourself up at 2am trying to get something done. It also sets you up for burnout.

Being honest about what is actually achievable, resisting unreasonable demands, setting lower expectations on output and time frames, is a way to a slower, more peaceful life. People will adjust -they will perhaps ask someone else, but that is entirely fine.

3. Take the slow way
I worked with someone who was always rushing from one appointment to the next. Always nearly late, she was also chronically overdue with deadlines. Her PA used to field angry calls from people waiting for a response. When she drove somewhere she was always in a rush.

I have met others who worked at similar levels of responsibility who surprised me by the fact that they intentionally chose the slow way -they took public transport to appointments, or they walked if it wasn't too far. They talked about the importance of a real break between one meeting and the next.

I have a car and I have a shopping trolley. The car is fast and convenient, but the shops are within walking distance and I do enjoy the walk. I should take the slow way more than I do for these small shopping trips: I had that habit and I let it drop.

4. Start from scratch
I have no issue with time poor people using whatever means they can to get things done for example, if a parent needs to give the family pre-prepared meals,  that is fine, because no-one needs to have some kind of impossible standards being imposed on them when they are already struggling. Is everyone fed? Enough.

I have to say, though, that starting from scratch on a slow meal is a wonderful thing. I roasted a chicken last week, on the first day, and we ate some of it. We then made stock with the carcass. The next day I made a Greek chicken pie with filo pastry from Rick Stein's book. It really took two days to get there, but every stage was good, and the sense of satisfaction was worth it.

Cooking is one of those things that I find relaxing, because I have to concentrate. I love learning new techniques and trying new recipes.

In the same way, it is possible to 'make a quilt in a weekend" - and there are many internet sites which can show you how. I have done these myself, and enjoyed them.  I do find that a quilt with more pieces and more complexity will take a lot longer, but I will find the result is worth it. Overcoming obstacles, planning ahead, picking up a task I put down -all are adult skills which stands us in good stead.

5. Take a break 
Last night I was going from my office to a meeting. I was thirsty and had bought myself a drink. I arrived at the location of the meeting a little early and decided to sit in the park opposite and have my drink and just enjoy some peaceful moments.

When I worked with people who smoked, I noticed that every few hours they would take themselves outside for ten minutes. I worked through each of their smoking breaks.

I now recognise that it helps if I give myself permission to take a walk around the block to clear my head - I work better when I get back.

The same thing can happen at home - do some work, then take a cup of something to the garden and give yourself time to stop for a minute.

6. Delay the response
Emails and texts feel urgent -and the unspoken expectation is that they need an immediate response. If you leave a few hours or even a day or two between receiving the message and the response, you can often respond calmly and with more thought.

Breathing slowly during a tense conversation, counting to 20 before replying, even saying "I would like to think about what you have said, so let me get back to you on this" can give you time to process the interaction.

7. Stop swiping and scrolling

Social media feeds are unending -and can make us feel like we need to respond to everything -and know everything. Most people can spend lots of time lost on the internet, and come away feeling like the time has been wasted and they are slightly anxious and unsettled at the state of the world. Put down the phone and walk away. Turn off the computer.

When you do so, reconnect with the world by doing a sense check:

  • what can I feel right now
  • what can I hear 
  • what can I smell
  • what can I see 
  • is there anything to taste.
These questions put us back in the present moment. 

8. Schedule the work, not just the appointments
If something needs to be done, you need to give it a dedicated time. One trick I have found extremely useful is to block out periods of time in my diary in which I make an appointment with myself to get certain things done. At work, these blocks of time warn my colleagues that I am not available to be interrupted, and that any meeting scheduled for that time will either mean I cannot attend, or that the scheduled work does not get done. I work part-time and I really need to use my time well.

This works at home too. If the dining room is going to be painted, it needs to have  its own block of time. Wishing is not the same as scheduling. If it is in the diary it is more likely to get done. Unless of course you have a rebellious personality where anything scheduled will cause you to no longer want to do it!

9. Do the hard things now
Procrastination never feels good. In the back of our minds the things we haven't done linger and nag at us. Do something hard, and the pain is gone and instead a wonderful feeling of achievement and freedom emerge.

Sometimes I think the reason we say we are busy is because we have all these things on our minds which are not done yet. They make it hard to really relax.

Set aside some time each week to do the hard things: get the medical test you have been putting off, go to the dentist, say you are sorry, pay the bills.

10.  Just stop

Every now and again pull up the drawbridge, put the sharks in the moat, take the phone off the hook, let the mobile phone battery die. Laze around in your pyjamas all morning, then only get dressed enough to lie on a couch and read a book. Listen to music on your headphones whilst lying on the carpet. Take a nap. Call in sick. Go out for lunch to a place with a view and stay there all afternoon. Throw some things in a bag and drive down the road for the weekend. Resign from something which is killing your spirit. Walk away.

How do you slow down? Have you any tips to share? I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Summer rain in the mountains

There is often a moment in a creative project when I think : "Why on earth did I start this?"

These Scrappy Mountain Mysteries blocks for example, made from recycled 100% cotton shirts.

I have had all kinds of trouble with them: the fabric wanted to slip under the needle, so I had to starch them. Then the sewing machine wanted to make little gathers or puckers in the seams so I had to thread and re-thread and clean the tension discs and stuff before it behaved. Then the method of cutting the half square triangles into strips -by placing one on top of the other and slicing-in my hands left me with pretty inaccurate cutting at times. I sharpened the cutting blade and recut and recut.

Anyway I bunged them up on the design wall and decided I was going to keep going. There are lots of possible layouts and if they don't quite fit I will add some sashing and be done with it!

I have resorted to playing Enya's Orinoco Flow in a desperate attempt to relax and enjoy the process!

Now maybe the whole thing has been jinxed by the way I feel about mountains -nice to look at, horrible to climb! Or the fact that we don't have much in the way of mountains here in the old ancient land of Western Australia.

Or maybe it is that we have the remains of a cyclone which has brought unseasonable rain, which means that we have not been able to walk on the beach for a few days, and all the grapes are splitting their skins?

Still the garden is enjoying it!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Using fine china because life is short-and a quilt finish!

Yesterday we held a small family funeral for my 96 year old Aunty. We had a lovely dignified service, and afterwards the family stayed for afternoon tea.

My aunt's fine bone china came to me when we cleaned out her house in order for her to move into a nursing home. It is a very pretty Queen Anne Forget me not pattern from Royal Osborne. In the whole time she owned it, she never used it. Aunty didn't want it to be broken! She used to say that she was waiting for the queen to visit! 

I gave her a cup of tea in it one time we brought her home from the nursing home. 

Yesterday I took my red tablecloth to the church and all the fine china I owned -including my MIL's "Country Roses" and all the Royal Doulton birth month mugs. I took Aunty's set too: when would there be a better time to honour her with these beautiful things?

Of course I was a bit anxious about things getting broken -actually I had visions of the whole box of things being broken when someone tripped, or something.

The decision I made to use these pretty things was partly  about justifying the space they take in my house: if they are not useful, surely they shouldn't be here? Mostly though it was about an old lady who would have known how to do a proper afternoon tea: with cups and saucers and plates and serviettes and things like that.

So we used them and it helped to give the event a bit of grace and dignity. Yes, one piece was broken and it was entirely my fault. Yes I have found a replacement and it is on its way to me now.

My siblings and cousins ere responsible for clearing out Aunty's place. I think we were all struck with the amount of STUFF a home can have in it, and the difficulty of finding a use for these things when you want to get them out.  Life is too short to hang on to useless things. I prefer to use the pretty things and enjoy them

Today I am washing tablecloths and napkins. This is also not hard -and using them helps to make a sense of occasion to any event.

What do you think? do you use your fine china?

PS I have just edited the Quilting and the Creative Challenge page of this blog to update my first 2017 quilt. Head on over and let me know what you think! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Infilling the garden

My brother's place nearby has been sold, along with the neighbouring duplex, to make way for an infill development-where they squeeze more dwellings on the block by a strata development. He had a lovely garden there, but it is all going to be cleared. We were invited to pick up some plants -and now we are 'infilling' our garden with more productive plants.

This is a Goji berry , which we have re-potted and put on the north side of the house but with some shade. Apparently the berries are very high in antioxidants.

This is known as Maqui berry which is supposed to bear well after it is established.

This is a blueberry -with some fruit on now -but they don't last long! 

Very happy to have been given such a healthy sage plant - I didn't have one of these.

There were ornamental plants as well -we have planted some of them outside DD's window, where the new shade pergola makes a lovely environment.

There are some clivea here along with a Philodendrom Xanadu and some 'suncatchers" in lime green and purple.

Our new neighbour pulled out some ivy (no great loss) and a palm tree from the other side of our patio fence. It is all a bit bare -and that ugly fence! YUK! We have hung some new-to-us hanging baskets to take the eye away. DH has an idea of making a trellis in front of the fence to hide it. We can grow things on the fence -like the star jasmine on the right.

Other plants are coming into fruit - passionfruit as big as lemons -just waiting for them to change colour. 

Cucumbers in a wicking bed. 

Lemon boy tomatoes. I haven't had a great crop of tomatoes, despite having about 12 plants of different varieties and in different locations. Still hoping they will come good! 

It has been good to have these things to distract me, because my 96 year old Aunty died this week. It was a blessing for her -quality of life had deteriorated but her mind had not. We have been busy with arrangements, as you do: clearing out the contents of her nursing home room,  taking things to the op shop, arranging the funeral. That will be on Friday. Then I am back to work next Tuesday. 

Thanks for stopping by to read this blog. Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

This week -carols and stepping stones

 It has been a lovely week in many ways, but there have been some stumbling blocks as well as stepping stones -sorry about the pictures - I am having computer problems! I am going to need a new one very soon :-(. 
On a more positive note I have been cooking from my Rick Stein book that I got for my birthday.  We have enjoyed everything  so far -roasted lamb chops with lemon and potato, stuffed vegetables, Turkish carrot patties.
Yesterday I went to the op shop and found these green placemats for the princely sum of $3.25 for 6 and the ceramic dishes for $9 for the lot of them. Last night we enjoyed quite a mediterranean feast of olives (from our own tree), feta and brie, preserved meats, salads and the carrot fritters with a yoghurt garlic sauce. YUM! 

We went up to New Norcia this week and stayed overnight so we could enjoy the Epiphany readings  and carols. It was quite lovely. The  picture above is the courtyard in the monastery. 

The birds at New Norcia were amazing. The noise of them at dawn and dusk was louder than I have ever heard anywhere else. I collected these feathers as we walked around the town. 

It is a good thing that I have now pinned together the quilt sandwich for the Bonnie Hunter Bricks and Stepping Stones quilt.  DH has commented several times how much he likes this quilt: I don't know if it is the medium to dark tones, or the sparkle of the black and white four patches, but something about this one really works for him! I am very happy about that! I bought some bamboo wadding as the LQS didn't have any cotton. I haven't used this before so I will be interested to see how it works.

EDITED 17/01/2017 -I now have a new computer and the photos have been sorted so you can actually see them clearly!