Tuesday, January 15, 2019

First Quilt Finish for 2019

This is the first quilt to be finished for 2019, made entirely by me. It is for our WAQA community quilts -to be given to a charity which supports teenagers with cancer. They asked for 50 quilts made from the bandannas they use as a fundraiser each year. I made this one, and also quilted a similar one in red. I will be handing them both over tomorrow night at the Sewing Night meeting. 

There were a few issues with the quilting of this one. My beloved Nina, the 306K 1954 Singer sewing machine had all sorts of issues with free motion quilting this time. I did everything I could think of to fix it: new bobbin, new needle, even watched a YouTube demo and took apart and reassembled the upper tension. In the end I had to abandon it and use my much newer and much smaller Bernina. 

My FaceBook vintage sewing machine group suggested that some of them had also had similar problems from time to time. Maybe the machine bed needed some polishing. Some people use glad wrap on the machine bed to help things glide. Others suggested 'operator error' -going too fast for the machine. 

Anyway, using the Bernina just proves that it is always handy to have more than one machine! 

Maybe Nina was just a bit worn out after quilting two of these quilts in a couple of weeks! 

I spent today tidying up my sewing room.

Time to get back to the project I started last year and had to put aside -the queen size Scrappy Mountain Mysteries which will be my new bed quilt. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Start as you mean to continue

The word of this year will be FUN!  I want it to be a year in which creativity, spontaneity and good humour can find room.  These lovely fabrics are new to the Sewing Room, thanks to Christmas and  a birthday soon after. I always find new fabrics inspire new imaginings. 

I spent today doing a much needed tidy-up of my sewing room. DH has put up a pin board for me, and I have rearranged some things. I have completed one of the two community quilts I need to complete this month, and the other one needs to be pinned together.

A year for gardens, and walks in nature.

This montage was a result of a walk around Yellagonga Regional Park -Lake Goollelal on New Year's Day. This lovely lake is right in the middle of our northern coastal suburbs, and a real gem. The 4.5km trail is just challenging enough to be done in about an hour, and full of views and birds and flowers to enjoy.

One of the things we want to do is to visit Walyunga National Park  a few more times per year. We usually get there in winter/spring but the indigenous Nyoongar people recognise  6 distinct seasons -wouldn't it be great to visit a national park in all 6 and try to notice the differences?

We love to walk on the beach too. Now that we don't have to be here to let tradies in, we can walk more often there too.

I have further plans for the garden here at home. Looks like the passionfruit will be coming to the end of their natural life soon, so they will need replacing. I also want more flowers on my roses!

A year for risk taking -because when I am stretched a bit out of the comfort zone, the payoff is often an increased sense of being in the present - really living the moment. That means that I will be trying to improve my quilting skills, my cooking skills and more.

In 2018 I got a bit better at making shortcrust pastry from scratch...but I wonder if I could also do choux?  I have made pasta from scratch a few times -either lasagna or hand cut fettuccine but what about if I expand to include some filled shapes like tortellini? There is also more potential in working with shop bought Filo pastry too . Then there is the whole bread thing. I enjoy making bread, and there are skills to develop here -for instance I would like to make herb scrolls.

This is one of the pay-offs for being retired- having the time to play in the kitchen more.

A year for travel

We love opportunities to travel in Australia. We have plans to visit our other favourite place, Melbourne to see DS and his lovely wife graduate in March.

We are missing visiting our favourite WA country town of Albany - it has been altogether too long since we visited and would like to visit Geraldton too this year.

A year for decorating 

We enjoy freshening things up around here. With the kitchen reno behind us, we have plans for the master bedroom. We also want to sell a park home that DH has been managing as executor for a family member. It hasn't sold and has been a problem, so we are going to take it on as a project to try to make some changes to make it more attractive for a buyer. It has quite an ugly exterior..so watch out for posts soon which will show what little we have to work with, and how far we can get to make it better with very little in the way of a budget.

A quietly fun life 

Really, the life we love is one in which we are quietly enjoying things around here. Dinners with friends, reading books after lunch, growing as much as we can, contributing to our community. Hope your new year is full of good things too.

Friday, December 21, 2018

It works! Counting our blessings

You know what it feels like, when you have had a dream, and take the plunge and try to carry it off?

You know the struggles, the disappointments, the way you have to call on all your resources of patience and diligence and optimism?

You know how things go unexpectedly wrong but somehow it is OK?

All of that and more has brought us to this week, when in a rush the tiles were done on Sunday, the electricians swooped in a frenzy on Monday to connect everything up and the plumbers wrangled all the taps and stuff into place so that by Tuesday evening we had our kitchen returned to us in all its pristine glory!  (of course it can't stay like that!)

The whole place is just wonderful. We love the natural light the new big window lets in. We love the view over our patio and into the back yard. 

There are little moments:
  • DH comes in and announces that 'unpacking the dishwasher is so easy now" as the drawers are much more conveniently situated and don't require kneeling down to reach into the nether corners of the bottom shelf of some cupboard or another. 
  • I take something hot out of the oven and plonk the whole thing straight onto the stainless steel bench next to the stove.
  • We stand at the sink and marvel at how lovely everything is
  • We can work in several work areas without getting in each other's way

From this wonderful space, I made this: our first sourdough loaf in our new kitchen. 

It has been a learning curve -getting used to the induction cook top and the electric oven and the new combi microwave in particular. The instruction manuals are pretty daunting. Many features I suppose I will never use.

We had invited friends over for a solstice party on Friday, so my new kitchen got a workout,  and some admiring comments, when they came over. I made a vegetable quiche and a tarte a l'oignon (from Elizabeth David's book on Vegetables, which I found in an op shop) and a cake from Nigella's Book "Simply Nigella"- I served it with our mulberries.

Our last bottle of Kalamata olives was opened. I had seen an Instagram post of someone who made a spiced marinade for their olives, so I gently fried garlic and cumin and then tumbled the olives in the pan and warmed it all through with a bit of chilli flakes added. I guess there are other flavours I can try now I know how popular they are!

Now that is done, we can settle down to think about Christmas and the fact our son, daughter in law and the 3 grandchildren will be over in Perth for 2 weeks just after Christmas. We need to oil the bikes, find the toys we packed away, set up the train set and make the place a bit toddler-proof by putting up anything low enough for him to reach!

From me to you, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas time, from our corner of Perth Western Australia.

This is where I intend to spend a lot of time in the near future.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Nearly there, with a few delays

There has been a lot of painting this week! Lovely DH worked hard on painting the half-finished kitchen so that when work did proceed, we were ready for it. We used our favorite colour "Antique White USA" which is a sort of eggshell white. He replaced the door furniture on the door which leads to the laundry, and painted doors and door frames white. 

The stainless steel top for the area around the oven and induction cooktop was delivered.  We wanted stainless steel because it is the kind of thing which doesn't mind you taking a hot casserole from the oven and dumping it on top of it. It will get worn in over time -and I think that the scratches will add to the look of my working kitchen. 

The utensil jar you can see is one I found this week at a new St Vinnie's op shop near me. 

The outside wall which was patched when the new window came in, was sealed and then painted to match the rest of the wall around out patio. Our home is built in mostly dark browns and red bricks, and some years ago we painted the patio walls to brighten things up out there. Turns out it was a good move, as you can't get these coloured bricks any more!

The patio is now back in business again, ready for our summer.

We had a bit of bad news, with the tiler reporting in sick so they couldn't come to work on the kitchen last Friday. This would put all the other trades back too, and this close to Christmas things were getting difficult. Fortunately the kitchen building company was able to get a tiler to work on Sunday. The only problem with that was that, when he came, we realised that he did not have the tiles we had chosen, and neither had they been delivered to our place! We managed to find some plain white tiles in the local hardware in sufficient quantities to enable the tiler to complete the job yesterday. 

We are now hoping to see the kitchen finished, if the plumber and electricians will only return for the final pieces of work.

Stay tuned! 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Tradie on site!

In Australia we call tradespeople "Tradies". There have been a lot of them in our home this week, as it became a building site.

First there were the super organised and professional building tradies who demolished the old kitchen and took out the windows. That was a very noisy couple of days! They were well organised and they cleaned up after themselves. The big surprise was that the replacement window was installed on Day 1 instead of Day 3 as we had expected, so we could immediately see the effect. 

The transformation that the window has brought is amazing -we have much more natural light and a lovely view over the patio and back garden. I just know this will make me happier. 

We lived with a partly boarded up room and a but of a mess for several days but gradually the hole where the old vertical window had been was replaced with fastwall bricks and faced off ready for the big transformation when the cabinets were installed.

These are even better than I imagined they would be!

DH painted the ceiling before the cupboards went in, and will paint the walls next week as we wait for the stainless steel benchtop to go here -around the new electric oven and induction cook top. 

I have one working power pint, and  sink which is not plumbed in, so no taps either. Never the less the fridge is working and I have a kitchen bench and drawers so I have moved the camp kitchen to the new kitchen and cleared stuff from the rest of the house.

This feels more 'normal'. I have been trying hard to do some basic cooking -one night I made a very old fashioned chicken dish -the one where you put chicken pieces in the slow cooker with a can of apricot nectar and the contents of a packet of french onion soup. With my rice cooker to make the rice it was a simple and tasty meal. DH and DD were happy to make its reaquaintance -it was probably a staple in the 1990s, I am guessing! We have also cooked sausages on the barbeque, and I have found out that you can make pasta in a rice cooker too. With a jar of pasta sauce and some cooked meat stirred through it is another meal.  I can cook baked potatoes in the slow  cooker- we served them with home made coleslaw.

So we are getting along nicely. DH is happy that most of the appliances which were clogging up his shed are now gone and sort-of installed. The cat is happy that every few days she gets a normal quiet house and can feel normal. DD and I will be happy to finally get to our Christmas decorations boxes and be able to get more festive. 

I hope to have more progress to report next week!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Packing up and picnics

This is the week that the kitchen renovation will begin, so this is the week we are packing up the kitchen for a several weeks! This is exciting and a bit terrifying, and quite a lot of work. Dh and I have been packing boxes for days now.

On Thursday some burly guys will be here to dismantle the kitchen completely and make a new bigger window. Then the other things happen slowly...for weeks...until (hopefully, with the wind in the right quarter) we have a sparkly new all electric kitchen by the 18th December. Here are some graphic mock-ups of where we are heading.

You can see the new window on the left. A looong looong bench under it.

The stove will be in a new position. There will be a combi microwave under the bench as well as the oven on the other wall.

We want to be able to manage as best we can making simple breakfasts and lunches, at least, while the work goes on. Eating all our meals out would be costly, and we don't like going out to breakfast anyway! We know that there will be days when getting some home delivered food, or going out for a meal will be necessary for our sanity, and that will be fine, but it would be good to keep them to a minimum if we can: we are used to home cooked food, with minimal fats, sugars and refined additives.

I made a list of the equipment I thought we could stash in the rest of the house -things like the kettle, my rice cooker and slow cooker, and sandwich maker.  There is a microwave which fits in the laundry at present. A small box of spoons, sharp knives and can openers has been saved from the packing up. We should be able to make do with sandwiches and cereals and noodles and salad, so long as the teas and coffees are still available.

I have a small fridge in DH's study -which will house some milk and cheese, salads, boiled eggs and cooked meats. We will have a bowl for washing up on a picnic table on the patio -which will only be accessible when the workers go home, for at least the first few days.  As we are putting in a new window which looks out on to the patio area, the patio will be a work area at first.

Hopefully by the end of the first week, we will have the patio available to us once again, and that should see us through the rest of the work.

We will paint the ceiling and walls ourselves at the beginning of the third week.

Exciting times ahead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A pep talk to myself

Sometimes I am a bit overwhelmed.  In my quest for a simple life, sometimes I still battle with my expectations and everything feels like there is too much to do.  This is pretty silly, because in this kind of life -doing things myself, cooking from scratch, making things rather than buying them -nothing will be perfect, not enough things finished.

This week the patio desperately needed cleaning and the spiders need to be evicted -again. There are weeds in the brick paving. There is mulch in the trailer, not yet spread. I need to find a shady spot for some pots -and they are cluttering up the patio. I have stuff to take to the op shop, and they are currently cluttering up the lounge room.

This morning I had a good hour or more working in the garden, which was great. When I noticed that my sense of being overwhelmed was taking over my joy at being able to work in my garden on a lovely sunny morning, I knew it was time to take myself in hand, and start looking with positive eyes again. Plenty of people would LOVE to have my life -and my 'problems'. In order to have a pep talk to myself I am writing, not about what is not yet done, but what has been achieved this week.

1. Cabinet Swap. 

 This cabinet used to be in the kitchen, storing spices and other dry goods. Now we are renovating the kitchen , it needed to move. I spent almost a whole day making space for it in my sewing room, and moving an old IKEA billy bookcase into the kitchen as temporary storage for those things.

The cabinet looks great in the sewing room, and has made everything much tidier. 

2. The Strelitzia has gone -  to good homes.

We got a landscaper to come in and dig up a huge strelitzia which was in the wrong place in the garden. I was scared that our grand-children would be spiked by the hard pointy leaves, and I was tired of having to squeeze past it when I wanted to fill the bird bath.

I gave the clumps of the plant away on our local Buy Nothing Facebook page. It has been well received by four neighbouring gardeners. 

3. Peace Conference 

DH and I had a wonderful time attending a Peace Conference all weekend. It was a positive way to commemorate the signing of the Armistice -with a group of like-minded people who are working hard to ensure not just that we remember the soldiers who died, but also we learn to make peace so that there might be NO more war!With this in mind, I refer you to a movement which is dedicated to ensuring that 'we must never again allow the circumstances to exist in which one man has the capacity to commit sending Australia to war". (Quotation from former PM Malcolm Fraser). I remember the huge number of people who rallied in Perth and other Australian cities to say we did not want to go to war in Iraq, but the Prime Minister committed our troops to war anyway.

The movement seeks reform of the War Powers Act under which the executive government can commit troops to international conflict without bringing the matter before the parliament. Find out more at www.warpowersreform.org.au 

4. A book cull and other decluttering

In preparation for my new kitchen, I decluttered some cook books. This one was not being given the use it deserved, so I found it a new home with a family with young children who are already eagerly experimenting with growing their own food. I think Stephanie would approve! 

I took some other things to the Op shop and had a delightful return trip with these very pretty Kosta Boda snowball tealight candles. 

5. Cleaning happened 

DD helped me to make up a Spider Go Away spray of lavender oil, dishwashing soap and water -which I used to help the spiders make up their minds that the garden is a better place to live than my patio. Apparently Peppermint oil is better, though eucalyptus and citrus is also good. 

I washed the outdoor furniture cushions, just in case the spiders were hiding there too, and cleaned the place up nicely. DH cleaned the house. 

6. Sewing  blocks

I have almost finished making the 66 blocks for my Scrappy Mountain Majesties quilt (free pattern from Bonnie Hunter here ). I am also working on a WAQA community quilt project for CanTeen, using their bandanas as the base. 

7. Choir practice

We are only a few week's away from our Christmas concert, singing Britten's A Ceremony of Carols. DH and I are hard at work practicing our parts. We will be performing at St Barnabas's Anglican Church Leederville on December 8th at 7:30pm. 

There, that feels better! So much achieved, so much life to celebrate -and I haven't mentioned having dinner on a warm evening in a restaurant in South Perth, overlooking the city and the river, with a dear friend who was visiting from Melbourne. I haven't mentioned the meals made, the articles written, the books read....

I hope that my list of achievements will inspire you to look again at how you are going -and celebrate the good things.