Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Twelve days of Christmas in Australia

The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day (25 December). This period is also known as Christmastide and Twelvetide. The Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of 5 January.

Twelfth Night is followed by the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January.

I love the peacefulness of the Christmas season. These twelve days are beyond the stress and rush of Advent's preparations, and we can slow down and enjoy the holidays.

Nearly all of Australia closes for the period between Christmas and New Year at least. Many will go to the beach. We like it in the early morning, whilst it is still fresh and cool-ish. We have got back into walking every morning since Boxing Day and we are loving it.

My Christmas decorations are enjoyed now that there is time to ponder their meaning.

Christmas presents can be explored and used for the first time. I have a new Kindle which I am enjoying very much. I have downloaded free books including "On Walden Pond" that 'simple living' classic by Thoreau.

We eat up the leftovers from Christmas.

My DH is able to 'listen' to the cricket whilst sleeping on the couch in the post lunch period.

Our days stretch to a new rhythm -siesta becomes a reality. As Perth Western Australia has a Mediterranean style climate with short wet winters and long hot summers, we really should adopt this as a lifestyle choice. We get active in the early morning, then retreat to a cool place until the sun goes down.

Stone fruit appears in the shops along with grapes and the most popular drinks come out of the fridge -rose, Semillion Sauvingnon Blanc , and gin and tonics! My coffee now needs to be icy cold and I am thinking of getting back in the routine of making iced tea.

This is the time when we try to have friends over for lunch or dinner -eaten outside -sometimes we barbeque.

Relaxation, renewal, recovery.

I do hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy some of the Christmas season in a quiet reflective way.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Progress being made

I had a sudden rush of energy to make a 'crazy quilt as you go" project and found it a great deal of fun. It came together very quickly and easily, and I hope the person who is getting it for Christmas enjoys it too. This is the front.

And this is the back:

I wish I could be so happy about the progress of our bathroom renovation. We are so close and yet so far! We have the bathroom cabinet installed and the taps in the shower installed and working. Now we need to have the glass shower screen delivered and installed, and then the whole thing needs painting.

We are really happy with how it is coming along, but now we want to get it done and be able to move in. After all, Christmas is coming!

I hope to be able to post the whole 'before and after' bathroom pictures soon, but till then, I guess we will just keep on hoping!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Quilting story so far

I started quilting when I took long service leave from my job in 2008. I was lucky enough to find a great teacher, who gave me the skills and confidence to start quilting and to keep going.

Today I gathered together all the pictures of quilts I have made since then.

I am on a journey which has given me a lot of joy, and it certainly keeps me off the streets! LOL.

I have given a few of these away, and it was great to be reminded of them as I put this together.

I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Author! Author!

My daughter convinced me to have a go at writing a novel during National Novel Writing Month in November. This is an international challenge for all budding writers, to write 50,000 words in one month.

As a teenager, I thought I would always write a book one day. Now I can say I have! Yes, I have written 50,000 words in a novel with characters and plot and chapters and scenes! It even has an ending!
This is my "winner's certificate"! YAY!

In other news, my quick and easy Christmas quilt is nearing completion- I just have to put the binding on.

I have also got my blue-and-green quilt back from the Long Arm Quilters and I am in love with the chain of hearts quilting pattern on the solids!

AND the bathroom demolition has started. Hopefully by Christmas we will have a shiny new bathroom in this space. Meantime it is looking decisively ugly!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time to say goodbye

Eighteen months ago we said goodbye to DH's mother, today we say goodbye to his father.

You can read the lovely words my DH will read today at

Monday, November 7, 2011

New project ideas

I have been planning some new quilting projects, now that my blue-and-green quilt is at the Long Arm quilters. It all started with this collection of music fabrics. A young quilting friend had seen a quilt made with this panel and knew of our family's link to music so she directed me to the place where I could order it.

You can see I have quite a good collection of music prints now - even a little bit of a choir dressed for Church singing!

I am thinking of this with some words -Sing to the Lord, or perhaps "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs"

Anyway, it seemed silly to buy $6 worth of fabric and have it posted all the way from the US to Perth Western Australia, so I also bought these panels below.
This one makes me think of all the happy days my DH and I have spent in the Swan Valley, or around the Porongorups, visiting wineries.
I can see this one -quite a large panel-surrounded with cream and blue windmill blocks for a singe bed sized quilt.
This one is just asking to be made into something for Christmas.
But this set of naive images of Christmas scenes I like even more! I am thinking of adding some words to this too, to make a banner.
This one is very pretty, but I am thinking of just using the centre blue and white panel with some pretty blue and white fabrics, and saving the green squares for another quilt.

So, with all these things to get started on, what do you think I am doing?

Taking part in National Novel Writing Month of course! Not much quilting is going to happen, I fear, until November is over!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quilt top finished!

It has been a long time in the making. I think I probably took almost six months on this, but today I completed the borders.

It started as a challenge to use both blue and green in a quilt. I think the black and white helps to tie the colours together, and then I went for a lime green sort of colour for the border, to bring that colour out a bit more.

I am so glad it has got to this stage. I am going to take it to a Long Arm Quilter, as it is too big for my domestic machine.

Now I intend to play with some quick, simple and fun projects!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New water tank

This monster is our first water tank. It holds 3000 litres of water. The white plastic pipe is a clever diverter which allows the first flush of water from the roof to be diverted away from the tank, so that cleaner water goes in.

Yesterday we had a welcome amount of rain, and I witnessed for the first time the lovely sound of water going into the empty tank.

Why install a water tank?

I have written before about the 40% reduction in rainfall that Perth has experienced over the last 40 or so years. Our state government has installed two desalination plants to make us 'climate free' from our reliance on rain water for drinking.

We are a drying city in a dry continent.

I want to grow our own fruit and vegetables, and the water tank is a small part of that. As Perth has a Mediterranean style climate with a dry hot summer and a short wet winter, we could not rely on just 3000 litres of water to get us through the summer. It is however a small contribution to the overall sustainability of our home and garden. Maybe we will eventually install more water tanks.

The tank has another role -this western wall gets extremely hot in summer and so does the room behind it, which is where we have our television. The tank will, at the very least, shade the wall.
It will, when full of water (usually in winter) also provide a thermal mass which should also provide some passive heating to the wall and perhaps to the room.

Anyway, it is nice to hear the sound of the rain hitting the bottom of the tank. Maybe we will have one or two more showers this week, and they too will go into the tank instead of running away. I think I am one of only a few people in Perth who wants it to rain at this time of the year! Nearly everyone else is glad of spring sunshine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gratitude-for things that cheer.

I have had a crook shoulder and neck for a few weeks -not enough to seriously debilitate, but I haven't been doing all the usual stuff. The weed onslaught has had to stop and there has been no spreading of mulch.

The garden flowers on, in beautiful profusion.

I can still drop in to the occasional op shop, you understand, in search of a little prettiness. I found this candle holder and candle and I really like it. At Christmas time, with a red or gold candle, it will look great with the rest of my angel collection. I have a collection of angels who play musical instruments -and these each have one.

And I found some chincherinchees in the local shop and I actually bought them for myself and put them in this lovely old depression glass vase. With the morning sun coming in the dining room window, I think they look very pretty.

The "sea lavender" is in flower.

Apart from that, I have been doing some cooking- trying to break out from a self imposed rut and make some new dishes for a new season. I hadn't made lasagne for ages so I made a big dish this week, and I tried out a new pizza stone with my bread-maker pizza dough.

I have been helping out with my little community choir -we are having a concert soon and I am helping with ticket sales. If you are in Perth and you would like to go, just drop me a line...we have two concerts in November -on the 5th and 13th in the afternoons -and one is north of the river and one is south. We will be singing some lovely music -there are quite a few John Rutter pieces.

And there has been some reading -because other things seem to aggravate the shoulder. I am gradually improving, and hope normal service will be resumed shortly!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The value of nothing

There is water in the river at New Norcia!

We were in the Benedictine town of New Norcia last weekend, taking part in a retreat lead by members of the Christian Meditation Community of Western Australia. It was a lovely quiet and restful time.

When we were able to take a break, we enjoyed the sights of the town we know so well, shown in its green and fruitful best after a reasonably good winter.

There was water in the river!!!

Lovely to be able to be there and enjoy the renewal of the earth and our souls. The olive trees are just budding.

Olive trees in bud. New Norcia's olive oil won major awards last year.

There is something very grounding in spending a couple of days in the farming belt -it reminds us city folk of how much the basis of our society depends on a healthy earth, and decent returns for farmers. Spending time in prayer reminds us of the big issues of life and death, and what is really important.

This coffee table in my lounge room is being decorated by an op shop find -a lovely lacy table topper- and a bowl of home grown musky roses.

Since I got home, I have been reading this book, which I found in my local library, called "The Value Of Nothing" in which Raj Patel makes some very interesting points which are very thought provoking. If you are in WA too, you will be able to ask your library to get an inter-library loan so that you can read it too. If you aren't here, it is available world wide in book stores. Easy to read and I recommend you do.

This is a quote about the book:

With great lucidity and confidence in a dazzling array of fields, Patel reveals how we inflate the cost of things we can (and often should) live without, while assigning absolutely no value to the resources we all need to survive. This is a deeply thought-provoking book about the dramatic changes we must make to save the planet from financial madness – argued with so much humour and humanity that the enormous tasks ahead feel both doable and desirable. This is Raj Patel’s great gift: he makes even the most radical ideas seem not only reasonable, but inevitable. A brilliant book.”—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine

I am writing this post as the Debt Crisis seems to lurch into another worrying phase. The ABC news has just now quoted an expert who is predicting Australia will be in recession in a year or so. To those of us who are trying to live simply, we look with concern for the people who get crunched when the big corporates and nations stuff things up.

  • Why haven't we been told of the things Raj writes in his book -about how, if we factored in the real cost to the earth and its people of a typical fast food hamburger, it would actually cost $200?

  • Why aren't we more concerned about the fate of the poor workers who labour to provide us with cheap consumer goods?

  • Why aren't we aware of how much the trade in rare earths which are mined in the Congo, and used to make components in mobile phones, has fueled the violence there over recent years?

  • Why hasn't any news outlet I have found in Australia reported the protests of these people in Wall Street for the past 9 days?
"The protest dubbed Occupy Wall Street kicked off September 17, targeting corporate greed and political influence, the government bailouts for banks during the 2008 financial crisis, capital punishment, and a litany of other grievances."

The title of the book comes from a quote by Oscar Wilde who described people who 'knew the price of everything and the value of nothing" .

I am heartened by what the author describes as grass roots movements of people around the world, often the poorest of the poor, who are taking back some of the political power and rights which our current system has stripped away.

Living simply is not just a lifestyle choice -it may be the only choice for the planet.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recycling, producing not consuming, and other lifestyle choices

Over at Down to Earth, Rhonda has got us all talking yet again about reusing and recycling.

I thought I would not just talk about ideas for recycling, but in fact the whole idea of producing not consuming -of living a more creative, productive life. It is an important part of being able to recycle -because we need active and shiny creative minds to be able to think of new ways of doing things with stuff other people would throw out. You need to practice making things to have the confidence to try something a bit out of the norm.

I found this very helpful book in the library recently -art of the Rochdale's Succesful Quilting Library- it encourages a novice like me to have a go at all kinds of interesting techniques built by others who were creative and willing to try something new.

I found this beautiful silver urn in an op shop recently. I was overjoyed as I have been on the lookout for this shape for over six months. I never dreamed it would be in such good condition.

The grey foliage I have in the urn is quite a showy feature of my lounge room at the moment, but so simple!

I guess someone threw this urn out to the charity which runs the op shop. Perhaps they couldn't be bothered cleaning the silver. I am so glad I have it -it is a thing of joy. I intend to change the display in it regularly -flowers or shiny glass balls or whatever I can find as I 'shop at home" for displays which keep me entertained as I decorate our little house.

This crumb quilt is made of scraps and orphan blocks left over from another quilt. So this is another way of recycling and re-using things.

I enjoyed making it, and learned a lot from it.

I call it "Think Outside the Box".

This quilt is back on my design wall. I am auditioning that green as a potential border, and slicing other blocks to see what I can make which is more interesting as a setting.

Finally, a picture of a whole bowl full of roses from the climber on the back fence. After years of doing nothing but grow leaves it is in flower at last. I wish you could smell the delightfully musky fragrance - it is so strong I can smell the perfume whilst I sit in my chair nearby.

I hope you feel inspired to be creative around your place -and to find new ways of using what you already have.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Spring pretties

We have had the most perfect entrance to spring this year, with a good winter rainfall followed by a pattern of sunshine and showers. The days are gradually warming up, and the garden is calling out for action.

I am afraid things got a bit overgrown during the winter, but nearly every Saturday for over a month my DH and I have been toiling away bringing things back from the brink.

This morning there was so much loveliness to see, and so many perfumes to smell, as I brushed past the peppery geraniums, the astringent lavender and the musky tansy. I absolutely adore perfumed foliage!

The front garden has a nice mix of plants which give generously of their flowers, and some newish fruit trees which are settling in well.

It being such a wonderful spring day I had to bring some flowers into the house!
Nasturtiums grow like weeds around here. I bought a packet of seeds once, and they now come up all over the place!

Simple pleasure of a glass vase and a few geraniums and pelargoniums and lavender.

And here is the reminder of what kind of gardening we have yet to do....a huge bag of lupin mulch to protect the veggies as the weather warms up, plus we need to feed the fruit trees and mulch them, and weed the back yard, and give the roses a bit of attention and ...and....good thing there is a lot of spring left yet!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Series of Firsts and Scraps

My "living simply" quilt is now hanging up.

I started this quilt to practice a number of new techniques:

  • first 'crumb' scrappy blocks. I discovered how much fun these are, and what a great way to use up little bits of fabric which are too small for incorporation in other projects. Many sewers like to use little scraps to start a line of sewing -to make sure that the threads are not tangled at the back and so on. These crumbs can be used therefore as 'leaders/enders" of lines of blocks which are being sewn together which makes it possible to be creating lots of these without really noticing. My next crumbs will be grouped, I think, according to colour just to see how that goes.
  • first UnRuly letters -I want to use words on the border of a quilt top now in production, but wanted a bit of experience first.
  • first UnRuly house -and tree (which I designed myself) -quite happy with the result.
The quilt used my first ever attempt at joining two smaller pieces of batting. I usually buy queen sized pieces and as a result often have some bits left over. I joined two pieces with a zig zag seam and honestly, I don't think you can tell where it is.

The border was a piece of fabric I picked up in an op shop. I thought it was gloriously ugly, but in small amounts it looks great.

I am quite happy with my progress on Free Motion Quilting too, but there is still a long way to go before I am feeling competent about it.

Nevertheless I am pretty happy with this little quilt. Pretty simple, really.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making the most of what you have got

Recently I heard one of these books being read on the ABC and I thought -gosh, what a quirky, funny idea! Eoin Colfer's fantasy world where fairies are crossed with a James Bond style boy genius criminal -crazy idea.

I mentioned it to my daughter who immediately turned up with a whole stack of them that she had read some time back! Great! Lots of easy escapist reading, which kept me going for a while.

Reading books is a lifetime pursuit for me, but there is always the problem of finding something else to read. I often have a number of books on the go, but don't intend to buy every book I read- apart from everything else, where would I store them all?

There is always the local library, and I often buy books second-hand so that I can enjoy them at a more reasonable cost. However, I also love re-reading books I already own. All the pleasure without the pain of purchase! Some are old favourites and if you were to count the number of times I have read them, the cost per read-through would be quite small.

I am working really hard at avoiding waste at our place. Today I used nearly a litre of beef stock that DH bought for something he made on the weekend -it said "use in three days after opening" -so I turned that into soup with some garden veggies and the left over bits of a garden salad which was also from the weekend, along with some bits and bobs I had stored in the freezer. You know how it is -not enough to make one person a meal, but I hate throwing food out so I put it in a tiny container in the freezer. There was half a serve of carrot and turmeric soup, and a bit of a beef soup I had made some time back.

So I reckon that was pretty much free food -and the best bit is that there is quite a lot left for lunches this week.
My quilting can be an expensive hobby. That is why I have been so happy learning how to make these scrappy blocks and UnRuly letters out of what I have left over from other projects. I completed this quilt top today -and I have to say I am very pleased with it. It was fun to make and cost nothing as previously I would have thrown out pieces like this.

So that is it for this week -learning to make the most of what we have got.

Hope you are the same.

Feel free to leave a comment if you stop by.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why we have to change

My progress towards a simpler, greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle has many causes. One major cause is a result of reading books about the effects of human induced climate change due to excess consumption.

This report will explain why, as a resident of Western Australia, I take this particularly seriously. It is a report from the Climate Commission pointing out some worrying statistics about how the south west of Western Australia is being significantly impacted by reduced rainfall over the last 40 years along with rises in sea levels and increased ocean temperatures.

Fortunately our rains this winter have been close to normal, but one reasonable winter won't get us out of the difficulties we are facing. Our state government has built two desalination plants to insure our water supply, but desal plants are expensive and energy hungry.

My DH and I are gradually building up our home and lifestyle to reduce our water and energy consumption, and to increase the production of food in our garden. The bathroom renovation is part of our project to reduce our water consumption by putting water efficient appliances in, and renewing our infrastructure of pipes etc to remove the leaks and blockages etc. I have been getting quotes on some major plumbing and tiling which is the next step. Not much has happened, and it has been frustrating, but it must be done as a step towards our goal.

I have also been enjoying a learning new skills, which provide me with entertainment and opportunities for creativity. This week I have been enjoying making these scrap blocks as 'leaders/enders" in another quilt project. They make use of bits of fabric I would normally have thrown out, and are actually great fun. I wanted to practice some skills so that when I use them on the green/blue quilt I will have some idea of what I was doing!

More eco-friendly lifestyle does ask us to change, but there is a lot to enjoy as well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why it is worth bothering to do it yourself

Photo credit:

Years ago I thought there was nothing very important about the things we all need to have done to keep our houses clean and food on the table, and have clean clothes to wear, and so on.I had been through the "Women's Liberation" phase in the 1970s and I was pretty clear that

a. house work was a chore

b. everyone who lived in a house was responsible for it

c. I had better things to do

This quote is from Colin Bevan's book "No Impact Man":

When did taking care of ourselves become something so unimportant that it should be got out of the way rather than savored and enjoyed? When did cooking and nourishing my family become an untenable chore? What is more important that I’m supposed to do instead?

He continues on page 47:

Even modern replacements for priests, rabbis, and Zen masters — the positive psychologists — have something to say on this point. That new breed of shrinks has discovered that happy people spend a lot of time being grateful for what they have and savoring their experience. They don’t rush through “now” to get to later. They don’t make taking care of themselves or taking care of their families something they have to get over with so they can get to the good stuff. Instead, they insist that this moment, whatever it is, is the good stuff.

Over the years I have discovered that there is something eminently satisfying to me about making something from scratch in the kitchen, or growing my own vegetables and arranging the house to be attractive and comfortable.

I especially know I get a big sense of satisfaction from making things myself -whether it is knitting or sewing. Recently for example, I have made this tea cosy.

I also made this hand towel for the kitchen. It works really well, is a generous size and hey -I made it! It came from a book I found at Kmart, of all places, with really easy knitted projects in it.

Over at Consumption Rebellion I found a post which I think sums up how I feel now about why it is worth bothering to do it yourself -whether it is cooking, gardening or creating things for the house.I

For me, the reason why it is worth bothering to do it yourself is a combination of

  • unleashing my creativity
  • encouraging independence (I don't need other people to make things for me)
  • saving money (sometimes - the flood of cheap imports from factories where people are paid a pittance sometimes makes this harder to achieve
  • creating better quality things (this is especially true in cooking at home from scratch)
  • reducing unnecessary consumption -which is a major problem in this old world of ours.
Sure, not everything I make is perfect, but given the list of reasons above, I will continue to do as much as I can myself. This does not reduce my conviction that house work is the responsibility of all who live in it -but it simply says that there is something worth doing in all of this.