Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sewing year review 2012

 As 2012 comes to its end, I have been going through my pictures to see what I have achieved this year in my sewing room. These pics are not in any order. It is amazing to see what I have achieved this year, when it all is put together!

I have consistently used what I had, before buying things. Mostly what I bought has been batting and backing  and border fabric. Annabelles' baby quilt did entail some special fabric though.

The first pic  above is of some scrappy cushions which I made to revamp our outdoor bench -used up some nice 'leader/ender' scrappy squares and some op shop sheeting.

 This baby quilt for my  grand daughter (above)  was a very special finish, and it was lovely to take it to her and her lovely mum and dad when she was born in Melbourne.

 A pretty little frock - I hope the first of many I will make for her!

 A scrappy quilt -one which my cat Dora loved all winter.

 The "Give More" quilt banner.

 "Out of the box" came out of its half-finished state and was finished! 

 My darling DH made me some new shelves in the cupboard of my sewing room, and I have re-organised my stash, which is getting smaller as these projects were completed.

 "Pictures at an exhibition" a wedding quilt for my niece in New Zealand -nearly a year ago now! 

 Six Christmas stockings for the new mantle.

A Christmas burlap wreath.

Finally, 'remember this" -I hope you all have a wonderful new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas wrap

 The light shines in the darkness...Christmas 2012. 

The stockings I made were a bit skinny for getting presents in, but fortunately there was room under the tree! 

The Christmas table -op shopped table runner made the right length with the addition of some Christmas fabric panels and lining. Op shop table napkins. Op shop coffee cups for the cold gazpacho soup which started the meal. The menu included roast pork with a rhubarb and rosemary jam, potato salad; beetroot and  carrot and orange salad, and a green salad. Followed by some very cute cake pops made to look like reindeer by my daughter in law!

We have had days and days of feasting with family and friends this week. It all started with Christmas lunch at home, made extra special with the presence of our son and daughter in law and baby grand-daughter who had travelled over from Melbourne for the first Christmas with the baby. We have had further parties with extended family on both sides, and with friends who were celebrating the birthdays we have around this time of the year.

All of this under a blaze of heat, as the Perth summer has provided us with a heatwave of temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius for over a week-often it has been over 40 degrees.

Fortunately our house is well protected from the worst excesses -we are able to have indoor temperatures much cooler than outdoors even though we have only passive cooling from shade sails, sun blinds and the like.

We have started our routine of walks at Mullaloo beach every day, early -this is something we love to do at the start of our summer holidays. Then I spend some time at the sewing machine, followed by reading novels and watching DVDs, until it is cool enough to emerge again and get active.

The weather should cool off next week -just a little, so we will be more actively enjoying the time off by going to visit places such as our museum and art gallery.

Hope you have also had a great Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Stocking time!

Each year I try to add to my collection of Christmas decorations.  Over the years that has added up to quite a collection, and it now takes many hours to put them all out, in several rooms of the house.

Sensible people may scoff at the effort involved.

I reckon if there is fun to be had, why should we miss out? There are lots of ordinary days in the year, but  I love Christmas!  

I like to make as many of the decorations as I can, and this year, inspired by this great tutorial I found on Pinterest, I made Christmas stockings. 

They were fun and quick to do.

I have one for each of us -my Dear Husband (DH) my Dear Daugher (DD) , my Dear Son (DS) my Dear DL (daughter in law) my dear grand-daughter (DGD) and me of course! 

 I used some music fabric I had and also some lovely naive Christmas images. 

When I was little, we were threatened that if we were naughty, Father Christmas would only put a lump of coal and a carrot in our Christmas stockings! If we were good though, we found a tangerine in the toe and some chocolate money wrapped in gold paper, and some coloured pencils and probably a comic book.

I wonder if Father Christmas will be bringing me something this year?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Garden Bench Makeover

 Saturday Morning...I haven't sewn for a few days.  I want a project to get me going again -something easy and quick to get the 'Mojo' back.

This bench sits near my front door. On a bright spring morning, it looks -well -shabby.  The cushions are dirty and that sort of 'crisp' feel which fabric gets just before it dies.

So, I thought -why not make one cushion?

I have some patches from a 'leader/ender' quilting project. Made them without much thought, from scraps, whilst doing another quilt. No real idea what to do with them.  That would be the start of the new cushion cover!

 So-off come all the cushions.  ErK! The bench itself is a bit grubby -spidery -and some mildew too!

In a break from sewing, I scrubbed the thing clean and left it to dry in the sun.

I commented to DH that I thought it would be better if it had a coat of stain/sealer.

Something waterproof and which would renew the bench and help it last a good few seasons yet.

No sooner had I said it than he had gone to the shed, found a half a tin of outdoor SIKKENS and started painting.

It made a huge difference!

The picture below shows how the bench looks now, and also reveals that I couldn't stop at one cushion.

I had a nice piece of sheeting rescued from an op shop, which covered the bench seat.

 I made two cushions. All using scraps from my sewing room. Double sided so that when one side gets a bit grubby, I can rotate them to get them to last longer.

Then I made one more!

That's better! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Solar panels on our roof!

We finally installed solar panels on our roof this week!

It seemed like the right time to do it:

  • DH and I will be at home during the day more than in the past. As the solar panels will, of course, be making electricity during the day it is most cost effective if we are at home to use it. We can wash clothes and dishes and have our computers on during the day, and reduce our energy use at night when we are buying it from the electricity company.
  • Solar panels and inverters are getting a lot cheaper than they were in the past. See the link below for the story on this.
  • Our income will be less than it was, as we are both working less hours, so reducing our recurring expenses like power costs is a good idea. We have calculated that the cost of installing the system is like paying off part of our electricity bills in advance for the next 5 years, and then after that the system will be producing electricity for us for free. 
  • We have done as much as we can to reduce our energy use before we got to this stage. Easily the cheapest way to cut power bills is simply to use less. We bought energy efficient appliances, we turn things off at the wall when they are not needed, we use passive cooling and heating as much as is possible in an old house like ours. 

Are you thinking about solar panels? Maybe you have them already? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eat less meat and help save the planet!

Meat eaters in developed countries will have to eat a lot less meat, cutting consumption by 50%, to avoid the worst consequences of futureclimate change, new research warns.

In this second post during Sustainable September, I want to think about the practicalities of changing now by cutting our consumption of meat by 50%.

I have started doing this at our place -for budget reasons as well as health and environmental reasons. We are not vegetarians -have no plans at this stage to go down that path, although I respect those who do.  All I am doing is reducing portions of meat when we do eat meat, and trying to develop a habit of one meat meal on one day, followed by a non-meat meal on the next. I am in the habit of making a weekly or fortnightly meal plan, so this can be a deliberate choice. I find that if I am prepared, it is much easier to make this work. 

When you think about it, there are some great classic recipes which are already likely to be part of everyone's experience, which are vegetarian -though we would not often think of them as such:

1. Pumpkin soup -a classic favourite among me and my friends -often made more spicy these days with the addition of ginger and chilli, and flavoured with coconut milk. Yummy with a crusty loaf of bread or hot-out-of-the-oven scones.

2. French onion soup -if you have read Kerry Greenwood's "Corrina" books, you will know that there are often recipes added at the end. Kerry's recipe for French Onion soup -with or without the cognac- is  real winner! 

3. The great Aussie mum stand-by of  'zucchini slice" - an oven baked dish made with zucchini, eggs, flour and cheese. Great for adding to lunch boxes. 

4. Fried rice -a quick way of using up left-over rice, but good enough to make for its own right. I make a simple egg omelette, cut it up and add to rice which has got some nice sauted vegetables through. Add a splash of soy sauce and some nuts if you like them, and you're done. 

So it shouldn't be too hard to think of enough vegetarian meals to mix with meat meals.  I am gradually building up a repertoire of these to add variety and spice to our meals. 

 The other obvious way to cut meat consumption by half is to reduce our portion sizes. Have you ever been to an antique shop or found a wonderful old piece of dinner ware at an op shop, and been astounded at the small size of serving dishes, cups and bowls? In the olden days people ate smaller portion sizes whilst being more active. Is it any wonder we are all struggling with increasing weight?

Of course it requires some finesse on the part of the cook, to have the rest of the family cooperate with such a reduction in portion sizes without revolt. Any teenage boy will be only too aware that their usual dinner of two sausages and associated accompaniments, is now reduced to one!

One way to reduce the complaints is to simply cut the meat up into bite sized bits, add lots of vegetables and such and serve it as a casserole or stir fry- the amount of food on the plate may look the same, even if the meat ration is smaller.

You can also invest in smaller plates to achieve a similar result.

There are some great recipes from other cultures, where they have developed the fine art of using meat as a condiment to the meal, rather than the main part of it. Chinese meals are good examples-lots of rice, lots of vegetables, lots of tasty sauces, and small amounts of meat.

What is for dinner at your place? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waste not, want not

Did you know that on average, Australians throw away one third of the food they buy? Government sources estimate that this adds up to a whopping 4 million tonnes of food per year!

It is easy to understand how it happens. We buy more than we need, and it goes off before we use it. We cook it up and then, because we have no plan for using the rest, it sits in the back of the fridge until it becomes a 'science experiment" and then we throw it out.

Throwing away food is a way of throwing away money, so curbing waste is a good idea if you want to do something more exciting with your funds or just pay the rates or whatever!

Food takes efforts to grow, and fertiliser, water and transport -and that all adds up to a big hit on the environment. If we can curb our waste, we can help the planet at the same time.

This month many of us in WA will commemorate "Sustainable September", an annual festival of all things which go to making our world last longer. My theme for this week is 'reducing waste" in the kitchen.

This is what I do:

1. Plan meals ahead so I know what I need to buy. I have added some measure of planning for our lunches as well as our evening meals. Our lunches are often the leftovers from a recent evening meal. If I put these leftovers in small containers, it is easy for DH and I to grab one as we leave for work. Hey presto! Nutritious for us and cheap too. DH told me this morning that he has not bought his lunch at all for the last 3 weeks. If he spent $13 on each lunch (easy to do in Perth -we are an expensive city!) then that is awhopping  $195 we didn''t spend on those!

2. Try to establish a routine of shopping once a week. In the past we used to shop quite frequently -whenever we noticed something was 'low'. I have found if we shop only once a week, we are encouraged to be creative with our meal choices. No celery-maybe we could substitute the ribs of a silverbeet leaf instead? No fresh fruit? There are stewed apples in the freezer.

3. Freeze leftovers. One of the biggest problems with freezing leftovers is not knowing what the unidentified bits of stuff are, there lurking in the freezer. I have found that masking tape or painter's tape is good at low termperatures, and I can write on it in pencil. I have a roll which I keep near the kitchen, and any time I want to quickly label something I just snip off a small piece. It sticks to freezer bags or pyrex containers.

4. Freeze things likely to spoil before we use them. This goes for the bread I make -one small loaf is enough for a whole week sometimes, but other times it goes faster. No-one really likes week old bread, so I slice it up after it is made and put half in the freezer.

5. Store food carefully. I prefer glass containers where possible -with tight fitting lids. I put extra bread flour in the fridge as I have had it spoiled by weevils. My "simple living" friends say it would be better in the freezer, but I don't have room in my freezer so it lives in the fridge. So far so good! I did have some success for a while storing bulk rice -but the weevils found it in the end, so now I prefer to keep stocks low, until I can be assured that I can keep it without spoiling. I find that a tight fitting lid on a container in the fridge can keep may vegetables crisp for quite a long time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dragons, Knights, Quilts!

 We met a dragon at the Balingup Medieval Festival this weekend! We went down  on Saturday. Balingup is a very pretty little country town in south west Western Australia. They have held this festival for a number of years, but we have only just heard of it. The festival goes for two days, with lots of people who come just to dress up and have a great time.

 We listened to great music. This, I think, is "Contraband", an a capella group. We had people playing medieval instruments and people playing celtic music.

 We watched knights in a tournament. This is the "Grey Company" and they practice all year to do these kind of shows.

On Saturday night we enjoyed a fire spectacle which ended in a burning of a dragon! (not the nice one above - another one).
When we got home  I decorated for spring which is almost here. A new picture tile on the mantle which echoes the nasturtiums from the garden, plus a litte bird sitting on the nest with her partner nearby.

 And today I finished the Out of the Box quilt -this is the front. Made up of blocks left over from another quilt and some scraps sewn in the "Mile a Minute" blocks. I nearly didn't finish this one -as usual, half way through I was rather unhappy with it, due to the usual conflict between idea and execution! I am glad I persevered.

And this is the back. Found in an op shop, I think it may have been a curtain once. I like the colours in it.

Now I intend to start another quilt -but this time it won't be just to use up scraps, but will be one I start intentionally!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How to give more

Following on from yesterday's post on abundance, I want to think about how to "give more".

Here are some ideas:

1. Be kind. 
My friend Daena has a very inspiring blog  here in which she gives very creative expression to the idea of offering random kindness to others. I find that most people just need a 'good listening to" and that the gift of time and attention is always welcome. I always notice people standing on their own in a crowded room -and make sure I try to include them in conversation. I have met some wonderful people that way.

2. Volunteer
My DH is today off doing some work for a small organisation that needs him. He will donate the fee to a favourite charity of ours, which we both work for in a voluntary capacity. This is the local refugee agency CARAD .
I volunteer as the coordinator of the fundraising and marketing committee. A small but dedicated team of other volunteers and I work hard to find the money which helps the organisation help very vulnerable people.

3. Donate
If you can give money to a worthy cause, go ahead and do so regularly.
If you can't give money, you may be able to give THINGS which you no longer need. Many charities earn good money by selling these things at Op Shops -and you keep such things away from the tip and put them back into the hands of people who can use them. Surprisingly, the more you give away the better you will feel -clutter in our house robs us of peace, but if we release it to bless others we are blessed too.

I love making quilts -and yet I don't have huge numbers of them in the house. If I can think of someone who needs a quilt, I am happy to give it away. Sometimes they are birthday or wedding or Christmas gifts, sometimes they are for other reasons. It makes me happy to make them, and giving them away adds to the fun.

4. Be encouraging
A small word of encouragement and appreciation goes a long way. Many people don't get enough encouragement and appreciation in their lives, but it is so easy to offer.

There is so much we can give, from our abundance. I hope you have an abundant generous day today.


I finished the "give now' quilt and it is hung up in the family room. It is part of a series of three to illustrate the slogan "Live Simply, Give More, Expect Less' motto.

I chose the panel for the middle of this quilt because it looks so lush and gorgeous. DH thinks it looks like Provence, DD thinks it looks like Italy, and I think it reminds me of the winery regions of our south west of Western Australia.

The idea of course is that we are living with abundance and therefore can 'give more". It is my belief that the practice of generosity is one which enables us to really feel 'abundance'- there is nothing like a gift freely given to make you feel rich beyond measure!

So here are some examples of the abundance I found around here today:

 A bowl of home grown winter tomatoes, ripening in the kitchen. There are lots more on the bush -an unexpected bounty for this time of the year, thanks to the very warm winter we are having. Fortunately we have had some rain recently, so they are doing well.

 One of three new rhubarb plants on the way. I do love rhubarb, and it is so expensive when you buy it in the shops, and often looks a long way from fresh. I am really feeling the 'abundance' of three plants -fingers crossed they keep growing this way.

 Pumpkin bread -our new favourite home made bread. Alongside a fruit bowl recently given new fullness by someone I know with a fruiting avocado. Our avocado is too new to fruit, and this is a wonderful treat.

 Purple blue iris in flower in the backyard. Jackie French said that  if you have flowers to pick for the house, you will never feel poor!

 Two lovely greek terracotta plates depicting scenes from mythology, found at the op shop for very little, and hung by my lovely DH with great skill so that they hang in line, in our bathroom.

Lemon buds on the tree with promises of more to come.

So much to be thankful for- so I hope you can find some things to be thankful for, from your abundance today. If you do so, why not leave a comment and share it with me?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Yet another dry month

We headed off for a walk around a local lake yesterday. Even though this is our winter, it was a warm and sunny afternoon. 

Now I like warm and sunny as much as the next person, but recent stories about the extraordinarily dry July in Perth this year, have reinforced the situation we are facing here in the South West of Western Australia -a drying 'trend' of some 40 years duration now.

You can read one of the latest stories here:

So it was good to see water in Carine Lake yesterday.

I read a very good article today about the way Melbournian people approach gardening and water use, and in it the writer reflected that non-Indigenous Australians are still coming to terms with life on an old, dry continent. We still use lots of water, and expect European style gardens. You can read the rest of the article here:

In our home we have been working hard to reduce water use. In an old property it is often leaky plumbing that causes unnecessary water use. We have invested quite a lot of money fixing the plumbing.
It is also old fittings -modern bathrooms in our city use fittings which slow water use and use it more efficiently. This is why we are renovating bathrooms.

We have rain forecast for this week, and I hope it falls in buckets! And in water tanks and dams too! It does seem a shame that so much rainfall goes to waste, although of course it is needed to replenish ground water supplies too.

I notice that many people in Australia are very concerned about the idea of drinking recycled water, although  cities like London have been using it for a long time. Do you have an opinion about this? Do leave me a comment!