Category Archives: Enjoying good company

Volunteering – why do we do it? Anniversaries make us look back, Lemon juice ice blocks, Showcasing skills – spinning with a difference

 

Hello everyone – O’h dear where did August go?  Unfortunately I had a few health problems, not serious, but enough to put a spanner in my works so to speak.  Glad to say I am back on top of everything and ready to write again.    How easy it is to take good health for granted and going through a bad patch really does bring this home to us all.

Volunteering – why do we do it?

My first topic is volunteering.  Why do we do it?  I recently read that the best definition of volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.  That’s true but there’s more to it than that.   I believe there’s a need within us to share our skills and knowledge, to be involved and to communicate with the wider community in whatever way we can.  The spectrum of volunteering is very wide, there are opportunities for all abilities and ages at every level, but however we volunteer and for however much time we are able to give, the rewards personally are immense.  

Volunteering Australia has compiled the following facts about volunteering and happiness:

  •  Volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer 
  •   96% of volunteers say that it “makes people happier.
  •   95% of volunteers say that volunteering is related to feelings of wellbeing.
  •   Just a few hours of volunteer work makes a difference in happiness and mood.
  •   Sustained volunteering is associated with better mental health.
  •   A strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health, and longevity of      people who are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable helping activities.
  •   The experience of helping others provides meaning, a sense of self-worth, a social role and health enhancement.

Last weekend I visited the National Wool Museum in Geelong so decided it was a good opportunity to ask the volunteers on duty their reasons for volunteering.  Firstly I spoke to the lady who directed us to all the exhibits.  She responded that she lived alone and it was wonderful to be able to get up in the morning and have a purpose.  Next I chatted to the demonstrator of a huge Axminster Carpet Loom.  He said he wanted his skills to be preserved as there were few people left who could operate the machine.  Lastly I spoke to one of the guides.  His reasons were a little vague though I suspect he enjoyed the interaction with overseas visitors.  

Later I visited the Port Lonsdale Lighthouse and posed my question to the volunteer on duty.  She said she was passionate about her area and its conservation and wanted to make the public aware.  

There are obviously a myriad of reasons why we volunteer but it’s not just about the giving of our time, it is also the personal rewards we receive.

I would really love to hear what you think.   Do you volunteer or are you considering volunteering, perhaps you were a volunteer in the past.  You can leave your comments by clicking Leave a Reply at the top of the page.

 

Anniversaries make us look back

Anniversaries can be happy or sad times but they give us an opportunity to look back over the years.  Ken and I did just that last weekend when it was the 50th birthday of our son Gareth and our 57th Wedding Anniversary.  Let me share with you the story of our romance.  I hope you enjoy.

Mine is not a fairy tale romance, no knight on a flying charger came into my life but the man who did snuck in quietly with no fanfare …….

follow the link to read in full    THE ROMACE

 

Making lemon juice ice blocks

My lemon tree is bulging with fruit so I set about making up juice ice block trays.  If you also have heaps of lemons or are donated with some it’s well worth the effort to have a long term supply on hand.  All you need to do is juice the lemons and freeze the pure juice in trays then store in bags in the freezer.  It’s so easy just to take out a block when needed.

By the way I recently read some quite alarming facts.  The label on Woolworths lemon juice, 500ml $1.65, states that it contains:  Reconstituted Lemon Juice (99.9%), Food Acid (Ascorbic Acid), Natural Flavour, Preservative (223).  Preservative 223 is in the sulphite group, it’s Sodium metabisulphite, which can cause allergic reactions.

Showcasing skills – spinning with a difference

Members of the Coal Creek & Fibre Arts Group, based at the Coal Creek Community Park & Museum in Korumburra, Gippsland, Victoria, decided to showcase their various skills by video. The first of these videos in a series, is now available and features Ingrid Riddell on the Great Wheel and the Chakra.  

 

I must thank my husband, Ken, for the time and effort he put into making this video possible and to Ingrid for demonstrating so professionally.

 

I’m going to sign off now with this little quote:

The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled

 

Until next time

Janice 

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The role a mentor can play in our lives, the prospect of spring in the garden, clever use for olive oil, Australian Sheep and Wool Show – watch highlights, enjoy a low calorie Scottish soup recipe

Hello everyone – sorry it has been so long since I blogged;  you must have thought I’d got lost.  On the contrary I have been knee deep in projects and activities which have taken up far more time than I ever imagined possible.  In fact I think I’ve been trying to do far too much and really feel the need to take things a little bit quieter which I find easier said than done.  I’m sure you all know the feeling.  Sometimes it’s like we’re in a race.

Recently I’ve contemplated on the wonderful role mentors can play in our lives or the reward we can gain by being a mentor ourselves.

The role a mentor can play in our lives

Sharing skills and helping others achieve their goals can be rewarding and fulfilling.  I have been fortunate to experience the wisdom and guidance of two ladies, Janet Staben and Ingrid Riddell who I met when joining the Coal Creek Spinners Group.  When I started I really had no idea about the art of spinning and all that is entailed in the preparation of fibre.  With their patience and forthright approach I have gained so much knowledge and insight.  They are always there to help, give support and answer any questions.  I must tell you a little about them.

Janet has been spinning for over 17 years and produces the most amazing skeins of wool which she knits into all kinds of garments.  She doesn’t stop there, she crochets, makes lace, felts, and recently has taken up rag rug construction.  I think there’s a lot more in her bag of skills.  I will be forever grateful to her for her role in my quest to spin.

Let me share with you a photo of a beautiful garment Janet has just completed for entry into a Vintage Knits Exhibition.  It’s from a pattern Janet found of a dress her mum made her when she was a child (blog 14/02/17).

 

Time with Ingrid is an education in all things fibre.  Her head is absolutely full of knowledge and her hands full of skill.  In 1990 she won a world wide competition for the longest plied thread of yard from 10g of wool,  She has undertaken an apprenticeship as a weaver and subsequently ran weaving courses and took on special weaving commissions like curtains and bar mitzvah apparel  As with Janet there’s much more to tell.  Ingrid says she thinks it’s in her blood as her Swedish half sister, who she didn’t meet until later in life, is a weaver.  

Feast your eyes on some of Ingrid’s creations:

 

 

Seek out a mentor you will be rewarded many times over as I have been.

 

The prospect of Spring in the garden – it’s round the corner

If you are a gardener there’s nothing more promising than seeing the first daffodils showing their faces and seeds you may have put in during the autumn starting to show progress

If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember that a couple of years ago I decided to downsize the veggie garden – o’h dear I’m still having trouble doing just that.  The joy of seeing my seeds emerge is just too much so perhaps just one more season !!   There’s already the prospect of early carrots, beetroot, broad beans and onions.  I think I have far too much kohlrabi;  it’s not a very popular vegetable but I find it so versatile as you can roast, boil, use in salads or just have as a crunchy snack.  

Do write and let me know how you are going if you love vegetable gardening as I do.  Did any of you try making the newspaper pots highlighted in my blog from July last year.  Here’s the Youtube video to watch again.  They worked so well for me.

 

 

 

Clever uses for Olive Oil

A good olive oil is a staple for any household and it has plenty of uses that stretch beyond salads and stir frys.  Here are a few I came across recently which you may find useful.  

Hair conditioner – Keep your hair smooth and healthy in between visits to the salon or washes by using olive oil. Brush a little olive oil through your hair and leave overnight.


Remove sticky substances – If you have sticky substances lingering on spoons and measuring tools, or even from stickers on glass gars, olive oil will help remove it. Apply with a cloth and rub gently until the residue is gone.


Make a herb mix – Save time with cooking by adding a mix of herbs to an ice cube tray – oregano, sage and rosemary for example – then top up with olive oil and freeze. Then you can simply add it to a frying pan when you’re ready to cook next for a perfectly seasoned mix.

Remove grease from hands – If you have car grease or paint on your hands, put some olive oil into the palm of your hand, sprinkle with salt, then rub together. Follow with soap and water; the grease will be gone and your hands will feel soft and smooth, too.

Furniture polish – You can restore some of the shine from your old furniture using a mixture of two parts olive oil and one-part lemon juice. Apply onto a paper towel and rub into the furniture. Then, using a clean cloth or paper towel, rub to remove any excess residue.  I really love this one.  

 

Australian Sheep and Wool Show, Bendigo

A couple of weeks ago Ken and I travelled to Bendigo to attend the Sheep and Wool Show and catch up with our grandson who is working at the general hospital.  So much to see, do and buy.   Ken has put together a short film of Woolcraft Highlights from the show.  You will see me demonstrating felting with the Victorian Feltmakers;  quite an experience and hard work.  

 

 

Carrot, leek and mustard seed soup

This soup is great if you are trying to cut down on calories (mmmm, yes I know, how boring).  I found it recently on a Scottish cooking site.  It’s reported to be  super good as it’s high in Vitamin A & B12, Dietary Fiber, Potassium and Vitamin C, each portion containing in the region of 120 calories.

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Ingredients
5 large/450g carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium leek, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp  oil
1tbsp mustard seed
a pinch of salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
125ml skimmed milk
25ml low fat yoghurt (optional)
a handful of fresh chives, chopped

Instructions
1. Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the mustard seeds, after a couple of minutes they will start to pop. Don’t let them heat for any longer or they will burn.
2. Add the onions leeks and season them. Saute them for about 5 minutes until they have started to soften.
3. Add the carrots and allow them to cook gently for 5 minutes.
4. Add the stock and bring to the boil. When it has reached boiling point, reduce it to a simmer and leave it to cook away for about 20 minutes until the carrots have softened.
5. Turn of the heat, add the milk and whizz with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth.
6. Serve with a swirl of milk or a dollop of yoghurt and some chives.
7. Enjoy!

 

I hope you are all taking care of yourselves and enjoying your various activities, so until next time I’ll leave you with this thought:

 

Cherish the friends that make tomorrow

better than yesterday

 

Janice 

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Poignant story of love, Hat felting technique, National Volunteer Week, Grated Apple Cake and more to enjoy

Hello everyone – a month has slipped by since my last post and although I always intend to write more often, I just looked at the calendar and realised I’d failed to put pen to paper so to speak.  Lots of things have been happening, one of which is that I have been elected President of the Coal Creek & Fibre Arts Group after the sitting President had to sadly resign due to the ill health of her husband.  I hope I will be able to do justice to the task and fill her shoes admirably.  When I mentioned this to her she said I may have a hard job as she took size 11 to which I replied that I took size 11 too.  Mmmm I’m not sure what this means, is it an omen !  

Firstly I would like to share with you a short story that I heard the author, Ken Stokoe, read on Radio National Life Matters recently.    I am sure if we thought about it many of us could write our own love story with a happy or sad ending.  Unfortunately this story has a sad ending though it does reflect life’s journey so I hope you will enjoy it as I did.

Heartbreak !

It’s not about Verona, not Romeo and Juliet; just about Balmoral Beach and us.
An early Saturday afternoon 70 years ago.
She just free from work, I to the city from my working-class home in an outer suburb. We to meet and spend the rest of the day on an outing. There was a pack of sandwiches she had brought – sweet-corn filled. The first I had ever tasted. So delicious. How long had this been going on, I pondered?
That taste followed the ride from Wynyard in a very swish corridor tram with padded seats to Balmoral Beach. The first time there for this unsophisticated teenager.
It was a great adventure, crossing the harbour by the mighty bridge, another first, to rumble through posh streets of elegant houses such as I had not seen hitherto. Then down winding cuttings in the sandstone to a golden sand strand and a sparkling sea.
What a thrill, what revelations.
The lunch taken on a lawn in the beachside reserve under a clear blue sky, the air tempered by a soft breeze.
Presently, a stroll along the shore towards an adjacent islet of rock. I was so elated by it all that I shyly took her hand in mine. Things of this nature must have developed slower then than now. Certainly did for this couple who, although companions for many months, had never made so bold a contact.
How sweet it was.
Her hand so soft and smooth. Everything about her perfect; so pretty, so learned, so kind, so thoughtful.
A dog came bounding up, its tail wagging, as mine might have done had I possessed one. It dropped a stick at our feet, then dabbed at it with paw while gazing expectantly into our faces. Quite obviously dog-speak for “Let’s play”.
I released her hand, took up the stick, hurled it into the bay. The dog swam to the stick which was brought back to our feet to soak lower limbs with the water shaken from its shaggy coat, seeming then to grin as if to say, ‘What fun is this!’. The game continued.
Although I was joyed by the whole outing thus far, I did not take her hand again. Later, I came to realise she was not so pleased and did not share my attitude to the friendly dog. Much later, approaching marriage, I was told how cross she was when the dog caused the unclasping of hands, was disappointed that the holding of hands did not resume that day.
The years of marriage, though at first financially stringent, were idyllic.
Three daughters and Mum a girlish quartet. In the early years, we combined to nail together a ready-cut house. It is another tale of how the extensive backyard became a miniature farm. In time, the daughters branched out on their own.
We became Darby and Joan, had paid off the home loan, were in the ‘Golden Years’, but knew that someday it would end in death and grief. There would likely be a great price to pay for the happiness we now enjoyed.
And so it was.
She was diagnosed with an incurable terrible disease.
The closer the end approached, the greater grew our love. We mourned together through those months.
Two broken hearts, shattered. Not the mere bruised heart of all those years ago, irreparably broken hearts.

A NEW CHALLENGE

Wiping away the tears and putting away sobering thoughts, have any of you been undertaking new or challenging projects recently.  For over a year now I have been very interested in all things felt, reading about it’s origins, production and practicing the art.  I have turned my hand to making flowers, vessels, scarves and more recently hats.  When I read about a Russian lady, Irina Spasskaja, who had developed a unique way of laying out Merino wool fibres to create a soft hat with a double brim, which at the same time was water and wind-proof, I had to investigate further.   This culminated in my purchase of her 6 video tutorials (rather costly) followed by many hours of practice and the necessity to have a rotary board made to facilitate the work.  This was achieved by purchasing a ‘lazy susan’ base and then going to our local carpenter wiz, Gary, who goes by the rather strange name of DUCKS GUTS FURNITURE, who luckily had a circular piece of wood in the corner of his work room, ideal for the task, and within 24 hours I had my rotary board for the grand sum of $30.  Amazing.  Here’s  a picture of Irina showing her rotary board which I copied with the help of Ken of course. 

Irina showing the rotary felting board

I won’t bore you with all the technicalities of the process except to show you a few photos of how the layout works.  If you would like more details send me an e-mail (sbf@dcsi.net.au) and I will be happy to supply a fuller description of the process.

Now after nearly 5 hours of work here’s the completed hat:

Irina says you have to make at least 10 hats before you are ready to progress to the next level of expertise.  I think that could be sometime in the future for me.   One hat is a huge task.  

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK – AUSTRALIA

As many of you who are volunteers will know, this week has been National Volunteer Week with lots of activities and afternoon teas around the countryside.  I celebrated by attending my local neighbour house and participated in a group session of laughter.  We were told how laughter is beneficial for us whether it be real or false.  We had to walk around the room making eye contact with each other, clapping, repeating hehehehe, hoooo,  and making various movements, like simulating knitting, driving, digging and so on.   Yes, this did cause laughter amongst many of the participants but left me with a silly false smile on my face.  At least I did’t sit out like some, but I really didn’t enjoy the experience.  Have any of you tried this activity I wonder.  

At the end of the session different messages relating to volunteering were read out, this one says it all for me.

Volunteering can be an exciting, growing, enjoyable experience.  It is truly gratifying to serve a cause, practice one’s ideals, work with people, solve problems, see benefits and know one had a hand in them.

 

ABUNDANCE OF APPLES

I am at last getting to the end of my abundance of apples, well almost, and in my quest to process the last few kilos found the following recipe which turned out really well, though for me the topping was too sweet, so I would suggest you reduce the amount of brown sugar a little if you don’t have a sweet tooth.  
Aunty Wendy’s Apple Cake                                                    
125grams butter
2 medium apples, peeled and grated
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon all spice
pinch of salt
…and for the topping:
25grams melted butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350F) and line a round cake tin with baking paper.
Mix butter, sugar and egg and then add grated apple. Mix well.
Stir in sifted dry ingredients, mix well and pour into cake tin.
Mix the topping ingredients together and spread evenly over the cake.
Bake for 45minutes or until golden brown on top.

SPECIAL CAKES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS

What do you think of this marvellous Birthday Cake produced by the sons of Christine (retired President of the Coal Creek Spinning Group) for her recent birthday?  So appropriate and so clever:Congratulations Christine.

I’m going to finish of this post with a bouquet of felted flowers produced by the participants at a recent workshop:

THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN LIFE THAT WILL CATCH YOUR EYE, BUT ONLY A FEW WILL CATCH YOUR HEART, PURSUE THOSE

(Michael Nolan)

Until next time, enjoy every day.

Janice 

 

 

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Remembering our grandmothers, Things that have a special place in our hearts, Exhibition of hand made items from 100g of wool, Visit to Mohair Goat Farm, Yummy quick cake recipes

Remembering our grandmothers

I wonder how you remember your grandmothers.  Did you live close and spend lots of time together?  How did they affect your life?  It’s a really interesting topic and one which I would like to explore if any of you are happy to share your memories with me in future blogs.  At a Spinning Group party yesterday I asked Anne what she remembered.  She said she spent a lot of time with her grandmother who loved hats and handbags and always gave her an Aspro when she took her out so that she wouldn’t want to go to the toilet.  I asked how she thought she would be remembered.  She said “that lady whose house was so full of wool you couldn’t get through the door”.

I lived next door to my paternal grandmother whose name was Caroline.  She spoke very little and always seemed quite hostile.  In later life I realised she was very deaf and could hear little of what was being said so didn’t respond.   I loved helping her mash up the boiled potato peelings and mix with pollard for feeding the chickens.  She did once  come out of her shell, so to speak, when she told me that when she was at school the other kids used to chant:  “Car, car, Caroline hang your britches on the line, when they’re dry bring them in and hang them on a safety pin”.  After that revelation I never told anyone my middle name was Caroline.  Sadly she died from a tragic accident which haunts me to this day.  Unfortunately I didn’t know my maternal grandmother as she died in childbirth in 1912.  I do have a photo of her and a letter she wrote to her sister just prior to her death, apart from that there is little information.

What will my grandchildren say of me.  Now wouldn’t that be interesting, though I hope they don’t have that opportunity any time soon.

Things that have a special place in our hearts

Today I thought I would share with you something that has had a special place in my heart and life since I can remember.  It’s a grandfather clock.  A couple of years ago I wrote some short stories relating to my youth which I published as an e-book.  The first was about the grandfather clock and after many attempts at getting the story started I came up with the idea of writing from the point of view of the clock, therefore the clock is the narrator of the story.

To save space you can read the story by clicking on the link below.  It doesn’t quite open as I would like.  When you click on the link it takes you to my Reply Page where you have to click again.  Very strange.  I’ve sought the help of my son but he’s busy so I’ll have to leave it as it is.

Mum, Dad and Janice - think I was 18 in this photo

Mum, Dad and Janice – think I was 18 in this photo

the-grandfather-clock-tick-tock

 

Although the clock resides at my daughter’s house, due to lack of sufficient space in my house, it still presides over events of the family.  Unfortunately its hourly ring has had to be curtailed due to it being a little annoying during the night.

Here I am with the clock last Christmas

Here I am with the clock last Christmas

 

Exhibition of hand made items from just 100g of wool plus a visit to a Mohair Goat Farm

Recently the Coal Creek Spinners Group participated in an exhibition of items made from just 100g of wool.  The variety was amazing from small toys to beautiful wraps, to hats, scarves, wall hangings, skeins of different wools  and one really special exhibit, a jumper so finely crafted it was hard to believe the skill  of the knitter (view in the video) who won 1st prize at the Bendigo Wool Show for her work.

As part of the activities of the group there was a visit to Mohair Rare, a working farm, producing mohair yarns for spinning and other crafts.  I have to thank my husband for producing this video which is very informative showing both the exhibition and the activities of the farm, explained in some detail by Lill Roberts of Mohair Rare, and returning at a later date to view the shearing of the goats, one of the shearers being a lady who kindly explained on camera the process.

 

Now for some recipes

Now that Christmas is approaching its wise to have a few goodies on hand, possibly in the freezer, in case friends or family pop in unexpectedly.  I have used the recipes I am going to share since back in the 60’s when I used to subscribe to a small publication which was full of ideas for the freezer.  Quite an innovative concept in those days plus there was always a home testers note about the recipe which I can confirm freezes really well.  I have also made and stored portions of the Fudge Icing in the fridge and used on other cakes.  Very handy.

Chocolate Cakes with Fudge Icing   

You will need two shallow foil pie dishes about 18cm across

180g self raising flour
60g cocoa
180g soft brown sugar and 180g butter
3 eggs plus 1½ tablespoons milk

Grease the dishes. Sift together flour and cocoa then in another bowl beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat eggs and add gradually beating mixture well. Fold in sifted ingredients with milk. Divide equally into dishes and bake at 180C for about 50 minutes. Fan forced ovens a little less. Cooked when centre of sponge is springy when pressed.  Cool before icing.

Fudge Icing

60g butter
60g cocoa
3 tablespoons milk
120g icing sugar

Melt butter in heavy pan. Add cocoa and cook over low heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in milk and sifted icing sugar. Cool then pour from pan onto cakes in foil dishes. Leave to set.

No Bake Cake – only 10 minutes to prepare

100g butter
100g marshmallows
25g cocoa
300g Rich Tea Biscuits roughly broken
50g plain chocolate
50g white chocolate

Line a 450g loaf tin with clear film or glad wrap leaving about 2.5cm hanging over the edges. Place butter, marshmallow and cocoa in a pan and heat until melted. Remove pan and stir in biscuits. Press mixture into loaf tin and chill for about 2 hours until firm. Turn onto serving dish.

Melt plain and white chocolate in separate bowls over hot water.  Spoon on top of cake and swirl together with a skewer to create a marbled effect. Chill until set then cut into slices.

It freezes well but probably best to add the chocolate topping after thawing.

 

Well I’ve come to the end of another post, there is always more to say but I’ll leave that until next time.  To finish up here’s a Funny Minions quote:

I MAY LOOK LIFE I’M DOING NOTHING ….

BUT IN MY HEAD I’M QUITE BUSY

 

Janice 

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Enjoying a new experience at Halloween, Christmas is approaching, Recipe for Mincemeat (fruit mince), The joy of spring flowers and 5 tips for using Silica Gel bags

Hello everyone – once again I have a few activities and snippets of information to share.  Do feel free to write a comment on any item in ‘Leave a reply’ at the top of this blog.

Enjoying a new experience at Halloween

It’s been a long time since I gained so much enjoyment out of dressing up.  I don’t mean getting ready for a special outing but actually dressing up in costume and acting a part.   It’s not something I’m accustomed to doing and I found it a little difficult at first but I can certainly recommend it for letting yourself go.  My daughter commented when seeing the photos that she had never seen me having so much fun.

More than 4000 people attended the annual Halloween event at Coal Creek Heritage Park in Korumburra on the 29th October and myself, along with other members of the Coal Creek Spinners group, dressed up as witches and welcomed visitors into our coven.

Here’s another clearer photo of Avis which I thought you would like to see.  She is a marvellous lady and an inspiration to us all.

dsc00467

 

Christmas is approaching – puddings and mince pies

I usually do my Christmas Puddings during October but somehow this year I’m a little behind, though it probably doesn’t matter, they will still taste good on the day.  As customary Ken and I stirred the mixture and made three wishes.  I always make the same wishes which I think are supposed to be kept secret.  Being a little nostalgic I decided to look back over my Christmas pudding photos.  I find it very comforting to see I am carrying on with the same traditions as my Mum and Dad.  How well I remember them doing their puddings, except in their case they made them as gifts for those friends and family who could no longer make them so their kitchen was filled with steam for a week or more.

Now for today’s photos:

A recipe for Mincemeat (Fruit mince)

Last year I was very disappointed with the quality of the fruit mince I used for my mince pies so this year decided I would have a go at making my own.  Having gone through all my cookery books, including a Mrs. Beaton’s (too difficult), I settled on one from my favourite cookery book which was given to me as a wedding present in 1960.  I have to say it turned out really well and of course I just had to make a batch of pies which I intended to put in the freezer.  They had no chance of that did they – yum, they were so good.  If you want to try this recipe you will need:


500g mixed fruit                                                              dsc00477

2 grated apples
120g shredded suet or melted butter (I us
ed the butter)

120g dark brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
50g blanched almonds chopped (optional)
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp each of cinnamon, grated nutmeg and cardamon
4 tbs brandy, whisky or rum                          dsc00473

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Pot in dry jars. Keep in a cool dry place.

NOTE: I added some water to make the mixture a little more fluid and because I didn’t have the specified spirits to hand I used some Mezcal, a type of tequila, made from Agave nectar that we brought back from Mexico 10 years ago.  At last I found a use for it !

Some information about Agave Nectar (you may already know of course) – Agave nectar, sometimes called agave syrup, is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico.  Agaves are large, spiked plants that resemble cactus but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.  They come in many sizes and colours.  The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavour foods and drinks.  Now, due to increasing awareness of its beneficial properties, it is becoming the preferred sweetener of health conscious consumers, doctors and natural food cooks alike.

The joy of spring flowers

What joy the spring flowers bring even though some of them are having a bit of a struggle coping with the very strange weather we have been experiencing.  The wind has played havoc with many plants coupled with the naughty behaviour of Ken, who in his effort to control the weeds, accidentally pulled up my very best sunflower specimen which I had been nurturing.  Admittedly it was in a strange location, amongst the loganberries, but it was the only space I had available at the time of planting.  Fortunately I have three more in another spot.  He has been forgiven – somewhat.

My Lilac was a real disappointment, only having a couple of blooms, but the various clematis and sweet peas are lovely.


Some useful tips for using silica gel bags
Next time you find a sachet of silica gel in a handbag or in a box of new shoes, don’t throw it away – these multi-purpose little sachets have a range of practical household uses or so I have read in a recent article.  I have picked out what I think to be the best.

  1. Preserve old photos and books – Moisture can wreak havoc on old photos and books. Silica gel placed inside an album or in an old book will help absorb unwanted moisture and can even do away with the musty smell.
  2. Absorb unwanted smells – If you carry your gym bag with you between work and home, try popping a few silica gel bags into the pockets to keep things fresh. You can also try this in your shoes – the silica gel bags will gradually eliminate dampness and help prevent the bacteria that causes smells from thriving.
  3. Preserve Christmas decorations – For the majority of the year when they aren’t in use, Christmas ornaments tend to live in the far corners of our cupboards or tucked away in the loft or garage. Keep them safe from damage with silica gel bags; they’ll draw away moisture and keep your precious items at their best.
  4. Saving seeds – If you’re a keen gardener and you save seeds between seasons, you’ll know how important it is to keep moisture out to prevent sprouting and molding. Put seeds in individual envelopes and then store together in an airtight plastic container – add one or two silica gel sachets to soak up any residual moisture and keep them safe until it’s time to plant again.
  5. For drying flowers – Speed up the process of drying and pressing flowers with the help of silica. Put your dried flowers in a paper bag with a packet or two of silica gel to help speed up the process.

Apparently if you find your silica gel bags aren’t working anymore, don’t throw them away – you can dry them out by placing them in the oven on low temperature – about 95C – for one to two hours. Then keep them in a sealed sandwich bag until they’re ready for use again.

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So here I am at the end of another blog post which please enjoy.  I’ll close with a quote from Aristotle:

PATIENCE IS BITTER BUT ITS FRUIT IS SWEET 

Janice  

 

 


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Impromptu days out, A time for reflection, Is your wardrobe a mess, Panzanella salad, Project update

I just can’t believe where the past few weeks have gone.  I made a resolution to post at least every couple of weeks but despite my good intentions, I’ve failed.  I recall a sign on the wall of the office where I had my first job at the age of 16:   The secret to a happy life – never argue, never explain.  This sign was pointed out to me on many occasions by the Office Manager when I wasted too much paper failing to erase errors in my typing.  Though I’m not sure I agree,  it’s stuck with me for a very long time.

Sometimes impromptu days out can be the best

Do you sometimes wake up one morning and say to yourself or your partner “let’s go out for the day’ ?  These impromptu days out can prove to be the best.  That’s what happened last week when I woke up and thought blow all the jobs I had planned, the weather forecast was for a sunny day, so why not go out and enjoy.  Ken had read about filming waterfalls and suggested we go to Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve which is located in Gippsland around a 15 minute drive from the township of Toora and about 1¼ hours from our house (2 hours from Melbourne).   I packed a picnic lunch and we were off.

When we stepped out of the car at the falls there was a feeling of absolute tranquility.  Just standing in the peace and quiet was exhilarating.  Here’s a link so you can read more about the falls.    https://www.visitpromcountry.com.au/attractions/agnes-falls

When we got home Ken put a short film together so I could include it in this blog.  It just gives you an idea of the Falls but unfortunately not the rest of the beautiful surroundings.  You may need to turn your sound down when viewing as the water falling is really loud.

 

A time for reflection

A couple of weeks ago it was our 56th Wedding Anniversary.   The whole family met at our daughter’s house to not only celebrate our Anniversary but the birthday of our son and two of our grandchildren.  I  retrieved our Wedding Album from the back of a cupboard to take to the party and after tea and a very large cake, we sat around a huge table to chat.  The grandchildren talked about their courses and activities and future prospects, our children chatted about their jobs and hopes and Ken and I listened and reflected on our lives.  The album was passed around with much laughter.  It was so good to remember that special day 56 years ago and bring to life aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents and friends who will forever be in our hearts.

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Is your wardrobe in a mess?

The answer to this question for me is, yes, so when I read a plan for change, I thought I would have a go:
Sort the clothes you don’t wear. Store these out of sight until you’re ready to donate or discard them.
Set a limit. Determine the number of items you’ll have in your wardrobe, be it a core 10 or wider 33 or in between.
Set a time. Decide how long you’ll wear your capsule wardrobe. One to three months is a good starting point.
Curate your clothing. Replace ill-fitting or well-worn items as needed.
Enforce a one-in-one-out policy. When you buy a new item, donate or toss an old piece.

I wonder if it will work !!

Panzanella Salad and Garlic Bread

With warmer days on the horizon (I hope) here in Victoria and the sun still shining in the UK, this recipe is a winner.

You will  need:

* ½ loaf of Ciabatta cubed
* 500g ripe tomatoes (cherry or cocktail or heirloom tomatoes) or 2-3 bigger tomatoes
* ½ red onion, thinly sliced
* 1 long cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
* 3 garlic cloves, sliced
* ½ cup of olive oil for bread
* 4 tablespoon of butter
* Small bunch of chopped fresh parsley (1/2 cup)
* 8 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
* 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
* 3 tablespoon of olive oil for dressing
* Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Heat ½ cup of olive oil with butter together in a large oven proof skillet over medium heat
3. When butter has melted, remove the skillet from the heat, add garlic and bread and mix it well
4. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown, let it cool down
5. In the meantime prepare the tomatoes, cut the cherry tomatoes in half or if using large tomatoes, core and slice into medium cubes
6. In a large bowl, mix together, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions
7. Combine vinegar with 3 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the salad
8. Mix well
9. Add bread and herbs and toss everything together
10. It can be served immediately or prepared 15 – 30 minutes in advance

Project progress

In my last post I mentioned that I hoped to make up an easy to use kit for wet felting with children.  This turned out to be a much bigger task than anticipated but eventually I was able to source all the bits and pieces necessary and now have the kits ready to go.  I tried to photograph the actual kit, but the bag caused a reflection so this is the label.

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My next challenge is to do a filmed tutorial with two of my granddaughters and post it on YouTube.  They haven’t felted before so it should be a good test for the kit.

Does anyone have an interesting project they would like to share?  Let me know so I can include it in the next post.

Until next time

THROW KINDNESS AROUND LIKE CONFETTI

Janice 

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Download a tutorial for felting with children, Pamper your feet, Update on newspaper seed pots, Watching veggies grow, Felting Bug, Wool Dying, Activity idea for grandchildren and a super Marshmallow Pavlova recipe

Hi everyone, hope you are all enjoying life to the full, exploring new projects and ideas, meeting up with friends and family and generally looking after your well being.

Recently I came across a couple of ideas for pampering your feet which I thought were worth sharing.   I loved the detox foot soak but so far haven’t got round to the foot scrub.

Detox Foot Soak
1 cup sea salt
1 cup epsom salt
1 cup baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil
3 tbsp dried lavender
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar, cap, and shake.
When you’re ready to use, fill a container that is large enough to fit both feet in with hot water. Add 1/2 cup of the foot soak powder and stir to dissolve. Place bare feet in the water and allow to soak for at least 10 minutes, but for up to 30. Relax, breathe, read a book, listen to some music. When your time is up, pat feet dry with a clean, dry towel.

 

Revitalizing Foot Scrub
1 cup coarse raw sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 tsp tea tree oil
5 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a resealable jar and stir to combine. When you’re ready to use, scoop a small amount of scrub into your palm and massage into feet, concentrating on heels, arches, any any rough patches. Leave on for 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel. Store scrub in a cool place, away from direct sunlight

 

Update on making and using newspaper pots

I wonder if any of you decided to make the newspaper pots for planting seeds and seedlings (instructions and video given in my blog of 27th July ).  They work really well and even though I thought they may fall to pieces when watering, so far they have maintained their shape.   Most of the giant sunflowers I planted have emerged and are doing well.  I have since planted some tomato and petunia seeds.  By the way, the more pots you make, the easier it becomes to get them square.   I found that the final step, which was creasing the points to allow them to want to form the bottom of the pot, is essential for success.

Sunflowers growing and further pots planted

Sunflowers growing and further pots planted

The joy of watching veggies grow

There is so much satisfaction to be gained from planting a few vegetable seeds and watching them grow to maturity.  The wonder of popping those little seeds into the ground and then eventually being rewarded by something you can eat is amazing.   I had the intention of cutting back this year but have found it really difficult to curb my enthusiasm.  Here are a few of my happy plants:

The felting bug

Yes, I’ve really got the felt bug.   With the assistance of the e-book I downloaded, Creating Felt Artwork, I’ve produced two wall hangings and a cushion which I had on show at the recent Coal Creek Heritage Park craft day.

It was a very successful day with demonstrations of spinning, weaving, lace making and wool dying and of course felt making.  The wool dying with both cold and hot water methods was extremely popular.  I was fascinated by the colours produced with the hot water method which included, brown onion skins, wattle flowers, eucalyptus leaves, red cabbage and fungi.  The fungi produced a very strange smell and appeared a real witches brew, the resultant colour of the dyed wool being a greyish blue.  The cold water method is more passive using Earth Palette Dyes but again the colours are impressive.  E-mail me for more details at   sbf@dcsi.net.au

I thought I would look into the history of wet felting and was rewarded with lots of information some of which I have copied here for those interested.

History of Feltmaking: What is Wool Felt

Felt is a non-woven fabric formed when sheep’s wool or animal fur is subjected to heat, moisture and pressure or agitation. Soap, or an alkaline environment, helps the felting process. Heat and moisture cause the outer scales along the fiber to open, and the soap allows the fibers to slide easily over one another thereby causing them to become entangled. The wool fibers are made up of a protein called keratin. The keratin in the fibers becomes chemically bound to the protein of the other fibers thereby resulting in a permanent bond between the fibers, making the felting process irreversible.

Felting is a simple technique requiring very little equipment. The main advantage felting has over other textile techniques is producing a finished product in much less time. No one knows for certain how humans first discovered the felting properties of wool and animal fur, but several ideas suggest how early humans may have become interested in making felt. Matted wool may have been noticed on sheep. Wool shed from wild sheep may have been found formed into a mass of fibers as a result of the elements. Perhaps they stuffed their foot ware, presumably animal hide, with wool to keep their feet warm. After walking on the wool for a while they found that it became stiff and formed a kind of fabric.

The oldest archaeological finds containing evidence of the use of felt are in Turkey. Wall paintings that date from 6500 to 3000 B.C. have been found which have the motif of felt appliquè. At Pazyryk in Southern Siberia archeological evidence of felt was found inside a frozen tomb of a nomadic tribal chief that dates from the fifth century B.C. The evidence from this find shows a highly developed technology of feltmaking. (These felts are in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Some pieces can be seen on the museums web site, www.hermitagemuseum.org) The Romans and Greeks knew of felt. Roman soldiers were equipped with felt breastplates (for protection from arrows), tunics, boots and socks. The earliest felt found in Scandinavia dates back to the Iron Age. Felt sheets believed to be from about 500 A.D. were found covering a body in a tomb in Hordaland, Norway.

Today felt is still in use in many parts of the world especially in areas with harsh climates. In Mongolia, nomads live in felt tents called yurts or gers. In Turkey, rugs, hats and other items are made of felt. In South Central Asia nomadic tribes use felt as tent coverings, rugs and blankets. Shepherds use felt cloaks (kepenek) and hats to protect them from the harsh climate. In Scandinavia and Russia, felt boots are produced and widely used. More recently there has been a revival in the interest in felt making especially in Great Britain and Scandinavia and also in the United States with contemporary felt making design and techniques becoming more widespread.

 

A great activity idea for when the grandchildren come for the day

Children love to be creative so having seen the interest that was shown in the felt wall hangings, cushions and hats plus wool dying,  at the craft day, I have put together a tutorial for Felting fun with children, which can be downloaded below.

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This is a quick and fun project to make with children – in an hour or so a child can make a masterpiece!  Children love to be creative and wet felting is an easy activity that allows them to do just that.  The tutorial will guide you through the steps that are needed to produce a small felt picture.  With the help of an adult a child can felt the flowers shown in the tutorial or a design from their own imagination.

The only problem I foresee is sourcing the correct wool for felting.  Some craft shops carry supplies, likewise Spotlight Stores and internet sites.   If you are interested I will be putting together a small kit which will include all you need to make one picture, e-mail me at sbf@dcsi.net.au for details.

>>CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD <<

 

Now to conclude this post here’s a delicious Marshmallow Pavlova recipe (courtesy of Jo Marty)

An amazing Marshmallow Pavlova (recipe courtesy of Jo Marty)

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MARSHMALLOW PAVLOVA
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 dessertspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon vinegar
300 whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar extra
1 kiwi fruit or 1 banana
Method
Preheat oven to 110C
Beat egg whites thoroughly until stiff, add half cup caster sugar and beat again until sugar is dissolved (approx. 5 minutes)
Add remaining sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly fold in sifted cornflour, then vinegar. Line base of a 20cm spring form tin with non-stick baking paper. Spray sides with non-stick spray. Spoon mixture into pan and level off the top. Bake gently for 1 hour. If the pavlova is browning the oven is too hot.
Allow to cool completely. Whip cream with 1 tablespoon sugar. Top pavlova with stiffly whipped cream and sliced fruit.
Serves 4 to 6

 

I’ve had a few computer glitches this week so think the following quote rings true:

The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time

Enjoy

Janice 

 

 

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Prioritising your time, iPod birthday cake that plays music, Cycling without age scheme, Easy marmalade recipe

First of all I have to report that despite all my good intentions to post a blog each fortnight, I’ve sadly failed.  Sometimes I think I need to plan my time better and I do try.  When I say that to Ken, he nods his head knowingly;  of course he’s heard it all before.  No matter how carefully an intention or project is planned, something may still cause delay.  I think the saying   “The best made plans of mice and men often go astray”  (adapted from a line in “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns) is very appropriate.  

This got me to thinking about the best way to  prioritise my time so I trawled through various blogs on the net and came across the following very good advice.  It’s certainly worth a read. 

The Art of Mindful Prioritising (extract from an article by Marc Chernott)

The moment we admit to ourselves that we’re trying to cram too many things (tasks, obligations, distractions, etc.) into a relatively small space (24 hours in a day), it becomes obvious that we need to clear some clutter from our schedules.

Mindful prioritization is the key.

Pay close attention to all the things you do today – all the things you’re trying to fit into 24 hours. How much TV are you watching in the morning and evening? What websites are you browsing? What games are you playing? How much time are you spending texting, emailing, or updating your social media accounts? How much online window-shopping are you doing? How much time do you allocate to eating, cleaning, and taking care of others? What else are you spending the precious minutes of your day on?

What you might notice first is that you’re doing too many random things that don’t need to be done – too many time-wasters. Then you might also notice that you’re overcommitted with too many obligations – and those obligations are filling up your life.

You can start stealing your time back by eliminating as many needless distractions and obligations as possible, and saying “no” to new ones that arise. Easier said than done, of course, but the important thing to realize is that you CAN change how you allocate your time.

Next, look at your to-do list (assuming you have one): how many of these things can you reasonably do in the next 24-hours? Probably only three to five, with sanity.

Now ask yourself this: which task would you work on if you could only work on one task over the next 24 hours? That is your #1 priority. Just that one task. The truth is, you probably can’t complete everything on your list in one day’s time, and you can’t do your top three to five tasks right now. You can do only one thing at a time. So just focus on your #1 task and, once you’re done, then figure out what your next #1 task is.

Clear everything else away, and focus.

 

Our hidden talents – the story of the iPod birthday cake that plays music

I really love chatting with people about what they enjoy doing and frequently they reveal what hidden talents they have.     I met Karen Suttie some years ago whilst visiting at Armitage Aged Care facility.  Karen works in the catering department and always makes sure I had a nice cuppa and a piece of cake.  I knew Karen cared for her young grandson Jordan and during one of our brief chats she told me she was going to buy him an iPod for his birthday but, as a surprise,  make a birthday cake in the form of a pad which appeared to be playing music.   Karen says she is fairly new to serious cake decorating but likes experimenting and trying new techniques which makes it exciting.   I think you will be amazed at how she got the cake to play music.

Here’s Karen’s description of her iPod cake

First picture shows the cakes. Second picture was to show you that I drilled a hole in the cake board and threaded the speaker cords through ready for the cake. It also shows the bottom layer of the cake where I cut out a hole for the cords to go through to make it look ‘plugged in’.


Third picture, I’ve put the bottom cake back on the rack and iced the two layers of cake together with a chocolate ganache. I iced them back on the rack so I wouldn’t make too much of a mess of my cake board.
Fourth picture, a layer of red fondant. I cheated and bought ready coloured fondant.
Fifth picture I had cut a rectangle of white fondant, put that on top of the cake and then had a go at drawing the designs from the home screen of an ipod. This was hard and I wasn’t very confident.  I used cake decorating textas to draw the designs and although they weren’t perfect, I thought they looked ok.
Sixth and seventh pictures – I did the screen background cover…..the worst part and the one that almost ruined the whole thing!  I thought I’d try spray painting with cake decorating spray paint.  Bad move! I got runs of paint everywhere. I decided to use a paint brush to try and even out the colour. I sprayed the paint into a container where I dipped the brush and finished painting. I also added a few details like the indented on/off button and I wrapped a little white fondant around the cords to make it look like the end of the cord at the plug point. I had also wrapped the two speaker cords together to make them look like one cord that split part of the way up, forming the ‘earphone’ look which I taped this to the board. 

I  taped my daughter’s ipod to the bottom of the cake board and with the help of a double plug jack, I plugged in the speakers to run music through the speakers so that it appeared that the cake was playing music. The two speakers were cheap $1.25 speakers that I got from China and the double plug jack was about $2.50, so the whole ‘real music’ look cost me a whole $5.00 but looked, and sounded, quite impressive. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a great effect if you know what to look for!

 

Cycling without age

I recently became aware of a new program, Cycling Without Age,  it’s not unlike the Community Visitors Scheme I volunteer with,  however, instead of just visiting, the volunteers take their friends out for a ride on a specially designed bike rather like a rickshaw.

The program was initiated  in Denmark by Ole Kassow and now has licensees around the world including Australia and the UK.   Of course Denmark is a bike riding country and very flat, so I am not sure how it will work in Australia plus there are bound to be lots of regulations to satisfy before it could get off the ground.    Be inspired and uplifted by watching Ole Kassow’s YouTube video describing the scheme and the joy that is being given to residents in aged care facilities.

 

For more information you can visit the Australian site at:  http://cyclingwithoutage.com.au/melbourne/  or the UK site at:  http://cyclingwithoutage.co.uk

 

Marmalade – my easy and somewhat lazy recipe

Making your own  marmalade may seem a little old-fashioned or even a redundant skill but with my easy recipe, which I have used for longer than I care to remember, it’s a breeze.  Seville oranges are the best oranges to use because they have such a tart taste and high pectin content but unfortunately their season is short here in Australia, only available during the first weeks of August.  Not to be deterred any combination of citrus will do the job.

Recipe

4/5 oranges, 2 lemons, 1 grapefruit, washed and cut into quarters.  Remove pips and any discoloured pieces of fruit.  Put fruit into a microwave safe bowl (I always use glass) and add a cup of water.  Cover and microwave on high for 15 minutes.  Let cool slightly then transfer to a liquidiser and pulse until the fruit still has chunks of rind.  Alternatively if you want a smooth product continue to pulse. Place a large saucepan on your scales and pour in pulsed fruit, now add the same weight of sugar to fruit.  Stir to dissolve sugar then boil rapidly for more or less 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  I always put the saucepan on a trivet to save the marmalade burning. Test for set by putting a small portion on a cold plate and leave for a few minutes.   If ready the marmalade will wrinkle when you push up with your finger.

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I like to pot my marmalade while it is still warm so I transfer from the saucepan into a large glass jug and then pour into pre-washed and sterilised jars.  Seal immediately.  This way the marmalade keeps really well.   

 

I’m going to sign off  with the following quote:

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory

Ringing the bells in the Bell Tower, Perth City, with my dear friend Olive. We have been friends since we started school aged 5

Ringing the bells in the Bell Tower, Perth City, with my dear friend Olive. We have been friends since we started school aged 5

 

Janice 

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The not so retired retirees, Soap making, Don’t be discouraged, Useful tips and a story to make you smile

The not so retired retirees

Recently I have been thinking about what it means to be retired.  Our generation is known for a strong work ethic, but I’m not sure we could keep up with some inspirational seniors, who still work full time even in their 90s.  Apparently recent studies have shown that as you work past 65, your life expectancy increases.  Here are the three not so retired retirees I read about recently.

Jean Beanham, 92

Beanham’s Melbourne motorbike parts store has been a fixture of Elizabeth Street for more than four decades, and the 92-year-old has been there through it all. Her 38-hour work week runs from Monday to Friday plus a half-day on Saturday. “I don’t like holidays,” Beanham says “When you get old, you need your brain working.”

Agnes Zhelesnik, 102

This amazing teacher really is 102 years old.  In fact, she has officially been named America’s oldest living schoolteacher. Affectionately known as “Granny” by her pupils, Zhelesnik only began teaching at the age of 81 and still works 35 hours a week at the Sundance School in New Jersey. “I’m busy every minute,” she says.
Reginald Huntley, 96

This British grandfather works 40 hours a week, travelling around Kent in the UK selling woollen clothing and accessories. Rising at 6 am every morning, Huntley works 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. In an interview with Mirror Online, he says, “I hate the thought of sitting at home because people deteriorate.” As for what keeps him going? Huntley visits the gym once a week and loves a good meal of “meat and two veg.”

These three obviously really enjoy what they do, but likewise changing your lifestyle after retirement can open up new challenges and opportunities.  Retirement doesn’t actually mean that you stop work, far from it.  There is time to pursue those things you have had in the back of your mind to do if only you had time together with other activities you never thought it possible that you would enjoy or try.   As we age everything has to be tailored to suit our abilities and needs, but through our local clubs, community houses, libraries, on line courses of every category etc. there is something for everyone to help you retire and enjoy to the full.

Soap making

More years ago than I care to remember, possibly in the 80’s during my alternative lifestyle era, I had a go at soap making.  I recall writing to tell my mother back in UK all about it.  I quickly received a reply from her saying that if I couldn’t buy soap in Australia, she would send me some.  Anyway when I saw a Goats Milk Soap Making course being offered at my local Community House, I booked in.  With all the so called “natural” soaps on the market, I had the mistaken idea that it was possible to produce soap without the use of lye, apparently not so, a fact the course leader acquainted us with at the start of proceedings.   All real soap is made with lye (sodium hydroxide mixed with liquid).  However with the chemical changes that take place during the soap making process, namely, saponification, the finished product does not contain lye.  If you would like to know more about these facts, check out Wikipedia.

I have to say it was a very enjoyable morning with much laughter and chatter.  After having the process demonstrated, we were divided into groups of four, provided with the ingredients which consisted of goats milk, solidified oil, copha, vegetable oil and caustic soda (lye) plus our choice of essential oils, clays, colours or abrasives together with the necessary utensils, following which we set to work with varying degrees of success.

So far I haven’t practiced at home.  We didn’t add any colour other than clay during the course and I thought the finished product looked quite grey and uninteresting, although having used the samples we were given, the soap smells and lathers really well and is soft on the skin.  I have written to the course leader to obtain some more advice.

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If anyone would like the actual soap recipe and instructions, I’m happy to send you a copy.  Just drop me a line at sbf@dcsi.net.au.

 

Don’t be discouraged if you mess up a project there can be a silver lining

Having joined a Spinners group some months ago, I have been practicing my technique under the mentorship of Joan, a long time spinner with 15 years under her belt.  I really do appreciate all her help and advice.  In fact all the members of the group have been fantastic.    Believe me it’s harder than you ever imagined.   Having eventually got to the point where I could spin ‘reasonably’ well,  I decided I would like to start from scratch, washing a fleece, drying, preparing for spinning (carding), then eventually spinning, plying and knitting a finished article to wear.

Without going into too much detail, I thought I had the wool ready for spinning and took it to show Joan, who on inspection kindly said “it will make really good stuffing”.  Apparently I had pulled the fleece in all directions instead of in the way of the staple (direction which the wool grows) which would cause lumps when attempting to spin a smooth thread.  I had so much to learn.  However, over the next few weeks I watched some YouTube spinning videos and saw one  lady who spun absolutely anything and everything.  Out came my wheel and ‘stuffing’ together with some bits and pieces of coloured wool my friend brought back from Chile and I set to work.   Yes big lumps and bumps did emerge, breakages frequently occurred,  but undaunted I spun on and eventually had enough to make a small circular scarf.    Here’s my finished article which I’m quite proud of and wear frequently.

 

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A few useful tips for using Cream of Tartar

I was reading an article recently about the varied uses of Cream of Tartar and thought I would share a few of them with you.  I realise of course that you may already have them in your repertoire but if not you may find them useful.

Stain Remover
Make a paste of cream of tartar mixed with lemon juice to lift stains on clothing and carpets. Let the paste sit for an hour or two, then either machine wash as usual, or blot with a damp cloth. This mixture works well on ink stains!

Kitchen Cleaner
Make a paste of cream of tartar mixed with white vinegar to make a great all-purpose kitchen cleaner. Use it on burner pans, grout lines, ovens, sinks, and to clean up mould and mild

Coffee Pot
Clean stains and residue out of your coffee pot by sprinkling cream of tartar inside. Add boiling water to fill the pot, let the pot cool to room temperature, and rinse well.

Homemade Playdough
Make homemade playdough by mixing 1 cup of flour, 1 cup water, 1 cup salt, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon cream of tartar, and 3-5 drops of food dye (optional). Add more flour if the mixture is wet or sticky, or add more water if the mixture is too dry.

Meringue Miracle
Add an 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for each 2 egg whites in your meringue. The acid from the cream of tartar will stabilize the egg whites and add volume to your finished product.

A story to share and make you smile

I’m going to finish this post with a happy story.  I can’t imagine riding around a busy city like Lima in Peru on a bicycle but what fun – enjoy.

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On May 23, 2016, photographer Jean Paul Merino posted photo to a Facebook community page for aspiring and professional photographers. Today the photo, titled “Tercer Juventud” (Third Youth) has over 1,000 ‘likes’. Here’s the photographer’s story behind the spontaneous image that would capture hearts (and thumbs up) around cyber space.
I was heading for the center of Lima on my bike, and suddenly I crossed paths with an elderly couple enjoying a bicycle ride. They were both laughing, and it caught my attention. So, without thinking twice, I pursued them for what would be 3 blocks in order to capture the scene, and waited on a corner with my camera and backpack for that shot.
I published the photo on my Facebook group, Peru StreetPhotography …[and] a week later, a Ms. Anita Navarro wrote me, congratulating me for the photograph. She said she was the daughter of the woman on the bicycle.
Then, she continued to tell me the couple’s story: The man is the husband of her sister, who died 14 years ago. He was left alone with their four daughters, so Anita’s mother stepped in to help raise the girls. The man never remarried.
The family has told me the couple likes the photo and have no problems with my having posted it on social media – to the contrary, they are quite pleased. I plane to give them a copy of the photograph.

I’ll sign off with this quote:

A GOOD LIFE IS WHEN YOU SMILE OFTEN, DREAM BIG, LAUGH A LOT AND REALISE HOW BLESSED YOU ARE FOR WHAT YOU HAVE

Janice

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How to get out of bed feeling great, a mystery plant, volunteering, super salad recipe, tea cosy festival and an inspirational man

How to get out of bed feeling great

Have you noticed how a cat stretches after sleep getting all its limbs and body ready for action?  If you do that too you will start your day feeling great.  Here’s how:  working within your capabilities, arch your ankles, bend your toes, flex your entire leg forward, back, sideways and manipulate the toes, heel and ankle forward and back.  Take a moment to feel the renewed strength flowing through your body before leisurely getting out of bed.  Enjoy the experience.

 

The surprise of receiving a mystery plant

Last week I arranged to have lunch with a dear friend.  I was first in the cafe and when she arrived she was carrying the most unusual (to me) display in a jar which she had cleverly decorated with brown string and a raffia bow.

Dianthus 'Green Trick'

Dianthus ‘Green Trick’

Rhonda has a green thumb and has designed the most amazing colour co-ordinated garden at her new home.  She told me they were Dianthus ‘Green Trick’.  When I arrived home I ‘Googled’  the name and came up with the following information which may interest some gardeners:

Botanical name: Dianthus barbatus ‘Green Trick’

Other names: Sweet william ‘Green Trick’, Dianthus barbatus ‘Temarisou’

Genus: Dianthus
Variety or Cultivar: ‘Green Trick’ _ ‘Green Trick’ is an upright, bushy, short-lived, evergreen perennial, often grown as a biennial, with linear, grey-green leaves and, from early summer into autumn, upright stems bearing large, round, dense, bright green flowerheads with finely-fringed petals.
Dianthus barbatus ‘Green Trick’ is: Evergreen

Flower: Bright-green in Summer; Bright-green in Autumn

Foliage: Grey-green in All seasons

Habit: Bushy, Compact, Cushion or Mound Forming

I also noted that they are becoming very popular with florists to add to bouquets.  I’m looking forward to growing some in my garden in the future.

Volunteering National Volunteers Week (Australia)

We have been celebrating National Volunteers Week here in Australia with various events.  This year’s slogan was GIVE HAPPY, LIVE HAPPY.  The Program Coordinator for the Community Visitors Scheme I volunteer with arranged a morning tea to thank all volunteers for their work and dedication.  It’s absolutely outstanding how many visits have been made.

You may be interested in the amazing statistics which Esis Tawfik, Manager, Community Visitor Scheme, kindly forwarded to include in this post:

MS Community Visitors Scheme
In the past year our 478 Community Visitors Scheme volunteers made
more than 11,365 visits to socially isolated older people in NSW and Victoria.
Our volunteers visit people for companionship and friendship built on
mutual interests. This simple philosophy has added genuine value to the
lives of many people. In 2014, our program was expanded to include
people living in their own homes who receive a home care package. In the words of one of the recipients, for many people, the program is a ‘lifeline’.

As mentioned previously,  I visit Dorothy in an Aged Care Facility, who at 102 loves to chat and talk about her life experiences.  When I was with her last week she said how nice it was to have ‘a special friend’.  I found that very touching.

For readers of this blog who live outside Australia, it would be very interesting to know if you have a similar scheme in your area.

 Another great recipe from Jo Marty’s book :  How to eat well for next to nothing – The Bible of Budget (2nd edition)

ROASTED PUMPKIN SALAD

400g butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped into approx 1-2cm dice, 60g baby spinach leaves, 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed, 2 tsp mild curry powder, 1 tbl vegetable oil

Dressing:  2 tbl vinegar, 1 tbl olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, ½ tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 200C – place pumpkin into a small baking tin with the oil.  Toss through then bake for 20 minutes.  Add curry powder and mix through.  Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes or until cooked and a little caramelised.  Set aside to cool. 

To  make dressing:  whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt pepper and sugar.  In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, spinach, chickpeas and dressing.

I demonstrated this recipe at the Learn/Share Vegetarian at the Table course I conducted recently.  All the participants returned the next week telling me what a success it had proved to be with their families.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy trying it out.

 

Tea Cosy Festival at Fish Creek, South Gippsland, Vic.

Along with my friend Olga, I really enjoyed the Tea Cosy Festival at Fish Creek which is held in Fish Creek every two years.  The Festival showcases the town’s character and reinvents a cultural icon of country kitchens along the way.   How well I remember my mum using a tea cosy each day and having a special one for when visitors came by.  I have to admit to not owning one myself but seeing all the wonderful designs, I just might be tempted to find a pattern and make one before too long.

I took some photos but there were so many people in the hall it was difficult to keep a steady hand so the results were not the best.  However,  I’ll share my favourites here:

 

An inspiration at almost 81

I have to say at nearly 81, my husband Ken, is an inspiration.  He’s always planning his next project which recently was renovating the greenhouse and garden shed and reducing the vegetable growing area.  I’m not sure there’s much reduction in the growing area, but things have certainly been spruced up.  When he finishes a project he always says that’s the last one though I doubt it.  At least I hope not.

I’d like to share this timely quote I saw attached to a tree in a Sculpture Park.

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With that thought I’ll sign off until next time

Janice

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