Category Archives: Knitting and crafts

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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Coping with change, The horrid words “diet and “eat healthier”, Creating an heirloom, Slow Cooker Lentil Soup plus more

Hello everyone, thanks so much for reading my blog and sending in your messages.  It’s very rewarding.  Over the last month many friends have had to cope with unexpected changes in their lives, two through illness and a third having to decide to go into care,  which brings me to my first topic:

Coping with change

Recently I have been thinking about how change affects us.  It may be change in lifestyle,  the behaviour of friends or neighbours, alterations to things we take for granted or the more serious change that comes about by ill health or an unforeseen reduction in income.   We all have different coping abilities so a change, however small it may seem to others, can cause a lot of distress to the individual.  Personally I’m not a lover of change, for example if Ken pulls a plant out of the garden without telling me it’s going to happen, I think I should have been consulted first.  I’ve heard of partners coming home to find the furniture in the house moved around and becoming quite grumpy as a result.  Now that sounds quite petty but it does reveal a little of our personalities.  I think the lesson for all of us is to respect each others need to keep certain things as they have always been even though this can be frustrating or to make changes as and when they want.   Not changing promotes a sort of comfort and certainty in our lives whilst on the other hand change can be a stimulating and thrilling experience.

Of course at some time we may all have to cope with change as when illness or loss  unexpectedly strikes, then its amazing how we are able to draw on our inner strength in immeasurable ways to cope and adjust but at the same time we need those around us for support and understanding.

Do let me have your ideas about change and how it affects you.

 

The horrid words “diet” and “eat healthier”

Why do these words make us want to turn the other way.  For me it’s usually when my dress or skirt feels a little tighter around the middle which happened the other day.  Last year I made a two piece summer outfit which fitted perfectly.  When I wanted to wear it recently the zip of the skirt somehow didn’t want to pull up.  What a shock, although of course I should have known I had been eating too much bread.   Perhaps a few changes are worth trying so have a look at this article reproduced here:  I’ve already sized down my dinner plate which is one of the suggestions made.

If you don’t like the idea of going on a diet but do want to eat a little healthier, start with a few simple adjustments.
They’re small, satisfying and easy to implement – and if you stick with them over time, they have the power to make a big impact on your eating habits, your waistline and your wellbeing.
Ready to learn more? Here’s some small adjustments that make a big impact on eating habits.
Keep frozen veg to hand
Frozen vegetables are an easy and inexpensive way to make sure you always have healthy ingredients in the house. Keep a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer and try and add them to your meals during the week by incorporating them into the dishes you’re making. 
Eat snacks from a plate or bowl
When you eat crisps and other snacks directly from the bag, you often end up indulging more than you intended – research suggests that when you eat like this your brain doesn’t give you a stop signal. Create a mindful portion size by putting any snack you intend to have in a bowl or plate.
Choose high protein breakfasts
Sugary foods like croissants, muffins and cereals may be quick and convenient, but they can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and make you end up craving more food – particularly sugar – sooner. A healthy, filling breakfast that’s high in protein and fat and low in carbs will help keep you fuller for longer and give you the energy you need to start the day.
Size down your dinner plate
The size of dinner plates has been steadily rising over the last several decades. Today’s plate sizes are between 9 – 12 inches across. In the 1960s, they were much smaller – just 7 inches. We instinctively fill our plates and eat what’s on them, meaning a larger plate causes us to eat more calories than we actually need. Instead, try using a dessert plate for your dinner instead – you’ll automatically start eating smaller portions and finish dinner feeling satisfied rather than overfull.
Stay hydrated
People often mistake hunger for thirst – stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water rather than sugary drinks.
Try 80/20
When it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits over time, balance is key. The 80/20 rule is a good one to follow; make healthy, sensible choices 80% of the time, leaving room to indulge now and again 20% of the time.

Creating an heirloom  (I hope)

Using your creative skills, have you created or thought about creating an heirloom?

Over the past couple of years I’ve crocheted 4 blankets, one for Ken (he loves it over his feet in the winter), one for my daughter, one for my granddaughter and lastly one for my daughter in law.  Recently my eldest grandson, who will be 23 in September, said  “Nan I would love one of those blankets”.  This got me to thinking about making a special effort as a fairly new spinner and going the whole way by buying a sheep’s fleece, washing, combing, carding, spinning, dying and finally crocheting a blanket for presentation as what I hope will become an heirloom.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to buy a Border Leicester fleece at an agricultural show for the grand sum of $10.  Must say I was a little worried as to whether I was up to the task.  Anyway during the following week I washed the fleece in batches and was able to get it dried in the sun on the verandah table.  That was the first hurdle.  Because the preparation of the wool for spinning is long, and good preparation makes all the difference to the finished article, I have been doing that in small quantities and have to thank my friend Olga for taking on some of the carding for me whilst we are volunteering at the Coal Creek Heritage Park.  Must say visitors to the Park are very intrigued by the carding process which makes the hard work worthwhile and is a topic for conversation.

So far I have spun about 250g of wool.  The pattern I have for the blanket takes about 1.25kg so I’ve a long long way to go.  I’ll report my progress from time to time, that’s if I don’t fall by the  wayside in my endeavour !  In the meantime you might like to see the washed wool, combed and carded wool, spun wool and my first skein of plied wool.

 

Bringing my slow cooker out from the back of the cupboard

I have been intending to get my slow cooker out from the back of the cupboard for some time but the need hasn’t been there with the warm weather we have been experiencing.  However, I came across the following easy recipe which I tried with great success, so you might like to add it to your recipe list for chilly times to come or why not try it out now.

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

INGREDIENTS
* 1½ cups red lentils
* 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
* 1 red bell pepper, chopped
* 2 celery stalks chopped
* ½ a bunch of kale (about 4 leaves) stems removed and chopped
* 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, pressed
* ½ an onion, chopped
* 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon parsley, ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon              garlic salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 6½ cups vegetable stock

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and pour in vegetable stock.
2. Cook on high for 5 hours, or low for 8 hours. Stir a few times throughout the cooking. If you like a more brothy soup, add in 1-2 cups additional stock.
3. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and crusty bread on the side (optional)
Prep time 15 mins, cook time 5 hours

 

It’s time to sign off.  I’ll leave you with this mantra:
Everything I need, I have. Everything I have, I need.
The minimalist lifestyle is not about how few items we own, it’s about how valuable and useful the items we choose to keep are. Our belongings should enrich our lives, provide a use or a purpose, and bring us joy. We should enjoy and put to use the things we own (inside of keeping them “just in case” or for special occasions) and remove everything else.

 

Janice 

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Seventy hats for seventy years, Is sleeping in separate beds the beginning of the end, The satisfaction of a baking day, Vintage knitting, Beetroot superfood truffles

Thanks so much for the comments I received following my last blog.  It really is good getting your messages so please keep writing.  As many of you may  know I am fortunate to be part of a group of volunteers who man the Spinning Room at the Coal Creek Heritage Park in Korumburra, Victoria  http://www.coalcreekvillage.com.au/ .  It’s amazing how many visitors tell us that they have a spinning wheel gathering dust at home or that their mother or grandmother used to spin.  The male visitors and some little boys are particularly interested in how a spinning wheel works.  Each week we are delighted by interesting stories and anecdotes about projects past and present which leads me to:

Seventy hats for seventy years

70 hats for 70 years

A lady (Wendy) who visited the spinning room with her husband last Friday told us that she had  recently knitted 70 hats.  Apparently when her and her husband both reached 70  they decided to do things in units of 70 and the hats were part of that challenge.  As a member of a group of 5 churches in Romsey, Hampshire, England, she participated in the Samaritan Shoebox Project providing children in poverty with gift-filled shoeboxes.  A total of 140 hats were in fact knitted by the group. 

I had to admit to my ignorance of not knowing anything about the Shoebox project but have since checked it out on the net.  If you want more information go to:   http://samaritanspurse.org.au   

Unfortunately there wasn’t time to find out about all the ‘seventy’ projects except that at the birthday celebration each of their 7 grandchildren displayed a cake with 10 candles.  

Wendy kindly agreed to send me an e-mail with a photo of her hats (shown above).  If you read this Wendy, thank you very much for sharing your story and do let know what other ‘seventies’ you achieve.  

What a unique way to celebrate a milestone in life!

 

Is sleeping in separate beds the beginning of the end?

As we get older and trying to get a whole nights sleep seems to get harder, I wonder are separate beds or bedrooms the answer?  I have read that nearly one in four couples sleep in separate bedrooms or beds, according to a 2015 survey by the National Sleep Foundation.  Recent studies in America and Japan have found similar results.
The marital bed, once the symbol of  matrimony on a par with the diamond ring and the tiered wedding cake is threatened with extinction. “Till Death Do Us Part” is fast becoming “Till Sleep Do Us Part.”  Apparently separate sleepers cite a range of reasons for their habit, including snoring, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and regular trips to the toilet which cause disturbance to their sleeping partner.

People are suddenly making their own sleep a priority. If their rest is being impaired by their partner, the attitude now is that I don’t have to put up with this.
So what is your view?  Do you sleep in the same bed with your partner, or separately? Have you tried sleeping apart?  How do you feel about separate beds or separate bedrooms?
Is sleeping in separate beds the beginning of the end?

Personally I don’t like the idea of abandoning my queen size bed for one of those  single ones. Seems a bit of a lonely idea to me except I know that circumstances alter cases and there may be no other alternative, so it’s a matter of what triggers the decision.  It  would be difficult for me to give up that companionship but that’s how I feel at the moment;  who knows what the future may hold.

 

The satisfaction of a baking day

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than a baking day.  Well it doesn’t take all day, usually a morning.  I get started nice an early usually around 7 am when the house is quiet and still.  First off is the bread.  I’ve been making bread for more years than I care to remember though I’m not as ambitious as I used to be.  I usually make one large loaf and 12 rolls which is more than enough for a week.   It’s so therapeutic kneading the dough all warm and silky letting your mind meander around.  This morning I reminisced how it used to be the normal practice to have a cake on hand in the event visitors popped in.  In my case it was usually a Victoria Sponge.  I haven’t made one of those for quite a time.  What about you?

Following the bread I make some sort of pie, apple, apricot or rhubarb. Or it could be a quiche.   I always have some shortcrust pastry rubbed in and stored in the freezer.  Lastly I pop jacket potatoes and a rice pudding into the oven for lunch.

Seeing all those goodies sitting cooling on the kitchen bench gives me a great feeling of well being.

 

Vintage knitting

At the last meeting of our Spinning Group it was proposed that we take up the challenge of knitting an item from a vintage pattern.  Christine, our President, had a heap of patterns which she had collected over time and put them on the table for us to browse through.  There was much discussion as to what we thought we could knit and recollections of past projects.  Then Janet picked up a pattern which brought a huge smile to her face.  It was one of a dress that her mother knitted her in white with red smocking when she was about six years old.  “That’s what I’m going to knit” said Janet.  It will be great to see the result.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to knit yet but I did spot a pattern for a lacy pair of gloves like I used wear on special occasions when I was about 18.  Who wears gloves now!

 

Beetroot superfood truffles

Just before Christmas I went to a cooking demonstration of vegan recipes and one which took my fancy was for beetroot truffles, which sounds a bit odd I know, but when I tasted them they really were good so thought I would share the recipe with you.  The recipe is courtesy of http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk and reads as follows:

Feel good about your next indulgence with these beetroot superfood truffles.
They contain no dairy or refined sugar, and thanks to the addition of beetroot and avocado, practically offer up two of your five a day too.
They’re a perfectly moreish snack when you’re trying to eat well but still want an afternoon sweet.

Serves: 12     Prep time: 15 minutes plus 1hr chilling     
You’ll need
* 1 large ready cooked (vacuum pack) beetroot
* 1 large ripe avocado, peeled
* ¼ tsp vanilla extract
* 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
* 100g unsweetened cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
* Desiccated coconut for dusting

Method
1. Put the beetroot, avocado, vanilla extract, maple syrup and half of the cacao powder into a  blender or food processor. Process until well combined.
2. Add the remaining cocoa powder to the blender and again process until well combined. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
3. Once chilled, scoop tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture. Roll in your palms to form balls – the mixture will be slightly sticky but should form balls easily.
4. Put some extra cocoa powder and desiccated coconut in a plate and roll the chocolate truffles around in one or the other to coat. 

 

Because it’s Valentine’s Day today here’s a beautiful hibiscus and an appropriate quote:   Happiness is ……… being with people you love.

 

Janice  

 

 

 

 

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Resolutions, Wonderful Christmas present, An afternoon nap, Sunflowers, Roasted Cauliflower Recipe, A Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge

 

Hello everyone – Welcome to a New Year of Retire and Enjoy.  I took a short break from blogging over the Christmas period but am now back and ready to start catching up with you all.

First off what happened to my last year’s resolutions?  Did you make any?

I checked up on my last year resolutions and have to admit to some of them falling by the wayside very early on, like practicing the piano every day and completing a book about my alternative lifestyle.  The book has some draft chapters but the piano has been silent for quite a while.  Therefore, no New Year Resolutions for me, I’ll just try to catch up on those ones still outstanding.  Some of you may recall that at the beginning of 2016 I put forward the idea of a “to achieve list” which still seems a good idea so here’s the list again in case you missed it last time.

Break a bad habit
Learn a new skill
Do a good deed
Visit a new place
Read a difficult book
Write something important
Try a new food
Do something good for someone who cannot thank you
Take an important risk

My wonderful Christmas present

Now I know that not all my readers are interested in spinning but for those of you who are, I just have to share a couple of photos of the wheel and drum carder Ken bought me from Holland.  The wheel certainly isn’t traditional in appearance.  It’s named Bliss and is truly bliss to operate.  The carder is a Hero and has become my right hand for preparing wool to spin.  I love them both.

The Bliss comes in a ‘flat-pack’ and is really easy to assemble. It took Ken about 1½ hours to have it up and running.  The total price for buying both the wheel and the carder was less than the cost of a wheel here in Australia plus postage included.  Here’s a link to their site http://www.woolmakers.com.  I have searched YouTube for a demonstration video and the following is the best I can come up as the majority are not in English.

 

Do you ever take an afternoon nap?

So far I’ve never found it necessary to take an afternoon nap but now have to admit to sometimes feeling quite sleepy in the middle of the day.  I remember my Mum and Dad always settling down for a nap after lunch and I never thought that could happen to me.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a short sleep in the afternoon improves people’s thinking and memory skills and makes the brain perform as if it were five years younger.
The team studied 3,000 elderly Chinese people and looked at whether those who frequently took afternoon naps performed better on mental ability tests.
Scientists found people who took a nap after lunch did better on the tests than those who did not sleep in the middle of the day.  In total, 60 per cent of people in the study slept after lunch, with the average nap time being 63 minutes.
The study suggested an hour was the best length for a nap; people who had longer or shorter rests performed up to six time worse on the task so taking an afternoon nap of the right length is so beneficial that it has the same effect as being five years younger.
Many people in Europe take a regular afternoon nap or siesta and it is part of their culture.
Apparently Sir Winston Churchill said “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
What are your views? Do you ever take an afternoon nap? If you had the option, would you like to have a nap during your day?

 

A look at my Sunflowers

I planted my Sunflowers facing north so that I could enjoy them as I passed by on my way down the garden each morning but I was sadly disappointed when their faces turned to the north east providing me with a view of their backs.  However, they are magnificent plants

so it’s worth a detour around another path to enjoy them.  A simple pleasure!

 

Here’s a simple recipe for adding a sparkle to Cauliflower.  I’ve been using this recipe for years so not sure of it’s origin but it always tastes so good.  

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER with a coating of chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil.   

1 cauliflower, 50ml extra virgin olive oil

For the seasoning:   3 tbsp olive oil, 1 garlic clove finely chopped, 1 cup breadcrumbs made preferably from stale ciabatta or sourdough, 3 tbsp parsley chopped.

METHOD:  Preheat oven to 180C.  Cut cauliflower into large, similar sized florets.  Lay on a baking tray and drizzle with 50ml olive oil.  Toss and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in the oven until brown and just soft – about 30/45 minutes.  While cauliflower is in the oven heat a frying pan with olive oil, add the garlic and breadcrumbs and stir for a minute, then combine with the parsley.  Remove cauliflower from oven, after cooking time, and scatter over the seasoning mixture.  Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until crisp and lightly golden.

 

Jigsaw puzzle challenge

Ken has always been a fan of jigsaw puzzles but gave them up when we moved to a house with less space.  Then he found Magic Puzzles to download from the net and installed their Free Puzzle a Day range on our pads.  Now most evenings after tea we challenge each other to see who can finish the 280 piece puzzle first.  The puzzle picture is a mystery so you have no guide to follow.  This probably sounds a bit childish but having a little competition really is fun and I highly recommend it.  There’s something exciting about trying to win and it keeps you alert and on your toes so to speak.  Ken often beats me;  he seems to have a better idea of collecting colours but when I manage to beat him I shout out “finished” which brings a frown to his face but makes me very happy.

Of course you can challenge the clock if you are doing the puzzle without a companion.  An average puzzle takes just under an hour though some have been really difficult and have taken a couple of hours.

 

I hope you are all selecting different projects and challenges for the year ahead.  They don’t have to be large but will give you something to strive for provided you remember:

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING BUT NOT EVERYTHING 

Janice 

 

PS – If you would like to post a comment please use the Reply option at top of page, thanks

 

 

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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.

12-05-2009_10

 

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.

dsc00437

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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