Friday, 7 December 2012

Christmas Traditions

Tonight we fly out to visit my family in Western Australia for a week.  I haven't been back to where I was born for about 7 years and it will be lovely to catch up with family and friends and also to see how places have changed.
I loved making these melted snowmen cookies last year.  
Many years ago, about 20 actually, my husband and I moved to the opposite side of Australia from where I grew up for him to study at a university he needed to be at and then we loved it so much here that we stayed.  Our children have all grown up and lived here most of their lives so this is where we call home now.

I remember that first Christmas when we left was hard because we are usually surrounded by family and extended family for the entire day and here we were, many many miles away from them and there was only my husband and I and our two (at that time) little children.  I couldn't see how I was going to make this feel like Christmas for any of us.

It is times like these that you can do one of two things.  You either fall apart and let despondency and sadness get to you or you can take it as a challenge to be overcome and make it into something special.
I am a 'glass half full' type of person so I took the challenge to have a wonderful Christmas anyhow.  It was a perfect time to start our own family traditions and they are the ones we still hold true to today.

Doing these same things year after year make them traditions and now I see my grown children repeating them with their own families and I know that all those years ago I made the right choice when I rose to the challenge to have that first special Christmas despite our circumstances.

Some of our Christmas traditions we do now are not expensive or even amazing but they are ours and that is what makes them special.

On the 1st December every year we all come together to put up and decorate our tree.  We have Christmas carols playing, yummy snacks set out to nibble on and of course the camera is flashing away to capture the moment.  Other decorations are put up around the house as well and the boys help Dad to put the outside lights up.

When the kids were little we would get an old tree branch with no leaves on it and make paper decorations over the few weeks before Christmas and hang them for all to admire.  You can paint the branch white, add glitter, or just leave as it is for a lovely natural look.

We bake gingerbread men and have an evening where we all decorate them.  A contest usually erupts to see who can make the most unusual ones.  We have had pirates, surfers and all sorts of characters in our gingerbread men.  The last few years we have made Ninjabread men with these cute cutters.

Another tradition is that a few days before Christmas we all load up into the car with drinks and sweets and do a tour of the Christmas lights in our local area.

Our Christmas Day is hot here in Queensland so we have a cold lunch where all the family gathers together.  The day starts with everyone arriving for the opening of gifts over breakfast and then we go to church.  Once home we begin the food preparations which usually comprises of cold ham and chicken or turkey, prawns, watermelon and mint salad, green salad, potato salad, spinach pear and walnut salad.  Then for dessert there is always pavlova and trifle.

I will be taking a break from blogging for a few weeks, to relax and enjoy the holiday season with my family and will see you all again in the New Year.

I hope you have a Merry and Blessed Christmas.


Monday, 26 November 2012

One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

I'm sure you can all guess where I'm going with this title.  Yes, I've been down at the Recycling Centre again and the old adage 'One man's trash is another man's treasure' has proven true.

I am always amazed at the things that can be found there and I have to resist the urge to not load up the car or trailer and bring it all home with me.

Over the weekend it was my eldest son's birthday and he loves 'old school' stuff.  He is rather quirky for a 20 year old, choosing to shave with a cut-throat razor, he plays the ukulele and one of his favourite pastimes is whittling.  He asked for a record player for his birthday and amazingly Aldi had them on sale just a couple of months ago which I bought and stashed in the wardrobe until his birthday.

On the day he unwrapped the record player and was thrilled but needed some vinyl albums to listen to so off to the Recycle Centre we went as we knew that they had them there from when we bought some to make the Vinyl bowls I blogged about a few months ago.  He picked up '2001 a Space Odyssey', 'Elvis Christmas album', 'Frank Sinatra' and a few others.

Imagine our surprise when we were checking on the internet to see where other albums could be purchased from and we found that the $5 Elvis Christmas album he bought is being sold for $55 online!

My purchases included the game 'Cashflow' which we have wanted to buy for years but could never justify spending over $100 on it.  There were always more important things to be bought or bills to be paid but I picked up an almost brand new game for only $3.00.  Again when looking online to see how much it is worth I noticed them selling on ebay for $95.00!  I also noticed that you can play the game online for free these days :)

The Recycle Centre is becoming quite a crowded place these days and I can see why.  There are always plenty of bargains to be had and best of all there is less stuff going into landfill.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Handmade Christmas

Have you ever challenged your family with a handmade Christmas?  We have not done this for quite a few years but it is a fun challenge and really makes the gift giver and the recipient think about what they are giving and the effort that the other person has put into making the gift they are receiving.

When I talk about this idea with people I get mixed reactions.  Some have already had a handmade Christmas with their family and others just can't see how they would ever have the time or the skills to be able to make an acceptable gift.

It does require some thought and an assessment of your skills, but there are so many ways to make your own gifts, or decorations, cards or wrapping for a home made Christmas that it is really worth giving it a try.
A few years ago I made some lovely crochet snowflakes to decorate my tree.  I only made 7 or 8 and they looked so lovely that this year I've decided to add to the collection and make more.  They are starched with a powdered starch that is mixed with water and the snowflake is submerged in that and then the excess is squeezed out.  Then I pinned it into shape using just regular dressmakers pins and a cardboard box.
While crocheting these I thought a set of snowflake decorations would be a lovely homemade gift and started thinking who I knew that would like a set.  Pretty soon I was envisioning myself under a pile of snowflakes because pretty much all my friends, work colleagues and family would like these.

The patterns I am using this year can be found at Coats Crafts here and they are offered free, and there are plenty more than can be easily found with a quick search on the internet.

Crochet Snowflakes before starching and pinning
I'm not the worlds most confident crocheter as I prefer to knit, but many years ago I learnt to crochet and so I have the basic skills.  I went in search of patterns that indicated they were 'easy' to make.  I use a thin white cotton thread, No 10, and a 2.5mm crochet hook.  Both of these can be picked up very inexpensively from a local craft store or even thrift store.  This makes a set of crochet snowflakes are very very economical present and one I am sure would be greatly appreciated by friends and family as they are both beautiful and the recipient can see that you have spent valuable time making something special just for them.

Pinned and starched snowflake, drying
Maybe crochet is not your strong point but you are a terrific cook or gardener, sewer, woodworker, painter etc.  There are plenty of ideas to make for gifts if you just give it some thought and have enough time to be creative.

One year I kept a small baby food jar of every preserve I made throughout the year and grouped them all into a gift basket for my uncle.  His reaction at Christmas was worth that little bit of extra work each time.  I have also bottled homemade Bailey's Irish Cream which was a welcome gift with everyone who received it.

Knitted items, socks, hats, tops etc, are usually under our tree despite having Christmas in Summer here in Australia.  Other ideas could include fruit cake, truffles, cookies or boiled sweets, potted plants, vegetable from your garden in hampers, for the adults. Wooden toys, slime, gak, playdough, dolls clothes for the kids.  The ideas are endless and the internet makes it so much easier to find them these days.  Check out the 'crafts' page here on the blog for some more ideas.

If you are struggling with the Global Financial Crisis and are wondering just how to get through Christmas this year why not announce to your family and friends that this years Christmas theme is 'Homemade' and ask them all to join in.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

In the Garden this week

Finally we have had some decent rain and the water tank is full, the dust has been washed off everything and the gardens and lawns have had a good drenching. At this time last year it had rained and rained and rained and we were complaining about getting washed away so I guess I need to just be happy with what the heavens deliver and learn to adapt to our environment.

My garden is pretty good in that the plants I have chosen are quite drought tolerant but at the same time they don't mind a good soaking.  Ornamental reeds and grasses, bromeliads, agave and some palms are good for this.

The vegetable beds are the one area that needs daily watering if it doesn't rain but that only takes me about 10 minutes after work and I find it a nice way to wind down and centre myself back into 'home-mode' after a busy day at the office.
It is really heating up here now and we are coming to the end of our growing season for vegetables.  Pest and disease become rampant at this time of the year and it is hardly worth the effort to grow vegetables as so many are lost.  However, I am still picking many different herbs, tomatoes, corn and chillies and there are watermelons and capsicums which will be ready to pick in the next few weeks.

The fruit trees are producing their first crops after being planted just 1 year ago.  The lemon tree and Kaffir Lime have fruit but I don't think the orange tree is happy where he is planted as there is not much growth or any fruit yet.

A recent trip to the Recycle Centre produced this lovely brushwood screening was a bargain at just $30 for the lot.  We had been looking for something to close the backyard in and give us more privacy as we are very open to passers by.  This much screening would have cost us more than $200 to buy locally.

The lawn is looking pretty terrible at the moment as I have been trying to find a day where I could use one of those feed and weed sprays and so the lawn hasn't been mowed in a few weeks.

I am resorting to using chemicals on the lawn because the weeds have become so rampant and the lawn is in such poor condition that the weeds are taking over.

The problem with these Feed & Weed sprays is that there are so many restrictions on when you can use it.  The instructions on the bottle say not to use it when it has just rained or rain is expected in the next 48 hours, If the lawn was mowed in the last 7 days or if you are going to mow it in the next 7.  If there is any wind.  If the lawn is drought stressed (it has to be damp but not wet).  Finding such a perfect day to use this product, when I'm not at work has posed a real challenge. Finally I was home and the only obstacle was wind so I just decided to do it and be really careful that the spray didn't go onto other garden plants.  Fingers crossed they survive, the weeds die and the lawn recovers.

Happy Gardening


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Two Free Knitting Patterns from Monarch Place

I wanted to share a couple of my knitting patterns with you and have them down the side of my blog for you to download at anytime.  However I haven't quite worked out how to do that yet so I will put them together in this post and when I get clever enough to link them in the side columns I will do that too. Click on the link below the name of each pattern to download the pdf.

This first pattern I've called the 'Istanbul Scarf'.  It is a really simple stitch combination and knits up quickly with worsted weight yarn.  I made this for myself for our trip to Istanbul in the Winter as after living in Qatar in 50C (120F) heat I needed some warm cuddly goodness to wrap myself in for our holiday.

This little hat pattern I designed while waiting for my first grandchild to be born.  I wanted something that would be unisex but loved the thought of being able to add a ribbon if it was a girl.  Turns out I now have a beautiful grandson and removing the ribbon was all it took to make this pattern suitable for him.  
The hearts are a lovely feature but be warned you need to knit this from a yarn that gives good stitch definition to see the hearts clearly.

 Hearts & Bows Baby Hat 
(click here to download the pattern)
I hope you enjoy making these patterns as much as I enjoyed designing and knitting them myself.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Slow Living Month 10

I've been a bit on again, off again with following the Slow Living Month group started by Christine over at the Slow Living Essentials Blog, and here I am again this month and it's the 2nd of November so I'm late again.  Still better late than never I say so lets have a look at what has been happening around Monarch Place in October.

My son is doing a Certificate II in Hospitality at his school and because I also work at the same school I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of some of his latest assessment attempts.  This one in particular was very nice and nicely plated too.
Lovely salmon with mustard glazed potatoes, avocado, beans, spinach and cherry tomatoes.  Now to get him cooking at home!

I have made a head start on Christmas making some cards and soaps and wash cloths for gifts.

I tried some container growing as it is a 'high bug and disease' time here in the subtropics and so not good for planting out into the garden beds.  This Lettuce Basket is doing really well and I just pick the leaves as I need them for sandwiches and salads.  I've also planted a chilli bush and a cherry tomato in containers so that we will be able to have our own homegrown salads at Christmas rather than buy the overpriced vegetables in the stores.

This beautiful crochet doiley was sent to me via a swap that was set up over 12 months ago by the knitting group in Qatar.  Now that I have been back in Australia for over a year it was lovely to participate in this anonymous swap and to find out that one of my closest friends there was my partner.  I will cherish this forever.

Green and Reduce
This reed fencing was picked up at the Recycle centre.  We have been looking for something to add some privacy to our backyard and this was just the thing.  The entire lot cost $30 and there are about another 4 pieces that will nicely close in the back half of the backyard which is just perfect.

Knitted socks from the Yarn Harlots Sock Recipe, another gift in the drawer for Christmas.  I also finished by Purple People Eater sweater which I just love and can't wait until the cooler months to be able to wear it.

We have sponsored children through Compassion Australia for many many years and over those years we have lost a child through war and this time we were sad to discover that our child from Kenya had been removed from the program and we could no longer support him.  We have since taken on another little boy who lives in the Golden Triangle area of Thailand.

School holidays were upon us and I got to spend some time in beautiful Caloundra, about half an hour from where I live.  This is a lovely coffee strip where you can watch the swimmers, fishermen, sail boarders and people strolling by at Pumicestone Passage.  It is nice to take some time out now and again and just sit, relax and let the world go by.

I always love doing this account of the month because when I start out I always think that I won't have anything to write but as I work my way through the categories I find I've done more than I think and it is a huge encouragement.


Monday, 29 October 2012

Spindles and Spinning

Have you ever tried spinning fibre on a wheel or on a spindle?  It is a very relaxing hobby that fills me with a sense of satisfaction that I have taken something from its raw state right through to a knitted or crocheted item of use.

A friend in the Middle East taught me how to spin on a spindle using a variety of wools as each can be very different.  Some have a very short staple and are more difficult to spin without breaking the thread, and others have a very long staple.  The staple is found by pulling apart some fleece and seeing how long the tiny hairs are.  Practising with a variety of fibres will soon reveal which suits you best.

This is my collection of spindles.  Left to right they are an 'Ashford Beginners Spindle which is the one I was taught how to spin on, next is a 'Golding' considered by many to be the cream of the spindle crop, the next two are Turkish spindles from the souks in Qatar and the last one is an antique Turkish spindle my husband bought me in Izmir, Turkey.

This is where they usually live, in my bedroom as decoration on my dresser.  I think it's past time they were bought out and put to use again.

During my first few lessons on spinning I was told how relaxing spinning was and I can tell you that for those first initial weeks I was really doubting that this was the absolute truth.  Sorry Tracy :)

When you first start you are learning how to draft the fibre, spin the spindle and drop it but without breaking the spun yarn thread and smashing your spindle on the floor.  The 'park and draft' method helps and I would recommend any beginner to look up how to do this first.  You'll find videos on Youtube.  Basically you draft some of the fibre and spin that bit then 'park' the spindle between your knees while you draft the next bit.  Eventually you will be able to keep your spindle spinning while you are drafting and all of a sudden you've got it!  

The photo above is part of a display in one of the shopping centres in Doha, Qatar where they were showing traditional life in an Arabic country over the generations.

Spinning is a quiet and mesmerising hobby that relaxes the body and mind, a bit like an active meditation.  I am at a place where I can now admit that this is true.  It is also very portable as it will fit in your handbag, and a few minutes here and there throughout the day can amount to quite a lot of hand-spun yarn in a just few days.

I have kept my very first skein of yarn that I spun, plied and formed into a usable yarn, although I use the word 'usable' very loosely.  Any spinners will tell you that it is unbalance, over spun in places and under spun in others, but I like it as a reminder of how far I've come.  This is it on the spindle.

And this photo shows the completed skein after it was plied, washed and dried.  You can see it is has come out looking better than first though when viewing it on the spindle, however I won't ever knit it into anything, it is just 'souvenir' spinning now and I'm kind of attached to it.

Do you spin, either on a spindle or a wheel?

Friday, 26 October 2012

Warning - Rant Ahead!

Dear readers,

I'm taking this opportunity to get on my soap box for just a minute or two and I hope that you will join me up here.  I promise it won't hurt much.

Please consider signing the petition at asking that Coles (and Woolworths) increase the price of their generic branded milk so that our dairy farmers get a fair price for their milk and can support their families.  Click here to go to the petition.  

Even if you don't live in Queensland or Australia you can join with me and send a message that you don't agree with local farmers being forced out of their livelihood to satisfy a price war between the big supermarkets.  (Which is only there to lure us in as customers.)  I'm sure that there are farmers in your area who are suffering a similar fate.

In Queensland alone 45 dairies have had to shut down and leave the industry since this price war began in January 2011.  That average is 1 dairy every 2 weeks!!  Farmers and their families are being pushed to the brink, striving to run their businesses and make ends meet.  Farmers are hard working men and women trying to support their families just like you and I, often on farms that have been in their family for generations.  

When dairy farms close down it doesn't just affect the farmers, it also affects a large number of regional and urban towns with job losses in all the businesses our dairy farmers support.  Vets, feed lots, fuel companies, machinery sales, mechanics, tyre companies, fertiliser companies, and the workers associated with these companies.  Other small businesses like local contractors, fencers, hay cutters & carters, farm hands and their families are also affected.  As with nearly everything in life there is a ripple effect of consequences to our actions.

What can we do now?  Obviously this petition is not going to make a difference anytime soon.  These things take time before the effect is realised and put into place so in the mean time try to buy dairy products, or at the very least your milk, branded from a small dairy company local to where you live.  IGA supermarkets support their local industry and business but if you shop at Coles and Woolworths and don't want to change then look for the local dairy company products in store there too.  If you don't see any ask if they can get them in.  The more people asking the more likely that they will take the idea into consideration.  

The best way to send a message is through your wallet or purse.  If you sign the petition but still buy the cheaper milk when you shop then that is where the profit figures will show in the large supermarket chains.  That is the petition they read.  

Hopping off my soap box now.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Free e-Books and Magazines

Every so often I blog about some free e-Books that I have come across and think the readers of Monarch Place might also like.  This is another one of those posts.

If you have never delved into the world of e-Books before and think that because you don't have one of those new 'fandangled Kindle things' or another type of e-reader, don't dismiss the idea quite so quickly.

E-books can be read on many devices, one of which is the computer you are most likely reading this post from right now.  You can also download them onto smart phones and iPads and other tablets.

I subscribe to an emailed newsletter from 'Interweave' and this month they are highlighting some free e-magazines.  Just click on the link in the names of these books to go to the page and download them.

This one is Sensational Knit and Crochet patterns.
I particularly like the cabled scarf in this book and can see that in my knitting future.

I like the look of this free e-booklet on Tunisian Crochet patterns and tips.

I'm basically a knitter but I have been known to crochet from time to time.  I'm not great at it but wouldn't mind getting better and I have always been interested in learning Tunisian crochet because I like the linen weave look it gives.

Do you spin?  I learnt on a drop spindle when I was living in Qatar in the Middle East and was told how relaxing it was.  Well it certainly doesn't start out that way but as you go along and get better at drafting and spinning it really is a very relaxing pass time.

I haven't done much of it lately but I think this little book on 'Drop Spindle Spinning' might just give me the nudge I need to dust off my spindles and use them for more than just decoration.

And for any quilters out there or beginner quilters here is a handy book on Free-Motion Machine Quilting Techniques plus a few other tips and tricks.

This 'Sewing for Beginners' book I've put in here for my daughter, and others like her, who have maybe just bought their first sewing machine or are relearning the basics of sewing.

I taught her how to sew when she was growing up and as a teenager how to do basic mending, hem her jeans and make simple garments but a refresher course is never a bad thing.

Now she has a baby of her own and her interest in sewing has rekindled as she learns to sew for her own family.

These last few are from the Kindle Store and as you can see are Kindle-reader books but if you have an Amazon account you can still download these to your computer and read them on there.  When you click to buy one (they are free remember) you can choose which device it downloads to and one of the options is 'transfer via computer'.

At the time of publishing this blog post these books are offered free on Amazon but they can and do change, sometimes quite quickly.  As with many free items, these are most likely a limited offer.

How to Utilize Vegetable Superfoods for Health, Book 2.
Victoria Lancer talks about superfoods that are packed with nutrients to help fight diseases

Live Organic - Information on organic cleaning solutions, chemical-free clothing, natural foods and organic plants and flowers.

A Step by Step guide to home canning
This one looked particularly interesting as I've noticed more and more people going back to preserving their own foods.

The blurb about the book reads.......
This guide is intended to provide you with the essential information to make your first small jars in a safe and enjoyable way. It will guide you through all stages from preparation to storage of your products.

You will discover the principles of conservation for different types of food, the benefits of home canning, the recommended methods as well as the ones to avoid.

Then you will learn the two proper methods of treatment: the boiling water bath and the pressure canning methods. You will find a list of essential equipment and the detailed steps for a successful canning experience.

And finally some light entertaining reading 'Letters of a Woman Homesteader'

Book Blurb.......

Grade 7 Up–After deciding that city life as a laundress wasn't for her, Elinore Pruitt, a young widowed mother, accepted an offer to assist with a ranch in Wyoming, work that she found exceedingly more rewarding. In this delightful collection of letters, she describes these experiences to her former employer, Mrs. Coney. Pruitt's charming descriptions of work, travels, neighbors, animals, land and sky have an authentic feel. The West comes alive, and everyday life becomes captivating. Her writing is clear, witty, and entertaining. The 26 letters are brief and tell about her life on the ranch in the early 1900s. The author frequently and unnecessarily apologizes for being too wordy; she begs forgiveness for many "faults," like being forgetful, ungrateful, inconsistent and indifferent, all without apparent cause. On occasion, language reflects the racial prejudice of the time. Many times, Pruitt attempts to portray the culturally diverse characters she meets by writing their various dialects as they sound.

I hope you find something here that you are interested in and enjoy some reading time or learning a new technique.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Purple People Eater - Knitting

Yay it's finally finished!  Introducing my 'Purple People Eater', a big, sloppy, comfortable sweater knit by your's truly.  It was the look I was going for but slightly bigger under the arms than necessary.

I used a very unusual pattern for this project called the "Incredible Custom-fit Raglan" by Pam Costello.  Pam has kindly offered this pattern up for free so if you are interested click on the link above and check it out. However, it's not so much a pattern but a recipe to create your own sweater, cardigan, vest etc and you modify it as you go to suit your own tastes.

On Ravelry it is amazing to see all the different projects people have created from just this one pattern.  They range from baby sizes all the way up to very large sweaters like mine and all because it is done by taking your body measurements and adjusting stitches to suit.

I decided to knit the entire sweater in stockinette as I wanted to just knit away without much thinking after work at night, but you could incorporate a pattern or cables to make it more interesting.  I did a simple ribbed band for the bottom to draw it in because it was so baggy, and easy rolled hems on the sleeves and neckline.

The yarn is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn and it was lovely to knit with but even more gorgeous now that it has been washed and blocked.  However if you look carefully at the photos you will see little knitting sins that this yarn just emphasises so a lesson to be learnt from this is to always hide your yarn joins in the seams.

I'm off to do some stash diving and searching through Ravelry's pattern database for my next project.  It will have to be something smaller and cooler to knit now that Summer is on it's way as I don't like to have heavy woollen things draped across my lap at this time of the year.

Now that the sweater is finished I have a severe case of 'cast-on-itis'.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Saving Seeds

It seems I have gardened all my life, and kept a vegetable garden for most of that time too.  I was bought up in a family where my mother was always pottering around the garden and as a child I would sneak out into the vegetable garden and hide behind the rows of peas and nibble away.

My grandparents lived on an acre of land in a small country town and they grew every kind of fruit tree and vine you can think of.  Grandma made all her own jams and relishes and preserved fruit each season to last them through until the next growing season.  I have memories of having very purple feet as I climbed the mulberry tree to snack away on delicious sweet mulberries.

Despite all my gardening and life experience, I've never had a lot of luck with raising seeds in trays because I let them dry out and they died, and while most of the ones planted directly in the garden sprouted and survived, others were carted away by the ants, so saving my own seeds was something I haven't done very much of in the past.  I had however given it some thought, read about others who recommend this practice and I knew it would save me money but I still favoured buying punets of seedlings.  I guess I'm a bit impatient and like to see results quickly.

However just recently I decided that this was an area of gardening that I needed to upskill myself in and like most things, when you put your mind to it, finally success is mine!

These Marigold seedlings were raised from seed straight from the dried flower head in the garden bed and into the seed trays.  A few weeks later and they are now ready to go back into the vegetable beds as an insect deterrent.

These tomato plants sprung up out of the compost and I transplanted them straight into the garden and they are growing beautifully.  These are also the tomato plants that I am experimenting with trench planting in this post here.  I think they are doing very well.  I wonder what type of tomatoes they are?

I have also saved all these seeds from this years crop of Sweet Peas.  I am drying them and will try replanting them for next year.

This is a really good method of drying your tomato seeds.  I must admit I have tried this before and failed but with my new found confidence in seed raising I thought it was a good idea to have another go.  Never give up right?

You simply slice your tomatoes onto some paper towel and let them dry.  When you are ready to plant them you plant the seeds paper towel and all.  If you spread the seeds evenly along the paper when drying, the seedlings should shoot evenly spaced and you don't have to separate them out and possibly damage their delicate roots.

And while we are talking gardening I thought I would give you an update on the lettuce basket too.

It's only 3 1/2 weeks since planting but here it is looking fabulous and healthy and must be high enough that the bugs can't find it as I haven't used any of my home made sprays on it at all. Who wouldn't want to get one of these as a gift for Christmas?  The lettuce is just at the stage where I can now start to pick leaves for salads.  There are only 3 of us to cook for in our family now (well most nights) so one basket should be enough but I would recommend two baskets if you have a larger family.

So if you have ever been a bit reluctant to save your own seeds why not give it another go?  What have you got to lose except the opportunity to save some money on those store raised seedlings.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ah!! the Busyness of Life

Sorry I haven't got a post for you today I've been "Flat out like a lizard drinking" to use an Aussie phrase that my Dad often used.  I'll be back soon.


Friday, 5 October 2012

A Head Start on Christmas

I have been diligent to put my plan into action and have made a start on making some of the gifts I will be giving to friends and family come Christmas.  Usually I don't get started until I'm nearly out of time, so it feels good to know that this year I am more organised.

I love Christmas baking.  We have developed some traditions in our family and as the kids have grown older they still like to retain those traditions as a lead up to our Christmas celebration each year. Making and decorating gingerbread men and houses is one of these, decorating the house inside and outside and of course everyone has to be present to decorate the tree all together on 1st December or as close as possible to it.  Being organised with my gift making will allow a much more relaxed time for the other traditions, and enable us to enjoy them more.

Since my post on 100 Days until Christmas last week, I have made a start on some items.

These Christmas cards were made in an afternoon and I had forgotten just how relaxing it is to sit quietly and be creative.  I have accumulated quite a lot of craft supplies and particularly scrapbooking and cardmaking supplies, which I don't do as much of these days with working full time outside of the home, so I am trying to use up what I have rather than buying more.

I've made good progress on knitted washcloths.  I knit at night in front of the TV and since I've been on holidays this week I have managed to get quite a few done.  These will go into gift baskets with some homemade soaps and perhaps some natural brushes or knitted scrubbies.  Again I am stash busting and using what I already have.

I also made a couple of batches of soap, some of which is to stock our cupboards as we are getting low but I will use some of these for the soap gift baskets, or individually with a knitted washcloth as a small gift. I still need to make more batches of soap before Christmas and for our own stock pile.  The cream one is Pachouli and Sandalwood and the green one is green clay, lemon and thyme.  Both are a very unisex fragrance and make a good mix in a basket.  I blogged about how to make your own soap and the recipe I use here if you are interested in trying it for yourself.

I also had some potted plants that seriously needed repotting and the cuttings will have grown nicely by Christmas for gifts.  These haven't been designated to any person on my gift list yet but while I was busy potting I thought I may as well make a few extras.  I can always donate them to a charity stall if they are not used as gifts.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?  Do you make some of the gifts you give?

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