Brittany’s ‘Fly’ Scarf

Standard

I have decided to make a new schedule to keep my blog rolling along. On Mondays I will write about homeschooling, on Wednesdays it will be a lifestyle post, and on Fridays it will be a post about art. This is very good timing for me because today is Friday and I have just finished Brittany’s scarf.

This is the scarf I have been making for my son’s girlfriend, Brittany, who lives in America. It is a present for her birthday which was a couple of weeks ago – hopefully she will forgive my lateness. I wanted to make her a scarf because where she lives it is very cold and she wears a scarf every day. It is made using recycled fabric from clothes I have bought from the Op Shop, which I have cut up, dyed, bleached, printed, manipulated and generally experimented on. I was using all these pieces to experiment and refine my skills especially using dye paste and bleach paste printing.
The scarf is called ‘Fly’. Brittany and my son enjoy doing a lot of bird watching together (so sweet), so I wanted it to have a birds theme and I have included bird prints, feather prints, and phrases about flying in the embroidery.

This is the first time I have done freestyle machine embroidery and I am absolutely hooked – love the effect of the ‘messy’ sewing, and it is really quite relaxing to do. I really need a better sewing machine though, that is first on my list of things to buy when I sell a few pieces.

Ok, here it is….

IMG_0372

Unfortunately, the photos are terrible, but I wanted to get this post up today, will try and get some better ones tomorrow.

IMG_0376

IMG_0374

IMG_0373

IMG_0378

I have another scarf in pink and blue colourways that I will finish off this week and then put up for sale somewhere, not sure where yet, but stay tuned to see that one next Friday.

Only 7 weeks to go until the artists books exhibition at the Riddoch Gallery In Mt Gambier, so I will need to get back to work on my books this week too.

I hope you are finding opportunities to be creative too.
All the best,
Sharee

More Productive Home Making – Smell That Coffee

Standard

People who know me will know that I am pretty serious about my coffee. Well, as serious as you can be when you drink Decaf lol.
A few years ago I did a Barista course, and I have worked in a coffee van and a cafe, so I expect my coffee to be pretty good. Unfortunately the rest of the family has raised their coffee expectations as well, and with 3 or 4 coffee drinkers in the house it was becoming a major expense.
I have found a fair trade coffee that we can grind fresh at our local Health Food Supermarket. It is just beautiful, but costs $10 for 200grams, and that lasts us less than a week.
This was obviously an area where we could make cuts to the budget. We often buy cheaper pre ground coffee from the supermarket, but I don’t think you really save much money this way because you need twice as much coffee to get the same strength, and the flavour will never be the same.
I was looking for places to buy cheaper coffee on the internet when I came across an online store that was selling green coffee beans. The Decaf green beans were only $18 a kilogram – a huge saving on the the little 200gram bags which work out at $50 a kilogram.
A bit more internet research showed me that home coffee roasting is actually a growing trend, and also I found that you can actually roast coffee in a home popcorn machine! A little harder to find was a local source of green coffee beans (I didn’t want to spend all my savings on postage), but eventually I tracked down a factory that wasn’t far away and was open to the public.
And so my coffee roasting adventure begins…

20120214-193127.jpg
We got this popcorn machine for $8 at a garage sale. It actually works really well for roasting the beans. I put 1 scoop of green beans into the machine then switch it on. After a few minutes the beans start to pop and when they have popped for a little while our popcorn machine conveniently switches itself off (because it has got too hot), and about this time smoke will start pouring out. This is all ok though, I quickly tip the beans out into a saucepan so that they don’t burn and shake them around a little as they cool. They are now lightly roasted.

20120214-214845.jpg
I tried some beans at this stage, but the coffee flavour was very mild so I decided to roast them a bit more.
The beans went back in for one more go, this time they had just started popping when the machine cut out. When I tipped them out they actually looked pretty perfect!
In the photo above you can see the green beans, the lightly roasted beans, and the darker roast.
Next step was to grind our beans. I have been drooling over a Rancillio Rocky grinder for a while now, but at $400 it’s a bit out of my price range, then I spotted this grinder at KMart for $12. To my utter amazement it works really well, as long as you only need a small amount of coffee.
You really should wait a week after roasting before using the coffee, but I couldn’t wait to try it, and I had run out of my regular coffee, so after the beans had cooled down they went straight into the grinder.

20120214-215552.jpg

Here is my coffee shot, very nice creama from my freshly roasted and ground coffee beans.

20120214-231227.jpg

And here is my latte.

20120214-232403.jpg
Delicious!

I’m looking forward to learning more about coffee roasting and experimenting with some blends in the future.
Hope you can get your hands on a really good coffee today too.
All the best,
Sharee

Best Ice Cream Recipe Ever

Standard

I made this ice cream recipe the other day, and it was soooo delicious I thought I would share it with you. Before you make it though, I warn you, I am a cardamom addict – I absolutely love cardamom in anything, sometime I even crave it lol. So, if you’re a cardamom fan like me, give this one a try. You wont be sorry.
I found this recipe on the back of a packet of Herbies Spices cardamom seed – thanks, Herbie!

IMG_9460

Cardamom Ice Cream

1 tsp cardamom seeds crushed (the little brown ones, not the green pods)
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 cups light cream (I used 1 cup cream, 1 tin of evaporated milk, and a little bit of milk to make three cups because)
4 eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla essence

Combine cardamom, cream, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring often.
Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly.
Lightly beat egg yolks and gradually whisk in 1 cup of the hot cream.
Stir this into remaining cream and return to heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then beat in the hot custard until well blended.
Add vanilla and cool completely.
Freeze until icicles begin to form, then beat again and refreeze, or churn in an ice cream machine.

Yum! Try not to eat it all before it freezes lol – enjoy!

Natural Learning Falling Into Place

Standard

Homeschooling is a nice place to be when everything just falls into place. It’s been like that for us these last couple of weeks. School has gone back this week in Queensland, but I’m not pushing my boys into their bookwork just yet. I really want to put some energy into natural learning for a while first and see how we go this term. If the boys start complaining that it’s boring or they don’t want to do anything I suggest, that’s when I usually throw all my good intentions out the window and bribe them to do their books. It’s all going well so far though.
The boys have been loving the Horrible History series in TV since we moved to Brisbane, and I have too. It is a great educational show, very clever and funny – a must view for homeschoolers (I know you all discovered it years ago!). I was just thinking that we should follow up with some history activities for our homeschooling when I heard a lady on the radio talking about Knight School. A quick internet search and I found this info…

“Knight School courses provide an excellent opportunity for parents and children to learn about and participate in knightly pursuits of the Middle Ages in a fun and active way.Participants will be trained in the art of combat by our experienced instructors using safe, rubberised weapons and shields, and leather helmets and you will be thrilled by our own knights engaging in battle with each other using real weapons and armour in a traditional knightly combat display.”

Perfect!
So the boys both headed off to Knight School which amazingly went for an entire day.

IMG_9414

IMG_9415

They both loved it and can’t wait for next holidays when they can attend the Knight School Master Class where they get to fight with even more serious looking weapons.

Ok, so now we have two boys who are pretty enthusiastic about Medieval History, well at least the fighting part of it. I am trying to get the boys more active too, as they’re not really into team sports, so sword fighting is a great physical activity that they can both enjoy together – hopefully without too many injuries.
We already have a couple of wooden swords that their Pa made, but for serious battles we need some decent strong shields.
This is a bit of a challenge for us as wood work is definitely not my strong point, but I think it will be good for us to have a challenge.
We started by looking at some shield making demos on You Tube. Then I had to go out for a short while and when I got back there were the boys working on their designs.

IMG_9443

They had also cut patterns for their shields out of newspaper. What a great start – gotta love those homeschooling days!

A trip to Bunnings for supplies and we were set. The pictures tell the story…

IMG_9448

IMG_9447

IMG_9449

IMG_9451

20120210-071241.jpg

The boys were both very pleased with their finished shields. Unfortunately there hasn’t been any sword fighting going on because no one wants to risk damaging their shields lol.

Where to from here?
Some ideas of other things we might do,
– find out more about medieval history, reading, movies, timelines, project type display
– medieval buildings, food, weapons
– build a catapult, bow and arrows
– look at other types of swords/weapons in history
– go to Fencing Club and learn fencing
– Medieval Festival

Lots of fun to be had there.

If anyone has any great ideas for Medieval books, movies or activities that might be suitable please let me know so I can add them to the list.

All the best,
Sharee

20120210-132518.jpg

20120210-132541.jpg

Saving money through Productive Home Making

Standard

Oh, it’s been a good couple of days for me here. The jobs on my ‘to do’ are dropping like flies, which is awesome because I have felt pretty over run this last week.
Yesterday was a day for paper work. We finally got our car registration and drivers licenses changed to Queensland – thank goodness that paperwork is out of the way. After that I was on a bit of a roll and knocked off a heap of other paper work jobs – woohoo!
Today was a stay at home day and I have got so much done. One of my plans when moving to Brisbane was to give myself time to try and make my artwork into a business. This of course means that I am not bringing in any income at the moment, so to compensate for this I have been looking for ways to cut our budget and to live on less.
One of the ways I am doing this is by thinking about my weekly grocery shopping and especially looking at the items which are more costly and trying to think of cheaper ways to get these things.
Hair and skin products, ice cream, yoghurt, coffee, washing powder and breakfast cereal are some of the higher priced items in my trolley each week.
I started looking on the internet for different ways of making or getting these items. I have been hugely influenced by Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth Blog, she has so many great ideas and also is very inspirational with her words about the value of home making.
I have been making bread and yoghurt. I am working on my yoghurt recipe trying to make some nice thick yoghurt like the type we love to buy at the markets. I haven’t got it quite right yet, It is fairly thick, but hasn’t got the same texture as the market yoghurt. I think I will add some powdered milk next time and see how that goes. It is looking pretty good though, especially when it is pot set in these gorgeous little jars that I picked up at the cheap shop for $1.

IMG_9457

I have tried a few different bread recipes, looking for one that’s easy to become my everyday bread. I tried a recipe for no knead overnight bread that looked really cool because I made it in my tagine, but I wasn’t really happy with the bread.
Since then I have made Moroccan Bread and this Pumpernickel (note to Mum – click on the bread names to see the recipes xxx)
These were both great. The Moroccan bread was really easy, only one rise, and I actually made my dough in the morning and put it in the fridge for most of the day before rising it and it still came out great. I love the Pumpernickel too. Apparently this is a North American Pumpernickel which is not as dense as the German style Pumpernickel that you buy in supermarkets. It has coffee and cocoa and caraway seeds in it which makes it quite strongly flavoured. I am never quite sure what to have with my Pumpernickel, but I like it with cheese and with honey. My husband hasn’t tasted this one yet and I’ll be interested to see what he thinks.

IMG_0128

I have just started making a sourdoug starter which is bubbling away nicely, so hopefully we’ll have some home made sourdough bread later in the week.

IMG_0127

Not so tasty for us, but a huge money saver for me is making my own dog food. I have only just started doing this and I actually find it really gross, but it costs me about $2 for a weeks worth of dog food, plus I can put my vegetable scraps to a good use, so it is a great thing to do.
Here is my dog food recipe…
In a saucepan, put any fruit or vegetables that you find dying in the bottom of your fridge, chopped up a bit, into a large saucepan (important note: no onions, leeks or grapes for dogs!)
If it doesn’t look like much you can add some carrot peelings, an egg or some frozen veg, also any leftover dinners that have been in the fridge a few days too long.
Add to the saucepan about 1 cup of rice or pasta and enough water to come half way up the pan.
Bring to the boil and simmer until really soft, maybe 40 minutes to 1 hour.
Leave to cool, then puree this all up with a stick blender.
Mix in about 2 kg pet mince from the butcher (most butchers have this but you have to ask for it).
When it is all mixed together well, divide the mixture into serving size containers. I started off using ziplock bags, but am now using plastic take away food containers because Fergus can eat straight out of them so it’s less handling of gross dog food for me.
My dog is pretty fussy, but he seems to love this as long as I keep a ratio of about 2/3 meat to 1/3 veg mix. Keep a couple in the fridge and freeze the rest.

20120205-110056.jpg

Now, with everyone fed, I started to look at cleaning and body products. These recipes were all so easy. I made this home made deodorant from Amy’s Homestead Revival Blog. Then I made some hair gel using linseeds (which are basically the same as Flax seeds I think), following the instructions that I found at The Hairpin, you need to scroll down to the bottom for the gel instructions.
Next I made some orange cleaner thanks to NellyMary at Just Like My Nan Made.

IMG_0131

Finally, I whipped up a batch of Rhonda’s home made laundry liquid which you can use for lots of different cleaning needs. Here is a link to the Down to Earth Blog, you just need to scroll down a little until you get to the recipe for the laundry liquid and there are lots of other cleaning tips too.

IMG_0132

This recipe makes a LOT of liquid, so make sure you have plenty of containers handy to pour it into, and also a funnel. As you can see, I did not have these things handy, so my floor got an impromptu mop as well!

After all of that productivity, I think tomorrow is going to be a day devoted to Art – yay!

I’ll let you know how I go with using all my homemade products in future posts.

All the best,
Sharee

What NOT to do on the weekend

Standard

Don’t you just hate it when you are trying to do the ‘right’ thing, and you go and blow it straight away.
To go along with our new lives in Queensland, we really need to make some healthy lifestyle changes and I have been really determined to make it happen this week.
We MUST…
1. Be more thrifty and stick to our budget
2. Eat more healthy food and less ‘convenience’ food treats
3. Be more active

Oh, it all went so badly wrong over the weekend though.
On Saturday we went in to the Museum which has just opened after it’s refurbishments. This was great, and free, but the trouble was we didn’t get away from our house until about 11.45, so we ended up finished at the museum, in the city, and all starving at about 2.30 in the afternoon. This happens to us all the time, and it is obviously a recipe for disaster. We headed to Southbank and ended up with pizza for lunch because that’s the best value thing you can get at Southbank, but of course it still ends up costing heaps and I was cringing at the unhealthiness of it. To make matters worse, we then went on and had Churros from the market – even more expensive and unhealthy than the pizza. I’m not really sure why we did this, except that it seemed a bit early for our day out to be over and it was raining and I think we just couldn’t think of anything else fun to do.
On Sunday we had been planning on having a day at home, but it was raining again and I thought the kids would be going stir crazy, so I said we could go to a movie. This turned out to be another mistake because when it was time to go, everyone had headed outside and I was washing the car and the boys were having a lot of fun sailing boats down the gutters in the rain, so the last thing I wanted to do was stop and go to spend more money and sit in a cinema. But, I had already said it and everyone was excited, so off we went. Unfortunately the movie started at 12.50, which meant we had to leave our house at 12 noon and although I suggested that everyone should have lunch before we left that wasn’t really practical. So there we were again, coming out of the cinema at 3pm with everyone starving. Groan!
I wanted to show Greg around the suburb of Bulimba which is near the movie theatre and has a lot of nice cafes and bookshops and homewears stores, so of course we ended up at a lovely cafe/ bakery with coffee and cupcakes.
This is quite tricky I think. The cafe culture is so big in Australia now, and going out to a cafe for coffee and a treat is such an easy and fun activity to do with the family – it is one of my favourite things to do and I know I am too quick to agree to this, ‘just for a treat’.
So this morning I am lying in bed feeling really bad about all these mistakes I made this weekend but I realise that I need to turn this into something positive by thinking about what we have learnt from the lessons of the weekend.
Here are some things I think we could do differently so that we don’t get caught in these situations again.
1. Only go out on one day of the weekend if possible. I find that my youngest son doesn’t cope so well when we do things on both days of the weekend and this leads to him whinging for us to buy things and generally stressing everyone out, which is of course when I am more likely to make bad decisions and give in to treats.
2. Get going early, or don’t go until after lunch. We can do this more if we plan what we are going to do on the weekend instead of deciding at the last minute.
3. Take our own lunch and drinks with us. We can do this more easily if I make sure I do my menu plans and grocery shopping, so that we have food available that is easy to pack. I could cook some lunch type food and have in the freezer, or we could just have sandwiches (my guys don’t eat sandwiches very often). When I do my menu plans I could especially plan lunches that are easy to pack on the weekends.

Food is such a big part of what we do for fun on the weekends – markets, cafes, festivals, all of these activities revolve around buyng food. I thought it would be useful to make a list of activities we could do that are fun and active and don’t involve buying food.
1. Go to a beach
2. Go for a bike ride
3. Go Bowling (more expensive)
4. Go to a swimming pool
5. Play Laser tag (more expensive)
6. Go for a walk in a bush area
7. Go fishing
8. Go skating
9. Go to a rock cimbing place
10. Go to a creek or river
11. Go canoeing (expensive)
12. Go horse riding (expensive)
13. Explore new parks and playgrounds
14. Play tennis
15. Go to a skate park
16. Go to the science centre
17. Go to a museum
18. Go to the library
19. Go to the Art Gallery
20. Go on a boat trip on the river or in the bay (expensive)
21. Go to one of the islands
22. Go orienteering or geocaching
23. Go to an animal park or zoo

Does anyone have any other ideas? I would love to hear them if you do.

I’m looking forward to lots of happy and healthy family weekends in the future and I hope you are too.
All the best,
Sharee