Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Decorating

I thought that it was about time that I posted some pictures of my Christmas decorations. Continuing my love affair with red (and white) I've made some easy rag balls to give an injection of colour and fun. I've stacked them in bowls...

and in this op shop basket, spray-painted white (spray paint is now my new best friend), tied with a jaunty gingham bow. Ignore that fly on the handle.

Here is my hutch, which since I lack a mantlepiece, is my favourite thing to dress up

And some close- ups of my favourite things.

A stitchery I made a few years ago, when I still had time to make things more involved than a rag ball.

And this cute vintage bird which my Mum generously let me have on the weekend. She used to have two and they used to be some of my favourite things to put on the tree.

I couldn't show you the rest of the tree, because it's a disgustingly cheap one and looks really threadbare with a big gap right in the middle. I thought about forking out the money for a you-beaut tree but can't bring myself to spend that much. So I decided that after this year, I'm going to go back to live ones, cut secretly from the side of the road. (Shhh, don't tell anyone.) I know they don't have the lovely symmetry of a fake one, but they have THAT smell. And THAT was one of my favourite parts of Christmas. When I would walk down the stairs to the lounge room and smell that piney scent...then I'd know that Christmas really was here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Missing - Christmas spirit and child-like joy

I just haven't been able to get into Christmas as much this year. Yes, the decorations are up and the tree is decorated, but thanks to the girls, not me. I actually went and had a sleep and let them do the tree. That is unheard of for me. What happened to my Christmas spirit? I was usually the one in my family that insisted on getting the tree (a real one...nothing else would do) and getting the decorations up. I remember one year getting my younger brothers together, packing a picnic, then dragging them across the creek to find a tree and chop it down and drag it home...all by ourselves. It was a fun adventure, never mind the fact that I was meant to be babysitting my toddler sister while Mum was out and I totally forgot about her because she was sleeping. Mum came home and found her over at the neighbours across the road where she had gone crying because she had woken up to a totally empty a family of nine kids, a rare occurance which must have made it all the more scary. Sorry Veronika, I hope I haven't scarred you.

Anyway, I digress. This year I found myself getting stressed over getting the "right" arrangements up, not helped by all the beautiful decorating pictures I see on everyone else's blogs. I find that because I'm a creative person, I have to fiddle and tweak things until they are just right. I can tell they are right because of this feeling I get in my stomach, when everything just falls into place. If I don't get it right, then my stomach just stays churning. Crazy, huh? Well this year my stomach's been churning like mad and to make it worse, I just haven't had the interest in making it better. And I'd usually make things to fill spaces or as inspiration hits me, but again, no interest. I think it's partly because I'm busy making gifts so I don't have time for other crafts plus trying to get the giirls room finished. And I'm just burnt out after a year of work.

So, I found this in the school newsletter and I've had it up on the fridge, and it's been a good daily reminder. It calms me down when I feel like I'm just not doing things well enough.
1 Corinthians 13 - a Christmas (source unknown)
If I decorate my house perfectly with tinsel, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas biscuits, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully decorated table at mealtimes, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at Meals-on-Wheels, sing carols in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the tree with shimmering angels and snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the local choir but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy another's home that has co-ordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful that they are there to get in the way. Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. X Box games will break, DVD's will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.
And it got me thinking...when I was younger, we didn't have all the beautiful handmade decorations like I have now, but did that bother me. No! We had our few simple decorations that we hung up in the same place every year and I loved them because I was a child and it was Christmas and what could be more exciting than that. Ella's been trying to remind me of that. Nearly every day she says to me, "It's nearly Christmas. I'm so excited. Aren't you excited, Mum?" And she says she loves getting presents but loves choosing them for other people and giving them even more. Thank God, I have a child to learn from and to remind me NOT to grow up.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's VERY blue.

Well ,I've finally painted the ceiling and I've put the first coat on the walls of the girls' bedroom. Now I know why they suggest painting a bit of the wall first with a sample pot of paint...because it is NOT the colour I was going for. But no, I grabbed a colour card, said that'll do and bought a whole tin of paint. I was aiming for a very, very pale blue...and it looked pale on the card but when you've got a whole wall of that colour, it is a lot brighter. Here's a sneak preview.

It doesn't look too bad with the white, unpainted wall to tone it down, but now all 4 walls are that colour. Whoa. I'm torn between actually liking it, especially in the morning when it looks light and fresh, to hating it, especially at night when the colour just seems to get darker and darker.

But the girls love it, and it does look nice with the white windows etc against it. And anything looks better than the original. Here's a photo on the first day we got the key to our house. Horrible lino in two different patterns and a rug which isn't too bad in a shabby chic way, but in bad condition. The walls don't look too bad, but they were flaking with gaps between all of the wall boards and ceiling boards. Just patching them up and painting over with primer made a world of difference.
The walls were a colour which looked like dirty cream, but against the white they turned out to be a horrible beige colour. The door in the photo below was the original colou of the room. The light's not too good in the photo.

But like I said, the girls' love it and are very excited about finally moving into their room soon. And Rosie's got hope now that yes, the rest of the house can be done up to look nice too.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

School's Out!

...and it's sweltering hot! I'm at home, drooping like a cheap candle.

I'd like to be doing this even if I can't wear bikinis any more (damn, stretch marks) but I can't even muster up the energy to do anything except lay in bed and read the paper....and blog. But I deserve it. Usually my weekends are spent cleaning up that week's mess so I can be ready to start all over again on Monday, but now that I have 7 blissful weeks of holidays stretching out before me and all that time to catch up on housework, my urgency has left me.

And I'm still recovering from yesterday. We had our usual end-of-year staff party but after about an hour and a half I had to excuse myself, hurriedly drive home and flop down on my bed. It's been years since I've been properly, hug the toilet bowl, sick. It could have been the champers but I only had 2, okay...maybe 3 tiny glasses. But then I drink so little that one Strongbows can get me feeling light headed. Maybe it was something I ate or the Nurofen I had just taken. Fortunately the kids were at a friends house but when they came home and saw the condition I was in, they were great. They quickly got me a bowl and glass of iced water and a damp washer. Rosie even felt my forehead with the back of her hand and stroked my hair and kept coming back and giving me kisses and checking on me and Ella made dinner for the family. She would trot in and out of the bedroom asking things like "How much is a small tin of tomato paste?" "Just use about 3 or 4 dessertspoons." "Are they those big ones that you and Dad use to eat your cereal?" "Yes,dear."

I was well enough later to lay and watch the "Family Movie", a Friday night tradition that is so important that it needs to be spelt with capital letters. I knew they'd be disappointed if I didn't join in.

Mitch is down in Caloundra for his big fight tonight. He's fighting the horrible Matt Caltibiano again, but this time it's for the Australian Cruiserweight title. I'm confident that he's going to do well. It was too hard for me to get babysitting so that I could go too, but I'm kinda glad as the atmosphere was too nasty last time. But I told him to ring me the moment he could, so I know how he went. It would be nice to add an Australian belt to his two Queensland Title belts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas goodies in RED.

Now that my Christmas decorations are up and the pastels are put away for the season, I'm having a love affair with RED. I love the way it just brightens up the kitchen. But now I need more red things to fill the gaps where my pastels were. So to help in that task, here are some more Christmas present ideas, just in case you're having trouble.
How about a cute RED teapot, with or without the spots...

or a red colander, but not plastic.

A red mixing bowl would be good, but again, not plastic.
I've got my red dinner plates and red bowls and red mugs, but I need some side plates. These are nice...
and so are these....
but plain red is also fine. I hope this helps.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Christmas Wish List

I know, I know, I'm meant to wish for peace and love and happiness and an end to worldwide hunger...and I want those things, I truly do, BUT, who am I kidding...I love getting presents. I love giving them too and try to make as many as I can because I just like that (sorry to all those people that cringe when they see that I'm buying for them because they know that they're going to get something homemade..but too bad. Hee hee.) I'm making something cute for my niece and nephew but of course I can't show you those until after Christmas.

Here's my Christmas list, so pay attention Mitch and Joe, although most of the stuff here isn't practical for you, Joe, because you only get to spend $10 - $15.

First up is a Cast Iron Reversible Griddle from "Apron" on Mary St. About $35. Then I'll be able to cook your steaks properly ,Mitch, and cook kebabs for the kids.(They won't fit in a frying pan and our griller doesn't work. The kebabs...not the kids.)

A new watering can. Okay, so a plastic one would work just fine, but metal is so much better looking...and how could you go past one as bright as this. Try Big W.
This picture's too small, but it's a mattock. For digging up my lawn and jungle, I mean (weedy, overgrown, disgustingly messy) garden beds, and turning them into "real" gardens.
Mitre 10...$25.

Okay, we've got a gardening theme happening here. This thing is called Grampa's Weeder.
Mitre 10....$25.

I know this one's just wishful thinking and I don't just mean the perky bum and "ahem" bosoms, but the real item of interest is the croquet set. You can get one (quite cheaply) at Sports Power for $70, but unfortunately our budget is $50 for each other for Chrissy. That's the Budget Rules. Sigh.

This cookbook which has recipes from classic childrens literature including Famous Five fruitcake, with little snippets from each story it accompanies.

And speaking of the Famous Five, I'd love to get this book, which I know is much cheaper from Big W. (And I think it has a different cover.)

Oh, and anything in the "Rosa" range by J & G Meakin. For the uninitiated, these are plain coloured plates, bowls, cups, teapots etc that I am currently having a love affair with. They were made during World War 2 when England producers weren't allowed to make anything with patterns. Some are just plain, but I particularly love the ones with the scallopy edges. You can also get them in blue (Celeste), green (Jade) and creamy yellow (Sunshine) all in yummy, pretty pastel colours which I also collect, but I particularly love the pink.. Actually I also have ones that look similar made by Johnson Brothers and Grindley. I don't really care about the company, I just love the look. You can get them on ebay but with the postage it can get quite expensive. I've picked most of mine up from thrift shops and second-hand markets/sales, most times for just a couple of bucks.
The picture isn't of my collection, unfortunately.

So Mitch, take your pick of all these wonderful presents that you so carefully thought up for me. And Joe, you sort of know my tastes, don't you. Anything vintagey or cottagey, in red or pastel for the kitchen or navy or blue or white is fine. I like spots too. (I'm just not really into the "country" thing with farm animals and cutesy dolls anymore.) I love the houses on these blogs that are all listed down the side if you need further inspiration.

Daisy Cottage
Cherry Hill Cottage
Posy Gets Cosy
An Enchanted Cottage
Little Red House
At Home with MelMel

I hope this helps.

And a final thank you to all the random websites on the internet that I got my pictures from. I know I should probably credit them properly, but I'm lazy like that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some more rearranging...

Well, it's been a while and I have no real excuse other than that I've been feeling overwhelmed by everything lately. There's 13 1/2 days of school/work left and if I can just hang in there until that's over, I'll be fine.
I've done some more rearranging at home, just to keep things fresh and because my house is always so tidy I didn't have anything else to do. (Did you hear the heavy sarcasm?) Okay, I was cleaning so I could spray for insects but it's fun to get distracted.
I moved the dining table back into the kitchen so I could set up a cosy little reading nook in the lounge room with our awkward chair (does anyone else have a lounge chair that came with their set that they have trouble finding the right space for? It always just seems "left-over") and using the island table that used to be in the kitchen. (My family hate it when I rearrange because they can't find things. ("Mum, where's the paper bags that USED to be in the table drawer?) Well, I can't leave paper bags and freezer bags in a table that's now in the lounge room, right? That would be just silly. So they're now in the hutch and the things that were in the hutch are....oh, never mind. It's like musical chairs.

But it's my favourite space now.

If one of the cats doesn't get to it first.

And I revamped the dresser in our hallway, which was meant to be decorative but always ended up covered in mail and junk. Out with the dried wheat and rusty jug and in with the pretty pastel blues. And a new white laundry hamper. Oops, the photo's all blurry.

Do you recognise this tray from this post? Well, I haven't finished grouting it yet but I think it came up really pretty. Thanks Lisa for showing me how to mosaic. I'll show you a proper close-up when it's finished.

I love this shelf. My uncle made it for me for my 18th birthday from recycled timber from some army barracks that were being torn down. I think he said the cedar in it was over 100 years old. It's got some old family books on it and my Dad's toy car from when he was a boy. I'm kinda tempted to paint the shelf white though. What do you think? Would that be ruining it?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My cute make-your-own recipe book

This is a project that I've been working on and off for a week or two now, and I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.

I get annoyed having all my favourite recipes spread amongst numerous cookbooks and it's at the back of my mind that if anything were to happen to me, Mitch wouldn't know any of my tried and true recipes, selected from years of experience, or where to find them. (Not that I'd ever expect him to make cakes and biscuits but he would have to make dinner.) Is this morbid? Mitch thinks it is but I'm always thinking "OK, if I were to die suddenly, what could I do to make things easier for Mitch to cope with the girls." For example, I have a slim folder with all of our bank details and mortgage details and forthnightly budget and monthly menu and monthly shopping list etc in it for easy access.
Anyway, back to the topic. My answer to the "dilemma" is of course to write my own recipe book. I've tried a few different ways over the years but never been really satisfied with the final result, until now.

Presenting my "Sweet Favourites" recipe book for all my cake and biscuit needs.

I started with a A5 sized art sketch book. Mine was $4.75 from a newsagent but I have seen ones for $2 from "cheap" shop. I have tried different notebooks over the years and this is the one that I liked the best. This is because I prefer the blank pages to notebooks with lines and I find that sketch books have a nicer quality and thicker paper which is necessary if you are writing on both sides.

I divided it into sections with tabs for easy referral which is something that I haven't done in the past attempts, but which I think is really helpful. I prettied each page divider up by glueing scrapbooking paper and felt ribbon onto a page in the notebook because of course it's got to be nice to look at as well.
Here is my Cake page....

and my Biscuits and Slices page....

and my Scones and Batters page...

and my Desserts page....
and my Sweets page.

On the other side of each divider page I glued textured cardboard in the same colour as on the other side (I used a different colour for each section) which helped make the stick out tab stronger, then pasted a trimmed down page on top for a table of contents. I also numbered each page, not including the dividers, so that if I open to the Biscuits page and want to make No28. Anzac Biscuits (which I did today) I know to go to page 28. I did not start the page numbers again for each section, but kept them going through the whole book. I left 26 blank pages for the Cakes and Biscuits, 19 pages for the Batters, 17 pages for the Desserts and 9 pages for the Sweets.

I've started writing in my favourite recipes using my neatest writing (as I expect to keep this for a long time, this is THE recipe book) and a water and fade proof pen. This is important because in some of my earliest recipe books I can't even read the recipe anymore, through either fading or being spilled on (and washed away). Add a pretty fabric cover and you're done.

I now plan on making a new one for my meals, maybe in blues and greens and chocolates. I think I'll divide it up into sections like "Soups", "Light Meals", "Comfort Food and Casseroles", "Side Dishes", "Meat Dishes" and "Pastas". That should make it easier to plan my menu for the different seasons as well.
I actually think this would make a lovely present for your child as they leave home or become an adult or get married, so they can always have their favourite recipes that they grew up with, with them.
If anyone wants me to do a tutorial on making the fabric cover, just leave a comment asking. It's pretty straight forward though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A change is as good as a holiday.

I know, I've just come off my school break, so why would I be wanting another holiday so soon. Well, I never say no to a holiday or staying home but I'll have to wait a bit longer for that so this weekend, while I was meant to be cleaning, I did a little redecorating instead.

I've said a few times that while I love the muted colours of primitive decorating, I've been drawn lately to the prettiness of pastels. What to do, what to do? How am I going to incorporate the two. Well, I've decided that I could do my own version of Spring and "Fall" decorating. Decorate with the cosiness of reds and darker colours and prims in the cooler months, and in Spring and Summer use the lightness of white and pastels to cool the house. So down with the reds and up with the pinks.

Here is the "before" of my kitchen hutch...

and here is the pretty and feminine "after".

And a close-up.

(I asked Mitch what he thought and he hadn't even realised that I had changed anything. Obviously it's not high on his list of importance. I'm sure he's just wishing I tidied up instead. I will, hon, this just helps me get in the mood and makes it a little less like drudgery.)

A lot of my furniture and accessories in my house are dark blue which I love and don't want to change, but I think that it works ok with both colour palettes. Don't you?

Here is my kitchen island with my christmas wax burner thingy STILL out from last year. The green and red doesn't really go now.

Much better.

And here is my Grandma's old Singer sewing box which I now use to store my cutlery.


...and after. Hmmm, something's not quite right.

That's better. Although maybe I should paint the wicker white.

And there's nothing like a hair change.


.....and after. You like? I do.

Get to know me

  • I love the smell of cinnamon and vanilla.
  • My favourite flowers are daisies.
  • My favourite trees are pine trees.
  • I always like to have the bickie jar full and a cake on the cake stand. I know...not that healthy, but so good to look at.
  • Autumn is my favourite month, although I do wish we had more of a change of colours up here in Queensland.
  • I love Anne of Green Gables and Laura Ingalls Wilder. They started my love affair with "old-fashioned" stuff.
  • I'm a boots and jeans kind of girl, but also love vintage skirts and dresses.
  • I like sewing and am in love with quilts at the moment.
  • I love reading. (I have a weakness for archeological thrillers and historical romances, but not Mills and Boon-type ones.)
  • I love old houses with character. No new estate houses for me. (Sorry Rosie.)
  • I love vintage/cottage/farmhouse decorating and pretty pinks and blues, with a splash of red for colour.
  • Polka dots can make me sigh with delight.
  • I have 4 chooks. They are MY pets. Another tick on my dream-come-true chart.
  • I don't eat dessert much any more. I'm not dieting, I just don't want it. (Does that mean I'm growing up if I say no to an icecream cone?)
  • I'll still always say yes to chocolate though!
  • I like to sit on the front stairs in the sun, to drink my morning cup of tea, while I contemplate what to do in the garden.
  • I've got the gardening bug again recently. It comes and goes with the weather. I'm envisioning cottage flowers in pink, blue and white to go with my green picket fence.