Monday, 30 January 2012

Knackered knees and basting back

Basting your own quilt is not 'bags of fun'. And today I was fighting off a melancholy feeling as I procrastinated basting the Pre-Kindy quilt. 

There seem to be 4 ways to baste a quilt. (I can be corrected here)

1. On the floor with lots of safety pins,
2. with basting spray,
3. with fusible batting,
4. and on the wall with basting spray.

Unfortunately for my knees and back, I subscribe to the first method. The best tutorial I have found is by Red Pepper Quilts. I mean, Rita is a prolific quilter who is well respected in the blog world of quilters...and even she still does basting the hard way. So, reading it over again, steeling my resolve, I set to work.

I taped the backing fabric to the floor facedown.
Smoothed the cotton batting (precut to cot size 50' x 60") on top of this.
this one just will not load the right way up - sorry!
Then laid the quilt top on top of this. And pinned, pinned, pinned!
Thankfully there was a fascinating History Channel documentary on the history of Berlin. After an hour and a half, that was enough for the day. All ready to quilt tomorrow.

Menu Planning Monday

I am trying a new approach by writing some of our favourite meals on permanent card and pinning these next to each day of the week.

This is what's on the Menu at our house this week:
Our pantry is down to the minimum after our visit from the mice...but it's kind of easier to plan for meals. 
Here's Monday's meal cooking. I used fettucini instead of spaghetti though. 
I added some carrot peelings, freshly diced tomato, bocconcini, rocket and basil, to give it some volume. 
Surprisingly it proved a big hit with 2 of my kids.,..with one having seconds and the other eating everything on her plate. 

La adiciĆ³n de verduras es bueno para usted!

Not my cup of tea

Coffee drinkers have it so good. The cafe world revolves around them and their individual preferences: the latte, skinny cap, flat white, espresso, macchiato, decaf. moccacino on soy.  Then there's all the syrup that can be added to give them the flavour of caramel, Irish cream, butter toffee, cinnamon hazelnut, raspberry chocolate, southern pecan pie and even chocolate macadamia nut!
The whole industry is BIG and thriving in in my little local town. There are 7 cafes with their own baristas (one of them is my friend Slim) and machines within a 3 Km radius. 
But what about tea houses

I can count on one hand the tea houses I have found in Australia. One in Windsor, NSW (serves High Tea on tiered plates), 1 in Leura, NSW (has a collection of tea pots and is across the road from our wedding church) and 1 in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria called, Miss Marple's Tea Room (that we passed in the car after taking in afternoon tea at the famous Bavarian 'Cuckoo Restaurant'). 

And when you order a cup of tea, in a cafe, what do you get? 

It's rare to get leaf tea in a pot, rarer to get a choice of teas, and impossible to get it served in a china pot and tea cup. What you normally get is a 2 cup tea pot with 1 English or Irish breakfast tea bag dangling over the edge. Not strong enough for me. At worst, you get a generic tea bag in a coffee mug. So wrong!
Alas, when I am out with my coffee drinking friends (because it's always "Do you want to go out for coffee?") I will not order tea. I can't justify paying the same price as a double shot frappacino, and only getting a lousy tea bag in hot water.

There is an art to making tea (but more on that another time) just as there is an art to making good coffee. And I want my barista to work hard for the money. So I will order either a hot chocolate or an iced chocolate.
When I find someone who shares my passion for tea, tea cups WITH saucers and dessert plates, tea pots and crazy tea cosies, it's like finding a kindred spirit. I found this great online Etsy store that sells traditional and retro china tea cups. It's called Nancy's Tea Shop and it's worth checking her store every few weeks because she sells gorgeous stuff.
I bought 3 delicious pale blue, aqua and teal  tea cups last year. I ordered 2 more Colclough tea sets this month along with a tiered cake stand, creamer and an adorable pin cushion.
The two tea sets match one that my mother gave to me from her collection. Hers was pale blue and these two are pale yellow.
I have searched many op-shops and vintage stores, here in Australia, looking for tea sets but Rachel just seems to have exactly what I am looking for. Her prices and postage, from the UK, are so reasonable and she packs everything well. 
Rachel also threw in free pincushion and a recipe to's those little touches that I love!
So this is my tea set collection. Just missing one more to make 8. I'll keep my eye out for that in her store.
And what a great idea to turn one into a pincushion. It's gone straight to my sewing room.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Junk Wars

I am not sure if everyone has this problem - little items of stationery, missing toy parts, Lego bits, candles and rocks (yes rocks!) - that seem to just keep finding their way to the kitchen bench. It's a daily problem for me with 3 children.

I went to look for something but got overwhelmed by the sheer number of junk that had overtaken my bench and the 3 boxes I store thing into. So I declared war!
I took everything out and put it on the benchMore overwhelming, but necessary, to see everything.
One pile to discard and another pile for donation.

Then I started sorting things according to which room they needed to be returned to - garage/car, bathroom, my room, foyer, and a pile for each child. I was able to cut down the number of trips to return the items by doing a few along the way.
Then I tackled each box by labeling each - Stationery, Bits and Pieces and Paper - and put things away according to their kind. Nice and tidy back in the cupboard.
Next I tackled the 'Nuts, Bolts and Screws' box to help me find missing shelf tabs. Everything on the bench.
Sort into - allen keys, screws, brackets, shelf holders, nut and bolts, wheels, childproof gate pieces, fuse wire - this time I used some mini storage containers and snap lock bags. This was a much quicker job.
All sorted and packed away. Made me feel great to get these boxes sorted....and I never did remember what I went looking for in the first place!

How do you go when you tackle a box or drawer full of 'junk'? Do you have a sorting system?

Friday, 27 January 2012

Sorting at the Beginning

Our Academic school year began today. Tristan and Duncan moved up into Year 1 and 3 respectively. It was also the last day of Family Day Care for my daughter Frances. She re-starts Pre-School next week and also begins Pre-Kindy 2 days a week at the same school as her brothers. So it felt strange to drop all three kids off this morning and then drive home without them. It's a little taste of freedom I could not even glimpse at when this journey began nearly 8 years ago with a newborn baby's cry.

Anyway...enough reflecting. Here's what I wanted to share. The art of sorting things out BEFORE they begin. The volume of school notes, awards and newsletters can get the best of me each year. So this year I was determined to put some structures in place to help me sort through as things come home rather than at the end of the term, or heaven forbid, year.

This is my favourite IKEA piece. You may also be familiar with the Expedit. In fact some ladies on Pinterest have boards dedicated to this particularly aesthetic and versatile free-standing shelf unit. So here is the one that stands adjacent to my kitchen and gets the most use.
Top left - Each child has a magazine holder for me to store any information regarding their school year.
Top middle - Address book, Order Book (Stripey Brain 2011), Bible and Bible Study.
Top right - large square boxes for card stock and paper craft.
Bottom left - Colour coded A4 folders and suspension files for craft/notes etc. (Not sure if this will work...but willing to try something new).
Bottom right - Envelopes and writing paper (stored in Ikea DVD boxes)
Bottom middle - A clear folder for all of their school awards and stickers in 2012.
The next 3 contain information and awards prior to formal schooling. The next 2 contain Academic Reports and the last 2 contain programing and planning for ASD support and therapies. (Both my boys lie on the Autism spectrum).
On the shelf above stands 4 jars of coins. Actually 5, if you count the half full jar of foreign coins at the opposite end (not shown). Duncan and I cleaned out our money dish next to the front door and sorted the coins into the jars.

50c coins - give
$1 coins - spend
$2 coins - save

Then we bagged up the rest of the 5c, 10c and 20c and totalled $65! Just got to find time to get them to the bank and divide the proceeds into the kids' 3 accounts.
The trusty knife and chopping blocks area got a tidy.

Then I organised our DVD series into an under-used shelf unit. We have a few including, Railway Journeys,  the Thunderbirds and Indiana Jones (no Star Wars yet!). 

My stash
The West Wing - brilliant script and acting but watch with subtitles to follow along,
Wire in the Blood - BBC psychological crime thriller starring Robson Green,
McLeod's Daughters - 'sisters doing for themselves' on an Australian farm,
Life of Birds - I love birds but I could watch any 'Life' series by Sir David Attenborough,
Into the West - brilliant Historical Fiction Series about the clash of the white man's and the Native American Indian's worlds. 
Lord of the Rings - Still love the books more but these are exceptional films.
Battlelines - WW2 documentary following the personal accounts and battles of both sides.

What I would like to add to my stash:
The Wire - Possibly the BEST TV series I have ever seen by HBO. Follows the police and the  drug runners in Baltimore until the lines become so blurred you don't know who really are the criminals. 
How the West Was Lost - I bought the CDs in 1993 when I was in the US but I have never seen the documentary series. 
Downton Abbey - Missed this because it was aired on a commercial channel and I just can't do commercials.

So what's in your 'Series' stash?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

WIP - Pre-Kindy Quilt

Work-in-Progress Tally

1. dolly quilt #1 -  need to add border
2. dolly quilt #2 - same
3. dolly quilt #3 - same

I normally operate under the guideline of "not starting a new project until the last is completed". It works well for me (I do the same with reading books) and I don't have many WIPs lying around. But I needed to leave last week's Dolly Quilts project completion for an important deadline.

New WIP - Pre-Kindy Quilt

My daughter, Frances,  just turned 4 this month. Next week she starts 2 days a week of Pre-Kindy at my sons' school. They have a compulsory 'seista' where they pull out the mats and the room is darkened. We have to supply a fitted cot sheet set but I wanted to send along a little quilt as well.
Fran wearing my pumpkin tea pot cosy
My mum made her this gorgeous 'Apple Blossom Fairies' quilt for Family Day Care, but it is too gorgeous to send. Besides, I'd like to work out how to add a mounting sleeve and then hang on her wall.
I bought a panel of 'Little Girls' last year and Sandi from Crafty Lady helped me to choose some co-ordinating fabrics. She has a gift!
I used some of them to make a 'Flood Quilt' to donate in 2011. 
'Little Girl' Flood Quilt
I must have started cutting the fabric to match the 'little girls' squares because I found a pile.
This would have been great had I stuck to the original plan of using just 6" squares to make a quilt. However I got this great book by Sweetwater Design  for Christmas and found a gorgeous pattern for a Family Room Quilt. So in keeping with goal #3 in the 2012 Challenge to Myself  I decided to try this instead.

But the pattern called for a packet of layer cakes (10" precut squares). As I had already cut some fabric down to 6" squares, I needed to modify my pattern. 

I cut 12" x 6" rectangles from the uncut fabric and used the 6" squares to cut in half for the triangles. Not too difficult. Getting the colour combination right was a little tricky.

This Thursday 26th January is a national 'Australia Day' holiday, and my husband is making it a long long weekend by taking Friday off. We currently have a low pressure system sitting over the north coast bringing us flooding rains. So those factors should combine to give me some time to add borders, baste, quilt and bind before next Wednesday when Fran starts. Fingers crossed!

Fran was kind enough to put Dr Ted to bed this evening...

Sunday, 22 January 2012

'No Fun' Jobs to Do

Someone cute, grey and furry moved into our pantry while we were away.  It turned a Saturday bike-riding along the Ballina riverfront  into an emergency declutter and clean. I had scheduled a SPACE attack this month but this required total assault.
BEFORE - not taken yesterday - no one wants to see the real 
BEFORE shot with mouse droppings eh?
It probably took about 3 hours all up. I had my husband help out for some of the time (reaching back corners and the like) and he was great at reading the dates on food products and throwing things out. We binned 5 plastic grocery bags full of out-of-date and mouse spoiled food!

Thankfully I had put a lot of food items into containers late last year and so we really only lost our burritos, naan bread, muesli bars, popcorn and Weet-Bix to the mouse. Still each container and surface needed disinfecting...and that takes lots of time.  I kept saying out loud "I am not having fun".
I've had to ditch the 'snack station' located on the inside door of the pantry (inside the IKEA storage) because the mouse had found the stash as appealing as my daughter!
My eldest son, Duncan, used my Dymo and made some labels for the dry food containers. It was nice to get help...and great that he can spell so well at 7 years of age.
Now, if you can believe it, that night I was sewing and heard a rustle in the kitchen. When I opened the door, baby mouse hid herself behind the spice rack, pictured left, below. What????  #%$$@$ No way!
So I set the trap...found the peanut butter gone in the morning but the trap not sprung. Set it again...same thing. So then I set another one on the shelf above and my old 'trap but not kill' model one shelf below. 

Some time during the day, today,Miss Mouse was sprung and disposed of, by my husband, to the local magpies. There was some remorse on my part...I hate killing things.

School Supplies

Since our school stopped organising 'Book Packs' last year, parents have had to do the 'School Supply Buy' in January. I hate it. There is not much fun chasing down stationery items in discount stores and then finding that you need to visit at least 2 other Newsagents to find the remaining items. It took me the best part of 3 hours and $200 to kit out our two boys heading into Year 1 & 3 this year. "Bring back the $113 Book Pack", I say. I'd rather pay someone else and get back my 3 hours for something fun.

But that is just the start...then there's the labeling of each item and the covering of books. Here I lost about 6 hours over 2 days.

However it forced me to delve into the 2011 wicker basket of art and craft and sort, save or bin each item.
About half way through the pile
Before - the hamper on the right was full of paper rubbish by the end

The artwork came in handy to cover some 35 books though.
A practical canvas for artwork. I used pre-cut clear plastic sleeves to protect the books. Great invention - beats 'Contact' any day.
If you want more of a challenge then try the fabric book cover tutorial found at Hand Madens blog here.