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Sunday, February 27, 2011

On my soapbox...

This subject was going to be the topic for my post today but I couldn't work out how to add this video that I received as an email attachment from 2 friends. Then, just before, I came back to the problem and solved it straight away! On Friday I showed an advertisement for one of the 2 major supermarket chains in Australia which really disgusted me. The ad is here. What is going on in my country in the name of competition, is in my opinion, obscene. The worst part is that the farmers are being treated most unfairly in this, consumers think they are getting bargains but in fact consumers will probably face price rises when all competition of the 2 big players is annihilated. I much prefer the smaller supermarkets and the farmers' markets but I am guilty of shopping at the 'big 2' to get petrol discounts and  DH and I do buy Coles giftcards through the Union Shopper where we pay $180 for a $200 gift card...but it is a clever marketing ploy isn't it? The link to the video I mentioned is here and even though 'I am not without sin, I sure as anything casting a stone or two' at Coles and Woolworths! The figures on market share quoted in the video are really interesting as Australia is compared to the UK and the US. No pun intended...but sure is 'food for thought'!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Last Sunday of the month...

The Newmarket Mums' Christmas Lunch 2010
The last Sunday of the month, I meet with a group of friends for coffee and a chat. We've been doing this for about 8 years. We refer to ourselves as the 'Newmarket Mums' and one of our clever members has even organised a 'Google group' for us for easier communication. In a previous post, I explained how we all met when our children attended Newmarket State School. Two of us had also been teachers at the school and I had also been a student there!
We are all still mums of course but most of us are 'empty nesters' these days. Collectively we've all had our share of dramas; sometimes family dramas, sometimes work issues, quite a few health scares and issues, including depression affecting spouses as they head through middle age. We've shared the joys of grandchildren (vicariously for some of us), most of us have enjoyed overseas travel which we could not have imagined doing all those years ago when we struggled to stretch household budgets. We've celebrated 'milestone' birthdays, celebrated engagements and marriages of children, commiserated when some of the children divorced or when babies miscarried.

Some of the mums at my second wedding
Not one of these ladies were judgemental when I made the decision to leave husband #1; they were caring and supportive. When after a few years, I met B and later when I accepted a marriage proposal from the future DH they were all so happy for me, gave me a lovely pre-wedding party and a basket of clarins beauty products. They danced all night at our wedding and wished us well.

Some of the Newmarket Dads!

My brother gave me away!
I look forward to the last Sunday of the month. Over the years we've met at a number of cafes around the suburbs of Newmarket and Alderley. For a while we've been meeting at Gloria Jeans but we all insist on our coffee in a china cup! lol  We talked today about having a luncheon together in either late April or early May to celebrate my coming 'milestone' birthday...We've picked the venue- the Newmarket Hotel. I grew up in this suburb and the pub was a 'dive' but it's pleasing to report that this is no longer the case.


 I commented on FaceBook yesterday that I'd had a 'pottering' day; doing a bit of this and that and I mentioned ironing. One friend commented about spending time ironing to the effect of...'don't do it'! lol
 Now I'm not a fan of ironing and I certainly don't miss ironing the 5 heavy drill cotton shirts of husband #1 each week. Or the pleats in DDx2 's school uniforms for all those years; and I certainly don't like the crumpled look so I iron my clothes. But most of the ironing I did yesterday is ironing that gives me a great deal of pleasure.

I love old hand-embroidered tablecloths, table centres, runners and doileys and I love the process of washing them then using spray starch as I iron them.

The tablecloth in the foreground of this photo, I found on Ebay. The one at the back came from a Brisbane secondhand shop.

Another Ebay find. In recent years, the monetry value of these items has gone up and I do set myself a limit though on what I will spend.

At my wedding to DH in 2004, each of the tables were 'topped' by my collection of cloths. This was one of the cloths used, keeping with the theme of mauve/purple and blue.

I love the hand crocheted edges too.

My collection started in 1972 and in a future post I'll showcase that cloth and explain all about's special.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On my mind...some more knitting, a bit of a shock and rising anger at the supermarket chain...

I was thinking last night about what I would post for 'On my mind' Friday. I thought I would talk about the progress of a knitting project that I started the week the flooding started in Qld as I was sitting in front of the TV so much watching the disaster unfold. To me watching TV is wasted time unless I'm doing something else as well such as knitting, crocheting or sewing. So that is what I planned last night...

But this morning DH received a text from his DD3 who had just flown on an early flight to Melbourne from Brisbane. The text said that the plane had had a fire on board and they were met at Melbourne airport by 4 fire tenders. She indicated that all onboard were safe thank goodness...but how scary it must have been for all could have easily been a disaster! It made me think again of those families who have links with Christchurch who had a relative/friend/neighbour go off to work last Tuesday and who will never come home again...tragic! Hopefully our Nikki will enjoy the rest of her weekend away and with her usual resilience face the flight home.

Another thing on my mind is an advertisement in the newspaper yesterday from one of the 2 BIG contenders in the 'supermarket supremacy war', Coles. It speaks for itself in the photo below... (sorry about the quality of the photo it was easier to take a photo than scan at the time)

And these items are classed as 'food'? And 'quality food' at that!
The original idea for 'On my mind' is just an update on my mohair scraps throw. Here is a previous post showing progress. I've now completed 7 'strips' with an eighth half finished. It is still only tacked together and I've also put a few pins in each row as well. I now have to start thinking about a border as I think it needs that finishing touch. I won't take it with me when we head off on our holiday as I plan to buy yarns in the US and knit scarves for a Mothers' Day stall that school will have in early May.
Pinned together and lying flat on top of the bed

This is a new pattern for me that I tried out and i'll definitely use it again in another project

This was the first slipstitch pattern I ever tried; must be over 20 years ago now...still a favourite!

This is another favourite pattern. I use it a lot when I knit mohair rugs

This time the throw is draped over the lounge
If any one would like the pattern for any of the designs just email me and I'll scan and send them to you!

It's been a while...

I realised just before that I haven't posted anything on this blog for nearly a week! Needless to say I have been keeping busy. Last Sunday and Monday were incredibly hot days here. I found that the roof insulation is doing a good job; it was cooler inside the house than outside. SE Qld had big storms on Monday afternoon/evening which brought some relief from the heat. I bet those poor people in the flood zones got quite anxious as many areas of the city have flash flooding during and after storms.

My sewing room has a ceiling fan so I worked on some projects in relative coolness during the hot days. The room also has french doors opening on to the front deck and the breezes were very nice too! I was making pillowcases ready to take to my craft group on Wednesday. I ended up making 4. Another lady brought in some pillowcases which she also had made and she put them on the 'Show and tell table'. People were surprised that she made them...'no one sews pillowcases' was the comment made...well I do and I also make fitted sheets and of course flat sheets. There are some beautiful sheeting fabrics around and it is so economical! Here are some pictures showing the progress of one way I make a pillowcase. I use this method when I have a large piece of fabric to work with as I start off with a long long strip! I've already mentioned in a previous post that there are tutorials on the internet that explain the 'tube method' of making pillowcases. My method here is the 'envelope' type of case.

 I start with a strip of fabric twice the length of the pillow, plus a hem (about 2 cm) and the envelope flap. (about 16cm) The width of the strip should be the width of the pillow plus 2-3 cm for seams. The measurements used here were 163cm by 50cm.
 On one of the short sides, sew a narrow hem. On the other short side sew a deeper hem.

 With the wrong side facing up, turn down a flap about 13 cm. In the middle place a few pins to stop the fabric slipping.
 Flip it over so the right side is uppermost. Then fold over the long strip so that both short ends match. This means that right sides are together.

 Pin (optional) the long sides and sew both sides. Iron the seams on the wrong side and then turn out pillowcase to right side.
 Here is one pillowcase on a pillow and the photo below shows that flap that helps keep the pillow from coming out of the case.
Now I have a confession! When I took the photos I actually did something wrong which I later fixed up on subsequent cases. The narrow hemmed width should be on the piece I turn down for the flap and the larger hem is on the back of the case. But then again...what is 'wrong' ?... as long as it looks like a pillowcase and can be used successfully as a pillowcase it doesn't really matter does it? lol

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On my mind...friendships, left-overs and 'old' recipes

Last night I needed to make something as a contribution to a Morning Tea that we were having at school for a colleague who had received a 'forced transfer' and the end of the school year 2010. Being so sudden, we'd not been able to organise anything in December last year. Meg had been the Physical Education (P.E.) at the school for many years and her outstanding work with the children, her friendship and her sense of fun were appreciated by those who worked with her. I knew her for a number of years before my posting to Stafford Heights as, she was the PE teacher at the school my older daughter went to, and when I returned to work after my girls had both started school, Meg worked at 2 of my schools. Any way today we wanted to show Meg how important we thought her work has been and how much we valued her friendship. As well as telling her all that, we also got her a Pandora gift card so she can indulge herself in the jewellery she loves!  And just like Allan the year 5 teacher did for me, he also wrote a poem especially for Meg!

Our guest of honour after receiving a large card signed by all the students.

Yes we laughed...and we also cried....
Any way back to the 'plate of food'...Yesterday morning I had one of those 'remembering times past' events. I had been thinking about the number of packages of biscuits I had been given as Christmas gifts and still had in my pantry. I had 'fed' them to guests, I'd taken plates-ful to school on the pupil free days...but I still had lots left. I remembered a recipe that I had gotten from a friend's mother probably in the early 1970s. It was called 'Hiker's cakes' and it was actually a slice which used crushed biscuits. Rather than go through my untidy recipe drawer to find the piece of paper on which Mrs Hardy had written the recipe all those years ago, I thought I'd try my luck by googling 'hiker's cake'. And I found it! (plus a lot of other things which weren't what I wanted lol!) So I made it last night and iced it and cut it into squares this morning.

The biscuits I used
Unfortunately I still have lots of biscuits left, but maybe a cheescake with a crushed biscuits' base?

Here's the recipe for 'Hikers Cake'.
125g butter (about 4 oz)
1 teaspoon cocoa
125g sugar
1 cup mixed fruit
1 pkt glace cherries, red
1 egg, beaten
1 pkt wine biscuits, crushed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups icing sugar
50g butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Place butter, cocoa, sugar and mixed fruit in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a moderate heat
Add the egg whilst whisking and boil for another two minutes
Remove pan from the heat and add biscuits, vanilla and halved cherries
Press mixture into a lamington tin and let cool
Mix together the icing sugar, melted butter and lemon zest, add enough juice to make a smooth icing, spread over the slice then chill  (I used chocolate icing)
(my old recipe used a packet of arrowroot biscuits which weigh 250grams or just over 8 oz. This time I used a mixture of chocolate coated biscuits and store bought shortbread. At first when I added the crumbs to the butter mixture, it was still too runny so I crumbed some more biscuits. The mixture should be quite damp but not ‘wringing wet’.)

Iced and cut into squares ready to go!

Last time I went to buy cocoa, I couldn't get my usual Cadbury Bournville; this one has turned out to be a winner! 

The slice has made it to the table in the school library!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Giving the benefit of the doubt...

Yesterday I wrote on my FaceBook page about an incident that happened in the carpark at the medical centre where my doctor 'practises'. I was returning to my car in the below shop level carpark when I was approached by a young woman who wanted $3 off me. She said that she was short by that much to get a prescription filled. I asked my FB friends to guess what I said and did in that situation. One said that I would have refused; one, a former pupil, said she thought that I probably would have given her the money but she wasn't absolutely sure. Everyone else said that I would have given the money over. I did give her the money. In a split second I had toyed with walking up the stairs and accompanying her to the chemist shop, but instead just gave her the money. My parting words to her were that she was to repay me by helping someone else when an opportunity came up.

Now the question is 'Was I a soft touch'? You think about it...hang around a medical centre with a bandage ( unravelling a bit) on a lower arm and a handful of coins. Go up to people and show them the handful of coins and explain that you are short by $3 (she actually asked for 2 first but amended it to 3!) for a prescription that you need filled. What a great scam; what a great way of making money?...perhaps.When I think like that, it  is the part of me influenced by my mother (trust no-one! lol) but the part of me that is influenced by my dad was the path I chose yesterday. Interestingly my mother went to church but my dad eschewed the institution as he felt it was hypocritical of the Vatican to have so much wealth while the parish priest in his little village in Sicily had nothing! (He wasn't that keen on royalty for similar reasons)

My FB friends wrote of other cases in our local suburban area where they have been approached by people wanting money. Quite sad really especially when the comments were made that 2 such people were older women. I don't give to everyone asking for money and I don't even have a set of innate criteria to help me choose whom to give to. It's a bit like the capital punishment debate's better to let some guilty people get off than execute even one innocent person. If you can help do so even if there is a risk you may be being conned.

When DH and I were in London in 2008, we stayed in a hotel in Holland Park. To get to the station we walked past a small supermarket. Outside this supermarket was a lady (40ish) who begged. One day I waited outside the shop while DH popped in to buy some chocolate. This lady pounced...she spoke with quite a posh English accent which did take me back a bit! Soon as I spoke she knew I was an Aussie. She spoke about visits to Australia and seemed to know a bit about us. We spoke for quite a while as there must have been quite a queue at the checkout! A little voice inside my head kept saying...'she's playing you; she's clever; she's been smoking everytime you've walked past so she spends good money on fags'....but guess what? I suddenly found myself opening my purse, grabbing coins (pound coins worth $2.50AUD in 2008) and stuffing them in her 'cup'. I must have given her 6 pounds!!!!! My sweet DH was amused but knew that I was 'soft'.

Closer to home, I collect/buy/ make blankets for the homeless here in Brisbane. The Ecumenical Coffee Brigade distributes blankets, backpacks, hot drinks and food to homeless people in the inner areas of our city. So I take or send the blankets to them. But there are so many charities doing similar work and depending more and more on help from the public as government funding gets slashed. Obviously a lot of parishes do all they can to help.

This throw that I knitted was raffled to raise funds for charity work by our parish
Today I'm going to cut out and start sewing some pillowcases to donate to appeal for flood victims in the Gatton area. A large number of pillows were donated to flood victims but no pillow slips. Requests for handcream and carry bags have also come from the same area. I'll be taking in my contributions next Wednesday to the group 'Sisters of Stitch'

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lucy's first birthday...

Lucy turned 1 today, St Valentine's Day. Lucy's mum is my niece Jenny. My little brother became a grandfather last year and I have to admit I'm still a little jealous!

Note the little 'pull along' dog beside Lucy. Both my girls loved their 'pull along' dogs so we bought one for Lucy.
It has been a lovely year enjoying watching as Lucy grows. We hadn't seen her for a little while so yesterday when we joined friends and family at Mudjimba Beach on the Sunshine Coast, I was amazed at how much she has grown. She has lots of little curls which remind me of her grandad's (and great-grandma's/my mother's) hair. She has a number of teeth since I last saw her and she is so close to walking. She reminds me of DD2 when she was just a bit younger...they both moved like baboons with the bottom held up high but the hands still on the ground. It's a bit like a 'walking crawl'.

Four generations of women here but not all in the same family line!

DD2 in the crocheted 'cover up'

Mummy is organising the cake while daddy is holding Lucy up so she can see!
Lucy's dad is Eric who comes from Bingen in Germany...a lovely man! He supervised the cooking of a number of different varieties of German sausages...yum! Most of the guests were friends of Jenny and Eric; in the main young parents like themselves. It was very obvious that all of them provide a wonderful support group for each other. Family was represented by myself (known as Aniria...a corruption of Aunty Maria), DH, Jenny's grandmother (her mum's mother), and my younger daughter and her boyfriend.
It's a 90 minute drive to and then from the coast and that's why we don't see a lot of the family. But then again, another little great niece, Alex, lives in the same city and we don't see her and her parents that often either. We have 2 other great nieces born in 2010 and another great niece and great nephew born in previous years!

DH spent so much time taking photos and a video of the celebrations that he deserves to have his photo posted on this blog entry as well!
This evening DH and I celebrated Valentine's day with a home-cooked meal rather than a restaurant one because we figure that while we are travelling next month we'll eat at restaurants more than enough. We'll probably pine for homecooked by the end of the 7 weeks!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On my mind...pupils through the years

On my mind today is the number of children who have been in my classes since 1971. Sometimes I get emails or Facebook messages from former students saying how I influenced their lives. Many share memories of books that I read to the class or they remember particular life skills that I emphasized. It’s a lot of power and influence but, like most teachers I didn’t teach because of that power. It was something innate and something I knew I wanted to do even as a little girl. It still gives me so much pleasure to meet up with ex pupils and hear how their lives are going. Some of them are already grandparents while my turn still has to come! The students in my first class are 51-52 y/o this year!!
Today I attended the leaders’ Induction ceremony at the school where I have been teaching the last 7 years. In Queensland year 7s are still in primary school and this year’s yr 7 class were my Year 6 class last year. I’ve known nearly all of them since they started in Yr 1 as I taught Yr 3 in the ‘Early Years Block (Yrs1-3)’ then. I also taught most of them when they were in Yr 4 in 2008. I had promised them last year that I would come back for this occasion. Bless them! They were so excited to see me as I parked my car near the school hall. I got lots of hugs and smiles!

The new school hall built with funds from the federal government. The school community has been saving to build a hall for many many years, without much success. So all are very grateful for the funding!

A group of students making their way past the tuckshop(canteen), uniform shop and cafe complex. All part of the hall project.
For the last 4 years at our school we have had a Leadership programme in Semester 2 for the Year 6 class. It’s great to see their growth as they work through the modules. Last year under my guidance the class ran the Remembrance Day Ceremony on November 11 as well as the Year 7 graduation as part of the leadership program. They did very well, just as they did this morning. After the ceremony this morning the class became the most attentive waiters for the assembled guests.

Nearly time for the ceremony to start
The question I got asked continually this morning was,’How are you enjoying retirement’?  I’m sure you can imagine my answer!

Pillowcases, coffee and petfood...

I woke up this morning and decided that the iron is starting to get to the parts of my body which needed it...definitely more energy than yesterday! Took advantage of that and got some loads of washing done and hung outside. I remembered that I had once bought some sheeting which had a line of holes in one spot...well I did buy it at a clearance house! Anyway I found it in the first cupboard I looked in so it got washed as well. I've decided to make some pillowcases out of this fabric. Pillowcases, handcream and carry bags were the 3 items that have been requested as being needed by people in Gatton (flood victims) so the group I went to yesterday will be sending these items as we bring them in.

Now years ago I made stacks of pillowcases for school fetes. Someone had donated a roll of soft stripey cotton out of which I cut and sewed p/cases. I even hand embroidered motifs on them! (wonder where I got the time?) Recently, via blogland, I discovered the  'tube pillowcase' and they certainly are nifty but there is just one niggly doubt...there is no flap . I feel the envelope style of p/case holds the pillow in doesn't slip out all the time. Maybe I'll try the tube one any way just to see how it goes.

Now I did say I had more energy today didn't I. I'm also an aficionado of having coffee with friends. Today was coffee at Chermside library with my friend Val. Val and I went to school a number of years ago , but it doesn't seem like that long ago! Val had not been to this library before but she said she'll be going regularly now. I think there are only a few of Brisbane's libraries that have a coffee shop and Chermside has good coffee and yummy food. There was a little old lady there tucking into a hot meal and I imagined her as living on her own and a meal at the library would be a nice outing for her.

Later on in the day, DH and I went shopping because DH had seen in the sales' catalogues that Coles had a special on Whiskas ...$1 per tin. DH likes to have a stockpile of cat food at any time but especially now because early next month we're heading off on holidays for 7 weeks and our lovely neighbour Judy will look after our pets, Eduardo and Lina. Pet food has increased dramatically in price in recent years and even though Lina will eat home-cooked meat/vegetables mixtures, Eddie won't. So we end up giving them both tinned food. DH says I spoil Eddie...and I guess he's right!
Lina (Full name as given by my daughters, Paolina Melody)

Eduardo Felipe ( as named by DD2)

On the right, my wonderful neighbour Judy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The days are filling up fast....

This morning I went to Desley, my Bowen Therapist, for my 'monthly overhaul'! My neck, shoulders, forearms, wrists and fingers have been sore recently which makes any crafts' work quite uncomfortable. Hopefully in the next few days I'll feel the benefit of the session.

This afternoon I went to my first session of 'Sisters of Stitch' at the Chermside library. (Why do other suburbs have better public libraries than my local area???) This is a group of ladies who enjoy a diverse range of crafts who meet twice a month to share ideas and to work on craft projects brought from home. There is a table which had magazines and fabrics for the taking, as well tea and coffee and a show and tell session. At my table people were hand quilting, embroidering, doing hardanger, knitting and working on large tapestries. I took some knitting today as it was already organised from when I was in the day hospital last Thursday. I'm still working on my 'quadrilateral' shapes' project which I mentioned here but in tandem with that I have been working on a project using up my scraps of mohair yarn. I'm making a throw which consists of squares but I knit a 'scarf' length of squares all joined together as I knit. Saves so much tiresome sewing at the completion of the project.

Some of my 'scarves'
I have knitted plain squares and in order to use up really little amounts of left-over yarn, I've interspersed the plain ones with patterned squares. It can be a bit of a challenge using just the left-overs and odd balls but I enjoy 'making something out of virtually nothing'.

I use favourite slipstitch patterns. they are so easy as only one colour is used in each row. When I work on a project like this, I always try to find and use some slipstitch patterns I haven't used before. The Harmony books of knitting stitches that I own are old but serve me well!

In this photo, I have tacked 4 rows together at the junction of each new square. The strip still on the needles is now completed and last night I started a 6th strip and that's the one I took this afternoon.

I was thrilled to meet someone I knew there this afternoon but made sure I also chatted with other ladies so that I can get to know them. This is a group who endeavours to help others. Some of the ladies make 'Blankets of love' for the stillborn babies at the hospitals, others are making and/or collecting items needed by those who were made homeless by the floods and cyclones.
Yes I think I can say that I'm really getting into this retirement thing. I enjoyed myself at the 'Sisters of Sew'.
Today I got a payslip which, because I'm taking pay at half rate for my LSL, reflects what I will draw from my super later this year. Even though it seems a big cut I know I can manage quite well. The 'old Maria' always worried that there would not be enough money in retirement but I know it will be fine and I will have enough for my needs and more besides so I can continue to help others.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sugar levels...

Some good news this morning! On my follow-up visit to the GP I found out that my sugar levels are back to normal after that sudden 'spike' last November. However the GP recommended I have a glucose tolerance test just to see how things are going.
Last week I had an iron infusion to top up my depleted iron reserves. The specialist decided last Thursday that as he can't find any reason for this iron 'problem' he is not going to continue seeing me. Instead my GP will 'manage' the situation, sending me for an iron infusion when she feels (or when I tell her) I need it. personally I think she will do a better job! lol The staff at the day hospital are brilliant. Most patients are cancer patients who are there on a more regular basis than me and there is a real cameraderie there with staff and patients. I actually met up this time with a woman whom I worked with in the 90s! We had a lovely time catching up.

Five and a half hours of just reading, knitting or dozing!

This time my veins 'behaved' and the canula went in without too much drama!

Just in prep stage here

The view from the window of the day hospital
I asked the doctor this morning for a letter which I apparently need while travelling in the US as well as needing it to get 2 months of medication from the chemist before we head off. But I have to make a separate appointment to get this letter as well as the pap smear that is overdue. So guess where I'll be next Tuesday at 11am? It has to be a so called 'long appointment'.