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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some great ideas from a blog that I follow...

For a little while I've been following some blogs via email. This has worked really well while I have been so busy working. Every day I can find time to check my emails but lately haven't always found the time to check in on my blog's dashboard. (I do plan to catch up on a lot of reading of blogs when I'm able, such as next weekend)
I want to share a link to a blog that I follow called 'Frugal and Thriving'. If you're like me, you hate putting excess jars/bottles into the recycling bin, especially all those Moccono (a brand of coffee) jars. F&T's blog post showcases a number of ideas and links for using jars creatively. I loved this post!

We've been having slightly crazy weather here over the past few weeks. Lots of clouds that come up quickly and bring a few showers. The garden is full of weeds and mosquitoes are a bit of a problem in the evening. The weather is getting more like what it was when I was a girl...a definite rainy season in the subtropics of the state where I live. That old saying comes to mind...'the more things change, the more they stay the same!'

Monday, March 26, 2012

Make- Grow- Thrift

I haven't been blogging much lately as the challenge of indulging in paid work has left little time for much else at all. Even my housework and laundry is 'way behind' now. I actually will work 12 days straight as I worked all last weekend. The election was on Saturday and Queensland has a new Premier but our work continues behind the scenes. Somehow I just don't want to miss out the usual Monday feature on Jodie's Blog  so I've 'cobbled' togther a few ideas that fit with the theme.

Firstly, my bunch of flowers. I grew a pentas bush from a cutting, a number of years ago. During the drought I lost a number of these plants; I had red, pink and mauve ones, all grown from cuttings. Eventually I only had one sad little mauve plant  left. With the rains last year and this, the shrub has just grown wild and is covered with blossoms. They are a great plant for cutting flowers from as the blooms last quite a few days. My SIL also grew a plant from a cutting of my shrub and hers is doing just as well.

My next photo (taken in the dark) is an old black plastic rubbish which used to be my makeshift compost bin when I rented a little house 12 years ago. I had cut the bottom of the bin out, turned it upside down and then put the lid over the cut out part.

It's a bit dark to take photos but this is my old black plastic bin

When I came to live at this house I didn't need it as a compost bin any more and it just sat unused beside the 'proper' compost bins that we now have. Then last year I was looking for some big containers in which to grow potatoes. I decided to use the old black bin and I got a lovely big crop out of the 3 plants I put in. A few weeks ago when the weather started to cool down I put a seed potato into the old black bin. On Saturday morning I found that it had green shoots, so that was a lovely surprise.

The little green shoots of my latest potato plant. It's amazing how much light that little torch emits!
Now that I'm working (albeit temporarily) I've started to make time each morning to wander around the garden; pulling a weed out here and there, checking all the flowers on the eggplants and the capsicum plants. Checking the lettuce seedlings, the silverbeet, the herbs and training the sweet potato vines back from the lawn. I find it just helps so much that peaceful time in the garden...just like my dad used to do after work each day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Make- Grow- Thrift

It's Monday again, so I'm joining in with Jodie and her regular feature.
One year, not so long ago, one of the parishioners at our church came up with a fundraising idea which she labelled the '$20 Talents Challenge'. Inspired by a parable in one of the Readings, in which a master entrusted varying numbers of bags of gold to his servants before he (the master) embarked on a trip. Two of the servants 'put the money to work and gained more wealth for their master; the other servant dug a hole and buried the gold in it. When the master got back he rewarded those first two and  the other servant who buried the money, had his bag of gold taken off him and distributed to the others who had worked hard to increase their master's money. So what has this got to do with fundraising?....

Well those who took the challenge were given a $20 note. Their challenge was to 'grow' that $20 using talents that they had. Some people used the money to buy potting mix and seeds and pot up seedlings and sell them. Others hosted dinners where guests paid $10 for the meal. Provisions were bought with the $20. Some people made jams, preserves and brownies to sell. One lady knitted little dolls which were gorgeous. Other people sewed items for sale.

We're having the Challenge again this year and I decided to take part. I used the money to buy some 'fancy' yarns and I'm making scarves; just simple ones that I can work on in odd spare moments. So far I've finished 5 and have enough yarn (some from my stash as well) to make a few more before the challenge ends on Sunday April 15. The purple and mauve scarves have already been bought so that's $16 so far. So I've almost got the original $20 back.

So far others this year have made greetings' cards, meringues, sewn items and turned wooden pens. It's a fun activity with the added bonus of fundraising :-) .

Sunday, March 18, 2012

FNSI or Friday Night Sew In...

I was so tired on Friday night that I fell asleep sitting up and had a little snooze. That was enough to give me some energy and I then sewed donated squares together. The rug pictured in my banner was made with  ninety squares mainly crocheted with the variegated yarns like 'prints'. After finishing that rug I had 60 squares left over. So I've ended up making a blanket 8 squares by 7 squares. I tack the squares together with a few stitches at each end, then tack them into rows and columns. Then I have an easy task of just sewing up each column and row which can be done at Knit and Natters or at home  at the table on the veranda or in front of the TV. The hard part of easing each square in to fit with the others has all been done at the tacking stage, so it really is 'easy peasy'!

Hmmm a few ends to still weave in...

So for FNSI, I finished that sewing up. Because a SOS had been put out through the forum requesting larger rugs, I then started to crochet around the outside of this smaller rug. I still have a few more rows to go and then it will be ready to hand over. The group that I belong to was unable to fill all the requests for warm blankets/rugs, that have come in in the last few weeks from the various organisations, and this  has started a 'flurry of activity' amongst the members to replenish stocks.

Two rows of crocheting around the edge are done...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A precious day off...

The 'boss' gave me the day off today. The last day or so I planned what I would do. By this morning I had quite a list of things that I intended to do. Far too long a list actually and reality is that I only got around to a few things. I was up and out of bed quite early and after breakfast I made a slice. (chocolate coconut delights)
Then I set myself up at the big table on the veranda with one goal in finish another blanket for Knitting for Brisbane's Needy. I have written about this particular blanket in previous posts; I joined donated squares/rectangles  which varied somewhat in size. It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle as I attempted to fit the shapes together. Eventually I knitted 'pieces' to fit spaces left.
 I still had to crochet around the blanket and weave in and cut off loose ends. And that's what I was doing this morning and I did indeed finish it. So I spent some time sewing up another blanket of donated squares for the same charity, which had already been started. It was so pleasant working on the veranda with the rain coming down on the metal roof.

The new blanket folded up

draped over a chair

Time flies when you're doing something like that and pretty soon it was midday. I had a slice to ice, lunch to eat, clothes to iron before heading off to my other craft group Sisters of Stitch. I had a lovely afternoon there and then headed to the office to meet DH who was going to take me through some instructions I need for a task I'm doing tomorrow.

So I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped but achieved enough to make it a successful and restful day.

PS Friday Night Sew In is this Friday March 16. When I checked earlier today the sign up wasn't ready but it might be ready now. Why not join in? Just use the button on the side of my blog...FNSI

Monday, March 12, 2012

Make- Grow- Thrift

Being Monday today, I'm again joining the feature on Jodie's blog here. This week Jodie wrote of the beautiful plant she has been given to plant in her garden, honouring the memory of her grandmother who died recently... a lovely idea.
My post is also about the garden. Firstly I'm showing the 3 passionfruit which I picked from the vine on Sunday. The possums and larger birds like the cockatoos, love to 'pick' my passionfruit before they ripen but they left these 3 for me :-)  My vine grows in my 'natives' garden so no fertiliser with potash can be used as it will kill the natives so I only use Blood and bone and some slow release fertiliser formulated for natives. So why do I have a plant that adores potash which would help it fruit even more, growing amongst the natives that hate potash? I didn't plant it...2 vines came up out of some homemade compost that I spread around the bed. There is some more fruit on the vine which I'm keeping an eye on while it ripens.

We have 2 seasons for passionfruit here in the sub tropics

The photo below is a purple-skinned sweet potato that I suspended in water several weeks ago so that it would sprout. Finally started sprouting late last week. I love that variety baked in the oven but you don't seem to be able to buy plants of it at the nursery.

After weeks of waiting, finally some green shoots!

Suspended in the jar of water

Years ago when I taught year 2, we (the class and I)  put an orange fleshed sweet potato (kumara) in water and waited for it to sprout. The sweet potato vines I have growing now are 'descendants' of that sweet potato. The class loved it as it grew long and meandered along the long window ledge in the classroom. We've had some really good crop yields and homegrown do taste better.

Sweet potato vines acting as ground cover during the hot summer

Now I mentioned possums before. The photo below came from a share on Facebook. Apparently the possum broke into a bakery in Hobart (Tasmania) and ate his fill of pastries. When caught red-handed, he was 'too full' to run away!

The pastries' thief; I guess that hole on the righthand side is where he broke in!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Random things...

DH and I had planned a day out for yesterday (Saturday), going for a bit of a drive, but our plans changed on Friday night when he realised that he would need to go into work. So I enjoyed the luxury of a bit of a 'lie in' and then pottered around the house catching up with some washing, ironing and some tidying up. I'm not being facetious either, I did enjoy all those little jobs that I've got behind in recently. We did do some grocery shopping together later in the day, so we did go out eventually! lol

Today DH went off to golf and I met up with some of my old school friends for coffee. We met at a place called LITSE which stands for 'Life's too short, enjoy' which we all agreed was a good maxim to live by.

Later in the day I did some weeding around and in the vegie patch and took a trip to Bunnings to buy some seed potatoes. I bought a punnet of lettuce seedlings, a tomato plant but it's a bit early for the seed potatoes. So I guess when I add that I've also fitted in some knitting and crocheting this weekend and some cooking in bulk, I feel that I've had quite a productive weekend :-)

Last Sunday I wrote about our credit card being 'compromised' and I guess it was a duplicate of our card that was used in southern cities to the tune of several thousand dollars. We have no idea how our details were stolen...and then today in the Sunday paper, there was an article about credit card fraud in Kilcoy, a small town north and west of Brisbane. A number of the people in the town were victims with the cards being used in locations as far away as India...and many thousands of dollars in transactions involved. makes you wonder doesn't it?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The lovely street where I work....Bigger is not necessarily better!

In this post I want to share some photos of the streetscape where I'm presently working. In the early years this was the main commercial area of the suburb. Then in the early 1970s a 'shoppingtown' complex was built in a street parallel to this less than half a kilometre away. As years went by the fortunes of this street (Blackwood St) began to decline.

Building Brookside in 1970

A new way of shopping...the shoppingtown; Brookside in 1971

Below, Brookside in 1994....

Shoppers seemed to prefer the larger complex but the traders knew that many people loved their quieter precinct and actually preferred it to the busier Brookside. So it was that the community fought back and many joined forces to come up with strategies to save Blackwood St shops and businesses. The vision of those people means that this is a bustling, but very pleasant shopping and dining precinct.
Below are some photos I took last week of Blackwood St....

Used the telescopic lens here; looking towards the railway crossing

We've been working here for 3 weeks and already have got to know many  of the business owners; and delightful and helpful people they are too.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

At least a Certificate iii ....

Well I'm almost at the end of the 3rd week back (temporarily) in the workforce. I've learned lots of new things and feel quite confident navigating through the computer system. I feel that I now must have the equivalent of a Certificate iii in Envelope 'Stuffing and Sealing'. (Here in Australia, our TAFE colleges give out some Diplomas and lots of certificates for the various vocational courses)

Obviously I've made up that particular certificate course but if there was one I would have achieved all the competencies required! lol Even though part of my job is being the mail clerk, this last week DH has taken the container of mail up the street to the Post Office because the amount of mail was too heavy for me to carry. That's a lot of envelopes!

In my first day in the job I was introduced to the gadget pictured below. It does the 'licking' to seal the envelopes. So if you had a mental picture of me licking 1700 envelopes, it's ok...I didn't. I used this gadget. One day I had a bit of help from another casual so we got through lots of 'stuffing and sticking down' envelopes that day.

You fill the well under the roller with water and then roll the gummed edge of the envelope over the roller.

I'm still enjoying the work. The fact that there is no preparation involved beforehand or work to be taken home  is still a wonderful novelty.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Make- Grow- Thrift

The first weekend of each month a knitting group I belong to, has a challenge which runs from Friday night until Sunday night. The idea of the challenge is to replenish items (that we give away to the needy) that may be running low or sometimes it is a special project where we focus on making items for a particular group.

The March Challenge was making beanies and scarves for the community in Doomadagee in North Qld. This is an Aboriginal community and they are very proud of their football team, the Doomadagee Dragons. We were focussing on making items in the team’s colours for the young ones in the community.

I’d hoped to make at least 2 beanies but just didn’t really feel like knitting this weekend gone...especially that 22 rows of rib to start a beanie :-( ,so just the one from me this time!

One beanie which still needs to be sewn up!
I'm once again linking in with Jodie for her feature Make-Grow-Thrift.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The good...and the not so good...

This afternoon I headed off to a 'fete' meeting. Our parish has quite a busy program of fund-raising this year and as a consequence there will be a 'Twilight Markets' event in September. I missed the first meeting as I was at my niece's for her daughter's 2nd birthday last month. So today was a 'catch up' meeting I guess for myself and 2 others who had missed out.  We mainly discussed craft ideas and looked at samples of others' work. From experience I know that time will just fly and September will be here before we know it. So I guess the idea is to start making items as soon as possible.

When I arrived home and walked around to the back door to let myself in I saw that I had some bird visitors in my garden. Two were young magpies who still had their brown feathers (mature magpies are black and white) and one very special visitor (well to me he/she was special), a kookaburra. These birds are icons of Australia; related to the kingfisher, the kookaburra has a call that sounds like a laugh. That's why their other name is 'laughing jackass'. They are seen less and less in suburbia, compared to when I was growing up, so any sightings are delightful. Here was one sitting on the fence... and he/she stayed while I went inside, 'threw' the grocery bags on the kitchen floor, grabbed my camera from the desk drawer, opened the sliding door and went out on to the veranda to take some photos. Just after that another kookaburra swooped down towards the first one and they both flew away.

Then I checked the answering machine and found the not so good part of the day's events. It was the bank saying that there was 'suspicious activity' on our card and to ring the number on the back of the card. Yep! Someone had used 'our ' card in another part of the country; had spent thousands of dollars. It gives you an awful shock and even though it's all sorted out and we are not liable for those accounts, we have had to cancel that card. It happened to me in 2008 when my bank was suspicious of an online transaction . I didn't bother to get another card.

Looking back 12 months...

Twelve months ago, DH and I set off on our USA holiday; a holiday of a lifetime. Because we crossed the International Dateline, we ended up having two March 5s. We arrived early in the morning at LAX (which is enormous to a couple of Aussies from Brisbane), and got a shuttle bus to where we were staying at Santa Monica. As soon as we checked in, we went in the hotel's courtesy bus downtown to explore.

Remember how I was fascinated with the store in Santa Monica that had the windows full of old sewing machines? here :-)

It was a lovely warm day and we walked down to the famous Santa Monica Pier. What a beach! It was so wide; and how busy was the funfair on the pier?

I was captivated by this old carousel/merry go round

We visited the Information Kiosk as that was where an elderly cousin of DH's mother, Thelma, had worked as a volunteer for many years.

The information booth and the Route 66 sign showing the other end of the famous road system

Sadly she died a matter of weeks before we arrived; she was 97! It was lovely to see that there is now an award in her name for outstanding employees in the tourism industry of Santa Monica.

So where has this past year gone? It doesn't feel like it all happened 12 months ago! lol

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Changes I've observed...

In the news in the last week or so there have been reports of a company which has a number of womens wear shops will be closing a number of these outlets. ( Miller's Fashion Club, Katies, Crossroads and 1626/Autograph) The reason being that they have been operating at a loss. Then another Australian retail chain 'Wow' announced it was going out of business; laybys would be honoured but gift cards would not be. Now the way the media handled these announcements was that it seemed the public were to blame because we are not spending as much money.

It is quite complicated I guess...many of us are questioning the slavish buying of goods and asking ourselves 'Do I really need this item?' Many bloggers that I follow write about being frugal and it's 'catching on'. Why do I say it's complicated? A lot of people in the community work in retail and many face losing their livelihoods which is a concern. As a society we have become beholden to these big behemoths called shopping centres and perhaps it's greed but the retail chains have stretched themselves thin adding to their retail outlets till there are literally hundreds. Have you noticed that the big shopping malls/centres all seem to have the same shops no matter whether you're shopping in Cairns or Hobart?

Last month I took some blankets out of storage and gave them a wash before we gave them away to a charity that gives them to homeless people in the city. As I hung one on the line I noticed the label on it, 'Baroba'. Now that started some memories! This was the store brand of a company here in Queensland called Barry and Roberts. There was a branch of this store in my home suburb and my mother used to put clothing for us and manchester on layby at the store. This blanket was one of a pair that my mother had laybyed in the early 1980s and it was still in beautiful condition. Barry and Roberts gradually closed their stores in the mid 1980s. Then I thought about all the other department stores that were in the Brisbane of my youth.

Our local Barry&Roberts store; built in the 1960s
from the Brisbane City Council Collection, No BCC B54-15245

Some were taken over by David Jones (TC Beirnes and Finneys) and Myer (McWhirters and Allan and Stark). Some disappeared in redevelopment of the CBD; Edwards and Lamb, Briggs, Red Combe, MacDonnell and East and Bayards. Bayards mentioned in the last sentence ended up disappearing from regional areas and suburbs very quickly too. Remember Waltons? they've gone too. Many of those aforementioned department stores were family owned and perhaps the pressure to compete with huge comapnies like Myer and DJs was too much for the smaller firms and they closed for ever. Lots of favourite little stores closed up for ever too; Boston Silks and Mimis for example. Those Brisbanites of a certain age bemoan their passing still. We often gather to share fond memories. lol! Well maybe not often...but definitely every now and then.

Allan and Starks became Myer

A very old photo of McDonnell and Easts

Will people in future years be as sentimental about the large chains like Millers?? What's disappeared from your town/city? (I won't mention Spotlight and small stores but you might)