Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A School Excursion & Another Bonnet

Today Laura sets off on a school excursion to a couple of historic homes, dating from the 1820s (that's about as historic as things get in Australia). She had to dress up, so on Friday night, just before our (hugely successful) school fair, I quickly threw together a Regency bonnet similar to this one I made last year. Only this one wasn't made from a handbag!

I cut a large circle of fabric and gathered the edges with a large running stitch, and then attached half a hat (left over from my bonnet), stitched over the gathering stitches with some stitches to hold it together, and attached ribbons on the side. It's pretty wonky but time was of the essence and it will have to do!

I must say there is something incongruous (and distracting!) about making a bonnet while the intended wearer is watching High School Musical 2 in the background!

Anyway last night we curled her hair and this morning, before rushing off to band practice snapped these photos of the finished result.

She is wearing a white blouse under a white sundress - I considered sewing a dress specially, but have been so busy the last few weeks that I didn't have time, and I know she wouldn't wear it again if I had sewn something, so this was a good solution. The dress is a good length and the overall shape is almost right for a Regency era costume. Of course she is supposed to be a convict so she is a very well-dressed convict, I should have dressed her in rags ...

In a few minutes I'll go and pick up her flute and make sure she gets on the bus ok ... unfortunately it is a miserable raining day here, but I'm sure they'll have a great time. We visited the same house a couple of years ago, so I can picture her in this cozy 1800s kitchen:

I know I could spend a couple of hours there quite happily!

Oops better go and get her on that bus ...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today's projects

Today I was busy preparing for our school fair ...

signs to print and paint ....

300 wristbands to tear apart, and put into labelled envelopes for quick collection on Saturday morning by 300 excited children...

and, much more interesting ...

my first ever "made from scratch" bread.
(not counting a "no-knead bread" experiment a few months ago ...)

A pain d'epi from "the new family bread book" by Ursula Ferrigno

I just took it out of the oven and we'll try it with dinner tonight.
It smells delicious!

If this bread is good, then there's so many other bread and pizza recipes in this book that I want to try!

Edited to add: It was good! Yum. The girls want me to make bread all the time (huh - that will strengthen my arms!) Perfect except for a small section in the centre the tiniest bit moist and dense. Next time I'll cut down on the salt a bit - was 1 tbspn for 500g flour, and we are not used to much salt in our food)

Monday, March 23, 2009


On Friday Laura and I baked choc chip cookies for the school Band Workshop Day. On Saturday morning I made homemade granola. On Saturday night Laura and I concocted a new dessert, a peach cobbler (vanillla cake mix, pie peaches, melted butter and slivered almonds). Yesterday I baked a Caramel Walnut Slice. Today I baked a gluten-free chocolate cake for our bible study lunch tomorrow, and something special for Steve's birthday (also tomorrow).

I enjoy baking and now that I mostly get to do it by myself I find I can whip up a slice or batch of cookies pretty quickly. But it is fun to bake with the girls too, so long as we're not in a hurry! And I must say I do enjoy the eating, too, a bit too much! My aim this last week was to bake instead of buying biscuits, and even though I've been busy I've managed that pretty well. I'm even starting to think of baking two things while the oven is hot, in an attempt to save power. I've been inspired by Rhonda at Down-to-earth to be more economical and to make more things from scratch. I also made my own laundry powder, which is my latest experiment in looking after sensitive skin AND saving money, hopefully. Even though I have mostly always shopped and planned carefully I'm sure I could do more to save money and be healthier.

Hmmm ... and after all those yummy baked goods a little exercise wouldn't go astray, either ...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thrifty Shopping

Today I visited the op-shop on the way home from work. I had finished early, so had a little more time to look, try on clothes and think carefully, rather than buy things just because they are so cheap.

This is what I found today:

3 vintage single bed sheets for a total of $13.00. They smell fine and will be sweet in the girls' room, where I would like to have more of a vintage look.

A skirt for me in a colour I wanted - $6.00

And three old VHS tapes for $3.00, including a Danny Kaye movie which the girls can watch.

So I did well today!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patricks Day Fun

On the weekend I wrote about our plans for today, St Patricks Day. Having not done anything quite like this before, I was a little anxious about how it might go - several factors were against us. But it turned out to be a perfect day!

Alas, the hard shoes did not arrive on time, but last night we got the hair curled, product applied and all (yes, at last I know how to do curlers properly - better late than never), then this morning we caught the train and travelled to the Recital Hall without too many dramas. In fact, we were there first, long before anyone else. We chatted with the stage manager and one of the pianists briefly before being taken to our dressing room. Which was a "real" dressing room, so lots of fun (Laura even acted for a silly video before anyone else turned up).

Later the others arrived, we got the dresses on, lipstick applied etc and went to the stage door for a rehearsal. And, wouldn't you know it, the stage managers decided that we couldn't use hard shoes much after all, to save the soft stage floor! So Emily didn't need hard shoes, as it turned out! The girls had to dance their hard shoe dances in soft shoes, thumping their feet down as loudly as they could!

I stayed backstage with the teachers and got to see a lot of dancing (without the expense of a ticket!) Here is a peep of my girls onstage:

There were 1050 people in the audience, and all the girls danced brilliantly. My girls have only been dancing for two years, and were the most inexperienced of the group today, but they did well. (I heard afterwards that in the second concert Laura sneezed during her dance - but kept dancing!)

After the first concert we took off the hot heavy costumes and the girls changed and we went and had lunch in Martin Place. It was a perfect autumn day - sunshine and cool breezes.

An obliging man with blue hair presented the girls and their friend with balloons to play with

... and then one of the readers of this blog walked by! A lovely surprise - Hi Linda! She knew exactly what we were doing there! It's strange to have virtual and real life combine!

We went for a quick walk to a few shops and then returned for the second concert - another success!

Then we took photos of the group in the foyer (other faces blurred for privacy) and headed home. On the doorstep at home were a few parcels - the hard shoes had arrived (!), and the new Stampin' Up! catalogue (yey!)

I was exhausted but the girls bounced on ... some more Irish dancing in the hallway and then they offered to cook dessert! Woohoo! I sat with my feet up and a heatpack (poring over the new catalogue) and they baked a delicious apple crumble. Yes, a great day was had by all.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Autumn Morning

It is the most beautiful morning here.

Fresh and cool with the promise of warmth later.

After an early start to the day (Emily on an excursion) and then some errands to run at the shops, I've just been hanging out the washing and enjoying my surroundings.

Lavender blooming happily again now the really hot weather has passed.

The sunshine through my favourite tree.

Flowers scattered throughout the garden.

And then inside for morning tea, the last slice of delicious date and walnut loaf (using this recipe)
Reading 1 Samuel for bible study at the moment.

I hope you have a lovely day!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick's Day!

I have never celebrated St Patrick's Day in my life - it's not a big thing in Australia, but this year my girls are dancing in a big Seniors Concert in the city, and I thought it would be fun to give their Irish Dancing teacher a St Patrick's Day card. So we made this for her.

Am hoping the day will go okay - first the night before we need to curl the hair, then leave home early to travel by train and then walk (carrying two heavy costumes), then put on makeup, fix the hair, calm the nerves and then ... hopefully ... the girls can dance calmly onto the stage. They have never performed in front of such a large audience. But we have told them that they will all be elderly people, and even if they made a mistake the audience will love them - they just love to see little girls dancing and looking cute on stage!

Before that we are REALLY hoping that the hard (tap) shoes we ordered 10 days ago on ebay will actually show up tomorrow in time for the concert on Tuesday. If not, poor Emily will have to dance in her school shoes! Not happy Jan.

So think of us, on Tuesday! I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cards for a fete

Our school fete is in 2 weeks, and I've been busy going through cards I've made in the last few years and never given, half-finished cards, and paper scraps to see what I can donate to the fete.

I've got over 60 cards now to give, and am just finishing them off - adding matching envelopes and so on ...

These are a few of them:

This beautiful dress stamp belongs to a friend, so I'm not sure of the brand. I've had it for years in my scrap box and not known quite what to do with it. But with a bit of stitching and some sparkly gems it came together to be a pretty birthday or bridal shower card.

This card uses Hero Arts stamps and also some stitching - the stitching really finishes it off. I wish I could keep my sewing machine out all the time to add stitching to all my papercrafts!

This cute little mouse is a Penny Black image. Am loving the kraft coloured swiss dot look which is popular now, and love my Cuttlebug to make it!

This card was also made with a Cuttlebug, and some punches.

It would be nice if all my cards sold at the fete! I might not even get to see the craft stall, as I am running the ride tickets and wristbands stall with another girl. But at least I can do something craft-y in advance!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Parenting - the Full Gamut

I don't know why I am still surprised, after 11 years, at the number of different emotions I can feel during a day being the mother of two gorgeous girls. In fact, often those emotions go round in pretty regular cycles .... let me take you through a few scenes here in the last two days ...

Thursday afternoon ... a lovely autumn day, the first day it hasn't been hot or raining ... after school and a little TV and homework ... and instrument practices ... I suggested that the girls take their IKEA play tent outside to play in the cool afternoon sunshine. After a little coaxing they agreed and while I unpegged the washing they started to set up the tent.

My emotion: happiness - the sunshine, the girls playing happily, everything is going right.

Then it turns out that one of the poles has broken (you know, the foldable types with the elastic inside ...) and we spend 10 minutes or so trying to make it work.

My emotion: frustration

The girls suggest that instead they use "Daddy's tent" - actually a sunshelter for the beach, which he was given as a gift and we haven't used yet.

My emotion: relief

We get out the sunshelter, and although it works on the same system it is an improvement on the IKEA tent, we get it up pretty quickly and before I know it it is full of old quilts and cushions and cuddly friends, and happy playing sounds. (wish I took a photo!)

My emotion: happiness

I sneak inside to work on some cards I am designing for a stamping class. All is quiet except for cuddly friends crying occasionally ...

My emotion: calm and peace

Time to pack up. We dismantle the sunshelter and roll the fabric up tightly around the poles, strap it up and then squeeeeeeeeeeze it back into it's packet.

My emotion: frustration followed by relief as I zip it up with Emily's help.

From then on - dinner, a P&C meeting, not so many emotions involved for me - as I leave the girls with Steve for bedtime!

Fast forward to the next morning ....

Plenty of time before school .... girls ask for a lunchorder - yes, we have time to write the orders and visit the canteen before the bell goes ...

My emotion: satisfaction - at last we will get to school on time one day.

But alas, Laura keeps us waiting at the last minute and even when we are in the car waiting she turns back inside "I can't find my glasses!" She doesn't find them and I get out of the car and I rush inside, can't find them either ...

My emotions: annoyance that we are now late, stress as I wonder where the glasses are this time and how happily we will have our "goodbyes" at school

Fast forward again to Friday night ... lunch orders long eaten, some sticky Friday Afternoon Fun involving marshmallows, butter and rice bubbles (yum!), girls have had their weekly "TV Dinner" and Steve and I have had a quiet munch with crackers and dip and a cold drink on the verandah, admiring the sunset.

My emotions: peaceful thoughts, happy anticipation of the girls going to bed and Date Night - watching The Duchess on DVD and eating a delicious steak dinner ....

Just as the girls go to bed I remember the lost glasses.
I ask Laura ... "did you have them when you played in the tent?"

The penny drops.

Laura: "Yes, maybe I left them in the pocket of the tent."

I squished that tent up tight, there's no way they could be in there and survive!!!!"

I run in a panic to our bedroom, where the sunshelter is sitting, quietly, innocently ... I fumble with the zip, too panicky to open it. I run to Steve and he comes, calmly and unzips it.

My emotions: panic, anger, frustration

We quickly unroll the tent. I feel in the pocket at my end - nothing.

Steve feels in the pocket at his end - nothing ... but what's this? A pair of glasses, completely unharmed, slides down from among the folds and rests on the nylon.

My emotions: complete disbelief and relief

(but Laura still got an earful from me)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vintage Carving Cloth

This is one of my favourite pieces of inherited linens.

A carving cloth.

Labelled so there can be no doubt of it's purpose ...

the cutlery has its own special spots.

Even the edges have been decorated.

I love to imagine the days when this cloth was in use, when Father carved at the head of the table ...

(Edited to add:
It seems that people haven't come across carving cloths before, so I googled and found this from Every Woman's Encylcopaedia:

Therefore, have your damask spotless. A great economy is always to use a carving cloth even for breakfast. These carving cloths need not be elaborate. Just a piece of damask to match the cloth, nicely hemstitched, and a large initial embroidered in one corner, is more suitable than an expensive fancy cloth, and can be easily made at home.

So it seems that the carving cloth is a cloth placed under a serving plate, to protect the tablecloth underneath from spatters and spills. Even at breakfast! "Honey, carve me a hunk of that porridge, will you please?")

For more Vintage Thingies check here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Day Out

This afternoon after church we hopped on a train and headed to the city. After a few weeks of working on school assignments with the girls we were feeling recklessly free and in need of some different scenery.

We bought some lunch and sat on the grass at Circular Quay. There are a few cruise ships in town, and we walked along and saw the Crystal Serenity - so huge, yet not as big as others we saw last year.

The old part of Sydney is known as The Rocks, and this was our destination. First we visited the Rocks Discovery Museum and saw archeological finds, mostly old and broken, but arranged cleverly. This is about as old as you get in Australia's short history, not counting Aboriginal artifacts, of course. I loved how they filled a display cabinet with "place settings" from what had been found. Steve and the girls played with the touch screens and the computers while I stared at an old corset and smock, found in an old attic and partly disintegrated. (couldn't photograph it, though)

Then we went to Susannah Place Museum, where we met a lovely lady in the shop and she guided us to this room, to watch an introductory video. At this point we were wondering what on earth we had gotten ourselves in for, because the room looked like this:

and the ceiling like this:

(all of which makes our house look pretty good, really)

But when our amusing tour guide rejoined us we learnt that these 4 terrace houses had been left as much as possible in the condition in which they were found. Built in 1844 and renovated (or not) over the intervening years they are a sort of time capsule of life in different eras, although they are largely in their original condition. Some rooms are furnished, and some are empty. It's hard to believe that people lived in these homes right up to the 1980s as they are now.

We learnt so much and found it all fascinating, even the girls.
This was one of the furnished rooms, a bedroom.

In one room was an exhibition in tribute to the laundry, and the women who laboured so hard to wash their family's clothes. I loved the way it was presented, photos printed on fabric aprons, singlets and tea towels, hung out on a clothesline by a cardboard-cut-out woman - very clever.

And there was a peg exhibit, showing different types of pegs through the decades, including these gypsy pegs (like you read about in novels where the gypsy woman comes to the door selling pegs).

With the laundries left in original condition, one could imagine women in long full skirts carrying laundry baskets up and down very narrow staircases, collecting water a few blocks away from the pump, boiling up the copper and then slaving all day to wash the family laundry. And I was thankful for my washing machine! The washing was then hung out across the street, blocking the way for horses to drive through!

The corner terrace was a shop and here people bought their food for years. In the video were people who remembered coming here as a child and seeing the bulk butter, sugar, apples and so on. Now the shop is filled with boiled sweets, fly paper and other old-time goodies. I wanted to buy everything, but resisted except for a postcard.

After dragging ourselves away from the museum we visited the markets and some interesting shops, including a puppet shop, which was just incredible. Rooms of marionettes and wooden toys.

We visited an Irish shop, and a candle shop, then headed home. A good day out!