Monday, 26 November 2012

One Person's Trash is Another Person's Treasure

I'm sure you can all guess where I'm going with this title.  Yes, I've been down at the Recycling Centre again and the old adage 'One man's trash is another man's treasure' has proven true.

I am always amazed at the things that can be found there and I have to resist the urge to not load up the car or trailer and bring it all home with me.

Over the weekend it was my eldest son's birthday and he loves 'old school' stuff.  He is rather quirky for a 20 year old, choosing to shave with a cut-throat razor, he plays the ukulele and one of his favourite pastimes is whittling.  He asked for a record player for his birthday and amazingly Aldi had them on sale just a couple of months ago which I bought and stashed in the wardrobe until his birthday.


On the day he unwrapped the record player and was thrilled but needed some vinyl albums to listen to so off to the Recycle Centre we went as we knew that they had them there from when we bought some to make the Vinyl bowls I blogged about a few months ago.  He picked up '2001 a Space Odyssey', 'Elvis Christmas album', 'Frank Sinatra' and a few others.

Imagine our surprise when we were checking on the internet to see where other albums could be purchased from and we found that the $5 Elvis Christmas album he bought is being sold for $55 online!


My purchases included the game 'Cashflow' which we have wanted to buy for years but could never justify spending over $100 on it.  There were always more important things to be bought or bills to be paid but I picked up an almost brand new game for only $3.00.  Again when looking online to see how much it is worth I noticed them selling on ebay for $95.00!  I also noticed that you can play the game online for free these days :)

The Recycle Centre is becoming quite a crowded place these days and I can see why.  There are always plenty of bargains to be had and best of all there is less stuff going into landfill.

Chez

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Handmade Christmas

Have you ever challenged your family with a handmade Christmas?  We have not done this for quite a few years but it is a fun challenge and really makes the gift giver and the recipient think about what they are giving and the effort that the other person has put into making the gift they are receiving.

When I talk about this idea with people I get mixed reactions.  Some have already had a handmade Christmas with their family and others just can't see how they would ever have the time or the skills to be able to make an acceptable gift.

It does require some thought and an assessment of your skills, but there are so many ways to make your own gifts, or decorations, cards or wrapping for a home made Christmas that it is really worth giving it a try.
A few years ago I made some lovely crochet snowflakes to decorate my tree.  I only made 7 or 8 and they looked so lovely that this year I've decided to add to the collection and make more.  They are starched with a powdered starch that is mixed with water and the snowflake is submerged in that and then the excess is squeezed out.  Then I pinned it into shape using just regular dressmakers pins and a cardboard box.
While crocheting these I thought a set of snowflake decorations would be a lovely homemade gift and started thinking who I knew that would like a set.  Pretty soon I was envisioning myself under a pile of snowflakes because pretty much all my friends, work colleagues and family would like these.

The patterns I am using this year can be found at Coats Crafts here and they are offered free, and there are plenty more than can be easily found with a quick search on the internet.

Crochet Snowflakes before starching and pinning
I'm not the worlds most confident crocheter as I prefer to knit, but many years ago I learnt to crochet and so I have the basic skills.  I went in search of patterns that indicated they were 'easy' to make.  I use a thin white cotton thread, No 10, and a 2.5mm crochet hook.  Both of these can be picked up very inexpensively from a local craft store or even thrift store.  This makes a set of crochet snowflakes are very very economical present and one I am sure would be greatly appreciated by friends and family as they are both beautiful and the recipient can see that you have spent valuable time making something special just for them.

Pinned and starched snowflake, drying
Maybe crochet is not your strong point but you are a terrific cook or gardener, sewer, woodworker, painter etc.  There are plenty of ideas to make for gifts if you just give it some thought and have enough time to be creative.

One year I kept a small baby food jar of every preserve I made throughout the year and grouped them all into a gift basket for my uncle.  His reaction at Christmas was worth that little bit of extra work each time.  I have also bottled homemade Bailey's Irish Cream which was a welcome gift with everyone who received it.

Knitted items, socks, hats, tops etc, are usually under our tree despite having Christmas in Summer here in Australia.  Other ideas could include fruit cake, truffles, cookies or boiled sweets, potted plants, vegetable from your garden in hampers, for the adults. Wooden toys, slime, gak, playdough, dolls clothes for the kids.  The ideas are endless and the internet makes it so much easier to find them these days.  Check out the 'crafts' page here on the blog for some more ideas.

If you are struggling with the Global Financial Crisis and are wondering just how to get through Christmas this year why not announce to your family and friends that this years Christmas theme is 'Homemade' and ask them all to join in.

Chez

Sunday, 18 November 2012

In the Garden this week

Finally we have had some decent rain and the water tank is full, the dust has been washed off everything and the gardens and lawns have had a good drenching. At this time last year it had rained and rained and rained and we were complaining about getting washed away so I guess I need to just be happy with what the heavens deliver and learn to adapt to our environment.

My garden is pretty good in that the plants I have chosen are quite drought tolerant but at the same time they don't mind a good soaking.  Ornamental reeds and grasses, bromeliads, agave and some palms are good for this.

The vegetable beds are the one area that needs daily watering if it doesn't rain but that only takes me about 10 minutes after work and I find it a nice way to wind down and centre myself back into 'home-mode' after a busy day at the office.
It is really heating up here now and we are coming to the end of our growing season for vegetables.  Pest and disease become rampant at this time of the year and it is hardly worth the effort to grow vegetables as so many are lost.  However, I am still picking many different herbs, tomatoes, corn and chillies and there are watermelons and capsicums which will be ready to pick in the next few weeks.

The fruit trees are producing their first crops after being planted just 1 year ago.  The lemon tree and Kaffir Lime have fruit but I don't think the orange tree is happy where he is planted as there is not much growth or any fruit yet.

A recent trip to the Recycle Centre produced this lovely brushwood screening was a bargain at just $30 for the lot.  We had been looking for something to close the backyard in and give us more privacy as we are very open to passers by.  This much screening would have cost us more than $200 to buy locally.


The lawn is looking pretty terrible at the moment as I have been trying to find a day where I could use one of those feed and weed sprays and so the lawn hasn't been mowed in a few weeks.

I am resorting to using chemicals on the lawn because the weeds have become so rampant and the lawn is in such poor condition that the weeds are taking over.

The problem with these Feed & Weed sprays is that there are so many restrictions on when you can use it.  The instructions on the bottle say not to use it when it has just rained or rain is expected in the next 48 hours, If the lawn was mowed in the last 7 days or if you are going to mow it in the next 7.  If there is any wind.  If the lawn is drought stressed (it has to be damp but not wet).  Finding such a perfect day to use this product, when I'm not at work has posed a real challenge. Finally I was home and the only obstacle was wind so I just decided to do it and be really careful that the spray didn't go onto other garden plants.  Fingers crossed they survive, the weeds die and the lawn recovers.

Happy Gardening

Chez



Sunday, 11 November 2012

Two Free Knitting Patterns from Monarch Place

I wanted to share a couple of my knitting patterns with you and have them down the side of my blog for you to download at anytime.  However I haven't quite worked out how to do that yet so I will put them together in this post and when I get clever enough to link them in the side columns I will do that too. Click on the link below the name of each pattern to download the pdf.

This first pattern I've called the 'Istanbul Scarf'.  It is a really simple stitch combination and knits up quickly with worsted weight yarn.  I made this for myself for our trip to Istanbul in the Winter as after living in Qatar in 50C (120F) heat I needed some warm cuddly goodness to wrap myself in for our holiday.



This little hat pattern I designed while waiting for my first grandchild to be born.  I wanted something that would be unisex but loved the thought of being able to add a ribbon if it was a girl.  Turns out I now have a beautiful grandson and removing the ribbon was all it took to make this pattern suitable for him.  
The hearts are a lovely feature but be warned you need to knit this from a yarn that gives good stitch definition to see the hearts clearly.

 Hearts & Bows Baby Hat 
(click here to download the pattern)
I hope you enjoy making these patterns as much as I enjoyed designing and knitting them myself.

Chez

Friday, 2 November 2012

Slow Living Month 10

I've been a bit on again, off again with following the Slow Living Month group started by Christine over at the Slow Living Essentials Blog, and here I am again this month and it's the 2nd of November so I'm late again.  Still better late than never I say so lets have a look at what has been happening around Monarch Place in October.

Nourish
My son is doing a Certificate II in Hospitality at his school and because I also work at the same school I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of some of his latest assessment attempts.  This one in particular was very nice and nicely plated too.
Lovely salmon with mustard glazed potatoes, avocado, beans, spinach and cherry tomatoes.  Now to get him cooking at home!



Prepare
I have made a head start on Christmas making some cards and soaps and wash cloths for gifts.

Grow
I tried some container growing as it is a 'high bug and disease' time here in the subtropics and so not good for planting out into the garden beds.  This Lettuce Basket is doing really well and I just pick the leaves as I need them for sandwiches and salads.  I've also planted a chilli bush and a cherry tomato in containers so that we will be able to have our own homegrown salads at Christmas rather than buy the overpriced vegetables in the stores.


Cherish
This beautiful crochet doiley was sent to me via a swap that was set up over 12 months ago by the knitting group in Qatar.  Now that I have been back in Australia for over a year it was lovely to participate in this anonymous swap and to find out that one of my closest friends there was my partner.  I will cherish this forever.




Green and Reduce
This reed fencing was picked up at the Recycle centre.  We have been looking for something to add some privacy to our backyard and this was just the thing.  The entire lot cost $30 and there are about another 4 pieces that will nicely close in the back half of the backyard which is just perfect.



Create
Knitted socks from the Yarn Harlots Sock Recipe, another gift in the drawer for Christmas.  I also finished by Purple People Eater sweater which I just love and can't wait until the cooler months to be able to wear it.



Enhance
We have sponsored children through Compassion Australia for many many years and over those years we have lost a child through war and this time we were sad to discover that our child from Kenya had been removed from the program and we could no longer support him.  We have since taken on another little boy who lives in the Golden Triangle area of Thailand.

Enjoy
School holidays were upon us and I got to spend some time in beautiful Caloundra, about half an hour from where I live.  This is a lovely coffee strip where you can watch the swimmers, fishermen, sail boarders and people strolling by at Pumicestone Passage.  It is nice to take some time out now and again and just sit, relax and let the world go by.


I always love doing this account of the month because when I start out I always think that I won't have anything to write but as I work my way through the categories I find I've done more than I think and it is a huge encouragement.

Chez
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