11.12.11

Making gifts, Brown Owl Kris Kringle & a treat for me

I've been at it again!  Being a craft machine that is.  I've been crafting away making some little gifts for some wise women in my life.  Each one took me about 3 hours to make.  I was surprised at that as they look so simple don't they?  I am really pleased with how they turned out and I'm sure the three wise women will appreciate their cute little owl cushion this Christmas.




I gave the little owl ornament I made in the semi tutorial as a Kris Kringle gift at craft group on Wednesday and the recipient seemed to like it.  And look what I got as my Kringle gift....


Isn't she just adorable?  I was totally chuffed both at the cuteness and at the fact that she fits with my tree colours perfectly.  Go Brown Owls and go crafty chicks! 

And one last thing I have to document, as it is kind of sadly monumental for me.  I found Mollie Makes in a newsagent's last weekend!  I am totally super excited about that.  I had looked everywhere (or I thought I had), then I thought I'd try a new shop and there it was.  Tada!  "Here I am Jo, buy me", so I did.  They were a real treat as I hardly ever buy new magazines, instead I pick them up at op shops and I'm more than happy to part with 50c.  I didn't even hesitate when I saw these though, straight up to the counter I was, happy to hand over my cash.  I got so  much pleasure from reading them; doing the quick flick through and then going back for a slower second look.


Yours,
the craft machine
A.K.A. Jo :)

Inspirational blogs to offer a new perspective

I have found some amazing new blogs that have totally inspired me and have left me feeling a little bit greedy and superficial in many ways. 
The first of these is Kristin’s blog 'Time won't wait for me'.   I found this blog last week and haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  This is the story of a strong, passionate young woman who is working in India as a nurse and is also making food to give out to street kids.  I was just taken aback by the difference that the dedication and selflessness that one person can make to others.  I admire this chick a LOT for standing up for what she believes in and DOING.  I admire do-ers a lot!
Then earlier today I came across another blog 'Simply Martini' about a woman who is following a voluntarily simple life.  I was totally inspired by Kristen’s (I only just realised that these two women have the same name but different spelling!) choices to live a different way and to opt out of an inauthentic life in order to live as simply as possible.  I was inspired by her spirit of conviction.
It did make me feel slightly spoilt and superficial and put my excitement about Bruce the Spruce into perspective.  But that is by no means a bad thing, I like keeping things in perspective and a little help here and there is always accepted gratefully!  Pop on over and check these chicks out if you want to get away from the Christmas hype and to see life from another perspective.
Hope you are happy doing whatever you are doing today
Jo J

5.12.11

A new type of christmas tree for me

In continuing with the Christmas theme I wanted to write about my choice of Christmas tree this year.  Since I moved out of home I have had a real Christmas tree every year and I've gotta say I love them.  I just don't know that I could have an artificial one.  Some people bring their tree down from the loft or out of storage every year and for them that is just what they do and I can see some benefits of doing it this way.  But for me, I want the real thing.  I want the smell, I want the pine needles on the floor, I want the sticky sap on my hands and I want to have to remember to water it.  It feels a bit special having something real too; a bit of beauty to adorn.

So anyways, that being said, this year I must have gone to about five different places in my area to attempt to find my tree.  As I've mentioned, it'll just be me and the dog at home so I only wanted a small tree (I also wanted it to look just like the one in Lorne).  But try as I might I just could not find a small tree that fitted the bill.  They were either too wide, too tall or looked brown and didn't look like they'd make it til Christmas day.  I was beginning to think that I may have to go down the artificial route and I was feeling a bit disappointed about that so I did my usual thing and sat back and waited and decided not to rush into any decisions just yet.  

Then coincidentally, I went to have a wonder around a garden centre that I hadn't been to before, and lo and behold, there was the cutest little pine tree I ever did see, sitting with its spiky branches sticking out in perfect form in its own little pot.  However, when I looked at the price tag I got over that idea rather swiftly.  I loved it, but at $85 I decided there are limits to my love.

So I looked for something in my price range (around $50) that would float my boat, but nothing appealed and I feared I may have to end up with a woolly bush. I kept thinking back to that beautiful little tree I'd seen and just wanted it, really badly.  So at the weekend the hubby and I went up to my Mom's place and I drove round to a number of garden centres trying to find one like the one I had seen last week but wasn't so expensive (and maybe a bit bigger).  It took me five garden centres but in the end I found it....


And I LOVE love LOVE it!

I know it's tiny, but it's perfect.  It is just what I wanted.  When we got home from Melbourne yesterday the hubby got the couple of boxes of decorations down from the loft and I dug out the white and silver ones to add to my op shop finds, popped a Bing Crosby Chrissy album on the turntable and away I went. 







I had intended to just go with silver and white but I thought it looked a bit too bland and needed a bit of red to bring it together so again I sifted through the mahoosive bag of baubles and found some cute as a button retro satin red ones. 



I really like the skinny tinsel, it suits the tree perfectly I think.

Reasons why I love this little tree:
  • It reminds me of the type of Chrissy tree I used to have in England
  • I don't have a million and one decorations to take down in January
  • I won't need to saw it up so it'll fit in the green waste bin 
  • It can go outside in its pot and come back in next year
  • It feels really special to have chosen a tree just for me; I'm always happy to go with the old traditional style but this year I made a choice to have exactly what I want, and it feels good.  No compromises.
It's called a Norway Spruce or a Picea Abies if you prefer.  I've called it Bruce the spruce.

Over and out
Jo :)




Handmade owl ornament semi tutorial

I've been going along to the Brown Owls craft group and I am loving it.  It's so great to meet a multitude of people who all have an interest in craft and are at all different levels of expertise.  There's something so comfortable about being with people who share a common interest, even if you don't know more than each others' names. 

So in the spirit of handmade crafts, we are having a Kris Kringle ornament swap this week.  Now with this comes some anxiety... what to make... how big.... what colours.... what if they hate it.....and all that jazz that I am sure everyone else thinks too, no doubt!  

Whilst I was making my little felt ornaments last week I thought that it might be appropriate to make an owl ornament as it is indeed a Brown Owls group.  So after a bit of pondering on the cornyness of this, I did indeed decide that an owl (corny or not) was what I was going to make.  I took photos of the pieces that I cut out prior to making them so that should you want to make one too, you can see what you'll need.  I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a tutorial, but maybe I can get away with calling it a semi tutorial! 

From this...


To this....



Do a bit of this....


And you end up with this.....



Made with love and joyful thoughts

Jo :)

Felt christmas tree ornaments

Golly gosh where has the time gone? 

December 5th already! 

In what seems to be my feast or famine style of blogging, I have several things I want to blog about today....

The first is these little felt Christmas tree ornaments that I made last week.


This year the hubby will be flying back to the UK to spend Christmas with his parents and I will be staying at home and will be spending Christmas with my family at my Mom's house.  This comes with mixed feelings; I'm of course happy for the hubs to be seeing his family but I will miss him loads.  I usually love putting up the Christmas tree, listening to a Chrissy album and spending hours on adorning it with my ever growing collection of ornaments, but this year I hadn't been into the idea so much.  I suppose I thought it was a lot of effort for just me and the dog.  Then the other week I was out with a girlfriend for the day in Lorne and saw the cutest little green tree with just silver and white decorations on it and I thought to my good self that if I was going to have a tree this year then that was the tree I wanted. 

So I set about gathering a smattering of silver and white ornaments from op shops, big stores and little stores and found it surprisingly hard to find white decorations that weren't super expensive.  So ever the improviser, out came the white felt, a bit of silver thread that I'd acquired and never used and a bit of stuffing and I made these...



I took inspiration from last year's Better Homes & Gardens mag and a copy of Homemade Living that my dad in law sent me in November.  I used blanket stitch round the edges and found these super shiny little sequins that I've had for umpteen years that were big enough to cut and shape for the owl feathers. I think my fave has to be the little bird.  I'm not so sure what I think about the angel though.  When I showed these to my sister she didn't even know what the angel was supposed to be!  I am still chuckling about that as I type.  But hey ho, craft doesn't have to be perfect. 

21.11.11

propagating mint

I have always wanted a big bushy pot of mint in the garden; the old big leafed type of mint.  I have attempted to make this happen on several occasions; buying tubes and they've died, planting little cuttings into soil, buying the wrong type of mint and trying to make do with that.  But the other day I went to my brother's place and low and behold there sat the huge bushy pot of mint that I want.  So did he give it to me?  No of course he didn't but he did give me some cuttings.



So I thought this time I would try putting the cuttings in water and seeing if they grow roots.  I also tried taking the tops and planting them into soil.  (these withered and died pretty quickly).
But the ones in water have survived and after only 5 days they looked like this...





With roots like this....

  I think I'm on my way to that bushy pot of mint.  I'll keep you updated....

Does anyone know what this is?

I bought this enamel pot last week and I cannot fathom for the life of me what it was originally made for.  Does anyone know?





Answers on a postcard to......

Jo :)

16.11.11

Christmas present making

Today I was called a craft machine! 
I took it as a compliment.

This year I wanted to make some gifts for the little people in my life.  I made a little template from the lid of an ice cream tub, sorted through my fabric stash and came up with these.






Then I wrapped them up like this:



I cut the paper a fair bit bigger than the bunting shape, then I machine sewed the v shape in red cotton, slipped in the bunting and continued sewing across the top.  I then stamped names in red ink to go along with the Christmas theme.


This  year I am trying to make handmade gifts as stand alone gifts or to add to something else I buy. 

It's funny because if I had bought these gifts from a shop they would be a stand alone gift, but seeing as I made them, somehow I feel that they are not quite 'enough'.  Hmmm....  Any opinions on this subject?

Hope you are having a fab day whatever you are doing

Jo :)

11.11.11

Moving to Australia


Five years ago today I arrived in Australia to start a new chapter in my life.  I can't believe how quickly yet how slowly those five years have gone by.  So much has happened; in fact I think the last five years here has been way more eventful than any given five years that I lived in the UK. 

So many people (mainly Australian) ask me "do you like it here" and I feel the pressure to say "oh yeah I love it", as I assume that this is the answer they want to hear.  The answer I would need to give would be way too long winded, so I just say something like "yeah most days".

For you see, I am a truthful gal and for me a more realistic answer is that I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to live here, and that some days I do love it and some days I don't.   Now, before anyone gets all defensive and wonders why I don't like it here all the time, I will make it clear that it's not that I don't like Australia, it's just that some days I don't like being a fish out of water or as Sting put it 'an alien in New York'.  I am becoming less of an alien as time goes on; I've got used to saying 'alright' to people and them actually answering me "yes thanks" instead of "alright' straight back at me.  (For, to me 'alright' is a greeting, much the same as 'hiya')

When the sun is shining and the sky is my favourite shade of blue I do indeed love being here.  When I can drive for an hour and see my Mom instead of having to fly for 24 hours to see her, then yes indeed, I do love it.  When I can take the dog to the beach after work and walk along a glorious beach with hardly anyone around, then hell yeah I do love being here.

But some days I long for Blighty.  I just can't help it!  Recently I wrote about how much I loved bonfire night.  It's one tradition that I really miss as it was a tradition that made me me.  Sure, I'm making new traditions but sometimes they seem harder to develop, maybe because they are new to me, and the fact that the nature of a tradition it is something that needs to be repeated regularly to become a tradition at all.  Will I ever get used to Christmas being not cold and not dark at 4pm.  Not on your nelly!

I read a blog this morning from ladybirdlikes and it took me straight back to England.  It was a list of things i heart about summer and I felt the pang of homesickness for the tune of the ice cream van, the sound of English seagulls and a pint in a country pub beer garden.  Homesickness is a weird thing, it seemingly comes from nowhere and it can be as fleeting as it can last for days.

All this homesickness malarkey aside, today I am grateful for all the things that I do love about Australia, and here are some of these things:
  • the wide open spaces
  • being able to see the horizon on all sides
  • the beautiful red earth that reminds me of an INXS film clip
  • the smell of eucalyptus trees on a hot day
  • the arty-ness of Melbourne
  • the fantastic Vegie Bar on Brunswick St (my favourite place to eat in the whole world)
  • the fact that houses look so different (there are exceptions but in the main houses do look different)
  • there is always something interesting to do on a Sunday
  • the supermarkets don't close at 5pm on a Sunday 
  • there are great places to eat out, many of which are reasonably priced
  • my family are here and I love being able to see them regularly
  • houses tend to be bigger and more spacious
  • the sound of cicadas in the evening
  • having the beach so close (and a good beach at that!)
  • being able to grow plants and trees that I previously could only wish for
  • warm summer evenings with the smell of BBQ's in the air
  • I feel safe in my home
  • sunshine
  • fewer people = fewer queues!
This wasn't a pre-planned list, but more an on the spot list of things that have sprung to mind.  I'm sure there will be other things that I'll wish I'd added here that will pop into my mind over the next few days, but that's the lot for this post.
So for the last five full and full on years, I am grateful.  I also feel such gratitude to have been given the opportunity to live my dream.  Here's to the next five years, whatever they hold.

Happy days
Jo :)

9.11.11

Brown Owling and four seasons in one day....

Tonight I will be going along to craft with the Brown Owls for the first time.  Brown Owls was originally a group set up by Pip from Meet me at Mikes and it has grown and spread to far flung destinations.  There are Brown Owl groups around the world, you can read more about it by following the link on the side bar here.

I will be taking along this blanket that I started a couple of weeks ago.


I bought the wool on sale for 50c a ball about 2 years ago and I thought I'd crack it open to give a ripple blanket a go.  It's lovely real wool yarn and I'm wishing I had bought more of it all those months ago.  At the time I had it in my mind to make a poncho and I did indeed start making said poncho, but alas I am not really a poncho wearing kind of a gal, so it got unravelled.  I have been trying to get away from the brown / beige palette in the house, so I thought this one might be a nice to keep in the landrover.  It gets pretty cold in there in the winter. 

I used this pattern that Lucy posted on her beautifully colourful blog Attic 24 and did my own thing with the ends as I had started with a few too many stitches.  It's fun to do once you get past the first couple of lines and get the pattern established.  I would recommend concentrating pretty hard for these first 2 lines!

Weather report:  Today has been hot and muggy.  I don't think it reached 30 degrees but it was 25 inside the house at 4pm.  There has been a hot wind blowing all day and there has been cloudy sunshine.  Then just as I began typing this, dark clouds have appeared and have presented us with thunder and lightening!   Well as Crowded House said 'four seasons in one day'; that's Victoria for you.  And there was I thinking I was moving to Australia to get away from the cold and the rain (not that it has been cold today, but wow does it get cold here in the winter with no double glazing).


This message just came through from the insurance company. 
Excuse the blurriness of the picture, but I just had to put this on.  It made me laugh... what do they expect people to do to stay safe I wonder?  I have heard of hail storms where cars have had their roofs dented quite badly, so I guess it's no joke really, but if it hails it hails.  I'd love to know what an appropriate precaution looks like! 

Hope to be back to report on my brown owling adventure if I have not been attacked by a giant hail stone.
Over and out
Jo :)

8.11.11

Our teeny tiny caravan

This is the story of Bluebell...



Made in 1966, Bluebell was  a Thomson Mini Glen Caravan.  She was 12 ft long including the A frame.  Her body without the A frame was a teeny tiny 10.5 ft long and just under 6 ft wide.  Small as she was she was very sturdy and a heavy little caravan indeed.

For many a year she holidayed with families of whom she never spoke and then was put out to pasture in the back field of  a caravan sales shop; one suspects that she was traded in for a newer caravan.  Down at the bottom of a hill, she looked sadly up at all the beautiful shiny caravans that people wanted to buy to go on holiday in and knew that she would holiday no more.  Sob...  The year was 2002 and Bluebell resolved that she had had her fun over the last 36 years and it was now time to retire.

Underneath the lino was solid wood flooring and a very good shell

Her door was rotten, she had a broken window and her sun roof leaked, her bolts for winding her legs down had worn away, she had no jockey wheel, her paintwork was dire and her tyres were no good.  Poor old thing.



Then one day a young couple came to look at the shiny caravans in the yard and they, like all the other people who came seemed to like them.  All the while Bluebell looked on from down the hill with a heavy heart.  As they walked away from the shiny caravans, the lady happened to see Bluebell in the field and spoke kindly about her, saying how cute she was.  Bluebell was most happy and became even more happy when the couple came down the hill to look inside her and commented on her potential.  Imagine that!  Bluebell was flattered as she had never heard anyone say this about her before.  So can you imagine how ecstatic she was when the young couple paid the princely sum of 50 pounds for her right there and then and told her they would be back to collect her the following week?

And return they did.  They had organised a storage facility for Bluebell to stay while they fixed her up and had even decided on a name for her when they went for a drink at the Bluebell Inn on the afternoon that they had paid for her.  They couple worked very hard on Bluebell for several months and spent quite a bit of cash completely renovating her.  At times they got frustrated because they didn't think such a little caravan could cost them so much and they had to do a lot of creative problem solving as things didn't run smoothly with the renovation.  They sealed her joints and made her a new door, they painted her insides, bought her a new sun roof and carpeted her walls to make her nice and warm.  The man even made her new counter tops and the lady made her new covers for her chairs and new curtains.   They bought her a new jockey wheel and had her paintwork sprayed so that she too was now nice and shiny like the other newer caravans.  They even sealed her underside with waxoyl and had electrics installed.

Carpeting the walls was an unusual choice but wow was so snuggly and cozy inside!

The bottom of the stable door had to be replaced and the window glass specially cut and refitted. 

And then after several months of hard work Bluebell had her first holiday in years.  The man had engraved her a fancy name badge so that all and who saw Bluebell would know her name.

The awning showed its age and it was difficult to get another one so the windbreaks were our alternative

And everyone thought she looked wonderful.  Even strangers whom she had never met wanted to photograph her as they said they had never seen anything like her before.  What a very happy Bluebell she was. 

The sink operated with a manual foot pump

The table and benches folded out into a very small double bed

The back window opened so wide and being glass, it was easy to see through; it was one of Bluebell's many great features.


So for many years the couple and Bluebell had many an adventure and when they left to move to Australia, Bluebell happily found a new home with a relative.  She now lives in the British countryside and is so very pleased to be out of retirement.


5.11.11

bonfire night nostalgia

Warning.... no suitable photos to add to the post... have looked high and low.

I LOVE bonfire night.  To me it's right up there with Christmas day.   It's that wonderful! 

As a child I remember the lead up to the 5th November, with the neighbourhood kids making guys and propping them up outside the newsagents "penny for the guy(ing)".  I remember the excitement of the prospect of going to one of the local bonfire and fair; desperately hoping that the fog wouldn't be too bad so that we could go, donning  warm coats, woolies and boots, the smoky smells in the air, the noises of the rides and the crowds.  The colours of the rides, the stalls, the mud under foot, the hook a duck where you could win a fish, the flashing lights and music on the stalls, the bumper cars, candyfloss in bags and on sticks, standing by the fire with the fence round it and feeling the heat on your face, then feeling the cold when you walk away, the excited screams of people on rides, and all leading up to the grand finale; the firework display.  The boom boom inside your heart as the colours explode, the fizz and the crackle as they explode and fall, the oooh's and aaaah's from the crowd at the display, the magical way that looking up makes you feel like you're the only one there, watching the fireworks alone. 

As an adult it was always non negotiable that I would be doing something to celebrate the event, a party at home with fireworks and beer, with fire in a bin and hot curry on the stove, a gathering of friends and family with baked potatoes and hot dogs with onions, sparklers to spell your name and a bucket to put spent sparklers in, watching the neighbouring firework displays and smelling the smoke in the air.

So tonight I will feel homesick for all of this, for here bonfire night doesn't exist ...  tragedy!  In previous years we have tried to create our own celebration; to light the chimnea, have sparklers and eat baked potatoes,  but it's just not the same.  In fact it actually makes me miss it more! There's no smell of fireworks in the air as it's illegal to sell them here, so I only get to see them on New Years and other special big events.   This year I can only dream and reminisce and live vicariously through others. 

So if you  happen to read this and you do take pics of your event, please send me a link as I would love to see it.

Happy Happy Bonfire Night, smell the fireworks for me wont' you?

Jo X

3.11.11

New shoes & Cath Kidson


Up in the big smoke again visiting this sweet little bundle, having lots of cuddles and awing at her cuteness!

                                     I made her these little shoes to fit her tiny tootsies!


And to go with new shoes you have to have a new bag right?  Well I won a giveaway over at Happy Harris' happy loves Rosie blog.  I don't really remember winning anything ever, so I was totally 'Happy' about it.  Lucky girlie that I am!





Happy November!

Jo x

p.s. weather report - the sun is shining today and the sky is my favourite shade of blue.  Happy Days.

1.11.11

Edibles in the garden

I've been planting edibles out in the garden bit by bit over the last few months.  We've had a lot of rain over the winter which has been great for the drought, but being English I do find it difficult to get enthusiastic about the rain.  However, having a garden that is doing well makes the rain so much more acceptable!
 
What we've got growing:
  • rhubarb
  • snow peas (from seed)
  • broad beans
  • leeks yellow squash
  • globe artichoke
  • zucchini (from seed)
  • cucumbers (from seed)
  • mini plum tomato
  • tumbling toms (from seed)
  • lettuce (cos, cut & come again, mizuna & curly leaf)
  • runner beans (from seed)
  • pumpkin (from seed)
  • potatoes
  • melon (from seed)
  • kale (from last year)
  • strawberries
  • rocket
  • coriander (from seeds in the pantry)
  • oregano
  • Vietnamese mint
  • rosemary
Fruiting trees:
  • plum
  • lemon
  • apple
  • lime (bought this year - potted)
  • fig (bought this year - potted)
  • Japanese quince
  • Bay (potted)

cos lettuce
Put in a list it looks like I must have a massive property but I don't at all.  We just have a normal plot with a couple of established fruit trees.  This year I have devoted one side of the garden (the sunnier side) to be the 'edibles and beautifuls' section where only edibles can go unless it is something beautiful to attract bees etc.  I also have two raised beds on the patio; built with legs so they are at waist height.  One of these houses mainly salad leaves and snow peas.  This is right by the back door so it's easy to get to. 

Snow peas & coriander in the raised bed by the back door

I am experimenting a bit with the garden and have been influenced by Alice Fowler's 'The Edible Garden'.  (I wish the series was available on DVD).  So I am trying to plant edibles to look like plants would, smaller ground cover at the front and larger bushes further back (although I didn't realise how BIG globe artichokes grow - they should have been way further back).  Then at the top / back of the garden I have a small veggie plot.  Last year it was fenced to stop the dog from hooning through there but this year I've taken the fence down and am being a bit more ad hoc with my planting in that section.



broad beans in the veggie plot

pumpkin seeds that germinated in the worm farm & a fallen plum

I do enjoy growing edibles, I find them so satisfying.  Plants are great to a point but edibles are what float my boat in the garden.  I don't have loads of the same plant; I found that there was no way I would use all the seedlings from things like the broad bean punnets so I'd share half with my Mom as four plants are plenty for both our households.  Likewise with the seed potatoes.  I just don't have the room to have grown a whole box full so I shared these too.  I guess I'd rather have a go at growing fewer plants and have more variety than growing loads of one thing.  That's this year anyway... next year I may have a different approach.

Wishing you a happy day x


 
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