Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homeless and wandering

  So. We took off for our 'holiday', planning to move back to our property and put a huge effort into selling it, while doing some travelling and searching out a new place to live. Then, it sold. And threw us out completely. Since buying our car less than six weeks ago we've driven over 6000kms-back up to the property, finishing up there, back to Melbourne via northern NSW and everything in between. There's been two deaths in our extended family, a Melbourne job offer we've agonised over and just rejected, and lots more in between. We are tired. And it's looking like we're about to go off and do the travelling without the benefit of a house to go back to and recoup, or half of our camping gear or our roofracks-they're in storage.

But, it's all in the attitude. We have the opportunity to find somewhere where we really fit in, where we're not the oddities of the area. Just being in places where there's been vegetarian take-away and dreadlocks has been exhilarating-look! They're like us! Handmade markets that actually have inventive handmade stuff, gorgeous beaches and bush and creeks to swim in are all out there-time to learn how to holiday and actually enjoy some of it, instead of driving through to the next destination.

If you have any recommendations of beautiful places to go along the east coast, bring them on!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Catapulting ourselves back into impulsiveness

  We used to be cool. Cool as in, waking up on a perfectly normal day and deciding it was time for a holiday. Throwing camping gear, and kids, and clothes into the car and being on our way by 10am. (Deciding to move back to Melbourne from Cairns, and packing the house, putting it on the market and being gone in 36 hours was the pinnacle of impulsiveness. And a major fuck-up-we were back six months later, minus our gorgeous Queenslander, which predictably sold immediately).

  Over the last few years we’ve become boring. More than boring-beige. A combination of an unreliable car, five rather young children and debt on two properties stopped us doing much that could be called exciting. We have been stagnating in a pool of boringness, and it’s showing. Neither of us are much suited for a predictable life, and when the biggest decision of the day is what to have for dinner………well, lets just say I don’t cope very well with that. Obsessive working works well to a point, but I have to snap sometimes.

  Result-notice given to move out, moving truck booked to dump our stuff at the property, bus booked to Brisbane, plane booked to Melbourne. Not bad for an afternoons work. We have less than a fortnight to pack everything we own, get it on and off a hire truck, clean this place and be gone. It’s at least five times longer than we’ve had any other time, so it should be a breeze.

  And I already feel as though I can breathe again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Homeschool snapshot-embroidery

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Thanks to a lovely friend dropping off a stitch book and a whole container of threads!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bathtub gardens update

As promised, a picture of a bathtub garden actually growing stuff.

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This one contains a yacon, also known as a peruvian ground apple, sweet fruit root or jicama (but not to be confused with the yam bean jicama-these foreign crops get so confusing!) Also, it contains five garlics, two Darwin lettuces and a pak choi. All are growing well with complete ignorance from me-thinking of that, i’ll give it a dose of worm wee tomorrow.

  The watering pipes are also proving to be excellent habitat for frogs, we have tree frogs living in each one. We’ve also discovered another bonus-the winter sun on the metal in the early morning ensures the soil is always significantly warmer than the ground. Currently they’re growing much better than the ground beds, probably also related to the fact that our backyard is somewhat boggy and the wetter than usual autumn means it’s just not drying out.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shorty turns 5

  Ah, our little Peter Pan. The years keep turning but he remains delightfully compact and innocent. He is my romantic, always picking me flowers and telling me how much he adores me and how beautiful I am-the total opposite of the husband so i’ll savour it while I can!

  The husband wins first prize for handmade present this year, with a lawnmower. Now whenever we mow we have two little boys following us around growling with their own implements.

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  I decided to finally tackle a shirt-I must say, it was much easier than I expected. I saw this fabric on sale over a year ago and immediately thought it would be perfect for Shorty and bought the rest (about 2m). Excuse the wrinkles, he wore it straightaway and spent the next day pestering me about whether it was dry-this is straight from the line, in the few minutes it had off his back.

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  It fitted him perfectly, and i’ve enough left for another one in the next size up. I did have full plans to use proper buttons and buttonholes, but as he hasn’t mastered using them yet decided a zip would be better for independence. 

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  Terribly, i’ve left this post so long i’ve forgotten what the girls made him. Luckily Oods remembered to photograph her pirate ship.

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For cake, a lemon meringue pie. The first i’ve made, but definitely not the last-both clones were groaning in ecstasy, savouring every last mouthful. No, I didn’t do the crust properly either, i’m lazy like that.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lols and Sparkles turn 6

  Ah, my not-so-tiny clones are already six. It’s so very hard to believe they both fitted inside me at once at one stage. Unfortunately (for them, not me) they didn’t wake up to a flock of geese and a horse in the backyard as they were dreaming of. Luckily for them we weren’t rained in this year-last year ended up being costumes from the cupboard and anything goes because we hadn’t been able to leave the property for 7 days beforehand.

  The age of six is the magical age of Learning to Sew on the Machine. So they both got a decorated box full of sewing goodies, like scissors and retractable tape measures, and a few metres of fabric each. Plus, I made them each a pincushion from a Vegemite jar. To say that they were excited about reaching this milestone is a massive understatement, it was all they talked about for months. And they made me sew with them for hours, just like their big sister did last year.

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  Because the pincushions just didn’t feel like i’d made enough, I broke out the hooks for a beanie and gauntlets.DSCF7533

  Gauntlets in action, she’s since felted them to shape them somewhat. My sole gauntlet in variegated pink/brown/yellow will probably never get a mate now-rainbow is infinitely cooler.

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  Oods made them this incredibly awesome playscape thingy for their farm animals from the base of a fridge box. From each other, Lols got a stuffed felt parrot, and Sparkles got the cotton wool/pipe cleaner sheep in the paddock below.

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A peacock cake for the bird-obsessed Lols. I gave her a nature book and told her to bookmark the ones she liked, from her initial 400 or so she narrowed it down over a few days to a peacock, although the birds of paradise came a close second. Food colouring and toothpicks seemed the safe way out of this one, I was having nightmares about 27 different colours of icing and swirling them all appropriately.

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Sparkles wanted a cheesecake, but seemed deflated it was plain on the morning, so I did a quick horse for her. No, I don’t have a springform tin so we just hack them out.

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  Sewing, some face painting, and many hours in their imaginary Twinland with each other added up to what they declared to be a perfect birthday-these two are so easy to have. I hope they keep that contentment forever.

Rooster not-kill day

    Well, we wimped out. But here’s how we got ready for the nearly-kill, and what ended up happening!

  The day before, the roosters were in what the kids christened ‘The Dome of Death’. It’s basically a starvation chamber, so they were nice and empty of food and other ickyness. They’d been put in it a few days previously (with food), as there were some particularly nasty gang-rape incidents happening. This channelled that energy into cock fighting instead.

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  That night, they went back into their crates under the house. They only had to deal with these for two nights, when their crowing suddenly hit grown-rooster status. At 3am. Seven roosters crowing at once in the deathly-quiet suburbs is scary when it’s your fault. Note the onion bag on the left-that one just would not stop. He went in a crate, then a flowerpot, then finally we stuffed him headfirst in the bag. That shut him up.

 DSCF8066 DSCF8067 Mr Red-Vest, not looking happy even though he has more space than the average battery hen

  Then they went back into the Dome of Death that morning, and we waited for our instructor to turn up. By this stage I think i’d already wimped out, and had sort of decided that maybe i’d just give the husband moral support and observe. Reading a Buddhism book over the previous few days didn’t really help-i’ll have to stick with the farming books next time. Then our instructor turned up, and instead of her being the bossy, can-do, shut-up-and-toughen-up person we’d been hoping for, she was really quiet and unsure! Turns out she hadn’t done much of the actual chop-chop part herself, and wasn’t particularly keen to. We had pictured someone waltzing in, pinning and dispatching a rooster in an efficient manner, then sweeping us along before we had a chance to think about it. As it was none of the four adults present wanted to do it! The husband and I were having horror thoughts about botching it and causing needless suffering with our ineptness. So we pulled out, fed them, then I rang around and found someone to take them all before we went through another noisy night, and we *might* reschedule another day with someone else. Probably Tamara, as she would laugh at us mercilessly and tell us to toughen up. Which is just what a difficult task needs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chickummyjig

Our two resident Chickummyjigs certainly live life to the max. They were birthday presents to the youngest and oldest last year. Frosty wouldn’t touch his for a month though-he just cried and threw it. I must ask Oods if hers ever managed to hatch her eggs, and what came from them.PIC_1665

Maybe even mini-chickummyjigs, as they have been busted canoodling.DSCF1189

And they play a mean game of junior Monopoly (on her own handmade embroidered cushion too, courtesy of Oods).DSCF5452

  Yes, I am very pleased when they obviously enjoy things I make!

  If you’d like to make one too, head over to Myrtle & Eunice for the freebie pattern and tutorial.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Going car-free, part 3-money

  This one is easy-of course not having a car is cheaper. But I don’t think many people actually sit and calculate how much their car really costs them.

  For us, our costs before driving anywhere (registration and insurance) cost $35 per week.

  We filled up with LPG fortnightly on average, getting about 400kms for around $65.

  We were also spending around $2000 every year on servicing/fixing. It was an old car. But from what I hear of the cost of servicing newer cars, not excessive.

That means we were spending $105.96 every week on having a car. And we bought it with cash, so we weren’t making loan repayments or paying interest. Our car seemed to be relatively cost-efficient to run compared to most (it was more fuel-efficient than the VS Commodore sedan the husband had before it), but needed more fixing.

  But hang on, that’s not everything. Over the five years we had it we spent money on other things for it too.

   We bought roofracks for it ($550), we put new speakers and a stereo in it (around $400 total). We had to buy tyres for it every few years ($1500+). We tinted the windows ourselves (badly-$250). We didn’t wash it much, but used car wash when we did ($20).We got seat covers and floor mats for it ($60). And lets not forget the mammoth cost of proper car seats and harnesses for five children ($1400)-even buying cheaper but well-rated brands.

  This all brings our weekly cost of owning a car to $122.03, when the above costs are averaged out over 5 years.

  We’re pretty frugal car owners too-the above prices for everything are much lower than what you could potentially pay. I could have easily spent over $3000 in car seats, or paid to get it tinted at $580.

  Granted, we still have the roofracks-as they’re adjustable they should fit any 4WD. And the car seats. But they’re still all costs that were necessary-none of that was really wasted.

  We could also add the potential cost of removing $15,000-odd from our mortgage account (what we would realistically spend on another car). Right now, using the ‘penny saved is a penny earned’ analogy, we’re earning 7.5% on that money. 

  Plus, if you want to get really nit-picky, we’re getting fitness for free. The husband worked out he rode over 40kms last week, just doing day-to-day business. I take Shorty about 10kms return to speech therapy each week as a big trip, and we do numerous small ones. There is simply no better way to integrate exercise into your daily life, that to have to do it to leave the house! If you’re currently paying for a gym membership/fitness classes etc, you can replace that with everyday incidental activity. If you’re currently unfit, you’ll certainly get fit quickly-and as a result more healthy. It is the most natural form of exercise that I, as someone who generally avoids imposed exercise, have found. I am not a fitness freak.

  So, is your car really worth $122.03 a week? Or, as is quite likely, even more? How many hours do you have to work, post-tax, just to drive and maintain that big hunk of metal out there?

Dustbathing orgy

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making toothpaste

  I love being able to walk down entire aisles in the supermarket and not need anything. I’ve been able to do it with the soft drink aisle forever, I ditched the baby aisle midway through ‘needing’ it, bakery and butchery sections are completely irrelevant and I haven’t looked at disposable female sanitary products in years.
  It was high time I snubbed my nose at the entire toiletries aisle-it’s time to go, toothpaste. This has been the project that has definitely created the most interest among people I know. I’m always getting asked how it’s going, people have been sending me all sorts of links and information-it’s been interesting to see!

  First try, aloe vera gel. As we have an aloe vera plant, very local. All you do is crack the ‘leaf’, put the clear gel on your brush and brush. It tastes quite good, foams slightly and seems to work well. Sounds like a perfect option, except if you get the yellow part of the gel it’s very bitter, and it’s not very child-friendly-they can’t really help themselves. Plus the plant is downstairs and we’re upstairs, so we chalked this up as a very good substitute that we’ll use when we can plant it at the back door.

  Next, plain bicarb. Ugh. It worked OK, but tasted horrible. I never wanted to do it again, let alone twice a day. (note-now we use aluminium free bicarb, it's fine-see update below).

  Finally, a toothpaste recipe. It’s been the stayer because it’s cheap and quick to make, it stores on the bench, and can be independently used by the two year old (yes, we finish the brushing, but he starts it).

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So, how to make it? Take 2 tbsp bicarb, 3 tbsp of glycerine and 1 tsp peppermint essence. Mix well…….and that’s it. It does separate slowly so needs the occasional extra stir. I make a double lot and it lasts about 2 weeks, with fourteen brushings a day. The taste is somewhat salty but you adjust quickly. The kids complained a bit at the start, but seeing as my attitude is along the lines of ‘too bad, that’s all you’ve got so suck it up’ it passed pretty quickly.

  Interestingly, the general agreement is that our teeth feel consistently cleaner. They certainly look whiter across the whole seven of us. Morning breath is a thing of the past, as is waking up with a terrible taste in my mouth. And I can eat an orange straight away without it tasting icky! Could the commercial toothpastes *gasp* be causing the very things they say they prevent? My cynical self says probably. After all, they don’t want it to work too well. Then people wouldn’t be continually tempted to spend more by upscaling to whitening/tartar control/bells’n’whistles toothpastes-not to mention whitening packs and professional treatments. Dentistry is a big business y’know. This is the same industry that used to put holes the size of a spaghetti strand in their tubes, until one brand enlarged them and usage, and therefore sales, soared. They are first and foremost businesses, aimed at selling as much as possible. We would do well to remember that.

***Update April 2012***
We're still on the homemade toothpaste, and we're pretty happy with it, but I have tweaked it recently. The most important thing was sourcing aluminium-free bicarb soda-who'd have thought there would be aluminium in bicarb?! Now the husband can't tell me i'm crazy when I complain about cakes tasting metallic, although I only ever use organic self-raising flour now so that doesn't happen. Dodgy, eh? The first two essential oils contain lots of antibacterial, plaque fighting components, and the peppermint masks them if you don't like their rather unique taste! The salt is to make it more abrasive, as I did get some stains on my teeth-but I suspect this was more to do with my copious black tea drinking than my brushing habits. Now my teeth have been professionally scrubbed and i've stopped drinking tea, they're staying white. No-one else in the family has had any problems whatsoever, and we've all been to the dentist in the last two months.

As an added bonus, my mouth ulcers have virtually cleared up, and when I do get one it's much smaller and heals quickly. When we were travelling we bought a tube of toothpaste and within four days I had two huge ulcers...........I won't make that mistake again.

4 tbsp aluminium-free bicarb soda
1 tsp natural salt (NOT evil manufactured table salt)
3 drops of clove essential oil
3 drops of myrrh essential oil
3-6 drops of peppermint essential oil, to taste
Vegetable glycerine, enough to make the consistency you prefer.

Mix together, brush. Done!

Update June 2013
  Well, we've changed it again! Rumour was going around that glycerine was bad for your teeth. I had a momentary guilt-induced panic attack, then realised that glycerine is in every commercial toothpaste there is. Now we use tooth powder.

Use 5 parts Salt Skip Baking Powder (lots of tooth-building minerals in this stuff)
1 part natural salt (celtic, himalayan etc)

Mix. Done. This is so simple, but it seems to be working the best. We've been using it for nearly a year now-and hopefully, that's the last change i'll have to make!

References

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My babies have grown…….and it’s nearly time to eat them.

  From this in January, to now.

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  My 12 babies are now arrogant, pushy teenagers.  Apparently the roosters (seven of them) are attempting to crow. Or so the kids say, I haven’t heard them. I can’t wait for the part where they attempt to ‘tackle’ (kidspeak for giving the hens a good rogering) the old hens, who most certainly won’t put up with silly business from teenagers. Meanwhile, we’re trying to muster the courage to ‘harvest’ them. 

  This is an interesting part of the journey for us, as vegetarians of a few years now. Mostly, for me, it comes down to the fact that we do plan to breed fowl in some capacity (and have done so before). Knowing us and our gung-ho, over the top attitude to everything, we’ll do it on a grand scale. We have two breeds in our suburban backyard, and another three on our ‘must have’ list (If you have Crele Penedesencas, I have money for you).  As a breeder, you must cull. I see people who believe they’ll keep or sell all of the hens and somehow manage to give all the roosters away, off in their la-la land. The market for roosters is very limited and heavily saturated, even for heritage breeds. So what else are you going to do with a few kilos of free-range, high quality protein you’ve paid to feed if you have trouble even giving it away? Shoot it from a distance and throw it in a pit?

  Also, as a breeder, you must breed good stock. If hens are extremely stupid, or terrible mothers, or just plain nasty, it’s irresponsible to allow them to pass those undesirable traits onto the next generation. I’m sure everyone knows a person they think shouldn’t be breeding-in your animals, you actually have the responsibility to stop them. Plus there’s the mercy killing side of things-you can’t really call the knacker for a hen that’s at death’s door. Or for the elderly who have finished laying, but still cost to keep.

  Plus it’s free, quality, (mostly) organic, very local food. I’m vegetarian more from a refusal to eat anything factory farmed, chemical laden and generally of shitty quality. Give me lentils instead of watery, fatty pork anyday. But i’ve had homegrown lamb and it was goooooood-flavoursome, tender, and not seemingly related to the insipid stuff you buy on polystyrene trays. I imagine homegrown chicken would be much the same.

  I think this is the point where we are most definitely going to have to learn how to do the dirty part of the job, or limit ourselves to a couple of hens in the backyard. As the second sounds incredibly boring…………….eek.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Making juggling balls

  Remember these? Surely you had these as a kid?

  You need-round balloons, rice or millet (millet works better, buy it from feed stores), plastic bags and small rubber bands.

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   I worked out around 100g of rice made a nicely sized ball for us. You can go quite a bit bigger, but not too much smaller-you need to keep the balloons taut. Unless you buy smaller balloons.

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  Get your plastic bag in one had like below, pour the rice in…….

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……..tie up firmly with a rubber band (these ones are horse ones, which incidentally work really well for small plaits in hair and making dreadlocks), and trim bag. But not too short-best off to make it longer and turn it back over the bag of rice. Make sure it’s very secure, unless you like rice strewn through every crevice of your house.

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   Cut the neck from your first balloon……………

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………..and stuff the bag of rice in, rubber band end first.

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Time for the next layers-cut holes in your next balloon so your original balloon will show through in places. Just one or two, and cut a couple more in each layer so it progressively shows more of the colours underneath. Cut the neck off too-I nearly forgot that it was so obvious.

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  Stuff it in, making sure the hole in the first one is covered, and voila! Keep making as many layers as you like. I generally keep to three as a minimum as they stay together better.

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  Make lots! Don’t limit them to juggling either, they make excellent eggs for your lawn clippings nest.

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Then when you’ve finished with them feed the rice to the chooks-you don’t have chooks? Get some!

What i’ve read, April 2011

  The Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins-To say my spare time has been consumed by Transition would be an understatement. I fell in love with the concept about two years back when I first read it, and now i’m involved in starting a Transition Initiative i’m rather excited. You should get excited too, it’s an awesome, fun way to design your community’s descent from fossil fuel dependency and inspire relocalisation. Read more here. And here!

  Listening to Country, Ros Moriarty-Autobiographical, about the author’s involvement with her husband’s Indigenous family. Admittedly, I grew up in a (typical?) family where racism was fairly standard and it wasn’t until my early twenties that I realised that they were completely wrong. I’ve made more of an effort since them to educate myself and this is a fine book for it-it’s the only thing i’ve read that’s written on a personal level, rather than at arms-length. The loss of culture and knowledge is so incredibly tragic and irreversible-hopefully the efforts to preserve what remains are successful.

  Mind Maps for Kids, Tony Buzan-More for me, as I have so many balls in the air at the moment anything that will help keep them up is welcome. Just mind-maps, not massively exciting.

  Mama Mia, Mia Freedman-Autobiography. I read this in an evening and actually really enjoyed it-possibly because the lifestyle she lead/s is so different to mine! Funny because I remember reading a lot of the Cosmos that are mentioned in there as a teen (I had Brad Pitt naked :P) with some tearjerking parts. Which is life for everyone, really.

  Anastasia, Vladimir Megre-This series has come highly recommended to me by a few people. While i’ve liked reading the first two, i’ll reserve judgement until i’ve finished the series. It’s the first book i’ve read that suggests existence of a Creator that I haven’t thought was total bullshit, so I suppose it’s already achieved a massive victory (i’ll keep my sceptic hat firmly on though, thanks).

  The Ringing Cedars of Russia, Vladimir Megre-As above.

  Earth Garden #154-Missed this one somehow. Made me want to go travelling.

  Home Farmer V1, Earth Garden Publications-Missed this one somehow too. Made me want to start a farm in the backyard-don’t think landlord would approve. Already pushing it with more chickens than legally allowed and mini oat field.

  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver-I adore this book, it’s the third time i’ve read it. I scored it at the op-shop so if any locals want it drop around. It’s her family’s story of their local eating for a year, from a production point of view. It’s written in a very thoughtful, humorous way and is immensely readable. Puts forward lots of very persuasive arguments for locavory, as well as dealing with many ethical issues in a totally non-confrontational way. If you need inspiration to garden, read this-it makes me want to run outside and start digging.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Winter pants, part 1

One nice pair of pants each to wear over this winter is the goal-made so I can let them down next year to wear again, as with our short, mild winters they have no chance of getting worn out.
  First up, Shorty, as he didn’t have a single pair of going-out pants. He asked for blue and red, and I stuck to plain for a change. I kind of wish i’d done something more exciting now! These were made to vintage pattern Simplicity 5395, with added pockets, and have been named his Disco Stu pants because he looks very ‘70s in them.
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  Next, Oods, who also had nothing her ankles didn’t hang out of. As always, she wanted over-the-top, and this is the result of me toning down her ideas (purely so I can do them in a reasonable amount of time). They’re made to the Dortje pattern from Sewing Clothes Kids Love, with the waist taken in. The extremely curved seams gave me some grief, but now I have another skill to add to the list. The brown is reclaimed from a pair of womens pants the op-shop were giving away (they had tonnes of free stuff earlier this year, so I stocked up), the red dotty cotton is the scraps from the Christmas skirts, and the floral drill i’ve had for years and was desperate to get rid of.
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  I’d place the rear pockets higher next time and make the legs slightly narrower, but apart from that it’s a good, if rather time-consuming pattern.
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  Third up Frosty-just because i’ve been wanting to make rainbow striped pants for ages. They worked! All fabrics are from the cupboard, all except the orange was op-shopped.
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The twins have picked their fabrics out, so hopefully they’ll be outfitted within the fortnight. And probably for under $15 total in materials, for all five kids. I went to the shops last week to have a look at how much kids pants are-over $20 a pair! And they’re UGLY! It makes me very thankful for my sewing obsession.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ditching deodorant

That’s right, I haven’t used deodorant in months. I’m a stinky feral hippy-don’t come too near because I may just raise my arms and you’ll pass out from the fumes.

  Actually, not. Sorry to disappoint. After not being able to find a non-toxic deodorant that actually worked without thrice-daily application, it was time to DIY. First up we tried diluted tea-tree oil. It was passable, it worked as well as the commercial eco variety. But it was impossible to carry around in my handbag for midday reapplication.

  At one such midday reapplication (think market stall, stinking hot, insane humidity) I was afraid the first paragraph was coming true so pulled out the eco roll-on, whinging about it’s crapness. And a friend said ‘Why don’t you just use bicarb? I do’. So I tried it and haven’t looked back. Man, the stuff is awesome. Dust some on in the morning and you’re fine all day. The husband has made me sniff his armpits after mowing the lawn in 30 degree heat and he doesn’t smell. Anyone who lives with a male of our species knows that that is a truly fantastic accomplishment, yet to be achieved by Lynx/Adidas/Rexona and company. All from bicarb.

  I have read you can mix bicarb and arrowroot 50/50, and you can chop herbs and put them in the jar to infuse the powder with scent, but i’m pretty happy with plain bicarb in an old pasta sauce jar. Fashionable, my bathroom is not. We use our fingertips to dust it on, and are on the look out for an older style shaving cream brush or similar to use instead.

  And that is as easy as it is. Really truly.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MORE babies ?!?!

  It’s like a maternity ward around here sometimes-thankfully, it’s not me anymore! Three babies were born to our single mum guinea pig last week (dad was murdered by the cat a couple of weeks back. Oh the drama. The cat has been rehomed.)

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  And I must say, I have ceased whinging about birthing my big-headed lastborn. Guinea pig babies are massive! I honestly don’t understand how they got out of her. I did wonder if maybe we’d somehow not realised she’d given birth for a couple of weeks, but that’s impossible given how much she’s handled.

  The kids have $$ signs in their eyes, plotting the money they’ll hopefully have in six weeks and what other animals they’ll buy with it, eagerly awaiting the next local trader book to see just what’s up for grabs…………

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reducing the waist size in a skirt

   I have abnormally skinny girls. No, really-my seven year old, while being average height, has the waist measurement of a 3 year old and weighs 18kgs. It’s just their natural shape, which makes sense when you have two small parents.

  But it makes buying clothes for them a nightmare, which is why I make most of them (which can also be a nightmare if you can’t alter commercial patterns or draft your own). I recently came up with this method to reduce the waist in skirts, after having to pass up so many gorgeous skirts at the Salvation Army op-shop. They sell skirts there for $1, which is how much the one below cost me. If you have a chart-matching child it’s still worth doing this for too-large sizes, as it gives you the ability to choose from so many more clothes.

  This skirt is a girls size 12, so truly huge. I wasn’t a big fan but my girls adored it (it’s an ‘olden days skirt’), and for $1 they get to have their way. Any lightweight skirt with a zipper opening and fitted waist will work-heavyweight fabrics will most likely get too bulky, and ditto to skirts already elasticised-but you can shorten the elastic in them if it’s cased.

You’ll need elastic, tightly woven ribbon or bias tape to match the waist measurement of the skirt +2cm and wider than the elastic. I used 6mm elastic and 1 inch ribbon.

*Note on elastic length-Because you have a zip to work around your elastic will be smaller than their waist measurement. How much smaller depends on a number of factors-i’ll tell you when to cut it accurately.

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Start next to the zip. Fold the end of your ribbon/tape under, then stitch along the top edge, under the seam on the skirt, all the way along.

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Do the same for the bottom edge. See how the bottom edge doesn’t sit next to the zipper like the top does? That’s to allow for the curve of the waistline as my ribbon is non-stretch.

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  Insert elastic, using a safety pin or bodkin. Leave the elastic just poking out……

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…..and stitch it down firmly. Pin your elastic down at the other end, try on the child, and adjust accordingly. When you’re happy with the fit, stitch it down the same way as the first end.

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Nicely gathered waistline………

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…….now fitting skinny child.

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Try to photograph said child twirling, and fail fairly spectacularly.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tie-dyeing for little ones

While I let my kids tie-dye with real dyes occasionally, it’s a bit of a nightmare. This is much easier, and a good activity for a group of young kids.

Needed-food dyes and paper towel. You can get recycled, biodegradable paper towel now, which can be composted when you’re done with it.

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Mix up the food dyes with water in bowls. Make the colours fairly strong, you want them to pop.

Give the kids a sheet of towel and explain that how you fold the paper affects the pattern of the dye. Suggest they try squares, triangles, crumpled balls and any other origami they can think of. When they’re happy with their fold get them to dip one corner/edge in their chosen colour-it will wick up the paper towel reasonably fast, so emphasise that they’ll only need to hold it there for a few seconds. Then remove, shake, and put another corner/edge in a different colour, as many times as you can-usually only three.

Unfold and see what pattern has appeared! Repeat until you run out of towel, most likely. Once dry use for other crafts and play-wrapping small presents, cutting and pasting shapes, mosaics, over-drawing pictures based on dye shapes etc etc.

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You can also try ‘dyeing’ paper. This is blank newsprint our neighbour gave us, and the result of using straws to add then blow the dye around. It was used as wrapping paper for birthday presents.

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Best of all? It all washes off straightaway. No blue cheek like my Frosty has at present.