Present Ideas for Girls and a simple “How To”

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A few weeks ago I had three of my beautiful nieces have birthdays.

They are all several years apart but born on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of August.

This year I have made a lot of my birthday presents for our nearest and dearest. Yes it takes a lot more time and effort, but I am really enjoying making each gift and seeing the children’s faces when they open something that is just for them.

Each of the girls received different presents. Lucy turned 1 and so she received an appliqued t-shirt and a doll that I had made with her name on it’s bottom. I will post a “how to” on this shortly as I have made 3 sets similar to this and am to make one for Maggie’s first birthday coming up.Lucys 1st birthday

Michaela’s birthday is in the middle and she was four this year. For our Miss 4 I decided to make a little bag that she could carry all her trinkets in. I then decorated the fully lined bag with some puff paint and made a necklace to put inside the bag.Michaelas birthday

The final birthday in our list of three, was for my eldest niece who was turning 13. Sweet 13.

There was no hope of me choosing something for her that was cool, trendy or fashionable. I am well out of the loop in that regard and so I tried to think of something meaningful.

I came up with a journal. Let’s face it, the teenage years in a girls life are very unpredictable but if they can write things down, even just for themselves, it might help.

The journal that I made (covered) had her initials hand embroidered on the front and included little ties to keep it closed.Covered Journal

Today I thought I would share my few simple steps on how to make one for yourself or as a gift.

You will need:

  • A journal of some description. I found mine at Lincraft that had simple but decorative pages.
  • Some fabric to cover. This denim is actually from a pair of my old jeans. You could use patterned, plain, corduroy anything really. I just chose denim because it was a bit younger looking and heavy duty.
  • Embroidery thread and needle.
  • Ribbon for the ties.
  • Paper for the inside front and back covers.
  • Hot glue gun.
  • A nice pen to go with the present.

Step 1: Open out your book and cut your fabric just over an inch wider all the way around.

Step 2: Work out where you would like to embroider your initials and mark on the fabric with some fabric chalk. I drew the letters free hand but you could use tracing paper to mark some letters on.

Step 3: Embroider the initial. Please don’t be daunted by this. I have only ever been taught to do cross stitch and using a stitch book I was able to work out how to do Satin stitch for the fat parts of the letters and Chain stitch for the remaining lines. You could use any stitches that you like for this though. When you have finished, iron the fabric (wrong side) to make sure everything is neat.Embroidered Initial

Step 4: Lay the fabric face side down on the table. Place the book exactly in the centre and make sure your letters are going to appear in the right spot when it is glued down. Close the book and place hot glue on the front cover. Working quickly, place the fabric over the glue and smooth out with your hands. Please note: You will still have the edge of the fabric flapping all the way around.

Step 5: Place the front side (which is now attached to the fabric) face down on the table and repeat the gluing process for the spine and back cover. Making sure to keep the book closed so the fabric is stretched enough.

Step 6: Open the front cover and trim the corners and centre spine angles like you would if you were covering a book. Run hot glue along the inside cover around the edge and then stretch the fabric over the glue and smooth. You can see below how it looks once glued. Repeat for the back cover.

Step 7: Using a ruler to find just above the centre point. Glue your ties in place.

Tips:

  • Make sure your ribbons are up the same way front and back.
  • Make sure your ribbons are long enough to tie into a bow comfortably.
  • Make sure your ties are even front and back.

Placing the ribbon

Step 8: Cut your paper to size for the front and back covers. Using the hot glue gun again, glue the paper in place, covering all of the raw edges of the fabric and the ribbon end.Inside Front Cover

Step 9: Tie the ribbon and wrap your beautiful present up with the pen.

I have to say when I finished this project, I really wanted to make one for myself I was so happy with how it turned out. I was even more pleased when my niece opened her present and truly liked it.

Please let me know if you decide to make one I would love to see how it turns out.

Learning to take a break.

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I had a rostered day off today.

I’m not in paid employment and many would say that I don’t work. In fact if people ask me if I work, I always answer no.

I’m a stay at home mum.

Like most people who love what they do, I think have one of the best jobs in the world. Like most people, I have days when I wish I was doing something completely different.

This week though, I hit my wall. The wall that says, stop and take a little care of yourself.

Hubby could see it in my eyes, probably hear it in my voice. Everything was just getting a little too much and so today, I left home at 11am for a day out.

I’ve spent this first glorious day of Spring on a lovely drive to Bendigo, lunching and having coffee with my mum and strolling through the magnificent Bendigo Art Gallery. I even managed to give dad a hug for fathers day tomorrow.

I took just one photo all day – as the day was mine and just about being quite and observing, not doing. A photo that captures Spring none-the-less. No clouds and beautiful flowers.IMAG0322

When I first got to Bendigo I was having a cuppa and catching up with mum and dad. Enjoying uninterrupted adult conversation in the sunshine, quite an anomaly when you live with three small children.

Dad and I were talking about being tired and Dad made the comment “I don’t know what it is but sometimes you just hit lows of lows”.

He’s right. You have good days, bad days, exceptional days and days when your body can’t go on. It’s a part of life. Every single person faces the same over their lifetime.

Eight hours I had to myself today, it was bliss. I left the washing, the sewing, the housework, the paperwork and I looked after me.

It would be nice if you knew when you were going to be feeling down, but it tends to sneak up on you when you least expect it.

The key is realising that you need the time out and acting on it. You don’t help anyone by soldiering on.

Wishing you all a relaxing weekend and enjoyable start to Spring.

Family traditions and a timely reminder.

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Last Friday, my husband Christian turned 35.

It’s not old, it’s not young. In fact it is pretty much just another birthday.

Not in this house.

A few years ago, Christian and I decided to make birthdays in our house super special.

Each year, for every birthday, we all take the day off work, school, kindergarten and share the day together.

It is the birthday persons choice ofIMAG0274 what happens on the day. So far in the last couple of years we have had parties, visited the zoo, visited aquariums and eaten our way through the day.

Whatever we have planned, it always starts the same way.

The birthday person sleeps in while the adult(s) and little warriors blow up balloons, prepare the presents, cook the breakfast and make a party like atmosphere to start the day off right.

Christian LOVES his food. So his birthday requests are always the same. Canadian pancakes for breakfast.

Now I don’t know if the Canadians really eat their pancakes this way but this is how we make them up.

Thick fluffy pancakes, with bacon, eggs and topped off with maple syrup.IMAG0279

Over the last couple of years we have learnt not to over indulge this early in the morning. Only one pancake, one egg and small amounts of bacon.

This year we were joined by Christian’s parents for a lovely lazy lunch in a nearby town. IMAG0284

The evening was then spent together with birthday cake. A special creation of chocolate cake (recipe to follow), with chocolate ganache and Boost bars chopped up on top…..Did I mention that Christian LOVES food?IMAG0295

We started this tradition hoping that it is something the children will cherish for years to come. On Monday this day became something more.IMAG0298

We were going about our normal crazy mornings trying to get everyone ready and out the door for school, when I received a phone call at 8am.

Christian had been in a car accident.

Thankfully he was okay. A little bit of whiplash and emotionally shaken, but in one piece.

The car not so lucky.

I have been thinking about this birthday piece all week and realised that it’s not only about celebrating the persons birthday and making them feel loved and special.

It is giving us, as a family, 5 more special occasions and reasons to stop and be thankful for each other.

After all. You never know what is around the corner.

A little bit of woodworking…..

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Well I never.

I never thought that I would be sitting down by the fire on a rainy day to write about my woodworking adventures. Here we are though, you, me and a hot cup of coffee.Bed Side Tables

This story begins with impulse shopping of the grandest scale.

Hubby and I have been talking and talking, whinging and talking, whinging and whining, about getting a new bed for the longest time.

I said lets wait till we buy our house, hubby agreed, conversation on hold.

House bought, no money left to buy said bed, conversation on hold.

Hubby meets someone who can “do-a-deal”. This “deal” sees us in a very large bedding store “getting-a-quote”.

The sales person in the store sees us and thinks – “creatures of comfort” or “suckers” – I’ll let you choose.

2….yes TWO hours later, hubby and I have left said bedding store with a gorgeous, comfortable, king sized bed due for delivery in 2 weeks.New Bed

Oh how lovely…..if you don’t take into consideration – the bed won’t fit; we don’t have the money; I need new sheets conscience, that was hanging over our heads…..anyhow.

The bed is in, it is paid for (nearly) and our new sheets are lovely. Our only residual problem was we needed bed side tables that would fit.

Carpenter Meaghan to the rescue!

Using some scrap wood lying around this is what I created.Bed Side Tables Side View

Two neat, little side tables that we can sit our lamps, clocks, bits and bobs on.

They aren’t perfect. Hacked out with a handsaw, hammer, nails and a can of spray paint. But I have to say I’m super proud of them and happy with the result.

They are practical, functional and look a lot better than the cardboard box that was in their place.Tables in action

Woodworking confidence is now at an all time high and I’m wondering whether or not I attempt to build the built in bookcases that I would like either side of the fire place.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the interest of full disclosure:Unmade bed

A word that changed my life.

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I came across a word a little while ago. It is my new favourite word. I’d like to share it.

Impermanence.

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In context, this is how I read it.

“Part of the cause of unsatisfactoriness is what Buddhists call impermanence, or the way that everything must change into something else – nothing stays the same. Everything in life – people, circumstance, objects down to the smallest particle – is in process, and this leaves us with nothing solid and lasting to rely on. Buddhism doesn’t deny that happiness is possible, for it is. The problem is that we can’t hold onto happiness. As with everything, it passes. A life typically includes birth, ageing, pain and death. We can spend our lives distracting ourselves from these facts but they are inescapable.” **

I read this and felt like 10 tonnes had been lifted from my shoulders.IMAG0224

My whole life I’ve been trying to make things perfect. I’ve worried myself about what people think, what if something happens to my family, how will I cope if my world falls apart.

As opposed to focusing on all the terrific things that are in my life.

So my world has changed.IMAG0230

I’ve let my tight grip go. I’m trying to live in the moment and not wish my time away.

I feel the sun, watch the rain and smile at the rainbows.

My kids drive me mad and I look at them with despair, then realise that another 10 years will fly by and I’ll want them to be talking to me.

When I’m happy, I step back and enjoy the moment. How lucky to be here.IMAG0233

Today I visited the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. We went for my 3 year old. For us, it was a good visit. We are all clear of her allergies.

For many, it’s not a good visit. For some, it’s home.

It doesn’t matter how shiny and new the building is, the children are still sick.

Hopefully the distraction makes the children feel better, but for their parents, I doubt they notice the new walls, the fish and the football players signing things.

A blogger I read has lost her father to cancer in the last week. Then her husbands dog died, five days later. They are also auctioning their house this weekend.

Life doesn’t stop. Suffering does happen. Timing can be terrible. Hearts still ache.

Knowing the word doesn’t make you immune or perfect.

Hopefully it smooths the ride a little.IMAG0240

** Quote taken from Buddhism for Mothers: Sarah Napthali pg.6.

Beanies, Beanies, Beanies and more Beanies

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If I find a new craft/hobby that I’m good at, I tend to go a little crazy.

My latest craze of knitting is no exception.

A few years ago I bought myself a little book, Learn to Knit: with 56 projects by Panda. It is fabulous, really easy to understand and as you can guess….I learnt to knit.adult and baby beanie

One minor problem. I was living in Perth. One of the most idyllic places on earth with near perfect weather. Not much good to those of us who are wanting to knit nice cosy things.

Fast forward 2.5 years and I’m sitting with idle hands in the lounge room of our first ever home with the log fire glowing. What to do? Knit, knit and knit some more.

Now I am certainly no expert, but I can tell you that I have ventured out of the beginner book and have my first ever “real” projects on the go – but given my pace (or lack thereof) you will not be seeing these till next year I’m guessing.

Girls and their beanies

Unfortunately due to copyright infringements I can’t provide the original pattern of these beanies for you. What I would love to share are my variations on the pattern.

The original pattern is intended for children and has a folded cuff around the base of the beanie (as per the girls above). This looks good on the girls, with an added flower (crocheted) for a bit of bling but it wasn’t going to be suitable for hubby, baby and I.crochet flower with button

So I adjusted the length to remove the cuff and adjusted how many stitches depending on if I was knitting the beanie for myself, hubby or bubs.

With Maggie’s beanie below. I used two strands of wool and knitted them together just like I was knitting with one. It sounds complicated but was actually just as easy as knitting with one strand of wool and it created a much thicker and tighter looking beanie – even though it was on the same needles. A great result for little heads.maggie with beanie

On the beanies with no cuff, I added a row of single crochet into the first row of knitting around the rim – on the inside of the beanie. You can’t see the crocheted line, it is purely for comfort. The row of crochet creates a tight loop which stops the beanie “popping” off your head.

Hubby is a mad Sydney Swans (AFL) supporter and so his request was for a red and white striped beanie. I had never knitted stripes before, but armed with my beginner book it was surprisingly easy.swans beanie

In summation, if you are learning to knit, try and get a hold of this book for the pattern and give it a go. It really is very easy and very very satisfying to finish a beanie.

And if you’re out and about in the Victorian country side this winter and come across a crazy beanie clad family, be sure to come and say hello.

Happy knitting everyone.

Sibling Traditions

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Three years ago my brother, sister and I came to the conclusion that buying presents for each other and our partners was just getting ridiculous.

Not that we don’t enjoying buying presents for each other, it was more a question of what do we really need – are we just buying things for the sake of it?

As we all live in different towns, we decided that in lieu of presents we would get together once a year for a fancy dinner. Our gift to each other would be spending time together over a great meal.

Last weekend it was our 2012 catch up and it was nothing short of brilliant.

We all, my parents, brother, sister, our partners and the 6 kids, headed to Echuca.

Mum and Dad had the 6 granddaughters in one cabin and we all slept in the other cabin.

Yes we have very supportive parents, I know babysitting large groups of kids is not everyone’s cup of tea, especially when 4 of the girls are 2 and under!

We got ourselves ready – self portrait group style before we left – and headed out to dinner. P1040815

This year we went to Oscar W’s for dinner – the location on the Murray River is totally gorgeous, the wait staff were perfect, the wine delicious and the food tasty. We laughed, chatted and enjoyed dinner over several hours. The night was finished off with Espresso Martini’s by the fire…..perfect.

I look at this photo and wonder what it will be like in a few years time.

Given that nothing in the world stays the same – Impermanence – as the Buddhists call it. I’m really pleased we’ve started this tradition.

This moment beats any present that I could have been given for my birthday.

Wish my Gran was here to share this.

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Ever since I can remember, the group C.W.A has been apart of our family. C.W.A stands for Country Women’s Association. As a descendant of farmers from both my mothers and fathers side it is an association that both of my grandmothers were apart of.

My paternal grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 40 and so I never knew her in her full glory. “Nanna” to me was someone who was as sweet as apple pie (birdy kisses were her favourite), she was fragile, caring and very quiet. Although I don’t know her full involvement, I’m told she was a member of C.W.A in her 30’s, maybe even earlier. She passed away while I was living in London just over 10 years ago.

My maternal grandmother, “Gran”, passed away last September aged 94. Even as I write that my heart aches. This matriarch of all matriarch’s, was an amazing woman. She would do anything for her family and prided herself on her community involvement. I remember going to C.W.A with Gran even just to drop her off in her older years.

Here is my Gran with our eldest daughter at Christmas in 2005, she had knitted the teddy for Hannah. IMG_0976

Even though there was family involvement I guess I never really thought about what C.W.A was or what it did. I assumed that because Gran was a great cook and a great crafter that it was primarily cooking and craft.

A few weeks ago I went to my first C.W.A meeting. In our little town of 1200, there are 18 registered members in our C.W.A. branch. At our meeting there were perhaps 10, including my friend Tanya and I.

To say Tanya and I were excited is quite a large understatement. We didn’t know what was ahead of us and we were behaving like giggling little school girls.

I certainly wasn’t prepared when the meeting was opened and we sang the national anthem – yes, all 10 of us, standing.

And I really wasn’t prepared for this motto below, read aloud in unison;

CWA collect

My heart stood still, my skin was pimpled with goose bumps, my eyes were welled with tears.

Slowly my C.W.A journey was beginning and it was better than I could have hoped for.

The C.W.A is not all cooking and craft. It is about friendship. About women coming together for the greater good. To help each other and others externally.

Yesterday we ventured to a neighbouring C.W.A in Tooborac, Victoria. They were hosting lunch and had a guest speaker.

After feasting on delicious homemade soup and sandwiches. A young man, well he was probably my age but when you’re hanging out with ladies 60 and above you feel he is young, got up and spoke about going to Cambodia to work with Habitat for Humanity an aid organisation who builds houses for people in need.

Join the Hands and Hearts Build!

It was fascinating. I learnt more about Cambodia in his 30 minutes of talking than I had ever known. The killing fields, the injustice, the poverty and the way in which these people are slowly finding an identity and life for themselves after decades of atrocities.

Cambodia is C.W.A Victoria’s country for 2012. You see as well as helping each other, C.W.A branches raise money to help their communities, they raise money to help others elsewhere and are continually looking at what they can achieve as a collective group.

Cooking and craft as a natural interest of most women is apart of C.W.A but often these items feature outside of the normal meetings, you don’t have to do it.

To join C.W.A you need a good heart, that’s all.

I’m thrilled I’ve joined. I’m happy to wear the jokes that have been coming my way. In fact I’m damn right proud of being a member and look forward to being apart of this for many more years to come.

My only regret is that I didn’t do it while my Gran was still with us, so we could do it together.

Yummy Yummy Fruit Bread

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I have a new creation in my kitchen. It’s been around for centuries, is nothing new, but…..it is making me a very happy girl in the mornings.

Fruit Bread/Toast.

Fruit Toast Cooling

When we were living in Perth a few moons ago, there was a beautiful little cafe we used to frequent for breakfast on weekends. It was the sort of cafe where you would happily sit there through all the meals of the day if you could.

There was a bookstore attached, it was near the foreshore of the river, playground nearby and combined with Perth’s delightful weather was just an absolute pleasure every time we visited…..of course they also had really good coffee.

Apart from giving me a waistline a few inches wider due to over consumption of bananas and maple syrup on french toast, this cafe also introduced me to fruit toast as it should be.

Not the stuff you get from the supermarket with 4 sultanas in a slice if you’re lucky. The type of bread that oozes with nuts, seeds and fruit. Where every mouthful is a delight and one slice is a meal.

Bread DoughA few weeks ago now I re-entered the bread making arena. Using my new Down To Earth Book which I mentioned here, I used Rhonda’s bread recipe and pumped out a beautiful, delicious loaf with one BIG problem.

As a family of five we devour the loaf in half a day.

The effort to consumption ratio was just not in our favour. Amplified by the fact that our local wood-fired bakery is two minutes up the road and we have access to reasonably priced delicious bread daily.

So I thought I’d try something different with really successful results. A loaf you can’t buy, takes a few days to eat and is really satisfying when you are enjoying a hot fresh coffee and sitting cosy by the fire.

Here’s what I did.

Made one quantity of bread dough and took it up to the second knead. Just after you let the bread rise for the first time.

Fruit & NutsAdded a good handful each of whole almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped dates and chopped dried apricots.

Fuit & Nut in dough copyKneaded the fruit and nuts through the dough. Even though it spills out as your kneading it, just keep tucking it back in.Kneading in fruit mix

Prepare the loaf as per the bread instructions. My recipe calls for a sprinkle of flour, slits in the top and a further quick rise in the tin.Second Rise

Cooling the toastBake as per the recipes instructions and then set out to cool.

WAIT for the loaf to cool. This always proves very difficult in our house but if you can wait the bread will be better for it.

Slice and enjoy fresh with butter. Toast and enjoy with butter.

orPresent Ready

Wrap and give to a very generous friend who is supplying your family with freshly laid eggs from her 4 little hens and won’t take any money for them.

Possibly my first country barter deal, provided they like the bread!

Shared over at 36th Avenue.The 36th AVENUE

M.I.A and an obvious realisation

Wow, it has been nearly a month since my last post.

So where have I been?

Missing In Action has a complete new meaning.

In an incomplete nutshell, I’ve joined C.W.A (Country Women’s Association for the uninitiated….don’t laugh I’m loving it), started group personal training, joined a bookgroup, playing netball, running kids to netball, dancing, the health centre for check ups, the library, kids piano concerts. I’ve baked bread, made fruit loaf, slices, lunches, dinners and birthday cakes. Sewed dolls, appliqued t-shirts and towels, had sewing days with friends, learnt to crochet, knitted a beanie. Cleaned bathrooms, collected wood, made beds, washing washing and more washing, vacuumed floors, countless rounds of dishes. Drank a lot of coffee, de-cluttered the house, walked dogs and somewhere between all of that managed to get some sleep. All while tending to the needs of the family, cuddles, games, shoe-laces, arguments, tears, bathtimes etc. etc. etc. etc.Bread

All of the above and so much more has lead me to one of the most obvious realisations of my life.

 I CAN NOT DO IT ALL

But I can damn well try.

My hot tip is knowing that something each week has to give and not feeling guilty about it.

Important items that don’t appear on lists but happen everyday like spending time with your children, husbands, friends and family take precedence. If someone says would you like a cuppa, say yes. If your kids want you to splash in the rain, do it. The things on your list can move with you.

I usually hit the week with an almighty list of “to do’s” and feel guilty for underachieving. My list and mind set is altering.Iris birthday cake

I write a complete list of all the things I would like to do. Then mark the things that “have” to be done, things that I would “like” to do, then things that possibly could be put off until next week.

My mind set then thinks – if I get to all of this great, but lets just start at the first item and see how far we get.

There’s been a few teething problems, for example my blog has missed out 4 weeks in a row. So the balancing needs a bit of tweaking.

On the positive side I haven’t missed key things that have happened, in fact, I feel proud that the effort I’ve put in to the things I have achieved, has been well thought out, organised and to the best of my ability.

So stay tuned, I have loads and loads of craft, cooking and thoughts that I really want to share. There are notes and ideas scribbled everywhere. Hopefully as my organisation starts to kick in, more will end up in my blog.Scones

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