Skinflint Sunday: Being productive is fun.

I have a couple of rosemary plants in wicking boxes. I like to use fresh rosemary a lot of the time but sometimes it’s handy to have some dried rosemary on hand, especially if you want to make rosemary salt or something like that. I was getting low on the dried stuff, so rather than take the easy way out and buy some, I picked some branches and left them for a couple of weeks to dry out.

Then I stripped the leaves from the branches and whizzed them up in the thermomix. Too easy!

Here’s my magnificent spice rack that I bought when I moved into the Best House in Melbourne 3.5 years ago. Hellishly expensive at the time but I’ve never regretted the purchase.

If you look closely you can see the difference between the old and the new rosemary.

Last year when I had the new landscaping put in in the backyard, I bought a few little succulents to put in terracotta pots to place on the steps. This one went nuts and threw off lots of babies.

This now lives on the front steps. I like the round plants in the shallow round dish.

One of my transplanted apple trees started growing 16 apples! It almost killed me to have to pull them off but for the long-term strength of the tree, I had to.  (I left a couple on though; it was more than flesh and blood could stand.)

I dropped one and Poppy was onto it like a flash. She ate it.

To finish, here are (from top to bottom), Jeff, Poppy and Scout, all trying to convince me that it’s dinner time and they’re starving.

Posted in balance, Fruit trees, gardening, pets, Quality of life, Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds | 1 Comment

Things I’ve been making.

Green peas in red bowl.

Free food!

We’ve been eating well from the pea straw that I bought in Bunnings and put down on the wicking beds to let them sleep over winter.

We’ve had hundreds of peas pop up. Poppy and Scout love eating the pea pods. Jeff will accept one or two but he eats them only because he’s suffering from FOMO.

I’m so happy about the peas. Apart from potatoes, peas are my favourite vegetable. Most of the pea plants now are at the stage of being ready to be cut down to make way for other plants, but there are still a couple that are going strong.

Home-made soap.

Ready for Christmas!

Last year I made soap for the first time in years. I used a ‘tried and true’ recipe and the bars were a big success. This year, when I logged on to the blog that had the recipe, the author had taken it off-line. I PMed her on Facebook but I haven’t heard back. Time was slipping by… ‘real’ soap needs at least 6 weeks to cure before it’s ready to use.

Then I saw a recipe for soap that uses Lux flakes on this blog. These bars only need around 3 weeks hardening time, so it fits the timeline for work Christmas gifts.

Close-up of the soap.

Very ‘rustic’ with the oats.

They have a perfume from the Lux flakes, but I don’t think people will mind.

Bean seeds saved from last year.

Bean seeds saved from last year.

We grew so many beans last year that I have plenty saved for planting and cooking for this year. I’ve given quite a few packets away to people at work, particularly the women in the Food Tech room and the canteen who save the veggie scraps for me to take for my compost.

Free bean plants for what would normally be thrown out is a pretty good deal, I think!

David26 at his last recital.

David26’s last recital. He’s a Bachelor of Music now!

I’ve included this shot because yes – I did make him!

David26 has finally finished his music degree. He had his final recital last Friday and I chucked a sickie and went to see him. Fortunately, David26’s girlfriend Izzy also came along. I would never have found the recital room without her!

It was definitely a proud Mum moment. As he was playing all of these complicated songs, I kept thinking of that little 4-year-old with big blue eyes who asked me, “Mum, can I learn to play the piano?”

Double choc cookies for Mum and Dad.

Double-choc cookies for Mum and Dad.

Finally, here are some cookies I baked for Mum and Dad. Every week, I try and deliver things they can have for morning and afternoon teas. I swing by on my way to work, usually on a Monday morning, and leave them on the doorstep.

Posted in Children., cooking, gardening, Quality of life, soap making, vegetables, wicking beds | 5 Comments

Could this quilt be any more PINK???

David26 is in love. He’s been afflicted by this emotion for nearly 2 years now. A few weeks ago he asked if I’d make Izzy a quilt for Christmas. She loves hot pink, which isn’t a colour that the boys have particularly wanted in their quilts before, so on Friday I chucked a sickie and went to Spotlight to pinkify my stash.I’m making this pattern in a double bed size, which requires 12 different fabrics, not counting the backing and the neutral colour on the front. It took me forever to narrow it all down.

It took a whole afternoon to cut all the pieces ready for sewing. It’s a public holiday today, but I’m not in the zone for quilting today. I’ll chip away at it over the next few weeks and it’ll be ready for Christmas.

The pattern is called ‘The Libby Quilt” and I tested it out by making a baby quilt for my best friend’s daughter, who is expecting her third baby next year. It came together quickly and easily, so I’m assuming this much bigger version will too.

Still, I think when I finish it, it could have the capacity to burn your retinas out…!

Posted in quilting | 4 Comments

Sometimes my job makes me laugh.

I was marking some year 8 ‘Letters to the Editor’ and one of the kids wrote this following gem in a letter protesting about animal testing:

“A government report showed that New South Wales used erotic zoo animals in these tests.”

Spelling matters, people!

Posted in work, writing | 1 Comment

Sometimes it’s the little things…

A friend at work has an ‘atsy’ daughter who was opening a stall at the Dingley Makers Market. I popped along, bought some cards that she made and then browsed the rest of the stalls. I couldn’t resist this amazing indoor plant.

It’s an air plant, suspended upside down from a shell. It looks like an alien. I was going to place it on the table in front of the left-hand-side North Korea poster that you can see in the background, so that it’d look as if the missiles are pointing at it, but for the moment it’s sitting as the centrepiece on the dining table.

I haven’t owned an air plant before. The women on the stall said that I only need to lightly spray it with water every 3 weeks or so, as it gets its nutrition from the air. Hence the name, I guess. I’m interested to see how it goes.

Remember how I’ve started bringing home the veggie scraps from the school canteen and food tech rooms to put in my compost? Sometimes I get an unexpected bonus. Look at what came home with me yesterday from the food tech room! Twenty-nine sauce tomatoes that were perfectly fine.

You can bet that I wasn’t going to waste them. They all got a good wash – because children have probably touched them – then I made 2 vegetarian pasta sauces in my two thermomixes. One to eat tonight and one to freeze. Then I chopped up the rest of the tomatoes into chunks and froze in 400g lots. By the time I finished, I had the equivalent of a slab of tinned tomatoes from Costco, saving me around $15 or so.

It’s a small win but I’ll take it!

Last year I spent a fortune on 4 clematis plants from Diggers, which I brought home and then they promptly dropped all their flowers. I planted then along the sideway above my herb wicking boxes and hoped they’d come back. And now they have. Every time I see them it makes me happy.

The really good thing is that this will happen every year from now on.

I decided to reclaim Evan23’s room and turn it into a guest room/sewing room. These Bali ladies have been in my room since I brought them home from our first overseas holiday in 2006.

How cool that they suit this space so perfectly.

Posted in decorating, Flowers, gardening, Quality of life | 2 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Road trip.

Today the boys and I, along with my parents and my sister, brother-in-law and one of my nieces, are all driving to Ballarat to see Evan23 in his end-of-year play, ‘Twelve Angry Men.” Well, they’re doing ‘Twelve Angry Jurors”, but it’s pretty much the same play.

He’s Juror number 5. He said that mastering the New York accent was really hard… their vowels are worse than ours, which is saying something.

I learned from the flap to get to the theatre last semester, when we nearly missed the beginning of the play, that it’s best to meet BEFOREHAND and then take people where you want to go. So I booked a restaurant for lunch, then it’s a short stroll across the road to get to to the play.

Mum is still very shaky and can’t walk for long distances, so hopefully this plan will suit her and her wheelchair.

Woo hoo!! Going to see my boy doing something he loves!

*Strictly speaking, this day won’t be Skinflint. David26 is driving (there goes $50 petriol money) plus I’ll be paying for the boys’ lunches. Still… worth it.

Posted in Children., Skinflint | 4 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Getting Things Done before school starts again.

The day before school goes back is always a day torn between mourning my lost freedom and racing around getting little jobs finished before I go back. Today was no exception. I swore that I’d have the garden ready to go by the end of the holidays – seeds planted, beds prepped, pruning done, everything immaculate.

Instead, I spent most of my time either sleeping or quilting. Oops.

I showed you the queen-sized quilt I made for Tom27. No sooner was that done and dusted than I realised that I’d promised David26 that I’d make a quilt for his girlfriend Izzy for Christmas. Of course I did…

I bought a pattern online and thought I’d see how it looked by making a baby quilt for Blogless Sandy’s daughter, who’s expecting her third child. I just used stash materials and, as she doesn’t know the gender, I went with a mix of yellow, orange, pink and blues.

If she doesn’t like the colours she can always flip it over and use the back.

Yesterday I was up cooking like a maniac, because I promised Evan23 that I’d host lunch for HIS girlfriend’s family, who were over here from Adelaide. I was cooking for 8 and 4 are vegetarian, so I made 3 vego Indian curries and got David26 to whip up an “Indian Salad”.

“You know this is just a salsa, don’t you Mum?” he said after looking at the recipe. I had no idea – never made one.

The lunch was a great success. Jenna’s family are absolutely lovely and we all got along like a house on fire. It was worth all of the cooking! (Plus it made me clean the house, which at this stage of the holidays was looking a little dicey as to whether or not I’d get around to it.)


After they left I hand-watered all of the wicking beds down the side verandah, then pruned all of the dead-looking bits. That was one job ticked off the list! It looks a thousand times better now.

Last year I went to Diggers and spent an absolute FORTUNE on 4 clematis vines. They were in full flower when I bought them and after I planted them they dropped all their flowers within about 5 minutes, or so it seemed. This year there are heaps of buds appearing, so I’m hoping that the view from the side door will be full of flowers.

A couple of little ones have already opened.

Remember how I told you how Ryan24 helped me move the Ballerina apple trees from a place that will soon be in the shade when my verandah roof is built, over to a sunny patch over the other side of the yard? They’re so happy, even the couple that I was a bit worried about whether they’d take. 3 have put blossoms out and all have sprouted leaves.

I was looking at them at the beginning of the holidays and realised that their labels were starting to get uncomfortably tight. Any more trunk growth and the plastic ties would be ring-barking them. Today, while I was doing other things in the garden, I grabbed some secateurs and cut the labels off, just in the nick of time. It was really hard to cut the plastic without nicking the trees, so I’m glad I didn’t let this little job slip to the back of my mind!

Just so I know, here is the order that the trees are planted in:

Lime tree; Polka apple; Charlotte apple; Flamenco apple; Bolero apple; Waltz apple and a Pomegranate.

I’m a bit worried about this pomegranate tree. The branches are still flexible but it’s already October and it’s still bare. I hope it takes off soon – I remember the pomegranates we grew at the old house and they were amazing.

So far 5 purple asparagus plants have come up. Considering I planted 13 last year, the others had better get a wriggle on. I was diluting and using the compost juice from the compost tumblers, so I gave them a nice juicy drink, so maybe that’ll encourage them.

One of the jobs I really wanted to get done was to empty at least one of the four compost tumblers I have so that when I start bringing home scraps from school, there’d be a place to put them. That job is now done.

It took us a year, but we finally managed to eat all of the 2 punnets worth of spring onion seedlings that David26 gave me for my birthday last year. I planted hundreds of the damned things, and because they were from David26 I didn’t want to waste any. So in the end, I placed a ban on myself and I didn’t buy any brown onions, substituting them for spring onions instead. I thought we’d never get through them, but the bed is finally free, so this afternoon I emptied a full tumbler’s worth of compost onto the bed, sprinkled some sheep’s poo and aged autumn leaves over the top, then covered it all with pea straw.

I haven’t started any seeds, though I did put together about 12 packets of Lazy Housewife beans to give to the canteen and Food Tech workers who save the veggie scraps for me. If they plant them, they could have a lifetime supply of beans. 🙂

Speaking of compost, look what’s sprung up in one of the garden beds that I bedded down for the winter with a hearty supply of home-made compost! I have heaps of either pumpkin or zucchini plants and masses of self-sown tomatoes. I’m tempted to leave that bed to its own devices and see what ends up growing.

The trouble is, I planted tomatoes in this bed last year, so until they fruit I won’t know if they’re self-seeded purebred heirloom plants or just common as muck tomatoes.

I guess food is food…

But we’ve been eating many many peas from the plants that sprung up from the pea straw. Gotta be happy with that!




Posted in Fruit trees, gardening, Quality of life, quilting, Skinflint, vegetables, wicking beds | 5 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: A gift from the past.

Readers who’ve been around for a while might dimly recall a time 2 years ago that I went away to a Craft Camp and broke the 6-year sewing hiatus that I’d been on. I began a quilt for my oldest son, who was then Tom25.

I don’t know what I was thinking. WHO decides to relearn quilting by making a queen-sized quilt made up of over 1500 tiny squares? Only an idiot, that’s who.

When I started making it I wasn’t thinking of a specific pattern; just larger squares of 6 x 6 tiny squares in a diagonal. I wish I had’ve thought to use the same fabric running down the middle of each large square – it would’ve created an interesting grid feature on the quilt, but when I began it I was just looking to use up fabric.

This is the quilt top laid out on the floor so I could measure it to go and buy the backing.

So why did I suddenly drag it out and finish it? Because David25 wants me to make a quilt for his girlfriend, Izzy, for Christmas, so I thought I’d better get this job done. Besides, Tom27 knows about it. He said, “I thought it might be ready last Christmas and when I came in and there were no quilt-sized packages under the tree I went, “Uh…”

To be honest, I think I like the backing more than the front! But that’s ok, Tom27 should like the colours. The quilt isn’t for me, after all.

I quilted it in the ditch, which is THE HARDEST thing to do. I forgot.

There was a reason I started quilting in free form. It looks harder but is so much easier!

Look what I found when I opened my tin of quilting pins! This is from Evan23, back when he was 14 years old.

And here comes the gift from Past Frogdancer. Years ago, I published a tutorial on how to machine sew binding onto a quilt. Over the intervening years, I completely forgot how to do it. But I knew I had the tutorial on the blog

I chose a greeny fabric, because it’s Tom27’s favourite colour.

I took the measurements that I used to buy the backing fabric (180 cm X 230 cm) and added them up. Then I measured the width of the binding fabric against my cutting table (24 inches) and worked out how much fabric I needed to sew into strips.

Does anyone see where this is going???

This is the pile of LEFTOVER binding that I made. Yep, turns out mixing cm and inches doesn’t work out well. I made just over 14 Metres/15 yards too much. Lord knows how many extra quilts I could bind with all of this!

One broken needle later… because yes, of course, it would break just as I was finishing…

… we have a completed queen-sized quilt ready to be wrapped up for Christmas.

I wonder what I’ll make next?



Posted in Children., holidays, quilting, Skinflint | 8 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: sometimes you have to spend a little…

I like the idea of doing/buying something once and then never needing to worry about doing/buying it again. I also like the idea of not cluttering up the place with plastic AND I also like the idea of cutting down costs as I go into retirement.

Though, with this purchase, that last one is a bit shakey. I probably spent on these marine-grade stainless steel pegs exactly what I would have spent in a lifetime of buying plastic clothespegs. But I love them anyway.

They’re made from one piece of steel and they’re guaranteed not to rust. They’ll probably see me out. I had to get the more expensive marine grade ones seeing as I’m so close to the beach.

Look at that sparkle! For anyone interested, I got them from BIOME which has all sorts of tree-hugger friendly products. Ah well! Back to the ironing…

Posted in balance, cleaning, Peak Oil, Quality of life, Skinflint | 3 Comments

Skinflint Sunday: Sometimes plans change.


Remember when I put these Ballerina apple trees in, with lavender around them to encourage the bees to pollinate? Turns out I should’ve held my horses, because my plans on how big I wanted the verandah roof has changed and now it turns out that these apples would be in shadow for most of the day.

They had to be moved.

Fortunately, I have Just The Spot for them. Originally I was going to plant flowery shrubs near the wicking beds at the back, again to attract bees, but I had to wait until we replaced the fence between me and the new neighbours. Turns out, they have a watering system that soaks into their side of that area (I know this because the fence gets wet, even on my side) so I thought I may as well plant some fruit trees there instead. It’d be a shame to waste both mine and their watering systems, now wouldn’t it?

It’s so nice to have another pair of hands to help! The job that I thought would take all day was finished by lunchtime when Ryan24 asked if I needed help. The place where we planted the trees has a line of building rubble that we had to manoeuvre out (or leave in place) which took a fair bit of digging. Ryan24 flatly refused to get up on the ledge to remove the trees (coward) and he wouldn’t let me go up until we trimmed the lavender bushes back to make a neat hedge behind the edge, so I could see where I was going.

So now we have 1 Tahitian lime, 1 pomegranate and 5 apple trees all in a row. I feel so sorry for the trees and I hope they’ll bounce back. They’re in a far sunnier position now so I hope that, given some time to recover from the shock, they’ll all decide that it was a move for the better.

While we were trimming the lavender, Ryan24 started looking around for more things to hack into and he spied the saltbush, which was seriously running amock. I bought it as a twig from Karen Sutherland’s garden tour and it languished in the pot for years until I finally planted it last year. It was still tiny, so I had no idea it’d grow so quickly. It was hiding my pepper bushes, a rose that somehow survived the garden reno and a few sprigs of parsley that you can see here in the kitchen sink.

I decided that I couldn’t waste it so I looked up a thermomix recipe for tabouli and we had that for lunch. There was still a ton of the stuff, so I got creative. I separated the leaves from the stalks and chopped the leaves and put them in this icecube tray. When I make casseroles I can pop one in for a burst of green goodness.

I carry this brown tub in the boot of my car for when I bring home compost materials from school. Once was enough to have the bag leak! I brought it in and chopped up the parsley stalks.

Then I ripped up an egg carton and a couple of wine casks for the carbon component, along with some sad veggies from the fridge. I’ll pop this into one of the tumbling compost bins later.

While we were out there, Ryan24 decided to save our money tree. The wind blew it over and broke its pot, ironically just as I was beginning talks with verandah people. He repotted the parent plant but also wanted to save this sprig, as it had roots on it. He swears he’ll water it every day to get it established, but we’ll see…

Posted in Fruit trees, gardening, Quality of life, Skinflint | Leave a comment