A birthday party

We celebrated our big five year old girl with a ‘making’ party last weekend. She loves to spend every spare second making, drawing and creating, so it seemed like the perfect theme for her.

I was determined to make this party special, without spending a fortune, or producing a pile of unrecyclable waste at the end of it. A few of my decorative choices are explained below:

    Balloons – I really dislike balloons, because they’re not recyclable, and once they go to landfill they’ll be there forever more, but I also know that my kids LOVE balloons, so this was our compromise – 4 balloons, purchased from Big W for less than $5. I blew them up myself and hung them, rather than going the expensive helium route!
    String lights – I have a few different sets of battery operated string lights, that are pulled out for special occasions. I bought the ‘Happy Birthday’ lights a few years ago, to hang up on everyone’s birthday, so that I had at least one decoration I wasn’t rebuking every year. Our other string lights were hung under our back verandah, and stuffed into a little lantern that I usually have in our lounge room as pictured above.
    Flowers – our little lady loves flowers, so this was a no brainer. I spent less than $20 on two bunches, arranged them together, and continue to enjoy them a week later. At the end of their life they can be composted!
    DIY paper decorations – I made a crepe paper streamer garland and tissue Pom flowers out of approx $20 worth of craft supplies. They’re still hanging outside being enjoyed now, but once they become tattered we will recycle them.

So it was hardly waste free, but we minimised the waste while still creating a fun decorative space for a little girls party!

And on to the making…

Using an assortment of craft supplies we already had, topped up with a few extra bits and pieces, the girls decorated wands, paper crowns, paper bags, recycled card rainbows and made necklaces and bracelets.

My greatest stroke of brilliance however, was having them all decorate their own cupcakes, saving me from a whole heap of cake baking pain!

Everyone appeared to enjoy themselves, and a week later, we still have craft supplies in bowls all over the place, constantly being picked over and created with.

I am feeling a little sad now that it’s all over, and hoping I can convince her to have another ‘making’ party in another five years!

Abby x

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January beginnings

Sneaking out of bed before everyone else in our house this morning. The kids have been doing swimming lessons all week, and while they’ve come leap and bounds in skills and confidence, I’m most excited about the solid sleeps and little sleep ins every day!

As we roll into January, everything is happening in this little house of ours.

We ended 2018 with work beginning on replacing our ceilings, and we continue to slowly progress with that (and by we, I mean the husband, I am definitely not helping with the ceilings much).

While this has been happening we have also hosted a little birthday party for our big five year old, which meant putting all of this furniture back in place for the couple of hours that people were here, before moving and covering it all again to continue work! I’ll share more about the birthday party in another post.

The summer garden is starting to get exciting, with the last of our plums being picked last night.

And a slow but steady stream of cucumbers, zucchinis and tomatoes coming in.

I’ve also launched into tackling my reading goal of 52 books this year, reading:

  • Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essay – Follow the Leader.
  • Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach
  • and I’ve just started on Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens

All have been good reads so far, so I’m hoping I can continue a good run of great books this year!

In the spare moments when I’m not reading, I’ve started work on a crocheted cardigan for myself, mostly so that I have a portable project to take with me to swimming lessons. I’m attempting to use up all of my leftover yarn, so it could be a little Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat in the end.

It feels a little strange to be crocheting in this heat, but I’m enjoying the process of watching something new grow within my hands, and learning new stitches as I go.

I hope that whatever January may have in stall for you, there are good books and interesting projects along the way.

Abby x

Head colds, croup and crochet

Just a quick apology for being absent of late. It’s head colds for one and all in my family at the moment, and a dose of croup for the littlest last weekend. Not much sleep, a busy schedule and a foggy brain are not working in my favour.

I’d feel guilty if I left you with nothing though. So here’s just a quick little share of a ball of yarn I wasn’t in love with, over dyed and then made a little beanie out of.

Even when the brain is barely functioning, there’s still little projects being churned out. Coherent sentences are a little beyond me though.

Hoping you’re avoiding all the winter germs!

Abby x

The backyard

In a few weeks time we will tick over 6 years in our house. I might have thought we would have completed renovations by now, back then when we first started cleaning, painting and fencing. We didn’t know ourselves as well 6 years ago. We thought we would extend our little 3 bedroom 1 bathroom home, adding more bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms, because that’s what people seem to do. But we changed and the plans changed and the pace changed. So we’ve ticked off a few to do’s and have a heap more still waiting for attention.

The main drawcard from day dot was the big backyard. We’re on a half acre block with a creek running through the back half. We knew it would be a great backyard for kids one day, and we were right!

And so, while it’s a space that is forever changing and evolving, I thought I’d share a little overview of how it is right now.

We’ve focussed mostly on the veggie garden and fruit trees this year, and expanded the veggie garden into what used to be a lawn area. We’ve always grown a little bit of our own produce, but have recently been working at it a little more seriously, with a goal of growing and producing at least 25% of our own food by 2023. I hope we hit that goal much sooner!

This winter we are growing – snowpeas, broad beans, onions, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, lettuce, celery, potato and carrots as well as all our fruit and nut trees. It’s been so much fun checking on their progress every day, and watching the kids walking around the yard picking and eating snow peas or sampling the coriander.

Outside of the garden progress is a million different other little projects at various stages of completion. The ideas man has been very busy over the years building tank stands, a pizza oven, a cubby house, my potting shed, a straw bale wall and numerous garden beds. Our backyard is a kids paradise. We don’t have much in the way of traditional kids play equipment, but we do have lots of rocks and sticks and dirt which is just as much fun!

The next backyard project that we’re working towards will form a lawn border that raises up to sitting height in the middle, and is filled with wine bottles. This project will take a while as we have to drink enough wine first! Haha!

And I will always always be adding more and more plants. We love our backyard and all it’s interesting quirks. Like sunflowers trying to flower in July…

Looking forward to a few days in my backyard this weekend! I hope you get a little sunshine and dirt under the finger nails too.

Abby x

Plastic Free July

Are you doing Plastic Free July this year?

Are you wondering what on earth Plastic Free July is? Find more info here.

We’re far from plastic free in our house, and not quite at the stage where we could live without plastic for a month, but we’re continually taking baby steps towards a more sustainable way of life with less plastic.

There are some really simple changes we’ve made to cut down on plastic, like taking our own bags when shopping, BYO coffee cups, refusing straws etc and then we’ve made some more small switches gradually over the years.

We’ve switched to bar soap purchased in cardboard packaging instead of liquid soaps in plastic bottles.

I bought some mesh produce bags for fruit and veg shopping, instead of using the single use plastic bags in the fruit and veg section of the store. I then made myself some more bags when I decided I needed more.

We often forget the produce bags when we shop, and on those occasions we simply buy all of our fruit loose. It’s fairly easy to grab a hand of bananas and put that in your trolley without a bag. It does get a little annoying with 10 loose mandarins though! Haha.

We also stopped buying single use plastics wraps and bags as well, opting for beeswax wraps or Tupperware containers for sandwiches and snacks.

I’ve made a number of beeswax wraps in the past year (see my instastories here), but I’ve found they’re not quite as good as the ones you can buy online. It’s a process I’m still tweaking and I have a new plan for the next batch!!

There are a lot of great wraps for sale here if you’re interested in buying some of your own.

I also stopped purchasing dishcloths from the supermarket after realising that they all contained plastic and didn’t last very long before they ended up in landfill. We’ve been using some cotton dishcloths I’ve made for the last year, and throwing them in the washing machine between uses. None have worn out yet, but I’m comfortable with the knowledge that at the end of their life I will be able to compost them as they are 100% cotton. One less item for landfill!

I also sell these cloths in my Etsy store, and have a 20% off when you buy more than two items deal happening until July 7th. If you’d like some reusable dishcloths, now’s the time!

The biggest change we’ve made however, is thinking a little more critically about packaging when we’re shopping. We’ll opt for loose apples or carrots over those already in a plastic bag. I’ll buy a whole butternut pumpkin instead of the half pumpkin that’s wrapped in glad wrap. If I’m looking at pantry items (ie biscuits) I’ll purchase something in cardboard packaging over plastic packaging.

We’re forever making small changes, and learning from our mistakes, and we’re still making plenty of mistakes! It took us about a years worth of saying ‘we should have brought containers with us’ every time we ate a restaurant, before we actually remembered to do it last time we went out for dinner and had leftovers to bring home.

The idea of no plastic seems so daunting, but if it’s just a single swap you’re making each month, it’s doable. It all adds up! Imagine the difference it would make if everyone just switched to bar soap!

Have you made any plastic free switches lately?

Abby x

Winter days

If it has to be this cold all winter, I feel like we should at least get some snow for our troubles. We’ve had several frosty mornings in the last week. Scraping ice off the car first thing in the morning takes me back to Canada holidays, just not quite as much fun!

By the time the sun is out on these frosty days, it’s usually warmed up enough that we can get outside and try to soak some of that sunshine up. It’s never quite enough to warm our house up though. Built in the late 70’s, it seems no one was thinking a whole lot about solar passive design when they built this house. The entire Northern side of our house is shaded by a wide verandah and carport, which is perfect for summer, but miserable in winter. Our firewood stock has been dwindling pretty quickly in the last month!

I dream of ripping the whole carport down, putting in extra windows on the Northern side and growing vines, or putting in a greenhouse where the carport now stands. Maybe one day!

And so, with a couple of head colds in the house this past week, it’s been all about staying warm.

We’ve walked to the playground in the sunshine

Collected kindling / marshmallow sticks down in our creek

Sought out all the little pockets of sunshine that peek through our front windows at the end of the day.

And I’ve been keeping my hands warm with lots and lots of wool.

A new wool order and a beanie with a Pom Pom for Mr 3.

He’d been begging me for a beanie with a Pom Pom for a couple of weeks. I finally got around to making it last weekend and he’s completely in love with it.

I listed some new cardigans in my Etsy store, and posted one to a new home.

I love making these cardigans. I have another two in the works at the moment. The pattern is The Kotori Jacket by Shara Lambeth Designs if anyone is interested in making their own.

And the yarn dyeing obsession continues!

Right now I’m tucked up under an old wool blanket I crocheted a few years back, nursing my head cold, staring out the rain spattered window and listening to the sound of my kids playing in the backyard with umbrellas, raincoats and gumboots. I’m hoping they’ll stay out there just that little bit longer so I can get a few more rows of this cardigan done before they burst through the back door and we fall into the pre-dinner routine.

After a very busy weekend last weekend, I’m hoping for a well deserved quiet (and warm!) one this weekend.

Happy weekend all.

Abby x

Children’s Crocheted Scarf – A Free Pattern

I have been making and selling these little crocheted scarves for a few years now. I started out with making a few for my Miss 4 when she was about 2, and then soon found we had more scarves than I knew what to do with.

A quick and simple crochet project, this is a great beginner – intermediate pattern that should take you no longer than 2 hours from start to finish.

Not a crocheter, but love the scarves? You’ll find a selection of scarves I’ve made in my Etsy store here.

**Please note that I would not recommend these scarves for children under 3 years of age unless under constant close supervision. As with anything else you place around a child’s neck (necklace, bag strap, etc) a scarf does pose a strangulation risk to small children. I would also urge you not to leave a scarf on a sleeping child as this will also place them at risk of overheating.**

Heavy stuff aside, this is a great little scarf for the 3-5 year olds in your life, and with a few alterations can be made in much larger sizes too. I’ve even made one for my Dad!

So without further ado…

A Children’s Scarf Pattern

This pattern is written in US terms. If you usually work in UK terms, please find a handy conversion chart here.

Please use pattern for personal use only, or seek permission before selling products using this pattern.

Materials:

8ply yarn. I’ve used Bendigo Woollen Mills Bloom

4.5mm crochet hook

Darning needle

Scissors

Abbreviations:

Ch: chain

DC: double crochet

St: stitch

SC: single crochet

Sl St: slip stitch

Pattern:

Ch 80.

Row 1: 1 DC into 3rd ch from hook. 1 DC in each st to end. Turn. (78sts).

Row 2-3: Ch 2. 1 DC in base of Ch 2. 1 DC in each st to end. Turn. (78 sts).

Row 4: Ch 2. 1 DC in base of Ch 2. 1 DC in each of the next 11 sts. Ch 9. Skip the next 8 sts and DC in the 9th st from the last DC. DC in each st to end. Turn. (78 sts).

Row 5 – 7: Ch 2. 1 DC in base of Ch 2. 1 DC in each st to end. Turn. (78 sts).

When you reach the 9 chains of the previous row, continue your DC into each chain as you would for the rest of the row.

At the completion of Row 7 you may like to fasten off here for a simple completed scarf, or you can add a SC border with the following step.

The last step: Ch 1. 1 sc in base of Ch 1. 1 sc in each st to end of row. DO NOT TURN. Continuing in the same direction we’re now going to work around the corner. * add an extra 1 sc in the last st and work 13 sc’s across the scarf end*. Continuing around the edge of the scarf, 2 sc in the corner and 1 sc in each st to end of row. Repeat from * to *. Sl st into first st (the beginning of round). Fasten off, weave in ends.

And you have a complete scarf!

This pattern is easy to alter to suit your preference. Add more DC’s to your rows to make it longer, more rows to make it wider, add details on the ends like tassels, or leave it as is. See a few variations I’ve made in my Etsy store.

Happy crocheting!

Abby x

Friday again

I always have the best of intentions for a mid week post, and then in the blink of an eye it’s Friday again and I didn’t get around to it. I went so far as to write and photograph a crochet pattern to share with you last weekend, and yet it still sits handwritten in my notebook waiting to be typed. Next week? A toddler scarf pattern is on its way anyhow, maybe mid next week. Probably next Friday…

Things I HAVE achieved this week –

We’ve been helping to prepare my husbands Grandma’s house for sale and had a bit of a family working bee last weekend. We sorted through books and towels and kitchen appliances and while there was definitely not a high volume of ‘stuff’ there, it did make me think of the Swedish death cleaning trend and what a great idea that is. So if you come to my house in my retirement years and find I own only one tea towel, two coffee cups, two knives, forks, spoons etc – you’ve been warned!

I also helped out with rebuilding a rail/balustrade and painted it during our working bee. It’s probably a year or more since I last had to paint anything. Not my favourite job, but this was pretty quick and painless. Now I’m wandering about my house constantly noticing how badly my walls and ceilings need repainting and trying to muster up some energy for kicking into that boring job!

We walked away with a few bags of yarn and a trailer full of pot plants too, both of which have kept me pretty busy since!

With huge quantities of yarn to play with I’ve been crocheting in every spare second. Mittens for each kid and I started a new blanket, which I’ve been lugging about the house and to craft night in a big basket.

I also had a play with hand dyeing some plain wool with food dye during the week. I wasn’t happy with the colours, but had great fun with the process. I will have another play with some different colours this weekend.

Mid week I discovered that Miss 4 seems to have grown 2 inches over night and desperately needed some new jumpers and jackets for kindy. I ended up getting her a jacket and track pants in the boys section of Target, because I was so disappointed in the girls section options! Read more on that here.

Sticking to what I know best, I headed to Savers on Thursday and picked up a pile of clothes for both the kids and myself.

For the kids I ended up with 2 x skirts, 2 x shorts, 2 x dresses, 2 x jumpers & 5 x tops.

For myself I bought a coat, a vintage jacket and a pair of shoes.

All in great gently used condition, in brands – Witchery, Zara, Cotton On Kids, Milkshake etc.

I love Savers. We’re doing a kindness to the environment by using what already exists instead of supporting the fast fashion industry, we’re typically buying better quality brands than I could justify spending money on if purchased new, we often find really cute quirky items not found in the big box stores and we’re saving bucket loads of cash. My only regret is not getting started shopping there when my kids were babies! Oh the money I could have saved!

Aside from all that I’ve been…

Reading

True Stories by Helen Garner. This is my second Helen Garner read, and I love her style!

Listening to

The Slow Home Podcast – my absolute favourite podcast. The link here will take you to last weeks interview with Rob Greenfield about small steps we can take towards a better world. A great listen!

Planting

My celery seedlings, ground covers, poppies, pansies and transplanting all those pot plants into our garden!

What have you been making/reading/listening to lately? Do you think you’re the Swedish death cleaning sort? What great secondhand bargains have you picked up recently?

Happy weekend folks.

Abby x

A Picnic Rug

I’m very pleased with this little project.

I’ve spent a long time lusting over pretty picnic rugs, and finally decided to make my own for this Spring and Summer.

IMG_5510

It’s made from a vinyl topped table cloth (for waterproofing the back) and patchworked duck cloth.

This was an easy little project. The most time consuming part was hand stitching the binding. At a fairly slow pace, I knocked this project over in a week.

I bought this ‘beautiful’ tablecloth on ebay for $8. I figured it didn’t matter too much what it looked like, as you wouldn’t see it when the rug’s laid out anyway.

table clothOnce I’d quilted the patchwork top to the backing, I trimmed off the excess table cloth, and then added the binding. I made the binding myself, because I’m too cheap and fussy to buy bias tape.

Here’s a glimpse at how the back ended up looking.

IMG_5508Penny was insistent on helping me take photos.

IMG_5505I’ve been toying with the idea of adding some hand embroidery to my quilts lately, so I thought I’d try it out first on this rug.

IMG_5502It’s not perfect, but practice makes perfect!

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As per usual, I made far too much bias tape, so I sewed around the edges of the left overs, and then sewed the strip to the back of my picnic rug, to hold the rug together when it’s rolled up.

and here’s the finished product.

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IMG_5512I’m so happy with it, and can’t wait to have our first picnic with it!

Abby xx

 

 

 

 

 

July Roundup

If I had to describe July in one word, that word would be ‘Cold’. Frosty car cold. But aren’t the patterns in the ice so pretty?

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but somehow, not cold enough to slow down our veggie garden! How weird is that strawberry?!

IMG_3704I’ve spent a lot of time this month making baby food, and stocking up the freezer.

IMG_3682Matt’s been tidying up and organising his man cave. I’m jealous and thinking that I need my own man cave!

IMG_3910and working on the pizza oven that I wrote about here.

IMG_3869Penny’s thoroughly enjoyed having Matt working in the yard, and forgetting to close the car doors.

IMG_3868I took advantage of a bargain at the supermarket and bought myself some pretty tulips! I just wish that they looked like that forever, and not as sad as they look now 😦

IMG_3907and I had my hair chopped off, not exactly the way I’d hoped to.

IMG_4011Miss E learned how to sit up this month, and now gets cranky any time she find herself on her back or belly.

She also had her first swimming lesson and absolutely loved it. She spends so much time kicking her legs all the time, that we knew she’d have to be a little fish in the pool!

e swimming lesson

I’ve been reading:

I finally finished reading Jane Austen’s Emma. I’m not sure how I’d managed to get so far through life without having read it before!

I enjoyed getting lost in the 19th Century romance, but didn’t enjoy it as much as Pride and Prejudice but I guess that’s to be expected, given that Pride and Prejudice is the far more popular of the two!

I’ve picked up Shantaram again, as I mentioned here, and as I expected, haven’t got very far with it yet!

I’ve been making:

Lots of things it seems!

IMG_3673The Taggy Cube I wrote about here.

princess and bookThe Princess and the Pea playlet I wrote about here.

IMG_3956Some fabric blocks for Miss E to play with.

IMG_3769and work on the crochet blanket continues, a little slower than before, but I’m still going!

I’ve been watching:

Not much really.

Though this little video popped up on my Facebook newsfeed the other day and made me stop and think…

Maybe I should try baking more!

I’ve been listening to:

A couple of weeks ago we went for a bit of country drive to visit some of my family. A four hour trip, and broken radio reception, meant we listened to podcasts on the road.

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One podcast we listened to was a conversation between Richard Fidler and John Safran, an ABC radio presenter and a Triple J radio presenter, respectively. This podcast was fascinating, talking about John Safran’s new book about a murder case in Mississippi. Now I need to read the book! Well played Richard and John!

July, you were lovely!

August, some sun please!

Abby xx