Saturday, August 19, 2017

Time to talk quilting again!

Yes I am back in the quilting mode again.

This time it is a very special memory quilt made of the shirts of a friend who passed away a year ago. His family were struggling to part with the shirts so I offered to make the quilt with them.  There are some 100% cotton shirts and some part polyester and part cotton. I am using what I can and attempting to get at least one patch of each shirt in the quilt, but the non-cotton shirt fabric is slippery and difficult to cut accurately. I am persevering though because the family will have a lovely memento and this quilt is about the shirts and the memories, not the quilt itself. Here is a picture of a selection of the fabrics in the quilt, on my design wall.


I am also in the process of TIDYING UP the sewing room! 

I found some plastic trays in Kmart which looked the right size for my storage baskets, and were just $5 each, so I bought lots and have been sorting and refolding. My stash has lots of fat quarters because I love a scrappy look in a quilt with lots of fabrics and this is an easy way of collecting fabric.


From this pile of fabric stuffed in a basket (most of the drawers looked like this) 


to sorted baskets of fabric all where I can see them and get inspired by them. The bins fit two to a drawer and provide structure to the basket so I can keep things tidy. 

I am not finished yet -all in all I have got about half way through my 22 baskets and two bins of fabric storage. 



My baskets sit in the wardrobe recess, and are covered with an Ikea fabric panel which slides out of the way.

In doing this sorting I realized again just how much fabric I have here, and how many lovely quilts are ready to be made from them. I have. I have a lot of resources here to keep me happy in my lovely sewing room, doing what I love to do. I am a happy woman!


In other news, the sun came out again! I tidied up the patio and we recommissioned it for summer. We have been doing a spring prune and tidy up. 


 On International Humanitarian Day we attended public lecture at Curtin University by Dr Waleed Ali. As you would expect, he was thought provoking in his discussion of why it is that 'no-one cares about human rights anymore". How can successive governments in Australia get away with being criticized by the UN for their treatment of asylum seekers in offshore centres, for example?

Dr Ali suggested we find it difficult to get back to the 'enchanted ideas" which inspire and empower us to act in solidarity with one another, when we live in a in a public space which emphasizes efficiency, non-harm and non-discrimination (nice enough, but sort of empty words). We need to retell our stories and find meaning again.

This is quite a challenge and I look forward to having long conversations about it in the future. In the meantime today I have a fundraising event to help host for our local refugee agency. A wonderful young guitarist I met has offered to play her 19th century Italian guitar music in a private home as a fundraiser. It will be very special indeed.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Small changes


This is the first week I have been at home as a retired person. Everyone wants to know how it feels! Well, it feels relaxed, joyful, playful and free! 

The week has included some volunteer work.

I have been to two music concerts.

I have had dinner with friends in a pub. 


There aren't any roses in the garden to smell, but I find I am drawn to the slanting morning light as it breaks through the clouds of a winter Perth day. 

I am sleeping better and I have been recovering from my ear infection quite nicely. 


If, despite all forecasts, the afternoon turns out to be fine, DH and I can enjoy a walk around our lovely local lake which is now brimming with water for the first time in years. This picture has a black and white splash in it -that is a black swan among the reeds. 

I don't think I have created a routine for myself quite yet, and perhaps I still feel a bit like I am on holiday, but this retirement thing feels luxurious at the moment.

In the quilting sphere I have cut out and started sewing a very special memory quilt. Too early for much in the way of pictures yet, watch this space. 



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Blue Mountains and Victorian get away


We had a get-away for a few days in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. We were on the way to take care of the grandchildren in northern Victoria, and thought we would piggyback a few days on our own-just DH and I -first. DH had never been to the Blue Mountains but I had been several times. It seemed like a great opportunity to revisit the holiday we tried to have together in Melbourne a few months ago, when poor DH came down with pneumonia. This time we wanted to enjoy each other's company and do some sight seeing together.

We flew to Sydney and took the train up to the mountains. With our Seniors concession on the Opal card, it was less than $3 to travel over 100 km! Much more frugal than hiring a car, and easier on the environment too. 

DH found us some great accommodation in a B and B in Katoomba. It was a bit of a walk uphill to the town centre each night for dinner, but an easy walk back. We told ourselves we were walking off the calories! 

 The weather was so kind to us! In the middle of winter we were blessed with sunny skies, even though it was very cold. The bushland and scenery are rightly world famous. There are hop-on, hop-off bus services which ferried us to the best locations for the views.



When not looking at scenery we enjoyed exploring the towns of Katoomba, Leura and Lawson. 



The Carrington Hotel in Katoomba is a stately old hotel with amazing architectural features like this wonderful glass in the closed-in verandah. We didn't stay here, but DH and I had cocktails in the bar on two separate occasions. 

Many businesses were were celebrating Christmas in July (we were there on the 25th July!). 


We visited the Norman Lindsay gallery.  The Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge is the home of the Magic Pudding and displays the work of artist and writer Norman Lindsay (1879-1969). Lindsay was a controversial artist for most of his life and a walk around the extensive art in the gallery shows what the staid 1960s Australians would have struggled with- his pictures are often full of bohemian and pagan images, and usually have lots of strong and naked women! His second wife Rose was his model, muse and manager -I think she was a pretty strong woman in her own right. 


His bush block is a wonderful haven, dotted with his sculptures. We had lunch in the cafe there.

On our return to Sydney we had a few hours to let DH revive his memories of the sights before boarding the train to Melbourne (we booked a sleeper) where we met up with a dear friend before taking the coach service to Rochester. 

Going by bus and train was a real pleasure. Everything worked well, and we were treated with courtesy and friendliness. 





After a few days of babysitting our lovely DGD (5) and DGS (3) we have lots of lovely memories of fun times together. We played outside a lot because even though the nights were cold, the days warmed up quickly. There were bikes and trampolines and games of imaginative play, and making fairy gardens and so much more!

It was a great trip but we are now back home and my new slower retired life begins. I have got the bread rising right now, and am enjoying getting back into the routines again. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

All the feels, all the finishes


My work colleagues gave me some lovely gifts on my retirement.

A big bunch of flowers.


Lots of cards.



Vouchers for quilting fabric. 



A limited edition print by Shokoofeh Azar, who was the talented artist whose work was a feature of the Seeking Refuge WA campaign.

My print is one of those signed by Shokoofeh . The painting s called 'The Night of the Poet Society (Four Birds)'. The vibrant prints featured in the Seeking Refuge WA crowdfunding campaign for the Humanitarian Group’s free legal clinic for people seeking asylum. I was involved with the Fair Go appeal committee which was behind these legal clinics, and this print means a huge amount to me.

A votive candle holder -in honor of all the vigils I have  organised and attended as part of my work. 

All of these things represent people and events we shared together. I can't look at them without thinking about all they represent. 

I finished  work on Thursday so it is a bit early to provide a report on retirement.

I have, however,  sung in my choir at St Barnabas' service this morning,

AND- just in time - I finished the baby quilt! 



This is the back I made from some fun fabric with Welsh motifs on it -castles, leeks, rugby players, choirs and, of course, dragons.

The quilt has just emerged from the dryer -it is now comfortingly crinkled and ready to come with me to visit our little family in Victoria, where a new baby is expected to add to the fun of our grandson (3) and grand daughter (5) at the end of September. 



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Construction -deconstruction-reconstruction

One week left at work. These lovely flowers were presented to me by one of the Commissions I work with. In my working life there is now a bit of deconstruction, as I cut loose from the roles I have had for the last 5 years. It is an emotional time for some of the people I have known in these roles, and for me too. Even my DH, who is totally supportive of the changes, confesses his mind is busy with adapting to the changes.

There is obviously some construction too -I am building new roles for my future post-employment life. Some opportunities are calling me -for volunteer work in particular. I am also planning for changes around the house -jobs we  have wanted to get to for some time, but have been prevented by circumstances. We want to renovate the kitchen and freshen up the dining room for starters. I can hardly wait to get started.

We want to build more activity into our lives. At one point we used to walk every day for an hour -lately we have managed one walk per week, and possibly an hour and a half in the garden. We are both looking forward to making this a priority.


We have signed up for Sustainable House Day again this year, which will mean a bit of focus to our gardening as we prepare for it  on Sunday 17 September 2017. The website says "This unique peer to peer education is a valuable resource for anyone looking for inspiration, ideas and the key to sustainable living". We are not one of those newly constructed architect designed homes, with double glazing and insulated walls, or made of entirely recycled materials. Ours is a typical 1970s brick and tile house which we are retrofitting to make more sustainable and grow more of our own food. We hope we can inspire others to have a go even if they have an older existing dwelling.


In the middle of this, I have been constructing a quilt for our expected 3rd grandchild. The photo below is a picture of what I thought was a finished top. If you look closely you will see that the second row is wrong! The alphabet blocks are in the wrong order! One of my friends was brave enough to ask if it was what I had intended...umm ..no.


So I had to do some deconstruction, to unpick part of the borders and the whole of the second row, and then carefully try to get them back together again (reconstruction)  It went pretty well and I am happy I did it. 


Every quilt needs a back. In looking for a fun fabric for a the Aussie alphabet baby quilt I found this piece with Welsh pictures on it. Not quite big enough so framed it in green and white like the Welsh flag. Should be a fun thing for baby to look at during tummy time. Who doesn't love castles and dragons?


So I am hoping to that I can get the quilt sandwich pinned together today, and get some quilting done this week, which is my last week in the office.  



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Freedom is coming

The big news in my life is that I have resigned from my employed position, and will be, after the 20th July, a retired person-and this is five years early! This is a culmination of a journey which began at least n 2007, as I learned about simple living from a generous group of forum and blogger people who were happy to share 'another way of living".



This blog started on Anzac Day 2008. It documented our journey towards living more simply: setting up our wicking beds, building a new garden in the front yard, putting up a shed. In those days I was working full time but dreaming of another life -a simpler life. We started working hard at finishing the payments on the mortgage so that, if I wanted to find a part time job, we could afford to live on less.  We learned to budget, menu plan and buy in bulk.

Together DH and I have learned to grow food and make things at home. He has become an expert jam maker and preserver of pears and plums. We set up passive cooling structures like our grapevine pergola and shade sails. We installed a water tank and solar array. Our bathrooms were renovated so that they would support us when we are older.

Over time DH and I were able to take part time work. We had by this stage paid off our mortgage and had no debts. We had learned to cook from scratch and found that we enjoyed the process very much. He now has a workshop full of tools so he can enjoy making things for us to use.  We finally installed some roller garage doors front and back on his workshop this month, so his 'shop' is now dry and tidy.





I am going to be able to enjoy more of this simple life we have been working our way towards for nearly a decade.

My life will include some volunteering, because I want to give back to the community. I know I am lucky to be able to retire! I have some volunteer work already locked in, and some opportunities to explore.

I will be baking bread, making quilts, singing in a choir and pushing myself to learn new skills.

I will be able to enjoy visits to and from my grand children, without worrying about work schedules.

DH and I are really looking forward to being together more. We are a good team, and we have plans for more improvements around here- including a new kitchen and a revamp of the dining room. As we get older these things may take more time, and require a bit of outside help, but we will enjoy the process very much.

Roll on 21st July! Freedom is coming!




Monday, July 3, 2017

Plastic Free July -the wins and the losses


It is Plastic Free July, and I am participating again this year.
You can find out more here

Our challenge is to try to eliminate 'single use plastics" like plastic film food wrap, one-use plastic shopping bags and produce bags, coffee cups and straws and of course plastic bottles like water bottles.

Choose to refuse single-use plastic by remembering your reusables and reduce plastic packaging. Signup today on our website www.plasticfreejuly.org and share with your friends, family and workmates. Avoid landfill waste, reduce your eco footprint and protect the ocean. Join us and together let's make a difference.



We have the coffee cups and straws thing down pat -it is easy. If we are out to have fun, we sit down at a coffee shop and drink coffee from a ceramic mug. Recently I was disappointed that the coffee shop near where I work has eliminated their ceramic mugs and plates, even for dine-in customers. I told them I wouldn't be back until the crockery was back too.

The plastic bag thing is a bit harder. I have shopping bags and about 80% of the time take them with me to the shops, but we are kind of "hardwired" to have some plastic bags around the house to line bins with. We don't subscribe to hard copy newspapers so we can't use them to line a bin instead.

We also have got used to using freezer bags to store food in the freezer- although I have a fine collection of glass and Tupperware-type containers which are also used. I read today that it was possible to freeze things in silicone type baking paper -that might help us achieve our goal there. So this is a partial win-we are reducing the amount of plastic we use.

Food wrapped in single use plastic in shops is harder to avoid too. I found some wax wrapped local cheese in my IGA but it was twice the price per kilo as the plastic wrapped version from the same factory. I didn't buy it, so am a bit of a failure at the 'refuse' option in this case. Maybe there is a shop nearby which will cut cheese from large pieces and put it in my own container, nearby? This is something I need to investigate.

My bulk food store provides me with some options to buy food in cardboard and tins . For example, the bulk bag of bread flour I bought today was in cardboard..



DH loaned his plastic barrow to a group of mulch spreaders at the church, and it came back with a large crack in it, probably due to the brittle plastic getting a bit too much UV. He thought he would have a go at repairing it, so the hardware store provided some repair strapping. If we can do another of the 4 Rs -refuse, re-use, repair, recycle - this time repairing something-that is good too. Might keep this plastic barrow out of landfill a bit longer.

Today we set up yet another of our wicking beds which are made out of used olive barrels-see the first two here . This is a "re-use' option -thus saving the barrels from landfill, whilst giving us cheap large pots in which to grow herbs and veggies.

We have finally had some winter weather -the rains were a month or more late this year, and our poor farmers were distraught. Hopefully the rains have penetrated enough into the farming areas to mean that there will be feed for the sheep. I don't know that the wheat harvest will survive everywhere, though. Our climate is changing -rainfall is much less than it used to be.  That is why anything we can do -no matter how small -in changing our patterns of behaviour to protect the earth more -whether from plastics or carbon in the atmosphere -is worth the effort.

On the quilting front, I have started the baby quilt! This is for grandchild number 3, due in September.


I am now working on the borders which are 4 patches in the medium to dark colours.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mid Winter feast


It was time for our Mid Winter feast last Friday: the nearest weekend to the winter solstice. It has become a tradition for us to have friends over for a meal to celebrate the end of the time of the shortening of the length of days,and the start for the days to get longer again. 

The menu this year started with wine and nibbles -home made dukkah and dips, followed by roasted lamb with parsnips, cauliflower cheese, baked pumpkin and a herb salad from my garden.

DD made the dessert: rhubarb and apple crumble with custard.



There were plenty of candles to encourage the light to return! We decorated with evergreen trees and some of my belsnickles. 


We dragged the furniture out of the lounge room and brought the dining table in, so we could extend it and make a long table for our guests. 
We missed some of our friends, who were not able to be with us due to sickness or family obligations, but those who were able to come had a good time I think.

It is our tradition to give a bag of produce as a gift when the evening is over. This year's bag had a jar of preserved limes from our garden, some kaffir lime leaves and one fruit, a jarrah soap dish made by DH in the workshop (we added a cake of soap to it), and a jar of DH's marmalade. 



Monday, June 19, 2017

My quilt is finished!


My Citrus Harvest quilt is finished! 
It is bright and cheery. 


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Quilting finally gets some time!


Did you hear my sigh, as I finally sat down to sew this weekend? It had been too long -too many other priorities, so that my poor yellow quilt was languishing, and the list of 'quilts to make before the end of September" seemed quite impossible.

My DH encouraged me to get some slabs of time -we usually split the housework and shopping, but he did the shopping on Friday so I could get started, and did the housework on Saturday so I could get some more quilting done after my volunteer roster at the asylum seeker agency.

There is some big news about my quilting too - I HAVE JOINED THE WA QUILTERS!  I have been attending their exhibitions and following them on FaceBook, so when they said there was an open night last Wednesday- and it was quite close by- I took myself off to see what it was like. In all the years I have been a quilter (about 8 now) I have never been in a group, apart from the classes I took to start off. I joined online groups, but never in person. 

 I think I might join the community quilting sub-group, and see how I go. 


Free motion quilting adds such lovely texture! 





A friend asked me about bread recipes - I have added these two to my "from my kitchen" page. 


I took a walk in the winter sunshine during my lunchtime last week -over past the cement factory and the marshalling yards to the much nicer part of East Perth where I walked along a little brook and enjoyed the antics of the birds splashing. 


I hope for a peaceful week -as I have now finished the quilting, all I have to do is the binding on the yellow quilt. Hopefully it will be done by next weekend and I can then feel a bit more up to date! 


Sunday, June 4, 2017

World Environment Day -Connecting with nature



It is World Environment Day today, the 5th of June, and the theme is "Connect with Nature". Maybe the reason they chose this theme is that we need to go out into the environment, enjoy it and notice its changes, if we are to care for it and protect it.

Vandana Shiva coins the term "eco-apartheid" when she writes: “Separatism is at the root of disharmony with nature and violence against nature and people. Today, we need to overcome an eco-apartheid based on the illusion of separateness – the separation of humans from nature in our minds and lives. This eco-apartheid is an illusion because we are part of nature and Earth, not apart from it. Read more here 

One thing I really love about living simply is that it gives me time to do that -to walk on the beach as I did today-the picture above was taken this morning at Sorrento, or to take pictures of the unique flora in this part of the West Australian landscape. The picture below is an acorn banksia, or banksia prionotes, a native to this region.


When we grow our own food, we are much more alert to the changes of the seasons and the needs of living things to be in a clean, cooperative environment. Below is our seed raising set up.


This weekend we have been setting up wicking beds for herbs close to the back door, using recycled olive barrels.  This bed gets a lot of western afternoon sun, and nothing we grew really thrived, apart from the citrus trees. We do put up shade sails in summer, but it wasn't possible to get enough water to the herbs. This set up will fix that, we hope.

I have 4 more like this to do. Each one holds 2 bags of blue metal as the reservoir of water (holds about 18 litres each) and then there is a shadecloth barrier before a bag and a half of compost.  The plants grow towards the reservoir of water, and there is very little evaporation to contend with. We top up the reservoir through the stand pipe, and there is an overflow valve to let water out if it rains and the plants are in danger of drowning.

I like the idea of using these olive barrels in new ways -re-purposing them rather than have them find their way to landfill.


When we grow our own food, we are much more aware of waste and freshness.

This is a picture of a rustic veggie pie I made with my own short pastry and herbs from the garden.




Finally, I thought you might enjoy this clip from Australia's CSIRO: beautiful location, important scientific work monitoring the changes in atmosphere over time.

Cape Grim Station: Measuring atmospheric composition since 1976

https://youtu.be/QuKLht9ffVM


Monday, May 29, 2017

Going back to the beginning

I have been trying out new techniques in my bread making.

As I wrote about here , I have been using a stand mixer for my bread.

This week I found a second hand copy of this classic book on bread.


I describe this book as a graduate course in bread making. It is amazing, and if you can find a copy -and are interested in bread -I thoroughly recommend it. You never know, you might be able to get it from a library.

One hint which I will now use all the time in winter, was to warm the flour in a low oven for about 10 minutes -this has greatly improved the speed and the rise of my bread.

I tried Ms David's technique of the overnight rise, which she said makes a better tasting loaf. It produced a huge rise in my sourdough on the first rise. Bread making is funny though. I didn't think the second rise would be so quick! I quickly turned on the oven but it was a bit too late. The dough was over-proofed and sinking fast . Then I thought I would make made cuts in the top of the bread ...and the whole thing deflated a little like a balloon with a slow leak. I haven't had a flop in bread making for a while, so it was like going back to the beginning and learning all over again.

I have been trying to make free form loaves rather than loaves baked in tins . I have tried Ms David's suggestion of using wooden bowls or trays to hold the dough as it is rising. The problem then became -just how do I transfer this soft squidgy dough into the oven when it doesn't have a tin that I can hold? DH made me a wooden paddle to get the bread into the oven, but my loaf was too big for it! I found my pizza stone and tipped the bread dough from the wooden tray onto a baking sheet and then onto the pizza stone.

Anyway, the bread mostly tasted good, especially as I took Ms David's advice and worked on adding the flavour back into the bread by mixing my white bread flour with wholemeal and extra wheat germ. The picture below is of the best loaf this week -my free form sourdough which rose well and had a yummy crust and a crumb with just the right amount of holes in it!


Apart from these culinary adventures, the week was memorable for a wonderful concert at the Government House ballroom, from The Australian String Quartet and Slava Grigorian. 


In the winter garden my blueberries have flowered for the first time, which is very exciting! I have planted my mizuna seedlings, and more lettuces and dill.  The days are much shorter now, and we have had a few days of rain, but nowhere enough for this time of the year. Cooler overnight but still quite mild days The garden mostly thinks it is spring. 


As for my quilt -I am still quilting it! Not much progress to show as yet -maybe next week!