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Blessing Tree

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Having had a bit of a creative slump lately, I was moping around at home trying to figure out something I could do to get me back on track.  I didn’t want to make a card (odd, for me, because I always like making cards) and my attempts at making a Kelly Rae Roberts-inspired collage were all dismal and uninspiring.  So, what to do?

I have a box of “bits” that I hold on to for upcycling/altering or using in other projects.  It’s got tins and wooden blocks, boxes, decorations and papier mache forms.  Basically, it’s a box of crap that I have collected.  It’s a hoarder’s dream, but it does come in handy when I am stuck for inspiration and want to do something different.

So, with that in mind, I rummaged around and found these weird Christmas decorations.  I bought them years ago in a post-Xmas sale, so they only cost me 25c each or something (the original price was $9.99 – ridiculous!).  I thought they would be good for altering, stamping on, painting etc.  I liked the shape and the fact they had a good solid base, as well as being able to hang them from something.

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Crazily expensive Xmas decoration!

I had been playing around with them for a bit when I decided to make a tree out of one of them.  Don’t ask me why.  I like trees, I guess, but I had never really had an urgent desire  to make a little mini-tree of my own.  This one came together reasonably quickly, once I got into it.  I covered the body/trunk in dictionary text and sealed it with gel medium mixed with a little black and brown paint.  I raided some sticks from the neighbour’s tree and made wee little branches with them, stuck into the holes in the wooden shape.

During a crafty session with my nephews and nieces, I made some teeny-weeny mushrooms and a little bird out of polymer clay.  After baking them and letting them cool, I painted them (with a lot of squinting) with acrylic paints.

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Polymer clay teeny-tiny mushrooms and a birdie!
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Painting mushroom # 1
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Adding the final detail to mushroom # 3.  Do you know how fiddly it is to paint tiny little “gills” on a tiny little mushroom?
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Wee birdie.  I didn’t make him too detailed.  Partly out of laziness, but mostly because I was scared of making a shemozzle out of it.

I then crafted a little bird’s nest from twine, which was oddly therapeutic. Just twisting and fraying the twine and making it a roughly bird-nesty shape.  I really do like making tiny things.  I don’t know why, but they are very satisfying and appealing, from a creative point of view.  I really do need to wear my glasses when doing this stuff though!

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Mini bird’s nest!
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Happy little birdie in a tiny nest!

Eventually, it was all put together (very carefully – it’s not the most robust of creations!), sitting on a base of sphagnum moss glued to a wooden lid, and I’m pretty happy with it.  It’s just for me.  No purpose behind it (not a gift or something to sell) – it’s just purely for me.  I added the “Benedictus” text (from an old large print dictionary) because, very roughly translated, it means “Blessed Be” which kinda resonates with me for various reasons.  I wanting to make some more things like this now.  I’m feeling the mixed-media vibe right now!  I’d like to try some tea-bag art next…will keep you posted!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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The final product.  Blessing Tree complete.  Blessed Be!
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Mis-Beehaving

My Mum has a gorgeous garden.  She keeps it looking lovely, but also endeavours to make it as water-saving and bee/bird-friendly as possible.  She has lots of natives combined with more traditional, cottage garden plants.  It’s not easy having a nice garden in WA.  The Summers are so hot and even in the “wetter” months things can dry out. A couple of years ago, Mum got a landscaper in to help her design an eco-friendly (but still beautiful) garden that she could maintain herself and continue to work on.  She’s only a pensioner, my Mum, so it was all done on a strict budget, saving money where possible (the landscaper was brilliant).

What she ended up with is a low-maintenance garden that is pretty all year round and makes the most of every season.  It is also very welcoming to native birds and bees and the odd frog or two.  Mum’s been very keen on attracting the native Blue Banded Bee, a cute little species of bee that lives a solitary life, with the females building their nests in singular burrows, in mud or soft mortar (or you can build them a little house, like THESE).  They don’t create large stores of honey, so they are not suitable for honey production.  BBBs don’t mind having close neighbours, in fact they will often build their nests right next door to another bee, although they still do not behave in a “colony” kind of way.

They are excellent pollinators, using the “buzz” method, which means they grasp the flower and basically give it a good shake, by shivering their flight muscles, or banging their head on the flower (yes, really).  This releases the pollen, which is hidden in tiny capsules.  Many flowers require this type of pollination, so blue banded bees are very necessary to the continuation of several plant species.

While they do have a mild sting, BBBs are not very aggressive.  They move very quickly and can hover, unlike most other bees.  They are a total pain to photograph (ha ha) because they don’t stay still for long, and move at a much faster pace than regular bees, zipping around in a blur that causes the photographer (ie me) to swear a lot and dance around the garden, yelling “Keep still, dammit!”

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If you look VERY closely, you can just see the bee, hovering about, in the centre of the photo.

They are attracted primarily to white or blue flowers (possibly because it is better for camouflage) and are particularly good at pollinating tomatoes, eggplants and kiwifruit apparently.  So much so, there are plans to use them as greenhouse bees for large-scale tomato production.

BBBs are small critters, about 11mm in length, and have bands of iridescent pale blue-almost white on their abdomens.  When they fly, they look like a little flash of blue.
At night, the males cling to  plant stems, like tiny little chickens roosting for the night 🙂

Bees, in general, are so important to the well-being of the planet.  We should look after them and give them happy habitats and clean environments.   I personally love the little critters (probably because I have never been stung!) and enjoy watching them and their behaviour.  I find if you just let them get on with their business, they will stay out of yours.  Blue Banded Bees are really nice to watch and because they are not aggressive, you can get up close and personal with them, plus there is no risk of being attacked by a swarm!

You can find out more info about the Blue Banded Bee HERE

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Finally – a perfect shot!  It took me probably an hour to get this little guy to stay still long enough for me to take his photo.  Look at those amazing antennae and perfect stripes!
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How to Measure Christmas

Christmas Day is just around the corner.  I can’t believe how quickly it has come up this year.  I probably say that every year, but this last twelve months has whizzed by, and so much has happened.  It’s been such a strange, disturbing year, with a lot of loss and grief for so many people.  I don’t know about you, but I am praying for a much kinder 2017.

My Mum is currently suffering with a nasty cough/virus and it makes me very anxious.  I can’t bear for her to be ill.  She is always so healthy and I sometimes forget she is a senior now, and small illnesses can be potentially dangerous.  Also, being sick at Christmas sucks!  I know she feels miserable and concerned and also annoyed that she can’t do a lot – she hates neglecting her garden and other chores.  I just worry incessantly, especially as I am not just around the corner but 30 minutes drive away, and I can’t keep a close eye on her.  Luckily, my best friend’s Mum is just around the corner – in fact, she is taking Mum to the doctor’s this morning (I would have done but had no one to cover me at work). Hopefully she will get some antibiotics (even though she hates taking them, she admits she probably needs some this time) and be on the mend soon.  We’re meant to be spending Christmas Eve with my brother and his family, but I don’t know if she will be well enough at this stage 😦

It’s funny how, in the lead up to Christmas, you think about all the things you would like, and hope that Santa obliges.  This year, I just want my Mum to be well, and for us all to have a nice, peaceful, stress-free time together, with no dramas.

This week, I managed to get all my Christmas shopping done in record time.  I have less people to buy for this year, for one reason or another, and it made it much easier.  I made a few gifts too, which meant less spending (always a good thing) and less stress (a very good thing).  I also decided not to do the fancy wrapping I always do, which usually ends up with me stressed out of my brain and wrapping gifts every night until midnight, making sure they all fit a “theme” and all look decorative and pretty.  Not this year.  I used store-bought wrapping paper and did nothing fancier than tying them with string.  I didn’t even use matching tags!  *gasps*  It just made everything so much easier and quicker and reduced my stress by about a million percent.  I am wrapped and done, ahead of time.

Whilst looking for gifts for my Mum, I pretty much followed the list she had given me (an Ian Rankin book, some gardening stuff, a Michael Buble CD, pyjamas) but I always like to get her some other little extras too, so she has some surprises.  I found this set of measuring cups in an op-shop and thought she might like them.  They look vintage (although I suspect they are not) and I liked the little Wintery scene on them, which I thought would also make them ideal for Christmas decorating, if Mum didn’t want to use them as actual measuring cups.  I just thought they were sweet.  And at $5.00 for the three, I wasn’t exactly breaking the bank.

I hope she likes them, and is well enough to enjoy all of her presents.
That’s all I want for Christmas.

Best wishes to you all.  Stay well and take care of each other x

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Wolf Pack

Hello everyone 🙂  Hope your weekend was nice and relaxing, or busy and challenging if you prefer that kind of thing!  Mine was lovely – spent much of it with family and friends and the weather was gloriously warm.

As it was my Mum’s 70th on Saturday, I spent Saturday night and all of Sunday with her.  She had planned various little get-togethers, so we spent a lot of time sitting drinking tea and feeding our faces.  Can’t complain, but my diet has been seriously derailed.

We also had another guest come to tea, and she brought her whole family.  This Wolf Spider decided to hang out in Mum’s kitchen with all her babies.  Hundreds of babies!  If you look closely, you will see is she hauling them around on her back.  It makes her look much bigger than she actually is (even though these little critters can get pretty big and scary ha ha) and you can see in the second picture how much smaller she is.  It was a really hot day when she came in so we put a dish of water out for her.  We’re a bit weird like that 🙂  We used to have a spider that came down every day for a drink of milk – fascinating to watch and really cute.

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Anyway, this baby-momma had LOADS of little free-loaders on her back and basically proceeded to dump them all in Mum’s house overnight.  Tiny wee things they are and they will eventually make their way outside because that’s where the food supply is!  A few of them sadly met a watery death in the bowl of water we had left out.  Whoops.  Not sure if they fell in there when Mummy Spidey was having a drink or if they wandered in by themselves.  RIP little dudes – your lives were cut tragically short!

Wolf Spiders are venomous but not in the deadly sense – they can give you a painful bite if provoked, which can lead to swelling, itchiness and general localised pain.  If you’re really unlucky you might have a worse reaction, like nausea, headaches, dizziness etc.  But I’ve been around these critters my whole life and they pretty much mind their own business and don’t go around attacking people unless provoked.  For instance, there was the time I got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around me.  Hmmmm, I thought, there’s something scratchy in this towel…opened the towel only to discover a VERY LARGE  Wolf Spider sitting rather grumpily on my hip.  Cue screaming and panicking.  Now, I am not squeamish about spiders – I don’t kill them or worry too much about them in general –  however I do draw the line at a humongous hairy beastie the size of my hand catching a lift on my naked body.  But she didn’t bite me, that’s the point I was getting to.  They’re not overly aggressive – they will sometimes rear up at you a bit if you provoke them or try to relocate them with a broom or something – but they’re not jumpy, bitey creatures.  Unless you’re a fly or another insect.  Apparently, some of the larger species of Wolfy can also catch and eat frogs and toads.  Am I freaking you out yet?

This little lady in Mum’s kitchen was only small and has a lot of growing to do.  Having incubated and hatched her babies, she has done her job and now she will go off and live her life again.  The babies have to fend for themselves now (actually, even when they are with her she really only protects them by having them on her back – if one falls off it’s tough luck!) and hopefully not fall in to any more bowls of water!

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Enjoy your day everyone – hope your spidey senses keep you out of mischief 🙂

x

P.S : I had to include this close-up shot from the Australian Reptile Park (all photo credit to them) – isn’t it gorgeous? Those eyes!  And, um, those fangs!

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Spring Finally Arrives…

This has been a weird Spring.  Many people have reported on the Spring Deficit experienced this year.  Everything from people feeling more moody due to the extended SAD we’ve been subjected to throughout September and October (where is the sun?!) to business experiencing a down-turn in revenue (you try selling ice creams in the middle of a freezing cold, wet and blustery day that goes on for weeks!).  Neighbourhood plants have been very confused too – never knowing from one day to the next as to what season it is.  My garden (such as it is at the new house) is a bit hit and miss, with things that should be flowering NOT flowering, and things that should have stopped flowering STARTING to flower.

But, as of this last week, Spring appears to making some effort to show up.  We’ve had some lovely sunny days and temperatures have started rising.  My garden is responding to the warmer conditions and beginning to look a bit more colourful and I, in turn, have been whinging less and dressing more like someone who lives in Australia, rather than a native of Antarctica.   My beautiful pelargonium is finally in flower – isn’t she a stunner?  I’ve had this plant for years and have had many cuttings from her, all of which have flowered prolifically.  She’s actually a little more purple than the picture shows, and I think she is a Spanish Angel, but don’t quote me on that – the label disintegrated a long time ago!

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been busily re-potting a lot of my poor plants that have been very neglected during my move (and the months preceding it, if I’m honest).  Even my cacti were feeling a bit sad and unloved.  I re-potted them and in a matter of days they started to look happier and less, well, dead.  My little bunny cactus is much more sprightly looking now (if a plant can be sprightly!).  He is an off-shoot of my original cactus from a few years back, and is only a couple of inches high.  Adorable.

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My much-loved aloe is doing really well (he never lets me down even when I treat him badly and forget he exists) and is even sprouting a flower spike, which I take to mean he is happy.  I have given him a bigger pot and he is going great guns.  If he could smile, he’d be giving me a big, toothy, cheeky grin.  Possibly a wink and a “How YOU doin;?”
He’s just that sort of guy 🙂

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I even have a couple of sad little lemons starting to develop on my potted lemon tree.  It desperately needs feeding but I keep forgetting…

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My white geranium is blossoming too.  Love a nice pristine, white flower.  I also bought this one at the same time as my original bunny cactus, and it has been a regular healthy bloomer ever since.  I love geraniums – they are essential in a low maintenance garden.  So pretty and prolific and easy to take cuttings from.  They don’t die very easily, which is a bonus when you’re a black thumb kind of gardener like me.

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The aeonium cuttings I pinched from my rental unit are doing nicely too.  They are all in flower and just so pretty.  I’m glad I managed to salvage a few pieces when I moved out – they are such great plants and so easy to look after and keep alive!  Plus they grow so quickly and are very water-wise.

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Also in my garden area, but not something I have potted or grown myself…this little guy.  I believe he is an Australian Jumping Peacock Spider .  Isn’t he cute?  I didn’t get the best photo because he was so teeny-tiny and my camera is pretty rubbish.  Also, because he wouldn’t keep still and kept leaping about (as jumping spiders do).  He is about 5mm long and has a bright red and blue pattern on his butt.  The blue is hard to see in this picture, but it is very striking.  I love jumping spiders – they’re awesome.  I’ve never seen one like this before – or maybe I just haven’t paid attention (more likely).  I hope he is good at eating mosquitoes…

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So, Spring has sprung and is working its magic, not only on the garden but on me as well.  I  just function so much better in the warm weather and get a lot more done.  I think my house is going to be pretty hot in Summer, so I may be regretting those words soon.  Until then, I am happy to see the sun shining every day and feeling its heat in these old bones.

Hope your day (or at least your heart) is full of sunshine today 🙂

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Cauliflower and Feta Fritters

Everyone is so into cauliflower right now.  It seems everywhere I look there’s cauliflower rice, pizza bases made with cauliflower, and cauliflower mash to replace the good old potato variety.  I have a slight issue with this humble brassica – it gives me tummy ache – and I have to be very careful about eating it.  Sometimes I can have it and it causes no problems but, other times, it KILLS ME and leaves me writhing about in agony wishing for death.  It’s not pretty.
That said, I have been craving some cauliflower action for the last few weeks and thought I would give it a gentle try.  My renal diet is so restrictive and I am always looking for fruit and veg alternatives to give me some variety.  So, I made these fritters.  I was bad and fried them (I never fry anything) because the batter was fairly wet, but I used only a spray of oil.  They cooked super quickly and were easy to flip etc.  Very tasty indeed.  And only a slight tummy ache afterwards (note to self : give up on cauliflower!) which was totally worth it, and may not have even been related…  Try them for yourself – you could substitute any vegies into the basic batter mix, which is what I’m going to do next time for a more
pain-free meal! 🙂

Cauliflower & Feta Fritters

Ingredients

salt & pepper
olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed into small florets

2 eggs
½ cup wholemeal flour
¼ cup milk
1/2 cup crumbed feta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp dried parsley

Method

Spread the florets of cauliflower out on a baking tray.  Drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper (don’t go overboard with the salt – the feta has plenty in it). Bake in oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, until cauliflower is starting to char and become soft.  Remove from oven and allow to cool down.  Tip onto a chopping board and roughly chop.

Combine other ingredients in a large bowl and add cauliflower to form a batter. Mix well.

Heat a fry pan and spray with a little cooking oil.  Drop  spoonfuls of mixture onto fry pan and fry on both sides until firm and golden brown (this takes only a few minutes).  Place on kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil and repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with wedges of lime or some salsa or anything you like!  This recipe makes about 12 small-medium fritters.

Enjoy!

PS If you happen to be photographing your culinary efforts, I strongly recommend paying close attention to what you’re doing.  This way, you don’t trip over and throw the entire plate of fritters all over your freshly-mopped floor, like I did.  You wouldn’t know it from the photo, but my fritters were thrown far and wide across my lounge room in a spectacular display of clumsiness.  See?  It’s the cauliflower…it hates me 🙂

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Decorating FTW

I’m finally getting sorted in my new house.  I have procrastinated long enough, waiting to have all the storage display furniture I need in order to put things away and stop living out of boxes.  But, having come to my senses, I have decided that if I wait until everything is perfect and I have everything I need (or want), I will never get tidy have a home that I can actually feel happy to have visitors in.

So, with that in mind, I did a big clean up today and proceeded with some serious nesting.  My new console table in the entrance is great – it will enable me to store lots of stuff and it’s light and easy for me to move (with removable shelves).  I had wanted a sideboard/buffet for this area but had been unable to find one I liked or could afford.  In the end, I figured an “open” storage item would be better in my little house, and make things feel less closed in. I want to get baskets for the bottom shelf but am having trouble finding just the right ones, so at the moment it has IKEA boxes in it (not shown)
– they’ll do for now.

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I am going to have the big mirror mounted on the wall but, for now, it will just sit on the table.  It’s heavy enough to stay put.  I’ve tried to make all the knick-knacks and decorative pieces in the same sort of colour scheme/tone.  There’s artwork by my brother, a vintage child’s suitcase (rescued from a rubbish bin!), some op-shop finds, a stone gargoyle from a visit to the UK, tarot cards and a teeny weeny little vintage ivory elephant my Mum gave me.  I kinda hope the elephant is actually bone, not ivory…but it’s really old so I’m thinking it’s the less-than-p.c ivory.

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I think it’s all come together well.  I just hope I can get the rest of the house sorted and fit for human habitation and guests.  I actually hoovered and mopped the floors today!  Like a grown up person!  I did laundry and weeding and dusted and generally acted like an adult.  Hopefully this will not just be a passing fad for me.  I’m trying to be more domesticated.  I need to get a smaller vacuum cleaner for the stairs and second floor – lugging my big Dyson up and down the stairs is not great for my back.  I’m still suffering with a sore rib (it’s Costochondritis which is very painful, but nothing serious – just gotta give it time to settle down) and so I’ve probably done more than I should today.  I’ve lifted lots of heavy boxes and not rested at all so am expecting to be a bit delicate tomorrow.

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My craft room is still in a terrible state (hence the crafting lull I find myself in currently) but I am hoping to tackle that next.  I am dying to get stuck into something creative.  At the moment, the most creative I am being is moving boxes from one end of the room to another and figuring out ways to stack them so they don’t collapse on me.

Hope your day has been productive and happy 🙂