Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jelly cups and other rainy day trifles

Yesterday was  one of those all day rainy days. We had made plenty of weekend plans, for a sunny day. Time for some new plans. I recently found an unopened packet of these gorgeous plastic jelly cups for $1 in an opshop. There were 12 in the pack in six wonderful pastel colours but Roboboy dropped four and broke them whilst ripping open the packet.

Suddenly with rainy gushing down, I was overcome by a desire to make jelly, from scratch. It is actually superbly easy and the kids LOVE it. If you buy a container of Ward's gelatine it has the instructions on the back. We dissolved 1 tbs of gelatine in half a cup of boiling water. Then we added 400 mls of pear syrup  from a can of tinned pears. (you could also probably use any fruit juice or cordial). We used the same pears diced into chunks as well for some of the cups. :Liongirl was in charge of dicing ( a blunt dinner knife works well) and Roboboy was in charge of distribution. He is so obsessional that each cup had to have six and only six pieces of pear.

Remember my post on the dried rosella flowers I was given? They were perfect for giving us those glorious violet pink jellies, just steep the flowers in a little boiling water and add this to the pear syrup and gelatine. Pour into cups and refrigerate for  few hours. If they are not sweet enough add a little sugar but my kids gobbled them up as is, with not an artifical colour or flavour to be seen.

What to do while the jellies are setting? We headed off to our local Tip Shop. This is where the City Council Dump and the Endeavour Foundation work together to salvage goods that have been taken to the dump, and  onsell the ones that are too good to go to landfill . Picture a huge op shop in a shed, open all weekend.

Some of the stuff was interesting, if you fancy a boat or two. I did find a lovely pyrex dish for $1 but Legoman managed to break it before the day was out. The kids had a thoroughly good time racing around the shed, road testing all the bikes while the rain pelted down outside.

A lot of the stuff was just junk. The only piece of furniture that was interesting was this desk and bedside tables combo in that cane style which is quite popular at the moment and just needed  a repaint, the whole set was $40. No room at Betsy's but someone else might be looking.

If you were a 17 year old wannabe film director, this would be the place to come to pull together an entire zombie film set on a budget.

On the way home, there was the non negotiable stop at Bunnings, our other rainy day backup plan. The kids played on the playground for ages, making friends with a little girl who Roboboy called "Whoopy", Liongirl called " Puppy" and whose actual name was "Poppy". Legoman was in the zone and managed to find the lucky red hammer from the lucky red hammer promotion. Five are hidden during the store each day.

A $10 gift voucher thank you very much to put towards his Father's day present. Would you believe he has been hankering for a self retracting hose reel? Or perhaps a new esky?

Legoman thought the umbrella wielding staff member who escorted us to our car was provided because he is married to an extremely hot yummy mummy ( and voiced this out loud to said escort). Only to realize that right on closing time Bunnings staff have an overriding concern for bringing back every last trolley in the carpark, hot wife or otherwise.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Foxes and nose tonsils, when small things cause big problems

We have had an exhausting week over here at Betsy's. See this cheeky minx? You would never guess that she is recovering from an operation yesterday. Adenoidectomy to be precise. Or for those who have no idea what adenoids are, I like to call them nose tonsils. Useless bits of tonsilly like things that if they are behaving you would never have any reason to know about them. In Liongirls case, they have been harbouring bacteria for about 5 months such that she has been requiring back to back courses of antibiotics, snoring, night waking and being generally less than princess like in her demeanor.

 So we spent an epic day at the hospital yesterday (picture amusing a grumpy, woken too early toddler who is hungry and thirsty for about 2 and a half hours in a confined space with less than adequate entertainment- and that was BEFORE  the operation).
I took the day off work today to care for her. She has bounced back so amazingly speedily that our day involved op shopping and babycinos. Now we are looking forward to the inner princess appearing and her very dark black under eye circles disappearing.

And, the day before the operation, knowing the week ahead of us, we awoke to discover this.

A sea of feathers under the trampoline, black, white and brown ones. Our three gorgeous girls, all dead, killed by a fox in the night. I am still in a state of disbelief. That there are actually foxes in inner city Brisbane, and that I am probably responsible for not checking that the door was bolted shut properly. We are very thankful that we discovered the poor headless chickens before the kids saw them. Roboboy is sad but not devastated, and Liongirl has no idea. I have had to borrow eggs from the neighbours and the yard is very quiet.

Just a little reminder for everyone to check your chickens and tuck them in,  to count your lucky stars if you have healthy children and if you have children that have seen the inside of a hospital be amazed at their ability to just get on with it and not dwell on the difficult bits.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sewing basket with a story

Had one of those op shop experiences this week. The sort where you not only find something that had been on a searching for list, but something most wonderful and unexpected. This sewing basket with it's murky green velvet and floral embroidered lid,  was for sale, with all its contents as well.

Suspect the original owner was probably around  my vintage, it has a  70's  vibe about it. If I had received this for my 10th birthday I would have been over the moon. The name pencilled carefully on the bottom in extremely neat grade 8 style handwriting says " Susan Grinsell". It is always exciting to take a peek at what treasures are inside. Look at the gorgeous mint green satin lining with built in pin cushion.

I can tell you that Susan had a fondness for tape measures ( she had three), was dabbling with fusing wire (whatever you do with that I have no idea) and was contemplating a " bra back repair" but this was never done as the required piece is still in the packet. She had a lovely assortment of buttons and most revealingly, a 1982  Commonwealth Games embroidered badge still in the packet. 

Last week I was reading another lovely Brisbane blog and stumbled across a link to my old year 11 boyfriend who is now a photographer. When we dated he was a drummer in a rock band. Knowing my luck he is probably married to Susan Grinsell and she is going to want her sewing basket back. Despite having over a million people, there seem to only be about 3 degrees of separation between people in Brisbane. A few months ago we sold Liongirl's cot in the weekend shopper. How super to discover that the purchaser was one of my clients at work who turned up on a Saturday morning when I was still in my pyjamas and the kids were running feral around the house.

Look what else I found. Three lovely pyrex bowls, 50 cents each and superb colours of course.

And check out the gorgeous crochet number for miss Liongirl. Inspiration for making my own. I have to say, after the cardigan to fit a guinea pig disaster, I really needed something to get me motivated again.

And the action shot, she wanted to put it on as soon as it came off the washing line.

And the item that I had been searching for? Well, would you believe I had been scouring ebay for some velour corduroy in a mustardy yellowy greenish colour to make a cushion for our bedroom. The inspiration came from a new painting that I will share shortly. And low and behold, a huge piece of yellowish mustardy greenish velour corduroy was just there waiting for me. I kid you not, I really had been looking on ebay for this but it is a tricky colour to search for.

It's the one on the bottom, a bit of a chameleon colour, in the top sewing basket photo it looks quite green. The fabric on top of it was bona fide polyester all the way baby. In this super cool mustard, white and brown zig zaggy pattern. No idea yet what to do with it, but could not bring myself to leave it behind. And the final item, well no photos yet but let me just say it involves a king sized chenille bedspread in immaculate condition. I think I was hyperventilating and frothing at the mouth when I stumbled onto it and then when she told me the price I just promptly had a turn and passed out. Images arriving soon, of the chenille, not me frothing at the mouth.

Linking in with Sophie and her fabulous thrifting adventures.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Treasure hunting the Geocaching way

Yesterday was a public holiday here in Brisbane for the Exhibition or Ekka as we all call it. Given that several of the occupants of this house have been almost continuously sick for the last 3 months, and the Ekka is a cesspit of disease, we made other plans.

A few days ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends wrote this post about going Geocaching in the Latvian countryside. Like all important things in life, she had first learnt about this from her hairdresser. Geocaching is the ultimate treasure hunt. Random strangers hide treasures all over the countryside, then leave clues and GPS coordinates for fellow treasure hunters to follow. Of course in Latvia this involves scouring the stone ruins of windmills and finding the tombstones of Baronesses. Our curiosity was piqued, nerds that we are, so we jumped straight onto and signed up (it's free). We were stunned to discover at least three hidden caches in our surrounding area , one hidden within a local park that we have frequented since Roboboy was first toddling.

There was no time to lose, snacks were packed, helmets buckled and our little biking convoy was on its way. Legoman is yet to own a bike so he enjoyed the job of towing Liongirl along. We seem to always need a snack stop within about 2 minutes of leaving the house.

We had approximate GPS coordinates on the iphone and a brief clue to indicate which section of the park to look in.  Of course we had to make several stops to sample playgrounds and collect flowers. I can highly recommend this trike and rope system for needing to get a toddler to travel long distances, the trike cost $19 in Kmart from memory and this journey would be at least 2-3 kms return.

The clue suggested we search within a particular area of the park, quite daunting when you don't really know what you are looking for. The kids were checking under all the trees, around trunks, along fences when Legoman finally spotted the cache. Excitement galore from us all.

Quite high up in a tree, hidden nesting inside an old bike helmet were the cache goodies. We knew there would usually be a notebook so we could record ourselves as finders, and sometimes there would be trade objects as well. You know, take one, leave something behind in its place.

Look at that. Amazing to think that we had been pounding the paths past this avenue of trees for the last 5 years, none the wiser to the treasures hidden there. We carefully recorded our details and packed it all up and hid it again. ( we plan to sneak back with a trade item, Roboboy has his eye on that snail) This cache spot is apparently one of a series of 15 with an individual clue in each spot to lead to a further final cache.

 Legoman is hooked, he and Roboboy are already plotting to team up with our neighbours the Menace brothers to tackle another cache within riding distance. He was also most excited to discover an iphone app that shows you the coordinates and clues for the three closest caches to any location you might be in (yes, that is 1.4 million caches worldwide). Or just jump onto and you can search all of Australia and New Zealand as well.

 Bored of girl talk at a cafe? Sneak off to that cache hidden just around the corner and be back in time for your pancakes. On holidays at the beach, sitting around while your wifey tries on togs in that little boutique? Duck out to that cache and be back in time to find  her a matching sarong. I think men and boys everywhere would be rejoicing to know there was such a fantastic excuse to sneak off from all the boring girl things we drag them along to. The only problem is, I want to go too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Budgies, buried treasure and bassoons - A great suburban adventure

We went out for a ride after school today, a team of great explorers on wheels. First stop was  a massive bird aviary a few streets away that is set directly adjacent to the nature strip. At least 30 budgies chirping away. And guess which one Roboboy has fallen in love with? See that manky mottled one in the middle ,the really decrepit one that was sitting in that exact spot on the perch two days ago when we walked past. Yep, my quirky boy has a knack for sniffing out fellow oddballs everywhere he goes. This is the budgie that would normally be picked last by anyone else. Roboboy loved his odd colours and odd patterns and decided to name him "Rainbow". Remember last week he did try and domesticate a stink bug. We did discuss that he was not having a bird until he was 10 ( that is mother talk for never ever ever having a caged bird but hope he forgets because ten is a long way away).

On our way home we took a different turn and found somewhere new that we had never discovered before. We have lived in this suburb for 11 years but it never ceases to amaze me what you can discover when you slow down to an explorers pace and take that different turn that normally in a busy rushed world you don't make the time to take.

A quiet dead end street high above the river. A long long winding staircase down to a hidden world.

A rolling expanse of meadow bathed in golden late afternoon winter sun. Stretching down to the calmness of a big river bordered by mangroves and washed up treasures. And completely quiet. Once I managed to get my noisy rabble to keep quiet, it was completely silent, not a car to be heard. Inner city suburban Brisbane, amazing.

We rolled on the grass, took crazy photos of each other, watched pelicans and just enjoyed that special yellow light you only get in the late afternoon. Then it was back up all those stairs to ride home and tell Dad what we had discovered.

Of course we had to stop at the pine cone tree on the way home to collect pine cones, you know, for the collection. And you will never believe what we discovered half buried under the base of the pine cone tree.

Yep a really old, ancient actually,sword with real gold and carvings from India. Apparently they have battles over there.

And look at this gorgeous house we found on our travels. Betsy would be excited. Darker grey than I was planning, and a much grander house than Betsy but the same gorgeous bungalow assymetry, as well as almost identical gates and fence. Actually, these gates are the fancy version of Betsy's but lets not spoil the fantasy.

So, we arrived  home for Betsy and I to dream about new grey frocks while Roboboy of course had to whip up a scabbard for the ancient sword.

And the bassoons? Where is the bassoon in this post I hear you all wondering.  A while ago Legoman and I were having a quiet conversation about Roboboy and all his quirks. He is complicated, challenging and amazing all at the same time and we know his quirks well. Can almost predict his choices based on them. I think the conversation was inspired by this hilarious post over at Maxabella Loves. ( Who would let their child play the euphonium for goodness sakes). We were debating which instrument our (manky-budgie- loving, stink-bug-rescuing) quirky boy would choose. And I made a suggestion and Legoman agreed. The ugliest weirdest instrument would have to be the one.

And then just the other day we were watching a segment of Playschool with Liongirl featuring an orchestra. And as we scanned all the instruments I asked Roboboy which one he would like to play. Perhaps a cello I suggested, or a trumpet like one of our neighbours, or something in the percussion section. And the camera paused in front of the ugliest weirdest instrument in the whole orchestra. And his little face lit up and he said " that one mama, that one- that's the one I want to play". The bassoon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jumping on the bandwagon

Yep, we are finally on, the vintage pyrex bandwagon of course. There is a lot of love out in blog world for the humble vintage pyrex bowl and Betsy and I are so excited to have joined the club. I feel compelled to reveal the secret to sourcing such an item as they are getting scarce in op shop circles. This one was from my local op shop, just down the road, the one I would pop into easily once or twice a week. Usually there is not much of interest.

Until I did a quick sideboard and wardrobe cleanout and took a huge bag of scary things like coasters made of laminated gum leaves, down to my local oppie. Secret Santa presents from 1999 and the like. I suspect the coasters had been spawning as there was also an equally nasty set of glass coasters with dodgy handpainted butterflies. And for this speedy cull, the universe decided I was to be rewarded with not only vintage pyrex but a small collection of treasures, all from the one shop.

This plate just caught my eye for the lovely pattern, made in Germany, no idea if it's new or old but could imagine it covered in bikkies.

And just look at this dress.  A beautiful home made pale pink dress with fabric in that old style stiff cotton that is almost like linen. Still smelling very much like a nanna's wardrobe and with the pearliest pink buttons all the way up the back. But the lucky little girl who wore this (maybe once, to a wedding perhaps as it is in immaculate condition) had another little sister dress to this one.

This one is white with a gorgeous pink frill down the front but has a zipper in the back and is not lined like the pink one. I can't wait to dress miss Liongirl up in these and take some photos. Am a little scared to wash them though, any tips on this kind of fabric would be appreciated.

And one lovely pink, purple and pale blue wool blanket to finish off with. Confirms to me that culling and giving away is really, really worthwhile. Now, I do also have a small confession to make. I have been experimenting with house colours again. Exterior colours actually. After living with my previous colour choice for a few months and it being too cold to actually do any nocturnal painting, I decided my previous colour choice was too neutral, bland and too similar to the neighbours house. Now I'm leaning towards grey. And I've started mixing my own as I can't find a sample colour I like.

It's obviously a work in progress. Did make a nice backdrop to the German plate photo, that's my own colour mix going on. Just need to live with it for a while and let the weather warm up a bit to be sure. Linking in with Sophie to see if anyone else had a falling in love with pyrex kind of weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2011

We love oilcloth

The projects have been humming away over here at Betsy's. Several on the go and one complete and ready to share. Remember these stools courtesy of a rainy day at Ikea?

Well they were chosen to complete the makeover to the kids craft table. I bought this second hand coffee table on ebay for $20. Perfect height and size for creative projects. Not so perfect as a visual feature at the end of my lounge room.

I had been itching to tackle a simple oilcloth project. Found some gorgeous Heather Bailey laminated fabric and realized this might be something I could actually finish in one session. One staple gun purchased and let's go.

This was super easy and took me about 30 minutes to do. And look at the difference.  The legs were already green and amazingly matched pretty well. And so did my old canisters that contain all the crafting essentials.

The kids love it. Look what Roboboy did before school yesterday. I swear the inspired creative table decor is behind his recent prolific art production.

Mother and baby fire breathing dragon of course. And we mustn't leave miss Liongirl out of it all, this one came home from Nonna's. Apparently she chose all the colours and the stencil design.

Anyway, I just love looking at this gorgeous corner of my lounge room, my first step at reclaiming this space as one where I love everything in it and there are no nasty plastic toys to be seen. Ooops, was that a piece of lego that just got sucked up into the vacuum?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eight words no mother should hear

A few incidents this week have been cause for concern.

Case 1. The above outfit was selected by Miss Liongirl to wear to school drop off. ALL chosen by her ( except that I made her wear a long sleeved shirt under the short sleeved one that she wanted). Just to clarify, yes it is a beanie with earflaps, 2 shirts, a tutu, jeggings which are concealed and striped gumboots. None of this was of particular concern to me. Until we did the school drop off and one of the other mothers commented on how cute she looked. She then went on to say that Liongirl has obviously got her dress sense from me.

What does one say to that? I swear I have never left the house in a  tutu, do not even own a tutu. Maybe that she can tell I would secretly love a tutu.  Not sure if it is a compliment or not really!

Just a quick pose under the frangipani tree as there is a natural seat within the trunk and it's a good spot to ponder what the chooks are up to.

Case 2. Significantly higher grade concern and in two parts

Roboboy seems to be of the opinion that he and I share a brain. That I just know stuff that he is thinking with no real need to elaborate or explain. Last night we went out to dinner with the grandparents from interstate. As we left the pub Roboboy started to leap excitedly into the air pointing into the distance and exclaiming "mama, mama" followed by more exaggerated pointing. I looked and saw.......... not much really but then saw a the lights of a plane flashing in the sky, so I said "Oh yes, a plane".

 He then looked at me like I was a few iced vovo's short of a picnic and said "Units, units" in a voice I would reserve for Legoman arriving home with diamond jewellery. The kid has some sort of weird interest in units and townhouses. However, this is really a minor concern overall. The words of great concern came as I was tucking him into bed.

"Mama, I just had to rescue him, two boys were poking him with sticks and I thought he might get really, really hurt". I kept making the bed and distractedly replied " Who's that matey". Then came those eight words - "THE STINK BUG, HE'S IN MY LUNCH BOX".

At least he's cranking out some splendid art works. This is a birthday card for his best mate who was turning six. The seventh candle is the one for the wish. Note the tray under the cake,  he has been happily directing the styling of my blog photos as well. Does help distract from  the stink bug situation.