Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas to all...

To all my family and friends, wishes for joy this festive season!  May you carry the Christmas spirit in your heart into 2011 and have a wonderful year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Something Interesting...

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of a history nut, so this article from Craftlovers hit the spot for a bit of historical Christmas trivia.  Thought you might enjoy it too.

                                                                  Copyright free Image courtesy of the Graphics Fairy

"When we think back on the Victorian era we picture opulence, clutter and gracious living. Lavish decorators and passionate collectors, the Victorians gave us the sewing machine, the crazy quilt and the urge to embroider anything that isn’t nailed down. They also gave us Christmas.

Christmas, or ‘Mass of Christ’, has been celebrated on the December 25 since the 4th century. Throughout Europe and America it was a time for feasting, exchanging gifts and coming together to celebrate, until the holiday was outlawed by the Puritans in 1552. The law was eventually overturned by King Charles II, but the holiday never really regained favour until Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837.
Her husband, Prince Albert, was German and when he moved to England, he brought with him the deep love of Christmas so common in his country. In 1841 he decorated a large fir tree for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and the holiday was reborn.

The Victorians loved the idea of a Christmas tree, and soon one could be found in every home. They decorated them with gingerbread men, cookies, candies, fruit, cotton Santas, paper ornaments, candles, pine cones,
small toys, chains of popcorn, anything small enough to hang from a branch was used to make the tree colourful and bright.

Cornucopiae, which translates literally as ‘horns of plenty’, were a very popular ornament. Made from paper twisted into small cones and lavishly decorated, they were filled with all manner of sweet, dainty things and were hung from the tree for the children to find on Christmas morning.

Electric fairy lights, still one of our most popular decorations today, were invented during this time. For many years people had adorned their trees with candles, resulting in some devastating fires. Thomas Edison’s glowing globes were much safer and the sight of the twinkling lights through a parlour window must have been a heartening one on a cold, winter’s night in England.

A typical Victorian Christmas day began with the family attending Mass. This was followed by a grand dinner with all the trimmings. For inspiration when planning her feast a lady never had to look very far – magazines and newspapers were packed with advice on how to prepare the perfect Christmas meal.

A popular periodical at the time, Godey’s Lady’s Book recommended a menu featuring raw oysters, clear soup, fried smelts, sautéed potatoes, peas, sweetbreads, turkey, cranberry sauce, salad, roman punch, croquettes, crackers, cheese, pudding, macaroons, fruit and coffee. After all that it was a wonder the revellers had the energy for anything more than a quiet nap on the couch! But no, after the meal came the serious business of exchanging gifts.

The ideal gift was the result of months of careful work and planning. The Victorians considered it far better to give something made with your own hands than to buy something from a shop – and again the magazines and journals were quick to offer suggestions. An apron for mother, a scarf for father, for sister, a muff or ribbons for her hair and for grandmother, a pincushion ‘pretty enough to hang on the tree’. A pamphlet released by Harper’s Bazaar in 1879 entitled ‘Christmas Presents for Gentlemen’ recommended that a woman give that special man in her life a handkerchief hemmed and embroidered with her own hair. It said ‘Gentlemen do not care for the pretty trifles and decorations that delight ladies ... What, then, shall she give? Here is the woman’s advantage. She has her hands’.

Finally, the family, decked out in their brand-new embroidered slippers, aprons and suspenders, gathered in the parlour for carols and games.  Carolling was an ancient custom that had died out before the 19th century, but the Victorians loved it and revived the old tunes, as well as penning many new ones. In front of the fire, or in groups going from door to door, they lifted their voices in song, bringing festive cheer and comfort to all who heard them.

The Christmas card and cracker were two more inventions of this time. The Christmas card was the brainchild of the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Henry Cole. He had a very large circle of acquaintances, and asked artist John Calcott Horsley to design him a card he could use to send out Christmas greetings.  The card depicted a family party in progress and bore the inscription ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You’. The idea caught on very quickly and soon everyone was making their own cards, as well as buying manufactured ones by the thousands.

The Christmas cracker was invented by a confectioner named Thomas Smith. While sitting in front of his fire one day, a jet of resin from a log burst into flame with a resounding ‘crack’. Deciding this would be a great novelty for Christmas, Smith designed a log-shaped package, holding a bonbon and a motto, that made a loud bang when pulled apart. By the end of the nineteenth century his company was producing 14 million crackers a year.

From cranberries to candles, the Victorians loved everything about Christmas and it is thanks to their enthusiasm that we have it to celebrate today. So even if you don’t fancy a handkerchief monogrammed with human hair – sing a carol, sign a card and steal a kiss under the mistletoe for good luck."

P.S.  You have to know the past to understand the present.” Dr Carl Sagan

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Festive update...finally.

I know it's been a while! It has been extremely busy around here since my last post. Notwithstanding work 5 days a week, we have had...

the putting up and decorating of the Christmas tree...

Year 1 Carols by Torchlight...

(where we won a hamper in the raffle, no less...yay!)

a high school orientation day, the Year 7 dance, a swimming carnival, 2 excursions, a school presentation assembly, several birthdays of family members and friends...

the Year 7 graduation ceremony...

class break-up parties and the accompanying home made treats...

the making of many gingerbread Christmas trees as gifts...

finally getting some Christmas decorating done around the house...

as well my crafting weekend away to the Twilight2Twilight Retreat at Esk,  a trip to see family on the Sunshine Coast and several lots of visitors.

Phew! Even I didn't realise how much we've fitted into the last 3 weeks.

Hope the festive season isn't too crazy for you all, and that those on holiday are enjoying some special family time.

Joy to you all!

P.S. “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime and too sleepy to worry at night.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nom nom nom...

Is there anything better for lunch than bruschetta made with vine-ripened spring tomatoes from your own garden? Mmmmmmmm.
Some days I just have to take the time to appreciate how lucky I am.

P.S "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, November 4, 2010

65 Years...

Last weekend my paternal grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. 

These days, that is seriously an achievement! With people marrying later in life (or not at all) and a divorce rate of 1 in 3, this kind of occasion is certain to become a rarity.

As well as a great cake, the extended family celebrated with a hugely over-catered lunch (very cool leftovers for everyone!), speeches, gifts and congratulatory letters from the Queen, the Governor-General and the Premier. The happy couple were very chuffed!

So what to you give a couple in their 80's with simple tastes as an anniversary gift?? This was my dilemma as I looked up the traditional gift for 65 years of marriage on Wikipedia...

 Yikes! Unfortunately blue sapphires were a bit out of the price range :(

However, this is what you can do with some sparkly blue brads and bits of card, paper and ribbon...

The card turned out really nicely, and didn't take long as I was able to use a pre-cut piece for the centre and pair it with the matching paper on the card front. Some ribbon, rhinestone brads and sparkly Thickers numbers finished it off, along with a "Happy Anniversary' stamp on the inside.

While I really think they deserved a gift more like this...

                                                              Photo courtesy of

 the card actually held a Coles-Myer gift card and was attached to a sweet flowering rose in a sapphire-coloured ceramic pot, tied with a big sapphire blue organza ribbon. (You'll have to take my word for it - we were running too late for photos at that stage!) Oh well. Hope they liked it anyway!

P.S. 'A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.  The order varies for any given year.'  Paul Sweeney

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy World Teachers' Day

To all the teachers out there, have a wonderful day!

I am a big fan of puns, as I know lots of teachers are. I always try to give the kid's teachers something thoughtful as a gift at this time of year, but sweet and funny rather than soppy and sentimental.

Here is this year's effort for the three teachers 'fortunate' enough to have the joy of my childrens' company.

I took these items, from the supermarket and the $2 shop...

melted the chocolate and half dipped the fortune cookies.

While they were setting, I used a plate to draw large circles on baking paper (you could also use waxed lunch wrap). I cut it them out and lined the noodle boxes.

 (The plate has a diameter of 27cm - the circle fits the 16 ounce box perfectly.)

Then I printed the 'punny' cards and box labels, using our school colours of maroon and gold. I timmed the cards and rounded the corners, then attached a little punched tag (I think it's a 'Stampin' Up' one) with a hole for tying to the box handle.

I used a circle cutter and scallop punch, together with a co-ordinating piece of ribbon from my stash for the labels, and attached them to the front of the noodle boxes with double sided tape.

I carefully packed 7 cookies into each 16 ounce box and closed them up.  (I ended up leaving out the chocolate sticks - I was going to use 2 in each to look like chopsticks, but I was scared they would break when I closed the box.)

 Once the kids had added their message to the back, I attached the cards to the box handles with white cotton kitchen twine.

Voila! A cheesy gift to bring a little smile to a hardworking teacher's face.

P.S. "Teachers are expected to reach unattainable goals with inadequate tools. The miracle is that, at times, they accomplish this impossible task. " Haim Ginott

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nature's Bounty

While pruning the Lilly-pillies in our garden may be a bit of a chore, it does mean I get to fill the house with these for a few days...

In every corner...

Aren't they beautiful?

P.S. "The earth laughs in flowers." -  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Little bit Geeky...

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a dark secret...

I am a big fan of *Star Wars*.

Oh, heck.  STAR WARS.  There, I said it. 

The original ones, that is.   (I think I, II & III are over-hyped merchandising opportunities and lack the heart that the original series embraced, despite their amazing special effects and satisfyingly tidy plot tie-ins...I really wanted to love them, but I just can't. But that's a whole other discussion.)

Anyhoo, dark secrets aside, have a look at this amazingly clever cuteness I came across on Etsy while looking for something else entirely...*excited squeak*

I need to learn to crochet!! What the Sith am I waiting for!!

P.S.  "Meditate on this, I will."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vintage-y Goodness...

My M.I.L. is downsizing, in anticipation of selling her house and having a retirement seachange. While it will be sad to have her further away, we will have nice coastal location to visit when we can make the trip.

AND...I have inherited some great vintage linens in the clearout! Some were hers, and some her mum's. Check out these retro lovelies...

And these dainty doilies...

And this piece of cute kitch from Nana's European travels.

Now that everthing has had a clean and press, I had to do something with it to justify bringing yet more 'stuff' into my house. I have some plans for the doilies, but in the meantime I put my favourite old tablecloth to use with some things from around the house...


Saturday, October 2, 2010

He's an Individual...

We recently celebrated the birthday of the middle child. I asked him what type of cake he'd like. I assumed the answer would be "a blue one" or "one with 'Halo' on it" or something of that nature.

Ever knowing his own mind, he announced "A large cheesecake please. No wait - a large coconut cheesecake!" I don't know if he has ever had coconut cheesecake before, but he was positive in his decision and didn't want any alternatives. I should have known - he is anything but predictable.

Although it wasn't exactly a traditional birthday cake, it was delicious!

I thought I'd share the recipe I used from Simply Great Meals...

Baked Coconut Cheesecake

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups crushed shortbread biscuits with 1/2 cup shredded coconut and 1 tbsp brown sugar in a bowl. Stir in 100g melted butter.
2. Press the mixture over the base (I did the sides as well) of a 22cm springform pan. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
3. Place 750g softened cream cheese and 3/4 cup caster sugar into a large bowl and beat until until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. Add 1/2 cup coconut cream and beat until combined.
4. Pour cheese mixture into the prepared crumb base and put on a baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 150oC for 40 minutes. Once cooked, turn the oven off and allow to cool before removing. refigerate until needed.

As you can see, I decorated it with whipped cream (with a few drops of coconut essence added) and halved 'Raffaello' chocolates, as well as some special candles - black wax with multi-coloured glitter, and some stars cut from wrapping paper. Mr Indivual was most impressed.

If you're making the cake as a dessert, I suggest serving a thin slice with a tart sauce (like a lime drizzle or raspberry coulis) as it is very sweet and rich. This recipe will easily serve 15.

Happy baking, and Happy Birthday F.

P.S. "A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece."
Ludwig Erhard

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Finally....something crafty!

I know it's been a while since I posted anything that's been made by my own hands. I have made a few birthday & anniversary cards, but nothing blog-worthy, so I thought I'd show you this card compendium I made for a friend's birthday recently.

While she is very crafty herself, she doesn't often make cards. (Can you beleive it - she's only studying full-time in her honours year, writing her thesis, working as an intern and being wife and Mum of two high-needs kids at home - how she doesn't fit in card-making I don't know.)

So I made her this little number:

It's a concertina file with 4 spaces inside to hold cards, for the special occasions that she does make them. Of course, I didn't want a gift that entailed lots of work and expectation, so I gave it pre-loaded...

Happy Birthday A!

P.S.  "I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others. "  Wole Soyinka

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thinking outside the pinata...

A couple of weeks ago the small one attended a birthday party (with a science experiment theme! - it was fab) but I knew there would be a problem as soon as I saw this...

 Arrgghh! A damn pinata. With a stick. And a set number of treats to be divided very unevenly between a large bunch of pushing and shoving party guests.

 Those of you who know him might have trouble believing it, but the small one is actually quite shy around strangers. He is not really the pushing and shoving type (except with his brothers, where he is not only the pushing and shoving type, but also the yelling and hitting type) and for him a jaunty pinata swinging in the breeze is a sign of a quivering bottom lip, tears and glumly crossed arms to come.

So I was delighted to come across a great idea for a birthday 'pinata' that echoes the sideshow cry of "Every Child Wins a Prize!". Have a look how Brook of 'Inchmark' blog solved the problem at her latest kids birthday bash -

The kids threw darts at a wooden board, to which she had stapled balloons filled with different treats. Each child took a turn, even the littlest ones, and collected whatever fell out of the balloon they burst with their dart.

In a word , brilliant! Read all about her cool balloon themed party, including how to fill the balloons with treats, here.

Such good ideas out there! I love blogland.

P.S. Last week the candle factory burned down. Everyone just stood around and sang Happy Birthday.” Stephen Wright

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Way Cool...

Have you seen these?! Aren't they great!?

As my boys are equally fond of ninjas AND gingerbread, these guys will definitely be making an appearance at our house as soon as we can source them in Oz! 

Christmas will never be the same...

P.S. "Had I but a penny in the world, thou shouldst have it for gingerbread."
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthday!

My littlest one has gone from this...

to this...

in the blink of an eye.

Today he took this to school to share with his class, after opening all his lovely gifts...

Thanks to all our family and friends who remembered him today.

Happy Birthday sweet pea!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My two-cents-worth...

I'm not about to go on about politics.

I don't think it's a great topic for general converstion. Who you vote for is your own business, arrived at through your own decision-making process and based on your own beliefs. No-one is able to make that decision for you, 'cause it comes down to you alone in that booth on Saturday.

I just wanted to share a great ad, made for ABC's "Gruen Nation" pitch segment. An advertising firm had to come up with an ad for The Australian Greens Party, and I think it's great. It sums up why I've been voting Green since they became a national party in 1992.

Watch if you want, or don't. That's the beauty of a democracy!

And that's my two cents spent.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Darren Hanlon Rocks My World....

As a middle-aged mum from the suburbs, I don't get out to see live music very often (Ha! Ya think...) but I did make an exception on Friday night to see one of my favourite singer/songwriters ever - Darren Hanlon.

A true modern poet in the indie spirit of Billy Bragg and looking like a young Russell Crowe, he gave a lovely intimate performance in a historical theatre on the Sunshine Coast (the Majestic). I am smitten all over again (the first time was on hearing his first EP 'Early Days' back in 2000, specifically my all-time favourite song 'Falling Aeroplanes'), though possibly not as badly as the older lady full of Dutch courage professing her love and devotion for Darren from the middle of the theatre - "Darren, you rock my world" (amongst other sentiments) was heard several slurred times! It did make him smirk in a cute way though - *tee hee*.

He performed a real mix of old and new stuff and introduced the audience to his newest collaborator Shelley Short  from Oregon, who sings with him on his new album. She was also fantastic and I will be searching out some of her music asap. Anyway, I have been listening contantly to Darren's amazing lyrics since Friday and thought I would share his latest release with you for musical education purposes. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Freezer Paper Stencilling...

I have been wanting to try this technique out for e-va, and have finally mustered enough mojo to give it a go.

Freezer paper stencilling has been all over the US craft blogs for a couple of years, beacuse it's something you can get at the supermarket in the States - by the roll, for separating stuff in the freezer (ya think!). We have to get it from craft shops, by the metre. I got mine from Twilight Crafts, last Esk weekend.

So here's a little run down of the process if you haven't seen it before...

Firstly, gather all your supplies. You will need freezer paper (obviously), a Sharpie or other fine marker, a nice bold design to trace, a cutting mat, a craft knife/blade and sharp scissors, an iron, a newspaper and some cardboard, the fabric you want to print on, craft/fabric paint and a firm stencil brush.

Print out or draw (or tear out of one of your kids colouring books) your design. Lay the freezer paper over the design, shiny side down.

Trace your design onto the freezer paper with the marker, shading or crosshatching the parts you will cut out. I taped mine to the bench to stop it moving around while tracing. (If you have a light box, this is the perfect time to use it!)

The beauty of this stuff is that you dont have to have the whole stencil joined together like traditional stencilling. You can have 'floating' sections, as they will be ironed on later. This really opens up your design options.

Once the whole design is traced out, the tedious part begins. (Especially if you are like me and chose a design with lots of detail. I was wishing halfway that I had chosen something simpler. *sigh*) You need to use the combined powers of a sharp blade and equally sharp scissors to remove all the shaded areas.

Don't forget to keep your 'floating' bits aside so they don't get thrown out by accident. (Not that I would do that, of course.)

Now for the fun part! You will need a firm surface for the ironing - an ironing board is not recommended. (I used the dining table.)  Put a newspaper down, with a layer of stiff cardboard on top, then your fabric. (I used the front of a T-shirt, so the paper and cardboard went inside the shirt to stop the paint bleeding through to the back.)

Line up your stencil in the correct position. With your iron on the the maximum dry setting, iron the stencil onto the fabric. The shiny side of the freezer paper will melt and stick the stencil to the fabric! (Don't panic - it comes off easily later.)

Iron each section for about 30 seconds to make sure it's firmly attached. Then go back and add in any 'floating' parts of the design to their places. Test with your fingers to make sure they are firmly stuck down. Let the fabric cool.

Get your paint and stencil brush ready. (I used a cheap black craft acrylic, mixed 2 parts to 1  with fabric medium.)

Using a firm up-and-down dabbing motion, fill in the voids in the stencil with paint. try not to drag the brush side-to-side, as this can force the paint under the stencil.

Once the whole design is painted, leave to dry. 24 hours is suggested (bah!) but I was not that patient. I think I left mine about 2 hours, but it will depend on what type of paint you use.

Obviously mine is a simple black and white pattern, but you can use more than one colour if you want to be adventurous.

Once the drying time is up, you can do the big reveal. (Kids love to watch this part.) Using your fingers, or tweezers for the really thin bits, gently pull the freezer paper away from the fabric, holding the fabric down with the other hand.

Once all the paper is off, you will see your original design on the fabric. Voila! Now it just needs a press to set the paint and you're good to go. Ta Daa...

N.B. For those of you who recognise the design, do not think this choice demonstrates an alliegence. I am TE all the way. I just think it's a cool tattoo......
......especially on that arm...........
......mmmmmmmmmmm........... it hot in here?.....................

Where was I??

Oh, that's right. All done for the tutorial.  Let me know if you have a go - I'd love to see some other experiments in stencilling.

P.S. A kid's riddle for you-
Q: What is the best way to talk to a vampire? 
A: Long distance.


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