28 November 2013

A favourite Christmas decoration

I have posts, posts, posts in mind for this blog. Things are a little bit hectic here, so I'll delay them even more, except for this, a gorgeous little Christmas decoration I discovered at our local Trade Aid shop last week.

This is a real heirloom decoration, I think. At about $16 it's one of the most expensive tree decorations I've bought. In fact this one is a gift for a lucky friend.

But compared to the cheap plastic ones, I think it is utterly worth it. It's been hand made by someone who has set up a business to sustain his or her family, and just needs appreciative buyers like us. It's giving aid via trade instead of one-off donations that might feed a family once, unlike a business that will feed the family long-term. And it gives me such pleasure, this cute little half-dome scene!

The stock in Trade Aid impressed me more than ever before. It used to all be so wildly ethnic that the only thing I really wanted was some rose soap. Now there are divine light fittings, floor rugs,quilts and more that look as good as anything at somewhere like Freedom Furniture, are cheaper and far, far better quality. Have a look some time!

11 November 2013

Burgeoning garden

I should really be recently returned from watching Anna in her school fun run, but the rain came down and the school website told me the run is postponed until tomorrow. This is, however, a great thing for our garden, which is burgeoning in the rain after a long dry spell.

We've had a bigger problem than rain, though. We have had a CHICKEN who, for days in a row, had a little breakfast browse of the garden, with a notable focus on lettuce and strawberries. This annoying creature seems to be bottom of the pecking order and always has been. She takes refuge from vicious beaks by perching on whatever she can. She'd come to realise that the elevated position provided by the open coop door was an excellent staging post for flying/climbing over the roof of the coop and out into the garden.

Chicken-pecked strawberry
Fortunately I eventually twigged to her maddening strategy and a few days ago I meshed over the door top so she couldn't land on it. Which is why, finally, I have been able to plant new lettuces. This is spring, and salad season, and buying lettuce from the Farmer's Market is really not defensible when there's healthy soil in the backyard.

Sheltering the lettuces under an old net curtain from the strong, hot sun. 
Jack's Halloween costume is now keeping the carrot seeds moist
until they sprout. It's a hessian sack that had a brief life as an
executioner's vest. Not sure why the photo has spun itself around.
Greek oregano, given to us by our neighbour.
Normal oregano - another herb I can just grab a handful of
for a tomato sauce, or pizza.
The sad, aphid-infested state of our artichokes. I must get out
the pyrethrum spray. Never before have our artichokes had a single
sick day in their lives.
Please, no more cauliflower. We're eating it, but
we're sick of the glut.
Last year's calendula flowers bloom again.

A couple of nights ago I lost faith, as I do every year, that the previous year's beans will pop their heads up above the soil and live again. So I mustered the children outside, and minutes before it rained we pushed new bean seeds (which are of course themselves beans!) into the ground. They each planted under a different climbing frame, so they will be able to watch 'their' beans emerge, and then of course eat them! They love them raw. And roar (with health, I mean).

Even as they poked them in, I could see last year's beans sprouting. Oh ye (me) of little faith.

7 November 2013

Upcycled projects

I've finally been getting around to a few little projects. When I say finally, some of these have been years in the coming. And there are others that could be years more!

However, here are three. Once, about two years ago, I bought some coat hooks at a garage sale for $2 each. Then a few months ago I began to sand, undercoat and paint them. I took 'before' photos for you, but it was so long ago I don't know how to find them. Anyway, one of them is for our ukuleles, and now hangs in our dining room on an unused wall. I like the honest old hooks that remind me of the cloakrooms where we hung our schoolbags when I was little.

The instruments are hanging by short lengths of fingerknitted wool, made by Anna. I'd got sick of them lying around, and I like the way they look on the wall. To be honest, we've got out of the habit of playing them much. We have to get back to it. I'm hoping that the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra comes back to town this summer to inspire us.

Next, a little sewing project. I bought this cushion cover (merino and angora) on Trade Me. I traced the feather from a book and photocopied it up in size, then used an iron-on transfer to get the pattern onto the brown fabric. The brown fabric was once a daggy old brown woollen jersey at the Salvation Army, until it was bought by me, felted in hot water in the washing machine, and snipped by my sewing scissors.

Then I attached it to the cushion cover by stitching carefully around it in brown thread. The trusty old Singer, circa 1940s perhaps, did the job beautifully. Gosh - look! - there it is above in the bottom picture of the ukuleles, should you care to admire it.

The last story begins at the stinky old dump shop here in Hamilton, where people can dump anything reusable for free before they drive into the dump and have to pay for what they get rid of. This little table was picked up for $10. Ah, again no before pic, but it was covered in scratched yellow polyurethane varnish.

I sanded for a while, then got sick of it (I'm sure you know the feeling) and used 'Dad's paint stripper'. It worked a treat, but freaked me out a bit because it says on the packaging that it has cancer-causing ingredients. I was well suited up, I can tell you.

Bizarrely, I discovered that underneath the yellowed stuff the timber was rimu, apart from a solitary mahogany leg (the right hand front one in the photo). The mahogany is beautiful - I think I've only seen/noticed it in veneer before, and this non-grainy leg is quite different. Anyway, rather than get upset about mismatched leg colours, I decided to play with the idea of different timbers, and stained the drawer front with a pale colour, and the knob (which I bought new) a deep red-brown which we had left over from another project years ago. I finished the whole lot with a natural oil from the Natural House Company. (The white stain was from them too. I don't like the way the two areas of dense grain on the drawer front haven't taken up the stain properly, but don't feel inclined to do anything about it.)

So I have a few things to tick off the list, and a few additions to our dining/living area.

To finish, some wildflowers I picked on a walk and from our garden.

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