Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cards

I am having a go with Photoscape for the first time!  Very, very cool being able to group photos into one picture like this, and doing the basics in it is much easier than I expected.  I wonder why I put it off for so long!

Here are some recent cards I made, using Photoscape to display them for you:

The smaller ones are gift cards, some as thank you's for Munchkin's birthday presents, others to go with little gifts.  The larger were random cards I came up with while trying to do my sister-in-law's birthday card.  As she reads this blog, the card I ended up making will have to wait for a few more weeks yet.






Amy


Friday, May 27, 2011

On My Mind

Linking in with Rhonda at Down to Earth, on my mind today is:


The chook cage and how much harder it is proving to put together than I thought!  Here are all the bits of framing waiting to be used!
I shall head out this afternoon and try to get a longer drill bit as the 80mm screws are proving beyond me to screw in straight and my pre-drilling isn't going deep enough. 

Amy

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Live Below the Line?

I have been thinking about doing a challenge for the past six months or so.  I'm wanting to do something that connects me somehow with the 1.4billion people in the world who live on less than $1.50US a day.  This is both to help me understand a little more of what it must be like, raise awareness in others about how blessed we are in NZ, and also raise money to help end poverty in someone else's life.  Then just yesterday I came across this challenge by the Global Poverty Project!  The idea is to feed yourself on $2.25NZ a day....this is somewhere close to the figure for so many people in the world living in poverty, and yet so far from it as it is just for food - it doesn't include insurance, healthcare, housing, heating, water, and all the other things we take for granted in our day to day lives.  Just food.  This challenge is very similar to one I've been thinking of doing on my own...but putting off because it seemed too hard and too 'out there.'  So I've signed up for some more information.  It's in August.  Not a great time at all in NZ to be trying to live cheaply.  Not much fresh fruit.  Not much in the vege garden either (which I was hoping to use to supplement our food purchases!).  But hey, we'll see how we go. 

Then today, just to encourage me some more, I was reading about Eilleen doing the challenge in Australia.  She's one of the blogs I read from time to time.  You can read about her recent experiences Living Below the Line at her blog, Consumption Rebellion.

Time for us to have dinner.  And one I really enjoy tonight: chilli con carne and rice.  Yum.

Amy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chook Cage Update

I did some more work on the chook cage yesterday.  Borrowed my dad's cordless drill, which is a bit of a gutless wonder (charge for three hours, use for 10mins were his instructions and fairly accurate - but then my arms need about the same so no worries!).  This at least means I don't have to find money to buy one for myself just yet.  I managed to get the sides screwed on.  I then spent some time pondering the nest box/perch area and just what order to screw all the next bits on in.  And also that I've managed to get the size a bit wrong for the ply on the nest - need to get that adjusted by Dad sometime in the coming weeks. 


I am making much slower progress than I hoped.  With muscles already sore from carrying Munchkin and doing housekeeping, I am finding I can only manage a small amount of drilling before my arms give out.  Not that I have much time available anyway.  At least I have allowed myself lots of extra time, in starting now.  Hopefully I can just get it all finished by September so I can get my chookies then!

Amy

Tops

Munchkin has gone and outgrown yet another lot of clothes!  He was down to 1 jersey given to us when he was born, 1 cardigan knitted for him, and 1 sweatshirt that is hard to get over his hands (come on people, make kids clothing with a bit of 'give' - narrow wristbands are a no-no for Mummy's and Daddy's trying to get their big fingers through to pull little baby fingers through!).  While there are another 2 knitted cardigans on the way from doting grandparents, I felt that we probably still need some further options...Tauranga can have fairly warm weather from time to time so something a bit lighter would be good, plus we could just do with a few backups should the washing get too backlogged in wet weather.  I therefore headed out, once more, on a quest for affordable clothing.  My loot?  4 tops, $17.90NZ total (which I imagine is the price of one good new size 2 top - yup, he is in size 2).  I didn't get a huge amount of choice.  Necessity meant that I required something this trip, petrol costs meant visiting only 2 of the potential stores, and with second hand clothes you can't simply try the next size up or down if you like the look but don't fit the sizing!  I also found that over half the possible tops had hoods.  Especially those with zipped fronts.  Grr.  I like zips - much easier to put on and off, and gives us another option (open for when he's warmer, and closed for going outside!).  But I really dislike hoods.  What is it with children's fashion that dictates they should all wear hoods?!  Did the makers of these clothes ever try putting them on real, live children?  Hoods get in the way.   They bunch up behind heads in carseats, flop over eyes when leaning forward, provide bulk and potential danger when sleeping, and are just annoying, unnecessary frivolles.  Okay, so I am ranting here and I did just make up a word.  I just don't see why they are considered a good fashion statement.  Sure, they look cute.  But if I want my kid to keep his head warm, I will put a woolly hat on him.  Please, spare me from hoods.  Rant over.  All hoods aside, I managed to find a few tops that will hopefully be large enough to last the winter without looking like a potato sack this month!  We even got a bonus matching hat with the acrylic green top (the top has buttons down the back too, making for easy over-the-head manouvres!).


Amy

Ribbon Toys

I made some Ribbon Toys yesterday.  One set is for Munchkin, the other two are birthday presents for a couple of his friends.  I have come across these in local kindergartens, and our local Tiny Boppers music session uses them with great effect.  The kids just love them!  They are made using ice cream container lids, a pair of reasonably sharp sizzors, a hole punch, and some ribbons.  I got 2.5m each of 7 different colours which made enough for 6 (and cost $4.60NZ).  One of them I used 60cm lengths and doubled the ribbons over, but then realised I'd run out so just did single lengths of 40cm for the other two.  You just knot the ribbons really tight through the hole punched holes.  I also 'sealed' the ribbons to try and prevent fraying.  A candle would work well (I used a lighter) and as a technical note, it is easier to do this before tying them onto the handle!  Yup, I forgot and had to do it later. 



Now I am wondering if anyone has an idea for a holder that is new, rather than second hand?  I like to repurpose and recycle items as much as possible so am really happy to do it this way for us and our friends, but I thought that this could be a great gift in my Shoe Boxes.  The thing is that they specifically require every item to be new.  This would be to stop kids getting someone's old nasty junk, I imagine.  So I'm trying to come up with something new that I could use as a ribbon holder, that only costs around a dollar.  Any ideas, folks?

Amy

Birthday Cake


Here is the finished birthday cake, Round One.  I say Round One because the icing had issues, or rather I had issues with the icing, so I had another go in the morning (Round Two - final!).

From doing this cake I learnt some vital cake-making lessons:
Cake making is not as easy as it may seem.
It is all about the icing - getting the right consistency - too runny equals mess, too sticky equals hard to manage.  Either way, icing not doing what you want.  You get the idea.
Plan ahead.  I didn't think about how the icing would all work so we stuck the 1 on top of the rest of the cake, then I tried icing it all...ended up with blue 1 icing running into not-yet-set white icing.  Our cake ended up with a double lot of white icing the following morning to cover all the blueness!
Let one lot of icing dry completely before adding another!
Ice individual parts before adding them to the cake, rather than the other way around.
And the most important part: TALK TO YOUR MOTHER FIRST!  She has been there, done that and knows way more about making kids birthday cakes than me.   I could have lowered my stress levels by at least half by asking her a few questions.  This I realised AFTER I made the cake.  Duh.
And the second most important thing I learnt (or is it the first and asking Mum second?): ENJOY the experience.  Laugh.  Don't worry if it is not perfect (as my moral support kept reminding me!). 

And here is the cake on display on the day.  I must say that it is VERY tasty.  Amazing really, as I was going for a 'plain' old sponge cake.  It ended up with several thin layers of butter icing between 3 levels of sponge though, delicious, as well as the icing and lollies on top.  The lollies were our (almost) only concession to 'real' party food (the other was some chippies for Boyo!).  Boyo was creative artist.  He cut and positioned the 1, and did all the lollies.



Amy

Chicken Stock

I read a book a few years back all about soups and how to make stock.  The rather detailed, long lists of ingredients, and complicated methodology left me feeling somewhat out of my depth.  I gave up on making stock.  Stock was obviously not something an average cook was meant to make.  But over time I have come to realise that it is quite possible to make a decent stock with very little effort or know-how.  The trick is to cook it to death.  Okay, so not literally.  But the basic idea is that stock takes time, lots of time.  I was always trying to hurry my stock along, and would then wonder why I got coloured water instead of succulent, tasty stock. 

My personal version of chicken stock: Take one chicken carcass (apparently one that was roast dinner the night before is best, but raw will work too).  Plonk in a large pot, just cover with boiling water, add some salt (maybe half a teaspoon?).  Simmer.  Simmer.  Simmer.  For as many hours as you can manage...I usually try for all morning.  Leave it to sit and cool, pick any decent bits of meat off the carcass and return them to the stock if you want or use them for something else, and fish out any bones you can (a seive is great if you're not keeping any meat in there!).  If you want to freeze it and have it as low-fat as possible, chill it in the fridge overnight so you can skim the fat off before freezing in labelled containers.  That's it.  There are, of course, a lot of other ingredients you can add which will all help make the stock more flavoursome: an onion, some garlic, some fresh or dried herbs (like rosemary, thyme, marjoram, parsley, etc), some bay leaves, or peppercorns.  Carrot and celery are also common stock-making items.  I usually end up adding a few herbs and maybe an onion.  Sometimes more.  Usually not.  So I am quite possibly a lazy cook.  There's always so much else to be done!
The uses for chicken stock?  Endless, or at least almost so!  I use it for casseroles, soups, and rissotto.  What do you use chicken stock for?

Amy

Emergency Supplies

I don't know if anyone else has been motivated by the recent earthquakes in Christchurch or Japan to look at an emergency kit?  I sure have.  We've usually had emergency water to some extent or other around the place, but I realised in Townsville that you are actually meant to replenish it every 6 months.  If you don't, it tastes gross (as we discovered on a camping trip when we decided to use some of our emergency water - yuck!).  The good news is that it won't kill you, it is just that the oxygen levels in it deplete or something I think.  So I now have a reminder in Outlook every six months to replenish the emergency water.  Only I wanted to actually get to 'use' it for something - tipping it down the drain seems so wasteful.  But the weather has been wet lately, and it needed to be moved before the big party, so down the drain most of it had to go.  On the bright side, we have 5 days worth of water now sitting in the shed.  The shed being the least likely to collapse and be unreachable in an earthquake.  The water is in 3litre juice bottles that were washed out first, with dated masking tape labels.  Nothing fancy, and nothing that cost us extra.  I hope to add a container with some basic first aid, batteries, candles and matches, a tin opener, and a few tins of food over the coming weeks.


It concerns me that we are so unprepared for emergencies.  How many of us could live for a week without a trip to the supermarket?  And that's just normal groceries, never mind things like batteries, emergency water, and such. Oh, and toilet paper - I'm going to put a few rolls of that in my emergency kit!  I have been inspired by my mum to persevere with this project.  It is all too easy to put it to the proverbial back burner, and decide that it requires too much money or effort, and hey, it will never happen to us, right?!  But week by week I have been watching as over the past couple of months she has slowly built up a survival kit for her and my dad.  I actually feel relieved, knowing they have one.  I'd like to feel that same satisfaction for my own family.  After all, I did grow up in Wellington (NZ's most 'at risk' city for a big quake), with the weekly earthquake drills and school projects setting up emergency kits at home.  I know what a kit should have.  I have just become a bit lazy and complacent, and allowed myself to forget that I can't predict the future, something big and bad could happen to me and mine, and we will fare so much better if we are at least a little prepared.

Do you have an emergency kit?  Where do you keep it?  What is in it?
Amy

Action

It sat there, staring at me. The letter came in the post and was deposited on our dining table by Boyo. I wanted to pretend it wasn't there. "If I ignore it, will it just go away?" But there it was, still sitting there, unopened inthe morning.  I just wanted to carry on with my day.  Pretend nothing was different.  Eat my porridge, go for a walk, maybe get a hot drink with a friend before our beach outing this afternoon.  But I couldn't.  There's something compelling me to do differently.  The letter?  Maybe.  But this was, after all, just one letter.  I get lots of letters like this, requests for help from one organisation or another.  And they all, invariably, drive me to tears.  Hence my desire to hermit, avoid, and otherwise ignore whatever crisis World Vision wanted to draw my attention to this time. 
I opened it.  I just couldn't handle it sitting there any longer.  And I've been guilty of throwing out a few without reading them lately...terrible guilty feelings are not changed by reading or not reading, I have discovered.  I'd hoped that if I didn't read, I couldn't be confronted with the realities of how much I have and how little they have.  But I still know.  Deep in my heart of hearts I know that there are people in desperate need, and despite how 'poor' I sometimes feel, I am not desperate.  I am by no means anywhere near desperate.  I have cash for fruit and vegetables this week.  We have money in the bank for next month's expenses, mostly...and we are still able to cull things back a bit more if we really have need to.  We are by no means desperate.
So I read the letter.  And cried (per usual).  And felt compelled to DO SOMETHING.  What though, was the question.  There are 1.3MILLON Ugandan's facing starvation.  These are not people just needing a top up.  These are people who will die without outside help.  Their last viable harvest was in 2005.  That's SIX YEARS ago!  I can't begin to imagine what it would be like if we'd not had good harvests for six years in New Zealand.  What on earth would we eat?  Well, in Uganda, they are eating pumpkin leaves, and not much else.  World Vision tells of one young woman walking 25km to sell an armful of firewood to buy food for her and her two young children...food which is not nearly enough.  Again, I can't imagine having to travel those kind of distances, and face the grief of not having food for my son. 
I sat and read, and suddenly didn't feel very hungry.  My porridge sat, turning cold and gelatinous (I did have to eat it later, couldn't bear the thought of wasting it when other people were going hungry!).  I knew that if I didn't do something right away, I'd most likely manage to talk myself out of it.  "We just don't have much available right now." I'd say.  Or, "Munchkin needs clothes." "Maybe next month."  "When we're both qualified and earning decently, I'll be able to give lots then."  The problem is that in the five years or so it takes us to improve our household finances, it will probably be too late for many of the children of Uganda.
I made a list on the back of the World Vision envelope.  It is titled "Action:"
I decided that we probably have some money spare from the groceries.  This is the last week before we move into June's budget, and we're currently still dining on leftover fruit and other goodies from Munchkin's birthday party on the weekend, which means we don't need to buy what I thought we would this week.  So that's $15.
Somehow that doesn't seem like enough.  Ah, ha.  Maybe I can talk Boyo into having eggs or baked beans on toast for dinner one night this week.  Then we could give maybe $5 as the money we would have probably spent on meat and veges.  It's not like a simple meal like that once every so often is going to hurt us.  And frankly, it is probably still better nutritionally than the takeaways we periodically buy!
Still not enough.  I mean, what difference will $20 make to such a huge humanitarian crisis?  How long will it feed a family?  Is it really going to make enough difference?  But then I realised that the World Food Programme is matching personal donations 6:1.  That means that for every $1 I donate, $6 worth of food is given (governments and such get on board and donate to match personal donations to make this possible).  So $20 x 6 is $120.  That sounds better.  Still not going to change much long term, but World Vision and other agencies are working with people to help them develop reliable, long term food sources as well as providing the immediate aid relief, so it does all help.
That's about the end of our current financial ability.  But then I realised, there are still two more things I can do.
I can FREE RICE!  Each correct word I get gives 10 grains of rice through advertising sponsorship.  I decided I'll spend 30 minutes today, answering vocabulary.  I've already done 1600 grains!  This doesn't cost me money, just time.  I figured that I should be able to spend a few minutes to save someone else's life.
And here I am doing the last thing on my list.  I am blogging.  This is one of the things I blog about.  If you don't like hearing about the plight of others, this is probably not a good blog for you to read.  I am passionately concerned about ending extreme poverty.  As one person, my resources are limited.  But together, we have the ability to effect so much change!  If we were each to give just a little, sacrifice our comfort and convenience just a tad, change something small we do, think about someone else's needs just occassionally, we can make a HUGE difference in someone else's life.  So I'm asking you to join me in helping the families of Uganda.  Is there something small you can do?  Could you have a simpler meal this week and make a donation?  Could you play Free Rice for 10 minutes tonight before bed?  Could you sell an old possession that's been collecting dust in your garage, and give that money?  The options are endless, really.  Some of us have time.  Some of us have money.  Some of us don't have much of either, but we are still blessed to have food to eat, and family to love.  Why not share a little of our blessings with those who don't?


Let me tell you, I feel SO much better for having done something.  No more avoiding the dining table because the letter has been read, the heart moved, the mind activited, and action taken.  Ahhhh.  I can continue with the rest of my day feeling a little more at peace with the world.

Amy

Saturday, May 21, 2011

B DAY

Today is B DAY.  The Big Day, aka Munchkin's first birthday.  The guests have been invited.  The food has been bought.  The cake has been made.  We have even been for our morning walk in the gloriously cool, sunshiny morning. 
Munchkin is happily oblivious to all the fuss.  Currently, he sits on my lap, alternately crunching an interesting sounding bag, banging on the desk with a pen, pulling things out of the drawers or trying to play with my laptop (by far the most interesting occupation of them all, of course).  It's a good thing my arms are still longer than his...for a few years at least!
Last night was a bit of a mission.  Having just completed 8 hours of housework between Thursday and Friday, I was a bit beat.  I am no slouch, and I have this thing with dust which means that once I start cleaning it I feel like I have to get it ALL.  Now anyone who has ever looked closely at their home will realise that this is a totally impossible, unpractical,  and irrationally silly concept when it comes to dust.  There is dust on chair legs, behind desks, on the backs of couches.  You name it and there will be dust on it.  I have a love-hate relationship with the nifty little duster attachment on my vacuum cleaner.  I love being able to use it instead of having to dust everything with a cloth (plus you can get at dust you'd never get with a cloth - like on cane chairs or cushions), but I hate having to lug the vacuum cleaner around and listen to it whine.  Anyway, I digress.  I seem to be rather good at digressing!  What I was trying to say is that my whole body aches.  I've also not had a lot of sleep due to Munchkin's ongoing teething/leaking nappies/who on earth knows what this time episodes at night.  So the fact that we have food and a cake is more than a minor miracle. 
"Not in your mouth, Munchy!" (He was just eating my eraser!). 
He helped me get a few things before dinner time, which Boyo made last night.  Then after Munchkin was in bed, I headed out again to get the rest.  I must have spent fully 15 minutes trying to choose the meat.  And it is not like I didn't know what I wanted! 
Then when I got home Boyo and I put the cake together.  Boyo was predominantely employed as creative artist and moral support.  "It looks great.  You're doing a good job.  Honest, that's fine.  It's much better than I would have done.  It doesn't have to be perfect you know.  Well, you're learning as you go, so just remember this for next time."  And so on.  He is very good at reminding me that life does not have to be perfect!    Every perfectionist needs someone to bring them back to reality.  My reality being that my son is only 1, and does not notice that the cake had a few icing issues because it is Mummy's first attempt at a proper birthday cake.  As long as there are photos to prove there was a cake, he is so not going to care.  And I should feel proud that I made him a cake.  His card is somewhat haphazard (so not happy with it, but haven't had time to have another attempt), and he might not have a birthday present yet (another long story of hours of research and we can't afford what we want to get and things just haven't worked out to have things sorted by the big day).  But he DOES have a cake, made by his parents with a lot of love, a few laughs, lots and lots of icing (because lots of icing hides lots of mistakes), and some very bleary eyes.
The cake spent the night in the craft cupboard.  This being what we considered the safest place to avoid disaster via our recently arrived resident field mouse...we think it is mouse proof.  This morning the cake was fine, so I guess we must be right!
So, the day is here.  This time last year Munchkin was sleeping peacefully in his bed in a corner of the room.  I was being transfused and you don't want to know the rest.  I am just glad I do not have to relive that day.  And so glad to have my gorgeous son!  We have survived his first year!  He is alive, well, and loved.  We are (mostly) sane, sometimes not tired (okay, so I'm lying!), and eternally grateful to have Munchkin in our lives.  Let the festivities begin!

Amy

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Christmas Toys

Here are some toys I got this week to go in my Shoe Boxes. It seems to be getting harder and harder to find decent, basic toys (another hint to anyone who likes making things!?). When I first started doing Shoe Boxes a few years back I could fill them with bouncy balls, skipping ropes, marbles, toy cars, elastics, and much more, and all for around $2 a box. This visit I found it really hard to find things that were not attached to a tv show, require batteries, and weren't either too expensive or too trashy. I'm wondering if I need to find new places to shop?  Any ideas, New Zealander's?  I bought this lot at the Warehouse.  Some of last year's were at a Dollar Value store. 

So here is what I ended up with:






 
I really like coming up with things that can be split between boxes (like the toy animals and big smiley plastic spoons above).  That way each child gets more than one toy - they might get a ball, a toy car, and a couple of plastic animals.  Much more fun that way!  It is always a war between wanting an item of reasonable quality and something that is uncostly.  Quality because many of these kids have never, and may never again receive a gift.  Their Shoe Box toys are very valuable to them, and I don't want them to be disappointed in a broken toy on day two!  I also don't like the idea of loading up their economies with loads of plastic and unnecessary rubbish.  But on the other hand, I don't have a lot of money to spend so that's where uncostly comes into it.  In past years I've managed to do Shoe Boxes for around $20 each (so $30 including a postage donation).  I figure that the more boxes I can do, the more children can be blessed to receive a gift...so I try to economise in order to help more kids.  But there is always a tug between the two.  If I could afford to, I'd be doing 24 boxes a year, that would include handmade clothes, wooden toys, and a whole year's worth of stationery (okay, so that wouldn't fit in a Shoe Box, but I can always dream!).  But I don't.  As it is, I will probably have to come up with some creative ways to fund this 'hobby' over the next couple of years as we really don't have the money for it these days.  Hmmm...
 
Amy

Christmas Child Gifts

I always find it hard to source decent clothing for Operation Christmas Child.  Clothing is usually my single, biggest cost and the hardest item to find.  So far, I only have four clothing items and I need 12.  Anyone fancy doing a bit of sewing?  An old school friend has this really cool pattern for making the most gorgeous skirts out of fabric scraps...but I am a novice seamstress with very limited time, so have had to tell myself in no uncertain terms that "No, I may not attempt to make anything for Operation Christmas Child...at least not this year!"  I still toy (forgive the pun!) with the idea of knitting bags, or making felt puppets, or sewing a few tshirts or skirts or pencil cases.  Then I have to remind myself I have only just enough time to buy things for my boxes.  Just.  No more extras, Amy.  But that doesn't mean I can't accept things made by other people, now does it?!  So if your fancy takes to sewing little gifts for someone you've never met, just pop me a line! 
Anyway, here are the four tshirts I managed to pick up on sale (under $5 each) recently.  I'm finding it can be hard to find clothes that don't consist of marketing or way too skimpy for the countries they are going to so I was pretty pleased with this find.




Amy

A Quick Project


After a great deal of frustration over screws not going in straight, bits of wood not staying put, and a drill that I couldn't manage, I decided this afternoon to turn my thoughts to simpler, gentler creative pursuits.  Our church is gathering a few little things to bless some folks, and this is part of my contribution.  It took about half an hour.  I bought the cellophane and curling ribbon yesterday.  The tea light candles I actually got for myself (they are apple scented and cost a whole dollar, yay for specials!).  But then I realised that I probably don't need to keep the whole 36 tea lights for myself so fished this lovely sparkly green ribbon out from my stash to wrap them with.  Delightful.  There is something about cellophane and ribbon that thrills my soul.  The bathsalts are made with epsom salts, geranium scented, and coloured very lightly with pink food colouring.  Pretty as a picture, and smell like a garden!  I hope that their recipients will feel blessed.  I certainly enjoyed putting them together.  A successful little project like this was just what I needed to calm my frazzled chook-framing nerves!

Amy

A Onesie What?

I often have conversations these days about clothing the boy.  At 81cm he is a little tall.  Okay, understatement.  He is very tall for a one year old.  If he were two, he would be average.  But the thing is he is not.  He is only one.  If you have ever looked at young kids you might notice that they get wider, as well as taller, as they age.  So while Munchkin is tall and by no means a bean pole (read: not skinny!), he is still slimmer than an average two year old.  We've had this problem the whole way through, having to carefully choose the narrowest fitting option available so that things wouldn't fall off his shoulders in order to get them long enough.  He seems particularly long in the body from shoulder to crotch.  His car seat, which is designed for up to 18kg babies, and says it will last him up to around four years of age, is nearly too small for him.  Once his shoulders get higher than those shoulder straps, his carseat becomes unsafe and we have to upgrade!  He's only one, for crying out loud!  Where are we meant to get another car seat from?  With what money?  Grr. 
Anyway, I digress.  The point is that my boy is tall.  Which makes him nearly as hard to buy clothes for as his mother (only the opposite problem!).  We have two containers FULL of outgrown clothes.  Most of them were pre-onesie bummsies.  "Onesie-what?"  Most people ask.  Ah, "one-see-bum-see."  They are an amazing little extender that goes on the bottom of 'onesies' to make them longer (onesies are those tops that have the domes under the crotch).  Onesie Bummsies are made by a Kiwi Mum, and come in three different sizes.  I only wish someone had told me about them when Munchkin was one month old.  As it was, they have saved us so much time, hassle, and money since getting some.  I have Munchy in the same tops as he was wearing in September - an amazing feat believe me!  What he wore as tshirts over summer, he nows wears as a singlet under his long sleeved winter tops.  They are just getting to the point where we are going to get 'air gaps' between top and pants down the sides.
I honestly can't rave enough!  If you have a tall baby, have a look!  Or if you've got a slender baby, they'd be similar helping get baby into clothes that fit their width and their length at the same time.  For babies in cloth nappies, they also help so much - so many clothes are not made allowing for the extra few centimetres a thicker cloth nappy adds so a Onesie Bummsie helps no end.

Okay, I'm going to stop raving now.  And just for the record, no one asked me to comment on Onesie Bummsies.  I am not paid to promote them, I just love being able to recommend a product that does what it was designed to do, saves money, and well, WORKS.  Grin.

These are side-on.  You dome one side to the front of the 'onesie' top and the other to the back.  Wa-lah!  Longer top!  Amazing!
Amy

A Start

I have started the chook cage.  I meant to have photos of the design here for you, but the camera was at Polytech with Boyo today.  The joys of sharing a camera.  I am thankful that we do have our own laptops these days.  Grin.  I have an amazing husband, and an amazing son.  They came with me to Mega 10 as technical support (okay, so Munchkin only came to trolley ride, but hey what else can you expect from a nearly one year old?!).  My parents kindly loaned me their trailer, and my dad's skills that afternoon to cut the ply with his electric saw.  That was last Saturday.  Boyo looked after Munchkin for the afternoon so I could get the ply all cut.  Thanks Boyo!  I returned last Monday with Munchkin to cut the framing by hand.  He blatted around (Amy's word for buzzing here and there, fluffing with this thing and that, and generally enjoying himself) in the playpen while I measured, measured again, and cut.  I have decided to add 'good quality saw' to my personal wish list.  My dad's ones are a bit old and worn, although I am very grateful for the use of them!  My personal list now includes: spade, fork, hand saw, and cordless drill.  The last of which I shall be buying this week. I  have yet to work out with what money I am buying this, but buy one I am determined to do.  Today I had a go at screwing the framework together, you see.  I was using my dad's old drill.  Which is certainly helpful, but too heavy and baulky than I can manage - I need something I can use with one hand at least some of the time, so I can use the other hand to hold the bit of wood!  Today's attempts were not particularly successful.  But just to prove that I have started something, here are some pictures of the materials cut ready to assemble!





Amy

Wool, Glorious Wool!

We had a brand new Spotlight open recently!  Horray!  Tauranga was meant to get one years ago, but for some reason it never happened.  Well, finally it is here.  I headed off to the opening sale with a list of items, mostly for the birthday party this coming weekend.  I came home with 12 zips.  Each a different colour.  I'm so excited!  The plan is to make some little fabric money bags that are zipped.  As I don't have the fabric yet, I thought I'd start with the zips.  It seemed a good idea to have each bag a different colour or pattern to help differentiate between them.  I'm not sure when this project will actually commence.  I do have a chook cage to build and a birthday party to organise first, after all!  But just knowing I have a stash of beautiful zips in my sewing drawer gives me happy wiggles inside.

Small hands wanting to help look after my new stash!
Another source of happy wiggles was the wool I found!  I came away with the equivalent of 19 x 50g balls.  There were a few pricing disasters.  Namely: I picked up the wrong ball of wool - duh - not on special - grrrrrrrr, silly girl, and it was the LAST one I picked up after carefully checking each and every other ball of wool first, then they gave me a 12.5% discount instead of the advertised 25% off one lot of wool, which I have tried to call the store about, but being opening weekend didn't get through and with it costing us as much in petrol to go back and have the issue remedied I have decided to leave it be and grumble in peace, after all I DID read the docket before exiting the store and didn't notice so I can't really take at least some of the blame off myself for it all!  But even with all the fluff over wrong prices, I still came out having paid $55 for all that wool.  We worked out that makes it about $2.89 per 50g.  That's better than anything I've bought in ages.  It's sad, I used to be able to get wool at around $3 a ball, but the past few years the average price seems to be more like $5.20.  I also got a bit smart before I put it all away.  At least I thought I was.  I fished out the kitchen scales and weighed 8 knitted squares and worked out they are 30g each.  So in theory, that should mean it will take 35 x 50g of wool to knit one blanket.  The thing is, I'm so sure I use more than that!  Ah well, I will have to keep better records on my next blanket.  I am really chuffed with this lot of wool.  I stuck with blues, purples, greys, black and white as I want to do something that is kind of colour coordinated, while still being able to make random squares.  I'd love a decent orange or yellow to go with it but they didn't have any.  I'm adding a bit of multi coloured mohair and some purple cotton to the mix too, just as narrow highlights for some different texture.  I had them lying around so thought they may as well be used!  Of course, now I want to start on the new blanket right away.  Never mind that I still have about a quarter on the current one left to finish!  Hehe.  The idea discussed with Boyo is that this wool will probably be my birthday present.  Unless of course I can come up with some other way to pay for it between now and September!  Grin.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Garden in May

Here is the Big Garden this month.  I took these quick shots just after planting some more seedlings.  Our winter veges include spinach, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, lettuce, pak choy, broccoli, some rather measly looking cabbages, and some leaks and garlic yet to be planted. 


  
We have a small patch of carrots that survived the chickweed onslaught (on the left below).


There's also some celery and beetroot (below).


We are still getting zucchinis off our late plants, and picked the first broccoli head this week.




What's happening in your garden this month?  My own little garden is pretty bare...the beetroot, silverbeet, and spinach seedlings are being eaten by something with teeth.  If I catch them, you will know!

Amy






Showing off the Chair

I just had to share these photos with you.  Boyo was testing out the newly refurbished chair for me!  Isn't he just stunning?!  Never a serious face in a photo, this lad!
Amy



I feel like crying!

Well, the good news is that Blogger seems to have corrected itself overnight, and I am now using the NEW EDITOR!  YAY!  Simoney told me that installing Mozilla Firefox might help, but so far I haven't needed it (I'm going to keep that tip up my sleeve for future reference though - thanks Simoney!).  I also found out how to change the date stamp on my blog so it actually shows the time I post now, instead of the day before (i.e. American time).  Thanks Elizabeth!  I had a go at changing it months ago and couldn't find the right time zone (Auckland, rather than NZ, duh) so now I am finally 'in the zone.'  Horray for bloggers in the know who are happy to share their discoveries!

This is all making me feel a little better.  I still want to cry, though.  It's my slippers.  The old ones died in a big way.  Some super-duper glue held them together for a few weeks.  A second attempt lasted a few days and I have finally had to give up on them completely.  This is not the problem.  I knew they were on their way out and they were nasty cheap synthetic things anyway.  It was a good excuse to find a decent pair. 

I must say that it feels really odd walking around with toasty warm ankles, but freezing cold, achy feet!  I get really cold feet and hands, so slippers are a must have item for me.  I even take them out visiting with me.  Frequently.  Life group, my parents or parents-in-law, basically anywhere the protocol is to take your shoes off, you would often find me with my slippers tucked under my arm, walking up the front path to the house.   My other issue is that I get really sore feet.  Blame genetics.  None of my family have much, ah, meat on our feet.  Skin and bone.  And small.  Mine are very small (I take a 2-5 depending on where it was made!).  So at the moment I am resorting to wearing my track shoes inside the house, and just trying to keep them clean.  They keep my feet from being sore, but are still not so 'hot' in the warmth department.

The reason I feel like crying is that I am now on slipper trial number three.  #3.  I ordered 2 pairs last time from a mail order place (because to buy anything in sheepskin locally was going to cost $150 and I have half that to spend!), having carefully checked their sizing and working out that my 21cm feet should fit either an XL or an XXL (kids sizes!).  The XL was too small.  The XXL was a good fit, but there was something wrong with the right sole just underneath the pad of the foot, making it too uncomfortable for me to wear.  So I sent them both back, asking for a replacement XXL.  They arrived on Monday.  The thing is that they seem to be a size smaller than the last pair!  My toes are jammed in the ends.  It is rather uncomfortable.  They are lovely chocolate brown ugg boots, soft and fluffy inside, sit just above the ankle...pretty much everything I am wanting.  Except not the right size.  The tag says they are an XXL.  Big sigh.  Really, really big sigh.  Don't cry over slippers; they are really not worth the effort.  But I just want it sorted.  Now.  Actually, what I wanted was the right pair to turn up on Monday.  Grrr!  Now I have to go back to the company again and find out what is going on.  I don't want to talk to them.  I just want to wear my slippers. 

Amy

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Chair

Well, I was all excited about coming online today and using the new Blogger editor, which I read about on Greatfun4kids yesterday. Only I can't get mine to work properly. I set it all up, and go in there to write a post, and it has one of those little flower circle thingys going round and round and round where I am supposed to be able to write a post! My bottom toolbar is telling me there is an error on the page, but of course I have no idea what it is or how to fix the darn thing. I tried uploading photos. They didn't show up. The only thing that did show up was the title! So after changing it back to the old editor and then changing back to the new, signing in and out, and trying it all again, I have had to go back to the old editor. I am so dissappointed! I was really looking forward to being able to put photos in more easily! Grrr. Can any blog-savy person please help?!

Moving on to happier thoughts, here is what we have been up to the past couple of days:
Re-seating two of our dining chairs. This involved buying a piece of plywood, and getting my dad to cut it for me with his electric saw on Saturday. Plus we had to hand-saw some little corners out to fit around the back legs. Then Boyo and I spent an evening pulling staples out of the old seats. Lots and lots of staples. Around 100 per seat, Boyo estimated. I then glued the original foam onto the new chair bases. Then last night I hammered the fabric back on, using small tacks. The timing had to be carefully arranged so that Munchkin was up and playing with his daddy, otherwise the noise would be too much for him. We still have one more chair to tack back together. I do feel rather accomplished. The fabric is not as tight as it once was, but the seat should now last quite a few more years of bum-squishing. In the end, that's all we really wanted.  Amy

The reason we needed to work on the chairs!
Can you count the staples?!?
Gluing the foam back onto the new boards.
All my lovely tacking.
The finished product!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stocking Up

I have recently started stocking up on worm pee. It seems that I always end up with it pouring out of the worm farm whenever I don't need it (in other words, every time it rains and the garden is already sodden and so does not need any more watering!). So I am following my mother-in-law's excellent example, and bottling the stuff. Now I don't get nearly as much off my farm as she does, but it should still be enough to have a fairly large stash in the garden shed come spring and summer planting...just when the plants will need it most.




Juice, anyone?!? Boyo has decided that he doesn't want to try this dark coloured juice!

Amy

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The List

I have just entered a blissful period of time in which I do not have any study. Four weeks of freedom! I have been looking forward to it for ages, it seems, and finally it is here. If you think that means I will be putting my feet up and relaxing though, you are strangely mistaken. I have THE LIST to complete. The List is rather long. It has been added to frequently over the past few months - every time I think of something that needs to be done (or I wishfully want to have done), but do not have time to do while I am studying I add something more. I will not bore you with the two A4 pages full of things I wish to accomplish. Instead, I will condense The List down to the larger priorities.

* Fix 2 broken dining chair seats where the MDF has broken
Progress: got ply, cut with Dad (thanks Dad!), glued foam back on, ready to staple fabric back on - require time when Boyo is home to watch Munchkin as hammering too loud!

* Make chook cage
Progress: Bought materials yesterday with Boyo and Munchkin for technical support! Okay, so Munchkin likes to trolley ride! Cut ply with Dad (big thanks, Dad!). Need to cut framing - which means taking Munchkin up to my parents during the day, and stashing him in the play pen while I measure and cut with the hand saw, then cart all pieces home in the car
Then I need to screw the frame together...the rest I will tell you when I get to it! This is a rather large project!

* Planning and preparation for Munchkin's first birthday in (gulp) two week's time.
Progress: Have sort of done the menu and started buying the decorations. Quite a lot to do in the days leading up to the big event - depending how many people decide to come.
Need to sort out Munchkin's birthday present. Lots and lots of research so far. Not much other progress. Grin.

*Move emergency water bottles into shed from concrete block garage (note: recommendation is to have emergency kits in a garden shed or similar because they are less likely to collapse in an earthquake) and set up a semi decent emergency kit
Progress: Have got the bottles from garage to conservatory. Need to refresh the water (you are meant to do this every 6 months) and was hoping for a dry week so I can water the garden with it instead of just wasting it. Yeah, never mind? Got a new padlock for the shed so we have more than one key, very useful!
Need to find container for emergency kit and put stuff in it, like our little burner, bandages, toilet paper, etc.

*Sell a whole more stuff on Trademe.
Progress: Need to take photos. Then spend time loading things online. I do have a list of things to sell though so that is a start.

*Crochet half a blanket together.
Progress: I have crocheted 4 whole rows together already! On number5...want to crochet them to each other though (the rows, to make half the blanket).

* Sew some zippered bags for our cash monthly money (like groceries, spending money, birthdays, etc). We've been using plastic and they keep breaking. Plus people can see inside. I saw some on a blog once (can't remember where), and thought they looked really cool.
Progress: Bought zips. 12. One of each colour! I came out nearly giddy with delight at the colour choices! Need to do a trial one, then probably find some more fabric.

* Tidy Garden
Progress: I've already moved the compost bin, and the strawberry plants, so excellent progress so far! Need to make a wire cage to grow potatoes in. Need to plant garlic at the Big Garden. Did get the seedlings from the windowsill finally planted today. Only a few weeks late! Want to trim trees up the driveway so they don't scrape our car as we squeeze past the front neighbour's van...the camellias are getting a bit overgrown and I only got partway up last year.

So there you have it. This is, remember, the condensed list for your reading pleasure. I think I will be a little busy! But oh, so satisfied as I cross each thing off The List!


Amy

Friday, May 6, 2011

Drawings

We had letters recently from our sponsored kids. I love reading them! Haji and Mariam are at such a lovely age, and always send us pictures they have drawn. I just had to share some with you.

A car by Haji. Following is a tower and a broom.





Here are some by Mariam. She's drawn us flowers, clothes, a tree, house and many more.






Aren't they just gorgeous!? I am thinking I really need somewhere to display their artwork, as it currently gets looked at then filed away. Perhaps some fridge magnets are in order?! We will have Munchkin's artwork to add in years to come too, so really should find a good space for art displays soon!




Amy



Friday, 6th May, 2011

The Simple Things in Life



Here's a toy I made for Munchkin a while back and have been meaning to share. It's pretty basic really. Fill an empty soft drink bottle with water, a bit of dishwash liquid, a few drops of food colouring, and do up the lid nice and tight (glue it if you're worried it might come off). I added a few little party things - hearts, cakes, etc - just sparkly tiny ornaments, as my mum had some and we don't currently have any glitter. To play? Roll it around the floor. Stand it up and swish it round. See how many bubbles you can get. Or let them all die down so you can gaze at the sparkly bits instead. Nice and simple, and lots of fun!




Amy

Friday, 6th May, 2011

The Weigh In

Today Munchkin had his 1year Plunket check up. He weighs 12.3kg and is 81cm tall. About the size of an 'average' two year old. We are not surprised. He's been tracking along the 97th percentile for both height and weight since about 3 months old. Tall genes. Not mine (although I do like to joke that he takes after his mother when people comment on how 'huge' he is - I am a slender 160cm or 5foot 3inches!). I must say that our Plunket ladies have been brilliant. While nearly everyone else has some comment or other to make about Munchkin's size, the Plunket ladies like to point out that he is very well proportioned, and developing great for his age. They check whether we have any concerns, ask what he has been up to lately, and are courteous and helpful. Thanks Plunket!
I've been saying to Boyo lately that we need fruit trees. Both of us rather like fruit, and have been raised to eat a fair bit of it. Munchkin is looking to follow in our footsteps. He loves his fruit! Most days now he will eat a couple of feijoas, half a mandarin and a banana, and only limited to that because that's all his mother will give him! I'm now wondering if we might need a cow, goat, pig, and chickens as well. Oh, and maybe a Sanitarium factory in the backyard to supply Weetbix should he develop a taste for them as his father has! Grin. It's a good thing I am a creative and frugal cook. Bring it on!


Amy

Friday, 6th May, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

For my Niece

Happy Birthday precious girl,


you are a whole year old.


You've learnt how to clap, to sit, to stand.


You know your Daddy, and your Mummy, and your Gran.


Now that all the hype is over, and your parents have had time to recover,


I'd like to take the time to pray


That this year be full of fun and discovery,


of mystery and excitement.


That each day you wake knowing you are loved,


and each night you sleep knowing you are God's.


You are his. His special child. You are so precious, a beautiful delight.


Your smiles, your kisses, your cuddles are like precious jewels, each one warming the heart of your family.


We love watching you read.


Love how you walk around holding onto someone's hands.


Love that you are determined.


That you look a bit like your daddy and a bit like your mummy.


We love that you are part of our family.


Happy birthday, princess!










Amy


Thursday, 5th May, 2011

Free Rice - May

I have decided that I'd like to do a few monthly posts. I thought that this might be more managable than trying to do weekly ones? My thinking at this point is to do a monthly post updating you on my Free Rice totals for the month (to guilt trip me into remembering to answer at least a few words and feed a few people each month!). I might do a Meatless Monday Meal once a month too, a Word for the Month (rather than for the week!), and a Garden Update. How does that sound? Do-able?

I set up an account with Free Rice because it tracks how many vocabulary words I answer correctly, and how many grains of rice are donated from them.

Monthly totals for this year so far are:
January 2,530 grains of rice.
February 1,020
March 1,180
April 1,500
May - no stats available yet

To give you an idea of the time involved in this, I just answered 20 questions in less than 2 minutes (on the easiest level). That's 200 grains of rice donated to the World Food Programme!!!

Have you had a go at the Free Rice game lately?

Amy

Thursday, 5th May, 2011

More Tap Photos?

It is with sincere apologies to the lovely Aynsley that I write this post. I had meant to come on and post some Turn on the Tap photos that she emailed me some months ago. I THOUGHT they were in my inbox 'blog' folder. I have just spent half an hour ploughing through my emails, without avail. I seem to have lost them! I've looked in my inbox, in my blog tab, in friends, in family, in deleted...basically everywhere I can think of. I even checked my writing folder just in case I had saved them there. Nope. Vanished. I feel like a right moron. This is what happens when you don't do something when you should have.

Aynsley, would you mind terribly sending them to me again (if you can find them easily)?

Amy

Thursday, 5th May, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Feijoas Galore



My parents' feijoa tree seems to have a bumper crop this year. The fruit set also seems a lot better than in previous years (it has trouble with fruit not being pollinated because it flowers so much earlier than other local trees). I've been picking up feijoas by the bucketfull and bringing them home. Last week I decided it was time to get some into the freezer, so we have some fruit for crumble and winter porridge. There were so many on the ground, you would probably not have even realised I'd been there! Which means I'd better go back again this week! Feijoas are great in that you know they are ripe when they fall to the ground. This does mean, however, that the fruit will rot in damp weather if you don't get to it quickly. Yummy. I do so love feijoas!



What are your favourite uses for feijoa?




Amy


Monday, 2nd May, 2011

Flowers

Our summer flower garden is long gone. Our grocery budget is stretched as far as it can go, so I have had to forego flowers for some weeks. Boyo did buy me a beautiful sunflower, which lasted for ages, but we finally had to concluded that it had done its dash when it was completely wilted and curled up. I thought that might have to be the end of weekly flower displays for several months, but headed out into the yard just in case I could find some greenery or something with which to brighten up the house. I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes you just have to look at the world with eyes that are focused, in order to find what you are looking for. Isn't that so often the case. We plough on through life, thinking we are seeing, thinking we are looking, but in reality we are just so busy that we miss much of what our eyes take in. Then when we stop, and take a moment to really concentrate on what we are seeing, so many details appear that were previously hidden to us.

This is what happened to me. Walking around with my sizzors I suddenly found quite a few options to use when I had previously thought there wasn't really much out there. I managed to do a little arrangement for the bathroom, and then one for the dining table too! Sadly, as is the case with all cut flowers, they haven't lasted very long. As it is now pouring with rain I won't be replacing them today at least. I do wonder what I will find out there next time though?







Amy


Monday, 2nd April, 2011

We Have a View!

Our unit is surrounded by views - of the hills, the estuary, trees and houses. I tend to forget though, as many of them you can't actually see from inside the house itself. Our back yard is framed by mature camellia trees almost all the way around, which makes for a lovely secluded backyard, and splashes of colour throughout winter. But it does mean you forget how high we are here, perched just down the side of the ridge of a hill.





We recently had a tree break in the back yard. It's a rather lovely little tree, so I'm quite gutted. It just seems to have grown more than it can hold upright - I'd thought for awhile that it seemed to be getting lower (I'd bang my head on branches and find myself wondering if they had always been that low). Then one day I was out talking to the neighbour and she asked what was wrong with our tree - pointing to a branch that was very definitely on a lean. Yup, sure enough, it had split...the next morning another larger branch was also split, and there were branches over the fence, the shed, and the route to the compost bin. We had to call in the landlord with a chainsaw. He left as much of the tree as he could, but I fear we are now on borrowed time. This is the only tree in the yard that gives daytime shade during summer, so I am lamenting its demise for more than just sympathetic reasons. I am hoping it will suprise us all and live for many more years yet!






The upside is that we have discovered a view that we didn't realise we had. It is quite hard to see in the photos (I'm blaming trouble with lighting on that), but we can now see all the way out across to the next ridgeline, including a nice upright poplar tree. We are still getting used to our tree being missing, but are definitely enjoying the view when we walk into the bedroom. Views, I have realised, are quite important to me. I like to look at something restful. I enjoy sitting in our lounge so much here because my chair faces out through the big window, out across our fence with its banksia rose, across to a higher ridgeline with a group of norfolk pines.


Amy


Monday, 2nd May, 2011