Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wow - I've been "Lovely Blogged"!

Barbara over at The New Good Life popped over yesterday to award me with a "One Lovely Blog Award". Which is kinda cool and really made my day!

In order to accept the award, there are a number of things one must do...

1 – Show your Thanks – Thank the person who awarded the honor and link back to them Thank you Barbara!

2 - Share seven things about yourself. In no paticular order:

I jumped out of an aeroplane 29 times in my early 20's during my "parachuting is cool" phase - Its an expensive hobby (and he turned out to have a girlfriend...)

I like to read and am not very good at taking time to read a book - I want to know what happens and read and read and end up staying up 1/2 the night until the book is finished!

I love black flavored tea's and I currently have French Earl Grey (with Lavender), Black Chai, Rose Petal, Stockholme (various flowers), Monk (pear and bergamot) and Earl Grey Romantica (with scotch heather flowers)

One of my all time favorite things to is to read the Sunday paper (with a pot of tea).

I have only been married for 2 1/2 years and think its still great fun!

I have too many jobs and don't get to blog, read blogs and find new blogs as much as I would like to!

I want solar panels on the roof to reduce my powerbill and some sky tube things to let in more light so I dont have to use more power (If I had one would I need the other?)

3 – Nominate up to 15 Blogs that you admire.

Gladys in the Garden - Sara's blog about her garden, crocheting and life.

African Aussie - Gardening triumphs and trials in the northern tropics of Australia.

Kathryns brain - Alpaca farming, yoga and simple living on the otherside of the world.

Greenhaven - Linda's blog about food, family and her garden in Victoria, Australia.

I will add to this list in the next few days...

4 – Contact the Bloggers by leaving comments with them about their Awards –
I hope you all enjoy your nomination as much as I have and pass this award onto others that blog in a way that you admire!

Thanks again, Barbara!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Quick Cheap Birthday Cake Idea!

There is nothing like having only a few hours to put together a birthday cake that needs to feed a tribe of people, travel well, be put together almost instantly, be affordable and still be attractive to the birthday boy...

I stopped by a couple of bakeries and almost had a heart attack at the prices - I had no idea you could pay over $40 for a cake! Then I dropped into one of the big super markets and almost had a heart attack - did you know you can buy a cake for under $4? I wonder what it was made of...

What to do? Pay the money or poison us all? Then I spotted some cheap colourful cupcakes... And had an idea!

Here's what I did...

Bought the cupcakes for just under $1 each already iced and 'sprinkled'. Ducked back into the supermarket and got some of those premade icing decoration thingos and rushed home.

Popped the cupcakes onto a tray with a paper doily (that I quickly ironed) left over from Christmas. Found the 10,000 birthday candles left over from the times I used to 'buy new ones for every event' and stuck one into each cupcake and hoped the white singing one would still sing!

Used jam to stick the icing figurines on with.

Stepped back, took a photo or two, wrapped the pressies and rushed out the door.

Does this ever happen to any one else?

Score card:
Green-ness: 0/5 Not very. In fact I cant think of a green thing about this exercise...
Frugal-ness: 1/5 Not very frugal but less expensive than it could've been.
Time cost: Including the drive to the shops less than an hour.
Skill level: As easy as poking and gluing can be!
Fun-ness: More relief when it came together than 'fun'!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Recycling and Organsing Wrapping Paper

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this, but I grab pretty wrapping papers, smooth them out and keep them to wrap other presents in whenever anyone around me opens a present!

Most of the time the paper is just fine to reuse to wrap pressies or it gets used for decorating notebooks/school books and crafty projects before finding its way to the worms or compost heap.

For a long time I just stuffed the paper into a box and occasionally used a piece. I was being supa-green by saving it but because I wasn't organised, I wasn't actually doing a lot of good as it was too hard to find a piece of usable, suitable paper in the two minutes before we walk out the door to the party and remember to both grab the pressie and to wrap it!

A remedy to this wrapping riddle was needed!

Here's what I did...

First I found a spot in the hub of the house with space that could be used for this task.

Then I emptied the drawer of all the junk.

Then I sorted all the papers, bags, tags, cards and ribbons out and packed them into the drawer in a way that makes the easy to see and to get at.

For us, this system of storing wrapping paper had to be accessible. There is no way we would ever wrap a pressie with recycled paper if we had to walk down the hallway or reach up into a wardrobe... (and because that's were it actually was, we often didn't get around to wrapping pressies - just thrust them into the recipients hands and muttered something about lack of time, kids playing up, husband running late as the excuse...)

It also had to be easy to see at a glance what papers, cards and ribbons there were to choose from. Having to dig down when you are in a hurry just doesn't work for us.

It also has to be easy to put in new papers etc. If we could just shove the new thing on the top, we did. This covered up all the other things and turned the box into a mess that gave the impression of 'too hard' and so we kept buying new paper rather than sort through the box.

It also had to be near where the scissors and sellotape (sticky tape for my Australian readers!) were or again, it was just too hard.

So the drawer of the filing cabinet next to my desk was the logical place. And as you can see got these presents wrapped in two minutes flat about ten minutes before we were due at the party!

The tizzy ribbon things and the bag made it home but the paper, sadly didn't...

For more green ideas on using recycled wrapping papers, try here and here!

Happy Birthday Freddy!

Score card:
Green-ness: Re-using things that have already been made is much green and is to be encouraged!
Frugal-ness: If it cost nothing but a few minutes of time - it is 'extreme-frugalling'.
Time cost: As long as you don't have to look, find, dig and throw a tantrum looking for the sticky tape first - it takes as long as wrapping a present with new paper, without the drive to the shops first!
Skill level: Supa-basic!
Fun -ness: A party is always an excuse to have a bit of fun!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Heavy Car Key Solution!

As a few you of you may have already worked out - I have a few jobs, and with those jobs seems to come many keys. I popped them on my keyring (as one does) and after a few weeks people started making comments about how heavy my key ring was. Not to carry (although its a bit of a pain) but for the ignition of my car.

Apparently, if you have too much weight on your keys it will eventually pull the ignition out of alignment and your car simply wont start one day. To start with, that frightened me. Both the inconvenience of not being able to start my car and the bill of having to fix the ignition, and so, I separated up my keys.

Of course what happens next is that I arrived at a job unable to get in and had to drive home and get the keys (turning my initial  twenty minute drive into an hour) and then being angry and frustrated at being late/unorganised and having the rest of my day run an hour late.

So I put them in the glove box of my car - and promptly swapped cars with my husband, drove to work, discovered I didn't have my keys, drove home, got the keys and drove back to work again... Achieving absolutely nothing, adding to my frustration and the greenhouse gas problems to boot!

A solution to my key shenanigans needed to found...

Here's what I did...

My first attempt included using a piece of wire attached to the indicator stick to take the weight of the keys - this didn't go down well with the 'concerned key crowd' as the problem was now that my indicator would eventually give up under the pressure from the keys weight. And I have to admit, it popped off occasionally and the keys swung down and smacked me on the knee! Also at 100km on a country road it proved to be trick (and dangerous) to put back onto the wire. The hook is just a bottle opener keyring that I got as a present from a friends child cause it was pink and she likes pink! (Thank you Sharni!)

This Mark II version involves a stick on hook and works MUCH better!!! I tried a few suction type hooks that were lying around the house, but none of them were going to work on the textured dashboard. I ended up having to buy a pack of four for $2 from the local $2 shop and only used one - but thats all I needed to quell the 'concerned key crowd'!

For a bit of extra info about this topic I found this and this if you want to chase it up further.

Score card:
Green-ness: Not very green at all. New/plastic/single use hook - but it has saved me in petrol, greenhouse gas emissions and in tantrum energy.
Frugal-ness: $2 Pretty darn frugal when compared to replacing the ignition.
Time cost: about 15 seconds to "install"!
Skill level: Just like cutting and pasting without the cutting!
Fun -ness: Knowing that a $2 hook saved you a small fortune and makes you seem really organised - great fun!

Friday, 22 June 2012

LifeLine Bookfest Volenteering is fun!

I have been a fan of the LifeLine Bookfest for a long time. Every six months, LifeLine holds a humongous secondhand book sale at the Brisbane Convention Centre - and I'm there!

There is nothing like the anticipation of opening up a book and delving into the pages for information or to find yourself in another world... Thank goodness that its open for the long weekends. I can take a while to choose a book... or ten!

Here's what I did...

Back in January, they had a stall recruiting volunteers and on a whim, I decided to put my name down. That was the last time I thought about it until I got an email a month ago asking me if I was still interested? They are very professional these LifeLine volunteer organisers and my email had info about everything from food to parking, to the various jobs up for grabs and how to get in early!

I got quite excited about the prospect of spending a weekend with a million books (an enthusiasm for which my husband did not seem share as enthusiastically) and I put myself down for an eight hour shift and told them to put me where ever they needed me since it was all new and exciting to me.

When the Sunday rolled around wild and windy, I assumed that not many people would travel into the city to grab a book bargain but I was wrong. Business for the Lifeline bookfest was booming and the volunteers were busy little bees.

I caught the train in for 11.30am giving me an hour to look at books before I started at 12.30pm. I don't know what I was thinking - an hour to look at a million books... I needed longer surprisingly!

And this is only about a third of the room that the books were in....
When I signed on, I was given a shift as a "pricer" and joined a team of three others who processed the books that people were buying. I counted them (they were $1 each in this section) and passed them onto the next person who packed them. I wrote the total on a piece of paper and the buyer gave that to the person on the cash register who took the money.
I had a ball chatting to people about the books they had bought and was quite surprised when my break came around two hours later. LifeLine knows how to look after their volunteers - Afternoon tea was the most yummy bikkies and bottomless tea and coffee!

Quick photo session during a break in the queue!
At the end of my four hours on register 13, my husband tracked me down and we signed him in and moved to register 15 in the $2.50 section. Once again I was a pricer (Spuiker, LifeLine advocate, Book Lover/Critic and information booth) and John was a cash taker. Never having used a till before, he had a steep learning curve but after three sales, he was on a roll! For his first real official volunteer role where his wife hadn't been the event organiser - he enjoyed it very much!

My cup of tea and my ready reckoner to calculate how much 34 books at $2.50 each might be!
John getting driving Instructions on the till. Three sales and he was good to go solo!

If you have ever thought of putting up your hand for something like this - I really encourage you to actually do it! We met some wonderful people, ate some fantastic biscuits, got free parking, grabbed some great books and had a ball to boot!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 Very green to volunteer for a charity
Frugal-ness: 5/5 Always a bargain to be had at the BookFest!
Time cost: As much or as little as you want to give or have time for.
Skill level: They will teach you what they need you to do.
Fun-ness: Awesome fun!!!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Make your own warming microwaveable wheatbag with barley!

Since I have started my new job(s) I have had a a few aches and pains from lifting things that are slightly too heavy, in an awkward way. (But I would argue that there isn't a graceful, pain free way to carry a wedding cake into a room with 100 people watching...) and so I dug out my wheat pack to pop on a few aches and pains... But it was very small. I have no idea why I bought a wheat pack the size of ones palm, but I can tell you, it didn't cover the neck or the back aches. I was so sure it was bigger when I bought it.

So, I decided that I could make a wheat pack after I had a look at the prices and decided I wasn't paying that sort of money. (Which is probably why I bought a small one, now I think about it...) So off I went to the shops to get some wheat, and do you think I could find any? No. So I bought some barley for $1.45 and hoped that it could be used the same way... (If not I was going to put it in a soup!)

A bit of a google search later and it seems that you can use many grains for wheat bags - and so I made mine with a $1.45 worth of soup barley and it works very well!

Here's what I did...

First I found some scraps of material (a couple of old pillowcases in this case) and sewed them into a rough and ready pillow with a small opening to put in 500gm of barley. (I was going for a rustic country feel) I kind of measured it against the barley packet but made it a bit bigger so that the wheat bag will mold to the sore part of my body and distribute the heat evenly. (Do you like my little sewed on heart?)

Then I used a funnel to put the barley in the pillow...

Just like this!

If you put too much barley in at one time, it gets a bit blocked up. I used a skewer poked down the funnel to free it up and get the barley to flow into the pillow.

Then I added a few nice smelly spices like ground cloves and Cinnamon, Then I got some rosemary and lavender out of the garden and added a bit of them in too. I'm hoping that a spin the the microwave will dry them out...

Sew up the wee hole that you used to put the barley. Pop it into the microwave for a minute or two and then pop it onto that sore spot and sit back and relax!

Here is a couple of links to some other wheat bag tutorials - Here and Here.

Don't forget to shake up your bag a bit when you get it out of the microwave to distribute the heated grains evenly - And test it before putting it directly on youngsters and older people with more sensitive and delicate skins.

Oh - And only use cotton, synthetics may melt in the microwave... :(  I used old pillow case scraps for mine.

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 Recycled material and grain with a few herbs and spices - nice and planet friendly.
Frugal-ness: 5/5 Free is as frugal as you can get!
Time cost: About 1/2 an hour all up to make, fill, sew up and heat up.
Skill level: You can make this as simple or as complex as you are able!
Fun-ness: Great fun - and wonderful to relax with!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Story of Stuff

While cruising the Internet some time ago, I came across a video called "The Story of Stuff". For most of you visiting this blog, you've probably seen it.

Its written and performed by a woman called Annie Leonard who is an activist in the US of A who decided that the Internet was a good way to get her message across. Since then she has a whole website dedicated to changing our consumer habits. I still really like the original 'Story of Stuff' and revisited it recently with my niece and her new husband as we were having a discussion about our lack of junk mail and her need to buy stuff for her new house and the baby that was on the way.

For those who haven't seen it - here is the link. Its a twenty minute video, excellent for children to watch and very engaging! Its part animated and part real person and very informative.

I have noticed some new videos on Annie's site since I last visited (Link here) for those who know the Story of Stuff, and for those like me who like books - There is a book of the story of stuff. I got mine from the local library. If you ask for the book they usually buy them if they don't stock them (That's how I got hold of a copy of Rhonda's book, Down to Earth)

So have a look, have a think and see what you reckon about the Story of Stuff!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for educating yourself (especially if you watch it on line!)
Frugal-ness: 5/5 will cost you nothing and encourage  you to spend less!
Time cost: About 20 minutes
Skill level: Watching a video is something I think we can all do with ease!
Fun -ness: Grab some popcorn and a cuppa and enjoy!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Citrus vinegar cleaner

While having a look at the various blogs that are joining with Christine's monthly reflections at Slow Living Essentials, I saw a recipe and link for a citrus vinegar cleaner that I thought might be not only easy to make but effective too!

Since I was making a Lemon and Lime chicken in the crockpot that evening - it seemed serendipitous that I should see a citrus cleaner at the same time! Here is the link to Wendys blog where I first saw the cleaner and the one to the blog that she got it from.

Here's what I did...

I simply peeled the skins off the lemons and limes with a vege peeler.

And then soaked them in plain cheap white vinegar on the window sill.

Then used it undiluted for my shower and diluted 50/50 with plain vinegar for the benches - Smells  great, works just fine!

Just as an aside, I saw some info about using Mandarin peels somewhere too - don't - they turn the whole thing into a gelatinous mess! Have fun and enjoy making your own cleaner!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 Pretty darn green I think - you could just about use it as a salad dressing too I reckon!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 Didn't cost me a cent as I had all those things anyway!
Time cost: All of 1 minute I think - but I wasn't really timing it!
Skill level: If you can peel a potato, you can do this!
Fun -ness: Great fun to make free things that work!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Slowing Down The "Slow Living Essential" Way! - May 2012

I have been following Christine at Slow Living Essentials for a while and in January she set a challenge to record on our blog, monthly, how we have "slowed down" under nine categories - I have been doing this for the last four months and really got a lot out of it. This is my May reflection on Slowing Down - the Slow Living Essentials way!

Here's what I did...

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
As busy as this month has been for me, I usually cook from scratch, and especially in the crock pot in the cooler months. A new recipe that we will try again was sizzle steak (thin BBQ steak) rolled around grated seasonal veges (parsnip, zucchini, garlic, onion and carrot) then popped in the bottom of the crock pot, topped with a bottle of diced tomatoes from the tomato bottling frenzy of 2009, some salt, pepper and a dash of red wine. Cook for 8 hours on low, top with cheese and eat - YUM! Really melt in the mouth stuff! Love my crock pot! With the hours I have been working - my crock pot has really got a work out this month! (heres my favourite crock pot website for you - a year of slowcooking

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve.
Hmmm... not so good with this category this month. I currently have three part time jobs, some only one day a week/fortnight, and then managed to pick up another part time job and then another one thinking/hoping that they may each become a replacement for two of the other jobs. But sadly for my time work balance, I have ended up with four, one or two days a week jobs - but gladly for my uni payments and my bank balance!

I have bought two new chickens to help eat the waste food I get from one of my jobs in a catering kitchen! All those carrot peelings, egg shells, broccoli stalks and salad scraps were going in the bin - now they come home in a yellow bucket to be devoured by the chooks. They act like they have never been fed when they see the bucket come out of the boot! But I can assure you, they eat like royalty!

This is Dawn - a Pekin Batam cross. Very young and very docile. I went to check on them at 9pm last night and she was still sitting in this spot - in the pouring rain!? Docile and not very bright is our Dawn!

This is Drizzle - a young Indian game hen. She is very fast and very flighty. Maybe I should have called her Lightning!
My chookies are named for meteorological themes - so we have Sunset (golden brown) Thunder (black) Cloud (white) Storm (grey) Dawn (light browny pink) and Drizzle (rain spotted browns)

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
Doing this challenge has made me realise that this is a lifestyle thing for us anyway. Our council has the three bin system. Red bin for waste, yellow for recyclables and a green one for green waste. Each bin is collected fortnightly. We don't have a green waste bin - what doesn't go to the chooks or worms goes in the compost. Bigger items like branches (including two whole 30 foot trees and 12 Cocos palms) are "incorporated" into the gardens and on any slopes (to help stop the soil disappearing into the neighbours place every time it rains (Have I mentioned the climate change before - its not meant to rain in winter in Brisbane!) and we grow things on and around them. Branches are stepped on (jumped on) every so often too help them get small enough to rot down. They all decompose eventually! We put our recycle bin out one a month, maybe 3/4 full and the waste bin out fortnightly (cause it often smells) but only 1/2 full (and it's been downgraded to a little one!) Thinking about it, I'm not sure how we do it but having spent a week at a friends place babysitting  I know our levels of waste are quite low!

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade products.
As I run out of commercial products, I have been researching what to replace them with that I can make myself. This month I have only managed to make a "miracle cleaner" from the cheapskates website and although I haven't used it extensively - it seems to do the job and cost me nothing as I had the ingredients at home.

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month?
I have been busy attempting to try to grow once again veges for human consumption but once again seem to be feeding the local possum population... This does not amuse me, surprisingly. It gets quite depressing to raise some seeds, prick the out to larger pots, nurse them through the weirdest winter weather for a long time (we defiantly have climate change in Brisbane even if its not recognised in the political arena!) then plant them out, in cages, to be eaten by the local possums with great joy and relish...
I planted sunflower, broad beans, broccoli and zucchini that the possums have eaten and have spring onions, 4 potatoes, runner beans and asparagus that are still to be attacked...

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
Due to working, sleeping on occasion, working a bit more, feeding the family and going to work, I haven't created a single thing... :( I have some invitations for a friend to finish this weekend for his 50th birthday gathering but really,  that will fall into June.) This challenge is making me think that I need to rethink my working life so that all work and no play doesn't make Jill/Kara a dull girl!

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
Oh, I haven't been entirely fair - I haven't just eaten worked and slept - I have studied and exam-ed as well this month! (How much fun can a girl have?) Apart from the occasional Sunday paper at the market with a cup of tea, I have managed a few uni texts (very good getting to sleep material) and a couple of new cookbooks, and I got a copy of "The Moneyless Man" - Interesting timing as I finally have some money with all the work I have been doing!!! Excellent read though - food for thought!

ENHANCE: community: The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold.
I have babysat for a friend while she went overseas - both her kids and her husband! I have given blood, organised the basketball teams, been to movie world with interstate family On $35 tickets!), given lots of my junk to the local school in the guise of "craft materials", did a car boot sale at a local children's charity and encouraged my neighbour to join a local wildlife care group to learn more about the animals that she interacts with in her backyard like the blind possum that she hand feeds every day.

It was very very cold that morning at the Car Boot sale - the kids looked like animated jackets but had a ball spending their $2! It was the cheapest five hours worth entertainment I have come across in  long time!

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family.
Mothers day cuppa at the markets, a whole weekend of chat, wine and good food with friends that have been around for so long, they are really family not friends and a "work do' to farewell some of my husbands workmates. Quality time not quantity time this month!

Its really good to check in and actually examine what I do with my time and see what trail I am following each month! This months refection has shown me I need some "me time" - and being able to blog for the first time in a month is a good start! Once again, a fabulous thing to do!

Thanks for the opportunity to share again Christine!!!
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