Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Happy Homemade Christmas - part 4 - All over Red Rover

And so, the Silly Season is over for another year. Though I didn’t achieve perfection (by a long shot) in my Quest for an entirely Handmade Christmas, I was happy with my efforts.

I made the salads for our Xmas lunch. I supported local business by getting the chutneys and pickles at the markets.  I wrapped my presents up in lovely rustic twine and brown paper. I bought handmade for some of my gifts.

Brown paper packages tied up with string... #xmas
It wasn’t easy though. Particularly the gift side – I’ve discovered not everybody can be catered for by the handmade or locavore movement.

Books, for example. You have to buy them, you can’t make them or get one from your friendly local author. You CAN, however, support authors by buying from independent bookshops. Or DVDs. Again, something you can’t hand make or buy local. But you CAN purchase them legitimately from a shop or online retailer, thus ensuring everyone involved in their production receives their cut of the profits. Piracy helps nobody.

So what did I learn? Well, I found that handmade gifts for the men in my family are extremely difficult. They just don’t want or need leather hip flask covers, stamped silver bottle opener keyrings or manscaping smelly things to splash on their chiseled jaws. They’re not into fashion, and wear no jewelry. Thus, sites like Etsy are a little of a lost cause for me when shopping for males. The one exception is t-shirts – there are some great, original artwork tees out there.

I also learned that you just can’t do everything and work full-time. I worked right up to Xmas Eve, and found that hand-making gift tags, co-coordinating a decorative colour theme for the dining room and trialing a tablescaping idea were not within my abilities. However, I found some lovely handmade-looking tags, bought crackers that matched the baubles on my tree and threw some pinecones in a wire basket for a centerpiece. And it worked out ok.

The loveliest part of the day was having the chance to bring out and use some of my vintage Pyrex. I used a divided casserole dish, an old amber glass pie dish and a large mixing bowl for the salads.

I hope your Christmas was just as nice as mine. x

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Happy Homemade Christmas - Part 3 - Food

I've been thinking about Christmas lunch for a few months now. I've done one Christmas lunch before, and that was with my brother and his girlfriend. This year, it will just be us, my mum and maybe my dad (he works out west, doesn't know if he'll be back yet).


Somewhere along the line I've got it into my head that I want to do a "cool" lunch.  that is, no cooking. I do not want to turn my oven on. This is problematic.

I've discovered, that even though in Australia we tend not to do the whole hot roast and all the trimmings thing any more, a lot of our traditional Christmas food still requires cooking. And all the northern hemisphere recipes are, of course, great for winter when the oven is cosily warming the kitchen while your children play in the snow. But not so fab when it's 40 degrees outside and the sweat is dripping into your eyes as you check if the roast veges are done.

Christmas food that requires heat:
Glazed ham
Roast beef
Roast chicken
Roast Veges
Steamed beans, peas and carrots
Seafood that needs cooking
Christmas pudding
Mince tarts
Salads involving rice, cous cous, quinoa, roast veges or pasta
Potato salad

So here's the flip side - "cool" Christmas food:
Cold chicken
Cold leg ham
Rum balls
Prawns & other raw seafood

I've spent hours surfing food websites looking for ideas, and come to the conclusion you could get lost in the world of salads, for example. More than I would have thought involve a cooking element too!


Another things pissing me off - articles like this one, titled "Beginner's Christmas", that actually involves a recipe where you have to stuff a bloody turkey. Stuff that.

So here's what I'm planning - No entree. Why fill up on hors d'ouvres when the main event is so yummy? Lunch will be a cold roast chicken, leg ham off the bone, a tomato salad, potato salad, (cooked the night before!), peas and corn ,chutney and mustard. Dessert is pavlova and bought Christmas pudding with cold custard.

My mother-in-law suggested nipping down to Woolies and picking up a few containers of their potato or pasta salad and some pre-made coleslaw. But my pride won't allow for that! (Note my pride will allow for bought custard and pudding as these are far beyond my meagre cooking skills...)

Now, as that's lunch taken care of... does this mean I can focus on my tablescaping? *maniacal laugh*

Sites browsed that I found helpful in writing this blog: Recipes+, Super Food Ideas, Coles, Feast, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver

What's on your Christmas menu? Are you doing a roast? 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Happy Homemade Christmas part 2 - handmade gifts

I am quite jealous of people that make things. I dabble - I try to cook, try to be crafty with my scrapbooking and so forth but have come to recognise my limitations. I'm no artist.

However, I love supporting people that are, and turn what was a hobby, passion or talent into their livelihood.

Here are some nice handmade things I've been browsing lately on Etsy. My guide for choosing presents for other people is: pick something I would want someone to give me!

Clockwise from top:

Floaty Feather Tea Towel Citron - from ElkhornDesign 

Vintage map organic cotton cushion cover - from mybeardedpigion

Funky teapots bag cotton hand stenciled print - from PrintingPretty

Resin bangle. pink orange yellow. sunrise. gloss. - from whizzbangle

Scarf Dahlia Wrap in espresso - from ElkhornDesign

Bec's Hummingbird fine art print - from kittensandcrumpets


So I think it's clear that I like things like vintage maps, tea, linen, birds and bright colours! 

Do you have a favourite handmade or bespoke crafter or artist? Tell me in the comments!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Happy Homemade Christmas - part 1

Welcome to a series of blogs I'm going to be doing sporadically over the holiday season. It's going to be about planning and having a Happy, Homemade Christmas. Or my attempts to do so!

I have a different perspective on Christmas this year. My growing interest in all things vintage and my focus on "reduce, reuse, recycle" and trying to integrate this mantra into my everyday life has had a great effect on me. I'm starting to have an adverse reaction to what has become near-normal for this time of year - a commercialised orgy of spending, focused on buying new things and conspicuous consumption.

I only have to look at the growing pile of junk mail that is accumulating in my recycling bin to realise that I could get very wrapped up in spending money not only on gifts for others (that they probably don't really need) but also on myself right now.

Please don't think of me as ready to throw off the shackles of chain store shopping just yet, but I am ready to refocus my perspective of the season onto stuff that feels more right than just spending money on "things".

I'm going to try to do things "homemade" where possible, and get my gifts locally or from small business. Ideally, I would love to source all my gifts from Etsy! It will not be easy, but I'm going to give it a crack, and be sharing with you the lovely things I discover along the way.

It's not all going to be about gifts either. Other things I want to try to do the Homemade Way:
  • cooking and baking
  • cardmaking
  • giftwrapping
  • decorating
 I am hosting Christmas lunch for our family this year, so I'll be trying to serve up not only a lovely meal, but decorate the house nicely as well.  No tinsel. I've decided I'm allergic.

source: pinterest

What do you think about Christmas? Do we get too focused on buying stuff?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Things this weekend has taught me

* Never underestimate the restorative power of a good lie-in.

* Thunderstorms are more fun when you can share them with someone. They are not fun when you are home alone.

* It is very hard to read by candlelight.

* My flatscreen tv looks feather-light but weighs two tonnes

* I have a lot more vintage stuff than I thought. A lot more.

* After 5 years of living in this house, I have yet to work out a storage solution for our collective stuff.

* A nice hot cup of tea and a pretty magazine cures most things.

How was your weekend? Learn anything?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


[Source: Cheezburger]

I found myself desperately caring about the American Presidential election today.

I followed it all day on Twitter and on BBC's liveblog while I was supposed to be doing work.

The funny thing is, I've never been this interested in Australian politics. Nor have I ever felt as comfortable discussing Australian politics as I have been about the US these past few weeks.

In the break-room at lunchtime, some person had left the election coverage on. One of the younger girls had a long, loud bitch that Ellen wasn't on. She asked (rhetorically perhaps) why anyone Australian would care about the American election.

Without missing a beat, I looked her in the eye and said "I care. Because they're one of the biggest economies in the world, with the biggest military, and Australia is their ally." I got a blank look in return but thankfully the others knew what I was on about.

Australia is extremely dependent on the US for trade. We look to them for foreign policy, and rely on them for military support. Our culture is pervaded by Americanisms. We love their TV shows, their fast food and their cult of celebrity.

So as much as I would like to say I was indifferent about today's result, that would be a complete lie. It's not for no reason they refer to POTUS as "the leader of the free world". Whoever sits in that position matters to a whole lot more people than just Americans.

Did you watch or follow the election coverage from America? Were you more/less invested in it than the last Australian Federal election?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Keep It Simple, Sarah

I feel like another rant about our overwhelming modern world. Last time it was about supermarkets, this time it's about beauty products.

This has been sparked by two things.

1) I went to Coles today. I had to buy things that you can't get in Aldi (curry powder and my favourite toothpaste). As usual, I spent a good ten minutes in the bathroom products aisle staring like a goon at body scrubs/moisturisers/milks/gels and wondering how in God's name people choose one. This always makes me cranky.

2) I have had a thought lately - seems to me as I'm 31, perhaps I need to be doing a bit more for my skin, specifically my face and eyes. I have begun to feel like I should perhaps be changing my current beauty ROUTINE and upping the ante to a REGIME. (This is, of course, my stupid ego crumbling before the relentless onslaught of woman-focused advertising and other media telling me that there is nothing worse than AGING.)

And then this happened - Aldi let me down. I turned to them for a face or eye cream that might save me from the horrors of getting older and the tyranny of choice! I thought "Hey, Aldi has one product for everything. No variety. No decisions. This will be easy."


Aldi has a beauty range called Lacura. I've been using their facial cleanser and hand cream for a few weeks now with success. I'm happy with them. But a simple thing like moisturiser? There's more than one option.

They've got:

  • "Multi Intensive Serum" (in two varieties)
  • "Intensive Serum"
  • "Rejuvinating Night Cream"
  • "Protective Day Cream"
  • "Cream for Mature Skin "
  • "Night Cream for Mature Skin"
  • "Face Cream"
  • "Q10 Day Cream"
  • "Q10 Day Cream"
  • "Q10 SPF15 Anti Wrinkle Face Cream"
  • AND
  • "Anti Aging Face Cream SPF 15" (in two varieties)

What the hell, Aldi?

At least there is only one eye product, and it is helpfully called "Eye Cream" - although there is three varieties of this stuff as well.

I don't know about you folk, but I DO NOT WANT to spend 15 minutes of my life reading the fine print on each of these packages trying to figure out which one would be best on my skin.

I KNOW that I am not the only one that feels lost about these things. I've probably mentioned before how I feel like a complete idiot about all things beauty, hair and makeup but I also resent the fact that sometimes I feel that knowing these things is actually important. BECAUSE IT'S NOT. And I hate that magazines, tv and the even my beloved internet make me think this way.

The world will not end if I use the wrong type of hair gel/spray/wax/fudge/mousse. Planes will not fall from the sky because I do not know how to apply eyeshadow. Cities will not crumble because I fail to cleanse, tone and moisturise every morning and night.

However, I do acknowledge that looking good is very good for one's personal morale and gives a good self-esteem boost. How to find a balance?

At the end of the day, I hate beauty products but know I need some of them. I definitely need moisturiser with sunscreen to protect my fair skin from the harsh Queensland sun. I definitely need some kind of shit for my hair because the frizziness is driving me insane. And I definitely do not want to end up looking like a dried up piece of leather when I'm 60 because I didn't care for my skin.

Oh, and I'm going to design a product range that has one or two words on the front label, and all the fine print on the back. There will be MOISTURISER, HAND LOTION, BODY WASH, EYE CREAM and LIP BALM. None of this rubbish where I have to read seven lines of text before discovering what the product I've picked up actually is.

And the bestest idea of all - shampoo and conditioner that say nothing but SHAMPOO and CONDITIONER on them. In huge letters. Because I can never tell which one is which without my glasses on in the shower.

Do you use a day/night cream/serum/intensive repair treatment? How in the heck did you end up choosing from the massive variety out there?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Day at the Beach

Last Friday, I got a text from one of my NSW cousins.

We're coming to the Gold Coast for the long weekend! Come see us!

So I drove down there to see them and their darling children. So did three of my other cousins, their partners and kids. It was a warm day - the water was much too cold for me, an aclimatised Brisbanite, but the kids all went in the surf and the pool.

I simply sat and enjoyed the feel of the super-fine white sand between my toes, watching the seagulls, lifeguards, tourists and even the surf rescue chopper go by. Pity I wasn't quick enough with the Nikon for that one.

I couldn't get over how many tall highrises there are at Surfers Paradise now. Much different from when my parents took me there when I was young!

Next time I will definately swim. If it's over 30 degrees. Ok, 33.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

City of Blinding Lights

This year's Brisbane Festival ended with a bang last night with Riverfire. It's an annual fireworks spectacular coupled with an aerial display that Brisbanites love.

I didn't go - I never have, as battling a crowd of 500,000 is not my idea of a good Saturday night, nor fighting people for a good viewing spot on Kangaroo Point. However, this year I did have a hankering to see the City of Lights laser display.

A few days of nagging later, husband agreed to take me. Conveniently, it was on every night of the Festival and completely and utterly free.

Arriving at Southbank, we were greeted with the dreamy sight of hundreds of strung lanterns lining the boulevard.

We then wandered over to the riverbank to wait for the laser show. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't white lounges set up for seating! These all being occupied, C and I set ourselves up on the grass. I had brought mum's lovely good camera along and I must say, it performed very well considering it was at night, taking photos of lasers projected against water and smoke, and also on AUTO. 

I couldn't resist the opportunity to snap a couple of shots of the Wheel of Brisbane lit up in the darkness. How glorious! I can't imagine riding it at night though. I found daytime terrifying enough!

It was a fun, if short, evening. I never go south of the river any more, so this was a special treat. We even got ice cream on the way home.

And just because, here is the song this post is named after. When it plays in The Devel Wears Prada, just as the heroine arrives in Paris... sigh. My heart beats faster. I have seen it live too. Amazing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Practical Prepping

So this is not another post about meal prepping. It's about DOOMSDAY prepping.

My twitter followers know that husband and I do enjoy an episode of Doomsday Preppers. In fact, we have yet to get through an entire show without pausing it and having a lively debate about the pros, cons and practicality of some of the things we see on there. And sometimes just have a good laugh.

But seriously - we're getting some good ideas. I'm not embarrassed to admit we are doing a little prepping of our own, on a small scale, just in case.

I've posted before about our Bug Out Bags (or BOBs, though I swear to god I did not know that BOB also stood for something else when I wrote that post) but now we're thinking beyond that to food and camping gear.

The reason I think this is a good use of our time is sometime in the future we may be able to actually use this stuff for camping. Or in a post-apocalyptic zombie scenario. Whichever comes first.

Today we were discussing freeze-dried foods and MREs so decided to get one from the camping store. We'd been pricing a few over the last 12 months or so, and picked up one which was two servings for $15. Yeah, I know. My justification? I spend more than that on KFC for us. Plus we were going to eat it for dinner tonight (providing it was edible), and all I had to do was boil the kettle and wait 10 mins! Bring it on!

I got to choose the meal type - it was a Thai Chicken Curry. And WOO-WHEE was it hot! But still good. I ended up being able to eat only half of my serve but C ate his and my leftovers. Good to know - that flavour will NOT be going in my Bug Out Bag.

I know some of you may think that we're kind of paranoid. But hey, we lived through one Summer of Disasters. If we get another, and the power goes out and/or we're isolated from services and shops? I'm going to be a heck of a lot less batshit crazy knowing we're at least a little prepared and have things like torches, batteries, radios, a gas stove etc etc.

PS - Queenslanders, just you watch - we'll get another little pamplet and fridge magnet from the State Government over the next two months telling us to prepare for storm season. I still have mine on my fridge from last year. And you know what it says? Always have at least 3 days of food and water on hand. Good tip.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New Toy

Since my parents are in Eastern Europe and paranoid about taking things worth money with them, mum has left me with her lovely Nikon DSLR camera. Don't ask me which one it is, all I know is that it has lots of buttons and I yell at it a lot because it won't let me take shots sometimes.

Now, I know some photography snobs look down their nose at anyone who uses a lovely DSLR with all the bells and whistles and continues to shoot on Auto (or the pretty little flower for close up things) but honestly? I looked up some photography stuff and it was all greek to me. I mean, I'm pretty smart but all the talk about aperture, depth of field etc really did not compute.

This weekend I got it out and played with it a bit. I took some stock photos for my Etsy store Little Moments Vintage, then went about the house and yard clicking happily.

 A lonely chair near the back fence. I have no idea where it came from or why it is there.

Playing with perspective.

Shadows - oooh!

 Don't my work shirts look so white in the spring sunshine?

 As you can see, some of my herbs are progressing better than others. you'll be happy to know I have transplanted the rocket in the hope some may actually survive.

I still can't get over the fact this camera has no trouble taking shots of things like flowers close-up on Auto.

Hubby working on a car - business as usual around here, whether it's ours or someone else's!

Today my other half abandoned me to go for a motorbike ride. After moping for a bit and loudly reminiscing about the times we used to go for drives together when we were dating, I pulled up my big girl pants and decided he deserved it after working hard all week. I was glad I didn't put on a sulk about it in the end, because when he came home this afternoon he was all grins and trying to tell me about how he gets a sense of 'calm' when he's riding the windy mountain roads. Bless. 

Anyways, I asked twitter what I should do all day to occupy myself and I got some wonderful suggestions - indulge in a mani/pedi, go window shopping, take myself to lunch, pull out an unfinished craft project. I identified a theme and decided to do something I always feel like doing on the weekend and never do - going to the coast. So I hopped in my little hatchback and drove myself up to Caloundra. Of course, I took the new toy with me.

I came to the conclusion that day-trips to the beach aren't as fun without someone with you. I was all self-conscious and a bit lonely with nobody to talk to. It reminded me of when my friend B and I used to pack some nibbles and go up there for the day, walk around, take photos and eat chips at Bulcock Beach. Maybe next time you're home from freezing ol' Blighty hey B?

What did you do this weekend? Do you think these pics are pretty good even for someone using Auto?!


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