Friday, April 27, 2012

Embarking on an Escape.

I just wanted to write a brief post to inform you all that I am about to embark (escape?) on a week-long holiday to Sydney and the Blue Mountains, where I'll spend some time with my "middle" sister and a friend.

It's my first time to this part of the country and I'm terribly excited. And somewhat overwhelmed since there seems to be so much to see and do! 

SJ and the Bailey-dog will be minding the house (and all its chores) whilst I'm away, but unfortunately SJ doesn't blog. In fact, he doesn't even know how to turn on the computer, which is somewhat unusual for someone of his generation. Yes, he is a rare find indeed!

So, there will most likely be no further blog posts until I return in a little over a week's time.

Just so you know.

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Laundry Powder part 2...

One of the comments left over the weekend was on my laundry powder post, and asked for more information about the soap used. Now, I use laundry soap purchased at the supermarket, in part because I like the smell of it (smells just like clean laundry! Funny that), but mostly because I haven't yet bothered to learn how to make my own soap. But I do believe that homemade soap is perfectly suitable for this purpose too.

Since I cannot contact the person who left the comment privately to give them all this information, I thought I'd quickly make a follow-up post in the hope that they will see it if they are reading my blog. Also, it allows for anyone else who may be interested in learning more about homemade cleaning products to go straight to my source (and inspiration), rather than wandering the internet aimlessly looking for something simple and easy.

I was inspired to give homemade laundry powder a go by Rhonda Hetzel. Her blog and book are Down to Earth, and her post Green Cleaning Recipes is a great place to start finding the information you need.

It really is ridiculously simple!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Letter Love...

A weekend spent away from home visiting friends in Adelaide means I didn't have the opportunity to write any mail over the weekend. I plan to make up for it this week, inbetween packing and planning for a (much needed) holiday. This means it is unlikely there will be a Monday Mail Out next week, so I thought I'd make up for it by sharing with you some of my favourite letter-inspired blogs this week. If, like myself, you have a love for the lost art of letter-writing, you won't be disappointed by this selection:

A neat penpalling concept created by Julie in Canada: Handwritten penpal ads shared via the internet! They are such fun to read. The mail that she receives as part of this is amazing. She also has her own online stationery shop.

An interesting array of incoming and outgoing mail, stationery originals, and mail-themed social events.

Steffi is a postcard collector and her blog is a showcase of her incoming mail. Mostly pictures.

Sally writes about a bit of everything, including mail, and this is one of the cutest blogs I've stumbled across to date.

Sirpa in Finland is an amazing watercolour artist. She uses this talent to make mail art. So pretty!

I'd also like to say "thanks" again to everyone who has visited my blog since Friday, left comments and decided to follow. It's nice to know that you find the content of my blog at least a little bit interesting. My blogging aim for this week is to respond to the comments and feedback.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Giveaway inspired by Rhonda Hetzel's Meatless Meals Challenge...

"From an immediate perspective, living simply frees up financial resources which can be transferred to those in greater need. It also reduces the burden we place on the environment. In a wider context, a simple lifestyle is a living example of an alternative way - a way in which not all needs are insatiable, in which endless material progress is not the main goal in life. Finally, living simply keeps us honest." - Oxfam Shop's Vegetarian Cookbook, p15

Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth has set herself the challenge of reducing her household meat consumption by 50% as part of her aim to live a sustainable, simple lifestyle.

Being 100% vegetarian myself I don't have any meat intake to reduce, but yesterday whilst I was browsing through the comments left by her readers, many of whom have decided to join Rhonda in her challenge, I was inspired to participate in my own way.

In 2006 I purchased a wonderful vegetarian cookbook from Oxfam shop (now also online). By this time I'd already been vegetarian for a few years but was struggling to find new, interesting, healthy recipes to try. Then one day whilst I was in my local Oxfam shop I found this wonderful vegetarian cookbook.

What makes it so great is that it's more than just your regular cookbook. It introduces the reader to the two different forms of vegetarianism (vegan and lacto-ovo, of which I am the latter), and explains how proteins work in the human body, with each recipe promoting a balanced vegetarian diet where all vitamins and minerals are present.

It also provides an introduction to the health, environmental and economic benefits of eating less meat, and there's information on simple living for humans and their pets.

The recipes found in the book include entrees, main courses and desserts, and are grouped into their respective countries of origin. In a multicultural country like Australia we are blessed with having access to so many different kinds of foods and this little cookbook introduces its user to a variety of new, previously unconsidered ingredients. But the best thing about this book is that there is great variety between the recipes and they are not overly complicated or time-consuming (most recipes have a preparation/cooking time of around 30 minutes).

Having been vegetarian for a decade now, I tend to no longer refer to recipe books: The ingredients and instructions for the food I cook is either known by heart or kept in a lever arch file for easier access. So, this wonderful little cookbook from Oxfam has been sitting in my bookshelf, no longer used, and I cannot help but feel it is going to waste. I figure Rhonda's challenge is a great opportunity to give this book new life and let it provide information and inspiriation to a new cook, one who is serious about reducing their meat intake. I don't expect everyone to become vegetarians, but being conscious of the amount of meat we eat and doing something to keep it to a minimum is not only good for you and the animals, it's also good for the environment and the world community as a whole.

If you'd like your chance to win my used-but-otherwise-in-good-condition copy of the Oxfam shop's Vegetarian Cookbook all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.

Entries will be taken until midnight (Australian Central Standard Time) on Friday, 18 May 2012. The winner will be announced sometime over that weekend (19 - 20 May).

Giveaway is open to anyone and everyone from anywhere, as long as they don't mind receiving a secondhand cookbook (that is in good condition. Promise).


Whilst I'm here, babbling on, I'd like to thank Rhonda from Down to Earth for considering my modest blog worthy enough to make her Weekend Reading List for this week. I'm perplexed and humbled ~ thank you. I've been a regular reader of Rhonda's blog for a number of years now and I recommend everyone take the time to check it out if they haven't already. Her book is fantastic too.

I'd also like to send out a big "hello and welcome" to any new readers that visit my blog via Rhonda's. I hope there is something here to interest you, and thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Dead the Worse is book #8 in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. In this novel, Sookie finds herself back at home after the catastrophic events of the Vampire Summit (book #7), but all is not peaceful and quiet for the Bon Temps barmaid and telepath extraordinaire. The supernatural world is in an uproar and her boyfriend, Quinn, has gone awol.

In each novel Sookie is the narrator. The reader experiences everything that she experiences: Thoughts, actions, emotions. Once-upon-a-time Sookie was clear, unambiguous and coherent, but From Dead to Worse finds her a little confused, thinking/saying one thing and then saying/thinking something completely different. She has become unsure about, well, everything. Perhaps all that vamp blood has started to frazzle her brain?

Rather than having one plot dominate this novel, the author has elected to piece it together using a number of different sub-plots: There's an attempted coup d'etat amongst the Weres; a Vampire war; a relationship meltdown; and the introduction of some shiny new family members that Sookie must keep secret, even from her brother, Jason. Even though the novel is, as a whole, enjoyable, the sub-plots do not mesh or overlap all that well. Of course, Sookie is knee-deep involved in each and every one of them, but that's their only linking factor. However, in writing the novel this way the author has been able to tie up a number of loose ends from earlier novels and introduce new, potential storylines for future ones.

A lot happens in this book. A lot of characters die or disappear, seemingly never to return. Pay close attention, otherwise you may find yourself lost and confused (much like Sookie) amongst it all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Pretty in Pink...

Australia Post releases at least one new postage stamp design each year featuring Queen Elizabeth II, usually in celebration of her "birthday" public holiday, which in Australia falls in June.

This year Lizzie is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee - that's a whopping 60 years as sovereign for 16 countries, including Australia. 

On the 3 April, Australia Post released its first Diamond Jubilee stamp issue, which has fast become my favourite.

 I think the grey tones of the stamps look great on these handmade pink envelopes.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

From scratch: Laundry powder...

Grated soap, a little washing soda and voila! A perfectly suitable (and ridiculously easy) homemade laundry powder.*
It's cheap, it's gentle, and it's environmentally friendly.
What more could you ask for?

* Based on the instructions found in Rhonda Hetzel's Down to Earth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In My Kitchen: April 2012...

Some people get excited when their partner surprises them with flowers, or chocolates, or jewellery...
Me? I get excited when SJ brings me home tasty, tasty foods that are otherwise considered a treat, such as these wonderfully ripe Lady Finger Bananas.

Their fat little bodies have so much more flavour than standard bananas, and to make sure none went to waste I baked the first loaf of banana bread for the season (a breakfast favourite during the cooler months). Now that SJ is doing some part-time work for a local green grocer, I'm hoping for some more!

The capsicum plants are still loaded with fruit, although they were late bloomers. I've plans for roasted stuffed capsicums to grace the menu this weekend, along with the last of the homegrown baby carrots from the summer crop.

And since we do not have enough beets to pickle, I've been roasting them instead.

At first it felt a little strange to be eating beetroot warm, but they were packed full of flavour. I wasn't sure what to roast them with, so I went with the classics: Threw in some rosemary, onion and garlic, and sprinkled them with a little sea salt and they worked out great!

A bit messy to prepare, but you can always leave the skins on if you want to avoid it. And they do take a little while to cook right through, just so you know.

In My Kitchen is a monthly feature hosted by Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.
To take part, simply make a blog post and link back to Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Mail Out: An envelope tutorial...

You will need:
Double-sided crafting tape (or a good glue)
An old envelope of the desired size

Step 1: Choose your paper. I'm using leftover gift wrap, but you can use pretty much anything, from scrapbooking paper to pages from a magazine, as long as it is thick and sturdy enough to transport through the post.

Step 2: Take the old envelope and gently pry it apart so its shape can be used as a template, and trace it onto the underside of your paper.

Step 3: Cut along the outline for the envelope with a sharp pair of scissors, keeping to the lines to ensure the finished envelope remains squared. Any diverson will skew your shape.

Step 4: Fold the envelope in the same manner as your template was folded, and using double-sided craft tape (or glue) seal the bottom to the sides along the same points.

Step 5: Write a letter or make a card to send in your one-of-a-kind handmade envelope, address it and add the postage, then pop it in the post.

So simple yet oh-so-pretty ~
There should be no reason to send dull and drab mail ever again!

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Sunday of cupcakes & Easter Bunnies...

It's past noon and I'm still in my pyjamas:
A quiet Easter Sunday at ours, my favourite kind.

Hoping your day is a favourite too!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

A long weekend & a pile of books...

A generous selection of reading material on a variety of topics for the upcoming Easter long weekend: Fiction, history, simple living, organic gardening and bugs...

Yes, bugs. SJ's pest management book has me transfixed. Who knew cockroaches could be so damn interesting?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Radleys by Matt Haig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"There are such beings as Vampires, some of us have evidence that they exist". - Bram Stoker

Peter, a doctor, and Helen, his wife, live an otherwise uneventful middle-class existence in an English housing estate with their two children, Clara and Rowan. They seem perfectly normal as they listen to Radio One and throw dinner parties for the neighbours, but the thing about the Radleys is that they are anything but normal.

You see, the Radleys are vampires, but not the usual kind. Peter and Helen have elected to live a life of abstention where no blood is consumed and life is lived during daylight hours with the assistance of sunblock. Their teenage children have no clue of their vampiric nature until an unfortunate incident forces Peter and Helen to reveal the truth. Then when Peter's brother, Will, a practicing vampire, turns up and decides to stay for a few days, the Radleys "normal" lifestyle is turned completely on its head.

Will is a VB (= vampire blood) addict who has been disowned by the vampire community for being unpredictable and unable to control his urges. He is a slave to his vampiric nature and a threat to everyone he meets, evidence of the dangers of excess. Truly immoral and unrepentant, it comes down to the rest of the Radleys to stop him before their true identity is revealed.

Although slightly disappointed in how the story ended, as a whole I found The Radleys an enjoyable addition to the vampire genre. The idea of a constant struggle between morality, normality and a vampire's true nature is an interesting one, and I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys vampire fiction, especially something a little out-of-the-ordinary.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Autumn in the Veggie Patch...

The days may still be warmer than I'd like, but our veggie patch is telling us it is definitely autumn. In it you will find pumpkin vines, planted a little late but coming along nicely nonetheless. They certainly take up quite a bit of space in the garden beds. 
Here's hoping for some homegrown pumpkin soon!

There's also an adundance of beetroot, ripe and ready for the picking! I plan to roast some of these babies on the weekend.

You'll also find seeds. Lots and lots of seeds. Some planted straight into the garden beds, others in raising punnets whilst we (and by we I mean me) wait for SJ to finish building the last bed. We are hoping for a winter of peas, turnips, radishes, onions, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Possibly even a potato or two, if I can protect them from the frosts. 

What's happening in your garden this autumn?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Mail Out: The Postcrossing Project.


After much deliberation (Will I use it often enough? How much do I enjoy sending postcards to complete strangers and receiving the same? Is it going to cost me an absolute fortune?), I have finally created a Postcrossing account and mailed out my first postcard.

Postcrossing is a fascinating online project perfectly suited for those who love to send and receive mail the old fashioned way. Anyone of any age can take part and your participation in the project continues for as long as you want it to. 

[Requesting my first postcard recipient at Postcrossing]

The concept is fairly straight-forward: If you send a postcard you will get a postcard in return.
Part of the surprise is where a postcard will come from, since it is completely random.
Each card sent/received is registered and every member keeps statistics, so you can see who is getting what the whole world over.
You can use it as much (or as little) as you like, which is great for people on a budget.
It's ridiculously uncomplicated. I think it'd be an interesting way to teach children about the world and all the different people in it (for all those parents out there).

In fact, it is so uncomplicated that I don't know why it has taken me so long to join.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.