Monday, September 28, 2009

365 Days & Dottie Angel's "Utmost Challenge".

[click on image & you will be transported to the original challenge]

I like a challenge, especially the kind where I can make my own rules to give me a better chance of actually succeeding. They're just the best, are they not?

I have decided, after much thought and consideration, to take part in Dottie Angel's "Challenge of the Utmost Kind". Dottie Angel (Tif) has challenged herself to buy only handcrafted and secondhand goods for her home and wardrobe for the next 365 days, and has invited any other brave souls interested to join her.

I am one of those souls, and last night I sat down and sorted out the Ground Rules and Exceptions by which I intend to play (you may not consider me "brave" in any shape or form once you've read them), which are as follows:

1. First and foremost, books are off-limits. I will try my hardest to get the books I want secondhand, but failing that I will have no other choice but the buy them new. Life is not worth living if I cannot have my books!

2. This challenge will not encompass any of the clothing I need for work, which includes shoes.

3. I'm also permitted to purchase all new under-garments (including socks and stockings/tights) as I need them.

4. Anything we need for home improvements is also not included in the challenge, although if we can purchase supplies and make what we need ourselves then that is what we will do. We will also try and "make do" with what we have that isnt broken and doesnt need replacing for 365 days.

5. I'm also allowing myself to purchase supplies for my scrapbooking projects, but this will be on a need-only basis. I wont be buying stuff just because it looks pretty and I think I might use it at some point down the track. I've loads of paper, card stock, embellishments and brads already, so if I do need something it will be very specific.

6. SJ and the dog (Bailey) are excluded from the challenge. SJ would fail miserably anyhow, and I cringe at the thought of him attempting to "make" stuff that he has no experience in making. He tends to be a little better at breaking stuff. As for Bailey: The dog gets what the dog wants, and it's a mute point, okay?

If I have to purchase anything that does not fall within the aforementioned exceptions, it will have to be either handmade or secondhand.

I see this challenge as a wonderful opportunity to get out there and check out the garage and estate sales, craft markets and fairs, and help out charities such as The Salvation Army by visiting their secondhand stores.

I can utilise the internet and purchase handmade clothing and gifts from sites like Etsy and Oxfam.

I can improve my own skills: My knitting is poor at best, and I cannot sew, but if time permits what better opportunity to learn and improve?

365 days, starting now (28 September 2009).
It's not that long.
I wonder if I can do this...?

Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

And it begins...

What a busy weekend we've had!
I've mentioned before that SJ, Bailey and I live in a stone cottage that dates back to the 1890s in a small town in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. We purchased it around eight months ago.

We knew when we bought it that an electrical upgrade would be required: The old ceramic fuse panel in the laundry kind of gave that away. When we finally got an electrician out around four weeks ago it was revealed that some of the wiring in the property could be around sixty years old!

So, not only would the fuse-panel need upgrading, but the entire original section of the house would need to be re-wired.

After a short-lived panic about the work that was going to be involved in re-wiring our property, SJ and I soon realised what a fantastic opportunity this was going to be for us to get motivated and start the "improvements" we've been talking about for the past eight months.

As the electrician will be here on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week coming, SJ and I wasted no time getting to work!

We had decided that we would remove the built-in cupboards in the living room, as they take up a lot of space and make the room feel small and cluttered. We have been unable to fit all our lounge suite in the living room due to this, so on Friday night we got to work and dismantled/removed one of the cupboards.
Whoever installed the cupboards had bolted the frame to the wall and the fireplace to hold it steady so it could support weight (eg for a television). This made it incredibly time-consuming and tricky to pull apart, and on the fireplace side the bolt was so close to the edge that when the frame was removed it took a chunk of stone with it! Not what we were expecting, but luckily no major damage and it should be relatively easy to fix with a bit of plaster and some patience.

We still have the second cupboard on the other side of the fireplace to dissemble, but we have elected to leave that for the time being as it will not be an obstruction to the electrician.

On Saturday SJ, his dad and I started early and got on with chasing the walls. Chasing requires that we cut strips out of the stone where the wires are going to be run by the electrician (see pictures below). To comply with electrical standards, the wiring needs to be put into the wall, pinned securely to the stone and then covered with plaster. An alternative to this method for stone houses is to install gip-rock walls and have the wiring run behind the gip-rock. However, this is a more expensive and time-consuming option, plus it would reduce the overall size of the rooms (which arent all that big to begin with). Besides which, SJ and I are quite fond of the stone walls and like the way they look.

SJ and his dad completed the chasing in a day, and it took a further day to clean all the mess. It was dusty work! But the house is now ready for the electrician to arrive on Tuesday and run the wiring through, and then complete the second-fit on Wednesday. We are privileged to have an electrician friend who is squeezing us in between other work he is doing in town at the moment, so now we are just hoping that Mother Nature behaves herself and doesnt cause any delay through wind, dust and/or thunderstorms.

Having to completely re-wire has been a blessing in disguise, as it has allowed us to choose where we want powerpoints, light switches and fittings, TV antenna points, and fan controls. All existing have been placed where it was convenient at the time for the wiring to be fed through from either the roof or vents and then run down the wall. This means that all the existing points will be removed, and we've been able to chase for additional light switches and powerpoints exactly where we want them.

This has also meant that SJ and I have had to finally decide, once and for all, where we will be placing the furniture in each room. It will still be a tight squeeze for the lounge suite in the living room, but at least we'll be able to place the television in a spot where it is not partially obscured by a fireplace mantel piece.

Once the wiring has been completed, we will finally be able to get on with fixing the plaster work, putting in new ceilings and cornices, flushing the walls and then re-painting the rooms. This is the part I am most looking forward to; I have had the paint colours selected for the past eight months and cannot wait to be rid of the uneven, patchy "peach" colour that currently adorns every room in the house...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(21.09.09) Talk to me about Climate Change...

Picture from here.

Hail Stones, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

Picture from here.

Storm Clouds, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Raining Mud, Port Augusta, South Australia

...But don't try to tell me it doesnt exist.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Sweet Treat!

Whole Orange* Cake

1 Whole Orange* - skin and all
180g butter, melted
3 eggs
1 Cup Caster Sugar
1.5 Cups Self-Raising Flour

1. Pre-heat fan-forced oven to 180*C.
2. Process whole orange until pureed.
3. In a large mixing bowl place flour, sugar, melted butter, eggs and orange puree.
4. Using an electric beater, mix on low until combined, and then on high for approximately 2 to 3 minutes, until mixture is light and fluffy.
5. Pour mixture into greased baking tin, and bake in oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once cool, either top with citrus icing or dust with icing sugar.

* I've also used this recipe to make lemon cake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ATCs: Wicked/Elphaba Inspired.

"Which old witch? The Wicked Witch!"

Elphaba wanted to see things change for the better in Oz...

So she studied and worked hard and created awe-inspiring things. Her achievements were known far and wide..

So that even after she was gone she still inspired others to continue her work.

These are now on their way to KF in USA, after we agreed to do a private ATC swap inspired by Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and its main character, Elphaba (ie the Wicked Witch of the West). We discovered that we both loved this book after taking part in a completely unrelated swap over at Swap-Bot.

Since the weather was awful yesterday (go here and here to see what I mean), I spent the afternoon in-doors crafting. I'd not done so in a few months, and the opportunity to be creative was most enjoyed!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Vegetarian Tips & Tid-bits: Did You Know?

Vegetarians do not consume fish or fish-products.

A person who eats fish (and other seafood), but does not consume mammals and birds, is a Pescetarian, not a Vegetarian.

However, it is not uncommon for people to become Pescetarian prior to making the transition to Vegetarianism.

However, Pescetarianism is not considered a valid Vegetarian diet.

If you'd like to know more about Vegetarianism and why Vegetarians don't eat fish, here is a great place to start.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Risotto Balls - Stuffed & Crumbed

I've had this recipe ready to share for quite sometime now, and after numerous attempts at posting it and then discovering difficulties in explaining how to actually make them, I gave up.

Which is really odd, because these risotto balls are so easy to make!

So, here I am, on my fifth and final attempt at explaining how to make some delicious crumbed, stuffed risotto balls!

I first came across these a few years back when one of my sisters made some stuffed with zucchini and cheese to have at Christmas dinner, whilst the rest of the family indulged in copious amounts of poultry, pig and seafood. I failed to get the recipe from her, but they were so tasty I had to try making them myself, and this particular recipe is the one I came up with.

I should mention that you dont have to stuff these with anything if you much prefer just to have them plain. However, I like them with a bit of veg and/or cheese inside.

Anyhow, the basic things you will need are as follows:
1.5 Cups Risotto (Arborio) Rice
1L Vegetable Stock
1 Cup Bread Crumbs (I have used Gluten-free bread crumbs before and it makes no difference)
1 Egg, beaten

Cook your rice in the vegetable stock, using the absorption method. Once approximately 90% of the liquid has absorbed, turn heat off and allow rice to cool.

Whilst the rice is cooling, I usually fry some finely chopped veg (I find zucchini, carrot or pumpkin tastiest) with a bit of onion and garlic in a small pan, and grate some vegetarian parmesan cheese. This I put in the centre of the balls as I make them.

So, when the rice has cooled, press into balls. These can be as big as you like. If you have difficulty "stuffing" the balls with your vegetables and/or cheese, then I find mixing it into the rice first just as effective, although keep in mind this can make the balls not stick together as well and appear as tidy as they would otherwise.

Once you've made the balls, put into fridge for at least half an hour to let them set. Then dip them into the beaten egg, coating evenly, and then coat with bread crumbs.*

Place balls on a lightly greased oven tray, and cook in a fan-forced oven at around 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown.

The risotto balls are super tasty even when reheated, and keep in the fridge for up to four days without going soggy.

*If you dont eat egg, instead of putting the balls in the fridge to set, roll them in the bread crumbs whilst they are still sticky, and then pop them in the oven to cook.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Spring Lament.

Second day of Spring. Already. One minute it’s New Years and the next I’m contemplating Christmas presents and summer holidays. Where has the year gone? I clearly missed the memo that said 2009 will be passing by at break-neck speed. Slow-down, 09! I haven’t had a chance to enjoy you yet!

Second day of Spring and outside my window there are gigantic black storm clouds approaching and the wind is picking up... Again. Spring in this part of the country equates to three months of gale-force winds that blow up dust-storms and give me itchy eyes, skin like a dried prune, and the worst hayfever headaches you can possibly imagine.

Second day of Spring, but thanks to global warming/climate change it’s been Spring-like for the past month already, so the weeds the size of small trees in my garden that I’ve not yet got around to removing are all in flower and will no doubt drop seeds so next year I’ll have even more to contend with. I tried pulling them, but some of them have stems larger than my wrists and I couldn’t fit my hands around them. Then they’d snap at the base and I’d get all antsy and storm off, cursing Mother Nature for inventing thistles, turnip weed and marshmallow weed and making them all appear in my garden at once.

Second day of Spring and I already have my tomato plants in (four different kinds!), along with some strawberry plants and a bunch of seedlings on the way. If the wind doesn’t blow them away I’m hopeful of a bountiful home-grown crop come summer. The Winter Garden was only semi-successful: we walked away with some baby carrots, spinach and parsley, but the cauliflower and the cabbage will no doubt go straight to seed and the onions are confusing me: I’ve no idea when to pick them.

Second day of Spring and this weekend (weather permitting) will see me in the backyard, attempting to landscape my garden. I spent a ridiculous amount of money last weekend on purchasing a bunch of “drought tolerant” (I always screw my nose up slightly at this claim; can anything be truly drought tolerant?) plants to add colour and some semblance of organisation and design to our yard. And the patch of weeds where my lawn used to be needs mowing.

Second day of Spring and the sun is shining when I wake up in the morning, and it’s still daylight when I get home at night. Soon it will be Daylight Saving and my poor dog will be terribly confused when we’re out of bed before he is.

Second day of Spring and I’m already onto the second book in my Spring Reading List and I’ve hopes to get back into some crafting now that the days are brighter. There’s something about the sight of flowers and the sound of birds that makes me want to be creative and artsy (or, at least attempt to be). I’ve ideas for three separate journal-style scrapbooks, and I’ve a non-official Wicked/Elphaba inspired ATC swap organised with another swapper on Swap-Bot, all of which I cannot wait to get started and share with everybody.

Second day of Spring and I plan on wasting the rest of it away lost in good books and crafts, and browsing awesome blogs that ensure I am endlessly entertained, including new-found favourites Ask Your God, Paper Cakes, Eco Princess and Good Grief Blog (if you’ve not checked them out yet, I highly recommend that you do).

Second day of Spring and I am severely behind in my blog updates, but I want to let everyone know I’ve many things to share, including photos, stories, tid-bits and recipes that I’ve just not got around to writing up yet. Bare with me whilst I try and get myself organised. I suffer severe bouts of procrastinitis, which tends to disappear as quickly as it appeared, so things should be back to normal soon. I also have some planned giveaways, so keep an eye out for those coming up real soon!

...Oh, look: Dust on the horizon.
Why, hello, Spring! I can't say I've missed you...