Friday, September 30, 2016

Orchids on Your Budget #5...Gifting lavishly without breaking the budget...

 
I'm so tired of seeing my loved ones in a lather of high expectation and credit card debt at Christmas.
 
So the last few Christmasses, we put some rules in place.
 
First of all, as all my children are grown (and whilst you might argue that this makes a difference, I'm not so sure and I'll get to that in an upcoming post), we decided on a Secret Santa, where each couple in the family, including us as parents, only buys for one other couple with a limit of $100 for both people. Not each....both.
 
The only ones getting any more than that allocated for gifts, is anyone under 18. For now that is my daughter, my grandson, and my two granddaughters.
 
Marjorie Hillis wrote a darling book called 'Orchids on your Budget' way back in the 1920's. I penned an Orchids on Your Budget series for Christmas last year, and you can read those posts here, here, here and here.
 
Basically, Christmas is about the giving. And things must be very dire indeed if you can't gift something. If you start now, today, you can still have a lovely little stash of pretties to gift, even if you are really broke.
 
My first idea for you is embellished soaps. Discount stores are a great source of boxed or scented soaps that can be wrapped elegantly and beautifully, and have you looking like you've spent $20, instead of $2. It just takes imagination.
 
I'll be sharing more than 30 ideas for wrapping soaps over the next week, just to give you some food for thought.
 
Here are the first ten....
 
So first of all, this soap, purchased for $4,and scented beautifully with Frangipani, is simply wrapped with Ivory cotton lace, and a sliver of kitchen twine. This would be perfect for the Shabby Chic loving person in your life. A set of three of these, if you're wanting to really lash out and spend just a little more, would look stunning presented in a sweet box.

 
Taking that idea one step further, you could invest some time and effort and just a couple of dollars, in learning to embroider some Inchies as I posted earlier this week. These are the cutest things ever, and are the perfect size to top a sweet soap.

 
If you want to get a little more romantic, cameos trimmed with more lace, are a gorgeous idea, and again these can be sourced easily and inexpensively on eBay. And you still have time if you source them now, to use them for Christmas!

 
Alternatively, grab those oranges from the fruit bowl, slice them, and sun dry them, or dry them in the microwave. They look fabulous as a trim too.

 
Pages from childrens books are sweet....

 
....as are pages from vintage Boys Own style books for the men in your life. Make sure you scan and print these for use so you have them over and over....

 
Confectionery foil gives an entirely different effect, topped with a gold heart sticker...
 

And for something that looks really upmarket, you can't go past Chanel-esque black and white, with a personalised ribbon trim. Mine says 'Atelier Bliss' and a roll of 50 metres cost me about $50. As much as that sounds a lot, it does give a very 'boutique' look to so many gifts, and 50 metres goes a long way if you're careful!
 

 
Simple A4 copy paper and a cute stamp, with black ink and a bit of glitter glue looks incredibly stylish....

 
...and I credit Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting with this adorable idea of tearing vintage floral sheets into strips, then using it plain, or stamping it with anything that takes your fancy, to turn it into One-of-a-kind gift ribbon to tie around your soaps as seen here and at the top of my post...
 
 
 


 
The ribbon itself can become a gift too, and I'll be sharing that soon.
 
Together, we can have a stress free, stylish Christmas with NO credit card debt. I promise.
 
Will you join me?
 
 
Carol at Comfort Spring Station. Carol shows us how to make embroidery hoop art, and idea I've been meaning to try for ages. Just so sweet! Thanks Carol!
 
Four DIY Embroidery Hoop Art displayed
 
Do share your ideas and projects at Five Star Frou-Frou, the Neverending story. I feature someone each time I post. Thankyou to all who continue to link!
 
...Mimi...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Motherly Advice...How to not wish your life away.....


We spend so much of our lives, wishing we were somewhere other than where we are.

At home, we wish to be somewhere far flung and exotic.

When away, we yearn fervently sometimes, for our own bed and home comforts.

When we're young, we want to be older and once we're old, we wish we were young.

Sometimes you realise, that what you love and need for a happy life, is right under your nose. Gosh, movies have been made, songs have been written, and whole novels penned upon that premise!

I came upon some photographs of one our trips to France this morning. These were taken pre-digital era, and were tied up vintage-style, in printed glossy bundles in a shoebox. I adore France and we are fortunate to have visited that beautiful country five times in the last 15 years. No matter how much time I spend there, I always leave wanting more.

There were several things that struck me upon viewing our holiday snaps of Paris, the Perigord region, and little villages visited along the way.
 
Firstly, the things I enjoy viewing, and photographing, do not vary all that much. Whether home or away, I enjoy admiring a stunning sunset, I appreciate the thought, planning and sheer hard work in building and maintaining a beautiful garden, I adore the history of ornate or interesting architecture, and often file away local details in décor, to replicate upon returning home, so that a little memory of our travels is there at our fingertips.

The funny thing is, that the older I get, the more I appreciate that 'home' can offer the very same joys of far flung locations. The difference is, that when we are on vacation, we stop to enjoy the monuments, the sunsets, the detail on a building, and the unusual or thought provoking in an art gallery. I've learned, that as much as I love to travel, the experiences I seek out when travelling, are just as accessible here at home. We don't have the Eiffel Tower (although our city does have a miniature version in a café` district, so perhaps all is not lost!), but beautiful sunsets, fabulous local artisanal homewares, a gorgeous outlook from our back porch, and architecture that makes you appreciate the imagination of the women and men who've created it...they're all here.

Let's compare the sunset above, taken beneath the lacy ironwork of the Eiffel Tower...

....to this beautiful sunset, snapped just last month in the Town of 1770, where Captain Cook first landed in Australia. Neither one is more beautiful than the other. And a sunset can be enjoyed any day of the week that you care to stop, and contemplate.



I loved this simple window treatment in a house where we stayed in the The Perigord region in 2008 so much....


...that I completely unconsciously replicated it, albeit in a prettified, lacy version, in my daughters bedroom, right down to the floral posy...crazy! I didn't even realise I had pre-imagined the idea, until this photograph surfaced today!


As for interesting architecture, well, I can't compete with French living in The Perigord....

....but my own suburb has it's little surprises in this elvish house just 2 minutes walk from my home....


....it's unfortunately being demolished to make way for a housing development....


....sad...but alas, that is progress. The sweet little cottage with it's European detail just doesn't live up to the modern day expectations of 'home'.

This was the outlook from the back porch of the house we rented in The Perigord. All misty mountains and mysterious vistas....

...a walk to my own back porch, yields a view of tropical palms and Poinciana trees. Sometimes it's misty too, but not today. Is one better than the other? I don't think so. But I rarely step outside to my back porch early in the morning to admire my own back yard, whereas on vacation, I have time to do so. I think it's time to revise my morning routine to allow for that!


As for interesting architecture...well home is not 'La Truffiere', where we stayed in 2008....


....but we have interesting architecture too...


I'm working on not always wishing I was somewhere else. Not that I do that in a belligerent, 'I'd rather be anywhere but here' manner, but rather that kind of 'I can't wait to visit Europe again', that is the basis of my savings mentality, and that yields a health respect for money and the freedom it can provide.
A wise person once said to me 'You can only live in one place at a time'. It seemed an obvious comment back then, and I didn't really understand what they meant. But I guess they meant...do not pine for anywhere other than where you are, for what is the point? You pine for there when you're here, and for here when you're there.
Why not just enjoy 'now', wherever you might be.
Can you find similarities between where you are right now, and where you imagine you'd like to be?
Can you summon up a little bit of Paris by serving your morning tea in fine china? Could you fancy up your morning juice with a slice of pineapple and a striped paper straw, resort style? Could you lay out your own towel and toiletries for tonight, and pretend the housemaid did it for you? Little tricks like this, can truly add to your enjoyment of the minutae of the day, and help get you past wishing your life away.

I'm currently trying to teach myself to make Canele`, which are little French pastries with a caramelised exterior, and a custard centre. We ate them in Bordeaux, and I've not seen them since. Being able to replicate them, means I can bring a little 'Bordeaux' into our home, whenever the mood takes me. Perhaps you could do something similar.

Longer term, could you plant a corner of your garden to resemble a favourite getaway spot? Could you introduce a detail into your décor that reminds you of somewhere you've stayed that generated happy memories? Can you teach yourself to cook or bake a treat, like my Canele`, that is currently only available in a distant land?
Have you visited somewhere that really spoke to your heart?

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Monday, September 26, 2016

A Homespun Year....Inchies...a new addiction!

 
Inchies are miniature samplers of a sort that can become somewhat addictive!
 
I first discovered them on Pinterest, and they appeal to my gnat sized attention span, as they can be started and finished in under 15 minutes. Sometimes, under 5 minutes, depending upon your embellishments!
 
They can be used to frame as artwork, in rows, three by three or five by five or choose-a-number. You can also stitch them to a piece of canvas or calico, as a wall hanging.
 
You can embellish a cushion with them.
 
You can make greeting cards with them...especially if you make them from scrapbooking paper and embellishments.
 
You can turn them into tiny pillows and 5-7 year olds can use them to create patterns and teach colour and form. If you forgo the buttons, and just use embroidery, even younger children can use them for great brain stimulating play. Think 'show me the ones with heart shapes', 'can you give me a row of ones with the colour green', and 'how many have yellow edges'. That's the kind of thing that little ones love, and I like that it gives them a sense of achievement.
 
I've seen Inchies turned into Christmas decorations, bunting, brooches, hair clips, pony tail holders, artwork, and keychains. My friend M suggested that they look like little artworks for an Advent Calendar, and I agree!
 
Made slightly larger, the same idea could be turned into coin purses, makeup bags, journal covers, and pencil cases. Once you get the hang of them, you'll see all kinds of possibilities!
 
They can be fashioned from any fabric or material, from felt, as I am using here, to satins, velvets, which look stunning when heavily embroidered in French Knots and beads, burlap, linen, or even potters clay if embroidery is not your thing.

 
I'm using a combination of felts for mine, and I'm treating them much like the old embroidery samplers we made in seventh grade. Not the cross stitch type, but rather the ones where you embroidered your best effort at Lazy Daisy for one row, Herringbone for another, Whipped Stem Stitch and Chain for more, and usually finishing with a neat hand stitched Buttonhole, some other stitches of choice, and your name and the date in neat Satin or Stem Stitch.
 
Of course my seventh grade sampler is long gone...sigh. I've often wanted to recreate that idea.
 
These are the perfect way to do this, making it more modern in the process.
 
It took me a little while to get the hang of the Blanket Stitch around these little 3 cm x 2.5 cm rectangles (so clearly mine are not exactly 'inchies', so named as they measure one inch square, which would be 2.5cm x 2.5cm exactly).

As you'll see by the photographs, the later ones are far neater than the first few where I had not yet got the hang of rounding the corners in my Blanket Stitch!
 
But above, we have Blanket Stitch, Seeding Stitch, a felt heart and a pearl button stitched to the middle. I cut the hearts from a toning creamy coloured felt, by simply cutting a square, folding it in half, and cutting a half shape of a heart, which then unfolded to create a nice even shape.

Here's an easy tutorial for Blanket Stitch. Note that if I were following her instructions, 'A' and 'C', would be the edges of my Inchie.

Here's one for Seeding Stitch. Note that in my Seeding Stitch, and according to my book of The A-Z of Embroidery Stitches, each dash consists of two stitches laid down side by side, for texture and depth.
 
 
This one, above, shows Blanket Stitch, French Knots, and Granitos, with a pretty two hole button with a flower motif.

 
Here we have Blanket Stitch, French Knots, a felt heart, and a four hole button stitched in a contrasting thread.

 
A first time effort, featuring Blanket Stitch, a square of felt, a four hole button stitched in contrasting threads, Running Stitch and two French Knots. You can see the imperfect Blanket Stitch. But practice makes perfect!

 
More Running Stitch, felt and a button. Much neater Blanket Stitch!

 
I like the idea of using recurring colours in the embroidery, and varying the embellishments. I think I can do dozens, using just the two colours of felt, and three colours of embroidery floss, with no two being exactly alike. This makes for a very economical and portable project, I must say.
 
Two squares of crafting felt cost under $3, and the embroidery floss not much more than that. Even if you factor in the buttons, the needles and a needle threader, you're still spending no more than $15 to create dozens of Inchies. I estimate that one square of crafting felt will yield 60 Inchies that are 3cm by 2.5 cm, so actually slightly larger and more rectangular than a real 'inchie', which would be 2.5 x 2.5cms. I actually only chose this size for my project, as it meant no waste of my felt. And of course, in terms of portability, all of my materials fit into a small pouch, which can go in my handbag, and be dragged out whenever the mood takes me.
 
Stitching these little darlings is quite therapeutic, and very rewarding as they are finished so quickly.
 
Will you try your hand at Inchies? How will you use yours?
 
Remember that Five Star Frou-Frou is now a neverending linkup, with a featured blogger each and every time I post! Link any time you like, as often as you like. Thankyou to all who continue to faithfully link and promote Five Star Frou-Frou.
 
Todays featured blogger is Debbie from Debbie-Dabble Blog, with her thoughts on learning from our gardening mistakes. This is a topic close to my heart, as my husband and I learned the hard way that you must plant for the conditions, the climate and your ability to maintain your garden, and NOT just because you like the look of something...lol!
 
Do hop on over and check out Debbies stunning plantings!
 
http://debbie-dabbleblog.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/front-yard-garden-notes-for-next-year.html
 
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Motherly Advice....would you be prepared for a hospital stay?

 
We are approaching our usual storm season at the moment where I live, and we are bombarded with advertisements to 'be prepared'. Having lived here my entire life, we have learned to 'be prepared' for storm season. It's second nature.
 
Something I learned recently however, is that we are not always prepared for other unexpected events in life.
 
A friend of mine was hospitalised recently.
 
She's home now, but you wouldn't believe what a pressure this unexpected confinement introduced into their lives. Apart from the very obvious worry for her and her family, it transpired that she had no sleepwear suitable for public viewing being a trackpants and tshirts for pyjamas kinda gal, and no toiletries that were not currently in use by the family.
 
Her husband was entrusted with the task of remedying the situation, and whilst you might imagine that husbands would be good at buying their wives sleepwear, judging by how that's so often marketed for Mothers Day, under duress, it's not that easy. What size, what sort of fabric, what colour, pants and tops or nightgowns, what size slippers...these were all the kinds of decisions he had to make, without the relevant information at hand.
 
He also had to buy toiletries of all kinds, likewise without knowing what he was doing really...how many husbands really know our preferred toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, deodorant and so on. And of course, when you're unwell, the familiar becomes so important.
 
He managed, but his wallet was several hundred dollars lighter for the experience, which did not help anyones state of mind at the time.
 
This got me thinking that first of all, my husband would not have a clue if this were to happen to us. I have very particular taste in sleepwear, toiletries and general items of comfort, and the poor man would not know where to begin.
 
And secondly, with Christmas coming up, could I use this idea to generate some gifts for friends and family?
 
My list might include hair care items including hair ties and clips, like these...

 
Some pretty nightgowns would be absolutely essential, and I have a collection of patterns, both my own vintage ones and ones I've found on eBay or in thrift stores. Sleepwear styles do not change much from one decade to the next, and these styles remain comfortable and attractive even given their 30+ age...

 
Even a style like this one below, is surprisingly easy to construct, and even when you're ill, it's empowering to have a pretty nightgown...
 
 
Pharmacies always have little miniatures of toiletries available, and even samples can be a handy thing, and are given away routinely upon request in some pharmacies and department stores.
 
Imagine a gift that included a pretty nightgown (or two), some facewashers and a favourite soap, a dry shampoo and hair care items, toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, hand cream, light makeup items, and all presented in an adorable drawstring bag. Pretty, useful and welcome for anyone of any age.
 
I'm off to start mine now!
 
What would you add to your emergency care kit?
 
My Five Star Frou-Frou Linkup is a neverending linkup, with a feature each time I post.
 
Todays feature is Nellie from Nellies Cozy Place and her Thankful posts make me smile each and every time. I'm thankful today that it's not me going to hospital unexpectedly!
 
http://nelliescozyplace.blogspot.com.au/2016/09/thankful-thursday-sept-1-2016-pics-of.html
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Homespun Year....the health giving benefits of Bone Broth...

 
Bone broth is one of those things our Nannas used to make. Or at least mine did.
 
If we'd been unwell, it was always Bone Broth for a week or even two, to rebuild your immunity, and 'put the roses back in your cheeks'.
 
I've had a particularly nasty virus for a couple of weeks, and find I'm struggling to get back on top of things, so I decided a good Bone Broth is in order. I'll drink this as a morning cuppa, a nightcap, and add vegetables, noodles and meat to it for meals. I firmly believe this will see me restored to good health in a relatively short space of time. This method is one that that takes advantage of the easily digested broth, and the nutrients in the vegetables, added both whilst cooking, and afterwards for serving, to extract the maximum vitamins for optimum health. As a nightcap, it beats milk or a hot toddy hands down.
 
Many benefits are recorded by devotees of Bone Broth. From clear skin and eyes, to strong nails and glossy hair, to general wellbeing, deeper and more restful sleep and relief of joint pain, so it's not to be sneezed at!

Here's the recipe Nanna Style, in four sentences....
 
Soup bones, usually consisting of bits of thigh bone, or the middle of a leg of lamb, or just offcuts not useful for any other purpose, are roasted at Medium heat (240F/100-120C) for 30 minutes, to enhance their flavour (if not already roasted and being used as a leftover). They are then added to the stockpot or Slow Cooker, with any herbs and aromatics on hand, and simmered on very low for 24 hours. Onions, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Ginger and Thyme are a good combination. This is the basic broth, which you then expand upon for meals.

~0~
 
After 24 hours on low simmer, you take the bones out, and remove all of the meat from them. This is an easy process as the meat just falls off at this stage. I usually discard any bits of fat or gristle too.
 
So your broth ends up looking like this....
 
 
...the soup bones are picked clean of lean meat...

 
...and you end up with a satisfying pile of braised meat like this...
 
 
Now at this stage, you can chill the soup in the refrigerator, and allow the fats to solidify on the surface for removal. I do this if I have time, but often I want to use my Bone Broth immediately, so if the bones I've used were fairly lean to begin with, I don't always bother. The tiny amount of fat in the broth, can actually enhance the flavour, if anything.
 
To the broth and lean meat, I now add herbs and spices, sometimes Asian aromatics like soy sauce, fish sauce, coriander and ginger, and sometimes more traditional ones like Bay Leaves, Peppercorns, Thyme and Rosemary. Either way, cooked rice noodles or rice are stirred through, and once it's spooned into bowls, fresh herbs like Coriander (Cilantro) or Basil are used as a garnish.
 
This is the sort of food that just makes you feel good.
 
There are many, many dietitians and nutritionists advocating the use of Bone Broth for everything from weight control, to management of arthritic pain. It's worth a try, and a more economical thing, cannot be imagined.
 
I constantly have one batch chilling, ready for consumption, and another simmering, ready for tomorrows yummy meals and snacks at the moment. I don't feel hungry, and my fatigued body, is already responding to the dense nutritional value in the broth and meals prepared from it.
 
If you're feeling a little under the weather, try a Bone Broth and see if it makes a difference to you. I think you'll be surprised.
 
 
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Homespun Year....What September brings...



 
September in my part of the world brings displays of Bromeliad flowers and Gazanias in my garden....
 
 
It sees my lovely husband out in the garden, trimming my topiary trees, which he maintains carefully, just because he knows I love them...
 
 
...the orchid my Mum gave us when we first moved to this home, always flowers...
 
 
...and September sees us enjoying our afternoon cuppa in the outdoors, with tea served in a large pot, served with freshly baked chocolate cake...
 

 September also sees me treating myself to something nice, as Mum used to say. It would have been my Mums birthday you see, so my sister and I always celebrate by buying ourselves, what we would have bought for Mum at this time of the year. This time for me, it was an Art Deco Toi et Moi (You and Me) diamond ring. Mum adored the Art Deco period, and passed that passion on to us, so if she were here, this would be a lovely gift for her. I know she would approve. Happy Birthday Mum.
 
 
Of course, the other passion we inherited from her, was shopping at Thrift Stores. So a recent find of a linen jacket, has seen me meticulously stitching a neon beaded embellishment to upgrade my Spring wardrobe....
 
 
....of course while I had needle and thread in hand, sewing in September, also means the sewing for the annual Dance Performance Night at my daughters senior school. This is always lavish beyond belief, with the choreography, lighting and costumes, rivalling any Studio performance. As always, I assisted with costumes, by making silver boots, headpieces galore, and several Card Soldier costumes for an Alice in Wonderland routine. These were easy though thankfully, and were simply a white pillowcase, slit at the sides, a small sliver cut from the closed end to form a neck hole, and shapes cut from red lycra (no fiddly edges to finish!), hand stitched to finish. Thankyou $6 costume...schools love you. And with Halloween coming up, busy mums love the $6 costume too!
 
 
And well...things never run smoothly. No sooner was all that out of the way, and the week long virus struck. All thoughts of food, drink and movement of any kind fled, and all I could manage was lying prone on the living room lounge, hair awry, sips of water at hand, and Casablanca on the screen. Awful. And in the end....very boring! Sorry. Not Casablanca, for how could it ever be boring or awful. I mean the virus.
 
Here's a still from that famous scene where Humphrey says "We'll always have Paris" (swoon), and "Here's lookin' at you Kid" (double swoon). Why don't well dressed folk wear little hats any more, I ask you. So glamourous and fabulous...


Naturally this too passed, as all things both good and bad do, and just in time for school holidays. Oh joy. I LOVE school holidays because not only do I get to see my darling daughter, but I also get to host my little Munchkin for a sleepover. We of course had to buy a new outfit (because that's what Nannas do), and of course it had to involve tulle, glitter and sparkles. Thankyou End-of-Season sales. This whole ensemble, head to toe, relieved Nanna of just $24, including the headband. The boots? $3. The sparkly dress? $6. Leggings and metallic knit and headband? $15 all up. Smile for Nanna? Free. Hugs? Many.

 
A sleepover at Nannas always means an adventure too. By request, yesterdays adventure was a trip to the local ice skating rink where the Munchkin was becoming quite accomplished at all things slippery and chilly....

 
Of course this meant Nanna had to sit in the bleachers shivering her way through several cups of weak and watery hot chocolate, but well, that's what we do, isn't it?
 
Needless to say, September is not yet done, and more fun is to be had as we tumble headlong in to Studio Dance Recital rehearsals, Eisteddfod Duos and Groups, end of year exam preparation at school, and then Christmas. I think I'm ready....
 
The years fly by so quickly these days, when all I really want is for them to slow down. I guess that will come...
 
What does September bring in your part of the world? I'd love to share your photos too! Send them to me at atrayofbliss@yahoo.com.
 
....love ya..
 
Remember too that Five Star Frou-Frou is a never ending linkup, with a feature each and every time I post. Thankyou to everyone who continues to add their gorgeous posts to the linkup!
 
Todays feature is from my lovely friend Jes over at Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth. All this talk of Spring here, seemed an opportune time to feature Jes's post on what's lurking under the kitchen sink, and how to tame it!
 
http://strangersandpilgrimsonearth.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/lets-clean-and-organize-journey-to.html
 
Thanks Jes! Love it!
 
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