Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cabin fever

Anyone would think it odd to get cabin-fever during summer, unless you're used to receiving most of your rain during that time. Which is what has been happening here over the past few weeks. We had a "drop" (or several days worth of rain) a few weeks ago, and the sun came out to dry everything. Yay! I even got to plant a couple of tree seedlings, which always makes me happy.

The pond is full!

Then another rain trough dropped in recently, and has rained continually since. Yesterday and today it stopped enough to go outside - I even caught sight of the sunshine! But as far as doing any yard work is concerned, everything is still too wet. I did manage to capture some images in the garden though.

Lawn mushrooms

Plenty of mushrooms have popped up in the lawn! Not sure if they're edible or not, but don't think I'll risk a sample. They look quite handsome with their stately caps on though.

Red Fungi

Strange, red fungi has appeared in other areas - mostly in the bark mulch we put down at the end of winter. They are bizarre, wonderful miracles of nature, which seem to love the soggy weather. I'm told fungi is responsible for moving nutrients around the forest floor. Where this little fellow popped up, was underneath a canopy in a particularly dense area. Our garden is still too young though, so these red fungi appearing are very rare. And it only seems to be during very wet periods.

I look forward to seeing more as the garden matures, and the canopy grows higher!

Always delightful ~ frangipani

One plant I am always happy to see during summer (rain, hail or shine) is my mum's frangipani. It was imported all the way from Thailand I'm told, by a friend who fell in love with it's colour when they were on holidays there. While I can never see me jet-setting off on a holiday to somewhere exotic, it doesn't mean I can't get a small taste of it in my garden. I'm really quite lucky! A very generous friend, to give my mum a cutting too - she died of cancer (sadly) several years ago. I always think of her when the flowers come out though.

Her name was Stella, so I always think what a stella bunch of flowers this year!

Are you bananas?

Our dwarf ducasse banana tree, has finally put on it's first flush of fruit. I'm waiting for the male flower to open - at the very bottom of the bell, to see if the honey eaters come for a feed. I hear they love them! Of course, these bananas are of the sterile variety, so don't need pollination to form fruit. At some point (soon) I'm going to have to think "bags" to keep the fruit bats and other birds away.

Originally planted mid November 2011

This was "Ducca", our pet name for the variety of banana, not long after he was first planted. Ducca has come a long way to producing fruit - 15 months to be exact! It should be another 3 to 6 months until we can eat the fruit though. Which will be kind of weird, considering it will either be at the beginning of winter, or the end.

Ducca also has two strong suckers growing on either side, to replace the main stem after it fruits. So twice as many bananas, next year - fingers crossed!

Although it looks like the rain will be with us for another few days - at least until after the weekend, I did get a small window of opportunity to go outside in the garden.  A break from cabin fever (no matter how small) is better than none at all.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Slow to go

I've never really been a patient person, but I've had to learn to be. Especially living out here, on our five acres within a limited budget. Things don't always move as quickly as you may like. Even when you have the money and the resources, the weather inevitably gets in the way.

Like this year, I was looking forward to the growing season, but then it didn't rain for months. Then it got so hot, we couldn't go outside. Many seedlings I planted in Spring, died. But I'm not complaining - actually, I think I'm adapting. I used to get really irritated and stressed about it, but now it's something you merely have to accept.

Winter, June 2012

Take our drystone retaining wall, for example. This was a picture taken back in June last year (2012) of the progress we had made. The time it took to complete the lower retaining wall, and the beginnings of this upper one, was approximately six months. Even though I'm now pregnant, Dave and I, still plod along with the wall.

David hauls the dirt and rocks from the trailer, and I build the wall. It's a team effort. Sometimes he has to help move the larger rocks into place, and sometimes I rake the dirt down the slope. It depends what time we have available - and that's how the wall gets built! Very, s..l..o..w..l..y

Summer, February 2013

But we have made progress in the twelve (or so) months since we first embarked on this patchwork wall of rubble. I took the above picture today. It's coming along nicely. The pumpkin vines which sprung-up from the compost, have managed to take over a portion of the wall in the meantime. We're constantly cutting it back, so it doesn't clog the walkway underneath!

There's a distinct difference between the winter and summer gardens though. In winter, the grass traditionally browns off, but after the first solid rains arrive in summer, the garden runs amok!

Click on all images to enlarge

Even the weeds are over-taking our efforts with the wall. This is where we are up to at the moment, and the weeds are hugging the stones as if to say they're moving in! Ah, nature, you love to taunt with your seasonal persistence. But then I'm not such a novice or as foolish any more, to believe I can take you on! I'll just plod along and let you do your "moves like Jagger" across our whole backyard.

I like this time of year when the heat starts to dissipate and the garden ticks along. It seems to be a smaller and smaller window of nature's beauty, every year. But then, that's why we garden the way we do. We plod along, we observe and interact, then get to see nature unveil in whatever manner it desires suitable.

If you're running amok, trying to get ahead of the garden, you miss the pause when nature does. While it may not always be desirable for us to go slow, I can't see, working against nature is all that smart either. To garden is to be in tune with nature, whatever is on the seasonal menu this year and the next...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Maternity pants tutorial

I've made a few items of maternity clothing, which (in all honesty) were a bit of a botch-job!. Thankfully, they're easily hidden under shirts. But now I've had a bit of practice, I thought I'd show how I've altered a pair of shorts recently, purchased at the local second-hand shop.

I was waiting to get a little bigger to make these alterations, as I know I'm going to get 'a lot' bigger still. I'll be 25 weeks tomorrow, so it was time to get cracking on this particular project. I simply tried on the shorts and did them up. Where the zipper would go no further, that is where I determined the lowest point in the front.

Cutting the shorts

I used good old-fashioned scissors and a fabric pen to mark, then cut the curve in the front - then proceeded to cut the band off around the back completely. I cut through the zipper, as it was only plastic. Don't do it if it's metal! How far you cut on your shorts/pants though, will be determined by trying them on. I've seen two different internet tutorials, where one takes the waistband off and the other keeps it on. I can only stress that you try on your garment first, to see where it's best cutting. Plus give yourself at least an extra  centimetre, for seam allowance.

One of the things I learned by following the internet tutorials to the letter, is they just didn't work on my particular garments. This was not the fault of the tutorial writer, as they were modifying the clothes they had to fit them! I tried on these shorts numerous times and found out the best way to cut them for me. You'll have a better fitting garment if you do the same.

Finding a suitable waistband material

The next step is to find another item of clothing  (or a piece of stretchy fabric) to make the waistband with. In this case, it was an old lycra vest, which was starting to loose it's support for my growing bodice. It wasn't exactly "new" so I had no qualms taking the scissors to it either! I tried it over my belly to make sure I had enough material.

Cutting lycra vest

Once everything was decided, I cut as high as I could, to reach the first seam to give me a lovely thick square piece of stretchy lycra. Then I simply folded it over. It was about 25cms (10") wide, when doubled over.

Lycra doubled over

Then it was a simple matter of stretching the lycra around the exposed edges of the shorts. I started by pinning the two side seams, then finding the middle in the front section, and pinned it approximately where the the zipper was. Stretch, pin, repeat.

Pinning to avoid bulging fabric in back

You'll notice by the image above, the white waistband is right on the edge of the front seam of the shorts, but in the back, I have a white overhang. This is because when I tried the lycra band on (once it was cut) I had extra fabric in the back.  Through experience I've learned if you ignore this extra fabric bulk, it ends up bulging, and makes you look bigger than you are in the back! So once it was pinned safety, I cut the white overhang off. I wouldn't cut the fabric until you are happy with where you've pinned it though.

Pinning technique

I use my dress pins vertically, instead of horizontally. Not only because it's easier to remove the pins as you're sewing, but it keeps the stretched fabric manageable too. I just used my overlocker (serger) to sew the pieces together. Not only because it finishes the edges neatly, but at the same time it allows the lycra to stretch. Which is all so important with a growing belly!


When finished, this is what they look like in the front. Sorry about the photo quality. You can click on the images to enlarge. Ideally, you would have a longer shirt than mine, but I notice it just looks like a white vest underneath my shirt.


This is what the lycra band looks like. As you can see, it's very stretchy and comfortable, with plenty of room to grow!


And a gratuitous butt shot, to demonstrate how normal they look in the back. No extra bulging fabric, which is not very flattering when you're wearing a tight fitting shirt. The bulging you see, is from the shirt as I was twisting, not the waistband underneath it. Believe me, you need the bulge in the front, not the back of your shorts!

I'm guessing these modifications can be done for people who find it difficult to get clothing to fit their body type too. You don't necessarily have to be large to encounter this problem either. Most women's fashions assume if you have a waistline of a certain size, you'll have a butt-size which is bigger. But not every woman has a classic pear shape. My butt (under normal circumstances) has always been proportionate to my waistline. So I can imagine modifying clothes in a similar manner, when I'm not pregnant either.

In fact, I'm looking forward to wearing these pants after bubs is born too. I won't be as large, but I'll definitely appreciate the comfort of stretchy pants!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A special anniversary

Click on the images to enlarge  

Sealed with a kiss

David and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary on the weekend. And like our marriage, the anniversary was full of challenges and delightful surprises. Our week prior, was crammed full of errands and obligations, which meant we didn't get a chance to check on the room we had booked for the weekend. Big mistake.

I hope this fits

With my mum staying for the evening to mind Sarah at home, David and I drove the whole 5 minutes to our destination - a local mineral spa which doubled as a motel. We spent our honeymoon in this particular suite all those years ago, and as I was pregnant back then too (snap!) we enjoyed a double-person spa bath in our suite.

Only when we arrived on Saturday, we discovered the room was already booked! Apparently there was a mix up: they thought we said Friday, but I remember hearing David make the booking for Saturday. Well, not only didn't we get our room, but they only had a single person spa and oops, the restaurant was closed for the evening too! We found this all out after we had paid.

And the violinists played on...10 years ago

So it looked like a 10 minute drive to the local pub for a meal that evening, or drive 20 to 30 minutes up The Range to Toowoomba for something better. If we were going to be driving all that way, why stay at this particular motel at all? We had already paid $90 for the room, but it was our 10 year anniversary...we figured something a little more suitable might be found somewhere else.

David said he had visions of driving us all around town, but thankfully the first motel we arrived at the top of The Range, had vacancies! They also had a bungalow with a double-spa, and the restaurant started serving from 6pm. Brilliant! We found all this out, and even got to inspect the room, before paying. In fact, we didn't have to pay anything, until we departed the next day. Thank you Eastgate Motel!

 Kitchen & meals

We were so delighted with our self-contained cabin. It was cosy and well appointed. I loved the simple decor, and they really had everything - even frying pans and saucepans, ironing boards and coat hangers!

 Shiny dishwasher - economical with just one drawer

Such a convenient single drawer dishwasher, but we really only used the dishes for breakfast, so didn't need to use it. It would have been handy if we had more guests though.


There were lovely pictures on the walls too. Just enough to add a touch of warmth.


The bed was gorgeous, and even had a sliding partition door to close you off from the other living areas. Which came in handy when we decided to play some music on the television, and it's blue screen threatened to keep us awake.

 Simple yet cosy

It sounds terrible to have the tv playing music all night, but we could hear trucks coming up the range (not too loudly) but as we're simple country folk, nothing short of absolute quiet would get us back to sleep. The music was a softer white-noise than the occasional truck.

 Living area
"Escape from the Planet of the Apes", was playing
We didn't watch it, but had a giggle at the flashback to the 60's!

Dinner at the restaurant was absolutely divine though! David regrets not taking photos, as the presentation of the dishes were simple but elegant. We gorged ourselves on dessert too. What can I say, I was eating for 2...maybe 3 or 4, lol.

 Easy cleaning near the toilet bowl

No real bathroom shots (sorry double spa) but I thought this was a clever idea for those cleaners who hate dust bunnies, collecting on the bottom of your toilet brush! Why not hang it to the wall near the floor? I'll be looking for one of these, or improvising something myself.

The next day (Sunday) we left after 8am, and drove to the local markets to buy plants and some fresh bananas. Just like us, it was nothing fancy, just good old-fashioned wares and chatting to the local stall holders as we browsed. I almost forgot, we bought some local honey too.

How uncanny, that we saw two young saxophonists busking at the markets, as we had ten years ago, with two young sisters we commissioned on the spot, to play at our wedding (image above). We placed some change in the collection hat this time, to encourage the young lads (they were really good) and as tribute to the two violinists we had found there many years ago.

 Muesli - or Mew

But I must say it was fantastic coming home again. We were missed sweetly by Sarah and this little guy above. We bought him a "Cat Nip" plant at the markets, and he loved smelling it. Unfortunately he tried digging up the soil, so we have to grow it out a bit!

As nice as the bed at the motel was however, curling up in our bed that evening, was so much  better - just because it says "home". And we were home. I guess wherever David and I go, that is home.

Ten years of marriage to me, is just a number. The man I married though, he changes every year and we've grown together in the ways we needed too. Any marriage is going to be full of challenges and delightful surprises. The trick is to find the neat little grooves, you both find so cosy. That's what keeps you together.