Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Fiscal Fast: one month on

I figured a month on from the end of my Fiscal Fast would be a good time to revisit the ol' finances and see what's changed and what hasn't.

There have been a couple of ouchy expenses this month - my medical insurance was due and I also had winter electricity and gas bills turn up. Plus the matter of an unplanned-for visit from the vet for the Fluffmeister. But generally, I'm pleased to say, habits started last month have held pretty steady. I'm particularly chuffed by that low Entertainment spend.

Changes which are still in place:

* I continue to bake my own bread, and am getting itchy to try out some more creative loaves.

* I'm also still making my own hummus, making fudge instead of buying chocolate and baking biscuits.

* Grocery-wise, I'm still buying local and organic wherever possible, which is sometimes more expensive but since I'm eating almost 100% at home, still works out cheaper overall (I can count the number of times I ate out this month on one hand). For instance the change from Home Brand UHT skim milk to organic has caused my milk costs to rise from $1 a litre to $2.60. But it's worth it. I'm also trundling off to the Farmers' Markets at sparrow's fart on Saturday mornings to buy my fruit and veges.

* After much gnashing of teeth and wailing I decided to cancel my holds on UK Vogue and UK Elle at the newsagents, thus saving me $24 a month. I seem to spend my time reading blogs rather than magazines these days so having a constant backlog sitting scowling at me is causing mucho stress. And when I do read either of these titles I find myself aghast at how much people are prepared to pay for clothing. Maybe I'm finally getting old?

* Speaking of paying for clothing, the only item I bought in July was one pair of shoes. For $20.

* Finally, all of the above has given me the option to go down to 3 days a week in paid work, giving me more time to work on The Shopping Sherpa and other stuff. Which I'm pretty excited about.
If you did a Fiscal Fast with me in June, I'd be interested to hear what's happening a month down the track with you...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Town House. Country House.

Here's a miniature project I did a few years ago with a couple of small sized Bas frame from IKEA ($4.95 each). Because I already had most of the materials I used for the project the boxes didn't cost much more than $20 to complete in total!For the Town House balcony:

First I masked off the glass area on both sides then sprayed both inside and out with a couple of coats of White Knight Spray Stone, an aerosol product that produces a finish that looks just light asphalt. Perfect for the industrial city look I was after.

While this was drying I found a picture in a Belle magazine which would give the illusion of the balcony being part of a bigger block of apartments. Cutting this to the same size as the wood backing of the frame, I glued it in place.

I measured a scrap piece of bass wood to fit over the bottom part of the picture for the balcony front, then a piece of mini corrugated iron from a model shop, which I carefully bent over the top and glued in place.

Finally, I cut a length of dowel to fit across above the balcony wall, painted it gloss black (by pushing a pin into one end which I used to hold it while I was painting then to suspend it from my drying rack on the laundry door to dry)

Once the Spray Stone was dry, I peeled off the masking from the glass and cut a floor piece from a piece of sandpaper. Then all that was left to do was chose and arrange the furnishings while I waited for the black dowel to dry enough to be glued in place.

I already had the folding chair which I stained with coloured wood wax, but if I was making this again I'd probably buy something like this which has a much more modern and IKEA-like look about it.

For a true inner city vibe I added a laptop, a cordless phone handset, a coffee mug and a stovetop espresso maker (which started out life as a zipper pull that a fellow miniature friend gave to me. Removal of the hanging tag with a pair of wire cutters, a lick of black model paint in the usual spots and it turned into one of my favorite mini pieces...)
For the Country House balcony:

I wanted a much more laid-back holiday vibe for this piece to contrast with the Town House balcony. When I found the beach picture for the back wall in a back issue of Australian House & Garden the rest of the box fell into place.

Once again, I masked off the glass on both sides but this time I painted the box with a tester pot I bought to match the colour of the apartment building in the picture, which I glued onto the back wall.

The balcony railing was built on top of the picture, using a layer of greaseproof paper to stop the glue seeping onto the actual picture. I cut scrap basswood to size, glued it together and once it was dry, painted it with a second test pot I'd bought to go with the trim colour of the apartment building in the picture.

The sun on the wall was an earring I'd had tucked away in my mini workbox for years which I painted with a mat terracotta coloured model paint.

Tiled flooring was was made from a piece of black cardboard from the newsagents which I then glued squares of terracotta coloured card to, making sure to leave space for the "grouting" to show through.

Once the railing and box were dry, I removed the masking off the glass, glued the railing to the back and the sun sculpture to the wall.

From my collection I chose a beach-like director's chair from Betty's Wooden Miniatures which I'd had for years, a miniature magazine I'd made, a crocheted hat and a pair of Fimo jandals (thongs/ flip flops) which I'd almost thrown away as I'd broken one of the straps (not that you'd notice the way I glued them in place), a Chrysonbon glass and a selection of miniature shells and rocks that I'd collected from the beach on Quail Island in Lyttleton Harbour and had tucked away for years for just such a project.

Finally, note how I angled the chairs so the two settings would work well when displayed together.

Which balcony would you prefer to be sitting on?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Decisions, decisions...

As I mentioned before, Sydney Design starts this coming Saturday. And as a good little Nigel Sutton groupie I've already organised to be there for the Krispin K tour and show.

But what to wear to such an important event? I was thinking of going all trendy and Henry Holland:
What do you think?

(The other choice was "You're cute as a button, Nigel Sutton" but I think that would freak him out way too much...)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Warty Cheesy Daisy Biscuits!

I made a (square) batch of these last night when Aunty A called to say she was popping in, thinking there may be leftovers to have with soup at lunch today.

WRONG! You know how addictive just-out-of-the-oven cheesy goodness is? Those little suckers didn't last 10 minutes (which is about how long they took to make).

So I made another batch this morning (since the oven was on for the bread anyway). But this time I got all carried away with the daisy shaped cookie cutters I've had lurking in the back of the drawer for far too long. Not too sure about the warty bits, but they tasted just fine with my lentil and spinach soup!

Here's the recipe, which will be fine for those of us who have breakfast cups in our kitchen cupboards to measure with...

Warty Cheesy Biscuits

1 breakfast cup flour
1 Tbsn icing sugar
1 (scant) tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne pepper (I used 1/4 tsp cause I like a bit of bite to my cheese)

2 Tbspn butter
3 oz grated cheese
a little milk

Preheat oven to 200 c.

Sift the first five ingredients into a bowl. Rub in the butter then add the grated cheese.

Mix to a stiff dough with the milk. Knead and roll out very thinly. Cut into squares, fingers, daisies (or whatever else tickles your fancy) Prick (I'm referring to the biscuits, not you.)

Bake about 10 minutes.

Serve with soup or good red wine.

(I found if I just baked these on a greased oven tray the melted cheese stuck to the tray causing some rude words to be uttered when trying to transfer them to the cooling rack. Second time round I used baking paper and it worked a treat.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Grit teeth, take five deep breaths and walk away...

I spent the afternoon working on the orders I had for two Knitaholic bags.

Feeling very pleased with myself, I turned the bags right side out to sew in the lining and realised...

When you're making two bags and change fabric batches between cutting out bag one and bag two you should keep track of which is which.

Otherwise you'll end up with bags where the front is a different colour to the back. (See above)

I felt very mature and adult when I simply sighed, put the bags aside and went upstairs to ring my clients and explain that their bags wouldn't be with them today after all. No crying. No throwing of bits of fabric across the room. No stamping of feet. And no screaming.

Not that I'd ever consider doing any of those things, of course, being a grown up...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday's wanderings

I don't think I've mentioned the Hotel Kurrajong on my blog yet, which is most remiss of me as it's kind of the kid brother to The Hyatt (and even designed by the same architect). It's much more homely (see foyer above) and intimate (with only 26 guest rooms - the rest of the building is taken up with a hotel management school which means the students get to practice on the guests)Today I was lucky enough to be part of a group who got to see the room where Chifley used to stay (and, apparently, died. It's said he haunts the hotel to this day...) Later in the afternoon I took a trip back to the Lost Houses of the Molonglo Valley exhibition at CMAG and the Knit 1 Blog 1 exhibition at Craft ACT to finally have a decent look at all the exhibits(And check out what Al's wearing these days...)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm not usually one to get excited by things philatelic

But when I spotted the new Australia Post's new Landmarks: Australian Modernist Architecture stamps on display while in the queue at the post office this morning I got quite agitated until I could scamper over and have a closer look.

I like. I like a lot. I think I'll be buying me some of these once I've decided which set I want the most*. There are even postcards, but I'm thinking stamps as they'd look best framed in a small box frame.

(*Obviously one that includes Canberra's very own Shine Dome!)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Just couldn't resist trying it out...

That Hokitika yarn had me intrigued so I did the usual "well maybe I could just knit a little bit of it to see how it turns out" last night.
You know, like I don't have anything else to do at the moment (except work out just why they named the yarn after a small West Coast New Zealand town in the first place...)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dear weekend: how did I love thee?

Let me count the ways:1. On Saturday I had a flying visit from Taph who was laden down with droolworthy vintage fabric to add to my stash (and who also said nice things about the freshly baked bread I pressed upon her!)...

2. ...before I dashed off to afternoon tea at The Hyatt (I didn't take pictures since I already took a pile here)...

3. ..where I received an invite to join a new community market which starts this coming Sunday. I'm keen but wondering just how much stock I can whip up in a week...

4. This morning started with more arrivals to add to the stash:when JC donated 11 balls of Sean Sheep Hokitika yarn she'd bought for her daughter to learn to knit with (before realising she should start with something a little more straight forward...) So I refilled her (now empty) bag with the contents of my wool scrap bag.

5. After that little bout of swapping the 642.4 Gang headed off to Bungendore to celebrate JC's birthday with brunch at the Bungendore Woodworks Gallery cafe.

Followed by a mooch round the items for sale(which included a selection of amazing miniature vignettes of workshops with various vehicles in them...)6. As we left the gallery we spotted this sign:and so dutifully trotted off (past the Medical Centre which has a very interesting vege garden out the front!)to Bungendore Bon Bon.

Where I did the Happy Dance when I spotted theseand these!
I was very restrained but wonder how long they'll last...

7. And to round the weekend goodness off I finally went to see Scarred and Strengthened: Australians in the Great Depression at Old Parliament House.

(Anyone have a pattern for 11 balls of Sean Sheep Hokitika yarn?)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's official: I'm lovely.

How chuffed am I to be added to the list of Lovely Blogs NZ?!
And since I'm so lovely:

I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this Pay It Forward exchange.

I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise!

The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Wubba wubba" Wednesday

"Wubba wubba" because my brain has turned to utter mush after spending most of the morning doing the final sort out of accounts and receipts and miscellaneous bits of paper for my tax return.

This year I will keep my business accounts in better shape during the course of the year.
This year I will keep my business accounts in better shape during the course of the year.
This year I will keep my business accounts in better shape during the course of the year.

etc.
etc.
etc.

Feeling quite chuffed now as I'm about 95% there - just waiting on a receipt back from Plan for one of my sponsored children and a reply from my accountant about how to deal with claiming my office.

Never fear, it's not been all work around here. Feast your eyes on my frugalling scores:
* Selling Good Design ("a fascinating study of the little-known collaboration between the Metropolitan Museum, the New York department stores, and the great designers of the 1920's"): $8.00 (Brilliant sounding book - can't wait to read it. You know, in around 2011...)

* Peter Gabriel's best of CD: $3.00 (It's rather odd hearing the original of Solsbury Hill again after only having the Erasure cover on CD for the last few years)

* Single doona cover with shoe print (eventually to be turned into - what else? - shoe bags): $4.00

And Nibbs seems to be feeling much better, except for when I try and shove a syringe full of bright pink bubblegum flavoured gunk down his throat twice a day...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An unwanted lunchtime visitor

Nibbs has been limping for a couple of days and I finally (begrudgingly) decided it wasn't going to get better by itself and so my lovely vet popped in at lunchtime to have a looksie.A quick check, bubblegum flavoured antibiotics down the hatch (why not mouse flavoured, I ask?) and there was still time for me to cook and eat lunch before heading back to work.

I love my vet. I particularly love the small size of my vet's bills.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sometimes it's better not to know

I've been feeling cold all morning. Like frozen solid even with a polo neck jumper, The Jumper Based on a True Pattern and new merino wristlettes (and the heater!) on.

Silly me - I just checked the Bureau of Meteorology site and find it's 2 degrees oC (that's 35 degrees oF). At midday. WAAAAAH! I suddenly feel a lot colder.

I'm off to huddle in front of the gas heater with a mug of warm soup for lunch.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...

Pear pincushions (with attached leaf shaped needle book) based on some I saw over at Meet me at Mikes yesterday.

I decided it was the perfect fun thing to do after I finished the wristlette order this morning. It's heading to Sydney next month to reside in Princess B's newly arranged sewing room/ study (not that she knows it yet!)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday is...

... mandarins from the Farmers' Market, with tree still attached.
... a visit from Aunty A with giant croissants (eaten warm with ruby grapefruit and campari marmalade)
... homemade cream of mushroom soup for lunch.
... a new loaf of no knead bread cooling.
... working on an order for monogrammed wristlettes.
... noticing that Caffeine Faerie has picked up the Happy Music meme idea.
... stretching out on the sofa with Nibbs for an afternoon kip.
... putting the house back to rights.
... fresh apple and mandarin juice for afternoon tea.
... a video and an early night.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Happy music

The first track I played this morning is one of my favourite reminders:


that yes, indeed it is.

And since I'm showing my somewhat dark and dodgy musical taste, here are another couple of tracks that always make me happy when they land in my CD player:

(because they do)



(because we can)


(I've always found it rather funny that Black can sound so dour and depressed while singing about how it's a "wonderful life" - Ace of Base and Tina Cousins have since done dance versions which are much happier sounding but somehow not as good as the original)


I'm tempted to turn this into a meme: Songs that always make me happy (the dodgier the better!)

(For those on dial up:
1. Ace of Base, Beautiful life
2. D:ream, Things can only get better
3. Sydney Youngblood, If only I could
4. Black, Wonderful Life)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Head hits desk. Repeatedly....

So I've had a URL for over a year. Done nothing with it. Suddenly felt the need to populate it with something (however basic) RIGHT NOW!

So I go to my ISP home page and they give me a pile of links to articles like De-Sludging ASP.NET Pages with PageAdapter (WTF?!) and Build a homepage of your own (HELLO! it would be nice if you stopped waffling and told me how to do it!). Then I try this link which tells me "The most common mistake for new designers is the urge to put the c:\ in links and images" Well thanks, but you know I have no such urge as I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE GOING ON ABOUT!

So an hour later I'm no closer to having any idea how to get an itsy bitsy logo and a couple of buttons onto my home page. I thought it would be like Blogger. You know: Choose a template. Mess with it a little. Feel like you know what's happening.

Suddenly I feel old.

A day in black & white...

1. A lunchtime frugalling find. Vintage spotty beach towel with fringe. Salvos Tuggeranong: $5. 2. Also captured at Salvos Tuggeranong. Two white cotton pillowcases with faggoting: $3.50 the pair. I'm a happy little frugaller this week!
3. (Still) on the needles:my daisy hoodiewhich I'd rather like to get finished for Friday's Knit 1 Blog 1 opening. I might actually manage it as I only have one (most difficult) front to go before sewing it up and buying (and installing) the zip.

4. Except I also plan to have a number of Knitaholic bags finished by then as well....Not panicking - it's only Tuesday. Heaps of time to sort it all out!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday at Strathnairn

Yesterday we visited Strathnairn after the Old Bus Depot Markets and Canberra Glassworks (which was packed - I was told over 300 people are already on the waiting list for the Off The Street program!)

I had fun taking photos of old thingschecking out the exhibitionsand drinking coffee (and eating cake) by the fire. It was the perfect way to spend a wintery Canberra Sunday afternoon!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's a small world (or should that be "city"?)

Old Bus Depot Markets Fibre Day. We visit Lovely L's friend Lyn at her stand. "Hmm" I say "Is that a Time Thief Watch Cap I spy?" And after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing about what exactly Taph is called it turns out it is indeed.

So I took the opportunity to have a go while Lyn was eating a lovely tasty Börek (I'd scarfed mine already)And I bumped into a client and bonded over the fact I actually knitted my jumper.

It would seem that not only is a new Stitch 'n' Bitch for Canberra a good idea (2nd Monday of the month at The Front Gallery in Lyneham, starting in August) but maybe (just maybe) the concept of a 746 Information Management craft group might float. Assuming we can find a time that everyone is available.