Monday, February 27, 2012

I've been using aluminium deodorant for as long as I can remember

I owe that title to a friend of Andy's who said it about aluminium saucepans and it's always given me a chuckle. Anyway. Much as I'm committed to natural alternatives to cleaning and caring for home and body, I always thought natural deodorant was a path I couldn't take.

I'm sweaty. Really. I need the super-strength extra-aluminium stuff to get me through the day without offending anyone (or myself).

But recently I happened upon this natural deodorant recipe and thought hey, okay. Give it a whirl. These are the ingredients.
The coconut oil was solid when I bought it. It's been HOT around here.

And this is the product.

I just scoop a little out with my fingers and smooth it on.

Does it work? Well I am delighted to report that it absolutely, completely and truly stops any smell. Really. And the weather lately has put that to the test (see melted coconut oil above). It's not an anti-perspirant so there is, er, moisture... but actually less than I expected.

The question mark hanging over it now is whether it - or the odourless 'moisture' - will stain my clothes. Because the whole exercise will be a bit pointless if I ruin my entire wardrobe. I would really like to hear from anyone reading who has any experience in the 'natural deodorant' thing.

In other, non-sweat-related happenings (there's an exciting phrase), Andy made this 'Chachouka' from the River Cottage Veg Every Day book we gave him for his birthday, and it was delicious. Eggs from our chooks and garlic and capsicums from our garden.
And right now I am about to take out of the oven my fourth batch of this awesome Hot Cross Bun recipe from Gillian. I tried doing flour-and-water crosses on my first batch but they mostly disappeared in the baking so I've left them off since.
Seriously, try these, they're so fast and easy and have been pretty much inhaled by the whole family. I added a little more spice and our oven seems to cook them a bit faster so keep an eye on them.

Lastly, one of the good things about really hot weather is seeing a bit more creamy little person skin. I took a heap of photos of Clem the other day and Andy said 'no wonder he thinks he can get away with anything... his Mama thinks he's gorgeous!'. It's true, we've been having a few issues with a wilful four year old (and baby of the household) around here. But it's nothing a bit of time out and toy confiscation won't fix in the long run. Are you listening, mister?

- Jane x

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

how to pluck a rooster twice

1. Mentally steel oneself for the chicken 'processing' by reading many websites, watching lots of River Cottage and YouTube videos.

2. Select bird that has been crowing from the flock and capture it quickly and calmly for a minimum of stress.

3. Talk gently to bird as it is swiftly and cleanly dispatched by husband.

4. Place bird in old pillowcase and pluck feathers by hand, capturing all feathers in pillowcase. This takes a fair while but keep going.

5. Clean bird according to instructions found on the internet. Decide can't cope with feet, liver etc at this point and bury together with head and entrails in back yard.

6. Agree that husband should barbecue bird right away to get it all over with. Be unable to eat it just right now.

7. Tie end of pillowcase in double knot and throw in washing machine with intent to perhaps eventually stuff a cushion with feathers.

8. When washing cycle has finished, discover pillowcase has come undone.

9. Spend next week plucking rooster feathers from washing machine drum, filter and subsequent loads of washing. Pluck, pluck, pluck.

10. Summon nerve to taste rooster next evening. Discover it is almost inedibly tough because we did not 'rest' the meat for a couple of days.

11. Decide that is enough 'connecting' with chicken meat raising and the earth and universe and all that and resolve to take the rest of the roosters in a batch to be professionally 'processed'.

- Jane x

Monday, February 20, 2012

a pencil case, with love

Today Andy starts rehearsals for a Very Large Show. He's directing Leonard Bernstein's Mass for the Adelaide Festival and I'm so proud of him. It's such a fantastic opportunity and he's already been working very hard on it for quite some time. Our whole family is becoming very familiar with the music, which fortunately is fabulous and bears repeat listening!

The score is enormous. To hold his necessarily large collection of highlighter pens, sticky notes and other working paraphernalia, Andy asked me to make him a pencil case. I jumped at the opportunity to use a couple of beautiful fabrics from the stash... and send a little piece of handmade love along for the ride.

 The outside is a heavy almost hessian-like fabric... linen I suppose? I bought it on eBay a while back and it has no selvedge or other clues. I love it and it was definitely waiting to become a bag-ish thing of some sort.
On the inside is some Liberty Tana Lawn, with hundreds of ornate mushrooms. Another one from my (fortunately brief) eBay fabric purchasing phase.

The only zip I had was a salvaged black one but it was in good shape and I think it looks fine. I hope his new pencil case brings Andy extra good vibes for his first day of rehearsal.

If you are in Adelaide and interested in seeing the show, I believe it is selling quickly. And this recording of the music is well worth getting to know.

- Jane x

Saturday, February 18, 2012

animal and fruit shorts

Clem had a wee little pair of shorts in this fabric and he loved them to bits and called them 'my animal and fruit shorts'. More like bug and fungi shorts but, hey. Poor beloved shorts were too small by the end of last summer. But I found more of the fabric and it was even half price. It's a quilting cotton called Woodland Friends by Ellen Crimi-Trent.

It has taken me until late summer to get these sewn up. They were really very quick.

I used the same Japanese pattern from 'Pochee' as for his pyjama pants. It's just such a great cut, the leg is ever so slightly fitted and flared. There's a little bit of an orange print in the pockets and some striped bias on the pocket edges (because they weren't bright enough?).

When I was fitting the elastic and before I had hemmed them, I asked him to try them on. He wouldn't let me take them off to finish them for several hours.

Animal-and-fruit-shorts happiness.

- Jane x

PS that's his Spoonflower t-shirt and yes, it has faded quite a bit but it has been worn and washed so very many times, not to mention soaked in stain remover, that it's probably a wonder it's not just a yicky grey all over by now. Fresh grubbiness in photos above, oh joy. And, that is a soft red ball with rainbow streamers and it is totally awesome.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I was once a voracious novel reader. Since having kids, with so many other things fighting for priority, it has gone by the wayside. Never mind. Books will always be there when I'm ready. Isn't that one of their charms? Books will always be there when you're ready.

First up, here are a few treasures from my childhood.
Norman Lindsay's best-known work was The Magic Pudding but this was my favourite. He was also a fabulous artist.

Rebecca's World was a story I disappeared into time and again. I recently learned that the author Terry Nation was an early scriptwriter for Dr Who and created the Daleks. Looking at this book now I see it has a strong environmental message, which I imagine was fairly cutting-edge for children's books of the seventies.

This collection of Oscar Wilde's children's fables is a such a tear-jerker. Really. **sob** Tragically beautiful.

I adored the Moomin stories as a girl and have since indoctrinated the whole family. My original book pictured here with a 'hattifattener' teacup collected in recent years.

And the girl grew up...

I guess I've grown out of this a little now since it's a story about the summer after finishing uni, but this is a novel I have read over and over and its impact lingers. I referred to it a while back here.

This is actually the cover of another of his books but I think the quote could equally apply to my favourite of Nicholson Baker's, The Fermata (my copy of which has disappeared on loan somewhere). It's a bit saucy.

And my copy of Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins? Also on loan (and I hope being enjoyed) who-knows-where so I'll have to make do with this excerpt written by me in chalk above our kitchen doors. It was an awkward space to decorate and it seemed like a neat temporary idea about, ah, five or six years ago. Jasper's second name is Switters, after the book's hero, but he's not allowed to read it for, ahem, quite a while. Excuse the spiderwebs.

And then there are books we use as tools. I honestly couldn't pick a favourite sewing book so I'm plumping for a work-tool that is simply genius (oracle, guru, mentor, shining light, authority, adviser, expert, teacher, guide). Mr P. M. Roget, I salute you.

And from pure words to pure images: an iPhoto book created by Jasper for Clem when he was a wee toddler.
Jasper planned out the photos and took them all on his camera. On the back cover is a photo of his list of shots.
 And here is a sample spread:

I'm sure I could go on. And on. But a more productive idea would be to go read something, wouldn't it?

- Jane x

Saturday, February 11, 2012

a little creepy but seasonally appropriate

Is there something a little more Halloween than Valentine about this bunny?
Today Clem said "I want to make something with you". After Jasper offered a couple of his 'making' books for inspiration, he decided on a pink bunny. Never mind that the instructions were for creating a little paint-and-ink picture out of fingerprints. He wanted a soft toy. Honestly it could be a full-time job facilitating all the making that goes on here these days. Not that I'm complaining.

We took a walk to the fabric-shop-around-the-corner because guess what, with three boys I don't have much pink in my stash. Clem tried to talk me into some expensive-looking hot pink silk embroidered with flowers. While I was looking for alternatives, he found the red heart buttons and decided they would be a heart, and the eyes. We agreed upon some pink linen and escaped before he could find any more garish embellishments. Bless his little red plastic heart.

He told me the size he wanted, gave his approval of the design, did some cutting of paper pattern pieces and stuffed the limbs and ears. I simply could not (gently) talk him out of the heart eyes on their button shank stalks so there it is.

He called this funny, wonky thing Isla, after a sweet little friend from Kindy. He's a bit fixated on her so I guess it's all fairly appropriate around Valentine's Day. Not that we really celebrate it or Clem would have any idea about it but, anyway. Maybe it's just in the air.

And then he hung it on a string of bells. Hmm.

There has been more making by the big boys from their Microcrafts book.

dog reads bedtime story to cat from micro-book
Charlie made his tiny cat a bed from a matchbox and actually knitted it a miniature blanket without any help except some instructions in a book. Then he followed some very intricate instructions to make a micro-book, traditionally bound with thread, end papers and hard cover, and very little help. He's really becoming confident of his own abilities and it's marvellous to watch.

Jasper made the little dog (Clem called it a 'little cow') and wants to make it a bowl and bone that are in the book, too. One of the best things about these Microcrafts is they use tiny scraps that we already have. They make my fingers feel all big and fumbly though!

Happy weekend.

- Jane x

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


My next selection from the photo challenge list is 'the outside of your house'.

Anyone who has ever received an email from my personal address might have wondered what the 'wakool' part of the address is. It's the name of our house, just next to the door on our front verandah.
I mean, how freakin' cool is that? It's way cool, that's how cool. I always say it's one of the main reasons we bought the house.

The original part of our house was built around 1925. A lot of old bungalows of a similar age have names. Across the street is 'Peshawar'. Curious. Perhaps the names meant something to the builder at the time.

Wakool is the name of a district in New South Wales, and sounds like it could be of Aboriginal origin. But to us, it means home.

Sandstone is quarried in the hills that frame our city to the east. When we built our extension we incorporated some more local sandstone to echo the front of the house. It was put together by a very grumpy stonemason. Here you can see it around our 'side front door' which is now our main entrance. Our front verandah tends to be a bit of a dumping ground now and is frankly fairly unwelcoming. Friends, you can come down here.
Door from Adelaide and Rural Salvage again. I was rather delighted to visit the house of one of Jasper's friends nearby and discover their front door (original to their villa) is very similar, with a central handle almost identical. Maybe this door came from a house demolished nearby?

The next picture is a wall I am really rather fond of. It's outside our laundry and shall we say... rustic. I took to it quite some years back with a bunch of sample pots of exterior limewash from Porters Paints and no particular plan. I really like the way it has aged. Crappy-pretty.

This pot catches the rainwater runoff from our back room and the overflow goes down a pipe in the centre and into a hole-full-of-rocks to sink into the ground. In our city, built up areas channel rainwater into gutters and out to sea. It originally would have, for the most part, been absorbed by the land. In our dry climate this has badly affected the water table. Local governments has been making some positive changes: wetlands have been popping up in strategic locations to filter water and allow it to soak down. This is our small backyard contribution. Goldfish live in there to keep the mozzies from breeding.
We have solar panels on the roof. This device apparently tells us about what they're doing but I have no idea what it's saying. I'm happy though that it is meant to supply about one third of our household electricity needs.
The ole classic tyre swan on our front verandah. Background is some plants Andy christened 'uppy downy plants' since we have forgotten what they are, but they are native and were originally one small pot. Being incredibly hardy and multiplying wonderfully under extreme neglect, we have dug up and divided them and spread them all around our house and also at our community childcare centre.
Yet another of our old doors. We have a lot of doors. This is the outside view of part of a set of double doors that came from the old Advertiser Newspaper building in our city. The plywood panel covers glass that in the summer lets in too much hot sun. We need more shade sails.
 I heart succulents and corrugated iron.
The end: the pointy back of our house.

- Jane x

Sunday, February 5, 2012

inside our house

The second of the photo challenge topics I'm taking on is 'inside your house'.

My first inclination is to show you all the crappy, broken bits since sometimes that's all I can see day to day. But that's not very interesting, is it. I'll get a little of that out of my system and then move on.
We intended to tile behind the laundry sink, you know, years back but there was the issue of smoothing it out where the sink meets the wall. And, uh, who ever goes in the laundry anyway apart from me? 'Temporary' (permanent) water spout fashioned by resourceful plumber out of some pipe. Old rainwater tap far right.
All the movement from our reactive clay soils meets at this point in the hallway. Nice, huh? Perhaps we could put a frame around it. Okay, moving on.
 A pretty feature of the old part of our house.
When we moved in the shed was full of all sorts of things, including several old wardrobes in this style. There's pretty much no built-in storage so we make do with these old wardrobes. They have a kind of charm and also stop us from accumulating too many clothes.
When we had the original floorboards polished, the floor in the study was too damaged by white ants to survive sanding. I took to it with filler and then Andy painted layers: first a flat black, then a couple of coats of a gold powder that had to be mixed in a medium, then a clear finishing coat. The idea was that it would wear gradually and the black would show through in patches. I did this frilly edge where it meets the 'good' floorboards. It has aged just as we hoped. Yay!
Most of the doors in our extension were from the fantastic Adelaide & Rural Salvage. These cut glass doors cast beautiful shadows in our kitchen in the late afternoon.

Our individual coloured towel system works really well to avoid arguments over whose soggy towel is on the floor.

 The piano is a battered old ex-pianola. It's a quarter tone out so unfortunately not conducive to Jasper/Charlie piano/guitar play-alongs.
If we ever built again I would absolutely, totally do polished concrete again. Best floor ever. The dirt just blends right in and when you bother to clean it, you get a glowing expanse. This used 'Brightonlite' cement and quartz aggregate from Angaston.
 Can you see my friend?
 Dust-catcher shelf above the kitchen cupboards. See my hilarious joke?
Witchard cape on Clem's cupboard.
 Blackboard paint was a much cheaper alternative to tiling in the kitchen and has worked a treat for shopping lists.
 Window of Jasper-made treasures, recently de-cluttered and dusted. Small hanging person-art from here.
Lastly, here are a couple of things I sit and look at a number of times each day. Guess which room?
(Kind of mezzanine shelf which is the top of a cupboard built into the room behind.)

I hope you have enjoyed a little peek into our home.

- Jane x

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