Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Why Is There a Snowman on My Table?

I know he is cute but what is he doing on my Christmas table?  I live in Australia.  It is warm and sunny, thank goodness its not sweltering this year (yet).  I know that this little fellow was a gift at some point and as such i feel the need to unpack him along with the other decorations each year but as i sit at my PC reading all the wonderful posts from our friends up North (i mean really North, not Queensland) and look at the wonderful pictures of snow, fir trees, sleighs and reindeers in the paddock outside (really) i wonder if they have have an ornament on their table that reflects our summer.  This post is really a kick in the pants to myself, you are just along for the ride for your own enjoyment.

If anyone has one of these, let me know.
Why was i cooking Turkey and Roast Lamb, baked root veggies and serving a hot plum pudding - is this not a mid winter meal?   Are they throwing prawns on a BBQ and having pavlova for desert up there? I doubt it.

Pavlova - My Mum makes the best one of these.  I don't like the fluffy confection that you buy from the supermaket.  I prefer a hard shell and a chewy inside.  
No one makes us do this. I'm a 4th generation Aussie so why do i still hang onto Traditional Northern Hemisphere idea of Christmas.  If you go and buy a box of Christmas Cards (not that you do, you crafty people making their own) most of them will have winter Christmas scenes. Huh!

Christmas Wreath made from Australian Bush Flowers  - no Holly near my place.  

I know that I'm late to the party.  Many Aussies who have already had the lightbulb moment have started having Christmases that reflect our lifestyle but I'm sure there were many Aussie women yesterday that were sweltering in kitchens while their guests sat under air conditioners sipping cool drinks waiting for their "traditional Christmas meal".  I come from a large family and getting that meal hot and served on the table for so many was/is a logistical nightmare.  Wouldn't a summer meal be so much more relaxing?

We were not expecting visitors till late in the day and so we put off our Christmas meal until then.  We grazed and nibbled throughout the day allowing space for "the big one" come evening.  Not a good choice.  Trying to sleep on an exploding stomach full of heavy food is not good for anyone.  I had nightmares all night.

This was Hubby's grazing plate for the day.  I don't eat seafood.  
Hey, there is another assumption as well.  I'm sure that if you were to ask what someones idea of a Aussie Christmas was they would automatically think of prawns (like i did) and the beach.   I grew up six hours from the beach.  I live only 1 hour away from it now and i would be lucky to go there twice a year.  Though i love looking at it and the sound of it is so relaxing, I'm not too impressed with the salty water nor waves.  I grew up floating down a fresh water river in the bush dodging snags (submerged dead trees) and dealing with currents.

So, because I'm in desperate need of a nanna nap after yesterday and the cleanup today, I'm going to finish this post with a pledge to embrace my Australianess this year.  I'm going to clear out the reindeers, snowmen, snow flake ornaments etc (more decluttering) and look for items to decorate next Christmas that are more Australian.

Its a good thing that our "Traditional Christmas Pudding" is even better cold with ice cream the next day - because i really don't want to forgo that.  It will just have to be cooked the day before.

PS.  Hubby loved his tool box.  He said he's been wanting one for 30 years.   Score!!!!

I see a "decluttering" of the garage coming up. Im not stupid. There is more than one way to skin a cat.  LOL

Thanks for Living In The Land of Oz. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

New Life - A Wonderful Christmas Gift

Awwwwwwww isnt the baby chick cute.  Only a day old and already a blog star.  I guess its fitting on this day that we are celebrating new life.  The hen is Molly, one of my bantam chickens that now resides at my friend Ella's.  I was particularly surprised to hear that she was clucky as she was such a bossy mean chook to her companions.  I guess, having a bigger flock as mellowed her and brought out her softer side.

From Ella i have learned that she stayed on the eggs until they were all hatched rather than getting off with the first couple.  Good Girl.   There are now 4 and it looks like the last egg may be a dud.

I'm looking forward to running down to Lara in the next few days to see them.  In the mean time here is a cute little video.

Molly's Chicks

My thanks to Ella for allowing me to share this moment.

Thanks for Living In The Land of Oz

Sunday, 22 December 2013

An Afternoon of Tena Moments and Homemade Christmas Gifts

Thats right, Tena Moments.  It was an expression used frequently on Saturday afternoon at Gav and Kim's house.  Imagine a scrummy lunch of homemade goodness made with the freshest of homegrown ingredients (including my first crop of tomatoes for the season) and homemade cheese from the cheese master himself. It does not get better but wait, it does.  I cannot remember laughing as much for so long. We practically wet ourselves which is not hard for those of us that are fast approaching the big 50. Gav, usually the card in the pack, sat back quietly contributing his one liners that would set us off again and again. Shhhhh.... he's quite naughty in person you know.   He must have thought he was in a hen house.  Really, three grown women giggling like school girls over the silliest of things.  Oh, the third wheel on this carousel of laughter was Jessie from rabidlittlehippy who is always good value and capable of finding the ridiculous in any situation. She told me tonight her stomach muscles hurt.

Jess was fairly rocking her Catniss plait.  How cool are these and she did them herself.  No end to this woman's talents.

The laughter began with private preview of Gav's soon to be Christmas Pod Cast on Greening of Gavin .  That's all I'm saying. I'm sworn to secrecy but let me tell you its worth waiting for. And when you do get to hear it, imagine Jess and I sitting there with the pair of them.  We had the pleasure of watching them while we listened.  Too Too Funny.

There was an exchange of gifts for all.  Being on the run at the moment i dibbed out and gave both a bale of pea straw.  What else does one give a gardener that's about to go through a hot summer?  I'd already given Jess my worm wee on her last visit.  I was well and truly outdone by these talented ladies.   On Tanya's post Suburban Jubilee - Gardeners Soap I "suggested" to Jess that i would be very happy to receive something similar for Christmas.

Jess commented back that she didn't crochet so instead she knitted me one.  How cool is this?.  That's a block of Kim's homemade soap  inside.  Perfect for the laundry trough where i wash off after gardening.  I'm not your glove kinda girl so my hands are usually very grubby after playing in the soil.

Jess's gift to Gav was some much appreciated purple broccoli pods filled with seeds and for Kim some hand painted candle holders.  These were made out of simple jars, wire and paint.  Very creative and very effective.

Kim gifted me a lovely soy candle that was fragrance free.  Its nice that she remembered my guys don't like strong scents.  For my own enjoyment i received some scented soy melts that go into an oil burner.  The pine smell is divine. I'm planning some Me-Time Glamping soon and these will be going with me.

Learning to make candles and soap are only two of the workshops that you can do with Gav & Kim.  There is a whole bunch of courses scheduled for next year so check them out here.

It was while we were discussing these workshop that we suggested that Kim run a workshop in November next year for homemade Christmas Decorations.  She is so clever.  A true but very humble artist.

The following were on their table.  Simple Moccona Coffee jars with little dioramas in them.

The beauty of these is that they can be on display and then stored and with a simple wipe over of the jar they are as new.  No dust.  Start collecting little minature Christmas items now as they are usually cheap after Christmas.

Now this is when things started getting silly and a bit naughty.  See that poor little elf in the last jar.  You just knew that if he was sitting in front of three hysterical women that sooner or later he was going to become part of the entertainment.  It didn't take long before a certain buxom Irish lass with the loveliest but also comical Irish accent started fooling around.  Jess and I were cacking ourselves.  

Interesting to note that there was not a drop of alcohol consumed by any of us women.  I might be a wowser but Ive never understood the need to drink to excess to have a good time.

On a more serious note i have received other beautiful home made gifts.   These are always very special and very much appreciated.

Veronica not only comes in to help with accounts a couple times a week but she is also my bosses mother.  Its a family business and as such i feel very much a part of their family.  She made me the following baked goods for Christmas as well as a couple of new books and a $100 gift voucher.  The books are "our thing" and we gift them to each other and pass them back and forwards all year.


Fruit Mince Tarts

Rich Dark Fruit Cake
I also received the following handmade card from Kym, the wife of one of the Engineers, along with some lovely hand cream and a scarf.  I can always trust her to give me something lovely and feminine.  Its can be tough working in a factory of men.

Thank you to my friends, for making the effort to bring me Christmas cheer. I vow to make the effort next year to create something hand made as gifts for you.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land of Oz

Sunday, 15 December 2013

December Delights

Not sure if you can see it clearly but this little plaque says "Peace Grows Here".  It doesn't matter how bad my day is going, if i go out to the veggie garden then i will automatically feel better.  Who wouldn't feel good looking at healthy plants that are growing daily.  My garden has started offering up its summer crop of tomatoes and they taste fantastic.

These are Cherry Falls - an ideal hanging basket variety which is so prolific.

I think I'm going to have lots of Zucchni this year.   Time to start pickling but these are earmarked for a Zucchini Slice
I sent my friend Jess (guru of rabidlittlehippy fame) a photo and a text asking if my corn was OK.  She said she was jealous but i still wasn't sure what was going on.  I thought that the flower thingy on top was perhaps the plant going to seed due to the irratic weather.  DOH!  Lucky, the Jan/Feb issue or Organic Garden has a feature article by Peter Gundall on corn.  Did you know that the flower thingy on top is the male and that it is loaded with pollen which falls on the female ears which have formed half way down.  They carry the cobs.  These females grow lovely locks of "silks"  and each strand leads to an immature kernel within.  How bloody amazing is that!  So here is a picture of what i thought was my deformed corn which in truth is absolutely text book perfect.  They even have baby beans growing on them, or will when they move on up.

My sister came around yesterday and together we tackled the main tomato bed.  It was so overgrown with foliage that there was not a chance of any bees getting to the flowers or any sunlight.  Not only did i plant more (in a different bed) this year but i had lots of freebies come up.  Speaking of bees, i also realised (a bit late) that i lack flowers to bring them into my garden. So i moved some of my existing lavenders and also bought a couple of really tall ones to bring the bees closer to the tomato flowers.

Pre clean up - Note these gigantic flowers in my garden.  No they are not on steroids, they are $3 tin ones from Bunnings and they just look nice.  

Hard to see but we took off all the lower leaves and mulched and then removed about half of the shade leaves above.  

Now the air can flow through and the sunlight and get to the inner plants.  It also allows me to direct the water directly to each plant rather than spraying the lot and thereby wetting the leaves.  I haven't set up the dripper system yet.

OK, the potatoes are a lost cause.  A certain cheeky potato harvester has decided that they belong to her.  I have found them everywhere from throughout the garden to under the coffee table in the house.

As you can see they were all nibbled on.  Dogs and raw potato don't mix and so she gave herself a good dose of the runs.  

3.5kg of trouble - but absolutely so cute and loving.  We cant work out weather she is a  cat , a monkey or a dog.  She has so many funny ways including having entire conversations with you - just like Scooby Doo.  Its hilarious.
My very clever sister came up with a solution for my lettuce bed.  The rim of the beds that we made uses door seal to cover the sharp iron.  We lifted it all and put the netting under it and then just put it back.  I can water it and do whatever without disturbing it.

Ive been using the coffee wash in the lower beds because of Tilly but i think I'm going to have to bring in the snail pellets in the waist height beds. They are rampant at the moment.   I drink a lot of black coffee and so i keep a little watering can in the kitchen and all my dregs go into this.  When it is about a 1/3 full i add water and pour it on my leafy veggies.  The coffee bags get dried out and the grounds later spread on the soil or into the worm farm.

$9 not $250

While I'm here its amazing isn't it how everyone jumps on the "organic" bandwagon and tries to make some dough out of it.  Most people interest in organic are also interested in reuse, reduce & recycle.  Who the hell would pay "From $250" for  a 3-6L watering can?  This ad was in the Organic Australia magazine.

Anyway, im going to leave you with a photo of my friends child.  Daniel is one of the engineers at work and he has two children.  He was recently away in WA for a while and so he was having a lovely time in the garden with his young son Austin.  Isnt he cute?

Those beds look familiar, dont they.  Daniel was the one who designed and programmed the turret punch and brake press to make the steel corner supports for our beds.  He's like a walking brain, and a very nice bloke.  He is also father to a special needs child and his patience and love is neverending.  Kym is a lucky woman.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Shoes for Bunions and Orthotics

I questioned writing this post because I've used my own foot as an example.  I'm not having a pity party but hopefully offering a solution to the many who have an inherited bunion and find it difficult to find comfortable shoes.  Ive struggled for years trying to squish one not so normal foot into shoes that are just the wrong shape & width.  I'm sorry if this whole conversation grosses you out.  This is as far removed from my usual subject matter as you can get but when you find something that you've looked long and hard for and by a miracle it comes in your width and accommodates your orthotics then by goodness its news worth sharing with others, especially women like me.  I say "especially women" because men shoes seem to come in an infinite array of widths and they are usually high sided enough to accommodate even the highest orthotic.

If you make it all the way to the end then there's a question i need help with.

There are other brands of shoes for orthotics and widths and in the past ive had them.  There is a great brand called Ziera (previously known as Kumfs).  Check them out here.

They are really pretty aren't they.

Over the years my foot has warped in two directions from two separate anomalies.  The back half is rotating to the right due to an extreme pronation of the foot but also an inherited bone abnormality in my ankle.  The  top half, due to the bunion, has swung around to the left and my toes (and therefore the bones) are at 45 degrees.  Both feet are completely flat.  The xrays are crazy.   Now try to imagine those pretty shoes with these inside them.

You could say that my foot is pretty stuffed.  I know that there are others out there with bunions and for most summer usually means that they can wear thongs, or a pretty sandals if the straps manages somehow not to land on the bump and rub on it.  These orthotics do not fit in sandals, or dress shoes, or flats.

Gosh they look awful in a photo, but you try your own.  
I tried to get this picture as small as possible for you.   What I'm trying to demonstrate is the angle of the toes which when wedged into a shoe start to overlap and form corns and are just plain sore but also the width.  My left foot at the point of the bunion is 120mm wide.  Now i don't know about you but there aren't too many women's shoes this wide.  Oh, by the way, I can thank my mother for this lovely inherited gift but i cant be too hard on her because Ive handed two of them to my son.

OK, enough gross photos, lets see the solution.

The manufacturer is Saucony and I buy them from my local Athlete's Foot.  Now that's an oxymoron. Really, do these look like athlete's feet.

Women's Grid Integrity ST2 (EE) Width

So what's the magic?  Its that forefoot stretch zone.  On my right foot that is straight, this looks like above but on the left foot it expands to accommodate the bunion.  This is good news people. Its upper is full grain leather for support and flexibility (and easy cleaning) and it comes in EE.   Its probably not quite wide enough for the left as you can see redness from rubbing where the toes start to cross over but its perfect for the right and at least i have shoes.

The only problem is that the orthotics take up so much space inside the shoe that there is not enough room for my foot.  It was slipping out and so, my friends, we introduce those two little holes up the top which no one seems to know what to do with.   I know that Ive never been shown before and i have always bought from stores that specialised in "Fitting" shoes.  It really makes a difference and i was shown by my podiatrist.

How to lace your shoes to get better support using the top holes.

So what's the price?  I paid somewhere around $180 for the shoes.  Add the orthotics which are obviously custom made from moulds and I'm walking around in $800 footwear. Gulp!  Because i wear them everyday, they are only good for about six months as the support in the heal and base wears out.

So what happens when i take my shoes off?  Well lets say, its not the most elegant walk.  I try to wear them for most of my waking hours but when you first get up in the morning or are going to bed i look like I'm a 90 years old.  Solution?   Surgery.  Two separate major reconstructive surgeries and given that i no longer have private health cover will probably be years away.   I have appointment with a surgeon next week.  Its all rather scary and i have a lot of weight to lose but at the moment only one foot works properly.  I can stand on it and walk on it but it actually doesn't do anything.  I cant make those toes bend and i cant rotate my ankle no matter how hard i try.  I have exercises to do daily, mentally staring at them and telling them to bend.  Guess what, it works, because in a few weeks Ive managed to get them to slightly move.

Here is the problem.  I have two weddings coming up and i have two pairs of shoes.  This in white, and in black.  What on earth am i supposed to wear that goes with runners?

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz