Blast, Bother and Darn It

After all the travelling and excitement of the last few days I really wanted a sleep in this morning. Unfortunately I had a Doctors appointment at 9.15 am which I just made by the skin of my teeth.  ;-)))

I had had a blood test at the beginning of the week – a routine one to check that my Vit D levels were up at normal range as they were way down three months ago. My blood pressure is fine but this test the Doctor decided to check my cholesterol levels as well.  Just routine she told me.

I must admit sitting in the waiting room feeling really smug that the results of these tests would be the same as all the others.  While I’m not super fit I do try to eat well – we won’t mention the biscuits and cakes and the fact we have real butter, cream and milk on the table – and I do try to make sure we have a very balanced diet. I’m not a fan of exercise and the idea of sweating out in a gym with lots of other people just brings me out in goose bumps.  I always fell like I’m on the move enough around home that I really don’t need that half hour  daily walk and that what I eat is burned off reasonably well. Ok I have put on weight but after three children, hormones, turning 45 and any other excuse I can think of – I thought that was pretty normal.

My world has come crashing down.

My Vit D levels are super good. Blood pressure is normal but my cholesterol!!!!  Ohh dear.  Double what it should be and it was the bad fats not the good ones.

While it isn’t a major problem –  YET  – I do have to address the issue, get more exercise, loose about 5 kg  and watch what I eat or I am at risk of a heart attack or stroke.  If in six months I haven’t lost the weight and reduced the cholesterol there is a good chance I will have to have medication for it – which I don’t want as I hate taking tablets.

In the end it was the idea of a heart attack or stroke that really woke me up to what I have been doing to myself. All these years I have had the attitude that if I ended up with some form of cancer – I could fight it.  There is a history of cancer in my family so it is something we are very aware of.  It would be the one disease that while it might eventually take me down it wouldn’t be without a massive fight with everything at our disposal.  The idea of having a heart attack or stroke really scares me. I remember seeing my Pa in hospital after his mild heart attack and it really brought home just how frail the human body is.  In the end he had cancer but it was the weakened heart that took him in the end and I don’t want to go that way.

So today I have started researching what I can and can’t eat.  I am going to put a list on the fridge of the “No” foods and work around that.  I have bought a heap of salad things – we were nearly out so we needed them anyway – and am looking into ways of incorporating more fruit into my diet. Here’s a confession.  I like salads and I like cooked veg but I’m not a huge fan of fruit something which is going to have to change.  We do eat meat and quite a bit of it so I am going to have to find ways to have no meat meals in our diet.  It’s hard to pass up a nice juicy steak, a lamb chop or a roast when we get meat from a farmer friend who looks after his stock, slaughters them humanly and we have seen the meat cut up and the care that is taken to remove most of the fat, but we do need to reduce the amount we eat.

Foods such as cream, butter, cheese and eggs are going to be limited. The eggs one is the hardest. I do love scrambled eggs with grated cheese in it and as there are nearly 10 dozen eggs in my fridge due to the girls laying well they do need using up.  The Doctor, when I told her of my dilemma, did suggest egg white omelets.  Now I’m sorry but I am of the belief that if God intended us to only eat the egg whites then he would have created chickens to lay eggs with only whites in them.  It seems just so disrespectful to only eat part of what a chicken has laid not to mention just plain revolting.  Potatoes are also on the limited list as is bread and no doubt there will be many more foods as well.

Some of you may be wondering just why we have cream, real butter and milk (ok that one is skim milk and from the supermarket because we don’t have a cow and can’t buy direct from the dairies), eggs and meat.  Many years ago when Nicola’s excema was really bad we simplified our diet to only plain meat (no preservatives), lots and lots of fruit and vegetables, no coffee or tea (for Nicola), limited fruit juices, butter – margarine was a definate no no, honey was allowed but jams or highly sweetened foods weren’t. It was in an attempt to try and find out what was causing her excema – which turned out to be totally different triggers but the “diet” was a good one.  Basic stuff, made from scratch and a whole lot cheaper than buying heavily processed foods.  We liked it and have generally stuck with it over the years.  Certainly we have more processed foods now than we used to but I still make most things from scratch and am going back more and more to that way of cooking.  Intrinsically it’s a good way to eat – but I have let the butter and cream creep into our diet far more than I should have or even realised.   By the way I have a real issue with margarine.  I eat it at Elise’s but that’s it. It’s not a “food” that I think in any way can be good for you and I much prefer the taste and texture of butter – even if it isn’t all that good for me.

So, as of today, our diet will change.  The family are sort of ok with it but I will not cook two different meals and then be tempted by what they are eating. Yes the Doctor told me to take it slowly – the exercise part I will – there’s no point rushing into that and hurting myself.  The food has to change. Luckily I nearly need to shop again so those items that aren’t good for us can be left off the list or only a few bought.  We will all benefit from a healthier diet although the thought of limited biscuits with my cups of tea is a bit hard to take but  I will be strong.

Hopefully there will be slow but sure progess in reducing the weight and the cholesterol. If there isn’t you will hear me screaming.

Freedom!!!

Yesterday James and I went to Bendigo by train. It was James’s first time on a train and he loved it. He kept raving about how comfortable it was.  How first class was so good to provide a fold down table that he could rest his lap top on so he could play games.  How it made it so much easier for me as I didn’t have to drive – well I wasn’t complaining about that – and at $29.00 for the two of us to go one way – that isn’t even as much as fuel and wear and tear on my car would cost me.

Elise picked us up at the station, we did some shopping, enjoyed a coffee then back to Elise’s for lunch. Mundane stuff but made nicer because we were together.  James’s appointment was at the Fracture clinic at 1.45 pm but we had been told to arrive a little earlier as we might get in sooner.  Shall I just say I’m glad we were amongst the earlier appointments as by the time we had been there an hour the line up at Reception was out the door, there were no chairs left and it was a good thing that some of the older people were in Wheel Chairs as at least they had a seat.

James had another xray then saw the Doctor who was lovely. You know you have a good Doctor when he introduces himself, shakes everyone’s hand and asks your names then proceeds to talk to James one on one without patronising him and even managed to share a joke or two with him – mainly about making sure he didn’t hit anyone and if he did make sure he didn’t break anything!!!  The Doctor was very pleased with how James’s hand had healed. The bone had regrown (it’s six weeks since the break happened) and although when James makes a fist, the pinky finger is slightly out of alignment with the rest of his fingers, he wasn’t worried.  As the Doctor said – “James is young and that will resolve itself in time.”  So we were discharged and not required to attend the clinic again and headed back to Elise’s so James could wash his hand (which after six weeks was decidedly revolting) before we took him to McDonald’s for a special treat.

A  bit more shopping where I managed to get the right size jars I wanted for the chutney’s and pickles I had been making as Christmas presents and we checked out the Kangaroo Flat Library where Elise joined up. James and I found plenty of books so even though Elise only wanted to borrow one book – she had to borrow four as we both wanted to have a good look at the books we had found.  Elise was very impressed with the library and in Bendigo all the libraries in that region are liked together so she can borrow from any one of them with just the one library card and can return her books to any one if she can’t get back to where she originally borrowed her books from.

A movie and into bed at a semi reasonable hour as we were all exhausted. This morning we headed home after breakfast at Macca’s cause Elise had forgotten to get Breakfast supplies in – well that was her excuse – and a quick side trip to Spotlight to get some wool for Mum and more sock wool for me. It was marked down to $4 a ball, compared to $11 normally, but I was restrained and only grabbed a couple of balls.  Elise wanted to come home and pick up the few bits and pieces she had left here and she was happy to bring us home and again it was nice not to have to drive.  She has just left to head back to Bendigo and Ralf, who no doubt by now, thinks he has been abandoned.

James is over the moon that he is now free of the cast. He can’t do any contact sports or even ball handling sports for the next six weeks – not that he does those anyway – and then he should be right. He tells me it feels really weird and that his arm is all “light” after having the cast removed. It was only a half cast so goodness knows what a full cast would have felt like….lol.

Life can now settle down. Only another week until both Nicola and James start school.  I picked up and paid for their school books on Tuesday – over a thousand dollars for books and fees – so much for a free education. The uniforms and shoes I had bought earlier which spread the expense a bit at least.

I think we are all going to kick back and relax this last week.  Nothing is planned. Instead we are going to enjoy the fact the broken hand saga is behind us, celebrate the final week of school and chill out and spend time together. With Nicola in Year 11 and James in Year 7 it’s going to be a busy year.

 

Ahhhhh…..the smell of fresh paint.

My whole house still smells of paint and especially enamel paint but I don’t care. Ashley and I spent the weekend painting as it was fairly cool and we had been putting it off for long enough.

Nicola now has a room with two white walls and two purple walls instead of two pale pink/purple walls and two purple walls.

Nicola's room- Pale pink Wall is now white

I had been promising her for months that I would paint two walls white and finally it was done.  Sorry didn’t think to take an “after photo” but she loves it and it has brightened up her room enormously.  Now to get rid of that fan and light and replace it with a twelve volt fan and also put in some twelve volt down lights. They will draw less power, give more light and modernise her room.

The Bathroom had to be painted especially after having to have the shower redone after a leak was discovered in the wall. When we first painted the bathroom it was done in “ordinary paint” not enamel paint which will be easier to clean as it was probably all we could afford at the time.  Now it’s painted properly and it’s all white so it’s super bright in there.

Bright and White Bathroom

I’m so happy with it and the kids are too. Ashley did an amazing job and it looks really professionally done.  Of course I could use a handy electrician to screw that light fitting back to the wall….lol.

While the enamel paint was out the front wall of the cool room was also painted.

Coolroom Wall finally painted

I feel like I have been looking at bare plastered walls forever but now it’s done.  We used enamel (and trust me it’s the same white as the bathroom) as in humid weather we find we get condensation running down the wall from the glass door. It’s not a problem but we thought enamel paint would cope with it better.  The rest of the kitchen is still cream and the wall on the left side of the photo won’t be left with a white strip down it – I have to find the cream paint to finish that.  I really like the white – it’s sort of a feature wall without us really intending it to be.

Of course having an unintentional feature wall then meant that I really wanted the wall where the gas stove sits painted white too. My theory was it would blend in more if we had two white walls, enamel has to be easier to clean than normal paint and I was sick of the green wall that was there.

The Kitchen - in progress

A day and a midnight painting session later the wall was finished.
Newly painted Kitchen Wall

I love it and like everywhere else we have painted it feels so bright and fresh.

I finally feel that we are making more progress to getting this house finished.  Considering we built it 14 years ago this “finishing” seems to be taking a looooong time.  I guess that is a good thing though. We have had time to think about what we really want, time save the money so no added debt, and time to learn new skills so we could do most of the work ourselves.

 

 

Cucumber Relish

If you are like me this year your Cucumber plants have decided that they will grow and they will produce “fruit” and you will be inundated with Cucumbers.  If you are also like me you will have a 13 year old boy who loves to eat a cucumber whole – but not even he can keep up with the bounty that I have been picking on an almost daily basis.  Which makes it a far cry from last year when all my plants ended up with powdery mildew and dropped dead at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t use the cucumbers last year at all but strangely enough this years plant (yes I only put in one thank goodness) was grown from seed which came from last years cucumber.  Work that one out if you can.
Cucumbers

I found this old recipe many years ago and haven’t made it for ages but it’s a good one.  A friend loves it particularly with cheese and biscuits or cold meat in a sandwich   I do have a confession to make here. I really don’t like pickles/relishes/chutneys  of any kind. It’s just one of those condiments that I don’t enjoy eating………but I LOVE making them so work that one out.

This recipe is from The Esk Valley Cookery Book which I think is from around the 1950’s so all the measurements are in pounds and ounces.

Cucumber Relish

1 pound Apples

1 pound Onions

1 1/2 pounds Cucumber

1/2 pound Sugar

1 pint Vinegar (I use white)

2 ounces salt

1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Peel, core and cut up apples and cook in vinegar till soft. Allow to cool then add other ingredients, onions and cucumbers to be cut very small. Mix all together and put into jars. Leave one month before using.

****** NOTE – I cut up the onion finely and grate peeled apples and cucumber trying to avoid any seeds in the cucumber.  I then put everything into the saucepan – vinegar, apples, cucumbers, pepper, sugar and salt and bring it to the boil. Boil gently for a few minutes until everything is really hot then bottle into hot sterilized jars and label.

 

PS  If your Relish is a bit watery just cook it gently until the liquid reduces. Mine was – maybe the cucumbers had more liquid in them than normal, I don’t know –  but reducing the liquid by a slow simmer worked and now the relish is lovely and thick.

Reduce – Knit Socks

As part of the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle trend I’m currently on – mainly due to being so overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” I have – I have roughly planned a series of posts linking to that theme.  They may be posted daily or even weekly but each one will highlight where I have either Reduced my stash, Reused or Recycled something already lurking in this household.  There will be no set time or day to post them – I don’t need that kind of pressure.  Instead they will happen when the mood strikes, the stars align or I have a flash of writing inspiration.

I desperately need to Reduce my stash of spinning wool. I have Alpaca – in white, brown and black.   Sheep’s wool – Perendale, Corriedale, English Leicester, and an unknown brown sheep’s wool.  There are bags of wool tops that have been commercially processed, Mohair fibre from goats and even some Llama – just a small bag.   In all enough that I could spin 8 hours a day for an entire year and possibly still not get through it all. I have promised myself that  I will not buy any more fibre until I have used all that I have…..which quite frankly seems a fairly daunting task. However like the old saying “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time” I’m doing just that.

In the months leading up to Christmas I would hide away in my sewing room and prepare and spin the lovely Perendale Wool that I had.  The plan was to spin enough that I could knit a pair of socks for Ashley. Something hard wearing but comfortable.  They couldn’t be prickly but they did have to last a workday on his feet and in his boots.  By the way I only wear hand knitted socks now. My feet sweat and rub something horrible in the hot weather and ache in the cold, but with hand knitted wool socks I haven’t had any problems and my feet don’t seem to hurt as much as the end of the day either.  I did experiment with both commercial socks and hand knitted one week when I was working long hours with Ashley – and the hand knitted were absolutely  the best to wear.  I’m hoping Ashley finds them as good as I did.

Hand Spun Hand knitted Socks

I decided to spin three bobbins of fine yarn and ply them together to make one thicker yarn in the hope that it would prove more durable.  It certainly meant a lot of preparing the fleece and lots more spinning but I did watch some fabulous movies while I was working….lol.   In the end I had 200 grams of yarn that was the best I had spun for a long time and hoped it was enough to knit the socks….and so I started knitting.

The yarn knitted up at 5 stitches to one inch on 3.25 mm needles which is  roughly Double Knitting Yarn.  I used slightly smaller needles as I wanted it to be a fairly dense pair of socks.   It was fabulous to knit with and the socks came together beautifully.   I used the directions from here which are definitely my “go to” instructions when I want socks in anything other than sock yarn.  This is the second pair I have knit from this pattern and the instructions work brilliantly.  When it came to the toes I added some sewing thread from about half way down the foot as I wanted extra durability. Ashley’s socks all wear on the toes and ball of the foot first and I thought that the sewing thread might help with wear.  Grandma used to knit in sewing thread as well when she made socks and Mum always said it helped, so I figured there was no harm in experimenting.

I even managed to see in the New Year as I was near the end of the socks and didn’t want to stop.  Which just goes to show how good these socks were to knit as I haven’t seen in the New Year for many years.

New Socks for Ashley

New Years Day the socks were finished – after I had had some sleep – and presented to Ashley.  He put them on. I took photos and he left them on – for the rest of the day – which, to me, means they must have been a success as there is no way he will wear itchy socks.

I didn’t use all the wool but don’t have enough to knit another pair of socks so it means more spinning which is a good thing.  The only down side is the Perendale fleece I bought weighed 2 kg and I have used up only about half on these socks and other things.  Best get out the spinning wheel again I feel.

If you want more information on Perendale sheep have a look here.    I also found that Perendale were listed on the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia  as being under investigation.  Hopefully, since the report I found was dated 2004, the breed is increasing in numbers.

21 Years

Many, many years ago a boy and a girl met.  Actually the girl saw the boy walking down the church aisle after being baptised and thought he was pretty cute but then stopped herself as she knew he was younger than her and seeing someone else.  At the time the girl was also seeing someone.

Several months later, both the boy and the girl having split up from those persons they were seeing, started dating.

There was much opposition from the families of said boy and girl. His parents thought the girl wasn’t good enough. They still don’t.  Her parents weren’t impressed especially as the boy had been seeing their younger daughter and no the girl didn’t split them up.

The boy and girl both knew they were onto a good thing. There was trust and communication and friendship and most of all love.  Best of all the boy and girl worked well together on any projects they undertook.

Three years after they started dating the boy proposed.

It was really romantic.  “Suppose you better go and get an engagement ring” he said.

The girl, wanting a somewhat more romantic proposal than that, told the boy if he couldn’t propose properly then she wouldn’t be looking for anything.

The boy, knowing that the girl meant it, proposed properly although not on bended knee.  ; – (

Three months later the boy and girl were married.

Just twelve months after that wedding a baby girl was born, two and a half years later another baby girl.  Then the boy and girl – both slightly more mature by now – built a house.  That working together well paid off as they hung plaster, laid floor tiles, wired the house for electricity and did anything else they could to save money.

They had just moved into the house when the girl found she was pregnant again.  A baby boy was born, four years after the second daughter.

They boy and girl then went on to raise three beautiful children and have welcomed (over the course of many years) four much loved dogs and two cats, a guinea pig, numerous chooks and several fish and run their own business.

Today that boy and girl – though much more mature looking but who don’t act mature – celebrate their 21st Wedding Anniversary.

21st Wedding Anniversary Flowers

Ashley surprised me at lunchtime with this beautiful bouquet of flowers. He very rarely gives me flowers for two reasons. He says I have plenty in the garden and as I trained and qualified as a florist he never knows what I like….lol.

We aren’t doing anything special.  Sometime later in the year we will have a weekend away together. We enjoyed last years break so much we have decided to make it an annual event and Ashley can’t get away at this time of year.

Christmas 2012

Finally I have fast Internet again.  With everyone home over Christmas our Internet account had been given a fair old workout and as a result while we had a connection it was incredibly slow. It drove us nuts for a few days but then we got used to not being on the net and life moved on and it’s really quite surprising just how peaceful it is and how much you get done when the computer isn’t on.  I’m determined to limit my time on the net over the new few weeks in an attempt to work through the looooong list of “things I must do, must make or want to do or make”.  So far I have made a good start.   I am also brimming full of ideas for blog posts and have been making notes and taking photos as I get things done so hopefully the beginning of 2013 will be a far cry from the spasmodic posting of last year.

Now onto the fun stuff.

Christmas was amazing. Very quiet and very relaxed.

Opening Presents

Opening Presents.  Nicola, Mum and Elise in the background.

Mum came for lunch along with two very dear friends, Nanny Cate and Poppy Bill,  so it was a lively meal with lots of laughter and even discussions of Christmas’s past.  We don’t realise just how lucky we are these days.  Both Mum and Nanny Cate told stories of very limited Christmas’s but despite those limitations it was those Christmas’s that remained brightest in their memories.  They both said it wasn’t the gifts that they remembered – instead it was the love and company of extended family and the fun they had.

Ajax - in the Christmas Spirit

Ajax doesn’t care what’s inside the present – he just loves tearing the paper apart.

This year the children decided that we would do a Kris Kringle and each of us had a budget of $50 each and only had to buy or make for one person.  It wasn’t bad but we all agreed that it really wasn’t us.  Not that we all wanted lashings of presents but it just made it hard when we saw or wanted to make something that we thought would suit a particular person but that wasn’t our person to have a gift for.  Personally I enjoyed the previous year so much more with our handmade Christmas even though it was a lot of work, I found it the most satisfying and I think so did the children as there are rumours already of gifts they want to make.

Elise's Christmas Table Centre

Elise’s table centres.  Fowlers Vacola Jars with crochet doileys tied around them and gold candles sitting inside them.  They looked amazing and are still out on display.

By Christmas afternoon Ashley and I were exhausted so a traditional two hour nap was called for.  The evening meal was leftovers and a very quiet wind down to Christmas Day.

Blowing Bubbles

James with his Bubble Maker in the Pergola.

Boxing Day was very quiet. Elise left early to head back to Bendigo with Ralf. She didn’t have any work so decided to go back and start packing up her house as she had signed the lease on a new flat just five minutes up the road from where she is now.

James and I headed off to Bendigo Thursday (the day after Boxing Day) for his appointment at the Fracture Clinic at Bendigo Base.  They didn’t need to do anything with his hand thank goodness.  The Surgical Registrar said it was fine but he wasn’t happy with the cast the hospital here had put on James’s arm and hand. Instead of his hand being in alignment with his arm it was on a 45 degree angle….so now he has a new half cast on his arm which is (we thought) securely wrapped with all the appropriate bandages. Unfortunately the Plaster Lady didn’t take into account a very active 13 year old who loves to spend time in the shed with Dad and both the cast and the bandages are looking very worse for wear. I was at fault too. I should have known how grotty James can get and should have put a sock over his cast but didn’t think of it until he came inside with grease marks on it…sigh. Goodness knows what the clinic will say when we go back on January 23rd.  The best news is however James is in no pain what so ever and while he won’t have an obvious knuckle (even though it’s still there and functioning normally)  when he clenches his hand – not that he is worried about that – he at least didn’t need surgery.

New Years Eve rolled around before we knew it…………not that we were doing anything anyway.  For the first time in years I saw in the New Year mainly because I was knitting socks for Ashley (a future post) and we were watching old episodes of “Grand Designs Australia” where people could spend three million dollars on a home and not even blink.  Crazy stuff.  Nicola and James didn’t see in the New Year at all – both were sound asleep long before Midnight, but Elise did see some of the fire works in Bendigo as she stayed with a couple of friends and they watched movies, talked, ate and watched more movies.

After all the excitement and “goings on” as Grandma would have said, it’s been nice to sit back and relax under the air conditioning. It’s stinking hot with quite strong winds and the garden is suffering dreadfully.  I’m so glad I cleaned up most of the vege garden and only have a few plants to see to.  No bush fires here but my heart goes out those those who are affected.

There is lots of sewing and crafting and crochet happening here and even a bit of tidying up in the sewing room.  This year is a year to reduce, reuse and recycle much of my craft supplies and I am already seeing a real trend in the up coming blog posts I am planning, not to mention the slightest reduction in the fabric stash….lol.