Wednesday, June 30, 2010

School holidays are here.

It's half way through the first week of two weeks of school holidays.

So far so good.

I deliberately didn't organise to do much this time, then again, we don't normally do heaps of things on the holidays anyway.  I try to find as many free/low cost activities as we can on holidays.  And here, there isn't that much to choose from, or places to go where we have been heaps of times anyway.

I figure that since we have so much land here for them to play on they can make the most of it.  It is also a lot further away from town than at our previous house, wherever we go should be combined with other places to save fuel.

We had friends visit yesterday and the kids were happy to show their friends around.  We had home made spaghetti for lunch, and our guests supplied the ice-cream and donut treats for afterwards.  It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and catch up with my friend who I haven't seen all year since moving.  

I am so over tiles and renovating.  The tiles I chose at Bunnings were delivered, but when I came to collect them they were the wrong size, wrong color and were for walls not floors.  The next day I had a message from them telling me the supplier called them to tell them the tiles had been discontinued.  So I had to go back in and get a refund.  The kind lady, who was very apologetic, did call around a couple of stores looking for light blue floor tiles for me.  

So, on Monday I began my search again, and finally found light blue floor tiles I was remotely happy with, then I had to choose new listello's/feature tiles all over again to match the new floor tiles.  I made sure they checked with the supplier on availability this time.  At least the vanity/taps/accessories are safely stored here in the shed!

It is one year ago today that our beloved Murphy was put to sleep.  Also, our beloved Lily, who went missing, presumed dead, would have turned 5 today.  Little Man and The Princess are a bit mopey today, especially Little Man over Lily.  Today we will buy some bubbles and blow our wishes and thoughts up to Heaven for them and everyone else we've loved and lost.  It's what we did last year and have promised to do each anniversary.

Amazingly, since moving to this house, the children have only asked once to play video games.  More amazingly, said video game consoles are still packed away - out of sight out of mind definitely works.  I'm amazed at how many children I see these days busily being anti-social in 'public' with their DS's or PSP thingies.  When we went camping for the last long weekend ALL of the children in the other families who came with us spent most of their time in their tents playing games, only venturing out for food or marshmallows around the fire at night.  There was one girl who walked past me as we were packing up that I swear was the only time I saw her in the entire three days.  Some of the visiting children yesterday came with their DS's and I promptly told my children they were not to play them even if they were offered it.  I think that if you are around other people, then you ought to show them courtesy by putting those things away or leaving them at home or in the car at least.

My vegetable garden is coming along nicely.  I've got lots of grosse lisse tomatoes that should start to ripen shortly, and some Lebanese eggplant ready to harvest.  The wind knocked over a huge basil plant but I've got two smaller ones to pick from.  I have planted a heap of various tomato seedlings that I was given by a neighbour - black russian, beef steak, grape and cherry's I think.  The corn is doing well (better if the dogs didn't keep running through the beds or eating the rotting manure around them), and the cucumber is starting to flower.    At the gardening group get-together I was given a heap of plants - more than I can possibly need right now so they'll be shared with friends and neighbours.  I've started a food forest outside our bedroom side of the house.  I've planted a tahitian lime seedling, two brush cherries and a native peanut so far.  So many thing to do, so little time...

The chicken yard is starting to take shape.  The frame for the house is in place - it's final location was based solely on where we could get the forklift we borrowed from the neighbour to fit in between the surrounding trees.  Now the yard measures around 11x15m.  It's bigger than the backyard at our last house!  The star pickets for the fence are in, and one side of the fence has fencing wire strung along, once the rest is on then the mesh fence can get put on.  I need to strip off the old, rusting wire off the frame for the house and replace it with small bird aviary wire.  Then the old door needs to have the hinges replaced - they were rusted on and had to be rocked back and forth to break them off.  The wire frames around the little pigeon pea and native mulberry in the chicken yard need to be secured with tent pegs to prevent future chickens from pushing them over to get to the plants.  Half of the chicken yard is sheltered by young mahogany trees that are growing in there, the other half will one day be covered in bird netting if needs be.  We have a lot of birds of prey in our area and if we start raising our own chickens we will probably need it.  Later on we will look at digging a trench and filling it with rocks around the fence line to prevent the massive goanna that roams the area from helping himself to the eggs.  I can only do so much to prevent snakes getting in to the yard but hopefully meshing the chicken house with the small bird mesh and leaving the door to it closed when they're not in there, will go some way to reducing that risk.  

We had a common tree snake at our back door the other day.  The dogs alerted me to it, and at first I thought it was an olive python because I only caught a glimpse of it - trying to get three dogs in to the house while preventing two children from getting out as well as stopping a cranky snake from coming in was a bit of a feat.  I called the snake handler to come out before The Groom happened to stop in at home to pick up stuff, then The Groom caught sight of it and proclaimed it to be a yellow bellied black snake.  So, another call was made to the snake handler informing him of this, only to have him suggest that the common tree snake was often mistaken for yellow-bellied ones.  I told him I'd leave it to him to determine.  Anyhoo, he finally came out and had to dismantle the gas bottles from the wall in order to get to the poor thing where it had escaped to.  Yep, it was a common tree snake, who was rather agitated.  The man was lovely and explained the snake to us, and let the kids take pictures of it.  He checked around our house for any 'friends' and gave us plenty of advice and tips.  Embarrassingly, I didn't have any money on me to make a donation to their group.  I offered him a soft drink instead, but he declined.  He had to get back to his paying job.  Thank heaven for the internet, I say.  That's where I found his group and information on possible suspects we could have in our yard.  Hopefully the years I've spent 'educating' the children on assuming any snake they see is venomous and they should steer clear of it is going to pay off.

Well, today I'm off to collect mail from the post office.  A parcel was 'undeliverable' yesterday (despite our being home all day) so a card was left in the mail box with the regular mail telling us to go and collect it.  I shall buy some tinned tomatoes for a slow-cooked lamb shank recipe I'll be making for dinner on Friday night, probably buy a tub of ice-cream for sticky date pudding I plan to make for dessert tonight, then come home to make sultana cupcakes, chocolate biscuits and a recipe for bacon and lentil soup I found in the current edition of Women's Weekly.  It sounds yummy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Darn those little sick 5 year olds!

I am convinced they are the ones responsible for my being sick this week.  I get to the year 1's on Tuesday with the beginnings of a throat that feels like an unopened pack of razor blades and a headache that is about to explode.  

So, I soldiered on with a classroom full of noisy 6 and 7 year olds all week and now I'm ready to fall down in a heap.  Thank heaven for anti-histamines and paracetamol!  I have them again on Monday and hopefully, with it being the last week of school next week, I'll get a chance to stay at home and catch up on the piles of washing that needs to be folded, and the floors that need vacuuming.

I'm ashamed to say that I missed the start of the State of Origin on Wednesday night.  I saw the dressing room and introduction of the Queensland players but cannot recall being awake to see N.S.W's team.  Little Man thought it was great that mummy fell asleep early because there was nobody else to tell him to go to bed.  He's normally allowed to stay up for kick-off and a little bit of the first quarter then he's got to go to bed.

We had the athletics carnival at school today and I'm completely pooped.  I'm really looking for an early bed time tonight.  The Groom has taken Little Man to his football game tonight, then in the morning I am hosting a gardening group at our house.  I can't wait to show off the beginnings of our place.  I'm making a vegetable soup to share so I'll be off to the supermarket to get vegies soon.  I'm disappointed I don't have any of my own produce yet, but I'm sure nobody will mind.  Tomorrow night we have a birthday bbq to go to, then on Sunday I'm hoping for a 'free' day.  The Princess has rehearsals for her school musical and then is off to a friend's house to play.  

Well, that's it.  I'm about to fall asleep but I have to head out for food.  Maybe I'll just get up early in the morning instead...

Today I'm grateful for a week's worth of work.  My last fortnight's pay slip looked good, and would've looked much better if it weren't for the dreaded tax, HECS and an old Austudy loan deductions.  It's been a bit of a busy 3 or so weeks with work.  Now, I'm looking forward to the school holidays!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

TIred but happy

It's been a big week.

I worked on Monday, then I thought I was meant to be working on Tuesday but when I got to school I was told, no, you're not booked for today.  Someone made a muck up somewhere, but it gave me a day to myself.  I did the groceries and bought new flannel sheets for the children's beds.  Somehow they've ended up with one set each.  Don't know how that happened, but anyway.

On Wednesday I discovered that the floor tiles I had ordered for the ensuite were not able to be ordered after all.  We had the same tiles in the last house and I wanted them again for this one.  I'm really sad as I had my heart set on them.  Luckily, the border tiles for the walls had various shades on blues in them (they are those little mosaic-like tiles in a strip), so I found a similar color tile at Bunnings and ordered them instead.  They are slightly darker and more grey-ish than aqua, and aren't as glossy, but they'll have to do.  I'm sick of looking at tiles!  Now that everything is ordered for the ensuite we just have to wait for it all to arrive and then we wait for the builder/tiler/plumber etc to come in.  Later on when we've saved up more money the children's tiny bathroom will be done and then we can get the bedrooms carpeted.  

While I was at Bunnings I got a call for some more work with the same class I had on Monday.  So, this week I've been a prep teacher and it's been really fun.  At least today I didn't go home with a headache!

Tomorrow the school is having their feast day for their saint.  It's at the same school The Princess and Little Man go to, so I get paid for spending some of the day with them.  I like that!  Little Man isn't so sure, though, especially on the day I had his class for a little while while his teacher did something else.  And next week I am working all week, too.  With supply/substitute/relief teaching (call it what you will), it's often a case of feast or famine.  At the moment it's a feast and I have to make the most of it since we've got a lot of bills coming up.  I can really sympathise with The Everyday Mum right now, she is looking at going back to work.   I fall apart on the Home Front when I have a lot of work booked, but I found that at least if we are fed and clothed in clean garments, then that's all that matters.  At least with supply teaching I don't have to plan/mark/report, so that's a real blessing for me.

Well, I've got washing to hang out, dinner to warm up (I made a big stew in the slow cooker yesterday), then I've got to climb to the top shelf in the shed and get down the box with The Princess's winter clothes in it.  Hopefully I will make it up and down in one piece!  I do not like heights at all.  Then I have to start packing and preparing for the long weekend - we are going camping.  This time, though, we are taking ready-made meals (hence the stew) to heat up so we don't have to spend all of our time cooking.  Tonight I'm getting everything ready for a chicken and vegetable soup.  I will put that all in the slow cooker in the morning and then it'll be ready when I get home.  Dinner tomorrow night will be soup and toast, then the rest of it will be eaten on the weekend.  It's going to be cold inland, so sitting around a hot camp fire, eating soup and then toasting marshmallows will be lovely!  I don't drink, so marshmallows it is for me while everyone else sips warmed port.  Mmmmmmm, marshmallows....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My favourite cleaning item

I use Sunlight soap for a lot of things around the house (now this is starting to sound a bit like an ad!) and I remember seeing my grandmother's using it too.  Sometimes I really do yearn for a life where we weren't bombarded by so many choices in everything.  I think it was just easier that way.

I remember my nanas using a soap holder that was shaped like a small square cage on a long handle.  They used it to clean the dishes by swishing it around in the sink to produce bubbles.  They also used it to hand wash their 'delicates'.   I also remember my mum using the little metal cage thing when I was quite small.  

I have looked high and low for something like the metal cage thing and came up with nothing.  So, last year when I was in Melbourne for my grandmother's funeral I found something I could use.  It was in the T2 shop of all places!  It was one of the big tea leaf ball holders that you use in a tea cup.  It's not big enough to hold a full bar of soap but it does hold the scraps of soap left over from grating soap.

I grate the soap on an old vegetable grater, using the finest hole possible.  It must be the finest hole otherwise it's too hard on the hands and it doesn't melt as well.  Once I've got about a cup or two of soap powder I melt it down in about a litre or two of hot water, stirring it gently while it simmers on the stove top.  I keep adding water as I go until there's about three or four litres worth.  Once it's cooled down a bit I pour it all into large jars or my big plastic container I have to hold it all.  Sometimes I add a couple of tablespoons of lavender or eucalyptus oil and stir it in.  I use this for washing every day clothes, but sometimes I use commercial powder or liquid for The Groom's grubby work clothes.  I use about a tablespoon or two of the soap mix to the washing.  I also decant some into a spray bottle and add more hot water to make a general purpose cleaner for bench tops and cupboards etc.   

I have on my window sill above my kitchen sink two soap dishes.  One is for the tea ball thingy with the soap scraps in it.  The other has a bar of soap in it.  When I fill up the washing up tub with hot water I hold the tea ball thingy under it to make some bubbles.  I use that lightly soaped water to wash the lightly soiled dishes and glasses.  Then I rub the soap bar onto a wet cloth (I knit my own cotton ones - look for some as a giveaway later on ) and rub it over the dirtier dishes or utensils.  I then use this water to water my pot plants.  Otherwise, if I use the sink to wash up, the water all goes out the grey water pipe to further out the paddock.  Sometimes the dogs drink from that puddle of water so I don't want to use anything that can hurt them.  The amount of soap in the water is relatively small anyway, so it should be okay.  And because the amount of soap that is in the water is small I can use the same water to rinse the dishes in too.

I was talking to a fellow teacher about how I use Sunlight and he said how pleased he was to hear of it.  Too many people seem to want to take a quick route to cleaning, he said, and it's good to hear people still use 'old-fashioned' ways in the home.  Let me put my hand up right now and confess that cleaning is not necessarily something I'd choose to do in my day to day life, but I figure if I have to do it I may as well feel good about it.  And I find that grating the soap and stirring it over the gas flame is rather relaxing!  And - better still, it saves a lot of money, especially if you use a home brand bar of laundry soap.