Monday, August 30, 2010

Busy Monday

Mondays are busy for me and Pippin...

In the morning we go to the local pool for Pippin's swimming lesson (well, 'water familiarisation class' is the correct if excessively lengthy term)...

And in the afternoon we go to playgroup. It's so fun to see how all the babies are growing and changing and really have their own personalities.

Today because it was a beautiful, sunny, mild day, after playgroup Pippin and I went for a bit of a walk and spent some time in the Fitzroy Gardens looking at grass and leaves (and definitely NOT putting them in our mouths)!

And now a very tired baby is sound asleep and I am looking forward to dinner.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I would really like to knit this blanket!

Wouldn't you? The pattern is available here. Do you think it's too hard for a novice knitter like me? Part of the reason why I only ever knit things in plain stitch is because if I have to put the work down I can't find my place again in the pattern to know where I'm up to!

Do you have any other suggestions for simple blankets to knit? I would really like to make one to keep us snug next winter.

On a related note, what are your thoughts about buying new craft supplies (like the wool I would need to make a blanket - I don't know if I could afford to make a blanket out of completely handspun wool! Or to buy a completely hand-knitted blanket, for that matter) - does that fit in with my Challenge of the Utmost Kind? I have been umming and ahhing over this issue for a while. I have bought a couple of new supplies recently (a little fabric, some polymer clay) for a gift that I am trying to make for the Calico & Co Birthday Swap. Was that bad, do you think? I do hope not...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Well, over the last ten days or so I have had some very bad news and been very sick. Connected or not, who knows? It has been a pretty crappy time I must say.

Today, however, I'm starting to feel better physically and to get things back in perspective. I'm taking the time to get some household things done... Like folding the nappies (Pip has spent the last couple of days in disposables!) and sorting out laundry and making the bed. And I just did some yoga and had a cup of tea. (I also had to have a giggle while doing my yoga, because I had some rainforet sounds playing on my iPod, and the bird calls sent our cat hunting round the room trying unsuccessfully to locate their source.)

I'm thinking that maybe this afternoon or this evening I might bake some biscuits... Or anything really, because it is beyond freezing at our house today and having the oven going will be a good way to warm the place up a bit! This evening I think I will snuggle down with my husband, some tea and my Tea Geek course and do some tea-geeky study. I really feel like doing homey, comforting, quiet things. What about you?.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I am worth more.

Trawling my way around the interwebs, I managed just before to stumble across the first pro-anorexia blog I have ever read (I am not going to link to it). I am feeling sad and confronted by the feelings this has brought up for me.

Those of you who know me well will be aware that I have struggled with eating issues for approximately half my life. I developed anorexia in my teens, pulled myself out of that, headed a pretty straight course to bulimia via a very strict vegan diet, and have been working for the last approximately 5 years to recover from the bulimia.

I am extraordinarily lucky in that while my eating disorders have often made me miserable they have not destroyed my life or my overall health. I am working on having a calmer, happier relationship with food. This blog, where I celebrate the things that I cook and eat, is part of this. It's hard work, especially when I am tired and stressed as I often am, but I can genuinely say that I am now on the road to being recovered, rather than just struggling, or even worse, pretending.

There is so much more to a meaningful life and a HEALTHY life than the type of food I eat, the amount I weigh, the way I look. This really is easier to remember and to live when I don't expose myself to media that suggest otherwise... but that's another post.

I came across the image at the start of this post on the Kind Over Matter blog and it stuck with me. It also made me wonder about how to define my worth in non-weight, non-food ways... but that's another post too. The point I want to make for myself and for anyone who is reading this blog today is this. Creating rules around food, weight, exercise and looks don't help. These rules can't protect me or you from real life. I am not a better person because I eat a particular way... or weigh a particular amount... or whatever. I'm me. I'm enough just as I am. You are too.

The other week I desperately wanted to weigh myself. My sister's scales are stashed in the back of the bathroom cupboard; out of sight out of mind, it's not helpful for me to remember they are there. But I desperately wanted to pull them out and reassure myself (?!) about my weight. I came so close to doing it.

And then I remembered the Kind Over Matter post and I was able to step back and kind of boggle a bit at what I was doing. HOW was knowing my weight going to be reassuring? WHAT kind of value was I placing on a random, meaningless number? WHY was I going to let that number determine how I felt about myself? Good grief, I thought - this is RIDICULOUS.

So I didn't get out the scales. I still haven't. I'm still anxious about my weight. But the difference between me now and me even a couple of years ago is that I'm able to put this anxiety in perspective and let it hang around without acting on it. Most of the time, anyway.

If you have your own struggles with food... 

c\__/ have a look at the If Not Dieting, Then What? website (or get the book from the library, or even buy your own copy) - so helpful, totally sensible advice.
c\__/ the Oak House has made, and continues to make, a huge difference in my life.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Feeling Inspired: Making a Scarf!

I felt inspired to get out some of my wool stash and knit myself a new scarf - I am a bit over wearing the same old ones (much as I love them - they were my mum's, from like the 70s or something, and she gave them to me a couple of years ago).

At the same time I also had an epiphany where I FINALLY understood the purpose of the loop scarf or cowl-type scarf: Yes! It stays out of the way! If you wear scarves around the house like I do to try and keep warm, and you are also trying to cook or change a baby's nappy, you will understand why this is important. I felt like a lightbulb finally went on in my brain.

So I am going to attempt to sew the ends of my scarf together to make a loop, and see how that works. I'm knitting it on large needles, doubled (one ball of mustard yellow and one ball of very pale beige) and only 15 stitches wide so that it's quick. It's coming along nicely! This is what it looked like a few days ago:

It's quite a lot longer than that now - I'm on my second balls of wool - and I think I'm nearly done! I do hope it works.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Something Lovely

I always love reading Luisa's blog Dance In My Garden and the other day I saw her tutorial for making a natural linen freshener... Have a look!

I think I am going to mix up some of this myself - we could use a few hanging sachets in our uninspiring wardrobe. I don't have any rosemary to hand, but I think dried lemongrass might be a good alternative!

{EDIT to add: I just made up some of this, but instead of lemongrass as I mentioned above, I used a small handful of cloves... It smells divine! Going to cut up some muslin pieces to make some little bags now!}

Soapariffic Father's Day Giveaway

Father's Day is coming up soon in Australia and goodness me but Dads can be hard to buy for... at least mine is... but there is an opportunity to win a gorgeous gift from Inner Earth Soaps - three bars of beautiful handmade soaps in masculine scents:

The manly soap-pack includes:
~ Bloke Soap - made with beer
~ Kakadu Soap - lemon myrtle, eucalyptus & tea tree
~ Ocean Spa Soap - rosemary, lavender, lemongrass, mint & kelp

Doesn't it sound fantastic? I would love to win this for my Dad (or myself for that matter, although I might pass on the beer soap ;) ) - I am in fact using some of Erin's delicious Vanilla Buttercream soap in the shower at the moment. It smells as good as it looks!

 You can enter the giveaway here! Entries are open til Wednesday 18 August. Good luck!

Monday, August 9, 2010


I was reading through some of the recent posts on Zen Habits the other day and I came across these two:

The Clean-Slate Guide to Simplicity and How to Simplify When You Love Your Stuff

I love the idea of simplicity. I love the idea of having less stuff. Perversely, I do also have a lot of stuff, including stuff that I don't use, wear, read, like, or even remember that I have.

That's too much stuff, in that case, then, isn't it? But how to get rid of it? How to manage it?

I felt particularly confronted when I read this, in the 'How to Simplify' post:
7. You will know you are buying mindlessly if you:
  • Buy on a whim.
  • Buy to impress others.
  • Buy because you feel you deserve it.
  • Buy when you can’t afford it.
  • Buy just to update something that still works or looks fine.
  • Buy because someone else has it and you want it too.
  • Buy because the advertisement seduced you.
  • Buy because you are bored.
  • It’s purchased because buying soothes you.
I don't really think that I buy to impress others, or because someone else has it and I want it too, or because I am seduced by advertisements. But... because buying soothes me? On a whim? I'm bored? And even... because I feel I deserve it?

Ow. Those ones bit deep on a number of levels. I had to stop reading and come back to the article later. I felt ashamed. And a bit overwhelmed. The excess stuff that I know is lurking around has been haunting me for the last week or so. It is hard enough not buying things. Why is it also so hard to get rid of them?

On the one hand I want to hang onto some things for Pippin's sake. Like knick-knacky things... our glass paperweight collection for example. I don't think I would miss them if they weren't on our shelf, but I reckon he will have heaps of fun looking at and playing with those things when he's a bit older. (I remember how fascinated with my mum's sewing box and button collection and fabric stash I was.) Some old clothes will be good to hold onto for dress-ups. Should I start a 'Pippin stash' with things like these? What do you think?

Books and notes and things from my university days though, that I haven't looked at but have been hanging onto just in case... they could definitely go. So I am making a commitment to de-stuff my life a bit. Today I took the time to go through the boxes of crafty things that I have under my desk: sorted them into 'Christmas' and 'non-Christmas', tidied them, got rid of some stuff. I also did the 'clean-slate-email' thing and emptied out my gmail inbox. I don't have a backup drive so am a bit scared to try the complete computer reformatting thing!

Next will be the box of folders I have from my old public service job; I can pretty much guarantee I NEVER intend to look at them again.

After that, my old notes and books from uni.

And after that, the bathroom cabinets.

And after that, stuff on top of my desk (this is a scary one!).

And after that, my iPhoto library... yes it's only taking up space on my computer but it's driving me bananas how many useless photos I have on there.

And after that... well, that might do for the time being. I reckon I could get many of these tasks done in the course of the next couple of weeks. I'll let you know how I go! Do you have any helpful tips or advice for managing your STUFF??*

*and also possibly your husband's?? I'm feeling a ruthless cull of excess socks coming on.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stationery Swap

I was thrilled to take part in the Calico and Co stationery swap recently... Look at all the wonderful stationery goodies that my swap partner Amanda (who is the designy queen behind Calico and Co) sent me:

Best of all were the cards that she designed especially for me!

Amanda will soon be launching her own stationery line 'Lemon Tree Lane' and if these cards are any indication it's going to be gorgeous. Can't wait to see the rest of the range! Thanks so much for spoiling me with such a great swap Amanda!

Here's a sneak peek of the parcel that's currently making its way via Australia Post to my swap partner... But I won't say who it is or reveal any more until she has received it. I hope she loves it though.

I had so much fun with this swap that I signed up for the Calico and Co birthday swap as well. You could join in too!

And I am now also slightly obsessed with Swap-Bot and so I might be organising a swap of my own shortly. Guess what it will involve? Did someone say 'tea'? My goodness, you do know me well...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Something Lovely

I was the lucky winner of the re:deem designs blog giveaway! And look what the talented Vicki sent me... a beautiful handbound journal made from a repurposed vintage book, 'The Philosopher's Notebook'.

I adore the finishing touch with the old-fashioned library card in the back! Thank you SO much Vicki!

Vicki has a wonderful Etsy shop where she sells these beautiful journals and more... paper decorations, paper ephemera, little clutches... What is even better is that she uses a portion of her sales to support micro-enterprises for the disadvantaged. Definitely a shop you should check out!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I'm a Maverick Renegade

I actually would never have thought this until I started writing this blog... but I am a renegade when it comes to recipes.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said I always followed recipes carefully and to the letter... but I realise now that I don't. I substitute this and leave out that and don't check the time and bake things too long or goodness knows what else.

What a naughty, self-opinionated cook I am. Luckily what I make usually turns out ok and I don't have too many disasters... What kind of cook are you?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Flavour of the Week: Shameless Cross-Promotion

Dear Colleagues,

In the grand and glorious history of cross-promotion, few combinations have been simultaneously so brazenly nepotistic and so unarguably merit-driven as this week’s unctuous ice cream flavour.  The astounding conjunction of hitherto-separate product lines that I disinterestedly describe and relentlessly flog is simply this: my basic average everyday hyperpremium handchurned ice cream, infused with a hefty measure of the finest hand-made chai available in Australia today.  This exquisitely robust blend of black tea and copious spices is more than sufficient to turn a surreptitious afternoon scooping into a bracingly fragrant icy-spicy frozen tea party.  And as you’ll find when you take your own sample from the ground floor freezer, in the interests of palatability and non-crunchiness the tea leaves and spices have been graciously strained from the custard prior to churning, at no extra charge!

If you’re intrigued by the sheer deliciousness of the chai but want to experience it as a tea, not a frozen confection, why not visit Joie de Tea, which by an amazing and fortunate coincidence is my wife’s online tea shop?  There you can find her full range of staggeringly tasteful handmade black, green, herbal and rooibos teas, available for purchase and delivery Australia-wide.  This non-partisan, entirely objective suggestion has the advantage of being backed up by a 100% satisfaction rating from tea customers – a claim that I cannot make for my own products, alas, after a disastrous let-us-never-speak-of-it experiment with Camembert ice cream.

Dietary information: this ice cream contains milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, organic Sri Lankan black tea, organic cinnamon, organic ginger, cardamom pods, allspice, fennel seeds and black pepper.

Yours uxoriously

The Stressed Chef