Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh happy day... Cadbury goes (partially) fairtrade!

I heard this morning that Cadbury® had finally got their long-awaited (by me, anyway) Fairtrade certification through on their plain Dairy Milk range of chocolate blocks and bars. Of course, I had to swing by the local consumer-mart to verify the rumours, and was delighted to return with... ahem... five blocks of the stuff.

Make that four. 

For me, this is thrilling news. Not because I'm passionate about Cadbury, but because I'm passionate about Fairtrade.

You probably already know what 'Fairtrade' is all about, but here's the wrap from the Australia/New Zealand Website:

Fairtrade is about better prices, 
decent working conditions, 
local sustainability, 
and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. 
By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, 
Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, 
which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. 
It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.

This is PARTICULARLY important in the cocoa industry, where child trafficking and slavery continues to be rife.

Cadbury could, and should, still go a lot further in its efforts to source ethically-produced cocoa. However, it is still very exciting to see this move. Partly because the gauntlet has now been thrown down to other major companies to get onto the ethical bandwagon. But mostly because this means that the average Joe Consumer, for whom Fairtrade is an unknown or irrelevant concept, will still end up buying ethically-sourced chocolate. 

And furthermore, the many many people who ARE educated about the importance of choosing Fairtrade - the people who understand and grieve the horrible injustices that young children suffer for the sake of a measly bit of chocolate, yet who continue to be swayed more by their wallets than their conscience - will now also have a cheaper, more readily-available source of Fairtrade chocolate.

 I know how hard it is to value the living conditions of an unknown person in a far-off land over the lure of a cheaper and more readily available chocolate bar. In the last few years I've struggled with this temptation many times and failed. Hopefully, this move by Cadbury will make choosing the right option just a little easier for everyone.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pincushion dilemmas

My name is Gina, and I have Creative Attention Deficit Dissorder. 

After signing up to Kate's pincushion swap and getting my creative brief, I made up my mind to do some English paper piecing with tiny precious scraps.

And, according to plan, my Cookie Hexagons are coming along very nicely:

But then, last night, after a few hours of creative playing with gingham and coffee sacks (for an upcoming giveaway) I cobbled THIS together from my scraps:

Now, I love this pincushion. I love the textured hessian, I love the colours, I love the chunky feel (it's quilted as well as stuffed), and I love the text.

I also love that it's finished.

Do I:

a) Accept that I am prone to changing my design ideas mid-stream, rejoice that I've finished something, send it to my pincushion recipient, and stick the Cookie Hex on a skirt?
b) Persist with my original hexagon pincushion idea so that I feel like I have some ability to follow through, and keep this one for myself?!
c) Pretend that it was all part of the plan to make another pincushion for my upcoming 'blogversary' giveaway,  send it off to one of you guys, and get on with my Cookie Hex?

Over to you...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My creative space... all in pieces

Pieces, pieces are dominating every available (and unavailable) creative space at chez clutterpunk.

Pincushion pieces (about to be packed up to take to the Northern Craft Bonanza tonight):

Kaleidoscope pieces (slowly sashiko-ing my way around the circles):

Rectangular scrap pieces sitting in my newly pieced scrap-gatherer, which are being cut into varying widths and sorted into paper bags: 

(They are being amassed for what I am calling my 'scrap management quilt', which will hopefully look something like the quilt below, found in THIS book):

Let's not forget the yo-yos:

And these pieces, lying around waiting to become something pretty to be given away in a few weeks... maybe to you.

Really, don't you think it's high time I started putting the pieces together?

Please drop into Kirsty's place if you'd like to play along with My Creative Space this week.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A bag of sunshine

The glorious weather of the last week had me thinking about Spring rather than Autumn... I felt like getting all Northern-Hemispherical, frolicking in fields of daisies with a gathering basket on my arm, skipping around in swishy romantic clothing, and sitting down to a picnic high-tea. None of which I did, obviously, except for fleetingly, in my head, during a particularly dire episode of Postman Pat.

So instead, I riffled through my fabric cupboard and spied some very Spring-y vintage pillowcases and sheeting, which I proceeded to butcher thusly:

Of course, I started butchering well prior to knowing what I wanted to make with it. I just knew that I wanted to do some patchwork, because, well, it's becoming an obsession, and surely it is the favoured indoors pursuit of breezy, romantic Spring girls?

OK, it's true, I have been gazing far too frequently at THIS picture:

(front cover of Daily Patchwork Goods, a Japanese crafting book I obtained from here)

Now I realised after cutting out and sewing back together a bunch of 4-inch squares that I should have been working in hexagons, because what I really really wanted to make myself was that very basket, the one on the cover, the frolicking-in-fields, dressed-in-flouncy-frock, flower-gathering-basket (perhaps not the actual title, but who knows? It's Japanese, and I wouldn't put it past them!)

So I went ahead anyway, and here's my interpretation:

The instructions for making the bag were all in Japanese, but were fairly easy to interpret visually. Given that I'm usually rather too impatient with patterns anyway, it is my cup of tea to just 'catch the drift' and see what happens. And it happened, and apart from a mostly-salvaged handle diasaster, I'm pretty chuffed with the outcome.

Serendipitously, when I was looking for something sturdy to line the bag with, I came across a denim skirt in my refashioning/mending pile. It had been cast there by my neighbour a year ago, for the unforgiveable sins of being both a daggy length and impossibly small at the waist. But Lo, when I inverted the skirt, the waistband matched the circumference of the bag base perfectly, and then flared out at the same width as the outer bag. So all I had to do was turn the skirt upside-down, lop it off at the appropriate height, add a base, and voila, I had a bag lining! I even left the side-zipper in and turned the bag back through it to right-side-out once I'd finished sewing it together. Ahhhh... slack short-cutting disguised as refashioning. Perfect.

Now I'm using my lovely bag of sunshine to go a-gathering... picking up the scraps of fabric in my house which seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate. Oh well, I guess it's breeding season right, being Spring and all?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Putting a hex on your pincushion

No, I'm not referring back to this brilliant act of crafty voodoo. I'm playing with some hexagons for Kate's mammoth pincushion swap.

I have so many ideas in my head for making a little pincushion... As usual I'm jumping in without a clear design, but after checking out the 'creative vibe' of my (to-remain-anonymous) swap partner, these last precious scraps of Aunty Cookie are speaking to me:

I've played with hexagon paper piecing before and hope to do a fair bit more, so I treated myself to a little product which might just cut out my least favourite part, the initial shape basting. 

Now I just need to think about size, shape, design, filling and so forth, and I'll be able to get making!

Everything other craft project I have on the go is turning out to be a bit of a slow burn, so my intention is to make this one a project of the more short-and-sweet variety.

So please, no hexing my pincushion, ok?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Running For The Kids

On Sunday, along with around 30,000 other people, I participated in the Run for the Kids, a fun-run held in order to raise money for the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. Affectionately known in my household as the 'run from the kids', I've been gleefully dashing out the door 2 or 3 mornings a week for the past four months in order to ready myself for this race.

I opted to run the long course, which took us on a 14.38km route around the Docklands precinct in Melbourne, including going through the Burnley Tunnel and up over the Bolte Bridge.

I'm thrilled that I ran the whole way. My focus was on endurance, on making the distance comfortably, not on speed. I'll never be about speed.

That said, I was happily surprised by my time. I kept a very cautious, slow pace throughout the race, constantly dropped myself down a notch in the exertion department, and tried to ignore the speedy demons rushing past (as well as the runners dropping off like flies as we approached the long inclines).

I can't say that I was in the 'Zone' while I ran. It was hot. People were smelly. It got boring. In fact I had to give myself a good talking-to at various points along the way to stay motivated and keep going. It was more of a mental than a physical battle, somehow.

However, the euphoria I felt as I ran over the finish line was unbeatable. So is the euphoria I continue to feel in knowing that I set myself a goal, I kept to it, and even I exceeded my own expectations.

Five months ago I could run for one minute. Now I can run for 1.5 hours. 

If you're interested in running, but think you have absolutely no chance of ever getting off the couch, I really recommend reading the very motivating John Bingham's  No Need For Speed

Monday, March 15, 2010

The rhythm of life

I love the sense of possibility that Monday morning brings. Today, for the first time in a while, the clutterpunk household is starting the week fresh and sparkly, with a tidy home, sunny weather and no illness. I'm looking at the week ahead and feeling alive with possibility and optimism.

It helps, when staring down the barrel of a new week, that we're getting into a bit of a rhythm with our days. For the small boys and I, our week days are now defined by a predictable morning activity, a time of 'rest' (ha!) in the middle of the day, and then a home-based afternoon period while we all wait eagerly for the man of the house to return.

Monday is home day. After a busy and often very sociable weekend, it's good to have nothing scheduled and to focus on domestic life a bit. We hang around at home, wander up to our local shops for any needed supplies, perhaps visit the library, and generally enjoy the neighbourhood.

This was us this morning, riding up to get some fruit. Do you like my Curlypops teatowel tote?

Eating blueberries together... best treat ever!

Tuesday is care day. The boys spend three hours at the local neighbourhood house in 'occasional care', and I use the occasion to care for myself! During this time I avoid all responsible activity, taking time to savour a coffee, ride home to an empty house to do some sewing, or browsing my favourite op-shops at leisure.

Wednesday is adventure day. On Wednesday mornings I try to get the gang a bit further afield, which means a trip to the zoo, the Melbourne museum, CERES, or visiting with friends (aka trashing someone else's house). In recent weeks, my gorgeous God-daughter has come adventuring with us to give her lovely mum (my friend and fellow crafter Anna of Dillpickle) some time to study. She spends her time watching my boys in a bemused fashion and being delightfully placid.

Last Wednesday we visited my dear friend Kirsty. I made little aprons for her three little girls, and together with my kids they decorated cupcakes, ate too much sugar and generally ran amok, while Kirsty and I enjoyed the solidarity of parenting side-by-side, and ignored all the crumbs being ground into the floor around us.

Thursday is creche day. We ride over to my church, where the boys spend a wonderful hour and a half playing with friends while I get a chance to chat, pray and study the bible with friends. Win-win - soul food of the most important kind.

Friday is playgroup day at our local kindergarten. It's great to be going along to a playgroup which gives us access to interesting activities, outdoor equipment, and an opportunity to watch my boys interacting (or not!) with other children.

So, that is our week. But before you start thinking that it's all so very peachy... I confess that afternoons are still a bit of a struggle. I don't quite know how to ride them out. Our days begin around 5am, and only my younger boy naps (sporadically) during the day now. After a morning out and about, I run out of puff, and all I want to do is read blogs and craft books. If the boys' 'free play' is not going well, it is tempting at this time to resort to endless hours of ABC television to get myself some space. I happily employ the TV for an hour or two in our long long day, but when it's more I feel rotten about it.

So I'm trying hard to make the late afternoon our time for visiting the park and wandering the neighbourhood. This works really well, if the weather is decent and dinner is organised already! When we start heading for winter I'll need to be more ideas for ways to engage my energetic, attention-deficit little toddler-aged boys. Suggestions are so very welcome.

How's the rhythm of your life?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My creative space... portable therapy

My creative space today needs to be portable, therapeutic and able to accomodate a distracted mind.

Today, I will be sitting for a few hours in hospital while my wee Charlie boy undergoes a small procedure to open his blocked tear ducts. It's very unclomplicated and very painless - we've been through it before for William - but it does require a general anaesthetic. Now I'm the type of (relaxed? overly casual?!) mama who applauds or rolls her eyes when her boys take a tumble, who says 'pick yourself up sweetie' when they fall, and who made inappropriate jokes with the anaesthetist about finally getting some peace when we went through this last time. But oh, there will be something so heart-stopping about holding my baby while he breathes in the gas and watching that little body go limp and be wheeled away for his "big adventure". I know he'll be fine, but there will be an appropriate lump in my throat all the same.

I have a variety of hand-sewing projects on the go, which are both portable and therapeutic but require some measure of concentration and accuracy, which I know I won't possess. Thankfully, a recent addition to my works-in-progress list has been my floral scrap yo-yo project.

So today, I'm grateful for
my large Clover yo-yo maker
the stack of Japanese craft books that arrived in yesterday's mail, just in time
my basket of wonderful floral scraps
 and craft that helps the time go by.

More spaces at Kirsty's house...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

decluttering the grocery shopping, 2010: menu planning

It's been a month since I first posted about the main clutterpunk household goal for 2010, 'decluttering the grocery shopping'. The brief: I want to move our household into a pattern of general food consumption that is low on waste, in line with the espoused social and environmental ethics of my family, and good for the family's health, wealth and use of time.

Easy, no?!

Well, there are lots of things I'd like to implement in our household. But in the spirit of eating the elephant one bite at a time, I've been trying to focus on better meal planning as the first thing to really work on. Many people who commented on my first post stressed the importance of planning their shops and menus in order to stick to a budget and cut back on waste and excess packaging. From the little I've done, I agree.

I can also see that planning the shopping in particular will help me to stick to certain ideals I have but don't always follow through on, such as
- buying only fairtrade coffee and chocolate products
- avoiding exploitative brands
- supporting Aussie-owned and made  
- Eating less meat
- (eventually) moving entirely to organic meat/poultry
to name a few.

But... I find that I have a big problem with meal planning. You have to, um, PLAN. Not only does it take me hours to decide on a balanced array of family meals (without including all my favourite expensive ingredients), but also hours to figure out quantities, make sure that ingredients are seasonal and available, account for left-over bits and pieces, remember the regular items AND try to fit it into a budget... yuk! It takes a mere mortal like me half a day. Or it would, if I didn't just chuck in the towel and resort to the default on-the-fly-5pm-shop-visit-with-two-screaming-children style of 'meal planning'.

So, instead, I'm trialling something which actually does all of that hard work for me:

Webiste HERE.

The Table Tucker meal planning and recipe book is quite something. The deal is that the author, Penina Petersen, decided to plan a full year of dinner menus, with the aim of reducing cooking to three nights per week whilst still enjoying varied, balanced, seasonally-appropriate and frugal dinners. The book includes menus for 6 dinners per week, 52 weeks in the year, as well as annual, seasonal, monthly and weekly shopping lists so that you can choose to buy in bulk and be prepared.

Now before you think this is some paid promotion, and before you head off and buy it, let me say that we're still in our early stages of trying out the Table Tucker system. Prior to our recent travels and illnesses, we decided to use it strictly for two weeks. We don't have any dietary restrictions in our house so we felt free to try each recipe as it came.

There were some amazing benefits. These included:
- Shopping purposefully and quickly for specific items (I definitely spent less than usual)
- The great sense of time and freedom I found in cooking only 3 nights (even though I cooked two meals on those nights)
- Far better mental space for my boys in the hours before dinner, as well as time for them (we went for adventure walks around the neighbourhood)
- Far less food waste.

That said, I do have some reservations:
- It is so planned that I didn't want to think about deviating, which felt a bit restrictive
- It only plans dinners, no other meals
- Some of the meals we've tried are a bit odd to my taste
- There is a reliance on certain prepackaged foods like 'quick rice' which I dislike for lots of reasons
- Some meals are for 4-6 people, others are for 2 people, which is confusing

However, I think that my reservations will probably be overcome if we keep working with the system but learn to play around with the ingredients and flavours a bit.

So, this week we're getting back into the swing of it! Tomorrow I'll be checking our supplies and stocking up on the month's non-perishables, then getting this week's fruit, veg, meat and dairy. Where I get all of these and how, I will leave for another post...

Do YOU meal plan? How does it work in your house?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My creative space... not going to be defeated by what seems to be a second wave of gastro, darn it! I have a deadline and I'm going to make it.

Behold: ten tea-towels, ready and waiting to be folded, packed and posted, once they've had their final threads snipped. Most of my swap-mates are not regulars here at clutterpunk so I don't think I'm spoiling anything by showing you:

Yes, some of you will recognise that this is an old idea of mine from creative spaces past. I knew when I signed up for this tea-towel swap that I was not going to try reinventing the wheel or trying out new techniques. And of course, then there were all those little green offcuts lying around from the dreaded green quilt.

This time I was keen to add some text but unsure how to do so. The plan was to 'write' it on with the sewing machine, but after a few trial runs it became clear that the lack of ability to truly 'free motion' on my sewing machine was going to make it a painfully slow, and potentially needle-snapping process. (For sewing nerds... my ancient Brother's feed-dogs cannot be lowered, and my attempts to do the next best thing and find a compatible darning foot/plate option have been sadly... fruitless). So I was going to hand-embroider, when I came across some printable fabric out of the blue...

I've added a label, which handily doubles as a loop for hanging on a hook or nail.

Over the green yet? I might give you a break from it next week :-)

Thanks Kirsty for hosting once again... add your creative space link over here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Just a minute... in February (ish)

I'm sorry Jenaveve, if you're still out there reading. I just can't move on from this meme. It's always provided the best opportunity to clear my head.

Celebrating... the launch (today!) of the book I co-edited, a centenary history of the theological college where I spent some years studying, 'back in the day'. It was such a great project to work on, and I hope more editing opportunities present themselves in the future. But I'm not going to go out looking for them... I have too much sewing to do!

Sewing... Aprons, the green quilt top (now fully pieced), and some applique/thread-sketchery on tea towels for the great Tea Towel Swap-o-rama!

Reading (in hardcopy)... various books to help me sort out my sustainable ethical family-friendly grocery shopping priorities. I'll save the details for another post, but I'm gaining clarity and have a plan of attack!

Reading online... these newish blogs:

Light Shade of Green: Sonia is on about lots of things close to my heart sustainability-wise, and she articulates them so well. I've been enjoying reading back through her posts.

Apron Strings: 'Calamity Jane' is a self-professed cow-girl, renegade and cookie baker who is reclaiming housewifery! I've found her posts provocative, amusing, sometimes a little close to the bone. She's currently got me thinking about radical homemaking and feminism...

Running... like a trouper. Yes, yet another blogger outs herself as a running junkie. The year before I first got pregnant, I got the running bug and was a frequent (short-distance) pavement-pounder. In November last year, after a 3-and-a-half-year hiatus, it was finally the right time to get back out there. I started getting out three times a week, mostly walking but adding in spurts of jogging (I like to call this combination 'woggling'). I've continued building up gradually, getting out no more than three times a week, often less depending on how the family is situation.

Yesterday, I ran 15km. The longest I've ever run in one burst. For me, Ms Stumpy-legged 'No Good At Sport' girl, a big achievement. I'm still on a high.

Obessessing over...
Coffee and coffee sacks. I have both in my possession :-)

Thinking... that I'm going to try posting more frequently in March, because I have so much that I wish to document and process and workshop and all that, and 2-3 posts a week isn't enough right now. But don't feel obligated to read :-)

What has your February been full of? What does March hold?