Thursday, July 27, 2017

Swoosh Roses...DIY painted roses and buds..

These are so easy, that once you've done a few, you'll be embellishing everything in sight with roses!

You need pink or red plus white and green paints. I just used discount store acrylics.
You'll also need some small artist brushes. You can buy these inexpensively at discount stores too. One about the size of the pointy end of a pair of scissors. The smaller you want your roses to be, the smaller your brush should be.
Plop a  few dots of paint onto a palette or saucer, and get a sheet of paper ready to practice.

 Wet the brush in a glass of water, and squeeze out the excess moisture.
Put a bit of dark pink or red on the tip of the brush and mark the centre of your rose.
Load your brush with a good dab of pink or red on one side and white on the other.
Now, make a C shape, or a swoosh (so named because of the Nike Swoosh, I think), going top to bottom on the left hand side of your dot.
Then go from top to bottom of the dot AND the swoosh, on the right hand side.

At this stage, it just looks like a pink and white blob.

But keep going, adding another swoosh left and right, each time enclosing the previous swoosh.
After 3-6 swooshes (whatever you're happy with), you have your rose....

You can then add leaves if you like.
Rinse the brush, and squeeze out the excess moisture again, then dip the tip only, into the green paint.

Choose a point where you'd like your leaves. It's usually pretty to have them form a sort of V shape beneath or above your rose.

Just make a simple sweeping shape, vaguely following the curve of your rose. Add a smaller one on the other side. Make it a bit wiggly if you like. You really just want the hint of a leaf. The same as this is really just a hint of a rose.
Load the brush with a tiny bit of white, and add small accents to your leaves.

That's it!
You've just painted a Swoosh Rose!
Practice a few more. Each one will be different, and you'll improve as you go along. Don't aim for perfection. As my daughter pointed out to me on the ones I had admired, they are really just little blobs that are representational of a rose.
But oh so pretty!

Play with them, and be assured, that there is no such thing as a bad Swoosh Rose.
Add leaves, add buds. My rosebuds are just one stroke of pink, enclosed in a stroke of green on each side with a slip of white to accent.

I love them on any colour tag or card...

And when I look at my old fashioned rose from a friends garden, I think they're a pretty fair facsimile.
Paint some and have fun with them. They're gorgeous on cards, boxes, canisters, and d├ęcor items of all kinds. The more you paint them, the more you're going to love them. I promise!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Budget & Insourcing for the week...

Insourcing is my way of tallying my value in the home. Do you ever do that? It gives me and my family a great way of putting a dollar value on all that we do.
This week, determined to stick to my Life Manifesto...
...I generated roses from several materials, and worked on the continuing renovation of our kitchen, which truly is the hub of life around here.
I created some rolled crepe paper roses, using hand dyed and stamped crepe paper streamers...

You start by making one of those accordion style streamers where you fold and fold to get this effect above.
You then secure the ends, and roll it around your fingers to get this very pretty rose effect. See here for a slideshow of instructions that I created last year. It will make more sense.

You can use fabric to make these as well. I made a few from a remnant of navy blue raw silk that surfaced in my fabric collection last week. I was supposed to be ....ahem...decluttering, but what's a girl to do when faced with lustrous silk and faux pearls?
I think I'll stitch these to cushions for the living room...
These efforts save me enormously in seeking satisfaction by shopping or spending. These days I am very content, fluffing around in my craft room, finding new fabrics and trims with which to adorn my home. And if I can't grow roses (although goodness knows I'll keep trying!), then I am determined to have roses around me in other ways.
 My son replanted his garden pod. He's an avid courtyard gardener, and this is worth mentioning as insourcing here, because not only does this give him free vegetables, but he gifts the excess to me! My son has Cerebral Palsy and grows his own food in his tiny enclosed courtyard attached to his apartment. If he can do it, anyone can. I'm great with herbs and fruit. He's great with herbs and veges. Between the two of us, we do okay. I'll call that a saving of about $15 on herbs this week.
I menu planned and shopped accordingly. This process is vital for effective time and money management, and for reducing waste and frustration! I start by looking at the week ahead, and what sort of timetable we have, then plan accordingly. Menu planning is not just about planning what you want to eat, and buying the ingredients. You can see more on this here.

I plan for the nights we are all home, and the ones we are not. I plan my prep schedule as well, to make the meal creating process as smooth as possible. I plan for breakfasts, lunches and snacks, not just for the evening meal. This makes a huge difference to how well we eat, how healthy we are, and how much I spend.

This week while shopping, I got some great bargains on blocks of cheese. I found these at a market that sells fresh meat and produce at prices far below the supermarket prices. I don't go there often, but when I do, I always wonder why I don't make it part of my monthly shopping routine. I feel some changes afoot! I've been inspired on this topic by Annabels posts at The Bluebirds are Nesting, on shopping further afield, and making the most of our budgets.
I grated some of the cheese using my rotary grater. I love how it spirals out from the base of the grater, and yields these lovely fine strands of cheese to pile abundantly upon anything from pizzas, to lasagna and sandwiches. This method of grating makes a small amount of cheese look really generous, so those little rotary parmesan graters are well worth the investment.

I sliced and cubed the rest of my bargain cheese, and popped it into the freezer. I think we have about 4 months supply of cheese for under $20. And we eat a lot of cheese! That's a saving of around $100.
I also found small knobs of Virginia ham which we like for it's lower fat content, and sliced those up for sandwiches and cooking. They too, were about one third of the price of a similar purchase, even at Aldi, the supermarket of choice around here. I purchased 3 knobs of ham for $12. These would normally be $12 each. $24 saved.

I taught my daughter how to make a baked cheesecake. She'd seen one in Coles for $38. $38!!! For a cheesecake? Has the world gone mad? We baked this one for under $5. A cheesecake after all, is just cream cheese beaten with eggs and flavouring, and baked till firm. We added passionfruit pulp to ours as we have a glut of passionfruit gifted by my Mother-in-Law.
Baked cheesecake is not the most beautiful thing as seen above, still cooling in it's springform tin. But frankly the one in Coles was far less attractive, and at nearly 8 times the price, pretty measly looking too! I can assure you, that my baked cheesecake is melt-in-the-mouth delicious!
Here's the only photograph I managed of a slice of our cheesecake. It disappeared too quickly! But you can see from this photo, that ours had a light, mousse-like texture, that I'm fairly certain was an improvement on the Coles bakery version! At $5 vs $38, that's a saving of $33.
Here's my recipe in four sentences:
Beat 500gms of cream cheese with 3 eggs, the pulp of 3-6 passionfruit, and 1/2 cup of caster (superfine) sugar. Pour into a springform pan, lined with a mixture of 250gms of crushed biscuits mixed with 120gms of melted butter, pressed firmly into the base. Bake at 160C fan forced, until just firm in the middle, around 35-55 minutes depending upon your oven and the size of your pan. Allow to cool in the pan, then remove the outer ring of the springform, and chill before serving.

I sourced the makings of some gifts on eBay some weeks ago, and these all arrived. I formed small sewing kits with Eiffel Tower scissors and hand made needle threaders to gift to Mums who had helped with costume making for the school. At around $6 for each kit, as opposed to $35 each for the ones I had admired, it was a significant saving. 10 kits for $60 over 10 kits for $350! A saving of $290!

I found this lovely photograph and quote in a Notebook magazine I leafed through, saving clippings and recipes as I went. I then discarded the magazine. I'm a bit of a bower bird for magazines, and have to force myself to cull them regularly. They take up so much space! I'll call that a sanity!
I posted this pic and quote on Instagram, and interestingly Marie-Anne Lecouer, (author and owner of The French Chic Academy), who follows me on Instagram, commented thus..

"I like that. Many people would say it is a poverty mindset and you have to spend what you can't afford to be in alignment etc. But I say thrift is about character and looking for value. Seek value in everything that you do and then you find value everywhere. Moreover you will find it within you - that is the most valuable thing you have".
So I guess this fits with the French philosophy of not spending indiscriminately, and saving for those things you truly value, thus appreciating them more. It's that idea of quality, not quantity. Don't be thinking that being 'thrifty', equates to being 'cheap'. There is nothing wrong with feeling you have generated VALUE in making your purchases, be it a new car, a new coat, or the weekly grocery spend. This is an important mindset, and one that I only appreciate more and more as I grow older.
Your efforts at making the family budget stretch, should never been seen as mean or stingy. You are simply seeking the best value for your dollar, and for your family. That is a skill of which to be proud.
While culling my magazine collection, I also found these cute cheese graters. I just thought I'd share them here because they're pretty. Why shouldn't a cheese grater be useful and pretty?

I found time to admire the inspiration for my oven alcove too...

...soon, soon.
Meanwhile the kitchen renovation progresses ever slowly, as things do when you're a DIY-er  Insourcing. I have to say I am quite thrilled with my new Husband-built cabinetry, with cute Faux window. That was an afterthought, and one that I loved immediately.

That window was going to be blocked in, but when the cabinetry inadvertently sort of grew around the window, we decided to leave it like that. I feel like I could run over any time, fling the window open, and call 'Dinners Ready', just like my Mum used to. Husband made the cute faux window frame, and attached the brass fittings. Clever Husband also cut, stained and coated that bench top in 2-pac. I think it looks lovely. I cannot even guess at how much we saved by building all of that ourselves. Probably thousands. Let's say $1,000 for arguments sake. That will do.
The next step in the kitchen renovation will be to remove the current oven and ceramic hotplate. That's going to leave a hole in the benchtop, and I was a bit lost for how to disguise it. We've decided the solution will be an insert of marble into the bench, allowing it sit above the bench with a lambs tongue edge, as seen in this picture. My benchtops are almost identical to those seen here below, but with the high gloss finish of my nook, seen above. I already have an inset marble chopping and kneading block at the other end of my bench, so we will replace that with the same lambs ear edged marble, and they'll both look like they were meant to be there. I hope. Gulp. We'll source the marble directly from the factory here, as we did previously. I estimate the cost will be around $200-$300 as opposed to $1500 quoted by a kitchen specialist. That's a $1200 saving. Husband will install them.

So that gives me a DIY  Insourcing tally of $1662, plus whatever I saved by crafting rather than shopping and spending. I'm happy to call it a $1700 week, knowing that the kitchen renovation DIY efforts have saved us enormously.
How was your week? I know you're good at this insourcing thing too. I'm dying to hear!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Celebrations...Stocking the Gift Cupboard from $1 a piece...

If you're a smart cookie, you start thinking about Christmas in about...well...January.
Having lived through too many Novembers and Decembers of stressful overspending, and equally as many Januarys and Februarys of regret, I've learned the hard way to plan early.
And of course, Christmas is not the only time we buy gifts. There's Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christenings, and Thankyous as well.
So it just makes sense to get an early start as far as I am concerned.
Are you the crafty type?
If you are, then it makes sense to hit the sales whenever you can afford to. Post festivity sales, be they Christmas, Easter, St Patricks, National holidays or whatever, are THE time to buy what you need for that holiday next time round. Not the week before that holiday! Not if you're the clever type :)
Now this approach still requires careful planning. Don't go at it like a bull at a gate and expect to be able to use it all. Look at your strengths and where your talents lie. There is no point in buying card making supplies if you're not into card making. Nor miles and miles of festive printed wrap if, like me, you're a butchers paper and satin ribbon, or brown paper and twine kinda person. Each has it's charm, that's for sure. But stay true to self. Yes your gifts should be tailored to the recipient, but they should also be a reflection of who you are as the giver.
Now if that sounds like twaddle to you, let me put it to you this way. I have spent years cultivating a persona of gifting food and carefully crafted home made gifts. Those gifts include things like chocolate mud cake cubes wrapped in Easter Foil, Coconut Ice which is sort of like a coconut fudge, but in black and white and presented rather more Chanel-esque than the traditional pink and white, home made Limoncello and Onion Confit, home made jams and chutneys, French themed gifts that reflect the hobbies of the recipient, hand stitched velvet or plush cushions and throws, bottles of wine snuggled into lavish fur or frilled bottle bags, pillow cases luxuriously trimmed with lace and embroidery, and Comfort Baskets.
This slab of Coconut Ice, presented Chanel style, cost me about $1, and was one of my most enthusiastically received gifts ever.
This did not happen overnight. It took me about ten years to gravitate graciously away from store bought gifts, and learn how to present my home made gifts in such a way that my friends and family didn't think I was just being a cheapskate. I made some mistakes, but these days I'm pretty savvy. It's a case of practising making one thing, until you've perfected it, and then finding a way to wrap it so that it reflects you as the maker.
More on this idea in an upcoming post over the next few days.
I will provide the recipe for the Chanel-esque Coconut Ice at that time, because for today, I want to chat with you about how to source inexpensive gifts online.
So you're NOT crafty
I often hear people say that they're not very crafty, nor can they sew, cook, knit or crochet. Well I guess that's a fair comment. Although, we were all in that position at one time, and we all started somewhere, so perhaps in the long term, it's worth finding a new hobby!
But here's an alternative if you're really cash and time strapped, that still yields very lovely gifts for under $5.
Using eBay to source gifts
A search on eBay will yield literally thousands of potential gifts from about $1 a piece. Yeah, yeah, you knew that, right? But don't just buy 20 of the same thing for $1 each, wrap them in a bit of tinsel, and expect people to be impressed. They won't be. Put some love and thought and planning into it.
For example, I recently had to purchase Thank You gifts for some Mums who had helped with costume making for my daughters school. Now this can become an expensive exercise when you have 10 people involved. Even at $10 each, which doesn't get you much of a thankyou, you're spending $100. So I was looking for a way to say thanks, without relieving my wallet of $100+.
I'd done some research (always another good strategy) by looking in the haberdashery store for suitable stitching gifts, and had seen the cute Eiffel Tower Embroidery scissors for anything from $7-$15, depending upon who was selling them. I decided that a pair of scissors, a little pouch in which to house them, and perhaps a coin purse with a coffee gift card would be appropriate. By retail standards, that's a gift that would be priced at between $18 (a very conservative estimate) and $35.
I wanted to base my gifts on the antique luxury sewing kits I'd admired on Pinterest. Like this one.
And that's where eBay came to my rescue.
I found these very stylish zippered pouches (note the coloured holographic zippers!) for $1 each. Free postage. Seriously. And they're large enough to accommodate a smart phone too!
You can find them here.

I searched for the Eiffel Tower embroidery scissors and yep, they were there too. And they weren't $15, nor were they $7. They were just $3.39, and you could choose a colour! I chose Rose Gold. I think these are particularly lovely.
You can find them here.
Finally I wanted a sequinned coin purse. Well these are Dance Mums remember. We Dance Mums never say no to a sequin!
I sourced these at a fabulous price of just $1.29 each.
You can see them here.
I've since ordered some silver toned thimbles to add which I found here. No pic of those yet as they are still in transit!
To finish, I'm making some bead based needle threaders like this one. I was amazed at the fact that almost none of the ladies had seen a needle threader before, so I know these will be appreciated! I'm still sourcing the materials for these but in reality, I can't see them costing more than a few cents to make.
These will all be swathed in lush velvet squares (a remnant sourced for $2 will yield more than enough), and nestled inside the zippered pouches, to echo the antique sewing kit I pictured above.
3 steps to clever gift sourcing
I suggest that you use these three steps to start your clever (and frugal!) gift buying strategy.
1. Consider the recipient and their tastes, hobbies and passions. Note throughout the year, if someone specifically mentions an item, or lack thereof (like the needle threaders!), and see if you can find a way to source that item inexpensively and/or ingeniously.
2. Note the packaging of the item you want to replicate. Packaging and presentation makes a huge difference to how your gifts are received. Try to echo that idea somehow, as I have with the velvet squares to house my needle threaders.
3. Use online sources, discount stores and post seasonal sales, to find what you need to replicate your gift idea, always keeping a total spend per gift in mind.
For just over $6 each, I've managed to create these gorgeous little sewing kits, each one in a colour to that suits the taste of the person to whom I am gifting it.

Thimbles and hand crafted Needle Threaders are to be added in toning colours, but I'm happy with both the amount of time and money I've spent, and know that these will be an appreciated and well loved gift.
I'll be packaging these in the French Script paper you see in the background of these photographs, which is one of my signature wraps. That's important too. Find a way to present your gifts so that the presentation is uniquely you.
You can find a downloadable French Script paper here, or do as I do, and create your own. I use butchers paper and a fat marker pen, and just write all over it in big loopy writing.
Start NOW for your online sourced gift buying. Don't leave it till October or November, because often these items take 5-6 weeks to reach you. That's why the 'postage' is free!
Have fun, and let me know how you go.