Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reuseable Christmas Hampers/Stockings

M and I have managed to continue our new tradition that we started for Christmas 08 by buying his family gift cards and food hampers again this year. The idea was to make Christmas less commercialized or to at least make it look less commercialized, in preparation for something that might or might not happen in the near future. Unlike last year, M was all for it this time round.

Inspired by those bloggers who make Christmas gifts by hand, and increasingly wishing to minimize our impact on Planet Earth in some little ways, I made three Christmas stockings that can be filled with food and gift cards year after year.This meant that we didn't have to wrap the food up in paper or cellophane. I have noticed in the past that the paper and cellophane was almost never reused, even though they both make great material for children to reuse in their art and craft activities. This year we didn't buy from Suga or Haigh's. We stuffed the stockings with a gift card each, organic tea from Oxfam, mini soft toys from IKEA, boxes of Walkers shortbread, Cadbury chocolates for the kids and Lindt chocolates for the adults. There was also an extra block of Fair Trade dark chocolate from Oxfam for M's Dad. We are aiming to fill the stockings with more ethical products next Christmas.

Making the reuseable stockings doesn't mean that we no longer use wrapping paper. We still have at least half a roll of wrapping paper that I will continue to use until it runs out. After that, I will start making individual drawstring bags to 'wrap up' birthday pressies. They can be used over and over. At this stage, I am not sure if I will make bags of different sizes to hold different sized pressies or make each family member a personalized bag. What do you think? I am sure that M would prefer the second option but that would mean that we will have to shop for pressies that will fit in the bag! That is kind of restrictive!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dirt Cheap Reads

M and I went to what looked like a temporary bookshop on Elizabeth Street on Monday afternoon. It is called Dirt Cheap Books. They have other stores around Melbourne as well and we only spotted this one on Christmas day. It is opposite St Francis Church and next door to JB Hi-Fi on Elizabeth Street. We bought four items as pictured above. The Sewing Calendar was only $5. I bought it simply because I wanted to check out the sewing projects inside. There are more than 100 sewing projects sourced from various blogs. Because each project's designer and blog address is also listed, I suddenly also have many new blogs that I can visit in my spare time! The New Yorker 2010 Desk Diary is for M. It was also just $5. A sticker on its back cover indicated its recommended retail price in the US was USD$32.95! I am trying to stay away from the diary because there are a few maps in it, including one of Manhattan and I have a tendency to study them. LOL. The other two books are for a young relative who is about to turn 12 in a few days. The green picture book (my idea) is about Don Bradman. It was also $5! Elsewhere the same picture book is priced as high as $32.99! The fourth book is the most expensive. LOL. It was $7.
On Boxing Day, I dragged myself to Dymocks on Collins St for their twice yearly 20% off most items sale. There were two items I had in mind to get but only one was still on the shelf when I got there. This sale is on till Thursday (31/12/09). I love the sale at Dymocks because it is one good opportunity to actually buy cheaper books after sampling parts of the contents first.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone

I have just finished ironing a small pile of clothes and before Taggart starts at 8:30 pm, I thought I come in here to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! My day has been OK so far. I got up early to cook a hearty Christmas breakfast of Bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toasts for the two of us before we walked to the church for a midday service. We missed the 11:30 am mass featuring the National Boys Choir by a couple of minutes so we waited for the next one at 12:30 pm.
The photo is of the Nativity Scene displayed in MYER. The photo was taken back in November well before the window was smashed. One drongo or a pack of drongoes smashed the window last week and the Nativity Scene had to be moved to another window on Lonsdale St. We walked past it today and it was fine. Since today is a good day, I shall refrain from criticizing people with appalling behaviours. Other than the Nativity Scene at the Catholic Bookshop (also on Lonsdale), this is the only other one that is on public display for all to see that I know of in Melbourne.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oh No! Posties Going On Strike!

I am running very late with Christmas preparations this year. I had to stay up till around 3 am to finish making the Christmas cards. M took them to Australia Post on his way to work. And then I learned from the news that the Posties are going to walk off their job at midnight! I told my Mum on Saturday that my Christmas card will arrive late this year because I have been busy with other things. She didn't mind. My family do not celebrate Christmas in a commercialized way and they don't feel stung if Christmas cards arrive late. To us, its the thought that counts and any thoughts can also be communicated via the phone. My Mum even suggested that I should have emailed the card. Well, that is a 'Green' idea but my cards are handmade with lots of Love. We hope that the recipients enjoy receiving them as much as us putting them together.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Skinny Fly Annoying the Bad Driver

I did a bit of sewing in October and November. I made a simple coin pouch to replace my kawaii Japanese coin pouch at the end of October. The Japanese coin pouch was one of the last things I bought from Daimaru before it closed its doors. It is sad to see it heading for retirement. The new pouch that I made is lined. It took me a long time to figure out how to make a lined bag. Yes, I am that annoying type of customer at Borders who studies the insides of the cutesy lined bags and pencil pouches to figure out the mystery construction.

Ever since I stopped going to sewing lessons yonks ago, I had become less adventurous. Without my teacher’s guidance, I lost confidence in trying to create complicated looking sewing features and chose only projects without them. Towards the end of November, I thought that I ought to challenge myself a bit. The mock fly is something I really wish to perfect. So, I thought I could practice by making someone a pair of shorts. The following are photos of the shorts. My first attempt without my teacher’s help is less than desirable! Oh! I did use a pattern to make them.

I made the shorts using a small piece of fabric bought so long ago that I couldn’t remember why I bought it in the first place! I ran out of fabric and ended up using some scraps to construct the inside of the pockets. LOL. Can you see what is wrong with the shorts?

Let’s have a closer look at the mock fly. Can you see what the problem is yet?

This is the view behind the mock fly. Can you see my mistake yet? Well, there was meant to be a two layered flap for me to overlock around before stitching the mock fly outline through all the layers from the front but my driving was so bad that the overlocker had gobbled up most of the flap as I drove over and over to get things right. In the end, I was left with only a little bit of the flap. Enough only to make a skinny mock fly. LOL
Here is how wide the outline for the fly should be.
As can be seen here, I am still quite obsessed with the ‘adjustable waist’ feature. This is an improved design. They are different from the ones on the skirt I made a few months ago. Back in October, I went to ask a few mums about the ‘adjustable waist’ feature on some children’s pants. It is no surprise that quite a few didn’t like it. Other than the discomfort caused by the rubbing of the buttons against the child’s skin, two mothers also mentioned the frustration of losing the ends of the elastic inside the short’s/pant’s casing when the elastic is released accidentally while adjusting it. Now, while I haven’t figure out how to eliminate or decrease the discomfort caused by the buttons as yet, I have decided to hide and sew the elastic ends inside the casing so they can’t run away from any carers trying to dress a growing child.

I am not very happy with the outcome of this pair of shorts. The skinny mock fly bothers me. Due to this flaw, I am refusing to give it away as a gift to anyone. We don’t have any children to wear it either. So for now, it has gone to sit among my favourite T-shirts. My next sewing project will be carried out in the next few days. I will blog about them once they are completed. It looks like I won’t have time until after Christmas or the New Year to start practising making mock flies on little shorts again. Although I am unhappy with the results of my first independent attempt, I am adamant to perfect it. I am thinking of altering the pattern to suit my driving. LOL. Imagine altering the roads to suit my driving. LOL. M reckons that he is in no hurry to be my passenger, even if I am given the go ahead to alter all the roads in Melbourne. LOL. He reckons that not only do the roads have to be altered; everyone else will have to stay at home for me to drive since I can’t share. LOL

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not Unusual To Me

This is a page from a picture book that I quite like. It is easy to assume that I am attracted to the Guinea Pig in the photo because it looks quite like our Guinea Pig but it is the text on this page and throughout the book that captivated me. I wish that the author had used ‘she’ instead of ‘he’ when referring to the cats in the book. Then the text, especially the ones printed on this page, would have been spot on about me! LOL

19 months after the passing of a beloved pet, most people would have moved onto the next pet and I should too but we are not planning to keep another little mammal until we move to a bigger home. When we do, we will keep at least two Guinea Pigs at any one time so it will always have a companion by its side at all times.

Oh, I just remember that we have moved onto our next pets. LOL. We do have a pair of Black Moors Goldfish. They behave differently from our precious little Guinea Pig and they are certainly not cuddly like him. Writing about them reminds me that we should also get them a Christmas pressie soon. I will have to make a note about it because it is so easy to forget about them even though I feed them every night and one of them likes to stare at me when I wash dishes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hey Hey! Borders @ South Wharf is Open

Someone left me a comment anonymously not so long ago to tell me that the Borders at South Wharf was opening on the 3rd of December. Since I was a little busy yesterday, I popped into the bookstore to have a little look today. The store turned out to be a compact one like the Carlton store. Over the years I have noticed that whenever a new store opens its doors, there is a standard range of books on the new shelves, including a pretty good range of books on Education, normally placed next to the parenting section. This was the case when the stores in South Yarra, Chadstone, Melbourne Central and Highpoint open their doors. Unfortunately this is not the case with the store at South Wharf. There is only one small shelf of books on Education. LOL. There is one title on Montessori and no titles at all on Homeschooling but there is a book by Alfie Kohn. Oh… I sound like I am whingeing here…

I did enjoy my trip to Borders today though. While it didn’t have much of what I was looking forward to, they did have heaps of other books and products for me to browse. At the cooking section, I saw a cup made to look like those take-away coffee cups with a Sippy lid except that this one can be reused over and over. Now, I really like that and am thinking of getting one for M. After staying at the store for an hour or so (or was it more?), I walked out with one of my favourite magazines – Grassroots. The only other place to get Grassroots is at Mag Nation. Oh wait, I think Melbourne Central’s Borders have it too. I used to get it from McGill’s but that closed down a few months ago.

The staff members at this new store are young, energetic and friendly. Well, I am referring to the team that was there when I was this afternoon. Other than a cheery hello or a smile, they pretty much left me to browse without invading my personal space too much – this is very important to me because I hate to be given the ‘Pretty Woman’ shopping experience. My magazine cost only $6.20 but the giggly young lady who served me was happy to give me a cheerful service nonetheless. Now that is what I really like.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Money to Burn

With the opening of more shops, Chadstone is currently the biggest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere. Judging from what I saw on TV, more International Brands have opened their doors there. Chadstone is usually not my cup of tea but Miu Miu is one store that I wish to at least have a look at from the outside when I next visit the place. Being a commoner does not stop me from appreciating fine fashion but the possibility of receiving a ‘Pretty Woman’ shopping experience does stop me from venturing into some of these ‘finer’ establishments these days. Anyway when the news covered the story about the new shops at Chadstone recently, a reporter asked a group of three (1 young man and 2 women) how much they have spent in the hours since the shops opened their doors and to my utter surprise the young man actually answered and the figure given was somewhere around $15,000! Okay, I am aware that there are people who shop like that, but most people are pretty private about such spending. While I endeavour to prove to some people that I am no Gold Digger, I do admit that I don’t mind having $15,000 to play with when I do go shopping. This got me thinking about the sky-rocketing costs of sending a child overseas to study. On top of school fees and boarding fees, there is also the pocket money to ‘cushion’ the child. In many cases, the pocket money is way higher than the school and boarding fees combined! Suddenly everything seems far more expensive than when I was at school. How did my Super Parents manage?

My Mum came home from China in early November. To anyone who remembers why she went there in the first place, her mission was a success. My cousin is getting married. His girlfriend will join him soon. My Mum also came home with a job offer for me! The full story is somewhat complicated and long so I will just simplify it here so readers do not end up all confused by all the characters involved. Anyway, someone had offered me (via my Mum) the opportunity to run a Kindergarten for him in HK. This includes setting up the school in a 4 storey high building this person owns and running it. I was blown away by the offer of course. Wow! I am just a nobody over here but over there someone is offering me this ‘too good to be true’ opportunity. As my Mum explained the offer over the phone, I kept telling myself over and over that I must be dreaming.

I totally agree that this is one golden opportunity. In fact, it is one hell of an opportunity to show some people that I do not have any ulterior motives to be with M and if everything goes well, we will be on our way to starting our own ‘school’ far sooner than the way things are going for us at the moment. It is also an opportunity to live in HK – a place where most people look like me. I can walk down the street there like a Brit walks down the street here. As long as I don’t open my mouth, I can pretend to be a local. Even if I do open my mouth, Hong Kong natives have asked me in the past as to when I left HK for the West. This meant that my Cantonese is ‘native’ enough to their liking. I will never get that kind of compliment from native English speakers for my crappy English. I certainly will never be ‘qualified’ enough to set up and run my own school here. They even made John Marsden jump over all sorts of hurdles to start Candlebark.

The job offer is just so attractive but it also seems to be too good to be true! Someone else made a similar offer once upon a time and I turned them down almost right away when I figured out why they needed someone like me. To me, a school is not simply a place one sets up so that one’s other half can assume the important role of the establishment’s founder and be paraded as a generous contributor to the welfare and education of little children. At best, such a person may just quietly enjoy the new role bestowed by the loving spouse but at worse she could stir up trouble in any decision making, despite a lack of know how in the field of education, because she has the power to hire and fire. Furthermore if we do sign up to this offer, it may also be hard for us to move on to our dream project ASAP because severing such ties may also affect other existing relationships. I may be wrong but judging from the information I had received, it looks like they are all for running a pretty big school while I, on the other hand have a dream of offering an alternative learning program in a small setting that offers an intimate service. The offer just seems too good and too big. I also doubted my ability in running a school in a foreign place governed by an education system that I am not very familiar with. In the end, I turned down the offer much to the disappointment of my Mum even though she tried to hide the fact. I felt absolutely rotten for not stepping up to it and even though I am less affected by others opinions of me nowadays; I spent a good few days wondering if anyone else heard of my decision. It saddens me immensely that despite the many opportunities and my so-called ‘world class education’, I have amounted to nothing to make my parents proud to this day. My parents are apparently proud of me but I can see that I have not given them the kind of glory that many people my age have achieved. M is apparently always proud of me too. He doesn’t think that this is the last opportunity heading our way. He could be right. Things are absolutely going crazy over there. People suddenly have so much money to burn; they are willing to pay ridiculous amounts for what I reckon to be pretty basic services!