20 December 2014

Your questions answered, part 3

Jen Jones asked, "I'm curious, have you ever visited the US? Any particular US place you would like to visit someday? I'm a reader (for 3-4 years now, I think!) from the US and was wondering if most of your readers are from England, NZ, US, or elsewhere. I love that the internet can help make this great big world a little smaller and more connected! And just so you know, a trip to NZ is absolutely on my bucket list!"
As a young teen I was absolutely obsessed with the US. I wanted nothing more than to live there. I made a solemn vow (as solemn a vow as young teens make - which is pretty solemn) to one day stand on US soil.

Fast forward 25 years and I have yet to do so! I've been to England, Scotland, Wales, Norway, Spain, Germany, and New Zealand, but not yet to the US. However, I do absolutely plan on visiting one day (although I'd no longer like to live there - I'm so happy here in NZ).

As for where, I want to visit friends / family in Utah, but other than that I'd be happy to see pretty much anywhere, particularly venues of natural beauty.

My blog readers are actually predominantly US based (42.6% of them) with Israel second (11.8%) and then the UK (8.6%). The rest of the countries represent too, but those are my largest audiences. Not sure why Israel is suddenly in second place as the UK usually is, but Statcounter gives the stats for a 9 hour period and I guess I had an influx of Israeli visitors during that time!

And when you visit New Zealand you'll have to look me up, for sure!

Felix Bassoon's wife asked, "Your cake decorating is beautiful and looks professional! Have you taken courses or did you learn on your own?"
Why, thank you! I haven't taken any courses, just watched YouTube videos, looked at blog tutorials, and gave it a go. Practice really helps; just go for it, and accept any mistakes and imperfections as part of the learning process. My cakes are still far from perfect, but I'm okay with it.

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19 December 2014

Fashion Friday and the latest Blurb book offers

I wore this outfit to go grocery shopping. I no longer wear knee length skirts or dresses when food shopping, as I find that they aren't so modest when bending over putting things in and out of the trolley!

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Cardigan: thrifted
T-shirt: Sainsbury's
Skirt: made by me from a thrifted curtain
Belt: came with a dress
Shoes: Clarks outlet store

Latest Blurb book offers
This post contains affiliate links,  which means I get a small amount of commission should you choose to click through and order products. I wouldn't be a Blurb book affiliate if I didn't already love their products, and wanted to share some discounts with you. Oh, and scroll to the bottom for Fashion Friday.  

Offer: Save 20% when you purchase two or more books (up to $150 in savings)
Offer: Save 30% when you purchase five or more books (up to $150 in savings)
Valid: 17 December - 19 December 2014


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18 December 2014

Tool Bags: An Essential Accessory

This is a sponsored post.

As you acquire the basic necessities you're likely to need as a car owner and home owner, tools are sure to be on the list of items you purchase. No doubt, there will be occasions when you need to do some minor repairs to your car or home and having the proper tools is an important component in getting the job done. Not only is it important to have a collection of basic tools, it's also necessary that you be able to locate those tools. For that simple reason, as you invest in a collection of tools, you should also explore some of the best tool bags available and add a couple of those to your "must-have" list.

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Protection 
Buying good quality tools generally means that what you purchase will last a long time. However, no matter how good a tool is, if it's left lying around outdoors, harsh weather conditions can damage it. Leaving tools in inappropriate places throughout the house can actually pose a risk such as tripping over them. There's a chance that children might pick them up then drop them on their foot. There's also the possibility that a child will attempt to try "fixing" something with the tool and cause some serious damage to a car, wall or furniture. For the protection of your car, house, family members and the tools, you can check out a site such as Toolsmith Direct to find a tool bag that can keep your tools organized. You can then store the bag in a safe location.

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Convenience 
Frustration abounds when you need a tool, know that you have it and can't find it. Having to search for a tool can be a matter of inconvenience when you're trying to check a few things off of your weekend "to-do" list. However, if you're in an emergency situation in the car or your home, having immediate access to the right tool is critical. By keeping your tools properly stored in a car trunk organizer or having them stored in a tool bag or bucket tote at home, you won't have to search for the tools you need. Tool bags and totes can simplify your life and eliminate some frustration when you need to do repairs at home. A roadside emergency storage bag is a safety feature that you should keep in your vehicle at all times.

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17 December 2014

Beauty



"The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely."
- Louisa May Alcott


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15 December 2014

Your questions answered, part 2

Twisted Chicken asked, "What to keep and what to get rid of? I have so much stuff, useful stuff (cooking and baking tools and supplies, gift wrapping supplies, just-in-case gifts for giving, home decor that I might use), but it's taking up so much space. I *think* I would be much happier with less stuff. But I'm afraid I'll need/want/miss it if I get rid of it. I have too much stuff! I like being the person prepared for anything. I feel safe when I'm fully stocked and prepared. But I have too much stuff. How do I begin getting rid of the stuff?"
I've address this issue in this article, and hopefully you'll find some tips in it helpful. Let me know if you have any more questions :)

Lynne had three questions: "Where do you store stuff that you may use at a later time? Like picture frames, fabric, pieces of wood, etc."
Luckily for us the entire underneath of our house is storage space. If you go down the stairs from the house you'll see the garage:

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In the far right corner there is a doorway:

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Through the doorway is the under-house storage space.

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You can see some of the stuff we have stashed here - clothes that no longer fit me, Christmas stuff, pictures, furniture, lifejackets, the ladder for the bunk beds, tarps, heaters, etc.

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Turn to the right and you can see how far the storage space extends, although it does get shallower and shallower until it's barely a crawl space (the house is built on the top of a hill).

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As far as smaller decorative items, they are stashed in a cabinet in the living room; fabric is stashed in the closet in the spare room.

"I would love to see another video compilation of Grant getting startled."
I'm sorry to say that I've had to stop making them because Grant has also been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue (early stages). I do think that is partly why he was startling so easily, although the frights obviously weren't helping - a chicken-and-egg situation. But working shifts for years is enough to cause adrenal fatigue, let alone throwing in a bunch of stress and emigration as well, so I've cut him some slack and stopped startling him for now. Well, it still happens, but I try to avoid it so he can heal. In the meantime, you'll just have enjoy the past episodes of Frightful Grant - here, here, and here.

"How about an update on the chickens, how they're doing with their coop, how many eggs they produce a day, do they get broody and if so, what do you do about it?"
We sadly no longer have the chickens. We rehomed them a week or two ago, to a lovely new home. They can be noisy little things and Grant was getting very stressed out about getting woken by them all the time (the "melodious" egg song is not what you want to hear when you're trying to sleep after a night shift) and with my compromised health he had taken over most of the duties of caring for them. I took over as much as I could (and they are fairly low maintenance) but together we decided that our season as chicken owners was over.

I do miss them a lot sometimes, and I'm sad to look out the window and not see them pottering about, but I'm choosing to focus on the positives - no longer getting woken by them, not having to clean the coop or check food, no chicken poop all over the backyard, no dealing with broody hens, etc. I'm so glad we had them and they gave us so much pleasure, but it's time to move on without them. A happy and healthy husband is more important to me than my chickens were.

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But to answer your questions in terms of before we rehomed them, we were getting 2-5 eggs a day from them, they loved their coop and were very comfortable in it, and yes, we often had a broody hen to deal with, usually Marble. She is a super broody chicken and would succumb at least every couple of months. As soon as any chicken showed signs of being broody (hogging the nesting box and growling and clucking at us when we opened the door) then they went into the broody breaker - a mesh cage with a mesh floor, for airing out her nether regions and bringing down her temperature. We'd let her out every few hours to eat, drink, and dust bathe, but if she went back to the nesting box it was straight back to chicken jail. At night she was let out to sleep on the roost in the coop with the others. Eventually she'd get over it, although Marble was the hardest to break, taking weeks sometimes. The worst part is when a second hen decides that it's a good idea - the broody breaker was barely big enough for two and I always worried that a third would get silly too and we'd have nowhere to put her. Luckily that never happened.


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13 December 2014

Mom's quilt

Now that it's finally arrived at its destination, I can share photos of the quilt I made for my mom for her birthday, although it didn't arrive in time. She lives in Norway and although I sent it two weeks before her birthday it only arrived a week and a half after her birthday.

The quilt measures 151cm x 186cm (60 x 73 inches) and features a stacked coin design in pink, turquoise, white, and brown.

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The back is pink and white gingham.

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I used my walking foot to quilt a chevron pattern.

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It's bound in brown.

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Of course I had to add a little embroidered label.

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My mom loves the quilt, and I love thinking of her snuggling under it through the Norwegian winter.


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12 December 2014

Fashion Friday and latest Blurb book offers

It's the end of 2014 and I've only now ordered my 2013 Blurb family photobook. But better late than never, right? I was determined to get it ordered before the end of the year, when I'd have another one to add to the list.

Anyway, as always I am thrilled with it. I just love the quality and the convenience of flipping through the book to access any picture I want, any time, and relive the memories. (The metal corners are not standard; I add them to my books.)

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I love that you can add wording to your photo pages.

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My collection is growing! In case you are wondering why the first few books are thinner, I used to fit more photos on each page (this does keep costs down). I now try to do fewer photos per page so that they are larger, and this obviously makes the book thicker.

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At around 439 pages it's the longest book that Blurb offers. It's the 8x10 hardcover with imagewrap and I used a 25% off discount code when ordering my book; it cost me US$115.25 including shipping to New Zealand. Not bad when you consider that ordering that many photos as 4x6 inch prints would cost way, way more than that, plus I'd have to buy an album and put them all into it.

Order your own Blurb photobook using one of these discount codes:
This post contains affiliate links,  which means I get a small amount of commission should you choose to click through and order products. I wouldn't be a Blurb book affiliate if I didn't already love their products, and wanted to share some discounts with you. Oh, and scroll to the bottom for Fashion Friday. 

Offer: Save 25% when you purchase three or more books
Valid: until 16 December 2014
Promo code: EASYGIFTS
Restrictions: Offer valid through December 16, 2014 (11:59 p.m. local time). A 25% discount is applied toward your product total with a minimum order of 3 units or more. Maximum discount is USD $75, GBP £50, EUR €60, CAD $75, or AUD $75 off product total. Valid for printed photo books made by you only. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Fashion Friday
I wore this outfit to church.

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Striped cardigan: thrifted
White tank: Tesco
Red skirt: made by me
Shoes: New Look (on sale)
Necklace: Matalan
Earrings: Sainsbury's


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10 December 2014

Your questions answered, part 1

Thank you to those who asked questions :)

Amy asked, "What's your favorite color?"
I go through phases and currently I'm drawn to anything in the turquoise / aqua range.

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Lyn asked, "How do you adapt to moving especially to another country? I am in awe of you and your family as you all seem to have adjusted so well."
A fair enough question, but you might be disappointed by my answer - I've perhaps made it look easy here on my blog, but it certainly hasn't been. I had heard repeatedly, "It takes two years to settle into a new country," and it took every last day of those two years, plus more, before I felt like this was my home, as much as I absolutely fell in love with New Zealand when we first moved here.

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And while I do feel more settled now, it's been a very long, hard road, with adrenal fatigue, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (an incurable auto-immune disease), PTSD, and counseling along the way, that I'm still dealing with. The stressful and unsettled two years prior to our moving here; leaving precious friends and family in England; the 3 months without our belongings as they were being shipped over; the 4 and a half months of Grant being away at training college shortly after we arrived in NZ; the three months of back-to-back houseguests; the landlord selling the house we were renting, forcing us to move after only being in the country 16 months; all of these things brought me to my knees and resulted in permanent health damage, as well as emotional scars.

It's kind of become a joke in our family that if there's an easy way and a hard way that things can go, it will go the hard way for us. It's uncanny.

BUT it was all worth it, and I still wonder in gratitude at our good fortune to be able to live in New Zealand. We are so much happier here. The last few years have been an intense growth spurt in terms of personal development, along with the agonising growing pains inherent in the process. Every trial brings its own blessing. I'm so grateful to have come out the other side with a little more wisdom and experience, and with our family closer than ever.

To answer the question of how we adapt, my answer would be:
- with faith and prayer
- with meaningful friendships and support along the way
- with whatever professional help we need (counseling, kinesiology, and holistic doctors have helped me)
- by making a commitment when we make the move - no back-and-forth for us; when we leave it's for good, and when we settle it's with the intention of making a home for ourselves and embracing our new country


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8 December 2014

Jasmine

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"Youth is a gift of nature but age is a work of art."
- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec


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6 December 2014

Minor tweaks to clothing

If you have some very basic sewing skills (as in, you can sew in a straight line, either with a sewing machine or by hand) then the range of clothing that you could purchase widens. I personally like to shop at thrift stores - the combination of the thrill of the hunt and getting a great bargain is exciting - and when I spend so little on clothing then I don't mind doing a little work to ensure the items fit correctly. I'm not sure I'd spend full retail price on a piece of clothing knowing I then have to tailor it.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few examples of how I tweak clothing to fit me better. I'm not talking detailed tailoring, just minor adjustments.

First up is this skirt. I really liked the print and the length was fine, but it was a size too big.

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Luckily it's a simply A-line skirt with a zip at the centre of the back, so fitting it was super easy. (Note: this method would not work with a skirt that has a side zip, as many have.) I put it on inside out, and pinned the sides of the waistband to where they fitted correctly.

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I then took the skirt off and measured and adjusted the pins so that either side was even.

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Then I continued measuring that amount all the way down, marking a faint pen line.

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I sewed along the marked lines, and voila, the skirt fits.

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Instead of sewing, you could try unsewing. This denim skirt ticked all the boxes for me - right length, right colour, right size - but the additional pockets on the front made it seem a bit busy, and clashed with certain tops and cardigans.

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One of the pockets was lifting slightly where the stitching was coming loose. I looked and saw that there wasn't a significant colour difference underneath the pocket. Sometimes the item can be quite faded and removing a pocket would result in a much darker patch, but that didn't seem to be the case here.

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So I set to with a seam ripper and some scissors and removed the extra pockets.

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You can see a bit of colour difference where the pocket was, but it's not enough to bother me. Or rather, it doesn't bother me as much as the pockets did.

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Removing the pockets gives a totally different look to the skirt.

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Another way I adjust clothing is by hemming. After realising I was getting a half-calf tan from my walking pants I went shopping for shorter ones. The ones in store were too short for my liking, so I bought duplicate cropped leggings and hemmed them to the length I required, using a zig-zag stitch.

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Hemming is a simple fix for skirts too. I prefer to wear either floor length maxi skirts (or at least long enough to brush the top of my feet) or knee length skirts. I do have a few midi skirts but most don't really suit me and make me feel frumpy. But if I find a skirt that fits correctly and that I love the fabric of, then I simply take up the hem.

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I hope these simple tweaks inspire you to adjust a few items to suit you better. It's easy, I promise!


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