Friday, 29 July 2016

Mid-Winter Garden Update

This Winter seems colder than it has been in the last few years, and with more rain and storms. I've noticed many of the plants in the garden have grown more this year, probably because of the rain. And yet there's still been a fair share of sunny winter days.

Where to begin?
It seems I didn't kill the roses when I pruned them last month. They lurked for a while, but the buds are finally starting to grow into tiny scarlet leaves:

The daisies are still flowering and show no sign of letting up. It seems like they're blooming for even longer this year than last year.

These plants next to the driveway are doing very well, too. They've finally recovered completely after I ran over them with the car ahem, something obstructed their growth for a while.

The orange tree is merrily growing Winter oranges. Almost all of them are ripe now; Husband and I have been juicing them for drinks.

Speaking of fruit, the stone fruits all have tiny brown buds waiting for warmer weather to burst into life. I like to linger among them, imagining the beautiful fruits that will appear in a few months.

The Rosemary has grown to nearly twice its size in the last year. Unfortunately Husband doesn't really like rosemary in cooking, but I read yesterday that the flowers can be eaten. They have the same flavour as the leaves, just a little milder. It will definitely be something to try -- how beautiful would the lavender-coloured blooms look garnishing a roast? I might try drying the leaves and powdering them as well.

Also in the backyard, I've heavily pruned the fuchsia. It's been looking very straggly in the last year, and after waiting what seemed like an inordinate amount of time for the shrub to stop flowering, I was finally able to prune it. I do hope it does well, as I recently found out that the berries are edible and can be made into jam. I'd love to try that in future.

The Red Hot Poker has put on a stunning show, but the stems are finally dying down. So many times I've thought of digging them out, as Husband and I want to put in a veggie patch in this area. But at the same time: if something is growing so well, it's difficult to reason.

The fernery is my joy as it's always been. The little fern survived last Summer better than previously, although it started to lean so I had to prop it up with a stake.

Finally, the Schlumbergera Winter Cactus has burst forth with these incredible neon pink flowers. I can put up with it looking a little yellow in Summer when it boosts my Winter with this reward.

I'm starting to develop some concrete plans for my garden as a whole. It will be a lot of work to set up initially (not to mention the financials), but I really want to get it to a point where I can enjoy spending time outside at all times of year. I'll write more about that in a future post.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Daiso Haul: Stickers, etc.

I performed some high-level adulting earlier in the week, and as a treat for myself I went to Daiso afterwards. I used to go at least once a fortnight when I worked in the city, but I haven't been for about 6 months. It felt like a special experience again. Oh, and sorry for the bad lighting -- it was night-time by the time I got home, and I wanted to start using the stickers straight away.

I mainly went for the stickers to use in my Hobonichi diary, but also came away with some hair accessories, and gifts for all the family. I bought a hotdog decorator kit for Husband, and a cat-sized blanket for Sharick.

Cute, mori-style hairclips. I also re-stocked on these tiny hair ties. I find them indispensible, but they don't last very long.

My sticker and washi tapes haul:

These stickers are particularly beautiful. They have a soft, fabric-y feel to them.

If you're playing Pokémon Go, stay safe!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Review: Daiso Puff & Sponge Detergent

A few days ago, I tried the Daiso Puff & Sponge Detergent for the first time. This stuff was all the rage in the beauty community a few years ago, and it was even sold out for a while. Recently I found a stash of make-up brushes while I was KonMari-ing my house, plus my regular brushes were overdue for a wash, so I decided to test it out. In the past I've used handwash.

It wasn't until just before opening the bottle that I realised it says 'Puff & Sponge Detergent' -- it doesn't mention that it can be used on brushes. But I don't see why it can't.

The Detergent is unscented and has no added colouring. The instructions say to rub an 'appropriate amount' into the sponge, then rinse thoroughly in water. I did as instructed with my teardrop sponge, and gently rubbed the bristles of the brushes into the detergent. I then rinsed them in warm water. I haven't had my teardrop sponge for very long (I bought it from YesStyle in this haul), and haven't used it very much since I've had it, but the water went beige with BB Cream! I use the brushes for eyeshadow mainly, so when I washed them, the water went some lovely shades of bronze and purple.

The Detergent seemed to wash the brushes completely, and got most of the BB Cream out of the sponge with just a tiny stain visible at the tip. (To be honest I probably could have removed this too if I'd spent more time on it!)

The Daiso Puff & Sponge Detergent is probably no better and no worse than using handwash or a similar mild detergent. However, it's unscented and uncoloured, and is therefore probably better for the skin. In Australia Daiso retails at $2.80, which is much more affordable than any other specialised make-up brush cleaning product I've seen.

Would I buy it again? Yes!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

EarthFriendly #1 : Plastic Bags

No. 42 on my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list is to do 1 eco-friendly thing and/or make 1 change per month. I have to admit I've been a bit behind on this one, so I decided to write a blog post each month to make myself more accountable. It seems appropriate to begin now, with Plastic Free July increasing in awareness.

I made the change I'll be talking about today about 6 months ago, and it has a bit of a backstory: my first project was to change my relationship with plastic bags, and it was spurred on by an experience I had at that time. Husband and I were driving through the countryside on the way to visit a friend. Looking out the window, I saw some strange animals in the paddocks. In the distance, I couldn't quite tell what they were. Were they white birds, perched in the trees? Some were lower though, sitting on the ground. Were they lambs? They were moving in a strange way though, sort of waving up and down. More and more began appearing as we drove further, until the paddocks were full of them. I suddenly realised they weren't animals at all. They were plastic bags, caught on the trees and grass, billowing in the wind. Just as I was wondering where on earth they could have all come from, we drove past the entrance to the local landfill. It made me very sad to see the huge number of plastic bags littering the countryside. I decided to make reducing their use my first focus.

The easiest way to use less plastic bags is to bring re-usable bags every time we go shopping. However, we have a big stash of plastic bags from the time before we starting being more conscientious. I didn't want to throw them in the bin, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. When we first moved into our house 2 1/2 years ago, we received brochures from the Council on how the bin collection and recycling work. The brochures said not to put any plastic supermarket bags in the bins as they can't be recycled. For a long time I thought this meant they can't be recycled at all. However, in my research I found out they can be recycled, it's just that our council doesn't have the type of facility to handle them.

The two major supermarket chains here in Australia, Coles and Woolworths (the 'Big Two' or 'the Duopoly' as they're often called), give out plastic bags as a matter of course unless the customer brings their own re-usable bag. I wrote to the Managing Directors of both companies, urging them to stop providing customers with plastic bags, or to at least charge a fee for them. (I've never written a letter like that before, so I was a little nervous!) I tried to see the situation from their point of view, and wrote about the benefits to their profits, public image, etc, not just the benefits to the environment. Both wrote back with very similar stock letters explaining why they will not change, which is, sadly, pretty much what I expected. However it's interesting to note that Coles only took a week to reply, whereas Woolworths took a whole month. The reason for this is possibly because I pointed out that (unlike Coles) I could not find any information on their website about their environmental policies. I guess it took the extra time for someone to check their website? It still seems to be the case 6 months later.

I actually found out from the Coles website about the REDcycle programme. This programme runs in both Coles and Woolworths stores. At the front of every store, there is a bin in which to drop off soft plastics, including plastic bags. The bins also accept any kind of flexible plastic packaging (e.g. pasta packets), as well as damaged re-usable bags. They are then collected and turned into things like park benches and children's play equipment. It took me a little while to find the bin in my local Woolworths supermarket at first, as it was down the far end behind a large advertising sign. Weirdly, it moves around a little bit, but it's always there somewhere.

We now use our stash of plastic bags to collect all our soft plastics in. I hang a bag above the bin on this convenient tea-towel drier one of the previous owners installed. As you can see, I use it for drying my rubber gloves! When the bag is full, I put it in the boot of the car. Next time we're at the supermarket, it's easy to grab it along with the re-usable bags and put it in the collection bin.

Of course, the ultimate aim is to reduce or stop using plastic altogether, but at least this is a start. And voting with your wallet makes a big impact as well. Even though it's further away, we have been going to Aldi much more in the last 6 months, especially since I became gluten-free. Most items there are cheaper, but the gluten-free bread in particular is about half the price. Plus I'm supporting a company that is more environmentally aware.

This post was a little longer than normal, but hopefully not too boring! I've been doing some more research, and topics I'd like to look at in the future include:

❖ DIY bath products
❖ alternatives to microparticles
❖ researching who makes my clothes

Monday, 4 July 2016

My June

This June has been very cold, and I didn't feel like leaving the house much. In the last week of June especially, I felt a bit down and didn't do anything much creative or productive. However, there were several events I went to: movies with friends, an exhibition with my Mum, and a concert.
For some reason, this month I lost all motivation to play the games that I'd been obsessed with recently (except for Neko Atsume) and spent much more time on Instagram, and on YouTube watching videos on history, linguistics, craft tutorials etc.

What I've been cooking ...
One of the many advantages of Winter is all the cooking and baking that can comfortably be done. I'm fairly confident now that I can make biscuits without a recipe, but it's savoury meals that I've been experimenting with more. I started using the casserole dish that Husband gave me a few years ago, and I love it! I've made goulash, chicken and meatballs so far.

What I've been drawing ...
Since my Hobonichi half-year planner / art-journal arrived, I've been patiently waiting until the start of July when I can start using it properly. In the meantime, I did some drawings and paintings on some of the extra pages to give myself some practice. I really do need practice -- I keep smudging the watercolour and wetter pens before they're dry...

What I've been sorting ...
As I mentioned in this post, I've been working hard on Kon-Mari'ing my house. Most of the major categories are done, and I'm mainly down to the bits and bobs, the miscellaneous items called komono in Japanese. Also left to do are the things I need to do in tandem with Husband, such as garden tools and food.

What I've been reading ...
I've been suddenly motivated to spend time reading again, which is nice. I read Sense and Sensibility, and a catalogue from an exhibition I went to: Jan Senbergs: Imagination & Observation. I also finished some previously started books: The Autobiography of Jesse Harding Pomeroy and the Diggers' Club Garden Guide. Next I am looking at some of the 'chick lit' that my mother-in-law gave me. It's not within my normal reading habits, but I'm in the mood to try something different.

Selections from Instagram ...

Yes, I went to the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert in Melbourne! At Festival Hall, more popularly known as 'Festering Sore'. Photos weren't allowed, so I didn't take any, which was quite naive as about 90% of the patrons were recording the concert anyway. I did get several copies of the promo poster though, which I'll use in my art journals. The concert was incredible!

This photo is from the 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition which I saw with my
Mum. She doesn't visit the city very often, so it was a big occasion and thankfully the exhibition was lived up to the hype. I could only get a couple of sneaky photos in the first room when no-one was around.

Foot shot outside my friend's house....

Friday, 1 July 2016

Oh No! I Have Aphids, and; Pruning the Roses 2016

For the first time since having my garden, I've noticed aphids lurking about. This is what they look like, and I'm sorry it's not the typical beautiful garden picture. But nature is not always pretty, as we know.

As soon as I realised I have aphids, of course I did some research on how to get rid of them. Some of the sources went into great detail on how the different methods kill the aphids. I started to feel sorry for them! But then I started reading about the effects the aphids have on plants, and was determined to get rid of them all over again! Aphids pierce holes in the new, soft parts of plants and suck the sap out. This inhibits the plant from growing, it becomes stunted and it can eventually die. So sorry aphids, but you have to go!

Thankfully, there are many natural ways to get rid of them that don't involve any chemicals. As far as I could tell, my infestation only covered a small area, and the simplest thing to do in this case is to just cut off and discard the infested parts of the plants. By a happy coincidence it was time to prune the roses anyway, so I chose that option.

Here are the tools I used. On looking at them, they seem to be a bit rusty, but I had no time to buy replacements. Sources say to disinfect them every time before use, but I'd run out of disinfectant. So I rubbed them with hand sanitiser and washed them. Hopefully that will do!

This year I was much more confident in my pruning. I didn't kill them last year and in fact they grew back so large that I was less worried I would harm them.

I also replaced the stakes to support them, which I'd never had a chance to do properly before. I'm not sure I've done enough to support them, but I'm still learning and I guess I'll find out in a few months.

In addition, I pruned the two bushes along the front of the house, but I forgot to take 'before' photos, so I won't show any pictorial evidence of those.

As for the rose hips that I talked about a few posts ago: the reports are not good. Most were under-ripe still, a few had gone wrinkly and several woody. Yet, if I had left them growing for much longer, it would have been too late to give the bushes the proper Winter pruning that they need to produce good flowers next Summer. It seems that you can't have everything in the gardening world. Thankfully there are even more crafts and recipes to be made with rose petals than rose hips!

The sources I found most useful for pruning the roses were this video from Gardening Australia (scroll down a bit to 'Rose Pruning'), and this page from Heritage Rose for its diagrams on where to cut.