Sunday, 31 August 2008

Galahs in the garden

Jeff is taking personal credit for the fact that his bird-bell hanging project is attracting galahs to the garden, four at a time! We usually get rainbow lorikeets, which of course are also cool.

Shrink this for me, Mum?

Another cold and wet weekend with Mum mostly housebound, so what did we do this morning? Got out the shrink plastic! Young Catriona was to busy on secret projects elsewhere in the house (which involved the fabric box, the ribbon box, and the button box), while the boys and I Did Shrink Stuff. Drawing onto the white stuff in lead pencil, and adding some coloured pencil, was the preferred technique, though we added some stamps. The owl tag is mine, everything else is boy work. That oval punch (from EK Success, one of their Whale Punches) would make great "beads" for a bracelet.

Saturday lunch - Silverbeet bread

Ever wished your kids would BEG you to cook with Silverbeet? Well, umm, let's just say, don't set your sights too high ... But I did come up with a silverbeet recipe they adore! Very tasty Silverbeet and Cheese bread, with a generous dollop of chopped garlic in the mix too. There's still a scrap left - it's going to make amazing toast! The non-cut photo is courtesy of young Thomas. I saved the stems, and they are in the oven now baking in a white sauce. Mmm, it's winter in Melbourne.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Another Inchie

Here's another inchie. Boy, those things are small! Funny thing, though, you are never satisfied with doing less steps, so they turn out as elaborate as big pieces. Hmm.

Check it out, not a single word cut out of a dictionary - that "Travel" is a very small stamp from Julie. She made them originally for faux postage. Ah, those were the days...

Oh, wait, I just realised the background is dictionary pages. I'm nothing if not predictable.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Crackle Paint

Well, that last post was a bit long and serious, so here's a fun one. Where, I expect you are asking, did all painting of little plastic animals on the weekend lead to? I'm glad you asked. One of the materials I brought out was crackle medium (can you believe, I scored a whole bottle of Jo Sonja Crackle medium ALSO at the scout hall garage sale. I paid $15 for a big bag of goodies, and I've hardly started to show you everything!). The frog in an earlier post was done with crackle medium over Norwegian Orange paint (go on, start humming "Norwegian Wood" now) then highlighted with a dark brown. It looked cool, and then I made this:

It's a cardboard tile (a piece from a kids' game) painted with cream paint, then stamped (that stamp comes from Blade Rubber in London), coloured with Inktense pencils, then I painted crackle medium over it. After it dried, I highlighted the crackles with a bronzy colour. Nice, eh?

What it’s like to have Electrophysiology Studies and Ablation

I’ve just come home from having this procedure done. Thought I’d write it all down, for my own amusement, to satisfy friends’ curiosity (folks, it's long and uninteresting I won't mind if you skip it), and to help out any total strangers that find this page as a result of a search (that's why the title is so detailed!). If you are in that third group, then of course your experience will be different from mine, but reading my anecdote my just help you approach your big day with a little more confidence.

That's me in the picture. Took it myself before going home (hence the ratty quality). See that clunky old iPod in my pocket? It's a telemetry unit, the heart patient's favourite accessory - it means you can walk around, go to the loo in private, and steal cups of tea when the catering staff aren't watching. But on to the story...

I had to fast from 6am – I couldn’t sleep much anyway, so I was up at 5.45 having a sneaky cup of tea. Check-in time at the hospital was 10am for me, for a noon procedure. Those two hours were taken up with paperwork, blood tests, an ECG, meeting the anaesthetist for a detailed chat, a quick shave (not too embarrassing) and some sitting around, all at my hospital bed. I had to change into a gown first thing, and it was cold, so before long I was tucked up in bed. Jeff stayed with me and we did crosswords together. A less patient husband could be forgiven for wandering off about then.

At just before noon an orderly arrived to take me to the – whatever they call the room they do weird stuff in. Trundling on the bed of course. We went into a smaller room first where the prepared me a bit more. More heart monitor dots (once you are a cardiac patient you get used to them!), this time applied to skin treated with swabs and sandpaper (proper surgical sandpaper). I met lots of new staff here. I only spent a few minutes in this room, and then got wheeled into the procedure room. They assured me that there was lots of scary looking equipment there, and not all of it was for me, they just use the room for many types of procedure. They were right, it was scary lookin’. A big table in the middle of the room (narrow and hard, just what I was hoping for) with a big semicircle thingummy hanging over it made it look suitably futuristic. They transferred me to the table (I did have a pillow). It was really cold by now (it was a 3-degree day in Melbourne) and my nerves made me shiver a lot. They put some inflatable heating pads next to me, and an extra blanket. I warmed up quite well. Until they got me to sit up while they attached a large pad to my back, which felt like an ice pack! I lay down again, and they did an x-ray (that equipment was part of the table) to see if the pad was placed right. There were more pads on my shoulders. Didn’t ask what for (the patient doesn’t need to know all this stuff).

My doctor shook hands with me again – I noticed he was wearing a suit, while everyone else was already into protective lead garments. They make lead garments in leopard skin print now, you’ll be pleased to know. I met the anaesthetist again. I could see eight computer monitors, and intended to keep an eye on them for a full progress report.

The procedure started with some sedation for me – I’d been told that light sedation was best for this procedure, and it would be increased if needed. I don’t know if mine was varied at all – didn’t ask. The anaesthetist asked me if I was OK with needles. What a question! I’d had several already that day.

Now, “light sedation” was a new experience for me, but it did the trick. Two hours and forty-one minutes of procedure passed with me feeling like I was dozing on and off. I think I saw a heart with wires inside on a monitor, but I really couldn’t concentrate on anything. I certainly didn’t feel any pain. I was aware of a very fast heartbeat on several occasions, which felt a bit upsetting, and felt some heat, which I assume was the ablation.

At the end, they inflated something on the table, which slid me comfortably back onto my old bed with no effort from me. The doctor spoke to me, and told me about the results (all good). I spent just a few minutes in the recovery room, and was allowed a few sips of water. The nurses gave me a chocolate for later – apparently some reps had been around giving them gifts.

I got wheeled back to the ward, and had to spend 2 hours lying flat on my back (with a pillow). I had a drip (just fluids) and a heart monitor. I was tired but not spaced out – watching TV was easy enough, and I watched videos on my iPod, but I was a bit too blurry to read. I couldn’t reach anything! Once I’d downed a few sips of water they were happy for me to eat and drink anything – a bit tricky in this position. My long suffering husband was there (he had been out walking during the procedure) and fed me banana cake, and tea through a straw. Once he could see I was well, we sent him home to look after the kids, and I concentrated on resting. I had observations (temperature, checking pulses in both feet, and checking the groin) every fifteen minutes (which is a lot of nurse visits when you think about it). After two hours I was able to sit up about halfway, which made reading and eating easier. After another two hours (though it turned out to be later, since there was a nurse shift change) I was able to get up. Thank goodness – I hadn’t been to the loo in seven hours, and there had been a drip going. The drip got taken off, but they left the – um, drip thingy. You get to wear them all the time, it’s for quick access if they have to give you something. I got an injection of blood thinner into the stomach, along with some shocking news – I’d have to inject myself for three days at home!
I was very thirsty and drank heaps all evening, and watched movies on the TV quite happily. Had dinner. Very dull. No fruit. Nightime was rather noisy and disturbed (hospital staff kept coming into the room), and I had an ECG at 5am. I found the way to the pantry to help myself to cups of tea (they had Earl Grey – they’d been holding out on me!). I got breakfast (wrong cereal, still no fruit) and more tea, and felt almost human. Another injection. The nice young man from pharmacy delivered my take-home injections, in a fancy kit, complete with a sharps container, and instructions on DVD. By about 9am I was unhooked from the heart monitor, and had my drip thingy taken out.

Jeff arrived to take me home. We dropped by his office on the way home, and he gave me an apple (I was suffering fruit withdrawal – honestly, of all the foods, you’d think hospitals would serve you fruit every meal!). At home I felt a bit tired all day, in a kind of rag-doll way, but not particularly unwell. One last chance to do the invalid act! The follow up for me is a doctor visit in a few weeks, and a stress test on the treadmill. But secretly, I’m visiting the local clinic today, to get a nurse to do my injection (I’m such a wuss).

So that’s what it’s like to have EP studies and ablation. If you’ve read this far, I hope it’s because you are waiting for the same procedure, and that it’s helped you feel more prepared. In the mean time, eat fruit!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

More litle animals

Here's some of today's work... Ahh, paint - is there anything it can't do?

Painting Little Animals

What do you do on Sunday morning? We like to keep amused, so today, we dragged out a bag of little toys, and painted them. They looked pretty cool! It really as "hours of entertainment", lasting from breakfast to lunch, then we did some more after lunch. The bag of toys was $2 from a market, and I bought it because it had a little cool Lego in it. The rest was on the way back to the op shop.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

New art on the wall!

Jonathan (he's 10) had a piece of artwork sent to an exhibition organised by a local retirement community. Those canny people realise they can exhibit kids' work, charge us admission, then sell us the work too. Luckily, they do such a good job that it's a great event to go to. Here's Jonathan's echidna (done in watercolour pencils - what a chip off the old block!).

Last year, Catriona did the same thing, and we all went to the show then too. She won a "Highly Commended" for her painting. Here's her vase of flowers.

We were delighted that her friend won the biggest prize overall, for a truly great pastel drawing (which her parents stopped me from buying!).

Barney Banana Joins the Gang!

In the last big bag of treasures from the scout hall garage sale was this - a sixth cup for my Crown Lynn collection. Except that it's not Crown Lynn, it's marked "Made in England" - hush! Chris saw it and declared it was "Barely Banana". Now, I'm not one to argue with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the Stampin' Up catalogue - well, yes I am, I checked it immediately. And there it is, Barely Banana. Which of course puts me in mind of that delicious icecream of my youth, Barney Banana. Mmm...

Anyway, kettle just boiled, so onto the next thing...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Last Tablet

I've been taking some medication for a heart problem - but on Monday, I go into hospital to get it fixed! In preparation for that, I have to stop taking the tablets! This is good news - they drain all my energy and make me fairly useless. So this is last night's one, the last one I expect to take - ever!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Cookie, anyone?

Thomas baked on the weekend - he's 10. He made a batch of Black and Whites, a great chocolate chip cookie from a Mrs Fields recipe book. We use Dutch cocoa now, having found a local source, and it's very black! In with the batch of regular cookies he made one HUGE one. He wanted to photograph it (before eating it) and so we set this up. I tried to demonstrate that putting it on a small plate with a smallish teapot would emphasise it. Yay!

This tea cup is one of the first I "collected". It was in a local op shop, and very pretty. I bought it, but didn't leave the shop right away. The lady working there ran up to me and said "Look what I've found!". It was the matching side plate! I said I would be buying that, just as soon as I finished browsing. By the time I got back to the counter, she was glowing with pleasure - "I thought you might like this!!". It was - not the matching saucer - but a similar one that looked rather nice with the rest. The saucer is Shelley, a famous English china company that even I've heard of. So this turned out to be my first trio. Delicate enough to feel really posh, but well worn, and not at all too precious to actually use.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Michael deMeng workshop

OK, it was ages ago, but I went to a workshop with Michael deMeng in Melbourne. It was cool! He's a super teacher, most encouraging, and creates an inspiring atmosphere in the class. You should see his blog - he even lists the music he plays while we work (which is really well chosen). Here's what I made (on the second day ... the first day item was pretty poor.) I call it "Doctor Phosphor". I think you can tell it's made by someone who was trying to make something "just like Michael's". I had the pleasure of giving another lady a lift to the workshop, and asked her if she minded stopping at Camberwell Market on the way. The photo frame this is based on used to be pink with ribbon on it, and cost me 50c. The arch at the bottom (with the keyhole in it) is an old wireless mouse that stopped working. The "horns" on top of the frame are part of it too.

Much use of Golden Paints here - Mr deMeng loves them and teaches so much about their use. They were a delight to use, and it's such a shame that they are kind of pricey and hard to get here. But there ya go. We must get a local paint company to come up with something that outclasses Golden!

What I Made

My entry into our home Art Challenge - a proper greeting card. I coloured the stamp with Prismacolor pencils, with heavy use of the colourless blender. I cut out the paper it was on, and glued that to heavy matt board. Cut THAT out in a rectangle, sanded the edges, and varnished it. Then, y'know, did the usual stuff to make a card.

The stick-on-matt-board-and-sand-it technique was very satisfying, and I think I'll do it again!

And THAT is why we do dumb art challenges!

What She Made

Here's Catriona's entry into the Art Challenge of yesterday morning. She made more, but these are quite cool enough. She's coloured with our new Prismacolor pencils. Like the colour treatment here? After all, we don't KNOW what colour dinosaurs really were.

Prehistoric Art Challenge

A fun morning, I went to a big Garage Sale at the local scout hall. Got a big bag full of goodies, and in it was this set of stamps. Now, I'm a big fan of quality rubber stamps, and these are ... well, not in the "quality" category. Cheaply made kids stamps on foam mounts. Nevertheless, they can be used, so I couldn't let them go by. My daughter declared the creative challenge - use one of these stamps, and make it look "really cool". Gauntlet down!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Tupperware Book

How you can use Tupperware to make a really cool notebook (probably rugged enough for a worksite, too).

1. Open some tins with the Tupperware can opener. It leaves the edges nice and smooth.

2. Use a Dremel tool to cut a "flap" off the side of one tin, and replace some of the lid with a sturdy gaffer tape hinge.

3. Drill some holes in the lids.

4. Cut some paper circles and punch holes in them too.

5. Assemble the whole shebang into a book with cord to tie it up.

6. Oh, and I dare say you can decorate it too. My Tupperware lady was most impressed. But then, she just likes it when I buy stuff.

Possibly the nicest cup of tea in Melbourne

Ahhh, that's a nice sight. Yesterday I had to do a test at the hospital - nothing major, but the preparation was NO tea or coffee (or chocolate, for that matter) for 24 hours. Easy enough, except that my naughty sons kept offering to put the kettle on for me.

Afterwards, I asked the nurses where the best coffee was (you can trust nurses to know that stuff) and they directed me to the private hospital across the road, with a pretty coffee shop in the foyer. That was where I had my emergency cappuccino, and it was lovely. But this morning's relaxed pot of tea has a special place in history.

Another interesting note is that I'm now radioactive, and not allowed to hold small babies for several more hours. I sure hope none come to visit. At least not until the afternoon.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Wet day at the market

Well, Camberwell Market was on, and it was drizzly. But this is Melbourne, so soon the drizzle stopped - and turned into real rain. About half the market stalls were running, so there was browsing to be done. I came home with wet shoes, no flowers, and this bowl.

The bowl is from Kelston Ceramics, another name for Crown Lynn. It's so nice!

Any Excuse

... to buy pretty things. These miniature bottles will be so decorative, I told myself. Seven or eight months later, a few of my anemones needed special treatment, so the bottles finally get a run.

It's a bit drizzly this morning - I wonder if Camberwell Market's going? They only cancel if there's real rain. There ought to be a web page you can check!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Tomatoes in the window

Put your tomatoes in a bowl in the kitchen, not in the fridge. There are several reasons for this.

1. An excuse to go an buy a pretty bowl from the Op Shop - a slightly cracked one with a good personality will work just fine. This bowl's Italian, and has a "P" logo on the bottom, but I don't know the company name. Great colour!

2. They look pretty and people with think you are rustic and interesting. You can get this effect from growing herbs too, but this is quicker and unlikely to attract bugs.

3. A tomato grower promised me they would keep well and not go watery. She'd know!

Lemon Slice, folks

Mmm, lemon slice. I used to be so disparaging of uncooked slices. Anything that uses perfectly good biscuits as an ingredient is a bit suspect, surely. But lemon slice is a real favourite, and goes down terribly well with tea or coffee.

Here is the recipe I've been following, but with one change. I substituted bought ANZAC biscuits for the Granitas - they were left over from an ANZAC day project. We ate so many home made ANZACs that when the bought ones turned up... well there was no contest. Oh, and this lemon slice has the zest of an orange as well as a lemon. I zested some spare oranges weeks ago, and stored the zest in the freezer. There was a terribly good reason for that, which I'll think of soon. Oops, that's two recipe changes.

The real bother with this recipe is that it calls for half a tin of condensed milk, so you have to make another one soon. Awww.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Watercolour pencils and how they compare

Well, I know you're wondering why I have so many kinds of watercolour pencils. Here's the reason - I've compared my regular ones (Staedler Aquarelles) with the new Derwent Inktense, and with my ill-gotten Albrecht Durers (the premium watercolour pencil from Faber-Castell, and I really wish I knew how to put an umlaut on the "u").

At first glance, Aquarelles look kind of washed out - bright colour does tend to smack us on the side of the head. But remember, you do want subtle colours sometimes, so lets not be too harsh on the delicate pencils. I did two versions of Inktense, to use colours that matched the other two samples. The Durers are wonderfully bright and soft too. I think the big difference there is that you can wet them again after they are dry - Inktense are meant to dry and stay put. Different effects for different days, I like it. My verdict : I think I'll keep them all!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Why we go to markets

Just gloating, I'm afraid, hope you don't mind. This set of well-worn-down Albrecht Durer pencils was a $1 purchase at the Camberwell market. Gosh that's a fun place to go! The teacup was another $1, probably from Wantirna (it has a crack, which is why it got drafted into pencil service). Putting your coloured pencils in to a cup or jug is just a GREAT way to store them and enjoy them. Also looks pretty on your blog.

These are soft and bright watercolour pencils - I have some pretty samples I post later. I love doing "comparison" pages in my art journal. Sometimes that's all I do, but hey, at least I'm keeping my hands busy.

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Australorp

I had the very great pleasure of running into Cathy (of My Stamps fame) today. We had a coffee, and she told me she had an Australorp in the garden. That's a variety of chicken, by the way. We figure it must have wandered in from a neighbour's garden. Anyway, the whole experience gave me an excuse to use the word "Australorp" in a sentence. Pictured here is the 2007 Australian Champion Australorp. If you want to know more about Australorps, try

Inktense Pencils

So there I was at the art supply shop with 12yo daughter in tow. We'd already scored a few bargains at their once-a-year sale, and were now browsing the aisles in the main shop. Multicoloured polymer clay, a sketch book, some pens of her very own - what more can a girl ask for? Well, she liked the look of these - Derwent Inktense pencils. They are watercolour pencils with very strong colours. They suggest that after drying, you can add more layers over the colour, and it won't run. Not so sure about that - in my tests there's been some running, but I haven't NEEDED that feature. What I (we) NEEDED was the powerful colour hit you get when you touch a coloured-in section with a brush and water - POW! It's worth it just for the amusement value. The tin of 24 has earthy as well as bright colours. Pricey, but a very nice addition to the art room.

What fun coloured pencils are!

My latest new thing - a set of Prismacolor pencils! These lovely, soft, highly pigmented pencils are great fun to play with. I've just added a colourless blender (that's a no-colour pencil) to my collection, and it's definitely $1.65 worth of fun! Here's an owl stamp from Pipedreamink, with the blender used.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Gingerbread Candidates

I made these for the last Federal Election (November 2007). The school had a cake stall, and so did the scout hall - great fundraisers - and I did a my usual bit of baking. Well, quite a bit actually. I delivered everything in a laundry basket.

One of my favourite things was the Gingerbread Candidates. Packed individually with a blurb about each candidate, they represent John Howard (grey hair, made of coconut and a little black food colour)(he lost); Kevin Rudd (blonde hair and the Kevin 07 t-shirt)(he won); a Democrat; a Green; and (of course) an independent. They sold out at $1.50 each, so my batch of gingerbread got turned into quite a lot of income for the school and scout hall. Love cake stalls!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Crown Lynn Tea Cups

These are my favourite teacups. I've been collecting them for a while (all from op shops). They are a classic 50s shape, and so nice to drink out of. They come from New Zealand. When she was visiting last, Gail pointed out that her cup was Wild Wasabi. Yes, a colour from the Stampin' Up colour range. Well, she'd know, she sells 'em. And what do you know, all the cups I have so far turn up somewhere in the SU colour chart. There's Wild Wasabi, Blue Bayou, Purely Pomegranate, Creamy Caramel, and just this week I added Really Rust. They are just gorgeous together!


I made some inchies - here's pictures of them. Cute, huh? Little works of art, one inch square. You know, that's pretty awkward for those of us living in the Metric world. I keep wanting to call them 2.54 centimeteries.