the vegie box

So we've joined a vegie co-op. This is our second week and so far, so good. Indeed I think it might turn out to be a very good thing for us. Two years ago if you'd have told me that I'd be joining a newly formed organic vegie co-op I'd have laughed out loud because although I'd have thought that it was a good idea, in theory, it just wasn't the my sort of thing. Shopping for food is hard thing for me to let go of (ask Gerard) and I am picky about fruit and when I think certain things are past their best. For example I rarely buy grapes past Easter and I wont buy apples that smell like they have spent years in a cool store (control issues, me?). So with something like a co-op, I worried that the vegies would be too expensive, not nice, that I'd have no choice of what we got and that it would just be far too much trouble. But this neighbourhood has a funny way of working on me and things that would never have been the go in Brunswick, well they just seem to work out here. There is a degree of what I'd call peer enthusiasm and the geography itself is persuasive. I can walk to most members of the co-ops houses with Grace without having to cross more than one big road (not even a very scary one at that) and none of the walking is down big horrible or industrial streets. We mostly live in a variation on the same house which I find endlessly fascinating. And lastly, I guess that the shopping around here is also not that convenient. There's no good supermarket within a five minute walk. And really, I'd like to not go to the supermarket as much as I have been, because it's boring, time consuming and expensive.

Enter the vegie box. You join together with some neighbours and everyone puts in $40 a week (or $20 for a half box). Someone is in charge of paying the bill and the admin stuff and everyone takes a six week turn at ordering from Ceres. It's a good deal price wise, cheaper than going to the Ceres market. We buy most produce by the box, some by the unit or bunch. It's fresh and seasonal. We've got information on food miles to consider and this has got me to thinking about a whole heap of food issues in general. I've decided that imported organic sugar is a bit silly but that bananas, avocados and the like from Queensland are fine. Tinned tomatoes, I'm going try and find an Australian brand I like and chocolate and coffee I'd like to do a bit better with too, but we'll see.   

We had our turn at picking up the boxes and unfortunately, I have to say it could of gone better. I was really anxious about us driving through Ceres (anyone familiar with Ceres might understand this) and then we were half way home and I realised we'd forgotten the onions! Doh! Anyway we got home before anyone arrived to pick up their box. But hadn't finished sorting when Zoe turned up. She was a great help, especially as I was faffing a bit. Still, it was all totally fine in the end and I don't think it will be all that long before we've all totally got the hang of it. And it was lovely having people come and pick up their boxes. Much more fun than the supermarket. The Ceres bit will be fun too, now that we know where to go.

In this weeks box we got onions, bok choy, utterly delicious navel oranges, bananas, grapes (a bit ordinary - but they'd been cool stored), pumpkin, some very sweet dutch carrots, and a cauliflower. It doesn't sound like much but there was rather a lot of everything except the bok choy. And we still have carrots, potatoes and apples left over from last week. That's OK. But now I've decided to work on a menu plan system and on Thursday night brainstormed a number of possibilities, pumpkin and cauliflower being tricky vegies round here. So far we've had pumpkin and red lentil soup, brown rice with eggplant, broccoli, tofu and almonds (using up broccoli and eggplant from last week), cauliflower macaroni cheese and salad, potato and carrot beer fritters with indian spicing, silver beet from mum's garden and soft boiled eggs from childcare (cheap and free range), raw carrot fingers as a side dish. Tomorrow night G is making pizza with cooked pumpkin and rosemary on top and if we get to the end of the week and it isn't finished, I'll make pumpkin scones or something. I've been reading my cookbooks again and it's good. Hopefully over time we'll get into some really good dry goods habits and eventually reduce our food bill, be a bit kinder to the planet and still eat well. And have more fun. Well, that's the plan.

happy winter solstice

Last night we celebrated winter solstice by the Merri Creek. I made a picnic dinner using ingredients from our weekly organic vegie box. We're now part of a vegie co-op, a new co-op that's being formed with the help of another local co-op that's already been running for several years. On Thursday we picked up our first box and I have to say, I have never tasted apples so good. Or had so many pears to eat. The mushrooms are superb and the broccoli was also surprisingly good, with none of that supermarket sulphur taste. Anyway, most of the members of the co-op were there last night. Along with friends and neighbours, people from various groups around the community. This estate has a human connectedness that I've never experienced in a place before. I couldn't have imagined that I'd live somewhere like this and it continues to surprise me. I totally love it.

We dressed warmly, even though it didn't end up being all that cold. It was exciting crossing the foot bridge and walking up along the creek, pulling our shopping trolley that G found in the hard rubbish, with a rucksack on it filled with blankets and food. G also had his fagot. Made from a dead standard rose bush, candle wax and cotton dipped in vegetable oil. He spent a fair bit of the afternoon working on it while I baked a cake and made carrot dip (we also have rather a lot of carrots). We set up our blanket, chatted and mingled while Grace ran around with the other kids. Somehow, in between all the excitement we ate a bit of dinner. Then everyone came into a circle, more or less, and we lit candles and lamps. Dave made a low key speech, including an acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land and something about the intention to gather here to celebrate the summer solstice and the spring and autumn equinoxes. As Dave began to lead the group on a walk up the hill, Gerard set his fagot ablaze. It was quite spectacular, although it freaked a few people out (including me) that kids were trying to light their candles from it. I helped a few kids and then realised that Grace had gone up the top of the cliff without us. I bolted up and there she was, tagging along with another family. Next time I'm going to put a glowstick on her, because they sure are easy to loose track of in the dark.  Apart from a few minor issues about candles going out and some kids having torches coveted by other kids, it was a beautiful lovely thing to do. We stood at the top of the cliff and saw the fire and Gerard with his blazing fagot. Back at the quarry we had some cake and more running around, and then sat around the fire talking and such until a few spots of rain convinced us that it might be a good time to leave. When we got home, Grace was super tired and went straight to bed after washing the black from her face and hands. We read half a story from the fairy tale book (The Snow Queen) and I tucked her in, still smelling of campfire smoke, one of my all time favourite scents.


I had planned to do this meme from Michelle at Buttontree Lane before heading off for another Sewjourn experience, but just ran out of time. As you do. Anyway as I still have some of that Sewjourn/craft camp vibe happening in my heart.....

What brand and model do you have?I have an Elna Supermatic, which judging from the information on this site is from the 1964 - 1971 Elna Star Series. It's all metal, made in Switzerland, and has machined rather than cast parts. It also weighs a ton. And is rather cold to touch right now.

How long have you had it?I've had this sewing machine for nearly twenty three years. I think it was a twenty-third birthday present.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?I think it cost my mum and dad about $200 which was a lot for a second hand, at least fifteen year old, machine at the time. My mum, as well as being an accomplished sewer, worked for Elna as a demonstrator in the seventies and knew all about sewing machines. As I remember, she had very definite opinions on which machines were worth buying.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Mostly I sew clothing for me and the odd thing for Grace. I do some mending for all of us. I've also made curtains, cushion covers, a leather bag (not good) and recently my first foray into quilting (also involving some degree of swearing). The picture above is of my temporary sewing set up in the study, if I'm doing a good long stretch of sewing, then I'll move my machine out to the kitchen and sew by the window. Much better.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
At craft weekends, the machine goes night and day. Other times it can go weeks without being used, or I'll go on a sewing binge and sew whenever I can. Or in dribs and drabs. Quite unpredictable really. My machine really is due for a proper service, but whenever it goes away, I feel totally bereft. So I've been keeping the oil up to her and making sure I brush away as much lint from the insides as I can.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love my machine. Adore her. Like I said before I feel bereft when she's gone. Kind of like having a part of my body removed. A useful part. But she doesn't have a name.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?I love that she goes really, really fast. And that she does a really good, high quality straight stitch, nearly as good as an industrial machine, or so I've been told. I also use the wavy three step zig zag alot. And the pretend overlock stitch. Both of these stitches are excellent for knits. Which I like to sew because then I can get away without doing to many boring things like zips or buttonholes. There's also an instruction book that features elves. Sometimes they are good elves, sometimes they are bad elves..... (apologies for the blur, I think those elves are in my camera this month).

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Apart from the occasional bad elf, the no-turn button hole. Not at all automatic and it takes practice to get a good result, even then it can be unreliable. If I was making a coat or something, I wouldn't risk the no turn buttonhole, because I'd get them all right, except for one which would be totally nasty and would wreck whatever project I was working on. So if the stakes were high, I would do bound or hand sewn button holes or figure out a design without button holes. I've seen these newfangled machines that do real automatic button holes to the point of making them the exact size. That would be nice. It would also be nice to be able to regulate the presser foot. It's supposed to self adjust with thick fabric, but that didn't cut it with quilting, even with the walking foot. So the stitches were a bit uneven. Still there might be things I don't know, so it might be worth trying some quilting with my mum. And I'm sure the spray basting stuff would help. But yeah, the old superamatic ain't totally perfect. Even so, it would take a lot to convince me that there is a better machine for me out there.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! I've already told you about getting it for my birthday all those years ago. Umm, I took it took it to my first ever craft camp and forgot the foot and had to crochet instead!

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? Well, yes I would. Especially if someone was looking for a good basic straight stitch machine and didn't have a lot to spend. I saw one that looked like it had been well maintained for $49 on ebay just recently. But in my opinion, you'd want to get a metal one, not a plastic one.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?Speed, reliability and a good sound. Personally I don't care about fancy stitches or good looks because I'm not that kind of sewer. Kind of like how I feel about cars really.

Do you have a dream machine?No, I'm perfectly happy with my Elna Supermatic. Although I've often thought an overlocker would be good as well. Maybe when I have my planned for craft/computer room. But I'm in no hurry.

this one time, at craft camp.....

Shortly after the last craft retreat, Suse posted and asked whether or not June was too soon for another weekend at Sewjourn. As it turned out the Queens's birthday weekend was free.  A three day crafting weekend?!?  I was keen but you know, we were pretty dubious that a) we could pull it off so close to other one and b) that there would be enough people who would consider leaving their families for three days. Well. Am I ever glad that Suse booked it. And as it turned out we had a full house. There was Alby, Stomper, Jenny and Eleanor who had never been on a craft weekend before. Alongside me and Suse, Suzie, Ellen and Leslie who have all experienced the delights of Sewjourn on other occasions. It was lovely showing the newies around Sewjourn and and watching them realise how good this craft weekend caper is. Indeed I think it is on the verge of becoming a movement. The day before I left, I was at Rathdowne Remnants and I mentioned that I was going on a craft weekend and the woman asked Sewjourn?  Then she said sadly that had no crafty friends to go with, but somehow I think that's just a matter of time. This craft weekend phenomenon just keeps shifting and moving and I'm betting it will keep growing. I'm glad Sewjourn is chock full of bookings, that means that all over Melbourne, there are women who have experienced the delight that is a Sewjourn craft weekend. Maybe one day we'll need more venues... imagine a whole town taken over by crafting women! 

this one time, at craft camp...

1. me in the dining room mirror, 2. rain AND sunshine, 3. bud, 4. tapshoes, 5. new stripey tee shirt, 6. the stork at night, 7. eleanor pursuing her film studies, 8. running late for dinner, 9. walking back to the studio at night, 10. works in progress, 11. sock monkey buddies, 12. big grey clouds, 13. rosemary, 14. suse's sewing machine, 15. stomper treading the boards, 16. tree, 17. lesley concentrates on her sewing, 18. ellen and suzie, 19. view over the back fence, 20. stomper relaxes by the fire eleanor made, 21. I kept seeing this and liking it, 22. suse spinning, 23. fog on saturday morning, 24. sunrise (by suzie), 25. sunset Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

At first I doubted whether I could go away for three days. The will I get away with this? or am I being a bad mother? do I deserve this? kind of doubt. I let all that hooey go pretty quickly. Besides, G is fine with the whole craft weekend thing. And it means that he gets to go out this Saturday night and I am so totally OK with cancelling my prior engagement because I went to Sewjourn for three nights and three and half days!! And had a fabulous time with fabulous women.

I managed to get ridiculously drunk for a short period of time on an equally ridiculous amount of wine (as in two glasses) and start crocheting a granny triangle. There was superb food, cooked by others. All I had to do was make a lunch and people were happy with soup (I get groans from too much of that soup at home). Snacks appeared as if by magic and the heating was brilliant (unlike home where I am sitting on top of a heater in several layers of clothing, a hat, a hood, hand warmers and a big shawls - it's bloody cold in Coburg I tell you). And what did I make? Well, I left with three finished objects; a tee-shirt and skirt that are so me, a vest that is pretty good but needs to be taken in down the side seams. I also half finished a jumpery top out of the same material where the sleeves are too tight but the sides are too loose. Yeah, I think I need to work on my patterns a bit.  Definitely I spend too much time altering and guessing. Anyway the three finished objects were all worn to work this week and I feel like my wardrobe crisis has been averted and I can't wait to finish all the works in progress. Including the jacket covered in cat hair that I didn't take in case it gave me the mozz.

Have I told you how much I love going to Sewjourn?

winter of mild discontent

Yes, I guess it is truly winter now. And I wish that the weather would be rainy and properly cold, instead of  just damp, grey and dark.

Some things that have been shitting me:

The way people drive as though they are the only people on the road with somewhere important to go. And then crash their cars. Get on the bus dudes.
Morning trains.
The alarum clock.
Shouting, screaming and tantrums. From grownups and children alike.
Getting everybody out of the house to get to a party at a playcentre on time. You would think that Grace didn't want to go parties the way she drags her heels (yet she loves all parties as only a four year old can). Next time I'm going say what time we need to go, give a warning about 20 minutes beforehand and then go and get myself ready.  If no-one is ready at the appointed time, I'll just wait in the lounge room with a book or some knitting. If we don't get there in time and miss out, well, so be it. Could I really do this? Would it work?
Alongside a borderline depression, I have mild hypochondria. Manifesting itself in wanting to get my snoring investigated, because you know, it could be sleep apnoea. And I wouldn't mind getting a mild man flu version of the swine flu next week because a) if it's a man flu someone has to bring me tea and biscuits on the couch and b) if it's swine flu I have to stay at home for seven days after the symptoms have disappeared. But I don't want to be so sick I can't sew or read. Heavens no.
Apparently one pair of shoes I was wearing to work doesn't quite meet the dress code (snort). This came up in my (otherwise fine) performance assessment. Before hearing this, I had just bought a new pair in black, which might be OK, but if they aren't, could I please bring a letter from my doctor saying I have foot issues? Which really is self evident, my feet are big and I am big which equals foot issues. So ludicrous, it's almost funny. They are shoes.
The black pants I made on the last craft weekend have only just been finished. For the second time. I had to unpick the waistband and hem after I wore them the first day because they were so loose they flapped in the wind. I need to learn to listen to the material better.

Some things that have not been shitting me:
I'm going away somewhere very special on the weekend. YAY!!! And it involves craft and lovely ladies of the internet. And cheesecake. How did we manage to swing this?
Work has been quiet enough occasionally that I can relax with it a bit. Today I had a chat with a customer who has some pretty interesting views on the system. A few open ended questions and off he went. He can say things that I can't and today it was peculiarly good to hear them said. Especially since it would be so wrong of me to voice my own opinion in that context.
Taking pictures at night. On the way home from the meeting of this organic vegie co-op that I'm going to be in. I live in an awesome place, with awesome neighbours.
Roses hanging over the fence from next doors. Flowers in the house.
It has started raining.
Did I mention I'm going away on the weekend?