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Craft: Halloween pumpkin & be safe message

October 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Using the right pumpkin makes the job EASY!

Brisbanites frequenting supermarkets have started encountering big, overpriced, yellow pumpkins just lately. I took it upon myself to see what all the fuss was about.

In the name of craft and open-mindedness, I put aside my reservations about ‘celebrating’ Halloween, to see whether these pumpkins were anything special. To be honest, I’d wondered how hard it would be to carve one up, given the near brute force needed to cut up our typical Butternut pumpkin for dinner.

In short, it was as easy as falling off a log. Using the right kind of pumpkin makes all the difference. As you can see from the photos below, it’s a softer pumpkin which has a lot of ‘guts’ that’s easily scooped out by little kids. The cutting must be done by an adult (obviously, one would think). The supermarket instruction sheet sets out 8 steps, but really, there are only five, tops. To be clear, the hairy fingers in the photos are not my own. Yours Truly suffered a shoulder / neck injury while sleeping (how sad is that?) and couldn’t operate the knife without screaming like a banshee, so Dear Brother did the honours.

1. Carefully cut the top off using a knife (operated by a competent adult).
2. Scoop out the insides.
3. Draw a face with a permanent ink marker or mark the outline of a face with pins (eg. using a template).
4. Cut out face
5. Insert a tea light candle and light it.

Easy carve pumpkin

Instructions & template

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Carving up a pumpkin and having a bit of dress-up fun at home is one thing. But if you are taking kids out for trick or treating, do keep in mind the contradictory messages (Don’t take lollies from strangers, except on Halloween. Don’t be mean, unless the neighbours don’t give you sweets. Bullies are bad, except on Halloween.) which can set you up for trouble down the long and winding road of parenthood. While you might be going with them this year, there’ll come a time when they’ll think it lame that their parents tag along (and by that stage, they’ll be too big to say “No” to, with any sort of moral authority). And please don’t kid yourself that children in a group are safe. Sometimes, a group is the most dangerous place to be.

Keeping kids safe is hard work. In a perfect world, there would be no begging for lollies (as opposed to nuts in days gone by, in preparation for winter), but if it must be done, then perhaps consider door-knocking just your friends and family and by prior arrangement. Don’t freak out the elderly, or people who don’t understand or want to have Halloween thrust upon them. Realistically, anyone opening the door to strangers on Halloween is crazy, even if it’s a little kid standing at the screen door (who’s standing behind him?).

A bit of consideration goes a long way in not only keeping good neighbours, but in keeping EVERYBODY safe. Go look up some statistics about how many kids go missing on Halloween overseas. Ask your friendly police how many assaults happen and how many complaints they clock up. Fun should never be at the expense of others.

And this is the end of the government, anti-fun policy.

Have fun, responsibly. And regardless of your religious beliefs, think about the dearly departed on 1 November, which is what it’s all really about.

UPDATE: To avoid being gouged on the price of a Halloween pumpkin, try using a watermelon – it does work and you get to eat the insides. The Halloween pumpkin isn’t good eating. See my later post with photos of a Halloween watermelon, thanks to the Auntie-who-thinks-of-everything.

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Craft: Roses made from leaves

October 29, 2010 2 comments

To cater for my international readership and for the love of craft, I’m bringing on board ‘The Stig’ of craft, my new, northern hemisphere based Occasional Craft Correspondent…. (with thanks, E.P.):-

The Occasional Craft Correspondent

Am I crafty? Nope. I potter around. The words ‘you could sell those’ fill me with dread because the very thought of ever doing something crafty for sale means that I’d HAVE to do it and then it’d stop being fun. So, I potter around. Occasionally. Sometimes the bug bites and then I HAVE to make something and once I get a project into my head, I really DO play with it. Take these roses for example – it started with one and finished with 60! My husband already knows that this is the moment when he has to step away and let nature take its course. I find that this generally happens in autumn and winter – maybe because it starts to get cold and this means I’m inside more. Unfortunately, the bug generally bites at rather inopportune moments, which leads me to believe that this could be a form of seasonal procrastination (seasonal in that it’s centred around seasons, unfortunately not in the procrastination).

The problem is that I’m a bit unco. I’d like to be less unco. This, however, ensures that any crafty stuff I do has to be 1. easy 2. quick 3. effective.

I once saw these roses many years ago but it took me almost 10 years of living in a country with a real autumn and real autumn colours (at autumn, no less!) to get around to trying. It looked really hard, but really – it’s not! An evening in front of the telly is enough.

What you need:

4 or 5 fallen but not completely dry maple leaves – it’s better to have some smaller leaves for the inside and some bigger ones for the outside.
A piece of string/cotton
Some floral tape (I bought a roll off my local florist)

Instructions:
Take one smaller leaf and fold it back in half (with the stalk facing down). Roll the leaf quite tightly.

Take another leaf. Fold it back in half. Put the rolled leaf in the middle and just a bit down from the top edge. Fold it over from the left and the right. Hold tightly and repeat with the remaining leaves. You should have a rose-shaped thingy.

Tie it together tightly. You can also use thin elastic bands, but you need to be careful not to break the stalks.

Take the floral tape. It looks a bit like crepe paper and isn’t sticky. You need to moisten your fingers and when you place it on the leaves, you need to stretch it a little and wrap it around the stalks so that there’s an overlap. If it breaks, don’t worry about it, just overlap that bit and keep going. The important thing here is to keep your fingers moistened.

FAQ:
1. Can I use other types of leaves?
Yes, I guess so, but they need to be wide enough – and have a ‘square’ shape. Also, can’t be very green because they’ll crack. The florist I bought the floral tape from said that she’s seen people make roses by folding them long-ways along the vein. I haven’t tried this method though.
You don’t have to use big leaves. I found a sapling of a red maple and made the tiny little ‘buds’ in the photos.

2. If I don’t have floral tape, can I use anything else to wrap around the stalks?
Yes, you can. I’d probably use crepe paper tied down with some green cotton, or some green duct tape. The problem with this is that the floral tape is quite muted in colour and as the leaves dry, it doesn’t stand out and looks quite natural.

3. Do I have to use cotton or string to hold the leaves together?
No, you can use elastic bands but then need to be very thin not too small because you don’t want to break the stalks.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

Step 8

Step 9

Step 10

Step 11

Step 12

Step 13

(UPDATE: N.B. the rose in Step 12 is not the same one as in Step 13 – i.e. Step 13 demonstrates what happens when the autumn colours take hold of their own accord – they change colour themselves.)

Step 14 - go crazy

Step 15 - how lovely is that?

Categories: Craft

Trend Alert: Goodbyn lunch boxes from USA, for kids & adults

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

The Auntie-Who-Thinks-of-Everything alerts Yours Truly to a new trend, that’s sure to work its way to the outer sleepy suburbs….

Personalise your Goodbyn with stickers

Here’s the inside with some bits tucked in for size demonstration purposes. It easily fits a regular sandwich, fruit, crackers & cheese and the rest. Check out the Goodbyn or Biome website for more.

Liquid tight compartments to keep foods separate

Love thy lunchbox - the Goodbyn

Inner city Brisbane schools are abuzz with the latest in cool kids’ lunch boxes. Word on the street is that kids are loving the Goodbyn lunch boxes from the USA, but which can be bought in Australia from Biome.

What’s to like, with just another pile of plastic, you wonder.

Well, consider:
* lead free, BPA free, pthalates free
* funky, personalised with 3 sheets of stickers
* LIQUID TIGHT seals between compartments to prevent merging of foods & smells
* great for the environment if it reduces one’s dependence on cling wrap, plastic bags & disposable drink containers
* comes with a freezable drinks container which keeps food cool & probably doesn’t require a cooler bag
* fully recyclable
* one lunch box, one lid – no losing separate little boxes with little lids and ice bricks and cooler bags (less to label)
* easy to open (for 5+) and easy to carry handle (also available for 10+ to adults)
* it’s like a lunch tray
* a percent of sales goes to environmental causes.

But:
* about A$45
* big & a challenge to squeeze into little backpacks
* stickers come off after washing eventually
* recommended for 5 plus because of the single lid – if the child drops the box, the whole lot goes
* once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.

The adult version of the Goodbyn doesn’t have the big lip / ear for easy opening and comes in more sedate colours. It’d be great for taking leftovers to work, be it curry and rice, salad, fruit salad and yoghurt or dip and veggie sticks. Perhaps other stickers would be required for adults. Here’s one I thought of: Think Big, Eat Small. Or, Would You Like Chocolate With That?

Apparently, you can put yoghurt or dip into one compartment, without it spilling into others. This is pretty nifty. In terms of liquid tight seals, the only other brand I currently know and trust is Tupperware (Tuppercare Snack Cups & Everyday Bowls, Fuel Pack & All Day Pack for babes). But, I haven’t seen anything in the configuration of the Goodbyn. Having it all in one, does seem convenient.

I don’t own one (because I’d just been to several Tupperware fundraisers…) but I’ve seen it in action. My niece gets on with her new lunchbox very well and in the end, that’s what matters – making lunches something children look forward to. Everything else is a big bonus. Anything that makes good parenting easier gets my tick of approval.

So, this week, while you’re filling out school book orders for next year and probably wondering how many weeks are left till Christmas, you might want to contact Santa for a Goodbyn stocking filler.

Happy lunching!

Categories: Parenthood, Products, Review

Road Test: No mess tomatoes

October 25, 2010 2 comments

Yours Truly gets a little bit excited when a product actually lives up to its marketing hype.

Hooray! Truth in advertising ...

I can say that I was hugely impressed with the fact that these tomatoes didn’t turn into sandwich sludge – not even when put in the toasted sandwich maker (aka jaffle maker). They hold firm and seem to last longer than other types of tomatoes, when kept in the specially designed holey plastic bag, in the crisper section of the fridge. The tomatoes cut very easily (even with my perpetually blunt knives), present very well and taste great.

While I don’t personally believe in salad, I’m sure these tomatoes would be great for those who do. They’re not as juicy as other kinds, so they wouldn’t be my first choice for sauces and suchlike. (I’m told, in comments below, that they perform equally well in sauces and cooking.)

No more mushy tomato sandwich nightmares. Enjoy! No Mess Tomatoes, indeed!

UPDATE: I’ve had buckets of people agreeing that these are now their favourite tomatoes! I love a local good-news story. Hats off to Aussie ingenuity.

Pat Benatar, The Bangles & Rushcutter

October 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Lucky Reader Louise not only had aa seats, but scored Spyder's pick! (With thanks, Louise)

http://www.youtube.com/p/DF778964D7160EC7?hl=en_US&fs=1

On Wednesday, 20 October 2010, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and The Bangles rocked the Brisbane Convention Centre. Dear Husband bought tickets for my birthday, for the four of us, including Miss Six and Miss Nine.

Why take kids to this concert? Well, for the same reason we took them to see Andre Rieu – it’s an experience. Besides, with Benatar and The Bangles, we could be assured of the following:

1. They’d have clothes on and keep them on.
2. No profanity.
3. No tedious, media-seeking bad behaviour.
4. No awkward explanations would be required (cf. “Mum, what’s Lady Gaga mean when she says I wanna ride on your disco stick?”)
5. They can hold a note.

There weren’t any theatrical explosions or people swinging from the ceiling and no baboonesque presentation of bums and crotches: it was about the music. Not that I mind a good visual performance (personally, I thought The Wiggles were looking less fit than Yours Truly, in their last big show in Brisbane and could take some notes from the ever-athletic Pink – and no, we didn’t take the kids to Pink). But sometimes, it’s good to tune in with our ears and give our eyes a bit of a rest.

The warm-up act was Rushcutter from Melbourne. Check them out; they deserve a bit of your ear time. Those boys could hold a tune but won the audience over with their humour: “Gee, we really love it here in Brisbane. The weather’s SO nice!” That coming from people who wake up in the morning expecting bad weather every day. Meanwhile, we were all wondering whether the sky would open on us on the way home. We’re a bit over flooding rain in the Sunshine State. The fellas had a hard time getting the crowd going though, because:
(a) most of the crowd was missing, until The Bangles arrived (and after);
(b) no-one knew their work; and
(c) the BCEC lacks atmosphere – especially when each of two painful intermissions and before the show, involved piped music from hell (in fact, I remember the music from when I was there last year to see French & Saunders).

The Bangles brought their California sound to Brisbane and looked great. They plan to come out to Australia again next year, with a new CD. They did their best songs (and the rest) and closed with “Walk Like an Egyptian” which is joyful, over-the-top 80s at its best. Their finale had everyone on their feet.

The decibels were cranked up for Benatar and Giraldo (why do they need to do that?) Fortunately, we’d invested in some hearing protection (a dollar at the chemist buys you rated foam ear plugs). This duo is still as awesome as ever. They played all their classics, along with a few obscure ones. The only song which needed some explaining, was their anthem for abused kids, “Hell is For Children.” Giralodo made the guitar scream, cry and demand that the world sit up and do something for the kids who have no hope. It’s not my favourite song, but it makes its point.

Eighties music is such a relief from much of today’s musical me-me-me and is innocent by comparison. Benatar broke rules and took rock chic to new limits, but it was and still is, all about the music, and how music is a part of and reflection of real life.

UPDATE: New photos below (with thanks, Anita Di Bartolo).

The Bangles, 2010 Brisbane Entertainment & Convention Centre.

Pat Benatar, 2010 BCEC.

Louise ('I got the pick!') & Photographer Anita, just a little excited about their aa seats

Categories: Music, Stage

Karli’s birthday & appeal

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Brisbane turned on a beautiful day for Karli Dyke’s 9th birthday and appeal day at the Jube on Sunday. There was a great turn out and show of support for the family. The bands were awesome, although (perhaps, unsurprisingly) they couldn’t play any Miley Cyrus. (I did ask.)

A number of readers have asked me to report on the day and to provide details for the fundraising effort, so see below … I hope to get my hands on a book of tickets for the signed & framed Michael Clarke bat – message me please if you’re interested. If you’d like to make a direct cash donation:
Keith Foss & Pauline Campbell
Karli Dyke Appeal
Suncorp Bank
BSB: 484-799
A/C : 20-177148-5

The new-look Jubilee Hotel is a neat place for a $2 Sunday steak and $4 Corona, with no trace of its jelly-wrestling and topless girl past. It was a very nice way to spend an afternoon with friends.

Hip-hip HURRAY for Karli. May this year be a really good one!

Categories: Australia, Health, Life, Parenthood

LOL: I’m lovin’ it

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m lovin’ McDonald’s new t-shirts, this one pictured in the wild yesterday, at Newmarket in Queensland.

Thumbs up, McMarketing Department! You’ve made the world’s uncoolest mascot, so very hip.

Thank you to the brave man who agreed to this photo being taken. Your commitment to the clown is exceptional!

Enjoy your Friday.