When life gives you…

Perspective is a wonderful thing isn’t it?

On Friday night, a fellow fibre artist and friend of mine opened a sale album on Facebook. Now I normally try not to be comparative (that way lies misery!) BUT she had 65+ items in this folder and sold MOST of them in 4 hours.

She made HUNDREDS of dollars.

Now lemme give you some background info to be fair:

She is an established personality in spinning/fibre circles.

She’s good – VERY GOOD – at what she does. I would never try to diminish her success – she spins beautifully, dyes amazing stuff, and there is EVERY reason why she is so successful.

And we have a different product and a different niche: She dyes commercial roving with commercial dyes, and I dye locally farmed ethical fleeces with plant-based/organic/fair trade dyes. And I add the spiritual side as well.

And I’m comparatively new to the market.

But despite all this I felt INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATED AND DISHEARTENED.

How can she sell all that in 4 hours, and I don’t even sell one item a week?! I pour my heart and soul into my art: I BELIEVE IN IT. I spin sometimes ’til my eyes hurt at night, lovingly tending each skein to completion, and severely underprice myself (often only paying myself $1 an hour and often end up giving lots of stuff away!). And for what?! Is it worth it?! Maybe I should just give it away and find ‘real job’.

I felt flattened. I felt heart broken.

So I went to a movie with my friend Lou, and we grabbed a hot chocolate afterwards, and we got to talking about our grandparents. My German Oma immigrated to Australia in the 50’s. She had no English, was DESPERATLEY poor, and lived in a converted asbestos chook shed with 7 children. My Opa worked on the Warragamba Dam Project and was away for weeks on end, and my Oma supplemented their income by growing tomatoes to sell and milking the family cow.

Perspective.

This isn’t a PROBLEM. It’s annoying. But it’s not a PROBLEM.

So this morning I picked some daffs before Jerry the Goat ate them, and Tara and I baked a Banana and Raspberry Loaf. We ate it warm from the oven. And the washing machine broke down (Grr. But I bet Oma didn’t have a washing machine; broken or otherwise. And she had SEVEN KIDS), so I made plans to go the laundromat until payday. And the vacuum cleaner broke, and I laughed at the irony and took the broken piece out.

Perspective.

It’s not about being mindlessly, irrationally, ridiculously optimistic. It’s just recognizing what is an actual HARDSHIP, and what is a TEMPORARY INCONVENIENCE.

We have everything we need. I’m lucky to be able to do what I’m passionate about, and if I follow my passion, I cant lose. Success will come. And, you know what? The vacuum cleaner works better without that piece anyway 🙂

Dyeing to try it.

I’ve been experimenting with dyeing my own fibre for spinning of late, and Im getting more and more inspired by natural dyes. Ive been finding my brain exploding into sparks and catherine wheels of inspiration, thinking of all the plants, barks and fruits around Hill Shadow farm which could dye my yarn. I LOVE feeling inspired.

Here’s a link which shows you some of the differences between natural and synthetic dyes.

It looks like a fairly simple process, though I think there’s a lot of variables which can affect your colours.

Aaaaaaaaand since Im getting my online store up and going (!), keep an eye out for my new natural dyed, Hill Shadow Farm inspired, compassionate yarns… I cant wait. Im going to be a busy busy bee!

Here’s some beautiful dyeing and natural yarns to get YOU inspired! ❤

Timber and Twine

Dye-lot

Right: I’ve got a tonne of fleece I have to get clean and dry before tomorrow’s carding.

 
  
Im getting together with some friends and very talented fibre artists so we can swap knowledge and fluff.

Check us out on FB

Watch this space…!

xx

 

Weekends, Hill Shadow-style.

This week Ben happened to pick up a packet of the Pancake Parlour’s pancake mix, and was absolutely astounded at how many ingredients were listed! I mean, they’re yummy, but I have no idea why a pancake mix would contain so many things. Maybe to help you justify the price of buying something that’s so simple to make at home!
Rarely does a weekend go by here where we don’t have pancakes. They’re super easy! Our pancake recipe is loosely based on Jamie Oliver’s one
HILL SHADOW FARM PANCAKES
Serves 4 -ish
2 cups SR flour (we use 1/2 wheat, 1/2 gluten free. I hear buckwheat flour works well too!)
2 cups milk of your choice (we use soy)
2 eggs (free range ONLY and ALWAYS, please x)
Pinch salt.
That’s seriously it! 
Whisk ingredients together til well-combined.
We cook our pancakes on our sandwich press left open – It works a treat! But your fry pan/skillet is fine. A medium/low temp is best. 
Pour out pancakes of 10 – 15 cm and wait until the air bubbles on the surface pop and don’t fill back in. The top of the pancake will be covered in craters & look ‘dry’ (not like wet batter) when it’s ready to flip. 
Serve with local honey or real maple syrup (it’s worth spending a little extra for the real stuff!)
I hope you’re out enjoying this beautiful weekend with your loved ones! I’m washing some beautiful alpaca fleece ready to card and spin. Won’t take long to dry today! 

Right, now go put your washing out, then make a cup of coffee and take it out under a tree with a good book x

Baking, Bikkies, and Beautiful Banana Bread

With the warm yellow sunny days now fading and turning crisper, I thought it might be a great opportunity to share some of my go-to, no-fail baking recipes!
These are regulars in Katie’s lunchbox, or when we need morning tea! 
First, my NO FAIL AWESOME ALL PURPOSE BISCUIT RECIPE!
Yummy! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
3/4 cup SR flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
125g butter, softened.
Mix ingredients and knead with hands to form a stiff dough. Roll teaspoonfuls into balls and press lightly onto a lined baking tray. Bake 180 deg celcius (160 degrees if fan forced) for 12 mins for a soft cookie, 15 min for a crunchy one.
You can substitute lots of things for choc chips! I’ve used nuts, sultanas, muesli, dried fruit, m&ms…
You can substitute coconut sugar or stevia for the brown sugar.
You can substitute 1/2 cup coconut oil for the butter if you want a dairy-free version.
So versatile!

The second staple recipe in my house is my friend Laura’s Banana Bread. It’s super easy, and it’s like a warm hug from a friend on a cold grey day 🙂

LAURA’S BANANA BREAD

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 teasp baking soda
1/2 teasp salt
3 Large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teasp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180 deg C (160 deg C for fan forced ovens). Mix all wet ingredients together well in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients, and mix till well-combined. Pour into a loaf pan. Bake 50 – 60 min or till skewer comes out clean and top feels ‘springy’.

I promise you it wont last long! And your house will smell AMAZING when it’s baking!

So there you go! 2 staple recipes from my kitchen (2 of many!) that are super easy and yummy for lunchboxes or afternoon tea.

Or midnight snacks 😉

What’s baking at your house?
xx

2 weeks of living RIDICULOUSLY frugal.

We’ve all been there. For one reason or another, one week you blow your budget (mine was a doctor’s appointment, an X-ray – she’s fine! – and a govt admin mistake which accidentally cut off some of my income.)

It SUCKS. And truth be told it’s taught me some really valuable lessons this week, the most important of which is to appreciate that for me this state is temporary. For many others, it is not. 
For the most part we can afford for me to be a stay-at-home mum & live off my husband’s wage. Things are tight, but mostly we do ok. Still there are always the occasional suprises (car breakdown, vet bill, health emergency, school excursions, fines, bill-shock, home repairs, the list is endless!)
So here’s some things – good AND bad – that I learned from my 2 weeks of living on about $40. 
1. Being poor can be really humiliating. 
This week I had to put back groceries at the checkout, tell my 4yo we couldn’t afford bananas (wtf?!), turn down invitations, and had a friend pick up a bill for coffee (Thankyou Tash!!! xx). It SUCKED. But it happens to everyone. I hope I can return the generosity and patience I was shown when I’m in a better situation!
2. Being poor forces you to be bloody creative!
I made that $40 <<>>. I budgeted each spend down the cent – which was frustrating, but I was quite impressed with how creative I was! I made packed lunches for the kids everywhere we went, took a thermos of coffee to the park, found free kids entertainment, mended holes in the kids tights, made birthday presents, asked a friend if we could pick some oranges off her LOADED tree (“PLEASE TAKE THEM. I’LL GET YOU A BAG!” – woohoo! Free fruit!) and made meals from scratch and what I already had in my pantry!
I made a roast chicken into 3 meals (4 if you include dog scraps!) and all that was left was a tiny pile of bones – use EVERYTHING. Waste as little as possible! 
Porridge anyone?

3. Use your skills.

I sew, knit and crochet (thanks Nan x) so I was able to mend some clothes to give them a second go, and make some presents for people. I also whipped up a coat for a friend’s dog, which she paid $20 for! Yippee! Bonus! (“We can buy bananas AND some apples, Katie!”) I also make it a point to try to bring good karma when times are bad – “No one ever went broke by giving” – so I made some pressies and sent some good vibes out into the world. Happy given out, will always make its way back round.
4. Use what you have. Use every last bit.
From using up leftovers, to shopping your pantry and wardrobe, you can usually make do with something you already have. 
And so, finally – here is my recipe for “Bill-Payers Chicken” (feeds 4 people for 3 meals. Plus some skin and gristle for 2 slavering mongrels!) 
Meal 1
Roast chicken.
I did it in the slow cooker (Mummy’s best friend!) with some seasoning from my pantry, carrot, cabbage & roasted sweet potato. Yum.
Meal 2 
Chicken sandwiches.
Set aside some chicken breast for sandwiches. Add some mayo, and lettuce if you have any? No? Parsley? No? Celery?
Meal 3
Chicken & corn soup.
This is where you get really creative! You know the liquid in the bottom of your slow cooker after you cook a chook? Don’t chuck it out: It’s perfect stock! If you refrigerate it overnight, you can skim the fat off, then add WHATEVER you have in the fridge vege-wise! Tin of corn? In it goes! 1/4 of a capsicum? Chuck that sucker in! Celery? Yep – leaves and all! Plus I found a near- empty packet of quinoa in my pantry. Sure why not?! 🙂 

Serve with toast. Or make some scones (they are easy-peasy! – google it!)
And FINALLY – the most IMPORTANT THING is your health. No use saving a few bucks here and there on heating in a Melbourne cold snap by refusing to turn on any heating. You will just all get sick. Trust me on this. 😛 *cough cough* 
It’s not quite over yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and pay day’s just around the corner…
Got any good tips you can share?
Here’s to better days ahead.
Xx