Sunday, June 30, 2013

CRAFTS: Mosaic Garden Ball

The Mosaic Garden Ball

I had this vision for the longest time - of a permanent garden decoration in the shape of a ball that I could mosaic. I had started to look high and low for something suitable..... and was trying not to buy a solid concrete thing..... but really I needed something very sturdy for the purpose.

A venture into my local "pots and plants" shop gave me the "jack-pot" amongst the Bargain Corner items .... (where the chipped and unloved stuff end up) ....I spotted two concrete balls that were supposed to be part of a water feature... but something had happened to the pedestals! Before you could say Rumplestiltskin..... they were in the back of my car (yes - I did pay for them first) and I was happily driving them home.

My sister is heavily involved in garden clubs and such. She had been on a tour of gardens interstate where the group were taken to a garden which was heavily studded with interesting garden ornaments that were mosaic'd - and she said to me that it really struck her at how lovely it looked.

So this was an invitation to stud her garden! And an opening for homemade Birthday and Christmas gifts for the future.

Here it is sitting on a tray filled with sand, then the tray is slipped into a plastic bag. This gives a nice surface to work on.

I wanted to give the ball a strong base - sort of like built in legs so I applied a heavy layer of adhesive 

And glued in four flattish river stones. This should elevate the ball slightly to allow water and moisture to run off and not soak the base of the ball.

I stuck on a combination of glass beads and assorted ceramic items.

Someone was fascinated with the project!

I then had to move it inside because of the cold winds outside. I decided to use white tiles as the background as I have a healthy supply thanks to my brother's bathroom renovation. For some extra bling I stuck on random pieces of mirror as well. 

Finally - all covered.

Outside again after a drying time of two days. Now is the grouting. You need a big bucket or tub of water (I use an old kitchen bin) and fill it with rain water.

Get your grout powder and some water - then mix the grout with the water until it is thick.

The right thickness is important - you need to be able to put a big blob on the end of your spatula and it needs to hold its shape and resist coming off the spatula. I suppose this is like bricklayer's mortar.

With a dry sponge I squish it into all gaps really really thoroughly - allow to dry for about 5 minutes - then begin to carefully wipe it over and over with a damp sponge to clean off excess. This is where the big tub of water comes into play.

Sorry to have no photos of this process - but handling wet grout and wet sponges and a camera is not possible!

I did the bottom half first..... then came back after an hour or so and grouted the top half.

It's messy and I don't enjoy grouting much - but you get there in the end. The trick is to allow the grout to dry enough so it stays in the cracks..... but is wet enough to wipe off the pieces in the project. You must be very careful not to wipe too much out from between the pieces. The grout here is still drying and looks darker than the finished and dry product.

Here it is - temporarily in my garden - ready to transfer into my sister's garden on Wednesday. (Thank goodness for strong husbands!)

Happy Birthday Sis!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FREEDOM: Freedom for over 100 dogs and cats

Sad news from Adelaide, Australia.

I like to stick my head in the sand sometimes...... I am so affected when I hear about cruelty to animals, I love animals - especially domestic dogs and cats.

About three days ago our Adelaide branch of the RSPCA raided a "puppy and kitten farm" which has been operating in the rural outskirts of Adelaide. The long and the short of it is..... about 100 animals (mainly dogs and pups) were removed from this property which has been operating for some time by "an elderly woman". The local residents of a nearly country town were "shocked and dismayed" that this type of operation was being run right "under their noses" and nothing was known about it.

Pictures of the appalling conditions were shown on the news and on internet sites. The RSPCA called for temporary foster carers as well as supplies such as blankets, towels, food and called out to any vets who can jump in and help. One dog gave birth to her pups in the RSPCA van on the way to the shelter.

There are about 10 mini schnauzers in the group, and one news picture showed a RSPCA officer carrying out a very heavily pregnant salt and pepper mini schnauzer. This really tugged at my heart strings.

I for one (and my views are shared by many) cannot understand how anybody can sleep at night knowing that they run an operation that is based on making these dependent animals miserable. My mini schnauzer will "freak out" if there is a microscopic bit of poop on or around her backside - and will happily let me help her out with a warm wash off. These "farmed" animals don't get the luxury of sleeping or living in areas that are clean.... and not to mention ..... are given diets that are of poor and cheap quality.

These animals are intelligent and are basically being trampled by filth and neglect. Not to mention the psychological torture. Those of us who live and love our domestic animals know that they love to communicate their needs and can show us how much they love us.

The good news is that the call for foster carers has worked..... and loads of lovely people have come forward to offer their home and help for this case. In fact, the RSPCA has said that they do not require any more foster homes as they have enough people registered now.

We heard last night that 40 dogs have already gone home with foster families and the others are being kept because they have to: receive medial attention, or are close to giving birth, or have behavioural issues that need to be assessed. You can only imagine how many warm baths are being run in those 40 homes!!

I myself would love to have helped, but my husband is frightened that any dogs I might foster would actually end up as part of our family, after I form the unbreakable attachment!! He had only agreed to allow me to buy my mini schnauzer after MUCH pleading by me, as he didn't want to have a dog.

Once a week - I make my mini schnauzers life a misery - yea really! I put her in a warm bath and soap her all over with expensive dog shampoo. She is convinced that THIS is the definition of MISERY! Oh how spoiled she is. She has even made it into our queen sized bed after 6 months of making me miserable by making her sleep in a comfy pen in the family room. She made sure we knew how sad she was by crying for about 20 minutes every night for someone to come and get her. It eventually worked after we had a very loud stormy night, and she was so scared - I went and collected her and put her in our bed - and there she has stayed ever since.

Back to the RSPCA situation. What I will do is take some warm bedding and food down to the shelter to add a little support direct from me.

This morning's update on the radio was an interview by a RSPCA representative. He is leading the legislative push to have all domestic dog and cat breeders become "licensed and monitored" which will prevent another situation like this one. I'm sure he will get all the necessary support from the public to help make this happen. Let's pray that it does happen. Once our state can get this done, it is hoped all other Australian states will follow.

He also mentioned that he took a female 10 year Cocker Spaniel and had to bathe her 3 times to get the "muck-off". She was currently lying on his couch watching the man on the phone. What a lovely picture that gave me.... and I couldn't help but smile.

Now there will be more dogs who will be able to go out for walks and "smell the flowers (and grass)" for the first time.

Bless their little furry paws.

NB: I've just heard something that has really made my day. The Schnauzer Club of South Australia has just posted an update on their Facebook page.... they confirm that they will offer assistance to all the schnauzers involved in this farm and provide whatever care they need.... grooming, puppy raising, fostering, homes etc etc.

Rest assured that it is going to be a great outcome for ALL the animals. I have deliberately not posted any images of the farm or the animals while there. But I have found an image gallery link if you want to see - totally up to you. LINK: Image Gallery

Saturday, June 1, 2013

COOKING: "English" Scones

I was asked to make a huge batch of Scones for my friend Lynn to take to her work for "Harmony Day". Lynn was born and educated in the U.K. - but is a firm proud Aussie now. Albeit with an English accent!!

To pay homage to her roots - she wanted to take an English Dish to her work, and decided that Scones were the way to go. I gladly agreed to make them. Any excuse for baking I say!

This is the EASIEST recipe and not traditional at all ..... but it's a winner.

The Objective.

One cup Cream, One cup Lemonade, Three cups Self-Raising Flour and a pinch of salt. I elected to add about 1/2 cup of sultanas to one batch...... so people could choose either with or without fruit.

Sift the flour and salt into the bowl.

Add in the sultanas (if using).

I love sultanas in scones...... but some people like my husband and brother are vehemently opposed.

Then tip in the cream and lemonade.

Mix lightly and gently with a knife - DO NOT OVERWORK.... this is the key!

Tip out onto floured bench. LIGHTLY knead just till flour is fully incorporated.

Pat out to a fat round - about an inch thick is good.

Pick your cutter size and start cutting.

Place onto a baking tray with either a silicone sheet or baking paper. Brush tops with a little milk.

While they are baking in the oven set to 220 degrees C (425 F)  pour yourself a lemonade - you deserve it. Marvel at how rare it is that you actually drink lemonade!!

Scones should only take about 10-12 minutes and should sound hollow when tapped from the bottom.

All done and cooling on the racks.

That's what mine looked like.

And it is only socially responsible for me to taste ONE (with strawberry jam and whipped cream) to make sure that they were good.

They were good.

And they went down a treat.

The official link to the recipe: CLICK HERE