Trying something different!

Taking a break from my blog is always a good time to reflect. The recent school holidays gave me a couple of weeks with minimum blogging and lots of quality time spent with my girls. 
Once they returned to school, I then took a week to get reorganised and refocussed with what I'm doing and where I'm going with my blogs.  
Taking stock I kind of felt like it was a case of Dream Vs Reality.

The Dream
 for me is having one or more successful blogs that I enjoy producing and that bring in a decent income, at least equivalent to what I could earn if I went to work for somebody else.

The Reality
 of this is that I have 3 blogs (this one, Be Our Best and A Fitter and Healthier Me). 
I love producing them and working on them, so that's a definite plus, but as for earning an income?  $100 - $200 a month isn't quite a salary. It's a start but not quite enough to reflect the hours I put in....YET!! 
Unfortunately I seem to be stuck at this 'level' of traffic and income for my blogs and have been for a while.

So, I'm still figuring out how to turn my dream into a reality.

A quote that has been in the forefront of my mind lately - and I've put up on the whiteboard above my desk is:

"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily."

I feel this quote reflects the changes I have made over the last couple of years with regard to my fitness. Instead of just doing whatever exercise I felt like, I decided that in order to make the improvements I wanted, I needed to be more focussed. 

I began to follow exercise and running programmes which told me what I needed to do each day. This was different to the exercise I had been doing and aside from enjoying the discipline and order of having set workouts to do and check off my plans, I began to see much better and more measurable results than I had previously.

I'm still following fitness programmes and plans and have started to document my learning and progress on my newest blog - 

In the case of my fitness, I changed what I did daily - and it really did result in a bigger positive change in my overall life.

Replicate this success
So this is what I need to do with other areas of my life. In order to make more progress, I need to change something I do daily.

Another quote I have up on my whiteboard just now is:

"Successful people ask better questions and as a result they get better answers."

So I've come up with a new plan of attack to try to make my own dream a reality. My plan very simply is...

To ask better questions on a daily basis!

What kind of questions should I be asking?
To figure this out I've been looking again at trying to nail down exactly what it is I do (and want to do) and why. 
This is something I'm constantly working on.  

I love sewing and have produced over 100 free sewing tutorials for my blog. I also have a particular interest in and passion for upcycling - reflected in my ongoing linky - 600+ clothes upcycling projectsmy current clothes upcycling challenge for 2015, and of course the e-book I produced last year for making Eco-friendly shopping bags - largely from upcycled materials.

But what I do is more than just sewing and upcycling. I love when I can motivate others to have a go and do things. I'm a big fan of people doing things for themselves - not just handing over responsibility to others. I feel particularly strongly about this in terms of things you can make instead of buy.  I was brought up with the mentality of  looking at things that you want, and figuring out if you can make it yourself.  Some of this I think was borne of financial necessity, but there is also a certain satisfaction in solving your own problems and making things more personalised too, rather than always just buying a solution. This approach is often more environmentally friendly too - using supplies you have already got rather than always buying something new.

Use What You've Got

This philosophy was what spurred me to start my second blog -
 Be Our Best. When a friend was telling me she was considering getting a special tutor for her daughter to help her with her school work. Her daughter was only in grade 1 at the time. 
I feel that particularly in primary school, there is so much we can do with our kids to help them with their school work - that doesn't involve just workbooks and extra study. Playing games, baking with them, going places, reading books - there are so many simple everyday activities can help develop those basic skills taught at primary school. I wanted to share these ideas and what we do with our kids on this blog to show once again that the answer isn't always just to spend money and buy a this case a tutor. A better way to look at things is to 'use what you've got' - be that supplies or games or simply time and imagination.

Crafting with a purpose
My sewing and crafting is also something I like to do with a purpose. I either make things my girls want - like pencil cases, aprons, toys and bags, but also I find fabric in charity shops, remnant boxes or perhaps old clothes and see the potential of what it can be turned into - something useful!

So essentially, I've decided that I'm going to look at what I do in a different way from now on, because:

"Success comes from doing things differently."

My new plan of action


Each day I will focus on a particular problem - be it a crafting supply I need to use up in my stashbusting goal for 2015,  clothes I need to transform into items to sell for my girl's school carnival, an item that my girls want to buy - (there are mutterings of a new fancy pencil case just now), or even left overs in the kitchen I need to transform into a tasty meal or snack. Some of these problems I may be able to solve in a day, some may take a week. 

I'll also be taking this approach for my other two blogs - identifying 'problems' and finding solutions. So things my girls need help with  - perhaps homework, after school activities, challenges they face etc; and finally with my fitness blog - I'm constantly trying to learn and improve my fitness and diet, so looking at that as problem - solution will work well too.

Finally, I'm a big fan of Anthony Robbins - who I find to be a great motivator, and I often listen to his CDs in the car. One thing he identifies as important is that 

"you should never leave the site of a goal without taking a step towards it."

So - here's the first problem I'm going to work on with regard to my creative blog. This is something that will help in both my stashbusting and my clothes upcycling challenge for 2015.

I found these notebooks, pens, pencils and erasers on sale for literally a few cents a (long) while ago and bought them with the school carnival stall in mind.
So I've decided to finally get around to using them up and combine them with making something using the old clothes stash for the school stall. 
My first thought is something like these
I shall have to adapt it somehow since I don't have coloured pencils, and the pencils and pens I have are longer than these folders - plus I have the erasers to use too. Any suggestions are very welcome!

You can follow along with my progress with finding solutions to my 'problems' here on my blog - but also on Facebook where I share plenty photos and inspiration.

How about you?
Do you have a 'Dream vs Reality' situation too?
What are you working towards and do you have a plan in place to get there?


Jeans Pocket Turtle - another clothes upcycle.

After a break from sewing over the school holidays, it's time to get back to my clothes upcycling challenge.
Since the purpost for all these things I'm making is to sell them at my daughter's class stall at their school carnival this year, I want to come up with some ideas that the kids themselves can help make so that they are involved too and can take some ownership of the stall.

I saw these jeans pocket turtles on pinterest ages ago and have been wanting to try them ever since.

I found a pair of jeans that had been well used for other projects,
but still had the two back pockets and a little denim fabric too - just perfect for a turtle!

It was a simple matter of unpicking both pockets and cutting out a head and 4 flippers:

I stitched a couple of buttons on the head for the eyes, then stitched the head and 4 flippers right sides of the fabric together and leaving a gap for stuffing. I then turned them all out the right way and stuffed them lightly before pinning them in between the two pockets right sides facing outwards and stitching the double row of stitching (where I had previously unpicked the pocket from the jeans) to seal it all together. I had to leave a small gap at the side to stuff the main body, but then just machine stitched the opening closed.

I think he turned out really well. And definitely simple enough for the kids to try making themselves. I think I'll get my girls to try making some first!

I was also thinking of perhaps personalising the turtles a little on their 'shell'. the kids could add an applique letter, or some decorative stitching perhaps?  Something else to try.

What do you think?

To see what else I've made so far from old clothes for the school stall, click here.

And to keep up to date with my progress on this challenge and plenty of other upcycling and other cool ideas, I would love if you followed me on my Facebook page!


Pavlova - the recipe!

I posted this picture of a pavlova I made a couple of days ago when I had cream, eggs and fruit to use up, and was asked if I'd post the recipe!

Pavlova is a dessert believed to have been created in honour of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, when she toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.
Australians and New Zealanders still argue over the true country of origin!

Whoever created it - hats off to them, it's a very tasty dessert - crispy on the outside and soft yummy meringue on the inside!

So here is how to make one:

4 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Cornflour
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Essence
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
200g (8oz) Caster Sugar
Fresh Fruits

Preheat Oven to 140C (280F).
Add salt to egg whites and whisk until stiff. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until very stiff. Stir in cornflour, vanilla and lemon juice. Spoon onto baking sheet to form a 3cm (1") deep circle.
Bake for around 1 hour until it looks pale brown and is hard to touch.
Allow to cool, then top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Book Covers - A Birthday Present

Today is my elder daughter's birthday!
This year she asked for something I could make for a present, so of course I was very happy!

She started high school this year and has lots of exercise books for all her different subjects. She asked for fabric covers for them so she can easily identify each subject's book! I'd made a couple for my girls before for different sized books. 

I had fun choosing my prettiest and most fun fabrics for her.

This one is a final remnant I had from when we decorated her room - it's on her roman blind, a bolster cushion and her pinboard...and now a book cover!

I'm sure she'll love them.
It's always nice to make things for my girls!

She'll definitely have the brightest books at school - and they're not likely to get mixed up with anyone else's.

Do your kids ever ask you to make things for them for their birthdays and Christmas presents?  


Progress on my Clothes Upcycling Challenge 2015

This year I've set myself a clothes upcycling challenge to upcycle this pile of clothes...
...into things to sell at my girls school carnival this year - to try and show there is a way to fund raise using resources we already have (these clothes were left over from last year's carnival clothes stall) and skills parents are happy to share.  This is after years of frustration with simply being asked to donate money or buy things to donate. To read more about this - and a great discussion in the comments afterwards, you can read my post, 

But getting back to the clothes upcycling. 
I sorted all the clothes into this chest of drawers:

My plan is to work my way through one drawer every two months so that I finish it all by the end of October when the carnival takes place.

My first drawer is now basically complete after the first two months - February and March! Just scraps left - which I will use in future projects.

So now it's onto the next drawer which I need to complete through April and May.

As I did with the last drawer - I have sorted through the clothes and worked out a rough plan of what to make each week. This may change as I get more ideas, but I need to have a plan to get started.

I'm really pleased with my progress on this project - on target for what I want to achieve, and lots of great things made for the stall already! 
If you want to see any details of what I've made already - there are links and tutorials here.

My other challenge this year - to use up my own fabric stash, isn't progressing quite so well.  I've wondered why I'm doing so well with one challenge but not the other, and have decided that a lot of it has to do with a specific goal - and other people are involved.  I'm upcycling the clothes for a clear purpose - there is a definite 'why' and other people that will benefit from this challenge - my girls and their school!

Using up my own fabric stash only has the why of - I've got too much stuff and I need to clear more space. It's not a clear or specific enough goal. I think I shall have to rethink this one and find a clearer purpose so that I can clear this fabric stash.

Did you have plans, challenges and goals for this year?  How are you going with them so far?