Monday, 30 April 2012

Discovering Harry Potter and 'how to make a super quick Gryffindor robe'.

Okay, so we're a little late to the party, but my little Sibs has just discovered the joy that is Harry Potter!

On a visit to the library a few months ago she spotted the DVD 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', and wanted to borrow it. So we did a bit of a deal - she could watch it after reading the book.

It took quite a few weeks to get through the book... in fact I seem to remember that we needed to extend the loan, but she persevered and then we sat down a couple of weeks ago to watch the DVD.

Every few minutes she would press pause just to tell us what was going to happen next! Neil managed about 10 minutes before finding a very important job that he just had to do, and I sat through the movie knowing exactly what was coming next even though I'd never read a page!

It was an enjoyable afternoon - we felt that we had ticked another thing off the imaginary list of childhood achievements. So the next book in the series was ordered and Harry Potter wasn't really discussed much more.


She was invited to a Harry Potter themed birthday party. It was all a little last minute (got to love the laid back Australian attitude). It then transpired that it was fancy dress....(of course it was!)

This house then quickly became a Harry Potter house. Wands were sourced - knitting needles, chopsticks, even drinking straws!  Youtube clips were watched over and over again, spells were noted in a special book ...
It was just registering in my mind that I would need to think about some kind of a related costume...


"Can you make me a Gryffindor robe please?"

"In two days?"

Quick trip to Spotlight to get the fabric and a few hours later - ta-da!
A very much simplified version of a Gryffindor robe.

It was actually quite easy to make. I had a few images on the ipad and I opened a few tutorial sites and patterns to give me some ideas. Then I just modified things to suit the lack of time that I had what I wanted.

Here's a few pointers and some hints and tips if anyone needs to whip one up pretty quick.
I didn't take photos as I was making it so have tried to explain things as well as I can.

  • I bought 2 metres of black cotton/calico and 2 metres of reddish lining material. The width of the material was 120cm (or there abouts.) This cost $25 Australian.
  • To measure and to get the shape of the robe Sibs lay on the floor with her arms out to the side and I drew an outline of her body leaving a reasonable gap around her.  It was easier than measuring. Without wooden flooring and chalk you could use paper.

  • Fold the fabric in half with the uncut side at the top across the length of the arms. This made it 1m shoulder to ankle.
  • Cut out following the outline but leave the top uncut
  • Do this with both black and lining fabric. I cut the sleeves of the lining longer so that I could fold it back over the black fabric. See photo above.
  • Just to make sure that the sides were even I cut out around half the outline, folded the fabric in half length ways and cut again following the same side....hope that makes sense!


  • Cut up the centre to make the opening of the robe

    • Hem stitch the sides of the fabric  remember to make sure that it's inside out before stitching!

    • Fold in and press the cuffs of the sleeves and the front opening of the robe about 2cm as this will make it easier to stitch together at the end.
    • Turn the lining robe inside out and place inside the black robe.
    • Pin the robes together and sew
    • If you want the sleeve lining to show, turn it over the black fabric and sew.
    • If you're confident of your sewing skills than you could use red cotton to sew the lining in place. Otherwise with the red fabric on top I used black cotton in the bobbin and red in the machine.
    • We didn't have time to source an iron-on Gryffindor crest so the next best thing was to print the crest and make a badge.


    Thank goodness Sibs wasn't too bothered about the little details, she was just happy to get a robe. As time wasn't on my side, I didn't include a hood or buttons. Sibs really loved the red lining and in hindsight I could have cut the lining a little bigger and folded back along the opening to make it show a bit more. Instead I just folded the opening out and ironed a crease. I suppose it depends how true to the original you want to be?

    The outfit was complete with a white polo shirt and a tie and as we didn't have a grey skirt she just wore black trousers. To try and imitate Hermione Granger's hair, it was washed and plaited the night before the party and then the plaits taken out just before she went.

    The party was a great success and I think this robe will continue to provide some enjoyment in a nine year old's world of make believe...

    Thursday, 26 April 2012

    An epic run...and a little one!

    I recently came across the story of an amazing young man who is doing an extreme challenge - an epic run.
    He is running 50 miles a day for 50 days. (That's 80km!)
    Sam running around Embsay Reservoir
    (Photo by Paula Solloway)
    Sam Boatwright is currently running 2,500 miles around Great Britain raising money for a charity called Help for Heroes. He has a webpage HERE and a Facebook page HERE where you can follow his run and catch updates on his progress. He is planning to finish on May 25th in his home town, which incidentally is where I lived before the move to Australia.

    See the  photo above? I used to go walking there on a Sunday afternoon - I posted about it once HERE

    Embsay reservoir Oct 2006
    It's pretty amazing what Sam is hoping to achieve.
    He says that the messages of support that he's getting is what is keeping him going.
     I think you also have to have a certain mental strength to keep going through that kind of challenge...
    I wish him all the luck and strength.
    Just on the subject - I recently signed up for a challenge.
    Nothing like in Sam's league! Nothing too drastic...(small steps, small steps!)

    It's called the Global Corporate Challenge which is a 16 week virtual walking journey around the world. I will be donning my pedometer and recording the number of steps that I take on a daily basis and then letting the computer work out how many kilometers I cover in a day. It's a team challenge so plenty of motivation to keep it up.

    Now that the weather is cooling a little it's time to get back out there!
    You know the line..."I'm just too busy". I have been hiding behind this excuse for a while.
    The other one is " I'm at work three days a week...".

    It's just an husband can either run or cycle to his work, or on the days that he drives he will pop out during his lunch break for a 10k run...just for some fresh air!

    It's about re-prioritising and finding the time isn't it?

     A bit hard hitting....but makes you think.

    My little challenge starts on May 24th - I'll keep you posted.

    If you want to keep posted on Sam's challenge and encourage him to keep going
    then pop on over to say hello  HERE, and if he's passing through your town - give him a wave.

    Sunday, 22 April 2012

    House styling to attract the big dollars.

    It's amazing what some vision and styling (and some $$$) can do to a house.
    If you like before and after house photos, have a look at these..

    Pretty impressive hey?

    Let me set the scene a bit here. I know this house very well. Well, to be quite accurate I should say I knew this house very well. Every nook and cranny I could have told you about. I almost lived in this house...

    A few years ago I sat on its back deck and penned an offer to the real estate agent.

    I knew that it had potential....but I don't think I could have ever made it look this good!

     The offer was rejected and it stayed on the market for quite a while. The price was reduced, and it still didn't sell. (In the meantime, we had bought elsewhere). The local murmurings were that the sellers were looking for a pretty hefty offer, but the market wasn't willing to pay that much...

     Keep your eyes on the staircase...

    I can't believe the difference.
    What was once a busy, colourful, quite funky looking house (have another look at the original kitchen ceiling)
    is now a complete contrast in it's serenity. It's a pretty extreme makeover.

     I particularly love this area.
    The stairway has been hidden and a study nook created.

    The whole transformation is pretty drastic, but the biggest change for me is the kitchen. 
    Now that's an island bench!
    The kitchen has been moved towards the back of the house and flows into a family dining and living area
    that spills out onto the back deck.

    As the shots haven't quite been taken from the same spot and just to put things into perspective
    here's the 'before' and 'after' floor plans.



    The house is currently on the market and after the effort that's been put into this makeover I've no doubt that it will sell this time. It will be up for auction, which is very popular here in Brisbane so once again the market will decide what it's worth...

    So what do you think?
    Do you prefer the 'before' or the 'after'?

    (all 'after' photos are from Real Estate website and the 'before' ones from here)

    Thursday, 19 April 2012

    Severing those ties (The Lake District)

     During these last couple of weeks we have severed our final (financial) tie with the UK.
    We have sold our little getaway in the Lake District.
    (deep breaths, deep breaths!).

    Rydal Water between Ambleside and Grasmere
    This was our place to go to switch off.
    The place where we created very special memories.

    Isn't it stunning?

    I have been the one to hold onto it...even though I knew it didn't really make sense.
    So I finally succumbed, and now after a few years of contemplation, that's it...
    gone in the time it takes to sign a piece of paper!

    I'm recording some photos here so that I can have one place to go to dip back into the tranquility and breathtaking beauty of the place. Just bear with me...

    Ambleside wakes up...
    This was the view from the living room....
    Some mornings the town would be hiding under the mist and you would slowly see it emerge and come to life.

    This was the view from the kitchen balcony. Straight ahead and you could see the town of Ambleside and to the left you could marvel at the mountains.

    The seasons always felt as if they were enhanced in Ambleside.
    When it was cold it snowed and the mountain peaks would be spectacular.
     In Autumn the lanes were completely covered in carpets of rust and gold leaves.
    In Spring the daffodils would bloom and the lambs would be prancing.
    In Summer....ok, let's not get carried away here...
    Summer was mild and rainy... but I still loved it!

    Autumn in Ambleside
    When I looked back through the photos I struggled to find any where we are not all wrapped up against the elements! So maybe it was just bloomin freezing all the time! Funny how you forget how cold those winds could be...

    My little girl grew up with holidays here and created these memories that will forever be captured in my heart and thankfully in precious photographs

    We celebrated quite a few birthdays and special occasions there. I seem to remember that the champagne was a celebration when we sold our house just before coming to Australia.

    My little Sibs got her first pair of proper shoes there. - I told you there were special memories!

    She loved the swimming pool (thank goodness it was heated) and she would have to have a morning splash and an afternoon one and if she was really lucky just before dinner as well.
    We lived about an hour and a half away and I would sometimes decide to take her there on a whim.
    When she was really little I'd coincide it with a nap time and when she woke up there was always big excitement about going into the pool. 

    Ambleside.....just the name makes me smile.

    Bye, bye our little lakeland apartment.
    Thank you for the best memories.
    We'll be back to visit one day...soon.

    Monday, 16 April 2012

    Aracnophobics look away!

    I know I keep mentioning it - but this time of year is just perfect weather in Brisbane.

    It's ideal for walking as you don't have the blazing sun on your head.

    However, the spiders are out! 

    We decided to go for a walk last week just down by the creek, and this is what we saw...dare you to join me?

    Golden Orb,  Brisbane
    A common species of local spider is the Golden Orb Weaver.
    The males are very small so the ones that we saw guarding their webs were female. Their abdomens were probably about 3-4 cm, but they looked so much larger...Fortunately they are non-venomous.

    Golden Orb, Brisbane

    One advantage of large spiders is that you can see them whilst walking.

    The Golden Orb Weavers have pretty spectacular webs too. It's a really strong web and I have had the very unfortunate experience of walking straight through one. Well, actually walking through isn't quite correct...I got tangled and bounced back! They often weave their webs just at head height so you have to be on the lookout. When you see local walkers ducking for no apparent reason they've spotted one!

    Golden Orb, Brisbane

    When the sun catches the web it's easy to see how these spiders got their name.
    As it was a glorious Autumn afternoon, the sun was just perfect for taking photos.
    The next photo is my favourite (If you can have a favourite spider photo!)
    and shows off the gold colour of the weave perfectly.

    Golden Orb and web, Brisbane
    This particular walk was taking quite a bit longer than planned as I was stopping every few metres to take photos. Those spiders were everywhere!

    Golden Orb, Brisbane

    Some of us weren't quite so enthralled with the spiders...

    and decided that messing around on the scooter was much more fun. That is until a tumble occured.
    Quick cuddle, kiss it better and we were off again.

    All back to normal this week as the Easter school holidays are over.
    We have had a lovely couple of weeks just slowing down the pace of life and catching up.

    Thursday, 12 April 2012

    Easter 4WD adventure.

    The Easter holiday weeks are great for capturing a little of the outdoor lifestyle that Australia offers. The weather is a perfect mixture of warm sunny days and slightly cooler evenings. No humidity to tackle and we're not yet into cardigan and socks time!

    Let me tell you how we are making the most of it.

    In our continued effort to induct ourselves and embrace the Australian way, this week we moved swiftly from High Tea (link here) to 4 wheel driving!

    A couple of years ago we bought a second car. It had very low kilometres, was in great condition and was apparently driven from home to work. It happened to be a 4WD but the closest it had (and has since) ever been off road is through a few puddles!

    That changed this week...

    We didn't go through puddles - they were rivers!
    The road (and I use the term loosely) was a dry track with what felt like ravines with huge boulders running though it! Okay, I might be exaggerating a little for effect - but it was certainly different...

    Sibs was a little subdued in the back seat and then became slightly anxious, so we were careering through the tracks with a nine year old year distracting herself by singing at the top of her voice "The sun will come out tomorrow...!"

    About half way up we stopped and once she realised that the other kids in the other cars were having a ball she perked up. There was also the promise of lunch and being Easter that meant chocolate!

    These were the views that greeted us as we climbed the mountain.
    Miles and miles of nothing but green  - it was breathtakingly beautiful, and the photos only hint at the beauty.

    At the top it was picnic time.

    The snags (sausages) were put on the bbq, the children woofed down theirs and then tucked into decorated hard boiled eggs and of course plenty of the chocolate variety.

    We met a few species of the local wildlife...

    The snake had a very distinctive 'I've just eaten' bulge so we were very careful not to disturb it.
    Thank goodness for a zoom lens...

    Then it was time to descend. Thankfully, not via the same route!

    The sun was beginning to set and we travelled through the countryside back to the city.

    So last Easter we went olive picking, (link here) this Easter is was driving up tracks...
    we'll have to get thinking for next year...

    Hope you had a great Easter break.