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Want to Grow a Bonsai Tree?

Yesterday Mr. Munro and I were listening to the radio while driving down the motorway. Hubby listens to a fuddy-duddy station with lots of chat, but it turned out to be interesting when the discussion turned to bonsai trees.

The lady speaking about them made growing bonsais sound very easy. Hubby and I like projects, so this weekend we’ve done some research.

Although bonsai is a Japanese word, bonsai trees were first known in China back in 1000BC. They were grown as gifts to give to the wealthy and were called pun-sai.

Bonsai Tree

Bonsai are grown in shallow pots and usually kept outside. They should be kept out of direct sunlight because there’s not much moisture in the pots. Quite a few varieties of trees are suitable to turn into bonsais, including several New Zealand natives such as the pohutukawa and kowhai. The lady on the radio mentioned Japanese maples are very pretty since their leaves turn color with the seasons. Basically you choose a seedling or small “junior-sized tree” from the plant nursery. Trim one-third of the roots off the tree and also trim the leaves so you gain a nicely shaped tree. The branches can also be wired to attain an attractive shape. Special soil is required – check at your plant nursery – and of course you need your special shallow pot. Once the bonsai are established, they require yearly root trims and shaping.

We have lots of small seedlings underneath our hedge, and we thought we’d try growing a pohutukawa bonsai.

Here’s a video on how to make your own bonsai tree

Do you like bonsai trees? Have you ever grown one?

A Doggie Treat On Hot Days

Bella

During the hotter summer days we make our puppy an iceblock. It not only keeps her cool but also helps keep her amused if we have to leave her alone for a few hours. You have no idea how much mischief one puppy can get up to if they’re left to their own devices!!

To make an ice block you need:

1 x plastic container plus lid.
an assortment of doggy treats.

We use margarine or ice cream containers. For the treats we use meat scraps, chopped sausages, cubes of cheese etc. If we have them on hand we also use meat juices/stock to flavor the water.

Method: chop up treats and place in plastic container. Fill container with water and place in freezer. Once the ice block is frozen, tip it out of the container and give to your dog on a hot day. The treats tend to sink to the bottom so you might like to fill your container up halfway, freeze, then add some more treats and water so you have treats in the middle of the ice block.

Do you make any special treats for your pets?

Meet Me At The Coffice

These days technology allows us to conduct business from anywhere. We can live in different countries and communicate with each other for business purposes. For example, one of my publishers often holds virtual meetings I can attend in the comfort of my lounge.

On the news the other night, there was an item about a new thing called a coffice. The words comes from a combination of coffee plus office. Coffice.

It seems many business owners are running their businesses from coffee shops, conducting appointments and meeting with clients in their favorite coffee shop rather than at the traditional office.

There are loads of advantages to a coffice.

1. It’s cheaper than renting an office.
2. The coffee is good and always hot.
3. The milk doesn’t usually run out.
4. You never have to do the dishes or clean up after everyone else.
5. Many cafes offer free wi-fi these days for people to keep up with their email or surf the Internet.

I’ve written in coffee shops for years, and I have my favorite coffee shops in various towns. There’s even a pub where I sometimes spend a few hours writing. It’s perfect in winter because they have a huge open fire. I find it easy to concentrate on my writing even with the background noise and find I finish my target number of words in a much shorter time than if I stay at home.

Who knew I was ahead of the times? I’d actually mentioned to my husband not long ago that there were always heaps of business meetings at my favorite McDonald’s McCafe. I’ve eavesdropped on interviews and listened to a man organizing temp workers. Some of the local charities also hold their meetings there.

Do you have a coffice?

Craft Corner: Decorate a Vase

Better Homes and Gardens is one of my favorite lifestyle shows, and I always tape it to watch when I have time. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from writing and writing-related stuff and try a new craft. In one of the show segments, they decorated plain glass vases. Right, I thought. This is the project for me.

I saved some jars – most of them contained pasta sauces and soaked the labels off. The jars need to be spotlessly clean and dry so I put them through the dishwasher. I also used Eucalyptus oil on cotton wool to remove the glue left from the label. It worked like a treat.

The next step was to choose some contact paper. I picked some patterned contact in pinks and some plain gold contact.

Vase

I decided to decorate my jars with circles in two different sizes. You could do squares or stars or any shape your heart desires.

Vase

I used two different sized coins as my guide so that all my circles were even. Draw your shapes on the back of the contact then cut them out.

Vase

Stick the shapes (circles in my case) on the jars. I stuck mine on in a random fashion. I found the backing a bit difficult to peel off once I’d cut out the shapes. A tip – use small scraps of contact to pull the backing off. It worked well for me.

Vase

Vase

This is the finished product, filled with flowers from our garden. :smile:

The great thing about these vases is that you can decorate them to go with your home decor. It’s a good project for kids of all ages.

Toys for Bella

Our puppy Bella is a real terror with her toys. She chews them and rips them to shreds until eventually I need to confiscate them for her safety. I decided I’d try to make her a chew toy.

Toy Materials

I cut up this old blanket, using the checks as a cutting guide. I cut the fabric three squares wide and cut down the lines, leaving one end intact. I ended up with long tassel-like pieces, which I plaited and tied with a knot. The photo below is what I ended up with after the plaiting/braiding.

Bella's New Toy

Bella took to it straightaway and had a fine time tearing around the house with her new toy. She ends up chewing it to pieces but has a few hours of entertainment. When she sees me making a new toy for her she’s there trying to chew it as I’m braiding.

Bella and Toy

Bella and Toy

Mr. Munro came home from hospital today. He has his right arm in a plaster and needs to wear a sling. He can’t drive for eight weeks and has four weeks off work. I can’t see the scar but hubby said it looks like a lightning zigzag – sort of Harry Potterish. Bella and I are pleased he’s home, but I can see that frustration and impatience will make tempers flare during the coming weeks. Mr. Munro is not good at sitting around doing nothing.

Bella Graduates From Puppy School

Last night was Bella’s final class at puppy school. The seven weeks have passed really quickly and have been good for all of us. On the run up to the final class we worked hard with training, practicing several times each day. Our training paid off big time last night when the instructor ran a competition. It was a bit like muscial chairs. The puppies walked in a circle and the instructor shouted out commands for them to sit or drop. The last puppy to complete the command each time was eliminated. Bella sat and dropped like a champ and beat out the last puppy to win bragging rights. She was a real little star and both hubby and I were very proud.

Bella received a certificate stating she’d completed basic training.

Bella

At the end of the class we watched a demonstration of obedience and agility training with some older dogs. I’d love to do agility training with Bella but she’s not old enough yet. She needs to be 18 months old but she’s not quite six months yet. That’s something to consider in the future.

Meantime, hubby and I feel like proud parents…

The Week That Was

The months are passing so quickly. We’ll be off on holiday again very soon. This time we’re going on a cruise of another part of the Pacific. We’re visiting Norfolk Island, Vanuatu and Noumea. I’m looking forward to the short ten-day break.

Mr. Munro visited a school or play center recently for his work. They had a worm farm and Mr. Munro arrived home with everything he needed to create his own worm farm. We already recycled all our kitchen waste into the compost bin, but these days I have to separate out the onion and garlic skins and any citrus scraps. I keep forgetting and that means a telling off. I think I’ve got it straight now, although I haven’t worked up the courage to peer inside the farm to see if I can spot the worms.

The garden has also received a bit of a makeover with some lime chips and some solar lights. It’s made a big difference and the garden is looking very pretty. The lime chips should also stop the weeds coming through. Yesterday, Mr. Munro planted some spring bulbs (rununculars and freesias) because he knows how much I like them along with some garden greens and coriander. I get the job of watering.

Bella has been a little horror since I last posted about her training. I’ve been calling her a devil dog and she’s lived up to the name. She will insist on biting when she gets over excited. I know it’s a puppy thing but I wish she’d get over it. At other times she’s so cute I just want to squeeze her. Ah, the trials of owning a puppy!

Cute Bella

In writing, I’m currently working on a short hot historical and I’m also adding a few words to the follow up story to The Bottom Line. The follow up story belongs to Julia. It’s given me real fits. I don’t think I’ve ever started a story so many times before. The current version has me excited and I’m cautiously optimistic that Julia’s story is on its way.

How was your week?

Warning: An Unladylike Topic Ahead

Most days I go for a bike ride. It’s a great way to get out of the house and combat bottom spread–the writer’s curse. I think I suffer from a very mild form of hayfever or allergies because the minute I go outside my nose starts to run. It’s not enough to cause me distress, but when I’m exercising I tend to breathe through my mouth.

Picture this: Me calmly riding along on my bike with my mouth open and listening to my iPod.

Got the picture? Right. The minute I open my mouth it’s like an invitation to a Rave. The invitation spreads fast and far to every bug in the vicinity. They fly in like kamikaze pilots, diving bombing me to get to the party.

Now, we get to the unladylike topic of spitting.

Here’s what happens. A bug flies into my mouth. First I almost run my bike off the path. I’m choking and gasping and flapping my hands. Oh, good, I think. The bug didn’t get in. Then I feel it. The bug inside my mouth. I gag and splutter and attempt to spit it out. It’s still there. I gather up saliva, swish my mouth and do my very best spit. A great blob of saliva lands on my hand and I start laughing. Remember I’m still riding my bike? Right. I’m now chuckling like an idiot, wobbling down the path, and swiping my wet hand on my T-shirt. Oy!

When hubby reads this he’s gonna laugh. He’s always said I’m a girl when it comes to spitting. Personally I don’t think it’s a skill I need to learn, not unless I come back as a llama or a camel. Then I’ll be in real trouble.

BTW – today’s bike ride was a two-bug day.

How are your spitting skills?

The Latest Must-Have Fashion Accessory

We’ve had our puppy Bella for about two weeks now. She’s the cutest little thing, but she does tend to be a bit cheeky/naughty. When she gets excited she starts to bite. Since she still has her baby teeth, it feels like needles piercing the skin. We definitely want to dissuade her from this habit.

Author Kimberly Menozzi had an excellent hint in one of her recent Thursday Thirteen posts. She keeps a spray bottle filled with water to dissuade her kitten from biting and clawing. I was immediately taken by this idea, deciding it could work with a rambunctious puppy.

This morning Bella was really naughty during her walk. I was half a block from home and decided to return to get the spray bottle. I didn’t care if people laughed when they saw my giant blue spray bottle. All I wanted to do was get her to stop biting both me and the lead.

The spray bottle works a treat. All I have to do is show it to her now and she stops biting furniture or people.

Blue Spray Bottle

Really, a bright blue spray bottle is the very best of fashion accessories for the discerning puppy owner!

Do you have any puppy (or kitten) tips?

I’m visiting Rhonda Print’s blog today. Rhonda did an interview with me and I’m also giving away a download of A Discreet Affair to one commenter. Here’s the link to Rhonda’s blog

Make Your Own Hand & Foot Scrub

During our last holiday one of the special activities on board the cruise ship was making beauty products using items from the pantry.

Below is one of the recipes:

Sweet Brown Sugar Scrub

1 part milk
4 parts brown sugar

Mix the sugar and milk together.

Apply to hands, scrub and rinse. This scrub makes the skin soft yet avoids the use of artificial ingredients. You can also use on elbows, feet, knees and other rough skin. Replace the milk with cream to make an extra silky, rich scrub.