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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?

Attending a Cocktail Party? Make Your Own Fascinator Hat!

I’m really excited to introduce my guest today. Maddy Barone writes romance and has a love of all things paranormal. In her own words, “I’ve been writing since junior high. Werewolves, time travel and handsome princes who can wield magic and lead armies are my thing. Any damsel in distress that I write can darned well rescue herself and if the hero’s ego can’t take that, then he’s not a hero. I want strong men who can respect their ladies and treat them like partners, not dainty little dolls. Is there anything sexier than a tough man who finds that one perfect woman and is willing to do anything for her?”

Maddy is also a keen member of SCA, a non-profit education organization that studies the renaissance and middle ages. She gets to dress up, mainly in garb from the Italian Renaissance but she has Japanese, Viking and Byzantine garb too. Just quietly – she has a rather cool steampunk outfit that I have my eye on. I’m very tempted to launch a surprise attack from New Zealand to nab it for myself!

Today Maddy is taking us through the process of making our own fascinator hat. Give her a warm welcome. Over to Maddy…

How to Make a Fascinator Hat

HRH the Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton) has made fascinators the newest rage in headwear. Appropriate for every social event from weddings to the races to cocktail parties, a fascinator can add the perfect finishing touch to any outfit. But –gulp!—have you seen the prices?! Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to make it yourself? I made this one for $10.00 (USD) in 40 minutes.

Fascinator Hat

Fascinator

Do you think you need to be a milliner to be able to make a fascinator hat? Well, you don’t! All you need are a few things you already have around the house and a couple things from a craft store.

Fascinator Materials

Materials:

A round base. This can be a ready-made sinamay base available from some millinery supply stores and Etsy.com, or a small plastic lid covered with fabric.

Veiling. About 12-15 inches (30-37 cm) This can be purchased from bridal supply stores, eBay, Etsy. But you can do without it too. Use tulle or take a veil off some old hat from the thrift store.

Feathers. I bought mine at JoAnn Fabric & Crafts. I used:
a half-pinwheel of black feathers
a 3 inch piece of black and white marabou feather boa
2 red feather clumps

A focal piece. I used a brooch from my grandmother. You might use a silk flower, a fancy button, a cute bow, a rhinestone earring or clip.

Fastener. I’m using an old black plastic headband. You could use a comb, a clip, a barret or elastic.

Needle and thread or glue. I sewed my items on so I could remove them and re-make the hat with other items and colors, but you could easily use a glue gun if you prefer.

Directions:
1. If you will be using veiling, gather it to a length that will go half way around your base. Stitch or glue in place along the back edge. If it looks a little wonky that’s okay. The wearer can use hair pins to put the edges in place.

Fascinator 1

2. Begin adding your feathers, layering them in whichever fashion you like best. I sewed the pinwheel on first. See what big ugly stitches I used? I plan to take this off and remake it sometime to go with a different outfit. Big stitches are easier to remove, and who is ever going to see them?

Fasinator 2

Fascinator 2

3. When the feather layer is secured by stitching or glue, add your focal piece. I used my grandmother’s brooch. I can take it off and replace it with another one to change my color scheme.

4. Stitch or glue the fascinator to the headband or whichever fastening method you chose.

5. Try on the fascinator. Pretend your hair is perfect, your eyes are dramatically made up and your lips have that 1950s red pout. Use hair pins to arrange the veil in the most flattering way.

You’re done!! Congratulations! You have a fascinator hat to wear to your next cocktail party!

Fasinator Fascinator

Wolf's GloryWolf’s Glory

After the Crash, Book 2

When goth-girl Glory Peterson’s plane crashes she walks to find help. What she finds are people living in teepees like it’s the Old West. Wolf’s Shadow knows Glory is his mate. Glory’s happy to take a roll in the hay with him while she’s waiting for transportation back to civilization, but when she finds out she’s gone fifty years into the future and Shadow is a bossy werewolf who thinks he owns her, her attitude changes fast. Shadow is used to giving orders that are obeyed. Glory hasn’t obeyed an order since kindergarten. When two strong-willed lovers clash, who will win?

Available from Liquid Silver Books Now

Visit Maddy Barone to learn more about Maddy and her books.

CONTEST: Book one in Maddy Barone’s series, After the Crash, is actually one of the ebooks in the ebook bundle I’m giving away. The contest closes soon. Details of how to enter are on my contest page.

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.

Five Plus a Day!

Peppers

In New Zealand we have a five plus promotion that encourages us all to eat at least five servings of fruit or vegetables per day. It’s surprising how many people don’t eat much in the way of fruit or vegetables. I know at times cost can be a factor. At other times it’s diet choice.

During the eighteenth century it was quite common for people to eat a diet consisting almost entirely of meat. Tourists from France and farther afield were very surprised at the lack of vegetables in the English diet. British seamen died in large numbers with scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin C. We obtain most of our vitamin C in fruit and vegetables.

Today, I just scraped in eating cranberries with my porridge, 2 x mandarins, mushrooms, onion, garlic, red peppers and tomato on our homemade pizza.

I know it’s difficult to get kids to eat vegetables some times. I remember having to sit at the table and not being allowed to move until I’d eaten my vegetables. Luckily, my tastes have changed with age and I enjoy most vegetables these days.

Do you manage to eat five plus fruit or vegetables per day?

I Have A Mushroom Farm.

We went to the Farmers’ market last week. We haven’t visited for a while and there were some new stallholders plying their trade. One of them was selling fresh mushrooms and small mushroom farms in buckets. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at growing mushrooms so I purchased one straight away.

Mushroom Farm

This is my mushroom farm on the day I purchased it.

We keep the farm in the lounge because it’s the warmest room in the house. It only needs a misting of water every two to three days and needs to be kept out of draughts and excessive light.

Mushroom

Here’s one of the mushrooms. Mr. Munro said I needed the kiwifruit for a size comparison. We’ve eaten about three of our mushrooms so far, and they were delicious.

The bucket is meant to produce mushrooms for 6 – 8 weeks under ideal conditions. It’s been very cold here but there are actually some tiny pinhead mushrooms appearing. At one stage we thought we were only going to end up with five mushrooms.

Do you like mushrooms?

Lost in Austen.

I’ve been watching a UK drama called Lost in Austen recently and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s based on Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. Here’s the blurb from the TV New Zealand site: Bored bank worker Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper – The Black Dahlia; As If; Hex) literally becomes lost in her favourite Austen book, after she finds a strange portal in her bathroom and swaps places with its heroine Elizabeth Bennet. As she gets to know the Bennet family and encounters the famous Mr Darcy (Elliot Cowan – The Golden Compass), how can she keep this celebrated romance on track?

In the last episode, Amanda and Darcy had a moment and Darcy told her he loved her. Of course, Amanda is worried because he’s meant to marry Elizabeth Bennet, but she does get him to go into the pond and get his shirt wet. It was a very special moment for both Amanda and me!

Here’s the trailer to watch if you’re interested:

Purchase link for DVD: Lost in Austen

I’d like to step into Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series or Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series or Scarlet Woman from my Middlemarch Mates world.

If you could choose a book, a movie or a tv program to step into, which one would it be?

Ah Choo! It’s a Sneeze Fest

I was thinking about sneezing the other day because I scared the dog with a loud sneeze. We’ve all experienced the prickling, tickling sensation that heralds a sneeze. Sometimes they explode out of nowhere at the most inconvient times, such as when you’re driving. I was curious so I googled sneezing…as one does.

A sneeze is your body’s way of expelling an irritant from your nose. It can be dust, pepper, cold air, allergies or viruses that cause the explosion.

When you sneeze you use lots of different muscles — your abdominal muscles, chest muscles, the diaphragm, vocal cords and muscles at the back of your throat. You also use your eyelid muscles since sneezing makes us shut our eyes. Remember that sneeze while you’re driving? Yep, not so good because you automatically close your eyes.

Sometimes we want to sneeze but it doesn’t quite happen. There’s nothing worse! They say one out of three people sneeze when they’re exposed to bright light. I haven’t found that. They also say it’s an inherited trait and runs in families.

Do you sneeze after exposure to a bright light?

Sources:
www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sneeze
www.kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/sneeze.html

Colds, Flu and Winter Ills

On the whole, I’m a fairly healthy person. I don’t catch many colds or flu-type bugs. I think a lot of it is because I don’t have children. When we were kids we were always sick, and I’ve noticed that people with children tend to get sick more. There are a lot of bugs spread around at schools. At least that’s my theory.

My husband thinks we keep healthy because he puts garlic in everything and we eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I know garlic has medicinal properties so he could be right.

The coldest part of our winter doesn’t hit until July and August, so it’s possible I might get sick yet. I’ve never had flu shots. Mr. Munro hasn’t either even though his employer provides them free of charge. My father usually has a flu shot as does my MIL.

Do you get sick every winter? Do you have flu shots? What do you think of my theories?

I Love You

Since I discovered romance when I was about twelve, I’ve been a voracious reader. There’s something about the romantic journey and the growing intimacy between a couple that hooks me, and I’m a real sucker for a happy ending. Some people call romances trite and predictable, but I find the predictability comforting. I like knowing the couple will end up together, and I live for the moment when they admit their love for each other.

I like romances where the couple openly state their love and say the three little words—“I love you.” I’m not as keen on romances where the main couple end up happy-for-now and there’s a hint the relationship might not last. For me, it’s important the couple commit to each other. In all of the books I write, the featured couple admit their love and say, “I love you” because that’s the way I like it.

What about you? Do you need the main couple to state their love or are you fine with merely a happy ending and the implication that they love each other? Are the words important?

Looking Forward To The Future

Yesterday I attended a sales presentation for a retirement village. I’m a long way from retirement yet, but I thought it would be interesting to explore the local retirement village at closer quarters. I’m always ready to do something in the name of research because I never know when it will come in handy for a story. Oh, and did I mention there was a free lunch involved? That was the tipping point since I didn’t have anything better to do.

Like many people I’ve heard horror stories about the way these places work, but hubby and I often see the residents out walking and the grounds look beautiful – what we can see of them.

Let me start by saying that not all retirement villages are created equal. Some go bankrupt because of poor management while others have bad reputations. Some retirement villages include rest homes and hospitals. This one doesn’t, instead catering to those who are fairly independent. Buying into a village like this is not a monetary investment. Residents purchase a right to occupy a property. If they die or require the use of a rest home, their families receive 75% of their purchase price back. The other 25% of the purchase price gets written off over five years. If a resident leaves within five years they get a portion of this 25% back as well, worked out on a daily basis. Once a resident dies, the property passes back to village ownership and is resold.

In return for their money the resident receives security and companionship. They have a say in the running of the village via a representative council and can join in one of the thirty-three activities on offer or they can do their own thing. This particular village has a bus so those who don’t enjoy driving or can’t doesn’t need to depend on friends or family to take them out. There is 24 hour medical care available from a nurse in the case of an emergency. Family and friends are welcome to visit and use the amenities, and they also have a motel room that can be booked for visitors. The amenities include a gym, a heated swimming pool, a bowling green, a restaurant, a library and a bar. The village has an active social club that runs the bar and has happy hour several times a week.

Evidently the bar and happy hour is well attended, but the manager of the club laughingly joked they had a problem with drinking and driving. But, he commented, that was better than the problem of prostitutes some of the other villages experienced. I had to laugh at that. Erotic romance writer that I am, my mind went all sorts of places.

The village management are responsible for building insurance and maintenance, all property rates (taxes) plus water rates. Residents remain responsible for power, telephone and personal contents insurance.

I inspected several of the housing options, which range from apartments to two and three bedroom units. Most of them have beautiful gardens and decent sized outdoor areas. There are gardeners and grounds people to take care of lawns etc, but residents are welcome to do their own gardens. I ride past several of the tidy vegetable plots when I go for my daily bike ride.

I left after lunch and two glasses of red wine (that magically refilled when I wasn’t looking!) with a very favourable opinion of this style of retirement. While it’s not an investment opportunity, a village like this has much to offer a healthy and independent retiree. I’ll definitely be checking it out again once I near retirement age.

I know retirement is probably a long way off for most of you, but do you have any idea of how you would like to spend your golden years?