Archive for the ‘homemade’ Category

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?
Fall behind, way way behind. This is the time of year when – ooh, look, something sparkly – I can easily get distracted. There is a very small child inside of me who is all agog about coloured lights, baubles, and glitter. When December begins every year, I imagine I’ll carry on just the same way I have the rest of the year, that I’ll do all my writing jobs each week the same as normal. And every year, on the first weekend of December, I go to the Xmas market and start my gift shopping. Something gets ignited within, and from then on, for the rest of the month, my life turns into a whirlwind of Xmas-related things. I watch all the movies and cooking shows about how to make festive dishes. Working on my stories starts to take a back seat to list-making, shopping, catch-ups, get-togethers, and sparkles.

I have to-do lists as long as my arm. I make the annual greeting card and post them to family and friends. The boys and I bake the big Christmas cake (rich fruit cake). We go visit friends with food and gifts. We attend group lunches and end-of-year dinners. I go out shopping most days, to various carefully chosen stores to buy small gifts for family and friends. I wrap gifts. Wrapping gifts is one of the most universally hated jobs. Not for me. I make an evening out of it. I treat it like a craft project, getting out my boxes of ribbons, papers, and bows. It’s fun.

I still have the end-of-year maintenance jobs to do: washing the house and the windows, cleaning and repainting the three verandahs, and repainting the bathroom. I’ll add them to my “to-do” list. December is a juggling act. I intend to relish every moment of this wonderful season. The food, sunshine, time with family, and vacations. What’s not to love? Hello, Summer. (Yes, here in the southern hemisphere it is summer!)
Wherever you are for the month ahead, whatever you celebrate, I wish you every success. And I hope you do celebrate, make (or order) a big cake, light some candles, play beautiful music and enjoy the coloured lights. After the year we’ve had, we deserve a party. A big party.

Writing? What writing? LOL.
Happy Holidays!

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Let it be easy. ~ Anon
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Spring. My vegetable seedlings are growing. Unfortunately, the season of pests is also well underway. There is more whitefly whizzing around, more butterflies, etc. So begins months of trying to stay ahead of the critters, birds, and greeblies seeking to feast on my crops. I tend to use a combination approach. I will set several traps and use a variety of sprays. It’s a matter of figuring out what works best for you. I try to keep the use of chemicals down to a minimum, but if you don’t mind using chemicals, you can buy everything you need from the store readymade.

I started gardening when I took over maintenance of this property about thirteen years ago (though I have lived here as an adult for over twenty years). It has been learning by trial and error, as I have figured out how to get nourishing things to grow while also controlling the noxious things. I started out using every chemical they sold. But over the years, I have figured out ways I can make products myself fairly easily.
The homemade spray I do for whitefly works a treat. Cut up two onions and a bunch of garlic and put them in a sealable jar. Fill with water before doing the lid up tight. Leave this pungent mixture outside or in the garage to cure for as long as possible. In spring, open the jar and strain the liquid. Spray this obnoxious liquid on the underside of the leaves of all the bushes and trees where whitefly is congregating. The smell is so strong that it scares them away. This spray has cut the whitefly population in our garden by as much as half. The smell seemed overwhelming for us, too, initially. But, never fear. Though it quickly faded away, it was enough to deter the pests for a long time.

Stickies are a store-bought alternative. The flies get trapped on the long sticky tapers. You can buy the strips at hardware stores and gardening outlets and hang the stickies in between the crops.
At present, our fruit trees have bloomed and are losing their petals by the day. The guava moth is the primary pest for stone fruit and feijoas where we are. The moth lays eggs in the unripe fruit which then develops into a small caterpillar greeblie that burrows its way through the fruit, ruining it. The guava moth came over to New Zealand from Australia. In Australia, they are predated by a particular type of bird. But the moths have no natural predators here and are laying waste to neighbouring fruit trees far and wide. When the first green fruit starts to appear in our yard, I spray it with Neem oil. It’s a purely natural bug repellant, which you warm up and then add to warm water. Spray in the early evening after most bees and things have settled down. Spray the fruit, the leaves, and lastly around the base of the tree even coating the ground beneath. And repeat two to three times throughout the growing season.

Tackling the guava moth successfully requires a two-pronged attack, the Neem oil sprayed on, and a moth trap. I’ve tried all sorts of store-bought traps to reduce the population of moths on my property, and there is one extremely effective trap – The Little Bugga. It works by radiating a little solar ultraviolet purple light and the moths drown in the oil held in a trough beneath. It works well, getting a far higher kill rate than other traps, but it costs $90 and only lasts for a year. The inventor lives in the far north of the country and does not supply replacement parts or batteries. So the device operates as long as the batteries last, then you have to buy a whole new trap. These days, unless I do both the Neem oil and the moth trap, nearly the entire crops of plums and feijoas will be potholed.

For caterpillars, aphids, and other pests, I use a homemade all-purpose spray. Mix five litres of water with one cup of cider vinegar and a squirt of dishwashing detergent. Spray onto your seedlings and leaves every two weeks or less. For my tips on how to make your own slug and snail traps, check out my earlier post, Backyard Gardening 3.
It’s the time of year for a ton of work, frankly, but it’s worth it. I enjoy every stage of growing our food. Once the crops and fruits start producing more food for our table it’s wonderful, and the therapy of getting your hands dirty ain’t half bad. I love spring!
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe. ~ Thomas Berry

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I have finished the backyard gardening course put on by our local council. The webinar series featured a gardening expert, Paul, teaching basic tenets and techniques for backyard gardeners like myself who want to grow more vegetables. The course has been educational. I have learned more than I expected.
The first vital tenet for the home gardener is to develop your ground. The message our tutor Paul repeated most often was to feed the soil and use organic matter to improve it. The organic matter can come from worm bins or compost heaps and needs digging in. Alternatively, it is easy to buy compost by the bagful, which Paul advocated spreading on top of the beds. Fertilizers come in hard (pellet form), liquid, or soft (powdered). Pellets need to be dug through beds and left for two weeks before use, preferably three to four weeks.

I usually buy a bag of sheep pellets once a year and sprinkle it around the garden. I did not realize that I was at risk of “burning” the plants if the pellets ended up against the stems or trunks. Fertilizer powders like blood & bone or powdered seaweed work faster and are safe to use. Always dig them in on a rainy day to save yourself and your house wearing the powder. These products should be dug through first and left to settle for a week or two before planting.
The buzzword these days is tea, especially the homemade kind. In the first post on this subject, Backyard Gardeners, I shared how to make worm tea. If you don’t have a worm farm, or even if you do, you can also make other fertilizing teas, like sheep pellet tea and compost tea. It is best to vary the kinds of products you feed your garden. Just as we need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong, so do our plants.

Sheep pellet and compost teas are both made the same way. Quarter fill a bucket with pellets/compost, then fill the bucket preferably with rainwater. Again leave for three to four weeks. Then you have fertilizer tea to put in your garden. Typically, the tea is strong, so make sure to dilute it 50/50. Throw the remains of the pellets and compost back onto the compost heap and start your buckets again. And though you might feel tempted to feed your ground more often, once a fortnight is plenty.
As to pests, I was surprised that when it came to controlling the critters munching on our vegetables, the first thing Paul said was, “Don’t worry too much. Most plants will outgrow the pests.” Then, after half an hour of dispensing advice about the various insecticides available, he said the easiest, cheapest way of dealing with pests eating our vegetables was to spray them with a homemade mixture: mostly water with a bit of detergent. Yay! Love it.

An advocate of natural pest control, Paul recommended encouraging birds (who predate on snails and caterpillars) into the garden by providing water and feeders. He suggested employing companion planting, where certain plants are grown together because they repel pests. He also told us about a company in NZ called Bioforce that supplies predatory insects to consume the bugs bothering your plants. There are all sorts of natural, simple ways of dealing with issues in the garden.
My advice? Throw yourself into it. That’s what I did fourteen years ago, and I am obsessed with my garden and growing our fruit and vegetables. The main thing every gardener must remember to do is to love your plants! (My advice, not Paul’s). I believe plants respond to attention and love. I talk to my plants, even sing to them. Why not? You’ll be happier either way.
More another day, green thumbs.
Why not have a go and get gardening!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Gardening is active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe. ~ Thomas Berry

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

One of the changes I made to the backyard here last year was to take out the old fishpond. It was a feature my ex-husband put in about twenty-five years ago. For the last twelve years, I have been responsible for the pond he left behind, feeding the fish, replacing dead ones, and doing the stinking job of cleaning it out every six months. With the warmer temperatures and a much warmer winter in 2021, the pond needed cleaning more often, and frankly, I tired of doing it. In the interest of “doing less” in 2022, (one of my New Year’s resolutions), I decided to remove it.

I gave the goldfish away and emptied the pond. Underneath the plastic liner, I found the edging was made from native hardwood and was still sound. Naturally, I kept the edging, thinking I could turn it into a raised bed.
As November and December went by the deep cavity left by the pond slowly became filled with clay (debris from other garden projects). A small clay mountain in my backyard was not the replacement for the fishpond I had been anticipating. Time to start the process of transforming the clay into friable soil suitable for growing vegetables.

Where I live the area is quite well known for being built on clay. The topsoil was stripped when the land was developed back in the 60s and it generally takes a lot of work to create viable vegetable plots. In the past, I have simply bought in topsoil and compost. But, since I created my compost heap last year, I wanted to employ that resource for this bed and endeavour to work with the clay. I began by moving the hardwood edging I had saved into place.

Under ordinary circumstances, if you aim to turn the dense ground into soil good enough for growing things, you would start working compost and organic matter into the dirt, and within a few years, you would reach the objective. However, there is a quicker way. The magic world of mycelium. This is a type of underground fungi that holds soil together and integrates all landscapes. Mycelium is known as the great molecular soil disassembler of mother nature. It was the first life on the planet billions of years ago, preceding soil and plants, a ‘microbial universe that gives rise to a plurality of other organisms.’

You can transform clay into ‘the good oil’ using compost alone, but if you add mycelium then you accelerate the process exponentially. Mycelium can even convert stone into soil. The oxalic acids and enzymes it produces grab calcium and other minerals, forming calcium oxalates, which are the first step in forming soil. *If you want to know more about mycelium, check out the work of Paul Edward Stamets, an American mycologist, and entrepreneur who sells various mushroom products through his company. He is an author and advocate of medicinal fungi and mycoremediation.
To find mycelium for your garden projects, all you need is a small amount of tissue, which can be found in the ground of old-growth forests. Or you can contact the Stamets website for purchase details.

The first step for my bed was to sprinkle lime over the clay. This is known to break down heavy ground into the soil eventually. I watered this in well. Then I lay on top of the lime old partly-rotted branches and sticks from elsewhere on our property. I watered this in also. For mycelium, I didn’t want to go digging in the public forests because it’s illegal. Instead, I went to my lovely compost heap. Now, as it happens, I’ve been lax and have failed to keep turning the contents regularly and what this has done, unbeknownst to me, is allow the mycelium to grow. The sign of the presence of these fungi in the ground is when the dirt is spongy. I used a spade to get down through the layers of compost and discovered spongy ground. Then I dug out my very own mycelium. Score!

I spread this precious network of cellular architecture on top of my partly-rotted branches on the clay and covered it with some of the lighter material from the compost heap. Again, I watered it carefully. The mycelium should now produce the oxalic acids and enzymes and form the calcium oxalates that will accelerate the desired changes. I set bricks beneath the hardwood edging to give the raised bed more stability and strength.

Last but not least, I laid some old palm fronds over the top to give the contents some much-needed shade from the intense heat of our summer sun. Now, all that is needed is daily watering to keep the mycelium and compost damp, so that it can do its good work. I’m excited to see what takes place and shall be keeping an eye on my soil experiment. Once, I have established friable rich ground in this bed, then the planting can begin. Yay!
If you have kids who are gamers, they will likely already know about the benefits of mycelium. My sixteen-year-old said, ‘Mycelium, oh yeah, I use that sometimes playing Minecraft.’ Gotta love that. Happy gardening.

What sort of soil do you have? If clay is an issue, what have you tried to change the condition? I’m open to further tips.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius


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It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow. If your festive season is anything like mine, you will have been invited here, there, and everywhere. Each time, people asked you to bring “a plate” (or food to share). Last weekend, I joined a group of my oldest friends for our usual Christmas get-together. Normally, we meet at restaurants for long, boozy dinners which are an absolute hoot.

But, this year, with the lockdowns and current restrictions on movement, we opted to meet for a late lunch at one of my girlfriend’s houses. She asked us to bring a plate. My go-to, and I mean nearly every time, is to make a frittata. It is adequate for lunch or dinner. Having a recipe you know like the back of your hand is mighty useful, especially in the festive season when there are so many extra jobs to do and quite frankly, the brain is fried (pardon the pun). A frittata is delicious, too.
My tip: Everything tastes better home-grown and homemade.

Whenever I make this dish, people ask me for the recipe. I thought I would share it here as well. It is an easy and tasty meal for eight to ten, although you could halve it for a family of five. Left-overs will freeze and can reheat perfectly well at a later date. If reheated, I like to add a little sprinkle of fresh cheese on the top before baking it again.

Ingredients List for Frittata:
1 large potato, a large carrot, and kumara or sweet potato
2 decent-sized slices of bacon
1 red onion
I zucchini
6 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
12 eggs
1 small block (250g) of mild cheese, grated
Black olives pitted
Small oblong tomatoes, whole
Capers or any other yummy things you like

Here’s how to make your Frittata:
There are a few things to do in advance. It’s possible to prepare the first elements the night before without spoiling. You boil or steam the chopped-up root vegetables. I used potatoes, carrots, and kumara. Alternatives that work just as well are pumpkin, parsnip, and swede.
When you need to make the frittata, you start by frying up some short strips of bacon. I used two big strips and cut them up to pinkie-size. Then put them aside to dry on paper towels. The paper towels soak up the extra oil. Fry the mushrooms, the zucchini, and the onion separately. Let them cool on separate plates with absorbent paper towels.

Grease an oven-proof dish. I used a rectangular oven tray with tall sides. I think it tastes better if you can make a deeper frittata with more layers.
Now’s the fun part – building your layers!
Spread out the root veggies on the bottom of the dish. Set the bacon strips in between.

At this stage, sprinkle a layer of cheese – and season with generous salt and pepper—it makes a big difference to the taste. Next, set out the mushroom and onion mixture over the top of that. Add another layer of root vegetables and bacon.
Beat together the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables until you have covered the filling.
Dot in big black olives and small oblong tomatoes (like the Sunburst variety) and sprinkle a few capers on the top. Season with salt and pepper and cover in the grated cheese.

Bake at 150 degrees – slowly. I left it in the oven for about an hour or more. You know it’s done when the cheese has pleasant colour, and the mixture stays solid when you wobble the tray.
Bon appétit!
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

I wish you good eating, celebrations with loved ones, and joy. Happy holidays, everyone!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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When you get up in the morning, you have two choices–either to be happy or to be unhappy. Just choose to be happy. ~ Norman Vincent Peale


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Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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The weekend before last, I hosted my girlfriends here for a garden tour and a picnic lunch. What I needed was a dessert that could do double duty as a delectable after lunch treat and a take home treat for my guests. Cookies, or “biscuits” as we call them down here in New Zealand, seemed the perfect answer.

Whenever the occasion calls for cookies, I always go to my favourite ever treat, my legendary chocolate walnut cookies. It’s a dreamy dessert I concocted years ago when I got sick of making plain vanilla biscuits. I’m a big fan of adding nuts to baking. When I first devised this recipe, which is basically a richer version of a chocolate chip, I used macadamia nuts to contrast with the brown of the chocolate. But in the interests of making them more affordable, I changed to walnuts with some pecans thrown in for a variety of taste and texture.

Ingredients List:

125 g butter

¾ cup Demerara sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence or extract

1 large egg

1 cup walnuts and pecans, roughly chopped

Kingsize block or 125 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2 cups organic white stone-ground unbleached flour

1 tsp baking powder (organic if you can get it)

Solid pinch of Himalayan salt

Here’s how to make your cookies:

Cream together butter and sugar until lighter and texture. Add egg beating well. Add a generous pinch of salt. Sift flour and baking together, mix into butter and sugar mixture. Add chocolate and nuts, mix to combine.

Form into small balls, setting them out on an oven tray. Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes.

I made these cookies the day before the garden tour. Once they had cooled fully, I filled the cookie jar for our table at lunch. Then I packaged two to three cookies into each small cellophane bag. These I popped these into my plain brown paper bags.

I added a fresh sprig of bay leaves from our amazing bay leaf tree to each bag. And then I could send each guest home at the end of our lovely day together, with cookies and fresh bay leaves. Everybody loved it. People like a slight gesture and it makes them feel special. Mission accomplished.

Enjoy!

If you try them, let me know what you think…

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom. ~ Thomas Carlyle

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When I first started this blog, I shared how to make a homemade greeting card at this time of year. The tradition of making my own cards with photos of my youngest boys started with my middle son’s birth. Samuel was born with Down Syndrome in 2002, and featuring him on our card was a way of celebrating his arrival.

Sam’s younger brother came along two years later, and I’ve made these photo cards every year since then. I love the ritual of taking the photo for the card and bringing out all my card-making materials. Crafts are fun! Just seeing my glitter and stickers and the carefully saved paper brings a smile to my face. It’s like being a kid again. Personally I am a fan of homemade looking festive things rather than the store-bought variety.

This year I failed to get my two teenage boys to smile for our greeting card photo, however, it’s still an excellent likeness of them and I made the best of the shot I got. For those who are new to this blog, I will share how we make our family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Start by organising the kids, the dog, whatever your subject is, and snapping your photo for the card. Then print on regular A4 paper at a dinky size and cut out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the dollar store) and make them smaller. I use “guides” for the sizes which I made myself out of cardboard, so the layers have the same dimensions.

You have the first two items you need for your card, a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible) and a stack of your cut out photos.

Next is the saved wrapping paper. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper for making the following year’s cards.

At this stage in the card production, I take my saved paper, set the iron on a low heat and iron out the wrinkles. *My tip, iron the paper with the picture side down, in case any ink comes away. Then it doesn’t mar your iron’s surface and it also protects the ink.

Take a second cardboard “guide” that is smaller than the card and larger than the photo. Cut your saved Christmas paper to this size.

Now you have your photos, your cards, and cut-down Christmas paper.

The next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix.” This is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. Hot Fix come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat and the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

The first step of constructing the cards entails gluing the Christmas paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends like a flag.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile various weights on to press them. The second step is to glue the photo on top.

The third step is the best part—embellishments! Time to decorate the front of the cards with the glitter and ‘gems’ and stickers and doodads to your heart’s delight.

Inside each envelope I like to include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Make sure to match your envelope as closely as possible to the size of the card. It looks better that way.

Write personal messages inside your works of art and post away.

What do you think of this year’s greeting card?  

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Since the book launch of my middle-grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, I’ve had a lot of positive response to the map and character list in Book Three, The Last Tree. These were my son’s idea, I should be clear. My eldest son had been reading the first books in the series, The Or’in of Tane, and The Sasori Empire to his ten-year-old daughter as bedtime stories, and said they got confused who was who or where the characters were. He suggested I include a map and character list to the third book I was working on. So, I added them to The Last Tree and the favourable response has been unanimous.

One reviewer said,

“Of the three books in the trilogy, this one is by far our favourite. My friend’s 12-year-old and I read all three books and compared notes at the end of each one, and we were in complete agreement on this. What made it stand out was the inclusion of the map at the start, which made tracking Aden’s journey much easier. The other useful item was the List of Characters at the end. I only wish the list had been included in the first book of the series because I would really have liked to be able to refer to it from the start. I started my own list when I was halfway through Book 1 because I kept forgetting which insect family the various characters belonged to. Best of all would be to include it in all three volumes.”

I thought that seemed like good advice. My book designer, Amy, said if I were to add a map and character lists to the first two books that it would only take her 1.5 hours to put them in the digital files. Long story short, I added them. The character lists were easy. The maps took a lot longer. They can be fiddly to do, but maps add so much, especially when you’re writing fantasy, speculative or Sci-fi fiction.

Here’s my simple ‘how-to’ guide:

I draw mine freehand with a pencil and paper, as I like the ‘handmade by the author’ look.

Whether you draw on paper or use a computer, every map needs a compass, so find due north. Draw the compass settings, north, south, east and west in the corner of a blank page. Then start the map with an outline of the area.

For the first book in the series, I mapped Shining River Forest. Whenever I’m in the world-building stage of writing, I make a rough map of the area and so I went to my early sketch of the rain forest and used that as a broad template.

It is essential to be accurate so read the story and take notes as to landmarks, places that feature in the narrative and the directions. Transfer these locations onto the new map, using the compass as a guide.

Next, take a piece of tracing paper and trace a copy of the image in black pen. Then use the tracing to transfer your map to a clean piece of paper. Draw all the lines and markings in with permanent ink. Add extras like wavy lines to the waterways and oceans, little triangles for the forests, mounds for the mountain peaks, and write in the place names and landmarks.

Use a ruler to make a key line with an ink pen around the edge of the map and use the ruler to measure for a second key line further out.

I created a fleur-de-lis pattern within the lines to create an interesting border and filled in the blank spaces with permanent marker to make it more striking.

Add a banner or sign with the name of the location. Bing, bam, boom. Map!  

I made a second map for Book Two, The Sasori Empire of The Lost Island. To get the outline of the island and make it more realistic, I copied the outline of a random small island from the world atlas and made it a little larger. Then I went ahead, following the same format as for the other two maps. A tricky issue with this one was that part of the setting for Book Two is in Zenith, which is underground and upside down to the rest of the island. I came up with the idea to turn the map upside down and added Zenith that way. I think it looks quirky and cool.

Why not try personalising your story with your own map? It’s easy!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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“The arts matter because they allow us to express ourselves and illustrate the world around us in a different light, helping us to gain understanding, build communities, and give hope.” – Kelli Rogowski

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I inherited a fishpond with this property. My ex husband put the pond in during the ten-year period he was living here, and as usual it was one of his do-it-yourself creations. He’s always been a fish guy. When he left, I took over care of the pond and scores of fish.

Slowly, as the last eleven years have gone by, the fish stock has dwindled down to two survivors. I’m not a fish guy.

The pond admittedly was looking overgrown. I had cleaned it out a few times, but the plastic liner was getting old. Last year, with all the rain we had in winter, the pond filled up to the brim as it always does, but this time the water was brown. I didn’t know what to do. So I rang the ex husband. I said, “Isn’t the brown water going to kill the fish?” He said, “Well, it’s not good for them. You need to replace the liner every ten years.” I said, “Thanks for telling me.” Oh, dear! There was nothing I could do because the garden was a sea of mud the rest of winter.

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I hadn’t seen a sign of the goldfish since then and had assumed they were both dead. 

We’ve had a hotter than usual spring and summer in New Zealand and pond water evaporates fast in the heat. Instead of refilling, I thought I’d let the water mostly evaporate naturally, as the fish were dead. I was planning to fill in the hole in our lawn. This week, I poked around in the fetid water but there was no sign of anything living. So I started emptying the rest of the pool with a bucket. When I got down to the last inches, suddenly there was a flash of red. There was a survivor, just one, but, hey.

Suddenly, I was back in the fish business. I had to figure out how to recreate the ex husband’s D-I-Y pond and save the goldfish.

by Gary Cook

It wasn’t difficult at all. In fact it was fun. In the interests of sharing how easy and cheap it is to create your own fishpond in your backyard, I thought I’d share the steps with you.

Instructions

Start by digging a hole in the lawn. Don’t just dig a boring square or an oval, do something off-beat and interesting. Dig down in stepped levels. Think of fish as intelligent beings in need of mental stimulation (and water and food). Who wants bored fish, just hanging there? Give them something to do to keep them feisty for as long as possible.

Line the hole with plastic. Here’s a tip. Don’t go to the landscaping section of your hardware store, the pool liner they had there would have cost $150 for three meters. Go to the building supplies section. I bought a roll of black polythene, which says on the label is suitable for lining rock pools, 2 x 5 meters for $10.50. There might even be enough to re-line it again in another ten years.

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Place stones or bricks around the edges to hold the plastic down.

Go to your local pet store to pick up supplies. You’ll need a fish! I bought a mate for our poor survivor.

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Buy fish food and oxygen weed, water lilies and pond grass and so on, things for the fish to hide under and to eat. Fish will eat anything. My parents used to supply their ponds with aquatic snails but I don’t bother. They were fish guys, I’m not.

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When putting your pond together, try to create a few areas with rocks that provide shelters for the fish to hide under and that are also fun. I try to position rocks to make shelves they can swim around, and I put one of those sections of old ceramic pipe on the bottom to create a tunnel for them to swim through.

Once the rocks are in place, three quarter fill the pond to allow for rainfall, if you live in a dry area then fill higher, and add your pond weed. Next, sit the goldfish into the pond still in the bag (and bucket) to acclimatize them to the temperature of the water for an hour before you release them. Hey, maybe I am a bit of a fish guy.

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Plant grasses and ferns or flowering plants around the edges of the pond. Don’t forget to put wire or protective mesh over the water or birds and cats alike will dine, and hedgehogs will fall in, trying to drink the water.

I need to add more rocks around the edge of ours to cover the plastic but I think it looks good, and it only cost twenty-five dollars. Anyone can do it!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. ~ William Shakespeare

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