ToteAlly Wine Bags

Being vicariously married into a wine growing family has meant that over the years Scott and I have had to upskill our taste buds (ok…so maybe that bit wasn’t so hard) and expand our viticultural lexicon so as to avoid flushing rose’ at our bubbly Christmas gatherings.

These bags – made from upcycled nappies, jeans and jammies – make a great ally to any guy or gal keen on raising their spirits at the next blithesome gathering.

ToteAlly Wine Bags

  1. On a blank piece of paper, measure and cut out: 1 rectangle (12 cm x 37 cm) and one square (12 cm x 12 cm). These will form the template for the tote bags.
  2. Select some complementary coloured, durable fabric (I used denim, flannelette and terry towel). Cut out 4 x rectangle lengths and 1 x square of fabric. Also cut two straps (2 cm x 38 cm – or shorter if you prefer) from some off cuts (I used the seam of jeans and the selvedge of a terry towel nappy).20180828_164413.jpg
  3. Start by sewing together the rectangle strips using a 1.5cm seam allowance. Right sides facing. Trim seam allowances. Overlock seams using a zig-zag stitch.20180828_164528.jpg
  4. Baste stitch on the square base (this is the tricky bit) using a 1 cm seam allowance. Right sides facing. Stitch using a 1.5 cm seam allowance. Trim seam allowances, truncate corners and overlock using a zig-zag stitch.
  5. Fold over 2 cm of fabric at the top to the wrong side of the tote bag. Press. Fold over another 2 cm. Press. Stitch.
  6. Pin the straps (a suitable distance apart) to the hem (made in the previous step) of the wrong side of the fabric. Ensure the base of the strap sits evenly with the base of the hem. Stitch, in a rectangular fashion, around the inside of the strap. Repeat for the other strap. 20180829_154055
  7. Turn the tote bag the correct way in. Press out all the corners.
  8. Cut a square (9 cm x 9 cm) from a heavy duty cardboard box. Insert this into the base of the bag to provide additional protection for the bottle of wine.
  9. Find an honorable Prince or Princess Charming to present your fortified gift: bottoms up!

Cinderella (Pumpkin Spice) Chutney

Since Jaq and Gus – our neighbourhood mice friends – decided to have their way with my homegrown pumpkins, this years Father’s Day fundraising stall sellout was very much a Cinderella story. From rags to riches, some throw-out table staples – a wobbly pumpkin, spotted bag of apples and spouting onions – were magically transformed into a first class chutney.

Perfectly slippered into a glass jar and adorned with a tiara of jute twine and paper from an old motorcycle magazine, this golden treasure is set to impress any Prince Charming on his big day of the year.


Cinderella (Pumpkin Spice) Chutney

(quantity: when doubled to use a the whole of a medium sized pumpkin…it makes a lot!)


3 onions

100g ginger, grated

1 fat red chilli, finely diced

cardamom (seeds from 15 cardamom pods)

2 long cinnamon sticks

1 tbs black mustard seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp tumeric

1 kg pumpkin, diced into small cubes (about 1 cm in width)

3 apples, diced into small chunks

500g brown sugar

300 ml cider vinegar

2 tsp salt


Fry onion, chilli and spices in the base of a large stock pot till aromatic. Stir in apple and pumpkin. Cook for 10 mins or until soft. Stir in sugar. Pour in vinegar and salt. Simmer on low heat until thick and syrupy. Spoon into hot sterilised jars.

Sterilising jars: I have been making preserves for years now and after trying many cumbersome methods of jar sterilisation, I have settled on the following (that…to the best of my knowledge…has not botulised any recipient yet): wash jars and lids in hot soapy water ensuring that a bottle brush is used to clean the inside. Dip jars and lids into a sink of hot water (to wash off soap suds) and then drain upside down on a tea towel. Place jars and lids (open side facing up) onto trays and leave to dry completely in an oven set at 100 – 120 degrees Celsius.

Fun-Raising Stalls

My first foray into philanthropy began when I was nine years old.

It was the first day of a summer festival, held biennially, to celebrate the labours of the dairying and fruit-growing men and women of our town. My best friend Jacey and I were tasked with manning the Helium Balloon Stall on behalf of the local Girl Guide group. Whilst we both scored points in the advertising department for our burgeoning blue sash of badges, Jacey was tabbed for the job because her dad happened to the be the Apex club president that year and had a reputation for impeccable manners. I was there because my parent’s thought it was the best way to keep me out of trouble.

All was floating along fine: a Tidy Town festooned with colourful spheres of un-environmentally friendly plastic. At around midday, just before Jacey and I had earned our free lunch from the Lions Club BBQ stand, Mr Gently, the well respected owner of the local menswear store, fronted up to our stand:

J (Jersey Caramel smile): Hi Mr Gently. Would you like to purchase a balloon? All money raised go towards funding our next campout.

Mr. G: Well it just so happens that it is my wedding anniversary today. My wife would be delighted to have a balloon I am sure. How much?

A: Just $2 (Mr. G hands over a $5 note). Would that also be a $3 donation?

Mr. G: Oh…well of course… Could I trouble one of you lovely young ladies to deliver it to my lovely wife with a little message?

A: Of course. It would be my pleasure (again…Jersey Caramel smile).

After a not so trivial trek to find Mrs. Gently…

A (in a high pitched, helium infused tone following the inhalation of the entire contents of a spare balloon): Hi Mrs. Gently, your husband would like to wish you a very…”happy anniversary to you, happy anniversary to you, happy anniversary to you, and here’s your balloon”.

I just presumed that the stony visage staring back at me was because Mrs.G was still a little upset about the fact that her own daughters had failed to meet the extremely high stall-serving selection standards that year.

From carpooling kids and donning the apron at the tuckshop to coordinating festivals and refurbishing schools, giving time to community wasn’t just something you did but rather a part of ones identity: deeply branded into the country psyche. These days, despite living so far from the home town, my CWA (Country Women’s Association) blood still pulses as strong as a that of a prize Holstein bull. Last weekend was no exception, separating my time between baking and manning K2’s Pre-school Cake Stall and the sewing for K1’s Primary School Craft Stall. Whilst I was able to step back from the role of co-ordinator this time round, I have learned a few tricks over the years for how to put together a “Best in Show” fundraising stall:

Fun-Raising Stalls.jpg

  1. Submit an Early Entry: since finding volunteers can be a little like drawing milk from a dry cow, it’s best to advertise early for help and donations. Whilst email and e-newsletters are a great way to save on paper, most go unread (reality bites) so don’t forget to whack a few colourful A3 posters up in key thoroughfares for your target audience.
  2. Land top spot on the podium: local businesses are usually very supportive of community groups that service their customers. A promise of a thank you message in the next run of a newsletter (or other) is often all that is required (if anything at all) to enable you to park your stall outside a high-traffic-shopfront.
  3. Adorn and Groom Well: as much as one might hate to admit it, good looks sell. Pretty wrapping, hand written labels, retro-cake stands, wooden display boxes and colourful signs are very eye catching and add value to your product.
  4. Talk Yourself Up: whilst I am not into spruiking, when a customer arrives I am very quick to hone in on the hand made providence of the goods and the benefits of donating to our organisation.
  5. Charge First Prize Fees: those wanting for manufactured goop in a jar or a packet of palm oil pick-me-up’s are never stopping at your do-gooder stall, so don’t be afraid to charge crème de la crème prices. After all, a lot of love has gone into your stall donations, it’s always nice to hear that a bequeathed item has seen a high return-on-time-investment.

As for my contributions to K1 and K2’s fun-raising ventures…well it’s back to the stove and sewing machine for me: total sellouts with advance requests for the Christmas stalls. When it comes to wearing out clothes suitable for upcycled ToteAlly Wine bags or harvesting produce from our garden for Cinderella Chutney, my two super charged poddy-kids are only too happy to oblige.