December 23, 2008
It happens every year, in some form or another.
You're walking down the street, and you see festive messages in a big loopy child's hand, in chalk on the road. It's luring you on, past the chuckling dog-walkers - until - you spy - what's this?
Closer inspection reveals monster bling plus a baubly tree of Christmas goodness. We like the understated, modern look around here.
Step back and get a good view. Rawr!
I think it's the eyebrows and the star-for-a-nose over the gate that do it for me. Or maybe the flut-flut-flut noise the windmills make as you walk past on the way to the train, early in the morning.
Across the road, there's a little house.
A week after the monsters made their annual appearance, large white letters appeared, hanging from the porch:
A week or two later, the big words sprouted lights and tinsel.
My friend Nicky pointed out this gem to me, as found in yesterday's Age, Epicure section:
On Christmas Lunch with my Mother-In-Law
Plaintive Russian eggs shivering under depressed salmon slices
Darkly brooding cabbage salad
Cold gutted fish garnished with piquant complaints
Dry-tortured cool turkey roast spiced with dejection and futility
Despondent veal rolls stuffed with apathetic carrots and gloom-pickled cucumbers
in a lumpy ill tempered gravy
Inconsolably weeping pumpkin wrinkles and
Twice-overdried stony-hearted potatoes
Resentful cheesecake in a mango morass of despair
December 21, 2008
I got up early this morning, needing to shake the sleep and some clingy bad dreams out of my mind. What better than an early-morning run with the dog?
It's a glorious day - 'Uno altro bello giornata!' calls my little old neighbour as Toby and I jog by. He's a keen gardener, and today he wants us to share some of his lettuces, fresh and smelling like pure green would smell, if it was a smell. 'Grazie tanto, e Toby ditto grazie anche' - we both thank you, in our dreadful Italian. We love garden presents!
Off we trot, to pass the next Italian garden. Now, this is one I've got my eye on. I am trying to work out how, in Italian, to ask about the multi-grafted tree in the front yard. It has lemons (citrone), grapefruit (that's pompelmo, right?), and at least 2 other citron fruit all grafted onto and happily growing on one tree. And once a year it gets all of its branches lopped off -- ohh, ouch, it looks awful -- but sproing, it comes back again and fruiting like mad. I want to know if I could do this to my lemon tree.
When we first moved in, I seem to remember telling Mr Tacc. about the 'scary' old man who stands on the street every morning, watching people walking past. Then we got a dog. Now, every morning, they have an open-armed reception, a big Italian-dog cuddle and lots of 'Ay!' hellos. My dog adores this man. Even when accidentally broad-sided by the hose (now, that was funny!) Soaking wet, Toby leapt over the wall, tail wagging furiously, he barked once at his friend as if to say - 'Hey! Look what you did to me! I'm all wet! Want to play again?!'
On Friday, a leaflet for classes at the Centre for Italian Studies arrived in the post. I'm pretty tempted. Not because I want to learn holiday Italian but for the gardening goss. I want to know how these guys get such amazing gardens with artichokes, aubergines, zucchini, and of course, rows and rows of tomatoes in the front garden. There's only so much you can say with words like 'bella verdure' and 'grazie'. And 15th century art history terminology. They didn't talk much about grafting in my textbooks....
I'm off to enjoy my cafe, panettone, e la bella giornata.
December 19, 2008
All the things I love.
- Coffee at the market with Meghan, and meeting her lovely friends from France.
- Food, food, food, and Merry Christmas to the stall holders who have kept us well-fed all year.
- Sitting in the sun with the dog on my feet, watching the world go up and down my street.
- Laundry and sweep while listening to the cricket.
- Sewing, sewing... and more sewing!
Pretty felt brooches for friends.
Snipping the circle; fold and snip, fold and snip - to make the petals.
Sewing perle thread for a decorative edge.
Finished brooch: it looks better slightly ruffled, so a circle of heavy-duty thread is sewn around the edge and pulled tight for a ruffly flower.
The finished brooch.
Now I'm just sitting down to show a few photos of what I've made, then it's time to do some Christmas baking, and off to an open house tonight.
December 11, 2008
Your schedule is such that you've got a full day at work with a superhuman supermarket sweep to do at lunch, two errands on the way home, extra house guests for dinner, and a freelance deadline to meet. By tomorrow.
Days like these make me feel like I'm standing amidst a pack of kittens -- each one of them is climbing up my arms and legs with their little tiny claws going pick-pick-pick. Pick-pick-grab-pick. Everyone wants a piece of my attention. Where is there time in this for me?
I got through that day, folks, and I survived. The next morning, early, I sat down to sew, in the sunshine. Just for ten minutes, and just one hand-sewn seam to close up a project. Sewing saved my sanity.
Calm stitching plus a sense of completion: I practically skipped out of the house to meet whatever those stress-kittens could throw at me in my day. And do you know? It wasn't so bad. I could just flap my new scarf at the worries and let the pompoms do their stress-busting trick. pop-pop-pop ... All gone!
December 9, 2008
It's the perennial problem of the gardener: you plant in excitement, wait in hope, greet shoots with glee, and then despair as the caterpillars move in.
At least there are two things in the garden that are going great guns. My tomato plants are a wild and unruly bunch of long-legged green ladies (To use too many adjectives and a mixed metaphor. Must be the editing job, I'm on an adjective diet, which means occasional binges.)
Anyway, these lovelies are also holding up well: must be because they're not edible.
But they are sweet, aren't they?
December 6, 2008
L-R - BigCat, Bellgirl, Reenie-Sue, Taccolina, and CurlyPops.
Don't we all look colourful in our summer finery?
Much fun was had today over mince pies (not mice pies!), mulled wine and the gentle whack of hammers crimping handbag frames. I'm extremely grateful to Nikki for running such a welcoming, informative class and inspiring us to create our little bags of delight. Big thanks to BigCat for being our organising inspiration.
Now if only we hadn't all decided to leave at just the moment that the thunderstorm tipped down....
December 4, 2008
Check out this bike! Apparently the sign in the window advertises rice vinegar. Mm. I bet it's a food shop selling interesting, wonderful things. Can't you almost smell the musty soy-sauce aroma?
Perhaps it's time for some breakfast.
There hasn't been enough sewing going on around here recently. As if I am going to say, 'Gosh, what lucky me, I've had plenty of sewing time". No, not likely. I finally sat down and started making my Christmas presents. With most of my family in Canada, I've already missed the post, but I'm sure they'll forgive me. They're gathering for the arrival of a special baby, and I'm on important baby-quilt duty.
A backing of extreme Japanese cuteness was purchased on the weekend. The Cute-o-meter went 'bing-bing-bing-Bing!' when I shook out its lovely folds of little folktale houses, bears and squirrels and little dogs.
And I've started on one of the patterns I downloaded ages ago. Soulemama's Gratitude Wrap will be going out to lucky friends this year, with my own cards tucked inside. That is, if I get organised...
Blogger, what is it with you and photo credits? Photo above originally uploaded by Life in Asia (aka Life in Nanning)
November 30, 2008
A wonderful morning outing yesterday, to Amitie with Bellgirl and her lovely littley, and a morning of bagels and chit-chat. Just perfect! Fabric delights at Amitie were everywhere (er, as usual), and I came home happy and full of quilting inspiration and Christmas-present ideas. Oh, and clutching a large parcel of fabric....
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and get sewing!
COPY FROM HERE:
Still feeling totally inspired by the handmade issue of mankind mag from my favourite design blog.
Q What is the blog author's first name? ANSWER: Erin
use the first letter - LETTER: E
We like to keep lunch casual, I've found some fabulous BBQ recipes for the big day.
Q What type of meat is pictured on the rotisserie? ANSWER: Lamb
use the first letter - LETTER: L
Getting some great ideas for upcycling (my favourite craft) & enjoying the revamp over at this fabulous craft website.
Q They list everyone's favourite Portland based author mama as one of their inspirational sites. Which Portland based author mama is she? ANSWER: SouleMama
use the second letter of her last name - LETTER: O
Looking forward to being able to buy handmade at the shopping shindig with the craft book Queen.
Q What type of car is pictured? ANSWER: VW Beetle! (Beep! Beep!)
use the first letter - LETTER: V
All these letters unscramble to reveal:
WHAT? is all you need.
November 28, 2008
Apart from reading a lot of recipes, one of the things I've been doing recently is teaching myself how to make bread. I always thought that bread making was a mystery best left to earth mothers and retired people, but I'm learning that it doesn't have to be that way. Bread dough is pretty forgiving and will wait while you go to work, sleep, or get on with your life.
And my goodness, fresh bread tastes amazing.
Here's the recipe I used for the bread that I whipped up in my early-morning insanity. Making the initial dough took approximately as long as it took the stove-top coffee to boil: ie less than two minutes. Then I kneaded it and left it while I went to do some sewing.
But before I give you the recipe I want to explain where this bread-making thing came from. It wasn't a bolt from the blue: the urge to make bread arrived in a package in the post, neatly wrapped up inside a cookbook sent to us by one of Mr. Tacc's oldest friends, Xanthe Clay.
She wrote the book herself -- this clever woman has published several cookbooks over the years, and can be found writing a weekly gig at the Telegraph or cooking up a storm in quick ten-minute videos online or for your ipod. Isn't it nice to have clever friends who give you inspiration?
Here's a variation on 'Quick-fix Bread' from Xanthe Clay's 'Recipes to Know by Heart'
(note: the directions below are my interpretation, not a quote from the book! But credit for the recipe goes to Xanthe for her wonderful idea and morale-raising, inspired suggestions)
Wholewheat and honey bread
1 lb flour, which I made up of roughly 4/5ths white flour and 1/5th wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 sachet instant yeast (7g)
1/2 pint warm water
1 large spoon of honey
- Weigh out the flour until you have 1 lb (or use a 1lb bag). Tip it into a large bowl with the yeast and salt. Measure the water and pour it into the centre. Drop in your spoonful of honey. Stir until a doughy ball forms.
- On a clean surface, sprinkle a handful of flour, plonk your dough in the centre and start kneading. DON'T skimp on this step! I count to 300 kneads before I consider stopping. Yes, 300.
- Pop it in another large bowl (a clean one, I oil mine with a drop of olive oil), cover with clingfilm and go about your day. (*Busy folks:* at this point you could put it in the fridge to rise very slowly all day while you are at work, or all night if you do this the night before you want the bread. Take it out and let it warm up to room temperature , 20 mins or so, before you do this next step:)
- When the dough has doubled in size from your original ball (1-2 hours or 8-9 hours in the fridge) knead it again for 30 seconds or so. Turn on the oven when you do this: 200 degrees.
- Lightly oil a loaf pan, or a flat baking sheet. Dust with polenta or flour to prevent your loaf from sticking. Drop your loaf into the tin or make a nice round blob in the middle of your baking tray. Cover it with a clean tea towel and wander off again. Half an hour or so should do it, but again, cooler temperatures make slower rising.
- When your bread has doubled again and your oven is good and hot, pop it in. You can brush the top with egg wash (but I don't usually bother). I get a lovely golden crispy crust on it anyway, and I don't need it to be shiny.
- Cook for about 25-30 minutes (closer to 30 in my oven).
Now just try not to eat four slices with butter. Go on. Makes amazing toast the second and third day, and I'm planning to make some summer pudding based on my MasterClass recipe tomorrow, when it will be at the perfect two-day-old stage. Sandwiches from this bread are truly divine.
Options: Leave out the whole wheat and just use a pound of plain or strong flour (both work). Leave out the honey if you want. Add raisins or currants if you like. Dust with cornflour or press seeds into the top. It's entirely up to you! You can make a double batch, but I did that in two bowls because I wasn't sure I had one that was big enough!
November 27, 2008
Now, don't think I do this all the time, but by 5:30 I was up, surprising the dog (who cracked some mighty yawns) and thinking of two lovely hours in which to sew and play. I started some bread dough while making coffee, and hit the machine:
If you get up really early, you can see the rabbits running around...
It was fiddlier than I thought, and I had to stitch very slowly, only a few stitches at a time before lifting the foot and adjusting the pieces. But the applique aren't that big, and there are only five of them, so that's fine. I've done the swallow and the rabbit. And now there's fresh, warm bread out of the oven for breakfast.
Let's just hope that I don't fall asleep over my desk at work today!
November 26, 2008
Actually, I'm talking about Tobie Puttock, and the cooking Master Class that I went to last night with friends Nicky and Cathy, and Cathy's friend Gary. Did we have fun? Just check out the menu, and make your own mind up:
We had lots of fun!
Here we were expecting some tiny tastings and a glass of aussie bubbly, a hall packed full of women (come on, it was going to be all women, wasn't it?) - by which we betted on city girls with HandBags (the capital HB signifying the Large Price Tag it came with). In other words, not our thing.
The words, 'It's gonna be a bun fight' were uttered. But we were delighted to discover that we were wrong.
Maybe it was the buy three tickets get one free offer through Delicious magazine, but the atmosphere was fun, with groups of friends out for a nice evening. We all embarrassed ourselves by scoffing thick chips in the bar before the event and then walking in to see white linen; cutlery; multiple wine glasses at each place. We thought there would be three canapes shared between 100 people, but what we got was a three-course meal, with wines. (Though sadly the Marsanne ran out before they got to us, and the service was not great, nor were they gracious about the wine disasters). But the chips were a good idea: Tobie turned out to be a talky-talker, and so was the coffee-making guy that the sponsors wheeled out first. So we sat happy, drank wine, watched and enjoyed. And there were prizes, but despite my announcement that I was going to win the magnum, I didn't. Phooey for predictions.
Did you know that gnocchi doesn't have to glue your mouth shut? I didn't. And that vanilla, in moderation, tastes amazing with morels.
What's a morel? Here's a picture, in situ, of a morel:
(What, did you think in situ meant in the ground? Sorry.)
You'll be glad to see that it was not all note-taking and tasting, and the doodle-girl in me broke through after the second sip (read: glass) of wine. (The Pod-person above the morel is a result of a rant about someone's workplace; nothing to do with the food). And those who know Tobie will be delighted to hear that his hair registered a '6' on the bouffant scale (this photo, for comparison, is about a 2.5).
Morels remind me of a spectacular summer at my parents' cottage in Canada, when Dad found a wealth - nay - a fortune! - of morels in the woods. I seem to recall very earnest inspection of mushroom identification books, careful par-boiling and a tentative taste, followed by an all-out, no-holds-barred frenzy of morel eating, including morel omelettes and morels on toast. (Remember, Dad?) One bite of the gnocchi and I was whisked back to that summer. Even at $XXX per kilo, that's cheaper than airfare..... Mmm.
I've never been to a cooking class before, and I'm pleased to say that I would go again any time. For techniques and in-depth learning, I'd go for a day or weekend, hands-on course, but for an evening of entertainment and mild learning, in a great atmosphere, and with fantastic company, this was excellent. Next time these classes come to town, I'll be there.
November 25, 2008
November 24, 2008
...a purple cow!
After my casual mention of a couple of Works in Progress on my last post, some of you demanded to see what was being plotted. Well, there are two projects that are constantly to hand at the moment, and here's one of them.
I drew the cow first, traced her on to double-sided fusible interfacing, and started cutting out her shape very carefully. Then I dove into my large scrap bag, searching for a scrap of fabric that would be just perfect.
And tell me folks, could she be anything other than purple? And covered in daisies?
This new quilt started taking shape this weekend as I stitched my way through a pouring rainy Saturday afternoon.
It's pieced from my favourite fat quarters and large scraps. So far, it's in three large pieces, and there is still a lot of embroidery to be done (some by machine, and some by hand) - such as the beak of the bird, the eyes and whiskers for the rabbit, and maybe a collar and bell for Daisy Dairy herself.
I'm already pretty happy with the results, the retro farm animals and the fresh colours. This is a gift for my sister - I'm soon to be an auntie! - very exciting. (Hello geek, I know you're peeking - I can tell!)
I'm tempted to make more like this. What do you think? Which animals should I try?
Do I dare attempt a cottage/farmhouse, too?
November 22, 2008
This is what's inspiring my next round of drawings.
Gorgeous weatherboard: front-face and square. I look at this and count the windows: how many rooms would that place have? I'm sure there'd be enough for a craft corner somewhere in the eaves. Perhaps that little attic room with the light on?
Let's walk a little down the street. The houses sit close to the road, but it's so quiet. Not exactly genteel. Just quiet.
I love the colour-coordinated trim and the solid confidence of the houses. The cars look so small - and this is North America, so I assure you, they're not.
Steep roofs for rain and snow, plenty of space for living through cold and dark winters.
Or if you have an affection for ice cream blocks - those cardboard-wrapped blocks of ice cream that you slice, perhaps you'd have gone for the deluxe confectionery residence with marzipan frosting?
Sugar sprinkles, anyone?
November 21, 2008
I wish I'd made something this lovely, but I'm happy just to gaze on its gorgeousness.
I've been thinking of tulip quilts recently - not that I've finished the two quilts on the go at the moment - but idly thinking, storing up ideas and inspiration until a happy day. And then this photo just went - zip-bang-bing! - like fireworks. Beautiful.
Pop in a URL of a blog, and it tells you what sort of brain activity was going on when you wrote it.
Yes, that's right. It analyses the dominant parts of your brain based on your words.
I mean, the possibilities boggle the - er - mind. Brain Activity: thinking of dinner. Brain Activity: distracted. Brain Activity: call a psychologist. Brain Activity: Craftobsessed!
This is what I got for www.taccolina.com:
The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.
The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
And then I randomly tested a bunch of you folks.... you know who you are (wink), regular commenters.
We're practically ALL Do-ers! Go figure.
Suspecting that this nice little Swedish gadget (where's the teak?) was giving me the same result regardless, I popped in the URL of Posted Stitches - http://craftsanity.com/postedstitches/ - my other crafty blog, and whaddaya know, it's all a show! No-one told me.
EFSP - The Performers
The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.
The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.
So, that's enough fun time for me this morning, now it's off to perform for a while....
Happy Friday, all!
November 19, 2008
I'm still deciding what to do with it, but I think I need to draw more versions and see what happens.
There's lots more 'On my desk...' goodness, going around the creative desks of the world....
November 18, 2008
On the hillsides, overlooking wet fields and grey muddy inlets of the sea, often in freezing damp wind, stood houses like this one.
Fractured planes of weather boards, bright red roof. Another candidate for the sketchbook.
Old House near Wooldridge Missouri
Originally uploaded by Uncle Phooey
My favourites and folders contain lots of photos like this one that I found this morning. I love the soft colours and simple lines.
I want to draw lots of house line drawings - some big - some small - and print them onto fabric.
Wouldn't they make lovely cushions?
photo originally uploaded by kimkimcat
November 17, 2008
Still, half-finished projects like this are crying out for a little attention. So almost done....
This skirt is an adaptation of an unsuccessful purchase. Remember the year when skirts were all very light and hugely full, like circle skirts, and they flipped up in the slightest breeze? Hm, yes, I didn't wear this skirt much after a nasty shock on a windy day. (I flashed an entire car yard, while we were hunting for a car to buy. oops.)
So - earlier this year, I cut large triangles out of the skirt to tame its wayward fullness, added a cheesecloth lining (not yet trimmed to length), and used some of the huge amounts of brown fabric I'd cut out to make petals, which became a flower, along with some other favourite scraps. And an orange waistband, with grommets for the strings to come through. Almost done.
When we left for our three-month trip around the world in May, it was almost done. And it's stil reproaching me from the same state. All it needs is a levelled and trimmed hem and lining, and some more embellishment (the fun part!) on the skirt.
Soon, my lovely, soon.... and then we'll have summer days of flopping around at cafes and markets. Soon...
November 13, 2008
A gal likes to know she's needed.
That's why I smiled when the doors opened, and well-dressed gent said with evident relief; "Oh, I'm so glad you're here!"
Turns out that the poor guy, probably about my father's age and clearly an accountant or absent-minded law professor - had been riding up and down in the lift, trying to get it to take him to the ground floor.
Puzzled, but still smiling at the evident charm being showered on me, I extended one finger, firmly pressed the button marked 'G', and whisked us to the ground floor. Whereupon I had a hearty farewell from my new friend and a cheery wave as he loped off, clutching his leather case.
I'm an easily-amused girl, and this innocent little encounter made me smile my way out onto Collins, wondering what on earth had gotten into these chaps these days. I mentally shrugged my shoulders and went off to see if my new workplace was anywhere near a newsagent that sells Marie Claire Idees (it is; it's late. Hop-la).
I thought nothing of it until today, when I overheard two people talking in the lift about how they couldn't get out of the building last night, the lifts randomly whisking people to the top floor and forcing them to stop at every floor, all.... the... way... to the ground.
So, I can reliably say, that at day 3 on the job, I am a whizz at something. I can make the elevators work.
Just watch my meteoric rise from here...
November 10, 2008
November 9, 2008
Anyway, in the absence of drawings of the animals (I was so looking forward to drawing the animals!), here's something I prepared earlier.....
Remember this sketch of village houses?
It became a stencil and got three doses of paint.
Red, we love red:
Blue, and green.
And now it's a village again!
I'm working on a whole series of farm and village stencils, with a wall hanging or small quilt in mind. Here are one or two of the others:
I think the bluebird needs a branch, but nothing too big or heavy. And a bead for his eye, of course!
I've got drawings ready for a couple more animals and flowers, and then I'll start thinking about a little quilt to put them in.
November 6, 2008
There's another Sketchcrawl - this one's THIS Saturday. (eep!) This one's down on the farm.
I hadn't expected another one to come along so quickly, but it's a great location, so I'm going to hop on the trusty rusty Mathilda (my bike) and cycle down to the Collingwood Children's Farm. Pigs and children, people and market stalls: this could be good!
If you're wondering what a Sketchcrawl is, check out my report of the previous Sketchcrawl, and the Melbourne Sketchcrawl blog - or if you're international, the Worldwide Sketchcrawl site.
Date/time: Saturday 8th November at 11AM
Place: Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market & Abbotsford Convent
End of St Heliers St, Abbotsford. 5 mins' walk from Victoria Park station. (MAP)
Meeting Point: End of St Heliers St at the large wooden gates to the farm.
Not sure you can find us? Check out the details on the Sketchcrawl blog, or drop me an email and we can arrange to meet there.