December 31, 2009

Don't go on a date

... Where I can see you.

Or you might get scribbled.

As seen from my unobtrusive stool in the corner of the window. I couldn't work out why he was slumped so stiff in his chair until they left the cafe and I saw that his arm was in a sling. Not fun for Christmas!

Oh, and happy new year!

December 27, 2009

Looking and thinking and thinking and looking

The thing about out and about sketching is that it's hard to start. Daunting to sit there in full view sketching people as they pass by. I keep waiting for someone to challenge me for capturing their likeness, but increasingly I'm realising that they just don't give a damn. Or don't notice. Yippee for me, as I sketch away in the corner!

Now that we're on holiday, I've been out and about doing some more drawing. Yesterday (Boxing Day), down to the shops -- not to score bargains but to draw the bargain-hunters themselves. It was ripe pickin's!

After diving in, a few tries and it gets easier. The lines come more easily and they remind me of what I saw. It's learning to look as much as learning to draw.

Here's an early drawing from my second or third outing with sketchpad in hand. I'll share some of my more recent ones, too. Big scanning session yesterday, and now there's loads to show.

December 26, 2009

Excuse me, but I'm at the winebar

I'll be the one in the corner, quietly sketching the crowd as the bar staff serve wine and nibbles.

I'll be the one starting tentatively (oh what if someone sees I'm drawing and takes offense?) - So I'm the one who convinced my husband to come with me, not just once, but several times. (Hallelujah for free wireless hotspots!)

I'm also the one who draws tight cramped little drawings at first, sip, sip, and then looser lovely lines, sip, sip, slurp, and then great wild whacking scrawls half-imbued with the fumes of the nice sauvignon blanc or the sangiovese.

Yes, it's true folks: there's a limit of one glass for a reason.
I definitely can't drink and draw.

December 2, 2009

Some days the paint just muddles

... and puddles, and goes grey and bloopy. (That's a word).

So, some days I draw instead. Here's a recent scribble. I was wishing I could go to the market more often, but when it was done, I was surprised that she didn't look like she was having a grand old time.

Wonder what's up with her?


November 29, 2009



I was struggling with the concept of a post a day, when I realised that the thing I really wanted to be doing was a painting a day. Just like my friend Eileen's been doing with dedication and charm! So I've been just over there at the table sploshing and splodging and trying to learn. Here's one of the efforts.

This was painted after a quick late night sketch from a photo we took in Malta a few years ago. I had a lovely time flicking through photos in the album and thinking about that trip. Bright memories of pale yellow stone houses baking in the sun, dark shaded alleys, cyprus trees and the most delicious honey and fresh-baked bread I've ever tasted. 

Memory lane is fun, and memory lane with scribbles and paint splots is even more enticing.

October 18, 2009

Tweety boyrd

My love is like a tweety bird,
It sits up high anon -
With furly wings and purty things
I wish I had got done.

It's time I know to see the light
I'm almost out, have lost the fight
To post a day
There's just no way
Weekend again has taken flight.

My love is like a whirly bird
Of thought and colour and song!
To draw and dream and spin a wheel
And run around in the sun.

I've been out on my bike today, checking out the streets and smelling the jasmine in old gardens caught in roadside glimpses as I swander by (yes, that's a word. It's for cycling slowly and looking at the sky!). I saw a house that looked like it came straight from Yorkshire, plomped down in the middle of Richmond. Tall gables for that snow we so often get in Melbourne, oh and the sleeting rain. High blue stone walls and green-sashed windows. I need to go back to take a photo.

My friend is house-sitting and the house-sat cat tried to eat my sewing bag, too. Much careful investigation and sniffing. Is this a suggestion I ought to wash it? (I might - now!)

October 10, 2009


Memory feeds imagination. 
US novelist (1952 - )

1977. Or so the picture says. I remember the garden and how it went forever. When I wanted to run away, I packed a bag with the essentials (doll, bear), and I ran off to the end of the hedge. Not on the driveway side: the other side, just so I could stay inside the garden but look back at the house. Too far away. I think that's far enough: I'll go back now. 

I'm the one on the left, at about that age. Lovely sardonic sister on the right. (Big sis, how did you know everything?)

This week after the last class of my editing course, a bunch of us were splitting a bottle of red wine down at the bar around a chunky dark wood table. One of the classmates said; "Tell us about something you saw on your travels. Something that really stays with you. That was unexpected and surprising". 

The result was an amazing storytelling session, with wonderful flights of description and fascination. Memories shared. All the senses. The silly things we do. Moments of mistaken irony, surprising gorgeousness, startling and unexplained. Painted word pictures. Such imagination, memory. 

Aren't you glad we've got it?

October 9, 2009

Flashback Friday portrait

One of the magazines I love to read is called History Today. We get it from the UK on subscription, and it's chock-full of images and articles about interesting times and people. I love reading it for the unexpected things I'll find.

This is a drawing I did after a portrait miniature in the last issue. He's my Friday flashback.

October 8, 2009

Fashionable cats...

Now fashionable cats, they know their mind.

They like a bit of black.

A swishy tail.

And if they happen to be fat red-and-white stripey softy Antonio Banderas cats, they like to dress as pirates and thrill the ladies....

(Softie made for Sharon, because Flickettysplits was amazed I'd never made one. )

October 5, 2009

So, today...

Today, moments after I was introduced to her, a colleague said,
"I'm doing something for the Melbourne Cup".

And I said, "Melbourne Cup?"

"Oh," I said, "I'm not that much into football."

Which might reveal just how much I'm into horse racing, too....

October 3, 2009

Travel to textiles, take away inspiration

Today was a day to be marked on the calendar.

No, not 'the day before Mr Tacc's birthday and last chance to buy a present', nor 'nice Saturday' -- today was the Open Day for the Textile Fibre Forum at Geelong.

Some of you may remember that I went last year and was startled and amazed at what I found.

The Forum is like summer camp for over-excited girls who love fibre. It's a haven of creativity, a fun week of intensity, an institution, a revelation, a colourful holiday, better than a trip to a resort, essential.

I heard it described as all of these things today as we wandered the grounds of the school, looking at what the talented participants had made over the course of a week of red-hot creative production.

It's a conference for fibre-a-holics, put on by TAFTA. On the last Saturday, each class puts on a display of their week's productions.

So this morning, bright and (far too) early, Karen and Sonia picked me up and off we went. A road trip. Whee! Watch me fall asleep in the back seat, get giddy with delight at being out and on textile treasure hunts again. (Thanks, Karen, for reminding me not to leave my coffee mug on top of the car when we drove away...)

It was one of those days.......


There were beautiful, delicate  embellished pieces of felt:

In all sorts of colours.


Printed fabric, dyed and glorious.


Some had made clothes from the inspired textile pieces they had crafted.

If there was one thing I wanted dearly to wear, it was this dress/coat!

 (Don't worry, I'd wear black coverups underneath or it would not be art, it would be chaos in a bag.)

Speaking of chaos, getting crazy in the kitchen, one class made Domestic Goddess aprons for a frenzy of cake baking. These aren't tame little coverup aprons: they're definitely for the goddess who licks the bowl and loves it. Mmm!


Given the recent production around here of the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame, I was partial to this cake-themed apron. Go, girl!

I love how the recipes on this apron randomly show through the blackboard-style scribbles.

Never ones to go without accessories, handbags were in evidence. These lovelies got nicknamed 'killer handbags' for their velvet-covered knockout-anvil style crazy beauty. 

Sort of wild and chemically pumped all at the same time.

(I wouldn't eat those strawberries if I were you, Bambi...)

The sun shone:

The traders kindly sold us buttons and felt, beads and yarn (well, would you resist?)

It was exhausting and inspiring -- and I was only there for 4 hours!

And now I'm going to go and put my feet up while I dream of colour.

October 2, 2009

Thursday blue: what to do?

It's Thursday night, you've got a case of the blahs. Too much to do, too little time, stuff harassing you, things you're not getting stuck into even though you really want to.

Sometimes the blue sky seems like a steel lid: other days it's up there floating and everything is possible.

What do you do on evenings like that?

Start a new quilt. (Silly question!)

Stitch in some sunshine, pull out a length of fresh breezes, grab some fat quarters of freshly-mown grass and lazy spring picnics. Stitch together a summery sky.

There, now that's better, isn't it?

October 1, 2009

Arise, Blogtoberfest! A Pome.

I wandered lon'ly as a blog,
Crafting slowly through the fog
Of work and life and lots of things
But -Hark! O'er there! A clear note rings! 
Raise high the bugle,
Tootle the horn.
Trumple the tuba --

Blogtoberfest is born!

Craft love, appear
again this year.
Trailing clouds of glorious
Ricrac stentorious!
Mascots and memes
And silly schemes
Let forth the host,
of Blogtoberfest posts!

Marmot vom GroƟglockner
Originally uploaded by _stebo_

September 27, 2009

Back to the mmm-market

Queen Victoria Market
Originally uploaded by Taccolina

I'm hoping that life will calm down a little now that the launch party has gone off as a success. You know, sometime in between work and studying and interesting projects, perhaps I'll have a little time to sew? Maybe I can start drawing again? (Caus heaven knows, I miss it a lot.)

I took the day off on Friday, and he took the afternoon: so we had a long leisurely lunch with a friend we don't see often enough. All three of us gleefully escaping from the usual hectic round of activity, sitting in comfy booth with milkshakes, parmas, burgers, big breakfasts and all the accoutrements of a good catching-up session.

Saturday morning, off to the market. Being completely and utterly ignorant of football and all things AFL-related, it was nice to go when everyone else was rushing off to the game/game parties/getting ready for game parties. Meanwhile, back at the bratwurst stand... 'A second coffee, dear?' Hhmm. Back home to finish the latest Lindsey Davis that I've borrowed from the library. And then some sewing.

Some weekends are about re-claiming the basics. Shovel out weeks' accumulation of clutter. Re-acquaint myself with my sofa. My sleep in. My sewing machine (sorry about all the dust!). My bag of library books. My dog on my lap.

I hope yours has been glorious, too. I've still got half a day of playtime left, so I'm off...

September 25, 2009

Careful consideration of chocolate cake

Another photo from the launch party.

It's a pleasant consideration to have, right? One medium-sized table plus about sixteen gorgeous cakes. Where to put them? Oh, what to do?

I'm pleased to report that the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame took its pride of place in the cafe and was duly demolished. Remnants of fame were last seen disappearing in large white boxes borne away by happy Kinglake locals.

(Do you like my op-shopped Salvos store tablecloth? I love it!)


September 22, 2009

Cookbooks and cake

The cookbook launch went well! We had a party at Kinglake on Sunday evening, and much fun was had by all. Dinner from the cookbook, prizes and face painting, music and delights. Not to mention, much cake.... Here are a couple of shots of the pre-launch preparations chez Taccolina on Saturday afternoon. I'm still sorting the photos from the launch itself, so I'll show you those soon.

Saturday afternoon, getting sorted: cake boxes, muffin cases, mm-mm.

Baking and icing, mm-hhmm.

Cupcakes finished and starting to fill the cake box... (Little silver sugarballs on top.)

I'm not sure if I took a picture of our kitchen table before we left, but it was piled high with white cake boxes full of baked goodies. Many lovely people dropped off a cake, or three -- and the assortment was beautiful, and turned out to be delicious.

At the party, a very serious 10-year-old wanted to discuss the various merits of the cakes with me. The Chocolate Truffle cake was pronounced 'Very dark. But nice.' - and the Orange Cardamom Sour Cream Cake was 'Really, really good.' That's one sophisticated ten-year-old cake taster, not mincing her words.

We had dark cakes, light cakes, coconut cakes and pink-iced cakes. We had three tiers of cupcakes on a gorgeous stand. There was a strawberry-adorned chocolate beauty. Glossy icing on a tall dark number. A double-decker chocolate cake, with butter cream icing and german cherry jam in the middle. A clown cake. Ring cakes. They all made new friends. Large white boxes were last seen being borne away by happy Kinglake residents full of assorted pieces of cake (the residents - and the boxes, that is!)

Hurrah to the cake bakers, one and all of you!

September 18, 2009

When I can't quilt.

Life's kinda busy at the moment. The party this weekend, a small matter of dinner for 200, editing and ideas and chocolate cake and - oh, I'm not going to bore you.

We all have times when we're just unable to quilt. Or to draw, collage, stitch or embroider. Whatever yoiur craft addiction, I'm sure you know what I mean.

And at times like these, I like to flick quickly through pictures that inspire me. It's like slurping down a chocolate milkshake all at once, because you can feel it filling you up for hours to come. (Okay, so that's not the best analogy in the world - note to self: revise.)

Tiny bits of inspiration can percolate while everything else is going on. And I promise myself that soon - soon - I will draw something like this.

(This is not a slab of chocolate. I know what you were thinking, Curlypops! No, it's the carved wooden screen across the quire of a cathedral in northern England, near the Lake District. note to self - look up cathedral name...!)

September 14, 2009

Jam on top

Six days to the launch and counting... I've been working on a few interesting recipes for the second printing of the benefit cookbook. Yes, that's right, Homemade: The Handmade Help recipe book will be reprinting. Thanks to all of you who bought copies we're really close to being able to fulfil our goal, which was to have enough copies to provide one for every one of those 2000 families who lost their homes, should they want one. (We've been selling copies to raise the money to print extras, and any money left over from the sale will be donated to the Salvation Army. So when you purchase one, you give twice: you give a cookbook to a family AND money to the Salvos for the work they do all across Australia).

Thanks to the oddnesses of printing and presses and production stuff, if we add a couple of pages to the book, it costs less to print. (And wastes less paper). So, let them eat JAM! I've got a couple of jams and a marmalade to add to the back of the book.

The new copies won't be out for a good six weeks yet, so in the meantime, your copies are jam-free (but jam-packed with great recipes). It's a sticky situation, knowing we need to add something extra to the book, but we think we can spread it on lightly and the result will just be that much sweeter.

September 13, 2009

Book and bag

While I was away, I did a packet-load of crafting. Here's just one of the things I made which has been in my handbag ever since. It's just a pouch, but useful, very useful! Two kinds of fabric fused to woven interfacing, with a vintage sheet lining. (More of that sheet later!)

We're gearing up for the launch of the cookbook this coming weekend: lists and ingredients, lots of helpers to muster. It's plenty to organise but I'm starting to look forward to it, too. We'll celebrate and start giving the cookbooks away through some of the community groups in the bushfire-affected areas. Should be lots of fun.

September 12, 2009

Kinda good, kinda bad...

... kinda happy, kinda sad.

Up until my last post, you'd be forgiven for thinking we were still away in North America. There's been a period of silence around here: not much blogging, even less drawing, and no writing at all. Shortly after we came home from our wonderful trip, we were thrown for a loop on life's rollercoaster, and over the course of ten sad days we said goodbye to a grandmother who was very dear to us both.

It's been a couple of weeks, but time contracts and extends. It flexes and coils, so that sometimes you are crawling through each day and other times you find yourself thinking it was only yesterday, I was there, holding her hand. Enjoying the flowers together. Or snorting with glee about the latest crazy fashions and sewing patterns, and just talking 'girl stuff'.

Some families pull together for the mourning process: others don't. We've had a couple of weeks in full riot-gear and the fun never stops. I'm old enough to realise that just one or two individuals can spread toxic poison, that you can't hide from all of the tricky people in your orbit and you need to draw in and look after your own. With the bombs flying, there's been no time for words or grief, or for memories and sad joy that we had a good friendship. And that, my friends, makes even pacifists like me just a little bit angry.

I hope we turned the corner this week. We're looking forward and thinking of good things. We love each other and will protect each other. Some of our family is fantastic and I give thanks for them every day. But I'm tired, and there are no words and the drawings are few and tentative. We need good soil, gentle breezes, sunshine and soft rain to grow again.

September 6, 2009

Things I like

Sunday morning, up early and baking cakes. There are a few things I like about a quiet Sunday at home.

  • An early walk with the dog. We've got the streets to ourselves and we can admire the sunlight sparkling through the trees. Be nosy and stare at things in gardens, mutter to ourselves (should we wish -- the dog's good at this), and generally slouch around the block. 
  • Time to sew. Well, when don't I appreciate this? 
  • Quiet. Quiet all around. And more quiet.
Ironically, I was awoken rudely, early today, by an obnoxious bird sitting in the tree outside the bedroom window.

He/she has been there every morning this week from 5:30 to 6AM.

Honestly, I never knew birds could shout so loud. Must be spring.
He's probably yelling:

"Look at me, ladies, I'm a hunka-hunka birdy luuve, and I've got this here tree ALL TO MYSELF. 


Mr. Tacc asked me why I thought it was a he. "Maybe it's a she", he said.


Who said birdies sat in trees and delicately twittered? Hah. Damn fool, them.

I've got a linen jacket all cut out and awaiting the very important decision about lining. The jacket is heavy linen, dark blue. I'm thinking batik, red and white gingham or some crazy floral glazed cotton I've got somewhere. It's a casual short sleeved jacket. I've never made a jacket before, so wish me luck. If you don't see photos, even progress shots, you know it's all gone badly and I'l be making a quilt with very small linen triangles in it, all in a nice coordinated blue...

Now, for a piece of warm cake, a cup of coffee, and I'm off to give it a go!

August 27, 2009

Please pass the salt and pepper...

... or could that be, the kitsch?

What delights! Our first stop in Amerrr-ica included a Saturday in Seattle, and while he went off to the Museum of Flight and the Flying Heritage Collection, I went to Pike Place Market.

Now, I admit that I am a spoiled girl, with Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market right on my doorstep, and so while I enjoyed Pike Place Market, it wasn't a life-changing experience (You see, I had that, in the Queen Vic, and I went back to the UK and applied for a visa. That's definitely life-changing.)

So, you can see why I wished that the girls of blogland and the TCB could be here with me when I hit the motherload of all salt and pepper kitsch. An entire shop devoted to crazy character salt and pepper sets.

(I'm sure they're used to women circling their windows and aisles, giggling quietly to themselves.)

But I wasn't sure if they'd want me taking pictures, so there are just a few.


August 25, 2009

Looking and thinking, travelling to some summer

I've been playing out in the wide world, looking at the colours and thinking of pictures and creations. As usual, getting away reminds me of who I am and of all of the images and ideas, colour and creations I want to be part of my life.

Travel opens possibilities. It wipes the veneer of weekly, daily, monthly work and routine out of my head and reminds me that life is short and is here to be lived to the full. Bloom and fade: celebrate and burst with colour.

The things I see make me want to draw all day, paint all evening, dream all night.

I did do a little painting on this trip, and lots and lots of drawing. Constant doodling. I made the commitment not to worry if it was any good; just to do as much drawing as I could. Even though we're back and the wind is wuthering (and we've got the traditional post-air journey sniffles), I'm doodling most days. It feels great.

And this is one of the photos from the trip that I find most wonderfully, richly satisfying.

Doesn't that just make you tingle? They look rich and full but pokey and prickly all at the same time. Can you see how big these barrel cacti are? I purposefully poked my toe in the bottom of the photo so you could see just how bloody enormous they are. I imagine if you sat on them, they'd pop. Or slump. (And poke billions of little cacti-holes in your delicate derriere.)

These photos were all taken one sunny fine day in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as I went around the botanical gardens and sculpture park. Big thanks to my lovely host, Jennifer, for suggesting it -- somehow I never fail to find inspiration in a great garden.

Especially one with vistas like this that remind me of the summers in Canada and big fields of wildflowers.

Now all I need is a big floaty dress and a sunhat. (Too bad they lost my luggage and all I had was my Melbourne winter black. But that's all forgiven and in the past now, right?)

Ahh, holidays. > dream <

August 8, 2009

Homemade In Epicure

Originally uploaded by smallcloughs
I'm on holiday at the moment -- did you miss me?

I'm on the patio, sitting in the sun in Canada, enjoying the summer breezes, the prospect of more barbeques and swimming in the lake.

Meanwhile, at home, the little cookbook we produced for the bushfire benefit has attracted some attention and was in Epicure last week. Yay!

If you don't already know all about it, go to (I promise you it's delicious, I edited those recipes and some of them looked great...!)

More soon, just wanted to share the (belated) news. If you'e already ordered a copy of the book, apparently they have arrived and will be shipping very soon if not already. Double yay!


July 18, 2009

The wedding quilt is finished!

I've spent nearly every spare hour these past few weeks stitching on this quilt, which I can finally reveal to you! It's an exciting day when a quilt's done, mingled with sore fingers and pride. And I'm really, really happy with this one -- super-snuggly, just the right size for sofa sitting and curling up in style.

I made this quilt as a wedding present for a very dear friend and her husband. It was started many months ago just after they ran away to Italy to get married in a fabulously romantic rush. (A proper elopement.)

I had already decided that red would be the main colour, when she and I went for a shopping spree in Amitie one summer day. She oohed and ahhed as I oh-so-casually unrolled bolts of red fabrics across the table. 'Ohh, this one's nice! What do you think of this one?' Apparently, she didn't suspect a thing: I'd already bought half of the fabrics and had them in my bag. Little did she know that we were choosing the other accents to go with the red and large print floral. Should it be dark blue? Grey? Or even sage green?

I settled on a scheme of red and white with little bits of pale blue. Sky blue, a lovely colour.

And then the sashing: I'd been thinking very dark grey, or that sage green, even maybe a linen or linen blend, but the black with a subtle pattern, well, that just sang.

So, lots of hand quilting in sweet silver perle thread, a backing of black and white check, and a white bird appliqued on the back as a label. Red, red binding. A red, black and white quilt to go with their modern apartment and their big red and black Italian poster. Yay!

I was sewing the last stitches on the bird label today when she arrived. Oops! After the presentation, I had to take it back and set the last few stitches. But that's quilting to deadline!

Faithful to the end. >Toby thinks: Perhaps jumping on the sofa right now would be a BAD idea. Can I have a biscuit instead?<

Whew. Now I can concentrate on trying to get ready to travel halfway around the world. Only 6 more sleeps!