August 10, 2012

Craft weekend photo post

Lots of photos from the recent craft weekend at Hepburn Springs. Thanks everyone for a wonderful time!

Winter blooms | Amanda's Block of the Month | Lounge, with the Summer Quilt | First finished project award to Bek! | Cosy slippers | Deb's quiet colours | Beautiful breakfast | Potash St | Sore eyes - Jo's hexagons!

August 8, 2012

Vintage Food Posters

Something I think about a lot: how diverse humans are, how competitive and troublesome and argumentative and delightfully different from each other.

And yet we all have to eat. We share biology, we learn tastes, we acquire cultural references. We need to eat, but we learn how.

I remember studying for a Masters in Art History, and peering at a fresco painting, my nose as close to the surface as they would allow, and thinking:

'Okay, so that streak, that's where his hand touched the wet paint, and that big long curve, that's made when you swing your arm from the shoulder, not the elbow, like - so.'

And then standing back and thinking something like 'Holy crap, I've got the same length of reach as Leonardo.' And getting the chills.

It's silly, really. Of course we have the same reach. I'm a fairly tall, well-fed twentieth century woman and he was a middle class illegitimate son (which means access to food was probably good, not the best) - and so we could very conceivably be the same height.

Of course we share biology - humans haven't changed all that much in 500 years. But we forget. We think it's different. It is -- and it isn't.

So here we are, online, looking at food posters from the past.

The text apparently translates as: "When the dining is well- run the spirit of production will rise." That's a cultural context if ever I saw one. But I also see a welcoming smile, a platter of food, a group of people, a family and a sense of festivity.

My cultural frame notices the facemask (I thought those were new, only since avian flu. Apparently not.) I notice the size of the main figure - she reminds me of a fertility goddess, she's beautiful and large. But in the West we might criticise (though I probably wouldn't, not being one to throw stones and looking rather a lot like her myself). We complicate: that's a better word.

The cook in me wants to know what's on the menu, the academic wants to read up on how the food halls operated, were managed and maintained, the art historian looks at the shape and composition of flat elements, and wonders about propaganda posters from all sorts of cultures.

What do you think? Is this about unity - or about diversity?

Posters - Top: date, artist unknown, North Korea; Bottom: c1959, artist unknown, China. Accessed through Poster Gallery at Nanyang Technical University: 

July 30, 2012

Knock, knock

Anyone home?

We went to Open House Melbourne on Sunday. I'm so glad we got around to it!

Open House Melbourne is a weekend of open buildings. Special places, amazing places, eco spaces, places not normally open to the public.

We queued for the State Library tour of the elephant lift (for moving around that spare elephant) - a 1920s wooden panelled lift with, we were told, idiosyncracies.

We peered over the bannisters at the compass rose on the floor under what once was a Foucault's pendulum. Pendulum now lost and, as someone said, probably holding down papers on someone's desk. Beautiful staircase.

Then down into the catacombs, surprisingly bright for channels running into dirt floored wasteland for dead office chairs. Everyone's favourite garage.

And out into the rain of China Town, for a tasty Grill'd burger and a gentle stroll down to Myer for the mural hall, sixth floor ballroom and hall for streamlined 30s types to affect a bored moue at fashion parades. Meh. Darling.

Playing with the mirrors in Myer's Mural Hall. 

Finally, everyone's favourite haunted tin shed -- the portable iron houses of the 1850s still in South Melbourne on a fascinating old street.

Portable iron house, c. 1850, South Melbourne. 

A lovely day. Three very different faces of Melbourne. Hurrah.

View from the freeway bridge as we leave the sunny city. 

July 22, 2012

Pasta play

Today we tried some kitchen craftiness, inspired by the post here over at Cafe Liz.

It's not too hard to make beetroot-red pasta. You roast the beetroot, make pasta dough (a generous serve per person is 1 egg and 100g Type '00' flour, whizzed in a food processor) - then add a slice of the ruby-red beetroot to the pasta dough in the food processor.

Add more flour until it no longer sticks like napalm to everything, and presto, red pasta dough.

Being a nerd, I wondered what I could use to make other colours. And I know a bunch of kids who would love this! Some of those kids have kids of their own, if you get what I mean. Having a reason to play with your food can be fun at any age.

I decided to see if I could make some fun multicoloured pasta with a basic dough and a few additions.

To start:
First I made a biggish batch of plain pasta dough, by dumping 500g '00' flour in a food processor and cracking in five large organic eggs. It works better if the eggs are at room temperature, if you remember...

I then divided my plain basic dough into five portions and started testing. I kept each portion wrapped in plastic wrap so that it didn't dry out before I was ready to rock and roll it out.

Here's what worked!

A handful of fresh parsley leaves, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water, then cooled by swirling in cold water. I squeezed the green lump of wilted leaves hard before adding it to the food processor and blending it with a portion of the basic dough. The dough looked freckly. I wrapped it up and left it in the fridge while making the other colours.

Take two: I picked two leaves of silverbeet (save the stems for something else), then chopped and blanched them for 1 minute as above. Cool, squeeze like mad to get the water out. Squeeze some more. This time I processed the leaves to a sludge in the food processor first with a dash of olive oil. Then I added a portion of the basic pasta dough, buzzed it up and added flour till it wasn't too sticky. (That was a guess: enough flour so it would not stick terribly to the plastic wrap seems to be about right.) Wrap it up and leave to rest.

This one was simple: just a scant teaspoon of turmeric added to a portion of the dough and a dash of olive oil to make it all come together.

For this I cut off a chunk of the yellow turmeric dough (about half), to which I added a 1/2 tablespoon of the beetroot juice from the roasting pan. So I had less orange and yellow, but that's fine.

A slice of beetroot (skinned), added to a portion of dough.

The fifth ball of dough stayed plain, to provide the base for squiggles and other sorts of fun times.

Rolling it was the fun part! This involved rolling sheets of each colour, cutting them into spaghetti with the cutter attachment, then pressing them into a flat piece of a different colour.

That was so much fun that we decided to try sticking two flat disks (just roughly hand flattened) together, end to end. Ran these slowly through the machine on a wide setting and they stuck and became two-tone pasta!

Someone got fancy and it became a patchwork of pasta blobs that got rolled and then sliced...

The silverbeet leaves made a better green because although they were softer and made the dough a bit wet, the green leached out and the whole sheet went evenly green. The parsley dough retained its freckly appearance throughout, which was fun too.

The beetroot fades a huge amount in cooking, and ended up a genteel shade of pink.

The turmeric stayed bright yellow and it really imparted a kick to the taste of the pasta! I quite liked that, just be aware of it when matching your sauce.

We made a simple vegetable sauce and cooked up a batch to enjoy. It was a colourful lunch!

* Post updated to add more images - Blogger updated the date stamp. We don't mind, do we?

July 17, 2012


It suddenly seems as if spring might be hiding just around the corner. It's been a long, dark and windy winter here at the farm and we are still slogging through mud and feeding fires with wood all day, but there are signs, here and there.

I love to think that the earth sleeps like a big giant under us, turning slowly in her sleep till the other side comes to the warmth. Listen quietly, you can almost hear the roar. Plants are ready to push forward.

It'll be a while yet, and there will be storms, but it's coming.

May 13, 2012


Sometimes the colours in your stash just have to be put together. I spend entirely too much time 'saving' favourite fabric for some perfect as yet undesigned project. I'm trying to be bold and just cut into it. (After all, it's a certain bet there will be more gorgeous fabric along soon to woo me.)

A mini quilt is just the right size. This reminds me of being inside the summer cabin my family had when my sister and I were kids. It looks like roughly stripey cabin walls. Reminds me of red flannel pajamas and that plastic drawer lining paper that's supposed to look like wood. I love the chips of cornflour blue, almost lilac but not quite.

It's all making me happy, especially the red and white backing.

A cup of tea and sitting in front of the fire while it rains outside. Snoozing dog at my feet, I am planning the quilting pattern to go on top of these rough hewn logs.

February 22, 2012

Mindful gardening

I bought a book today - which in itself isn't unusual, because it happens all too often, but this one looks different, interesting.

One of my most cherished books is Zen and the Art of Quilting, by Sandra Detrixhe - I have read it, and re-read it nearly a dozen times. Thinking of that quiet book with calm confidence saying yes, I do know what I am doing with my quilts -- I picked this one up. The Art of Mindful Gardening, by aptly-named Ark Redwood. (If he was a character in a book, you'd never believe it.)

It helps that it's cute. And so 1930s in style (I freely admit that I'm a sucker for 1930s design ethic: I am reading a biography in the 30s now, and I love classic prints in the style like this cover).

So, what am I doing, blogging about a book I've barely read? I'm excited and I wonder if it will live up to the dippings-in I have tasted and enjoyed.

The garden is lush now, the tomatoes this week measured not in numbers but in bucketfuls. The season is changing and mists in the morning on the farm tell me the days of summer are almost gone.

I read, once, that the true measure of a garden is in the delight it gives you as you notice daily changes. The slow ticking turning of the year. Today I admired new shoots on the scarlet runner beans (maybe another crop is coming) and enjoyed my rustic wooden trellis, the red flowers all tied up with scraps of gingham red-and-white fabric. I delighted in snapdragons pushing out second shoots short but fat with flowers, seed pods rattling dry - break them open to gather next summer's colour. Zucchini for dinner, round ones the size of a tennis ball and two little long dark, dark green ones. Black beauty, they're called. Grilled. The sweetness of tomatoes from the bottom of the bucket.

I can't think of anything much more mindful than a garden. Let's see how this one goes...

January 30, 2012

Cuttin it up

Yesterday a crafting friend loaned me the very inspiring Prints Charming book. It's full of ideas for very simple screen printed motifs, often combined in projects with plain fabrics, like natural linen.

It's a very modern look we've come to expect from craft these days but because the screen printing has its own roughnesses and slubs, it doesn't fall over into being too clinical and cold. It looks hand made, and that, with simplicity, is its charm.

 One of the motifs from the book - done by stencil, not by screen

I haven't got any screens for printing, so I got out my trusty stash of freezer paper so kindly sent to me by Jennifer years ago, whipped the safety catch off my scalpel (i.e. removed the piece of cardboard I keep over the pointy end) and got carving.

Tonight I have heat-set the paint and they look finished. I wonder what I will use them for?

My own idea - trying to blend orange and yellow in the poppy petals. The faint grey line is for stitching a quilted circle around the motif in several colours of thread. Next project!

January 25, 2012


Grey but happy, I love this quilt!

See how there are patches of flowers and writing in the trucks and cars? I wonder if each vehicle was hand-appliqued or created on foundation paper and then applied.

Gorgeous. Fun but not hokey. Just right.

Another bit of gorgeousness from Luana Rubin's photos of quilts from the 
Tokyo International Quilt Festival. One of these days I've got to go!

January 22, 2012

Turquoise green

More inspiration from summer holiday thinking.

I'd love to make a quilt with these colours, or to try to paint this vase.

Photo by Luana Rubin courtesy of her Flickr Japanese Textiles and Flea Markets collection.

I love the shape and how you know it would just be the right heaviness in your hands. Also, the mottled surface in each colour - it's old, perhaps not top quality. (The photo was taken in a flea market in Japan.) I even love the rectilinear lines at the bottom that at first read like Greek key designs (you know, square maze trails) but turn out to be irregular compartments.

I think most of all, I want to watercolour paint this image with wet swirly colours bleeding into each other. An inspiration - and a challenge!

January 19, 2012


Last post was golden, this is a soft shade of cool lilac.

On a hot day before Christmas, off we went to Castlemaine to visit the excellent art gallery. I've been there before but like all of the best museum galleries, the Castlemaine gallery seems to reveal something new every time.

This is, if I recall correctly, a WW2 era bridesmaid's dress. I wonder, was fabric in shortage when it was made? If yes, then those bias-cut panels on the bodice must have been even more stunning: extravagance added to elegance.

Or maybe it was a refashioning of a pre-war dress? Something about the bias cut makes me think twenties, even teens - but not the colour. Maybe an old dress was reshaped, dyed, made new.

And as for the colour, that lovely cold shade of lilac. Summer skies and spring grass, tiny flowers and cool mornings.

I love to wonder about the hopes and thoughts of whoever made and wore it. I hope it was a magical wedding.

I can't decide whether I like the cut more, or the colour. They're both so fantastic, you just want to wear a dress like this and twirl and twirl and twirl...