Thursday, 22 April 2010

it's harvest time!

Sayonara city - I'm out of here! I'll be offline for 9 or so days (who's counting?!) as I head off to my parent's farm near Mudgee for the annual East Ridge Olive Grove Harvest Festival.

I look forward to this time of year even more than Christmas. It's got all the elements needed for a great festive holiday - family, friends, copious amounts of good food and wine, good conversation and a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life - with the added bonus of fresh clean country air, gentle exercise and the satisfaction gleaned from being involved in the making of the most delicious tasting, award winning olive oil you've ever tasted!

Okay so I'm a little biased due to the fact that I helped plant these olive trees for mum and dad and have helped harvest them every year. I think this might be our 5 year anniversary too (I'll have to check with mum about that though) so it's going to be extra special. And we're hoping for a bumper crop - harvest is being held over 2 weekends this year instead of just the one. That's if the birds don't eat them all, hail doesn't destroy them, fires don't come through the area or Icelandic volcanic ash decends upon us. Tom's parents come every year and this year they're bringing extra help all the way from Stockholm. Fingers crossed Dory gets to hop on the plane in time, what with all the delays due to the Icelandic (int)eruptions...

So I've packed my Blundstones, an array of colourful beanies, a large stash of wool for making granny squares, my cameras, a book (Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami) and I'm keeping Dad company while Tom and the rest of my family head back home mid week for work/uni. Dad's hired out a few seasons of The Darling Buds of May for our viewing pleasure. Oh, and The Brittas Empire, which would be loudly voted off the island if the rest of the clan were still there. We share a love of British television, the good, the bad and the extraordinarily, painfully woeful. But that's just for the evenings of course - I plan to spend my time off scouring the local op shops and snoozing. Bliss.

Just like this...

I'll miss you, you know. I'm sure I'll have loads of catching up to do on the interwebs upon my return. Don't do anything too exciting while I'm gone, will you?

I'll also miss you Snouting Girl. Sad you won't be eating rotting rabbits and then getting sick, grousing at the other dogs being the grumpy old fun police, getting dirty with a filthy stinking beard, carrying kindling for the fire and generally being the loveliest dog we've ever had. (Sorry to all our other dogs, Cleo will always be my favourite, it's true...)

R.I.P Cleo Sept 2009

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

glass half full or half empty? cake half burnt or half uncooked?

As you can see I'm a chaotic baker. I promise I didn't "style" that shot, that's just how unorganised the science of baking is in my kitchen. Things get messy when I bake. But I love the clutter, the muddle, the bedlam and the scrambles and shambles of a good afternoon of baking. So what if I've got icing sugar in my hair, egg smeared on my skirt and if my cardigan doesn't skim over my curves like Nigella's. At least I get to lick all the dishes clean and put them straight back in the cupboards when I'm done.

I don't love when my delicious tasting lemon and almond cake batter burns on the outside and is completely uncooked in the middle...poor Nana, her 82nd birthday cake probably won't be remembered in her birthday cake hall of fame. And I burnt it last year too, so maybe this is becoming a tradition. And sure, I blame the oven, but who turned it up too high, then down too low to compensate? Oops, I guess that would be me...

So the lesson I learn, time and time again, is eat as much of that delicious lemony butter and sugar and almond meal mixture before you put it in the oven and go and ruin everything, yet again. Got any better baking tips than that?!

Other lessons I am learning this week is persistance and being patient. Thank you for your kind words as I battle with my temper. Never fear, my nephew and I are still talking to each other (well, he babbles, I sing) and spend most of the day cuddling. Plus I figure I am being paid to be patient, so I should try harder for work ethic reasons alone! I did confess to my sister in law that I'd yelled at him and she just hugged me and said - "I'm sorry he pushed you to your limit but it happens to everyone. Don't feel bad. Feel good because you're giving me a break 3 days a week!"

So I guess I'll have a glass (half full) of wine to wash down this delicious cake, put my feet up and consider myself just cussing awesome. Care to join me? Come on, tell me you're not cussing awesome too?! I know you are!!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Patience and the Imp

Urgh. Lately I have really been putting my imp before my patience. And it just feels so awful.

When I see and hear other people all seems so unnecessary and soul destroying. And it really doesn't matter if you apologise afterwards - it's too late, you've already acted irrationally and you can't take those words or actions back. And I know it hurts real bad when someone yells at you, so I really shouldn't be yelling at someone else...

Especially when that someone is a 7 month old baby.

I lost my cool the other day - everything had been a battle, no eating, no drinking, no sleeping all day without a fight. And so when I reached the end of my tether, when I gave up trying to understand what the hell was the problem, I yelled. And unsurprisingly, yelling does not stop a baby from crying. Nor did it make me feel any better afterwards - on the contrary I felt a million times worse.

Why can't I be more patient? Where can I get more patience from? How do you learn to be patient?

I really don't want to be a yeller. I don't want to lash out verbally when I'm feeling pissed off. I don't want to snap so easily. I don't want to take my frustrations out on other people, especially those I love. I want to be stronger.

How come I can find patience for inanimate objects: learn a new craft, layer my tea bags in a spiral, fold all my plastic bags in neat and tidy rectangles but when it comes to compassion for other human beings I am so quick to snap?

This is one bad habit I am keen to quit. If you have any wisdom to impart or helpful tips I'd be one grateful girl...

Thursday, 15 April 2010

pin cushion swap

I've joined in on the Pin Cushion Swap organised by sweet Kate of Foxs Lane.

My ummming and ahhhing, dilly dallying, tooing and froing time is now up. I've got to pop my pin cushions in the mail! Whether I like them or not.

Here they are:

pin cushion swap

pincushions 2

Now, I only learnt to crochet just last November so I am rather proud of myself for figuring these out all by myself and without a pattern. Having said that, had I consulted a pattern I may not have needed to pull them apart quite so many times...but where is the 'learning' in that eh?

I hope these cheery pin cushions leave a little ray of sunshine on my swap partner's sewing table! I'm just putting the finishing touches on my 'Sunny Songs to Sew By' mixtape and then I'm off to the post office...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

how to: floral cheer on a budget

Everyone loves flowers, right? I just get so sad when they die. And in this heat (yes, it's a sunny 28 degrees in Sydney today - where did that nice cool Autumn breeze go?!) cut flowers don't last as long as I'd like them to. But it's someone special's birthday party today and I knew they'd appreciate some floral cheer so I popped into the florist to see what was on offer.

I was excited to see little pots of colour on sale for $2 each. I'm thinking that this floral cheer might last a little longer if it's still attached to it's plantly home and nestled safely in soil. But the plastic pot? I think we can do better than that...

It's a little shabby chic in this colour scheme, what with the antique lace, twine and floral paper but if we can't indulge in a little girliness once in a while then what's the world coming to?!

So if you, or someone you know, is in need of a little floral cheer and you're strapped for cash then I would definitely recommend doing the following:

* Head to your local florist or gardening centre and pick up a pot or two of cheerful blooms. If your friend is more of a foodie - pick up some herbs instead
* Rummage through the recycling for some tins - soak them in hot water to remove the label and give them a good clean
* Squeeze your plants into the tins - you'll need to loosen the roots a little, pat them down and then give them a little water
* Wipe the tin clean so no soil is, errr, soiling the outside of your vase
* Decorate your vase with scraps of wrapping paper, fabric, ribbons, lace, wool or whatever takes your fancy and secure it with double sided tape for extra ease and speediness!

Too easy! Cheap and cheery! Win, win, wouldn't you say?

I'm thinking these sweet little tins would look lovely as table centrepieces on special occasions like Christmas or at a wedding. Or you know, for those occasions like every other day. Life is too short to wait for special things to happen - sometimes you've got to initiate the special yourself. Be 'specially proactive!

happiness is...

...a warm blanket to snuggle in...
bano collage

...fresh clean sheets to rest your weary body on...

...and sweet, sweet dreams of otters holding hands...

Well come on now, could something so adorable be real?!
That had to be a dream!
That moment at 1:18? My heart explodes with happiness. I'm otterly in love.

And if that didn't melt your frozen heart I don't know what will. I've decided I do believe in reincarnation - in the hope that my next life will be spent as a hand holding otter who fills their days snoozing and floating in a pool with the one they love the best.

Hope your weekend is filled with snuggles, sweet dreams, hand holding and happiness.

Friday, 9 April 2010

this couch potato is getting a serious makeover

I'd love a new couch. But I've been told by my better half that there's absolutely nothing wrong with this one.

I'd beg to differ.

I mean sure, it's actually quite comfortable, if you don't mind sinking into it and never getting up again. And the fact that it only cost 40 cents on ebay makes it hard to imagine a replacement that could scream !!!BARGAIN!!! quite like this one does. Everyone loves a bargain. Everyone that visits our home gets told "that couch cost 40 cents". If we didn't have the couch, what bargains could we brag about?!

But it's so dark and shows so much dust and is getting threadbare on the arms and the cushions are sad and flat and missing buttons...

Oh, it would be so lovely and grown up to own a piece of furniture that I'd actually bought because I like the design, rather than the price tag. But I guess I'll have to wait until I am...more...grown up.

In the meantime I shall exercise my powers of discretionary spending on soft furnishings.

Enter my Umbrella Prints cushions. I picked up two packs of Umbrella Prints remnants at the last Sydney Finders Keepers markets. Holy thread count, Batman, I am seriously impressed with their stuff.

Did you know that these original Umbrella Prints fabrics are hand screen printed in Australia on organic hemp/cotton and linen/cotton and the inks used are water based 100% solvent free. YES! It's true! And unlike some other Australian, hand screen printed, environmentally friendly fabric* I bought recently, I'm really impressed with the quality of both the fabric and the printing. Seriously professional product. And it was a dream to sew.

Well, I dreamt that part up. Actually, my awesome, wonderful, kind and sweet mother sewed these up for me for Christmas. Bless her and her sewing skills!

So things are looking up, on the couch front, don'tcha think?

But there's still so much I've decided to put my new found crochet skills to work and embark upon an epic project - my first granny square blanket!

I've purchased 15 balls of Moda Vera 'Cupcake' yarn, which is ever so soft and snuggly, in colours which I think will compliment my cushions nicely. I've got 4 base colours for this rug - a navy, pumpkin, mustard and red.

And then I've got 3 bright and cheery colours - turquoise, rose and purple - to add a little pop of colour here and there. Then I'll bind them all together with a nice cream. Yum!

And this granny square rug will not be anything like the rug on Roseanne, which is what my 'so called' better half exclaimed when he saw my granny square pile growing...

Now, If we add up the cost of these cushions (easily $100 with feather/down cushion inserts and not including labour) and the wool to make this blanket ($70 so far but since I haven't finished I'll bet I have to buy more, 4 balls of cream to crochet it all together is definitely not going to be enough) I think I'd have just enough to purchase another (albeit pre-loved) couch from ebay. But where would the fun be in that eh?!

*No, I shan't name names. I'd probably be ostracised by the Australian blogging community as this company gets a serious amount of online love. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and put it down to bad luck/exceedingly high fabric quality expectations/bad day at the press...but I doubt I'll be spending any more of my hard earned discretionary dollars there in the future. Sad face...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Zine tripping with June, Tammy and In the Light of the Sun

I don't know what you'd call them really but I used to LOVE these when I was a girl of 10 summers. Fresh, sunny and sweet (me or my reading material?!). Girls magazines? Cartoons, comics, pulp fiction for kids? Did you ever read them?

I used to have a hard cover annual that I absolutely treasured, I can't remember what it was called (maybe mum knows? I think it was a June Girls Annual circa 1975?) but it had stories about exotic adventures, boarding schools, tennis, horse riding, sewing tips and beauty info. I was smitten. I read it over and over and over and wished they still made them, and that was back in '92. Those were the days before Dolly and Girlfriend magazine took over my must have reading list...

I stumbled across a bunch of old school girls paper zines in a little antique junk shop on the way to Healesville on our last trip to Melbourne. If we hadn't taken carry on luggage only with a weight limit of 15 kilos I would have bought them all...alas, all I could squeeze in my bag was 2. One 'June and School Friend' circa July 1969 and one 'You're never alone with Tammy' circa July 1978. A decade apart but the content is still the same - exotic adventures, school girl antics, tennis stories, making fun of that fatty Bessie Bunting, handsome and dangerous men.

I didn't go on holiday this Easter long weekend, but discovering these forgotten zine purchases whilst cleaning up our house makes me feel like I've traveled back in time to my childhood, and the childhood of the original girls who saved their pennies (all 7 or 8 of them) to purchase these papers and be transported to a world of adventure.

I might chop these up when I'm done reading them. I think they'd make fun envelopes, paper cranes, wrapping paper and cards. If anyone wants to know what happens in any of the above stories, let me know and I'll scan the next page for you!

P.S I hope you've enjoyed this zine trip down memory lane more than poor Ann (who speaks her mind) did...

Monday, 5 April 2010

Autumnal Elixir

I have most definitely overdosed on chocolate this weekend - my bad skin and poor temper will attest to that. This gloriously cool and drizzly weather has prompted me to ignore my sweet tooth for just one minute and indulge my savory side - my stomach is calling for some healthy, soul soothing soup.

If you're in need of a belly full of goodness after a long weekend of indulgence I can highly recommend this autumnal elixir concocted by yours truly!


The cast:
* 2 spanish onions sliced roughly
* As much garlic as you like - I used 3 big minced cloves
* 1 heaped teaspoon of harisa paste (or chopped fresh chilli if you don't have harisa)
* 1 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin
* 2 tins of peeled roma tomatos
* 1 tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
* Half a bunch of silverbeet, stems removed and the leaves chopped thinly

Added extras:
* Some cheese like feta to crumble on top (I only had cheddar in the fridge though.)
* Toasted sliced almonds or pine nuts on top also add crunch

Lightly caramalize the onions in your biggest pot with olive oil and a little salt to release the liquid. While the onions are simmering away I chop the silverbeet and rinse the beans off.
Once the onions are thoroughly cooked add the harisa paste, ground cumin and the minced garlic, stir and lightly fry for a minute or so. Then add the 2 tins of tomato, stirring to break down the whole tomato pieces and bring to a boil.
Once the tomato has been bubbling away for a few minutes and turned a rich red hue, throw in your cannellini beans and chopped spinach. Stir it well to combine - put the lid on the pot, turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Taste test for seasoning - does it need more salt or pepper, cumin, chilli etc? Or a small teaspoon of brown sugar for sweetness perhaps? If not - it's time to grab a bowl and ladle up. YUM!

Hope everyone has had a relaxing and enjoyable Easter long weekend. I'm going to snuggle up on the couch and rest in the quiet before the madness that is life takes over once again - what about you?
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