Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In the Morning Light

I took these photos a couple of weeks ago and I keep coming back to them. It seems they represent so much at the moment, of all the moments that make up our days and lives.

The reason I grabbed my camera at the time was the light. I saw it first, streaming in and capturing those two little girls doing what they were doing, casting a long shadow on the wall behind. The 'discovering' photographer in me wanted to know how it would look through the lens. I like the way my 'eye' is learning and developing the more I practise this craft.

But looking back on the photos after, I saw so much more. I saw my first babe blossoming into a big girl, able to make out the words on the page all on her own. I saw a big sister taking a moment of her morning to give her time and focus to her little sister. I saw that little sister hanging on every word, focused entirely on the words and the images before her. And I felt a glimmer of pride that enough has been done right in the lives of these girls that this moment could even exist in the first place - that they chose a book, that they chose to share, that they chose togetherness.

Most of our mornings aren't like this. There's chaos and noise from the get-go. Thank goodness for the occasional pause, to notice the light, and to capture a moment that might otherwise have been lost.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Market Day

Behind the scenes of working and kid-chasing, enormous morning teas, and life in general, I've been busy knitting away to prepare for my first ever market, which was on Sunday in Canberra. I signed up for it months ago thinking having a date in the future to aim for would be motivating. And it was, even though many times in the lead-up I nearly pulled out. Hand-knitting isn't the most time-efficient business. I can knit a couple of dozen hats for my Etsy shop and trust that if someone wants something specific, they will custom order it. But for a market I needed stock, which pretty much just involves relentless knitting. By the night before, I reckoned I had about 50 hats to take to market. My final stocktake as I packed it all up revealed there were, in fact, 99. That's a lot of hats.

It was a quiet market. I've been to Mathilda's Markets in Sydney before and they are huge. I chose Canberra because of its proximity and I figured the climate is right for my product. It certainly was on Sunday - foggy and freezing! But on this day there were only a handful of other stallholders and a steady but small stream of customers.

When I made my first sale I was ecstatic. Off the mark! Several more followed. In the end it was definitely worth going, but I'll be putting off retirement for a while yet. The best part, though, was the feedback. I see my hats in photos customers send me, or on Instagram and Facebook, but to watch them in the flesh oohing and ahhing, stroking the wool, holding them up in pairs to decide between colours - that was fun.

It affirms for me that I have a lovely product here, one that people really like. And that is exciting!

I also got to catch up with lots of Canberra friends who popped in to say hi, including lovely Rachel who I met last year at The Nursery. She's managed to grow and produce another entire human in that time! And my little helper who tagged along for the day certainly enjoyed trying out the wares from the vegan cupcake stall and the face painter, as well as doing a spot of hat modelling when required.

All in all, a grand day (and one that I'm very glad is behind me).

With all that extra stock on my hands, I've restocked the shop with lots of new hats, including many more in the baby size. More will follow in the next few days. 

Monday, May 27, 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013" via Che and Fidel.

Lola, Pearl and Stella. My three.

Previous 52 portraits here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thank You!

To everyone who popped in for a cuppa over the past few days, thank you!
To everyone who left comments giving encouragement and support, thank you!
To everyone who shared the love and spread the word, thank you!
To the incredibly kind people who donated goodies for the giveaway, thank you!
To the beautiful guests who told their stories - Christina, Vanessa, Jodi, Mel and Claire - thank you!
To the 55 of you (55!!!) who clicked over to the Australia's Biggest Morning Tea site and donated money, thank you!
To those people who shared their stories, even if you left me in puddles of tears several times during the week, thank you.

To those who helped get us to the first fundraising goal of $1,000 by halfway through day two, thank you! And to those who pushed us up to the second goal of $2,000 last night, THANK YOU!

We raised $2,170. I don't know what to say.

Thank you! It was a good thing that happened here this week.

Prize winners have been announced back here.

(If you're in Canberra tomorrow, I'll be at the Mathilda's Market at Albert Hall from 9-1 with a whole lot of hats. And on Monday I'm planning on having a little collapse...)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Very Rustic Silverbeet and Bacon Tarts

A savoury tart for the final day, a day in which we edged closer and closer to that $2,000 target. And we are so close. SO CLOSE! Who knows what the night will bring? 

In the meantime, a quick recipe in case you thought a bacon and silverbeet tart might be just the thing for your weekend brunch. Bubbly optional, but wholly appropriate.

To make six individual and rather rustic tarts, you will need: 

1 quantity shortcrust pastry (or if your food processor is on the blink and you're in a bit of a rush, use frozen sheets - they're perfectly adequate and two will make six small tarts)
splosh of olive oil
160g bacon or speck, diced
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 bunch silverbeet, washed, leaves shredded
3 eggs
1/2 cup cream
parmesan cheese, grated

Line individual tart tins with pastry. Blind bake according to these instructions.

Heat oil in a small frypan and cook bacon until golden. Remove to a plate lined with absorbent paper. Add garlic to pan with silverbeet and cook over gentle heat until the greens have wilted nicely - about 5 minutes. Return bacon and mix it all together. Season well with salt and pepper.

Whisk eggs and cream in a jug. Distribute silverbeet and bacon mixture between blind-baked pastry cases. Pour over egg mixture. Sprinkle parmesan on the top of each. 

Bake at 160 degrees for 20-25 minutes until just set.

For a larger, cheesier version of these little tarts, see my recipe here.

Did you see Claire's beautiful guest post back here? Did you enter the giveaway back here? (Winner announced tomorrow night!) Do you think calling it a savoury tart makes it sound fancier than a quiche?

One Claire Day - Guest Post

I've been saving something very special for last - my final visitor for the week, Claire from One Claire Day. If you can make it past these glorious photos, you'll find a beautiful story about that most feminine of occasions, the tea party. Enjoy!

Nothing brings women together quite like a good cuppa, cheerful chatter and copious amounts of cake.

My most memorable celebratory occasions of the past few years have all centered around a table styled eclectically with vintage linens, homemade sweets and mismatched china - the modern woman reinvents the age-old ritual of the 'morning tea'.

We come together over these sugary feasts to celebrate all manner of things; birthdays, friendship, new babies, motherhood, brides-to-be (in this instance it was the celebration of my friend's new business venture). Call me old fashioned but I find a 'tea' celebration the ultimate nod to the strength of womanhood. I always leave these gatherings with an overwhelming sense of pride as a woman and feeling more closely connected to my peers. The experience makes me feel more connected to the generations of women past, too... perhaps it's due to that ever-present and undeniable nostalgic charm that seems to fill the air.

Underneath the seemingly frivolous exterior of such occasions lies something I believe to be paramount to the wellbeing of all women - togetherness. The sharing of experiences, support, encouragement, the offering of advice (or a napkin for tear streaked cheeks).

Really, I can't think of anything that can't be shared over a freshly brewed pot of tea.

Thank you, Claire! How good would it be for us all to be sharing a real pot of tea this week. If you haven't visited Claire's beautiful space, One Claire Day, rush there now. 

A Very Bloggy Morning Tea - Day Five

After a long week of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and sweet treats, I thought we might bring a bit of razzle-dazzle to round off the week. This has all been for my mum - who I miss terribly - and if there's one thing my mum didn't mind, it was a glass or two of the bubbly stuff. If the occasion called for it, even if it was before midday, then she would go stoically forth and pop that cork. Christmas morning, for example, always involved champers. Brunch often could. So A Very Bloggy Morning Tea really ought to as well, don't you agree? Pop!

I've a savoury treat for you today. Did I just hear someone cry "More tarts"? Why, yes, more tarts. Bacon and silver beet, don't you know?

We are so near the target, good people. Please pop over and donate if you were thinking you might and hadn't got around to it. Even a handful of dollars will be appreciated. And do pop back later for our final guest post from a stylish lady with an incredible eye for beauty. Gosh, there's a lot of popping going on.

And before I go, I thought I'd share the little story I put together for the Cancer Council website last week about last year's Very Bloggy Morning Tea. It's what this has all been about. I hope you don't mind.


My mum rather liked a nice cuppa. 

She was a tea-in-the-morning type, like me. And she used to retire at night with a cup of black tea, always in a fine bone china cup and saucer, always with a slice of lemon. She’d sip on it as she sat up in bed reading her latest favourite book.

During the day, however, it was coffee - good coffee from good cafes. Like me, she ordered a soy latte every time.

Mum died five years ago when the renal cell carcinoma that had claimed a kidney years earlier and returned in her liver, won its brutal fight. She left behind seven grandbabies, three of them - one from each daughter - born in the year since her diagnosis

I never thought I’d be the fundraiser type. I read stories of people who, through illness, accident and loss, are inspired and energised to start foundations, run marathons, climb mountains for a cause. It takes a special kind of person.

But having some friends over for morning tea? That’s easy. That I can do.

Just over a year ago, my little family and I moved out of the city for a new life in a rural village. As keen as I was to put on my floral apron and start rolling out scones in my lovely country kitchen, the reality of my situation then was that I knew about three people who I could invite over. We wouldn’t have raised much money.

But I had a blog and I ‘knew’ lots of people in that virtual space who’d willingly “pop in” for some tea and a slice of cake (or at least a recipe). So I held my Biggest Morning Tea online. Unlike in the real world, this morning tea went on for an entire week. And I had guests showing up not only from all over the country, but as far afield as Singapore, England and Canada. My old Sydney friends came to the party with generous donations, and people I’d never met in real life, and still haven’t, also parted with their hard-earned cash.

Every day there was something sweet to eat, with an accompanying recipe. I showed off my collection of vintage tea sets, some that used to belong to my granny. I gathered together some lovely bits and pieces to give away as lucky door prizes to show my appreciation. And when it was all said and done, and the last teacup had been polished and put back in the cabinet, we’d raised over $1,000 for a mighty good cause.

So what did I learn from hosting my virtual Biggest Morning Tea? That no matter the context, people enjoy a celebration. That if you’re enthusiastic enough, they’ll come along for the ride. That parting with $10 or $20 or $100 in honour of my mum, or anyone’s mum, is heart-filling, not wallet-draining. 

And that just like my mum, people rather like a nice cuppa.

Photo by Briony of Catch Photography.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pear and Pecan Brownie, Oh, Yeah

So, you know how I feel about coffee. It's one of life's absolute necessities, and a dear, darling old friend. I have a vague memory of a time in my very early twenties when, on visits to cafes, I would order a chocolate milkshake. I can't even imagine it now.

Another of life's necessities would have to be chocolate, and if it has to take the form of an oozy, gooey brownie, then so be it. I will not argue.

You will need:

200g dark chocolate
200g butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup poached pears, diced (you could use tinned whole pears)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

Toast pecans in a dry saucepan, being careful not to burn. Reserve 12 whole ones and roughly chop the rest.

In a saucepan, melt chocolate and butter over gentle heat. Combine sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Pour over melted chocolate mix and stir it all really well, until it gets lovely and glossy. Fold through chopped pecans and pears.

Line a 15x25cm slice tin with baking paper. Pour in brownie mixture. Place the reserved whole pecans evenly on top of the brownie mix like little soldiers all in a row. Bake for 35-40 minutes until just cooked but still a bit oozy.

Brew coffee. Pour into cup. Grab a square of brownie. Eat, quick, eat!

At last count we'd raised $1,635. I don't even know what to say. You guys!!! I wonder can we hit the $2,000 revised target by close of business tomorrow. Spread the word if you feel you can. It'd be pretty cool if we did. And thank you, thank you, thank you so much. A square of pear and pecan brownie for everyone!!!

See you back here tomorrow to celebrate our final day. Emphasis on 'celebrate'!

Coal Valley View - Guest Post

Please welcome today's lovely guest, Mel. Mel and I first connected a while ago over the twin thing. She has four-year-old twins  as well as two older children AND a new bub. She must be a superwoman because when I met her last weekend at a blogging event, she seemed as calm and relaxed and lovely as could be - though anyone would look calm next to the frizz-frazzle that is me when I get an hour or two to myself. Mel is one funny lady. Her blog often has me chuckling out loud at the screen. Enjoy her story.

My morning coffee ritual is completely unsatisfactory at the moment, such is life with 5 smalls in the home. My first coffee of the morning appears on my bedside table while I feed the baby still bleary-eyed from the earlier 4am feed. I inevitably doze off and wake up to a cold coffee. The second attempt at a hot coffee is also made in vain as the odd sip is interrupted with doing hair for school, making lunches and finding misplaced school items. By the time I get back to the coffee it is luke warm at best. 

Once the kids are off to school I either make two back-to-back coffees to replace the earlier coffee failures or I spend the good part of the day flicking the kettle on as I walk past it without ever managing to actually complete the coffee-making process. It all just depends on what day of the week it is and how many children are at home with me.

So let me tell you about my favourite morning tea ritual instead. It is the one I shared every week with my gorgeous grandparents when we were living in Sydney. 

Every week I would front up to the home they had built 60 years previously for a 'relaxing' cup of tea. I emphasise 'relaxing' because taking the kids to visit their great-grandparents was actually anything but relaxing. Every available surface of their home was adorned with breakables or valuable trinkets and controlling two year old twins in such an environment was as relaxing as jumping out of an aeroplane blind-folded.

Nevertheless I would be welcomed in by my grandmother and summoned to sit down, somehow relax and tell them all my news whilst keeping an eagle eye on the 2 year old twins as they eyed off my Grandma's collection of Lladro Ballerinas and and the rows of Wedgewood China propped along the shelves that ran the length of the living room wall. 

After successfully making it through the minefield of breakables in the living room, we would settle in to the family room. Whilst my 95-year-old Grandpa toddled off to prepare the tea, I was handed the latest photo album and letters from relatives and looked through these while I chatted with my Grandma who sat with her latest knitting project in her lap. As I recounted the news of the week she would repeat it all back to my Grandpa who was still in the kitchen preparing the tea tray. Conversations were interrupted with constant reminders to the boys to stop playing with Grandpa's collection of ceramic pumpkins or to step away from the crystal glassware set out on the bar.

Tea was a traditional affair with everything served in fine china on a silver tray. There was none of this quick tea-bag in a mug of hot water business. It took a very long time as Grandpa would place the teapot down on the table and then go backwards and forwards from the kitchen to the table for the next half an hour gathering cups and saucers and napkins, the tray with the milk jug and the sugar bowl. 

Meanwhile, the boys continue their search for the most breakable objects in the home and keep my blood pressure at a rather unhealthy level while I waited for a sip of restorative tea. I would pepper my grandparents with questions about our family history, keen to learn as much as possible in between reminding the boys not to de-frond the indoor ferns or fondle the chains of the grandfather clock. Grandpa would almost be ready for tea when he would have to head into his study to retrieve some papers because he couldn't remember precisely what year the patio extension on the house was done.

I'd hang off every word as Grandpa recounted stories from his time serving in the army in New Guinea, all the while peering sidewards as the boys moved in on the fish tank. The fish tank sat precariously on the top of a wonky pedestal with matchstick legs and teetered from side to side like an amateur juggler on stilts. 

Somewhere between distracting the boys from wanting to go outside and step directly into the swimming pool that had no child-proof fence, morning tea would finally be ready.  Homemade chocolate cake was usually on offer as well as a container full of chocolate biscuits of the TimTam or Mint Slice variety, a very welcome distraction for the boys. I'd watch chocolate crumbs descend from the mouths of the little boys into the cream flokati rug as I took my first sip of tea. Without fail, and after what seemed like an hour of preparation, the tea was either too strong or only luke warm. However, if we stayed long enough, morning tea would morph into "elevensies" which involved a little nip of wine from the fridge which thankfully only took a small moment to prepare and was already chilled. More often than not, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Despite the stress levels, the shenanigans and the cold tea, my visits were a highlight of every week, a little tradition of spending time with my very special grandparents that I am so grateful for, especially since my Grandmother passed away just shortly before we left Sydney and moved back to Tasmania - a different kind of morning tea ritual that is all about the ritual and (thankfully) not about the tea.

Thank you, Mel, for visiting today. Make sure you check out her blog at Coal Valley View.

A Very Bloggy Morning Tea - Day Four

I've been waiting for this day. After reading Jodi's post yesterday about tea, and hearing so many of you describe how much it means to you, I can understand the sentiments. Tea is my beverage of choice first thing every day. But if the ship were sinking and I only had time to grab one, well, it would be coffee every time. Beautiful, beautiful coffee. From midmorning through to late afternoon, and occasionally into the evening, my old friend coffee.

So come in, won't you? I've been brewing up a plunger of the dark stuff. I've got some milk if you prefer yours white, but I'll take mine straight if it's all the same with you. We can always send someone down to the cafe on the corner for some proper lattes if you prefer. And I've got some squishy gooey squares of pear and pecan brownie in case you need a bit more caffeine with your caffeine.

Rightio, let's do this.

Another of my favourite bloggers will be by later this morning to give us a giggle. You can still donate to the fundraiser here and enter the supersonic grand prize draw here. Any guesses which of those tea towels I'd choose to hang over my oven door?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lemon and Ginger

I'm fond of a nice tart. Sweet or savoury, you'll have trouble keeping me away. And if there's even a suggestion of a curd on that tart - lemon, passionfruit - well, I'm anybody's. I've always stuck to Stephanie's lemon curd recipe, based on butter, sugar and eggs. But I recently tried out the Bourke Street Bakery one, which replaces the butter with cream. Mmmmm. I've changed it up a bit and added some springy zingy ginger for something different, and to complement that lemongrass and ginger tea just begging to be sipped.

You will need:

2 eggs
40g caster sugar
50ml lemon juice
rind from 1 lemon, finely grated
60ml pouring cream
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

In a heatproof bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rind until the sugar has dissolved. Add cream and whisk until smooth. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and continue whisking until it thickens. It should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you whisk continuously or else it will go lumpy. Use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as required. Spoon into a jar or bowl, place plastic wrap so that it touches the curd and refrigerate overnight.

Spread it on toast, dollop on a scone, fill tiny shortcrust pastry cases, or place atop some cakey almondy tarty things, as described below.

For the Cakey Almondy Tarty Things, you will need:

100g plain flour
90g almond meal
60g caster sugar
30g brown sugar
100g butter, cold
1 egg yolk

Place dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Dice butter and rub it into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. This will take several minutes and give you muscles on your fingers. Add egg yolk and use a spoon or your hands to combine it evenly. It should now resemble a soft pastry. Form into a disc shape, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Grease a mini muffin pan, preferably silicone. I used olive oil spray but melted butter would do. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of about 8mm. Cut 6cm rounds and squeeze into the mini muffin holes, pressing with your fingers to create a slightly concave shape. You're not trying to make a thin pastry case, rather a slightly dented cakey base that will hold some filling.

Once you've filled all the holes, bake for 6-8 minutes until the cakes are lovely and golden and cooked through. Allow to cool in the tin then pop them out onto a rack.

To serve, either spoon or pipe the curd onto the tops of the cakes. Arrange them on a dainty doily and place alongside your finest tea set. Have your butler pour the tea.

For the lemongrass and ginger tea, bash a lemongrass stick a few times with the handle of your knife to release its goodness. Squish it up and shove it in your teapot. Slice a few thin pieces of ginger - don't worry about peeling it - and add to the pot. Pour boiling water over the lot and leave to steep. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Che & Fidel - Guest Post

I'm so excited to have Jodi drop in today. She's a long-time favourite blogger of mine - if you don't know Che & Fidel you have probably been living under a rock. Her space is a tranquil one, filled with beautifully crafted words and stunning images. She writes here about her love affair with tea.

A few weeks ago my partner, Daniel, was going through mini-movies he had shot when our daughter Poet was a newborn. There's a scene where I'm completely oblivious to the camera; I'm breastfeeding Poet and quite literally gulping down tea.

"Look at me drink that tea!"

"I made you so many cups of tea in those first few weeks," said Daniel. And he did. He toasted banana bread too - lots of it. Tea and banana bread was my snack of choice - warming, comforting, a necessity, really.

Tea drinking is a ritual passed down from my Dad. He comes from a long-line of passionate tea drinkers. But you know what, he never quite finishes his cup of tea. "Tea leaves," he says, even though he's been using bags for twenty years. 

I have a stainless steel whistling kettle that looks as good as it sings. I boil it in the morning to make lemon and ginger tea. I boil it for lunch and afternoon tea when I crave a good ceylon and just before I start making dinner I'll make peppermint or nettle to guide me through the chopping and stirring. At night when the children are asleep and I have settled into the couch I'll make my last cup for the day - ceylon or chamomile or ginger. 

Six weeks ago when I weaned Poet I drank sage tea to help dry up the milk. Four leaves, almost-boiling water, three times a day. 

Tea drinking is therapeutic for me. It warms my hands and my heart. 

First image by Tim Coulson.
Second image by Jodi Wilson.

Thanks so much, Jodi, for being a part of this very special week. Connect with Jodi at her blog or on Facebook.

There's still plenty of time to donate here, and don't forget to enter the wonderful giveaway here.

A Very Bloggy Morning Tea - Day Three

It would appear, good people, that I was a little modest with my fundraising goal of $1,000. Sometime around midday yesterday, we managed to blow it out of the water. We're already well on the way to doubling it and it's only day three! What can I say? You are a fine, fine bunch.

Now, all of that chocolate yesterday might have left you feeling a bit sedentary, so today we're going to at least give the illusion of wholesome goodness with some lemongrass and ginger tea - freshly brewed, of course. And on the side, keeping that zesty, zingy theme going, I've got some tiny almond cakes topped with a creamy lemon and ginger curd.

So find a seat at the table. Tea cups this dainty call for an upright chair and, dare I say, some raised pinkies. If only, if only, I had a parlour to seat you all in, and a Carson-esque butler to handle all the pouring. Never mind. Let's just call each other 'milady' and be done with it.

Needlework optional.

You won't want to miss today's guest post. Check back later for a real treat. And - look! - I made a button for the giveaway (over there on the right) in case you're having trouble wading back through all of this tea-time goodness.

Pistachio Cardamom Choc-Chip

Homemade choc-chip biscuits are a favourite around here. And I've always held firm to the belief that you shouldn't sully them by adding nuts or sultanas. (Just like my belief that tomato can ruin a good sandwich...)

But I must have come over all exotic when I thought up these little wonders. Cardamom - one of my favourite spices - and pistachios, complementing beautifully all of that chopped dark chocolate. Dunked in a mug of spiced hot cocoa? Well, there's not much more I can say, really. Bake them, eat them, don't say I didn't warn you.

You will need:

125g unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
150g dark chocolate, chopped
50g pistachios

Cream butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add flour and cardamom and mix until just combined. Add chocolate and pistachios and mix further until distributed evenly.

Divide the mixture in two and roll each half in a sheet of baking paper to form a log shape. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm up.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line two trays with baking paper. Using a sharp knife, slice biscuit logs into 1cm thick rounds. 

Lay on trays and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Once cool, put them in a vintage biscuit tin then sit on your hands until your guests arrive because there's nothing more embarrassing than inviting people over and having to confess you've eaten their morning tea.


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