Friday, September 27, 2013


:: My new Orla Kiely mugs, the perfect size for a homemade soy latte.

:: An Amelia Herbertson lino print bought last year on a trip back to my home town.

:: Fabric and yarn, always fabric and yarn

:: Raspberries, bought frozen, eaten as is and baked in everything.

:: A red door, pride of place in my new home.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vintage Summer Princess

I love her for her imagination, her inquisitiveness, her stubbornness, her silliness.

I love her relentless requests to do "craft", to "investigate", to catch butterflies in the garden.

I love that she can suddenly ride a bike like an old pro, can suddenly read whole books on her own, will make up a song and stop whatever she's doing to write down the lyrics.

I love that she suggests dinner on the lawn, then declares, "Well, isn't this pleasant," as we share our rice with the mozzies.

I love her intensely choreographed dance routines, and that they're often to the songs from Broadway musicals. (And I love how far back in her head her eyes roll when I try out one of my routines on her...)

I love her gappy grin, her impossibly thick hair, her limbs that seem to stretch out longer and thinner every time she falls asleep.

And I love that, given free rein in my fabric stash, she doesn't hesitate before selecting a lairy vintage sheet for her new summer dress (and that when she tries it on the first time, she says, "It's just like a ball gown!") 


Dress F from Girls Style Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Lovelies

School holidays are here again! I'm looking forward to the change of pace...and the very exciting trip away we have planned in a couple of weeks!! (Hint, hint).

1) Vintage napkins, hand-embroidered
2) Wild child
3) Morning sunshine (and my table needs an oil)
4) Someone is writing her own name
5) I made sourdough pancakes with Herman!
6) This discovery could be a very dangerous one.

Have a lovely week!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Perfect Meal

Do you ever come across a meal that is perfect for its time? One that seems somehow to represent you, entirely, right in that moment? This is my "perfect for me right now" meal, and I've been eating it an awful lot lately so I thought I'd share.

It has four main elements:

1) Speck. This is not bacon, or at least not as you know it. I got tired of boring sliced supermarket bacon, rubbery and flaccid and flavourless. I purchase speck as a big piece which means I can slice it to my desired thickness (oh, about a centimetre) and then into lardons. Sauteed in olive oil, those little morsels become crisp and juicy and terribly flavoursome. In the past I've used speck in wintery soups and stews, but more recently I'm sizzling it up in all sorts of exciting ways.

2) Silver beet. I never loved this vegetable. It was terribly green and terribly earthy. The stems were chewy. I didn't know what to do with it.  But a few years ago I jumped on the cavolo nero bandwagon, and found I loved it steamed then sauteed with garlic. Last year I tried that same simple method on some market-bought silver beet and tables began to turn. The final twist was when I planted a few seedlings last spring. That stuff grew and grew, and when I'd finally picked it all, it grew back again. Silver beet had it's time in the sun and in my kitchen, and I've not looked back. I'm looking forward to having it on tap again this summer.

3) Eggs. Or rather, very recently laid neighbourhood eggs. My chicken dream still hasn't come to fruition, but I've got the next best thing - friends with chickens. Every time I'm handed a carton of fresh-laid goodness, my heart skips a beat. And while most eggs find their way into cakes and tarts and Pearl's thrice weekly "mushy eggies", I save the very freshest for poaching. You can add your vinegar, swish your water, stand on one leg and whistle the national anthem all you like. All you actually need is a pan, simmering water, and the very freshest eggs.

4) Bread. Good bread, preferably sourdough, thick sliced, drizzled with olive oil, grilled in a hot pan till the stripes appear then rubbed with a cut clove of garlic.

All of that thrown together gives you this meal, this perfect anytime, every time meal. It could be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. It's just right for one, but could feed a crowd. It's simple food, which means it has to rely on the quality of its ingredients. And it's got enough green to be good for you, and enough other bits to feel like a treat.

Saute speck in a little oil until golden. Add half a clove of garlic, crushed, and some washed, sliced silver beet. Cook for several minutes until silver beet is tender and wilted (keep it over gentle heat so as not to burn the garlic). Add a little water if it needs some help. Season it all liberally with good salt and freshly ground pepper. Meanwhile, poach eggs. Grill bread and rub with the other half of the garlic clove. Pile on the silver beet mixture, top with the eggs, and tuck in.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"The Third Nearly Killed Me"

One of the things I miss most about having my mum around is being able to ask her about when she was at the stage of her life that I'm at now - being a mother to small children. Gosh, how I'd love to sit her down now and have her answer a few questions. Like, were we (my siblings and I) ever this much of a handful? Were we this funny and delightful?  Did we test every single boundary and push every single button?

Last night, I stumbled across a little card in a box of keepsakes. It was sent to my parents when I was born. It was probably one of only a handful - poor, deprived third children don't get as much attention as the first ones, don't I know!!!

Oh, how it made me laugh, that one small line: "Trust you are not too frazzled and have help - the third nearly killed me." Reassuring words from one mum to another. Proof that life and mothering was just as...challenging back in the mid-'70s as it is today.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Best Ever Op-Shop Find

Last year, when my littlest girls were getting ready to move out of their cots, I set to work to find them some big-girl beds. I had my heart set on a pair of matching antique wrought iron frames and, despite many hours trawling eBay and Gumtree, my efforts were futile. There were plenty of one-only beds that fit the bill, but not pairs. And the pairs I did find were not quite the right style. I decided to find something new but of a similar style, and I fell in love with these beds. I would have gone for it if I'd had only one to buy, but needing two, as well as mattresses and bedding, the budget just wasn't going to stretch. In the end, I settled for a pair of very affordable reproduction antique beds that did the job, even if they didn't set my world on fire.

Then, earlier this year, I wandered into an op shop and spied a bed. A single bed. One wrought iron antique bed that was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. It was all there, hiding against a back wall, with the price tag of $25. I couldn't pass it up and decided to buy it for Lola. Life had taken a turn and big decisions were being made, and I knew I'd be needing some new furniture soon anyway. I paid my money and arranged to pick up the bed in a few days time.

When I returned later that week to collect our new-old bed, I went to the back wall to pick it up, only to have the volunteer on duty say that no, my bed was out in the back room where the on-hold items are kept. "So what's this?" I asked, pointing at what I thought was my bed. "That's the other one," she said.

So that's how I came to find my pair of matching wrought iron antique beds, exactly - EXACTLY - the style I had envisaged. They're in beautiful condition, with just enough paint chips and rust to look entirely not-brand-new. They have so far withstood a lot of bouncing and jumping. And at $25 each, they might just be my best op-shop find ever.

We still have a long way to go to finish this room - bedside tables, a rug on the floor, pictures framed and on the walls. Slowly, slowly...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Herman the German Friendship Cake

The weekend before last, some of my Sydney posse made the trip south for a girls' night. Over lychee martinis and sparkling wine, we cooked and we chatted and we ate, oh, we ate. Amidst all the excitement, one of the ladies - a fellow knitting-baking type - poured  a beige substance from a plastic container into a bowl, covered it with a tea towel and set it on the sideboard, muttering something about feeding schedules and fridge avoidance. I didn't think much of it. We were already heavily into the gyoza and peking duck pancakes.

The next day I came across the bowl and the printed instructions beside it. It didn't take me long to realise this was the cake equivalent of a chain letter, or those emails that you have to send to 10 friends within 30 seconds lest your head explode. Only this chain letter had an element of suspense and the very real prospect of a tasty reward at the end.

It was a weighty responsibility. For 10 days I attended to Herman. I stirred him daily and fed him when the instructions told me to. He fermented and bubbled away with an air of nonchalance. At one point a couple of days ago, I noticed an unusual aroma and wondered if someone might have left an open beer bottle lying around. And today, day 10, I got to turn him (or a quarter of him, at least) into a cake - a sourdough German Friendship Cake.

Dense, dark and chewy, filled to the brim with apple and walnuts and cinnamon, Herman was every bit the fresh-baked delight I had hoped for. I am so smitten that instead of giving away the three remaining portions of the sourdough to friends today, as instructed, I kept one for myself to tend to for another 10 days. And the two friends I chose to pass on the duty bounty today, both keen bakers, took on the challenge with some bemusement, but mostly a good old-fashioned muck-in attitude, aware of the responsibility they were being given and keen to take it on.

I often bake cakes for friends, on special occasions or just because. And I'm getting good at handing out wedges of cake to people when I've got too much at home, due to a recipe or photo commission. That's what I think of when I think of friendship cake. But this - this is entirely different. "Here, friend, take this tub of bubbling ferment, my gift to you. You need to look after it, don't let it die whatever you do. And guess what - in  10 days it will be a cake...except you have to bake it yourself. Enjoy!" 

And enjoy I did. Thank you, lovely Beth, for the experience. I'm wondering if this might have been the trial run I needed to finally get a start on my own sourdough bread.

Have you heard of the German Friendship Cake? Has it passed through your town? Have you made it before?

Sunday, September 8, 2013


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

Previous 52 portraits here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


When my big sister visited recently, she revealed that she'd given up bread. Well...

I reckon I could give up most things if I had to, but bread? Not bread. It's mostly standard wholegrain sliced in this house. And while I'll always be a sucker for the squishy white stuff (smothered in peanut butter, thank you very much), when I can get my hands on a good loaf of sourdough, things always seem a little more right with the world. Thank goodness I've found a place down this way that rivals my old favourite in Sydney. When I'm in town most weeks, I grab a loaf. And for the next few days I enjoy it toasted with a fried egg on top, or some avocado and lime juice, or freshly sliced tomato and salt.

But my absolute favourite special occasion or anytime way is doused in olive oil, grilled and then rubbed with the cut end of a clove of garlic. Magic happens with that little clove. Transformation.

Suddenly that humble grilled piece of bread becomes the basis for a real meal. Bruschetta, crostini, call it what you will. I've topped it with whatever's left in the fridge, or has come home fresh from the farmer's market. I've smeared it with feta and  added a big spoonful of smashed herby chickpeas. I've covered it with chargrilled vegetables and shards of parmesan. My current favourite is sauted speck and silver beet topped with a gooey poached egg.

I still make my own bread occasionally - not sourdough yet, but soon. I'd make it every day if I could make the time. I'd grind my own wheat if I had to. God knows, I'd grow the wheat if that's what it took. Just don't ask me to give up bread.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sew Vintage: Simplicity 7068

My littlest girl is a very big fan of all things bunny rabbit. When I saw some bunny print flannelette fabric at the op shop recently, I knew just what to do with it. She didn't let me forget my promise of new jim-jams until the elastic had been threaded in and the last button sewn on. We chose a pattern from 1978 and some vintage blue buttons from my grandmother's collection. 

I reckon as long as no-one looks too closely at some of the finer details (that collar!) then everything will be just fine.

Pattern: Simplicity 7068
Fabric: New, thrifted
Buttons: Vintage Beutron
Miffy accessory and cutie-pie smile: Model's own.


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