Friday, April 29, 2011

To paint or not to paint

Picked up these three frames on the weekend with the intention of painting them all the same brightish colour for the Child's room. Trouble is, I feel guilty at the thought of destroying old photos and I appreciate the worn, knocked-about quality of these pictures as they are. They have a history and are a link to a past, albeit one that's unknown. That would all be wiped out with a paintbrush and new prints.

The bottom one doesn't bother me as that just contains a collection of photocopied bits and pieces from a magazine but the other two are photos of a wedding and a school class. Both were precious enough to someone to frame.

Trouble is, my home is not a museum and I have no place for them as they are. Besides, they're dirty and spotted with mildew. Which just makes them sadder as they've clearly been neglected for a long time.

Fifteen dollars for the three seemed a bargain on Sunday but now I wish I'd just picked up something characterless at Ikea. To paint or not to paint. That is the question...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

When doves spy

I have a little desk in front of a window, which is where I work (when I'm not sprawled over the dining room table). In front of that window is a Lilly Pilly tree we planted about 8 years ago. In that Lilly Pilly tree are two spotted turtle doves who've made their home there recently. The nests, which look little more than a few twigs each, are about two metres away from where I sit. Clearly, spotted turtle doves aren't the engineers of the bird world.

If the window is open, they become nervous and eventually fly away for a while. If closed, though, they will sit there cooing for hours.

Our garden isn't big. In fact it's small. But the pleasures it brings are immense.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mission accomplished

The stripes are finished. Took 3.5 days due to various mishaps. The art is still to be hung, which is another project as old frames have been bought and need to be painted before we can start fiddling with arrangements. We're tossing up between lime green and coral for the frames to give the room a bit of zing. The Child will hand down her Solomon-like decision soon.

Here, the area above the picture rail has been painted and the old stripes obliterated with a couple of coats of Whisper White.

The lines of the old stripes were easy to see (yes!), so made placement of the masking tape easy. Mishap one: ran out of masking tape on a public holiday.

Newman's Eye half strength goes on to form the stripes. Mishap two: the far right wall didn't work out. At all. When the masking tape was removed so were large swathes of every coat of paint the wall has ever seen since it was built in 1926. Peeled the lot back like an over-ripe orange until I reached bare wall. Looked more like a Tuscan outhouse or turn-of-the-century Surry Hills slum. Quite fetching and an effect that turns up in a lot of photo shoots but not quite what we were aiming for. A Fail, as the Child would say. So that wall is now a solid blue.

I like to think of it as the return of the feature wall.

Works for me and, more importantly, the Child who loves her new room. Operation stripes declared a success. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The big sleep

It's all about the prep for the Easter-Anzac weekend today so that we can enjoy lie-ins, a visit to the Archibald, shopping at the markets and an afternoon movie.

And, of course, hot-cross buns. x

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Operation stripes

Painting of the Child's room begins today. The colours have been chosen and all the furniture pushed to the middle of the room and covered.

First step will be painting over the old stripes with the white paint. I have all my fingers and toes crossed that the lines of the old stripes will still be visible underneath so that all I have to do is run masking tape along them and paint the blue stripes on.

If not, I'll have to measure the stripes again. Please no.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Modern vintage

Arrived home earlier this morning after taking the Child to the airport for her first unaccompanied minor flight to New Zealand to visit cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents to find a familiar-looking package on the doormat. Another gem had landed from the Book Depository.

I've been semi-collecting the decorating titles published by Ryland, Peters & Small for some years now as there's a similar aesthetic running through them that appeals to me. The latest, Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers of Caravan fame, has some shots/houses I haven't seen before, such as this knitted iMac cover.

Then there are bursts of general prettiness I love, such as the wattle against this blue/grey wall. The flowers are actually fake mimosa, according to the book, but I'm choosing to ignore that.

Just the thing to take my mind off the Child flying by herself across the Pacific. For a minute.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Country break

The bulk of last week was spent at a country property with friends and a pile of our kids. Roaring fires and marshmallow toasting by night, swims in the river by day and visits by a local kelpie puppy at all hours who just wanted to hang out with the children made this, our second visit to the property, just as great as the first.

When we visited last year, the Husband and an army of children picked bucket loads of oranges that grow wild along the Patterson River. Well, he shook the trees while kids gathered the fallen ones and took an occasional tonk on the head if they didn't get out of the way quickly enough. This resulted in my first attempt at marmalade - and I was smitten. This time round, the oranges weren't ready, of course, so we reluctantly left them on the trees.

There's a dairy farm next door and the farmer welcomes visitors with open arms to the milking sessions, lets the kids feed the calves with bottles and the two piglets with any scraps we bring. The whole experience is a bit like indoor camping in an Enid Blyton story set in Australia. There was even steamed golden syrup pudding one night. Lashings of it. Someone had also brought marmalade she made from last trip's oranges, which was smeared over buttery toast on the mornings we weren't doing bacon and eggs.

When I went to upload the photos on our return, I realised there weren't any. I had been too busy in the moment to think of picking up the camera. What I hadn't been too busy to do was stop in Morpeth on the way home and pick up some blood orange marmalade from the Morpeth Sourdough Bakery.

My only regret is I didn't buy 15 jars of the stuff because, being only Monday morning, our second morning back, the jar is already half empty. That's how good it is. Just like the country break itself.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ikea run

Had to do a quick Ikea run during the week so the Child could take a look and see if she liked any of the rugs for her room (success, we got a green Andrea rug) and picked up these new Varligt tea towels while I was there. Two cotton/linen mix teatowels for $6.99 seemed a pretty good deal to me.

They're slightly scrunchy in the pic because I'd given them a wash and just taken them off the line. I can squint and pretend they're expensive French rumpled ones, that way. They also come in lovely washed-out pale red and natural colourways.

I have a bit of a tea-towel obsession so these will be added to my always growing pile. Though I think they'd also work as a cushion cover. I sense another Ikea run in the near future...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pick up sticks

The Child and Husband eyed me dubiously as I produced two rather large baskets of twigs I'd been collecting over the summer from the garden. I'd been squirrelling them away rather than putting them in the green recycling bin because I had a plan. They backed into the house and left me to it.

Spent a happy three-quarters-of-an-hour tying bundles of them up to use as kindling in our fireplace when winter hits. I tried it out on a bunch or two last year and they worked an absolute treat.

Felt slightly guilty later in the day when I saw one of the local doves pick up a small twig from our garden and fly it back under the jasmine that grows along our fence. I've possibly held up the renovations that must be going on in there. No doubt I'll be hearing from the Council shortly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Private party

I like to fiddle about the house moving things about just because it makes me happy and, possibly, because I have trouble keeping still for too long if the sun is up.

Today, though, I walked past my craft cupboard and realised all the little things that had been popped on top without much thought had their own little thing going on. Bit like a private party. I honestly didn't move a thing before I took the photo.

The jug is filled with left-over ironing water, the camellias are prunings from tidying up the garden last week and the lamp base I'd bought at a school fete for $1, for which I made the lampshade, because it was too good to leave unwanted at the stall.

Proof, I think, sometimes doing nothing is best of all.

(If you're reading this, ignore the last line Husband.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Paper roses

Found this genuine vintage wrapping paper not too long ago in a country newsagent for 50c a sheet. Don't know whether to hoard it, use it, cover a book with it, makes cards out of, or what to do with it so it sits in my small stash of papers always being passed over but always looking lovely.

Sometimes being pretty is enough - and that's not something I say often.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Apples of my eye

I need a lot of apples this week so I headed off to Marrickville Organic Food and Farmers Market yesterday as I discovered last weekend, thanks to a foodie neighbour, that this is where the best apples in the Inner West can be found right now. And at a brilliant price - between $4 and $4.50 a kilo depending on the variety.

I came home with over 3kg of Bonzas and Galas, which I'd popped into a big plastic carry bag at the markets. When I opened the bag at home I couldn't believe the smell. The fragrance of the fruit was so strong it smelled fake. But it wasn't. I've never smelled apples like them before and wanted to capture and bottle the aroma. But I'm no Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, fortunately.

The cake stand is my usual fruit bowl, chosen because fruit never gets squashed. Not that apples like these would be around long enough anyway.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Racked with gilt

I've finally found a home for this vintage toast rack I bought a few years ago. With the arrival of the new hallway trolley, mail, either coming in or out of the house, has a place by the front door where everyone will see it.

I trialled it for the first time yesterday, putting the RTA's latest missive to the Husband at the front. The letter disappeared so the shiny old toast rack has moved from trial mode to official-usage mode. All happy. Possibly even the RTA, but not necessarily. What happens to their letters after I've seen them safely delivered is no concern of mine...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Old faithful

It's all about being creative in kitchen at our house at the moment.

I used to love making cakes, not just for us, but for school fetes, fundraisers and cake stalls but thought that had pretty much come to an end with the Child starting high school. Not so! When I received a note asking for contributions to an evening event at the school, I dug out the recipe for Old Faithful, that always went down a treat, literally, at primary school.

The first time I made it for public consumption the Child was in kindergarten. A parent bought it at a fete and then tracked me down to tell me how good it was after finding the Child's name and class on the bottom of the box.

It's a sticky date pudding cake with caramel icing, the recipe ripped from a magazine more than 10 years ago. I know not which one and as I've fiddled with the recipe a bit myself I offer it up light of heart and perhaps heavier of hip (after a slice or two. Try not licking the spoon when making the caramel icing. Impossible I tell you.).

I made two: one for the school and one for us as the Child is always disappointed if she misses out buying a piece of her own cake back. This way, she's guaranteed a slice in the lunchbox tomorrow.

Old Faithful
Sticky date pudding cake
  • 500g pitted dates, chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 tsp bicarb soda
  • 200g butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tsps baking powder
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
Caramel icing
  • 75g butter
  • 4 tbsps cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups icing sugar

Set oven to 175C.
Soak dates in boiling water and bicarb soda.
Grease and flour ring or bundt tin.
Beat sugar and butter till creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time.
Add vanilla.
Fold in dates.
Sift flour and cinnamon and fold in.
Bake around 40 mins.

For the icing, heat butter, cream, vanilla and sugar together until sugar is dissolved and then beat in sifted icing sugar until smooth. Dribble warm icing over cake.

See what others are up to in their creative spaces today here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Off my trolley

The Bronte Tram in Waverley isn't on my regular list of haunts, not because it isn't lovely but because of its location. I think that's going to change after picking up this metal trolley.

It's the perfect dumping spot for keys and mail in the hallway and has provided a place for the family straw hats that we grab on our way to the beach (clearly they're going to be there for a while).

Make no mistake, it's not artifically distressed. It was FILTHY, which I didn't even notice when I bought it as the dirt blended in so well. Luckily there was a break in the weather as after scrubbing it on the deck I took it into the garden to hose all the muck off. It was either that or putting it under the shower, and what's the bet the Husband or Child would have come home unexpectedly at exactly that time.

After towelling it down, I even used the hairdryer on it to completely dry it. So it may be distressed but it's also really rather pampered.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hottie topic

The rain gently, but consistently, falling this morning is like music. Until last weekend, our garden had got into a bit of state but after one of those big efforts where you fall exhausted but satisfied onto the couch on Sunday evening we now smile when we walk outside rather than cringe. I think we were infected by some Autumn nesting bug when the clocks turned back on Saturday night.

The cool air starts to gather round the doors in the late afternoon and last night we kept it at bay by roasting chicken for dinner followed by brownies I'd backed during the day. I slunk off to the bedroom pretty quickly after that for a quiet read of a good book accompanied by a hottie and cup of herbal tea. It's something I'm trying to turn into a midweek ritual as it's so relaxing and makes me feel like I'm holiday.

The Cat rather likes it too. Unsurprisingly.

Monday, April 4, 2011


The Child was finishing an art assignment on the weekend and this print fell out of the heavy artbook she'd taken out of our bookshelf. It's a print of our cat Maisie, who died a few years ago. It was commissioned to accompany a story The Husband wrote for Notebook after her death.

At the time The Husband contacted the US illustrator Karen Greenberg to ask if we could buy a print. She generously printed it out and sent it to us. It was popped into the back of the art book for safe keeping and eventually forgotten about. Until the weekend.

As we're getting together some new art while redecorating The Child's room, this still-to-be-framed print of Maisie will finally find a home.

Here's the story The Husband wrote (he's a lovely writer). It's an early PDF of the magazine layout (we don't have a final) which is why there's empty pic boxes and strikethrough text in captions. His words, though, didn't change.

This Life July

Friday, April 1, 2011


I've finally solved the problem of where to store rolls of wrapping paper. I spied this wire bin a month ago at Le Forge but at $95 thought it was too expensive so didn't buy it.

I knew it was right, though, and I'd regret not getting it. So I did. Very happy I am too. Particularly as I saw it again at Orson & Blake in Woollahra last week for twice the price.

Now I tell myself I scored a bargain.

At 53cm high, it holds a lot so I reckon if I ever get a dedicated wrapping room a la Candy Spelling I can use it as a bedroom laundry basket, wood basket, even a lamp shade if I could bear to cut the bottom out of it.

Would make a fantastic industrial-style lampshade, actually, and we have high ceilings so it would fit. And the electrical fittings to make it happen. Oh dear, what to do...