Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Nobody's ever called me Cate Blanchett (though I have a similar but less-blonde haircut right now) in the carbon offsetting stakes but Apricot, my vehicle of choice for all things local, makes me feel I'm reducing my footprint, even if only by half a small toe.

The Husband bought Apricot as a surprise birthday present last year. He admitted that he chose Apricot because had she been Light Blue, White or Black she would have have cost $300 more.

As my birthday is in summer, Apricot was used mostly in the late afternoons or early mornings (the only time I've been keen to pick up the Saturday paper). Now that it's autumn, she's really earning her keep.

Trips to the library, the deli, charity-bin drop offs and the post office are no longer carried out in the car, weather permitting. I think twice, though, about the garden centre after falling in love with two native shrubs almost completely covered with bright ruby flowers (Leptospermum nanum rubrum) and rightly guessing they'd fit in the basket.

Problem was I wasn't thinking vertically so, to see over the top of them, I had to cycle vertically all the way home.

I'm sure the French don't have such problems with their baguettes.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Queen of the quince

I was feeling very Maggie Beer last week so poached some quinces. That's where the channelling ended as, unlike Maggie Beer, I'm no queen of the quince and didn't really know what to do with them. So in the fridge they sat.

On Friday, I bought the June issue of Country Style and there, on page 73, was the inspiration, or, more accurately, the recipe, I'd been waiting for: warm quince and almond cake. My Maggie muse had returned so I cranked up a bit of Rod Stewart crooning Maggie May and got baking. I'm possibly embellishing the last bit.

I served it as suggested, with cream and reduced poaching liquid, and gave the Child a tiny slice as didn't think it'd be something she'd go for. She held out her bowl, Oliver-like, and asked for more.

Can't ask for more than that. Well you can. But she wasn't allowed a third serving.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chalk it up, part 2

A more practical use for yesterday's liquid chalk pens. Never mix up the self-raising with the plain or the basmati with the jasmine again.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chalk it up

While waiting at my local cafe this week, the owner saw me staring at his row of pretty cakes in a glass cabinet. Or so he thought. What I was actually looking at was the handwritten descriptions and prices on the glass. He constantly has new cakes and the writing changes daily so it must be easy to remove.

Realising he wasn't going to get a sale beyond my latte, he pulled out his pens to reveal a collection of liquid chalk markers that can be used on non-porous surfaces - glass is perfect - and are easily wiped off with a cloth.

I'm not a great drawer so I'm experimenting with shopping lists and birds on windows in the kitchen but have plans for the Child (who is handy with a pencil) to have a go at something at the bottom of a glass door Banksy-style, rather than the less-inspiring offerings mother-style.

See what others are doing in their creative spaces today here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pillage of the woollen village

I thought I was clever buying an affordable cashmere/silk dress, which I wear over jeans. Would be soft, cosy, warm, I thought. I was right, it is. But it also pills. Ergh.

Refusing to buy one of those battery operated pill removers sometimes spruiked in shopping centres I remembered that pumice stones are supposed to work. So I tried a gentle pumice on the offending item and declare the result to be me: 1, offending item: 0.

So now all my recalcitrant woollen troops have been given the once over and are fit to be marched publicly again. Nothing like wool peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End of the floor show

This $10 vintage basket has brought calm to the house. Didn't know exactly what I'd use it for when I spotted it last week but it was too good to leave behind, so home it came.

Walked in the door and then into the Child's room. Inspiration struck. Did she like the basket? Yes. If I left it in her room would she use it to put her dirty clothes in? Yes.

And she does. No more bits and pieces left all over the floor where they last dropped from her little body.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Home is where the heart (and art) is

Sometimes when flicking through magazines like Australian Country Style or English Country Living, I wish I lived somewhere like on those pages. Sydney's often maligned as being too busy, too crowded, too noisy, too expensive, too pushy, too avaricious. Often, it is all of those things. Other times, like the weekend just gone, it's magical and I can't imagine being anywhere else.

Highlights included the Finders Keepers market at Carriageworks and then waiting in a (short) queue to be served pork dumplings by Kylie Kwong at the adjacent Farmers' Market. I love it that a celebrated Sydney chef is humble enough to man her own stall. Every week. I also love it that the Child falls in love with a handmade scarf and a print of an original local artwork.

In the evening, we join two other families for homemade fish pie and golden syrup dumplings.

On Sunday we decide to leave the car at home and walk in the luminous Autumn sunshine through back streets to Marrickville Markets. We wander down unknown streets where unexpected towering gums pierce the urban sky and we return the same way carrying crunchy apples picked just days before.

In the afternoon, we leave the house and 15 minutes later we're at the Sydney Writers' Festival where we hear author Markus Zusack read a short story he'd written when he was 16. It was, by his own admission, probably the worst piece of writing that had ever been read at the festival and the room laughed along with him. It was a generous gesture and made to help launch the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit children's writing program that may be just what our 12-year-old budding novelist is looking for.

A very good weekend.

And entrance to all these events was absolutely free.

Pictured: Catherine Campbell print, $25, Elkhorn scarf, $55, and vintage pillowcase, $8, from the Frankie stand at Finders Keepers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Forever friday

Friday is my favourite day of the week. It's the anticipation of two entire free days that lay ahead for the whole family. Reminds me of preparing for a holiday.

I like to get the house spruced, with fresh bedlinen, clean towels and a bunch of eucalyptus scenting the air. Even the Cat's barkcloth-covered beanbag that lives in front of the fireplace gets a shake and air in the sun in readiness for tonight.

The favourite grey linen apron in the top pic was bought at Merci in Paris, as I like to pick up everyday homewares to remind me of places. Things I'll touch and use all the time. Travel can be a weekend in Orange or a night in the Blue Mountains. Doesn't have to be an exotic location at all. But we were lucky enough to go to Europe last year, from where I also brought home dishcloths (yes, for washing up) from Muji in Rome.

Better than snowdomes, to me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pillow talk

The Child had always been fond of this vintage pillowcase but then decided it didn't go with her room (she was actually right). Now that her room has been redecorated the bright colour fits right in so I decided to give the pillowcase a bit of an edge, so to speak.

Was easy thanks to this tutorial at You Go Girl.

See what others are doing in their creative spaces today here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Woman of the cloth

I love a tablecloth and these are the ones I use all the time. Trouble is, the only room I had for them was on a high shelf, which could be reached but not easily. So would either have to grab the little kitchen ladder to be able to pull one out from the middle of the pile or just take the top cloth every time.

Enter basket bought last week. Basket is perfect height and easy to pull down off shelf. I wish I'd done this years ago. High excitement in our house over this.

Admittedly haven't polled the entire household but would just demand a recount a la Pauline Hanson if excitement vote didn't go my way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lemon meringue cupcakes

The husband kidnapped a lovely IT man one lunchtime last week, drove him to our house, sat him in front of my computer and asked him to fix it. He did. After making some not-so-subtle enquiries to his wife, the Husband learnt that IT man's tastes lean towards lemon meringue. These cupcakes are an apology for the kidnapping.

Never having made lemon meringue anything I tested a batch out on some friends at a picnic last Sunday. Got the thumbs up all round with the Child declaring them equal ever favourite with her beloved brownies.

They look a bit fiddly but are in fact easy peasy to make if you have a stand mixer. Here's how:

Best to make lemon butter the day before. Do so by mixing all the following ingredients in a small bowl over simmering water until the back of a spoon is coated and then cover and pop into the fridge for next day.

Lemon butter
. 4 eggs yolks
. 1/3 cup caster sugar
. 2 tsps finely grated lemon rind
. 1/4 cup lemon juice
. 40g butter

. 125g softened butter
. 2 tsps finely grated lemon rind
. 2/3 cup caster sugar
. 2 eggs
. 1/3 cup milk
. 1-1/4 cups plain flour
. 3 tsps baking powder

Beat butter, rind, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time. Add milk. Add sifted flour and baking powder. Put batter into a pan that holds 12 cupcake papers and bake for about 20mins at 180C.

When cool, use a small knife to cut a 2cm hole into each cupcake and remove the 'plug' of cake. Fill holes with lemon curd. Discard plugs.

. 4 egg whites
. 1 cup caster sugar

Whip the egg whites till soft peaks form and then slowly add the sugar. Beat until thick and glossy. Use a piping bag or plastic bag snipped at a corner to make a 1cm hole and swirl meringue over cupcakes. Bake in 200C oven for 5 mins so the meringue is lightly browned.

Hand around and be prepared to make a second batch, as these were extremely popular in our house.

Tip: As anyone who watched Masterchef last night will know, meringue is at its glossiest best when beaten for about 15 mins until sugar dissolves.

Thanks for the enquiries as to why I went missing towards the end of last week. Anyone with a Blogger account will already know, of course. For those who don't, I hadn't, unfortunately, skipped off to Positano at a moment's notice or, fortunately, been hit by a bus. Blogger crashed and burned last Friday, often deleting Thursday's posts and comments and leaving blogs in read-only mode until Saturday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Birthday flowers

Needed a birthday card over the weekend so dug into my stash of pages ripped from magazines. Came across a wallpaper feature Elle Decorating did a while back and chose something that I could stick to a blank card with just a light spray of adhesive.

Trimmed the edges so they were nice and sharp, picked up some embroidery cotton and then quickly whipped up three small crochet flowers to stick on the front. The flower pattern is here, thanks to a tutorial at Attic 24.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fabric screensavers

I have some pieces of vintage barkcloth that are too lovely to be hidden away in my stash where I hardly ever see them. So I photographed them to use as screensavers on my computer.

I noticed an option on Google's home page that lets you select one of your own photos as a background, which sparked the idea of using fabrics. This probably isn't even a new option as I'm not what you'd call an early adopter in the technology stakes.

Finally I've found a way to use these pieces without having a project in mind and scissors in hand.

And if I do cut them up I'll still have them whole.

Stormy seas

I start the day with a cup of tea. Tea made in a pot. Every day.

I've said before that I like to collect bits and pieces in stormy colours. These mugs, $27.50, from Bison are no exception. I bought them one at a time whenever passing the Paddington shop so now have four in my favourite Bison colours, which are milk, dove, limestone and the sandy one that I can't remember the name of.

Each one is hand made in Australia and lovely to hold. Particularly when filled with steaming tea first thing on a cold morning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The good oil

Decided to make my own body scrub after looking at the silly prices and/or list of ingredients at what was available on the shelves.

Mixed up some salt with sweet almond oil and few drops of lavender essential oil - and it works a treat in the shower. I use it on a damp face cloth and scrub away. Leaves my skin feeling tingling, fresh and moisturised.

Makes me and my purse feel good. Win/win.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Another day, another tin

The sparklingly crisp autumn sun shone on Rozelle Markets and lead me to three fabulous things at three different stalls. The old Arnotts tin, which someone has customised into a bread tin, will hold craft supplies. The set of three pudding bowls and four knives are already hard at work in the kitchen.

All this vintage beauty for $40.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Green Day

After pulling an old Leona Edmiston out of the wardrobe that I haven't worn for a few years this morning I realised I'm having a bit of an affair with a particular shade of green.

It keeps turning up in fabrics and wool I buy.

And in my daily life.

Turquoise? Sea Foam? Jade? I think it's beautiful, whatever it's called.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


The first of the prints to be framed for the Child's room is finally done. One of the reasons I'd been putting this off is because the sizes of the prints compared to the vintage frames I'd bought are a bit odd.

Mats would fix the problem, of course, but I'm not about to start spending money at a framers unless I know we'll keep these pieces as is, which I don't. So decided to make my own mats. Very successful, I think, it was too.

I searched around You Tube for a few hints and the offerings were pretty dire really. However, I did find a cheap and cheerful solution here. Admittedly, I wouldn't use this method if I was the Queen having a few photos of Kate and Wills hung but it's fine for my purposes.

It's not the most visual or creative of tutorials, to say the very least. I ignored the measurement formula the video advises so can't vouch for that but took away the idea of folding back the cardboard to create smooth lines.

One down, three to go...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Material girl

I'm far too tempted by the offerings in good craft shops. Left Calico and Ivy with one and a half metres of birdy fabric and a ball of wool for no other reason than I couldn't leave them behind.

The fabric might be used to cover a lampshade frame, I thought, rather a large one I had but, when I got it home, it was just a bit too much. So into the stash it goes. Not that I really mind as it looks so pretty hovering on top of other fabrics that I have no immediate use for.

An older woman in the shop at the same time was admitting to also buying fabric just because she couldn't resist not doing so. She quipped that as she approached - at this point we thought she's not going to say death is she? - death - she did - she couldn't possibly use all the fabric she had and might as well be buried with it. It was a light-hearted moment (she wasn't that old) and we agreed she'd at least have lovely padding.

I'd prefer other options, personally, so might dig out a smaller lampshade frame/s and do a tutorial. Might work in the bedroom. Off to check.


Feeling a sense of deja vu? I have no idea why this post wants to appear twice and can't delete the images. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Seasonal greetings

There's a stallholder at Marrickville Markets who says she sells Australia's best milk (and Australia's best cheese if that's what she's pushing that week) whenever anyone walks past. Seems she has given herself those awards, rather than any judging panel from what I can tell, so, in the same spirit, I declare the Upside-Down Apple Tea Cake you see above Australia's best Upside-Down Apple Tea Cake.

Feel I can do this because it's not my recipe. If you have the March issue of Australian Country Style I suggest you grab some new season apples and make Steve Cumper's cake on page 93. I have long wanted an apple cake recipe that wasn't dry - and this is certainly it. Absolutely delicious. It will become a seasonal staple in our house.

The recipe's not on their website, unfortunately, and I can't post it due to copyright reasons but libraries often carry back issues of magazines. Worth a check.

I also picked up half a cauliflower at the weekend for a lunch dish, which is nothing more than breaking the cauliflower into florets, drizzling with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and breadcrumbs and baking in the oven for 30 mins. Crumble goat's cheese over the top as soon as it comes out of the oven for a lip-smacking take on cauliflower cheese. Well, my lips smacked.

Tip: The apples in the cake are cooked in the same way as a Tart Tatin, where you're supposed to caramelise them in a frying pan and then add the cake batter straight on top. I took advice from the Matthew Evan's Real Food Companion cook book and transferred the apples to a spring-form tin before adding the batter as I don't have a suitable frying pan. He says this is what the French do in the town where the tart originated if they have the same problem. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. And it was. Worked brilliantly.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A patch of blue

After nine straight days of rain, the sun shone briefly again yesterday before returning to the grey skies of today. Washing machines all over the city were, no doubt, getting a good workout while dryers could be happily ignored again.

Not complaining, as April is our wettest month and, as my mother would say, rain's good for the garden. But, like the scene in the Jane Campion film Bright Star shows, there's cinematic beauty in linen drying in the sun. And the smell and feel of line-dried washing is one of those small domestic pleasures that costs nothing. With or without a field.