Thursday, June 30, 2011

Warms hand, cold fingers

My glubs are finally finished and ready to be sent to my mother to help keep her elderly little hands warm.

These were super easy to make:

Using Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK yarn I made a foundation chain of 32 stitches, which creates a square that once folded in half is nice and loose (but not too loose) for medium-sized hands.

I then did one row of treble crochet stitch before doing nine double rows of treble stitch (to create larger stripes) and then finished off with a last row of treble stitch to create my finished square.

Finished the edges of the square off with double crochet stitch and then added a shell edging at the top.

I then turned the squares into fingerless mittens by joining sides with double crochet worked from the outside, leaving open a gap of two stripes for the thumb.

To make a shell edging:

Complete a double crochet stitch into the first stitch of double crochet that you edged the square with, then miss two stiches and work five treble stitches into the next stitch. Miss the following two stitches (the first shell is complete) and start again at the double crochet.

You might have to fudge the last shell a bit as I haven't checked the maths of it and the edging of one my glubs fitted perfectly, while the other one was fudged a bit (but you can't tell). Clearly, the problem lies with me. Not much of a problem, though. Really.

All stitches are given in the UK terms.

To see what others are up to in the creative spaces today go here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Brown sugar

I was reminded yesterday that brown sugar is not a less processed form of white sugar. In fact, it's just white sugar with molasses added. Now I can't be bothered making brown sugar every time I need it so am happy to buy it. However, some recipes call for dark brown sugar - and I draw the line at buying that. Instead, I add molasses to either white caster sugar or brown sugar - whatever I have more of in the cupboard at the time.

Above is packet white caster sugar, packet brown sugar and dark brown sugar I've made from pulsing 2 cups of caster sugar with about a 1/4 cup of molasses in a food processor.

Life is sweet. Crowded cupboards aren't.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


It's been two weeks since I potted up hyacinth, tulip and something-else-I-can't-remember-or-recognise bulbs into three pots - and already there are green little arms poking through the soil and reaching for the sun.

Keep reaching, I say, as this is week one of the six coldest weeks of the year - and proof that it's not too late for inconsistent gardeners like myself to fiddle about with bulbs and pots.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Inner west France

The bright weekend sunshine provided the perfect excuse to roam around a couple of markets. Picked up five elegant little glasses for just $1 each, my favourite buy of the weekend, on Saturday at Rozelle Markets.

Along with the apples that came home with me on Sunday from Marrickville Markets was an almost pristine copy of Vicki Archer's My French Life, $10, an old metal bicycle basket, $10, which I'll use for office storage.

Continuing with the unintentional rustic French theme I also popped into my bag a new, but old-style, dishwashing moppy thing, $5, from a stall selling millet brooms, natural bristle wooden dustpan and scrubbing brushes, and all sorts of beautifully made cleaning items from the Snowy Mountains area of NSW.

Everything they had was well priced so keep a look out for them at a market near you as they don't do any regular stints but move around. I have to use the generic term 'they' as stupidly I didn't get 'their' name.

Must have been intoxicated by all that sunshine. If only I could have distilled and sipped it from one of my glasses. With a croissant.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Le chat

The Child was sitting on the floor of her room practising her flute while inexplicably wearing a grass skirt (I do not ask). Suddenly, she heard and felt some scratching. The Cat was trying to make a nest in her skirt.

I don't know who's odder, the Child or the Cat but they both make me laugh, and I was reminded of an old book I had somewhere. Scratching around myself, I found French for Cats: All the French your Cat will ever Need, written by Henry Beard, a co-founder of National Lampoon magazine.

Why a cat speaking French is even more amusing than a cat speaking cat is I don't know. It just is. Must be the perceived shared attitude.

If only I could get Le Chat to wear a beret.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cranky pear cake

Tossing up to either go for a run/shuffle or clean the oven before I start the day properly. Either way, I'll need a reward so I've made Sticky Pear Gingerbread. Should you wish to ruin all the good work brought about by exercise or give your oven walls an extra layer of neglect, here's the recipe:

125g butter
1/3 cup treacle
1/3 cup golden syrup
2/3 cup brown sugar
1-2/3 cup flour
4 tsps baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1-1/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 large or 3 small pears, peeled, cored & diced

  • Pre-heat oven at 170C (bit lower if fan-forced).
  • Heat butter, treacle, golden syrup & sugar until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and ground ginger into a bowl and whisk in treacle mixutre, egg and milk. Fold in pears.
  • Pour into a square or loaf tin and bake for 60-75mins, depending on choice of tin. Cake is cooked when skewer comes out clean.
Don't be put off by the cracks in the top of mine as I was a little lazy about getting it out of the tin and rather than turning it upside down I pulled it out by the underlying baking paper. The pear-cake equivalent of getting out of bed on the wrong side. Would make anyone cranky - or crinkly in this case.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June reading

Have just finished reading The Novel in the Viola, the new book from Mr Rosenblum's List author Natasha Solomons. I'd recommend it as a bed book, winter's equivalent of a beach read; something to curl up and get lost in but whose plot I'll have completely forgotten in a month's time. It was like a great fling: fun while it lasted. (I think my brain is still affected by the WW2-era language. Who says fling?)

Next on my list is Linda Grant's The Thoughtful Dresser, something I've wanted to read for ages. I can't describe the premise any better than the blurb on the back: "...the thinking woman's guide to our relationship with what we wear..." This non-fiction subject has become its own mini genre over the last few years, and, when done well, it's engrossing, insightful, playful and poignant. When its not done well, it's more a superficial romp through someone's wardrobe, which doesn't interest me. Justine Picardie's 2006 My Mother's Wedding Dress was the first such book I picked up and I've been hooked ever since. I have high hopes for The Thoughtful Dresser as Grant is a Man Booker-prize shortlisted author.

Pia Jane Bijkerk's My Heart Wanders arrived in the post a week ago and I haven't got further than flicking through it yet. Looks pretty. Very pretty. Regardless of how the words will sound to my ears, it's a book I could enjoy for its looks alone.

If I could just crawl back into bed right now with a mug of hot chocolate...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fleur's marmalade

Every weekend I have marmalade toast for breakfast. I love it. What I don't love is that my favourite local marmalade costs $14 a jar.

It's orange season. I have sugar. I have a recipe. So I make my own - and it's delicious.

I call it my own but it's really Fleur's marmalade, as Fleur gave me the recipe after we'd picked a bootful of oranges growing wild around Lostock, NSW, one school holidays.

Fleur's marmalade:
1kg citrus, thinly sliced
10 cups water
1.8kg sugar
  • Soak cut fruit in water overnight.
  • Transfer fruit and water to a large saucepan and boil for an hour. Reduce heat.
  • Gradually add sugar until dissolved. Increase heat and boil rapidly for 30 mins, stirring often.
The recipe says this makes 13 x 250g jars but I only ever get around 7 jars but that's probably because I like my marmalade quite sticky so cook it for a longer period.

I sterilise my jars by putting them and their lids into a 180C oven for 30mins because I don't have a microwave and can't be bothered with the boiling water method. We're still alive. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Snakes in the city

We love a bit of a bushwalk but not the type that involves equipment, beyond a packed lunch, or a long drive. More the type that will have us back home in time to cook some sort of braised dinner we'll have in front of the fire with a bottle of wine (the Child will have sparkling water, if she's lucky, tap if she's not). The type that doesn't involve leaving Sydney, so we set off for Bantry Bay at Middle Head.

After heading into Garigal National Park on the edge of Seaforth Oval, we don't see anyone apart from two joggers and three other walkers for three hours. It was bliss. We do see a cute snake, who is also making the most of the winter sun by basking by the side of the path. We oohh and aahh at the closeness of such a fine creature and bark at the Husband who wants to poke it with a stick to see it move. He gets a stern chat about letting nature be.

We are shaded by by banksias, the air is filled with birdsong and small animals dart about too quickly to identify them.

When we get home, I decide to find out what sort of snake we'd crowded our faces around. "Good photo, Mum," says the Child when I've got a perfect match up on the screen before she realises it's not mine but a Google image. Excitedly, she sees our snake listed in a Top 10 Most Venomous Snakes in the World list.

The New Zealand-born Husband had been threatening to irritate a deadly Eastern Brown snake. The Child and I roll our eyes. Will he ever learn? Probably not, which is fine - as long as he lives long enough to tell the tale.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wash day

Possibly my favourite ever vintage buy. Encapsulates many homey things that warm my heart, such as fresh linen, washing lines, hand-made embroidery, domestic history. $10 from Marrickville Markets.

Could stare at it for hours. Which may explain why I need new glasses.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Winter coat

After the success of last week's bird bag and the pleasure it gave me, I thought I'd reward my sewing machine with a new winter coat. So I roughly traced around the supremely unattractive plastic one she arrived at my front door in 10 years ago and had a crack.

No complaints so far, which is why I like making things for inanimate objects. She's even got linen lining, so she's feeling rather smug and very smooth. Luckily, she's a bit short sighted like myself so hasn't noticed the rather rough seams.

I figure I'll get round to fixing those in the next 10 years or so. Rushing can be so overrated.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I smell good

I can make such an outrageously fragrant statement as it has nothing to do with me personally but, rather, the Miller Harris perfume, picked up at Duck Egg Blue, Balmain, I was given for Mothers' Day.

I tend to fall in love with scents quite quickly and then tire of them just as soon. I'm fragrantly fickle, it seems. Rarely do I make it to the end of a bottle. But I'm pretty sure this one is THE one.

Even though Miller Harris is an English company, my particular love has the fancy pancy name of Noix de Tubereuse and falls somewhere between an oriental and a floral scent. Sweet but with depth. Just the way a great love should be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Angry birds

We've always been proud of the star jasmine that grew over our back fence as it was a sea of green and home to several doves. In spring, the fragrance was sweet and strong, to the point of once having to shut the back door on a hot summer's day as the scent was so thick it was giving me a headache.

What we didn't realise was that the jasmine was crushing the lattice beneath it and slowly pulling the fence over. So, very reluctantly, we had to cut it down. Every time I found a nest hidden within the twisted limbs I almost cried. I shouted to the displaced doves who were watching from a nearby roof that I wasn't razing their village but rather improving the infrastructure. They responded with an angry beady stare and then started doing the weird jumping and bobbing dance they always do. Clearly, they're not grudge holders.

With the lattice replaced, the Husband and I thought we'd make the most of the lovely long weekend weather - rain - by planting some seeds in our newly dug vegetable patch. The Child stayed indoors and busied herself by labelling paddlepop sticks to mark our seed placement. I think she may have pitied her covered-in-mud parents who now resembled medieval potato farmers as she slipped in an extra stick with a double-sided message to us.

Enjoying the rain immensely, I thought I'd try out a few test pots for the nude fence. We unanimously voted for Dulux Malay Grey, as it looks great behind our grevilleas. Decision was unanimous in a two-out-of-three-aint-bad Meatloaf-singalong kind of way as we didn't show the Child the options as we feared she may argue for the bright blue blob you see on my boot. The rain and homeless birds were depressing enough.

So we celebrated by taking the Child to the last night of the Vivid Festival. In the rain.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I see red

Yesterday was a little bit of a rough one. Nothing major but enough to make me wake up early this morning as I sometimes do when I've got things on my mind. May as well make the Husband and I a cup of tea, I thought.

When I walked into the kitchen I was greeted by a bright red glow across the sky. It was beautiful - and it made me feel instantly happy. Apparently, mountaineers who've seen sunrises from some of the highest peaks in the world say it's almost a spiritual experience. I'll take their word for it as I prefer to view such scenes on a cold winter's morning with my slippers on and a cup of tea in my hands.

I was left with the feeling that all is right with the world. Our family is healthy and close, the 15-year-old Cat still chases her tail and Lee Mathews will exchange the too-small dress for one that fits.

Life is good.

Have a lovely weekend. A lovely long weekend for us Australians.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bird bag

There was an urgent household job that needed attending to. I could ignore the collapsing back fence, The Child, who was home from school nursing a sore mouth due to new braces, was banished to her room and I swept my arm across the dining room table flinging paperwork to the floor clearing the way for the sewing machine.

We needed a new peg bag - and we needed it now.

Making this was so easy, I could get a one-woman production line going should there ever be a worldwide peg-bag shortage. Best of all, I got to use up some of the bird fabric I bought for a lampshade (but then changed my mind about) and a couple of old linen napkins for the lining.

The Child is a good soul. "Nice bird bag, mum. Good job," she said when I proudly thrust my creation through her doorway. She may have even half meant it.

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My precious

I don't buy clothes, apart from basics, all that often as I prefer quality over quantity, which comes at a price. If I'm going to spend proper money on something it has to pass a checklist: washable (don't mind handwashing), well made, natural fabrics, value-for-money, timeless and will work with what I already have in my wardrobe. And by timeless I don't mean timeless in an Audrey Hepburn-pearls-and-little-black-dress way but will-I-still-want-to-wear-it-in-five-years way.

Which leads me to Lee Mathews. I pop in once or twice during winter and summer and usually love most of what I see and try on. However, my budget doesn't always stretch to buying. When I visited on Friday I realised I hadn't been at all this winter, which is just as well as there was so much that I wanted to bundle up and take home (or roll around in like an over-excited bank robber in a heist movie). As everything was on sale, I did come away with a couple of things but had to leave behind something that ticked every box in the above criteria. Apart from the budgetry box, which is more of an arbitrary conscience vote (that annoyingly kicked in that day).

It was purely by accident that I went when the winter sale was on so when I got home, I checked to see if they had a mailing list so I'd know next time. Not only did they have a mailing list but they also had a relatively new website. On this website was last summer's range and all 70 per cent off (only winter was on sale in the shop and nowhere near this sort of reduction).

I had a look around and found a dress I'd tried on last summer, but couldn't afford at the time. There it was. And not at the original $345 but for $103.50. I figure if I'm patient, the dress I couldn't bring home on Friday should turn up on the website when the new season summer stuff hits the shops.

So, like Gollum, I'm waiting for precious to come within reach. And for the postman, as my Lucy dress should be arriving any day now.

Image via Lee Mathews's summer sale email

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bracing ourselves

Even though it's a school day, the Child and I slept in and then had a leisurely breakfast of apple pancakes and maple syrup. All because in less than half an hour, the Child is having braces fitted.

As soon as we're finished, we're planning to visit the cafe near the orthodontist's surgery and have hot chocolates and pastries to test run how they handle food.

As NAPLAN and half-yearly exams are now over, figure this is one test we should have a little fun with.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Green clean

These three items form the basis of what I clean the house with.

Spurred on by a dislike of under-sink clutter and a preference for natural ingredients, I've come up with a few standard mixes of these products. The only other things I regularly use are eucalyptus oil, Method's shower cleaning spray, Chux magic eraser sponges and no-brand metallic-looking mesh scourers (as the magic eraser stuff rips apart too easily when scrubbing tiles - but is great on glass shower screens and stainless steel sinks).

For a general cleaning spray, including benchtops, I mix water, a dash of eucalyptus, a squeeze of washing-up liquid and half a cup of vinegar and it works a treat.

For floors, into a bucket of warm water goes a squeeze of washing-up liquid and half a cup of washing soda (it's a great degreaser, bit like a natural sugar soap).

For glass and mirrors, it's a half-water half-vinegar mix. A professional window cleaner once told me the best way to wash dirty windows is with soapy warm water, the soap being washing-up liquid, a sponge and a squeegee. That all I've used on the windows ever since and it works every time.

I know some people swear by bi-carb soda but I find it too gritty. I do toss some of it in an empty dishwasher with a cup of vinegar from time to time to give it a clean, though.

Now I need to go and actually do some cleaning rather than write about it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

For the love of linen

Another Friday, another fresh linen day. Clearly, I'm easily pleased.

Today, these vintage embroidered pillowcases, which were picked up at Calico & Ivy a couple of weeks ago for the princely price of $25 are getting a run.

Even more pleasing than fresh linen, though, was a knock on the door last night at around 9pm. Expecting a sales person of some sort, the Husband went to answer it.

Turns out he had left his wallet on top of a parking meter in Surry Hills. A woman, a regular customer of a nearby cafe, picked it up and took it to the cafe. After work, the owner, drove the 4km to our house to give it back.

Thank you Hao's Cafe in Cooper Street, Surry Hills, that little act of kindness made my week.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cat nap

I spent a silly amount of money on a beanbag for the Child when she was a toddler because, back then, small ones that weren't covered in Barbie or Bob the Builder logos were hard to find.

Turned out to be a wise investment as once the Child outgrew it, the Cats claimed it. Now there is only one Cat who's getting on so spends a vast amount of time in it. Particularly in winter.

I've recovered the beanbag several times, the latest being today. Now the Cat has a new barkcloth cover to alternate with the other very faded barkcloth cover.

Don't be alarmed by the above photo, the Cat is not in fact dead. Just relaxing in her beanbag.

To see what others are doing today in the creative spaces go here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I was in Calico & Ivy checking out these fingerless gloves, thinking I could make them. Seems I was being incredibly transparent - well, I was counting the rows - because from behind the counter I heard, "Would you like to take a photo?"

Feeling guilty, I looked up to find the question was genuine and not facetious. Phew. So, of course, thanking Sarah, whose name I found out later, I did. So now I have three balls of wool - the person I have in mind has a thing for purple - and another woolly project to begin before finishing all my other woolly projects.

We, the Husband and I, call gloves glubs as that's what the Child called them when she was a toddler. While she grew out of the term about 10 years ago, we haven't.

So glubs it is.