Monday, October 31, 2011

Flowers in the park

In the middle of a mini declutter on the weekend, I dropped what I was doing as had the unignorable urge to sort out the wool basket. Once the substantial balls had been tidied and put away, I was left with quite a pile of scraps. Scraps too pretty to throw out.

As I sat in the afternoon spring sun yesterday, I thought I could use them in place of garden twine to tie back plants and small branches for the fire come winter, so I unravelled them and popped them into an egg carton to keep them in order. A palette of green and blues (left over from my first ever granny-square rug) wouldn't look too mad in the garden, I thought. Or maybe it would. I didn't want to declutter the house and upclutter the garden.

Or I could crochet the scraps into flowers and use to decorate presents.

Very satisfying. Makes my fingers twitch wanting to make more.

Am yet to ask The Child if I'm allowed to take woolly egg carton to the annual Halloween picnic we have with friends in a local park and make more flowers this evening.

Suspect the little ghoul may say no as that would be just a bit too creepy...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Puff of spring

Spring on the urban 'farm' continues. The 5cm-wide pink pom-pom blossoms of the Lilly Pilly make the trees look like they've been covered by a fall of raspberry powderpuffs.


The trunk of the tea-tree is covered in too-small shedded cicada skins (it's clearly going to be a noisy summer).

And the chicken-dove waits on the fence for his breakfast.

Have a lovely weekend.

If you're reading this...
Jana, your comment yesterday made me laugh, particularly as I can surf - albeit sensationally badly!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cutting edge

Have been on the lookout for a pretty vintage knife to cut cakes with. Needed to be broad so slices had a chance of making it onto plates without me making a total mess.

Found it on Saturday at Rozelle Markets. Didn't want to ask the stallholder the original purpose of the knife as she'd just had a somewhat heated discussion with a previous unsatisfied customer and was a bit het up, so the true purpose of its shape remains a mystery to me. Enlightenments welcome.

Picked up an old bread knife at the same time that's going to make weekend toast making that bit more glamorous.

Reckon this was $12 well spent.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Growing pains

We are successful urban farmers!

While our teeny, tiny vegetable patch has been supplying us with spinach for the last month, it's now producing big, fat heads of broccoli. Wasn't allowed to actually harvest this one until The Child's friend could see it.

There's even a row of broadbeans behind the broccoli, which will be ready to pick any day now too.

Possibly taking things a step too far by throwing seed to one of our resident doves each morning and pretending he's a chicken. Even The Cat thinks he lives here as they ignore each other when they're both on the ground in the garden.

The Cat has never gone after a bird in her life, for anyone concerned about the chicken-dove's welfare. Unless you count one that's golden brown and has just come out of the oven.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fresh start

At the orthodontist the other day with The Child I pulled out my diary to make the next round of appointments. (I'm old-school when it comes to diaries, I like one I can write in and shove papers into.) Turns out the second appointment needed to be mid-January, so I needed a new diary pronto.

Had been using Frankie magazine's cloth-covered diary this year but didn't fancy the baby-poo brown cover of the 2012 version. Luckily, the orthodonist is just a hop, skip and jump away from Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt so we sauntered over to check out all the lovely offerings we knew they'd have. We both loved this one because of the beautiful colour combinations.

Also liked the idea of a seasonal fruit-and-veg guide literally at my fingertips.

I've covered my own with vintage fabrics in the past, but the internal blandless leaves me a bit cold. Unlike this one.

Another bonus is that the week-to-an-opening view (the only one I use) gives equal space to Saturdays and Sundays as the rest of the week. Highly unusual, I've found. Frankie was a surprise offender here, too, as it left little space for its readers to pencil in all the indie-market openings they're no doubt keen to get to.

Life doesn't stop on Friday afternoon, does it? Or do diary designers really think the people who buy these type of diaries are using them to jot down all their high-level corporate meetings or neuro-surgery schedule?

The Foodies' Diary, $29.95.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Checked out

Red checks seemed to be jumping out at me in old magazines and books I'd been flicking through. Even ripped out an image of some cushions to put in one of my files. Then forgot all about it.

On a foray to Spotlight last week for some thread, I thought I'd check out the fabric. Not something I do all that often as I find Spotlight's combination of fluro lighting and fabric selection pretty uninspiring, bordering on depressing.

But then I spotted the big red cotton check. With no actual project in mind, I momentarily dithered before buying two metres I thought I'd cover an outdoor bench mattress with. When it came home, though, I decided I could also use a tablecloth and some cushions. Back to Spotlight for four more metres. Luckily, Spotlight's prices are much more appealing than its ambience.

Spent Saturday afternoon making the mattress cover and a tablecloth (which I'll actually use indoors) and will get around to making some cushions for the deck. Love sewing with large checks as cutting straight lines are easy and the fall of the tablecloth was measured by how many checks should hang over the edges. Didn't touch a tape measure all afternoon.

Will just need to be careful I don't use it all at the same time in one room. Don't want to be mistaken for a French bistro or Italian pizzeria.

NB. Apologies if anyone has had trouble trying to leave a comment. Seems to be some problem with blogger (now there's a surprise) at the moment.

Friday, October 21, 2011


We like good deli things at our house: cheese, olives, that kind of thing - and Norton Street Grocer is close to where we live so we're lucky. Certainly on the pricey side, but it's a lovely shop. Thanks to last month's issue of Feast magazine, though, I've discovered a new-to-me-but-been-there-for-millennia deli - Lamia Super Deli, as it's grandly called. It's a little further away, but not that much so who's quibbling? Not me.

Lamia Super Deli certainly lives up to its name. You can barely see the Greek owners and employees behind the long counter as its stacked with stuff. Luckily, there's a few vantage points where they poke their faces round the side so you can speak to them. It's the olives I go for. We eat a lot of them in our house and after seeing a pic in the mag of huge tins of kalamatas and every other olive under the Athenean sun with the lids ripped off, I was there. No dainty upmarket decanting of the olives into little containers - and all the better for it.

Half the price of what I'm used to paying and no extra charge for the Greek music that's always tinkling away in the background. An elderly Greek customer was dancing when I walked in today. I kid you not. It's my new favourite haunt. Particularly as there are spectactular Asian supermarkets in the same strip. And here I was going into Chinatown when I needed serious supplies. Should give myself a face-palm, as the The Child would say.

Marrickville is close to where I live but it's another world away in atmosphere. It's like spinning a globe and jabbing your finger at it. You'll never know where you'll end up or what you'll find.

There is a connection to the mugs, if you were wondering. I popped into an op shop on the way back to the car, something I rarely do as central Sydney offers pretty slim pickings. Thought Marrickville might be different. Not much, to be honest, but there were these sweet little mugs twinkling at me from among the surrounding crud. I bought them to add to the picnic/camping basket but they seem to have found their way onto the kitchen shelf instead. At $1 each, I might have to go back and pick up the two I left behind.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What a galah

Time to reveal another treasure that arrived in Kylie's package: the vintage galah pillowcase.

I gave it the crochet-trim treatment last night (the dots I marked for placement - and ignored - haven't worn off yet - so fresh is the handiwork) and will be revealed to The Child when she gets home this afternoon. She loved the one I prepared earlier (link to instructions are on this post if you want to do the same) so I know this one will be claimed for her bed.

The Child insisted the-then-untrimmed pillowcase come to South West Rocks with us recently but knowing it was vintage asked, "You have washed this, haven't you, Mum?" "Yes, of course," I lied, and shoved it under her nose to inhale the washing-powder scent.

It was obvious Kylie had washed it recently, so figured it was a technical lie only.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Extremely chocolately choc-chip biscuits

Any of you who've made my chocolate brownies will know that I - and more importantly The Child - like chocolate-baked things just on the cooked side of gooey.

Here's our favourite chocolate biscuit recipe. I've added a bit of coconut flour as I was reminded by Kate of how good it is for you. Just a bit adds lots of undetectable-to-the-mouth fibre and an ever-so-slight coconut taste (but not so much that you'd pick it if you didn't know). If you want to make these without it, just replace it with the same weight of plain flour.

. 80g brown sugar
. 110g raw caster sugar
. 1 tsp vanilla extract
. 100g softened butter
. 1 egg
. 100g plain flour
. 20g coconut flour
. 50g good-quality cocoa
. 100g choc chips

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Makes about 20.

. Mix sugars, vanilla and butter until light and fluffy.
. Add egg and mix until well combined.
. Mix in flours, cocoa and choc chips with your hand, as all that cocoa is quite powdery.
. Shape into walnut-sized balls and place on tray.
. Slightly flatten balls with your hand.
. Bake for 8 mins.
. Keep out of sight from my family or they'll eat them all.

When cool, biscuits should be firm on the outside but soft and crumbly on the inside.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Summer lovin'

I love the colours of my new summery scarf.

One outfit I plan on wearing it with is a white top teamed with a white linen ruffle skirt I have to stop people mistaking me for a nurse.

From Lee Mathews.

Also want this boat skirt. Unfortunately, I can't justify replacing the word 'want' with 'need' in that sentence right now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blood ties

Last week I bought a few blood oranges from our local Harris Farm Markets as they were plentiful and cheap. Didn't go overboard with quantity as I didn't want to be stuck with a bag of dud citrus.

From the very first slice, though, I knew I'd hit the jackpot as they were juicy and full of flavour and colour.

Blood oranges are probably one of my favourite fruits and the first time I see them in the shops each year is always a little bit exciting.

I quickly popped back to Harris Farm this morning to see if they were still around and, to my delight, they were. I've now got enough to squeeze two onto my muesli each morning plus enough to share with the family for the rest of the week.

The blood orange season is short and sweet, and just about over now, so they'll soon be giving up their shelf space to the mangoes that are starting to trickle into the shops.

That's an exchange I can live with.

Friday, October 14, 2011


However annoying the soapie theme tune is, it's true that everyone needs good neighbours. Makes city living that bit easier.

We are very lucky to have The Foodie living next door. Lucky because The Foodie looks after The Cat when we go off on our weekend camping trips. The Foodie loves animals and, despite working fulltime and having her own large and busy family, not only does she find time to come in and look after the usual feeding routine, she actually sits with The Cat for a bit each day.

The Foodie has noted that The Cat is a champion purrer, so knows her efforts are appreciated.

She's worth her weight in gold. Or, at the very least, dry cat food.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Everyday Asian

meatballs with tamarind glaze

Happily handed over $35 at the bookshop for Bill Granger's new cookbook Bill's Everyday Asian.

Spa-style poached chicken with sesame bean salad

While not a fan of his TV shows, I do love his food.

Simple egg noodle salad with peanut dressing

Holiday, one of his previous books, is a favourite, and where the Never Fail Chocolate Cake recipe comes from that I make all the time. We still make quite a few dishes from even-earlier books regularly. Never had a bad meal at bills in Surry Hills either.

Chinese custard tarts

I can see this new book being well-used throughout spring and summer as the recipes are easy weekday fare and so right for our climate.

The styling and photography is crisp and pretty.

It retails for $50 but I picked it up at Dymocks yesterday for $35.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


We arrived at our South West Rocks campsite and a group of kookaburras watched us unpack. We would find out why later.

We walked about 20 metres and watched humpback whales breach, which is when they leap out of the water, and tail slap while making their way back south.

This happened every day and you could hear them loudly and clearly. If you've never heard a whale before, which I hadn't, it sounds something like a low, incredibly loud, long lion roar. Definitely not the pretty underwater whale-song stuff. They actually woke The Husband one night.

We swam. This beach was about a minute's walk from our tent.

We ate well - and so did the kookaburras. I wish I had a photo to show you how well they ate on one particular evening but it happened too fast. We were sitting around putting together our barbecued hamburgers when I moved away from the table to get something. Clearly this was the moment the kookaburras, who were sitting around watching us, had been waiting for. Our circle had been broken. One swooped down, briefly hovered like a helicopter and pulled the meat out from between a bun. And these birds are big. The sheer audacity and skill required to pull this move off in a small space was immensely impressive. Any one of us at the table could easily have reached out and touched it. That's the element of surprise for you.

It then flew up to its mates who were waiting in the trees and they all went into the grass and, in clear view, split the meat between the four of them. The swoop was magnificent and exactly why they are kingfishers was made abundantly obvious.

Still from the comfort of our campsite, we watched kangaroos box.

Was worried we were witnessing bush violence but it became clear these were just friendly practice sessions.

Kangaroos, many with joeys, were everywhere, and weren't bothered by us whatsoever. In fact, one night, I was making my way to a toilet block by the ocean, which is creepy enough in the dark with the sound of waves cancelling most other sounds out, when I came across a rather large kangaroo blocking the path. Not sure that an 'excuse me' would cut it, I stopped not really knowing what to do. I decided to turn back just as it leapt off into the bush.

It's a weird experience wandering around at night in a National Park as kangaroos are often just standing around in the dark doing nothing. After all, it's their territory, and they're comfortable. Several times I walked within a metre of one, standing completely still, before I even knew it was there. It's a bit like being the only moving piece on a nocturnal chessboard.

No dithering about what to do for this mother. A quick check of her watch was all that was needed to know that it was baby's bedtime.

The school holidays are now over. Sniff.

NB: I didn't do any fiddling to the top photo. The sky really was that blue that day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On the road again

It's First Friday Column time again. Drum-rolling you over to The Husband...

We’re off camping. Hurray! It’s school holidays so we’re hitting the road north to a national park at gorgeous South West Rocks.

South West Rocks really is the hidden holiday gem time forgot. I suppose I’ve ruined it for everyone now, but the place has the wonderful sleepy holiday air and evokes thongs on hot bitumen, deafening cicadas, salt on sunburn (yes, yes), long hot afternoons and sunset barbecues.

Given the weather in Sydney has been, in meteorological parlance, total crap, it may be more thongs in cold mud and the thrilling smell of damp wool in the musty tent but we’re nothing if not hardy.

In fact, that’s not true at all. There’s nothing hardy about us. A bigger bunch of princesses and nancies has never set foot in a camping ground, and that’s just me.

The Author of Small Things, Simple Pleasures may well be at one with nature when it involves birds and cats, but not so much if it involves multiple legs and feelers.

Let’s just say the Author likes things to be clean, comfortable and good quality at all times. This time last year we were holidaying in Europe and in the quirky little apartment we rented in Paris she had to line the bed with towels lest she come into contact with the sheets which were deemed “nylon-ey”.

We started camping slowly. Our first foray was to Sydney Harbour’s Cockatoo Island, surely the original site to put the glam into glamping. The amenities block could have featured in Inside Out mag and evening cocktails at the Harbour Bar were delightful.

Then we borrowed a tent and took off with friends one long weekend, wine glasses, our own good linen and duvets and lovely Neil Perry braises with couscous around the campfire.

Now the Author realised she’d be warm and comfy with all her things around her she became quite the camping fan. Not that we’ll ever make an assault on the south face of Everest, nor will ablutions ever involve a spade, but we’re getting more adventurous each time.

We have our own tent now – a two roomer with a terrace. Or a verandah. Or whatever the front room of a tent where shoes and eskys go, is called.

Today we even ventured down to a camping store, looked at all the eskys and tents and beds and hats and lights and canoes and bought a natty little camp stove. It runs two burners off a little gas bottle and will be used to produce the Author’s morning coffee and evening hotty –seriously!

We also have a barbecue near our tents, which, to my delight, is wood powered so, yes, I can light fires.

But the weather’s looking a little dodgy so the Author’s getting a little jumpy about an awful situation which could possibly develop and ruin everything. This dreaded possibility is known in camping circles as “getting cold”.

I do hope nobody gets cold. I do hope our new stove doesn’t explode. I do hope our tent doesn’t blow away or the campfire set my mate Peter’s pants on fire. Actually, that might be kind of fun.

I’m sure reports and photographs of our adventure into some of the wildest territory on the planet – the mid-North Coast of NSW – will feature here soon enough.

Wish us luck.

Image is of a South West Rocks sunset taken on a crappy phone. The reality was actually breathtaking.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Japanese hexagons

Finally, the Japanese hexagon cotton throw rug I started way back when is finally finished (if you don't count the majority of loose threads at the back - but I'm working on them).

I thought I'd finished the hexagons a while ago but realised when I put them together on the floor, that the knee-rug size was just too knee-ruggy small so added another seven hexagons at each end.

I'm happy with the end result but don't quite get the allure of the small throw rug as it seems to be decorative rather than practical. Pretty, though, and worth the decision to unravel the first project that this grew from.

Maybe the Japanese like their throw rugs small and their dresses big.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flying high

Despite having enjoyed a long weekend, woke up in a grump thanks to the decidedly non-spring weather that has ruled, if not ruined, the school holidays so far. Little did I know that, waiting for me on the doorstep, was a little ray of sunshine that had winged its way from the other side of the continent.

Inside was such a vision of beautifully selected birdiness that I would have chirped, if I could.

After reading about my cockatoo teatowel cushion, I knew Kylie was sending a vintage teatowel but I didn't know she'd prettily wrap a thoughtful collection of avian beauty and send that too. All the bits and pieces will be shown here eventually, but this painting with its rustic frame just couldn't wait because the colours are bright and happy, unlike the sky today. Even nipped outside in my pyjamas (after checking neighbours were nowhere to be seen) to cut a few bottlebrush flowers from the street trees in celebration.

While writing this, a couple of blue wrens, east-coast cousins of the bird in the painting, were flitting about in the tree outside my window.

Thanks Kylie, you really did make my day.