Friday, December 23, 2011

Two turtle doves

We may not have five gold rings, four calling birds, three french hens or a partridge in a pear tree, but...

we do have two turtle doves (well, three if you count baby who seems to have hit the teenage years and refused to be in the family photo).

All the very, very best.

Back on January 16.

Vera x

Two Turtle Doves pic taken by The Child while I was out this morning.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas table

It's been a lazy lead-up to Christmas around here really. The last of the gifts have been dropped off to friends heading out of Sydney and today's been all about making lists for tomorrow. Food lists. Food lists that I will clutch tightly in my hand as I head out of the house at 7am in the hope to avoid crowds clutching at the best of the cherries, raspberries and so on.

Once the bounty has been caught - or bought - we'll start cooking a few things that can be put aside. Like the pavolva shell for Christmas Day and the mini fruit-mince cheesecakes for Christmas Eve.

Nothing more to think about right now than to play around with how the table will look and finding the time to make bon-bons like we did last year (instructions here). My kind of dilemmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas shopping

I grabbed a few hours today to pop into the city while The Child was occupied at a mate's birthday party. When wrapping presents earlier in the week, I noticed a lack of frivolity in The Child's lot. Can't have that, even though she's more mature than either her father or me most of the time, she's only 12.

Problem solved after a pleasant roam around the department stores, which I do less and less of these days. Postively festive it was. Now for a quick wrapping session before she turns up at the front door.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas music

Putting the final touches on presents requires Christmas music. While I've got half a dozen more CDs, these are my favourites and on high rotation - or as high as tolerance and taste will allow. With Ella being number one. Every year. There's nothing like belting out, "Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow" in the middle of an Australian summer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas menu

The Husband and The Child are on their way home after another successful camping trip. I chose to make the most of their absence by cleaning the whole house in preparation for Christmas - and now the house is spotless. I've got an hour, I reckon, before they drag sand, twigs and general camping grime across the pristine floors...

In the meantime, I've been putting the Christmas menu together. So far the options are:

homemade limeade
Stone's ginger wine & Frangelico sparkling cocktail

glazed ham with carmelised onion relish
roast spatchcocks with chorizo and sage stuffing
peas with pancetta and mint
roast kipfler potato salad

pavolva with cherries, berries and passionfruit
mini fruit-mince cheesecakes

Lulu's choc truffles

We usually barbecue a turkey (true) but we're going to be radical and shake it up this year.

The only definite on the list is the ham, as I've ordered a lovely free-range one from the same deli that we buy our favourite sliced ham from during the year.

Might do some things on Christmas Eve and some on Christmas Day. Might change it all (though The Husband is sure to go for the spatchcocks with chorizo, as he'd happily eat chorizo stuffed with chorizo all year round) once I've consulted the others.

That's the fun of planning.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hidden beauties

I will never need a small container again after buying this set of mini canisters for just $10. The biggest is about 15cm, the smallest 10cm. I'm going to use them around the house for practical things, like bandaids, buttons, something to hide the cat medicine in, and then just toss them in cupboards as I like storing bits and pieces in attractive containers even when out of sight. Makes opening a drawer just that little bit nicer.

Got these copper measuring scoops on the same day from the same stall. Not sure if I can use them for food (I'll have to check that it's safe first). If not, that's fine as I keep missplacing my favourite trowel in a bag of potting mix and maybe it's time the plastic washing powder scoop jumped into the recycling bin.

Have a lovely weekend.

NB: My baby can cook! The carrot cake was (and still is) delicious. She is so proud and so are we. x

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Icing on the cake

Today was all about painting lattice. And painting lattice. And painting even more lattice.

So now I've shut the door on the apocalyptic garden and have come inside to fiddle about with pretty things again. Like this vintage icing sugar shaker (or so I'm told that's what it is) I picked up last weekend that's a teeny bit rusty around the rim but perfect for glitter.

While I slaved away outside, The Child noted the absence of any home-cooked baking so asked if she could make a cake entirely by herself. If the smell that's filling the kitchen right now is anything to go by, this is going to be the best carrot cake with cream-cheese icing ever.

She even left the kitchen spotless (it was quite the opposite when I popped in midway through prep to get a glass of water. I didn't say a word.)

Sweet girl.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paint the halls

What do sensible people do a week and a half out from Christmas Day? They don't get the builder in to rip out the verandah lining boards, tile the verandah roof, replace sections of the back fence and panels beneath our deck that effectively create a shed for us.

Removing the verandah lining boards revealed the house's original 90-year-old slate roof along with the accumulated 90-year-old dust. (I'd save the slate roof if I could but it'd be as effective as standing under a deciduous tree branch in a winter's storm.) The front of our house looked as if we were having a white Christmas - that's if white Christmases were black.

Even though this doesn't sound like much fun, it actually is for me. Out come the paint charts and off to visit my favourite paint shop, Annandale Paint and Wallpaper, personally run by a husband and wife team just down the road. It's a double win with them as they stock my favourite paint brand, Haymes, another family run all-Australian company. (I see Haymes is running ads in all the major magazines announcing being given a gong by Choice magazine for having the best coverage. Good for them.)

Anyway, while many of you may look at my paint choices and see sludge, I see a lovely mix of naturals that will have parts of the work disappear into the garden while others just blend in with it. And the charcoal trim colour isn't even there yet. (Dulux Malay Grey, Whisper White and Linseed, for anyone interested.)

Best of all, though, Rob the Builder will also perform a little Christmas magic, by completing all the work before disappearing on the 23rd just like a jolly toy-making elf.

And Santa will have a much better roof on which to park his sleigh on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blue eggs

A belated birthday present has arrived in the post.

At the beginning of the year, dear friends moved to the South Australian countryside to live the dream. The one that includes chickens, starry nights, a quieter life, a kitchen garden. I didn't actually expect to see the fruits of their labours, or should I say their chickens', until we got around to visiting.

Instead, I found on our doorstep, individually bubble-wrapped inside a vintage tin, eight fresh eggs, six of them a stunning blue.

After this photo was taken, I cracked two of the blue ones (from an Aracauna chicken) and fried them. Delicious. Well, they actually taste exactly like any fresh egg but the beauty is there's less white so getting that perfect soft yolk/firm white mix is very easy. Less cholesterol than regular eggs too, I'm told.

If these were available commercially, I'd buy them in a hearbeat, if only just to look at them.

I'm wondering if I'll find small crushed pieces of blue shell in the garden when the next lot of compost matures and feeds the garden. I hope so.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ginger cheer

It was the annual fundraising gingerbread-house making event, where kids put together the houses and then decorate them to their little hearts' content. This year, one wise parent suggested we have the barbecue first to avoid all the lollies being eaten beforehand, which can leave the houses looking a little bare and the children a little unbearable. Clearly, The Child didn't have a problem this year.

One of her friends, a budding graphic designer, methodically separated his licorice allsorts to create a tiled roof. Another, who had some dodgy advice from his architect mother, had a wall breach. No matter. Every single one looked fantastic when wrapped in cellophane and a big red bow.

The weather was kind, the food was good and we walked home content we'd had a lovely evening and made a collective contribution to a charity.

Sometimes, all feels right with the world.

Gingerbread kits from here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dad Camp

It's time for The Husband's column...

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll be aware camping has become somewhat popular in our household.

Very civilised and amusing friends are keen campers and described the many and varied joys of sleeping rough in nature’s splendour with only a campfire and glinting glass of shiraz as comfort.

The Author was intrigued by this but also not a fan of being cold, dirty or uncomfortable. Crocheting on the couch with The Cat is more her thing.

However, discomforts countered by clean shower blocks and warm duvets and a morning coffee brewed over a flame by yours truly, we now have a tent, a natty camp stove, some chairs and a table that folds out and various baskets filled with campy stuff.

Camping has indeed proved a rare pleasure and we’re very grateful for being introduced to it.

Last weekend, The Child and I went camping with the usual suspects … well, not all of them. The Author did not come on account of The Cat being very unwell and, suddenly, when other female members of the camping posse realised they could didn’t have to go, they ducked out too, citing attending the Finder’s Keepers market at Sydney’s Carriageworks, as well as a weekend without kids and husbands, as more appealing.

The female members of the camping posse are also the foundation quorum of The Little Marionette Coffee Club, where many a grand plan takes flight, many a candle-making evening planned and many a husband’s less than exemplary behaviour dissected.

Suddenly, it was just dads and teen kids on an expedition, a prospect everyone was very pleased with. “Sa-weet!” said The Child, “We’ll be able to do whatever we want!”

We went to the gorgeous Mill Creek, near Wisemans Ferry in NSW. It was stunning, our own little paddock with a barbecue, fire pit, goannas and wombats ambling out of the towering bush.
So it was just dads – The Cameraman Who’s Always Right and The Truth Sayer and me – as well as four kids aged between 12 and 15. What could possibly go wrong … ?

Engulfed in a Ball of Flame
The Truth Sayer has a camp stove which he alleges is a family heirloom. No wonder none of his ancestors have any eyebrows. On the first morning I fiddled with its various sticky knobs, admittedly while holding a lit match, when I was suddenly in the middle of an explosion. The Cameraman Who’s Always Right, who has worked on Mythbusters and knows about such things, says the correct terms for the experience is Engulfed in a Ball of Flame. The Truth Sayer, attempting to show how safe the stove of death was, also become briefly engulfed in a somewhat smaller ball of flame. How we laughed.

Leech Attack
Reeking of burnt hair, we set off on a bushwalk that was 11km and marked on the map as strenuous. We did not tell The Teens this. About 4km in, I heard The Child screaming rather enthusiastically. I was hiding behind a tree, getting ready to leap out and scare The Teens but eventually backtracked to find out what all the fuss was about. I was confronted by the sight of The Cameraman Who’s Always Right scraping a leech off the, er, upper rear thigh of The Child, who, with good reason, was fairly uncomfortable with the situation. Her ankle was bleeding from where he’d got the other one. Closer inspection showed our socks, boots, and in some cases, legs, were writhing with leeches. We turned back, rather than brave the wall of bloodsuckers. Later, I attempted to put a dying, dusty one on my thigh while The Cameraman Who’s Always Right filmed the experiment, but screamed and mashed it instead at the last moment.

Angry Possum
Possums will take revenge if evicted from a roof cavity by coming back in the night and pushing over pot plants. This is true. We caught a possum in torchlight, climbing a tree and laughed at its angry little face and glinty eyes as it glared around the trunk at us. He jumped down and ran away. Then he came back and did it again, looking even madder. We laughed at him even more.
In the night he came back and pushed the stove of death off the barbecue, gas bottle and all.

Stick in The Eye
One teen, the Apprentice Graphic Designer, fell over and a fairly decent stick poked him in the eye. He snapped his head back, as you do, breaking the stick off. With his eye! He removed the remnant and a swoosh of water rendered him (dad medicine at work) … not blind.
Snapping a stick off with your eye was looked upon as a pretty cool thing and was described in tones of awe as “fairly Ninja”.

I’m So Cold, Dad
The Author offered me various duvets to take with us, all of which I declined, unaware the start to this summer is the coldest in 50 years. When I went to bed on the first night, The Child was hunched in a foetal position, barely breathing, whispering “It’s so cold, dad,” through her little blue lips. The application of most of her clothing and all of the towels fixed that. The next night she had a spare duvet, an extra blanket, and a “space blanket” supplied by The Cameraman Who’s Always Right, the sort of chap who actually owns things called “space blankets”.
I cleverly utilised a picnic blanket to avoid death by hypothermia myself.

Is That Yours?
When it came time to pack up, no-one had any idea who owned what cutlery, except for The Truth Sayer, who puts a red dot on everything he owns, including his underpants. That didn’t stop him trying to steal my good tongs, while I bagged a nice jar of homemade blackcurrant jam.
To sort out the mess we plan to deliver a box of assorted and badly washed cutlery to members of The Little Marionette Coffee Club to sort out.

Dad-camping. What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I heart Christmas

I wanted some slightly padded hearts to tie onto Christmas presents this year, but didn't want to involve the sewing machine as wanted to curl up on the couch at night under a blanket, thanks to the coldest start to summer in 50 years.

So, during the day, I traced a large heart-shaped biscuit cutter onto two pieces of fabric, which I then cut out with pinking shears.

In the evening, I sewed around the edges with embroidery thread, leaving a gap at the top, into which I stuffed a few feathers from an old cushion insert. Slipped in a piece of ribbon, finished the stitching and then put buttons on either side so that the hearts are reversible.

The cards I made during the day, with bits and pieces I pulled out of the craft cupboard. Apart from the doiles. I picked up a pack of 250, made from biodegradable sugar cane pulp, for about $4 the other day at The Essential Ingredient. I see many an experimental doily project coming up.

The Child was inspired and now wants to make cards for her friends. I didn't expect her request to make variations of my doily card as her grandmother, my mother, is quite the doily abusing decorator and thought The Child had been scarred for life. When I sewed doilies onto a vintage blanket to hide a few holes, she thought I'd gone mad.

But she's come round. I have a convert.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Warehouse sales

I'm very happy when a brand I like is having a warehouse sale. Particularly if it's at Christmas and not very far away.

The Have You Met Miss Jones warehouse sale is on this Friday and Saturday. I've never actually been to one of their sales before, and am not even sure I can make this one, but hear they're good. It's the bone china Christmas decorations that I'd be looking out for.

If I do go, I'll also check out the Sambag warehouse sale around the corner at 297 Bourke Rd, Waterloo. That one's open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10am-4pm. Again, never been but I'm very partial to their sandals and ballet flats and must admit to owning a few cashmere scarves and a silk slip dress. Oh, okay, and a couple of handbags.

One of which was slung over my shoulder one afternoon a couple of years ago as I was entering The Child's primary school to pick her up. I heard the old staff-room window rattle open from above and then the principal shouting out "Fabulous bag, Vera!" before slamming the window shut and returning to, I assume, more educational business.

He's quite the dapper dresser himself. If only they did menswear.

Image via Have You Met Miss Jones.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Going green

Popped out this morning to pick up ribbon to make Christmas decorations and came home with this vintage plate that cost next to nothing. Must have a green thing going on as bought a pair of these vintage pillowcases from the Frankie stall at Carriageworks on the weekend.

Hoping the theme extends to my thumb.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Seedy business

These are surely the prettiest seed packets around. Heirloom seeds, $4.50 each, from Melbourne-based The Little Veggie Patch Co, whose book I've also been coveting for a while too.

The seeds are all heirloom varieties and a quick click on the packets shown on the website tells you all you need to know about the variety and when and how to plant.

Looks good enough to eat. And that's just the packaging.

Images via The Little Veggie Patch Co.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Full circle

The Husband owes me a column as it's the first Friday of the month. However, he's off camping with The Child and friends. I couldn't go and then another mother dropped out for various reasons. The third remaining adult female, over coffee earlier in the week, realised she could have a free weekend if she also opted out and come to the Finders Keepers market tomorrow instead. So she did.

Before The Child left this morning I asked her to choose which of our wreaths we'd hang on the door this year. Something I usually do.

The top one is more than 10 years old and has fallen out of favour in recent years.

She's always been a little against this red-and-white number since I pimped it a few years ago changing its subtle gold and apricot tones with white paint and red glitter. She thought it was a mistake at the time and hasn't really let go. Probably doesn't help that it's had the honour the last two years running.

She's never really been fond of this one, which usually ends up on an interior door or on the fireplace, but The Child is always a surprise so it had an even chance.

She pondered, she inspected, she tapped her index finger against her lips deep in thought. She then pointed to the first one and declared it the winner. So be it. And it does sparkle beautifully in the afternoon sunlight. Glad it's come full circle.

Have a lovely weekend. x

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A pinch and a punch

This is the advent calendar I made a few years back, using matchboxes and vintage wrapping paper, but the calendar we actually use is this one:

Reason being I like to have a mix of surprises for The Child to discover throughout the month and it was too hard to find little interesting inexpensive bits and pieces that would fit into matchboxes. Even chocolates were tricky. Pretty sure advent calendars weren't meant to be stressful.

Happy first day of summer.