Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All puffed up

Yesterday, I made my first ever batch of flaky pastry. It was so successful and so easy that I'll never buy ready-made pastry again. Not even the good Careme stuff, which is delicious and such a step-up - make that a whole staircase up - from the supermarket offerings.

I made it to go with a pie filling that I made in Sunday's cooking frenzy, so that a homemade weekday meat pie wasn't a whole day's palaver. The pastry, the recipe is from the Winter on the Farm cookbook, is simple but, admittedly, does have to be rolled out three times, after the initial rolling, with half-hour rests in between.

Don't let that put you off, though, as the first rolling takes minutes and the subsequent ones less than a minute each. I just left the bench floury and got on with other things in between.

I can't list the recipe here for copyright reasons but it seems to be the pastry of the moment as I'm seeing it everywhere, including the last season of Masterchef. There's not much to it. It's just flour, butter, chilled water and a pinch of salt. The secret is in the folding and rolling required to create the layers.

Best of all, there's no blind baking involved.

My previous favourite pastry recipe, Maggie Beer's sour-cream pastry, has now taken a back seat.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pin head

I have been looking for the perfect-sized old tin to keep my pins in.

I found it on Saturday for $8 at Rozelle Markets.

Go here for more vintage loveliness.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bananas in the blood

While watching Gourmet Farmer last Thursday night I saw this new magazine advertised. "Have you seen that?" asked The Husband. "They've completely ripped off the Jamie magazine design." I tut-tutted at such naughtiness while really thinking I must buy it as I like Jamie magazine but never pick it up as the seasons are all out of kilter for Southern Hemisphere dwellers and the places and shops irrelevant. So I did.

Haven't enjoyed a magazine so much in ages. Feast is SBS's food magazine and has the tag line: Experiencing Life through Food, and that's exactly what it feels like.

Next time we're up north, we'll definitely make a stop for Woolgoolga, somewhere on the coast near Coffs Harbour I gather, as it sounds like one of those great old-style beachside towns.

According to the story, it's banana-growing territory, has a population of 5000, 25 per cent of which are Sikh Indian Australians. There's an anuual food festival called Curryfest and one of the people interviewed for the story has a catering business called Curried Away and tells how he makes his lentil dahl from a secret recipe passed down from his mum. "I take my turban off to her," he says.

He is John. All his siblings have Anglo names as he says his father wanted his children to be able to relate to the wider community. "...we might be bearded and turbaned," says John, "but we're as dinky-di Australian as they come." Another local says the Sikh faith is in his blood - along with bananas. There's also a restaurant called Bluebottles Brasserie.

What's not to love about a town like that?

Then there are just the clever ideas throughout the magazine, like the Dinners & a Movie feature, which lists the French films on SBS that month along with dishes from some of them. The plum cake from Amelie will have to wait for another day, but at least I've got the recipe when the time is right.

The visual recipe index is another small touch I really like. I can't always remember the name of a dish but I'll remember the image. So simple.

This is not an ad, I promise. More a case of being beyond bored with most mainstream media and then delighting in something new and unexpected.

I was reading this in bed early on Sunday morning, which inspired me to head straight to the growers' market and cook for the rest of the day, with doors and windows wide open in the glorious spring-like weather.

If only I'd thought to make a banana cake.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Japanese sack

My sack is almost finished. The only thing to do is hem it, which I haven't done as I like the length it is unhemmed so am deciding if I'll add a strip of contrasting fabric or just do the tiniest hem possible.

It was way too big at first. So I unpicked the neckline bias and shoulder seams and then cut the side seams plus quite a bit extra straight off. The pattern basically discarded by now, I also hacked into the front armholes to give a little more shape.

Not sure I'd make this dress again as, while I like a loose-cut fit I think this has so little shape that it's unflattering - on me, anyway. I think having my hands behind my back in the shot above is a bit misleading as I didn't realise doing that was pulling some of the fabric out of shot.

Bit of pondering to do, I think, before parting with $100 for two metres of Liberty print.

Though the weather is really warming up now so I'm thinking a pretty Liberty beach sack wouldn't go astray this summer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gourmet Farmer

I'm pretty sure my attempt at a vegetable garden, basically a few seeds tossed underneath some grevillias and throwing the doves some bird food every morning, doesn't make me a gourmet farmer. So tonight at 7.30pm, I'll get couchside and watch the progress of someone more qualified when the new series of SBS's Gourmet Farmer begins tonight.

I only caught the last few episodes of the first series, but it was enough to make me want to see more. Didn't take me long to realise, though, that the concept is, um, inspired by the earlier episodes of the brilliant UK River Cottage series, which went a bit mega brand in the end for my liking. A bit River Cottage Australia, if you like.

At the very least, it's like experiencing living in the country without actually having to do it.

I know I like that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blooming marvellous

More than a month ago I made The Husband stop his car as I'd seen some branches by the side of the road that I wanted to bring home. He wasn't particularly happy about it as he's a bit precious about his little French car, but I insisted.

I dragged them down our hallway, not caring I was scraping the walls as I went much to The Husband's and Child's amazement, and then cut them to size. Shortly after I used the branches in a previous post to display some crochet and then did nothing but occasionally change the water.

Much to our surprise, the branches, or sticks as the rest of the family refers to them, have bloomed at the same rate as the trees outside. The flowers and leaves are starting to get a bit droopy now but I'm wondering what the rest of the buds will do.

We'll see.

If you're reading this...
Kylie, thanks so much for yesterday's plant identification. I'm seriously considering growing the Orange Trumpet Creeper over our back fence.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Urban beauty

Even today's drizzling grey sky didn't diminish this little bit of urban loveliness when I popped round to the corner shop.

I have no idea what this bright orange creeper is but, every year, it blooms over a shabby shed and turns it into something that makes me smile every time I walk past.

Made running out of milk this morning a good thing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Simple passion

I love simple solutions. I also love passionfruit.

But there's only so many fruit salads or bowls of yoghurt I can take to drizzle passionfruit over, so was delighted to discover the technique of a friend who just slices the top off, at the same point as you'd cut into a soft-boiled egg, and digs in with spoon. Genius.

I can eat three or four in a row this way, without losing half the juice to a chopping board.

Now, if the passionfruit vine I planted last year would only fruit...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is this the face of evil?

Only if you're a magnolia tree in bud.

Every day 10 or so of these little birds with hats, as The Husband calls them, come into the garden and snack on our spindly magnolia that's full of buds.

I could take a feather from the rural-dwelling Father-in-Law's cap and shoot these red-whiskered bul-buls as he is threatening to do to the two peacocks who are eating the Mother-in-Law's potted colour (true story), but I won't.

Here's another one with its birdy little hand wrapped around a branch for purchase so it can thrust its beak deep into a juicy bud, yet I do nothing. The flock probably had a bird's-eye view of the whole dove/currawong saga and knows I'm soft. To keep me in line they flit about showing off their cute fluffy red bottoms and Adam Ant-style cheeks and I leave them be.

What can I say? I'm hen-pecked. Make that birds-with-hats pecked.

Have a lovely weekend. x

If you're reading this...
Jana, rose water is a food product used to flavour sweets. It's available in speciality food shops and, in Sydney, bigger supermarkets. It's just pure water infused with rose petals. Orange blossom water is also beautiful.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Size does matter

Today, I was intending to show you my Japanese dress in all its glory. However, turns out there is a bit too much glory. So much so, that if I wore it to the farmers' market on Saturday I could easily slip a couple of sacks of potatoes up my dress and the Southern Highlands potato growers would be none the wiser. Nor would I risk walking past a circus in it as an elephant may mistake it for the big-top tent and try and take shelter. It's that big.

All is not lost, though. I'll make some adjustments and present my progress soon - even if it doesn't fit. I'll take the lessons I've learned from putting together my Japanese sack and put them towards version two in a Liberty floral.

Which leads me to flowers of a different type. I've written about my weakness for ironing with rose water before, and I've now discovered another brand with a beautiful bottle ($11.95 from The Essential Ingredient) that I'll use as a single-stem vase long after the bottle is empty.

Trouble is the squirty thing doesn't fit the new bottle so I'll have to decant new rose water into old rose water bottle.

Who ever said size doesn't matter...

If you're reading this...
Angelina, yesterday's tea towel is cotton not hemp. Haven't come across any hemp tea towels but I dabbled in some pillowcases once and tried to convince myself for a whole year that I liked them before guiltily popping them into the charity bin. Wish I'd thought to turn the backs of them into tea towels. Live and learn.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stitched up

Knowing that if I don't start a new project soon after collecting supplies that it'll probably sit around untouched for some time (last winter's quilting book and fabrics are now gathering dust), I pulled out the iron-on transfers, tea-towel and embroidery threads I bought at Calico and Ivy in Balmain last week.

These Aunt Martha's transfers, $3.50 a set, are the cutest things, with a kitchen-tea type design for every day of the week. As I've never done any embroidery before, I limited myself to five different thread colours to test one out.

Love it. Who knew something called a lazy daisy stitch could be so easy or fun to do? (Rhetorical question, as I know there'd be lots of you!)

Love the vintage-style sewing/knitting sack, $9.90, I bought at the same time to keep my embroidery bits together almost as much.

The plan is to get around to making all seven, with different five-thread colourways.

I can't claim this embroidered teatowel idea as my own, I must admit. Calico and Ivy's cleverer-than-me Sarah had stitched up one and put it in the shop as an example. I even bought the threads and tea-towel there.

That's my style of one-stop shopping.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nothing but blue skies from now on

There's nothing simple or pleasurable about saying goodbye to a friend who, it turns out, saw more blue days ahead of him than blue skies. Today is his funeral.

Here's to blue skies.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My beautiful lavanderia

This book caught my eye as I was leaving the library late last week so, on a whim, I walked back to the desk and borrowed it. I'm so glad I did.

Italian Joy written and photographed by Carla Coulson was a delight to read from beginning to end. It's hardly new, being published in 2005. It's the classic story about a single woman wanting to change the direction of her life and then doing exactly that. What I like about this book, more than some others which have followed it, is that she did it with passion and perseverance rather than those with large bank accounts who paid people to make it happen for them. That's all very nice too, but not really much of a story.

My favourite chapter in the book is the one entitled The Laundrette, or Lavanderia in Italian (such a beautiful word for washing). It captures the way her life has slowed down since she left Sydney for Florence and she now cleans her own apartment and does her own washing - and enjoys having the time to do so.

I love this book because of the way Carla Coulson captures the domestic beauty of the Italian lifestyle in her photographs and words. The way her dreams have unfolded in the same gentle way as her now sun-kissed sheets.

That's something money can't buy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Cat

The Cat is not pampered.

I do not carry her around on a cushion, moving her to various windows as the sun moves around the house so she can sleep bathed in the warm rays.

I do not have small bowls of water in every room of the house so she doesn't have to walk too far if she gets thirsty.

She likes to go into our shower after it's used to lap up the drips, but I don't pour a cup of warm water onto the tiles if she finds herself in there and the shower is dry.

I do not pull out a fourth seat at the dining table each night because she likes to sit with us at dinner.

She does not have a special sound she makes every night at the same time that means come to bed, and I wouldn't understand it if she did.

I do not slip into bed for five minutes at any time of the day when she runs into the bedroom and meows, meaning she wants a cuddle.

I do not refer to her as The Child's sister. Nor did I ponder out loud if she should be included in this week's Census. Who would do that?

Pic via the UK's Daily Mail. This is not me. Really and absolutely truly!

And I definitely would not carry her around in one of these even if they were available in Australia. Not even if they were made so The Cat could be carried facing me because she likes to touch my face with her paw.

I don't and wouldn't do any of these things.

Have a lovely weekend. x

If you're reading this...
Trace, until I can figure out a way of modelling the Magic Dress without performing Beyonce booty style poses to adequately show off the fishtail, the construction may have to remain a mystery.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sew far, sew good

After years of coveting Japanese sewing books, I couldn't resist buying the English version of the Stylish Dress Book. I hesitated a bit as my sewing skills are basic but came round with a little encouragement from Tracy and the serendipitous bumping into of a friend who's a whizz with the machine while I had the book in my hands in the local book shop.

Sewing friend cast a keen eye on the instructions and thought them well doable. She couldn't quite understand why I just didn't go and buy a pattern, rather than choose to trace one from the book as she could clearly see past the lovely Japanese styling. I could not. Think she noticed the tears welling in my eyes like a disappointed toddler so suggested a sewing day at her house.

Couldn't get to the counter and part with the $30 purchase price quickly enough.

Off I went to Tessuti's in Surry Hills to pick up some fabric. I resisted all the lovely rolls of Liberty they had as I wanted to have a crack at the pattern at home first on some less expensive fabric. Chose a Japanese cotton for my test dress.

I'm going to take things slowly and just trace the pattern today. So out of the cupboard came a roll of old English tracing cloth I bought from Reverse Garbage a couple of years ago, and have never had the opportunity to use. I have no idea what its original use would have been but it's lovely stuff.

Dress A is the project from the book. So, come spring, if you see someone wandering around Sydney wearing an olive green with white gold-rimmed flowers not terribly well-made sack, that'll be me.

To see what others are doing in their creative space today, go here.

If you're reading this...
Ally, your mother knows what's what. I have it on good authority (thanks Fleur) that my big bucket is indeed a jam-making pot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Magic dress

While I love vintage homewares and linen, I'm not that into vintage clothing. Having said that, I have the most beautiful linen coat and several silk slips, which are some of the hardest working items in my wardrobe. But, generally, there's way too much man-made fabric going on for my liking in the vintage-clothes world.

Which brings me to this dress. Lazybones in Paddington sells a few genuine vintage bits and pieces among its own vintage-inspired new clothing and bedding ranges. I picked up this dress just to take a closer look at the construction as it has the most wonderful fishtail at the back, which is pictured. I tried it on, just to see what it looked like and found it fitted like a glove. It's such a clever design that I thought surely a seam would blow if I tried to sit down, but, no, not even the slightest groan. It moved with me like a second skin.

Now, normally, I wouldn't be adding volume with sheaths of fabric to my bottom area but this dress seems to defy the rules of physics as the tail adds interest but not bulk. I know not how it works but, for $65, it was coming home with me anyway.

Now all I need to do is wait for someone to invite me to a spring garden party so that I have somewhere to wear it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pear crumble muffins

The return of winter weather had me rushing to the oven. Wanted something wholesome but that would also be welcome in The Child's lunchbox. I held my breath as she bit into one and waited for the thumb rating. Completely straight thumb! Can't ask for more.

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup stoneground wholemeal flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 cup fine oatmeal
2 tsps cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup macadamia nut oil
2 small pears (or 1 large one), peeled and diced

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup raw sugar
60g butter

. Preheat oven to 180C
. Mix flours, baking powder, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar.
. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, yoghurt and oil.
. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
. Spoon into muffin/cup cake papers.
. Make crumble by mixing flour and sugar together.
. Rub butter into flour and sugar.
. Sprinkle on top of muffins.
. Bake for about 20mins. Makes around 12.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bucket list

On the usual market trawls this weekend, what was catching my eye was utilitarian items I could use around the garden or outdoors. This bucket thingy will double up nicely as a camping bucket (dinner plates fit perfectly into it) and kindling bucket. It's almost too warm for fires now so maybe I'll spend a few happy hours thinking about what else to do with it, a clearly urgent task that'll keep me from the paid work I'm supposed to be doing.

Picked up an old billy, $5, which I'll use as a small watering can and found a good use for my scoop, thanks to a $3 Rozelle Markets canister. Mother Dove is back - she never left really as she pecked around the garden with her mate all last week - so when I say back, I mean back in her nest for short cooing periods during the day. The canister contains bird seed I throw into our garden. Least I could do, I thought.

Could be a bit of a mistake, encouraging her to stay. The nest is between the brick wall of our house and the brick wall that separates us from the neighbours so the cooing is somewhat amplified. She's literally on a direct Twitter feed to any passing currawongs. If any eggs appear, I'm pulling the blind down until the end of summer.

If you're reading this...
Harmony & Rosie, sorry don't have any magic tricks for brass. I checked in a few books I've got and the homespun formulas seem pretty messy. They're also offered after the first suggestion of Brasso, anyway, which is hardly enlightening.

I'm doing a vintage finds link up here today.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Friday Column Club

The Husband writes stuff for magazines sometimes and snorts with pleasure when he thinks he's made an amusing point. Surprisingly, publications actually pay him to do this (the writing, not the snorting, obviously). I'm not going to but, as he can spit out a column in the same time it takes most of us to brush our teeth, I've asked him to write something here on a regular basis.

I'll put it up on the first Friday of every month. If you've seen a piece of writing that makes you smile - could be anything, even a one-liner, then please share with a link in the comments box - as I'd love to add some extra bright spots to my weekend. It's not as if there's much on TV in the evenings.

No pressure, though. I visit lots and lots of blogs and don't often leave a comment because sometimes I'm just in the mood to flit. Anyway, enough preamble. Here he is...

As one of the few male followers of Small Things, Simple Pleasures I think I’m uniquely credentialed to comment on the difference between the small, simple pleasures of men, and those of women. The fact that I happen to be married to The Author of this blog also helps in my understanding of the small but important distinctions.

Small Male Pleasure 1:
Mocking Sticks

Myself and The Child find it incredibly easy to mock those things that The Author loves and form the central theme of this blog. For example, I’ll get home and The Child will say, with much eye-rolling, “Mum stopped the car and picked up some sticks she found on the side of the road today,” and, with uncanny comic mimicry, demonstrate the effort required by The Author to get the massive bunch of sticks through the house. Hilarious.

Small Male Pleasure 2:
Enjoying Candles

Of course, I haven’t lived in the same house as The Author without some taste points rubbing off. I may often complain about the over-cushioning of the bed, but I do enjoy a good candle arrangement.
On the weekend we light the fire, cook something delicious, have a glass of wine and relax. The Author will make a beautiful installation of candles and sticks (see above). It’s just lovely.
If I decide to stay up and watch sport when she’s off to bed, The Author will blow out all the candles except for one and say, as she leaves the room, “that’s enough for you.”

Small Male Pleasure 3:
Gardening Machinery

I grew up on a farm but live in a small, inner-city semi, so I do have a weird fondness for my collection of electrical gardening machinery. I have a massive extension cord an electrician once left behind and with it I power my lawnmower, my hedge trimmer, my whipper-snipper and my beloved chainsaw.
When it’s gardening time I will attempt to use any piece in my collection but generally get made to do boring weeding after being accused of only wanting to do the “glory jobs”.

Small Male Pleasure 4:
Getting Out of Weeding

This is just so easy, it’s ridiculous. While being watched, you weed slowly and badly and protest “But I just did that bit!” when shown the patches you’ve missed.
Then you slink off inside for drinks of water and don’t come back, until you’re forgotten. I’m such an expert at this I can make “weeding” cover the removal of just two individual weeds.

Small Male Pleasure 5:
Wilful Disobedience

When discussing this column with The Author, I threatened to refer to her as The Publisher, which she thought was overcooked, grandiose, self-important and pandering to my corporate sensibilities, which are totally counter to the organic, personal and hand-crafted nature of the blogosphere.
And yet I still managed to call her The Publisher once…

I could go on … and on … but I see I have reached the limit of the strict word count I have been given. So you will never get the pleasure of my opinions on Speed Cameras, Correct Parking Procedure, Cooking Steaks, Disciplining Cats, Annoying Teenage Daughters (too easy), Dishwasher Stacking, Knowing When Things Are Clean Enough, Riding Bikes, High Pants and Silly Hair, to name a few.

Never mind. I must make a note to tell The Author all about it tonight …

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fully booked

A couple of new books have come into the house. The first, Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Knitting because, as much as I love crochet it does have its limitations, and this book looks pretty and simple enough. I liked her quilting book, which, admittedly, I haven't actually made anything from yet. So I should say I like the look of her quilting book. Also, she's always making socks on her blog, which I thought would be a good first project.

I was soothed by Jane's introduction to the sock pattern as she said it was easy and would teach "you all you need to know about socks but were afraid to ask". Unfortunately, I was instantly lost when I read the pattern as it involved three needles without any tips on which needles you were supposed to be working with at what time. I have no doubt the fault lies with me rather than Jane.

Maybe I'll stick to hotties.

The next book is on loan from the library for three weeks. Matthew Evans' new cookbook Winter on the Farm has just hit the shops, but the library loan will give me a chance to experiment with it and see if I like it enough to buy it.

As you can see, I've marked several pages so the signs are good. However, so is the weather in Sydney so not sure I want to be drawn into the snow and frost of a Tasmanian winter, no matter how beautifully styled and photographed it is. As I feel the sun on my shoulders and smell jasmine in the air for the first time in months, it's hard to engage with images of log fires and snowmen.

The Gentle Art of Knitting I bought from the Book Depository for $18 a couple of weeks ago, but I can see the prices are steadily rising since the company has been taken over by Amazon and it's now $27. Of course, it's available at local bookshops for $40. Winter on the Farm is $50 locally or $23 online, if you're prepared for a 60-day pre-order wait.

*If you're reading this...
Trace, I do buy a bit of silver cutlery from markets but not a lot. Prefer lovely low-maintenance stainless steel. The cup I used in yesterday's post was one of those family things given to me as a baby.

* Thought I'd answer any non-urgent questions in posts to save anyone having to check back in the comments box or clog up your email boxes. If a personal response is required, I am, of course, only to happy to clog away. You're also very welcome to do the same to me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Silver lining

As I was making breakfast this morning, I could see my glass container of silver cutlery was looking shabby rather than shiny. So I mixed up my foolsafe cleaning solution.

Out comes my non-metal heatproof dish (I use a small ceramic lasagne dish), which I line with alumunium foil. Three tablespoons of washing soda are scattered on top before I pour in enough boiling water that will cover a layer of cutlery.

Before bath

Into the bath goes the tarnished cutlery, which I leave for a couple of minutes before using tongs to remove and then drop into a bowl of cold water to rinse. Finally, I use a clean teatowel to wipe away any residue.

Clean cutlery goes back into glass jar and sparkles in the sun again just like it should.

Example of a not-quite-half-dipped cup

If you're going to try this, be sure not to overcrowd the container as the cleaning solution won't work as well. Pieces must also be in contact with the foil. I do my cutlery in a few batches, changing the solution, including the foil, with each lot.

Works just as well with silver jewellery.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hacked off

I made a bold decision. I'd bought two polo/roll-neck cashmere jumpers a couple of years ago but didn't wear them as much as I would have liked. They felt luxuriously soft, fitted beautifully and I liked the colours as much as they day I bought them. Trouble was, they irritated my neck.

I realised I'd stopped wearing them completely, precisely because I couldn't pretend they were comfortable anymore. What to do? Put them in the charity bin or hack the necks off and possibly, even probably, completely ruin them. Out came the scissors.

I've now worn both these jumpers twice and, to my great surprise, the ribs haven't run at all. I've given the necklines a tentative rub to see how much they'd take before they begin to unravel. So far, nothing. Best of all, unless you knew you wouldn't think either of them had been attacked with scissors.

I'm feeling happy that my wardrobe options have suddenly expanded without spending a cent. Admittedly, the jumpers haven't been put through the wash test yet but I'm feeling confident.

NB: While I mostly love the solitude of working from home, it can, on occasion be a bit lonely. Yesterday, thanks to your lovely messages, wasn't one of those days. And Stephie, if you're reading this, a really big thank you for the Ripley imagery. Much more me than Sarah Palin. x

Monday, August 1, 2011

Empty nest

My window dove's nest is empty for the worst possible reasons.

The Husband woke up early on Saturday, brought us cups of tea in bed and reported that the mother dove and two babies were sitting in the nest that could hardly contain the family anymore as the babies had grown so big.

I got up a short time later and looked out the window to check on my birdy friends. The nest was empty. I ran out into the garden and could see the mother dove on our roof looking down and pacing in a fretful kind of way towards the tree where her nest is. That's when I saw the currawong.

I tried to scare the currawong away but it didn't want to go. I started throwing pebbles at it and it reluctantly spread its huge wings and moved up a few trees. I ran after it and, as I did, the mother bird swooped down from the roof and kept pace with me, flying just above my shoulder. Together we got the currawong to leave.

Walking back down the side of the house I could see little fluffy feathers on the paving and I knew both baby birds were dead. We found one of them, which the currawong must have dropped and was trying to retrieve when I came outside. It was still warm. The other was nowhere to be found.

After shedding a few tears, we buried the baby bird. The mother, who was joined by a male dove, stayed on our roof just near the nest all day. The babies had been days away from being able to fly as they only need two weeks in the nest before being self sufficient. They were so close. But not close enough.

I know I was just witnessing nature at work but I'd become, probably quite unreasonably, attached to this little family after watching the daily events in the nest as far back as April. As I sit at my desk now I can see the robbed and abandoned nest and it makes me want to cry.

The mother dove and her partner are still about and I throw them bits of bread. I couldn't help save her babies but at least I can find her a bit of food.

On Sunday we were sitting on our back deck and a, or possibly the, currawong appeared. I shouted at it to go away. It sat there. I threw a shoe at it. It sat there. I got up and marched into The Child's room and asked for something, which she raised her eyebrows about. I went back to the deck and returned to my cup of tea. The currawong was still there. I loaded The Child's nerf gun, stood up and pointed it at the currawong. It didn't move. I fired. It moved - with satisfyingly great speed.

I wish I'd thought of the nerf gun earlier. I could have sat at my desk, window open, gun loaded and hair pulled back in a ponytail like an Australian Sarah Palin.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't actually want to hit the currawong as I know it was only doing what comes naturally to it. Regardless, the nerf gun remains loaded and ready. The currawong can do whatever it likes. Just not in my backyard.