Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Keeping Resolutions

Last New Year, I resolved to spend more time sewing in 2008. One of my Christmas Presents was a book called Bags with Style by Stephanie Kimura and I determined to have a go at making some handbags for myself. It's the last day of the year and yes, you're right, I still hadn't made any of the bags! So, I sat down and made one, after finding some rather nice upholstery fabric in an after-Christmas sale. I learnt a lot along the way, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I had convinced myself it would here it is...

Resolution kept! And I've already started a project based on the books from this Christmas - books about beading by Robin Atkins. Very inspiring!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Delicious Patterns

The Christmas preparations are on track. There's been lots of cooking done over the weekend, so still no time for playing with fabric and thread. That will come in the days after Christmas when we can all relax.
The Sourdough Rolls are made and in the freezer. They'll go extra well with the ham made from Free Range Pork, which is sitting in its calico bag in the fridge, smelling delicious and calling to me. Good thing there's a strict rule in this house that not a skerrick of it can be consumed before Christmas lunch!
These are the rolls looking pale and interesting as they rose.

And here they are the rolls looking tanned, healthy and good enough to eat. Yum!!

They smell wonderful, too!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Christmas Preparations

I haven't managed to play with fabric and thread very much in the last few weeks, but Christmas preparations in our house are well on track. The house has had its Christmas clean (the boring bit),the Christmas biscuits are made (that's more fun), and the Christmas tree and decorations are up (and that's the best bit by far!)

My first Christmas out of Australia was when I was 22. It was spent with my husband's parents and brothers in Denmark, and what a life changing experience that was! It wasn't only the ice and snow, but the food and the decorations were all so different. The Danish red and white flag lends itself so well to the Christmas theme, and hundreds of tiny Danish flags on strings decorate the Christmas trees. The other decorations were carefully crafted and many were hand embroidered. At least half a dozen different types of Christmas biscuits were made in each home, and served with hot spiced wine for supper, or with coffee at afternoon tea time. Back in Australia, we took our favourites from each of our Christmas traditions, and made Christmas a special family celebration. On Christmas Day, we have the cold meats - ham, roast pork and chicken, and salads that I grew up with. This year, instead of the cold prawns that we usually have, we'll do some extra spicy prawns on the barbecue for our new daughter-in-law who was born in the Philippines and just loves her chili hit! So a new tradition may be born.
For dessert, we have the Danish Ris a l'Amande - a cold vanilla-flavoured rice pudding mixed with whipped cream and chopped almonds, served with a hot cherry sauce, that is much better suited to the Australian heat than the heavy British-style Christmas Pudding that I had never really liked anyway. And instead of fruit cake, I make as many of the Danish Christmas biscuits as I can get done in the weeks before Christmas. This year, we've had a wonderfully cool lead up to Christmas, so I've done lots of baking. The tins are bursting with Brunkager, Pebernodder, Aeggeblommekager, Kanelstjerner and my version of Rutebiler.
I love decorating the tree, because it's so full of memories. The little cross-stitched 'pillows' that my Mum made 30 years ago, using patterns from a Danish cross-stitch book that she'd found, still look as fresh as the day she gave them to me as a surprise. Then there's the tiny knitted angels that my mother-in-law made and posted from Denmark all those years ago, and the angels that I have embroidered. Of course, the strings of flags that we bought in Denmark add the finishing touch, and even though it's a plastic tree, because we can't get anything like the real thing here, and we can't light those candles, it still looks pretty special to us.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Another Book Cover

I needed a gift for a Christmas Present Swap next week. How do you choose a gift when you don't know who the recipient will be? I came up with all sorts of ideas, which I rejected one by one. Although they're all female, the age ranges from 30 to nearly 60, includes two with food allergies, two who don't drink alcohol and one that I hardly know! So, I started searching the stash of sewing experiments that have been put aside, because I didn't know what to do with them at the time. I found the piece with threads and ribbons that I wove together. I couldn't remember when I made it, so checked the blog. September 2007! It's past time I did something with it. So I made a book cover, and matched it up with a gorgeous pen that I found in an Oxfam shop.
This is the back -

The book has occasional pages of purple batik paper, just to add some interest -

I hope the recipient likes it. I'm going to include a list of ideas for using the book. Here's what I have so far...

A diary (so you always have something sensational to read)
A place to write down that wonderful quote you just read (you just know you'll lose the scrap of paper)
A Gratitude Journal (write down three things each day that you are grateful for)
A place for your "To Do" lists
An Observation Journal (for that novel you've always wanted to write)
A sketchbook
A notebook (to write down the details of that great idea you just saw or heard about)

What would you use it for?

Friday, 21 November 2008

Eucalyptus Rhodantha

The rain that we had at the beginning of spring has triggered the flowering of some eucalypts in my Dad's garden. This is my favourite. It's such a scrappy looking tree normally, but when it flowers - Wow! The blossoms are huge, too. I've realised that I have no photos that show the scale, or the tree that they're attached to, so maybe that's an assignment for this weekend -

And this is how the blossom looks as it's emerging from under its cap...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Silk scraps

I've been working on this, on and off, for a while now. It's a good project to take to a Saturday embroidery meeting, because I can sit and chat without having to think too hard about what I'm doing. So I pulled it out last Saturday, when a free Saturday of mine coincided with a local group meeting. It's based on an Effie Mitrofanis project in Stitch magazine, although I've really only used that as a starting point. The silk is from a samples card that I picked up in a sale bin at a curtain shop years ago. I knew I'd use it one day...

It's a bit like these ribbons, which I've either bought at various times, or rescued from Christmas parcels over the years. I'm trying to find inspiration for this years' Christmas cards, because I really should get started on them. I have a couple of ideas about how I'd like to use them. Now I just have to play a bit to find out whether my vague ideas will translate into something achievable!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Indian Inspiration

A recent trip to Sydney to attend a conference resulted in catching an end of season cold that turned into an infection. That's why the blog has been neglected for the last few weeks.

However, I'm quite recovered now and thought I'd share my Sydney purchase with you. These quilts, made from old Indian embroideries which have been cut up and joined together have become fairly common, I know. However, I've looked at lots and thought they were either uninspiring, too expensive or that the colours just weren't appealing. This one, however, caught my eye. The price was right, I loved the colours (yes, it's mostly blue!), and I keep finding bits of inspiration in the many tiny pieces of embroidery.

I still need to find a good way to hang it, so couldn't get a photo of the whole quilt. However, it's the detail that appealed to me, and that's what I wanted to share. So, here it is -

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


It's really no wonder that peacock feathers have been used as design inspiration in so many ways by so many artists. I found some being sold at a Farmers' Market recently, so bought a bunch to put in a vase. I love noticing the way that the colours and metallic sheen change during the day as the light changes...

Monday, 13 October 2008

Favourite Books - The List

Angus and Roberstson Bookshops have recently released a list of 100 favourite books, based on a survey of their customers. Ruth published it on her blog. I was mostly amazed at the number of books I didn't like at all which made it to the list.

Ruth has now issued a challenge to other bloggers to list their fifty favourite books. It started me thinking. So here is my eclectic list. It is listed alphabetically by author. It contains books I loved as a child, books that changed my way of thinking as I grew up, books that always cheer me up, books that taught me something. What they all have in common is that they are in my library, because I regard them as "keepers" - books that I have re-read and will continue to re-read (yes, even the children's books!). And I know I have cheated and listed trilogies and series as single books. What the heck. It's my list, after all! There are also many books in my library that didn't make it to the list, so it's probably given me a starting point for doing some culling, too.

What's your list? I'm always looking for another book to fall in love with.

Douglas Adams- Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and the rest of the series)

Isaac Asimov- The Foundation Trilogy

Jean M. Auel - Clan of the Cave Bear

Jane Austen- Emma

Jane Austen- Pride and Prejudice

H.E. Bates- The Darling Buds of May

Enid Blyton - The Enchanted Wood

Emily Bronte- Wuthering Heights

Geraldine Brooks- Year of Wonders

Lois McMaster Bujold- The Warrior’s Apprentice (and the other Vorkosigan books)

Jung Chang- Wild Swans

Agatha Christie- The Mysterious Affair at Styles (and lots of her others)

Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone

Elizabeth David- An Omelette and a Glass of Wine

Patrick Dennis- Auntie Mame

Charles Dickens- David Copperfield

Charles Dickens- Oliver Twist

Isak Dinesen- Out of Africa

R.F. Delderfield- The Swann Saga (series)

Arthur Conan Doyle- Sherlock Holmes stories

Gerald Durrell- My Family and Other Animals

Victoria Finlay- Colour

Ken Follett - Pillars of the Earth

Jostein Gaarder- Sophie’s World

Paul Gallico - The Silent Miaow

John Galsworthy- The Forsyte Saga (series)

Mrs Aeneas Gunn- We of the Never Never

Frances Moore Lappe-Diet for a Small Planet

Harper Lee- To Kill a Mockingbird

C.S. Lewis- Chronicles of Narnia (series)

Astrid Lindgren – Pippi Longstocking

Gavin Maxwell- Ring of Bright Water

James A. Michener- Hawaii

Mary Norton- The Borrowers

John O’Grady- They’re a Weird Mob

George Orwell- Animal Farm

Marcel Pagnol- Jean de Florette

Edward Rutherfurd- Sarum

Vikram Seth- A Suitable Boy

Clifford Simak- City

Joahanna Spyri- Heidi

Mary Stewart- Merlin Trilogy

Amy Tan- The Kitchen God’s Wife

Flora Thompson- Lark Rise to Candleford

J.R.R. Tolkien- The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien- Lord of the Rings Trilogy

H.G. Wells - The Sleeper Awakes

Margaret Visser- Much Depends on Dinner

Evelyn Waugh- The Loved One

John Wyndham- Day of the Triffids

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Playing again

The newly painted, carpeted and totally re-arranged lounge room needed some cushions, preferably blue. While searching for blue fabrics, I came across a piece I made a while ago for a challenge, then decided I didn't like it and didn't know what to do with it. So,I played with it some more, and made it into a cushion.

It contains a mixture of fabrics and threads,beads and both hand and machine stitching. I quite like it now.

Here's a close-up of a section -

Friday, 19 September 2008

Hiding its light under a bush-el

The photos of the landscape in my previous post would seem to indicate that there's little of floral beauty in that wide expanse of sandy red soil and grey-green bush. It's there though. You just have to look closer to find it. My Dad loves to grow Australian native plants in his garden, and today I noticed that an Emu Bush (Eremophila) was flowering. I hadn't seen this particular one before, so I went to have a closer look. It's a fairly scrappy, sparse sort of bush with grey-green foliage. The flowers hang down, and I carefully lifted one. It took my breath away. There was the most exquisite orchid-type flower of a beautiful pink. It's only 5cm long - but look what's packed into that tiny parcel -

It makes me wonder just how much beauty I missed as we sped along the roads. After the recent rains there were lots of wildflowers on the road verges but I just wasn't able to keep stopping, as we had so far to drive in such a short space of time. Next trip I'll just have to factor in some exploration and discovery time...

Way out west

The best part about my new job is that I don't have to sit in an office looking at 4 walls all the time! I drove 1000 kilometres in 2 days this week to do site visits. From Dubbo, we headed for Brewarrina via Nyngan, then to Lightning Ridge where we stayed overnight. The next day we visited clients in Walgett, before heading back down the Newell Highway to Dubbo. It was a busy trip, with a couple of long days, but I did manage to take a few photos along the way.

Coolabah is on the way from Nyngan to Bourke, and is where we turned off to head for Brewarrina. There's not a lot there, except for the Coolabah Hilton!

As we crossed over the Bogan River at Gongolgon, the swallows nesting under the bridge flew up and swooped over the river, catching our attention so that we spotted a couple of pelicans obviously enjoying the extra water in the river brought by recent rains. Of course, by the time I'd found a safe place to pull over and walk back to the bridge, the pelicans had drifted further downstream, but one was still in sight

Rivergums are such majestic trees...

Away from the river, this is what the country looks like. Red soil, small trees and brush, and very very dry...

Grey foliage lessens evaporation in hot climates. This is the vegetation where we stopped for a lunch break, under the shade of one of the larger trees.

On the other side of Brewarrina, heading for Walgett, we spotted some larger birds than pelicans. I'm sure the farmer won't be impressed about them grazing in his crop, though...

Yes, they're emus
Spring is here and in Lightning Ridge that means that the Bougainvillea is in flower and looking fabulous.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

I bags this one!

There were handbags for sale at the Toongi Quilt Show last weekend. I fell in love with the handle/clasp on this one. The fabric and the beads are rather nice, as well. I used my recent birthday as an excuse to buy myself a gift.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Strawberry Ginger Muffins

It's that time of the year when strawberries are in season, and a punnet costs less than $2. Who can resist? So, some strawberry muffins for afternoon tea seemed like a good idea. The last time I made them, I upped the strawberry flavour factor by adding some dried strawberries, but there were none left. However, there was some glace ginger, and it worked very well.

Here's the recipe -

1 punnet (250g) strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 generous tablespoon strawberry liqueur (or brandy, or rum...)
90g glace ginger, chopped finely (or 90g dried strawberries, chopped finely)
Grated rind of 1 lime (or lemon)
Mix all this together and let it stand for about 30 minutes to an hour, mixing it occasionally.

Then mix up -

Juice of 1 lime
Add enough milk to the lime juice to make 1/2 cup (yes, the milk will curdle - that's good! It helps to lighten the muffins)
200g yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup caster sugar

Mix well together.

Sift the following into a bowl -

2 cups Self Raising flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Add -
1/2 cup dessicated coconut

Mix all the ingredients together. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 200 degrees C for about 20 minutes. Makes 12-15 muffins.

These are light, moist, delicious muffins.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Toongi Quilt Show

I've been following other bloggers visits to quilt shows - Houston, the Festival of Quilts in England, even the Sydney Quilt Show... and have wished I could be there.
But, then again, those bloggers don't get to visit the Toongi Quilt Show, and I did!

Toongi Hall is 26km south of Dubbo in Western NSW. For any of you who watched the show Outback House on ABC TV, you may like to know that "Oxley Downs" is only a couple of kilometres away from Toongi. The hall is in the middle of paddocks, and has served as a meeting place for the surrounding farms for many years. Here are some shots of the surrounds -

And this is the hall...

A group of quilters from the area hold a quilt show every couple of years. The hall is packed with quilts, local shops and craftspeople set up stalls, and they serve absolutely delicious scones with jam and cream for morning and afternoon tea.
This is inside the hall...

And here's a closer look at some of the quilts. I love the chooks with boots! And if you need a translation of "chooks", they're chickens in the rest of the English speaking world. Chooks is a much better name for these, though...
The photo doesn't do justice to the beautiful applique on this one. It's covered in flowers and fairies.
And this is a very pretty cot quilt. The centre of each block has been embroidered.
So, I've had a lovely day with a couple of friends and can claim to have visited a quilt show that most of my blogging friends will never have the opportunity to see (grin).

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Memories of Japan

The walls of the kitchen / dining area have finally been painted, so I'm going through the process of working out what's going back up on the walls, what is being added, and what is going to be put away.

One of the pieces that's definitely going back up is this quilt which I made after my trip to Japan about 10 years ago to visit my son while he was living there. It holds memories of the time I spent with him in Matsue, a fairly small town on the west coast, where he was teaching English in a junior high school and I spent days exploring the town and the outskirts of it. I caused a minor sensation almost everywhere I went, as a middleaged non-Japanese woman whizzing along on the bike he had borrowed for me! I loved exploring the local shops and this quilt contains some of my finds - the traditional indigo fabrics, the fish motifs and the samurai helmet motif all made from fabric. The kimono are a reminder of the night spent at his supervisor's house where we were treated to a wonderful traditional dinner. The supervisor's wife explained to me that she was currently training to be a "dresser" at weddings. The traditional wedding kimonos consist of a number of layers, which all need to sit "just right" on the body, and the tying of the obi is an art in itself. She suggested that she could dress me in some kimonos, so that she could practise and we could get some photos. It resulted in quite a bit of hilarity - and some photos of me looking extremely fat - as we put the kimonos on over the clothes I was already wearing!

Torben (my son) and I then spent two weeks backpacking, travelling by a mix of bullet train and local transport, and staying in ryokan (the Japanese equivalents of B&Bs). So the quilt contains new and secondhand fabrics (silks and cottons) found in places such as Kyoto, Nagasaki and Hagi. It was springtime, and the cherry blossom was at its height, especially in Kyoto where an afternoon spent following the Philosopher's Path beside the canal and under the blossoming trees is a vivid and favourite memory.

This quilt has used only a fraction of the fabrics I found - it's amazing how much can be stuffed into a backpack that already looks full to bursting! One day I'll use some more of it...