Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pelicans at Greenwell Point

Today's post is dedicated to my sister, for her enduring love of pelicans.

Last weekend Howard and I went for a drive and ended up at Greenwell Point on the south coast of New South Wales and of course I took my camera along. Greenwell Point is a sleepy fishing village like its counterparts in northern New South Wales 30 years ago. This town is still unspoilt by big resorts and fancy hotels. Famous for its oysters, it boasts mudflats rather than white beaches.

But I was able to fire off some shots of some of my favourite subjects.


The best shots of the day however were pelicans. This happy looking pelican was eyeing off the day's big catch being cleaned, hoping for treats.  

The next sequence of photos I am particularly proud of. I never thought I would get such a clear set of images of a pelican taking off from the water. I hope you enjoy them too.

I have been working with images of pelicans for some time. So I thought I would share with you the embroidery I created with pelicans as the theme. I apologise that it the photo is not 100% clear but it is under glass.  The pelicans are padded to give a 3D effect.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Online tutorial rose brooch

These pretty little roses are straight from my studio. Made from satin, organza, cotton, linen and corduroy they are the prefect solution to using up scraps of fabric.  I have been having a lot of fun making these roses this week so I thought I would share them with you.  The following instructions are adapted from Tone Finnanger's book Sew Pretty Homestyle.

Step 1
Choose two pieces of fabric approximately wide and long.  I prefer to use two different fabrics for contrast. This rose is made from pink corduroy and pink gingham.  Lay the strips out right sides together and pin.

Step 2
Trace the rose pattern onto the fabric with a fading marker pen. The image above shows half the pattern -  flip over to the right to make the complete shape.
Step 3
Sew around the marked shape.  Do not cut out the shape until after you have sewn it. Leave a gap in the centre of the long side so you can turn your shape inside out.  
Cut out leaving a small 5-6mm seam allowance. 
Step 4
Turn your shape inside out. Iron into shape.  Don't worry about ironing it crispy. You want it to still have a bit of life and bounce in it. 
Step 5
Choose which fabric will be the inside of your rose. You will see more of this fabric.  If you have used two different weights of fabric choose the lighter one for the inside.  Start at the left hand end of the strip and sew running stitches along the straight edge.  Leave the end of the thread dangling when you finish.   Curl up the left hand end about 4 times and with a new thread stitch across the bottom to secure.  Pull the dangling thread to gather the rose.  
Step 6
Gradually wrap the strip around itself and secure at the bottom. The tighter you gather it the harder it will be to sew across the bottom.  Gradually adjust the tension of the gathering as you go to create a nice workable tension.
Step 7
Keep wrapping and sewing until you reach the end of your strip. Neatly finish the curved end of the strip in place. I find that I run out of sewing thread a short distance before the end of my strip. At this point you can start sewing from the end using your gathering thread. This will help secure the whole package with no fear of it coming apart. 
Step 8
Turn your rose over. Check it there are any areas that aren't sewn securely or neatly. Sometimes the bud at the centre will feel loose or be sitting askew. Push a threaded needle through the centre of the bud towards the back of the rose and secure. You may need to do this more than once. As you can see you have just created your very first rose. Its looking great but will benefit from a little more shaping. 

Step 9
Start turning the edges of the fabric out to give the rose more body and create the illusion of petals.
Voila your rose is finished.  Now you can decide how you are going to use it. You could sew it directly onto a blouse, bag or whatever. I have made mine into brooches. If you want a brooch then there is one more step.
Step 10
Cut a circle of felt big enough to cover your stitches on the back of the rose.  Sew on a brooch pin. Using a clear craft glue position the felt on to the back of the rose. Sew around the edges of the felt with blanket stitch to keep the felt and pin secure.

I hope you enjoy your rose. I'd love to see what you've made!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My pink give away heart finds a new home in Oxford

One of the winners of my hearts give away, Debby, has received her heart and posted about it.  The great news is she loved my little heart and was kind enough to post some encouragement about my DarlingBridget business. Thanks Debby!
Read her post here.  You might like to stay a while and read some of her other posts on Cooking up a storm in a tea cup.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beautiful birds

We are very priviledged to be visited by some magnificent birds. Every day Crimson Rosellas flock to the tree near our bedroom. They come all year round. I call them my flying opals.  When they fly past all you can see is a flash of red and blue.

The King Parrots visit less often but it always feels like an honour. One pair have been visiting every now and again for years.  My heart leaps when I see them arrive. They will even bring their offspring to visit us which is the greatest honour of all.  They are significantly larger than the Crimson Rosellas and absolutely glorious.
The Male King Parrot

His mate, the female King Parrot.

On a recent trip to Goulburn I spotted this magnificent parrot.  He was almost fluorescent,

I had never seen one before so had to come home and look it up.  It turned out to be a Red-rumped parrot, known as a grassy.

Fitting name don't you think?  The book suggests that they are common and certainly I seemed to be the only person in the park to pay any attention to them.  He was worth spotting.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Preserving mandarins

Back in February I preserved jars and jars full of fruit to brighten up our food choices in Winter. The jars look like glittering jewels. Today I added four jars of mandarin segments to the collection.  Our favourite mandarins are Imperial which have a very short season in the shops so I bought up big. 

Two Christmas's ago I received a Fowler-Vacola preserving kit which is one of my favourite toys. My kitchen bench is covered in shiny jars of peaches, plums, rhubarb, figs and apricots. I planned that when winter came and the only fruit that is locally available are oranges and apples we would be able to feast all our senses.

Before I got my kit I read umpteen books on preserving and it all seemed so complicated and dangerous with dire warnings about horrid bacteria and all the sorry things that could go wrong.

In fact its really not that hard. The kit came from my local coop. The jars are cheap - I buy 4 every now and again. The lids, clips and rubber rings come in packs of 12. Everything is reusable except the rings which are one use only. Honestly they look fine after one use but as they seem to be the weak point where bacteria is likely to get in I diligently follow the rules and throw them out.

I put the jars and lids through the rinse cycle on my dishwasher so they come out clean and piping hot. Wash and cut up the fruit. Stuff the jars, then put ring, jar and clip in place. The jars all go into the big "kettle" which is switched on for an hour. Hey presto gorgeous fruit with a long shelf life.

The rhubarb is the only home grown fruit I have used. I need to aim for a wider variety in future although I have preserved lemons which are great in lentil curries. I stewed the rhubarb and placed directly into the jar.  I had hoped to bottle wild blackberries. Last year I bottled two large jars full which made a delicious pie in early spring. Alas though Council found the bramble patch and poisoned it. I know it will grow back but it will be a few years.

I did have one failure when I bottled two lovely ripe mangoes. Mangoes don't have enough acid by themselves so I added citric acid according to the instructions that came with my kit. Alas however when I removed the clip the lid popped up and it was ruined. I thought it looked a little frothy around the shoulder of the jar. I bought more mangoes but couldn't quite bring myself to have another go. Next summer.  It is too much of a waste of gorgeous fruit.

One tip - Fowlers Vacola recommend a special set of tongs for removing the hot jars from the "kettle". I didn't buy one at first - I thought it was just a marketing ploy. But it is diabolically difficult to get the jars out without pulling the lids off. I bought one very cheaply and it is a must have. Absolutely marvellous.

I even used the hot water from the kettle to do the washing up!  Otherwise let it cool and use in the garden. 

Now the only problem I have is that the jars are so pretty I never want to use them. It will be Spring before we know it and then Summer and fresh fruit will be in season. So I better start eating up. Oh what a terrible chore!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

DarlingBridget is officially launched

Last Sunday I officially launched my DarlingBridget label. I opened my etsy store and sent a message to all my nearest and dearest who have all sent me very kind words of love and encouragement.

I hired a friend and professional graphic designer to come up with a logo for me.  I am absolutely delighted with it.  Today I have been making business cards from my new rubber stamp. I decided a stamp was the best way to reproduce my logo rather than pay for expensive printing.  And it enhances the homemade look.  What do you think?
My Mum sent me a beautiful present to congratulate me and wish me well with my venture. This little quote tag is made by Kylie of Paper Boat Press and came from The Story Tree in Boonah, Qld.  Here it is resting on the beautiful card Mum sent me. 

I really can't believe it has been a week since my debut if you will. Tonight I have been sewing and getting ready for a meeting tomorrow with the owner of another homemade store.  As excited as I am, I still struggle with many moments of doubt. There's that little doubter sitting on my shoulder whispering unhelpful little thoughts in my ear.  At the end of the day however, I have to do this. I have to try.  Even if the doubter is trying to make me go mad I know that giving up on my dreams will do the job more effectively.

So in my life, my business and all my ventures I need to dig the earth and tend my soil. What else can I do?  Nothing except get in, be brave and enjoy the ride.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Frost turns Robertson white

I was met with a divine sight this morning as I awoke. I sat up in bed and looked out to discover that the world had turned white overnight.

I rushed out to take some photos before getting ready for work.

It was literally freezing as we set off in our cars.  It I had slept in I would have missed the spectacle so there was a blessing to going to work today. The fog and frost burnt off so quickly, I could have easily missed the beauty of it all.

Its the little things that make the day.  Hope tomorrow brings beauty to you all.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Congratulations to heart winners

Congratulations to Emily, Debbie and Mandi on winning my silk hearts. I will be contacting you directly and sending the hearts along to you. I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Last days to enter heart give away

Don't forget to enter my heart give away.  I will be drawing the lucky winner on 4 July 2010.

What we eat

As part of a global trend towards being more aware of what we eat and in an effort to increase my repetoire of homespun skills I have been learning to make sourdough bread, preserves, cheese and even my own lime cordial.

One homepsun cooking skill I have never mastered is pastry making. In fact until yesterday I had completely given up the idea. I have a friend who could teach me. Her fruit mince pies are legendary. Alas, though, she does not make vegetarian pastry. Yes I've tried recipes, but I have a very strong suspicion that the recipes leave out some vital clues. This theory is borne out on my pastry making disasters and over heard comments such as "you couldn't make pastry today".  Is there some mystery then associated with the weather? There certainly is with bread. Its 7 degrees celcius in my house right now so bread simply isn't going to rise. But I haven't found any pastry recipes that talk about the weather or the right pastry making temperature. It must be something that good pastry makers simply know.

The reason for my new interest in learning about pastry is twofold. One I like pastry. I made quiche for years without it. The egg simply seals itself and cooks beautifully, but it doesn't taste as good. Pastry is an indulgence I grant you but one I am going to have to forgo because of the second reason.

It has to do with what I found lurking in my cupboard. Cupboard, not fridge, not freezer. I found pastry lurking in my cupboard and it was perfect!

Did you read that right? Do you want me to clarify just to make sure. Pastry in my cupboard in a perfect, edible even attractive state.  No it shouldn't have been in my cupboard, and not since New Year's Eve but I sort of forgot about it.  Neighbours were coming round on New Years Eve so I made some nibblies. A sheet of puff pastry cut into squares and then baked makes a great alternative to crackers. Perfect with pesto, olive tapenade or hommous.  But the neighbours didn't eat much so I had all these puffy, crispy little squares left over. It was New Year surely some one else would pop by. I put them in a container, and, well, forgot about them. Until this week.

These pastry squares are old enough to go to college but they aren't having any mold growing competitions. They're not even soggy. They, as I have said before, are perfect.

What do the manufacturers put in that stuff? I mean really, do we want to eat food that can lurk in the back of a dark cupboard for 6, no 7 months and come out perfect.

So help me please, dear readers, to discover the secret of making perfect pastry with fresh wholesome ingredients including vegetable shortening or butter that will taste great but not survive a nuclear holocaust.  Its that or I give it up for forever.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Give away hearts - share your sewing tips

I was recently inspired to sew some silk hearts and fill them with lavender. But my hearts turned out terribly. They were flat and pinched.  So I bought a book (Sew pretty homestyle) that taught me some new tricks and my new hearts are gorgeous.

Tip 1: Don't cut out the shape until after sewing. I cut out two rectangles, drew the heart, sewed and then trimmed around the shape.

Tip 2:  Use small stitches.  I hate unpicking when I make a mistake so I have gradually developed a habit of using large stitches - easier to unpick. But the small stitches handled the curves of the hearts so much better.

So in honour of my new found sewing skills I am offering to give away three of my pretty little hearts.

How to enter:
Leave a comment here describing your favourite sewing tip or recommending your favourite book.

4 July 2010

I will use Tara Frey's random number generator to choose three blog entries to win.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you and learning your tips!

Please note, the hearts are filled with lavender - postage will be subject to customs/quarantine conditions in the winner's home country.  I will send an alternative version of the hearts if necessary.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What we do to survive the working week

I went back to work today after my lovely week off.
It was a good day, but not by accident. I took steps to make sure it would be. I eased back into the day and working life by sharing my yummy lemon cheesecake with my colleagues. They were very impressed indeed. Before I left on my week off I acted on a tip I picked up from Alex Fayle of Someday Syndrome. I wrote a to do list for when I got back to work. Thanks Alex it was a great tip! It helped me let go of work when I started my holiday and it helped me ease back in today when I returned.  It also helped that I had a wonderful week off and achieved so many goals.

I made sure I continued with those goals even though I was no longer on holidays.  At lunch time I took some journals, bracelets and chokers to Milk Thieves, the store that is stocking some of my DarlingBridget pieces. They were well received so lets hope they sell well.  I also went and spent a small fortune on fabric.  I bought a metre of this and a metre of that and the cost added up very quickly. I am not really complaining though as I found some very lovely fabric to sew with. It is a good thing I have projects to sew or else I would just keep the fabric. Its pretty and I love having swathes of it all around me.  But it will soon be sewn into lots of homespun DarlingBridget projects.  Have a good week everyone.

Link to Milk Thieves art and design store, Wollongong, Australia

Link to Alex Fayle

Monday, June 14, 2010

Picnic at Bradman Oval, Bowral

Howard and I took a day out today, from home, the garden, housework. It was a public holiday and a stunningly beautiful day. Not one cloud, relatively warm. It is now officially winter so you should take these days when you find them. It is so rare for us to just keep the day for ourselves.
We have two MG cars. I have had one for a long time, close to 20 years. She is an 1968 roadster. Her name is Queenie after Queen Elizabeth in the British TV show Blackadder. We are huge Blackadder fans. Howard recently bought a 1975 hatchback version, called George. Also from Blackadder. As it was a lovely day we packed a picnic, grabbed Harry and headed out. In both cars. On convoy.
We drove down country lanes, stopped outside the quaint little railway station at Exeter and picniced at Bradman Oval in Bowral. The picnic was superb. Frittatas, cheese and crackers, cheesecake and lime cordial of course. We took photos all along the way. Of the cars from this angle, that angle. I took a few extras just for fun, especially fence posts and trees. I love the texture of worn wood.
Tonight we registered both cars with a model agency for cars. We have been thinking about this for a while. My beautiful Queenie has cost me a pretty penny over the years so we thought it must be time for her to earn a little money. Hopefully some photographer or film maker will think she is beautiful as I do and book her. And George too, of course. According to the agent the owners often get to accompany their cars on the shoot. What fun that could be!
So there is another big tick on my to do list for the past week. This is yet another way we are looking at diversifying our income. Not having all our eggs in one basket. So hopefully, I am another step closer to working from home and having more of the homespun life.

Lemon cheesecake and lime cordial

The lemon cheesecake was divine. Nana I succeeded and made a scrumptious cheesecake from scratch. It is displayed here with your tablecloth and silverware. Turns out there was no great mystique. Quick and easy to make (and eat) the only challenge was waiting for it to set.

We also made lime cordial which was equally easy and pretty good too. It would seem I have added a few homespun skills to my repetoire this weekend. Here is the recipe I used.

Lime cordial recipe
6-8 limes
1.5kg sugar
4 cups coiling water
1 tablespoon of either citric or tartaric acid.

Finely grate the lime rind, avoiding the bitter white pith. Squeeze the limes and set aside.

Bring the water to the boil and add the lime rind, citric or tartaric acid and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Take off the heat when dissolved and stir in the lime juice.

Leave to cool completely, overnight if you make it in the evening. The mix will thicken into a syrup as it cools.

Strain the syrup to remove the rind and pour into sterilised bottles.

This cordial is excellent with cold mineral water. A splash of gin doesn't go astray either.
I'm not sure how long it will keep so drink up. It tastes like the better quality lime cordial you buy but at least you'll know what is in this one. Always a comfort.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wintry Saturday in the Southern Highlands

I live in a truly beautiful place. As the last of the leaves fall it is time to admire the colour in the trees themselves. There is a tree in my street that is the purest white. There are quite a number of yellow trees too with some sort of fungi growing everywhere on their trunks and branches at this time of year. They glow in the late afternoon sun.

This photo shows the view from across the road. My house looks across cow paddocks towards the ocean, not that I can actually see water. But to the west there are row upon row of mountain ridges. It is so quiet and peaceful.

Yesterday was freezing cold but I took my camera along when I went for a walk with my dog Harry. It is an interesting experience taking photos with gloves on. Removing the gloves would have done no better however as I couldn't feel with bare fingertips. We were watched by Alpacas further down the road, unusually curious about us. Perhaps the lack of babies as usually they quickly move away when we walk past. I found some rather intriguing, read suspicious, looking mushrooms despite how late it is in the season and a bird's nest high in an apple tree that would have previously been hidden by leaves now fallen.

Today we went to the Farmers Market in Bowral, the main town in the Southern Highlands. Markets are really taking off in this area. It is a long weekend so tourists abound. I have never found Bowral to be so busy. We stocked up on sourdough bread, olive oil, cheese, cheese and more cheese. Returning home from the shopping we have just had a late lunch of, well rather predictably, cheese, olive oil and sourdough.

I met a man at the markets who teaches preserving with Mason jars. He gave me his number so I could enquire about the next class. This is very exciting. I requested a Fowler Vacola preserving kit a couple of Christmases ago so I could preserve the glut of seasonal vegies from the garden not understanding that it is not a suitable system for vegetables. I have instead preserved fruit bought in season as well as wild blackberries picked before the Council poisoned the vines. Never fear they will grow back, but it will take a few years. So I am excited about the possibility of this course. Homemade preserves are wonderful. Truly homespun. My husband wants to attend also as he has memories of preserved new potatoes and we certainly end up with plenty of those in the garden.

Howard has just announced that is 5 degrees outside and it is only 4.30pm. The fire is blazing as protection against a very cold night ahead. I am going to make lime cordial tonight. And in the morning a lemon cheesecake. I bought fromage blanc from Megan of Highlands Organics at the markets today who gave me a recipe to turn it into cheesecake. I have never, ever made cheesecake before. Cheesecake with cherries was my Nana's speciality, well apart from Parfaits that were good enough to fight over. My sister and I were absolutely devastated when we finally learnt that Nana used a packet mix for her cheesecakes (and dyed her hair). But still, they were her special dessert so I have never ventured into trying to make them. The time has come so tomorrow I will see if I can come close to hers (well the factory mix anyway) with my fromage blanc and home grown lemons.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Progressing well on my dreams

I spent a very fruitful day working on my business today. I did some sewing including designing a new cover for iPhones and iTouches. The real excitement however came in taking photographs in preparation for my etsy shop. All my products are sewn from pretty cottons and silks with abundant ribbons. We had a pile of firewood delivered today which excited me, not only because of the obvious potential for warmth now that winter has arrived, but I was able to use it as a backdrop for some photos. I really love the contrast between the pretty colours and luxurious fabrics and the roughness of the wood. I also took some photos on top of a rusty old milk churn up against the cedar sides of my house to the same effect. I think they will look great. When I moved inside to take a few extra photos my kitten Lily decided to "help" me which really saw the end of the exercise. She thought it very helpful to dash in front of the camera and steal the subject. Hmmm. So cute though.

It has been wonderful to take time to be with them this week and help them settle in. They are only four months old but have spent their whole lives in an animal shelter. Lily was days old when she arrived with her mum and litter mates. They came home to live with us last Tuesday night. I kept them in a small area for a few days but since I have been on holidays this week they have been able to have the run of the house. They especially love playing on my studio desk which is swamped with a cacophany of ribbons and threads. I lost a reel of black cotton for a day or two because Lily ran off with it but it turned up today. I do have to watch them with pins - Riley pulled one right out of some sewing I was pinning together. I got quite a fright as I pulled a glass topped pin out of his mouth. But really they are delightful.

We had a lot of trouble naming Lily. Riley came easily but we spent a week trying out different names for Lily. She is tiny and pretty so we knew it had to be a girly name. A friend kindly helped out with a list of the most popular girls names for 2009. We had thought of Lily but not decided. After a brief flirtation with Charlotte (number 3 on the list) we went back to Lily which is also in vogue.

The list was an added bonus however. It suddenly occurred to me that I could use it to name my products. Instead of a brown velvet choker with organza flowers I have invented the Megan in honour of the graphic designer who is creating my logo. I have had the most wonderful fun choosing names for each item I have made. It is so much more personal and homespun. And that is the point after all!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I am starting a business. I haven't launched it yet but I will announce it here soon. Bridget was my cat, my darling girl. She died suddenly last year so I am immortalising her by naming my business after her. I will succeed as a way to honour her. And me and my dreams.

My sister said she likes the name as it is romantic, ambiguous yet intriguing. You aren't sure what it is about but you want to know more. What do you think?

I am starting my business on, and by offering items for sale at local markets and in a couple of shops that specialise in home made goods.

Wish me luck. More soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


7 June 2010
I have at last taken a week off work to work on MY dreams and not those of my employer. I have begun to take steps to start a little business making and selling craft online and at markets. I have been dedicated in doing a little bit at night after work and have created a modest inventory of items ready to sell. Or at least attempt to sell. Working at night is a challenge when I already work long hours in my day job, plus commuting, cooking dinner and all that. I have been intending to take some leave for a while but the trouble with being busy is that it is hard to get away. My day job is not my passion but I am too diligent to leave my colleagues in the lurch. At last things have slowed down enough to let me escape into my own life for a little while. I have a great long list of things to do. On Friday night I felt so excited about the week ahead. I took the weekend as time with my husband. Today is the day I begin my dream week.
There is no life without challenge however. After a long warm autumn winter has finally arrived. I have been too cold to sew today. Too cold to feel creative at all. I fear I am wasting the day. It is so deeply frustrating, this inertia I suffer. I just get started and I lose the flow, the stamina needed to drive ahead.
There was only one possible solution. Move out of the cold spare room that doubles as my little atelier, my studio, with lovely light but no heating. I am in the dark, cosy lounge with a fire instead. The internet is downloading a software trial of photoshop so I am drafting this on my laptop. I am determined not to waste time. This week’s to do list has many items. I just have to match the right item to the right moment. So you find me here, writing and warming my body while I nurse my heart out of its fear and inertia and back into action.
Apart from sewing and business pursuits my list this week includes cooking. Cooking to restock the freezer with lunches and dinners. All designed to help life flow along nicely when I am back at that W (work) place. Cooking will have the bonus of warming up the house. It is important to me to eat healthy, hearty, homecooked food. Lately I have been buying lunch as I have not taken the time to cook enough. Something always has to slip when you work too hard. Too often I have been happy with toast for dinner. Life is a series of stages, changes. But this stage, working late, buying lunch, skipping breakfast, always takes its toll, on my budget and on my energy levels. Its like this trap - you don’t have the energy to cook, so you don’t have the energy to cook, or do much else.
So this afternoon I am going to cook some pasta sauce, some vegetable lasagne and cannelloni. I have a home grown butternut pumpkin, some leeks and a huge bunch of silverbeet I bought at a produce market on Friday. Yummy hearty winter food. Then apple muffins – full of oats and bran. Great for quick breakfasts. And some choc chip cookies as a treat. Soul food. Make a big batch and freeze half the uncooked dough for a busy day. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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