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.


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