Thursday, October 30, 2008


We won't be trick or treating; we haven't made any costumes; Ella was grossed out by the insides of the pumpkin and disappointed she couldn't do the carving; the cookies were a big hit; and next year she wants to make a haunted house cake and have a party; it's a work day and I didn't get any photos of the cobwebs Sandy inspired, or the ghosts hanging from the kitchen ceiling and the pumpkins lining the hallway; we've collected and washed the pumpkin seeds but still have to roast them.
A scarey 31st to you all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Slovenian pumpkins

These photos are reproduced from the lovely Pina's blog. The reason I've stolen her snaps is that however hard I tried I couldn't get a decent photo of the lovely little felt pumpkin she has shown at the top right. The reason I was trying to take a photo of it was because she sent it to me! I told her how lovely an idea I thought it was and then there it appeared, in my mailbox yesterday. I love the idea of copying hers and producing a field of them for our windows but honestly, I won't get around to it .... this year!
Thank you Pina xx

Flour and water

makes glue, if you're doing papier mache absolutely old school. Smells like an untricked up pancake batter and dries like, well, something else all over your hands.

Not as much fun as I remember, I must confess, but I don't think tissue paper is the best paper to use, the glue doesn't really soak in, just lays on the surface, but it saves on painting at the end. Ella got fed up after a couple of balloons, we both agreed it was a little boring and we wanted it to be tomorrow when they'll be dry and ready to turn into black cats, pumpkins and ghosts. When Leila woke she wanted a turn and I have to say, for one so young, she is very methodical in her approach to activities. She came away pretty clean and very pleased with her work.

On the table for tomorrow - start to decorate the house, finish off these treats, Halloween cookies, a jar of experimental goop, and whatever else is added to the list in the next few hours.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fishy Business

Guest photographer - Ella Hargreaves

Saturday, October 25, 2008


This time I used the wall as my model and it gave me no grief whatsoever. When the life model woke from her nap I insisted she try it on. In one shot you'll see her modelling another of her favourite summer hats trying to escape me and in the next she's a sultana monster on the couch. I like the orange and denim together - do you think this style is too young for a mama?

PS As I've mentioned, Leila is MAD for a hat with fluff that she can pick at (read wool or piled cotton). Any ideas on a pattern for a kind of lightweight hat she could wear in the summer - perhaps crocheted, gosh, I'd have to learn a new skill....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Some days I can handle the mess and other days I can't. Yesterday I realised that IF I'd had my dream house when the girls were this age, as in now, it would have included a separate play wing where I could leave the mess in it's place and just close the door when the day was over but the play remained unfinished. In that dream house there would also be a live in housekeeper who cleaned when it was finished. In reality, our kitchen's not at all like that, it's the centre of play and the centre of "homeiness" (read mess) and you have to go through it to get everywhere else. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes to the mess.


I am of the recipe notebook school. I have a book which I started I guess in my early 20's, my first book, but it's since been filled and another larger version started. My mum and I both bought the same notebook at the same time and started to fill it with our favourite recipes and ones that we wanted to keep to try later.

I've mentioned before that I write a menu at the start of each week and shop to that menu. Anal as it sounds it works for me. I love to cook, but with the two little ones I just don't enjoy leaving it until the last minute to decide and shop. So this week I was feeling uninspired and turned to my old book for recipes that I hadn't made in a while.

Last night I cooked with Inma. Inma is a Spanish friend who lives in London with her family, we worked together at the same French bank. Although a Spanish tortilla is a simple enough concept, anyone who has had the real deal in Spain, knows that there is something magical about a great tortilla. Last night I made tortilla as I'd come across a note she'd written for me about her grandmother's recipe - so Tuesday dinner we had with Inma.

Tonight I'm making a recipe one of my dearest friends Lena made for us when we went to her and her now husband Peter's place for dinner the very first time. Lena and I also met at BNP - she moved to London from Copenhagen to join Peter, who was her boyfriend at the time. We went to dinner at their little flat in Chelsea, just down from Sloane Square and she made this meatball dish.

Neither of these dishes are gourmet delights - they're both a case of being as much a memory as a taste. It's not quite like the retsina Geoff and I drank in Greek Islands or the instant noodles that I used to cook over a camp fire in BC travelling with my old park ranger boyfriend - because they were never as good in reality as they were in my memory. These dishes both taste delish, but I love them all the more for being a trigger in bringing back even sweeter times.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

She normally loves to pose

but of course today, when I'm so pleased with my work and so keen to get great photos, she says "it's too cold mum" and won't pull her normal winning moves. So, I'm not the most patient person and I couldn't wait for the perfect shot.

I used a very basic pinafore pattern, added a pocket and a contrasting band at the bottom, I also added facings as I can manage a nicer finish more easily with them than I can without. I am so pleased with how it turned out - Leila will have a downsized version very soon!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Amy comes through

I am so crap at taking photos of myself, or rather being the subject of photos for the purposes of this site. Socially I don't mind having my photo taken, but the quality of my self portraits posted here, well frankly it's more than a little embarassing.

Having said that, I am aware that I can prattle on a little much about baking, the girls and my vegies and I do sew, but just don't seem to have as much time as others to stage set my results. So, with that disclosure at the start, yesterday I made my first Amy Butler A line skirt and I have to say, there may well be dozens in my wardrobe by next year. I think it took me an hour tops to make and it's perfect - for me at least. Super easy, exactly the style I like - can't rave enough. Dead easy, a zip so that may frighten true non sewers - but honestly, I am so happy with the results. So happy in fact that as you can see from these poxy shots, it's already been slept in.

Summer nights

for them means eating outdoors with little clothing on.

For us it means the same (fully clothed), but with a nice glass of Rose on the side.

Betty says

"Meat, potatoes and vegetable" used to be the dinner pattern, unless we were being very formal with "soup and fish and roast", Nowadays we tend to branch out for more variety. Hearty, tasty meat-and-potatoes dinners are still the general favourite, but "casserole, green salad and dessert" combinations are gaining in popularity. Casseroles offer wide variety, are as tasty and good as they are easy, and represent a real economy too.
Betty also says that Today fixing a good breakfast is so easy. Set the table the night before. Take advantage of all the fine modern timesavers - the prepared mixes, ready-to-eat cereals, canned and frozen fruits and juices to interchange with the fresh. Use the handy automatic cooking appliances.
Not one I'll cook from, but this 1954 book (another new family member as part of the in-laws move) is entertaining reading.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Actual sewing

I admire the self portraits that a number of you manage so well, I'm not sure how you do it but I'm pretty sure it's not with a Canon compact balanced in front of you - or perhaps it is and I just have poor skills. I'm therefore reliant upon either my 21 month old or my 5 year old to try and capture the shot I'm after.

This the Anna Tunic pattern I bought a while ago. I finally got the time to give it a whirl and I'm actually really pleased with how it turned out. I would say that next time I'd increase the length on the bottom of both front and back yokes as the same allowance was really mean. I think I'd also take the side seams in a little next time as it's a little on the too blousey side. It also took me a while to figure out the yokes self finishing each other, but it's like making a lined bag for the first time, once you've figured it out then you don't forget (she said ....).

These photos do look a little naff without heads I know, but trust me, it's better without. Also, the rear view with the hand on the hip, that's under Ella's instruction - we watched snippets of ANTM together and she has all the moves.

The choice, madamoiselle, is yours

Ella asked if she could choose her dinner for tonight, she asked me this over dinner last night. They've both been eating really well, really varied meals of late, so sure, why not. I'm actually always happy to be told what someone fancies for although I love cooking, I do at times find the decision making rather tedious.

"Sausages and beans mum, I'd really LOVE that". Once, when Leila was very small I was too tired to cook so opened a can of beans and a can of Plumrose franks (80% meat I would point out) and that was dinner. I apologise for it being a non meal but Ella loved it. Tonight the sausages are real skinned butcher ones, sausages and beans. "Can I have sauce too mum, and a carrot on the side?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ministering to the sick

In preparation for the big introduction on Ella's birthday, we brought home our newest family members last Wednesday. They turned out to be one goldfish named Violet and two (is it guppies or gumpies?) friends called Timmy and Bluebell. Thursday morning, when Ella met them for the first time, all three were swimming around having a terrific time. Friday early evening when I got home from work there was kind of a fine web of something slimy in the bowl but nothing visibly wrong with the fish. Saturday morning Timmy was dead. Saturday night Bluebell was dead. By this stage I was freaking out, although Ella was remarkably okay, despite a few tears. Late Saturday evening I was changing water, readjusting, cleaning the gravel etc, hoping that Violet would be spared.

By yesterday Violet was on the decline. Having had such a huge day Sunday they both napped for over 3 hours in the afternoon. Normally I'd be revelling in the quiet, but after having called the fish shop and explaining what was going on I'd been told it sounded like they'd shed their slime coat which they only did when extremely stressed! My first thought was "how can I kill them in less than a week?", I followed the instructions, how could I get it so wrong?

Girls awoke and we raced to the fish shop - the nice guy tested the water's PH and it was far too low, which meant I was basically poisoning Ella's fish. Apparently my tap water had killed Timmy and Bluebell, even though we're in the same suburb as the fish shop. So, we walked out of the shop with a PH testing kit, a powder for adjusting the PH up, another for adusting it down, together with the neturaliser, all in the hope of saving Violet. I came, did my testing, changed a third of the water, tested again and again and again and now she's slowly coming good.

Can I just tell you that we chose a goldfish because we thought it was stress free - how wrong I was!

We'll make room

After 36 years in the same house, just in the next suburb from us, my in-laws are downsizing and move in two weeks time. They are only moving, literally, about two blocks away, but everything still has to be packed and some serious rationalising is required.

My dear mother-in-law is a hoarder - she admits it, but that doesn't make the process of culling any easier. She has brochures from every trip they've ever taken, and I mean EVERY trip. She has dozens and dozens of videos. She has Australia winning the America's Cup when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister; she has Pat Cash winning Wimbeldon; she has Charles and Diana's wedding and Diana's subsequent funeral. She likes to hold on to her memories and it's hard for her to modernise to having files on a computer instead of holding a tape in her hands.

My husband and his two siblings have been sorting through items of theirs that have remained at the family home. We have refused old school and footy jumpers; old sporting equipment has been discarded and then amongst the glo mesh handbags and old sewing patterns that I've sorted through there have been a few treasures. One item we've kept was a story my husband wrote in primary school, terribly politically incorrect, but terribly amusing - we've added that to our collection. The other item is a series of books that my husband spent hours and hours pouring over, again throughout primary school.

For many years I've known that my husband LOVED birds when he was small, he knew most birds within Victoria by name, so cute. One thing his mother had kept were his reference books from that time, a series of 7 Gould League bird books. Geoff said he didn't want/need them, but some things you just have to make room for.

The very next day, a blackbird started building her nest in our clematis vine right outside our kitchen window. She's been so busy, ferrying bits of twigs, then grasses and now she's onto mud and manure to line it with. Okay, I know a blackbird isn't very exotic, but still, it's gorgeous to watch. I tried to sneak a photo while she was out gathering, but it's not great, I didn't want to have her catch me. By the way, do you know the story of how the blackbird got it's colours? Apparently when Mother Nature was giving the birds all their colours and markings the blackbird was too busy playing to be there to get his. By the time he realised and came back Mother Nature was all out of the bright colours, all she had was a tin of black boot polish and a tiny jar of yellow paint, and that's how the blackbird got its colours. Not sure who told me that story for the first time (or why Mother Nature had a jar of paint) but I still remember and love it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Out takes from a very busy day

And as if that weren't enough, we had dinner for 16 here last night too! By 9:30 I was rather rocky on my feet - but will do it all again next year, for there's no better cause.

I'm not a big cake eater

but I do love making them, most particularly birthday cakes for the girls. In previous years for Ella we've had 1st Sunflower; 2nd Monkey; 3rd Princess Castle; 4th Clown and then this year, something altogether different again.

The handle was a little wonky and I only noticed that I'd put the spout on upside down when my dad pointed it out, Ella loved it though, was seriously impressed and I was seriously chuffed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

One of the good ones

Blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

Getting to know one of her birthday presents.

Playing Jungle Croquet in the front garden.

Two beautiful babes dressed for a birthday dinner at the girl's favourite restaurant, a dinner that went without mishap, actually a very relaxed meal.

A good day, a great day actually, all the better for having been shared with a daddy, who for once could escape the office and be home with his girls for the most special of times.

Couldn't be more beautiful if she tried

For the dozens of tiny moments in every day when she makes me smile. For the "thanks for a beautiful dinner mum" moments. For the daily "you look beautiful mum" boosts that make my heart swell. For her patience, her kindness which surpasses any I've ever found in anyone else, child or adult. For the love that she gives so readily generously. For still being able to hold her and kiss her until I've had my fill. For the way she plays with my ear lobe when we read a story. For how much she loved her sister from the moment she arrived and how they both look out for each other. For the happiness she has brought and continues to bring to our days. For now being the mother of the most beautiful five year old girl in the world.

Happy Birthday Ella xx

Photos - day 1 & 5 years

Monday, October 06, 2008

Room with a view

Last week I posted about the beautiful clematis that we have planted on our front verandah. I wanted to show you how good it can look by sharing the view that greets me from our kitchen window every morning. Montana rubens - remember the name.

PS Please ignore the dirty windows - not a strength of mine, cleaning windows.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wiggly fingers & wiggly thumbs

We've got a lot of these guys in our garden, some of them are monsters!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Scratching the itch

I posted about the pleasures of packet cakes the other day, but I didn't mention the actual eating. It wasn't good. Out of three adults and two children who sampled it, only one adult ate more than the m&m's and the icing. The cake had a funny crumb, the texture quite elastic and similar to that of a kitchen sponge! With my fancy for a piece of light chocolate cake unappeased, I returned this afternoon to my old trusty.

In my husband's family my mother-in-law, Helen, makes the same birthday cake for every family member on their birthday, a butter cake with butter icing and then the birthday person's chocolate of fancy over the top - perhaps a crumbled flake, m&m's for the children, for my husband dark chocolate with orange bits in. This recipe has therefore become known as the 'Helen's Birthday Cake' recipe. It's an all in one bowl, all at one time recipe - perfect for those of us without time to peak whites. Generally it's a vanilla cake, but I just leave out the vanilla, replace it with two or three tablespoons of dutch cocoa et voila. Top (in this case) with a simple ganache and it's delish. Whilst the girls eat it straight up, Geoff and I will probably have some orange segments and extra cream on the side.\