Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Here's our  new 'picnic roll'. It was soooo easy and fun to make, and it has a purpose which is always nice (but not necessary!).

The pattern/idea was taken from this book, with some adjustments to accommodate our picnic cuttlery and serviettes. My Mum gave me the fabric during our visit to Sydney last October and, because some of it was pre-quilted, I was able to skip adding the layer of wadding (love a good short-cut).  It wouldn't have been my first choice of fabric but, it was nice to use up some scraps and I'm happy with it. Mum looked at the pattern and noted quietly "oh, that's nice, I made myself something like that in the 60s".  I can imagine her using it  with her then seven or so children on visits to the beach, perhaps to watch Dad participate in surf-life saving carnivals. In those days there were 'only' seven of us (plus Mum and Dad) with a 'few' (three) more children to come. Crazy! Wish she'd held onto her picnic roll but, then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of completing this nice, quick, project which is destined for a good use!

I picked up the cuttlery second-hand a few years back and the napkins were another gift from Mum; they were her Mum's in the 1920s.  I like the thought that my grandmother used them and now, so are her great-grandchidren. I never met my grandmother and actually, my Mum doesn't recall much of her either as she died giving birth to her second child, my Mum's little brother, who also died. A very sad tale. And to think that she has ten grandchildren through that one daughter, my Mum, and twenty-nine great grand-children (my children and their cousins). Wow. I wish we had known her, or at least, that Mum had so she could share tales of her with us. Now I have her napkins in my picnic roll and that's something,  not much of a 'something' but something nonetheless. For the ribbon-tie I picked from this stash, giving the roll even more of an 'ohh' effect (for our family that is). Beyond backyard picnics, which are special in themselves, we're yet to make a day-trip with this in hand but, it won't be long.

And the garden....it's growing more and more each day, in the way that gardens often do (!). Most importantly, it's providing more and more ingredients for our daily meals.

We're loving our vegie gardens/plots, despite not having yet completed all of hem; the timber lays in waiting (I'm told the vegetables don't know the difference!). The first bed was planted out on Christmas Eve and is thriving, except for the capscicim/peppers that the possums seem to LOVE. In this plot we've planted pumpkin, capsicum/peppers, zuchnini, tomatoes, basil, French beans, eggplant, dill and corn. Our potted plants are enjoying some extra attention too (they hold lemon and olive trees, strawberries, oregano, mint, thyme, and tomatoes). When in the garden, I often think of this book, the tale of a little boy working with his Nan in her vegetable garden. It's a simple tale of how their vegetable garden changes from season to season. I look forward to experiencing our garden as it changes through the seasons.

We've recently added two more vegie plots to the front garden (one contains sage, chives, tomatoes, carrots, snow peas, climbing beans, broccoli, more oregano, more basil, silverbeet, lettuce and baby spinach and the other is yet to be planted out). We're hoping to eat plenty more from our garden soon, assuming the possums, birds and snails don't get there first. Perhaps I should work on a chilli spray this week. I need some idea on pest control. I've sprinkled coffee grinds and crushed eggs all through one vegie patch after hearing that snails and caterpillars hate the stuff and we'll see how that works. Some photos from when there was space to walk through the garden; it's grown so much since...

Monday, February 27, 2012


I've been using a pattern for a fabric book-sleeve from a recent issue of Mollie Makes, tweaked to fit my books of choice and  with widened inner sleeves to cater for all kinds of loose bits of paper. My Bare Books, which I use to jot down all kinds of things, are gradually being covered in this fashion.  I used  a 1940s retro fabric range from here. I'll have a few more to post in the coming days but for now, here's my first attempt. The Ric Rack serves well as a page marker and I like the colour contrast (it is sewn between the layers of the sleeve).

We've enjoyed seeing some Canadian faces around here of late with firstly, a visit from a good friend of my sister's from Vancouver and secondly, a day with the parents of a very close friend of ours from Vancouver. Her parents are from Vernon, B.C. and we've stayed with them in the Okanagan  and spent time with them on the West Coast of Canada too.  It was nice to see them on this side/end of the world and wonderful to hear more of that familiar accent (Dada has it afterall!). The visitors also served as a reminder that we need a north-bound journey, not that we need visitors from Canada to convince us of that! For now, we're loving Melbourne and, as an added bonus, yesterday we loved it with Canadian friends.

After collecting our friends from the docks (they're on an Antipodean cruise), we ventured into the city to meander through the lanes, collect some goodies from here and eventually have lunch here. I'd forgotten how much I LOVE the Tempura Pumpkin Roll with its rice, grated beetroot, seaweed salad, avocado, black sesame seeds - so fresh, tasty, crunchy and chewy all at once and  generally delicious! It was a very hot day but we managed to stay in the shade and enjoy our catch-up. Below; overlooking an almost vacant Fed. Square, which we put down to the heat. The heat was also our excuse to consume all the chocolates before they melted.


Saturday, February 25, 2012


A few more of these headbands, for Elsa this time, to keep the curls at bay for a while (just a while, we wouldn't like to keep them under control for too long!).

And okay so, like many, many people, I'm more than a little addicted to books, always have been and always will be but, I really need to kerb my spending in this area. I've been working not just on kerbing  but redirecting it. Small steps! Lately I've been redirecting it further towards second-hand books. This book store in Warrandyte is helping with the whole 're-training' process!

Just look at all the Enid's we found! Now perhaps I can start to work on quantity as well as cost.  Previously I missed the affordable book-buying options in Canada, where I also spent far too much on books! (but at least, I told myelf, they were cheap(er)). Now with the advent of online search  engines such as Booko  (and the retailers it links to), its been far too easy to locate books I 'need' at  a price more reasonable to our palette! So, Booko, I love you (perahps a little too much) but, like I said, we need a break.

As part of my efforts to reduce my expenditure on books, I've also been (slowing) making my way through a pile of books given to me last year for my birthday. March and People of the Book have definitely joined my list of all time favourite novels. Perhaps I should simply add Geraldine Brooks to my list of favourite authors and be done with it.. I've loved everything she's produced and March has left me yearning for more knowledge of the American Civil War. It wasn't high up there on the curriculum priorities at my Australian school and, I've never had an interest until now. One of my sisters lived in Iowa for a year and has offered to loan me some American history staples...I think I'll take her up on the offer.

For now,  Elsa explores the varieties of pink paint she can create (and one day, we'll organise the verandah!).

Friday, February 24, 2012


This summer, we've had the pleasure of enjoying (again) a pile of tableclothes that my mother-in-law gave me some time back, before I was married. The tablecloth above is among them; the labour of her hands and completed some time in the 1970s when she was living in Zambia, where she emigrated to from post-war Geece as a 14 year old!(the pattern came from Greece). It's a nice reminder of family at meal times.

And a new hat for my four year old, Elsa, using a pattern from here with fabric chosen by Elsa from my stash. The hat's reversable and I love to get two for one! You'll get a glimmer of the 'inside' of the hat  in a picture further down - I used a polka dot fabric. Because my little girl has the head circumference of a big girl, I used a bigger size (read: adult!) and reduced the width of the brim using another of her hats as a guide. She loves the hat - phew! (she has many opinions about this kind of thing!). Apparently it's perfect for yoga on the beach, and dancing, among other things.

And the reference to gratitude? There's so much to be grateful for this Summer....

Lovely shared meals, from the most basic of morning teas to elaborate barbequed lamb cooked on the barbeque by Dada, and sometimes Mama too!

For a beautiful new skirt for Mama, and the lovely friend that made it with an old sheet I had set aside for such a skirt for a while now!...she made it happen (sorry Em, I still haven't been able to capture it properly!)....

For a garden full of tiny creatures and some not-so-small ones like the possums who visit the garden every night and 'Funny', the kids favourite hen who, after providing us with an egg almost every day since moving in, died while we were away on holidays. Just a chicken but, she was our favourite! And then there's the dog, of course, Gnocchi, who always provides hours of entertainment. Lately I've been contemplating adding some more small creatures to our yard..perhaps.

 For swinging...

For cousins to play tennis, and so many other games, with....

For choices...
For quiet moments...
For exploring...

For a gnome garden that provides hours of entertainment..(we found this 'garden mushroom' under piles of garden waste down the back of the garden and slowly, it's becoming a home for little friends)...

And, of course, the beach...and so much more...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Some Huck Finn Pants for our little Raf! I used a basic handkerchief linen from here. It's difficult to tell when he's standing like that but, they're actually quite cute!

This time last week we were relishing every aspect of a fun-filled, enriching week here.

A simple daily, beach-entrenched (!) ritual evolved; a (very) early morning walk on the beach, back to the cabin for breakfast and to gather our things followed by long mornings on one of the local beaches,  'home' for rests (and to avoid being in the sun during those hot midday hours) then, back for a long afternoon of more beach fun.

It was a holiday much like those of my childhood; easy, simple, so very wonderful and muchly needed (when is a week at the beach not needed!?). My picture-culling skills are poor (and inclination low) so...apologies in advance for the abundance of images.



Unfortunately, home for not quite 24 hours, Rafael was in hospital That not-so-polite and, actually quite insidious, Asthma-demon has been to visit and left us feeling less than on top of things, particularly our little boy's health. While he is now home and doing much better, we continue to watch him closely with the overwhelming possibility of another hospital stint looming should his improvement taper off in the next day or two. As we dose him up with every manner of appropriate/relevant herbal tea, tonic and vitamin etc etc (my pharmacist Dad would've been proud!), we have our fingers (and toes) crossed that his recovery will take place at home.

This, his second bout of Asthma, was/is a lesson in humility for me. To be honest, I've felt very removed and almost protected from the risk Asthma, though I know many who have experienced it. For one, neither side of our families has experienced even one Asthma attack and given the size of my family in particular, that's a significant sample size! I've always been of the opinion that healthy living, good diet, proper sleep etc would exempt us from ever considering this condition. But that's often the thing about opinions isn't it, you should never be 100% sure of anything (well, most things).  At a whole new level I can now see that, while healthy living choices are important, some things are outside our control. What a reality check. It's one I've had on a personal level for my own health-related issues but to have that extended to the children is something else. We like to think we're in completecontrol and can manage our children's health don't we!? Sometimes we need a little help from others. And that's where I'm ever-so grateful for the services of our local hospital where Rafa recieved the best of care, the kindest of attention, the most informed and knowledgeable assistance. We really are lucky to have such good medical care at hand and for that I am, once again, grateful.

But I am on a bit of a rant about hospital food at the moment. I can't imagine the technical challenges that come with operating a hospital, including  in terms of food services. And , from what I hear, hospital food has improved a great deal over the years but, surely there's a further challenge worth rising to in this regard. I'm convinced one is needed. During our hospital stay this week, Raf was served various concoctions of food, generally with high levels of sugar, additives, preservatives and  'bad' fats. Certainly not nutritionaly optimal, or even close to! I know, I know, we have it good here; for one, we have a functionally medical system but really, serving this type of food to sick kids (or anyone for that matter) doesn't seem conducive to restorative health and recouperation.Surely 'we' are missing part of the picture! Thankfully Dada and Elsa brought in an array of fresh fruit and vegetables which Raf and I much appreciated!

Perhaps Jamie Oliver can take it on in the same fashion he did British schools?! Or even better, a local figure. Stephanie to the rescue? I can just see kitchen gardens operating in every hospital.

 Perhaps we need another week at the beach to prop us up again! And with plus 30 degree temperatures just around the corner, the thought is even more appealing. For now, the memories sustain us!