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Monday, May 31, 2010


Craig had a small number of lambs to shear for a friend on the weekend. They were Suffolk ewes, my favourite kind.

This Rocky, the old sheep dog. He loves the shearing shed, reckon it reminds me him of younger faster days working the sheep. Now days he has one back leg that he holds at a bit of a stiff angle. He finds comfort for old bones on some discarded wool. No wonder his coat is so soft and shiny - from all the lanolin in the wool.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Homemade Water Colours

I can't wait to have grandchildren and more importantly, when we do I hope they live in the same state. Craig and I have been evolving a garden plan with the expectation that we will have little people in the garden but that's a whole other post.

I was quite excited to find today on Creative Jewish Mom blog, a post about homemade water colour paint.
I love creative ideas but I adore them when they are frugal and have a small environmental impact. It uses ingredients already available in the pantry (I even have corn syrup from bubble blowing days). This is the sort of thing my Mum would do with us (there were 5 of us under 7yrs of age), so why did I feel that I had to buy large paint tubs, brushes and proper poster paints for my children for craft time?

Tegan age 5

Like the blog says, this method is probably not archive quality but they'll bring home plenty of that from school. This is a great learning activity for learning about colour mixing too.

 How good was "The Colour Kittens" as a first reference book? I loved this book and often referred to it for colour advice. Hmmm maybe this is the next book I need to buy for my future grandchildren.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Knit With Me 10

Garter Stitch Rib

This week is going to be hugely busy so I have a nice no think pattern this week.
It's almost like meditation.....
It's knit over multiples of 6 so I'm casting on 42

Row 1: *K3, P3*
Row 2: K

I've been stitching the squares together every couple I do so the job is not so big at the end. The other up-side is that it is truly random and I like the idea.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something New To Read

Sometimes I feel like something different to read and I love threading my way through favourites on other blogs. I thought you might like to check out my favourites this week.

I have been really enjoying a new blog over the past couple of weeks. If you like a crafty blog check out
So refreshing and unique. She is also a devoted hand sewer and I love the fresh inspiration she has given me.

I'm also loving maya*made A recent post about linen bowl covers was wonderful. Gosh there are some talented people out there.

Another favourite of mine is The Bobwhites for some sharp, witty and refreshingly honest and unassuming chit chat from Bet and (mostly) Kat. There is no way I could put a label on this blog. Sometimes it's nature studies, sometimes soap making, other times it's plain old disaster day on the home front, but it helps me feel connected in the world. There are a lot of beautiful, polished, poised blogs carefully showing an ideal veneer of home life but with these guys.....
They're just keeping it real.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Slow Cooked Turkey

We killed three free ranging turkeys at the weekend. Relax, this one isn't dead yet! I wanted to show you the beautiful wings spanned out and the lacy under rear.  One doesn't see them like this very often.  We saved some of the feature feathers for a friends crafting work.

I won't get gory on you as I know many cannot kill their meat. I will tell you though that to pluck and draw it, they hung it from my beautiful garden arch that Craig made me for Christmas one year! This method worked very well as it was a good height and they had a large box underneath to capture the feathers.

These lovely free rangers had full crops when they were killed. One had a crop full of whole cherries and basil and another had a crop full of whole acorns!
One of the females we left whole for a roast and we had some of the kids around. I'm not just being a boast here, but, this was THE best roasted turkey I have ever had. It was moist all over and the meat was a beautiful texture. I think the proof is right there for a free ranged, humanely slaughtered bird.

What else can you do with turkey???
I discovered a French recipe of turkey breast cooked in white wine with grapes and artichoke hearts....but that's not in keeping with our home produce ideals at all (ie: I don't have any of those growing here or locally).
I found a recipe slow cooking it in milk...that gave me a better idea.

This - Slow Cooked Turkey in Milk with Leeks and Broccoli
I cut some breast and thigh into strips and covered it in milk in the slow cooker. I added salt and pepper and sliced leeks and broccoli stalks, then cooked on low for four hours. I added the broccoli flowerets and made a slake of plain flour and water and stirred this in to create a thicker white sauce. I turned it up to high for about half an hour. Meanwhile I cooked some rice to go with it.
I'll be honest here and tell you that Craig thought it was weird but he liked it (He had two helpings of weird!)
I liked the way the leeks infused the dish and I think they are a great partner for turkey.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Walking Home - Autumn

I used to love catching the bus home after work. It would give me half an hour of reading time, or chitty chat with a friend or quiet reflective time. It was a great transition period mentally from work to home.
I also loved the short walk home. I found with my mind quieted, I became more attune to my surroundings and I was able to love this street where I live. I became intimate with its seasonal nuances.

In Autumn......
the days have been gloriously blue but the sun sets noticeably quicker 
and the light is golden casting that hue on everything. 
It makes the autumn leaves look intensely red. 
The colours of the setting sky are reflected in window panes. 
The mountains over to the east are touched on the tips with the last gold and orange of the setting sun, throwing its craggy face into sharp relief.

I can hear my footsteps clearly on the footpath. 
Beyond, the usual sounds of domesticity are quieter as windows are closed earlier now. 
I can smell dinner cooking through the last remaining open windows. 
The air is quite still at this time of year. 
It seems upside down to me that in spring when the trees are heavy with blossom, we have the most wind but in autumn the leaves are left to cling harried little by the wind.

A dog barks out the back of a house, probably to tell someone he's ready for dinner. 
There are scores of birds silhouetted on the electricity wires and I think what a funny thing for them to do. They don't sleep there, so is like a meeting place before they go off as a group to their homes in the trees?

Finally I'm home and my fiery sunset reflecting windows are welcoming me. 
The dog is so excited to see me and is the first to spread the good news. 
I love coming home.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Knit With Me 9

Double Moss Stitch

This weeks' stitch is another nice rest from last week. For me personally I think I needed to go down a needle size for the broken chevron last week so that the pattern would be more pronounced. My sister-in-law would probably have pulled it out and started again but I'm not too unhappy with the results. Leeann has also used one of the patterns to knit a dishcloth with cotton, so if you see a pattern you like, remember, you don't have to do a blanket with us. Maybe you might like to do a couple of dish cloths for presents. I think they make great body cloths too.

Double Moss Stitch
Knit over a multiple of 4 stitches
Row 1: *K2, P2 *
Row 2: As for row 1
Row 3: *P2, K2 *
Row 4: As for row 3

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dreams Fulfilled

I have had an obsession for the last twenty years.
My mother watched it consume me and become ever more desperate as the years passed.
I'm sure in some small way she blamed herself and questioned her fitness as a mother....

I had a book when I was four years old called
Little Dream by Cynthia Leonetti.
My father was a bank manager and we moved around a lot as he was promoted and I guess in one of those moves, the book was "rationalised".

It is about a land of Dreams, some of them kings, rich people, wise men and heroes and every night they get called to Earth to "work". All except Little Dream, a sweet little girl who helps all the other Dreams with their chores and controls the stampeding horses called Nightmares.
She is so very sad but one night, while riding on a star, she is called.
When all the Dreams return from work and ask where Little Dream is, the Master Dream keeper tells them that because of her sweetness and selflessness she has attained the ultimate,
She is a Dream Come True.

She has gone to Earth and become someones little girl.

It's message struck such a huge chord for me that I couldn't forget it. As I got older and had children of my own, I realised I needed to pass this message on. They are indeed my Dreams come true too.
This is the book I want to read to my grandchildren.

I searched every second-hand bookstore I came to and every thrift shop. I googled and registered with every on-line book search company. Ambire Books went another step further and put a tweet out there on Twitter.....
I dared not believe that my search was finally over. I kept it a total secret from the child that still lives within me. I came home from work and sure enough there was a parcel card in the mailbox telling me there was a parcel waiting at the Post Office. Straight away, with the dogs in the car, we drove immediately there and the song on the radio came on...
"All I Have to do is Dream" omen I hopes were high.
When I handed over my card the Post lady came out with a large squishy package and I knew it was the sari I had ordered last week.
"Is there just the one parcel?" I asked.
"Just the one", she replied.
I drove home so disappointed. I parked up the backyard and went in through the back gate, and there at the back door.....
another flat post envelope.....could it be?
I cut it open and there was no hiding it from my inner child any longer. She was overjoyed!
I burst into tears and rang my mother straight away.
"It's here", I whispered huskily.
I have been a little emotional still and cry even now relating this to you.

Now that the search has ended I feel a little at a loss. It has been such a part of my life for the past twenty years. There are still a lot of 40ish year olds out there looking for this book. If you find a copy please contact Amber at Ambire Books so that she can make another inner child's dream come true.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Moult

Many who have backyard fowl are aware of the annual moult. For those who are thinking of getting chickens or just starting out, here are a couple of photos to show the two different states. At first glance a moulting chook off the lay looks a sick old girl indeed.

In her prime a few months ago. Beautiful clean feathers, bright alert eyes, full voluptuous red comb and smooth clean legs.

Here we are mid May and she is not sick but in moult. She is doing her yearly feather loss. She is off the lay, looking scrappy and old. Her feathers look scanty and there are some sparse patches where you can see the skin on her neck. Her comb has shrunk is a pale salmon pink colour.

She'll come good again very soon and have new feathers. The whole chook pen looks like a killing yard at the moment with five of them in moult.
It's important to note the difference here between the normal moult and ill health. Her eyes are still bright and alert and her skin condition is good and there is no evidence of itching from parasites like lice and there is no mites burrowing into her skin.
They can go down hill quickly so keep your eye on them.
Keep them clean; their house, bedding, water and food. Rotate their yard if possible and turn over the top of the soil regularly. They are worth their weight in gold.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This is the grapevine in summer on the back fence. I grow it mainly as a lush green screen that effectively covers a very boring backyard fence.
But all things change and come the season of autumn, the leaves turn and drop and my fence is revealed yet again in all its ordinary dull weathered grey.

However I do have bright butterflies to look forward to all winter.

I see these at the bottom of the garden after the vine is finished. When I look out of my kitchen window, they are dancing on the back fence and are especially beautiful in the setting sun, giving me cheery comfort on cold short days.

They are made from anodised saucepan lids from old fashioned triangular pots in varying colours of copper, peach and brass. They have been simply screwed to the fence. I have intended to make antennae from old forks but haven't got round to that yet.

The cuttings from the grapevine have hardened a little but still have plenty of flex and it is at this stage and time of year that I make wreaths from them or decorative woven balls for bud lighting to thread through.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Manna From Heaven

I really do feel like the bread we are eating now is heaven sent. So often in my life I have found that if I need something, I send positive thoughts out there into the universe and it usually turns up on my doorstep. As part of our back to basics/frugality plan, bread became a hot topic. If we need a large quantity we make it ourselves but there is only two of us in this nest most of the time so I thought a bread maker might be the go.
I didn't want to spend a lot of money because we may not like it or be motivated to use it and the novelty might ware off and we would have an expensive appliance hanging my espresso maker.

So we did a bit of research and looked around and ummmed and ....
This bread maker turned up at the local thrift shop for $10. It had been electrically checked and looking inside I could see that it seemed seldom used. Depending on how you look at it, this could have two interpretations; it's going to give us a few months of bread at least OR "see...I told you these are gimmicks and people only use them a couple of times"

Naturally I brought it home and cleaned it again and honestly it is hardly used. I went on line to check for an appropriate recipe/quantity mix for this particular model (there was no instruction book with it) and the buttons on the top were all pretty self explanatory. We did have a heart stopping moment the first time because the lights were on but nothing happened but it was just "warming" the ingredients for the first 5 mins.

We've used this baby flat out, sometimes twice a day and we make our Friday pizza dough this way too and have done bread rolls for a dinner party using the dough function. While its probably not big enough for large families, we find it just right. It had paid for itself in the first week and everything else is a bonus.  We are saving so much money and know what we are eating without any additives. There is so much more less mess too. No flour on the floor or sticky dough stuck to benches. While bread made by hand is the ideal, this appliance does fit our lifestyle. Your initial research and recommendations from friends will give you an idea of reliable brands to look for. Also check to see how much a replacement bread pan costs for the machine as that could be a factor. Do check thrift shops, there are lots of reasons why people donate things. Maybe the previous bread maker owners were moving inter state and didn't want to cart it. Maybe it was too small for their family. For whatever reason, it has been God sent for us and who could not feel blessed with fortunes like this in life. It re-affirms for me that I am on my right path.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Knit With Me 8

Broken Chevron Stitch

Back to some brain work this week but it's not as bad as it seems. Once you've done a couple of the 4 x sets, you'll start to get a rhythm for it. The photograph above must be slightly angulated (yeah that's another word from the Tanya Dictionary) and it will actually knit up looking more like zig-zagging diagonals. Very effective pattern. I started it a bit earlier this week to test it out for suitability and I really think you will enjoy it for the result and variety.

It's knit over a multiple of 18 stitches and I have decided to cast on 54 stitches for this one.

Broken Chevron Stitch
Row 1: *K1, P2, K2, P2, K1, P1*
Row 2: *K3, P2, K2, P2, K1, P2, K2, P2, K2*
Row 3: *P1, K2, P2, K2, P3, K2, P2, K2, P2*
Row 4: *K1, P2, K2, P2, K5, P2, K2, P2*

Looks complicated but it's not. Remember, we are only working with knit and purl stitches.
Another way to look at a pattern is to do it in draft form like a grid pattern.
If Knit = + and Purl = 0 the pattern would look like
If you are a "visual" learner then you might prefer to plot the above pattern into a sheet of grid paper rather than follow all the Ks and Ps.
When I have followed complicated patterns, especially cables, I find following a "pattern" like above easier than the K/P instructions. It visually translates better for me...if that makes sense? I suspect half of you will know what I mean.
(I must be a bit "aural" learner too because I will often mutter under my breath too)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Knit With Me Peak-a-boo

This is how my rug is going so far. I'm sewing squares together every so often so that I don't get to the end and have a huge sewing job ahead of me.  I've also found this has given me added incentive to make more as I can see the possibility and something taking shape.
The other positive is that it will truly add to it's "randomness". A blanket of sample squares....not planned or divined, just a coming together.
If you have photos of your progress, even if it's just squares, and you want to place it on your blog or flicker for us all to look at, then do put the link in the comments section. It will be a great way to inspire everyone to keep progressing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Plants That Never Bloom

We went to Frankford today for a bush BBQ at a friends' bush block.
As I type, I can still smell the delicious wood smoke that faintly clings to my clothes.

Everyone in Tasmania has been commenting about the abundance of mushrooms in the paddocks this season. Conditions have been perfect; the right amount of rainfall and some mild to warm days ( in fact Tasmania recorded it's warmest April in 150 years), so that means an abundance of fungi in general.

I have NEVER seen it like this before! The sheer amount and variety are breathtaking. I find the world of fungi fascinating and when the children were little we often read a picture book about fungi and even today when they see fungi they quote from the book, "the plant that never never blooms!"

Pretty amazing huh! We had a 14yr old boy with us too and it was an opportunity he hasn't had before either. It was a beautiful glimpse into another world. These were all found within about 30 metres

Thursday, May 6, 2010


This is Arthur.
He belongs to Craig and his sister Leeann. Leeann loves him so much and he lives with her but while she has been on holiday at the Gold Coast in QLD, he has been at our place.
He looks like a lovely puppy....admittedly with a face only a mother could love.....
He is a very old man at about 9 human years and for his size that converts to about 90 dog years. Dogs his size have a much shorter life span than other breeds. The average for his breed is 6-8yrs.
You can definitely see the history and ancient heritage in this face. His breeds hark back hundreds of years (just like my standard poodles do). He is part wolfhound and possibly part mastiff. He was a rescue dog and Craig tells that as a pup of 6 weeks he was already 10kg (20lb)

Here is a shot with my hand as well. Compare the palm of my hand with Arthur's nose. Awesome huh!
This gentle giant will let me open his mouth and shove tablets back there with good grace and temperament.
He weighs about 100kg (200lbs) and no, he doesn't eat much, because he doesn't DO much.

As an older dog, he has arthritis and needs LOW to the ground, stable, soft bedding. His teeth are worn quite a bit but still need some bones for daily plaque management. Chicken frames and lamb/beef bones are great. He also needs good quality, nutritionally complete kibble that is free of artificial colours (gives him skin allergies) and salts and caramels (bad for old dog kidneys).
There is a lot vets can do to ease the pain of arthritis and provide quality of life with drugs like cartrophen. I am a firm believer in the benefits of fish oil and green lipped mussel extract for dogs too.

He has had a lovely time with the poodles but at the end of the day he regards them as the babies they are at a third of his age.
He is a lovely dog with a gorgeous nature and particularly protective of Craig and Leeann's mother, and I couldn't help sharing him with you. All our dogs have been rescued dogs, and they are just the best. We know Arthur had a sister also for adoption way back then and I know Craig always wishes he could have adopted her too. We hope she has had a loving home and long life like Arthur has and send her our love wherever she is.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Knit With Me 7

I confess I started this weeks' stitch a couple of days ago....
and I'm loving it. It's easy and produces an impressive pattern.

It's knit over multiples of 2 and I have cast on 44 stitches.

Row 1: K
Row 2: K
Row 3: *K1, P1*
Row 4: *K1, P1*

How easy is that!
It produces a nice squidgy texture too.
Happy knitting everyone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

I found this piece at the local op shop. It was $40 and I ummed and arrgghhed for about 1min before clutching it tightly to my chest and walking up to the counter.....
or rather the end of a line of about a dozen people....
each one staring at my prize that clearly said,
"are you mad, that thing is hideous!"

I asked Craig to drive home while I sat nursing my precious in my arms.

It is a table centrepiece made in the Hugo Lonitz factory in Germany in 1880. Tastes have changed obviously and it's not what everyone would grace their sideboard with but I worked for fine china houses for many years and I am in awe of the entire manufacturing process of this piece.
It is not an over-statement to say it's a work of art.

It spans 56cm (22") from tip to tip. I'm guessing that there was some sort of flammable support for these huge outstretched arms to prevent them collapsing in the kiln. It would have held the soft porcelain in clay and burnt away in the high temperatures of the first firing.
The second amazing feature about this piece is that it is made entirely in one piece, a very, very difficult manufacture with a very high attrition rate. This is not a massed produced piece, it's a wonder of it's own manufacturing process AND it has survived 130 years and a couple of world wars!
The artistic process is finished with beautiful blending of colour and hand painted flowers in the bowl itself and delicately gilded to enhance rather than overwhelm the piece.

It hasn't quite survived unscathed though, and here ladies and gentleman is another remarkable talent at work.
This centrepiece weighs about 4kg (8lb) and all that is sitting on a broken "foot". From this angle you can see the repairs undertaken many, many years ago using large staples to stabilise and strengthen. There are not many who know how to repair in this fashion any more. Another art about to be lost.
These sort of repairs are another clue to the value of the piece because most damaged china is discarded unless it is a special item.
The Hugo Lonitz factory was particularly known for Majolica pieces and must have had a wonderful set of skilled craftsmen. I have not been able to find any examples so far of this type of work but similar pieces with similar damage are still offered at auction for about $1300 to $1500.
I love that this prestige piece has found it's way to my little home and though tastes may change, my dear Mr. Hugo Lonitz, I pay homage to your artisans and treasure it still.
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