November 30, 2008

Does this make you happy?

... This makes me very happy:

A wonderful morning outing yesterday, to Amitie with Bellgirl and her lovely littley, and a morning of bagels and chit-chat. Just perfect! Fabric delights at Amitie were everywhere (er, as usual), and I came home happy and full of quilting inspiration and Christmas-present ideas. Oh, and clutching a large parcel of fabric....

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and get sewing!


Stumbled across this and confused? Ask Kootoyoo...


Still feeling totally inspired by the handmade issue of mankind mag from my favourite design blog.
Q What is the blog author's first name? ANSWER: Erin
use the first letter - LETTER: E

We like to keep lunch casual, I've found some fabulous BBQ recipes for the big day.
Q What type of meat is pictured on the rotisserie? ANSWER: Lamb
use the first letter - LETTER: L

Getting some great ideas for upcycling (my favourite craft) & enjoying the revamp over at this fabulous craft website.
Q They list everyone's favourite Portland based author mama as one of their inspirational sites. Which Portland based author mama is she? ANSWER: SouleMama
use the second letter of her last name - LETTER: O

Looking forward to being able to buy handmade at the shopping shindig with the craft book Queen.
Q What type of car is pictured? ANSWER: VW Beetle! (Beep! Beep!)
use the first letter - LETTER: V

All these letters unscramble to reveal:
WHAT? is all you need.



November 28, 2008

Beautiful, easy bread

Apart from reading a lot of recipes, one of the things I've been doing recently is teaching myself how to make bread. I always thought that bread making was a mystery best left to earth mothers and retired people, but I'm learning that it doesn't have to be that way. Bread dough is pretty forgiving and will wait while you go to work, sleep, or get on with your life.

And my goodness, fresh bread tastes amazing.

Here's the recipe I used for the bread that I whipped up in my early-morning insanity. Making the initial dough took approximately as long as it took the stove-top coffee to boil: ie less than two minutes. Then I kneaded it and left it while I went to do some sewing.

But before I give you the recipe I want to explain where this bread-making thing came from. It wasn't a bolt from the blue: the urge to make bread arrived in a package in the post, neatly wrapped up inside a cookbook sent to us by one of Mr. Tacc's oldest friends, Xanthe Clay.

She wrote the book herself -- this clever woman has published several cookbooks over the years, and can be found writing a weekly gig at the Telegraph or cooking up a storm in quick ten-minute videos online or for your ipod. Isn't it nice to have clever friends who give you inspiration?

Here's a variation on 'Quick-fix Bread' from Xanthe Clay's 'Recipes to Know by Heart'

(note: the directions below are my interpretation, not a quote from the book! But credit for the recipe goes to Xanthe for her wonderful idea and morale-raising, inspired suggestions)

Wholewheat and honey bread

1 lb flour, which I made up of roughly 4/5ths white flour and 1/5th wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 sachet instant yeast (7g)
1/2 pint warm water
1 large spoon of honey

  • Weigh out the flour until you have 1 lb (or use a 1lb bag). Tip it into a large bowl with the yeast and salt. Measure the water and pour it into the centre. Drop in your spoonful of honey. Stir until a doughy ball forms.
  • On a clean surface, sprinkle a handful of flour, plonk your dough in the centre and start kneading. DON'T skimp on this step! I count to 300 kneads before I consider stopping. Yes, 300.
  • Pop it in another large bowl (a clean one, I oil mine with a drop of olive oil), cover with clingfilm and go about your day. (*Busy folks:* at this point you could put it in the fridge to rise very slowly all day while you are at work, or all night if you do this the night before you want the bread. Take it out and let it warm up to room temperature , 20 mins or so, before you do this next step:)
  • When the dough has doubled in size from your original ball (1-2 hours or 8-9 hours in the fridge) knead it again for 30 seconds or so. Turn on the oven when you do this: 200 degrees.
  • Lightly oil a loaf pan, or a flat baking sheet. Dust with polenta or flour to prevent your loaf from sticking. Drop your loaf into the tin or make a nice round blob in the middle of your baking tray. Cover it with a clean tea towel and wander off again. Half an hour or so should do it, but again, cooler temperatures make slower rising.
  • When your bread has doubled again and your oven is good and hot, pop it in. You can brush the top with egg wash (but I don't usually bother). I get a lovely golden crispy crust on it anyway, and I don't need it to be shiny.
  • Cook for about 25-30 minutes (closer to 30 in my oven).
When your bread is ready, it will sound hollow when you tap it (flip it out of the pan, balance it on your mittened hand, tap and listen). Does it go 'tock-tock' when you tap, like an empty cardboard box? If yes, it's done. If you hear bubbling and steam, it's not.

Now just try not to eat four slices with butter. Go on. Makes amazing toast the second and third day, and I'm planning to make some summer pudding based on my MasterClass recipe tomorrow, when it will be at the perfect two-day-old stage. Sandwiches from this bread are truly divine.

Options: Leave out the whole wheat and just use a pound of plain or strong flour (both work). Leave out the honey if you want. Add raisins or currants if you like. Dust with cornflour or press seeds into the top. It's entirely up to you! You can make a double batch, but I did that in two bowls because I wasn't sure I had one that was big enough!

November 27, 2008

Animals come out in the early morning

So, this morning at 5:15, I was lying awake, listening to the birds beginning to twitter, and thinking of my farm quilt-in-progress.

Now, don't think I do this all the time, but by 5:30 I was up, surprising the dog (who cracked some mighty yawns) and thinking of two lovely hours in which to sew and play. I started some bread dough while making coffee, and hit the machine:

If you get up really early, you can see the rabbits running around...

It was fiddlier than I thought, and I had to stitch very slowly, only a few stitches at a time before lifting the foot and adjusting the pieces. But the applique aren't that big, and there are only five of them, so that's fine. I've done the swallow and the rabbit. And now there's fresh, warm bread out of the oven for breakfast.

Let's just hope that I don't fall asleep over my desk at work today!

November 26, 2008

Cooking with Tobie

I find that heading rather amusing: you would too, if you knew that my small home companion is a food-obsessed kelpie cross called Toby.

Actually, I'm talking about Tobie Puttock, and the cooking Master Class that I went to last night with friends Nicky and Cathy, and Cathy's friend Gary. Did we have fun? Just check out the menu, and make your own mind up:

We had lots of fun!

Here we were expecting some tiny tastings and a glass of aussie bubbly, a hall packed full of women (come on, it was going to be all women, wasn't it?) - by which we betted on city girls with HandBags (the capital HB signifying the Large Price Tag it came with). In other words, not our thing.

The words, 'It's gonna be a bun fight' were uttered. But we were delighted to discover that we were wrong.

Maybe it was the buy three tickets get one free offer through Delicious magazine, but the atmosphere was fun, with groups of friends out for a nice evening. We all embarrassed ourselves by scoffing thick chips in the bar before the event and then walking in to see white linen; cutlery; multiple wine glasses at each place. We thought there would be three canapes shared between 100 people, but what we got was a three-course meal, with wines. (Though sadly the Marsanne ran out before they got to us, and the service was not great, nor were they gracious about the wine disasters). But the chips were a good idea: Tobie turned out to be a talky-talker, and so was the coffee-making guy that the sponsors wheeled out first. So we sat happy, drank wine, watched and enjoyed. And there were prizes, but despite my announcement that I was going to win the magnum, I didn't. Phooey for predictions.

So -
Did you know that gnocchi doesn't have to glue your mouth shut? I didn't. And that vanilla, in moderation, tastes amazing with morels.

What's a morel? Here's a picture, in situ, of a morel:

(What, did you think in situ meant in the ground? Sorry.)

You'll be glad to see that it was not all note-taking and tasting, and the doodle-girl in me broke through after the second sip (read: glass) of wine. (The Pod-person above the morel is a result of a rant about someone's workplace; nothing to do with the food). And those who know Tobie will be delighted to hear that his hair registered a '6' on the bouffant scale (this photo, for comparison, is about a 2.5).

Morels remind me of a spectacular summer at my parents' cottage in Canada, when Dad found a wealth - nay - a fortune! - of morels in the woods. I seem to recall very earnest inspection of mushroom identification books, careful par-boiling and a tentative taste, followed by an all-out, no-holds-barred frenzy of morel eating, including morel omelettes and morels on toast. (Remember, Dad?) One bite of the gnocchi and I was whisked back to that summer. Even at $XXX per kilo, that's cheaper than airfare..... Mmm.

I've never been to a cooking class before, and I'm pleased to say that I would go again any time. For techniques and in-depth learning, I'd go for a day or weekend, hands-on course, but for an evening of entertainment and mild learning, in a great atmosphere, and with fantastic company, this was excellent. Next time these classes come to town, I'll be there.


November 25, 2008

A better picture

Of the farm quilt - last night's photos were taken in the last of the light.

I'd like to work on it tonight, but I'm off to a cooking class! (my first ever, exciting...)

November 24, 2008

The WIP with a wabbit and...

...a purple cow!

After my casual mention of a couple of Works in Progress on my last post, some of you demanded to see what was being plotted. Well, there are two projects that are constantly to hand at the moment, and here's one of them.

I drew the cow first, traced her on to double-sided fusible interfacing, and started cutting out her shape very carefully. Then I dove into my large scrap bag, searching for a scrap of fabric that would be just perfect.

And tell me folks, could she be anything other than purple? And covered in daisies?

This new quilt started taking shape this weekend as I stitched my way through a pouring rainy Saturday afternoon.

It's pieced from my favourite fat quarters and large scraps. So far, it's in three large pieces, and there is still a lot of embroidery to be done (some by machine, and some by hand) - such as the beak of the bird, the eyes and whiskers for the rabbit, and maybe a collar and bell for Daisy Dairy herself.

I'm already pretty happy with the results, the retro farm animals and the fresh colours. This is a gift for my sister - I'm soon to be an auntie! - very exciting. (Hello geek, I know you're peeking - I can tell!)

I'm tempted to make more like this. What do you think? Which animals should I try?
Do I dare attempt a cottage/farmhouse, too?


November 22, 2008


You'd be forgiven for wondering if this blog has become a house blog instead of a craft blog. But, you see, there are so many inspiring house photos - these three dug up from the archives of a summer visit to Charlottetown, PEI, many years ago.

This is what's inspiring my next round of drawings.

Gorgeous weatherboard: front-face and square. I look at this and count the windows: how many rooms would that place have? I'm sure there'd be enough for a craft corner somewhere in the eaves. Perhaps that little attic room with the light on?

Let's walk a little down the street. The houses sit close to the road, but it's so quiet. Not exactly genteel. Just quiet.

I love the colour-coordinated trim and the solid confidence of the houses. The cars look so small - and this is North America, so I assure you, they're not.

Steep roofs for rain and snow, plenty of space for living through cold and dark winters.

Or if you have an affection for ice cream blocks - those cardboard-wrapped blocks of ice cream that you slice, perhaps you'd have gone for the deluxe confectionery residence with marzipan frosting?

Sugar sprinkles, anyone?

November 21, 2008

Christmas Quilt

Christmas Quilt
Originally uploaded by O!Rachew!
Doesn't this make your eyes water with goodness?

I wish I'd made something this lovely, but I'm happy just to gaze on its gorgeousness.

I've been thinking of tulip quilts recently - not that I've finished the two quilts on the go at the moment - but idly thinking, storing up ideas and inspiration until a happy day. And then this photo just went - zip-bang-bing! - like fireworks. Beautiful.


What a bunch of Do-ers!

I've spent some playtime this morning, drinking coffee and checking out Typealyzer, found via Twelve by Twelve.

Pop in a URL of a blog, and it tells you what sort of brain activity was going on when you wrote it.

Yes, that's right. It analyses the dominant parts of your brain based on your words.

I mean, the possibilities boggle the - er - mind. Brain Activity: thinking of dinner. Brain Activity: distracted. Brain Activity: call a psychologist. Brain Activity: Craftobsessed!

This is what I got for

ESTP - The Do-ers
The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

And then I randomly tested a bunch of you folks.... you know who you are (wink), regular commenters.

We're practically ALL Do-ers! Go figure.

Suspecting that this nice little Swedish gadget (where's the teak?) was giving me the same result regardless, I popped in the URL of Posted Stitches - - my other crafty blog, and whaddaya know, it's all a show! No-one told me.

EFSP - The Performers
The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

So, that's enough fun time for me this morning, now it's off to perform for a while....

Happy Friday, all!

November 19, 2008

On my desk: the first house drawing

(click the image above to see it a bit larger if you want)

Here's a loose interpretation of the first photo I posted yesterday. I'd like to work this into a sweet, squiggly-lined sketch to print onto my white cotton/linen mix. Perhaps.

I'm still deciding what to do with it, but I think I need to draw more versions and see what happens.


There's lots more 'On my desk...' goodness, going around the creative desks of the world....

November 18, 2008

Old House near Wooldridge, Missouri

When I went to university in Canada, there was a drive we would sometimes do when someone had a car -- out to the coast down roads past what once were prosperous farms.

On the hillsides, overlooking wet fields and grey muddy inlets of the sea, often in freezing damp wind, stood houses like this one.

Fractured planes of weather boards, bright red roof. Another candidate for the sketchbook.

Old House near Wooldridge Missouri
Originally uploaded by Uncle Phooey

Houses and stairs

I've been thinking about houses lately. Old houses, old apartments, the places like the building we stayed in in Paris, hundreds-of-years-old college dormitories, little houses. Places with many years and where many feet have passed.

My favourites and folders contain lots of photos like this one that I found this morning. I love the soft colours and simple lines.

I want to draw lots of house line drawings - some big - some small - and print them onto fabric.

Wouldn't they make lovely cushions?

photo originally uploaded by kimkimcat

November 17, 2008

Sleeping skirt, soon to awake?

There's not a lot of crafting going on over here at the moment: I'm working, and still trying to get over the cold I had, and just keeping my head down, trying to get through.

Still, half-finished projects like this are crying out for a little attention. So almost done....

This skirt is an adaptation of an unsuccessful purchase. Remember the year when skirts were all very light and hugely full, like circle skirts, and they flipped up in the slightest breeze? Hm, yes, I didn't wear this skirt much after a nasty shock on a windy day. (I flashed an entire car yard, while we were hunting for a car to buy. oops.)

So - earlier this year, I cut large triangles out of the skirt to tame its wayward fullness, added a cheesecloth lining (not yet trimmed to length), and used some of the huge amounts of brown fabric I'd cut out to make petals, which became a flower, along with some other favourite scraps. And an orange waistband, with grommets for the strings to come through. Almost done.

When we left for our three-month trip around the world in May, it was almost done. And it's stil reproaching me from the same state. All it needs is a levelled and trimmed hem and lining, and some more embellishment (the fun part!) on the skirt.

Soon, my lovely, soon.... and then we'll have summer days of flopping around at cafes and markets. Soon...

November 13, 2008

Day three and... at least I'm useful for something

Photo graciously provided by Mr. Tacc., the better photographer in this relationship...

A gal likes to know she's needed.

That's why I smiled when the doors opened, and well-dressed gent said with evident relief; "Oh, I'm so glad you're here!"

Turns out that the poor guy, probably about my father's age and clearly an accountant or absent-minded law professor - had been riding up and down in the lift, trying to get it to take him to the ground floor.

Puzzled, but still smiling at the evident charm being showered on me, I extended one finger, firmly pressed the button marked 'G', and whisked us to the ground floor. Whereupon I had a hearty farewell from my new friend and a cheery wave as he loped off, clutching his leather case.

I'm an easily-amused girl, and this innocent little encounter made me smile my way out onto Collins, wondering what on earth had gotten into these chaps these days. I mentally shrugged my shoulders and went off to see if my new workplace was anywhere near a newsagent that sells Marie Claire Idees (it is; it's late. Hop-la).

I thought nothing of it until today, when I overheard two people talking in the lift about how they couldn't get out of the building last night, the lifts randomly whisking people to the top floor and forcing them to stop at every floor, all.... the... way... to the ground.

So, I can reliably say, that at day 3 on the job, I am a whizz at something. I can make the elevators work.

Just watch my meteoric rise from here...

November 10, 2008


New job, new desk, new colleagues, new shoes.... All good.

Thank you for the kind wishes for good luck.

Oh, now I need to sleep!

(More gorgeous ranch photos in my Quilthunting posts here and here)

November 9, 2008

So much for that.

I haven't posted for a few days, and I didn't make it to the Sketchcrawl. Instead, I've been sitting in bed with that 'oh-I'm-getting-a-virus' feeling and a very great tiredness. I'm starting a new job on Monday, and so it's been top of the list to get well and not to fall asleep on my desk on the first day at work. Sometimes you need to be disappointingly sensible, right?

Anyway, in the absence of drawings of the animals (I was so looking forward to drawing the animals!), here's something I prepared earlier.....

Remember this sketch of village houses?

It became a stencil and got three doses of paint.

Red, we love red:

Blue, and green.

And now it's a village again!

I'm working on a whole series of farm and village stencils, with a wall hanging or small quilt in mind. Here are one or two of the others:

I think the bluebird needs a branch, but nothing too big or heavy. And a bead for his eye, of course!

I've got drawings ready for a couple more animals and flowers, and then I'll start thinking about a little quilt to put them in.


November 6, 2008

Calling all sketchers...

... and scribblers and dabblers and photographers and just plain interested people.

There's another Sketchcrawl - this one's THIS Saturday. (eep!) This one's down on the farm.

I hadn't expected another one to come along so quickly, but it's a great location, so I'm going to hop on the trusty rusty Mathilda (my bike) and cycle down to the Collingwood Children's Farm. Pigs and children, people and market stalls: this could be good!

If you're wondering what a Sketchcrawl is, check out my report of the previous Sketchcrawl, and the Melbourne Sketchcrawl blog - or if you're international, the Worldwide Sketchcrawl site.

Date/time: Saturday 8th November at 11AM
Place: Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market & Abbotsford Convent
End of St Heliers St, Abbotsford. 5 mins' walk from Victoria Park station. (MAP)

Meeting Point: End of St Heliers St at the large wooden gates to the farm.

Not sure you can find us? Check out the details on the Sketchcrawl blog, or drop me an email and we can arrange to meet there.


November 5, 2008

On my desk....

This week, the desk's a jumble of projects all vying to be finished. I've got a growing collection of stencils on the retro farm theme, and the latest additions were a sheaf of wheat, a strawberry, and a very sweet little hedgehog who, I am told, needs a 'shiny black button nose'!

At the back, the drawing for my latest Posted Stitches quilt, on the myths and legends theme. A kimono hanging up has since been finished and is being used. And I'm still reading that gorgeous French book....

More desk delights can be found over at Kootoyoo.


A little pumpkin goodness

Some time ago, I ordered a bag from Japan from Shinzi Katoh. When it arrived, it had this little postcard tucked inside:

I have no idea what it says, but I love the colour and the crinkly-paper effect. It's pretty sweet!


November 4, 2008

Fast forward

I was sitting at the sewing machine this afternoon, idly tuning out the sounds of revelry from both gardens either side of us as Melbourne Cup parties are in progress, and then I tuned back in as the sound subtly changed. "Hm," I thought, "I wonder who's sitting in the garden going Umminnanni Umminani umminanni umminani..." Hm, that would be the race commentator, dear. We may have been here four years, but I'm not a Melburnian yet.

Even if I don't understand horse racing, there are some Aussie obsessions that I do understand and love: Photo by Mr. Tacc.

Last year we spent a very cheerful Cup Day at our friends' place, where somehow I ended up teaching a bunch of the neighbourhood kids how to make patchwork stars. Champagne, sewing machines and seven year olds, stars and a big scrap bag. Everyone was happy, especially my friends the parents, who quietly polished off all the champagne.

Today, I've been stitching and plotting and scheming. Due to constraint on the family purse, I'm going to be hand-making a few of my Christmas gifts this year. Some will be stencilled, and some will be stitched. I've got to get cracking!

How about this i-pod pocket scarf as a present for my Canadian commuter friends? (Pattern spotted in an Italian magazine). I suspect I'll be making this one up as I go along, not being fluent in Italian and all. It looks fairly simple, and velvet with Japanese fabric strikes me as a nice idea. Soft and snuzzly.


November 2, 2008

This is.... a favourite recipe I'd like to share

My goodness, there are so many!

I'm a bit of a cookbook junkie: I adore the good ones for real cooks, and love to work out how they have been 'pitched' and 'packaged' (that's the publisher in me), and why people buy them. Sharing recipes is one of my favourite things to do, and I appreciate the friends whose skill and taste is similar to my own, and who send me recipes to try.

It's been so hard to choose, but this is a recipe that was a surprise when I tried it and which I've come back to again and again: it will be my store-cupboard standby for adding a bit of glam and extravagance to a meal. If you have lemons, this is a gorgeous one for you!


Lemon Syllabub
from "A Year in my Kitchen" by Skye Gyngell

serves 8
200g caster sugar
200ml dry sherry
finely grated zest and the juice of 1 lemon
600ml double cream
(optional: 1-2 tsp finely chopped preserved stem ginger in syrup - * I've never added this)

Combine the sugar, sherry, lemon zest and juice in a bowl and stir well. In another bowl, very lightly whip the cream - just enough to thicken it slightly.

Gently fold the sherry mixture into the cream until just combined (the addition of lemon and sherry will combine to thicken the cream). If using, at this point fold in the chopped ginger and a little of the syrup from the jar.

Spoon the syllabub into small glasses (I use fancy little wine glasses). Refrigerate for an hour or so, to chill before serving.


I've discovered that this is a quick recipe that usually works beautifully. I've sometimes dropped a raspberry on top of each one at the last minute. Don't be tempted to serve it with anything else, such as biscuits or cake - it's so rich that it deserves to be savoured and eaten slowly with no distractions. No-one will want anything else, I promise you....


Thank you to Three Buttons for hosting "This is". Just click the button to the right to visit her blo0g and see who else is playing along.

November 1, 2008

Barking at Frogs.... the chronicles of grumpy

I missed the last day of Blogtoberfest: will you ever forgive me? Yesterday was a wonderful, jam-packed race-around crafty day of fun, and yet at the back of my mind, I kept thinking "Oh, will I get five minutes at the computer to wish all my best to all of the Blogtoberfesters?"

Well done you lot. Three cheers, fireworks and a fly-past by the Queen for Big Cat, who deserves lots of kudos for coming up with the idea and infecting everyone with her enthusiasm! What a community of super-stars you've woken up, and how everyone has run and run with Cat's idea. zzzooom, there goes the Queen in her jetplane; you're all heros!

Last night I went to an all-night craft-a-thon, pyjama party food and Halloween stitchery. It was great! Seven lovely crafters and one baby all piled into the house of Jo and her truly generously accommodating family, for a delicious meal and craft chatter.

We kicked the boys out of the lounge (thank you boys!), and took over..... There were needles clacking as socks got made, crochet-borders of lovely cream on a blue and green alphabet knitted blanket, beautiful cross-stiched versions of night-time photographs of the city, the bright stripes of more knitted goodness, baby bibs, christmas decorations, and more, as the night got later and everyone gradually slid down into the cushions on the sofa. Life, not wine, was the cause! (So we say)

I managed to quilt at least four squares - miniscule progress, but there was a lot of chatting and chocolate going on as well. And then a snuggly snooze on the mattress in the playroom, half under my mostly-finished quilt (I say it's good luck to sleep under it when you're quilting it!), and pancakes for breakfast, before a trip to Amitie. What more could a girl ask for?

Apparently I am grumpy today, to which I replied - I am NOT! - hm. Despite a Nana-nap and tea, I feel like this dog at the farm, cross and hot and bothered and barking at the frogs.

Wrarf! Wrarf! Grump, grump. I'm sorry I missed Blogoberfestivities and the end of the month - I hope you will understand that it was all in the name of terribly important craft activity!

I am now going to roast a chicken, and as we all know, a good dinner makes everything better....