Friday, 14 September 2018

The Freshness of Spring

After a very dry Winter, Spring has brought with it such welcome rain. Rain that has sparked the new growth of this new season.  The grass is growing green again. After their deciduous Winter, the first leaves are unfurling on the plane tree. Creamy, fragrant blossoms cover our mandarin tree. The bees and the butterflies are busy, attracted by the emergence of more and more flowers. While I am excited too, by the blue of the cornflowers and the deep orange buds on the hibiscus, I am more enchanted this year by the freshness of Spring's green.

 New leaves emerging on the Plane Trees.

A honeybee foraging in a mandarin blossom.

A little cucumber seedling.

Feathery new growth on  Yarrow.

My own enthusiasm for the garden, which had waned with the lack of rain, has returned anew. Little seedlings, cucumber and snow peas mostly, have been tucked into warm, replenished soil. Pots of multicoloured petunias have been planted up and will no doubt flower soon. Clumps of day lilies have been divided and replanted in the little garden by the front gates and a dwarf mulberry tree settled into a pot where it will hopefully thrive. It seems that rush of fresh Spring green, that followed that most welcome rain, has lifted my inner-gardener's hopes!

I have deeply felt the change from Winter to Spring this year, more strongly than I can remember in years gone by.  How about you? How have you responded to the turning of nature's seasons in your part of the world?


p.s. I am keenly aware of how lucky we have been to receive rain here. There are many in Australia; farming families and communities, their stock and our wild creatures; struggling with terrible drought.  I hope that the heavens will open over their parched lands soon. Xx

Monday, 10 September 2018

A Tiny Felt Brooch

Little blanket stitches frame a sweet snippet of embroidered flowers, attaching an ever-so-small piece of long-ago stitching to a scrap of soft, woollen felt. Pinned on to a dress or a blouse, with a small pin, and it becomes a tiny brooch.

A tiny handmade brooch.

Tiny brooches like these, made by the talented Jude Van Heel,  featured in a recent issue of Grass Roots magazine (No. 248 Aug/Sept 2018). I set my copy aside, the instructions flagged for when a little window of time opened up for making one. Just such a time presented itself on Saturday evening and I so enjoyed the quiet time I spent stitching the little circle of flowers to the felt backing. Even with very careful stitches, so as not to fray the edge of the old linen, this project took less than an hour.  

A little safety pin for the back.

I didn't have a brooch pin for the back but a little safety pin works just fine. It's only tiny and very light so it doesn't pull on the fabric that it's pinned to. 

Perfect for a dress or a blouse.

I love that a project like this makes use of old embroidered linens, perhaps those stained or forever unfinished or floundering in op-shop piles. I always think the stitching too beautiful not to find a use for and this is one tiny, sweet way to make something from such linens.  I'm sure I'll make a few more soon. 


Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A Lovely Lemon Meringue Pie

I couldn't remember the last time I'd had lemon meringue pie. A not-too-sweet pastry shell filled with a tangy lemon 'curd' and topped with glossy white meringue. Swoon! We used to have it on very special occasions when I was growing up but I would only have had it a handful of times since then. So, when Laura over at Grow Gather Enjoy mentioned the pie she made for her Dad recently, I decided that it had been way too long between slices! I made a lemon meringue pie that very day and it became dessert for our shared Fathers' Day dinner. My husband did notice the break in tradition from the usual cheesecake I always make him for his special days but the loveliness of tangy lemon with fluffy sweet meringue soon silenced any protest! 

A piece of oh-so-delicious pie!

My Mum made the filling for her lemon meringue pie with condensed milk, lemon juice and eggs. Lemony fillings thickened with cornflour just don't carry the same memories for me! A quick search and I discovered this simple recipe, contributed by Ruth Salecich-Brown, over at Love in a Little Black Diary, that her grandmother, Evelyn Proposch, used to make. It seems Ruth has fond memories of lemon meringue pies too!

So, I gathered all the basic ingredients and set about the baking of this lovely pie. It is quite easy to make and the recipe includes instructions for the easiest pastry I've ever made. No rubbing butter into flour! Here's how it came together in my kitchen:

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the Pastry:  Warm 60g butter, 2 Tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup milk until butter just melted. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 beaten egg. Add 1 1/2 cups of self raising flour until a soft dough forms. Roll out dough on a floured surface or sheet of baking paper and then line your pie plate with it. Neaten the edge of your pie by trimming off any excess pastry. Prick carefully with a fork and then bake in a slow oven for 10-15mins until lightly browned. Cool before adding the filling.

 A quick & easy homemade pastry...

...forms a lovely little pie crust.

For the filling Beat 1 tin of condensed milk, 1/2cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2 eggs yolk together until blended. Add to the baked pie shell.

Egg yolks, condensed milk & lemon juice ...

... make a luscious, tangy filling. 

For the meringueBeat two eggs whites until stiff peaks form. Very gradually add 4 Tablespoons of caster sugar and whisk until meringue is white and glossy. Spread meringue over the top of the pie's lemony filling. Bake in a slow oven (150C) until meringue is just beginning to brown. (My pie was ready after just 15mins in my oven.) 

Egg whites whipped with a little sugar for the glossy meringue ... 

 ... that tops off this sweet & citrus-y pie.

Ready to be sliced and shared.

With that lovely lemony filling waiting underneath that fluffy meringue, a layer of creamy yellow and glossy white, this is a pie that combines tangy with sweet in a mouth-watering way. I couldn't wait to try it! One bite and I remembered how wonderful a homemade lemon meringue pie tastes! Unfortunately though, there were no second helpings (probably just as well;) so I think I will have to make another again soon. Xx

Do you bake homemade pies?  What's your favourite?


Monday, 3 September 2018

My New-from-Old Skirt

On a weekend workshop, held at a local community centre, I learnt how to make a sewing pattern from an existing garment.  I chose to create a new skirt from one of my old favourites and I am really happy with how it turned out.

My 'New from Old' Skirt.

The skirt is really just a basic A-line. The original skirt had four panels sewn together at the front, back and sides. I changed this so that there are only two panels, a front and a back, so just two seams at the sides. The skirt also has a very lovely and long waistband tie. Sewing this really gave me some grief; firstly I found it difficult to pin on because it is so thin and secondly because the fabric of the skirt kept fraying and so it kept pulling away from the waistband. After a few "choice words" and a lot of unpicking, I decided the best solution was to make the waistband wider to make it easier to pin on and to ensure I secured the fabric of the main skirt when attaching it.

 Waistband & Invisible Zip.

Zipped up!

An invisible zip is sewn into one side of the skirt. I've never sewn in such a zip but, with the help of this You-tube tutorial, I learnt how to do it and sewed it in so that it is indeed invisible when zipped up. 

Fabric remnants for a skirt.
Look at all those toothy smiles!

I chose remnants of fabric, from the community centre's little haberdashery, to test out my pattern and sew up my skirt. I found a heavier curtaining fabric, with big firework flowers on twisting stems, and a very light fabric, printed with toothy smiles, for the long waistband trim and ties. When cut and folded into a thin strip, you can't see all those teeth!  Altogether, this cost me less than $15. I think they look nice together. 😊

A pattern I will be able to use again and again!

The best part of this course, besides a usable pattern and a very wearable "test run" skirt, was learning from a really patient teacher and spending time with  a small group of really lovely women who all like sewing too. Everyone made different garments and there were lots of encouraging words from everyone as we paraded and twirled our creations for one another. 

I hope to do some more craft workshops at the little community centre soon. It's a lovely space, in an old wooden house with a productive garden and chickens in the back yard too. It's nice that there are places like this in our city where people can meet one another and learn and make things together.

Do you have a community centre near where you live? 


Monday, 27 August 2018

A Night at the Local Show

Arriving just as the sun was going down, rugged up in our layers to keep out the Winter  cold, we enjoyed a night-time visit to our little local show in the valley.

Colourful, wide-mouthed clowns.

Sparkly balloons.

Side show alley rides.

Given the chill in the air, we soon made our way to the big bonfire, burning up the leftovers from the woodchopping competition earlier in the day. The heat from those crackling, golden flames was toasty warm and so we found a spot nearby for our barbecue tea. While we ate our burgers and sausages-on-bread, drips of tomato sauce on our chins, we joined in with the beat of the bush band playing their toe-tapping, sing-a-long tunes.

The Bush Band playing one of their upbeat songs.

I only had a moment to dash in to the pavilion, where I usually while away much of my show day, before it closed for the night and while hubby and son sourced dinner.  I wish I'd had more time as I love seeing what people are growing and baking and making!

Beautiful roses like this one. 

 Delicious cakes and biscuits and slices...
(I remember making this when I was a girl!)

Lots of jam and lots of ribbons!

 Juicy oranges for judging.

Pikelets ... of course!

After our dinner was done, it was around and around on the ferris wheel to look out over the showgrounds, lit up by the colourful lights of side-show alley.  

Around it goes!

Looking down from the top!

After our whirl through the sky, we joined with many others to await the fireworks. After a countdown from ten to an enthusiastic "Zero!" from all the children in the crowd,  those first fireworks whizzed up and into the sky. Popping and crackling and fizzing, they burst into showers of sparkles that lit up the dark sky of the valley.

Bursts of colourful sparkles.

A stroll around sideshow alley, a few whirling rides and an ice-cream (it seems our boy can eat ice-cream no matter the weather) later, we were back in the car and heading for the warmth of  home. While our night-time visit to the show cut short our time compared to other years, we still found much we enjoyed. 

Our little local show is something we look forward to, as a family, every single year. That's a tradition that I hope continues for many a year yet. 


Friday, 24 August 2018

A Posy of Nasturtiums

As I wandered along a little local street, the subtle fragrance of a familiar flower reached me on the breeze. At first, I couldn't quite place that delicate scent but then I saw masses and masses of brilliantly coloured nasturtiums. Spilling out from a garden bed, trailing down an embankment and covering part of a grassy 'footpath' with garlands of their flowers.  As there were so many, I picked a little posy and brought home some of their orange, yellow and red happiness to place upon our table.

A little posy of nasturtiums.

Such vibrant colours! 

Nasturtium in Latin means "nose twist"!

I haven't grown nasturtiums sucessfully but now I am wondering why ever not? They seemed to be thriving in the little street just a few over from ours. They would not only make me happy every time I saw them, the bees would be beside themselves too. There were many bees foraging among the nasturtiums I found, buzzing with abandon. I wonder if native bees like ours love them too?

The other thing about nasturtiums is that they are edible, their vibrant petals but also their leaves. I shared a slice of a quiche once, flavoured with peppery nasturtium leaves from the very garden where we ate, and it was delicious. I have read too, at the link above, that you can pickle the seeds and use them like capers. Clarissa, over at Simply by the Beach, posted a list of twenty good reasons to grow nasturtiums.  I think I've talked myself into it ... a niche for growing nasturtiums needs to be found!

It would be lovely to wander out and pick nasturtiums from our own garden. There'd be flowers for the table, food from the garden and their subtle scent wafting along on the breeze.


p.s. Finding these little flowers reminded me that I have a little stitching of nasturiums that I did years ago. It was to be part of a quilt I never got anywhere near finishing but I've since used many of the flowery embroidered squares to make re-purposed bags like this one. Perhaps I will make one of these little bags over the weekend ... a gift for the gardener in the little street just over from ours who grows nasturtiums!

Monday, 20 August 2018

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The national Botanic Gardens in Canberra are dedicated to our amazingly diverse native plants. Iconic, towering gum trees with their beautiful barks. A rainforest gully all shady, cool and green. Clusters of spiky shrubs where little birds play hide and seek among the leaves and sip nectar from the blossoms. Drifts of wildflowers that burst into colour and look so spectacular  against a deep blue sky ...

A very pretty Pimelea.

The ancient & fascinating Wollemi Pine.

The beautiful  bark of just one Eucalypt species.

 A Thorny Devil sculpture for a hot, dry desert garden.

The golden 'candles' of a Banksia.

The papery flowers of an everlasting daisy.

Trickling water near the rainforest gully.

Two little Eastern Yellow Robins!

An Eastern Spinebill too!

Clumps that form giant 'grassy-heads'.
(I'm sure there are faces hiding under all that hair!)

We wandered the paths of these gorgeous gardens for just a couple of hours but I could've spent all day meeting more and more of our beautiful native plants. So much variety and texture and colour. I will be keeping an eye out for a few that I can plant here at our place.


Friday, 17 August 2018

Beautiful Batemans Bay

On a cold but sunny Winter's day, we drove east from Canberra, to explore a little of the south coast. Two hours on and we found ourselves in beautiful Batemans Bay. Rugged up in our keep-out-the-cold jackets, jeans, socks and boots we found a quiet beach and walked from there over the shoreline rocks, discovering one tiny bay after another.  

Sunlight on the water.

Cloud cover momentarily hides the sun.

 A 'stream' of white quartz.

 A distinct feature of the rocks.

One such little bay, its shoreline edged with sea-rounded pebbles, was so serene and still. The only sound, when our feet weren't crunching over them, was the  'hush' of those pebbles as the water gently rose and fell over them. I could have sat there and listened to that sound for hours!

 Tiny bay edged with pebbles.

A sea-weathered trunk.

Rock pools edged in pink and filled with seaweeds.

 Seaweed strands of pale green 'beads'.

 Sunlight sparkles on a calm water beach.

We shed our jackets and our boots eventually, the warmth from the sun and the walk itself making its way through our layers.  We even dipped a toe or three into the clear and icy water.  Couldn't resist! There is something about the sea ... 

Have a lovely weekend wherever you may go exploring!