Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Touristy Tea Towel Cushion Cover

I have found some lovely linen bargains at the op-shop and antique shop of late. One such find were a few touristy tea towels; the kind made of starchy linen and brightly printed with flora, fauna and tourist trail maps.  One of the touristy tea towels I bought features a map of the area, in Far North Queensland, where I grew up and where my Mum still lives. As she has a birthday coming up very soon, I decided to make this tea towel into a cushion cover for her favourite patio chair.

A cushion cover made from a touristy tea towel.

I had to put "home" on the map first. Just one word, stitched in with red thread, but such a special word!

 The touristy tea towel I turned into a cushion cover.
(Sorry, the photo is a bit blurry!)

 "Home" is now on the map!

Once my stitching was done, I followed this really easy tutorial to transform this touristy tea towel into a little cushion cover. The trickiest part for me was putting the zip in. The last time I put a zip in, I was a teenager and my Mum helped me!! I am happy with how this turned out, it's secure and centred and I think the dark brown of the zip works well with the darker lines of the tea towel's pictures.

Sewing in the zip.

Finished and functional zipper!

Both sides of my touristy tea towel cushion are printed with images of home. There's bananas, sugarcane and pawpaws. Waterfalls and the Kuranda railway. The beautiful Cairns Birdwing Butterfly and a fishing boat. There is the somewhat controversial Captain James Cook statue in the corner too, some say his arm is raised to hold back the masses of tourists (who might buy souvenirs like a touristy tea towel) who visit tropical Cairns every year. 

 The back of the cushion cover.

A bit of a different birthday gift but one covered with pictures of the place where my Mum has lived her whole life.  I hope she likes it!


Monday, 29 January 2018

Two Salads for one Yoghurt Dressing

We eat salads year round here. In Winter, warm salads made with baked and nourishing veggies and in Summer, as it is here now, fresh and simple salads are a staple. With our Summer salads, I like dressings that are light and tangy. My favourite is a very simple yoghurt dressing that I use as an alternative to mayonnaise.

Light & tangy yoghurt dressing.

This dressing works really well with homemade potato salad and coleslaw too.  It takes just a few minutes to whip up. All you need for a small salad is 1/3 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt, 1 teaspoon of seeded mustard and 1/2 to a full teaspoon of raw honey. Salt and pepper too if you wish.  

Homemade coleslaw with yoghurt dressing.

Homemade Coleslaw:  Wash and finely shred cabbage. Chop spring onion, capsicum and celery. Grate carrot. Mix together with yoghurt dressing and chill.

Homemade potato salad with the same yoghurt dressing.

Simple Potato Salad:  Wash, chop and steam potatoes until tender but not too soft. (Leave the skin on for extra nutrition and fibre.) Rinse under cold water and drain. Mix through yoghurt dressing. Add some chipped spring onion or chopped chives if you have some. Chill until ready to serve. 

On warm Summer evenings, homemade salads made with a tangy and refreshing dressing like this one are perfect  for lazy dinners and barbecues. What's your favourite Summer salad or dressing?


Friday, 26 January 2018

Unfinished Blue Birds & Other Old Linens

In a wicker basket, just inside the entrance of a little antique shop, a flash of beautiful blue caught my eye. Folded neatly and unfinished, a pair of bluebirds forming on soft and creamy  linen. Oh, my!  For just a few dollars I brought it home along with a few other finds...

Beautiful, unfinished bluebirds & two cross-stitched doilies.

I would love to find matching threads and finish these beautiful blue birds. Originally part of a Semco traced-linen embroidery kit, the creamy vintage linen is so soft and light. It's gorgeous! Once I've finished the stitching, I'd like to turn what would've been an afternoon tea cloth into something special. Something where these beautiful bluebirds take flight. Any ideas?

Light flowery fabric with that creamy bluebirds linen.

The tied bundle of floaty and flowery fabric cost me just $2 and is perfect for sewing into a Strata top of my own for Autumn. I think it will drape beautifully! (My copy of the Strata top pattern by Meg McElwee came in the special "Make" edition of Taproot magazine that I treated myself to for Christmas. So much handmade goodness inside!) *I am not sponsored to say that, I just love leafing through the pages and finding so much inspiration.*

Lovely linen tea towels.

At a little op-shop, just a short stroll from the antique shop, I found these three soft and stripy linen tea towels. I love their colours! Together with the cross-stitched doilies in the first photo, I plan on using them in little sewing projects. I want to make cushion covers out of the two matching tea towels. (This is the tutorial I'll be following.) The other tea towel and a doily will be lovely sewn up into a pretty drawstring bag like the ones that Jude Van Heel makes and shared the instructions for in a recent edition of Grassroots magazine (No. 244 Dec/Jan 2017/18).  You can see one of her pretty bags here on one of her Fairy Wren Cottage Pinterest boards. The other little doily will look very sweet decorating a drawstring bags, like this one, that I like to make from repurposed  flour bags. It seems I have some making to do! 

I love how little serendipitous finds, like these old linens and fabrics, can spark a desire to create new and purposeful things from something old or worn or discarded. I'm sure I can find some time, over this upcoming long weekend, to get started on my little projects. I hope you have something lovely planned for your weekend too.


Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Summery Bean Salad

We are currently harvesting crispy young beans by the handful from our garden. They are so fresh and crunchy! I always aim to use something from our garden in the meals I make so I thought a light and Summery bean salad would be a beautiful way to eat our homegrown beans.

Beautiful fresh beans from our garden.

The recipe I was inspired by, for Green Bean & Almond Salad, comes from Georgia Harding who develops nutritious and delicious recipes over on her blog, Well Nourished.  I decided my buttery yellow beans would be just as lovely as green beans and that the haloumi cheese I did have would be just a nice as the feta I didn't have.  This salad was so good! Just the thing for homegrown beans picked on a Summer morning.

For exact quantities of ingredients, you can click on the link above to Georgia's recipe. I just added amounts I felt worked with the handfuls of beans I had.  After all, I don't think there's such a thing as too much haloumi (not if you love cheese like I do!) 😉

Summery Bean Salad

Top & tail your fresh beans. Steam them lightly so they remain crisp.
(Plunge into icy water to stop them cooking!)

Toast slivered almonds in a dry fry pan.

Fry some little cubes of haloumi cheese until golden.

Mix ingredients together in a bowl with handfuls of dark green baby spinach.
Pour over dressing before serving & toss until evenly coated.

For the dressing Whisk together 2Tablespoons olive oil, 1Tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, sea salt and pepper. 

Beans are one of my favourites in the veggie patch. I love snacking on them just as they are (many don't make it upstairs to the kitchen) but this salad is so delicious that I'll need to make sure I leave enough beans to make it at least once more before our Summer ends.


Friday, 19 January 2018

Chocolate Chip & Coconut Cookies

The chocolate chip cookies I favour the most are those made with nuts.  (I'm sure it's just me but they seem a little healthier if there's a macadamia or a walnut in the biscuit somewhere!) I can't bake nutty biscuits for my son's school lunchbox though because his school, along with many others these days, is a nut-free zone.  As we are preparing to go back to school next week, school baking for the freezer is underway. So, these simple chocolate chip & coconut cookies are a delicious alternative for an occasional lunchbox treat. 


The recipe that I tinkered with is one I came across on the Kidspot website.  The biscuit dough is made in the typical way with the creaming of the butter and sugar, beating in of eggs and the addition of the dry ingredients. I changed the recipe by using a blend of white and wholemeal spelt flours, reducing the sugar and substituting coconut sugar for brown sugar. As always, I used dark chocolate chips because they are our favourites but any chocolate-y chips will do!  Here's how they came together in my kitchen:

Chocolate Chip & Coconut Cookies

125g softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup white spelt flour
1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2cup dark chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to moderate 180C.  Line biscuit trays.

2.  Cream butter, sugar and vanilla with a mixer until pale and fluffy.

3.   Add eggs, one at a time. Mix each egg in well.

4.   Add flours, baking powder, coconut and chocolate chips. 

5.  Mix well until thoroughly combined in a soft dough.

6.  Place tablespoons of mixture onto lined biscuit trays.

7.  Bake until just golden.  Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.

Ssh!  Scrumptious!

As soon as they are cool enough, pour yourself an icy cold glass of milk or make yourself a cup of tea and sample one of your freshly-baked cookies before anyone else discovers them!


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

January's Crafting: Embroidery in a Hoop

On a scrap of worn linen, that I cut from a vintage tea towel, I have been stitching something special ...

Wise words stitched on linen.

This beautifully simple design, stitched within its own embroidery hoop frame, comes from Cheri Lehnow. Scrolling through her blog, tinkerwiththis, is a feast of handmade goodness! I found the pattern and easy-to-follow instructions, as a digital download in her Etsy shop, for less than AUD$5. 

I had most of the other materials here at home and just needed to buy the pearl cotton as I have not used this before to stitch with. I adored the calm colours Cheri stitched her "Be Still" embroidery in but I chose colours that I feel my friend would love and that would work well on the creamy old linen background.

Backstitches and tiny french knots.

This little project, a January birthday gift for a close friend, is worked in just two stitches. Backstitch, which I'm confident with, and little french knots, which I am learning to perfect. (I watched this short YouTube tutorial to remind myself ... again ... of the way to form a french knot.) I chose to stitch a felt circle backing, to finish off my hooped embroidery and to hide the back of my stitching. I followed this great tutorial over at the Spruce, as I learned how to do this. This felt backing neatened up my little handmade gift beautifully. 

Stitching on a felt circle for the backing.

Now that the front and the back are finished, all that's needed is a ribbon to make a loop for hanging on the wall, some gentle wrapping and a little tag with a heartfelt message for the happiest birthday. 💗 🎂 

A little tag saved from a magazine completes my gift.

I hope my dear friend will breathe in deeply whenever she sees these quieting words that I stitched with love for her.  Xxx


Monday, 15 January 2018

On the Road to Rosewood

Rosewood is a little rural town to the west of the city where I live.  The drive out there took us along city streets, busy highways and past urban sprawl. Beyond that, and much closer to town, the country "opened up" and the wide open land, with its grassy paddocks and tall gums, stretched to the horizon under the Summer's clear blue sky.

Open country outside Rosewood.

This historic township derives its name from the beautiful trees, that grew and were harvested for timber, in an extensive forest known as the Rosewood Scrub. That scrub was progressively cleared to make way for farming land from the 1860s. A railway line then opened up the area more. Today, Rosewood station is the "end of the line" for the electric trains that run from Brisbane west towards Toowoomba. Coal mining began in the late 1870s and the township grew. This mining became one of the town's main industries. The impact of mining, in the huge cuts to the landscape, is evident along the road to Rosewood. 

The impact of mining on the landscape outside of town.

A train from the city rolls into town.

Just over the railway line and running right through town is the main street. (John Street) Many characteristic old timber buildings with timber posts and awnings remain from yesteryear. Like many Australian country towns, Rosewood has more than one pub! This photo is of the Rosewood Hotel:

The original Rosewood Hotel burnt down in 1914. 
It is said a ghost/s took up residence when it was rebuilt 😉.

We took a stroll along the main street and discovered the Cobb & Co. Heritage Park:

 Penny Farthing seats.

A replica Cobb & Co coach.
(It was impossible to photograph without reflections! 
This link takes you to a clearer image that you can click on to enlarge.)

A Queensland Bottle Tree and the old police lock-up!

Over on Matthew Street, is Rosewood's magnificent St. Brigid's Catholic Church. This beautiful old timber church, listed on Queensland's Heritage Register, was opened in 1910. It is Queensland's largest timber church. We did not venture in but I so wish we had to see the craftsmanship, the pressed metal ceiling and the frescoes inside this special church.  

St. Brigid's Catholic Church.

A beautiful stained glass window.

One side of this historic church.

There are other heritage buildings and old timber homes in Rosewood that we didn't have time to see on this trip.  A great reason to return one day! 

An old fencepost in a paddock outside Rosewood.

Many little towns like Rosewood are dotted between the west-of-Brisbane cities of Ipswich  and Toowoomba. I think I'd like to spend a day exploring a few more of them for it's nice to leave the city behind for a while!



Monday, 8 January 2018

Rustic Savoury Tart

Sometimes, I come across real "gems" in the cookbooks I borrow from my local library. This simple and delicious savoury tart is one such happy find. I've copied out the recipe to add to my collection so I can make it again and again. Yes, it was that good!


The recipe for this rustic tart was contributed by Cherie Bevan and Tass Tauroa to join those from other talented bakers in The Great Australian Baking Book edited by Greenwood, Harper and Hobday. There are so many gorgeous baked goods in the photos of this book. I'm sure I caught drifts of the tantalising smell of baked goodness wafting from the pages!

A great cookbook from my local library. 

The shell of this scrumptious tart is formed with pizza dough and the filling is a meat-free mix of  fresh ricotta,  roasted pumpkin, spinach and, in my tart, leeks. The recipe includes instructions for the pizza dough but I just used my usual pizza dough recipe. Instead of the caramelised onion of the original recipe, I harvested and sauteed leeks from my garden  - because leeks I have in abundance and onions I have none. I halved the quantities for my little family and that made enough for leftovers the next day. Here's how this tart came together in my kitchen:

Make single quantity of your usual pizza dough.

Combine fresh ricotta,  roast pumpkin, sauteed spinach and leeks  & grated parmesan.
Mix through an egg & season with salt and pepper.

Spread mixture over your pizza base.
Leave a generous border of dough around the edge.

Fold the edges of the pizza dough up to form a ruffled edge.

Bake until golden brown. 
Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

A piece of this delicious tart, served with salad, makes for a lovely meal. Leftovers can be eaten the next day, if there are any that is.

A slice of scrumptious savoury tart.

Slices of this tart would make perfect picnic fare too. Just imagine tucking into a pumpkin-y piece, with your legs stretched out on an old blanket in the shade of a tall gum on a riverbank. Wouldn't get much better than that, would it?


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

In the Garden While We Were Away

Some years, as we drive the familiar roads home from holiday, the haze out towards the mountain range and the brown, dry grass along roads and footpaths, signals the lack of rain since we've been gone. I know the garden will be parched and dry when we arrive home and that there won't be much to harvest. Happily this year, the grass along the roadsides and on verges is lush and green and so is my garden. 💚

After a couple of weeks of storms and rain, the veggies have all thrived. The cherry tomatoes and the cucumbers are just waiting to be tossed into salads. Although the leaves of the celery are the favoured fare of  bright green grasshoppers (clearly they heard no-one was home so decided to move in) the stalks are just fine.  Little golden beets, planted in a grow bag, are beginning to form and so are the butter beans. A rampant pumpkin vine has filled in the top corner around the bird bath. Such abundant growth!

 The top of a tiny golden beet.

Little butter beans.

A fresh & crunchy cucumber.

Un-munched celery stalks.

A cluster of little cherry tomatoes.

Lots of lettuce for salads.

Our enthusiastic pumpkin vine.

It was wonderful coming home to fresh veg in the garden ready to be picked and eaten. Such a contrast to those years when we've arrived home after little or no rain. The liquid gold from the sky makes such a difference in the garden!

What's growing in your garden at the moment?

Monday, 1 January 2018

Handmade, Homemade & Homegrown

Looking back over the past couple of years, and moving forward into this brand new one, my priorities in living a simpler and more sustainable life with my little family remain the same.  If I had to name the biggest change I've made it would be that much more is handmade, homemade and homegrown here now.  The mass produced has far less appeal these days. Making and growing things at home or sourcing them as locally as possible out in my community is an important part of our simpler life. 

One of my knitted washcloths in a rope basket with soap made by a local crafter.

A little apple taking shape on a re-purposed bag.  
(Motif by Melissa Wastney.)

Since beginning to simplify, I have embraced the handmade through knitting, stitching and sewing myself and through supporting those talented folk (with my $) who live in our community too. My sewing skills have improved. I've made a dress, a couple of tops and a skirt! My next project is to sew a pair of cushion covers from two touristy linen tea towels I picked up at an op-shop. They will be a birthday gift for my Mum. (Ssh!) I have also done some simple embroidery and, in the coming year, I want to learn and practise some new stitches. I also want to learn how to sew in a zip!

A delicious homemade savoury tart for dinner.
(Leftovers for lunch the next day too!)

A sweet & simple strawberry cheesecake for dessert.
(Don't ask me where that first slice went!)

Homemade meals have always graced our dinner table but now there are a lot more basic ingredients in our pantry and a lot more baking coming from our oven. That just-baked smell that wafts from a freshly-made batch of biscuits or a nourishing pie gets tummies rumbling round here! I am still to master the art of making bread though. While I can make simple focaccias and pizza dough, I'm a long way from a loaf of bread that isn't as hard as  a brick! So, this year I hope to learn how to make edible loaves of bread. (I think I will need some help!)

A recent harvest from our garden. Salad days!

Homegrown blueberries ripening on the bushes I grow in pots.

Many of the meals we make include some homegrown produce picked from just outside our back door. We don't have a huge veggie patch but, on our ordinary suburban block, we can grow some of our own food. At different times of the year, there is an abundance of produce in our patch and at other times it may only be a bunch of herbs that I can harvest. This year, I want to keep cutting down on the inputs we have to buy in for the garden. The lemongrass and Canna Lily that I planted  last year for mulch are growing well now so we'll  lay that down over the soil when I get round to chopping and dropping it. I want to set up another worm farm, the extra one my generous neighbour gave me in return for some homegrown veg. I'd like to plant a lemon tree! My garden is a source of joy, fascination, contentment and nourishment in my life.  I want to keep on growing food because it makes me happy. 🙂

A knitting project and a good book keep me company at the park.

If I had to name the most important ingredient that has allowed us to do so much more here for ourselves, it would be time.  Time to sit and knit a while. Time to mix and blend and bake. Time to tend the garden and turn the compost. Time to think about where "things" come from and what happens with them when they break or are no longer of use. Time to consider alternatives. Time to say "G'day" to our neighbours. Time to be together and to really appreciate home. 

I hope you will have time this coming year to spend on something important to you. 

Happy New Year!