Tuesday, July 22, 2014

some things I bought at THE sale

This post is 100% boastful, showing some lovely things I bought at the Cottage Industry "rumbleinthejumble" studio sale. As I noted on Instagram, I did lose my mind and spend all my money, and was left scrabbling for 50 cent pieces in order to pay for everything!

Here's the thing: I actually don't buy anything much except food right now so I let myself go crazy. I'm totally bored by shopping and can't do it much - even op-shops are done in small doses - so this was a novelty.  I can't show all the stuff I bought as some of it was bought with future gift-giving in mind.


Exhibit A above is detail from a new skirt: the print is Pyrex bowls and casseroles and what looks like Kathie Winkle cups. Daughter actually nabbed this for me: at the time I was totally distracted scrabbling in two big boxes of doilies. I bought a handful and now will finish my tablecloth off with them.

S did very well too, as well as a t-shirt, a skirt and a dress she fell in love with the colour of these Afghans:


We also collected a few bundles of fabric: I went for the greens, and there is enough to make summer skirts from two of the remnants; S went for the kitchen print and the purpley/green one. These photos were taken in the fog this morning so may be a bit dark.

just a little piece of that circle pattern but I loved it. My op-shop tablecloth in background, not a sale purchase
I haven't photographed everything. There are doilies, and Christmas stockings with doilies decorating them, and a bag of very cute owl and squirrel decorations.

After the sale we went to a birthday party. I thought you might like to see the birthday cheesecake decorated with fruit, in N's inimitable artistic style:

Kitty Tintookie not eating a cherry that fell off


I am taking a few days off work. It is really nice to be doing things like making ANZAC biscuits at 11 in the morning and reading in the afternoon.  S went back to University today after deferring for a semester. After being so sick in December there were "complications"  and the doctor deemed it unwise to go back in March. J is off to school ski camp next week and B is changing jobs! This is going to be a long and drawn out process and won't happen til next year but it will certainly be a change of pace for him after 30 years in a very tough industry that takes no prisoners. Beginning are good times, as Dodie Smith once wrote.

Friday, July 18, 2014

friday books: old Dodie and new Cormoran Strike

I finally finished reading The new moon with the old, a Dodie Smith novel first published in 1963.

To be perfectly honest, I liked it LESS the more of it I read. It started off well, but by the time I got to the section about the third ( of four) main characters, I'd lost interest and was wanting to wind it up.

The premise is that a wealthy businessman employs a secretary/housekeeper to work for him and his adult children at their large country house. On the day she (Jane) starts work, Rupert - the father - does a runner from his business: he's gambled funds and is in trouble with the law. So Jane and the four children are left with a draughty house, two servants and no income to live on. The story tells of each of the four children going out in the world to seek their fortune. As none of them actually have any skills to speak of, what they end up doing is pretty preposterous and a bit too convoluted to go into too much here.  An example: one of the girls gets a job reading to an old man who is revealed to be a deposed king from an ex-principality and she has an affair with his grandson (!) and becomes his "kept woman".

It's an odd book in that there is this total "rags to riches" fairytale Cinderella element, but it's also a bit sexy - young people have  inappropriate relationships all over the place, and one young man hopes not be be mistaken as "willowy", which believe it or not is a euphemism for being gay. It's got a real 1930s "Blithe spirit" / drawing room comedy sort of feel, but was written thirty years later which is distinctly odd.

If you're determined to read every book Dodie Smith every wrote, give it a try, otherwise, don't bother.


I'm a hundred pages into  Robert Galbraith/ J K Rowling's second detective novel, The silkworm.
This continues the adventures of  Rowling's new creation, private detective, Cormoran Strike.

She write so engagingly, it's a pleasure to get involved in the plot and the character's lives. They're all pretty black and white: so we almost hiss the villains when they come onto the page and applaud the hero (Cormoran and his faithful secretary Robin) when they triumph. What I love is the London setting, it - like in the novels of Ben Aaronovitch - is a character in itself. The places are so familiar.

I loved Cormoran meeting a contact in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese pub, where they knew they wouldn't be seen because everyone avoids because they thinks it's full of tourists. I went there on my first trip to the UK nearly 30 years ago when it was full of tourists like me. Gave me a lovely little recollection of a lunch from so long ago.  Early days but I am enjoying this book very much. If you haven't read the first Strike book, The cuckoo's calling, you would still enjoy this as a stand-alone detective novel.


Busy weekend ahead: working all day tomorrow, and there is Miss Pen Pen's sale and a 30th birthday party on Sunday. The young lady in the kitty dress ( photo from 1986) is my cousin and S and I are going to a little soiree for her.

 I have next week off work! Pretty happy about it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Greetings from the house of coughing

Trying to be disciplined and write here on Tuesdays and Fridays, am struggling today as B coughed and moaned all night ( not his fault that he's sick and I have insomnia) and I hardly slept. I dragged into work for my desk shift and am going back to bed as soon as I've written this post. The slight lurgy that has been dogging me for a week or more is still hanging around making me feel sub-par.

The cold winter continues and I continue to be a hermit: all weekend we sit in front of the fire and I also cook up a storm! Last weekend I made a prune and pear flan which leaked custard all over the oven and was one of those recipe fails in terms of timing, amount and method. Grrr. Ended up with 2 baked custards as well as the leaky flan. Tasted great but not worth the annoyance factor. As B said, that would put you into a pressure test - that was a Masterchef joke. I also made jam donut muffins and some fabulous Rachel Khoo Alsatian meatballs in a rich sauce. No not made from dogs, but from the Alsace region in France. In my head of course I am in France because of the constant tour watching and Tour Talk.

The moon must be in Mercury or something because there are lots of niggling unresolved things that need attention. B's car died and can't be saved without spending  multiple thousands of dollars so we are down a vehicle. J is sick also, but valiantly back at school. S goes back to uni next week after a semester off and I am having next week off work. 

Here's a photo of the Alsatian meatballs, now I really need to fade off into my bed.

Friday, July 11, 2014

a slow read week

Still reading Dodie Smith: it's taking forever because of late night tv watching of the Tour de France instead of reading for half an hour or more before I go to sleep. I'm pretty close to finishing, only about 40 pages to go. It's a strange sort of book: nowhere near as enjoyable as I capture the castle: very light, but with some odd sexy undertones that leave this reader a bit non-plussed. More on this next week when I will definitely be done with it.


The Tour! Just enjoying it so much, there is something very mesmerising about this race and the whole endurance aspect. Cycling 190 kilometres in a day and then getting up the next day and doing it again, and this goes on for 3 weeks. Every year I get a little crazy and start cooking French food while the Tour is on. Last week it was the chocolate lava cakes; tonight I'm making a pear and prune flan from Gabriel Gate's Tour cookbook.


S has been away this week, and as J has the most active social life of any of us, he has been constantly out (school holidays) and on  a few nights it has been just dinner for two. After being parents for over 20 years this is pretty strange and quite a novelty. When kids are small the family life thing is so all-consuming it's hard to remember a time when it was just two people in the house ( and it was just two of us for eight years BK, before kids) then in what seems a blink of of an eye we are back to where we began. It's an interesting time, seeing this change in our family. Quite a few of our friends are at the same stage. Some long term relationships around us have ended during the last year, which has changed the dynamics of some friendships. This middle-aged thing can be as difficult to manage as being a teenager.


Melbourne has been so cold. Today I got out into the garden to weed and finish pruning the roses. The sun was out and it was pretty invigorating! All the trees are bare except the willow; there are more bulbs pushing through.  It looks very stripped back and austere. I love looking at the sleeping garden.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

chocolate lava cakes and tour time

I made some little chocolate lava cakes from Rachel Khoo's book The little Paris kitchen.
They are like chocolate self-saucing puddings but with the sauce INSIDE the cake.
They were surprisingly easy to make: the only drawback was that I seemed to use a lot of bowls. I am of the "bung everything into a bowl, mix and bake" school, so this was a bit more work, but worth it.

Here's Rachel Khoo. I have a girl crush on her:

Here's her recipe for Moelleux au chocolat ( chocolate lava cake) in my own words.

First, I halved her recipe. The version I made gave me 5 little cakes, which were baked in 125ml ramekins. They were about the size of a cup cake, so: perfect. Not too big, not too small.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Grab 3 bowls.

In bowl 1: put 85g dark chocolate, chopped finely and 85g butter, cut into small cubes.
In bowl 2: put 85g brown sugar  and 42g plain flour and mix together.
In bowl 3: break 3 eggs into it and beat them.

Now get the ramekins and grease them with  extra butter, and dust them with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess.

Melt the butter and chocolate very gently, in the microwave or in a glass dish over a saucepan of boiling water. Let it cool a little bit, then mix the eggs in.  Last, mix in the flour and sugar mixture.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins and place on an oven tray. Refrigerate for AT LEAST one hour. This means the mix is chilled well and the centres stay gooey in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes: the centres should be wet when tested with a skewer, and the outside should be cooked. Take out of the oven, let them sit for two minutes, then turn out onto serving plates. Serve with ice cream and go straight to heaven.

(slightly awful blurred ipad photos. Could not be arsed "styling" my food for photo ops.)


In other news the Tour de France has started: in fact it has been the Tour of England for the last 3 days and they start in France tonight. Cannot believe the millions lining the roads in the UK: is there not an English road race? Also cannot believe the morons ( this happens in France too) getting in the way of the cyclists to take photos or worse, a selfie. Because risking your own life and that of a cyclist is worth it to put a braggy photo on Facey or IG? Do they not realise these men are travelling as fast as a car?

Of course seeing lovely scenery in the north of England makes me wanty for another trip there. I would like to go to York again.

The tour is not televised until 10.30 p.m which is late for middle-aged me, so last night J plugged the laptop into the television and we watched the live stream from 9.00 p.m. I can highly recommend this if you are a wimp like me.

Friday, July 4, 2014

some Friday books and a little head cold

I have a cold: it's pretty mild ( that yearly flu injection must count for something) and apart from a gluey throat my main symptom seems to be feeling drained and tired by the slightest thing. So no walking or gardening - it's too cold to be outside for long, anyway.

One of the kids has a new Special Friend coming over for dinner tonight so I really should be tackling the piles of clean washing covering the floor and peeling apples for a crumble but I'll just quickly write this post instead.

I'm about a third of the way through Dodie Smith's The new moon with the old. It's an old fashioned tale of a family fallen on hard times and the young adults need to go out into the world to seek their fortunes. There's a bit of an I capture the castle feeling to it; it also reminds me a bit of the novels of Noel Streatfield. It was written in 1963, but apart from the mention of a television in could just as easily be set in the 30s or 40s. It's quite strange in some ways....I'm enjoying it as a really light piece of fluffy reading - a bit preposterous - but I'll keep going. Years and years ago I attempted to track down all Dodie's books and read them, so I may have read this before but have no recollection of it . A hundred and one dalmations and I capture the castle are two of the most loved books from my childhood/teenage years so I wanted to read the others, too. 

I need to wrap it up quickly because I'm longing to start Robert Galbraith/ J K Rowling's new detective novel, The silkworm.  Dozens of reserves on it so I need to make it a priority.

I also have lovely Poh Ling Yeow's new  cookbook to look at, and a seed catalogue from Diggers to moon over and plan the spring garden.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

one july

The year is half over as of today and we are in the very depths of winter.

It's REALLY cold out there. J and I just had a flying visit to the pharmacy and to buy pumpkin for tonight's soup: at 3.30 p.m. people had their headlights on, it is so dark. S is making the soup right now and the warm house smells of the cumin and coriander she puts in it. She makes the best pumpkin soup and B makes the best pizza. It's good to be able to hand over the cooking of those two items to the others!

I ventured out into the back garden earlier to see what was going on. Not much: the daffodils have gone into shock and no more have opened. There are  just a few autumn leaves hanging around.
 I started pruning the roses last weekend but the cold drove me back inside and Mary Rose and Lorraine Lee had some buds that I couldn't bear to snip off. Mary is out; Lorraine can have another week before pruning.

I agonise about the pruning every time I do it but I am pretty strict : they all get a really heavy haircut. Blue Moon only produced a handful of flowers this year so might get culled.... all the others have the same environment/conditions/feeding and did well so I don't know what the story is on that one. I remember reading Vita Sackville-West talking about gardening saying gardens are not intensive care clinics and she culled sickly things quite easily. ( I love this attitude).


I've scored a few op-shop gems recently so thought I would share them here. Lately I've been filling a bag every day for charity so the urge to purge rather than shop has been at the forefront (must be the effect of the Tiny House blogs I'm reading). Despite this I did have a nice time last week visiting a few of my favourite haunts.

fabulous (fake) black Glomesh bag!

silk scarf made in Britain, Monet poppy field print

moss stitch cardigan

green tablecloth and doily ( doily to use, not for the tablecloth)

 J had his wisdom teeth out yesterday! He had a much, much easier time than his poor sister eighteen months ago: his were simple, just two taken out in the chair, not the hospital and no after effects.
I wish someone who knows these things could explain to me why our children  both grew wisdom teeth as neither their father and I have ever had a wisdom tooth in our heads? This enquiring mind wants to know.


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