Saturday, August 25, 2012

Things My Kid Says

Having moved past the {sometimes infuriating} why phase with Judah, we are now wallowing in the middle of complicated question time, an ever-changing, always surprising string of quite random questions that have absolutely nothing to do with whatever we happen to be doing at the time, but none-the-less, require an immediate and awesome answer.
I find myself faced with an odd question that I’m utterly unprepared for, almost on a daily basis; and he’ll watch me suspiciously – like he can see that I’ve never, ever, ever thought about some of the things he’ll ask - and my crown of the last couple of years (the all-knowing, all-seeing gig) slips noticeably.

I have, of course, sent him to get answers from Daddy when completely stumped. 
I’ve also managed to wiggle my way out of very complicated or sensitive questions by offering marshmallows, a cup of juice or a tickly-hug. But I know this can’t last forever, and that I’m going to have to be grown up, and face up to his questions (no matter how strange or intricate) with real answers. Oh dear.

Here are some recent gems:

“Mum, when you die and are dead forever, why do you have to be put in the ground? Why can’t you just be at home with your Mum and Dad?”

“If the world spins around, why don’t we fall over and get dizzy?”

 “What will happen if I touch fire?”

“Why did the dinosaurs eat eachother? If I eat a boy will I be as big as a dinosaur?”

“Where do the stars go when the sun is here in the morning?”

“If I lived in your tummy when I was a baby, can other things live in there too?”

Do you have an inquisitive child? What’s the trickiest question they’ve ever asked of you?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

That Once-Weedy Garden

So, for the last few weeks, I’ve literally been collecting buckets of sugar snap peas from our kitchen garden. It’s a magic pudding of sorts – the more I pick, the more it replenishes, and the more we have to store, or eat, or give away to grandparents and friends. I’ve sent the kids outside when they’re hungry, suggesting that there’s more than enough growing in the garden for them to pick and enjoy as often as they’d like; I love watching them happily pluck a new pea from it’s creeping vine, and munch on the just picked sweetness of the pod. 

During the winter, things grew slowly and seemed to take forever to break through the surface. But this week, I’ve see the bulbous heads of beetroot and carrot tops pushing through the soil and straw; have spied a tiny lone heirloom tomato growing in amongst a bloom of yellow buds; I’ve tasted our celery, which is strong and vibrant, even if it’s not upright (perhaps I should have gathered the long stalks together when they were still supple and tied them with something soft?); and it seems like the broccoli and cauliflower are doubling in size every night. There are rouge daisies, planted nearly three years ago, but pulled out when they became too wild, popping up in quite random places – next to coriander, in amongst the Italian parsley, or in a patch that only ever grew root vegetables, and I love seeing their small sunny heads craning towards the morning sun. And the natives are all in bloom – we have quick-winged colourful flocks feasting on the new flowers and nectar, and the constant hum of local bees in the cool of the morning. 

I love the beginning of spring; doesn’t everything just look brighter, greener, and smell sweeter at the change of season?


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It’s ambitious

I have this idea to make a play market stall for Lou for her third birthday in October. The kids have been obsessed with playing shops for the last couple of months; it currently consists of long wooden blocks end-to-end on the floor, with all their treasures lined up in a haphazard way, and a fist full of paper money that has to be made new every game (because old hand-drawn money just won’t do).
But I’ve been dreaming of a market stand with a lemon-striped awning; of wooden boxes brimming with lovingly handmade cakes, tarts and French bread, super-soft handmade felt vegetables and baskets of favourite fruits; of wooden bottles of milk and cheese, and a wooden cash register filled with bright fabric money and little wooden coins; and of happy kids trading and making and pretending to sample, small wicker baskets tucked under their arms.

I’m trying to make as much of the play produce as I can from the lovely soft wool felt that we use for all of our tarts and cakes, and I’ve been scouring the internet for additional wooden stock to bulk it out a bit. I have to admit, it’s a mammoth task when coupled with market prep and custom orders; but I’ve been lucky enough to nab a set of wooden dairy and meat items, and have been slowly sewing corn cobs, carrots, apples and strawberries, the first few on the list, late at night in front of the tele.


There’s also another more sentimental reason why I’m so keen to see this project come to fruition: when your handmade life becomes a business, there’s a whole lot of making of gorgeous things, and not a lot of playing with the end result. My little ones have shared me with the sewing machine, and learnt that a lot of the things that mama makes goes to other children; I think it’s the reason why this plan has taken root in my heart. They’ve been so very patient with me.

I’ll keep you posted as it comes together…


Ps. Wooden Apples from Applenamos; Lettuce from Pugglehollow; Play Money from Ryhthm of the Home; Wooden Produce found at Emils; and Wooden Eggs from Applenamos.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Grinding the wheels into motion

The only bad thing about a hiatus is the fact that it’s so darn tricky to get moving again. Both Kim and I have had projects half done or attempted for the last two weeks; for me, the call of the gorgeousness of the day means more time in the garden, or with my kids for long afternoon plays at the park; I’ve had tea parties, pillow fights, made cubby houses out of sheets, and played with cars and trucks in mud; we’ve been camping, watched a sunrise (above), roasted marshmallows on an open fire, swum in the cold sea, and watched movies with hot buttered popcorn. And I’ve regularly abandoned all sewing in favour of play with my little ones.

So bad. But a whole lot of fun, too.

But, as we start to look into spring and summer markets, the need to be a grown-up again and to search out my currently hibernating motivation increases; and I think the best way to get fired up about the busiest time of the year is to experiment with new ideas, and to start booking in to the loveliest markets in Brisbane (nothing like a deadline to get things moving along, huh?)!

How do you find motivation? What inspires you to get going again?


Monday, July 9, 2012

The small dress

There was a time, perhaps one or two generations ago, that making your own clothes, or clothes for your children, was the thing to do. Perhaps done out of necessity or because of increasingly tight budgets, shorts were cut, dresses were stitched, frills were added, and family photos showing off small smiling children with brand new homemade clothes were taken. You may have had the same family photo – I know we did (against a fake backdrop of an autumn forest in all its yellow, gold and red glory, me in a beautiful handmade dress, beribboned and grinning into the camera).

I remember my mama sewing at night to make us clothes. She used small, finger like lengths of dressmakers’ chalk that was cold to the touch, and held pins between her lips as she folded and tacked and marked and fastened the long lengths of fabric. The dresses she made Kim and I almost always matched; and I remember how the fabric felt when we tried on our almost-done dress for the first time – slightly stiff from not being washed, but oh-so-lovely to spin around in.

Last week, my mama gave me two little dresses that I used to wear as a girl. They had the customary frills and bows and lace and ruffles, are impossibly cute and very sweetly vintage in appearance. I remember her making them; and I remember the way that the lace hem tickled my legs as I walked. And goodness, didn’t it just light a fire! I had Lyra up on a stool the next morning, trying on these little pieces of tangible memory, and measuring out just how I would have to adjust the pattern of the dresses in order to make new ones. I love the idea of my Lyra-Lou having a similar childhood memory, perhaps when she’s grown and gone with babes of her own – of her mama at the sewing machine, pattern pieces and long lengths of material fastened together with multicoloured berry pins, and the feel of a new, made-just-for-me dress.

Do you remember your mother (or father, aunt or grandmother) making clothes for you?


Ps. My apologies for the impersonal images of late; my camera has gone missing. I know it’s somewhere in the house, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it has been spied as treasure and hidden away by one of the kids…

Image from here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning how to cook

Picture from here.

I admit it: there have been times in the past where I have sneakily passed off a fake curry as my own. You know, the empty-the-bottle-and-stir-it-in kind, that doesn’t involve any roasting or measuring or waiting and waiting. Look, if they didn’t ask, I didn’t say; and all that mattered is that we were eating delicious things, right?

In the last year, the need to be taught properly has taken up residence in my heart; and so over the summer, I bought a recipe book from renowned Asian cook, Charmaine Solomon, with the resolve that I was actually going to learn how to make a curry the right way, and not cheat my way through Indian cookery forever. My Mum actually owned an earlier edition when she was my age, and I remember her using it in much the same way. Her copy is filled with little annotations and small changes to the recipes to suit her tastes, scraps of paper with hurried recipes and abbreviated measurements, and pages stained with curry splatters or yellowed with turmeric. It was well used, and well loved.

After the necessary gathering of spices and some basic implements, my adventures in real Indian cookery began; and so far, it’s been a delicious resolution.

This is what I have learnt:

  1. The smell of onions, garlic and ginger slowly turning golden in a pot on the stove is a great memory starter; every curry I’ve begun in the last few weeks has reminded me so much of my grandmother Renee, who always wore an apron, made her curries in tall metal pots, stirred with long handled wooden spoons, and hummed made-up tunes as she mixed and added and tasted and waited. My spice cupboard smells like her kitchen too, which is comforting and bittersweet and delightful, all at once.
  2. It’s fun using new ingredients, like the little knubs of fenugreek seeds, silky saffron strands, aromatic cardamom pods, or tiny mustard seeds, which pop and release their flavour in hot oil. There are some ingredients in Charmaine’s book that I’ve never heard of, and I’m so looking forward to experimenting with them.
  3. A kitchen garden is a wonderful thing, especially when it's put to good use. Our coriander is cut every couple of days in big fragrant bunches, and mint has been added to spice basics and whizzed up into fragrant pastes. We're patiently waiting on our tomatoes and cucumber to be big enough to use; and the chillies that we grew last season are finally being thawed and chopped or ground, and added in for necessary heat.
  4. The kids have surprised me with their curry tolerance. Just last week, Lyra polished off a bowl of Alu Gosht Kari, a meat and potato curry that I’d added a good chopping of chilli too. She mopped up the gorgeous thick gravy with her chapati like she’d been doing it all her life, and asked for a second bowl once it was (almost) licked clean. Which is awesome for two-and-a-half, don’t you think?
How about you? Have you ever wanted to (or learnt) how to cook in a more traditional way – perhaps like your parents or grandparents did?


Sunday, June 24, 2012

{Etsy Love: Nan Lawson}

So, I discovered the quirky Nan Lawson a few weeks ago, and I’ve been visiting and revisiting her store and blog and making mental wish lists of all the prints I’d love to be framing and hanging on my walls. I like that she’s a self-confessed illustrator nerd; and I love the simplistic and sweet nature of her work. She does custom portraits too. I wonder how we’d look?

Happy Monday!


Friday, June 22, 2012

It's in the mail...

I’ve got this new idea floating around at the moment involving letters and postcards. Both of my little ones have godparents with nomadic sensibilities off travelling the world - and it’s such a treat to receive mail from them. And my two are writing back, telling them of all the things we’re doing, and drawing wonderful pictures of our much loved friends exploring the world. There have been more questions than I was prepared for, which, in hindsight, is expected when the world opens up before very young eyes for the first time; questions of language and food and money and geography, of time and distance and travel, and of how far away things really are.

The letter wallet idea was all but an inkling when the travelling began; and because my two embraced letters and postcards and the waiting and sending so enthusiastically, I thought that other little ones might just do the same too.

This is my prototype:

The plan is to make each little pouch with blank postcards, ready for individual decoration, brown paper envelopes, stamps and brightly coloured pencils. They’re small enough to be slipped into a bag, and easy enough to use so that little ones can do their letter writing all on their own.

It’s so nice working on something brand new – and even nicer knowing that very soon, lots of other little ones will be writing and sending their own letters to friends and family. It’s the very best kind of mail to receive, isn’t it?


Ps. They’ll be in our Etsy store soon!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tea Time Treats

A tart for tea on a china plate,
toy friends at the table, laying in wait
for the tea pot to pour, and the sugar to sweeten,
the cakes to be shared - and for some to be eaten.
Berries in blue, and strawberries red;
chocolate and cherries, harmoniously wed
with caramel, cream, fruit and spice,
making our tea party extra nice…

New Tea Party Tarts in store now!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The beginnings of winter at the Cottage

For a whole season, we let the weeds take over.
Then there was a frenzy of digging and composting, and the turning in of stinky things; more seeds bought and planted in homemade origami seed pots; extra, more temperamental seedlings sought and planted; and for a whole week, the sweet smell of sugar cane mulch made the garden a delight to walk and play in.
We’ve had rain and sun and growth, and are now on the cusp of an early harvest. And it’s my absolute favourite part of planting an edible garden – the time where it’s at an almost - when the idea of picking snow peas or ruby-red cherry tomatoes or crisp sweet lettuce leaves becomes a delightful daily task.

Just in the last week, our chickens have realised that it’s a variable gold mine in the front garden, and have been squeezing through fence palings to snack on the tender spinach leaves, and to scratch away in the wormy soil. And Ella, our mastiff, often too arthritic to get up and chase them, has taken to watching and growling from the comfort of her heavily bedded kennel. It’s an unpredictable situation; but because it takes Ella a couple of minutes to actually get up (poor dog), the chickens have a head start in escaping; and it gives me the opportunity to play Pied Piper, leading them out onto the footpath and down the road to the chicken run gate, luring with overripe melon rinds or (if desperate) grapes – their absolute favourite - in the scrap bowl.

I love this time of year; it makes me want to knit and read, doze in front of a roaring  fire, and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows, or steaming cups of tea.
And bake - which I guess isn’t unusual.
Why, just yesterday, because it was raining and cold and a little miserable, I made a big batch of fluffy golden scones (with lashings of double cream and strawberry jam, of course); pumpkin bread, with a whole heap of sharp parmesan and chives from the garden added in for good measure; and a mixed spice and pear cake (which was supposed to be drenched in lovely warm butterscotch sauce; but after three-and-a-bit hours fussing in the kitchen, I was entirely cooked out. Ice-cream instead). The whole house was delicious smelling and warm all afternoon, and it was the perfect way to end a cold weekend.

How have you been?


Ps. The loveliest thing: our apple and cherry Tea Party Tart was part of an apple feature in the gorgeous June edition of Peppermint magazine; and our dashing Heroic Henry slipped into the pages of the June edition of Shopping 4 Baby magazine; and our gorgeous Helpful Harriet graced the online pages of Peppermint to advertise a twinking twilight market for BrisStyle! It’s the best and loveliest reward for months of planning and testing and making and selling.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Starting again

Image from Heart Box Studio

A whole month has passed since I’ve been back to blog about the things that are happening in our world. Part of it was a choice; part was because busyness and the mayhem of motherhood  sometimes gets in the way of quiet reflective writing; and part of it was because sometimes it’s so tricky being creative in every sphere of your life – in real life, home life, and online life.
I think I was a bit worn out.

But, I have been thinking about our little blog a lot, and about what I want from it; and I’ve come to realise just how much pressure I placed on it to perform and to build and generate some kind of following; which is quite a difficult thing to do, considering how many beautiful and creative blogs there are out there. I also got in the habit of making a whole lot of unconscious comparisons with tonnes of amazing and successful blogs, which made it tricky to write what was from my heart. There were many, many times that I deleted posts that I wrote with love, because I worried about how readers would respond – or if they’d respond at all.

So, this is me starting again: without the worry of comments or content or followers or whether or not my posts are being read; embracing the wonder and sweetness of childhood through the eyes of my children; celebrating family, delicious food, all things handmade, the warmth of the sun and the weeds in my kitchen garden, togetherness, sewing, tea, cake, and the loveliness of friendship.

I’m a big fan of new beginnings.

Thanks for sticking around, dear readers – I’m so glad you’re here.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Giving Heart

I had a moment with Judah during the week.
We were watching the news as a family while eating dinner – which almost never happens in our house because of all the violence and death and bad news that you tend to be bombarded with. But, I’d been a bit out of touch with what was going on in our world, and thought it might be a good idea to play catch up.

The kids were talking about bacon and trying to out-sing eachother in nursery rhymes; and a story came on about babies and young children dying in Yemen from starvation. Dave and I watched these small, skeletal babies in hospital, unable to keep any food down, and their mothers, their hearts breaking, desperate to prevent their children from slowly starving to death. No food, no milk, no jobs, and no money.

During the piece, Judah stropped singing, and watched intently; there was a moment where I almost got up and turned it off, but I didn’t. And when it finished, his questions began.

Why are those babies so sick?
Why can’t his mummy give him food so that he can be strong?
Does his daddy have a job?
Why doesn’t his Grannie give him food?
Is the doctor fixing him?
Why are the people fighting where he is?

Dave and I very slowly and carefully answered his queries, and explained the best way that we could - which is a tricky thing when your listener is only nearly four years old. I didn’t want him to be frightened, or to be overwhelmed – and I would have gladly held off on such a discussion for another three years until his understanding of the world and his place in it grew.

But, there we were, sitting at the table and talking to our boy about big things.
And while my heart was saddened for the loss of the beautiful way that he viewed the world, Judah’s compassionate heart sought to find a way to help:

Can I take the little baby my dinner so he can grow big and strong?
No sweetheart, that babe lives a very long way away. He’s in the hospital, and the doctors are helping him the best way that they can, I said.
Then I will get on three planes and walk to where he is and find all the food and give it to him so that he can be strong, he said with determination.

I was so proud of him.

Since then, we’ve had a (Judah initiated and very gently explained) daily conversation about that little baby and children in need; and while he is broadening in his understanding, he’s also interested in finding solutions and ways in which we can help. So this morning, I suggested that we take an empty jar from the cupboard, and start saving some of our pocket money to send to babies and kids that need help.

That is a very good idea Mum, he said. You can take all the money from my piggy bank and send it to the kids, so that they can be big and strong.

So very proud.

As I write this post, I’m smiling at the generosity that children have when given the opportunity to help others in need; and while it’s a discussion that I thought we’d be having in a few years, it really has reinforced for me the idea that you’re never to young to give, or to be giving. And who knows where this spark of generosity may lead? If it enables Judah to be a more compassionate child, or to grow into a man who feels the plight of others and seeks to make a difference, then embracing it now may just be the best thing we’ve ever done.


Image from joojoo on Etsy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Find me...

And just like that, we’ve moved seamlessly from the world of pirates and the high seas, to detectives, mysteries, magnifying glasses and solving crimes.

I’m actually not quite sure what the trigger was; perhaps there was none. All I know is that my almost-four-year-old is now very slowly investigating his world, magnifying glass in hand, looking for clues that monsters have been visiting, and following (real and imagined) footprints on the floor.

My conversations with Judah nowadays tend to follow this tract:

Me: Judah, what do you want for lunch?
J: I need you to come with me and look for the foofprimts I saw outside with my magmify glass.
Me: Peanut butter or honey on your sandwich?
J: Mummy, when did you see the monster yesterday?
Me: Only when he was dancing in the front garden. Now, what do you want for lunch?
J: Um, I want some money to catch the plane to the detective shop in Adelaide.

Whenever it isn’t mealtime or naptime or you-need-to-do-this-now time, we all join in the detective work. This morning, I explained to him that good detectives ask a lot of questions, and write the answers down in a notebook that they keep in their pockets. Said notebook was found, and a pencil given, and the questions began; random things like, what did you have for breakfast? Or, why do you like yellow?
I guess you never know what questions will solve the mystery, right?

What games are your little ones playing at the moment? Or, do you remember playing detective games when you were a kid?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Crossing another off the list

I have this mad ambitious plan: to make, do, experience and try out 212 things this year - some as a family, some on my own, most with the kids, and a few random and slightly adventurous ones thrown in for good measure.

You know how much I love lists; but I have to admit, it wasn’t my idea at all. Our young cousin started it all when he began an ambitious bucket list; then Kim decided to make a list of things she wanted to do this year; and what else could I do? As if I’d ever pass up an opportunity to jump on the make-a-list bandwagon!
I’ve loved creating and crossing things off slowly as the weeks tumble on by; and it’s given us an opportunity to be very organised, sometimes quite spontaneous, and definitely more motivated to get more out of the time we spend together.
They’re not all complicated or expensive experiences – some are actually things that we should or would like to do, like give blood, or cull our un-played-with toys, or to bake delicious things for our neighbours.


#24: Read the Magic Pudding to Judah every night before bed
#29: Send postcards, drawings, and letters to the people we love
#58: Make a loaf of bread and eat it straight from the oven
#79: Host a dinner party
#91: Brew our own beer
#97: Make a time capsule and bury it in the garden
#107: Make a collection of things every day for a week, and display them somewhere in the house

Today, we crossed another one off the list – #41 - taking the kids to Yum Cha for lunch. We stuffed ourselves with delicious pork buns, dumplings, moreish rice, and warm custard-y tarts, and drove home lazy and full-bellied, smiling at how good it is to (sometimes) be so indulgent.

I do love this list; and I love that it’s making us slightly more adventurous as a family.

What new things have you tried so far this year?


Monday, March 19, 2012

When I grow up...

Delicious image from here.

While driving yesterday, my mama and I talked to Judah about growing up, and all the fun things he could do once he was big, like Daddy. Judah sat quietly, staring out the window at the passing traffic - I actually wasn’t even sure he was listening; but mum and I carried on anyway, talking about visiting strange lands, climbing mountains, riding bikes, driving cars, making lots of new friends, and maybe even learning how to fly.  

After a while, he piped up and said, ‘All I want to do when I grow up is make morning tea for everyone in the world.’
(He is three-and-a-half, mind you – I guess morning tea may be the most exciting meal of the day. And yes, Mum and I laughed at the sweetness of his chosen occupation)

That’s a big job, I told him, when we talked about it again later.
Yes, he said, but I can do it. I’m very clever.

Kids have a lovely self-assurance, don’t they?  
I love the way that my two look at a situation, and there’s no doubt in the world that they can’t tackle and overcome it. They tell me that they’re clever and smart often; they’re convinced that they’re beautiful and handsome, extremely funny, sweet, very good, and always helpful. I love their optimism; and at the right time, it’s contagious.

I wonder if I had the same confidence at their age. Did you?


Friday, March 16, 2012

My brand new obsession with River Cottage...

For the last week or so, I’ve been sewing into the night; but for a change, I’ve been having a wander online, instead of resorting to the rubbish that we generally watch on the tele. Most nights see me settling in with a big pile of hand sewing, a steaming mug of tea and some kind of sweet treat, and exploring ABC’s iview - and Oh my goodness me! – I’ve discovered the gorgeous, wholesome, homemade world of River Cottage.

Have you watched it before? If not, go for a look here – it was this breakfast episode that had me sewing too slowly for my own good, and salivating at how seriously good and nourishing something as simple as oats can be (and sure, I’ll admit it: I marched off to the shops the next day, stocked up, and I’ll be giving that muesli with orange juice and fresh sliced apple a go this week).

Are you a fan of River Cottage too?


Thursday, March 8, 2012


Four quite random, nature-inspired things:

  1. I found a small, injured rainbow lorikeet hiding under a bush in the garden. Its foot was mangled, and it was being chased by bearded dragons (and maybe our chickens). I tried to catch it to take it inside, but good gracious! They’re so feisty! And by the time I went inside to find an old cloth nappy to wrap it up in (and to stop it from biting me as I caught it), the little bird had crawled off into the bush. I’ve worried about it all week.
  2. Our gorgeous fresh-laid eggs are being stolen by crows. They sit like vultures, high in the trees above the coop, and wait for our little hens to leave their new egg unattended; then swoop in, (and believe it or not) to pick the eggs up and fly over the fence to relative safety. I’ve watched them peck a hole in the top of the egg to suck all the egg-y goodness from within; and once they’re done, the dragons amble in to take care of the shell. This week has seen me hover every time one of our hens is laying, which sometimes puts them off. I’ve also been practicing my scare!-protect!-save! mode, by running outside, arms a-flailing, shouting at the rush of black wings as they laugh into the sky.
  3. I’m feeling the need for a large dose of motivation to inspire me back into the garden. I had the grandest plan to don large straw hats and gardening gloves, and spend late afternoons pottering and planting and pulling and preparing. The plan also included the creation of the most amazing kitchen garden – a natural delight that nourished us and made us feel all at one with the earth. So far, I’ve made a whole heap of origami seed pots, planted tiny lettuce, tomato and cucumber seeds, watered a few times, and then promptly abandoned about our fledgling crop. And now, as the days fly by, I watch as the weeds strangle the established plants that are digging their heels in and refusing to die. So, in a show of defiance to my sad case of laziness, I bought new gloves. And with pen in hand this afternoon, I’m sketching out a new plan for our kitchen garden and starting again.
  4. We have the strangest, most prehistoric plant in our garden (I have no idea what it is), that has been growing the tallest ‘shoot’ (for want of a better word) from its centre. Judah has taken to calling the plant his ‘beanstalk’ because when you stand beneath it, the shoot appears to reach all the way to the clouds – it really is quite remarkable. This week, it began to bloom: delicate, orchid-like flowers in pale lemon yellow; and as they seem to flower only for a day before dropping, our pathway is just filled with them. It’s such a stark contrast to the severity of the plant – the sharp lines and striking leaves - and it has seen me stop a few times this week to gaze up and admire its natural contrast.

Do you have four things to share too?


Thursday, March 1, 2012


So, I had a moment during the week with Lyra that made me stop and think about the things we remember from childhood, the comfort of safe, sweet memories, and how they replicate from generation to generation.

I was dressing to go out when little Lyra-Lou, fresh from a bath, wet hair in ringlets and in a bright purple singlet, came marching into the bedroom to see what I was doing. She watched for a while in silence and then began asking questions, wanting to join in too. I put cream on her small chubby cheeks, lip gloss on her pouted lips, and brushed her hair; she looked at herself and at me with a lovely sense of wonder, before declaring that we were both very pretty, and skipping out of the room to show her Daddy.

I remember doing the same thing as a girl – watching my mother dress, carefully applying her makeup. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world; I expect most little girls feel the same way. And she would include me in her beauty routines in the same way – cream on my cheeks, brushing my long hair, maybe just the smallest touch of lipstick. And I can see the memory playing before me, and feel that same delight, thinking that she had magically transferred some of her loveliness to me.

Have you ever had a moment like that with your child – where a memory from your youth is played over?


Ps. I think this is my most favourite photo of Lou, in her beloved Wimcee headdress. When I took it, she was telling me about where things come from – juice comes from bees, yoghurt comes from bees, milk comes from a moo, and apples are from the fridge. Bless.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Queen of Tarts...

I’ve been putting off this post for a whole week now, just waiting until I’ve sewn enough to be able to show you. But alas, they’re taking a wee bit longer to finish off than expected; it’s all that figuring out and cutting real fruit to see exactly what’s on the inside, and drawing patterns, and trying things that look wonderful in my imagination, but not so wonderful once sewn and in my hands.
That, and the visiting of patisseries for inspiration (and treats – I really can’t help myself. It’s absolutely ridiculous).

So, launching this year, alongside our gorgeous petit fours, are fruit tarts – perfect for play and picnics and made from the softest, most gorgeous wool blend felt. Each one is hand and machine sewn, and based loosely on tarts found in my favourite local haunts – Banneton Bakery and the famous Samford Patisserie. I swear, if I could make up a bed in either of these places, I’d quite happily live there and eat tarts for every meal.

They’ll have their debut, along with a whole new Q&I market look, at our first booking for the year, Mathilda’s Market, on the 24th of March. And they’ll be making their way to our Etsy store this week – delish!

My sewing nook is looking so wonderfully colourful with all this gorgeous new stock – it definitely inspires me to keep creating, to keep trying new things.

Oh! I almost forgot!
I have one tart shell left to fill – it’s made up of a pastry base and chocolate filling. Any ideas as to what could go on top?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Being Creative = Nurturing Creativity

Sometimes creativity needs a boost, you know? Something to help it along, to inspire; and adequate time for an idea to take root in your mind, and pester you until the mock, the very first one, is in your hands.

Since the hiatus over the summer, I’ve been feeling a bit out of practice, creatively speaking. I’ll often sit down to blank paper to brainstorm ideas, and sometimes can’t seem to pull what’s in my imagination out onto the page. But instead of getting discouraged and feeling wretched, I decided to fix it: by seeking out creative avenues and small simple projects that allow me to think in a more artistic way, and totally outside of all the handmade loveliest we produce for Quill & Ink.

It was during a trawl of artistic blogs on the internet that I first discovered Keri Smith, who has formulated the most wonderful creative prompt list – you can find it here.
It didn’t take me long to begin rummaging through boxes to find a blank journal, and to steal Lou’s coloured pencils and begin sketching; and it felt wonderfully good to be doing this simple creative thing that wasn’t for anyone else but me (and now you).
And best of all? It’s fun.

The challenge today: to draw all of the things in my bag. Paper is slightly scrunchy because the kids wanted a better look at what I was up to.

Sometimes there are a couple of weeks between entries, other times it’s a matter of hours. I’ve not bound myself to a strict deadline, which ends up freeing the experience even more. I just pick out a square at random, whenever I have the time, and think of a creative way to do what it says.

I have noticed though, that slowly, very slowly, a small creative spark seems to be elbowing its way back to the forefront of my imagination. And there have been some strange little ideas born over the last week that I’m all curious to try out. I guess that’s the best thing about having a creative break; you never know what direction your rested imagination will take once it’s put back in to action…

How do you ignite or restore creativity in your own life? Or, how do you deal with creative lulls?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Over the holidays, I watched the movie Amelie again, for the first time in a long time. If you know it, you may remember that Amelie goes on a mission to return a small box of treasure, found hidden in a secret cavity in her bathroom. After some delightful detective work, she finds the now grown-up owner and returns the box to him anonymously; and the memories that flood back as the man rifles through his childhood box of treasure, welled up with emotion, leave Amelie changed – she resolves to do good all her days.

While I watched the movie, Judah’s treasure box sat on the couch next to me. It was given to him at Christmas, lovingly and beautifully made by Kim and filled with the most wondrous things: an old fashioned metal robot, shells, a metal cog, a small spanner, random chess pieces, a spinning top, a hand-carved zebra from Africa, dice, rocks and a wooden spoon. Judah has added his own small treasures: a five-cent piece, an old metal fighter plane, a small plastic frog, and tiny corkscrew shells he finds at the beach.

The box was the catalyst: before we knew it, he’d embraced collecting and treasure, moved on from robots and mechanical things, and jumped headfirst (arrrrrr, me-hearties!) into the world of pirates roaming the high seas.

Obsessed, I tell you.

Actually, I can’t begin to tell you how fun this phase is; there are plenty of hand-drawn maps and more cause for armour (yeah, I didn’t know that pirates wore armour either!), eye patches, and toilet roll spyglasses with bright cellophane stuck to one end. Beach visits see him spending a considerable amount of time scanning the horizon watching for approaching tall ships, and digging in the sand at random intervals, just in case visiting pirates buried their loot.

At home, the treasure box now lives securely in a treasure chest; his fanciful stories have scary monsters that morph into hooked/peg-legged pirates (that fly through the sky chasing our magic dog, Ella and superhero sister Lou, who eats cake while sitting on the sun), and driving sees us playing a version of ‘Where’s Wally,’ pirate-style.
For the record, pirates seem to camp out a lot in trees, hide in clouds, and like visiting McDonalds for ice-cream. Who would have guessed?

Personally, I love treasure. And I wished that I had my own small wonders still tucked away somewhere, safe in a rusty box or buried beneath one of our old Queenslanders in the cool under-the-house dirt. My box may have contained paper dolls, pressed flowers, small hand-drawn pictures, pages from picture books and magazines, little dolls, and handwritten notes in envelopes with crinkle-edged stamps.

What would your treasure box contain?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Unlikely Baker

As a young adult, in my secret heart of hearts, I wanted to be a patisserie chef. I loved to bake, had an authoritative sweet tooth, and just loved the way that cakes and tarts and other sweet goodies were put together, layer upon layer, to become a miniature masterpiece.

Baking wasn’t the road I ended up following, but I’ve managed to come back to it in the most unlikely way – through hand-sewn cakes, pies and tarts - our beloved new range available this year at all our markets.
I’ve been busy experimenting with toppings and fruit, and have a whole bakery stand prepared for Mathilda’s next month. And because they’re now sold individually, you can pick out the ones you really love – maybe a banoffie pie, or a caramel and strawberry mud cake, or maybe even a light and fluffy vanilla sponge with bright pink icing, deliciously dripping and stamped with a sugar heart…

This week, I’m putting the finishing touches on my patterns for tarts and pies, and will start to sew the first batch. I’m so hoping they’ll be as sweet as they are in my imagination!

Do you have a favourite tart or cake?
I’m always looking for inspiration, so let me know!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Our Chickens: Feeling the community love

Our girls abscond on a daily basis.
They take a run-up, flap their clipped wings at a furious speed, and sail over the fence to the creek; they sneak through a gap in the retaining wall to our neighbour’s lush garden (with plenty of gorgeous green grass),  squeeze through loose palings and onto the road (where they’ve been found sitting, contentedly, in the warm sun), and have been found perch all-in-a-row on low branches in random trees.
With all the rain about lately, I’ve seen them huddled together in Ella’s doghouse (thankfully, without Ella in it), and standing, soaking, in the middle of the garden, staring wistfully at the sky. And it goes without saying - they take every opportunity to steal into the house, whenever the kids unwittingly leave the back door open, which results in a comical commotion of chasing and almost-catching and clucking and giggling.

There’s a layer, an almost layer, and two youngun’s who constantly jostle for a better hierarchal position in the coop, still growing their combs.
And, if you couldn’t already tell, I’m totally and absolutely in love with them.

The Coop, set in the back corner of our garden…

To love a chicken (or four chickens) is a strange thing, because before they arrived on Christmas eve, I was scared of them - and their flappy wings, sharp beaks and scratchy feet. I was absolutely convinced that they’d chase me, peck at me, and was horrified at the thought of having to actually pick them up to put them away at night. But they wormed their way into our family, with all their warbling and grazing and waddling. And in a surprisingly short time, I was in love – just like that.

What I didn’t expect though, was how accepted they’d be with neighbours and friends. Our next door neighbour talks to them when they manage to escape into her garden – I often hear her cooing to them as they strut and scratch in her lovely lush grass; another neighbour saves all her fruit and vegetable scraps, bringing them over in big plastic bags, or randomly throwing bits and pieces over the fence and into the run. Other neighbours have offered advice about compost and using chicken manure in our garden; friends have taken them onto their laps for a pat.

I admit it: I love this. Who would have known that they’d become such wonderful community pets?
Do you have chickens too?


Ps. No names yet; goodness, it’s hard finding chicken-appropriate names that everyone is happy with!