Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Here is what I have been working on this week--holiday baking !  Baking and also arranging Christmas flowers are two of my favourite activities for preparing for the holidays, they never feel like chores.  Yesterday I picked up my order of holiday flowers, hydrangeas (purple and mauve), pink lisianthus, and lime green button mums.  Plus hypericon berry branches, and holly branches with creamy white berries.  And I have been baking all week.  Adorable tree and poinsettia shaped holiday spritz cookies.  Flavoured with peppermint or almond flavouring, to add a light touch to the lovely buttery texture.  Decorated with coloured sugar crystals I tinted to the hue I wanted.  Not shown are the peanut butter pretzel & toffee crunch cookies, a new recipe I tried.  (I am on a strict regime now, so Ian was my tester and gave them a good rating !).

The kitchen and fridge are well stocked, and I went to the Barossa Farmer's Market this morning, bright and early.  Got there at 735AM, only 5 minutes after open time and it was already packed.  Queues to wait for picking produce at several of the stalls.  I got a magnificent half side of a salmon I had pre-ordered for pick up today--it's for tomorrow's main meal, to be cooked with nicoise salad style accompaniments.  Bought fresh farm eggs, local jersey milk, and freshly local roasted single origin fairtrade coffee from Barossa Roasters.  Plus red and gold plum tomatos, and black tuscan kale for a stunning salad.  Oh yes, can't forget Raj's hummus, whose hummus is amazing (and a big favourite of our visiting family here at the moment).

Today I made a plum vinocotto clafoutis.  Made with fresh plums picked off neighbour Fab's tree, after he welcomed us to collect some plums off it.  This fruit torte is going to a Christmas Eve barbeque tonight.

Ian and I wish you a wonderful holiday.  Cheers !

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Under Cover

pergola structure extends from back of exterior wall behind kitchen
The pergola structure has been finished for two weeks now and the roofing materials were delivered next week.  This week the team building the structure came to finish the job and today they packed up their tools, all finished.  A great job and a new area for us to use.  Well, not quite yet.  We still need to put paving in, and that happens in January, after taking delivery of pavers we ordered.  Meantime though, there is a concrete foot path along the house side.  And a cover on that will provide shade on hot days.

It feels like an outdoor room now, what a difference having a roof cover on makes !

pergola with roof on, looking out towards garden

Having the pergola roof on makes it obvious that we need to paint or restore the old roof.  It is an odd colour, gold ochre in some areas and pale red in other places.  It was originally red, but the colour faded in the sun.  We will be planning the roof restoration and makeover for the coming months, so next year !

It's almost Christmas and the past month has been cockatoo "season" across the street, in the large trees in the park.  Not just a few birds either.  Hundreds of them. Maybe 300 ?  It is hard to count them.   But there are definitely more than 200.  And you can't miss them.  They are big birds and screech very loudly.  A chorus of hundreds of them makes a very loud noise.  They swoop around and fly fast, from tree to tree.  Many will sit in a large tree, and more keep coming until the tree branches have 80 or more cockatoos on them.  Lately, the grass on the way to the sports oval in the park has been littered with white feathers.  Sulphur tinged white cockatoo feathers.

The cats enjoy having some feathers to sniff and bat around too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pergola in Progress

Soon we will have a new outdoor space, a nice new pergola (outside covered patio).  Just a quick look at what we have done so far.  Framing is finished.  We await the roofiing and guttering material to arrive and get built/installed.

You can see the pitch the roofline will have from this first picture.

Below left is a photo showing the same as above, but from a slightly different angle.

Bottom right photo shows the framing above for roofline.  And that it is beginning to feel like an outdoor room.

More soon !

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Line

In a whirlwind of fast spinning time since getting back from the latest work trip, I have:  visited family interstate to see a new granddaughter, worked (a lot), begun getting assembled and ready for holiday tasks, attended a peony arranging workshop, tidied up the roses and other parts of the garden, helped a friend do a photo shoot, and also designed and assembled three new upcycled vintage and decorator fabric bags.  And also keeping up with workouts and healthy eating (I am on a diet and get-fit regime, going great so far).   So after returning, I literally hit the ground running !

The new line of bags is exciting.  Something I have been planning to do for ages.  I did the first run of three of them, each featuring some amazing vintage textiles from the collection I have been building for years.  Each bag is a bookbag style bag, and conveniently can be folded flat.   Very handy for travel, I always pop a bag like this in my suitcase for a trip, so I have something to take out and about on the weekends, or tote magazines and books in the hotel, on the plane, etc.  The bags have canvas straps that go over the shoulder.  Each is fully lined in a charming complementary fabric and has a divided inner pocket for mobile phone, keys, etc.  The front pocket is across lower front of the bag, and also is lined fully.  Divided in half, and handy for stowing a small notepad or other small items.

The design I have highlighted above is called Country Strawberry.  It features a fabulous (mint condition !) strawberry print motif fabric from a vintage American feedsack, probably from 1940s or 50s.  And also some fadey soft blue text printed on an old flour sack.  Combined with red and white check decorator fabric.  Lining is red and white ticking striped, with inner pocket also of the old flour sack and cute red baby gingham trim along the edge.  And the front pocket has gorgeous striped canvas taping and lovely candy pink vintage button trim.  It is a happy and cheerful looking bag.

I have ordered new fabric labels for the next run of bags.  Exciting !

Here is a shot of all three bags, which are now on exhibition (and available for sale) as part of the Retro Mommas show at Jacqueline Coates' Salon Rouge Gallery in Kapunda.  For more info on Salon Rouge, check out, or check out latest news on Jacqueline's new blog

And a sneak preview of the latest goings on, which will be subject of a post this weekend.  Work on the long awaited pergola has just started.  Here is a before shot, just a big patch of yard, between here and there, and not too interesting to look at.  Stay Tuned !

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DC Big Flea

I was in Washington DC this weekend and went to check out the DC Big Flea, a vintage and antique wares show, held several times a year in the area. Saw heaps of interesting stuff. Lots of Christmas ornaments. Vendors brought out their holdings of vintage fur coats, not my thing, but there were hundreds of old fur coats across the whole show floor. Lots of old toys, ceramics, dishes, furniture, old Bakelite phones, old magazine covers and adverts, costume jewelry, and more more more.

I found several finds. Two fab vintage dresses, one with faded velvet ribbon trim and the other one without buttons. A great beaded vintage purse in a cornflower blue colourway that matches one of the dresses. Old timber spools I will use to wind up and hold some vintage ribbons and passementerie trims. Two vintage magazine covers with cute animals. An old cutter quilt. Same cool finds indeed.

This photo above shows some old timber boxes. Soap boxes to be precise. Now I know what it means to get off one's soapbox. They are bigger than I thought. You really could stand up on one !

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bounty in the Garden

A short post before the next work trip.  Seems like two previous to this have blurred into this departure--tomorrow !

Meantime, the garden is looking beautiful, though it will take another two years to get it where we truly want it.  Here is a quick peek at what spring has brought us.

Stunning broccoli and broad beans.  We have heaps of broccoli and have harvested some already, as shown here.  Broad beans we tried a few weeks ago, but they were not yet ready.  Now they are.  Lovely and very tasty.  Though a fair bit of work to remove from pod and then shell !  The bowl below shows them out of the pod, but before coming out of their soft shell casings.

The roses are putting on lots of buds after their big winter prune (chop ! way! back !).  The early blooms are shown here, collected in a trug basket, which is perfect for harvesting flowers and veggies.  Many colours and beautiful flowers.  I made up a couple vases of the flowers. Multi colour and also reds+pinks shown.   Also some pretty white ones called Glamis Castle, a David Austin variety I just planted this winter.  Lovely big flowers, with a delicate scent.

All the roses arrangements turned out stunning and lovely.  Though they had to go out on the front verandah table, to keep Winston from over enthusiastic rose grazing.

More in mid spring, when I get home from this last biz trip of the year.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pieces of Vintage

Since moving, I have come to acknowledge that this is a downsize. Our current house is smaller than what we had (which perhaps was two big for two people, other than when family or friends were staying).  And I have to face the fact that we need to reduce holdings.  Inspired to make a dent, I looked in the stacked up items stored in the spare room and considered what needs to go.

Practicality says I don't need 12 or more vintage quilts.  Surely 6 and a bit will do ?  Bravely, I started going through the stack of them to decide which should go.  It is a difficult task--they are all lovely and  unique vintage pieces.   I had started collecting them when I moved to Australia, maybe 2 years after coming here, most obtained online (mostly on eBay).  They are mostly 1920s - 1940s era American patchworks, all with hand quilting and many also hand pieced.  In fact, I used to have many more.   In the course of finding ones I really was after, there were a few extras or not-quite-what-I-was-after that got acquired.  So a couple years ago I let some of the least favorites go, selling them online.  But I still had over a dozen that came with us on our interstate move.
Rising Sun quilt, ca 1930s,
pattern by Hubert ver Mehren

How to choose which to keep and which not ?  I decided I would keep ones we would use and let others go.  This produced a small pile of 4 or 5 that should go.  I did a photo shoot of them, hanging each in sunshine on the clothes line, measuring them, and preparing to write a lovely story on each for its online auction.  I wanted to research and pin down the age of one, as I recalled it was made from a 1930s pattern and I believed it was made in that era.  But I wanted to find the original reference to confirm that, as such info would be good for the auction storyline.

close up of Rising Sun quilt 
That was the beginning of the end of this decluttering exercise !  I did find the reference I was seeking and also found an amazing repository of info on vintage and antique quilts called .  I found the pattern of the quilt, and learned it was a pattern very popular in the first half the 1930s, when I am pretty sure the one I have was made.  A pattern by Hubert ver Mehren called Rising Sun, a pieced medallion star motif quilt.  Kits and patterns were made in yellow, pink, blue, and lilac.  As you see here, this one has a pinks palette.  Apparently this pattern became very popular after someone who made this pattern quilt won a prize in a a Century of Progress Quilt contest at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago.  I know I was supposed to put this in the storyline for its auction, but knowing all this, I could not bring myself to put it up for sale !!

Ocean Waves quilt, ca 1930s
And then the Go pile had another, one I really like, but that I did not ever use, because I thought it was a bit delicate.  So it has been stored away a long time, and only seen when I rearrange the pile.  It is probably from the 1930s too, judged by the fabrics it features.  It is a pattern I adore, called Ocean Waves, and it has hundred of tiny triangles stitched together, points matching so nicely.  And a cheerful colourway, a palette of yellows, reds, pinks and some jadey greens and aqua thrown in for good measure.  All completely done by hand and now has the softest hand to touch.  And so, in quite short order, once Rising Sun got moved from Go to Keep, so did Ocean Waves.

detail of Ocean Waves yellow, reds, and pinks quilt
I replaced Rising Sun and Ocean Waves in the Go pile with two others.  One is a perfect unused, unwashed Dresden Plate quilt with amazing hand quilting work on it, in a perfectly straight gridwork, around the feature plates.  And an old fave of mine...a pinwheel quilt in multi colours.  This one is vintage 1940s, hand pieced and hand quilted.   It is not as special as the others, from a vintage textile perspective.  And it has just escaped the Go to Auction pile in the past.  It got to stay because it is cheerful and sturdy, so it has been one of a few that gets used.  I was ready to let it go this time though.  Until I looked at its photos.  It photographed so well, reminding me why I like it.  I love pinwheel designs.  I always wanted a two colour one, like green and white, or red and white.  But I could not find one in the price and condition I sought.  I found this multi coloured one instead and kept going back to its cheerful lemon, blue, red, and pink pinwheel blocks.  In the end it got to stay too.
Close up of Multi colour Pinwheel quilt

Multi colour Pinwheel quilt, ca 1940s
I have others that stay as well.  My favourite nine patch with blocks set en pointe in green white and red, sporting mint green scalloped border.  An amazing pristine unused, unwashed hummingbird star quilt in every colour imaginable that won a first prize at a county fair (and somewhere, I have the ribbon, which was sent to me when I bought it).  A small sofa throw-size Ocean Waves in 1930s prints predominately sky blue and other  ice cream pastels.

So, my decluttering effort has only be partially successful this week.  But I am happy with the ones going and the ones staying.  Though even the ones going give me a twinge.  I hope their new home and owner like them as much as I do.  Meanwhile, I am looking for other decluttering "targets".  I want to keep this small collection of amazing quilts.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Omelettes for Brekkie

Just getting caught back up after another long work travel, and have been off the blog during that time...

We have some clucky neighbours up at the back of the garden, just over the fence.  They were quiet during winter, but spring has them a lot busier (and making more egg-laying noise too).  Monday early morning one of them got loose, we guess it flew over the fence, because we found its gorgeous glossy black-green feathered self wandering around our garden.  Seeming like it was trying to work out how to get back home.  Eventually our neighbour Amanda heard us trying to catch it to send it back over the fence...and she came over and helped catch hold of it, after we had a few rounds following/chasing it through the garden, trying to channel and corner it into an area where it could be easily grabbed.

This one is a stunning character, a silkie chicken.  There is a beigey sort like this, and also this white one in the mix next door.  It looks so exotic among this group, and very cute in its own way, with grey beak and vivid blue wattley jowls.  Last week, Amanda brought us a dozen gorgeous eggs, saying the girls have been busy lately, laying well over a dozen eggs each day lately.  I was delighted to see some pale green eggs in this box too !

Looking like omelettes on the brekkie menu tomorrow.

And here, a more serious animal.  Seen on recent travels (at Reno/Tahoe International Airport in USA).  Amazingly lifelike in presentation with impressive paws, pose and even whiskers.  Though no longer very dangerous as seen in this scenario.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bus Rolls

Last year I acquired a gorgeous and very long run of vintage bus roll.   More than 6 metres long in total, and lovely sharp white lettering against a black inked ground.  Unused I think, looked like New Old Stock quality.    Some of the wording had repeats and I like how these two are framed to show a bit of that, with a little variation at bottom and top.  I have been waiting until we had a place to display these before getting the first lot of it framed up.  Little Glory Picture Framing of Kapunda was recommended to me and has this week finished two lengths I took to them to frame.

Maggie poses in profile in front of the framed bus rolls (pic above), now in place on the wall that was waiting to display them.

These framed pieces are a bit more than 1 and a half metres long.  Instead of mounting on mat, they are framed with a lovely whitewashed timber frame, which is then set into a narrow almost-black timber frame.   As these are displayed indoors, no glass was used (to reduce glare and also to keep the framed pieces from being too heavy).  These treatments were excellent choices and Little Glory's work mounting and framing it all was outstanding.

Below you can see the bus rolls hanging up, just on an adjacent wall to the window wearing its new black and white buffalo check curtains (made up by yours truly).  Nice complements !  I am loving the look of the room with the crisp graphic text elements of the bus rolls on display.
I have saved some extra lengths of bus roll featuring different lines of text to have framed next year, for display in the (future) sunroom.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue Study

I sometimes sketch objects I see, for practice and also it is fun.  Occasionally one of the cats will sit still long enough to be sketched.  Winston was still for ten minutes, just  enough to sketch a lovely study of him in charcoal.  It is a fast sketch, so not super precise, maybe even a bit primitive ?  I worked to capture his soft shiny fur, the intelligent gaze he had while sitting for me, and his general character.  I have done several such studies of him (and some also of Pookie...none of Maggie, she does not seem to want to sit for a sketch).

I liked doing his whiskers  and fur in the charcoal and smearing it a bit gave it a softness that really looks like his coat.  I added some notes about how I might develop this composition.  In fact, I thought I might paint this up, but have not yet.  I thought of doing his fur in indigo.  He is a blue cat, after all.  And he revels in his blueness.  But in the end, charcoal seems to suit his impromptu portrait very well.  I liked this particular sketch and had it framed up, even with scribbles I had put on the page.   The title of this composition is "W".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Big Watertank

It's finally just past mid winter and each day our days get 2 and a bit minutes longer, or something like that.  Occasionally we get a brilliant clear day when a walk takes me by vineyards recently pruned and everything is bright green after a lot of rain.  But other than those moments, it has often been chilly and we would like to hibernate indoors all the time.  But this year, it is not to be.  First, we decided to get things out of storage, to reduce some outgoings (fees for the ongoing storage).  Because we moved from a bigger house and also did not have time to get rid of everything before moving, there was a lot delivered.  The container was not quite full, but had enough in there that we quickly became a bit overrun.

A trip to a local vintage store that sells consigned items got a few things out of here, including a 1928 vintage kooka stove we haven't got room to keep.  We have learned has already sold, soon going to its new owner.  Then a few days later we had a pick up of a number of items we donated to charity, and it felt nice to see they were happy with the items we donated, feeling sure they would go to good use.   So some good decluttering flow we have a Garage Sale to do this Saturday and a number of weeks worth of eBay campaigns.   At that point, the decluttering will be more manageable, but we still do have to work out a few things.  Some longer term store items have gone into the rafter in-rooftop storage in Ian's shed.  But we needed more space.

We have been contemplating a garden shed for a while.  But had not actually started that or bought one.  It was clear we need a place to stow the mower, garden things, and some building supply items, plus the bikes.  But where to put it ?

Turns out one of our 4 humongous watertanks is empty.  So the idea is, put a garden shed in its place.  Of course, it is not the tank at either end, it is one of the middle ones.  Ian thinks it used to be down by the house.  So he removed it, and tied off the pipes from the others, as he will redo the pipeworks in a way he likes (and that is not running in front of the new shed).  The watertanks are Big, Really Really Big.  3 metres diameter big and Ian has calculated they each hold 13,000 litres of water.  Given the size, we got a 3 metre square shed kit to build in the empty space.
The unassembled shed kit

Shopping for a new Dining Table, in a Salvage Yard

So our project and adventure continues.  The concrete base for the shed is being poured/laid today.   We have been out looking at salvage timbers, which will be used for a new Dining Table Ian will make.  And we have been doing some gardening.  Planting some bare root roses and also some fruit trees.  A nectarine, two varieties of lemon, and a dwarf pink lady apple called Pinkabelle.  Along with the mulberry tree and hope the transplanted plum tree makes it, plus an orange in the front yard we hope for a miniature garden orchard.  Joining these are some table grapes, blackberry, and raspberry vines.  I am already cutting out recipes to make things with the fruit.  And dreaming of warmer days :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Before & After: Fireplace Mantel

 Ian finished restoring the old mantel and put it up this week.  Here are some before and after shots.

First, the mantel partially unassembled and waiting in the workshop.  Because of some rotten timber  that needed to be replaced, he decided to take it apart to restore it, then reassemble it.  I did some photographs for reference (but he did not need them, this was an easy project compared to others he has done of late !)

The fireplace without a mantel.  It does have a black facshia plate covering the top of the fireplace hole.  But it wants something more.

Close up of the fireplace korbel detail, after restoration and painting.  It came up really nicely !

The room looks nearly complete with the mantel in place.  In fact, it looks like it has always been there.  Fit into the space perfectly and looking very elegant.

The trims at the baseboard got finished finally (they were waiting to be fit around the mantel, so this has been one of those things not yet done).  Also, the vintage french factory clock got put up.

We have a short punch list to complete for this room.  Paint the window frames and trim.  Put up a curtain rod & put up curtain panels.  Get the vintage bus rolls framed for the empty wall.  Put up the ceiling fan/light (taking the old one down).  A longer range project is to refinish the coffee table top in a black finish.  The low console to right of fireplace will be redeployed and something more characterful will replace it (thinking a vintage piece we have in storage).

Below, a true before and after.  Left, what we were working with, and right, our current state of progress.  Looking good, very good.