Saturday, June 25, 2011


I have not painted since we moved in.  Sigh.  No time, no energy, no room !  But trying to get back into it, and make space, make time, make energy.  Plus painting is relaxing for me, so an excellent outlet and foil when the brain needs a different direction or is tied in knots solving some work thing.

So today I got  out the one easel I have here (others in storage still) and moved it to the Dining Room, which has very nice light for painting over by the windows.  I put put some Brazilian music CDs on, got out my paints and set up to paint  a simple painting inspired by a book of old vintage sheet music I have acquired.  Vintage sheet music often has beautiful covers and I have a number of pieces (most in storage still).  This one is a piece I bought locally here in the Barossa Valley at a fave place to check out, Bowsers of Barossa (they have a great collection of old records on offer I hear, for anyone on the hunt for that).  Lots of cool old stuff there and I just stumbled over this sheet music, with its title Couleur de Rose, or Colour of Rose.   It has lovely lettering in an old deco style, done in a soft teal blue that is really pretty.   I have meant all along to paint this one (actually will paint the others too, when the emerge from storage---some day !)  And we need some artwork to put up in the bathroom, and this might do nicely.  So, this lovely sheet music cover was a perfect subject to get started painting again.

Today I got the canvas all blocked out...Sketched what of the subject I would paint.  I am taking a bit of liberty with actual composition of the floral bit, but using a similar layout and definitely using its inspiration and influence.  I have edited out a lot of the text, which I think works fine.  I painted in my background, mostly.  Doing the fussy part of background around the lettering, which is a job I won't want to do later...though touch ups will be ok.

Then using the soft teal I made from cerulean and a bit of raw umber and white, I painted some outlines of the stems and leaves.  Then a bit of green and raw umber to add dimension to the leaves.  They aren't done of course, I will return to them.  But they give me good navigation points and punctuate the composition nicely.

And then the last bit for the afternoon, pinks.  Alizarin, Rose Madder, Quinacridone Violet, Napthol Red and more, sometimes mixed with white, sometimes not.  A bit of vivid yellow for centers of flowers, again, just navigation points.  Tomorrow I will paint in some dimension and detail to "carve out" the detail and shaping of the  flowers, working into the blocks of color I have set in today.

I could not even find my palettes for I used plastic plates (good sub in when in the field or when not fully moved in !).  I had them neatly on a drop cloth on a chair.  Seemed to work quite well.  Cats settled in on their cat tree perch nearby and watched me paint.  When time to call it a day came around, I cleaned up.  I was literally walking to fetch the "palettes" when Pookie and Winston got rambunctious and Pookie jumped onto the palette plate with all the pinks.  And not with one paw either, he managed to get alizarin crimson and napthol red ALL over both his hind paws, on one foreleg, and on his belly fur too.   Looking more pinky Burmese than Lilac,  I had to put him in the sink and clean all the paint off him (he did not like this, not a bit).  Never mind that I was still wearing an apron, by the time this was all done, he got crimson and red paints all over me and my clothes too.  (but hey, I now have a new studio cardigan !)

drop cloth with Alizarin paw smudge marks

I guess cats need more supervision if I am to use the Dining Room as an interim studio >^..^<

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Cow Code

Now that we have finished most of the first phase of our renovation, we have more time to look for cool things around our new neighbourhood.  I love to check out the places selling antiques and other vintage and old pieces of things.  Always looking for one thing or another.  Lately I have been trawling on line and browsing the old shops for vintage stencils.  Particularly looking for  stencils with whole words on them, or logos (I have nice sets with alpha numerics).  In my recent looking about, I found something that looked like stencils.  But turns out it was not.  They are Cow Tags.

I have never seen cow tags before.  Apparently in this area in the late 1800s, cows and cattle had to be registered, in a scheme much like pet dogs are now.  The animals then wore a metal tag with a number outline punched in the tag (like a stencil, so you see how I found these...) and also with imprint of a registration number and initials for the area or council the animal was registered in.  The tag also has a hole punched in the top for attaching to a leather or rope collar.  I guess that is what a cow's collar might have been made of, but really am not quite sure of that.  According to what I have learned, we do not know the name of the animal that wore a particular tag (pity, I would actually like to have known their names !).

I got three of these in one place and a fourth in another.  I am told they are a bit hard to come by anymore.  The tags are a bit rusty, but I think they are a pretty cool item to have found.

I collected a small number of cow creamers in December (see post Stampede to the New Year).  I thought it could be nice to display the cows and the antique cow tags together.  A farm - cow theme  happening here?

Separately, I have acquired a set of small tiles with numbers on them.  Maybe they are house numbers, not really sure.  I do not have a complete set of all numbers, but do have a few repeats.  I am thinking to embed them in the wall of one of the areas when we build the extension.  Perhaps a vertical stripe of black tiles with numbers running down some part of wall.  I just like the numbers and white numbers against black background is very striking.

I photographed the tiles, plus a few extra snazzy green ones, which sport "7" on them.  One of them will be used for Ian's shed (7 is his lucky number), maybe at the door.  As I photographed the set of them, I realised that I have a repeat in the black and white tiles of the numbers stamped into the cow tags.  Some of you will know I like patterns and codes...and also that I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence !  So, these are now known here as the Cow Code.  (that would be 2458, just in case you couldn't tell)

What we shall do with such a profound notion and arrangement, I am not exactly sure.  More trivial and thoughts perhaps in the next post ;)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Old Mantel

Firebox and fascia plate
We have been looking for a suitable mantel to put up around our firebox.  This  has taken some time, we had to find a mantel with inside (hole) dimensions wide enough to fit around the fire box, which is not perfectly flush and door needs to be able to open freely.  Also, the outer width of the mantel should be less than the total width of the outer fireplace column dimensions itself.  The firebox has been the harder dimension to fit around.  So we have a matte black metal fascia plate fit around the firebox, covering the bit of hole above the fit inside.
firebox enjoyed by Pook & Maggs
But this is not so aesthetically pleasing.  And we also did not want to finish the mouldings to the side of the firebox until we have a fireplace mantel to put in place.  So things do not look finished.  (After awhile you kind of look beyond that, but time to time, you think, we really should just finish this off properly).

old mantel, before entering the workshop
This weekend we happened upon a great fireplace mantel, shabby timber, some very nice corbel details on each side.  After looking it over, we decided to go measure up at home and decide whether it would work. We measured up, popped the long tape measure in the pocket, and went back to take a closer look.

corbel detail on old mantel
Ian gave it a very good inspection (he does that).  It had a timber repair where some old timber was rotted away.  The repair was not really in good order, so we know this will need to be fixed properly.  Measurement wise, it will need 10 mm off the inside measurement width to fit around the firebox.  The width of the mantel itself is a perfect fit.  The top shelf will need to be cut down so it does not stick out wider than the fireplace brick surround.  Ian will do this and radius the corners, exactly as they are now.

Pookie poses on mantel in Hornsby Hts
The mantel will be fit in place when it is restored, trimmed to size, filled, and sanded.  Then it will get a coat of warm white glossy paint, to match the trims and doors in the room.  Before and after pics to be posted when the after-state is done !

The shelf is wide enough to allow one or two cats to perch atop it.  (we know from experience in our previous home that this offer will be pursued with enthusiasm).

Monday, June 13, 2011

When You Have Lemons...

It has gotten chilly and soon will be the shortest day of the year here.  It has begun to feel like winter.  So to throw off the chill and think of cheerful thoughts, some friends Jac and Theo came over for us to all make batches of preserved lemons and pickled spiced oranges.

The colours of the fruit were fabulous.  Some of it from garden trees and the rest from the Barossa Valley Farmers market, where I got a lovely a bag of a dozen farm fresh lemons for $2.  First we did the lemons, which are preserved in salt, with spices.  Cloves, cinnamon, and fresh bay leaves from Theo's garden.  The smell of 40- 50 cut lemons and all the spices was brilliantly divine !  The lemons get the salt massaged into them, then they get shoved into a big jar.  Filling it with as many lemons as can be done.

Here is my jar of lemons, making like life imitating art.  Painting is by Jac (see to see more of her fabulous work) and graced our dining room before.  Here it adds bright cheer in the kitchen.

The lemons will be ready to use in 4 weeks.

The oranges were next.  These are pickled and spiced.  Jac brought lots of oranges from a garden tree outside her gallery.  We started cutting them and then poached the slices in water.  At the same time making a syrup of white wine vinegar and sugar, plus cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and the fresh bay leaves. By this time the kitchen smelled fabulous !

Theo and Jac, preserving lemons
The orange slices got transferred out of poaching liquid and into the syrup, to simmer.  Now the pots of this mix sit overnight and we each simmer it again tomorrow and then pack the slices into jars, topping off with syrup.  The oranges have to wait 6 weeks, before eating.  I plan to get blood oranges when they become available and in season and do a batch of them.

Meantime, I made a new recipe up last night, to have a lovely cake for tea.  Capuccino Caramel Cake.  It got excellent reviews, everyone liked it.  Another successful magazine clipping recipe moves over into my cookbook binder.

This house seems to want me in the kitchen.  I have been enjoying the fantastic space to cook up lots.  Having the island really helps make the space work well.  This weekend we have enjoyed chili con carne with cornbread.  And a stunning cauliflower soup.  A pear upside down cake.  And the gorgeous capuccino caramel cake shown above.  Previous weekends have had us making beef pies, chicken and sour cream enchiladas, braised chicken with pears in white wine sauce, and homemade bread.  Now the preserved lemons and tomorrow the spiced oranges in their jars will get put away for aging, we will try them when ready in several weeks time.