Saturday, 29 August 2015

It's coming

What's coming?  Spring of course.  On a day like today there's no denying it.

Almost overnight buds have appeared on shrubs and trees.

Gardens are shedding the last of their camelia flowers to make way for fresh azalea blooms.

Jacarandas are turning golden yellow before dropping their foliage in readiness for Sydney to be brushed with a haze of purple.  I know this glorious weather won't last and winter will return in its last desperate bid to hang around.  But in three days it will be spring, wonderful spring.

August has been such a busy and eventful month, with three family birthdays just as a start.  Our ten year-old granddaughter was selected to present the ball at the opening of the Netball World Cup game between Australia and England before a crowd of over 16,000 (images taken by an excited mother).  She couldn't take the smile off her face and at the end of the game she was presented with the ball signed by the Australian captain.  Australia won that game and went on to win the World Cup against New Zealand.

Ten days ago we drove our daughter and son-in-law to the airport as they set off on a four month adventure around England, Ireland and Europe.  Maz's painting, They Never Saw It Coming, had been selected out of over 850 submissions as a finalist in the Mosman Art Prize 2015 which opened on 25 July.  Somewhat belatedly Tony and I visited the gallery a couple of days ago and were delighted to see that the painting had been sold.  We were able to pass on the glad tidings to Maz as they landed in Dublin.

On the sewing front, I was on a self-imposed deadline to finish a quilt for my granddaughter.  She is at the horse-crazy stage and her mother bought a quilt kit from No Chintz which I was only too happy to put together.  I sewed the label on the back on Wednesday morning and by that evening it was on her bed.  She loves it, thank goodness!

One of the FaceBook pages I follow had a sew-along last week.  It involved a pattern which I had bought a few months back and had not got around to making, so it was the perfect opportunity to join in.  It was a fun project and I was very happy with the result, so much so that I will be working on a similar style for the upcoming summer range of Hot Fudge which will be available soon in my Etsy and MadeIt shops.

To round off the week I made this skirt.  It's one of my favourites and is so easy to wear.  I made it in size 10, but it's available in limited supplies made to order in sizes 5 to 13/14 in my shops listed above.

So much for August.  Hurry up September, I am totally over winter.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tulips, chocolates and Turkish delight

Midwinter is almost here and already the days are getting longer.  Add to that the full second the world gained overnight and things are looking decidedly rosy.  The schools are closed for the mid-year holidays which means lighter traffic on the roads.  It also means that today we had the good fortune of having our three Sydney grandchildren and their mother here for lunch.

They came bearing tulips, chocolate and Turkish delight.  Wonderful children, they know our weaknesses.  Our ten-year-old granddaughter has a severe dairy allergy so when I opened the July issue of delicious. Magazine, there on the cover was the perfect solution - a stunning dairy-free celebration cake.

Coconut chiffon cake with meringue icing.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?  Well, if you rush in without reading the complete recipe, a whole lot.  Like possessing not one but two 20 cm spring form pans.  However, I did have one 23 cm spring form pan plus an ordinary cake tin of the same size, so I made do with those and shortened the cooking time to compensate for the size.  Good job Robyn, I thought smugly.

The cake was lovely, light and airy, which it should be with all those egg whites.  I was feeling pretty chuffed, with only the meringue icing to contend with and that's where I read a little further down the recipe.  The four egg whites and the rest of the ingredients were to be placed in a heat-proof basin, sat over simmering water and whipped to within an inch of its existence for seven minutes, or until thickened.  Ah, an Italian meringue.  After the seven minutes passed and my trusty little electric hand beater was at the point of imploding, I realised that it was not stiff like the cover of the magazine and became a little disheartened.  At this point I did what I always do in desperate moments - I read the balance of the recipe.  The meringue was to be transferred to the bowl of my Kenwood Chef and beaten at high speed for a further five minutes.  

The resemblance to the magazine cover cake was as different as day is to night, but it was at least on the plate and received much praise when it was delivered to the table.  I encouraged the kinder to take a finger lick of the icing before they felt obliged to commit to a slice. The verdict was varied, all the way from interesting (the two older ones) to weird, from the six year-old.  However, they opted for a slice and then finished the meal with lashings of chocolates and Turkish delight.  A generous slab of cake was send home for our son-in-law to deal with.

Would I make it again?  Are you kidding?

It's the first day of the new financial year in Australia and I am holding a couple of sales to help boost the economy.  The first is on my MadeIt store where for a short period I am offering 50% off selected items.  Some have already sold, so if you find something you like, don't delay.

The second option is over at my Etsy store where I am offering 20% off my entire stock to celebrate 4 July.  This sale ends on 11 July.  Simply use the coupon code hotfudge4july at the checkout to activate the discount.

Image: Boutique Baby Photography
Now the question is, can we face up to another slice of the cake for dessert tonight?

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Where's an ark when you need it?

Nobody loves to see green gardens more than I do, but this is ridiculous.  It's been a couple of weeks of disasters from Queensland right down the eastern coast of Australia.  You know it's bad when they postpone a rugby league test match between Australia and New Zealand!  And it's not over yet.  Our first floor unit has suffered some water damage, with our bedroom and my sewing room having the carpets ripped up and the underlay removed.  As a result, I am in no man's land, with my sewing machines sitting in the middle of the room awaiting repairs to the offending window flashing and wrongfully sealed up brick weep holes.  Still, we know are so fortunate when we read the terrible stories that abound up and down the coast.

However, there was a bright spot in our week.

There was a time when I would buy magazines at the drop of a hat.  In fact, I was known as the Magazine Queen, a title I have now bestowed on The Middle Child.  Over the years my magazine enthusiasm has waned, but this particular publication caught my attention and I had to buy.

Perhaps the article on page 48 had something to do with it. 

This magazine oozes class.

It sets a very high benchmark and it has impeccable taste.  I'm not saying that because it features my daughter.  Scout's honour.

With all the turmoil, sewing has been put on the back burner.  I was a fair way along with this little dress when the cyclonic winds, rain and hail descended on Sydney (we dodged the hail thank goodness).  I have terrible withdrawal symptoms but with a little luck the machines will be zipping along again next week.

In the meantime, I'll find a lovely warm corner and read my magazine.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


I've been reluctant to admit that summer's gone, but it has to be faced.

As if by some secret agreement, camellias have suddenly bloomed all over Sydney. They are so clever - we are distracted by their beauty don't notice that it is getting colder.  But indeed it is.

This time last year Tony was recovering from a staph infection courtesy of his triple bypass, so the Royal Easter Show was the last thing on our minds.  Thankfully this year we were there bright and early.  Our first port of call was the baking section where Tony cast his expert eye over the cakes. Oh, how we love to pick them to pieces or stand in awe of the better examples.

On 25 April we mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings and the district produce exhibits reflected the spirit of those first Anzacs.

The dog pavilion catered for every canine personality and mood.  We had the pampered pooch ...

the get-me-outa-here pooch ...

the aren't I adorable pooch ...

 and, of course, the embarrassing pooch.

It was time to grab some lunch and head to the wood chopping pavilion. I often wonder how many toes they have left.

Who could resist Sideshow Alley?  We could, but it was on the way to the showbag pavilion, so it couldn't be avoided.  We bought some bags for the Queensland grandchildren, a licorice bag for me and some sort of chocolate bag for Mr Triple Bypass.  A thoroughly enjoyable day.

This Easter we invited the family and our closest friends to have lunch with us.  It was our first Easter in our new home and it thankfully proved that it is possible to feed twelve people in a modest sized apartment.  The two lounges were moved from the living room to the covered balcony and the outdoor setting moved indoors.  It seats ten and with a card table added to one end, all twelve were seated comfortably, despite the random mix of chairs and a couple of stools for the children.

Our five year-old grandson declared that this was his FAVOURITE cake ever.  Oh dear ... I hope I haven't led him astray.

The last rush of bunnies were mailed out in time for Easter and my sewing machine is taking a well-earned rest for a week or so.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter - I know we did.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Looking back

A FEW DAYS AGO I had a tiny rant on Facebook over the type of paper some magazines are using these days.  I completely understand that sandpaper/used bandages paper is somehow good for the environment, but I want to see clear, glossy images and sharp text when I spend my money on a magazine. Blame it on my age.

I know where it all comes from.  When I was a young and naive sixteen year-old way back in the late Fifties, fully trained in typing and shorthand, I joined the now defunct K G Murray Publishing Company in the Subscription and Promotion Department.  My shorthand quickly flew out the window which I didn't mind at all, as I hated it.  My main duty was to type the address stencils, which were similar to colour slides in appearance, for new subscribers to the various magazines.  This entailed wetting the stencils with a sponge roller, dropping the ribbon in the typewriter, and bashing down as hard as possible so that the typewriter keys would cut through the stencil.  I then was required to file them and print them onto labels when the latest issues were ready to mail. Boring.  Mind-numbingly boring, particularly as our office was located at the wrong end of town.  The upside was that my lovely boss would ply me with Superman and other such comic books to take home to my young brother, as well as any magazine I liked, fresh off the press.  Some were a little too risqué for an innocent teenager of the Fifties.

Things brightened up considerably by the time I turned seventeen, when the whole company came together under the one roof at Clarence Street, a mere couple of blocks away from the retail heart of Sydney.

There at my fingertips were David Jones, Farmers and many fabric stores to roam through at my leisure.  Every Thursday I would meet my mother for lunch and we would browse the fabric and fashion floors of the large department stores, take in a fashion parade, or wander through their china and kitchenware departments.

And this is where my dislike for the modern form of environmentally friendly paper originates. You see, back in those days the cheaper end of publications produced by K G Murray were printed on similar paper stock, obviously to keep the costs down.  This was offset by their jewel in the crown, the Australian House and Garden Magazine and other more up-market publications such as Wheels Magazine and for the fashion conscious, Flair Magazine.  They had glossy pages mixed in with the sandpaper variety - modern times!

Now that we were all located in the one building, I came face to face with the House and Garden editor, Beryl Guertner.  She was a living legend and I was terrified of her.  After all, she was so old (about forty at the time) and these were the days when you deferred to legends. She was a pioneer in the industry and was around long before Vogue Australia or Vogue Living.  I recall that she was always well dressed and had a strong personality which as a seventeen year-old I found to be a little intimidating.

The Subscription and Promotion Department settled happily into its new home on one of the upper floors which we shared with the Art Department.  The tedium of preparing those wretched address stencils was offset by being able to mingle with the artists.  Occasionally during non-rush periods I was permitted to watch them set up the production pages of the numerous magazines. I was fascinated.  Obviously there were no computers, so everything was done manually.  If a magazine editor or the Art Director weren't happy with what they saw, the whole page was discarded and the process began again.

They were heady days in publishing, but in the end I realised there was more to life than punching out address stencils, so at the more mature age of eighteen, I reluctantly handed in my notice and moved on.

Life took off and I had many adventures before finally settling down to married life.  I am grateful to our modern environmentally friendly magazines for reminding me of the thrilling days of publishing in the late Fifties.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Everything old is new again

I guess it's true that every cloud has a silver lining.  Our cloud came in the form of not being permitted to hang any of our pictures on the walls of the unit where we spent the last three years.  The silver lining is that there are no such restrictions in our new home.  All our paintings and pictures as a result were sulking in a storage cage in the basement of the building.  I'll spare you the dramas of reducing the huge pile of possessions which were sharing the space with the paintings, suffice to say we somehow successfully reduced it to what would fit into our actual unit.  With no storage cage in our new home, life is so much simpler.  Another silver lining.

We are waiting for a professional picture hanger to take care of the larger pictures, but in the meantime we figured we could look after some of the smaller works on our own.  The walls are solid brick with no gyprock to hammer picture hooks into, so we bought some of those adhesive ones which guarantee they will hold certain weights.  We'll see.

First picture up was one of our daughter Maz Dixon's works, naturally.  So far it hasn't fallen down and it's been up an hour already (that should get her heart racing).

These two works have always hung in our bedroom and it's like Christmas all over to see them back where they belong.  Mary Cassatt has long been an artist I admire and her picture, Child in a Straw Hat, is my favourite.  These two have also been up for an hour without falling down, but I'm not silly enough to have either one hanging over my head when I'm in bed.

Even having a calendar up on the wall is exciting, and looking at Margaret Olley works every day is not hard on the eyes.

Now for a confession.  We have quite a few paintings and pictures.  They have to go somewhere while we decide which ones are going up where and which ones will have to sadly part company with us.

And where else would you store them but in the guest bathroom?

It's the perfect conversation starter and as long as our guests don't take a shower, we'll be fine.

The Christmas break was a good time step back from sewing, but pretty soon I was ready for the new year.  The grandchildren needed beach bags for their holiday away with their parents so after consultation with their mother, this design was chosen, as it also has lots of pockets inside to carry those seaside treasures such as shells, dead crabs or whatever it is that children fancy today.  

Our quilting group met this week for the first time since the Christmas break and what a show and tell one of members had.  A relative had survived World War I only to be murdered in the Middle East in 1920 while on active duty.  Her cousin in England was a direct descendant and had ordered two poppies to be placed at The Tower, one for himself and the other for my quilting friend.  It arrived with some of the soil still attached and it was such a thrill to see one of these famous poppies close up.   

Some time back I had purchased a pattern by Amelie and Henri.  I am a great admirer of the designer Kerri and this pretty dress was waiting for some spare time to be made up.  It is so 1920s with its drop waistline, lace and pleats, not to mention the big bow. 

I came across the perfect black and white fabrics last week and decided it would be my first Hot Fudge item for 2015.  Australian buyers can also find it here.

So as you can see, everything old is new again.