Monday, 30 January 2017

A Birthday Bookmark

Over the weekend, I stitched a sweet little gift for the most gentle and beautiful and resilient person I know. My Mum! She will celebrate another birthday soon and I wanted to make her a special little present to wrap up with my love. So, I made this:

 The little fabric bookmark I made for my Mum sits atop a beautiful book.

This little fabric bookmark, made using a free download embroidery pattern from the very talented Jenny of Elephantz, took just an afternoon to make. A bookmark makes the perfect gift for someone like my Mum who is an avid reader. I chose brightly coloured threads as I know my Mum loves these colours but Jenny's exemplar shows how lovely this little bookmark is when stitched in softer hues. The flowers and tiny strawberries on the co-ordinating fabric are like those in my Mum's beloved garden and the bird represents all those feathered friends that visit and who are welcomed with delight. Lastly, there's that special word, "Mum". 

 The stitching on my Mum's gift.

A soft fabric marker for tucking into the pages of a book. A sweet and simple handmade gift for someone I love. The kind of gift that I feel fits in with the simple and slower life I'm crafting here. Do you make handmade gifts too?


Friday, 27 January 2017

Bold and Bright Zinnias

Our sub-tropical Summer can be a harsh season. Temperatures can soar, heatwaves can last for days on end, high humidity can leave one drenched in perspiration from just thinking about gardening (or any other active outside pursuit). It may be too dry with little to no rain, leaving the grass crunchy underfoot and everything gasping for a good drink, or storms will roll through in the afternoons bringing rain and cooling relief from the heat and humidity of the earlier day. 

Summer's light here can be harsh too;  bright, strong light that makes one squint and reach for sunglasses when just looking out the window! In the garden, that kind of light can seem to leach the colour from delicate, softly-hued flowers. So I find that it is the bold and bright colours, of blooms like these Zinnias, that seem to reflect Summer's light rather than being turned drab and lacklustre by it. 

Bright pink.

 Deep yellow.

Bold orange.

Milky cream.

Deep pink.

Sweet salmon.

Ruffled red.

Started as tiny seeds, and thinned out as they grew, these colourful and cheerful flowers are such a delight. I can see them from my kitchen window as I'm doing the washing up which makes me smile (the Zinnias, not the washing up;) It is amazing to me that such tiny seeds have all that vibrant colour within. Just add soil and water and sunshine!

A little bud hints at the colour within.

In bloom and so colourful!

Up close ... a native bee in the centre of a Zinnia bloom.

I love these bold and bright flowers. My tiny native bees and visiting honey bees love them and I'm sure you would love them too if you have room for some Zinnias in your Summer.

I hope you have a bright and happy weekend.


Monday, 23 January 2017

Homemade Summer Granola

Breakfast sets us up for the day ahead, at school or work or home, so it's important it's nutritious and filling. There's always toast on offer at our place but often there's omelette with something green from the garden or buttery mushrooms or homemade breakfast muffins or banana bread drizzled with honey. Porridge is the staple of the cooler months but in Summer it's too hot for porridge so I've started making this delicious oaty granola instead. It's delicious with a thick yoghurt or cold, creamy milk. It's so easy to make too!

Yoghurt topped with a simple, homemade granola. Delicious!

I began with a recipe for granola clusters from Karlynn over at The Kitchen Magpie and simply tweaked it to suit us. I reduced the amount of honey, left out the extra sugar, substituted a nut oil for the canola oil and then I put in the nuts, seeds, coconut and dried fruit we like and that I had in the pantry at the time. Here's how I made it: 

Homemade Summer Granola
(Leave out the nuts and substitute no-nut oil if you have a nut allergy.)

3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
handful of raw almonds, roughly chopped
handful of coconut flakes
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch or two of ground rock salt

1/4 cup macadamia nut oil
1/4 cup honey

1. Preheat oven to 150C and line a flat baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the macadamia oil and honey.

3. Whisk together the macadamia oil and honey in a separate jug then pour over dry 

4.  Mix lightly to coat dry ingredients.

5. Spread mixture out on prepared baking tray. Push together little "clusters" of mixture 
    so they stick together as they bake. 

   (You may like to use the full 1/3cup honey to make clusters stick together more readily. 
     In using less honey, I found my clusters didn't hold together too well.)

6. Bake in oven until lightly golden. (Keep an eye on it so that it doesn't burn!)

7.  Cool completely then store in airtight containers ready to serve with breakfast. Yum!

Two jars of homemade granola for the pantry.

While I chose to add dried cranberries, almonds, coconut, chia and sunflower seeds to this batch of granola, next time I might choose different dried fruits, nuts and seeds. You can mix in whatever you fancy for a combination that your family loves. Yum!

I hope you enjoyed a hearty, healthy breakfast this morning and that it left you feeling ready for the day ahead.


p.s. The other thing I like about making our own granola is that I can forgo a cereal box, and the obligatory plastic packet inside that cereal box, when I shop.  Another good reason to make your own!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Garden Visitor 8

I heard this fuzzy little fellow before I saw him! Working industriously in our star jasmine, buzzing noisily and so very quickly from one flower to the next, was this very fluffy little bee.

Teddy Bear Bee in flight.

He is an Australian native Teddy Bear Bee (Amegilla bombiformis). My photo is somewhat blurry because this bee is notoriously tricky to photograph. No sooner did I have it in focus and it buzzed off! If you'd like to see much clearer and beautiful photos of this adorable native bee, you can visit this Aussie Bee website.

Teddy Bear Bees are one of Australia's native solitary bees. They are so called because of their golden 'fur'  that resembles that of a teddy bear. They are buzz pollinators, like Blue-Banded Bees, meaning they can take hold of a flower and 'shake' it through vibration to release the pollen inside. Amazing!

This was the first time I have seen one of these special little native bees in our garden. It feels a wonderful thing because, like many other native animals, these bees need habitat and food sources. It's a lovely thing to think that the garden we are growing here provides that for these tiny and very important creatures.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Dandelion Clocks Top

Do you have dandelions growing in your garden? Have you ever picked a fluffy dandelion clock and scattered the seeds with your wishes and breath? I am unable to resist blowing dandelion seeds everywhere whenever I discover a dandelion clock in the garden. Doing so, to me, feels like sweet and whimsical fun.

No dandelion clocks for my photo, just one little not-yet-open bud.

So, when I saw some beautiful and deep dark blue fabric printed with scattered dandelion clocks (there is something that draws me to botanical motifs on fabric) I knew it was for me. This is what I sewed it up to be:

 Now I can wear dandelions!

This was a much quicker project for me because I chose a pattern that I had sewn up before to make another top. The lightness of the fabric did cause me a few challenges because it slipped a bit more as I moved it through my sewing machine. My solution...more pins and more patience!

My little dandelion bowl.

Recently, a close friend gave me this lovely little bowl, so small that it fits snugly in one of my cupped hands. Upon its surface is a scattering of tiny dandelion seeds. So beautiful, my friend and my treasured gift.

A scattering of tiny seeds.

Dandelion clocks are such delicate puffballs. Next time you find one, I hope you'll take a deep breath, close your eyes and make a wish as you blow and disperse those tiny seeds.


Friday, 13 January 2017

From the Garden to the Table

When I decided to improve our garden here, so that we could grow some of our own food, one of my goals was to be able to use a vegetable, fruit or herb from the garden in every homemade meal.  So, when I wander out to the garden each morning now, with my little harvest basket tucked under my arm, I am not only looking at what's ripe or ready, but I'm thinking of how I can use that freshest of foods in our day's meals.

A small harvest of the freshest foods picked from just outside my back door.

In my little basket of homegrown goodness, picked yesterday morning, there was ...

... little ripe & red capsicums ...

... small and sweet baby zucchinis...

... bright green lettuce leaves ...

... cucumbers that are as crunchy as apples...

 ...  fresh & crisp '"Blue Lake Beans" ...

... long, chili-shaped yellow capsicums

In that basket, which also included a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley and some fragrant basil, I had something I could use in every meal I made yesterday. I used the herbs in delicious breakfast omelets. The lettuce, cucumber and beans went into a healthy garden salad for lunch which we had with zucchini "bread", made with some of those small and sweet zucchinis. In the evening, the sauce of our spaghetti bolognese was made using our capsicums, zucchini and more basil that I picked from just outside my back door. Something from the garden in every meal!

Zucchini "bread" made with our own zucchinis.

There is something so wonderful and satisfying about growing, harvesting and eating food that you have grown yourself. 

Have a lovely weekend. 


p.s. Don't grow any of your own food yet? Why not start by planting a herb, like thyme or parsley or oregano, in a little pot for your windowsill or balcony or verandah. Nurture it and in no time at all you'll be picking some leaves to add to a meal of your own.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Here & Now 8

The Summer is in full swing now. Here it is hot, scorchingly so some days, and thus my thoughts turn continually to cool escapes and daydreams. I spend my early mornings in the garden listening to the bees as they work among the flowers we are both visiting. Before the hot sun chases me back inside, I love to turn the spray of the hose skywards, tilt my face just so too, and close my eyes as the droplets fall in a refreshing shower upon my face and a patter upon the ground. Like rain!

A gorgeous hibiscus flower tucked in amongst glossy green leaves.

Colourful  zinnias brighten our garden.

A glorious and golden Grevillia.

Loving //  The bright colours of  beautiful zinnias and other Summer blooms.
Eating //  Simple, homemade meals to eat with salads on warm evenings.
Drinking //  Sparkling spring water, chilled in the fridge, with ice cubes in my glass.
Feeling //  Contented at home.
Making //  A new, midnight blue dress in fabric covered with tiny flora. 
Thinking //  That these school holidays are almost gone and I'm not ready yet to give them up!
Dreaming //  Of deep oceans, shady glades, balmy breezes and drenching rain.

Whatever the season where you live, I hope there are simple joys, like flowers, that brighten your Here & Now days. 


Monday, 9 January 2017

Midnight Flora Dress

Scattered all over the midnight blue fabric of my first home-sewn dress are tiny flowers, twigs, seedpods, mushrooms and leaves. Blue is my most favourite of colours and I love the sweet flora printed all over it. Very me!

My new "Midnight Flora" dress.

I chose the simple Quilting Bee Dress pattern from the book, Just for You - Selfish Sewing Projects from Your Favourite Sew Can She Bloggers:  24 Simply Stylish Projects by Caroline Fairbanks-Critchfield and Sarah Markos. I borrowed it from my local library and just traced the pieces (of which there are only two, that then go together to form just one pattern piece:) While simple, it still challenged me somewhat and thus, extended my almost-beginner sewing skills. I made a drawstring, practised buttonholes, made a simple casing and sewed co-ordinating bias trim. While learning all that, I managed to stick iron-on interfacing to my iron, sewed the casing on so it was inside out and had to unpick the bias trim around the neckline no less than three times. These were, of course, rookie errors and I know that next time I sew up this dress it will all be easier. I'll have done it before!

I am planning to sew another one of these dresses in a heavier fabric so as to make a tunic to wear with leggings for the cooler months. For Summer now though, I am very happy to have a new dress, in this beautiful Midnight Flora fabric I love, that fits and that I made myself.

Are you learning a new skill at the moment? What is it and how did you begin?


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Healthier & Homemade Chocolate Pops

Homemade ice pops! Is there anything better on hot Summer days? When everyone is sweltering, these are a most welcome, icy-cool treat. 


These homemade treats are delicious and they are also healthier. Rather than the dubious artificial flavours, colours and preservatives found in many commercially produced pops, these have familiar, easily recognised ingredients. Simple!

This is how I make them:

Homemade Chocolate Pops

2 cups milk 
1/4cup honey
2 Tablespoons raw cacao (or 3 Tablespoons cocoa)
2 Tablespoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter

1.  Mix cornflour with a little of the milk until blended to a smooth slurry.

2.  Add milk, honey, cacao (or cocoa) and vanilla to a medium sized saucepan. 

3.  Whisk in cornflour slurry.

4.  Add the butter to the milky mixture.

5.  Heat mixture gently, over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. (Do not boil.)

6.  Allow this custardy mixture to cool somewhat. 
     (If a 'skin' forms on top of the mixture, carefully pour it through a fine sieve.) 

7.  Carefully transfer mixture to a heatproof pouring jug.

8.  Pour mixture into ice pop moulds and cap each one.

9.  Freeze for several hours until set.

There's nothing like homemade treats!

Enjoy ... and don't forget to catch the drips!


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Berry Delicious Somethings

When I tiptoed out to the kitchen early yesterday morning, a wee bit sleepy but looking forward to a couple of quiet hours to myself before anyone else awoke, I stood in a should-not-be-there puddle right in front of our combined fridge/freezer. A puddle, as it turns out, that was the handiwork of a little elf. It seems that this cute elf got a bit peckish the previous evening and rummaged around in the freezer for some sliced bread to make himself some toast. Unfortunately, said elf left the bottom freezer door slightly ajar and it remained so all night long. And it was a warm night too! By morning, when I wandered out in my pjs, the freezer had defrosted and all the food in the fridge above (which is cooled by air circulating up from the freezer below) had warmed right up. I almost turned around and went back to bed!  Instead, I set about salvaging what I could.

In this freezer, which is thankfully not where I keep the bulk of our frozen foods, I had a stockpile of frozen berries. Some blueberries from my own blueberry bushes and some packets of mixed berries. All defrosted berries now! So, I made a quick dash to the little local shop (which thankfully opens early:) to buy some essentials and then set to making some berry delicious somethings...

Buttermilk and Berry Slice
(I used this recipe but with a pecan topping instead of almonds.)

Berry good!

Blueberry and White Chocolate Muffins
(Adapted from this recipe from Jude Blereau.)

 Mixed Berry Icecream made in the Thermomix
(Adapted from this recipe for Strawberry Icecream)

Berry delicious!

Now, instead of plain old toast for a hungry little elf, there are several batches of these berry delicious somethings in the freezer. Hopefully, after he reaches in to find something to quieten his tummy rumblings, he'll remember to shut the freezer door!


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Year Days

These early New Year Days have unfolded contentedly, filled with time here in our home. We haven't ventured much beyond our own blue gates. We've not had the need or the desire to go far. I simply love days like these!

There's been a little gardening:

A creamy yellow Zinnia flower.
There's been some baking:

A fresh batch of oaty Anzac biscuits. 

There's been much healthy eating:

Our Garden Salad with chicken and a creamy yoghurt dressing.

There's been a spot of sewing:

 The beginnings of a new dress.

Practising buttonholes! 

There's been lots of cleaning and organising:

The much neater corner of my sewing table.

There's been a bit of knitting:

A new washcloth with a new pattern.

There's been plenty of reading and board games and music and cricket and fun.

Just two of the many books we are enjoying these holidays.

In amongst all these joys, there has been the annual packing away of the Christmas tree and lights and new calendars have replaced the old. This new year is off to a lovely start!

I hope your New Year Days are unfolding contentedly too.