Monday, August 09, 2010


Had a lovely weekend in Canberra.  Saturday was the quilt show (big NO PHOTOGRAPHY signs up, so no photos to show you) and the charming company of friends.  One of whom always has inspiring new creative books to show me, and had some Cath Kidston treasures for me.  One of my favourite quilts was a New York Beauty by a first-time exhibitor - wonderful colours, and I especially liked how if you looked at it closely, while a number of the fabrics might have qualified as 'fuglies', it all worked together really well to make a vibrant and beautiful quilt. (Brenda has provided a winners' gallery link in her comment, but this quilt isn't there.  Trust me, it was a corker!)

There was white, white frost on Saturday morning, and ice on the car (doesn't get as cold and frosty at home).  I forgot to take a photo, but enjoyed it with my eyes...

On Sunday morning at Jamison trash and treasure markets there were things I recognised and was so very glad I'd never bought, way back when, because I'd be trying to sell them now too.. (if I hadn't already tossed 'em).

And there was some treasure.  The Shopping Sherpa found some, and I came home with a vintage leather suitcase ($20), a painted/worn wooden lidded box ($10 - perfect for using for the week's recyclables in the kitchen) and a rather too gynaecological (in a sinister way) vintage Singer buttonholing attachment in a box ($2).  Not a painting, because the chap wanted too much; nor the interesting tin box, ditto.  There were people selling less usual (okra) and more usual vegetables and fruits, flats of brightly coloured pansies and polyanthus and a cheerful crowd of people of all sorts and kinds browsing the wares (after all, my trash could be their treasure...).  Many nice friendly stallholders, too.

No snow on the way home (as happened a few years ago), just clear blue winter skies.  There was some water in Lake George, which hasn't been the case the last few times I've driven past (um, that's about the only thing I photographed... photo here soon).  Those wind farm turbines must be eNORmous, if they look as big as they do from the lookout on the main road side of the lake.

I'll have to get the camera out next time...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

I've blogged about this before - one of my absolutely favourite foods.  Took me a while to find the recipe I liked best, but I have.  Went looking for it this evening and GADS!! couldn't at first find the recipe notebook into which I'd written it.  And while I've said I'll put it on this blog more than once, turns out I don't seem to have done so.  So here it is, enshrined here for you to enjoy and me to find when that notebook grows legs again...

My handwritten recipe attributes this version to (Australian) Better Homes and Gardens, June 1991 - so it's been My Recipe for soda bread for almost twenty years; and never superseded in that time.  I'm giving you gold...

0810 soda bread


Measurements use Australian standard cups and spoons.  I'm sure you can find a website to translate if you need to...

  • 250g (2 cups) plain flour
  • 200g (1 1/2 cups) wholemeal flour
  • 3 tablespoons quick rolled oats
  • 1 tsp salt (don't leave this out)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 60g cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 450ml buttermilk
  • 1 small egg
  • Oven to 200degC
  • Combine flours and oats in a food processor, mix until finely ground. 
  • Add salt, baking powder and bicarb, process to mix.
  • Add butter and process until butter is thoroughly blended
  • Transfer mixture to a bowl, make a well in the centre.
  • Beat buttermilk and egg together, pour into well, mix until dry and spongy; if too slack, bread will be heavy.
  • Tip onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes until smooth.  Just lightly, just enough - don't overhandle it.  I probably do no more than a minute.  Shape into two rounds (or one large round) about 5cm thick.
  • Place on baking trays that are either covered in baking paper or lightly floured.
  • Cut a cross in the bread that goes down the to base - four quarters if two small rounds, two crosses/eighths if one large round.  This allows the bread to rise evenly and gives it its characteristic look.
  • If you want to glaze it, beat an egg yolk with 2 tsp water, glaze and scatter 1 1/2 tablespoons of quick rolled oats on top.  Me, I just don't bother.
  • Bake 35-40 min or until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.  Cool on rack, but serve warm with butter.  It's good with home made jam or marmalade, or with a nice bitey cheddar; I'm happy as anything to have simple soda bread with butter.  It can be microwaved to reheat, but you might lose a little of its crustiness.  It's a great accompaniment for soup -eg pumpkin soup.
  • If you don't have a food processor, rub in the butter by hand and use oatmeal.
  • It only keeps a day or two, so eat it fresh or freeze it.  When I was a child and bakers didn't bake seven days a week, or on public holidays, this is what my mother would make to tide us over.
Righto!  Now this recipe is on the internet I'll never lose it (!)   And you can enjoy it too.

I think one of the secrets of this recipe is the egg - it does add to the flavour.  And, as noted, don't leave out the salt.  I don't madly salt food, but the salt in this is necessary (left it out once and the taste wasn't right).

It's been a while since I blogged here - golly gee work has been busy this year!

Back soon!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kiva: meet Shirley Macedo Garcia

Meet Shirely Macedo Garcia, who will receive my sixteenth Kiva loan.

Located in San Martín, Peru, she is an upholsterer and will use this loan to buy rolls of fabric, and different colors of thread to make the upholstery.

Ms. Shirley belongs to the Communal Bank “Las Decididas II” in the Tarapoto District, San Martín Region and the San Martín Department. She is married and she is 57 years old. She is the mother of 2 children, 1 child is still studying and is attending university.

With the first loan of de S/. 300.00 Nuevos Soles, based on a friend’s idea, she now works on upholstery in her home with the help of her sewing machine. She works with her husband.

Currently they work in the same business and the clients’ requests come to the home daily. With this loan of S/2,000.00 Nuevos Soles, she will expand her business by buying rolls of fabric, thread for sewing the upholstery for the furniture, a moto-taxi and motorized vehicles. She is proud of her work.

She feels like an accomplished woman therefore she is grateful for the opportunity offered by the Manuela Ramos Movement, so she can develop as a woman and businesswoman.

There's a Kiva button over on the right of this blog.  Kiva is microfinance - you usually get your loan back, and then you can reloan it.  The recipients are the working poor, entrepreneurs; it's hugely rewarding to know a little from here can mean so much there.

I've been undertaking Kiva loans for over two years, and it's a great charitable enterprise.  The borrowers' stories are a fascinating window on other parts of the world and other lives.  I often, but not always, choose people engaged with textiles in some way, reflecting my own interests.  As it happens, I've just had some chairs reupholstered, so this loan seemed apt.

Minimum loan is $25US, so not a large amount.  Worth doing. Click here to see people needing loans.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I know we had February...

I know we had February.  Always the hardest month to endure, weatherwise - the heat of summer and the humidity.  Slogging and sweating through the start of the school year and thinking, longingly, of March, and autumn.

It's March, and the weather seems to know.  Humidity not a problem, the days a little cooler, and overnight too, so you can sleep.

I went back to work after Australia Day and it's been so very busy.  Which is the cliche, but also the truth.  Productive at work and not much happening on the home front.

It's hard for ME to believe, but I haven't sewn anything for nearly two months.  Nothing, not a quilt, not even a button or a hem.  I haven't gone that long without sewing for years and years.  Maybe that gives you an idea of how all-consuming work has been.  Perhaps what I'll do for Easter is schedule a quilt project I'd like to play with, clear the decks and give it air and time and see what happens.  No deadlines, no commissions or anything, just let it happen and go from there.

Mind you, my hardworking Bernina sewing machine is probably very happy to be getting a service.  And I've been invited to give a 'quilt talk' to a patchworking group later this month.

There's a bit of public speaking going on in the next while, on the work front - three presenter gigs coming up.  I did a couple towards the end of last year, and not only did I enjoy them, so did the audiences (and they found them useful).  They're fun, and a good way for me to reflect on my own working practices and challenges as well as share ideas with others.

I've kept reading blogs (yay for bloglines), and found a couple of new ones to read too.

Must do some autumnal clearing up and replanting in the (rather neglected) garden.  There are tight green buds on the pink camellia...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Waltzing Matilda

With several Australia Day celebration options, I decided to go up the Blue Mountains to Katoomba so I could see the Bushwackers perform.  They're an Australian bush band; no, THE Australian bush band, nearly forty years old (with various personnel over that time) and I've loved their music for, oh, over thirty of those years... it's kinda folk/Celtic/country, distinctive whether they're playing instrumental or songs.  Some songs are traditional, others new.  Whatever, it's all good stuff. 

They played two sets, and in between was time to happily wander the antiquey/junky shops and bookshops (new and second-hand) of Katoomba.  Had a great day.  It was hot in Katoomba (32degC), and very hot (ten degrees hotter) at home.  Definitely a day for a hat and slipslopslapping with the sunscreen.

I bought two of their albums which I didn't have, and have been enjoying them very much this evening.  Definitely an Australian day (well, except for the American chocolate brownies I baked this evening ready to take to work tomorrow).

Book 005: The Grand Sophy

The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer.

Hmmm.  I may not restrict myself to a single Heyer, but this would have to be in my top three.  I've just been listening (again) to an unabridged audiobook of it, which is terrific and highlights the wit and irony of Heyer's writing.  And the utter fun of the story. 

This image came from here; it's the edition I have of the book (but am too lazy right now to photograph and upload...).  That blog entry compares Sophy to Jane Austen's Emma.  Sophy being Much cleverer at managing people.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kiva: Meet Nieva Salabe

One of my great daily pleasures is reading the newspaper - generally the Sydney Morning Herald in paper form, the New York Times online.  On my recent holiday away, it was great fun to read the local newspapers in each district, and get a perspective on local concerns and activities through them.  You can see why I chose Nieva Salabe for my latest Kiva loan.

Kiva is an avenue for lending to the working poor.  I first learned about it almost two years ago, and since then have done fifteen loans - some are now paid back, the rest are being paid back.  When I'm repaid, I recycle the money to lend again, as well as putting in more from time to time.  While I most often have chosen women who are engaged with needlework/fabric, due to my own interests, I've also lent to grow flowers in Cambodia, sell fruit and vegetables in Peru, and other things.  It's a window on other worlds, and chance to make a difference through the brilliantly simple idea of microfinance.

Here's more about Nieva:

Nieva V. Salabe, 51, is making sure that her family has enough provision for their daily needs. Married to Jose Salabe Jr., a driver, they are blessed with three children. She makes sure that she helps her husband earn income so that their family can have a better life. She has been selling newspapers for many years.

Nieva has been a regular member of Center for Community Transformation* (CCT) for several years now. She regularly attends their weekly fellowship meetings and pays her weekly dues consistently. Because of her good repayment performance with her previous loans, she was able to borrow 12 times from CCT’s Cooperative. She is consistent in paying her dues because she used the money she borrowed to buy more stock of different newspapers for her business. Her business lets her earn a profit of PHP 14,000 per month.

Now with your help, she would like to apply for a PHP 38,000 loan. This amount will be used as a source of added capital to her expanding business by buying more newspapers to sell.

She dreams that her business will continue to grow so that she can help her children achieve their ambitions in life.

* All CCT community partners / clients are organized into fellowship groups that meet on a weekly basis. A fellowship group is composed of 15 to 30 community partners. The fellowship groups gather each week to study the Word of God, build social capital, and pay Micro Finance loans.

It's not at all difficult to lend via Kiva - do try it.  Minimum loan is $US25, plus a suggested 15% of your loan to support Kiva's own costs.

Book 004: A River Runs Through It

I think I came to Norman McLean's book, A River Runs Through It and other stories, thanks to the 1992 film, directed by Robert Redford.  Such a strong, graceful, wise, sad book (semi-autobiographical) and film, about two brothers, one responsible, one not, the ties that hold a family and the losses that never quite heal; and flyfishing, which is absolutely about itself but also a metaphor for much more.  The book was rewarding too, and has one of my favourite pieces of prose, which is the ending of both the book and film.

"It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."

Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.

Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, alhtough some friends think I shouldn't.  Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where teh summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening.  Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the worlds' great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops.  Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

In the film, most of this is done as a final voiceover by Robert Redford (as the voice of the older Norman McLean - Redford doesn't appear on camera in the film).  The rhythm of this piece of prose, its simplicity and craft, its wisdom and mystery, catch me every time I hear or read it.  I don't fully understand it, and yet I do.

Here's this section from the film:
( if the link below doesn't work)

Here's the film's trailer, in case you're interested.

Such a visually beautiful film too'; it did justice to the original writing.  Must hunt out my DVD...

PS. The mention of 'ties' was an utterly unintentional allusion.  Sorry!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On spelling

Just a quick note.  Why is Caesar so hard to spell?  As in Caesar Salad?  As opposed to Cesar, Cesaer, Cesear, Ceseaer???  I recently saw a single cafe which spelled this two ways in one menu, and it's misspelled everywhere....

Its vs it's.  Always bewilders me when I see an expensive ad in which clearly much moolah has been expended on photography, immortal prose and marketing, but omigosh, they haven't got it proofread properly.  They're trying to convince me to spend bunches of money on their quality product, and they can't get its/it's right.  I lose confidence. I do.  I start wondering if the quality of your product is all you say...

PS there are no spelling mistakes on this blog, of course.  Only typos.   !!!

Book 003: Stupid Sock Creatures

Stupid Sock Creatures, by John Murphy

Just when you thought it was all going to be tragic novels, here's a change of pace.  This book is hilarious, clever, witty and fun to browse.  The imagination it shares is utterly delightful and inspirational, so many quirky, individual sock creatures.  I still have my old school hockey socks (red, yellow and green stripes, white 'feet') and someday, this book is the one that will make them become something new.  Found this book at the Sydney Needlecraft and Quilt Fair at Darling Harbour several years ago.  I do like the way people are shaking up the world of softies/soft toys with books like this.  John Murphy's website is here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book 002: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

After a little discombobulation at the start, getting used to the dual voices of Henry and Clare, and the time-travelling, this is one of my greatest favourites, a great, rich, tragic, hopeful story about love and loss and the ordinary things that matter so much.  The unabridged audiobook read by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow is utterly brilliant, the best performance of this book (the film wasn't able to hold the narrative richness and detail of the book) and my favourite audiobook ever.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book 001: I heard the owl call my name

I thought I'd document, here on the blog, a year-full of favourite books.  Or 365 favourites.  Given that this house houses hundreds (OK, thousands), it will be fun to choose especial favourites.

I heard the owl call my name, by Margaret Craven
Love this book.  Found it as a teenager, and by the end of it, I still cry.  Margaret Craven's writing is powerfully simple, plain clear storytelling that leaves room for you to engage, rather than forcing you to do so.  A young priest, Mark, is sent by his bishop to be the minister in a remote Canadian village, because he doesn't have much time and the challenges of this will make the most of his time.  The native Canadian people (first people? I'm not sure of the current correct terminology) view him at first with suspicion, and he has to earn their trust and find his way in an unfamiliar culture.  It's not all a pretty story, or unrealistically neat, but it's one that resonates.  It's not a 'religious' book per se, so whether or not you're a believer, it's worth reading.

Holidays: Lakes Entrance

Fishing (and other) boats at Lakes Entrance, in Victoria.

Walking back from dinner, there were people fishing from the boardwalk.

And it was cooler, after a hot day.

I changed the blog header, but of course if you're reading this in a reader, you wouldn't know.  I'm sure I miss lots of blog prettification by using bloglines...