Monday, August 24, 2015

quinces & heirlooms

I tucked a little quince tree in the potager this time last year.
The coral coloured blossoms fit beautifully amidst the rambly cottage plants.

It might be awhile until it bears fruit, so in the meantime I bought a couple of quinces to cook up for breakfasts with vanilla yoghurt and a sprinkle of seeds.

Their delicate fragrance scented the kitchen for hours as they simmered in the pretty syrup.
Thanks Belinda Jeffery for the tips on how to turn this fruit into soft pink loveliness.
Belinda's book The Country Cookbook has totally inspired me.
I love her way of writing and capturing the joy of creating in her kitchen and pottering in her garden.

Notice the sweet little silver spoon?
I have a small knife from my childhood from this range. It became a tradition when our children turned three, that we gave them a Rodd heirloom knife, fork and spoon on their birthday.

Do you have any special "hairylooms" in your cutlery drawer?

top o' the mornin' to you!

Look what's popped up in the plot this week?
These interesting green flowers are a happy find for florists.

Irish bells.

The Irish Bells are smiling!

One day they look like they're just a mass of nondescript leaves - the next I noticed their pretty bells have formed up tall and straight along the stems in all their emerald green glory.
Ready to pick and take to market.
My first official harvest!

I am hereby a Flower Farmer.

Friday, August 21, 2015

hunkering down

With spring in the air and these glorious clear warming-up days, I just want to stay home!
It’s such a waste of a good gardening day if you have to go to town when the weather’s perfect.
The garden is calling me. 
I think we ought to have our main school holidays at this time of year when you can really enjoy being outside without getting fried to a frizzle.
It’s amazing what you can get done when you don’t scatter your energy far and wide.
I’ve been like a turtle. Pulling my head in to think and write and process all the creative stimulation my brain is trying to sift. It’s kind of distracting having to think about the normal responsibilities, like feeding people and venturing into a supermarket.

Here’s  a quick meal when you’d really rather be gardening. Or writing. Or practicing taking photos….

A nifty tip for quick pumpkin soup when your pantry is bare.

Chop up an onion, crush some garlic, grate some ginger and saute in a bit of oil. 
Toss in a diced up pumpkin with some chicken stock and…..the secret ingredient - a good dollop of satay sauce (at least a third of a bottle) .
Whiz it up with a tin of coconut cream and serve with toasted Turkish bread slathered in some pumpkin spice dip that you might just happen to discover at the back of your fridge before the use-by date 

And there's more!

As I stepped through the pretty blue door this time last weekend, it was as if I walked right into the pages of Australian Country Style Magazine.

The whole weekend felt like being within the pages of that beautiful magazine. From the cosy spot where we stayed in Rydal to a visit to the Moree Gallery on the drive home.

Rose Cottage was actually a feature story a couple of years ago. The quaint little B & B was pictured on the cover and Rydal, famous for cheery yellow daffodils, has also been bookmarked in the magazine.

My eyes feasted on every little detail. Wherever I looked was beauty and inspiration.

‘Kimbri,’ owned by artist Annie Herron, with its pretty nooks and crannies was a treat for the senses. 

My eye has been drawn to Annie’s advertisement in the back pages for years as I tossed up the possibilities of venturing down to her property for an art workshop one day.
I had also noticed the ad for the Moree gallery with its eye popping artwork on display. It was worth the detour to visit at last.
Meeting the editor, mingling with writers and a photographer who freelance for the magazine and some who had been subjects of articles. was all included in this whole wonderful weekend.
 All orchestrated by Sophie Hansen who was featured after her book Local Is Lovely was published last year.

Mazagines’ is a funny family word one of our children mispronounced as a toddler years ago and it’s stuck. They are my little luxury.  Not just any magazines. I have enjoyed ‘ Victoria Magazine’, published in USA.  The English ‘Country Living’ and ‘Australian Country Style’ are my absolute favourites. There is so much reading within the pages, filled with stories and photographs that uplift the soul with beauty, loveliness, hope and courage.
The positive focus of the magazine with such uplifting content inspires me every month.
 I love it. 
As I read stories of interesting people doing interesting things all over Australia in quiet tucked away rural areas, it inspires me to craft our own unique life story.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


The food! I haven't mentioned the food.
It was a feast for the eyes as well as our taste buds.

The gourmet food was truly a work of art. 
Each generous dish crafted by Sophie and her friend Pip with warm and friendly hospitality that is becoming renown at these special Local is Lovely pracs.
I had my first taste of venison, fresh from Sophie and  husband Tim’s deer farm at Orange. Transformed into tender and delicious osso bucco served with creamy mash.
Sophie’s amazing baking was the focal point for our photographic shooting.

Licorice (!) flavored cake dripping with ricotta and honeycomb that perfectly matched the flavors of freshly brewed chai tea served with a dash of vanilla infused syrup.

Poached rhubarb with nutty dukkah.

Delicate orange madeleines dusted with icing sugar and dipped in a creamy sauce. 

One thoughtful workshop participant bought this rustic prop filled with home-baked bikkies to share.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

really local is lovely

Sophie Hansen’s yummy fresh food stimulated my appetite for simple, wholesome produce from my own backyard. It is grounding to wake up and wander in my garden after a sojourn away.
 To inspect what’s what in the veggie patch and come inside with a surprising handful of snippets to turn into lunch.
I am secretly procrastinating against the huge task of a thorough stock take to stock up with a major grocery expedition.

I’ve been inspired to use local ingredients. 
 Really local.
It’s amazing what you can find in your own backyard when you really don’t want to go to the supermarket.

Looking further back in the fridge and freezer and really 

simplifying what we can make a meal out of. I made an omelete for lunch. 
 We’ve got a pile of fresh eggs, lots of parsley and the broccoli!

I’ve harvested from our little crop three times. I only bought one punnet of seedlings. A mere half a dozen plants for the whole of winter. Once we picked the main bundle, they’ve just kept growing and the little side shoot florets have been prolific.
I always hope I’ll stagger the broccoli planting and get more seedlings in at least a fortnight apart.
Next year.
(Gardeners can procrastinate. There’s always next year.)
And next year I shall definitely plant more peas.
You actually don’t need that much to feed a family. Even a big family.
One zucchini plant can go a long way, especially when you turn your back for a day.
 I have picked more than 50 (!) little capsicums from one solitary scrubby little bush.

We still have a dozen pumpkins in the paddock and heaps of sweet potatoes hiding in the potager.

The dogs give us a hand to dig them up. Peggy loves gnawing on the bodgy big ones.

Lovely Workshop

 As I sip and crunch tea and toast in the comfort of my own home on this fresh almost-spring morning and reflect on this past weekend, I have a renewed sense of appreciation to capture our daily days.

I have just had the most amazing opportunity to learn from long-admired experts in the creative arenas of writing, photography and art… all from the pages of Australian Country Style Magazine.

It was wonderful to “escape the everyday”.

The practical workshops were organised by Sophie Hansen of ‘Local Is Lovely’ fame and hosted by her mum Annie Herron  at the beautiful property, ‘Kimbri’ west of the Blue Mountains.

The venue itself was inspirational.

The weather was perfect.

Vignettes were tucked in and around every corner just begging to be captured on film for cameras itching to be busy clicking.

Many of us came a long way for this special weekend – Hobart, Melbourne, regional Victoria, Moree, Sydney and south east Queensland. 
Two husbands drove 11 hours - mine and another from a place actually called Nowhere Creek! 

It was absolutely worth it.

Mingling with 15 delightful participants was so stimulating as creative energy and ideas bounced off the corrugated iron walls of the rustic shearing shed studio where we gathered.

The picturesque setting is usually host to Annie’s art workshops where keen students come and stay to paint and sketch. This time, photographers were there to focus on improving their skills - or for me – to learn from scratch how to use the complicated manual machine with its blur of  ISO, Aperture and shutter speed numbers.

Most others knew their camera and how to use it well, while I had no idea how to get the best out of mine (actually my daughter’s camera). An SLR – not a little automatic point and shoot. I want to step up a notch, but I felt quite humble being in a room with others who knew so much and were there to “upskill”. Some were published authors! I had to pinch myself that I was even in their midst.

Luisa Brimble’s energy and attention to detail made it achievable as she vivaciously shared her experience and knowledge with such patience for two whole days.

Victoria Carey was so personable with her gracious humility for someone “up there” in the magazine world. She gave us an insight into the think tank of our own absolute favourite as she shared 25 years’ experience of writing and editing.
It was fascinating to hear each other’s stories after we interviewed one another during Victoria’s activity. Many potential leads for future magazine articles!

Megan Trousdale was lovely company as she spent the weekend mingling and sharing advice and wisdom about writing and living in Nundle.

Megan directed us to start writing what could be a prospective blog piece. It was such fun to listen to different observations that showed unique perspectives from the weekend, each receiving positive feedback and encouragement.

Annie showed us how to truly see what we look at through art eyes.
As she described the importance of the rule of thirds and the placement of odd numbered objects, she have us a collage activity that initially balked some of us, but opened our lenses to really notice shapes and shadows as art form in a new light.
It was beautiful to observe each other’s interpretation with a brief dabble in watercolour. The vibrancy or subtlety of different projects in painting a piece of fruit.

Styling food and setting up still life scenes on par with famous renaissance painting subjects.
The light streaming through the rustic windows with all the interesting old props was perfect to set the tone and atmosphere.

My favourite was the combination of Megan’s denim shirt with the blue enamel teapot filled with steaming freshly brewed chai tea, her trademark tea chest in the background beside a pitcher filled with lemony yellow wattle blossoms.

It was wonderful to “escape the everyday” and step into the magazine world for such a special time with such delightful people.

It has bought me home with fresh eyes to truly see the beauty in our life here and capture it on paper with renewed vision.

To embrace the everyday with my family here in our special place.