Sunday, June 20, 2010

Give away hearts - share your sewing tips

I was recently inspired to sew some silk hearts and fill them with lavender. But my hearts turned out terribly. They were flat and pinched.  So I bought a book (Sew pretty homestyle) that taught me some new tricks and my new hearts are gorgeous.

Tip 1: Don't cut out the shape until after sewing. I cut out two rectangles, drew the heart, sewed and then trimmed around the shape.

Tip 2:  Use small stitches.  I hate unpicking when I make a mistake so I have gradually developed a habit of using large stitches - easier to unpick. But the small stitches handled the curves of the hearts so much better.

So in honour of my new found sewing skills I am offering to give away three of my pretty little hearts.

How to enter:
Leave a comment here describing your favourite sewing tip or recommending your favourite book.

4 July 2010

I will use Tara Frey's random number generator to choose three blog entries to win.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you and learning your tips!

Please note, the hearts are filled with lavender - postage will be subject to customs/quarantine conditions in the winner's home country.  I will send an alternative version of the hearts if necessary.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What we do to survive the working week

I went back to work today after my lovely week off.
It was a good day, but not by accident. I took steps to make sure it would be. I eased back into the day and working life by sharing my yummy lemon cheesecake with my colleagues. They were very impressed indeed. Before I left on my week off I acted on a tip I picked up from Alex Fayle of Someday Syndrome. I wrote a to do list for when I got back to work. Thanks Alex it was a great tip! It helped me let go of work when I started my holiday and it helped me ease back in today when I returned.  It also helped that I had a wonderful week off and achieved so many goals.

I made sure I continued with those goals even though I was no longer on holidays.  At lunch time I took some journals, bracelets and chokers to Milk Thieves, the store that is stocking some of my DarlingBridget pieces. They were well received so lets hope they sell well.  I also went and spent a small fortune on fabric.  I bought a metre of this and a metre of that and the cost added up very quickly. I am not really complaining though as I found some very lovely fabric to sew with. It is a good thing I have projects to sew or else I would just keep the fabric. Its pretty and I love having swathes of it all around me.  But it will soon be sewn into lots of homespun DarlingBridget projects.  Have a good week everyone.

Link to Milk Thieves art and design store, Wollongong, Australia

Link to Alex Fayle

Monday, June 14, 2010

Picnic at Bradman Oval, Bowral

Howard and I took a day out today, from home, the garden, housework. It was a public holiday and a stunningly beautiful day. Not one cloud, relatively warm. It is now officially winter so you should take these days when you find them. It is so rare for us to just keep the day for ourselves.
We have two MG cars. I have had one for a long time, close to 20 years. She is an 1968 roadster. Her name is Queenie after Queen Elizabeth in the British TV show Blackadder. We are huge Blackadder fans. Howard recently bought a 1975 hatchback version, called George. Also from Blackadder. As it was a lovely day we packed a picnic, grabbed Harry and headed out. In both cars. On convoy.
We drove down country lanes, stopped outside the quaint little railway station at Exeter and picniced at Bradman Oval in Bowral. The picnic was superb. Frittatas, cheese and crackers, cheesecake and lime cordial of course. We took photos all along the way. Of the cars from this angle, that angle. I took a few extras just for fun, especially fence posts and trees. I love the texture of worn wood.
Tonight we registered both cars with a model agency for cars. We have been thinking about this for a while. My beautiful Queenie has cost me a pretty penny over the years so we thought it must be time for her to earn a little money. Hopefully some photographer or film maker will think she is beautiful as I do and book her. And George too, of course. According to the agent the owners often get to accompany their cars on the shoot. What fun that could be!
So there is another big tick on my to do list for the past week. This is yet another way we are looking at diversifying our income. Not having all our eggs in one basket. So hopefully, I am another step closer to working from home and having more of the homespun life.

Lemon cheesecake and lime cordial

The lemon cheesecake was divine. Nana I succeeded and made a scrumptious cheesecake from scratch. It is displayed here with your tablecloth and silverware. Turns out there was no great mystique. Quick and easy to make (and eat) the only challenge was waiting for it to set.

We also made lime cordial which was equally easy and pretty good too. It would seem I have added a few homespun skills to my repetoire this weekend. Here is the recipe I used.

Lime cordial recipe
6-8 limes
1.5kg sugar
4 cups coiling water
1 tablespoon of either citric or tartaric acid.

Finely grate the lime rind, avoiding the bitter white pith. Squeeze the limes and set aside.

Bring the water to the boil and add the lime rind, citric or tartaric acid and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Take off the heat when dissolved and stir in the lime juice.

Leave to cool completely, overnight if you make it in the evening. The mix will thicken into a syrup as it cools.

Strain the syrup to remove the rind and pour into sterilised bottles.

This cordial is excellent with cold mineral water. A splash of gin doesn't go astray either.
I'm not sure how long it will keep so drink up. It tastes like the better quality lime cordial you buy but at least you'll know what is in this one. Always a comfort.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wintry Saturday in the Southern Highlands

I live in a truly beautiful place. As the last of the leaves fall it is time to admire the colour in the trees themselves. There is a tree in my street that is the purest white. There are quite a number of yellow trees too with some sort of fungi growing everywhere on their trunks and branches at this time of year. They glow in the late afternoon sun.

This photo shows the view from across the road. My house looks across cow paddocks towards the ocean, not that I can actually see water. But to the west there are row upon row of mountain ridges. It is so quiet and peaceful.

Yesterday was freezing cold but I took my camera along when I went for a walk with my dog Harry. It is an interesting experience taking photos with gloves on. Removing the gloves would have done no better however as I couldn't feel with bare fingertips. We were watched by Alpacas further down the road, unusually curious about us. Perhaps the lack of babies as usually they quickly move away when we walk past. I found some rather intriguing, read suspicious, looking mushrooms despite how late it is in the season and a bird's nest high in an apple tree that would have previously been hidden by leaves now fallen.

Today we went to the Farmers Market in Bowral, the main town in the Southern Highlands. Markets are really taking off in this area. It is a long weekend so tourists abound. I have never found Bowral to be so busy. We stocked up on sourdough bread, olive oil, cheese, cheese and more cheese. Returning home from the shopping we have just had a late lunch of, well rather predictably, cheese, olive oil and sourdough.

I met a man at the markets who teaches preserving with Mason jars. He gave me his number so I could enquire about the next class. This is very exciting. I requested a Fowler Vacola preserving kit a couple of Christmases ago so I could preserve the glut of seasonal vegies from the garden not understanding that it is not a suitable system for vegetables. I have instead preserved fruit bought in season as well as wild blackberries picked before the Council poisoned the vines. Never fear they will grow back, but it will take a few years. So I am excited about the possibility of this course. Homemade preserves are wonderful. Truly homespun. My husband wants to attend also as he has memories of preserved new potatoes and we certainly end up with plenty of those in the garden.

Howard has just announced that is 5 degrees outside and it is only 4.30pm. The fire is blazing as protection against a very cold night ahead. I am going to make lime cordial tonight. And in the morning a lemon cheesecake. I bought fromage blanc from Megan of Highlands Organics at the markets today who gave me a recipe to turn it into cheesecake. I have never, ever made cheesecake before. Cheesecake with cherries was my Nana's speciality, well apart from Parfaits that were good enough to fight over. My sister and I were absolutely devastated when we finally learnt that Nana used a packet mix for her cheesecakes (and dyed her hair). But still, they were her special dessert so I have never ventured into trying to make them. The time has come so tomorrow I will see if I can come close to hers (well the factory mix anyway) with my fromage blanc and home grown lemons.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Progressing well on my dreams

I spent a very fruitful day working on my business today. I did some sewing including designing a new cover for iPhones and iTouches. The real excitement however came in taking photographs in preparation for my etsy shop. All my products are sewn from pretty cottons and silks with abundant ribbons. We had a pile of firewood delivered today which excited me, not only because of the obvious potential for warmth now that winter has arrived, but I was able to use it as a backdrop for some photos. I really love the contrast between the pretty colours and luxurious fabrics and the roughness of the wood. I also took some photos on top of a rusty old milk churn up against the cedar sides of my house to the same effect. I think they will look great. When I moved inside to take a few extra photos my kitten Lily decided to "help" me which really saw the end of the exercise. She thought it very helpful to dash in front of the camera and steal the subject. Hmmm. So cute though.

It has been wonderful to take time to be with them this week and help them settle in. They are only four months old but have spent their whole lives in an animal shelter. Lily was days old when she arrived with her mum and litter mates. They came home to live with us last Tuesday night. I kept them in a small area for a few days but since I have been on holidays this week they have been able to have the run of the house. They especially love playing on my studio desk which is swamped with a cacophany of ribbons and threads. I lost a reel of black cotton for a day or two because Lily ran off with it but it turned up today. I do have to watch them with pins - Riley pulled one right out of some sewing I was pinning together. I got quite a fright as I pulled a glass topped pin out of his mouth. But really they are delightful.

We had a lot of trouble naming Lily. Riley came easily but we spent a week trying out different names for Lily. She is tiny and pretty so we knew it had to be a girly name. A friend kindly helped out with a list of the most popular girls names for 2009. We had thought of Lily but not decided. After a brief flirtation with Charlotte (number 3 on the list) we went back to Lily which is also in vogue.

The list was an added bonus however. It suddenly occurred to me that I could use it to name my products. Instead of a brown velvet choker with organza flowers I have invented the Megan in honour of the graphic designer who is creating my logo. I have had the most wonderful fun choosing names for each item I have made. It is so much more personal and homespun. And that is the point after all!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I am starting a business. I haven't launched it yet but I will announce it here soon. Bridget was my cat, my darling girl. She died suddenly last year so I am immortalising her by naming my business after her. I will succeed as a way to honour her. And me and my dreams.

My sister said she likes the name as it is romantic, ambiguous yet intriguing. You aren't sure what it is about but you want to know more. What do you think?

I am starting my business on, and by offering items for sale at local markets and in a couple of shops that specialise in home made goods.

Wish me luck. More soon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


7 June 2010
I have at last taken a week off work to work on MY dreams and not those of my employer. I have begun to take steps to start a little business making and selling craft online and at markets. I have been dedicated in doing a little bit at night after work and have created a modest inventory of items ready to sell. Or at least attempt to sell. Working at night is a challenge when I already work long hours in my day job, plus commuting, cooking dinner and all that. I have been intending to take some leave for a while but the trouble with being busy is that it is hard to get away. My day job is not my passion but I am too diligent to leave my colleagues in the lurch. At last things have slowed down enough to let me escape into my own life for a little while. I have a great long list of things to do. On Friday night I felt so excited about the week ahead. I took the weekend as time with my husband. Today is the day I begin my dream week.
There is no life without challenge however. After a long warm autumn winter has finally arrived. I have been too cold to sew today. Too cold to feel creative at all. I fear I am wasting the day. It is so deeply frustrating, this inertia I suffer. I just get started and I lose the flow, the stamina needed to drive ahead.
There was only one possible solution. Move out of the cold spare room that doubles as my little atelier, my studio, with lovely light but no heating. I am in the dark, cosy lounge with a fire instead. The internet is downloading a software trial of photoshop so I am drafting this on my laptop. I am determined not to waste time. This week’s to do list has many items. I just have to match the right item to the right moment. So you find me here, writing and warming my body while I nurse my heart out of its fear and inertia and back into action.
Apart from sewing and business pursuits my list this week includes cooking. Cooking to restock the freezer with lunches and dinners. All designed to help life flow along nicely when I am back at that W (work) place. Cooking will have the bonus of warming up the house. It is important to me to eat healthy, hearty, homecooked food. Lately I have been buying lunch as I have not taken the time to cook enough. Something always has to slip when you work too hard. Too often I have been happy with toast for dinner. Life is a series of stages, changes. But this stage, working late, buying lunch, skipping breakfast, always takes its toll, on my budget and on my energy levels. Its like this trap - you don’t have the energy to cook, so you don’t have the energy to cook, or do much else.
So this afternoon I am going to cook some pasta sauce, some vegetable lasagne and cannelloni. I have a home grown butternut pumpkin, some leeks and a huge bunch of silverbeet I bought at a produce market on Friday. Yummy hearty winter food. Then apple muffins – full of oats and bran. Great for quick breakfasts. And some choc chip cookies as a treat. Soul food. Make a big batch and freeze half the uncooked dough for a busy day. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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