Monday, March 28, 2011

Visit to Sydney

On Saturday we went to Sydney. The longer it is since I moved away from Sydney to the peaceful idyll of the Southern Highlands, the more I feel like a country bumpkin going to the big smoke. I never usually take my camera into the city. We're always in a  rush to run particular errands, Saturday being no exception. And I have the horrors of looking like a tourist after growing up in a tourist resort town.  But real photographers always have their camera at the ready so I thought I should too.

Here are some highlights of the day.

George Street where traffic never stops, not even on the weekend.  I love the interlocking layers of an urban landscape.  Old and new, modern and traditional all in one shot.

I could not resist this wall.  With my love of textiles I had to walk up and feel the rope. Its concrete!

 Funky architecture at the MLC centre.


Old and new cheek to jowl.

There was actually a queue to get into the Apple Centre with a guard like at a night club. Astonishing.

Gotham City calling Batman!

Martin Place, usually the hub of the city mid week, is almost deserted on Saturday afternoon when the office workers have moved back to the burbs.

But I want to leave you with some photos of my favourite place in the city and the prettiest shopping centre I have ever been into, The Strand Arcade.

Isn't this a darling outfit!

 The Strand Arcade is four levels of boutiques.

Elegance personified.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Collecting and altering embroidered doilies and traycloths

The interest started when I inherited a collection of damask cloths, embroidered serviettes and a 
stunning cross-stitch tablecloth from my Nana. When she grew up her large family didn't particularly care about sitting down to dinner together. Later she learnt to cook and set the table from a landlady.

Some of my earliest memories are dinner at Nana's. The way Nana presented the table, our food and drinks, was always so exciting. There were prawn cocktails in glass dishes suspended over goblets of green liquid. Our glasses were festooned with umbrellas, swinging monkeys and swizell sticks from international hotels and airlines. We drank lemonade from champagne saucers and ginger ale from brandy balloons. 

I still have the swizell sticks, some of the glasses and the cloths. And I love to set the table beautifully 
for dinner parties. I collect and use mismatched cutlery as servers and like one off silver serviette rings.  
Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

I gradually started to buy serviettes to supplement Nana's collection.  I like the luxury of a hand embroidered lined napkin. I never use paper ones. I can't see the appeal when the cloth ones are so easy and cheap to buy. They're durable and pretty.

But lately I have been going a bit mad and actively looking in op shops for pretty serviettes and cloths. 
I am astonished at how cheap and unappreciated they are. 
Someone sat and hand embroidered these dainty little things and now they are virtually thrown away.  These four pretty little cocktail napkins were only 10cents for the lot. 
I had to give them a home. Washed and ironed they are perfectly serviceable. 

One of the serviettes I inherited from Nana was this pretty little stray. I just had the one. 
Until yesterday. I found these four serviettes. The pale and dark pink are reversed but they are otherwise a match! 
When I went to the Finders Keepers market in Sydney last year I noticed a trend to take vintage tray cloths and add extra embroidered images or messages to them. Framed they become a work of art far removed from their original practical purpose. This disturbed me deeply.  Mostly because I wasn't sure we had the right to alter something someone else had made. Typically after becoming more aware of something I started to encounter more and more of these little tray cloths and doilies needing homes. 

Most of us don't have dressing tables any more so we don't need a linen cloth with crocheted edge to sit our perfume bottles on. So this particular type of cloth doesn't really have a purpose. 
If it can give joy in a new way where's the harm? 
Wow, now there's a groovy colour combo.

I've been converted and am on a mission to collect the little lost things and breathe new life into them.  
This little tray cloth is so pretty I have added it to my own collection.

I am keeping this cross-stitch cloth too. It was in an opshop for only $4. The cloths below are destined to be altered in some way and find a new purpose. 

To conclude I have been brave, I have been bold and I have altered my first doily.  This cheerful blue edged doily has a happy island holiday theme so I teamed it with a hopeful quote from Robert Browning: All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist

The doily now has a new home with my friend Rachael. 

I'll keep you posted as I alter others and offer them to new homes. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Photos from Rachael's birthday dinner aka experimenting with digital photography

Last night we went to a lovely dinner to celebrate our friend Rachael's birthday.  I'm going to share some photos I took because:

  • we had a great night and this blog is about happy, homely things like friends and good food
  • the cafe was unique
  • I was experimenting with new techniques I learnt at a digital photography course last weekend.
The cafe is the Fireworks Cafe in Austinmer a cute little beachside suburb of Wollongong. I had never been down Moore Street before but I'll be going back to explore in the daytime. The street is tree lined with old timber holiday homes and a few old shop fronts. The post office is now a bridal store and the cafe, well it used to be a butchers shop. 
Now a comfy, homely cafe with white tiled walls and a simple concrete floor. The cold room is now just a storeroom. And you go down the side passage between it and the building next door and up some steep stairs to get to the bathroom. Somewhere like Bondi is full of these old buildings turned into trendy galleries and restaurants but they are rare in Wollongong. So I'm glad to see this one saved. I was a little worried about the atmosphere, not generally being the type to cope with butchers shops but it was great. And served great vegetarian food. You have to love the irony!  The menu was intriguing - haloumi with watermelon. All yummy but I didn't eat them together as such.... 
I really like the upside down lamp shades. Very cute. 

Here's the birthday girl.  If you look at the wall behind Rachael you can see the menu written on the tiles in black pen. 

Now for the photography bit. At my course I began to learn how to take my camera off automatic. And why to take it off point and shoot. We learnt about adjusting white balance and exposure correction and was reminded about changing the ISO.  Even though not dictated by what film you are using the ISO can still help determine how much light the camera will capture. All the photos above were taken without flash. 

The photo below what all the photos would have looked like without flash and with the camera on fully automatic. The light's ambient but not realistic or terribly attractive.

Below is the same scene with ISO and white balance adjusted to make better use of what light existed naturally. I haven't corrected the flare at the back, but should have. Otherwise the colour came out well and you can see how pretty the fairy lights were.
I've plenty more to learn about good digital photography but I'm happy with the start I've made. 
I also need to learn to make flourless chocolate cake. Yum!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Early autumn in the Southern Highlands

Its early autumn in the Southern Highlands. Autumn and Spring are by far the best seasons here. I had a day off work today so went for a drive in the country. The roads were quiet so I could stop for photos. I set off from Robertson and drove down country lanes.

Giant tea pots advertise a tea house.

Which way? I chose Bundanoon. Today this cute village was very quiet. In less than a month I'll be back there along with 10 000 or more others for Brigadoon the Highland Gathering.
Benny and Harry outside the Bike Shop Cafe where we had brunch. Life is slow here and the natives are friendly.

Loved the bicycle themed furniture inside.
Bundanoon has a lovely little wool and bric a brac shop. I'd love to know what these green and pink things are for! I was seriously tempted by the blue bakelite canister and the groovy vase but resisted. I just don't know why I didn't get them.
One of the walls sported this fabulous wall paper.
More vintage buttons. I can't resist their shapes and textures. New buttons are so horribly boring. I bought some gems which will turn up in my sewing projects before long.
Bundanoon is a quant picket fence kind of town.
Sculpture on the verandah of the local garden centre.
Memorial to World War One. Most towns around here have a School of Arts but Bundanoon has a different take on it with the Soldiers Memorial Hall. 

Nearby Exeter.
A storybook cottage that needs a thatched roof but they don't exist here.
The first evidence of autumn.


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