November 25, 2014

SPRING 2014 || DON'T BE ALARMED, BUT CHECK THE DATE


I AM not much for the #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday, I can't be that regular with my blogging, it just doesn't happen that way. I blog more in my head than here. Trust me, there's unpublished gold in this here noggin'.

There's many an unpublished blog post lurking in my back history. For example, there's that handful of formative years spent in Central Queensland - Blackwater, to be exact. The years were between 1979 and 1984 - give or take - and I was aged five to 10.

Of it, there are just a jumble of strange, dislocated memories, more feelings, of things like the heat and dust, of the bats that flew overhead when we drove to a holiday shack on the coast of a Friday night, of wet T-shirt comps and XXXX beer - neither of them indulged in by me, but these are all more 'snapshot' than accurate record.

I remember the snake skin stuck in the bougainvillea, close to where the above-ground pool was. I remember the roller skating rink and though I loved it, it's sticky canteen and raucous, pulsating, hot tin shed, I was never, ever any good. I remember Mum's trips out to the rural baby health clinics she ran and Dad's work Christmas parties, and the time a baby got his hand stuck in the closed door of the fire truck as it went around the streets with all us kids on it and in it - and Santa in the cabin.

They were the Christmases of still believing. By five I was well aware of who Santa was and the delights he could bring, or even withhold if I wasn't deemed up to scratch. At 10, I was still naively, blissfully unaware - and, somewhere in between, this photo was taken.

My sister - with the ever permanent dark rings under her eyes, that I see now in her son - and I. Baskets in hand, totting notecards and paper: gifts that were a nudge, no doubt, to write Christmas thank you cards and letters interstate to distant grandparents. My sister is still a diligent writer of the post-Christmas thank you card. We're wearing our school sandals - JC sandals worn by every Central Queensland child in a colour best matching their school uniform. Ours were navy blue. Our dresses are the only anomaly and a clue, for my sister and I only, that this was unlikely to be taken on Christmas Day. Every Christmas our mother would sew a new summer dress for the occasion - the patterns matching and the fabric often the same simple, printed cotton, in differing colourways. Perhaps it was a Christmas eve photo, or one taken on that terrible trip with Santa, with that poor, broken child wailing louder than the siren.

I am not entirely sure, but I look at this photo and I see all its detail - our little selves, my sister and I. I squint trying to see the people we are today. We are most definitely there, in so many small, insignificant ways; yet also, we are most definitely not. What remains most intact is what you can't see. The traditions we've carried on in both our families - baskets of trinkets, homemade dresses, santa sacks, cutout Christmas cards from the year prior, Christmas baking and all the special effort my parents went to at this special time of year that we repeat for our own.

...

Get cracking, it's November 25 peeps. You've got a month.

November 19, 2014

SPRING 2014 || VINTAGE COOK BOOKS TELL OF SUPPERS PAST

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || vintage cook book frances thompson cookery
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || vintage cook book handwritten recipe
THE Macs Markets are a Central Coast secret. The local grapevine and a couple of hand painted signs dotted along the roads leading into the coastal hamlet are the only advertising the Macs Markets need. 

They're run from the tiny Macmasters Beach community hall on the Saturdays of mid-year public holiday weekends, with a brass band, good old-fashioned cake stalls and a fundraiser barbecue, but the biggest drawcard of the Macs Markets is the second-hand book sale. 

Some of my best-loved tomes are from the Macs Markets, including vintage children's picture books, volumes of garden annuals, paperback classics, knitting books and, of course, cook books.

The cook books picked up on my last visit to the markets, during the October long weekend, were filled with magazine clippings, handwritten recipes and momentos from a trip to New Orleans and Florida, in the States. It's one of my favourite thing about these old cook books; that they're living archives of what was cooked and eaten at a particular time in history, and a record too of what the previous owner favoured. Oil and grease marks give away a favourite cake recipe and a telling sign of a favourite and oft-cooked dish is where a book falls open all too easily.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || vintage cook book florida orange meringue pie recipe card
With Christmas cooking to start soon, I already know the recipes I'll be digging out, and can't help but think what the op shopper or market-goers will think of our family favourites when they stumble across my solid little collection in the, I hope, distant future.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || vintage cook books from Macs Markets

November 10, 2014

SPRING 2014 || PINNING THINGS MID SEASON





THERE is a 40C day forecast for western parts of Sydney this week. We've had many glorious spring days but with strong southerlies and plenty of electrical storms already this season it feels like we've moved straight to more summery days.

I like the mid seasons. In spring, I like the incremental shedding of winter's layers. From wraps and beanies and jeans and jackets to singlet tops, shorts and sandals feels like a swift reveal. It's a little too rude and I have been loitering over the fall fashions and palettes of another hemisphere, just so as to linger in a mid season a little longer.


THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: I am late to the pom pom craze but I have wool scraps from a variety of projects and will pom pom away on train trips home this month to add a little something to the Christmas parcels. Wool yarn projects in summer? It won't be too long before I need to put them away.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT:;Is there anything more mid season than a pizza? Eggplant and parmesan pizza and salad anyone?

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: The perfect mid season shoe. Not quite sandal, not quite flat.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: And should escaping one season to visit another be in order, here's a lovely way to keep track of where and when.

#flashback: Speaking of escaping one season for another, this time last year I was just back from this beautiful place.

November 04, 2014

SPRING 2014 || OCTOBER… I'VE DONE IT

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || upcycled children's books and cereal boxes
I AM moving towards things very, very slowly at the moment. Not because I am deliberately trying to slow things down, it's more that I am trying to keep on top of everything. There's so much happening right now and the only way to keep all the balls in the air is to just do a little bit more of every project, every day. I'm looking forward to getting to Christmas and falling face first into beach sand, or a pavlova, or both.

I READ The Children Act, by Ian McEwan, and This House of Grief, by Helen Garner. Neither of them exactly light reading, but each narrative - one fictional, one not - complementing the other. 

The Children Act, for me, raised a question many  in welfare, community services or any organisation working with and for children struggles with: at what point does professional become personal, and what is the consequence when that happens? Helen Garner's personal and professional collides, without apology. It's why I love her immersion in stories others leave as soon as the news headlines fade away (she even acknowledges this, oh so beautifully).

I WENT TO Camp. Girl Guide camp

I LISTENED TO What do I listen to? Honestly, I've added nothing of note in the past few months. I've done a lot of listening to my own inner voice. Trust me, it's not saying much.


I ATE I tried to new Central Coast restaurants this month. I know, not one, but too. Bombini and Bamvino


Here's the thing, when we moved to the Central Coast of NSW from the wine and food region that is Mudgee, in Central West NSW, we seriously missed somewhere you could get a good feed. In Mudgee, even the pubs serve up top notch grub so imagine coming to a place best known for its club bistros. Woeful. That was 12 years ago. Thankfully, the food scene here is changing and Bombini and Bamvino - the latter with a deli open during the day next door - are the newest eateries on what's becoming a rather tasty smorgasbord of local options.

I SAW Many, many edits of this video, and though it's not perfect, my colleagues and I are pretty proud of the final result. I'd love you to share it and let me know you did. 

I MADE I have lots of ideas for crafting, making, drawing, gardening and baking at the moment, but life is full and very few of them have been realised. It's not been a month devoid of getting my hands dirty or sticky. I have made Gocco screens to print camp blanket badges - old school-style. I have rolled old newspapers into temporary pots to grow seedlings. I have crafted projects for Girl Guide camp, and have even started Christmas crafting - if only a bunch of gift tags made from old children's storybooks and cereal boxes.



October 26, 2014

PIN MY WAY || MAKE YOUR OWN GLAM GLOVES

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinymway original pin
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinymway reinvention
WHILE I pin plenty of things I’d like to make for myself one day, I also pin a fair amount of inspiration for Girl Guide activities. In fact, aside from my personally-imposed limit of four public Pinterest Boards (seemed like a good idea at the time, OK) I have a private pin board of Girl Guide project and program inspiration. Much of it would make no sense at all to anyone who is not a Girl Guide, so I don’t bore you with it.

But this project, is one that could easily sit across both my private Girl Guide board and pins of projects I love just for me. After all, I do like to look my best while playing in mud, compost and chook poo, or out handling guy ropes, metal mallets and cooking fires.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinymway now you do it

EQUIPMENT
Coloured felt – this is a good reason for keeping those felt scraps from other projects.
Black felt.
Scissors.
Fabric glue.
Tweezers.
Newspaper or something to protect your work bench.
A pair of gardening gloves

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinymway make your facets
WHAT TO DO
Cut a diamond shape, about an inch long, from the black felt. I didn’t use a template, I used my eye to get a rough shape. We want our precious stones a bit rough, right?

Again, using no template, I cut a long and short triangle with a base of about the same width from one colour of felt to form the middle pieces of my diamond. You can use the same colour for the entire ‘gem’ but I liked the impact of using other colours to finish off the ‘facets’. Again, no template, just snip until you have the pieces you think work together.

I laid out my pieces on the black base of my ‘diamond’ before using tweezers to drag the tiny felt bits through slightly watered down fabric glue, squeezed into the lid of an old jam jar, and press into place. You do feel a little like you’re doing the fine work a jeweler would do for the real thing; it is actually harder than it looks and for children, I have a tip at the bottom of this post.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinymway place your gem
Once you have pressed all the ‘facets’ into place, drag the completed ‘gem’ through the glue and press into place on the gardening glove. 

Allow to dry fully before you handle the glove. 

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || #pinmyway flash your rock
Wear… and flash that rock next time you're using the power drill, hauling compost or reassembling the chook shed.

A CRAFTY TIP
I organised this craft as part of a round robin of outdoor activities for 45 Girl Guides. The activities were all based on reality television shows, and this one was for The Bachelor (with some subtle - as a brick - messaging from leaders that girls didn't need to wait for a fella to 'put a ring on it'). 

Our program was running short of time, and this is a fiddly craft that can be made less so by using glitter fabric paint. The paints with a fine nozzle allowed the girls to place colourful pinheads of glitter over pre-cut black felt diamonds. Easy.

See if you can pick some of the other reality television shows my program of activities poked fun at:

  • Using hand tools to DIY - a bow saw was the tool girls learned to use.
  • Cooking gourmet caramel popcorn using a lightweight hiking stove, known as a hexi stove or solid fuel stove.
  • Making newspaper seedling pots and planting a sunflower seed.
  • Exploring the beauty myth, looking for our inner Guide Goddesses and taking #bestie #selfies.
#pinmyway image source // Handmade Charlotte

October 17, 2014

SPRING 2014 || THREE THINGS FOR A GREAT WEEKEND

IF you happen to follow me on Instagram you will already know that last weekend was a great weekend. A really great weekend. I was outside. I was with great people. I was doing great things. 

Outside was sunny and warm. 

The people were all women who, despite their busy family and work lives, were prepared to work, work hard, and be happy doing it.

The thing was Girl Guides and more than that, the thing was giving girls and young women the freedom and space to be themselves, get muddy and mucky and stink a little, to try things they hadn't tried before, to meet people they hadn't met before, to play, to lead, to be in charge, to be out of their comfort zone and most of all, to have fun.


What could be better than that? 

Another great weekend this weekend. You betcha. Happy weekend people.

October 06, 2014

SPRING 2014 || PINNING THINGS TO EMBRACE THE DAY

NOW this is more like it. This feels lighter: more colour, more throwing back the doona, leaping out of bed and embracing a sunny day. This is more 'spring'.
 
THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: A sweet, freeform softie that would be a lovely thing to make for Pip's annual Softies for Mirabel. I have every intention of joining in this year.
 
THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Warmer weather means outdoor tables piled with things to eat while moving about chatting or taking a turn about the garden. My mum is considered queen of the 'cheesy potato', but these are a step above and beyond: cheesy 'spinach' smashed potatoes.
 
THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: I love handcrafted jewellery. If I am travelling, I will look for a piece of jewellery from a local maker to bring home with me - costs being not too prohibitive. It's a small memento that will be used. I am not travelling to Portland anytime soon, so I will just have to covet the Oleria earrings from afar.
 
THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: I saw frames just like these in one of my favourite Central Coast haunts, Piccolo Pear. They were set with beautiful antique laces and embroidered collars, but this is pretty neat too. Does anyone know a stockist for frames like these?
 
#flashback: Pinning still hadn't resumed this time last year, but I was crafting up a storm for UNICEF.
 


October 01, 2014

SPRING 2014 || SEPTEMBER... I'VE DONE IT

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || tiled bird


SPRING! The first month of spring, and what a glorious start to the season it's been. The wattle was magnificent, the weather of the past two weeks has been glorious and our family has had an extra special reason to celebrate - a spring baby. All the family was gathered around our table on Sunday and it was lovely to have the three generations together and the promise of many more big family gatherings.

I READ Tom Rob Smith's The Farm. It was a book club choice and one I had to push through. I found too many flaws in the plot and the ending was an anti-climax.

Another book I found myself pushing through was the Walking Book Club choice from July: On Looking - Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. I'm glad I did persevere. Alexandra Horowitz' guided walks around her New York block seemed a rather dry premise for a non-fiction read but the expert eyes she employed to guide her on her walks were really quite fascinating. That, and I had a number of long car trips to help keep me focussed on the narrative.

I WENT TO My old uni. I drove up to work with the University of Newcastle's equity and diversity unit and meet students from Waratah Technology High School. It was such a great day listening to students, all of whom came to Australia as refugees, talk about the impediments  they face to learning and education - a child's right, no matter the circumstances.

I LISTENED TO Really, nothing new. A few old favourites: Cat Powers, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, you know, the kinda music you can play loud and dance along like no one is watching.

I ATE I made a return to Vibewire's monthly Fastbreak series this mon
th and one of the event's sponsors is Black Star Pastry. Seriously good pastries and coffee. Forget the sweet treats, go the savouries: poppin' with flavour.

I SAW The Code. The new ABC drama has me hooked. I'm keen to see Gone Girl this long weekend.

I MADE I started on a new knitting project and I need to finish off a few craft projects for a coming Girl Guide camp.


September 28, 2014

SPRING 2014 || PERMACULTURE AND LEARNING TO SEE

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || vietnamese mint and turmeric
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || terra permaculture outdoor classroom
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || hand drawn class notes
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || new season asparagus spear
MY past few Saturdays have been spent hanging out at the most glorious community garden, with the most glorious people and learning about permaculture design.

It's a course of study I've wanted to do for years but it's a big time commitment - essentially two solid weeks, or, as I am doing, every Saturday up until the end of the year. I've put it off, claiming I could do better things with that time, but even though there are plenty of other things competing for my attention, I am thrilled to have signed on. Class days are spent outdoors sharing packed lunches, cups of tea and baked treats; getting your hands dirty; stretching the grey matter with a little biology, chemistry, ecology, research and analysis; and, working with like-minded people who all want to save the world not add to its problems.

And it's made me look. Like, Really Look. Not just at my own back yard but further afield and consider the principles of permaculture as they apply to my work, my workplace, my volunteerism and my family. I'm buzzing with ideas to share and tapping into my creative side, which has always needed a little external stimulus to get me really going.

It's even made me drag the pencils out - something I haven't done for two years. maybe more. During class I take photos and listen, and maybe knit rounds of a new project I've started on, but when I come home I pull it all together with pictures and dot-points of what I've learned

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || permaculture class notes week one

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || permaculture class notes week two

What new things are you learning, or yearning to learn?
Image No. 2: Terra Permaculture

September 19, 2014

SPRING 2014 || WELCOME LITTLE ONE

A NEW edition to the family today. Patrick Eric, born to my stepdaughter Amy and her husband, Wade.