July 01, 2016

WINTER 2016 || JUNE... I'VE DONE IT

FOR a moment there it didn't look like we were going to have a winter. Yet, as I sit here letting a fresh breeze blow through the house and with fingers and toes numb, winter seems to have arrived. I'll be heading into the Blue Mountains next week and up to Nundle the week after so I feel I need to harden my body to the chill.

IN JUNE:

I WENT TO… Swansea. Yes, that funny little seaside town folks of my vintage will know from their summer holiday excursions up and down the east coast. Swansea was a classic place to pullover and have a cuppa from the thermos, stretch the legs and go to the loo before the final trek into Sydney or, in my case, before heading home to the Hunter. 

This month's visit was to hunt for fossil remnants that pock the rock platforms at Swansea Heads. If you live close by, it's a lovely day trip. Pick a low tide to explore the rock platforms. The fossils, the beach combing and peering into the marine habitats among the rocks makes for a nice school holiday adventure for families - especially families who've already been to see Finding Dory and want a closer look at marine environments close to home.

I ATE… The dining options at Swansea are very different to what I remember from those school holiday trips to visit grandparents south of Sydney. Almost all our family road trips involved cold, home-cooked chicken drumsticks, triangles of buttered white bread, a Thermos of tea and container of biscuits. My sister and I spent our early childhood in central Queensland. At that time fast food outlets were not a common sight along Queensland's major roads but by the time we moved to NSW, where McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC littered the Pacific Highway, we were onto it. It must have been a blow to our organised, efficient and thrifty mum to have two kids whining in the back seat for greasy fast food when she'd gone to the trouble to pack a roadworthy picnic. 

Now when travelling, I'm on the lookout for where locals gather and where I can smell the coffee. Seed Cafe, on the main drag of Swansea is both those things. A simple breakfast of poached eggs, sourdough toast and a side of avocado also came with a side of fresh, beautifully dressed greens. Simple, delicious, perfectly done and presented. And the coffee was good - no more Thermos' of tea for me.

I OP SHOPPED… I've added a few cosy woolen tops and vests to the wardrobe but my favourite finds have been a stash of vintage cook books and a German china toy tea set. 

I MADE… I have been making felt softie koalas and need more makers to join me. They'll raise funds for Girl Guide programs across the Asia Pacific. The free pattern download is here.

I READ… I read Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel. I picked it up from a secondhand book sale for less that $1 and only picked it up because I recognised the du Maurier name. As I was reading, I was thinking it was the kind of piece ripe for a period drama. Turns out in 1952 it was made into a film but a remake is due. It's light, easy reading, where you want to return to the story because you have to know what happens. No spoilers, but you'll never be entirely sure.

I also finished Kelly Doust's Precious Things. Similar to My Cousin Rachel, a story of lives touched by a beautiful and intricate piece of textile will have you returning to the page to learn what happens next.

June 23, 2016

WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR

WHAT I wish for...
What do you wish for?

June 19, 2016

SLICK'S CHIPS || COMFORT FOOD CRAVING FROM UNI DAYS

A MILLION years ago, when I was a young thing, at university and living week-to-week off the back of parental support, a paper run and a scholarship, the ultimate treat was a takeout order from Slick's Chips.

Slick's was in a back street of Hamilton, a suburb of Newcastle. It was an in-the-know kinda place serving up a menu of choose-you-own-combo burgers and loaded hot chips well before McDonalds and the current crop of fancy burger establishment's in Sydney.

This was the 1990s and for the University of Newcastle's struggling student population, pooling your share house's spare cash and making a dash to Slick's marked many an occasion. It was the perfect fuel for an all-night study session. It marked the end of assignments, aided us through messy break-ups, was a required accompaniment to watching Beverly Hills 90210 or Melrose Place (watched on beaten up televisions at the actual time of airing) and celebrated every Austudy windfall, of which there were few.


Two decades have passed since and Slick's is long gone, but every so often I will still crave a bowl of Slick's Chips. They're the ultimate comfort food and perfect Sunday lunch fare on a wet and miserable winter's day.


INGREDIENTS
Crinkle cut frozen chips
Avocado
Salt and pepper
Lemon
Sour cream
Sweet chilli sauce

WHAT TO DO
Bake or fry the frozen chips as per the directions on the packet. I bake mine, under the illusion they'll be healthier for me. Oh to be young again. Some 20 years ago I was none too concerned about the calories. 
Make an avocado smash by removing the avocado flesh and smashing in a bowl or on a plate with the back of a fork. Add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper, to taste. 
When the chips are golden brown, dump into your serving bowl, shake over salt and top with a generous dollop of avocado smash and another of sour cream.
Pour over a little sweet chilli sauce.

June 16, 2016

WINTER 2016 || PINNING THINGS CHASING THE LIGHT

WE are less that a week away from the shortest day and to spinning back toward summer. I can barely believe it, we just haven't had enough cold weather. There's been a week of using heating at home, if that, and I've had to fill a hot water bottle on only a handful of nights. Spring will be upon us before we know it.

In the meantime, I'll rug up when I need to and enjoy the mostly sunny, blue-sky winter days to chase the light.

THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: I need socks bad. Like undies and bras, all my regular socks have become threadbare all at once. I do like a cozy sock and won't say no to a pretty pair. Of course, I'll only be devoting time to embroidering them once I've finished with this.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: How do you feel about peanut butter and jelly? On a sandwich, not so much. As a sweet treat, I could be persuaded.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: Knitted jim jams. And because they're knitted from cotton denim waste, they're not even scratchy.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: My grandfather's and grandmother's cameras have been passed down to me. They're beautiful, well-cared for pieces of technology and I've been experimenting with them. There's a roll of film in a vintage Canon and I am yet to source 120 format film for a vintage Kodak, but I will, and promise to show you the results - if any. In the meantime enjoy these lovely hand-drawn vintage cameras.

#flashback: This time last year I was musing on my world view, and though it's not penned here, making big decisions about my future.


June 11, 2016

MAKE A FELT KOALA TO HELP GIRL GUIDES CLOSE TO HOME

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || make a kendall koala and support girl guide programs in the asia pacific

KENDALL Koala loves to travel. She packs light carrying only a fresh supply of gum leaves and, for rugged environments, her gumboots.

She's happy enough travelling solo but what she'd really like is a bunch of travelling companions. She'll be travelling to Nepal in August and would like many, many koala friends to join her there.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || support girl guides and make a kendall koala
You can make a Kendall Koala, or a Ken, Kim, Kelly, Kira or Kate. Each one will travel to Nepal and be sold to delegates of Girl Guide and Girl Scout organisations from across the Asia Pacific at their international conference in August. 

Sales of Kendall will support Guide youth leadership and advocacy programs, including programs to combat gender-based violence, educate girls, build girls' STEM skills, encourage girls to participate in leadership and civic society and fund environmental enterprises.

Instructions on how to make a Kendall Koala, and send it on its way, are yours to download for free. Kendall (and I) thank you in advance.

June 08, 2016

WHAT WILL YOUR SEWING NOTIONS SAY ABOUT YOU


IF you sew you no doubt have your favourite sewing tools. A go-to set of needles, perhaps. A pair of scissors that fits easily into your hand. A preference for long, glass-headed dressmaking pins over short stainless steel pins.

Over the years these favourites, if they are looked after, age and wear with clues to how the user handled them or stored them.


I know I was never allowed near my mother’s dressmaking scissors and she will tell you she was not allowed those of her mother. My mother’s button box, however, now that was something. It contained, to a child’s imagination, a treasure trove of talismans and trinkets. To run your hand through that old biscuit tin of plastic was a sensual thing. There was the whisper of plastic, wood, leather and metal together along with the feel of those light pearlescent discs sifting through your fingers offering up the glint of a single glass or iridescent shell button.

It was also the place to go to find an old thimble, or my gold christening bracelet. Pieces of broken jewellery would be saved into the tin and lie there waiting for a new life as embellishment on some new item of clothing or hand stitched haberdashery. Empty cotton reels, with the brand and colour lot of a to-be-bought-again thread would gather there along with old cards of clasps and clips, hooks, eyes, belt buckles and other accessories – each one of them a telling sign of the age in which the user sewed.


These tell-tale signs say what was made, what colours the maker preferred, how elaborate or fanciful her designs, even what schools her children attended or work her husband did. White collar shirt buttons are decidedly different from the buttons of a labourer’s shirts and vests.

My own collection of sewing notions bears the bowerbird finds from others functional collection of stowed items. A tin purchased for $5 at a car boot sale held a small 1950s basket – its lid worn and stretched from being repeatedly opened. Inside was a mass of mostly rubbish and a few of those telling gems. Atlas and Coates cotton reels – one with black cotton still wound on. Silk threads in purples and greens – used on a bridesmaid dress, I wonder. Two button hooks for shoes. Following a little internet research these date from the 1800s and are mostly likely for a man’s shoe. Along with needles and knots of thread the final pieces I salvaged were an Australian 2c coin and plastic knitting needle gauge – the latter the collection’s distinctly odd piece out.

What stories I have imagined for the owner of this assortment of items. And all for a fiver.

May 31, 2016

AUTUMN 2016 || MAY 2016... I'VE DONE IT

MAY has been both a long month and a short one. Things I did at the start of the month feel like they were ages ago, but at the same time life has been busy and squeezed. If there had been a couple more hours in the days this month, I would not have been complaining. Are you feeling the same? 

IN MAY:

I WENT TO… Collector. Yes I did and for pumpkins no less. Collector, just north of Canberra, is known for being a really windy place, and cold, and pumpkins

I ATE… When you go to Collector for a pumpkin festival you eat, well, a lot of pumpkin. Think less 'baked pumpkin' and more 'pumpkin scone'. Collector's destination cafe, Some Cafe, also offered up tempting pumpkin treats and the cutest pumpkin-shaped gingerbread biscuits.

I OP SHOPPED… Easily my best score of the month was a pair of unworn Camper shoes for $5 at the local car boot sale. They're beautiful. Other finds included a cute pair of 1950s specs and a 1944 Yates Garden Guide for $1. 

I MADE… I drew up a pattern for a felt koala I will be sharing in a post soon. I'm a delegate to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Asia Pacific conference to be held in Nepal. Each member country shares handcrafted items of a national flavour and sells them with all proceeds going to the development and empowerment of girls and young women in the region. Significant programs in the region are engaging women in civic leadership and helping girls identify and fight to end gender-based violence. I am always amazed and inspired by what this volunteer movement can do, but it always needs a little bit more help.

I'd love to share the pattern with you and would ask that if you like the pattern and want to make one for a special little someone in your life, that you also make one and support Girl Guide programs throughout the Asia Pacific region. A huge thank you in advance.

I READ… I have so many unread books on my bookshelf and am always trying to restrict my purchase of new books, telling myself there's plenty of options sitting unopened at home. One of those unread books was given to me by the author and, awkwardly, it's been there for at least 18 months. North Sea Requiem is a mystery, if I say more I know I'll give the plot away. 

May 05, 2016

AUTUMN 2016 || PINNING THINGS CRAFTY AND CREATIVE

MORE time at home means more time for craft projects. I finished the boyfriend hat from the last 'pinning things' post and cotton string is on my shopping list to start making these coasters. Love autumn. It's the perfect season for some cozy crafternoons.


THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: No fancy looms, just a piece of cardboard, some string and wool. Why I am having flash backs to primary school art classes?

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Burgers. That's all. Oh, and haloumi.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: Love this look, and this jacket.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: I've been making and mending, crafting and creating and I feel an itch to get the lino print tools out.

#flashback: This time last year I was home from one overseas trip and packing my bags for two more.

April 29, 2016

AUTUMN 2016 || APRIL... I'VE DONE IT

I'VE had to throw an extra blanket over the bed this past few nights. Autumn is in no hurry but the days are shorter and nights a little cooler. We head inland this coming weekend. I'm packing a flannelette shirt with the great hope that the days will be cool enough to wear it.

IN APRIL:

I WENT TO… There was no extensive travel this month, just a trip to Sydney to train a group of amazing young refugee advocates who will be representing ChilOut in its work.

On top of my work as a journalist and communications consultant, I train young people in speaking to the media, developing and managing advocacy projects and in a raft of team building and leadership skills. When I tell you our future's in good hands, it really, really is. 


I ATE… a celebration meal at Bombini, close by at Avoca Beach. The Mrs and I were celebrating paying off the mortgage and toasted our success over a bottle of red and divine Italian flavours.

I OP SHOPPED… The op shops have been good to me and I have had a handful of lucky finds. My favourite finds have been vintage haberdashery. I've posted sneak peeks on Instagram, but I'll share more soon. Does anyone know much about vintage buttons? I've scored some beautiful ones and I'd like to know more.

I MADE… I finished the boyfriend hat from my last Pinterest post. It was made from a stash of New Zealand wool. The wool is not dyed but the natural colour is warm and wintery. It's a real treat to knit with beautiful wool and this stash was a mere $10 from an op shop. There's enough to make a sweater, but I think I'll keep going with the beanies and put them aside for Christmas giving.

I READ… The sad truth is I have a number of books on the go but none close to being finished. Even the audio books were set asided when I had to hand my MacBook Air over for repairs. It's back, but Audible and iTunes are not playing nicely and I'll have to coax them into being friends again so I can listen past the first chapter of all my new downloads. I've picked out the Neopolitan series from Elena Ferrante. Do tell, is the hype worth it?

April 25, 2016

WHY I WON'T RAISE A GLASS TO THE ANZAC MYTH


I'VE spent all day pondering how I feel about Anzac Day. My Facebook feed is full of uniformed Girl Guide friends at either the dawn or mid-morning service and the news is headlined with stories of bravery, stoicism and mate-ship. The Last Post sounds and the newsreader is silent.

Today, this talk of bravery and heroic sticks in my craw. I question the bravery. I question the heroism. I question the stories of legends. I question the 'myth'.

I believed in the Anzac myth once. I have missed only a handful of Anzac Day services over my lifetime and my family has its own proud stories of wartime service.

But the glow of the Anzac legend is tarnished. Tarnished by a man deployed to Afghanistan, not once but twice. I refrain from using the word 'served'. He was doing his job. He was a career soldier and he saw the financial benefit of deploying. He was sold the myth. He'll tell you now he was a hero, that he served his country, that he deserves my respect.

But, today, he's telling that story from gaol. Two tours and the career soldier is a ruined man. His wife and infant son - my stepdaughter and grandson - now live with my partner and I. The myth could not sustain them. It did not buy them a house, or give their first-born an easy and worry-free entry to life. Hell, it didn't even give him a father, and what little he did see of him was moody at best, violent at its worst.

As she rebuilds her life and we adjust ours, if there is anyone to call brave, it's the families of these broken men.

Today, I snarl at the semantics of Anzac Day, like legend, hero and spirit, and think more of the broken, cast aside and downright destroyed.

As for 'Lest We Forget', don't worry. I will never.

#image: A postcard found among my late Great Aunt's possessions following her death last year. The image is the ruined streets following the World War I battle of Verdun. The pin is my Great Aunt's too