Thursday, December 29, 2011

freshening things up!

well... its that time of the year for me when I am deliberately not thinking about the usual things and instead taking time to freshen up ... whether that be living spaces, recipes, clothes or even blog headers!

Getting my toes into the water... taking time to enjoy swimming over summer... always has a way of adding to the sense of being refreshed. When on a good thing go for it I think!

a photo I took a few years ago

I'm reminded of a post I did ages ago... by some odd google fate it happens to be the second most visited post I have ever done... on swimming. Curious that!

this is one of the photos that was in that post!


How about you? Anyone else out there in this mode at present? Or are you snuggled up reading books by the fire...out hiking around the country side or away on a holiday! I know some will be no doubt working away on a project of two ... whatever you're doing I hope it's pleasant and that the new years is approaching with some anticipation of good things to come.

I decided to take on a project I've been meaning to do for some time for my mother who's earned many stars for all she has contributed to me. She's off exploring the country and catching up with various ones... so I'm painting/recreating her bedroom in her 1930's timber house which I did a makeover on years ago when I was visiting. Keeping it simple and fresh. The weather's mild so what better time to get up on ladders and sweat it over the paint rollers and brushes. I hope to report a job well done before long. Its one thing to please my eye... but it is on my mind to consider what she would like... a harder task!

Now for some tumblr inspiration I am going to link you to tumblr: colours of life...

Quite a number of bloggers are also to be found at Tumblr .... its a fascinating visual world where the simple act of reblogging allows one to build up an archive according to one's whim. I particularly like knowing that I can return to my tumblr site and find things I wish to revisit ... and I love to see the very individual pathway that each person takes through this visual realm.

I have a tendency to eclectica... but still there are themes within that. Others curate very singular thematic material. It does not matter what approach one takes... that not the point! I think it is a wonderful visual panorama that is endless and yet it is soulful and particular... depending on the site.

Colours of life often attracts my eye when I'm visiting the dashboard behind tumblr. A colour is often the focus ... visit to the archive will reveal this as you go back through the months... and what I like is being reminided tht even if you choose a colour like blue in this case...there are so many versions of blue and directions one can take.

Yesterday when choosing the paint I was going to go for a green... but I started to feel more unsure the longer I considered all the greens that in the end I went to a totally different colour altogether... so stay tuned for more on that!


burned package sent to Henry T. Hopkins

burned package sent to Henry T. Hopkins


Habu via Coloursknits

Habu via Coloursknits


Arthur Dove (1880-1946) [+]
Silver Sun,  1929
Oil, metallic paint, and wax (?) on canvas 55.3 x 74.9 cm (21 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.) Signed and dated verso, top stretcher bar: Silver Sun / 1929 Dove Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.531
Arthur Dove (1880-1946) [+]
Silver Sun, 1929
Oil, metallic paint, and wax (?) on canvas
55.3 x 74.9 cm (21 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.)
Signed and dated verso, top stretcher bar: Silver Sun / 1929 Dove
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.531


Blue Flower Vase (by mitch kimball)

Blue Flower Vase (by mitch kimball)


Tyson Reeder“Blue Wasteoid”. 2007Acrylic, nail polish, ballpoint pen14 x 11 inches

Tyson Reeder
“Blue Wasteoid”. 2007
Acrylic, nail polish, ballpoint pen
14 x 11 inches

Reblogged from witanddelight with 276 notes

original watercolour via louiseestart buy here on etsy

original watercolour via louiseestart buy here on etsy

Flora Douville

Well...I'm off now to get going with the interior painting! Enjoy your week everyone! 
S x

Thursday, December 22, 2011

together ... with gifts: community!

In my latest E-NEWSLETTER sent out last week I celebrated the people and places I visited on my UK Research Trip. Quite an exhausting process it was recalling details and documenting it all, checking facts and links, so much so that once it went out I more or less came to a stand still. On the computer that is.

Click here to read!

I relished cooking for a sunday afternoon tea, reading a highly thought-provoking novel set in London, Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig, going to my local library and coming home laden with cook books, fresh magazines and a talking book.

Hearts and Minds

A week later I'm only just getting my focus back on the computer.
I owe emails and Xmas notes still! I wrote a blog post on Saturday morning and deleted it just as I was about to Publish. So on Monday... after the most charming gathering the previous afternoon... I did nothing... all day. NOTHING! Well, I finished that gripping novel and watched a few films.

Now I feel ready ... my studio table has been cleared the inks are out and soon I will be off and painting! I've got a few things form tumblr to add here... this one below made me long to get out my ancient sewing machine and try some stitching again. I know many of you are extremely proficient with needles and textiles. 

Two programs by English chefs celebrating Xmas  viewed on ABC Catch-up TV got me thinking... re-runs from previous years I'd not seen them before. The first was Rick Stein celebrating Xmas in Cornwall. Having spent a wonderful week in Cornwall in October I made a point of watching this. 
If you are in Australia you can watch it here. It featured so many traditions like the annual Wassailing ceremony from Saxon times celebrating the earth's cycles, renewal of life and hopes for the next harvest... the green man presided over the ceremony transporting us back through the centuries.

It was actually quite a comprehensive history, reminding us of the daily struggle for food in the lives of so many who lived on potatoes and pilchards for much of the year in this region. The singing fisherman were a treat explaining how their songs developed to keep their rhythm for the arduous daily work tasks.

One Cornish dish featured was the Stargazy pie  ... this is a pie I vaguely recall from children's books always seemed so far-fetched... so to learn the background is quite something!

Star Gazy Pie History and Folklore-Cornwall

Star Gazy Pie is a dish unique to Mousehole (a fishing village in West Cornwall with a most beautiful harbour). Prepared in the Ship Inn, ate on 23rd December- Tom Bawcock's Eve. Long ago Winter storms had prevented the fishing boats putting to sea. In a lull in the bad weather one of their number Tom Bawcock managed to catch enough fish to prevent the village from starving. A pie of many fishes was made from the catch -Star Gazy Pie.

A cornish speciality
I was really delighted to see Rick Stein included the Eden Project is his program... interviewing the founder Tim Smit who was recently written up here in the Independent ..."Tim Smit doesn't do well with the word "no". He successfully persuaded 300 people – bankers and financiers who tend to like the word a lot – to pour £141m into what was basically little more than a disused clay pit. Some 15 years later, what he referred to then as the most derelict place on Earth is what we know as the Eden Project."

Whilst at the Eden Project I posted twice here and here.

The other one I watched was Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Xmas

He invited 6 lucky guests to dinner ... Yes it was perfect and you would be very privileged to sit at this table with the likes of Richard E Grant and the hilarious Sue Perkins. It was most engaging watching as he took off to the Middle East to get hold of frankincense, myrrh, and gold, to a Paris Perfumier to find a sent of leather, burning wood and whisky, the north to get Reindeer's milk. 

Despite all the science and the exquisiteness of it all I must say the Cornwall xmas was, to me, more endearing by far. 

I liked hearing Tim Smit refer to Xmas as a time for community... with the note he had learned that:

The word "community" is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, "with/together" + munus, "gift"), a broad term for fellowship or organized society.[2] (wiki)

A community garden in Melbourne - I added this photo as I thought it i such an apt contemporary symbol for community... gardens shared by people of all backgrounds coming together for a common purpose.

I've been keeping in touch with friends at the Millennium Seed Bank and hearing how they are faring in the cold. No snow as yet.
I know many of you who pop by here are experiencing the depths of winter at the moment. 

We are having a much cooler time than is common as this time of year here in the sub-tropics. Xmas is rather a strange experience at best in the midst of summer... the traditions of the north translate less convincingly. 

Frozen Christmas pudding
 good idea for the heat... Frozen Xmas pudding!

Sometimes I think that means here in Australia we end up with the commerce, a holiday and little sense of tradition apart from some food items and gifts.
Still ... many make something special of it that transcends mere commerce. At best we get to slow down and notice things... remember others and make space for sharing and exchange.

Plum and cherry fruit mince tart
image from Gourmet Traveller Magazine

So I rather like that idea of community ... together ... with gifts! And the idea of gifts being much more than what comes with a price tag from the big stores.

Seeing people making gifts in their kitchens, with their hands, or in their workspaces... stopping to think about what they can offer and exchange... who they can invite to share their table or a note or card that is sent off containing more than a few rushed words - to and from - this makes for something more soulful. Extending the notion of family to include many more than one's literal family seems appropriate at this time.

I know many of you will be giving things you've created. That's my next task really!

As to the xmas menu here ... this is a popular Xmas dish here in Queensland...

Gourmet traveller

well my friends... your'e all invited over for a bite....

crab and cucumber sandwiches

I am making my own version of rocky road with cranberries and nuts and toasted coconut flakes... so I'll let you know how that turns out if you don't pop in! Not sure that I'll get to make those sandwiches... something more rustic is on the cards!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whatever your beliefs and traditions... I hope that you have a peaceful time this year as 2011 draws to a close.

Love and warmest wishes to all!
   Sophia xx


Forgetful Angel, 1939
Paul Klee  (1879-1940)
Paul Klee : Forgetful angel

Found over at Seed Capsules tumbler!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Its been a long week or so on the computer and I think its sending me around the twist actually. Had all such very serious stuff to do... so tonight a touch of madness...or whimsy...whatever!
Broken Glass Jello
xmas in a dish?

Broken Glass Jello

from here at Food Librarian!

and this too....


Food Librarian I found visiting here at Miss Moss from South Africa

and here also at her website.

I think I just needed to look at something very different to what Ive been working on.

See Ya!

Monday, December 5, 2011

a week in photos...

Despite being home a couple of weeks or so now things are not yet settled into any kind of normal routine. If I thought there'd be plenty of time for online visiting I was wrong!

Last week I was consumed by trying to write up my trip for both a report I have to do and for my next E-newsletter. Emails have been coming in that are really interesting and I've not yet had time to get back to some of them which, fortunately, don't require immediate response.

So what have I been up to?

Coming home one night I drove by this tree laden with paper lanterns in the church grounds in Racecourse Rd. Its such a beautiful tree and its in blossom now...  the branches spread out horizontally and if you look closely you will see children running under the tree.

This is a similar tree I saw next day in a nearby street... an introduced species the Poinsiana is so colourful when in blossom. It feels like Xmas is near when the red and green are this vibrant. My neighbourhood has so many of these trees.

With all that time on the computer writing I am relishing the fact I am not stuck in one place since getting a lap-top. Last week was a search for places with wifi to spend the hours... and of course an old favourite destination is the State Library.

The cafe at the base of the Library is a great space with those comfy big chairs ands breeze coming off the river.

Only problem was the day I was there I soon realised the breeze was more like a gale which seemed to have blown away any humidity and most other customers. I retired indoors. The rain soon came!

This upstairs room is a glass sanctuary added on to the side of the Media room. The u-shaped lounge area has individual reading lamps which you can adjust ... its not unusual to see people snoozing here or at least getting very comfortable. I loved the fact you could sit and watch the rain falling on the glass roof.

I parked my chair at a small table here and was tapping away on my newsletter which is still not quite finished. Its taken a lot of writing to get the entire trip down and then the work of culling had to begin in order to make it readable. That's taking the longest time.

The weekend thankfully was taken up with quite different tasks... catching up with friends... a birthday celebration, market shopping.

Last night I created a long table out the back in the garden at home to bring together a few people I wished to thank who'd played a crucial role in getting my trip off the ground. I could have easily created a table for many more who were gracious contributers, however, I decided being so out of practice with catering I'd best have modest aims and so several key people, partners and family sat together in the wonderful evening outside enjoying each others company.

I shopped at nearby markets and took out my Ottolenghi cookbook 'Plenty' which I referenced but ran out of time to follow recipes too closely.

Out of practice is right... I forgot you need some stamina to cook up a storm. My mother, bless her, helped out... making a fabulous big nectarine cake from a much loved polish friend Krysia's repertoire... Krysia recently passed away, well in her nineties, and she would have so loved this dinner. In her memory we made her recipe, substituting blood plums, which are available around january if you are lucky, for nectarines. It was delicious even if the blood plums are unbeatable really because of the stunning colour which stains the cake as it bubbles up in the cooking!

 Not a great photo! But actually for me it does capture something of the warmth that was present at this table.

At the end of the night... a few of us sat up late and talked .... the evening was so mild and pleasant. I took a shot of the table at the end of the night My brother had strung the light over the table which was just the best thing ever. One of those odd xmas lights he found that day and thought...what the heck...we'll see how it goes!
It was sublime in that it glowed, you could see each other but it was quite ambient. I rather liked this shot at the end as a reminder of all the conversations that lingered in the air. Halfway through dinner an owl had come and perched on top of the nearby clothesline...  contentedly watching over us. Every night it comes... keeping the possums away ... stopping them from eating the contents of the garden!

This morning I took great pleasure in opening a gift that kind friend Marilena had brought along for me. She makes gift giving an art-form... i should take note. My creative energies are generally put elsewhere!

Seeds in various forms... spice mixes and Massala chai tea she'd made herself... so fresh the aroma was amazing! She packaged seeds with small labels for growing. There was a wonderful seed-bead necklace and spicy tomato jam she'd made. A handmade card and envelope and the Indian spice set with recipe booklet.

The beads on the envelope sewn from recycled paper

Massala chai tea mix on a handmade ceramic plate I bought in London

Seeds she packed into these hand sewn envelopes.

Well, tomorrow I hope to finally get the new E-newsletter out. Stay tuned if you want to read an overview of the trip for the link to the e-newsletter.

I hope you've all had a lovely weekend and life is treating you well!
Sophie xx