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There are many different furoshiki wrapping techniques, but I only seem to use three on a regular basis – two for carrying goods and one to BYO wine to restaurants.

It’s great fun to have an instruction book open and practise the fancier folds, but when I’m out and about, it’s only the basic ones I can remember. Along with the simple bag (tutorial here), this library bag is my other go-to wrap.

It’s perfect for books, tablets, laptops, slabs of focaccia or boxes of Lego – anything with a roughly rectangular shape. You only need to know how to tie a square knot, which is definitely worth mastering, as it’s strong and won’t slip undone (instructions below from the excellent Pixieladies’ Furoshiki Fabric Wraps)…

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Start by laying a large furoshiki face down in a diamond shape. Place your book with the spine at the halfway mark…

Fold the bottom corner up to enclose the book…

Fold the two side corners in and tie a square (reef) knot…

Now tie a square (reef) knot at the top and your bag is finished!

It has a much more elegant look than the simple bag and sits comfortably in your hand or on your elbow…

I use a smaller square to wrap loaves of sourdough for delivery to the neighbours. If they’re not home, the bag sits flat on a doorknob…

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Here’s a quick way to make a furoshiki by sewing two tea towels together. The ones from Daiso (called Tenugui) are cute, made in Japan and cheap ($2.80 each)…

It takes just minutes to machine two together, then to trim and hem one edge to form  a square…

The smaller size is ideal for my iPad, or for wrapping up loaves of sourdough or plates of food…

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I’m having enormous fun with this new hobby! If you’d like to know more about furoshiki and the ancient art of Japanese fabric wrapping, you might enjoy this earlier post, or our tutorial on how to tie a simple shopping bag.

With the large supermarkets phasing out single-use plastic bags from June next year, there’s never been a better time to get knotting!

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I’ve never been much of a book borrower, that’s about to change, because Ashfield Library has entered the 21st century!

I walked into the main branch and sheepishly asked Cathy and Gina, the smiling librarians, for a new card, much as a six year old might (“Please ma’am, may I have a library card?”). With it, I was able to download the Overdrive app on my iPad and immediately borrow a book on furoshiki. I was so excited that I had to try the watermelon wrap straight away, only I didn’t have a watermelon, so I used a pot instead…

The books automatically disappear at the end of the selected loan period (7, 14 or 21 days) and the interface works in a similar way to the Kindle app, minus a few bells and whistles.

Then I discovered that the library also offers Zinio for Libraries, which lets me download and read e-magazines like the National Geographic. Remember when we all had piles of old copies on our shelves? What a joy to be able to borrow, read and delete, without the paper waste and space! I’ll never pay for a magazine subscription again…

Finally, there are a squillion free comics available for loan via the Comics Plus service that our local library now has available. I’m catching up on old Peanuts and Doonsburys, not to mention the enormous Archie catalogue…

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Heaps of public libraries all over the world now offer these services, so if it’s been a while since you joined one and you’re an e-book lover like I am, then I highly recommend you check them out again (no pun intended). You’ll be able to access a world of reading without paying a cent or ever leaving your house again!

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One thing that has me particularly excited is the wide selection of e-cookbooks that our library has on offer. I was delighted to find Greg Malouf’s The New Feast on the list…

His granola recipe is easy to make, uses just a tiny bit of added oil, and was very popular with Big Boy, the toasted muesli eater in our house. I’d advise sizing up, as the quantity we made lasted less than a week!

Base:

  • 250g rolled oats
  • 60g sunflower seeds
  • 60g sesame seeds
  • 150g almond slivers (original uses blanched almonds)
  • 60g brown sugar (we used dark muscovado)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 100g apple purée (we used homemade apple sauce but it was a tad too sweet, so next time I’m going to try tinned apple baby food)
  • 50g honey
  • 40ml pomegranate molasses (we buy ours from Harkola)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Add-ons:

Malouf recommends pistachios, sour cherries and currants, but we used 100g of roasted blanched hazelnuts and 100g of cranberries.

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Step 1: Preheat oven to 150C. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds, sugar, salt and spices.

Step 2: In a small jug, whisk the apple with honey, molasses and oil, then add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix well with your hands.

Step 3: Tip the mixture into a large baking tray and spread out evenly. Bake until deep golden brown (45 – 60 minutes) stirring every 20 minutes or so to prevent burning.

Remove from the oven and stir in the hazelnuts (or whatever nuts you’re using – add them in the last ten minutes of cooking time if they need toasting), then allow to cool before adding dried fruits. Store in an airtight container, although it’s so delicious that it probably won’t have time to go stale.

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This tangy and spicy granola makes a nice change from regular toasted mueslis. What a treat to be able to borrow such a gorgeous cookbook, full of photos and hyperlinks, and not have to worry about returning it on time, as it disappears automatically at the end of the loan period.

Hooray for 21st century public libraries! Are you a library user as well?

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Furoshiki!

Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloths, used to store clothing, transport goods and wrap gifts. They’re seriously cool, and they may just save the world.

My darling sister bought me this book earlier in the year…

Inspired, I hemmed a basketful of square cloths, declared them to be furoshiki, then proceeded to use them to wrap everything from coats to groceries to iPads to fossils…

A furoshiki has two advantages over a bag…firstly, it can be untied and thrown into the washing machine, and secondly, it can be folded to specifically suit the item in question. I’ve been making them out of my stunning fabric finds from Cash Palace Emporium.

I love that I can go out in a scarf made from vintage kimono silk (please excuse the bed hair)…

…then whip it off dramatically and fold it into a purse…

…or a grocery bag…

…or a flower pot carrier…

This is how I BYO wine bottles to restaurants these days…

I cut the back out of my torn dressing gown and used it to wrap up all my surplus knitting yarn…

My matching scarf and furoshiki wrapped veg gave the neighbours a good giggle…

…and when we were caught short on shopping bags at Costco recently, my furoshiki came to the rescue…

We’ve been making handbags…

…and wrapping gifts…

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My sister reckons she’s created a monster, but it’s great fun and good for the environment. In 2006, the Japanese government created a furoshiki in an attempt to reduce household waste from plastic bags. They provided this instruction sheet with it (here’s the higher resolution pdf)…

If you’re interested, the two books by Yamada Etsuko are fabulous and both are available in Kindle format through Amazon…

The only important thing you need to know is how to tie a square knot – if tied properly, it shouldn’t pull out. It’s worth practising a few times to get it right. Here are the instructions from Etsuko’s book…

If you’re a sewer, this is the perfect excuse to use up some of those beautiful pieces of fabric you’ve been hoarding. Originally, furoshiki sizing was based on kimono silk, which was traditionally 14″ (35.5cm) wide. The fabrics were sewn into pieces two or three widths across.

If you’re making them at home, I recommend 70cm and 100cm squares – the 70cm ones are a good size for wine bottles and iPads and books, whereas the larger ones are great for groceries and shoulder bags.

Let me end by sharing this hilariously wonderful video clip with you – the Furoshiki Samurai is a young man determined to spread the environmental message throughout Japan. Enjoy!

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Light Show

When the sun is shining and our timing is right, Big Boy and I get to experience this magnificent light show on our morning walks. It’s created by the sunlight on the wind-driven waves bouncing off the concrete pillars on the underside of the pedestrian footbridge. If it was a contemporary art installation at the MCA, I’d happily pay to view it, so you can imagine how chuffed I was to be standing in the middle of it!

It  was particularly glorious earlier this week, so I took a video to share with you. This is exactly as my iPhone captured it – I haven’t added any filters or special effects…

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In case you’re having trouble figuring out all the angles, here’s a photo taken this morning from the outside…

…and a middle of the day pic from a couple of months’ ago…

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Pete suggested I upload the wider video as well, so you can see a bit more of the bridge (click on the fullscreen tab on the bottom right of the video for a better look)…

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If you’re walking the Greenway or the Leichhardt side of the Bay Run in the mornings, the best time to catch the light show is around 8.30am, on sunny, windy days when the tide is high (I’m adding that info for you, Greg!).

Wishing you all light and happiness every day!

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A few random (happy!) snippets from the past couple of weeks…

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The closing down sale at Cash Palace Emporium continues, and Elaine seems to magically produce new stock each time I pop in. She’s still taking delivery of goods that were ordered months ago, then immediately reducing them by 50% to try and sell them in the remaining four weeks that they’re going to be open. I have absolutely no affiliation with the business, but we share a passion for ethnic and vintage textiles. Like so many others in Sydney, I’ve come to quite adore her.

She has a new shipment of vintage kantha silk shawls on offer…

…and gorgeous Uzbek suzani pieces…

I couldn’t resist this hooded kantha coat – the Ajrahk cotton is hand block printed (stamped) and hand quilted. Maybe it’s because I’m now in my 50s, but I think it’s cool.

Pete, however, was less convinced but greatly amused. My friend Bethany thought that I looked like Friar Tuck. I’ve ignored them both and worn it constantly since I bought it…

The garment is so beautifully finished on the inside that it just needed a few buttons to make it fully reversible. I asked Elaine if she could spare me any and bless her, she gave me these vintage hand-carved camel bone ones…

Cash Palace Emporium
139 Catherine St
Leichhardt NSW
(02) 9569 5977

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My daily walks on the Inner West Greenway and the Iron Cove Bay Run have been enlivened by Art on the Greenway – “An Outdoor Art Exhibition with a Green Focus” – which will be on display until Monday 22nd May 2017. The artworks are located on the Canal Road Hub (near Blackmore Oval).

I met local artist Allyson Adeney as she was setting up Memory Wave IV

Allyson uses upcycled crystal and glass stemware to create her gorgeous pieces…

…which she then carefully positions in situ…

We Stand Together by Janny Grant was created from rescued local gum branches which were destined to be chipped…

Nomadic Winds: a journey’s rest II by Sally Kidall is a collection of small “houses” positioned at various angles over the pedestrian footbridge…

The Battlers by Ro Murray and Mandy Burgess was inspired by a group of Hunters Hill women who banded together in the 1970s to save the bushland near their homes. I have to say though, that every time I walk past the figure in the photo below, I find myself humming the disco classic…”You can’t stop the music…nobody can stop the music”…

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As a result of all the fabric treasures I found at Cash Palace, I’m been in the midst of a little sewing mania. Last week I discovered these instructions for turning a shawl into a poncho with one seam and proceeded to madly stitch up all my pashminas. After all, as Noel Fielding once said, it’s impossible to be unhappy in a poncho…

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The fossil I bought myself for my birthday a few months ago continues to live on my desk – I find myself holding it quite often during the day. It’s incredibly smooth and exquisitely beautiful. Oh, and 113 million years old…

…and translucent!

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I popped into the MCA recently to view Khadim Ali’s The Arrival of Demons 2017, a site specific mural commissioned for the MCA foyer. It depicts imagery from Ali’s Afghan/Pakistani/Iranian upbringing, overlaid with eucalyptus leaves taken from the Aussie passport that Ali has held since 2015. It’s truly glorious – I particularly love the way he’s incorporated the steps into his artwork…

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Finally, if you’re a Sydney foodie, you’ve probably heard about Yakitori Jin by now. This new Japanese eatery has (finally!) opened up in our neighbourhood and it’s been packed out since day one. And what else would you expect from a restaurant where you can order five chicken tails (bishops/parsons nose) on a stick?

Chef and owner Aki hard at work…

We’ve never been to Japan, but our friends who have tell us that it feels like eating in Tokyo. As a bonus, the food is delicious!

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Hope you’re all having a wonderful month! ♥

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