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My mother is completely adorable.

This is my favourite photo of her, but hopefully she won’t see this post, or I’ll be in trouble for posting a picture of her with grey hair…

Last weekend, she came over for lunch.

I made char siu bao (this recipe by Rasa Malaysia is brilliant)…

…and pig’s tail congee with homemade chilli oil…

…and potsticker dumplings. I normally make these with bought wrappers, but my friend Maree inspired me to try making the skins from scratch. They were a bit thick and wonky, but delicious…

Mum was  very impressed and told me in Hokkien…”you can go and live in the mountains now”. My Chinese is basic at best, but I think the implied translation is…”you can go and live in the wild places now”. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thinking of Leura.

She made us laugh so much – we’ve been baking our own bread for a decade, growing fruit and vegetables in the garden, collecting eggs from our backyard chooks, making yoghurt, muesli, preserves, chocolate and generally living as self-sufficient a lifestyle as possible. But in my gorgeous mother’s eyes, this was the turning point. Once we could make dumpling skins, then we could surely survive in the wilderness. I’m smiling just typing this.

If you’d like to make your own dumplings at home, it’s hard to beat this fabulous instructional video by the aptly named Dumpling Sisters. Maybe you can go and live in the wild places too! ♥

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A couple of months ago, my young friend Rory, who takes great pains to keep me up to date with all that is cool and hip in the 21st century (including not using the words “cool” and “hip”), tried to explain to to me what a “homegirl” was.

I’m still not quite sure I understand, but what I am certain of is that if I did have a “homegirl”, it would be Allison. We don’t see each other as often as either of us would like, but when we do, it’s always for a food adventure. And it can’t be expensive, high-end restaurant dining – we’ve tried that and always ended up disappointed. Instead, it has to involve ferreting around for treasure in little suburban stores, finding new and exciting cuisines that we haven’t tried before.

On our most recent day out, we started in Homebush West (formerly Flemington) at the recently opened Hometown Hand Made Noodle Restaurant (97 The Crescent, Homebush West). Their house special –  the Xi’an Cold Noodle dish – was delicious and set us back just $7.80. The noodles were chewy and handcut, and the sauce was spicy and sour. It was an auspicious start to a great day…

The Special Pan Fried Pork Dumplings were a huge serve of 15 pieces for $10.80. Al declared them to be the best dumplings she’d ever eaten…

If you’re in the area and feeling adventurous, pop in and try this place out. They’re closed on Tuesdays…

From there, we wandered around the corner to the Viet Hoa Fish Market. Since discovering this place, I’ve almost completely stopped going to the Sydney Fish Markets in town. Their stock is always fresh (often live) and interesting, and the prices are very reasonable. Cash only though!

On a tip from  my mate Jay, we asked about the live eels they keep at the back of the store. I’d never cooked eel before, so I bought one ($20/kg) which they killed and filleted for me. Packed with a bag of ice, we stashed it in the boot of Al’s car and kept going (be warned, there’s a freaky end to this story coming up…)

From Flemington, I persuaded Al to come with me to Petersham on the promise of Portuguese tarts. First stop was Charlie’s Deli – an old established store on the main strip. I love this shop, because whilst it’s quite sparsely stocked, every single item on offer is unusual and interesting. I’ve bought ceramics there in the past but this time I came home with imported Portuguese chicken seasoning mix.

By the way, the blue slabs in the photo below that look like Play Doh? They’re laundry soap…

The promised Portuguese tarts were scoffed with coffee at the Honeymoon Bakery. We prefer these to the ones sold at the more famous Sweet Belem across the road, and at $2 each, the price is hard to beat. We both bought a box to take home for the kids…

We ended our day with a visit to the intriguing Petersham Liquor Mart. Where else can you find Serbian plum brandy in Sydney?

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Al went home with amazing beef ribs from the Portuguese butcher, but I still had my eel to tackle. Lovely Ania suggested I cut the fillet into pieces and then simply flour and fry them in butter. Sounds simple right?

Well, it was, except that no-one warned me that eels have very primitive nervous systems and can continue to spasm even after they’re long dead and dissected. Warning! Warning! Don’t click on the video below if you’re squeamish!!

This video was taken four hours after the eel had been killed. Pete pointed out that it was only happening as it  warmed up, so hopefully it didn’t do this the whole time it was in the boot of Al’s car. The sound is off so you don’t have to listen to me screaming…

It was, without doubt, the best eel I’d ever eaten, but Pete had to fry them for me, as I couldn’t touch them again…

Finally, a free range chicken, roasted in  my Portuguese chicken seasoning. The boys loved it…

Thanks for a fabulous day, Al! Can’t wait for our next food adventure! ♥

 

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When I was twenty-one, I worked part-time in a little cross stitch shop called Topiary Lane during uni holidays. While I was there, lovely Rhonda taught me to make these pincushions.

I’d completely forgotten about them until I came home with my pile of Japanese cottons recently. Some of the pieces were too small for furoshiki and as I’m not a quilter, I was keen to find something else to do with them other than juggling balls. These little pincushions are quite easy and quick to assemble, they make a fabulous gift, and if times get tough, you can sell them for $10 each like Rhonda used to!

Start by tracing and cutting two circles of fabric. I used a small side plate as a guide which resulted in a large pincushion, but I was keen to keep as much of the pattern as possible. A small tea cup saucer produces a more standard size…

With right sides together, join the two pieces together, leaving a gap.

Edit: Margo suggested clipping the seam carefully at regular intervals to prevent puckering. It works! There are some great instruction son how to do this here.

Turn right side out, stuff firmly (but not to rock hard), then turn in the open edges and whipstitch closed…

Thread a large needle with embroidery cotton in a matching colour…

Start in the centre of the base with a few backstitches to lock the thread in place…

Push the needle through the middle of the pincushion to the front and through a small button…

Repeat at the base – it’s a bit tricky to line up the buttons, so watch your fingers. The aim is to pull the centre of the pincushion in slightly. Sew through both buttons a couple of times to secure, then tie off the thread by wrapping it a few times around the bottom button…

Cut a long piece of embroidery thread (from memory, Rhonda used thin ribbon but I didn’t have any on hand) and tie it around the bottom button. Wrap a couple of times to secure, then bring the thread to the front and wrap it around the top button. Pull gently to form “petals”…

Continue wrapping the thread from front to back, going around the middle button each time, until you’ve divided the pincushion into six sections…

I went around twice, resulting in a double thickness of embroidery cotton at each divider. Finish by tying the thread off around the bottom button, wrapping the loose thread a few times more, then trimming carefully…

These are great fun to make and a good way to use up the big bag of polyfill leftover from my sock toys. The only tricky part is getting the needle through the middle buttons, but once you’ve managed that, the winding bit is easy. I’m going to make smaller ones next for Christmas presents! ♥

PS. Here’s the one I made this morning, using a smaller template and following Margo’s suggestion in the comments below to clip the seams every 2cm or so. It worked a treat! I’ve used a scrap of Japanese woven indigo and sashiko cotton this time, and made eight sections instead of six. ‘Tis a cute wee thing!

pincushion

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Cash Palace Emporium

A final (unsolicited and unpaid) plug for my friends at Cash Palace Emporium in Leichhardt which closes at 5pm tomorrow (Sunday 25th June 2017).

They are quite literally giving stuff away now. I’ve just popped in to say goodbye and came home with these gorgeous indigo cotton scraps as a gift…

I’ve bought some wonderful pieces of clothing at 50% off, but the greatest treasure for me has been the unusual vintage and ethnic fabrics, like this adorable old kimono cotton…

I’ve replenished the juggling ball bowl three times now, using their Japanese prints…

It’s impossible for me to leave without actually buying something, and today it was this labradorite ring, set on a thick band of sterling silver, reduced to just $30(!!)…

If you’re in the area today or tomorrow, do pop in for a visit. Luke is manning the shop this weekend and he’ll do a really good deal for you, just so that he doesn’t have to move it all next week. Elaine and Rini are working at the Quilt Fair in Darling Harbour – everything there is 50% off as well.

No affiliation (I never do paid adverts or promos) but these guys are sooo nice and I’m keen to support them. Plus, you know how much I love being able to share a bargain with you! ♥

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

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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…

. . . . .

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…

mca1

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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!

. . . . .

Hope you’re all having a wonderful month! ♥

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