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Did you all have a wonderful Easter? I hope so!

After a hectic (but very enjoyable) week of baking and tempering, I put my feet up yesterday. Easter Monday is a holiday in Australia, and I spent the day watching television, messing about in the kitchen, and knitting.

After a hiatus of a couple of months, I’ve knitted another cotton dishcloth. I’ve tried several patterns now, and this one is my firm favourite – it doesn’t involve any purling and even though I’m a very slow knitter, the cloth comes together quite quickly.

I had to search out the pattern again though, so I decided I’d better write it up here for next time!

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Knitted Cotton Dishcloth (adapted from this pattern)

8 ply cotton
5.00mm needles (I use round bamboo needles I found on ebay)

  • Cast on 46 stitches and knit one foundation row (slip the first stitch – it results in a prettier edge).

Begin pattern:

Row 1: Slip 1, Knit to the end.
Row 2: Slip 1, Knit 2 stitches together 22 times, Knit 1.
Row 3: Slip 1, Knit through the front and back of the next stitch (increase by one stitch) 22 times, Knit 1.
Row 4: Slip 1, Knit to the end.

  • Repeat until the cloth is square in shape.
  • Cast off in knit, then weave in all the loose ends.

. . . . .

These dishcloths wash like a dream – most of mine have now been through a hot wash cycle dozens of times. I line dry them, as I think the tumble dryer could shrink them to postage stamp size. This particular weave rinses out well, but has enough texture to withstand a bit of bench scrubbing!

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We’ve been having great fun in the kitchen this Easter!

Chocolate on a stick makes less mess…

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That’s the theory, but no-one explained it to young Evan…

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My kitchen is littered with dirty bowls and Easter moulds…

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Fancy chocolate shops have expensive polycarbonate moulds and vibrating machines. I have plastic moulds, bulldog clips, and sons who’ve become quite adept at shaking…

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This year’s rocky road is dark chocolate, ginger, cranberries, toasted macadamias and passionfruit marshmallows…

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We’ve baked two dozen sourdough hot cross buns

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…and three dozen yeasted hot cross buns

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Monkey Girl took over cross piping duties this year…

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Passionfruit marshmallows – two fresh egg whites and a tin of passionfruit pulp resulted in a mountain of these…

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Big Boy was on hand to help with the clean-up!

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Wishing you all a very happy Easter!

We don’t live extravagant lives.

We haven’t been overseas in over a decade, our “new” car is now nine years old, and even at 51, I still put money away each month to meet our quarterly rates and utilities.

But our lives are rich – filled with glorious moments in time, wonderful friends and family, and so much love and joy that sometimes it feels like my heart will burst.

. . . . .

A Creative Life…

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, the process of creating something new feeds my soul. Be it a loaf of sourdough, or a crystal bracelet, or a hand-sewn garment – the act of transforming component parts into a new whole is one of the most satisfying things I can do. Last week, Mum asked me to make crystal angels for her friends at church, and it was like she’d given me a gift

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. . . . .

A Collector’s Life…

I’ve always been a collector.

It’s hard to predict what will grab my fancy, but when something does, it will absorb my brain and lead to hours of research and study. Over the years I’ve learnt to keep my collecting habits to a manageable level – my rocks and fossils, for example, never exceed a predetermined price ceiling. This actually makes the whole process a lot more fun – there is a challenge in finding treasures for a reasonable price!

This little uncut opal set me back just $20. I absolutely adore it – to me, it looks like a river running between a sheer cliff face and a sandy bank…

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. . . . .

A Companionable Life… 

We have some of the best friends in the whole world. And the most wonderful neighbours ever. If my life was a computer game, they would be my powerups! And whilst I’ve made fabulous friendships online, there is something extra special about spending time with people whom I’ve known since I was a teenager, breathing the same air together, and laughing too loudly in public places. I never, ever take it for granted, because I know what an enormous gift it is.

A rare selfie that I was happy with, taken just moments before heading out to dinner with Kevin and Carol. Wearing my new ammonite pendant! Did I look excited? Because I really was…

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. . . . .

A Foodie’s Life…

You know, there’s probably a dozen times a week when I wish I was thinner. But that’s hard to do, because the food we get to eat is incredibly delicious and often great fun to make. For my birthday, Mum took us out for my favourite Chinese dish – mud crab in XO sauce with vermicelli noodles…

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A few days before that, she’d arrived with raw marinara (seafood) mix, which we cooked into a risotto with chorizo, capsicum and onion…

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And I baked a giant chocolate slab cake in my new sheet pan – Small Man is in the photo for size reference. I texted the neighbours and said “In the US, sheet cakes are traditionally shared with your community, so if any of you would like a piece, please pop over with a plate!” And they did!

There was so much cake that it also fed my boys, Monkey Girl, my cousins Dilys and Brian, and Mum’s church congregation…

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. . . . .

A Family Life…

Pete, Big Boy, Small Man. My mum, my sister’s family, my cousins. Pete’s siblings and relatives. Our immediate family is incredibly close and our extended family is surprisingly harmonious. It’s a great blessing!

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s hard to describe how much joy our sons give us. They’re gentle and beautiful and loving, and they continue to be a daily part of our lives, bringing constant laughter with their teasing and banter.

They’re hopeless at remembering my birthday, which I find hilarious. But as Pete pointed out, they treat me as if every day is my birthday. Big Boy took me out for a coffee yesterday and frankly, it was the best gift I could have asked for…

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. . . . .

A Sydneysider’s Life…

Every city has wonderful points and for Sydney, the view of the Harbour is surely one of best. Even on murky overcast days, it’s a stunning vista. I took this photo from Circular Quay train station – one of the prettiest public transport stops in the world…

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The Opera House sits in the middle of the Harbour like a white crown…

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The 20th Biennale of Sydney has started (18th March – 5th June 2016) and I popped into the MCA on the first day to view the new exhibits. It’s bonkers that all this amazing art can be viewed for free!

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The piece below is The Four Seasons by Israeli artist Noa Eshkol. I spoke to the young MCA attendant manning the exhibition, and he told me this fascinating backstory.

Noa was a former dancer who refused to call her work “art”. When a member of her troop was conscripted during WWII, she disbanded her team and began creating these sewn pieces from donated scrap fabric. Each piece was kept in the shape it came in, as Noa refused to use scissors, and was carefully positioned on a large backing sheet before being stitched in place by hand. If you’re a sewer, you might recognise the pattern pieces (l think you’d like this, Kim!)…

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Finally, a short video of this simply constructed but highly effective artwork, made from mylar (the stuff they use in emergency blankets and wine casks). The movement and sound is produced by a standing fan, which turns on and off intermittently…

. . . . .

Wishing you all a rich, full, joyous week! ♥

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I had the very best of intentions to write a long and detailed post about Grayson Perry’s My Pretty Little Art Career exhibition, currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay.

Then I changed my mind.

It’s not possible to do Mr Perry justice in a blog post – you really need to get in and experience the sheer size and majesty and complexity and irreverence of the collection for yourself.

So instead, let me offer you just a few teaser snippets. If you’re in Sydney, make sure to get there before the exhibition closes on the 1st May. If you time it right, you’ll be able to visit the Biennale Embassy of Translation as well!

This is one of my favourite pieces, the artist’s own robe. There’s some gloriously intricate needlework involved…

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Grayson Perry works in a wide range of mediums – ceramics (which appear to be his greatest love), textiles, wood and metal. This piece – Head of a Fallen Giant (2008) – is one of the few he’s made in bronze…

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Most of the paper and textile artworks are so large that they can’t be captured in a single frame. They also tend to be intricately detailed, inviting careful examination and consideration. Many are cheeky and quite pointed in the message they’re conveying (do you like where “shopping” lives?)…

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In the introductory video, Grayson refers to himself as “a car crash of cultural influences”. Nowhere is this more evident than in his ceramic pieces, like this traditionally shaped Chinese style urn, adorned with skateboarders…

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The scale of his tapestry pieces is amazing – each is carefully designed and plotted out by the artist, then commercially woven under his supervision…

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Lots to giggle about in this very British piece…

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There are a couple of the artist’s drawing books on display. It’s intriguing to think that this sketch…

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…became a giant detailed fabric piece that was too wide to photograph in its entirety…

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Finally, a small section of Print for a Politician – the completed colour etching is about six times larger than the photo below…

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. . . . .

If you get a chance, I’d highly recommend popping in to view the exhibition. It’s a paid show ($20/head, or free to MCA members) and well worth the entry fee. Just make sure you allow at least a couple of hours to take it all in!

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the Festival of Fifty!

So much has happened in the intervening 12 months and if I’m honest, I’d have to say it hasn’t been the easiest year of my life. But that’s what living is about, right? It’s hard to appreciate how gloriously good life is most of the time, if there aren’t a few bumpy bits along the way.

One of the highlights over the past year has been my growing fossil collection, as I steadily raid (as time and cashflow permit) the amazing vaults of my mate Tom at the Living Fossil Gallery. I recently purchased a small selection of 110 million year old ammonite halves. They’re relatively inexpensive, with each pair costing between $20 – $30 depending on size…

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Last year I also discovered a passion for steampunk jewellery! It’s funny how our tastes evolve and change with age. I was surprised by how instantaneous the attraction was – I was casually strolling past the Time Flies Designs stall at Paddington Markets and came to a dead halt, leaving half an hour later with this exquisite pendant for Pete’s birthday. It’s meticulously crafted from two upcycled 1886 pocket watches…

. . . . .

A few weeks ago, I had the brilliant idea (even if I do say so myself) of adding steampunk elements to my ammonites. To me, the swirl and shape of the fossils offered a perfect compliment to the curvy watch mechanisms of old.

I chose three ammonite halves and commissioned Juan and Olivia of Times Flies Designs to create bespoke pendants for me. They’d never made anything like this before, so it was quite a challenge for them, both in terms of design and execution. I asked for three different looks, but was happy to leave the actual layout to them. Unlike other designers, Juan doesn’t just glue his parts on with epoxy resin – each piece is carefully drilled and screwed into place.

And oh, how they excelled themselves! When I picked the pendants up last weekend, I nearly wept with joy at how gorgeous they were. Pete decided to make them his birthday gift to me, and I haven’t been able to stop staring at them. Wherever possible, Juan will add movement to his creations, so each of my three pieces have cogs that turn and wheels that spin.

This Madagascan Lytoceras ammonite (formed during the Cretaceous period) is enhanced with parts from a 1904 Elgin pocket watch. The wee flower wheel at the base spins, and the needle moves from left to right, shifting the attached gears accordingly. It tickles my fancy that the 110 million year old fossil has a 110 year old watch part attached to it…

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It’s hard to capture in a photo, but the stones have a polished reflective shine to them (you can see a glimpse of it in the first pic)…

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This particular ammonite is also partially translucent…

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. . . . .

Another Lytoceras, this one assembled under Olivia’s careful designer’s eye. The large silver piece holds in place a spinning brass balance wheel at the centre of the stone…

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Big Boy and Pete love this one – the great affinity between the natural colour and shape of the fossil and Olivia’s design appeals to their engineering sensibilities…

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. . . . .

Finally, possibly my favourite piece (although it’s very hard to choose), this Cleoniceras ammonite is a perfect match for the curvaceous vintage Longines mechanism that Juan chose. The large gear spins, as does the Elgin balance wheel in the centre. Each pendant hangs on a long stainless steel chain…

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All the engravings are original to the pocket watches and refer to technical specifications such as the number of jewels used and lines of movement. So different to modern day watches which are basically just a small computer and a battery!

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. . . . .

As you can probably tell, I’m more than a little excited about these! It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever commissioned jewellery (we even bought off the shelf engagement and wedding rings). Bring on 51, I’m ready!

. . . . .

A big thank you to our friends Juan and Olivia of Times Flies Designs (Paddington Markets) who went way beyond what I expected to create these masterpieces! And to Tom of The Living Fossil Gallery (Mosman and the Rocks Markets) for always having the most brilliant treasures available at such reasonable prices! x

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