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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!

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! ♥

Let me share some happy moments from the past few weeks with you…

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Little Tom had his 8th birthday recently and I made myself very popular with his parents by giving him a mountain of chocolate…

While I was in tempering mode, I made these dark chocolate ginger bites for Pete (dropping a piece of naked ginger into each mould was much easier than dipping them individually)…

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Cash Palace Emporium in Leichhardt has now closed, although their pop-up shop in Paddington will be open for a few months longer. When Elaine was clearing out her shop, she found this Japanese New Year’s decoration and gave it to me as a gift…

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I caught the train to Auburn to explore the Arzum Turkish Market and came home with a bag full of treasures – Jordanian za’atar, tulumba, pastirma, two sorts of olives and three types of ground chilli – pul biber, isot and maras…

That night we made pizzas topped with Turkish tomato and pepper paste, and sprinkled with dark isot biber chilli flakes…

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I’ve been reading about Japanese boro – textiles created from mending and patchworking old fabrics together. Traditionally a peasant craft born of necessity, the few pieces which have survived now sell for thousands of dollars each. If you’re interested, there are some wonderful photos here.

I found an old denim shirt in our rag pile and was inspired to repurpose the fabric. The aim is to gradually add bits to it as time goes on…

It already ties into quite a funky 60s-style shoulder bag…

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My friend Diana gave us a large bag of her homegrown “Hot Lips” chillies. They dried brilliantly in the dehydrator and we’re fully stocked for the next year at least…

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I took Mum to the Rocks and Minerals Show at Paddington RSL Club a couple of weeks’ ago. While there, I picked up this gorgeous boulder opal from Brett of Opal Empire for just $20…

Mum bought this magnificent Canadian jade, carved locally by Tom Taverner. He’s widely regarded as the best jade carver in Australia…

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As I’ve so often mentioned before, I really do have the best friends in the whole world. PeteV and Nic bought me this special salt from Mexico – it’s sat on my shelf for a while now as I was under the impression that it contained ground up grasshoppers. It turns out that’s not the case, it actually contains ground up worms.

When the laughing had died down, PeteV showed up at the front door (they live three houses away) with a bottle of aged tequila and a vial of grasshopper salt so that we could do a taste comparison. It’s amazing how two shots of tequila at 5pm on a Monday can brighten up the entire week to come…

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Last Saturday, we climbed the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout with Uncle Steve and his kids – it was a glorious family day out, and the view was stunning

It always surprises me that this attraction isn’t more widely known! The Bridge Climb can cost up to $380 per person, but the Pylon Lookout, which takes you up nearly as high, is just $15 for adults and even less for students and concession card holders. Better still, you’re allowed to take a camera up (which you can’t do on the Bridge Climb) and there is an unobstructed 360º view of the city and harbour…

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Our daily walks continue – the winter mornings are cold, but often sunny. I loved this photo so much that it ended up as my computer screen wallpaper…

A rainy night left a perfect sky mirror on the Greenway’s basketball court…

Gorgeous Sammy at UTS Rowers makes the best coffee on the Bay Run – in the morning light, she glows like an angel…

We took this photo last week from the Rowers’ Club, just as the sun was rising…

A couple of bridge photos…here’s the pedestrian overpass, which is home to the light show, bathed in golden light…

…and this morning, the motorway bridge was a visual feast of curves, lights, reflections and blue…

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Finally, the scruffy-haired love of my life forgot to turn the dishwasher on before going to bed. The following morning, I gave him a sock (a stripey one, of course)…

“What’s this for?”

“I’m setting you free. You’re a rubbish house elf!”

“What?”

“Mistress has given Petey a sock. Petey is freeeee…”*

(*It’s a Harry Potter reference)

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Wishing you all many happy moments!

Thank you for letting me share mine with you! ♥

The furoshiki fever continues to build at our house, and I’m handing out hemmed squares of cloth to just about anyone who walks in the door. My old school friends Jeanette and Sue were the most recent recipients, so I thought I’d write this tutorial for them. I hope you find it useful as well!

After a bit of trial and error, I’ve decided that the perfect shopping bag uses a 100 – 110cm square of thin, strong cotton. Silk is lovely, but impractical for everyday use. A cotton furoshiki can be thrown into the washing machine and dryer, then folded into a small package for storage. Quilting cottons, dress fabrics and bedsheeting will all work well – it’s best to hem all four sides for durability. Before you start, give the fabric a good tug in all directions to test for strength. And if that  all sounds too hard, a purchased square cotton scarf will probably work just as well.

There are two easy knots you need to master. Here are the instructions from the  excellent Pixieladies’ Furoshiki Fabric Wraps

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So…here’s how I fold and tie my furoshiki shopping bags. It’s dead simple, and I usually do it at the counter while my items are being rung up.

Step 1: fold the cloth in half on the diagonal, right sides out…

Step 2: tie an overhand knot (see above) about halfway up on each side…

Step 3: tie the other two corners together in a square knot (see above or the more detailed instructions here)…

Tah-dah! Your bag is ready to use…

It will carry a surprisingly large swag of groceries…

…then sit comfortably on your shoulder…

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Variation #1: for a neater look, start with the fabric inside out so that the side knots end up inside. Turn the furoshiki right side out and give it a good shake before tying the square knot on top. This bag will carry nearly as much as the one above…

Variation #2: make variation #1 above, then slide a scrunchie or other tie over the loose corners before tying the square knot…

Variation #3: make variation #1, then tie the two loose corners into a deep half knot (see above) to enclose the contents of the bag…

…then tie the corners into a square knot to form a handle…

When you’re finished, untie your furoshiki, give it a shake, then fold it tightly and pop it in your handbag for another day!

There are heaps of other bag folding patterns, both in books and on the internet. YouTube has several excellent tutorials, including this one from Sydney which teaches you how to fold the Variation #1 bag above…

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…and this wonderful Japanese one with more complicated wrapping techniques…

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I now keep three thin cotton furoshikis in my handbag at all time, which is usually enough to cart all our groceries home. Let me end with this photo of Big Boy and Small Man carrying our fruit and vegetables to the car a couple of weeks’ ago (I’m indoctrinating them early) – you can see how full the cloths are, yet both boys commented on how easy the furoshikis were to hold. With the large supermarkets now banning plastic bags, there’s never been a better time to revisit this ancient Japanese art!

On my last visit to Haverick Meats, butcher Mark went out to the cool room and found three kilos of locally grown grassfed beef short ribs for me. As Havericks is primarily a restaurant trade supplier, most of their beef is grainfed, but they usually have grassfed available if you ask for it.

That night, I popped my Römertopf baker into the sink to soak, and smeared a kilo and a half of the ribs with the Portuguese seasoning mix I bought at Charlie’s Deli..

The pre-soaked Römertopf was filled with chopped vegetables (we had onions, carrots and capsicums in the fridge), black barley (my latest Harkola find), tomato passata and one of my friend Diana’s homegrown chillies. The ribs were laid on top and a box of defrosted beef stock was poured over…

The covered pot was placed in a cold oven before turning the heat up to 200C with fan. After the first hour, the oven temperature was reduced to 160C with fan for a further two hours (in the past, it would have been 150C, but Bobby II doesn’t run quite as hot as Old Bob) until the meat was tender and the black barley was cooked through.

We de-fatted the dish as much as possible, then served it with brown rice and the first of our preserved garden lemons. It was a huge hit with the carnivores…

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As mentioned in the previous post, Allison and I popped into the Portuguese butcher in Petersham on our most recent foodie adventure. While we were there, we discovered their magnificent dinosaur ribs – a cut neither of us had seen before (“dinosaur” is my personal descriptor, if you ask for them by that name, they’ll probably just look at you oddly). These huge grassfed ribs are basically brisket on the bone and each weighs in at about a kilo and a half ($13/kg).

I bought two and gratefully accepted Jose’s offer to cut through the bone at the back, separating it into shorter pieces while leaving the meat intact on top. Inspired by the Mothership brisket recipe in Save with Jamie, these were rubbed with ground black pepper and sea salt, then browned in a little oil on all sides in our (much loved) flameproof Emile Henry roasting pan. Two chopped onions were scattered over the base of the pan, the ribs laid on top, then rosemary leaves were stripped over…

We tucked a wet sheet of parchment over the meat, then covered that with two layers of foil. The roasting pan went into a preheated 170C (non-fan) oven for four hours, with a splash of water added halfway through.

The meat was very tender after four hours, so we let it rest, covered, on the hob while the root veggies roasted at a higher temperature. Then we removed the foil and returned it uncovered for a final half hour in the oven to brown and caramelise…

The meat was falling apart as I sliced it into smaller pieces, each with a bone attached. We served it with roasted vegetables, steamed broccoli from our garden and Pete’s homemade gravy, and the hungry wolves declared it to be their favourite beef dish ever…

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We’re incredibly fortunate in Australia to have access to excellent grassfed beef – it’s a kinder option for the animal, has a distinctly different flavour to grainfed (particularly in the fat),  and is thought to be healthier for us. Both these dishes were a huge hit with the boys and perfect winter comfort food – we’ll definitely be making them again!

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