Saturday, 17 October 2015

Saint May

This is a story about a boat.

Penny and I have known each other since we were around six or seven, and that’s a long time.  When we were eight, we each had a new baby brother join our families, one month apart.  Penny’s baby brother Peter is now a retired grandfather.  He has been an avid sailor since he was a little boy; a chip off the old block.

In his retirement he has revived his interest in painting, enrolling in art school classes.  To everyone’s delight, he has quite a talent which is not really surprising, as he comes from a strong line of artists, performers and singers. 

Let’s go back to the late 1950s.  We were teenagers growing up in the beachside suburb of Bronte which in those days was a middle-class family suburb with the beach as our playground.  Today you have to pay to even look at the place.  

It was around 1957 when Penny’s father announced to his family that he was going to build a sailing boat.  Where, asked his alarmed wife.  In the back yard was the response.  Now this was a tiny pocket-sized yard with room for a small flower garden and a clothes line. 

And build it he did, all on his own.  It took five long years of meticulous building in his spare time, but slowly out of that back yard rose the hull of the boat.  I can’t remember where the clothes line ended up, but Penny’s mother somehow fed and clothed the family of five without a word of complaint. There were times you could barely scrape down the hallway past the timber stored along one wall. 

Pencil sketches of the plan appeared on spare walls – beautifully drawn, as he was an artist.  Many a time we brushed off wood shavings as we left the house.

In 1962 Penny and I were living in London when the boat was launched.  How we would have loved to have been there to watch as a crane slowly drove down the street, much to the amazement of the neighbours, lift the boat over the roof of the house and transport it to Watsons Bay which was to be its home for many years to come.

Penny’s father christened the boat Saint May, in a loving tribute to his wife May who he acknowledged was indeed a saint for allowing him to fulfil his dream.  Inevitably the time came when he became too old to sail his beloved Saint May and he sold it to a member of a local sailing family.

Now we are back in 2015 and Peter recently had some of his works in an art exhibition at Balmain.  He was assisting with the setting up of the exhibition and wandered out into the courtyard where he struck up a conversation with a woman who was also exhibiting.  She lived locally and Peter mentioned that he had been sailing along the Balmain foreshore looking for suitable subjects to paint, when he was stunned to come across his late father’s boat.  Gone was the original timber mast, replaced with an aluminium one and of course it was painted a different colour and had a different name, but he recognised it instantly, as his father had deviated from the original plan in certain areas and designed them to his own specifications.

As he described the boat, the woman’s eyes widened and she quietly said, “That’s our boat.” 

She immediately rang her husband and when he arrived, Peter told them the story of Saint May.  They worked out that boat had changed hands about four times since Penny’s father sold her and the name had been changed at least twice.  But Peter was overwhelmed when the current owners revealed that the life savers and other equipment stored below still bore the name Saint May

I was told this story only yesterday when Tony and I met up with Penny and her husband Keith for a long-awaited coffee and cake.  As Penny came to the end of the story, we were both crying.  We two were transported back to those teen years, with memories of a remarkable man with a magnificent obsession and his understanding and supportive wife.

And the perfect ending?  The current owners are seriously considering re-naming the boat Saint May.  It has come the full circle.

Friday, 9 October 2015

From my machine

Seasons change and with the change comes the realization that children have grown and are in need of new clothing.  What's not to love about that?

Among the recent orders I have received was one from a lovely returning customer who purchased these two special occasion dresses, as well as a pair of bubble shorts.  They are now on their way to their new home.

It is inevitable that with the warmer weather arriving, the Christmas shopping season as has commenced, if the department stores and supermarkets are to be our guides.  What a surprise.

Along with clothing orders, I have been preparing for the Christmas rush by making Christmas tree garlands which are always popular in the two months leading up to Christmas.

The traditional red and green ties have always been available, but in the last couple of seasons I have added aqua ties for those who like something a little different.  They are particularly popular among those who are fortunate enough to spend Christmas in the midst of summer.

I don't know if it's a sign of entering the let's say more mature phase of life, but I take particular delight in witnessing the pure joy and excitement of young children when they spy Santa for the first time, or stare in wonderment at department store Christmas window displays.  Pure gold.

Available here.
Speaking of such events, what is more adorable than little toddler sisters all dressed up for a special occasion, be it a wedding (perhaps as flower girls), Christmas family parties or birthday celebrations?  And who doesn't love bows, lace and the odd pin-tuck?  These two special occasion dresses are the last I have in stock, the smaller one in size 12 months and the larger one in size 2.

The backs are just as pretty.  They are made of a lovely soft grey fabric which falls so beautifully, and the skirts are extra full.  If you know of two little sisters who you are dying to outfit in co-ordinating special occasion dresses, look no further.

And now back to those trees.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

It's Spring ... apparently

The first weekend of September brings our annual pilgrimage to the city to view the Spring flower display at David Jones.

No matter how cold it is outdoors, as soon as you step inside you are instantly bombarded with the joyous sense of Spring.

The Piano Man is an institution and I suspect he knows every tune that has ever been composed.  He captivates and serenades the young and the old alike.

It's all about flowers, perfume and handbags.  What more could a girl ask for?

But it's mainly about the flowers.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

It's coming

What's coming?  Spring of course.  On a day like today there's no denying it.

Almost overnight buds have appeared on shrubs and trees.

Gardens are shedding the last of their camelia flowers to make way for fresh azalea blooms.

Jacarandas are turning golden yellow before dropping their foliage in readiness for Sydney to be brushed with a haze of purple.  I know this glorious weather won't last and winter will return in its last desperate bid to hang around.  But in three days it will be spring, wonderful spring.

August has been such a busy and eventful month, with three family birthdays just as a start.  Our ten year-old granddaughter was selected to present the ball at the opening of the Netball World Cup game between Australia and England before a crowd of over 16,000 (images taken by an excited mother).  She couldn't take the smile off her face and at the end of the game she was presented with the ball signed by the Australian captain.  Australia won that game and went on to win the World Cup against New Zealand.

Ten days ago we drove our daughter and son-in-law to the airport as they set off on a four month adventure around England, Ireland and Europe.  Maz's painting, They Never Saw It Coming, had been selected out of over 850 submissions as a finalist in the Mosman Art Prize 2015 which opened on 25 July.  Somewhat belatedly Tony and I visited the gallery a couple of days ago and were delighted to see that the painting had been sold.  We were able to pass on the glad tidings to Maz as they landed in Dublin.

On the sewing front, I was on a self-imposed deadline to finish a quilt for my granddaughter.  She is at the horse-crazy stage and her mother bought a quilt kit from No Chintz which I was only too happy to put together.  I sewed the label on the back on Wednesday morning and by that evening it was on her bed.  She loves it, thank goodness!

One of the FaceBook pages I follow had a sew-along last week.  It involved a pattern which I had bought a few months back and had not got around to making, so it was the perfect opportunity to join in.  It was a fun project and I was very happy with the result, so much so that I will be working on a similar style for the upcoming summer range of Hot Fudge which will be available soon in my Etsy and MadeIt shops.

To round off the week I made this skirt.  It's one of my favourites and is so easy to wear.  I made it in size 10, but it's available in limited supplies made to order in sizes 5 to 13/14 in my shops listed above.

So much for August.  Hurry up September, I am totally over winter.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tulips, chocolates and Turkish delight

Midwinter is almost here and already the days are getting longer.  Add to that the full second the world gained overnight and things are looking decidedly rosy.  The schools are closed for the mid-year holidays which means lighter traffic on the roads.  It also means that today we had the good fortune of having our three Sydney grandchildren and their mother here for lunch.

They came bearing tulips, chocolate and Turkish delight.  Wonderful children, they know our weaknesses.  Our ten-year-old granddaughter has a severe dairy allergy so when I opened the July issue of delicious. Magazine, there on the cover was the perfect solution - a stunning dairy-free celebration cake.

Coconut chiffon cake with meringue icing.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?  Well, if you rush in without reading the complete recipe, a whole lot.  Like possessing not one but two 20 cm spring form pans.  However, I did have one 23 cm spring form pan plus an ordinary cake tin of the same size, so I made do with those and shortened the cooking time to compensate for the size.  Good job Robyn, I thought smugly.

The cake was lovely, light and airy, which it should be with all those egg whites.  I was feeling pretty chuffed, with only the meringue icing to contend with and that's where I read a little further down the recipe.  The four egg whites and the rest of the ingredients were to be placed in a heat-proof basin, sat over simmering water and whipped to within an inch of its existence for seven minutes, or until thickened.  Ah, an Italian meringue.  After the seven minutes passed and my trusty little electric hand beater was at the point of imploding, I realised that it was not stiff like the cover of the magazine and became a little disheartened.  At this point I did what I always do in desperate moments - I read the balance of the recipe.  The meringue was to be transferred to the bowl of my Kenwood Chef and beaten at high speed for a further five minutes.  

The resemblance to the magazine cover cake was as different as day is to night, but it was at least on the plate and received much praise when it was delivered to the table.  I encouraged the kinder to take a finger lick of the icing before they felt obliged to commit to a slice. The verdict was varied, all the way from interesting (the two older ones) to weird, from the six year-old.  However, they opted for a slice and then finished the meal with lashings of chocolates and Turkish delight.  A generous slab of cake was send home for our son-in-law to deal with.

Would I make it again?  Are you kidding?

It's the first day of the new financial year in Australia and I am holding a couple of sales to help boost the economy.  The first is on my MadeIt store where for a short period I am offering 50% off selected items.  Some have already sold, so if you find something you like, don't delay.

The second option is over at my Etsy store where I am offering 20% off my entire stock to celebrate 4 July.  This sale ends on 11 July.  Simply use the coupon code hotfudge4july at the checkout to activate the discount.

Image: Boutique Baby Photography
Now the question is, can we face up to another slice of the cake for dessert tonight?

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Where's an ark when you need it?

Nobody loves to see green gardens more than I do, but this is ridiculous.  It's been a couple of weeks of disasters from Queensland right down the eastern coast of Australia.  You know it's bad when they postpone a rugby league test match between Australia and New Zealand!  And it's not over yet.  Our first floor unit has suffered some water damage, with our bedroom and my sewing room having the carpets ripped up and the underlay removed.  As a result, I am in no man's land, with my sewing machines sitting in the middle of the room awaiting repairs to the offending window flashing and wrongfully sealed up brick weep holes.  Still, we know are so fortunate when we read the terrible stories that abound up and down the coast.

However, there was a bright spot in our week.

There was a time when I would buy magazines at the drop of a hat.  In fact, I was known as the Magazine Queen, a title I have now bestowed on The Middle Child.  Over the years my magazine enthusiasm has waned, but this particular publication caught my attention and I had to buy.

Perhaps the article on page 48 had something to do with it. 

This magazine oozes class.

It sets a very high benchmark and it has impeccable taste.  I'm not saying that because it features my daughter.  Scout's honour.

With all the turmoil, sewing has been put on the back burner.  I was a fair way along with this little dress when the cyclonic winds, rain and hail descended on Sydney (we dodged the hail thank goodness).  I have terrible withdrawal symptoms but with a little luck the machines will be zipping along again next week.

In the meantime, I'll find a lovely warm corner and read my magazine.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


I've been reluctant to admit that summer's gone, but it has to be faced.

As if by some secret agreement, camellias have suddenly bloomed all over Sydney. They are so clever - we are distracted by their beauty don't notice that it is getting colder.  But indeed it is.

This time last year Tony was recovering from a staph infection courtesy of his triple bypass, so the Royal Easter Show was the last thing on our minds.  Thankfully this year we were there bright and early.  Our first port of call was the baking section where Tony cast his expert eye over the cakes. Oh, how we love to pick them to pieces or stand in awe of the better examples.

On 25 April we mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings and the district produce exhibits reflected the spirit of those first Anzacs.

The dog pavilion catered for every canine personality and mood.  We had the pampered pooch ...

the get-me-outa-here pooch ...

the aren't I adorable pooch ...

 and, of course, the embarrassing pooch.

It was time to grab some lunch and head to the wood chopping pavilion. I often wonder how many toes they have left.

Who could resist Sideshow Alley?  We could, but it was on the way to the showbag pavilion, so it couldn't be avoided.  We bought some bags for the Queensland grandchildren, a licorice bag for me and some sort of chocolate bag for Mr Triple Bypass.  A thoroughly enjoyable day.

This Easter we invited the family and our closest friends to have lunch with us.  It was our first Easter in our new home and it thankfully proved that it is possible to feed twelve people in a modest sized apartment.  The two lounges were moved from the living room to the covered balcony and the outdoor setting moved indoors.  It seats ten and with a card table added to one end, all twelve were seated comfortably, despite the random mix of chairs and a couple of stools for the children.

Our five year-old grandson declared that this was his FAVOURITE cake ever.  Oh dear ... I hope I haven't led him astray.

The last rush of bunnies were mailed out in time for Easter and my sewing machine is taking a well-earned rest for a week or so.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter - I know we did.