Emma Bridgewater

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When we lived in China we’d go to Hong Kong frequently on business and I’d go shopping for things we couldn’t buy in Guangzhou, like icing sugar. ( this was 20 years ago! ) I’d always buy a haul of English decorator magazines, too, and discovered Emma Bridgewater china. My favourite design is Toast and Marmalade in black. I collect earthenware, tinware and some textiles.

Black Toast is cream earthenware with bold black typeface printing. These are pieces intended for everyday use and enjoyment. The mugs are generously sized, the bowls are big and wide, the butter dish is meant for a decent sized block of butter.

Emma Bridgewater and her husband Matthew Rice began their pottery in 1985 at a time when other potteries in Stoke-on-Trent were beginning to close. Most of the products continue to be manufactured there.

Last year we took a cottage in the Cotswolds and one day, in heavy rain, we drove to Stoke-on- Trent to visit the pottery. Thank goodness for GPS. Gorgeous displays of all the designs ( Black Toast is just one of them ),  welcoming, well informed staff in the manufacturing, catering and retail areas and a lovely garden out the back with chooks! (Australian for chickens) A wonderful morning….and two unplanned carrier bags of hand luggage to haul back to Perth, via Singapore.

Today is World Heart Day, intended to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke prevention. Apparently, heart disease and strokes are the world’s leading causes of death, killing 17.1 million people every year. The intention is to educate people about good heart health habits and to encourage people to make lifestyle changes that are good for their hearts. Love your heart today!

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Waterford Crystal

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Last Saturday I went with my friend to a presentation by Tom Brennan, Craftsman and Spokesman for Waterford Crystal. As well as showing us Waterford Crystal pieces currently available, he talked about their history in Ireland, the raw materials used, the process, the designers and his life with Waterford, following in his Father’s footsteps.

One of the best known Waterford pieces is probably the iconic “ball drop” in Times Square, New York, where, since 1907, a Crystal  ball has descended a flagpole at midnight, marking the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The integrity of the crystal became apparent when Tom Brennan talked about summer temperatures of 38° – 40° C and winter temperatures of -15° C in New York. Strong and beautiful.

Looking at the way these pieces reflected the light and thinking about how strong crystal is reminds us to use these lovely pieces everyday and to enjoy them rather than keep them in a cupboard for “best”.

Chicken and Leek pies. I’d like to say we froze some for later but we ended up eating them all this week. When I saw the beautiful, fresh leeks I knew I’d make chicken pies. So chicken, leek, thyme and a white sauce, plus a Granny Smith apple chopped up because I remembered seeing that in a recipe once. We were very pleased with our pies.

This is Louis, looking like a little woolly sheep BEFORE he went to the groomer.

This is Louis AFTER  he’d been to the groomer. Hot and sunny weather before he went to the groomer, cold, wet and windy since he was shorn!

Planning a trip to Malaysia, so off to a Malaysian Restaurant for dinner. This is our starter, a Tasting Plate. It featured a selection of beef and chicken satays, spring rolls, cucur udang ( prawn and chive fritters), tuna cutlets and a kerabu salad garnish. Along with Nasi Jasmine (rice)  we had Mee Goreng Mamak  (seafood and noodles) Daging Masak Kicap ( beef and potato) plus Lamb Curry. All very good! And all eaten before I thought to take photos.

This is Farm Animal Awareness Week. People in Perth are lucky because the Perth Royal Show is about to start so everyone has the opportunity to see, touch and admire beautiful farm animals up close.

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Spring Has Come!

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September marks the beginning of Spring in the southern hemisphere. We have had a very wet winter in Western Australia so I’ve been a bit late planting out annuals, but the petunia seedlings above, Dreams White, have been planted under the lime tree in the front courtyard. They have settled in well and are growing.

These violas are in the portico so I have to take them in and out but once they are in bloom they last for months.

We are off on another trip in a few weeks so have begun collecting books. My pile is on the left. I’ve been sick in bed for two days this week, so raided my pile and read Janine Marsh’s My Good Life In France. Really enjoyed it. She has a blog, too and talks about moving to France, buying property, renovating, dealing with bureaucracy, eating, travelling and generally enjoying every aspect of “La Belle France”. A good read.

Kirstie Clements,  author of The Vogue Factor, rose from the reception desk at Australian Vogue to the Editor’s chair. This is an account of that journey. Along the way she meets famous designers and celebrities, visits exotic places, becomes the mother of twins and learns everything there is to know about publishing an iconic fashion magazine. I’m really enjoying it.

Hanna’s daughter is my new book club book, so I have only read the blurb on the back. I only got it this afternoon. Let me know if you’ve read it and tell me what you thought!

Gathering the ingredients to make Coriander Beef Curry. It was very good and lasted two meals. Aromatic with layers of flavour, we will make it again.

Went out to pick some lettuce and found them eaten to the soil. Not happy and not sure what has eaten them. Our limes are growing well and taste very good. I’ve begun planting tomatoes. Picking spinach, chilies and spring onions.

Today is Concussion Awareness Day. Concussion can be a serious issue, usually happens during sport and can have serious repercussions. The best treatment is to rest but if someone loses consciousness, even for a moment, you need to seek medical advice.

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How to Hygge

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Hygge ( I think its pronounced hue guh ) is the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness and well being. According to that great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, ” You don’t spell it, you feel it.” You feel hygge.

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen defines hygge as being “… about an atmosphere and an experience.” He explains, “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling we are safe.”

It is a feeling of cosy contentment and well being.

It seems to be a Nordic concept. Last year in Norway I liked to go walking at dusk as all the houses were lit up with their windows uncovered and I could see cosy interiors with glowing fires, lanterns, flowers and simple, warm interiors. Norwegians also seem to value beautiful design, slowed down living and families gathered together.

Some easy to adopt elements of hygge are……

1. White walls so you start with a clean canvas to add your imprint.

2. Glowing candles, scented or plain.

3. A warm throw blanket or two, cuddly socks for comfortable feet.

4. Warm, aromatic drinks: tea, coffee, chocolate, mulled wine.

5. Baked goods, best homemade from quality ingredients. Good to share.

6. Board games and books. Lots of family time together. Fun, engaging  activities and lovely memories.

7. Fresh flowers in simple, unstructured arrangements.

8. Natural fibres and materials.

9. Photos of family.

10. Enjoying friends and family.

So many resources online and interior decorating ideas in recently published books, but adopting the slowed down, focused approach to living is a bit more challenging in our technological, social media driven world where many of us have long work hours. Try eating dinner together  at the table tonight. Talk, relax, hear about the day, enjoy each others screen free company.

Today is International Literacy Day. An estimated 800 million people throughout the world lack basic literacy skills. International Literacy Day highlights the importance of increasing literacy.

 

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A Steamboat, Some Crepes, a Coffee Machine and A New Fitbit

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On a wet and wintry night recently we enjoyed a lovely evening with friends who served a traditional Chinese dinner, a Steamboat (huo guo). This is a simmering “steamboat” or pot of stock also known as a Chinese Hot Pot. It sits on the table over its own gas fire. We sat around the table, each with a bowl for our cooked food, a bowl of rice and little bowls of dipping sauces and using our own small net, cooked our morsels in the stock. The hostess had set pork, chicken, beef, scallops, prawns, quail eggs, fish and fish balls for us to cook. She stirred Chinese vegetables into the pot, too. Everything looked so attractive and enticing.

Delicious, fresh and fun. Great conversation while our food cooked and lots of laughter as nets tipped over. Trawling the bottom of the pot was very tasty!

The lemons are still abundant. We like to eat them on crepes with sugar. Old fashioned food, so good.

We finally joined the coffee pod machine owners of the world. We drink very strong black double espressos or long blacks and I’d never really liked coffee from these machines until a demonstrator made me an espresso using a Dharkan and then a Kazaar pod. We’re hooked!

I have used a Fitbit since 2013. It took a while to consistently get to 10 000 steps a day and then, when I was easily achieving that, I aimed at 11 000+ steps. It was a habit to check my Fitbit regularly and get a bit more active when necessary. Unfortunately, the device needed charging more and more frequently, until it was almost every day rather than a weekly event. Wondering if I needed a new battery I wrote to Fitbit who monitored my device and then, despite it being out of warranty, replaced it free of charge! Dealing with them was so easy and the outcome amazing. Well done, Fitbit! (This is not a sponsored comment, either, I was just really impressed by their prompt replies and great outcome)

Today is Letter Writing Day. My Mother is computer adept but writes many, many letters. Receiving a hand written letter is a treat and shows the author made a special effort in this flick off an email, dash off a text era. Beautiful cards and textural writing paper are lovely to use and lovely to receive. Write a letter today!

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How to Grow Buxus (Box) and Make Box Topiaries

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TO GROW

I have box (buxus) hedges and they “sucker”. I pull up these stray suckers and if they have a root attached I plant them out. These are generally successful.

Another method is to take a cutting from an existing plant. The best time to grow semi-hardwood cuttings, like box, is late spring to summer, although I have had success in autumn, too.

Take a cutting about 10cm/4 inches long and strip off all but a few leaves at the top. Keep the cutting moist in damp paper towel or newspaper if you’re not planting them straight away.

Push several stems into a pot of well drained potting mix and label them. Some gardeners recommend dipping the stem into rooting/hormone powder. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t and have good outcomes either way.

Cover the pot with a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off and the lid off to allow air circulation. This creates a mini-glasshouse. I only do this in autumn. Don’t let the pot dry out.

In about 10 weeks your plants should have grown roots and can be carefully transplanted. The plants in the pot above are three months old and have been very slightly trimmed and shaped.

TO TOPIARISE

To create ball topiaries, strip the leaves from the stem leaving the growth at the top. Begin shaping this using scissors or secateurs. Occasionally leaves will develop on the stem as they grow. Just pull them off.

These topiary trees are about two years old and I keep them dense and round.

This dome is about three years old and started with four stems.

This topiary tree is nearly four years old. Box grows well in full sunlight or semi shade. Don’t let them dry out.

Another dome started with five stems. Begin shaping as soon as there is sufficient growth. If you want to make a square/cube topiary it is easiest to plant four stems, one in each corner of the pot as this will thicken up faster than one with fewer stems.

I use a slow release fertiliser. The container will tell you how often you need to apply it for best growth.

Saturday 26th August is Dog Day and honours the special bond between man and canine. Take time to appreciate the love and value dogs bring to our lives and do your bit for abused and homeless dogs where ever you are in the world.  Look at www.nationaldogday.com for more information and ways to celebrate.

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Some Making, Some Cooking and Some Growing

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Making.

Making Herb Pot Markers. I use wooden Tongue Depressors from the $2 Shop to make markers for herb pots. Using non-toxic paint, I colour most of the depressor as shown and when it’s dry I do the other side, making sure the edges are also painted. I use a waterproof marker to write the name on the stick ( I used a Sharpie) and  a non-toxic paint, in this case a sample pot, for any food growing pot. Also, when Louis, our dog was a puppy, he chewed most of the labels one afternoon so I was glad they were non-toxic.

I usually paint ten sticks at a time.

Most paints only require one coat so this is a quick and easy job.

Cooking.

Cold Weather Cooking. I make several trays of pasties and freeze most of them for work lunches or weekend lunches.

Lots of nice spinach at the moment, so I made an egg, sheeps’ fetta, onion and spinach slice. Tastes best when cold, if you can wait that long.

Quick Apple, Almond and Coconut Slice. Didn’t add the coconut and it was still very good. Below is Ginger Caramel Slice. Irresistible. The recipe for both these slices comes from www.taste.com.au

Growing.

The Sweetpeas have begun blooming.

They look pretty and smell gorgeous.

The first tulip is blooming but there are lots more about to come. This is Tulip Leen van Mark.

August 21st is World Fashion Day. Thinking about the amount of clothing in good condition that ends up in landfill, maybe it’s time to re-fashion something you already have?

 

 

 

 

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Elastic Holder For My Journal

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This is the final activity!  I showed you how I covered the journal, then I showed you how I marbled paper for the inside covers and now, I’ll show you how I make the elastic holder which slips over the front and holds necessary pens and for me, glasses. This band is so useful! Not only does it hold things but I can easily slide it off my full journal to put it on a new one. It is simply a strip of stitched up elastic. You need:

  • twice the height of the book you are covering of 5 cm/2″ elastic, plus 11cm/4.5″ extra elastic *
  • scissors
  • pins
  • sewing machine

* I only add a little bit extra overlap as the holder needs to be tight, so that when you sew it together the loop will be snug and firm around the journal.

Overlap and pin. Machine stitch.

Take the extra piece of elastic and working over the join in the elastic, fold the ends as illustrated, pin down and machine stitch.

Divide the piece into three even sections and pin down, then sew. I have sewn two channels between each section in the past but now I just use zigzag stitch and it works well.

I used to make one section wider than the others but three even sized sections are actually more useful.

The finished product. These covered journals make popular gifts, especially if covered in paper to match a pregnancy, a journey, even setting up a blog.

I use my journal every day and include a calendar in the back where I can mark times we’ll be away, when we have house guests and school terms for Western Australia.

Did you know yesterday was Play in the Sand Day? Here it would be Play in the Puddle Day as we’ve had more rain than we’ve had for years! The garden is happy, but the weeds are happier.

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How To Marble With Water-based Inks

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Marbling is a method of decorating paper by floating water-based inks on water, swirling the inks, pressing on the paper and removing it to dry. Traditionally oil based paints were used but I prefer prints which are easy to fold and glue, not rigid and thick like oil based prints.

I use marbled paper for the frontpiece and backpiece of my journals. I use Japanese water-based inks from an art supply shop and  printer paper. I used to use litho paper but prefer printer paper now.

Collect your materials:

  • water-based inks
  • a stirrer
  • rubber gloves
  • paper to fit your journal (I use sheets of A4 printer paper)
  • an appropriate sized sink/bowl of water

Drizzle inks onto the water and stir. I select colours to suit the paper used to cover the journal. You can created a darker pattern by increasing the intensity of the ink.

Smooth the paper over the ink making sure the paper surface is completely touching the water. Print two in similar colours for the front and back.

Remove and lay flat to dry. Usually I leave them outside where the prints dry very quickly but it’s raining today. This print looks streaky as it took a long time to photograph.

The paper needs trimming to fit the pages so I lay it out where it fits on the cover and the press the printed paper over the page edge creating a fold to show where to cut. You can see the fold to the right of the image.

 

Using the gluestick, put glue all over the surface to be covered and starting from the fold in the middle smooth down the marbled paper until it is flat and smooth. That’s the frontpiece done, now do the back!

Next week I’ll show you how to make the elastic holder which keeps everything I need on the journal, ready to go.

Today is Assistance Dog Day. There are many kinds of assistance  dogs: guide dogs, hearing alert dogs, seizure alert dogs and other medical alert dogs. Very clever dogs.

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How I Cover My Journals

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For more than twenty years I have written in a journal every day. Before that I kept travel journals, house building and decorating journals and a pregnancy journal. too.

My favourite giftwrap is no longer available and I have had to find another pattern. A sheet of giftwrap covers a lot of journals. This pattern is by Anna Chandler, a West Australian designer.

The frontpiece and backpiece are marbled paper. I use water based inks to print these.

I glued in this pop-up card from a hotel in Hanoi. Isn’t it clever?

I glue in mementos such as maps, cards, tickets and menus. Mostly I just write about each day and sometimes I draw, too.

This week I’ll show you how to cover the notebook, next week I’ll show you how to marble the front and back papers and finally, I’ll show you how to make the elastic holder for pens and, for me, my reading glasses.

YOU NEED:

  • a journal
  • giftwrap ( strong and glossy wears well)
  • scissors
  • gluestick

These red and black notebooks come from the newsagent. I cover them with my chosen paper, glue in the marbled papers and transfer my elastic holder for pens and my glasses. Everything in one place!

I like these journals as I can leave the red spine uncovered, this works best. I lay the journal on the paper then rule a line about 2cm, or 3/4 inch from the edge of the book. Cut a front and a back.

I use a glue stick to attach the paper. I smooth the paper on, pressing out any bubbles and then sometimes using a wooden ruler to remove any remaining bumps. You can hold the covered book in the light to be sure there are no remaining bubbles. Repeat with other cover.

Open the journal and fold the corner to the edge of the journal, fold back and glue the triangle you have created, then glue it down, pressing the folded triangle along the edge of the front. Do this for each of the four corners, two at the front, two at the back. Then glue down the top, side and bottom.

Don’t worry if the paper is not neat because you’ll be gluing marbled paper inside the front and back covers.

The finished product ready to write in.

Today is World Hepatitis Day. Hepatitis affects the liver. There are five main types: A, B, C, D, E. Hepatitis Day is one of only four official disease specific days declared by the World Health Organisation. Take care!

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