book reviews · family · homemaking

Pippa

Celebrate by Pippa Middleton If you can’t squander an afternoon leafing through a beautiful new book at this time of year, then when can you?

After perusing her newly published book, it appears Pippa Middleton and I may be kindred spirits. I say this sheepishly, as I initially let the media hype color my view of this young lady, and was reticent to open the cover. So glad I pushed past this bias, because I now have a lovely reference of simple ideas to add to my repertoire. Should you need a little inspiration, this is a valuable book to visit.

You may not wish to follow Pippa’s ideas slavishly, but a good 30 minutes spent within the pages serves as a wonderful reminder of the simple things you love to do – and need to carve out more time for. summerSet across the seasons, each section contains doable recipes, practical family activities and plenty of shoestring decorating ideas. With charming photos and illustrations as well as a smattering of childhood verse and cheery text, this is certainly a feel-good read.
Trifle

Luxuriating in the post-christmas peace, I can think of no better way to reward recent efforts, than disappearing into a new book – particularly one that sparks the imagination and opens the door to a sea of new projects to embark on in 2013. If you were the recipient of a new read this christmas, make sure you spend some quality time with it before the hubbub of the new year begins again. I’m happy to take your recommendations, as I’m sure ‘Celebrate’ will be devoured by the end of the week.

Postscript: It was this candid opening in Pippa’s book that really won me over –  ‘It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of thirty, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom. One day I might be able to make sense of this. In the meantime, I think it’s fair to say that it has its upside and downside. I certainly have opportunities many can only dream of, but in most ways I’m a typical girl in her twenties trying to forge a career and represent herself in what can sometimes seem rather strange circumstances.’

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gardening · homemaking · recipes

Herbaceous

A freshly gathered bunch of herbs exudes every bit as much beauty as a posy of its floral relatives.

Aside from their culinary use, herbal cuttings serve as sturdy backdrops for floral arrangements – and providing the water is replenished, do so with incredible staying power. Their robust nature and depth of colour gives the floral heads prominance and easy positioning. Simple flowers such as nasturtiums, lavender and daisies are offset beautifully by rosemary and parsley. Dahlias and mint are another prime example:

A collection of cuttings in the kitchen is refreshing to the eye and can be snipped at as recipes across the week call for sprigs, bunches and garnishes. Case in point, this week we were the fortunate recipients of a lovely fresh snapper, reeled in by a fishing acquaintance. After scoring the skin, we massaged the catch with olive oil and sea salt. The final rub down was a herbal concoction made in the pestle and mortar – oregano and thyme with a splash of olive oil to bind.

The fragrantly coated fish was then securely wrapped in foil and baked in a 180 degrees celsius oven for 45 minutes. The result, a lovely succulent fish served with a feta and olive salad. This is not a difficult exercise and if you have a good local fishmonger, you can have a nice fish feast on your table requiring little more that 10 minutes preparation plus cooking time (make the salad while it bakes).

Postscript: There is a combination of five different herbs pictured above – can you identify them all? Clue – see tags…

gardening · homemaking

Bloom

The Spring Racing Carnival is on our doorstep, and how do I know this? Why, I have just clipped my first bunch of roses for the season of course.

Not to be confused with the splendor of the Flemington Race Track, our roses are looking pretty good this year, and I believe it may be due more to favorable weather conditions combined with neglect rather than any horticultural prowess on my part. I will take credit, however, for the arrangement.

What a strange dichotomy the rose-bush is – the bulk of the year spent as a spiky, jutting, nondescript cane and then almost overnight, metamorphosing into a lavish leaved bush filled with unfurling colorful jewels. Their appearance is so sudden and display so elegant, that even the routine journey to the office is punctuated with pleasant garden glimpses.

Roses have the ability to laugh in the face of colour scheme edicts. Pile their clashing colours into a vase and you are immediately rewarded with an object of beauty, that becomes the focal point of the room and the elevator of spirits to all who enter.

These are tea roses and to me, bestow far greater beauty and fragrance (and economy) than the hothouse variety. This season, bring a bunch of your blooms indoors and try not to smile as you walk past your posy.

gardening · homemaking

Vase

The floral symphony being conducted in the gardens throughout our neighborhood right now is spectacular.

This of course happens every Spring, but each year I always see it as though for the first time, and yet again find it breathtaking. My immediate reaction is to capture it – to have a small concerto of daisies, nasturtiums or salvia playing happily in a vase in the kitchen – and I have discovered that unorthodox vessels can work a treat.

Shakers are an obvious choice,  distributing and supporting the stems beautifully. Look for these in all sizes so you can accommodate the various thicknesses of floral stems. Clip-lid preserving jars look delightful – lid thrown open with a freshly cut bunch bursting out.

Even the humble jam jar is transformed with a selection of herbs and marigolds popped inside. I challenge you to cast your eye around your home and look at your containers through different eyes. There will be no end of jugs, mugs, decanters or teapots that can be pressed into service.

Photograph them too, so that during the depths of Winter you can be reminded of the simple pleasures you have to look forward to.

homemaking

Pot

There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained when you use an object of beauty or interest to fulfil a utilitarian purpose.

I found this old dear in a thrift shop and she now resides next to my computer holding pens, tape measure and other assorted paraphernalia necessary for online browsing.  Any clutter vital items that land on the desk, get tossed under her lid. In fact she is the extraordinary who creates orderly.

We do have a tendency to organise ourselves this way in other areas of the home, with the potatoes living in a pottery urn, the eggs in a ceramic ‘chook’ and the washing powder in a large preserving jar. All containers are quirky, thrifted and repurposed.

Giving new life to objects with a history is a way of saluting the past and making a commitment to a sustainable future.

Post script: if anyone knows the history of this fruit jar, don’t hold back.

craft · gardening · homemaking

Sachet

When lavender is blooming, all is well with the world.

Bees waste no time bustling around, seeking out the makings of their honey, while the purple heads nod in the light spring breeze.

After you (and the bees) have enjoyed the best of the blooming time, you can harvest your lavender for sachet making. Cut a nice bunch and lie it flat for about a week or so to dry. When the flowers feel ‘crispy’, shed the heads into a jar. You can even collect the tiny seeds for new plantings while you’re about it.

To make the sachets, cut two 4 inch squares of fabric, place them together and sew around three of the sides (about 1/2 inch in from the edges). Fill the bag through the opening you created, with your fresh harvest. Sew up the last side. Use pinking shears to trim the four sides. Tuck your sachet away, and enjoy the fragrance whenever you visit!

These sachets are quick to make, so rustle them up in batches and dot them around your home. Mine live between towels and sheets, with the socks and undies and if I remember, under my pillow.