nesting

"And autumn garner"

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA "I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time." ~ Robert Browning

Keeping within yesterday's botanical mail art theme, here are some links "of beauty and utility" that you might enjoy:

* Decorating with houseplants - Taipei style

* Lovely fern-pressed jar DIY

* Gorgeous gift: seed bombs!

* The most beautiful self-watering pot I've ever seen

* How to incorporate plants into your home

* Make a mini green wall out of old jars

* One plant three ways

* How to keep your house plants alive

* Good idea for Mother's Day? DIY marbled hanging planter

* Love this forest-on-a-cake!

* Plant your herbs in old teacups and milk jugs

Stunning art made out of petals and leaves

The right plant for your home

* Invites you in: urban jungle in Antwerp

Dusk & stuff

pug As I write this the dusk is settling over Melbourne on what was an absolutely glorious summer’s day. We have just returned from a lazy stroll out for family dinner, and then home to put two very tired kids into bed, wiping chocolate ice cream from their faces and hands (and necks and elbows) and not even bothering with baths. I’ll wash the sheets tomorrow. Le sigh.

I am sitting at the dining table typing while Mr B sits opposite me signing letters for work, and he is looking very smug because he has just found a channel on the Internet radio called “Always Elvis Radio.” Lord give me strength.

Next to me is a pile of research for my snail-mail book, and some wonderful interviews with amazing “mail heroes” that I need to write up, plus a fantastic tutorial on how to make envelopes from magazine pages, without using a template.

Also I’m intermittently flicking through my Internet browser because I’m half way through researching a particularly interesting “fact” about mail that I need to verify before I share and expand on it in the book. Also, I am reading Tavi Gevinson’s earliest blog posts (she is only 11) and they are fascinating! She is so small and sweet and vulnerable but also so smart, and it’s really interesting watching this little girl trying to find her way in life through fashion and the fashion-blogging community, knowing how she and her writing will grow and where it will take her and all of us…

All in all this has turned into a rather pleasant but not particularly focused evening, and then I figured why not spread my attention even further afield, and write to you.

So this is just a little letter to say hello to you, dear friends known and unknown, to say thank-you for reading this little blog of mine. I hope you are having a lovely evening, too.

Naomi xo

ps. Mr B and Emily just went out onto the grass verge at the front of our house to play Uno, so I have taken the opportunity turn OFF Always Elvis Radio, and the silence is golden.

GOLDEN.

Image credit: pug pic by Matthew Wiebe, licensed for unlimited use under Creative Commons

Things learned and loved on Tuesday

  pumpkins-2

Learned: I couldn't save the world but I could make someone's world better

Loved: Oona Ristola photography

Learned: a recipe for fig, ricotta and honey toast. Yum!

Loved: green and growing homes

Learned: why our children need to read

Loved: knitted comfort food

Learned: three surprising decorating tips

Loved: this book-themed hotel

Learned: how to put together a cheese plate

Loved: the chance to get my paws on a note pad from the Great Northern Hotel, Twin Peaks

Learned: little baby pumpkins make really sweet (and not at all scary) table decorations at Halloween, even if it isn't autumn or Thanksgiving

How about you? What have you learned and loved lately?

 

 

 

 

Guacamole season (and also a recipe)

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I have been trying to teach the children about seasons for fruit and vegetables. Late in autumn we had a "goodbye green grapes" party to enjoy the final bunch of the season, which was harder to explain than you might expect due to the plethora of gigantic, California-grown green-grapes that started appearing on grocery-store shelves soon thereafter. We made good use of mandarin season but recently had to say goodbye to them, too, and now we are all eagerly anticipating the arrival of stone-fruit season.

You get my drift.

And then last weekend (or thereabouts), guacamole season started. Big excitement!

Guacamole season goes hand-in-hand with daylight saving and Caprese-salad season and dry-white-wine season and also friends-over-at-dusk season. So even though I'm not famous for loving the warmer weather, I am nevertheless quite the fan of guacamole season.

Guacamole season starts with longer days and bare feet. Soggy bathers, sand inside the house, tasting sunscreen after kissing sweaty lips. Cicadas after dark, mosquitos too, and the hum of the fan in the bedroom. Guacamole is made to share and taste and leave and come back to, and then come back to again. Double-dipping is ok because we are all friends here, family probably or practically, and somehow the guacamole bowl is always empty before the corn chips run out. Some people pair guacamole season with margaritas in glasses with the rims crusted with sugar-salt and I totally get that, but I am too lazy to mix even the simplest of cocktails. White wine or prosecco, straight from the 'fridge and therefore too cold for the purists, suits me. Maybe some homemade lemonade, too.

Would you like to know my guacamole recipe?

A few words before you try this. I have been hunting for the perfect guacamole recipe for a long, long time, and this is the closest I've found to it. Each time I make it it is different, sometimes better than others. But in case you try it and then yell "Naomi, what?!?," here are some things that I look for in what I happen to think makes a good guacamole, and maybe you will agree or maybe you won't.

  1. It has to be smooth. None of this lumpy, chunky stuff
  2. I'm a bit of a guacamole-purist so this recipe is very simple. No onion or tomato or cheese for me. This ain't a meal, folks, it's a tasty snack
  3. No Doritos or other cheesy, processed corn-chips are permitted within a 100 metre radius of guacamole at my house. Get yoself some stock-standard "proper" corn-chips, cheese-free

Naomi's guacamole recipe

Treat this recipe with a fair bit of flexibility. For example I like a decent kick to my guac so I'm generous (ish) with the cayenne pepper and chilli flakes. I also like a lot of lime zing to my guacamole, so I add a lot more lime than others tend to do. Add the lime-juice one lime at a time, to get the taste you like. If like me you love a lot 'o lime, but you find the guac is getting too sloppy, start adding zest instead.

Ok let's go...

Ingredients 4 avocados 2 cloves garlic, minced juice of 1 - 4 limes, to taste 1/2 teaspoon sea-salt 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander (cilantro for my American friends)

Method Scoop all the avocado into a blender, add in the minced garlic, and mix until it's nice and smooth with no big lumps. Now add the juice of one lime, and about half the amounts of the dried spices and fresh coriander, blend to mix them, then taste. Start adding bits and pieces of the rest, plus more lime juice, until you're happy with the flavour.

Serve it with corn chips (the real deal, nothing cheesy), and enjoy!

ps. If you're feeding other people, make the guacamole just before they arrive as the avocado will start to oxidise and turn brown after a little while and you want it to look good as well as taste good!

Sugar free?

pie I have been trying to give my body a break from sugar. I like sugar a lot more than is strictly good for me, and also, it’s pretty hard to insist that my children have a healthy diet if I don’t model said diet myself.

On Friday I made this sugar-free take on lemon meringue pie from the I Quite Sugar for Life cookbook. It was surprisingly tasty, and I impressed myself with how good (I thought) it looked. Emboldened, I also made a peppermint slice from the same cookbook. It was awful.

Do you have any tips? What are your favourite sugar-free recipes for sweet-toothed folks?

Welcome, spring

spring-2 Pastel-perfect blossoms from the tree behind the wall and across the laneway are floating into our garden and carpeting the grass in pink confetti.

The children are shedding layers, leaving trails of socks and stockings and cardigans throughout the house as they cast off the long, long winter and turn their faces to the warm and welcome sun.

The urge to clean and cleanse is irresistible. Last week a toy cull, clothing next. Floors and benches and table-tops shine.

I pick a posy of geraniums and pineapple sage and something purple that I can't remember, and they spill out of a fat, old teapot, brightening the table while we eat outside.

We discover Ralph has grown out of another hat. Last year's sun-hat, pulled out of winter storage this weekend, sits comically and ineffectually atop his beautiful, big noggin.

Tiny poppy seedlings are pushing their way up through the soil in our garden. “Little baby plants!” breathes Scout in awe. “Be very, very gentle.”

Welcome, spring. This year, I've made my peace with you.

Image credits: Alexandru Tudorache, licensed for unconditional use under Creative Commons

Getting neighbourly

03_pumpipumpe_brief05_pumpipumpe_sticker 06_pumpipumpe_briefkasten 07_pumpipumpe_leihen A group in Switzerland has come up with a simple and rather lovely way to use your humble letterbox to build community.

But it’s not through the writing and sending of letters, it’s about sharing, and involves (gulp!) actual face-to-face contact.

You know the old saying about popping into someone’s place to borrow a cup of milk? When I was growing up, we really did that. We knew all the neighbours in our little suburban cul de sac, and they knew us. When someone new moved into the street, we would bake them a cake or pick them some lemons and we’d knock on the door with our gift, to say welcome. And if someone in the street needed to borrow something and someone else in the street had it, no problem!

Relying on that kind of old-fashioned community spirit, a group called Pumpipumpe has designed a series of stickers depicting household items that we don’t necessarily use every day: things like lawnmowers and blenders and fondue sets.

The simple idea is that if you have one of these items and might be willing to lend them to a neighbour, you put a sticker on your letterbox.

They say, “That is how you can stand up for a reasonable, sustainable way to use consumer goods in your own neighbourhood, build a local network, get to know your neighbours better and buy less all together!”

The project is deliberately low-tech. They could have built an app, or a website, designed for sharing. But Pumpipumpe is about bringing back neighbourhood: walking around the streets where you live, and still having to physically knock on the door of your neighbour, say hello, and say “yes please I’d like to borrow that bike pump.”

Likewise, they say, they leave it up to the community how they will manage or reimburse each share.

“Do you want a deposit, in order be sure to get your jigsaw back? Maybe you and your neighbour will in the end share your expenses for a common newspaper subscription? Or will you offer your neighbour a piece of the delicious cake you made with his cake tin? Please do individually discuss the ideal conditions with the people you share your things with. Pumpipumpe promotes the sharing (not renting for money) of personal belongings, so please use these generous offers of your local neighbours respectfully. Good sharing to everyone!!”

The scheme started in Switzerland and that’s where it's strongest, but is now spreading across Europe, and at last count was making use of 7290 letterboxes for the purpose of sharing and community. The Pumpipumpe people have created an online map that shows where items might be available to borrow, to save you having to roam the streets for days, searching for a sewing machine.

I’d love to see this in Australia! Wouldn’t you? We’d just need a small group of us to make it work. Like say maybe 10 friends who all live in the same city start it off, putting out their stickers and letting each other know, and then they each tell the other people they know, and hopefully it spreads from there.

Stickers are available to buy online at pumpipumpe.ch.

Cute, super-daggy video explaining it all here:

Images are all official Pumpipumpe media images, owned by Meteor Collectif.

Queen of the universe

girl“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” ~ JD Salinger, “A Girl I Knew” Sometimes do you feel like you are trying - and failing - to hold the universe together? I don’t mean the WHOLE universe, of course (now wouldn’t THAT be a task), but the universe of your life, whatever that may be. Your job, your family, your home, your health, your friends, your creative ambitions, your grand plans, your pets, your breakfast… that kind of thing.

Yep, me too. It’s a big job, isn’t it, universal maintenance. Should we learn to let go a little? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Last week I was sick at the same time as my children were sick and that was… challenging… especially as it came on the back of about a month of bad and broken sleep, and descended only two weeks after I’d recovered from a prolonged cough that had racked me to the core.

It felt like forever that I’d been “normal” and when I came downstairs last Friday, still unwell but definitely on the mend and at least able to stand without wobbling and (more important) able to keep down a cup of tea, the first thing I wanted to do was to regain control of my own little universe.

After successfully getting the kids off to daycare (anyone with toddlers knows what a mammoth task that is in its own right), that meant tidying the house so that I could find enough surfaces to clean and scrub the house, following the rigours it had endured of small children being looked after by their father. It meant stock-taking the contents of the ‘fridge, sadly depleted. It meant dusting off the pile of briefing notes and research on my desk, apologetically emailing neglected editors and clients, and writing up a task-list with associated deadlines on my whiteboard.

And so on and so forth. None of those tasks was particularly fun, and not how I wanted to spend my time. How I really wanted to spend my time was in writing and drawing and painting. Or, if I was still too sick to get creative, I wanted to spend my time under a crocheted rug, watching re-runs of Veronica Mars.

But somehow it was enormously satisfying to be putting my own world - ok my universe - to rights. The life I lead right now might be small, to some. It is small compared to my past, even, filled with the domestic mundanity of life with small children and a part-time job that I do from home, trudging through the same kind of writing I was doing more than a decade ago.

But in this little universe, I am Queen. This life is MINE and I have chosen it and I am in charge of it, and that feels GOOD.

Even when I’m on my hands and knees, scrubbing something unidentifiable off the playroom floor.

How is your universe holding up?

Lovely, dreamy girl image is by Schlomit Wolf, licensed for unconditional use under Creative Commons