Friday, September 30, 2011

My (Not So) Storybook Life

Liz Owen of Mabel's House is giving away a handful of advance copies of her new book; head on over to check it out!

Once one has breathed in the deep pungent aroma of sewage, you never again forget the nose-hair singeing, eye clawing, throat gagging experience. It comes over you slowly. You begin to feel like a character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as your muscles involuntarily jerk and you run screaming and blowing raspberries. Anything to get away from the mind-numbing stench.

But let me explain.
It was 6:30 a.m. I was standing in my retro pink tiled bathroom trying to open my bleary eyes and ready myself for work. As I stood there, peering into the mirror and wondering what demented nighttime fairy had planted four new wrinkles on my face, I paused and sniffed.
“Matt… what’s that smell?”

Matt staggered from the bedroom in his underwear, eyes half shut. “I don’t smell anything.”
I pointed my nose into the air like a hunting dog. “Seriously? You can’t smell that? Did you go to the bathroom in here earlier? I told you to use the room spray when you do things like that.”
Matt puffed out his bare chest and gathered his pride as best a man can with sleep in his eyes and a small hole in the side of his underwear. “I just woke up!”

I frowned, catching a glimpse of my makeup-less hot-rollers-in-hair state and tried not to think about the fact that I looked fifty instead of twenty-nine. “Well, help me figure this out. Because something smells ripe.”

We sniffed the sink drain and ruled it out as a suspect.
“Is it coming from the toilet?” Matt asked, examining it from top to bottom.
“No, that’s not it,” I snapped. I’m not known for my milk of human kindness in a disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a survivor. I plan on eating my radish like Scarlet and clawing my way out of the nuclear dust while dragging my loved ones with me. But I won’t be doing it with positive phrases and a smile.
“Hon, I just don’t know. We’ll call a plumber after work, maybe it’s coming from under the house.” Matt staggered a little, trying to get past me and out of our tiny bathroom.
“Well, that’s just great,” I moved aside and pulled the shower curtain back so I could perch on the side of the tub and give Matt room to move out the door.

That’s when the full brunt of nastiness filled the air around us, a swirling mix of excrement and acrid stench that would have brought the sewer dwelling Ninja Turtles to their knees. Where the normally slightly-clean-with-a-hint-of-soap-scum bottom of the tub should have been, there sloshed gallons and gallons of brown sewage.

I clutched the front of my sweatshirt and held my breath. Matt began to dry heave.
“Get out and shut the door!” I screamed as we bumbled into the hallway.
“I’ll deal with this,” Matt grabbed my shoulders, trying to talk and hold his breath at the same time.

I could feel my eyes glaze over, the horrors of typhoid and hepatitis in our bathtub filling my mind. But more importantly, I could envision our evaporated savings account. In my mind’s eye I could see the long, gray hallway at the bank. A worker shrouded in a black suit pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlatched a small locker labeled “Owen Bank Account.” Inside were two small stacks of quarters and a few crumpled dollar bills. It was bleak, not only because the banker with an unimaginative wardrobe gazed at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as “You’re a Big Fat Loser,” but also there was a very definite possibility we wouldn’t be able to pay for a plumber.

I wasn’t necessarily a spend thrift. In fact, I was downright frugal when it came to decorating with thrift store furniture and rewired vintage lamps. But the fact was, we were poor. We were starting out at starter jobs with starter salaries. We were starter adults with a starter bank account.
“Okay,” I nodded numbly, thankful that Matt was taking the lead on such a disastrous biohazard. “But make sure the plumber is super cheap. We don’t have much money!”

I left for work like a wino stumbling through a fog, not really remembering my commute, not really doing any work as I sipped my coffee and stared blankly at the computer screen. A disaster of such gargantuan proportions had previously been unthinkable in my life, and now I found myself attempting to push the image of a vast sea of bathtub poop from my mind. But I was sure of one thing: Anne Shirley never had to get ready for work while breathing raw sewage.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Maker's Market Wrap-Up

We had gorgeous weather for yesterday's Mulgrave Makers Market; a little cool to start with but the sun was soon out and shining. Now that it's Spring, the market has moved back outdoors and the crowds just poured in all day!

I was positioned in between two other regular stall holders which made for some great conversation throughout the day. I also picked up these gorgeous booties from Wendy of Little Tree Kids; all her stuff is upcycled and gorgeous!).

Funnily enough, I had two people enquire about doorstops yesterday. So I had a bit of a hunt around for ideas, and whipped one up in some decorator-weight fabric I had stashed away. Not bad if I may say so my self! I'll get a couple more done in time for the October market.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lumberjack Cake

Something I'd never made before, but I had my baking mojo going and needed to get into the kitchen. The recipe is from last week's Epicure in The Age newspaper.


125g butter
2 medium granny smith apples
185g dates
1tsp bicarb soda
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4)
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
60g butter
1/3 cup milk
60g shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 180C; butter and line 14x24cm loaf tin.
Peel and core apple, dice into small pieces. Chop dates, add to apple and bicarb, and pour boiling water over the top. Allow water to cool until lukewarm.
Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and egg.
Alternate adding sifted flour/salt and apple/date mix (don't add the water).
Pour into tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked (test with skewer).
Mix topping ingredients and heat over low heat in a small saucepan. Spread over cake, then return to oven for 15 min or until golden and crunchy (took about 25 mins for me).

We were a little impatient and sliced it while it was still warm, but it was yum! Easily made without the topping too if you want to cut the fat down a little (but who does?!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

New York Fabric Stash

While I was in New York City I popped into The City Quilter; the only quilt shop I managed to get to during my 5 week trip. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but found a few fabrics that I thought would fit nicely in my stash, so grabbed a half yard of each. It's a bad habit of mine; one day I'll actually need to start using things from my stash!

The print at the back is a Sandi Henderson (Meadowsweet), I'm not sure about the other two as I don't have that bit of the selvedge. I also picked up a couple of fat quarters from It's a Hoot and Sherbet Pips.

Hopefully next week I'll get back to the sewing machine; my Sugar Twist quilt needs quilting! I'd also like to have a go at Swoon using Central Park....eventually!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

Between the jet lag and the chest infection, there's been no sewing going on at my place. Luckily I did all my market sewing before I went away. But, there are signs of spring everywhere and I'm loving it! It certainly makes it easier to come home from a very hot US summer.

The cherry blossoms; I'm so glad I didn't miss them.


Bottle brush.

Peas! They were only just flowering when I left, and now they are bowing down under the weight of plump pods. Pea and prosciutto pasta for dinner tomorrow!

Quince tree.

Even the chives are flowering.

Monday, September 19, 2011


After four weeks travelling across 22 states of the USA from Los Angeles to New York City, I'm finally home.

So many amazing places, it's just not possible to share everything. I loved seeing how the country, and the people, changed as we headed east, then into the deep south. And I loved trying all the different food!

I loved meeting the 50 or so new people whom I travelled with.

I loved the nightlife of Vegas.

I love seeing the Grand Canyon again.

I loved the majesty of Monument Valley (this is the view seen in Forest Gump).

I loved that everything was bigger in Texas! (and I bought awesome cowboy boots).

I loved seeing Memphis (and Graceland) and New Orleans.

Harry Potter World!

I loved the glitz of Miami.

I loved visiting the Kennedy Space Centre.

I loved the old buildings in Savannah; I want to live there. Charleston was amazing too...Aussie McMansions have nothing on their houses.

I loved all the monuments in Washington DC, and being there for 9/11 was an honour, as was visiting Arlington Cemetary for the changing of the guard. I also loved being there for my birthday.

And of course I loved New York, but I haven't sorted out those photos yet...