I planted an oak forest

This year has been strange and difficult in many ways and I, finding one day acorns lying on the ground under some magnificent oak trees, decided that I was going to fulfil a lifelong ambition to grow an oak tree.

I don’t live on a place where there is room for an oak tree, but maybe I will plant one here anyway. I planted eleven acorns in small pots and ten of them have sprouted, so I have a tiny oak forest. Yay for that! I buried my Dad this year, welcomed a grandson into the world and now I have grown some oak trees. Life goes on.

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Isolation painting project

I have felt a strong affinity for my potted plants over the last couple of months, all of us rooted into a confined space together, so I started painting some of them:

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How I make yoghurt

1. First I put 600ml of tap water into a jug and let it sit for about an hour. This allows any residual smell of chlorine (that might have been used to purify the water) to evaporate out. 

2. Next I stir 200grams of full cream milk powder into the water. I use Australian produced milk powder, always full cream. Then I let the milk sit for a little while on the bench to ensure that it is fully dissolved before adding the yoghurt starter.

200gm of milk powder, if you don’t have an electronic kitchen scale, is two cups, not overly full.

Whisk the milk powder in and let stand for ten minutes or so. 

3. Add the yoghurt starter and whisk it in.  I have not bought a new yoghurt starter for several months. I clean my little container thoroughly between uses and always spoon off the top of the newly made yoghurt into the starter container and store it in the fridge until I need it again. It will easily last a couple of weeks.

4. Now there should be about 1 litre of prepared yoghurt mix. I pour a little boiling water into the clean yoghurt container to scald it, pour the hot water out and then pour in the yoghurt. There should be exactly enough to fill the container. Screw on the lid. Put the red baffle inside the thermos (red baffle sits with the deep side  facing upwards so that the yoghurt container can sit inside it) and fill the thermos with boiling water ONLY to the top of the red baffle. Put the yoghurt container in so that it sits in the baffle. The boiling water won’t come to the top of the thermos. Screw on the thermos lid and let it sit overnight, or for eight or nine hours. 

Scald the container with boiling water

5. When the yoghurt is ready to come out of the thermos I get the small container ready   for the next starter ready, the clean muslin, a deep bowl and a plastic strainer.

When I get the yoghurt out of the thermos I always put two or three tablespoons off the top straight into the small starter container and put it straight into the fridge for the next lot of yoghurt. 

Then, if the yoghurt seems watery I pour the rest straight into the muslin, cover it with a plate to keep it clean and leave it for an hour to allow the excess whey to drain out. The whey that drains out of the yoghurt is full of protein and can be used for bread making or in cooking for soups, stews or whatever.

It is not always necessary to do this. Sometimes the yoghurt is thick and creamy enough straight up.

After straining (or not) I always decant my yoghurt into a clean glass jar and keep it in the fridge.

Once chilled it will lose any smell of being made from powdered milk and will keep for a couple of weeks.

Happy yoghurt making 🙂

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Flying birds and yarn

I’ve been a bit obsessed with trying to capture the look of birds in flight over the sea. I am missing the ocean, that is part of the problem. I live in a land locked city. It is surrounded by beautiful countryside but the primordial fish inside of me feels the pull of the sea, particularly in these hot, late summer days.

I’m working in water color and ink on rice paper. You get one chance to make a mark, there is no way of hiding a mistake or having another go. Hence there is a sea of these papers lying at my feet.

I’ve also been sewing up this blanket. I have never made this sort of blanket before so it is all a bit new. The stitch I’m using to join the squares together with is called ‘baseball stitch’ because it is, apparently, like the red stitching on baseballs. I think it looks nice, and it enables the squares to lie flat.

Vivhid blanket, by Tin Can knits

I’ve also been working on this, the Ranunculus Sweater by Midori Hirose. I’m on the ribbing for the body and soon I will move to sleeve island. This has been a quick-ish knit so far and I really love the Amuri merino/possum yarn. It’s exquisite.

I recently read a couple of articles about how playing a musical instrument is good for the brain. Apparently when you are actually trying to make music the brain lights up all over the place. I am very much a private, basic sort of musician but this information has encouraged me to keep going with trying become better at playing this adorable melodeon.

There a couple of videos of me playing on my YouTube channel, should you be desperate for entertainment 😁😁😁

Bye for now

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Paint, knit, sew, repeat

Suddenly it is February! My mum passed away in early January and we celebrated her life a few weeks later so January has been a memorable and very family oriented month.

Here is a pic of mum and I (in the white coat with the knickers falling down!) and my sister Dianne. Mum was a very beautiful and talented woman, all her life, and will be sorely missed.

I’ve been making an effort to get back down into my studio and paint or draw. I really love to get in there and make pictures but it can be surprisingly hard to actually do it. The question ‘What will I draw/paint?’ can be a real killer so I have got some old sketches out that I made years ago when I was first learning to work in brush and ink and am working over them. It is a surprisingly satisfying activity. Theses sketches were rough and un finished and my skills with the brush have improved a lot over time so I am looking at them with new eyes and a new skill set.

I have also been painting birds. I am a keen bird watcher and took some photos of sea birds when I was at Lake Tyers in Victoria (Australia) last year. I enjoy practicing capturing the birds with a few brush strokes and ink. These are painted onto rice paper, which is an unforgiving medium. It is good practice for making a commitment with the brush.

Of course I am knitting. I’ve cast on a new pullover. It is the ‘Ranunculus’ pattern by Midori Hirose. I’m using Amuri merino/possum yarn from New Zealand. It’s luscious.

And, I made a dress. I really love to sew, specially when I am feeling anxious or down. I find sewing very engaging and relaxing, and there is always the finished product. This is the Stasia Dress by Sew Liberated.

I hope you have had a good couple of weeks. 🙂

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Sunshine hours

I recently finished reading Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton. It is an interesting and lively book about a boy and how he responds to and deals with trauma. One of the characters gives a great piece of advice, which I wrote into a little sketch book;

It is great advice. For some time I have used a Lynda Barry ‘daily diary’ strategy from her book Syllabus, which is all about noticing the details. This strategy involves making two lists every day. One list is of 7 things you did and the other is of 7 things you saw that day. The purpose is to ‘teach you to hear, see and remember the world all around you’. It’s fantastic and I am often surprised at what I remember once I get started. You’re also supposed to write one thing you overheard but I have discovered that I am hopeless at that. I never overhear anything and even when I make the effort to I can’t remember what the person said for more than ten seconds. But I have become better at noticing.

I have had unsettled times with the art making recently and am easing myself back into a regular practice by working into some old lino prints. These prints were made onto rice paper, of which I am a big fan. It is a flimsy yet strong material which has a degree of transparency that appeals to my natural love of impermanent looking things. When I do this I am not planning what I add to the print, I just respond to the image. Today I worked into a print I had made of a dead tree on Mt Painter, one of my favourite places on earth. The print seemed to need a flock of birds.

I had a spare piece of paper next to this one which I used to test out the ink or brush. It was a more absorbent piece of rice paper and the effect of drawing on it with ink was quite different. In some ways I like it better.

Tomorrow we will be on the road, heading down south to attend the celebration of life for my mum. Hard times.

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Showing my work

I have some goals for 2019 and one of them is to get my work and thinking out there more using my preferred social media sites. I’m not sure that this blog fits that description but seeing as I have it, i’m going to give it a go. I’ve had this blog for a few years but have failed to maintain it in a disciplined way for any length of time. Maybe this time I will keep to it. I have been inspired in this endeavour by Austin Kleon, of whom I am a huge fan. His own blog is excellent – interesting and well constructed – and he himself is a a very talented and interesting writer and blogger. I read Steal Like an Artist a few years ago when I was a TAFE and was impressed with his take on influence and influencing as related to being a creator. One of my current reads is Show Your Work. Kleon’s books are short, succinct and pleasingly visual and as such are a quick read. But I don’t want to read Show Your Work quickly so I am rationing myself to one chapter a day and then maybe reading it again the next day and taking some notes on stick notes and posting them somewhere that I can see them in my studio.

I have a reading goal too. One of my daughters set a reading goal last year and recorded it on Goodreads. She quite a good reader, fast, accurate and interested, so I was not surprised that she achieved what seemed to me to be a fairly ambitious goal. I found it inspiring too because I love to read and have fallen off the reading habit a bit, mainly because of my love of digital media and its alluring ways. Anyways, my reading goal for this year is 40 books and I too will be recording the books and my progress on Goodreads.

I am currently reading Hunger by Roxane Gay. It is an incredible piece of writing. Memoirs are one of my favourite genres and reading Hunger makes me realise the degree to which many writers frame their memoir to, quite understandably, reflect well or at least kindly on themselves. Hunger seems to me to say ‘here I am’ in a way that I have not encountered before. Great reading.

I have definite plans for the art I want to make this year although I haven’t done much so far because my mum died on the 6th January. She had been unwell for about 20 months and visiting her and my dad had been a big part of my life over that time. I drew her a few times over these last months.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I love to knit. I am a compulsive maker and need to keep my hands busy. Knitting is the perfect activity for me. I love the patterns, the yarn, the colours, the texture, the knitting community, all of it, and when I am knitting I feel engaged with all those things, not just the item in my hands. My most recently completed knit is this divine garment, Nordiska, designed by Caitlyn Hunter, the talent behind Boyland Knitworks. Here is my version of Nordiska.

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Spring, doll clothes and vicarious holiday sketching

We are not in Amsterdam but we are still having fun’, one of the best things being that it is warm enough to barbecue outside in the evening. Yay for spring!

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Daniel’s salmon burgers, so good!

It is school holiday time here, a time for us educators to get out and about and play. Accordingly we went to the Arboretum for lunch and then for a stroll afterwards. Everyone else in Canberra was at the Arboretum too, that is why there aren’t any people in this picture. They were all inside the cafe eating lunch or playing on the acorn playground.


The Acorn playground is tremendously popular and was full of happy children today.

Image result for Acorn playground arboretum

We were supposed to be in Amsterdam today, visiting the Rijksmuseum. I decided to be a virtual tourist and urban sketcher. These guys out the front, I feel their pain. My Rijksmuseum has a bit of a lean to it, but no matter.


My mitten knitting continues apace but I will finish them soon and have been hunting around for something new to knit. I found this adorable 1950s book of doll clothes and am sorely tempted but I would need a doll I suppose.

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‘It was this big Myrtle..’

That’s all for now.

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Yes, those are asparagus spears!

I went for a ride on my bike this morning. I am not a great bike rider but where I live there are wonderful bike paths everywhere and it is possible to go quite a way without going near a road. I rode to my daughter’s house to feed her cat. I made it and the cat was very happy to see me. It was a perfect spring morning and everything looked bright and shiny.

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Here is one of the bike paths, and a bit of the basket on my bike. The basket is essential.

When I got back home I found a small broken eggshell in the drive way. There is evidence everywhere of growth and renewal. It made a nice subject for a sketch.

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shell, watercolour on paper

Last year we made a small asparagus bed. Look closely, asparagus spears! They are fine but perfect and look very edible.

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There are flowers everywhere too. I haven’t seen many bees but I hope they are about because all three of our pear trees have flowers for the first time.

We should have been on the plane to Amsterdam tonight. But we did something Scandinavian this afternoon instead.

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Daniel wanted a Råskog so we set off for that most Sunday afternoon of pastimes. We now have matching Råskogs.  They are the same colour. Daniel asked how we would tell them apart, ‘mine will be full of my sh*t, and yours will be full of your sh*t’, I explained. And so they are.

I have nearly finished the first ‘knitting on a plane’ Bunty  mitten. It is looking very nice indeed.

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The yarn I’m using is divine. It is 55% fine merino wool, 20% alpaca and 25% nylon. It is incredibly soft and doesn’t have much stretch but is very well suited to this pattern. I am enjoying knitting with it a lot. It is Inca Spun Heritage sock yarn (hence the nylon) and is made in Peru! I bought this particular yarn for the colours. We have good yarn in Australia but the colour palette can be limited with some brands.

We are about to have apple pie and ice cream for supper. It might be time to cast on the other mitten.

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Images from books and other distractions

Weeks of overseas travel plans had to be suddenly cancelled yesterday so I am busy distracting myself from thinking about what we would have been doing in Amsterdam on Monday.

I started knitting a new mitten pattern, the ones I was going to knit on the plane from Sydney to Doha. The pattern is the Bunty Mitts and they remind me of the trees in a favourite painting by Mitjili Napparula.

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This is the painting by Mitjili Napurrula


Here is my first Bunty mitt 

The similarity between the mitts and the painting doesn’t seem so obvious here but in my mind one spurs memory of the other.

I am also re-reading Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. I love this book a lot for the story and the way it is written but also for the philosophy of Amadeu de Prado, the fictional author of the book that drives the main character, Raimund Gregorius, to change his own life so dramatically.

Night Train is full of descriptions of place and plays a lot on the idea of the exotic, in the sense of anyone or anywhere unfamiliar being exotic.  Early in the novel Gregorius recalls how he had wanted to move from his home in Switzerland to Isfahan after he graduated from college. He even got a job as a tutor but was haunted by a dream of the desert sand blinding him and decided not to go.  An image of what Isfahan might look like came into my mind. I painted this sketch of a 1970s photo of Isfahan, maybe this is what the market in the city looked like when Gregorius wanted to go there?


This morning we decided to go to Cantys Bookshop in Fyshwyk because Gregorius quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. I want a copy.  There wasn’t one there and Luke at Cantys told us that it is a very popular book and copies rarely stay on the shelves for long. However we bought quite a few other books so all was not lost.

We also went to the Fyshwyk markets and bought real donuts to have with tea when we got home.

It’s not Amsterdam, but we are doing okay.

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