July 19, 2014


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || pinmyway macrame hanging candle hanger
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || macrame hanging candle hanger
I PINNED this picture of macramé-wrapped glass jars some time ago hoping to refashion the project into something simple to make at a Girl Guide camp, but also coveting them to hang in my own garden. We have a large outdoor table and in summer it's the setting for family gatherings. It's big enough to seat about 10 to 12 people comfortably, 16 at a squeeze, and even with more people it's the central point for putting out a spread of food.

The only real problem over past summers is uninvited guests: mosquitoes. We often have mosquito coils or candles burning to rid ourselves of these pesky interlopers but with more little people around than we've had in past years I want to put the citronella candles up high, and these hanging candle holders will be just the thing.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || now you do it macrame hanging candle hanger
Six lengths of garden or craft twine, cut to about 1.6m in length.
A glass jar.
The jars I used were saved chutney and condiment jars. My advice is to ensure they're a cylindrical barrel for the first hangers you attempt. It's easier to create the form around the jar's even shape, or even the shape of a tin, and add a more novel jar later.
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || the first knot macrame hanging candle hanger
Start by grouping your six lengths of twine and, holding them together, tie in the middle using a simple overhand knot.
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || the second round of knots macrame hanging candle hanger
Take two pieces of string from either side of the knot, hold them together like they were once piece of twine and tie another overhand knot.
Do the same on the opposite side of your middle knot. Pick up two pieces of twine from either side of these knots and repeat the overhand knot, making sure each knot is equal distance from the middle knot. Continue to pick up two pieces of twine that are lying next to each other until there are no more knots to tie. You should have six knots, all equal distance from that centre knot. My first jar had a series of eight knots, but six knots is easier to achieve and the look is no different.
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || shaping the form macrame hanging candle hanger
Next, from two adjacent knots take one piece of twine and double them up into a new pairing. Tie a new double overhand. Keep these tight; you should have a diamond shape. Continue around the pattern. I add my glass jar about here and start working the pattern up the jar. This can feel awkward for the second round, but by the third round the pattern will start to hug the jar and you'll see your hanger taking shape.
Once you've repeated the pattern of knots, taking one piece of twine and making new knotting pairs all the way up the jar, group all of your twine together again and finish off with a final overhand knot.

Drop your citronella tea light into the jar, light it and hang. Enjoy.
#pinmyway image source // Terrain

July 13, 2014


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || pumpkin apple and thyme soup
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || ted judy cinderella and jemima
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || orange and almond biscuits
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || red shoes and a gifted flower
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || scraps for the compost
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || rocket from the garden
WEEKENDS come and go so quickly. I left the camera on the kitchen table this weekend and tried to capture all the little moments; all the sweet little moments that make up this big, busy, bustling life.

July 06, 2014


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || july things to make and do
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || july things to cook and eat
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || july things to drop dough on
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || july things to hang on the wall
THE winter solstice has been and gone and I reckon I can already see a lighter sky when I board the ferry for home in the evenings. Big clear blue skies are one of my favourite things about winter, and a reminder of country winters, which this year I am missing. I am sure it's what has me craving pub meals, like big solid juicy veggie burgers, or chicken pies, and heavy earthenware bowls and plates to eat them from.
What are your favourite winter things?
THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: This is inspiration for a top I want to make. I bought a large wrap skirt in a dark denim-coloured linen from a op shop for $5 and will use the fabric to cut a pattern. I want that look of solid, durable denim that can be layered over a long sleeve tee, but that's light enough to be worn on its own when the weather turns warm.
THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Is your mouth watering? How could it not be? A red lentil and cauliflower burger with chipotle habanero mayo, onion rings and roasted peppers. Drool.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: You'd be forgiven for picking these up from the table and cradling them close to shovel up a soup or a curry or casserole.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: I saw the Himalayas, and more importantly Everest, from the air during last year's travel to Bhutan. Not one photo I took captures that mountain peak anywhere near as beautifully as Conrad Jon Godly's depiction of the Swiss Alps do.

#flashback: Blogging was light on this time last year but the photos from this post are among my blog favourites.

June 30, 2014


WELL, so much for maintaining the slow and easy pace of last month. Back to work and back to one million and one things to do. All good, mind you, but work projects are creeping into my night-time imaginings and this past week I've had several bouts of insomnia pondering the how-tos and what-fors. Gah!

I READ... Naomi Wood's Mrs Hemingway. I lean toward fictionalised accounts of historical identities and this one was a book I found myself coming back to with ease. I read most nights before lights out and I'd be reading this one well past the chapter or two I usually allow myself. 

I also read The Walking Book Club's June read, The Land of Decoration, by Grace McCleen.

I WENT TO... The Etsy Craft Party at Workshop in Sydney, hosted by Blog Society, Heart You Forever And A Day and Happy Families Design. It was a bit of fun and a chance to catch up with a girlfriend and former colleague.
The Etsy Craft Party was the same evening as the opening night of Sydney's winter Finders Keepers market where my work colleague and all-round crafting wonder Mia Cox had her very first Finders Keepers stall.
My partner and I also packed up our winter woollies and took a weekend trip to the Southern Highlands. My folks are at Bundanoon and we revelled in my mum's home made soups, cakes and biscuits and my dad's hot breakfasts.

I LISTENED TO... My panel colleagues discuss technology versus mankind for a 2SER community radio broadcast. If you want to hear my thoughts on the subject, and indeed what I sound like, the podcast is here.

I ATE... My office farewelled a team member for the period of her maternity leave. We booked Chinta Ria, at Darling Harbour in Sydney for a work lunch and we shared plates of tasty Malaysian treats. The gado gado was good.

Speaking of Malaysian treats, Alice's Makan, in the food court on the corner of George and Bathurst Streets, in Sydney, is a lunch go-to. The chicken curry with roti is a standout if you're looking for serious comfort food.

I SAW... Honestly, I don't know why I keep this subhead here. There's no time for new movies and I don't really keep up with what's on the box.

I MADE... I am so close to casting off on my first ever pair of knitted socks. They're only about two months too late for my Dad's birthday but I shared one of them with him when we visited this month and he's pretty sure he can *coughcough* find a use for them - a use that may have nothing to do with keeping his toes warm. Oh well. I'll soon start on knitted gloves for my Mum. She gave me some wool. What's a girl to do.

Have a wonderful July. The winter solstice has been and gone and we're turning back towards the sun. Thank goodness.

June 29, 2014


I DON'T know about you but even though it’s not been a particularly cold winter (this weekend aside), I have put on what I prefer to call, a buffer layer. Cheesy scones, basil pesto (yes, still) and jam roly-poly may well be among the main offenders.

But seriously, how good is jam roly-poly? You make it, right? It’s so simple and if ever there was a reason to make a little excess short crust pasty, this is it. It’s even better if you add a little vintage cheddar or parmesan cheese to the pastry. That sweet jammy goodness against the sharp bite of cheese… oh yeah.

And every batch of roly-poly must be accompanied by a cup of tea and a good read.

Happy reading, and eating.

June 08, 2014


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || smoke prints with ferns
SO many of the Girl Guide programs I write for modern girls and young women are not that different to the programs my predecessors would have written for their charges.

This particular activity is straight from the UK edition of the 1956 leader's handbook, The Girl Guide Omnibus Book of Ideas and there's little I've done to change it.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || smoke prints with ferns equipment list
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || smoke prints with ferns making smoke
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || smoke prints with ferns the final print

What a smoke print of leaves offers is a chance to observe nature and instruct young nature lovers on the careful removal of specimens from urban bushland (not National Parks) or gardens and parks. I usually set a particular challenge for the Guides, like finding three different kinds of ferns, or finding particular shapes of leaves - one round, one thin and long and one that looks like the Girl Guide trefoil.

The making of the smoke print also offers chance to light a match and hold it to a candle - a skill so few girls I instruct have when they start Guides - and to be deliberate and patient, which can be a challenge for some. It's also a chance to fail, for things not to turn out quite as you expect but to love them just the same. Nature is unpredictable and this is an activity with results that will vary. Enjoying what you learned and sharing what worked is part of the journey.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || smoke prints with ferns laying the fern
A piece of glass (I used glass from an old photo frame bought at the op shop)
A freestanding candle (tea light candles work well)
Thick paper (absorbent kitchen paper is ideal)
White paper to press your print onto
A soup spoon
A leaf, ideally one that will lie flat

"Choose leaves of distinctive shape, not too stiff and not too large. Put down the glass on a perfectly flat surface, smoked side uppermost. Place the leaf on the smoked glass face down and hold it in position until you have placed over it a piece of thickish paper. Then press hard on the paper, rubbing thoroughly the surface immediately above the leaf. Remove paper and leaf, then place the leaf carefully, blackened side downwards, on the piece of white paper ready to receive the smoke print. Place a piece of thickish paper on top, and rub hard the whole surface above the leaf. Be careful to hold both leaf and paper quite steady, or the smoke print will smudge. It can be 'fixed' by spraying with the same liquid which is used to fix charcoal drawings."
The Girl Guide Omnibus Book of Ideas, E.M.R Burgess, 1956
The omission above is how to 'smoke' the glass. Light the candle and let it burn a moment. A newly lit candle won't work quite so well. Hold the glass above the candle and move it down over the flame until you find the point where it produces the best coverage of 'smoke'. I found tilting the glass just a little helped with the blackening.
I also found a soup spoon rubbed very gently over the thick, or kitchen, paper helped even out the print. Block or lino printmakers will be familiar with this technique.
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || smoke prints with ferns relief print
 katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || girl guide omnibus book of ideas

June 05, 2014


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || june things to make and do
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || june things to cook and eat
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || june things to drop dough on
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || june things to hang on the wall
IT'S winter and routines seem pared back, simple. Days are short, the winter garden is bare, meals are simple fare. I don't mind it at all.

THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: It's so simple. I get myself all tied up in knots about not having enough time for artistic pursuits, printmaking in particular. But this is so simple, I have no excuses for not being able to find the time to play.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: I am one of those rare breed of people who actually like Brussels Sprouts and this is the season to be eating them.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: Macaroni is not just for Mac and Cheese or Minestrone, it's for making beautiful necklaces. Even better if it's the inspiration for beautiful ceramic necklaces.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: More printmaking, this time a lino print, and again, a reminder that I spend too much time thinking about the print and not enough time making them.

#flashback: Here's what made the Pinterest cut this time last year.

May 31, 2014


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || a female she-oak in flower
THE she-oaks are in flower. If you have Casuarinas, or she-oaks, near you, you're probably seeing the russet tips of the male of the species, but the female is the one to keep your eyes peeled for. The flowers are tiny but the deep magenta flares against the autumn bush landscape.

Seeing one in flower a week ago was among the highlights of my month and a symbol of the slower pace and deliberate thought I planned for myself over the past weeks. Holiday leave at the start of May was a kind of pre-winter hibernation - a time to mentally take stock, look after my body and move away from routines that felt old and tired, and more importantly made me feel older than my years and more tired than I'd ever been, even when there were children at home.

All in all, it's been a wonderful few weeks and while there's a lot to take in below, if you go no further than here, just stop for a moment, go back to the top of this post and marvel at those tiny, short-lived flowers of the female Casuarina.

I READ: The Walking Book Club's inaugural book choice, Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson. I have listened to a great many audio books but this was the first that had me beat. It's a great read and I was so engrossed that I was plugging the head phones in not only while walking but while completing domestic chores or chugging home from work on the train. It's just that because the timeline jumps around it's not as easy to whip back a couple of chapters and match up a storyline. A page turner, for sure, but as an audio book, not so much.

My workplace has also launched a social book club and the first book off the shelf is The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett. I have the last five pages to go. I know, the last five, but I was interrupted in finishing what is really a one, or two-sitting read, by a little voice calling out from her mid day sleep. What's one to do.

I WENT TO... A night of dangerous glamour and wicked indulgence at Sydney's Justice and Police Museum. You can see photos from the night here, and a photo of me and my crazy girlfriends here (I am second from the left).

I also went to the Sydney Writer's Festival launch of Tara Moss' new book, and first non-fiction work, The Fictional Woman and, just this week, enjoyed an after-work dinner with my sister, down from Brisbane, watching the lights of VIVID from Opera Kitchen.

Yet, despite a wholly awesome month of rest, work and play, the best thing I did was get outside. A day of crossing mountain ridges in Dharug National Park and another scrambling about in undergrowth hunting for fungi to photograph were, hands down, the best things I did in May.

I LISTENED TO... Aside from an audio book, my own thoughts. Two weeks to do absolutely nothing but that. I wanted time to unplug and drift. Drift with my days, my thoughts and listen, really listen to what my body and mind needed. Perfect.

I ATE... Two weeks off might have helped rejuvenate the mind, but it did my waistline no favour. I did exercise more than I can usually manage in any given work week, but any benefit was lost in regular jaunts to Oomph for a coffee and the cafe's ridiculously good caramel slice. Oomph's haloumi slider is also well worth a lunch date if you find yourself in my neck of the wood.

I SAW... Two weeks at home with nothing to do and really nowhere to go meant I could slide onto the couch and stay there for hours watching DVD after DVD. Mind you, it was nothing too taxing. I didn't want grit, or violence or Avant-garde, I was perfectly happy with series one and two of Land Girls.

I MADE... A Bertie Beetle (thank you to all that said it did indeed look beetle-esque) and finished the knitted Point of View vest. I started on knitted socks and last week turned my first ever heel. Don't go congratulating me just yet, I stuffed up the rounds shortly after and have been putting off trying to fix it. You may, or may not, see a finished pair of socks listed here next month.

Have a wonderful June. May your turned heels give you no grief.

May 19, 2014


SOMETIMES I surprise even myself with how weird my life can look sometimes.

Picture this. Scissors, paper, cardboard, glue, rope, split pins and buttons all in a heady mess around me. I am lighting matches to burn off the ends of nylon rope - as you do - in my fluffy pink dressing gown given to me several Mother's Days ago by the children (also likely the most flammable article of clothing I own). I have pipe cleaners, dice, zip lock bags - and The Voice is on.

If you're shuddering, I won't be offended. I was happily oblivious in my crafting until I tied off the last piece of newly seared rope and flourished my creation aloft with a mighty "Ta Da" only to be met by the raised eyebrow and pursed lips of my partner.

"What is that?"

I looked back at my creation, somewhat puzzled it wasn't obvious.

"A Bertie Beetle, duh!"

"It doesn't even look like a beetle."

Talk about crushing. Of course it's a beetle. See it's beady beetle eyes, and it's legs - all four, or maybe eight of them. It's a beetle, alright!

And there you have it. The misspent evening of a Girl Guide leader trying, clearly in vain, to create learning resources for her charges.

If you're at all intrigued, this IS a Bertie Beetle - sadly not the chocolate variety - and it's a knotting game. And, if your children are at all crafty and like making their own games, you might like to make one too.

Four short pieces of rope for legs
One short piece of rope for tying the head to the body
One longer piece of rope for getting Bertie over the line
A beetle head (with holes as marked)
A beetle body (with holes as marked)
Two split pins (mine have buttons glued to them)
Two pipe cleaner halves (one for antenna, one for a stinger)
A dice.
Bertie Beetle is played in teams, or Patrols, with a disembodied beetle and a dice handed to each team to start. On go, each member of the team takes a turn to throw the dice.
Throw a six: You get Bertie's body. (You must have thrown a six to start).
Throw a five: And attach Bertie's head with a reef knot.
Throw a four: Attach a leg, one with each throw of a four, using a double overhand loop, or reef knot, or two half hitches (or whatever knot you want to teach).
Throw a three: Attach the antenna.
Throw a two: Attach the stinger.
Throw a one: Attach an eye.
When the beetle is finished, take the longer piece of rope and tie a bowline, pop it over Bertie's head and drag your beetle to a pre-determined finish line a short distance away. Your winning team might even score a real chocolate Bertie Beetle for their prowess, speed, agility and for not laughing at the said beetle.
PS: If you do think it looks remotely like a beetle, let me know so I can at least go back and say: "I told you so. It did too look like a beetle".

May 12, 2014


katiecrackernuts.bogspot.com || thrifted sandals and sun hat
MY time is up. Today I return to work after a glorious two week holiday at home. The first holiday at home post children. The first real holiday at home since I started a new job. The first holiday at home where I wasn't planning dinners in my head by 9am, plotting out my days to get washing done, in, ironed, shopping for dinner groceries, picking things up and putting them away, picking people up or dropping them off and negotiating or nagging, mostly nagging. Even the first holiday where I wasn't thinking ahead to when I'd walk the dog and whether I'd get that hour in before it rained or some other thing stole my attention and time. (We put down a very, very sick and clearly suffering Axle on my first day of leave.)
#opshopscore // leather sandals, $6, East Gosford Vinnies; raffia hat, $5, Kincumber Vinnies
katiecrackernuts.bogspot.com || thrifted dress and West German vase
All that responsibility, gone, and in its place, time, loads and loads of time. Time to op shop. Time to cook meals I'd never cooked before with recipes I'd saved and collected but never found the time or patience to try. Time to read and to write. Time to blog. Time to take photos. Time to be in the garden. Time to spend an hour in a café with last month's magazine, and one from this month. Time to see friends. Time to pen a letter. Time to write a card. Time to clear out a cupboard and mend a dress, or two.
#opshopscore // appliqued dress, $3, Wyoming Lifeline; West German pottery, $15, Kincumber Vinnies
katiecrackernuts.bogspot.com || home made toastie and sponge cake
Time to make things. Time to read knitting patterns. Time to harvest last season's crops and share them. Time to enrol in a course of study. Time to explore others. Time to talk about the future and start really planning for it. Time to write Girl Guide programs and even run a Girl Guide meeting, and enjoy it rather than be annoyed at how little I'd prepared and how much more I could have done.
katiecrackernuts.bogspot.com || point of view vest and knitted socks
Now my time is up and it's back to early alarms and schedules and to-do lists, and plotting ways to carve out more little parcels of 'me time'.