October 05, 2015


A FEW hot days and I start thinking about summer holidays, and Christmas.

THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: Every year I make a tree decoration for each of my four step-children, all of them now grown. I have been looking for something I can stitch on the train during the commute home. This will be it, but I better start stitching soon.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: Christmas will be at our house this year and we've decided on a Christmas lunch. It's usually salads and cold meats, a pavlova and fresh fruit. I like the look of this take on a warm potato salad.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: We live on the coast, so a trip to the beach either before or after lunch is on the cards. Cool, pretty and I won't need to change. I will have to watch out for turmeric stains from that potato salad though. I am a shocker at keeping whites stain-free.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: And this will be us for a portion of Christmas Day. I love the energy of this woodcut. It's so full of joy.

#flashback: A move back to colour, light and the return of warm days. Clearly not as warm as we've just had.

September 29, 2015


AH, that's more like it. What a difference a little sunshine can make. Spring has made itself known. I have seeds sprouting, fat asparagus spears growing to full size in a week, wee flowers on beans and on an early tomato seedling. I'm going to a seed saving day on Saturday, but look, I am getting ahead of myself, that's for sharing in a month's time.

In September:

I WENT TO… Canberra. Twice. In one week. It wasn't supposed to be that way, but colleagues and I were called to Parliament House to support a call for an increased humanitarian intake of refugees from the conflict in Syria.

A few days later, I was there for a scheduled visit to Parliament House, this time to represent the advocacy and leadership development programs of Girl Guides Australia.

That day was the day of the Liberal Party leadership spill, and as it happened, our girls and young women were the last to have their photo with Tony Abbott... in his capacity as Minister for Women. So many wry comments I could add here, but, you know, the man's already down.

I ATE… At the recommendation of a mate, professional colleague and sometimes blogger, I had the most divine meal at Mocan and Green Grout in Canberra's uber-trendy New Acton precinct. So much care and attention to flavours and textures and you see it all happen in front of you. In Nanette's words: "sit at the bar and watch the chefs lavish attention on the food". No further enticement necessary.

I OP SHOPPED… A couple of kitsch 1970s thank you cards and a pre-loved wooden truck for the grandkiddlings. Cute.

I MADE… Nothing, but I am scouting for Christmas decorations I can stitch or knit up on long work commutes home.

I READ… I have five books on the go at the moment. I'm so close to finishing three of them. Maybe it'll happen over the coming long weekend. Maybe.

On a side note, if you are worried about how to explain news images and bulletins featuring distressed children to your family, read this piece on talking to children about the Syria crisis.

September 26, 2015


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || a paper doll to cut and colour

IT'S a wet weekend across Sydney and my home of the NSW Central Coast, and there's nothing worse than the combination of a wet weekend and school holidays.

Those days are well behind me, but it doesn't mean I don't remember. I do. Vividly.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || wet weekend school holiday paper doll craft
My girls were never much into paper dolls but between them and their brother, paper chains and paper planes did keep them amused on miserable days. I was clearing cobwebs from a freestanding cupboard about a year ago and found a paper plane wedged at the top of it, far from sight. It had probably been there 10 years. He's 21 now.

Sorry it's miserable. If you're home with children this weekend, I hope you're doing OK. Maybe you should just download Caroline for yourself - a little colouring-in therapy might be just what you need.

September 18, 2015


I ONLY saw the colour themes here when I uploaded my collages, but I am rather chuffed. Orange and purple, and turquoise and pink: colour combos I think I'll explore a little more this spring.

THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: I don't care that these stained glass look-a-likes made from paper are the kind of thing you might make during a primary school art class; they're pretty and colourful and make you smile.

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: We're moving away from stews and curries, soups, bakes and casseroles and savouring a move to stir fries, risottos and noodles: Bangkok coconut curry bowl noodles, to be exact.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: Jodi's ALAS giveaway is well and truly closed but that doesn't mean you can't covet a pretty new pair of PJs. My PJs are pretty daggy - skull and crossbone flannel pants, bought, I think from Coles and from the menswear selection, and an old op-shopped tee. I could definitely do with a refresh.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: Thank goodness for Pinterest, because of all the social media platforms I use, it is the best for introducing me to new makers, artists, dreamers and doers and Ophelia Pang is one I've been stalking since discovering this lovely piece.

#flashback: I'd lost all sense of colour this time last year. In hindsight, it was a reflection of a bad time and place.

September 10, 2015


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || monday morning cooking club fruit kompote
I EAT early in the day. I am up just after 5am and have dressed, eaten breakfast and downed a cup of tea before leaving for work at 6am. The morning routine is solid, and fortunately, having raised a biggish brood we’re used to planning ahead. The day’s attire is set out the night before; lunches are prepped to grab and go; and the morning’s breakfast is an unfussy affair. While it’s simple, it still needs to ‘stick to me ribs’ until lunch, which can often be mid-afternoon.

For me it’s usually muesli or granola, with a no fat yoghurt and, of late, a fruit compote. I was introduced to compotes by a friend of my partner’s, who swears by them for sustained energy and as a way to add fruit-based fibre to her daily menu.

This recipe from the Monday Morning Cooking Club is delicious and easy and stores well in the fridge. I’ve given the quantities listed in the club’s second cook book, The Feast Goes On, but next time I make it I’ll cut everything in half – it’s only me that eats it and half the quantities will keep me going for a fortnight. I’ll also cut down the nuts. They’re delicious but I find them hard to take first thing in the morning.

katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || the feast goes on fruit kompote
katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || pyrex dish and fruit kompote
monday morning cooking club fruit kompote

1 cup pitted prunes, halved
1.5 cups dried apricots, halved
half cup of soft dried figs, quartered
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup blanched almonds
1/3 cup pine nuts
teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (The recipe calls for freshly grated but I didn’t have that and just used ground nutmeg to taste)
¼ cup brown sugar
zest and juice of an orange

The recipe also calls for a tablespoon of rosewater, but I think it’s lovely and fragrant without it.

Make up one to two days before serving.
Place all the cut fruit and nuts in a large bowl - I used a Pyrex bowl with lid for storing it in the fridge. Cover the fruit and nut mix with cold water, stir and refrigerate. Stir a couple of times a day. The mix will become lovely and thick with syrup.

As well as using on my morning granola and yoghurt, I’ve thrown a tablespoon into banana and berry smoothies and it’s yum.


September 04, 2015


I HAVE a bad case of spring flu. Bam! September 1 and I am all achy joints and running a temperature. You couldn’t credit it. I’ve had a crazy year, three overseas trips in the first six months followed by big changes at work and in my volunteer life. Family life has had its topsy turvy moments too, yet even when things were on the downward dip, often all at the same time, I managed to stay upright and healthy. Even better, I managed to pull off reasonable good health through the winter flu season. I joined a gym, I worked out with a personal trainer twice a week – I know, right? I was on a mission to stay well.

Not so much. The body has succumbed and this week saw me crawling between bed and the couch on not one, but three days. I cancelled meetings, I delegated the shizzle out of quite a few to-do lists and did nothing much but sat, and slouched - cup of tea and soggy handkerchief always at hand.

Here’s to good health and a better run up to the end of the year, and Christmas. Oh gosh, are you starting to think about that too?

August 31, 2015


WELL, hello there. Nice to see you.

In August:

I WENT TO… Mount Victoria, in the Blue Mountains, to a little-known place called Random Cottage. The site is a Girl Guide property that once hosted intrepid women hikers. The original cottage is an old miner’s cottage with the bare basics but a view to die for. Nearby are dormitories and a big kitchen suited to cooking up steaming pots of hearty soup for hungry Girl Guide volunteers. It was here, over the first weekend in August, that the wonderful volunteers who plan out the delivery of the Girl Guide program in NSW and the ACT came together. I’m keen to go back on a non-Guiding weekend and explore the tracks generations before me came to the campsite and original cottage for.

I ended the month at a Girl Guide event too – in fact, every weekend of August was a Girl Guide weekend.

However, the weekend just gone was pretty special. I slept out on the concert lawn of Taronga Zoo. Yup. Just me, my trusty swag, and 1000 Girl Guides. The weather was glorious and I quite literally woke up and rolled over just before 6am to see Sydney Harbour glistening and winking in the pink dawn light. A privilege and an experience I could only have as a Girl Guide leader.

If you’re curious about becoming a leader, or are keen for your daughter to join, drop me a comment, or visit the Girl Guides Australia website to find a link for your state contacts.

I ATE… A breakfast at Bloom, in Mosman, Sydney, choosing The Balmoral for its eggy goodness, roasted tomato, avocado, greens and salty Persian feta.

A lunch at Neil Perry’s Burger Project, at World Square, Sydney. I dunno, I wasn’t that fussed. It’s no Shake Shack.

A dinner at Chur Burger, in Surry Hills, Sydney. Again, I must be pretty fussy about my burgers. A soggy, stick to the roof of your mouth, smooshy mess.

I OP SHOPPED… Books, knitting patterns, a 1960s vintage cheongsam, and a spring wardrobe refresh to add cute Levi’s jean shorts and a linen overdress.

I MADE… Not just made, I finished, the ‘red vest’ knitted in the round from an op shop salvaged stash. I’ve been carting this thing around to my study programs, Girl Guide meetings and on the daily commute for almost a year and I finally got it off the sticks, blocked and made up. Done!

I also made three Bilby beanies for the Girl Guide sleep out at the zoo. I am part of a leadership trio, and we wanted to team with the event theme of ‘Bilbies, Bedrolls and Biscuits’. We, if I do say so myself, looked adorable.

I READ… Reports, minutes, agendas. Reports, minutes, agendas. Reports, minutes, agendas. It’s been one meeting after another with not a lot of time to catch up in between. I am just managing to sneak in audio book chapters on my commutes to and from meetings. Just.

August 29, 2015


katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com || the fair isle hand knit and the pattern
IT took a second-hand knitted vest and a pattern book to alert me. The Fair Isle vest was snapped up for a few dollars from a local op shop. The pattern book arrived some weeks later in a stash given to me by a work colleague. What I didn’t see, for weeks, was that they were one and the same.

Yup, the op shop vest is exactly the vest detailed in the pattern book.

So what, I hear you mutter.

So what! I missed it, that’s what. I missed a moment of serendipity. I missed seeing a coincidence that should have been held up as a moment of magic. I missed that something a little bit special had come into my life and passed through. Not a ratty old vest or pattern book – though both are actually lovely – but the moment. I missed the moment.

I feel like I am missing a lot of moments, of late, but I take heart in what a hand-knitted Fair Isle vest and pattern book taught me. One stitch, one row, one piece at a time, and that there’s always a pattern to fall back on. Always.

August 17, 2015


CAN you feel it? It's starting to thaw out. Winter is being chased away by the spring. Sprinter is here, and with it, a return to the great outdoors.

THINGS TO MAKE AND DO: Days are deceivingly warm but the nights are still cool, even cold, in my neck of the woods. My family called these jumpers sloppy joes, but maybe because sloppy and 'slobby' sound the same to me, or because I equate these things with school sport uniforms - both bad - I've never, of my own free will, owned one of these cotton pullovers. Perhaps that needs to change because this would be perfect for hiding the grubby hallmarks of camping, or 'glamping', if that's more your style,

THINGS TO COOK AND EAT: If I did have a sloppy joe, or three, I'd be donning them all to sleep out on the lawns of Taronga Zoo with about 1000 Girl Guides at the end of the month. You walk in wearing the clothes you'll need through the night, a bare minimum of gear and a meal that requires the simple addition of hot water. Done and done.

THINGS TO DROP DOUGH ON: I hate flip flops, rubber thongs, jandals, whatever you choose to call them. Hate them. Between the thongs and sloppy joes, I am a clothing snob - more so if I am to confess loving Birkenstocks. I own one pair and it'll take just a few more degrees Celsius before it makes an early Spring, or Sprinter, appearance.

THINGS TO HANG ON THE WALL: The heavy lines of Andrew Pavitt's linocut evoke what it is to camp and tramp at this time of year: rugged up against icy winds but braving it all to escape the confines of the city and winter's walls.

July 30, 2015


THIS pumpkin, along with a few handfuls of coriander and parsley, are all I've harvested from the garden over winter. I've dug, weeded, pruned to open up new spaces for spring and summer planting. Life here gets a little crazy from next weekend, so I'm busting for longer days when I can scratch away at my new plans.

In July:

I READ… Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman. I've linked to a review from The Guardian here, but there are plenty of reviews to choose from and even more theories about the motives behind its release - some 50 years after it was written. For me, I simply enjoyed hearing the voice of Scout as a young woman. I thought Lee captured that age - your early 20s - beautifully. The naivety and the bravado; the lack of confidence and the black and white opinions (literally in this case); and, the shifts that move you to shades of grey. 

I WENT TO… a huge family moment for a woman who has been my friend since we were teens. She and her partner brought friends and family together to celebrate the christening of their first born - a darling little girl. Other than that, I've had a blissful month at home, near to family and friends and weekends of pottering about the house and garden.

I ATE… Five delicious courses at the first Woy Woy Fisherman's Wharf takeover. Corey Reid, of Momfuku Seiobo took the restaurant 'over' in July, and, in August, you can win yourself a place at the table when Joshua Niland, of Cafe Nice (Fratelli Fresh) takes over.

I OP SHOPPED… A great swathe of African print cloth - at least 5m of it along with pattern and craft magazines; and, a wool blazer, silk scarf, crocheted gloves and cord pants.

I MADE… a knitted vest. Well, almost. It's off the needles. I just need to finish the seams and block it.