Thursday, July 29, 2010

Daphne and Homemade Baked Beans

My daughter is rarely ill.   In fact she hardly feels the cold so when she says she is sick I tend to immediately believe her without endless prodding and thermometering. 

This week we had such a day.   Given I was at home working anyway, it seemed opportune to cook up something comforting for her.    

For her, that is tomato on toast, or avocado on toast, or spaghetti bolognese, or perhaps baked beans.  Usually Heinz baked beans.  I do succumb to tinned food occasionally, doesn't everyone?  But I think what is really startling is the difference, in texture and colour particularly, between the tinned product and what you can make at home.    And it is probably worth mentioning that these are great for a hangover.  

I know that you can make baked beans with dried beans, and cook them slowly for hours and hours.  And of course, my dish is not exactly perfect itself, cooked as it is with tinned food.  But it has a really lovely reddish colour, and does not have that gelatinous slimy gluggy texture of tinned baked beans.    

This is my quick method.


1 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed gently
1 400 g tin of tomatoes
A couple of pieces of bacon or prosciutto, chopped into little squares
A small brown onion, chopped finely
One garlic clove, chopped finely


Gently saute the bacon, onion and garlic in a little olive oil until the bacon is slightly browned and the onion translucent.

Add the drained beans, stir gently to coat with contents of pot, then add tomatoes.  Stir again and simmer for about 20 minutes or until thickened and not too runny.  

Season and eat.  

And this was her lunch. This plate is one of the two I bought when I bought my Devil Night Light last weekend.  

Our daphne has been happily flowering this winter, just like last winter.  I don't know why, we actually do nothing to help it along.   

I have started reusing my candle jars once they are burned out. If you soak them in hot water the left over wax tends to fall away. This is a tiny little frosted Manuel Canovas and is about the only thing I have found for daphne display.

This makes me feel considerably less bad about the original cost of the candle.  Am I the only one who thinks that cost does not necessarily equal high quality smelliness?   I actually like Voluspa the most, they scent a room really well and do not cost the earth.    I still can't bring myself to burn them constantly however.  Must be my Scottish ancestry.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Light is in the Eye of the Beholder

My son has had a rash of nightmares, about bad robots, bad ladies, bad mens, bad octopi, bad Supermen, bad dinosaurs and other bad things, which mostly live in the dark shadows of his room. 

He asked for a night light.  And I thought: well I will try anything and my daughter got one at 3 so why not. 

I loathe going from shop to shop looking for things.  My daughter has the Ikea flower night light and it is still going strong but I loathe Ikea on a Saturday and I remembered seeing one in a shop around the corner.   So, quick as a flash, as I am wont to do, I went right out and bought one. 

The light I bought was Italian, from Market Import, one of my favouritest shops in all of Melbourne which sells colourful linens and tin and porcelain from Mexico.  I also came home with some goat's milk soap and two little pear plates.   Arrgghh. 

The supposed five minute assembly of modular bits of white bendy plastic of course became 1/2 an hour but I was most impressed with the result.  Isn't it cute?

Then my husband arrived home, saw it and said it looked like the devil.   Something to do with the horns.  And I must say when it is all lit up it does give me a start, glowing in a slightly menacing way in the corner of the room.   Especially if you walk past the bedroom and quickly glance in.  

Of course it doesn't matter what we think.  Little P loves it and it lights up the room like a beacon (so now he thinks it's morning when it's actually 3 am).   Which then led to a whole series of conversations along the lines of 'Okay, it's only morning when mummy says it is morning. Until I say 'it's morning now!' you have to stay in bed sleeping peacefully'. 

Maybe I should have been less hasty and gone with an egg light, like this:

What do you think?  Devil or Cow?

Monday, July 26, 2010

A bit of pattern on the floor

I have often wondered whether our home could pull off a patterned rug.  Not just a Persian. But something modern.  One option is a small print which is pretty uncontroversial really.  

At the moment in our conversation pit we have a red shag pile rug.   Which I love.  It holds the crumbs really well, and it can look messy and squashed without it mattering.  

But I sometimes wonder whether I could live with something with a pattern which dominates the whole room?  Like this:

(Greg Natale for Designer Rugs)

Or this:

 (Marni for the Rug Company)

Or this:

(Greg Natale)

Or this:

Perhaps you need a bold rug for a bold room?

This is by Vixen, who did my light shades:

In the UK, The Rug Company makes divine rugs by Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood but the ones I love the most are by Marni:

and this was by Kim Parker (no longer available):

In Australia, Designer Rugs have just launched a new range by designer Claudia Chan Shaw.   These are not really my style but they are certainly brave. DR has also done a collaboration with Wedgewood. 

Designer Rugs also use a number of Australian designers to create rugs, including Alex Perry, Akira Isogawa, Easton Pearson and Vixen.

These two are by Akira: 

And this is by Dinosaur Designs who make wonderful jewelry, and household items, often from resin:

How beautiful is this blobby one: 

You can see the consistency of the Dinosaur Designs vision when you look at  these earrings which I bought from Dinosaur Designs in 1992 to wear to a wedding.  

I am still waiting for them to come back into fashion.

On balance I think I prefer a big flower to big blobs, Anthropologie has also done lots of flowery rugs, like this:
Or would such a rug be like a striking print dress, which one tires of too quickly?

(Images: (1) House to Home (2) Jonathan Adler at Elle Decor (3) Madeline Weinrib  (8) Elle Decor (5)(7)(9)(12)(13)(14)(15)  Designer Rugs (6) (10) (11) The Rug Company (12) Anthropologie)

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's in the Bag?

I paid a visit to the Essential Ingredient today, to pick up some chestnuts (pre-cooked vacuum packed).  More on that below.

I usually avoid this place like the plague, not because there is anything wrong with it, rather its array of condiments, spices, plates, cooking implements, cookbooks and other provisions is so mind blowing I always end up leaving with something lovely but pointless like a mini-grater or tiny porcelain tart cases.

But I had to go, because I don't know anywhere else in Melbourne that sells these chestnuts. 

You know those magazine fluff pieces where someone like Miranda Kerr is asked to disclose the contents of their handbag?  The contents are always semi fake aren't they?  No used tissues, bits of rubbish, phone chargers, Cabcharge vouchers, Medicare rebate forms or elastic bands.  No, it's things like pristine Chanel lipstick,  a full tub of Eve Lom eye cream and an unscratched Hermes wallet.

So in that same fluff piece spirit, here is my bounty from Essential Ingredient.  

Sushi rice and nori seaweed, as I thought it might be fun to make sushi with the children although as I write this I realise I don't have one of those little wooden rolling mats. 

Walnut oil for a batch of Nick Nairn salad dressing.  Can you believe how expensive this stuff is?   I find it hard to bring myself to buy it, hence the small tin. 

(Sigh) a measuring cup, very hard to find and the very best style in my opinion, as it measures down to 25 ml, in plastic, to replace this: 

which my husband describes as a heirloom, he has had it for 20 years.   Never mind that the markings have rubbed off so you have to feel the levels with your fingers as if it were braille.  

Some small baking trays, for the children's dinner.   No not for them to eat, but to cook their little sausages etc in.   I am not sure what Non Attacca !!!! means, but I think it is something good like non - stick.  These are to replace this embarrassment: 

Some little French tartlet things, to fill with egg and mayonnaise for my egg eating child, and maybe avocado for the almost vegan one. 

And finally, the chestnuts.   To cook with apples, cider, cream and pheasant breasts, one of my favourite, 
winter, only cook once a year dishes.   

Happy cooking to you all this weekend.. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Workspace in Waiting

I am pretty certain my lifelong love of Rainbow Order for all textas, pencils and pens derives from the set of 72 Derwent pencils I was lucky to receive when I was 9 years old.  This was the creme de la creme of pencil sets, and I can still remember the names of my favourite colours: Kingfisher Blue, Emerald Green and Delft Blue.  Derwent have been making pencils in Cumberland in the UK since 1832 and I love that they are still going strong.   You can see their products here.

(For another thrilling rainbow thing check out Meredy's Rainbow Cake - not sure my baking skills are up to this but still, one can dream.)

At home, our daughter has a little section of the long L shaped desk in our library-study which is hers to use as she wishes.  In an ironic turn of events, I happen to be paranoid about the internet, so our thinking is that when she is older she will have a computer here and use this area for her homework and Facebook (if it still exists although I am kind of hoping it will self-combust in the next 6 years).

When I was greeted by this sight when we returned from holidays I thought first - oh God a burglar has been here.  Then I realised that this was the way it always looked but that I usually avert my eyes.  So, it was time for a major clean up.     

To inspire me, a visit to Kikki K was in order.  This shop, run by Swedish -Australian businesswoman Kristina Karlsson sells beautiful home office supplies.  Yes their magazine holders cost 4 times an Ikea one but they are fabric covered, so they last longer and don't end up with that battered, peeling look which so many Ikea cardboard products can get. 

It is not easy to find children's study areas which have personality.  These are some I like: 

(actually am not so sure about this one - but the curtains are a cute idea)

This is simple and utilitarian.

I love the washing line of photos and the use of the storage cubes on either side of the desk.

This is a bit Martha S but still would be a good place to work for a teenager.

Thank you to Martin the Joiner who recommended we use grey felt pinboard behind the desk in this room.  It has been a lifesaver.  

So one very full garbage bag later, we now have something which approximates an unburgled desk.    The grey letterholder which can hold more than 90 textas, grey pencil holder and magazine holders are all from Kikki K.

My daughter is under strict instructions to keep it neat for at least a little while.   And who knows, by the time she is a hopefully not too surly teenager I might feel less paranoid, and she can have a desk in her room.
(Images (3) Country Living (4) Ohdeedoh (5) Cote Maison (6)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our holiday (in the manner of Bret Easton Ellis)

(stormy Sunday at Robe)

We crossed the border into South Australia just after midday and outside our car the paddocks of wide grey gums and black cows became a shrubby national park of grass trees, where there was no traffic on the road except a red Subaru which overtook us and sped off and I was still reading my work emails and sending texts until 3G ran out of range and we arrived at the house as the sun was setting: it sat up on the crest of the hill looking over the ocean and behind back down to the harbour crowded with little fishing boats and for the first four days it rained and hailed and blew and felt a little bit as if the roof might tear off although the windows didn't really rattle much at all and in the evenings every night at 5.15 pm the unmanned lighthouse light came on and pivoted around at 180 degrees over the sea and every few minutes shone a bright unforgiving light through my daughter's bedroom and the living area but we lit the fire and that abated some of the harsh blue shining through and when I looked out of the window I was certain I could see the red Subaru parked over the road just momentarily but when I looked again it drove away and when I went into the village to buy groceries the eggs were from Kangaroo Island and looked incredibly fresh so I went on an Egg Run, making meringue, mayonnaise, aioli, baked eggs with spinach, omelettes, scrambled eggs and Bearnaise and I found it a little hard to stop once I started and on the fifth night we bought two lobsters from the fish co-op which was run by a one armed bearded man, presumably some kind of fisherman, and we ate them with lemon and parsley butter and a bottle of Chablis and they were so succulent that we went back for more the next night and most days the children played Bionicle v Barbie, which is an invented game with intricate rules which cannot be explained to outsiders like parents and in the morning and night we walked along the beach and the sandcastle we built with a cuttlefish tower remained in place for a full week because no one else ever visited that beach and when I could drag myself out of my holiday book reading egg induced coma I ran around the town, up hills past flashy new holiday homes and then down into the little dips where the weatherboard and fibro cottages sat and I didn't feel empty inside, not at all, I felt as if I had learned something and I felt as if time had stood still just for a few days.

(obelisk and remains of colonial prison, Robe)

You can get more of the same, namely one sentence paragraphs and some other stuff, like drugs, sex and violence in Bret Easton Ellis' Imperial Bedrooms.

This is a sequel of sorts to Less Than Zero, which I read with great delight and empathy as a nihilistic teenager in 1985. I am no longer a nihilistic teenager, but the drifting amoral protagonist of Imperial Bedrooms still seems to be.

In fact not much has changed at all since 1985.

The only difference now is that the players all text, email and cell phone each other relentlessly, and the huge houses in which the parties are held are not those of the parents but the children, all grown up now but barely matured since they were 17.  

And this made me feel bad, and a bit superior, for having changed since I was that age, and then a bit angry because personally I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development than there is.   Read it and decide for yourself.

(fishing boats at Robe harbour)

An antidote to Bret Easton Ellis (or BEE) is definitely called for.  Something solid and life affirming.   A little speck of humanity.    

(sunset, Robe, 17 July 2010)

I figure that those characters would be no match for Thomas Wolsey or Thomas More.   Life was cheap in 1529, and you either dragged yourself up by your fingernails or were passed by, splashed with mud from the Cardinal's procession of horses, carriages and a precious cargo of gold and reliquaries.   Issues with your parents such as those which crop up in all BEE books would be irrelevant, because everyone had them in the 16th century.   In those days parents were beating their children, putting them to work or indeed, if you were royal, it might just be that your parent or some other relative would be plotting to have you killed.    

So, my BEE antidote is these three thrilling books:

Everyone has probably read the Booker prize winning Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which is not a simple Tudor romp by any means, rather an absorbing and penetrating look at the amazing Thomas Cromwell and all he achieved.

I have always loved Antonia Fraser's history books.  They are all great, and this one is a wonderful and sympathetic dissection of the man and his loves. 

I have not read the Leanda De Lisle but it is on order - it tells the story of Henry's great nieces, including Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for 9 days after Henry's son, Edward VI.  A scintillating review can be found here

And I just know that those in the Tudor times would have brooked no complaints from whiny, over privileged, aimless childlike grownups, whether from Los Angeles, or otherwise.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Thank You, Some Messy Libraries and a Little Mid Winter Break

Today I received from divine Raina a surprise package of Verandah, Home Beautiful and Elle Decor.   All the way from Colorado.  THANK YOU LOVELY LADY.   If you haven't already, you must go visit her at If the Lampshade Fits.

I was going to  insert a rant here about exchange rates and the exorbitant price of US and UK magazines in Australia ($20 AUD for airfreight US Vogue) but it turns out that magazines are heavy, and shipping is costly, so I can only assume that in fact it is all a very  fair arrangement, for us, the newsagents and those shippers.   But I still die a little when I visit Borders because  I just cannot bring myself to pay the equivalent of a paperback book for a magazine.  

There are so many great things in these wonderful magazines, but the very very best is this, from the Studio City home of a couple who work in production and branding.  The whole house is divine but this room especially, I think is superb.  You cannot tell from the picture, but that butterfly chair is in leather......

I think the fact is that I love any room with wall to wall books.

I may have mentioned, this week even, my dislike of colour coded books.   So, let step away from the delicate libraries of Elle Decor, which I do love, like this:

and look at some real libraries.

First up, and I bet it is in many languages, that of Karl Lagerfeld.  When you think about it, you probably wouldn't expect anything less than this.  

This is Diane Von Furstenberg's in her Connecticut estate Cloudwalk:

And Nigella Lawson from 2004.  Nigella has written a lot of her extensive cookbook collection.   Clearly she was not exaggerating.  

I am off tomorrow for a mid winter break, by the sea, where I will have lots of windy walks, salty air, and plenty of sleep and laughter and reading before the open fire.   


((1)(2) Elle Decor (3) via Alkemie (4) via Habitually Chic (5) from House & Garden) 
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