Archive for May, 2009

To a Tee

It started here.  Because you know if Tina says it’s a good pattern it must be.  She is genius at that kind of thing. I downloaded it immediately and then worried about the huge pile of A4 sheets that the printer spat out.  OMG.


And a frustrating 2 tries at taping together the 75 page (I’m not kidding) jigsaw puzzle that this pattern turned out to be.


So beautiful those two large scale patterns are.  Not least because they were such a struggle to fit together.

Then, laid out, My size (from the enormous selection of child to plus size fully grown woman) was identified and traced on to lightweight interfacing to make a permanent, flexible and durable pattern.


I love working with this material for patterns.  It’s so easy to pin/fix to the body and see where the problems may lie before cutting the fabric.  In my case I always see the flat fabric, think I couldn’t possibly be that big, try it against me and get quite a shock (don’t laugh).

The first garment didn’t work out exactly as planned.  It’s amazing how a millimetre here or there can change the whole shape of a garment and how it fits on your body – adding kilos, making you look round-shouldered, ‘hiding’ a tummy and instead giving you a bigger one.


Back to the drawing board, with a long sleeved T-shirt that I love and love and love, to capture the neckline and gentle side-seaming that works for me, combined with the basic block of the Jalie pattern and I think I have it.


I’m not abnormally large, or tall or small.  I have abundant curves – which I kind of like, but current fashion makes it difficult for girls like me to feel good.  Sizing in the shops can vary so much that I never seem to be able to find a colour or print that I like in a flattering shape and my size all at the same time, which is why, at the earliest opportunity I will be teaching my daughter to sew (and hopefully to love it), so she will be able to gain control.  The Hours (actually probably months if I’m honest) of my life that I have wasted in shops trying to find something perfect, only to exit feeling significantly less good about myself is so counter-productive.  One day of industry to make a perfect block for myself was an enormously good investment.


Next on the list will be the perfect set of jeans.


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Shall I tell you a secret?

The kids haven’t caught on to the fact that they’re not eating meat much anymore.  And there’s something else they don’t know. 😉


Golden (zucchini) risotto.

You will need:

  • 4 zucchini.  Peel 3 and dice finely, leave the skin on the remaining one and cut into larger dice
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced finely
  • 1.5 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 tsp stock powder (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup cream (we always use the low fat stuff)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • small knob of butter.
  • Toasted pine nuts (about a handful)

Warm the olive oil and butter and tip in the zucchini and garlic.  Cook until soft and slightly catching on the bottom.  Stir often.  Should take about 10 mins.

In the meantime slightly undercook your rice – rice, water, stock powder, salt.  I put all these in the microwave rice cooker for 10 mins.

Tip the undercooked rice and whatever liquid has not been absorbed into the zucchini and stir well.  Add the wine and keep stirring until the rice is cooked.  You  may need to add a bit more (boiling) water now and then as the rice absorbs the liquid and zucchini.  Taste as you go to see if the rice is soft,  but this stage should only take a few minutes.

Add the parmesan and cream, stir well.  Dish into bowls and top with a sprinkling of pine nuts and some more parmesan.

My kids think they are being clever by tossing out the large obvious bits of zucchini without knowing what’s slipping by the keeper.  Avoidance Ha!  Love it.

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I was recently spoiled.  In the most extravagant way possible with a well-meaning and possibly ruinous gift.

12 tubes of Old Holland Oil Paints.  Exceptionally lovely, made the same way ‘since 1664’.  Stone ground, mixed with virgin cold-pressed sunbleached linseed oil  and put in the tube by hand.

The smell (transportive).

The feel (delicious).

The luxury (extreme).

The gesture was extremely meaningful to me because I’ve long wanted to sample them and often held a tube at the art store and thought – actually, I can buy a few of my usual ones for the price of that.  Even knowing that they will go a lot further and be more delicious to use they were out of my reach, but having a good solid base as a starting point, I can afford to replace the odd one here and there without feeling like I’ll need to starve for a week.

Which was why I totally freaked out and didn’t lift a brush for a few weeks. 😦

Why is it that we so often feel like we don’t deserve something wonderful.  Or that the wonderful thing will be a once-only offer and leave you feeling wistful for the rest of your life… Isn’t that sad.  Usually I’m a ‘wear the good shoes today’ kind of a girl, but this left me sort of stranded and impotent.

So today – without planning, I just did it.  Grabbed a pear and painted a quick study.  Nothing fancy, something traditional – just for the feel of it, and the act of dipping the toe in the water.


A pear reflected. Oil on wood.

And I may well be ruined for life. ;).

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only natural

It’s only natural that a day out frolicking here in excellent company should be lovely.


And result in a ridiculous number of photographs (hurrah for digital cameras).

It’s only natural that the ensuing inspiration should cause some discomfort when I am unable to purge what is building up creative-wise.

It’s only natural – given that lack of hours currently unavailable – that I should dream large and consider an exciting collaborative project (which should be more carefully structured before I go spilling it all or approaching anyone).


It’s only natural – given that I have known this fabulous elegant, eloquent and fascinating lady for over 20 years that I would get excited when she starts a blog.  Go Pinners!


And speaking of natural – I don’t think you can get more naturally fabulous than Labne.

You need one tub of greek yoghurt, a clean dry teatowel, some string and olive oil.


Lay the teatowel over a bowl and spoon the yoghurt into the middle.  Draw the edges up so you have a bag – fasten with string and hang over a sink or bowl to drain overnight – or into the next day if the weather is not too hot.  You will  lose about 20-30% in water, and will be left with an amazingly un-yoghurt like substance with the texture of cream-cheese.

Roll into balls with your hands and place in a bowl.  Cover with olive oil, put in the fridge and use within a week.

Fantastic on toast with sun-dried tomato, with any kind of roasted vegetable in a salad, as substitute for sour cream on baked potatoes or even on it’s own in pita bread as a snack.

And now I’m hungry.  Naturally.

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the way home


The way home, 30cm sq, oil on board

Years ago I was job hunting.  Taking that journey again where you sit in front of a lovely someone at an agency, folio spread out, CV prepared and discuss what you have to offer.

“You have to take some of this stuff out” she said (referring to my skill set).

“What do you mean” I replied.

“It makes you look too confusing on paper” she said.  “Copywriting, design, illustration, art direction.  You can’t do all that stuff.”

“But I do, and I have, and I want to.  It makes me happy to be able to do all of that in one job – and – see my folio; I wrote, that, and I made that image, and I directed the photo shoot and wrote the words on this one. And they’ve been successful.”

“Well”, she said, “I can’t show this CV to a client and expect them to take you seriously.  You’ll need to pick an area of expertise and forget about the rest of it.  If you want to do it all you can’t expect someone to hire you on the basis of being able to do that.  Nobody would pay you to do all that. It would just make them nervous.”


I struggled with this for years, needing to branch out within jobs to feel satisfied and feeling frustrated that there was no job that fitted me wholly.  I’m tired of feeling that because my interests are broad I must be neither fish nor foul and pretend to be something else.

Which is why the art is so fascinating for me.  There is no set guideline.  “Art” is so broad it encompasses an extraordinary breadth of work, and yet, the same rule applies.  You can’t do it all.  To be an ‘attractive’ artist, your work must be recognisably yours.  Well executed, and pure of vision.

And I’m finding myself to be bi-focal again.

The works that sold at my recent solo were of a particular kind.  Painterly images, based on reality and easy to relate to.  They require focus, a steady hand and consistent effort.  Considering how easily they sold, and my liking of ‘signs and signals’, I should be continuing to work in this way and see where it takes me.

And yet abstraction, intuitive shape-making and pure colour calls very noisily.

Can I do them both?  Probably not.  And I find myself back at the same spot – looking at a number of different futures and wondering how to proceed.  The core or the hand?  The soul creeps out in both, which is how it should be, but which will bring me home?

I’m still not sure…

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letting it build


There are times for proceeding – steam-roller fashion.  Flattening obstacles and ignoring the discomfort until the goal is achieved, and there are times for taking it slow and letting what will happen happen.

Both approaches have merit.  And I am – to be frank, more of a steam-roller girl for the most part.  But lately I’m letting it unfold and build naturally, and watching with keen interest.

I’m noticing how often this:


and this:


Coexist happily.  One above the other.  The same moment, parts of an experiential scene, but both with different things to give in terms of meaning, and blessings and perspective.

Looking up – clarity, looking down – pattern and shades of meaning.  Both part of the whole. Yest we often see one or the other and that affects our whole day/week/month.  It spills over in the way we interact with others, affecting what they see and how they see it.

I’m trying at the moment to absorb the whole picture and get a feel for different perspectives.

I have not been painting – which is frustrating me greatly.  Not least because I have a box full of very special tubes of paint which are calling my name very noisily and I can’t give them the time required to get to know them just yet.  I am collating images though – which will come into play soonish I hope.


Drift… would. comes down next week.  So  if you have been meaning to get along, you’d better hurry – there are only a few days left.  It has been a success in terms of sales, and has had a good reception apparently.  I’m proud of it, and looking forward to its conclusion and sending some of the unsold pieces in new directions.


And yesterday I started a new project, which is exciting and a bit daunting.  A school residency which involves enabling 85 primary school students to create and complete a mural.

It is going to be challenging making a work that will tell the stories of 85 students and speak to future students of the culture of the school.  I hope by the end of the project they will feel empowered individually and as a whole and be proud of their visual legacy.  I have discovered a whole new respect for teachers.  And suspect I should have been a bit more of a steam-roller in the planning stage.  But I do love a challenge and feel positive that the end result will be beautiful and make us all proud.

Last night I slept like a log… 😉

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Vegie Wednesday

For the next little bit, until I get the ‘newness’ out of my system, I’ll try to post the weeks best new vegetarian success.

Last night, while the rest of my family feasted on steak, I had this:


Mushrooms sauteed with garlic and rosemary on a slab of garlic and parmesan polenta and topped with a dollop of greek yoghurt.

Oh yum. 🙂

And the best bit was that everyone else had some with their meal, and we all shared a salad as well.  Nobody missed out, and apart from the difficulty of handling the steak, I felt good afterwards.

Garlic and parmesan polenta. (5 minute job)

Soften 1 clove of garlic (sliced finely) in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add a cup of fine polenta and a teaspoon of stock powder (chicken or vegetable).  Then slowly add – stirring the while – 2 cups of boiling water.  Have more water on hand, because it will thicken – and it seems to vary how much water you need to get the right consistency – which should be like soft-serve ice-cream.

When the polenta is ready, taste it to make sure.  Add a handful of grated parmesan.  Stir it in, and put into a baking or casserole dish.  Put in a low oven to keep warm while you make the mushrooms.

Rosemary & garlic mushrooms. (5 minute job)

Soften 1 clove of garlic (sliced finely) in a teaspoon of olive oil.  Add a knob of butter, 2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary and sliced mushrooms.  I used 6 swiss browns and 6 button mushrooms – you could use whatever you fancy.  Keep moving the mushrooms around in the pan and don’t worry if they are looking dry, they will put out water as they go.  Add some salt and pepper to taste and chopped parsley if you like.  You are done.

Then assemble and top with yoghurt or sour cream.

Making myself hungry – better go cook some dinner. 🙂

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