Thursday, October 29, 2009

Feeling nostalgic

When looking through our pics for the "Happy Anniversary" post I felt a little nostalgic.  Five weeks touring England with three young children sounds like a nightmare, but we managed to cover a lot of ground.  In those days we used film in our camera.  Recently we have decided to go digital.  Anyhow, we have a small selection of the (ahem) many photos we took as scanned images.  I'm going to bore entertain you with some of my favourites.

For fans of "Brum" - yes, these are the big balls featured at the beginning of each episode!


Autumn Leaves at Warwick Castle

Crossing a stile in West Gilling

It's amazing how a photo can bring back memories of a day, the sounds and smells that accompany it.  The sound of the children's voices.  The magic of shared moments.

Happy Anniversary!

Four years ago today my big sister married a great bloke.  Too bad he's English and they live so far away!

It was a rather intense period of our lives.  Im was born, a little early, in mid-August.  Three weeks later my Dad succumbed to the cancer he'd been battling.  Four weeks after that we travelled to England for the wedding.  A birth, a death, a marriage.  The highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Children have an amazing sense of occasion.  Our children (then 4, 2 & 1/2 and a newborn baby) coped remarkably well with the turmoil, complete lack of routine and a mother whose emotions were all over the shop.  This photo shows my sister with Im, then 10 weeks old.  I think the presence of a baby gave us all something to focus on.  When our resolve wavered, we looked to Im, a reminder of the cycle of life.  And then Marv, a sensitive little soul, wove her own magic.  Mum walked Linda down the aisle, then was standing alone as the service continued, without Dad for the first time in over 40 years.  Marv quietly slipped from the pew, tip-toed up to her Nana and took her hand.  And there she stayed.

Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm a "Potentialist". What are you?

I discovered through reading The Age today that I am, potentially at least, a "Potentialist".  Don't you love a label, a category, a genre that you can slot all sorts of things into?

The Age says "A more relaxed consumer keen on developing new and interesting hobbies might eventually earn a crust from what has emerged from the global financial crisis, according to research." 

I fit into the age group, share some of the traits listed and yes, I'm trying to make some money from what I do.  Does that mean I fit into this group?  Am I a Potentialist?  All this time I thought I was Fiona, ex-scientist, full-time Mum, (very) small business owner, still struggling to find that work-life balance.  Of course there was something missing and suddenly I find myself, potentially, a member of a movement with a fancy name. The next time I need to introduce myself it's going to be "Hi, I'm Fiona.  I'm a Potentialist."   What about you?  Will you join me?  I'd better go, I have some potential to fulfil.

In the garden

Here's Im modelling one of the latest dresses to roll off the Squirt Baby production line.  

Sometimes it's hard being 4.  You think you're big, but some people keep saying you are small.  Sunday was not a good one for Im, so late in the day we went out into the front yard took some photos.  She felt very special in this dress.  It has little flounce sleeves and is gathered with satin ribbon along the neckline. She's practising her "seriously nonchalant" look.  No smiling, no looking at the camera, and a bit of leaning for good measure.  And, despite the poker face here, it cheered her up immensely! 

Monday, October 26, 2009


When Mate sees the camera come out, he ducks and weaves.  

When Marv sees the camera come out, she starts flicking her hair and practises poses.  On the weekend I took this snap.  She had my glasses on and looked comfortable and relaxed.  

I can see her as a 20 year old, enjoying an alfresco lunch, laughing, chatting, loving.  Living.  Embracing life.  So much to look forward to.

PS Yes, that is a Squirt Baby creation she's wearing!  Lucky girl!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Queen of Sponges

My Mum is the Queen of Sponges.  She makes the most magnificent sponge cakes on the planet.  They are high, light and fluffy.  Perfect!  I have never felt the need to make one.  I just wait until Mum makes one, and we get to eat some.  Perfect!  Last week I was checking out 74 Lime Lane.  Kellie had posted a pic of a shelf groaning with cook book beauties.  She was about to bake a sponge (using a Nigella recipe) using some fresh eggs.  It was a light bulb moment.  Mum had just delivered a dozen eggs fresh from a friend's farm.  I was going to tackle a sponge for the very first time.

Well, that very afternoon I was struck down with the pharyngitis I may have mentioned earlier (did I add that my throat was VERY sore?), so the sponge had to wait.  I had also wanted to use Mum's recipe - but she went on holiday.  So - the next problem - how does one choose a recipe for a sponge?  Keeping in mind I wanted to replicate the style of Mum's I consulted Margaret Fulton, and left feeling very confused.  I looked up Nigella, but I didn't want to do it in the food processor - I wanted to do it the old fashioned way (whatever that means).

In the end I went with a recipe from Australian Cuisine by Maureen Simpson.  Half of this book is dedicated to desserts.  What does that say about Australian cuisine?  After much beating and slow adding of sugar, the cake made it into the oven.  Sponge cake number one.  It's nowhere near as good as Mum's, but it is light and fresh and filled with jam and cream.  And there's not much left!

Saturday night dinner

Last week I posted the recipe for our Saturday night dinner.  And then, I was struck down with Pharyngitis (aka a really sore throat).  As a parent I've learned that, unless really sick, one doesn't succumb to one's illnesses and just soldiers on.  This one was a little different and I found myself seeking the company of the couch for a couple of days.  Nagged by my beloved, I went to the doctor on Friday afternoon.  She took one look at my throat and said "Eew!" (and kind of wrinkled her nose a bit).  I left with a prescription for antibiotics which have resulted in a miraculous recovery.

I was still feeling a little seedy on Saturday, so I made the suggestion that Mate and Marv might like to prepare dinner.  Mate was in charge of the kebabs.  Marv was in charge of the flatbreads.  The Man of the House was in charge of the BBQ.

Here's the result.  Pretty good eh?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nerd & Squirt Inc

Thankfully Mr Nerd thought to pop along to the Shirt and Skirt Market last Sunday with his camera.  Jacq and I were too busy sipping lattes and chatting to customers to take many pics - and this way, we both get to be in the shot (can you pick us?  Can you, can you?).  This was taken later in the day when the sun had come out.  We had a rather large Camelia as a backdrop, which was quite lovely.  One of the best aspects of being a marketeer (aside from meeting lovely customers!) is joining the dots when you meet other stallholders and see the faces behind blogs you are following. And the news today is that we'll be at the Shirt and Skirt for the remainder of the year - 15 & 29 November and 20 December.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

delicious. November edition

The latest copy of delicious. arrived in my letterbox today. This is what we'll be eating on Saturday night. The bread is fun to make, and it cooks on the BBQ really quickly. If you're in the right mood, children will enjoy helping to roll out the breads. Our kids love to eat food off sticks and to help themselves from a communal plate. It can make for a relaxed dinner and a fun mealtime!

Pork souvlaki with fennel and coriander seeds on toasted flatbread

Serves 4
400g pork fillet, cut into 3cm cubes
1 tbs each of coriander seeds and fennel seeds, lightly toasted, finely crushed
Olive oil, to drizzle
Thick Greek-style yoghurt,
lemon halves and iceberg salad (recipe follows), to serve

Flatbread (makes 12)

1 2/3 cups (250g) fine "00" flour*
1 2/3 cups (250g) strong (baker's) flour*
1/2 tsp baking powder
150ml milk
1/4 cup (60ml) good olive oil

For the flatbreads, sift flours, baking powder and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl. Add milk, oil and 150ml warm water and bring together with your hands. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until you have a smooth, pliable dough. This will take about 15 minutes of vigorous activity. Add a little extra water until you achieve a moist, light but not sticky dough. (If you're lazy, use an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead for 10-12 minutes until you have a smooth dough.) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside in a warm spot for 30-60 minutes to allow the dough to relax.

Meanwhile, thread pork cubes onto 4 metal or soaked bamboo skewers and rub all over in the crushed seeds - loads will fall off as you cook. Chill until needed.

Divide the dough into 12 x 70g balls. On a floured surface, roll each portion out into 3mm-thick rectangles.
Preheat a lightly oiled barbecue hotplate to medium and the grill to medium-high. Shake excess flour from dough and cook on the hotplate in batches for 3-4 minutes each side until light golden and cooked - the dough will bubble slightly and lift off the plate. If desired, transfer to the grill for a further minute each side until charred.
Drizzle skewers with oil and cook on the grill in batches for 1-2 minutes on each side until cooked through. Serve with flatbreads, yoghurt, lemon and salad.
* Available from gourmet food shops and selected supermarkets.

Recipe and pic from

Fruit loaf heaven

I love a rustic bakery.  My Dad a thing for high-tin loaves with slightly burnt crusts.  I find it hard to go past a dense fruit loaf like this one.  When purchasing the first coffee for the day at the Convent Bakery on Sunday, I saw these continental fruit loaves.  I knew I had to have one.

It took a little while to get back - and there it was, waiting for me - the last one.  It was meant to be.  It's a brick of a loaf, heavy with dried dates and apricots.  Just the way I like it.  A perfect snack with a cup of tea.  What's your bakery weakness?

One Lovely Blog Award (times 7)

Okay - time to announce my lovely Blog awards!  I know I said this would appear yesterday.  I never seem to achieve as much as I'd like to in a day.  And there was a dinner guest, so I made more of an effort than usual for dinner!  On the matter of dinner - the weather was fine, just right for a BBQ.  So we had chicken (marinated in yoghurt, garlic, olive oil and ground coriander), on the BBQ with salad, potato salad (from Stephanie Alexander - A Cook's Companion), crusty bread and a great shiraz.  

Back to the Blog Awards.  It's tricky - I always over think these things.  Will I offend anyone?  Will readers look at my choices and think "what the?"?  Is there an element of  the "chain letter" and peeps will be annoyed with me?  Oh, dear.  It's too easy to get it wrong!  I no particular order, here are some of the places I like to visit.  I'll soon be updating my blog-list - they're all worthy IMO!

Rosie Jones - a writer, a great all-round gal.  She encouraged me to reach out to the blogosphere and it is fun!  Thanks love!

Cottage Nerd - This special lady gave me the gentle push in the right direction.  Big, big thanks Jacq!  The Nerdy One makes beautiful skirts and you'll often find us side by side at markets.  It has been great to watch Jacq move in this direction and she just keeps getting better!

Susannah Tucker - photographer.  Love her pics, especially the ranunculus series.  They are going to be mine!

QueenLoube - the force behind the Yarraville Markets.  Lou has just started working on a new range of T's with her own illustrations adorning them.  Clever chick, this one.

Third Bird Design - Very much liking these fabric designs Deirdre!

Saffron Craig - more fabric goodness!

Nectar and Light - it looks so dreamy

Oh - and thanks once again to Emma (Little Miss Emma Designs) for being so generous and thoughtful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today is Monday

Today is Monday and that means yesterday was Sunday. Sunday meant the very first Shirt and Skirt Market for Squirt Baby and Cottage Nerd. Now, I'm not always keen on outdoor markets (as a stall-holder). There's lots more to consider - how far will we have to drag our gear, what will the weather be like, will it be dusty, will there be coffee close by, will the coffee be any good? It couldn't have been easier!

We could drive right to our stall site, we were just across the way from the bakery (which meant great coffee and food!), the weather was just right and there were lots of customers and quite a few other stall-holders we know from other markets.  Add in live music and the beautiful surrounds of the Abbotsford Convent and we had a lovely day.  We'll be back!

I thought I'd taken more snaps of the market, but obviously haven't.  I'll check with the Nerd to see whether she has some good shots of our spot.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blog Action Day '09

My fab friend Rosie is a writer and we go waaay back. Her Fangirl Sings the Blues post today talked about this thing called Blog Action Day '09.  Apparently the topic this year is climate change.  It's a subject close to our hearts.  We may live in a big city but it doesn't mean we are numptys when it comes to the environment.  Over the past couple of years we have made some significant changes to our lives - we now own only one car, have a bike trailer to transport the younger children, we live within walking distance of school and kinder, we have rainwater tanks, are in the process of going solar and have a modest veggie patch.

Then there's the recycling.  We think we're pretty good at it, but there are moments when we aren't perfect.  That's my resolution for this day.  I'm going to buy a Bokashi bucket tomorrow and then for the coming week, be exceptionally vigilant and ensure waste goes where it should.  Despite out efforts our rubbish bin is usually full at the end of the week.  Fingers crossed, at the end of the coming week, there will be space in that bin - stay tuned for an update!  This challenge will start on Monday - let's see if this family of six can reduce the amount of landfill even further..

Drum roll please...

Still wondering if we'll ever get a good night's sleep again, it often seems I'm stumbling through life!  Never enough time to do all the things I'd like to - like renovate this blog, the website, the etsy shop, the still-in-planning on-line shop.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when Little Miss Emma bestowed this award upon this blog! 

Little Miss Emma was my very first Etsy customer, and therefore holds a special place in the life of Squirt Baby.  Emma lives what seems a rural idyll, not far out of Melbourne.  Her blog reminds me what it was like to be passionate about one's home and surroundings, before children arrived and their needs became the main focus!

So here's the deal - now it's my turn to nominate 15 blogs I have discovered.  I'm going to keep you in suspense until Monday!  As mentioned below, Cottage Nerd and I are off to Shirt and Skirt on Sunday (on short notice), so now I'm in a production frenzy, trying to finish off garments that I have on the go.  And I want to consider a range of blogs carefully, and I'm going to end up over-thinking it and it will drive me crazy!  

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Breaking News

As if there wasn't enough going on, Cottage Nerd and I are off to the Shirt and Skirt Market this Sunday October 18th.  Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Helliers Street, Abbotsford.

We haven't tried it before and it's very last minute, but we are really looking forward to it.  Nerd and Squirt under the same canvas roof, drinking coffee, meeting the locals, doing a fair amount of talking and generally enjoying a day away from family responsibilities!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This is Lucky Kali

This is our "puppy" Kali.

She's 12.  Kali is fantastic with children, reasonably well-behaved and has bounced back from a number of health issues.

Today is a lucky day for her and for us.

We have a gate in our back fence which leads us to "our" park.  We use that gate a lot, and walk through the park to get to school and kinder.  This afternoon as we left to do the school pick-up it was incredibly windy and, unbeknown to me, the gate did not latch properly.  We were gone for about 40 minutes, and as we returned home I saw the open gate and my heart sank.

Kali loves the park with all it's smells and things to wee on.  She doesn't like to be left alone, so I can only imagine her joy when the gate opened and she had an opportunity to try and follow us.  She has never been out by herself before.  

When I saw the gate open, I knew she was gone.  I had a moment of panic.  This has never happened before.  Tuesday is my car-less (and careless, apparently) day, so I couldn't bundle everyone in to go looking.  I had a quick run around the park - no sign.  Tried to ring my husband, unsuccessfully.  Then I thought - Kali's collar has my old mobile number on it.  I still have the mobile, but of course the battery is completely flat.  Fumbled for the charger, connected it up and amazingly there was a message.

She had been found, trotting along a nearby busy road and was now safe in someone's yard.

I like to think I'm a fairly calm person, and can keep my emotions under control.  I rang Penelope and promptly turned into a blithering mess.  Penelope's first impression of me won't be a great one, that's for sure!

With four children and a small business to run, Kali often seems like just one more job on a big long list.  Today, when I thought I'd lost her, she became the most important thing in my life (for a few minutes at least).  After 12 years I felt as though I'd let her down and if something dreadful happened, or she disappeared into the ether it would be my fault.  She doesn't deserve that.  Each morning is a new start for Kali - she greets us with great enthusiasm and then settles down for a day of snoozing on her mat once she's eaten her breakfast.  After some major surgery back in April, she's become rather clingy.  Kali likes to be close, she doesn't like to be alone.  Yet, she really seems to have enjoyed herself today.  When I rendezvoused with Penelope in the park, Kali was in no hurry to go home - she was having a ball and is completely UNREPENTANT!!

PS Kali is microchipped and wears a tag with my number on it.  It works!  She made it home to us.  We haven't spent countless hours looking, ringing around vet clinics and animal hospitals.  The children are relieved, I'm relieved and even though she doesn't look it, I'm sure Kali is relieved too!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Personal shoppers only

Tomorrow night my beloved and I are off to a party - minus the kids (they're getting themselves excited about the sleepover at Nana's).  I don't pay myself the attention I deserve *g* - so I decided some new underwear was in order to complement the new outfit, shoes, bag (all right, so I went a little overboard).

I've learned over the years that no matter how annoying, it's important to try on bras before purchasing them.  Have any of you tried on a bra with children present? I take a deep breath, choose a large cubicle (big enough to fit a pram, myself, and however many children are present) and spell out the rules (no opening the door being the first and most important!).

Today I'm in the changing room with Luce (2) and Im (4).  Luce is too busy crawling under the door (at least she's not opening it) to pay me any attention.  Im, on the other hand is transfixed.  She loves the pretty bras I've picked out and is busy making suggestions and offering a running commentary.  Then the pearler of the day (in a very loud four-year-old voice): "Mum, I love your bosoms, they look nice and they're big and round".  She makes me laugh, that one!

Yarraville Markets Tomorrow!

This is it - Yarraville Markets

Note the earlier closing time

Note the 2-day market

Note that Squirt Baby will be there Saturday only

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy birthday Luce!

This is Luce contemplating the platform at Muckleford as our train departs for Maldon.

Luce turned 2 on Sunday, and we had a day out to celebrate.  Off to Maldon for a trip on a steam train.  It was fun!  We had our own compartment.  The windows were open and we all took turns to stick our heads out as we travelled along.  Recent rains have given the area a green tinge, and the trip to Muckleford was pretty.  We waved to cars at the crossings, and the car passengers waved back with equal enthusiasm.  What is it about steam trains that puts people in a good mood??

By chance, there was a family day set up around Maldon station.  Animal nursery, jumping castle, model railways and lots more.  As we were about to leave, the children begged for a ride on a coach pulled by Rosie and Bubbles.  These grand grey ladies took us for a ride.  Mate and Marv were given the opportunity to "drive" and they were thrilled.

We were out all day - something we don't usually do when little people still need day time sleeps.  Luce had a great time, and slept all the way home in the car.  It meant there wasn't time to make the giraffe cake she'd asked for, but seemed happy with the pink-iced cup cakes whipped up.  However, we are determined to make that giraffe cake this week. Who said birthdays only go for one day?

Happy birthday my baby girl!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Today's to-do list

Finish unpacking the shopping

Make a cake (and take a photo for another blog entry)

Download photos from camera

Update website

Talk to website designer and finally decide what I want!!!

Update Etsy shop

Set up on-line shop

Cut out the new shorts pattern

Stop feeling guilty about the amount of money I spent on fabric today

Make a glam party frock from a Vintage Vogue pattern

Move the last item to the top of the list because I need it for the weekend!

Whip up a fab dinner

Vac the floors

Remember to pick up the kids from school

Return the horribly overdue library books

Post an interesting blog item

Fiddle about with the blog to update/make it prettier/learn something new etc

Keep an eye on the weather cos there's washing on the line

Stop, take a deeeep breath, be thankful for what we do have and refuse to be overwhelmed by it all!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The first day of the rest of our (cyber) lives

For such a momentous occasion we stayed up late and watched the clock tick over to midnight.  Then my beloved and I jumped on-line and took delight at the speed with which we were able to surf the net.  You see, today is the first day of our new Plan.  The old one gave us 2GB before we were shunted off into dial-up-speed-land.  Now we have 10GB.  Woohoo!!

For what seems like an eternity (although I think it's only been a week and a half) dial-up speed has been our lot.  It is tortuous!!!  I have been attending to essentials, but avoiding everything else.  There's no stopping me now!  I have comments to respond to, emails to send, blogs to visit and lots of other stuff.  Now I only need to overcome my other issues - school holidays, the Sister's Market on Saturday (why is there always that last minute panic?) and play-dates.  Then, more important than all the other stuff - Luce's 2nd birthday on Sunday.

More about everything - later!