Inspired by poppies…

Inspired by poppies…

We went to Centennial Park today. It was a gorgeous day. Eoin did a few laps on his bike and I took Lily to feed the ducks.

We came upon some absolutely beautiful poppies. I love poppies. When I was little I used to love opening the poppy buds and  un-crumpling the petals. Today, poppies really got me back into photography for a brief moment…

Despite being 34 weeks pregnant I was lying on my back, rolling around in the dirt, and pointing my iPhone up towards the sky to capture the gorgeous colours of the petals. I have to say, I’m very impressed with the quality of the photos on the iPhone 5. I usually carry my Canon G12, but it’s good to know I can use my phone if I leave my G12 at home (or indeed my Canon D30, which doesn’t get to go out much at all these days!!).

Poppy12

Poppy5 Poppy8

Poppy1 Poppy7 Poppy4 Poppy2 Poppy13 Poppy14 Poppy9 Poppy11

The Church Mice series by Graham Oakley

The Church Mice series by Graham Oakley

The Church Mice At Christmas by Graham Oakley…

6.The Church Mice At Christmas 6.The Church Mice At Christmas 2

…I can’t remember who or when I was given this book, but I do remember that it was a Christmas present (I think I would have been somewhere between 8 and 10 years old when it was given to me). It has really left its mark on me for some reason and is without a doubt my favourite book as a child. I was born on 27th December and my birthday has always been mixed up with everything to do with Christmas (I don’t mean that in a bad way… that’s just the way it was) and Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year. I love the Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, the snow, and shopping in the dark, cold evenings when all the Christmas lights are on… it’s just magical (this is one thing I really, REALLY miss now that I’m living in Australia!). The Church Mice At Christmas has all that: the dark cold nights covered with stars, the snow, streets lit with Christmas lights, and people rushing in and out of shops to do last minute Christmas shopping. But one image in the book really stuck with me, and that’s a Father Christmas coming through the church door:

6.The Church Mice At Christmas 4

I always felt that if there ever really was a Father Christmas then that’s just how he would look like.

A few years ago I realised there was a whole series of books written about my favourite little Church Mice so I have been collecting them ever since. I now own 8 out of the 12 books written.

As per the title of the books the main characters of this series are mice that live in a church in a small English town. The other main protagonist, as can been seen in the artwork on the front covers, is Sampson the church cat who doesn’t eat or chase mice, and always takes part in the church mice’s little adventures.

The books are written and illustrated by the English author Graham Oakley. I love both the narrative and the artwork. The stories are imaginative and well written, and the artwork is just so full of detail and often humorous (I love the facial expressions and the clothing people wear).

The Church Mouse (first published 1972)

1.The Church Mouse 1 1.The Church Mouse 1.The Church Mouse 2 1.The Church Mouse 3 1.The Church Mouse 4 1.The Church Mouse 5

The Church Cat Abroad (first published 1973)

2.The Church Mice Abroad 1 2.The Church Mice Abroad 2.The Church Mice Abroad 2 2.The Church Mice Abroad 3 2.The Church Mice Abroad 4 2.The Church Mice Abroad 5

The Church Mice & The Moon (first published 1974)

3.The Church Mice & The Moon 1 3.The Church Mice & The Moon 3.The Church Mice & The Moon 2 3.The Church Mice & The Moon 3 3.The Church Mice & The Moon 4 3.The Church Mice & The Moon 5

The Church Mice Adrift (first published 1976)

4.The Church Mice Adrift 1 4.The Church Mice Adrift 4.The Church Mice Adrift 2 4.The Church Mice Adrift 3 4.The Church Mice Adrift 4 4.The Church Mice Adrift 5

The Church Mice At Bay (first published 1978)

5.The Church Mice At Bay 1 5.The Church Mice At Bay 5.The Church Mice At Bay 2 5.The Church Mice At Bay 3 5.The Church Mice At Bay 4 5.The Church Mice At Bay 5

The Church Mice At Christmas (first published 1980)

6.The Church Mice At Christmas 1 6.The Church Mice At Christmas 6.The Church Mice At Christmas 2 6.The Church Mice At Christmas 3 6.The Church Mice At Christmas 4 6.The Church Mice At Christmas 5

The Church Mice In Action (first published 1982)

7.The Church Mice In Action 1 7.The Church Mice In Action 7.The Church Mice In Action 2 7.The Church Mice In Action 3 7.The Church Mice In Action 4 7.The Church Mice In Action 5

The Church Mice and the Ring (first published 1992)

8.The Church Mice and the Ring 8.The Church Mice and the Ring 2 8.The Church Mice and the Ring 3 8.The Church Mice and the Ring 4 8.The Church Mice and the Ring 5 8.The Church Mice and the Ring 6

Another four books have been published in this series which I don’t have (and am obviously trying to get my hands on!) :

  • The Church Mice Spread Their Wings (first published 1975)
  • The Diary of a Church Mouse (first published 1986)
  • Humphrey Hits the Jackpot (first published 1998)
  • The Church Mice Take a Break (first published 2000)
Social Cataloguing

Social Cataloguing

I discovered Social Cataloguing on Friday and spent a bit of time over the weekend looking into it. I’d never heard about it before and came upon it completely by accident. I found (and bought, of course!) a children’s book at my local charity shop which brought back childhood memories and I wanted to find out more about the illustrators. So I ran a search in Google and came across a blog which had a load of images of book covers running down the side of it. It attracted my attention immediately, mainly because there were a lot of books (all children’s books) that I recognised. I thought: ‘that’s interesting!’. Anyway, I had a closer look and saw that it was a ‘Shelfari bookshelf’: ‘what’s that?’ I wondered… so I then ran a Google search on Shelfari, and the rest is history: I had discovered Social Cataloguing.

I thought: ‘I need one of those, i.e. a bookshelf widget, on my blog for my collection of children’s books.’ So yesterday, after spending several hours looking into Social Cataloguing for books, and seeing what people were saying about the various applications available (Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and others), I decided to go with LibraryThing and I set up an account.

I set up a LibraryThing account, added 8 books (my Victoria Plum books) and created a widget, which would allow me to display 14 books covers on my blog for everyone to see. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get the LibraryThing widget to display on my blog, which has been very, VERY disappointing!!! The best I have been able to do is put add a link to my LibraryThing catalogue at the top left hand corner of my blog. So if you click on the little red and black LibraryThing icon that will redirect you to my LibraryThing catalogue (there are only 8 books in there at the moment, but I will be adding my whole collection).

What has drawn me to this Social Cataloguing business is the potential to discover so many more interesting children’s books by viewing what other members (those that have the same books as me) have in their collections, and potentially exchanging ideas and discussing books with them. I don’t know anyone around me who is as obsessed with children’s books and collecting them as me, so I don’t have anyone to share my passion with (except of course my 2 year old daughter – I love it when she gets hooked on a book and we have to keep reading it over and over… I get to experience the story and artwork through her eyes).

I realised after a while that WordPress (which is the blogging application I used to set-up my hobbymum blog)  supports the Goodreads bookshelf widget, so I went and set-up an account with Goodreads (in the same way I did with LibraryThing), but when I tried to add the same 8 Victoria Plum books I had added to my LibraryThing account, I wasn’t able to add all of them. It turns out Goodreads don’t have all 8 of my Victoria Plum books in their database and unless I’m a ‘Librarian‘ I’m not allowed to add them manually into my catalogue! How annoying is that!!! So I’m glad I chose to go with LibraryThing. It’s just a shame I can’t use their full widget on my blog.

Anyway, I have done a lot of thrift shopping over the last couple of weeks and found some great stuff, but I haven’t had a chance to post any information about my little finds as yet. Hopefully I will get round to it next week. I’ve been trying to clear a lot of stuff out of the store room and have been posting it on eBay, which is very time consuming. I want to get it done before our little baby number two arrives (due date is 16th October, so it’s count down now!).

By the way, if you were wondering what illustrators I was searching for and whose blog I came across, the illustrators are the wonderful artists Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone (I am planning to write a post on them and share the books I have of theirs) and the blog is Victoria Stitch (well worth a look).

A little Mexican oil cloth here and there…

A little Mexican oil cloth here and there…

I love the vibrant colours and patterns of Mexican oil cloth. My dinning room table is covered with a piece of Mexican oil cloth – it looks great (at least we like it) and it protects the table at the same time. It’s also very easy to wipe up any mess (my almost 2.5 year old is a very messy eater!).

Mexican Oil Cloth03  Mexican Oil Cloth02

(Note: the placemat with the ginger cat on it is a casserole stand I found this week at a charity store – in fantastic condition, Made in England, and goes perfectly with the table cloth.)

Mexican Oil Cloth04

I have two round pieces of Mexican oil cloth which I use on two round tables outside in the warmer weather.

Mexican Oil Cloth06 Mexican Oil Cloth07

I have also permanently covered another wooden table outside (I simply sewed the cloth to suit the shape of the table so it sits on it like a cover – that stops it from coming off or being blown away).

Mexican Oil Cloth05 Mexican Oil Cloth08

I recently used a piece of Mexican oil cloth to make a bag to store pegs. The plastic container we used to use broke and was in fact a bit of a nuisance because I never really had a good place to keep it. So I decided that a peg bag that I could hang up would be much more useful. I made the bag to fit over a straight wooden hanger that I had spare. The blue pattern with the oranges is one of my favourites:

Peg bag01 Peg bag02 Peg bag03 Peg bag05

Curtains

Curtains

I made some curtains for my Dad, as we couldn’t find any to fit his 2.4 x 1.1m windows (he lives in a typical little Queenslander house). All the curtains in the house look about 30-40 years old – the fabric is literally crumbling away! Anyway, this is the first set – there are 3 curtains for one set of windows (the photos only show 2 of the curtains). I still need to make another 2 sets.

My Dad chose the flower pattern fabric. When I came to make the curtains I realised I didn’t have enough fabric so I bought the green fabric for the top part (the colour of the green fabric perfectly matches the green of the leaves in the flower pattern fabric). I added some red ribbon along the join between the two fabrics to give the curtains a ‘richer’ look.

Curtain1.4 Curtain1.1 Curtain1.2 Curtain1.3

Thanks Sarah… it’s so nice to share ideas and experiences

Thanks Sarah… it’s so nice to share ideas and experiences

Thanks Sarah for your lovely comments! It’s so nice to share my ideas and passions with like minded people.

Yes – it is the search itself that’s so exciting. The child side of me likes to think of it as treasure hunting. And the wonderful thing about thrift shopping is that most weeks I do find a ‘treasure’. But it has also had a practical and economical impact on me and my family: I am a lot more price sensitive now when I go to shopping centres or department stores, as it makes me aware of the ‘real’ monetary value of things and realise that goods are mostly overpriced, and it’s all about profit for the big corporations. We (as a society – in the West certainly, and it appears to be going that way in the East too, in India, China, South Korea…) are at the mercy of the very clever marketeers. It’s all about marketing and the creation of fake emotions and experiences to get people to buy products and services they don’t necessary need, and that certainly won’t make them feel happier or provide them with more happiness if they aren’t already happy people. Anyway, I’ll stop ranting on! I’m not anti-corporations at all. I just think things have got a little bit out of hand in the last couple of decades and we are now experiencing the social, economic and environmental consequences of years of over indulgence. And with all this we have also lost some of our individuality. I think that’s why I’m drawn to children’s books (among other things) – some authors and illustrators (and ultimately, artists) seem to be so ‘individual’: they come up with unique concepts and ways at looking at the world. I find them very inspiring and refreshing. Anyway, I better take my daughter out for a play. It’s a gorgeous day outside…

Mrs Wobble the Waitress and other stories…

Mrs Wobble the Waitress and other stories…

I’m always on the hunt for books when I go to charity shops, specially children’s picture books… I simply love them! There are so many out there… so many to be discovered. You may wonder why I wouldn’t simply go to my local bookstore… well, there are a few reasons: 1) books in Australia are very expensive, and despite the strong Australian dollar over the last couple of years, the prices have remained high. Children’s paperback picture books can cost anywhere between $14-$20, and I get them for a $1 or $2 in charity shops; 2) a lot of books in charity shops are like new (probably someone’s unwanted Xmas or Birthday present). In any case, I’m very often surprised at how little some books have been worn out, and therefore, not been read; 3) buying secondhand books is a great way to come across books that are out of print and wouldn’t be available from ordinary bookstores, and it’s also a great way to discover unusual books.

I found some great children’s books this week at one of my local charity shops, all in excellent condition, and several from very well know authors.

Mrs Wobble the Waitress by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg (paperback, 1980)

I loved this book as a child. Mrs Wobble  the waitress (and wife and mother of two) wobbles when she serves food, which is a bit of a disaster for her and her family, and their little cafe business, as she spills food all over their customers. But her husband and two children come up with a fun solution to cope with Mrs Wobble’s wobbly ‘handicap’ and she becomes the main attraction in their newly refurbished cafe, with customers travelling from far away just too see Mrs Wobble in action.

Wobble Wobble 1 Wobble 2

Gorilla by Anthony Browne (paperback, 1992 – first published in 1983)

I had never heard of this book before but I picked it up because of it’s incredible illustrations.

With only a few words on each page it’s the carefully crafted illustrations that tell us the story of a young girl called Hannah who spends most of her time alone because her father is either too busy or too tired to spend time with her. Hannah loves gorillas and dreams of going to the zoo one day to see them. Her father gives her a toy gorilla for her birthday…

And you will have to read the book yourself to find out what happens!

Gorilla Gorilla 1 Gorilla 2 Gorilla 3

Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess (first paperback edition, 2010)

I love Neil Gaiman’s work. He’s an amazing storyteller. I hadn’t heard of Blueberry Girl but bought it because it was a ‘Neil Gaiman’ book. Well, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a beautiful lullaby, very tastefully illustrated by Charles Vess. Absolutely fantastic!

Blueberry

Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak (paperback, 2002 – first published in 1981)

Maurice Sendak has an incredible imagination. Not sure where he gets his inspiration from… maybe his stories come to him in dream. He’s certainly very unique. Where The Wild Things Are is his most famous picture book. I found this one: Outside Over There. The artwork is beautiful and the story very unusual. I wonder what children make of it…

 Outside over there Outside over there 1
 

I Spy: Transport in Art compiled by Lucy Mickelthwait (paperback, 1996)

I think this is a great little book to get children interested in art (and it contains one of my all time favourite paintings, A winter scene with skaters near a castle by Hendrick Avercamp, which prompted me to buy the book).

I Spy I Spy 1 I Spy 2 I Spy 3

Hug by Jez Alborough (hardback, 2000)

This was one of my daughter’s favourite books when she was a baby/small toddler, but we only had the small board book version, so when I came across this first hardback cover edition I didn’t hesitate two seconds – the illustrations look even more stunning! I don’t think this book has been read much, if at all – it’s almost like new. And for $3… what a bargain!

Hug Hug 1
Pea and Ham Soup

Pea and Ham Soup

I made pea and ham soup today for the first time ever. I’ve always loved pea and ham soup – it’s so tasty and really warms you up in the winter. I used a recipe from taste.com.au and doubled the quantities. When I make soup I always make enough for two meals plus an extra two to store in the freezer. Soups freeze really well and are easy to defrost at short notice, even without a microwave, which is great for days when I don’t really have time to cook (or am just feeling lazy!).

This recipe makes 8 good sized servings or 10 slightly smaller ones. I’m cooking for 2 adults and a toddler these days so I get 4 meals out of this recipe (2 of which I put away in the freezer).

You need to set aside a good 3-3.5 hours to make this soup, as it takes about 2.5 hours to cook, which is another good reason for making it in large quantities and freezing half.

For 8 servings you will need:

  • 580g (roughly 2 2/3 cups) of green split peas
  • 2 x 700g ham hocks
    Pea & Ham SoupIMG_7289
  • 4 carrots, peeled
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 2 onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 4 litres of cold water

If you only want to make enough for four servings simply halve the amounts listed above.

Firstly, give the green split peas a good rinse under cold running water and let them sit and drain. Then chop up the carrots, celery, and onions, and crush the garlic.

Heat up the olive oil in a large stock pot (or very large 5-6 litre saucepan) over medium heat and add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic. Stir until the onion goes soft (about 5 minutes).

Add the split peas, ham hocks and the 4 litres of water to the vegetables and put the heat on high. Once it starts to boil reduce the heat to medium/low and allow to simmer gently for 2-2 1/2 hours, or until the ham falls off the bone.

Remove from heat and allow to cool down for 5 minutes.

Take the ham hocks out and place on a chopping board. Pull all the meat off the bones and set aside, discarding the bones and any fat.

Use a blender to process the pea mixture until it’s smooth then put the meat back into it. You can season with salt and pepper, but I found that it didn’t need it.

And that’s it! Simply serve with your favourite fresh bread or toast and enjoy!