26 December 2016

Holiday sewing

It's holiday time here so my thoughts turn to sewing. If you're looking for a simple quilt project to make during your holidays, I have a free quilt pattern for you!



This is my Sunshine on Roses quilt, called that because the yellow and pink colours remind me of the dappled sunshine on the petals of the pink rose in my garden. Aah... summer!

Please enjoy my gift to you and enjoy making your own version of Sunshine on Roses. I'd love to see your photos. 

19 December 2016

A new quilt project!

I haven't done much sewing this year because other projects and activities have claimed my time. It's been a wonderful year, with much to celebrate and I'm grateful for all that I've experienced.

But I do long for handwork. Meditative stitching is a great pleasure for me and I've been looking for a project that will challenge and entertain me. Now I've found it - a new BOM project designed by my friend, Sarah Fielke 


Down the Rabbit Hole it is! (Except I'll be doing the floral border option, not the bunnies.)

Sarah has produced these colouring-in sheets to help participants choose fabric colour combinations. Colouring is enjoyable and I've taken out my box of gorgeous Derwent pencils to get started. Such fun!

Colouring will also help keep us occupied while we are waiting for our first cutting and sewing instructions (due at the end of January).

If you'd like to make the BOM, too, you can read about it here. The dedicated Facebook group is already rocking! 

12 December 2016

My book of the month: December

I enjoy Josephine Moon's stories. They are uplifting and show us that all families have complexities and secrets. The Beekeeper's Secret has an added bonus: the joy of a character's relationship with nature.


The beekeeper character is ex-nun Maria, who has tucked herself away on a secluded mountain to serve what she sees as penance for past events she experienced in the Catholic Church. Her relationship with the bees she cultivates is personal and insightful and I loved the interaction they had.

A happy ending? Of course. That's the pleasure of this novel; it kept me engaged and left me feeling satisfied.

Read more about The Beekeeper's Secret on Goodreads.

05 December 2016

Studio inspiration

For issue 82 of Quilters Companion magazine, I was fortunate to share with readers a peek of Prue Noonan's textile studio.


Writing about other quilters' studios is always a privilege. I love learning about how they are set up and how materials are stored. Best of all, I enjoy describing the ways a quilter uses her space to create unique textile pieces. 

Issue 82 is currently on sale, so you can read about Prue's studio, too!

28 November 2016

Do you know about BookBub?

I discovered BookBub only a few weeks ago and, since then, have enjoyed receiving daily alerts about discounted and free ebooks. You may like to try it, too?


How does it work?

You join online here (it's free) and then choose the types of books you like to read and the authors you want to follow. Every day after that, you will receive a brief email with links to limited-time free and discounted ebooks. You can then browse the deals and download your selected ebooks to whichever of your devices you prefer.

Why would you want this?

You may discover stories you would never have come across before, by authors you've not read before. I have downloaded over ten new-to-me novels since I started using BookBub. 

How come it's free?

BookBub is a marketing tool for authors to connect with readers and they (or their publishers) pay for their books to be featured. All authors want to expand readership of their books so it's a win-win! You can read about BookBub's marketing tips for authors here

Here's a sample screen showing some of the ebook offers tailored to my selections. You can change your selections at any stage.



So, if you would like to widen your reading habits and you like to read ebooks (I know a lot of you prefer print format but BookBub won't help with that), why not try it? It's fun and easy.

21 November 2016

Can you change it?

Life can be complicated but some people seem to make it even harder than it needs to be. My philosophy is simple: I try to avoid worrying about events I can't control and, instead, attempt to work out what I can change to achieve what I want for my life. 


There are only two answers to this question - yes or no - so the choices are clear.

Can you change it? YES

Do it. Take whatever action required to make the change. 

It may be able to be changed quickly or could take ages. My step away from my 22 years of work in a public library into the world of quilt magazine writing and editing took me several years and a huge leap of faith to achieve but I did it. Now I combine the two work strands and am happier for it. 

Never lose faith if you want to make a change in your life.

Can you change it? NO

Stop whining. You can't change everything you want to be different.  

No one wants to read streams of complaints about how you don't like the government or the weather. Can you change either of these things? If you can, do something about it (good luck with changing the weather - it's more powerful than you). If you can't, stop grumbling about them.

Go find something else to make your life happier.  

Does this seem too simplistic? It's not always straightforward but it works. Go on, try it - I dare you!

14 November 2016

Character building: architect

It's a long process, researching and preparing to write stories. One of my current stories involves Janis who, as part of a new stage in her life, forms a relationship with an architect. 

Part of fleshing out the characters involves learning about work-related traits. This gives me a feel for the type of person I'm creating as I can work out what has attracted them to their professions. It's interesting learning about different types of jobs! 


Please say hello to my character Greg, who is an architect.

Architects:

  • have excellent communication skills; they especially know how to actively listen and negotiate
  • believe firmly in collaboration; they know that without their clients' vision and their design and building colleagues' skills, their projects will not be successful
  • are creative thinkers; they can say 'what if?' and imagine potential outcomes
  • are great with details yet can still see the big picture
  • are flexible, adaptable, and patient
  • have good drawing and sketching skills
  • are curious; again asking the 'what if?' questions
  • are multi-skilled, with knowledge of business, marketing, real estate, and construction
  • have solid technical abilities; their buildings won't fall down
  • are problem solvers; this ties in with being flexible
  • are well organised
  • have a passion for their work and a strong work ethic.
Are you an architect or do you know one? What other traits of this profession would you add to my list?

07 November 2016

My book of the month: November

Since I read so many novels, I'm always surprised and delighted when I discover a new-to-me author. I hadn't read any Chris Brookmyre books before but this one looked intriguing so I thought I'd try it.


Wow! It's a fabulous thriller, told from two perspectives: the chief murder suspect and an investigative journalist. Nothing is as straightforward as it seems. The plot twists kept me intrigued until the end was revealed!

The journalist is Jack Parlabane. This is the seventh book in the Jack Parlabane series but Black Widow certainly succeeds as a stand-alone story. I'll be immediately seeking the first six books so I can start reading from the beginning. I love discovering a new series!

You can read more about Black Widow on Goodreads

31 October 2016

Thank you, Quilters Newsletter

This is the cover of the last issue of Quilters Newsletter. Mine arrived a couple of weeks ago and I'm still sad that I won't receive any more.


The title was started in 1969 by Bonnie and George Leman. Think of how much has happened in the magazine and publishing world since then! It's a tribute to this magazine that it has survived for so long.

I still remember the first time I discovered Quilters Newsletter. It was about 1982, when I was working in my first library job. There was a patchwork shop, The Quilting Bee, a block from my workplace and I enrolled in a sampler class there. (Yes, we all made sampler quilts, didn't we?)

There weren't any Australian quilt magazines then. The first, Down Under Quilts, started in 1988 and I immediately snapped it up - I think we were all eager for information about the local quilt scene - but until then, Quilters Newsletter was my source of quilt information.

I've bought every copy of Quilters Newsletter since then. It was and still is my favourite of all the quilt magazines around because it has great articles. They are meaty and interesting and make great reading. 

I like a magazine that exposes me to different aspects of the quilt making world. I love reading about the history of our craft but I also enjoy contemporary developments. Quilters Newsletter gave me all that and more.

Thank you, Quilters Newsletter. I'll miss you.

10 October 2016

Have you ever looked at a seed pod?

I found this seed pod while I was walking around a local botanic garden and found myself immediately picking it up from the ground. The shape intrigued me.



Look at the gentle curves and the twisted shape. No flat outer shell here!



I flipped it over and looked at the other side. Its outside is tough and covered with freckles.


A closer look revealed a surface that is rock-like in its appearance, with ruddy earth-like colouring. What a clever way to protect the seeds, the life within.

03 October 2016

My book of the month: October

"I don't know. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I need help."

These four sentences are the principal guiding philosophies that Inspector Armand Gamache says inform his actions. I'd add another one that I see as evident in all his choices: "Be kind".

Gamache is the creation of Louise Penny, who has recently released the twelfth novel in this mystery series, A Great Reckoning. Each time I read the author's latest offering, I fall under the spell of the world she has created; a place inhabited by idiosyncratic characters, attempting to live as best they can in a society that is swirling with currents of cruelty and self interest.


Each time she releases a new novel, I devour it and then declare it the best she has written. A Great Reckoning shows that Louise Penny has taken her storytelling to a new level. With several plot lines intertwining and twisting through the story, this is a powerful novel that examines authority, grief, corruption, and the enduring sanctuary of Three Pines, a village that does not exist on official maps.

If you haven't read any in the Gamache series, start with the first one, Still Life. As you progress through the series, you will appreciate the masterful character development and complex story lines that sometimes take a few books to be significant. 

That is the sign of a writer at her peak. 

Visit Goodreads to read more about A Great Reckoning.   

26 September 2016

Spring citrus

I have a mandarin, a blood orange and a lemon tree, all in large pots. The lemon, a Eureka, provides fruit reliably for months on end. It's handy to have a lemon whenever I need one, without having to plan to buy one from the shop.

The mandarin and blood orange trees, though, only like to crop every second year. This year wasn't one of those years so I was a frequent purchaser at the fruit store.

Citrus are hungry trees. They respond well to regular feeding and watering so, each season, I load them with the nutrients they like best. Not only does it result in new, healthy leaves and copious flowers, as you can see on here my mandarin tree, but it also helps keep the tree healthy and able to repel insects.

That perfume! I love the gentle citrus scent from the flowers wafting across my garden.



Gyganic is my choice of food, watered in well with liquid seaweed extract. Then I add a layer of rotted cow manure and stand back to watch the growth! (Note to self: must cut off that dead twig.)

How are your citrus? Do they love food as much as mine do?

19 September 2016

Studio peeks

My writing for Quilters Companion magazine during the past year has allowed me to take peeks into the creative habits and workspaces of some fabulous Australian textile artists and quilt makers. It's such a privilege!

Just like peering through a window, I catch glimpses of how these artists arrange their spaces and go about their creative work. Even better, I get to share these glimpses with you in the magazine.

In the current issue, number 81, Sue Reid shares her passion for the colour orange.




In the last issue, number 80, Mary McArdle explains how her well-ordered workroom facilitates the creation of her textile works.




It's an honour to share these stories with readers. 

What do you like about seeing artists' studios? Do you pick up tips from their organisation or methods of working? Let us know!


Perhaps you've missed these issues of Quilters Companion? You can subscribe to the print version here or here or here. Or maybe you'd prefer a digital edition? Try here or here.

12 September 2016

My book of the month: September

This is Kelly Doust's first novel (she has written several non-fiction books) and gosh it's a great read. It honours the author's love of textiles as the story follows the journey of a glittering, hand-beaded collar through the decades since it was created in 1891.



It's such an absorbing story, focusing on desire, relationships, family and love, while also recognising that the sparkling things for which we strive aren't really that important after all. 

To read more about Precious Things, visit Goodreads.


22 August 2016

Blooming

It's still August, so we have more cold weather to experience before we can safely say that winter is over. The past few sunny days we've had in Sydney have been replaced today by cold winds and rain. 

But the plants in my garden are starting to wake up. I'm always excited by the sight of buds because that means flowers will follow and, in some cases, fruit! The miracle of plant life continually amazes and impresses me.


Nemesia




I planted this nemesia last summer, to fill a gap in a garden bed. I was hoping for deep green foliage and a few pretty flowers but it suprised me with masses of blooms. I love the way it has spread and made its home among the other plants - it is so pretty.


Finger lime




You may remember when I planted my finger lime last year after a quest to find one in a local nursery. Well, look at it now! It's covered with tiny buds, some of which have opened this week to display the prettiest flowers. I know a lot will drop without fully developing into fruit but wow - what an impressive result! I feed it regularly with pellets of Gyganic for Fruit and Citrus, a fertiliser it obviously loves. Such a satisfying response.


Poppies 




My first poppy flower opened in the sunshine last week and I was there to photograph it after I had given the plant a drink. I adore poppies and a single punnet always gives me weeks and weeks of pleasure as I watch the buds break through their protective covering and unfurl to flaunt their petals and sexual parts. I always marvel that something so gorgeous can be such a complex organism.


So that's today in my garden. I eagerly await tomorrow, to discover what's developed overnight. What's happening in your garden right now?

15 August 2016

My book of the month: August

I do enjoy a story that has a happy ending and one that involves a bookshop is even better!


How to find love in a bookshop by Veronica Henry is about Emilia, whose father left her his bookshop when he died. It's in a valuable location for developers so she has to fight to keep her struggling business alive and out of their hands.

The power of stories in people's lives cannot be underestimated. In this book, several plot strands intertwine to show how books can change lives and help romances develop. A very satisfying novel.

Read more about How to find love in a bookshop on Goodreads.

08 August 2016

Simplifying

Sometimes pulling together all the threads of our lives seems totally overwhelming. I know I often have so many decisions to make - some large but mostly small - that I become paralysed with indecision. That's not how I want to live my life.

So I'm simplifying, paring back.

Over the past few years, I've been consciously considering what adds value to my life and what drags me down. People, objects or activities - if they don't enhance my life, I'm moving away from them. My clothes are due for another huge clear out, as are my craft materials. If I haven't worn or used them, they will go. I know that will free physical space but it will also give me the mental space to enjoy my life more.



Avoiding stories of the horrific events that occur in our world is another way I am clearing space. Such events have always happened but today's social media spreads the news so much more than traditional media of the past ever could. I don't need constant streams of this sort of news. 

I like a simple life. My favourite place in the world is my home. I don't need the constant stimulation of travelling or groups of people; that exhausts my sociability limits. At home, by myself or with my partner - that's what I cherish.

Life is good.  

18 July 2016

Three things

I have plenty of things to like this week but here are three of them.

1. Mandarins

How delicious are these? They are bountiful in the fruit stores but there isn't a single one on my tree this year. My tree seems to fruit every second year so I'm looking forward to the next winter season!


2. Camellias

I cut some beautiful camellia blooms from my Dad's garden on the weekend and floated them in the only large bowl I have, a pasta bowl (perhaps not exactly the style I was looking for!). Three different types, all gorgeous.


3.  Playschool's 50th anniversary

To celebrate this anniversary, guest presenters have been involved in episodes. Here you can see Adam Goodes read Counting Aussie Animals in my Backyard. It's so darn cute!

What do you like this week? 

11 July 2016

My book of the month: July

I do enjoy a good romance novel. This genre usually has some kind of challenge in the story line but they always have positive endings, and I'm all for adding more positivity to the world.

This is one of the most engrossing romance novels I've read recently. It doesn't have a traditional happy ending but that's okay; real life doesn't always give us happy endings, either. Yet, I still felt satisfied after reading the story of Scott and Frankie, who met by chance and fell in love. The fact that they lived thousands of miles apart didn't stop them choosing each other.

Read more about The Turning Point on Goodreads.

04 July 2016

Hello July

I've freshened the look of my blog in honour of the new month. There's been a lot of happy changes in my life in the first half of this year so I wanted Creative Dabbling to reflect those changes. Let's focus on the positive parts of our lives!

You'll see that I have added a new Gardening link at the top of the blog. For a while, I toyed with a separate gardening blog but it felt odd to me; as if I had a split personality! I've added my gardening posts to Creative Dabbling so, if you are interested in my garden musings, this is the first place for you to visit. I may add links on other specific subjects soon.

I'm interested to know what type of posts you would like to read here. Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion; I always like to hear what you think. Thanks to everyone who does leave comments - they are greatly appreciated! 

Enjoy this month and, if it's winter where you are (like it is here in Sydney), stay warm!

06 June 2016

It was wild!

The weather was wild along our east coast this weekend, with torrential rain, strong winds and huge waves. It seemed as if it would go on forever but it never does. 

Today is windy, helping to dry the ground. To prove the low front has moved away, the clouds broke up and there were patches of blue sky. All things pass.


23 May 2016

My book of the month: May

Oh this is a most wonderful story. It only took five pages to hook me and, I confess, books rarely do that to me so quickly!


Set in England, there are two threads to the story. The first starts in 1796 with Jane Austen and shows us the development of her novels and her relationship with mentor, Richard Mansfield. The second thread is set in the present day and tells how Sophie Collingwood traces a literary mystery.

If you enjoy old books, Jane Austen, mysteries, and love, then First Impressions is for you. I loved it.

Read more about First Impressions on Goodreads.

11 May 2016

Three things

So many things to like, but here are three that I like this week.

1. Colour in the shops

Gorgeous teapots, spotted in T2 yesterday. Thanks for allowing me to snap this shot!


2. Shapes in the garden

The beautiful shapes of a tree fern, silhouetted against the sky.



3. Reading Harry Potter

I've never read this series before and am enjoying immersing myself in the first book. So many new stories to discover!

What things are you enjoying this week?

03 May 2016

My book of the month - April

I missed posting this in April but you won't mind that, will you?

This is the 17th novel in the Alexandra Cooper series and I enjoyed it more than the earlier ones. I loved the change of point of view for most of the book; the first 70 or so pages is from Alex's perspective but the rest is Mike Chapman's. This revealed the man behind the tough NYPD cop; something we haven't understood too easily in previous books.

Yes, there still was New York history - it was essential to the plot - but not too much. Normally the books in this series are packed full of historical facts that seem superfluous to the story. These are the pages I skim and immediately forget. The author's change of style is a welcome one for me.


You can read more about Devil's Bridge on Goodreads.

20 April 2016

Tree ferns

I enjoy the shapes and colours of plants that I see on my walks. These tree ferns at The Australian Botanic Garden caught my eye last month, so I snapped these photos. Such graceful forms!





Life up close

Give me a new toy and play will follow! I recently bought an inexpensive macro lens to attach to my tablet so I could gain a different perspective on common things around me. 


This is a section of my pine table top. More battered than I thought!


Detail of a woven placemat.


A piece of scrambled egg. Gross! Perhaps it's not always desirable to see objects in such detail?



05 April 2016

Creativity interpreted

Creativity is an elusive concept; explaining how it works is intensely personal. I'm always fascinated by individuals' understanding of the process. 


If you're in Australia, I recommend you watch Matilda and Me on iview (it's available there until 18 April). It's the story of Tim Minchin and how he came to write the music for Matilda: the Musical, a most wonderfully joyful musical, which I thoroughly loved.

I was taken by his description of his process and how all his creativity comes out of his head through his fingers and into the piano keys. Wonderful viewing.

04 April 2016

Rain drops

My garden was grateful for the drizzly rain that fell yesterday. It wasn't much and it wasn't heavy, but every drop was captured and enjoyed. May there be more soon!



I snapped this photo of the drops as they gathered on the leaves of my nasturtiums. Life-giving!

22 March 2016

In the Studio with Brenda Gael Smith

Ooh! Have you seen the current issue of Quilters Companion magazine? No? Well if you want to read my latest article (and other great quilty articles), you should get one - pronto!


What a beautiful design on the cover - it's Garden Friends, a bed runner by Marg Low.

If you turn to page 18, you'll be able to read my article about Brenda Gael Smith's fabulous studio - the one with the most stunning view over Copacabana beach. Envious much?


I love hearing about how quilters set up their sewing spaces. So many different places and so many ways! We can all pick up a tip or two for our own spaces; or we can simply dream of how our ideal studios might look one day.  

21 March 2016

Oncidiums

This beautiful flowering orchid came to live at my home when a friend moved to Perth. She generously gave me the pick of her potted plants, since she couldn't take them to the other side of the country when her family moved.


I chose this oncidium orchid on her advice. It wasn't flowering when I took it home so I had no idea what a treat it would be in bloom. Isn't it stunning? I have since divided it into several plants and they are all flowering at present, lighting up my autumn garden. 


They are such easy care - I must look out for other ones! Read how to care for oncidiums.

15 March 2016

My book of the month: March

Grand Slam is the third in Kathryn Ledson's Erica Jewell series. You can read it as a stand-alone story but I recommend you start with the first book, Rough Diamond, so that you can understand the context of some events.


Erica Jewell is a great character. She has a full-time job in PR and, in this story, manages Dega Oil's sponsorship of the Australian Open tennis tournament. As events unfold, she also finds herself 'managing' star tennis player Emilio Méndez, the Open's biggest drawcard and quite a challenge. Oh, and did I mention she is trying to find out who is attempting to kill them both?

This story is a great romp through Melbourne and the erratic life of Erica. It's funny and fast-paced; there's adventure and romance. A great read.

Visit Goodreads to find out more about this book.

07 March 2016

Saving seeds

As much as I love gardening, I confess I often have failures. Plants that don't thrive, leaves that are distorted, or infestations of pests (and yes, I include possums in that category!). It's the small successes, though, that keep me pottering in my garden.



These are the flowers of garlic chives. I don't always eat all the garlic chives I grow because I love to see the flower heads develop. Gorgeous clusters of petals attract the bees, and that's to be encouraged in any garden.

Once the flowers are fully open and starting to show seeds, I cut them off and let them dry in a brown paper bag. Now is the time for me to do that in my garden. As the juices disappear, the petals become husks and pop open to reveal their treasure - seeds.



I shake the black seeds free of their cases and store them in paper. Next spring, I will sow the seeds in the earth and start the cycle of life again. Immensely satisfying.

29 February 2016

Three things

I confess I've been more active on my Facebook page than I have been on this blog during February. I enjoy the immediacy of popping a quick post there and having a dialogue with you. If you are on my page, please say hi!

In the meantime, here are three things I like this week.


1. Resilience

I survived a traumatic event when my car was swamped by storm water. Yes, I was in it and yes, the car was written off. It was an experience I certainly hadn't predicted.

That was a month ago and I have successfully moved on. Old car drowned and gone; new car purchased and being enjoyed. Onwards.

2. Removing barriers

The joy of trust, vulnerability, openness and love. Not much more to say about that here, really. 

3. The end of summer

On the calendar only, but it's a psychological highlight of my year. We'll have another month of hot weather and high humidity but at least I know it is coming to an end. Finally.

Bossa Nova

This gorgeous begonia came into my life last month; as soon as I spotted it in the nursery, I knew it belonged in my garden.



It comes from Floranova, and is one of the Bossa Nova series of Begonia bolivensis. They were developed with red, white, rose, or orange flowers - look at the glorious shades on mine!

Perfect for baskets or pots, these begonias have a cascading habit and stay smothered with bell-shaped flowers from mid-summer onwards. Simply gorgeous.
  

09 February 2016

My book of the month: February

Look, if you haven't read any of the 44 Scotland Street series, you're missing some beautiful writing. Alexander McCall Smith is such a wonderful observer of life and its idiosyncrasies and he expresses these so cleverly through his characters. 




This is the tenth book in the series. You could start with The Revolving Door of Life but I don't recommend that. Start with the first title (44 Scotland Street) to discover the gently intertwined lives of the residents, all described charmingly by the author.
 
Delightful yarns, amusing stories and fascinating glimpses into McCall Smith's Scotland. What's not to love?

You can read more about The Revolving Door of Life on Goodreads.