Monday, 24 December 2012

i see food

So we are finally here!
This is Xmas Eve.
I was up before 6 to go to the Vic Market. I think I only go because I love the behind the scenes bustle, looking through the backdoors into the seafood stalls. The Prosser boys were going crazy in the laneway with hoses and plastic troughs and prawns sloshing about, back in my cooking days I used to love buying from these strapping lads! I bought some cherries, apricots and grapes and sleepily headed back to the car. I dropped by de Chirico and picked up some bread on the way back, the girl was grumpy because people kept knocking on the door an hour early... hell, it's Xmas Eve!
So back home and back into bed with iced tea and an almond croissant. Of course my crazy neighbour decided to do a huge 'clean' out the back this morning (and last night at 10pm) but I wasn't in the mood for another argy-bargy with him. Our plans for a restraining order has to wait for the new year when we are all less time consumed. Good will to all men....
I'm opening the shop at 10 today and will close once the street empties later in the afternoon. The house is a mess, crap from one end to the other, boxes that need sorting and dust bunnies that need sucking up. I even need to get the couch quilt and cover washed, yesterday would have been perfect had I been more organised!
Is there a storm due this afternoon? I remember a huge Xmas Eve a few years ago when a friend and I got stuck in the shop right on close as rain bucketed down. We had the old front windows then and there was water pouring in everywhere. It seems like Xmas is always good for a downpour.
Anyway enough drivel from me.
We are open todya and then the Cottage will be having a short break and will re-open on the 2nd of January 2013.
I hope you all have a lovely Festivus and eat way too many cherries (I know I will be!). I plan to have a quiet one lolling about and reading the day away.
Much love to you all and thank you for your support!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

twas the day before the night before xmas

Random studio shot from when I was testing the light up there.
I'm opening the shop at 11 today. It's going to be hot hot hot but the shop is usually (relatively) lovely and cool on days like these. Jethro is hiding under the cushion bunk at the moment, he loathes Xmas as the shop is open everyday and it cramps his style somewhat. He views Sunday as a relaxation day, I am promising him a whole week (and a bit) of 'shop closed' as of 5pm Monday afternoon.
So today is 11-4 and tomorrow 10-4 0r 5 depending on when everyone disappears off the streets or I get bored.
I need to get the box of cherries in for the Xmas. The plan is bed, books and cherries, awash with buckets of tea.
OK better go and vacuuming.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

it's not the end... but we are getting very close

This is going to be quick....
Just about to open the shop for the day (keep getting sidetracked by early customers).
I'll be here until 5pm and opening again in the morning (will confirm time...).
Eating Beatrix brioche doughnuts to keep me going (bad I know but oh so good).
You can phone if you want to enquire about anything, email if you have lost your voice, FB if you are that way inclined or just drop in (you will have to decide how you would like to interface with us.... ha ha).
Must dash.
The world hasn't ended so retail goes on.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

i am beautiful, you are beautiful, let's be beautiful together

Jethro and I have just arisen from a nanna nap.
Whoa, the day was ON before we were ON! I didn't manage to eat breakfast and it took me until after 3pm to get it, stone cold, down my throat. I need to be much more prepared tomorrow let me tell you. Jethro is looking at me here disappointed at my lack of organisation. Perhaps I also need a thermos of tea prepared. Better snacks.
I am wondering when I will get a chance to make gingerbread. I tend to do it while I float about as shop reinforcement. Oh well, perhaps I will post it out after Xmas.
On the mail front.... if you are after something I can still Express Post out tomorrow but you must place the order by 2pm so I can wrap and get it to the post office. No promises it will arrive by Monday but you might be lucky.
Our scarves arrived yesterday and I hung them on the wall where we normally have the blanket quilts hanging. The scarves are beautiful. The colours amazing. Jethro thinks they make a worthy backdrop to his posing.
As you can tell I am still deliriously tired and can't string words together, might be best if I sign off now before I dribble on the keyboard.....
I'm attempting to get the shop open by 10am  (11am on Sunday) which means I better get some snooze in and remember to set my alarm.


A right arse of a day yesterday. I really should have stayed in bed I think! Frazzled and fried and frustrating. Then my iPhone melted down and had to be restored and I lost a pile of messages and photos...... and, in fact, in the restoration a huge pile of old photos seem to have been put back into my phone. This is not a good time of the year Technology for you to play havoc with my brain space! I'm sure there is a built in chip that makes these things play up when you are least in the right frame of  mind to deal with it. I am currently attempting a HUGE phone photo download and scrub, fingers crossed it doesn't send the phone into further conniptions.
I've also had a shouting match this morning with the crazy neighbour from down the road who thinks he is garbage monitor. The Holiday Season, what fun thou art. Whilst I am all for peace and goodwill to fellow men/women/animals, around here things can get a little inner city/mental health challenged/challenging.
After this bad start I am trying to meditate and relax as we head into the Final Countdown! A stressed and annoyed me is seriously not a good thing to have about. I am well aware of this! We need laughter and lighthearted amusements! Mugs of tea and snacks! Jethro high jinx! And perhaps a bit of present wrapping.
I have to pop off now and get the shop in order, check what we might be desperate for and whether I need to go to the studio and do a bit of making. The cushions are in a right tumble and they need a good sort out before we open the doors this morning. Cushion re-arranging is a difficult job with a shop full of people!
Anyway sorry to have bored you with phone talk and neighbourhood tensions.
This was written earlier today, about 8.30 in the morning.
Lets just say by about 1.30pm things had gone pear shaped.
On my way back from a meeting I ended up being verbally abused by the Crazy Neighbour (now spelt with capitals) and blocked from entering my own shop. I dialled 000, yep, police, the whole hog (so to speak). And out of their shops came the whole of the street, all my good neighbours, coming with support and reports. The police were great but I was, after all this, just a bit shaken and stirred. We are talking Restraining Orders and police reports.
People describe this time of the year as the 'Crazy/Silly Season', I've decided it's actually an understatement, it should be 'Right Bloody Nutcase of a Season'. Some years just seem worse than others. Friends have reported bad drivers, loony pedestrians, frayed tempers and general madness. Be careful out there on the roads folks. Look both ways crossing the street. And take it easy.

Monday, 17 December 2012

avoiding retailmas (unsuccessfully)

I've opted for a calming photo of Jethro the Cat today.
Lying in bed this morning I thought these posts were probably getting frightfully Xmas-centric and needed more cat-pics. So here's my housemate sitting atop a ladder after I closed the shop yesterday... argh trading on a Sunday, so uncivilised! Jethro knows the days of the week and loathes having the shop open on our usual day of rest. He sat on the other side of the screen door and mewed pathetically and later resorted to jumping on the mesh and hanging there staring at customers. We are looking forward to Xmas Day.
I am off to the studio shortly. There are some things to finish and some special orders for customers to do.  I must get to Officeworks too- remind me please! So here I am trying not to talk about anything Retailmas but to be honest it's just not going to work, life is centred on that at the moment. I'm planning which bills I will pay each day after the banking comes through, this is the way of the Xmas. And I am hoping to get some gingerbread baking in too although I am not feeling too hopeful on that front as it will involve the cleaning of the kitchen as well.
Ok better bust a move. I still have the shop to put to rights as I walk out the door.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


It was so dark at 8.00 this morning I could have crawled back under the covers, even the birds were doing their 'let's all hunker down' singing. I ventured out of course, got soaked in a tropical storm that only really lasted 5 minutes and came home to scoff hot Babka baguette lathered in butter, well worth the drenching.
I was a busy little mailchimp until 1am last night but finally managed to get the Xmas mail out down. It dawned on me this morning that I should have used 'socks' not 'jocks' in the subject line but it was late and I was tired. And I've just realised that all this will make no sense if you didn't get it via email.... duh!... it went out with that famous childhood Xmas carol with the doctored line of 'the shepherds washed their jocks/socks by night'. I've never been sure if it was a mondegreen or a result of sniggering childishness.
If you are feeling the need for a bit of Xmas crafting there is an article in today's Age newspaper that I submitted stuff for, 'Sixpack to spark creativity'. The fabulous Carolyn Fraser and lovely Kim Hurley from L'Uccello were also part of it. (The online links are a bit all over the place but I am sure you know where to find all of us.) I did two styles of market purses and there are some handy hints included in my instructions (hopefully surviving editing!) like not clipping corners when turning through the purses. They are simple but work out lovely and are great for kids to do with a little help. Let me know if you do them if the instructions were easy to follow.
So I'm ticking a few boxes. Mailchimp send out done, budgies unpacked, trade bead necklaces dyed and drying in front of the oven, shop floor mopped,  restocked the satchels that have sold, pianola shades picked up and in the shop, a few Xmas presents sorted, CWA Classics cookbook back in stock and we've also got copies of CWA Cake, Biscuits and Preserves now (they are the chapters on these subjects from the big CWA Classics printed as separate cookbooks, great for vegetarians who might get freaked out by the mutton bird stew recipes in the big edition).... there is a lot more to do this week.
Like make gingerbread biscuits.
And work in the shop.
And sit in front of the fan and curse the stupid humidity.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Wednesday. How did that happen??
I spent most of this hot day in the car (don't I wish I had aircon...) and ran around picking up stock and supplies. We've got a whole new batch of pianola shades in finally, I've made a new range of floral tea towel cushions and our fabulous Queen of Crochet has sent down some tea cosies for our little enamel tea pots. She's also made us some new little 4x4 square afghans perfect for use on prams and cuddling little people and also a few 6x6 ones as well.
The Cottage is like a crazed floral rainbow (?) at the moment, the satchels, the cushions, cockatoo lamps, embroidered tops..... amusing really as once upon a time by designing was all about black, black and a touch of grey. Colour- I think it's all from having Dell Queen of the Rainbow around!
I'm trying to get a newsletter out but I keep changing my mind or not concentrating and now time is ticking. Tomorrow I must do it! I must also get studio stuff done, go to the dentist, get Graham the Garbo in, make more stuff as from next Thursday I will be full time shopgirl right up until 5pm Xmas Eve.
Wish me luck!

Monday, 10 December 2012

dog day

After a right shit of a weekend we opened the shop door this morning to a wave of lovely customers. People who smiled and said hello and chatted and laughed. Thank you.
Then I hunkered down to await the delivery of the rest of our satchel stock. Fedex you really suck sometimes but you do make up for it when you know you having been bad. many phone calls later a lovely delivery lady wheeled three trolley loads full from around the corner where she'd been lucky enough to find a parking spot. The satchels priced and the boxes carted upstairs and I am now living in a room with its own cardboard fort. Jethro is not sure whether it is a giant scratching post or a play fort which he climbs and surveys his kingdom from (Jethro and his own little Game of Thrones).
We've got so many colours and sizes of satchel we don't know where to put them all. It's all a bit crazed in the shop...... perhaps we are lucky that the pianola lampshades are still not delivered.
OK. Here are the satchels.....
11" fluoro yellow, fluoro green, fluoro orange, fluoro pink, cobalt,purple, green,red, yellow, pink,vintage brown, oxblood
13" fluoro green, fluoro pink, fluoro yellow, green, red,oxblood, vintage brown, yellow, cobalt
14" fluoro pink, fluoro yellow, fluoro green, red, cobalt,green, yellow, dark brown, black,vintage brown, oxblood
15" fluoro green, dark brown, vintage brown, red,cobalt,oxblood, yellow,green, purple, pink, fluoro pink

Time to go do other things.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

sunday morning sermon

Sunday morning.
Shattered after a night of nightmares and fraught feelings.
I'm a fairly quiet type, all for the peaceful life and sometimes I find being on public show at the shop quite overwhelming. Well yesterday managed to be one of those days that knocks me about. It seems we got the overflow from the Big Design Market and being the first shop they get to I got all manner of unpleasant behaviour.
Everyone who has worked at the Cottage has  commented on how lovely our customers are, how different from other shops and maybe it is because of this, when we get someone nasty it hits like a sledgehammer. Yesterday I had the woman out to copy stock, a couple more who wanted to pick fights and be nasty, strange comments about the shop and about BDM, people who walked into the shop three paces and then huffed and walked out.... it just went on all day. Luckily I had a few friends and old customers who came by to sweeten the mix.
In situations like this I put peoples behaviour down to different styles of shopping. Most people I know shop local, shop independent and are aware that the person in the shop is quite probably the owner and works long and hard to create a retail space that is very close to their heart and personal and that having a small business is a very stressful thing. It also seems that many people at the moment think that it is OK to ask for a discount (thank you media) and those attending markets still think with a bargain hunter's market mentality. A chain store can handle a discount because, guess what, they factor it in, do you think they don't make money when a sale is on?
Anyway, here finishes the Sunday Morning Sermon.
I'm in the shop from noon to 4 and I'm not in the mood to deal with anyone's crap.
Maybe everyone will be better behaved today now that the cool change has come through.

Mrs Jones it's your turn to do the flowers next week and fill the tea urn.
Tea and cake will be served in the vestry and could the last out switch off the lights.
Thank you.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

hot sauce

I'm sneezing like.... ummm.... a kitten whose been playing under a couch. There is heat on the way today and a wind that is kicking up dust and pollen from all the plants that have gone wild from all their rain encouraged growth spurts and flowering. Hayfever in December.
It's been a crazy week at the Cottage. The excitement of the satchels arriving, the disappointment of 11 boxes delivered and 9 taking a slow boat from China (they will be here on Monday first thing supposedly....). The excitement of the bilums arriving, the disappointment of them sending the wrong ones (the ones we received are great just not the style I spent 6 months emailing about....). We restocked our enamelware after selling out on some styles/colours and a new batch of anodised milkshake beakers came in (new violet colour, still waiting on red....).
What else? I finished the scarf dresses made from vintage scarves, whipped up some tea towel cushions, made new vintage floral linen cushions and a pile of our industrial felt oven mitts (now with black, hot pink, orange, bright yellow and turquoise binding) and put out our new range of 'make your presents attractive' Xmas ribbons.
I went to the Big Design Market yesterday to check it all out. I visited all my favourite people there and looked at a lot of stuff a friend of mine described as 'same same but not different'. There is a strong sense of incestuous copying going on, it would be amusing if it wasn't also more than a little disheartening for those people who design and create excellent product. I'm wondering whether and when there will be a shift away from the marketeering approach to retail and the type of products sold in that type of environment. Anyway, there was tacos available at BDM, which is always fabulous, although I burnt my mouth in a hot sauce accident with a Taco Truck fish taco and my tongue was still numb hours later. The high price to pay for pigging out on tacos at 11 in the morning!
Damn! Where has this morning gone?? I better get moving! Shopgirl today and tomorrow. We have half our satchels in so please drop in if you want one (or two or three) and lots of other stock too!

Friday, 7 December 2012

and a cockatoo too

At the end of a fractured day yesterday I finally got into the studio and worked until sunset. When I had studios at home late nighters were common but these days my work is often split between things I do in the studio in daylight hours and things I do at home in the evenings. Once I got over the grizzly hump of wanting to be at home vegetating on the couch I settled into the work. I took comfort in my plastic cockatoo friend who kept watch from the windowsill.
I left a note in the wheatbag display tray yesterday apologising for running out so they were one of the main reasons for doing a sewing cram last night. Done. And we needed tea towel cushions. Done. And we were low on linen floral cushions as well. Done.
This morning, as Fedex has broken my heart (the other half of our delivery has got 'lost' in transit again and I'm waiting to hear if it will appear today as promised) I'm going off to the Big Design Market to have a stickybeak and chat to lovely people I know. Once again I had a moment of 'crap, should I be doing it?' when I ran into someone I know who is going to be there. I really should stay away from some people who mess with my head.So the market is on up the road and I will be in the shop all weekend, come and visit if you are in the area!
I'm doing my pre-Xmas retailer's panic if you haven't guessed. It's compounded by the bloody satchel slow-boat-to-China style of delivery and six months of plans falling through. Please forgive me if I seem frayed around the edges. I'll calm down soon. Perhaps I should just stroll around stroking a plastic cockatoo clutched in my arms. Or rock gently back and forth sitting outside under the magnolia tree. Ha!
OK, I'm starting to giggle now. Just not sure whether it is in amusement of my own wit or that the top is about to blow off my head. If you hear a steam whistling sound and a pop-and-splatter you know which it is.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

half a shipment better than none

So it appears that half our satchel stock hopped on a direct flight from Paris and the rest took a slow boat to China, then Singapore and is making its way leisurely to Sydney ⇒ Derrimut ⇒ Fitzroy. Hopefully it will all be here by Friday. It was great getting the stock today though and we've unpacked a whole pile. CamSat have got their act together and they now have lovely perfect sized cartons with inserts and they even list all the stock in each box on the outside- after the lunacy of past deliveries this was absolute heaven! They were an easy size to lug around and I don't think I've put my back out too much this time.
While waiting for the delivery I loaded a pile of stock into the new online store, enamelware, milkshake beakers, satchels, cushions, purses, salt and pepper shakers..... We have worked out postage into three prices depending on the total and all shipping in Australia is via Australia Post Express Satchels. If you want to order from the Rest of the World we will work out the shipping and let you know the total. We are using PayPal at the moment as it's always been the easiest way to go. If you have a special request we can set up a sale just for you, just drop me an email!
I worked hard in the studio yesterday and got the scarf dresses done finally, they are in the shop, a few in each size. We've been waiting since June for the satchel order but have also been waiting for our bilum order to arrive. Dealing with intermittent email access in Papua New Guinea has been an absolute pain in the patootie. Yesterday the shipment arrived. I'm going to do a post all about the bilums when a get a little time in the next few days.
OK that's it for the business-y stuff.
Time to go read my book and get some sleep.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

leicester, stansted, paris, stansted, poyle, stansted, paris.......

Seriously this Fedex tracking app is driving me crazy. Our satchels seem to just be bouncing between Stansted and Paris, with stop-overs in Leicester and Poyle. I have visions of satchels flying in formation, like birds going north/south for the Winter/Summer, wheeling and dipping over the countryside, a huge V of leather-y goodness, their buckles glinting in the light.
They are meant to be here by Friday, as in 'here, in shop', I'm thinking that is slipping out of our grasp each day. Come on Fedex! Pull your finger out! I want my satchels here NOW!

Monday, 3 December 2012

tied, tired, tried

There may have been a bit of a sleep in this morning. Monday morning between 8 and 9 is now my Sunday. Thanks to everyone who dropped in yesterday and also thanks to the people who crossed the river from TDF-OH to buy things as apparently they had sold out of some of my stock. I seem to have quite a bit to do in the studio this week. Today though I have to catch up on ordering and tracking shipments and answering emails.
The huge satchel order (20 boxes I believe....... gulp!) is on its way but the online tracking is scaring me a little as the damn things seem to be jumping backwards and forwards between various airports in Britain and occasionally popping up in Paris. I'd been hoping like the last big shipment that this one would magically appear in 2 1/2 days.... a watched shipment never arrives.... the other shipment we are waiting on is stuck in Brisbane it seems. I am not sure that online tracking is a great thing, I just get even more impatient watching as shipments circle the globe!
Better get started on things.
Lots to do and catch up on.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

thud (a girl can dream)

A quick sprint up country yesterday. I didn't stay long but I got to see one of my favourite derelict houses, perhaps not so derelict as a new roof went on a few years back.I love its big sash windows and its sunbleached weatherboards (makes me think Kevin McCloud 'the larch cladding will fade to grey'). I imagine this house with a veranda/deck running around it, sitting as if on a raft in a sea of meadow/paddock. Pretty much what you see here, except I am living in it.

Back to Earth.
Saturday shopgirl.
Still humid but much cooler (weather not shopgirl....).
A sore wrist from lugging a bag of stock around in a very stupid manner.
I've misplaced my current favourite necklace, annoying, and need to make more of them for the shop.
We are in a 'holding pattern' at the moment waiting for shipments to arrive. We have now entered the countdown until Xmas and it is always a bit scary! Do we have enough stock, do we have the right stock, will people come, are we open long enough, when can I get my Xmas baking done, will I be civil enough to work the four days leading up to Xmas by myself?
We got our tea towel cushions and silver satchel in yesterday The Age (Melbourne) Magazine 100 Gift Guide.... what a mouthful.... pictures are over on FB. Be warned there aren't many metallic satchels left so you better be quick, not like last year when we had the green in the gift guide and a guy turned up on Xmas Eve expecting there to be one left, you could see the panic in his eyes when we said 'no, sold out weeks ago'.
Xmas shopping hours start today so that means we are open everyday up 'til 5pm on the 24th of December. That means I have to get out of bed tomorrow and open the shop- 12noon until 4pm- not too arduous really. Please come and visit. I must remember to change all of the times in all of our 'social media platforms' (ha).
OK time to get a move on. See you when I open the shop at 11am.

Friday, 30 November 2012

a sticky sweaty mess

Weather blah blah hot blah humid blurg.
I was fine most of yesterday as, although we topped 38º, it was for the main part 'dry heat' and I can function very well in that. Now it feels like 110% humidity and I am sweaty and grumpy. I was made for Perth dry and hot not Brisbane sweaty, sticky and hot. Enough of the weather.
I worked all day yesterday on the scarf dresses and they are slowly coming together, a few more facings and then I will have to tackle the hem trimming and binding. A journalist popped in to the studio yesterday to pick up samples I made for a feature and I think she was both fascinated and horrified about the state of the studio. I've got 6 projects happening, no time to clean and a pile of stuff waiting to be picked up by Graham the Garbo...... I'm feeling the Xmas clock starting to tick and I need to make haste! Chop chop sew sew.
By the way, as of this weekend we will be going into 7 day a week trading, the Cottage is now open on Sundays from noon until 4pm. We are still waiting on stock to arrive (like satchels...) and hopefully by early next week I will be complaining about where in hell we have room to stack stuff. I still have the big stock re-arrange to do as I just didn't have the energy to do it last Sunday after painting the window.
I'm waiting to hear whether I need to run up country for a couple of hours or go to the studio and try to get some work done. Ideally I would just like to spend the day with the fan and a cooling beverage.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

i'm your greatest fan

A perfect day to sit very still on a stool with a fan directed full in the face. 
You can expect all us Melbourne bloggers to be talking about the whether today. 
I'm hoping these stinker days mean that we end up with a Summer thermometer set at about 28º, that would do me nicely.
I don't expect that anyone will venture out today unless they are scurrying from an air-con house to an air-con car but if you do we have some lovely embroidered 'Dahlia' top in the shop that would be perfect for a day like today. I'm sitting here in a cheesecloth dress that was still wet from the washing line this morning. I'm not sure whether its dampness is keeping me cool or just making me, well, damper. I have painted the toenails on my rather Wintery feet as the Birkenstocks have come out today. I've ticked off a few season first in the last 24 hours- cherries, apricots, toenails. 
We headed south of the river for the TDF-OH last night which was a grand affair. We left when the temperature inside began to rise and we kept missing the food round... oh that goat's curd on toasted fruit bread and the baguette with slices of ham and dollops of runny cheese... we should have snaffled more... 
I want to get to the studio to shut all the windows and attempt to keep the temperature down (it's going to be foul in there) otherwise I would list all our lovely design/art/craft friends who were there, you know who they are though! 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

click thunk

I spent today in the studio going a little crazy. I'm putting it down to a mixture of stress over the last week, the rain, the humidity and playing with the camera trying to take product shots for the on-line store. I would have loved to have stayed in bed and listened to the rain and the thunder this morning. It reminded me of Novembers past.
I set up a corner of the studio and had to wait for the afternoon light to change before mucking about with choosing and setting up stock. I don't think the photos are the greatest but they seem to show things ok for now. I've got more things to go up so stay tuned and if there is anything you would like featured then just drop me an email. We can even set up special orders if you are after something specific.
I'm not sure where to start in the studio (I know, you've heard it all before...). The scarf dresses are not to be worked on with a fuzzy head! Tomorrow I'll run out and get things I need and then see what I can focus on. Tomorrow night is going to be exciting though as it is the preview of the TDF-OH, a night for all us designers and contributors. I'll let you know how it all looks!
Time for bed now I think.

Monday, 26 November 2012

a gum blossom xmas

This year's Xmas window has gone through a few developments in my head, it seemed that gum leaves were always going to be a component. I even sent Dell out to keep her eyes open for branches of the ones I was after. Somehow though it morphed into something else- still with leaves- and there I was on Sunday morning painting the window.

Think gum blossom and wiggly leaves. Think an Australian country Xmas. Ironing board and Hill's Hoist, kids dumping their bags on the table on the last day of school, the pots of tea and the CWA recipe book ready to make sponge cake and slices and preserve Summer in a bottle.
It's corny and idealised beyond belief but I rather like it. All it needs is a soundtrack of cicadas and the cricket turned down low on the radio, a sleepy and endless Summer.

Miss Ramona says I never do real Xmas windows (I did point out the year before last we did actually have a tree) but there are fairy lights behind the leaves so to me that qualifies it as one. I've said before, the Australian light makes tinsel a bit to garish and when you've done the Northern Xmas in snow and cold and darkness then you understand the need for lights and glitter.
We've used one of our silk scarves as backdrop, it really needs an iron but I was too exhausted from all the painting and faffing about yesterday to get the iron out. This scarf also appeared in yesterday's Sunday Age and now we are waiting on our production to arrive. As of this weekend we will be open 7 days a week and I am still slowly popping our festivus stock out. I feel like I have already done Xmas but it is all still to come.

artist at work

Jethro contemplating the design for our Xmas window.

Checking paintbrushes and water.

Making sure paint colours are OK.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

all will be well

If I'd ever got around to finishing this embroidery it would read 'all will be well' but the Design Files project it was started for got cancelled way back in about 2009 and it's been kicking about since then taunting me with it's un-finished-ness. Its sentiment is about right though, I've just got to hold in there and all will be fine. I really hate this time of the year, the lead up to the start of the Xmas rush. I've spent months hunting and gathering and making product, we've had things slip from our grasp and other things we had given up on suddenly happen. To mix my metaphors it's been a roller coaster of a few months.
I had another very late night on Thursday setting up the online store and was so delirious on Friday morning that I forgot to take everything I wanted to photograph to the studio, I could have banged my head against the wall in frustration. Instead of photographing I set to work on the scarf dresses, not the best things to work on when you are weary. They are fiddly and choosing which scarves go together to become all a bit OCD. The huge vintage wooden storage box some of the scarves live in is full to the brim and gravity compacts them down so once you start pulling scarves out it is like an erupting volcano. The studio by the end of the day was awash with the damn things. So far there is one dress that just needs its hem bound, one dress that needs neck facing and hem, a pile of bodices ready to do, a pile of bodies stitched together and another pile not together but ironed and ready to go. Bias cut dresses, what a pain in the patootie, they shouldn't be done when one is tired, I came home late in the afternoon and just wanted to have a good cry.
Here is my plan. Whilst we have slowly been filtering Xmas into the shop, tomorrow I plan to do the Xmas window and move stuff around in the shop. I need to make that step into the final month of the year. I'm going to race of to Deans this morning to get what I need for the morning and, fingers crossed, it works as I can't afford this week to blow any money, this week's budget has been stitched together so tightly it's going to be hard to breathe. A nerve wracking week coming up, big things happening. It's probably lucky that we aren't doing Markit tomorrow just for the sheer energy it would have drained.
I've put out all the enamelware and we've had our missing kangaroo salt and pepper shakers arrive. It's going to be hot today and our lovely Dahlia embroidered tops are hanging up on the rack. I'm sorry that we so much wool based stuff in the shop but we never seem to stop selling gloves and sock even on 40ºC days. Oh and wool reminds me, we've had a huge shipment of spotty knitting needles come in too, Dell loves the smell of the wax Jim uses on them so I always leave it up to her to unpack them- she knew the parcel had arrived by the scent when she arrived for the day!
There are probably other things to chew your ear off about but I need to get off to the art shop.
I'm Saturday shopgirl today as usual, pop in for a visit!

Friday, 23 November 2012

shop in your pyjamas

Midnight and I have managed to get the new online store up and running. Not that it has many products in it yet and I am still fine tuning stuff so my apologies if it is a bit clunky. We've swapped over to Shopify and I am still getting used to things. I need to get photos sorted and load it all but I think it will be OK. Like always, my photos are all over the place, different styles and filters but then it wouldn't be me if it was all uniform.If you are ordering anything please remember that the shipping costs won't appear until the end. You'll need to enter all your details and then it should calculate it.
I had a little play with setting up somewhere to photograph in the studio. I'm liking one of the walls over by the windows and although it breaks all the product shot rules the light is lovely and I think it will work. I might need to repaint a bit as there are marks all over the wall and move some shelves but then the studio needs a big sort anyway (I started it but no where near finished yet).
All that is up in the virtual shop at the moment is a few satchels but I'm going to try and get a few more photos done tomorrow. I must go to bed NOW though........

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


Yesterday was a long and frustrating day- appointments ran hours late, I got stuck in a traffic jam on the South Eastern, I forgot to eat lunch. It was a very weird day and the conversation at the op shop in Oakleigh took the cake.
Two volunteers talking about the Second World War. Lady #1: The only story my father ever told about the war was that the Germans gave him a vasectomy with no anaesthetic. He committed suicide you know.... how old was I? Oh, thirty. Lady #2: Well my father was a violent alcoholic and beat the crap out of us all. I suppose we are all victims of the war you know. Lady #1 taking my money: God bless you and take care of yourself dear.
I felt I was in a strange game of op-shop-one-upmanship. It was both macabre and faintly absurd.
I did spend the morning getting some of our new enamelware out into the shop and this evening hanging our beautiful embroidered Mexican tops. The shop is starting to feel very full and there are more things on the way. I've gone from feeling the shop was lacking to wondering where in hell we are going to stash stock. I'm also wondering whether we will sell it all and whether I have been too frenzied in my stockpiling.
I think I should spend a bit of time getting the online shop up and working again. What do you think? Another couple of days in front of the computer for me? The photo issue has been plaguing me for months, I always have trouble with the whole white background product shot look and think I should just go with the photos I often do, product in an environment. I think I am even leaning towards using my iPhone to do them. Which speaks to you more?
It is now 10 to one and really need to go to bed. I have a lot of stuff to do in the morning. A mountain of annoying things to think about and face. It really is a most stressful time of year for a poor little retailer.

Monday, 19 November 2012

handsome is

We have things afoot here at the Cottage.
Jethro spent the early hours of this morning on a moth safari which meant no sleep for me at 5am. I listened to the dawn chorus and finally dropped back to sleep just when I should have been considering getting up. The rest of the day has involved driving around Melbourne getting things done and picking stock up and meeting with people, this seems to be the routine for a Monday these days.
I now have boxes of stock I need to find space for! Stay tuned! Sorry if this post is short but I think an early night is in order.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


I delivered to TDF-OH yesterday which means that is all done and now I can concentrate on other things. I planned when I was south of the river to have a stickybeak around but the traffic was dreadful and I only managed to pop in on my old friend Geoffrey in his beautiful antiques shop, to check out one shop I used to like (disappointing) and then decide to head back north. I didn't even get out of the car for Marrimeko.
I dropped back into the shop and then to the studio to do some work. We've had some more vintage linens arrive this week and I've made up more floral cushions and discovered late that I was out of inserts for them- this always happens late on a Friday, unprepared as always! As I left the studio I stopped and looked at the pile of beautiful vintage scarves I'd tipped out of a bag earlier in the week. It definitely is high time I started work on the bias cut scarf dresses. It's been way too long but I think I am at the apex of procrastination and am ready to roll with them. They really are suited to the 'holiday season'. OK I'm convinced, I'll pull it all out next week and start on them. I promise.
In between the two paragraphs above I jumped in my car and raced over to Beatrix. I've just eaten an apricot crumble tart and it was a fabulous breakfast let me tell you! It was a grand way to start the day after dragging myself off the bed at 9.30 last night and then being woken by a mouse hunt in the bedroom this morning. Mouse is MIA, Jethro is hiding under the bunk in the shop.
I seem to have managed to get a bit done this morning but I need to finish the rest of the shop vacuum (polystyrene crumbs are a bugger to clean up, like glitter they keep appearing) and I have new stock to price. A box full of little ceramic animals and the most hilarious salt and pepper shakers arrived on Thursday and need to get them out on the shelves, I'll post photos over on I-gram and F-book later I think.
I think I better sign off otherwise I will lose that little window of time I seem to have gained this morning. I'm shopgirl, you know where to find me.


Thursday, 15 November 2012


I'm running a bit late today. I slept in after yesterday's early rise to see the eclipse, which I didn't end up seeing as I got the time wrong and when it happened I was staring at the light on a wall. Oh well. It did mean I got to the studio about an hour earlier than I usually manage.
I think I am about ready with stock to go to TDF-OH, I just need to tag the stock, print a list and load the car in the morning. Today I've promised myself that I can finish off a few things and start to cut out some more Summer clothing.The thought of Xmas stock is still making me queasy. Dell is sick of my fidgety moaning- as am I. Stupid stupid stupid.
New things if you come into the Cottage today- orange bound felt and blanket oven mitts and vintage Italian cotton hankies... oh and some new Welshies and afghan throws (they went in yesterday morning). I hope some parcels arrive today.
Studio bound!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

always look on the bright side

Thanks for all the messages about last night's post (via blog, facebook, email), it's nice to know that people understand the conundrums of staying true to what you do and not getting sidetracked by bright and shiny things swirling about. I went to the studio, worked on stuff, came home to this fabulous afghan that arrived in the post from Ann our Northern Queen of Crocheted Craft. By golly her work is freaking amazing. I have to admit the colours are a bit off as I put it through an Instagram filter but it is still pretty spectacular, just use your imagination to turn the fluoro down a little.
I've been pestering her to do some mixed colour afghans and she is using up all her odd bits of wool. I think we might have to photograph one of these and turn it into a digital print silk scarf. On the subject of scarves, we are now waiting for our tapestry ones to arrive, still weeks off but fingers crossed we get them before Xmas.....
It's the eclipse tomorrow morning! I must get up early enough to see the sun go dark. I've seen a total eclipse (and I did actually look at the sun, crazy accident, didn't go blind) and a couple (I think) partial eclipses but it is always the birdsong I remember most. Phenomena are always a whirl! Even more exciting is that we are in the peak of the 12 year cycle for the Aurora Australis so I have subscribed to the Radio and Space Weather Service and am excitedly hoping that if I can get to Tasmania (again) that I will get to see it.
I am an aurora nerd.

Monday, 12 November 2012

patching and fretting

After all the excitement/frustration (mailing list/mail out/computer stuff) of last week I felt a bit tired by Sunday. The sale went well and thanks to everyone who popped in and picked up a satchel or three! Then reality crashed in and I've had a tiny private pre-Xmas meltdown. I had spent a lot of time over the last few months hunting out a pile of fabulous things for Xmas stock but for one reason or another not all of them have come to fruition (insert sad emoticon here) and I have been feeling a bit low because of that. I also had an attack of 'retailer's envy' or perhaps it 'maker's regret', seeing the bright and on-trend things that were starting to appear on blogs/facebook/instagram and knowing that whilst I have no desire to create work like that I can still feel a jolt of envy. I am human after all. I have to admit it isn't my style and I should just focus on the work that makes me happiest, deep down I am an archeologist of skill and a tinkerer of nostalgia.
So after feeling dreadfully stressed and worked up about Shop Stuff and Money Stuff and Getting Stuff Done I suddenly decided this afternoon that I should just do what I could do and stop fretting. Once I relaxed things just seemed to relax too. Stressing one's self out results in nothing except a headache and feeling of tightening angst. We are going to have some lovely stuff for Xmas, it's just not quite here yet, we will just keep our fingers crossed it arrives in time. The Cottage is known for producing product slow and steady so that should be how I continue on, we aren't 'fashion driven' around here!
Perhaps I will produce some patchwork tops and Dell has been telling me to get cracking on the Summer tops and dresses. We need peg bags and oven mitts and suddenly the Welsh Cushion Mountain has shrunk so there is lots for me to do. The Satchel Black Hole will resolve itself and Papua New Guinea will get a better internet service. Stock will arrive and I will work out a strange Xmas window display. Then come Xmas Day I will sleep in and relax.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

it's looking a lot like

I didn't bother getting in the car to do the Saturday morning essentials shop today, I just wandered down the street. It's quiet at 9 on a weekend morning, just the way I like it. I noticed that it's starting to look a lot like Xmas... sigh. I think tomorrow will have to involve a big shop re-jig although I have no idea how I will manage it, perhaps it will make me feel a little perkier.
I'm feeling a little worn down but perhaps that is the two days on the computer sucking the life out of me. It was an exhausting process getting the mailing list up and running but it has been well worth it seeing all the feedback we are getting from people. I like to think it is not just that the satchels are on sale but more to do with reminding people that we are here. That is something I seem to forget that we need to do.
We've got a few things coming up over the next few weeks and things I forgot to tell you about. There is TDF Open House (but you all know about that) and we've had stock go out for Xmas guides and a pile of our digitally printed goodies is being photographed today too. Now I think I forgot to tell you where that 110 metres of bunting was destined for.... it's now draping a marquee down at Werribee Mansion where they are filming the Australian version of the Great British Bake Off (luckily they are not calling it the 'Great Aussie Bake Off' but going the full 'Australian' in the title), you can check it out on the Tube. The original is hosted by the fab Sue Perkins and the rather dishy Paul Hollywood (OK I like a man who can bake) and I wonder who they will pick for their double in this local version. Not being a fan of reality TV I'll probably watch 2 minutes to see the bunting and that will be it.

Remember the 20% OFF SATCHEL SALE finishes at 5pm today! We've still got a great selection and they are an absolute bargain. I've posted the list of sale prices here if you would like to check. If you miss out this time there is still the new shipment coming in soon (full price of course!).
OK I better get moving. There is a huge suck of vacuuming to do and stock to move about, Jethro to wrangle, birds to price..... the usual Saturday chores!

Friday, 9 November 2012

cabin fever

What a backbreaker the last two days have been, sitting on my arse in front of the computer... exhausting!
The mailing list is done though which is monumental and I sent out the first newsletter (about the satchel sale of course). Sorry if I missed sending it to anyone but people in my inbox sometimes don't end up in my address book. If you didn't get it but want to just click on the link above and then subscribe... equally if you want to unsubscribe you can do that too. I won't be hurt... no really... I won't be.... I also promise that I won't bombard you with annoying emails... just occasionally...
I have been home too much this week and once I have this post written I will put my shoes on and hit the road for the studio. The upside of being home is falling in love with how this cushion looks on my Axminster rug. This was a lone little odd sized cushion that I just had to keep. It doesn't happen often that I keep a cushion, not because I don't love them all but if I did succumb to cushion-love too often, upstairs would be even more chockers than it is. So I control myself and delight in their being adopted out to good homes.
OK I've stared at this screen far too much in the last few days. I'm outta here. 
Have a lovely day and if you want a satchel for 20% off then drop in or give the shop a call.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

one trick peony

I went for a walk this morning, down to get milk and bread and to try and blow the cobwebs away from being stuck here for the last three days. I spied these peonies. They make me happy. It's been a good season for peonies and the roses through areas like Coburg and Brunswick (I haven't ventured further into the middle and outer suburbs so have no idea how they are looking out in the Far Reaches) are looking fabulous. Amazing what a bit of rain can do, crazy that Victoria used to be known as the 'Garden State', then the drought hit and ended all that.
I was stuck to the computer most of yesterday trying to get the bulk SMS programme to work and stayed up late last night typing in 4 books of mailing list contacts. The bulldog clipped mailing list pages still to go are about the thickness of two books so there is a lot to get through. I am cursing people's bad handwriting..... This is what happens when you try to organise a item specific sale on the spur of the moment, frantic data input. If you would like to be on the mailing list just email me ( with 'mailing list' in the subject and I'll whack you on it as I work my way through them all. I'm viewing this as training for the mountains of paperwork I need to sort. Building up my typing muscles and getting psychologically prepared. Of course if I win Powerball tonight I'm paying someone to do it for me.

So don't forget 20% OFF SALE ON CAMBRIDGE SATCHELS until Saturday 10/11/12.
You can call and pay over the phone and we can either hold it here for you to pick up or we can mail it.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

**cambridge satchel sale**

As you know I hate having sales (except maybe the occasional studio sale) but overnight we got confirmation that the VBO* of satchels we placed in June (!) and which has been delayed 3 times (!!!) is almost ready. This has lead to panic stations this morning.... where the hell are we going  to put it all??

So we've decided to have a sale, 20% OFF our current stock of Cambridge Satchels.

Clearing the decks so to speak. Emptying boxes out to make room for more satchels. Giving you a chance to score our lovely satchels at a ridiculously cheap price. There is nothing wrong with them, we just have lack of space issues.

The rules are...

Please help us!
We can mail them at the usual postage rates if you are interstate!

And the sale ends this Saturday 10th of November!

I've listed the colours and sizes here.

*Very Big Order

pavlova experiment ✔

I'm still stuck on making pavlovas and the fridge is filling up with egg yolks. Now I've found the easiest pav recipe ever I am walking away from them- carrying a plate and a fork and a rather large slice topped with cream, strawberries and passionfruit.
Turn the oven on to 120ºC.
Take 6 egg whites and 1 1/2 cups of caster sugar, bung them in the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, start mixing on low (the recipe says this, I just cranked it up to 11 straight away) and then turn up to high and beat until thick and glossy. It'll take about 15 minutes.
Turn mixer off, add 6 teaspoons of cornflour (this recipe was on the back on the White Wings cornflour pack) and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and beat for 1 minute. I also like to add my yummy Bourbon vanilla bean paste here too.
Pile it all up on a tray lined with baking paper, a round of about 20cm in diameter and cook for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and let the pav cool in the oven for a couple of hours.
What do I like about this recipe?
Well I was brought up on the whole slow addition of sugar to make a good pavlova myth. I think it's just one of those techniques based squarely in the days of hand whisking, of course a tablespoon at a time would be easier in that case. I've done my time in cooking jobs hand whisking egg whites and mayo but now I have a KitchenAid and I'm jolly well going to use the thing. I multitasked doing this pavlova, hung the washing out, got the rubbish together, talked to the cat, drank tea, so that is another reason for my joy in this bunging it all together technique. Also the low temp cooking for a longer time means less chance of overcooking or too much browning. The crust on yesterday's pavlova was perfect, still in one and I just smashed the centre to create a crater for the cream. The marshmallow interior was thick and perfectly cooked through.
A perfect pavlova is a heavenly thing.
My work here is done.

Monday, 5 November 2012


I have become slightly obsessed by pavlovas. I made one for a BBQ yesterday (the same BBQ that I managed to go to a week early last Sunday with cassata cake) and whilst it got damaged in a near miss on the way (#fuckingsundaydrivers) it was happily devoured by all. I think pavlovas are one of those cakes/desserts/foodgroups that just make people very happy. Which explains why a vegan at a certain Xmas party last year got very very grumpy when everyone else was smacking their lips in joy.
I can feel some pavlova experiments coming on.
The shop is open today if you are in the 'hood. I'm sort of hovering about doing things that didn't get done yesterday. Like trying to clean the stairs and heading into town to do the banking and look at magazines. And I better sort out some lingering emails as well. And mugs of tea for Dell.
Jethro spent a bit of time unwittingly taunting Peggy through the glass this morning. A small quivering dog and a slightly bemused cat.
Cup Day tomorrow so we won't be open. Sorry about that but I am sure you have other more relaxing things to do than shopping.... and your tomato plants need to be planted out as the tradition goes.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

cases, chores and cup day horses

Suddenly I can feel Santa's breath down the back of my neck, oh, how wrong that sounds. I mean that when the birds arrived I was starting to feel that Xmas was on it's way but that I could still hold it off for a bit longer. Yesterday though, the Trunk and Orderly stock arrived and that was the end of that, no more putting off the end of the year festivitus. Now I am getting a stockpile of stock that I have nowhere to pile and I will have to tear the shop apart and re-stack it all.
For a minute there the kitchen and hall were comparatively easy to move about in, then the hallway got a bit dangerous and the stairs (which are always a bit precarious) exploded with boxes and baskets and spinning equipment. Now the 'backyard' has been half taken over with yesterday's cardboard boxes and Garbage Eve isn't until Tuesday and I am feeling swamped. I also forgot to take the boxes of newspapers out to the recycling last week and the floor needs a damn good vacuum especially after I spilt a bag of Cob's Gourmet Caramel Popcorn on the carpet last night.... it's all a bit embarrassing at the moment.
I am trying to shame myself into doing a bit of re-organisation/cleaning.
So it's Saturday, I'll be in the shop and I have new stock to price and get out. There's the T+O cases, we've got the Lunch Case, the Kinder Case and the Weekender all back in stock and the new Xmas special the oh-so-cute 'Little Scout' has arrived (that's Janita posing with the black and purple one). "Little Scout' is a backpack for kids but if you are petite, like Janita, you'll be able to wear it. I want a big one!

We've also had more birds come in although I still haven't put all of them out yet, my current favourite is the chartreuse ones. And we've ordered in some Xmas lights, just couldn't help ourselves, tiny weeny little fairy lights in 3 battery powered lengths and in a 10metre long plug in version. The cool thing is you can use them inside or out and you could even use the little 1.5 metre one on an Xmas wreath on your front door.
Look at the time! Damn, I better dash. Have I told you that I have a mountain of tea towel cushions as well? There are some stunners! Lots of horse-y ones for Cup Day. Come visit! Remember- don't leave buying T+O cases and Cambridge Satchels until the last minute before Xmas...... and we can post.... and I am trying to get products photographed and into our online store..... and I better get cracking and get my Saturday morning chores done.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Last night was a weird one and if I was a follower of the Halloween tradition I might think some gremlins were at play (I really can't get my head around Australia + Halloween). I ruined dinner- undercooked some ingredients, totally overcooked others, result horrible and inedible- and then tried to drown my sorrows in the new Connoisseur blueberry ice cream which ended up being was just plain revolting. By this time I was too scared to make a simple cup of tea in case I stuffed that up too and decided by about 8.45pm that the best place to be was in bed watching Horrible Histories on my iPad.
I am totally addicted to HH. You've got to love a series that teaches you about the Luddites in the form of a punk song, Greek philosophers a la The Monkees and RAF pilots as a boy band, I dare you not to sing along! (There is also Mary Tudor/Kate Bush, Emily Pankhurst and the Suffragettes/Spice Girls, William Shakespeare/lounge singer and many more.)I'm a total sucker for a mix of kid's TV show, history and very talented actors never performing down to their audience and still managing to keep a straight face while having buckets of 'poo' tipped over their heads. A good way to All Hallows Eve.