Rhubarb + Strawberry Jam
This is my favourite kind of jam. I love the sweetness and fragrance of the strawberries alongside the tart and distinctive flavour of the rhubarb. The rhubarb also helps to thicken the jam.
2 cups fresh rhubarb stalks, chopped in cubes
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, quartered
2 cups white sugar
juice of one lemon
In a medium-sized saucepan combine all the ingredients and stir on a low-heat until boiling. Pour into clean glass jars or container and store in the fridge.
The Whole Beet Dip
This is an absolutely delicious, earthy dip using the whole of the beet - root, stalk and leaves - and is a perfect accompaniment to meat like kangaroo or beef . It is also wonderful scooped up with crackers and carrot sticks.
1 large beetroot (leaves, stalks, root), washed thoroughly
1 garlic clove, minced
handful flatleaf parsley, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup thick, unsweetened greek style yoghurt or labneh
Peel and grate beetroot, chop finely leaves and stalks. In a small frying pan gently sauté beetroot with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once softened, add crushed garlic and continue to stir until completely cooked (you may need to add a little boiling water if it gets too dry). Set aside to cool in a mixing bowl. Add parsley, lemon juice, spice and sea salt. Using a stick blender - blend beetroot mixture until it resembles a paste. Stir in yoghurt and season with extra salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Should keep for up to a week in the fridge in a well sealed container (not that it will last that long!)
Me Made May is a month-long festival of people wearing their handmade clothes. I so enjoy seeing what people are making, wearing, mending and rediscovering. A friend asked me to share some of my outfits so I decided to challenge myself to wearing handmade things for a whole week:
Lark Tee in cotton stretch fabric which I found at an op-shop for $1
Trillium (Washi) dress which I made last year, in beautiful blue double cotton gauze by Nani Iro
Sibella Cardigan which I also made last year using Ochre yarn's fair-trade merino-yak-silk blend yarn
Seaside Shawl which I finished earlier this year and is being worn almost every day! The silk-cotton blend yarn which I bought years ago at Bendigo Woollen Mills is very stretchy, light and soft and doesn't pill at all.
Lark Tee in a bark-coloured merino wool knit from the Fabric Store that my sister generously bought for me and which is incredibly warm.
Tamarack jacket which I made last year using a lovely brown linen-cotton blend from Robert Kaufmanm and some cotton gauze and quilt-weight wadding that I had scraps of in my stash. Each panel of the jacket was individually quilted before piecing them together and attaching bias by hand. Affectionately called "the dog jacket" it's rather warm but a little stiffer than I was hoping.
Lark Tee in striped polyester cotton that a friend gave me and was my initial test of the Lark pattern. Makes a lovely layer under dresses like this one - which is the Trillium (Washi) Dress in dark blue linen that I had leftover from another project. The generous, side-seamed pockets are the best bit of course.
My newly finished Felix Cardigan over one of the three Wiksten Shift tops I have sewn and wear all the time. This one is made from soft Japanese cotton that has these lovely little embroidered pink spots on it.
Channelling the Boy Scout here, and not at all sure if it works but going to try anyway. Lark Tee in cotton jersey and a well-loved linen skirt (see below for my modifications to it), with my Seaside shawl.
My striped Lark tee again with lots of warm woollens - Felix Cardigan, fingerless mitts I crocheted for Alex a few years ago and a recently knit Bisbis Beret in mohair and wool.
Late autumn is the sight of healthy mama cows and some seventy plus calves grazing the pasture as the sun sets // the crunch of leaves underfoot and the damp, dewy morning air // weeding out the veggie beds, and harvesting every tomato red, green and in between // it's the sound of boys playing cubbies in the ash tree and the smell of wood smoke, of fresh paint. on the walls of the spare room // It's the golden glow of dusk on the trees, the bonfire pile growing // and the cool wind whispering a slow, sad song of a season ending.
Much Loved by Mark Nixon (2013)
This is a book of photography and storytelling - of much loved soft toys and teddies and the memories they hold for us. I stumbled across this book by accident at the library and brought it home with the intention of reading it with the boys - some of the toys are so quirky, loved and threadbare that they are barely hanging together. It was later when I read it by myself in bed that I was moved to tears by the stories behind the much loved items. Mark Nixon's photography is simple and sublime.
Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859)
I have read some of Eliot's other works (Silas Marner being one of my favourite novels of all time) but never Adam Bede. It was her first novel written. I actually read it in a bookclub with my mum, sister and her partner and we shared our thoughts and feelings on it every few weeks via zoom. Who would have ever thought of a zoom bookclub a few years ago?! I found the story deeply engrossing and moving. Eliot is a master storyteller and she sets the pastoral scene and nuanced characters and conversations so well. So many of the issues she raises can relate to today - this quote stood out: " Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult... Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings - much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth"
Quarterly Essay 72: Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age by Sebastian Smee (2018)
Does a long essay count as serious reading? I think so. I was able to access a digital copy of the magazine through my library. Critic Sebastian Smee writes with wit and insight on the idea of "the inner life" as explored in art and culture and how it has been changed or lost in the wake of digitisation. He writes: “Every day I spend hours and hours on my phone . . . We are all doing it, aren’t we? It has come to feel completely normal. Even when I put my device aside and attach it to a charger, it pulses away in my mind, like the throat of a toad, full of blind, amphibian appetite.”
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (2019)
Reading the Smee's essay promoted my interest in reading this one by Cal Newport. Instead of reading the pages, I borrowed the audiobook from my library and listened to it, slowly, over two weeks while I cleaned the eggs. There is something appropriate, I felt, to digest this one carefully - to listen to it an hour at a time with ample space afterwards to contemplate his ideas. Cal Newport is not dismissive of the benefits of digital technology, but calls for a more holistic (and minimalist) approach to using it: one that places more emphasis on developing a sense of self, of leisure and rest, deep work and building relationship over mere connectedness, and aligning our choices about digital tools with our deeper values at the fore. He writes: "How much of your time and attention must be sacrificed to earn the small profit of occasional connections and new ideas that is earned by cultivating a significant presence on social media platforms?"
Wild Light by Robyn Mundy (2016)
An engaging, fast-paced novel set on a remote Tasmanian Island. I enjoyed the descriptions of the wild weather, lighthouse keeping and local flora and fauna best of all.
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison (2019)
I requested my library to buy a copy of this book and was so delighted when they did. I've been listening to nutritionist and journalist Christy Harrison's podcast "Food Psych" for a few years now and always found her conversations around food, shame, diet culture, intuitive eating and mental health really fascinating and insightful. She draws on so much good research and evidence to explore the perils of our modern obsession with diets, weight loss and wellness. It made me angry and sad, empowered and energised - so much better informed. She also draws on personal stories including her own and her clients, and offers practical suggestions for deconstructing the unjust and unfounded beliefs that proliferate about bodies and food. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Hold Your Fire by Chloe Wilson (2021)
Oh I just loved this one. It was one of those books I saw the cover of at the library and wanted to borrow on impulse alone. I stayed up way too late reading it bed because I just couldn't put it down. It reminded me how much I love short stories, and these ones by Australian writer Chloe Wilson are absurd, funny, dark and beautiful. Go and read!
Read my summer reading here //
This autumn I've worked away at a few practical clothing projects. The first was the Felix Cardigan (Pattern by Amy Christoffers) using quince and co yarn unravelled from a garment I made nine years ago (which I never quite loved the fit and feel of and pilled dreadfully). I paired the recycled wool with a fine silk-mohair blend from Isager which I bought new and the result is this super soft, warm and snuggly cardigan. I particularly like the simplicity of the pattern and the generous fit which allows me to layer it over lots of things and roll up the sleeves if need be.. I found the perfect buttons made from coconut shell at my local craft shop.
Following in the blending mohair and wool theme, I knit myself a Bisbis Beret (pattern by Sari Nordlund) using some old dark blue Bendigo Woollen Mills 4ply yarn I had in my stash and a strand of black Isager silk-mohair. I love how together they make a rich dark blue-grey that shimmers depending on the light. The pattern is fairly simple and goes from top to bottom - which meant I could add extra length as I went along for a more roomy fit - and finishes with an elegant i-cord bind off.
On the sewing front I have made three long-sleeve lark tees in cotton jersey, a poly-cotton blend and merino knit fabrics. The latter was gifted to me last year by my lovely sister and seemed only right to do a test first using the other fabrics. I am so happy with these tops! As someone with a long torso and arms it's difficult to find tops that are "long enough" or at least get to that point of real ease and comfort - which for me is well past my hips. I hate having to pull a top down! The lark tee is a pattern by Grainline studio, and like the other patterns of theirs I have tried - it is well written and a pleasure to follow. I also like that they give you a range of options for sleeve and neckline modifications. There will be more in the future!
There was also this fun, improvised project I did for Archie. He has long wanted a turtle daddy in "ice colours" to accompany the green crochet turtle mama and babies that a kind relative gifted him for his 4th birthday last year. The turtle was made by a woman in Cambodia through a fair-trade organisation and is truly delightful. It was fun to pick up a crochet hook (which I rarely do these days) and play around to construct a mate for her. Made from bits and bobs in my wool stash and stuffed with soft fabric offcuts, he's turned out okay I think.. I also made a few little blue babies to add to the family...
Currently in progress are some fingerless Fiddler Mitts (pattern by Ysolda Teague) which I initially intended to make for myself but are way too small and have now been claimed enthusiastically by Archie. He is the most keen to wear (and commission) hand knits of my three boys, which makes my heart happy.
I am also knitting a pair of fingerless seashell mitts using Melissa's wonderful free pattern that she put up on her blog and fit perfectly. My hands have really been aching in the cold weather so it will be good to have a lightweight pair of mitts that I can tuck in the pocket of my coat and pull out when needed.
Have you sewn or knit anything this season? I'd love to hear what you're working on...
This week we celebrated Beren's sixth birthday. A fellow April, autumn baby, he is full of wonder for creatures big and small, adventure stories, board games, jumping on the trampoline, space and lego. He is learning to read and do sums in his head, scrub the dishes and write words, not to mention loosing those baby teeth left, right and centre! He is passionate and tender, quick to make friends wherever we go, giver of big cuddles and asker of curious questions // It was extra special to celebrate his birthday dinner with two sets of grandparents present as last year we couldn't see them! He requested "a chocolate six cake with raspberries and eggs".
God bless all your days Bear xx
Easter this year was brimming with sunshine and activity - a stark contrast to last year when we were at the beginning of a long state-wide lock down and all public celebrations were cancelled // I made a double batch of gluten free hot cross buns and quince tart tatin to share with friends who visited on Good Friday. We went for a rambling walk down to the river and made simple crosses from palm fronds which we let fall off the bridge with simple utterances of thanksgiving // My sister and her partner visited on Saturday and there was lots of happy chatter, trampolining, autumn leaves, carting water to chickens, checking on newborn calves, cups of tea // On Sunday I helped lead a celebratory church service which included a treasure hunt, puppet show and making these colouring books based on "I am" statements of Jesus for the little folk to fill in. Afterwards we came home to a chocolate egg hunt that my sister hid for the boys, and the afternoon was slow and sweet.
"Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee"
All through Lent I pondered these words of T. S. Eliot from his poem "Ash Wednesday", I prayed for fresh perspective, for peace in His will, and thanksgiving for everything my hands and feet touch that reminds me of my creator, rock, fortress and deliverer //
He is risen indeed!
Woman with a garden inside her is the title of this astoundingly beautiful watercolour by my friend and artist Adam Lee. I think it sums up well how I feel today, on this my 32nd birthday. I have been blessed with the most sublime and sunshine filled autumn weather, blue sky and green grass and leaves begin to golden. I have been surprised with a smoke bush tree to plant and the most beautiful hand written card from my husband. I have filled a jug with flowers from my local green grocer and various things from my own garden. I have felt the soft fibres of wool and silk and mohair in my hands as I make slow progress on a cardigan. I have listened to and read birthday wishes from the dearest of friends and family. I have drunk tea outside, twice and soaked in the goodness of the earth. I am glad to be alive //
there is life in the vine
in each and every season
our growing and remaining
a place to dwell in love
in autumn as the leaves fall
when mornings grow darker
fruit is stored for what will come:
cheer, loss, communion
winter brings frozen things
ground, breath, tired limbs,
when we are slow and needy
of every clear sky, of warming
springtime flush of green
life budding from branch and tree
and the steady hum of bees,
of children in bare feet
in summer work and play,
beating heat and flowering,
when days begin to sprawl
each raindrop brings relief
there is life in the smallest leaf,
in stretching and growing,
ripening and rotting,
in pruning and resting,
refreshing at the roots
each season is necessary
its own kind of beautiful
when we remain in love,
there is life in Him.
brings a kind of grieving
at the shortness of the season
that savoured space
between summer heat
and winter freezing
a colourful unleaving
autumn unlike any
I can remember:
shrouded in smoke,
washed hands, news reel
and the sounds of
home are amplified;
silent, ear splitting sounds
blurry edged video calls -
we’ve grown older
sowed, and let go
and let go and let go -
Autumn like no other
and painted like every other:
ash gold, oak brown,
gum grey, clover green,
marked with blood,
with loss and love.
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...