The fennel has flourished in the garden this year, so I have been looking for ways to incorporate it into our meals. Here's my favourites so far:
Fennel + Lamb Shank Stew
2 fennel bulbs
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
3-4 medium sized lamb shanks (or 4 large slices of lamb neck)
3 garlic cloves
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
fresh zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups stock (vegetable/chicken/beef)
For the fennel gremolata:
Small handful each of parsley and fresh fennel leaves + mince finely with the zest + 2 garlic gloves. Combine in a small jug with the juice of 1 lemon (the one you just zested) and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir to combine with a fork.
Chop onions, fennel and celery into thin slices. In a heavy-based saucepan/stewing pot, gently sauté onions, fennel and celery for around 5 minutes. Remove vegetables onto a plate and add a splash of olive oil to the pot. Next add the lamb shanks, turning each side quickly until it is browned. Return vegetables to the pot along with minced garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon zest, wine and broth. Simmer on a low-heat for 1.5-3 hours (you can go longer with a slow-cooker). Check after 1 hour and top up with more broth if necessary; you want your shanks to be just-covered in liquid to prevent them drying out. Serve stew with steamed rice or mash potato. Garnish with the fennel gremolata.
Apple + Fennel Slaw
1 fennel bulb
1 large apple
2 spring onions
small head of ice-berg lettuce or green cabbage (I used the former here)
mix of fresh greens and lettuce leaves, baby beetroot leaves etc
large handful each of fresh mint, parsley and chives
Shred fennel bulb. Peel and slice apple into thin strips. Do the same with the carrot or grate like I did here. Shred ice-beg lettuce or cabbage if using. Chop herbs and spring onions finely. Toss everything together in a large mixing bowl with the green leaves.
For the dressing:
1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise (sour cream or creme fraiche works well too)
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of an orange or a large lemon (orange adds a lovely sweet note)
2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients mentioned above in a small jug and pour over salad. Toss gently and serve.
October has been an intense, joyful, and exciting month. Everything feels like it's emerging from winter hibernation; we see and feel the signs of new growth, unfurling, possibility, planning, promise. The baby quince is flowering for the first time since we planted her. The incredible blue echium attracts wattle birds and bees in abundance. I love watching them as I sit at the kitchen table with my morning cup of tea. The vegetable patch gifts us delicious things every day: sprouting broccoli, spring onions, baby leeks, lettuce, fennel bulbs, silverbeet and the first of the snow peas. Calendula, red valerian and forget-me-nots are coming out everywhere. Marvelously self-seeding. We are grateful that school and kindergarten has resumed on site after months of lockdown. I am in the final weeks of my study for the year and feeling the deadline for my last big essay looming. Other sweet glimmers include being able to include these gorgeous possum and koala puppet friends in my kids messages for church; savouring all the thoughtful conversations shared for the Soulcraft festival; short bouts knitting a blue Sibella cardigan; and listening to this beautiful album by Lord Huron as we open the windows wide and let the fresh spring air in... Tell me, how are you going? What does this season hold for you?
An overdue making post with things made in winter and more recently in spring. Nights and mornings are still quite cold with delicious mild, sunny afternoons here and there. I think my making has reflected this balance of wanting to be warm and cozy and yet also anticipating the changes of the new season - and hopefully more short sleeves and sandal wearing! And though I said I never would, I have become a person who loves to wear a bit of pink...
Oversize Kimono/Unfolding Jacket
Pattern by: Wiksten Made (Size S)
Fabric: Jacquard cotton by Merchant and Mills (outer) // Essex dyed linen/cotton from Robert Kauffman (inner)
I have admired this jacket for years and especially versions using the exquisitely made jacquard cotton from Merchant & Mills. I was able to purchase some of the latter in musky pink on sale (I also managed to get the inner fabric heavily discounted as it had some minor imperfections in the weave). I cut a size S, and was able to squeeze the jacket pieces into just two meters. The jacquard frays easily when cut and is definitely not the easiest fabric to sew with. I took my time and sewed it in stages over a few evenings. I absolutely love the finished jacket - it is so warm and cosy. It is designed to be oversize and can be worn over a few layers. It has this heaviness too, which I kind of like - literally pushing my body down and enfolding it in soft fibers. The boys call it my "pink cloud jacket" and it really is...
Linen Hinterland Dress
Pattern by Sew Liberated
Fabric: Japanese washed linen
Another pattern I have long wanted to try. I decided to go for the sleeveless version without the button placket. Its a simple, gathered skirt, dress, with two waist ties, bias binding on the neck and arm holes, darts at the bust and lovely, generously sized side pockets. The fabric is a medium weight linen and is great worn over long sleeve tops (such as the Lark Tees I made in autumn) or on warmer days on it's own with a cardigan. I tried extending the hem with a thick band (that took the length just above my ankles) but decided to unpick it and do a simple folded hem just past the knees instead.
Gingham Array Shirt
Pattern: Array Shirt from Making magazine
Fabric: Linen/cotton blend
Excuse the crumples! I have made the array shirt a couple of times now and really love it's comfortable fit and how quickly it sews up. It is essentially a box shape with a bias-binded neck and folded hems for the sleeves and bottom. I love that it uses just-under a metre of fabric. I mistakingly sewed the bias neck band on the wrong side but decided I would leave it. Am I crazy? Probably..
Pattern: Serpentine Hat
Fabric: linen and cotton offcuts from my stash including part of an old dress.
This is a super speedy, stash-busting hat pattern! I was need of some wide-brimmed sun hats now that the weather is warming up. I used fusible facing for the brim - to add a little structure - and am experimenting with threading a line of plastic wire around the edge (Top hat has the wire / second hat is without it). I also used the inside-out method/hack that some people shared when using the pattern, whereby you join the inner + outer hats together and sew around the brim (right sides facing), then feed them through an opening in one side that was deliberately left un-sewn. I love that the hats are revisable and fit my head perfectly - I can't abide a too-tight or too-loose hat.
Pattern: Carrie Bostik Hodge
Yarn: Ochre Yarn 5ply, 304 Range (merino + yak) colourway "gem"
I knit this short sleeve tee with a group of three friends in a KAL (Knit-along). It was such a pleasure to see the progress of all our versions (using four different colours and kinds of yarn) - and is clearly a versatile and flattering pattern. I couldn't resist this warm, chocolatey brown yarn from my local fair-trade Ochre-yarn lady. It is a blend of merino wool and yak and is extremely soft and delicious. The panel of lace in the middle of the tee kept the project interesting enough all the way through without being overwhelming or mundane. I highly recommend it.
Super Comfortable Cotton Leggings
Pattern: Avery Leggings by Helen's Closet Patterns
Fabric: European Cotton Elastane Jersey, Melange "putty" colour
Finally some handmade leggings! A friend shared this pattern with me and it is perfect. I find myself intimated by the prospect of sewing jersey fabrics but then soon discover how straightforward it is with the right tension and stitch-style - and I loooove how jersey fabrics don't fray on you. The pattern is well written and I love the addition of a gusset and wide waist band. I will wear these under skirts and dresses, the perfect layer for sprinter weather.
What have you been making lately?
I want to remember the afternoon in the spring holidays we went out for a walk, my three boys and I. We walked, rode and scootered to the cattle yards. They humoured me as they played, holding still long enough for me to take their portraits. And it's in seeing their faces captured that I realise how beautifully grown they are, these three boys of mine. I want to remember the blue September sky, the growth of new leaves on the trees, the grass soft and green, the fine spider webs in the gorse bush. I want to remember the sounds of birds and the the cattle grazing the river flats, the sight of children rambling back home, this beautiful place, our home of more than two years.
September brings springtime. Sunshine. Daffodils. New leaves. Electric green. Open Windows. Tiny birds. Vaccinations. Birthdays. Snap dragons. School holidays. Busy bees. Sprouting broccoli. Suprise calfs. Forget-me-nots. Bluebells. Baby leeks. Island cubbies. Afternoon walks. Tadpoles. Valerian. Hopeful dreams //
A Short History of the World According to Sheep by Sally Coultard (2020)
A friend lent me this. A wonderful read, refreshing in it's brevity and attention holding. Sally Coultard writes with wit and detail as she explores a global history of sheep farming and the development of wool as a fibre, and the many crafts and trades, political unrest and culture formation that arose from it. From breeds of sheep in ancient Mesopotamia to the hand-spun sails of anicent Norwegian ships, export of royal stockings to agriculture in Australia - the stories and historic records are fascinating. Not to mention the section all about sheep and wool derived words and idioms: warp, weave, fleeced, spinster, dyed-in-the-wool, spin a yarn, pull the wool over one's eyes, moral fibre, bellwether, sheepish, wolf in sheep's clothing, black sheep!
This Golden Fleece by Esther Rutter (2020)
Following on my sheep theme, I read this one by Esther Rutter exploring Britain's history and love of wool. She travels around the countryside and isles, visiting sheep farms, woollen mills, museums and markets - weaving personal stories with history and folklore about the craft. She also documents her own progress knitting some special projects for herself and loved ones. I enjoyed this so much!
Madam Bovary by Gustav Flaubert (1856)
Read and dissected slowly in my book club (with my sister, sister's partner, and mum). Such a rich and provocative work. Originally written in French, it was interesting to compare our various English translations. I have read MB before - in high school, but didn't get nearly as much out of it as I did re-reading it in this season of life. It raises so many questions around femininity, sexuality, marriage, class, narrative, faith. So worth reading.
I thought it was just me (but it isn't) by Brene Brown (2007)
I listened to this as an audiobook while I cleaned the eggs over a week or two, and appreciated the time and space to reflect in-between sessions. I ended up buying a hard copy I enjoyed it so much - although enjoy isn't the right word, more that I valued it's insight and wisdom greatly. Brené does a great job unpacking the devastating social, emotional, and physical effects of shame through her 6-year study with women of varying ages and ethnicities. “Nothing silences us more effectively than shame" she writes. I found her case studies and personal stories heart breaking and sadly familiar. She shares lots of practical suggestions and ideas for identifying and abandoning shame and finding life-giving and compassionate alternatives. “If empathy is the skill or ability to tap into our own experiences in order to connect with an experience someone is relating to us, compassion is the willingness to be open to this process.”
Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians and the Hijacking of the American Conversation by Andrew Marantz (2019)
My beautiful library purchased this one after I requested it. I have followed Andrew Marantz's writing for the New Yorker for a few years with great interest and respect. His book explores the rise (and rise) of political extremism and white supremcey made possible through digital media and social networking. An engrossing, disturbing, important read.
Love Objects by Emily Maguire (2021)
This was a random library borrow based on the back (and front) cover. I felt like reading fiction and was intrigued by the synopsis and her exploration of hoarding as a mental health condition, as well as the complicated nature of extended families in times of crisis. It held my attention mostly, though some parts are quite graphic and disturbing. Always strange and wonderful to read a book set in my birth city, Sydney and in neighborhoods I know well.
Things I don't want to know by Deborah Levy (2018)
This was the first installment of her "living autobiography trilogy" and my favourite of them. It is the shortest in length but felt the most intimate and revealing. Beautifully written. Levy delves into her childhood growing up in apartheid South Africa, and later moving across to England. Highly recommend.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
A friend lent me this. I have long wanted to read it. So beautiful, so heart-breaking. I couldn't put it down, and thought about it long after the last page ended. Highly recommend. “We are not idealized wild things.
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
Read my autumn reading here
Read my summer reading here
to your lovingkindness
steady my feet on soft grass
to the gentle stream
may I bathe in living water,
drink from your wellspring
at the harbour of your grace
a place to rest my head
in the hope of new life
where space for stories grow,
compassion and belonging.
to the still small voice
that I would hear you
in the clamour and in the silence
Winter ending and all about us glimmers of colour and life emerging: growing grass and velvety moss a shocking green which months of soaking rain will bring. There's blue through skeleton trees, that if you look carefully reveal tiny shoots and buds. The garden gifts us lettuce, spinach and broccoli florets and the fattest worms we've ever seen. Longer days means more eggs laid and outdoor rambles before tea. I spy a rainbow on the fridge and all manner of drawings plastered above boys' beds. So much good food on our tables, freuqent celebrations for little things. And everywhere we look daffodils and jonquils blooming. Thankful //
Midwinter is damp and overcast and my hands ache in the cold // We enter our fifth lockdown and return to the rollercoaster of big feelings and disappointments, slowness and exasperation // The heater is lit every day and kept glowing hot over night, and the nook beside it is perfectly cat shaped // Wood cut from trees that blew over in the storm are stacked up to dry // Craft brings much comfort - face masks for friends and family, a colorful beret from leftover yarn scraps and a thin nae shawl in a delicious deep red // Hope is a short walk every day on my own, ruby rose hips on a dry vine, wax flowers on the kitchen bench, flower buds on the Chinese quince // Hope is everything beautiful and true and praiseworthy, the Good Shepherd who leads me gently on, in everything we can't see yet, a cup of hot tea, a ray of sunshine on the cheek //
Down by the river
no boys playing,
banks submerged with rain -
sodden and soaking,
debris caught and foaming.
I watch the water
it's a funny kind of sympathy
she reflecting me:
that spilling out, forcefully,
an overflow of feelings
days of rain and howling winds bring -
of wondering, half-sleeping,
weeks of lockdown and isolation
familiar paths, unsettling us
again and again.
I'm a mess of worry and relief
we know we're the lucky ones
with animals safe, with house in tact
that's dry and warm -
spirit within us, hovering,
rest and disturbance.
Down by the river
I'm a woman lingering,
listening to the flow -
birds are singing,
darting in the trees
and on my face
blessed sun, shining.
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...