Easter weekend treats

We're just coming to the end of a rather lovely Easter long weekend break, and I'm about to enjoy a nice cuppa with some (more) chocolate.  Easter Sunday started with Toblerone French Toast, courtesy of Bill Granger - which Mr J thought was a fantastic way to start the day, but his day brightened up even more with with a little Easter-egg hunt!  

Toblerone French Toast, Bill Granger

Ingredients: 
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar (I left this out as it's sweet enuogh as it is!)
  • 8 slices brioche loaf (I couldn't find a brioche loaf, so I used an un-sliced loaf of fruit toast)
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 100g Toblerone bar, chopped
Method:

  • Whisk together the eggs, milk and caster sugar (if using) into a flat dish
  • Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
  • Dip two slices of brioche into the egg mixture, turning them over until they are completely coated.  
  • Put the soaked brioche slices in the frying pan and sprinkle each one with a quarter of the chopped chocolate.
  • Soak another two slices of brioche in the egg mixture, and put on top of the bread in the pan to make sandwiches.  Press lightly with a spatula to seal the edges.
  • Cook for 2 - 3 mionutes on each side until golden brown.  Repeat for the other two sandwiches and serve immediately.
  • Enjoy!  

Farmhouse Home illustrations

Just before Christmas I was commissioned to create some illustrations for Catherine Bedson's Farmhouse Home blog, which is a blog essentially celebrating food. Catherine cooks delicious food and shares rustic, country style recipes, as well as doing reviews of local cafes in Melbourne and book reviews.
Catherine was looking to re-vamp her blog and wanted some hand-drawn illustrations to accompany the new design. The illustrations were to form the actual header and overall branding, as well as individual icons for the menu tabs.  The illustrations had to reflect the easy country style of her food, but also something that would capture the homely and personal feel of the blog.   
We made the decision early on to purely create the illustrations in black and white, and in a sketchy hand-drawn style.  The image above, and the following images below show some of the sketches and work in progress to get to the final illustrations. 
 
All of the illustrations were completed using a HB and B pencil, onto plain paper.  The sketchy style of the illustrations was used to convey a relaxed and homely feel, and the monochromatic colour palette helped to keep it simple but contemporary. 

One of my favourite parts of the brief was to sketch Catherine's dog Charlie - who was very cute! 

Over on the Farmhouse Home blog currently is a little interview Catherine did with me about my artistic background, and I also shared one of my favourite recipes.  Yum!  You can see it here.

Rundell & Rundell workshop

Last week I had the opportunity to have peek into the workshop of super-talented and passionate craftsman / chairmaker / woodworker Glen Rundell, of Rundell & Rundell

Much has been written about Rundell & Rundell, and the rather beautiful shop in Kyneton run by Glen and his very talented wife Lisa (see The Design Files and The Countryphiles) but I was particularly excited about seeing inside Glen's workshop where all the magic happens! 
Glen is a woodworker and chairmaker who hand-crafts his pieces in an age-old traditional style, using the same techniques as would have been used 200 years ago.  The process to create his hand-made Windsor chairs, Shaker oval boxes and other traditional household items is immensely time-consuming and labour intensive, including harvesting much of the timber himself which in itself can take months to dry.  Like many artisans however, the timely process to craft his products is a labour of love and Glen is passionate about preserving these traditional crafts and creating products that are beautiful and long-lasting.  The Rundell & Rundell shop is testament to his desire to only stock 'fine traditional goods, beautifully crafted by hand'.   

Glen's Windsor chairs are an absolute work of art taking many precious hours to create, and on the
day I arrived to photograph the workshop he was in the process of a 7-day workshop teaching students to make their own Windsor chair.  It was great seeing the workshop in full swing, and I even managed to score a piece of delicious banana cake (with passionfruit icing no less) made by Lisa - this was a real treat and worth doing the workshop for alone!

Tools of the trade
Some of the beautiful Shaker oval boxes


Big thanks to Glen for allowing me to wander round his workshop poking my camera around! For more information about Rundell & Rundell including the workshops see the website, and Glen also writes a blog covering his woodworking escapades and his rather epic house renovation!

1960's chairs....before and after

About 6 - 8 months ago I picked up two fabulous 1960's chairs in our local second-hand / antiques shop. I loved the shape and size of them, but they were old, a bit fusty and whilst I loved the original green woven fabric, they were in much need of new foam cushions and re-upholstering.
 
The first thing we did was to set about stripping back the old dark varnish.  Mr B tackled this job over winter, at night and in the garage - I don't think it was much fun, whilst I trawled through fabric books and ordered a heap of fabric swatches to chose from.        

Removing the dark varnish transformed the chairs, revealing a lovely pale Scandinavian looking wood (which apparently is Myrtle) and we then simply finished this by rubbing over a wax to protect and seal the wood.  I decided to cover the chairs in different fabrics, rather than having them as a matching pair, and I settled on 'Baxter' in Wasabi from Warwick, and 'Bubble' in Yellow Chrome from Zepel Fabrics.    We used a Stephen Read, a great local upholsterer in Woodend to re-cover the chairs, as I fear my average sewing skills and very old sewing machine might not have been up to the job!

'It's Time to Talk', tea illustrations for Aware mental health campaign


I was approached towards the end of last year by the charity Aware, a non-profit organisation in Ireland, which offers support and information for people who suffer from depression.  They wanted to use some of my tea illustrations to launch their latest campaign 'It's Time to Talk'.....about mental health, for their website and facebook sites.
The illustrations chosen by Aware were from a blog post sometime ago, where I did a series of sketches experimenting with ink pen and collage techniques.  I was delighted to donate the illustrations to such a worthy cause, and help support their campaign to get people in Ireland to host coffee mornings and chat about mental health.         

The sketches were originally done for personal experimentation and enjoyment, so it was great they ended up being useful and serving a much greater purpose.  For more information about the 'It's Time to Talk' campaign just visit Aware.     

Kyneton Cookbook Illustrations


Sometime ago I blogged about some kitchen and food illustrations I'd been working on, and here is the finished result.  The illustrations were to accompany recipes for the Kyneton Kitchen Cookbook, put together by the hard-working mums of the Kyneton Playgroup (myself included!)    




It was a great project to work on as I really just created my own brief.  I'd been wanting to work on some more food-based illustrations for a while, and also to experiment with working in a linear style with pen and ink. 
The majority of the illustrations were based on things in my kitchen such as condiments, bowls, saucepans and utensils, and of course I tried to ensure that the illustrations matched the recipes.  As well as creating the illustrations, I managed the overall layout and design of the book, so it was great to play at being a graphic designer for a while! 


 

I loved working on all the illustrations and creating the foody artwork, and it made a really nice change to be in charge of my own brief and not to be restricted by the usual commercial constraints.  The freedom of working with a dip pen instead of my usual watercolour technique, and creating a more 'simplistic' range of artwork in a limited colour palette was really refreshing and I hope to get the chance to work on similar food-based illustrations in the future.     
 

Christmas countdown



“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” ― Janice Maeditere

I know I say it each year, but I can't believe Christmas is once more upon us and the end of another year is nearly over.  2013 has been a busy year, with exciting work projects, a new house and a fast-growing little toddler. 

Christmas for me still has all the nostalgia and associations with growing up in England......cold, dark days with twinkly lights in shop windows, Christmas carols being played at home on the record player (yes that's the generation I come from when we grew up with record players) and if we were very lucky some snow for snowmen and sledging.  So, sitting here writing this on a bright sunny, steaming hot 35C day and planning what food I need to organise for our orphans Christmas, doesn't really feel much like christmas.  But really, however and wherever Christmas is spent, it's a great opportunity to catch up with friends and family and take some time to enjoy being together (for a short time anyway!)

Wishing everybody a wonderful Christmas and all the best for the New Year.  :)  

Port Macquarie long weekend

We recently got back from a mini escape to Port Macquarie, which was just lovely.  We were only away for a few short days, but the mini break was perfect to just unwind and take it easy for a day or two.  Little Mr J loved playing on the beach and paddling in the soft waves, and we even found some crabs to put in his bucket which was very exciting.  My formula for a perfect long-weekend escape is quite simple:   Sun + sand + waves + ice-cream = bliss :)  

Teacup etchings

A few weeks ago I wrote about an etching workshop I did with Bridget Farmer and I've finally managed to find time to photograph some of the prints from my weekends work.  As well as some black and white etchings, I managed to produce several coloured artworks of my favourite teacups.      
 
The top image was my biggest print, with all three teacups printed onto one sheet of paper, whilst the rest of the prints were single teacups. 
Such a fun weekend and great to learn a new process which is totally different to how I normally work.  Thanks again Bridget x    

Strawberry kettles & crochet mats

 
On two separate op-shop expeditions recently, I picked up this very sweet old-fashioned whistling kettle and a collection of crochet mats.  I already have a couple of vintage whistling kettles, but it was the pretty strawberry pattern that appealed to me with this one, and it was just too cute to resist.      
The crochet mats in assorted sizes and patterns were picked up for the pricely sum of $1 for the lot!  I don't really use crochet mats for anything, I just loved the different patterns (they're rather like enlarged snowflakes) and figure I'm sure to find a use for them sometime in the future.     

Duck Duck Goose & Larder

For a small town Kyneton really punches above it's weight with a great selection of shops, cafes and fresh local produce, with Duck Duck Goose & Larder being a rather gorgeous addition to the scene.   
Housed in a large brick building (I believe used to be the old Kyneton Market) Duck Duck Goose & Larder stocks locally sourced fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meats, as well as a really tasteful selection of local, Australian and international range of sauces, pastas, olive oils, cordials, teas, preserves, and delicious pantry items.
At the front of the store a cafe opens onto an outdoor area facing Piper Street, with a selection of delicious home-baked pies, cakes, tarts and a yummy breakfast / brunch menu.  Dotted around the place are terrariums and succulents planted in old pots and enamel containers, which is right up my street (makes me realise how much I've neglected my little succulents recently) and I want to take them all home with me.
As well as food produce, there is also a small selection of very cute gift items, including this fabulous yellow Scandi-style teapot and cup set - cute! 
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day and the Gelati was very popular with little mr J. 
The selection of goods available has been really carefully selected - almost curated like a gallery - and I love all the beautiful packaging of the food.  How gorgeous are these small Panettoni boxes, I'm sure the sweet breads are delicious, but I'd buy them for the packaging alone.   
Duck Duck Goose & Larder 17 - 19 Piper Street, Kyneton

Weekend print workshop

Over the weekend I took part in a Dry Point Etching workshop in Daylesford with Bridget Farmer.  Bridget specialises in various forms of printmaking, but it was the Dry Point Etching I was most interested in learning.  Myself and fellow local designer Fran Pidgeon headed to Bridgets fabulous studio armed with rubber gloves, aprons and itchy fingers ready to print!             
Bridget has dedicated 2013 to 'The Year of the Finch' and has been drawing and creating prints specifically on this little bird.  Above is one of her very cute dry point etchings of said Finch. 
The etching workshop took place on Saturday and Sunday, and it was so lovely to have a creative weekend for completely personal enjoyment - no brief to work to, no commercial limitations, (no toddler around) just me, Fran, Bridget, some 1930's music, choc-chip cookies, cups of tea, and lots of chatting.  Fabulous! 
I love being in other peoples studios and workspaces, seeing how creative people work, what inspires them, are they neat, messy, organised etc.  Most studio's house a lovely mix of random bits and pieces (I like to think of it as studio flotsam and jetsam) that have been found and gathered to serve as useful equipment or inspiration.      

I decided to take some of 'my girls' (vintage teacups) to use as a basis for my etching prints. I started off roughly sketching the teacups, before engraving my illustration onto the plate.  We were using acetate as a plate, which makes it a really easy substance to engrave and allowed us to work very quickly as no acid is necessary to eat into the more traditional copper plate.   
We started off printing our etchings with single colour prints, before progressing to applying several colours to the plate.  This is called 'a la poupee' (multiple colours applied directly to the plate) and Bridget has a tutorial about this technique on her website.    Above you can see Fran's very intricate and detailed beautiful bird print (left) and my sketchy-style teacup print and inked acetate plate (right). 
A big thanks to Bridget and Fran for a wonderful weekend!