A truly beautiful Minxy mix of charm, inspiration, practical advice, and pretty projects to simplify and beautify your life and home. - Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Domesticity
I’ve only just regained my equilibrium after an overseas holiday and find myself starting to sink into old routines with pleasure and a little sadness.
Being on the road is lovely. Visiting new places every few days and catching up with friends and family… It’s always a surprise to find I enjoy the nomadic lifestyle when I’m such a homebody at heart. I miss it – even the annoying bits like airports and dodgy meals. But one can’t travel forever (one can, of course, but I doubt it would suit us and we’d end up very poor!) so here we are, home again.
It was a wonderful holiday. There were a few days spent exploring Dubai, a week in England visiting London, Oxford and tripping about the countryside catching up with everyone, four days in Rome alone with James, a week in Umbria with the extended family and another couple of days in Thailand on the way home, just us three. It felt like being away for twice as long. The key was that we kept moving; nothing felt stale.
Favourite bits? England was all nostalgia for me, my second home. Visiting my husband’s family farm in Somerset, wandering about the galleries in London with essential trips to the V&A, Natural History Museum and Liberty (yes, I’m a grown-up Clara Button) and a day in Oxford with my treasured friend, Meiling. Dubai was a blast of heat and strange luxury, Bangkok humid and delicious (oh, how we ate) and Italy was, as always, sumptuous, inspiring and seeped in the sort of history that makes my mind boggle. Get this: in Rome we were staying in a little hotel (a former Palazzo with soaring ceilings) opposite 2,500-year-old Etruscan ruins. With a bus stop and busy thoroughfare a few feet away. Madness.
After pouring everything I had into the novel I’ve been working on for the past two years, I was feeling so empty. It was the best panacea I could have asked for.
And there’s something else to look forward to, if not another holiday on the horizon: we are finally starting our daunting house renovation. Yes, it’s time, what with the leaky roof and fifties oven called Kimberley. I hope we can create something that suits us perfectly. Stay tuned on social media as I post wallpapers, fabrics and various other finds during the journey and please, wish me luck!
My multi-talented friend Rebecca Huntley, presenter of ABC Radio National’s Drive program has published this sweet children’s book about the tradition of family recipes. Illustrated by Ilona Tar, you can find it online at Nonna’s Gnocchi or Berkelouw Books.
See here for a review by cooking legend Stephanie Alexander:
‘This delightful story will almost certainly lead to a gnocchi-making session at your house. Make sure you have some potatoes in the cupboard! Subtly it reinforces the importance of traditional knowledge and of how it is passed from one generation to another. Sofia is learning just as her mother also learnt from Nonna. The illustrations are charming and the kitchen will be familiar to many readers.’
Sometime last year I went to a writing workshop at Faber Academy with novelist Carrie Tiffany. The title was Fiction Mining, and it was all about taking inspiration from your experiences to perform a sort of alchemy within your writing. But the lesson I learnt most was through an offhand comment she made, about the process of essentially doing nothing after a book is done.
The suggestion was to take time off to visit galleries or go on walks, listen to music. To read and recharge the batteries for a good few months, at least. I realised I’d never actually done this. I’ve always been so worried about being without another project to keep me busy, I don’t actually stop and chill for a bit, or really savour each small success.
I feel so uncomfortable in limbo. Even if you love what you do, being in the middle of something’s all about the daily grind and the importance of simply getting it done – whether that’s a creative project or otherwise. But limbo does give you energy to keep going, and puts things in perspective. It’s also a time of endless possibility, which makes things exciting.
Lately I’ve been forced to rest. I’ve started taking pleasure in long walks around the bay and just stretching. Towards the end of last year I was punishing my body with training as a way of counteracting the work of sitting at a computer all day long, nutting out writing problems. All go go go, then stop & atrophy.
The other day I sped over to the bay to do my relaxing walk(!), ready to listen to some music to make me walk faster and beat my time from the day before. Then I realised I’d misplaced my headphones. I almost went home, but I didn’t. And that was the first time in years I found myself alone, without stimulation, simply walking and breathing.
I slowed down. I listened. I watched some clouds, and didn’t let myself think about anything too much… It felt good.
Yesterday Jess and I had a stall at the Round She Goes Market at Marrickville Town Hall. It’s such a gorgeous venue with these high ceilings covered in original ornate mouldings and lightshades, and the organisers did a wonderful job of promoting it. I was clearing out the closets and some of the dresses from Minxy Vintage because space is such a premium in our tiny cottage and, really, there’s only so much you can keep. I was on buying frenzies with each of the books; first with fabrics, then with vintage clothes, then with wool and more fabric and props to style The Crafty Minx at Home, now it just feels good to streamline a bit and pare the house back to basics (or my basics, which is the things I use, and those I love or which have some special memory attached – the rest seems unnecessary).
It was a little strange for the both of us because Jess has closed her vintage clothing business, Coco Repose, and is in the process of becoming a very fine artist (check out her Instagram feed to see some of her oil paintings and illustrations, or her website here) and I’ve been focusing so hard on the novel it feels like I haven’t had time to do much in the way of craft or fashion upcycling. But in truth that’s not so – I’m always doing small things each day, like re-arranging a bell jar display or collecting leaves and flowers to dry and press with Olive for cards, or simply cutting out scraps from fashion magazines and collaging them with watercolours in my home recipe journal to liven up the pages a bit. And I never stop rummaging – most weekends you can find me at Rozelle Markets or popping into boutiques for inspiration – or thinking about the new-season styles when I’m not writing or researching.
I was feeling drained when we arrived but just being with Jess and all those visitors – there must have been a thousand or more who came over the course of the day – was invigorating and fun. I brought my books along thinking, why not, and besides selling a few it was truly lovely to meet some women who’d already read them. I’d kind of forgotten how nice it is being told how much someone enjoyed the book you wrote and hearing other people’s recollections of their own finds and stories.
Today we’re indulging in a cruisy day at home and I’m stuffed full of these pancakes, which James made for breakfast. I thought it couldn’t get any better than his Crepes Suzette, but this is the healthier version we just ate, topped with yoghurt. De-lish.
P.S. Olive actually took most of these photos – I gave her my phone and she just went for it!
My friend Maggie once said something along the lines of, ‘although winter seems so bleak and cold, there’s lots happening beneath the ground. When spring arrives, everything bursts into life - but it was growing all along.’ That’s been my spring. And summer. And the beginning of autumn. Yes, it’s been awhile.
The last year has been beyond hectic in our household. Olive started school, I’ve been working on redrafts of my novel for a period which feels like eternity (but is actually only six or seven months), and both James and I have been struggling with health issues. My neck got so bad recently, I haven’t been able to sew, cook, exercise or even write at times. The universe is trying to tell us something, but I’m still figuring out what that is. Actually, I know what it is, but I’ve only just admitted it. I’m getting help and – with Sydney Writers’ Festival on next week – not a moment too soon. Now is always one of my favourite times of the year.
Today I had lunch with the beautiful Pia Jane Bijkerk and came home feeling so inspired, I knew I couldn’t leave the blog appearing so unloved any longer. It’s early days, but we’re cooking up something special. Something collaborative, something you can be involved in, and – most importantly – something nourishing. Because it’s been too long playing hermit (for me, at least) and I’m missing that connection. Stay tuned; more details will be coming soon.
Another dear friend gave me this card last night. A passage inside reads ‘I know you’ve had a rough trot, but hopefully resolution is nigh. Simply gaze plaintively towards the horizon, raise a (mildly) strong cup of tea to your lips and know you’ll get there.’ Thanks, Katrina. I’m onto it.
Almost six years ago I left a rewarding, stimulating job for the uncertainty of writing fulltime. My daughter was born a few months later. The sacrifices were not easy (such as delaying the home renovation we’ve been planning for the better part of a decade, and going through heavy times of work, illness and stress) but the gains have been tremendous.
I managed to stay home and slot in work around Olive, something I’ve been particularly grateful for and couldn’t have achieved without the support of my husband and friends. But despite the challenges, somehow we managed it.
Yesterday she went to school for the very first time. And though it’s early days, she seems so ready and so thrilled to be there… I wasn’t expecting to feel so relieved. So light. So new-chapter about it all. I’m pleased as the sun for her.
In five years I rarely had the opportunity to write for more than one day at a time. But this morning I did. And it was GLORIOUS.
So what I’m saying is, do it. That thing you’ve always wanted to do. It’s going to be hard (sorry about that, no point lying). It will take you to the very edge of what you thought yourself capable of, and humble you greatly in the process. But it will change you. And it’ll be worth it. This I know.
How can you not love this song?
Is this the uniform of the Aussie creative? I’m not sure what it is about Gorman, but I think it might just be the chosen label for women in the arts. Maybe it’s the organic cottons. Or the inspired mix of prints and patterns. Or the wild enthusiasm with colour and collaborations with the likes of Rachel Castle. Because everyone I know has the designer Lisa Gorman’s clothing in their wardrobes, or at least one piece. Ms. Gorman’s married to another designophile, Dean Angelucci of Angelucci 20th Century. Did you see their home in Inside Out? It’s freaking gorgeous. I’m wondering when she’ll launch the new homewares range into its own retail stores. Soon, surely? I’ve got my eye on those cushions and mohair throws, even if I’m too busy prioritising fashion at the moment (always with the compromise). The separates go with vintage a treat, too.
Last week I visited the launch for Stillways at Better Read than Dead – a raw, lyrical, hilarious memoir of childhood by The Big Steal star Steve Bisley (a great Australian film – remember Ben Mendelson before he got scary, and Claudia Karvan in those cowboy boots? Heaven) – and met a book editor wearing a checked short-sleeve Gorman blouse. I had on a Gorman spotted shift, so we bonded over our love for the label for a good few minutes before realising we had loads more in common.
The socks and knits are staples, plus a dress from each season if you can manage it. How could you not love these shots from the previous seasons’ lookbooks? Her clothes just make me, I don’t know, so… happy.
Look at these new images by The Crafty Minx at Home photographer, Amanda Prior featured in last weekend’s Sunday Style. Fabulous.
Styling – Emma Freebairn
Creative Director – Mary Talato