Shibui Bowls

The power of literature is evident in that a Japanese novelist who I never met instilled in me a love of pottery bowls. In high school I read Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata and was introduced to the Japanese concept of shibui in which a functional, ordinary, even old-fashioned household object is valued and admired for its simple beauty and subtle detail. In hindsight, I think this way of thinking was one of the precursors to my interest in simple living.

About ten years ago when pottery wasn’t considered to be that hip, I spotted a gorgeous blue bowl in an op shop. It was beautifully crafted and signed with the potter’s mark. It was only $5. It was a turning point. I became a restrained, discerning but enthusiastic bowl hunter. Over the next few months and years I developed a small but lovely collection.

To this day my shibui bowls bring me a great deal of quiet joy not only because I think they are beautiful but also because they are so functional. They are handcrafted and earthy. They are my partners in hospitality. They make my home feel warm and cosy.

What’s your shibui thing?

Michael Leunig

Michael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet. His commentary on political, cultural and emotional life spans more than forty years and has often explored the idea of an innocent and sacred personal world. The fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world is a related and recurrent theme.

His newspaper work appears regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. He describes his approach as regressive, humorous, messy, mystical, primal and vaudevillian – producing work which is open to many interpretations and has been widely adapted in education, music, theatre, psychotherapy and spiritual life.

Quoted from : http://leunig.com.au/

In 1999, Michael Leunig was declared an Australian Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia. What a great decision! I have been a fan of Michael’s work for a while and a number of his books sit well-read on my bookshelf. Every New Year I buy his calendar and I also follow his instagram https://www.instagram.com/leunigstudio/?hl=en.

I noticed last month that The Sydney Film Festival 2019 featured a documentary called The Leunig Fragments about his life and work. It was directed by Kasimir Burgess. I was so disappointed to miss it and hope to see it one day. Here is a trailer:

Two years ago I had the privilege of seeing Michael Leunig in concert with Katie Noonan at the Sydney Opera House. It was called Gratitude and Grief. Michael and Katie’s collaboration was magical. The concert combined poetry, music and illustration. Michael would read one of his poems then Katie would perform it as a song. While she sang, Michael drew an illustration for the poem and the images were projected onto massive screen so we could watch as he worked. It was a unique and thoroughly entertaining experience! Here’s a taste:

Not long after I saw the concert I wrote this poem.

Our Living Treasure


Each
tender stroke of felt tip
every 
‘toon and curly quip
a spark
a rustle
a wink
a gift

on the brink
he sends out
a cappella notes
like doves to bless
and declare
our state of undress

Poet, Prayer, Prophet, Sayer
like that Holy Jester
of camel and needle fame
our Antipodean Fool
dusts off
old bones 
celebrates
the odd
the out of tune
the precarious

The Loon
knows our bitter sweet 
capacity
teaches our fickle hearts
veracity
knows the crux 
of our ferocious woes
and the antidotes
of those
knows righteous rage
and fringe dwelling
slow-dances with shadows 
and truth telling
sows wild blooms
in deserts of tears
and beckons a smile

©2019 Belle Perry

Confessions of a Rhubarb Queen

I have had a long love affair with rhubarb.

Legend has it that when I was a very little girl I went to an afternoon tea party and when asked what I would like to eat I replied, “Rhubarb please!”

That amusing incident earned me the title ‘Rhubarb Queen’ in my family.

Last summer I was walking along the street with my friend and I noticed a bucket of free rhubarb. It was outside a house with a well-tended garden. I had often stopped there to admire the dahlias. Delighted, I took a bunch of rhubarb home and stewed it later that day.

My tastebuds were dancing the cha cha, the jitterbug and everything in between! It was unbelievably good. Just enough tartness and just enough sweetness. Paired with vanilla ice cream, it was a simple but completely satisfying dessert.

Following this I had a New Year epiphany. I decided that my only resolution this year would be to plant some rhubarb in my garden. I did some research and was a little disappointed to find out that I couldn’t plant it straight away. I had to wait.

A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time! No more waiting. I scoped out Springwood Growers Market and found a healthy looking rhubarb plant at the awesome Patio Plants stall. You can find Patio Plants Pty Ltd on Facebook. They are regulars at both the Blackheath Growers Market (2nd Sunday of the month) and Springwood Growers Market (4th Sunday of the month).

I chose a sunny well-drained spot in the garden and planted it with lots of love and care. Hopefully there will be something delicious to harvest in the next year or so. Looks like the ‘Rhubarb Queen’ will have to be patient some more. It will be worth it though.

Thankfully, unlike growing rhubarb, stewing rhubarb is quick (and easy)!

Stewed Rhubarb

  • 6 – 8 stalks of rhubarb
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1/ 4 cup water
  • Remove and discard the leaves (they are rather toxic, so don’t feed them to your chickens!)
  • Wash the stalks and chop them into 2 cm chunks.
  • Place them in a saucepan with water and sugar.
  • Stew gently for 5-10 minutes or until the stalks are tender.
  • Serve hot over vanilla ice cream.
  • Cold with muesli and yogurt works too.
  • You could also stew the rhubarb with 4 or 5 apples (peeled and sliced). A great combo for a crumble dessert!

The Scrabble Dream

So I have a little Scrabble habit: Not only do I love to play but I also must work out the combined score of all the players after each game. I reckon anything over 500 is worth celebrating!

I come from a long line of Scrabble enthusiasts. It is such an entertaining game of word knowledge but also skill, strategy and luck. Every holidays we play, sometimes three generations represented around the board, and our Scrabble dictionary is pretty shabby from so much use!

In the photo above you can see one of my favourite op shop finds: a vintage Scrabble set. It makes me so happy. It has wooden tiles and trays and is in top notch condition though it was missing an ‘i’ when I bought it. Copyright on the box says 1953 by Selchow & Righter Co. Bay Shore, New York.

Recently I watched a wonderfully quirky film called Sometimes, Always, Never. It features a particularly hilarious Scrabble playing scene. In fact Scrabble is delightfully woven all the way through the film. Here is the trailer:

Scrabble was born in New York in 1938. The inventor of the game was Alfred Mosher Butts, an unemployed architect and amateur artist. He tried without much luck to market the game and finally in 1948 he sold the rights to entrepreneur James Brunot who came up with the name ‘Scrabble’. Brunot also set up a Scrabble factory in Connecticut. The game didn’t fully take off until 1952 when an executive from Macy’s, the famous department store, played the game while on holidays. He loved it so much, he decided to stock it in his store. There was such a demand for it that Macy’s turned production over to Selchow and Righter, a company that had previously rejected the game. https://www.nytimes.com/1993/04/07/obituaries/alfred-m-butts-93-is-dead-inventor-of-scrabble.html

Scrabble is now popular all around the world and over 150 million Scrabble sets have been sold. There are Scrabble clubs, associations and tournaments. There are variations of the game: Travel Scrabble, Scrabble Cards, Deluxe Scrabble, online Scrabble and Large Print Scrabble. There are Scrabble dictionaries. There are Scrabble tea towels!

If you think a Scrabble tea towel might enhance your dish wiping experience or make a great gift for a special Scrabble friend, The Turning Page Bookshop in Springwood have them: http://www.indies.com.au/TheTurningPageBookshop

I bet the ongoing success of Scrabble was beyond Alfred’s wildest dreams when he first invented the game in 1938. It reminds me that we should never underestimate the potential of our ideas, dreams and creativity.

Down to Earth

One of the most compelling lifestyle ideas of the past two decades is that of ‘simple living’ which I have written about in a previous post https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/peregrineblue.com/452. A book that sparked my interest and has been a huge inspiration to me is this gem: Down to Earth: a guide to simple living by Rhonda Hetzel. Based on the Sunshine Coast, Rhonda practices her dream of simple living and offers practical ideas in her easy to read book.

I love her opening quote: ‘I was pulled into simple living before I knew what it was. It crept up on me using the smallest of steps and didn’t reveal its true beauty and power until I was totally hooked. I was searching for a way to live well while spending very little money. What I found was a way of life that also gave me independence, opportunity and freedom.’

Down to Earth provides excellent advice across a range of topics that include: managing finances, simplifying routines, decluttering, sustainable gardening, preserving and fermenting food, recycling, reducing waste and keeping chickens. At the back of the book is an extensive list of online resources for simple living.

Down to Earth is a book that I dip back into regularly to draw inspiration and to figure out how to try something new. I remember I wasn’t all that brave about getting chickens but when I read Rhonda’s section on ‘Keeping Chickens’ it encouraged me to take the plunge!

Down to Earth was published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2012. Rhonda Hetzel has also written: The Simple Life and The Simple Home. You can find out more on her blog: https://down—to—earth.blogspot.com/ on her instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rhondahetzel/ or by tracking down her books in one of our local bookshops:

A Stitch in Time

One of the most captivating opening scenes in a film can been seen in Bright Star directed by Jane Campion. In the scene, Fanny Brawne (played by Abbie Cornish) is stitching by a window as her little sister ‘Toots’, watches on. The scene is shot close up so each meticulous stitch through the fabric is shown in exquisite detail. Watch here:

Fanny Brawne is a talented and confident young woman who designs and sews her own clothes. Her fine work is featured throughout the film in her splendid costumes. The fabric textures, colours and needlework are sumptuous. And Fanny gets some cracker lines. She boasts to John Keats (the famous poet and her love interest) and his friend Charles Brown,

‘My stitching has more merit and admirers that your two scribblings put together. And I can make money from it.’

And later, alone to John Keats:

‘This is the first frock in all of Woolwich and Hampstead to have a triple pleated mushroom collar.’

Oh to be like Fanny Brawne with a needle and thread!

The other day I went to put on my favourite red cardigan and noticed the seam coming apart along the collar. My first thought was to return it to the store but when I found my receipt, it was two months old. Hmmm… The ‘simple living’ voice inside reminded me that mending is better anyway.

Dilemma. Even though I have daydreams of making my own fabulous fashion like Fanny Brawne, the reality is that my sewing skills are ordinary. They are best described as entry level. I can thread a needle, sew on a button, do blanket stitch, running stitch, back stitch and machine sew straight lines.

Not brilliant, but my sewing know-how is enough for basic mending so I toughened up and I got out my little wooden sewing box. I sat down next to the window just like Fanny Brawne. In minutes the mending was done and I will get to wear my beloved cardigan many more times. I decided to mend the cuff of my trench coat while I was at it. In the end it was very satisfying and good for the soul.

I could certainly work on my skills though! I found a variety of resources on the internet that teach basic mending skills. Too many to mention and I prefer books anyway so I found a couple of books on mending in our local bookshop, The Turning Page. http://www.indies.com.au/TheTurningPageBookshop

The first one was Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh, published in 2018 by Abrams. For starters, I love the title and the book is beautifully presented. Apart from clear instructions for various mending techniques, the author writes convincingly about the benefits of mending and slow fashion.

The other book I found was Make and Mend by Jessica Marquez, published in 2018 by Watson-Guptill Publications. Make and Mend is a gorgeous guide to the Japanese art of sashiko or ‘visible mending’ in which mending becomes a featured work of art. If you enjoy sewing and want to expand your skills, this could be your next thing!

I know from experience that mending can sometimes be a daunting prospect. So if you are a bit wobbly like me, best advice is to start small with achievable projects and if you can, find a friend to help you learn.

For big mending jobs, alterations or whatever is beyond you, there are people who can help. I have used the excellent services of A Stitch Above in Springwood. To find A Stitch Above: Suite 5a, 167-169 Macquarie Road, Springwood. It’s upstairs. You will also find there the most beautifully handcrafted children’s clothing line called Archie Bee. Such sweeeeeeet little outfits! Go check them out on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/archiebee.clothing/?hl=en

or here: https://archiebee.com.au/

In the meantime, happy mending!

Glenbrook Rotary Markets

It was a gorgeous sunny day for the Handmade and General Market in Glenbrook last weekend. What a huge variety of stalls there were. I have taken a few snaps of the highlights:

I was so glad to see Pretty Frocking Vintage there because I have been admiring their lovely range of vintage clothing and accessories on instagram for a while. Fun to see for real their gorgeous frocks, coats, scarves, hats and even brollies! Check out the cool hat in the pic! More on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/prettyfrockingvintage/ and also an etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/PrettyFrockVintage

I love Blackbird Soy Candles‘ rustic sign! All their beautiful candles are locally handcrafted and smell divine! More on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blackbird_soy_candles/?hl=en

This busking duo, Jerrah and Friends were really rocking the market! Great tunes and rhythms! I think they are regulars so if you get to the next market, make sure you check them out.

I get so excited when I see upcycled vintage cutlery! Gitane Jewellery are locals and their stunning jewellery is expertly handcrafted. They also make super cute markers for the garden. More on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/GitaneJewellery/ and etsy: https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/GitaneJewellery

I adore flowers (you may have guessed?) and had to stop and admire Lily of the Valley’s sweet blooms. Aren’t they so pretty? More on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lilyofthevalleyfloristry/

Next stop was Yvonne’s Handmade Pottery. I love pottery and seeing Yvonne’s work was wonderful. We had such an interesting chat about the unique patterns and designs she has developed in her pieces. Yvonne is a regular to Glenbrook Markets so look out for her there but also on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yvonneshandmadepottery/?hl=en

Final stop was Modimade, a fairtrade venture that partners with women in Cambodia to handcraft a range of beautiful products. Soft toys, clothing and colourful mobiles but also nifty nappy changing kits designed by Modimade’s inspiring founder, Anna. Look out for more on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/modimade/

Handmade and General Market is on the 3rd Saturday each month at 10 Ross Street, Glenbrook. There is also a Grow, Bake and Make Market at the same venue on the 1st Saturday of the month. Stay updated via instagram: https://www.instagram.com/glenbrookrotarymarkets/

A World of Stories

World Refugee Day 20 June Refugee Week 16 -22 June 2019

In 2014, I went to a launch in Wentworth Falls for a book called A Country Too Far. It is a compilation of stories about asylum seekers edited by Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally, published in 2013 by Penguin Group. Tom Keneally is famous for his novel Schindler’s Ark that won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was later made into the Academy Award winning film, Schindler’s List.

In his opening address at the launch, Tom Keneally observed that after travelling all over Australia promoting the book, he found the Blue Mountains community to be by far the most compassionate and supportive of refugees. This was very heartening.

The Blue Mountains community has been concerned about refugees for some time. In 2001 The Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group Inc (BMRSG) formed, never imagining that they would still be needed almost two decades later. They describe themselves thus:

… a diverse group of ordinary Australians from all sides of politics. The organisation has no specific affiliations. We are united by the vision of an openhearted Australia where people seeking refuge and asylum are treated with justice and compassion.

BMRSG is a registered charity and all its members are volunteers. They support asylum seekers and refugees in a variety of ways that are outlined on their website: https://www.bmrsg.org.au/

Also, in 2004 the City of Blue Mountains declared itself to be a ‘Refugee Welcome Zone’ indicating a commitment in spirit to welcome refugees into the community.

The theme for Refugee Week 2019 is ‘A World of Stories’. The refugee experience can be difficult to imagine but stories are powerful in overcoming this. The following books may be helpful:

  • In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, published in 2010 by Baldini Castoldi Dalai Editore
  • No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, published in 2018 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
  • Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple, published in 2018 by Scholastic Australia
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan, published in 2006 by Hodder Children’s Books
  • The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do, published in 2010 by Allen & Unwin
  • The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman, published in 2008 by Insight Publications
  • Walking Free by Dr Munjed Al Muderis, published in 2014 by Allen & Unwin
  • Ziba Came on a Boat by Liz Lofthouse, published in 2007 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

My own involvement with refugees began in 2007. It began with kindness from a stranger and then learning about their story of seeking refuge. This led to a firm and life-changing friendship between us. Ever since then my life has been enriched with more such stories and friendships. I am so grateful.

Unfortunately, the situation for asylum seekers and refugees both in Australia and worldwide remains dire. The stats are here: https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html

So much is needed: workable solutions, effective teamwork, more understanding, compassion and justice.

I was quietly thrilled after the formalities of the book launch in Wentworth Falls to meet Tom Keneally. We had a warm chat and then he signed my book: ‘In hope, Tom Keneally 2014‘.

I also write this in hope.

#WithRefugees

For the Love of Trees

A few days ago I visited Sorensen’s Glasshouse & Gardens https://www.sorensensglasshouse.com.au/ in Leura and had the best time walking through the garden admiring the magnificent trees in their understated winter elegance.

I was reminded of a beautiful documentary I watched a few months ago called Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees https://iview.abc.net.au/show/judi-dench-my-passion-for-trees

The host, Dame Judi Dench, shares her fascination for trees and discusses their wonders with various historians and scientists. Between segments Dame Judi quotes her favourite poems by Shakespeare. Such a treat!

In the Blue Mountains we partially owe our UNESCO World Heritage status to our amazing trees. Among them: 91 different types of eucalyptus trees and the Wollemi Pine which is one of the world’s oldest and rarest trees. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/917

Recently I also discovered two delightful picture books about trees, both by Australian authors and artists.

One Tree written by Christopher Cheng is simple but sensitively unfolded story about a little boy who discovers a tree seedling in an urban environment. With the help of his grandfather, he nurtures it to thrive on the balcony of their high rise apartment. The boy’s passion for growing his tree is contagious and soon the whole community is following suit. The book is stunningly illustrated by Bruce Whatley.

I fell in love with One Tree at Megalong Books https://www.megalongbooks.com.au/ in Leura a few weeks ago and bought it straight away. Since then I have been recommending it to all the book lovers I know! Today I also saw a copy in the window of The Turning Page in Springwood http://www.indies.com.au/TheTurningPageBookshop

One Tree was published by Penguin Random House Australia in 2019.

A couple of weeks later I discovered One Thousand Trees written and illustrated by artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers. It is an interesting juxtaposition in title to One Tree but very similar in sentiment. In the middle of an urban environment, the only character, Frankie, dreams of a thousand trees. Using a minimalist approach with text, the story traces Frankie’s imagination of tangibly interacting with trees. The illustrations are gentle and beautifully structured.

One Thousand Trees was published in 2017 by Freemantle Press.

Before I head outside for more tree therapy, I’ll finish with one of my favourite tree quotes:

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.

Khalil Gibran

Lyttleton Stores

What a treasure trove of creativity, community and sustainable living I discovered when I visited Lyttleton Stores! It is worth taking the time to appreciate all the generosity, skill and innovation that goes into this unique venture.

Lyttleton Stores is a not for profit cooperative that operates an Atelier (for local handmade art and crafts), a Preserve (workshop space), a Pantree (for organic fresh produce), a Kitchen (for homemade products) and a Garden (organic, of course).

The Lyttleton Stores website http://www.lyttletonstores.com.au/ is a also feast of information:

  • there is a Garden Blog with loads of helpful tips
  • interesting interviews with artists and artisans
  • recipes!
  • a range of workshops to book that include: life drawing, seed propagation, spoon carving, sour dough baking, fermentation and preserving, arm knitting and bee keeping!

I am super impressed with all that Lyttleton Stores has to offer and especially because it ticks my big three: Creativity, Community and Simple Living!

You can also get a taste of Lyttleton Stores by visiting their stall at Magpie Markets in Lawson on the third Sunday of each month. There is also instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lyttletonstores/?hl=en

Lyttleton Stores is easy to find at 1 Badgery Crescent, Lawson and there is plenty of parking nearby.

Sorensen’s Glasshouse & Gardens

Do you ever long for somewhere beautiful to sit and unwind? Somewhere relaxing to meet a friend for lunch? Perhaps somewhere peaceful to spend quality time with a loved one? Then Sorensen’s Glasshouse & Gardens is for you.

Sorensen’s Glasshouse is a unique cafe and nursery surrounded by a beautiful tree garden. I stopped by last weekend and when I arrived the winter sun was streaming through the expansive windows of the glasshouse. It was gorgeous. I spent a lovely couple of hours eating a leisurely lunch, checking out the extensive range of local products for sale and exploring the garden. The deciduous trees in the garden are impressive even in their winter state of undress. It will be lovely to go back and see the garden in every season.

At Sorensen’s Glasshouse you can order hot and cold beverages, light meals, picnics and treats. There is also a scrumptious locally made ice cream by Dave Ja Vu which is a must try. There are inside and outside seating options and picnic blankets as well. Picnics are best ordered ahead of time.

Sorensen’s Glasshouse & Gardens is easy to find at 8 Herbert Street, Leura and there is plenty of parking on the road.

More about Sorensen’s Glasshouse & Gardens can be found on instagram: http://@sorensensglasshouse and their website: https://www.sorensensglasshouse.com.au/

Eco Mountain and Sustain Cafe

If you are ever in Lawson treat yourself to the Eco Mountain and Sustain Cafe experience! In this lovingly restored heritage home, the store and cafe combo is cosy and welcoming. Much thought has gone into every aspect of this local business that celebrates community and promotes an environmentally friendly lifestyle. I love the range of innovative products and helpful books on sustainable living.

For lunch I sat in the peaceful front room and ordered a super satisfying homemade split pea soup (paired with crusty bread from Black Cockatoo Bakery http://blackcockatoobakery.com.au/). Then I had two Mexican decaf coffees. The first one was so good I couldn’t resist a second! Sustain Cafe is a winner!

Eco Mountain has a number of rooms and spaces to walk through, sit in and enjoy. At the back of the house is a playroom for kids and down in the garden is a cubby house and outdoor furniture. It is all very relaxing and just like home.

Eco Mountain is easy to find and there is plenty of parking nearby. The address is 3 Badgery Crest, Lawson. Find out more about Eco Mountain via instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eco_mountain/ and their website: http://www.ecomountain.com.au