Month: April 2017

Sixteen: Green Tomato Pickle

A few months ago we had some tomato plants spontaneously sprout in our back garden. They thrived, even with the minimal care I provided them, and gave us quite a bountiful crop of little tomatoes.

They weren’t the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten, but were OK and more importantly free. When the colder, wetter weather started up we still had a few green stragglers on the vine, and having read that tomatoes really don’t like being wet I decided to pick every last one and turn them into a green tomato pickle.

I ended up with about half a kilogram of tomatoes—some green, some red—and quickly found a few different recipes. I based my recipe on a tomato relish recipe in an old book we picked up at an opshop: Australian Preserving with Fowlers Vacola, and simplified it to these ratios:

  • 6 parts tomatoes
  • 1 part onions
  • 1 part sugar
  • 0.6 parts vinegar
  • 0.02 parts salt
  • Plus some spices

Cooked it all up and dropped it in a sterilised jar (only made one jar). Now just letting it sit for a month or two before trying it so the flavours can develop (and because we have heaps of half eaten preserves in the fridge already). Looking forward to trying it on a nice bratwurst this winter.

Fifteen: Winter Woolies

When I moved to Melbourne from the Gold Coast almost a decade ago winter was a shock. I was underprepared and quickly learnt the value of a scarf, gloves and a beanie! So when my dear friend Jacob moved down to Melbourne and celebrated his birthday not long after arriving, I knew a scarf would be a good gift to help him keep warm during his first Melbourne winter.

Last year I found some  charcoal yarn at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Northcote. I didn’t count exactly but I think there were about 20 skeins and I picked them up for $10 in total. The label for the wool is all in Japanese, with the exception of a few small details including the blend (30% wool & 70% acrylic) and the weight (40g) as well as the words ‘super extra thick’. With the help of the handwriting tool on Google Translate (soooo cool, check it out) we discovered that the wool was from Daiso. Sadly I forgot to take a photo of a skein of the yarn so you can see it pre-crochet and finding one online is proving futile.

I got started on the scarf and used a pattern from Heart, Hook, Home, which was a simple repetitive stitch of a double crochet, followed by a triple (or in US terms like on the website a single followed by a double), this combo is called the moss stitch. Because you start with an odd number of stitches, the double and triple stitches are meant to be offset…I must’ve stuffed up because it turned out the doubles were on top of the doubles and the same for the triples, so the pattern looked off. I’d gotten about halfway by the time I realised and the perfectionist in me meant I had to ‘frog it’ (crochet slang for rip it, sounds like ribbet) which means pulling out all your work. Unsurprisingly, it’s my favourite crochet term!

While it meant that the project took much longer than it should of and the birthday boy got his present over a month late, I’m really glad that I decided to start again because the end result was very lovely! I omitted the fringe in the pattern, partially because I didn’t think it was Jacob’s style and also because I didn’t have enough wool (I had made Simon a scarf last year using half of the skeins). I gave Jayke his present last week, just as the cooler weather started to kick in. I hope it keeps him nice and snug during his first winter in Melbourne!



Fourteen: Thornbury Afternoon Tea

Back in the tea craze of the early 2010s I was introduced to Melbourne breakfast tea. The cynic in me would have dismissed it as just T2 cashing in on Melbourne’s narcissism had I not tasted it. It was hard to deny it was actually pretty tasty. However, this was also around the time I started looking more in to the ethics of what I was consuming, and T2’s (at the time) complete lack of fair trade tea put me off a bit. Then Unilever bought them out in 2013, so that was the end of that.

Luckily, T2 need not have a monopoly on regionally named teas!

Melbourne Breakfast, as far as I can tell, is just black tea with vanilla. Sound easy? It is.

I first attempted making my own Melbourne breakfast 6-12 months ago, and while it might not be exactly the same (more on that in a second) I’m perfectly happy to drink it. All I did was place a split vanilla pod in a jar with some English breakfast tea and waited a few days / a week. Voilà, Melbourne breakfast!

As I said, it wasn’t perfect, so I researched how flavoured teas are usually made. Apparently you should lay the tea out flat, spray liquid flavour onto it and then let it dry. This sounded too difficult, time consuming and tedious, so I’ve never bothered.

After my initial success I was curious about what I could try next and, as I resided in Thornbury I wondered what flavour would Thornbury tea be? For those unfamiliar with the historical ethnic makeup of Melbourne’s suburbs, Thornbury traditionally has a large Greek / Mediterranean population. Consequently there are many lemon trees, rosemary hedges, and olive trees in front gardens. I decided a tea with rosemary flowers (not the leaves) and citrus peel could be interesting, and that olive tea would be gross. So I made it.

Unfortunately, I think I needed to put more of the flavouring ingredients in as the resulting tea just tastes like plain black tea, but I’ll add some more in the next few days and see how it goes.

Why not try creating a local variety yourself? 

Thirteen: Ombré

I’m one of those annoying people who is fortunate enough to work for an organisation that I can wholeheartedly endorse.  Working at TEAR Australia is a delight and it is refreshing to feel an immense sense of gratitude when I reflect on my vocation.

Recently, I had the opportunity to channel my event stylist and assist some of my colleagues with designing a space we were curating at Surrender Conference. After bouncing around a few ideas we decided that an ombré backdrop was best suited to the style and I happily put my hand up to take care of this aspect. I knew it would involve dying fabric, a process which fascinates me…I love seeing colour creep and seep into fabric.

We already had a large piece of calico on hand at work (2.4m square approx.), so I procured some green dye and found this handy tutorial to assist my creative pursuit. I already had the other bits and bobs around the house that I needed (namely a large plastic tub and salt to set the dye) and positioned the dye bath outside.

It was a pretty straight forward process and the tutorial gave me a great basis to work from. I was surprised at how easy it was to control the intensity of the colour and create an impacting gradient. Dunking the fabric in and out of the dye bath was therapeutic and it was mesmerising noticing the subtle changes to the intensity of the colour with each movement.

Originally, I had intended to have bare calico on the top quarter or so of the fabric, but at the last moment decided to quickly immerse the entire piece in the bath. I’m glad I decided to do so, as I felt that the progression of the gradient was quite jarring without the green continuing for the entire length (pre full dunk image to the right).

Another unplanned detail I quite liked in the end result were the small wrinkles where the intensity of the colour varied, adding  texture. I had pre-washed the fabric and hadn’t ironed it before I dyed it, so my assumption is this is how the piece acquired the delicate fine lines. Once I had hung up the fabric, I realised that I had neglected to account for a length of calico to cut into strips to make ties to hang the background up at the event. Thankfully, I had an adequate piece of calico at home, so I dunked this in the dye bath briefly to make it the correct hue.








A few days later, I hemmed the fabric and made the ties attaching them at regular intervals. Looking back, I probably should have dyed the fabric after sewing it together. This would have meant that the cotton I used to stitch with would have also dyed, matching the fabric. That being said, this is a tiny detail that only I would notice, as most people aren’t 1. as pedantic as I am and 2. wouldn’t be getting very close to the finished product!

Overall, I’m very happy with the end result and I enjoyed the process, apart from dying my hands green because I neglected to wear gloves! The backdrop looked fantastic in situ (see below) and I hope it attracted the eyes of event goers and intrigued them to learn more about the brilliant organisation I work for!

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