Sunday, March 27, 2011


spectrum, originally uploaded by various brennemans.

signs, toobut not alarmed

laughpeanut butter barphoenix phoenix

prisonerchicken feed


patterns - greenpatterns - bluepatterns - grey

This is one of my most favourite places in Melbourne and lucky for me it is in my local area. Ceres spans 10 acres and although in the midst of the suburbs you feel like you are out in the country. I came here on Wednesday to buy some fruit and veg at the outdoor market.

My two little ones and I spent 2 hours just in that area, we ate olive rolls, drank a latte ate some of the goodies we had bought.including some amazing blueberries from an area we are familiar with. The beauty of buying here is that all produce is organic, a lot of it grown on site or as locally sought as possible. The food miles are written on each sign for every item. There are no Californian Navel oranges here, if it's out of season they don't have it.

I had to have a muffin, these are phenomenal we split an apple and walnut one, it was so good we went back for a banana coconut. I wish I made muffins that good. Although I had not come along with other Mums like many of the others there had, people are friendly and the environment is so communal, it's ok if your child hoes into someone else's muffin, hence why I also bought two. I will post at a latter date some more photos from the market, I forgot my camera that day.

The photos above were taken on the Saturday, I went back this time taking my son and our neighbour's boy. I plan on coming weekly, we are wanting to buy less from the supermarkets and more from the Farmers and markets like this one.In the current price wars in supermarkets in this country, some produce is being so downgraded to make it cheaper it is scary. Laws on labelling are not up to speed yet and I want to know what is in the food I am buying, I am no saint but I try to make good choices where possible, grow or make my own if I can.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe Wednesday - Chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies

125g butter softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups self raising wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp salt
big handful of choc chips
1/2 cup of pecans

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla.
Add lightly beaten egg gradually, beat well.
Mix in flour and salt
Add chocolate chips and pecans, mix well.
Shape into small balls, flatten and bake on greased tray in moderate oven for 10-12 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from "The little pigs cookbook," put out by a child care centre and a long-time staple in our house.

These biscuits come out just right for dunking in milk!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Drawing on nature

fig III / lactic
fig III / lactic, originally uploaded by various brennemans.

I excitedly snapped the first figs from their little branches today, careful not to get that sticky milk substance on my hands, it's like glue. Living in a very multicultural suburb in Melbourne's inner North, fig trees are in every second yard. Hanging over back-lane fences or along the railway lines pomegranate, quince, olives, persimmon, all are also wonderfully abundant this time of year. Circe my seventeen-month old shared a back-yard fig with me today, both her first and the season's. They have been a long time coming and are smaller than usual although still plentiful.

While out there eating it, I noticed only today that my amazingly tall corn (I mean it stands at probably 7 feet tall!) has several stalks which are producing beautiful pink silks. If anybody knows why I'd really love to know. The seeds were from Diggers, I noticed that the upper flowers are also pinkish on these stalks. I am very proud of one particular stalk which has 7 ears of corn, yeah. Circe will be so thrilled just these last two days she has a new word, "corn." Thankfully she is dwarfed by my super corn and will not be able to yank out the corn before it is ready, like she does with the tomatoes. I cannot wait, however, to hold her up to it so she can pick her own. It doesn't get better than that.
After the lovely fig-morning, there was some protest today about going to kinder. A sore tummy and a sad look on Eliza's face tugged at my heart strings. It was gloomy outside and Circe too was looking sleepy, easy decision really to stay at home.

A quick feed for the little one, some snuggles and right to sleep she went. I made Eliza a bed on the floor in her room, drew her curtains gave her a hot water bottle. Lots of cuddles and the glow of her owl lanterns sent off to sleep, too!

Two children asleep, and my house was quiet and peaceful. I could have done one of many household tasks, instead I sat with watercolours, pen and my moleskin, not even a cup of tea. I drew and painted for an hour, a lovely way to spend the quiet time I do believe.
time well spent

Saturday, March 19, 2011

one autumn day

ic I
ic I, originally uploaded by various brennemans.

For the moment I am enjoying the close of a beautiful Autumn day, the air from my open window is still and fresh. Earlier I was outside and heard the low whooshing sound of the fruit bats making haste as they heard the sliding of the back door. The figs are late this year.

I sat quietly out there a while listening to the rustle of my corn in the nights breeze, almost eerie. Today I wondered about the day, how we fill it, how it will never be this same day again. As I sat by this corn I remembered the afternoon Eliza and I planted it, her finger pushing the seed into the ground. As I let her be I wondered whether it would actually grow. When she stands by it now they quadruple her size. Days like those I push the moment into my mind, knowing that in a few months I will think back to this day as the passages of time take little corners in my mind.

My husband sits out there at night and listens, for him the sound is calming soothing, the memories of the Missouri corn fields still fresh in his mind. My heart longs to see the corn fields in Missouri, I have only seen the stalks cut to the ground, acres and acres as far as you can see. I wish I could plant up my entire backyard to see what it would feel like, a corn maze.
I am thankful for the moments I can capture with a click of my camera. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't see something beautiful, whether it be a big red apple in tiny hands or raggedy Ann slumped over my tiniest shoulders, the golden light of morning highlighting her slightly auburn hair.

Some things though I will just have to remember, like the angelic sounds of my 7 year old boy singing "Somewhere over the rainbow," there is almost nothing sweeter. He is in choir at school and just sings all day long, it is truly beautiful. Instantly though I am feeling dissatisfied at myself for not getting round to booking drumming lessons for him, as his drums sit gathering dust in the lounge rooom. Now I wonder do I book some singing lessons also or will I never get around to that either?

In my house right now I am listening to my two eldest children playing slamwich with a sleep over friend, their laughter coming in from the other room warms my heart. Earlier they rushed in from outside to tell me that the ice cream truck was parked over by the park. As anybody can remember this is so exciting when you are 3 or 7 or 10. How could I say no, I was once just like them, my brother and I always begged mum for money when we heard that sound. I love that some things are still the same.
ic IV
I am missing my little three year old she is over the road having had an evening fire with toasted marshmallows and is now staying for a sleepover. Although I will miss her little shape in her bed tonight I know that she is safe and snug alongside her best friend. 

Despite my seven year old crooning that nothing happened today I am feeling like It is Ok to have days like these, he is happy right now cuddled up to his Dad in the cocoon of his Bunk bed, his belly filled with home made pizza and chocolate ice cream, his dreams dizzy with tyre swinging his body still from sleep. The days are beautiful even in our sleep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe Wednesday - Chocolate salted carmel slice.

be real
dark, originally uploaded by various brennemans.

Ohh, how my heart loves anything made with condensed milk. Maybe it has something to do with the health nurse having my Mum put me on it as a baby. I know, what were they thinking.

The salted caramel, is just a great combination, so please don't leave it out.

Chocolate salted caramel slice.

1 cup plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 desiccated coconut
125g butter melted

400g can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp golden syrup
60g butter melted.
1 tsp Maldon sea salt

200g good quality plain chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, hide this from husband)
Preheat oven to 180 deg c. Line a 3 cm deep, 28x 18cm (base) lamington pan.
Combine all base ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
Press into prepared lamington pan.
Bake for 15 to 20 min, or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Make filling
Melt the butter slightly in a pan over a low heat for 2 minutes, add the condensed milk and golden syrup. whisk the mixture well till butter is thoroughly incorporated. cook for 8 minutes stirring constantly, until thickened and light golden in colour.( never take your eyes off it, it will burn very easily)
Pour over the cooled base, sprinkle with the salt.
Bake for 10 minutes until set.
Cool completely.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a microwavable bowl. microwave for 1 min 45 sec on high, or until fully melted. stirring halfway.
leave to cool slightly, then pour over the caramel.
Refrigerate to set. Cut into squares to serve.

my patchwork life

I have been a little ill this past week so there has not been a lot of anything going on other than collecting of tissues, which I have left strewn all over the house.

We even had a birthday and there was no flourless chocolate cake. In fact the cake had to wait a day, until I could actually get out of bed. My poor husband, he cooked cleaned bought me tea tried to keep the house quiet, difficult when you have four children, all on his birthday. I was glad he managed to send off two of the kids for the night and next half a day, he needed a break too.

The birthday was just postponed. A caramel slice was the all he wanted... well actually all he wanted was me to relax and take it easy. I made it any way, I am terrible at taking advice. So we sat with friends drank tea ate the slice and played slamwich.
During the ensuing days, there was a lot of trying to lay low. There was one trip to the op shop, Savers actually. I suggest you never visit a large op shop if you are feeling remotely queasy. The endless aisles of brightly coloured clothing, the disarray, the things that usually attract me to such places had me running. Straight for the french bakery for a sit down, a glass of water, some 79 cent Aldi paracetamol, and a latte once I could stomach it. Mmm now that I think of it cheap paracetamol and incredibly strong antibiotics for spider bite maybe not a good combination.

On the days I was confined to the indoors I set my three year old to work on a project. One that would take her a while I hoped, so I thought a big artwork. She has exceptional patience for her artwork, often spending days on a drawing, doing an hour, putting it away, then going back to it the next day. Gee I wish my studio practice was that good.

I thought about the classic giant piece of paper and drawing around her body, giving her paints and letting her go for it. Then I thought about the way she works with paint, the way she uses it like a patchwork. Me and my recently acquired sewing brain thought fabric squares, she could glue them on. This was like heaven to this child, using Mum's fabric scraps and opening a new tube of rice glue.
She spent all afternoon on this, it was wonderful, at times tricky little baby sister wanted in on it too so we made some adjustments to where she could work on it. Baby Circe made several failed attempts to help, but enjoyed her brush and water paint just as much.

Eliza's artwork adorns our fridge pin-board and living space. In Ikea the other day I thought of those beautiful drawings she'd made with coloured pen I wanted to preserve those a little better and show them off. My two older children's works are in various frames or on canvas all around our home.
Their primary school holds an Art fair each year and the children produce amazing work for this particular show. Phoenix my seven year old has done 2 Picasso inspired self portraits which I love they are so expressive. Beatrix my ten year old has done several delicate pen or pencil still lives, these are detailed and intricate and often spur my creativity when decorating.

I feel that children's art work can be placed in amongst bought art, your own art and even given as gifts. Eliza has recently made a piece for our friend who is turning 30 we framed it and are giving it to her as it is picture of her it was done after she took Eliza out to Scienceworks one day. A wonderful gesture and all her own initiative.
still life with still life
I framed several of her works the other day and gave them pride of place above my bargain-corner metal locker which houses all my sewing stuff in our dining kitchen space. and I believe in providing children with good art materials, canvas, paper and lots of it,we always have an Ikea roll of newsprint. Some materials we use include permanent marker, pen, fine-liner, tempera paints, watercolour blocks alphabet and number stamp blocks.

My children have almost never been too young to scrawl on a bit of paper, as soon as they could grasp, a crayon was usually in their hand. Art is a an amazing creative outlet for any child, their imagination can transcend the pages on which they leave their mark to later remind them of their innocence and wonder.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Recipe Wednesday - Beetroot relish

I will admit I have not made this relish this year, actually  I did not even plant beetroot, the photo is from last season. I am now regretful as I am down to my last jar of this relish and I will have to make do with store bought fresh beets. 

I know that some of you will have a glut of beets about now and have probably exhausted the many ways in which to enjoy them.  I love having a jar of this relish handy to take along to a special party a Christmas dinner or to have as an alternative to cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving. My favourite way to serve it is alongside a baked ham, fresh baguette and persian fetta, these flavours together are perfect especially if you have a glass of red in your hand.

Beetroot relish.
750g beetroot
1 brown onion
2 cups balsmic vineger
1 cup water
3 teaspoon mustard seeds, optional.
2 cups brown sugar
2 cloves or a pinch of cloves. 
2 5 cm orange rind
sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Peel and process the beetroot and onion. 
In a frying pan heat mustard seeds till popping
Add all other ingredients, cover and bring to the boil.
Cook for around 30 minutes, on moderate heat, till liquid is reduced and thickened slightly. 
Taste and season accordingly.
Pour into sterilised jars, seal, and let cool.


Monday, March 7, 2011

autumn clean

book cover stars
book cover stars, originally uploaded by various brennemans.
The little burst of Autumn warmth this weekend inspired me to clean my room. And there was also this thing about becoming asthmatic again after many many years. Yeah that's been a little frightening as I didn't really know a whole lot about just how dangerous it can be, and quite frankly I didn't like worrying my beautiful husband. After ignoring the wheezing for a week, it was his sweetness about being scared that finally got through to me.

Well after visiting Ambulances for Asthma online and seeing that if you have no access to a reliever then you call an ambulance, I was a little freaked, too. The next day I was in the doctor's office. I left there with a script in hand chest x-ray order in the other. I felt a little reassured that I'd be better off that night for it.

Dust triggers asthma. The next day, the beautiful burst of sunshine and warmth we've had here after a really non-existent Summer meant I could wash the doona, air out the pillows, and do a though clean. Full of optimism, hair tied up, mini-skirt on, look out dirt!

But then there was the horrible truth of under the bed.

You all know what I mean. It was a furry grey layer, thick and clumpy. If you had wooden floors it would be the dust rhino (that had eaten the dust bunnies, of course). Yeah my little lungs took a not so deep breath in and carried on. I am talking here of not just vacuum-ing around it but actually moving the bed. Since my husband insisted on a futon, it was impossible to move. Like wrestling The BlobTM. We admitted that this was too difficult to get done in one night, moved into the lounge room and slept there. This was nice, and surely we'd get the job done Saturday morning.

It took two days.

After this clean (and Aaron's inspired re-arranging) I today decided to make it a more restful place too. My bed is for rest, for snuggling, I have always bought the whomever-is-still-a-baby-at-the time into bed with us at seven am for the morning breastfeed and snuggle. It is for bedtime stories, somersaults (not me but my four children!), nanna naps, cups of tea, laptops on lap, and books by the bed side. It is the special place the children can take a nap in if they are unwell.

new look
I love this space. I have never been a fan of the doona set with matching pillows and then the pillows for show and the valance, do they still do those? My room is not a showroom, it is not precious. ok, I don't allow feet on the bed, and I was a bit averse to our now passed on cat Holyboy always at the end of the bed. Under the covers, if Aaron could sneak him in.

I still can feel his sharp feet under there, even once patted him in my sleep.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


pink-n-blu I
pink-n-blu I, originally uploaded by various brennemans.
I spent a perfect afternoon helping set up and photograph a "high tea" party for my daughter's best friend, Lucy. I made the pastel pom-poms to string from the rafters, Lucy's mum laid out her grandmother's linen and pulled out her pretty vintage china cups. She picks these up in Tasmania and carts them back every time she visits. We share a love of these, so I am often the lucky recipient of a vintage spoon or china saucer.

Whilst we made party preparations, the girls played beauty salons, or at least I'd like to think they were playing.

Along the window sill sat every manner of faux make-up a ten year old could ask for. Lucy the birthday girl has left my daughter's school to attend a different school, but they still see each other most weekends as she lives five minutes away. The other girls hadn't seen Lucy since last year, they bonded again over lip gloss, pigtails and braids. There was a lot of OMG being said and not a lot of noticing how much make up they were piling on.
hair Ihair II
I remember at this age you don't admit to thinking a boy is cute to your friends just yet. They proclaimed their shared dislike for Justin Bieber, thank God. Surely they have better taste, but for who I wonder. I think I was witnessing that line in To Sir with love "from crayons to perfume." But this is another post.

Sarah and I agree to secretly loving Taylor Swift.

Once they had torn themselves away from Lucy's bedroom-turned-beauty-salon, eight little girls forgot they hadn't seen their beloved friend in ages it was just like old times. They even welcomed her two new friends like they'd already meet them before, one of them getting right in there with the girls the other staying a little back not saying much at all.

blown awayclassic
They all spent the afternoon basking in the autumn sun, sipping ginger and citrus punch served in vintage china cups, eating delectable strawberries and cream meringues, pretty-in-pink iced cakes with rosemary flowers, chocolate balls, chicken sandwiches with all the crusts cut off, and mini savoury pastries.

fly coco, fly!
They passed the parcel, sing-starred till we could bare it no longer, and one-by-one they were gone and it was only Bea and Lucy and Eliza Lou on the trampoline. The sun was going down behind the houses casting the rooftops into silhouette forms. What a perfect end.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

doing it

On my way home from the school pick-up I stopped in at the art store. I told the kids I needed some paint. To my amazement my two eldest children were bewildered, what kind of paint?  Paint for me to paint, I said! "You are going to paint?" almost in unison. Yes, I am. "Wow."

I think they thought it was a myth that their mother painted. I mean there are some paintings in the house that I'd done five or ten years before. I had always known they were interested  in me taking it up again, I just  didn't foresee their excitement. They wanted to know what I was painting, for whom I was painting, everything.  I think Eliza  thought it was like cooking she wanted to know if she could help. That I did I foresee and had bought her a tempura block and paper of her own.

My seven year old asked me "Mum what did it feel like when you picked up a paintbrush again for the first time after so long?" as he was snuggled in a chair, reading Diary of a Wimpy kid in the sun room as I painted.
not finished yet, she says
I was taken aback for a moment, what a profound comment.  "It felt like I'd never stopped," I told him, "a bit like learning to ride a bike." "Ahhh," he said, he completely understood. Whenever our kids say something really clever like that my husband and I run off at the first given second to share with the other the little insight.

Phoenix, my son was around two when I was last working toward a few exhibitions in cafés. I asked him if he remembered that, he said he could, that it was in the café that is now run by "some different people." I liked that he was in there with me, that we were just talking, it was nice.

I began to think of how important it is for your children to see you as someone other than a mother or a father, for them to see you step outside your usual role, especially if you have been a stay at home parent for as long as they can remember.

I know that for me growing up with a stay at home Mum, I was always amazed when my mum did stuff that was a little off kilter, a little unexpected. Like  when she would change a fuse wire, put together my new bunk bed when I was five, carry a burning roll of newspaper in her hand when we needed something from the garage, we had no electricity out there. (This particular memory makes me laugh and think why didn't we just have a torch?)

She always told me how her father could fix or make anything. I was always in awe of how she talked of his skill. I'd like to think my kids see me as multi-dimensional, as skilled.  I may not carry a burning torch, but I am hopefully paving the way to doing something for myself, that all the pieces will come together to form my venture and my future.