Thursday, 6 February 2014

Rediscovered rituals

Or, how old friends become reacquainted again.
Welcome back Mistress of Zip, Madam of Zap.  It's been a long time.

Last century, 1991.
Early 20-something single female living solo for the first time.
Her own TV, her own front door key, her own washing machine, her own stereo…

Her own fridge.

Contents of fridge owned by early 20-something single female living solo for the first time (in order of then importance):

  • Chanel nail varnishes lined up in the butter compartment,
  • coffee beans in the freezer,
  • the current opened tin of cat food (neatly cling-wrapped) on the top shelf,
  • a bottle of flat Diet-Coke languishing in the door bracket,
  • a bag of pitted prunes.

Maybe, if early 20-something single female had been ‘grocery shopping’, some eggs.
(I was partial to a soft-boiled egg then, and remain so now).

The day would begin with my morning coffee ritual, the whizzing of the coffee beans, the heating of water, pre-heating the coffee pot.  The readying of the coffee cup.

My morning coffee was made in my Grandmother Helena’s coffee filter contraption and I used a coffee cup I had purchased on sale at David Jones whilst a Uni student (still a splurge at the time on a student budget). The weight of it and the feel of the cup in my hand as I brought it to my lips always pleased me, as did the shape of the saucer, which was curvaceous enough to accommodate the occasional spill as one perambulated down the hall coffee cup in hand to dress for work.

Like many other young people, I overdid it on the caffeine jag, imbibing coffee on waking, on arriving at work, all morning at my desk, at lunch, after lunch, and just before leaving the office. Completely jazzed on caffeine.  From morning ‘til night.

The headaches began and after some time I made the connection.  Farewell my love, you are hurting me.  And so caffeine and I parted ways barring the occasional flirt with after-dinner short blacks in restaurants.  My daily coffee ritual faded from my routine.  Grandma Helena’s coffee contraption was packed up into storage and the coffee cup and its saucer companion floated about in a seemingly purposeless existence on the cup shelf in the kitchen (too small for tea, the cup ended up presenting perfect half-domes of plated up rice and the saucer probably did service as the cat’s biscuit bowl for some time).

I didn’t miss the caffeine and the comforting ritual of laying out breakfast coffee items was replaced with the paraphernalia relating to the making of tea.  For 20 years I have drunk tea.  English Breakfast Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Lady Grey Tea, Russian Caravan Tea.  Orange Pekoe Tea; I loved tea.  It was the perfect beverage able to be savoured morning, noon and night…  You always felt better after a cup of tea.

Then all of a sudden, I couldn’t bear the thought of another cup of tea. 

Just. Like. That.
No more tea for me.

And so the Mistress of Zip, the Madam of Zap has been quietly entering my life again.  My old friends; my Grandmother Helena’s coffee contraption and my old coffee cup have made a triumphant return to my daily morning ritual.

Grandma’s coffee contraption makes the loveliest cup of homemade coffee, the finished product is surprisingly grain-less, the crosshatched porcelain in the base of the filter is very effective.  I would love to know more about this coffee pot and filter, was it the Bodum of its day?  Grandma escaped Russia in 1913 and lived in Germany until after WWII when she immigrated to Australia.  I suspect this coffee pot and filter is of German origin.  Can anyone help?

Happy days!

PS.  Over two decades have passed since 1991 and I now share a fridge with a man and a child.  The 2014 fridge contains the makings of meals; vegetables, meats, sauces.  The nail varnishes in the butter compartment have been replaced with a tube of ‘age-defying, wrinkle-reducing’ eye cream. And butter, of course.

PPS.  Here is a link to a site where you can purchase something very similar to my coffee brewer, (thank you an old friend, Michael, for finding this!  The video on the site is also very informative).

Click here to take you to the Walkure Karlsbad Porcelain Pour Over Brewer

From top LHS clockwise; the underside of the lid, the filter with crosshatching and the top filter
where hot water is added.

Apart from the number 5 and another small mark (both in racing green shown in previous photograph), this is the only other mark, I can't quite make out the letters... 'P A I E N T I R T'... Patent in German? Or a maker's mark?

The four components making up Grandma Helena's coffee pot and filter system, sitting upon a perspex tray purchased recently at 'Spotlight'.  My coffee cup (shown in the first photograph) is Wedgewood, bone china 'Palatia R4700'.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Make me! Affirmation angels

Or, New Year, new you!
Be the person you'd want to meet.

As this post is made, it’s New Year’s Day today.  Despite what may have been, this day has a special resonance for most; it's a re-set, a new start, another chance to make good, be good, do good.

There are a million (literally more no doubt) affirmations that can be found on the Internet.  I most prefer the ones that use words like precious jewels.  An affirmation made up of a few well-chosen words, one that is easy to remember, so that it is swift to read and easy to internalise.

Here’s my pick for my daily affirmation for 2014.

Be the person you’d want to meet.

This Affirmation Angel project is based on the Kewpie Doll Angel project of December 2013 (click here to take you to the instructions) with the only changes being:

  • Her wings are made from magenta coloured feathers.  (If you can’t find the pink feathers you want, dye them using food colouring and vinegar, see the end of this post).
  • She has a scrap strip of pale pink silk wrapped around her body as a ‘slip’.
  • The tulle is the stiff tulle, not the drapey sort.
  • She has a hook glued at the back of her head to hang her from the wall.
  • She has a printed affirmation glued to her hands (11point, Palatino).

Make a loop from wire and glue the twisted end to the back of the angel's head.  Paint the glue splodge gold.

Once the glue has cooled, bend the loop downwards.  Use removable plastic hooks to hang the angel.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

Your bespoke Affirmation Angel

will of course; 

  • be holding your personal choice of phrase,

  • can be any colour (dye the feathers, oh, the possibilities),

  • and can be hung anywhere you need a sweet reminder of what’s important to you.

I have hung my angel on my closet door above my drawers where I keep my lingerie and jewellery and stockings.  She will be seen several times a day as I dress in the morning, and as I prepare for sleep at night.

You could make one for yourself, and while you’re in the groove, perhaps consider making one for a special friend!

Best wishes for the New Year.


Here she is, my friendly reminder to stay the course.

You can make them; Magenta feathers.  Here's how:
Following are some photographs that show how to dye feathers using food colouring.
Read each caption for tips.

I couldn't source separate feathers so resorted to deconstructing a feather boa.  Don't cut the feathers off the string, twist the string a little and then pull each feather gently and they will release.

I figured this would be a sufficient amount of feathers for 3 or 4 sets of wings.

 An entire bottle was used in this project (perhaps you might use less if you wanted a paler colour).

I  dissolved the contents of the pink food colouring, a splash or two of white vinegar and hot water and then submerged the feathers into the liquid using tongs.

After an hour or so soaking in the 'dye', tongs were used to lift the feathers into a lingerie or garment laundry bag.  The bag was zipped closed and rinsed several times until the water was clear (this is near the end of the rinsing).

The garment bag was placed in the washing machine on the spin cycle and pegged out in the hot wind to dry.

Amazing how robust the feathers are, they are doubling in volume or so it seems.

Almost dry.  I hurried them along by tossing the garment bag in the dryer for ten or so minutes.

After the dryer treatment... a bag of fluffy magenta feathers.

Success! Marvellous magenta!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Father Christmas correspondence

Or, a glitter signature always means magic...

It was the night before Christmas, and as the sun began to set a little girl wrote a note to Santa Claus. She chose some treats to give Mr C energy during his long night of delivering presents, and a small bottle of mineral water to keep him hydrated.  She laid out the letter, the treats and the mineral water (with a glass and straw) on a tray on the ottomans near the Christmas tree, made a wish and headed off to bed.
Translation from over-excited-forgot-to-add-'please'-in-her-excitement-6-year-old-script:  Dear Santa Claus, I love you. Could you bring me a pillow pet that lights up in the dark.  Love Sylvie.
On Christmas day morning, all were thrilled to see that Mr C had indeed, visited.  There were 'snowy' footprints near the fireplace (remember it's summer here, so no need for fires) and the promised present was waiting in the hearth.  The chocolates had been eaten, and most of the gingerbread.  Mr C must have been thirsty, as all the mineral water was gone!

Wishing you a happy holiday, we're in for a hot day here, we'll be splashing about in the paddle pool on the deck.


Sylvie received the gift from Mr C that she had asked for, a pillow-pet that lights up in the dark.
Thank you Mr C!  Enjoy a well-earned rest after all your travels.

The Apatosaurus is the newest addition to Sylvie's collection of Schleich dinosaurs.  Sylvie was deeply impressed with Mr C's magic glitter signature...

And here is 'Rainbow' the pillow pet from Father Christmas.

Friday, 20 December 2013


Or, bespoke is best.

Crissy, 2014, in her original dress from Ideal.
Thirty-eight years ago I was given a doll for Christmas.  She arrived boxed, wearing a gaudy ankle-length pink gingham dress, with a broderie-anglaise collar and cheap white plastic shoes.  Her eyes opened and closed and what set her apart in the doll market at the time was that she had the ability to lengthen and shorten her hair (there was a knob on her back that twirled to adjust the hair length and a belly button ‘button’ to unlock or lock the chosen length in place).  The box said she was called ‘Crissy’ and, as an obedient 5 year old, this name seemed as set in stone as my own name, and I have called her ‘Crissy’ ever since.
Thousands of children across the world will remember their own, or their friend’s or sister’s ‘Crissy’.  You might well have had your very own ‘Crissy’.  What set my ‘Crissy’ apart from all others was her bespoke wardrobe, her very own couture, stitched by my Russian Grandmother.  Crissy had an entire wardrobe of fabulous and sophisticated clothing; one suited to cocktails, nights at the theatre and formal luncheons.  Some of the outfits still remain intact today, (not all) and I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of my Grandma Helena’s creations. 

Grandma used to help me dress Crissy, explaining how a stole ought to be placed (lost now, unfortunately) and whether Crissy’s hair would be better suited in an up do or down…  There were rules of what ‘went’ with what… a sense of proportion to understand.  I’m definite that these rudimentary lessons on style permeated deeply into my eye for design as it is now.  Unpacking Crissy’s clothes, I could hear my Grandma’s voice telling me about the parties she attended, ‘so much music’, ‘so much dancing’, ‘so much romance’…  She told me that sometimes she would be still stitching the finishing touches to her gown an hour before that evening's dance would begin…

Crissy’s wardrobe was made up of scraps of material from Grandma’s stash of fabrics, she was brilliant at making something fabulous from near to nothing, I thought she was incredibly clever then, and on reflection, and seeing her creativity through the clothes she has made, even more so now. 

Sylvie plays with my Crissy doll now, Crissy is often invited to share tea with Sylvie’s other toys, but her days of glamorous premieres, sumptuous parties and balls far are behind her.  Her wardrobe remains, a symbol of an era past and a tangible way for me to remember my Grandma.

Christmas 1975, South Australia.  Look in the foreground and you will see Crissy on the floor near my brother, my Grandma is on the RHS, that's me with the blonde bun unwrapping something with my Mum.
Full sleeved evening gown in light magenta silk.

Detail of collar.

Magenta silk evening gown.

Detail of hand stitched rolled hem.

Straight woollen plaid skirt with yellow cotton dolman sleeve shirt, buttons at back neck.

Ready for an evening out to dinner.
Front of silky cocktail dress, missing a waist band detail.

Back of burnt orange silky cocktail dress, note the detail to cover the knob at the back.

Showing Crissy's full length of hair.

Wish I had the belt that must have attached with the press-studs that remain...

You can see her pretty shoulder blades in this dress.

Wearing a cape against the elements.
As a child, one of my favourite outfits. A skirt and shirt ensemble.  Gosh I loved the bow at the neck!
My absolute all time favourite gown for Crissy, then, and NOW!

The pink flower (tattered now) is the original from the 70's.

The fan back detail that I adored, the height of glamour I thought at five years of age.  The dress demands that the hair be worn up, of course.

This wikipedia article is an excellent and concise summary of the various Crissy dolls created by Ideal. If you had a Crissy, click here to find out which version you owned!