Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nannini Handbag, December 2011

When life goes wild, it's hard to know where to start. Sometimes I start with:

Nannini Black and Grey Handbag contents:

Duracell torch
Blackberry circa 2007 (because I fumble like a caveman over touchscreens)
Iphone 4 (because I've lost my cybershot again)
Car and powerpoint chargers
Needle and Thread
Black lighter
Opinel camp kitchen knife
Eden organics deodorant
$1400 in cash
Hooker's phone number
Graduated string of ebony beads (would like this in pearl one day)
Grinding stone from Argadargada Station (500km NW Alice Springs) to fit a ladies hand
$10 in loose change
Dodge Challenger matchbox car (my husband's favourite)
Straps cut from seams in pale blue overalls
2 elastic hair ties
Tear drop shaped cameo earrings
Flora by Gucci (tester that came with towels in a wedding present)
Jade ring
1 Rhinestone earring
Red alert lipstick by Australis
Map of the Quality Resort Siesta Motel, Lavington NSW (there are cacti, pancake machines and saunas here)
5 medical bill receipts
Fan (gold)
Blue Hermes wallet (fake)
Woodland Birds Identification Brochure.

That does not sum up just what has been going on lately, but the clues are there.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

four firsts

first made from scratch garment sold (hand stitched, dress lengths to come)

first new product in a while (leather)

Joe's first catch

first bowl of roses from the big garden

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lemon Aid

1. We had upset stomachs until the lemon tree dropped an over-loaded branch and we re-discovered the alkalizing properties in this magic fruit.
3.I'm raising a poddy calf. It didn't bawl for milk at the front door this morning. I found it nibbling strange wilted leaves under the carport. Tomorrow, I'll bring it a latte to go with the tobbacco.
4.I cancelled the last proposed stunt. Selling failed writing attempts at a writer's festival seemed like a good gag, but the masochistic thrill of it has worn right off.
5.I have exchanged art and writing for gardening and chasing cows. That's it. No more. Never again.
6.This has been said before.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Latest Stunt

Check out my latest stunt HERE.

Yes, pictures of blossoms will follow. And the 7 and a half thousand trees we've been planting.

xx CJH

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Running around....

I've been running around a bit lately, and great changes are afoot.
The making has started again, along with living loving gardening and farming.
Beware. Shots of bursting blossom follow soon.
Love in the meantime.
Mrs CJ Houston.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

The present from Pen makes herself at home.

We haven't caught a mouse in two days. And the sewing machine is back!

Electricity rising = billy on the open fire. Billy on the open fire = discovering the sturdy iron bar that will hold the pots. Anthony Bourdain on TV = fascinating with fire cooking. I roasted a whole butternut in the ashbed. Good it was too.

The flowers will come from our gardens

Monday, June 27, 2011

Postcard from inside a wedding machine

I went to a shop called Flowers Naturally. I could smell real flowers, but I couldn't find them. Room after room of towering plastic constructions, table drapings, $230 plastic posies, perfect daze. I left.

My mother, the page boy, the bridesmaid and I went for a ceremonial dress fitting in Wodonga. The dressmaker was trapped by an ash cloud in Darwin.

We went to see the photographer. His shop had been turned into a tattoo parlour. He was not there.

The hair and make-up interview was great. The woman knew exactly what I wanted. Then she rolled her eyes and looked a bit frightened. I have seen similar looks in first -calving heifers. I did not stay to watch her bump descend.

Our musician has gone off to make a documentary about permaculture in remote aboriginal communities. Dad rose to the challenge of downloading some music. Mum stopped him just before he sent his bank details to an obscure russian website. Dad reckons she sounded like a banshee as she did this.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Long time no....

Dear Blog,

You have been neglected.
I lost my camera charger.
I found my camera charger.
By then, the camera was lost.
I am in documentation withdrawal.
Lots of new work created, a big cartel account that can take 100 products, and....
Bear with me.
Some old work perhaps?
From back in 2005, when my house was still a shed by the cattle yards.
And I was cranky about information age teething pangs.
And how I lurked.

xx Char.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hey Horatio

1. Alas poor Yorrick, I resuscitated him frequently.
2.Late 20th century momento mori from Tooles Disposals - closing down the Thursday before Easter. Wah.
3.He looks good as a stationery caddy - pencils in the brow, scissors through the top of the dome - but I'm also tempted to paint him up. Then he'll qualify as hand made at the Albury Makers Market.
4.Shove over Hirsty and lookout ric rac chicks.
5.Whack day today - fluctuating between Myles Davis Bitches Brew and Tim McGraw (Live like You were Dying)
6.Whatever gets you through stitched finger, studio sorting, and sunny cobwebbed house play. I guess.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Max To Tea

1. Sometimes it's good to just drive. We did. This is what we saw.
2.He was on his way to Mad Max's 30th in Broken Hill.
3.He reckoned it had cost him about 30 grand.
4.Driving it in public is a worry.
5.I saw Love The Beast the other day. Dr Phil descibed the importance of hobbies.
6.I wonder if artists need hobbies.
7.I am taking up the Way of Tea.

Monday, March 21, 2011


1. The posting deadline for entry to the Wangaratta textile comp is Wednesday.
2. The doctor said I am not to bend my finger.
3. All forty two half-done projects look at me like cattle that have been in the same paddock for too long.
4.Sweet peas are sprouting, even in my garden.
5.I spent a night out under the biggest moon in two decades and my thoughts were not hounded by poems. Not once.
6.I'm waiting for the mopoke that calls from the darkest hour.
7.Nothing doing but laundry.
8.And the love of gentle friends.

Monday, March 7, 2011


1. Some weeks ago, I visited my friend, author Jane Downing.
2.She showed me her small collection of covered hangers - my favourite was a gift from an aboriginal women's collective. There were black, red, yellow and sparkly lace elements.
3.Everyone had been telling me how important is was to see The King's Speech. I went to see Black Swan instead. This was a mistake.
4."Based on a true story" quipped a long-suffering boyfriend from the row behind me, as Natalie Portman's legs buckled/metamorphosed.
5.Jane lent me a sweater to stave off the air-conditioning.  There was something eastern european about the sleeves.
6."I did this back in the 80's." she said.  "I knitted the black lines between the patches, I was so silly. I did the quadratic equations to get it right."
7.When I came out of the cinema, there was a locust plague. I went around and around a deserted carpark, taking video. Then I sat in my car and filmed other people going around and around the deserted carpark, taking video.  I think we were all hypnotised into moving like bugs.
8.I really didn't want to give the jumper back, but I did.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Confession. Obsession.

1. I took delivery of 60 heavily patched and frequently name tagged overalls this week.
2. They were supposed to be for customisation and embroidery. But.
3.They made a great nest for Joe on the kitchen floor.  He rolled around a bit, then threw a box of 150 detachable white collars into the mix and tried to flap them like cockatoo feathers. Four year olds are born performance artists.
4.I had no idea how to store the collection.  Then I noticed my freshly painted (Bauwerk limewash I love you so much I could drink you) newly minimalist shelves.  Bye bye clear surfaces.
5.The simple act of colour coding was fun.
6.I was almost overwhelmed by the information stored in the collection - company names, workers names and sizes and body types, laundry company names, project names, the smells of the work undertaken, the wreckage and corrosion and patina in the cloth.
7.I have trouble with visual diaries, but I think this project is calling for one.
8.I had this boyfriend and he left the country and he didn't take his company work gear.  I wore the logo embroidered shirts and trousers for some years after. There was a jumper fluro-painted with the slogan Safety Begins with Me. My boyfriend was not safe, but the jumper was good at parties.  Now it hangs on a peg next to the back door down at the homestead.  We found six bats living in it last year.
9.Two items accidentally found their way into the job lot - a pair of blue polyester overalls (I piffed them) and a very fine, brand new pair of khaki overalls.  I never thought I'd actually start wearing overalls, and I am very afraid of the whole 80's performance artist throwback thing, but there are those who would say it was only a matter of time before we came to this.
10.I'm thinking spiked heels, victory rolls and just a glimpse of net somewhere. If only to wear with the khakis as  I whip the other 58 items into line.
11.We're not talking about the 150 detachable collars, the 500 paper nurses hats, and the small piece of thick red leather. I suspect they'll butt in at some stage.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wild Apples and Return to Rhymes

There's a tree about 20 metres down the Omeo Highway from our driveway.  I walked past it four times a day, for years, as I went to and fro the dairy at Noorongong.  I finally, actually, noticed it in 2005, when it threw forth great, red, old fashioned apples. They took me back to years as a kid in Wales, and tasting old breed fruit from an orchard in the grounds of  ruined mansions and farms. I picked baskets and baskets of the Noorongong apples and carted them up to The Man from Snowy River Festival, along with a car load of abstract art and two memorised poems by Henry Lawson.  I didn't sell a lot of art, the poem about the girl left waiting by the slip rail was well received, the poem about girl rouse-abouts dressed up as boys was less well received...and the wild apples sold like crazy.  One couple bought two apples, then came back an hour later with bicycles and panniers to fill. It was delightful.  I've watched the tree on and off over the years since 2005, but nothing doing.  This year is different - paltry stone fruit crops, but apples everywhere.  Driving Joe backwards and forwards to kinder, up and down these valleys, I'm dodging pickers of all ages as they raid the roadside trees.  Yesterday, finally, I put on my Harvest Smock from Cottage Industry and went to work.  The fruit was smaller than back in 2005, and not as red, but still pretty tasty and super crisp. Of all the casual jobs I've done, commercial fruit picking was one of my favourites, and I really had to stop myself from slipping back into the zone and stripping the tree. On the way back up the drive I spotted another tree, and what a wonder it was. A great sprawling cave of tangled branches, massive fruit low for the picking, and a wombat in residence underneath.  By strange coincidence, I've been tempted into performing in the Upper Murray again, at the upcoming Jingellic Show.  I wrote a poem called Horses and Women this morning, and it's still pretty rough.  Like a lot of bush poetry it needs inspired reading aloud to make up for the bumpy scan. It's a very long way from the beat-booze-inspired rant I put on at TINA in 2009, but it makes me laugh, and hopefully it will raise a few smiles on other people too. A harvest prayer to the muse: may the poetry zone be as accessible as the fruit picking one.

And the moral is....

I was trying to cook oxtail in a hurry the other day, which is a mad pursuit because it takes about four hours minimum.  The recipe comes from The Silver Spoon cookbook - an italian bible that has dishes for every conceivable ingredient that might be in season - from lambs lungs to chestnuts.  The oxtail uses the old carrot, celery, onion, garlic base with some white wine.  I'm teetotal these days and there was no white wine in the house.  The folks are also partied out and their cellar was down to a lone bottle of spumante, so I took a big breath and used just a little bit of white balsamic.  The carrots came from Mum's patch. As I went up to the garden I felt, as I always do, that funny mixture of awe, guilt and inspiration.  A couple of carrots came up easily. Then I ripped the top off one.  In my haste, I went for its neighbour, and ripped the top off that too.  With the ends of two sizable carrots looking at me out of the dirt, I thought about slinking away, but deep down realised there was no escape.  I had to get dirt on
my fingers, hands, and right under my nails. Eww.  The soil was softer than I remembered, and a rich brown.  After a bit of poking around, the carrots came up.  What a pair. What form. No wonder they didn't come up easily. What a charming reward for such a small act of persistence.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


It's been way too long between fire drums, and tonight was the perfect evening to re-start the tradition.  I asked mum to throw us a zucchini on her way back from the veggie patch, and she came though with roma tomatoes, basil, and capsicum as well.  The corn came from the freezer, but it cooked up a treat and the charred bits tasted like popcorn.  There were cutlets marinated in rosemary, lemon and the superb olive oil I picked up from The Tallangatta Hub last week. The chicken drumsticks were a long slow cook, and accidentally smoked by the process.   With a very frou frou pink and blue sunset and the company of a good friend it was all very bucolic...until the ex-army metal folding chair collapsed on Joe's head and Joe's head did a slow-mo smack into our sincerely rustic concrete "table" (a slab of busted water trough resting on stacked blocks).  Guess a BBQ isn't a BBQ without someone getting mild concussion.  He's alright, and looking forward to grandstanding the damage to his public at childcare.  I'm still a bit shaky.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

make play live

It's all a bit exciting at the moment, but Pink Peppa has emerged from the fray.  A vintage gingham doll from Bendigo,  she has raggy new hair ready to dread and a super cute dress and bloomers from the ladies at The Hub in Tallangatta.  I had planned to tattoo her with cross stitch detailing, but she says she's fine as she is, thank you very much.  I guess, like me, she's waiting until she's thirty.  
Up for sale now in the Big Cartel store, along with some new stock.  More to come.

Monday, February 14, 2011

love like salt

There is someting about love and salt in King Lear.
In Japan, girls swap valentines tokens and chocolates with their friends. I like this. 
Enjoy the love in your day.
xx C.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Day with Dawn

One pomegranate swelling, more flowers on the way.

Cathy runs off with the pumpkins.

Now that's how the silks get sorted
Home salt beef
I look at quilts like this on the internet. It was so special to realise that one lives just up the valley from here. The cats love it.

When grandpa came back from the war, Nan knitted this cushion.  She stuffed it with all the letters he'd sent her.   60 years later, inside the tightly sewn panels, the paper has turned to confetti.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Heathcliff. It's me. I'm Cathy. I've come Home. 
Yer tea's on the table.
(And if you think I'm standing funny i'ts because I seem to have misplaced my stays)

ivy skirt from curtains, Scarlett O'Hara style
top from pillow case, tad aussie flour sack dress style
up soon on www.bbsteel.bigcartel.com

Pony shirts 1-2 of 11 up now.

xx C.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tumbling Tuesday

Joe started Kinder this week - he's been having a ball and I've been having very strange dreams.  It's been wonderful to have two full days in the studio, but the freedom has gone to my head a bit and the staff at Tallangatta Op Shop and The Hub have had to put up with me hanging around and mumbling about socialisation.  The funny thing is that there are lots of other local mums in there too, saying similar things and buying ridiculous things. The older ladies just nod and smile, nod and smile.  I could list the purchases for the week, but that would be embarassing.  The house has become surreal as I process my haul - Raggedy (Handy) Andy in the sink with tea leaves getting a good staining, a large white macrame pot holder getting mussed up and at risk of a scorch and wax treatment, black red and gold horses rearing and bucking over worn-in tshirts...and so on. 
I also rearranged my bedroom. The bed now faces my open wardrobe, so I had to order it.  This involved relocating most of my apparel to the studio, carefully folding the treasured Penelope Durston frocks (The Harvest Smock, Agatha and Cressida) and hanging my rapidly growing collection of covered coat hangers.  They are all too lovely to cover up, so there they dangle. Coat hangers are tricky to catch in a photograph, but when I figure out a way to display them to you, in all their glory, I will.  I know I'm getting a bit obsessed and  having an empty wardrobe full of covered coat hangers is not really functional, or sustainable, but by god it's fun.
In the meantime, would you be appeased with a picture of Raggedy (Handy) Andy?  Am still deciding on how to embellish him. He's too big for the 6 baby doll's dresses with matching bloomers that I bought at The Hub...but that's another story.
xx Char.