Just for something different, I knitted beanies for a month.
We do lots of knitting for the shop, Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, often simple beautiful items to sell such as beanies, mitts and scarves, but we’re trying to build up shop samples to give people inspiration for projects and see how the yarn knits up. We’re also planning an exhibition next year and would like some interesting displays. These beanies are planned to be on show in the shop and not for sale (which we know will frustrate the non knitters – but maybe it will spur them to pick up the needles for themselves).
I’m not an experienced fairisle knitter but the beanies are great training ground – not too big, knitted in the round… and I was happy with the results.
Anyway, October is likely to be taken up by another Stephen West Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL 2016 and lots of gardening as the weather hopefully takes a turn for the better.
It’s coming on 3 years (in November) since I moved here permanently. Prior to taking up residence, the Convent had a refresh with new paint and the flooring updated with either polished boards or carpet. Other than furnishings, I haven’t done much else (other than a total garden overhaul), so I thought it time to move onto the next phase of home improvements.
I’ve been grappling with the kitchen since I first came here given it was a small galley at the front of the house and I wanted to accommodate a good sized stove. Another challenge was that although the Convent is large, it was never built for entertaining, so I don’t have a larger room when I have more than a few people over. With a few tweaks reorganising rooms, the result has worked well and I now have a large open modern kitchen and a great extra entertaining/living room which is also now my dining room.
I’d always known that I’d have to tackle the electricals at some point, given some parts dated back to 1930. The Convent lights mainly consisted of bulbs in bayonets in the ceiling or fluoro tubes, so updating the lighting has also been on my list. August ended up being kitchen, electrical and lighting month so there’s been a heap of activity. Not all has gone smoothly (or is finished) and I still need to get some plastering and touch up painting done but otherwise I’m really happy with the results and the Convent has improved significantly in appearance (and safety).
Still lots more on the list including the dreaded bathroom makeover, however after managing the last set of renovations, I’m more confident in tackling the next phase.
Post the CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, it’s time to put those needles hard to work. Over the last few weeks the temperatures have started to drop (although not by much most of the time as it remains usually sunny and very dry). But it’s been enough to cause a run on our hand knits and see yarn sales start to pick up.
I’ve had a few “projects” on the go that won’t see their way into the shop. I’ve knitted thank you warmers for Costa (and his Dad) for being such a great sport during our Gardens Fair. It would be hard to think what more he could have done whilst he was here – he covered so much territory with great enthusiasm with good spirits. So scarves, mitts and beanies are heading his way. All in Aussie wool – one set uses Alpaca from the very black ‘Tuxedo’ from Adagio Mills. There are very few mills left for processing wool in Australia, however Adagio have bucked the trend and opened a new mill in Orange last year. This yarn is my reward for participating in their highly successful Kickstarter campaign.
We always try to add to our house patterns at Convent and Chapel Wool Shop – these are patterns that highlight the yarn, stitch techniques or textures. Simple patterns that maximise effect and are great for a small project or gift – perfect holiday knitting. I’ve just finished a few trial ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ scarves in a simple ribbed lace of just four stitches repeat. It seems to work well with different blends of yarn and weights and will be a good addition to the shop.
It’s so tempting to want to knit everything- different brands, fibres and colours – I’m constantly dismayed by what I can’t fit into my days, although I can’t complain about a life filled with knitting, gardening, living in the country and working in a yarn store. The problem is there’s little I’d want to stop doing and everyone needs some sleep!
Next on the list are some baby clothes that Mum requested as a gift. Whilst I won’t get to keep these in the shop, at least it will be good to try out some yarns and have a go at a few new baby patterns for the shop. We’re loving White Gum Wool for baby clothes and any of our sock yarns are so much more interesting that the old baby wool.
In the meantime, we’ve taken the desperate steps of removing some price tags from knits in the shop just so we have plenty of samples available for the knitters who prefer to make their own!
Last weekend we had our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, with the Convent gardens being open to the public. Of course, we couldn’t let the weekend go by without including some of our knitting. We used the occasion to display some of our lacework around the garden to catch the eye of visiting garden enthusiasts.
Some of our most recent work is still on its way back from the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show but we had enough to decorate the grounds. Our cream lace shawls, which are our best Show pieces hung outside the Chapel verandah, Kerry Blue was inside the Grotto, a vibrant Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish peeped through a gap in the privet hedge, our Doodlers hang proudly from the side verandah, the sculpture birds held up a glorious maroon lace triangular shawl and the angel looked suitably draped.
A great week for the Convent garden and we think our shawls added a little to the colour and texture of the garden.
One of the special moments at the CWA Kandos Gardens Fair was a visit from Costa Georgiadis, in fact, two) from ABC’s Gardening Australia. We knew the Gardens Fair would be a very special event with him as a guest but his impact on visitors far surpassed expectations. As did the man himself. What a gracious, enthusiastic, engaging and energetic person!
Costa had asked to visit the local schools as part of his visit which was a wonderful experience for the school children and hopefully will leave a permanent mark on the area. For the weekend, he tirelessly visited gardens, engaged with visitors and made himself available constantly.
We were fortunate to have Costa visit us for lunch on Saturday where we gave him a short break from the many people who had built up both for a feed and to see Costa at the Convent. He made sure he spoke to all the volunteers and has a great skill for remembering names. He seemed to love the Convent and it’s surrounds (although I think he was equally gracious with all garden owners and guests) and on Sunday unexpectedly brought his Dad back for lunch and a quieter sit in The Cloisters on a day that was a little slower paced.
Watching him with his Dad was a little bittersweet given my own Dad passed away last year and I had such hopes of he and Mum spending time with me at the Convent. It was great that he took his Dad on a guided tour of the garden but I had moments of concern with the wheelchair in the spongy grass!
During their visit, a wonderful ukulele group sang and played in the Chapel – Costa raced in and took a video which he later placed on Instagram which was a thrill.
All in all, a great weekend and we’re still buzzing from it. Costa certainly made a difference and we’d have him back any day.
Last weekend we held our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair. A big event for our small town as it attracts many visitors, books out accommodation and showcases the area. This is the second time the Convent has participated, the first being just before I moved here permanently and in the early days of making over the garden. And what a weekend it was!
This time I was reasonably well prepared – the gardens were a little more established and in pretty good shape and we decided to offer morning/afternoon teas and lunches in the Convent Cafe, complete with a blackboard menu (which also meant heaps of food preparation).
I have no idea yet of final numbers but the Convent seemed to be on everyone’s list as a “must see” venue, including a tour through the Chapel. We also attracted a few stall holders who set up their marquees, and local musicians and even belly dancers, the Kandos Belles! So there was no shortage of distractions.
Food was in endless demand and we must have served 150 – 200 meals plus tea, coffee, slices and scones. Many thanks to my wonderful and competent neighbours who chipped in to serve so many people. Sausages rolls all disappeared within an hour, the zucchini slice didn’t last much longer and Saturday night I was up til all hours making more sandwiches and adapting to a change of plans preparing ingredients for Ploughman’s Lunches.
We had a free cold drinks station with iced water, iced Mint and Lemon Verbena tea and Elderflower Champagne tastings. The Lemon Verbena tea and Elderflower Champagne were huge hits with visitors.
The day had a great feel of festivities and fun but the Convent also provided a venue for relaxation and respite in The Cloisters out back where we held the Cafe. We were fortunate to have some special guest speakers come along including Fiona Ogilvie, the gardening journalist from The Land who has a wonderful property in Bathurst, Diego Bonetto, a wild food forager and, of course, the wonderful Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia, who was incredibly engaging and generous with his time.
More posts will follow with photos of the garden and our Cobwebs in the Garden knitting display (of course we’d get knitting in there somewhere!). Such a wonderful weekend and I’m sure all the effort from so many volunteers to put this together has been worth it.
Mudgee is well known for it’s great wine and local produce which also means it has some great cafes and restaurants. One I’ve been wanting to try for a while is The Zin House. I’ve sampled some of the Kim Curry (the chef)’s food before at Lowe’s Cellar Door horizontal tasting this year as part of the Mudgee Food and Wine Festival, but haven’t eaten in the restaurant.
Before Aimee went home, Gemma, Aimee and I made our way to The Zin House for their five course menu with matching wines. The Zin House restaurant is situated within the Lowe’s Family wines estate – an ideal setting with rolling Mudgee hills and a wonderful vegetable garden providing supplements for the restaurant.
We weren’t disappointed with the meal which delivered on every course. It was hard to choose a favourite but the Saffron Rag Pasta with garlic, chilli, mushroom and zucchini was mine and has tempted me to drag out the infrequently used pasta machine. My fellow diners praised the Limoncello Cured Trout Gravlax and the Slow Cooked Five Spice Pork Shoulder.
I was inspired by the use of many of the herbs I grow but don’t use. I always have a mound of Sorrel which usually goes to the chooks or compost, but the Cucumber, Fennel Flower and Sorrel Salad will most likely put a stop to that. We had Borage flowers on the house-made herb butter, Mint in the Salsa Verde and Lemon Verbena (which I also grow) in the Honey and Lemon Verbena Ice-cream. Even the Peppermint Tea was a lovely glass teapot housing fresh mint leaves.
The wine was predominantly and unsurprisingly Lowes Wines and well chosen as companions to the dishes. Service was excellent, including the offer of a break between courses with a recommended walk around the vegetable gardens and property in the dusk.
It was one of the better dinners for some time and a great finish to a wonderful Christmas break.
My girls were here for another Convent Christmas -this time a pretty lazy one. No big roast dinners and hours in a hot kitchen on Christmas Day. This year it was seafood and salads – grilled lobster tails, blue swimmer crabs and prawns and the inevitable glazed ham – with salads to let us have lots of easy meals afterwards.
Dessert of course was pavlova and a raspberry ripple ice-cream made with ricotta – just yum and has lasted well.
Hayley left before New Year taking bags of veg garden bounty back with her whilst Aimee and I had an extended break, sampling the local cafes and a few more low key meals at home, including what is becoming one of my favourite pantry/fridge meals – salmon carpaccio. Another low maintenance meal of finely chopped smoked salmon mixed with other finely chopped goodies such as cornichons, caper berries, spanish onion, capsicum, tomato and coriander and served with toasted triangles. A light refreshing dinner or entree anytime.
To start off the year, I made something I haven’t done for ages – a cake! A lovely butter cake with apples in the middle and on top. The apples are lightly stewed in a sugary syrup which is reduced and poured over the warm cake and also used as a sauce. Just yum – I must remember to bake more often.
Anyway, the Christmas break is coming to and end with the family all returning to Sydney and I’ll be back at work shortly. It’s been a quiet time but great to recharge the batteries and here’s hoping for a more positive 2016.
It’s been a difficult year. Losing Dad, Mum going into care, selling the old family home … Such life changing experiences have taken their toll.
At some point you need to just get back into the swing of life. I moved to the country just over two years ago full of plans and enthusiasm and I owe it to myself and my parents to try and fulfil these. It’s sad that they can’t be here to see it themselves, but fortunately they did have a few visits, including a Kandos Christmas at the Convent. Mum will be following me by snail mail and I hope she gets to see me make great progress.
So… I’m getting back into the groove of things I love and want to do with plenty of ambitions and hopes for 2016.
For now, it’s back to nurturing and expanding the garden, particularly with Kandos Gardens Fair around the corner in April 2016. My plants are all a little more established and garden beds continue to expand. I have plenty of plants yet to go in, but it’s so hot and dry right now that I think there best to sit in their nursery. The foodie plants are doing well – I seem to have mastered the art of the cucumber after a few failures, and hope this will stand me in good stead with pumpkins and zucchinis. So many pots and containers are now being put to use, but my favourite is the old cement laundry trough. I’m tempted to get more. They look great and are really practical planters.
I haven’t been doing so much cooking or preserving of late, either, but onion jam has now been made and fresh spiced vegetable pickling vinegar is a winner and about to go into production. The ice-cream maker will also make a welcome return and I’ve just found a recipe for Elderberry Champagne – tempting.
And, of course, there’s the knitting – there’s always the knitting. I’ve completed my Doodler from the Ravelry Westknits Mystery Knit Along and am really pleased with it. It’s the first major piece I’ve completed in ages, rather than basic shop knitting, and I’m promising myself I’ll get back to the Show knitting.
Big plans ahead for 2016 – it’s been a wakeup call that time passes quickly and there’s no time for regrets.
The Convent was always known for its roses. I’ve never had a property before with a suitable environment for roses, although I have always loved the sense of history and romance that comes with them, so this is a perfect setting for me to let loose.
To be honest, I can’t remember how many I’ve now planted. I suspect well over 120 but there have been (and will continue to be) some failures along the way. Some of the roses are now hitting the two year mark whilst others are still in their infancy. However, I’m beginning to get a better sense of how they will grow and, of course, starting to have favourites.
Whilst I have made some endeavours to select colours in spaces, the ‘Original Seven’ that were here were pretty random, with yellows, apricots, pinks and reds mixed, so I’m going with the flow. For other beds, I’ve been more selective – pinks, reds and whites along the front ash fence, soft pinks and whites on the Grotto and whites, yellows and apricots in the back gate bed. A few of the learnings – never get bare rooted stock. However much I promise myself I’ll plant them immediately, I don’t and I lose some. Another learning is the difference between climbers and ramblers. I have a few climbers, such as Mr Lincoln, that really need some sort of climbing frame – their strong arching branches don’t ramble softly over the wall like the other roses.
Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with my choices and locations and think, given time, the Convent garden will have a wonderful rose display. At present, I’m just enjoying wandering through the garden to look at them and, of course, have lots of roses in vases inside to enjoy as well.