Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Can I ask you a favour?

Image from tumblr

I would very much appreciate your in-put on something today. As you may have noticed from the sidebar, I am working on redeveloping my In a Dark Wood blog ( into a space for my fiction writing.

I am mostly writing short stories at the moment, and so I am wondering...

Do you read short stories?
Do you read short stories online?

Sweet thanks for that!
Feronia xx

 Image from tumblr

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


It was so lovely to hear the rain this morning. It has rained quite heavily in Melbourne today and everything - people, birds, grass, trees, plants, soil - have lapped it up. Now everything seems quiet and peaceful - sustained and refreshed a little after the heatwave we've been through.

Somehow, it put me in mind of this gentle song.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Simple Comforts

I was having a flick through a lovely Taschen book on the weekend - Sweden Style - and one cottage in particular caught my eye. A sparsely decorated, light-filled little house by the sea, it was identified as Johan Brauner's cottage in Gotland, Sweden. A Google search has yielded nothing about Johan Brauner or his cottage, but it put me in mind of the many plain but lovely cottages we saw dotted through the countryside when we were in Scandinavia in 2011. Simple but enough to live in comfort. That would suit me fine.

The one above we spotted while we toured one of the fjords near Bergen by boat. The two below I photographed while we were walking through the Bergen arboretum.


Friday, February 22, 2013


My grandmother was a great stitcher. As with many women of her generation (she was born in 1908), she was very skilled with a needle and thread. Throughout my childhood, I had handmade shirts, trousers, skirts and art smocks. This was utilitarian sewing. Then there was 'fancy work' - embroidery. Her house (and ours) was filled with embroidered doilies and cloths of every description.

When I started high school in 1985, we studied 'needlecraft' (it was a girls' school - that's what girls studied in those days - in second form we learned cooking and in third, typing...on a typewriter). I was absolutely hopeless. I took so long with my embroidery stitch sampler that the teacher assigned another girl to watch me work (oh, the shame) and my patchwork cushion and nightshirt were pulled apart with the teacher's stitch-ripper more times than I care to recall.

But now, weirdly, I love it. I have just started the piece of embroidery above, and to my surprise, it's very relaxing. Sort of like colouring-in with thread! It's really quite lovely to watch the picture come to life before your eyes. My mother, who dislikes crafting of all kinds, said "It's all come from your  grandmother".

Would Grandma be pleased? I hope so.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Matilda of England (1102-1167)
Image from Wikipedia

With what I suspect would be described as my 'monkey mind', I am flitting from one book to another at the moment when I settle down to read. I am reading She-Wolves by Helen Castor pretty steadily, though. It tells the story of 'the women who ruled England before Elizabeth' - Elizabeth the First, that is. It is very accessibly written, providing one doesn't get too bogged down in exactly who was related to who and goes with the overall flow of the tale.

I have several degrees in history, but my focus has always been on modern history, so I am really enjoying visiting another era altogether - the early Middle Ages - and times very different in many ways to our own. As we swelter through yet more humid weather here, I am also enjoying imagining myself in the vast landscape of cold castles that sets the scene! I know, I know...the draughts and the damp and the general horribleness...but just allow me to dream as the air here buzzes thick with heat and insects!

What are you reading right now?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Safe to bake

Yesterday we finally had a day that was under 30 degrees, so I decided it was safe to turn on the stove and heat the kitchen up a little. I found this truly delicious low-fat fruit tea loaf at the good to know website ( The recipe in full is here - - and here are the essentials of it:

Ingredients ~
  • 1 Darjeeling tea bag
  • 300g (11oz) soft dried fruit such as apricots, prunes or apples
  • 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 225g (8oz) wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice

Method ~

  1. Grease and base line a 1kg (2¼ lb) loaf tin. Soak the tea bag in 300ml (½ pt) boiling water for 5 mins. Roughly chop the fruit and add to the tea, discarding the tea bag and soak for 2-3 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Mix in the sugar and eggs.
  3. Mix together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and fold into the fruit mixture.
  4. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1½ hours or until firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.
I am really pleased with how it turned out (above). Seriously yummy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Making a list

Inspired by Sefarina's list of projects that she's planning while she has a little bit of unexpected time (, I had a little look around the house at the things that are keeping me busy right now...

1. Making a variety of little brooches by winding yarn onto metal rings, stitching little flowers onto scraps of an old cardigan or stitching on fragments of vintage embroidered table napkins and hankies. I am making them for my own use at the moment just while my stitching gets a little neater!

2. Trying to make fabric yo-yos with my Japanese yo-yo maker. It's easy, they said. Hmmmm, I said. I shall try and persevere because I want to cover a rug in them. Also, I have a fabric stash which could do with some diminishing.

3. Finally making a felted teddy bear with the felting kit I bought off ebay months ago.

4. Looking, as always, for an author to rival or at least equal Barbara Pym. I am about to start At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not her). At least I will when I can drag myself away from a re-read of Quartet in Autumn.

5. Trying, yet again, to learn how to meditate. Perhaps 'trying' is the key to what is wrong with my approach. Meditate or do not meditate. There is no try...

6. Planning to make a plum cake with oats and a snowy chocolate mountain cake, in quick succession, when the weather gets a little cooler and I feel inclined to switch the stove on. 30 + degrees until late next week...

7. And if all that's just a bit too industrious, dancing around the house to some silly 60s music...Blogger didn't like the 'embed' link, so here's the You Tube link if you're interested...

What about you? What are you up to?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Knit One, Purl Om

Woman knitting by Francoise Duparc
Whiling away some time on Google recently (as one does), I found a vast array of beautiful images under the unassuming search term 'knitting painting'. Such a variety of expressions on each face, yet each one marked with a striking combination of serenity and absorption (except perhaps for 'Knitter Asleep', she perhaps just has the serenity). Having recently done some reading on knitting as a meditation, I found this to be a very interesting commonality indeed. And the little cat at the end? Well, he just sums up the very delicious soothing character of the yarn itself.
Does knitting relax or stress you? 

Charles Lidderdale, Sillem Knitting
Image from

Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Knitter Asleep
Image from

Grace Cossington-Smith, The Sock Knitter
Image from

Linda Apple, Knitting Vibes
Image from

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lady Lazarus

This great print can be found for sale at

Yesterday, February 11th, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the writer Sylvia Plath. Her poetry and prose is often confronting but I love the way that each word packs such an emotional punch and yet is so concise and elegant. Something that fledgling writers such as myself can only dream of. It is truly tragic that she saw suicide as the answer to her troubles. Her death is an enormous loss.

Love and respect to you, Miss Plath.

PS If you have not read Sylvia's poems, please be warned that they are not easy going.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Comfort Food

Image from

In search of something I hadn't made before for Saturday night dinner, I settled on 'Hot sausage hash' from my Ikea cookbook. I forgot to take a photo of it, so what you see above is something I found online that looks very, very much like how it turned out.

The weather is probably still a little warm here for this dish but it disappeared from our plates quickly enough and since it is probably perfect weather for this in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, I thought some of you might enjoy it.

I fried six beef sausages and boiled four sliced potatoes. I added a diced onion and a sliced clove of garlic to the frying pan as well as a tin of kidney beans. I then removed the sausages once they were almost done, sliced them up and then put them back in the pan, as well as adding the now firm but cooked, sliced potatoes. I splashed in a little Worcestershire sauce (like HP sauce) and a sprinkle of paprika. When everything is nice and sizzled up together, it's good to go. I was going to add sour cream but I forgot that too. Oh well!

Smaklig måltid!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A tick in the box

Finally I have managed moss stitch! With the aid of an excellent little book called The Knitting Problem Solver by Tish Lilie, I finally worked out where I was going wrong and...voila, here it is!. Suddenly a whole world of knitting projects I had thought totally beyond me have opened up.

I am mildly chuffed, to say the least!

I know I am a little (!) fixated on yarn but don't you think a square of this moss stitch, just like this, in emerald green, would make a lovely brooch? I can't quite decide...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sunday Morning

Sunday morning is always a good time to slow down a bit, don't you think? I saw a nice recipe for French Toast in the English magazine The Simple Things during the week and so last Sunday I made French Toast using brioche dipped in egg, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Mmmm-mmm. I didn't serve it with berries as the recipe suggested but it was still good. If not particularly slimming!