Travelling home.

I am back from my 5 week trip to the US!

It was such a great time....

Getting inspired, and meeting new and old friends at the SCBWI conference in Seattle (see previous post)....

Dancing all day and all night in New Orleans....

Catching up with family including two little nieces....

And to top it off a positive meeting with a publisher in Boston....

And I've returned to some fun news too:
 My illustration is one of the chosen ones for They Draw and Cook's Cookbook, out now! (buy it here)

I will also be featured in 100 illustrations next illustration Annual

I will be starting work immediately on 2 books for Five Mile Press.

It's always nice to have some good news and something to dive into to help dispel the post-vacation blues!

Sun to snow

The last few weeks have been a beautiful blur of meeting with friends, incipient illustrations, and lots and lots of sweets.

And for now, I am about to hop on another plane to be with my family for Christmas- my first Christmas in Winter for 10 years. I am beyond excited!

I'm taking some painting to do with me - I have to catch up on my sketchbook project and have a few other bits and pieces to work on. But mostly it will be relaxing, laughing, eating, drinking, and if I'm lucky, even some snow.

So for now I just want to wish everyone a very merry one, and hope this is a very joyous season for all!

Moroccan Orange & Date Salad

This is my submission for They Draw and Cook. I did this sketch AGES ago but then it dropped off my radar, until I realised that the deadline is TOMORROW! And... very exiciting, it is getting published by Weldon Owen Publishing, so hopefully mine will be chosen!

This is one of my favourite quick and mostly healthy desserts -- very refreshing in the summertime. So now that the weather is hotting up here (25C tomorrow - woo!) hopefully I'll be able to make it soon :-). It is from a fantastic cookbook Casa Moro which has recipes from Morocco and southern Spain.

And after all that food painting.... I am hungry - time for dinner!

A few good things

Since I handed in the roughs for my book, I have been up to my neck in home renovation land. I am soooo happy to say that it is almost done! The last few weeks have been a blur of plasterboard, insulation and power tools. (how different to paper & pencils!) But by Monday, the walls and ceiling of our 3rd bedroom and new pantry will be ready to paint. Very exciting!

In the mean time, here are some good things:

spring blooms

tomatoes, spring onions, olives and haloumi with cumin.
I then cracked a few eggs into this and it was so yummy!

My blueberry plant has blueberries on it! Apparently you're supposed to take them off the first year so that the plant puts its energy into growing, not into the fruit, but I can't help myself - I want some homegrown blueberries! (and that's my little puddycat again, Whiskey)

'Tis the season...

...for Christmas parties!

I went to the Victorian chapter of SCBWI's Xmas dinner last weekend and last night was Illustrators Australia's. Two very different parties and each rewarding in their own way.

The SCBWI dinner was a casual sit down and chat with some (mostly) older ladies who had been in the business quite a while. I felt like a little fledgling learning from the masters. "Yes, grasshopper, you have far to go, so much to learn, but you will arrive at your destination and the journey will be worth it". or something like that.

Then last night was IA's party. As some of you know I am "vice-prez" of IA this year so it was fun to help organise - lots of food, heaps of alcohol! a bit of dancing, lots of Xmas lights, a rooftop with a view, and good conversations. I nominated to be on the committee again next year, in what capacity I'm not sure yet, and a few new faces nominated as well so that was great. ALSO, I made this cake, in the shape of our logo:

now, I have NEVER decorated a cake before - not even your garden variety rectangular, chocolate icing and nothing else cake, so this was quite a challenge - but lots of fun! everyone loved him. Maybe I should start a new business...? haha, I don't think so!

I-F: Strings

This is a bit silly now that I look at it, but this is what I fear I will have to do to my little lime tree, who has unthinkingly produced about 20 flowers on one spindly branch alone. I don't know if they will all turn into limes, but if they do, there will have to be lots of strings attached!

That said, I love my lime tree (who I have named Kermit). I have only had him for about 6 months. The prospect of having my own lime production centre is very exciting because my husband and I have this motto: "everything is better with lime" which we decided upon in Mexico, when we couldn't think of one food that wouldn't be better with lime juice. Can you?

I-F: Canned

Here is my submission for Illustration Friday this week. Remember doing this as a kid? Do kids still do this or is it all nintendo and tv now? I think some of the simplest toys can be the funnest, don't you?

Anyway, I've also been looking for something to use to update my blog header so hey presto! There we are - Hope you like it. :-)

And.... on the domestic front, I think I am getting a bit carried away with this whole baking thing. For the last four weeks I have made bread every weekend - and this time it was cinnamon buns! Looking at these I still can't quite believe that I made them. They are way yummy. I don't think I'll be doing it again any time soon though - it was a bit more labour-intensive than your run-of-the-mill loaf, and uses a bit more butter and sugar then I usually like, but for now I'm not complaining! ;-)

I-F: Enough

I've been baking my own bread lately, I think perhaps to try and take the edge of the Winter chill that has settled in. You have to know how much is enough flour, and enough kneading (by hand, of course). I think I've done pretty well with it though, and have been very happy with my forays so far. First it was white bread, then wholemeal, and last week it was olive bread. I think this weekend I might move on to something sweeter, maybe raisin bread? Yummm! I can tell you my husband has been very happy the last few weeks! ;-)

I kneaded this.

It has been really lovely to have a bit of a break from illustration-as-work and to do some other creativey things. "Creativey things" to me includes cooking and it has been great to cook for pleasure as opposed to subsistence ie. "must have something quick so I can get back to work". So... I finally tried something I have been threatening to do for a long time and made bread! It turned out really well (so yummy!) and I was very proud of myself :

this could be the beginning of something beautiful... do I hear herb bread...? olive bread...? raisin bread....? ummmmm. With the price of everything going up these days it's nice to be able to provide some of the basics yourself. I have dreams of veggie gardens and fruit trees. all in time...

My next creative endeavour is a mosaic house number to continue to improve the front of our house so the neighbours feel a bit better about us ;-) This will be my first mosaic ever but I hope it will be the beginning of something else beautiful!!

artful food

While I was in New York for the SCBWI conference, my lovely hubby went to his favourite American city, New Orleans, and brought me back this great cookbook from the chef of our favourite restaurant there, Bayona. There's this fantastic recipe I have to share with you because not only does it taste amazing, it also looks amazing... look at this!:

And it's so tasty, so fresh, so summery (and luckily it felt summery today for a 2-year-old's-birthday bbq and then a housewarming party, after wintry weather the last week). The interplay of tastes and colours is wonderful. It was inspired by a trip to Israel where it is quite common to pair melon with feta cheese. I tell you, it works!

Here's the recipe if you want to make it:
2 cups watermelon (pref seedless) diced
1 cucumber diced
2 cups arugula (aus: rocket) or spinach
1/2 red onion sliced very thinly
1/4 cup crumbled feta (bulgarian feta works well!)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsps fresh lime juice
2 tsps honey
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
pinch of cayenne

mix it all together and yum!

and in other food news, we have been exploring our new surroundings and discovering all the best places to shop for things... good deli, good seafood place, cheap supermarket, etc. plus the BEST fruit and veg store which also has a fridge full of feta, haloumi, boccocini, etc. and a freezer full of paratha, naan, chapati, etc. and isles of lentils, nuts, dried fruit, etc. oh it's amazing! Plus it has THIS, my new favourite snack:

YUMMY turkish bread, with olive oil and dukka, it's the best.

ok, enough of food porn now, I think I've made myself hungry!