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Archive for the ‘What has Eliza been up to lately?’ Category

Batch Cooking

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Over the last few months I’ve been trying a new approach to cooking – one which involves spending two to three hours in the kitchen during the weekend (sometimes on Saturday, sometimes on Sunday, sometimes spread across the two days) – and doing a big cook-up. Sometimes I’ll make three, or even four, meals for the week ahead, other times I’ll only do one or two, but I’ll prepare a few bits and pieces that can go towards making meals for the following week easier and often a lot yummier.

I started “batch-cooking” because I was keen on the idea of having one or two nights a week – particularly the first couple of nights of the week – where I didn’t have to drag myself into the kitchen and come up with a meal out of thin air after a day already full to the brim of running around – and driving around – in circles.   And there’s no doubt about it – it is very, very nice indeed to pull a big pot of soup out of the fridge on a Monday night and to have to do nothing more than heat it up and toast a few rounds of pita bread. It is even nicer to go to the fridge on Tuesday night and find a chicken casserole waiting there. All I need to do is prepare some potatoes or rice and some steamed veggies and voila – a meal.  It definitely makes a nice change from my previous routine of me suddenly lifting my head up from whatever it was I happened to be doing around 5.30 every afternoon and going “Oh my God!!! What the hell am I going to make for dinner?”

I realise I’m probably sounding annoyingly smug, I really don’t mean to. I’m writing about this because I’m wanting to share the honey about just how marvellous this batch cooking thing is.  And if I can do it – truly – anyone can. Because I really am one of the world’s least organised people. To be honest I never actually thought I’d be capable of continuing with this. I imagined it would be yet another one of those great ideas that other people do but that – because I am me – I just couldn’t seem to manage. I thought I’d do it for a few weeks and then life would get in the way and I’d fall back into my old habits.  Surprisingly though that hasn’t happened . . . well not yet anyway! I started my batch-cooking expdriment in late July of this year – and four months later I’m still doing it. And reason I am still doing it is because I enjoy it.  And enjoyment is absolutely key to being able to maintain any kind of routine I reckon. At least it is for me!

As well as having the intense pleasure of pulling a meal out of the fridge or freezer at the end of a busy day batch cooking has also reignited my joy of cooking. Believe me, spending a couple of hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or a Sunday preparing meals – and parts of meals – for the week ahead is a very different game from my usual harried and grumpy efforts on weeknights.  Because it’s the weekend and I have time to just moodle I try new recipes – either from my own embarrassingly extensive library of recipe books or from books discovered at the local library. I have the time to get a bit creative, to tweak recipes, or even to make stuff up. And while I cook I listen to music – usually it’s Baroque opera but sometimes it’s schmoozy jazz or even a bit of country music to remind me of my Dad.  Sometimes I sing along – no doubt annoying the hell out of the neighbours because I have a Very Loud Voice. And sometimes, if it’s getting on towards late afternoon (or mid-afternoon even!), I might have a glass or wine or a beer. And at the end of it all I have lots of yummy food and I feel extremely efficient and effective and yes, just the tiniest bit smug.

As well as really enjoying cooking in this way it also forces me to be more organised with the grocery shopping. Previously I’d tended to go into the supermarket with very little in the way of a list.  Often I just scribbled down a few essentials that I’d noticed were running out – if I was lucky! Then with this ‘list’ in hand I’d wander listlessly through the aisles picking up anything that caught my eye. This meant I came home with a bunch of random bits and pieces that more often than not ended up collecting dust at the back of my pantry because every night I’d end up making the same old meals I always made because it was getting close to six o’clock and people needed to be fed and I didn’t have the time to do anything more adventurous than tuna pasta – again.  Now I arrive home with food I’m actually going to use and – ironically enough – I often spend less than I used because I know exactly what I need and I don’t impulse buy as much.  There are also now also a lot less dusty cans and out-of-date spices lurking at the back of the cupboard, and a lot fewer wilted vegetables slowly mouldering away in the bottom of my vegetable drawer. Yay.

In short, this way of cooking has been a bit of a revelation to me. It’s so marvellous in fact that I’d really like to record my experiences with it here on this blog – for my own record-keeping pleasure, and also for anyone else who might like to try it themselves.  What I’d like to do – reasonably regularly – is to share my weekly cook-up notes here.  Ideally I’d like to do it every week but whether that will actually happen I don’t know.  To be honest – I doubt it but dreams are entirely free.  I’d also like to share a few past batch-cooks that I’ve done – there’ve been a few really lovely ones and I’d like to record them here – even if just for myself 🙂

So – without further ado – here is an example of a weekly batch cook.  It was the first one I ever did and the reason I remember it so well is that I actually kept a record of it at the back of a scrubby old notebook because I was so impressed with myself for doing it. And I’ve kept a record of all the batch-cooking sessions I’ve done ever since. Not at all like me but it’s proof that you actually can teach yourself new tricks even if you are getting a little long in the tooth  🙂

My batch-cooking notebook



Menu for the Week 

Saturday: Grilled Monkfish with Black Olive Salsa & Lemon Mash

Sunday: Vegetarian Nachos

Monday : Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Tuesday: Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables (I always keep the bones for stock – more on that in a future blog post)

Wednesday: Lentil Bolognese with WholeWheat Spaghetti Pasta

Thursday: Fish Tacos with Lettuce, Cheese, Refried Beans & Pickled Onions

Friday: Penne Pasta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes


To Make Ahead – Saturday Afternoon 

Black Olive Salsa for Saturday night’s fish

Boil Potatoes for Potato Mash

Mediterranean Vegetable Soup (for Monday night)

Lentil Bolognese Sauce (for Wednesday pasta)

Bean Topping for Nachos

Pickled Onions (for Thursday’s Fish Tacos)

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes (For Friday night’s pasta)


How the afternoon unfolded

  1. First I sliced the tomatoes in half and put them in on a tray in the oven at about 150 degrees Celsius with oil and herbs.  I left them to slowly roast into a sweet delicious mess while I did everything else
  2. Then I prepared the soup and left it to quietly simmer (recipe below)
  3. While I prepared the Lentil Bolognese Sauce (recipe below) & left it to quietly bubble & plop like a small mud pool . . .
  4. While I chopped up potatoes for Saturday night’s Mash & put them on to steam.
  5.  As the potatoes steamed I made the Black Olive Salsa to go with the Monkfish (I’ll share recipe for the salsa below) . . .
  6.  Then I chopped and simmered the onions (recipe below)  . . .
  7. Then I took the Lentil Bolognese sauce off the heat and left it to cool. I popped it in a freezer container for Wednesday night.
  8. Finally I took the tomatoes out of oven and left them to cool in their oil. I popped them in a jar – covered in their oil & a little red wine vinegar – until Friday night when I mixed them into our Penne Pasta with some fried garlic and fresh herbs.


Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

This was adapted from a recipe by New Zealand’s National Treasure Alison Holst. It was in her book Meals Without Red Meat.  I’ve tweaked it a fair bit but I reckon Alison deserves a nod for having given me the inspiration 🙂

  • 3 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 2 large onions – chopped into fine half-rings
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 3 stalks celery – finely sliced
  • 1 capsicum – diced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tin cannellini beans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Coarsely ground pepper – a sprinkle
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsely
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water

Fry onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until they become slightly coloured and start to wilt & sweeten.

Add the carrots and the celery, capsicum and garlic and fry for 10 minutes or so until the veggies start to soften.

Add the tinned t0matoes, with their juice, stir until mixture starts to simmer and the veggies are well coated in the oily  tomatoey juices

Add the 4 cups of water or stock.

Finally, drain the beans and add them to the soup and let everything come to a boil before turning down the heat and letting the soup simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

For best flavour allow to stand for a few hours and then reheat – but don’t worry, this soup is still delicious if you eat it straight away.

Before serving taste and if you think it needs it add the teaspoon of brown sugar. Then drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the soup, and sprinkle it with salt, freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley.

Take the table and serve with crusty bread and a block of parmesan cheese for grating over the top.

Lentil Bolognese Sauce

This is adapted from a recipe I found in a book called Destitute Gourmet: Stunning Food from Small Change by Sophie Gray. Again, I’ve tweaked it a fair bit but Sophie definitely deserves to be credited because I would never have thought about making something like this otherwise. This meal has turned into a real family favourite and it’s a fabulous sauce to make ahead.

  • 1 heaped cup of red lentils – uncooked
  • 1 large carrot – grated
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 onion – finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 2 x 400g can tomatoes
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TB basil pesto or fresh chopped herbs
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups water

Fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until onion softens and sweetens and garlic is smelling aromatic. Add grated carrot and stir around until carrot coated with oil and starting to wilt a little. Add lentils, tomatoes, and their juice, tomato paste, sugar, herbs and 2 cups of water.  Bring the sauce to the boil and then turn the heat to low, pop the lid on the pot and let the it all simmer until the lentils soften and thicken into a delicious gloopy sauce. Check the sauce part-way through to make sure there is enough liquid in there – add more water if it’s starting to get a bit dry.

If you’re making this ahead let it cool in the pot and then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until you need it.  It re-heats really nicely after freezing and then you just need to boil some pasta (penne or spaghetti – wholemeal is particularly nice) to go with it.  It’s lovely with grated parmesan, a sprinkling of Basil (fresh or dried) and & freshly ground pepper.

Black Olive Salsa

This salsa is from a recipe by Jamie Oliver from his book Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook and it really is quite delicious – as well as being a great way to use up the end of a bunch of celery!  He calls it ‘Black Olive Sauce’ – but it’s a really more of a salsa I reckon.

  • 2 large handfuls of black kalakaua olives, stoned & roughly chopped
  • 1/2 a fresh red chilli (de-seeded if you would prefer not too much heat – otherwise, leave the seeds in!)
  • Small handful of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, mint)
  • 1 celery heart, yellow leaves chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A couple of glugs of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Mix everything except the Balsamic Vinegar together and then carefully balance the flavours with the vinegar to taste. This essentially means pouring a little vinegar in, stirring it around, tasting it – and adding more if you think you need it. I like mine with quite a hit of Balsamic but you might prefer yours a little milder.  Other vinegars can work well in this salsa too – I’ve tried it with red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar. Yum.

Quick Pickled Onions

This recipe has been adapted from a fabulous cook-book devoted to batch-cooking called A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs – the founders of online kitchen and home destination Food52 .  I’ll do a blog post on the book another time – suffice to say it’s a marvellous resource if you’re at all interested in taking the batch-cooking approach to your meals.

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 TB salt
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 3 TB water
  • 6 TB cider vinegar

Slice the onions very thinly and pop them in a small saucepan with the salt, sugar, water and vinegar.  Set it over the element until it boils then turn down the heat and simmer very gently for 10 minutes – stirring occasionally. Cool and then refrigerate. These get nicer the longer they sit but they’re still yummy straight after you’ve made them 🙂

These are great with fish tacos but they’re also fabulous on sandwiches and in salads – or just eaten straight from the jar.


So – there you go Batch Cooking for Beginners. And like I say – if I can do it anyone can 🙂


















A little notebook

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

A little notebook

A little notebook

I have had very little time for doing anything creative over the last 6 months or so. I have a part-time job now and when I added that to being a Mum to a busy 9-year-old, my singing commitments,  and trying to keep things on the domestic front under control (surrounded by chaos right now so losing the battle on that front!) – as well as attempting to write a book (drawing on skills garnered from my former life as a researcher) with my husband Kevin . . . something had to give.

This little notebook got made in a tiny patch of time during my Christmas holiday break using an image I developed for a series of cards I’ve called ‘Love Notes’ (which are in my Etsy shop). I printed this image out on the wrong paper and was about to throw it out when I thought of mod-podging it onto the front of a little plain-covered notebook I’d bought ages ago for this very purpose. I added a couple of bits of braid, applied ink to the page edges  and voila – my very own little one-of-a-kind book. I was thinking of listing it on Etsy prior to Valentine’s Day but never got around to doing a back cover for it. Oh dear! Never mind – it was fun to make and one can never have too many notebooks!

Decorating a Notebook

  • Materials
  • 1 x plain-covered notebook (I got mine from a craft supplies store)
  • 1 x image cut to size of notebook cover
  • Mod-podge
  • Braid, lace or other decorative trim
  • Stamping ink

Coat the back of the image with Mod-Podge and adhere carefully to front of notebook. Use a little roller to make sure it’s nice and smooth.

Once image is adhered apply a coat of Mod-Podge to the front of the image. Repeat this 2 or 3 times – waiting for the Mod-Podge to dry between coats – depending on how much gloss you want the cover to have

Select and cut to size your pieces of braid / lace / ribbon / twine – whatever you fancy – and apply (using craft glue) where desired.

Repeat the process with the back cover – once glue is dry of course!  As I said above – I still haven’t gotten around to this step 🙂

Finally –  apply stamping ink to the edges of the pages – as per picture below. I used a mixture of dark brown and gold inks. You can apply directly from the stamping pad (waiting for the ink to dry between applications so you don’t mess up your ink pad), or you can use one of those sponge applicator thingies. As you can see mine is not as neat and uniform as it could be because the brown ink I used was very new and wet so things got a bit out of hand. I’m sure with a bit more care, however, you could end up with a nice effect 🙂  Luckily I’m just keeping this one for myself!

Slightly messy inking job :-)

Slightly messy inking job 🙂



Corner View – Small Things

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Flower Fairy

Flower Fairy

I have recently joined Instagram and one of the really nice things about it is that it encourages you to notice – as you go through your day – the small things that would be nice to share with the Instagram community. Even though I am on Instagram as Eliza’s Dream I don’t tend to post a lot of what I make for my Etsy shop – apart from behind-the-scenes photos of my creative process.  The majority of my posts are just little moments from my day. The photographs in this post are a sample of those small moments – some of which made it onto Instagram, some of which didn’t.

My little Owl

My little Owl

Hiis and Hers coffees

Hiis and Hers coffees

My artichoke candle

My artichoke candle – it was good while it lasted!

There's ALWAYS a good reason to drink bubbly :-)

You can ALWAYS find a reason to drink bubbly 🙂

Fairy groceries

From the Fairy’s Garden






Corner View – Something to Celebrate

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Op-shop find

Op-shop find

I know this doesn’t seem particularly exciting but – for me anyway –  it is definitely worth celebrating.  Late last year I visited Dunedin – a lovely city in the south of New Zealand’s South Island and a second-hand shop in Port Chalmers – a small port town near Dunedin I found this lovely dress.  I tried it on and it was way too big for me but I loved the fabric and the style so much that I bought it thinking vaguely to myself that I might be able to wear it with a belt.

Anyway – I took the dress home and I tried wearing it with a belt a few times but it didn’t really work. Things kept slipping and sliding the way they do when you’re wearing something that’s too big for you so the dress ended up sitting sadly at the bottom of a drawer until a few weeks ago when I had a bit of a brainwave . . .

A friend of mine had very kindly given me a beautiful Annah Stretton dress that didn’t fit her well and it had ribbons attached to it which you could arrange in various ways in order to drape the dress differently and I thought to myself – perhaps if I attached ribbons to my green dress then that just might help draw things a little.  So I pinned the ribbons on, tried the dress on and voila – it worked!

Then – me being me – the dress sat on the arm of my couch for several weeks with two long green ribbons attached to it with safety pins waiting for me to get around to sewing them on. But on Saturday – while I was going over my words and music for a show that night – I got out my needle and thread and sewed those ribbons on!   And when I tried on the dress  – those ribbons actually worked! Sadly I forgot to take a photograph of myself wearing the dress but here are some pictures of the finished product 🙂

Oh yes – definitely something to celebrate!

My sewing efforts :-)

My sewing efforts 🙂

The finished product

The finished product


Corner View – Renewal

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Melancholy - Photographer Unknown

Melancholy – Photographer Unknown

I think I am in need of a little renewal right now. I am feeling at a very low ebb creatively,  despite – or perhaps because of – having been very busy with both Eliza’s Dream’s little Etsy shop and with my singing lately.  I’ve had some very positive times with both of these things over the last few months but following hard on the heels of these positive times I have gone through  some really quite crushing self-doubts – doubts so bad I have felt like giving up on both my singing and on Eliza’s Dream.  These doubts have been caused mainly by things interior to me – old wounds that will never entirely heal and which ache when it rains.

I find it hard to take myself seriously doing these creative things – making images, singing . . . They were never things I was ‘supposed’ to do within the context of my family story.  I was the brainy one – destined for a career in medicine or law, or in the hallowed halls of academia. Despite being profoundly unsuited to any of those careers on a personal level – worthy though they may be – I have often battled with a deep sense of shame that I haven’t ended up wearing a stethoscope, a wig or a gown. A gnawing guilt that I never met the very high expectations important people in my life had for me when I was a child.

I remember my mother telling me once – very proudly – that the headmaster of one of my primary schools (I went to a lot of schools because we moved house so often) told her he would be very interested to find out what I became as an adult because I was such an unusual and ‘wise’ little child. I often think of him when I am in the kind of mood I am in today – and I reflect on how very unimpressed he would probably be to see me now . . . creating – and attempting to sell (not very successfully) – pretty images and bits and bobs, and warbling in various opera productions and concerts around the town.

I have done many more ‘serious’ things in my life (I have a Masters Degree and a PhD in psychology, I have written long, learned reports for various people and institutions, I have taught and tutored at a local university, I have facilitated parenting courses & etc., & etc.) but all of these things always seemed to drain me of energy and life-force. I found them terribly, terribly stressful – the expectations, the deadlines, the being up to my eyeballs in articles about sadness and suffering – and I would usually end up putting an end to them in one way or another despite how terribly worthy all these endeavours were.  And after each stint out there in the ‘real world’ I would return to my image making and to my singing and feel replenished and renewed – but after a certain amount of time the guilt would set in again. What right did I have to play about doing these things when people were suffering out there? What sort of dilettante was I?? Wasting time. Wasting money. Wasting my brains and my education?  And my guilt was always compounded by the fact I wasn’t making any money doing these things – as if making money at them was the only way I knew to validate them.

My apologies for going on so long about this but I guess this blog was created not just to share Eliza’s good times but also her not-so-good times.  Those times when  Eliza’s Dream isn’t quite so dreamy . . .

The beautiful image at the top of this post really does symbolise how I feel at the moment – and while I’m not enjoying it I don’t necessarily see it as an entirely bad thing. To me the way I am feeling right now is telling me that I need to stop, to go inside myself, to take a little time and just be still – all things which this photograph so eloquently reflects.  I am hoping that if I let myself move gently through this process I will eventually come out the other side . . . my energy and my creativity replenished. Because this is such a very bad patch I feel that it may be the precursor to some kind of real change – some sort of renewal.  I don’t exactly know what form this renewal might take . . . but here are some hopeful images to be going on with . . .

Blue Butterfly - Photographer Unknown

Blue Butterfly – Photographer Unknown

Yellow Flowers - Photographer Unknown

Yellow Flowers – Photographer Unknown

Gioia - Photographer Unknown

Gioia – Photographer Unknown

Eliza's latest cast of Opera Heroines

Eliza’s latest cast of Opera Heroines – Senta, Leonora, The Marschallin, Pamina and Brunnhilde










Opera Heroine Magnets

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Opera Heroine Magnets

Opera Heroine Magnets


I bought a couple of sheets of that rubber-backed magnet stuff the other day not quite sure what I intended to do with it. Once I got it home it sat in its packet for a week or so (as these things so often do!) and then while I was working on my Marschallin card and bookmark set I thought how it would be rather lovely to pop a little Marschallin magnet into the package.  With my stationery (cards, bookmarks, etc.) I am trying to make sets of things now – rather than lone items. I think when you’re trying to sell things in a huge on-line market-place like Etsy you’ve got to offer things that are worth people’s while to order through the mail – so just trying to sell single cards (or single bookmarks) is a bit of a lost cause. That’s certainly what I’ve found anyway.

Anyway – then I had the challenge of trying to work out how to attach the images to the magnet sheet.  Surprisingly I came up an idea quite quickly and with minimum mess (unusually for me) – I used my laminator.   I wasn’t sure if the magnet sheet would fit through it but it did – no problems.

The magnet sheet emerging from the laminator

The magnet sheet emerging from the laminator

And here it is coming out the other side. Laminators are very easy  to use (luckily for me because I am not the best with complex machinery). You just pop your item into the special laminating pocket (you can buy sheets of this stuff at stationery stores),  feed it into the machine and viola – out comes the item covered in a protective plastic coating.

In this instance, however, the plastic didn’t stick to the magnet on the back (which actually turned out to be for the best) so I just cut that off leaving the images coated in a protective plastic covering and the magnet at the back uncovered.

The magnet sheet just before I cut off the plastic

The magnet sheet just before I cut off the plastic

My first attempt at cutting my magnets up was spectacularly unsuccessful – because I used scissors.  I don’t know whether other people have this problem but I have a real battle cutting a straight line with scissors. So I got out my guillotine. Once again I was worried the magnet sheet might be too thick for the guillotine to cut but no – it sliced through it like butter.  And I ended up with a pile of little Opera Heroine Magnets. I listed my first set on Etsy a few days ago. I wonder if anyone will want them?  I like them anyway – and I have several of my slightly wobbly scissored first attempts hanging on my fridge.

Magnet Set with backing card and organza bag

Magnet Set with backing card and organza bag



Another Opera Heroine

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

The Marschallin - Der Rosenkavalier

The Marschallin – Der Rosenkavalier

I’ve added another opera heroine to the cast of Eliza’s Dream’s Opera Heroines – The Marschallin from Der Rosenkavalier  🙂  This one took me a while because Der Rosenkavalier is not an opera I am very familiar with so I had to do a fair bit of reading and watching of YouTube clips before I got a handle on how I wanted to go about portraying my Marschallin.

In a nutshell the Marschallin  is a beautiful noble-woman who has taken a lover who is much younger than her (Count Octavian Rofrano) but gives him up and allows him – in fact assists him –  pursue a much younger woman – Sophie (who is betrothed to the Marschallin’s fat old cousin Baron Ochs).  The Marschallin essentially helps Octavian and Sophie get rid of Ochs and then gives their love her blessing.

For the Marschallin this is a real act of selflessness and compassion – and it also forces her to face the passing of time and the inevitable fading of her own beauty. In the image I have created the Marschallin is still beautiful but she is gazing pensively into a not particularly enticing future.  Behind her, in the top left-hand corner is the much younger Sophie and between the two women is Octavian – the man/boy they both love. I have used a sumptuous rococo wallpaper design as the background and placed a rose in the left-hand corner to symbolise the brevity of youth’s bloom – and also to reference the role that Octavian plays as Baron Och’s Rosenkavalier – the one who presents the silver rose to Sophie – the Baron’s intended wife.

The aria I’ve chosen to accompany the image on the card is a section of the Marschallin’s bitter-sweet monologue about the passing of time and the difficulty she is having coming to terms with the fact that soon she will be ‘die alte Marschallin’ (the old Marschallin).

The image was lots of fun to make – and I’m really pleased with how its turned out. I listed it on Etsy last night and got lots of ‘favourites’ – so that’s a good sign 🙂  Now for Brunnhilde . . .

The Marschallin - Card and Bookmark

The Marschallin – Card and Bookmark


Opera Heroines

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Three new opera heroine images - Senta, Pamina and Leonora

Three new opera heroine images – Senta, Pamina and Leonora

I have finally started creating some new Opera Heroine images.  I made the first five images for this series more than 2 years ago and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to create more –  given I love opera so much, and given my Opera Heroines bookmark set is by far and away the best selling item in my entire Etsy shop!

To create these images I start by immersing myself in the opera each heroine comes from – I listen their arias, familiarise myself with the story of the opera and the heroine’s place in it, I read various articles and reviews, and I watch singers bring my heroines to life on the stage (via YouTube of course!).  Secondly, I search Etsy’s huge collection of downloadable vintage postcards of early 20th century beauties and I try to find a face I think will match the heroine I’m working on. Then I create a background for the images out of all sorts of bits and pieces (including my own photographs) which illustrate some of the themes connected with the heroine’s role in the opera.  Then I start some serious playing in Photoshop – which I’m still in the very early stages of learning to use. It can be quite frustrating at times because I am such a Photoshop beginner – I know that I could be doing things so much better, or so much more quickly – but I can only do what I can do at this point in time.

The photograph above shows my recently completed images for Senta (from The Flying Dutchman by Wagner), Pamina (from The Magic Flute by Mozart) and Leonora (from Fidelio by Beethoven).  All these women are strong, loyal, loving and brave and their composers give them the most gorgeous music to sing – music which fully reflects these aspects of their character.

Below are three cards I’ve created using these images. Behind each image on the card is the first page of each heroine’s most famous aria (sepia toned to add that extra atmosphere) and underneath are the opening lines of the aria. On the back of each card I provide an English translation.

Three new Opera Heroine cards

Three new Opera Heroine cards

My next two heroines will be Brunnhilde (from Wagner’s monumental series of four operas  Der Ring des Nibelungen) and the Marschallin (from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier).  Once they are done I can create another set of 5 bookmarks – this time with heroines from German language operas.  The perfect Christmas stocking stuffer for the opera fanatic 🙂

Creating, and doubting . . . and creating some more

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Canvas Picture Blocks in progress

Canvas Picture Blocks in progress

I have been having a bit of a creative frenzy over the last month or so.  It’s been lots of fun and I’ve created quite a lot of stuff for my Etsy shop – not all of which is listed yet – but I have to admit that my ear is being very regularly nibbled at by the Self-Doubt gremlin and her close cousin the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Goblin.  I finished a writing job recently and there are no more on the immediate horizon due to changes in the organisation I was working for. This is why I have so much time for Eliza’s Dream and I guess this is also partly why the Gremlin and the Goblin have been having a party in my head lately.

On the one hand it’s really lovely having some time.  I was so busy all last year and the first half of this I could hardly keep the house running smoothly let alone do anything else. But it’s so hard not to feel like I am somehow ‘wasting’ that time because I am not engaged in ‘real’ – aka PAID – work.  I am a creature of my conditioning I guess – it has been drummed into me from very early on that the kind of thing I am doing at the moment is mere frippery and nonsense while out there in the ‘real’ world (where the ‘real’ work happens) much more important things are waiting to be done – and I should be doing at least some of them.

It doesn’t help either – I must admit – that I still haven’t really managed to get my Etsy shop turning over enough to result in me earning more than I spend on it.  To do well on Etsy you need to be on there all the time – networking up a storm (not just on Etsy but on other social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and Twitter), marketing yourself, offering coupon deals, listing and renewing, making treasuries and etc., and etc. I do some of these things some of the time (when I have a moment) and each time I do I get a flurry of views and ‘favourites’ – which sometimes (though not always) result in a sale. The moment I leave my shop alone for a day or two though my stats go flat as a pancake. Hardly any views, no favourites.

And then discouragement sets in and I start to think – what am I doing this for? Am I just wasting my time? Perhaps my stuff is no good? Perhaps no-one likes it?  Maybe I’m just beating a dead horse here? I guess this is all just part of the process of doing anything even vaguely creative and trying to sell the fruits of your labours to other people. There are only going to be certain kinds of people who will want certain kinds of stuff. The trick – so I’m told – is finding those people.

Anyway, here are some pictures of some of the things I’ve been doing – mainly canvas photo blocks (see above), photo pendants and magnets.  I’ve been working up new images on Photoshop too but they’re not quite ready for anyone to see yet 🙂

Photo pendants in progress

Photo pendants in progress

Completed pendants with their cards and bags

Completed pendants with their cards and bags

Photo pendant key-ring

Photo pendant key-ring

Fairy Tale Magnet Set

Fairy Tale Magnet Set





Corner View – Flowers

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Love Notes

Love Notes

Flowers have always been an important part of the photo collage imagery I create for my cards, prints and pendants but lately I have been using just straight flower photographs for some of my cards.  This set of notecards was made for a woman who wanted to hand out postcards to each of her wedding guests to write messages on – instead of a Wedding Guest Book. I thought it was a really lovely idea and was tickled pink that my note-cards would be used for such a romantic purpose.

On the other side of the window

On the other side of the window

Another thing I’ve been experimenting with lately is digital collage – using photoshop rather than just arranging things on a page and photographing them as I had been doing. I’m still a complete novice with photoshop but its opening up a lot of creative possibilities. Here I combined an image from a vintage postcard with a photograph I took about 20 years ago of a vase of roses on a window-sill.

My latest photo collage print

My latest photo collage print

And here’s my latest photo collage print – created in the usual way with paper cut-outs of a mixture of vintage and original photographs and various bits and pieces I find around the place. I haven’t listed it on Etsy yet because I can’t think of a name for it! Any ideas??  Once again – flowers abound 🙂

Corner View is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday – created by Jane, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. Visit Francesca at FuoriBorgo for more Corner Views. This weeks theme is ‘flowers’.