VIX Jewellery

Big Botanical Day Out

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Yesterday, I joined a group of botanists and botanical artists to go and find wild orchids.  Our destinations were the cemeteries at Penrose and Tallong, two villages in the Southern Highlands.  Though not all of them orchids, here is what we found.

Melaleuca sp.

Purple Fringed Iris

Match Heads

Pea Flower

Diuris sulphurea aka Tiger Donkey Orchid

Hybanthus sp.

Thelymitra ixiodes aka Spotted Sun Orchid

Diuris punctata aka Purple Diuris, found at Penrose

Diuris punctata, found at Tallong

Love Melbourne

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We went to the RACV Motorclassica which was held over the weekend in the Royal Exhibition Hall in Melbourne. You can check out the photos below: we're either walking in Fitzroy Gardens or inside the Hall, (it was a whirlwind trip, after all). The building is a beauty and perfect to showcase all the fine classic cars that were there. Everything was on condition of look but don't touch, (ok, I actually got to sit in one, George, the owner of the beautiful 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost invited me to do so).  Really comfortable seats (if you don't mind the really short backrest...)  Perfect first car, no?

The view from where we sat taking High Tea.

Fairies Tree Plaque, Fitzroy Gardens

Fairies Tree, Fitzroy Gardens

Two of the many Occupants of Fitzroy Gardens

Tudor Village in Fitzroy Gardens

The view, walking through FG

1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, the view when you lift the bonnet

1937 Rolls Royce Phantom

1937 Rolls Royce Phantom, driver's seat

George Forbes, owner of the Ghost

Mural within the Royal Exhibition Hall

Me, behind the wheel of the Ghost

Information plate

Sir Jack Brabham gave a talk and later signed autographs

I Do Love Gemstones

This is really no secret, that I love my gemstones, you probably do as well.  So, sometimes, it's also nice to know a few tidbits of information about the stones we love. There are charming legends attached to gemstones.  I just love the way they look.   Here are but a few of my favorites:

A Dutch colonel, H. Von Prehn, is credited with discovering Prehnite in 1774 at the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Early traders nicknamed the gemstone Cape Emerald in hopes of exploiting its green color.  Prehnite was originally classified as a Zeolite, due to the fact that it usually forms in the same areas and under similar conditions as the zeolite.   Today geologists place it in the phyllosilicate category which also includes apophylite.  Prehnite is a fairly strong crystal, quite resistant to pressures and scratching. It is composed of aluminum, calcium and silicon with a few specimens containing small trace of iron as well. It is considered a secondary or second stage mineral, meaning that the crystal did not form during the initial volcanic activity, but instead the crystals were form by events caused by the volcano, much after the fact.  Initially Prehnite was rare, South Africa being the only known location for many, many years. Eventually pockets of the stone were found throughout the world, including the US, Canada, Austria, Germany, France and India.

Amazonite is semi-opaque stone that was used extensively by the Egyptians it is called the stone of courage and is said to have received its name for the Amazon women warriors who worshiped the moon goddess Diana. Some say it's name was given due to the fact that it was discovered near the Amazon River.  Amazonite is a type of feldspar with crystallines in the form of short prismatic crystals, tabular crystals or mass. it usually occurs in the turquoise color and is sometimes found with yellow, white or grey portions.

Fluorite belongs to the spar family, as all other family members, fluorite can be separated into flakes. According to folklore, it is the home of the rainbows.   Formerly called fluorospar, fluorite has limited use as a gemstone due to its relatively soft demeanor, However, the wide range of colors and the frequent incidence of more than one color in a singe specimen has made this an interesting stone and a wonderful display of colors when used as beads or other jewelry components.

Labradorite is the plagioclase feldspar.   Labradorite has also been found in some meteorites.  Gem quality labradorite is known as spectrolite; which is a colorless variety, darkened with needlelike inclusions, often called black moonstone.  Spectrolite is a dark and opalescent blue with a shimmer when the light hits it. It was discovered in Finland during WWII, and it is also called falcon's-eye.  According to an Eskimo legend, the Northern Lights were once imprisoned in the rocks along the coast of Labrador. It is told that a wandering Eskimo warrior found them and was able to free most of the lights with a mighty blow of his spear. Some of the lights were still trapped within the stone, and thus we have today the beautiful mineral known as labradorite.  Labradorite which shows an iridescent play of colors is used in jewelry and lapidary items, and as an ornamental stone it has many popular uses such as in decorative clock faces, table and counter tops, facing for buildings, etc.  Traditionally, Labradorite is thought to bring good luck.

At one time, Peridot was more valuable than diamonds. This gemstone is actually known by three names: Peridot, Chrysolith and Olivin, because peridot is the gemstone variety of the olivin mineral. In the gemstone trade it is generally called peridot, a name derived from the Greek word "peridona", with a meaning along the lines of "giving plenty".
Peridot is one of the few gemstones which exist only in one color. Finest traces of iron account for the deep green color with a slight golden hue. Chemically Peridot is just an iron-magnesium-silicate, and the intensity of color depends on the amount of iron contained. The color as such can come in any variation from yellow-green and olive to brownish green. Peridot is not especially hard – it only achieves about 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs´ scale – and yet it is easy to care for and quite robust.  The most beautiful stones come from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. Peridot as gemstone does also exist in Myanmar, China, the USA, Africa and Australia. Stones from East Burma, today’s Myanmar, show a vivid green with fine silky inclusions. Peridot from the American state of Arizona, where it is quite popular in Native Indian jewelry, often shows a yellowish to golden brown shade.

Garnets are a related group of minerals. Members of this group include: almandine (dark red to violet red); spessartite/spessartine (orange to reddish-brown); Pyrope (blood red); Grossular (white, yellow, yellow-green, brownish-red, orange or black); andradite (colorless to black). The most prized garnet is an emerald green variety called Demantoid and is a member of the andradite group.  The name "garnet" comes from the Latin granatus, a grain possibly in reference to malum garanatum (pomegranate) a plant with red seeds similar in shape, size and color to some garnet crystals.  There is a common misconception that all garnets are a red gem, they do, in fact, come in a wide variety of colors including purple, red, orange, yellow, green, brown, black, or colorless. 
The lack of a blue garnet was remedied in 1998 following the discovery of color-change blue to red/pink material in Bekily, Madagascar.   These stones are very rare.  Color-change garnets are by far the rarest garnets (except Uvarovite, which does not come in cuttable sizes). In daylight, their color can be shades of green, beige, brown, gray and rarely blue, to a reddish or purplish/pink color in incandescent light. By composition, these garnets are a mix of Spessartine and Pyrope, as are Malaya garnets. 

It's a Jungle Out There

Been noticing Miss Coco loitering by the windows of late, sometimes not showing up when I call snack-time, even.  This is unlike her... until, I discovered why.  She's been studying a newcomer.  Coco doesn't always appreciate newcomers (in fact, she usually never appreciates newcomers, of any size, shape or persuasion).  Luckily, I chose stealth (and had a camera handy) when I approached her earlier today.  Lurking in the jungle of overgrown plant-life just outside the bedroom window, I spied something tiny and fuzzy...

Been a Hot Day

The temperature has risen significantly the past day or so.  This means fun and useful outdoor pursuits, like gardening, can leave one hot under the collar.  I have, of late, been engaged in the creation of my Franken-bench and the installation of new power tools (in addition to taking time out to shop online).  I have also been making stuff.  Today, this is what I made.  This is a piece of natural Chalcedony Druzy that I had lying around the office for a little while.  I wanted to make something simple to encase it because it really needs no embellishment.  Its swirly, glittering surface reminds me of my childhood vision of the planet Venus.  I cannot explain why, but perhaps a steady childhood diet of 30's and 40's Hollywood movies might have something to do with it!  Nevertheless, I give you The Venusian Pendant.

The Real Twitter

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So, the weather is good, been out for a run and now trying to get down to the task of customizing my workbench in the office.  This has turned out to be an ongoing process and requires extra focus on my part because I am no carpenter... In the midst of measuring and drilling holes in wood, my concentration is interrupted by the sounds of excited twittering in the garden beds just outside my office window.  Looking up, I see them, curiously checking out the world within the glass...

Lulu's Toilette

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Sometimes, even kittens get the blues... well, only when they have to get a bath and blowdry.  Why?  Because they have been rolling about in the dirt and dust of the grubby garage floor.  In our house, if kitties want to loll about on doonas and soft furnishings, then they have to be clean, no question about it.  Lulu is our beloved ex-feral and seems to have a higher tolerance of (soap and) water than the our other three.

Here is Miss Lulu, in the chair.

Spring Has Sprung!

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So, the Spring weather has been magical thus far (first week already) and I decided to head outside and blow the dust off my gardening tools.  I mowed some lawn, re-potted a few Bromeliads and sowed seeds of a very unusual vegetable called Black Russian Salsify.  I also happened to notice this guy walk across the pavement and stopping to munch on some of the greenery sprouting between the paving stones.  Maybe his (or her) wings have just finished unfurling and this is his (or her) first bite to eat... who knows?  I left him (or her) to it.

Possibly the Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

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I just made these and they taste excellent, not too sweet.  So, if you love the magic combination of Peanut Butter and Chocolate, then don't waste any more time, get thee to the kitchen and bake!

Preheat the oven to 180 C (or 350 F)

Cookie sheets, lined with baking parchment

Into your food processor place and mix together the following ingredients:

1 Cup Peanut Butter
1/4 Cup Raw Caster Sugar
2 Tablespoons Grated Coconut
1 Egg stirred with a Dash of Vanilla Essence

Garnish:  Choc Bits (or small chunks of Lindt Orange Almond, as seen on mine)

  1. Form tablespoonfuls of this mix into walnut sized balls and place at 4cm intervals on your baking sheet, flatten slightly into discs.
  2. Place a piece of chocolate atop each disc.
  3. Bake for approximately 10 minutes on upper-middle oven rack.  If perfectly done, the colour will remain the same, so don't allow them to burn at all.

Allow to cool before serving.

No photo here - just sage advice...

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When you find yourself in the position of having to rescue a parrot (in my case an adolescent Rosella) that has stupidly trapped its own foot in your car boot door, then just pop the boot door open and stand back!  Do not try to handle the panicked wretch in any way, because you will be bitten, and when I say that, I mean your finger will feel like it was slammed in the car door!  When they wrap their little beak around your middle finger, they really mean it!  And, don't ask me how a bird gets its own foot caught in that way, but I am guessing it happened, quite innocently and when no-one was looking earlier in the morning... just saying.

Spring has (Almost) Sprung!

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So, a gloomy, windy weekend turned into a bright and sunny Monday!  Could be worse, I hear you say...

But to start the new week off we have a new baby.  A bouncing, baby Angus was born late last Friday night, in the dark and the cold.  Sat through at least a half hour of mom's labor in the late afternoon, but realizing there was nothing else to do but wait (and wait and wait) till the little guy was ready, we went indoors.   Don't know how these guys manage living outside in the weather, but they do.  So, here's a couple of shots taken of mother and baby, both of whom are doing well.

Art Nouveau

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Been flicking through my latest acquisition for the Vix Jewellery library - a giant tome dedicated to all things stylish, organic and fabulous.  About a week ago, my team and I won the local trivia challenge and naturally, we were honored with a stack of prizes, one of which was a book voucher, pour moi.  After much consideration I settled on this wonderful book, chock full of stuff I like, namely from the period of the late 19th/early 20th Century, the Art Nouveau.  Hopefully, I'm not breaking any copyright rules by sharing a sampling of its (architecture) pages here on the VIX Bloggette.  (Hmmm, yes, I think I can live with that much ornamentation...)

Amazing Salsa for Pasta

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I went for a run today in the brisk five degree weather we've been having and, I must say, it was most enjoyable.  So, in the spirit of all that is wholesome and good for our health I decided to treat myself to an extravagant (vegetarian) pasta dinner tonight.  Inspired by a short article I read today about the benefits of eating low-cholesterol, I came up with this salsa for my pasta.  It is packed full cholesterol-reducing goodness, like olive oil, almonds and garlic.  Having blanched the almonds myself, I feel extra-virtuous!  Herewith, my recipe:

1 cup blanched almonds
2 cloves garlic (finely grated)
10 -15 Mint leaves
2 heaped teaspoonfuls of prepared Basil pesto
Grated zest of 1 whole lemon
Some hot water

Place blanched almonds, grated garlic, mint leaves, pesto and lemon zest into the bowl of your food processor.  Start whizzing it and keep adding small amounts of hot water to arrive at a creamy consistency (similar to Greek yogurt).  Add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whizz again.  Check the seasoning, add 1/4 teaspoon more salt, if necessary, and whizz again.  Mix this through your hot pasta and serve.  You can also sprinkle grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese over the top for even more extravagance!


Happy Easter to Everyone!

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Easter is the time of rebirth - mind,body and spirit, so let's get on board, enjoy it and celebrate.

I got up on Easter Sunday and discovered there were no chocolate Easter eggs to be found anywhere in the house (guess the Easter Bunny didn't quite make it down our way...)  Ah well, not to worry, I made my own - blue eggs with little flowers.  I thought they looked pretty good and so did Coco the cat.  Hope you like them too!

I HATE animal testing

"PETA", "animal testing", "ethical companies"VIX JewelleryComment
Serious issues are also looked at here.  In short, click on the links below and you will find a list of companies that DO NOT test their products on animals.  You can print directly from their sites (it's PDF-printer friendly) or just commit to memory.  There are many of them and there is no excuse to ever use products that are tested on poor, hapless animals.  One list is from CCF and the other from PETA* - you choose. 

*For the critics out there, we know, PETA aren't perfect, but at least they care about the health and welfare of animals and do something about it - loudly!

Mojito Cookies

"cookies", "lime", "mint", "mojito"VIX JewelleryComment
This recipe makes 12 Chewy Cookies, with real mint and lime - just the way we like 'em.

Here's the recipe
  • 1 cups plain flour
  • 1/4  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 85g unsalted butter, room temperature soft
  • 1/2 cup soft light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fine grated Lime zest (one large lime or two small ones)
  • 1 egg
  • the juice of the lime/s used

Raspberry Vegan Muffins

"healthy breakfast", "muffins", "tasty snack", "vegan"VIX JewelleryComment
OK, so I'm on the healthy trail as far as breakfast is concerned.  These muffins rule!  They taste every bit as good as any shop-bought, but are actually healthy for you and make a great snack anytime with a cuppa.  I like my muffins as fresh as possible, so this recipe will give you just six.

1.  Preheat your oven to 190C (375F)
2.  Place 6 paper muffin cases in your muffin pan

Dry Stuff (sift and mix into one big bowl - set aside)
1 cup spelt flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of fine salt
Dash of Chinese five spice powder
2 cups frozen raspberries (or fresh)
Finely grated zest of a lemon

Wet Stuff (mix the following together in a jug)
1/4 cup light oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons agave nectar (or rice syrup)

Make a well in the dry stuff and into this pour the mixed wet stuff. 
Stir gently to combine. 
Spoon into the prepared muffin cases. 
Bake on centre rack for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
p.s.  These keep really well for a week in the fridge.