Monday, December 27, 2010

Feels like a dream!

3 weeks ago I was in New York, it was snowing lightly and I was all rugged up as I sat on the Staten Island ferry for the best (free) view of the Statue of Liberty I was going to get. She was smaller than I had imagined (well, compared to the skyscrapers of Manhattan you'd look small too!).
I stood there feeling happy, excited and like I should pinch myself- it's a strange moment, staring at an image that you have been exposed to at different times, in different ways over many years. I had several of those moments during my trip.

Anyone else tempted to murmur 'Run Forest'...
Fast forward to now and here I sit and type, at my home- a small farm, in north eastern Victoria, experiencing Summer, having just celebrated an Aussie Christmas and that three weeks seems like a lifetime ago- either that or a dream- but it can't be because I have photos and memories.

Chicago from the 95th floor of the John Hancock building. LOVE Chicago.
I feel like I have a lot of 'processing' to do, as I think about my trip, but some things I know already.
  • My family are fantastic and I missed seeing them every day.
  • My family are fantastic and resilient and I don't need to be in control (I will need to remember that!)
  • Mr. Apple really is King of the Kitchen and produced some very fancy desserts- so I will try not to hog the kitchen.
  • I am proud of myself and have been reminded that I CAN do 'things'! (My self belief had been somewhat battered and bruised after long term chronic illness-the symptoms of which were mostly pain, fatigue and depression and abit of anxiety)
  • I had days where I loved having no responsibilities, just me to look after and the thrill of travelling and exploring- I felt young and adventurous.
  • I love the sort of travelling that involves people not just places. It was great to see Kate's life in Deerfield, Nat's in Centreville and to meet Tim and Talida and stay with them in Long Island City.
  • It is nice to be home, where I belong (and to sleep in my own bed)
  • I had forgotten how unsettling travelling is and it's weird to have have had big experiences that weren't shared with anyone from home- that contributes to the dreamlike state!
I didn't have a 'blog break' on purpose, I have just been recovering!
I have missed my blog- and yours as well and I do look forward to some kind of blogging rythm this coming year. I love the idea of routine and rythm, it certainly doesn't come naturally to me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things in common

I spent a wonderful few hours at one of Kate's favourite places in this city, the other day.
Chicago Botanic Gardens.
From my short visit, I got the impression they were doing some pretty interesting things.

I was reminded of another Kate and her soil fella. I live with a soil fella too.  I saw these things at the garden and they made me smile and think fondly of my soil fella and home.

Bee boxes in the apple orchard area.

Some things are the same the world over, people are growing vegies and caring for their soil.

Some things are very, very different though...

Friday, November 19, 2010

I didn't come to Chicago to blog but...

I really have been doing some crafting lately, I just haven't blogged about it because it was a surprise for Kate.
This is my god daughter, Angie sitting on the quilt I made for Kate and gave to her when I arrived last night- the beginnings did feature on this blog a long while ago.
Hooray for a finished project!
This is Angie and her twin sister, Grace in the pj bottoms I made for them. I don't always understand what the girls and their brother, Dante are saying just yet- getting my head around the accent and excitedly fast kid speak but they thought it was pretty cool that I made them some pj's and Gracie said 'can you teach me to sew?'. It was nice- so I am thinking of quick beginner hand sewing project for a 7 year old. Any ideas are welcome. I thought maybe a little bag.

I tell you, 28 hours in transit may have been fun when I was 19 but I am not as young as I used to be! My trip involved a run at LA airport to catch my connecting flight and an injured calf muscle, which may have looked amusing to any onlookers but didn't feel amusing to me. I am not really having a big whinge, I am really thankful to have travelled safe and appreciate the priveldge of being here.
Look at this very cute little dude I saw on my walk this morning

Apparently, even the skip bins are patriotic over here...
I found out today that some people deep fry their Thanksgiving turkey.
That cracks me up- pretty massive thing to be deep frying, don't you reckon?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Up and coming Kitchen King

I came home from work today and found this
Highly impressive. Mr. A explained to me that is wasn't just any chocolate cake/ brownie recipe- it involved two different types of flour, several bowls, whipping egg whites, melting chocolate- and he adapted a non gluten free recipe to be gluten free. I was very surprised!

He's practicing for being Head Chef when I am away in Chicago (I leave next week).
I think they will be well feed...

I also think he will be very popular...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hooray for that time of the year again.

That time of the year when my trips to the supermarket are reduced, I don't have to spend too much time thinking about what the kids can have for 'fruit break' because I can just send them out to the garden.
These are the early cherries and the ladder is a permanent fixture there at the moment.

The strawberries have just started and are loaded this year.

Mulberry time as well.
And the apricots, peaches and apples are coming along nicely- still abit of a way off.
The veggie department isn't too bad either:

The rows are: potatoes, quince trees (for next years fruit tree season), onions, cherry trees (likewise) and broccoli. 
That's the paddock where business and pleasure meet!

I love artichokes to eat, and think they are beautiful ornamentals in the garden. Preparing them though, still is a major challenge for me- seems like a lot of faffing around needed- I sit outside with a bucket with either lemon juice or vinegar and cut them and trim them- put them straight in the bucket (because that's what I read to do- I think it must stop them going black), then steam them and serve with olive oil, balsamic and salt. I don't do it very often and am open to suggestions about artichoke preparation.
Asparagus, on the other hand, which I don't have a photo of- well, it doesn't get much simpler- minimal effort- big result. I am biased- asparagus is my favourite veggie.
I should add- Mr. Apple has full credit for all this amazing produce we are now enjoying. I do nothing except herbs, and 'leafy greens', the occasional pick and a lot of food preparation.
We really do appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Decison made, oven installed, food prepared.

Awhile ago our oven died.
As a result, we have been using this
and this

for about 3 months.
That's nuts.
If only I knew it would take about an hour to choose a new one and (the next day) 10 minutes for an electrician (friendly neighbour- who really is an electrician) to install- we would have done it 3 months ago!
We didn't and this arrived out our house on Saturday

It has been running hot since then.
I do love a bit of a bake off.
An oven and stove, combined with garden fresh produce-  it's amazing what great food can be cooked.
Take our dinner tonight. A two pot dish.

I made pasta, I used a recipe from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden cookbook-
it was sort of like gnocchi

250 grams plain flour (I used gluten free)
100grams ricottoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg (mine happened to be a double yolker- thanks clever chook)
2 tablespoons water.
Knead it together, let it rest for about 10 minutes, roll it into the shape of a snake, cut small pieces and then press your thumb in so it's the shape of a turtles shell (without the turtle in it).
Cook it in salted boiling water until it floats and serve immediately with your favourite sauce.

Broccoli and Asparagus  'sauce' (not very saucey...)
I made up a 'sauce' based on the vegies available in our garden, this is vaguely what I used
2 quite small heads of broccoli (first of the season)
About 8 spears asparagus
Steam both these vegies and set aside for a tick!
Dice two rashers bacon and fry, add about half a cup of chicken stock or white wine and using a wooden spoon stir any 'cooked on' bits of bacon so the bottom of the pan is cleaner than it was. Add it broccoli and asparagus, 2 cloves chopped garlic, about 2 tablespoons sour cream, handful of sage and parsley.
I then added the pasta into the pot with about 1/2 tablespoon of excellent olive oil and mixed through.
Yuu could serve it with parmesan. Or include fetta. Pancetta instead of bacon. Then world is your oyster.
If only I had a photo. Or better, if only I could give you a taste through the screen- in true Jetson style!
It was fantastic and everyone was pretty happy with it.
Hooray for fresh veggies and the new stove.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My 4 things

4 Things I always carry
Nothing. No hand bag- and I have tried. I hate carrying things.

so the 4 Things I often carry are
  1. Keys- but they are put down at the earliest possible opportunity. There are 2 keys on my keyring, my car and my work. Our house doesn't lock...
  2. Mobile phone- I do have one, but like the keys it tends to get put down (and forgotten about, much to the frustration of anyone trying to ring me. Of the, about 3 people who have the number). I think it's in the car at the moment.
  3. Handcream- I love hand cream, and lip balm
  4. My wallet- because well, you want to be prepared don't you?
4 Things that are in my bedroom
  1. A jolly big mess including rotary cutter and a pile of fabric (why in the bedroom? Because I was 'tidying' the lounge room, obviously...)
  2. Far too many odd socks
  3. A suitcase waiting to go to Chicago with me!
  4. A Himalayan Salt lamp. I am not sure whether or not it enhances my wellbeing but it does look nice.
4 Things I would like to do but haven't done yet
  1. Get fit! Really, I would like to.
  2. Get a scooter- the vespa type. Mr A seems to think I am joking and that this may be slightly impractical (my work is 50 km's away). I probably am dreaming abit.
  3. Go on the Indian Pacific- train from Sydney to Perth. I used to work at V/Line and got quite into train travel but never took full advantage of the annual 'free rail' pass I was offered because my health wasn't really up to it at the time.
  4. I'm with Sal, be a grandma. I think it seems like an excellent gig.
4 Things that you don't know about me
  1. I camped out for tickets to see Bryon Adams during study week (SWOTVAC) at Uni. I wasn't a big fan but some (like my old teachers) might say I am 'easily distracted' and hey, my friends 'needed' company. We got third row seats and I caught the drummers drumstick. No, I don't still have it.
  2. I was a bridesmaid 3 times in the course of 7 weeks one Summer many years ago. It was the mid nineties and the photos reflect that. I had curly hair (the bride has apologised), a french roll (including a million bobby pins and 3 cans of hair spray) and straight hair with 'rollettes' and flowers (that was the best option, that was for Kate's wedding. She's the one that I am taking the abovementioned suitcase to see)
  3. I hate waiting. I don't like that I am no good at waiting. I think and hope I am getting a bit better.
  4. I was in Germany in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. I walked in to the lounge room and my host father (I was an exchange student) was weeping in front of the teli saying 'We never thought this would happen'. I went to Berlin and have souveniered a piece of that very wall. It was amazing and so much fun.
4 Things I often wonder
  1. Whether organisational skills can be learnt (or if I should just sigh in resignation and give up now)
  2. Where is 'X' (my keys, wallet, phone...etc). About those organisational skills, hmmm.
  3. What I am going to be when I grow up
  4. Why didn't I go on the Indian Pacific for free when I had the chance
  5. Where does the sky end?
  6. Why aren't the choices that are best for me the ones that come naturally? It would be much easier.
  7. What time is it?
  8. Where did the time go?
  9. When did my ability to count to 4 go missing?
Thanks for the questions Cath  you'll find more people answering these very same question over at Cath's place.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A bit of a shir never hurt anyone.

Some Sunday sewing happened at my place today. Along with a million visitors and crazy children who decided it was warm enough for a swim in the channel.
This is what got produced:
Here's a close up of the 'skirt' fabric.

And this one:
The red is 'Hello Kitty' fabric, that, along with the 'Love is' fabric was a good find in an op shop.

They are both going to pretty 'cheery' girls, so I hope they like them. I really like this patten. It's called 'Claire' by Sandi Henderson and I have made it repeatedly. This style is a tunic top which sadly isn't big enough for my girl anymore (despite her modelling it for me)- I could alter it abit but I think she is ready for a different style! It could be a great dress which becomes a top, because the shirring is so stretchy and would fit say, a 3 year old as a dress and a 7 year old as a top, I reckon.
I love shirring. My favourite bit is at the end, after I have sewn the rows of elastic in, when I steam it to death and it all shrivels up and becomes beautifully elastic-y.
Isn't sewing great?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Purple is the new black...

In my world, anyway.
I bought some thermals to take to Chicago with me- in 5 weeks (I know, Kate, you told me I wouldn't need them- but I am keen to at least try and go outside!).
Pure wool, made in Australia. Lovely. Creamy colour. Not lovely. I know- it's underwear so who cares, but I am thinking, leggings poking out beneath my black pants (rather than my cream underwear).
So I thought I would dye them black. I didn't want to make the water too hot though, weary of felting my new (rather expensive) long johns! It did cross my mind that it might be tricky to try and dye wool black and I was interested to see what I got.
Purple. It doesn't look like it in the photo but it is actually a nice even dye.
I did have a rather odd conversation with Mr. A about it though.
"I tried to dye my thermals black and they went purple"
"Oh. Cool"
"Yeesss. I am happy with that"
I am just not sure how he knew it would be "cool"!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spring springing and bees (hopefully not stinging!)

It's really nice to see these when I look out the back door.
There are loads more on their way, along with heap of poppies. I can't remember what colour they are going to be, so that will be a fun surprise! Heaps  of calendula flowers too- the strong orange really looks striking with the cornflowers. I love flowers.
So do these guys...
A swarm of bees (not from our hives, don't know where they are from) are making themselves at home on one of our peach trees.

Ahh, the wonders of nature!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Prairie Girl

Maybe I just bought this pattern for the name- Prairie Girl. Sounds fun and carefree to me! No really, I liked the content as well. This was some of my school holiday sewing and she loves it. The pattern was pretty easy to follow and I am happy with the dress.
Although my friend suggested that she's too young for this style because it has a high waistline and it sort of gathered under the bust and she is 8 (and has no 'bust'). I didn't have a problem with it until she said that but now I am abit doubtful. Miss A loves it -she picked the fabric (I was happy to get a bit of Sandi Henderson's 'Henna Garden' in for the sleeves, tie and that middle bit- okay, in the pattern it's called a 'dickie'- who knew?!).

The way she is standing  posing in this photo does make the bodice look abit ill fitting...hmmm, maybe it's just abit big. I am open to suggestions.
I really love it when my children love wearing clothes I have made them.
I remember hating being dressed in 'home made clothes'. And, (embarrassing confession) once insisted that my mother embroider two little 'Hang Ten' (cool brand at the time) feet on a jumper she made when I was in Grade 5. In retrospect, they were so wonky, obviously a home made rip off, but I was pretty chuffed!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

With love and fondness

A grandfather gone.
Mr Robust and Healthy 96 year old grandfather in law died last week, surrounded by people he loved and who loved him, including us. Very sad but also very special. He went down hill quite quickly, hadn't really been sick and had spoken briefly  to us the day before he died.
That suited him, I think. He would have hated to be 'frail, aged'.

Some things that made him very special, certainly one out of the box!
  • He was a fantastic baker and was known for his sponges, shortbread, scones, preserves (he has answered talkback callers on ABC radio on the topic of preserves, and been interviewed by Matt Preston for the Age Epicure). And he was very generous with it, I think someone at the funeral said they recieved some shortbread two weeks ago.
  • Up until the last few years he picked his own fruit at 'pick your own' places, to preserve.
  • He barracked for the Hawks before they were the Hawks- apparently they started out as the 'May Flowers' or something equally amusing in the 1920's or so
  • At 96 he saw his 9 year old great grandson play footy at the MCG (Auskick) and was proud!
  • This year he had about 156 daffodils bloom in his garden and a very healthy crop of silverbeet- in the inner-ish suburbs of Melbourne.
  • He cut articles of interest out of papers and sent them to us, accompanied by a letter in his fine handwriting on his personalised stationery
  • He was always immaculately groomed, often with a tie and suit jacket.
  • He was really involved in certain aspects of his community and was interested in people.
I think he was an inspiring, kind, funny and interesting man.
Grandpa, you will be missed and I am glad to have had you in my life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mother guilt?

Several months ago my very dear friend sent me an email that said something like "I don't know if and when we will come back to live in Australia and I want you to come and visit me in May 2011 for two weeks".
That got me thinking.
Kate has lived in Chicago for a few years now and has suggested I visit on more than one occasion, but I have always brushed it off assuming it was not really do-able for many reasons. When she got specific, a little 'why not' thought entered my head. Kate's question coincided with a friend of mine getting told her cancer can't be cured- so I was in a bit of a different 'head space' and willing to entertain possibilities that I hadn't before. When confronted with the possibility of the death of a friend (who is going okay, I should mention) the question of 'what is important' comes up regularly.
My family is really important to me (for some lovely reading about family read Kate's blog post). Why would I leave them to go half way round the world?
That has been the question that's been really hard to answer in the the decision process- amongst many others- hmm, do you get the sense I am not a swift decision maker? Well. I have been too-ing and fro-ing since Kate asked me and guess what- I have decided to go. As I was thinking about it I got offered an extra day a week work for 12 weeks, so that will pay for my ticket so that's the financial bit largely sorted.
But, oh, the questions raised- besides the 'should I be contributing to polluting the world by participating in the airline industry' ethical ones, the personal ones.
Do I 'deserve' this? Would this mean I am a 'bad mother'? Should I feel guilty? And all of that marlarky- not all of it helpful but really interesting to see what feelings and thoughts it has bought up for me.

Gee, and guess what I have remembered? I like travelling, I like planes, I love my friend Kate (not that I had forgotten that Kate!) and I can't wait to visit her and her family and I will also get to visit my cousin (in law)  Natasha who has promised to take me to her 'locals' (fabric stores of course, not pubs- priorites!). I am enjoying thinking about my trip and planning it. Dare I say, getting a tad excited! It's a shift in thinking for me- rather than thinking about myself in terms of my home roles or work roles (which I pride myself on)  I am thinking about just, well, me. Slightly uncomfortable because I am possibly not used to putting my needs and wants high on the priority list. But, I am really looking forward to remembering that, hey, I can negotiate an international airport- I do have skills other than those that have been regularly practiced over the past 10 years.
And my family? They will be alright. I am vey lucky that Mr. Apple works on the farm so he often walks down to the bus stop with the children and gets them aften school- gosh, he's the preferred parent for afternoon tea preparation because he makes the best milkshakes. So the day to day running of the place wont change that much. I will really miss them and they will miss me, but we'll all be okay. They will become abit more resilient, I will become abit less of a control freak (!) and hopefully we'll all be the richer for it upon my return.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pay it forward and aren't I lucky!

Look what turned up in my mailbox a few weeks ago- a fantastic neck cowl and fingerless mittens, crocheted beautiful (one of those skills I admire so much and am yet to master- or even umm, close to master!) with special wool (the details of which I don't have on me at the moment- sorry Mary- feel free to add in the comments if you want) and let me tell you these are a fantastic addition to the morning 'bus stop' walk with my kids because this Winter has been rather nippy at times.

 Ages ago I signed up for Mary's 'Pay it forward'- that basically meant that I said 'yes please' when she offered to make something for two of her blog readers- she bent the rules for me, because at the time, I didn't have a blog and I am willing to bend the rules too- so feel free to comment if you don't have a blog (assuming you agree to the rest of the 'rules'!)

Thanks so much Mary, I feel thoroughly spoilt and I am the appreciative recipient of your skillful work.
I will send three people who leave a comment on this post a handmade gift within the next 365 days- if there are more than 3 comments I will draw three numbers randomly on the 14th September- that gives people a few days to comment.
I am willing to post anywhere in the world, so don't let that stop you commenting.
The catch is that you have to have a blog (or choose 3 people to make something for) and be willing to do the same thing....

So if you'd like to participate, then leave me a comment and make sure to leave me a valid email address so that I can contact you for your address, etc.PLEASE also tell me who you would like the gift to be for eg. your daughter/son/yourself/whoever and their age/size if applicable this will help me figure out what to make!
So if you're game then go ahead and comment!
(Most of this was copied off Mary's blog, who copied it off Peta's blog!)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Excess limes= cordial for summer.

Feeling very organised and happy about minimising wasting fruit.
On an unrelated topic (well, still food, actually), I did a Vietnamese cooking class last week- it was SO FUN, I loved it. So I have grabbed some kaffir lime leaves off the tree, picked some coriander and lemongrass from the garden (and bought a whole lot of stuff from the Asian food store!) and am heading down to make my dad a banquet for lunch. He's excited but I don't think he realises the quantities of ginger and 'scented things' (his words) I am planning to use...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Busy bees

There is a bee in there- gathering pollen to go back and make honey out of, which we will havest in Autumn. The beautiful poppies in my garden are multifunctional - I love it!

You know what else I think is amazing?
This is going to turn into a peach.

Hooray for Spring, and it actually feels quite Spring like today- apparently there are flood warnings for the weekend though. I will enjoy the blue sky and sunshine while it's there!

By the way, in case you were wondering, I have so much to talk about and our computer is fixed (fingers crossed it stays fixed!) so I will be back before you know it for a bit of show and tell!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The wonders of modern technology...

Hmph, our computer is still broken, well, it got fixed and lasted a couple of days before deciding not to start again. It's only two years old.
Back in the 'olden days' things were made to last. My times have changed! I remember being at the grandparents house when they were getting new carpet- the carpet layer commented on how 'you don't see carpet like this anymore- this is the sort of carpet you get rid of because you don't like it anymore, not because it's worn out'- I asked how long the new carpet should last- 'oh, well we'd expect it to last about 7 years'. Highly unimpressive.
Every now and then (probably when something is broken) we have that 'quality' discussion. When is second hand best, and when is new best- and if it's new when is the more expensive but (one would hope) better quality option best?
I tell you what, I am so glad I took the latter when buying my Miele front loader 13 years ago- it was amazingly expensive (to me!) at the time but it still doesn't miss a trick. Our second hand gas oven hasn't worked- despite saying it was for LPG bottled gas, it wasn't (the plumber checked) so that was a waste of $100 when we were trying to save.
So now we are in the market for a computer (probably) and an oven. And we are not known for making decisions quickly so it might be time to drag out the BBQ. I think we should invite all the neighbours over to thank them for using there computers at times over the past few weeks!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Call this a crafty blog?

I have been a little light on crafty content lately, haven't I.
I have been 'doing' just not showing and telling.
I mentioned I have had a few little photo uploading issues. I am not sure if it was a Picasa problem (but I am back to Photobucket) or a jolly warning sign. Our computer died last Sunday, thankful it hasn't wiped our hard drive and today we have it back- but it remains on 'light duties' until we get that external hard drive that we have been 'gunna' get for sooooo long.
Anyway, this is my version of Nicole's panel bag that I pattern tested for her a while ago. Have I mentioned I love pattern testing? LOVE. A great combination of words and editing, which I really like and sewing which I really like and following instructions- which I am getting better at!

I have been looking at patterns with new eyes as well. I have bought patterns from loads of different designers and they really do deliver different things, don't they. I have some that have, unfortunately, got to cutting out stage and progressed no further. Actually, I have some that I have pulled out of the packet, tried to read and put straight back in the packet!
What I like about Nicole's patterns is that they teach you techniques as well as giving you a pattern- so I am increasing my skills. The panel bag I tested is designed for beginners to intermediate sewers- how great- it includes things like piping, pleats and inserting magnetic snaps (which I have done before, without such clear instruction and ended up with a hole in my bag before too long)- which a 'beginners pattern' wouldn't necessarily include, but she includes very clear instructions about how to do it and photos.
While obviously I am a 'Nicole Mallalieu Design' fan this isn't just a plug. It's a critical think about the difference in patterns- I have beaten myself up in the past for not being able to follow a pattern, put myself down, had tantrums because 'a' and 'b' don't meet where they are meant to and now I realise (lightbulb) that it isn't necessarily due to my poor skills- patterns have misprints and mistakes and sometimes, poor techniques. I am getting a bit more confident in recognising this now. For example, I made up a softie pattern recently (not one I have blogged about) and in retrospect, if I make it up again, I think I will do it in a slightly different order and I think the result might be a bit smoother.
I never would have thought of that a year ago- the fact that it could be done differently or having the audacity to not follow the instructions of the expert! Sounds like I might be 'moving forward'!!