Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sewing summer here

Gosh - long time between posts although I must admit I have been unfaithful and have another blog too. See
Winter has officially left us, which feels good - although I am sure we have lots more chilly days ahead and yes I do have the fire on now.  It was a long hard winter with some tough times for the family but we are coming through it all. 

I've been sewing again - my little activity I do when I need to switch off.  Really I need to find a new hobby.  At least I will have lots of summer clothes for our trip to Fiji, planned for November...but before that we have a new baby to welcome into the family soon.  Hurry up bub.

Here's some of my recent things I have made including two tops from my fav book - Yoshiko Tsukiori's 'Stylish Dress Book - Wear with Freedom'. The little dress was made for Eliza but she much prefers her Dora dress.  I will have to make one for Maia in NZ.  Tra la...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The zen of scrambling eggs the NZ way

I love it how when you stay at other people's houses you get to see some different ways of 'keeping house' and cooking.  I'm just back from NZ (dodging ash clouds both ways) and staying with my daughter-in-law Kerry and my three adorable grandchildren - James, Zach and Maia - while my son was away overseas.  I am very impressed with Kerry's sustainable living lifestyle.  She feeds the kids wholesome and mostly unprocessed food plus bottles huge quantities of stewed apples, keeps chooks, bakes bread, makes yogurt, cooks yummy slices for lunch boxes, conserves power and energy where she can, reuses, recycles...and just generally keeps her household humming along in a very efficient and thoughtful way.

Ye gads Kerry even folds her 'fitted sheets' after washing them so they lay nicely flat in neat piles in her linen cupboard. (Never never even open my linen cupboard unless you want to risk an avalanche of unfolded sheets and clumsily piled up towels.)

Hmm this glimpse into a life of domestic grace has made me to want to pick up my game a bit old yogurt maker has been dragged out of the cupboard and I am going to have a go at recreating some of Kerry's wonderful vego recipes.  I'm also going to make lightly baked risotto cakes from any of my leftover risotto meals and try cooking scrambled eggs the kiwi way.  (For years I've made scrambled eggs by stirring the mixture to buggery with a fork in a saucepan on the stove - whereas Kerry makes her in a frypan and kind of gently folds the egg mixture just a few times with a spatula so it ends up in a soft gooey creamy almost-omelettey mix.)

So here are some of the recipes for the Kerry-meals I enjoyed most on my visit to Hamilton and some photos, mostly from my morning walks around Rotorua Lake in Hamilton.

Kerry's Flapjacks
(An oaty gooey slice, which Kerry says is still 'a work in progress')

250 g rolled oats (or 1/2 rolled oats and 1/2 oatbran)
150 g butter
75 g golden syrup
75 brown sugar

Melt butter then add all other ingredients.  Press into a slice tin, which you've lined with baking paper.  Cook in oven at 175 degrees celsius for 15 - 20 minutes.  Leave in tin until cool before slicing.  Should be chewy. 

Amazing crumbled (and zapped in microwave to heat a little) and served on top of a bowl of ice cream.

Kerry's Roast Pumpkin and Feta Frittata (from Ray McVinnie's recipe book)

500 g pumpkin, cubed in 3cm chunks and roasted in 3 tbs olive oil for 30-40 minutes in a hot oven (or other roast vegies)
2 tbs pumpkin seeds, dry roasted in a pan
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
6 tbs olive oil
2 tbs chopped coriander stalks
200 g feta cubed
6 eggs lightly beaten

Fry garlic and onion in oil in a large frypan until soft then add all other ingredients.  Cook on stove top until bottom is cooked, then place frypan under grill to cook and lightly brown the top of the frittata.

The roasted pumpkin seeds add an interesting texture to this frittata, which is nice served with some homemade chutney and a salad.

Healthy Apple Pie (courtesy of Kerry's friend Vee)

Pie crust1/2 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water

Mix together dry ingredients.  Whisk together oil and water and stir into dry ingredients.  Press into flat tin or pie dish and chill in the freezer for a while.

Pour stewed apples (or any kind of thickly stewed fruit) into the chilled base and bake at 175 degrees celcius for 30 minutes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fond memories and choc-mint brownie slice

We are just back from Sydney from a big family get-together for the scattering of my father and brother's ashes, which we did at dusk on Tom's birthday at Paradise Beach. 

I think Dad and Tom would have very much approved of the occasion. We lit candles on the rocks and launched seed-pod 'boats' into Pittwater. I attempted to read a Gaelic blessing by candle-light while competing with the bizarre ring-tone of Blake's mobile - which was all a bit amusing. Afterwards we drank wine on the beach.  The rain held off until we got back to Shauna's.

It was a very reflective but memorable time.  During our four days in Avalon we even managed to visit the old family home in Ruskin Rowe (thanks to the very friendly new owner who spotted us taking photos outside and invited us in).  We also visited the grave of my grandfather and uncle at Mona Vale cemetery and added a sprinkling of more family ashes to the gravesite.  

I tend to remember occasions by something I ate.  (Ha - yes for me my emotions are all tied in with my stomach.) The whole four days in Sydney was pretty special; the culinary highlight of which was definitely Shauna's slice, made to take to Pru's. I will probably forever more associate this yummy slice with this time.

Shauna's Choc-Mint Brownie Slice

185 g butter melted
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
3 eggs
100 g plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa
50 gm After Dinner Mints (roughly chopped)
  • Grease and line a slice tin with baking paper.
  • Whisk together butter and sugar and then add eggs, one at a time, whisking some more.
  • Stir in flour and cocoa.
  • Spread into tin.  Push After Dinner Mint bits into the slice mix (make sure all are covered an none touch the side of the slice tin).
  • Bake in a moderate oven for 30 - 40 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.
I am looking forward to making this slice soon.  Here's to you Dad and Tom!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sewing days

Oh I do love sewing.  It's like therapy for me. As soon as the weather gets cooler I feel inspired to sew.  Funny how I  really only like sewing summer clothes though - perhaps by sewing these  summery things I am vicariously imagining warm days again! 

In the last few weeks I have made four new things - two 'shearwater' kaftans, a 'far away  tunic' and a 'madison skirt'- all easy peasy patterns I have bought online.  I have become obsessed with sourcing patterns and fabrics online.  I have discovered that buying fabric from OS on Etsy is much cheaper than buyng online in Australia and it doesn't really take too long to get here.  Ordered fabulous Cloud9 fabric from Oregon less than two weeks ago and have already received it in the mail and made up the new clothes! The world really is becoming a much smaller place these days.

It's been a wonderful couple of days to sew this weekend listening to Radio National and the Sydney Writer's Festival.  Must read Philiph Roth's new book - he is such an amusing raconteur.  So anyway tra la here's my new summery clothes and the view I see while I am zipping away on my overlocker:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time to get the icecream maker out again

Mmm - I was wondering what to do with all the frozen blackberries in the freezer and hey presto this blackberry recipe was just sent to me to put up on our Intranet at work.  Will feed it to the five Melbourne uni geology students who are staying with us for a week.
Blackberry Icecream
• 2 cups blackberries, about 12 ounces
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1/2 cup sour cream, full fat
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved and berries are soft. Put the berry mixture in a blender and puree for about 1 minute. At this point, you might want to put the puree through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds. If you do remove the seeds, return the mixture to the blender. Add heavy cream and the sour cream and pulse a few times. Pour into a bowl and chill thoroughly. Freeze in your ice cream maker following the manufacturer's directions.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ten Days on the Island

I will remember this year's Ten Days on the Island as it has coincided with around ten days of angst and form-filling RSI moving my Aunt Cissy into a nursing home.  Poor Ciss, on one hand she seems accepting of  it being time to make the move -  especially as her beloved doctor has been so keen on her doing it, but on the other she has resisted it all the way.  

My feisty 83 year old aunt has become the new rebel inmate at the nursing home - smoking in her room and making surreptitious calls to ex-landlords to try and get herself back into her old digs!  It has been both painful and hellish for her kin trying to help and harness her! 

Cissy-moving aside, with Shauna down from Sydney, we did manage we did to get some 'culture' in.  'Power Plant' at the Botanical Gardens last Saturday night was a magical experience, evoking that childhood wonder of nighttime.  Mona was great too.  Hobart can sometimes really be impressive in the arts stakes me thinks...

Patchwork titivations

I like patchwork even though it is a bit twee.  It suits my sort of sewing though - easy straight lines and the building up of bits and pieces. I decided recently to use up all the heavy linens and furnishing materials I had left over from millymaker bag-making ventures to make a half quilt  for the end of our bed. 

I am very proud that the only expense involved in making it was two reels of cotton.  I even used an old tatty quilt as the 'innards' for it so it really is a recycled piece.  It looks much nicer on the end of the bed than the old moth-eaten blanket husband favoured and it is a nice weight to keep the tootsies warm in winter.

This weekend I made a tablerunner for the sideboard in the kitchen from bits of silk Japanese kimono scraps bought from Wafu Works sale last Sunday.  I like the nice bright citrus colours and it adds a bit of life to the 'minky' kitchen.

Life is an overwhelming array of laminate colours

I have a new kitchen...and my marriage is still intact.

What a process. I never realised how stressful it would be and of course we had interstate guests just at the stage when there was no kitchen at all. It was like camping inside. One night Alan and I sat on the floor tending the ancient Sunbeam electric frypan that belonged to A's Dad, extolling its virtues.  The next night it expired with a puff of smoke.  It was takeaways after that. 

I have discovered I am not as decisive about colours and choices as I thought I would be.  So many decisions to be make. So many tradesmen turning up at 7.30 am in the morning. So many unexpected expenses.  Our relatively small kitchen renovation involved seven tradesmen over a period of six weeks! 

I read in a 'housey' magazine that the most common thing that goes wrong with kitchen renovations is not allowing enough in the budget for the end components.  It is hard to make decisions about some things before other things are finished and we did rush some decisions at the end to get it all finished. If I could do it all again with hindsight I would have made some different choices... but husband was just coping with it all as it was. 

However we are happy and both love how the new kitchen works - particularly the dishwasher.  My first ever!  Would you believe I am now what could be described as a 'tidy' kitchen person.  Ha!  How long will this last.

So here's the transformation.  From this (short benches, nipple pink with timber touches):

The knockdown process revealed some alarming flaws in the house's basic structures:
And here is the end result.  All very neutral or as Anna described it "in minky tones".

Now how long do I have to wait before husband recovers and I can start on the rest of the house renovations??

Monday, January 31, 2011

Let the diet begin

Goodbye cheese.  Missing you already!
Ah how we can kid ourselves.  I think of myself as being moderately overweight, a tad chubby - you know just 5 or so kgs.  Boo hoo - I did a little survey on the Dukan diet website and find I am more like 12 kg or more!  No wonder my clothes don't fit very well anymore.  Ah well next Monday is the start of the wondrous Dukan diet.  Protein, protein and more protein. My brother-in-law has just lost 12 kgs on the diet so I reckon I can do it too.  The not drinking wine might be the hardest part!!
But before I begin here is a recipe for the enviably slim Mandy:

Lamb cutlets with curried roast pumpkin mash 

(I made this for the first time on my brother's 50th birthday. It was a fab occasion at Mandala on Bruny Island.  The recipe is from Delcious magazine July 2004)

Serves 6
18 lamb cutlets
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
2 tbs fresh rosemary leaves roughly chopped

800 g butternut pumpkin, cut into 3cm pieces
2 tbs good-quality curry powder

Place lamb cutlets in shallow dish.  Drizzle with 1 tbs of olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle with rosemary.  Cover and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160o C.  Place pumpkin pieces in bowl with remaining oil and curry powder.  Place in large baking dish, cover with foil and roast for 40 minutes. Remove foil and roast for further 10 minutes.  Cool a bit, process in food processor until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.

Preheat barbecue or chargrill to high and cook lamb for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a tray and cover loosely with foil.  Rest for 4 minutes in warm spot while you reheat the pumpkin mash over the low heat in a saucepan.

Serve the lamb cutlets with the pumpkin and a nice green salad. Yum.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NZ bach life

There really is something special about swimming in freshwater lakes.  No need to worry about sharks or other nasties, the water in Lake Taupo is clear and a nice temperature at 22 degrees.  Johno takes us all out in the boat and we zoom around to a deserted little cove where Alan and I jump off and swim leisurely around a little headland to another long thin strip of beach.  Cicadas sing from the vegetation on the land which is dense and tangled above us as we swim.  All alone on the pebbly beach we lie like lizards soaking in the sun recovering before swimming back. It is one of those magical swims I feel I will remember for a long time.

Another day we walk in Tongariro National Park, a walk from the chateaux on a circuit past a waterfall.  We cross open tundra land with a snow-capped peak in the background and walk beyond the waterfall beside a rushing stream through shady glens. Clean fresh air, wonderful native vegetation - all very invigorating.  I love the way John and Kerry take all the kids on regular walks.  Maia at 20 months enchants other walkers as she ambles along on her chubby little legs singing Eee-I Eee-I Oh.  

Other great bach moments include lazy times in the hammocks on the back porch, later afternoon swims to the pontoon below the bach, walks around Kuratua, ice cream stops near the jetty, a visit to the local vineyard and olive grove, drinking Esk Valley chardonnay while the barby is on, laughing with the kids, afternoon doesn't get too much better than this!  Thank you for a wonderful stay dear John and Kerry, James, Zach and Maia. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh my giddy aunt

West Otago NZ visiting Alan's family on the farm - step one of our visiting-rellie-trip to the shaky isles.

We have been here four days doing lots of eating (a cookathon from our Christmas present: 'Speight's Southern Man cookbook'), plus drinking nice wines, walking country roads looking through flax plants at noisy sheep with daggy bottoms, counting hay bales, walking quickly away from cranky bulls, and driving for hours to the coast - Kaka Point to see the seals and spectacular lighthouse scenery and to Curio Bay to see dozy penguins and petrified forests on the rock platform by the sea. 

There have been lots of laughs generated by cheeky Hans, mother-in-law's risque calendar gift, plus all the usual recounting of stories that go on in these family reunions. I love listening to the Kiwis talk - stories punctuated with phrases like 'the weather turned to custard' and 'Oh my giddy aunt'.  I sleep soundly at night here and my only stress at present is whether the pav I have in the oven will be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside just like the picture in the cookbook...

Just so I have it on record here is Liz's Fruity Nut Balls recipe

1 cup each of sultanas, walnuts, dates and cornflakes
Orange juice, sherry or brandy to moisten
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 tsp cinnamon

Pour boiling water over sultanas, then drain well, roughly chop in food processor, add walnuts and roughly chopped dates and process briefly.  Add cornflakes - process again and moisten with liquid of choice until mixture is soft enough to form into balls.  

Roll into small balls with wet hands and drop into bag of coconut and cinnamon. Shake to coat.  Can freeze. 

Hey pav is looking good!  I think I have a winner.