Friday, 29 April 2011

April flowers


Flowers and arrangements from the month of April.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

On my reading table

 I've just finished the first three books in the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series, by Charlaine Harris. I've been a fan of the True Blood TV show since it started, so reading the books is of course the next step. (If I watch a movie or TV show and find out it was based on a book, I always get a bit obsessed with finding and reading that book.) Luckily my very dear friend has the series and lent me the books, otherwise I would have been tearing my hair out trying to get them in order from the library - if there's one thing I hate it's reading a series out of order!

It's interesting how much the same and yet how different the two mediums are. TVBill is very much the gentleman, polite and chivalrous, while BookBill is quite feral and definitely unhuman. TVEric I found to be a rather cliched Lestat-like character, but BookEric is a lot more interesting. Pam I love in both TV and book.

Any other True Blood fans out there?

 The latest NZ Gardener magazine popped up in my mailbox last week (I was lucky enough to get a subscription for Christmas). It's feeling very hello winter with stored spuds on the cover, and featuring tips on pruning and some recipes for home brewed booze.

 There are some recipes for kumara and Maori potatoes.

And a feature on chrysanthemums, quintessential autumn flowers.

Monday, 25 April 2011

A gardening weekend

We had beautiful weather this Easter weekend. I made the most of it with a big tidy up in the potager - pulling out the manky tomatoes and beans, weeding, and digging over the ground. I also planted out some more broccoli and silver beet, which maddeningly I had to buy as punnets. What with one thing and another I got out of the rhythm of sowing seed regularly, which means the broccoli I had previously planted was forming heads, and any seed I sow now won't be harvestable till spring. I did sow some anyway, but also had to go broccoli-hunting at the garden centres... and that stuff was scarce!

Here is the First Quarter looking luminous with the cosmos and calendula still flowering like mad. There is a valiant pumpkin struggling on, it has one fruit so we'll see how ripe that manages to get. Broad beans are at the back under the canes.

The Second Quarter is also full, mostly with broccoli which is forming heads (not very big ones unfortunately, they probably need more water than they got from me in late summer).

The Third Quarter still has capsicums and chillis along the right hand path. They are steadily ripening, I'll leave them there as long as possible until frosts take them out. The far edge of the garden is planted with a row of soldier-like spring onions. The curve of the path has been planted with calendula seedlings. They were sown in late Feb, about a month after the ones which are flowering so well now, but that month made all the difference as these tiny seedlings are refusing to do very much at all. I've made cloches out of plastic soft drink bottles to try and nurse them along a bit.

The Fourth Quarter is the one I cleared out and dug over. Since this photo was taken I've planted it with spring onions, broccoli and beet and there is room for some red lettuce too.

I had this post left over from the bean fence, and I thought it would be cute with some pots hanging off it. I made the hangers by wrapping some thin wire around terracotta pots, and twisting it to form handles. I'm thinking about putting a bird feeder on top of the post, probably just an old wicker basket.

I love pansies and violas. I love the way they self seed so freely - whenever I find a little seedling I transplant it to wherever needs brightening up. You never know what colour you're going to get - I've had some beautiful and unique (to my garden) colourings pop up!

Twilight and the lights come on. I can go inside and know I've done a good day's work.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Granny squares

 Ok, I've changed my mind on using the Daisy Chain square for the skirt. It's a pretty square and I'll definitely use it for something... maybe a bag?... but I've realised that the pattern designers were right and the plain granny works best in this case.

 I made some quick mock-ups in Photoshop to decide if I should edge the squares in black, which seemed like a good idea while I was working the first ones. Black is always a tidy colour with which to frame things.

 But once again I think the pattern designers were right, and using the same colour as the body of the skirt pulls it all together. Black just makes it look tacked on the bottom.

However... I do think I'll make mine a bit shorter than this one and have it above the knee (dare I say this, after all my deviations from the pattern so far have been disastrous?) Will I even finish it? Will I wear granny squares in public? Watch this space!

Whilst making one of the squares, I became enamoured with this combination of soft grey and white. It felt somehow magical, and when I put it down next to the book I'm reading, the connection became clear... it's the colour of moonbeams on clouds. How beautiful, I whispered, a moonlit night blanket...

So I made this mockup to check if I really really liked it, and I really really do. Especially when I thought of adding some shell buttons to alternate squares. I like it so much I want to start on it right away, but I need that yarn for the skirt project... must finish the skirt first!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

On my reading table

 Oh library, I've been missing you. Most of the libraries around town are open again but not my local, which means I had to resort to actually buying magazines. The Mobile Library has been in the neighbourhood (this is a library in a bus - very cool and I'll see if I can get some photos when I go next weekend), but it is by nature small and rather heavily depleted at the moment.

 So a couple of weeks ago I went to Borders and fulfilled my craving. Country Living (British edition) is my absolute favourite magazine, I love its seasonality and I usually get the issue that corresponds to what season we are in here in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately I couldn't do that in the shop, so I got the January issue (which was cheaper, I guess because it was about due to be pulled from the shelf). Winter will be here soon enough, I figured. I also got Country Gardens (US edition - spring), it doesn't matter quite so much what the season is with this one as they always have beautiful photos.

 As usual with Country Living, the most beautiful page is on the cover. I wish I could get my kitchen to be pretty and functional, unfortunately it tends to be just functional and completely messy.

 Bright ideas for dark days - I like the hyacinth bulbs in the tin pots, and the bird feeder in the terracotta pot. I think I'll make some feeders like that.

 Country Gardens has cute ideas for spring posies - my favourite is the ostrich egg vase in the lower left corner.

 And a primula auricula theatre - apparently this used to be the way to display your primroses! "...the tradition dates to the 16th century in France and Belgium. Legend has it that Huguenot weavers carried their beloved auriculas with them when they fled to England. By century's end, primrose pandemonium was almost as hysterical as 17th-century Tulipmania with prized specimens going for small fortunes."

Can't say I'm all that keen on primroses, but maybe if I had a darling little theatre like that to display them in. Guess I've got all winter to construct one!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Red lentil lasagne

There was an interesting discussion on Facebook this week, when I asked if anyone else is cooking more vegetarian meals due to the cost of meat. It turns out many people are - even the "cheap cuts" aren't that cheap these days, and personally I like to eat "happy" meat, which has been humanely raised (not what you typically get at Pak N Save).

So, bring on the lentils! I've experimented a bit with them and the texture when cooked is not that dissimilar to mince. I made a lentil dhal which was really good served with wedges, and this lasagne, and I'm going to try something like spaghetti bolognese or maybe tacos... I think I'll cook up a big batch, maybe in the slow cooker, and freeze it in portions. Then I can have quick easy meals after work. Here's what I did for the lasagne. Let me know if you try it!


Start off frying a chopped onion and 2-3 chopped garlic cloves. Rinse 1 cup red lentils and add to the pan with 2 cups of water and 1 can of chopped tomatoes. Add about 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and any herbs you like such as basil, oregano or thyme (fresh or dried). Cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until lentils are tender. It's better to have it slightly runny - add a bit of water if you need to - so that the dry pasta sheets will soften and cook properly. (Or precook your sheets!)

Keep checking on the mixture while it cooks, it may need more water. Mine took quite some time to cook, probably because I didn't cover the pan.

While that's cooking, make a white sauce with 1 tbsp marg, 1 tbsp flour and 2 cups milk. (If yours turns into a lumpy mess like mine did, sieve it and thicken it with a bit of cornflour dissolved in milk. Then resolve to make it in the microwave next time because at least it won't burn on the bottom.)

Spray an oven dish with oil and layer up the mixture alternating with a packet of lasagne sheets. I layered thusly: lentils, lasagne, lentils, lasagne, white sauce, lentils, lasagne, white sauce, grated cheese. Then bake in the oven at 180 C for 35-40 mins.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Falling sunshine

 My favourite tree is doing its autumn thing. Even on a dull grey day it radiates golden light, and is a most beautiful thing to see from out the windows and when I'm pottering around outside.

The bird feeder is slowly being revealed as the leaves fall. Soon it will be time to mix up some birdseed cakes and see what wildlife I can attract this winter. I saw a fantail at the botanic gardens last weekend, so I'm hopeful that perhaps it may wander over to my side of town? And maybe bring some bellbirds with it? (Fat chance I think.)

 I love the golden carpet on the grass. These leaves make a great mulch, so I got out my rake and raked them into piles. Then I put the piles into a wool bag. They'll break down over the next few months into leaf mould, and I'll use them on the garden in spring.

 I love raking leaves, so I didn't even mind when a wind sprang up after I had cleared these away, and a new sprinkling appeared. I'll get them next weekend.

Fingers crossed for a lovely sunny Easter weekend, so I can get some more tidying up done.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Work in progress

 I've been busy these past few weeks harvesting and preserving food from the garden. I've made several batches of tomato relish, some stewed apples, plenty of chopped vegetables for the freezer, and now I've moved onto the dehydrator. This is on loan from Jon's mum, and it's been working hard on the bench this week. Dried apples = yum! Dried pears = yummer! Dried tomatoes with garlic and oil = I will eat these till I throw up.

Here's my current WIP. It's this pattern which I found through Ravelry. I never imagined myself crocheting a granny square skirt, and I'm not even sure I'll wear it once made, but I think the greys and black make a kitschy design a lot more elegant. Also, crochet is supposedly hot on the catwalk this season - it would be funny for me to be ahead of a trend!

 I thought I would replace the standard granny sqaure with one a bit prettier - this is Daisy Chain from Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws and Afghans. It's definitely prettier, but not as pretty as a certain pink-nosed somebody.

Only thing is, I'm not sure if I like these squares anymore. I mean I like them, but do they look right on the skirt or are they a bit too busy? Maybe the appeal lies in the simplicity of the plain grannies.
I'm not sure and it's really too hard to decide right now, so I've put this to one side. I might make a couple of plain grannies on the weekend and see how I like them.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Autumn days

 The season has definitely changed. This morning was warm, sunny, beautiful. I went about the potager tidying, clearing away dead foliage and weeds, and dug over the middle quarters ready for the winter planting. It was so warm everything needed a drink of water. I spent a lot of time admiring this patch of cosmos - truly, every vege garden should have some, it makes such a lovely backdrop for leeks.

See how pretty?

I bought a set of solar lights (to help me find the lettuce on dark mornings) and I put them around the potager. As I did so the day began to cloud over, and not long after it was raining.

This is how the day ended... raindrops on the window and flowers drooping in the dusk. Thanks to daylight savings, dusk is now so much earlier. About four of my solar lights came on, the rest hadn't managed to charge enough.

 But, this is the shape of things to come, and I have prepared. I've been crocheting myself some winter warmers, starting with these fingerless gloves. I pretty much live in fingerless gloves in winter, so I need a few pairs for variety. I found this pattern on Ravelry - it's called Firecracker Gloves. I enjoyed working them up, the pattern stitch made things interesting and they are well fitted.

 I'd like to make more in different colours, I just need to find some more yarn. It needs quite a fine lace weight yarn, which is not that easy to find especially with Spotlight closed (not that they have lace yarn anyway!) This yarn is ok but I would prefer one without the slubbing.

 I'd like to make some in grey, a soft fuzzy mohair type yarn (which I probably won't find, as actual mohair is too scratchy for me to wear around my wrists) and embroider the backs.

I have some more crochet projects to share, and will try to do that later in the week. Till then, enjoy your flower gardens and keep your fingers warm!


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