Welcome, nau mai, haere mai!
Come on in and stay a little while. . . you never know what you might find!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eat. . . Fresh figs

What could be more simple, or more delicious? Eating a fresh fig is a luscious assault on the senses - the amazingly sweet taste, the smooth and fragrant skin, the soft flesh under the skin and the myriad of tiny crunchy seeds nestled within. It's a visual and sensual delight! Can you tell I'm a fig fanatic?!
Wifie and I were given a fig tree each for our birthdays this year, but they are just little baby trees barely a foot tall, and will take a while until they give us an edible harvest. The fig season is in full swing here in the Nelson-Tasman area of New Zealand though. We have been using the local District Health Board's Healthy As website to help us locate some "help-yourself" fig trees in "Open Orchards" in the local area. Super-delicious and healthy food for free - can't be bad! The season is so relatively short, we are definitely making the most of the figs while they are here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fold. . . teeny tiny paper cranes

Tiniest crane perched on my little finger

In-between folding loads of full-sized cranes for my 1000 Cranes for Christchurch and Japan effort, I have been having a play with making teeny-tiny paper cranes with the offcuts. Above and below you see my tiniest efforts to date. Their wingspan just reaches 2 cm! No, before you ask, I don't have small hands - in fact I have larger than average ones, I just like a challenge ;-)

I am planning to have a go at making some earrings out of these tiny cranes. If I succeed I will update this post with the results! Meanwhile progress towards the 1000 full-size cranes continues. . . help still welcome. Here's a photo of the first 30 on a big platter. . .

If you'd like to fold a few cranes for Christchurch and Japan, just get in touch via the comments or email address yarificationz (at) gmail (dot) com
Thanks :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Love. . . Free Positive Thoughts

Look what I found today, following a link from Tash B's Holland Road Yarn Company blog:

I think this is so fantastic that I just HAD to share the love!! This is a freebie .pdf file from Kind Over Matter. If you would like your very own copy for absolutely free, follow this link and you will find a free download there. While I was checking out the K.O.M. website I was amazed to find out how many resources are freely available over there. It's truly amazing! There is a huge page of links to their freebies here, but to give you an idea of just a few of the resources available, you will find a Free Compliments Poster; all sorts of greetings cards; computer desktop wallpaper; printable affirmation, kind and quote cards; Valentines resources and even printable breastfeeding affirmation cards to hand out to mothers breastfeeding in public!! There are heaps more things available too - my advice: go and check it out! Right now!! Walk this way :-)

This evening I put up a "Free Positive Thoughts" poster on the village noticeboard. . . I'll be keeping an eye on it to see how quickly the positive thoughts find a new home :-)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knit. . . Bridge over Troubled Water mitts

Photo by Sara

This is the third time I have knitted this mitt pattern - it's a firm favourite. It's called Tower Bridge Mitts by designer Rachel Brown, and is available for download from the link on ravelry above or directly from Rachel's blog: Porpoiseknits. I was actually involved in the test knitting process for these mitts - it was the very first pattern I officially tested via the ravelry group  Free Pattern Testers. the original pattern has one extra lace repeat, but this is my shortened (quicker and more thrifty!) version. These mitts are a birthday gift for someone else, a reasonably new friend, but one who has offered support during a difficult time (the CHCH earthquake) and so I changed the name of this project from "Tower Bridge" to "Bridge over Troubled Water". Here's the link to my project page on ravelry.  I really hope that the birthday girl likes these mitts. . . I will let you know once they've arrived.
Photo by Sara

The yarn is Knitsch yarns 100% merino sock yarn and was the first instalment in the Knitsch Flights of Fancy 2011 yarn club. The yarn base itself is absolutely gorgeous - it is a beautifully soft 2 ply construction, and being firmly twisted has lovely crisp stitch definition. The "Go Lightly" colourway which I used to make these mitts is absolutely beautiful, with such subtle colour variations.

Knitsch sock yarns 100% merino "Go Lightly"

Tash Barneveld of Knitsch yarns has recently opened a new yarn shop Holland Road Yarn Company, at 281 Jackson Street, Petone, near Wellington. I haven't been lucky enough to get there yet, on account of it being on a different island and everything. By all accounts, it sounds wonderful though! There is talk of comfy couches and beautiful yarns and friendly service. One day, I will get up there and check it out for myself! In the meantime, Knitsch do a great online store if I ever feel the urge to part with a few dollars (although I am trying hard to spend very little on yarn this year!).

PS Edited 14th April: The mitts arrived somewhat belatedly and the birthday girl liked them a lot! Yay! She was good enough to send me some photos of them, as I didn't get any really good ones before I posted them. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eat. . . "Bargainaceous" box of plums

A week ago I was at the fruit and veggie shop when my eye was caught by something on the "Reduced to clear" table. That something is pictured above - a ten kilogram box of Hawkes Bay "black amber" plums for only NZ$2.99. That's about £1.40 or US$2.26 for 10 kg/22lbs of plums! Incredible value or what?!! "Bargainaceous" even!

Needless to say, those plums came straight home with me! Although the plums were obviously past their best (hence their vastly reduced price) I managed to retrieve approx 6kg of plum flesh after the stones and rotten/mouldy bits had been removed. I froze just over half for use another day, and set about making jam with the remainder. This might seem inconsequential, but what you probably don't know is that I haven't actually made any jam since I was about 12 years old, back in the early 1980s. Chutney, marmalade and lemon curd - yes, but jam? Nope!

I used the plum jam recipe in the NZ classic Edmonds Cookery Book …

Plum Jam

2 kg plums, halved and stoned
1.5 cups water
7 cups white sugar

Put plums and water into a preserving pan.

Boil until soft and pulpy. Add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Boil briskly for 15 mins or until setting point is reached. (I used my cooking thermometer to make sure the temp got to 105C, by which point most jams will set.) 

Pour into sterilised jars, a few of which I have photographed below. . .

Makes about 6 x 350 ml jars. 

This jam has so far been pronounced delicious by all who have tasted it, even Sonny Jim, who is usually monogamous to raspberry jam! So there may just be a few more jars of jam gracing these pages at some point now I have rediscovered my inner jam-maker!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Love. . . the prize I won in the 12in2011 group on ravelry

So, there's a "12in2011" group on ravelry and the main purpose is to try to make at least 12 things this year using wool you already had before 1.1.11. It's not a very "rules-y" group and there are only "Pirate guidelines"rather than strict rules to be enforced. "Aharrrr me hearties!!" 

In the 12in2011 ravelry group there is a "Prizes" thread, where prizes are handed out each month in fun and funny ways as well as by use of a Random Number Generator. In early March I was lucky enough to be awarded a "fun and funny" February prize for my "Tree root caterpillar". I won the special category of "Yarnify all the things" with this cheery little fellow. . .

My prize was a US$20 voucher to spend in Zippypins' ArtFire studio (online shop). The extraordinarily generous Jamie (Zippypins) has donated twelve of these vouchers to be handed out in the ravelry 12in2011 group each month. I had a blast choosing my prize, and ended up with two bumper stickers, a set of 10 knitting/spinning themed badges and six larger badges with various quotes. I slightly exceeded my US$20 budget, as there was so much great stuff on offer! I even bought two badges especially for Wifie  ("Coffee is my therapy" and "I'm the rainbow sheep in the family") which she is delighted with. I bought a "rainbow sheep" badge for me too - that's such a great quote! My box of goodies arrived last week and I just wanted to share my good fortune with you via the blog. As well as the badges for the Wifie, I just sent a couple of the little knitting badges away in a friend's birthday present parcel, so I am really trying to share the love!

Here are a few of the favourite badges I got from Zippypins. . . 

So huge thanks to the generous prize awarder "Dovely" on ravelry and heaps more thanks to Jamie of Zippypins for my lovely prize. . .

Monday, March 21, 2011

Knit. . . secret project revealed: Golden Bay Dreaming shawl

Yay! I just got a text from the birthday girl to say she has opened her parcel and loves her Golden Bay Dreaming shawl, so I can finally share the details! It's been soooo hard keeping this a secret all year long! The following post is "one I prepared earlier."

I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking with  this one!  But suffice it to say that this shawl has been an epic work of love and dedication! I knitted it for a very dear friend (Katrina) whom I have known since we were gawky and uncool teenagers at school together, but we now live on opposite sides of the planet. Actually, to be honest, she stayed on the same side of the planet, it was me who packed my bags and set off for New Zealand!

As Katrina is a super keen knitter (just like me!) I decided a knitted project of epic proportions was in order. The shawl is knitted from 1 ply cobweb yarn, 80% Peruvian baby alpaca and 20% silk, sold by a NEw Zealand company. The pattern is Vernal Equinox Shawl by Lankakomero. I chose this shawl pattern because Katrina's birthday falls upon the Vernal Equinox - 21st March. This year isn't just any birthday for her either, it's one of those ones with a great big zero at the end, so I felt like something extra special was called for. I cast on at 12.01 am on 1st January 2011 as this was my first project in the  12in2011 challenge on ravelry. I finished knitting the shawl on 31st January and then washed and blocked it over the next few days. I had to buy several extra packets of pins to block it with as the edging was so intricate! Katrina knew I was knitting her something, but didn't know what, so I gave it the name "Golden Bay Dreaming" as a codename - so named because I cast on while we were on holiday in beautiful Golden Bay and the yarn was a sandy colour. I also knitted the first 60 or so rows during the wonderful summer holiday Wifie, Sonny Jim and I spent in Golden Bay during late December/early January. Anyway, enough talking - here are the photos!!

Unblocked close up

In the early stages

During blocking

During blocking

Blocking the edging was very fiddly

I used some tie wire threaded through the top of the shawl to straighten out the top edge

Me modelling the shawl before I posted it

Knit. . . February yarnifications

Tree root caterpillar
Although I have a whole blog dedicated to my yarnification adventures (http://yarnificationz.blogspot.com/) I thought that every month I would give you a brief round up of the previous month's yarny exploits over here at "Knitapotamus". There are heaps more details over there, this is just a quick summary and some pics.

Last month was the first time I tried my hand at knit graffiti/yarn bombing/yarn storming/yarnification (delete as preferred!) My very first project was a "Tree root caterpillar" at the local hospital, pictured above.

Suddenly I was hooked on knit graffiti and I swiftly followed that up with a couple of things for St Valentine's Day, also in the hospital grounds. . .
Love on a handrail
Hearts on a wire fence
I went back a week later and added "LIVE" and "LAUGH" to "LOVE" on the handrail, moving them all around the corner and into a better position. . .

Finally, I added a little bit of yarnification to my car aerial!

So there you have it! I think I am hooked - it seems that everywhere I look I keep seeing another possibility to add a little yarn and use up some of the acrylic hiding at the back of the yarn cupboard! So watch this space ;-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eat. . . Sushi, Kiwi style!

We love sushi in our family. . . so much so that several years ago I painted a ceramic plate with the words and symbols for "Love Sushi" in Japanese. Later I found out I had the symbols a bit wrong, but hopefully it's the thought that counts and I didn't write anything rude by mistake!

Jamie has loved sushi since he was a toddler, less than 18 months old and I gave him a small piece to try. He's never looked back. When we lived in Blenheim when he was aged 2 and 3 we occasionally used to go to the local Japanese restaurant for a treat and he loved to have a "Children's Bento box" including sushi, tempura prawns and some other treats. We still buy sushi from time-to-time, but now usually make our own. The way the Wifie and I make sushi is definitely not authentic, but it's the way we like it! We usually make homemade sushi at least once every couple of weeks and I made some a few days ago (which is when I took these photos). This is how we do it:

First rinse 2 cups of  sushi rice in a sieve, until the water runs clear or until you get bored of waiting! Then boil 3 cups of water in a pan and add the rice. Boil fast for 3-5 mins then put lid on pan and take off  the heat. Leave the lid on and don't remove the lid for at least half an hour. Once the rice has cooked, make the seasoning mix. Add 1 tsp sugar and 2 tsps salt to 2 tblsps white vinegar. Stir to dissolve, possibly with the help of a little warming in the microwave. Stir this through the warm rice. Taste rice and see if it is tasty enough for you. Adjust seasoning to taste. We used to use the proper rice wine and rice vinegar usually recommended, but eventually swapped to this cheap version - tastes pretty similar.

Allow rice to fully cool.

Get a piece of nori seaweed and lay it on your sushi rolling mat. Not sure if it makes much difference whether it is shiny or dull side up!

Spread the rice over the nori with a spoon dipped in water, leaving a margin at the top of the sheet with no rice.

Place fillings in a row across the rice. We use a variety of things including strips of egg omelette, long slices of carrot, cucumber, avocado, capsicum/sweet pepper, asparagus, French green beans depending what is in season. Yes, sushi can be vegetarian! We sometimes add smoked salmon or tinned fish such as tuna or pink salmon. The sushi filling above is for Sonny Jim by special request - tinned tuna, carrot and avocado, with egg omelette about to be added. . .

Brush some water onto the riceless portion of nori, to act as "glue". Then roll up the sushi in the rolling mat, starting from the front edge. Once you have rolled the first bit to encompass the filling give it a little squeeze, then proceed to roll up the rest.   

Give the roll a squeeze all the way along, to make sure it will stay together when it is unrolled.

Repeat the sushi making process until you run out of rice. . .

Using a sharp knife dipped in water, cut each sushi roll into individual pieces. We usually cut them between 1 and 2 cm thick. Serve with pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi to taste. . .