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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eat. . . Spicy peanut sauce

I cooked up a batch of spicy peanut sauce today and  thought I would share the recipe with you. . . It comes courtesy of my wonderful friend VG, who gave me the recipe way back in 1994. It has been a firm favourite since then. It keeps well in the fridge for a few weeks, and also freezes well for several months. Peanut sauce goes wonderfully well with all sorts of things - especially good with barbequed food, and stir fried veggies. The possibilities are endless!

Anyway, this is what you do: 

Sauté 2 tblsps/40 mls of oil, 1 very finely chopped onion and 2 cloves of crushed garlic or a couple of teaspoons of pre-prepared minced garlic.

Add 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 2 tsps curry powder, 1" piece fresh ginger (or 2 tsps pre-prepared minced ginger) and 4 oz finely chopped peanuts.

Add 1 cup water, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup sweet fruit chutney, 2 tblsps peanut butter and 1 tsp salt. Bring to the boil and then simmer for approx 1/2 hour until mixture darkens and thickens. . .

Store in glass jars in fridge or plastic containers in the freezer. I usually make a double mixture, keep some in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer. . .

Our family love this sauce so much that I included it in a "Favourite Christmas Recipes" book I made. As I said, it goes really well with barbeque food, so over here in NZ it's the perfect Christmas (summer) recipe, but it's great all the year round. . .

Thanks to VG for such a popular and delicious recipe! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Love. . . my DM boots

My trusty metallic purple "1460" 8 eyelet Dr Martens
Each time I get to a "Love. . ." blog post I struggle to know what to write, as I have a seemingly endless list of things that I love! Which one can I choose? So many options - some thought-provoking, some emotional, some frivolous, some mundane. . .

Anyway, today my trusty Dr Marten "AirWair" boots were at the forefront of my mind as we are in the depths of winter here and apart from gumboots/Wellington boots and snowboots, these DMs are the only boots I own, so I wear them quite a lot! They have been with me for 10 years and they feel like old friends every time I put them on.

Together we have walked untold miles through Scotland,  New Zealand, England and Wales. I even wore them at my Civil Union in 2008. I had built my CU outfit around a "seascape shawl" I knitted (my first ever piece of 2 ply lace-weight lace knitting) and from there I chose my top and procured a custom-made skirt (sewing skills not quite up to it, though I suggested the design and selected the fabric).

Civil Union photo on the wharf, 2008.
But I was stumped when it came to what shoes to wear. . . Until suddenly in a flash of inspiration I realised I could wear my trusty DMs! Funny that it didn't occur to me sooner, cos way back before I had any DMs (or even any idea that I was gay) I always used to joke that I would be wearing DMs to my wedding, having seen a pair of raw silk DMs worn with a wedding dress!

The night before the Civil Union I had the idea of using some scraps of the skirt's contrast fabric to make boot laces for my DMs. My mum and I sat there late into the night carefully wrapping each boot lace with this flimsy "watered silk" fabric". I loved the co-ordinated look :)

Civil Union footwear, with fancy boot laces
Dr Marten boots were first unleashed on the world on 1st April 1960, and there is plenty of history on the Dr Martens' website. All makes interesting reading and it wasn't long before the boots morphed from working boots to social statement. You can even buy vegan DM boots from their online store, entirely animal-free and made from breathable "felix microfibre" to emulate leather. This quote from the history page of their website really stood out to me: "Dr. Martens anchor you, liberate your creativity, inspire and fuel your identity." Quite a substantial achievement for a pair of boots!

Frodo helping with the DM photo-shoot!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scrap. . . now THERE'S a novelty!!

I haven't done any scrap-booking in well over a year - until Queen's Birthday weekend that was! That weekend there was a crafty event in Wellington called Handmade 2011 and I would have loved to go, but what with travel, accommodation and workshop costs I couldn't do it. However, I did my own little craft weekend just for me - spent the weekend knitting (as per usual!) and a (very unusual) whole day of scrap-booking, and the photos on this page are the result (with faces blurred out specially for the internet). I still need to complete the journalling on a couple of pages, but am pleased with what I accomplished. I made a layout of Sonny Jim's Year 6 photos and report, his farewell to pre-school,  a l/o of some studio portraits of my brother and me when I was 3 and he was a baby, the Wifie and me all dressed up for a 70s disco and the day SJ and I became New Zealand citizens. I am way out of practice and none of the pages were exactly inventive, but I really enjoyed it and am determined to do some more scrap-booking again over the next few months. . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Knit. . . the Fish blanket is finished at last!

Oh yes indeed. . . it has gone from this:
Selection of sock yarn scraps (these from iMake in Guernsey)

to this:
Gratuitous photo of dog posing on part-finished fish blanket
to this:
Tedious task of adding approx 7 metres of 3 stitch applied i-cord
to this finished product (finished, but as yet unwashed and unblocked!)
Finished fish blanket, laid out on Queen-sized bed
It's a great feeling to finally have it finished after 3 years and 1 month, but at the same time I feel a bit "lost" on car journeys without my ever-present fish to knit. I have tried knitting other simple projects in the car, but it's not quite the same. But do I really want to knit another fish blanket? Not really, well, at least not a sock yarn one. Maybe one in thicker yarn at some stage, with a much more restricted range of colours.

Now for some stats on the blanket. I started it on 24th May 2008 and finally finished it on 25th June 2011. It is 13 fish wide by 24 fish tall. The 312 fish and applied i-cord combined weigh a total of 860 g or 1.9 lbs. That's around 3.5 kms or 2.2 miles of yarn!! I used 74 different "dark" yarns and 34 different "light" yarns (substantially less light yarns, because so many of the light fish are undyed). Unblocked, it measures 50" or 127cm square, and once I have washed and blocked it I will update this post with new measurements and pictures.  You can get a bit of the back story on the blanket in my post from March: "The never-ending fish blanket."

The fish blanket would not have been possible without the generosity of many women in swapping sock yarn scraps with me: Susan, Jesse, Martine, Katrina, Sara as well as everyone who took part in the 2010 NZ sock yarn swap. I thank you all most sincerely :) Also my lovely Wifie who knitted every single one of the rainbow fish which form a border to the blanket (alternate rainbow and undyed fish). Although she can knit, it's not a big obsession. She can happily go for months without so much as picking up a knitting needle, and yet she stoically knitted 35 rainbow fish for me over a period of 6 months this year. If that isn't true love, I don't know what is!!! Thank you my love ♡

This is one of my favourite projects EVER - in fact it probably takes top place. I would definitely recommend it as one of the best travel projects known to humankind, as a travel fish-knitting kit takes up so little room and hardly weighs anything! The pattern I used was April Broken's "recipe for fish", which works in any yarn weight, as long as it is a smooth type of yarn with good stitch definition. Here is the link to my ravelry project page and so far this project has received the most ♥ of any of my ravelry projects :) 

I still have loads of sock yarn scraps left over, so next I am planning to make a "Mitred-square sock yarn blankie" as detailed here at Shelly Kang's blog. Watch this space :)

PS I have finished knitting lots of other things in the last few weeks as well, but felt that the ginormous project that is the fish blanket deserved a post all of its own! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fold. . . Paper crane competition prizes revealed

Both blog prize packages were received long ago, in NZ and England so at long last I can share a few details. I had planned to reveal the prizes here weeks ago, but then life got in the way. . .

Anyway, first up we have the prize awarded to one of Sonny Jim's classmates who made the best guess of the number of cranes in the box (same as in the photo on the blog), after I had spent the afternoon teaching the class how to fold paper cranes. A 9 year old  boy won the prize and I gave him some origami paper and an origami basketball set, whilst I gave the "Paper planes handbook" to the whole class as a thank you for helping me out with the crane project. It even has the instructions for a "flapping bird" at the back (and that is one of the things I taught the class to make!)

Prize for school

Next up we have the prize awarded to the first prize winner in the blog competition, Laura, who managed to guess only one away from the correct number of paper cranes:

First prize (think I swapped small paper for large at the last minute?)

First prize - crane mobile made by me

2 balls Noro Kureyon sock yarn

I couldn't resist making a paper crane mobile for her as well,  in Canterbury colours this time as she lives in the Christchurch earthquake area. In the photo below you will see that the birds are "flat-packed" ready for sending through the post, but it only takes a few minutes to cajole them into 3D form.

The beads at the bottom of this mobile say "Kia kaha" which is a Māori phrase roughly equating to "Be strong" or "Stay strong".

So that's it - all the prizes handed out or posted and received safely. Now I just need to finish folding the first 1000 cranes. We're almost there folks. . . thanks for all your help :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eat. . . Persimmons

Sonny Jim eyes up the persimmon harvest in June this year
 To me, persimmons were an unknown exotic fruit before coming to New Zealand. Sure, I had seen a few "Sharon fruit" in the UK supermarket at unrealistically high prices, but they were out of my price range and experience. So I just looked at them, thought they looked interesting and walked on by. Our first autumn in Aotearoa/NZ back in 2002 was a revelation though! Some new friends of ours near Blenheim had a tree, and willingly shared their bountiful harvest with us, and I was hooked! As was Sonny Jim, who wasn't even two years old back then!
Our bountiful bucket of persimmon
Since starting work with my current employers three years ago I have frequently been the recipient of gourmet goodness from one of my colleagues, who has a plentiful supply of fruit from her orchard. May and June mean persimmons, and we have received an abundance. Then a chance meeting with another acquaintance revealed that she had a persimmon tree straining under the weight of its fruit and would love to give some away, so Sonny Jim and I went out there to pick some. See photo of tree above. . .

It turned out that this woman's husband is an entomologist and he took great delight in showing us the beautiful steely blue ladybirds which live around the leafy bits of the persimmon stalks. They are good insects to have around as they eat up aphids and help control black scale, as well as looking beautiful in their own tiny way. . .
Steelblue ladybird - Halmus Chalybeus. Photo from wikipedia
Anyway, for several glorious weeks, we were all eating at least one persimmon a day, often many more. Sadly the season is now over, so we will have to wait for another ten months before we can next indulge in one of our favourite fruits. Mind you, that is actually one of my favourite things about NZ - that foods are available a lot more seasonally here, in contrast to what I am used to in the UK. The fact that things like figs, persimmon, asparagus and berries are only available for a few weeks of the year  each, makes you savour them that much more when they are around. Plus of course, eating seasonally is more "natural" and therefore cheaper - always a bonus!

Cross-section of persimmon fruit - left: crunchy, right: soft.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Unscheduled blogging break. . .

Let's just say there has been a lot going on recently, and that has kept me away from the blogosphere. I have good news to report though - my dysphagia study is finished at long last,  after sitting the two exams which were fraught with technical difficulties. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, but the technical difficulties with accessing and submitting the exams I could have really done without, especially when I had to do the written exam twice as the first time I clicked "submit", it completely disappeared, never to be seen again!

It's also been a bit of a hard time personally recently, but the worst is over for now and our little unit of three has weathered the storm quite well. I have found myself referring to my Love. . . my life post to remind myself that despite the recent emotional roller-coaster, life is really very good. When I wrote that post, it was partly as an inoculation against emotionally turbulent times which I knew could be coming up ahead, so I am glad to know that it has served its purpose well. I have also found that it was to my fountain pen I turned on my worst day, not my knitting needles! That really took me by surprise, and if you had asked me beforehand I would have predicted I would want to knit. But no, I wanted to write and write and then write some more. Writing it all out and processing it in my head as I did so, even wrote a poem in 5 minutes flat, circling the issue with a few well-chosen words! Very therapeutic. . .

Anyway, normal service will resume shortly, and I have lots to report :)