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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thought for Thursday - in support of curves!

"Body as a Landscape III" photo by Nicole St John via flickr (with permission)

Call it lazy if you like, but today I am borrowing my "Thought for Thursday" directly from Kind Over Matter (KOM). This morning a lengthy quote popped up in my Facebook feed from KOM and it moved me. So I am going to share it with you. For the full post by Jo Anna Rothman of the Receiving Project, go over to the KOM In Support of Curves post, but I will give you a little taster of some of the stanzas here. . .

Today, I will love my curves. Every single one of them. The ones that I have cultivated. The ones that I have shamed. Even the ones I forget exist. I will love them all. And the way they have supported me. Caressed my very being. I will own them, hold them, touch them as a lover would. Because I am the greatest opportunity for love that I know.

Today, I will love my curves. I revel in the gravitational pull they hold. And know magic that is created in their movements. I allow myself to be seen. To let the eyes of the world find me and drink me in without shrinking in fear. To be visible. To be desirable. To be me. Wildly. Pleasurably. Totally.

Today, I invite you to do the same. Love the dips, turns and winding roads of your form. Acknowledge the beauty that couldn’t come from anyone else but you. Put down the sword of nasty judgement in all of its forms and fall in love with the real world expression of you. Today, you can love your curves. 

Many of us have plenty of curves, whether due to being naturally curvaceous, differently formed, overweight or undertall! A lot of us have some negative attitudes towards our own curvy bits, even whilst we look kindly on the curves of others! But perhaps we should try to be kinder to ourselves too, as Jo Anna Rothman advocates? I sent this to a close friend of mine earlier this evening and she reckons "Every woman should read that". . . but maybe especially those of us with an abundance of curves, of dips and turns and winding roads in the unique landscape of our bodies?!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eat. . . Peanut butter cookies

This has to be the easiest biscuit recipe ever!! It would even be easy for a 3 year old, and I wonder why it has taken me all these years to get around to trying it?! I think probably because it looks so utterly simple that I didn't trust that it would work. . . and yet it does! I made these last week and they are some of the most delicious biscuits I have ever tasted. . . an instant hit with all the family, and even my work colleagues :) As an added bonus, they are dairy and wheat-free, so it's good to bear that in mind if you have someone with special dietary requirements coming round for coffee! Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Cookies (12 - 15)

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 large egg

Mix these three ingredients together. Spoon the mixture onto a well greased/lined baking tray. Leave room for them to spread. Press down each blob of dough with a fork. Bake for about 15 mins at 170C.

That's it! I still can't believe that something so incredibly simple can taste so good! Of course, you could include choc chips, raisins or other enhancements if you felt moved to do so, but they are perfectly delicious as they are. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love. . . to all those affected by tragedies near and far

Just over a week ago it was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA. It seems impossible that it can have been 10 years already. Some pictures from the New York attacks can be found here. The images of that day are seared into my brain forever and it seems like only a few years ago that I was watching the tv footage in disbelief with a bunch of teachers at Aboyne Primary School in Aberdeenshire on a seemingly typical Tuesday afternoon. And yet, I realise I now have a tall, slim, affectionate son of nearly 11 years old, and back then on that terrible day I had a chubby, gurgling, smiley 8 month old baby. 

With the anniversary of 9/11 there have been lots of photos reprinted and documentaries on television about the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001, and the images are no less shocking now than they were then. My thoughts are with everyone who was directly affected by the events of 11th Sept '01. Those effects continue to this day. Even for those of us who lived a world away, the events of that day had huge and lasting repercussions in many cases. There was the hasty realisation that you really do only get one chance at life, and you never know when it may be extinguished. It was certainly a catalyst for our move to Aotearoa/New Zealand in October 2002. Back then I lived in Aberdeenshire, in north-east Scotland and within a few months of the attacks, the idea had been cemented in our minds that we would follow a long-held dream of going to live in the Antipodes, either Australia or New Zealand. That so many people died such a shocking death on 11.9.01 seems utterly futile. Ten years on, the world feels no "safer" and 9/11 survivors are coming down with illnesses caused by inhaling toxic dust as the towers collapsed. My heart goes out to all of them.

I know that the poppy is the traditional flower for remembrance, but I associate daffodils with 9/11 as here in NZ the daffs are usually blooming beautifully by the 11th September. . .
On Thursday morning, I was walking back from school on my day off when I saw these beautiful daffodils and snapped a photo on my iPhone. I was filled with wonder and happiness at their simple beauty, a feeling of being glad to be alive, the sun was shining and all was well in the world. Then a minute later the iPhone buzzed and a text message arrived from the Wifie: Hey I heard on the news that the Mapua Aquarium burnt down early this morning! Very sad :( 

What a quick change in emotions. I was gutted that such a thing could happen to such a well-loved facility in the village, and my first thoughts were with all the amazing sea creatures that would surely have perished. Secondly I wondered if it was due to an electrical fault or something more sinister. At lunchtime I heard on RadioNZ national radio that it was a "suspicious fire", and I began to wonder what on earth would make a person do something so destructive. Then I looked it up online and found this report (with photos) in the Nelson Mail. Below is what the Aquarium used to look like, and it was a very popular attraction with tourists and locals alike.

After school, a lot of the parents took their children down to the wharf to see the extent of the damage. . . it was truly shocking.

Down at the wharf everyone was just flabberghasted that this could have happened. Children and adults were visibly shocked and upset to see the devastation wrought overnight. People stood around in a daze. Sonny Jim said that as word spread at school, children just kept asking "WHY would anyone do this?!" The thought of all those fish, seahorses, sharks and stingrays, turtles and eels dying a horrible death was almost too much to bear. We stayed about 15 minutes, looking sadly at the wreckage, commiserating with friends almost like a bereavement, and were just about to leave when suddenly we heard a child saying "One turtle got out alive!" Sonny Jim raced off in the direction the child told him and I followed on behind. There in a blue plastic box, watched over by the Aquarium's educator, was the only survivor of Mapua Aquarium's fire: a red-eared slider turtle dubbed "Phoenix" the next day by the local newspaper. . . a phoenix rising from the ashes. There is strong community support for the aquarium to be rebuilt, but at this stage I have no idea whether this is a realistic possibility. Latest news in the village is that there is to be an "Aquarium memorial service" down at the Mapua wharf on Weds 28th September at 3.30 pm. All welcome.
I had no answer for Sonny Jim about why someone would do something like this. As well as destroying someone's livelihood and a hub of activity down at the wharf, the culprit(s) killed hundreds of innocent sea creatures. However, the one thing we agreed was that whoever did it must be lacking in empathy and feelings for others. . . I only hope that they are caught and that they might yet be able to turn their life/lives around.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Knit. . . Vernal Equinox Shawl, Hitch-hiker scarf and yet more hexipuffs

I finished my second Vernal Equinox Shawl a couple of weeks ago and it was still just as remarkable to watch it turn from this shrivelled stringy thing. . .

into this lofty, lacy confection which is almost double the size of the one pictured above!
Lulu's Vernal Equinox shawl

The secret? Rigorous blocking - which (for the uninitiated) involves gently washing the shawl, then pinning it out on a firm surface, stretching it out so all the lace holes open up and you can suddenly see the true beauty of the pattern! 
This shawl is made with Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace which I dyed myself last year at a dyeing workshop run by Jeni of Fyberspates at "Get Knitted" in Bristol. It's hard to see the colour in these photos but it's a deep purply black, slightly darker than aubergine/eggplant. The pattern is Vernal Equinox Shawl Surprise by Lankakomero. It's a great pattern, as despite looking complex, it's actually pretty easy, and because each of the sections is different it keeps up the interest. As I never made any mistakes in my first one, I risked knitting this one without "lifelines" and I am pleased to say I got away with it :) You start knitting the shawl in the top centre with very few stitches and gradually increase as you work down the semi-circle, until by the end you have almost 500 stitches. There is a knitted or crochet cast off option, but I chose the crochet version again as I love the big loopy effect it gives to the edge. My other Vernal Equinox shawl is detailed here. But this one is a gift for my lovely Wifie, who loved the first one I made so much that she requested one of her own. . .

In other knitting news, I finished my Hitchhiker Scarf, and it really is quite striking. That was made with Knitsch 100% merino sock yarn and I love the way the colour has pooled in this project.
Finally, I am making slow progress with my hexipuffs for my Beekeeper's Quilt, they are great fun to knit but I only work on them while I am waiting - at swimming lessons, Health Centre, or as a passenger on car journeys so this will be another long-term "slow-cooked" project.
I am also experimenting with making a project bag for the hexipuffs, using scraps of bulky 12 ply wool which I have knitted into a giant hexipuff with an open top. I intend to full (felt) this in the washing machine to shrink it down and make it thicker and sturdier. Still a work in progress at the moment. . .

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thought for Thursday. . . Salutation to the dawn

Sunrise over the Waimea estuary

Look to this day! 
For it is life, the very life of life. 
In its brief course 
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence: 
The bliss of growth 
The glory of action 
The splendour of beauty.
For yesterday is but a dream 
And tomorrow is only a vision, 
But today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness 
And every tomorrow a vision of hope. 
Look well, therefore, to this day! 
Such is the salutation to the dawn.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eat. . . Bean curry

Bean curry with yogurt. . .
. . . or without!
This is another curry taught to me and a group of workmates several years ago by a former colleague, "R". She was so generous to have us in her home week after week and patiently teach us how to cook some of her delicious curries and accompaniments. The aloo gobhi recipe in this blog post is one of her recipes too. This bean curry recipe is one of my favourites though, because if you use tinned beans it is super-quick, and in any case it uses only store cupboard ingredients and is always fragrantly delicious. I was struggling to think what to cook on Monday evening after work, when I looked in the pantry and saw several tins of beans and chickpeas. Instantly I knew that a bean curry was just what we needed, and it's pictured above! The curry's proper name is "Lobia," which is mildly amusing in our household, but you could just call it "Bean Curry"! Here's the recipe:

Lobia/ Bean Curry

Either 2.5 cups dried black-eyed beans, soaked overnight and then boiled
Or 3 tins various beans, chickpeas etc. The curry above was made with 1 tin each of chickpeas, 4 bean mix and cannelini beans

Generous splash of oil
9 garlic cloves, minced
2 inches grated ginger root or 2 generous spoonfuls minced ginger
2 tsps cumin seeds, crushed
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 - 3 tsps salt
1/2 tsp chilli (or more to taste)
3-4 tsps ground coriander
1-2 tsps garam masala

Fry garlic and ginger in oil till really brown. Stir in beans and remaining ingredients. Bring to boil then simmer for approx 30 mins. Serve with basmati rice cooked with some cardamom pods, and an optional dollop of natural yogurt. 


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Love. . . Baking

My old recipe book
A well-worn page from my first ever recipe book, in my own handwriting
If you've had much of a browse through this blog then you have probably already realised that I love baking! I very much like cooking in general, but I absolutely LOVE baking!! This all began as a very small child, "helping" my mum bake cakes and scones, biscuits and pastries, with a finger stuck in the batter here and a stir of the mixture there, followed by the pleading request:"Can I lick the bowl, mum?!" At eight years old, in 1979, I realised I wanted a recipe book of my very own. By this time, I didn't live with my mum any more, but with my dad who was (and still is!) an excellent and inventive home cook. But my mum was more of a baker, and I wanted to be too! So one day when we were staying with her on holiday, she bought me a small notebook and I set about decorating the cover and then writing in some of my mum's tried and tested recipes: Nanna Parker's potato cakes, Ginger snaps, Idiot biscuits, Chocolate brownies, Daphnes sticky bread and Nanna Parker's fruit scones were the first entries in the book. 
Ginger snaps
Ginger snaps made to the recipe above
Back home again in Wales with my dad and brother, it became my self-appointed duty to bake something every Sunday afternoon. In those days we always had a big Sunday lunch, not necessarily a Sunday roast, but always a big substantial meal with main course and pudding, that dad would cook for us and have on the table about 1 pm. Once the meal was finished, it was his chance to sit down and put his feet up while my brother and I took charge of clearing the table and washing up the dishes. Finally it was my favourite part of the day and I could bake something for "Sweet Tea". This tradition came from my dad's parents and meant that each Sunday teatime we just had bread and butter, and a selection of cake, scones, crumpets, toasted teacakes etc. No "proper meal" on Sunday evenings, as the theory was that we had had such a big meal at lunchtime we wouldn't need it! Needless to say, that was my favourite meal of the week, and I loved baking something different each Sunday afternoon for Sweet Tea, a tradition that carried on well into my teenage years, even once my dad had re-married and we became a much larger "blended" family.

Recipe book shelf
One of our recipe book shelves in the kitchen
These days, my absolute go-to baking books are both by Alexa Johnston. "Ladies, a plate" and "A Second Helping" are the most well-used recipe books on our kitchen bookshelf, and if you check out this link you will find a wealth of free recipes from those two books! Of course, we do far more savoury cooking than sweet baking at home, but in most cases the main meals are made without recipes, whereas the alchemical mysteries of baking require a more precise approach. Two years ago I went to the "Writers and Readers Festival" at Founders' Park in Nelson and heard Alexa speak. She was so thoroughly entertaining and engaging, that when I heard she was coming to Nelson on 2nd September to promote her latest book "What's for Pudding?" I knew I must be there!

As ever, she was a delight to listen to, and as part of our ticket price we were offered two puddings from her new book: Lemon sago (pictured below) and Semolina halva. I have never had sago before, and lets just say it was "interesting" - I can certainly see why it is often referred to as "frogspawn"! 
Lemon sago (Alexa in background)
But there are plenty of very appealing recipes in this cookbook, and as in both her other books, Alexa has meticulously researched the genealogy of these old classics and trawled through countless old community cookbooks and other vintage recipe books to bring us these recipes, sometimes with a modern twist. I love how each recipe is preceded by some social history notes about its origin and development over the years. If you like the sound of apricot ice cream (1940), pistachio and cardamom kulfi (1959), melon and pineapple salad (1950s), cup custards (1861), sticky date pudding (1980s) or flaming baked Alaska (1967) this could be the cookbook for you! If you would like to read a review of the book (including a couple of recipes for Simple Orange Jelly and Chocolate Fudge Pudding, click "Why Pudding Still Matters." Thanks to KathyR from ravelry for the link.

As Alexa said on Friday, "Nobody NEEDS pudding. But by making a pudding you are showing love to those you make it for, and if anyone makes a pudding for you, you can be pretty sure they love you!"

Aroha (Love). . . Canterbury & CHCH 1 year on

Arohanui CHCH
"Love CHCH" cosy, against the backdrop of silt in Christchurch

Amazing to think it's 1 year today since the first earthquake, magnitude 7.1 struck near Christchurch. Miraculously, no-one died that day, but there was much worse to come on 22nd February with so many being injured or losing their lives, and there have now been more than 8,500 earthquakes/aftershocks in the region. Apparently, "Lights of Hope" will be switched on tonight to beam out over the city until 23rd February 2012.

Sending much love to all those who have suffered through this, or continue to be affected. You are not forgotten by the rest of us.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Knit. . . Faultline

Faultline shawlette
Washed and blocked shawlette hanging on the line
Close-up of the unblocked Fault line
Last week I spotted a beautiful new project on ravelry - the Faultline Shawlette, and even better - the designer was looking for testers! I couldn't resist volunteering, and so have been knitting on the Faultline as fast as I can for the last week. Gabriella, the designer, was living in Christchurch at the time of the major quakes and wants to release this pattern on the first anniversary of the 7.1 earthquake in Canterbury on 4th September. 25% of pattern sales will go to the NZ Red Cross in recognition of all the help they have provided (and still are providing) in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury area after the devastating earthquakes in September and February.

Knitsch Go Lightly 100% merino sock yarn
I knitted the Faultline using my second skein of Knitsch merino sock yarn in the "Go Lightly" colourway. The first skein I used to make Tower Bridge Mitts for S, and I loved the colour so much I bought some more. It is a different dye lot and slightly lighter than the first skein, but I love it just as much. The shawlette is a great design, with its fault-line edging and fully reversible pattern. It is easy enough for someone inexperienced with lace knitting, but has enough interest to capture a more experienced knitter's attention. Because of the way it is knit sideways, it is easy to weigh your remaining yarn as you go to determine where the halfway point should be, thereby getting the best use out of your yarn. I highly recommend this pattern, even to someone who has never knitted lace or a shawl. It's one of the easiest patterns out there, yet looks so good when finished. . .

Unwashed, unblocked shawlette on the washing line.
Faultline shawlette
Me modelling the finished Faultline shawlette
Link to my ravelry project page here. I'm not sure who this will be for - could be a gift, could be for me. Time will tell.

In other knitting, the Hitch-hiker Scarf is progressing well, and is almost finished. Hexapuff count stands at 13. . . but I haven't knitted any for over a week while concentrating on the Faultline. My two lace-weight shawls, the Vernal Equinox and the Fountain Pen are still waiting patiently for me to stop being so distractible and get back to working on them! They are both looking beautiful, but require a high degree of concentration, so progress is slower. But they will both definitely be finished in time to enter in the Nelson A & P show's knitting contest. I had great fun entering last year and even managed to gain a few placings in the knitting and spinning sections, which was a bit of a thrill :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thought for Thursday. . . The turning tide

Tide crashing in at Ruby Bay

"The lowest ebb comes before the turning tide." (Unknown)