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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Love. . . My NZ Mum

Survivors' Lap of the Cancer Society Relay for Life, March 2012

My feisty, funny and beautiful mother-in-law died last Wednesday after heart surgery. We were told the mortality risk was approximately 10%, but she never regained consciousness. Her body just couldn't take it. I guess we all want to imagine that OUR loved ones will end up in the lucky 90%.

We had a service on Saturday to celebrate her life, and it ended up with us laughing as much as crying :) I spoke in front of everyone, telling tales of funny things she got up to, and how much she meant to me. So much more than a mother-in-law, more like my NZ mum, as all my family live in the UK. Though it was difficult to make it through what I had to say, it had the desired effect of  giving everyone a good laugh remembering what a wonderful woman she was. My heartbroken yet brave son also spoke, and I am so incredibly proud of him for being so gutsy, articulate and compassionate all rolled into one amazing boy.

This morning (Monday) the same thought kept going round in my head all the time "The last time I had Monday, I had you."  

Certainly not great poetry, but it got that phrase out of my system! 

The last time I had Monday, I had you

The last time I had Monday, I had you . . .
And yet it seems so strange we never knew.
You hugged me tight and cried to say goodbye
And somehow now I wonder did you know?

Of course you couldn’t KNOW
But maybe you could tell,
Percentages are just a downright lie.
For each of us will either
Live or die.

The last time I had Monday, I had you . . .
And everything I ever thought I knew
Since then has turned to dust along with you.

The only thing remaining is the truth . . .
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
He aroha, he aroha, he aroha.
‘Tis people and ‘tis love!
This really is enough.

The last time I had Monday, I had you . . .
And now I realise
In my heart,
Within me
I still

Arohanui . . . xxxxxxx

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Knit. . . Honey Cowl, Rainbow Bird socks and a few other things

Well, it's been months since I updated this blog. I foolishly decided I wanted to get my Project 41 photo-a-day blog up-to-date first and it has apparently taken me 5 months to catch up with myself! But this afternoon I have finally done it and Project 41 is up-to-the-minute.

Which brings me to my much-neglected but still very much loved Eat, Knit, Love. Five months wait for a "Knit" post, so you can imagine I have heaps to share! I will just highlight a few projects and for the rest you will just have to go and find me on www.ravelry.com if you really want to know :)

The things I have worn most this winter have been my two Honey Cowls, one in vintage green merino and one in variegated brown Malbrigo Rios yarn. I confess the Malabrigo one (at the top of the page) totally stole my heart and I have hardly worn anything else around my neck all winter. It even works with one loop around the neck and one over the head for a makeshift scarf/hat combo! Who knew a cowl could be so useful and versatile?!

I ended up ripping back my Rainbow Bird socks ("Nightingale" pattern by Vintage Purls) to make them a more wearable length for me. I finally finished them on 25th April, after more than a year on the needles! They are being kept in pristine condition until the A&P Show in November and then I will get to wear them at last during winter 2013.

I got several gifts knitted, including a revamped pair of Musica mitts, some sideways gloves, a Haruni shawl, some fingerless gloves, not one but TWO dog jackets for the same hypothermic canine belonging to friends of ours, and a handspun Milo vest. The Haruni Shawl was one of my entries in the 2012 Ravellenic Games (a knitting event running alongside the Olympic Games.)  

In between the gift knitting I also completed three cardigans for me. . . and one of those was for the Ravellenic Games too. . . a Goodale by Cecily Glowik McDonald, using Vintage Purls Max yarn in a colourway named "Kizzy".

That's a brief whizz through some of what I have been knitting in the last few months. . . More regular updates from now on hopefully!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eat. . . Anzac biscuits

Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) troops at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. Anzac biscuits were baked across Australia and New Zealand and sent to the troops overseas during World War 1. They keep very well in an airtight tin or box, and use golden syrup to bind them rather than egg, as eggs were so scarce during the war years. See this webpage for more information (and an almost identical recipe!)

Nearly every year, as well as attending the local Anzac Parade I make a batch of Anzac biscuits to celebrate Anzac Day. I always use the recipe I was given on my first trip to Australia back in 1993, when I got my first taste of Anzac biscuits. There are lots of different versions, but these ones have worked well for me for years, and I hope you find the same.

Anzac Biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
125 g butter (substitute margarine at your peril!)
2 tblsps golden syrup
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tblsp boiling water

Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut in a big bowl. Melt butter and syrup in saucepan. Mix bicarb of soda with boiling water, add to melted butter mixture and stir this into dry ingredients. Mix well.  Add a tiny bit more water if the mixture is too dry to stick together. Place a little more than teaspoon amounts on a greased tray. Allow room for spreading. Bake in slow oven (150C) for 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

PS It is important to use actual butter rather than margarine for these biscuits, as butter will give a good firm crunchy biscuit when cooled. Margarine gives a rather soft result, but I suppose some people like it that way?!

Pipe band lead Mapua Anzac Parade 2012

Some of the crowd at the Mapua Anzac service 2012

Two old soldiers lay a wreath on behalf of the Moutere Hills RSA

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Love. . . Hot air ballooning

Yes, we finally got airborne with Up, Up and Away on Saturday 7th April, and views like this sunrise were our reward! Hot air ballooning was amazing, an incredible experience and I am so glad we persevered through our 5 previous (failed) attempts to be "6th time lucky!"

The balloon was absolutely vast, and it took almost an hour to inflate it. . .

It is the second largest balloon in New Zealand, with a weight of 380 kg and it inflates to 340,000 cubic feet!
The balloon was made back in the city of my birth - Bristol, by renowned hot air balloon manufacturers Cameron Balloons "the world's most experienced balloon manufacturers."

The views were outstanding. . .

I was a wee bit nervous about the landing, but in the end it was pretty uneventful. The trouble is, hot air balloons don't have landing gear (!!) and once the basket hits the deck the balloon tends to keep going, dragging the basket with it. So the basket often tips right over and you land on your back! Brace position essential! However, we ended up only teetering on the diagonal for a while before the basket righted itself again, and as we dangled there diagonally we all burst out laughing. I certainly never expected the landing to be so funny! The next job was to fold the balloon back up again. . .

and then get the balloon and basket back onto the trailer again. . .

Finally we had the traditional champagne (or Fresh-up!) breakfast, and got anointed on our foreheads by the pilot with a cork dipped in champagne, as he recited the hot air balloonist's blessing!

So, if you ever get the chance to go hot air ballooning, I highly recommend it! It has been a dream of mine since childhood, and I can definitely say it was well worth the wait :) Apart from the necessary blasts of the gas burner, it is such a peaceful sensation, floating quietly along above the scenery, and certainly an experience I will remember for a very long time!

Photo copyright "Up, Up and Away"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thought for Thursday. . . This is not how the story is going to end!

With thanks to "Daily Vitamins for the Soul" (Facebook feed.)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Knit. . . Fingerless mitts, Facecloths and Fable cowl

What to knit as a birthday present for a musical knitter? Hmmm, how about "Musica" fingerless mitts? Seemed like a plan, and indeed they were very well received by K, a piano-playing knitter friend of mine. Only one problem. . . they turned out way too big! They were a bit baggy on me and on the birthday girl they were pretty much unwearable! She generously suggested they could just be draped artistically on the piano, but of course I wasn't content with that so have offered to knit another pair using smaller needles, and hope that they fit better!

In other knitting news I have been busily making face cloths for all and sundry from two balls of "Peaches and Creme" cotton yarn procured at "Unwind" Fibre Retreat. Mostly using the "Double Bump" free pattern from ravelry, but also making up a simple 3st repeat basket-weave pattern to use up the remainders.

Meanwhile, I had volunteered to test-knit a cowl pattern for a local friend, but my heels were dragging due to lack of suitable yarn. The trip to Dunedin gave me the opportunity to buy a couple of possible options and with guidance from the designer herself (!) I eventually chose some Flagstaff Alpaca yarn, hand-dyed by Doe Arnott, founder of The Oamaru Textile Emporium. Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern - will add modelled shots when I have some.

The pattern is Fable Cable Cowl by Jessica Powers. It's a really straightforward knit - knit flat and quickly memorised, with a very pleasing and wearable result. The only thing that is a little tedious is grafting the two ends together with Kitchener stitch, but the result is well worth the effort.

I have just started a "Breast hat" by Megan Grewal, for little M, my almost-grand-daughter. It's going well so far, but just like the musical mitts looks like it might be a bit big. More on that next time. . .

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thought for Thursdsay. . . Think big!

Mural spotted at Waimea College, Richmond. . .

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eat. . . Welsh Cakes

Welsh cakes are a fond memory from my childhood, growing up in South Wales. In recent years I have begun making them a few times a year, and I always make some on St David's Day (he's the Patron Saint of Wales.) I guess you could call it a "new tradition" of mine, but don't tell Sonny Jim, as when we were discussing this concept recently he witheringly told me that "New traditions are axiomatically atypical!" on the basis that a tradition has to be old, in order to have become a tradition. . . but as I reminded him, all traditions had to start somewhere! Anyway, I digress. . .

This year I made Welsh cakes on the 1st March as usual, and took them for a shared lunch at the Wifie's workplace in Motueka. No-one there had tried Welsh cakes before, but everyone liked them and they were intrigued as to how they are baked on a bakestone or griddle rather than in the oven. I am not lucky enough to own a traditional bakestone, so have to make do with a heavy based frying pan, but that does an adequate job. . . A Welsh friend told me that in many old houses in Wales, the bakestone belongs with the house, so that when the house is sold the bakestone stays behind for the new owners. . . what a wonderful concept.

The following recipe is from the little "Welsh Teatime Recipes" book I was given a couple of years ago by a dear friend in Wales. No author is listed but the publisher is Salmon Publishing. You can tell all the recipes in the book are traditional as there are no metric measurements used throughout, but hopefully that won't cause you too much consternation! Any substitutions/changes that I usually make are in brackets.

Welsh Cakes or "Pice ar y maen"/"Tiesen Gri."

1 lb plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch allspice (or ground mixed spice)
(1-2  tsps cinnamon in addition, I like my Welsh cakes spicy!)
A pinch of salt
3 oz butter
3 oz lard (I just use 6 oz butter and no lard)
(6 or) 7 oz caster sugar
4 oz seedless raisins (or currants)
2 eggs, beaten
Milk to mix
Caster sugar to sprinkle on top

Stir together flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the fat. Add sugar and dried fruit. Add beaten eggs to the mixture with a little milk to make a stiff dough.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4" and cut into 2" rounds with a cutter.

Cook on a greased griddle or heavy based frying pan over a low heat for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown.

Lay cooked Welsh cakes on a clean tea towel and sprinkle with sugar, then fold tea towel over the top to keep them warm. Serve with butter if desired.

(These freeze very well and make great lunchbox treats!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Love. . . ravelry and Unwind Fibre Retreat, Dunedin

I joined ravelry on 1st December 2007, and I can honestly say it has revolutionised my crafting life! Quite an achievement for something that modestly describes itself as a "free site for knitters and crocheters."

To quote directly from the ravelry site: "Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user-driven; we as a community make the site what it is. Ravelry is a great place for you to keep notes about your projects, see what other people are making, find the perfect pattern and connect with people who love to play with yarn from all over the world in our forums."

Simply put, ravelry has opened up a whole world of patterns, projects, inspiration and online/real life friends, and all completely for free! 

At its most basic level it is a kind of "online knitting notebook" where you can store details of current and past knitted/crocheted projects. All the vital info such as needle size yarn type and amount used, and project notes. 

You can also use ravelry to catalogue your stashed yarns and crochet hook/knitting needle collection, though I confess I am very remiss in those areas. . . It is a very comprehensive online database of knitting and crochet patterns, many of which are available for download via ravelry itself, either as free patterns or with the payment going directly to the designer. It is a great way of networking with people who have a similar interest in all things woolly, and there are groups and discussion boards for almost anything you can imagine, including baking, dyeing, origami, regional groups, groups related to specific yarns or techniques, iPhones, dog breeds, flight attendants, spinners, tattoos, piercings and the LGBT community!

Unwind on the first day. . .
Without ravelry I would never have heard of Vintage Purls, based in Dunedin, and so almost certainly the inaugural Unwind Fibre Retreat would have passed me by! I have just got back from four days of woolly adventures in Dunedin, meeting new people, making new friends and learning heaps as well as having far too much yarny temptation put in my way! Lucky that when I agreed to go on a "yarn diet" this year, I made one exception for myself - Unwind Dunedin!

The yarny treats on offer
There were a whole host of classes on offer, and far too many to actually do all of the ones I was interested in! But I narrowed it down to four, and did practical workshops on knitting and purling backwards (Morag McKenzie of Vintage Purls), Spindle spinning (Frances Stachl of Spindles by Sourkraut), plus steeking and book-binding with all round super-knowledgeable person Stella Lange. Each class was three hours long, and very hands on. All of the workshops except book-binding gave us enough time to finish what we had started, but all of us keen book-binders stayed late in order to finish our books.
First go at steeking - aka cutting your knitting. . . Scary stuff!!

My first attempt at spindle spinning, using a "SpindlesbySourkraut" rewarewa wood spindle

My first piece of Coptic book-binding

Whilst I was in Dunedin I really wanted to go and visit the Rongo Stone, which is a memorial to the Taranaki Māori who died as prisoners in Dunedin. 

This memorial was unveiled in 1987. Most of the Māori were followers of the pacifist Māori leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, and they were taken prisoner during Crown raids on the settlement of Parihaka back in November 1881. More than 400 prisoners were sent to the South Island including Dunedin, and used as forced labour, many succumbing to illness and over-work. Thanks to one of my new knitting friends who lived locally and had a car, we made the journey to the Rongo Stone, and I was able to pay my respects to all those who died so unnecessarily. Thanks J, I never would have got there without you. . .

The day after the Unwind Fibre Retreat was finished, there was an optional bus trip to Milton Mill and Flagstaff Alpaca Farm. I stayed on an extra night specially so I could go on this trip, and it was a real treat! We even got to meet a day old cria, as well as loads of other beautiful (if somewhat soggy!) alpacas. . .

I had an absolutely wonderful weekend and came home buzzing with excitement and inspiration. I am definitely hoping to go again next year, and even have a cunning plan to take my mum, who will be visiting from the UK ;-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Knit. . . "Comfort Slippers", a Fishy Hat and a couple of mysteries.

Children's Fishing Competition hat
There was to be a Children's Fishing Competition at the local wharf, and the likelihood of catching any fish was pretty slim. However, Sonny Jim reckoned he could be in with a chance at getting a prize for "Best Dressed Fisherman" if only I could come up with a costume for him at a few days' notice! So, I scrabbled around in the cupboards and found a length of fabric adorned with a shark print, which would suffice for a fish-hunter's cape. But February is summer and so young Sonny Jim needed a hat to keep the sun off. I rescued one of his discarded ("because it's not cool!") school sun hats and found some fish left over from my epic fish blanket (finished last year). Et voilà! One fishing costume, with a brim large enough to hook the fish up onto at the front, when they got too annoying!

Not only did the young man scoop the coveted "best dressed" prize, but this Fishy Hat also won me a prize in the 12-in-2012 group on ravelry, for daring to be quirky! Which comes naturally to both the son and me!! Two prizes from one impromptu costume - what a score! Not bad for a bit of fabric, an old sun hat, some stuffing and 16 knitted fish!!

And for myself, I managed to complete a pair of Comfort Slippers for Japan, by Reiko Arato - a fund-raising pattern for disaster relief efforts in Japan.

These slippers are just perfect for late summer/early autumn, when you don't need anything too toasty, but bare feet on cold lino floors isn't too much fun either. I have worn them lots since I finished them, and I made them from Lana Grossa Meilenweit Cotton Spirit, which I know from experience is a very hard-wearing yarn. Definitely a hit!

I was working on a Mystery Knitalong shawl, but have put that to one side for now in favour of more pressing things, such as birthday presents. However, I will show you a progress pic as the last clue has been available for over a week and many participants in the knitalong have long since finished the entire shawl, so hopefully I am not spoiling anyone's surprise. . .

Part of the shawl at the end of clue 1 (with stitch markers handmade by the beautiful Derailme)
The other mysteries will have to remain just that, as they are birthday presents for two ravelry friends who sometimes frequent this blog. However, all will be revealed next month :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thought for Thursday. . . The world in which you were born is just one model of reality.

The Te Korowai Trust logo,  freshly painted onto their Relay for Life banner

"The world in which you were  born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you, they are unique manifestations of the human spirit."
(Wade Davis)

and another one, especially for all of us New Zealanders. . .

The Treaty is simply the most important document in New Zealand's history.
(Sir Robin Cooke)

Last week, I attended a Treaty of Waitangi course, run by Robert Consedine of Waitangi Associates, and these two quotes were on the wall for us to ponder during our two day course. Much food for thought. . . If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of these Treaty courses, I can't recommend it enough - it was amazing!

Is it a coincidence, then, that this evening on the way back from swimming, 11 year old Sonny Jim and I were engaged in a frank discussion about the theft of Māori land by successive NZ governments, and how the theft caused a lack of economic base and the Crown's disregard for the Treaty of Waitangi has been so damaging? And if a law existed that didn't suit the government because they might have had to take Māori rights into consideration, then they changed the law. I explained to SJ that while I was walking around Motueka this afternoon, I was pondering that I was walking on stolen ground. We both considered how WE would feel if our land and resources were taken from us (angry, resentful, lacking trust in the "establishment" etc). We discussed the notion of guardianship of land, sea and natural resources rather than ownership, and whatever happened to the tenths reserves?! It all seems very straightforward to SJ - the stolen land, or plenty of money to attempt to make up for its theft should be returned to the Māori iwi as soon as possible. And that's the end of that! I have to say I agree with him.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Eat. . . Homemade halloumi and ricotta cheese

Knitapotamus' Adventures in Cheeseland - Part 3!!
Fried, sliced halloumi with ratatouille
So, having gained some confidence from successfully making feta and mozzarella cheese in the last few weeks, I turned my attention to Halloumi (or "squeaky cheese!) This is one of my all-time favourite cheeses, and a pretty expensive one, so I was really keen to try making it. The recipe I was following called for 10 litres of milk, but I don't yet have a pan big enough for that, so settled for 5 litres Wangapeka Dairy milk instead. One of the great things about halloumi, is that while the halloumi is pressing you can make ricotta cheese from the whey, so two cheeses for the price of one! Here's what happened. . .

Heat milk up to 32C, add veggie rennet and once curds have formed, cut them up then cook them at 38C
I think it's the cooking at 38C for half an hour that gets the firm but elastic (& squeaky!) texture.

Pile the cooked curds into a large feta/halloumi frame 
The feta/halloumi frame above was from Mapua Country Trading.

Press the halloumi for half an hour whilst making ricotta from the whey
Heat up the whey to around 90C, add salt and vinegar and gradually strain off ricotta
About 200g of ricotta cheese, after draining in a muslin-lined sieve
Meanwhile, back to the halloumi. As you can see, this is quite a process - the most involved cheese-making episode so far!

Unwrap the pressed halloumi and cut it into 8 or 10 pieces
Lower the blocks of halloumi into 85-90C whey, to cook for 30 mins.
All the blocks of halloumi are added to the whey to be cooked together. Now, I don't think this is necessarily supposed to happen, but I found that while the halloumi cooked, little bits of ricotta curds kept coming to the surface for me to strain off and add to the rest in the sieve. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the tiny bits of ricotta curd floating in the whey. . . and you can also see some little bits of ricotta stuck to the halloumi blocks in the next photo.

Cooked halloumi blocks
Sliced halloumi fried in a tiny bit of olive oil
Sonny Jim's favourite way to eat halloumi is fried and drizzled with sweet chilli sauce
I have to say that for $10 worth of milk (5 litres) we got a big result! 900 grammes of halloumi cheese, and 200g of ricotta. I checked the prices in the supermarket yesterday and the halloumi was $8.95 for a 100g block, ricotta $5.50 for an equivalent amount. In other words, it would have cost us around $86 to have bought that much cheese from the supermarket!! Not that we even buy halloumi more than once a year usually, I have to admit. Of course we can't (and arguably "shouldn't"!) eat 900g of halloumi in one sitting, but luckily it keeps well in the fridge in a whey/water/salt brine, and we are sharing it around a bit too. The (low fat) ricotta keeps well in an airtight box in the fridge for several days. But who would have thought that my cheese-making endeavours could actually save us that much money?!! At least that is my spin on it, my ploy to keep on making cheese - I'm enjoying the cheese-making so much, and somehow no matter how much I make we seem to manage to eat it all up :)