31 July 2007

everything and the kitchen sink

Today was bookended by magnificent skies.

A glorious red and pink sunrise that had faded to naught by the time I hauled myself out of bed and reached for my camera.

Tonight as I was driving to collect Son #1 from a friend’s house and stopped to get petrol, milk and butter, the clouds were gold rimmed and racing across the pale evening sky. My shawl flapped across my face as I fought to get the nozzle into the petrol pump. My camera was at home.

So you get knitting pictures.

dishcloth3

This was cast on during lunch on Friday; a wonderful lunch with some good friends which was followed by a trip to the most glorious shop in the country.

We ate, laughed, knitted, snuggled babies and talked about everything but the kitchen sink, and the next day the dishcloth was off the needles and in service.

dishcloth in action

In the kitchen sink.

27 July 2007

this is not a book blog

I have a huge great bookish post floating about in my head but no time to put it down in any articulate sort of form.

So I will have to content myself with a brainspill, rather than the erudite, thoughtful prose that whirls about my brain but comes out as half formed gobbledygook when I hit the keyboard.

Herewith, my readings lately:

The generous and darling Babelbabe sent me a beautiful hardcover copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful work Animal Vegetable Miracle which I see has been affecting people all over the blogosphere in much the same way Jackie French’s book Backyard Self Sufficiency did to me several years ago when I became obsessed with filling my tiny innercity garden with productive plants, heritage apples, unusual fruits and heirloom vegetables. That real This Book Changed My Life kind of feeling. I’ve always been a label reader in the supermarket and generally shopped in the free-range, organic, crunchy aisles, but Kingsolver’s book has made me take things a step further, and vow to actually ditch the zucchini and green beans in winter, not just sigh and say But I need tomatoes on my winter pizza. As a result our intake of The Ugly Vegetables (turnips, swedes, parsnips and the deliciously hideous celeriac) has gone up alarmingly. The buy local thing is a tad harder. I like to buy organic butter for instance, but when I read the label, I discovered it’s from Denmark. And all those natural organic goodies don’t make up for the fossil fuel miles. Ah, the evangelism of the newly converted.

Moving right along.

I am re-reading the 6th Harry Potter in an attempt to refresh my poor ailing mind as to all the important plot bits that I’ll need in order to be right up with the twists and turns of HP7 which was smuggled into the Soup Residence on Monday. [Trans. The 13 year old and the 11 year old found it immediately and are taking it in turns to read and I’m not getting a look in].

Um, what else?

I recently read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A good read that kept me turning the pages and a twist at the end which I brilliantly foresaw and so felt extremely clever indeed. Not a brilliant raveworthy book, but a decent timewaster and with old crumbly gothic mansions and overpainted elderly crones with dark secrets and lots of Jane Eyre references, what’s not to like?

I listened (on story tape from the library) to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and just loved it. A ripping yarn all about historians, librarians, archivists and Dracula. Yum. Must keep an eye out for it in the op shops so I can have a hard copy on my bookshelf. Currently every time I go into my local oppie they seem to have acquired yet another copy of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Bridges of Madison County. Why is that?

When I finished listening to the above in the car, the library only had a couple of books-on-tape of books which I had already read (on paper the old fashioned way, which reminds me, there’s a fabulous Youtube video out there called something like Middle Ages Tech Support, which I can’t link to because I’m at home and this old machine doesn’t do youtube but I watched it yesterday at work courtesy of my boss [she’s a great boss] …so go google it all you medievalists and historians, yes, you’re welcome) um … oh yes I picked up Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, as I said, both books I’d already read, but it was wonderful revisiting them by ear, so to speak. (World’s longest most terrible sentence in one paragraph? Why, yes).

After they had finished I found The Song of Troy which I grabbed somewhat greedily, owing to my mild Homeric obsession, and then glancing at the cover noticed it was by Colleen McCullough. Yep, that one. Oh well, I thought, might be something in there to feed the obsession. Somewhere, in those 28 cassettes in the enormous box. Well, slap me happy, but it was fun! Each chapter is narrated by a different character, both Trojans and Greeks, and some get more than one turn. Okay, much of it is heavy handed, and some of the characterisations were awful (I didn’t like Hector being turned into a boor, and Helen was ghastly but hey that’s a perfectly valid character interpretation I guess …) and the scene from Iliad Book 24 in which Priam pleads Achilles for Hector’s body was woeful and oh I could go on. But there was a lot of inventive stuff too about the argument between Agamemnon and Achilles being a ruse thought up by Odysseus to lure the Trojans out from behind their walls, and a failed rescue attempt of Iphigenia by Achilles and Patrocles that formed a central psychological reason for Achilles’ anger, that made me ponder. Some bits worked and others didn’t but it was all interesting. Well you know except for the boring bits. And the gory bloody bits. Hey, it’s a fairly long commute to work and back twice a week and one can only listen to 774 for so long. I finished the tapes yesterday and now it’s back to Red, Jon and Lindy until I can get to the library. Another thing I wanted to say (collective groan?) was that the way McCullough dealt with the divine elements in the Trojan story reminded me of Mary Stewart’s treatment of Merlin’s wizardry in her Arthurian trilogy (the Arthurian legend being another mild obsession of mine, ahem). The magical or divine elements are shown to be ruses or simple tricks of deception, yet the gods are a central part of daily life. And it’s this move away from fantasy into the realms of more plausible historical narrative that attracts me, not being much of a fantasy fan really. (I’ve tried to read Lord of the Rings, I’ve really tried. The movies are better because I get to drool over admire Orlando Bloom’s, um ... acting).

Bored yet? Half of you gone off to Youtube?

I have by my bed Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. For bookgroup. I do find Margaret Atwood hard going sometimes though. I loved Alias Grace, was mesmerised by The Handmaid’s Tale (shudder) but struggled with The Blind Assassin a couple of weeks ago and gave it up. A friend told me to try again, but I’m not in the mood currently. Am going ok with Oryx and Crake and it’s holding my interest, but HP6 is fighting for top of the pile status.

To continue the themes of the above two paragraphs – Atwood and Homer - (still with me? Come back tomorrow for knitting, do), I gobbled down in one night (!) (a triumph rarely achieved by me since the heady days of Enid Blyton’s boarding school books) The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. This is one of Karen Armstrong’s commissioned series of myths retold by modern authors including A.S. Byatt, Jeanette Winterson and Chinua Achebe among others, none of which I have read although I do have the introductory volume A Short History of Myth by Armstrong herself. The Penelopiad is told by Penelope from her home in modern day Hades, and is full of humour and wit mixed with grief at the fate of the twelve hanged serving maids. There’s some interesting stuff at the end about the relevance of the maids’ death to the old matriarchal religion, but the strength of the book is in the worldweary voice of Penelope. I’ll definitely be looking out for the other myths in the series. To feed the obsession, you know.

Oh, I also got halfway through The Kite Runner before the library demanded it back to give to the next person in the queue. I immediately put it on hold again and the computer informed me that I am number 37 in line. So I bought it for Mr Soup for his birthday. Nothing like a thoughtful, sincere birthday present eh? I am such a classy woife.

And now, a gratuitous picture of the dog. For Janet.

Why don't you put me on your blog? I'm cute.

Why don't you put me on your blog more often? I'm cute.

25 July 2007

... has come into my world ...

ray

It’s been such a cold wet and grey winter so far.

It was heavenly to see a little ray of sunshine.

a little ray

24 July 2007

Behold! More kitchen adventures.

tiling

We have tiles.

tiles and tap

And a tap.

tile & pancakes

And a son who cooks buttermilk pancakes for breakfast Sunday.

breakfast sunday

With a homegrown lemon.

22 July 2007

little acorn

In the midst of birthday celebrations (the mister’s) and a weekend away with five adults, eight children and four dogs, I cranked out this.

acorn hat

And pardon my lack of humility, but I’m rather proud of it.

I was meandering through another one of these in green, and searching through the stash for a dark green wool for the leaves, to thus create a zucchini, when I happened upon a sort of tan coloured yarn.

acorn hat top detail

As chance would have it, I had a bowl of acorns at hand (as you do) and it struck me that it would be fun to make an acorn hat. I had very little of the tan wool, but found a half ball of beige and tried working with both balls at once, using a moss stitch to get the appropriate bumpy effect.

The hat is not without its mistakes as I learnt as I went along, and neglected to rip back and correct things. If you try this, make your decreases a purl two together rather than sl1k1psso, for a nice bumpy stitch that blends in. I fudged the decreases, and didn’t count or make them regular, as I wanted the decreases to be unobtrusive.

acorn hat

Because we were away, I didn’t have access to the internet which was a Good Thing because I wasn’t tempted to go looking for a pattern and find this which I vaguely remember seeing months ago; a fact my subconscious only let me acknowledge after my own version was complete. So I had to make it up as I went along, something I’ve not done before (the vegetable hat is really just a variation on the umbilical hat, as I’ve said before), and as a result this little project really feels like my own invention.

acorn hat detail

I am normally a pattern follower so this whole exercise was a huge learning curve for me, and I am ridiculously pleased with myself.

While Googling the 6.5st link for this post, the trail led to Cari’s pattern and I discovered the top of that hat appears to be a basketweave stitch, whereas mine is a moss. Also I didn’t do ear flaps.

So. Quite different. Phew, I’d hate my subconscious to be accused of plagiarism.

More acorn joyousness found on my Googling adventure here, ohmygodlook here, here, here, a pattern for a fifteenth century acorn cap here and of course the Queen of Links here and that lot should keep you busy.

Oakie Doke. Now to find a baby who will wear my little prototype and not look too closely at the mistakes.

18 July 2007

random literary line up

Spotted on the floor of Son #2’s bedroom.

Hardy Boys

Looks like he’s inherited the gene.

17 July 2007

more small knitteds (updated)

Instant gratification is all the rage these days, no? Certainly I can’t seem to knuckle down to large projects right now, and am contenting myself with small achievements.

I made a pair of these in black, for a customer but forgot to photograph them so you’ll have to use your imagination. (Or, you know, follow the link and squint). This is a pattern from Knitty, tweaked to include a little cabling detail and a picot cast off. They’re also almost gauntlet length as I was engrossed in a movie (The Italian Job, the 1969 version with Michael Caine and Noel Coward) and kept on going before I realised I needed to include a thumb hole. I hope the recipient appreciates the extra length in this coldest winter in seven years we’re experiencing.


Other productive moments of late include the finalising of some baby gifts that have been hanging around knitted but not stuffed for far too long.

Baby C's gnome

Grover's gnome
And another cotton washcloth, knitted in a basketweave stitch with a moss stitch border. I’ve taken to using these as dishcloths when they get a little old and lose their softness, and find the crunchiness perfect in the kitchen.

washcloth





In other (non-knitting related) developments, Son #2 needs a new pair of shoes.

filthy shoes

Update: Following all the floor-love comments I thought I'd better set you all straight; this floor isn't mine, sadly. It's at Federation Square in the centre of town. There are 7865 of these sandstone tiles.

9 July 2007

School holidays are for ...

• staying in your jarmies till mid afternoon

• blogging while the children watch a dvd

• eating cold roast vegetables for breakfast, straight from the Tupperware

• 'working from home'

• the never ending chore of collecting kindling

kindling

• listening to the Hoodoo Gurus on the stereo, thereby regaining some street cred with my children who looked up in amazement and awe that Mum could possibly know "awesome music like that"

• catching up with friends (late afternoons, once dressed)

• hitting the library to read Tin Tin and borrow books, including another audio book (Magic Faraway Tree read by Kate Winslet)

library

• hanging out for the new Harry Potter book and fillum

• hot chocolate

hot chocolate

• Demented Lego Army (installation by Son #3)

demented army

• hitting the book section at the op shop. Someone was throwing out their Amy Tans. Got a fabulous stack of children's books too, deserving of their own post

books

• small knitting projects.

gumnut gnomes from korknisse pattern

7 July 2007

8 random

Tagged by Janet.

If I plug the word random into the search blog facility up there at the top of the page I see I’ve done variations on this meme several times already, but hey my whole blog is random, so here I go again, quite happily.

1. I’ve ended up subscribed to several magazines this year, which is unusual for me. Three I’ve arranged myself, one is a gift from my electricity supplier for ordering green electricity and the other was a gift from mum. They are Earth Garden, Yarn, Donna Hay, Home Beautiful and Australian Country Style. I leave it to you to work out which ones I bought. I rarely get time to read them anyway. I barely get to look at the weekend papers either. Sigh.

2. When I finish typing this I will make bread and a chocolate Armenian nutmeg cake. We’re having roast lamb tonight, with all the vegies I bought from the Warrandyte market this morning – celeriac, pumpkin, a turnip, parsnips and carrots. Oh and sweet potato. We’ll have the cake with cream for dessert I suspect. [We did. Yum].

3. I get really smug when I recycle something more than once. I made these bedtime wheatbags for the children (the bedrooms are unheated and two of the boys don’t like the feel of hot water bottles and I haven’t got around to making covers for them in the hope that will fix the fussiness about the rubbery feel). These used to be bedspreads, purchased from the op shop. The white one was turned into a children’s cloak like this one, and the brown one became pants (August 2005 archives, lousy photos so no direct link, those of you dedicated enough can dig through yourselves, I’m not advertising my poor photography) for Son #1. He wore the knees out, I patched them, they were eventually passed down to Son #2 who promptly wore the bum out (don’t ask). The only part of the pants unpatched and in reasonable condition were the backs of the legs, so they became wheatbags. I feel ridiculously proud of my multiple recycling efforts. Like those cultures where you eat every single bit of the animal. Or make a silk purse out of it. Eewww.

wheatbags

That was a really boring photograph, wasn’t it? Moving right along.

4. I’ve had people tell me that my blog is doing funky things with the sidebar overlapping the main text. Some people like it and others tell me it’s hard to read. It seems to depend on which browser one uses. I’ve had a very generous offer to fix it. Tell me, is it hard for you to read or do you quite like this quirky feature? [Vote now!]

5. I have four punnets of native grasses by my front door awaiting planting. They’ve been there since I did the last random things meme. Must plant soon! (On linking to that post I noticed I have posted a photo twice on this blog. Apologies).

6. When the kitchen was non-existent a couple of weeks ago the children built a firepit outside and we ate our leftover-from-the-bottom-of-the-freezer chicken curry under the stars by the fire. This inspired us to make it permanent. The pit needed to be moved as the children placed it a little too close to the house for comfort (as in, right under the eaves), so they spent an afternoon rebuilding it. Right in the middle of my future vegie patch. Good thing I like vegie patches with feature fireplaces smack in the middle. Would you like to see a picture? Okay then.

firepit

They even built seats. Cool huh?

7. Seven, jeez this is getting hard. You lot know everything about me already [that I’m willing to reveal to a bunch of paedophiles and axe murderers anyway*]. Alright … I had my hair cut and coloured on Thursday night. (Enthralling, isn’t it?) I deemed it necessary after a conversation in the school playground recently when I moaned about my grey hair and another mother told me she loved my hair colour because it was "almost silver-white!" I didn’t take this news with quite the same enthusiasm with which she pronounced it, and made an appointment that day. I tried not to sob on the phone.

*Oh no, not you. You’re sweet.

8. My final random is for Janet, my tagger, and her wonderful sideblog Mrs Washalot, and because I’m currently reading The Magic Faraway Tree to Son #3. This is my current method of drying the washing.

drying the washing

If you try this at home, be aware that five minutes is ample drying time. (Yeah. Ask me how I know. Does Preen get rid of scorch marks?)

I’m not tagging, it terrifies me. Put your hand up and I’ll pick.

4 July 2007

Because you've waited so patiently.

The kitchen renovation story, because you lot were a part of it.

It used to look like this … please pardon my back. Note ugly green laminex and geriatric dishwasher.

turn your back for 1 min

then it looked this,

Building site

and this. For a week.

Building site

Suddenly it looked like this! Still no tiles, and note wires sticking ominously out of the wall, but hey I can live with that.

kitchen

So … we have:

Chocolate brown laminate cupboards and drawers, with pale stone-look laminate benches. I love laminate.

brown and cream

Over on the island bench we have dark stone look laminate benches, with cream drawers underneath, to match the cream overhead cupboards (chocolate brown cupboards below and above would have been too overwhelming).

cream and brown

Shiny dishwasher and oven, already accessorised with kiddie fingerprints …

fingerprints alreadyshiniest oven door in world

Now we have to choose tiles. Remember my favourite colour combination?

tile choice1


I’m leaning towards the dirty blue rectangles rather than the pale blue squares, which of course is the opposite of what I thought when I chose the samples. Amazing how different they look in situ.

tile choice2

My original thought was pale stone look tiles with a border of pebbles, reminiscent of our upstairs bathroom at the old house, but there is a lot of brown and beige and mud in this house already, including now in the kitchen. Cough.

tile choice3.jpg

And look! Remember the plea for help with the op shop scores? I think the answer is staring me in the face – the yarn will be a teacosy and the fabric a pair of new oven mitts.

Possibilities

Thank you to everyone who helped design this kitchen. I really appreciated all your input and suggestions. And it was fun, wasn't it?!

(Mr Soup has no idea that people all over the world contributed to the design and decor of our new cooking space).

1 July 2007

Today’s cheese sandwich was made with sourdough bread (updated)

The following two recipes, for a starter and a sourdough loaf, were cobbled together a couple of years ago using various recipes from the internet. I fiddled and twiddled until I found the right combination for our tastes and my machine (I usually make the dough in the breadmachine, although not always. Sometimes a bit of therapeutic kneading is necessary … it’s also a good school holiday activity and as the children finished Term 2 on Friday, I foresee lots of homemade bread over the next two weeks).

Sourdough Starter

Mix together in a glass or ceramic bowl 2 cups tepid water, 2 cups bread flour (a good quality all purpose flour with a high protein content), and 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast. Mix with a plastic or wooden spoon (do not use metal bowls or implements) and sit, covered, in a warm location for a week, gently stirring once a day. Now your starter is ready to use. (A starter may take a good month to become really sour, but you can use it after a week.)

When you use some of your starter to make a loaf, you must ‘feed’ the remaining starter with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. If you don’t use your starter once a week, you must throw away a cup of it and feed it with fresh flour and water.

Starters can also be frozen if you are going away on holiday. When you return, thaw the starter in the fridge, and when thawed, remove a cupful and feed as usual.

Usually when I give someone this recipe, I give them a cup of my starter too. We’ll just pretend that bit today.

sourdough starter

Sourdough Bread

1/2 cup tepid water
1 cup sourdough starter
2 1/4 cup bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 tbsp yeast

Make the dough, either by hand or in your breadmachine’s dough setting.

Update/amendment: I forgot to say that breadmachines do the mix, knead and first rise. If you make the dough by hand, let the dough rise for an hour or until doubled in size, then punch down. When it's risen a second time, continue on as below ...

sourdough dough

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently into a round shape, pulling all creases to the bottom. Place the dough smooth side down into a bowl lined with a floured teatowel. Cover and stand in a warm location for an hour or until doubled in size.

dough


Turn the bowl onto a greased oven tray and gently remove the teatowel. Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

Bake on the middle shelf of a hot (210 celsius) oven with a dish of boiling water on the bottom shelf to create steam, for 20 minutes. Reduce to a moderate (180 celsius) heat and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a wire rack.



sourdough loaf2

Sometimes I make it in a loaf shaped pan which makes lunchbox sandwiches easier.

You can throw in a selection of seeds either at the kneading stage, or sprinkle on top before baking.

seeds

Or you can turn the dough into rolls of course.

yum

Sourdough makes great toast, is a fabulous accompaniment to soups and stews, and makes a mean cheese sandwich with a hefty dollop of homemade chutney.