25 August 2007

flora

Late one night after finishing the tenth strawberry, flushed with the triumph of finishing a project and unable to contemplate the idea of sleep just yet, she decided to see if she could knit a leaf.

Just because.

tiny knitted leaf

And it turned out that she could. (And lo, it was good).

High on the adrenalin of this small woolly success, and despite the fact that she ought to be working on that 1500 word paper due on Monday and the taxes due on Tuesday, she attempted what she hoped might resemble an acorn. Because as you may remember, she has a bit of a thing for knitted acorns.

And while the result was a tad on the small side and the shape of the cap wasn’t quite there yet, she was mightily pleased with herself. She recognised her pattern’s limitations and resolved to learn from this little prototype.

tiny knitted acorn

Up it went onto Flickr.

Where it didn’t get quite the reception she was expecting.

24 August 2007

not a joiner after all

Thought I'd look around Facebook to see what all the fuss was about.

And before I realised quite what I was doing, I appear to have invited everybody I've ever met, to join me. Possibly twice in some cases.

Sincerest apologies and all that.

22 August 2007

It is a full and meaningful life

I was moaning to Mr Soup last week how tired I am of driving a long distance and sitting in meetings to earn a living. I mused my eternal musing …There must be a way to earn money doing something I love ... to which he replied, What, knitting and eating chocolate? Oh har de har.

But the universe answered (and not sarcastically either). An email came out of the blue from a local production house, asking if I would knit some strawberries for an upcoming photo shoot.

knitted strawberries

And so the sick child and I sat in the late winter sunshine; he coughing, me knitting (when I should have been writing a paper on early medieval documentation and all I can say is it’s a good thing Stephanie doesn’t read my blog or I'd receive a rap over the knuckles. Which would make knitting difficult).

sick child with view

As I knitted, I marvelled at how ‘action follows thought’, as they say.

And then the dog rolled off the cliff before our very eyes.

21 August 2007

Now is the winter of our discount tent

Hey, internet!

It’s been a long long winter. I know it’s nearly over because the daphne is blooming and the daffs and the tiny grevilleas in my garden are out …

tiny variegated grevillea

… and the wattles are zinging! by the roadsides and along the riverbank.

river and wattle

And we desperately need to get away for a Holiday.

But because we have no money (and I have mouse poo in my hair etc etc woe is me) it will be camping. Again.

And because I am too lazy and cobweb-ridden and busy sorting out my spice cupboard (and I should take a photograph of the stupid spice cupboard the cabinetmaker built above the stove and then you will all feel really sorry for me) to investigate on my ailing crashing computer some appropriate camping areas in Victoria, in early Spring, which will actually be warm enough for camping (oh god shoot me now) … I am asking you lot.

Echuca? Mildura? Somewhere north of the Divide? Is it warm enough up there for me to knit by a campfire without slowly going numb? Can we do it in September or should we just stay home by the fire and try to ignore the housework piling up around us?

(While you’re at it, make sure it’s a free or very cheap campsite, would you?)

Ta.

19 August 2007

stream of consciousness

I finished up my week of cooking with one of those marathon smug Superwoman sessions. The sort where you have a rice pudding in the oven, muffins ready to go in as soon as the pudding comes out, a chicken curry on the stove, bread in the breadmachine and another fruit loaf cooling on the wire rack next to the still-warm batch of biscuits, and tomorrow night’s soup simmering at the back of the stove.

Remind me to throw my apron in the wash tomorrow.

I completed this burst of housewifely activity by sorting out the pantry, rearranging shelves and decanting all those bags of pulses, dried fruits, pasta and nuts and grains into my enormous collection of glass jars collected from the op shop^ over the years. And then I watched Mostly Martha on DVD. (Son #2 said idly, What’s that about? to which Son #3 replied It’s mostly about Martha. [You had to be there I guess but it was pretty funny. So deadpan]).

^Speaking of the op shop, I had a seriously good yarn score the other day when I popped in to look for a pair of jeans for Son #2. (The wool section is on the way to the children’s section if you go the pretty way).

Look.

op shopped skein

This was the messy skein. Sorry. I hate messy photographs. But doesn’t it tone well with the rug? (The colour, not the mess although there is lots of that around here also. See below). This was one of two skeins, of what appears to be a 10 or 12 ply (I swatched, fancy). It’s pure wool and kind of scratchy and old fashioned, but together there is more than 600 grams of it, and it set me back a total of $3.99. Pleased as punch I am. Now to decide what to do with it. I don’t want to make my usual small projects* – hats and mitts and so on – because it’s so rare to get enough of one kind of yarn from an op shop to actually make a real garment with. So I’m thinking a jumper for one of the children perhaps? But I’ll have to dye it first. (Although it is the right colour for quickly making a banana, or pear out of first). And then I’ll dye the rest, a soft green maybe. Anyway, come back to Pea Soup in about 18 months time and find out.

Son #3 (when he was at home last week coughing his head off) and I sat by the fire and wound off both skeins into a dozen beautiful balls of wool. He loves winding wool, that one. Such a Steiner child.

Hmmm. Should have dyed it while it was in the skeins. Shit.

*Speaking of small projects, I made these. Because I’m like that.

rainbow gnomes

They sit on my kitchen window and make me so happy. (Because I’m like that too).

And now I have to finish up by showing you these.

[very] odd slippers

Son #1 made himself a pair of slippers.

He cast on willy-nilly without counting and just went for it. So the first slipper was way too narrow. Not to worry, he just knitted a thin red wedge and I think there’s a joke in there but it’s been a trying week, and sewed it in. About six months later (we’ve now reached last week when he was at home being pale and wan and threatening to cark it) he decided to make the second slipper. But he couldn’t find the matching yarn, and then forgot to do moss stitch and just went with stocking stitch.

He loves his [very] odd slippers. And so do I.

Now. Listen up. I’ve had a few comments lately about how serene my life looks, how gorgeous and precociously talented my children are, etc and seen various snippets here and there around the traps about people not telling the ‘truth’ but editing their blogs to make themselves look good. Well. I would like to set the my record straight. My life is frequently a mess. I’m not beautiful and serene, my children whack each other, bicker and frequently display appalling taste in music, there is dog hair mixed with ash [damn these open fires I’m ready for a push-button gas fire] and dust all over the place, unpacked boxes from when we moved a year and a half ago, and the reason I had to clean out the pantry was because there was so much mouse poo in there that I couldn’t put it off any longer. Also and I hate to say this, the cat is getting very elderly and she peed in there. (See? Not nice blogging). I yell at my children sometimes and swear loudly when they spit their toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror again. I’ve received three blogging awards that I haven’t passed on. I think bad thoughts sometimes. I’m human!

Okay? Not serene. Not glamorous. But I don’t edit my blog to try and deceive people. I do it because I don’t like talking about our financial stresses, the state of my marriage this week or the odd smell lurking in the vegetable drawer. Also I don’t enjoy looking at ugly flash photos of dust bunnies and blurry craft projects so I try to take pretty pictures. Some folks do blog the darker side of their lives and that’s fine and dandy. Many do it with panache, honesty and/or humour. But I don’t know that I could without it sounding like a plea for internet hugs, so I don’t for the most part. (Although I could point to a couple of occasions in the archives. But I don’t want the hugs. I’m feeling antisocial tonight). Sometimes when I meet other bloggers I am convinced they must be thinking Well, she’s small, grey and disappointing, isn’t she?! I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to say, my blog is the place I spill my brain and post my photography. I’m not trying to make myself look like I have all the answers. I’m human like everybody else. I just like a pretty blog.

Preferably with no cat piss.


Ack, that was a long rambly post. It’s late and I’ve had two sick children for two weeks, and today the third one got it so that’s the coming week shot to pieces). I’ll probably delete those last irritable paragraphs in the morning when I wake up all Doris Daylike and menstrual-cramp-free with my halo straight again.

And then I shall sort out the spice collection.

17 August 2007

food, part IV

knit food

Knitted food from these patterns.

The things you do when you spend several days at home with snotty, barking children.

food, part III

italian lamb

Italian Lamb Casserole

Prep: 25 mins
Cooking: 1 hour
Serves: 6

1 x 1.5kg leg lamb, boned
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
30 g butter
4 medium sticks celery, sliced
2 large onions, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 440g tin tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine (I used red)
1 cup chicken stock
oregano (I only had golden marjoram in my garden; it was ok)
thyme (my thyme is lemon thyme, which worked well)
rosemary
black pepper

Preheat oven to 180c. Trim meat of excess fat and sinew. Cut in 4 cm cubes. Toss lightly in flour. Heat oil and butter in a heavy based pan. Cook lamb quickly in small batches over medium-high heat until well browned. Place in 6-cup capacity casserole.

Add celery, onion, carrot and garlic to pan. Pour in tomatoes with their juice and stir in tomato paste. Add wine, stock and herbs. Bring to boil, scraping the browned residue from surface of pan. Pour over lamb, season with pepper.

Cover and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until lamb is tender. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad (or mashed potato like we did).

16 August 2007

food, part II

bushwalker biscuits

Bushwalker Biscuits

Recipe from my best friend’s late father. I think of him fondly every time I pull a batch of these from the oven.

1/2 cup butter/margarine
1 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sultanas/dates/currants
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup crushed breakfast cereal (cornflakes, weetbix, etc)
1/2 cup coconut

Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg, water and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add everything else. Drop rounded teaspoonsful of mixture onto a baking paper-lined baking tray and bake at 190C for 10-12 minutes. Remove from tray to a wire rack immediately.



And in breaking news, I didn’t make the orange syrup cake I was dreaming of. A closer look at the recipe showed it requires a food processor (which I don't have) and I wasn’t feeling brave enough to deal with orange rind and pulp with my bare hands. However, the recipe was on a page which included another syrup cake which I can happily report was to die for.

Cinnamon and Walnut Syrup Cake
(served upside down)

3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup self raising flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
185g butter, melted
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Beat eggs until thick and creamy, gradually add sugar. Beat in sifted flour and cinnamon in several batches, beat in melted butter and stir in walnuts. Bake in a 23cm square pan, in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes (it took about 40-45 in my oven). While it’s cooking, make a sugar syrup: combine 1 cup of sugar with 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan, stirring over low to medium heat constantly until sugar is dissolved, then bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. When the cake is cooked, let it stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Then turn upside down onto a wire rack, and with a tray underneath, slowly pour the hot syrup over the hot cake.

Recipe says "Keeping time: 3 days". As if. It was gone in a day here.

walnut and cinnamon syrup cake

14 August 2007

food, part I

What an enthusiastic crowd you are. All the recipes, eh?

This will keep me en blogge for the rest of the week.

First, the easiest one. The fruit loaf. Just take your favourite bread or sourdough recipe and add a good dash of cinnamon and/or mixed spice, an extra tablespoon of sugar, and a cup or so of mixed dried fruit/raisins/currants/sultanas/dried apricot. Bake as usual blah blah blah.

Now, the Hazelnut Coffee Cake.

4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
100g ground hazelnuts
6 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant coffee grounds/powder

Beat eggs and sugar. Fold in nuts. Sift in dry ingredients. Easy!
Bake at 180C for approx 15 minutes. Fast!
Dust with icing sugar or ice with mocha or coffee icing.
I love this cake because you can whip it up 20 minutes before your guests arrive for morning tea, or when the child says Oh Mum! I need to take a cake to school today for the cake stall/feast/pagan coffee-cake celebration. It's a low-rise, dryish cake, perfect to serve with a cup of tea or coffee. I make it regularly for the children's lunchboxes as a change from muffins, or the ubiquitous [spit]muesli bars.[/spit]
Originally found on the back of the 100g packet of Lucky Ground Hazelnuts. (Don't go looking for it though, the packets now feature an orange hazelnut cake recipe).


Black-eye beans with cumin and tomato

Recipe found in Epicure, years ago.

350g black-eye beans, soaked in cold water overnight
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 dessertspoon oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
handful of chopped fresh parsley
4 large tomatoes, chopped (or a 400g tin of tomatoes, in winter)
1 dessertspoon tomato paste
1 small chilli, chopped (less if your children don't cope)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari, or a wee knob of miso paste

Drain soaking water from beans. Saute onion in oil until lightly coloured. Add the garlic and cumin and continue to frizzle until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley and beans, and enough water to cover (I make this in a big pot). Season with the chilli and miso/soy/tamari. Bring to boil, then boil rapidly for five minutes. Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until beans are tender and mixture has thickened and reduced slightly. Serve with roasted quartered potatoes [how heavenly is that, I ask you?], or basmati rice, a salad of bitter greens like rocket or witlof, and a dollop of natural yoghurt. I could eat this once a week.

I'll post more of the recipes tomorrow. Today I had a different assortment of children home ill, one barking like a seal and the other teary and just in need of some attention I suspect.

Time for wine.

13 August 2007

got my cooking mojo back

italian lamb

A meal the weekend before last. Italian lamb. Yummo.

italian lamb

On the stove briefly, then into the (still sparkly!) oven for an hour. Served with rice. And again the next evening with mashed potato – even better.

Since then, a batch of bushwalker biscuits …

bushwalker biscuits

… a rather fabulous fruit loaf …

fruit loaf

… a coffee hazelnut cake, golden syrup dumplings* from that seminal high school text Cookery the Australian Way, known by my Year 8 class as Cookery the Hard Way, shepherds pie, a killer dahl, split pea soup, and because I saw black-eyed beans in the shops for the first time in two years, I made a big batch of my favourite black-eye beans with tomato and cumin.**

Today I’m home ...

view 13 aug 07

... with two children each doing his best to cough up a lung so I might try making an orange syrup cake. In the meantime, the fire is lit,

hot lemon

we’re drinking lots of hot fragrant stuff to soothe sore throats,

Son #3 begins another hat

and all three of us are still in our pyjamas; one reading, two knitting.

commencing a cowl

* Janet has a slightly different, boiled, version.

** Recipes for any of these available on request.

10 August 2007

Not fond of soccer either

melbourne victory mitt on

Son #1 requested fingerless mitts in Melbourne Victory colours. With the special tricky white V. Sheesh.

melbourne victory mitts off

I can't take much more.

melbourne victory mitt on

Aaah, that's better.

first daffs for 2007, 10 Augustcorrea, Augustfirst erlicheers for 2007, 10 Augustred box, blue skytiny variegated grevillea

8 August 2007

I don't like AFL

The things we do for our children.

demons fingerless gloves

Son #3’s latest. Fingerless mitts in Demons’ colourway.

I didn’t even use a pattern for this. I just cast on what I hoped would be an appropriate number of stitches and went for it (note to self: knit a band of rib or moss next time before launching into stocking stitch). He requested blue and red, and it wasn’t until I was ready to add a stripe of red after the thumb hole that he sheepishly asked for the red to be in "this" pattern [insert hand gesture here].

That was when I realised. We have a little AFL football fan on our hands.

Since then, I’ve had several requests from his classmates to knit more in their favourite team colours. Jeez I must have done a bad bad thang in a past life.

7 August 2007

Sunny and windy

a good drying day

blues

peg shadows

and excellent for winter garden shots.

tiny pink grevillea

red box above the house

winter sky with foliage

5 August 2007

a[nother] wedding story

I hadn’t attended a wedding in years until this year, but last weekend we went to our third wedding in six months. Of course at our age (creak creak) these tend to be Second Weddings but let’s not dwell on that.

The first wedding of the year was at the zoo in the Balinese elephant village, on that hot steamy January night when the 10-year drought broke, and while I’m certain the bride was cursing [I know her well] the tropical downpour that made her evening so memorable, the setting was absolutely perfect for a monsoonal ‘weather event'. The elephants stretched and luxuriated in their pond behind the couple as they recited their vows in the thatched shed-thingie, although no one could hear them through the roar of the rain. (No one could see much either thanks to the dodgy uncle with the video camera who stood right in front of the couple, elbowing the professional photographer out of the way and making the entire gathering – with the exception of the very thin-lipped Mother of the Bride – giggle). I forgot my camera, and thus the evening remained unblogged for those of you considering perusing my January archives. The thank you cards arrived a couple of months later bearing a photograph of the newly weds under clear plastic umbrellas, standing amongst dripping tropical foliage, so I’m glad to see they embraced the elements and went with the flow. So to speak.

Speaking of dodgy uncles at weddings and yes there is always one, let’s have a little competition, shall we? Tell me what the dodgy uncle did at your wedding, and I’ll tell what he did at MINE and we’ll pick a winner. Well I’ll pick a winner. My blog etc.

The second wedding of 2007, you all will recall. A dawn wedding on a beach two hours’ drive from here thankyouverymuch followed by an all-afternoon into-the-evening reception so that we returned home at dusk, our entire day shot um, spent happily celebrating the blissful joining of twin souls.

So. Last weekend. The third wedding. The bride (whom I didn’t know, but who has met Mr Soup and the wee croutons once before at a soccer game) was a Sicilian beauty, and the groom a fair Englishman (and a friend of my own fair Englishman husband). Ten before we were due to leave I was still standing in front of my wardrobe gesticulating hopelessly, wailing I can’t wear black to a daytime wedding! But this is Melbourne after all. I wore the black.

Being Italian, being Catholic-Italian, there was a bit of bling.

bling

Mr Soup did the whole lapsed Catholic thing of automatically standing, genuflecting, crossing and responding in all the right places, while I silently gawked marvelled at the religious PARAPHENALIA everywhere. I come from heathen stock so the theatricality of it all simultaneously amuses and horrifies me. But the priest was personable and humorous without being over the top, and there were lovely readings from people like Kahlil Gabran which I suspect aren’t a regular part of the Catholic wedding service. Plus there was a string trio playing in the balcony who played beautiful classical pieces during those quiet bits in the ceremony where the priest is busy handing out crackers and passing around a golden chalice full of germs wine, but who then launched into a rendition of Makin’ Whoopee as the newly weds exited the church. Again, i suspect non-traditional. All in all the whole thing was lovely and as the bride looked like a Sicilian Frido Kahlo with her strong beautiful features and pile of jet black curls.

bride
I am such a talented photographer.

The reception was held in one of the swankest restaurants I’ve ever been in, overlooking the river. The food was incredible.

shiny

Sadly, we knew only two other couples at this entire gathering, but the six of us had been put on separate tables where we knew no one. Why? To force us to meet new people? Sheesh. We waved forlornly at each other across the room and as soon as was possible shuffled around a bit and visited each other, so all was not lost. But I repeat, why do that? Everyone else seemed to be put with their friends. I think I’ll shut up now, I sound like a high school girl. (Please don’t separate us, Miss!)

Now I have to write something else because it was a lovely wedding really, and I don’t want to end this over-long post on a sour note. So I’ll genuflect one more time and hum Makin Whoopee.

4 August 2007

conversations

Scene 1
8am: bathroom. Suse in the shower, Son #1 cleaning his teeth.
Suse: [leaning out of the shower and shouting slightly hysterically because she doesn’t have her glasses on] Oh god, if Mrs Weasley dies I’m going to be sending hate mail to J K Rowling. Does Mrs Weasley die? DOES SHE?!
Son #1: [enthusiastically, but muffled, due to toothbrush] D’you want me to tell you?!
Suse: No! NO! Don’t say a word!

Scene 2
Evening: in front of the fire, Soup Family all present and reading.
Suse: [looking up in dawning horror] Oh god, I bet the whole of Hogwarts is a Horcrux, isn’t it?!
Son #1: [excitedly] D’you want me to tell you?!
Suse: No! Shut UP! Don’t say a word!

Scene 3
Ten minutes later.
Suse: Oh god, I just know that Snape is going to turn out to be a good guy. And THAT means Dumbledore is really a BAD guy, isn’t he? Oh god oh god oh god I can’t bear it!
Son #1: [desperately] D’you want me to tell you?! Please, can I tell you?!
Suse: No! Be quiet! Don’t say a WORD!

Scene 4
Next morning, 8am: kitchen.
Suse: Oh god, Lupin is gonna die!!!!! I’m sure!
Son #1: [spilling his porridge in his haste to answer] D’you want me to tell you?!
Suse: Shut uuuup!
Son #1: [flapping hysterically] Will you hurry up and FINISH?! I NEED TO DISCUSS IT!!!! Oh god I can't BEAR it!!!!!!

Scene 5
Tonight. 10pm: Son #1’s bedroom.
Suse: [hissing and wailing at the same time] Wake up! I finished! I need to talk to you!! Oh god, wake UUUUUUUUUPP!!!!!

1 August 2007

knitted flower brooch

knitted flower brooch

A little flower brooch knitted for a friend’s birthday.

knitted flower brooch

Two 5-petalled flowers, one in 8ply crepe, one in mohair, sewn together with a button on the front and a brooch clasp on the back.

Quick, easy, pretty. I’ll be making more of these.