Friday, 29 June 2018

Overcast Winter Days

The Winter sun has been obscured by heavy grey cloud the past couple of days. It's been cold and we've had a few showers come through, enough to dampen things a little and keep the washing from the line. Time, for me, tends to go slowly on wintery, overcast days. I tend to spend them in the warmth of "inside". Rather than being drawn out into the garden, by the warm sunshine of blue-sky days, I am nestled instead in the warmth of home. As I wait for that sunshine to break through those thick clouds, there are simple things like soup and stitching, books and baking to fill these overcast days. 

Hearty & nourishing soup.

A little knitting to lengthen my shawl.

An inspiring book to read.

A little project all sewn up.

Some delicious baking too.

Whatever the weather of your coming weekend, I hope you enjoy whatever it is you choose to do.


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Chocolate & Mint Washcloths

Chocolate & mint ... a match made in heaven!  The warmth of chocolate brown and the freshness of minty green knitted up into washcloths for giving with bars of peppermint soap and blocks of a divine dark mint chocolate.

 Mint & chocolate washcloths.

I added little finger-knitted loops for hanging wet washcloths.

Over the weekend just past, after many, many weeks of no making at all, it was lovely to get back to some knitting. I only had a few rows to finish off the milky chocolate washcloth and then quickly knitted up a minty green one to go with it. Together with the soap and the chocolate, they'll make lovely gifts.

A delicious chocolatey gift.

The chocolatey brown washcloth is knitted up in a soft, organic cotton. I love knitting with these kinds of cottons and using organic yarns if I have them. The pattern is a version of one of my favourites called Chinese Waves

A fragrant, minty gift.
(I buy this soap at a local grocer.)

The minty green washcloth is knitted in a lovely stone washed cotton colour called Green Agate. The Diagonal Garter Stitch pattern is quick and simple although there was a new knitting move for me to master called a "turn". So, I added a new stitch to my knitting repertoire too.

Handmade washcloths make a simple & practical gift.

The latter half of the year sees a flurry of family birthdays, all tumbling together in the lead up to Christmas. As has been a goal of mine for a couple of years now, I like to make and to give handmade gifts whenever I can. These chocolate and mint washcloths are a good start but I'll need to do a lot more making over the coming months to have a gift for everyone.

Off to find the next project ... 


Monday, 25 June 2018

A Simple Sponge Cake

We had a bit of a celebration here over the weekend and I made this simple sponge cake, filled with jam and iced with unsweetened, fresh cream and a circle of tiny chocolate buttons. Simple and soooo good!

A slice of a simple &  scrumptious sponge cake.

Iced with fresh cream, tiny chocolate buttons & a flurry of chocolate flakes.

The recipe for the sponge cake is just a doubling of the base cake for this cheesecake spongeYou need eggs, sugar, plain and self raising flours, cornflour and lots of whipped air! 

Here's the adjusted recipe for the sponge:

Grease and line a medium-sized round cake tin. Preheat your oven to 180C. Beat 4 eggs until thick and creamy. Gradually add 2/3cup caster sugar while beating until sugar dissolved. Gently fold in 4 Tablespoons each of sifted plain flour, self raising flour and cornflour. Spoon mixture into prepared cake tin and spread evenly over base. Bake for approximately 20mins. Remove from oven when lightly golden. Rest cake for a few minutes before turning out cake and cooling on a wire rack.

Beat eggs 'til very frothy.

 Beat in sugar until pale and creamy.

Sift three flours into whisked eggs & sugar. 

Fold flours gently into  

 Pour mixture into prepared cake tin.

Bake until lightly golden.

Once the sponge cake has cooled, you can make it into something special in lots of different ways. I chose that classic combination of strawberry jam, cream and a little chocolate for my cake:

 Cut cake carefully in half and spread with jam.

Spread reassembled cake with very thickly whipped cream. 

Grate dark chocolate over the cream & add a ring of tiny chocolate buttons.

Sponge cakes, all light and airy, are just perfect for special celebrations. Instead of icing with thick cream, you can dust them with icing sugar as Cheryl, over at A Simply Good Life, did for her birthday high tea. Or perhaps, instead of strawberry jam, you'd rather fill them with slices of fresh strawberries to make a strawberry sponge cake like the one Rhonda, over at Down to Earth, enjoyed for her special birthday this year. Next time I make a sponge (...I'm just waiting for any excuse...), I think I will fill it with cream and drizzle tangy passionfruit icing over it to make this delicious looking Passionfruit Sponge I found over at SBS Food. How utterly indulgent!

The next "excuse" for sponge cake here will coincide with an almost-80th birthday to be celebrated in July. Best save some passionfruit pulp in the freezer for that occasion!


Saturday, 23 June 2018

A Slice of Saturday Morning

It's been a slow and simple start to this beautiful and wintery Saturday morning. My boy and his Dad have gone off together for the weekend cricket match and now the hush of the house, so quiet and still, is only punctuated by the occasional birdsong outside. Home today  feels so very peaceful ...

Deep pink rose buds beginning to open.

Soon, I'll join our happily snoozing dog in the warmth of the Winter's sun.  He's found himself a spot and so will I. I'll move my old wicker chair into the sunlight flooding the back verandah. My old chair holds a little cross-stitched cushion, given to me long ago by one of my oldest and closest friends. She jokes it's the only one she's ever finished. Even more reason to treasure it so. 

A little cross-stitched cushion on my old wicker chair. 

Tiny birds waiting for their threads.
(First bird from Melissa Wastney.)

A little pile of good books from my local library. 

I'll stay happily there, legs outstretched in the sun, with a good book I borrowed from the library or perhaps some threads to stitch the two little birds I've traced onto tiny cotton bags. My time is my own ... until lunch break in the cricket when I take the picnic lunch  I packed this morning and stay until stumps. 

A pretty card filled with the pinks of cosmos blooms. 
(Painted by J.H. Song)

I turned another year older this week. I think I will adopt my beautiful Grandmother's eternal response to that childhood question, "How old are you?" She would always answer, most sincerely, "Twenty-one!" Somehow, I think my greying hair may just give me away! 

The deep pink rosebuds, from my love, are just beginning to unfurl their tightly held petals and sweet cards, one filled with the pinks of whispy cosmos, are birthday reminders of just how truly rich my life is. Rich in time, in the security of home, in having "enough" and in the adorable people I share it with. What a gift!

Have a lovely weekend.


Friday, 22 June 2018

A Bit More Subtraction

Over a year ago, I made a start on a process of subtraction, that removal of unnecessary "clutter" of all kinds from one's life in order to create more. More in terms of time, space, lightness and simplicity. You might remember that I began with the enthusiastic and wholehearted declutter of this single kitchen drawer. Funnily, but sooo NOT surprisingly for me, I never got back to the other three kitchen drawers. But, I have sorted our clothes, my son's books, my magazines, my email Inbox, our pantry and now my craft shelves. 

Newly sorted craft materials are much more inviting.

Yesterday, after reading this post, over at A Simply Good Life, about Cheryl's plans for the remaining 29 Mondays of this year, I got to thinking about what I've been doing with my "free" time of late. With lots of full-time relief work since we got back from holidays, I've been sinking, exhausted, into the lounge chair and staring at the television after dinner each night. For someone who normally watches very little television, I've certainly found myself there too often and then lamented the fact I've not done any making for ages. My sewing machine has been idle. My first-ever shawl has not grown that much longer. My cluttered and disorganised shelves were not helping this situation. It was time to restore order!

Cottons and elastics sorted by colour in an old plastic biscuit tray.

My small collection of patterns filed in clear clip lock folders.

So,  I got stuck in and sorted out my little crafting space in our spare bedroom. There were tangles of wool, scraps of material, pattern pieces and half-finished projects galore all cluttering my little set of shelves. I couldn't even see my sewing machine for I'd covered that too in a half-traced pattern! Now, after a very thorough clean out, my shelves now hold baskets of what I decided to keep. My sewing cottons have been gathered up and are sorted roughly by colour in an old plastic biscuit tray that fits neatly into a drawer of my sewing cupboard. Patterns and their pieces have been filed in clip-lock folders so I can find them again easily. This calmer and more organised space is much more conducive to making than the mess it was in before! 

The same can be said for our small pantry. I'm sure a neatly organised pantry, where one can actually see and reach what's in there, is much more conducive to cooking efficiently. A while ago, I pulled everything out, wiped down the shelves, tossed anything out of date and poured things into jars from half-opened packets. Then I put a lot less back in again! 

 Two clean and organised pantry shelves.
 So much easier to find everything now!

The books and magazines in our home got the same thorough treatment. The novels in my son's current collection are now organised on a sturdy little bookshelf right next to our lounge chair. Like me, my book-inhaling boy can spend whole days absorbed by reading (a wonderful indulgence that I encourage whenever possible). Now his books are right where he likes to read, flopped like a slow-moving sloth on the sofa. ๐Ÿ“–

 A bookshelf and a basket for books and magazines.)

I sorted through my not insubstantial collection of magazines and made two piles. Keep and give away. The ones I've kept, because they are full of gardening, simple living or wellness tips or projects I hope to do one day, have been sorted by title and are now stored in an easily accessible set of wire drawers I pinched commandeered from another area of the house.

 Sorted and stored magazines.

The wire drawers  now storing my magazines used to hold clothes. After sorting and folding, many items of clothing were boxed up and taken to the op-shop. Those not suitable (ripped, stained, holey) for passing on have been cut up into rag squares or ripped into strips for staking plants. My hubby's old football socks, stretched and strong, make great shrub ties and he's not missing them ... yet! This created a lot more space in our wardbrobes and drawers.

An old sock holds back branches in the garden.

I've tried very hard to avoid sending any of this stuff deemed superfluous to landfill. Thankfully, there wasn't a lot out of date in the pantry. Most of that went to feed the compost bins. Little bundles of books and magazines have been tied with ribbons and sent on to others who will love and enjoy them. It brings me joy to know that those much-loved books I read over and over to my son when he was small will be adored all over again rather than sitting on shelves here because our boy is too old for them now. I recently heard about street libraries and this would be another really great way to share books with others in a community rather than have them gathering dust on shelves. The excess materials I subtracted from my craft shelves have been boxed up so I can donate them to the little haberdashery shop at this nearby community centre the next time I visit.  I'm sure they'll become someone else's crafting treasure.

Still somewhat organised!

There are still many large and small spaces in our home that would benefit from a little or a lot of subtraction. (I won't even mention the study where I'm typing now!) And, while I may not have returned to sort out those remaining kitchen drawers just yet, my bottom kitchen drawer remains somewhat organised. ๐Ÿ˜‰That's a challenge in itself, isn't it?


Monday, 18 June 2018

Scrumptious Silverbeet Parcels

While the broccoli has amounted to not much at all, and the kale is being munched on enthusiastically by creatures unknown, the silverbeet is leafy and abundant as always. Until I started growing silverbeet myself, my only memory of it came from a Nana who would boil it 'til it was limp and a sludgy kind of greeny-grey. Ugh! Luckily, I now know that silverbeet does not need to be like that and it's become a firm favourite as an easy-to-grow and versatile veg. There's a lot of silverbeet ready in our garden now and so I've been picking it regularly and making some scrumptious savouries with it.  

Scrumptious Silverbeet Parcels

These flaky filo pastry parcels, filled with silverbeet, spring onion, feta and herbs, are a version of Hortopita.  Hortopita is a type of traditional Greek pie. I was inspired to make these parcels after seeing them featured on a cooking segment of Gardening Australia recently. Here is the video segment and the recipe is written out underneath. The only change I made was to use chopped spring onion, instead of brown onion, because that's what's growing in my veg patch right now. 

These Hortopita parcels were a great way to use the silverbeet from our veg patch. Here's how they came together in my kitchen:

 Washed  silverbeet fresh from the garden. 

Warmed & wilted silverbeet and herbs with spring onions and feta.

Buttered layers of filo pastry.

Folding triangles to encase the filling.

Golden and delicious parcels from the oven.

Piping hot, flaky and absolutely delicious. A scrumptious way to eat what we grow, to use what's abundant and in season in the veggie patch. 

What are you growing right now and what are you cooking with it?


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Whirlwind Weeks

As I write this, there's pea & ham soup bubbling away on the stove. Muffins, fresh from the oven, are cooling on the kitchen bench. There's two loads of washing on the line and the swish and swash of the washing machine is still keeping time in the background. There's half-unpacked grocery bags scattered on the floor near the kitchen bench. (I'll get to them later!) A broom is propping up a wall close by too. I have been playing catch-up while working non-stop since getting back from our recent holiday and today it is so lovely to slow down to the cadence of our home once again.

Freshly baked Zucchini Slice Muffins.

Homemade biscuits fill up the jar again.

A scrumptious Silverbeet Impossible Pie for dinner.

The contentment I feel today, in resetting myself to the quiet rhythms of our home, reminded me of some lines from one of Kylie Johnson's beautiful poems:

"we holiday in the spaces
of our home -
in soup and conversations
in washing up bubbles
and zucchini ..."

A letterpress print of this poem, from Kylie's anthology, Count Me the Stars, sits atop an old dresser just inside our front door. I see it every time I come home. Words that remind me that our home offers up a retreat, a protected haven away from the wider world where there is meaning in very ordinary things like soup and soap bubbles and homemade biscuits in jars.

While many people thrive on full-time work outside of their homes, and there are many others who have no choice and have to work just to cover the cost of living,  I know that is not me anymore. While I love the relief work I do, and the extra $ come in very handy,  I can feel depleted and disorganised by it when work days stretch to weeks or months. What turns my compass needle to north again is home and I am grateful to know that and to have that choice at this time in my life. So, even though today's to-do list is long and I probably won't finish half of it, I am going to relish being home today. I have missed it.

Are you spending time at home today too?