Friday, 29 July 2016

Pressing Flowers

There are always flowers abloom as the seasons pass in my garden. In Summer there are sunflowers, bright and bold. In Spring there is Queen Anne's Lace, whimsical and delicate. In Autumn, there is lavender, purple and fragrant. And, in Winter, there are violas.

 Sweet and tiny seasonal blooms.

As each season fades, so too do many blooms and then one must wait for their season to come around again in order to admire their beauty. To capture a little bit of the seasonal beauty of flowers, you can pick simple, colourful blooms (such as violas) and dry them between the pages of a weighty, old book or between the layers of a little flower press. Just like this:

Collect your blooms when they are dry, not wet from watering or damp from dew.
Separate and lay blooms "face down" on pieces of blotting paper.
Carefully snip off stalks using small, sharp scissors.
Place first sheet of prepared blooms onto piece of thick, heavy cardboard.
Place another piece of blotting paper on top.
Lay another piece of thick heavy card on top. Continue these layers until all blooms are in your press.
Place layers between top and bottom of flower press and insert bolts at corners.
Screw little wingnuts on as tightly as possible to compact layers. Place in a dry, dark place for many weeks.

Once the flowers in your press (or between the pages of a heavy book) are dry, they can be used to decorate many sweet little handmade projects like bookmarks, cards and gift tags. Young children could easily be involved in collecting and pressing flowers and leaves from the garden and then using them to make special, inexpensive handmade gifts for teachers, friends and their loved ones.

 The sweet Tiny Happy gift tag that inspired my current flower pressing fascination!

Part of the charm of this simple nature craft is in the waiting. While I am impatient for my flowers to dry (just as impatient as my son has been in waiting for his treasured four-leaf clovers to dry) it is in the waiting, and resisting of that urge to constantly peek at them, where the gift of delayed gratification lies. The waiting makes the end result even sweeter.

I hope, over the coming weekend, that you will have time to capture a little beauty and preserve it in some way. Maybe a photo. Maybe a sketch. Maybe a bottle of jam. Or maybe between sheets of paper.

Have a lovely weekend.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Washcloth on Wednesday

This little washcloth,  all creamy and soft, is a sweet and practical project. A project I'm using to challenge myself to learn a few more complicated knitting moves!

Half a new washcloth!

This pattern has rows of plain knitting but also requires one to slip stitches, knit stitches together and knit into the front and the back of stitches. It took me a little while to get the hang of it but, now I have, it's taking shape, looking lovely and making me smile.
Whenever I have a new skill I want to learn, I break it down into steps if I can or into a sub-set of skills that I can transfer to other, more complex projects. While there may be frustrations, like dropped stitches and tangles, I find little successes encourage me to try something just that bit harder next time.
I'm not sure the same process will translate across to crochet, and I haven't had the slightest inkling to try as yet, but who day I may find myself taking that first step and ordering a crochet hook!

Monday, 25 July 2016

A Garden Visitor 5

The beautiful call of the Pied Butcher Bird accompanied me as I worked in the garden over the weekend. These birds often visit our garden, snapping up tasty morsels with their sharp beaks and drinking from our bird bath. They are quite curious, tilting and turning their heads as one approaches  seemingly considering whether one is friend or foe.

A Pied Butcher Bird meets a rather unusual friend while perched on our back fence. 

Here,  over the weekend, the weather was warm and sunny and so being outside was a true delight. I hope you had some delightful moments during your weekend days too.


Friday, 22 July 2016

Catching the Light

It's felt a little like Spring here the past few days. It's been unseasonably warm so short-sleeves have replaced jumpers, shorts have replaced jeans and sandals have been welcomed back! I've walked more leisurely, less briskly, with no need to race the cold.

I've really noticed the change in the light on these warmer days. The way things seem highlighted when touched by the sun. Deep and bright yellows have caught me eye too; reminding me of the sun that has warmed these days.

A native flower glowing in the sun.

 Sunshine in a flower ... the deep yellow bloom of Calendula.

 Wattle ... bright yellow buds the colour of the sun.

Tiny yellow fireworks burst into bloom.

Two pots of delicious, golden Lemon Curd.

Sir Steve dog's honey-coloured coat shines in the sun.

I hope you'll get to spend some time out in the warm sunshine this weekend.




Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Lovely Lemon and Yoghurt Loaf

Fresh lemons, tangy and fragrant, add a citrus zing to this lovely Lemon and Yoghurt Loaf. It's a simple cake to make and a delicious cake to eat. (Eating is always the best bit, isn't it!)

Slices of Lemon and Yoghurt Loaf.
The recipe is based on one I collected from an old Family Circle magazine way back in 1995! As usual, I tend to tinker with recipes and this one is no different. I halved the amount of sugar, doubled the amount of lemon and substituted macadamia nut oil for vegetable oil. I also used full fat yoghurt and not low-fat yoghurt. Here's how I made it:

Lemon and Yoghurt Loaf

3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup macadamia nut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 egg
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups self raising flour
1 cup full fat plain yoghurt
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 180C and line a loaf tin.
2.  Beat sugar, egg, eggwhites, oil and vanilla until pale, thick and frothy.
3.  Add sifted flour, yoghurt and lemon juice to frothy egg mixture. Fold in gently with a metal spoon.
4.  Spoon half of this cake batter into base of lined loaf tin and spread evenly.
5.  Mix together coconut sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this over batter in the loaf tin.
6.  Cover the cinnamon sugar with remaining half of cake batter.
7.  Bake in oven for approximately 40minutes until skewer inserted into centre of cake comes out clean.
8.  Leave this cake to cool in cake tin until turning out onto a wire rack.

You could drizzle a lemon icing over this cake. You could make a lemony syrup to pour over the cake while it's still warm so that it soaks in. You could spread it with lashings of homemade lemon curd or you could serve it up, as I do, with a big dollop of thick, fresh cream and some warmed berries. Yum!

I hope you enjoy it!




Monday, 18 July 2016

Sunday's Baking

Sundays that unfold at home can be such simple, unhurried days. Our blue front gate is closed, there is nowhere else we have to be or that we want to be. We spend time together and time alone doing the things we love and enjoy.

The Sunday just passed was one like this. Books were read and shared while curled up under warm covers. Board games were played up at our old wooden table. A footy was kicked back and forth out in the yard. Rows and and rows were added to a new dishcloth I'm knitting. Hands were warmed around mugs of hot tea and hot chocolate and batches of homemade goodness were baked too.

I made little Buckwheat Jam Drops filled with strawberry jam that oozed over the edges of the thumbprints I had pressed into the biscuit dough. I used up some tangy yoghurt in a Lemon and Yoghurt Cake which we enjoyed with freshly whipped cream and warmed berries. Batches of wholesome Breakfast Muffins were baked too for the busy school mornings ahead in weeks to come.

Sweet and jammy Jam Drops.

 Lovely Lemon and Yoghurt Cake.

Wholesome Breakfast Muffins...Mmmm!

Ours was a slow Sunday, a relaxing Sunday and a delicious Sunday too. I hope yours was just as good!


Friday, 15 July 2016

Scenes from our Local Show

Our local show is held annually in a picturesque valley just a short drive from where we live. It's a wonderful, old-fashioned country show that's become one of our favourite family traditions. 

The ferris wheel ... a classic ride!
I love the feeling of wandering, unhurried and happy, to visit familiar stalls and rides and events and to discover what is new and different each year too. The joyful expression on my boy's face as he whirls around on a ride or slips down a giant slide makes me smile. I savour the simple contentment of eating sherbert-sprinkled ice-cream cones while sitting on green grass under sunny skies. And I love, absolutely love, the pavilion with its colourful and proud array of handmade crafts and homegrown produce.

A prize-winning pumpkin.
A beautiful basket of homegrown veggies.
A gorgeous, fragrant rose entry.
A bottle of homemade strawberry jam and its matching ribbon.
Cute clown cupcakes baked and decorated by a child.
Denim and colourful fabric patchwork.
Smaller square patches in another handmade quilt.
My favourite part of the show though happens towards evening. Just as twilight descends on the valley, and the sun slips down behind the mountain ridge, a bush band begins to play and a big, warming bonfire is lit. We sit, rugged up and sharing a blanket, to enjoy our dinner. The music fills the air, our feet tap, young children dance and sauce from our burgers trickles down our chins. As darkness falls, fireworks explode and sparkle in the black sky to signal the end of such a good day.

Fireworks light up the night sky.
I do hope you enjoy good days over the coming weekend. Perhaps there will be a show, fair or market in your local town this weekend.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Here & Now 3

Outside, the skies are cloudy and grey. The light is subdued. A mist has descended so everything feels cold and damp. Inside, it is warm and quiet. There is soup simmering on the stove. Washing is hanging from air-drying racks and feet are encased in soft slippers. A contented Sir Steve dog is asleep at my feet. Here it is a wet Winter's day and this is my now: 

A little bunch of sweetly-scented, brightly coloured Dianthus.
Loving //  Finding pops of bright colours on overcast, Wintery days.
Eating //  Roasted pumpkin with everything. Yum!
Drinking // Smoothies full of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
Wearing //  A warm, checked flannelette shirt and comfy slippers. Very stylish!
Feeling //  Content just to be here in my home with my dog at my feet.
Making //  Pressed viola blooms so I can make some gift tags like these.
Thinking //  "I wonder if this washing will ever dry?"
Dreaming //  Of a fire pit in the backyard where hands are warmed and marshmallows are toasted.

Sarah, over at Say Little Hen, hosts this link-up. It's lovely to visit her blog, marvel at her beautiful photos and follow the links to other bloggers who share their own Here & Now posts.

Have a lovely Wednesday. Perhaps the sun will be shining where you are. If not, enjoy that muted sky.


Monday, 11 July 2016

Winter Comfort: Ham and Vegetable Soup

Soup is the ultimate Winter meal, nourishing and filling and comforting. What could be better than a deep bowl of warm soup that's full of flavour and goodness and love? We returned home from our holiday in the tropical north to cold and windy Wintery days. I spent one of those days cooking, baking and making this delicious soup!

 A bowl of warm and nourishing soup makes a wonderful Winter meal.

I made this soup based on a recipe for Pea and Ham Soup. I always adapt it to suit what's in my pantry and fridge. I didn't have any split peas this time around so I used up some soup mix instead. Soup is very versatile like that!  Here how I made this one:

Ham and Vegetable Soup 

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
4 cups water (approximately)
4 bay leaves
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
11/2 cups soup mix
1 ham hock
2 cups roughly chopped root vegetables (potato, carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato)
salt and pepper

1.  Warm oil in a large soup/stock pot.
2.  Soften chopped onion and celery in oil.
3.  Add stock, water, bay leaves, thyme leaves, soup mix and ham hock.
     * Add more water, if necessary, to cover ham hock.*
4.  Bring to boil then simmer for half an hour.
5.  Add chopped root vegetables and continue to cook until veggies and soup mix are soft.
6.  Remove ham hock and cool before removing the skin and shredding the meat.
7.  Add shredded ham back into soup.
8.  Discard bay leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Serve generous portions in deep bowls with warm and buttery bread. 

Flavour in this soup develops from the ingredients and time that go into making it.  It really is delcious!

 Soft onion and celery in warm oil.

 A flavoursome vegetable stock to cook ham and veggies in.
 Delicious root vegetables add lots of goodness!
Herbs like thyme add even more flavour.
And salty, smoky ham, of course!

I hope you'll have time to cook yourself a batch of warm, nourishing soup this Winter. The flavour and goodness in homemade soup far surpasses tinned or packet soups and the love and time that goes into making a soup is evident in the bowl too!


Friday, 8 July 2016

Exploring Home: Jackfruit

My growing boy remembered the unusual tropical tree growing in his Grandmother's garden. The tree with heavy limbs and large leaves that reached the ground to form a protected and secret hiding spot. His four year old self would run through one of its leafy "doors", giggling and waiting to be found by those doing the seeking. But, he clearly hadn't remembered this tree's emormous fruit because, as he ducked into the secluded shade under the tree this time around, he exclaimed with much surprise that something from outer space was hanging from the tree. That "something" was a Jackfruit.

The huge Jackfruit.
 Jackfruit are very impressive. (So much so they can leave an older boy agape!) They are the largest tree-borne fruit in the world with a taste akin to ripe banana with a pineapple twist!  They have edible seeds too. If you'd like to read more about Jackfruit, or some other tropical fruits grown in the region where I grew up, you can follow this link.

Have a lovely weekend. Perhaps you'll find something unusual or surprising in your own garden.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Exploring Home: In My Mother's Garden

Just as growing up with the freedom to explore my surroundings instilled in me a deep love of nature, it is my mother's love of gardening that is nestled now in my own heart. My mother's tropical garden is filled with colour. Whenever I visit, it is not long before we are wandering around her garden together looking at all her beloved plants.

 The bright and beautiful bloom of Hibiscus.
 Cool, white Impatiens brighten up a shady spot.
 A lady awaits in the garden.

 The ruffled, sweet flower of a Camellia.
 The striking blooms of what my Mum calls a Poor Man's Orchid.

The upside-down bloom of a Chinese Lantern. 
Deep yellow lights up the garden.

 Water pooled in the centre of a brightly coloured Bromeliad.

 A tiny, sunshine yellow orchid flower.

Eye-catching leaves,  flowers and spikes!
Another impressive Hibiscus flower.

I hope you have enjoyed your short stroll around my Mum's beautiful garden. It's full of colour and happiness!