Friday, March 30, 2012

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knitting = Weird

It's official - knitting is weird. Well, not knitting as such, but knitting accoutrement. Well, it's not that it is weird, it just looks weird...through an airport security baggage scanner. It's been legal to take knitting needles through screening points in Australia since Christmas 2009, but it would seem not many people choose to, because the young man behind the counter on Sunday morning at Sydney airport was taken aback by the sight of my knitting, in 2D, on his screen.

"It just looked weird," he said, as he eventually handed over my bag, having screened it twice, then donned plastic gloves in readiness to work his way through the contents.

It's amazing how you always feel guilty in those situations, even though you know rationally there is nothing to worry about. It's like when the police pull you over for a random breath test and you think you're about to be arrested even though it's Tuesday afternoon and you haven't had a glass of wine since the weekend.

I pulled off the reading knitter's double whammy on the flight - made possible because the kid was sitting five rows back with the GM, so I didn't have to concentrate on anyone but myself. I propped my book open on the tray table, unfurled my knitting and set to work. Several rounds and several pages later, we landed in Melbourne. I should fly, alone, more often. 

On the subject of knitting and flying, a little experiment came to fruition last weekend. I decided a few months ago that I'd like to knit a blanket for our bed. I chose this lovely one. But the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece costs about $14 a ball here. And $14 times 20 is expensive whichever way you look at it. But, with my sister spending the ski season in Utah, I went about buying up the colours I needed through some US-based Ravellers. Most of it cost half the Oz price, or less. And most of them shipped free to my sister's US address. And in Melbourne, on the weekend, we did the handover. Thank you, Emma, my yarn mule.

{Quick waiver: I have never knit a blanket or anything as big as a blanket, so don't expect to see the finished product here anytime soon.}

For those whose lives were hanging on the result, no, I didn't finish the bolero. It was a race to the finish line, but on Friday night I sent up the white flag. I may have got it done in time, but I wouldn't have been happy with the result, and it definitely wouldn't have been washed and blocked.  It seemed more sensible to stop and do it properly without the time pressure. Never mind, my girl wore a mummy-made dress and a cardigan I unearthed from the back of the cupboard. 

And a grand time was had by all.

On the return journey, security stopped my knitting bag again. Weird, huh?

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Friday, March 23, 2012

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.

(We're taking a break in Melbourne to hang with family and celebrate a wedding. See you back here in a few days.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


My kids are driving me bonkers. Today they drove me bonkers. And yesterday. And several (about six or seven) days last week.

It doesn't mean I don't love them. That bit's biological and sort of unavoidable. I've even tested it at moments when I'm really being driven to Bonkerville - yep, still love them. It doesn't mean I'm not charmed several times a day by the stuff they say, or entertained, sometimes into giggle-fits, by their stylin' on the dance floor, or turned all melty-slushy by their affectionate kisses and 'tuddles'. Our days are full of this great stuff. And the sending-Mum-bonkers stuff too.

I have been brainstorming ways to make the days easier and the bonkers less prevalent.
1) I could enrol them all in full-time long day care. Perhaps I could find one locally that opens seven days a week.
2) I could turn on the TV each morning after breakfast and keep it on till bedtime. 
3) To minimise the mealtime bonkers, we could have McDonald's for lunch and dinner. There's one a few k's up the road. They do breakfast too, yes?

Easier, perhaps. But not really gonna happen.

So isn't it a sweet relief that amidst the crazy-making, there is knitting. And straight-off-the-presses favourite food mags. And coffee. And a bloke happy to take on the bonkers for an hour while I escape.

And suddenly the bonkers seems more manageable.

Knitting a small pattern-less bolero to be worn by a little girl this weekend at a wedding in Melbourne, and wondering if it'll be ready in time...or look anything like a bolero...

Joining in with the Yarn Along at Small Things. Hoping to find some more sanity over there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Glorious Mud

Inspired by this woman, and trying to be less uptight about all the bloody, bloody mess, the other day we dug for worms. And made mud. It was fun. And very, very messy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Four Years

Mashed potato accompanied so many of the meals of my childhood - no doubt a symptom of the era as well as the fussiness of the kids being fed. Mashed potato with sausages, with chops, with corned beef and white sauce, on top of mince in a shepherd's pie. One of the first meals I learnt to cook was lamb cutlets, crumbed and fried, with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. Peel the taties, cut them into chunks, then boil them, drain them and mash with butter and milk.

For all the times my mum peeled and boiled and drained and mashed, it wasn't until a few months before her death that I discovered she didn't actually like mashed potatoes. She was recuperating at my house after an awful and serious operation that bought her a few more months but that no-one had the heart to tell us had zero chance of curing her. I had been trying to prepare easy food she could swallow and stomach, comfort food. One evening I splurged on some lamb cutlets and served them with the obligatory mashed potatoes. Then I watched her push them around her plate. How could I have lived 32 years and never noticed that, for all the times she dolloped the mash onto our plates, she kept it off her own?

Mum had renal cell carcinoma. Cancer of the kidney. They'd removed the offending organ six years earlier and given her the all-clear. But it came back, this time in her liver. I was pregnant with Lola at the time, and my big sister was pregnant with Jack, her fourth. If anything, Mum knew she had to stick around to meet those babies.

I remember it as a year of doctor's appointments and hospital stays, both Mum's and my own. She was well for Jack's birth. Four months later, we played chicken with my due date as she underwent a procedure that left her unable to come in contact with me for four days. Luckily I went over by two weeks, so she was suitably non-radioactive and in attendance at Lola's birth. Soon after we discovered my other sister was pregnant. Mum would become a grandmother three times in a single year, and she had another goal in the living stakes.

As the new year rolled in, Mum's health deteriorated and her care inevitably shifted from gung-ho treatment options to palliative. At no point did anyone say how much longer she might have. My sister made the difficult decision to be induced a couple of weeks early when it looked like time was running out. I'll always consider it a miracle the way Mum seemed to come back from the brink that week. She was like her old self, excited and energetic and well. We were all there at the labour and welcomed that grandbaby, Mum's seventh, into the world.

And then, as though her work was done, she faded away. It was a short illness - a little over a year from diagnosis - and a very quick death. Baby Henry was three weeks old at her funeral. 

Lola was 8 months old. 

Mum was 61.

Yesterday it was four years. Four years since receiving a phone call in the early hours of the morning telling me she was gone. We'd left the hospital the night before, encouraged to get some rest. I had wanted to be there when she died, but I suspect she waited till we left. I arranged to meet my sister back at the hospital and I told her to hurry, as though if we rushed back we might be able to catch the last whisper of Mum before she was gone for good. I'm not sure if we did.

There have been three more grandbabies since then, people who she'll never meet and who will only know her in stories and photos. And, oh, how much she is missing out on and how annoyed she must be. I imagine her rolling her eyes at Pearl's drama, and the way she hovers about me "like a bad smell", remembering a little red-headed girl who used to drive her batty in much the same way. She'd be charmed by Stella, that dark hair and dimpled smile, and perhaps, like me, wonder sometimes if she belonged to someone other than us. As for the twin thing, she'd still be scratching her head about it. I clearly remember the day she said, "Why on earth would you ever have twins, Greer?" after I gave voice to a fear that Lola might be one of a pair. 

As for that Lola, the chubby babe she knew for eight months, how she would be loving watching her grow into a big girl. I imagine their conversations, and can see the look of delight and mock earnestness on her face as Lola recounts a long-winded story in which every sentence has at least four 'actually's, an 'absolutely' or two, and a 'definitely', all rounded off with an 'Isn't it wonderful, Gubby?'.

And Gubby's answer would be a firm and rounded, yes. It is wonderful. 

We just wish you were here to be a part of it all.

Photo by my friend Bri. That's Lola in the pale pink looking...strange.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Lovelies

Snippets of lovely from the week:
1) Little hands picking little flowers
2) A walk around the lake
3) Signs of autumn
4) Mud-making
5) Some weekend sewing
6) Remembering

Hoping your week was lovely too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From the Postman

Two packages of lovely arrived in the post this week. First up was my return haul from the Vintage Sheet Swap at Green Tea and Red Nails. Look at all that florally old-fashioned beauty. 30 fat quarters in total. I'm not sure what the plans are yet - apart from some dedicated stash building - but I'm sure I can turn it into something, or many things, worthwhile.

Next up was a sneaky little yarn order from one of my favourite suppliers, Suzy Hausfrau. The Baby Cashmerino, an old favourite, is an urgent knit for a little girl who is attending a very big wedding in just over a week. The dress we have planned is bare-shouldered and something tells me she might need a little more coverage on a cool Melbourne afternoon.

And the BC Garn is new to me. It's a Danish yarn that I'm really looking forward to working with. The brown is some chunky organic wool destined for a winter cowl for me, and the deep blue is a silk-wool blend with no intended destination yet. I just couldn't resist. Look how smooshy and squishy it is.

These two are my vintage sheet favourites. So girly and colourful. Don't you love it when the postie brings packages rather than bills?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


A new book and a new project on the needles? Something tells me there might be a finished project to report. My Abalone is done. Finished. Completo. I feared it might really be the never-ending story when, after last week's saga, I picked myself up (with much encouragement from you all, thank you) and finally got that mighty neckband finished, only to discover I didn't have enough yarn left for the applied i-cord cast-off that the pattern called for. My heart sank. I set the whole thing aside for a day (and cast on the above something else), ready to forsake it forever. 

Because it's a discontinued yarn that I picked up on eBay years ago, I didn't fancy my chances of finding another ball somewhere. So, as I saw it, I had three options. I could rip it back a couple of rows to buy myself the extra yarn I needed. But that would leave me with an even thinner band than the already slightly skimpy one I had. I could go hunting in the wardrobe for this hat, made with the same yarn, and rip it out. But someone in particular may not be pleased with that option, especially with our first Highlands winter approaching. Or...I could find a different cast-off method. This last one didn't actually occur to me for a while. And when it did - double crochet bind-off, thank you, Knitty - there was but a quick evening's work and it was done. And we even scored a handful of glorious sunny autumn days to make the blocking and drying a breeze.

Ravelry notes are here.

The new book is an Anne Tyler one, 'The Accidental Tourist' - perfect for my current needs in that I can read it in short bursts and not lose the plot, literally and figuratively. I've set aside Anna Funder for when my brain is less...whatever it is at the moment.

And the new knitting project? A circular yoke vest for one of my girls, in Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 8ply. I'm winging it on the pattern. It's quite exciting. And satisfying. Or it will be if I can pull it off. 

Joining in the lovely Yarn Along with all the lovely Yarn Alongers.

Monday, March 12, 2012

World Famous Cheesy Triangles

Yes, I'm still going with the ricotta. And here's a savoury recipe - my world famous cheesy triangles. At least, that's what I call them when I rock up to a party with a tray of them. I found the recipe years ago in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines - I think it was Karen Martini's - and I've meddled with it over the years. But this is the first time I've made it with homemade ricotta. Were they better as a result? Oh, yes, they were.

Everything's approximate here, but to make about 20, you'll need 200g ricotta, a cup of peas (frozen is fine), a big handful of chopped mint, an egg, salt and pepper, half a packet of filo pastry and about 100g butter. Mix together everything except the pastry and butter.

Next, take your filo. Before you unroll it, cut it into even pieces. For medium size triangles, I cut it into quarters. For dainty little party-size ones, go for sixths. Take one cut roll and cover the others in a damp tea towel so they don't dry out. In the meantime, melt your butter and have it nearby with a pastry brush.

Unroll your filo and lay out a few sheets side by side with the short ends in front of you - we're going for a production line here. Brush each strip of pastry with the melted butter, then top with another sheet. I used to always go for three sheets, but recently I've gotten lazy and only do two. It's up to you. Place a heaped teaspoon of the minty, cheesy filling at one end of each strip.

Now it's time to get rolling. Once you get the hang of this, it's really quick and easy. Fold over one corner 45 degrees to form a triangle, enclosing the filling. It doesn't matter if it smooshes out a bit, it'll all end up nice and tidy in the end.

Now flip it over, this time 90 degrees. Then keep going, 45 degrees then 90 degrees all the way to the top. 

Before the final flip, brush the end with butter to help seal it closed.

At this stage, it's possible to freeze them. I lay them in a single layer in a ziplock bag, then place that flat in the freezer drawer. When you're ready to bake them, lay them out on a tray, brush with more melted butter and bake at about 200 degrees until they look nice and crispy and golden. I've never really timed it but about 20 minutes, I guess. If the filling is oozing out of them, all the better. Messy but squishy-licious.

And that's it. Serve with a herby yoghurt dipping sauce, or even a good homemade tomato sauce. Make it dinner by adding a salad. And if you're feeling terribly virtuous, you can substitute spray olive oil for the butter. But just quietly, the butter is part of the charm. These cheesy triangles are so good - crispy and flaky on the outside, oozy and soft in the middle, with a big burst of minty brightness to cut through the buttery pastry. They're so good, trust me. And now I'm hungry.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Lovelies

A handful of lovely from our week:

1) Puddles after the wettest fortnight in history, or so it seemed
2) And finally the sunshine (and the mud)
3) Visiting friends and a selection from their garden
4) Pasta drying on the line, ready for an epic vegie lasagne
5) Cuddles in long grass.

I'm enjoying this little weekly ritual - some photos, a few words about the week. If anyone wants to join me, you are so welcome. Let me know in the comments so I can come and check out your pics. 

Wouldn't that be lovely?

Friday, March 9, 2012

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 

Via Soulemama

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ricotta Times Two

So, what to do with all that yummy homemade ricotta cheese that's so easy to make and so much yummier than anything you could buy in the shop?

Happily, ricotta was an ingredient in a few of the recipes I had to cook and photograph recently for Australia's Biggest Morning Tea. The recipes need to be passed by a nutritionist, so they're pretty good for you. And they have to be yummy, which speaks for itself.

These banana and ricotta fritters were so tasty, and it's nice to find a use for all my squishy overripe half-eaten bananas that's not cake or muffins. It's a Tobie Puttock recipe and you can find it here.

Then there were Callum Hann's scrummy ricotta pikelets with figs and honey. They were so good, and, like the fritters above, passed with flying colours when it came to my three girls.

Ricotta Pikelets with Figs and Honey
3/4 cup wholemeal plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra, to serve
2 eggs
100g ricotta, plus extra to serve
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
spray oil, for cooking
6 figs, quartered, to serve
honey, for drizzling, to serve

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon together into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and ricotta together until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk and honey, then combine with dry ingredients.

Heat a heavy based non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan using the spray oil. Add ¼ cup of batter and cook until golden brown on the underside, 1-2 minutes. Turn over and cook until just cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve topped with extra ricotta, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a generous pile of figs and finish with a drizzle of honey.

And that's Sunday brunch out of the way. You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bad Call

My Yarn Along picture this week is looking remarkably similar to recent ones. Same-same book, same-same cardigan. But in the interests of truth in reporting, a more honest illustration of what I've been knitting and reading this week would be:

Hmmm... Yes, that's what not reading anything much and knitting something that no longer exists looks like.

I made a very big call on this book, declaring that it would be fantastic when I was just a chapter in. And it is very good. But because I'm not giving it the time and attention it deserves, I'm struggling to keep at it and therefore avoiding it at any cost. What I really need to do is take myself back to that first chapter and start over.

Starting over may have been the theme this week, at least with my Abalone's neckline. Having finished the body and grafted the shoulder seams, I got both armbands out of the way, then, shoulder to the wheel, I knuckled down to pick up about 300 stitches for the big circular neckband/front band thingamajig. I then worked the 16 rows required to create 8 'bumps'. It took most of the weekend.

The trouble is, with all that talk of jogless stripes in my head from last week, I decided I needed to do a jogless garter. So I did. Only to discover after 16 rows (4,800 stitches, or thereabouts, if you're counting) that the end-of-row marker had moved around to the side of the neck, meaning the seaming, though insignificant, would be visible. And while the garter may have been jogless, there was still a very obvious inconsistency in the stitching that, instead of being at the back of the neck where it was supposed to be in the first place, was now very firmly at the front in full view. Silly, silly, silly me. And apologies to any non-knitters who may be reading this gobbledegook.

Anyway, before attempting the epic applied i-cord cast-off, I decided to cut my losses and rip the whole thing out and start over.

But for a bad jogless garter call on my part, I'd have had a finished project to show you today.

Hoping there has been less ripping out for the other Yarn Alongers this week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Say Cheese

I'm sure we're not the only family on earth with an outrageous dairy budget. Between milk and yoghurt and all the different cheeses for sandwiches and pasta and salads and cooking, the amount we spend in the dairy aisle of the supermarket is startling. I've been making yoghurt for the past couple of months, and a couple of weeks ago tried my hand at cheese. Well, if you could call it that. Ricotta must be the easiest cheese to make at home and everything you need for it is readily available. A quick hunt around the internet turns up loads of variations - some using vinegar, others lemon juice - but this one with citric acid claims to be the best ricotta recipe ever, so I gave it a go.

To end up with about 200g of ricotta, you need a litre of milk, half a teaspoon of citric acid (dissolved in some water) and half a teaspoon of salt. You can also add a few tablespoons of cream, if you like. First you mix everything in a saucepan and heat it gently, stirring often. The curds start to separate almost immediately, but it's not until the liquid seems more watery than milky that it is ready.

Take it off the heat and leave it to sit for 10 minutes.

Put a bowl in the sink, line it with cheesecloth (muslin) then pour in the milky cheesy liquid. Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth - a lot of liquid will come out straightaway - and tie them over something long, like a rolling pin. Let the cheese hover there for about 20 minutes to drain and is done! How easy is that?

I know some people like to eat fresh ricotta straight, but I'm not so into that, in the same way I don't really enjoy a glass of plain milk. I do, however, cook with it often, and have lots of recipes to share.

But for now I'm just going to relax and enjoy all of these soothing, creamy white images.


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