Sunday, 28 August 2011

every cloud has a silver lining

A mixed bag today indeed.  I was out this morning and looking up saw this cloud over the city with a shiny silver edge.  I grabbed my phone, I don't take camera to church, and snapped it.  The shot isn't marvellous, I  was looking straight up with just a phone camera and  the light was very glary, but the silver is clear.  The second photo was taken about a minute later and there's a hole in the cloud with more silver poking through.

I have a lot of sky photos taken lately, both with phone and camera.  Some of them are very beautiful of sunsets and sunrises with lovely colours.  Some of them show the sun lighting the city skyline from the west and Sydney Tower and Centrepoint as well as other tall buildings stand out against a dark foreground.

Others are very dramatic.  Yesterday afternoon I took one of a very dark cloud which appeared to have texture.  I know clouds are water vapour, but  this one seemed like an eiderdown or doona, all soft, snuggly and squishy.  The sky changes so quickly that most of the time I'm not prepared and miss out on a good opportunity.  Still, I try. My title about clouds and silver linings really had no meaning hidden behind it, it was just a comment on the photo.

Last night I spent most of the evening re-reading an old weight loss journal which I used to keep on Angelfire.  Five years worth of journalling, actually.  I knew the title of it but couldn't find it in any search and couldn't get into the editor feature.  Last night I tried a different way and finally cracked the password I had used and the full title which Angelfire had been using.

I've always known the therapeutic value of journalling and what you see here isn't the only blog/journal I have.  However, when I looked at the big picture, written over several years I was surprised to see how therapeutic it must have been.  I often mentioned my online friends and the support we gained from  each other.  The group has split up now but I'm still in contact with some of them.  Here I also find friendship and community based on various interests, mostly knitting.  I see friendship and support to others here too and I'm not speaking just about myself.

Much of it was interesting about my grandchildren.  I did quite a lot of babysitting even then and minded my eldest granddaughter for two days a week for over a year when she was tiny.  I had a good laugh at some of her deeds and sayings over that time.  I went one morning with a nasty headache caused by tight shoulder muscles.  I must have been a bit cranky from it , because I have recorded that she told me, "You not a happy chappy today grandma."  She wasn't three then and I do remember that morning.  She still has a way with words at eleven.

I've been putting the Kitchenaid to work.  This was dough made the day I bought it and kept in the fridge.  It hasn't really become sourdough yet but it has a great flavour.  It slices easily and well.

I poured boiling water into a baking dish as I put it in the oven and it has developed a really crusty outer to it.  Seen here from lunch yesterday of a couple of slices of bread, some olives and cheese and some fruit all  eaten outside as it was mild.  Very pleasant lunch it was, too.

I've just made some more dough to cook later in the week.  This time I've used some wholemeal spelt flour.  Spelt is ancient and unchanged from Roman  times.  We eat the same variety as they did.  It has a nutty flavour and many who have a gluten intolerance can eat it where they cannot eat modern varieties of wheat.  In a couple of places I've read that leaving the dough for 18 + hours also helps some and it's thought that the modern methods of hurrying dough along, and cooking from start to finish in three  hours or so prevents the developing of a dough suitable for all.  The hurrying holds good for both commercial and homemade dough. This seems borne out by research and experimenting but I'm NOT offering medical advice.  Do some searching of your own and check with health advisor if you are intolerant.

Lastly, what I hope may be a bit of a kick to my knitting motivation which seems to be sleeping somewhere.  My navy blue sock is very plain and boring, the shawl I started is really not working out in the yarn I'm trying.  I've sent off all the little alligators I was knitting and have done hats for all my sons bar one.  Ailsa, Knitabulous, is kindly dyeing some more wool for me for that one.  I had ordered some of her lovely yarn, two skeins and asked about some in black.  She emailed me and is now doing some.  I love her service and the yarns are beautiful too.

I was in Kinokuniya late this morning and looked at the knitting books.  I have quite a few lace books but not this one.  Lovely patterns there and not s expensive as I had seen some time ago.  The Nicky Epstein is copyright this year and has loads of interesting things in it.  Cables, ribs, i-cord edges and more.  I would not have chosen the colours she has for the samples, but they definitely show the patterns and stitches very clearly.  I've found a cable there which I might use as the base for son's hat.  Joined and then pick up the stitches around, somewhat similar to the Coronet hat from Knitty.  I've made several of those.  This one was about $25.

I'e been very careful over the last four years about buying books of any sort.  I had nowhere to store them.   Have bought some but have really been very restrained.  Last week I ordered six sets of glass and chrome shelving and two other shelves as well.  They'll  hopefully display whatever my sister has sent from mum.  I had a call yesterday and they'll be delivered on Tuesday, so I can begin unpacking.  I've enlisted DIL's help.  Give her some lunch and I'm sure the job will be done in basically a day on Wednesday.  She's great at that sort of thing.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

smoke gets in your eyes

I've been having fun  with my now not-so-new camera.  I've learnt a lot and have, mostly enjoyed the challenge.  The other day I decided to bite the bullet and try the manual setting.  I found this very daunting but at least I'm not paying to have mistakes developed, I just wipe them from the camera. I wandered around the building taking shots of all sorts of things.  Some worked, some didn't.  I was surprised that one I took of the controls in the lift turned out.  The lift has shiny plywood or similar walls, the control is shiny steel and overhead is a vicious fluorescent tube.  Lots of light sources  to deal with but I managed.  Probably more beginner's luck than good management.

I really like this particular one of a clivea  near the front security door.  The colour is fairly true and I like the concentration on the details of the flowers.

Last Saturday we had a family birthday lunch at son's on central coast.  There are several of us who have birthdays from late July to early September, so we decided  combined lunch was the way to go.  As it happened, my birthday was actually last Saturday so it was a good choice.  I went up the day before and stayed overnight.  DIL is a hairdresser and did my hair with loads of blonde foils.  Totally different from normal, quite striking but something else I really like.

Beautiful day but freezing.  Son wore heavy jacket and an alpaca beanie I had knitted while doing the BBQ. The wind was cold but all the cousins ran around madly and jumped on the trampoline and so on.  They hadn't seen each other for a while, so they really enjoyed themselves and there were no accidents and scraped knees etc.

Some time after lunch, there were cupcakes and candles and a gluten free cake, also with candles.  Then I had a surprise.  DIL presented me with a large box wrapped in brown paper and a purple gift bag to go with the box.  A Smokey Joe small Weber BBQ for me, along with firestarters and heat beads.  I've been missing grills and using the stove here often results in the smoke alarm being set off.  It's not in the kitchen but seems super sensitive to the slightest fumes.

We had a fire inspection here a week ago of fire alarm, door closer and condition of front door which is a fire door .  The chap who did it said everyone complains about the alarm's sensitivity to cooking.  Better safe than sorry, I suppose, but I turn fan onto high and open a door if I grill or dry fry food.  That's a bit much in cold weather.

So now I can cook on the BBQ and close the vents when finished.  That will put out the heat beads and they can be relit another time if unused.

I was coming back in the train, so left the BBQ for #1 son to bring back in their car.  He's vastly improved although he still gets pain, but he's off crutches and his little bike/scooter.  However, while they live ten minutes from here by car, their car has only two seats.  It's a little Citroen Berlingo van.  There have been short drives when he has sat in the back, well down out of sight but I wouldn't et him do that now.  So I came home by train.

I've rearranged kitchen a bit and moved microwave down to bench.  I don't like it there, but it's much more convenient and certainly safer for getting hot stuff out of it.

So look  what has moved in and taken up residence.  I left my Kenwood behind when I moved out several years ago.  My second Kenwood, actually.  I've been using  a small handheld mixer which I bought when we had a place in the bush outside Cessnock.  It came from Woolworths when they had long counters down the shop and lots of shop assistants and cost $14.  I'm not joking.  We sold that property in 1985. It's getting very tired and I think I may need to be merciful to it before it burns out the motor and throws the circuit breakers here.

Kenwoods such as I had are now about $1500.  I nearly choked when I saw the price although I think my first one was $300 a very long time ago.  There is an unattractive smaller model which I didn't like and that was over $800.  This comes with a DVD for instructions and a CD-ROM of recipes.

I saw a recommendation for this book on another blog, although I can't remember which one.  I've made bread since I was at primary school and started  with decent hot cross buns.  I have several bread books but this is certainly one of the best.  It was under AUD$20 and I bought it from the Book Depository.  It has a large introductory section on the theory behind what the author does and why.  It's easy to read, although the print could be bigger and the print of the index is almost unacceptably small.  There are lots of recipes and an easy starter for sourdough.  Flat breads and celebratory breads are included.

The author has a horror of throwing out bread, so there also recipes and ideas for using stale bread.

SO I'm making bagels.  I have  forgotten to take photos but may take some of the finished product if I'm satisfied with the way they look.

And knitting?  Well, not much to be honest.  I'm going to frog the shawl that I started.  It's really not suitable wool for the purpose although I love the colour.  I've done a bit on the sock but my hands have been sore and I jabbed the end of middle right finger and it's also sore.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

unplanned stash reduction

Most of my cotton stash, some very nice stuff has gone.  Emptied by garbage men this morning.  Yesterday I had a delivery bought online from Woolies.  I've been glad of online shopping since I broke toe and have been sick for three weeks now.  I'm glad to say that I think that's behind me now.

I also get a box of fruit and vegetables taken straight into my kitchen, another online purchase.  It reminds me of the grocer delivering to mum when I was young.  No online ordering then, though.

So I unpacked it all straight away and put it into my pantry/store room.  I opened the door to that room late in the afternoon to get some ingredient for dinner.  There was a strange smell in there, a bit like Worcestershire sauce.  I checked all my sauces and condiments which sit in a tray with an edge all round.  Nothing there.  Picked up a few packets that I had put there in the  morning.  Nothing.  Then I heard a couple of drips.

There had been a bottle of raspberry vinegar with a looseish lid that had survived two house moves. Somehow it had been knocked over and the vinegar was slowly dripping down through the shelving.  On the floor under the shelves was a plastic tote, open, as the lid had broken.  It had a great pile of cotton in it and my possum/merino wool.  Most of the cotton was soaked, it must have been dripping for a while.  Some of the possum was wet.  I pulled it all out and decided to throw any thing affected.  I don't think I would have got it clean and washing would have been difficult. So out it went.  There was about a cup of raspberry vinegar on the bottom of the tote as well.  A couple of small pieces of cross stitch were also soak, so they went out too.  What a waste.

I've been here almost five months now and am gradually thinking about what I can do in the kitchen.  The rest of the place, including the bathroom is fine, looks like new, but the kitchen is tired and not well planned really.  It's small, very small, about 2.5 metres either way.  That's wall to wall, not the space in the middle.

The cupboards are mostly too high for me, the exhaust fan vents straight back into the kitchen and activtes the smoke alarm in hall outside.  The cupboard under the sink needs remaking. It doesn't have a hinged corner door so the space in the corner is almost impossible to access and is really wasted.  The shelf needs more support than it has and there is a bow in it.
These cupboards are quite high and the microwave is difficult to use at an odd angle.

There is a corner door here for easy access but look at all the gas and water bits and pieces.


The drawers here look OK but are falling apart inside and need new bases.

I called in at a kitchen place near here today.  I liked a lot of what they have but the woman was reluctant to tell me unit prices.  Their kitchens start at $10,000, she said.  I want to have something I like that is well planned and useful.  I don't want shoddy stuff but neither am i going to pay enormous amounts for it.  One possibility is getting someone to replace the doors with something more to my liking and fixing the coupe of major problems with the cupboards.

I'm thinking of some glass shelving down the all on this left hand side for cups etc.  I don't want cupboards as it would close in the area too much.  I need to do something with the lighting.  At the moment the light has been placed in ceiling in middle of the space.  That means that I cast a shadow and work in that shadow, no matter what bench I am at.  Floor tiling is fine and I would really like a glass splashback.  The bench is OK but I would not have chosen it.  It's in good condition.


Monday, 15 August 2011

alligators

Herewith a congregation of alligators.  At least that's what wikipedia and other sites tell me is the collective name for a group of alligators.  These are done for a friend who is making a memorial banner for another internet friend who had the nickname of alligator.  The pattern is cute but not well written.  The largest was the first one I did and I've gradually adapted the pattern making changes to suit me till I finally tweaked it to my liking.  Three were other bits which were awkward as well and I decreased stitches across shoulders of the beast to make it in proportions more plesng to me.

Some I did in i-cord, rather knitting six stitches in the round on three needles!  The feet pattern was also awkward and not very attractive.

I've used mostly sock wool, much of it just scrappy odds and ends I had.  A lot of it was Patonyle, although the yellow was a little left from socks made in yarn from Needlefood in NZ, no longer in business.

The animal was supposed to be stuffed but it's going on a banner and already three dimensional.  Ends of wool have been stuffed down inside the body to give a bit of bulk.  It' can be flattened or rounded to suit, however my friend wants it.

The smallest crocodile is for my friend's grandson who is known as "croc."  She suggested her mother would put it on a baby hat to keep his head warm.  Her choice to do whatever she wants.

When I looked up the  collective noun for a group of alligators, I also looked it up for crocodiles.  There's a choice for them.  A group  can be a congregation or a float or a bask.

Monday, 8 August 2011

preserved lemons

There has been some knitting but it's not worth a photo.  The leg of the first navy sock is a bit longer and I've done not quite half of the edging of a shawl by the Shetland Trader, Gudrun Johnston.  The yarnovers are picked up when the edging is finished and the shawl knitted from there.  This means the number of stitches decreases as the shawl grows.

I love the flavours of Moroccan food and the beautiful aromas as it simmers away gently.  I love the spices and the preserved lemon which is an important part of the flavour.  Now when I was with DIL and son, I used the very large jar of preserved lemons which they had been given.  I've been missing it since I moved.

I'm a bit of a lemon freak.  Preserved lemon usually uses just the rind and the flesh is scraped off.  I'll happily eat a piece straight from the jar, flesh and all.  If a slice of lemon is  served with a meal, I can eat all of that too.  I was surprised a couple of years ago when one of my granddaughters asked for a slice of lemon to eat as I prepared a meal, so she has the same tastes I have.  However I hate preserved or candied peel and loathe marmalade unless it's the ginger variety with lots of ginger as well as the peel.

So I decided to make my own lemons.

  You'll need lemons, salt and spices which are optional.  I can't tell you how many lemons, it depends on the size of your container. With winter here, lemons are cheap, plentiful and of good quality.  Even better, many have them growing on their own trees, a luxury I no longer have.  Choose lemons with unblemished skin if possible, as that's the part which is used in a dish.

Wash and dry your container.  I have a  glass jar and lid as the acid from the lemons  and the corrosive salt will attack a metal lid and your lemons will be spoilt and inedible.

Cover the base of the jar with salt.  I've used sea salt as I had quite a bit of it, but other salt is fine too.

Cut your lemons.  I used 6.5 lemons for this  fairly small jar.  Some recipes suggest cutting in quarters but not all the way through.  Open the lemon out like a flower and pack with salt.  Slices the size of a quarter would overpower the smallish dishes I try to cook for myself, so I cut my quarters in half again.  I actually think they can be packed down more easily cut like that.

After each layer, cover the lemons with more salt.  Spices can be added if liked.  Not essential.  I've used star anise and cinnamon stick.  Coriander seeds would be good  too, but I'm out of them.

Keep adding layers of lemons and salt, packing them in as tightly as you can manage.  When you have filled the jar as tightly as possible, carefully pour in fresh lemon juice, letting it trickle down to fill any spaces in the jar.

Close jar carefully, wipe clean, label and date.  That's all there is to the process, except you have to be patient.  Place in fridge and turn every day for a week.  If the level of juice goes down as it's absorbed, top it up with more juice to keep the pieces covered.  You will need to wait 3-4  weeks for the skin to soften and  mature.

Use in Moroccan dishes.  Preserved lemons are also good with veal or chicken.  Sit back and enjoy the aroma in your kitchen and then enjoy your meal.  Bon app├ętit!

Friday, 5 August 2011

let there be light

This lamp is brilliant.  These are navy blue socks in Patonyle.  Very navy blue.  In the last few weeks I've been trying to work at  night with dark green wool and black as  well as this dark blue.  You can see from the photo how clearly and evenly the stitches are lit on the needles.  Prior to this light, even the bamboo light coloured needles made little difference to howI saw the knitting.  Not any more.

I find the  light pleasant to my eyes as well as being bright.  I'm sure the light will be very useful for reading and other close work too.  It costs next to nothing to run, although it certainly wasn't cheap to buy.  However, discomfort and eyestrain and headaches all cost something even if not quantified  financially.

Two more pictures of the Chimei lamp, one side on, the other from the front. It has a heavy base so would not be very easy to knock over.  I like the sleek, dynamic design too.  The on/off switch is in the base at the front in the centre, easy to find and operate.

The light is in a  flattened area at the top about as long as my hand from fingertip to wrist.  Although that part doesn't swivel by itself, the whole lamp can be twisted to different angles bot of the focus of the light and of the bend of the  flexi part.  It reminded me of the bendy figures my sons had as toys when they were small.

When it was being packed up for sale the salesman apologised as he could no find the box.  This particular one had been part of a display.  He bent the whole lamp almost doubled over  so he could wrap it well.  It not only doubled up but could have been twisted like a  rope.  However when opened out it's quite sturdy.

As you can see, I'm pleased with my purchase.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

food, glorious food...


First cab off the rank in a post with a lot of pictures is my new camera bag from Epiphanie bags.

I found these on Justine Turner's blog.  I was using a bag lent to me by my friend but it really was a squeeze as it had not been designed for my Nikon D3100.  When I added the neck strap which had to be poked in to the bag, I could see I needed something bigger.  This has an across the body shoulder strap and the ends of the bag have  adjustable belts.  Inside are pockets, padded, which can be made in the configuration I want at the time.  I will buy a wide angle lens and possibly a telephoto lens when I m really used to the original which came with the camera.  I'll get  a spare battery in the next month or so as well.

Jussi had her bag from Texas in five days.  This  took over two weeks, pretty well all of that in transit to here, according to UPS.  When it arrived there were at least five large stickers on it which said it was International Express Post.  International it definitely was, but express?  No way.  More like a carrier pigeon carrying it. I think.

I had a fruit and vegetable delivery this week.  I always get a surprise with the contents.  I can't specifically order the entire contents but can make adjustments to the order.  I like the surprises.  This week had four tangelos in the box.  Now I am at long last beginning to feel a bit better and less of a blob with a stuffed head. One blob has gone through almost two big boxes of tissues in the last two weeks.  I hardly ever use them but was glad to have them in the cupboard.  I've had some infection from the cold but don't know quite what it was.

Today I juiced three of them for a drink at lunch.  It's currently very mild here, although another cold blitz is forecast for next week.  So I ate spring food.  You can see how much juice was in them and they were very easy to juice. They were sweet and tangy.

Along with the fresh juice, I had baked eggs.  This is a tiny cast iron pot with a lid.  In it went some Bush Spirit relish, about a tablespoon, two shallots sliced very thinly, about a tablespoon of light sour cream.  I usually use ordinary cream but had none.  Two organic eggs filled up the pot, I said it was small, and I put a  topping of panko crumbs and good grated cheddar.   Pepper and salt on top and into the oven.  I cooked mine with the lid on for ten minutes as I just cannot eat runny egg yolk.  Then I took the top off for the rest of the time till eggs were to my liking.  I've also used good parmesan or reggiano  on this and that's nice too.  Freshly grated, not the awful stuff from the supermarket shelf.

Talking about baking... I'd  really like a display on oven controls which reminds me to check the placement  of the shelves.  I grilled the other day and forgot to lower shelf till today.  After the oven had heated up.

What's this?  Fresh bread with no test slice baked into it?  My sons used to be puzzled when they were small that I could cook a tray of slice with a  test piece cut from one corner.  No test of the bread today, yet. This is ordinary flour and multigrain mix about 50/50%  Some chia seeds too.  It smells wonderful.  I enjoy bread making and will try some of the no knead recipes.  This was done in a breadmaker.  I hadn't intended to get one, but my benches here are higher than I would choose and kneading ordinary bread on the bench made my shoulders very achey and sore.  I make about a loaf of bread a week and even when it's  a week old the toast is great to eat.

And finally the obligatory knitting content.  Patonyle socks in navy.  I found the interesting scallop and used it.  I've done ruffles before but not scallops.  I think it's different .  There was also lace for the leg and foot but I found it less than inspiring so ditched it and am doing 3x3 rib.

I've done several things in dark colours lately and it's been hard on the eyes.  I gave in and bought a daylight lamp yesterday by Chimei.  Photos next entry perhaps.  It's very good and the switch responds a bit like the old touch lights, with various degrees of brightness.  The light is LEDs rather than a tube and is supposed to last at least 15 years.  It's certainly made a difference  to my comfort last night and will be good.