Monday, March 28, 2011

Autumn is Here

When the mornings start to get dark and the evenings come in fast; the nights are cold, mornings are brisk, but the days turn warm; you know autumn has arrived.

The leaves on our plum tree start falling although not turning to golden colours and the growing of the summer vegetables slow. When I light the fire to burn rubbish there is a welcomed glow lifting the chill of a morning or a rainy day.

But that rain is pleasing to Harry and me as it means that mushrooms will be growing in our favourite spots.

However this year when we have gone for our evening stroll, with Charlotte, on a leash there have been no mushrooms. It’s like someone has been there before us! We have collected them for years in this area so there does not seem to be any other explanation. Now this is public land so we can’t ‘claim’ them as ours but “we” are not amused.

However there is a new area we have discovered, our own front yard! We have gathered two bowls over a few days and so mushroom sauce for our steak is still an autumn pleasure.

Mushroom Sauce

I clean any dirt or grass off the base of the stalks and tops of the mushroom trying not to wash them as the added water makes them soggy when I pan fry them.

I fry them on a medium heat with very little butter (about half a teaspoon).

Once they have become dry and reduced I add about a heaped teaspoon of flour and a good shake of mushroom stock and cook this stirring gently.

Then I slowly add the cream a tablespoon at a time trying not to boil it but allowing it to thicken.

We have it with steak, chops and chicken.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Little Baby Sets

Design two
Design four

I worked on some ‘little’ projects last month.

Jennifer’s little baby was going to come early and the midwife (having been Sarah’s midwife as well) knew I knitted so she suggested I knit some small hats in wool for the coming grandchild.

So finding some left over wool and knowing how quick small things would take I made two little sets of a hat with matching bootees.

I used the pattern I have for prem and little babies of which I have made a few sets for all the grandchildren - Cleckheaton No. 423, Little Babies including Premature Sizes

There are five sizes in this pattern book with the middle size being newborn and the two smaller sizes for tiny babies.

A very good book for knitting sets for little babies and the 'coming home' set.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mini Bacon and Egg Pies

Often Katrina suddenly tells me at the last minute she needs to take a shared tea to something she is going to for the evening.

I have found these little pies can be cooked from scratch ready to go out the door in less than an hour, as long as you have the ingredients on hand. They seem to go down a treat with her friends too. I always have a pack of frozen sheets of puff pastry for pies as making it yourself takes quite a while. If you don’t have bacon a slice or two of ham would work instead.

For 8 pies

Two sheets of (frozen) puff pastry
4 -5 eggs
1 rasher of bacon
Half an onion
1 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Pepper to taste
A little milk

The easiest way to bake these is in silicone muffin cases in a muffin tray as they just pop out when cooked for easy packing away in a container for transport.

Pre heat oven to 210°C.
Cut circles out of the frozen pastry (keeping leftovers covered to prevent drying out) and allow to defrost before gently placing into the silicone muffin cases that are in the muffin tin.
Cut bacon into little pieces (about half cm square)
Finely chop onion and either fry a little or soften in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
Beat eggs well with the pepper and parsley.
Add the cooked onion and cut bacon pieces and mix together.
Spoon evenly among pastry cases approximately ¾ fill.
Top with the cut out pieces of left over pastry to cover the egg mix. Don’t woozy if the egg is not completely as the ‘vents’ allow for heat to escape and so not bursting.
Brush tops with the milk.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until just turning golden.

These will keep cooking a little if packed in foil for the trip to ‘where ever’ straight from the oven, so they can be removed from the oven before the 30 minutes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wool Scraps

What does one do with all the ends of balls of wool after the garment you are knitting is finished? I keep them in bags of specific colours and/or in the texture they are. This certainly makes it easier for when I want to find a colour or type to add a contrast colour or do a spot of mending.

Evelyn our first Grand-daughter turned one the other day and her parents gave her a dolls bed. Sarah asked me to knit a blanket to go on it and chose the wool one weekend when she had called in.

I was given some measurements of the bed and just cast on 100 stitches. Because of the type of wool and because it relly had to look the same oth sides I knitted it in garter stitch. I made random stripes alternating textures and colours, beginning and ending the blanket with the same colour.

At first I thought I had made it too big but once unwrapped we discovered the measurements for the bed were on the low side and the blanket fitted perfectly!
And all it took was a bit of time from me, but it was all for the good of making a little girl smile.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dinner With The Dudes

The other night we were invited to a cooking demonstration at our friend’s Sheryn and Steve's house.

Sheryn had invited Ceasar (chef) and Skip (right-hand man) - "The Dudes" - down to her house to cook us dinner - with the challenge to use ingredients that she has produced on her block - no fancy pre-prepared, expensive stuff.

They spent the day harvesting and milking etc. Then 8 ladies (some with their partners) came and joined them in the evening. We watched them cook, learnt the tips of trade, drank vast amounts of wine (an essential part of cooking) and ate the resulting dinner.

Most of the preparation was done before I got there but I was still able to watch Ceasar plate up and learn some of the ways he had prepared the food beforehand.

Ceasar tossed the salad that included julian carrots, grapes and walnuts, for the vegetarian main course. In the bowls in front of him are deep fried basil, halved cherry tomatoes, iced shredded spring onions and thin kumara chips.
This was all built up on the plate creating quite a tower of food and decorated with nasturtium flowers.
The trick was to place small handfuls of salad on top of each other to allow air to hold it up so to speak. Next were the kumara chips, spring onion, basil and flower and the cherry tomatoes placed around the base. A dressing was made from vinaigrette and plum sauce and dribbled around the completed salad.

Then it was Sheryns turn to copy it!

The main meat course was roasted vegetables topped with a pork steak that Skip had barbequed.
This also had caramelised apple rings and then topped with the spring onions, basil and nasturtium flowers.

We prepared the tables outside with hops from the orchard and tea light candles.
Harry was very handy with his lighter!!

We had 19 people eating and enjoying the food and company in the evening air.

After the dessert of fruit crumble and what I would call an egg custard The Dudes gave us a display of twirling fire sticks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Marian Keyes has written a few novels based on a family in Ireland.
This is the second in the family saga (although it is a light hearted read) that I have read.

Maggie has always been the white sheep of the Walsh family. Unlike her comically dysfunctional sisters, Rachel (heroine of Rachel's Holiday) and Claire (heroine of Watermelon), she married a decent man who adored her and found herself a solid career. Where Rachel was reckless and Claire dramatic, Maggie settled early for safety. Or so she believed until she discovers that her husband is having an affair and her boss is going to fire her. Suddenly, her perfectly organized life has become a perfect mess.

Devastated, she decides the only thing to do is to run for the shelter of her best friend, Emily, who lives in Los Angeles. There, with the help of sunshine and long days at the beach, she will lick her wounds and decide where life will take her next. But from the moment she lands in the City of Angels, things are not quite what she expected. Overnight, she's mixing with movie stars, even pitching film scripts to studios. Most unexpectedly of all, she finds that just because her marriage is over, it doesn't mean her life is. In the end neither the City of Angels nor Maggie Walsh will ever be the same again.

I enjoyed this book and the story even more because I had already been introduced to the family in the book Watermelon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

I woke this morning knowing it was Ash Wednesday but with a feeling of sadness that our church at the moment doesn't celebrate it. In the past our vicars have held a service and the palm crosses from the previous year have been burned and a cross was marked on our foreheads if we wanted to go up to receive this.

It also marks the beginning of the season of Lent where one is encouraged to give up something (fasting) and spend more time in prayer.

Ash Wednesday
In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers.

I want to spend this season of Lent really focusing on all that is Easter and what this means to me as a Christian. My fasting is going to be ‘no chocolate’ or chocolate baked goodies.
I am also going to focus my prayer times on Gods direction for us as a family, especially for hubby and me.

I was unsure where to start so I turned to the Anglican Prayer Book and found the readings for this day a great place to start.

Sentence of the Day
Return to the Lord your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.
Joel 2:13

When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret.
Matthew 6:17-18

Collect of the Day
God of the desert,
as we follow Jesus into the unknown,
may we recognise the tempter when he comes;
let it be your bread we eat,
your world we serve and you alone we worship.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Almighty and merciful God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

I also discovered a very long poem written by T S Elliot on his thoughts of Ash Wendesday after his conversion

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Best Made Plans of Mice and Men

This morning I had planned my day but it all changed as the rest of the house seemed to be running late. I had to make someone’s lunch, take one to work and the other to the bus stop.
The morning had started out all wrong for me and the saying ‘the best made plans of mice and men' went through my mind and I wondered where it came from.

I didn’t know it was from a poem but it certainly gave me a little education.

To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest with the Plough

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal! 

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't! 

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen! 

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell. 

That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy! 

Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Written in 1785 – by Robert Burns

The full meaning of the poem can be found here but you can see in the second to last verse the now common saying.

How many times have people glibly trotted out, “The best laid schemes” without realising that they were quoting from Burns? The sadness, the despair, the insight contained within this verse are truly remarkable and deeply moving.
no ‘thy lane = not alone;
gan aft agley = often go awry

Burns used this illustration to show that despite the best laid plans by the lady mouse, she could not have foreseen the total change to happen. It is about his ploughing a field and accidentally turning over and ruining the nest of a small field mouse at a time of year when it's impossible for the mouse to rebuild. In the poem Burns tries to reassure the frightened mouse that he meant no harm and likens the plight of the mouse to his own life of struggle. No matter how well you plan something, "stuff" happens. So relax and get over it, it isn't the end of the world.
It is a sad but hauntingly beautiful poem.

For me the phrase means that whether you are a man or a mouse your plans are subject to outside forces and will be subject to change and disruption. No matter how well you plan something, always expect the unexpected, in other words, just because you think you've done all you can for something to go right....something can still get messed up (always have a plan B).

But it may also well be that God has ordered your day to be different so be open to His leading and don’t be thrown by what He allows to cross your path.
And how do I know?
Because I had ideas of what I was going to do in the afternoon, after thinking of all the things I was going to get done in the morning, just for me, but it all changed with a phone call later that morning with visitors for tea. And that was far better.

Isaiah 55:8
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

All scripture is from - New International Version 1984, ©1984

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Playlist - My City In Ruins

My Mixpod which is a selection of songs I have added to an Ipod on here can be managed by turning on, off or the volume up or down. Check here for more detail.

Today I added another song.
My City In Ruins sung by Bruce Sprinsteen.

On Tuesday 22nd February 2011 Christchurch was rocked by a 6.3 earthquake at 12.51pm and as I add this to my blog the death toll has reached 160 and they are expecting it to reach 240.

All that makes Christchurch the city it was, has crashed to the ground, some burying people under it.

It is going to take weeks, months even years for Christchurch to rebuild and the people will never be the same. Too many 'places' will be empty and their loss forever remembered. But there is something about the people of Christchurch and even New Zealand, that will support them and us all, as indeed they 'rise up'.

Springsteen wrote this about Asbury Park, New Jersey, a resort town near where he grew up. Springsteen went there a lot when he was young, and watched it deteriorate as he got older. It is now mostly neglected.
This took on new meaning after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US. It became a message to New York City about rising from the ruins.
Springsteen first played this in December, 2000, on his U.S. tour with The E-street Band. He performed it only at a few shows in New Jersey.
This was the first song performed on the "Tribute To Heroes" telethon, held 10 days after the attack to benefit victims of the terrorism.

This song has been set as the background music to visions of the earthquake played on channel one (TVNZ).

My City Of Ruins

There is a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door's thrown open
I can hear the organ's song
But the congregation's gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves,
The boarded up windows,
The empty streets
While my brother's down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!

Now's there's tears on the pillow
Darlin' where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?
My city's in ruins
My city's in ruins

Now with these hands,
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray Lord
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray for the faith, Lord
We pray for your love, Lord
We pray for the lost, Lord
We pray for this world, Lord
We pray for the strength, Lord
We pray for the strength, Lord

Come on
Come on
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)