Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Table Centrepiece

The French LOVE their flowers! Even the tiniest villages seem to be furnished with a florist! There is nothing quite as charming as flowers on the dinner table or anywhere in the house for that matter! Gardening is definitely not one of my strong points. My usual approach is rather haphazard, I have fits of weeding the whole garden systematically, but that may well be followed by a long period of total neglect. Under my watch plants either survive by sheer guts and determination OR they curl up their toes and die!

To be fair though - we DO do OK at the vege garden thing! Good, fresh food rates way up there for us. Darling man does the lawns about as regularly as I sweep and vacuum the floor - regularly enough! Every now and then we have a major cull of plants that have grown too large for a town garden which consists of backing up the car, hooking the plants to a sturdy tow rope and wrenching the prickly sods out and replanting some of the smaller shots ...
As I was perusing the garden scene recently I noticed that Pete's Mum's pot plant, well one that came from her place... was looking rather dashing. Quite by chance mind you! So I promptly co-opted it for the 'centrepiece' of our new garden table. This inspired me and prompted me to make a plan to get things a bit sorted.....

Didn't we have some fabulous gardening weather over Labour Weekend? We managed 3 very enjoyable half days in our back garden. Darling Man did a satisfactory amount of bonding with his chainsaw, despite a bad shoulder... leveled a dead old tree to the ground and sorted out the firewood stack all ready for new wood to be added. And I weeded and tided and pottered with pots and plants to my hearts content... ending the weekend with the garden looking pleasing enough for me to continue on a more regular basis in the future. I can't wait to get back out there once some inside jobs are up to date!

Our humble back garden is a nice place for us to 'be', it's sunny, reasonably private but it still has a 'neighborly feel' - we enjoy this little outdoor space. We had our lunch out there at the weekend and it's also somewhere we have enjoyed having an evening drink and nibbles with our neighbor. I hope we spend even more time out there over summer - both in tending the garden and in sitting and relaxing. It's all pleasant and enjoyable!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Plain Biscuits

Whether Mum had just refilled the baking tins or they were empty because us kids had dashed off with the last crumb - you could always count on the 'plain biscuit tin'. It was where you went for a plain, bought bikky to spread with butter, to dip in your tea or as a portable snack so you could run off and keep playing. It was always there in the cupboard when I was growing up and it's still provides a 'dunker' for Mum & Dad's early morning cuppa all these years later! I am sentimentally attached to it... I bet it could tell a story or two about the days in the lives of our family.

There's been a lot of talk lately about some of our time-honoured, Kiwi, bought biscuits and how they ain't what they used to be. Smaller, too much palm oil in the chocolate, less of a 'puff' on the Mellowpuffs. Not to mention poor value for money. I keep thinking to myself 'let's bake our own'. Even with the rise in the price of butter... power to heat the oven - it is still more economical.

Lately we've enjoying a Bran Biscuit with our early morning cuppa. I found the recipe in the Edmonds Cookbook. Quick & easy to make and 'in my humble opinion' much tastier than the bought ones! Tui Flower, an iconic NZ baker from way back, now in her eighties is featured in the latest NEXT Magazine (November). She serves home made bran biscuits for morning tea when she is interviewed about a new cookbook that she has contributed to. It's called
'A Treasury of New Zealand Baking' Published by Random House $55. The royalties go to the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation. VIEW

Bran Biscuits.

125 gm butter
75 gm sugar (about 1/3 cup)
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup bran
1 cup wholemeal flour

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and add bran and wholemeal flour. Knead well. Roll out 2 mm-6 mm thick on a floured board, cut and bake 20 minutes at 190 deg C.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Level Crossings

Once and a while on a train trip where rail meets road we would hear the ding ding ding of the bells and know that we had come to a level crossing. We would wave to the people waiting in their cars to give way to us since cars can stop but trains can't - well not so easily anyway. Unfortunately Ohingaiti is where car has met train all too often with tragic consequences, when a motorist has failed to stop! When we passed through, road works were underway to do away with this notorious level crossing. An overpass was being constructed and once completed, the cars will travel over the train which will pass underneath through a tunnel. Car and train will no longer have a chance to meet at Ohingaiti!

We took our Crossword Puzzle book with us on the train. To do a crossword together, morning and night has become one of our 'rituals'. It began sometime during the year we celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary. It's a good ritual. We have discovered that a crossword is a simple tool that forces us to work together to solve something. It requires that we work as a team, each appreciating the different skills and perspectives we bring to the task at hand. Sometimes one has to give way to the other to allow for 'different isn't necessarily wrong'. Some like to go right through the 'acrosses', then the 'downs' then go back and fill in the gaps. Others like to work outwards from a spot, doings 'acrosses' and 'downs' at random to fill in the empty spaces. Some are good at coming up with answers from thin air and a broad, general knowledge. Others are better able to visualize the answer once a couple of letters are in place to prompt them. Some are brave to slam in a word, even if it might turn out to be wrong. Others are more cautious and like to be sure of being correct by checking all the clues around about. Some like to be neat and tidy and others don't mind scrawly writing and cross outs.

Whatever the case may be, a crossword has been a good ritual for our marriage. A good daily opportunity to appreciate each others differences, to encourage one another, and to be gracious enough to do a crossword together without cross words. At a level crossing where train and car meet, someone always has to give way!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Martha's Pantry

Since we were going to Wellington I was determined to visit this little tea shop where they serve 'high tea' (bookings essential). I had read an article about it... old fashioned home baking, embroidered tray cloths, fine bone china cups, bursting with nostalgia and reminiscent of afternoon tea at Nana's place.

We located the tea shop on the corner of Karo Drive and Cuba Street. It was all I imagined it to be and more! The tea shop counter is like an 'old school' kitchen - all warmth and charm and homey-ness. The food was as gorgeous to look at as I'm sure it was to eat! We only had a wee pink, iced cupcake donned with teeny flowers and silver balls as we'd just eaten an enormous breakfast.

Darling Man read the NZ Herald while I enjoyed watching the people's open delight with their 'Martha's Pantry' experience. Seeing what women wear in Wellington is also interesting - a lot more coats and scarves and artful assecories. I then scoured the shop, taking in every delicious, dainty, domestic detail. There's lots of lovely things like fancy aprons and vintage household pieces to buy.

I also spoke to the owner who told me that when the Karo Drive Bypass roadworks were going on, 'burly blokes' would come in for a cuppa and home-baked goodies. They would say they felt like 'a bull in a china shop' but secretly they liked it. There were two regulars who would sit at the outside table cald in their fluro orange saftey jackets sipping from china cups! What is it with 'fine bone china' and home baking that can melt the hearts of the toughest Kiwi bloke?

Martha's Pantry is located at 276 Cuba Street, Wellington. Ph 04 3857228 Sadly, they don't yet have a website but honestly, it's one of those places that's better to visit in reality than virtually anyway!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Portable Domesticity

While our trip to Wellington on the train was something of a novelty for us, in days gone by when cars were a relative luxury New Zealander's tended to take the train. Train travel was much more common.

Knitting also " ... was once an activity of huge popularity that was passed from mother to daughter; women sat in trams and buses, able to simultaneously chat and knit without dropping a stitch." pg 139 'Kiwiana-The Sequel' by Richard Wolfe & Stephen Barnett

I didn't see another person knitting on our train trip - not that I went through ALL the carriages. I liked it cause it kept my hands busy and it was productive toward my peggy square baby blanket - I mean to say, I wasn't doing anything else! I also like that it is a little slice of 'portable domesticity'. If I take my stitching with me when we go places it means I get to take a little bit of 'home' along with me. I like this picture that my darling man has taken cause there's a wee house in the background right above my knitting!

Throughout our married life we have traveled a lot, we have also made our 'home' in lots of different places so having those 'portable' special home-y things with me is like taking a 'home comfort' that links me to our special place in the world that we call 'home'.

My Mum is a great knitter and I have memories of Mum clicking away while we rode along in the car. She always had something on the go... a lot of progress could be made when we traveled from Reporoa to Napier for example! She is much quicker than me and much more able to knit without looking or dropping a stitch. She tells me that her own mother was a very basic knitter but she learnt most of her early knitting skills from her Aunty.

My sister, who lives in France sent me a fabulous book for my last birthday called, 'The Gentle Art of Domesticity' by Jane Brocket. In the book Jane says - "The idea that one's domesticity is rooted in a single, fixed spot, I think is erroneous. Domesticity is not confined to the physical and the concrete, as it is also a state of mind or a way of life." pg 256. Jane chatters on in the same chapter about how her knitting has gone from 'at home' or 'in her room'.... to 'out of the house' and into cafes, theatres, trains and planes. Lovers of the Domestic Arts check out her book HERE It's fabulous!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Main Trunk Line

Recently we took a trip on the 'Overlander' train from Otorohanga to Wellington. It's one of the things on our 'mid-life adventures' list. We enjoyed the ever changing views of the mountains while we ate our 'hand-made by Darling Man' free-range egg & parsley & avocado sammies AND 'hand-baked by moi' Louise Cake while we rumbled and clattered along. We bought a cup of tea on board. It was served in a pictorial paper cup - a far cry from the original Crockery Railways Cup -
"... made by The Amalgamated Brick & Tile Company of Auckland. Originally established to produce sewer pipes and electrical porcelains, during WWII the company diversified to produce crockery for the American Navy stationed in this country. In 1943 another order for crockery came, this time from the NZ Railways."
pg 50 'Classic Kiwiana' by Richard Wolfe & Stephen Barnett.

Since we had our blue, pussy cat lunch tin, we didn't have to queue at the cafe at National Park OR pay over-inflated prices for food on board. Though the tea is no longer served in a 'Railways Cup' you can still buy the traditional 'great railway pie' for $4.50 & all manner of other 'Kiwi Kai' morsels at the on-board buffet car. 'Hunger for the Wild' TV presenters Al Brown & Steve Logan put together the menu of NZ favorites for the hungry train travelers.

From time to time, as the train meandered and lurched along, our knowledge of NZ was enhanced with a commentary, pointing out various historical places and interesting facts and info about the railway and its history. It is definitely an 'off the beaten track' travel experience. We were treated to views from viaducts, at times we plunged into long dark tunnels, caught sight of the front carriage as we looped around horse-shoe bends and experienced the spectacular engineering feat of the Raurimu Spiral. There is plenty to see out of the HUGE windows!
A great thing to do for sure. We recommend it!

AND since our lunch tin was empty for our trip home we treated ourselves to a 'great railway pie' and a few other 'Kiwi Kai' morsels from the on-board buffet car! Very tasty too!
Find out more about the Overlander HERE They are currently offering a special one-way fare of $49. You couldn't drive there for that price!
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