Wednesday, March 31, 2010


My kitchen is small and cosy.... and I'm totally cool with that! But if I'm in the full-swing of baking or cooking and have something hot in my hand I am often in search of a safe spot to dump it in a hurry! While out and about near the sea recently we found something that fits the bill perfectly. We were on the rocks near a boat club and I looked down and saw this flat, weathered piece of a boat complete with old, worn lugs at each end - leaving heaps of room in between to pop a hot thing on a flat surface while it cools a little! I felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of walking back to the car with this old plank of wood tucked under my arm... what if someone saw us and asked us why we were removing it??? I mean how far can one go when beach-combing - what are the ethics of such a thing? Thankfully my Darling Man doesn't suffer any such cautionary thoughts. 'I'll carry it for you.' he said. I like it for it's rustic charm and it's also a little memoir of a lovely day 'out and about scamper and shout' enjoying the beautiful coastline and each others company. Complete with popping in for a cuppa with our lovely friends who share our appreciation of all things earthy and rustic!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Water Colours

I picked these up when I was out on my walk this morning. I pretty much walk the same route around town all year round which gives me the opportunity to notice how things in the same gardens change as the seasons come and go.
Today I noticed that the Hydrangea's are 'autumn-ing' if there is such a word. But I love how they look - like a water-colour painting. So soft and fading and less intense - a bit whimsical. I guess it reflects the mood of us leaving the summer behind and embracing the cooler days of autumn, knowing that the cold days of winter are coming soon. The Hydrangeas are going to seed. "All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today".
I just LOVE Hydrangeas - always have - I like the way they are ever changing and a bit unpredictable. You can get a huge range of gorgeous pinks and blues all within one bush, depending on the aluminum content in the soil. Then the colours change all over again as they go into autumn. Despite my love of these flowers, until recently I thought we didn't have any in our garden. I was eying up our neighbors Hydrangeas, just over our fence when my Darling Man informed me that he had actually planted them years ago as cuttings and that it was part of our section! If only I'd known!!! Oh the beautiful deeds that are done during the busy, child-rearing years that go un-noticed - I thought to myself! So in earlier more summery days, I promptly cut some fresh and shoved them in a vase to enjoy in the house!
And now we have a rustic style of thing going on which gives us a whole new range of colours to appreciate. These flowers dry out quite happily in a vase - the later in the season the better the result and the longer the vase life.
I think this hat from an Art Deco store in Napier looks Hydrangea-ish... at least Hydrangea-inspired! The store is called 'Decorum' - it's on the corner of Tennyson & Herschell Sts. They have a huge range of Deco costume for hire, vintage clothing & jewelery for sale, millinery made to order and antique china and furniture. The place is absolutely packed... I really enjoyed a snoop but there was so much stuff even I, who loves old things got browsers fatigue before I had seen everything! Now that's saying something....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Made a Start

Eeeeeek! I've finally made a start on my pink cardy after knitting up some sample squares to check my tension and lots of consultation with our local wool shop ladies. They have been amazing and honestly they seem as determined for me to succeed as I am. They are totally 'on my team' which is lovely - especially since they have so much more skill and experience than I do. I am really thrilled with their help and feel quite confident as I set out on this new knitting adventure!

Knitting is so therapeutic and just down right enjoyable. It's kind of cosy too working with wool. This yarn I am knitting right now is a wool alpaca blend and using big needles means it's growing pretty fast which is encouraging. I've noticed that any woman who has ever knitted at some time in her life, spots my knitting - is drawn to it like a magnet, she swoons a little and wistfully declares her desire to 'knit something' again! I wonder what it is about knitting that keeps us going back to this 'old school' domestic art???

I read this quote in a great book - 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Our Year of Seasonal Eating' written by Barbara Kingsolver and I think it's part of the answer...
'A lot of human hobbies, from knitting sweaters to building model airplanes, are probably rooted in the same human desire to control an entire process of manufacture.'

The 'I made it myself' factor! What do you think? Which of the domestic arts are you drawn to and what keeps you going back for more?

As a PS - I was alerted to this fabulous, young Scottish woman's works of knitted art this last week Ysolda S. Teague
Talk about C O O L patterns!!! She invented them herself... what started off as a hobby at Uni is now a booming business. If you go to the link that cardy pattern is free.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Julie and Julia

Me and one of our Darling girls finally got to watch Julie and Julia as we had been planning for ages - way back when it was still showing on the big screen. A little behind the times I know but it didn't take anything away from my enjoyment of it. In fact the wait only heightened my anticipation! I loved it! It had all the essential ingredients for an excellent movie experience from my point of view. Exotic places, charming domestic life and love, love, love - the couples were so sweet but real as well AND to top it all off it was based on two true stories of real live people. That always goes down well with me. AND they were writers - kindred spirits both of them! Women after my own heart!

Before we pushed PLAY we made Frozen Lemon Crunch Dessert together. I'm sure she could have managed it beautifully without my demonstration but she did me the honour of allowing herself to be instructed! We both decided we needed a proper Lemon Zester for such times but agreed that we never remembered to buy one. Then as we were viewing, she, who is a skilled multi-tasker was making this gorgeous Roast Vege Salad. Consequently gorgeous smells were wafting on through to where we were sat... The culinary exploits both on and off screen made for a really pleasant arvo!

We had a family meal together on Sunday - another of our Darling Girls had by this time, watched the movie too and her man told me he feels pretty sure he can remember his Grandma watching Julia Child's cooking show on television YEARS ago! Anyone else out there remember her show from way back?

The little PS to it all is this - yesterday our Darling Girl called in to see us. She had a gift for me in hand - a Lemon Yester! I feel thoroughly spoilt, specially thought of and all loved up! AND absolutely busting to dash down to CIVIC VIDEO to hire the movie all over again and watch it with my Darling Man! He'll love it too... I think??? Well he'll tolerate it on account of moi anyway!

Monday, March 22, 2010


Painting my toenails a bright red seemed to symbolize to me a growing optimism after an extended time of recovery from grief and disappointment. 'Bogota Blackberry' seemed to be such a radical departure from my usual 'Nude Pink'. It was so 'out there' and stand-out-ish. Our life that had once been so 'public' has been replaced with seeking a private, simple, peaceful life - all we had wanted was to withdraw and lick our wounds.
We wanted healing.

Something rather lovely happened recently. We had a brief - 'short but sweet' holiday at Fletcher Bay. A place where many family holidays have been enjoyed. My Darling Man and I had a delightful afternoon at Malony's beach - a short walk from Fletcher Bay over a large hill. We had the beach to ourselves apart from a small fishing party in the distance. He lay in the sun and I swam in the sea. I ducked and dived and floated on waves to my hearts content for a full hour. I beckoned to him to join me - he tried really hard by entering the water gradually, splashing himself a little - venturing out a little deeper then dashing back when the waves rolled in. As he 'dipped' and splashed we laughed and laughed together. I felt really free and joyful and happy and that all was well with my soul. It was a special moment in time that God gave me. It restored and sealed something that in times past I wondered if I could ever get back.

2 yrs ago we had been at Fletcher Bay on holiday. It was about the time that we were embarking on a 'sabbatical' - a time of rest and recovery after being overwhelmed by life and 'people work' pressures and lots of personal stresses. I had swum in the sea then as well, my Darling Man had sat on the beach. I had felt so happy. I was feeling optimistic about the trip to France up ahead and the opportunity to rest and restore. I had back then tried to encourage him to come into the water with me. He had declined because he really does hate cold water with a passion! He had said, "I am just enjoying watching you enjoy yourself." I guess it was a rare thing for him to see me so unashamedly happy in those days of high stress and huge pressures. It was a special moment soon to be shattered by the some really bad news.

The last poem to be reproduced in San Hunt's book 'Backroads: Charting a Poet's Life' has the lines "I like being this little bit older" and "I like being this little bit sadder." Craig Potton Publishing.

Is optimism only for the young? If you observe them they are often full of hope and confidence and energy - I guess it has something to do with the fact that they haven't suffered a lot of 'knocks' yet. 'Ah, let them have their day in the sun', my friend will say 'Soon enough they will have to face up to the harsh realities of life'

One of the secrets to maintaining optimism is to move from 'expectation' to 'expectancy'. With 'expectation' we expect certain things (usually only good things) to happen and when they don't our hopes are dashed and we are disappointed. With 'expectancy' we live a life of faith, our hope is centred on God, believing that whatever happens in life - both good and bad - God is able to bring something 'good' out of it.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Cut up an apple into quarters and eat it with an afternoon cup of tea! Despite the weirdness it turns out to be a delicious combination I really enjoy! Especially at this 'apple' time of year. Autumn is for apples... shortcakes and crumbles - my Aunty Shirley's Chocolate Apple Cake - stewed apples with porridge and yogurt - now there's a really tasty combo!

As a child I can remember apples from the Hawkes Bay carefully laid in a wooden box - each one wrapped in pink tissue paper. Oh that fantastically memorable crunch factor and the crisp texture! Now's the time to begin to enjoy this seasonal delight all over again.

It's amazing to get an actual letter in the mail these days. I know!!!!!! I love it when people sit down and write us a letter! This one from my Darling Man's lovely sister who lives in Aussie was practically bulging with goodies. A nice letter, her memoirs of family life at a time when my Darling Man was too young to remember for himself - a precious insight into the family way back then AND some recipes. One of which I tried.... the mixture is super-chunky and over-loaded with apples but it cooks up a treat. We waited 'til ours cooled and we're eating it as a cake but I feel sure it would be equally as delicious hot, as a dessert with custard, cream or ice-cream OR all three!!!

Kerry's Apple Cake.

Melt 125 gms butter and set aside to cool a bit.

Mix together the following -

1 1/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
3 - 4 apples chopped

Add to that 2 eggs lightly beaten and the cooled, melted butter. Don't mix in hot butter!

Bake at 180 deg C for 35 - 40 minutes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

History in the Making

I have some extra special new art work for our wall. It is a photo of my mother - which was black and white before she artfully painted the colour into it. That's what she used to do for a job when she was a single, working girl in the 1950's. It mostly involved painting colour into aerial shots of farms. However she did a couple of pieces for herself. This portrait taken when she was on holiday with a friend in the South Island, one of herself as a bride and one of me as a baby. The friend that she holidayed with, later became her sister-in-law because she fell in love with her friend's brother! They married nearly 50 years ago and that man is also my Dad!

So I have had my mother's fabulous photos put onto canvas. 'The Mirrorbox' photo shop in Te Awamutu did a great job of replicating the originals with just a little sharpening up. They loved doing them and asked if we had any more! They are beautiful! I am really thrilled with them and I will hang them as a grouping on the wall. The colours are quite retro. I especially love my extra rosy, pink cheeks! I took them to Mum and Dad's at the weekend to show them and they really loved them too. I am happy that Mum's beautiful art work will be on display where it can be fully appreciated.

My other new artwork is a photo collage which is a teeny 'snapshot' representation of our time in Fiji. Our family lived there for four years so I wanted something visual in our house as a memoir of that. I cut and pasted and molded and polyurethaned these wooden block letters. They can either be hung on the wall or sat on a shelf. It was a fun project. Family history is precious and yet so many of our special, family bits and pieces lay hidden in boxes in a cupboard. So I have simply brought some of that stuff out for an 'airing' where it can be enjoyed!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Love Pink

Blue is for boys and pink is for girls... well that's what they used to say anyway. The lines are a little more blurred these days though. However I unashamedly love pink. This pink velvet tea cosy, a gift from my sister is one of the favorite things in my kitchen. When I spotted this 'old school' paisley, pink, hessian oven cloth at the Hospice shop I reached for it in such a hurry I nearly toppled over myself! I was afraid someone else may nab it ahead of me! You don't see them so much now. I have since been enjoying looking at it lounging on my bench next to G's tea cosy adding to the pink-ness of the little domestic scene! The other day I added a pink plate with freshly baked Louise Cake to complete the girly look!

Last week, after much deliberation I ordered some gorgeous pink wool to knit myself a cardy. The lovely, helpful woman at our local wool shop has suggested I allow her to monitor my progress to make sure this one fits! Part of the reason I love pink so much is that certain shades of it really compliment my skin tone. It suits me! Just as well I like it so much since we have four daughters which has meant a serious amount of pink things over the years!

We took some of the pink cake around to some friends last weekend who were in the process of moving house. They have two little boys so I'm sure a dose of pink will do them good! Call me old fashioned if you like, I don't mind - I like old fashioned, especially when it comes to recipes like this one!
Louise Cake

150gms butter
1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs separated
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup raspberry jam (or plum)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup coconut

Cream butter and first measure of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks. Sift flour and baking powder together. Stir into creamed mixture. Press dough into a 20 x 30 cm sponge roll tin lined with baking paper. Spread jam over the base. In a bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Mix in the second measure of sugar and coconut. Spread this meringue mixture over the jam. Bake at 180 deg C for 30 minutes or until meringue is dry and lightly coloured. Cut into squares while still warm.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Luxurious Cocoa

This little cocoa tin was amongst my Mother-in-law's sewing things that were given to me when she passed away. I keep it on a shelf in my kitchen. It reminds me of days gone by when Cocoa was much more of a luxury item than it is today. It is Rowntree Cocoa, Manufactured by Rowntree Mackintosh LTD, York, England - perhaps cocoa was imported to NZ in days gone by. It contained a mere 1/4 pound = 113gms. Our commonly used Cadbury Cocoa is a 250gm pack. On the back of this little tin it reads - 'To make cocoa. Measure out a tsp of cocoa for each cup required. Add sugar to taste. Pour on a little milk and mix to a smooth paste. Then pour on boiling milk (or milk and water).'

When I stayed at my Nana & Grandad Main's place when I was a child, they would make us hot cocoa to drink. It was a bit of a novelty to us as we had Milo at home. You certainly don't hear of it as a drink now. I checked on my Cadbury Cocoa packet, there is certainly no recipe for cocoa as a drink.

A quick visit to the Cadbury website and I learned that 'in 1884 Richard Hudson of Dunedin purchased and operated what was thought to be the first chocolate and cocoa manufacturing plant in the Southern Hemisphere.' Maybe that wee Cocoa tin originated in My Mother-in-Law's Mother's sewing basket or kitchen???
What Cocoa tales of days gone by do you 'mature' bloggers have for us?

There has certainly been a lot of debate around 'the chocolate-y-ness' of our local NZ chocolate...
A lot of our more 'modern' baking recipes have LOTS of cocoa AND cooking chocolate... very rich and luxurious!!! I am going back to some of the old-school recipes that are still chocolate-y and tasty but not so rich and hard on the stomach. This morning I made one of our family favorites - and enjoyed thinking of my darling Mother-in law and all the Peanut Brownies she must have baked over the years for her family of 10!

Peanut Brownies.

1 egg
125gms butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 dessertspns cocoa
1 cup peanuts
1/2 tsp salt

Beat butter and sugar to a cream, then add egg, flour, baking powder, peanuts and cocoa. Make into balls and bake 180 deg C for 15 minutes.

I roast my peanuts in the oven at 200 deg C first and cool them completely.

Friday, March 5, 2010

From My Kitchen Window

Sometimes as I walk past my kitchen sink bench I catch a glimpse out the window that takes my breath away! A beautiful sunset to close my day's work in the most magnificent way! The bench is clear, the oven is cold and my apron is hanging on it's peg. A moment to reflect and be awestruck and thankful.

During the day if I look beyond a few rooftops, my window affords me views of rolling hills, hedges and trees.... cattle grazing and the occasional tractor slowly making it's way across my horizon. And it changes all the time through the various seasons and different days weather. We live 'in town' but I love that we still have an outlook. One of the first things my Darling Man assesses a property by is 'outlook' - it must have one for it to rate in his books! Fair enough too, I have come to appreciate the importance of it more and more as time goes by. It is a wonderful thing to be able to 'look beyond' both in the physical and in the spiritual realm as well. Hope is kept alive by being able to look beyond our present circumstances to a brighter future. Meanwhile I am very content with every daily blessing as well as the magnificent glimpses of heaven's beauty that my Creator paints in the sky for me to view from my kitchen window!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

To Knit or Not to Knit

For the first time in what seems like an eternal summer, I have found myself reaching for a cardy! The end of February signals the 'calendar' end of summer. As soon as my days open and close with a 'hint of chill' I start thinking of knitting. Not just the woolen 'colour play' of 'hot water bottle cover art' but a serious 'cardy' or 'man jersey' project.

Then I remember what happened this time last year and I feel a little nervous caution creep in... 'do I really want to go there again?', I ask myself! You see what happened is this. It took me ages to decide on a pattern 'cause I'm pretty fussy about style and fit. Then I carefully selected a beautiful, soft, pearly-grey, fluffy mohair. I knitted with care and precision a pattern that was manageable for my skill level with a bit of challenge thrown in. I launched out on the strength of the fact that our lovely, local knitting shop owner promised to rescue me if I got stuck. The project gave me hours of mesmerizing pleasure. Some of that related to the anticipation of actually wearing this gorgeous, fluffy garment!
However toward the end stages I became painfully aware of the fact that it wasn't going to fit me. I finished it off artfully with a selection of shell buttons of subtly different shades, that I had collected over many years. I tried it on and y e s, i t f i t t e d but not in a way that I am most comfortable with. Naturally I was deeply disappointed. I cried when I saw my Darling Man's beautifully sympathetic face! He had personally witnessed the hours that had gone into it.

Then something lovely happened. One of our gorgeous girls popped in to say 'hi'. I instantly knew what to do. I said, 'Try this on darling'. She was flabbergasted because she too knew of the dedication to my 'cardy' project. Reluctantly she obeyed and it fitted her beautifully - as if it were made for her. Without hesitation I gave my cardy away. It went to a good home!
So will I or won't I? That's the big question. Despite last years disappointment I feel the weather cooling, I hear the cicada's late summer song and I still feel a strong pull towards our local wool shop to find a pattern and put some wool away to begin a new cardy. This time I will rigorously check my tension to make sure it's a 'keeper'.
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