Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Gardening, baking and sewing... all in one post!

The cold weather has set in this week, making us wary that summer is definitely over. Which is not only bad because of the temperature, but we also set ourselves a deadline of finding a new house before we had to light the fire again and it looks like that isn't going to happen. In an attempt to overcome the chill, I picked what's left of the flowers in the garden...some hydrangeas:

And a few sprigs of lavender for the bathroom:

And feeling rather adventurous today, I baked something new and sewed something new (who says I'm not living on the edge?)!

I baked a lumberjack cake (which is kind of an apple cake with a buttery coconut crust on top):

I googled it, but couldn't find out the origin of the name..

But far more exciting was today's foray into sewing something which any decent sewer should have in their repertoire, but until now I have avoided making......a sock monkey. So called as each monkey is made from one pair of socks..I chose red and white knee-highs for my first attempt and am pretty happy with the result.

He is currently unnamed (any suggestions welcome). Although I'm not going to make a habit of it, I think I will make a couple more to give to little people (like the little people who got sheep last year).

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Swings and roundabouts

We have both felt a little flat since the Coast to Coast. Matt is back at work, while I have no work to go back to. I also took a peruse around the garden to find that all my lettuces went to seed while we were away, and the pumpkins seem to be coming to naught, with plenty of flowers but no pumpkins to speak of. And on a far more serious note, I had run out of gin. Made all the worse by the fact that after wanting some tall glasses for ages, I found a great set of six for only $5 in Greymouth last week and brought them home to find the gin-well was dry. What good are tall glasses without gin? What am I expected to do with them - drink water out of them? juice?

Then Toby came to visit, and brought this bottle of Tanqueray... a variety of gin I've not tried before, apparently made from the 'finest botanicals'....yummo, I was off again.

In the ensuing 24 hours, while the boys went to Akaroa (and took Boo, which really freed up a little time for me) I: sewed five fabric shopping bags (which I may even attempt to sell which shows how much I don't want to go back to permanent work), made some jars of beetroot relish from the remaining beetroot in the garden, made some zucchini pickle from some zucchini that Dot donated from her garden, and baked a batch of gingernuts for the boys upon their return. Phew.

It's amazing what some high quality gin can do to a girl's productivity.

And, to compensate slightly for the lettuces, my cherry tomatoes (which I had all but given up on) have finally arrived!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

What a legend.

Well, the epic event is over...it was pretty harrowing (for me as well as Matt), but he did it. After starting on Kumara beach (on the west coast) at six in the morning...

...he rolled into Sumner (on the east coast) 15 hours and 56 minutes later...

...with a 55km bike, 33km mountain run, 16km bike, 67 km kayak and 70km bike in between. He was amazing - he came in 100th out of 190 starters - nearly 50 people didn't even finish.

He said the fruit cake was great.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Bring it on...

Well, the car is packed, the kayak and bike are on the roof, and we're ready to go do this thing. I've been feeding Matt up this past week with lots of carbohydrates (heaps of pasta and potatoes) and a fair amount a baking including gingernuts and oaty apple loaf:

I've sent him off to work this morning with more pasta and some chocolate brownies. It's raining today for the first time in ages (I think summer is nearly over) which is great for the race (the more water in the river the better for kayaking), but not so great for the two nights camping in Kumara beforehand.

And of course, I haven't forgotten the fruit cake.

I have to say I'll be glad when all of this is over, it feels like I've been living with a teenage boy for the past couple of months - he's hardly here, and when he is, all he does is eat. I'm constantly washing his sweaty t-shirts and socks, and the bathroom smells vaguely like a boys lockeroom.

Okay, bring it on.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

On a lighter note..

Pot, on the other hand, is oblivious to the death and destruction across the Tasman, and spent the day exploring the cobweb-ridden roof of our house.

I know it's a crappy photo, and rule number one of blogging is not to attach crappy photos, but it makes me smile. She's like "What's everybody looking at?".

And for those of you with broadband, another cat making me smile is Maru. Maru is a scottish fold cat which is actually quite a munted breed, but incredibly cute. She does crazy things with boxes - I just watched this video again and I actually laughed out loud. It is generally quite funny, but becomes hilarious at about the 4 minute 20 second mark.


So sad.

I keep meaning to post a blog about all the baking I've done of late, and the lead up to the Coast to Coast (this Saturday), but then I keep remembering that hundreds of people have burned to death in the past few days in Australia, and it makes me feel kind of sick in my tummy.

I think a lot of people find it difficult to understand why people were even in their homes when bush fires were around, but they are really common in summer over there. For the five summers we lived there there were major bush fires every year that could potentially threaten hundreds of homes. And usually if residents are well prepared then defending their property seemed to be achievable. It wasn't heroic nor stupid, it is just what a lot of people do, and are advised to do. The other option is to leave, but early.

When we were living there a group of us went to stay in Mafra in East Victoria for a week and on the way we drove past some bush fires. Everyone was so nonchalant about them - when we turned on the radio there were actual warnings telling us that we shouldn't be on the highway that we were on and I asked one of the girls I was with whether we needed to be concerned and she was like, "Nah, you get heaps of warning, we'll be fine". And we were. But I can totally see why lots of people weren't last weekend. No warning apparently. So sad.

Enough of that. Sorry, too many words and not enough photos today (I have a great one of me standing grinning in front of a sky filled with orange and black smoke from the road trip mentioned above, but somehow I think it might be a tad tasteless to post it up right now).

Friday, 6 February 2009

How I know it's still summer (part 2):

...because I took this polaroid down in Rapaki Bay today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!

The Fruit Loaf Project has come to an end with the discovery of an old Women's Weekly recipe for a fruit cake. It is dense and moist and passed the crucial 48 hour later taste test.

I intended to make a fresh cake two days prior to our departure for the start of the Coast to Coast, but this cake was so massive I cut it in half and I've frozen the other half to take with us.....risky, I know, but I'm willing to take that risk.

In other news, the flies are driving us crazy. They seem to be everywhere and are those annoying little ones that hover around and gently settle on your ankles, or face, or hand... I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the farm gets a daily splattering of fertilising pig poo, and if the wind is unfavourable the house becomes drenched with the fetid odour of this nutrient-giving effluent. I hate fly spray, so I've stuck those ugly stickers on the windows which are meant to kill them, but they don't seem to be working very well. I counted seven flies settled on the duvet as I lay in bed this morning. Icky poo.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

How I know it's still summer (part 1):

When else could these photos be taken?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Productive Monday

It was cold and dull today - perfect kitchen weather. I got SO much done... firstly a new batch of marmalade - I tried to make it less chunky and more orange-y, I haven't tasted it yet, but I think it's gonna be good....

I also tried another fruit loaf recipe:

It's a date and walnut loaf, and is definitely closer to what we're after than yesterday's effort (sorry about bad photo again - I'm having a bad photo week). My main concern (shared also by Matt) is that it won't be any good 48 hours after it's come out of the oven, which is essential as we have to camp for the two nights prior to the event so I have to bake it prior to our departure. I think a denser, darker cake is in order, possibly involving some sort of alcohol, kind of like a Christmas cake.... I have just the recipe. Stay tuned for the next installment of the Fruit Loaf Project.

Oh, and I also made a yummy potato gratin with spuds from the garden (which are SO fun to dig - just stick fork into soil and up pop several large, smooth tatties)...it had cream and bacon and chives and parsley and ground pepper and was so delicious I didn't have time to take a photo before Matt had eaten most of it.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A day in Arthur's Pass

This weekend was the final weekend of intense training for Matt. The Coast to Coast is in a fortnight and I guess if he's not ready now he never will be. I have to admit I am pretty over it and will just about be as glad as he is when it's over. Anyway, on Saturday I acted as his driver which meant dropping him and his kayak up in Arthur's Pass then swapping the kayak for a bike at the Waimakariri Gorge six hours later. Turns out there's not a lot to do when you have six hours to kill on a 30 degree day in Canterbury. Boo had a pretty good time swimming in the Waimak and playing with other dogs though, so at least one of us was occupied.

One thing I did do was visit a landmark which may be familiar to those of you up with the play of New Zealand art - the teeny tiny railway platform at Cass:

Although perhaps not instantly recognisable (due to the massive freight train which prevented me from getting the photo from the correct angle), it is featured in Rita Angus's "Cass" which she painted in 1936 and is personally one of my favourite paintings held at the Christchurch Art Gallery.

In other news I have no work planned now for any time in the near future which is a welcome relief after a total of ten days work in January. It means I have lots of time over the next two weeks to devote to feeding the training machine that is Matt. I have just started the "Fruit Loaf Project" whereby I need to find a good recipe for some sort of fruit loaf (or cake) which is packed with energy for Matt to eat on the big day...Tonight was the first trial of an Edmonds recipe for what was simply described as Fruit Loaf:

The photo is a bit crap because I had to use the flash but I have to admit I'm disappointed in this. I'm looking for something much darker, and more packed with fruit. I will ship this off to Matt's work where hopefully the boys will finish it in no time so I can try another one. I reckon it will need to contain either golden syrup or brown sugar or both to be the right kind of thing. I'll keep you posted. Happy Monday to those of you who have to get up and work tomorrow.. teh heh.