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This is keeping my shoulders warm as I type this …

swap 015a

No, I didn’t knit it (I wish).  This is the happy result of my taking part in the Ravelry Bendigo Woollen Mills Users Group Swap, in which we had to make an item in no more than 100g of Bendigo yarn.  The lovely and talented DrCris made me the loveliest shawlette in azalea pattern of 5ply Rustic wool in a beautiful reddish-brown.  I have been admiring the shawlettes and triangular scarves appearing on Ravelry of late, and as I rarely knit anything finer than an 8ply, this is a real treat.  Here’s a detail of the lace pattern and pretty yarn …

swap 013a

And here’s a quick’n’dodgy bathroom mirror shot of me modelling it to give an idea of scale.

swap 007a

And that’s not all.  Cris included some little treats (I particularly like the juxtaposition of the tranquility tea and the huge hairy spider) resulting in two happy people here.  Thanks Cris!  I love it!

swap collage

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rex party 022a

Like the world in a grain of sand, the gamut of human emotions and experience concentrated into a two hour period.  Rex’s 4th birthday party at home, six high speed maniacs four-year-old boys, food untouched, cards and wrapping discarded, flitting from one toy or game to the next.  Where are they now?  Can’t they be all together at the same time?

party collage

Attempts at organised activities.  Losing interest in the indestructible pinata.  Can we have the cake now?  Tens of small fingers reaching for the chocolate icing.  Time to go.  Thank you for having us.  Thank you for coming. Phew!  Delightful but tiring!

party2 collage

(That middle photo reminds me of Wings of Desire!)

Rex

My beautiful, clever, cheeky, agile, funny, eccentric, eloquent, cuddly, adventurous, timid, noisy boy is four.  So full of contradictions.  So big, and still so in need of careful nurturing.  So unequivocally lovable.

As requested we had sunshine, horses, friends, banana cake with NO icing, candles, more horses, guinea pigs and a bewildering amount of presents, paper and ribbon.  And joyous excitement and happy smiles.

rex4

mask

Rex turns four on Monday.  He wants “lots of parties”.  Well, we are having two, firstly a small gathering of three close friends and their parents at the Children’s Farm

chook invite

(OK, I know these are crazy, but I did have fun making them – frustrated crafter that I am.  They are based on Plum Pudding’s fabulous turkeys.)

… and then next weekend are the friends from creche.  Oh, I have invited SEVEN four-year-old boys to our house!

car invite

(You can see that I always make a couple of spares, one for a souvenir and another in case any late must-invites turn up.)  They are all apparently Cars mad, as is the birthday boy, so there is a vague car theme going on there, as well as more crazy collage on my part.

Now to make some lists, and find some time to do secret-party-business …

mushroom

The lovely Michelle has been posting vegetable recipes on Wednesdays, initially under the title “Veg Wednesday”, so I thought I would join in with the fun of sharing new (to us) meat-free meals that we come up with during the week.

We love Beef Stroganoff, but decided the nicest thing about it was the onion/mushroom/butter base, and that it would work well without the meat.

Mushroom Stroganoff with Confetti Rice

  • 1 onion
  • 10-20 mushrooms, depending on size (whatever looks like a good amount for a meal), sliced
  • 30g butter
  • dash of olive oil
  • nutmeg
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp paprika (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper

Melt half the butter in heavy pan (I use a saute pan) and add a drop of oil.  Fry onion for a minute or so until softened, then add mushrooms with a little more butter.  Fry mushroom, stirring frequently,  until soft and cooked through.

Grate over some nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Mix in mustard and paprika, then sour cream.  When combined, removed from heat and serve with rice.

Serves about 2-3

Confetti rice is one of my shortcuts (that I unvented* this week).   I used to just add in peas, but tried this when I was out of them, and it looks very pretty.  Just add small dice of carrot, chopped beans and corn kernels to cook with rice. 

rice

*apologies to Elizabeth Zimmermann

… for Words and Pictures, hosted by Meet me at Mikes

rose red

When I was in my 20’s, I was fascinated by perfume, especially the classics of the great French perfume houses – oh, the incomparable glamour!  I was particularly keen to wear Jean Patou’s Joy, reputed to be the “costliest perfume in the world”.  Created in 1930 as a reaction to the Wall Street Crash, Patou sought to create an extravagant scent of jasmine and rose.  Apparently twenty-eight dozen roses are required to make 30mls of the parfum.  Costly Bulgarian roses are used as well as rose de May, only picked at dawn when the perfume is strongest.  I read some time ago that Joy was no longer “the costliest …”, and that this title rightly belonged to Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez.  Created in 1962, Bulgarian, Anatolian and May roses are used.  Now these are real perfumes, not like the sanitised, synthetic, clean scents popular today.   Grain de musc makes reference to the extravagance of such classic scents as “graveyards of blossoms” in a fascinating essay about the traditions of French perfumery in using unlovely scents to temper and throw into relief the magnificent essences of flowers, spices and the like. 

These heady, grand scents don’t really fit in with our perceived contemporary lifestyles, but I would like to think that there will come a time to be that mysterious woman-of-a-certain-age leaving an enigmatic, grown-up, heavenly scent (rose, jasmine, sandalwood …) in her wake.

snow white

Please excuse the indulgence and sentimentality of these photos, I couldn’t resist …

orange

I’ve given birth to baby night owls, so am living in a different time zone from everyone else at the moment and feel a bit out of sorts.  However, though not sleeping, I have been snatching late-night opportunities for knitting and web-browsing.  Things I am enjoying at the moment …

  • the morning light in Rex’s orange room
  • but much more inspiring is Elaine’s boy’s room (really love the use of found figures)
  • searching smitten kitchen for dinner inspiration (resulting in chicken pot pie)
  • making progress on my Ravelry swap project
  • the sewing box stools here, found via 1/4 of an inch
  • loopy neckpieces: a beautiful new scarf design by assemblage and a great quick-fix scarf project by sooz
  • the hope that more sleep can be had tomorrow night …

orange collage

For Words and Pictures, hosted by Meet me at Mikes

laduree

Warning:  This Parisian confectionery shop window display is generally unrelated to the foodstuffs discussed below, apart from the presence of chocolate, but it illustrates this week’s theme so well …

As a child my favorite sweet treat to make was hedgehog.  Every year before Christmas, my mother and I would make several slices, hedgehog among them, so there would always be something on hand to serve visitors over the festive season.  It seemed so special to see all the McRobertsons shortbread tins packed with slices between layers of greaseproof paper.  For for the young cook, there was the double treat of crushing the biscuits and licking the chocolatey spoon afterwards. 

This is not the recipe that we used to make.  It is so much better!  It is adapted from one found in the March 1997 issue of Australian Good Taste, and differs from the traditional recipe in that it is made from real melted chocolate and has fruit added.  I included prunes, as they are a great rich, textural contrast with the chocolate.  And I still make this every Christmas for gifts and to serve visitors, and for Easter too …

Pinry’s Favorite Hedgehog

  • 200g shortbread biscuits, broken up into smallish chunks
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • about 10 pitted prunes, chopped
  • 250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 75g butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • cocoa powder to dust

Line a square cake tin with baking paper

Melt butter in a large saucepan (large enough to hold all ingredients – who wants to wash a mixing bowl as well?). 

Add chocolate and remove from heat and let sit for a minute or so.  (Don’t let the chocolate cook or it may seize up, rather let it gently melt in the hot butter).  Stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is melted.  Stir in honey. 

Add biscuit chunks, walnuts, currants and prunes and combine until well coated.  Press well into cake tin and chill until firm. 

Cut into small squares and dust top with cocoa.  Store in old biscuit tins with Scottish pipers on them.

gratin and cauli

Inspired by Michelle, we’re trying to eat more vegetables, and do different things with them.  ….. Also, we hadn’t been to the shop, but did have an assortment of vegies in the fridge.  Rather than make a one-pot meal today as I would usually do, I tried to treat the individual vegetables as I would meat and make them the centrepiece of each dish.

So we had green bean casserole (the Lamb and green bean casserole from Apples for Jam, without the lamb), leek gratin (from A Thousand Days in Venice) and roasted cauliflower florets.  It sounds like a bit of fuss, but it was really easy to prepare each dish in the afternoon, then pop in the oven when we were ready.  The gratin and cauliflower were particularly easy to throw together.  I haven’t tried roasting cauliflower before, and it does transform the vegetable into a nutty/sweet treat.

beans

Served with plain basmati rice (to catch the casserole juices), chopped fetta for sprinkling on the beans and a batik tablecloth (for that 70’s vegetarian meal vibe).  A satisfying and enjoyable feast, where meat was not missed.  Of course each of these dishes would make an excellent accompiament to a meat dish too (sorry Michelle)…

veg meal

winter

 I’ve been thinking about the similarities between blogging (or at least the blogs I tend to look at) and 19th century scrapbooks.  Women would use these albums to collect existing and self-created images they liked, record prose or verse and keep mementos of their lives.  This was generally done in an aesthetic manner pleasing to the maker. 

Some of the blog posts of others that I enjoy most are those that offer a glimpse into the aesthetics of their lives, their own photographs or illustrations, or those that inspire them, and stories about their daily lives. 

coqauvin

So here are clippings from my weekend scrapbook (maybe not so inspiring and aesthetic as some, but very pleasant none-the-less!) :

  • realising that winter is really here
  • baking cakes with Rex and cooking braised dishes for warming dinners
  • listening to the rain, and enjoying it
  • watching old videos with Rex and eating chocolate biscuits
  • adding a layer to the babies’ daily uniform
  • adding scraps to my album blogging with a cuddly wriggly baby on my knee

rain on leaf

rain on rose

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