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Christmas and new year’s activities seem so for away now.  As I’ve taken a fair chunk of time off work, we’re now in a summer holiday frame of mind.  Some things we’ve been up to:

  • Reading: bedtime stories.  Rex is old enough to enjoy chapter books, and we’ve worked through The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump and Harry Potter.  I’m now addicted to Harry Potter books and trying to track down the rest of the series second-hand.
  • Watching: movies!  I saw Tangled with Rex, and The Tourist with Mr. Foxy.  Enjoyed them both immensely.  I saw the 3D version of the former, and there was a most delightful moment in a scene where there were lots of lanterns floating in the sky.  Rex leapt to his feet and reached out to touch one that seemed to be at arms reach, and I noticed that all the other kids in the audience were doing the same!  Magic indeed!  And I was loving the good old-fashioned escapism of adventures in Paris and Venice with the impossibly elegant Angelina and hapless yet dashing Mr. Depp.
  • Listening: to Dickens, and I always seem to turn to the Amelie soundtrack lately.  Plaintive, wistful, charming and olde-world-French.
  • Eating: too much chocolate.  But at least the latest new family meal idea has proved to be a winner – pesto made with handfuls of parsley, baby spinach and walnuts with a small clove of garlic and a few glugs of olive oil.  So great to see the vegie avoiders getting a burst of leafy green goodness.
  • Sewing:  transforming trousers with torn knees into shorts, for both large and small.
  • Making: Kirsty’s crochet granny shrugs in small girl sizes.  A fun and not too taxing project for the holidays.
  • Despairing: at the cruelty of nature in sending devastating and seemingly worsening floods to our northern neighbours.  Even more bitter following so many years of drought.
  • Anticipating: a road trip to country Vic and urban NSW, our first holiday as a family of five!  We’re leaving tomorrow, and are still madly packing!

Happy new year!

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Most of my Easter list was checked off (though I didn’t have time to look for Easter daisies  in my last-minute dash to the supermarket on Good Friday, but I did find fruitless hot cross buns of dubious quality).  I was pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic Rex was about embracing all things easter-y.  He loved participating in decorating the table with flowers from the garden and arranging and re-arranging the family of bunnies.  He loved the idea of decorating the eggs, but wasn’t too keen on getting his hands messy with the paper mache paste.  He even showed interest in and slight comprehension of the Easter story.  And he was of course so excited to take part in an easter egg hunt on Sunday morning, and generous in sharing the experience with his sisters.  (I did find snap-shut plastic egg-shaped containers at the supermarket that did allow me to do the nocturnal egg hiding after all.  Sleep is a luxury around here at the best of times.)

All preceded by wholesome frolicking in grandpa’s garden, where it was nice to see that lemon-picking was almost as exciting as chocolate.

This easter I am:

  • trying to celebrate the traditions, and making new ones as a family
  • alone in eating hot cross buns on Good Friday (no one else is keen on them)
  • going to buy a bunch of Easter daisys
  • making Pashka for lunch at my parents’ on Saturday.  (I always try to make this at Easter time.)
  • thinking about decorating eggs with collaged tissue paper with Rex – inspired by these
  • making omelette with the blown eggs
  • having Colomba Pasquale for breakfast
  • hiding chocolate eggs in the garden early on Sunday (do you think it would be OK if I did it the night before?  No?)
  • loving the sweet Easter cards (see below – though I can’t get a good photo for some reason) my mum made and sent to the children.  She draws these on the computer using Paint – no fancy graphics programs for her!
  •  Wishing you a very happy and safe easter.

 

Pashka

  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 100g chopped dark chocolate
  • 60g chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

Beforehand, soak sultanas in brandy for several hours.  Cream butter and sugar, add sour cream, ricotta and cream cheese, lemon juice and rind.  Beat until well combined.  Stir in vanilla, chocolate, almonds and dried fruits.

Spoon mixture into a muslin-lined clean flowerpot about 18cm diam. (I use a shaped plastic flowerpot that I keep for this purpose).  (It’s important that your mould has holes in the bottom.)  Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate over night.

To serve, unmould on to a plate and decorate with fruit, flowers or easter novelties.

 

This is very very good – I love the tartness of the apricots and the hard bitterness of the chocolate with the sweet, soft cheese base.  Due to the uncooked brandy, it’s not really suitable for children, but you could substitute this with orange juice if your children like fruited desserts.  (Recipe from Gabriel Gate’s Television Recipes, 1992, now out of print.)

When I made a Shetland Triangle shawl for my aunt’s 80th birthday, I thought that I really should make one for her younger sister, my mother, too. 

Now Mum is an accomplished needle- and crafts-woman, who can make almost anything.  She can knit lace, but I don’t think she has knit it in a fine gauge, as a shawl.  And a fine lace shawl (that can be worn as a scarf)is something she wouldn’t knit for herself.  And if Marion has one, she should too!

A promised Christmas present became a birthday present, but finally it’s finished.  The knitting was fairly quick, such an addictive pattern, but this one hung around due to fear-of-blocking.  I was determined to use blocking wires this time, and eventually got around to buying some, but still I hesitated, also due to packing and moving.  Finally last weekend I took the plunge with flattened large packing boxes, towels and the new wires.  I think I still need a bit of practice, but the wires are definitely easier to deal with than pins alone.  And there is now a finished Shetland Triangle for Mum!

The yarn, again, is Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4ply, this time in Iris Mist.  Purple is not a colour that I would normally choose for myself, but I did think a lavender/iris shade would suit Mum and when asked she also chose purple.  While I was knitting it there were a few flowers appearing in the garden of a similar hue, which made me appreciate this colour a bit more.

I’m still to knit one for myself, and perhaps I will return to this pattern, but there is another that has caught my eye.  What could be better this autumn and winter than to be wrapped in traditional, fine, knitted lace.  I hope Mum thinks so too.

My aunt, Auntie Marion, was known as Blossom in her family when a small child with two older brothers and a younger sister (my mother).  She was born at the time the farm’s fruit trees were coming in to bloom.  She initially embraced the name, but was indignant when she realised that this was the name also given to one of the cows.  So the name only seemed the stick amongst her brothers.

Auntie Marion was perhaps my favorite aunt.  She seemed incredibly exotic to my young self.  She had lived in Papua New Guinea, and then lived in sub-tropical Queensland.  She was full of fun and would use funny words like wizzel-wozzel.  She would help me cook things like cannelloni and Italian cakes with ricotta cheese and glacé fruit (this doesn’t sound remarkable now, but was unusual in the 70’s).  She wore batik sundresses and was always travelling, not to the usual holiday destinations, but the more remote or romantic sounding places.  In the 1970’s Australians didn’t travel as much as they do now, so Laos, Russia, China and Finland seemed the stuff of adventure.  She would bring me back a doll from everywhere she visited, so I would vicariously try and imagine the wonder of those far-off places.  Even now, Auntie Marion’s most recent trip was to Nepal at the age of 79.

shetland collage

My middle name is Marion, and my mother would always put my discontent at living in suburban Geelong and more eccentric behavior down to my taking after Marion.  I certainly seem to have inherited her wanderlust and curiosity about the world, some of her sense of adventure and seeking of new experiences.

So when Auntie Marion recently turned 80 and hosted a family gathering at her home, I wanted to give her something special.  She didn’t want or need things, so I thought something that I made, something useful and beautiful and a bit more advanced than a quick project would be called for.

shetland unblocked collage

Enter the Shetland Triangle.  I had been dying to knit a fine lace shawl, and others had said that this was one of the easier and not too time consuming options.  And the results certainly belied this, it looked incredibly intricate.

I used Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4 ply in Koala, a nice but non-boring neutral that would mix well with the batik and tapa prints that I imagine Marion in.  After a few repeats, I had memorised the stitch pattern and it just flew.  I think the whole thing took three weeks.  It was so addictive that as soon as I cast off, I wanted to cast on another.

The only difficulty I had was blocking.  I tried three times as I couldn’t get it even or the points as scalloped as they should be.  Next time I’ll try blocking wires like Suse’s

All in all I’m quite happy with it, and it was ready in time.  There will definitely be more Shetland Triangles in my future. 

shetland

Oh, and the lace stitch pattern is the Shetland pine cone design, a nice parallel with the great pine windbreaks that are one of my strongest memories of the farm where Blossom grew up.

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