Thursday, 29 September 2011

quilt guilt

in the last couple of weeks i've put all my projects on vegetable garden, cupboard and door stripping, sanding and painting, vintage sheet and spare room quilts, shed rearranging, card and tea towel making and so on..except for a quilt that i've been making for my daughter alexandra that was due to be completed for her 30th birthday in may..i didn't finish it because i found it tedious..for one thing i made the mistake of starting it too soon..what happened was that i started one for my eldest daughter katerina for her 30th in 2009 and i got so carried away with how much fun it was choosing the fabric with her that i thought i might be fun to get alex's fabric too and then i thought it might be nice to do just a little bit of alex's so that we could sort of see what the finished product would look like..i think there was too much of the not right sort of thinking going on!

by the time i finished katerina's quilt for her birthday, with the completion date and my initials embroidered on it and all, i had a few (understatement) quilty ideas that needed expression so i started three called 'kitchen scraps' (photo below) made mainly with vintage aprons that i'd been collecting for years, one made with vintage embroidered table linen (photo below) and one with vintage sheets (photo below)..and i got carried away with them at the expense of alex's quilt..i mentioned earlier that i found alex's quilt tedious because i started it too early but it was also tedious because she'd chosen the same design as katerina who'd chosen the same design as one i'd made for myself (photo below) by the time i was due to get seriously stuck into alex's quilt i found myself struggling to get excited by the design because i was now making it for the third time..and while i didn't find the fabric she'd chosen particularly inspiring either it was when she commented that she might have liked one like the vintage sheet quilt that she saw me making that i lost the alex quilt plot completely..

anyway i had a bit of a talk with myself recently and what i had to say to myself convinced me that a loving mother puts her daughter's quilt ahead of all other projects and, as well, she overcomes mental roadblocks in the form of excuses..i have to report that the talk i had with myself went well because i've only got two more rows of hexagons left before i finish piecing the main part of the quilt top (photo below)..then all i need to do is make half hexagons to fill in two sides of the quilt, hand sew the border on to the pieced top, sandwich the top, batting and backing fabric together and then i can get onto the hand quilting followed by the binding and the embroidery of my initials and date of completion..and i'm determined, above all else, to have it done before the end of the year..

and just as well i had that chat because my son nicholas turns 30 in two years and i have a brother who turns 50 in 3 years and they both want and have been promised quilts..

'kitchen scraps' quilt
vintage embroidered linen quilt
vintage sheets quilt
my 'sweet cherry dreams' quilt
alexandra's quilt

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

enamel 2

i love enamel plates..

'the leaning tower of plates'

and i have 56 of them in a variety of colours..and within those colour groups the plate and edge colours vary..for instance i have 14 cream plates but 4 of them are bread and butter sized with red enamel edges (these are my favourites)..and 2 of them are a bit larger with brown edges..and the rest are larger again with 2 having blue edges and the rest having green edges..the other plate colours are white, black, grey, blue, red, pink, green and yellow/orange..

and what do i do with them i hear you ask..well..i love to use them for afternoon teas..sometimes i will just use one colour but often i like to use a variety of colours to coordinate with the table linen, flowers and china..and as well as using them for entertaining i also use the plates on a daily basis..they're not dishwasher safe though so there's a bit extra hand washing up but that's never a concern.. 

but..the cups and plates don't constitute my entire enamel collection so look out for future enamel postings :)..

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

fakes soupa

when my husband was doing his mandatory national service with the greek army he was posted in a small town called edessa in the north of greece and even though he had officer status he was paid only $100 a month..the only work available to me was in summer packing peaches in a dusty shed situated in the peach fields and even though most afternoons i tutored a friend i had made there in english it wasn't a paid a consequence we had to live a very frugal life..

in terms of our accommodation we managed by renting a part of a house which had no running hot water in the kitchen or cooking facilities and no heating but it did have a hot water system in the outdoor bathroom so that we could shower..the hot water system was similar to the coppers our grandmothers used for washing except that the copper or water storage tank was enclosed in a brick structure with a small aperture at the bottom where the fire was lit to heat the water..for the two of us to shower in winter when the temperature dropped to minus 15 degrees c i would have to make sure the fire was going all day..

i said earlier there were no cooking facilities but that's not entirely accurate because there was a decrepit wood burning oven in the kitchen that i tried to get going after spending hours cleaning but to no i did what a lot of greek women do..i cooked on a three burner gas camp stove for certain meals and those that required an oven i took to the local baker who would cook the food for the equivalent of $0.20..sometimes in winter i would cook in a little wood fired oven that the woman from whom we rented would have going downstairs in her bedroom to heat her room..regardless of whether the food i cooked in that oven was savoury or sweet it always tasted better than any food cooked with gas or electricity..

lentil soup (fakes soupa) is a favourite with greeks and it can constitute a meal in itself with feta cheese or yoghurt and a cooked green salad so i started making it regularly because it was something i could make on my camp stove and because it was cheap and nutritious..the lentil soup i made back then was typically greek and i really enjoyed it but over time i have adapted the recipe without eclipsing its origins..the original recipe comes from a book i bought when i was living in greece and that is now falling apart with use.. 

one of my first cookbooks

and much loved! 

the basis of the recipe i now use is the same as the original but with a few tweaks here and there according to how i'm feeling on the day, and what i have on hand, so i don't follow a strict recipe per se which makes it a bit hard to write out but this is the one i made last night..

250 gms lentils (i prefer the small puy lentils)
1 onion cut into small dice
2-3 cloves of garlic cut fine
1 red chilli cut fine
2 tbs olive oil
750 mls tomato puree
1500 homemade chicken stock
1-2 bay leaves
3 tbs (or to taste) of cider vinegar
2 carrots cut into medium dice
2 medium sized potatoes cut into medium dice
a large handfull of rocket
extra olive oil
grated mizithra

  • check lentils for grit and stones and rinse well
  • saute onion, garlic and chilli in oil until softened
  • add lentils, stock and tomato and bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and then cook for 30 minutes
  • add carrot, potato, bay leaves, vinegar and salt to taste and cook until the lentils and vegetables are soft
  • add rocket and cook for a minute
put a couple of tablespoons of cooked brown rice in the bottom of a large shallow soup bowl, pour over soup and drizzle with extra olive oil and a dusting of mizithra cheese..

and serve with a big chunk of homemade sourdough bread..

Saturday, 10 September 2011

a fowl story..

when my eldest daughter was in about year nine at high school all of the students in her psychology class were allocated a two day old chick which they were instructed to take home and care for to demonstrate how the chick would imprint on them..according to the britannica encyclopaedia the definition of imprinting is a:

'Form of learning wherein a very young animal fixes its attention on the first object with which it has visual, auditory, or tactile experience and thereafter follows that object. In nature, the object is almost always a parent; in experiments, other animals and inanimate objects have been used. Imprinting has been studied extensively only in birds, but a comparable form of learning apparently takes place among many mammals and some fishes and insects. Ducklings and chicks, which can imprint in a few hours, lose receptivity to imprinting stimuli within 30 hours of hatching..'

my daughter named her chick 'cashmere' because he/she (at this stage cash's sex was indeterminate) had soft brown and white down that reminded her of a cashmere blanket of her grandmother's that she loved..the chick imprinted on her and the study was over but 'cash' continued to thrive in her care whereas all the other student's chicks was quite funny to see the little chick running after her or to hear his/her trill coming from under her hair where he/she roosted on her shoulder..and funny that she took him/her to the must be the only chick to ever see 'breakout'..and she would take cash for his/her daily dirt bath in my vegetable garden where it was so sweet to see this tiny little chick scratching and throwing dirt over his/her feathers just like an adult bird would..

this little chick is similar to 'cash'
it was when the adolescent 'cash' tried to crow for the first time that of course we realised we had a rooster..he grew into the most beautiful bird with soft brown/grey and white speckled feathers which we identified as similar to a turned out that 'cash' had a bit of a shoe fetish though which must have arisen because he had imprinted on my daughter's shoed feet as he ran around after her as a little bird..and because he had no feathery friends i felt sorry for him so i eventually got nine hens to keep him company and while he never quite got over his shoe fetish he did eventually learn to do his rooster thing with the hens..

he went missing for two days once and i had all but given up hope when early one morning i heard a pitiful little crow from way down the back of our garden..i was in my night attire when i trudged through the sodden grass and climbed the six foot high fence to see poor old 'cash', missing all of his tail feathers, sitting on a barrel in my neighbours garden..and at the foot of the barrel was a very large german shepherd just waiting for another opportunity to sink his teeth in..i felt no fear as i climbed over the fence and rescued my boy..i remember there were old tiles lying in the grass and i picked one up as a weapon in case the dog attacked me and/or the bird..i think i would have used it too..and maybe the dog sensed my resolve because it didn't come near me.. i hurried 'cash' inside and put him in a warm room in a cardboard box covered with a towel hoping that this strategy would be enough to save him..i also fed him little delicacies..and he survived his first ordeal..

and he survived the next ordeal where he spent two days stuck under my verandah..once again i woke to hear a sad little crow..when i realised where he was i had to jemmy up the verandah boards to release him..but he didn't survive a fox attack..the fox dug a hole under the coop's wire fence and killed 'cash' and all 'the girls' without eating a single one..

to this day i feel sad about 'cash' and 'the girls' and up until very recently i was planning on buying a coop and getting some more hens in my new old house but i've changed my mind..having had them in the past i know how much of a commitment they are and how much work it entails and i also want the flexibility of being able to go away at a moments notice..i remember the numerous trips to the green grocer for greens and buying huge bags of grain and hosing the coop out and taking one to the vet because it wasn't well and hosing them with a fine mist in heat waves and the concern i felt if one of the hens was being hassled by the i will continue to buy my eggs but i won't buy eggs from caged hens and i haven't for a very long time..

i have been given some lovely chook related gifts..too good to use french hen shaped soap and eggs, hand embroidered rooster serviettes and an antique white milk glass hen on nest dish..and recently i found a pottery hen on nest dish at the op shop which i blogged about here..

and today i don't really know why i went to the op shop because i hadn't really intended to but i did..  

and as i walked around i noticed a battered box
 on a low shelf which only just piqued my interest

but i opened it to find this..

and i turned it over to reveal this lovely trade mark

and when i took the rubber bands off i found a beautiful
 never been used hand made in the usa chicken butter mold

i checked on line and la culinaire molds of this type were made in about 1981 and are certainly worth more than the $10 i paid..

so instead of the real thing i will just have to settle for the pleasure i get from my the chook related gifts and op shop finds..

Sunday, 4 September 2011

molly's marmalade

i love the bitter sour perfumed flavour of cumquat so i planted one in my new garden two years ago and last autumn i made my first cumquat jelly..i decided to make jelly because, even though i love the flavour of cumquat, i've never really liked the consistency of the cumquat marmalade i've made..unlike the more dense rind of other citrus the skin on cumquat is soft and so it's difficult to cut it into lovely thin i've tended to end up with an inconsistently lumpy marmalade that i haven't enjoyed very much..

i am a bit of an op shopper in case you hadn't realised and at the same time as i made my cumquat jelly i noticed jars of delicious looking cumquat marmalade in my local op turned out that it had been made by molly, a volunteer, whom i know and really like..she is 82 years old and walks to and from the op shop daily with the assistance of a walking frame because she has chronic leg pain..despite the pain, however, molly is always smiling and friendly..


anyway i bought one of molly's jars of marmalade, even though i had my own jelly, and because it was so delicious i had to go back for another jar a few days later..she was chuffed when i told her how much i had enjoyed her marmalade because she hadn't considered herself much of a jam was then that is asked her how she made it and she offered to write the recipe out for me..i made a batch that afternoon and i can happily tell you that i considered it a success..the secret to it's success, i think, is that the fruit is minced..although i have to say i've never liked using this method with other citrus fruit..

      molly's cumquat marmalade
  • 1 kg cumquats (weight after de-seeding)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 kgs sugar
  • juice 2 lemons

  • first de-seed cumquats (this is rather slow and laborious) and tie the seeds in muslin (molly didn't do this)
  • mince the cumquats (i used a food processor)
  • put minced cumquats and muslin bag in a large pan, pour over water, and leave to soak overnight
  • the next day boil until the fruit is soft (approximately 1/2 hour)
  • remove muslin bag and add the sugar and lemon juice
  • once the sugar is dissolved boil rapidly for approximately 1/2 hour or until set

my 'molly' marmalade  
it's a lovely vibrant orange colour

my thanks go to molly who kindly gave me permission to take her photograph and write her cumquat marmalade recipe in this post..

Friday, 2 September 2011

mixed feelings

for about a week or so before the first day of spring yesterday i had been thinking about writing a post celebrating springs' imminent arrival but i hesitated over and over wasn't until i found this cross stitch yesterday that i realised what's been troubling me and what had stopped me..

there is no doubt that spring is a joyous season, with signs of emerging new and colourful life and increased temperatures, but the hovering uncertainty i felt about spring became clearer to me when i found this cross stitch of gum trees at an opportunity shop yesterday....

the cross stitch reminded me that victoria is the most bush fire prone area in the world and that up until recently our water catchment levels were at alarmingly low levels..

now that i am aware of what had been troubling me i can now more easily rejoice in spring's arrival and hope that this summer native and non-native flora and fauna and human life are spared the tragic consequences of drought and bushfire..jane