Monday, September 30, 2013

Our girls have been naughty

If you came to visit with us you might feel a little bemused if you were to hear us talking about our hens as 'the girls', but that is what seems to be happening around here.

Our hens live in a portable coop and we move them twice a day to ensure they have lots of fresh ground to explore.

In addition we let them out to roam for about an hour each afternoon.

We try to keep them confined to the back of our property but hens being hens they sometimes break through to the front of our property which is not desirable.  We do not really want them rooting around our vegetable and flower gardens at their leisure.

I got a bit of a shock the other day to see they had been visiting in our front garden with all of its lovely spring growth.  Fortunately the plants have survived.

Today they were good and stayed in the backyard but who knows what tomorrow may bring.

We need a permanent solution but ours and the adjoining properties do not lend themselves to having lots of fencing around.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Roast vegetables

Roast meat and vegetables were always part of our weekly diet when growing up.

Our Mother cooked on a coal range.

The roast vegetables were always a special part of the meal.

Mum coated the vegetables in flour and they often had quite a crust on them by the time they came through the roasting process.  More crust, more flavour I thought.

There was always yummy gravy made from the meat drippings in the pan to go with meal.

In our family Linda and I became known as the gravy twins as we were known for loving seconds of roast vegetables with lashings of tasty gravy.

We still enjoy our roast vegetables and make our own gravy from the drippings - no compromise there.

When preparing the roast vegetables I do the following:-

  • I take a large clean plastic shopping bag and check it has no holes in the base;
  • I place 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon hot curry powder, 2 teaspoons sea salt and a sprinkling of ground black pepper in the bottom of the bag;
  • Peel, cut and add as many roast vegetables as you think you need for your family.
  • Hold and twist the top of the bag to prevent flour from escaping and give the flour and vegetables a good shake.  Good idea to hold the bottom of the bag with you other hand.
  • Tip the contents into the baking tray next to your meat and cook alongside until crisp.
  • Add a little oil to vegetables if you think there is not enough drippings from the meat.
For a basic roast you can do just potatoes and sweet potatoes (kumara for us New Zealanders), but you can also add as many root vegetables as you like - pumpkin, quartered red onions, carrot, parsnip and beetroot are all great additions.

Often, when having a salad, I make up what we call a Roast Vegetable Medley.  I include as many root vegetables as possible from the above list and cut them into bite size pieces before roasting.

For the Roast Vegetable Medley there is no meat to cook them with.  I pre heat the oven to 210 degrees celsius (410 degrees fahrenheit), I line a large baking tray with baking paper, tip the vegetables into the tray, drizzle with olive oil, cook for 30 minutes near the top of the oven, take out, turn over the vegetables, cook for another 30 minutes.  At this point you can assess whether you would like them to be a bit crisper or not.

We enjoy them hot with the salad and they are just as nice cold next day as a snack or with a meal.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fresh Spring Growth

We usually put pansies in the front garden over the winter months but this year we let things be.

The only thing I did was put mulch on garden made up from chicken droppings mixed with pine shavings from their nests as well as clover grass that they mulch for us.

The annuals weathered the winter okay and now we have alyssum, dianthus and verbena in flower.

In addition the marigolds and dahlias from last year have started to sprout again.

The alstromeria is looking lush and green but is yet to bud.

Not pictured but we also have grandmothers bonnet and daisies looking good and ready to go.

We may well have a full garden this summer with relatively little effort on our part.  So much to look forward to.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Borrowed landscape

A number of years ago when living in Sydney we had some landscaping done to the property we were living in.

The landscaper said never to disregard the shrubs, trees, etc., that could be seen from adjoining properties but to consider it as borrowed landscape.

At the moment when I stand at our kitchen bench I can look up the front drive and there across the driveway, in the neighbour's front yard, are the most beautiful tulip plants.  They appear to be picture perfect.

This is a 'borrowed landscape' I can just soak up and enjoy each day.  I hope they last a few weeks yet.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blocks for Margaret

Margaret joined our Sweet Pea group recently and was instantly an all too willing participant in making birthday blocks for other members.

She had her own birthday somewhere around the time of joining us and so Linda suggested we make blocks for her.

At first she gracefully declined but then she found a quilt pattern that she liked and felt we could participate in so stitching has been happening.

These blocks are in strong and vibrant batiks colours - very much in Margaret's style.

So different to the scrappy quilts I have been making of late.

It has been quite nice to do something totally different for just a wee while.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rice cakes anyone?

Yesterday we were having salad for lunch so I decided to make rice cakes.

We find these to be tasty and substantial addition to any salad. You could forego meat and or bread with this as part of the menu.

The photo is from when I had just finished making them.  They are about to go into the fridge for chilling before being fried in olive oil.

The recipe for these is from Sophie Gray, a New Zealand cook who specialises in making good food on a budget.  She is also known as the Destitute Gourmet.

Not many of her recipes are on line so I am taking the liberty of sharing this one with you here:-

Fusion Risotto Cakes

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp fresh cut herbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 cup breadcrumbs
oil for frying

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil, then add the ginger, spices, sugar and salt.  Add rice and stir until coated with the oil and spices.

Add stock gradually stirring it well through the process.  Cover and simmer or 15-20 minutes until rice has soaked up all of the stock.

When the risotto becomes creamy add the fresh herbs and set aside to cool, 1-2 hours.

When cool add 1 beaten egg and mix well.

Using wet hands, shape into cakes or patties.  Dip each into flour first, then beaten egg and lastly the the bread crumbs.

If mixture is a bit crumbly add a bit of flour.  I usually add a little water to the beaten egg.

This mix will make approximately 24 rice cakes.  We usually halve the recipe as we only have two adult members in the house to eat these - great, even with a halved recipe we get leftovers and the spices improve with time.

Set aside covered in the fridge for about an hour.

Prepare large fry pan with oil - heat to moderately hot.  Cook until brown on both sides.  I usually flatten the cakes when I put them in the pan.

As I said a great addition to any salad or can be eaten as a snack on their own.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Signature blocks, again

I finished piecing the nine patch signature blocks today.

It has been an interesting exercise looking at all of the different names and places where they have come from.

I said that blocks came from the United States as well as Bahrain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and England.  I should have added Canada and Denmark as well.

All of the signature blocks were on calico or quilters muslin except for the one to the left which was foundation pieced in reds and creams and I have placed it in the centre of one of the nine patch blocks.

This block was created by a 7 year old.  She must be about 21 years of age now.  I wonder if she remembers participating.

This lady, Vicki, had a claim to fame.  She lived in Dellview, North Carolina.

The township had a population of 12 people.

The other thing I forgot about when combining our signature blocks was that their might be duplicates.

With Linda and I being involved in the same swap we both had signature blocks from the same people so we have duplicates of some but in the interests of it being a scrappy quilt I have decided to incorporate them into the one quilt.

After all, I would not want to have to think of
another project to use them in, would I?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Now, how did that happen?

Linda and I put our signature blocks from the Y2K swap together for the making of these nine patch blocks.

At the time of the swap Linda was living here in New Zealand and I was in Sydney, Australia.

We swapped fabrics and sent signature blocks to each other.

It was lovely to see them again.

As far as I knew the signature blocks were mixed randomly so imagine my surprise when I realised that both of these signature blocks just happened to end up in the same nine patch block.

Linda's is in the top right hand corner and mine in the centre.

Now, how did that happen?

Friday, September 20, 2013

In between project

 The weather was not good enough today to be taking photos of my Nine Plus Four Version 2 so it was back to the Y2K fabrics to see what I could do with them.

When I participated in this swap each of us involved sent signature blocks and I have quite a collection of them especially now that they are combined with the ones Linda received.

Originally I never thought I would use them but after 14 years I now find them appealing and so have decided to incorporate them into a scrappy nine patch quilt.

Some blocks are just signatures along with town and country details.

Others are quite artistic as reflected in these images.

The majority of the blocks came from the United States but other countries were represented as well - Bahrain, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and England.

I think this will be a quilt we will enjoy having around the house once it is completed.

Linking to:-

Thursday Threads Link Party

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sneak peek - Nine Plus Four Version 2

Today I completed Nine Plus Four Version 2.

It was late in the day and the light is poor so I did not take a picture of the whole quilt.

I did manage to take an image of part of the quilt indoors.

I hope the weather will be kind to me tomorrow so I can take photos of both quilts so you can see the difference.

Already my mind is buzzing while I try to decide what my next project will be.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A walk in the garden

Spring is well under way here in Taupo but Jack Frost still likes to remind us of winter with the threat of a frost or two.

It was close to zero celsius here this morning so it was a bit crisp outside first thing but well worth a walk in the garden on such a fine day.

A number of our trees are just laden with blossoms.

The rhododendron trees are just coming into flower.  We replanted a yellow one last year that had not been doing well and it is awash with flowers this year.

Freesias, fresh and spring like are popping us in different spots as are the tiny grape hyacinths.  Some Linda planted but some appear to be volunteers.

I was surprised by the variety of flowers on show and these images probably represent only about half of what is there.

Perhaps I should take a walk in the garden again soon to take pictures of the others that are around so I can share them too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Progress - Nine Plus Four Version 2

Things are moving along nicely on Nine Plus Four Version 2 but in the process I have actually finished using all of my Y2K 2.5" squares.

What to do?

Never mind, tucked away in one of our cupboards Linda had a box of Y2K 2.5" squares waiting to be used.

What a lovely surprise to open this box.  Not only were all the fabrics there but there were still in their original envelopes.

What a treasure trove, opening the envelopes to reveal lovely sets of fabric along with biographies of the senders.

As an added extra, a lot of the participants made friendship squares with signatures and varying forms of artwork.

What a trip down memory lane opening these packages and putting the fabrics to good use.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Grandma's Brag Book

Oh how far she has come.

Anna-Clara was born on the 5th May and is pictured on the left recovering from the birth process.

On the right, a bright eyed innocent little girl beginning to take in what the world has for her.  This image came in overnight.

Thanks for sharing, Marcele, we enjoy the photographic updates.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Nine Plus Four - Version 2

Yesterday and today I was able to make reasonable progress on the second version of the four and nine patches that I have created from my Y2K collection.

This image represents just under half of the blocks required to finish before the borders are added.

Not sure how I feel about this particular layout, but, no doubt, when it is all quilted up I will be in love with it.

Regardless of what I think, CiCi was there within minutes for some cat scanning and, presumably, to give her tick of approval.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Love grows

Oh how the weeks slip by.  July 28th was when I last wrote about this quilt top.

What a difference some quilting makes.
Linda decided that all it needed was a bit of soft sculpturing with flowers and leaves and it worked.  Very pleasing outcome.

Once again I resorted to making magic binding for a great finish.  I shopped my stash and came up with this fabric that reflected many of the colours used in the quilt.  The mix of colours provided a nice dark flange in the binding.
I don't usually share the backs of quilts but thought this one deserved a viewing - shows up Linda's quilting very nicely.

We put quite a bit of thought into what might go into the back of our quilts.  This back was made up cotton floral fabric panels - probably originally destined for pillows/cushions.  They came together well for this backing.

Although not originally one of my favourite quilt tops somehow the love has crept up on me and I am really liking it now.  Originally destined to be a community quilt I may find it hard to say goodbye.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nine Plus Four - quilt top finished

I am pleased to report that my Nine Plus Four - Version 1 has been completed.

If I was a statistics type person I probably would have worked out how many 2.5" squares I used in the process, but suffice to say, it was lots.

At last the pile of fabrics is diminishing but I am still stitching four patch blocks so that I can make up Nine Plus Four - Version 2.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Magic binding and so it goes

Yes, I know, I have talked about Susie's Magic Binding before.

It has certainly captured my mind for the moment as a great way to finish a quilt.

Now that Linda has her long arm quilting machine in action there are quilts that need to be finished with binding and I have done three this week.

I have used the magic binding on all three and have been very pleased with each outcome.

I am not saying it would be suitable for every quilt.  There may be other ways of doing binding that might take my fancy that I do not know about yet but for the moment this method seems pretty good to me.

PS - I must be talking about this Magic Binding a lot.  When I did a Google search to make sure I had the correct link to put in this post, my blog came up as second out of 347,000 choices.

Another quilt ready to be bound today and it looks like it will get the Magic Binding treatment too - not finished yet with this idea.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

For the love of buttons

What is that makes a lovely big jar of buttons so fascinating for me?

They do evoke happy childhood memories of staying with a favourite aunt.

Playing with her button jar when we went to stay with her kept us occupied for many an hour - what a clever lady she was.  She had obviously learnt a trick or two about how to keep children happily at play.

Somehow I seem to have accumulated quite a collection of buttons over the years and for the most part they live as a decorative item in an over sized cookie jar.

I brought them out one week for our Sweet Pea ladies to look through for a craft project.

Rochelle remembered about them and recently asked if she could bring her daughter around to have a look at them.  Her daughter, Heather, was involved in a school project where she had to create something that was totally recycled and buttons was one way of achieving her goal.

Today Heather brought the results of her button project to show us.

The pupils creations are going to be auctioned at school.

Not only did they have to create something from recycled items, but they had to have a business name.

In this case it is 'Button On' and Heather has called her earring, necklace and bracelet creations The Retro Collection.

Well done, Heather, we think it looks great and hope you do well when you make your presentation.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Nine plus Four - work in progress

Still 'playing around' with my 2.5" squares.

I made up 9 x 18" blocks and pieced them together.

Still a work in progress as I plan to add a cream inner border and then make up some more four patches and create a second border with them.

So far so good. Quite a lot going on here with a 36 patch block created out of joining 4 x nine patch blocks together.

I already have Nine plus Four Version 2 in mind.

I have enough nine patches made up so I may as well carry on while I can.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Baby quilt follow up

Last May I sent this quilt to Sydney, Australia as per a request from one of my sons.

He wanted it for a friend who he used to play basketball with as a surprise for her first baby.

Today I received a photo of Mum and baby together with the said quilt.

Mum looks happy and isn't that little girl such a sweet young baby.

I wonder if she will grow up to play basketball just like her Mum?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A combined effort

This is Linda's project but it was a combined effort that brought it together.

Linda made the blocks for this scrappy Trip Around The World quilt.

I pieced them together.

Linda put the borders on the top and then did the machine quilting.

Yesterday I finished it off with some magic binding using the blue of the outer border together with a flange of yellow.

The pop of yellow looks really good and works well with the yellows in the body of the quilt.

The machine quilting on the new long arm machine continues to impress us both.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Playing around

Last week I wrote about making 111 nine patch blocks for a quilt I had in mind.

I got diverted a little bit as I still had a stash of 2.5" squares that needed attention and started making four patches from the remainder.

Vicki from A Quilters Mission and I got into conversation about whether I was going to combine the four patches and nine patches into the one quilt top.

The thought had not occurred to me so I started to give it some thought.

I tried putting a border around the four patches to match the size of the nine patch.  What I would call a modern treatment.  Okay, but I carried on.
My next thought was to set the four patches on point and I came up with this block which I find much more satisfying.

It may well be that I abandon my original plan for the nine patch quilt top but as long as I use up all the 2.5" squares one way or another I don't think it will really matter.

Monday, September 02, 2013

It's been a while

It's been a while since we have had a finished quilt around here.

This coffee theme quilt I last wrote about during April - how time goes by.

We have finished quite a few quilts since April but have had a gap recently while we waited for Linda's new long arm quilter to arrive.  You can read about that here.

To get used to the new machine Linda has been quilting some of our quilt tops before proceeding to customer quilts.

So far, so good.  I am very impressed with the machine and the results.

It was so great to see this quilt come off the frame and to be able to make some more of Susie's magic binding.

Certainly speeds up the process of getting binding on to a quilt whilst allowing an extra contrasting flange to pop through.

Fast becoming a firm favourite at our place.

Linda's quilting is just as good as ever, if not better, with her new machine.

It is a real pleasure for me to listen to it humming away and to see the results.

More quilts are on the way.