Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The bread shall take over the world

I just took my most recent loaf of bread out of the oven and it seems to have tried to escape the tin and take over the world! I really hope that it is cooked properly and doesn't have any doughy bits in the middle. If it doesn't then it will be the best loaf I've made yet and I will be well happy.

Either way there will be pics soon!! :o)

Conquering the pastry demon

All my life I have been unable to make pastry. I have ridiculously warm hands so it only takes a minute amount of handling before the dough becomes tough. I also tend to put too little water in as I'm sure it will get sticky so it doesn't roll well. For some reason (completely unknown to me) I see making a good savory pie as the pinnacle of the housewife’s art. Now I am by no means a housewife. However in our steps towards a simpler, more sustainable, less impacting life, myself and Spadger seem to have fallen into quite traditional roles of me in the house and him outside.
Out of the 2 of us he is by far the better savory cook and I am the mistress of puddings. However I am learning more dishes and have finally been able to throw the recipe book away (figuratively at least) and experiment. I’d still rather follow a recipe the first few times but I am getting better at adapting them. So to be able to make pie and quiche and other pastry delights is a big deal to me.
Last night I decided to have another go at quiche. At the same time I was trying to bake bread, prepare to take a friends rabbit back to her, planning soup and cake and sauce AND wishing to get on with a quilt I am making. Trying to think about that many things at once would be hard enough at any time but doing so whilst tackling the pastry demon was probably my first mistake. Needless to say the pastry didn’t work.
I followed the recipe to the letter and it still didn’t work. Cue much frustration, a bit of shouting and me being millimeters away from never attempting to make pastry again. Darling Spadger got me in the car to take the rabbit back, put up with the pet lip and frown , told me everything would be ok (even when I realized in my panic I’d not put the oil in the bread) and said he could wait for his tea as long as it took to get it right (pretty much). So we got home, I put on my apron and I started again. I threw a bit more water in the dough and rolled it straight from mixing rather than letting it stand. 40 minutes later we sat down to a beautiful leek, tomato and bacon quiche.
Pastry demon – 1 / Me - 1 Not a bad result.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

What is a gift?

According to noun 1. something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

I love giving and receiving gifts and I like it even better when it's handmade. I do get a warm and fuzzy feeling just giving any gift but that has been made better recently when I decided that pretty much every gift I give is going to be handmade. I love the time and energy (and occasional cursing) that goes into each gift. It means more that just browsing in a super lit shopping centre and picking up something that shines and will probably be in the bin or the back of a cupboard in a months time. When I hand make a gift I have to put a lot of thought into it as I want it to be as special to them as it is to me. I want it to be kept and used. Is it egotistical to want them to think of me when they use it? Maybe so. But I do. I want my gifts to have memories attached to them. I want the people who receive them to know that I have thought about them.

However gifts aren’t all wonderful anymore.

These days gifts are a status issue. They say more about the person giving them that those receiving. We want people to think well of us based on our wonderful choice in gift. Above all else we MUST give something. Christmas and birthdays mean a present. It doesn't matter if the gift is useful or even wanted as long as they have a gift, that is what matters. This is why I end up with various "smellies" every Christmas. I never use them. Usually I give them to someone else. But it always saddens me that someone would rather go into Boots and get me something from the 3 for 2 range than find out what I would like. I would rather have nothing than that.

This year we are trying to get all our family to think about how much they want to spend on Spadgersdottier, half it at least, put the bigger portion in a bank account we are setting up for her and spend the rest on something small. She has sooooo much stuff. But even though she has all this she would rather be in the kitchen baking bread with me or in the garden with her Dad. But people don’t want to do that. They want to buy her stuff!

We are a nation of consumers. It is all about what we can get and what that stuff says about us. We must have the latest of everything. Keeping up with the Joneses has become a way of life. We don't even know who the Joneses are anymore! We are told by the media that pervades our lives that we can't live without X Y and Z. In fact we can live very well with very little if we only allow ourselves to.

Even as I try to simplify my life I still struggle with this desire for stuff. Now I can sew clothes relatively well I want to make lots of them. Do I need them? No, I have plenty. But I want them. I want to go and buy a ton of veg so I can learn new ways to preserve it rather than waiting for what the garden will provide. In pursuit of the simple life I am learning to deal with this desire for stuff and trying to transmute some of it into making for others. I intend to find programs for homeless or other needy people who need things sewing or knitting. That way I can still get all this stuff but it will be useful :o)

The first booties

Here they are, the first booties. I delivered these yesterday to a gorgeous 5 day old. Now she was cute on her own but the booties added a special something I thought.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Is this the return of the journal?

Well Darling Spadger has gone and gotten himself a blog and is busy changing the world from his chair as well as chronicling his simple life. I love reading his blogs and it's nice to see his views on our life written down. I started this blog with the intention of using it to sell my jewelry. Then the fates smiled on me and I was able to get an Etsy (which is still not up and running, oops). So this became more of a journal.
I was an avid journal keeper as a kid. A new one every year. My days were rated from F to A+. All the inconsequential of a kids day spilt over the page. I stopped keeping one when I turned around 16. I'd discovered the art of angst poetry at that point and that was catharsis enough for each day. As I got older the poetry got better. Then as my life improved I stopped writing all together. I only seemed to write when upset or angry so when I no longer felt like that I didn't write.
Then I discovered blogging. It's like trying to swim when you've not been in water for decades. Trying to write like I used to, in any kind of relaxed manner, is difficult.
So with this blog I do aim to write like I speak. It might get a bid disjointed once in a while, please bear with me.
Reading what I've just written it seems quite stream of consciousness which is just what I wanted :o)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

No time to say hello goodbye.....

Phew it's been a busy day. but dear reader I have grabbed a couple of minutes to share 3 pics with you. Hopefully my next blog will have a bit more to it.

The first is of my bread from the other day. Soooo yummy and all gone now.

The second is of one of the rainbows I have been lucky enough to see this week. I had to alter the pic a bit to make the rainbow as bright as my eyes could see it. Imagine it with a lighter sky if you will.

The third is of my cushion. This is for a competition and is due in tonight. I'm really pleased with it. First step cushion, next step taking over the owrld with knitting. What? It could happen :o)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

I am grateful

In Vietnam there's a school of Buddhism called the Four Gratitudes. Just by practicing gratitude, we can find happiness. We must be grateful to our ancestors, our parents, our teachers, our friends, the Earth, the sky, the trees, the grass, the animals, the soil, the stones. Looking at the sunlight or at the forest, we feel gratitude. Looking at our breakfast, we feel gratitude. When we live in the spirit of gratitude, there will be much happiness in our life. The one who is grateful is the one who has much happiness while the one who is ungrateful will not be able to have happiness.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Two Treasures: Buddhist Teachings on Awakening & True Happiness,

This is one of my favourite quotes. Lets brush aside for the moment that it is religious in context as that is totally irrelevant. What it says is very simple. Be grateful for the wonderful things in life and you will be happy. Be grateful for the mediocre things in life and you will be happy. Be grateful for what you learn from the bad things in life and you will be happy.

For most people gratitude is saying thank you when they are given something. Or those occasional moments when everything in life has lined up right and your day is perfect. We tend to be grateful to those closest to us, which is natural, but pay no thought to all the other people who contribute to our daily lives.

Where did your breakfast come from this morning? Just spare a moment to think of all the people it took to get your toast or cereal to your table today. From those who harvested the raw ingredients to those who made it into the products you need, via those who transported it to you and finally to those who sold it to you. How about your cup or tea or coffee or glass of juice?

Lets take it a step further. How do you feel about everyone you encountered on your way to work this morning? Were you grateful to the driver who let you out but spared no thought to everyone else? What about the sun that shined on you or the rain that fell? Both have their place in our lives but we are generally more grateful for one than the other.

On my walk into work this morning I was grateful for the moment of joy that the squirrel bouncing through the park brought me, the beauty of the rainbow I saw as it gently started to rain (second one in 2 days, pics to come), and all the people I saw on my way who I made eye contact with. I should be grateful for all those I saw who I had no connection with as they are just as worthy but it is difficult to do so.

If we spent more time being grateful for what we have and less time believing that there is something better I think we would all be a little happier.

Hello, my name is Affi'enia and I have a conker problem

So last week on my way to work I discovered some conker trees and collected a few. I decided I would harden them and make a necklace. Then I found a few more and decided I could maybe make a bracelet and earrings. Then I found some more and thought I could make some conker jewellery so sell in my etsy shop. Now I think I mught have a slight conker problem. I collected 50 this morning and that wasn't as many as I could have picked up!

Is there such a thing as a conker addiction?

Friday, 18 September 2009

The chickens are go

Oh yes dear chronologically challenged, not here yet readers, the Landlord has given us the go ahead to keep some chickens in our back garden. How excited am I? Life a 5 year old at Christmas! We are thinking of getting one each of several different breeds. We'd love ex-battery hens but as were are planning on running a farm and making most of our money with chickens it seems sensible to "try out" the breeds we might like. We originally settled on 3 birds which I had already names Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. We are thinking of maybe getting 4 which means that poor bird will have to be called Maleficent to fit in with the theme :o) Here are the 3 we have decided on.

First up then is the Light Sussex

Next the Rhode Island Red.

Last the Miss Pepperpot.

Anyone out there in Blogland have any ideas for a fourth breed?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The dress is done

For the last 2 weeks I have been solidly sewing a dress for my osteomyologist. She had a gorgeous hand made dress and lace jacket from when she was a lot bigger.

I have turned it into a beautiful backless Vogue dress with lace inserts.

It has been the hardest thing I have ever tried to sew. However I am really pleased with the result and I hope she is too.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Autumn Days

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk in a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well
So I mustn't forget
No, I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
No, I mustn't forget.

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And winter's moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the song the milkman sings.
So I mustn't forget
No, I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
No, I mustn't forget.

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes so comfy though they're worn out and they're battered
And the taste of apple pie.
So I mustn't forget
No, I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
No, I mustn't forget.

Scent of gardens when the rain's been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that's been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team.

So I mustn't forget
No, I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
No, I mustn't forget.

When searching for the words to this hymn I found many blogs and articles on a choir that complained about the lyrics. I can agree that maybe it isn't the perfect song for a traditional or even modern Harvest Festival (I think it's the planes that get everyone upset). However it is the hymn I remember singing at school most and I love it. There are many lines that really sum up Autumn for me.

Conkers and Squirrels

It's been a while again, I really must knuckle down and write more. I think part of it is the lack of audience. However I feel I should be writing for myself and if anyone else comes along for the ride then great.

So today's little note is about my favourite season. I think this subject will crop up quite a bit as I LOVE autumn!

I've been having to walk into work this morning as Spadger has suspected flu. He is not a well Bunnie. So my walk is about an hour and a half and it's all up and down hill. Certainly some exercise which to be fair I could do with. Yesterday on my walk past the municipal golf course I saw a squirrel. I Love squirrels. They just bounce around and always seem happy. I then found my first conker of the year. I'm planning on collecting a load and hardening them and then making a necklace out of them. Today I saw the squirrel again and found 7 conkers! All the leaves are starting to turn so I'm going to have to get out and about with my camera as soon as Spadger is better and get some good autumn pics :o)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Gift Of A Brand New Day
(Harvey Andrews)
Hey woman, my woman, open your eyes and smile
Hey lovely, my lovely, stay in the warm awhile
Savour the present we've got to open wrapped in a sleepy way
We've got a gift to share together, it's the gift of a brand new day
Gift of a brand new day

Hey woman, my woman, we can walk in the rain
Hey lovely, my lovely, search for the sun again
You can make bread, I can make wine, we'll ask our friends to stay
We've got a gift to share together, it's the gift of a brand new day
Gift of a brand new day

Making music, making love and making harmony
Time goes down, time flows down
The long, long road you share with me

Hey woman, my woman, we can take the baby out
Hey lovely, my lovely, show him what it's all about
Teach him to love the swan and squirrel, the magpie and the jay
We've got a gift to share together, it's the gift of a brand new day
Gift of a brand new day

Making music, making love and making harmony
Time goes down, time flows down
The long, long road you share with me

Here is a song that I adore. I can't help but smile when I hear it. A lot of songs by Harvey Andrews are quite sad. The soldier being the worst I think. But this one is cheerful and makes me want to go for a walk outside or go harvest something from the garden. The line about making bread and wine is so me and Spadger :o)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The rise of the artichokes

I thought I'd write a quick post while Spadger bottles the beetroot sauce he's made. I've spent the day in the kitchen making various things (pics and story to come) and desperately wanted a bath to easy my aching back but I had one last preserve that needed doing. He valiantly stepped up to the mark.

Yesterday we needed to make a cage out of bamboo poles and jute string to hold our Jerusalem artichokes up. The winds we have had lately had blown them over and we lost a couple of stalks. They're a few weeks of harvesting so we're trying to support them as best we can, They are now almost 3 meters tall so it gets pretty windy at the tops of them. Holding them up while he tied was quite a challenge. We also discovered that the little hairs they have all over the stalks and leaves prickle in a way that you don't notice as it happens but itches like crazy later!

I thought I'd add the progress pics we took next to the tallest of the crop. First is Spadgersdottier looking happy that it is only just bigger than her, than it got a bit taller and she was less pleased. She is about 4 feet tall. Next is me at 5 foot 3 inches (and a half!). Lastly is Spadger who is 5 foot 11. I need to find a 2.75 meter tall person to complete it :o)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I have been watching this blog for a while now and have finally signed up.

I have signed for a 2 month stint but I can see me becoming a lifer pretty quickly. Check it out!