Monday, June 27, 2011

Going away

I went to Nelson for the weekend, all by myself, and had the best reunion with some long long standing friends ever, thanks to the uber-hedonist W, who threw a great 40th birthday.

I loved being away without my family. I'm going to do that more often. When I got back, they had also had a good weekend, and were chilled out and happy.

I'm not in a big blogging mood at the moment. No doubt something will get me fired up enough to launch back into political blogging, and maybe I'll finish some crafty stuff and put up photos sometime. 'Til then, go enjoy the rest of the blogosphere, or fold your washing, or read Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders which is my favourite book of the year so far. I got back from the pub at midnight on Friday, slept for four hours, read the entirety wonderful contents of Year of Wonders, got up and had a curry for breakfast in a direly awful shopping mall (all malls are dire in my experience) , then went birthday partying for 13 hours. Which just goes to show I've been jaded lately, but I haven't fallen into irreparable getting older lady bones demise.

Kale in tonight's pumpkin and red lentil soup. Blackcurrants in today's chocolate cake. Rained again today. Not sure if I will ever get to garden again. I guess even Noah's flood stopped eventually.

Monday, June 20, 2011

rockin' and rollin' all week long

I don't know where the analysis part of my brain has gone. Not quite true. I do know I've been thinking about some things that don't belong on my blog. I speculate that the relentlessness of winter has something to do with it as well. I haven't blogged about anything more thoughtful than sewing for weeks.

Tonight is not the night for breaking through the puffy stuff either. So I present to you, with nary an intelligent caption, a favourite of my childhood:

I found him here. My Dad had this old battery radio, butter yellow with red casing, which I used to prop up beside the trampoline and jump and flip endlessly to the sounds of Radio Nelson. If it occasionally was temperamental, I would bang it just like the Fonz, to make it go again.

This afternoon I took the kids and my elderly cousin M to the art gallery (we only have one in Wetville) to see the local photography competition entries. They were fantastic, and now Fionn has seen the under 12s section, he wants to enter next year.

I've started on the yoke for my flowery curtain fabric skirt. I ran out of flowery curtain fabric for the back yoke, so it is blue with white spots instead. I never tuck tops in, so I expect the spotty fabric won't show much. I do like the heavy, firm weight of the curtain fabric in sewing terms. It stays in the right place, which is more than I can say for those stretchy knit fabrics I tore my patience and tension up with not so long ago.

Fundraising season continues. It's never too cold or dark too early for fundraising it seems. I shelled out $20 for kindy raffle tickets today as I refuse to hawk tickets round when all my friends are also finding money for their own kids' activities. A notice comes home from Fionn's school every week inviting me to gift sugar or corn chips or bottles, plus endless opportunities to gift my time and skills. It can only be one thing. Gala season. I'm expecting league raffle tickets just as soon as I've shut my wallet for five seconds.

Quietly not ticking away at all is my contribution to the next Blackball working class history museum exhibition on care workers. Which puts a stretch on my next thought, which is that in the light of a comment from HarvestBird earlier this week:
I worry, on and off, about the gradual withdrawal of empathy in the rest of the country, as colleagues recount stories of being lectured by people in call centres and other service contacts on the question of “why don’t you just leave?”
what could I do or get a group together to do, which would be fantastic for Christchurch people? I'm really pleased with our dressups for Christchurch kindies project, which yielded two big bags of play goodies, mostly dressups, for the ravaged preschool play spaces. Perhaps, in light of my lack of achievement on the Blackball museum front, I should just send money to womens refuge and throw some project energy closer to home. Hmmm. maybe. Maybe some play jewellery for the women's refuge... Frivolous, but couldn't a little frivolity be a welcome distraction?

Sunday, June 19, 2011


It is very very beautiful where we live. Today, the sun shone brightly for the second time in four days.

I went to the beach all by myself, where the shape of the creek running out to sea has changed again.

Where I could look for miles and see only open space.
They have begun work on our leg of the national cycle way. I guess they will build a bridge over the creek here, giving the kids another spot to throw things from.
In a town where it rains much of the time, where winter routes to the rest of the world are difficult to traverse, where everything human-made seems tiny and closed on Sundays, the beach reminds me how lucky we are.

Today on Spectrum on National Radio, David Steemson interviewed women from the Knitter Natter group which knits for babies and children at the Kidz First Childrens Hospital in South Auckland. I hope this is the link to listen. It was good piece, partly centred around the meetup of the knitters in Wiri womens prison with the knitters 'outside'. I thought Steensom and the older knitters way overplayed the idea that knitting is about to die out though. Have a squiz through the internet, check out the events on World wide knit in public day - it's clear that death is not imminent.

I think this is beginning to look rather skirt-like. It takes ages of concentration, this sewing without elastic waists lark. I'll leave the yoke part until tomorrow now, and go read Novel About My Wife instead. If you haven't already, I recommend reading Harvestbird's latest reflection on life in Christchurch. If you think I should clean my house instead of chilling out, at 9.30pm, then you should go away.

Oh yes. Kale. I made oxtail for dinner, a la Alison Holst's slow cooker recipe with star anise, which I do recommend. I made mashed kumara and sauteed garlic and kale to go with it. I liked it. Some other people at the dining room table did too. Even the girl! I also made sushi for lunch, but I haven't yet played with squeezing kale into sushi. A friend did send me this link for making kale pasta. As in kale inside the actual pasta. The colour is wondrous.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What to take to bed

Finished project. One scarf, all ends sewn in and the button with the star on it (like a star bellied sneetch?) holding the ends together. Brighid's jersey is a lovely hand me down from a friend. I think her mum knitted it. The all time 300% best thing about this photograph? Brighid has colour in her cheeks and energy in her expression. Today she was hungry. Tonight after tea she was very hungry. Brilliant developments.

I've cut out my flowery curtain samples to make a skirt (Simplicity 2451 - more detail here and here). I've wound the bobbin and threaded the machine. Now I'm up to the concentrating part and I think I'll go to bed and read instead.

How to choose what to read first from this morning's library haul: The first full sentence of page 24 for each book:
1. He obviously hadn't paid proper attention.

2. "Where are you from originally"?

3. She knows she should have done the job of clearing the room out before, but there's been the cancer operation, the radiation, then the wall hanging.

4. Ann entered my life like this, only she somehow stayed a step ahead.

As this technique didn't help at all, I turned to opening sentences. The winner is Emily Perkins, Novel About My Wife, which I shall take to bed with me tonight.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When I write, my life does not quite disappear.

The sun! The sun! Today the sun shone brightly and no one was wheezing or sneezing green stuff. I realised how long it has been since I was outside in the bright sunshine when it was so shadowy even at midday. I took these outside photos at midday.

The chooks get no sun in their run at the moment. YTou can see the roof of the poultry palace in the very centre of the photograph. I guess there won't be much vitamin D when we kill them and turn them into stock.

Beautiful sky huh? The low angle of the sun stretches out the washing line shadows - they look to me like giant blackbirds.

A whole day without rain.

Woohoo. I hope Christchurch people get a whole day without an earthquake soon. And then days and then weeks.

The wood piles, pitifully low, are soon to be supplemented by coal.
This is rata which we've had in storage for over 12 months. It burns hot and is wonderful stuff.

This is beech, which we had delivered in April. It is mostly dry rather than completely so. Usually we buy our wood in January and dry it before we stack it and the difference in condition is noticeable. The wet beech is a beautiful red colour in the cross-section - it seems a shame to burn it. In a few years, our wood sellers tell me, there will be no more rata and beech to buy (to do with government legislation from before we lived here I think) and then we will have to work out what to burn with pine.

We still have food in the garden. Lettuces, celery, spinach and kale. Behind them are phacelia and more kale, and some young leeks growing for spring eating. The lawn on either side of this garden is slush. When I remove my gumboot, there is a puddle in its place. But the kale continues to cope. Long live kale, superfood for the bog people!

The idea is that this is also food for Spring. The purple sprouting broccoli that is, not the soccer ball. It has huge leaves so probably too much nitrogen in the compost I put on this small raised bed.

Right now, though, this is where I go for food several times each day: the miners lettuce by the back door. I like the contrasting shades of green together as well as the juicy vitamin C for my sandwiches and salads.

Another thing I have been thinking about today: how budgeting works best for the rich. Today, after cleaning the fridge (medal indeed), laundering, parenting and gardening, Brighid and I set out for the supermarket. I knew to do this first as my New World weekly specials email told me I would get a coupon for 21 cents per litre off petrol if I spent $150 buying groceries with them. At the supermarket, we bought lots of things that were on special that I knew we would need this week or next month, sometimes multiples of a product to get the offered deal. At the checkout I saw I had saved $27 on the usual prices. We could afford to buy over $150 in groceries at once. At the petrol station, I saved $7 on the usual price, because I was rich enough to be able to buy $150 worth of groceries at once. In town, we bought a zip, button and thread for our latest projects - I can because I know how to knit and sew, and own needles and a sewing machine. Then out at the wood and coal merchants, I bought four scoops of coal, to be delivered next week. Because we bought it all at once, they knocked $20 off the price.

So, $54 in savings, achievable because we earn enough to plan ahead. Yes I do have moderately good budgeting skills, but I also have earning privilege. I do appreciate this, and get really annoyed when wealthy people talk about the poor needing to budget better.

Onto crafting projects. I've finished the knitting part of Brighid's scarf. I just need to sew in the ends, press it out so it doesn't roll so much, and sew on the button to hold the scarf in place. The wool is from a cardigan I knitted for Brighid which I unravelled when she outgrew it. Total cost for the garment: 30 cents for the button. She is also wearing the bumble bee hoodie which I made for Fionn a few years ago. Yes that is my dress bodice in the background. No I haven't gotten any further on. So many adjustments to make to match facings and the skirt to the changes I made to the bodice.

The red dress has all the flowers pinned to it, and I'm half way through sewing on the flowers making up the 'B'. She approves now.

The curtain fabric projects. I blogged about the curtain fabric potential here. Yesterday I went back and got the last lot of glistening fabric samples so I had enough to make a skirt, shown above. There is a gold colourway and an aluminium colourway.

While I was on the curtain fabric theme, I pulled this out of my drawer, from the same curtain shop. I've measured it up for the straight skirt in my last blog post. The lure of a skirt is that I plan to make no adjustments to the pattern. All this dreamy planning of skirt making prompted me to actually get some other things finished, hence finishing the knitting part of Brighid's scarf last night, and making progress on the red corduroy dress. That dress is made from a $2 Sallies find, finished with bits and pieces from my craft box. The only new expenditure was a packet of bias binding for the armholes.

Did I cook kale in all of this? I certainly did. I made bolognaise sauce, adding kale towards the end. Given the challenge of meetings and sports practices requiring multiple sittings of dinner, I cooked it several hours early and then put it in the slow cooker on low to keep warm. Worked. Hopefully cheaper than using the oven to keep it warm.

So there you go. Sandra. 39. hair grey at the roots and blonde colour from summer needing touching up urgently. House not as messy as two weeks ago. Thursday = the Mummy day. Does stuff and writes about it. But when I write, it doesn't quite disappear. Whereas the fridge clean will disappear. So will the clean washing and the full tummies. The clean bench is already gone. And when I ponder sewing, and eventually sew, that is the part of my world which I don't allow to be touched by work deadlines or housework or kids. The part of the evening when I love my kids the most, entirely because (and only when) they are asleep, quiet.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deleted samples

Not content with the 4-5 projects on the go craft-wise, nor mindful of the need to sew up as much fabric as possible in readiness for losing the study so the children can have separate rooms at the end of the year, nor of the other demands on my time, I looked through the deleted samplers at the curtain shop today. Three dollars for a set of three gorgeous gold fabrics. Now I just have to work out how to use them to make a skirt without buying more fabric or another new pattern. Once again, I just miss out on having enough fabric for this pattern which I bought last month:

I do have this piece of fabric, another remnant which I fell in love with last year. If I put black velvet flowers with shimmery gold fabric, then I'll have to organise somewhere to wear it. Hmmm. I've got about ten weeks until our wedding anniversary.

Off to look at patterns (no no no, inspiration - that's cheaper) for making something which does not have an elastic waist but does have some multi-fabric but not quite patchwork action going on.

Do I spend way more time thinking about sewing than actually sewing? Why yes I do. But there are worse habits. No one is getting hurt.

Sending all my love to Christchurch.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I surrender

On payday (and I can tell you how many hours until this is), I am ordering some coal. I had various fancy and far fetched ideas for not using coal this year, but when you only buy one truck of wood and that in April, and you have a house of sickies for a fortnight (requiring an all day fire), then wood is not enough.

I've been trialling briquettes made from coal finings, lime, sawdust and molasses for our favourite wood and coal merchants, who are doing trials this year and a commercial rollout next year. The sawdust is from the local mill and would otherwise go to landfill. The coal finings also would go to landfill. They burn hot and clean and I think they are a great product so far. I also like that they are very light, not like hauling buckets of coal or armfuls of wood inside.

Another recent local food find is goats milk ice cream from Gaalburn Cheese. It was nice. The wild meat sauce from Glass Eye Creek also has West Coast connections and is a welcome change from Heinz ketchup on sausages. Of course, you may not eat sausages with ketchup on a weekly or more frequent basis. This means, unless you are vegetarian, that you don't live with children. By all means, eat it with steak if you can. I reckon it could go with beany dishes as well for non-meat eaters. If you live in Wetville, then I can tell you that this posh sauce in a glass bottle came from Simplifoods, the one most of us still call Bin Inn. So you can go down and fill your big bag with cheap epsom salts and baking soda to save cash on flashier bath soak or cleaning products, and then come away with award winning vanilla sugar and a cheese making kit. Or wild meat sauce.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My turn

Just as we approached the epic achievement of everybody going to work or kindy or school tomorrow, my body said "My Turn". I've been alternating lypospheric vitamin C with sodium ascorbate powder throughout the day and Malcolm Harker's eutherol formula for sore throats. I lay with the hot water bottle against my chest to heat out the chilly suggestions of infection. Favourite Handyman took the children out for several hours and I read Jenny Pattrick's Change of Current. I'm determined to go to work tomorrow - it's less than two hours and then I can go back to bed.

Yesterday, before my body protested it needed a day (week) in bed, I watched the boy play league in the most stinking conditions. Literally, the muddy field smells rank and apparently cuts on field there have a tendency to infect. I took Brighid to her a fourth birthday party where I admired truly, totally fantastic cake decorating skills. The night before, I had mixed red wine with finishing the gift. With the internal seams now facing outwards after I sewed the waistband on the wrong way, I changed my ric rac plans.

I sewed ric rac down the outward facing seams, which I had folded and sewn just like my mother taught me and I rarely ever do. I think she called it 'neatening' the seams.

Then I sewed four more downward strips of ric rac around the skirt. Lots of twirling fun for little E, I hope.

After the birthday, Fionn and I went to a family evening at the league clubrooms. Which may have contributed to the undoing of my health. If you are chatting to people while drinking wine, and the children begin the food, then by the time you turn around, it will all be completely gone and wine without dinner is not quite perfect.

Off to bed, to continue my recovery regime.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dust mite murderer

Cor crikey I don't think you could fault my commitment this week. Not to blogging, to nursing/parenting/wifeing. In aid of drastically reducing the dust mites in our home, I have been cleaning for days. On last count (and I count hourly), Fionn is mostly well, but still blowing rather low on the peak flow metre. He is at school but off sports. Favourite Handyman is still home convalescing, but improving. At risk of jinxing it by mentioning it out loud, he is giving up smoking. Seven days so far. Never mind the 'again' bit, I've heard the stories of people who give up nineteen times before they quit for good. I took Brighid to the doctor today, as her recovery is very slow and she seemed to have gone backwards this morning. But nothing scary to report, and my efforts to give her a gram of lypo-spheric vitamin C every hour today (I nearly got there, probably averaged every two hours) seemed to have paid off in terms of her improvement by the end of the day. By night, it's pretty similar to when she was a newborn baby.

So. That will be enough of them. Much as I love them, blogging is, for me, for thinking about other things. I've been given some very lovely fabric lately. Yesterday was a bag of goodies from a friend at work which included some batting for making a quilt. Hmmmmm. I've had Mum's Reader's Digest Guide to Needlecrafts out this evening, thinking about whether I could make a quilt. A few weeks ago the lovely Ruth gave me this fabric:

It would only need a wider border around it to make a single quilt size, and the fabric has the seal of approval from the boy. Who has outgrown Lightning McQueen apparently. Charmed life. I don't know if I ever outgrew the candlewick bedspread on my childhood bed. Not even now actually, as Mum made me a dressing gown out of one later on, which I'm still using. I'm not sure if my machine could handle machine quilting - have to do some research on that.

I've cut out the fabric for this Saturday's 4th birthday party gift, and all fingers crossed that Brighid gets well fast enough to attend. I found the coolest ric rac ever in town and had to buy it for the trim:

Since then, I've learnt that Trademe has cheap ric rac. I do seem to have fallen for the charms of ric rac. It will be on my clothes next. Maybe not.

Still cooking with kale. Cooked it up with leek and garlic and butter at lunchtime, then added cream cheese and pasta spirals. Earlier in the week I cooked it with kumara and tomatoes and whizzed it up to eat with corn chips. Edible, but I wouldn't make it that way again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cleaning. Yes really.

It's plagued me, bothered me, ruined my mornings and frightened my nights.

There is only one thing wrong in all the fabulous care I give my family, the care which by my reckoning should lead to fewer days of sickness than the current neverending malady.

The messy house.

Messy houses are difficult to clean. 'Cos mess isn't in itself problematic healthwise, but dirt and dust is.

I've been trying to clean as well as nurse/feed/launder etc over the last few days but today I abandoned the cooking and steam bathing and cleaned almost non-stop all day. I now have tidied, swept and washed floors in much of the house and tidied and vacuumed floors in some other parts. I have filled three large black rubbish sacks and if tomorrow goes the way I want it to, there will be two more filled before rubbish day.

In the interim before I next don my cleaning fairy outfit (it's not an ephemeral floaty number and I do shout rather than flutter in it), I am going to work. From 9.30 until 12.30 tomorrow, my presence is required out of the house and I will get PAID for doing things far more interesting than cleaning. Fionn is also well enough to leave the house and go to school and Favourite Handyman and Brighid will stay home and continue their convalescence without me.

I can't remember the last time I was so looking forward to going to work.

My biggest challenge beyond this week is to work out how to maintain the new clean. I'm better at tidy than I was, though outsiders could be forgiven for dropping their jaw at this statement, but I need to be a lot better in order to swizz through the house with a broom/vacuum/mop. Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I looked at the Fly Lady website. She advised newbies to begin by shining their sink every night. Huh. We were living in London at the time, in a terraced house with the vilest brown plastic sink I've ever seen, which was stained beyond repair. I could clean it, but I couldn't make it look clean. It had never shone ever. I don't know where it was bought as I've never seen such a thing before or since.

I didn't rock to the Fly Lady then and after I quick peruse in the midst of writing this post, I don't think I'll be doing it now. I've got a much better solution to the sink thing these days: Favourite Handyman does the dishes each night.

One thing I DO know: the project of keeping things clean is going to involve a lot of the children's scarcely used possessions going missing. Permanently. Bye bye Buzz Lightyear, the toy which irritated me from day one and never ever, no matter what, runs out of battery. It's okay though Buzz, I'll send plenty of toys with you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Twenty One Locks

In the blurry landscape of looking after sick people, a landscape of which I can no longer remember when it started and I've no idea when it will end, I loved Laura Barton's Twenty-One Locks. It's a beautiful book, a book written out of intense love for a particular small town, and I would wager that it has poignancy for many like me, who have never spent time in the north of England, but who have lived in small towns. Many scenes in Twenty-One Locks take part in public toilets, and at times I thought I could write on those walls "Laura loves similes". 4 eva, even. But it works. I hope she writes more novels.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

kale marvellous kale

More kale. A few days ago I made a kale meal which started out as a pasta sacue and morphed into a soup with pasta in it. I can report that kale goes well with cannelini beans and pasta, but I didn't keep the recipe in my head. Yesterday I made chicken red Thai curry with kale in it and that was nice. I bought one of those packet mixes and just added carrots and kale with the chicken. Next time I will make it more from scratch myself, though probably still with bought red curry paste. Tasted good. Lunch time today was for all four of us, as asthma boy and lung infection Dad are still off school/work. I'd made chicken stock overnight and I used lots of chopped garlic, onion and ginger sauteed in olive oil and butter, then added chopped pumpkin and some red lentils and the chicken stock. Ten or so minutes before the end of cooking, I added chopped kale. Tonight, more kale. I made pumpkin/feta/rosemary/pumpkin seeds bake in the oven and then on the stove top I sauteed chopped garlic, kale and bacon over a hight heat for a minute or so and then with the lid on, over a low heat for another five minutes. Although the children turned their noses up at the pumpkin dish, they both ate the kale.

Tonight I am trying out the briquettes made of coal finings and lime and other things I forget about. Our favourite local wood merchant is making these for the first time and I am hopeful they will work for us and save us having to buy coal from July onwards, which is when I suspect we will run out of wood. Coal is warm, but filthy, and particularly bad for my asthmatic/eczema prone son.

Brighid has been invited to a four year old birthday party so today I bought some purple fabric to make a twirly skirt. As for my other unfinished projects, they remain unfinished. I'm too busy being supernurse.