Monday, May 30, 2011

Nice girl on a ledge

Complete: the dressups for the Christchurch kindies are all packed and down at Brighid's kindy ready for someone from Christchurch head office of Kidsfirst Kindergartens to collect this week. We made quite a few dressups and were gifted lots more by the Sallies, who also gave us some play equipment and powder paint for the project. It took a while, but I'm really pleased to have made my goal of a personal, handmade contribution to Cantabrians a reality.

Incomplete: everything else. Apart from the last wine bottle. I resisted buying some tonight and now I regret such virtue.

I've been thinking about the planned slutwalk, which has given me much to think about. I've not read comprehensively on the subject, though I have read all or nearly all of the posts on The Hand Mirror on the subject. I posted about it on my facebook page and was disappointed with several female responses claiming that men could not control their sexual urges and women must cover up as a kind of service to society. I was heartened though, by one friend who posted this:
I am totally over 'blame the woman and how she is dressed' argument. Many children and elderly people are also sexually assaulted - clothes have nothing to do with it. And if we want to blame the showing of a bit of flesh for being raped or sexually assaulted we should really see an increase in the number of mums breastfeeding in public in the stats. Yes, I know that is a bad example, but stop blaming the woman for a bad decision made by a male

Thank you Susan. Some respondents to the idea of a slut walk have focused on scantily clad women out late at night as a dangerous and stupid activity. Ladynews responds to this idea better than I could. But what about the multiple ways in which clothing and the word slut are used to control women? Over the last few days, as I've thought about this topic, I considered naming the post "What's a nice girl like me supporting slutwalk?" That was back when I thought I'd have more intellectual energy and less minding sick people fatigue (yes more blah blah, though I'm still lurgy free).

But my second thought was maybe I don't classify as a nice girl? But that is how the nice girl concept functions. "Nice girls" are always just one wrong move from being a slut. Bad choice of partner, clothing not quite right, misfortune to be attacked or raped. The line between dour and frumpy (also a failure of womanhood it seems) and inappropriate, tarty, etc., is rather narrow.

To me, slutwalk is about challenging the idea that women are responsible for rape which is implicit in all those contextual questions which get asked about a rape (what was she wearing?, had she been drinking?, was she walking alone?, what is her sexual history?). It is also about challenging the ways in which clothing is used to control women, to challenge the assumption that any woman who wears 'revealing' clothing is doing it for the purpose of attracting male attention and to challenge us all to think about the messages we send our daughters when we judge the clothing of other women, both in terms of sexualised assumptions and in terms of judgements about body size.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Beautiful things to read

I read Glenn Colquhoun's essay, The therapeutic uses of ache this morning. It is truly beautiful and now I have to request as much Glenn Colquhoun for our library as I possibly can. I can't even decide which piece to pull out and quote, but I am grateful that it is online and I can go back to it often.

Not quite as memorable and beautiful, but lovely all the same, is Bella Bathurst's article on the secret life of libraries. Someone rang me earlier in the week as part of a survey commissioned by our local council. They did start with a long introduction about themselves and wondered if I had ten minutes to spare. At 6.10pm on Wednesday evening? Only if my life is otherwise in danger. He rang back later. I put library spending at the top of the three priorities I got to choose for council spending.

Some of the spotty girl's spots are actually disappearing. Fionn got player of the day at league. I stayed home with the disappearing spots, but I gather he did some good tackling. He proudly showed me his scratches and bruises at bedtime. Victorious battle scars.

Have I made anything? I certainly haven't completed anything. I have done some more knitting, and taken apart a pinafore which needed fixing which was an ideal time to notice that it doesn't fit so well as a pinafore but could be turned into a skirt. I have noticed that I have not finished the summer dress out of the pink paisley sheet, but that is summery and right now is wintery and the pinafore is made of purple wool fabric so it should jump the queue, though not necessarily leapfrog over the dress I haven't hemmed yet for Brighid.
This is the purple pinafore before I began deconstruction. I bought it for $1 from St Vincent de Paul in Hoki. The background is the bathroom, which had less mess but more paint and lino that you might remember from your Nana's place.

I have made two lots of guacamole. Why haven't I been doing that all the rest of my cooking life? 2-3 avocadoes, juice of half a lime, a shake of paprika, one clove of garlic finely sliced and diced, some salt and as much coriander as I have the patience to de-stem, all whizzed up in the whizzer. Marvellous stuff.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Coconut oil; care workers

Today I got one step closer to getting the kindy dress ups off to Christchurch. They've been sitting in our car boot for what seems like weeks now.

I am making progress on my school gala jobs. I have one person lined up to paint nails and I've begun enquiries on my other project of setting up pony rides.

I managed to collect the right number of children, take Brighid to swimming lessons, organise mouthguards and boots and get the right number of children to league practice. I think. I even furnished four meals in more or less useful places and times.

Blackball museum of working class history meeting today. Came home with homework. The next exhibition is going to be on care workers. It will be very interesting. There is a very topical case with one of our rest homes in town at the moment and I look forward to helping put those issues in a wider social and historical perspective.

Coconut oil. Should have thought of it earlier. The best hypothesis we can get on Brighid's spottiness is that it is related to chickenpox. Yesterday I bought some organic, cold pressed, unrefined virgin coconut oil and rubbed it into Brighid's skin after her bath. Over all the spots, which happens to also mean all over her body. She slept right through the night for the first time in ages, undisturbed by scratching.

Wooo hoooo! I've put the coconut oil on her three more times today and we seem to be making better progress on reducing the size of the spots. As well as being an excellent emollient, coconut oil is antiviral. We are carrying on with the vitamin C, which I still think is important and making a difference. I eat the coconut oil sometimes for health benefits, but I've held off giving it orally to Brighid while I saw how the topical application went. Might add it to her potions tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Red & Black

I caved. I went to a presentation at Fionn's school this afternoon about supporting children in their transition to school and the first three years there. The incredibly capable and energetic and tireless secretary of the PTA also gave a presentation. I also managed finally to think of a new fundraising idea for the gala. So tonight I went to the PTA meeting, though I do know very clearly that I won't be there every time or taking on extra responsibilities.

The pictures of Brighid in her red and black tights were taken for the express benefit of sending to her grandfather, whose rugby allegiances are very strong. The other red and black picture is the not quite finished Captain Underpants cape. Book character day at school tomorrow.

The red part is a handed down towel from Mum. I love handed down linen from Mum, because it always carries a story. This one still has the name tag sewn in for my sister, with a code number beside it which must be from a school or guides camp.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hand sewing

black spots on the red cape. The fleece spots and the red towel weren't getting along too well with my sewing machine and I decided it would be easier to stitch them on by hand. Not finished yet, but I've got another 34 hours before book character day.

Day One of my marathon multi-tasking week done. I don't think I dropped any really heavy balls. Cousin Mary now has her glasses back and a new heater installed/assembled (installer: me, with no assistance from my assistants, who were in the lounge watching Sky and scoffing Mary's hundreds and thousands biscuits.) I also took Mary to the supermarket, which gave me an opportunity to buy some broccoli and mandarins and some WINE.

I googled and it seems that primroses are similar if not the same as polyanthus. 'Primroses' sound so much more beautiful than 'polys'. Perhaps I'll just get more primulas instead. I think I pulled out the last of the polyanthus a month or so back.

Nikki, yesterday you asked about jerusalem artichokes invading. From what I have seen so far, not too bad at all. I'd liken them to potatoes in that if you want the next season in a plot to be spud free, you need to sift through and find every last tiny spud and then some. They don't seem to spread in other ways.

I had the night off from cooking kale. This was partly because I thought broccoli would go better in the fish pie and that the spotty girl would therefore eat it. Wrong. Taller members of the family appreciated my cooking...

It might be premature, but I think, think, the oldest spots on Miss Spotty are starting to heal. Fingers crossed. This stuff has been useful. It's not the cheapest soothing cream around, but it seems to work and I've used it for lots of ailments now (I began to list them but it grossed me out so I stopped).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Double kale day

Lunch: wash and chop kale. Finely chop five cloves of garlic. Saute in olive oil, then add one tin of chopped tomatoes, put lid on and simmer. Then add chopped smoked chicken to the pan and keep lid on and simmer some more. Then add in the penne pasta you have just cooked. Serve with parmesan and black pepper.

Dinner: Finely chop 12 (yes twelve) cloves of garlic and one onion. Wash a pile of jerusalem artichokes (for proportions, think how many spuds you would use for a main course spud salad and that is how many artichokes you will want) and cut into even sized pieces. Wash and finely chop some kale. Chop up some bacon (I use hunks of bacon ends sold cheaper at the butchery). Put quite a lot of butter in a frypan and cook the bacon. Then add the garlic and onion and artichokes. Put the lid on the frypan and turn it down. After a while, add the kale as well. When the artichokes seem nearly done (about 15 minutes, and I had mine in quite small pieces, perhaps 3cm cubes), then take the lid off and turn the heat up and stir until the liquid is almost all evaporated. I served this with avocado. This avocado pairing is only a good fit if you are feeding my daughter. The artichoke dish tasted fantastic in my opinion, though how bacon-butter-garlic could go wrong, I can't imagine. If you hate butter, then substitute olive oil, but not any of those other inferior tasting oils. Butter is best for this.

When I wasn't in the kitchen or at the washing line/basket/machine, I was in my beloved garden today. Despite the wet cold soil, I still managed to weed a little bit, prune the pungas which were taking over the raised bed, plant the broad beans, bury some bokashi and transplant some jersualem artichokes into new homes. Corrine gave me these artichokes two years ago and they seem to thrive on neglect and taste great. Thank you again Corrine.

I've got a few more days (two evenings to be precise) to run up the cape and alter the underpants for book character day. Fionn is going to be Captain Underpants. I also have a short story competition to judge; a special five year old niece story to write, photograph and post to Taranaki by the end of the week, a particularly challenging array of things to do at work and about five other exceptional activities like extra kids, a dentist appointment, the need to make another GP appointment for the spotty girl, an outing with 84 year old Mary who needs her glasses back and a new heater and is increasingly finding decision making difficult. I'm hoping not to forget the swimming lessons in the middle of this and will confess that I think I'm going to drop a ball somewhere without meaning to. The school is also running various open-to-parents events this week for book week. I haven't filled the form out for any of them but I want to go to everything I can which doesn't clash with all that other stuff. (Will I fit in buying some wine? YES I WILL.)

Actually the thing I wish I could concentrate entirely on is helping the spotty girl get rid of her spots. I think the vitamin C is helping. For starters, she has so much exposed skin that we are concerned that she could get a skin infection. Vitamin C is, as far as my reading shows me, the very best thing to fight infection, and just about everything else besides. Considering I think her immune system is shot at the moment, I wouldn't like to be looking down the barrel of antibiotics. I have Thomas Levy's book on Vitamin C, which I've been reading as much as possible.

Did I mention we are going to kill the chooks? Not this week, but sometime soon. Not me either, that's why Favourite Handyman is indeed my very favourite handyman. They are two year old brown shavers who aren't laying much anymore and I don't expect them to produce strongly in the spring. I've ordered five new point of lay pullets from Heslips Hatcheries. They will arrive on the Coast at the end of July. I'd like a few weeks with the poultry palace vacant so FH can finish the new roof for the palace and I can remove some of the chook poo for the compost, spread new wood shavings on the run and clean out the coop and put in fresh straw. I do do these things at other times, but in a rotation, not as thoroughly as I can with no chooks.

So, today was wonderful. We decreed that we would go nowhere at all, and spend the entire day at home, all together, and that is exactly what we did. I celebrated this by wearing my pyjamas all day. Brighid and I have finished The Wishing Chair and now we have gone back to The Children of Cherry Tree Farm. A little Enid Blyton is good for the soul, and a lot is even better. I do like my primulas in the garden which I bought because they feature in the Enid Blyton books of my childhood. I want some primroses next, for the same reason. A friend of mine wrote to me recently that her only regret about not having children is the lack of an excuse to re-read Enid Blyton. Just read it anyway. My sister enrolled for a course on children's literature to give her an excuse to read/re-read all the kids books she liked, but there are cheaper ways than this, ones which don't involve writing essays.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The chestnut experiment

So today I noticed that the bag of chestnuts was still on the bench, the one I bought over a week ago. So far, nothing particularly unusual, Martha Stewart does not live here. But I've never cooked chestnuts before and it occurred to me they might start to go mouldy soon, if not already. So I boiled them for a period which I imagine to have been 20 minutes (how long does reading aloud two chapters of The Wishing Chair plus random four and eight year old question fielding take?) and then I peeled some. The first one tasted perfect. None of the others quite lived up to it. I would do it again for that yummyness.

Then I got distracted by remembering the garage sale down the road, the need to find gorse flowers and the small matter of a rugby league game.

You should not get distracted in the middle of peeling hot chestnuts. Peeling cold chestnuts doesn't really work as the inner skin won't peel off cold.

As for other cooking matters, I can't quite reach beyond the blur of fish and chips last night and after league this afternoon. Favourite Handyman cooked tonight. I am frustrated by the frequency with which dinner comes around. Every 24 hours. Every 24 hours. I no sooner get rid of one meal than it is time to think about the next. Given I am also trying to build the immune system up of my spotty daughter (more spots. Two weeks after they began, there are still more new spots), I can only be thankful for her broccoli passion and for mandarins and persimmons.

I did some more sewing. My darts are better than some in the past, but the adjective 'slapdash' is still the first which comes to mind. The bodice fits. Not perfectly (see the comment on slapdash darts), but it does go around me and there is no obscene puckering as happens whenever I try on a cotton or linen fitted bodice style in a shop. Progress then. Now I'm starting to get my head around altering the skirt for my sticking out tummy (not pregnancy, just ordinary, long lasting, fatty flesh). I've had 1.5 glasses of wine and have thirty minutes before the supermarket closes to decide whether I will succumb to a new bottle or go to bed and read. Except last time I looked there was a spotty child in there. Oops.

This is a photograph of the bodice thus far. Quite useful things, pink paisley sheets from the Sallies.

Yesterday. The swimming pool in the bottom left is actually our driveway.

Today's league game. Although I believe that is Fionn in the centre of the photo (an improvement on most of my league photo attempts, though naturally he doesn't have the ball in this one either), I've included this picture because I love ordinary small town New Zealand scene that frames the field. No posh advertising here, just a rusting roof, some jagged hedge and the magnificent bush.

One smidgen of advertising though. Who puts money in our town? Oh yeah. Wanna be a greenie living right beside some difficult economic questions? Come live in our town.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday night solo parenting

So the spotty girl is still spotty and my new venture into new land is now gorseflower remedy. I've not played round with flower remedies before, but Laksmi has recommended I try it on both children, and it's not like the GP has anything at all to suggest so why not? I've left collecting the flowers until the morning as we got home from Laksmi's appointment to a cold and empty house on a pitch black night. Vitamin C, vitamin E and calendula cream continues apace.

I've got my sewing machine back. I've sewn pink bias binding all round the hem of the birthday present for Miss Eight. I started sewing my muslin for this dress:

Long time readers might find this image slightly familiar. I had a go at sewing it a year ago (the version in the large picture), before I had my head round/was brave enough to make a full bust adjustment. So I followed the traditional advice to make it for the largest measurement and ended up with a size 22, enormous sack. I'd use some gifted blue material and I looked like a cross between a nun and a 1930s depression photo hard done by mum. After throwing it out (it was completely unredeemable), I sewed only children's things for a while (or nothing at all) and kept reading and came to the conclusion that knits were the best choise. I would make a knit wrap dress. I would be so elegant.

No I would not. My machine is too old to cope with the knit I chose. I tried and tried and tried and, while I learnt a lot about what my machine could do, I also realised it could not make that dress in the fabric I had chosen (thankfully it was cheap fabric to which I was not strongly attached). There will be no new machine in the foreseeable future, so there is nothing for it but to return to sewing cotton, woven fabrics. This time I am making the version which is plain red in the photo above and trying it in a size 16 with a FBA. My muslin fabric is a pink patterned sheet from the Sallies. I've done one dart tonight and it looks like it is in the right place, but given my two glasses of wine, I've decided I shouldn't drink and sew any more.

Something not too expensive to covet:

Red chilli tights from Twisted Sister. Plus sizes too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

29 men, six months

Six months ago an explosion trapped 29 men in the Pike Rive mine.

They are still there.

They are still missed.

Pike River receivers are still focusing their energies on selling the business.

Local men and women are still focusing their energies on getting their men out of the mountain.

I offer this post up to those 29 men, their families, and to all the non-family people most affected by this gargantuan loss, especially the mines rescue teams.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The seasons of my day

Today was glorious. Brighid opted not to go to kindy and we spent the morning planting. The soil is definitely too wet and cold, but given I bought the punnets a week ago, I decided to plough ahead regardless.
You can't see the broccoli I planted very well in this photo. I do hope I can still see them at all in the morning. I've laid several beer traps.
Mamaku, leeks, silverbeet and SUN.
This was this morning before school.
Why else would I buy a big green laundry basket?

There was definite changing of the guard in the afternoon, when I dropped Brighid off to our lovely childminders and went to work for several hours. At 5.30pm the children and I arrived home and both of them hit a tired hungry wall and the line was full of washing and the slow cooker had meat but no greens or spuds and the house was cold and the fire unlit and and and most importantly Dad was at another meeting and that was the saddest bit. So I got Fionn feeding chooks, grabbed all the washing at double quick speed, turned on the heater which we almost never use, dished up some meat and sliced a persimmon and said once the meat and fruit is eaten, we can go out for dessert.

So we did. Ali's cafe of Greymouth, we do, once again, love your service, your toybox, your menu, the red wine, and the space for us to relax, the children not to fight and not to miss their Dad so much. We also love your eskimo lollies, your chicken burger with chips and your lollie cake. And your posh magazines. British Vogue and an Australian flash greeenie houses magazines (green) no less.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's with slow cooker snobbery?

The rain has scarcely stopped all day. It rained most of the weekend, but the weekend seems like it was full of tropical sunshine by comparison with today. The bokashi buckets are full and the punnets of vegetables, flowers and lavender are still in the porch, hopefully protected there from the winds. Even when it stops raining, which it didn't today, it's too wet to turn the soil.

To replace the real gardening I would like to be doing, I grab a pile of books from the library this afternoon. They have A Green Granny's Garden by Fionna Hill. I've just read the first half of the book and it's 'nice'. I'd put it in the same publishing wave as Wendyl Nissen's A Home Companion: My Year of Living like my Grandmother, but it's not as well written as Nissen's book. Flitting through another book, I now speculate that the problem with my sad little celery (in contrast to the gorgeous and huge celery I grew in my first year here) is lack of calcium. No point running off to the gardening shop for gypsum right now, as it could be days or into next week before I get to do anything in the garden.

My knitting is almost as long as the keyboard now. If I apply myself sufficiently, then Brighid will be wearing it on the league sideline next month. My school reports had a bit to say about my rate and speed of applying myself through to completing projects. The comments remain valid.

The sewing machine is still away being fixed and the children have found a new use for the ironing board which seems to live in the lounge. An excellent hot wheels ramp.

It's true, you don't see lounges like this very often in blogville. It's neither neat, tidy nor artistic. It's not even at its messiest. Like fat people, I think a little (actually a lot) of mess should enter our public domain. I have decided that the only thing I like about Paula Bennett is that she is a larger woman in the public domain. I have become a little obsessed with how rarely we see anyone who is not super skinny in photographs in any media.

Kale. What kind of a letter from wetville blogpost neglects kale? I cooked two leaves' worth in tonight's pumpkin soup. I'm sure you can add it successfully to any pumpkin soup, but just so I can feel cookish, here is what I did:
Peel and chop quite a lot of pumpkin into chunks of about 2 x 3cm. Put aside. Finely chop one leek and 3 cloves of garlic and a 2cm piece of ginger. Put aside. Pull out a bag of chicken stock from the freezer. Go into town with children and forget to buy red lentils but remember to buy coriander and cumin seeds and to go to the library. Come back home and briefly dry fry the coriander and cumin then take off heat and grind in mortar and pestle. Melt quite a bit of butter and add the leek/ginger/garlic mixture, then the ground spices, then the pumpkin, then the chicken stock plus enough hot water to cover the pumpkin. Cook for a while, probably 10 minutes. Then add a few handfuls of quinoa. Then after 5 minutes add the two stalks of kale, washed, deribbed and sliced. Cook for ten more minutes then remove from the heat and whizz with your whizzy stick. I forgot to season mine with salt and pepper, but that was easily remedied at the table. Eat with toast. You wouldn't have to have toast with it except if you lived with toast fiends like I do.

The latest Cuisine magazine includes instructions for making kale bruschetta. Later this week. It also includes instructions for making something divine with mushrooms which involves gelatine leaves. Not sure if you can buy such flash stuff here in Wetville, but I guess the packet of gelatine powder would work if I bought that. Naturally, being Cuisine magazine (Meridian gifted me the subscription), it has recipes for zillions of gorgeous things, but so many of them are out of my budget reach.

On the subject of food writing, what is with slow cooker snobbery? Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall refuses to have a go with one and in yesterday's Sunday Star Times, Ray McVinnie wrote some nice looking recipes and commentary with lamb chops and then he wrote this:
I'm constantly asked if such recipes will work in a slow cooker. I don't have one but I don't see why not. All cooks experiment, so try it - just don't do so for the first time when success is crucial, such as when you have guests. They want a good meal, not apologies.
I don't know what McVinnie is paid for his column, but I'm betting it's a good whack above the minimum wage. Would it really kill you, Mr McVinnie, to ask your Mum/partner/kids for a slow cooker for your birthday and have a go? Up and down the country, busy people who have to work during the day and have to feed people every night, not just on let's-get-flashed-up-for-guests night, depend on their slow cookers. I'd like you to bother to try out your recipes in a slow cooker and include your thoughts in your column.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An Enid Blyton garden

More kale: shepherd's pie.
Is shepherd's pie the one which uses leftover roast meat? I'm working on that assumption given that's what Mum called it. If you whizz up kale in your whizzy machine into small pieces, it mixes up with the whizzed up meat and the other chopped veges and lashings of tomato sauce perfectly. Chop the central ribs out first.

Magazines and newspapers often publish gorgeous photographs and writeups of fabulous farmers' markets throughout the country. Our climate is a bit more difficult, not so much for home gardening as for commercial scale enterprises. So the next best thing is when South Island producers bring their wares to the West Coast. Motueka Valley Organics have been bringing their wares to Greymouth every second Thursday since last month. Their produce is super yummy and very reasonably priced. I love their apples and grapes and this week we have persimmons, feijoas and chestnuts as well. I'll report back from my virgin attempt at cooking chestnuts from scratch in a few days. This week a fellow from Marlborough (possibly called Hewton Nursery, I didn't write the name down) was set up alongside Motueka Valley Organics, selling vegetable, herb and flower seedlings. Even at this time of the year, there were interesting options. I came home with tatsoi, broccoli, broad beans, primulas, pansies and lavender. Brighid chose the pansies. I chose the primulas because they are always in the Enid Blyton books I've been reading to the children and when I was reading them 30 years ago I never knew what primulas were either. Now we are going to have a little taste of an Enid Blyton English wood in our garden, if the rain stops long enough to plant anything.

Tonight is the local high school production of Oliver. Our babysitter has the lead role and Brighid is most excited about going to watch her. I do hope it doesn't matter that we haven't booked tickets.

A couple of nights ago I went out to craft night with some fabulous women, one of whom brought her brooch purchases along. I think they are from the felt seller, zippety doo dah. They were lovely. Looking on felt a while after, I wondered about handmade bias binding in funky fabrics. felt does have it, and I think time wise the price is right, but Ms part time worker from Wetville will have to learn to make her own, due to her propensity to spending her dollars on vitamins for the weirdly spotty child and head gear for the sports obsessed child.

Back to the washing machine...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

repurposed sheet experiment #1

Today's project:

One pink paisley skirt for an eighth birthday gift. The fabric is cut from a sheet I found at the Sallies last year. I also cleaned the net curtains in the bedroom, did many shifts at the washing machine/washing line and made the most disastrous chocolate chip biscuits ever. It does help to follow the recipe if you want something that even stays on the tray in the oven.

So that was quarantine day and we are no further ahead in explaining all Brighid's spots. More were coming out all over her body up to the end of yesterday but there seem to be no new ones today (best guess-timating - I haven't precisely counted as there are probably 100 spots). She is 100% well in every other way and I see no reason to keep up the quarantine tomorrow.

I also spent a bit of time on the Guardian Weekly (6 May 2011). My favourite quote is from a letter to the editor by Karin Ramachandra of Sri Lanka:
Our problem is not that we don't know how to respectfully assist people in need, but rather that most of us are in the helping game to make our own lives satisfying and meaningful rather than theirs.
Hmm. Ouch. True.

This article on the London Living Wage campaign is encouraging. Jeevan Vasagar has written an article comparing the housing sub-prime bubble to the UK university education scene (though it could, I think, apply here in NZ to a lesser degree) which intrigued me. I know the Guardian is a liberal lefty paper rather than a socialist one, but Vasagar's take on education and the prominence his article has in the Guardian Weekly layout suggests to me how far the competition-is-good discourse has travelled, at least in the UK.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The good enough greenie

I've encountered the phrase 'good enough parent' a few times. I find it useful, conjuring for me that fine line between working hard to be an effective and positive parent and beating oneself up in a way which is harmful to the parent and pretty unhelpful for the child(ren).

Today I've been thinking about being a 'good enough greenie'. When I first started blogging, I was expanding my greenie-ness and Sandra's Garden might even have been categorised as a greenie blog by some readers. Since then, I've returned to paid work on a part time basis and as I've made decisions about what I will fit into each day, not all of them have focused on the most ecologically sustainable option. Far more pressing on many occasions has been the most time sustainable option and I'm not ashamed of that.

It's not that I no longer care about a sustainable world, it's just that I care about other things too. While I can make the mental space to care about a lot of things, the time space to do about a lot of things is somewhat but not entirely elastic. I was reflecting on the specific repercussions of these choices today on my way to buy meat. Friends of mine here in Wetville are working hard to improve recycling facilities in our district (in terms of public provision, create some would be more accurate), and the subject of unrecyclable meat trays came up in a recent conversation.

'Oh', I said, rather grateful that I was doing something moderately good beyond recycling food scraps via the bokashi bin and the chooks. 'I get my meat at the butcher's in Runanga. No meat trays there'. Out at the Runanga butchery, I order meat by weight and they bag it into thin plastic for me. I usually buy a kilo of mince at a time and split it into three for the freezer. I put it into those glad freezer bags and despite my good intentions, I never wash and reuse them. They go in the bin. So today I made a radical new change in my kitchen practise and put the mince into plastic pottles. Three containers of mince are now reusing old receptacles for raspberry jam and marinated mussels. Those containers go in the dishwasher and so I know from experience that I will reuse them many times. I did the same thing for the end of bacon I bought as a hunk at the butchery and which is now chopped into small lumps and in mussel pottles in the freezer.

All this is a very long winded way of saying that I put some meat in different containers in the freezer. How to get rid of all my readers in one especially boring post. My point, if there is one, is that little things count and by not getting bogged down in the guilt of my multi-trip petrol guzzling plastic binning days, environmentally good things do happen in small ways.

A while ago, we bought a black plastic compost bin. Into it I put grass clippings, wood shavings, seaweed and donkey poo. It started off very well and then got too dry. While that was full, I made a compost heap in one half of a garden bed. First I buried bokashi in the garden. Then I dumped grass clippings, pea straw and donkey poo on it, with more grass clippings added later on. It got slimey in our extensive rain. Today, when the sun shone for a little while, I forked up some of the slime to add to the dry heap in the plastic bin. The worm activity in the slimey heap is much better than the dry heap. Interesting. Although it was quite slimey on top, the pea straw seems to have given some structure and aeration underneath.

While I was paying some attention to my compost, I decided to follow the advice in the May/June 2011 issue of Organic NZ and add herbs to my compost. I added some comfrey (which I have done in the past; that's why I grow it) , borage, lemon balm and tansy. I've never thought to put the last three in the compost but they are apparently good compost activators.

Mostly what I've been doing recently instead of home jobs is sewing. Here is my latest creation:

I bought the red corduroy from the Sallies for $2 recently and everything else was already in my stash of sewing things apart from the bias binding for the armholes (which was relatively very expensive and maybe I will learn to make my own someday but for the moment I'll be the good enough sewist like the good enough greenie). I have yet to hem it and the green decoration is merely pinned to indicate what I plan to decorate it with. I might even make a 'B' with it as Brighid is rather enamoured of 'B's.

Kale. This afternoon I roasted a half leg of lamb according (roughly) to the directions of Monty Don in my new recipe book. It turned out the best roast I've made in a very long time. I sat it on a bed of rosemary (ridiculously, stupidly expensive if you have to buy the stuff, but I do not), sprinkled salt and pepper on it, drizzled olive oil over that and cooked it at 230 degrees celsius for 20 minutes. I then turned the oven down to 170 but I didn't time how long I cooked it from then on. About an hour I suspect. Much less than Monty wanted me to but the result was excellent. With it: raw carrots and hummus, boiled spuds and kale. Of course there was kale.

Tonight I tried the version from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, a recipe book which has simultaneously inspired me and driven me to drink. I washed it and tore it up and boiled it in water (kale in with the water from cold which I'm not so convinced about) for about 8 minutes. Then I took it out, drained it, chopped it up and added butter. It came out fine. It would have been better if my timing was right and it was served piping hot. My timing is rarely right for dishes cooked in several containers which is why I favour one pot meals so much. There were leftovers for the first time that I can recall, including of the spuds, so tomorrow I plan on making spud/kale/feta cakes by making patties and frying them.

Tomorrow I am a stay at home mum for the entire day as the doctor has quarantined Brighid, who is covered in spots for reasons no one can explain, least of all the doctor, who has at least ruled out chickenpox, measles and scabies. None of those quite fitted her symptoms but all of them are around town so I've heard. She's not ill with it (though she is coming out in more spots all the time), so if the sun comes out then we can convalesce outside by gardening. Vitamin D, y'know.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Look 6735

I made an entire top today. I also got drenched watching rugby league, made cheese toasties for lunch and the eleven hundredth sausage meal ever in my life and mediated sibling disagreements, but other than that I sewed. Much of it involved un-stucking my machine and fabric and rethreading it every time I sewed over a quadruple thickness seam. The top is in the photo below, though as a dark colour it doesn't show up well. I am really pleased with the fit. Maybe I can sew tops to fit me after all. I've also cut out a skirt, from the same New Look 6735 pattern, from black stretchy fabric.

That's all. I haven't gardened or read or thought deeply about anything. The inspiration for thinking I could make and wear this top came from Andrea of New Vintage Wardrobe.

Friday, May 6, 2011

muslin and FBA

I've been sewing. Which is to say I've been learning. I sewed this top in the photo below. Well, I sewed it almost to completion, which was enough for me to know that:
a) It's not a bad fit but it's not great either and shortcutting on the full bust adjustment yielded short cut results.
b) I am too young to wear navy polyester tops.
So tonight I undid the first lot of adjustments. First time round, I cut a 16 in the neck, an 18 in the arms and graded from the 16 through to a 20 from the armscye downwards. I also added 5 cm in length to the front and back. It did fit across the bust, but it was quite baggy around the waist and thus not so flattering.

Second time round, i.e. tonight, I cut out the paper pattern piece for a 16 in all the pieces and had my first go at a fba on the front, adding 5 cm on the pattern piece for the front, which will double in effect on the actual fabric.

There is no dart in this pattern and I'm not entirely sure I have finished with adjusting it. I used the instructions from Fit for Real People, but given I don't want a dart in this, I think I need to follow the rotating instructions given here. Meanwhile, the knit fabric I found on special at our local and very wonderful Bernina shop is in the washing machine. Just as I was about to cut it out, I realised it had a stretch bump from being draped over the fabric pole in the shop.

The fabric range in our local shop for knits isn't huge. But the knowledge and generosity of Jackie who runs the shop is. Yesterday I took my machine in, fabric still wedged in and refusing to budge, to see what could be done. Jackie is the agent for another local star, the sewing machine repair man. I was wondering if it was worth fixing it and fretting that we couldn't possibly justify buying a new sewing machine if it wasn't worth fixing. Jackie diagnosed how to unstick everything and how to avoid it happening again and off I went without spending a single cent. So today I was completely happy to buy some fabric and thread from her for attempt number two at a knit top. This one is a cotton based knit, grey with shiney stars on it. Whereas the first one was old (er than me) lady fabric, this one looks a shade teenage unmade up but I think it is worth trying. I do now see why the very knowledgeable sewists on Pattern Review talk about TNT (tried and true) patterns so often. If I'm going to be taking this long to get the pattern to fit right, I will want to use it a lot. All this adjusting every time I sewed would do my head in.

In other thoughts, I am very proud of my brother, who wrote to his local newspaper saying:

So so so true and so important to say it out loud and strong.

More kale last night. With sausage, kumara, pumpkin, tomatoes and onions in a casserole. It tasted fine, and coped with being left in the oven for hours while FH and I were out at work for the evening.

My sister is still offline I think and last I heard her place in Hawkes Bay had been red stickered. My sister in law in Albany escaped the tornado. Sleepy old place, New Zealand.