Sunday, 13 July 2014

Arty Farty: Clarice Beckett

My latest crush of the arty farty variety is Clarice Beckett.  I'm OBSESSED, people.

I just love the dreamy, hazy quality of her paintings.  The light!  The impressionistic, minimal style.  I have walked down that dusty road to the sea, I've gazed shivering at those lights across the water and I've stood in that tranquil pink sunrise.

My extensive research* tells me that although she was celebrated for her still life work and her talent for portraiture, her favourite thing to paint was landscapes.


*Visiting her Wikipedia page

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Crafty Minx

I've never been a naturally crafty person, although I did learn to knit and to sew at school (albeit with limited success).  When I was a teenager I regularly plundered my mum's fabric stash to make my raver outfits.  I really am sorry about that, by the way Mum.

In the past couple of years I've turned my hand to quilting (the poor quilt is still shoved in the back of the cupboard waiting to be edged, backed and finished), crochet, more sewing, to knitting and, finally, back to crochet.

My first ever foundation ring!
For some reason this week I again picked up my crochet hook, determined to try one last time to master single crochet blocks and the granny square.  I quickly surprised myself by chaining fluidly (if not entirely evenly) and then hooked my way through a square of single crochet in no time.  I had to hold it up for a moment in disbelief.  I guess the subconscious mind really does work on things when you're not paying attention.

First granny square
That was on Monday.

On Tuesday night, while Blair cooked dinner, I sat down with Pip's crochet lessons to attempt a granny square.  I decided that no matter how wobbly or hopeless it looked, I would finish the square.  No dramatic flinging of the crochet hook this time.  And lo and behold, I produced a quite passable square during one episode of Big Bang Theory*.  One Wednesday night I added another two squares.

I now have a pile of granny squares, looking very much like the beginnings of a blanket.

And last night, after a LOT of ripping out and re-starting, I fumbled my way through a wobbly but unmistakable square of shell stitch in my cute new multicoloured yarn.  I can see a shell-stitch cowl (just like this one!) in my future.

I'm cautious to say that I'm a confirmed crocheter or anything (previous abandoned craft projects cough*quilt*cough hanging over my head) but let's just see what happens.  Certainly I'm enjoying myself immensely.  As it's been pointed out many times before, there is something really nice about slowing right down, concentrating on what you're doing, and creating something from your very own hands.

You could say I'm... HOOKED...!!

*I'm not a fan of Big Bang Theory, my husband is, but when I'm concentrating on crochet I don't have much say in the TV channel

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wine Tour

Yesterday was my friend Rachael's wine tour.  We took a bus through the Perth hills and visited two wineries and a cider..y?  What do you call a place they make cider?

The theme of the day was "Infamous" and there were some truly excellent costumes.  It was a fantastic day and I had a lot of laughs.  I didn't know anyone on the tour except Rachael, and they all knew each other, which was a huge gamble as it's never fun sitting there alone while everyone else has a rip-roaring good time.  But in fact I never skipped a beat.  The only problem was I couldn't keep everyone's names straight so I had to keep calling them by their costume names: Zorro, Conchita (Wurst), Courtney (Love), Rhonda (and Ketut), and so on.

We started the day at Hainault Vineyard in the morning which was just gorgeous.  I've never been to the Perth hills before and it turns out they're beautiful.  Who knew!!  It reminded me a lot of the Adelaide Hills, especially in the crisp early winter sunshine.

Bring on the drinking, I mean tasting.

Joan of Arc and Corey Worthington in one photo, bet that's never been done before.  On the right, Ketut, the Wolf of Wall Street and Hei...den…berger…?? - someone from Breaking Bad anyway.
Britney Spears takes a photo of Zena Warrior Princess and her sidekick Gabrielle (I think)

My favourite costume of the day: Conchita Wurst.  It goes to show that if you're pretty enough, even facial hair is no hindrance.

After Hainault, we went to Core Cider House in Pickering Brook which was even more picturesque than Hainault, if that's possible.  The ciders were delicious; there was a lemon one which everyone else hated but I loved.  I seem to recall that I, ahem, drank any that people didn't want.  Low point, Prue, major low point.

We also had lunch here which consisted of pork sliders, salt and pepper squid and something else I can't recall.  Must have been all the ill-gotten lemon cider erasing my memory.

Marie Antoinette found the orchard most pleasing
Meanwhile, the Wolf of Wall Street branches out into some manual labour 
Rachael's friend works at Core so we got a private tour of the orchard which was very cool.  I can't remember any of the stuff we learned though.  Damn those lemon ciders!!

We got to go in the… shed… thing and see the... vats?  stills?  The things that the cider goes into.  Wow this is extremely informative.  I hope you're taking notes.

After Core we moved onto Carldenn which is a small family operated winery.  I wasn't a huge fan of the wines but the port was very good I remember thinking.  Things were getting preeetty jovial by this stage of the day, hence not many photos taken at Carldenn.

We finished the day back at Rachael's for a couple (more) drinks.

I didn't even realise that the Perth hills was a wine region at all so it was great to experience something other than the usual Swan Valley wines.  I tried and enjoyed plenty of wines that I wouldn't normally even look at.  My palate matures all the time.

And of course there's that lemon cider which frankly I wouldn't mind a bit of right now.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Garden

You might remember our previous attempts at vegetable growing.

It's interesting for me to look back and realise how much we've learned and have improved.

I've learned that Perth's growing conditions and seasons are very different from the rest of the country.  Summer is not a time to be expecting plants to do anything but wilt.  The sandy soil presents many challenges both in terms of nutrients and water holding capabilities.  Over the past year and a half we have tried, failed, tried again, learned heaps and are now really starting to reap (REAP!) some benefits.

I have jars in the cupboard filled with dried thyme, oregano, and chillies.  Every day since we've returned from holidays, we've eaten from the garden.

We've seen long-forgotten crops springing up all over the place that we thought had failed.  We have a bucket that was supposed to have one potato in it, which actually has a potato, two garlics, and a tomato growing out of it.

It's pretty awesome.

Currently we have cos lettuce, baby spinach and chillies galore, as well as the usual array of herbs: parsley, basil (must be nearly finished but just keeps on going), rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, and chives.

We've also got peas, broccoli, garlic and potatoes which should all be ripening in the next several weeks.  We had put in some tomatoes (very late) which have produced some green fruit but I doubt they'll mature.  I'm trying to convince Blair to harvest them now for a green tomato chutney or something.

We've even bought a rain gauge and are keeping a garden diary.  Old person alert!

The most exciting thing for me, though, is that my very sad zucchini plant which has flowered wearily throughout summer without growing a single fruit, has suddenly produced the world's tiniest zucchini.

Growing things is good for the soul, it just is.  

Cos lettuce straight off the plant tastes like butter, did you know that?  Amazing.

When I look at my plants, I think of the delicious foods they'll become.  Basil: pesto
Sage and brown butter on fettuccine, and mojitos on the right
Green tomato chutney, or passata if they ripen
Apple and blackberry crumble, or blackberry jam depending on quantities
Creamy zucchini and parmesan spaghetti with green peppercorns
Potato bake, roasted potatoes, chips, mashed potato...
The bucket of madness with potato, garlic and tomato all making an appearance
Roasted garlic IN EVERYTHING
Pea sprouts with smoked salmon, or chorizo and pea risotto