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Sorry for my absence, but I was busy becoming a hooker

23 Jan

I really am a terrible blogger, aren’t I? My problem is that I when I begin a new thing, I tend to become a little obsessed (it runs in the family), and recently I have had  an all consuming obsession with crochet and the past six months has seen me nestled in cosy corners with a cup of tea, a pile of wool and a crochet hook firmly grasped in my hand.

I know that I have mentioned that I have attempted crochet in the past, but this time I took to it a little too well. I was house and dog sitting for some friends when they went to Europe for 3 months (Kristen has a fantastic sewing blog over at Late Nights and Lockstitch – check it out!) – and so with the onset of winter,  the sudden lack of housemates and a massive influx of time (I was retrenched), I made it my mission in life to master this craft.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, that’s when I became a full time hooker.

I have, of course, been doing some cooking and preserving during this time, so there are some recipes to come, I promise! In the meantime, you can have a little look at what my hands have been doing. This was my first major project: a ‘Sunburst’ blanket:

I also made hats:

A rainbow rug:

I crocheted on my trip to Thailand:

And a few other bits and pieces:

So that is where all of my spare time has gone and  why I once again became a blog neglectarino. Sorry Blog! Sorry Readers! I solemnly swear to be more regular with my posts – well, until my next obsession comes along. Is that you calling macrame?


Where I make tomato relish and pick up crochet (again)

18 Mar

Well it’s been a busy few months with Christmas and holidays and work and new babies (not mine) and birthdays and celebrations  and catching up on my reading and even a brief overseas trip to Thailand. Needless to say, I have once again neglected my blog to enjoy the long summer days. But, alas!  Summer has come to an end. The days are shorter, the weather doesn’t know what to do with itself and I am spending more and more time on the couch with wool and tea.

I have re-learned how to crochet  as I had deserted it in disgust at my wretched attempts  of failure but have since been taught what I have been doing wrong (thanks Kree!) and now I am realising the sweet simplicity of it and how easy it is to create different shapes and textures. And so, I have retired my needles to the back of my cupboard and have become a ‘hooker’.

Last week I made a huge batch of tomato relish in my new 14L pot – an 11th anniversary present from my gorgeous partner – and now have several jars sitting around the kitchen.  And as I was learning how to crochet in rounds, well I combined my two hobbies and I made bonnets for the jars.

You see, my housemate’s friend has a pickle club and she was heading there today. I was planning on going, but was too tired and also Frankie Magazine was going to be there doing a piece on the club and I definitely did not feel like being there for that! All the people who attend  seem to be graphic designers and make these amazing labels that look so professional, so I thought I would make mine look ridiculously kitsch as I didn’t think brown paper and twine would fare so well.

So I downloaded a free ’70’s style font off the net and printed off some poor quality labels that were colour-coded to match my ‘bonnets’ and voila! I have retro style preserves. So groovy.

I think the funniest thing about them is that my printer is so terrible that the colours look really faded and so it appears as if the jars have actually been sitting around since the 1970’s. I love them for how ridiculous daggy they look!

My housemate, Padma, made amazing  eggplants stuffed with walnuts and pomegranates  from a middle-eastern recipe and covered the tops in arabic newspaper. I thought they looked gorgeous!

The aim of pickle club  is to take 6 jars of your preserves and they all go into the middle and then you choose 6 of someone elses to take home. Two of my jars went off today without me as Padma was two  short and she bought home: beetroot marmalade, preserved lemons, piccalilli, pickled zucchini, pears in ginger syrup and a plum spread. I can’t wait to see what they all taste like!

Tomato Relish

I doubled the recipe when I made it this time and it only just fit into my 14L pot. It does cook down though, but you will need a very large and heavy-based pot to do this in. I BURN IT EVERY SINGLE TIME WITHOUT FAIL! So my suggestion is: PAY ATTENTION! Do NOT wander off to do the weeding or some knitting or read a book unless you set a periodic timer so that you remember to stir it!

So here’s the recipe for ‘Kathy’s Tomato Relish‘ (not doubled), which I have taken from Stephanie Alexander‘s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ which is my kitchen bible.

1 tablespoon  cloves

2 tablespoons whole allspice

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

5 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

30g salt

600ml wine vinegar

1 kg sugar

Tie cloves, allspice and peppercorns in a square of muslin.

Put all ingredients EXCEPT SUGAR into a large, non-reactive stockpot.

Bring to the boil and boil steadily for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Add sugar and continue to boil, stirring every 20 minutes or so for a further 2 hours.

Remove the muslin bag and press it well over the pot to release all of the juicy flavours before discarding it.

Pass the relish through the coarse disc of a food mill and, using a funnel, bottle at once into hot, sterilised jars.

Cap and allow to cool before storing.

Pulling the wool

5 Oct

I am a procrastinator. Queen Procrastinator. I can put things off ’til the very last second and distract myself with anything, anything that will keep me away from the task at hand. A shiny ball, an interesting insect, my knee, a dustmite. Anything.

I have a list as long as my arm of things that I want to learn to do or should do before I die or turn 30: Learn how to play a  musical instrument; rediscover how to draw; learn photography (I live with a photographer for God’s sake); utilise the amazing things Melbourne has to offer (galleries, live music etc); reconnect with old friends.  You know, the normal crap we all say every year in a well-meaning drunken kind of way.  I have succeeded in a few recently: getting a personal trainer and giving up being a booze-bloated trash bag. And last week I learned how to…fly a plane! No not really. Much less exciting, in fact. Sorry to get your hopes up. I just learned how to crochet. Can I hear a “That’s lovely dear!”?

I have been wanting to learn how to crochet for years and numerous people have tried to teach me but ended up yelling at me as I held the hook like a chronically arthritic racoon. Books don’t help as the diagrams confuse me for some reason. I need to look and learn. I am a looker-learner. And last week the lovely Miss Kreeight, my fabulous crafty friend who also has been putting off how to learn, finally taught herself from the internet* and patiently sat down and taught me how to be more like a nana. And I GOT IT!

I have now been obsessively making squares with the intention of stitching them together to make a rug, however I soon discovered it was far more addictive to just keep on going and effectively make one massive square aka; a rug. It will be a present for my nana. Yes. I do things backwards. When I visit my nana, I usually sit and knit as we watch ‘Keeping Up Appearances” and she says: “Oh, I really should get mine out”, but doesn’t and then we doze off all warm and full from tea and cake in front of the fire. Yep. I’m out nana-ing my nana.

Nana never learned how to crochet, so perhaps I’ll teach her when I visit next. She needs a new hobby, I’m sure.

*Miss Kreeight learned to crochet from  Meet Me At Mikes. Try it yourself or just visit the site; it’s very cute!


7 Sep

A couple of weeks ago, my partner showed me how to fold an origami crane.

He has created a monster.

What started as a vague idea to make a dozen or so in various sizes and colours to hang from some naked branches to hide a large blank wall has turned into a wavering idea to make one thousand to create some kind of vague sculpture.

So I bought some beautiful paper and night by night I have sat and folded and my little bowl of origami cranes is slowly growing day by day. Soon I will be surrounded by them. Crushed by their tiny paper wings as they scream at me to do something with them. And as the pile creeps ever higher, the realisation of the vagueness of my sculpture idea hits me and I freeze up and fold more cranes.

At first, this was fun; I found it challenging to fold the perfect lines to create the perfect crane and then I find it meditative as I got into the rhythm and was lulled by the beautiful paper and elegant shapes: letting the background fade into nothing. But then I got bored.

I distracted myself by looking up origami websites and taught myself how to make other things, like flowers and animals. I made myself a menagerie of pets that fall over in a slight wind. But I still did not have any idea how to make this sculpture.

I thought about asking my origami pets what to do, but I thought that might make me seem a little crazy. So I asked my real live cat instead. He looked at me, meowed and proceeded to pat my cranes from their perch and bat them around the room. I didn’t think this was a good idea for a sculpture because eventually I would need to walk where he had put the cranes and essentially a sculpture should all be kind of in a corresponding space and not scattered willy nilly around the place and really I was hoping for one large piece not several small ones. So I thanked him for his time and told him to go and have a cat nap and went back to the internet for more distractions.

Origami, I discovered, is quite amazing. There are some seriously incredible pieces out there. I am not very advanced and have difficulty following the instructions and this usually ends in me screwing the paper into frustrated balls and hurling them at my poor, defenseless paper friends.

Here is an origami Jedi that I have never attempted:

Here is a dragon that I am terrified to think about making:

This picture that proves that other people geeks have way more time on their hands than me

Searching for a giraffe diagram as I had recently purchased animal print paper, I came across a website that had diagrams for dinosaurs. Cool! I’ve always had a bit of a thing for dinosaurs so I thought I’d give it a go and tried the easiest one. Mine looked like it had polio. So my partner, finally drawn in by dinosaurs instead of puppies, decided to give it a go. And made it perfectly. That is so irritating.

I tried the next one, which was slightly harder and I got stuck on a difficult fold halfway through, while naturally my partner’s turned out pretty perfectly once again.

I tried one more and it worked. Kind of. It could be better. But I left it at that and made the dinosaurs fight on the mantelpiece while a turtle and a prawn looked on. I guess I still haven’t really grown up.

And I still haven’t decided what to do with my cranes. Oh well, I guess I’ll just keep on folding.