Monthly Archives: March 2013

Down to the basics

Once upon a time I was an avid viewer of Martha Stewart’s TV series. Yet, despite my avidity, I think I have only  incorporated a couple of Martha’s ideas into my household ways.

The first idea was Martha’s method of stacking cups and saucers.   (http://www.marthastewart.com/275482/kitchen-organizing-tips/@center/277007/kitchen-design#end )   Although my cup and saucer collection is paltry compared to Martha’s, her system worked exceptionally well for me…..until….. the earthquakes, when I decided that stacks of cups/saucers were not the way to go. To be fair, my small monuments to Martha’s organizational genius didn’t even teeter in the first big earthquake. They remained rock solid, but I thought they looked too precarious to survive any further assaults on their structural integrity, so I deconstructed the stacks and rearranged my cups and saucers in a plain and simple fashion. Like this.Plain, simple, secure

Very bland, and hopefully very secure and safe. (Particularly safe if I remember to latch the cupboard door. Before the earthquakes, I had a reputation for leaving the contents of kitchen cupboards fully exposed. I have improved my lax ways.)  I am sure Martha would give me points for clean and tidy, but  would she be compelled to roll her eyes over the uncoordinated nature of my china? I fear so.

The second Martha ‘idea’ to enter my life was in the form of her recipe for Potato Frittata. As with the cups and saucers, I have adapted the idea/recipe to suit my circumstances but it is a frittata that I make regularly.  It is completely delicious and completely easy. I love it.

Here’s Martha at work on the frittata ( http://www.marthastewart.com/254051/potato-frittata), and here is my handiwork. Not bad, if I say so myself.Fantastic Frittata

Four ingredients; onions, olive oil, potatoes, eggs; a pinch of Martha and me and there you have it; a good basic meal. A salad, and a crusty loaf of bread on the side, make for mouth-watering perfection. Hungry?

© silkannthreades

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I was perusing my birthday cards and gifts, and wondering where to display them, when it occurred to me that the cards, so thoughtfully chosen by friends and family, were like special snapshots of my life; the yesterday, today, and tomorrow of it.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is the common name of a flowering plant that used to grow in the garden of my childhood home. To us, it was known as Morning, Noon and Night.  I was fascinated by it because it had the prettiest flowers. Some were white and some were dark purple and others were in between.   A plant with three different coloured flowers! How was this possible? I didn’t know then that the colours of the flowers represented their ages and stages, but I did know about grafting because I had watched a man graft two hibiscus plants for our garden.  So my little head imagined that a very clever person had managed to graft together a Morning Plant, a Noon Plant and a Night Plant to create this  wondrous hybrid. The fact that no one seemed to own a Morning Plant or a Noon or a Night one  was a puzzle but not too concerning. The world was full of puzzles yet to be solved.  Fellow blogger Pleisbilongtumi  at http://pleisbilongtumi.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/inside-the-beauty-of-brunfelsia-uniflora/#comments has  beautiful photos of  this  garden treasure as it is in his part of the world.

Other treasures, for me, in our family garden were the frangipani trees. I loved them for their rich satiny and sweetly perfumed flowers. I loved their shade. I loved climbing them. I loved watching the ants climbing them. Here is my Yesterday birthday card from my parents and my sister. In  Yesterday,  I dawdled completely absorbed in  natural beauty and my greatest concern may have been nothing more than the whereabouts of the Morning Plant. Well, yes, that and the annoying boy who had a go-kart and who lived in the hotel around the corner  and refused to be my boyfriend. What was he thinking?Memories of Frangipani

Here, from a dear friend who has been beside me almost since the days of Yesterday , is the Today Card. Today is a Balancing Act. I have to negotiate the mundane and often precarious materiality of the adult world. Yet, in the tumbly jumble of that world, the preservation of my soul depends on my rushed efforts to  consciously apply and reapply beauty and graciousness  lest I lose sight of them.Today's Balancing Act

From my brother comes the Tomorrow card. It is a little bit in Yesterday, too, because our first cat, Tiddles, looked similar to this creature. Tiddles enjoyed sleeping comfortably  amongst the gerberas.Tomorrow? What's that?Now I am not intending to, and my brother doesn’t intend that I should, follow the words on the card and sleep my way through the future. I will leave that to the current cat of the house. The Tomorrow card is an aspirational card. It expresses a wish for contentment, peace, relaxation and an accepting oneness with both the natural and man-made worlds.  Tomorrow can be here as soon as the next breath but, in the long term view, it  contains the hope that keeps the heart beating.

What happens when I mingle these cards of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow? How does my life look?  Is it  beauty or mess? Or some of each?RenderedEither way, can you see the heart in the middle of it all?

Peg note: If you are wondering why my cards are pegged on a line, it’s because, in contemplating the cards and their relevance to my life, I was, in a sense, “hanging myself out to dry”.  The cards, hung by pegs, also remind me of photos being developed and brought to life. And, on the mundane side, it was scorchingly hot indoors, so it was much nicer being outside taking photos in the shade of the pergola.

© silkannthreades

Tea and Cake; a birthday sampler

It’s my birthday.

Many years ago, on a tropical evening, towards the end of the hurricane season, I was welcomed in to the world. A lot has happened since, but not a lot happened today. Not a lot if you ignore yet another visit from tradesmen measuring and muttering over the ongoing saga of the repairs to my house. But a little, or a lot, I am posting now to honour my birthday which, when I had time to consider it, seemed to take care of itself with tea and cake.

Here is a sampler of my birthday

From family in Australia, the tea. Don't panic; it's only a birthday

From a  friend close by; the cake.Cake for a Queen

From the  garden; more tea!Sasanqua CamelliaFrom my  daughter; the soundtrack  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMeT5Qcsh0s

Extras:

The card, from my family in Australia, is not actually a birthday card. It was a ‘fun’ card which happened to arrive in time for my birthday. The real birthday card is still negotiating postal services and has failed to arrive on time.

The  delicious cake, under the nasturtiums, is made using a recipe from the Royal Family. I think it is called The Queen’s Favourite.  One of my favourites too.

The sasanqua camellia is one of several that bloomed TODAY (just for me?). I was so busy looking at blue flowers in the garden yesterday that I failed to notice the buds on the camellias. I was very surprised to see them flowering this afternoon. I have had the camellias for a few years, espaliered along the back fence, but this is the best flowering since they were planted. Tea?

Perfect timing

The leaves of the sasanqua camellia can be used to make tea.

To all you dear people who sent cards, text messages, Facebook greetings, emails,  or who phoned or skyped or brought gifts, You are gifts to me THANK YOU.

Take a bow. Take a bow I cherish your love, support and friendship.

© silkannthreades

Late Bloomers

‘Leo the Late Bloomer’ is one of my favourite books. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/225542.Leo_the_Late_Bloomer) Written by Robert Kraus, the story tells us, through the character of Leo the little tiger, that each of us will bloom in our own good time. ‘ Leo the Late Bloomer’ is  usually referred to as a children’s book but I think the theme of the story has universal appeal. So I, on my own authority, have decided to delete the ‘children’ from the book’s description. Sorry, kids, but you can’t keep all the good books to yourselves!

Occasionally, I think of the story’s theme in relation to myself but, today, my attention was caught by the late bloomers in my garden. Here they are, in collage format, because I wanted to emphasize the visual impact of the  blue hues of their lateness.  The actual flowers are scattered thinly in different parts of the garden.Bluetiful

In two of the photos the blueness has not yet emerged; later than late bloomers, those ones. Some of the blooms may, more accurately, be described as stragglers, or long-lasting bloomers, but the plumbago is my true late bloomer having only emerged for the first time this week. But each flower is beautiful and, at this time of the year, very precious. The borage is especially precious to the remaining bees.  In fact, the bees are probably the reason that most of the late bloomers in my garden are blue toned. The colours that we perceive as purple, violet and blue are the colours the bees see best.

Thank you bees, thank you beautiful late bloomers and, as an afterthought, because the word ‘bloomers’ can never quite be said without a giggle in my brain,

No Thank You to those horrible blue garments we once had to  wear to physical education classes. They were bloomers too and were certainly not beautiful, nor intended to be. They discouraged any notion of birds and bees.

© silkannthreades

In the pink with juice and jelly

The other day, when I was operating in thrift mode, ( https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/heeding-the-needing-for-thrift/ ), you may remember that I boiled up some apple peelings and a few cranberries to make a base for a fruit cordial.  Today, with the help of another brew of cranberries and apple scraps, and a small pot of sugar syrup, I did, indeed, make the fruit cordial; about 2 litres of it.  And I then had enough of the basic fruit juice  to make two little cups of apple cranberry jelly, as well. Now is that nifty thrift,  or what? A bit of this, a bit of that, sweetened by syrupy sugar and stirred with some moments from time and there it is ; complete deliciousness in the very pink of thrift and palatable pleasures. In the pink

And, for an extra helping of good feelings, I decided to add a slice of home-made ginger cake to my plate. Ginger it up

Sweet!

I have heard it said that the colour pink can act as an appetite suppressant. I guess that’s why, after my light refreshment, I didn’t feel like eating  dinner. 🙂 Oh wait, maybe that was the sugar hit.

© silkannthreades

Which way does the path take us?

Remember the best bus stop in Christchurch that I mentioned in my previous post. Here it is again from a different view point.Still no bus?

I am looking at it from across the road in Erica Reserve. The Reserve is a continuation of the restored natural habitat we visited yesterday. It includes a playground and picnic tables and room to run and jump and squeal, none of which we did because it was such a languid afternoon.

Instead we watched ducks being ducky and listened to water gliding by with a little ripple and chortle here and there. Ducks on Water

And we let the warm breeze float over and around us and rustle off  over the stream and through the trees.The rustles of the breezeWe sat on the park bench and wondered if we could hear the grass grow. I can't hear you. But we couldn’t. We listened so very closely and carefully  yet  our ears were too dull to catch a single sound.

So we sat in silence on the park bench and absorbed the sunshine in the gentle company of another seeker of sun.Let the sunshine in

At the end, or may be it is the beginning, of the Erica Reserve pathway there is a bridge Bridge to start, end or journey on through across the stream and some wetland ponds. To the right of the water pools is a retirement home, or village as the owners like to call such places. It looked very tranquil in its restored wetland setting.  Thinking of all the work and repairs awaiting at home, I was almost tempted to knock on the door and ask “May I come in?”Where to from here?But, then, I remembered the elderly gentlemen we talked to, yesterday, on the pathway across the road on the other side of the bus shelter. He lived in another retirement village close by.  He said “It’s a fine place. It’s really the best place for me but, you know, it’s not like home.”

So we stretched and eased ourselves slowly off the park bench and went home for a fine supper of chicken, followed by apple sponge pudding.

© silkannthreades

Recreation in restoration

Welcome to the best (as in the most beautiful) bus stop in Christchurch. It is on Grants Road in the suburb of Papanui.A beautiful bus stop!

From the bus shelter, it’s a short, short walk to the sculptured entrance way to one of our city’s treasures; a walkway that follows a waterway that was once little more than a drain. With careful planning and planting over the years, the waterway has been transformed into a lush habitat full of thriving native plants.

The entrance way Sculptured Entrance

The sculpture represents a restored waterway with all its many forms of life.

Swirls

Here is the waterway in its abundant new form.Happy waterWhere are the ducks?

Considering how little rain we have had, you can see, by the amount of water still in the waterway, that proper planting of riparian areas does help conserve water. Proper planting

Whichever way you look, there are rich vistas of native plants Plants and more plantsAlong the path

Our city council receives its share of fair and unfair criticism especially in these stressful post earthquake times. Today, I want to praise the council and their workers, and all the hard-working ratepayers, who make possible wonderful walkways like this. We had a jewel of an afternoon under glorious blue skies gently warmed by the autumn sun.Jewel of an afternoon

© silkannthreades

Giving thanks for the RAIN

I am in the middle of writing another post but the rain, which began yesterday, continued all night and is still with us, is so exciting that I have to stop and acknowledge its wonderful presence. I don’t know if this rain is enough to break the drought conditions throughout the country but we, my garden and I, are  thankful for every precious drop of it.

The birds will be grateful too; their bird bath has gone from nil to full overnight. Nearly to the brim

Whilst we humans must collect water in containers if we want to hold on to it, plants are much more inventive. This native New Zealand plant shimmersDroplet Mirror with the thousands of rain drops it captures on its bird nest like structure, interwoven with helpful rain catching cobwebs.PreciousDroppingYou can see how much we needed the rain from this photo taken outside my property last week. DryGrey skies have never been more welcome.Grey is good

Foot note: When a person is granted New Zealand citizenship, and attends the citizenship ceremony, he/she is given a native New Zealand tree/shrub to take home and plant.  In this way, a  new citizen can acknowledge the roots they are putting down in their adopted country. The bushy  plant in my photograph  was given to my daughter when she was granted citizenship. It is drought tolerant but it appreciates, and makes the most of, rain when it comes.

© silkannthreades

In thrift gear

Every now and then, when the large figures on household bills loom larger than any figures have a right to loom, my brain shifts in to thrift gear. It determines, with complete and utter disregard for reality, that, if I save a little money by making, say, my own soap powder or fabric softener, this will magically  translate in to a less overwhelming invoice. No matter how many times my little forays in to thriftiness are squashed like a fly under a swat, the thrifty portion of my mind refuses to die quietly. Thriftiness is engrained, engraved, stamped and imprinted deep in my being; it’s inescapable and, when thrifty thoughts power forth, I find them irresistible. Such was the case yesterday.

I had barely swigged my morning coffee (yes, I swigged it,) before I was off to the garden to gather fresh thyme and sage for a room freshener and a scented drawer sachet, the inspiration for which came from ‘Household Wisdom’*  .  I dried the herbs in the microwave, crushed them between my fingertips, tossed them into some baking soda, and seasoned the mixture with a few drops of lavender oil. And there, in a trice, was a lovely fragrant powder for a dainty dish, with enough to spare for a sachet.The sweet smell of thriftinessPlease note that, whilst searching for something to use as a sachet, I realised that my brown paper package,  pink tissue paper and green ribbon from my Lizzie Rose purchase was the very something required. It was the ideal receptacle for home-made freshener. And ‘Household Wisdom’ informs me that by wrapping dried herbs in tissue paper I  will always  have scented paper on hand to enfold a special gift. How wise 🙂

But onwards with my day of inspired thriftery… (sorry,  but I was getting tired of the words thrift and thriftiness and I didn’t want to be a penny pincher, which sounds mean.) Next step was to gather up the runty and disfigured early season apples from the front yard and transform them in to stewed apple and apple cake……..Cake + Apple = Apple Cake

but, wait, that’s not all …I  then took the apple peelings and added a few  handfuls  of Chilean Guavas aka New Zealand Cranberries from the hedges by the door, Guavas or Cranberries, take your pick.

and simmered them together in a little pot of lemon flavoured water. After some minutes , the resultant slush was strained to obtain a pearly  pink base for a delicious fruit cordial ( yet to be made!)Pink Lemonade?

What next? Why a thrifty supper, of course. One of my favourites; mini meatloaf muffins. Meatball muffins

The recipe I use is related to a basic meat loaf recipe but my version includes grated carrot and zucchini and plenty of my home-grown herbs for flavouring.  I make small individual meat loaves by baking the mixture in muffin pans. Why? It’s nothing to do with being sparing.  It’s a visual thing. I prefer the look of small portions. Yes, weird, but I digress.

We ate our meat with home-grown corn, tomatoes and beans. We did not have to eat the string or herbs. There are limits to how far my thrift extends.

So, that was my day in full thrift throttle. I am sure I saved cents by the dozens. Yet, despite my best efforts and enthusiasm  those fat, fulsome figured bills remain determinedly fixed and undiminished. They haven’t shed a penny.  Might have guessed. SWAT! SPLAT!

Footnote: I started this post as an idle exploration of life fueled by thrift. However, it has raised a more serious question, and that is, no matter how thrifty and hardworking we are ( and thrift requires a great deal of hard work and dedication), saving money real enough to pay bills can only happen if we have the opportunity to earn, at the very least, a living wage. If that is not possible,  either through personal, unavoidable circumstances or because economic models prohibit full employment, how do we, as a just and moral society, ensure that  non wage earners are provided with a decent living.  I find these articles written from an Australian point of view, very thoughtful and interesting.  http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/payrise-for-dole-makes-sense-20130315-2g5oo.html and http://newmatilda.com/2013/01/30/stand-welfare-state

I don’t know what the solution is but I do know that, as it is on the road, so it is in life. To make the best of the conditions before us,  we  need to change gear from time to time or we will grind to a horrible halt.

*’ Household Wisdom’ by Shannon Lush and Jennifer Fleming

© silkannthreades

Favourite things still come in brown paper packages

My mail box doesn’t see a lot of activity these days, which, considering its earthquake battered state, isn’t such a bad thing.  It really wouldn’t take the strain of too much mail. However, I do receive enough real mail to make a daily check of the mail box worthwhile, even if, sometimes, the only occupants I  find are snails, attempting to establish a new residence. Yesterday was more worthwhile than usual, for what did I see but this…….a little package with a green customs sticker and….. no snails!…..and…….What's this?

exciting, exotic Singaporean stamps.Stamps of Singapore

I was pleased and surprised and amazed besides, because this could only be my order from Lizzie Rose Jewellery, posted a mere three days ago from far off Singapore. Postal services may be in decline worldwide but the Singapore postal service obviously hasn’t been told that. Such speed. It takes longer than 3 days for a letter to travel a few hundred kilometres within my own country.  But, back to the package, which I opened a little clumsily in my haste to see the contents. The haste was to no avail, as I discovered the contents were not meant to be revealed in a hurry.  This parcel was going to need  unwrapping with the same  consideration and care  with which it was put together. With hasty fingers subdued, I found, under a layer of thin cardboard, a small, impeccably neat, brown paper package, tied up with string, complete with bowBrown paper package

and a sweet, rosy label.Sweet  rosy label

String untied with ease, I delved, more gently this time, in to the brown paper package and discovered more delightful bows and ribbons. I began to feel as if I were playing that old-fashioned party pleaser/teaser, ‘Pass the Parcel’, but with more enjoyment than in my younger years because there was only one possible winner in this game; me!More pretty bows

Like every well-mannered party girl, I looked at the card and gift tag first (do you see the cute butterfly cut out that holds the ribbon?), so that I would know whom to thank at the end of the celebration.  And, as I looked at each detail before me, the ribbons, the string, the paper  and  the stickers wrapped and tied themselves around my store of wonderful memories of parcels past. In particular, I remember parcels from my grandfather and aunt, lovingly packaged in brown paper and tied with string and perfect, postal-approved knots.  Inside these parcels, there would be the excitement of kids’ magazines, jelly babies, and pretty stickers requiring stick, and, sometimes, real treasures such as exquisitely hand-made dolls clothes, or a hand-knitted hug me tight (shrug).  And these memories,in turn, fastened on to that tiny little prick of conscience I experienced earlier, when I tore into my mail, and reminded me of decades of diligently instilled old school traditions of thrift. So, when I returned to the present, I studied the pink tissue paper and delicate tape and shiny green ribbon and worked out how to open the pink tissue paper parcel without destroying the wrapping ……..Green and pink and gorgeousand, finally, there, before me, was my favourite thing;  jewellery, absolutely and perfectly made, just for me.Just for me

Thank you Cath of Lizzie Rose for adding colour and wonder to my day. It’s not my birthday till the end of the month but I feel like the party has already started :). Thanks, too, for making my shopping easy and stress free and for giving me confidence that real customer service truly does exist outside my memory bank.

Footnote: Here is the link to Cath’s lovely blog which I  enjoy for its creativity and its insight in to life in Singapore. It will also link you to her Etsy shop and her creative world.

http://lizzierosejewellery.com/

Anklenote: I also bought a beautiful anklet  from Lizzie Rose. I thought I was too old for such silliness but, I discover that one is never too old for some fun and frivolity. The anklet is light and comfortable and I am going to wear it till it’s time to put on my winter boots. Its tiny turquoise beads remind me of summer seas and skies.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/125679287/anklet-in-pale-turquoise-aqua-bronze

© silkannthreades