Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Birthday List #3

Finish this quilt:

I pulled it out of a drawer a few weeks ago and added the two outer borders. Now, I just have to decide how to quilt it. Machine or hand? Hand is slower, but has the potential to be more sociable. Hand quilting gives a softer line, machine quilting is more defined.

I'm thinking shells or seagulls in the borders, and something wavy in the long rows of triangles.

See my post about the birthday list here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Birthday Meme

It's my birthday month. And somewhere, in my web surfing of various blogs, I spotted the same meme in several places - a list of "x things to do before I turn x years old" - posted on one's birthday as a goal list for the coming year.

I'm not shy about my age, but the internet is a very public forum, and I realised in another context that posting one's exact birthday and age is not necessarily a good idea - a date of birth being an important part of the information needed for identity theft.

Besides, such a list is all very well for a thirty year old, but the older a person is, the more items to fill the list - with perhaps less energy to get them done!

I will admit to being somewhere between fifty and seventy. And I am making a list, but it's not complete yet. I have a little over forty items so far. They range from quite large goals such as "learn Spanish" and "write the history of my father's family" to small items, often things I've been meaning to do for a while, like "order postcards from Moo" (Done - including the photo above). The good part about not having enough items yet is that it allows for spontaneity. If at any time in the year, I suddenly think "oh yes, I'd really like to do that", I can add it to the list. And after all, who knows a year ahead what opportunities will come their way? For instance, I would never have known in advance that I would try firewalking. But the chance came up some years back, and I took it. With only a small blister to show as a result. (I'm glad I did it, and I plan never to do it again!)

Updates may or may not appear from time to time as I complete items from the list.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blue #3

When I stopped to take the photo in the previous post I noticed quite a large number of pukeko in the adjacent field. I had to use all my zoom to get this photo (and then crop it).

The English name for these birds is "swamp hen" though it is not much used these days. They can fly, but look rather ungainly while doing so. Mostly, they like damp fields, so it must be the winter weather that is bringing them out in large numbers. They are one of our more colourful native birds, although the light on that particular day made it difficult to bring out the brightness of the blue plumage. I may go back and try again.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

And More Blue...

Close to the middle of Christchurch is Cranford St, where there is a shrinking area of market gardens in between the city and the outer suburbs.

I was thinking of this scene when I wrote the poem below. The sky was blue when I left home to get photos for this post, and it was blue after I took the photos and left - but while I was there, it was cloudy. So I've tweaked the blue up a bit in Photoshop. And I was thinking of a frostier day when I wrote the poem, and a farmer on his tractor rather than a few abandoned vegetable crates... other than that, I had a scene in my mind something like the photo.

The poem will be in the book "Flap: The Chook Book 2" soon to be forthcoming from my small poetry group, the Poetry Chooks.

For more blue photos, head here.

Winter Landscape

Farmer in a field digging onions,
skins the colour of old vellum,
the bulbs’ fat uncials a tracery of dried stalks
like capitals on an illuminated manuscript.
He stamps his feet on the frosty ground,
blows on his hands.

The plains stretch and stretch,
last tendrils of morning mist lifting
from rows of distant poplars
which his grandfather planted
to tether the sky, lest he go mad
from so much blue.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Blue

This week's Thematic Photographic theme is "Blue". And I have no photo bluer than this one, which was taken in the Singapore Aquarium three years ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the place was packed with tourists and locals, all hustle and bustle. In the midst of it all were these jellyfish in a tank performing slow balletic moves - I found them absolutely mesmerising, and would have loved to stay and watch longer, if we hadn't been on a tour with a tight time schedule.

(Oh, and it makes a lovely desk top image, too. If you would like it, e-mail me for a larger version).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Winter Morning in Hagley Park

Taken on my way to work last week. At least when we have a hard frost, it means a beautiful sunny day is coming.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I received a nice surprise in the mail today - a packet of postcards from Moo. I had ordered them, but wasn't expecting them nearly so soon. The order went in on July 31st, was completed on August 5th and reached me today - the 11th - even though the original estimate for delivery date was August 26th. So I was most impressed, both with the prompt service and the quality of the cards.

I chose thirty of my favourite photos, and ordered a packet of 60, so I have two of each, one to send and one to keep. I could have had postcards printed in New Zealand, but to get a reasonable price I would have to order a hundred or more of one design.

The image above is one of the cards - it reminds me I haven't been walking in the hills since the beginning of winter. We do get sunny days in winter, so perhaps I will try and get back up there one weekend soon.


The full recipe for the hummus and kumara burgers referred to in the previous post:

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 and a half tsp minced ginger
1 and a half tsp ground cumin
2 300g cans chickpeas, drained
300 g jar of hummus
1 and a half cups cooked and mashed red skinned kumara (sweet potat0)
3 tbsp freshly chopped coriander (cilantro)

Gently cook the onion and ginger in a dash of oil until soft but not brown. Stir in the cumin and cook for one minute.
Process the chickpeas in a food processor till coarsely chopped. Turn into a bowl with half a jar of hummus. Add the mashed kumara, coriander and cooked onion, mix well. Shape into 8 burgers and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.
Heat a dash of oil in a pan and cook for 2 - 3 minutes each side.

Serve with coriander and yoghurt sauce:
Combine the remaining hummus, half a cup of plain unsweetened yoghurt, 1 - 2 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice and 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander, mix together.

(Although, I rather like the burgers with salsa instead of the coriander and yoghurt sauce).

The recipe used to be on the Food in a Minute website, but I can't find it there any more. I guess they take the old ones down.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Pantry Clearing

I'm continuing with my plan to declutter by using up, rather than throwing out. At some time in the past I bought a packet of couscous - perhaps I was trying out a recipe that required it, I can't remember now. I found the taste rather bland, so it has been sitting around largely unused.

I decided it was time for it to go. I made up a single serving quantity, soaked cut up dried apricots in hot water, and added them to the couscous along with left over cooked pumpkin and kumara (sweet potato). I also added some cinnamon and cumin. It ended up tasting reasonably good, although I might increase the spices next time.

If I make some for lunch once a week for the next month or two, that will take care of that packet.

I'm guessing it would appeal to vegetarians. I also had a couple of cans of chickpeas that I had bought to make kumara and chickpea burgers. Basically, they are made from cooked mashed kumara, the drained chickpeas and a pot of bought hummus, whizzed together in the blender with coriander (cilantro) and other flavourings. Then brown in a little hot oil. I rather like them, but my family are confirmed meat eaters so I had the chickpeas sitting round for quite a long time.

In deference to their tastes, I cooked some gourmet sausages as well. The burgers are good with sauces such as tomato salsa, and the jar of capsicum and apricot salsa that is sitting in the fridge.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Orange #2

The last two posts may have sounded somewhat more miserable than I really am...I don't do winter particularly hard, mostly. I just don't like to feel there is all sorts of fun going on that I am missing out on, by being out of step with the rest of the world. When summer comes here, everyone else will be commiserating about winter, and posting winter themed photos, and again I will be out of step.

Still, I am over whining, I think. I realised when I arrived home from work that the days are getting longer. The rain had stopped, there was still almost an hour of daylight, and I had letters to post. So I walked round the block to the Post Office, and when I came out I spotted this building across the car park, with the sunset clouds above it, which seemed to fit the orange theme perfectly. (Actually, the building is terracotta. It's come out looking more orange in the photo though, and I have tweaked the saturation and contrast in Photoshop to dramatise it a bit more).

Then I walked home around the river. There were bright orange diggers there, but I decided they weren't particularly photogenic, and instead took this shot of the river at twilight.

Spring is coming! (Yay!)

(Photo taken in my garden last Saturday)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Orange

Yesterday I commented on how I tend to feel out of step with the rest of the world while roaming the internet. And today I read on Carmi's blog that this week's theme for Thematic Photographic is orange: "because summer seems to offer up countless examples of this bright colour". As New Zealanders say: Yeah, right.

Today a freezing wind from the Antarctic struck us, with rain, grey skies, and snow in the hills. Summer seems very far away.

Nevertheless, I had one orange photo that I took yesterday - when it was cold, but not raining - a remnant of last summer:

and here is a more summery one from a year or so ago, just to remind me that summer will come again (although by then most of blogland will be enjoying winter sports, or commiserating about the cold weather)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Distance and the Internet

I used to think the Internet had shrunk the world. Now, I wonder.
Certainly, it was wonderful to be in almost daily contact with our young adult offspring when they were travelling. Our daughter criss crossed North America, not staying in one place for long, but she found an internet cafe every couple of days and we had frequent e-mails.

Then too, through blogging and various e-mail groups, I have made contacts from around the world, amazing people I would never have had the chance to meet before the internet.

As for my family history research, there is no way I could have done what I have done if I had to visit all the archives in person.

But lately (perhaps it's the greyness of winter) I've been feeling more than a little grumpy about how far away from everyone else we are down in this corner of the globe. It seems it's summer in Interwebland. Projects like Susannah's summer break are springing up everywhere. Prompts spring up on blogs all over the place that assumes the whole world is sunlit. People are travelling at the drop of a hat. Bloggers talk casually of going to Spain for a weekend, or Italy for a week, or gathering in Morocco. I used to think, oh well, Europe has a lot of countries close to each other, but North Americans are as isolated as we are. Until I started getting newsletters from VisitScotland in my inbox, offering amazing air fares from North America to Scotland, for about the same price as it costs us to visit Australia - and I realised that the North Atlantic is really quite narrow compared to the vast expanse of the Pacific.

It seems that here in New Zealand we can't win. If we're here, we're a long way from everywhere else. If we're there, we're a long way from home.

Jenny Diski wrote in one of her books of being in New Zealand for a writer's festival and finding that people constantly commented to her that we are such a long way away. Which she thought was strange, because as far as she could tell, we are all exactly right here. (Only she put it much better than that). Well - true- but I think we do have that in common in New Zealand, that we feel very far away. I remember when we returned from the UK, flying across Europe in a couple of hours - less time than it takes to get from Christchurch to Sydney. And then we flew on, and on, and on... And after a couple of days in Singapore, we got in another plane and flew on, and on...

At the moment I'm reduced to taking surreptitious photos in various shops. (Why is it that it seems OK to take photos in Moroccan bazaars, but not in shops in one's home country - even if they stock the same goods).