Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another month of photos (April photo-a-day)

I love crossing things off my lists of things to do. This here is the photo-a-day challenge I set out to do in my New Years Resolutions post. I'm a fan of Fat Mum Slim's monthly photo-a-day lists, so I picked that one to get my instagram on. 

Here's the month that was, according to my photo-a-day list. 'Scuse the phone-quality photos.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Triangle quilt (final pattern, cutting and a first look)

Last week, I announced by completely crazy plans to hand stitch a single-bed quilt for Dear Boy. Since then I've been drawing and cutting a million triangles. Did I mention I'm a complete amateur at this? I don't have any proper equipment for quilting apart from an awesome pair of left-handed fabric scissors that are a blessing. I long ago learned the consequences for having crappy scissors, so I picked up these lovelies (Mundial brand, in case you're interested) when they were on sale a few months ago.

What I also should probably have for this project are:

  1. proper quilting pencils/pens/markers - the ones that wash off, evaporate, blend or whatever it is they do. I used a biro and figure no-one'll see it even if it does bleed onto the fabric.
  2. A ruler or quilting grid. I pulled some old piece of high school plastic from Lovely Husband's drawer and used that to draw up a cardboard template.
  3. A quilting cutter - you can get this as little hand-held rotary thingies or as a machine that sort of resembles a pasta-maker. Scissors worked for me.
  4. Some kind of something to help baste (or sandwich) the quilt layers together). Apparently you can get spray. I'll probably be using safety pins.
  5. Some kind of hoop or frame for the actual quilting part. It got a little unwieldy quilting the sampler by hand. Not sure how I'll go with the big one. 
  6. And okay - probably a sewing machine. But we'll see how long my patience (and fingers) last.

As promised - here's the final pattern - a mix between the two other hexagon ones with less black 'space' and more coloured 'planets. And below, a sneak-peak at the layout from the bottom half of the quilt top. I played around with the pattern as I'd lay out the planets above, and have used a few plain black panels around the darkest blue as it was disappearing into the black and fine blue star fabric. It also helped stretch the black fabrics a bit further so I didn't have to order another half yard. With hindsight, I'd probably have ditched the black and fine blue star fabric altogether but hey, we live and learn.

Now all my triangle pieces are in piles, row by row, and so begins the great stitch-a-thon of 2013. Eeep!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Autumn food

We love fennel in our house (or the grown-ups do, at least). We especially love when it comes into season and the price goes way down and we can pick up big and little bulbs to play around with. This recipe is a vague version of this piece of deliciousness from Stonesoup. The recipe looks a bit complex and there are a lot more than Stonesoup's traditional five ingredients. What it boils (braises) down to though is grilled chunks of fennel roasted in a bed of piquant-tomato-ey sauce and then served on gooey polenta. It changes each time I do it now that I've had this a time or two. 

This time round, while the fennel was grilling, I dumped a tin or two of tomatoes into a big jug with a cup of chicken stock, a blob of tomato paste, a glug of white wine vinegar, a scattering of fennel seeds, a handful of olives and a few big bashed up bits of garlic. I let that sit for a while then fished out the biggest bits of garlic (as they tend to catch and burn). This all goes in a baking tin or oven-friendly dish with the grilled fennel and is baked/roasted/braised (whatever it actually is) for about 30-40 minutes - but keep an eye on it and turn the fennel if it looks like it's getting a bit tough or dark. After a while the sauce thickens and the olives go a little shrivelly and delicious.

I normally serve this on a small lake of cheesy, soft polenta but because I was cooking early so Dear Boy could share, the polenta would have been a solid stodge by the time we sat down. Instead I set it in the fridge and then baked it into crispy triangles once Lovely Husband and I were ready to eat. We had a little stash of Danish feta in the fridge, so that was sprinkled over the final dish with a bit of the delicate fennel fern (is that was that is?).

This is perfect for me by itself but Lovely Husband would like it better with a big chunk of grilled steak or chicken sliced over the top. It'd work though with some kind of bean or pulse in the sauce to make it a smidge more hearty.

Do you have a favourite Autumn food?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lest We Forget: An ANZAC Day march

I loaded Dear Boy into his pram this morning and took him on a train adventure into the city to watch the ANZAC Day March along St Kilda Road towards the Shrine of Remembrance. We collected rosemary and poppies and far-too-sunny photographs of some of the marchers. I cried watching the women marching under their own service banners. I cried when the man next to me dabbed at his eyes with a well-pressed hankie. I cried when one lone man marched behind a banner that once flew over a full unit of his fellow soldiers.

My family is not a military family but some of them have served. One went away to France in WWI and came home. One went away to Belgium in WWII and didn't. One went away to Vietnam and came home although something vital stayed behind. His sons joined the air force and were posted on 'peacekeeping' missions in East Timor and, last I heard, off on I'm-not-sure-what-they-call-it in Iraq. Others served in the British and Australian Merchant Navy. In Lovely Husband's family there is a big empty hole where the Official Secrets Act hides what happened to their great grandfather. There are a few photos of handsome men in uniform and a few bundles of letters with long black streaks of redacted words. There are stiff legs and scars. There are wounds within our families that will never heal, that are are being carried on generation by generation. There are secrets and awful truths and nightmares and violence. There are stories and pride. There is a retelling and remembering. There is no celebration, but there is commemoration.

I don't like war (who does, really?) and I've disagreed with our inclusion in various conflicts but there is a time and a place to protest about it. Several incredibly white and incredibly middle-class men decided to make a point with the dummy below, resting it against a bridge crossing the Yarra behind the crowds but in the flow of people moving up and down the street. It was incredibly life-like and made small children shriek and men with medals on their chests weep. Then these same smirking arseholes decided to shoot water at the marchers with water pistols. The crowd surged up around them and wrestled the toy guns away from them, berated them and handed them over to the waiting police-officers. Disagree, sure, but don't disrespect the people that served, that survived, that died.

And because I hate leaving it there, on that note, here's a (pretty bad) video of a marching band. Because I do love me a good drum band.



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