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Things were mint in the garden. Boom Tish.

From August-November, I managed to get quite a good harvest out of the snow peas and sugar snap peas I planted, particularly the snow peas.

Demurely productive vegetable garden.

And I got a respectable harvest out of the broad bean, although nowhere near the terrifying surplus of 2013 (which caused me to research and test a number of recipes). It’s convenient this year’s broad beans weren’t as prolific: I really didn’t have space in my freezer to deal.

Veggie garden with Mulberry Tree photobomb

The Mulberry tree was also prolific but due to a horrendous combination of professional, study, personal and social commitments…I didn’t really get to enjoy it (or take photos of it) this year.

I will have to review Mulberry pruning strategies for next year: I didn’t prune this year because I over-pruned in 2016. As a result all the 2017 fruit was on incredible high verticals that I couldn’t actually reach to harvest: it was prolific, I just couldn’t get to the fruit. I need to research and find a happy medium of pruning for the tree in 2018.

Note the plant markers? That’s what you can do with your bamboo cutlery…

I also used up a lot of seed this year: sprinkling much of it along my back fence line to see if it was still fertile (some of it was quite aged). I also planted leeks, the last of the padron pimiento, tamarillos, tomatillos and oxheart tomato seeds. Some of the padron pimientos came up, so did the oxhearts, and a couple of tomatillos. But sadly no show from the leeks and tamarillos.

Advanced oxhearts

I planted out the oxheart tomato seedings when I sectioned some Sansevieria (aka snake plant) for people. I also planted out the tomatillos.

The tomatoes will grow happily for 2 months, and then all up their sticks within two weeks of one another.

Sadly all the tomatoes gave up the ghost about 2 weeks ago, after growing quite nicely. And I am down to only one tomatillo, which is also disappointing. The padron pimientos are doing quite well though. So that’s something.

At least I still have the mint…until the cabbage moth caterpillars find it and eat it again.

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A picture says a thousand words…

Let me OUT.

So here’s 1000 words for you:

LET me OUT.

And even more words, all very unimpressed:

LET ME OUT

 

If you haven’t already worked it out, I have a problem with stopping and smelling the roses nasturtiums. I keep too many lists of things to do, and I don’t always take enough time to appreciate how far I’ve come. So let’s have a moment:

#gardengoal

I’ve always wanted my back garden to be overflowing: with rocket (I now have wild rocket as a weed #achievementunlocked), cape gooseberries (still working on this one) and nasturtiums. Not only are nasturtiums pretty, they are edible and there’s a verge in Guildford that gets covered with them every year…I have always loved it. I have other plans for my front verge, but I did want nasturtiums in my back garden to rival that front verge.

Scenic compost bin vista.

The nasturtiums are now starting to come up without me sewing seeds, which is awesome. The other side of the garden also looks fine:

To the lemon tree, Jeeves.

And the wider view is quite pretty:

Much green, so wow.

We’ve come a long way baby:

More green, more wow, such achievement.

Not too shabby.

This IS a slightly different nasturtium photo from the lead photo. If you MUST know.

Have you ever bitten off more than you can chew? Without even realising…? This is one of those times for me. And I made it work, but if I knew then what I know now…there were so many other ways I woulda coulda shoulda done this.

Hard fought and hard won…but #victory nonetheless.

You may, or may not, recall I was on a mission to restore a teak daybed I freecycled way back when. It’s (cough ) been on my houseolutions list since…(cough) 2015 and counting (cough).  And I DID make progress, DIY Dad and I did repair it (fixing the damage that I essentially caused, but enough about that).

The only thing it needed was a mattress (which was never going to be a standard size, because nothing I turn my hands to ends up being a m*therf*cking standard size) and then a cover for the aforesaid mattress.

And this is where my newfound machine sewing skills come in. Clearly: I would take the bespoke-sized daybed mattress and make a bespoke-sized daybed mattress cover for it.

And I would make a bespoke mattress cover with 3mm thick, heavy duty upholstery fabric that DIY Dad and I selected from Spotlight. That was my first mistake. Not shopping with DIY Dad, not shopping at Spotlight. OH NO: it was choosing 3mm thick heavy duty linen-look upholstery fabric with fleece on the back side to make the aforesaid bespoke mattress cover.

Why was that a mistake? Where do I START?

It turns out it is REALLY difficult to mark lines and measurements out when you have chosen 3mm thick heavy duty linen-look upholstery fabric with fleece on the back side. I ended up using my supply of Crayola crayons, because the polite, reserved dress-making crayons just.couldn’t.cut.it. SO: there’s that.

And then, there’s the fact that I was maneuvering an almost 2m long unwieldy piece of foam to get measurements. As a novice sewanista, I was too scared to cut to measure so I decided I actually needed measurements from the 2m long piece of foam (which was also about 0.9m wide and about 0.17m thick). That was my second mistake. Ugh.

My third mistake: deciding the beautiful daybed needed a mattress cover with piping on it. And it really did need a mattress cover with piping on it…it’s just: if you are going to make a mattress cover with piping on it, then you don’t choose 3mm thick fabric to do so with.

Piping in the process of happening…

You really don’t choose 3mm thick fabric. Because it’s fine while you make the piping, and while you start assembling the non-piped pieces. It is – however – NOT fine when you start sewing the fabric to the piping to another piece of piping.

That’s when you are dealing with at least 12mm of fabric…that’s when there’s a problem. That’s 12mm of fabric that will break your needles, causing you to buy heavy duty needles (which you didn’t even know existed before that). 12mm of fabric that will break the thread you are using, causing you to buy upholstery thread (where you didn’t even know there was such a sort of thread before that).

It was a steep learning curve, all-righty.

And…then:

  1. there’s the learning curve about not sewing all the sides together and then sewing those sides to the larger top and bottom of the mattress cover (don’t do it: your sides are not the most accurate measure of the mattress cover side, the top and the bottom are.)
  2. there’s the learning curve about keeping track of what side needs to be sewn to which (otherwise you will satisfyingly sew, and then unpick when you realise you’ve sewn half your mattress cover inside out because keeping track of what goes where in such a large-scale project is…challenging).

At this point: I am just about to sew the opening sides in the wrong places, with two twists in them…and I will unpick them the next day while cursing. Cursing ALOT.

And then…there’s the learning curve that piping is irresistible to cats. So you may need some spare to keep them entertained and off your actual piping:

No you are NOT helping.

And then…there’s the learning curve of sewing 2 pieces of piping together, with the actual piping inside. The thickness and diameter ended up being too large for the sewing machine and needles to bear. That meant some Young Einstein-like levels of invention to solve a problem I had backed into without actually realising.

Finally it was done:

Quality Assurance by The Ginger Menace

I thought it would take 3 days of my 5 day holiday…it took 5 days. I went back to work for a break from it. The daybed and cover are currently located in my studio. We haven’t transported it to DIY Dad’s beach house yet, maybe in 2018…?

If you thought me digging out a sewing project I started in the NINETIES was o.l.d., boy have I got a doozy for you.

As an apprentice sewantista, I also dug out a project my mother always wanted to do. So this project was from the 80s. And if you weren’t alive in the 90s, not only did you miss a lot of good music but you weren’t even being t.h.o.u.g.h.t. about in the 80s…#justsaying (your parents were probably partying it up big time in the 80s #nothelping #stilljustsaying).

I hope it’s everything you wanted for it…

This project has serious sentimental attachment for a number of reasons: my mum died in 94, so she never got time to start or finish this project and it was something she wanted to do; my family has kept this in spite of everything: it’s one of the few things of my mum’s that my Dad didn’t donate to charity within a couple of weeks of her passing (yeah that #stillhurts); to me it represents a life not fulfilled: there were so many things she wanted to do, could have done, but never got the chance or the time or the space to…so I owe it to honour her; and – for a number of reasons – what she wanted to do was on the back burner for my sister and me, and our education and our future, so I OWE her one in ways you cannot even imagine. And I will never be able to repay that debt. Ever.

This project also has sentimental attachment for other reasons: there’s a story about this, which I will get to in the next paragraph. But here’s what we are dealing with:

The project

What you see in the photo above ^, is a series of strips. Each strip is hand painted silk, and together they form a whole piece. What they were was hand-painted silk wallpaper. My Uncle Roger (my mum’s brother, life partner of Uncle John of the onion pudding) worked in interior design in his mis-spent-but-excitingly-spent youth, and this is a souvenir from that time. One of the jobs he had to do, back in the day (I am assuming late 70s, maybe early 80s) was take down this glorious hand-painted silk wallpaper to replace it with something new.

Clearly that was hard to do, and he knew my mum would love it, so he lovingly razored it off the wall and saved it in strips. He either sent it to her, or bought it to her when he visited from the UK (where else in the 70-80 are you going to find people who not only have hand-painted silk wallpaper, but want to replace it with something else?), and it sat on a roll in her wardrobe ever since. It sat there waiting for the day she had time, a sewing machine and supplies to be able to turn it into a wall hanging. Because it is beautiful. And it is also – sorry to be a downer again – but a tragedy she never got the chance to start or finish this vision, and so many other things.

I took the silk when I moved out. So learning how to machine sew was the prompt that I could begin this project, because it needs to be done. Because I need to do it.

It’s quite daunting: so fragile and with so much personal meaning to it. I’d already pieced it out and worked out the sequence, years ago. Once I had bought a complimentary silk thread, I stared the journey:

In the midst of sewing…

The panels together:

I hope it’s everything you wanted for it…

The journey is not complete: I still need to decide on how I am going to back it, and how it will be hung: there is a wall for it in my father’s house. But it’s nice to know it’s come so far:

#endgame

It will also be nice when it’s done. I have carried this with me for a while and I would like to complete it, and mark it as done. It doesn’t pay my debts, by any means, but it does honour something I need to honour and to mark.

 

If you know me well, Dear Reader, you know I update this blog in fits and starts. That happens for a couple of reasons: I have to have time to edit photos, write blog posts…and that usually means holidays; and I also need time (and budget) to do things around my house, or cook, or…stuff, you know? I am on holidays now, so you are about to get a raft of obligatory catch up posts where I fill you in on what I’ve done, what I’ve discovered, what I’ve observed and…stuff, you know?

When I last left you in August, I’d cooked my Uncle (In Law) John’s amazing onion pudding successfully (since then I have cooked it slightly less successfully). Hot tip: don’t overcook it or it will turn into a crumbly but delicious mess. We did have a guest who was 30 minutes late, which didn’t help although she did have good reason for lateness and the pudding was still delicious, if slightly less aesthetically pleasing…so win-win?

Second from the front: a delicious crumbly mess…

Well I’ve been a busy little bee since then, but mostly on unrelated non-housie stuff. HOWEVER, I did get taught how to sew using a sewing machine (eternal thanks to the Garden Goddess), and with not one but two working sewing machines at my call, I spend much of September…sewing.

I sewed belt loops onto pants, mended skirts and dresses, turned dresses into skirts and…well. I did a lot.

I ALSO resuscitated a project I started in the 90s, where I hand-dyed a bunch of cotton with the aim of making a reversible quilt cover. The intent at the time was to make a patched quilt cover and pillows, like one of those hippie-quilts you could buy in those days (if you were even alive in those days) but much simpler and with less froufrou (e.g. no fucking tie-dye, no fucking prints of dolphins or fairies or peace symbols or whaf-fucking-ever. It was naff then, hasn’t come out of naff now. If you like that sort of tripe, I’m sorry you were offended but I am not sorry I wrote it. #rantover).

Segue #nuffsaid

Soooo, over 20 years on: I finished piecing together one side of the quilt with my newfound machine sewing skillz, but the other side requires more dye (I think I spent $100 of 90s money dyeing the one side, I shudder to think what it will cost to finish the other side in 20-teen prices…maybe a kidney?). Plus the desire to have it on my bed as a quilt cover and pillows has…somewhat abated. So now I am going to buy batting and a back cover and turn each side into a throw…eventually. You can’t rush these things, and I’ve only been working on this for about…two decades, so I’ll finish it when I goddamn finish it mmmkay.

The nineties are alive and living in patchouli scented Dianella

 

Onion pudding with baby carrots and chicken gravy (It’s gravox).

First I need to tell you a little bit about my uncle John, and when I first had this onion pudding. Uncle John has been my Uncle Roger’s partner since the early 80’s (maybe even the late 70’s), and in every way that counts: he’s family (although he doesn’t like to admit it). So he’s my uncle.

So…onion pudding? My sister and I went to the UK for Christmas in 95/96: it was the first time we had seen snow, the first time my sister (14) had traveled outside of Australia, the first time we had ever had a cold Christmas (our norm is 30°+ degrees Celsius, not 0°+ degrees Celsius) and seen how amazing Christmas is in the UK, and the first time we’d seen real holly (it doesn’t just come in plastic, you know.).

One of the enduring memories from that trip was the Christmas Tree and fireplace Mantle that my Uncle Roger decorated. Amazing. Seriously AMAZING. This was pre-smartphone era, so I don’t think I took any photos unfortunately. But I do photograph presents my Uncle sends me, and save the cards he sends me: for.a.reason.

Another enduring memory is the Christmas lunch Uncle Roger and John made, including this Onion Pudding. This Onion Pudding is a family Christmas tradition in Uncle John’s family, and he shared it with us. I had never had savoury pudding before, and IT.WAS.AMAZING.

That was 95/96. I asked him for the recipe when I went to the UK in 2014, and then serendipitously bought a pudding basin and pudding cloth on one of those flash sales sites earlier this year (in Summer, if I recall correctly). So it was fated that this year, in winter, I was going to make Uncle John’s Onion Pudding. 22 years after I ate it for the first and only time, I WAS going to make it. Or else.

Retro dinner party, with Uncle John’s Onion Pudding. And yes I am in Australia, and that is Union Jack bunting in the very background…what of it?

[For the record: you don’t need a pudding basin to make this pudding, and I knew that. But what can I say? It was a kitchenware sale, and I was on a roll. In other news: I’m now researching steamed pudding recipes.]

Ingredients

  • 250gm butter
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 1 onion, diced (*if you have a food processor, I have a nifty additional tip I will share in the method)
  • Pudding cloth

Optional

  • 2 tsp dried/fresh herbs of your choice ( I went without, it’s nice as is)

Mix the flour and the butter until it’s at breadcrumb stage (I did this in the food processor, so quick, so amazing. Food processors may actually be a revelation). Add the onion (HOT TIP: I added my lazily diced onion while the flour/butter breadcrumb mix was still in the food processor and then pulsed it a couple of times to cut up the onion even more. AMAZING).

If you have a food processor, now you will need to tip everything into a large bowl. If you don’t have a food processor (and I was once like you before I found the light), then you’re probably already making this in a bowl bless your gorgeous heart 😉

Now: you need to stir in some water, but don’t go crazy. Stir in water one tablespoon at a time AND stir the batter with a knife (not a fork, not a spoon: a knife), I used a butter knife, if it helps. You’re aiming for a consistency that just binds together: the dough/batter should be firm but not wet.

Get your pudding cloth, dust it with flour, then shape your pudding into either a ball or a log shape (swiss roll was how it was described by Uncle John) on the pudding cloth . You can see from the pics I was aiming for a ball but did not tie my pudding cloth tight enough, so I ended up with a disc shaped pudding. Uncle John’s pudding was a round ball, FYI. I bow to his onion pudding making skillz.

Pop it in a saucepan with high sides, cover with water, bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer for an hour.

Serve your Onion Pudding with Chicken Gravy or Turkey Gravy (Poultry Gravy). Onion Pudding is a great accompaniment to a traditional Christmas dinner: turkey, peas, baby carrots, gravy, other amazing winter food stuff. And it is tradition in Uncle John’s family.

But this pudding could be eaten as the main focus: it’s that nice. Just remember the gravy and ENJOY!

Retro Dinner Party with onion pudding in the background

 

It’s also a great accompaniment to a Crown Roast (a la Robert Carrier), fish pie, tuna potato pie (long story) when you hold a Retro Dinner Party #justsaying