Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Elephant in the room

You may have noticed me missing from my blog, I have been finding it very difficult to write, sure I have opened the page on numerous occasions but only end up closing the computer down and walking away.    My eldest son who has brain cancer has just had another surgery, this, the third time in eighteen months, only three months since the second surgery.    This last surgery has been more invasive, requiring him to be awake and alert for a time during the surgery, with a neurologist present to ascertain any damage to any of his senses.   This journey started eighteen months ago with all of us very optimistic for his future, but with the tumor returning shortly after Christmas and then again three months later our optimism is now waning.  We are now aware that unless he is accepted into a trial program there is little hope.  Chemotherapy is not holding this tumor, a Glioblastoma Multifore aggressive grade four tumor at bay, surgery has been the only answer so far.    I miss my wonderful chats with my amazing son, sure we talk about the children, my daughter-in-law and what is happening with them, and we talk about his treatment,   but there is always the elephant in the room.  What future he has we do not know, and neither does his surgeon or oncologist, one thing we do know is he will not grow to be an old man.   I have found myself becoming more despondent as time goes by, I am trying so hard to keep up appearances for my family and friends but I am finding this more difficult as time goes on.   I debated for a long time about writing this, I don't want sympathy I just want to let you know why I am not continuing with my blog, for awhile at least.   Keep your family close and give them a hug.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Small gifts

Sunday was market day, rugged up in my coat and with my umbrella I set off early to obtain a good parking spot.  After nine o'clock it is really busy and difficult to find a car space.   I was on a mission to find something small, something I could post interstate to my mother-in-law for Mothers Day.  Of course. the first stop is always the coffee van, especially important on wet and cold days to have a hand warmer.  While roaming between all the stalls I came across some gorgeous little hand made pots, these look very Middle Eastern and so beautiful.  I was won over and bought one.  With all my shopping done I was off to meet my friends for a warming breakfast and to catch up on the latest news.   While sitting there chatting I showed my friend the little pot which she thought was beautiful,  I then decided to buy another one for myself.   Would you believe when I went back to the market I couldn't find them,  the stall had packed up during the rain and left, I missed out. Oh, well maybe next time.  
On my last blog I gave you a link to a blog, where I found the instructions for some cute fabric tissue holders, perfect for a handbag and for little thank you gifts.   I also found them on Pinterest so I've pinned them for future reference.   I sewed nine of these in an hour by chain piecing them.  I gave two of them to friends as thank you's, I put one in the parcel for my mother-in-law and I'm not sure who will receive the others.  Sorry about the photos I have taken recently, I'm having a few problems with my camera after my grandson played with it.

Friday, 2 May 2014

A stuffed pumpkin

Since recovering from my cold I have had no energy, I just feel tired all the time.  No sewing, no preserving, and no house work done this past week.  The pumpkins are still on the outside table under cover so I'm sure they will be fine for a bit longer, but, while thinking about what to eat on Thursday night I decided to bring a small one inside to cook.  Amazing what you can come up with when you just don't want to go out and shop.   I cut the top from the pumpkin and scooped the seeds and some of the flesh from  inside and made up a stuffing from the leftover cooked brown rice I had in the fridge, chopped some vegetables, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, cubed tasty cheese and to bulk it up a bit more some fresh bread crumbs.  Basically what I had left in the fridge.     It took about an hour and a half  to cook in the oven, although I could have left it a bit longer, because as I cut into it I found it still a bit firm. It was very tasty though and  I had a large wedge for my dinner.   I then cut a small wedge to have with some chicken the next night,and gave a slice to my daughter to take home.  With the remainder I peeled the skin and blitzed it in the food processor with a cup of chicken stock to make a soup for lunch today.
Add caption
 Like I said I have done no sewing, but I have just read and have decided to sew one to add to the gift pack for my mother-in-law for next Mothers Day.  This gift will be posted interstate, so this will be perfect to add to what I have.

Monday, 21 April 2014

No chocolate eggs!

This is a short blog, I have to organise some sewing,  something to stitch tomorrow when I meet with my quilting group.    My family are aware that I do not eat chocolate, that also means Easter eggs of the chocolate variety.  I don't have a memory of why I don't like it, I'm assuming it may be that I gorged myself on chocolate as a child and vomited, which turned me off it,  but that is only a guess.   I just have to show you what the son who does everything and his wife made for me this Easter.  As a craft person I am thrilled they have put time and effort into this gift and as a bonus it is also edible.  He has hand drawn a different design onto each of the fresh eggs. The gift included a little chicken as well.    I hope you had a lovely Easter, shared with family and friends.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Home baked hot cross buns

 My cold is getting better, ok, so I don't sound good, I still have a husky voice but it is clearing up.  I don't have any plans for today other than some stitching, so I am going to stay inside the house.   A friend has encouraged me to bake  my own hot cross buns this year for Easter, something I always did in the past.   It's  been a long time since I have baked them,  usually I am so rushed I just grab a few from the bakery, but this year I have decided to bake my own again.    I found my old recipe last night and set to work, the hardest thing about making hot cross buns is the time it takes to proof them, everything else is easy.  They are lighter than the bought hot cross buns, and because you can change the flavour, you get what you like.

My recipe makes six, so just double the ingredients for a dozen.

2 cups of plain flour
1 sachet of dry yeast
3/4 tsp.mixed spice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbls. caster sugar
3/4 cup of sultanas or currants
20gm. butter
1 egg
150ml. milk
small pinch of salt
Combine flour, spices, sugar, yeast, salt and sultanas.  Mix until combined.  Melt butter, add milk, warm to lukewarm.  Add milk and lightly beaten egg to flour mix using a knife to cut it together. Form into a soft dough.  Knead for approximately 8-10 minutes.  Lightly oil a large clean bowl, place into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 1/1/2 hours to proof and doubled in size.  Line a tray with baking paper.  Punch down dough, knead until smooth. Divide into 6 equal portions, shape into balls and place into a tin leaving a gap between them. Set aside for 30minutes
Flour paste:
2 heaped tbls. plain flour
2-3 tbls. water
Mix together to make a thick paste, adjusting if needed, place into a piping bag, or a snap lock bag and snip a small hole in a corner, pipe a cross over the buns.
Preheat oven to 190c,  Place buns in the oven for 20-25mins. until golden brown.
1/4 cup water
2 tbls. caster sugar
Melt sugar, and simmer for a few minutes, brush warm buns with glaze.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Family Recipe

I'm still coughing and have a foggy head but, cold or no cold, I had to get to the shops this morning to buy food and chocolate eggs for the Easter weekend.   I'm not fond of chocolates but everyone else in the family is,  I forgot my list, but that is nothing unusual for me so I can't blame the cold for that one.    I thought I had remembered everything, but it seems I have forgotten eggs, butter and tea bags,  but there is no way I am going back there today.  I will just have to make do till next week or ring the son who does everything and ask him if he will be going to the shops.
Yesterday I did manage to cook the tomato relish.    This is an old family recipe, dated 1865 one my mum made every summer.   It's a simple recipe but still very tasty, especially with cold lamb or corned beef.
Tomato Relish:
 2.7 k.   Tomatoes
4 Onions
900gm.  Sugar      
3 tbl.  Dry Mustard powder
1 tbl. Curry powder
190 ml. Malt Vinegar (Brown)
2-3 tbl. Cornflour
2 tbl. cooking salt
Chop tomatoes and onions, place in separate bowls and sprinkle with cooking salt, cover and stand overnight. In the morning drain the liquid from the tomatoes and onions. Place together in a large pan, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Mix the mustard and curry powder with a little of the vinegar to form a paste, add the rest of the vinegar to the pot, stir in the mustard mix. Stir until the mix comes to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 1 1/2 hours till reduced.  If needed mix the cornflour with a little water and thicken. Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.  When cold label and date the jars. Store in a cool dark place.    Upon opening, the jar should be kept in the fridge.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Preserving lemons

I had a terrible night, I was up and down out of bed most of the night because I was coughing so much.    I'm hoping last night was the worst of this cold.   While awake early, and I mean 4am which is unbelievable for me, but being up was better than lying in bed wide awake.   I  chopped up onions and tomatoes to make a relish, once this was done I made a cup of tea, grabbed a quilting magazine that had recently come in the mail and sat on the lounge to read and watch the sun come up.   I have to admit by ten o'clock I was tired and went back to bed for a couple of hours.
For the past two years I've been cooking  Morrocan food, I was given a Tagine and a recipe book, and after cooking a few recipes from this book I became pretty hooked on the flavours.   I have found another book with a larger choice of recipes, but some of the ingredients are hard to find around here.    This year I decided to plant chillies in the garden so I would be able to make my own Harrisa,  I  also have plenty of lemons so I have been able preserve a few jars.     This is easier than I thought it was, I really don't know why I hadn't done it before.  Don't you love the jars, I found these at the Reject shop.
Preserved Lemons:
8 medium sized lemons (organic if you can get them) or at least unwaxed.
450g rock salt
3 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. caraway seeds
Enough fresh lemon juice to cover the lemons
Halve lemons length ways, then cut each half in half but not all the way through
Mix the salt and spices in a bowl, pack the mix in between the cut lemons
Pack the lemons into sterilised jars, pour enough juice over the lemons to cover,
Seal the jars. Label and date.
Store in a dark, cool place for at least three weeks.
Refrigerate after opening, To use remove and discard lemon pulp, squeeze juice
from rind, rinse well and then slice to use.
Preserved lemons

Surprise.... Pumpkins

On Sunday I woke up with a sore throat, not a good start to the day,  I was meeting my family at an Asian restaurant to celebrate my Dad's 87th birthday, hoping I would get through the day I swallowed a couple of Panadol and set off.   We had a lovely day, the food was buffet style with a Sushi bar, Yum char, and lots of Chinese dishes to choose from.   The dessert bar was the best, or so the younger generation said, the chocolate fountain was popular as were the little cakes, slices and ice-creams.
Monday morning found me not wanting to open my eyes, I was so blocked up and feeling terrible.  How can one body produce so much sticky, disgusting muck?  I was supposed to have my flu shot on Wednesday, I have cancelled that until I'm well enough again.
I spent the morning outside in the sunshine, looked over the garden, and decided to pick some lemons, I'll need these for all the cups of lemon and honey tea I am going to drink.   Guess what I found hiding under and around the lemon tree?  Pumpkins, five smallish pumpkins that I was unaware were there, I knew I had a couple of pumpkins but not these five. I have placed them in the sun, hopefully they will ripen before it gets too cold.  I have plans for a couple of  these now I have found them, Pumpkin chutney, but not until I am well again. The rest of them will probably become soup.
I've been sitting stitching flowers and butterflies again, it is taking some time to get through this quilt, so much work on it still do.  Tyler has been inside with me for most of the afternoon, as soon as the sun disappeared and I came inside he wanted to be come in and join me, company for each other.
Block six "Butterfly Garden" by Leanne Beasley


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A day to remember

On Monday I boarded a bus with about forty Vietnam Veterans their wives and friends to drive to Seymour. The town is about an hour and a half away from our town and we were travelling there to view an amazing tribute to the men and women who were sent to Vietnam, this wonderful exhibit has been named the Rememberance Walk.   It consists of a long wall of panels, front and back of each panel contains the many names of these men and women recorded in alphabetical order.   Behind each panel of  names is a large artwork, a scene taken from everyday life in Vietnam during the war.   The artwork is barely visible during the day, allowing the names of these men and women to take centre stage. It is a totally different experience when seen at night, each of the panels, which are back lit come to life and then it becomes something amazing.  This is another wonderful tribute to the Veterans of this war, scorned when they returned and so long neglected by our Government
Part of the tribute wall taken at night.
Life in Vietnam no picnic
This morning I joined a new quilting group, I had a lovely morning meeting some new women and catching up with friends that were once a part of our old group. I am looking forward to the trips and classes these girls have planned.   I have washed, pressed and folded the fabrics for Darren's quilt, tomorrow I will start to cut all the pieces and maybe a make a start on it this weekend.  In the meantime I am still stitching the blocks for Butterfly garden.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cool enough for the slow cooker?

Following a couple of very hot Autumn days, it seems the days are now cooling down.    I was thinking it is probably cool enough for the slow cooker to come out from it's summer hiding place.   Why is it when summer comes to an end we crave soup and casseroles?     With some chicken thighs in the freezer and still  lots of tomatoes from the garden I decided on and Italian style dinner.    I  just used the leftover vegetables, carrot, celery, zucchini, chopped tomatoes, half a glass of wine, some chicken stock, garlic, basil and oregano.   I then cooked a handful of pasta to have on the side and it was a yummy meal, with enough leftovers to put into the freezer.
I didn't mention in my last post while I was in Sydney I had the opportunity to attend the Stitches and Craft show.    While there I met a few  women from quilt shops in Melbourne, it was nice to see familiar faces and I was able to chat with them for a short time.   I also found a book that I have been wanting to buy " Japanese Taupe Colour Theory" by Yoko Saito.    The price of this book in the local shops was too expensive for me to consider buying it,  but I was very pleased to be able to purchase it at a much lower price while there.   I have looked through it with much envy, I have also viewed a You tube demonstration by Yoko Saito and am astounded by how quickly she can hand piece.   I have a small collection of  beautiful muted Japanese
fabrics, and I'm looking out for more, but this is something I will be putting away until I have finished what I am currently doing.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Here I am!

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been several times that I have sat in front of the computer ready to write another blog, to get you up to scratch with what has been happening,  but nothing has come to me, I have sat, walked away, sat and then walked away again, what to write, I just didn't know what to say.  Well,
 I am going to start with, "here I am", back from just over a month away, and as usual so much has happened and the time has flown by so quickly.   Darren had his surgery, he recovered well, although the wound took longer to heal this time round, he is feeling fine.  He is currently on two forms of chemotherapy, Procarbizine and Temozolmide which he is is taking every day for two weeks with one week off, in other words he is having a three week turn around.   He has returned to work today, something he needs to do and though he still cannot drive this is no problem because he usually uses public transport to get to work anyway.    It is just a case of take it as it comes from now on.    I have found that I have been more emotional this time around, I was thinking of speaking to a counsellor but I have to wait for an appointment and I'm not sure whether to bother now.
There has been a serious drama withing my quilting group, so much so that a large group of women have left the group and will be forming another quilt group.  This has upset me a lot and I am currently torn, but I have decided to join the newly formed group.  I still have some friends in the original group but the reason for the split is still within the old group and I do not want to be part of this.   I think this has added to my emotional state, I need the support of my friends, but I also need a calm environment.        
 Over the past couple of weeks I have been collecting fabrics to make "Mist" the pattern by Pat Wys that I purchased a few months ago.    I have enough fabric to make a start on cutting this,  but have been busy finding other things to do.       Yesterday I made a start on cleaning up what remains of my summer vegetable garden, picking the green tomatoes and what was left of the cucumbers, I have a few pumpkins on the vine that I have decided to leave and hope they will be ready before it gets too cold.    Today I made green tomato and vegetable pickles and bread and butter cucumber pickle.  In the meantime I have been embroidering block six of Butterfly Garden by Leanne Beasley, there is so much applique and embroidery in these blocks they are taking forever to finish.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Away for awhile

The blog I wrote last week on how tough it can be to raise children seems so profound this week.   Many of  you are aware through my blog, that my eldest son has cancer.     This time last year Darren  had surgery to remove a grade four Glioblastoma tumor from his brain, this is an aggressive tumor so, following the removal of this tumor he then endured six weeks of radiation therapy followed by chemotherapy.     While receiving chemotherapy all year,  there were also MRI scans every three months,  all of which were clear until this last one, which has shown  the tumor has re grown to almost the original size.    He will be having another surgery Monday of next week,   I  have decided to take some leave from my blog, I will be away, and I'm not sure how long.    I hope you will join me again when I am able to return.      Being a parent can be so hard, but I wouldn't have it any other way, as I have said,   I have five amazing children, as a whole we are an amazing family who will stick together through whatever life has to throw at us.   We will all be together to help him during this fight, one that my amazing, talented, caring and loving son, husband and father of two small boys now has to endure.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The toughest job

I think the toughest job on this earth is raising children, anyone can be a parent but to raise healthy, caring,  respectful and loving children you have to put in the hard yards.  I have five adult children who I raised almost single handed, it has been hard work.  On many occasions I have doubted the decisions I have made, as a matter of  fact if I could go back in time, there are certainly a few that I would change, but overall I am sure I have raised wonderful adults.  Being a mother is hard work physically and emotionally and I wish there was a way for young girls to know this before they decided they wanted to become a mum.    While I have watched each one of my kids have difficult times in their lives, on the most part I have stood back to let them work through their problem,  while also telling each of them I am here if you need me.  I have been the shoulder to cry on many times, the ear to listen to their problems and the arms to hug each of them when needed.     On the other hand,  I have received flowers and notes of gratitude and thanks from each of them after these occasions.  When unwell recently my youngest made some chicken soup for me with the comment that I always make soup for her when she is sick.     I received a postcard in the mail this week which had me in tears, my eldest daughter has had a traumatic time over the past two years. Her relationship with Deacon's father broke down and they parted ways, it has been hard for her, working through all this while working full time outside the house and raising Deacon.  We always want the best for our children and it has made me sad to see her go through this, I have supported her when I can, but have not interfered with any decisions she has made.  This is why this little postcard has made me cry.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Quilts for guys

I am always on the look out for patterns of quilts that I can make for the guys in my family.    A couple of months ago I came across this book on Martingale and realised it was perfect for what I wanted.    I ordered the book,  but,  the wait for this to arrive seemed endless, everything from overseas seems to take forever, but, of course it adds to the excitement when it does finally arrive.    I am really pleased with this book, out of the twelve quilts in the book it gives me at least five patterns that I can use for the guys in my life.     The name of the book "Knockout Neutrals" by Pat Wys.    I have seen the quilt on the cover, "Road Trip" made up, and this looks amazing,  the one I have fallen in love is called Mist, this quilt consists of mainly blacks, greys and white neutrals and I love it.     I'm sure my guys will as well, they are Collingwood AFL football supporters and this quilt and another named "Day and Night" will suit all of them.
I have just been  to my local quilt shop to spend the voucher I received  from the challenge before Christmas, they have cotton batting on sale, which is great because I have only spent fifteen dollars over what the voucher was worth.    Happy days.....I love it when I can save some money.     I will be collecting black and white fabrics this year and hope to make a start  on this later in the year.   How much quilting have I done over the last week, well, not much at all.      The motivation bug has left the building, I wish it would come back, I am blaming this very hot summer we are having, that is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Mmm, Seafood Marinara pasta

Today while out shopping with the son who does everything,  we both decided to have seafood for dinner tonight.    He has made garlic calamari and prawns on rice for his family and I decided on seafood marinara mix with a tomatoe sauce on wholemeal pasta.    Mmmm, this is so yummy, although I could have halved the amount of garlic in this recipe I  really enjoyed  it.       The marinara mix has a bit of everything, prawns, mussels, calamari, white fish and salmon,   I made enough for two meals, lets hope I can leave it for tomorrow.
I've done very little quilting or embroidery since my last post, it has been far too hot here. Saturday and Sunday were horror days, wild hot North winds, I'm always nervous on these days because, of course, this usually means bush fires.     Our emergency crews, Country Fire Authority and State Emergency Services deserve medals for what they were faced with over the weekend.     The conditions were as bad as those on Black Saturday, although thanks to their work no lives have been lost this time.

Marina Sauce for two:
200-250 gms mixed seafood
1/2 brown onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic,
Can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of dry white wine  ( if you don't have wine use fish or chicken stock)
1 cup of stock (If using chicken stock add 1tbl fish sauce)
1 tbl lemon rind finely grated, plus 1 tbl of juice
1tbl parsley
1tbl basil  (optional)
1tbl tomato paste
Lightly fry onion and garlic, add white wine and cook till evaporating.(if you are using wine) Then add tomatoes,  stock, fish sauce, lemon rind, juice,  parsley,  basil and tomato paste.   Simmer for 5 minutes till it thickens a little,  then add the seafood being careful not to overcook,  simmer for a few minutes.    Ladle over pasta, in my case wholemeal pasta, top with parsley.  Yummy

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Wrapping some gifts

I am well and truly over this summer, the heat seems never ending, another really hot weekend coming up with forty plus forcaste again.     The son who does everything believes it is because they do not have air-conditioning in this new house, something they will not be able to install until later this year, needless to say     there are some grumpy people at their house this summer.      I have found a wonderful cafe in the new shopping centre that does amazing breakfasts, I asked my eldest daughter to meet me there for breakfast this morning after she dropped Deacon at Kindergarten.   I ordered poached egg and mushrooms with sour dough toast and coffee, it was yummy and was a great way to start the day.    My daughter then left to collect Deacon from Kinder, because it is his first week he is only there for a couple of hours at a time,  he has been so excited to start and has told my daughter he has made a new friend.        I have come home to wrap some gifts for my quilt group,  every year we have a fabric club for birthdays, either a fat quarter or a twenty five centimetre piece of fabric, usually a colour of their choosing.   I decided to buy the fabric for everyone on my list, wrap them and have them ready when I need to take one.  Seems I am so organised, at least with this anyway.  I am going to sit and watch Miss Marple and do some sewing in the cool of the air-conditioner, heaven knows what my power bill is going to be when it comes in..

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Back to the needle and thread

 My grandchildren will be back at school next week, I am wondering where oh where have those six weeks gone, it seems to me  they have gone far too quickly.     On Tuesday I did a bit of a panic, I have not touched any sewing since before Christmas and I would need to have something to do at my quilt group, which started back on Wednesday,  a quick rummage through the cupboard because, of course when I had visitors stay I did the usual quick clean up and just threw everything  into the cupboard.     With  everything sorted, which took some time because I had to tidy up as I went.    I  was eventually able to  settle with a cup of my current favourite tea, Liptons Orange Jaipur on my lounge and it was back to the needle and thread.     I have just started the stitchery on block five of "Butterfly Garden" by Leanne Beasley.     I know you may be thinking, is she ever going to finish this,   well,  yes I am, at least the top because I have ordered Gail Pans beautiful Christmas quilt as a block of the month and the first month will be arriving in February, if you want to view this quilt you can find Gail and her quilt here on Face book.   Hope you pop over to take a look, another one of our amazing Aussie designers and quilters.  Well enough time spent playing on the computer, back to the stitching.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Dried roses

I'm having a hard time getting my head around the fact that we are already in the middle of January.       These last few weeks have been pretty tough, just after Christmas I became very unwell, which meant a week of being confined to the house, it wasn't difficult while I was sick but  just as I was recovering from this and wanting to get out and about we were hit with a heatwave.       Five days of extreme temperatures, and boy was it hot   41c for three days and two around 44c.      I spent all day inside with the air-conditioner running full blast.  Trying to sleep during the night was almost impossible, there wasn't much sleep happening in our part of the world.          Most of the bush fires that were started by lightening and those deliberately lit have been extinguished and the fires that are still burning around the state are now under control.      It seems so strange that people on the other side of the world have been having their share of difficulties with a Polar Vortex,  while we were cooking here,  they were freezing over there.      The cool change went through over-night and I was able to survey the damage to the garden today.    

  My roses look like they have cooked on the bush, they felt like dried paper roses when I touched them, although they look beautiful even in this damaged state.