Saturday, July 31, 2010

The rose garden

Today my mum and I started pruning all the white Iceberg roses out the front and I'll finish that off tomorrow. The roses are...odd. One of those things that should be beautiful, and yet, they aren't. I like roses, in fact, I love them. But if I were going to plant roses, I would not buy twenty-four bush Icebergs and plant them out in a perfect grid in front of the house with black weed mat, bark mulch and absolutely nothing else. It's funereal.

I have already taken steps to add soul to the front garden. I planted bluebells and jonquils at the corners and they are just poking their noses out now. I put a few cyclamen and seaside daisies just under our bedroom window. I 'borrowed' several little nasturtiums out of the nature strip in front of a house down the road, and planted them in a garden bed by the path in the hope they'll spill over the edge. I've added a blue-berry plant in that eastern bed as well. I don't know that Adelaide is really suitable for blueberries, even if we do live in the cooler hills, but it was a pretty plant with vivid orange and red leaves.

A bit further back I planted a banana passionfruit to cover the fence. I'm not certain it's in a perfect spot, it might be a little too shaded, especially now in the cooler months, but if it grows it will be lovely and we can pick and eat the fruit straight off the vine.

Oh, I have such plans for the garden! A lavender hedge along the front fence, seaside daisies tumbling over the edges of the paths, a yellow climbing rose up the corner of the house peeking voyeuristically into our bedroom window. Figs, apricots, mulberries, blood plums... an Eden, in fact.

The war on bland.

I had a grand plan tonight: whip up to the pharmacy, come back and catch up on blogging over left-over stroganoff (not the same stroganoff as last week). Then I was reminded by SP, that her presence means there will no longer be any 'whipping' anywhere, not anymore. As I attempted to load her into my beloved Ergo, she threw up everywhere except for on herself. The next twenty minutes were spent changing my jumper, mopping the mess off the floor etc. Then, and only then, could we wander up to the shops as planned and then home again, reheat the food, baby into bed and start writing. I was reminded, however, of my planned post topic as I tossed the sling into the washing machine (spot cleaning was not really possible this time, good thing SP is super-cute, evidence below!)

Before we bought this house, the previous owners had painted the laundry, toilet, and 'lobby' floor a mid-grey, presumably to tart the place up for sale. Pity they didn't think to seal the floor in any way before they painted it. Every time the floor got damp (remembering this is a laundry, with a tub, which doubles as a bath for SP, a washing machine, and a dryer), the paint would bubble up. Every time anyone walked over the floor in bare feet, pieces of grey paint would peel off and get walked through the house. The floor rapidly looked like it was suffering from some sort of pox, with rust-red concrete showing through underneath.

I had jack of it.

In a fit of enthusiasm, I armed myself first with a homemade scraper cut from a plastic takeaway container, and then with a real blade scraper, and then I attacked the floor with a vengeance. The grey paint - that expanse of bland - came away relatively easily, sometimes I was able to peel it off in great swathes; terribly satisfying. It reminded me of times in a childhood classroom, smearing my hands with sticky clear glue, waiting for it to dry, and then pulling it away like skin.
Sometimes I've felt this house is featureless and cold. It's all the white, and the grey. It's a house of air; floating and without substance; not grounded. I love the rust-red stain I've found under the grey paint. It's like I'm finding the history of this little house. Around the edges of the wall, and around the door frames, some of the red paint peeled away with the grey because it's thicker where people never walk. At the step, in front of the toilet and door, and in the middle, the floor is roughened and scuffed where thousands of feet have paused, where people have turned, where housewives past must have stood to put washing in their tubs, in their machines. Brilliant!

I had a great time taking away the grey. I even found myself doing it at one in the morning; strange how that energy always comes late at night. Most of the paint is gone now, apart from a few hard-to-shift patches and all around the edges over the rough concrete, that's going to take a lot more time and patience to remove.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Actually finished something!

Wow, a rare occurance these days, but I have finished a whole entire quilt, albiet a small one! I tried a new method of piecing together the squares following a method I read about on Sew Mama Sew and, for once, my squares lined up! Amazed, and very happy :) Then I backed it with calico, quilted it very randomly and bound it with calico too and then gave it a wash to see what would happen and I have to say, I am very happy with how it's turned out.
I was a bad blogger and didn't take progress photos, but once it's all dry then I'll take a final pic and pop it up in here, and then probably on Etsy to see if someone would like to buy it :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beef Strogonoff: Katie Style

We ate at SIL's last night, she made Beef Strogonoff in her slow cooker and it was delicious. I felt inspired to attempt to replicate it this evening. I went to the supermarket on the way home, SP bundled into her sling on my front. I bought beef specifically for cassaroles, and sour cream, and detoured past the magazines and cookbooks and might have accidently bought the Australian Women's Weekly Macaroon and Biscuit Cookbook (click), attracted like a magpie to the pastel coloured macaroons on the cover. Also bought organic rice cereal for SP, only a month to go until we can try solids out! Say it ain't so!

When I got home I looked up the recipe for Beef Strogonoff on Masterchef (am completely hooked, Adam to win!), wrote it down and then went and compared the ingredient list to what I actually had available.

On the left in blue are the ingredients, on the right in black is thought process.

2 tbs sweet paprika (don't have any, doesn't matter, must visit Indian Grocer to get some)
100g flour (have it)
500g piece beef eye fillet (from the tail end), sliced into strips (erm... or just plain old cassarole beef)
¼ cup olive oil (don't have any, will use sunflower)
40g butter, plus extra to serve (have it)
200g Swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced (don't have any, nor do I like mushrooms, use capsicum, much the same, right?)
3 eschalots, finely diced (or onions maybe)
2 tbs tomato paste (oh. No tomato paste. Can of tomatoes blitzed with stick-mixer will have to do)
½ cup brandy (is there brandy in strog? Who knew! Replace with cheap white wine)
1 cup beef stock (have it! Hallejujah! But it's frozen, attempt to hack off half with knife. Big fail, too hard. Put into a pot with boiling water to defrost)
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce (have it!)
1 cup crème fraiche (I thought strog was made with sour cream, guess not!)
2 tbs extra virgin oil, to serve (as ^^)
baby parsley, to garnish (have, but not trekking out into the garden in the cold and drizzling rain to get it)

Then the beef stewed rather than seared, and stuck to the bottom of the pan, and I spilt water all over most of the bench, and the onions seemed exceptionally oniony, and SP didn't want to be left to watch Masterchef on her own, so, basically, nothing like stroganoff at all but quite nice overall. And I ate it with baby peas and rye toast.

For the real recipe click here. I intend to try it sometime!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


That's what I am, hopeless at this blogging thing!

What's news? Well, the Small Person (SP) arrived on the 24th of February and one of the first things I learnt was that when you have a baby, your world really does revolve around them. Intellectually, I knew this, but the reality was even more than I realised. SP is my delight, my small, rolling, squeaking, never-sleeping-for-over-30-minutes-during-the-day delight. She has become the centre of my universe, but such a nice squidgy centre she is. Almost 5 months already, I can hardly believe it (my ears, however, tell me she is most definitely here and getting louder by the day!)

D and I have also bought our first house. A little 1950's asbestos cottage painted entirely white inside. It's my blank canvas, as is the yard. There are no trees on our land, not one! Needless to say, my mind is filled with grand plans for the yard, a fruit-tree filled wonderland with apricots, mulberries, blood plums and figs, with an understory of roses, correas, daisies and thyme. What to do with the inside of the house is a bit more of a mystery.

Anyway, I will attempt this blogging thing again, and hope to write a little bit more frequently than every 5 months. Wish me luck!