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Archive for April, 2011

A Good Friday Rearrangement

This end of the room is TIDY! We spent a bit of time on Friday, liberated from Rata by Aunty Alex “Aunt-Ix”, rearranging my sewing room. I say “we”, but really Louis helped me for all of fifteen minutes, and sacrificing a trip to the great metropolis of Levin to see my friend Cat seemed unfair at best. Still, a deal’s a deal…

I’ve been itching to fill these cupboards since Louis spotted them on TradeMe, but they didn’t fit where I had originally intended them to go. So I had to pull out all the boxes of crafty stuff and fabric piled under and around my desk, move the desk itself (and those brick and plank shelves) and then slot the cupboard next to the shelves. The shelves are a couple of drawers I found in the shed, originally part of the kitchen and lined with fresh wallpaper. My desk now lives under the window, and the brick shelves under a wall mounted shelf that belongs to my mum.

I emptied four boxes and two bags! And I’m set to empty more as I found another cupboard with larger compartments for all the larger pieces of paper I have stockpiled for making books. I think it is going to live under the drawer shelves – I haven’t picked it up yet. You may be able to spot the red ties of a large rubbish bag: that is the home of nine cushions in need of covers. They are weighing on my mind. If I could just gather the momentum to cover them, that’s be one less bag of stuff in there (and nine more things to pick up off the living room floor each day – thanks bebe).

I’m sure you can imagine how much fun I had organising this cupboard. I managed to fit every last bit of cluttery loose stuff from my desk, windowsill and floor into the compartments. And it has a lock and key! The hardest part is closing off all that beauty behind doors that could do with some love. But I have some nice pale patches of wallpaper to remind me that the power of the sun is bleachy.

Sigh. What a cupboard. And I have most of the weekend free to pootle about in that room – yippee!

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These past two weeks, also known as “The School Holidays” I have been reacquainted with my bread maker. And the little recipe book that lives permanently jammed between the bread maker and the wall: Alison Holst’s Bread Book. Ask anyone in New Zealand who Alison Holst is and they’ll be able to tell you at least one correct fact, even if it’s just that her face is plastered on the bulk bin bags at New World and that all bulk food is, you know, her “choice”. When I was a kid, I saw her making banana ice blocks with some unnecessary coating of (possibly) honey, nuts, chocolate… chocolate hail?… something like that (banana ice blocks are best just left plain, accessorised only with an iceblock stick shoved up the watusi). I’ve never been particularly interested in her recipes, except for that one in her vegetarian cookbook with the tomato and feta tart made on flaky puff pastry like a pizza. That one is good. I tolerated her Bread Book but that was only for a lack of something better when I wanted to use the bread maker.

But these school holidays… well. Alison is my new friend. Apart from the Crot Boss Huns on Good Friday, I have also made Cinnamon Swirls and a combination of those two recipes using a third: a wholemeal loaf made in a spiral with brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts and raisins rolled into it. Like making the Swirls but without cutting them up before baking, just putting the ‘log’ in a pyrex dish and leaving it to rise before baking.

Really it started with the Swirls and a desire on a cold afternoon to make Pinwheel Scones without having to make scones – I thought about using a yeast dough instead and happened upon a recipe in the book requiring no adaptation to suit my ideas. In other words, I didn’t have to make anything up. All pressure of invention off, I followed the orders and everything was tickety-boo. Though I wouldn’t ‘sprinkle’ brown sugar in the bottom of the pan again. That’s just asking for trouble.

Next up, the Crot Boss Huns were delicious. Then a trip was planned to the Wairarapa to see our friend Dra, and although I wanted to bake something I didn’t want to have to MAKE it. Naturally my mind turned straight to the bread maker, my trusty friend, doer of the hard graft. Together we negotiated a recipe for Raisin & Nut Bread by pretending we were not instructed to put the raisins and walnuts into the dough itself, and that there is no such thing as milk powder. I rolled out the dough, sprinkled on the filling, went easy on the sugar, rolled it up into a sausage shape, fitted it into a greased glass dish and covered it with plastic wrap until it had doubled it in size. My flatmate made something vaguely similar last year when she and the bread maker were friends, but mine was better. Next time I plan to divide the rolled up sausage of dough between two smaller loaf tins.

So, for the last four days of the holidays, I wonder what other combinations of bread, spice and fruit/nuts I can come up with? I’ll be in the kitchen anyway, making chutney with my small catchment of fragrant quinces. I might as well make some afternoon tea while I’m at it…

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I said the other day that Alexa Johnston’s instructions in Ladies, A Plate didn’t work for me, the bit where you cut a cross into the bun and then pipe in the white cross. Well, Gesine of Confections of a Master Baker kind of does the same thing. But before the individual buns rise, like this:

And then when they rise, they look like this:

My goodness, I think I’ll have three recipes to churn out next year! I quite like the idea of sugar on the outside and cranberries inside. But why I am thinking about Crot Boss Huns on Easter Monday? I should be making Anzac Biscuits! Pah!

* Photo credit: Gesine Bullock-Prado

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Hurrah! A chance to redeem my first and failed effort and document my outfits for a whole month this time: Zoe of So, Zo… has announced she will be leading the force that is Me-Made through the month of June, which means I should turn off the computer and turn on the sewing machine. Me-Made tights, warm tops and maybe some mittens! And I should finish that hat I started last year too.

Oh! That hat matches the bag I put on lay-by at Minnie Cooper! Which matches my nice shoes from the same shop. Oh, the hazards of a good blue…

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Craft Fairs: a grumpy grrface

(Actually that’s not a grumpy face, but it hadn’t started at that stage. The fair I mean…)

Having sat (stood, actually) through five hours of Craft 2.0, I have come to a conclusion I suspect I knew beforehand, given my dread: I dislike craft fairs. Perhaps bullet points will be my friend here:

1. For my own craftiness, craft fairs do not work with my books. People like them, people look at them, some people comment on them, but nobody buys them. This craft fair, I employed the tactic of attracting attention with the pretty, larger spiral-bound books, but provided a mini, cheaper version for those that maybe couldn’t afford the bigger one, wanted a piece of the style but had no use for a journal, or who simply wanted a $5 gift. Still no luck. OK, some luck. I sold one spiral bound book and seven mini books to complete strangers. Other sales were to my mum (2), my mum’s friend (1) and Louis’ uncle (5 mini books). I have also – maybe – secured a swap with my favouritest children’s clothing maker in town, free range baby, who was also selling. But again, that was something organised by Louis, I am always too scared to approach people for swaps. Sum total: $62 of sales to strangers = not worth the hassle of the craft fair.

2. Craft fairs are horrible. Even when the crowds have eased, I find it virtually impossible to properly look at things I might want to buy. (And let’s not even think about the crowded nature of your typical Wellington craft fair). I did a trade with the lovely woman next to our stall before the fair – three mini books for three cards – but once things got going I didn’t even purchase a cupcake! I just couldn’t handle it!

3. If I see another felted/knitted/crocheted/oldsock monster at a craft fair, I will scream. I think the world has quite enough of those now, thank you, and frankly, I’m surprised people are still making them. Say what you like about dated nana craft, I think each generation of crafters sets its own stylistic mousetraps and LET’S MOVE ON NOW PEOPLE.

But you know what I do like? It’s bullet point four!

4. At The Beach Store this weekend, I have sold two books! Sold, as in, they are no longer on the shelf. Sold, to complete strangers! And my remaining stockpile of mini books was snaffled gleefully by Bridey and John, who added another small sum to my hot chocolate and a ‘fluffy’ store credit tally. Having these two events in one weekend has really cemented my indecision about the business of selling my stuff. When it comes down to it, I really do prefer that other people do it on my behalf. Even if it means sacrificing that nice wad of cash for the delights of store credit.

5. I have tried very hard to keep this post diplomatic. Basically, craft fairs do not suit me, my product, my personality, nor my shopping style. I find that level of interaction exhausting, and the combination of bullet points 1,2 and 3 left me feeling rather depressed afterwards. Until I’d had two cups of tea, paracetamol and some corn chips, that is.

6. But you know what? Imogen, with her paper crane earrings, did very well at the fair. And because Imogen had put up posters, her stall fee was waived, which meant I could test the waters of Craft 2.0 without any financial commitment. And Imogen has offered to sell my books for me at future events, so that I may keep my face muscles relaxed and my nerves calm. And my screams of rage at felted monsters to myself, I mean, on the internet. So this post is really about Imogen’s generosity and persistence in having me sell my stuff next to hers. Thank you, Imy.

Fin.

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Crot Boss Huns, ’11

This years’ batch of Crot Boss Huns was a raging success. I wish I could make them more than once a year, but I always feel silly having them on any day other than Good Friday. Which is silly in itself given I have absolutely no religious affiliations whatsoever and that it was only a few years back that my Aunty Neena instilled in me the ‘buns on Good Friday, chocolate on Sunday’ rule. And that I secretly ate all the spotty caramel eggs in the cupboard when Louis wasn’t looking a week ago.

So, where were we? Oh yes, Crot Boss Huns, seen here in Glorious Morning Sunshine.

This years’ HCB were a bastardised version of Alison and Simon Holst’s recipe, printed in the DomPost a week or two ago. Last year, I used the recipe in Ladies, A Plate and made them the diehard way, you know, without a breadmaker. This year I felt as though I had proven myself (bread making pun) and slacked off a bit, getting the breadmaker in on the act. I slacked off further by baking the buns the night before and just heating them for breakfast on Good Friday.

I say ‘bastardised’ because I maybe added more fruit peel than the recipe suggested, and followed the Ladies, A Plate method of piping on the crosses with a simple concoction of flour paste. This year I knew better than to follow her ridiculous instruction to ‘cut’ crosses into each bun and piping the paste into it. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I try to cut sticky bread dough, it sticks to the knife. This happened last year, and this year I found that piping on the cross without fiddling about first achieved the same result.

In terms of flavour, these were a pretty good match with a decent shop-bought bun, if you’re after that sort of thing, though as far as my memory can stretch, shop-boughts no longer have peel. They are dark and spicy and probably just as sweet. The texture was perfect, they rose, and they didn’t sink when I took them out of the oven. The glaze was also lifted from the Ladies recipe as Alison’s had golden syrup AND honey in it and I thought a bit of milk and sugar would be better. They were sticky. Even Rata liked them. We ate them for breakfast and then we ate them at the beach for afternoon tea. We tried to take them to Bertie’s house, but while we were knocking on her door, she was knocking on ours, and somehow we didn’t cross paths. Tricky little village.

But for a proper comparison of the two recipes, I think I’ll have to make both next year and put Louis on the case. Last Easter feels like a hundred years ago.

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New books

I wrote a long-winded draft the other night debating whether or not I wanted to keep making books. Now they’re finished, I think I’ll save that debate for another time. I’m really quite pleased with them.

I’d been having trouble getting motivated to make them, so on Sunday Louis and I sat at the kitchen table putting them together and I had them bound yesterday. It cost nearly five bucks to bind each one this time! I think I’m going to have to charge a bit more for them…

Here are some insides…

That’s some marvellous plasticky paper stock from the ‘D’ pile (for destroy) at my old work. Those lines are the contours of the land. It’s some part of the process in making maps. And very fun to play with and layer and whatnot.

And then… today… playing with all the scraps. Mini books!

Now I just need to trim them and do various little tasks associated with the grim business of craft fairs, and I will be ready for Craft 2.0 at the Dowse this Saturday.

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