My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

After the Storm

And as suddenly as Wilma arrived, she has gone.  This morning is bright and clear and still.  The water is reduced from torrents to trickles.  I plugged in the freezer and she beeped cheerily at me and started up.  Phew.

I would have been really upset to lose a freezer full of food.  On top it has six homegrown roosters that we harvested the other day.  It has our rabbits, chicken stock, homegrown beef, wild pork, duck, homegrown's our frozen store cupboard that we could live out of for weeks. 

When we bought a big chest freezer we made the decision to spend a little extra and get a Vestfrost and we've never regretted it.  You can see how thick the insulation on it is, it makes it very economical to run.  It has a viewable thermostat and usually it runs at -18 degrees Celsius, this morning when I plugged it back in, it was sitting at -12.  Still absolutely solid frozen even after at least 15 hours with no power. 

I was contemplating a morning of squeezing, rearranging and giving away.  Now I'm breathing a sigh of relief and am grateful that I don't have to.  Instead, we will be working out a plan to clear behind our house.  With having our sewerage system installed there, using it as a storage area for miscellaneous junk and letting it get overgrown, we almost lost a valuable appliance and the food stored within.  It's time to get prepared for next time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cheese making with Wilma

So a very good friend of mine initiated me into the secret society of cheesemakers today.  And it really wasn't all that hard.  But you have to have patience.  The recipe* reads something like:  heat your milk to 37 degrees, add the culture, wait 30 mins, add rennet, wait an hour and a half, stirring three times, pack curds into moulds, leave that's the stage I went home!  Pip is draining the curds overnight and then putting it in a brine solution tomorrow.  Then magically, we will have feta!

It was the perfect day for making cheese - raining.  The tropical low that is coming down has not been downgraded, she is still officially Cyclone Wilma.  It was ominously still this morning when I went for a walk and the clouds were the most amazing crimson.

It started to rain about ten this morning and it's gradually got heavier and heavier until it was hosing when I got home with the kids in tow.  Only to find a torrent of water pouring under our house from a blocked drain behind, making a large puddle under the freezer that we have in the last open bay of our shed.  The electrical plug was under water and the freezer had shut off. 

I set to work and my boy and I cleared as much as we could,  then hubby arrived home and got stuck in too.  We managed to redirect the flow and clear the ditch but whether the freezer will be ok or not, well, we'll have to wait until the plug dries out. 

The photo above is taken hanging out a bedroom window.  You can see the water pouring off the overflowing water tank and the stream flowing along the ground is the full drain (which usually doesn't hold any water at all) that was previously mostly flowing under the house!

*I don't have a copy of the recipe so please don't take that as a full and complete set of instructions, you may just be a tad disappointed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Drill, hammer, bang...

Look what's been happening at our place! 

We are so excited to see it finally happening.  Back up more than a year ago and you would have found us clearing and flattening the shed site, using the topsoil to create a wonderful vege garden, and securing a contract with a shed building company to build us a shed and a verandah.

And now our plans are finally happening.  After a few back and forths with the council, a bankrupt shed building company and more than a year of waiting.

I'll admit to having a celebratory glass of wine tonight.

But we've just heard about the gnarly tropical low (downgraded from a cyclone) coming through tomorrow and over the weekend.  Here's hoping it doesn't pick up the corrugated iron sheets and fling them around!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A few rainy day pictures

It's raining here today.  Pouring in fact.  So I'm just sharing a few pictures I've taken over the last little while.  Can you see the cheeky bunny stealing chook food?  We had a bunch of half-wild ones born a while ago and one day they all got out.  We managed to recapture most of them but this wee one has continued to elude us.  But he's semi-friendly.  I think he's living in the chook enclosure because he always seems to be there when it's food time, but I know he can sneak out through the fence too. 

Did you ever read 'My cat likes to hid in boxes' when you were a kid?  Wild Puss crammed himself into this box for a wee cat nap today.  Can't say it looked very comfy!

And these two made me laugh so hard I just had to take a picture!  They are a couple of my chooks done with a recipe my MIL shared.  You rub salt and pepper and turmeric into the skin - I added dried mixed herbs too - and then stand the chook upright and cram a jar of beer/cider/wine up it's bum.  Roast for about 45 mins to an hour depending on the size of your chicken.

I think they look like a couple of old ladies at a show day.  They've taken their little fold up stools and they're sitting down for a wee rest and a gossip about who won the chutney and pickle section!

By the way - they tasted delicious!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quilting Goals in 2011

Last year I made quilts for lots of people; my MIL, my FIL, my son, my daughter, my nephew. And I didn’t mind that – the deadlines were a great incentive, I learned a lot and had fun doing it.  But this year is all about ME. I’m going to make whatever I like. If I end up giving it away to someone, well, that’s fine, but I’m not going to start a project with that end goal in sight.

I also want to sort out a few of my WIP’s. They are kinda hanging over my head a bit, so every week I’m going to do a little bit towards at least one. I’m not going to put any expectations on myself about finishing any, but a little bit here and there will all add up (I’m hoping!).

So this is my first ‘do what inspires you’ project. I had washed these batik squares together because of the colours. When I saw them all laid out for ironing, I just had to put them together. Then after a glass of wine one night, I glanced over at them and the tree flashed into my head.  But the tree was a bit big so I'm adding some extra squares.

A friend at our quilting guild made a fabulous wall hanging where the elements were all outlined in black. It gave it a real Hundertwasser look and I thought it a stunning effect. I’m outlining the tree in white as it was a bit tonally similar to the background. I will cut out leaves from the green linen napkin and maybe outline them in white too. I’m having fun with no pressure.

And as for my WIP, I have these three little bassinet quilts on the go for the maternity ward. Today I sat down and finally quilted the third one and chose bindings for all three.   Little steps and they'll get finished without me even noticing!

I'm particularly pleased with my free-motion quilting on this wee one.  Some wise person once said,"Practice makes perfect."  You know, I think they were right.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Surfeit of Green (and why I love my husband)

I love my husband because he drives home from work to help me start my car when it has a dead flat battery and I'm due to (wo)man the quilt exhibition. I love my husband because the battery was so past it, he couldn't jump start it so he put the wee ride-on lawnmower battery in instead and it worked. I love my husband because he then dropped the kids off at his mother's on his way back to work so I wouldn't be (too) late. (I also love him for other reasons too!)

I've just uploaded a stack of pics from the exhibition here.

When I got home I raided the garden for greenery. I have pumpkin thugs so I took a cue from Ali and tried steamed pumpkin shoots. The kids loved them dipped in soya sauce. I thought they were ok but I preferred my green beans, and my husband said, "Hmmmm."

So on to the actual garden, I thought it was time for an update. In the picture above, take note of the vege bed to the right. That's what greeted me on about half of my first vege garden when I came back from holiday. I'm proud to say that that little strip is all I have left to weed.

This large compost heap is what has become of the weeds, plus another little pile that I've chucked under a tree because it has kikuyu grass in it and I'm trying to keep that out of my garden. Kikuyu grass will just continue growing in a compost pile and grow all through it, grrrr.

Amaranth - how pretty. And those pink flower shoots are meant to get a whole heap bigger and become big weeping seed heads. What do you do with amaranth? It's a kind of a grain - I'll let you know how I get on.

These are a few of the beds I've weeded. For quick results I bought a few punnets of lettuce, spinach, silverbeet, and seed potatoes. The front ones are pak choi seedlings that were self-seeded, but in the middle of the path so I've transplanted them and they're not sulking at all. I've covered all the paths with cardboard because weeding them took just as long as weeding the beds!

This is the second vege garden. It was a rooster raising pen and they ate all the greenery, pooped everywhere and then took a permanent holiday in our freezer. I dug it up, planted it and oops, it seems to have 'got away on me'! See below for what it looked like when I first planted it!

Ha! How tame and deceiving those little plants can be! Still, we're eating kale, courgettes, beans, coriander and potatoes (and a few pumpkin shoots) out of it. We've get sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, onions and capsicums still growing. And sunflowers for show and chook treats.

Next job in the garden is to finish the reclamation from weeds, finish covering the paths with cardboard, start off some seeds and finish planting out my beds. But not tomorrow, it's meant to rain. Alot.

By that way - my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the massive floods that just seem to keep on coming in Australia. My family are all safe and well so far. Kia kaha.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hello, my name is Ms Lottie.

Remember me?

It's been a while.  

The bestest camping spot in the whole world.

There was facepaint in some body's stocking.

We've been back from our annual Christmas camping trip for over a week now, but I thought I'd make my return to the blogging world on the 15th, seeing as my last post was on the 15th of December.  A whole month off blogging - a record for me!

My little brother who I haven't seen in several years.  He managed to hook himself a big one.  Very tasty.

Lots of fun was had camping.  Especially by the little ones.  I think that it's more of a holiday for them, as the cooking, cleaning and washing always takes longer when you're doing it primitive style.  I escaped for a few days to myself near the end, and with the silence and stillness of an empty house, I finally felt like I was on holiday.  I don't do chaos very well.

Freshly sauteed scallops all ready for a creekside picnic.

But it was fantastic to catch up with my sister, her partner and my little bro.  I haven't seen them for several years - and I hadn't even met my sister's partner.  He does a great barbecued roast!

I promised a picture of the finished quilt for my Father-in-Law.  He loved it (or he said he did!).

Pudding tastes better eaten in the fresh air.

We've come back to find that the dishwasher is broken, the sheep had flystrike (all fixed now, but maggots are just nasty), and grass has taken over the world.  We had some local teenagers looking after the chooks, ducks, turkeys and rabbits and so they were all alive and well on our return.  It's so good to be back.

Our New Year's Eve bonfire.  Spectacular!

But truly, it is great to be back.  I'm busy rediscovering the vegetable garden under waist-high weeds, sewing up some pretty grocery bags and yesterday I helped to set up our quilting guild's annual exhibition - what a mammoth task!  I'm set to man the quilts on Monday morning, so I promise a few photos after that.

I hope you all had a happy and safe holiday and I'll be back with some sweeping New Year's resolutions soon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Swan Plant Seeds - for Laura

Just a quick piccy for Laura from Darroch Cottage.  These are Swan Plant seed pods and seeds when they are ready to harvest - I took this shot last year.  By the way, if anyone in Kiwi land wants a few seeds, send me an email with your address and I'll post you a few.  I can't guarantee their viability as I haven't sprouted any, but worth a try to get Monarch Butterflies into your garden.

And I've got a "I'm back" post half sorted for tomorrow.  See you then!!