Freeing up my hand with a postcard project

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On my summer holiday in Paekakariki, I bought a pad of pieces of cardboard and decided to make them into ‘Happy New Years’ postcards. I wanted to ‘free up my hand’ after a long spell not doing anything much visual. (They didn’t photograph very well because they are shiny with paint and glue and glitter, but you get the idea!)

Over the course of the week, I added a layer here, a layer there – working on them all simultaneously….using things I found around me, like wrapping paper, sweet wrappers, magazine cuttings as well as paints and glitter and washi tape.

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They are kind of homely and messy, but the process was so much fun and I only just got around to mailing them out to friends last week. They should all have them by now.

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It worked in freeing me up and I’ve been busy doing visual things in my journal since. It was a good New Year’s creative exercise….and also VIVA LA SNAIL MAIL!

Snail mail karma works, too, because I have received some great snail mail this week – a letter from a friend, a piece of mail art from an artist and handmade postcards from a friend on holiday. There is nothing nicer, in this digital age, than getting real mail. Send a friend a postcard!

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the easiest preserve I ever made

In early autumn, when our apple tree was fruiting, I read an article about making apple vinegar.

I had a go, and it was the easiest preserve I ever made!

You fill large jar/s (sterilised, as per preserving) with apple cores and peelings. Obviously it is easy to do this when apples are abundant and you are cooking with them a lot. That’s the second reason this is so cool – you essentially get something from waste.

Fill the jar/s with cold water so that all peelings are submerged. That’s all the ingredients! Apple bits and water.

Tie thin cotton or muslin around the top. (It needs to breathe. Don’t put a lid on or you’ll end up with a mouldy mess.)

Put away in the back of the cupboard for 3-4 months.

3-4 months later, remove cotton, skim layer of fermented scum off the top with a spoon, then carefully pour through some cotton or muslin into a bowl.

Bottle in sterilised glass containers.

Here’s what it looked like after three months, before bottling. The scummy stuff around the top is an expected and natural part of the fermentation process:

It tastes like a slightly milder version of the apple cider vinegar I buy from health shops. (Maybe it would go stronger if I’d left it longer – I left mine for three months.)

I love how the colour is so much the colour of apples!

Now that I’ve had a go at the easiest possible fermentation product, I’m keen to try some more. There was a post about fermented vegetables over at TEND yesterday. I like the look of that book he mentions.

I have a special cupboard for preserves and because my mother also does preserving it is getting pretty full. The preserves cupboard makes me come over all ‘little house on the prairie’ as it speaks to a time when preserving (and fermenting) weren’t quaint hobbies but a matter of survival over winter.

In my preserves cupboard I have: bottled apples, plum jam, crabapple jelly, feijoa chutney, plum sauce, marmalade and now….apple vinegar.

a quick autumn knit

I’ve been knitting a few of these lately – somewhere between a cowl and a thin scarf – they are simple and quick to knit. I knitted a dark grey one for myself, a lighter grey one for a friend’s birthday and this bright orange and pink one for another friend.

I wanted something that was almost like knitted necklace and so this is what I came up with.

Perfect for autumn, they keep the back of your neck warm and the front of you looking pretty, but not too hot.

Here’s how – you’ll need a fairly thick wool – cast on twelve stitches. (The thickness or thin-ness of the wool you choose will determine how thick your cowl turns out.) Knit in stocking stitch until you can loop it around your neck twice, as pictured, to whatever length is flattering to your personal dimensions (your height, boob size etc, should be taken into consideration!) It usually works out at most of one standard sized ball of wool.

Because the knitted strip is so thin, it curls in on itself creating the rounded, tube-like look.

When it is long enough, simply sew the two ends together, and there you have it!

I really enjoy knitting these, so will probably inflict them on most of my friends as gifts this year. Be warned, friends!

This is the perfect mindless project for when you want to decompress with a spot of knitting, but don’t want to have to concentrate too much.

The Comforter Cocktail

(this is the last post about the book launches, you might be relieved to read…)

The Comforter Cocktail

(We made this in a big punch bowl, but of course you can make it by the glass also.)

One part Blackcurrant Vodka

Four parts soda water

Enough rose-infused sugar syrup to make it pink and tasty. This is the stuff I used – it’s French, lovely and costs about $18 for a bottle at good bottle stores:

Edible flowers – borage, calendula petals, rose petals, cornflowers, violas etc

Ice

Mix the wet ingredients, pour over ice, sprinkle edible flowers on top. Drink and feel comforted!

This drink is pink, refreshing, tastes like summer and roses and good times.

beets and pieces

First some writing news – Fourth Floor Literary Journal is up and I have two poems in it! Yay! You can read them HERE.

Back HERE I mentioned my friend Helen wrote an essay about ‘Taking Care’ (killing) ‘Of Animals’. It’s also in 4th Floor. It is a funny, chilling read – you can read it HERE.

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I continue to be tired. It’s like when you’re on a Merry-Go-Round and you jump off and you have to run so you don’t fall over and then you feel a bit dizzy and woozy until you get your balance back. That’s me right now.

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Back HERE when I was cooking the beetroots, I mentioned that the liquid makes a great vegetable dye (the vinegar in it acts as the ‘fixer’.)

After we ate the beets, I had some beautiful hand-spun wool that a friend had given me, but it was in pastel colours. I prefer stronger colours so I dyed it with the beet juice. Here is how it turned out:

(I realise this would be more meaningful if I had remembered to take a ‘before’ shot, but I am a human, not Martha Stewart – lol. The top wool was blue and lemon and the bottom was pale apricot. You’ll just have to visualise it.)

What am I going to use the wool for? No idea. Back into the stash cupboard it goes for now.

 

snatched creativity

Mothers who are also creatives (writers/artists/musicians etc) are extremely resourceful in terms of snatching creative time from days that fill up (and sometimes overflow) with children and domestic stuff and work.

I feel like everything I make is done in intense short bursts, taking half an hour here, an hour there, ten minutes over here to quickly write/stitch/grow.

Like most creative mothers, I look back on how I spent my pre-children time and shake my head at the ‘waste’….ha ha. But to do that is silly and ‘mooching’ is an important part of being young.

It’s an interesting issue. On one hand, I get enormously frustrated at the lack of time I get to spend on creative work, I long for the space to deeply engage with the thinking and processing needed for quality creative work. I daydream about what I could create with more time.

On the other hand, my creative ‘muscle’ is in peak condition. I can whack out a poem draft in a stolen ten minutes, I can add another layer to a journal collage while I wait for pasta to boil, I draft writing in my head while taking the kids to the park – scrawling notes on the back of receipt.

Something about the urgency of snatching the time makes me more determined, more tenacious. I value my time more than I ever have before and I try not to waste it. I am good at saying ‘no’ to things I don’t really want to do (a skill which took YEARS of conscious work.)

I feel like I could write lots, lots more about the topic of mothers who are creatives (maybe I will when I get time – lol). I would love to hear from you about how you cope with the twin demands of children and the creative compulsion…? How do you cope? What methods have you employed to stay sane and keep in the flow?

keeping the prunings

Every time my lavender needs a prune, I tie up the prunings and hang them up in our porch to dry. Then, some months later when I have a spare hour, I pull the dried blooms off the stalks and add them to my lavender jar.

When I have enough lavender, I will make lavender sachets to tuck into drawers and inside pillow cases. I’d also like to try making bath bombs, sometime. My friend Melissa makes lovely lavender sachets with hand-printed linens. I think everything Melissa makes is beautiful.

I like being thrifty and so I get a kick out of turning prunings into something useful. It’s a process that (to me) is lovely at every stage – the lavender is beautiful on the bush while it’s growing, it’s attractive hanging to dry on the porch, it looks nice in a jar and it will be delicious in a sachet – the heady scent of the blooms living on long after the stems have turned to compost.