Friday 24 December 2021

'Twas The Night Before Christmas.....

'Twas the night before Christmas and:-

the presents are wrapped,
food is prepped as much as possible,
the housework is done (enough, anyway), and
the caravan is packed (most important).

It's been a funny old lead up to Christmas.  It just hasn't really felt Christmassy until the last week or so.  I suppose it is all the COVID hoo haa, as well as the weather not feeling summery until just recently.  On the whole, I've been pretty lazy.

We are just having a small family gathering here for Christmas lunch.  We are relieved that Mum is still allowed to attend from the nursing home, as we are at a private home and all fully vaxed.  Visiting Mum is very regulated, with a Rapid Antigen test now required before entering the building.
Despite not feeling overly festive, we put up or Christmas lights at the start of the month, along with just about every other house in our street.  
Other parts of town have a good display in patches, but I think our street, as a whole, has put on the best display.  Not that I'm biased or anything.  
We have had a couple of neighbourhood get togethers, which has been nice.  We have some relatively new residents, (we are no longer the new kids on the block), so it was good to get to know them better and for some to meet each other for the first time.
Our veges finally got a wriggle on.  The snow peas and strawberries have finished and now we are getting beautiful zucchinis. 

As always, we aim to have tomatoes by Christmas.  We put them in nice and early, but it just wasn't warm enough for them to ripen.  The yellow tomato plant has had green tomatoes sitting there for well over a month, not doing anything........until now.
We've done it.  Tomatoes by Christmas.  Three yellow.
And one tiny weeny little red one, about three quarters of an inch in diameter.
Our beans have really shot up, after we finally won the battle against the snails that kept chewing them off as soon as they emerged from the ground.
The rhubarb is growing madly.  This is after we have already harvested three big lots over the last couple of months.

When we lived out of town we used to have boysenberries, raspberries and red currants ready just in time for Christmas.  Earlier this year we bought a couple of boysenberry plants (or so we thought).  It turns out one is an early fruiting raspberry.  Also, a work colleague gave me a red currant plant she struck.  We thought we would have boysenberries and raspberries this year, but sadly the birds beat us to them.  Hopefully, next year we will have better luck and will net them.

It is amazing what some natural rain does for the garden.
Earlier in the month there was a Christmas market and Swap Meet in town.  We didn't have a stall, but I did spend some money.  A lady was destashing her knitting wool.  I could have brought lots home, but I think I would have been shot....and I have no room for it...... and I don't do a great deal of crochet or knitting.  This is what I did bring home.  It was all sooooo cheap.
The whole lot cost less than this Bendigo variegated wool would retail for. Not sure what I will do with it, but it all blends nicely and I can always add to it.
Learning to knit socks is high on my wish list, so these would be pretty.

The rest of the yarn is 4-ply.  There is about a kilo in each pile.  I would like to make a rug with it.  I just need to make a decision.
I could either make a rug using two strands of yarn.  The tan all the way through and then the others as a scrappy  blender.  It would be quick and easy, with a slightly tweedish effect.  There would be no wastage and fewer joins.(Ignore the crochet and edges.  I was just playing with various stitches.)
Alternatively, I could make a light weight granny square rug with the tan as the outer ring.  It would be slower and fiddlier, but would still be nice.  Anyway, I've pulled both apart at this stage and will mull over it for now.  It is too hot to be crocheting a rug at the moment.
So that's about our December wrapped up.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.

I will be back in the New Year, when I will have to think about what my plans will be for 2022.  Something to look forward to.

Monday 20 December 2021

My Big Finish for December

Here it is, well into December, and I have finally finished off the little donation quilt that I started in October. It was my one stitching goal for December.  I just had to trim back the batting and backing after doing the quilting and add the  binding. You can read about it herehere and  here.

I'm not happy with the finish I am achieving with a binding added by machine, but it will be more durable for a quilt that could be washed frequently.  I will donate it to Ronald McDonald House in Orange, when I get up there at some stage.

Despite not being a big task, this ticks the box as my One Monthly Goal for December, a WOOFA Challenge project, One Project a Month and working on a donation project. 

I managed to meet my One Monthly Goal for every month, other than March this year, which I'm pretty pleased about.

In the background, I wanted to get my Swoon Quilt cut out ready to work on next year.  As I previously said, what was holding me back was deciding on a background fabric.  
I ended up going with the fabric I had put aside with the Bonnie and Camille fat quarters.  There won't be a lot of contrast with some of the fabrics, but it will be a nice, light, fresh quilt.

My next issue was that there are quite a few directional fabrics in my little collection.  If I cut out the blocks using the directions on the pattern there would be quite a few funny looking sections.  Therefore, I decided that I would cut the larger points of the star as one piece, rather than several half square triangles.
After a bit of mucking around, reworking my cutting list and making sure everything was facing the right way, I started to make one block to test my notes.  Fortunately, they worked.  I still have to trim down the flying geese and half square triangles, before completing the piecing.  That will be a job for next year.  I will then go ahead and cut out all the blocks, using my modified cutting list.  

I think Joey approves.  He certainly had a good check over it.

I haven't made a start on cutting my Rainbow Scrap Challenge fabrics, but they will still be there for next year.  One project I wish to work on features fusible applique.  I do, at least, have the design traced onto the fusible web, ready to go.

I don't expect to get any more stitching completed this year, but am fairly pleased with my output for 2021.  
Finally, I received a cute Christmas card with a little bookmark from Maria.  I know it will get lots of use in this house. Thanks  Maria.

I will link up with Elm Street Quilts in the next few days.

Saturday 4 December 2021

My December Goals

As it is December, and now that busy time of the year, I am keeping my goals very simple, and therefore, hopefully achievable.

On the stitching front, I just have one goal, which will tick lots of boxes.
My goal is finish my little donation quilt.  All I need to do is to trim down the excess batting and backing and add the binding, all by machine.  It will only take a few hours, so easy peasy.

This will be my One Monthly Goal, a finish for One Project a Month, my WOOFA challenge finish (even though WOOFA has finished for the year) and working on a donation project.

There are a couple of other things in the background.  I'll just see how I go.

For the first time in I don't know how long, I do not have a single quilt in progress (other than the little quilt I will finish this month).  I have so many I want to make, so I want to  prep a couple into cut out kits, so I can just pick them up and sew, whenever I get the chance.
Firstly, this box of fabric has been sitting, waiting patiently, for several years.  I took part in a fat quarter birthday swap and requested Bonnie and Camille fabrics.  The plan is to make the Swoon Quilt, but it seems to get put on the back burner, year after year.  Next year I am going to make it.  The thing that has been holding me back is deciding on a background fabric, as I don't want to use white.  I have a couple of options and will have to finally make a decision.  Also, I am going to make it as a quilt as you go.  As there are points on the edge of the blocks, I will have to use the method that ends up with half inch wide sashings.  A new process for me to learn.
This little pile of scraps came from the op shop last week.  There are lots of yellow pieces already cut into squares.  I hope to use them next year, so will cut them up.

I have decided that I would like to join in with the Rainbow Scrap Challenge again next year.  I don't need or want any more rainbow quilts, but I reckon this will be a great way to work on some donation quilts.  It means I will hopefully have several quilts to finish off at the end of next years, but that is OK.  My plan, once again, is to get lots cut in advance.  I'd like these to be leader ender projects, as I really miss having one on the go.  
My non stitching goals are pretty much the same as usual.

1.    Read a Book
2.    Have a Friday Fun Day
3.    Try a new recipe and revisit an old one.
4.    Go away in the caravan.

I think these are all achievable.

Now I just need to get a wriggle on with some stitching.

I'll be linking up with Elm Street Quilts.  Pop over and see what the others plan to do.

Thursday 2 December 2021

Food Glorious Food

I'm going to jump a bit all over the place with the next few blog posts, as I have both October and November to catch up on.

As usual, I like to try a new recipe each month and have decided that it would be nice to revisit an older recipe as well.  Add to that, we have discovered camp oven cooking and have been doing a bit of experimenting.

Let's see what we got up to over the last couple of months.

I'll start off with the camp oven.

I'd already mentioned here at the start of October how we cooked rock cakes and roast lamb in the camp oven.
As we now have both a 10 inch and 12 inch camp oven, the following week we decided to cook a two course meal.
The chicken dish is one we often make in the oven.  Simply put a layer of chopped up veges in the base of a pan, cover with chopped up chicken or drumsticks and then pour over a combined one can of cream of mushroom soup, half a cup of mayo and one teaspoon of curry powder.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake for an hour.  Too simple.  It is called "Busy Day Chicken".
Dessert would be Peach Cobbler.  This is apparently a popular scout camp recipe.  Drain a big tin of peaches, reserving the juice.  Get a packet of el cheapo vanilla cake mix.  Add some peach juice until it makes a cake batter consistancy and pour over the top of the peaches.  Also, too simple.
The chicken did not look appetising, but then it never does.  It is however, very tasty.
Oops, we may have been a tad too hot on top of the cobbler, but it was still quite edible.
The verdict.........  The chicken was as yummy as always.  Served with rice or couscous, the juices are soaked up.  An easy one pot wonder.  Just don't worry about the cheese on top. It didn't brown, but seemed to blend into the sauce.
The peach cobbler was yummy as well, served with cream.  I suppose the cake topping would be lighter if made with the egg and milk as the packet recommends, but as an easy camping meal with minimal ingredients it still worked really well.

Both courses would be ideal to take camping.  Have the chicken and veges cut up before leaving home and it would be a very easy meal to prepare.

So what next?  Yes, we used the camp oven the following weekend as well.
Lamb shanks.  You have to cook lamb shanks in the camp oven.  Perfect for slow cooking.
Look at that.  After four hours the meat was fairly falling off the bones.
Definitely another success.

But there's more.....we were definitely on a roll.
Finally, we roasted a chook.
Mmmm  Mmmm.  Definitely another success.  The chook was so lovely and moist and home made sage and onion stuffing is always so much nicer than the stuffing in a bought chook.  Once again, the veges don't crisp up like in an oven, but they cook through beautifully.  It is more like they are steamed.  There was even nice juices for making the gravy.
Our next meal was in November.  Pork loin marinated in herbs.
Yummo!  It was delicious.  No crackling, but with all the  marinade, I didn't expect it.  We really think the meat cooks nicer in the camp oven that in the normal oven. Everything is so lovely and moist, whereas the meat can tend to dry out normally.

And that is the sum total of the camp oven cooking.  We only made the one meal in November.  We'll blame the wet weather for quite a bit of it, but I'm sure we will get out there again.

Next, let's look at what new recipes we tried.

In October, it was pretty much all the camp oven cooking.  There were a couple of new recipes in there.
I did make an breakfast from the Coles magazine.  Strawberry and Rhubarb Porridge with Yoghurt.  It then had a dollop of  peanut butter as well.  It looked and sounded good in the magazine, but my effort was rather a "Pinterest Fail".  We won't bother again.

I had a much better result from a recipe in another of their magazines. Salmon Wellingtons.
Nice and simple to prepare.  A fillet of salmon with a spinach and cream cheese filling wrapped in puff pastry.
Looking good.
And tasting great.  Definitely will be making this one again.
Our next meal to try, also out of the Coles magazine, was chicken with a tarragon and orange salsa.  This featured currants, which I had on hand after the rock cakes, capers and tarragon.  Our tarragon is just coming good after its winter hibernation, so that was the main draw card.  It called for segmented oranges.  You know, that is something that I've never done before.  So simple, once you see how.  It was a lovely, light meal and one we will make again when we have tarragon available in the garden.
The next recipe I tried was one that was shared on Threadbare Creations blog.  They are Soul Cakes and were traditionally made on All Souls Day.  Rose shares the history on her post.  Anyway, they looked yummy and reminded me a bit of Eccles Cakes (which my friend Lou refers to as "Fly Cemeteries").  Also, it was another way to use those currants I have to hand.  Mine are not as pretty as Rose's and we aren't really into fiddly things like adding the currant crosses.  Despite that, they are really tasty.  We will make them again.  However, we will be slack and rather than roll out the dough and use a biscuit cutter, we will just roll them into balls and squish with a fork, then omitting the currant decorations, but still sprinkling with a little sugar.

And that then brings me to revisiting an old recipe.....

The Rock Cakes we made in October in the camp oven is an old favourite I hadn't made for ages. 

For November, it followed on from the Soul Cakes.  You see, the Soul Cakes recipe called for three egg yolks, which left me with three egg whites.
Friands were the natural use.  My recipe called for six egg whites, so we just halved it, making six friands.  It was a good opportunity to use a couple of our strawberries as well.  Normally, I have made friands after making lemon butter, but I haven't made them for ages.  I had to buy some fresh almond meal, so now I think I will finally have to have a go at making a whole orange cake, something I have been wanting to try for years, but never seem to get around to.
This is our favourite place to sit of an afternoon.  So hard to have coffee and cake on the front verandah.  All the neighbours wave as they go past.  Sometimes it is four o'clock, but on the days I work it is often closer to six o'clock.  They must think it is all we do.  

On that note, I must be off, to enjoy coffee and cake on the front verandah.