Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Harmless Hobby No. 128: Community Cookbooks

I'm sure it won't surprise you to know that I am an avid collector of quirky sweet ol' community cookbooks. Sometimes I buy a wee stack of them and leaf through them like coffee table books. The old cakes and puddings are my favourite sections.

Every single recipe in the book below has apples in it because it was put together by the Moutere Hills Wives. If you didn't know, the Moutere used to be full of orchards. Now it's full of grapes. This book is missing the cover, but still has the foreword by Betsy. Isn't she FANTASTIC?! And I mean that in a good way.

Sometimes I get the giggles reading the old hippy dippy cookbooks too...

This Sunflower cookbook has the sweetest Cream of Comfrey Soup recipe. Can you read it? "Only lightly heat, otherwise you will kill this living soup that wants so much to nourish you."

Oh puh-lease! It's only soup!

But I digress, today is the day I pick a winner for Larry. I used this random number generator, because it uses atmospheric noise to generate true random numbers and its creators are so proud of it. The integer selected at random was no. 7. Let's see now, excluding the deleted comment, no. 7 works out to be....Speckled Egg. Right then! I'll email you for your contact details and send him off. Thank you to everyone who left a comment.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

222: A giveaway

You know, most bloggers and crafty types I know are pretty all-round clever. They knit a bit, sew a bit, bake a bit, whatever. But most crafties have their particular thang. Some make beautiful clothes, some take amazing photos, others are superlative knitters. My thang is robots. So what else could I make to celebrate the auspicious occasion of my 222nd post today?

Larry is the third in the Civil Servant Range of Robots, and joins Les and Nigel. Larry is actually short for Lazarus, because it's been months since I made a robot so you could be forgiven for thinking that whole field of endeavour had died.

"Negative" said Larry, "Robots are very much alive here at Miss Smith's house". Larry is fairly comfortable here, but actually he won't be staying. He's coming to live with one of you. Before you leave a comment to enter the draw, I'll show you his control panel.

Fairly basic, this one. No lights, just a big red dial and a scale and four small control buttons. More an analog robot than a digital, but none-the-less capable of performing at least 222 functions. He will be sent anywhere in the world to one of you. Blog friends, other friends, lurkers, curious onlookers, you are all warmly invited to enter the draw. I'll pick a winner next Wednesday (May the 27th).

And (gulp of self conciousness because I'm about to be a little emotional), thanks everyone, all you visitors, commenters, lurkers, I am so happy that you all stop by and look in this tiny corner of the world. Love, Miss Smith

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wrapped and ready to go.

The Pretend Party described last post is great outlet for one of my favourite creative activities- wrapping presents. I love the sight and promise of a stack of wrapped presents, and the quirkier the wrap, the more I like it. Mary Anna and I have been putting together a parcel for our friend, and so the wrapping gear has come out to play.

First, on the upper left is a page from the 1969 NZ woman's journal. The page wasn't big enough to be used as gift wrap in itself, so it's teamed with a plain $1 sheet. The green wrapping paper (upper right) is recycled from some other gift and the thin satin ribbon is from Spotlight. The card is made by Me. The green wrapping paper (lower right) is Mary Anna's, and the brown parcel on the lower left is everything ready to go. What could be better than brown-paper-packages-tied-up-with-string I hear you singing? Well, since you ask, brown paper packages tied up with hemp twine handcrafted by women in Bangladesh and sold at Trade Aid. By far the most culturally aware ball of string I've ever come across.
The most memorably wrapped gift I ever got was a pocket calculator when I was about 10. It had a little faux suede sleeve and I thought it was the most sophisticated accessory imaginable.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Pretend Birthday Party.

We spent the weekend staying very close to home. Sylvie was sick and Simon was away with the car, so we had to pull out all our best stay-at-home activities to amuse ourselves. A very favourite is The Pretend Birthday Party. We look through cookbooks to find a new cake recipe. I shepherd the wee ones towards one that looks easy. This is the one we used today. Beating for three minutes was very fun because each child had three 30-second turns with the electric beater.

To get in the party mood, I wrap up some of their toys in wrapping paper and tie a ribbon around them. I have a box of old wrapping paper and ribbon that is kept expressly for this purpose. The cake is iced party-style, with hundreds and thousands and a candle of course. If we have balloons we blow some up.

And then we have a party. The presents are torn open and the children say "what a lovely gift" in a silly voice. There's a "Happy pretend birthday" song, and the cake is pounced upon.

It's a great way to spend an afternoon, if you're at a loose end.

Postscript: I totally cracked myself up imagining doing this at work. I imagined putting a Very Important Meeting into everyone's Outlook Calender, then surprising them at the meeting with their own staplers, highlighters, and post-its wrapped in festive paper. Then a cake, and a happy pretend birthday song. Ha ha ha! Now if work really had been like that, perhaps I would have kept at it.

Postpostscript: I hope that wasn't sharing my imagination too excessively.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Must. Watch. Television.

I bumped into an old friend a few days ago, who said "You haven't been blogging much lately". "No" I said "I'm not making much because I have an overwhelming urge to watch telly and do nothing". It's true, I'm totally into the Mr Asia Story, I just freakin' love hearing kiwi accents in such a great tv show. No cultural cringe whatsoever. Oh, and I happily watch a lot of other stuff, too.
Anyway, getting back to the conversation with my friend. She then said that actually she didn't particularly care what I was making and that she just liked reading about whatever. How's that for liberating? I now feel I can do a random post about whatever, with no shame.
First, I've been going through my plant photos to make a new batch of cards. Sigh, I love plants. Here are some lichens on a rock.

Fern fronds with parallel sori on the frond's abaxial surface. See? I speak botanist fluently.

Green split peas, because I'm just about to make my sisters incredibly delicious and economical pea soup recipe...

(Cook 2 medium or 1 large onion in butter or oil until transparent, add some bacon and cook a little longer. Add 2 stalks of celery, chopped, 2 grated carrots, 3/4 c split peas, 1/2 c red lentils, and some water or stock if you have it. Simmer until it reaches the stage you like it. Puree if you like. Serve with extra crispy bacon crumbled on the top).
Do you want to join in? Go on, tell me something random. There's no shame in it.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mothers Day

Mothers and Fathers Days in our house are strictly no-spend. A long time ago, we decided that we needed to have at least one occasion where the convention is not to rush out and purchase things. Instead, we have always stuck to a home-made card and some flowers, selected and arranged by Harry and Sylvie. Hence...

Aren't they beautiful?
And just to show that we aren't being toooo sanctimonious, you might like to see what I bought for myself last week.

Yup, consumerism is alive and well, even if we have no presents on Mothers and Fathers Days. It's beautiful too, don't you think?

Yesterday I wore it out on brisk walk to the Centre of New Zealand. On the summit, there were four 20-something Irish tourists who wanted me to take their photo. "Sure" I said "Say centre-of-new-zealand!". They said nothing. Afterwards, one of them said "What did she say?" . His friend said, "I have no idea".

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Rethinking the brown aesthetic

Okay blogfriends, I know I said I was pretty happy with the pillowcases last post, but I've test-driven them and they just will not do. Too freakin' brown. Last thing at night they say "A very brown goodnight to you, Miss Smith" and in the morning "Good brown morning, would you like some brown toast with brown peanut butter for brown breakfast today? How do you like your coffee? Brown?". Yes, they scream brown 24/7.

Anyhoo, just to let you in on the twists and turns of the craft journey, I've been rethinking the whole aesthetic and I've come up with this: Calico, blue bias binding, and the last supper. Sigh. Much better.

Now that we've resolved the problem of the pillowcases, lets talk about the weekend. Tonight is my Great Night In, watching Project Runway whilst drinking several glasses of wine and organizing receipts and bank statements for my tax return. It's my very favourite night of the week. What's on your Friday night agenda?

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Care parcels

I'm working on items for two "care parcels" at the moment. That is, small items to give to two people for no other reason than I would like to give them something, and I think they would like them.
First, two pillowcases featuring the Last Supper fabric I bought ages ago. I love this print, it teeters on that border between cool and incredibly nerdy, which sounds like a great place for a holiday if you ask me.

Wanna see a close up of the print? Here you go.

I'm pretty happy with these pillowcases, but I am a little uneasy with the brown-ness of this project. The brown-beige aesthetic is one I've always found tricky. The back and foldover parts are made from an old gingham tablecloth and some even browner fabric. Cripes! Browner and browner.
Sigh...the blue-brown aesthetic is one I find a little easier. This bag (from Lotta Jansdotter, as per usual) is made in vintage bark-cloth type rayon, blue and brown plaid, and blue demin. Did I say demin? I meant denim.

Its got a red corduroy pocket inside, because there is always a little piece of red corduroy struggling to get into any project of mine. I love red cord.

Now I just need to come up with a few more bits and pieces for each care parcel. Some chocolate of course, but what else?

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Friday, May 1, 2009

New Month Resolutions, and Poole

Regular readers of this little corner of blogspace may remember I was going to do a series of small "new month resolutions" this year, instead of "New Year's resolutions". Would you be shocked to learn that new month resolutions are as floutable as New Year ones?

My first resolution was to stop eating leftovers off the children's plates. I've done okay with that. I don't do it unless I am really hungry and their leftovers really look delicious.

The second one was to drink a cup of water for every cup of coffee consumed, and I must confess that has been a dismal failure. D- for effort. Must try harder. Perhaps this lovely new coffee cup will help me.

I got it at a Garage Sale last weekend. It's made by Poole. Pooleware. Did I mention it's Poole? I am very proud of it.

Because I was doing so badly on my second resolution, I got discouraged and didn't make any new month resolutions in March and April. But now, May is here and I am getting back on that new month resolution horse.

May's resolution: Cook something every day. Apart from dinner I mean. My sister Miriam gave me that tip and it really does make our household more thrifty. If we already have biscuits in the tins then I don't buy any, and if we have french dressing already made in the fridge then I never need the Paul Newman's.
I love thrifty tips. Do you have any?
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