Monday, 28 May 2012

Tinkering and Fine Tuning


Today I’m doing this post from my balcony where it’s a very hot 27c (80f) in the shade and the sun umbrellas are in full use today.
 The weather has been spectacular for several days now.  I love this weather!  I would like to take this love affair with it from a mere flirtation to a more permanent relationship.  I'd marry this weather if I could!    

 I’ve been spending lots of time out on the balcony enjoying the weather and crocheting, dreaming and tending to my plants. 

When I’ve been indoors I’ve been tinkering around and fine-tuning my blog.   I’ve added some “social”buttons and stuff like that and I also figured out a way to add my real signature.  It involved trying to remember how to use a photo editing program.  The only one I really learned was Paint Shop Pro which was about 12+ years ago.  It was just a phase I was in and then the software was out of date (I had Windows 98 SE back then) and I just forgot all about it.   I recently treated myself to Photoshop but was overwhelmed with it all.  But I wanted a signature on my blog.  And when I want something I’m quite persistent with it until I’ve got it.  So I played around a bit and uploaded it to the blog and then saw that I had a white background with it.  After a bit of Googling I realised that what I needed to do was make the background transparent.  Holy crap!  I know I used to know how to do that but hadn’t the foggiest idea how to do it the other night.  I fiddled and played with PS  and finally figured it all out.  Yay!   I tested it out and it worked.  I don’t know who to add to it my HTML code (like I had to do for other modifications/additions) so that it’s permanently inserted in my posts but at least I got it.  I have to insert it as a photo to each and every post but at least it’s there.   I’m a happy camper now.  I just need to get someone to read it , comment and maybe follow me. 
 
 I’ve also managed to get the sewing machine set up (and my orthopaedic cushion in place on my chair) and am ready to get started with sewing some squares together.  I don’t have any designated sewing room or craft room (one of my fantasies) in my house since it’s too small for anything like that.  I have to set up in the dining area of our living room and I’m not looking forward to also having to have the iron and ironing board out, though.  Nonetheless, I’m good to go.  When the weather turns and balcony life is interrupted I’ll turn my full attention to this project.
I haven’t done any hooky stuff in the past couple of days .  I was so obsessed with getting my blog all pimped up that I neglected that a bit.  It’ll be business as usual with my I hook tonight, edging closer and closer to finishing the sofa throw.
I’m going to leave you all here for now.  My poor plants are gasping for something to drink and so am I.

Bye for now!



Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Progress


I’ve been waiting for some packages to be delivered so have been stuck in the house the  past couple of days.  The weather has been absolutely splendid though and  I've been spending my afternoons on the balcony working on the sofa throw.


It's about 39 1/2"(1 meter) square now.  Slowly but surely....

There's also been some progress with the little garden on my balcony.

 
The beginnings of the first strawberries.


 

A beautiful and very fragrant gardenia.  I wish you could smell it!


The merest hint of a Chinese Lantern has emerged!  I'm so proud of this since I managed to save it from last summer and get it to spring to life again this year.  I've still got a small bowl of the lanterns from last year sitting on my window sill in the kitchen.  The colour of them has cheered me up throughout the cold, dark winter.

And it's not just outside that there's been progress.



I finally got stuck in there and pressed all fabric, cut out all of the squares and have them counted and labeled since I had more of some fabric than others. In my old patchworking days I used a cardboard template, chalk and scissors.  This time around I'm armed with a great, plastic template (which won't slowly become 5 3/4" when it started out as 6"), a rotary cutter and mat.  I was able to cut out multi layers at once which cut the cutting out time down to a fraction of what it used to be.  The cutting was a bit hard on my wrist though and I had to take it easy with it today.

I’ve been playing around with the patterns and have got what I think my layout is going to be.  The weather has been too distracting to take out the sewing machine and move on to the next phase.

I was also side-tracked by needing to get my summer clothes down from there storage spot on top of the wardrobes.  I had to get the big ladder out and go up and down it several times with large plastic tubs full of clothes.  But I paced myself and got it all done and the winter clothes are where the summer clothes used to be and I won’t be hot and sweaty in my clothes like I was yesterday when I went out a bit over dressed for the weather and felt like a walking sauna. L

Tonight I’m just taking it easy and watching tv (Next Great Artist on Sky Arts) and blogging.  I’ll probably get in a bit of hooking when I finish this. 

I’m hoping for another beautiful, warm and sunny day tomorrow but if it’s not I’ve got my patchwork project to work on since I’m still waiting for the packages….

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A Plan Comes Together, Slowly…….



Welcome to my living room sofa!  It’s a very comfy sofa, only a couple of years old and opens out to a very comfortable double bed.  But the soft furnishings are boring me now.  I like to change them in the summer and winter just to give a new feel to the place.  

 Since I am at home a lot due to health reasons I need every trick I can think of to keep from getting bored with these particular four walls and everything contained in them.  This is my winter look although as you can see from the window behind it’s no longer winter.  Nature has done her spring thing with the plants and trees but the weather doesn’t know what to do next.  It’s been cold, windy and rainy here a lot lately.  I’ve even had to turn the heat on at times and this is May.   The sun comes out suddenly and randomly (like now) and it’s playing hide and seek with us and then disappears just as quickly.  So I blame the weather for not being inspired to change to the summer look.  It’s also the fact that the summer look bored me last year and I made a note to change things for this year.  My preferred colours are gold, greens (forest green to a mint/pistachio-ish tones) and rust (terracotta to apricot-y tones.)  I like to throw a bit of white in there too in the summer.  But I also like turquoise-y colours  and grey tones which I have in the bedroom along with the bits of pink (which the OH dislikes  but was able to sneak in here and there).

I have been working on something recently or at least formulating a plan.  It’s bits and pieces are coming together slowly but surely. 
 
I bought this yarn last year on the Albert Cuypmarkt because I liked the colours and the feel of it and because it’s mostly cotton.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with it but I thought it would become a garment of some sort.  Now matter what ,it was cheap ad pretty…..  A few weeks ago I decided I needed to have new coasters so used the yarn for this:

I whipped them all up in one evening while watching tv.

At the same time I decided to make a new throw for the sofa which also double as a wrap for going on the balcony in chilly weather and something to feel snuggly with for naps on the sofa in the warm weather.  (No matter how hot it is I like to be covered when I sleep.)  I really wanted to work with the yarn again so decided to use it for the sofa throw.  Here it is in progress a week or so ago.


It’s twice the size now and I figure that I’m about half-way through it at this point.  I even had to order more of this yarn.  The shop I got it from no longer had it but I found this place online and gave them a try.  I ordered on Monday early afternoon and had it on Tuesday afternoon! 
I have to note here that it gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction to be able to complete the entire transaction on a Dutch language website without needed a translator.  Not only have I mastered the Albert Heijn site I’m increasing my repertoire!

Now it’s on to the pillows, arm covers, piano bench, etc.

I looked on my remnants shelf and pulled out all of the fabrics and looked at the assortment.  Then I suddenly got the idea!  Why not do some patchwork?!  It was something I used to do a lot of many years ago but gave it up when it was difficult to find fabrics where I was living.   I’ve got various placemats and table cloths, runners, etc. out of these fabrics already and some patchwork would pull them all together with all my favourite colours in use.




I wanted to round out the assortment more so had to buy more fabrics.  Since I have trouble getting out and about it’s difficult to get all the things that I need.  I rely a lot on shopping online but some things (like fabric) just have to be bought in person in order to really see it, feel it, smell it ( for cheap fabric print finish ) .  I did a spot of Googling and found a quilting shop in Amsterdam and even better was that it was relatively easy to get to with just a five minute walk to the tram and two minute walk  from the tram to the shop.   The fabrics were all so beautiful and I almost got side-tracked into considering two completely different colour schemes!

And now the plan is slowly coming together.  I haven’t been feeling the best lately so the progress has had it’s starts and stops but I keep working on it even if it’s just a couple of rounds of the throw per day.  My next step is to press the fabric in order to cut the squares out.  Hopefully I’ll get around to that this week.


What do you think ?


Saturday, 12 May 2012

My Fragrant Kitchen





About 6 weeks ago  I  bought some lavender to be grown outdoors on the balcony.  Actually I should say that I bought a LOT of lavender.  I put most of it in the planter that was designated for it and had a little bit leftover.  

Having just thrown out a hanging plant that didn't make it in my kitchen I had a free space.  I was curious what would happen to the lavender inside of the house.  Most attempts to keep other herbs in the house resulted in a bit of success followed by an infestation of bugs of the crawling and flying variety.  I know that lavender is supposed to repel many pests so I thought I'd put that theory to the test as well.  I put a small bunch of the lavender in a 7" pot and then into a hanging planter.  I watered it thoroughly and then hung it up and waited to see what would happen.  About four weeks into this I noticed that the plant was looking a bit leggy but thriving well.  I was letting it get rather dry before watering since lavender natively grows in areas that get dry.  Just as I was about to give it a trim I spotted something.  A bud!  In the past week or so the flowers have been appearing all over.  Beautiful, perfect little lavender coloured flowers!  And I haven't mentioned the fragrance yet !  Since about the third week I would walk into my kitchen in the morning to with the room full of fresh lavender fragrance. What a cheering smell when I'm still a bit stiff and groggy and trying to figure it all out while making my way to the coffee maker that I usually forget to do the night before and take advantage of it's timer feature.  No stale smells of last night's cooking either so that was a bonus.  From time to time I'll rub the leaves through my fingers for a nice fragrant blast.  Lavender is such an uplifting and happy smell. :-)  The photos below don't do it justice but here it is and I hope that you can see the flowers:





I can't seem to find the right light setting for my camera to get bright colours to show up indoors.


On Wednesday my kitchen was smelling fragrant for another reason.  On Tuesday afternoon weather related problems had me feeling a bit achy so I spent much f the day sitting, watching tv, crocheting and trying to keep occupied.  I was flicking channels after tiring of the Leveson Inquiry and endless economic doom and gloom that Sky news is fixated on and tuned into the Food Network  I wasn't paying much attention though other than that it was a Mexican food show but then I hear the word "flan".  That's the name of one of my most favourite deserts ever!  The first time I made it back in my early 20s and new to cooking I severely burnt a couple of fingertips when I stupidly put them into the pan of melted. caramelised sugar.  Ouch!!  I still have slight scars from it and have never been tempted to touch hot sugar (tomatoes were later added to the list) ever again.  Anyway, "flan"was being made.  But then I saw that it wasn't just any old flan it was chocolate flan.  A mix of a favourite desert (flan) and a necessity of (my)  life (chocolate).  It got my fullest attention and looked simple to make so I immediately got on the net to find the recipe.  I was happy to find that I had all the ingredients in the house thanks to my being a bit obsessive about being well stocked.  So the next afternoon I set about making the flan.  OH peeked in on the goings-on and saw the ingredients and declared whatever the outcome it was going to be "dangerous".  :-))  I prepared it all as per the recipe and got it into the oven to bake.  After the 1 hour baking time I checked on it and it was a gooey mess.  I decided to stick it back it for 10 mins. which made a small but noticeable difference.  After a few 10 minute increments the flan was firm and cooked.  Later on I read the comments on the web page and saw that most who tried it had to bake it for the 90 mins. I ended up having to do it so I felt much better about it.   It smelled so lovely while baking and my house was full of that lovely smell.  I made my own Caramel sauce since I had no "cajeta" but did have a bag of Kraft Caramels, which were individually wrapped. (Ouch from having to open them all!.)  I melted them with some milk in the microwave 2 minutes at a time and presto! caramel sauce.  But here are the results:




I had lots of caramel sauce left over so overdid it a bit!  It looks a mess but tastes sooooo good!  It was a firm custard but also a moist chocolate cake combined.  The mix of the two was a marriage made in sweet tooth heaven!  :-))

 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Queen's Day

Monday, 30 April was a great national holiday called Queen's Day.  In Dutch it's Koninginnedag.  After 4 years of living here I can almost pronounce it if I try to say if really fast. (Learning Dutch has been a rough go for me.) 

  It's a day when everyone wears orange and orange banners, etc. are hung from everywhere. People reserve spots on the side walk for up to 2 weeks before the day by tape out their patch and putting the word "bezet"on that spot. Sometimes you only see the letters "BZ". On the big day these spots are where they set up stalls mostly to sell old junk. Some people sell food and pancakes or poffertjes (little donut-y things) are very popular. A very big part of Queen's Day is that everyone over the age of 18 (and a few under) feels the obligation to get drunk. (Much like the Irish do on St. Paddy's Day, noted from my years of living there.) Public transport is interrupted and the city is full to the brim of Dutch day-trippers, Amsterdamers and tourists from abroad. Since I have trouble getting around and don't really like to make a day of drinking and regretable behaviour I avoided all the hoo-ha and stayed home.

The weather has continued to be awful. It's as though spring lost it's invitation to visit us this year. But miracles of miracles, the sun came out and warmed us up a bit on Queen's Day. (The Queen must be feeling very special that the sun honoured her.) So I used the day to tinker and potter in my little outdoor garden aka my balcony. I'm working on adding more and more perennials or making cutting of things from the year before and bringing some plants indoors for the winter . Some of those make it and some of those don't. It's a learning process. All of this is to try to save some money by not having to buy so many new plants each year, I love plants and flowers, both inside the house and outside so that's one of my spending weaknesses. But I finally got my tomato plants outside. I'm a bit worried about the temps not being warm enough for them but I put them out for a few hours a day before finally locating them permanently outdoors. I checked on them in the morning after their first night and they seemed to be just fine--no dropping leaves, loss of colour, etc.


Here they are now:


They're still quite teeny but I can see some growth on them since last week.  For space reasons I put three plants in one big pot.  I did this last year and had a very successful crop.  

Now if the sun would just come back out and warm them up a bit......