Monday, August 30, 2010

In which more felting is done | Reading round up August

This one is for a friend.

August Reading Round Up

This month has been a slow reading month.  I've had a bit of stuff going on which means I've not had time to sit and read.  I realise how much I read/ate by myself at lunch time in my old job whereas here I tend to eat lunch with colleagues and chat.  I miss it actually.  I think I need the downtime. At the Main campus I don't have easy access to the public library's collection like I do at Waitakere so actually getting to the library requires an effort.  Having the iPad means DH has been buying quite a few ebooks so he hasn't been inititating any visits either. 

Hobson's chance / Jenny Haworth.
Travelling to England in 1830 with her brother, Anita Hobson is desperate and in love. She has been torn from her homeland by family who believes she will be implicated in the actions of her criminal fiance who has been transported to Australia. In a desperate bid to see him Anita takes a job as a governess in Australia. ~from the blurb
Her choice to take on the governess position eventually leads her and her ward to Australia and then to New Zealand.  I found the plot a bit plodding to be honest.  Some of the story seemed to be purposefully written to encompass particular events happening at the time that I'm not sure actually added anything to the plot.

Rifling through my drawers / Clarissa Dickson-Wright.
Autobiographical riffing.  I have to confess I didn't finish this one.  It got a bit boring and I didn't agree with some of her ideas so all in all I wasn't particularly motivated to finish.  It had heaps of holds on it so I took it back to the library.

Ashes to dust / Yrsa Sigurdardottir ; translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton. 
Bodies are discovered in one of the excavated houses at a volcanic tourist attraction dubbed 'The Pompeii of the North'. Markús Magnússon, who was only a teenager when the volcano erupted, falls under suspicion and hires attorney Thóra Gudmundsdottir to defend him - but when his childhood sweetheart is murdered his case starts to look more difficult, and the locals seem oddly reluctant to back him up..."-- Publisher description
Great read - would read more of her work.  It kept me reading and had a surprisingly twisty ending.  I say surprising because I didn't expect the killer to be the person it was!

Six feet down under : memoirs of a New Zealand funeral director / Chris Mann.
There is an element of mystique about the funeral business that often leads people be very curious. This is Chris Mann's story from his early days as a Funeral Director's assistant through to becoming a Funeral Director himself. It covers stories of tragedy and laughter, from funerals attended by high class society to occasions when nobody at all attended"--Publisher's description.
This is a self-published book from what I can see, and as such it would have benefited from a skilled editor to enhance the story telling of some of the material.  Having said that I found it interesting given the location from which the book is written (Auckland) and the era from which is comes (80s-90s) is basically the time and place I grew up with.  I also find the whole ritual of funeral/death/grieving interesting from a sociological point of view.

Blogosphere Bookcircle of the Month

Novel about my wife / Emily Perkins. London : Bloomsbury, 2008. ISBN: 9780747596509 (pbk.)

Tom Stone, fortyish, English, is madly in love with his wife Ann, an Australian in self-imposed exile in London. Expecting their first child, they buy a semi-derelict house in Hackney. They believe this is their settled future, despite Tom's stalling career and their spiralling money troubles. But soon Ann becomes convinced she's being shadowed by a local homeless man whose presence seems like a terrible omen. As their child grows, so too does Tom's sense of an impending, nameless threat. On the verge of losing the house, Tom makes a decision that he hopes will save their lives.~ from the blurb

I have to admit, it has been a while since I read the book as it arrived in the library for me earlier in the year.  I do remember struggling a bit trying work out if the wife's problem was real or if she was imagining it, and the ending was decidedly confusing for me.  I had to re-read that part several times and I still don't actually understand how she dies.  But there it is. The story was gripping though and really gave a grimy, urban feel.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In which iPads are purchased & I make another scarf

I was sitting in the TELSIG plenary when I get a txt from DH saying "I can't have a camera but can I have an iPad?" [Back story = we're saving to replace my vehicle so I have said no new cameras until this is achieved]  The iPad was released in NZ on the 23rd July and while we had discussed their desirability - hey, this is a geek household - I hadn't thought more about it.  DH uses his iPod Touch a lot.  He travels for work regularly (been away 3 times this past week around the country) so it gets a work out.  So I gave him permission. :-)  Shortly after I got a txt saying it was charging up!

So yeah, a bit of an extravagance but sometimes compromises need to be made.

I have been allowed to play with it a bit and it is neat.  The children find it intuitive to use - Miss 3 now tries to press the screen on the laptop to make things "go". Tonight the Angry Birds app has been downloaded and there are 2 males agog trying to devise tactics to get rid of those pesky pigs.

My Mum turned 60 last weekend and we had a surprise party for her.  It's been hard work keeping it secret from her and also doing organising!  Her cousin and sister came over from Australia for the party.  Mum knew that J, her cousin was coming but not that her sister was also going to arrive.  So she had a surprise the morning before the party when N turned up on her doorstep!  She had asked me to felt a scarf for J so I made one in autumn colours.

It looks a lot less like a cow hide IRL! :-P

The party went well but I'm glad the stress of organising it has finished.

My new job is progressing.  I am finding it tricky because the role is new, the boundaries are fuzzy and I'm trying to build relationships with a bunch of folks we've not really had much to do with in the past.  It's crazy in a good way but I am really, really tired at the end of each day.  I am feeling some pressure from various sources to produce some feel good stories and that makes me nervous.  I had a bit of melt down on Monday over it which DH and kids had to bear the brunt of, (Mummy crying is never nice for them), but I hope I've managed to get my head above the water again.  I shouldn't be feeling sorry for myself and I'm not really - just would like to be able to meet the expectations of those I am working for (even though in 100 years it won't matter anyway). 

This morning I came out to the kitchen to discover a tiger was making me coffee ...

Monday, August 02, 2010

More felting & a recipe

I had a scarf for Mr6 laid out for a week before I finally got to felt it.  I wanted to try something I'd seen in a book whereby you embed marbles into the felt and use them as resists creating cell like structures as texture.  Mine didn't entirely turn out like the picture in the book but I've learned a few things along the way which may be useful for future creations.

Here it is laid out and sprinkled with soap before I put netting over the top.  The marbles are under the lime green ends.

Here it is wetted out and the felting process started.  It took quite a while actually.  I think the wool got cold very quickly and I've noticed the wool I got from Designscape seems to be harder to felt than the stuff from Kane Carding (the wool we used in the class).  I sopped up some excess and added some more hot water and soap (the white stuff on the ends) in the hopes that it would felt a bit more.

Working around the marbles was quite tricky.  Some of them popped through before I was finished which was annoying.  I did place them under 2 layers of wool but suspect more would have been better, however, that would have made the scarf too thick.  This technique would probably be better for things like bags.

Finally it was ready to roll 400 times.  The weight of the marbles meant I needed to wrap the outside of the roll with a tea towel so it didn't flop open all the time.

You can see one of those naughty escaping marbles here!  The fulling process has begun.  It gets folded up in the bubblewrap, wrapped in a towel and beaten against the table.

Now for the final fulling process.  Throwing it onto the bubble wrap!  Felting is quite physical work.

You can see the little cells the marbles make beginning to take shape on where the odd one has come out.  The scarf gets rinsed in clean water, then briefly soaked in a white vinegar/water mix to get rid of any remaining soap, and restore the pH of the wool to neutral.

Then the scarf must dry entirely before the marbles are cut out.  The final result looks a little like sea squirts, or the cells bumble bees make in their underground hives.

I made this recipe the other week - it was amazing.  I didn't bother with the individual pie thing, just served it as a stew with a mash.

Beef & caramelized shallot pies with cauliflower tops from Dish Issue 30, July-August 2010, p. 64

30 g butter
1 1/2 T olive oil
18 shallots, peeled but left whole
3 bay leaves
1 T sugar
1 T white wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
1 kg chuck or blade steak
3 T flour
1 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 t Dijon mustard
2 cups beef stock

1 large floury potato (about 300g), peeled and cubed
1/2 small cauliflower, about 350g, cut into florets
45g butter
3-4 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
6x individual pie tins

Preheat oven to 170 deg C.

Heat the butter & 1 T oil in a large saute pan until sizzling, add the shallots, bay leaves, sugar & vinegar.  Stir well then reduce the heat & cool the shallots slowly for 10-15 mins or until lightly golden but still holding their shape.  Season with a little black pepper then remove from pan and set aside.

Trim the beef of gristle, cute into cubes and toss in seasoned flour.  Heat remaining oil in the same pan, add the rest of the beef & cook until golden all over.  Stir in the tomato paste & red wine letting the wine bubble away then stir in the Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and beef stock. (Have to be honest here and say I didn't bother with the browning step.  It all got dumped in my clay pot, including the wine... none of this "bubbling away business thank you very much!)

Transfer the mixture to a casserole and cover the surface directly with baking paper. (Didn't bother with that step either.  Am so bad).  Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and leave to cool completely, preferably overnight.

Topping: Cook the potato and cauli in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain well and mash with the butter and Dijon mustard.  Season and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line the pie tins with pastry and prick the base a couple of times using a fork.  Dived the cold filling & onions between the tins then top with the cauliflower mash.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until the tops are golden brown and filling is piping hot.  Serve with sauteed greens e.g kale.  Serves 6.