29 January 2011

Drawing a Day

So, how am I going with my 2011 Drawing a Day project? I've done about 22 drawings in the past 29 days, so not too bad ... plenty of them are boring (the TV controller, a vegetable peeler ...) but since faces and figures are what I want to get better at, I figured I'd better, you know, start actually drawing them.

My last two drawings (from photo reference) ...

Sort of looks like the model, kinda ...

Looks quite a lot like the model ...

23 January 2011

Food out the Front

When we first moved in to our current house, this is how the garden bed beneath our bedroom window looked - just a bush and tambark mulch.
And it stayed that way until last November, when the bay windows had to be repaired ...

The whole bush was removed ... and I was left with this.

I started to take cuttings of succulents and was slowly filling in the bed that way. But then I had a brain wave ... why not grow vegies?! It is a really good spot, very sunny, and the soil seemed to be pretty good too. My strip of vegie garden in the backyard was going OK, but not really well. This way I could double my vegie garden area, without having to actually make a new garden bed!

The convention of not growing food in your front garden stems from medieval times, when you could proclaim your wealth by not having to use every bit of your land for food production. Bugger that, hey?! Why the hell not grow vegies and herbs out the front?!

So anyway ... I put in thyme, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, chilli, butternut pumpkin, and strawberries.

The strawberries aren't going that well, they probably need a less shaded area (the zucchini leaves are shading the other plants, I keep having to lop them off!). But the basil is doing the best I've ever had, and the tomatoes and zucchini as well! In between the vegies are nasturtiums (also edible) and the succulents. It certainly helps that we're having the wettest summer in about a decade, too.

The cucumbers are just starting to set fruit, and there are a few flowers on the chilli plant. And because this part of the garden has tambark and rough eucalyptus mulch everywhere, the slugs and snails haven't been visiting. Well, that's my guess as to why, anyway ;)

Next season I'll make sure I leave more room for the zucchini, so they don't shade other plants. And maybe add a bit of trellis at the back for beans or peas ... and I'd better start planning the autumn / winter crops soon too!

14 January 2011

Cooking Green

A few months back I got a copy of the book Cooking Green by Kate Heyhoe. If you're interested in reducing your carbon footprint in the kitchen, I can certainly recommend it. It's full of good analysis of the various pros and cons of different cooking methods, and kitchen equipment and appliances, and lots of tips and hints and suggestions for what you can do differently, and even a bunch of recipes cooked with "green principles". Whether you're designing a kitchen from scratch, or seeing what you can change with what you've already got, this book has good ideas.

Here's an easy one you can do - when cooking pasta, bring the water to the boil, add your pasta, stir and let it boil for a few minutes, then turn the heat off entirely, put a lid on the saucepan, and let it sit for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Works perfectly well.

Here's what she has to say about ovens :
"If you make no other changes to the ways you cook, stop using your oven.

"Ovens are the Humvees of the kitchen. According to the Department of Energy, about 87% of an electric oven's heat is wasted, absorbed not by the food, but by the oven walls or dissipated into the room."


"If you do nothing else to green your cookprint, switch from a conventional oven to a toaster or countertop oven. Anytime you can bake, roast, or broil in a smaller oven, you're cooking greener. Plus, compared to conventional ovens, small ovens preheat and cool down in almost no time at all, and they don't heat up the entire kitchen."
So I asked for a benchtop oven for Christmas (from my FIL, who is easily guided as to what we'd like, and has deeper pockets than us) ...meet my Breville Smart Oven. It is really awesome. We've been able to retire our regular toaster, and for not much more bench space, we have this :

It comes with a baking tray, grill pan, and pizza pan, and takes dishes up to 33 cm (13") square. A lot of my ovenware fits in it already. It's big enough to roast a small chook, and can toast up to 4 slices of bread at a time. It has settings for crumpets (more heat on the top), grilling, roasting, defrosting, and heaps more. I love being able to just dial up the temperature exactly (in 5º steps), and I can even swap between Fahrenheit and Celsius if I want to.

Another lovely feature is that it turns off automatically once the cooking time has been reached, more like a microwave oven, so overcooking isn't a problem. I've used it frequently, and found it excellent, with good even heat. And because the trays are smaller, they're much easier to clean (unlike oven grill trays which never fit in the sink). Just a little thing, but it all adds up!

I haven't used the wall oven once since getting this little beauty.

07 January 2011

Luscious Loveliness

My friend Joey sent a big box of treats my way this Christmas, and I just have to show off just a sample what she made ....

She is a very accomplished spinner ...

Alpaca + merino :

Merino, alpaca, silk and tea bag strings (I'm thinking tea cosy for this yarn!) :

Linen + merino :
Bunny + silk :

And she is a very skilful knitter!

A Hemlock Ring Shawl in laceweight yarn :

A cute crocheted project bag :

Really stunningly finely knit beaded fingerless gloves :

And a thick and cosy lacework lap rug, which will be wonderful in winter :

There is more yarn, and a string bag (which is camera-shy), and other treats besides ... but you get the idea - really very generous and lovely gifts! Thank you Joey!!

01 January 2011


Happy New Year all! I love today's day - 1-1-11 - aaah, number patterns. Life would be so much more boring without you!

I don't normally go in for New Year's Resolutions ... but in 2011 I do have some goals, so in the interests of accountability, I'll post them here.

1 - A Drawing a Day

This is an activity I used to have to do when in graphic design college. I haven't been doing much art in recent years, and want to get back into it, and especially to improve my figure drawing skills. Producing one drawing a day - even just a quick sketch - will be a good way to get my "artistic eyes" working again, and while I know there will be days when I don't want to, it should hopefully also be fun. I will scan and post the occasional sketch here too.

Here's Drawing 1, some garlic which I harvested from my vegie garden yesterday :

2 - Frugal Living

We don't have much debt, compared to many - a credit card that has got a bit out of hand (but no loans or mortgage). We have been living a bit beyond our means, I gotta admit. We have a pretty frugal life anyway (a necessity when we're living off 1.2 incomes) - no movies, no theatre, very few holidays, few restaurant meals, and so on. Most of our income goes on rent, medical bills, prescriptions, food, car costs, and other bills - and that part can't really change much.

So 2011 will be a year of further tightening our belts, selling off some assets (second car, my recurve bow etc), buying more food from Aldi and less from Woolies, op shops, curbing the 'wanties', making do, being happy with what we've got (which is plenty!), cooking from the pantry, homemade gifts, knitting from my (let's face it) extensive stash, reusing, recycling, saving, and not buying more books, yarn, cookbooks, kitchen gadgets and tools (my biggest weakness, actually), cool stuff online, and so on.

We've been on this sort of regime many times in the past, so it hopefully won't be too hard to do. Having 3 of us at home instead of 4 should also help cut costs. Apart from cutting our debt, we're also saving for an energy-efficient fridge next year, and changing our fuel-inefficient old 1996 station wagon for a newer, smaller, fuel-efficient car.

3 - Regular Exercise

Aiming for a long walk, exercise bike ride, gardening, or a swim, or something, 3 or 4 times a week. While I really want to lose weight (the damned prednisolone has made me stack on the kilos, unfortunately, if inevitably), my main goal with the exercise is fitness. It's good for my hip, emotional well-being, and overall health. So, I'm not setting weight loss goals, they are too hard to achieve when on steroids, and I don't know how long I'll be on the meds. But being active is something I hope to be able to do.

So - it's out there, I've told you, now I just have to DO IT! LOL :)