Kunekune Pigs

Originally posted on Wattle Lane:

As an animal lover, I like to include animals in my novels. Usually my characters have pet dogs or cats. However, with The House in Wattle Lane, I decided to give one of the characters a pet pig. While I was writing the book, I couldn’t believe my luck when our next-door-neighbours came home with a pig. I was warned not to get too attached to it, as it would only be there for a few months, but still I made friends with him. He was a pink pig with a warm personality. I would look over the fence and see him basking in the sun on the back lawn and he would come trotting over when he heard me call his name. I got to know his favourite foods and would take him over treats. He loved apples and cauliflower and silverbeet and muesli bars and raw broccolli and…

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Chloe’s Caramel Date Squares

Originally posted on Wattle Lane:

A recipe from The House in Wattle Lane.

Caramel Date Slice

120g butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup dates, chopped
walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla essence until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Heat the milk and golden syrup in a pan, but do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. Cool, then stir into the creamed mixture. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, followed by the chopped dates. Pour the mixture into a greased or paper-lined slice tin. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool, then ice with caramel icing and cut into squares. Press a walnut piece onto the top of each square.

Caramel Icing

60g softened butter

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A Memory Frozen In Time

Originally posted on Wattle Lane:

This photograph is of my paternal grandparents who both died when I was young. I don’t have very many memories of them, so it is nice to have this picture to help me to remember what they looked like.

I used several different techniques on this scrapbook page. I like to build my pages using lots of layers. I created the pattern on the background paper by applying texture paste through a stencil. Then I inked the edges and applied a little tea stain to give it an antique look.

On the second layer I used chalk on the flowers to add colour. Some other elements I added to the page include a vintage doily, dyed with tea stain, a tarnished old key, and some pressed flowers from my garden.

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Vintage Easter Cards

Vintage Easter Cards

I thought I would share with you a few Easter cards from my vintage card collection. The Italian card at the bottom was posted in 1943 from a father stationed in Italy during the Second World War to his young daughter in New Zealand. The others aren’t dated so I’m not sure exactly how old they are. If you click on the image, you can see a larger picture and read the greeting.

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

vintage Easter card

Little Houses

Originally posted on Wattle Lane:

little house 1

When I first saw this little house for sale in a local shop, it instantly made me think of the houses in my Wattle Lane novels – two and a half stories high, with gingerbread trim and an attic tucked beneath the eaves. The miniature houses are made by a local couple who have a laser cutting and engraving business http://www.micara.co.nz. They make a range of different style houses, and also make them in a larger scale for doll houses.

Front and side views Front and side views

Back view of house Back view of house

The little house, just 10 inches tall, sits beside me on my desk while I am writing. When I look at it, I imagine the little scrapbook shop on the bottom floor, and of Angeline sitting in her attic studio at the top of the house, making her paper angels.

Now I just have to decide what colours to paint it. Perhaps…

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A Love of Herbs

A Love of Herbs

My love for herbs began many years ago when I became interested in natural remedies and decided to do a correspondence course in herbal studies. The course involved the study of a wide range of herbs, their healing properties, and how to make herbal medicines and treatments. While studying the course, I got a job at Weleda NZ Ltd., a manufacturer of natural and herbal medicines and body care products. I worked in the despatch department, picking and packing orders and invoicing, and occasionally helped out in other departments, including a brief stint in the manufacturing department where I had hands-on experience in the making of the herbal medicines. It was a lovely place to work, surrounded by biodynamic gardens of healing herbs.

Weleda homestead

Weleda homestead

After working at Weleda for six years, I left to pursue my dream of a writing career, but my love of herbs continued in my garden at home. I grow herbs to use in cooking, herbs for healing, and some just for their beauty, and for the folklore and magic associated with them.

Whenever I feel a sore throat coming on, I make an infusion of sage and thyme and gargle with it several times a day.

Thyme

Thyme

The sage is lovely in stuffing balls at Christmas time.

Sage

Sage

To help relieve congested sinuses from a cold, I put a few sprigs of rosemary in a bowl of boiled water, cover my head with a towel, then lean over the bowl and breathe in the aromatic steam. I use rosemary a lot in cooking – rosemary shortbread, rosemary focaccia bread, rosemary roast potatoes, or a few sprigs thrown on the barbecue.

Rosemary

Rosemary

I add a few fresh leaves of stevia, the sugar herb, to fruit when stewing, to replace sugar. This year I’m going to dry the leaves and grind them into a powder to use in baking.

Stevia

Stevia

Borage is a good companion plant for my strawberries, and it helps to attract the bees.

Borage

Borage

Lavender is also a great bee plant. I use it in herbal crafts, and often pick a few sprigs to keep in a vase on the kitchen bench.

Lavender

Lavender

I keep a pot of Aloe Vera on hand in case of burns.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Foxgloves just because they are one of my favourite flowers, and I love the folklore that surrounds them.

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

The leaves of lemon balm have the most beautiful lemony scent and possess many healing properties.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

I use garlic chives a lot in cooking, and their flowers are so pretty.

Garlic Chives

Garlic Chives

I use basil, parsley and mint a lot in cooking, too. The smell of minted potatoes always reminds me of holidays with my grandparents. It’s nice to be able to go outside and pick herbs fresh from the garden whenever you want to add them to a dish.

Mint

Mint

Anise Hyssop is another great bee plant. It is also very pretty and I love the aniseed fragrance of the leaves.

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop

Feverfew and calendulas self-seed throughout our garden.

Feverfew

Feverfew

Calendula

Calendula

I used to love the mass plantings of echinaceas in the summers when I worked at Weleda. They are used in their medicines to support the immune system and to treat infections.
This year I grew my own echinaceas.

Echinacea

Echinacea

Echinaceas

Echinaceas

I am also growing bay, arnica, angelica, and comfrey, but they are only small at the moment.

Garden Journal – The End of Summer

The last month of summer, here in Napier, New Zealand, brought lots of sunshine and hot temperatures, but little rain. Flowers bloomed in the garden, while in the vegetable beds, beans, zucchinis, beetroot, chard, and salad greens were plentiful. Our blueberry bush provided a steady supply of berries throughout the month. The tomato plants gave us enough for salads and sandwiches, but not enough for preserving. We had loads of basil in the garden that we wanted to use, so while tomatoes were cheap to buy, we bought some for making pasta sauce and we now have several jars in the pantry and the freezer to see us through the next few months.

garden journal

garden journal