My novella, Return to Serenity, is available free from today until February 18th as an eBook on Amazon Kindle. To get your free download, or to read more about it, click here.
As usual, at this time of the year, we have an abundance of zucchini in our garden. I have been cooking them in stir fries and fritters and pizzas, making zucchini slice, and baking zucchini blueberry loaves for the freezer.
Yesterday I made a chocolate zucchini cake, which turned out really nice. Although Nick isn’t a big fan of zucchini, he loved the cake and wouldn’t have even known it had zucchini in it if I hadn’t told him. I used the same recipe as my Red Velvet Beetroot cake, but substituted the beetroot for zucchini, and cooked it a little longer.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
250g peeled and grated zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
1¾ cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
250ml oil (I used olive oil)
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 180º C.
Beat together eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla, oil, and zucchini until well combined. Add sifted flour, baking powder, and cocoa and mix well. Pour batter into greased or paper-lined cake tin.
Bake for 55 minutes. Spread with frosting when cool.
Chocolate Orange Frosting
60g butter or dairy-free spread
250g icing sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
grated zest of 1 orange
2 Tablespoons orange juice
Beat all ingredients together until spreadable consistency. Spread over cake.
At the beginning of this year, I started a new art journal. I’m using a sketchbook that I bought last year—I just love the cover!
Inside, I created a title page. I painted the background and stamped on random shapes using bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard and a cardboard tube. Then I glued down pictures cut from scrapbook cardstock and cards.
I journaled my goals for the year—nothing too adventurous, just simple things like gardening, writing and crafts. Oh, and most importantly, adopt a dog! Then, throughout the year, I am going to journal about the things that make me happy, the things that make up my everyday life. It might be places that I visit, things I’ve seen, a book I’ve enjoyed, or flowers that are blooming in my garden.
By the end of the year my journal will be filled with thoughts and imaginings, photographs, drawings, clippings, stickers, and anything else I might want to put in there. It will be like a scrapbook, a way for me to creatively document my year, and at the end of the year I will have a colourful journal of memories.
Over the past few years, I have had several novellas published in My Weekly Pocket Novels, and People’s Friend Pocket Novels, in the UK. Recently, I decided to publish them as eBooks to make them available to a wider readership. The first, Hidden Dreams, is for sale on Amazon, now, as a Kindle eBook. To read more about it, click here.
Spring is my favourite time of the year in the garden, when the flowers are looking pretty, the vegetables are growing nicely, and it’s not too hot for working outside and pottering amongst the plants.
I planted some sunflower seeds from a commemorative tin of Yates seeds that out friend, Erica, gave us, and the first flower is blooming already!
We had loads of cinerarias self-seed in our raised vegetable beds this year, and they look so pretty, I couldn’t bring myself to pull them out. So although there has been less room for the veggies, I have enjoyed looking at the lovely flowers over the last couple of months.
I covered the lettuces with netting to stop the birds from eating them all.
I hung tin foil from twine to keep the birds away from the silverbeet, which seems to have worked. Although I love having birds in the garden, and encourage them by feeding them, they seem to think that we grow the veggies just for them!
I plant lots of blue flowers to attract the bees. They love the borage, which is also a good companion plant for the strawberries.
The tomato plants are doing nicely, although the oxalis is growing rampant in the tomato bed at the moment. I don’t like spraying anything, so have to try and keep on top of the weeding.
These dianthus in our front garden have the most beautiful scent.
I think the blue lobelia and the yellow pansies look really pretty together.
This little rock rose (I think that’s what it is) loves growing under the dappled shade of the tree.
There is always lots to do in the garden, but our efforts are rewarded with beauty and bounty. There is nothing nicer than looking out onto a pretty garden, and being able to walk outside and pick fresh greens for dinner.
“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen
I would like to take this time to thank the people who have nominated me for blogging awards over the past months. It is nice to know that people are reading my blog, and I appreciate the acknowledgment.
Thanks to Bernice at Realistic Cooking Ideas for Busy People for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. Bernice has a wonderful cooking blog with great recipes that are easy to make, and delicious. I have tried several of Bernice’s recipes and have really enjoyed them. Bernice also writes posts about hiking in New Hampshire with her husband, and shares wonderful photos of her travels.
Thanks to Monique at a reel chick for the Liebster Award nomination. Monique writes about food, animals, DIY, fashion, travel and, as she says on her ‘About Me’ page, “whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.”
Thanks to Maxi at Scribbler Maxi’s Musings for the Reality Blog Award nomination. Maxi is a fellow writer who has published both fiction and non-fiction books. She blogs about her writing life, with musings that all writers can relate to. Maxi also has a craft blog at Love, Maxi where she shares her crafts, baking and gardening.
Thanks to Deborah at Container Chronicles for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Deborah is a fellow quilter and blogs about her quilting projects, as well as her life as a teacher in Taiwan.
My most recent nomination was from Lonnie at The Belmont Rooster, who nominated me for The Liebster Award. Lonnie has a great gardening blog. He writes about plants (of which he has an incredible knowledge) and about life on the farm, which is always entertaining.
I hope you check out all these great blogs.
Now, for The Liebster Award.
First, 5 things about me that you probably didn’t know:
My favourite colour is purple.
I am a Doctor Who fan.
I am a vegetarian.
I left school on the day I turned 15 and completed my education by correspondence.
I have worked as an office junior, a deli assistant, a fibre tester, a data entry operator, an apple picker, a cider bottler, a home help, a despatch worker, and an administration assistant.
These are my answers to Lonnie’s questions:
1) Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging as a way to promote my book, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, but my blog has become more about sharing the things I love and which inspire me to write - crafts, food, gardening, and books.
2) What do you like the most about blogging?
Being able to share and connect with others who have the same interests I do.
3) What inspires you to continue blogging?
Being a part of the blogging community, the encouraging comments, and discovering all the wonderful blogs out there.
4) What is your favorite time of the year?
Spring – when the garden is coming to life with blossom, butterflies, colourful bulbs, wisteria, baby birds…
When the days are warmer, but before it gets too hot.
When I can start planting my veggie garden.
5) What do you look for when deciding to follow a blog?
It would probably have to be a blog about crafts, gardening, cooking, writing, art journals, or books (or organics, owls, ghosts, or dogs…) Actually, it could be about anything! Some blogs just draw me into them and I want to read more!
6) When deciding to start a blog, what made you choose WordPress?
I read an article in Writing Magazine, which explained how to go about setting up a WordPress blog, and I thought I would have a go.
7) How important is it to you for other bloggers to make comments and “Like” your blog?
It is lovely to get feedback on posts and to know that people are actually reading them and liking them. Also, the comments and “Likes” help me to know which subjects people are more interested in.
8) How important is it to you to gain more followers?
It just makes me happy to know that anybody is reading my blog!
9) What do you hope other bloggers gain from your blog?
Ideas and inspiration.
10) Do you think these questions are dumb?
No. I hope you don’t think these answers are dumb!
Now, here are my nominees for The Liebster Award.
Artful Scrapbooking http://artfulscrapbooking.wordpress.com
The Cottonwood Tree http://thecottonwoodtree.wordpress.com
Sweet Mabel http://sweetmabelblog.wordpress.com
An Owl a Day Keeps Burnout Away…right? http://owladay.wordpress.com
And my questions for the nominees:
1) What was the most memorable thing that happened to you in 2013?
2) Who is your favourite author?
3) Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
4) Where was the best holiday you ever had?
5) What is your favourite food?
6) What country or place would you most like to visit?
7) What is your favourite movie?
8) What new craft/skill would you most like to learn?
9) Are you a cat lover, a dog lover, or both?
10) Who inspires you the most?
Here is a list of guidelines should you wish to accept and pass on the award.
1) Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
2) Display the award on your blog.
3) Answer the questions about yourself that were provided by the blogger who nominated you.
4) Provide 5 facts about yourself.
5) Nominate at least 5 bloggers you would like to pass the award on to.
6) Create a list of 10 questions you want your nominees to answer.
7) List a set of rules similar to these on your blog.
8) Inform the bloggers that you have nominated them and profile a link to your post.
Most of all, have fun!
When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours this Halloween.
I made this little Halloween book using papers from Graphic 45′s Steampunk Spells, and Olde Curiosity Shoppe collections, as well as embellishments from 7 Gypsies, Graphic 45, Tim Holtz, and various other ephemera.
I recently discovered a range of newly released Holly Hobbie quilt fabrics at an online craft store, and I was immediately transported back to my childhood. Does anyone remember Holly Hobbie, the young girl with the patchwork dress, the blue bonnet and the brown boots? In the seventies, the Holly Hobbie character was made into a popular rag doll, as well as numerous other products. In 2006, Holly Hobbie was redesigned with a spin-off product line called Holly Hobbie and Friends. There were three new dolls released, and a movie with the back story that the new Holly was the great-granddaughter of the original Holly.
I made this small quilt using some of the new Holly Hobbie fabrics, just the right size for a doll’s quilt or a wall hanging. You could add extra panels or borders to make a lovely quilt for a little girl’s bed.
For a touch of nostalgia, visit the website Karen’s Holly Hobbie World for all things Holly Hobbie.
This is a scrappy collage page I made of our recent visit to Wellington. Although we were only there a couple of days, we tried to fit in as much as we could. We went to the Andy Warhol exhibition at Te Papa, and to the Gregory Crewdson exhibition at the City Gallery, which included photographs from his Beneath the Roses series portraying the dark heart of contemporary Americana, as well as photos from his Sanctuary and Fireflies works. We visited our favourite bookshops and art & craft shops, went for a morning stroll along Queen’s Wharf, and had dinner at our favourite waterfront restaurant.
With another winter almost over and spring just around the corner, the gardens and roadsides are coming to life with blossom-covered trees. The tuis adore the nectar they provide at this time of year. Nick took these photos of a tui drinking from the blossom flowers where he is working at the moment.
The bright yellow flowers of the wattle trees have been adding a splash of sunshine to the winter days. I wish we had room for one in our garden. I love the Golden Wattles with their clusters of small pompom flowers that we see when we go for walks.
The weather is warming up and new growth is emerging, with flowers appearing that have been dormant over the winter months. I’ve been planning what to plant in my garden this year, drawing diagrams, making sure to rotate the crops where I have room, and reading through my companion planting book to make sure not to plant things next to each other which don’t get on. I’ve started a few seeds off inside to get a head start. A little glasshouse is on my wish list, the trouble is finding somewhere in the garden to put one!
I have been keeping a garden journal for a year now. I started last September, at the beginning of spring. It’s interesting to look back over a complete cycle of the seasons and see how the garden changes.
Our broccoli are finally ready for harvesting. I cut the main heads off and and let the plants continue to grow so that they form side-shoots.
Broccoli and Mushroom Gratin
1 large head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy spread
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, melted
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 180º C.
Cut the broccoli into florets and steam until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes. Place in lightly greased baking dish.
Heat the oil and saute the onion and mushrooms until the onion begins to soften and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Spread mixture over broccoli.
Heat the butter or non-dairy spread in a saucepan. Stir in the flour until smooth, then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened. Add the parsley, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Pour the sauce over the broccoli mixture in the dish.
Stir together the melted butter, breadcrumbs and remaining cheese, and sprinkle over the gratin.
Bake about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
As someone who loves both gardening and mixed-media art, I was thrilled to come across the book In This Garden by Angela Cartwright and Sarah Fishburn. The book is a collaboration by 12 mixed-media artists on the theme of gardens. They were each given 4 panels to form a miniature garden, to decorate in any style they chose. The result was a wide variety of wonderfully imaginative gardens, including a New Orleans Junkyard garden, a community garden, Marie Antoinette’s garden, and The Prairie Rose & Sagebrush Garden. There are notes from each contributor on the techniques they used, and also favourite memories and observations about their own gardens. I love this book. I keep picking it up and seeing different things in it each time I look.
Angela Cartwright is one of my favourite mixed-media artists. When I looked up her website, I was interested to learn that before getting into art and photography, she had an acting career. As a child, she played Brigitta in the movie The Sound of Music.
This book has inspired me to make a mini album of my own dream garden to include pictures of my favourite things – foxgloves, birdbaths, scarecrows, herbs, butterflies, dragonflies, birds, sunflowers…
I’ve made the cover so far.
Today was good
Today was fun
Tomorrow is another one
For these pages in my art journal I was experimenting with creating backgrounds using watercolour paints and found objects. The wavy lines are made with corrugated cardboard, the circles with bottle caps, and the little square criss cross shapes are made by splodging paint over plastic mesh with a foam dobber. It’s great fun to see what patterns you can make with things you find around the house.
This morning when I was visiting my parents, Mum gave me a box of knick knacks to look through, random objects she has kept over the years in case they should ever come in useful, then forgotten about. I came home with a bag of goodies to use in my craft projects – old keys, wooden cotton reels, pieces of jigsaw puzzle, tiny light bulbs and little shells. I’m already planning what they’re going to be used for!
The first of our winter bulbs are blooming. The sweet little snowdrops with their hanging heads of pure white were the first to appear, closely followed by the little double jonquils in the corner of the garden beneath the trees. They look like miniature cream roses and their scent is amazing!
Our citrus trees are producing an abundance of fruit this winter. Lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges – infusing the cold winter days with the tangy taste of summer.
There is nothing nicer on a cold winter’s night than a comforting pudding. Self-saucing puddings are easy to make and can be adapted to different flavours. For this one I used lemons and limes from our trees to give it a nice citrusy flavour. If it doesn’t all get eaten the first night, it is nice cold the next day when the sponge has soaked up the flavours, leaving a little jelly-like sauce on the bottom.
Lemon and Lime Self-saucing Pudding
50g butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg. Stir in zest, citrus juices and milk. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix well and place into deep, greased baking dish. Mix syrup ingredients together and pour over batter. Bake 30 minutes.
Sometimes it can be a good thing to step out of your comfort zone. You might just see things you haven’t seen before. I have always been a little scared of riding a bike, preferring instead to walk. I am intimidated by busy traffic and lack confidence with balance and co-ordination when on a bike. I know they say that practice makes perfect, but sometimes it’s just easier to avoid something you are uncomfortable with if you don’t have to do it.
However, we recently had a friend come to stay, who enjoys biking, and we went to the information center and picked up a pamphlet on the cycle trails that have been constructed around Hawke’s Bay over the last few years. The trails are mainly off-road and take you along rivers and coastlines, through countryside, past vineyards, wineries and country pubs. Carol borrowed Nick’s bike and went off on her own to explore the trail.
Some days later, Nick, who has always enjoyed cycling and likes to get out on his bike whenever he can, suggested that as we no longer have our beloved Cody to take for walks, biking might be a fun way to get some exercise, while exploring the countryside. I had my doubts, but decided to give it a go. So we bought a kitset bike, Nick made it up, and after some practice riding up and down the driveway and re-acquainting myself with how not to fall off—I hadn’t been on a bike in more than a decade—we were ready to go.
With our route planned out, we set out early on Saturday morning to avoid the traffic en route to the beginning of the cycle trail. I was apprehensive at first, but it didn’t take long for me to become comfortable with the bike, and once we had left the traffic and town behind, I really began to enjoy the ride. The sun was shining, there was no wind, it was a perfect winter’s day and there was nobody else around. Our route took us along a river, where we saw lots of pukekos, one of my favourite birds. They are like cartoon characters with their bright red beaks and their high-stepping walk.
We saw winter lambs that had just been born.
After a while, we came to the estuary, where a viewing hut had been erected for you to look down onto the wide variety of wetland birds, including godwits, black swans, herons and cormorants.
Further along the trail we came across a group of spoonbills. Seeing the spoonbills was the highlight of the day for me, as I had never seen one before.
The bike ride took us three hours, with lots of stops along the way to admire the scenery and take photos. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. I am more confident on my bike now, and am looking forward to our next ride and exploring some more of the trails.
Winter has brought us an interesting mix of weather this month with some rain and cloudy days, interspersed with chilly morning frosts followed by brilliant sunshine that just makes you want to get out in the garden and mingle with nature.
We made a little memorial garden for Cody next to the decking in our backyard, where we see it every time we go outside. We miss her terribly and still feel her presence everywhere. We planted winter flowers – pansies, primroses and dianthus, and I transplanted some forget-me-not seedlings to flower later. The little dog ornament looks so much like Cody!
Our wonderful friend, Erica, gave us a tin of Yates heritage seeds to plant in our garden in memory of Cody. The seeds commemorate 130 years of Yates in New Zealand, and the tin comes with a little booklet telling the story of Arthur Yates, who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1879. Following in his family’s tradition of seed merchants, he opened the first of his seed shops in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1883.
Inside the tin there are 10 varieties of heritage flower and vegetable seeds – pansies, sunflowers, tomatoes and carrots, to name a few. I can’t wait for spring to come so I can start planting them!
It’s lovely to have herbs in the garden over winter to add to stews and soups, stuffings, breads and vegetable dishes. One of my favourite winter meals is soup and crusty bread. For this vegetable and lentil soup I used seasonal vegetables from one of our local market gardens and garnished it with parsley from our garden. For the herbed cheese bread I used organic goat’s cheese, and rosemary and sage from our garden. You can use whatever seasonal herbs you have in the garden. In the summer it would be nice with basil and oregano. Or if you don’t have herbs growing in the garden, it can just as easily be made with dried herbs.
Herbed Cheese Bread
3 teaspoons dried yeast
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheese
½ cup chopped fresh herbs or 1 tablespoon dried herbs
2 tablespoons oil
1¼ cups warm water
To make by hand:
In a large bowl, mix together flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cheese and herbs. Make a well in the centre, then slowly add the oil and water, stirring to form a soft dough, and adding a little extra flour if necessary. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and and knead for 10 minutes until the dough forms a soft ball. Shape into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl, then shape into a round loaf and place onto a greased baking tray. Leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Preheat oven to 200º C. Dust bread with a little flour, cut criss crosses into the top, then bake for 30 minutes, covering top during cooking if it starts to burn.
Alternatively, the dough can be made in a breadmaker, then shaped into a round, placed on a baking tray and left to rise as above.
Vegetable and Lentil Soup
400g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
200g potatoes, peeled and chopped
100g broccolli, cut into florets
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons lentils
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup milk or cream (or soya milk or oat milk)
parsley to garnish
Place first 7 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes. Puree or blend. Add milk and seasoning to taste. Heat without boiling. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
In my novel, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, Jodi enjoys baking cupcakes to take along to the weekly scrapbooking classes at Wattle Lane Keepsakes. Here is another of the recipes that she makes for the women in the group to enjoy when they stop for a coffee break.
125g softened butter or dairy-free spread
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/4 cup milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.
Cream together butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add sifted dry ingredients, then milk, and mix to combine. Divide mixture between paper cases. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Let cool, then dust with icing sugar or ice with ginger frosting.
50g softened butter or dairy-free spread
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sifted icing sugar and ginger. Add milk and beat to spreadable consistency.
This project was inspired by one that I saw on Starrgazer Creates blog. You can view her blog here. I fell in love with the Olde Curiosity Shoppe line of papers by Graphic 45, and a printer tray seemed like a great way to display the images, along with charms, trinkets, dried flowers and gemstones, to create an olde worlde feel of a time gone by.
The tiny apothecary bottles are filled with berries, seeds, herbs and spices.
I made the birds eggs from polymer clay.
I think it evokes the atmosphere of a dusty old shop from the Victorian era, tucked away down an alley, filled with herbal medicines, strange specimens and unusual curiosities.
May has been a sad month for us with the death of our beloved dog, Cody. After having her in our lives for fifteen happy years, her passing has left a big gap in our hearts and our home. I miss having her with me when I work in the garden. She used to lie in the sun and watch me while I weeded and planted, and sometimes she would come and help me dig. For many years, she loved to play ball in the backyard, or lie beneath the orange tree and chew her bone. She still enjoyed her daily walks right up until the end, but for the last few months, when she was home, she just enjoyed basking in the sun, with a token attempt at chasing a ball. We’re going to make a special place in the garden for Cody. Her presence will be felt in our home and garden for a long time, but I know that she is out there somewhere, free from her pain, running and having fun like she loved to do.
I haven’t done very much in the garden this month apart from weeding and pruning, and planting some more lettuces to replace the ones that got eaten by snails.
The delphiniums that I planted from seed last spring began flowering early in the month. The beautiful blue blooms have added some colour to the autumn garden.
Silverbeet, or Swiss chard, is a good staple to have in the veggie garden. It is a rich source of minerals and vitamins, including potassium, manganese, iron, folate, and vitamins A, C, E and K. The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, and the mature leaves can be sautéed or cooked in vegetable dishes. Hunza Pie is one of my favourite ways to use silverbeet.
2 cups wholemeal flour
140g butter or non-dairy spread
cold water to mix (about ¼ cup)
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 bunch silverbeet (6-8 stalks)
2 cups grated cheese
½ tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
To make Pastry: Rub butter into flour. Add water and mix to form dough. Line pie plate with pastry and bake for 15 minutes at 160ºC.
To make filling: Lightly steam or sauté silverbeet until just wilted. Squeeze out moisture and roughly chop leaves and stalks. In a bowl, beat eggs. Add cooked rice, silverbeet, cheese and seasonings. Mix to combine. Spread in pastry shell and cook at 180ºC for 45 minutes.