Thursday, 17 February 2011

Acceptance, Hope and the Three brothers Clem

This blog post was originally supposed to be about loss, death, the withering of beloved plants but I've now come to tell you, instead, a tale of hope, of growth, of second chances and reprieves!

This is what I thought I'd be showing you, and we do have a lot of that, but, more importantly, we have things like these...

And I have no idea what these will turn out to be but I'm hopeful and proud and leaving them alone until they make their identity known to me. (Do you know what they are?!)


As part of our ongoing Beautifying our Backyard-/Garden-Space Project I'm eagerly searching for the best deals on garden furniture so we're ready to roll when Spring is finally sprung upon us here in London.

I've encountered a problem, however, and I need to rectify it quickly.

At the back of the garden we have a gorgeous Clematis (this is a picture of it in its heyday... it's the giant plant that rests across the top of the fence at the back of the garden)

and it's a source of pure joy each year when it blooms. (Of all the pictures I've ever taken; this continues to be a firm favourite.)

Clem was in the way when we were having our outback renovations done and he'd been trimmed back drastically to allow the landscaper to get into the area to work and then add the extended trellis on the back wall.

Now, several months later, it seemed to be that Clem had been over pruned and wasn't going to recover from the ordeal. I'd come to believe that Mr Clematis's time had come. His end had drawn near. He'd moved on to That Little Garden in the Sky where he could run around and play with other happy Clematises...

This is Clem...

So sad *sob*

I simply can't have just dry, withered Clematis vines at the back of my Please-Let-This-Be-Beautiful-and-Functional Space so drastic action was taken.

Allow me to introduce;

Three brothers Clem. (There are three of them. They are brothers. They are all named "Clem".)* Please excuse their varying states of undress.

Aren't they handsome?

I've unpacked them completely, fed and watered them well and am now waiting patiently for weather that is consistently 10 °C for longer than two hours a day so I can introduce them to their new home. I'm pretty excited.

For posterity (and this post) I went outside, intent on capturing pictures of the current state of death so I could show you just how bad it had become out there. (We saved, in pots, a rose and a fuchsia plant in the hopes that they could be replanted and placed around the garden as life, decoration.)

What's this?!

I'm not certain that this is Clem (as opposed to another plant that's wound around in the same viney mess) but I'm hopeful that it is. (Can you tell? Is it a clematis? If not; what is it?!)

And this is our sad, little rose...

But wait!...

A sign of life! Hope for our rose!

And our Fuchsia... Long-coveted by our neighbour...

Because our neighbour longed for this plant; when it was removed I tried to save some cuttings of it and get them to sprout so that I could surprise her with it. So far; my attempts have failed *sigh* I'm quite disappointed by it.... -ish...

There's hope! If I'm correct, those new shoots are coming from a section that had been sharply pruned back to move it out of the way of our satellite dish some time back and we'll have a fuchsia plant again! (Is it a fuchsia?!)

*When I have to explain it; some of the literary mystique is lost. Try to keep up.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lots of love and a personal challenge for 2011

MrB and I don't celebrate St Valentine's Day in any formal, traditional way. (Several years ago I told MrB that if he were to send me flowers at my office that year he'd then be off the hook for the rest of our Valentine's Days together. He sent gorgeous balloons instead, one even being a giant frog, and he was very definitely off the hook.) Instead we celebrate the anniversary of a special day in our shared history on the 13th of February each year and treat the 14th as any other day of the year, specifically trying to avoid the commercialism that surrounds it 'nowadays.

Today, though, I thought I'd share a recipe I created last month and hey! I made it heart-shaped!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Almond Cookie-Press Cookies

1 cup dairy-free margarine at room temperature (plus some for buttering baking trays)
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
1 cup granulated/castor sugar
3 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Fully combine margarine and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Add sugar and cream together.

Add salt, baking powder, vanilla and almond and blend well.

"Butter" (read: coat with a thin layer of dairy-free margarine) several baking trays (this recipe makes a LOT of cookies and I forgot to count how many but I'd comfortably guess it's more than 40!) before you start pressing your cookies. I was making cookie-press cookies based on recipes/videos I'd found online and when they recommended buttering your trays before you start; I though I'd be fine to just use baking paper. Boy, was that a silly move! The cookies won't stick to the baking paper which means they won't pull away from the cookie-press which means you're pressing cookies for no good reason. Please, people, learn from my mistakes! *grin*

Using a flexible spatula, fill cookie-press with dough and choose your shape disc. I chose the disc for making heart shapes (largely because I couldn't figure out which discs made which shapes) and away I went. My cookie-press has two cookie-thickness settings so I chose to use the thinner cookie setting and I pressed once for each cookie as I wanted them to be little morsels rather than "cookies", if that makes sense.

I then baked the cookies at 200C/350F for about 8 minutes. Too much longer and they started to colour. I wanted them to just be set with a hint of goldenness.

Allow to cool on baking tray for at least 10 minutes, remove to rack to cool completely.

I can't wait to use my cookie-press again! This time I might have to use each shape disc just to see what each produces!


I'm on a self-induced (though inspired by futuregirl's*) craft diet this year.... A Challenge, if you will, to use what I have rather than buying more and more and making less and less.

What follows are photographic evidence of why I need to make this commitment to myself, to my bank balance, to the world (- why am I such a consumer?!) but please don't judge me too harshly... I do need to organise the whole set-up (that's on my list and it starts with filing about 45 years worth of paperwork) - and get a desk chair - but I know I've got at least a year's worth of crafting in there!

Want to know the worst part?.... That's not even any of my yarn in there! There's more *gasp* in other rooms in the house (living room, closet in the bedroom, etc)!

So, I've got a list longer than I am tall of things I want to make this year with the supplies I have so I now just need to get the motivation to actually do something other than brainstorming and dreaming and coveting!

Did you know that this is the first year in three years that I haven't been to my favourite two yarn stores in London to splurge on the Rowan Yarns sales? One of these retailers reported a drop in January sales as compared to the previous two years. *sigh* I know it's not all down to me but it brings home just how much I'd been spending on craft items and not getting many, if any, craft Finished Objects out of those items.

Have you set yourself a personal challenge for 2011?

*If you get the chance, peruse futuregirl's blog a bit... She's a Crochet Badass and totally inspirational for all "makers" out there.