Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day in the evening

by H.

I guess it's not really all that 'normal' to be wrapping presents at 3pm on Christmas Day afternoon, but that's what I've been doing.  Partially because I've been procrastinating at it, but I've been *able* to procrastinate because our Christmas celebration isn't until this evening.

Chez Stutters is celebrating with H's parents this year, on the understanding that next year we really will be going to M's parents.  It's been a while since she's had Christmas with her family, so she's more than due, but somehow this year it all worked out as an H-family year.

H's family have always celebrated Christmas Eve, in the Scandanavian/Minnesotan tradition, but over the years it has proven increasingly difficult to fit family celebrations around church services, especially as so-called 'Midnight Mass' keeps creeping earlier and earlier.  (Last night we started at 8pm, and the sky was still (barely) light when we finished.)

So a few years ago, we decided to shift Christmas Eve to Christmas Day night, particularly because two of the five (at the time) members of the family are non-church-going.  Now it's three of the six, and so the Christmas Eve Night works okay, except that it pushes all the Christmas waiting by a whole extra day.  And M could be characterised as ... somewhat impatient when it comes to things Christmassy.

But - we're working on how to meld our family traditions, and how to create new ones.  It has taken H's mother 40 years to get vaguely used to Christmas in summer: H will eventually get used to having (some of the) presents on Christmas morning, and the vital importance of Boxing Day movies.  (Hobbit tomorrow morning, yay!)

Lego Christmas

By M.

For the last couple of years i've been getting steadily more addicted to lego building. Yes, it's something random to get interested in at the age of 30ish but hey, i've always been late to the party. It started because of an assignment - I had to interview a child and work out what developmental age they were. I borrowed a friends 8 year old who loves lego and because part of this was watching them classify objects I grabbed some lego and used it as a teaching tool - and then realised how much fun it was to play with and how relaxing it is.

Anyways, last year after Christmas, H. and I went to Canberra for a couple of days. While we there we noticed some "Christmas Winter Village" Lego sets and while we didn't buy them I came home and asked my best friend for one of the sets for my 30th - he bought me all three saying it would count for the next Christmas and birthday as well...

So on December 1st we built the sets and here is what they look like put together...


After sending it to the Best Friend who gave us the sets he replied, like any good former police officer, it needed more security. Now I don't have a lego police station and didn't feel like building one but figured the Doctor was even better than a police officer. So my Doctor Who Mini-figs joined the Christmas set...

So Merry Christmas from our Christmas Village to you and your family/loved ones!

Decoration of the Day - conceding defeat

So, it's Christmas Day and I haven't posted a "Decoration of the Day" since December 12th.  Incidentally, that was the day before M's Graduation, and from then on, everything just got really, really busy.  Also I lost Kirsten's St Lucia crown, which meant I procrastinated on the post for the 13th, and from there everything went downhill.

So I'll save the rest of the photos for next year, when there might be repeat decorations - and there might be entirely new ones!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 12

"Slave 1" is M's.  It's a Hallmark decoration we bought last year.

To quote M:

I love Boba Fett.  A lot of that is because of the expanded universe books and I try and ignore the dodginess of the prequels but Boba is one of those characters that fandom made 1000 times cooler than Lucas envisioned.  Which makes a Hallmark decoration Slave 1 a no-brainer for me to buy especially after it has the sound chip to quote Boba from Empire Strikes Back.  Empire is my favourite Star Wars movie and one of my favourite movies of all time.  I love the darkness and that the bad guys win and I love that on my Christmas tree is a bounty hunters spaceship taking away Han Solo to be sold to a giant slug.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 11

M owns two Christmas decorations from the Historic Royal Palaces.  Hampton Court she bought herself when she lived in the UK: the decoration from the Tower of London was a present from H, the first Christmas they were together, when H already had a trip to the UK planned (and saw the back fence of Hampton Court.).

Monday, 10 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 10

This is a new one, purchased in Newcastle (Australia) at the Oxfam shop.  It's listed as a Cinnamon ornament: we don't recall whether it's actually made from the tree cinnamon bark comes from, but whether it is or not, it smells beautifully of cinnamon whenever you get anywhere near it.

We hope that it retains its amazing scent for many years to come.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 9

Another purchase from last year.

It's a Jim Shore ornament, and probably one of H's absolute favourites of all the ornaments we own.  It's the pink edging and the rainbow that makes her love it so.  This is one of those theological ones that is way more H's thing than M's.

Quoting H:
It's hard to explain this without a lengthy essay that I've been planning to write for quite some time but still haven't managed to: it's about the rainbow as a Queer Pride symbol as well as a symbol of God's covenant with humanity, and how the rainbow in the sky after a storm can stand for hope and grace is so many ways.  Shore also uses quilt blocks in all his work: the pinwheels at the bottom, four patches at the top and the star on the side of the ark.  And quilting is such a big part of my heritage and such a love of mine.  And it is a Christmas tree, after all.  I like having Biblical things on my tree.  Especially Biblical Queer Pride Quilty Christian things.

Decoration of the Day - Day 8

Bit late with this one, sorry.

Last November we had a gorgeous day at Melbourne Zoo with some very good friends who were down from Sydney for a wedding.  They're members of the Toronga Park Zoo in Sydney, and their little girl loves zoos in general.

At the end of the day we stopped in the gift shop.  It was getting close to Christmas, and they were selling decorations, including a number made with beads, the purchase of which went to an animal project of some sort in Mexico (I think).

adores elephants - don't know why, she just does - but as well as their general elephantness they've become a sign to her of one of her writing projects.  And so when she saw this tiny little elephant made out of beads she fell in love with it.  We also bought a wire and bead angel that day, which is elsewhere on the tree.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Decoration of the day - Day 7

Welcome to Stutters Hollow.
You've heard of Stars Hollow, yes?  The ridiculously picture perfect Connecticut village where Lorelai and Rory lived in Gilmore Girls, with a town square and a gazebo and a hardware store-turned-diner among other things.

Last year we asked S's friend for one of the three "Winter Village" kits as a Christmas present.  He gave us all three.  Where H's mother has a Villeroy and Boch village that she sets up in the fireplace, we figured that a Lego village suits Chez Stutters far better.

So we have a bakery, and ice skating lake, a tree, a gazebo, a post office and truck, a Christmas tree-selling stand, a horse and wagon to carry the trees, a toy shop, and a great big Christmas tree for the centre of the town square.

H has since had the ridiculous idea of writing a 12 days of Stutters Hollow to begin on Boxing Day.  Why I would want to continue this post-a-day idea beyond the initial planned 25 days, I don't know, but that's the plan.  Unless I hear screams of horror at the idea, of course.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Decoration of the day - Day 6

Swedish Straw Angel

H's family background is partly Scandanavian - Swedish and Norwegian to be specific.  As a result, a lot of H's favourite ornaments are made of straw.  This one she can't remember when she got, but it's been around at least since she was six.  There's another one that still goes on one of the trees at her parents part, but it uses more straw and is somehow floofier (seriously - that's a word.  We just made it up) and this one is undoubtedly her favourite.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 5

Hallmark Kitten

Growing up, the Hallmark ornaments were one of those things that just "weren't done" by H's family.  She used to hear about the Star Trek Hallmark ornaments released each year and really just assumed they weren't ever released in Australia.  Imagine her surprise when they did exist.

Since the founding of Chez Stutters, the Hallmark decorations have been a source of much interest each year.  And last year, we bought the Hallmark Kitty.

Kitty is lying on her back, batting at a feather above her.  She is oh-so-cute, and H says so pretty much each time she notices the decoration.

In their heart of hearts, both H and S want to have a cat.  Chez Stutters had, for a while, a share in next door's mostly stray cat, but Bella/mini-Tara disappeared mid year, and I don't want to think about where she went.  (She was mini-Tara because she looked exactly like a friend's cat Tara.  To the point that we'd decided that Tara had stowed away in the TARDIS and gone back in time.)  Until we get our own kitty, we have a Hallmark one on our Christmas Tree.  The plus side is this kitty won't climb the Christmas tree.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 4

LEGO Advent Calendars
Blacksmith and anvil, forge, weapons stand and knight with mace.
H doesn't like the advent calenders with chocolates every day.  (It's her mother's influence).  She had one that came out every year, made by her Godmother, with a felt tree and felt decorations, held on the tree with velcro dots.  There were 25 pockets, and 25 decorations, finishing with the star on the top of the tree on Christmas Day.  (For next year, H is planning to have a 25-day Jesse Tree, as long as she manages to get around to making it.)

But last year, Chez Stutters found the awesomest version of an advent calendar EVER: a LEGO advent calendar.  Last year, the only one we could find was LEGO City - with a cops and robbers theme.  Since then we've discovered JustBricks.com.au and during the year we bought previous years' Star Wars and Kingdoms Advent Calendars.  This year, we have an advent calender each (H has Kingdoms, S has Star Wars) and we can rotate among the three in the years to come.

H really does love having something to build each day (so does S - she's usually the first to point out that the day's build hasn't yet been revealed) rather than just a chocolate.  So much more fun - and healthier, too!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 3

The New Chez Stutters Christmas Tree
In H's family tradition, the tree didn't go up until the last day of school, very close to Christmas Eve.  In S's tradition, it goes up on the 1st of December, whether it's Advent or not (S being the atheist, liturgical seasons are understandably not a big part of her year.)  As a couple, Chez Stutters are still developing their traditions, but in this case, H isn't about to argue with having a tree up for longer, given that she *loves* Christmas, and lights, and all that.

This is a new tree, purchased at a fabulous discount in last year's post-Christmas sales.  In the last month or so, S has been getting worried that the tree was too big.  H's parents have a similar tree, a size or so bigger, and if it had been the same size as theirs, it would have dwarfed the rest of the room.  But as it happened, it's really just the perfect size.  We still needed the step-ladder for the lights and the butterfly tree-topper, but it's not touching the roof, so all is good.

Decoration of the Day - Day 2

Four-tealight Christmas Tree

Last year I didn't yet have an Advent wreath (are you sensing a theme here?)  I knew which one I wanted, but I had to wait until the after-Christmas sales until it was affordable.  In the meantime, I found this lovely four-tealight Christmas tree, which was my stand-in last year.  With the really shiny metal, the reflections of the candlelight are really beautiful.  This year it's just a regular decoration (I will say we have a difficult time finding enough flat spaces to put out all our standing decorations: book shelves that were only single stacked last year are double stacked this year, and we really are noticing the lack of space.  Meanwhile, the tealights in the holders this year are apple and cinnamon-scented tea lights from IKEA - very Christmassy scents.  I'm planning to light them tonight.

(Yes, I'm a day behind already.  Trying to catch up tonight and then get some posts scheduled ahead tomorrow.)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Decoration of the Day - Day 1

I have never yet written a successful blog series in the sense of having completed what I started.  But I'm going to try again this month by going through our Christmas decorations - one per day (the ones with stories behind them).  And so:

Day 1 - Nativity Set with Donkey 

The Mary/Joseph/Baby figure was a present from H's mother for Christmas in 2007, because H didn't yet have a full Nativity set.  It's a Jim Shore ornament, meant to be hung on a tree, but the base is flat and she's always put it up as a book shelf.

When Chez Stutters celebrated our first Christmas together, M moved Donkey over next to Mary/Joseph/Baby to see if H's head would explode from the combination of pop culture and churchiness.  It didn't - instead, H thought it was awesome, and has insisted that Donkey join Mary/Joseph and Baby each year since (this is our third Christmas).

We now have (well H has) a full nativity set that lives at her parents' house, as well as one that lives at Chez Stutters.  But that doesn't stop Donkey being the star of our original nativity.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Indira Challenge #2 (and a garden update)

I hereby promise not to post every night with the results of the Indira Challenge.

However: tonight we achieved the challenge in the following way: we used some of our wall planter dill on the salmon, asparagus and brie tart that I made for dinner.  There's also mint in the fresh batch of green tea ginger iced chai that I made this afternoon.

Green Tea Ginger Iced Chai
In garden news:

  • the zucchini are going great guns.
  • the cucumbers mark 2 have been declared pretty much dead, and we're giving up on cucumber.  At least for this season.
  • the basil might be about to get somewhere (I really, really hope)
  • the OH took lots of awesome photos (and I hope she will post them sometime.
In additional news - as awesome the T2 green tea ginger iced chai is, it's not so great while one is eating icecream. It takes a few minutes after finishing the icecream before the impressiveness of the iced tea returns.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Indira Challenge

via Sydney Morning Herald
Indira Naidoo is my role model.

I remember watching her when she was an ABC TV presenter, and I'm not sure whether she was ever a BTN presenter, but whether she was or not, she was a role model of my youth.  Even if it was just as the weekend newsreader for ABC.  I thought she was completely and utterly awesome, and still do think that.  And now I have her garden-and-cook-book.

Anyway.  (Should that be my catchprase?)


Indira set a challenge in her awesome book about her balcony garden: try to include something from your garden in every meal.

I'll focus on evening meals (I suspect Indira meant the same) and I know we don't manage to include something from the garden in every single evening meal, but I am going to try.  Particularly this summer, but from now on I'll be looking at Indira's book, Stephanie Alexander's book and the classic Yates Garden Guide, and doing my best to
plan ahea
(inside family joke)

and work towards having a four-seasons garden if we possible can.

That's the next goal.  The current goal?  The Indira challenge: use something from our garden in as many evening meals per week as possible.

Dinner - and a plan for summer

We decided tonight that we wanted to have salad for dinner rather than the pasta we had planned. The temperature reached 28.5 degrees today, which is nowhere near the highs we will get later in the year, but we declared it too hot to cook.

Anyway: the salad includes: lettuce, rocket, spinach, mint, coriander (all from our garden) as well as brie, walnuts, onion and bacon.  We also had garlic bread, which could also have been turned into croutons and this is what will happen next time.

It was totally delicious, and so much of it was from our garden!

This is something we really need to keep doing this summer: lots and lots of salads.  We still have cos lettuces that haven't got to the point of picking yet, as well as baby spinach we planted in The Wall this week.  I may separate out the lettuces from the first 6-pocket to the top two of the second six-pocket just to give them a little more room to grow.  'Cause we want lots of lettuce this summer.  And other things, too!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Mystery and rogue plants

Our jungle of rogue tomatoes,
pumpkins, and the three-quar
ters hidden
compost bin.  Christmas Day, 2011
So, after the disappearance of Mystery Plant #1 AND all our cucumbers, I'm somewhat wary of blogging about our mystery plants.  I don't want them to disappear just because I blogged about them.  (Yes, I'm paranoid.)

However, those we've already pulled out cannot be affected by the blogging jinx, and today I discovered a rogue tomato plant.  We'd decided quite some time ago that we would pull out any rogue tomato plants.  Rogue tomatoes come from supermarket tomatoes, which are not the greatest in terms of eating quality, especially in the second generation.  Last year we had three rogue pumpkins and two rogue tomatoes (I think) and the tomatoes in particular took over the back garden  (see photo) for no real profit of taste or quality.

So, we figured we'd pull any and all rogue tomatoes we found.  Today we found our first - and pulled it - and a suspected second, that we're going to leave for a few days, just to confirm that it IS a tomato, and then we'll pull it.

This weekend's intended purchases include:

  • additions to the wall planters from the Hume Murray Farmers Market, with a focus on sorrel (advised by Indira Naidoo's book), Vietnamese mint and/or baby spinach;
  • two Diosmas to replace the shrubs that were transplanted from the backyard to the front and have never really thrived
  • possibly some more Petunias, because I want to have lots of flowers out my front window.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Veggie Loading

One of our favourite/most-used
You may have heard the suggestion that we should all be eating at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.  I am bad at this.  (Particularly the two servings of fruit.)  But one of the things we do is what I call Veggie Loading: adding as many vegetables as possible wherever we can.

Okay, it's not always successful.  I added carrot and zucchini (grated) to an attempted Mexican lasagne, but I didn't cook it as specified and it didn't end well.

But we do still try to add veggies to pretty much everything we can, and as much as we can.  Because the more serves of veggies we can add to a single dish, the fewer dishes we need to wash.  And fewer dishes is a good thing.

Carrott, zucchini and mushrooms are our most frequent veggie loads, although I'm perfectly happy to put red capsicum, snow peas, broccoli/broccolini, cauliflower or beans into anything where they work.  Also spinach (I love spinach) - which is an easy veggie load, and asparagus (when it's cheap) - which is not an easy veggie load.

Anyway, I can guarantee that there will be more posts on this topic anon.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Wall planter update

So, this was the six-pocket planter the day we planted it:

And this was the six-pocket planter today:

Pretty much everything is going ridiculously well.  Including (knock on wood) the coriander.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Update on Mystery Plant #1

Mystery Plant #1 has vanished.

So, apparently, have all three cucumber plants.

Meanwhile, today we will be planting another cherry tomato (because the first is looking stressed, and clearly the best way to ensure that it picks up and provides us with far too many tomatoes is to plant a second plant), and setting up a fourth wall planter with dill (at the moment) and other plants to come following next week's Farmer's Market.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Mystery Plant #1

For the record: H thinks this is a zucchini, S thinks it is a pumpkin. All we know is, we didn't plant it. (Last year we had three rogue pumpkins and at least three rogue tomatoes.)

We'll see who is right anon.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The two Jamies (and the one and only Indira)

Yesterday afternoon was a tale of two Jamies; Jamie Oliver and Jamie Durie.

We went out in the afternoon to Trade Secret to pick up the Jamie Oliver 3-in-1 peeler (with julienne and soft-fruit blades) which we'd been looking at for a while and finally bought because summer is coming on and we want to have salads to eat during the week etc).

We also went to Big W to buy an additional wall planter, having bought two Jamie Durie 3-pocket planters on Saturday and planted them up early Sunday afternoon.  They look and seem to work well (so far), and we were impressed enough to decide we wanted another one.  Knowing that we eventually want to move back to a city at some point in time, and knowing that we're both happier in Inner City rather than suburbia, I'm keen on thinking about gardening in small/confined spaces.  It's not as though we've got unlimited space now, of course.  Comparatively, we have a fairly small growing space (although it's a lot more than we had when we first moved in - a story for another time) and these 12 (two 3-pocket and one 6-pocket) planter pockets give us more herbs (mostly) than we could otherwise have.

So, to keep up the garden stocktake begun in this post - we've now added (in the Jamie Durie wall planters)
The first two Jamie Durie planters,
hung from our fence with hooks
from Bunnings

  • Vietnamese mint
  • Chives
  • French tarragon
  • a Strawberry plant
  • two petunias
  • two nastursiums
  • lettuces
  • marjorum
  • chives (transplanted from last year's attempt at home-made wall planters - I think that deserves its own post)
  • mint
  • coriander

The six-pocket planter.
I must point out that part of the inspiration for our wall-hung gardens came from Indira Naidoo, who I remember as a newsreader from from my youth.  I thought she was awesome then, and now that I have her cookbook/patio garden book, I only think her even more awesome.  She'll no doubt feature later in this blog (we keep saying that we'll choose a feature cookbook each week to menu plan from, but we haven't quite gotten there yet.)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Introducing: The Lupins

Remus Lupin early in the 2011 season
When we were planning the back garden I wanted a small part to be a flower garden, because I love flowers.  For the OH, gardening is a brand new experience, and while she can understand growing things to eat, she doesn't get growing flowers yet.  And my small flower garden has had to cede ground to the edibles as we've become more confident and have wanted to grow more (lettuces are in the middle of the flower garden this year), but I've also added edible flowers (yay, nastursiums!)

One of the flowers the OH has taken a great deal of interest in, however, have been the lupins.  She's a Harry Potter fan, I'm a semi-fan.  I've read all the books, seen all the movies, and love certain elements, but still don't consider myself a full-on fan.  And yet, the three lupin plants we planted last year were quickly dubbed Remus, Tonks and Teddy.

Sadly, Tonks didn't survive the summer (or the final novel - sigh).  She simply never flourished.  Remus has grown the best of the three, and Teddy did well but never flowered, and has had to be saved from weeds a few times.  At the moment, Teddy is under attack from a ground cover I planted called "White Surprise" (I can't find the scientific name right now (recording such things is part of the reason for this blog) that we've nicknamed the Coloniser because it's taking over so darn well.  I don't want to let him be overtaken, not when Remus is doing so well (two flowers blooming at the moment).

We planted another three lupins last week, and we haven't yet named them.  Suggestions so far have been that one ought to be Sirius, the "honorary" Lupin; the werewolves from True Blood (which OH watches but I don't), names from Melissa de la Cruz's new Werewolf series...  I've just realised that if we call one Sirius, another should be Bill, which leaves one Lupin and/or werewolf to be named, although I suppose we could go with Fleur, who married Bill...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Our Garden (without any actual up-to-date pictures)

Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen
Garden Companion

I wanted a way to document our vegetable garden as it grows, beyond making occasional notes in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden journal which I don't update on a reasonable frequency.  And so here we are.

I don't yet have decent photos of this years garden, however: so far we have planted the following -

  • snow peas
  • green beans
  • zucchini
  • capsicum
  • basil
  • nasturtiums
  • lettuce
  • cucumber
  • spinach
  • cherry tomato
We also (well, it was mostly me - the Other Half doesn't understand flowers) planted lupins (see more below) and a punnet of petunias are awaiting my pleasure - which will hopefully occur tomorrow.

We transplanted the mint, which was struggling in its pot; and we already had sage, rocket, parsley, and oregano.

A half-blooming Lupin (Remus)
from last year.
We have a pot given to us by my cousins with a bay tree, thyme, and some struggling chives; and somewhere in another pot should be some rosemary.   

Meanwhile, in the flower part of the garden, the Minty is doing beautifully, Coloniser (aka "White Surprise") is taking things over, and the bulbs are doing beautifully.

So, that's the garden as it stands.  

Perhaps at some point I'll draw a plan.  Also, tomorrow I will do a separate post about our Lupin family.  Because I love our Lupin family.