Wednesday, 26 September 2012

... for Your Heart's Home

I am reading the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, the poet's sister, and one sentence she wrote in May, 1800, has stayed in my mind. She is describing the area where they lived in England's Lake District, just as evening is falling.

Grassmere was very solemn in the last glimpse of twilight; it calls home the heart to quietness.

The beautiful rhythm of the words and the scene they evoke made me think - which place in the world calls to my heart to come home?

Kritsa in Crete, Greece
   And it is here, amid this un-prepossessing jumble of little cube houses tumbling down a mountainside, in the Greek village of Kritsa on Crete.
   I lived there for several months and most evenings, just on twilight, I would walk through the little alleyways of the village to the big church. It is sited on the edge of the hill, with a wonderful view looking down over the plains below and across to the mountains of eastern Crete and the Gulf of Mirabello.
   I would sit on a log beside the church and look and listen. Old men and women would be coming back to the village after the day working down in the gardens or olive groves. They'd be riding donkeys and leading a goat perhaps or a couple of sheep. In the distance I could hear the putt-putt of motor scooters and the laughs and shrieks of children playing in the alleys before bedtime.
   But if I listened more closely I would hear the little sounds - the tapping of the donkeys' hooves on cobblestones and the creak of their wooden saddles as they came up the track beside the church; the cooing of the white doves as they circled around the hillside before settling in the trees; the tap-tapping of the walking stick of the old lady who would sometimes come and sit with me.
   "Mazi, together," she would say, rubbing her forefingers against each other to denote companionship, before lapsing into silence.
   I know exactly what Dorothy Wordsworth meant - that place beside the big church on that hillside, in that village, on that island, called home my heart to quietness. And even though I now live on the other side of the world, it still does.
  Where does your heart call home?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

... to Cook with Seasonal Ingredients

Asparagus Tart - perfect for spring
There they were, lying in the vegetable shop, waiting for me - the first spears of spring asparagus. They are the taste sensation of the season to me. So this is what we're having for dinner tonight - Asparagus Tart with an avocado, feta and lettuce salad. 
   The recipe is my adaptation of one by Annie Bell, in the Meat Free Monday Cookbook published by Kyle Books.
 Asparagus Tart

  • 2 bundles of asparagus
  • 4 small tomatoes, halved
  • 1 block of puff pastry
  • 150ml creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon of honey whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • milk to glaze pastry 
  1. Add asparagus to a pan of boiling water & boil 4 minutes. Drain. Run under cold water and drain again.
  2. Whisk together the creme fraiche, mustard, cheese & egg yolk till smooth.
  3. Roll out pastry to about 40 cm by 20 cm to cover tray.
  4. Smooth creme mixture over the pastry leaving a border of about 2 cm all around.
  5. Place asparagus spears and tomato halves in rows on top.
  6. Brush pastry edges with a little milk to glaze.
  7. Bake at 200 C for 30 minutes.
If you like asparagus, give this a try. It's delicious. Must go - time to eat!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

... to be creative

Paper, shell and mother-of-pearl buttons collage
Two days of sunshine last week saw me up early and at the beach, walking, walking, walking. How I love that! But this weekend is stormy and cold again, the perfect time to stay indoors and be creative. So, inspired by the beach, I made these collages.
When you have many childhood memories of the beach it becomes a part of you.

The quotation resonates with me. I grew up near Kohimarama Beach and looking back on my childhood, it seems as if every day was sunny and spent playing on the sand, swimming and collecting shells to make shell boxes. Oh, happy days!
Paper, real starfish and shell buttons collage

Sunday, 9 September 2012

... to Laugh Out Loud

A Macaque Monkey Laughing Out Loud!
How long is it since you've had a really good, hearty laugh? I don't mean a little giggle or a soft chuckle. I mean a long, loud, 'bringing tears to your eyes' laugh!
  According to research at the University of Oxford, laughing increases your threshold to pain. And not by just a little, by a significant amount. In their experiments, the researchers found that even 15 minutes of laughter triggers endorphins in the body to naturally relieve pain. So the more you laugh, the less you'll hurt. Sounds good to me!
 You may not be able to get to a live comedy performance but you could watch a funny TV show, or read some jokes, or share a humorous experience with a friend. Or tickle your own feet, like this monkey is doing! Or you could do what I've done. 
  I've set up a board on Pinterest called 'Can't Help Smiling' where I file funny pictures I've found. Every time I need a bit of a lift I look at it. It's guaranteed to make me laugh, give me a huge dose of that 'feel good' factor, and chase a bit of the pain away.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

... to Celebrate Spring

Bright  Flowers Bring the Spring Inside
The vibrant colours of the freezias add a glowing, bright spot to our conservatory as we celebrate spring. Their scent perfumes the room. Daffodils, irises and clematis are blooming in our garden. It's a wonderful time of the year, isn't it?

Kowhai in Flower

In the local park the bottlebrush flowers are attracting the tui and the kowhai trees are laden with their golden, furled flowers. And on the farms there are tiny lambs and wobbly-legged calves calling for their mothers.  
  There is a feeling of lightness in the air, despite the squally showers and still cold winds. Daylight saving and sunshine to look forward to, and the first asparagus of the season! I always appreciate that and plan a special meal around it to celebrate the arrival of spring.