I'm A Table

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I'm A Table

Hello! My name is Katie and I live in Australia. I'm a full-time public servant, and part-time crafter, artist, reader, and dreamer. More recently a gardener and bonsai enthusiast too. Oh, and why am I a table?
Read more here.

gardening & bonsai
recipes & cooking
art journalling
books & reviews

Works in Progress


So Retro Cushion

Eccentric Grannyland

Mini (Test) Monster

Trock Monster

Ball Monster

S's Knitted Dino

Smooshy Stripey Scarf

Autumn Sky Shawl

Man-Jayne Hat

Chequerboard Scarf

Geometric Cat Toys
(Set 3)

Polkadot Coathangers
(Set 3)

Babbi Blanket

HorseHead Filet Wallhanging

My First Entrelac! Headband

Snow Elf Baby Jacket

Your Chequered Heart Baby Blanket

Baby Bum

Rambunctious Roy

Frankenstein's Toyster

60s Cardigan

Katia Tank Top

Squares Couch Rug

Branwell the Brachiosaurus

Rainbow Rug AKA The 20-Year Afghan

Gingham Embroidery Table Mat

Sausage Dog Xmas Ornament

George & Mildred Softies

Embroidered Bar Mat

Ex-Poncho Cushions (2)

Sewn Hand Bag

Purple Velvet Dress

Kimono Lady Needlepoint

Kumihimo Bracelets

Mori Brooch

Hama Bead Two-Way

WISH Journal

Kitty Needlepoint

Island Embroidery

Yarn Picture

Percentage Bars Thanks To

12 Rules to Live By
By Robert Louis Stevenson.

Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.

Make the best of circumstances. No one has everything and everyone has something of sorrow.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Don’t let criticism worry you. You can’t please everybody.

Don’t let your neighbors set your standards; be yourself.

Do things you enjoy doing but stay out of debt.

Don’t borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than actual ones.

Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish enmities and grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy.

Have many interests. If you can’t travel, read about places.

Don’t hold post-mortems or spend time brooding over sorrows and mistakes.

Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.

Keep busy at something. A very busy person never has time to be unhappy.



May 11th, 2014

Autumn Garden Update

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It's been a while since I felt like blogging. For a long time I didn't feel like doing anything much, but that's starting to change now. I've been doing some craft and even some art, but I'll start with a garden update. It's late autumn now here in Australia, and the stress of extreme heat is definitely behind us. The two larger ferns are recovering, though sadly the small one didn't make it:

I love the way the branches unfurl, like a dancer's hand reaching out. Even plants that I thought were goners for sure have started flowering, like the Begonia:

I didn't even know this was a Begonia until I happened to come across a very similar-looking photo on the internet. Apparently this is the time of year to prune shrubs like the fuchsia, once they stop flowering. But it still keeps on flowering and flowering!:

I'm not complaining though: fuchsias are one of my favourites. I gave it my special attention during the heat, and it pulled through, so I'm very happy. Nearby, the nectarine is starting to lose its leaves:

This is something I'm still getting used to. Most native Australian plants are evergreen, so I have to keep reminding myself ... not Dying: Deciduous! Meanwhile, some of the roses are continuing to delight me:

I'd read that some roses are repeat-flowering, but this is just getting ridiculous! I think it'll be pruning time soon, though. And check out what else is growing ... soybeans!:

I'll post some photos of the whole veggie patch soon. As well as soybeans, we have tomatoes, capsicums, sweet potatoes and hopefully onions, all in different stages of growth. I can't tell you how exciting it is to put things in the ground and see them getting bigger and thriving. I can draw, I can crochet, but there's no more satisfying way of capturing simplicity than this for me right now.

From the simple to the infinitely complicated, to my bonsai:

It's grown a lot since I re-wired it. Unfortunately one evening I found it had blown over with some strong winds that we had a few weeks ago. This had bent the wire out of the shape that I'd set it in, but I managed to re-bend it to something resembling the original. Who knows, I might even blow that branch away in future and work on another one. In that way, bonsai is the same as any other art.

Lastly, here's a shot of our brick paving, lit by the late afternoon sun. I love how the new growth peeking out from the cracks forms a green grid amongst the weeds, giving them a wabisabi type of beauty.

Much of my garden isn't very photogenic, but things like this make it so!

March 10th, 2014

I'm glad that I've been monitoring my bonsai regularly, because the wire on my Callistemon Salignus sapling has been cutting in after only 2 months on. I'm hesitant to label any of my plants 'bonsai', but there are plenty of other terms out there that I can use: 'pre-bonsai', 'potensai', even 'tachiagari' ('starting-out'). In some ways, this plant is a tachiagari, as it's only a few years old, barely past sapling stage, and very much looks like a young plant. But it could also be classified as a 'pre-bonsai', as it's already in training. I like to categorise things, if you haven't noticed already!

I was actually pleased that the wire on my Callistemon was starting to cut in already, because I'd done such a newb job with it (my first ever wiring), that I was relieved to get rid of it!

Noob Lessons Learned:
1. Use the right type of wire!
2. Try to avoid creating an Alphabet tree!

Several weeks after wiring my tree the first time, I read a post on styling which said to try and avoid making regular 'S' shapes with the branches. Mine wasn't quite that, but it did have a disctinctive and embarrassingly unnatural-looking 'C' shape. (Hence the 'Alphabet tree'.)

This was my chance to make amends, much sooner than I thought I'd be able to. Having used the wrong type of wire (steel: much stiffer than aluminium), it was very difficult to get off. I nicked the trunk in a few places. Oops. That's possibly inevitable if the wire has cut in. That's what I'd like to think, anyway. (Red arrows point to where the wire has cut in.)

Installing the new wire was comparatively easy, even fun (correct wire, did I mention that?). I only lost one leaf, and I didn't poke myself in the face/eye with the wire even once. I feel quite proud of myself.
Next it was time for styling!

I have to admit, I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing from that point on. It's one thing to read blog posts or watch videos on styling, and nod sagely and say, "ah, I see what you did there." It's an entirely different thing to sit in front of a blank canvas and try to create a work of art from it. Especially when that work of art has a mind of its own and could turn out completely different from what you see in your mind's eye. Or won't bend the way you want it to without damaging it. And especially when that work of art is something you'll be working on for the rest of your life, and the decisions you make now could drastically affect what you have to work with in the future. (No pressure at all, then!)

Pushing all of that aside, I bravely dove in and did this:

I listened carefully for cracking noises, just like the blogs say, but having no real plan in mind, I kept fiddling with it and had to stop myself from re-positioning it too many times. I'm not completely happy with the outcome, but I didn't want to do any more in case I damaged the tree too much. I gave the trunk a sharper bend (red arrow above) instead of the gentle curve it had before, to give it a more dramatic story. I angled the rest of the trunk downwards, with some 3-dimensional movement both back-and-forwards, and up-and-down. I should have bought some finer wire as well so I could have styled the smaller branches at the same time. Never mind. It's okay.

Noob Lessons Learned:
3. Have a sketch or at least an idea in mind before you start fiddling with the branches!

FYI - this specimen has had no pruning and no root work done on it yet, so on second thoughts I'm wavering on calling it even anything as prestigious as a 'pre-bonsai'. Perhaps I'll come up with my own terms so I can neatly categorise everything.

March 3rd, 2014

Today is just a quick update to tell you about my sweet potato. A few months ago, I saw in Gardening magazine that you can grow your own sweet potatoes from the tuber. So I decided to give it a go. I wish I'd taken photos right from the start, but that's life. One half of the potato didn't take (it went all shrivelly), but the larger half is going spectacularly well.

It's been on the kitchen windowsill, where it lapped up the sun, even on the 40oC-plus days. The magazine says that when the shoots reach 20cm, I should snap them off and place them in some water to grow roots. So that I did.

The shoots are different lengths, so hopefully that means we'll have a small but steady supply of sweet potatoes instead of a glut. According to the magazine, I should plant the shoots out when they have well-developed roots and each one should grow 5-6 sweet potatoes. Nature is so cool like that! I'm not sure yet if I'll put them in the veggie garden or pots. Husband and I prepared the bed quite shallow, as we were only planning on growing non-tuberous plants (cucumber, capsicum, etc). We have some pots that may be deep enough, but I'm not sure. I could always try both. That's why it's called an experiment!

January 7th, 2014

My First Saikei

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First, I should probably explain what a saikei is: begin the lesson!

A saikei is a miniature landscape in a tray, consisting of living plants, with rocks and sometimes water. Bonsai-like trees are incorporated in the display - though they are usually less mature than true bonsai - as well as ground cover and other types of plants.
Kawamoto Toshio, who invented the art form in the 1950s, set out various 'rules' that saikei should conform to, but being a new artform, they're not as rigid as with bonsai. Some designers contend that the landscapes should never include man-made elements such as human/animal figures, buildings, etc., but most of the photos I've seen include these.
Saikei is seen as a good introduction or 'easier' alternative to bonsai, as a pleasing display can be achieved almost immediately. As a more naturalistic effect is desired, the fine pruning and shaping required of bonsai isn't necessary. Saikei are also very versatile: as the plants grow, the display can be taken apart and re-designed. Potential bonsai can be grown in a saikei display until mature enough to be potted separately.
[For more information, see the Wikipedia.]

Now on to my first creation (and yet another photospammy post, I just can't seem to help myself lately) -

I had these three rocks that I'd found when we were inspecting my best friend's currently-being-built house a couple of months ago:

They're pretty cool. I'd been wanting to incorporate one of them into a saikei for a while. On New Year's Eve, I suddenly decided to do it! On the way back from picking up our party supplies, Husband and I decided to swing into Bunnings on impulse. I can get a bit giddy in these situations and sometimes don't make the best choices, but time will tell.

I didn't have time to do anything with my purchases on the day, what with preparing the party foods and all, so I left it til the next day. Can I just mention how it poured rain on New Year's Day here? It's meant to be the middle of summer, for pete's sake! I remember past New Year's Days when it's been so swelteringly hot we dared not leave the house! This summer has been so cool and wet so far, it's very unusual.
Anyway, back to the saikei. Here are the victims candidates:

Here we have a Buxus Microphylla 'Faulkner' (AKA Box, popular for hedges) and a Delosperma Echinatum 'Happy Days'. I didn't use the commonly-held principles when selecting the plants, like naturalism or similar hardiness, no, not me! I chose the Box because it had an interesting trunk which might make a good bonsai one day and it just seemed perkier than its fellows. I chose the Delosperma because it looked kinda cool and had a cute yellow flower on it.
Here's the pot:

I would have preferred a large, shallow tray, but the selection at Bunnings was limited. (The first time I visited, I was pleasantly surprised to find they had a bonsai section there at all.) I chose this as it was the flattest and widest they had, with the most unobtrusive coloured glaze.
One of the many fun parts is cutting the mesh to size and attaching it to the pot with wire loops:

The rock sat too low in the pot for my liking, so I used some smaller rocks that I'd found in the veggie patch to sit it on (don't worry, I washed them with disinfectant first). Yeah, for some reason the previous owners had at some point brought in a large amount of medium-sized gravel rocks and scattered them throughout the whole garden, even the veggie patch. It makes for interesting times! But at least the rocks are coming in handy. I put a couple of the more interesting ones aside in case I wanted to use them to decorate the finished saikei.

Now for some potting mix. I made sure to stuff plenty of it under the rock to stabilise it:

Then I pretty much just made it up as I went along. First, the Delosperma:

Apparently it's also known as the Pickle Plant. I like it. Now, the Buxus. Here's a close-up of the trunk showing the hopefully potentially interesting multiple trunks:

The poor thing had become a bit pot-bound during its time at Bunnings. It was a good job I rescued it!

There was no way it was going to fit into the saikei as is, so I cut about a third of the root ball off.
(The sky had become so dark now that the flash started going off!)

Roots tickled and arranged in the pot:

I tried to keep the weeds passenger plants intact to add a bit of interest and naturalism to the finished product. I had a bit of trouble making sure all of the roots were covered in potting mix, but I got there in the end. I created a nice little valley in between the plants.:

And yet it still seemed too sparse. It needed more! Many saikei I'd seen had moss as a ground cover, but even with the shocking weather here at the moment, moss in your average Australian garden in Summer is very difficult to come by. So I did what any half-crazy gardener would do - I went out into the rain and started digging around between the cracks in the concrete with an old bread knife!

This nice groundcover, well, I have no idea what it is, but it's going in!:

back view.

Later it occurred to me that, if it was growing on the shadiest side of the house under the eaves, then it might not like to live in the same pot as a sun-loving succulent and a piece of hedge, but I guess we'll see how it goes.

I added the two reserved small rocks, and some gravel to create the look of a dry riverbed. I put the white rock at the back to look like it was in the distance. The final touch was a panda figurine that my best friends gave me for Christmas. It stopped raining just as I finished it. I'm not joking.

I suppose it's hardly a naturalistic landscape, really. Why would a panda be doing the Happy Baby in a not-that-Chinese landscape under a monstrously large privet?? But it was fun to make, and fun to look at.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot! Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2014

Get ready for some more photospam today, because I made mole for the first time yesterday. It's been something that I'd been wanting to make for years, so of course I took lots of photos. My ultimate dream is to create my own mole recipe, but I decided to start with some established ones and experiment. I bought the chillis and some of the other spices from Gewurzhaus in the city, so I thought I'd start with the recipe from their website, though I did modify it a bit. I'll explain the modifications I made as I went along. I also halved the recipe.

Here are most of the ingredients I used:

Instead of Ancho chillis, I used Mulato, as the shop was out of the former. They seemed quite similar according to the descriptions on the website, except that Ancho is a little more smoky. For that reason, I used a Chipotle chocolate disc instead of a plain one to add the smokiness.
The dried Mulato (left) and Pasillo (right) chillis, before I put them in boiling water to soak:

That thing on the right is my new Yerba Mate gourd that I got for Christmas. I always like to drink highly-caffeinated beverage while I'm cooking.... or just anytime, really. ;)
[find out more about Mate here]

Adding the spices, onion and garlic to the blender. Instead of Gewurzhaus Chilli con Carne spice, I used their Guacamole Spice. At the time I was in the shop, I hadn't decided yet which recipe I'd be following, and just happened to buy the Guacamole Spice in case I wanted to make that too (I didn't in the end). I figure the blends are probably quite similar. Also, instead of 1 1/2 cloves of garlic, I used 2. I couldn't be bothered faffing around with a leftover half a clove of garlic! I also didn't bother chopping the onion too fine, or grinding it in a mortar and pestle. What is technology for, after all?:

I fished the chillis out of the water and ripped them up roughly using tongs and my fingers:

Then I whizzed them:

Next, dry-frying the sesame seeds and 'breadcrumbs' (2 defrosted crusts from the freezer, roughly torn):

Adding the above to the food processor.....

.... and, whizzed!:

Now frying the resulting paste in a goodly amount of olive oil. Apparently the paste can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, but why on earth would I do that, at this point?:

Next, I added the reserved chilli water, a can of crushed tomatoes, and 2 cups of chicken stock. No, I didn't muck around with creating my own chicken stock as per the original recipe *hangs head in shame very briefly*.

The mole at the beginning of its simmering journey:

Let's just contemplate that for a moment, shall we?:

As well as looking quite suss, it also smelled pretty manky. I was quite concerned. The original recipe states to simmer for just a few minutes, and then leave off the heat for half an hour and re-heat slowly. To be honest, that sounded a bit barmy, especially with it smelling the way it did. Other recipes I'd read (not to mention Wikipedia) said it's cooked for 2 hours or more. So I compromised and simmered it for an hour. Here it is after the hour was up, and after adding the cocoa and chocolate:

Meanwhile, husband got into the spirit of things by making the cutlets into fried chicken with his own secret blend of herbs and spices. (It's not actually a secret, I just don't know what it is and don't think it's that important right now.) They were fried in rice bran oil, which I highly recommend to make it nice and crispy. Neither of us had ever made fried chicken before, but he did a fantastic job and it was delicious:

Meanwhile, I added the cocoa and 1 disc of Taza Mexican Chipotle Chocolate about 10 minutes before the end of cooking. It tasted pretty good before that, but even better after! The finished product:

I meant to make some kind of vegetable side dish to serve with it, but couldn't get to the supermarket in time. Some would say it would only have sullied the pure experience. ;)

Husband is very happy for me to make mole again in future, and I think I will. The flavour is unlike anything I've had before and I was a bit dubious at first, but by the last mouthful, I was hooked, as was everyone in the household.
I can vouch that it's just as good the next morning over fried eggs, as well.

December 28th, 2013

Early Summer Garden Update

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Stopping in for a quick garden update in between all the bustle of Christmas and New Year. Some of these photos were taken a month ago when it was still pouring rain nearly every day (yes, this is still Australia, I checked!), and some more recently when the rain finally subsided and Summer began in earnest.

I re-potted two of my cacti:

If you must know, their names are Big Red and Spiky Spud (I'll leave it to the reader to decide which is which). My views on 'Mutant Cacti' are ambiguous: I feel slightly disturbed whenever I see them, yet I feel sorry for them and want to take them home with me. I got Spiky Spud from the A Prickly Affair stall in the city. It came with a leaflet explaining how to keep your cactus nice and small (obviously designed for apartment dwellers). I had to laugh because it seems, even my cacti are bonsai!

Oh, and check this out! My fruit trees are growing fruit! All I did was give 'em a bit of water and fertiliser, and they're growing fruit! Nature never ceases to amaze me.

They're at the stage now where I can confidently say that we have 2 apricot trees, a plum, an orange, a fig and possibly another variety of plum or a nectarine. Husband and I put bird netting on them last weekend: that's a whole story in itself!

Then there are some things that are doing well without any intervention whatsoever, like the fuchsia:

And even more impressively, the roses:

Every time I look at this rose, I can't help but smile. Lavender was one of my favourite colours before, and even more so now! Unfortunately it's finished flowering now, but there's a gorgeous dusky pink rose right next to it just starting up, so I'm very pleased. (P.S. Don't things look so much better when it's raining?)

And finally, my Shimpaku bonsai is recovering well from the shocking treatment it was given at the workshop. I'm very pleased and amazed at how well plants will bounce back from being hacked into pieces, having half their roots cut off and jammed into a tiny pot. Pretty cool. I'm looking forward to doing it to more plants soon. ;)

I'll wait until next winter and have a good look to see which branches I might want to style and which I want to cull. Having subscribed to a list of bonsai blogs as long as my arm lately, I realise now more than ever how a 90-minute workshop does not a bonsai make! I don't have any pretensions that my little Shimpaku will ever win any prizes, but at the moment I'm just fascinated with how everything just, well... grows!

December 22nd, 2013

I've Got Worms!

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It's true. A few weeks ago, a large box arrived in the mail. Knowing how much Husband and I have suddenly become interested in gardening since we bought a house, our dear friend bought us a worm farm as a combined Christmas/wedding present.

I apologise in advance for the photospam, but I wanted to show the whole process of setting up the farm.
Here's the open box. It's the deluxe kit with the food collection bin and soil moisture/pH indicator, which will come in handy for a lot of things in the garden.

Underneath this were the worms themselves, in a cotton bag. Next to them was a soft drink bottle filled with water and wrapped in newspaper (presumably it was frozen when the journey began). This kept the environment nice and damp for the worms.

Putting together the base of the box. I screwed the legs to the base with wingnuts. I should say at this point that my workspace was the carport. We don't have a proper workspace set-up yet, so I was using the display cart that the old owners of the house left behind in the garden, in combination with the car bonnet to store extra parts. We got a real professional set-up here.

The base with the collection tray in place and the tap inserted.

Putting the lid on, just to see how it all fits together.

Now for preparation of the worm bedding. I had to wait 2 hours for the coconut fibre to soak into the water. It was a really long 2 hours! I think I spent the time perusing bonsai blogs. ;)

Testing the fibre. Unfortunately it was way too watery, so I spent some time carefully scooping out water and dumping it on the azaleas.

Time to lay the bedding. The instructions said to lay down 2-3 layers of newspaper in the tray. Who has newspapers anymore??! Thankfully we had a Bunnings catalogue lying around, which is made of the same type of paper.

Here I am scooping coconut fibre into the tray with a handy scoop that the old owners left behind in the shed. Spreading it nice and flat and even. It must be even, it must be flat. Flaaaaaat....

Then I re-read the instructions which said that the bedding must be loosely piled onto the base so the worms can get around easily. So Husband stuck his hands in and fluffed it up a bit.

Now finally for the worms!

Opening the bag was a lot of fun! There they were, wriggling around, wondering what's going on.... I'll spare you the close-up. The bag was full of a lot of shredded paper and worm food to keep them going during their journey to their new home.

As per the instructions, we dumped out the bag, and Husband bravely stuck his hands in again to distribute it evenly. The worms wriggled down into the bedding immediately, just as the instructions said they would.

We put the worm blanket on top of the bedding and sprinkled it with a bit of water to keep the worms all snug and happy.

The last step was to put the Vermi-Hut in its new home, in our carport. The system is very compact and fits in nicely out of the way.

I've been checking it regularly and, while I can't tell if the worms are actually happy, at least they're still alive. And no, I'm not going to name them all! :P

Thank you very much Ms E for our wonderful present!

December 1st, 2013

A New Bonsai Friend

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It seems I've got Bonsai fever proper now, and I've been itching to get more in the last few months. Finally yesterday I gave in and bought this. It's a Callistemon Salignus, a Willow Bottlebrush:

It was in the Tube Stock section at Bunnings. I'm such a noob, I don't know if those couple of curled leaves are a problem or normal, but there's lots of vigorous growth at the top, so hopefully I made a good choice.
All the materials needed for re-potting and wiring:

My workbench is a display stand (?) that we found in the garden when we moved in.
I decided to attach the wire to the bottom of the pot for extra stability, and added some standard slow release fertiliser.

The poor little thing is a bit pot-bound, so I'm glad I decided to re-pot straight away. It took me a while to tease out the roots, but I finally got a nice spread. I'm using standard 'Premium' potting mix.

Now the wiring begins.
Self-Confessed Noob Mistake #1: (I'm sure there will be several more in future.) I used the wrong type of wire. I just grabbed the first wire I saw at Bunnings which happens to be fencing wire. Aside from being a garish silver colour, it's very stiff and difficult to bend. My hands were sore by the time I was only half-way up! I'll get some proper bonsai wire to use next time, I promise!

Now, how to style the little one? The trunk is still very flexible. I looked at some Bottlebrush bonsai online and they all seemed to be brush or multiple trunk. However, I noticed a slight undulation which you can see in the photo above. (Above photo is of the back.) I decided to take advantage of this and ... voila!:

So it seems the little one may be a windswept or perhaps semi-cascade style in years to come. I think after its first wiring is a good time to name bonsai, so I named this little girl Minami which means 'South' in Japanese, a nod to the fact that the Bottlebrush is a Native Australian plant, from the Southern Hemisphere.

I put her in the same sheltered spot where I'm keeping the creepers Husband and I bought at the Bonsai exhibition a couple of earlier this month. At centre is Husband's Virginia Creeper and at right is my Japanese Creeper (aka Boston Ivy). We've decided to leave them as-is until next year, but there's a taste of what they have to look forward to.
I think one of my next priorities might be a nice stand to keep the plants on!

November 3rd, 2013

I baked a Babka

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The other day I felt like doing some baking, so I turned to the latest edition of Feast Magazine for inspiration. I decided to bake the Babka. (Sorry for the bad photo.)

I think the Babka and things like it are found in many cultures. It is filled with dried fruit and a rum syrup is poured over the top. I was excited to be able to use my new heart-shaped measuring cups for the first time. I'd bought them for myself as a treat a few months ago, but with moving house, etc, I haven't had time to do any cooking until now! So this is adding sugar to the egg mixture.

This is stirring the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. I had to use powdered egg as I didn't realise I was out of eggs. Oops.

I left the dough to rise, but it didn't rise like it should. I even did the old trick of placing it in front of the open oven door for half an hour, but it still didn't behave. Did I have dud yeast, or was it the egg powder? Still, I continued on.

I rolled the dough out into a large rectangle as the recipe said. It was tough going due to the whole dough-not-rising-and-not-having-enough-volume-and-stretch thing, but I managed to roll it out to the size I needed to eventually.

I sprinkled the filling over the dough. Instead of dried cherries, I used dried apricots, which had been soaked in schnapps for several hours. Accompanying the chopped apricots are bits of everyday chocolate. Unfortunately in this picture, to me it looks like tomatoes and bits of meat, perhaps chopped roast beef! Am I making a pizza??!

Then I rolled the dough up into a log. I don't have a photo of that, but it doesn't take much imagination, I think. Then I cut the log into 7 slices, and arranged them in the tin.

After coming out of the oven, it looks nothing like the photo in the magazine! The 'bread' hasn't risen at all, and it has the grainy texture and crunch of shortbread. It seems I've made biscuit scrolls!

I didn't have any rum, so I used a mixture of schnapps and cherry brandy to make the syrup.

It was still delicious!

October 22nd, 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, now that Husband and I have our own house, we have our own garden, too. That means we can ... do gardening! We've both been interested in bonsai since we were kids, but never had the space or funds to keep them. Now all that has changed! On the weekend, we went and did a beginner's course at our 'local' bonsai nursery.

Though short, it was a great introduction, and we both came away with our very own bonsai. I decided to name mine Shinji; the H's is not yet named.


the Nameless one:

We're keeping them in a hutch we found out the back of the shed. We were going to break it up and put it in the hard rubbish, but thank goodness we didn't! It's the perfect shelter for our tender bonsai.
Both are Sargent Juniper, known as Shimpaku in Japan. Apparently they're one of the hardiest trees and are very suitable for a beginner. In the course, we prepared the pots, unpotted the tree, trimmed the roots and tied it into the new pot. Then we chopped the heck out of it! I really wish I'd had my camera with me so I could have taken a before photo. The tree was more than twice the size originally!

The instructor then further trimmed and wired each of our trees in turn. Most of the lower branches disappeared, the top came off and one of the small upper branches was trained upwards to become the new top.

Shinji is only a 5-year-old tree and was only trimmed for the first time. Perhaps it's more correct to say that it's a potensai (potential bonsai) rather than an actual bonsai at the moment. Bonsai take many years to mature and take shape. With more reading, I'm starting to understand that bonsai is a life-time prospect. A bonsai is a living tree, and it will grow and change. A bonsai is a work of art, but it is one that can never be 'finished'. The bonsai grower must always think of the future. How can the tree be improved in the coming years?

I've tried to think of some initial plans for Shinji, though as a beginner it's hard to visualise! Currently the two branches on the left side cross over each other. The lower one could be bent down a little more (green line) and the upper one bent up (orange line). Or alternatively I could cut it off altogether, or rip the end off to create a jin (deadwood branch). Some of the smaller branches at the top (purple lines) could be grown out to create medium-size branches to give it a more triangular shape overall.

So much to think about!
Whenever I get into something, I get into it hard, so I have an urge to go out and buy lots of potential bonsai stock, do more chopping and of course buy accessories and tools. There are also other types of potted plant arts that don't take as long to develop as bonsai, so perhaps I can look into those as well for some semi-instant gratification. I'll talk about those a bit next time.

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