Sunday, January 22, 2012

Keeping busy

Hi everyone, I hope you are all having a lovely summer/winter!  I've been keeping busy with sewing, summer harvests and the general wonderfulness of the season.

No photos this post, just a written update...

Sewing - I've been 'fitting' my husband for trousers.  Some of you might remember last year I 'fit' him for a shirt as part of my college sewing course and he really likes the shirt I then made for him.  Now I'm all set to try making a pair of trousers for him.

I've also been 'fitting' a friend for a dress - she's not sure what she wants, but when I showed her the lovely Simplicity 1291 from 1944 that the amazing Sew Convert made recently, she started to be inspired (and who wouldn't like a dress like that for themselves one day!).

Finally on the sewing front I have been drafting a dress pattern for myself.  I have some very pretty Japanese rayon that I bought last year that deserves to be worn!

Summer harvests - finally the weather has warmed up so our tomatoes are ripening, the eggplants and capsicums are starting and the first ears of corn are almost ready.  We also went wild blackberry picking today.  We picked about a kilogram and it is just the start of the season!

I hope you are all well and have some joy in your life.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Palau - Peleliu

Palau was the final country we visited on our holiday to Micronesia.  It is home to the amazing Rock Islands (photos of that beautiful part of the world coming in another post soon) and also the site of a terrible World War TwoPacific battle.  We took a day trip from Koror to Peleliu and were quite humbled by what we saw and heard.

I've spent a number of years in Europe so I have seen a lot of sites connected to war and so much is talked about WW2 from a European perspective that you could almost forget the war in the Pacific.  Australia was directly affected by the Pacific war (with almost Japanese 60 bombing raids on Darwin, and submarine attack on Sydney), but it was really quite minimal compared with many other parts of the Pacific.  It was quite moving to see the incredible impact of WW2 on the Pacific all through our trip in Micronesia, really highlighted by Peleliu. 

Our tour guide told us that in the three month battle on Peleliu over 2,000 USA soldiers died and almost 11,000 Japanese soldiers died.  Some terrible things took place and very few Japanese were taken prisoner.  However, Peleliu was also where, 2.5 years after WW2 finished, 34 Japanese soldiers were found hiding in the jungle - they thought the war was still going.  On a personal, Australian, note - Peleliu was where Damien Parer died while filming the USA marine advance.  Damien Parer was a noted war cameraman and was the cinematographer of Australia's first Academy Award winning film.  There is mention of him at the small museum on Peleliu.

In the lead up to the USA invasion the USA bombed for days.  There was no jungle left and the entire island was bare.  Even now 70 years later, though the jungle has regrown, there are unexploded bombs.  We were told there is an Australian living on Peleliu who is looking for unexploded bombs and every so often there is a controlled explosion in the harbour for all the uncovered bombs - there were two controlled explosions last year.

Keep to the white path and don't stray into the red as that part of the jungle hasn't been cleared yet.

One of the tanks still on the island.

The view from the top of Bloody Nose Ridge.

One of the beaches the USA troops landed on.  When they landed there was no trees and no cover from the sun.  It was around 40oC (104oF) and high humidity.

The ruins of the Japanese High Command.

Japanese gun in the mountain.

Because it was so hot the USA soldiers quickly ran out of water.  As there was no fresh water available to the troops on the island the USA military arranged to have water sent to the island.  Unfortunately the only available containers were old diesel containers.  They weren't cleaned out properly and the troops had to choose between no water or poisoned water.  A choice no one should have to make.

War is a horrible thing and humans can do terrible things to each other.  I hope one day we can learn more from history than we seem to have so far...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homemade goodies!

Over the past month my husband and I have been busy in the kitchen turning fruit (both home grown and bought at the farmers markets) into tasty treats.

Some of the apricot jam, lemon curd and cherry jam we made.  We also made cordial for the first time - two different types, homegrown elderflower cordial and homegrown rhubarb cordial.  The elderflower tastes just as good as the boutique one from Tasmania.  The rhubarb is really different and tastes great mixed with soda water (and made a nice change from rhubarb cake or rhubarb and apple crumble like I usually make with our rhubarb!).

A couple of years ago we got kilos of free apricots and after we got tired of making jam we made some rustic pies that we froze and then cooked from frozen during the winter.  They were great, so when we had some spare apricots on the weekend I thought I would make another pie.

It is super easy and it is so nice on a cold evening to have a home cooked dessert with no effort!  Make your favourite pasty (I use Stephanie Alexander's shortcrust pastry) line a baking dish with it, sprinkle ground almonds over the base, top with apricots and a sprinkling of sugar.  Finish by folding over the edges of the pastry and freeze.  The next day take the pie out of the dish and seal it in a bag until you are ready to cook and eat it, then just put it back in the dish and straight into a hot oven.  Serve hot with custard or ice cream.  It worked really well for us a couple of years ago so I hope it does again!

We also had some spare plums so I made a plum pie, but used ground hazelnuts instead of almonds.  The plums have a lot more liquid than the apricots, so I'll guess we'll have to wait and see if it works!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And with a sigh of relief...

I finally finished sewing New Look 6239. 

I bought this pattern quite a while ago and started making it early last year - before I started my clothing production course and when I really didn't know how to sew, or even understand how to construct clothes.  Back then I found it so confusing and frustrating.  I didn't really understand what I was supposed to do and the instructions didn't help!  I struggled on and assembled most of it but then put it to the side when my college classes took over my time. 

But with my studies over (for the time being!) I thought I really needed some closure with this dress.  I was amazed at how quickly I was able to finish it with my new skills.  I had to make a few adjustments to the original pattern so the straps didn't keep falling off my shoulder and I'm still not completely happy with it, but I really just wanted it finished!  So here it is, and with summer finally arriving in Canberra I have even worn it a couple of times.  It is a nice, light summery dress.

Would I recommend it?  Sure, New Look class this as an 'easy' pattern so even with really limited sewing skills you'll figure it out!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A very puppy Christmas

A gratuitous puppy post because she makes me smile.

Opening presents

Time for a post present unwrapping nap.

Out for a Christmas lunch picnic

A very happy puppy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Micronesia - Yap

If you want a relaxing, away from it all holiday, you should try Yap.  There are less than a handful of flights a week (you get there via either Guam or Palau) only a handful of hotels and some of the friendliest and most helpful people you could ever meet.  We adored Yap and we were lucky enough to have timed (purely by chance!) our visit with the 3rd annual Yap canoe festival, which gave us a wonderful opportunity to see traditional canoeing and dancing.

I hope you enjoy this little photo journey of our favourite part of Micronesia.

Canoe festival count down sign (updated daily!)

Recreation of traditional buildings

The same buildings from the other side - this is right in the centre of the main town (Colonia).

Fish!  We took these fish photos from the balcony of our hotel room.

Japanese anti-aircraft gun from World War 2

Japanese fighter plane from WW2

Crashed Continental Airlines plane.

The Stone Money Bank

Stone money

Stone path

Intricate rope work inside a men's house.

Traditional men's house (with stone money at the front).

Traditional fishing vessels

Wonderful dancing at the festival - the Bamboo Dance.

Bamboo raft race


Men's dance

I love how all ages are included in all the activities.

One of the locals came to our farewell dinner...!