A happy event

Mr & Mrs Bush Stone-Curlew wish to announce the hatching of Baby Bush Stone-Curlew.

A couple of days ago, we were distressed to see that Mrs Stone-Curlew had abandoned her nest, and there was a lone egg left in it. Despite my grumping about the unholy racket the Stone-Curlew family made at night, I’ve been eagerly following progress, and was sad to think she’d been driven off the nest by a predator after her eggs.

No such thing. One egg has indeed failed to hatch, but the other has resulted in a fluffy chick which is extremely well guarded by its cautious and now very shy parents. They have retreated to the far end of the back yard and become agitated at any sign we might be looking at them. Thankfully, this has also resulted in an abatement of volume in their night time cries…

Bush Stone-Curlew eggI’m not going to bother them by attempting a photo of young Master or Miss Stone-Curlew, but I’m sure Mrs Stone-Curlew will not object to my photographing her remaining unviable egg, which is quite beautiful, as well as being, well, painfully large for the size of the unfortunate bird that laid it, being 4cm or 1.75in long.

There’s only one downside to the happy event. Now there will be three of them screaming at night…

I’m slipping…

I’ve always prided myself on being fairly UFO-less.

ScrapHappy selectionUntil now, that is. I have too many balls in the air, and I’m finding it distracting and not conducive to finishing things. Something about my brain prefers sequential rather than parallel activity! Let’s review:

Positive signScrapHappy quilt: I’m actually making good progress on this one.
Stay+: blocks all made, waiting for me to buy backing and start QAYG.
F2F1 lime/grey/black quilt: blocks all in, waiting for me to buy backing and start QAYG.
Hatbox quilt: 4 or 5 blocks made, loads to go…
Emmely 3Cosmatesque: stalled; I’m feeling resistant to the hand stitching, but it needs to be moved along.
Steampunk: as for Cosmatesque. Too many tiny pieces… I need to get cracking again.

Unlike many people, I don’t have a pile of finished quilt tops in the cupboard waiting to be Hatbox 5quilted. Having got that far, I’ve always taken it all the way to the end, and actually, I love binding quilts, so nothing gets stalled at the final hurdle either. But I really do need to find a way to re-ignite my ‘finishing fire’ and square some of these jobs away.

I’ll be starting with ScrapHappy, it’s quick and easy up to the point where I start quilting, and I believe I’ll keep it quick and easy after that point too!  Lots of straightforward walking foot quilting. Look out for a progress report on 15th of September, ScrapHappy Day.

Stay+ needs me to do a little backing shopping. Good job a local craft shop has everything 50% off just now… After that, it’s a question of more straightforward walking foot quilting.

F2F1 quilt (any suggestion for names for this one, by the way?): Ah, here’s where it gets more complicated. I’m determined I’m going to get comfortable with FMQ on this quilt. So it could take a while…

And that’s enough for a few months. 

No more excuses!

My best excuse for not completing my FootSquareFreestyle (F2F) 2015 quilt has just evaporated.

There was one outstanding set of three blocks, due from Emmely in the Netherlands. Now, Emmely got married recently, so has had a great deal on her plate. Then she went on honeymoon. And once she got back, she’d been feeling unwell for quite a while, so I was happy to wait patiently, and I think you’ll agree it’s worth it! For any new followers who haven’t seen the other blocks in the 2015 collection, hop over to the gallery page and take a look. Scroll down… and down…. and down…. My blocks are last of all🙂

Emmely 1 Emmely 2 Emmely 3Of course, you know what this means…

Yup, it’s now officially a UFO, a quilt which will have to wait patiently for me to find the time to sandwich, quilt and then join everything together.

On the upside, because this quilt is staying at home with me instead of being given away, I’ll be able to improve my FMQ skills on it without fear of  giving away a quilt with slightly-less-than-perfect stitching.

You know me: Finished is Better than Perfect.

So I won’t be rushing, or guilting myself, or inflicting any (more) stupid deadlines on myself. It’ll just be slow, steady and as time allows.

And by the end of 36 blocks, I’m willing to bet I’m not so scared of FMQ any more…

Bacon Jam

I made this for the first time 4 days ago, and I’ve already had to give out the recipe twice…

Properly speaking, it’s Bacon, Bourbon & Maple Syrup Jam. Yuh. Sounds kind of fabulous, doesn’t it? It’s not jam at all, of course, but the consistency is about right and there’s no other good way to describe it.

Bacon JamIt’s oniony, garlicky, tangy, bacony, sweet and smoky. I could eat it every day for every meal, but given the content, that’s probably a Bad Idea. A friend I gave it to decided it was best eaten straight from the jar with a teaspoon, but then, he’s a bloke and they do that stuff. It’s good on cheese sandwiches, any kind of barbecued meat, ham & eggs… in fact, anywhere you want a tasty, savoury condiment of some sort.

Drooling yet? Away we go, then.

Ingredients:
700g (1½ pounds) mixed back and streaky bacon, cut into 5mm (¼ inch) shreds*
2 large red onions, peeled and finely diced
4 crushed cloves of garlic
½ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp smoked sweet paprika
½ cup bourbon
½ cup maple syrup (not the best quality, you just want sweetness and a hint of maple flavour)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup soft brown sugar

Method
Sterilise three 400g (14 ounce) jam jars by running them through a hot dishwasher cycle, or boiling jars and lids in a pot of water on the stove for 10 minutes. Keep hot until you are ready to fill them.
Fry the bacon shreds in batches till brown and crispy, and the fat runs off them. Drain on paper towel to remove as much fat as possible. Leave some bacon fat in the frying pan, about 2 tablespoonfuls.
Fry the onions over a medium low heat until they soften, become translucent, and start to become slightly golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the chilli powder and paprika and stir through.
Turn heat up to high, and add the maple syrup and bourbon to deglaze the pan – be careful, it’ll spit viciously. Scrape up all the yummy bacony fragments from the bottom of the pan. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, stir through well and boil for another 3 minutes.
Add the bacon, stir through and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. The mixture will thicken gradually.
Remove pan from heat. If there is a slick of fat on the jammy mixture, you can if you wish remove this by straining. I didn’t see enough to worry about…
Transfer the hot bacon jam to the hot jars, and screw down the lids. Allow to cool a little, then refrigerate. I have no idea how long it’ll keep. Ours was eaten long before there was any chance of it going off. And in any case, it’s full of salt, sugar, alcohol and vinegar. Perfect preserving media, all of them…

It’s best heated up a bit in the microwave if you’re going to dollop it onto your meats. Pretty darn fine cold on a sandwich, too…

(Based on at least a million other recipes on the internet. Even I could never have thought of bacon jam…)

*Note: As you can see from the photo, I didn’t cut the bacon fine enough the first time round, which is why I’m suggesting shreds, which will integrate better into the mixture. My knife skills are not ninja-level, and I’ll cut the bacon with kitchen scissors. It’s nice and quick.

And that’s how you make bacon jam.

The Singing Ship

We’ve had a great weekend on Miss Scarlett.

Riding down to Yeppoon, we had a (mostly) clear road and perfect conditions, not too much sun and a little fresh breeze. After finishing the chores and packing our overnight bags in the morning, we rolled into our friend’s front yard at 4.30pm and were warmly welcomed. I presented him with peanut butter cookies and a jar of my newly-trialled bacon jam. Yes, you did read that right. He suggested I might like to divorce the Husband and marry him instead…. Instead, in the interests of continuing friendship and marital harmony, I gave him the recipe🙂. He likes to cook, and the process is simple, so everyone was happy.

Next morning, we took a look-around ride to Emu Park, just down the road which is a lovely little holiday community. The local RSL (Returned Services League) has put up a really impressive memorial to mark the Centenary of Gallipoli and the ANZACs, and a Wall of Remembrance for the fallen of all wars.

Singing ShipBut what really captured my attention was a monument called the Singing Ship, which commemorates Captain Cook’s discovery of Keppel Bay in 1770. It’s a very interesting and impressive piece of sculpture, built to capture wind passing over a series of pipes, producing a fascinating ‘singing’ sound. Imagine the sound you get blowing over the neck of a bottle, and magnify and change the pitch of this several times, and you get some idea of the effect. There are multiple pipes, and each sings a different note. We didn’t get the full effect, as there was little wind, but on a blowy day, the effect is stunning (click the link for a sound sample).

The BoysThen lunch with another bike friend, a photo opportunity, and sadly it was time to turn for home. It’s one trip we’ll definitely want to repeat.

I’m a bit tired today, it’s been a long couple of days on the bike, but I’m just happy I’m once again able to make a long trip without pain🙂

Accentuate the postive…

You gotta accentuate the positive, they say. Lots of people have said it in lots of ways, but this is my favourite version, and a bit of a leitmotif for my life🙂

Positive signSo I did. Accentuate it, that is. The positive sign for Stay+ is done. When I’ve finished some secret F2F2 sewing this week, I’ll do a little more work on ScrapHappy, and then get cracking with Stay+. I’m having a busy week, so there hasn’t been a huge amount of free time to sew, but I’m happy to report that I have in fact emptied one whole shoebox of scraps…

OffcutsThe leftovers from trimming out ScrapHappy. I don’t believe even the most frugal would find anything useful in that little lot, so they truly don’t count as scraps any longer!

We’re away down south on Miss Scarlett for the weekend to visit some motorbiking friends. I need to get the pannier bags out and start the packing, assemble the wet weather gear we hopefully won’t need, and bake some visitor-gifts.

Right, back to the kitchen. Two date and gingerbread loaves, some peanut butter cookies and an apple cinnamon upside down cake in the oven to be watched.

The earth moved for me…

Breaking news, my friends…

At 2.30pm today, 18th August, north Queensland experienced a 5.7–5.8 Richter scale earthquake. My house is made of wood, and it was just vibrating for a good 10 seconds. Lamps swung, windows rattled, pictures slipped. Strangely, I didn’t feel any alarm.

Further up the coast in Bowen and Airlie Beach, they’ll have felt it even more strongly, as that’s where the epicentre was located (Lat -19.851, Long 148.664).

Preliminary assessment from Geoscience Australia put the quake at 5.8. The US Geological Survey puts it at 5.7, but I don’t think that 0.1 makes much of a difference to the overall effect!

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.56.06 pm

Map from © Geoscience Australia

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.57.04 pm

Map from © Earthquake Track

Luckily, there’s no danger of a tsunami any more at this point… We’re low-lying, at sea level, and after a significant seismic event, that’s always a possibility. The epicentre was only 52km offshore, and if it was going to happen, we’d have seen activity by now.

What we should expect are a few aftershocks…

UPDATE, 3.30pm

Since I wrote this, we’ve had 6 aftershocks ranging in intensity from 2.5 to 4 on the Richter scale:

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 5.33.05 pm

Figures from © Geoscience Australia

FINAL UPDATE, 10.30pm

In the 8 hours since the quake, there have been 9 aftershocks, a 5.4 Richter quake in Papua New Guinea and a 5.3 quake in the Banda Sea near East Timor. If you go to the Geoscience Australia link given above, you’ll see the seismic story unfolding. There is a chain of events stretching from the Andaman Sea between Sri Lanka and Malaysia to just south of Tonga. This region is suddenly geologically active. Let’s hope we don’t live in too interesting times….