No sooner have we harvested hundreds (!) of limes and grapefruit, found homes for most of the fruit and pruned the trees, than the next episode begins.

Cumquats June 2016

Our cumquat tree’s overloaded with fruit… and it’s all starting to colour up. The calamondin (cumquat/manadrin cross) is catching up fast. This means yet another harvest coming up really soon. Looking back, I see that the trees were as overburdened with ripe fruit in mid-June last year…and the year before…

Over the past few years I’ve been a veritable cumquat-queen, making just about every imaginable (food) product I could think of. Last year I branched out and made raspberry and cumquat jam, but I’ve also made marmalades and chutneys, candied the cumquats to produce delicious sticky glacé fruit, brandied them, baked assorted cakes and scones and even made cordial.

cumquat chutney_2014

Since I still have a fair amount of jam and chutney stored in the fridge, I guess I’ll be baking and candying again this time around. Something new would be fun though, so maybe I’ll try Vietnamese-style cumquat flowers – they look pretty special. I also had a prowl around the recipe books in the local library this week for ideas and came across Homemade by Anna Gare, which includes a recipe for ‘Dad’s Cumquat Cake.’

Most of the cumquat-related cake recipes doesn’t use a huge amount of fruit and this is now exception. But 500g isn’t bad – and if the recipe works out and is super tasty, there could be many, many cumquat cakes distributed around the countryside… Failing that, I do still have recipes for all the other things we’ve made over the years!

Perhaps it’s time to prune these trees too – and to do it very thoroughly – in the hopes that reducing the tree size will likewise reduce the crop we get next year. After all, that worked soooo well with the grapefruit and lime trees… (not!)

A friend contacted me this week to ask how to get hold of a print copy of my recently published book, Girdle of Bones. Since it’s supposed to be available on Amazon, I went hunting to see if I could locate it for her.

My interwebs hunt was no more successful than hers. Whilst I did find the eBook version (and some great reviews – thanks, folks), I too failed to find the print version. Much frustration and a follow up with Amazon solved the mystery. They’ve tucked it away on their direct print site, making it a tad had to find. If you’re interested, you can track it down here.

Anyhow, in the process of hunting for Girdle of Bones, I happened across an interesting blog on the same subject (joint replacement). It was put together by Steve Blanchard, a retired engineer and photography enthusiast living in Berkshire (Massachusetts), to record his joint replacement journey.

Steve’s blog presents a detailed account of the nuts and bolts of total hip replacement surgery. It’s a first-hand account from the perspective  of someone who has had both hips replaced, and his experience overlaps with my own in many respects. I imagine that he found the process of keeping the blog and updating his progress cathartic – it certainly was for me when I documented my own story.

The way Steve imparts his information show’s the difference in our story-telling outlook. I came to mine from a sociological perspective, embedding the information in a memoir format. Steve’s engineering background has informed his, making it more detailed and analytical. This includes the way he discusses everything from why one might have a hip replacement to pre- and post-operative issues, exercise and pain management.

For anyone about to embark on surgery and wanting some specific, detailed information on the joint replacement experience, I’d suggest that it’s well worth taking the time to have a look at Steve’s blog and following his journey. The information has been well thought out and Steve has been very generous in sharing so much detail.

steve blanchard hipblog

Our little Nunzio (aka Cassie) has graduated from puppy pre-school. Yup, apparcassy graduation certently puppy pre-school is now a thing. It’s aimed at socialising puppies and teaching them the rudiments of obedience – thus advantaging them when they trot off to ‘big school.’

We cheated a bit, I guess, because we started teaching our puppy to sit, wait and walk on lead right from the beginning. Pre-school added an introduction to ‘drop’ and ‘stay’ – and she’s sort of starting to get the hang of those.

More importantly, by the final session she was interacting with the other puppies quite positively. At the start of the series I’ve an idea she thought they might bounce on her like MissMolly does – and since there were rather a lot of them, this probably had low appeal. So there was a certain amount of hiding under chairs and peeking out.

Next term it’s off to puppy obedience level 1. We’ve done it any number of times (with other dogs), so we already know what to do – but the routine of going to class each week and both puppy and trainer interacting with lots of other dogs and people is a valuable exercise in its own right.

So Himself will be having the joy of dog training at two separate clubs on two separate nights. Ah yes, the joys of dogs…

cassy puppy school

Sometimes it’s really easy to write. Words almost seem to tumble over themselves in their haste to exit my brain and leap onto the page/screen. Those are the productive days – and even if the subject matter is sometimes a little sombre, the joy of self-expression wins out.

Then there are the other days – the days when the blank screen (or journal) looks at me… and I stare right back. It’s frustrating. That’s when social media or Internet browsing seems a LOT more productive than passively sitting and waiting for words to emerge.

And sometimes it is. Sometimes something I read or see sparks some little flame that spurs me on to getting moving again. By and large though, the thing that works best for me is to go outside and wander around in the garden (any garden, really) for a while. So much the better if the sun’s shining, but it’s not a requirement.

The act of acknowledging the block and then getting up and walking away from it for a while is a healing action in its own right. Going outdoors, spending a few minutes (or more, if time allows) in my happy place – a garden – energises me. It also engages a different part of my brain, giving the writing-me some time out to swim around in the sea of ideas in my head without having to do anything about them.

By the time I come back indoors I’m usually smiling. Settling back at my desk with a cup of tea, I feel refreshed and am usually ready to get back to whatever it was that I abandoned. If not, I take my journal, a pen and my tea back outside with me – and write about something else instead to break the cycle.

I’ve written some very odd things in these tea-in-the-sun moments, and have incorporated most of them into a larger narrative at some point. Mission accomplished, I reckon.

My winter garden 2016

18 months ago I was given 800g of beautifully soft natural cotton Bendigo yarn. It’s a delicious colour called pomegranate and I was sure it’d be a pleasure to knit with… but what to knit? After my usual period of procrastination, pattern hunting and visits to Ravelry, I arrived at a decision. I’ve often wished I had some sort of small, easy to transport blanket, particularly when at outdoor cinema events or sitting at my computer, so I opted to turn the yarn into a simple lap/travel rug.
knitting book
None of the patterns I found appealed to me though, and nor did the idea of knitting individual patterned squares and sewing them up. So, in the end, I devised my own idea. The bulk of the rug is worked in an Irish moss diamond stitch that I found in a great book of knitting stitches a friend gave me many years ago. I’ve used the book innumerable times when at a loss to find just the right stitch for a project – and this was no exception.

A simple corded cable (also from the book) runs along each long edge and I’m adding a plain moss stitch border all the way round to complete the design. Because sewing things up doesn’t appeal to me much, I’ve chosen to knit the rug all in one piece. It’s growing (slowly) and has been keeping me from going completely troppo whilst dog-sitting. I’m about halfway there now, so it’s also finally big enough to keep my lap toasty warm – definitely a plus.

pomegranate blanket