Happy new year
Every now and then, things get me down. There’s so much work to do, the work that I get paid for, and then the other work I’ve chosen to be responsible for by living on a block.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last year, it’s how bloody lucky I am. To be born into this country where you can grow just about anything, from the most beautiful apples to the wonder of peonies to the smelliest of ugly fungi – have a sniff of what it’s like to grow something with an aroma of sex and socks on page 12.
In the picture at left, I’m sitting on the front step of my usual place of work. Not the fancy office, 70km and a heart-stopping, frustrating 60-120 minute drive away. This workplace is an eight second round trip, from bed to kitchen to desk.
My work colleagues sleep at my feet. Their pay rate is rubbish – $0 an hour – but their employment conditions are outstanding: slumber is mandatory, all food, board and bones provided. Their only task is to make me smile, something they typically accomplish by looking at me as if I’m the most beloved thing they’ve ever seen. It’s very true that dogs have owners and cats have staff; Jack (17), Holly (6), Simon and Olivia (both 5) definitely don’t have the same deference.
By the time you read this, the canines will temporarily out-number the felines. The dog owners in my family have quickly worked out that I have the equivalent of a doggy day care facility and their babies will be lavished with attention, so Tito is booked in and I suspect Jake and Lucah may turn up shortly.
I remember reading a story about a man who had eight children. His friend asked him, how do you divide the love between eight children? The man smiled and said “You don’t divide, you multiply,” and he’s so right. The more you share your life, the more love you receive.
I hope you have a lovely summer. Thank you for being with us.
HOW TO MAKE SWEET JAM, SUGAR-FREE
We love your magazine, even though we live in the middle of the city.
Quite a while ago I think someone wrote into your magazine asking if anyone knew how to make jam without added sugar; I think we have got one good answer to that question.
I have always loved jam, the more the better on toast etc, and have quite a few plum trees which have an abundance of plums that make great jam.
So I was a bit dismayed when my doctor said I should cut down on my sugar intake. One day my wife was cooking rhubarb as she usually does, with dates in it. It clicked with me that if tart rhubarb can be made sweet with dates why not try it with other fruit to make jam?
I have found it works great. I realise dates must have a lot of sugar in them but surely they are relatively healthy: just cut up some dried dates with your cut-up fruit and cook. I have not made large quantities yet, only two to three cups of fruit at a time. I cook it for 10 minutes or so in a pot on the stove or in the microwave. I sometimes mash the jam with a potato masher to make a little finer mix once the jam is cooked.
If the fruit has lots of liquid, I mix in a quarter of a teaspoon of cornflour per cup of fruit before cooking to thicken it. I have made tamarillo, plum, fig, blackberry, and even marmalade/orange jam (without using skin on the oranges) this way.
I know jam made this way will not keep as long as does ‘normal’ jam. It seems to keep well in the fridge, and perhaps a little lemon in it may make it keep even longer. I imagine sealed in jars it would last as long as anything else.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn the art of weaving baskets or learn more complex techniques, this is a once-a-year event featuring some of New Zealand’s best teachers of hands-on creativity. This year there is also a special guest, inspirational US weaver and artist Jackie Abrams, sponsored by Creative New Zealand.
Each of the six workshops features different techniques, the use of natural materials, such as willow, flax, cabbage tree leaves, and watercolour paper, and inorganic materials such as wire, straws, plastic, plus whatever you want to bring to weave. HATS: Make gorgeous flax sunhats with visors with Maureen Harte and Bronwynn Billens.
WILLOW: Learn to weave traditional and free-form willow baskets with accomplished basketweaver Peter Greer.
INORGANIC: Discover the art of weaving with inorganic materials like wire, plastic and almost anything else with Anita Peters.
TWINING: Learn twining and plaiting large flax baskets with Sarah Hornibrooke.
PAPERWEAVING: Create a stunning ‘cathead’ basket out of painted watercolour paper with US tutor Jackie Abrams.
STITCHING: Learn ancient craft skills of coiling and stitching natural materials including cabbage tree leaves, corn leaves, pine needles and more with Deb Price.