Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Midsummer's Rambling

When I get home from the cafe, tired and hot, I put my feet in the fountain which is often enough to re-energise me for some gardening.

Tonight, after the foot fountain recovery, I weeded the capsicums and fed the chickens and used the sun oven to warm my dinner and eat it out under the trees in the slanting evening sunlight.

While I ate felafel, I read my library book (one of the three or four I have on the go) while I ate: Daylight by Elizabeth Knox . I didn't know I was getting a vampire novel out (eeeww!) but by the time the bloodletting began I was hooked on the characters (despite their irritating names i.e. Bad and twins Dawn and Eve) and the story (rolicking along several converging mountain paths on the coast of Italy/France). I quite like that Bad is not only a survivor of a disaster obviously based on the Cave Creek tragedy (14 teenagers died when a viewing platform collapsed in a New Zealand National Park), but how deftly the implications of that experience are woven through the whole book (so far anyway, I'm only half way through 356 pages).

Friday, December 23, 2005

Ngaere's Guillotine

My friend Ngaere is modestly famous in Wellington for Maiden Voyage, her upper-Cuba Street shop where she designed and made interesting clothing selling alongside interesting creations by others. I used to walk past her shop every day on my way to and from work, and once I even bought a 70s rhinestone necklace there, but it wasn't until I started making books that I got to know Ngaere.

In addition to her talents as a designer and seamstress, Ngaere is a skilled and imaginative bookbinder. She is also a generous mentor: sharing tools, materials and advice; introducing me to the Association of Book Crafts (together we lower the average age of its members by some decades); and generally encouraging my emergence as a book artist.

Ngaere's shop closed down when Upper Cuba Street was stripped of life in preparation for the infamous "Bypass". Her loyal customers pleaded with her to open another clothing shop but instead Ngaere has been indulging her passion for books, and especially her passion for collecting book equipment. The latest aquisition is a set of old wooden planning drawers to keep her extensive paper collection flat and safe. I'm terribly envious, as I have been looking for the same thing for a long time. Her second most recent purchase is this old guillotine, another covetable item.

Ngaere has generously offered to let me use it whenever I want, and this week I had my first play with it. Cutting is a completely different experience than when using a knife. Instead of hunching over a table carving out one piece at a time, the guillotine engages your whole body. Spinning the big wheels, like steering steamship, positions the paper and holds it in place. Pulling a lever as long as I am tall brings the blade down with a satisfying snap. A whole different set of muscles are left aching afterwards.

Ngaere's a true friend and a best book buddy. You can see some of her handmade blank books here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Passion is such a delicious word. The shhhh in the middle is sexy. Try it. Right now, say the word passion out loud and feel your mouth make a kiss with itself.

Pucker up and part your lips with a soft smack...pah... then let your breath caress the top of your tongue and tickle the tips of your front teeth... shhh Put the edge of your tongue on the top of your mouth, just inside your teeth and hum a sigh of bliss... onn.

When I was a young teenager in New Zealand "pashing" was one of the briefly fashionable words for what USers call "necking". Pashing is still what I call it because it's got such a sexy mouth-feel to say.

Now try to say pashing... it starts with the same sexy moves as passion but the end of the word is filled with longing... it is desire stoked and and stroked and leaving your mouth wanting more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Raspberry juice recipe

If you find yourself with a glut of raspberries here's an idea for a refreshing drink to cool down with after a hot afternoon planting basil, roquette and cucumbers...

Earlier in the day, after sorting the best raspberries for eating/giving/ freezing... put the less than perfect raspberries in a little pan (after removing all the livestock and the gross bits of the berries they have occupied). Simmer gently, stirring occasionally as the berries break down and release their own juices. When completely liquid, chill.

Mix with apple juice (I used well-diluted concentrate) , add an ice cube, garnish with fresh pineapple sage and a raspberry on its stalk. Unbelievably good...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sky towers

I've been meaning to take this photo for a couple of weeks and I almost left it too late- these wonderful onion dome buds are about to burst into blossom any minute now. I'm not sure whether they are garlic or some other allum. The nearby rows that I know are garlic are much smaller and their flower stems are making wonderful art nouveau curls down towards the earth. These ones are taller than me, reaching for the sky like Martian minarets.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

3 weeks in a garden

The photos below show what has been happening in the vege garden in the past three weeks. The steady rain and warmth mean that even daily visits to the garden show up noticable changes. Most of the new green are young plants spreading out across the compost-rich soil: tomatoes, corn, cauliflowers, zuccini and beans. But some of the green is weeds loving the warm wetness as much as the desirable plants.

The white veiled rows are raspberries (across the front of both photos) and gooseberries (up the left side in the earlier pic) . Do you see the forest of fluffy asparagus fern, taller than me? It's the bright green patch in the top left of today's photo, between the white fence of the garden and the lighter row of gooseberries. The strips of white inside the garden are newspaper mulch between the rows.

18 December 2005

29 November 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Silly season secrecy

I can't really report on book making activities at the moment. The little bits of studio time I am squeezing in betweeen kitchen and garden activities (and swimming: twice into the warm silky ocean at Paekakariki in two days) are focused on making gifts for dear ones who read this blog, so it all has to be top secret until after Hannukah. Sorry to those readers who aren't on my gift list but are eager for book-making updates.

Hannukah happens to start on Christmas evening this year and I have invited my daughter and various waifs and strays to come out to Te Horo for a meal which will NOT be a Christmas dinner. Our gesture to the dominant culture will be a traditional New Zealand Christmas pavlova to go underneath the raspberries. We'll have latkes (potato pancakes) for the Hannukah touch but assuming the weather is still this hot in a week I think the meal will be mostly salads and dips with lots of cold drinks, for grazing as we sit outside under the trees.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Total immersion

Yesterday, having escaped from the stinking hot kitchen where making another 120 lamingtons had coated me in sticky sugar while sweat pooled inside my shoes, I drove up the river looking for a swimming hole.

As Jo and I walked from the road down through steep bush to the wide stony river bed it began to rain, all the afternoon's humidity suddenly falling in big heavy drops onto our towels and clothes. Those few degrees of coolness, and the dark cloud above weren't enough to keep us from the river though. After a couple of minutes of knee-deep squealing we dived in and let the swift current carry us along. We didn't linger but we didn't need to, refreshed and exhilarated we gathered our damp things and climbed back up towards the car, arriving just as the rain stopped, the sun emerged and the road began to steam.

My souvenir, unfortunately, is a blocked-up ear causing deafness and irritation, and stubbornly refusing to respond to all folk remedies and pharmaceutical solutions.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Berry Imperative

Just quickly as I have to get back to my white chocolate lamingtons* (150 down, 100 to go). I fully expected to dream about lamingtons last night but instead I dreamed about long lines of fresh berries, moving past as on a conveyer belt, in ra colourful mixture stretching into the distance with a strong sense of imperative/obligation/priority about them. Maybe you had to be there but it makes sense to me as I have to harvest (and deal with) nearly a kilo of raspberries every couple of days, not to mention the hateful gooseberries.

* Cubes of sponge cake dipped in melted white chocolate and cream then rolled in coconut. Sticky, tricky, pretty and delicious... and oh so many to do...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gooseberry Foolishness

While helping to pick 60+ kg of gooseberries over a couple of hours that went from sweltering heat to pouring rain, I came to the conclusion that the gooseberry bush is an exceptionally evil form of plant life. It appears so generous offering up branches laden with green berries but those branches are also spiked with needle sharp spines as long as my fingers. And when you do extract the pale green veiny fruit (not a pretty berry, imho) from its thorny lair, it tastes mild and bland: not quite sweet and not quite tart. But a caterer will pay good money for them so we turned our hands into pincushions (I'm going to have to try and avoid cutting tomatoes until all the little holes heal up).

Now that's finished I'm dealing with a couple of kilos of split and otherwise less-than-caterer-quality fruit. There's a pot of chutney bubbling on the stove, permeating the house with the aroma of malt vinegar. And later I'll stew the rest to make gooseberry tarts. I'd like to try a gooseberry fool, just because it's one of the best food names I've never experienced, but do you know how much cream is involved? I'd have to have a dinner party to justify that kind of dish, and I just can't be bothered. At least gooseberry tarts are freezable and portable.

Friday, December 09, 2005


My friend Margot was born on the same day of the same year as me. Even if we don't see eachother from one year to the next, we always meet up on our birthday. It's an annual marvel to see the parallel themes in our lives, and the different ways that we deal with them.

I'm the Danny Devito and she's the Arnold Schwarzteneger, but only in height! Look at me stretching myself as tall as possible, and her slouching down to try and meet me... and we still aren't even close to the same level!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Maria Pia's Trattoria

I'm catching up on emails so this is just a short post, about one of the best restaurant meals ever! This is my daughter Louise, me and Maria Pia at Maria Pia's Trattoria where Louise works and where she took me for dinner on my birthday. Maria Pia is from Puglia in Italy and is an advocate of Slow Food and the traditional regional foods she grew up with. It is Maria Pia's practice, and pleasure, to mingle with the guests at her restaurant and she is a vivacious character who reminds me of my Aunt Laura.

We had buffalo mozzarella from Italy with wonderfully flavoured tomato slices, and pugliese olives (so tiny, so good) to start with. Then I had groper on a bed of kale (my favourite green vege) and fennel (which I hadn't tried before and expected to be more highly flavoured) with a delicious salsa verde on top. Both Louise and I consider dessert to be the most important part of the meal and we arranged to sample little bits of several different desserts including a chocolate cake (too rich even for me, by that stage) and a tiramisu (too much coffee for me) and two delicious desserts that I can't remember the names of... one was sort of like berry trifle but Italian and one was a light kind of panna cotta, very subtle and refreshing. I had to be rolled out to the car after all that oh so goodness.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Birthday reflections

Today I turn 39, which strikes me as a particularly satisfying number, so I am expecting a particularly satisfying year ahead of me.

What an amazing, dramatic year 38 has been! I knew that I wanted a different life from the one that had been dragging me through the swamps of despair for far too long. I just didn't know exactly what I wanted to be living instead, except that it be far from the peculiar loneliness of being in a crowd. So, I set off down a path away from what was wrong, trusting that somewhere along the journey I would eventually find and recognise a better life that wasn't visible from my starting point.

In the past year my daughter left home and I bought a car, started blogging, quit the bureaucracy, left the city, moved to the other end of the Island and an isolated cattle farm, became a full-time artist, took up yoga, fell in love, moved South to my sweetheart's rural hinterland, applied to do a doctorate, took up gardening, and just the other day started working as a casual cook in a cafe*.

This time last year I could not have imagined being where I am now, yet right now there is no need to imagine anything different than this. The whole year has seen a steady improvement of my mental, emotional, physical, spiritual health. I needed to step into the unknown and spend so much time alone up North, but when something (and someone) even better came along I was able to move onwards. Life is good and getting better. I'm starting to believe that there might not be any limits to the amount of happiness available for me as I follow my bliss. Roll on the satisfactions of 39!

* Yes, yes, I'm aware that I am revealing some new information in this summary and some of you will want more details. Patience, dear reader, let me share it in my own good time.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Temporarily disabled

For some weird reason, possibly involving inadvertant spam opening and viral exposure (but more likely related to the "authentication and browsing problems being experienced by some customers" according to the recorded message I finally accessed after several attempts to navigate my way through the labrynthine voice recognition computer technology on the Clear Help Line), I am unable to do anything with my email at the moment.

Thank G-d I can still blog. And browse. And text. I'm not sure if the email weirdness is related to the weirdness that occurred when I tried to comment on someone else's blog, but I think it is. (Zydeco Fish, I'm the one appearing as a string of unintelligible code)

I spent the morning feeling depressed and ineffectual about my email absence. But then when it stopped raining I went out in the garden and weeded cauliflowers, tomatoes, silverbeet and garlic. And planted lavender, catnip and peas. And sewed up the many huge holes in the raspberry net which looked like some giant raptor has shredded it and eaten most of the raspberries. Any way it didn't take long before I started feeling good, even without email.

It's a funny thing, that I enjoy solitude really a lot, but when the solitude was exacerbated by no email, then it was too much and I felt lonesome. Not any more though, its hard to feel that lonesome with five chickens and two dogs wanting to be fed.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Feedback Please!

This is my new favourite ingredient... a zuccini flower. After years of reading about eating them, I finally tried it, mmm mmm. The first night I stuffed them with a mixture of breadcrumbs, zuccini, tomato, pesto and olives and roasted them. The second night I stuffed them with brocolli, feta and parmesan. Both were good, but the first was better.

Eating flowers is a delightful activity, the literal consumption of beauty. Usually I put flowers (borage, nasturtium) on salads so that they are not only a colourful accent, but add a soft, delicate texture. I am watching the artichokes in the garden closely, looking forward to dipping their fleshy petals in garlic butter.

What do you think?

Given that a lot of my time and attention at the moment is preoccupied with gardening and cooking and playing house this is what I am drawn to blog about most days. I've been thinking about starting a new blog, not to replace this one but as a venue for my more domestic musings, leaving this blog to be mostly about books and art. This would probably mean less frequent posts on Bibliophilia, as there simply isn't time for me to keep up a full regime of posting to two blogs. To help me make up my mind I would like to know what you, dear reader, think I should do. I see two options:

1. Focus only on Bibliophilia as a personal blog, with no inhibitions about many, even the majority, of posts sharing my daily thoughts and activities in the garden and kitchen, as well as the studio. This would mean posts would be at least as frequent, and possibly more frequent than they are now.

2. Start a second blog (tentatively titled 'Kapiti Cook's Garden) which would be entirely, or mostly, about gardening, cooking and other domestic activities. Maintain Bibliophilia as a book arts oriented blog. This would mean dividing my posting energy between two blogs and each would receive fewer posts than just one.

To comment on this burning issue, click on the "# Comments" link underneath this post. Do you find domestic posts dull and would prefer them to be excluded from this blog? Or do you just enjoy Bibliophilia and don't mind what I write about?

I'd especially like to hear from regular readers (including those who read without usually commenting) and from other bloggers- is this an issue you have considered for yourself?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bay-in-a-box or Slinky Maps

I am very excited to have finished these two pieces. One is Quebec Harbour and one is Dublin Bay, both are nautical charts (1970s reprints of 1860s charts), the real things with little notes from the Captain jotted here and there. Printed on wonderful heavy creamy paper with an energetic spring to it.

I have exploited the spring by making a 'meander' out of each map so that folded up they make a tight cubic shape full of coiled energy. When you open the handmade box covered with the rest of the map the meander springs out (just like in the photo) and if you are holding the box high enough, it slithers right out like a slinky. Remember those big floppy spring toys that would take the stairs one at a time? Just like that. If you want to, you can unfold the meander and lay it out flat and see the chart in all it's Victorian etched beauty.

These are fun to make and fun to play with but I haven't done any for a few months because of the Twilight Zone of my metal rulers. I have four long metal rulers, straight edges (supposedly) of either 60 or 100cm length. (I also have a cute baby 15cm rule which is my favourite because it hasn't entered the Twilight Zone (yet, touch wood)). Every single one of these rulers has warped, some within days of entering my studio. Most of my work is small scale and so a fraction of a milimetre's warping is neither here nor there, but these meanders depend on long cuts that have to be perfectly straight and at perfect right angles. After wrecking a couple of maps I gave up trying.

Then the other day I audited my metal ruler collection and discovered that each has one side which is not warped. The three 60cm rulers have straight inch sides and warped centimeter sides. 100 cm rule is straight on the cm side, which is my measurement of preference.* I carefully marked every warped edge in my collection with an indelible red X, took a deep breath and started cutting a meander with a reliable straight edge. It worked! There's no stopping me now.

If you would like to buy Dublin-Bay-In-A-Box or Quebec-Harbour-In-A-Box or want to commission Your-Favourite-Place-In-A-Box, just send me an email via my website and your wish is my command (contents of my map collection permitting). These are $45 each, which in NZ included P&P. What a bargain!

*I think mine was the first year of New Zealand school children to be taught only metrics and not imperial measurements so I am totally lost when it comes to inches and their silly fractions. Yet most how-to-make-books books come from North America and are full of 6/32" type measures which I have to convert to milimetres cos that's just ridiculous to be working in 32nds of an inch when there are perfectly good milimetres available.