Knitting update: cotton shirt

I’m trying to complete a summerly project in time to wear it this year, but my chances are getting slim… nonetheless, it’s a very pleasant project to knit and to see developing 🙂 The pattern is called Cloudesley and is available on Ravelry. I hope I will have enough yarn, I have used one skein already…

Speaking of autumn, I bought a small set of four seasonal plants that now adorn my windowsill. I hope they will get enough light and not too much cold. Next to them are some of the summer’s flowers, still green and cheerful!

On baking bread and taking care of plants

I was wondering why I find baking bread and tending to my little green companions so rewarding, and I think it is because they need my support, but they do the work on their own. Bread needs me to assemble the ingredients and respect the temperatures and timings, but the leavening happens without any input from me. Plants grow when I water them and take care of light and nutrients, but I am not the one doing the legwork.

I think I see myself as the helper and enabler, and I marvel at how well the bread and plants develop, according to their own plans. OK, bread’s shape and form are very much under my control, but plants are not, they follow their internal models, make leaves, flowers, seeds, totally on their own. I feel the need of being the facilitator, and see what fascinating creation comes out. Unlike some other people, I don’t feel capable of taking responsibility for the whole plan and implementation, and therefore I feel more afraid of than empowered by so much control. I’m relieved when the bread and the plants know how to take care of themselves and don’t wait for me to grow (mostly the plants, but bread is pretty independent too). It means I am not the bottleneck or the blocker when I happen to be busy with something else.

Let me finish this short post with pictures of bread and of a new succulent I bought yesterday.

Updates from the kitchen: oatcakes, basil, flowers and mushrooms

Here is the weekly highlight of small and happy updates from my kitchen and my windowsill. First of all, Scottish oatcakes! A friend of mine has relatives in Scotland and regularly brings back these crunchy savoury snacks, that I enjoy alone or with cheese. As the package runs out super fast, I finally tried baking some at home, and it ended up being surprisingly simple. I followed the instructions from Penny’s Recipes. For the next batches I would put the oven to a higher temperature so that the oatcakes get cooked faster and don’t dry out too much, but still I am proud of my first attempt 🙂

On the windowsill, the basil is growing happily and making beautifully curved deep-green leaves. I try to trim it so that all leaves get sunlight, I gave it a stick of mineral fertiliser and it seems to appreciate it. I bought this pot of basil as a discounted, sad-looking thing – with the slight but marked sense of guilt that no one would buy it – and I am relieved to see that its condition is improving a lot.

In the larger flower container I planted the seeds of various edible flower species, given to me as present from a dear friend. After a few days of regular watering and careful observation, many of them are sprouting and are enjoying today’s rain.

Last picture for today’s post is the side dish of mushrooms from yesterday’s lunch, following the Italian recipe called “funghi trifolati”. It’s a quick and tasty recipe that starts with stir-frying garlic, then add mushrooms in dices or stripes, and when the mushrooms are soft add salt, pepper and parsley. This time I added a bit of ginger. I forgot to stir at some point and some parts got a nice crust, so my note for next time is to forget to stir again 🙂

There are a few knitting updates that will get their own post. In the meanwhile, take care and enjoy the weekend!

Green thumb

The hot weather is boosting plant growth on my balcony, where I’m keeping a cucumber plant and a larger flower pot with a (now flowerless, but otherwise adorned with small light blue flowers) Asteria, parsley, wild flowers, and an enthusiastic ginger shoot:

I managed to grow a ginger plant on my balcony in Trentino, thanks to the good exposure to the south that gave it plenty of sunshine. Here I was initially skeptical, but despite not getting that much light, the shoot has grown a lot in a few days and has opened two new leaves. Let’s hope it keeps growing!

The two cucumber plants were a bet as well, first because I knew they would need to grow a lot in height, and I solved this by letting them grasp the sides of the window frames and pruning the tops; they are otherwise green and flowery, and have already provided one tasty fruit! A few more are in preparation, I hope to harvest them soon 🙂

My house is otherwise not so plant-friendly due to the minimal amount of sunlight, but these plants do thrive. I hope it encourages you to try gardening on your windowsill: no matter how small your garden is, it motivates you to spot all little improvements, the tiniest new sprout or leaf, and will reward your constant attention with pretty leaves and flowers!

 

 

 

Trip to Amsterdam

Last weekend we have been visiting a friend in Amsterdam. It was my first visit to the city and in fact to the Netherlands, and it was a pleasant and interesting stay.

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I’ve been surprised by how many buildings in the city centre lost their alignment, due to the instability of the soil underneath. I find amazing how the houses stay habitable and still look pretty and well-kept.

The weather was hot and dry, as in many places in Europe and around the world, and the vegetation was suffering a lot. The contrast with the greenhouses and gardens of the Hortus Botanicus was striking.

I even found time to sketch a bit, and chose three different windows from the houses around the square where we were stopping for a drink.

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I’d like to come back to visit more landmarks and get a better picture of everyday life. If any of you have been to Amsterdam and surroundings and wish to share impressions and tips, I’d be very grateful!

Negative spaces: first exercise

A clever way of drawing complex objects in good proportion is to focus on the empty spaces left. Betty Edwards explained this technique in her book “Drawing on the right side of the brain” (see this post with an application of the idea). I have applied negative contour drawing to this potted plant with a lot of leaves:

Negative spaces exercise: plant
Negative spaces exercise: plant

Drawing such a subject requires some patience, but it is very rewarding to see the full shape of the plant emerge from the apparently meaningless pattern of small white background spots.