Saturday, 24 December 2016

Dutch speculaas biscuits recipe

Christmas biscuits
Every Christmas I do baking and some of the recipes are becoming traditions in our family, like the Christmas bread filled with almond paste, the Dutch pastry wreath filled with almond paste and the speculaas biscuits.
Yesterday we had suddenly a big hailstorm while I was baking and it was not forecast,this is a setback for the local fruit growers, especially the berry growers in the area.
It felt a bit like winter, but today the summer sun is out again.

Some of my handpainted Christmas decorations

The sudden hail storm
The recipe for the speculaas biscuits:

250 gram flour
175 gram butter
200 gram brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3 table spoons of milk
1 tablespoon of speculaas spices
or 1/2 tsp mace, 1/2 tsp aniseed, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 21/2 tsp of cinnamon.

In a bowl add the flour, spices, sugar, baking powder and stir together.
Add the butter and the milk and knead the mixture with your hands into a soft ball and leave in the fridge for an hour or longer.
Roll the dough between two sheets of grease proof paper till 2 cm thick and use different biscuit cutters to cut out shapes.
Bake at 160 celsius oven for 10 minutes or till biscuits are brown.
Cool biscuits on tray and store in containers.

Have a blessed Christmas.

This week I am part of Paint Party Friday

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Our Cottage, Earthquakes, Mosaic

Only two Sundays ago at twelve at night we had a big earthquake again in the South Island of New Zealand. It was a 7.8 and our cottage shook and moved and we held onto the door post of the bedroom.
It is a very frightening experience and because we went through the Christchurch earthquakes six years ago a lot of memories flooded back.
In Kaikoura on the East coast of the South Island there is a lot of damage and big slips and rock falls and no way to get in or out of  town.
It will take months or longer to get this tourist town back to some normality and I feel for the people living through this disaster, I really knows what it is like.
 For months I have been working on my mosaic around our fireplace, it resembles our fishpond and it took so long to finish, because I had many other jobs to do.
During the earthquake, the first thing that went through my head " O no, I hope my mosaic won't break, I just got it done".
Isn't it silly, like my mosaic is so important! Maybe that is how the brain works in a threatening event, thinking of something irrelevant as a way to cope.

 The next morning in daylight Henk checked the cottage and we only have a few cracks and no damage and when I walked around the garden I felt really blessed to live here.
We have no mansion and our cottage feels sometimes a bit small, but we have so much to be thankful for.
Fish pond

Our cottage

The cabin in the front

Garden beds

a new vegetable patch

Ollie and the view over the hopfields
I am part of Sunday Sketches

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Pencil drawings and art therapy for the elderly

The last few weeks I am trying to get back into drawing again with graphite pencils.
I got a book from the library about High Country farming in New Zealand and found some nice images of shepherds and their working dogs.
I am planning to do an oil painting of a New Zealand shepherd carrying an exhausted sheep on his back with his dogs at his side.
Like the Good Shepherd carrying us when we feel tired and bugged down with life.
This week was a stressful week, I started a job on Thursday morning, but got a call that evening cancelling the job again. I had so hoped to earn some extra money for the wedding of my son Paul and Emma in December.

A working dog waiting in his kennel

A shepherd  with his dogs rounding up sheep
Last week I did an art session at the local rest home and the ladies painted a watercolour background and we made cards with the background adding ink stamped images and glitter paint.
The ladies enjoyed the session and the group is growing every fortnight.
Art class at the rest home
Coming week I like to make paper flowers from tissue paper, the classes are on a Thursday morning so I better start preparing the flowers to show the ladies a finished sample.
I love peonies and the paper flowers will look like peonies.

Painting with watercolours
I hope to have a better week ahead and wish you all a great week too.
I am part of Sunday Sketches

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A drawing from the past

Quite a few years ago I made this charcoal drawing of a Maori lady I met in Picton on the top of the South Island. 
Her story was remarkable.
I don't know her name anymore and she never saw this drawing.
Together with her son she owned a little tourist shop and when I walked in I was straight away captured by her presence, her aura of wisdom and grace. In Maori language this is called "Mana".

I approached her and told her she looked beautiful.
She had a moko tattooed on her chin and I asked her if I could take a photograph of her, so I could later sketch her.
She agreed to the photograph and then she told me her story:

"I was married to a Pakeha man [meaning white man] for many years, but then I had an horrendous accident and nearly died. I still have a scar on my forehead from this accident.
I decided that when I would live, I would have a moko tattooed on my face, because I was given another chance of life.
I lived and recovered from the accident and got a moko.
My husband didn't like it and he told me he couldn't wake up every morning next to me and look at the moko on my face, so he left me.
But I know that I had to be true to myself for what  I believed in and to this day I never regretted my decision".

I really admired her to do what was right for her and a few weeks later I did the charcoal drawing of her.
She was one of those people you meet on your way for a just a moment in time, but as a gift of wisdom.
I am part of Sunday Sketches.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Drawings of Spring in New Zealand.

There is blossom on the trees in our garden, daffodils flowering and tulip heads opening up.
In New Zealand the native  Kowhai tree flowers in Spring as well.
The flowers are bright yellow and attract native birds like the Tui, Bellbird and the New Zealand pigeon Kereru.
When we became New Zealand citizens not long ago,we received a Kowhai tree as a gift.
We have two Kowhai trees in our garden and  they are in flower now.
I did a watercolour painting for a card of the Kohwai flower and a pencil sketch, what will became a painting as well.
I am part of Sunday Sketches

Little watercolour of the kowhai flowers

Pencil sketch for a new painting of the Kowhai flowers

the real Kowhai flowers

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A busy weekend

This weekend was an active, busy weekend with lots of work in the garden.
During the winter Henk pruned trees,but also felled trees in the paddock and we were left with a big heap to burn.
We can't just burn without permission of the fire department, I rang the local council this week and asked for permission to burn in our paddock.
We have a burning permit till the middle of October, after October it can become hazardous to light a fire.
Rachel and Luke helped Henk with getting all the branches to the fire.

This weekend I have been making marmalade from lemons and grapefruit to sell on my roadside stall and when I was filling the jars I thought of a still life oil painting I did a few years ago of lemons.

Still life of lemons.
I haven't used oil for some time now,but kept all the paints, so maybe I will do a small painting again in oils. Water colours are easier to set up and put away and dry so quick.
But oils have an amazing blending time what I like.
Rachel and Luke helping Henk with the burning.

A lot of smoke

Nearly finished.
Today we finished the weekend with a lovely walk on the river banks in Brightwater with Ollie our dog and a yummy coffee afterwards at the local cafe.
So good Spring is here!
I am part of Sunday Sketches.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Water colour Art for children

This week was a full week of teaching art.
On Monday I taught an art class at the mental health center and on Tuesday afternoon it was the home school children's art workshop, I finished the week on Thursday teaching at the rest home.
I really enjoy teaching and thinking of new projects and different techniques for each group.
I research the internet and pinterest for inspiration and ideas, for the children's art workshop this week we painted butterflies with watercolour and used charcoal to draw a night sky.
For inspiration I made a sample and told the children a little story about a colourful butterfly fluttering in a dark night sky looking at the moon. There is always colour and light in our life even when things can look a bit gray and dark.
The children enjoyed the two different mediums to create one artwork.
the sample

I am part of Sunday Sketches

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Spring in the garden

Hellebores watercolour
On Saturday it was garden weeding day.
Hellebores from the garden
Henk was doing the hard work, chain sawing in the paddock the tree he felled last weekend and working on our new garden beds.
Only a few weeks away and we can plant the first seed potatoes and I can sow peas and carrots.
We still get heavy frosts some night, so I have to be patient sowing directly into the soil.
I have already started sowing under glass, mostly flowers for the summer garden.
This year I want to grow more cut flowers for my posies I sell at my plant stall outside the gate.
While I was weeding I noticed the Hellebores, each winter they flower very quietly under shrubs and their flower heads are tucked away between the leaves.
I love Hellebores, the colours are so delicate and I have purple and green Hellebores in my garden.
They don't last long in the vase inside, so I picked a few and painted a little watercolour to make into a card.
In the afternoon I took Ollie, my dog for a walk and I noticed the first Spring lambs in the paddocks and  I also took a photograph of Somerset Cob Cottage that was build around 1860 and it housed a family with 11 children!
Now it is a little museum.
Every Sunday I take part in Sunday Sketches.
Somerset Cob Cottage

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A suprise visit

On Monday we had a lovely surprise visit from our son Paul.
While Henk and I were gardening, Rachel my daughter picked Paul from Nelson airport and they walked up our drive together. We live 800 km apart and we don't see each other often, so this visit was very special for us.
The weather was great, sunny and warm for winter and as a family we went for coffee on the Mapua warf and on Tuesday for a picnic in Tapu Bay.
We had a lovely family time together.
I didn't have a lot of time for painting, but made a quick sketch of  winter flowers and grasses from our garden.
Winter bouquet 

Mapua warf

My water colours

Father and son

Winter picnic
Every Sunday I am part of Sunday Sketch

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Nearly Spring

Spring is not far away, only a month, but for now it feels far away.
Spring Birds nest
The South Island is in the grip of winter and it has been snowing in many places.
The top of the South Island were we live has a more tempered climate, so snow is not common,but frosts are and last night was one of the coldest nights we had this winter.
Oke, I find it cold, but minus 5 is for many places in the world a bit of a laugh, I know!
But in the garden the tops of Spring bulbs are appearing and the snow drops are flowering. 
I make up little Spring posies to sell at my plant stall and they sell well, I think a lot of my neighbours are waiting for the beginning of Spring just as much as I am.
I painted a little birdsnest with eggs to remind me that warmer weather is on its way.

Also I painted a little water colour portrait of Honor I send to Paul and Emma, as a memory keepsake for them.

A few weeks ago I taught a mixed medium workshop at a drop in center for people with mental health illness and we made collages with old magazines.
I was really impressed with the collages, not all the work is finished, but I post some examples.
Some collages took three sessions to finish, but we hope to work towards an exhibition in the near future.

Flowers in vase
All blacks Rugby player

Cup cake
I am part of

Sunday, 31 July 2016

All about dogs

drawings of honor
What a week;it started with the sad news that Honor the dog from my son Paul and his fiancee Emma was very sick. Honor is the most beautiful and adoring Golden Retriever, she is funny, stubborn and extremely loving to everyone she meets.
This year Honor played the roll as Sandy the dog in the musical Annie in Queenstown and she was the star of the show.
Only two weeks ago Honor started to refuse food and water and she went down hill very fast, the vet put her on intravenous fluid, but after an ultrasound the vet found out Honor had severe kidney disease and her kidneys were failing.
For a whole week she stayed on the IV and  Honor went home to Paul and Emma on Monday.

Honor and Ollie swimming together

Beautiful Honor, we will remember her
But sadly Honor lasted only a few more days and then on Friday this week Honor was put to sleep.
We all feel very sad and especially this loss is very hard for Paul and Emma, because Honor was only four years old and they loved her to bits.
A few years ago I did a drawing of Honor and this was a Christmas present to Paul and Emma, I did another drawing today to send to them as a memory of Honor.

On Wednesday I went with Ollie, my dog to the rest home and hospital, Ollie was the happy therapy dog again and we visited the hospital, dementia ward and the rest home wing.
In the dementia ward Ollie helps to connect people with the world again, even if it is just for a moment.
The nurse took me into one of the residents rooms, Brian was asleep in his bed and dementia patients seem to sleep more and more. Ollie put his nose in his hand and just for a moment Brian reacted slightly, but not enough to wake him up. Ollie lies down next to his bed and just is there in the moment with Brian.
One of the other residents has hardly any facial expressions anymore and doesn't talk, but when he noticed Ollie he smiles, just a little.
Ollie has this gentle influence on people, they come up and like to stroke him.
Honor was the same, she made a difference in peoples life and we will remember this beautiful Goldie.
I am part of Sunday Sketches 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Inspired by grapevine cuttings

Water colour wreath
This week was another busy week for me, the days went very quick.
On Wednesday I took Ollie for a visit to Jack Inglis, the resthome and hospital I visit with him every week as Ollie is trained as a therapy dog with Canine Friends Therapy Dogs, a New Zealand organisation.
Normally Ollie is very happy and outgoing with the staff and residents, but this week he was not himself, withdrawn and shy.
I didn't know what caused his behaviour this particular visit, one of our friends, George passed away last weekend and every week we paid George a visit and he was so happy to see us, he loved Ollie.
We walked passed  his room, already occupied by some one else again and we didn't go in.
Did Ollie feel a difference, did he smell what we don't smell; illness and death.
Had Ollie enough of it all? I don't have the answers, we see what will bring this coming week.

I live near a vineyard and the last few weeks the workers are pruning the vines, every winter I gather the cuttings and make grapevine wreaths and hearts to sell or give away.
My watercolour painting was inspired by my wreath making and I also painted a pretty children card with Spring in mind.
Grapevine  wreath

Spring Children's card

Grapevine heart

My goldfish in our pond
Every Sunday I take part in Sunday sketches.