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Friday, February 26, 2010

Welcome Home Basket

Two very dear friends moved back to Tassie after living in the far north for a couple of years. I wanted to welcome them home and celebrate the joy of having them back. In keeping with my dedication to frugality I came up with a hamper that didn't break the budget but maintained the genorosity of spirit.

The eggs of course are from our own chooks so I measured the top of an egg carton and cut some card to fit and gave one edge a bit of a scallop. I then stamped a label for the top of that and added some stitching. I had plenty of eggs to spare so I also made some homemade pasta attaching labels with raffia. I packaged the pasta in oven bags, mainly because more glass containers would have made the hamper very heavy. I find oven bags, which come in two sizes and are low cost, make a great alternative to celphane wrap. Ideally I would have included a jar or two of our own pasta sauce but it was late winter and we had already eaten our way through all the put up tomatoes.

I did include a bottle of pears and a bottle of plums which also came in handy for the newly arrived. We really take our store cupboards for granted and forget how long it takes to build them up.
Added to that were some co-ordinating tea towels and some beautiful soy melts for their oil burner to make their new home smell fresh and comforting.

This was all packed into a basket from the Op Shop that cost $1.00.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fridge List

I'm a visual person. If I'm going somewhere I like to see the map. If I'm planning a re-construction, I like to have a drawn up diagram or plan. When I've got so much I HAVE to do conflicting with the many things I WANT to do, then I need a list to maintain focus.
I LOVE crossing off lists.
A few years ago I bought a set of whiteboard pens and eraser and figured that my fridge was really a big whiteboard and always "right under my nose". My fridge is quite old so it didn't take a huge leap of faith to write on it. How much could I hurt it really? Every so often I give it a good wipe over with some bi-carb on a soft cloth and it comes up beautifully white and seems to be no harm done.

We write up our shopping needs and errands so that there is no going to the shop especially. We are a lot more organised and take care of needs and errands as we go saving time and petrol (part of my one million women commitment). I write up my jobs all the time so I maintain focus and can see my achievements at the end of the day/week. We write phone messages, party dates and even recipes.

Best of all....sometimes I come out to the kitchen all sleepy in the morning and the first thing I see is a message of love from Craig.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Climate Change

Over the last couple of days the temperature has dropped considerably. Bare toes are cold in the morning and sometime during the night, covers have been pulled up to chins. Spiders have come indoors and been spinning their webbs madly, birds of all kinds are on the move. We have lots of birds visit at this time of year because they come for the apples. During the night a moistness gathers.

There is definitely a climate change around the corner at our house.

I belong to.....

Their goal is to inspire one million Australian women to take practical action on climate change by cutting 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main green house pollutant causing global warming. There are many activites to participate in and help maintain your focus. Things like grouping all activities together so it's only one trip in the car, buying only seasonal food, turning off appliances when not in use....

Even if you are a person who doesn't believe in the Global Warming argument, there is merit in the suggested activities for a more frugal and meaningful life leaving a softer footprint on the planet. Please go to the web site even if it's just to reassure yourself you are doing everything you can to be a good global citizen

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Laundry Experiments

I have begun trialing bicarbonate of soda and vinegar as additions in the washing machine. Over the past few months while listening to the ABC radio programme I have heard Shannon Lush giving lots of interesting advice about cleaning and staining removal from many surfaces. Quite often she advocates using a quarter of the recommended washing powder or liquid and adding 2 tabs of bicarbonate of soda to the wash. Her main premise is that the recommended amounts are too high and only clog fibres with excess detergents and the added bi-carb soda helps soften the water allowing detergent to penetrate and actively clean the fibres and whiten whites. Another tip she offen advocates is using 2 tabs of white vinegar in the fabric softener resevoir so that during the final rinse, fabrics are more fully rinsed of soap product.
So this is a two-fold plan. The first actions ensure a clean effective wash (for less) and the secondary outcome is a clean finish on a deeper level. Often it is the minute ammounts of detergent remaining in fibres, like towels, that subsequently attract more dirt and trap odour in a never ending cycle. The vinegar in the end rinse is also expected to aid in "de-gumming" the washing machine itself.

I have always used less than recommended amounts anyway but I'm interested to see how effective this next step is. My sheets and towels certainly smelt fresh and full of sunshine...but then again, it was a fresh sunshiny day anyway. I'm really looking forward to slipping into my crisp white cotton sheets tonight. I use white cotton for Summer and change to cosier fabrics and warmer colours for Winter.

Check out that cute orange trolly! I bought it a few weeks ago at the local Op Shop for $3! I had intended to ask Craig to perform some wonderful modification like a table top for it so it would become my mobile condiments table at BBQs but I'm really loving it for it's intended use as a laundry trolly. I am experiencing some guilt though because the bend and stretch of wash day were one of the last remaining exercises in my daily routine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Candied Lemon Peel

Whenever I juice a lemon, I place the used lemon half in a container in the freezer for later. When I have enough, I make my own candied lemon peel. It is delicious as a small tid-bit served with coffee or tea. I also use the peel in cakes or a piece pushed onto a biscuit before baking.

I use the recipe in my prime go to recipe book, "Cook's Companion" by Stephanie Alexander. I call this my bible for the kitchen. It takes a few days for the peel to dry but is so worth the process and makes a wonderful gift attractively packaged in a jar with ribbon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tomato Marmalade

The tomatoes are coming quick and fast now and I have bottled at least 30kg, but I couldn't let a season go by without making some Tomato Marmalade. My Grandma Murray made the best Tomato Marmalade and I loved having it slathered on toast with lots of butter.

I feel very fortunate to have inherited her journal of hand written recipes. I feel she treads the pages with me while I browse and relive a time when food was still rationed after WW2 and women managed their houses frugally. At the top of many recipes she has noted how many eggs are required for quick reference. Some of the pages are splattered and some are falling out. The condition is poor, the value is priceless.

How about "Austerity Pudding"? No eggs or sugar in this one. Same as the Steamed Pudding recipe on the same page...."no eggs or sugar". This recipe book has everything from Lenten ricipes to meat dishes and sauces, but by far these are all out weighed by her collection of puddings, deserts, cakes and sweets recipes....
I think that also reveals something about Grandma Murray too don't you?

Ripe Tomato Marmalade

To each pound of tomatoes (skinned and chopped)
add juice and rind of 1 1/2 lemons
and 1lb of sugar
and 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Boil the tomatoes and lemon and ginger for about an hour to reduce.
Add the sugar and boil for about another 30 mins till wrinkle set.
Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Re-purposed Curtains

These are the placemats and napkins that I made for my friends. The napkins were made from old curtaining material from 1957 that I bought from the Evandale market.

At the same market I spotted some vintage buttons that I thought would be a good match

The placemats were made from another piece of curtain remanant that I bought from the Op Shop. It's not as old as the first piece but fits nicely with it all the same. I had a lovely afternoon with Mum yesterday as we sat at the table sewing random buttons onto the placemats listening to Vera Lynn

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Fowler's Pot

This is my dear old Fowler's Vacola bottling (canning) outfit. It dates to approximately the 1950's and is currently chugging away on the stove right now doing tomatoes and beans (in seperate bottles). The funny protruding bit on the side is a little well that holds the thermometer safely allowing me to easily view the temperature. Its the typical 50's green with a bit of wear and tear and has an inbuilt bottle stand hinged in the bottom of the pot to keep the bottles from standing directly on the bottom. It was a little rusty inside when I inherited it, so
it was scrubbed and then coated with mutton fat, as was done in the old days.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Graduation to the Big Yard

The chickens are 5 weeks old now and have most of their primary feathers. They have graduated to their own section of the fowl yard. They still have a light 24/7 for warmth and security and are able to see the other fowl now but are segregated for their own protection. They are too little to endure hen pecking yet!

They are going through a 2lt icecream bucket measure of chicken crumble each day and are very enthusiastic about kale and silverbeet. They go NUTS for raspberries and corn cobs. It's like candy to the chickens.

The dogs have sat watching the chickens for hours on end and would dearly love to get hold of these new play toys. Remembering that poodles were originally pond dogs for bird retrieval in Germany. They adore feathers and are very soft mouthed dogs naturally and instinctively are attracted to the fowl.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mitring Corners- Tutorial

I haven't just been cooking this week, I have also been making a set of place mats and napkins for some dear friends from some old vintage fabrics and buttons that I have sourced from thrift shops and markets. It took me ages to get the hang of mitred corners so here is my version.

If this were your fabric and you were hemming with a double turn over and machine stitching, then these would be your fabric fold lines. I cut a square from each corner just inside the fold line marks. This reduces bulk to stitch through.

Fold the fabric cut edge along the innermost fold line as shown.

Next make the first fold up.

Now stitch along the fabric closer to the inner edge so that it sits well. I find this gives me a neat fray resistant edge and a flat mitred corner without the bulk (and broken needles).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Magenta Landscaping

What a gorgeous lunar landscape....
No it's my Blueberry Jam with Corriander and Lime from Saving the Season Blog. It is not something I would have thought to do with jam but let me tell you it is truely sublime. Two partners that have lent subtle piquancy to the blueberries. This is a great one for the present giving list.

Tonight I also made the Blueberry and Red Pepper Chutney recipe found on eHow
For the dried fruit I had on hand dried cranberries and some seedless raisins. A very "woody" fragrance to this chutney with the nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and cloves.

Guess who needs to go picking again! I usually go picking twice in the season anyway because I can't get enough. I'm loving them on my Weetbix in the mornings too.

Tomorrow Craig and I go to Hobart to visit my two daughters. They have put in an order for a big bowl of Tabbouleh that will have to wait till morning. Need to get to bed for my day job!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bottling in Earnest

I have bottled 8 x #31 jars of blueberries and left another kilo and a half fresh for chutney tomorrow and also for some Blueberry with Lime and Coriander Jam that I found on Saving the Season. Sounds wonderful doesn't it.

I've also bottled a couple of jars of beans using the half vinegar half water method. The colour looks good but not sure how they will taste for casseroles in winter. I plan to rinse well before use, maybe soak??? Would love any comment from anyone who has tried it this way.

I've also done 6 bottles so far of plain tomatoes with some basil.The colours look great and we can't get enough of these through the winter, especially with the homemade pasta that I make in Autumn to "preserve" eggs before the chooks go off the lay.

This year I have tried bottling some zucchini soup and some button squash and corn soup. I have processed once and then again a second time 48hrs later. I will be monitoring these closely for any signs of bubbling but they are looking good.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blueberry Picking

Just outside of Lilydale, a short distance from Launceston is a pick-you-own blueberry farm. It is a moderate size planted on a gentle slope with some picturesque mountains surrounding. I have been coming for years and always pick the week before school goes back here and that seems to strike the height of the season just right.If I can I like to pick a day that looks like it just might rain, but we haven't had any of those lately.

This is an organic farm and you will find many kinds of ants, frogs, bugs etc all living in balance, and that's a beautiful thing, but some preparation for this makes the picking more enjoyable.

Wear sand shoes or boots to avoid ant bites, especially the Jack Jumpers. Roll on some insect repellent and make sure you apply sunscreen and where a wide brim hat, because it will take about an hour to pick two buckets (about 6kg). I wear a shirt with sleeves too for sun and also to protect from scratches from the branches. They are not thorny but the best berries are in and under as a lot of people harvest the easy outside.

Blueberries at the height of season are easy to harvest because all or most of the berries on each bract are ripe and ready to just fall off into your bucket with some subtle finger rolling. At $5/kg this is very pleasurable easy and cost effective entertainment for a family day out. It's so nice to hear children talking and laughing along the rows.

Another few km along the road heading back into Lilydale is the the Lilydale Falls Reserve which is an ideal spot to stop and have a bbq. I used to take the children here a lot in Winter time too to get them out into the fresh air and whooping it up in all the dried crunchy leaves from Autumn.

Our freezer is full so I have bottles the blueberries. About 4.5kg will do 8 Fowlers jars, #31. We stopped into an antique store in Lilydale and the lady in their who makes Jilly's Jams suggested Blueberry and Red Pepper Chutney. I found this recipe that I thought I might try

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Buff and Puff

Everyone always says, "we must catch up for coffee" and how many times do we let opportunities and catch ups pass us by. Has the phrase lost any true meaning or intention and just become a banal platitude?

I have some very dear friends and parroting the above phrase simply will not do! Nor will it ensure that we will catch up in some near future.

Instead I like to organise a "Buff and Puff". This can be a group thing or a one on one thing. We throw our face creams, masks, foot creams, nail polish, get the idea....into a bucket (thats for our feet) and meet at someone's house for our own personal day spa! You get to catch up and give yourself some important me time too. Its a great way to swap and try out different products. Perfect! Feet in a bucket or a mask on the face and you are obliged to relax for half an hour and have a wonderful catch up.

Sometimes we make it a particular theme like; toenails, or hands. We tend to go with the whole theme of a day spa and treat ourselves to an exotic juice or fruit platter and refreshing sparkling mineral water. Oh and don't we feel soooo much better for it.

Why not put the Buff and Puff on your calender once a month

Monday, February 1, 2010

Poodle Picnic

Happy 5th Birthday Poodles!

Bella and Lucy were adopted from the RSPCA when they were 6months old. They had been voluntarily surrendered by their owner, unable to cope with these two mischievous puppies that kept growing bigger and bigger. I suspect she thought a Standard Poodle was small. Thankfully a lot of their previous history was supplied by this lady, so we knew their approx birthday (later we found out it was Australia Day, 26th January) and where and from whom they had been bred.

My eldest daughter was walking Lucy along the road not long after we adopted the girls and a car driving by suddenly stopped. A woman jumped out excitedly and it was soon established that she also had purchased a pup from this very same litter and in fact had Lucy and Bella's brother Beau in the car. This lady wrote down her name and phone number. giving it to my daughter in case I had any questions about raising poodles as she had had them before.

Thank goodness she offered this hand of friendship! I didn't know the first thing about poodles. Something very special has come of this simple gesture and we now find ourselves very firm friends and feel we have been blessed to find these friends. Beau's Mum (co-incidentally we share the same last name too) also knew the other lady who had bought another brother from the litter, Charlie. These two women have been a wealth of information that has grown to encompass my everyday life as well, sharing advice and wisdom from recipes to relationships.

We get together about once every six weeks and have "poodle picnics" at Kelso beach where the dogs run for miles and we beach comb chatting and collecting shells, then it's a wonderful shared lunch that is a sumptuous smorgasbord.

I love this extention of our family and feel humbled by it's serendipitous beginnings. Now they are 5 yrs old and we have all grown.

Take the chance and be open minded about the serendipity that may cross your path. Treasure each moment you have together. Most importantly, don't talk about catching up...DO IT.
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