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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thank You Prime Minister

It's obvious, the excitement is just busting out of me, you can tell. I have never been prouder of a Prime Minister than I was of Kevin. I really thought here was a man that other global leaders could aspire too. He is articulate, empathetic and so educated!
Not since Paul Keating have I admired an economic mind so much.
Keeping Australia out of the global depression was nothing short of miraculous. I grew up studying economics and politics with the common phrase "when America gets a cold, Australia gets the flu". Well not this time buddy.
He was a man for all people.
I met Kevin Rudd at the State Labor conference in Launceston a couple of years ago not long after he had become Prime Minister. I remember that afternoon thinking what a wonderful country I live in when I can be with the PM in the morning and mucking out the chook shed in the afternoon.
I knew he was going to expect me to answer simple questions but even preparing myself in those minutes before we were finally face to face was a waste. I was completely overwhelmed and rendered insensible. The US presidential elections were well underway and I chose to do a Hillary Clinton dressing in a mono-colour suiting style (wish I had chosen black, much more flattering)
His speech that day was wonderful and I swear he was looking right at me when he said....

" is this big"
....his budget thank you very much!
...actually I don't remember what he said at this point but I do know that his is the photo I carry in my wallet, sorry Craig!

The Lakes

Craig and his crew have now travelled higher into the highlands district where the great Lakes are. It is the middle of winter here but companies are trying to spend their maintenance budgets quickly before the end of the financial year. His crew are clearing the dead trees from the foreshore. This area will be covered in snow soon....maybe even today. The ice is very thick now.

They have built a large fire to keep them warm at lunch time and smoko (morning tea) and he takes spare clothes so he has something dry to wear on the trip home.....
and then he spends a couple of hours every evening in the cold garage building an aeroplane....but that's another story.

Update 20:15....yep it snowed on those boys today!

Friday, June 25, 2010

What Does Craig Do?

Always difficult to answer when people ask. We've discussed it and tried to come up with a nutshell job title and it is.......
bush reduction specialist.
He clears a lot of bush blocks belonging to Crown Land every spring/summer for fire hazard prevention. Gorse can be a terrible problem around Tasmania too and be so invasive. He also leads teams of casual workers for tree planting and pruning. Sometimes its brush cutter and sometimes tractor slashing. Sometimes the elements of weather are set against him but always he finds himself amongst spectacular scenery.

This week he has been working to maintain clearance around the gigantic water pipe of the hydro electric scheme so that maintenance crews can have clear access. Most electricity in Tasmania is created from the gravitational force of falling water flow instead of burning fossil fuels. It is a renewable energy source and produces no direct waste. It was found to be suitable for Tasmania because of it's geographical highlands and high rainfall in that area.

The first hydro electric station was opened in 1895 by the Launceston City Council. The above pipe line and associated sub stations and dams were constructed I believe after the second World War by the many migrants who came here to work and who have intimately and uniquely shaped our culture here today.

The pipe is at least 12 feet high.

This framework rolls along the pipe and can lift sections up for access and maintenance of the pipe. I wish there was someone standing next to it so you could get a true perspective. I think the pipe is scheduled for a paint job and crews need access to it. Naturally, due to the nature of power generation requirements, the pipe falls from great heights down some very steep precipices which makes bush clearance from the sides quite a challenge in some areas.
So there you of the lesser known case you were ever wondering who and how so ever....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Knit With Me 14

pique triangle stitch

This pattern is knit over multiples of 12 and is going to keep you pattern ticking I suspect but it is a lovely contrast to the ribs we have been doing. I'm casting on 48 stitches.

pique triangle stitch
Row 1: *K6, P1, K5*
Row 2: *P4, K3, P5*
Row 3: *K4, P5, K3*
Row 4: *P2, K7, P3*
Row 5: *K2, P9, K1*
Row 6: P
Row 7: *P1, K11*
Row 8: *K1, P9, K2*
Row 9: *P3, K7, P2*
Row 10: *K3, P5, K4*
Row 11: *P5, K3, P4*
Row 12: P

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bottling Pears

The pears are perfect at the moment and really at their cheapest. There are so many wonderful varieties freely available at the moment. Here is a little tip for those in the North of Tasmania; Brendan from Lee's Orchards sells his many varieties of apples and pears at the Evandale Markets and are the best value for money. We rang Brendan on the Saturday and asked him to take a 10kg box of green pears suitable for bottling to the market for us on Sunday as it is closer for us and we save fuel. He is selling pears for around $1.50/kg. He also has Beurre Boc and the red ones (forget the name) available and they do door sales at the orchard.

Today I processed 15 bottles of pears in the Vacola outfit. I have the big gripstand bowl by the sink filled with acidulated water (lemon juice in the water) and as I peel the pears they go in there. Then they are quartered and cored and packed into number 31 jars and topped up with acidulated water (I don't find any need to use sugar) and make sure all the air bubbles are removed. After the lids are clipped into place they go into the outfit (1950s classic) on top of the stove and brought up to 92C on moderate heat. This takes about 45-60mins and then I hold at 92C for another 45mins.

They are allowed to cool in the pot till they can be safely handled. Leave the clips in place till the next day then remove and test for sealing.
I love having pears on hand for emergency desserts when people call in. They are great for flans or crumbles or simply plain with custard. They are also used for dressing my morning WeetBix too.
Brendan was very surprised when I told him I even roast pears like a vegetable when doing a winter roast. A great combination to remember and very simple is the Ps; Roast, pork, parsnip, pears, potatoes. I toss all in olive oil and some Tasmanian Bush Dust and roast. Delicious! They all compliment each other so well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Etsy Party Night

In Launceston we gathered together in a church hall in the centre of town to celebrate Etsy's birthday as did thousands all over the globe. It was a cold and windy night with heavy rain, making the thought of crafting at home by the fire infinitely more attractive....until we got there.
What an awesome night we had meeting so many wonderful wise and inspiring people from all crafts and ages. I picked up Jenny Wren and Blue Paper Doll along the way and were the first to arrive. We were soon joined by people from Deloraine, Frankford Glengarry and Exeter....

This is the delightful Killiecrankie Farm and her etsy shop is called Ginger's Revenge (in the foreground is Little Jenny Wren).

I met some ladies from the Spinners and Weavers Guild and was particular fascinated with their varied dyeing techniques as seen in the very first photo.

These socks were being knit with wool dyed in a fry pan.
The sock wool was rolled into balls and then placed into a fry pan with water coming about a third of the way up the ball and then orange dye was added. This was allowed to "cook" for about 20 mins and then turned up the other way and green dye was added. The ball takes up the dye randomly and stronger on the outside so the other ball is unwound and re-wound inside to the out so that the two socks will knit with a relative "sameness to the randomness" if you get my meaning. Fascinating!

Here is another pair that this talented lady knit from her own dyed wool.
Aren't they gorgeous!
I also met the internationally famous doll maker and sculptor,Susie McMahon, an incredibly talented artist and was not surprised when she sat down at one of the spinning wheels and spun with a beautiful deft and sensitive touch.

Our fabulous organiser Sara, aka Eco Kitty on etsy arranged everything so beautifully and even found some heaters to keep us warm. Lucy Lou Lewis says my scones with (very Arabian) rose petal jam were a real treat for her and has asked for the recipe which I shall provide here for all.

Rose Petal Jam
50grams of perfumed dark red or pink rose petals
1 cup of sugar
2 tabs of pectin
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of rose water (optional)

Roughly chop the rose petals and place in a bowl with sugar. Cover and leave for 24hrs.
Next day, place the rose petal and sugar, pectin, lemon juice and water in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then simmer for 20 mins.
Boil for 5 mins until setting point is reached. Add the rose water to increase the flavour if desired. Ladle into warm sterilised jars and seal well.

Thank you ladies (there are many I haven't mentioned) one and all for a wonderful evening of friendship and crafting. Hope to see you again at another one soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knit With Me 13

stripe moss stitch

How much did you love that last pattern, the basket stitch! It's one of my favourites. I knit a mens jumper using this stitch and alternating colour rows. I never got tired of it and I loved knitting up last weeks' square just as much. There are at least a couple dozen more patterns I would like to try out that are simply manipulating purl and knit stitches. After that there are patterns using a cable needle. Not sure if I want to get into those till I get there. I am now thinking that I would also love to do this rug in one colour like a cream and let the patterns do their own quiet talking.

Stripe Moss Stitch
this is knit over multiples of 11 + 5 so I'm casting on 46.
Row 1: K5 *(K1 P1) 3 times, K5*
Row 2: *P5 (P1 K1) 3 times* P5

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eating 100

It was David Suzuki who first turned me on to eating locally and really questioning where my food came from and how much excess energy went into bringing food to my plate. I live in Australia, a food bowl for the globe, so why are we exporting so much good produce and then importing the same food that is grown here? Why do we need ALL food ALL year round regardless of the season? How do we justify air freighting fruit from the other side of the world? Worse, how do we justify picking fruit green and then gas ripening it or radiating it to transport better and spoil less?

The eat 100 challenge is about eating only the produce that is found within a 100 mile radius of where you live. If you were to take this challenge to it's enth degree, then you would really be forced to microscope your food supply. Meat, vegetables, dairy, flour....all pretty easy, but what about salt, rice, spices? How could I live without a curry? So I use the challenge more as a moral/ethical goal post if you like. I try to source everything from Tasmania, and you would be astounded if I told you about the diversity grown in this state. For instance, wasabi farmers and saffron farmers and truffle farms (gorgeous images), just to name a few.

When I cannot source what I need here the next step is to find the closest source, the least expenditure of petrol is what I'm foremost thinking of and also the ecological footprint as far as packaging and marketing goes. If it's not in season, I don't have it, I look forward to the glut of good produce when it is in season.

My support group with this goal in mind are the small business owners. They are in touch with their produce and where it's sourced. My spice shop supports fair trade. My vegetable store can tell me exactly where everything comes from and can advise me of produce predicted up/down-turns. They have an intimate knowledge of local weather and what it means for next weeks potato harvests. We enjoy true dairy products from a local farming concern where they are streaks ahead of everyone else and know the importance of value adding to their produce.

Of course the first steps are in the home garden and we have been gradually replacing old ornamentals with food producing plants. We are fortunate to have room for our own chooks. Much of our basic food comes from the garden. "A Year of Slow Food" written by David Foster is a lovely read of ordinary day to day food in an Australian family. I have a deeper appreciation for the animals that become our food, dare I say it borders on the spiritual. To spend days, weeks and months caring, tending and raising your food on a daily basis changes the way you view a roast chicken meal with roasted root vegetables and beans. It's not just the 20 mins of prep time and the hour and a half of cooking, it's the ten weeks of raising a meat chicken, the culling and the weeks of cultivating the vegetables. I really believe that a part of society's downfall will be the homogeneous piece of chemically induced, genetically modified chicken breast on a polystyrene plate wrapped in cling film, thrown unceremoniously into a metal trolley with complaints of how dear everything is getting.

Rhonda has recently posted on her blog Down-To-Earth about the Kitchen Revolution. It's about getting the raw ingredients and making things from scratch. It's doing away with excessive chemicals and packaging. Another really cool "side effect" of such a revolution is that you will find yourself less and less in the large super stores. Craig and I go so seldom now that on our last trip to get something we couldn't get from the local store, I found myself goggling and feeling slightly disorientated as if I was in a foreign environment where once I had visited at least on a weekly basis. I used to throw out so much food in those days and I feel ashamed of the waste; the waste of fuels that went into the wasted produce, the packaging and the careless disregard for the time and energy taken to farm fresh produce. So that's on a personal level....imagine that multiplied by a nation. How much fuel did a nation waste that week that we all threw out a rotting lettuce head and a soft zucchini?

So it seems that I have rambled a bit but what I really want to impress upon you is shop and eat locally. It reduces waste, ecologically it's sensitive and it builds a community and community relationships. It creates more conscious people. If we are what we eat, and we just chuck a piece of homogeneous meat and radiated vegetable down our mouths without even tasting it or thinking about it, well what does that make us, physically and spiritually? It's not possible or practical for most of us to grow all our food but we can make more conscious and ecologically sensitive choices. If you are worried about cost versus convenience then rest assured, the extra you pay for organic and local is the amount that you saved by not throwing out so much food and by making your own biscuits, bread and pasta etc.
I'm probably preaching to the converted but if just one person goes to the eat 100 site and finds their 100 miles here, then we are one more family stepping forward to turning this planet around.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Let's Meet and Be Crafty

In honour of Etsy's Birthday there are crafty meet-ups happening all over the world on June 18th.
In Launceston it's happening at the Pilgrim Uniting Church Hall at 7pm
The theme is shapes.
Click here for more info.

It's only $5 which is to go to hall hire and tea/coffee and is the most inexpensive fun to be had.
What a great way to meet like minded people too.
Hope you locals will join me!
Are any others having their own get togethers?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arabian Nights

We are almost back to normal. Last weekend we had our Arabian Nights party. A lot went into the planning and everyone had a great time. We are quite into the depths of winter here and I love a theme party to "take us somewhere away from here"

This years' theme was Arabian Nights.

The invitations were printed onto a pinky mauve vellum and laid over a small geometric type print to evoke Moorish architecture and the script was Matura MT Script to suggest an Arabic style of script. Then I glued jewels on for rich treasures of the East feel.

I make it clear in the invitations that it is a themed party and fancy dress and the time of 7pm alerts people that dinner is provided. I have been to so many parties with a start time around the dinner hour and all that is served is cocktail nibbles. So please can I stress here that you make it clear to guests the type of party so they know whether to have dinner beforehand or not from a comfort and responsible service of alcohol point of view. People may not having intended becoming tipsy but they will certainly get light headed on a handful of chips.

The party lent itself to a wonderful buffet of middle eastern food. We used a couple of slow cookers and a rice cooker on the buffet table to keep food warm. We had a lamb tangine, a roasted joint of mutton, meatballs in a sour cherry sauce, tabbouleh, cous cous and flat breads with platters of nuts, olives and dried fruits and dips of babaganoush and houmous. Lots of silver, brass and copper platters enriched the theme.

Inside, furniture was pushed back and lots of cushions were strewn on the floor. Much of the interior was draped with gauzy material and bud lights and candles provided the soft lighting. The ornamentation around the room was changed to rich reds and metals of copper and brass, strung with beaded garlands from Christmas and dotted with roses. Incense filled the air and Turkish music, modern and old style also set the mood.

Guests were asked to arrive at 7pm and while they nibbled on platter food, were entertained by a professional belly dancer we had hired to arrive at 7.30pm. Her performance probably lasted 15mins (perfect amount of time) and then dinner was served.

We had some of the guests inside in the warmth but others enjoyed lots of lively conversation around a fire pot outside. The frost was setting on the ground beyond but they donned their cardigans and jackets and the fire kept them toasty warm.

Ali Baa-Baa (Cliff)
While it wasn't a "boozey" night for me it was a late one ( 2.30am) and the culmination of a lot of work and planning and I felt very tired after and found it hard to get back into the swing of "normal" life.

Craig (on the Right)

The thing I have learned to do is accept help when it is offered. Many friends will ask if they can help (before the night) so have a mental list that you can graciously allocate little tasks. My friend Maureen loves to decorate and gets more carried away than I do (?) so she comes the day before to hang and pin and staple! Other friends love to cook so I accept offers from them to bring a dish and it makes for a lavish and varied banquet and the workload is shared. Other jobs might include bringing ice or vacuuming or providing lifts for other guests. Many hands make light work and an organised party so that you can enjoy and make it look effortless. One thing I couldn't be without are my lists and time plans.....make that two things....I couldn't do it without the awesome support from practical Craig.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Knit With Me 12

Basket Stitch

I adore the look of this pattern but I'm afraid it varies over a few rows so it's not very easy just to knit from your head so to speak. When rows get complicated, sometimes I write them down and tick off as I go. This pattern is well worth the effort and produces a lovely warm weave. Visually it will be outstanding in your project piece.
It's knit over multiple of 6 and I am casting on 48.

Basket Stitch
Rows 1 and 7: K
Rows 2 and 8: P
Rows 3 and 5: *K1, P4, K1*
Rows 4 and 6: *P1, K4, P1*
Rows 9 and 11: *P2, K2, P2*
Rows 10 and 12: *K2, P2, K2*

I do hope there are still some of you knitting with me. I am encouraged by the way the rug is coming together and will have another photo soon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

More Decorating Tips

Book shelving is such a great way to gain extra storage space but it can easily look like a junk pile.
The first tip is to create like groupings, not a new tip but a fundamental one. For example I store my candles together. bottles and jugs together( for vases).
Now don't feel you have to take up every available inch, that will definitely make things look junked.

Remembering the principles used in Accenting on a Budget, create a shelf plan that allows the eye to glance easily over and be led through the displays. So we don't want soldiers of books down the left and soldiers of knick nacks down the right because the balance would be all off. These shelves are adjustable so I have been able to offset a couple for added interest.

The top shelves in particular should be minimal so as to not look top heavy. Again, apply the pyramid principle to keep a tight group. 

Another trick to make the books appear less cluttered is to colour group- roughly, a little imperfectly. You are not tying to achieve rainbow perfection here, that would be too contrived and a little child-like. Another thing I do is to push all the books forwards from behind so that they all appear to be the same depth, again, not too perfectly.

You don't have to buy "stuff" in order to decorate, even your everyday memories, vases, candles, books and seasonal touches (at the moment for us it's autumn branches, seed pods and pumpkins) in storage situ are your decorating tools.

There are some items that by nature are bitsy, so some inexpensive cane baskets and boxes hide those things. For example, in some of my baskets I store cables, cords and double adaptors. Another has spare light bulbs and tea lights. The shelves are also handy for folded rugs and extra cushions too.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Store Cupboard

This year I worked out that we had put up more than 100kg of food. Sounds like a lot but we'll go through it by the end of the year. The bulk is tomatoes as we use so much of them in cooking over the winter. We save hundreds of dollars alone just by bottling our tomatoes and we have the added satisfaction of knowing our food was grown without genetic modification and without chemicals. Our freezer is only small so we do a lot of canning and with us being empty nesters, I have the spare room cupboard for storage. The shelves are stocked with filled and empty bottle and lids with the weight adjusted evenly so as not to stress or over burden the shelves. There is a lot of weight there!
I have cherries, apples, plums and blueberries for my Weet-bix in the morning or for an impromptu crumble for dessert with guests. Those dark jars are Fowler's amber glass jars.
I have dried crystalised peel, jams, chutneys, relishes and sauces (plum and tomato)
There are lots of beans from a bumper season and even some zucchini soup. We started out gradually, each year buying more jars. I source them from thrift shops and markets and I make an annual trip to the Exeter hardware store (support the little man, locally owned and operated) for sealing rings. I am usually going past at the beginning of the season when Craig is doing tractor work up and down the Tamar Valley and there is a "little old lady" sells plums for a couple of dollars from her garden and also Huon Pine shavings to put in the hen house as a natural insect repellent. Being thrifty does mean being organised or planned or more simply it is looking for opportunities to make the most. Every time I go out in the car I look for other opportunities that maximise the fuel output and try to cluster errands together.

One of my favourite blogs for "putting up" is Saving the Season. Always a good read and plenty of recipes and interesting combinations. It's where I got the recipe for Blueberry Jam with Coriander.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Knit With Me 11 Take II

Beaded Rib

If you checked this post earlier you would have thought you were experiencing de ja vu.
Oops! I really am at sixes and sevens this week!

This is knit over multiples of 5 plus 2
Row1: *P2, K1, P1, K1*, P2
Row 2: *K2, P3*, K2

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Budget Light Fixture

When I had this new wall done, the builder put in two light sockets on the wall. It wasn't something I had particularly planned but it was a good idea. Extra light fixtures weren't in the budget and the el-cheapo ones I looked at I didn't fancy at all but I had to cover those naked bulbs.

These that you see above cost less than $5 each! They are actually wooden place mats for the table. I attached little picture hook things at each side and bent the place mats into a roundish shape. Remember that lights give out quite a lot of heat, so be aware of your materials and the wattage of the bulb to avoid flammability. This goes for making lamp shades too.
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