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Friday, December 23, 2011

A Secret and A Wish

Calm and Light.
White and Bright.

This year for the first time in my life I have not wanted Christmas to come and yet of all years it seems to have been rushing headlong with arms outstretched.
After Christmas our everyday lives will change drastically.

I keep telling myself that there are plenty of people worse off than we but still I can't help feeling a little sorry for myself. Craig, finally sick of running between no less than five casual jobs and making no headway has decided to move to Young in New South Wales and take up shearing again. 
How long this situation lasts we do not know but for me it is like losing a limb.
I feel like my chain is slipping it's anchor.

My mother is in Sydney looking after my nephew while his parents work to set up Circus Oz at Darling Harbour (that's another story) and let me tell you tickets to the Circus would be a stunning Christmas present.
I miss her and the Christmas traditional routine.
Her job each year after my Nan died has been to make the Christmas Cake. Each year she panics that the cake is not right, so she cuts it to see....then she has to make another one....but the next one looks burnt (we try it an it is just fine) she makes another one!
Mum ends up making a minimum of three cakes at least and spending a small fortune on dried fruit and nuts. This is a pattern that has become part of Christmas now for me.
I must tell you about my Nan's Fruit Cake making some time.
Another tradition is the day set aside where we both sit to polish all the silver. 
I have missed her this year.
I have whispered to myself "this is what it will be like when she is really gone", but not yet.

Craig helped me make the bon bons this year.
He says; Never Again!
Here is the post last year about how to make them.
This year they are finished with vintage silk and satin ribbons too worn now for apparel adornment.
We will be nine at table this year. Two tables will be set end to end and covered with white cloths and white napkins and centrepieces of mirror and silver and pearly beads.

Serene and Cool

I have taken down the heavy chocolate velvet curtains and replaced them with oddments of white fabric to drift and suck and billow at open windows freshly painted in white by a husband frantic to leave his nest neat and trim.

Even the dogs have caught the serenity of the cooling white around their day bed in the window. 
This is their favourite spot and from here they can keep an eye on the street and stand guard of their property. I am hoping they will catch some of the laziness of shimmery summer and not feel the need to tell me about absolutely every movement in the street.

It's been so lovely having you all over this year and I hope you will come back and keep me company next year too. We have met some wonderful people this year and have had great feedback from the Living Better With Less classes and I look forward to continuing those next year. 
There will also be an opportunity to meet up with some bloggers in the area so if you live locally stay tuned and I will co-ordinate something very soon with Loz and Dinny.

I had a very pleasant evening last night dining with some interesting ladies, one of whom was Fiona from Apple Island Wife and she introduced me to my new mantra for the coming year...

The Secret Of Happiness...
Something To Do,
Someone To Love 
Something To Hope For

I hope you may all find happiness,
this is my Christmas Wish

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some Good Reading This Week

A very, very interesting post over at Eight Acres about 
and it makes so much sense.
An observation of nature doing exactly what it needs to do to ensure the survival of the species.

Here is one from earlier this year about alternative syrups to use in your fruit bottling from
Now that cherries are coming into season, this is a good one to re-visit.

My Go To blog, Housewife Eclectic, for all things techno savvy and digital has another great how to...
She gives a really easy to understand and brief (cos I have a short attention span) tutorial for taking pictures to capture the lovely glowing lights at this time of year.

And for a funny take on the Christmas visual...
by the hilarious Pamela J 

And for a beautiful, thought provoking and personal look at life and the meaning of Christmas I recommend this post at Pumpkin, Pie, Painter
A trip over to her blog is worth it for the warm fuzzies of her Christmas ready home but I'm sure you will enjoy a candid tale of a busy person's life and the crossing path of a neighbour's tragic circumstance.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Back On Track With More Gifts

Phew! Back on track.
Thanks Tamar Sewing Service for making my machine almost new again AND within 26hrs!
Free pick up and delivery.
Turns out there was some breakage and wear in the foot peddle which is not surprising given that it is 27yrs old. The repair has meant that I have lost a lot of speed variations...
actually pretty much I have stop and flat out!
I feel a bit like an industrial sewer and I really have to keep my fingers flying but oh well, at this time of year flat out is just right.
On the project board are some children's aprons and some flags for a little boy's fort.

I would like to say very big thank you to all the local people who so generously offered to loan me their machines. Such a generous bunch.
Big Love XXX
And now I must away....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Unusual (Free) Xmas Gift

I know someone who though now grown up, still likes to colour in.
I found and pinned a site with lots of links for free printable adult (as in complex patterns and intricate design, all "G" rated) colouring in designs.
I have chosen about ten pages and printed them and put them together for her very own colouring book.
There are complex Celtic designs, mandalas and angels and Christmas scenes.
Obviously she is not the only one with this penchant with literally hundreds of images to choose from.
Here is the link to the page of adult/teen colouring pages.
If you want to see what else I have pinned under "gift ideas" and maybe get some inspiration click here or on the pintrest tab at the top of the page.
Hope your gift list is coming together. Mine has taken a bit of a break. I went to sew up some children's aprons yesterday morning and the sewing machine is dead as a doornail. The man is hoping to have it back to me by tomorrow afternoon, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fromage de Tete - Head Cheese (Not for Vegetarians)

My dear vegetarian friends do not go any further as it is only going to get more graphic.
I have forayed into the world of Charcuterie.
As you may remember, I have been contemplating a pig's head and his feet and wondering what to do with them. I am in unknown territory...or rather I was.
My old recipe books were rather vague on some of the finer points but I managed to find this recipe by/from Mietta's for Pigs Head Brawn. It has many names in many different countries but in Australia it is more commonly known as Brawn and considered very old fashioned and probably not very elegant.
It is very close in nature and style and method to pork rillettes that is so trendy at the moment. Pork rilettes is chopped pork pieces cooked in lard and then potted and used like a pate. The Gourmet Farmer Mathew Evans has created quite a foodie revival here of pork rillette but I quite liked this post on The Paupered Chef

And so my education continues....

this is what the typically slaughtered pigs head will look like. They are usually cut in half though you could order a whole but this is far more convenient. The brain was already removed and most of the bristles and the ears and snout. They are very clean and neat.
the first step was to wash well and cut the trotters in half (to release all that wonderful natural gelatine in the cooking) and remove the eyeballs. Removing the eyes is much more difficult than I anticipated. Do you remember as children constantly being warned by adults to "be careful or you'll poke your eye out"? I used to have visions that eyeballs were often in danger of just popping out. They are in fact encased very securely in some of the toughest musculature you will find on the body. There must be a trick to it I'm sure but it required a lot of working at it with a sharp knife.

I assembled a bouquet garni of bay leaves (yes rather tired looking ones) a few whole cloves, thyme and Tasmanian Pepper Berries. 

Into the slow cooker with them and the obligatory onion, carrot, celery dice commonly used in stock. I poured over water to cover and set it on low. Due to timing and convenience, this cooked away for about 24hrs. Probably overkill but it was beautifully caramelled and smelled rich and hearty.

Everything was turned into a colander over a stockpot to strain the liquid and then this was vigorously simmered to reduce by a half to intensify the flavour of the stock. I must admit though I ladled off a lot of the fat that rose to the surface.

After discarding all the bones and some of the less edible looking matter (read something that may have been gums or somesuch...), I chopped the meat into a fine mince and placed it in a mixing bowl to which I added some additional spices and deviated slightly from the recipe. I think Chinese Five Spice is sublime with pork with it's clove and star anise flavours. I also added more Tas Pepper Berries and Coriander seed to the mortar and pestle. After mixing this mix through I ladled in a couple of scoops of the reduced stock to give the mass a just wet texture.

This was then pushed into a paper lined loaf tin (for ease of removal more than anything else because this recipe is certainly non-stick!) and then....

Foil was placed on top and then a common brick on top of that to weight the mixture and compress it and ensure there are no air pockets. This is then placed in the fridge and left for 24hrs (roughly). The leftover stock I have stored in the freezer.

To remove from the mould, turn the tin upside down on a board or plate and then lay a warm cloth over the upturned tin. Rewarm the cloth a couple of times until you have melted the outer fat that is holding it in the tin. The combination of fat and gelatine combine to create a firm loaf and apparently it can last in the fridge for up to a month.

The result is something that is a cross between a rillette, pate and terrine. It has a fine texture that is quite spreadable and quite delicious. For lunch today we simply spread it on toast and dressed it with salad leaf from the garden.

Would I make it again given all the work involved?
Definitely worth the effort and I would love to try this with say slivered almonds and juniper berries, or fennel seeds.
Frugality wise this is a huge winner. Pork rillette sells for about $9-$10 for a 100g tub in delicatessens. This whole loaf couldn't have cost more than a few dollars.
To compare;
the prepared delicatessen variety $100/kg
the home variety approx $5/kg
I would have no qualms serving this as a wedding hors d'ouvres as the Paupered Chef did.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wychwood Design Inspiration

Come on in and visit Wychwood Garden.....

Two acres of garden design inspiration.....

Right in the middle of the beautiful pastoral countryside of Mole Creek district on the route to Cradle Mountain and the Western Tiers.

Hedged corridors and old garden gates segue one garden "room" into another.....

The pristine creek running through the bottom of the garden is teeming with trout and visible right to the creek bed.

Hard to see in this picture but there are areas deliberately cut short and long creating subtle framing, shaping and staging.

The children's cubby house.
Just look at the espalier work on the apple tree on the side.

Espalier techniques are used extensively in the gardens as screens, walls and fencing .

Garden swings

Stunning ornate bird feeders and giant seed heads full of pollinating insects and bees, lush scents.

Another outdoor bower, one side covered with grape vine, another side with passionfruit and another with an espaliered apple tree, softening the structure and merging it with the garden.

Just look at the size of this Brazillian plant. It looks positively prehistoric and dwarfs Craig's 6'.
Each leaf is at least half his height across. Prickly and magnificent.

Pruned boughs are tied to form tomato staking.

Another idea I take away with me today is this supporting framework for floppy broad beans made from tied boughs.

And more Adirondack chairs!
Yonder is the most superb gift shop filled with gorgeous Swedish and German natural bristle brushes, string and twine from Italy and France made from jute, cotton, pure linen and even a hair fine paper thread. Garden implements to die for and of course a plant nursery.

Craig bought me a whole kilo spool of Italian cotton red and white string.
Will it become a crocheted floor mat?
It will be something to keep me busy on the long lonely nights without him in the year to come.

Wychwood Gardens and Nursery
80 Den Rd. Mole Creek
Open Thurs, Fri & Sat 10am-5pm Oct-April
Admission to the garden $6
Other times by appointment
(03) 6363 1210

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Market Day and a Pig's Head

A very colourful day at the market today featuring a lot of purple.
We had "Blue Saphire" potatoes, purple skinned Kohl Rabi, purple flowering chives and even the new season garlic bulbs were flushed a little purple.
We also had coloured chard in vibrant magenta, orange, salmon and saffron yellow for cutting up into salads.

The little blackboards on loan from the guys at Resurekt worked a treat.

The soap sold very well too and I'm afraid the "Brown Windsor", "Savon Edifiante" and "Peace on Earth" are all sold out. I only have "Rosemary and Thyme" and "Lavender, Lime and Bergamot" and plain tallow left.
I have had a few customers come back to buy more of the pure tallow and they have said how soft it makes their skin. Some have said the smell was a bit different at first but they love the way their skin feels and have come back for more. It is the soap that Craig and I prefer to use too but it's not for everyone.
I'll be packing him a good supply before he heads bush. 

As for the rest of today....
I have a pig's head and four trotters in the fridge and would love some guidance and suggestions about what to do with them. I have never cooked them before. I have studied some of my old house-lore books and the suggestion is to slow cook, shred the meat and then put in a weighted mould to make brawn.
Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas...
I'm all ears.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rat Tail Radishes

I was first introduced to Rat Tail Radishes last year by my good friend Lee from Killiecrankie Farm. She is busy selling her beautifully groomed purposely grown Christmas Trees at the moment but she also has a nursery and dispenses horticultural advice like she was born that way.
She kindly saved me some seed so I could sow them this year and I intend to save seed and pass them on in turn to as many people as I can.
This is an absolute gem to have in the yard

From a tiny seed not unlike a mustard seed this lush bush grows rather quickly and robustly.
The seed is sown directly in situ in spring.

Just look at the pretty flowers it gets covered in.
Some bushes have white and some have this beautiful veined lilac colour.

From the pollinated flowers grows these pointy ended pods. They look a little bit like beans.
They taste like a radish but a bit less hot and with a burst of succulent juice.
Naturally they are good for snacking on straight from the bush while watering the garden but they are an intriguing addition to a salad.
Toss a few in with some mixed leaves. Delicious.
They can also be eaten in a sandwich.
This is a great plant for the children to grow; easy, fast growing, attractive and abundant looking and it is eaten raw. Ticks all the boxes for children.
I'll save you some seed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Soap in the Shop

If you are wanting to get organised with orders for presents, this is the week to do it as from now on the mail is really going to be frantic with the extra workload of Christmas.
I have changed the shop items and uploaded soaps for sale.
Check out the tab at the top just under the header labelled "Jubilee Jumble"
If you are unsure of anything or would like more information please email me (on my profile)
Thanks to all those lovely people who purchased last month, especially the packets of sunflowers seeds whose sales support work with youth depression and suicide.
I hope you have got them all planted now ready for those big cheery heads later in summer.
There is still time to order a copy of my 2012 Suburban Jubilee calendar (also found on a tab at the top). I have been really thrilled with the quality of the production and they make wonderful presents for those hard to buy for people. It features snapshots of a suburban life in lovely bold colours.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Another Gift Comes Together

I happened across these melamine pieces for a few scant dollars.

Then I found these little cuties....

Which I thought would go just right in this vintage picnic basket.

Add a good book in an old early edition hard back.....

Hem an old blanket scrap from some friends fabric stash....
And you have a romantic vintage picnic set.
The first pieces were found in April and I have been gathering gradually all year as the right thing came along. It's unique, one of a kind and very cost effective.

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