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Monday, January 31, 2011

Icing Cup Cakes

I made these for Emma's birthday.
They charge a fortune for these in specialty shops but really they are simple.
Simple butter cake cup cakes (these are baked in Robert Gordon pink spotted patty cases)
The icing is a really basic butter icing (mix different colours up from the one batch in separate bowls and seriously, only add the colour one drop at a time)
But do you want to know what the real secret is......
a couple of tabs of liquid glucose to make it lovely and flexible.
I'll tell you another secret....
the 2-tier cake plate is a 30cm plate on the bottom (this one is Foglia by Villeroy & Boch) with an old pink glass champagne saucer glass turned upside down and then a 20cm entree plate for the top ( I used a vintage pink Johnson Bros of Australia plate). If you are worried about stability, a little bit of icing will secure them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Berry Cordial

On Saturday we went picking berries at the Longford berry farm. I love being able to pick mixed berries and they are all the same price - easy.
We picked Silvan berries, boysenberries and red currants.
The sun was hot and had made the berries swell and shiny and warm. Some so ripe that it was inevitable that hands became stained with juice.
All the way home I couldn't stop inhaling the heady sweet fragrance from my fingers. Many have tried to copy the perfume but the closest I could describe it to was a scratch-n-sniff T-shirt that I owned in 1975.

I mashed the berries using the recipe;
1lb fruit, 1/2lb sugar and 1/2 pint of water.
This is boiled for 15 minutes stirring regularly...if only because you are mesmerised by the gorgeous colour and aroma.
I couldn't bring myself to strain the cordial. I bottled it pulp and all.
NOTE: making this recipe with 3lbs of fruit yielded exactly 5 pint bottles.

I then sterilized them in the Fowlers' pot.
After placing the bottles in the pot with the stoppers half covering the tops, not sealed, water is poured in till it reaches the taper point of the bottle.
The temperature is brought up to 90C slowly and then held at 90C for 45mins. 10 mins before the end of the sterilization, fit the stoppers and clamp the seals.

Allow to cool and wipe the bottle clean before storing away in the cupboard for a cold wintry day.
This cordial is for mixing with water or champagne or vodka.
It is also a beautiful topping for desserts and ice cream.
Simple food, locally grown, without chemicals or pesticides, from the farm straight to my cupboard.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crafting Card Night

Last night Five ladies gathered around my table to make Valentines cards
They are being distributed to the elderly of New York who receive meals on wheels.
A random anonymous sentiment of love and caring for someone else.
It was organised through the Etsy "Share Your Love" meetup but it's open to anyone.

Share some Love.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ponderings of the Modern Term of "Green" previous post of brown paper....has got us all asking the question.....
Paper V's Plastic?
Which is better and what is a TRUE cost?
With many of our shops going plastic free, and people returning to string bags (sort of and of a fashion), will we,
 and in fact,
 should we, see a return of the paper bag?

I have had the very good fortune last year of meeting (and making my friend) Lee from Killiecrankie Farm.

She is an extraordinary woman; holds her own in an industry typically populated by males (forestry), is a qualified horticulturalist of highest calibre, juggling motherhood and new entrepeneurealships. She upholds the old crafts and the pursuits of la vie simple (being also a self-confessed Francophile) and often is found pondering (inside her head) the modern term of "green".
Sometimes she lets me in but today...
without further ado....
she lets us all in....

"So folks this is my first guest blog.

It’s a bit daunting,

it could be blog Harri kauri by being so topical

but here goes....

Tanya has asked me to say why I like brown paper bags;

it's not just the wonderful crisp stiffness of the paper,

the warm cosy smells of the raw brown carrier,

but because it meets my criteria for a good cradle to grave product.

Good grief what is that !

Sounds a bit weird and heavy for a blog ramble!

If you put it in simple terms think of the question "how?"

How do we get a paper bag ?

How does it get used ?

How does it end its life ?

So if we had a plastic bag (or even one of those reusable green bags)

it started as a dinosaur (cradle)

yup, squished and crushed and stewed below the earths crust to form a natural gas

then we drill it out of the ground, probably far out to seas where no-one can see it

ship it to a refinery,

cook it up into some stretchy goop

add a few stabilisers and there you have it a plastic bag

(simple and inaccurate I know).

Now you can say it is renewable getting out natural gas and petroleum's

but we are going to have to wait a few million years and we are going to run out of dinosaur goop at some stage.

So that’s why we are so keen on bio fuels.

Then the bag goes to landfill to "degrade" - which basically means it’s the same thing just smaller bits.

It won't disappear or become worm food - it will end as plastic.

You can recycle it,

reuse it,

but it will still be plastic (grave)

(simple and inaccurate I know).

So take a brown paper bag.

Many of my favourite things involve paper;


loo paper,

my wooden floorboards,

the box around my chocolate,

a birthday card.....

So you take a tree,

mash it up, wash it (even recycled paper), mash it some more, wash it some more

add some stabiliser

roll it out, dry it, cut it up and fold it

whack-o you have a brown paper bag.

That bag, if unbleached can go straight in the compost

be eaten by a worm as it is "BIO degradable"

pooped out and then fertilize my garden.

It is still cellulose (that fibre stuff from the tree)

(simple and inaccurate I know).....

BUT that tree can be replanted,

grown again in a life cycle of about 15 years.

But what about the forest ?

What about all the energy that goes into turning a tree into paper ?

Well that’s another whole new story . . . . .

the moral of the story is . . . . . use less ?

Ask do I need this ?

Next week meat VS vegetarian and the case of the belching cow (no just joking).

Some other discussions:

What's with you: so I am an environmental scientist, with a bend on sustainability, when not answering to "Mum" I ride a bike for fun (?) and ponder the great arguments of the modern term of "green"."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String

Do you remember when groceries were packed in brown paper bags? Do you remember the smell?
How about the smell of them AND poster paint that was used to decorate them when we made masks out of them?

They were the perfect size to fit over a child's head. I can still remember putting it over my head and feeling on the outside where my eye socket was and putting a rough texta mark there so I knew where to cut out the eye holes.
Torn strips of crepe paper for "hair". What fun.
We also used them to toss vegetable scraps into and then bury them in the compost pile.

They were used over and over to carry things with the top rolled over and often used to wrap up mailed parcels because the paper was so sturdy. The post office doesn't like tied packages anymore and prefer you to use their pre-paid plastic satchels...just not the same is it?
I loved the smell of packages tied with string.
 So they keep talking about abolishing plastic bags...will they bring back the brown paper do you think?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Enable Email Movement

This is a movement started by Mammarazzi from Dandelion Wishes and it is an important one. Have you ever wondered why you can reply to some comments and not others? It is as simple as having your email in your profile. Because posting and commenting is about the conversation we have here in the blog-land, the debates and the controversies, the support and the love.
Having your email enabled in your blogger profile is great! It doesn't SHOW the world your email address so it stays private. All your profile shows is under the "contact" heading the link "email" so you are perfectly safe.
If you would like a clear step by step complete with screen shot tutorial on enabling your email click here to visit Just Lu's guest post on Housewife Eclectic.
Are you STILL worried about your privacy? Does your email address contain your real name? SORTED....Just Lu has done ANOTHER guest post on Housewife Eclectic here to explain exactly how you can get around that AND become an enabled email blogger.
I know Claire from Sweet Birdy Love is going to love these links too because we were just having a chat the other day about trying to sort out this "how to reply" business.
Please visit all the links and become part of the movement and enable your email today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Volunteering for the Graveyard Shift

Every Tuesday, a group of people meet at Longford's Christ Church, weather permitting, and we do a couple of hours work on the graves.
They call themselves "The Graveyard Shift".
Mostly weeding and removing accumulated leaves and sticks.
Today I raked bucketfuls of acorns and pulled a couple of oak seedlings from the gravel on top of a large grave.
It was a perfect summer day with blue skies and a gentle breeze every now and then.
As I worked away, people walked through and stopped to chat with other workers. I was so glad to see Mum having social interaction with some new people.
Smoke drifted lazily from a small pile of debris that wasn't suitable for composting, the smell reminding me of a time long ago when every yard had an incinerator and rubbish was burnt weekly, do you remember, in the times before plastic?
There is something so tranquil about the sounds of birdsong, brooms sweeping and rakes rustling. The only sound to loudly interrupt the peace was the occasional bursts of laughter from the folks as they exchanged friendly banter.
These are the sounds of industrious retirees. At 67 Mum is one of the youngest and me, I am positively a baby!
This might be something you might be interested in doing in your community. If there isn't a group already, you could advertise in the local paper in the community notices section.
These people have worked all their life and now continue to give. They are keeping themselves fit and benefiting the community. Oh you younger generation, I hear constantly about how hard your life is, I just hope you too will one day become like this older generation that I am so proud of.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Magenta Obsession

We all love colour, but have you ever noticed that sometimes you seem to be drawn to a particular colour or spectrum?
I've done some colour research in the past about colour psychology and also the relationship between the eye and mind.

Another aspect of colour is it's use as a healing therapy based on the premise that all visible light is made up of seven basic wavelengths and each colour has it's own vibrational wavelength. For a very simple explanation click here.
Using colour in healing is not a new-fangled concept and has been in use since ancient times.
Have you ever stood at your wardrobe and tried on different things feeling dissatisfied thinking, I just don't feel green today, I need purple.

Lately I have been drawn to magenta. I want magenta to wear everyday as my signature colour. I want to walk into a room and see it in cushions or bed sheets. I'm being drawn to flowers that are in the magenta spectrum.
So I thought I would look it up and find out what the colour stands for and what is it's role in healing.
If you are being drawn inexplicably to a particular colour try going here or here. What is your colour obsession?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bottling/Canning Cherries

It's cherry season and everyone is talking cherries; where from, how much, latest rains...
Craig and I had another adventure on Thursday and went to the Sommercote Cherry Farm near Ross.
We travelled via a very old country road through a district that everyone calls "the Nile".
There are some very old farms there that have been in the same families for generations.

We bought a 5kg box and I have to say the quality is not the same as last year. They are definitely seconds which is very disappointing. When bottling, the fruit must be perfect and free from blemish.
Trawling through washing and grading them ourselves I have bottled about 3kg of the 5kg. The rest will be eaten fresh or I will cook some slice like I did last year (if you click on "cherries" at the right hand side in the categories section you'll find the recipe)
I bottle all my fruit in plain old tap water, there is no need for sugar.
Fresh cherries are great but I do love to be able to have some on my cereal in winter for a little hit of summer memories. The other thing I use them for is deserts or cherry sauce with my Moroccan style meatballs.

The REALLY IMPORTANT thing I wanted to tell you though was about the pitting.

You may already know this, but I didn't....
If you place the cherries in the pitter upside down and push the stone out the stalk end, you have a much higher success rate and less wastage. If you do it the other way you loose a plug of cherry flesh nearly every time but actually getting rid of the pit is more hit and miss.
So in the famous words of Blackboard..."upside down, upside down"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Handmade Doll Raffle


Jenny from Jenny Wren dolls has jumped straight into action and handmade this beautiful doll especially for the QLD flood appeal.

Jenny writes:

I am sure most of you around the world are aware of the terrible floods in Queensland.

Loss of life and property.

Communities disrupted, people's resources stretched to the limit.

The craft and blogging community is once again doing what it can to help.

And what do so many Australians do when their community needs to raise money?

Well they have a cake stall, a lamington drive, a raffle for a pretty doll or for a meat tray or a slab of beer.

Even people outside of Australia have the opportunity to enter this draw.
With each donation of $5 is the chance to win this totally handmade beauty.
Don't be fooled by her looks though...she's made for playing!
Please follow this link here to Jenny's and read more about how you could be lucky enough to win.
Good luck everyone, and when you tuck your babies into bed tonight please say a prayer for the families of the children who lost their lives in the floods this week.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Introducing Some Style

I was tagged by Lee at Killiecrankie Farm to participate in the the Stylish Blog Award which is wonderful timing as I have just spent a bit of time updating my side bar with a few more of my favourite blogs.
I was just telling Paige from Hodgepodge ( you might as well go ahead and make her number one on the list) that I haven't bought a magazine for years, not counting Australasian Poultry. Reading blogs is like flicking through a magazine with beautiful pictures, interesting articles, recipes, craft patterns but I get to be the editor. How cool is that!
I choose my reading content and contributors. There is no paper or printing involved or shipping. Another plus is very few advertisements (no wonder there are so many marketing sites trying to get onto our blogs).
A requirement of this award is that I tell you seven things about myself but I think my blog pretty much lays it all out there so I will tell you seven words that are inspiring my style at the moment;

sea glass
summer memories

The next part is to share with you 15 blogs of stylish inspiration. In the interest of laziness I would direct your attention to the side bar under the heading of "My Bloglist" where you will find quick links and better yet others besides....
So we have established 1.Paige at Hodgepodge - who says she is having a bit of a blog mojo hiatus but that's OK because she has lots of scrumptious pictures from her shop but what I really love about her is that she participates in Tablescaping Thursdays...very special to a china and cutlery obsessed person like myself.
2. Stationview - cottage spots some great potential in thrifted furniture
3. The Bobwhites because Kat's style is hilarious and it confounds me that she only has a dozen followers. She makes soap, keeps bees and cooks French and keeps me in awe. Love having you in my life Kat!
4. Hill and Vale, a relatively new find but I could just sit and look at her masthead for hours! Every time I pop over I am captivated. You'll see what I mean.
5. Folk City, a very stylish thrifty lady
6. Daily Decadent, also a newish addition to my reading list with gorgeous pictures of her "village life"
7. Just Call Me Ruby, loads of knitting style and talent. She is about to release her new pattern book.
8. Ut si, everything about Collette is style but she has a deep ethical commitment to the environment and to animals, especially the ones we eat. She is a champion.
9. Virtu, you have just GOT to see Sally's clothes that she makes for her children, lots of wonderful inspiration.
10. The Cottage Nest, so sweet and charming
11. Funkbunny's Garden, with encouragement and gardening advice for the suburbanites
12. Nerines, hasn't posted for a few weeks but take a look at her wonderful free-machine stitched artworks. Simply amazing.
13. Free Flowing Ways provides me with gentle wisdom and a connection between Christianity and Paganism.
14. Sweet Birdy Love is a woman after my own heart with her love of flowers
15. Under A Blue Moon, also a new discovery for me but one I'm enjoying very much
Oh and I could go on but seriously, you'll find them all and more on the right hand side and they wouldn't be there if I didn't love them one and all for their own special uniqueness, after all, I am the editor of my "magazine" and these are the people of my pages, my contributors. Better than a magazine though, these people become my friends too.

So the basics are that if you have been tagged; link back to your tagger, tell 7 things about you, nominate 15 blogs of style and tell them about it. Completely up to you but I do enjoy the opportunity to share beautiful blogs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Good Zucchini/Courgettes Recipe

Photograph by John Bougen & Julie Le Clerc

I know you are all drowning in zucchinis by now and looking for fresh inspiration and this really hits the bill
It's a recipe from one of my favourite books
"Taking Tea in the Medina" by Julie Le Clerc.
It is an exotic exploration of the middle east with sumptuous photography.
Having said that though, it is a book I reach for often for although it is incredibly exotic, the recipes are easy and execute perfectly. I have never had a "fail to delight".
After Stephanie Alexander's Cooks Companion, this is the other book that I highly recommend.
The "Meatballs with Sour Cherry Sauce" is a firm favourite and I make sure I bottle cherries in season for just this recipe.
"Jewelled Rice" is a cacophony of colour on a plate and always makes my guests feel special.
I've already told you about the divine "Rose Petal Jam" in another post but can you imagine little "Rose Water Meringues" nestled in delicate pink rose petals and sprinkled with little jewels of pomegranate? Heavenly!
BUT....back to the zucchini...
so basically cut the zucchini on the diagonal fairly thick, about 2cm.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind 3 cloves of garlic, 3 tabs of fresh mint leaves with sea salt and ground black pepper. The recipe also called for 1 teas of dried mint which I didn't have so I substituted with dried parsley. Once you have a smooth paste blend in about a quarter of a cup of olive oil. Toss the zucchini in this mix and bake in a baking dish in the oven until tender...roughly 20 mins-ish.
The combination of mint with the zucchini....
and we can face them again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Washing the Christmas Tree

We are lucky to have hot sunny days here at the end of Christmas.
I bought my tree 21 years ago at a really good price because it was missing it's base that it goes in to stand up (I just use a beach/market umbrella stand) otherwise I would not have been able to afford a tree of this quality at the time. It has been a great investment with lush realistic looking structure.
I am very particular about storing the Christmas things and looking after them.
We had a super hot day and I hung the Christmas tree on the clothes line and gave it a hose to wash out the last couple of years of dust and then left it to thoroughly dry before packing it away in the afternoon.
I have old doona covers and European pillow covers that I use to swaddle my tree and then pack into a box.

I have an old wardrobe from the op shop in the garage specifically for the decorations which means I can keep them pretty protected and dust free.
The decorations are all packed into their own boxes and I close the lid I smile to think how future generations when I am go might one day lift this lid and talk about me. I know that Christmas memories will be my legacy. The decorations are the tangible reminders.

So the nativity set is carefully bubble wrapped and in it's own plastic storage tub and everything is freshly dusted and in it's place now I have light and airy glass with light marine colours and themes.

It  is another opportunity to rotate the platters and other servingware, bringing to the fore the dishes for summer entertaining and inspiration.

We have been running the air conditioning the last few days - even Tassie gets the odd few days of 30C+ and it's lovely to have cooling, calming scapes I think.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hot Colour for Summer

In winter with short days of dawn from 7.30am to dusk at 4.30pm I like to see white blooms about the yard as they seem to glow in the dim light and provide points of reference for paths in the dark.
This summer I have gone for some pretty bright and hot colours.
Berry reds, strong magenta, fiery yellows and orange alongside hot hot pink.
Flowers are good for my soul and they encourage bees in our chemical free garden for the very important job of pollinating the vegetables.
I am sourcing different bright Hollyhock seeds from friends and this one is a favourite. I intend to have a garden full of Hollyhocks and Sunflowers when the grandchildren finally come. No childs' adventure garden would be complete without them and where would the fairies hide?
(I am happy to share seed with anyone too by the way)
Nastursiums in bright jewel colours and sunny yellow and orange Calendula are so beautiful added to salads too. Can you imagine when these Sunflowers are flowering too?
A couple of bright red poppies came up through the peas and were allowed to stay in riotous confusion. I love to watch the big heavy bumble bees as they try to gather the pollen from these saucers of paper-like flowers.
Even the Pak Choi and Tat Soi going to seed add their lovely delicate yellow flowers to the scene.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Holiday Day Continues

We continued our drive still heading east marvelling at the beauty and health of the dairy cattle herds. I constantly exclaimed with delight over every herd of calves we saw.
We finally found our "river somewhere" and simply parked by the side of the road and slid down the embankment and explored a little. We tracked the different prints in the sand of birds, wallabies, dogs and humans, even very little people prints.
We revelled in the absence of traffic or machinery noises and drank in the serenity of fast flowing water sounds. We noted the colours of reflected skies and depths of pools.

After climbing the bank it was time for another coffee from the much travelled and dented stainless steel thermos flask. I pulled out my cushion again and we settled into companionable silence with our respective magazines; Craig had "Recreational Aviation Australia" and I had "Australasian Poultry". We were there for about an hour all up and saw one log truck and two cars!
The day is most definitely drawing to an end and we must head back west towards home again, through the old mining towns of Derby and Branxholm, once prosperous and bustling, now sleepy.

Once hop fields stretched for miles and were a common site between here and Scottsdale, but the only crops we found were at Branxholm. Some crop sites had been let go into full disrepair while others still stood like silent sentinels with eerie frayed heads, baling twine from years upon years of crops, left to flutter like ghost stories whispered, waiting. 

We've recharged our batteries, re-connected with each other and solved many of the problems of the world.
We've allowed ourselves to dream of some acreage one day. 
We've had a wonderful holiday in one day and worked out that the petrol, lunch and even dinner of chips and a Coke at the Ledgerwood Memorial Park has cost us a grand total of about $40.
Real value - immeasurable. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holiday In Just One Day

I have to go back to work tomorrow so for my last day of holidays my man packed a thermos and planned a day of adventuring for a memorable holiday.
Hold the wasn't his idea in the first place. I tell him I need a "date" and he fishes for what do you means. I volunteer some basic information about "yes, a picnic would be nice, yes I prefer a bush trip rather than a beach trip" The rest he has to organise himself.
I'm working on a couple of principles here.
1.When you stop courting the relationship stops caring. Taking a woman on a "date" is a one-on-one experience which the woman interprets as "I am appreciated and cared for".
2. Re-defining the Roles: he is my man, my protector, my provider, my rock. He is capable of leading and I am trusting and follow (we're talking metaphorically here). It is a mixture of complacency and wanting to please that has him rather I plan the trip myself.

We travelled East over the "Sideling" and into Scottsdale to pick up some fresh bread rolls and meats, olives and cheese and headed for Ralph Falls, along the way passing through prime dairy country and paddocks of poppy crops, oats, barley, potatoes and onions.
It's a classic Summer day with a very comfortable temperature of 21. Most of the pasture have been mown and baled as silage or hay
The final ascent to Ralph Falls is via 17km of winding rocky dirt road giving stunning valley vistas of patchwork rural landscapes. The bush is riotous with flowers, nearly every tree and shrub is bursting in glorious show. Along the roadside are wild foxgloves adding their tall magenta spires of flowers.
At the top are two other couples in the area, the height of the season and the place is practically deserted.
I love this about Tasmania. One can glory in wilderness without the masses.
So I'm following this man with a picnic basket of food and a couple of cushions, on a halcyon day, through hushed rainforest for our own private retreat in the wilderness.
He scores big time. He and I have re-affirmed age old unspoken biological positions.
He feels satisfied and capable as the hunter and provider, my leader.
I feel loved and cherished, safe and valued. I will continue to follow this man on my life path.
(Don't forget you can click on the images to make them larger)

Ralph Falls

Craig didn't quite make it to this exact point. You might remember from the post about the shot tower that he really doesn't like heights all that much. This view is quite dizzying and looking to the left are spectacular valley views and cataracts of tree ferns.
We walked a little farther along a track, meeting no-one, and had a serene and simple picnic right there on the springy vegetation covering the ground. Not a soul, not a sound....
except for some flies but I spun a tea towel lazily overhead and that kept them at a distance.
After lunch we travelled on...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Zucchini Glut - Making Soup

The zucchinis are absolutely out of control. You gardeners know exactly what I mean...
you turn your back for one day and they go from mild mannered glossy green vegetable to near matt black bazooka!
Nearly everyone is in the same boat. Foolhardy first-time gardeners have put in more than one plant and discovered their folly too late.
Offering the excess is hit and miss as neighbours and friends see you coming and dodge you like you're trying to persuade them into pyramid selling.
Everyone is making zucchini slice and bread and butter pickles like there is no tomorrow.
My favourite solution is to make soup and then freeze it for a time when this marrow madness is a distant memory.
Something amazing happens to zucchini when you simmer it and puree. It turns creamy and velvety rich.
It is super-fast.
Chop zucchini and a couple of onions and sweat off a bit in some butter. Cover only just with stock and simmer. Once tender in just a few moments, whizz it up with your stick blender and watch it whirlpool into a luscious green velvet. Done!
People often ask if I have put cream into it, but no, it's just a very simple, calorie low, nutrient high, taste sensation solution to a zucchini glut.
For another variation, I cook up some puy lentils with ground cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli and garam masala, adding enough water to cook them till tender and more like a thick pellety gravy then add a generous dollop to the soup. This gives a bigger spice hit and a bit of texture to the velvetyness.
Frozen into portion size containers, these are really appreciated on cold dark nights and are a boon when I'm running too late to pack lunch. A couple of minutes in the microwave at work and I'm enjoying a delicious low calorie lunch.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hangover Food

Leftover Tabbouli with two poached eggs and tobasco sauce.....
Beats a dust bath like these girls are taking!
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