My Pins

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Living Better With Less

I am soon to be presenting a course of "classes" on a monthly basis that aim to introduce people to some new skills and show them how to save money but live well.
It is not for profit and I hope that classes, depending on numbers, can be as little as $5-$10 per person.
I will cover food preserving skills and soap making.
How to enjoy your harvest all year round.
Basic back yard poultry
And how to save squillions by giving chemicals inside and out the flick.
I am hoping to have one group in Launceston and one in the Exeter region.
They will be about 2hrs in length and probably on a Sunday mid morning once a month.
If you are in the area and interested please let me know in the comments or email me.
(To email me, go to my profile and click on the words "email me" on the right hand side)
Once again, this is not for profit, but for sharing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Camellias Give Way to Erlicheer

This week in the vase are Erlicheer Jonquils (and a Daff) with some greenery cut from a native shrub of some sort.....
please read the comments below in case Lee stops by and refreshes our memory on this lemon scented white star flowering in late winter shrub.....
As you know I have been hit with the Spring Cleaning bug and was about to start a new project when Craig put in a special request that he would like to see his desk please.
He hasn't seen it in quite a few months and I think he has been most patient.
It has been buried under the overflow of sewing and crafting.
I was too embarrassed to take a before picture so there is no point in showing you an after,
suffice to say,
mission accomplished and I feel really good about it and Craig was so proud. I think secretly he doubted it could be done in a day.
The upshot is that I have had to do a little re-thinking about some of my treasures and feel that a couple of things should go to really good homes so tomorrow I am going to have a give away.
Come back tomorrow and enter if you are so inclined and it would really help me out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pina - by Susie McMahon

Something very special and exciting happened to me this week.
I won a competition over at Susie McMahon's blog last week and this little baby is my prize.
She was hand delivered to work today.
I realised that my hands were trembling with excitement when I was unwrapping her.
I have called her Pina.
There are so many talented artists and craftsmen living in Tasmania (I know! It was a random draw competition and she got a local! Usually it is someone internationally placed)
Susie is an extraordinarily talented woman with many varied skills from music to art to spinning.....
and she is also an honourable green living woman with intimate connections to her community.
Primarily and very much internationally, Susie is known for her doll making. Each one is a work of art and ethereal beauty.
and if you have not seen her work before you will be in for a treat at the sheer range of her work.
My little Pina is from Susie's Zozie range.

She wears her heart right out in front for everyone to see and feel.

She has pink tipped ears, fingers and toes and a bellybutton.
The detail in the feet and hands is so charming.
Her little face is cast from one of Susie's moulds that she makes and is hand painted.
It struck me as I looked at her  in the flesh for the first time,  (Pina that is; I was fortunate to meet Susie sometime ago see this post "Etsy Party Night") how much this doll actually looks like Susie herself...well not the ears....but Susie also has large luminous wide set eyes that are a strong focal point of her face. 
I wonder if Susie realises that?
She is not going straight to the pool room but she is going to a special place in a crystal glass fronted cabinet that will protect her from dust etc. so she will be enjoyed for generations. 
She is more than a doll; she is an art piece and now a family heirloom.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oil of Cloves

The mould was out of control in the bedroom.
I couldn't see it but I could smell it.
And it was giving me allergic asthma every night.
So today I pulled everything out of the built in cupboards, sorted a pile for the op shop and swept out a few cobwebs.
Lots of homeless Daddy Long Legs tonight.
All the surfaces got a spray with my oil of cloves mixture.
It is 1.25ml of clove bud oil in one litre of water into a spray bottle.
It can be purchased at many chemists ( I purchased mine from Gould's Naturopathy in Hobart $15.50 for 50ml). This is enough for half a lifetime of use as it is very powerful stuff but you are also getting the idea how thrifty this cleaning is too.
Mould grows in nice damp conditions and from spores. The beauty of oil of cloves is that it kills the spores giving a longer lasting and more effective clean.
I got onto this method from Shannon Lush and I cannot recommend her books "Spotless" and "Stainless" enough.
Oil of Cloves also kills moss and lichen and is an insect repellent against many hard shelled insects like silverfish. You have probably already heard that it is also a good remedy for toothache acting like a local anaesthetic in the mouth.
I lightly misted the interior of the cupboards and allowed to dry with plenty of fresh air and sunshine pouring into the bedroom today.
Then everything was stacked neatly back in ensuring that there was adequate room around piles for air flow.
The ports (you probably call them suitcases in your neck of the woods) were also sprayed and put in the sunshine and I gave the window frames and sills a really good wipe down too as this is where that black mouldy line can also be seen from condensation wet windows over winter.
It all feels much fresher and I should breathe easier tonight.
Oil of cloves is also effective on mould on tile grout, mildewed blinds, sailing canvases, in fact anywhere you find mould.
Another tip from Shannon's book "Stainless" for moisture in cupboards is to tie a bundle of six sticks of ordinary white school chalk and hang it in the cupboard. Once it has become quite wet from absorbing moisture, hang it on the clothesline in the sun till dry again and then back into the cupboard. 
As Shannon says, "20 cents for life vs. $180.00 for 12 months using an equivalent commercial preparation"

Monday, August 22, 2011

Something My Mother Used To Make

This sort of cooking reminds me of large cloth bound cook books with black and white photographs of canapes, of Margaret Fulton, the Womens Weekly and my mother.

Brown some mince
Add some finely chopped veg of choice.
Cook it off a bit.
Add some of my bottled tomatoes and some of my lovely spicy tomato pasata
Puff pastry is one thing I do use pre-made and from the freezer. 
Sprinkle it with cheese (I also added some feta because I could and a scant sprinkle of rosemary leaves)
Roll it and cut it into 2cm slices.
After placing the filling in a casserole dish, top with the pastry slices like so and bake till golden.
Comforting and filling.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Something To Lift The Black

I wear a lot of black.
It's slimming don't you know.
I bought this beautiful necklace with re-purposed vintage beads and bobs last week from Kate.
I love the way she puts the eclectic designs together and the sensitive use of antiqued chains and jump rings.
It's fun jewellery but not out of my age range like so much is. 
I bought this from the Longford Maker's Market but Kate also has a shop called
Click on the picture for a closer look.
Her mother's post with more pictures of Kate's jewellery is here
Well done Miss Kate, I have enjoyed wearing it very much, thank you xxx.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Flowers In Bathroom (I) and Feng Shui

No matter what, there is one place in my house that has a floral display at all times, even if it is just a big armful of fishbone fern. 
Maybe it is the Feng Shui sensitivity in me but I find the bathroom is very heavy in water, air, metal and that is why I always have candles for fire and something floral for wood. 
It may not be strictly orthodox but I think we instinctively have a yearning for a balance of elements. 
I know I like to always spy out Claire's floral arrangements when I visit Sweet Birdy Love and it does my heart good so I hope it brings simple pleasure to you also.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shall I Call It Annie

This old letterbox is well over 25 years old. 
It had it's last makeover probably 15 years ago when it was painted federation green. 
I screwed on some shiny brass numbers on the front and was very proud of myself.
It got kicked about 9 years ago by one of the local boys.
Poor defenceless letterbox.
He really made it loose on it's support as it was never cemented in. He also gave it a good crack in the front....
but it hung in there.
Coming home today, with a light rain finally falling from leaden skies, I spied a bright spot up ahead as the wipers swished droplets aside.
It was like a beacon in a black and white world calling me home.
The numbers are once again cheery and gleaming and it has a new sturdy black metal stand.
It looks so fine that I am expecting the postman to drop a note of congratulations in the box tomorrow.
It's so optimistic and happy. 
This is what my happy red letterbox reminds me of.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Soap Using Mutton Fat

I made soap yesterday from about 3kg of the mutton fat from the sheep I purchased last week. It is soap at it's most basic and cheapest.
It is a beautiful gentle white colour.
There are lots of step by step and how to guides on the net about making soap so I won't go into it here but reference some resources for you along the way.
A lot of people are surprised to find out that animal fat can be made into soap; in fact it is the most common as it is also the cheapest and a ready by-product from animal processing. In commercial circles, the ingredient on the soap that you buy, if listed, will be "tallowate".
It is much more preferable than palm oil that is also commonly used and is responsible for endangering orangutans and their habitats.
Animal tallow is available free or for a very small price from your butcher and if you ask nicely they may put it through the grinder also to make the job of rendering quicker.
So for the first step in making tallow soap, you will need to render fat. I suggest you go here for more information.
We are fortunate enough to have a real commercial food processor and passed ours through a grating disk before rendering. This is ultra fine and we did it because we could but even chopping it up into small chunks is going to be fine for rendering too. 
So after following the information in the link above, it is ready for making into soap.
I will list some of my suggested reading below but I believe Rhonda from Down To Earth has probably explained the process definitively and makes some very good points that I would also like to stress also.
-Soap making is a process involving chemical reactions (remember science lab days)
-All measurements MUST be weighed by weight not volume so a set of digital scales is vital.
-Have everything set out and organised before you begin.
So include this in your reading;
and the link that you really need for a soap calculator
I used these very inexpensive storage containers from a dollar store (so thrilled to find they were made in Australia).
The result was lovely large creamy blocks after being left to set for about 24hrs.
I cut these slabs with a long knife after marking them out roughly for size with a ruler.
Then I stamped an impression into some using ordinary stamp blocks by using firm downward pressure with the heel of my palm.
You are impressing rather than stamping in this case.
These are now placed on drying racks in an out of the way place for about 4-6 weeks to cure.
I am allergic to many essential oils and fragrances and have deliberately left this soap at it's purest and plainest. I think after many years of commercial brainwashing, we are a bit conditioned to expect our soap to look a pretty colour and smell like an exotic fruit bowl. 
There are certainly lots of different things you can do to add fragrance and colour and many of those methods are quite natural and harmless. 
For instance pink clay for a subtle pink colour. Dried flowers and tea leaves for subtle fragrances and textures.
Making soap requires care and caution but is a very easy process.
It is incredibly frugal at it's simplest and is good for your home and excellent for gifts.
It is recycling an otherwise wasted by-product.
Interesting huh?
I bought a sheep for meat and ended up with bones for stock and fat for soap and knuckles for games.
I am going to stop short at the innards. I think I've done a pretty good job and how could you not respect an animal who has supplied so much. That is why it is so exciting to be able to buy such an animal from Black Ridge Farm where it was grown and farmed with respect. I see us as being part of a food chain. The food we grow and eat sustains us in so many ways. Removing ourselves from our food to the extent that we don't even visit a butcher but buy something faceless on a styrene tray means that we have totally lost respect for our food. We have devalued it. That roast, the stock, the soap...they were more than three years in the making. Makes you think huh? Everything nowadays feels so instant. We want, we buy, we have.
When you grow your food or at least give some pause and respect for the journey of food from paddock to plate, then you are starting to be truly nurtured by your food.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Overhand ones, twos, threes, fours.....
Clicks....No Clicks....
Little Jingles.....Big Jingles......
Horse in the Stable...
Over the Line....
Over the Jump....
Catching Flies.....

Do you remember knuckles?
We used to play with coloured plastic ones but we would also make our own from sheep's knuckles.
I extracted these from my stock making the other day and it did bring back memories. I think I will put together another set.
We would leave them outside in the weather for a couple of days and let the ants do all the final cleaning and then we would sit them in saucers of food colouring for a while letting the dye take up where the bone was a little porous. 
The effect was a lot more subtle than the bright plastic bought ones but it was a project that kept us amused for a few days.
Thinking back this was a wonderful game for developing hand/eye coordination and a good rainy day inside game. 
I seem to remember it being more of a girl's game at school.
The really amazing thing is that the game of knuckles has been around in one form or another for at least a couple of thousand years.
Do children still play knuckles?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Roasted Ricotta Slices

Thanks to Sitting On Top Of Our World for the suggestion above.
Remember a couple of weeks ago I was working through piles of ricotta.
Silverhill suggested slicing the ricotta and then roasting it in the oven and using it for antipasto platters.
I did not add oil or anything, just roasted it in a moderate oven until it browned and enjoyed it with my home cured olives. It reminds me a little of grilled haloumi and the texture is wonderful.
Do try this as it is so easy and something different to add to your platters and relatively low fat. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cloth Napkins- What's With That?

The comments on my last post revealed two things.
The first is that a LOT of people have been tidying their fabric stashes.....
could this be a pre-cursor to, and a subliminal desire for SPRING CLEANING?
The other was an interesting round up on the cloth napkins and their place at table nowadays.
I think finger bowls are very rare  but it was nice to know what is de rigueur in front of the waiter.
 So cloth napkins.....
are we seeing the demise?
I know that less and less people are using tablecloths to save on laundering and ironing, after all tables are made quite durable these days no longer need as much protection from heat and moisture. It is much easier to wipe down after meals. I myself opt for placemats and napkins.
Do you remember these that I made for friends
and the tutorial here for mitring corners.

I love to make coordinating napery and setting the table for guests is a joy for me.
Some of the comments said

"... hardly anyone ever uses them. They stay folded and unused..."


"We use cloth napkins, and it's funny to see the varying reactions from guests. Some think we're 'oh so elegant,' while others think it's part of our 'hippy lifestyle."

I have noticed a similar thing too. Many times they remain unfolded and people seem proud to have saved me the trouble of having to wash them. I've started to wonder if it is just me and that I am so uncoordinated that I can't manage food to my mouth without occasionally needing to blot (and no thank you, it's not because I am shovelling). 
I know from friends in America that napkins are very commonly used at table and not just for entertaining but they seem to be quite at home with paper now.

I remember napery sets as a girl for the glory box. They were so smartly boxed with clear lids.

At school they were one of the first sewing projects we worked on...well pulled thread work anyway.
I keep my napkins in a couple of drawers close to the dining table and I have another drawer in the buffet for afternoon tea napery.
Brights in one drawer and neutrals in the other.

So what do you think is responsible for the slow demise of the serviette?
Is it that even good restaurants these days only offer paper to save on expense?
Or is it that we don't dine at table the way we used to, with cloths etc,?
Is it because we have become so informal. Are we opting for trays in front of TVs?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Entertaining With Elegance "F"

Today I made a concerted effort to tidy my fabrics. I can once again see within a colour group what I may bring together in my projects.
As "F" is for fabric I shall regale you with another excerpt from the book "Entertaining With Elegance" by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, Chapter F
F is for entertaining Family 
" can organise the service in a simple and informal manner, and unless the guests are very elderly, you can usually get by without professional help. Family-style service generally means that the serving-dishes are passed round the table by the guests.....the hostess need not feel shy about asking one of the children to help serve the dishes and clear the table"
" it is simpler and more elegant to serve coffee and liqueurs from a tray in the living room ....this is one of the rare occasions when it is perfectly permissible to stage a showing of home films after dinner (remember slide nights!!!)
F is for Farewell
"It is a mark of respect for a hostess personally to accompany her guests to the door when they are ready to leave, and she should make a point of doing so with all elderly and distinguished persons...(who should be the first to leave a dinner party). At a cocktail party or a large reception, accompanying each guest is impossible. On these occasions it is the duty of the guests to seek out the hostess in order to express their thanks and adieu."

F is for Films
"The pride and joy of the amateur producers and the bane of the well-bred guests, home films are of interest nine times out of ten only to those who play a role in them and family films only to family members....Before they are fit to be shown....should be properly cut and spliced (love it)...." 
F is for Finger-Bowls
"...are an essential element of a formal dinner service especially whenever you serve a food that is taken into the fingers, such as unshelled shrimp, lobster, clams and oysters on the half shell and artichokes and fresh fruit....finger-bowls are placed on a doily on the dessert  plate, with the dessert fork and spoon on either side. They should be half filled with warm water and garnished with a floating flower petal or a thin slice of lemon or a mint leaf. They are served by the waiter, and each guest places the bowl and it's doily to the upper left of the dessert plate. Crystal finger-bowls are prettiest but they may also be of silver. There is no reason to have a complex about finger-bowls merely because they are unfamiliar to you. They are a highly practical accessory and not an affectation."   
F is for Flowers
an exhaustive subject but here goes:
"Whenever you give a formal dinner, you will probably want to order special flowers.....however it is not elegant to fill every vase in the house with florist bouquets simply because you are having a dinner party. if a guest has sent you flowers before a party. they must be prominently displayed." 

(And for pity sake, take the wrapping off them before arranging in a vase, it is very poor form.) 

"Flowers on the dining table should not be too high or massive, nor too strongly perfumed.....It is easier to form a balanced composition with an odd number of flowers than with an even number."
F is for Funerals
"Because relatives and close friends may come from far away to attend a funeral, it is considerate for the bereaved family to prepare a meal following the ceremony in order to fortify those who have a long journey home....the meal may be a luncheon or a high-tea,....the menu should be comforting rather than gastronomic which would be very poor taste. Wine is not offered as it interjects a certain warmth and cheer into the atmosphere....considered unseemly for the widow and closest members of the bereaved family to be present at the reception and the role of the host is therefore assumed by a more distant relative, while the widow/widower is served in a private room accompanied by a few close family members."
Some things change, some things stay the same. I find it fascinating to look back in this book and read about entertaining standards of 1965.
What about you? Do you still use finger bowls and arrange flowers for the dining table?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Making Basic Bone Stock At Our House

The great thing about buying or obtaining your meat "by the beast" is being able to keep all the bones as well as the fat. When we ordered our mutton recently we were also the recipients of some extra bones. Bones for stock can of course be purchased from your butcher also and don't forget cheap chicken frames too.
This is the way that we make stock, there are numerous kinds and methods. 
Firstly roast off the bones in a baking dish/tray in the oven on a moderate heat till they are beautifully browned. This will give flavour and colour.
Then into a stock pot with chopped celery, carrot, onion and mushroom.
Along with some bay leaves and peppercorns.
Cover with water.
Bring slowly to a gentle simmer.
Simmer uncovered for about 3-8hours, depending on how concentrated you want the stock.
After letting it cool a little, tip into a large colander over a bowl.
Allow the stock to cool and refrigerate. 
Once the fat has set on the top of the stock, remove it and store in portion sizes.
Beautiful colour and jellied full of goodness.

Into the freezer and ready for use when needed for soups, casseroles, risottos and more.
Restaurants will make fancy first and second stocks (well a couple still do) but for a good home use stock this is easy, relatively fuss free and WITHOUT all those other special salts and secret powders that you get in bought stocks. Though they are really handy to have a cube in the cupboard, if you have the bones it really is worth the time to make your own.

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