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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hand Towels For Christmas

We have already talked about some great gifts for gardeners like a load of manure or some bags of lucerne chaff or gardeners soap made from little bags of crocheted jute containing soap to hang from the garden tap.

The next thing I am working on is some hanging hand towels for the kitchen, so important because if they are available it means people won't use your tea towel.

I've been cutting up some vintage tea towel and table cloths. The recipient I know likes a dash of red in the kitchen.

Cool designs huh?

I source the towelling from the factory as off cuts because they are luxuriously thick for high traffic wiping and I can get good colours. I find darker colours are best because these towels get a lot of dirty hand wiping  action.

I just have to finish off with a button hole and sew on some buttons so they can hang from the oven door or a kitchen knob/hook.
I have a tutorial with pattern here.
The decorative possibilities are endless and you could look to Sweet Birdy Love for some decorative stitching inspiration like this or this
Alternatively, you could make them in the ever popular crochet tab top way.
A knit or crochet dish cloth in a coordinating colour would also be a thoughtful addition.
This is great for using up some of those smaller stash pieces and scraps too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Than A Knitting Book

I have had this book pre-paid and on order for many months and my excitement peaked yesterday when it arrived. Even last night while tossing and turning in bed my mind was often drawn back to the beautiful patterns and styling.

It features patterns from the 30s, 40s and 50s with original photos and new styled versions.
I even love the heavy pages that have a vintage old feel to them.

The book also gives insight and instruction for authentic finishing and attachments like knitted buttons etc.

The book also gives instruction for tweaking the styles to suit different body types and challenges like "spare tyres" and "broad shoulders" or "ample bosoms".

The patterns remind me so much of the yarns that my grandmother used and the patterns she loved.

And that's not all....
Extra goodies arrived too as an extra thank you for waiting patiently for the book to be published.
Little Jenny Wren (also a big fan of Susan Crawford books) found this video of the behind the scenes making of "A Stitch In Time Vol II". It will give you a delicious little taster.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hard to Clean Bottles/Decanters

Bottle brushes are very useful for cleaning bottles but sometimes it's hard to get the brush effectively into the bowl of the bottle.
This little bottle I acquired is about the size of my hand and though pretty in shape and a beautiful emerald glass, had residue on the inside from many years ago. I was tempted at first glance to toss it. Sometimes these cleaning jobs look improbable.
I used a couple of teaspoons of uncooked rice in the bottom of the bottle as gentle abrasive. For good measure I also added a couple of teaspoons each of bi-carb soda and vinegar.
Holding my thumb over the neck, I swished and swirled and shook the rice around the bowl.
Within a few minutes, as you can clearly see, success.
Some of you will know this method well but I think it is helpful to keep passing these simple well known household tips along.
Now the jug will take on a new role as an oil/vinegar bottle.
This method works well with decanters and awkward vases. They can take a while to dry out completely but placing a roll of absorbent paper or cloth into the bottle neck creating a "wick" will help it dry in no time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Almost Always Enough...

I am guilty of using the phrase 
"there's not enough" 
way too often.
When I want to plant more successive crops or flowers or herbs I always prove myself wrong and find somewhere. When I really look there is plenty of space "between".
It's a matter of changing my perspective.

Time...never enough time!
Depends on what for.
I seem to always find time for fun things so it must be perspective there too.
I have to take responsibility for time management myself and prioritise.
Do you remember the Disney cartoons when Goofy would have the angel-Goofy on one shoulder and the devil-Goofy on the other? The conscience and self desires would have back and forth conversations. 
That is what it is like in my head.
One voice is saying "just a little bit longer on the computer" and the other is saying "the carpets won't vacuum themselves"
If I didn't spend so much time procrastinating I would get twice as much done!
Priorities and perspective.
No-one can do it for you.
A phrase I like and tell myself often;

"If it's to be, It's up to me"

Coming up to market day every fortnight I think, there is nothing to sell, I have nothing in the garden, there is not enough.
But if I go to and harvest,
all of a sudden there is an abundance of food to share.
The same when it's dinner time;
there is not really anything for dinner but out I go and...
Some baby cabbage and a kohl rabi to shred, mixed with some salad greens, flowers and all.
Add in a couple of stalks of celery, parsley and vietnamese mint and chopped chives.
Dress with olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice.
Scatter the top with purple chive petals and chopped hazelnuts....
Steam up some Blue Saphire potatoes...
Dinner from nothing....

Whether it's money, time or space....
sometimes we say "not enough" too readily.
Nearly always it's about perspective, priorities and problem solving.
So what else do you "not enough" about?
Your fabric stash
Your breaks at work....
Mind you there isn't such a thing as enough hugs or love. I can sure use plenty more.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Suicide - Ed's Legacy

photo image by seaskylab on freedigital

There is something very special happening right on my doorstep.
There is a property halfway between Launceston and Perth (Tas) owned by a very dynamic and positive woman.
Her farm gate is right on the highway and last year motorists watched as a crop grew and grew on either side of the gates.
it grew taller and taller, until,
finally it revealed bright golden sunflowers.
A sea of tall waving happy faces of sunshine.
Then amazing messages of 
in very large letters at least 6' high stood further up the rise in the paddock.
This is Lydia's message she wants to share with everyone and get the topic of suicide out and into the open.
Lydia's son Ed and my daughter were born on the same day.
Tragically, Ed took his life in 2009.
Ed's family began the Nettlefold Foundation to help people cope with and understand depression. They also provide life changing experiences for young people.
Ed's Threads is a clothing range created in his memory and the proceeds assist the Nettlefold Foundation.

I contacted Lydia a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that I do the growers market down the road and wondered if she had any seeds from last years flowers that I could sell to raise funds to go towards the Nettlefold Foundation.
In typical fashion Lydia has taken the idea and exploded with it and there are big plans....
for now I have seeds from those famous sunflowers and I would love to see them appearing randomly in people's yards; beside the letterbox, outside the kitchen window or in the middle of the rose bed.

The packets cost $3 each and all funds go directly to the Foundation.
They are ready for planting now in the Southern Hemisphere and like to be grown in full sun but protect the seedlings from snails in the initial weeks.
I will post these seeds free anywhere in the world till the end of the year and they can be purchased in my shop "Jubilee Jumble" (see the tab at the top of the page under the header).
Won't you help us spread the message of
and get people talking about suicide and depression.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A rare sight in my kitchen at the moment is a rack not in use.
This week I am drying;
stinging nettle
rose petals
calendula petals
rosemary and thyme soap
tallow and olive oil soap
lemon peel.

A reminder that there is more to preserving than freezing and bottling.
I employ my various cake racks and I have special racks fitted over the hot water cylinder. I also hang herbs from a hook in my dining room. Although I turn into a frenzied fly killer I also have domed food covers just in case, especially over the candied peel.
This apple season I plan to do some apple ring drying in my oven too after taking tips from Lee at Killiecrankie Farm last season.
What are you drying or what are your best tips?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stinging Nettle Hair Rinse

I have decided to try a stinging nettle hair rinse as the rosemary was making my hair look darker.
When I was at a friend's farm on Saturday I found some and brought it home roots and all.
I have been threatened with a painful death if Craig finds any coming up in our garden.
What a sumptuous emerald green colour it is.

Stinging Nettles have amazing medicinal qualities and are very underrated. They work in all manner of ways in the body but as always, check with your Naturopath or qualified Herbalist especially if you are on prepared medications. 
I have washed thoroughly and cut all the roots off and placed them in a jar with alcohol to make a tincture.
When working with nettle you do need to wear gloves as the tiny hairs on the plant do sting and cause an inflamed red itchy area. Quite often you will find dock growing where nettle does and this is a natural remedy for the sting. So if you accidentally sting yourself with nettle, tear off some dock and crush it and apply the juice. 

Make the hair rinse in the same way as other herbal vinegar rinses.
(See my previous post here with links also)
I used a large double handful of leaf and stem and poured over boiling water (about 800ml) and leave to steep. It will exude a rich green colour. After a few hours and once it is cooled, drain and make up to the litre by adding 100ml of apple cider vinegar and the rest water.
I decant into some old shampoo bottles and have one in the bathroom and the rest queued in the fridge. This will last me nearly a month.
Stinging Nettles are so good for your hair and scalp and indicated for dry skin, itch, hair loss and dandruff.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Angelica in my Vase

I visited a friend on Saturday and she sent me home with a massive bunch of Angelica.
I really haven't done it justice.
Not only is it elephantine stems of glossy emerald green leaves but also massive lime coloured flower heads like parsley seed heads on steroids.
The folklore and old tales surrounding Angelica are varied and charming.
It is said to have been given to mankind by an Angel as a cure for the plague.
Originating in Europe, it flowers on St Michael's day in May and is hence said to be named after the Arch-Angel.
All parts of the plant including the roots are medicinal but as with many herbs there are contraindications for diabetics and pregnant women so always check with a qualified Naturopath or Herbalist.
It has powerful antibacterial properties and is used for fevers, coughs, colds and rheumatic complaints and digestive disorders.
Perhaps we will turn back to Angelica one day when all our bugs have built resistance to our manufactured antibiotics.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recreation Day

It's a holiday today in the north of Tasmania and it is aptly named Recreation Day.
The south has a public holiday in the beginning of the year for Regatta Day and to make it fair the north got Recreation Day and some bright spark opted to have it in the later end of the year where holidays are few and the weather is gorgeous.
So on this day of recreation I watered the garden and attended the chooks, and swapped some eggs for some seeds with Mr Jones across the road.

The table is covered with drying rose petals and another two trays of candied lemon peel.

I am delving into the world of re-batching soap.
One of my class attendees had a bit of a fail when her stick blender blew up and she tried to complete the process with hand stirring. Instead of wasting the batch I have brought it home to try to save it.
I chopped all the soap up small and placed it in the slow cooker on low. It melted well but it goes to a state that is more gel than pouring liquid. Even though I thought I had packed them into the moulds, you can see that we have gained air pockets. The soap is much improved but unfortunately the appearance is very rustic.

I harvested some stinging nettle from a farm yesterday and have washed it thoroughly and will use some of the leaf for a new batch of hair rinse. I like the rosemary but I think it is turning my hair darker. I rather like my grey hair and where it as a badge of honour. I have put some on a tray above the hotwater cylinder to dry and I have chopped the roots up into a jar to which I add pure alcohol to make a tincture.

Clearly the seed I have been saving is ready! The doves have come down and are tapping the pods, bursting them open and eating the seeds. I am happy to share but I high-tailed it pretty quick to get the best seed. This is from the Italian/Asian leaf mix we grew all through winter and is a real winner. Even the flowers are good to eat and it provides beautiful fresh salad leaf as a change from the winter root crops.

I have rendered 10kg of sheep fat for soap making and it's not so much the rendering as the cleaning up that is the real chore!
My hands don't know whether they are chapped and tired or smooth and soft!

And next I am going to start on the Broad (Fava) Beans. This is the harvest now and I will have to freeze the excess after I bundle some up for Craig's mother.
And then that's pretty much Recreation Day over!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ramen and Broad (Fava) Beans

Take some home-made stock and whip up a really quick meal using Ramen or Soba noodles in a broth and adding seasonal vegetables.
Broad beans (in season now) are so good and meaty and take seconds to cook.
To finish I like to add the merest dash of sesame oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

BROAD (Fava) BEANS go with......
lemon juice,

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Foods of the Tamar Region

Today I spent the day fulfilling an embroidery order and drinking sensational coffee at a new little spot at Beaconsfield just 30mins from Launceston. It is situated at "Tamar Valley Foods", a quaint and very original two-storey building on the left hand side as you come into the town of Beaconsfield. 
It is a light and airy space filled with glossy old timbers and hand hewn supporting beams. It has been many incarnations but it's present one is now as the purveyor of fine quality Tasmanian foods.

It is very pleasing to see coffee beans from local suppliers, Ritual Coffee, a company with true heart. Their motto is "fresh, seasonal and ethical" and I happen to know first hand how community minded these guys are.
If you are not a coffee drinker or feel like a fresh change....

The owner of Tamar Valley Foods, Jim, also has a line of teas that he personally blends and are branded under the name of Luce Teas.

From traditional black to some exotic herbal and spice blends.

Jim also stocks a range of wines, beers and ciders produced in the region. 
These beers are produced just around the corner from me in the Relbia/Evandale region. 
Recently Collette from ut si cafe made some sensational  Dutch Chocolate & "Stacks Bluff" (Van Dieman oatmeal stout) baby cakes with organic peanut butter & vanilla bean frosting. Sounds like a mouthful? But a pleasant one at that.

So much good produce from the region.....

Don't you just wish you lived here?

You can always order through the Tamar Valley Food site.
If you are a local or touring the area, do pop in and see what the region has to offer.
If you are looking for a good coffee the guest Barista, Craig, formerly of Lillypilly's on the Gold Coast is showing that he has certainly not lost his passion or excellence.
If you are a truly discerning coffee drinker, Ritual and Craig make a powerful combination.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Gardeners' Gift Idea

Last Christmas I suggested a load of stable manure for a gardener's gift.
Here is my close second choice
A bag of cut Lucerne.

Last fortnight at the growers' market Nori brought a truckload of Lucerne to sell. I picked up a few bags and they have already come in handy for the chick nursery and I have been putting it around new seedlings.
It is packed full of nutrients for the garden and is a wonderful mulch.
These were $5 a bag and any gardener would love them.
So if you are struggling for gift ideas this year put this one down for the green thumbs in your family.

of course you could also pick up one of my Gardener's Soaps!

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