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Monday, May 28, 2012

Buff and Puff Afternoon

How often do you and your friends say "we must catch up for coffee soon" and somehow we never quite make the time?
Craig was due home next week and I was determined to have some girlfriend catch up time and pay some attention to a few neglected bits and bobs before he arrived.
So I sent out the invitation for a "Buff and Puff" afternoon and set aside two hours on a Saturday afternoon.

The girls were told to BYO bucket for foot soaking and I gathered a stack of towels, hand towels and face washers.

I keep telling my Avon lady that I am too allergic for a lot of cosmetics but she keeps leaving me samples Bless her so I piled those on the table for people to take home as freebies.
I got out my stash of foot products and face masks and we "Satin Hands" our feet and hands.

Toenails were painted and masks were applied. 
Soda water and white wine spritzers and a simple cheese platter added to our afternoon of leisure and luxury.
We talked families, politics, society, food and gardening.
Everyone agreed how wonderful and relaxing an afternoon like that was and we vow to do it again soon.
It was a really simple afternoon and I hope you will give it a try with some of your special friends too. 

The best news of all....
Craig took me completely by surprise and walked through the door Sunday morning at 8am. For those not in the know, Craig has been working away from home since the beginning of the year. He had me totally fooled, tricking me into thinking I wouldn't see him till at least the next week. It was a perfect surprise and a perfect weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Soaps Inspired by The Middle East

The shop has been updated with new soaps
(Check the "Jubilee Jumble" button just under the header at the top of the page)

They are a range inspired by The exotic Middle East; floral waters, hot days, the Grand Bizarre in Istanbul and Tea in the Medina. 
The first bar (seen above) is "Orange Blossom" a very subtle scent of orange blossom like on summer twilights when the fragrance is elusive and drifting. The colour comes from dried Calendula petals also good for skin healing. 

Moroccan Mint is enlivening and fresh and well suited for morning showers or to energise after a weary day. It is naturally coloured by crushed Moroccan mint leaves and scented with pure essential oil of Peppermint.

Lastly, "Divine Dervish" is a fresh woody scented soap with the citrus smell of lemongrass and the note of cedar it also contains finely ground corn meal for gentle natural exfoliation.

All the soaps are made from hand rendered tallow for the ultimate in emollient goodness that leaves the skin so soft and smooth and olive oil for luxuriant lather.
As always, due to the way the postage is calculated for multiple purchases, I will simply refund excess postal charges. If you have any queries you can also contact me via email (see profile)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Storing Eggs in Pasta

The other great place to store your glut of eggs besides the fruit cake is in home made pasta.
You don't need to buy a machine but it is a good investment and does make the job of rolling easier.
I guess it enables you to get really nice fine spaghetti lengths too but mostly I make fettuccine and farfalle which can both be hand cut. 
In fact I think hand cut pasta looks charming and rustic and made with love.
The best thing for this job is a very inexpensive crinkle edge pastry cutting wheel.

I hang my lengths to dry over coat hangers suspended from the door knobs of the over head cupboards in the kitchen and the smaller pasta like farfalle I leave to dry on wire cake coolers. 

You can freeze your fresh pasta after it has dried for about an hour or dry it thoroughly for about 24hrs and store it in sealed glass jars in the pantry. It must be thoroughly dried before storage but will last at least a year in a cool dry cupboard sealed from vermin.

My Recipe
 allow 1 egg per serve
allow 2/3 cup of flour per egg
allow a ratio of 2 parts flour to 1 part fine semolina.

Therefore and for instance.....
for 4 people....
4 (large) eggs,  1 2/3cup of flour and 1 cup of fine semolina.

Mix the flour and make a well into which you crack the eggs and gradually work them into a dough. It will seem quite dry and crumbly at first but it will come together and I also like to rest it in a plastic bag or wrapped in a barely damp clean cloth. I break off portions at a time to work with leaving the rest wrapped up and somewhere cool.
There are so many options; lasagne sheet, extruded shapes, lengths or cut shapes.

With pasta in the cupboard you always have a meal on hand and it is a great way to store some of those eggs when they are coming thick and fast. A packet of home made pasta is also a wonderful gift from your store cupboard and welcome as a "house warming", "get well" or "congratulations new (tired) parents"

Remember to never wash your pasta machine, just brush it down with a dry pastry brush and store it in a dry cupboard.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Feet Up

I'm bragging big time.....
My first pair of socks.
Thanks so much to Nancy at Wyoming Breezes Blog for being so kind to email me her "go to socks" pattern. You are so right Nancy, they are a good fit and I think they will be my go to as well.
I used one of those multi-coloured balls especially for socks so that it makes it look like you have been skilfully doing the argyle thing. 
I am saving them for Wednesday when I go to the Dr about my feet, that way I will have something purty to wear on them.

Want to know what else I've been doing with my feet....

Getting a skein of hand dyed sock wool into a ball to make my next pair since the first experiment worked so well. I bought this wool from Oatlands Handmade and I can't wait to see it knit up.

Hurry home shearer, this is not the easiest way to wind wool. I need to buy one of those thing-a-myes like

 Rhonda found!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In The Looking Glass

"But then, shall I never get any older than I am now? That'll be a comfort, one way -- never to be an old woman -- but then -- always to have lessons to learn!"
             Alice - "Alice In Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll

A funny thing happened to me today.
I saw myself quite clearly.
I'm not talking about grand enlightenment.
I mean I saw myself very clearly.....

After arriving home I came inside, stepped into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and thought,
"Oh that's disappointing! My make-up has not lasted it's usual dewy freshness today"
But you see I had on my new glasses for distance vision.
I was actually seeing myself clearly!!!

I have tried to re-create the horrible/hysterical moment for you with edits to a photo.
I looked....
slid my glasses down my nose.....
pushed them back on....
lifted them and peered.....
placed them back down again....

I burst into hysterical laughter. 
My eye sight has been going ever so subtly and I have been heading out the door every day thinking I look glowing and dewy fresh.
It gives me the giggles every time I think about it!
Well ignorance is bliss and I am going to continue to look at myself only with my glasses off. The upside is that if I am looking at you without my glasses on.....
you look dew fresh too!!!
Now, go into the bathroom right now and try it yourself if you wear glasses for distance and see how funny it is. I've been laughing at my vain inglorious self all day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Storing Eggs In Cake!

The hens will be off the lay soon with the days getting so short. While I still have a moderate glut of eggs I am storing them up in some fruit cakes that will keep for months providing good food through the winter.
I have used a very easy recipe from Aunty Letitia and it is rich in eggs and butter and fairly quick and simple as far as fruit cakes go.

A fruit cake is very heavy and dense with fruit and has far less flour than other types of cakes. In fact the flour is more about the binding than the structure of the cake and has no raising agent.
They are cooked over long periods in a low heat oven so that they stay moist.
One of the mysteries for most people is the paper buffering which protects the cake from over browning and help retain moisture during the cooking.

I like an old fashioned heavy tin and definitely NOT one of those pretty coloured anodized tins as they tend to heat up so much and burn the outside of the cake. I save all my paper packet from the flour as they are sturdy and double thickness.
Lightly grease the tin, and I really do mean lightly because it is just a light smear to help the paper lining stick to the tin. Place the paper around the inside edges of the tin so that it extends up a few centimetres above the tin edge. I make a second lining of baking paper and then place the paper wrapper from the butter on the bottom.

Simple recycling again! There really isn't much I throw out, well not the  first time round anyway. You can use brown paper and foil but check that third drawer first hey!

I should have a photo of filling the cake pan but I forgot so I hope the explanation will be clear enough. 
Put four good blobs of cake mix in each corner, about a fistful size I guess. Pack and push it into the corners so you will get a nice squared shape and the paper will be stable. Spoon in the rest of the mixture and smooth it over with your spoon or spatula.

Into the oven on 150C and let it cook very slowly for about 2 1/2- 3 hrs. See the cuts in the top where I was testing by inserting a knife blade till it came out cleanly.
Now pull it out and let it cool in the tin by placing it on a cake rack.

Turn it out when it is cold and peel off the paper carefully, eating all the stuck caramely bits off the paper.
The butter and fruit has created some heavenly caramel flavours.

Bright and glossy...

A rich moist heavy brick of a cake.

Cream together 1lb of butter and 1lb of sugar
Sift 4oz plain flour and 1lb of Self Raising flour with 1 teas mixed spice
Beat 8 eggs with 1 teas of vanilla essence
Add the flour and eggs alternatively to the creamed butter
Add 1 1/2 lbs of mixed fruit
Cook in a slow oven at 150C for 2 1/2 hrs or till cooked.

The mixed fruit can be your very own mix. I used sultanas, raisins, currants, dates, almonds, walnuts.
Some say a fruit cake is best left 3-4 weeks to mature.
Wrap and store in a cake tin.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Traditional Family Cooking

The temperature has dropped and unusually we have snow on the mountains in May. 
Things seem a bit incongruous with the temperature so wintry but the leaves on the Mt Fuji cherry still holding on.

I love my friends who are always willing to come to dinner despite dark cold nights and it means I can cook meals normally reserved for family groups like roasts and corned meat pieces.
Tonight, old fashioned boil in the pot corned silverside. I soak the piece for an hour or two before cooking to remove some of the brine and then in the fresh water a put vinegar, brown sugar, clove, bay leaf, juniper berries, pepper and a cinnamon stick. The saltiness of the cured meat is lovely with subtle woody spicings and you can experiment to make this dish your own signature. You'll really notice the flavours the next day when eating the cold meat on sandwiches.

I follow my grandmother's lead with the vegetables and serve steamed cabbage but with a pinch of caraway seeds sprinkled over, carrots pulled fresh from the garden also steamed and potatoes and onion boiled in the corned meat water. The potatoes are not peeled and left whole so that they do not fall apart in the cooking. The onions are lightly peeled of papery skin but left intact with the root end trimmed but still on so that these also do not fall apart in the water.

Before I serve I make a huge jug of white sauce with a couple of tablespoons of the meat water added to the milk to give subtle flavour. Just like my grandmother (well maybe she boiled the cabbage!)
Dessert was the quince pie I made earlier in the day. The quinces were poached for eight hours in a Leatherwood honey flavoured syrup of their own juices and were a beautiful contrast to the salty meal.

The table was simply dressed with autumn leaves and some late chillies. I commented to my guests that I thought the doily placemats looked like spider webs caught in autumn mists....but they thought that was a bit of a stretch!!! Well the bright cheery leaves can stay all week and keep me company at table anyway.

What dishes did your grandmother teach you that you still carry the baton for?
 Remember to teach your children and their children because a recipe is only a guide, it is the little tips and know-hows passed that make them family traditions and joys. This knowledge is only accumulated over time and with side by side instruction unless someone has been thoughtful enough to include lots of anecdotal reference in the recipe margins.
We remember to let children help with biscuits and  cake making when they are little because it is a good activity to keep them amused but I think as they grow older we are less inclined to have them at our shoulder absorbing the subtleties of cooking. This has become evident to my daughter who has lived with various housemates.
Perhaps once a week at least, we need to get them off the computer/TV/homework for an hour and schedule some family cooking time. It is absolutely natural that they should be expected to assist with meal preparation at any age and it is part of our job to take a deep breath, ditch the stress of the outside world and share the moment of family nourishment and nurturing. 
Do you set aside at least one night a week for family all together at the table?
Do you have a traditional roast on Sunday still?
I'd love to know what you still cook from your grandmothers repertoire.

( Dedicated with thanks to my mother and her sister, Aunty Leigh whom I used to regularly ring and check details with when I was first flatting on my own and trying to remember all I was taught xxx)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Still Growing and Learning About Motherhood

It is so true that you never stop learning and better late than never hey!
I had a real revelation today and I feel so embarrassed that it has taken me all these years to really get 
"Mother's Day"
I'm going to really be candid here and lay it out there warts and all....

In the past I have felt that Mother's Day and the "success" or the "beauty" of the day was going to be a validation of me and my job. I felt Mother's Day was the "pin the blue winners ribbon on my chest" Day.
It has never been about the size or appropriateness of gifts, but it has been about how precious I was.
I am ashamed to say that in the past I even felt a little resentful sometimes having to share "my Day" with others, feeling put out and put upon that it was left to me to make everyone's day special. At a time when I should be putting my proverbial feet up I was cooking my mother lunch and pampering other partners mothers. The dialogue in my head used to go, "just for once can't he buy the present and organise a suitable card or pick some flowers for his own mother!"
I know, super selfish and very uptight. 

Now that my role as a mother as become less hands on with the children grown, I have had a chance to step back and relax on the expectations. I'm wondering where those expectations came from in the first place actually. I am going to take responsibility for most of them but I have to say the marketing campaigns that Myer used to run in the old days were very emotionally blackmailing.
Today, after a very relaxed  breakfast alone with my mother, and a visit to my grandmother's grave, I had a huge revelation.

There at the cemetery, amid the crowds of people, young and old visiting mothers now passed, I realised the power of Motherhood. This one day that we set aside to celebrate Mother is easily the busiest day at the cemetery, with hundreds of people paying homage and respect to women and the role they played for them.  
And those not visiting cemeteries I'm sure were still reflecting and bringing close their memories of mothers.
Dead and gone and they are still gathering the children to them.

I seem to remember having a mini revelation last year at this time and a bit of soul searching too.
I get it now, Mother's Day is a celebration of the power of women and their ability to nurture and raise others in love. Some of us do it better than others and some of us are not even technically "mothers". Some "mothers" may have been elder sisters or aunts or neighbours but the day is their celebration just the same.
All of a sudden I finally felt a part of a powerful womanhood. I felt the"secret womens' business" in my chest. I realise my shallowness in thinking it was a day of list ticking and self-congratulations. 

I still think of our society as patriarchal despite the achievements towards equality by the feminist movement. We marry and take our husband's names and so too do our children but I can't help feeling that men are gazumped on Mother's Day when a nation turns their hearts to their mothers with full force, honour and love.
I am sure I am not explaining it quite the way I mean but spiritual revelations are very internal and mysterious and by their nature hard to place into mere words. 
Suffice to say I wanted to celebrate with every woman in a shared feeling of kindred spirit and solidarity.
I honour all you women, where-ever you may be and what ever path you have had to take and I marvel at the out pouring of love I saw today. If we could harness this essence I believe there would be no more wars and that is the power I saw today.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Living Better Group

The Living Better With Less course finished up last month but the attendees all wanted to continue and wanted more....
So "more" is going to take the form of an informal group still meeting up on the last Thursday night of the month where we continue to talk and teach each other about ways to live better with less;
less chemicals, less money and less stuff.

Living simply, locally and seasonally is key to achieving a better lifestyle that embraces family and community and offers health and well being not only in body but mind as well.

This non-profit interest group is open to anyone and offers a sharing of ideas and skills;
gardening seasonally and sustainably, home making, food preserving and more.
If you live locally please come along to the Cock and Bull Pub  ( the Workers Club) in Launceston. 
We'll be there from 7-9pm on the 31st May.
If you don't live locally,
why not form a group in your area and start supporting and learning from each other.
It's amazing the diversity of skills and knowledge that you get from a group like this.

If you would like more information about the group or would like to register your interest for the next course please email me through my profile link above right.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Porridge With Figs

Cold autumn mornings, dew dripping leaves and hills wreathed in fog beg for warming, comforting porridge.
I am embracing the Nourishing Traditions method 
and then making it my own with sweet morsels of fig from my small tree.
The seeds adding crunchy grittiness to the creamy oats
and just a wee drizzle of syrup.

My little tree isn't producing a "glut" yet but there are plenty to enjoy seasonally and share with the chooks too, they LOVE them.

For a packed work lunch snack, try yoghurt, figs and Brazil nuts, easily get you through the hunger zone before dinner.

Figs go with;
nuts, prosciutto, soft cheeses, honey, ham, salad greens 
and more, but these are a few of my favourite things.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

This Caught My Imagination This Week...

A great idea
Re-purposed feed bags made by Holly at Calico Bush and she has lots of designs that she sells on her Etsy store. Also on this blog she takes us through the process of making buttons from horn. Fascinating.

Susan from Homeroad 
will show you how she takes an ordinary basket/tray (that I probably wouldn't have given a second look at) and uses chalk paint and a really cool image transfer technique to create something utterly charming.
Transforming the ordinary to charming is a frequent event on this blog. 

This play mat made by Sally at virtu 
has really inspired me. It folds up to become a bag and carry a few little toys to go with the mat and is totally portable for impromptu distraction/playtime for little ones. Sally has made one side water resistant so it is great for shady grassed areas. I think this would also be useful in waiting rooms etc. You could make a couple and change the themes; zoo, farm...

"Don't Judge Me: Replacing the Dandelions" by Pumpkin, Pie, Painter 
is another masterpiece of analogy and had me thinking on so many levels. A very thought provoking piece that has put me back in my box. I am often amazed by the stories her gentle words spin and how they relate to life. A skilful parable teller indeed.

A Give Away
"One Magic Square" 
I just know dozens of people who would love to win this well known book by Lolo Houbein.

I hope you find something to catch your imagination too on one of these blogs and don't be shy about saying "hi" to the writers if you like what you see and do tell them I sent you, it's nice for them to know that their talents are appreciated.
Have a good week and good luck with the give away.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Youth Depression and Suicide

"You're a rock, Tanya. You're solid, consistent, lovely, and such a needed anchor.
Your contributions to the world are amazing, and I love the support and recognition you're giving to the problem of depression and suicide.
You know what's interesting? As a parent, even after the teen's problems are all apparently lifted, it becomes so hard to breathe. I'm going to plant a sunflower bed this year, stand in it, think of your pretty flowers, and. just. breathe."
                                                    signed Anonymous. 

I got this beautiful note from a reader last month emailed to me as she wanted to post anonymously but my blog won't allow anonymous comments. I think she describes the feeling very well don't you? When anguish and concern grip you so crushingly and it's not until months later you suddenly realise you haven't taken a breathe and your rib cage is locked in a band so tight. You dare not risk the intake of breathe in case it muffles the warning sound that we listen for, the sign, the clue. 
Our children are so precious and a part of us like any organ of our body, is it any wonder we stop breathing!
I shared this sweet message with another mother who needed to be reminded to breathe. It is unlikely she will ever fully again but if she can find at least one moment in every week to take one breathe then I think she might survive. She must survive, for she holds her breathe for the children that remain.
Without a doubt youth suicide also changes the lives forever of siblings too.

The sunflower seeds are still available for sale for a couple of weeks more and can be purchased via the "Jubilee Jumble" button at the top of the page. The money from the seeds go to the Nettlefold Foundation to assist youth depression and fight suicide. Read about Ed's legacy and story here.
I have found it hard to manipulate the postage cost on this site and have found it calculates too much when people buy multiple packets. The price for posting one packet is right and I think I have it right for two but I have simply found it very easy to refund any excess postage straight back to the buyer. If you are in doubt and want to confirm a postage cost just email me (link is on my profile)

I would like to also thank you all for your kind comments and support. Sometimes it's easy to think you are alone because you can't "see" anyone out there but then I get those lovely comments and you know what? I see YOU.
And as for you dear anonymous, you are a great mother and I would love nothing more than to throw you feet first into the biggest, sunniest paddock of sunflowers

This year I have chosen a mantra to live by. It is the secret of Happiness and I will probably bring it up time and again throughout the year.

The secret of happiness is;

Someone to Love
Something to Do
Something to Hope For

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