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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Of Sloe Wine and Sour Dough

Another fascinating meeting of the Living Better Group last Thursday night.
It was a small group but there were a couple of new faces with lots of interesting experience too.
We talked of making sloe wine. One in the group had picked 23kg last autumn and was in the process of making wine from sloes for the first time.
I found a couple of links about sloe wine making here and here.
Here in Tasmania it is common to find sloes growing along back roads in thorny hedgerows of hawthorn where you will also find wild rosehips. They are best harvested after a couple of good hard frosts when the plant draws back the harsh tannins in the fruit. They look delicious but are not particularly edible and are best used for preserves. They are more commonly known for infusing gin to make sloe gin.

We talked of olive adventures and yet another experience of a local farm who were ditching their olives this year as the pressing price was too high. One of our group was in the fortunate position to pick quite a few kilos for pickling. She then made a large batch of tapenade and was using this like butter on home made ciabatta. 
I have had experiences where transporting my olives has moved some to the top of the oil and not been quite covered allowing oxygen to interact with the olives. After transporting them, make sure that they are still well covered by at least a cm of oil to exclude air so they will happily keep on your shelf.

One of our group spoke about her experiences with trying out different "tooth paste" formulas or tooth powders is a better term I guess. A lot of people commonly use bi-carbonate of soda which  creates a salt when mixed with water and is not all that pleasant. Our member uses a base made from a calcium carbonate which is ordered from the pharmacy.
As July was plastic free month, searching the web will reveal many recipes for different tooth powders as people looked for alternatives to plastic tubes last month. It is also something for people to consider if they are concerned about fluoride. (I have an old post here about the fluoride debate). I wish I had thought to ask my grandmothers about what they used to use when they were children....

Another from our group spoke about her easy, no knead, work-every-time, sour dough bread method. She makes her dough from "starter and flour to a consistency that you can barely stir". Her secret to success she says is the cast iron pot she cooks it in. She advises to warm the pot in the oven at 220C for about 30 mins then place the dough in the pot and cook with the lid on for 30mins and then the lid off for another 20mins.
I haven't tried this method yet but I hope to in the next week. Has anyone else used this method?

We also spoke about a project that one of the group is working on. It is a fundraiser for the Westbury school and will be held over a weekend in October. It is a pioneer and re-skilling fair and sounds really fun.

Maybe you have some skills that could be displayed here or perhaps you would like to have a stall. they are looking for stalls for preserves, meat, wine and beer making, plants and herbs, doll making, spinning, knitting, wrought iron work, pottery, hat makers, basket weavers....
The Westbury school is one of the ones on the list for closure by the State Government and they are trying to show the government how vital the school is to the community and how connected we all are. I admire very much the heroic efforts these guys are making to stay alive and I hope any locals could also help.

Our next Living Better meet-up will be 30th of August from 7-9pm at the Cock and Bull upstairs. All welcome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Living Better in July

A quick reminder for those living locally,
Living Better Group
meets this Thursday 26th
The Cock and Bull
(Launceston Tas)
All are welcome as this is an open group and it's free.
This week we talk about compost, pruning and
hygiene and you in the garden.
bet you never thought of that one before!
We will also talk about energy saving in the home and family fun indoors.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Colour Test

My friend Nancy, sock mentor and knitter extraordinaire over at Wyoming Breezes found a colour test that was really fun and interesting. 
It tests hue differentiation and gives a score. You can also see how your score relates to others of same gender and age type.
It involves dropping and dragging colour tiles into order and you can take it here
I got 27 and struggled with the pinkish/purple hues the most. As a crafter and knitter etc I thought I was pretty good with colour but I have really noticed a change in my eye sight and perception as I have aged over 40. It would be fascinating to do this test every 5yrs and see how this progresses wouldn't it.

Pop over to Nancy's and read some of the results in her comments.

It would be really fun if you want to post your score and comment here too....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Fritters are one of my favourite things and every family seems to have a speciality combination.
They are the perfect way to make a meal out of nothing much and can be ready faster than a take-away.
They are ideal to cook on the BBQ for my vegetarian friends and warm and hearty from the kitchen on a cold windy winter night too.

When I was growing up my mother used to make them the day after we had the roast leg of mutton using the leftover meat and combining it with onions. 
I have a friend who makes them with corned meat leftovers and he invites us to dinner when he does. Not fancy, just good and homey.

When Craig was working away all those months, it was one of the things that he did miss. As soon as he got home he expressed a great anticipation for some simple fritters. 

My usual fritters are "Corn Fritters" 
In a bowl beat 3-5 eggs (depending how many people you are feeding) with a dash of milk. To this I add a chopped onion and corn and whatever is in the fridge, like capsicum and in this instance, some jalapeno. Then into this wet mix add enough flour to make a spoonable batter.
Fry those babies in a pan with some oil and serve with home made sauce, chutney or relish.

This is another great thing to do with all those zucchini in summer too. I went to a party once and a girl had made some little mini zucchini fritters, a little like a blini and she served them with a cucumber yoghurt dipping sauce. They were a hit!

What is your family favourite?

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Linking in with Evi at Sister Sun
This week we pull from the photo archives 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Seeds Of Freedom

(Nine Seeds)
This is too important not to view. It's not just for growers or greenies or hippies, in fact it is more pertinent for the category of "those who eat". It does take about 25mins but it is great to watch while you are sitting having a break with a cup of tea or doing a bit of knitting. It is gentle and thought provoking and I would hope that it inspires some debate around your dining room table tonight.

Seeds of Freedom from The ABN and The Gaia Foundation on Vimeo.

More Links;

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Secret of Happiness

Last year just before Christmas I adopted a mantra for the coming year that seemed so filled with uncertainty.

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

As you know I am a keen supporter of youth suicide and depression and funds raised from the Sunflowers seeds go to the Nettlefold Foundation to assist their work in this area.

All of us get blue sometimes and we can get stuck in a rut.
There are times though when we may need to seek medical help either temporarily or permanently for real depression and I want people to start talking openly about depression so that it is not so stigmatised.
I suffered very severe depression after one of my best friends died a few years ago. Rock bottom didn't hit until after passing all those milestones; her birthday, the first Christmas without her, the first Easter until finally, the anniversary of her death. It was then that I began to think that I would never be happy again. I was not just sad and grieving at this point but I was now severely lacking in serotonin levels and had moved into the very dangerous self harm area. I am very grateful that someone very sharp recognised the signs and rang a doctor and booked me in. If not for her action, many would be remembering me today sadly and shaking their heads saying, "she seemed so fine, we had no idea, why on earth would she commit suicide?"

I received medical help for about a year.
I have not told my family because I feel ashamed, that I was weak and somehow lacking.
I nearly threw away everything I loved and sentenced people I loved to a lifetime of sadness and guilt.
I have learnt that people with depression hide it very well.
Most will continue to rise in the mornings, go off to work and come home and make dinner.
They think they are rational but are anything but because their life views are skewed and their feeling of self worth is extremely low.
I can understand now why people are so surprised when someone commits suicide because they hide it so well. Having someone find out and thwart your schemes is the last thing you want. It's hard to believe but it's because you don't want to create a fuss, you honestly think things would be better for everyone if you went away quietly.
Having recovered and walked away from that dark place, I still look over my shoulder in wariness, ever watchful that I don't wander that way again.
I also know that it is not merely a matter of "snapping out of it" either.
Sometimes I ask myself, "Am I normal sad or am I falling into depression?"

Since that time I have experienced the most happiest times of my life and I feel so utterly at peace and enjoy fulfilment and abundance. I am grateful for so many things and I live by that mantra. 

Keep life full and busy; hobbies, home making, work, gardening, cooking, yoga, volunteer work, fund raising, walking dogs....find something that fulfils you and engages you.

Someone to love; not just that rare Prince on a white steed, (I have one of those rare ones)
Families, aunties, cousins pets, dogs, chooks, pigeons, neighbours, orphans, God in whatever form you believe, there are so many who need/want your love.

Something to look forward to; Christmas, grandchildren, spring, publish a book, enter an art prize, get a degree, buy a cafe, a long bath every Sunday.

But most of all lets start talking to each other. Lets talk about depression and bring it out of the cupboard and into the light. If you suspect you have been very sad for a long time, ring and make an appointment with your doctor and ask a friend to go with you. They needn't go in to the appointment but you are more likely to make it to that appointment if someone commits to get you there. Take one step at a time.
Life is precious and I have shared something very, very special with you. I am not looking for judgements. I am just wanting people to get happy in their lives. Depression and suicide effect not just the "victim" (for want of a better word) but also those around them.

Gosh I hope I haven't depressed you! This was supposed to be a post about HAPPINESS...
(Zozie Doll by Susie McMahon)

If you would like to comment, please consider supplying the three things that you are applying to the happiness mantra.
What are you doing?
What/Who are you loving?
What are you looking forward to? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dardidlly Socks

I am knitting a pair of socks for Craig's birthday and I went in search of a manly-man pattern.
They were harder to find than I thought, being mostly sock patterns just knit longer or shorter to fit.
I have only a couple of my grandmother's books and I dearly hope I will one day inherit more of them. The Family Knitting Book by James Norbury was published in 1969 and granted there are some patterns that I hope never see the fashionable light of day again.

(to wit)
I did find however a Men's Sock pattern, unfortunately without a picture, but I am quite taken with the contrast rib cuff and leg pattern which is very manly-man and the ever so slight leg shape towards the ankle.

The cuff is K1,P1 and the leg ribbing is K2, P1. 
Anyway what I really mean to say is that old pattern books needn't be dismissed as irrelevant because the photography is a bit....

...well you know, (I wonder what this little tyke is up to now?) and some of the patterns are really stretching credibility. This book has some good basic garment patterns, including skirts and slippers, also doll's clothes and purses. I'd like to think that my granddaughter will one day find something useful within too.

But back to the name of the socks....
Craig has so named them after I (in my best British accent) read him the dedication in the front of the book.

Dedicated to the memory of 
The Cure D'Ars,
today known as 
St Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney,
who as a boy of seven
Knitted stockings while tending
his father's sheep in the 
fields around Dardidlly.

I feel it also of note to tell you....
James Norbury, the son of a village blacksmith and a village dressmaker, was born in 1904 at Knutsford in Cheshire...He staggered and startled his parents when he stated he was going to become a fashion designer....
I'll bet he did!

Other links;

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Biggest Impressions

I attended my first day of school in 1972 at Mater Dei Primary School in Toowoomba QLD.
I don't really remember much about those days but I do have strong scent-filled memories and emotions from that time. I bet if you asked a grown-up to write down what they think makes an impression on a first grader and then compared that list with the child's some years down the track, it would be surprising.

My first and lasting impression of school was shopping for the uniform.

My mother took me to Hanna's Department store (est. 1956), you know the traditional old fashioned two story wooden buildings that carried everything you could imagine. My mother held my hand as we climbed the large dark wooden staircase. I felt so small. Until then it was probably the largest staircase I had ever climbed, to me it was enormous. Back in those days, stores were genteel establishments of hushed, carpeted places, no music on loudspeakers and an assistant at every elbow. Coming in from the harsh glare of a Queensland summer day, the store was dimmer and cooler. It smelt of wood and carpet and fabrics. Stores don't smell that way anymore. 

Once in the school wear department a lady conferred with my mother and I numbly submitted to a bewildering number of garments to try on. Firstly there was the summer uniform, a sturdy cotton dress of a typical patterned plaid but I particularly remember the smart blue "bow" that had a button on the back and attached to the wide collar. I tried on straw hats to get the right fit and cotton socks, singlets and bloomers were also added to the pile. 
Then came the winter uniform, a very French little number now that I look back at the photos. A bit "Madeleine" nes pas? A warm brushed blue cotton shirt with a heavy grey, belted and buttoned woollen pinafore, a blue and grey striped tie, long grey woollen socks and chic of chic, a grey woollen beret. The grey woollen cardigan a serviceable transitional piece. I can't remember but I suspect the school shoes were black and I walked funny for the first few days trying to prevent those nasty crease marks appearing across the top of the toe. Do you remember that first time trying on school shoes and the grown-ups bidding you walk up and down, all the while feeling extremely self conscious and not walking at all normally even though you tried very hard. And what a silly question to ask a child over and over "can you feel your toes?" 

And then.....the raincoat! A bright yellow shiny vinyl raincoat with big plastic buttons. The smell!
The nothing I had ever smelt before, sort of cosy and special and most definitely new smelling. It was the most glamorous thing to come into my world that day.

I feel I must explain something to you about the enormity of this shopping trip.
I was a very quiet and shy little girl of very good manners and like all children of that time we only spoke when spoken to. I was also the eldest of five children and I was six years old. I was loved but there was no spotlight for any one child in such a busy and large family.
So here I find myself, suddenly in the gloom of a hushed department store after ascending the most imposing staircase I had ever seen in my life and standing this way and that in a parade of clothes. In a family like ours the budget was modest, my mother making all my clothes and new things were a special treat. There were literally piles of clothes on the counter all waiting to be wrapped in brown paper off the roll on the counter and then tied with string. I was the centre of attention like I had never been before in my life making me want to hide, AND I was to have my own special coat for going out in the rain, what a thought!

Of course this was just the beginning because next came the school port and new books and coloured pencils, the new lunch box and handkerchiefs, the drink flask and....
really....can you understand now why the first day AT school was a bit of a non-event compared to this?
The experience was quite overwhelming and so full of different smells. It is the smells that I remember most. I remember opening my port and no matter what was inside that day, it ALWAYS smelt of bananas and shaved pencils.
I suspect my parents think my first day of school was rather momentous but for me it was more the lead up that was impressionable.
Is this how it was for you? 
Was it the something quite apart from the actual first day that you remember? 

Monday, July 9, 2012


Linking in again with Evi at Sister Sun.
This weeks colour is "Indigo" and we have trawled the photo archives, reviving some long lost memories.
I have really struggled to find indigo but I simply must share with you what comes to my mind whenever I hear the word indigo....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Breaking Nearly All The Rules - Pavlova

I have no excuse. I knew weeks ago that we were going to a have dinner with friends at the farm and I was assigned the desert. I knew well in advance that I would take Pavlova because it appeals to young and old transports OK.
There is an unwritten law that a real Australian woman makes scones for morning tea and Pavlova for BBQs. 
Pavlova has it's own set of laws too.

Did I make them the day before...Noooo...first rule broken.
I got up early in the morning to madly whip them up and bake off before we had to be at country football watching Izaac play.
I have my eggs at room temperature.....CHECK
I crack one egg and separate at a time into a small dish....CHECK
Each egg white goes into a clean glass bowl......CHECK.
I wonder if I can do a double batch in the Kenwood.....?
From here it is all downhill and the rules fly out the window.

4 egg whites...I double the mix to 8.
I've already got soft peaks forming, now for the castor sugar....I only have plain sugar.
It'll have to do at this stage, fingers crossed.
Next, cornflour....I only have custard powder.
Surely that is just cornflour with vanilla flavour and colour? I'll just omit the vanilla.
And now the white wine vinegar....I only have white verjuice.
Oh well, I've broken so many rules, why not!
So onto the trays of paper and into the oven (pre-heated to 180 CHECK) and turned down immediately to 150 degrees and patiently wait for them to bake for 1 1/4 hours so I can turn them off, leave them in the oven to cool while we are at football.

BUT....I'm so anxious, I break the BIGGEST rule of all....
Halfway through the cooking time I 
open the oven....NOOoooo
and take a peek
I break the biggest rule of all!

And I get away with it.
Thank goodness they turned out fine.
Perhaps they had a very faint cooked vanilla flavour but a bit of cream and fresh banana, mandarin and kiwi and they went down a treat...
AND THAT...Mrs Gleason (my Gr 8 Home Ec teacher) is how I managed to foil you every time. Every second lesson she used to watch me cook and then clap her hands over her head for attention and say loudly "Now gells, this is what you ought NOT do. Come hiar and look at Tanya's...."
I know it made her burn when my marble cake came out the best with text book distinct tri-colour swirls.
This is dedicated to my friend Kat who has been known to say "Oh my poor girl, you cook like me!" but I could only aspire to some of the amazing creations and techniques this girl gets up to and you read about her monthly challenges here.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Caught My Eye This Week

Housewife Eclectic has lots of practical ideas and is usually my go-to site for IT/blog support but 
read here about the great "real" doctors kit she made.

I read a beautiful piece of poetry on a blog called "Mrs Smith"
It is titled "In The Night"

".....wriggling and writhing, emitting frost, like Jack,
garnered on her journey through the pitch...."

It's a delicious short read full of descriptives that will strike a cord in most parents.

Something super practical and good to know
from the blog The Art Of Manliness.

And finally I wanted share a new to me blog called "One Pink Chair". It is the blog of a woman on a new stage of her life as she comes to terms with the loss of her husband. You needn't think it is melancholic or sad, but rather enlightening and sharing a candid glimpse into the "first year after"
In particular I loved;

Have you tried to talk to someone in Authority recently...?


Have a good weekend
Love Tx

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