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Friday, August 31, 2012

Pink and Aqua for Spring

Thanks everyone for a great discussion yesterday.
even last night at our Better Living Group it was further debated.
But now for something inane and trivial....

I give you Spring.....

With something for the sheep shearer....

This could turn out to be the theme for Christmas this year I think.

See that rabbit coming out of the hat? It's a toothpick holder (for my olives for Martinis don't you know) Isn't he nifty, I love Alessi design 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Would You Do?

Wednesday it rained, and rained, and rained.
And then it poured and rained some more.
Craig asked me to drop his car off at the mechanics to have some work done. I took it in at 9am and since it wouldn't be ready till 2pm I opted to catch the bus home and come back.
Just missed one so caught the next one but in the intervening time I was blown by damp spray as I futilely tried to cover my entire body with a small folding umbrella.
I got damp again walking home but soon warmed up and got a few little jobs done.
And still it rained and poured.
The afternoon arrived and there was nothing for it but to plunge back into it again at 2pm and catch a bus back into town to pick up the car.

Here comes my ethical dilemma. 
An incident happened on the bus that has left me disturbed, saddened and a bit sick at heart.
What would you have done?
Here is my story....
When I got on the bus, two other people got on at my stop also and I guess there was another 3 or 4 already on board. I didn't take much notice. I purchased my ticket and sat down a couple of seats from the front. The bus moved on to the next stop and a young girl and boy in their late teens got on and a man in his 20s. They moved up to the back of the bus. 
The bus moved off again but pretty quickly the driver yelled out to the back of the bus,
"What are you drinking?"
"What are you drinking?"
The driver stops at the next stop and repeats the question twice more till a female voice at the back says
"She (driver) wants to know what you are drinking"
"Coke" is the (another female voice) reply.
"Hold it up, show me" says the driver.
She repeats this a number of times and the person up the back says,
"I've put it away, I won't drink it anymore"
By this stage we've all cottoned on that it must be alcohol.
I didn't turn around because I thought the humiliation for the girl up the back was so profound I didn't want to add to it and so far the little voice had been quite meek but what if they became angry and violent. I had assumed by the young sounding voice it was the young girl who had got on after me and I was feeling a bit annoyed that she was holding us all up with this stupidity. The rules are very clear about consuming alcohol. 
"You can get off the bus thanks", said the driver.
About a minute of silence followed, no-one said a word and the bus driver held ground and wouldn't move off. People were starting to get restless and some were turning and looking. 
"Come on love, we'll have to walk" I heard a gentle voice say.
Again I assumed it was the girl talking to the young boy who had got on with her.
Finally I heard someone opening the middle door just over my left shoulder and I turned to get a surreptitious look at the girl to see if she was at all ashamed for holding everyone up...
I was shocked to see that it was a young mother with a small boy of about three!
She walked with eyes downcast that had large black hollows underneath them.
I vaguely saw bags as she alighted and maybe a fold up stroller but the child was definitely alighting by himself from the bus.
Before I could blink the doors were closed and we had moved off again leaving them in the pouring rain with scant protection of a bus shelter.
My first reaction was to wonder what she would do now? How far was she travelling? Why was she drinking at 2pm and what had made her life so bad that she was reduced to this?  What was to become of the little boy in the next 15min, next year, next 15years?
By abandoning her, I felt we had truly abandoned that child. 
Should I have stopped at the next stop and walked back?
By the time this thought had occurred to me we were already a significant way ahead. 
What if I did get back to her, would she accept my help or what kind of help would have been appropriate? Is it my place to make a judgement and step in to say she is not able to care for her child today. 
I kept going all the way into town and collected the car and drove back home looking out for the lady and the child but the rain was torrential and conditions dangerous and it was hard to take my eyes from the road for long. She could have ducked into a shop I suppose, anyway, I didn't see them.
It has left me feeling very disturbed.
I was angry with the driver, how could she put a small child off like that?
Then again there are cameras on the bus and if she had been found to not uphold company policy then she may have risked loosing her job. 
Then again, one doesn't anticipate that the zero tolerance rule for alcohol is going to involve a small child.
 I tried to think of other scenarios.
Should the driver have asked the young woman to refrain and taken her to the bus depot to be met by depot management and perhaps police so that the situation could have been assessed more appropriately for the child?
I just keep feeling like we have punished an innocent child, putting them off the bus into the most miserable cold wet weather. It was pouring and blowing and probably only 10C. I worry now that the child has caught a cold or worse all because the driver took such a black and white stance and I was too slow to react. Should I have spoken up?
What would you have done if you were the driver?
What would you have done if you were me?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NRG Bars

These bars are a great lunch box food for high energy so they are ideal for children and shearers.

NRG Bars

125g of melted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup sunflower kernals
1/2 cup pumpkin seed kernals
1/3 cup sesame seeds
4 cups of rice bubbles or similar

Simmer the butter, honey and sugar for about 5 mins
Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl.
Add the honey mix and combine well.
Press into a slice tin with damp hands.

We are not the packaged cereal eating kind so I was shocked when I went to the local shop to find that rice bubbles were twice the price of corn flakes. You will observe my mixture uses lightly crushed corn flakes instead of rice bubbles. I also had a scant handful of sultanas so they went in too.

As I said, ideal for lunch boxes and less sugar than a muesli bar. Great for the 3pm afternoon flag.
These are best made in winter as summer heat tends to make them a bit soft and melty in the lunch box by midday. 
Cost is about $4 to make and you would easily get at least 10-12 serves.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Living Better in August

You may have noticed I have been a bit quiet lately and there is definitely a paucity of posts and comments on your blogs too. I have been very busy planning and scheming. All sorts of projects on the go as I plan for Christmas.
You can all collectively groan 
when you are frugal and simple you have to be practical.
Christmas must be planned and hand made equals time.

I am currently working on a recipe book that I hope the family will like but I'll not lie to you, it has been VERY time consuming. You could make one too. 
Have a look at Blurb, it is one of the photo book sites that allows you to create and publish your own book. There are many templates, sizes and styles and you can design it to your own budget too. 

Soap is the other item that has to be made a couple of months out from Christmas as it takes time to cure. I am hoping to be snowed under next month making soaps and bath bombs.

Knitted and crocheted items also take time and slippers and dishcloths need to be stockpiled now.

Plan seedlings and cuttings too so that they have established roots and growth.

Perhaps you dried herbs and jars of those would be appreciated I'm sure.

And then there is the baking and preserving. With lemons so plentiful soon, this is the time of year that I make preserved peel (and I know a boy who would love a large bag full for Christmas).

I am working on next years' calendar and also my new Christmas range.

So that is what we'll be talking about when we meet for our
 Better Living Group
Thursday 30th August
at the 
Cock and Bull Pub
in Launceston

Here is some more ideas from 
 and they even have a printable to help you with your planning.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why I Bought Thermomix

A lot of people have asked, so I am going to try to compare and contrast for you and explain my decision to buy a Thermomix

I had heard people talking about Thermomix saying it weighed ingredients, mixed, chopped and cooked all in the one bowl. I was very sceptical and thought it was just a gadget. The talk persisted and I thought I would like to see this thing in action. I sold small electrical appliances for a few years and thought I pretty much knew my stuff. I went to a demonstration in a friend's home prepared to be less than impressed and ready to refute many claims. I am willing to say I had a very closed and pre-conceived mind set upon arriving.
Within the first 5 minutes my carefully constructed mask of one sceptical eyebrow arched gracefully towards my hairline receded to avid interest. We learnt that Thermomix had in fact been around in Europe since the 1960s but only in Australia since 2001.
Within the the next 15 mins I was sitting on the edge of my seat. I was totally floored when the demonstrator made icing sugar for one of the recipes. Many food processors claim to make icing sugar but the process takes a lot of turning on and off and scraping down the bowl and the result is less than a true icing sugar. The Thermomix did it in seconds and turned tiny crystals to a true powder. It can even finely chop one clove of garlic which most food processors can't do unless you use a small bowl attachment.
You can go to the site to check the stats but it is a combination of design that achieves it's amazing processing capabilities. It is not just the motor, speed, blade sharpness but also the shape and design of the bowl and blade construct working together.

The demonstrator made a whole meal for us;
fresh fruit sorbet, herb and garlic dip,
coleslaw, bread rolls, portabello mushroom risotto,
vanilla bean (real egg) custard

I don't mind telling you I was getting rather excited and with the offer of several payment plan options I nearly just plunged in right there and then but I am a cautious buyer and I like to well research my options regardless of the price.
So I checked out the copy-cat version the Thermochef, and one should not automatically assume that a copy-cat is inferior, however, usually the goal is to produce a cheaper product in competition. You usually get what you pay for and a cheaper product usually means a sacrifice on some qualities.
It is a good machine and it may well suit your needs but I will compare and contrast and explain MY choice.

1.The Motor
The first obvious and greatest difference if that the Thermomix uses a magnet reluctance motor. It goes from 1-10 with a turbo button, 500W. Speed continuously adjustable from 100rpm to 10,200rpm (boys have I got your attention now?). But there is has alternative mode for dough kneading and a slow stir function of 40rpm (for when you are cooking)

Boyev Animation by Boyev (Image source)

The Thermochef uses a belt and gear drive motor which is very common in small appliances. This arguable means more wearing parts and a shorter life span. It also goes from 1-10 with a turbo button and has 550W.

2.The Built In Scales

The Thermomix has the scales directly built in under the bowl seating so that you can measure straight into the mixing  jug. The Thermochef has them beside the mixing jug. The advantage of having the scales built in means that you can add and weigh everything into the vessel. There is not a litany of washing up like measuring cups, jugs and spoons, it's all in the bowl. A small point but sometimes it is the small things that make life easier and cleaner.

3. The Cooking/Mixing Jug 

Both appliances have a stainless steel jug with a 2L max capicity. I have given some product knowledge about stainless steel before in my post about cutlery. I did notice that the interior of the Thermochef  looks very spun and less polished. Polishing the stainless steel is yet another process and an added expense but the difference to cleaning the surface is quite significant. If you were to look at the surface under a microscope you would see very many highs and lows, valleys and ridges. Food particles can grab in these areas and a polished surface makes for an easier food release. When selling cookware I always advised against scourers and excessive scratching with metal utensils.
Also note that the jug is not completely cylindrical like a blender or other food processors. It is this very design that allows food to hit, tumble and spin creating that great consistent chop so that you are not constantly stopping and scraping down bowls like old food processors.

4. The Blades

Thermomix has Solingen Steel Blades (Solingen in Germany  is the home of swords, knives and cutlery for generations) and I would imagine a high grade of stainless steel. I am sure that the Thermochef stainless steel blades are also a quality mix if stainless steel. If there is a difference in the quality of the blades it would come down to tempering (the actual manufacture of the metal for strength and durability) but I don't have any proof or stats on that.
Also note the construction difference of the blades. They are off set and kind of crooked looking compared to blades from blenders and food processors. More development has been put into the dynamics of cutting.

5. The Cooking System

Both mixers have integrated cooking. You can blend/chop/mix and then also cook within the vessel without transferring to another pot. Both machines are 1000W. The Thermomix goes from 37C to 100C but it also has a setting high than that called "Varoma" temperature which is the extra temperature needed to using the steaming stack successfully.
Some of the things you can do;
Hollandaise, Egg Custard, White Sauce,
Soups, Casseroles, Risotto,
Boiled Eggs and Steamed Vegetables and Meat.

I have made most every category and been really impressed. The best part is that I can put the ingredients in and go about cleaning up and doing other tasks. The machine does all the cooking and stirring and lets me know when it is done. It even continues to slowly stir after the timer goes off so that the bottom doesn't stick and burn.
Here is a big difference between the two machines. The Thermomix has a reverse cycle. This means that you can stir without chopping.
For instance if I want to make Beef Stroganof, I place an onion cut in half in the jug, in 10 sec it's chopped. I then add some butter and set it slowly stir on 100C so that it sautees for a couple of minutes. Then I simply add the rest of the ingredients; beef strips, wine, yoghurt/cream, spices, mushrooms. Now I set the timer to 20mins and the temperature to 100C and the blades to reverse. It stirs the whole time without further chopping. A very handy (vital?) feature.

I am a pretty good all round cook and I know most everything about scratch cooking. One thing I could never be bothered with was choux pastry but last weekend I whipped up some profiteroles to take to a friend's place for dinner. I made the choux and the creme patisserie in the Thermomix so easily.
My mashed potato is a common family joke. I would call my style more rustic and I have tried many methods (perhaps my heart just isn't really in it) but now with the Thermomix it is a crowd pleaser every time. You can cook and then mash all in the one vessel without having to touch a thing except adding the butterfly whisk and pressing a button.
It also makes fruit sorbets in seconds. It can mill grain to flour, peanuts to paste and sugar to castor or icing sugar. It will grind spices and make butter. You can make jam and mix cakes. The dough comes out silky like a professional baker achieves.
This week I had a Middle Eastern dinner party and successfully adapted my recipes to make them in the Thermomix.

When the Thermomix arrived I cleaned out a cupboard to put the accessories in (the steaming dishes) and I removed the juice extractor (it makes juice), the coffee grinder, the rice cooker and the food processor. My wonderful food processor was a Braun Multipractic and I flogged it every week for the past 20 years. I bought right that time and I'm sure I've bought right this time. This should be my last appliance buy this lifetime.

and now what you are wondering....

6. The Price

Thermomix $1939.00
Thermochef $795.00
Big difference but yes, a big difference.
So many people asked and I hope this helps you make a more informed decision and gives you some categories to base your needs on. I am not saying that the Thermochef is not a good appliance, it's just not the one I preferred to buy for my particular needs and wants. Given it's limitations I would probably choose a Braun food processor again over the Thermochef and just keeping using traditional pots and pans methods and save the money.

If you have any more questions please ask.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Porridge and Pears

Last year I bottled some pears in the leftover syrup from the muscavado lemon peel project.
Heavenly with porridge.
Having a total love affair with my new Thermomix.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Banks and Ball Points

(image from: Vintage Ad Browser)

My father worked all his life for one of the major banks in Australia and was "held up" three times during his career. I predict that one day banks will be an entirely different thing in the future and we will not have such a thing as cash. He also reminded me of another item that we take for granted that was relatively recent and even now being superseded by computers....
The Ball Point Pen. 

He Writes;

"Did you know that ball point pens weren't invented until about the 1940s. Up until then "push" pens were the only form of writing with ink and only the rich could afford to but a fountain pen (a pen that held its own supply of ink.)
When I joined the Bank in 1958, ball pint pens where banned. All entries in bank books and records were made using an ink (supplied by the Bank) that was (supposedly) insoluble.
One day in 1961 a drunk fell off the wharf in Port Moresby. They fished him out but in his pockets was a Commonwealth Saving Bank bank book. The entries therein had all but disappeared except one which had been made by a forbidden ball point pen.
In 1962 ball point pens were issued to all branches for use by the staff. Typical of the Bank, the issue of the pens (which cost stores department about 8c each) was "strictly" controlled and we had to sign a register for them; we also had to hand in the empty pen when we needed another. Remember, though, I was being paid about $7.50 per week and petrol (for the motor bike I owned) was about 22c per gallon (4.5 litres)"

(Some will remember bank books where all our transactions were recorded by hand. I don't know what it is about bank books but for some reason savings seemed more "real" when I saw them written and tallied in a bank book)

"I was living in Stanthorpe at that time. I was the "junior" so I used to go to work about 7:30 am to chop the wood for the slow combustion fire that heated the whole branch. By the time I got the fire going and the place started to heat up it was 8:30 am and everyone else would come in and stand by the "fire" to warm up before starting work.
My position as junior didn't last and a fellow named P.S. took over fire lighting duties when he joined up. He was from Balandene just South of Stanthorpe. I lost track of him after I left Stanthorpe"

This is a picture of the Commonwealth Bank in Stanthorpe QLD taken around 1940.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tooth Cakes

(image from: Vintage Ad Browser)

I was musing in a previous post and regretting not asking my grandparents what they used for oral hygiene and happily my father ventured some information as he remembered it from his time.
He writes;
"In the 1940's we used tooth cake. Not very hygienic but families did that sort of thing. 
It came in a cardboard pack that looked like a compact. One moistened their tooth brush bristles and rubbed them across the surface of the "cake" to pick up some material. This was a type of low foam soap to "clean" the teeth. I suspect it was more the brush that did the cleaning than the cake.
Tubed tooth paste only came in to general use after the war but I can't be sure when. Certainly some time in the late 1940's."

I found lots of vintage ads for toothpaste tubes and powders but no images for tooth "cakes". Plastic was very prolific in manufacture after the war but I imagine that back in my grandmother's childhood they must have used wood and natural bristle.

"Irium" goodness! Sounds very technical.
It is the common surfactant today known as sodium lauryl sulphate. 
A common denominator of tooth products over the last 100 years is to convince people that a product can make their teeth whiter, so not just a new fad.

I have to admit that tubes are one thing that drives me nuts. They are only attractive for the first week of squeezes, after that it's all down hill for me.I have even taken to buying the tubes in small sizes so the mess doesn't last too long! I think it is one of those deal breakers among couples...
"Do you squeeze from the middle or the end?"

So anyone else have some vintage tooth stories our there?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why Bother?

The last third of winter is more bearable with bottled blueberries for breakfast.
And that's why I bother....

Green tomato pickles always bring memories of Nan close,
And that's why I bother......

We're enjoying lots of Osso Bucco stews on wet dark cold nights,
And that's why I bother.....

There are a lot of people who will ask you why you would bother, but there is no comparison to feeding yourself good food even in the "hungry season" to buying off the shelf. There will be some who cheer you on from the sidelines so stick to your convictions and enjoy the fruits of your summer labour, enjoy this quieter time with some knitting before it all starts again come spring.

You guessed it, somebody asked me just the other day when they saw me knitting socks....
Why bother?
I think that is something to ponder in a society where the majority seems to ask,
"Why Bother?"
Are we lazy or apathetic or have we just forgotten how good things can be?

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