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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Going From Plonked to Posed

Last week I bought flowers...
I love them but can really justify buying them and happily settle for what's in the garden most of the time. The pickings are pretty slim this far into winter and usually I have a large urn full of fishbone fern. It lasts and lasts for weeks.
Last week was our anniversary and I justified "I'm just buying my own flowers". Most men don't get the flowers "thing" do they. Some do, most don't.
What I was really doing was dying try out this tutorial I found and pinned recently...

I bought just under $50 worth of flowers; the asiatic lilies, white pom-pom and pink chrysanthemums. I added a couple of earlicheer jonquils and some greenery from my own garden.
Instead of the haphazard plonking effect I managed to justify the purchase and create a bouquet!

My flowers do well in the winter where it is cooler and not artificially heated and the chrissies will last at least a couple of weeks. 
Do try it out and I would love you to post a link at the bottom if you take photos.
If you head over to the tutorial and see the pictures you will relate to my meaning I'm sure. 
I know my friend Kylie does over at Lucy Violet Vintage because she bought flowers last week too and I love her justification writings. Love her and her blog.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Living Better July

We talked a lot of chicken on Thursday night at our meet up.
We even talked some turkey too!
Unfortunately our speaker on coccidiosis had to cancel at the last minute but he will be back to us next month and he will cover more in depth about poultry health and coop cleanliness.
Above are some of the books we resourced for discussion and photo references and all are highly recommended.
We had a great discussion as one of the group is wanting to get chickens for the first time and everyone was able to have some input to the discussion whether they were new-timers or old-timers.

Our second speaker brought along a "show and tell" which got us all excited.
It's a poultry feeder that excludes other marauding wild birds.
This particular feeder holds about 4kg of feed in the tube which is slowly reduced through the bottom. His left hand is resting on the weather strip that screws on to the top of that semicircular piece at the bottom to keep out really driving rain. The construction around the feed hole means that birds like sparrows etc cannot alight or hover because their wing span cannot be accommodated.

There are a couple of mounting hooks on the back of the tube so that it can be easily mounted onto walls or fences. This would even give you flexibility to mount it so that you could fill without even entering the coop (remembering that this is weather-proof) and you can special order to have those hooks placed on the front if it would suit your purposes better that way.

It's called the "Dine-A-Chook" and is Australian made.
They also have water feeders with a nipple system too.
We were all very impressed. 

We also talked about this book that I have acquired which is especially for Australian foraging and has lots of great photos and drawings and I'm sure will be a great resource. 

We also talked knitting and we were all interested in these dish cloths/ face cloths/ duster squares that Katherine has been knitting with a yarn (100% polyester) called "Giggle". They knit up quickly as Katherine is using about a 5mm needle. She has also toyed with the idea of going bigger and fitting one to her floor sweeper.
Pat at "Hooks and Books" has a post here about giggle yarn cloths too and also a post at "Retired Two-Lula" here

Our meeting sped by in a flash and before we knew it we were 30 mins over time!
Such a great night and lots of things to learn.
Remember it's free and you can join us every month on the last Thursday of the month from 7-9.
(Only a few more says to enter the draw for the meat cookery book too.)


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tagged My Tree

Emma and I popped out to the Christmas Tree Farm today for their Christmas in July event.
I have no photos because it was a dreary, drizzly day and we needed all hands available for hot pork sausages in bread with lashings of onion and buckets of hot hazelnuts and umbrellas and a little Chihuahua tucked up in Emma's coat too.

Thank goodness a young helper was on hand to take us over the paddock and count the rows and remember the trees as we criss-crossed and short listed.

What fun though!
I can definitely jump puddles in my new gum boots.

The children had made lovely salt dough decorations and I added a couple of doves to my decorations for this year. 
My tree will sit and grow and have another pruning or two and I will be able to collect it in December.
I know it's a bit early to be thinking of Christmas but I have started my "inspiration" board on pintrest for this years' theme as I plan to make my own decorations this year so I will need to start getting a bit organised now because I always run out of time in summer when the garden and preserving is taking precedence in our hemisphere.
This year the theme is natural and you can see some of the ideas I have found
(Lots of children friendly crafting ideas too)

Don't forget the give away this month will be drawn at the end of July.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Racing Raindrops

My paternal grandmother was named Ellen Irene but everyone I knew called her Nell. She was small and birdlike,only about 5' tall and with a fine frame, it was hard to imagine her bearing four children. 
I have many memories, snippets of stories and shared learning but if I had to use one word to describe her it would be "Victorian". She was not at all like cuddly, comfortable Nanny (my maternal grandmother) but rather formal and of high expectations and moral fibre, but I loved her just the same.

When I was little and complaining of being bored on a wet miserable day she told me she and her brother would watch the raindrops on the window and "race" against each other. They would have competitions to see whose raindrop would reach the bottom first. I found it hard to believe because it requires a certain type of rainy day and window aspect to achieve a good race which eluded me for a long time. Once I came close on a car trip. 

A.A. Milne also wrote a poem about racing raindrops in his poem called "Waiting At The Window" from his book of poetry "Now We Are Six" first published in 1927 and wonderfully illustrated by E.H. Shepard. Presumably children were doing it well before then, I wonder do they do it now? 

I once contrived to race drops on the side of the bath by gently running water from my cupped palm, watching as rivulets ran into each other and trickled away adding to other drops making them full and heavy and in turn running down to join the bath water.

It is meditative and calming to become lost in the small world of water drops. Even now I gaze at droplet covered windows looking for my mark.
Wet wintry July days....
Rainy days remind me of Nell...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Australian Book of Meat Cookery - Give Away

This book was first published back in 1972 by the Australian Meat Board. I remember it in Mum's recipe book library and was thrilled to eventually find one of my own some years ago. My youngest brother was also keen to get a copy and I was excited to be able to find one for him last year.

It has great reference pages for cuts of beef, lamb, pork and where they come from on the beast and how best to cook them. You'll be able to converse with your butcher most knowledgeably.

Very 1970's styling when cane baskets and timber salad bowls were very fashionable.

A couple of pages about carving different cuts and styles which is becoming a lost art.

Lots of easy to read and simply set out recipes for many categories.

Including a chapter on offal. Not many cookbooks include offal recipes any-more.

It's spiral bound spine also makes the book lie flat and open for easy recipe and instruction study. 
It's right up there with the Golden Circle Pineapple Cookery Book
I was excited to find another copy of this great book and perhaps you are an excitable carnivore too.
If you would like to own this copy leave a comment. If there are more than one excitable carnivores we'll do a draw. (I am also happy to post anywhere in the world).

I do so hope someone would love this book because I guess I would like to think that another generation will grow up, subtly absorbing the information from this book from your shelf, especially now that they visit butcher shops so infrequently with parents now. Do you remember when your Mum used to send you down to the shop to ask for a kilo of topside mince?
I can't remember the last time I saw kids at the butchers when I have been shopping lately.
We could go on and on for ages with just memories of butcher's shops of old I reckon.

(Footnote: For those who may want their vote cast for Renae, I will place your name into a draw for a "consolation" of my other very favourite things!.....)
a Microplane Fine Zester

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Apple and Raspberry with Salty Cashew & Macadamia Caramel Crumble - Trad and Thermomix Versions

This was a bit of a hit last night both with the recipients and some on facebook asked for a recipe.
It is not a real recipe as such but more of a twist on a traditional apple crumble.
I am still picking Granny Smiths from the tree in the back yard and I think they are the best cooked texture for a crumble. I used raspberries from the freezer but I could just as easily used blueberries. If you are still using rhubarb from the garden, great, that will go well too.

pre-heat oven to 180C

For the crumble
5 Tabs butter
2 Tabs plain flour
5 Tabs brown sugar
1 Tabs oats optional
1 cup of salted cashew and macadamias (or use walnuts, almonds etc they all work great)

Rub the butter into the flour with fingertips till it is combined. It will be a bit more buttery that a traditional crumble mix. Add the sugar and oats chopped nuts. You should have a coarse crumby mix.
Process in your food processor being careful not to over-combine.

Thermomix method - place 100g butter chopped and 50g flour and 100g brown sugar 20g oats (optional) and 150g nuts
Process on speed 4 for 4secs. Check mix and process another 2 secs if needed for coarse crumbly topping. Set aside.

For the base
6 large Granny Smith apples peeled and cored and cut into chunks
juice of one lemon
1 cup of raspberries (or blueberries or rhubarb cut into chunks)

Place the apples in a saucepan with about 80ml of water and lemon juice and cook gently till slightly softened but not collapsing or mushy. (Cook the rhubarb too if you are using it and you may want to add some sugar to taste but don't get too carried away - you want to be able to taste the rhubarb)

Thermomix method - Place apple in the thermomix with 80g of water and lemon juice
7-10min, Reverse, speed 1

In a buttered casserole/baking/pie dish
place the apple and berries
top with the crumble
Bake for about 20mins or till bubbling and slightly golden brown on top.
The butter and brown sugar cook and combine to create a caramel like flavour so you really cannot substitute and still get the same flavour. The fruit will have softened further, if you really like to bite into pieces do not pre-soften your fruit, simply place the chunks with a drizzle of juice and water straight into the baking dish. 
This should serve about 6 people or 4 if your helpings are large.
I serve with the Thermomix egg custard in the everyday cookbook but I use less flour so it's not so thick.
Ice-cream and cream are also winners.

As with any of these things and Murphy's Law, if you notice a mistake let me know so I can edit it. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tree Picking in July

Killiecrankie Farm is Tasmania's only Christmas Tree Farm where you can even choose your own tree. Unlike the trees pillaged from the bush and left to go limp in buckets of water under a hot sun outside the local petrol station, the farmed trees are species specific, irrigated and pruned several times a year for a traditional shape. When they are cut they are vigorous and when placed in wet sand or a tree holder with water, they will last 4-6 weeks.

Killiecrankie Farm are hosting their first ever
Sunday 21st July

You and your family get to go out into the paddock and select the exact tree that's right for you and reserve it for Christmas. Don't forget your gumboots and scarves.
To keep you warm, they will have mulled wine and wine sellers will be there from Marion's Vineyard. Langdale Farm will be there with a free range pork BBQ and they are happy to tell you about their heritage breed that they raise. 
Tamar Valley Hazelnuts will be there selling hot roasted hazelnuts too
Could it get any better!!!

Well yes it could....
A wreath making workshop with basket weaver Jill Spencer!
Including morning/afternoon tea catered by Ilk Cafe
Spaces are limited and bookings close on Fri 12th
Go here to reserve your spot.
I'm booked for the afternoon session so I can wander beforehand and choose my tree and have a sausage.

All images kindly allowed by Killiecrankie Farm.
For more information use the relevant links above or find them on facebook here
If anyone wants a lift out to the farm contact me via comments, email or my facebook page here

(Footnote: Don't you just love the first photo! That is one of Lee's trees at Harvest Market last year in Launceston with the beautiful Albert Hall in the background.)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ducking Low - Keeping the Peace

I've begun moving about my kitchen in the mornings using the inner perimeters.
I stay well away from the window and avoid large movements.....

I've taken to wearing darker subdued colours.
My red sweat top is definitely out!

We have juvenile roosters and if they catch sight of me they call very loudly like a mournful peacock. We just need to get through a couple more weeks for them to grow just a little bit bigger.
In the meantime...
I'm skulking in my kitchen to keep the suburban peace.

(Footnote: Isn't it interesting that dogs can bark all day long and chainsaws, pressure washers and the like can interrupt the peace, neighbourhood teens can rev their cars and turn up their bass. My next door neighbour even keeps caged birds that set up a huge screeching when they come home, but heaven forbid anyone should hear a rooster!)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Horses For Courses

Horses for courses is an old saying and it refers to different horses being better suited for different racecourse conditions and so we apply this sentiment to many life situations and I think restaurant reviews would fit this category too, certainly the experience we had recently. 

Craig and I had to have our annual fasting blood test done, the bonus being that we have breakfast out for a treat, so we popped into a little local cafe. As we walked in we noticed a couple of tables already taken and most of the others were reserved. That's a good sign I thought, clearly they are doing something well.

We were seated and handed our menus.
Massive turnoff
The menus were basic A4 printed sheets in a plain plastic binder for protection, practical and inexpensive BUT they were so old that the plastic had turned opaque and the paper so creased, handled, worn that it resembled....I don't know what. Not even the post code directory in Sydney post office before emails looked that worn! The paper fibre had almost reverted to a fabric it was so softened and flappy, handled by millions of hands. I didn't want to touch it and it certainly isn't a good advertisement for a kitchen. 

Rather than get personal with the menu I ordered a safe house special Benedict and a flat white.
Craig is a coffee snob and his doppio ristretto leaves nowhere for a barista to hide.
The coffee was fantastic!

We are big fans of natural food, locally sourced and ethically grown. We eat almost entirely what we grow and none of our foods are processed. This doesn't make us rigid about going out but what I hadn't realised was how our palates have changed. I didn't think to say please don't butter my toast, it arrived and I tucked in only to grimace when I realise it is margarine. It tasted chemical. No problem, I'm not a big bread eater anyway. I am a fan of Hollandaise sauce and have to stop myself licking it off the plate. Not on this occasion I'm afraid. I had to scrape the sauce off, it too tasted of something chemical. I expected the eggs to be ordinary because we are so used to eating our own fresh ones from the backyard and I know you can't compare that. The bacon was as I expected, very salty and tasted like it had been cooked on a BBQ (I know some people would find this very tasty so I do not judge this as a criticism, merely an observance). I turned my attention to the massive mound of mushrooms, and I mean there were at least 20 mushrooms quartered and piled on my plate. Again, some would see this as an absolute plus but does mounds of food really equal value for money? Again there was some sort of dried herbage/seasoning/chemical sprinkled on the mushrooms and I had to leave them also. 

So here we have the horses and courses.
It's not the cafe's fault that I have a changed palette for natural food.
They did nothing wrong (except for the foul menus), they have an extensive menu with lavish portions, well cooked, friendly staff and clearly there are lot's of people enjoying the food. It would not be appropriate for me to give a "bad review" because I didn't enjoy breakfast. It's just not the way I see food anymore. I'm just pacing on a different track now. Cafe's cannot possibly cater to everyone so the trick is to find the ones that are going to be more suited to your style. It taught me, just because there are a lot of reservations, doesn't mean you shouldn't have any.

(Disclaimer; I have spent many years in hospitality and Craig has also owned a couple of cafes so we speak with some experience)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Love Token Cost

I bought issue 23 of "Mollie Makes" a few months ago. It's British so I guess I paid about $7, I bought it for mild amusement but decided to spend a miserable Sunday afternoon making the little fox character for my daughter in Hobart....just a little love token much to the bemusement of our son ("Yeah but what do you do with it?" "Well she'll just put it on her desk for a couple of weeks and think of me and then she'll give it to someone else or give it to the dog or spill coffee on it and throw it away"). I start to wonder if this is a silly idea because part of me agrees with Mr. Practical.

The relevant instructions are roughly five pages out of 100 so 5% of the magazine cost would be 35 cents.
I purchased one piece of orangish coloured felt for 90 cents and used a third of it so we'll call it 30 cents. 
I used leftover floss and felt from my stash so lets call it another 10 cents worth.
The stuffing was a couple of handfuls 
So I am going to cost the actual little piece of affectionate folly at no more than 80 cents. It is about 7cm x 5cm, just a small trinket.

I want to surprise my daughter and post it to her 200km away in Hobart - same State - just a 2hr drive....
It weighs only 3g but it is more than 2cm thick so it can't be classified as an envelope item but must be classified as a parcel. I'm definitely thinking this is a silly idea.

So I took it home and gave it some thought and then squished the life out of it between the pages of a small many years obsolete mobile phone instruction book and taped it to a flat 2 cm yet less than 125g weight envelope size. 
So I got my love token cost done to $2.00 in total.
Seriously Australia Post there has to be a better way of rate calculation. I have just added 120g weight and reduced my cost by $5.25 but the extra weight to petrol ratio has cost you more.

Are you re-thinking your parcel post this Christmas?
What are your ideas for low cost far flung gift ideas? 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Coughs and Colds - Elderberry Tincture

The second subject we talked about at the Better Living meet-up was how to alleviate some of the common ills of winter, the primary one being the common cold.
There is much growing in our own backyards that we can harvest for simple remedies and unlike the commercial preparations in stores, natural remedies will work with your body to remedy the illness rather than keep masking the symptoms leaving the body to battle on trying to eliminate the germs.

Naturally there is a caution and warning.....
Just because something is natural doesn't mean that you can be careless with an ingredient or heedless of it's effects. The following is meant as general information and you should always research thoroughly and consult a medical practitioner such as a naturopath or herbal pharmacist. 

Two books that I have found invaluable over many, many years are
"Health Through God's Pharmacy" by Maria Treben
"The Natural Health Book" by Dorothy Hall
I have already posted previously here about the Common Cold recipe by Dorothy Hall here
and I urge you to read that post for a simple practical hot toddy that helps the body eliminate its ills. It has a base of lemon, so cleansing and astringent and readily available in winter, like nature knows what to provide each season.

The tincture in the first photo is from these elderberries I picked and made back in early autumn in anticipation of winter colds. Unlike the delicious rosehip syrup with it's big hit of vitamin C, the tincture is made with an alcohol base and no sugar, so it really is more like a "medicine" as my tasters found at the meet-up. 
Elderberries are quite a super berry. Loaded with Vitamin C &A they are also thought to be anti-viral,  anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. All very helpful qualities during the onslaught of a cold. Removing the berries from the stems requires patience and I like to do it with bowls on my lap in front of TV or listening to music. The stems, bark and leaves can have a purgative effect and if ingested brings on vomiting and diarrhoea. Likewise their seeds in large quantities so that is why they are heated and the pulp extracted.
Once you have the berries place them in a saucepan on low heat with a scant amount of water, cover and stir  and mash releasing the juices (much the same process as in the rhubarb cordial recipe) The recipe I use from Tina Sams also has ground ginger root and ground cloves. There are many recipes available on the net but I highly recommend this story here on 
and I have been very happy with my purchase of the e-book "An Elder Gathering" from the same site.
Once you have extracted the juice, allow to cool slightly and then place into a wide mouthed jar and cover the berries with alcohol (I see nothing wrong with gin) and tighten a lid on and shake gently to combine. Place it in a dark cupboard and strain into bottles after two weeks and label. 
The recommended dosage I use is 30ml adults every 3hrs and 15ml for children every 3 hours when needed.

We talked about thyme, nettles, rosehips and ginger....but that is another post. 

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