Friday, 31 March 2017

Happy Birthday To You!

It is beautiful grandbaby's first birthday today! The year has just flown by.

She is pretty cute - we have tried her out for a year; we think we might keep her!!

She will be having a rainbow birthday party tomorrow. Her mother has inherited my love of bright colours!

 This should make for some messy photos as it is a rainbow cake!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Bit of a Random, Miscellaneous Post

I am in a bit of a rush tonight, so am just doing a random post of various ideas and thoughts.

Last day of school term tomorrow. Why does there always seem to be a million events planned for the last week?! Makes no sense to me!
It will be SOOOOO lovely to just relax and 'be' for a few weeks - no rushing to get anywhere on time, no homework or readers, no sports games or training. Bliss!

I read this article recently, What If All I Want Is A Mediocre Life? I would probably substitute the word 'mediocre' for 'ordinary', as the life described in the article is not of a lower standard than other lives. In fact, it describes exactly how I want to live, without feeling that it is wrong and unacceptable. I was just thinking on these matters before this article came up in my Facebook feed - wondering whether I can withstand the pressure that being a wife and mother is not 'enough'. This is why I so love to read blogs of all you like-minded homemakers; it really helps me to feel that I am doing a real job with my life.

Remember when I made liquid castile soap?

I am so pleased with this as I am still making liquid hand soap for the bathroom and my gardener's hand scrub with this first batch. It is just lasting for ages!

I bought some more seeds this week (not that I do not already have enough to start my own seed shop, but I just can't resist seed descriptions).

It is a seasonal seed subscription from Backyard Seeds, an Australian company with a similar growing climate to my own. I think it would make a lovely present for a gardening friend. A subscription can start in any season - you will receive four seasons whenever you start.
My autumn packets arrived in the mail today. Hubby was very naughty and said he was going to hide the kale seeds so I couldn't plant them! Little does he know that I already have my first sowing of kale germinated. I am determined that my family will grow to love kale. It is the only leaf crop that the rabbits, slugs, snails won't eat here (hubby says that is a message!)

I found this book at the library.

A whole book on kale! Some of the recipes I think I could even sneak past the family. Not sure about kale cocktails though - a kale gin fizz? Maybe not!

I am still loving my essential oils.

I have not mentioned them much here, but if anyone would like to take a look at my Facebook page, I would love you to! I share diffuser blends (like these two), cleaning and beauty recipes, purefume recipes, and anything else essential oil.

So please feel free to come over and like my page, send me a friend request here or just say hi.

After this, I am planning to park myself on the couch and finish the second sleeve of grandbaby's Little Vintage Sunday Coat. I am so close!

In the DVD player while I knit will be Suite Francaise.

I have resisted watching it as I always like to read the book first. But I have SO many books on my list that it will years before I can get to it! So movie version it is for this one.

I am really looking forward to the movie version of The Light Between Oceans, as I loved the book. Hurry up, library hold system!

Now that we are heading into winter, I am craving some knitting type weather. I have not started the wood heater yet, but tonight we are feeling the cold. It is that awkward time of year where it is just cold enough to feel the chill, but if you light the fire the house ends up sweltering.

I would love to receive some knitting movie recommendations. Do you have old favourites that you re-watch every year? (mine are Pride and Prejudice, Miss Potter and The Secret Garden). Have you seen some wonderful movies lately?

And to finish, something totally random.
If I had a staircase in my house, it would SO look like this!

I hope you enjoyed my random musings!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Menu Plan Monday

Joining in today at I'm An Organising Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Pizza - the boys have been requesting this for at least the past week as though we haven't had it in AGES (about 10 days, in reality!)

Salmon with green salad and potato salad
Chewy Chocolately Nutella Brownies - working on the basis that the salad weighs out the brownies!

Chicken wraps
Jelly, probably Frogs In A Pond

Lamb roast with roasted root veggies and steamed greens
Fruit salad, especially with mango and our local strawberries - they will be gone soon.

Last day of the school term - hooray! And grandbaby's first birthday, so going out for dinner tonight.

Pork chops with veggies of some sort

Pasta with roasted tomato sauce

When I make pizza, I will double the recipe to add some more bases to the freezer. School holidays begin at the end of this week, so need to stock up on some easy meals.
I'll also make some batches of bolognaise sauce and meatballs. And some more biscuits and some scones.
What do you find are some great snack/lunchbox items to make ahead for the freezer? I'd love to hear your suggestions.
My boys are so boring with their lunchboxes. They are quite happy to have the same every day. Maybe it just my own mum guilt (and seeing all the blog posts around!) that makes me think I need to zhoosh up their lunches.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Independence Days Challenge: Week Twenty Two

I'm so excited - I feel like one of those crazed fans! I just picked up the mail and my signed copy of Grown and Gathered has arrived. Yay!

I had to return my library copy as there is a long hold list on it. So I just had to order my own copy.
This quote shows one of the things I love about this book - many people seem to have become too caught up in the 'labels', paying more attention to this than to the more important issues. It is pointless buying organic if it has to be flown halfway around the world to get to you.

'We would love to see everyone return to a simpler, slower life, more connected to their food again. Such a connection changes the way we see our food, the way we purchase, eat, cook and live. It is a connection to all of the experiences that lead up to - and run so much deeper than - the eating. Food experienced in this way just tastes so much better.
We believe in growing the traditional way, before synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and the very idea of waste existed. We want you to forget all the words. Forget "raw" and "permaculture" and "biodynamic" and even "organic". Farming should just be farming, growing growing and eating eating - without chemicals and synthetic fertilisers. It was the only way in the past, and will be the only way again in the future.'
Grown and Gathered by Matt and Lentil pg 33

1. Plant something

There was a plant sale in our town this week, so I purchased a few perennials and natives to fill in the garden and fenceline.

Filling in the rock garden. It looks very bare at the moment, but I have made the mistake before of planting too close together and then having to move perennials.

In the greenhouse, I have sown kale (red and dwarf), lettuce, silverbeet, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, pak choy, parsley, coriander, purple podded peas and sweet peas. And quite a few have already germinated!

In the garden, I direct sowed some snow peas.

The shelling peas have been growing well, so I will sow another row next week.

I also found some carob and stone pine seeds. They are use by 2010, so I have just planted them to see if any will germinate. I soaked them for 24 hours before planting them.

And I have set some avocado pits in water to see if they will germinate. It is probably too cold here for avocadoes to do well, but I have a sheltered corner I could plant them as an experiment. If they sprout, that is!

2. Harvest something

It is really just the herb garden growing at the moment - mint, Vietnamese mint, sage, rosemary, chives. And eggs.

3. Preserve something

A friend has just bought a new house and has inherited the most gorgeous fig tree. It is absolutely bowed down with fruit, so I was blessed with some this week.
I made Slow Roasted Figs, using this recipe from Canning For A New Generation. Except I did not preserve them. I roasted the figs as per the recipe. Without cleaning the pan, I then roasted a chicken in the fig syrup, putting the lemon slices on top of the chicken. The figs we had for dessert with ricotta and honey.
It was so delicious! And the gravy that was made from that pan was so rich and gorgeous!

4. Minimise waste

I have been given a water saving device that collects the water from your washing machine and diverts it to the garden, a Water Wheelie . I would not have bought it but as someone gave it to us, I am using it. It was very handy to keep the fruit trees watered in the recent hot weather without me having to cart water to them.

5. Want not

Just a little upcycle this week. I was given this teabag box a while ago.

It did have a glass lid but one of the boys broke it. I mainly use leaf tea but have kept it knowing there just had to be a use for it. And I have come up with one!
I will use it to separate seeds into weeks for planting. This way, I can have nine weeks of seeds organised, ready for sowing. Every four weeks, I will rotate them and organise the next month of seeds.

Slightly more organised than my current system of piles of seeds and notes for planting on the dining room table!

6. Cook something new

My something new this week would be the fig recipe above. I have never had access to figs before and they are way too expensive to buy fresh from the supermarket. So cooking figs was a new experience for me. I had wanted a fig tree but now I know I definitely need one!

7. Manage your reserves

Not much this week but I did collect some more jars for pantry storage organising. Slowly getting there.
I also sorted out lots of the boys' clothes and have bigger sizes in crates in the ex-possum shed. The boys do love to go 'shopping' in the crates!

8. Work on local food systems

I have been having some discussions with other mums and it is amazing to find out just what other people are growing that I didn't know about. I think there could be quite a bit of trading in my future.

I thought I'd share some general photos of the garden/farm at the moment.

Still very dry, but I think this week has been break of season and the rains should be here soon.

I was very sad to only have one sunflower this year - yes, one! I planted out about 100 seedlings and rabbits ate all except this one. And it is a pretty short and mangy sunflower at that. But I love it anyway!

The gerberas I planted this year had a few small flowers. I am looking forward to seeing how much bigger they get next year. This is my favourite colour - it starts out lime green with red edges and then ends up red with lime green edges.

Some self-sown poppies that appeared in the paddock beds.

My one little chick for this year is now nearly as big as mum.

And here is my little gardening companion, Sugar. She always comes to find me and rub against me when I am in the garden.

Hope you have a lovely gardening week!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Independence Days Challenge: Week Twenty One

You need to visit Matt and Lentil at Grown and Gathered and read their About page. Everything they have articulated there is how I have been feeling for a very long time, but they are way better at saying it!!
I borrowed their wonderful book from the library and have been devouring it - can't get enough. Take a sneak peek inside the book here. The book is divided into sections - Observe, Grow, Gather, Nurture, Trade, Seek and Eat. This quote explains why.

'This book is full of the things that we grow, gather, nurture, trade, seek and eat where we are. And that's how it worked traditionally. You grew what you could where you were, and then you ate what you had, sourced a few special things from far away, and that is what made up regional diets and led to the development of specific cuisines.'
Grown and Gathered by Matt and Lentil pg 21

Exactly what I have been trying to explain to hubby for 25 years!
So simple, yet it is so necessary for us all to start living like this - now, before we have no options.
After spending way too much money on pretty average produce at the supermarket yesterday, then coming home to read some more of this book, I am on fire to achieve this on our block - all alone, if necessary!

1. Plant something
As those shelling peas germinated so well, I have planted some more direct in the garden. And hundreds and hundreds of daffodil bulbs! My back is sore, but the mass display in spring will be worth it! Hopefully something like this:

2. Harvest something
The zucchinis are finishing up now and there is always at least one that gets away from me! They seem to grow overnight as I don't know where this one came from. I have been checking the plants every day.

And eggs, of course!

3. Preserve something
I made some yummy Apple Maple Jam last season from a recipe in the Ball Preserving Book but it didn't set properly. But you know what, I am happy it didn't set as I have found a way better use for it than as jam. In fact, I am planning on making it again this season and making sure it doesn't set!
Pancakes are a much loved breakfast dish here, and it is the custom to drown your pancakes in maple syrup. That uses a lot of maple syrup! Here in Australia, I have not been able to find bulk maple syrup - I am very jealous when I see those big tins that you can get in the US and Canada!
So this recipe is the perfect way to get that pancake maple syrup to go much further. Warning - it is VERY sweet; a little goes a long way!
Apple maple pancakes, anyone?!

4. Minimise waste
In reading Grown and Gathered, I was very impressed to read that their farm operates as a closed loop, something that is definitely in my long term goals. But in doing this, I am finding I do not have ENOUGH waste. I'll clarify that, enough of the right type of waste. All my food scraps go to the chooks and they can never seem to get enough. So I have not got much to compost, other than egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grounds. I think I need to source some organic waste material from somewhere.
Do you source compostable material from an outside source? What type? I'd love to hear!

This is what I need!

5. Want Not
It is time to dig the garden paths over into the garden beds and top up with sawdust. Luckily, hubby has sourced a massive amount of free sawdust - yay!
The garden paths are teeming with worms and will be so fantastic for adding to the garden beds, especially the rhubarb and asparagus beds.
Someone else's trash is definitely my treasure!

6. Cook something new
Not really new, but after being terrible in the school holidays and letting everything die, I am restarting my sourdough starter, kefir grains and ginger beer plant. I always seem to forget that someone will need to 'feed' them if we go away, as well as the animals!

Image from Grown and Gathered book

I have also been pretty slack with grinding my own grain. I haven't attempted to grow grain yet - I'd love to hear if you have!

7. Manage your reserves
Hmmm, cleaned out a whole shed on the weekend. So I may soon be able to start stocking up again! The possums had actually chewed through the walls in places, so hubby boarded up all the holes and has put wire mesh over the gap in the eaves which was their means of entry. Hopefully that will solve the problem and keep them out. I am only putting non-food items in there for the moment, until I know the possums are definitely gone!

8. Work on local food systems
I love how there is a whole chapter on Trade in Grown and Gathered as I really feel this will be how we will conduct a major part of our 'business' in the future.
And I just love this quote on trade from the book:

'When you trade, genuine human interaction is unavoidable, because a trade is only possible with conversation. You must discuss what a fair trade is. You must discuss the exchange of goods. Whereas with money, you can just hand over the money and get a product in return, no conversation required. Sure you end up with the same product, but with a remarkably different experience. And this is what we want to highlight here: the experience, that human connection, is the most important thing. When we have more human interactions - talk to strangers, have great conversations - we believe that society is at its strongest. When we realise that we are all more similar than we are different, when we begin to understand each other more, see each other's points of view, share skills and have empathy, we all become happier, and we all become stronger human beings.'
Grown and Gathered by Matt and Lentil pg 111

So true! How many times do you feel, after doing all your errands in town, that you haven't actually spoken to anyone in any meaningful way? I think trade will be vital and plan on making it a major part of my system.
My problem will be that I always tend to undervalue my work and will feel very strange about attempting to calculate trades. It will be a bit of a steep learning curve for me!

Have you introduced regular trading/swapping? Is it working for you; what items are you trading?

I would love to hear any comments as I am always looking for new ideas or methods.

I'm off to the garden as today is a lovely cool day, the only one before it heats up again for a week. Have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Yarn Along - A Cute (Still Not Quite Finished) Coat and a Funny Book

Joining today with Ginny for Yarn Along.

I went for a quick read this week. I absolutely loved this movie - another one of those quirky movies in which not much happens but it is all about the characters.

And the book is just as wonderful - full of humorous character observations.
There is apparently a local legend about the hill building, but it has been found to be fiction. The 'mound' on Garth Mountain (the apparent inspiration for the movie) is actually a Bronze Age burial mound, not earth placed there in 1917 to fool some English surveyors!

The thing I found utterly astounding about the book was that the author, Christopher Monger, had, until a year before writing the book, never spoken, let alone written, in English. His only language to that date had been Welsh.

As I said previously, my favourite aspect of the book are the astute character/personality observations. I was found to be chuckling to myself many times!

Such as this one:

'So in a time honoured tradition that extends to politicians today, he started to speak about something of which he knew nothing, but in a tone of voice which suggested authority. And more precisely, he started to string together many phrases and platitudes which all seemed to hold the promise of something, but which in fact amounted to nothing more than decorative vacillation.'

Indeed does sound like politicians today!

And how is that vintage Sunday coat coming along?
Well, the back, left and right fronts are completed, so now I am starting the sleeves. It is still so hot here and my hands get too sweaty while knitting! I'm sure if autumn is coming for a while yet.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Menu Plan Monday

Joining with I'm An Organising Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Time to get back to organised menu plans, after the bliss of the holidays and just winging it. It is taking me way too long to settle back into a routine!
This cartoon pretty much explains how menu planning has gone for the last six weeks (and first month of the new school year!).

This week I am using a number of free magazines that the supermarkets issue.

I am not collecting any more of these as I have always been reluctant to take them, due to the waste issue. But these are some that I already had, so I am trying some recipes and will cut those out to keep and recycle the rest. I have SO many cookbooks that I really don't need to collect any more.


Pork roast with roasted potatoes, honey carrots, minted peas and mashed sweet potato
Fruit salad

Chicken and broccoli penne
Strawberry shortcakes


Spaghetti and meatballs (make double to have some for the freezer)
Peach and Raspberry Cheesecake Slice

Fish burgers
Passionfruit Ice-Cream Yoghurt

Lime Chicken Skewers
Green salad
Garlic potato fries

Vegetable curry with naan bread
Coconut pudding

Salmon and mango salad
Potato wedges
Chocolate and caramel poke cake

Poke cakes are a new favourite around here. So obvious - why didn't I ever think of it before?! We have also tried the lemon blueberry one - yum.

I am happy that I am able to start doing some more freezer cooking. The freezer is finally starting to have a little bit of space in it, after being full to the top with meat for so long. There is no butchering planned for at least a month so I can get some other goodies into the freezer at the moment.

Planning for this week:

Meatballs - making double on Wednesday
Pizza bases
Banana muffins
Various biscuit dough logs

Have a delicious week!