Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cucumber Pickle

A friend recently told me about a fruit and veg wholesalers in town that also sell a little bit of retail to the public. Their regular prices are more expensive than most fruit and veg shops and definitely more than the markets. They do however do 'throw out' boxes of produce that is getting close to being unsellable, bruised or just doesn't look quite right. These boxes are really cheap and earlier this week I picked up two, one was $3 and the other was $4! They were full of lovely produce and it's really forced me to think of some different ways to use it all up so it doesn't go to waste. At the moment we've got a crisper drawer full of apples! Apple crumble anyone?

In one of the boxes were three cucumbers and we're not big salad eaters. The boys would much rather have a plate of vegies than a plate of salad! I just knew we wouldn't eat three cucumbers so instead of them going squishy in the bottom of the fridge I thought I'd have a go at making cucumber pickle! It turned out to be really easy, just a bit dangerous with kids around cause there is hot liquids and hot bottles involved, but the boys were playing happily on the verandah for that bit thank goodness! I was getting the DVD player all warmed up!

Cucumber Pickle
3-4 large green cucumbers, unpeeled, thinly sliced
3 large onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup salt
1 cup water
3 cups vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
sprinkle of pickling spices

Layer the sliced cucumber and onion in a bowl, sprinkling the layers with salt.
Leave to stand for 3 hours.
Bring remaining ingredients to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil for three minutes .
Drain cucumbers and onions and add to pickling liquid. Bring near to boil but do not boil.
Bottle into hot, sterilised jars and seal.

Recipe from NMAA Cookbook, one of my favourite recipe books!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Random Recipe!

I'm sure by now you are all aware of my love of menu planning  but I've decided to mix things up a bit. For one dinner a week I'm going to randomly choose a cookbook and then randomly choose a recipe from that book. Matt, in his infinite numerical/computing wisdom has informed me that just 'randomly choosing' a book and then 'randomly choosing' a recipe is not in fact random. His suggestion was to assign each book a number and then use a random number generator to pick a number, then do it again for the page numbers. Sounds like a bit much for me so I just closed my eyes and ran my hands along the shelves! He did 'pick a page number' for the actual recipe though, so that bit was random.

This week the random recipe is Pasta Primavera from Rose Elliot's The Classic Vegetarian. It's not really my favourite cook book, focusing too much on only a few different types of dishes that I'm not really interested in cooking, roulades for instance. Who makes roulades? And savoury ones at that? Anyway, I don't think I've ever actually cooked anything from it so Saturday will be a first.

Am I dicing with disaster? Maybe. But I'm hoping it will add a bit of zing to our weekly meals which have become a well-known round about.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Over The Weekend We ...

made a start on the chicken coop
continued edging the herb garden with recycled bricks

decided it was time to try out making a sourdough starter

watched new life springing up in the veg garden

played on the verandah

planted two more fruit trees in the orchard

A lovely quiet weekend pottering around the house.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pet Sitting!

We're pet sitting for a week! Yay! Friends have gone on holidays so we're looking after their two rats!

I'm a bit iffy on rodents as pets in theory, but in reality they're really really cute. They are very affectionate and friendly, one in particular loves cuddles and being with people. Matt has always wanted to get rats too. They've only been here one night and he's already informed me on how intelligent they are, that they can be trained etc etc. We did have a couple of mice for a while, back in those uni-student, flat-sharing days, but they met an unfortunate end that was quite a mystery until our flat-mate at the time found a cat in our unit in the middle of the night! We're still not sure if they were eaten or just ran away after the cat had tipped their cage over. Either way, that was the last of our rodent keeping until now!

Anyway, Pink and Britney (yes, they are their names!) are with us now for the week and I hope we'll do a good job looking after them and keeping them safe until their family returns.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Creative Space ...

... is really not very exciting this week. To be honest, I can't see it being very exciting for a while.

I've just been chip chip chipping away at the cardigan for Archie's baptism. I've got about three weeks to get it done. Now, I'm one that normally works best under pressure but I'm starting to get nervous. I've completed the back and left front and I'm halfway through the right front.

So, only 1/2 a front side, two sleeves, front and neck bands,two buttons and all the seaming up to do. In three weeks. Yep, not much pressure!

For some less-stressed creative spaces visit Kootoyoo!

Edit: I just remembered that Kirsty is on hols, lucky thing! I hope you head over and have a wander through her space anyway!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kenny Gets His First Workout

Now that we're all (mostly) settled and I'm back to getting the good, bulk wholemeal flour I've started making our bread again. And boy, how I missed homemade bread! I'm sure my waistline hasn't missed it though!

Elliot loves Kenny too! And yes, my benches are normally this cluttered!

I'm not using the breadmaker anymore, I now much prefer to use Kenny to mix and knead the dough and then shape by hand. For our everyday loaf (which I make about every second day) I get two loaves from the following recipe. I've also been making raisin/fruit bread too so I'll post that recipe once I've perfected it.

The verandah is a great, sunny place for the bread to prove. Especially when Matt is out mowing the grass!

The original recipe that I used was from the Kenwood recipe book that came with Kenny but I've tweaked it a bit.

Everyday Wholemeal Bread

Makes two 700ish gram loaves

750g wholemeal flour
150g white flour
3tsp dried yeast
1 tbls salt
1 tbls bread improver
2 tbls honey
500-600 ml warm water

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix through water until it forms a dough. 
Mix on minimum speed setting for 1 minute and then turn speed up to 1 and knead for 4 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.
Let rise for 1 hour.
Knock down dough with hook on minimum speed and then slowly knead for another minute or so.
Remove from bowl and shape into two loaves. 
Place in oiled bread tins and let rise for at least 30 minutes.
Bake in preheated 230C oven for 10 minutes then reduce 
temperature to 200C and bake for another 15-20 minutes. 
Remove from tins and cool on wire rack.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Painting with Kids - the easy way!

After having a much needed home day the other day, the boys and I got to the afternoon and needed something to do. I couldn't be bothered (as terrible as it sounds) to get all the painting and craft things out for Elliot to decide 2 minutes into the activity that I had to finish it off because he'd had enough. I also couldn't be bothered getting something for Elliot to do and then having to distract Archie with something else while El worked (probably for said 2 minutes).

I decided that water painting on the verandah would keep them both occupied for a while, and boy oh boy, did it work! They both were completely engaged for at least half an hour, until Archie decided it was more fun to tip the containers out and splash in the puddles. Meh, worked for me! After that El had had enough so went off to the garden and Archie swiftly followed.

I just gave them containers of water coloured with food colouring and some sponges and brushes and off they went, painting the verandah balustrading and the walls and windows of the house.

It was such a cheap (super duper cheap), super easy, not super messy and super duper fun! Super!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Creative Space

I'm a bit late with my post today, I had a killer (I'm assuming) migraine this morning. Awful headache and very nauseous. Thankfully the boys both had a sleep today (a rarity in this house) so I had a rest on the lounge with my book and am feeling much better, still a bit of a lingering headache though!

Well the slippers are all done and will be in the post tomorrow so now I'm onto my next project!

I'm working on a short sleeve cardigan type thing for myself! I've never knitted anything for myself before so this is very exciting! Archie's Baptism is coming up in a month or so and the dress I've chosen to wear is a bit, how should I say it, revealing in the boob department! It also shows off a fair bit of upper arm and they're not in the best shape. :)

It is by far the biggest project I've undertaken so there is a very real possibility it won't be ready in time for the Baptism. The bottom section is double moss stitch and the top and sleeves are in an eyelet stitch so it's not overly difficult, just the time consumingness of knitting! I'm doing it in black and the buttons are round, white and mother-of-pearly.

If it's not ready I just suppose I'll have to be all boobie and flabby armie!

Don't forget to visit the other creative spaces today!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Baby-Wearing Apprentice

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Decadent Breakfast

Our regular Sunday breakfast of pancakes was jazzed up a bit by yummy balsamic strawberries!

Wholemeal and Oat Pancakes with Balsamic Strawberries

2cups wholemeal flour
1/4cup oats
2tsp bi-carb soda
3 eggs
1/4cup sugar
1 3/4cups milk
1tbs vinegar

Mix together dry ingredients and eggs. Mix milk and vinegar in separate jug. Slowly stir wet ingredients into flour/egg mixture. Cook 1/4 cupfuls in greased frying pan over moderate heat.

For the strawberries:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp arrowroot/cornflour mixed with 2tbs cold water
250g strawberries, halved or quartered

In small saucepan over low heat dissolve sugar in water and vinegar. Once dissolved add arrowroot/cornflour mixture and simmer until syrupy. Stir through strawberries.

Enjoy on a lazy Sunday morning with family and friends!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Neglected Harvest

Over the weekend we went back to the old house to collect the (second) last trailer load of stuff from the garden and shed, swing set, old mower, compost bins and the like. While we were there I thought I'd better check out the dregs of our Autumn garden and see what was going on. We really neglected the gardens once we'd signed the contract on the new house, we simply spent all of our spare time packing and planning the new garden!

The broad bean bushes were doing really well, though not too many pods. There was one big one that El and I ate raw (yum!) and a couple of others and that was about it. We got three purple (Dragon) carrots and three orange ones, but they're a bit corkscrew like. Still edible and not bad considering we watered sporadically and didn't bother thinning them as they grew. Two pumpkins were just sitting in the garden after the vines had died back! And then there were the potatoes!

Holy smokes! They are amazing! We dug up over 8kg of Desiree potatoes! Again, they were very neglected so we were surprised at the yeild. I hilled them up once and then couldn't be bothered and like the rest of the garden to say they were watered every now and then is being kind. They basically survived on the rain we've had over winter. The plants never actually flowered, but they had all died back. Who knows how much we'd have dug up if we'd actually looked after them?

 Some of the potatoes were enormous!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Surprise in the Post

Well not really for me, but Elliot. I ordered some new crayons from a brilliant online shop Spiral Garden. They have a great range of natural toys and craft supplies. I got really sick of cheaper crayons breaking and snapping, little fingers not being able to manipulate skinny crayons easily and Archie taking massive bites out of softer crayons.

Perfect for toddler sized hands!

These Stockmar block crayons are amazing! There really strong and hard (they've already survived the Archie bite test) and being little solid rectangles they are really good for creating different effects using the different sides for rubbing, corners for definition etc.

This is why we needed some heavy duty crayons!

They survived use by Archie! Excellent!

Elliot put them straight to use doing a couple of drawings to turn into thankyou letters for a lovely gift he and Archie received from a friend. We popped the letter in the post so that someone else would get a surprise from the postman.

After he dictated the letter to me Elliot stamped his name and the letter was ready to post!

And really, who doesn't love getting a surprise in the post?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Creative Space

I'm so happy to report that our first Craft Circle went really well! We had two knitters, two sewers, a knitter that became a sewer after she saw the amazing things being created and one lady who sat nursing her sleeping baby because he wouldn't let her leave the house without him. I was so pleased she even came, when Archie was at that stage (he's only just grown out of it mind you) I was too scared to leave the house! It was a lovely night, we chatted craft, sewing, knitting, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, parenting, schooling, husbands, the election. You know, all those things women talk about when they're together, uninterrupted by children! We're still working out the details on where and how often we'll get together, but I'm pretty sure some people are coming round to mine tonight.

I've finished these slippers and have started work on the next pair, a gift for a friend's birthday next week. In my true style, I've left it until the last minute and am having to adjust the pattern because the pattern is sized US 7-9 and they're pretty big. I hope now this pair won't be too small! If they are I'll have to dash off to Lincraft and buy another two lots of needles to make an in-between pair.

Elliot too has been creating! Taking a page from his Mum's book he's been "knitting" something for Daddy. Even though his "knitting" is more like putting-the-needles-into-some-wool-and-moving-them-around-a-bit-ing the sentiment is there and that is the main thing. He's been asking me on and off over the past week or so to teach him to knit but I'm just not sure he's got the fine motor skills, I mean, he's three! Maybe we could work on a project together.
 All his supplies packed into the boot of his car, ready to go around to his 'home' on the verandah and get knitting.

Sitting at his 'home' on the verandah deep in concentration. Archie and the car are in the garage.

Any suggestions for a three year old interested in knitting?

Don't forget to visit the other creations at Kootoyoo!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Box of Goodness

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Turning the Plan into Reality Part Two

or as otherwise called:

Getting rid of the Grass!

Matt getting rid of the grass to make way for the 14m long herb garden

Our new house has very little landscaping at all. Apart from one established garden bed there is really just 2.5 acres of grass. Lovely to look out over in the mornings, great for the boys to run and play on but not very productive and a lot of work to maintain. Matt mowed for the first time this weekend and it took him an age. That was partly to do with it being the first time we'd mown and have yet to figure out a good and efficient route around the yard and all it's obstacles. The other part was probably a teensy bit due to me doing the bottom half of the front yard (about 1/4 of the block) with the blades going but not lowered fully. Oops! I thought I was doing such a good job and Matt had to go and re-do it all!

On Thursday at the markets I started to put the wheels in motion of the plan and bought some plants from the "herb man" as Elliot and I call him. I bought him out of french lavender and rosemary and also bought punnets of parsley, sage, oregano and chives for the herb garden. I also told the "herb man" that I'd be buying all his lavender and rosemary for the next couple of weeks, he seemed suitably impressed! His herbs are really cheap ($1 for small pots of smaller herbs, $2 a small pot of bigger woodier herbs.) and are great quality. He also has an extensive knowledge of all the herbs he sells and he has a really wide selection too.

Before we could plant though we had to prepare the beds and after a while of digging up the grass by hand we called Matt's brother to see if we could borrow his rotary hoe! Incredibley lazy of us, but we had such a big area to do it was going to take us all weekend just to get the herb garden bed done! Shane and Shelley were around with the hoe in a flash and it took about an hour to do all of the herb garden and about half the area for the vegetable garden. While the (big) boys were still playing with their machinery I got stuck into planting out the herbs and the boys amused themselves playing in the back of the ute. Who needs toys?

Also on the weekend we went on the hunt for cheap garden edging. I really wanted to use recycled bricks for the edges and paths. The have so much character and charm, much more interesting than modern, uniform pavers! We visited the recycling shop at the local dump and found two pallets of bricks from the old Maryborough Sugar Factory! Yahoo! They are lovely, solid bricks with MSF imprinted on one side. What a find! Little pieces of local history in our backyard! We got the lot for just over $100 which is a bit of a bargain! I also found two moccona coffee jars and a Tupperware kids drink bottle that they threw in because we were spending so much money! Score! I wanted to take some pics of them yesterday but it rained all day so it'll have to wait for another time as will the pics of the planted herbs. The rain has been wonderful though, we had over 40ml Sunday night and the tanks are overflowing!

And finally, my favourite photo of the weekend! All of us looking at the camera! Hurrah!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Turning the Plan into Reality Part One!

We have been mulling over the planning of the garden ever since we first inspected the house. We want to make sure we do it right and don't have to re-do anything. But towards the end of last week I had a brainwave with it all and all the elements fell into place. Matt took Friday off so we've had a lovely weekend starting to put all the planning into action!

We're planning to have as much of the veg and fruit garden behind the house as possible, leaving the front as it is (oodles of grass) for now. Down the track we'd love to get some grazing animals to help keep the grass down but we're unsure of what. That is a while away anyway! Also, speaking of the front, we're lining the driveway with a hedge of lavender on either side. It should smell divine!

So below is a photo of my little mud map that came to me quite out of nowhere! I'll do my best to explain it to give you an idea of what we're thinking we'll do with our little piece of Eden.

Firstly, the narrow rectangle running along the bottom of the card is the house, with the back stairs going down to the garden. The squiggly lines coming from the bottom of the steps is a path going off to the clothes line to the right and the parking area and shed to the left. The big blank area to the right of the shed will be edged with bricks and re-gravelled. There will also be a rosemary hedge around this area at the top and along the right-hand side. The little dots to the right of the parking area will be a herb garden with culinary and medicinal herbs. The rosemary hedge will be on the left-hand side of the garden bed and a brick path on the right-hand side. That path will continue past the herb garden, up around the parking area to the left where we'll have the chook house which will open onto the orchard. The line going across the top of the card is going to be a fence to separate the orchard from the rest of the garden so the chooks will have a safe, contained place to free range (away from dogs!). Heading left from the chook house is the bore pump surrounded by a little stand of trees and then beyond that will be the compost bins. We're also thinking about placing a bed of asparagus here because it will be shaded by the shed and should be nice and cool through summer. To the right of all of this will be the veg beds, the eight small rectangles on the card. The veg beds will actually be right up next to the path, but my drawing is not to scale! We're planning to fill up all the remaining space with lots more edible and medicinal plants so that there are lots of windy paths and no grass out the back at all! I'm sure that is a long way off though so we're just taking baby steps for now.

To give it some scale, the shed is a four bay shed. The herb garden is approximately 14m long and 1.5m wide. The fence for the orchard will be about 16m from the back boundary fence of the property. The area we've got organised for vegetable beds initially is 8m x 14m.

Now that I've given a bit of background about what the plan is, tomorrow I'll post more about what we actually achieved over the weekend!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Slightly Taken Aback

Over the past few days this blog has gotten a few more followers and a lot more new readers leaving comments. I absolutely have to say a massive and heartfelt thank you to those of you that have left comments and decided to join up and follow.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and taken aback that people are interested in our little lives and this journey we are on. I love being able to share it with you all and offer a little glimpse into our wonderful, mundane, not-always-exciting lives. We're not off tramping all over the globe (although have pangs of jealousy when others do, my brother is getting ready for 3 weeks in India!), we're not out chaining ourselves to trees or picketing MP's offices (although I've always wanted to have a good demonstrate. I'd love a boob-in or feed-in even more!!!).

We are however, changing our lives and making changes that affect our world from the 'inside' out and I believe that is equally, if not more important than all the protesting and letter writing and grandstanding. If we each live whatever changes we can, surely the collective of all these changes will make a difference? I am daily reminded of Ghandi's quote "Be the change you want to see in the world". Sometimes these changes are small, easy and seemingly insignificant. Other times they are much larger and increasingly difficult. Each has their place and each are important.

So thanks again for the bottom of my heart for sharing this journey with us!

Vic xx

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Creative Space

Today is a very exciting day for me because tonight is ... wait for it ... our first ever "Craft Circle"!!!!!

Over the past few months I've developed a lovely circle of womenfolk, most of whom are crafty or want to be. After talking about starting a formal 'craft time' last week I decided to take the plunge and really get things happening! So tonight is the night! We decided evenings would be better because the children would be asleep, therefore less distracting, plus we could legitimately indulge in wine and dessert! Bliss! In fact the catalyst for these nights was a lovely night a friend and I had one Saturday evening when she came around for a knitting lesson and brought the most decadent chocolate mousse!

Anyway, there should be about 7 or 8 of us which I'm sure will make for an enjoyable evening! Some are knitters, some are crocheters, some are sewers and some are beginner knitters! One lady is even bringing a lino tile that she is designing on. I'm so excited to learn new skills and share my (somewhat limited) skills too.

As well as this, My Creative Space today is continuing on these slippers I've made as a bit of a prototype. I tend to practise on cheaper wool when projects contain new elements, just in case I stuff it up massively. I want to make another pair of these (in decent wool) for a friend's birthday coming up. Luckily for me they're really quick to knit up. I did the first one in a couple of days, so could easily whip up a pair in a week.

I'm really happy with how they've turned out! It's been a steep learning curve because I've never knitted in the round before, nor have I knitted an attached I-Cord. Both went off without a hitch I'm pleased to say! I can also say it was a pleasure to not have to sew seams at the end of the project. That is definitely my least favourite part of knitting!

 One more thing for those mums reading, I should have listened to that Mother's Instinct when things were too quiet yesterday. Elliot and I were on the verandah. He was doing puzzles, I was knitting. I thought Archie was inside playing in El's room. I thought I'd better go and check, just in case. This is what I found:

I knew it was too quiet! I just relieved he didn't put it in the toilet!

Head over to Kootoyoo to check out what some others are creating!

Happy creations!!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Let There Be (Solar) Light!

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