Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh no here comes Christmas! And lactose Intolerance?

It looks like it has been a month since I Blogged so what has happened, so many little things, a kitten has come and gone (we found here in an abandoned house), I have been practicing my roller skating, the peas have died, the rabbit has eaten all the lettuce, the lettuce has regrown and bolted and Summer keeps coming and going!
none of these happenings are inspiringly blog worthy so the blogging has not been done!
Our youngest son has been cranky and developed the most alarming rashes and his face and stomach, not itchy but he has been picking at them and dribbling on them as he also had a runny nose so lots of mouth breathing. I had been smearing him with Calendula, comfrey, hemp oil, lanolin, Dettol, Soove... nothing was looking at the rashes and they weren't  getting better
I was laughingly mentioning his temperament to a customer who told me his youngest was the same until they discovered he was lactose intolerant and then once no longer drinking milk, he was fine.
*bing* a Little bell went off or maybe it was a lightbulb coming on in my head. This cranky child of mine has a serious powdered milk obsession. At Three and a bit he is really too old for a bottle but has been demanding more and more milk bottles and getting furious if he doesn't get one. It has been reminding me of a heroin addict- more little bells in my head (or is that tinnitus?) I have read in passing of allergies or intolerances causing and addictive effect possibly through stimulating adrenals or maybe it was endorphin production stimulation and I thought to myself "It's a weekend so we can't get him to the Doc. anyway, why not try a milk substitute?". So using my trusty Thermomix I whipped up an almond and oat milk substitute flavoured with dates and vanilla and crossed my fingers.
The rash started clearing up with 12 hours of switching and now he is almost back to spot free, today he came to see us in our bedroom and didn't bellow at us once!
It seems almost too much to hope for but this one change (he is still eating a small amount of cheddar cheese) has done wonders in a week. I was going to see if he could be tested for intolerances but apparently the tests can be inconclusive anyway so we will carry on as we are for a while and see how things go!
Oh and did you know it is nearly Christmas?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Three new Skills this week!

Who would have known that this week would bring so many new things!
Early in the week we have welcomed a new family member in the form of Peppa, a five year old ex stud doe rabbit. We are learning about rabbits rapidly but the thing I didn't know is they like to play chasies, at least Peppa does, she loves company and we have been having her hop around inside. there were claims made that she is litter trained but she just seems happy to go anywhere to me! We have given the boys the little cordless vacuum cleaner and they go around vacuuming her "leavings" up which seems to keep us all happy! She chases them and they in turn are surprisingly gentle with her.The cat is scared and Peppa chases him. Most amusing. Peppa is a welcome addition to our funny little household.
So now we have learned to be rabbit owners!

I have also dug out some old singer sewing machines from the shed as next week I have a dance performance and was given a lovely little frock to use as a costume bu the problem is it is too little for me so I have bitten the bullet and I am learning to up-cycle. I have already turned a too small Indian blouse into a wearable one and now I am determined to make a costumes with the aid of the trusty Singer. I have, of course, needed to learn all the basics of how to thread a machine, wind a  bobbin, oil it and so forth which leave me smelling all steam punkish with oil and dust and old metal. I have managed to sew two straps so far, I hope to post a picture when the costume is done. I also intend to do a more in-depth blog post when I have mastered it a wee bit more, one just for my fabulous Vintage Singer machines!(Actually really my darling husbands but I have snaffled them!)
we went to a fundraiser sale for the Van Diemen Roller's (local Roller Derby league- which of course you know all bout, right- if you don't know about Roller Derby please go and Google it, it is wonderful)
I picked up a pair of skates for $5 and have been in our giant shed out the back practising my skating which I haven't done for ummm TWENTY YEARS!(Really, it is hard for me to believe that there is stuff I haven't done for twenty years but there you go)I have picked it up again quite easily I think (It helps having the massive shed to practice in). I did fall over once and realised why they all wear knee pads when they compete *OUCH* but never mind. There's a lesson learned too! I don't know if I have what it takes to be a roller girl but I will go to the info session (I am slightly apprehensive- they are pretty tough ladies! Very nice but they are hardcore they wouldn't be woozling over a bumped knee like me!)
So there we go, rabbit owning, sewing (well ahem, maintaining a sewing machine and a small amount of sewing ) and roller skating all in one week. The garden is growing all by itself and we have purple peas coming one and lots of lettuce. Life is good!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Days and Elder Flowers

 Today has been lovely- we went to a 2nd birthday party which turned out to be a surprise wedding which is so lovely and we were just delighted to be there- a real treat when times are tough!
Yesterday I spotted what would appear to be a flowering elder growing out the back of one of the commercial properties around the corner, not very big but I was excited as I wanted to maker elder flower cordial ever since I tasted it at a local market (but $18 a bottle- yowch!).
At dusk we took a shopping bag down the road and as I was abou to cross I saw on the abandoned block on the corner a large flowering elder *AAAAAAAH*(angelic sort of noises inserted here). This is a great block, I have found parsley plants, apples, blackberries, peaches, weeds for the hens and now elder flowers.
I luckily had a kilo of lemons at home and now have two giant pots of elder flower cordial steeping. I roughly based my cordial on this recipe but I didn't have any citric acid, I will let you know how I go and hopefully I will rustle up some containers for the 3.5 litres of cordial I will have too! It smells so goregous...
Wouldn't elder flowers make the most wonderful confetti for a wedding? I would love to get married again (to the same man I am married to now!) and have lots of canny wedding ideas!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Great Upside Down Tomato Experiment

You've seen them, the very American looking tomato planters that hang from a hook (somewhere...) the box has "as seen on TV" written in red and white letters and and impossibly lush tomato bush hangs productively from what is essentially a bag. (If you go to the link read some of the reviews- I wish I had!) I will admit I was taken in by the cheapness (is that a word? Is my English becoming all appalling?) and I was buying some cheap hanging pots at a cheap shop and thought "Oooh I have hooks on my pergola, I bet they would be perfect to hang from said hooks, I shall buy one and compare tomato growth all scientific like by planting a tomato in another pot too."
So I did. I bought two little heirloom tomatoes ( I really would like to grow from seed but it just doesn't seem to work for me!)and one went into the hanging pot and one into the AS SEEN ON TV! Upside down tomato planter. Well I say "went in" as if it was just as simple as popping it in a pot but it wasn't, it was actually pretty tricky, I managed to squeeze the roots of the seedling in through the aperture at the bottom and stuff the circle of foam inside around the stem to stop the soil running out but getting the soil in wasn't easy, I tried hanging it from the hook on the pergola but then it was too high for me to lift the bag of potting mix up and trying to scoop it in ended up with me getting rather a large amount of the soil in my hair and on my face, so next I recruited my eldest son to hold the bag whilst I put the dirt in but he is five and the plant dragged on the ground and every time I put more potting mix in the plant got lower and lower so I had to drag my ever patient husband away from his useful pottering to hold the bag as he had the height and strength required.
Both tomato plants had been soaked overnight in seaweed solution to avoid transplant shock bu I think the poor upside down one needed more than that, maybe a three course meal and some opium.
I watered both containers well and hung them up and then got sea weedy water on my head because I should have watered them once they were in-situ.
 Two weeks later and the plant in the pot has grown about five inches and the upside down one is looking well...poxy is a good and accurate description I feel, the leaves are yellow and spotty and it has been growing up at an alarming angle (not down- UP!). Both plants had the same amount of water and seaweed solution, I even threw them  some blood and bone but the upside down one has been doing the plant equivalent of looking at me hollow eyed, claiming it is alright and then coughing blood into it's hanky before trying to hide it from me (can one go too far when using metaphor to personify plants? This writer says no!).
I couldn't bear it anymore, after checking the healthy plant I noted the roots had rapidly spreading and even she was outgrowing her pot so I grabbed a box we found in the shed and planted them out together so they can be free and grow as they are meant to (see the box? That is a sweet box!).Hopefully the upside down one will straighten and flourish and bear much fruit, we shall see... In the meantime can anyone think of anything useful I can do with the seemingly Useless upside down planter bag?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spring and Boasting Etcetera

An age has passed since I last blogged (sounds like a mildly dirty word actually). And Spring has been busy bursting forth all over the place. We have been exploring our surrounds and enjoying sunshine and eating fresh food and gardening and all the right things one does when one emerges from hibernation.
A stylish way wear one's smoothie
The latest trend to take hold here is the green smoothie which has been started up by request from small people. it is interesting to see our children's tastes develop at their own pace. Our nearly five year old loves avocado and strawberries on his weetbix at the moment and raw vegies with dips are very popular too, so if the measure of a mother is (as many seem to think) how many vegetables her children eat I feel like Super Mum at present!
Actually I am bursting with pride as my little folk scramble about on rocks and up fences and ask for vegetables and help each other and ask inquisitive questions. They are most devoted to the chickens and the garden and carefully watering and feeding. the raised bed has been planted with lettuce and tagetes marigolds and basil and a variety of greens and it was done by the boys. they come out in the morning and collect greens from the garden for their alarming looking smoothies. Three year old Lincoln thanks the chickens sweetly when he collect the eggs and I have the overwhelming feeling that this style of child raising is right. I have to be firm with them and I do find if I am not taking care of my own stress that my tolerance of their sometime too vigorous shenanigans is greatly minimised but we are all learning together!
I wonder what other people's children are doing that make their parents beam with pride? It seems that sharing joy in your children (which I think is warranted after the tough first couple of years they put you through and should be welcomed) is seen as boasting and skiting  and should be avoided. Well don't avoid it, share your joy here and I promise you you don't run the risk of boring me with their antics!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Something for nothing?

I suppose there is no such thing as a free lunch but this has got to be coming close.I hope to have lunch from it at some stage at any rate.
I have been busy re-purposing and recycling. I found myself with a couple of wooden boxes and some old enamel bowls and pots after a random auction box lot purchase. Too chipped and damaged to be used in the house I drilled the bottoms for drainage and popped some jaunty flowers in the pots and filled the boxes with plastic pots I have accumulated I love this little display, it fills my heart with gladness! You will note that the rocket looks sort of spindly, the display seems to fill my chickens (well the one who keeps hopping out of the run) with rocket.
I have been wanting to construct a raised bed on the last remaining corner of soil in the courtyard as it is dry and lifeless and full of pebbles and those recycle glass gravelly things which make growing hard. we have toyed with the idea of using a piece of galvanised water tank from round the back of the shed but it was just going to be too big to handle so I had to put my thinking cap on. 'Round the back of the shed is a veritable treasure trove(read:pile of rubbish) left by previous owners so I tromped around to see what I could find.
Much to my delight I found everything I needed, an old wooden washtub with the bottom rotted out forms the raised part in the middle and the outer edges are formed by old pieces of wood, most joyous of all I found a hardwood sleeper, only slightly rotten on the ends which is just the right length for the front piece.
I have filled the bed with the most wonderful composted "stuff" I have found.. round the back of the shed of course. There is some ivy we are trying to kill off down there as well as the junk and I have discovered the most beautiful compost under the ivy and the rubbish on top of the concrete slab. It just goes to show that whoever thought that they would defeat nature by concreting and paving everything was wrong, nature will always win out of you try to fight her.
So just in time for the onset of Spring (I know you are out there peeping waiting for Winter to end..)I have a raised bed waiting for radishes or tomatoes, lettuce and sorrel seeds are already in... what else do I want I wonder? I do like the anticipation of Spring just around the corner.
Before I forget you must admire my purple sprouting broccoli which is purple and sprouting! I am looking forward to trying some after all this time!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I sit here in a ponderous mood, waiting for my just consumed soup and tea to settle and enabling a slightly less waddly gait (too many liquids seems to make me walk like a penguin) I think about the fact that I havn't been blogging for a while. I have found myself in wallowy sort of moods and thinking, "I will wait to blog, I'll wait until something happens" but I have not yet figured out what that something would be so I will share my ponderings with you in the mean time. 
I have been waiting for the "right time" to blog but I am sure if I look there are many other things I have been waiting for the right time to do, write a novel, plant some lettuce? I find that sometimes there are extremely good reasons for waiting for the righ time, such as the fact the chickens escape and eat everything green at the moment so planting lettuce might not be a good idea, I might not have a novel bursting forth right now but surely abandoning writing altogether until I have a fully formed novel ready to type out is a silly idea...and besides, I can raise the lettuce in a styrofoam box which I can bring inside if the chickens are out...
I suspect that a lot of my waiting is a fear of failure, a fear of rejection and that chatty little devil inside that wants me to believe that it isn't worth me trying things. Sometimes I control it sometimes the other way around but one thing is clear to me, there is far to much pointlesss waiting going on in the world in general.
What are you waiting to do? What dream or chore has been hovering around being perpetually put off whilst you await the alignment of the stars or the right phase of the moon or for your children to grow up? What is it that's really stopping you and what are you going to do to overcome it?
Well my soup has settled now so I will leave you with your self examination and next time post about my vintage enameled pots and wooden boxes I have repurposed as planters!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Gratuitous cat photo- he is in the Chicken yard!
Today I decided to finally remove a knackered old chest of drawers from the boys room. The poor thing had been in situ when we moved into our previous house and had been repaired several times by us. It was a pretty cheap bit of pine furniture to start with.
Not being one to throw things away I started to imagine a chicken shelter and with the able assistance of my lovely husband and a couple of other spare drawers we turned it on it's side, popped a perch at the top, a platform to catch droppings and a drawer at the bottom as a nesting box. Oh don't forget the *ahem* beautifully rustic ramp we have made.
mmm Scrappy, but useable!
 It goes well with the nest made from a TV cabinet the boys were too rough with. An egg has already been laid! The shelter is made from some pieces of cut down water tank we found behind a shed at our place. It's perhaps not the most elegant of chicken houses but we bodged it for free and it will keep them warm and dry. It remains to be seen if the perch will ever get used though!
Don't they look lovely now they have feathers!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Winter Sun. Whole foods.

It seems an eternity since I last blogged. I keep trying but the posts are half baked (which reminds me I have a slice in the oven and mustn't forget!).
I have been getting more exercise, having fun using body weight exercise to increase my strength and fitness, squats, pushups, crunches etc every second day to try to keep warm and keep the happy endorphins pulsing through to keep away the SAD I seem to be prone to in Winter. I have also been taking walks every day in the watery winter sunshine and so far so good!
 I notice that when I exercise more I start eating better and when I eat better I have more energy and exercise more, whole foods and raw foods are playing a bigger part in my diet these days and my energy levels are really good! I have bought some rapadura to use instead of sugar, bought some whole organic rye and celtic salt to try to make my cooking that little bit more nutritious rather than using all refined products. Resting on the bench is my first attempt at sprouted bread, something I had given up eating as it costs $6.50 a loaf but it seems it may be simple enough to make, there are recipes and variations everywhere but I have sprouted some rye, ground it up (in the Thermomix of course, but I believe any good food processor would do it) and mixed in some rapadura and yeast, left to prove and hopefully I can bake it and have a halfway convincing result!

I have made a whole rye loaf (not sprouted), milling the rye in the Thermomix and using the flour with a bit of vital wheat gluten, yeast and salt. I kneaded it a lot and left it to prove a long time (which seemed to produce a kind of alcohol but didn't affect the finished product) it made a dark, sour dense loaf which luckily was exactly what I wanted!
 450G rye (ground into flour in Thermomix)
50g vital wheat gluten
360g water
50g butter
5 g salt
40g rapadura
10g yeast

mixed for 20 seconds on speed 5 and then 1 minute 30 secs on interval, left to prove over night, kneaded by hand for 10 minutes and proved for another hour, baked at 220C (could be done with a stand mixer or food processor or by hand I guess!)

I also made a sort of cream cheese/marscapone  which I spread on the bread and had with red onion, delicious but gave me heart burn (better check on that slice!.. still good- the thermostat isn't the best on the oven so times vary wildly...).
The boys have started at another day care where they have their own lunches instead of having them provided which is working out much better- it turned out that Master 4 was only ever eating a tiny amount of vegetables at lunchtime and nothing else so it is much better for everyone (and our wallets- the new centre is much cheaper!) as he is helping choose what goes into his lunch box and consequently actually eating a lot of it. It is good practice for when he goes to to school next year and for me too as I will be getting repertoire of lunchbox friendly snacks! So far I have few favourites (or rather the boys do):
carrot and cheese sticks
raisins and wholemeal crackers,
fruit buns (homemade).
I will try to incorporate yoghurt and popcorn in next week. 
The slice (with ground almonds, ground oats and rapadura to give it some redeeming features) is out of the oven now, slightly unevenly cooked but one day I will get a new oven...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I feel very privileged to count myself amongst the people who have discovered the art of being thrifty or canny as an enjoyable lifestyle option. Thriftiness does not indicate meanness, canniness does not mean bland, it can mean a way to a much higher standard of living and personal satisfaction with life.
I have always been fascinated with "Mending and making do". I am not sure if it is stories from the Depression from my Grandmother or an even more romanticised version through novels, movies and TV shows but the idea of making the best of what's available has always appealed to me. I derive a lot of satisfaction from a thrift drive and a good session of belt tightening and creativity (rather perversely some might say!). When you trade a mindless consumption habit for a mindful one you are exploring beyond the realms of the norm, thinking outside the box, it is a subversive subculture of practical domestic creativity which not only holds it's own with the end result but is great for your bank balance and in a lot of cases it is better for the planet and your health too.
There are the obvious things you can do like have a budget or a meal plan or no credit cards or pay off  your mortgage early with large repayments but let's be frank, these things can be so boring if you don't spice it up a bit! I am one of those strange and wondrous creatures, a (semi) reformed compulsive shopper (I used to smoke like a chimney and could drink a football team under the table too but that's another story) who has channeled the energy previously used for soulless consumerism into a more productive outlet. Don't get me wrong I still shop but I make sure it is mindful and wise shopping, not just for the hell of it. I still make extravagant purchases on occasion but they are well researched purchases at the best possible price. I still have play money but I get it from surveys, mystery shops, I receive samples and sell scrap metal and goods I have finished with to get it. We eat out but have coupons or special offers when we can and enjoy a lot of free activities like walking, the beach, have a museum membership so we can see all the exhibits that come to town and ten percent discount at the gift shop (which is a great place for gifts).
I think that increasing your standard of living without increasing your budget is about getting to know the area around you, where the best places for cheap fresh local produce are, what the best charity shops are, where you can go for free entertainment, even where the cheap petrol is. 
There are other thrifty tricks which are more universal, using an snipe program on eBay and learning which misspelled keywords might find you a treasure, going "Worldwide search" from another country's eBay site is a good one- it can pickup lots of items you would never see even if you tried Worldwide from your local eBay.
I never buy new for most things, I find that quality goods are so much better and cheaper second hand than cheap new products ever were. There is no saving if you have to keep buying cheap t-shirts which go all shapeless and pilly after one wear, second hand products have been put through their paces and if they are still looking and performing well they will out last cheap rubbish every time. There is obviously no saving if you aren't going to where it or use it either and no-one's standard of living is increased by having too much "stuff" no matter how cheap!
Blogs and forums are a wonderful resource of thrifty ideas and a sort of unofficial support group for those of us who prefer to be ourselves and not buy the latest tat because it is "in" or because we saw it, those of us who have home haircuts and wonderful homemade bread, who are sick of weird tasting convenience foods that don't seem to have any convenience or food contained therein, those of us who would rather take the children for a ramble around than a noisy expensive playcentre, or give them blocks than computer games, who encourage our children to grow naturally rather than scheduling them (expensively) within an inch of their lives.
I enjoy my way of living, it promotes being aware of my surroundings and my actions, is better for the planet, is healthier and I enjoy talking to like minded folk about such things, my children are growing up with skills and we are all learning new skills as a family, I hope you enjoy it too.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Praise of the thermomix.

Copyright Vorwerk.
Some would probably say that the Thermomix is too expensive. They might be right, I suppose it would depend on how much you use and what for. Some people don't use their bread makers either and if that is the case a $150 bread maker is too expensive as well, I personally have used my bread maker every week for two years now and the Thermomix is getting a workout too. So far this week: Peanut butter (wonderful and simple), beetroot dip, soup, biscuits (with freshly ground oat flour and almond meal), mayonnaise, coleslaw, vege burgers, muesli.
I am able to use whole foods as it cuts them so finely that skin etc isn't an issue and best of all my four year old eats anything made in the Thermomix, I mean anything including red cabbage coleslaw and beetroot dip (he doesn't care for coleslaw normally). I have not yet begun to find out all it can do yet!

Better get back to the kitchen!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A sudden change of gear.

I am typing this from my "new" office which is is reality a couple of years older than me and has all the wood paneling and green laminex to support it's claim on 70's chic. The weather is wild and wooly, rain battering the windows, the awnings (green) and moaning and flapping but we are all snug inside our new house/offices.
It feels like home already!
Just before the move which happened last Tuesday in earnest I received my THERMOMIX posted from Spain with an amazing looking collection of Spanish recipes which I am having to teach myself to read and even though I haven't really got any recipes for it yet I am having so much fun experimenting with food in the wonderful beasty. I have used it at least once a day for the last two weeks, often more, two or three times in the day.
There is an amazing amount of recipes, forums, blogs and videos for Thermomix use and I must say I can't wait to get into some of the more wholefood-ish recipes for the new addition to the family. Luckily our new kitchen is very long galley style (also there are so many powerpoints and cupboards in this house) so Thermomix can have a corner all to it's self. 
The garden is tiny at the new house but I am sort of looking forward to the challenge of some innovative container gardening, I have just found a stash of strange abandoned things like old sleepers and bits of galvanised iron sheds and cuts from water tanks round the side of the enormous shed which Darling Husband looked at with horror but I think could be a great place to find materials for raised beds, chicken coops and scrap metal for some pocket money!
Unfortunately the weather is too wild for any outside photos today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time wasting and self actualisation?

I am sitting waiting for a potential tenant to look through our house, one cottage has already found some young women for when we move out but the other is yet to have an application so this means lots of sitting and waiting whilst everyone else in the (other) house has a siesta.
I have been finding I am doing a lot of time wasting in these moments, reading rubbish online and refreshing the email etc so I thought at least I can pop a blog in whilst I wait.

I have been watching lots of Escape to the Country and being very charmed by Alistair Appleton (even his name is adorable) inevitably, as he is handsome, stylish, charming, spiritually enlightened he is of course gay which is a terrible waste from my perspective (probably not from others' of course). I was interested to find that he is a long time practitioner of mindfulness meditation and have been reading his blog eagerly.
Definitely food for thought and it gets me thinking about the value of meditation in our lives and making it part of mine once again as I find my deep-seated distrust in myself and my stress levels can fluctuate badly and affect my relationships with my dear little family, not to mention myself. I doubt anyone can reach their potential whilst not being present in the here and now and live and being comfortable with who they truly are.
Meditation brings peace to the monkey chatter in the mind and is the best option I can think of for a path to self actualisation. Living in the here and now is something so often neglected by us all and  I have been having discussions with my darling husband about the implications of doing so verses muddling on regardless. Makes for an interesting conversation. I might have to pull out the Dhammapada and revisit the Buddhist principles.
Deep stuff coming from the fact I had to Wikipedia Alistair Appleton on account of his adorable dimples and fears that my dream of having him as a backup husband were to be dashed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Purple! Sprouting! Broccoli!

Gardening has come to nearly a standstill at Apple Isle Cottages as we prepare for our big move three doors up the road. 
After raking the frost affected pumpkin vines and harvesting the last of the volunteers (they might actually be some kind of squash, I should ask the hens as they seem to have been the ones who planted them- I certainly didn't) one of the only things left standing in the garden was a lone purple sprouting broccoli plant. 
Spindly is the word I would use. This poor plant has been attacked but thousands (maybe) of caterpillars, pecked by chickens and swamped by pumpkin vines and yet it remains standing (if rather rangier than I expected) I am giving it a monthly derris dusting but that is all the "good"attention it has been getting. Poor thing. I couldn't just leave it. I have soaked it with seasol and bundled it into an old Styrofoam box with it's soil and soaked it with more seasol (evidently it should help prevent transplant shock) and will trundle it up the road with us to see if it will ever do anything edible for me.
It is seriously cold and frosty here and I am eating a lot of cheese which I am kidding myself is some kind of keep warm tactic.. that's why I bought a whole wheel of brie (that would be a kilo of it).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buttons and Biscotti

I am most smug today as I am munching on homemade biscotti which is delightfully full to the brim with redeeming features like no added fat, free range eggs and almonds as well as feeling most sophisticated and foodie. To think I nearly made cookie press biscuits instead! the recipe I used is here but I used brown sugar because white sugar is so boring to me nowadays and I used mandarin zest as I didn't have any lemons, only that lemon juice that comes in a bottle (and to think I described myself as a foodie in the last sentence! What a fraud- what foodie doesn't have lemons?). If you haven't made biscotti before and you love baking, I highly recommend it, they are so dunkable and delicious! surprisingly easy too!

I have also made myself some hairclips and earrings by gluing cute buttons to earring backs and bobbypins which have gluing "plates"on them (which I bought online I now have to make 25 pairs of each! They are so cheap to buy in large quantities and expensive in small ones). It's not really highly creative- more like getting two objects from two different places and putting them in the same place with glue- but no-one else I know will have them and I think they are cute. I fear I will now commence a frenzy of gluing and biscotti baking which could last for weeks!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Autumnal Wonderings and Wanderings.

Today the "footy" was on (although how it can be called Football when the ball is ovoid and there is far more jumping than foot contact is still beyond me) which means our street was packed and the honking of the siren at the stadium echoes through our yard so we had to find solace elsewhere. We went for an epic stroll with a shaky stroller (should have taken the pram- it was my fault I thought the stroller was a good idea) through the "Forest" which is a really the old rubbish tip site with trees and playgrounds. the Autumn sunshine is perfect for this and very recharging.
There is a small pond amongst the twisted willows with watercress growing in it and the sounds of frogs and even though it is near the football ovals (real football, where one kicks a round ball) and there are many dog walkers around with ridiculously fluffy canine friends the tranquility is amazing.
 We eventually made our way to the playground and the boys had a lunch of tiny felafel I made from an instant mix and little tomatoes and carrot sticks with tahini watered down for dipping. the lunch went down a treat and was so simple and quick to make and healthy so it gets a thumbs up from everyone.
on the way home the littlest man fell fast asleep. It was a huge walk but it was a good, healthy family day for free in the sunshine so it was worth all the walking.
I have started using Facebook again, mostly for business reasons initially, but have found that there are many options now for blocking ads and applications (like those infernal games so many people seem to like-do you really have to pay for them? You couldn't pay me to play them...well at any rate my price would have to be high!).
I have found that this time round I have been able to make Facebook work for me much better since a few upgrades and changes have been made and consequently it is going towards helping my "social" life such as it is and I feel less isolated now. I do see people getting sucked into abysses of their own making an arguments they shouldn't be having and wasting time they don't have but I suppose to be fair there are many other places on the 'net to do this too. I have had a massive rush on friends from the Selfsufficient'ish forum which is wonderful and I think I have nearly doubled my friends list. It is a shame that most of them are asleep when I am awake and vice versa but at least I can stay in good contact with Facebook and the forum!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Challenges Inspire from the other side of the world!

Yesterday I found myself stuck inside on a rainy day, doing some renovations so we can prepare to rent out the house and my poor husband had no biccies for his tea he had just run out of peanuts (which are where he gets most of his calories!) and the weather was just awful so I whipped up a batch of Anzac biccies (with half honey and half treacle instead of golden syrup as I didn't have any and 2/3 jaggery,1/3 white sugar for slightly more minerals etc) and roasted some almonds. This sent me on an eating out of the pantry frenzy and I made a brown rice pie/casserole thing with leftover tomato sauce from Saturday's pizza and half a can of baked beans from Sunday. When combined with rice and cheese and, onion, frozen corn and peas, grated carrots(home grown) and two eggs from our hens (one was broken in the nest and needed using up) and some Mexican taco flavouring I found in the back of the pantry it was amazingly good and very popular with the kiddies. I also made a wholemeal loaf in the breadmaker.
It is funny, I have a very well stocked pantry at present so it is no challenge (if I am honest) to make delicious and wholesome food with what I have but it is the mindset  I have that makes it so much more satisfying.  So thankyou to Frugal Queen and Mumma Troll for inspiring my cooking again- my wallet and family thank you for it! I shall be following your challenges closely.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Suddenly- immenent moving!

On Thursday we spotted it- two real estate signs down the road on the former plumbers house and office and the little house next door. We had often wondered about the large sheds at the back and experience shed envy as we really needed some good big shed for our business. Friday we went through and found not only a neat little office set up (four cubicles and a reception desk no less, but a fastidiously renovated interior, rather tizzy early nineties but ever so immaculately done with a walk in pantry in the sky-lighted kitchen, a separate utility/laundry room and in the master bedroom a walk in robe and an en-suite. These features combined with the neat courtyard and definitely adequate triangle of garden which will house chickens and vegetables have taken hold of us an we made an offer which has been accepted so all things going to plan in six weeks we move three doors down the road which should be an easy move for us!

Unfortunately this is going to make establishing the winter veg. hard but on the bright side the chickens escaped yesterday and ate all the seedlings for the third or fourth time anyway destroying last weekends hard work (ah, bless them!)
We will rent these two cottages out and there is another house included with the new one- it is divided into two and has two tenants who have been putting up with mould from sweating tin ceilings for many many years so we hope an exhaust fan or two will help them and of course there rent payments will help pay our mortgage.
The move will really help our business along too- having proper offices and facilities. Behind the brown facade it was, once upon a time, a basic two bed cottage but it has been gutted and modernised. I think life will be easier than in our current basic cottages with slopey floors and sash windows.
Last night I was so excited about setting up the much more compact garden that I couldn't sleep, it was like being 5 again on Christmas eve- how will I last six whole weeks?
Life is never dull with us!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Return to Weirdo, Lefty, Pinko life...

We have had two little ones and their dad staying for 9 days at our hastily renovated cottage (they are co-joined and we have our office in the "spare one"which has been largely un-renovated for over a year now!).
It was even louder and more chaotic than usual but it served to highlight the difference between the way we live and "the usual" way to live.
I noticed the girls ate much more processed food than we do, (well we do eat it and of course the stuff I make is processed, but largely by myself) and also watch a lot more TV than us, (we can't stand to have the TV on during the day, it is a night time thing only and certainly not hours and hours of it for littlies no matter how "educational" the show is) lights were left on all night as the girls are scared of the dark and showers were had by all at least once a day but sometimes more- hair washed every time and the girls used deoderant each time( they are five- is this normal? It would never occur to me to deoderise a child who hasn't yet developed sweat glands like an adult). The funny thing is I didn't realise how "weird" we were until the visit. I suppose I read forums and and blogs on subjects that interest me such as cooking, natural health, frugality, simplicity and surround myself with information which gives me a bit of a skewed perspective on life- it lets me forget that most "normal"folk are very wasteful and not mindful. So I give us a smug little pat on the back for that. We also deserve one for being over 100kw down on our electricity consumption compared to the same quarter last year. Hurrah for us!
Since the visitors left I have been growing sprouts, planting vegies, making bread and fermenting kefir like a hippy possessed, I guess I had withdrawals.
I have rejuvenated some kefir grains and they are growing very very well, they seem to like ground ginger and jaggery best. They are water grains which somehow ended up with my milk ones. I don't like milk kefir so they languished in the back of my fridge for ages and I tried to convert them all the water grains but the milk ones promptly died, hence my interest in reproducing the small amount of water ones I had.
I do sleep better when I have had a cup of kefir but sometimes it is just because I think I am a bit tipsy because I brewed it for too long. I am not sure of the benefits for me really but maybe it is doing me good...
I seem to have an answer for my anxiety/depressive attacks- I take 1000mg of agnes castus vitex (the herb chaste tree) every morning with a 1500mg fish oil and every month or so I take magnesium for a week.
So far so good! I am a pretty happy camper so I am keeping up the herbs with the fish oil, exercise and sun exposure which I blogged about previously.
Another weirdo lefty pinko treatment I am doing is taking coconut oil, if you Google you will be swamped with info about how it cures everything and makes you lose weight and makes you cleverer with clearer skin etc. I don't know about that but I have been taking about two tablespoons a day in food (mixed in with muesli or in a  cup of warm soy milk) and although I am no lighter after a week I am full of energy! Seriously I haven't felt this good in years! So, although I am not fussed on the taste so much, the new lease on life it has given me is too good to pass up... we will see if it helps with weight loss later on! I have just cut myself a fringe as I was feeling decidedly unstylish but I will have to set up a photo as I am far too vain to simply post one of me with greasy hair, blotchy skin and asymmetrical face as I am now (probably stuck with the face though I guess)!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Too Cheap?

Life has been as usual chaotic around here and what with escaping chickens repeatedly eating the fresh plantings and car accidents and renovating it can be hard to settle down to a definitive blog topic.
I went to Kmart today to buy some pillows as we have had to get our domestic situation into gear for a friend and his two little girls are coming to stay tomorrow for eight days. The last two weeks have been a frenzy of painting, bed buying( $30 each at St Vincent De Paul charity shop) Freecycling (the logistics of collecting two mattresses and a sofabed whilst looking after two small children!) and random dusting. Anyway, the pillows; I found a pack of two for $7, then Belgian chocolate for $2 a bar, shoes for $3 (lots) and a pack of five knickers for me for $5. Now I never thought I would be the type to think something was so cheap I would doubt it's quality but seriously how can they make a profit on cotton knickers for $1 a pair or shoes for work for $3 if the quality is any good or the conditions of the workers is good?. once upon a time I would have gone into a buying frenzy but I found although I needed the cheap pillows and couldn't go past the cheap chocolate (just to see... the Belgian dark one is vegan too) I balked at buying armloads of cheap clothing etc that was destined to fit poorly and become landfill quickly. these days I really genuinely prefer to buy second hand as I find a twinge of conscience when I buy ridiculously cheap products (unless they are obviously of a good, long lasting quality). I used to be a classic shopaholic but have found I enjoy shopping more if it is a bit of a challenge, hunting out worthwhile bargains gives me a thrill whereas buying loads of cheap stuff that looks cheap, feels cheap and is so mass produced half of town will have it seems empty to me nowadays.
There was a woman frantically filling her trolley with $3 shoes- how many pairs could she really need? I hope there was a background story and she was buying them for her family as well but I fear she was just taken in by the price and they will be coming soon to a landfill near you.
I was a bit taken aback by the fact you can also buy 24 hours a day and use "self serve" checkouts to buy your ridiculously cheap gear at 2am... am I overreacting?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to be a perfect Housewife?

I started this post with a right Royal whinge about the weather coming over all cold when it shouldn't be this way until May but today we had beautiful weather so we went for a traipse to the Seaside and had lunch at Georgetown and saw some Penguin Burrows with Penguins in them and have fitted a (new- well one from the spare room to replace the awful one in the sitting room) woodheater and so now things don't seem so grim if it is cold from now on.
So I had to find a new topic to blog on.
Then I made a bread and butter pudding from one of the many old cookbooks I have collected over the years "Our Cooking"with Flora Pell. It was awful, tasteless bland soggy pap and not like the firm golden dense puddingsI have had of late. Does anyone know a good tried and true bread and butter pudding recipe?
I have found that although I can't stop collecting them, my old cookbooks are nearly useless when it comes to assisting you to make decent food. I did make a decent rough puff pastry from a turn of the 20th Century book but by and large the results are underwhelming at best and jolly abysmal at worst. This is partly due to the vagueness of many of the old recipes where you find a previously unmentioned yet vital ingredient popping up in the middle of a recipe method or omitting the amount of a given ingredient leaving it to your unguided imagination, or measurements such as one breakfast cup of milk, or cut up small. I love old books but I have to confess I think food is getting better so I find that turning to online resources with the added bonus of reviews rather than the One Shilling Mrs Beeton's (who by the way was never a Household manager herself and plaigarised much of her content...) is a more reliable method of finding recipes.
I use my Margaret Fulton cook books, a large expensive one called "The Cooks Book", a Mrs Beeton's cakes and baking (definitely not a Victorian era collection of recipes but instead trading on her name years after her untimely death probably from Syphilis) and my bread maker recipe book but everything else I regularly turn to is an online recipe I have pasted into my own recipe book.
I find online recipes can be a bit unreliable too, like a recipe for "Rich Tea Biscuits" which were claimed to be a British favourite- perfect for dunking so I started the recipe and then wondered why there was no sugar, or currants and realised to my horror I was in the midst of a batch of scones! North Americans call scones biscuits. Luckily I improvised and ended up making a passable oat biscuit (a proper biscuit) instead.
I like the fresh loaf for it's amazingly helpful bread obsessed forum members, for it's variety of recipes from many sources and comments and any number of vegetarian and Indian food websites. And of course blogs, probably a food blog with step by step instructions and photos, so thank you to those who take the time to post such helpful things- you are better than a Mrs Beeton!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is that Autumn I can feel?

The weather features heavily in my blog posts but it is a real influence here, it feels right to be influenced by the forces of nature rather than airconditioned, artificially ventilated and heated spaces with nothing natural.
We have wonderful weather at the moment and the zucchinis(courgettes- Jess- sounds so much nicer and easier for the baby to say) are growing well, I am letting them get bigger than usual so I can make some relish as last years is nearly done. The amazing sunflower is bowing it's head under the weight of the seeds and the corn will be ready any day now (if only I knew how to tell- I picked one which looked good but it was immature)
The sun is fierce but the Morning and afternoon light has a golden, muted feel to it which makes me think autumn is just about here- I shall collect many bags of leaves for mulching and layering in no dig gardens, hunt of mushrooms and savour the blackberries whilst the boys participate in the time honoured childish pursuit of "scuffling" the leaves in the their wellies. I love autumn!
I some plants are growing well and others I had given up on, like my eggplant (Aubergine Jess- parle Vous Francais, ummm un petit pous- errr non but it sounds good er bonne, oui? so maybe one day I will learn.) and I had a look at it today and BEHOLD! a beautiful tiny aubergine!

At the markets on Sunday we found a Fuchsia stall by following people carrying astonishing fuchsia plants and the lady gave Master Four a  Shasta daisy in a gift wrapped pot with a heart shaped decoration complete with wooden lady bird because "he looked like a gardener" he was absolutely delighted (and I promptly bought a gorgeous flamboyant fuchsia for $5) and we have planted his daisy in the front yard. Bless the boys, they really like gardening- I have found I even prefer gardening with them to gardening without them!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chickens and corn and crazy weather...

Our weather has been mild, then hot, then muggy which makes for interesting gardening but of course nothing compared to the awful trials other folk are having, blizzards in the Northern hemisphere, floods and cyclones in ours...
Our blackberries are going well, I must plant some raspberries this year and we have been enjoying the locally grown cherries immensely, they are nearly too big and juicy to pop in your mouth- more like eating a small plum! Little Master Two is, well, fond of berries doesn't quite cut it- he is a sight to behold when he gets hold of any kind of berry, cherry or grape, they are shoved into his mouth so fast it is quite astonishing- I am trying to get him to slow down as I am worried about the choking hazard. He accompanies me when I pick the blackberries and says "Spiky" when I ask him what spiky means hes says "spiky hurts me" so he seems to understand that staying away from the brambles is a good idea.I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said "A Berry" what sort of berry? "A Cherry" to which his older brother says "Well he will need eyes and little feet- I am going to be a pirate when I grow up, when I am five".
He has developed a quirk of accusing innocent animals of doing nasty things to him, even if they are in a paddock and he is not- or they are on the telly. "doggy, doggy biting me" (or Porsey, or birdy or chicken, or elephant ) no-one is safe from the accusations, even an angelic baby girl of about nine months firmly strapped into her stroller who dared to say "Bah" at him was dropped in it "baby biting meeee".
I have put the boys to work and they seem to like raking and building gardens so we are slowly reclaiming the yard from the awful amateur concrete which is slowly cracking and sinking and instead replacing it with my amateurish garden where I simply take out the lump and build a no dig garden on top  with whatever I happen to have on hand. What I happen to have on hand at the moment is mountains of pea straw! I feel very rich having had five bales and a bag of pulverised cow manure delivered. This has allowed me to mulch the garden I had the chickens weeding for me (dull roar philosophy means no-one is safe from me putting them to work!) and that is ready for the next round of planting. Interestingly the hens went off the lay when they were in that garden and we are back to two eggs for the last three days that they have been back in their house which now has an extended run/yard. they were also suffering from being egg bound which was a bit scary as I thought one was going to die on me- I had a very eye opening experience feeling for broken shell up her vent (it behaves like a mouth- very sci-fi- I almost couldn't go ahead because I was rather alarmed by the sucking, kissing motion it made!) but I did gently extract the broken shell and then used a nasal irrigator ( small turkey baster thing-supposed to be for babies noses but is clearly an awful torture for them- glad I found another use for it!) to "douche" the vent with a sea salt and calendula solution and held her over the sink until there was no more yucky yellow/white stuff or congealed blood- then dosed her up with a strong garlic infusion to which I added some comfrey tincture and then added garlic and double strength raw apple cider vinegar to the drinking water. She went back with the others and laid an egg the next day.
It would seem that unless you are a commercial poultry farmer the Hyline brown egg sizes can cause you some problems- the methods for controlling egg sizes and shell; thickness are very complicated scientific amounts of Amino acids- not free ranging eating weeds and local layer pellets and scraps! What we have learned from this is don't believe it when people tell you your situation is hopeless- you have nothing to lose by trying to make it better (I found that all info about chickens who had had eggs break inside them was telling me they would die and there was nothing I could do) and that next lot of hens we will be getting some heritage breeds instead of weird MonSanto-esque commercially developed chickens....

Master Four is considering giving up being a pirate if he can be a farmer and have some heavy plant machinery as he tells me he is a really good farmer as he feed the chickens, builds gardens and wanders through the rambling pumpkins and upright corn which he tells me is "just like a field".
I have a massive amount I chives I have rescued from the neighbours garden- the landlord has given me free rein over anything living- he is going to concrete the lot so I am grabbing what I can before he does so... apparently it will be more rentable like that!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

After a Pause...

I must drop in and read everyone's blogs! The Silly season is over for us- we discovered that we have expanded our business a bit too quickly for the just the two of us- next Christmas we must employ some help...I think I had a couple of nervous breakdowns (but they are not called that anymore for some reason- I think it is an apt name) and am seeing a very helpful registered psychologist every so often who is giving me great practical ideas to help with our monstrous and clever beautiful kidlets who are sweeter and more amazing every day if still far from angelic!
the garden is going great guns- first courgette and cherry tomato today, blackberries fruiting (made microwave jam yesterday), carrots are popping up and the pumpkin and corn that the chickens planted are fruiting too!
As I type I can smell a gentle smell of rosemary wafting from me as I have been tramping all over the garden moving the chickens into a temporary enclosure in the overgrown garden bed.. I must have leapt through a rosemary bush at some stage!
Will pop back with brag pictures soon once I have caught up with everything...