Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quiet Times

Thursday 25th October 2012

Things have been reasonably quiet here of late.  Apart from Emily and Dave visiting us the past weekend - that is never quiet, but always lovely to see them.

I haven't even spent much time in the garden.  Yesterday I did pull out the last of the beetroot and that will be preserved today.  Also the spinach had gone to seed so I removed that.  Later today I plan on getting in the garden and digging these areas over, and hopefully transplanting my Rosellas so they have more room to grow.

The tomato vine is still continuing to produce along with the sweat peas.  They have a wonderful smell and I love seeing them in the house.

I have planted some zucchini in the garden along the drive and in spite of the lack of rain the plants down there are doing really well.  I do have far too many pumpkins and will have to cull some of those before they get too big.

We have stray chicken at the moment and it loves to scratch around in my garden.  I have tried catching it but it is too fast for me.  Hopefully it won't cause too much damage to my plants.

I have some Queen Anne's Lace that keeps reseeding every year.  I love the bright white flowers and the fact that it is just there every year.

The rocket is doing well and I have even picked the small leaves for a couple of meals now.  This should be good once it really gets going and hopefully save me from having to buy as much lettuce.  The slugs keep eating my lettuce :(

We have even had a couple of cucumbers.  Judging by the flowers there will be a few more to come, which would be great as I would love to have enough to make bread and butter cucumbers and relish.

Ron and I spent a day last week having a big clean up around the place.  We took half a car load to the charity shop, gave a dinner setting to Emily, and a couple of trips to the local tip which has a trash and treasure shop.  It feels really good to have things cleaned up.

Everything is as it should be!  I hope it is the same for you!

Take care

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend Wonders

Monday 15th October 2012

We had an amazingly busy weekend here!  It all started when I purchased an old cupboard from a friend during the week.
There was nothing wrong with the cabinet as my friend had already shabbied it up nicely.  It was just a little too yellow for my house, I'm more of a white girl even though yellow is my favourite colour.

After a lovely cup of tea on the front steps, in the sunshine with Ron and the dog................

 and admiring the flowers out at the moment........

We went off the the hardware Saturday morning and bought some necessary goodies - plants, fertilizer.....oh and paint stripper.  I had already tried sanding off the paint with the intentions of having it back to the timber finish.

Note all of the sanding dust in the above photo!!  The previous finish was doing nothing much but clogging up the sandpaper so I thought paint stripper would do the trick!  This also had little effect.  By this time I was starting to regret touching it at all, but decided to try painting it white.  This turned out to be right solution and I absolutely love it now!
It has pride of place in our dining room and I will change out the items on top of it frequently.  I have placed most of my patchwork quilts in it to keep them safe.
As I said, yellow is my favourite colour so I decided to keep this on the inside.  Such lovely colours when I open it up.

Ron helped me clean up the mess I had made in the garage and then after washing my car, which was also covered in dust, we checked our phone messages to find one from so dear friends of ours that are moving at then end of the year to 12 hours drive away.  They wanted us to join them for a quiet night, so we bought some chickens and chips on the way. 

I also got a message from Bec that afternoon asking if we would like to meet them for a BBQ breakfast in the morning, so we packed up the picnic gear and headed off to the beach to have bacon and eggs cooked on the BBQ.  The weather was absolutely lovely and the company even better!

Bec and her fiance, Rana.
Of course the dog had to come also as this is one of the few beaches that you can let your dog run on the beach without a lead.

 The only problem was that the tide was in and there wasn't any beach.  This was just too much for Cindy (dog) and she insisted on walking on the waters edge.  This wasn't an easy task as Ron had to walk on the footpath while the dog scampered along the waters edge below.
This lead to HEAPS of laughter from us all and some very curious looks from other people.  One woman even walked up behind Ron to see why he was walking the way he was!  This just caused Bec, Rana and I to laugh even harder!

What a wonderful way to spend the morning.

When we got back home, it was the general washing, tidying up and later in the afternoon I had to bake.  Ron was completely out of goodies to put in his lunchbox, so I made peanut butter and choc chip biscuits, lemon cake, muesli bars, bread and some mini lemon meringues.  I also put a rolled pork in the oven to have as a roast for dinner and this would then give me cold meat for sandwiches for the week.

I hope everyone else had as good a weekend as we did!

Take care

Monday, October 8, 2012

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Tuesday 9th October 2012

I have been absent lately from my blog as Ron and I took a few days off and went bush in the caravan.  He has been very stressed at work lately and needed a break, so we headed out to Emily's for a night before driving for what should have been only a few hours to arrive at our next destination.  Ron hates to stay on the more traveled (sealed) roads so we took a "short cut" (dirt road) of 40 kilometers off the beaten trap, but it really turned into a two hour trip as we got well and truly lost for over an hour.  Never mind, all in the spirit of adventure.  We did eventually at our destination of Leyburn and stayed for the night in a free camp!
The next morning we set off to meet some friends in northern New South Wales and spend a few days with them camping on a cane property.  Ticks can be a real problem on the east coast and even though I had bought our little dog a tick collar I discovered three ticks on her while we were away, so the only solution was to give her a haircut enabling me to check her more easily.  All we had on hand to trim her with was a pair of blunt scissors, but it was either her having a bad haircut or maybe getting sick.  The haircut won in the end and she didn't even mind.  I think she prefers having short hair in the summer so I am thinking I might keep it this way - but I will buy some clippers!

We came home on the Tuesday and I spent that afternoon and most of Wednesday washing, ironing and sorting.  We had plenty of it!  Wednesday was also Ron's birthday so we celebrated by having a lovely roast lamb dinner with Bec and Rana. 

Wednesday, however was a stressful day for Ron (work problems), so when I mentioned to him on Thursday that we should be up the beach fishing he made the decision to pack the van again and head back down to visit our friends - AGAIN!  We spent another three nights with them and arrived home again on Sunday.  This time we plan on being home a bit longer.  All in all it was good for Ron has he had a decent break and feels refreshed.

In between coming home and going again, I did manage to spend some time in the garden.  The seeds I had planted the week before had popped up!  This was thanks to the rain we had while away.

This is tiny rocket - the plants are more than twice this size now.

I have also had some plants come up where I have dug in some vegetable scraps.  I'm not entirely sure as to what these are, I am thinking pumpkin.
The weather has well and truly warmed up now so my English spinach is starting to go to seed.  I did pick some this morning and have plans of turning some of it into a pear and spinach salad for dinner tonight.

Spinach - the blue lines is string we have put up to keep our 16 year old dog off the garden.

Here is a colander full of spinach picked this morning along with a handful of strawberries and some tomatoes.

The Pakchoy is also going to seed so we will have to start eating that soon also.  I did take some to a friends yesterday for her family.
The tomato vine is STILL growing.  It must be getting close to 3 meters high now.  Some of the tomatoes have started to ripen so we have been enjoying the lovely summer flavour of those.  I love tomato that has ripened on the vine.  The shop bought tomatoes just don't have the same flavour.

The single chard plant that I have is still continuing to produce leaves.  I love this plant as it is so versatile.  You can have it cooked in a flan, like we did the other night, in salads, steamed, fried with some onion or even on a sandwich instead of lettuce.  I have planted some more seeds for chard but they are a long time growing so I might have to relent and buy some seedlings.

The flan we had was made with some yummy home made short pastry, then filled with the chard fried with some onion and then some sour cream and eggs poured over and then topped with some grated cheese.  I am having the last little piece for my lunch today along with some homemade yogurt and the handful of strawberries!  YUMMY!!!!!

The few flowers I have growing are all looking lovely too.  As a child I remember my mother having the entire end of a patio growing with sweat peas and I can always remember the smell of those, so this year I thought I would plant some myself.  I was hoping to share them with my mother as they are one of her favourite flowers, but she is away at the moment.  I was able to share some with a dear friend who was having a bad day yesterday.

I also have childhood memories of the paper daisies (everlasting daisy) that used to grow wild around our house so I bought some of those the same day I bought the sweet peas.  I must have been very nostalgic that day!

I love the bright sunny faces of these flowers!  And they dry really well so you can have them around for awhile.

Along with picking the spinach, tomatoes and strawberries this morning I picked some more of my beetroot.  There isn't too much of it left in the garden now so I think I will most likely pick the remainder in the next couple of weeks and make pickled baby beets.  I will also have to pickle the bunch I collected this morning.

It amazes me that even though our garden is teeny tiny I am still able to put some home grown produce on the table most nights.  As I have mentioned before there would be no way possible for us to be anywhere near self sufficient for vegetables but the thrill I get out of growing as much as I can overwhelms that disappointment.  Here's to more planting  ;-)

Take care

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Birthday Celebrations!

Friday 21st September 2012

We have a birthday in our family today.  It is our youngest daughter's birthday, she is 19!  It only seems like yesterday that she was this small.
I just wanted to take this time to wish you a wonderful birthday Emily.

Monday, September 17, 2012

An Apron Day

Tuesday 18th September 2012

I am having an apron day today.  It started early this morning when I thought I had better turn these
along with some lemon juice

and some sugar and gentle cooking

into these lovely jars of jam

Emily and Dave got the strawberries for me over the weekend and how could I resist making some lovely strawberry jam.  I smelt heavenly.

Then it was onwards to chopping up, what I think will be the last of my turnips, along with some cauliflower and onion and soaking it all in salty water to make mustard pickles.

This needs to soak overnight so the pickles will get made tomorrow.

Our eldest daughter and fiance had their engagement party over the weekend, and as a result they had HEAPS of left over chicken.  I threw some into my slow cooker yesterday to slowly simmer away, and pulled the meat off the bones last night before straining the stock.

It produced a large bowl of chicken meat and another large bowl of stock

which all got turned into chicken and noodle soup

chicken vegetable curry (using some peas from the garden)

and a filling for a curried chicken pie.  This gave both her and Rana and ourselves three meals each.  Well worth the effort.

I will be back in the kitchen again this afternoon to make bread, bake a cake and while I have the oven on I thought I would have a go at a cabbage frittata recipe that I have found.  We will have this along with some leftover salads from the party and a pineapple tart made from some leftover pineapple we had on pizzas on Friday night.

Here is the recipe for my strawberry jam that I got from an old CWA cookbook.

Strawberry Jam

To 1kg strawberries, cut in half lengthwise, allow 1kg sugar.  Put fruit into preserving pan (grease pan well) with juice 4 lemons.  Stir till it comes to the boil to prevent catching.  Add sugar.  Let boil rapidly 15 - 35 minutres, over cooking will darken, until syrup jellies.  Cool before bottling in heated jars.

Take care

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Going too fast

Monday 10th September 2012

I can't believe it has nearly been a week since my last post.  Time just seems to fly by these days and just to think we have the build up for Christmas yet. 

I was able to get into the garden in the past week.  My potato vines had died off despite not flowering.  I'm not sure what happened to them, but decided to dig them up anyway.  I went off and got a bucket to put all the potatoes in, but this is what you call optimism!  LOL
A very large bucket!  Once I started digging I realized that my crop wasn't going to nearly as good as I thought.  The following photo is REALITY people!

Still I was super excited about my very small crop.  I decided I am going to have a go at growing potatoes again next year, but might try a different position in the garden.

My smallest potato

My largest and smallest potato

There was enough to make an egg and potato salad for dinner that night and even enough salad leftover for dinner last night, so not a complete waste!

I also picked some more of my turnips, beetroot and snow peas.  My snow peas just keep on producing and while rummaging around in my fridge for dinner last night I found another zip-lock bag full, so I made a snow pea, cabbage and sesame seed salad.
The beetroot was pickled and put into the pantry.  I'm not sure what I am going to do with the turnips yet, but I think there will be more Chinese Mixed Pickles coming up.

With the warmer weather coming I decided I would like to have some dresses to wear, so this meant a visit to the opportunity shop.  I was lucky enough to come home with 2 dresses for $12.95 each.  I am an awkward person to fit for dresses but was really pleased with the fit of both of these.

This one is a cotton and spandex blend and with the crossover at the chest it fits me lovely!
This one is a bit bright for my tastes but very comfortable so should be great for those hot summer days.  I have some kakhi wedge shoes that look fabulous with this dress.

I spent two days last week helping Ron on the building site.  Don't you just love those phone calls you get and you just know that they want your help.  Half of Wednesday was spent helping him stand the roof trusses and putting in the cyclone rods, and just when I thought Thursday was going to be nice and quiet I was asked to help him take roofing iron off the roof.  Some of the sheets were over 3 meters long, so not an easy task with the wind blowing.
I was lucky enough to be able to slip away on Friday to visit a girlfriend that I used to work with.  I hadn't seen her since I finished my job and it was great to be able to visit with her and her daughters and new grandson.  I took along my Wacky Chocolate cake for morning tea.

Wacky Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups SR flour
1 level teaspoon bi-carb of soda
3 tablespoons of cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon white vinegar
5 desert spoons melted butter
1 cup warm water

Mix all the ingredients together and then place in a greased tin and bake in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes.

I iced mine with creamy butter icing and then grated some chocolate over the top!

Take care

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Quick Update and a Recipe

Tuesday 4th September

I got a phone call from Emily today wanting to know why I hadn't updated my blog in awhile.  I have been busy helping Ron with the business and haven't really been up to much that is exciting!

One thing for certain is I am REALLY glad that Spring is on it's way.  I hate the cold weather and dark mornings.  I love the sun rising as I get out of bed and as we get up around 5am the sun has to be up pretty early for us! L O V E  I T.

Father's Day was spent with my parents , Bec and Rana at the beach having a BBQ breakfast.  The weather was lovely.  We did spare a thought for those families of the Australian soldiers that were killed recently.  They too were someones father, son, brother, nephew or uncle.
This was the weather at 8 o'clock in the morning!  Bit tough to take.
We have our little dog back with us. It turned out that she was more ill than the vet first thought.  She had a bad tummy bug and along with a sudden change in her diet she became very ill.  We collected her from the vet Friday afternoon and at the moment she won't leave my side.  She probably thinks that I am going to abandon her again.  She lost heaps of weight over the week and only started eating again on Friday.

The above photo is Ron and Cindy having a nap on the deck after lunch on Saturday.  They were both worn out from a huge week!

I did manage to get some time to make some Mixed Chinese Pickles on Sunday.  This is a great way to use surplus vegetables.  I used turnips, carrots, celery and chili in mine, but you could adapt the recipe to whatever you have on hand.

Chinese Mixed Pickles

2 carrots
1 large cucumber
1 red pepper
4 sticks celery
8 shallots (1 onion)

Pickling liquid
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 1/4 cups water

Combine the pickling ingredients in a saucepan, stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to boil.  Remove from heat and cool.

Cut carrots and cucumber into strips.  Cut pepper into 1" cubes,  Slice celery diagonally.  Slice shallots diagonally.  Boil large saucepan of water.  Add prepared vegetables, then remove the pan from the heat.  Leave vegetables in water for 2 minutes, then drain for several hours.

Pack vegetables firmly into jars and cover with preserving liquid.

Stand one week before using.

Awhile ago I decided to paint an old trunk white.  This trunk had been brought over from England when my grandparent immigrated just after WWII.  It belonged to my grandmothers grandmother  and is one of the few items they brought with them.  My grandfather used to keep the tack for his horses in it when I was little and I remember it sitting in the shed.  When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother had the shed pulled down and was going to throw the trunk away.  I was able to rescue it.  It is in very poor condition with all of the paper falling off the inside.  It has had, at some point in it's life, been infested with wood worm, and all of the metal on it has rusted.  I got Ron to make a base for it to sit in and help hold it together and over the years I have had it, it has been placed in many rooms.  At the moment it is living in my "reading room" (Cindy's room, as she is in it the most often) and it has a new lease on life with it's new paint!


I hope that it will remain in my family for a long time yet, so hopefully one of my girls would like it one day.

Speaking of girls.  Emily and Dave went to an engagement party on the weekend and when I looked at Facebook yesterday I noticed that Emily had changed her profile picture.
This was taken by a professional photographer and I just love this photo of them both!

On the countdown now to Bec and Rana's engagement party!

Take care