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7 July 2015

Where is your favourite place at home?

Hello everyone. A few years ago I had a photo feature on my blog where I invited readers to send me a photo of their kitchen sink. Many photos arrived and for about a year I featured a photo a week with a description written by the sender.  I've been thinking of starting another photo feature so we can all have a look around our community to see where we are spending time.  And then Nanette suggested I start it again so now here we are again. I'll start off with my front verandah.

This is our front verandah and it's one of my favourite places here in my home. Hanno and I have morning tea here, we talk to visitors here and I often sit and think about the entire universe here, but not in a Stephen Hawking kind of way. My parallel universes are my front and back gardens.  ;- ) We live in a sub-tropical climate and these photos were taken in early winter.

If you want to be involved, send two clear photos of one of your favourite places at home or in your yard. Just one place, but two photos from different angles. Ladies, you know the drill. Photos of sewing rooms, kitchens, patios, gardens, baby's room or wherever you feel comfortable and grateful to be there. I want the men to be involved too, we all know you're out there, so I'm including tool sheds, man caves, garages, under the bonnet of the car or at the stove or BBQ, if that is your favourite place to hang out. Write a short description of what you're sending, tell us the general region you're in, a little bit about your climate and why you love your favourite place. If you have a blog, send a link which I'll include with the photos. I think readers will want to visit you after the photo is up.

I'll publish photos from two people each week. Please size your photos at about 100 - 250kb, or 650 - 1000 pixels and that will allow me to reproduce a quality photo at the size I need for my blog. Send your photos now or next week or wait until you've had time to think about it and send then. This will carry on for a while. I look forward to looking at your photos and learning a bit more about you.

The email address is:

6 July 2015

Cleaning my desk - the pleasure of an organised space

Well, it's taken a good two months to mess up my work table. That's good for me! I'm usually much faster than that. ;- ) But now I have the familiar piles of books, candles, fabric, scissors, camera gear, note books and pens completely covering my work space.  Only this end of the desk gives me enough elbow room for writing on the computer. Time for a clean up!

I'm feeling particularly enthusiastic lately so finding the motivation to clean up this room was easy. I know I'm lucky to have this work space so it's up to me to respect what I have and keep it clean and organised. I see it as a gift to myself. A gift that will help me remain productive and creative and in touch with all of you out there who are all being productive and creative in your own ways. 

Since I finished the bulk of the writing I've slowly been slotting myself back into my routines. I'm not quite there with everything yet, but work is proceeding in that general direction. Every day I feel more of a pull towards sewing and mending and for that to happen I need a clean and tidy space that gives me enough room to spread projects out and to sit and think about ways to work efficiently. 

I've never been one who tidies up my tables at the end of each day. I have a friend who does that - when (her office) work finishes for the day, she spends time organising everything so it's ready for the following day. I've never done that, maybe I should, but I tend to be a bit chaotic and when I finish for the day, I just stand up and walk away. How do you organise yourself in your work or craft room?  Do you tidy up when it needs it or do you organise at the end of every day?  Or is there some other way? Let me know, I want to know what you do.

This room is an important part of my small life. It's where I have most of my ideas, I work here on writing and craft, I have phone conversations here - I need it to support the effort and time I put into my home, my family and myself. I feel the inclination towards sewing grow every day so I'm hopeful that some useful work will happen here soon. I've already got my first project waiting in the wings.

3 July 2015

Weekend reading

We've done some work in the garden this week and it's looking beautiful out there. The weather has been cool but not cold, although the August winds seem to have started a month early. I'm slowly getting back into the rhythm of my home and the work I do here. I think I'll start baking bread again next week. Winter is the best time for baking because it gives that extra warmth, and the feeling of warmth, to the house.

I hope your week has been productive and rewarding. What have you been doing?

The most common cooking mistakes
Homemade organic spray to keep flies off animals
Ten BBQ foods dangerous to pets
Five daughters and a simple dad
Back porch swing how to
The best ways to store fabric
Recycled rug
What's the secret to happiness in life? The answer lies in the statistics
Oatmeal Walnut Bread with Poppy Seeds

1 July 2015

Our garden cart

We bought a new garden cart last week and I think it's the best thing we've bought for a long time. I have trouble lifting and balancing a wheel barrow sometimes so I've been looking for something I can use in the garden that will allow me to load up a pair of loppers, a bucket, watering can and secateurs, and still have enough room for prunings and rubbish that has to be moved.

Of course it will give a ride to grandchildren. Above you can see Jamie seeing the sites with Opa at the helm. What is it with grandchildren and carts?  Put them together and there is always fun to be had. We have a lot of pot plants on the front verandah and when they need to go to the green house for repotting or for a rest, I need a safe way of getting them there. Loading them into the wheelbarrow is just dangerous and they fall over when I lift the wheelbarrow. This garden cart has a flat bottom with flip down sides so it's easy to load pots, even the large heavy ones. Incredibly, the cart holds 450kg or 1000lbs. 

It will hold a fair bit, which you can see in the photo above. On the day after we bought it, I loaded up the cart to transport all the grocery shopping inside. Usually it takes a few trips in and out to the car to unload it but this simplified it all.

I wonder what form of backyard transport you use in your home. Maybe I'm late to notice these carts and they're all over the place. :- )

29 June 2015

Starting a dripping pot

At the risk of sounding ancient, which I'm close to, or old-fashioned, which I often am, I want to write about dripping today. I know!  Scary stuff in these fat-free times. But a little bit of fat won't do you harm.  All things in moderation, so the saying goes.  Dripping is what we used to call the fat that rendered down off roasted meat. Dripping is beef or lamb fat and pork or bacon fat is called lard. Dripping and lard were a valuable ingredients in many pre-1970s homes. Most households had a dripping pot which was usually aluminium, pottery or an old china bowl.  Most dripping pots had a lid and a well fitted strainer to collect bits and pieces from the cooking. These were discarded or kept in the fridge until the next stew.

Tricia and I never had it but our mother, father and grandmother all talked, with affection, of eating bread and dripping. It was quite common pre-world war 2 to use dripping instead of butter on bread. I have fond memories of my mother's dripping pot, usually full, sitting in a dark cupboard, although I think she would refrigerate it now. And although I've never eaten dripping on bread, I still use dripping in cooking and I hope I can get you to make up a little dripping pot to try it yourself.

This is a little dripping pot I've just started - it's an old jam jar used for preserving, so the glass is toughened.  I'm on the lookout for a proper pot and when I find one at the second hand store, I'll grab it, give it a good scrubbing and use it for the dripping I save.

I only have a fraction of the dripping my mother collected. Meat is leaner now, we don't eat meat everyday and often I make a sauce with the dripping and don't collect it. But I do save the dripping from our roasts and also from bacon. I strain off the dripping through a strainer or sieve and store it in the fridge until it's needed. After you've saved dripping from a few roasts, you'll see a small dark layer under a lighter colour layer of fat on top. The dark layer is full of flavour but when I use the dripping, I dip the spoon right down the bottom and take some of the dark layer too. Although you can turn the pot on it's head until it's set and have the jelly layer on top.

Dripping can be used to cook roast vegetables or to make delicious gravy. Whatever it goes with it give a lovely flavour to because it has the concentrated flavour of the meat in it. If you brown your meat in dripping when you're making a casserole, it will add an extra level of flavour to the meal.

To make gravy, I take two tablespoons of dripping, add 1½ tablespoons of plain flour, salt, pepper and a small sprinkling of paprika (for colour). Stir the dripping and flour together over a medium heat and let it brown while you stir.  When you reach a good rich brown colour, add enough water to make a gravy to the consistency you like.  

If you're raising your own beef or pork, you probably know more about rendering fat than I do and you're might be using it in your soap as well, I'd love to hear from you to know how you're processing that fat and what you're using it for.  But if you have a small amount of dripping left when you cook and usually throw it out, try this and see if you like the extra ingredient and the ability to use as much of the animal as you can.

28 June 2015

Ecoyarns in new hands

One of my favourite sponsors, Ecoyarns has changed hands. Vivian, who started Ecoyarns when she was a medical student, recently sold the business to Salihan and Richard. My best wishes go to Vivian as she takes up her medical career. Salihan and Richard have a young family and have moved themselves and the business to Canberra, which must be high on the list of places that need good supplies of warm wooly yarns.  I hope their new business will thrive.

Salihan knows all about Ecoyarns because she used to work for Vivian. She is now running the business from home while she looks after her two daughters, aged two and three. Salihan is an experienced crochet and knitting pattern maker and I'm sure that experience will stand her in good stead at Ecoyarns. Her patterns are still available on her own blog and Ravelry.

I asked Salihan about herself and what her plans are for Ecoyarns. She said she has been a stay at home mum for the last few years and before that was working with Vivian part time. 

"I was packing orders, providing customer service, and also doing the graphic design and photography for Ecoyarns," she said.

"The new changes that we would like to announce first is that we are now on several social media outlets.  We hope more people will follow us and keep in touch whichever way they prefer.  Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest |  Twitter

"We are also shipping orders within 1-2 business days and replying to emails promptly. We hope the faster turnaround would be noticed quickly by customers who might have be turned off by orders being shipped out only once a week in the past.

"We also just added our first new stock to our shop - Australian Organic Wool WOOLganic 8ply  We will be stocking more from their range in the future. We are looking at ordering the 4ply and undyed wool hanks when they become available.

"We will be stocking more Ashford tools too. This will include the ball winders, skeiners, niddy noddy, swift and drop spindles. There will also be quite big changes to the EcoOrganic Cotton range in a few weeks time. I will keep you posted on these in the future," Salihan said.

I'm looking forward to working with Salihan and Richard. I've been using Ecoyarns for all my knitting for the past few years and I'm very happy with the quality of the yarns and the ethics of the producers.  Don't forget to follow them on whatever form of social media you use.  I've followed them on Pinterest and Twitter.  Thanks for your continued sponsorship, Salihan and Richard.  Happy knitting and crocheting, everyone.

ATTENTION: Salihan has just told me that there are details of a $10 discount on your order on Facebook. Check it out here

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