26 April 2011

Dish Cloth Swap

Hello all. It so wonderful to see the beautiful photos Rhonda is posting and great to know what fun she is having with her sister. The sign up for the dish cloth swap is now closed (it is Monday evening in the USA). I am busy trying to make my buddy lists and will spend a few days doing that. I will then be posting the list here on the blog so keep checking in. I am amazed at what a wonderful blog family we have here. I usually ask for swap angels in case we have a problem or two , but this time I had people e mailing me saying they were making extras without my asking. I will be posting their names with the buddy list. I am so very lucky to be a part of this blog family.

Autumn in the mountains

Dear Everyone,
I'm having a wonderful time here in the mountains with Tricia.  It's been cold and raining the past two days and although I'm cold, I'm really enjoying it. I have gloves on while typing.  I have a few photos to show you where we've been.

All photos can be enlarged by double clicking on them.

This first place is Brown's Siding Store and Cafe. It's owned by a friend of Tricia's, Kerry, who used to work for Martha Stewart.  We had lunch there, the food was delicious - I had a Ruben sandwich and hot chocolate, Tricia had the smoked salmon and potato cakes.  Apparently the cafe is packed to the rafters on the weekends - we arrived late for lunch so there weren't so many other diners there. Afterwards I had a look around and found wonderful stock like German scrubbing brushes, goats hair dusting brushes, pure soap, liquid soap, jams, tea, packs of trail mix, cake and brownie mix and many beautiful bags, cups and odds and ends.  The goods for sale are beautifully presented and excellent quality. If you're in the mountains, this place is in Medlow Bath, right next to the railway station and just off the highway.  It's well worth a visit, especially for the hot chocolate. : - )

One of the delights of being here over Easter was that I was able to spend time with two of my four nephews - David and Daniel. Danny came up a couple of times to help Tricia with various jobs around the house and David arrived Easter Sunday armed with Easter eggs and chocolates for everyone. David stayed that night after he and Danny erected a small shed for Tricia to store her garden tools and mower in. We had lunch at David's home on Easter Saturday where he cooked us a lamb roast and Tricia and I made cabbage rolls and up-side-down plum cake. Daniel is back again today to fix an original 1919 Singer treadle sewing machine he bought for Tricia recently.  He brought fresh croissants with him!

Yesterday, Tricia and I went to the Megalong Valley Tearooms which is about 10km from Tricia's home at Blackheath. What a wonderful place that is! The tea room has been run by grandma, mother, and now, daughter since the 1930s.  It used to serve tea with scones, blackberry jam and cream from the dairy cows out there, now they serve breakfasts, tea and coffee all day and lunch. Blackberries grow wild there and blackberry jam and cream scones are still on the menu - naturally we had some.  The tea is still made using the old cast iron urn grandma set up way back then.
 When we left the tearoom, we came across a heritage centre with many interesting carts and old wagons.
Further along, we stopped to let a trail ride pass by. It was quite a sight to see all the people, single file on their trained horses, wandering along through the bush.
The photo below shows the drive back to Tricia's. It was cold and bleak and definately the perfect time for knitting and the heater.

When we got back home again, the oil heater was on, I got out my knitting, Tricia was hand stitching her quilt and we watched Kirsty's Handmade Home. I had never seen that program before and enjoyed it very much.  It was the perfect end to a brisk Autumn day in the mountains.  I promise you that we are doing a lot of things that don't involve eating. LOL It seems that's all I've been writing about.  I have been working on my book almost every day and will keep at it because the typesetter's deadline is looming. Tricia is pottering around her home fixing this and that and making patchwork cushion for her rattan sofa on the back verandah.  The gas man is coming to connect the stove tomorrow, we're going for a drive through the highlands on Thursday and on Friday, the chimney sweep arrives.  I doubt I'll move an inch when there is a fire glowing brightly here.  Never fear, I have plenty of Vivian's beautiful eco yarns with me which I think make the perfect partnership the warming fire.

BTW, Sharon will post an update about the swap.  It's closed now and soon your swapping buddy list will show who you will be swapping with.  I hope you're enjoying your knitting.


19 April 2011

UPDATE: Dish cloth swap

Hello all

I am so pleased to see so very many of you interested in this swap. It is going to be so much fun! Here are your instructions to complete your sign up. (They are a bit different than other swaps, as this swap is also on the forum, and I have a little issue with typing....umm I biffed it and broke my wrist rather badly at the end of Feb. , had surgery to place a plate a screws- airport security is really gonna love me-I do fly, and am still in a cast. I am basically typing with one hand). So here are the steps to finalize your sign up and help me out too:

1. send me (Sharon) an e mail at: cdetroyes(at)yahoo(dot)com

2. title your email: SWAP

3.tell me your : a) name

b)your country

c)whether you wish to ship internationally or not (remember it can be more expensive)

I will take e mails until Monday of next week, April 25-which is Easter Monday here in the US and I believe Anzac Day in Australia. I will divey-up swap buddies during the rest of the week with the help of the lovely Rose and post them on Saturday April 30th. Then you can mail your swap buddy and get to know each other. The wonderful thing about swaps is the chance to make a new friend. I have been so lucky-I have made several new friends (HI Ann and Mandy)

who have become so close that quite often when my daughters are out shopping with me we will all look for Ann's kids too, like part of a long distance family. Don't worry about skill and perfection-just join in and enjoy a new friend !!

At Tricia's

We're here!  We took two days to drive from Queensland to Tricia's cottage in the Blue Mountains. It was a great trip, we took our time, after Tricia was pulled up by the Highway Patrol at 20ks over the limit, breathalysed, licence and registration checked, then told to slow down and let go.  LOL  I think we must have reminded the officer of his mum. Anyway, it was kind of him to caution us and let us be on our way.  We travelled to Brisbane and bought some old windows at a second hand yard ($30 each, in Sydney they're over $100 each), through the Gold Coast and called in to see Sarndra and Shane, then drove south and turned inland at Alstonville, coming out on the New England Highway at Tenterfield.  That is a beautiful town and well worth a visit if you're up that way.

I'd packed sandwiches, date and walnut loaf and tea so we stopped at some really quiet and beautiful places on the side of the road to rest and eat.  The wind was getting cooler the further south we went and to sit in some of these places, just the two of us, no sounds except the trees rustling and the birds, well, it was just beautiful and something I'll remember for a long time.

I took these photos to show where we've been. I thought it might be of interest to many readers to see some of the real Australia off the tourist track that you might have already seen.

This little antique shop was outside a country town on the New England Highway.

Above and the following three photos are in Rylestone.  

Driving along country roads with the Autumn foliage starting to show their true colouring.
And then we arrived at Tricia's beautiful cottage.
This is the front verandah and on the floor you can see two of the six windows bought in Brisbane.

 Some of Tricia's many quilts. 

And the kitchen which has now been repainted.  The little fabric bird on the door was a housewarming gift to Tricia from Sarndra.  The black and white background in the pantry is fabric Tricia put on just after she arrived.

There is still a lot of work to do in this little home but it's easy work and Tricia can take her time with it.  When I walked in the door for the first time, I felt like I'd already been here, and with my much loved nephew Danny here last night, it's fast becoming a very favoured place of mine.  I feel comfortable here and more importantly, Tricia does too, it really is a wonderful home.

The temperature hasn't dropped too much, it's around four or 5 degrees at night and it rises to about 14 during the day.  It's definitely jumper and cardigan weather and although we haven't got the fire or stove going yet, I'm hopeful they're be fixed soon and we can sit cosy and warm in front of the fire, knitting.  We have to find a chimney sweep!   Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd write.  My bed is warm and cosy and we're drinking lots of hot tea.  Life is good.

I'll post again soon.


16 April 2011

We're off soon

A quick note before I pack my computer up for my travels.  Thank you so much for the birthday wishes and all the love sent in comments and emails.  Hanno, Tricia and I had a full and hearty German lunch yesterday, out on a verandah overlooking the magnificent Glasshouse Mountains and the ocean beyond.  Later in the day we went to Jens and Cathy's for drinks and nibbles.  It was the perfect way to spend a birthday.

And a quick hello to Mavis, Rose's mum.  What a delight to see your note, Mavis.  Happy birthday to Diane and North Carolina and to all the other readers celebrating birthdays at this time.

We'll be leaving shortly.  See you soon!  


15 April 2011

On my mind ...

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY. If you're in another country you should join in when you read this, even if it's still Thursday.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, come back and add a comment below, with a link to your blog photo. Please visit all the blogs that appeal to you and leave a comment. If you are wondering why no one has commented on your On my mind post, maybe it's because you haven't commented on anyone else's. Slow down, take the time to cruise around and enjoy your cyber visits.

That little room at the back is a walk in pantry.

I'm thinking about sitting in front of this stove in Tricia's cottage, knitting, as well as all the things I have to do before we leave tomorrow.  All you homemakers will know what I'm talking about - change the sheets on the bed, take the pot plants outside to the bush house etc. Hanno is staying here with Alice and the chooks, but there are certain things men "forget", so I'll take care of them before I go.  Later today, the three of us will celebrate my birthday with lunch at a restaurant in the hills overlooking the coast.  We're all looking forward to that. Then, when we come home, I'll pack my bag.

Thank you for the birthday wishes. It is wonderful to have greetings come from all over the world. It makes me feel very special. 


14 April 2011

364 days

I've almost come full circle again, tomorrow is my birthday.  Sixty-three - it feels so good! I know there are people out there who don't like the idea of getting older but I am a staunch advocate of ageing. The alternative - death - does not appeal to me at all.  So here I am, not quite an old aged pensioner, on the brink of a new career, with so many enriching activities and interesting people filling my days. Life's good.

Shhhh, let me tell you this quietly.  There was a brief two minutes in my late 50s when I wondered if life would continue to improve.  It did, it has, and it keeps getting better. I have lead a fortunate life.  I was born into a working class family and went to an all girls' Catholic school. We were never handed anything on a silver platter, we worked for everything we got and we were taught, very young, the value of a family.  That upbringing taught me the true rewards of hard work and set me up for life, and for that I will be forever grateful. I believe that work really is the key to a successful life.  I have had some friends who tell me I'm lucky, but I will tell you this: the harder I work, the luckier I become.  Now that I'm standing at this end of the age spectrum, I clearly see that whether it is in the home, working towards making your home a place of nourishment, comfort and calmness, or in a job earning money to provide for yourself and your family, what you put into your work returns to you in wonderful ways and turns you into a different person.  I have been changed by the work I do - both in my paid work, my work in my home and here on the blog and forum.  

The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. 
John Ruskin

Just like the Queen of England, I am issuing a birthday photo.  ; - )  This was taken yesterday.

There is so much to look forward to in this life. Don't listen to those who say you must be a certain type, size, height or age to be acceptable. Don't believe that dyed hair is better than grey hair, don't be tempted by plastic surgery, don't fall into the trap of thinking everyone should look young. Celebrate diversity, be the person you really are and not a facade that makes you the same as everyone else. There is beauty at every age. Those lines that weren't there a ten years ago, those few grey hairs, all those signs - they, my friends, are your badge of honour.

I'll be celebrating my birthday here with Hanno and Tricia, then on Saturday, Tricia and I will drive to the Blue Mountains where I'll spend two weeks in cold weather. I'm looking forward to it so much. I'll be working on the book while I'm away and I'll blog when I feel like it.  That might be never, or every hour - who knows what I'll be capable of when I'm 63.


13 April 2011

Another old skill - charcuterie

Charcuterie is the culinary term for meats such as bacon, ham, sausages, terrines and pâtés.  I delved into the wonderful world of charcuterie recently with an old favourite - brawn as it is known in Australia and the UK, or headcheese as it is know in north America.  These types of meats developed as a way of preserving meat before canning and refrigeration.  Now they're seen in may countries as specialist meats often sold only in delicatessens.

After spending a night in the fridge, the gelatinous stock held a layer of fat on the top.  It was easily scraped off and the stock reheated to continue the process. 

When cooked for a couple of hours, the meat and bones yield their natural gelatine which was what I was after.  I wanted to see if I could make my own without using any added gelatine and while it formed into a good loaf, it didn't hold together well when sliced.  It tasted good though.  One of the added benefits of making brawn in the old days was that it helped the housewife avoid waste and use the entire animal. Traditionally made with a pig's head and feet, I made mine using chicken wings and a pork shoulder.  Next time I do it, I'll add a couple of sheets of gelatine.

I boiled the meats for about three hours with some bay leaves, peppercorns, a cup of apple cider vinegar and an onion and allowed them to cool.  Usually the brawn is made straight away but I wanted to remove the fat from the liquid and when I stored it in the fridge overnight, that is what I did the next morning.  Then I reheated the liquid, added the finely chopped meat and shredded chicken wing meat, two finely chopped green onions, chopped fresh parsley, red capsicum/pepper, two tablespoons apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper and packed it all into some loaf tins.  Stored overnight in the fridge, it came out of the tin the next day and although the slices don't hold together well, it makes a very good lunchtime sandwich on homemade sourdough.


12 April 2011

Passionfruit yo-yos and cheesecake

The dishcloth swap looks like being a great success with over 100 people joining in here and at the forum.  Soon Sharon will declare a cutoff point and then pair up swap buddies.  Remember you can slip something extra in your package - just something small - if you like, it is definitely not a requirement of the swap.

I've been dealing with an over-abundance of delicious and juicy passionfruit. It's not a bad problem to have but I wish I had more passionfruit recipes.  If you have any you'd like to share, please send them my way.

On the weekend we had Kerry, Sunny, Sunny's mum and Jamie here for lunch and it was a good chance to send them home loaded up with passionfruit.  While they were here, I served up passionfruit cheesecake. We all love cheesecake, we don't have it often, but it's such an easy cake to make I couldn't resist it.

Make a crumb base with a packet of biscuits such as Granita, Graham crackers or digestive biscuits. Crush them completely in a food processor or put them in a plastic bag and hit them with a rolling pin. Melt about one third cup of butter and mix it into the crushed biscuit crumbs.  Press the crumbs into a springform tin (about 25cm/9inches), smooth them to form a nice base and press it all until it holds together and is firm.  Put that in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

Place philly cheese in a mixer bowl and mix until it's combined and smooth, add lemon, passionfruit and milk and mix for one minute.

Take the biscuit base from the freezer and add the filling.  Put the cake in the fridge overnight or for at least four hours.

PASSIONFRUIT YOYOS - recipe from The Thrifty Kitchen
These are a light biscuit that are really lovely with morning tea.

  • Pulp from three passionfruit
  • 125g (one stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour

Strain the passionfruit and reserve the juice and seeds separately.

Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and mix in well, take the mixture off the mixer.  Sift in the flours, add the passionfruit pulp and fold in.

With lightly floured hands, roll two level teaspoons of mixture into a ball and place on a baking tray - flatten them slightly and cook in a pre-heated oven on 180C/350F for ten minutes.

When cool, add icing and join two biscuits together, like a yoyo.  Mine where too big to do this so I left them as a single and iced each one.

  • 80g (3oz) soft butter
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon passionfruit juice
Cream the butter and sugar, then add passionfruit juice.

Don't forget to send me your passionfruit recipes.  I'm also looking out for sweet recipes with unusual names.  If you have any, please share.


11 April 2011

Knitting - making what we need

As you know we're enjoying Autumn here now. It's my favourite season.  It's cool, with the certainty of colder weather to come. Bliss!  I knit all year through and generally knit with cotton in summer and heavier yarns, like wool and alpaca, in the colder months.  This year is an exception to that rule because I'm knitting for the babies and some of the lighter autumn jackets and booties call for cotton.  I am using the Ecoyarns organic natural dyed cotton from Peru.  The colours are subtle, the cotton is strong but very soft, and in addition to being paid fair trade wages for processing the cotton, the women are given a litre/quart of milk each working day.  I really like the idea of that.  

I'm now half way through a blue cotton kimono jacket for Jamie.  The pattern is from the Cute and Easy Baby Knits book which is very easy to use, even for a beginner.  When he came to visit on Saturday, he wore the blue cotton shoes I had knitted for him, with blue and black striped socks - bee feet and very cute.  I must say it makes me feel good knowing the knits I make for our babies, while being soft on their skin, are not harmful in any way.  I like supporting businesses producing organic materials too. Many of them are swimming against the current to get their products out to us.  

This little jacket is an ideal step up project for a new knitter.  It could take you from "beginner" to "intermediate".  All it requires in the way of stitches is cast on, knit and purl, cast off/bind off, and the additional of two new stitches - "sl", which is just slipping a stitch from one needle to the other and "inc" which is knitting into the front and back of a stitch, instead of just into one side of the stitch.  It's a bit fiddly when you first do it but it's not complicated and is easy to remember.  Doing these stitches, along with the knit and purl, makes the curve in the front of the jacket you can see in the photo above.

My good friend and long term helper, Sharon, started a dishcloth swap at the forum and here on the weekend.  Sharon has been very sick for a long time so it's really wonderful to have her back, both here and at the forum.  The swap serves a couple of purposes.  It provides a challenge, a way of engaging with others and it is an encouragement to those who don't knit or crochet to think about working on a simple and quick project.  There are a few new knitters in the swap, so if you're unsure about your knitting capabilities, don't be, you're not alone and, as usual, perfection is not a requirement.  Making dishcloths is an excellent way of improving your knitting while making something useful.  Even if it doesn't look great it is still useable.

If you decide to join, when you start work on your dishcloth, keep the label from the cotton you use and clip that to the dishcloth before you send it.  It will show the recipient what you used and these labels often have washing instructions on them as well.  It's a good habit to get into if you're knitting for others - send them that label, or a hand-written label stating what materials you used and how to care for them.  It's a lovely little touch that I'm sure most people  appreciate.

Another tip: modern yarn is usually sold as a ball.  The old fashioned way was as a skein. The yarns above I got from Ecoyarns as skeins and before you start knitting with them, you form a ball; it's easier to knit that way and you get no knots or tangles. You'll need to hook the yarn over someone's hands or two kitchen chairs and just wind the skein to form a ball.  

Knitting is one of those distinctive skills of simple living.  It's similar to learning how to make bread and soap.  You can get by without it but if you take the time to learn, the quality of what you make is much better than what you buy and in the case of knitting, you can knit useful items for the home like dishcloths and tea cosies, and then progress to mittens, scarves and warm winter clothing.  It's just the most relaxing thing to do, it will give you a portable project to take with you when you go to work or when waiting to pick up the kids, and it makes your relaxation time, both calming and productive.

Happy knitting everyone!

10 April 2011

Down to Earth Dishcloth Swap

Hello All, this is Sharon and I am announcing another swap; in order to get back into the swing of swapping we thought to start off with a small item-a dish cloth to encourage everyone to enjoy the joy of washing dishes-a time when one can think things through or organize one's day......You make one dishcloth from cotton yarn, either knitted or crocheted, and swap it with another member. You get something useful and handmade as a lovely surprise in the post and get to improve your knitting or crochet skills at the same time - simple! 

The swap guidelines are as follows:- Sign up on Rhonda's blog or at the forum. Please do *not* sign up in both places otherwise we will get confused and possibly count you twice in the swap numbers, which would be bad. Please also indicate if you are willing to post internationally keeping in mind postage costs. Saying you are willing to post internationally does not guarantee your buddy will be from another country but we will do our best to match everyone to their preference. 

Make a knitted or crocheted dishcloth for your partner. This should be around 7-8 inches (16-20 cm) square, as a guideline. You will have a minimum of one month to create your item. If you sign up early you will have slightly longer. Once the item has been completed come back to this post notifying us of completion. At the end of the month (or possibly before if all participants have created within the time frame) Buddys will be matched up, and details exchanged. The item must be in the mail and postmarked by 14 May. Then come back when you receive your swap and show us what you got : ) 

The item being swapped is a lovely handmade dishcloth. As often happens in swaps people enjoy and/or like to pop in some little extras for their partner, while you are most welcome to do this if you want to, it is certainly not expected or required. Please don't send more than one or two small extra items. We would not want anyone to be disappointed for not receiving more than the specified swap item or to feel bad for not adding extras to their swap parcel. Through our collective experience in hosting and participating in swaps we know there are times when people don't follow through with their commitment to participate, parcels get lost and life gets in the way. Obviously we understand that sometimes things happen, but we want to avoid disappointment for other swappers. So, anyone who does not send a promised swap will be excluded from the next swap. Not sending a second time in following swaps will result in exclusion from all swaps. 

Have fun! We hope to see some amazing dishcloths in due course.

8 April 2011

On my mind ...

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY. If you're in another country you should join in when you read this, even if it's still Thursday.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, come back and add a comment below, with a link to your blog photo. Please visit all the blogs that appeal to you and leave a comment. If you are wondering why no one has commented on your On my mind post, maybe it's because you haven't commented on anyone else's. Slow down, take the time to cruise around and enjoy your cyber visits.

Is it any surprise that today I'm still thinking about Jamie?  They will all be here for lunch tomorrow; it will be Jamie's first outing and Tricia will be here.  I'm serving free range roast chicken, potato salad and a fresh garden salad. You all know we're in the middle of passionfruit season here so dessert will be passionfruit cheesecake.  Yesterday I made passionfruit yoyos.  No doubt our visitors will go home armed with enough passionfruit to sink a small battleship. 

Thank you for your visits this week.  I hope your weekend is a beautiful one.

7 April 2011

Do you still fly?

I am going on a holiday soon.  I am REALLY looking forward to it.  My sister Tricia is coming up next week to see Jamie and the day after my birthday, we will drive down to her little cottage in the Blue Mountains.  It's on the snow line there and although it's not snowing yet, it is cold and we'll have the stove going and wear jumpers, cardigans and gloves to stay warm.  I'm almost hysterical with excitement when I think about it.  Mind you, you would never believe it to see me, I am about the least likely person to be hysterical you'll ever meet.  But my interior conversations tell another story.  Remember the jungle monkeys.

We have everything planned.  We'll drive the back roads, stop and browse around antique shops, rest when we feel like it and get there in our own sweet time.  When we're there, I'll see my nephews, and Tricia wants to take me to a couple of places, but the rest of the time we'll just potter around her place, two "old" ladies knitting by the fire, taking walks in the cold mornings, drinking cups of tea and reading.   It will be bliss.  I'll take my computer with me because I'm still working on the book but even if I work a portion of each day, I foresee a wonderful time ahead and I'm looking forward to it so much.

My last holiday was a train trip Hanno and I took to Townsville in 2007, the one before that was Melbourne, by car, in 2004.  But that was a buying trip for our shop, not a real holiday.  The rest of the time, my "holidays" are spent here.  I haven't been on a plane trip for at least ten years.  I cannot justify the environmental cost to myself.  When I travel back from Tricia's, I'll be on the train, even though it's more expensive than a cheap plane ticket.

I wonder if others feel the way I do.  If it is for my own enjoyment, I will not fly.  However, if I have to fly for business reasons, for instance, to promote my book, which I've already been asked about, I will.  If I ever travel overseas again it will only be to promote the book if I get a sale in the US or the UK, then I'll go to America and to Sweden on the way home and pay a carbon tax.  Otherwise I'll stay in Australia and drive or take the train to far off places.

I was offered a trip to Singapore in 2009 when I was a finalist in a blogging thing, I refused that because it involved flying over there.  Tricia has offered to buy me a ticket to Ireland in August.  She and our cousin Susie, are going, and Tricia thought I'd like to go too.  Well I would, but I won't. 

There is not a lot written about the environmental costs of flying now but the problem hasn't gone away. I'd also like to know a lot more about carbon offsets and how the money paid in carbon taxes is used.  If you pay $50 on top of your flight fare and that money goes towards planting trees - that seems a bit weak to me. Who monitors that?  Who plants the trees and where are they planted?  It all seems a bit secretive. Is anyone else concerned about this aspect of travel?  Do your work and travel plans play a part in your simple life?


6 April 2011

Saving money on meat - buying in bulk

It's moving slowly towards Winter here and soon the weather will call for hot soups and casseroles.  Hanno does a lot of our grocery shopping now but I was in the IGA supermarket the other day and nearly fell over when I saw a large leg of lamb priced at $40.  I thought it was a mistake, but looking at the other legs close by, I realised it wasn't - the smaller legs were $30 - $38.  I just checked online at Woolworths, they have a large leg of lamb, cut in two, for $13.00 a kilo or $36 for the leg. Lamb cutlets, that I grew up on, are now $36 a kilo!  That is just incredible to me.

This is how the meat arrived - in two large boxes, wrapped and labelled according to what cut it was.

After I was shocked by that IGA leg of lamb, I talked to Hanno about buying our next meat order in bulk.  We usually use a local family butcher, who is also a grazier with his farm in the mountains near us, so we know his meat is local, grass fed, excellent value, and he kills it himself.  Instead of buying our usual mix of beef, lamb, dry cured bacon and chicken (which usually averages out at about $12/kilo), we ordered a hind quarter of beef.  The girl on the phone, the butcher's daughter, told us the cattle would be slaughtered on a certain day, that dad would hang the meat for a week and it would be ready for pick up on Tuesday, yesterday.  It was two large boxes full and it cost us $308, or $7.80 a kilo.

When Hanno brought it home, we both washed our hands and started packing it away.  Hanno cleaned out the freezer and defrosted it yesterday, so it was ready to be filled.  I wasn't sure how much our freezer would hold so I got the small hind quarter, but when we packed the meat away, the freezer is only one third full. I was talking to Sarndra on the phone yesterday and told her about this and she was interested in sharing the next order. So the next time we do this, I'll order the entire side and share it with Sarndra and Sunny.  The meat will then be $6.80 a kilo.  We might also get a side of lamb then so we have a choice of meat.  I'll buy a few chickens to have on hand in the freezer too.  Sarndra recommended Aldi's free range chicken to me and when we had some at her place for lunch one day, I have to agree, it was very tasty.  And the next time we're down on the coast, we'll get some fish from the fish co-op.  That should give us a good selection of excellent quality meat to choose from, as well as the vegetarian meals we still eat.

It is much better to double wrap meat that will be frozen. With this mince (ground beef)  I divided the bag in two and instead of throwing the original plastic bag away, I use that for extra protection.  

The meat is rolled up in the original bag, then put in a clean bag.

The air is expelled and the bag is twisted, then doubled up on itself, to provide two layers of covering.

Then I expelled all the air, twist the bag again, and tie a knot.  It you don't have much space in your freezer, squash the meat down flat, so each bag can sit neatly on the others, taking up less space.

If you have a freezer and a good butcher nearby, I recommend this to you.  You have to be sure of the quality of the meat though, before you buy it.  Don't buy cheap meat just because it's cheap.  If it is good quality it is wise economy, if it is poor quality, it's a waste. If a new butcher is recommended to you, talk to him about the meat he sells, where it comes from, where it is slaughtered, how fresh it is and if it is grass fed or grain fed.  Grain fed beef is advertised as something special but grass fed beef is better.  Grass fed means the animal lived in a pasture and had natural feed.  Click here for more information on what that means.  Try a small selection of the new butcher's meat before you place your bulk order, just to make sure it's to your taste and is the quality you expect.

Any good butcher will ask you how you want the meat portioned and cut when you place your order.  We got rump - in thick slices and thiner slices, round - thinly sliced (I will stuff and roll it), eye fillet in one piece, three corned beefs, many T bone steaks - some large, some small, lots of minced steak (ground beef), many kilos of sausages, many kilos of diced beef and the bones.  The diced beef is the gravy beef and is one I'm particularly interested in.  When you see that gristle line through it, if you slow cook that, the gristle dissolves and releases natural gelatine - it's very good for you and the meat is delicious.  I'll use the bones for soup and stock, and Alice will also have a few. Make sure the butcher gives you the option of the bones.  Please take them and use them.

As soon as you get the meat home it must be frozen.  We use freezer bags and I use the large ones so I can put the meat in the botton of the bag, twist it around, and double the bag up on itself again - giving us a double wrapped package.  This protects the meat from freezer burn.  This giant order of meat is an investment for Hanno and I and it is my responsibility to look after it and not waste one ounce of it.  Make sure you label every bag.  We used halved stickers because the marker pen usually rubs off.

When you place your order, make sure you can eat the meat in the time recommended in these guidelines.  Frozen meat will deteriorate if left too long, so it's better to share the order with a friend or neighbour if it's too much for you to eat in that time period.  If you can find a good butcher with local, good quality meat, buying meat in bulk like this will help you put good food on the table for less.  It might take a while to find a butcher you trust, but when you do, there will be no going back.

ADDITION: I've had a couple of emails asking where our butcher is - here is his website.

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