29 September 2017

Weekend reading

The temperature rose to 38C here yesterday which isn't a good start to the season, especially as we have very little water. Still, I did water everything and hope that the rain predicted for next week actually falls and fills the tanks.  We have a few days of school holidays left with Jamie here today and the weekend. He and I talked about this earlier and he wants to help make a "big cake" today, he's moving on from cup cakes. :- )

Yesterday's lunch - salmon, potatoes and a simple salad.

Apart from trying to keep the plants alive, I've been decluttering and getting our unwanted items ready for a garage sale. If you're in Australia or NZ, it's good work for this time of year and if you have my The Simple Home book, the October chapter leads you through this and spring cleaning.

I live a healthier life now I’m free of the trappings of modernity
Grown and Gathered - I'd never heard of Lentil and Matt until I stumbled on to their fabulous blog. Their book looks great too. I love seeing young people sharing what they know and encouraging others to develop useful life skills.
Do you have a plan B or C?  I love reading Grandma Donna's blog. It's full of practical information and encouragement and it's written by someone who knows what she's doing. This post is a stand out one for me and although I do many of thing things she writes about, it's an excellent reminder to keep on keeping on.

28 September 2017

Thank you! and cakes

It's a constant battle here at the moment keeping the water up to our tube stock in the front garden and the vegetables and fruit out the back.  I've just come in from the garden where I watered plants for over an hour and fought off another bush turkey. I'm hot and worn out. I've parked myself at my computer with iced water and the fan going, so I thought I'd do a short extra post.

I'm happy I have this chance to thank you for the wonderful response to my post yesterday about Kerry's new shop.  Last night after work he checked his Instagram and was really delighted to see all the new followers.  He messaged me and asked me to send a "big thank u" to everyone who followed him and to all those who sent good wishes in the comments here.  

There is this huge ever-evolving, indistinct and mostly unknown entity usually called a "readership" who visit here every minute of every day. I know what to expect from you now - and that is support, love and encouragement. Kerry however, is new to this and I think he was surprised - a very nice surprised.  So thank you from both of us because you've helped Kerry build a part of his business that is notoriously difficult.


Anna in Sussex asked for the recipe for the chocolate cake I made for Hanno's birthday. We have a vegan in the family so it was made with no butter, eggs, honey or milk, but it was still fabulous.  If you've never make anything vegan before, this is a good starter recipe.  This cake is best eaten the day of baking or the following day. I didn't ice the cake and it has a tendency to dry out without frosting or icing.  Shane made a vegan cake too and he iced his. When he comes over next time I'll ask him for the icing recipe and pass that on too. All I know at the moment is that is contained coconut oil.
  • 1 ½ cups plain /all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder - I used unsweetened Dutch cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb/baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cups hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil - I used sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

This is one of those easy cake mixes that is divided into dry and wet ingredients. So sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and bicarb/baking soda in a large bowl.  Pour the water, vanilla, oil and vinegar into a jug and mix together.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix together but do not over mix - as soon as the ingredients have combined, stop.  Pour the batter into a greased 20 cm/8 inch round cake tin, and place in the oven for about 30 - 35 minutes.  The cake will be ready when you can smell baked cake and a toothpick poked into the centre comes out clean.

I didn't take a photo of Hanno's birthday cake but I did take a photo of the blood orange cake I made this week. The recipe is the same as my whole orange cake recipe already on the blog. I added the candied orange slices and syrup I wrote about a few days ago to the top of each piece as I was serving it.  Absolutely delicious and something I'll add to my seasonal recipes so we can have it every year when the blood oranges are in season. And it used up the entire orange instead of having the waste skin.

BTW, I read that there are now blood oranges you can grow in hotter areas so I'm seeing if I can sprout the seeds I took from these oranges. I'll let you know how that goes.

I hope you have a lovely day. 

27 September 2017

A new shop

I have a lot to be thankful for, most notably the family I'm a part of. My sons have grown into fine men and they're now both raising their own families. Today I want to tell you about Kerry's first business because he's made me a very proud mum. He recently bought a sushi shop at Mooloolaba and he's been working very hard to build it into a profitable business. It's been a lot of long hours and hard work but he's increasing his customer numbers every week and all the hard work is starting to pay off.

This is the shop front, it's small but they have a great selection of food and a space to sit and enjoy your lunch at the front.  It's right across the road from the beach on Mooloolaba Esplanade.

The shop is called BHappy Sushi and it's next to the Mooloolaba Surf Club and opposite the beach in a terrific location. He's employing two or three people to help him most days and they're all working at producing the freshest and most delicious food they can.  Kerry has fresh fish and produce delivered daily and the feedback he's getting from his customers is that they love the food. Not only is he producing great food, the prices are good too. He's very conscious of offering healthy food at a good price.  If you find your way there, you won't be disappointed.

If you're down this way for the holidays, or if you live here, please drop in and say hello at the shop. I'm sure they'll all be pleased to see you. If you're a new comer to this kind of food, ask Kerry to explain the menu to you. There is a selection of hot or cold food and all of it is made fresh every day. Nothing is kept from the day before so you can be confident that what you're eating and buying for your family is the freshest it can be.

You can also have your meals and snacks delivered. B Happy Sushi is one of a select group of Sunshine Coast shops and restaurants who deliver through UberEATS. Just download the UberEATS app for Mac or Android to see the menu and place your order. 

If you're far, far away from the Sunshine Coast you can still help. Kerry is trying to build up his social media profile so if you have the time, please visit him on Instagram to like or follow the shop.  We appreciate whatever you can do. 😊

ADDITION: My sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to follow Kerry's shop on Instagram. I've followed all of you.  😍


25 September 2017

A week of ordinary days

The past week has been lovely here. On Tuesday we celebrated Hanno's 77th birthday with the family over for dinner. Sunny and Jamie are in Korea at the moment but they facetimed us to say hello. I spent much of the day cooking and we ended up having a roast pumpkin and beetroot salad with sprouted barley, baby cos lettuce and snow peas, which was made for the vegan but we all shared it. We also shared a garden salad, spicy oven wedges, fried chicken, pork sausages and lamb chops. I made rosemary focaccia and a vegan chocolate cake and Shane brought his delicious homemade vegan cake too. As you can see, we had plenty of good food and no one went away hungry. I love spending time with my family. I'm not a social person at all now but give me the chance to spend time with my mob and I'm the first one there.

Hanno asked me to pass on his gratitude for all the birthday wishes you sent along. He reads every comment, has done for the past ten years, and he's always surprised and delighted when you send him your love. Thank you. ❤️

Hanno's hat, holes courtesy of HRH Grace.

Some of the plants I potted up as gifts.
This is our elderberry tree. You can see flower heads of berries changing from green to red. I'll be picking them when they develop their dark colour and will shared them with Sarndra. The garden is suffering with this hot weather and we have very little water in the tanks.

I spent some time a couple of weeks ago potting up herbs and chilli to give as gifts later in the year.  If you have some friends who you think would like a couple of good chilli bushes, ginger, herbs or tomatoes in pots, now is the time to pot them so they'll be healthy and a good size by December. I've potted Welsh onions, cayenne chilli, mint, parsley and bay. If you're living in Australia, you can take cuttings of bay and elderberry now or pot up some raspberry or strawberry runners. 

This photo was taken just before a magpie dared look into Gracie's food bowl. She chased it off with loud barking and all sorts of carry on and below you can see the magpie on the washing line with Gracie staring at it. And staring and staring. Given half a chance, she's a bit of a drama queen.

Gracie had a wash and blow dry when the groomer came during the week. She loves Julie and sits quietly while she's shampooed and dried. Her behaviour is continuing to improve and it looks like she's settling in well now. Her current mission is to keep birds out of the area near her food bowl.  When we were having morning tea yesterday, a magpie dared walk on the verandah and was just about to look into her food bowl when Gracie rushed at the bird sending it flying up to the washing line.  She stared at it until it flew off a few minutes later.

I picked up my new glasses on Monday and this time I had a pair of sun glasses made up as well. The optometrist told me I should protect my eyes from UV, especially now I have cataracts, so I've got good sun glasses on hand now. Thursday was my turn at the hairdressers. I don't really like having my hair cut but I went along, knowing that I'd turn into a Struwwelpeter if I don't conform to this modern ritual.  I have to admit though that my hairdresser is fast and we have interesting conversations amid the clipping.

We're suffering through a particularly hot early spring. It will be over 30C all this week so we'll get back into the routine of doing our outside jobs early and stay inside most of the day. We have solar reflective paint on our roof and if we keep the doors closed, it makes quite a difference to the indoor temperature without us using fans or air conditioning. Yesterday Hanno checked the temps and it was 34 outside and 26 inside. Over the next couple of weeks we'll be decluttering again, so that will be all indoor work. Truly, the older we get the less we need. Do you find that too? We've decided to have a garage sale sometime in October and try to sell or give away a lot of what we have here. 

One thing we had to buy though was another computer. I shorted Hanno's out last week by trying to insert an earplug cable into the wrong port. 😳 Oops.  It fried the motherboard. And to add insult to injury, when we took it to the shop to be repaired, the assistant told us it was unlikely this "vintage" computer could be saved (it was seven years old!). So we bought another one the same as the iMac he had so he doesn't have to learn a new system.  C'est la vie.

Candied blood orange in syrup for cake decorating. It will last for months in the fridge.

Using up some of the eggs. This was yesterday's lunch along with bread and butter pudding - which used six more eggs. 

I bought some delicious blood oranges this week. I look forward to them every year.  I've eaten a few fresh, made up a jar of candied blood orange in syrup, which I'll use to top a cake, and today I'll make a blood orange cake for our morning tea cake.  I also made up a bread and butter pudding using some three day old fruit bread and a small number of the mountain of eggs we have at the moment.  With Sunny away we're sinking under the weight of so many eggs from our girls.  So I served up scrambled eggs with sausages for our lunch today and I'm going to freeze a couple of dozen by cracking them into a jug, mixing the yolks with the whites and pouring them into my trusty freezer pod.  Each pod takes 75 mls/2.5 oz, which will be easy portions to freeze for future cakes and scrambled eggs.

So that's got you up to date with my news. This week I'll be sewing and sorting through cupboards for the garage sale. What's on your agenda this week?  Whatever it is, I hope it's a good week for all of us. 

18 September 2017

You wouldn't be dead for quids

I bought our first mobile phone in 1990, three years after mobile calls started in Australia. The phone was Hanno's 50th birthday present; he will turn 77 tomorrow. Our first phone, a large Nokia, was not the old brick type but it wasn't far from it. In those days you could choose your own number; we still have that number.  However, the phones we have now are a far cry from that Nokia because when I slip my phone into my apron pocket every morning, it's not so I can easily answer every call, it's to take photos and listen to the radio. When we first bought iPhones, it was a non-event for me. I saw it as just another piece of technology that I wasn't particularly interested in. Now I use my phone numerous times every day but I rarely check for emails, messages or answer phone calls, my phone serves me in different ways.  However, when either Hanno or I go out alone, we keep in touch using our phones and when one of us is shopping alone, we can Facetime to show something to the person at home - and that's usually me.

At the moment I'm getting ready for the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count, which I do on my phone. It will take place on 23 - 29 October. You can download a free app on your phone which will give you all the details. You have a week in which to use the app to register the birds you see in your backyard in a 20 minute period during the week.  If you don't see any birds, or only a few, that is valuable information, so they want your survey too. The app gives you several ways to identify the birds if you're not sure of what you're looking at. You can practise your bird watching skills in the lead up to the count by using the app as a field guide so it will give you a general understanding of which birds use your backyard for water, food and shelter.  It's a great project for adults and older children and you can sign up as an under 18s group (schools, cubs, guides etc.). The data collected from all over Australia goes towards a greater understanding our our bird life so that strategies can be developed to help any of them that are in crisis.

Many of the photos I show you in this blog are taken on my phone camera. I use an app called Camera+ which allows me to adjust the exposure and zoom in and out, although that affects the quality slightly. After taking the photo, there are a number of advanced editing features that will produce great photos, but even the ones I take, which I don't edit, are passable. It looks like its only available for iPhone or iPad, and there is a small fee now for the download, but I think it's worth it.

Yesterday morning I downloaded the new ABC radio app, Listen.  I had to. It was Sunday morning, I wanted to work in the bush house and I also wanted to listen to Australia All Over. So with earphones in and the app on my phone, I was set.

This radio program has been on the ABC on Sunday mornings for longer than I care to remember. It's sometimes inspiring, occasionally annoying and it reminds me of all of us living simple lives. People ring up and talk about what they're doing. It's usually ordinary stuff - baking for the CWA, cooking real food, riding horses, swimming, walking, fund raising, gardening, plowing crops, working at their jobs and a million other things. And yes, they are all normal people who talk about life with a passion.  I love listening because there is such a diverse group of people who call themselves Australian. You hear familiar stories and surprising ones, all things you'd never know about because they're deemed to be too common and not worth air time. I think that everyone has a story to tell and it is sometimes those who look the least likely who have the most amazing tales to tell.

So there I was, cleaning up the benches in my bush house, earphones in and doing this and that to piece together my own ordinary life. After I finished in the bush house, I went inside and made lunch - nothing fancy, cold leftovers from Saturday's pork roast rack, accompanied by potato salad with poached eggs, backyard tomatoes, lettuce and sliced pickled beetroot. I doubt you'd see it on any menu but it used up the leftovers, was easy to prepare and it was delicious plain food. Outside the birds were swooping in, the sky was blue and clear and there was the smell of a few neighbourhood lunches being cooked. Honestly, you wouldn't be dead for quids.

I have no affiliation with any of these organisations. I'm just relaying my own experiences to you.

15 September 2017

Weekend reading

I had my eyes tested on Monday and was told I have cataracts on both eyes. They're not bad enough to be operated on yet but he said they could grow in 6 months or 10 years and to go back if I notice changes in my vision. Sometimes I have blurred vision so I guess it will get worse. Tricia had cataracts removed from her eyes a couple of years ago and had surgery soon after she was diagnosed. I'm developing mine at the same age she was then. Luckily it's only day surgery so I'll go to the specialist who removed Hanno's cataracts a few years ago.

My using up some eggs oven frittata.  Eight eggs, boiled potatoes, capsicum, onion, garlic, silver beet, cheese, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and a splosh of cream.  Delicious hot or cold.

Once upon a time I had a second blog called the Simple, Green Frugal Co-op. The blog had a changing list of wonderful writers who I invited to write there. It's been in moth balls in recent years - the last post was written by the wonderful Rose in May 2015. I thought it was about time to release the power of this project again because there is such excellent content there. Let me know what you think of it.  PLEASE NOTE: I am only one of the writers on the other blog, there are about 15 other writers. It was my intention to encourage other writers who didn't get the traffic I have.

93 year old Bill Bevan's passionfruit sponge cake
Old fashioned frame raising
50 or older? Bring on the power naps
Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals
Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic
Top 10 tips for feeding a crowd on a budget without skimping on flavour

14 September 2017

Taking time for tea

I was pleased to read a post about teabags on nannachel's blog yesterday as a follow up to my link to how tea bags are made.  Chel wrote to Neranda, the maker of the tea she buys. You can read here what they wrote back. This tied in well with my planned post today because a few readers wrote and asked what's the best way to make tea using loose eat instead of tea bags.  They've all been tea baggers in the past, have never made loose tea, and want to change.  So here goes.  

If you make frequent cups of tea or coffee, it's a good idea to set up a tea station. Organise this close to where you keep your cups and electric kettle, or next to the stove where you boil water. In addition to the tea, store your sugar, honey, tea spoons, tea strainers and tea pot there. 

There are many different tea balls and baskets of varying shapes and sizes, the ones I have here are just a few of the vast variety.  Buy what you think will work best for you. I can't tell you which shops have these things but you'll probably find them in Kmart and Target as well as the kitchen shops.  You'll also need some loose leaf tea.  Like Chel, I buy Neranda tea.  I buy the 250 gram pack for $3. It's always cheaper to buy loose leaf tea and it's usually better quality tea.  This pack will last us 4-6 weeks. How much you use will depend on how strong or weak you like your tea, how big your cups or mugs are and how many people you're making tea for. Don't buy too much at a time. A 250gram pack is good for a single person or a couple, 500 grams for a larger number. 

The tea basket over the side of the cup and the tea basket in the cup will help you make a good cup of tea for one using loose tea.

Of course you could always pay much more for organic black loose leaf tea - it's at least double the price but I'm happy with Neranda. It's grown and processed in Australia, it's insecticide-free, it's very tasty and I can get it locally at a very good price. I'm also fond of Earl Grey tea, which is just black tea with the essential oil bergamot added. However, a 125 gram pack of Twinings Earl Grey loose tea costs $7, so it's an occasional buy, not a frequent one, here. I used to buy King tea but I haven't seen it in any store lately.  Another one bites the dust.

A tea pot and a tea strainer will have you making tea the same way your great grandma made it.

The traditional way to make tea is in a tea pot.  I have a large tea ball (above) in which I put three teaspoons of tea and cover with boiling water. I let it brew with the lid on for about three minutes.  Large tea balls are very handy because they'll retain the tea leaves and you won't have to strain them through a tea strainer when you pour the tea.  However, you can easily just throw the loose tea into the tea pot, cover with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes to brew.  If you make tea this way, you can either use a tea strainer or carefully pour the tea into the cup. If the tea is brewed properly and you don't shake the pot, most of the tea leaves will remain at the bottom of the pot and you won't need a strainer.

Above and below, these tea balls are like tea bags. They float in the boiling water and slowly the tea is brewed. When you remove the ball, it sits in the little cup to drain. They can be used repeatedly for years and are easily cleaned in the dish washer or can be washed by hand.

A pot of tea is ideal for a group of two or three, or more.  If the tea is for you alone, use one of the little tea balls, or a tea basket hooked over the side of the cup or a basket inside the cup.  One teaspoon of tea, pour over boiling water and let it sit for three minutes. The crucial element here is time.  Tea needs time to brew. The boiling water will soften the tea leaves and leaving them to steep for a few minutes will give you a full flavoured cuppa. You can then add milk, honey, sugar or lemon, depending on your taste.

Tea can be reused a few times before all the flavour goes. If you've got a few people to make tea for, make up a pot, pour the tea into all the cups you need, then add more boiling water to the pot. Allow it to steep for four minutes, remove the tea ball from the tea pot and put a tea cosy on the pot to keep it hot for a second cuppa for everyone.  And when the tea leaves are discarded, throw them into the compost where they'll decompose with the organic matter already there. The leaves will break down just like fruit and vegetable peelings do.  You can also use tea leaves on your blueberry bushes. They add a bit of acidity to the soil which the bushes love.

Good tea can't be rushed. Making tea like this and taking the time to slow yourself down enough to do it helps build slowness into your days. The urge to move through the day going as fast as possible is challenged by the process of making a cup of tea, especially if you make a pot and you go through the ritual of pouring tea from a pot. The ritual slows you down before you sit down to enjoy the tea. Surely in these days of multitasking and doing as much as you can in a day, the time you take to make a good cup of tea is an investment in your own mental health. 

11 September 2017

Simple life isn't a product

It can be a struggle adjusting to a simpler life. Some people think that the way I live is THE way and that is just not true. I live as I do because it makes me happy, it makes sense to me, I've got time to do a lot of things in my home, I want to live in a productive home and I want to stay interested and engaged as I move into older age.  If I were 40 years younger my priorities would be different and the way I lived my simple life would reflect that.

At every stage of life, from very young to very old, there will be a way to configure your life and home to help you live well within the framework of your values. Each stage is different and you will change and grow through those changes.  I am a retired woman, almost 70, no debt, with the luxury of time. I freely choose to live without holidays, we buy the best quality we can afford so that it lasts longer, we gave up magazines and pay TV, don't have Netflix and most of the time, we make do with what we have. But I didn't start living this life that way. 

We live on a pension now but we worked hard to set ourselves up before we received it so we would be able to manage well into our old age on what we have. I know that is not the case for a lot of people. Many people have far more than we do and many have less and struggle from week to week. I am grateful I had the opportunity make the choice to simplify. We don't have a lot of money but we have enough and that is all we need.

There was a comment from a new (to me) reader a couple of days ago. I followed the link to her blog to read that she is dealing with this very thing. She is struggling to fit modern life in with simple life. This was never a problem for me because I chose to live a slow simple life in a modern context and didn't want to return to the old times. In my opinion, anyone who yearns for the 1950s wasn't there to experience the sexism that was commonplace then. Our society is better now than it was then. It was slower back then, we knew our neighbours and spent time with family and friends, but there is more freedom and opportunity now, especially for woman and girls. The advances we've made since the 50s make me grateful to live now but I cherry pick some good parts of the old days - mainly living debt-free, cooking from scratch and homemade cleaners - and incorporate them into my daily life.

When I moved away from paid work I had the time to become more productive. I'd always been a gardener so we grew fruit and vegetables, and kept chickens because I wanted to produce as much as I could in the backyard. I wanted to use the land we owned and not just the house. I wanted to reduce the number of chemicals we lived with so I started making my own cleaning products and laundry liquid.  I shopped in a different way and stockpiled because we had less money coming in and needed to save every penny we could.  I still do all those things because I enjoy that lifestyle, it keeps me busy and interested in daily life. There is always something to do and I don't want to be a 70 year old who is bored and thinks there is nothing to do.

We have the trappings of modern life here and it makes what we do easier, but we would never have gone into debt to buy what we have. If we can't pay cash, we don't buy it. We both have phones because it's easier to keep track when one of us is away from home; they help keep us safe as well as being our phones. I communicate to you via a computer, I've used a computer every day since 1988. We have solar panels and a solar hot water system - both vast improvements in the old electrical and gas technology. We have a poly tank that holds 10,000 litres of water which is an improvement on the old 5,000 litre corrugated iron tank we installed 20 years ago when we first arrived here. I have a self cleaning oven, dishwasher, bread machine, stick vacuum cleaner, an ironing press and iron - all modern appliances that help us live the way we choose.

But if I were 40 years younger with two small children, many of my choices would be different.  I'd still be supporting my simple life values but my choices would be appropriate for the life I was living then. I'd have less time to do many of the productive things I do now but I'd have a firm base of simple chores I'd carry out. I'd make laundry liquid because it does an excellent job, it contains fewer chemicals than modern washing products and it's cheaper. I'd take food and drinks with me when I went out, I'd pay off any debt I had. I'd cook from scratch, cooking double portions when I could so I had a supply of home cooked meals in the freezer for those times when I just didn't have the time or energy to cook after work.

Life isn't always about practicalities. We can also use our homes as a safe and stable base where we build relationships and teach our children how to be decent people. That home base provides a secure space in which we all can be the people we are, interact with those around us and while we do that we learn (and teach) kindness, generosity, courage, strength, respect, loyalty, honesty, self-control and individuality as well as how to be part of a family and a community.

Simple life isn't a product, it's a creation that we all make in different ways. Many of us have the chance to choose how we live and what we do each day. That will be different at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80, and it's always changing to reflect how we earn a living, the amount of debt we have, our children and parents, how much time, strength and energy we have, and a hundred other considerations. Don't expect life to be one thing that remains the same. It's okay to be different. It's okay to do things your friends and neighbours don't do. If it's working for you, keep at it. Change helps you shed your old ways and replace them with values that support you in your chosen life. It also gives you the opportunity to improve and grow. In the end we become who we are and settle into life with who and what we love. It's only when you look back you notice just how much you changed over the years and how you reacted to different stages.


10 September 2017

A Blue Sky organic cotton scarf

I've been waiting for the new organic cotton to arrive at Ecoyarns. Last week it came in and Salihan sent me two skeins of Blue Sky organic cotton in a very pretty soft pink Shell colour.  I was going to knit up a quick cotton shawl for my granddaughter but Gracie chewed up my most of my circular needles 🙄 so I ended up making a cowl scarf. The cotton is beautifully soft and as this scarf will be near Eve's face, I know she'll be happy to wear it.

The cotton is 10ply so it was quick and easy to knit with. I've decided to do make this as my Christmas knit so it will be ready for Eve to wear next winter.  That should use up the remaining Blue Sky Shell cotton and give me enough time to start a vest for myself using the Allhemp 8ply I have here. It's a lovely soft grey which will go well with some of my clothes.

My plan was to embroider some rose buds on the scarf but the knit rows were too bulky and they got lost, so I went with buttons instead.  I haven't decided which ones to use yet but I'm probably going to go with the three red buttons in the top photo or the teddy faces in this one.

The Blue Sky cotton comes in a range of beautiful colours which you can see here at Ecoyarns.


8 September 2017

Weekend reading

If you're making the recipes I posted yesterday, please check them again. A couple of kind readers alerted me to two mistakes which have now been fixed.  My thanks to Bernie and Sandra.

Enough meatballs cooking on the stove for a few days.  Yesterday we had them with pasta, today it's meatball tacos and tomorrow, who knows.

With the weather moving from hot to cold and from cold to hot, depending in the world you are located, I hope you enjoy the change over the coming weekend and weeks ahead.  Here, we've been putting the final touches on our summer garden preparations and can now sit back and relax for a short while.  I'll be cleaning up my work room tomorrow with some knitting and sewing on Sunday.

Thanks for your visits this week, enjoy your weekend and try to take it easy, at least for a few hours. :- )

My first link is to one of my blog workshop ladies.  Frances Lee Studio I'm sure you'll find Frances' blog interesting and helpful.
Women doing housework - Easy does it. The voice over on this is incredible, I remember when women were thought about in these terms. Thank goodness we've improved ourselves since then.
The Simple Year - Simple living in rural Alaska
St Clements polenta cake with blueberries
So Now You've Got a Chest Freezer


7 September 2017

Berliners and brownies

Some readers asked for recipes for the Berliners and brownies I made recently. Here they are:


Berliners are made using a sweet, rich dough similar to bread dough. This recipe makes up about 30 small, or 24 medium sized doughnuts.  I use raspberry jam and dust them with icing sugar.

4 cups plain/all purpose flour
3 teaspoons dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons castor sugar
1 ½ cups warm milk. I use buttermilk but whole milk is fine as well.
4 eggs
125 grams/4 ounces butter, melted

Vegetable oil for frying -  I use sunflower oil.

Place all ingredients in a bread machine (use the dough setting) or in a mixer with dough hooks. To make by hand, mix ingredients in a bowl and knead for 10 minutes.

When the dough is mixed and kneaded, it should be left to rise for about an hour. Once risen, turn the dough out into a floured board. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin to about 1 - 2 inches in height.  At this stage you can bag them up for the freezer. When you want to cook them, they must defrost completely, return to room temperature and rise again before cooking.

If you want to cook the Berliners straight away, allow the dough to rise again for about 45 minutes then heat up the oil to 180 C in a saucepan. The oil must be at the right temperature when you put the dough in because oil will soak into the dough if it's not hot enough.  If the temperature is at the correct temperature, the heat will seal the dough and the oil will cook the Berliners without becoming greasy and soggy.

Berliners will burn if they touch the bottom of the pan so use a saucepan with enough oil for the dough to float free of the base.  They'll be ready when they are golden brown, this should take about 2 - 3 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon or tongs to turn them half way through the process. Allow to cool slightly, inject warmed jam into the Berliner with a long nozzle (recycled) sauce bottle or cut a pocket in the side with a sharp knife and spoon it in. Dust with icing sugar or castor sugar.  They should be eaten the same day they're cooked.

Father's Day Brownies

These are good rich brownies, made better by using the very best cocoa you can find. I used Dutch cocoa and I undercooked them.

If there is a secret to good brownies, it is to undercook them. Cooking them so they look cooked - like cake, will give you dry brownies.  I cooked mine for 20 minutes and they were still squelchy when touched. However, they continue to cook when you take them out of the oven and when you cut them, they'll be moist, rich and delicious.  This is the recipe I used.

I hope you enjoy these sweet treats.


5 September 2017

A few days here ... in photos

Over the past few days our time has been spent in a steady, slow stream of work here in our home. Meals have been cooked, cleaning done, drinks made, morning teas enjoyed and the vegetable garden work has been finished. I've also been reading Gay Bilson's magnificent Plenty, Digressions on Food. It's such a good book and as I read it I realise I'd love to sit down and have a good talk with this talented cook and writer. She, like me, is a bit of a recluse now so I doubt our paths will cross any time soon. 

Meanwhile, out in the backyard, I reconfigured the back verandah to move the table and chairs back into the shade.  The garden is now fertilised, watered and mulched. We've netted our thriving blueberry bushes to save the coming crop from local birds who actively look for berries. Tomatoes and some herbs have been removed and with the onset of warmer weather, it looks like we were just in time. Now all we need is rain. The tanks are almost empty.

I thought it would be a nice change to show photos instead of write about what we've been doing. So here are a bunch of photos, taken over the past week, that show a small part of what we do here on a regular basis.

Jamie was here yesterday and we made brownies for his dad for Father's Day.  These were just about to go into the oven.
I hand-washed the cake pan and my compost bucket. I bought both these from one of my favourite shops - Odgers and McClelland Exchange Store in Nundle. Check out the link, I'm sure you'll be delighted.

Herbs picked and sitting in water awaiting lunch prep.

 Ginger was harvested ...
... and made into another batch of ginger beer.

A few days ago I made up some donut dough so I could have a batch of small frozen Berliners ready for cooking in the freezer.  Hanno loves these.

I freeze them on trays then package them, four at a time, in freezer bags.

We're still eating seasonal strawberries from the local farm. 

A recent avocado, cucumber and tomato salad. I use my flavoured vinegar as a dressing.

Yesterday's lunch would have been a familiar sight on many 1950s kitchen tables. Cold pickled pork, mashed potato with herbs, fried cabbage, sliced home grown tomatoes and pickles. It was delicious.

This is where we have morning tea. I moved the table and chairs back a bit so they're out of the sun now. Soon we'll move to the front verandah for our tea as it's much cooler there during summer.

 And outside, Grace was on duty watching the rain forest for a bush turkey that comes in every day.
A bale of mulch ready to be laid on the gardens. 

Tomatoes harvested with cayenne peppers and banana pepper seedlings. All have been planted now.

 The garden working bee in full swing. 

 Some of these herbs have been thinned out to make room for the peppers.

And those of you who are following the saga of the Cecile Brunner rose, here it is yesterday with many new shoots.  If we get a bit of rain, I think it will be a bumper year for these tiny roses. The small bush at the front is a salvia.

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