Creating a safe haven

27 October 2022
For the past 25 years, I've lived here in a very slow lane. I've often written about closing the gate on the outside world so we could remain oblivious to what was happening out there. On our side of the gate every day brought challenges on how to fix the soil, work with compost and think about how many chickens make the ideal flock. We planted fruit, herbs and vegetables, collected eggs and shared what we had with others. We were always less concerned with what was happening 'outside' because on our side of the gate, days were full of interesting and unusual projects and the promise of that continuing tomorrow.
 
 
 
I wrote about feeling safe and secure, of having time to enjoy what I'm doing and a growing appreciation of being able to learn traditional skills to help me carry out my work here. And sometimes I wrote about the quietness of my home, hearing the neighbourhood sounds, a train in the distance, welcoming migrating birds back each year. It was such a peaceful and enriching life.
 

 
My dish cloth and tea towel drawer. 

You may be surprised to learn I was quite chaotic when I was younger but over the years I discovered the benefits of being slower and more mindful. I mellowed a lot and relaxed into home life and what it gave me. Eventually, everything flowed and I had time to enjoy the process, ignore what was happening online or on TV and to make plans to live a more traditional and bespoke life. I smiled a lot, especially when I was alone.
 

 

It felt like that existence shattered when Hanno died and I wasn't sure if I would still feel that my home was a safe haven. Last week, I turned that corner. I've been working in my home every day since Hanno died. With no real plan or definite ideas about what the future holds for me, I've been establishing new routines, organising things to suit me and not 'us' and I slowly worked to put life back together, piece by piece.  I'm happy to tell you I feel I'm almost there. Of course, there is a deep sadness I feel every day and I doubt that will go but I also feel optimistic, strong and independent.


These pastries are the easiest you'll ever make. I'll show you how in a future post. 
 
 
And I think that for me, although I had those initial doubts about the veracity of my safe haven, I've proven that home does have the ability to nurture and restore. My home wrapped itself around me well before Hanno died. It welcomed me back every day I visited him and it made me feel comfortable and safe, even with him gone. Over the years I've put a lot into my home. I wanted it to look after us and everyone who visited us and it's safe to say now that it's paid me back for every repair we ever did here, every floor I moped, every toilet I cleaned, every painted wall, solar panel  and water tank we added.
 

 
Circa 1980s and 90s - a collection of old recipes I'd collected were among the many things that rode out of here in the rubbish bin.
 

This has been the worst year of my life but I'm pleased to say that even though I'll be 75 years old next April, I feel stronger and more determined than I ever have before. I have plans to paint, write, tend my garden, cook, rest and think out there, on the verandah, with Gracie. I don't know what I'll do tomorrow, but it will be very similar to what I did today because that is what life is all about - rituals, routines and repetition.  I'll cook food, make the bed, clean up, make a batch of laundry liquid, put things in place and whether these things are done for necessity or love, it is all a part of homemaking that over the years helped create a safe haven that was here when I needed it most.

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Cutting down on food prep time

19 October 2022
I think there are two main areas of concern for families and homemakers today - providing healthy food for the family and reducing the cost of living. I wrote about reducing the cost of living recently. If you didn't catch that post, here's the link to it. So today, I'm writing about healthy family food that is from scratch and can be prepared in 30 minutes when everyone comes home from school and work. This also works for the parents who work at home - either continuing their roles as stay at home mum/dad or for those who are choosing to work at home after Covid. Let's face it, when you've got small children who can't prepare their own meals, everyone needs a bit of help. It's tough to get those plates on the table so that the kids have plenty of time to do their homework, play, talk to their parents and siblings or relax before bed. When they go to bed, everyone relaxes.

Before we go any further, I'm not giving you recipes for meals - everyone knows how to roast a chicken, BBQ steak and chops, fry fish, boil, poach and fry eggs or load up the slow cooker with the makings for a casserole. No, this is more about ways to get homemade food ready quickly - the food prepared ahead of time, stored in the fridge and then served with some form of protein. If you've got a small selection of side dishes in the fridge, you can get them ready while you cook your protein. Instead of making the same old salad you always serve or peel vegetables to boil or stir fry. Side dishes provide variety, new tastes and excitement. And if you've taken some time earlier in the week or on the weekend to prepare your side dishes, they're fast, convenient and waiting for you in the fridge. Goodbye monotony, hello diversity.





You'll need storage containers. I use glass containers with plastic lids or bamboo lids, (above). You can see what's inside without taking them out of the fridge, they seal fairly well and will keep food fresh for a few days. I've just ordered some Rubbermaid containers which are 100% airtight and leak proof. They'll be much better than the older containers I've been using. My general rule is to store for four - five days. Some things can go longer but I feel comfortable with a shorter period because I want to eat what I make and not waste anything. So far, that's served me well. Be careful with rice, read about that here.
 
 
PICKLED MIXED VEGETABLES
I have this a few times a week now and I love it. Peel and slice your chosen vegetables, put them in a large bowl and pour over one tablespoon of salt. About an hour later, when the vegetables have wilted, wash all the salt off and allow the vegetables to sit in a colander to drain. Then make your spiced vinegar. You'll need a large glass jar and the following ingredients.






 
This is not preserving/canning, it's refrigerator pickles that will be eaten during the following week so your jars don't need to be sterilised but they must be clean.

Following is the pickling liquid I use. It won't be to everyone's taste, I love vinegar, but I want you to start with this recipes and modify it to your taste. I don't add the water to mine, I want the full vinegar taste - I drink the left-over vinegar 😍. You may add more or less sugar, different vegetables or spices or no spices at all. Just play around with it till you find what you like. It's a delicious addition to grilled or barbequed meat, chicken or fish meal.


PICKLING LIQUID
  • 2 cups white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pickling spices (optional)
  • Bay leaf

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat on the stove. Bring to the boil, then simmer for ten minutes. When it's ready, allow it to sit and brew for an hour or so. I sieve out the spice mix as I'm adding everything to the jar. Cover the vegetables with the liquid and put the lid on. Store in the fridge for a week. These are delicious served with any meat, eggs, fish or on sandwiches.






This German meal is a filling and delicious recipe that everyone will love. It's great for vegetarians or served with a salad, makes a delicious meal.


KARTOFFEL PUFFERS
Serves 4
  • 6 large potatoes
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup flour
  • salt and pepper

Grate the potatoes and finely dice the onions, add to a colander and allow to stand for 30 minutes while the juices drip. Add the potatoes and onions to a bowl, squeezing them to remove most of the juices. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper and mix well.


Put about ½ cup of oil in a frying pan, heat to medium heat then add ¼ - ½ cup circles of the potato mix. When the first side is golden brown, turn it over and cook the other side. Each one takes about 5 or 6 minutes and you can usually fit 4 into the pan at one time. If you're making a large amount, use two pans.


Drain on a clean cotton cloth or paper towel and use a new paper towel or clean cotton cloth on the base of the glass box for best storage. Leftover cooked puffers can be stored in the fridge for three or four days and eaten with a variety of salads or sausages. Reheat in the microwave or in a dry frying pan on low heat.


SAUERKRAUT
I used to grow cabbages in winter and then make enough sauerkraut from them to last about nine months.This is great as a side dish to mix in with salads and for cooked meats. The post I wrote about it is here.








KIMCHI DEVILLED EGGS
If you have chickens in the backyard, this is a handy recipe for making batches of devilled eggs, a great side dish. And here is a blog post of me making Kimchi with Sunny. My daughter-in-law, Sunny, is a Korean chef.


KOREAN BANCHAN
These are quick and easy to prepare side dishes. Asian pickles make a very good side dish. They last well in the fridge, they're a healthy option and they taste great with all sorts of meat, chicken or fish.


TEN EASY JAPANESE PICKLES
These make great side dishes and don't take much time to prepare.


LEFTOVERS FROM SUNDAY ROAST
When you have a roast, make double the vegetables so you have plenty to serve as side dishes later in the week.
Bubble and Squeak
Fried vegetables

FINNISH OVEN PANCAKE
A snack or dessert but certainly worth the time to make it.


APPLE PANCAKE

This is a quick dessert or snack that can be made as a batch and stored in the fridge. The batter will last three days in the fridge, make sure it's well sealed.

Make up your favourite pancake batter, mine is here:
  • 2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 peeled and grated apple 
Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until it's a smooth batter with no lumps. Add the grated apple. Allow to stand for 1 hour before cooking. Leftover batter can be stored in the fridge for another day. I cook one large round pancake then cut it into triangles because I can't be bothered fiddling with the small round shapes.





CHICKEN AND CHICKEN BROTH
You can pre-cook the chicken on the weekend or during the week as you prepare that night's meal. It will take five minutes to start it cooking and just remember to remove it from the heat about an hour later.

Boil a chicken in water, a bay leaf and parsley according to it's size. About an hour will do most chickens. When it's cooked, remove it from the broth and when it's cooled a little, portion the flesh according to your taste - shredded or larger portions, and store it in a sealed container. Pour the broth into a container and store in the fridge. During the week you can make chicken curry, hunter's chicken, chicken tacos or plain chicken with vegetables. Use the chicken broth for your sauces or make a simple soup by adding sliced vegetables and either rice or small pasta and cook for a further 30 minutes.

DRINKS ETC.

And don't forget your drinks, snacks, sauces, chutneys and desserts. I always have a jar of lemons or limes in the fridge over summer. When I have a drink I can add a slice of sweetened lemon to the iced water. It's suitable for iced tap water or carbonated water from a Soda Stream. When you get to the end of the slices, add the syrup to your drinks too, by then it will have a wonderful sharp lemon taste. A one litre jar will take three large lemons.

All you need to do is to add sugar syrup to your lemon slices. Sugar syrup is usually equal parts water to sugar. However, I use light syrup which is 2 cups tap water to 1 cup white sugar. Mix together in a saucepan and heat it on the stove.  As soon as the sugar dissolves, add it to the lemon, seal and store in the fridge.








I also should add that if you have your own vacuum sealing system (I don't but I wish I had one) you could peel and slice your vegetables and store them in the fridge. Put all the mixed vegies in one bag, don't bother separating them. That would cut down a lot of time in overall meal prep.


HOMEMADE SAUCES AND JAMS




I have this gravy mix made up and sitting next to my stove. It's so easy to make gravy or sauce after I finish cooking the meat. No more going to the pantry to find the seasonings, flour, spices etc. All you do is add the mix, stir and add water. It's a real winner.
 
I know cooking from scratch everyday can be difficult especially if you're out working or you're looking after small children or caring for loved ones, but it is healthier and cheaper than the alternatives. I hope you try a couple of these ideas and hopefully they'll help you cut down your prep time during those busy after work and school hours. If you can't do two, do one.  Slowly, add another one and work out things that will help you cook from scratch. And if you've got any ideas that work for you, share them with us.  It might be just the thing someone is waiting to find.  xx


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An ordinary day, step-by-step

10 October 2022
It was a dark day yesterday. It had rained overnight and there were showers all morning. As I passed through the kitchen, it was too dark so I lit candles and brought some gentle light in. Breakfast was grilled cheese on toast with black tea which I enjoyed on the verandah while Gracie explored the yard. It was a good start to the day.



Then the dishwasher was emptied, sink scrubbed, the stove was wiped over and benches cleaned and dried. I had the radio on, listening to Australia All Over, and I was quite happy to discover the microwave needed cleaning - more time to be spent in the kitchen. I set a bowl of water and vinegar in there (I often use half a lemon instead of vinegar), turned it on for 10 minutes and wiped it clean again.  Ready for another week of defrosting and reheating.

With the kitchen finished I made my bed, wiped the bathroom over, opened up all the windows at that end of the house, folded up a couple of quilts and put them back in their original plastic covers and stored them in the wardrobe for next winter.



Two photos above: the back garden at this time last year. Just before Hanno got sick. 

All work stopped then for morning tea.  I got a drink and a biscuit and went back to the front verandah. Grace and I shared a stem ginger biscuit, I turned off the radio and listened to my Sunday morning neighbourhood. I looked around the plants accumulating on the verandah and made some plans in my head for cuttings and seeds, and then had to edit my over-enthusiasm. I identified the plants that would guarantee my mental health as well as the ones that would help add beauty to this odd side-verandah garden and ditched the rest. After watering all the plants. We went inside.  I'll have a post about the new garden soon.



We've been growing food here for 25 years. I think that's why I find it so difficult to give it up completely. On the verandah garden I now have roses, salvias, foxgloves, yarrow, lavender, gaura and have added more flowers and some herbs and vegetables - capsicum, tomato, chives and parsley. I have cleome and nasturtium seeds too and I doubt I'll resist the urge to plant them. 🤫





The photos above, up to the chard, are all photos of gardens in our past. We grew almost all the vegetables we ate which saved us a lot of money and gave us both wonderful hours spent in the gardens over the years.



We also kept heirloom chickens, which, like heirloom seeds need backyard gardeners to keep them alive and thriving. If you are thinking of buying chickens, check out the heirloom varieties and not just the old red hens which are bred for the caged eggs industry.


So, back to yesterday's step-by-step ... phone calls from Tricia and Kerry.

Sunday lunch was a mushroom omelette with salad. After lunch I watched an episode of Vera.  I love that show. We have an older woman in her green cloth hat and overcoat overseeing a team of detectives and giving them a bit of a hurry up when they don't work as fast as she does. It's a breath of fresh air because we don't often have such a scenario. If we went on the usual TV formula, you'd be forgiven if you thought older people, men and women, were only capable of portraying victims or pensioners doing their shopping.  🙄


This is the developing garden on the front verandah. 

After Vera, I picked some lemons and rearranged the outdoor furniture on the back verandah. I pulled the table and chairs back towards the house because if the weather reports are true, it will be another wet summer, with the possibility of floods ... again. While this was happening, Gracie discovered a cane toad under a sheet of metal in the old vegetable garden.  She tried to get it out but luckily it was too far in. Cane toads are dangerous animals. They secrete poison on the top of their necks and if they get caught by another animal, which is usually by the neck, the dog or cat is poisoned. We had a cat in that situation years ago. She foamed at the mouth, got very ill and ended up at the vet's.  I threw a ball around the backyard for Gracie to chase to get her away from the toad and when she went inside, I removed the metal, exposed the toad and saw it hop down to the creek.

Not every task I do here is rewarding or fulfilling but doing the unrewarding things gives me a feeling of achievement as well as the knowledge that I'm doing what I need to do to look after me and Gracie. I realise now that Hanno did a lot of those unpleasant tasks and I probably didn't thank him enough for what he did.  I did bake a lot of his favourite cakes though and maybe that was enough.  Now, each time I do something difficult or something I don't want to do, it makes it easier the next time because I know I'm stronger than I think I am.

I went inside at fiveish drank some water and thought about making toast. Instead I saw the one blood orange I bought last week and had that. I LOVE blood oranges and this one was dark red and absolutely delicious. If I see any next week I'll buy them to make blood orange marmalade. 

As it was getting dark, I went around the house closing all the windows and blinds. I put some stained tea towels and dishcloths in to soak, cleaned the laundry sink and folded what was in the dryer. I watched ten minutes of news and some YouTube before having a shower and then read till I fell asleep.

Another day full of all the ordinary things that make up my life now.  It's not exciting, I think those days are behind me, but it is fulfilling and meaningful. Today I've been sewing, reading and drawing and the only housework was cooking. I think that's the key really. When there is no one else to mix things up a bit, you have to make sure you don't get in a rut and just keep repeating the same thing most days. Satisfaction comes from living a life that is slow and has depth and I think I have that. The depth is provided by my ever-loving family and maintaining a level of productivity that keeps me engaged and interested. I think I'm pretty luckily actually.

Hello to all the newcomers, there are quite a few of you. Welcome. Thanks to all my readers who take the time to comment. It lets me know who is out there and while I don't answer every comment, I do read and appreciate each one.  I hope you're doing well and the troubles of the world haven't caused too many problems where you live.  xx


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Steam mops and the weekend

3 October 2022
I had a lovely weekend. Jamie was here all day Saturday and there were visits from Kerry and his friend Josh. Jamie and I did some cooking, talked about Opa and acceptance, and Jamie did some drawing. I washed Gracie, changed the bedlinen, did some washing, cleaned the range hood and pottered around doing this and that. It was a wonderfully free and calm time. Not all weekends are like that so I really appreciated this one.


When I cleaned out the linen cupboard recently, I had several old sheets that I put aside to cut up for rags. On the weekend, I sat outside with the radio on and cut up two sheets. These old sheets are really absorbent and make the best rags.




For all the Gracie fans, and I know there are a lot of you, here she is on Saturday, sitting on her favourite cushion watching Jamie drive off with his dad.


Now Spring is here so are the Amazon lillies. I grow these on the front verandah.

There has been a slight change in me and in my home. I've not felt this way before and although I'm sad for the loss of Hanno every day, when I start moving and make the bed, organise lunch for Gracie and me, sweep the floor and wipe benches, I have a feeling of comfort, not just in myself but also in being here, at home. I think I've moved from intense grief to something else and I suppose when I think about it more and when time passes, I'll have a better understanding of it.


I wrote about upgrading appliances a couple of posts back but here's something I don't have to upgrade - it uses very little electricity.  It's a very old radio with cassette player! The radio still works, the cassette player doesn't open.  This table is next to where I sit when I'm on the front verandah.  Nowadays, I light a mosquito coil and turn on the radio and I feel I've gone back in time 50 years.


There's another couple of months before I start my Home Care Plan. When that starts I'll have funds on hand for all the lawn mowing and outside maintenance here. But now I'm trying to find someone to mow the lawn. I went on airtasker and I offered $150 for the job but no one would do it at that price.  Looks like the going price is $170.  Anyhow, I withdrew the job and thought I might be able to get a local to do it.  I'll look on the bulletin board when I go over to the shops again.  If you have any suggestions, let me know. 


I'm currently organising my home so I can do the work I need to do easily and efficiently. Many of you know I have a non-malignant brain tumour.  The main problem I have with it is that it makes me dizzy when I walk on uneven ground (gardening), when I look up or down (hanging out the washing), or when I pick up items that are too heavy for me. I found that mopping floors and carrying a bucket of water made me really dizzy so I looked for other options. I don't want to give these jobs to someone else until I absolutely have to.  I think when you stop doing something at my age, it's difficult to keep the ability to do it again.


This is the area in my laundry where I hang a few of my rags to dry.

I ended up buying a steam mop and I love it. It a Black and Decker 1300W 10 in 1 steam-mop. It does a very good job on the floor using no cleaning products, it's light and it comes with attachments so I can steam clean the venetian blinds, the oven or stove and the range hood. I wish I'd know about steam mops before.

When I finish this post I'll peel some vegetables, feed Gracie and start cooking my lunch.  It's meatballs with coleslaw and salad today.  Thank you for your visit here today. I send my thanks and appreciation to everyone who comments here. I don't often have time to answer but I do try. I hope everything is going well for you and that the rest of the week is smooth sailing. xx


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