Thursday, May 31, 2012

a good at home kind of day

I've made a few changes to the routine of my day. I've never been one for routines, but if I think about it my days at home do follow a loose kind of routine.  I've stopped blogging early in the morning. I'm slowing down a little for breakfast. I take the kids to school and then I make a coffee and sit down to blog. Knowing that the dishes are done and the bed made.

Yesterday after hanging the washing out, I noticed that Violet didn't want to come back inside. So I did something I don't usually do. I grabbed my knitting and sat outside while she played. Soaked in a bit of the Wintery sun and listened to the stillness. I think it's something I need to do more of.

Lunch has always been a hurried kind of meal for me. But yesterday I started sitting at the table just my food and I (no reading allowed!). I enjoyed that leftovers meal of baked bread, cold scrambled egg (I never knew you could eat it cold and it would actually taste quite good) and kale, ricotta and roast pumpkin salad. I was glad I'd saved it the night before.

It was a good at home kind of day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

screen time

 It's a funny thing this thing called technology.

I think it's both a curse and a blessing. I know I struggle with the balance of it. I struggle with my kid's balance of it.

I know some of you are in that wholesome realm of the no tv world. I truly take my hat off to you. I wish we could do it. But the reality of it here is that if you walked in my door, the big tv on the wall might be the first thing you would see.

Then there is my least favourite, the playstation2 (a remnant of our city living times) and the newer iphone (which keeps mysteriously disappearing) and of, course, the computer.

I really struggle with the screen time for the kids. If I let them I don't think they would be doing much else. I know it hasn't made me terribly popular around here. There's quite a bit of that torn motherhood guilt going on. But despite my best efforts, there is still a few hours spent daily, between cartoons (the rule is ABC only) and games.

There is a fine line between wanting our kids to have the simpler kind of life we grew up with or aspire to, while not wanting them to fall too far behind in a lightning paced world that is geared up for technology.

I can say that I don't mind a bit of tv myself. What would Wednesday night be like without a dose of Offspring? Monday without Revenge? The new season of River Cottage? I am missing Parenthood. But not to worry too much because Downton Abbey is back. It's becoming quite clear that I am also quite attached to that thing my mother likes to call the idiot box.

I guess the important thing is to not let it all take over. I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to set limits. I encourage the kids to play outside and read or play indoors.  But we do have our moments of pushing these boundaries. Where the balance is way off kilter. All of us.

Do you have a tv? Games? Do you struggle with screen time balance too? Do you have any tips?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

on eating rabbit

I had never cooked rabbit before. In fact, I had never really thought about these little creatures as meat, though I had tasted it once or twice a few years ago.

But when we were asked by a friend if we wanted a few rabbits it was a definite yes. So the hunting men laid their traps and the next morning there were many rabbits to take home. We were given six. Daniel helped skin and gut the rabbits, and Luca got to skin his first rabbit. He was pretty excited. I didn't watch, but I wouldn't mind to next time around.

It's a skill that some people out here still have. That ability to hunt for our food. Which is a pretty useful skill to have when you think about it. There must be some reassurance in the knowledge of come what may, you could provide for yourself and your family if you had to. These skills weren't taught to most of us for the past generation or two. But I guess it's never too late to learn. 

I believe some butchers stock rabbit, but it would be worth asking if it is wild or farmed. To my (limited) knowledge, wild is preferable, but I'm not sure of the legality of selling it. In some urban backyards people are even raising rabbits for meat.

As for wild rabbit, when you think about it, these little foragers must be about the most sustainable (and frugal) meat you could eat. In Australia they are a pest, and in the country they're everywhere.

So what do you do with a rabbit? Well, plenty it seems. A quick look in my cookbooks revealed stews, ragu, pie and roasts.  But first you will need to clean them and we soaked ours overnight in salted water. I found two useful videos here and here. (Just a warning, they are slightly graphic).

Some we left whole, while others we jointed. Not perfectly, but we managed. No harder than jointing a chicken. In fact, probably easier. I dried them all off once soaking was done and then most were bagged and stored in the freezer. I kept one out for last nights dinner.

I decided to make a traditional Italian Rabbit Pappardelle from Angela Hartnett's Cucina. It was really quite simple. Well, simple on the ingredients list, but not that simple. Not hard though. Just one of those time involved recipes, that if you are in the right mood, can be quite satisfying to make. Fortunately I was in the right mood.

So I chopped the carrot and onion (I didn't have celery on hand) with garlic and herbs. I browned the rabbit, caramelized the vegetables and herbs, added wine and stock. I cooked it until it almost fell off the bone. I sieved the stock, just leaving the liquid and then shredded the meat. There was surprisingly a good bowlful from that one little rabbit. I then simmered and reduced the meat with stock for ten minutes or so.

Meanwhile we made pappardelle pasta. By hand again, as I don't yet have that machine.

So Daniel came home from work that night to a pretty messy, chaotic, floury kitchen. But it had been a fun, adventurous evening in the kitchen.

And the taste? I have to say I am a definite convert. It was delicious. Light in flavour and despite the overused term, it most definitely did "taste like chicken".  It was also a huge hit with the kids, whose approval does not come easily.

I think the thing with knowing the journey of your food makes you far more respectful of the animal, the meat and the unwillingness to waste any of it (next time I will ask for that liver). It makes a meal so much more that just preparing and eating. It gives a story to our food.

Have you ever eaten or cooked rabbit before? Would you try it?

Monday, May 28, 2012

this type of weekend

It was a family, friends and food filled weekend this time around. Did I get any rest? No. But there was freshly skinned rabbits to prepare, bean and bacon soup to eat prepared by mother in law as they spent the weekend in the house on the hill, roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, and polenta that made two meals. I for one never knew you could eat polenta for breakfast. We listened to John Williamson's Mallee Boy album. I grew up listening to that. We split wood. Or rather, Daniel and his friend did. I merely supplied the coffee and the ricotta jam tart. I found our first (shrivelled) olive.

That night I pulled out my knitting and settled in to watch Downton Abbey. This life wasn't perfect. It was busy, but sometimes slow. It was messy, but the air was fresh. I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

no use crying over spilt maple syrup

Feeling not so great after staying up past midnight to finish business paperwork. After putting two days into it, the washing and cleaning has banked up. You didn't see the huge piles next to those baskets. Not to mention an extra clingy Miss Violet. Or the half bottle of maple syrup spilt all over the place as we head out the door for school yesterday.

I will be back tomorrow when the house is a little cleaner, the washing more under control and hopefully my mood a little brighter.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

in the lunchbox

 I've had a few readers ask recently what I pack in the kid's school lunchboxes.

I will warn you now that I've never been one of those mothers that baked chicken wings or made little quiches just for the purpose of school lunches. Though my kids probably wished I did.

We don't have fancy lunchboxes here. I think I bought them when both started preschool, and we've been using them ever since.

I used to buy packets of things for their lunchboxes. Muesli bars, popcorn packets or little sesame bars. I have to say that they were incredibly convenient. Just throw them in and all you have to make is a sandwich. But when I examined the ingredient list, and mind you they are far better than some options, a few of those ingredients didn't quite sit right with me. Not exactly great on the budget either. So I stopped buying them.

Which was a little scary at first. How do you do lunch boxes from scratch? With nothing to fall back on?

Most of the time I bake our own bread here, so butter and a simple filling are usually for lunch. Recess, the realm of the packet food, is a little trickier. When I do make muffins or biscuits, I try to do a double batch to save time later in the week when I might be busier. And then there's fruit break. Now that's an easy one. Trickier, sometimes, to get them to actually eat it.

3 days of lunchboxes from the past week:

  • muffins from here (flavoured with vanilla and quince jam)
  • homemade bread roll with butter, grated carrot and grated cheese
  • local apple

  • muffins, again from here, plain sprinkled with cinnamon and rapadura sugar
  • homemade bread with butter and peanut butter (freshly crushed at our local health food store)
  • orange

  • homemade bread with butter, cabbage slaw (sliced cabbage, dressed with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and touch of mustard and cream) and sliced tomato from the garden
  • wholemeal crackers (I will post this recipe soon)
  • slices of cheddar
  • orange (again)

Being a small school there hasn't been an issue from their classmates with the kids eating slightly different food. Living some distance from town, there are quite a few other parents who bake from scratch, garden and make preserves. Not to mention the influence of the kitchen garden.

How about you? Any lunchbox ideas that you might like to share? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


  1. A thick blanket of white frost and a minus 3 this morning.
  2. I think I need new ugg boots. Or patches? We've had a good four years together and your orange stripes tell me that you are really much older than that.
  3. Morning sun. You would never guess at the temperature outside.
  4. Wondering if I really could tackle an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern. Could I?
  5. My only window sill herb. Thinking that I'd like to add more.
  6. The smell of vegetable stock made from scraps wafting through the house.
  7. I love to see my kids read. Even sweeter to spy them reading to their little sister.
  8. The last of the roses for now. Are they dormant over Winter? I really should read up.
  9. Still climbing. Only one minor injury so far.
  10. There is nothing warmer in Winter than wool handknits. My needles would never be able to keep up. Thank goodness for these (increasingly rare) op shop finds. It has taken several seasons to collect a nice stash of jumpers for home.

Wishing you all a pleasant day in your world.

Monday, May 21, 2012



I've been away for a little bit. We got back at midnight on Saturday after spending time with family in the Southern Highlands and Kiama, and of course, Pop's funeral in Sydney.

I wanted to say a warm thank you to all those that left condolences last week. Each and every one was so very much appreciated.

We stayed in Pop's house. As neat, tidy and functional as it always was. Just as if he stepped out for a minute.

We survived the trip into Sydney, and I've decided I don't like tunnels, and where did all that non-peak hour traffic come from anyhow? I never remembered such traffic. My palms were sweating by the time we pulled into the quiet and peaceful suburb of La Perouse, and I wasn't even the one driving.

Things went as well as they could have though. My uncle talked about Pop's life. About him meeting my grandmother while she was backpacking around Europe and following her halfway across the world. About being rejected as a "ten pound pom" because his blood pressure was too high. About how his proudest career moment as a town planner was helping save the historic buildings of Windsor from the developers.

 At the last minute I was asked to recite a poem that was left with Pop's paperwork. Public speaking does not come easily to me, but I managed it, and felt that I had contributed in a small way.

We found my grandmothers plaque and the reserved space beside hers. They will be together again after half a lifetime apart.

During the next few days we visited family. We visited our old areas that were becoming run down, but still comfortingly familiar. Our old life and our current life felt like worlds apart.

I think though, as we drove into a our gate that night, we were most grateful to be home. Home to the quiet. Home to the cold. Home to the comforting feel of flannel sheets and thick doonas.

And life goes on.

Despite flat feelings.

Despite deeper thoughts about life.

Despite endings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I received the phone call yesterday morning that I had been expecting for the past few weeks. My grandfather, known as "Pop" to us, had passed away during the night. He was 89.

I used to stay with my Pop during the school holidays. He would take me to museums and on train rides into the city. I enjoyed those stays, and would spend my spare time reading from his library.

Pop was the most organized person I knew. He loved books, crosswords and the morning paper. In later years he connected to the internet. He never really stopped learning.

He saw and travelled so much over the course of his life.

My entire life I have received a birthday card in the mail, always a day or two early. In recent years, so have my kids.  He never missed a single birthday, even when he was in hospital last year. I'm going to miss those cards.

I'm going to miss him.

Rest in peace, Pop.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Though the weekend weather started out pleasant enough, it soon deteriorated into some icy, windy and sleety weather. Just in time for my warm-weather loving brother and his family. It was nice to get together again and see the cousins play together. It brought back memories of that connection cousins share.

My own kiddies surprised me with a little assortment of presents on Sunday morning.  Though there was no breakfast in bed (I cooked pancakes for a crowd instead), it was still a special day of family and being together. Firstly extended family, and then just us. So while the icy wind howled outside and rain made the occasional appearance, we were all indoors together. Enjoying the fire, cheese platters, frittata  and hot drinks. Though I did have to brave that cold for two loads of washing.

I remember now why I love the cold.

How was your weekend? Was it cold where you are? Did you tend to hibernate too?