Friday, September 28, 2012

an explained absence

Hello. Apologies for my rather long absence from this space. I've had some computer issues this week and could not connect to the internet. I am also unable to download any new photos. Two issues that I don't think are related. I'm afraid I don't cope well with computer issues, nor am I very good at resolving them. My patience just flies out the window and I have had to distance myself from the computer for several days before attempting to get back online again. A new modem means I am back online, but the wireless connection is still proving to be elusive.  So I am now blogging from the kitchen bench.  Which I can't say is an entirely bad thing, but I will need to change a few things around. And find a higher chair.

Meanwhile it's been school holidays, and a rather sociable one at that. With three or four, sometimes five kids around the house, there has rarely been a dull moment. I've been spring cleaning the kitchen, baking rabbit pie, magazine culling and reading Stephanie Alexander's A Cook's Life. We're expecting a few family visits to their nearby weekenders over the long weekend. I've written out a little menu plan for the possible 14 guests that may make their way here.

Outside a strange hot wind is blowing. We're expecting rain, which would be a good thing around here. We had to order a load of water this week. The first in quite some time.

I'm hoping to get some time to play around with the blog set up in the next week or so. Is it just me or has the writing and photos become smaller? I'm afraid I'm not terribly tech savvy, so please bear with me.

I've missed being here and I expect a little catch up blog reading will be on the cards today.

How has your week been? Are you in the midst of school holidays? Any plans for the long weekend?

Wishing you all a wonderful long weekend.

Monday, September 24, 2012

then and now

It's taken many years, but I think I've finally come to accept and actually enjoy the weekends for just what they are. Before kids, the weekends were a welcome relief from the working week. We'd go shopping. We'd visit friends or family. We might go the movies. But of course that all changes when you stay at home with kids. Suddenly the weekends aren't what they used to be. The week merges into the weekend, morphing into an extra long week. The washing still needs to be done, as does the lawn and the garden.  Priorities in life change.

But since moving out here I really don't mind. The sun is shining, there is salad to harvest in the garden and just enough time left to do a few rows of knitting, do some reading and watch a little game of soccer. My favourite blossom tree is flowering. I bake a batch of scones. Baked beans tend to come out of the pot rather than a can. A neighbour drops in some eggs. My son bike rides  in the street with his friends. Coming home when he's either hungry or thirsty. While Sunday lunch may have once been a BBQ chicken and chips from the local takeaway, these days it's usually salad and freshly baked bread.

So I'm not really sure if it's getting used to a new normal, or simply growing up a little and appreciating a quieter kind of weekend. Whatever it is, I like it.


I wanted to thank each and every one of you that took the time to leave comments and suggestions on my last post. They were all very much appreciated, and it was reassuring that so many of us had the same concerns. There were some really great suggestions within the comments. Some of which I will be adopting myself. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Sorry to those expecting a craft post, or a light hearted picture post today. I try to keep this blog true to where I am in life, what makes me happy, and sometimes, what concerns me.

For lately I can't help but feel worried at the quickening pace the cost of living has taken. On a steady climb the past few years, it feels as if we have suddenly veered off onto a steep walking track, where the incline is unlike any that our present generation has experienced, heading into the direction of the unknown.

Supermarket prices have been steadily climbing. As has petrol. But it is the electricity costs, and just how much it has jumped up this financial year that is especially a cause for concern. Because we all know, that like petrol, it too will be passed on through the entire chain.

Several years ago now, I used to buy all our bread, laundry powder, paper towels, toilet cleaner, surface spray, nappies, tissues, several types of cereals, cordial, salad in bags, packaged biscuits and flavoured tubs of yoghurt. It's been a long time since I've regularly bought those things, and yet I've never seen our grocery bill climb so high.

We have solar hot water and yet our electricity bill is double what it was when we first lived in this house three years ago.

 I worry about what this will mean for us in the next few years. I worry about those less fortunate than us that are already struggling to make ends meet.

So what can we do? I've been asking myself this lately.

We already live fairly simply. With a fair sized vegie garden, though not very productive at this time of year, and with fruit trees that are yet to produce, the latter is more of a long term project at this point in time.

I buy bulk flour, from which I make most of our bread, pastry and other baked goods. I make my own laundry powder and clean with vinegar, bicarb soda and eucalyptus oil. We use cloth nappies, use handkerchiefs instead of tissues and use cloth napkins. All of which makes a definite difference in our grocery bill. And yet we are still spending more than ever before.

Local food is not really an option, except for meat. There are no local commercial growers, no local dairies, no local fruit shop. 

It is true that I like to buy better quality ingredients, and organically when I can, as I believe cheap, inferior food will cost us in other ways. But it concerns me that this is not an option for many, and for our family, for how much longer? Will our remaining quality producers struggle to survive?

Personally, we have discussed going off the grid. We've talked about buying a cow, keeping a pig, ducks and chickens. We know we need to install a greenhouse so we can plant things like tomatoes in now instead of November. We know we need to drive less. There are so many options to consider. Some small, but some requiring substantial amounts of investment.

Have these things been on your mind lately? What are your thoughts? Ideas?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

schoolhouse tunics

For the past decade I've dreamed of being able to sew up an entire wardrobe season. For the longest time my entire sewing skills consisted of being able to sew a simple cushion or basic curtains. Four years ago I pushed myself to learn to sew simple girl's clothes. The past few years I've sewn quite a bit for the kids. But I've only occasionally dabbled in sewing for myself, and none that I would say I was absolutely happy with, though I do wear them from time to time.

But a few late nights and patience, lot's of patience, has meant that I'm just that little bit closer to a season of homemade outfits. Spurred on, I admit, by the lack of quality in the shops these days, as well as poor fit and exorbitant prices, not to mention the ethical side, or lack of, in the clothing world. Which in turn tends to make it more difficult to find good clothing in the op shops.

So sewing out of necessity I am.

My dress is still awaiting it's zipper (two zippers inserted didn't work properly (frustrating!), so I have on order a better quality zipper), but meanwhile I'd been busy with the Schoolhouse Tunic.

The first, in the beige, was made from a soft voile I found at the op shop. I cut a size 10, but had to do some altering, so with the blue Amy Butler voile I cut an 8, but used a smaller seam allowance in the arm area. I think I got it just right in the end.

I'm enjoying the freedom in being able to match a design that will suit me, paired with a print that I know I will love. I thoroughly enjoy that part of the creative process.

It was a great, easy pattern, with no zippers or buttons to worry about. I would highly recommend it. The blue one was sewn within a day. Which is a good thing when you're going on holidays the very next day. Even if your husband thinks you are a little crazy and should be packing.

They were so comfy and light to wear that I virtually lived in them the entire week I was away. Mostly teamed with a pair of leggings, but I was game to wear them on their own (despite the pale legs!)  down at the beach.

Now all I need is a little tunic friendly weather to make an appearance back home. I'm still waiting on that.

Hoping that your Wednesday is lovely one wherever you are.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

kitchen notes

I realised it's been quite some time since I've done a kitchen post. So here is some of the everyday food we've been enjoying of late. Still quite heavy on the comfort food, as Spring has been a little slow to arrive in these parts.

  1. Homemade ricotta - it was really supposed to be a batch of yoghurt in the slow cooker, but I left the milk heating for too long and scorched the edges so I stirred in a little vinegar and salt instead of yoghurt. It was the best tasting batch of made yet.
  2. Ricotta and jam on pikelets.
  3. Paprika braised chickpeas with kale served with rice and garlic mayonnaise from Matthew Evans' Winter on the Farm. I've been using this book a lot lately with our persistently cold nights.
  4. Porridge (soaked overnight) with dates, milk, yoghurt and maple syrup.
  5. Individual golden syrup and hazlenut puddings. Another one from Winter on the Farm. Good with cream.
  6. Broccoli, kale and rocket from the garden. Thank goodness for frost resistant rocket and kale that have supplied us with our salads all winter.
  7. Wholemeal spelt loaves.
  8. Garden salad with chopped boiled egg served with toasted homemade bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
  9. Moroccan Spice rub for lamb. Very, very good served hot with a cold yoghurt and garlic sauce.
  10. Radish from the garden with sea salt and olive oil.
  11. Rocket pesto.
  12. Date, honey and Ginger Cake, also from Winter on the Farm.
  13. Also good served with ricotta and jam. In this cast Persian quince jam.

What's been cooking up in your kitchen?
Do you have any good recipes to share?
Any favourite cookbooks?
Has your cooking taken on a Spring like twist?

Wishing you all a very good day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

pancake sundays

It is a rare event in this household that we don't have pancakes on a Sunday morning. My kids like to remind me of that fact bright and early every Sunday morning. It's not like it was a planned habit, but it has evolved into a little tradition of sorts over the past few years.

A fresh tablecloth makes an appearance. As does the colourful old mismatched china, the silverware and the linen napkins. The much needed coffee is put on the stove to be ready at just about the same time as the pancakes.

We've enjoyed pancakes with fried banana. Pancakes with strawberries. Pancakes with jam. But always, always with maple syrup and whipped cream.

The mix itself might change from week to week. I've varied between Nigella's American pancakes, to Jamie's version featuring egg whites, to Sophie Dahl's ricotta version and our current favourite (shown above), a fluffy yoghurt version.  The one on the back of the buttermilk carton is also a goodie. I often like to mix up the flours. White, wholemeal or spelt, and often a combination.

But it's not all about the pancake itself, but what it has some to represent. It's like a little constant marker in our weekend life. Often followed by a day of pottering around and getting done what needs to get done (or some of it at least). Not overly rushing ourselves, as might be the case on other days of the week, but now taking our time about doing things. For there really is no point in rushing on a Sunday is there?

In the end it is the comfort of familiarity. The joy that is a shared meal. The pleasure that is preparing a meal to put a smile on the faces of loved ones. Knowing that everyone leaves the table nourished not only from food but from the act of all being together. It has a different feel to the nightly dinners that we all share. This is slower somehow, and usually without the stresses of the day brought to the table.

Perhaps you have your own version of pancake Sunday? Bacon and eggs? A weekend brunch? Maybe a Sunday roast? Whichever, they all really boil down to the same thing, don't they?

So here I sit on this rainy Monday morning, raising my (coffee) cup to pancake Sundays. Or the like.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


It's funny the perspective a weeks worth of holidaying can bring.

Though I love spending time on the internet, there is a certain clarity of mind to be had when you don't have it. There are less distractions on holidays. I still cooked dinner each night. I still put the compost out. I still cloth nappied my youngest. But I was able to step back and enjoy life just that little bit more.

I felt that I could hear myself think. I could hear my kids clearly. I felt rested with a certain sense of calm that only idle time can bring. No plans. No expectations. I wanted to bottle some of that and bring it home.

I'd like to make time to read more. To engross myself in the world of a novel every now and then.

I'd like to knit outdoors more.

I'd like to reawaken my senses and enjoy more of what is under my very nose.

I'd like to slow down, even just a little bit.

We saw many beautiful places; breathtaking beaches the colour of sapphires and topaz, sandy tracks lined with gnarled and twisted banksias, rolling hills dotted with black and white cows. At times we threw around the idea of moving to such places. But as we opened the gate into our driveway we realised that we have it pretty good here. It may not be very green. It may not have the scent of salt in the air and the echos of the ocean. But the blossoms had emerged while we were away and the sweet scent of them filled the valley. The lilac and apple trees are budding. It's been a long cold Winter. But we are sensing a change. A reawakening. And it really wouldn't be the same anywhere else.

We are home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

postcards : from the 50's beach house

This Winter saw us discover the world of the holiday house. Though in the past I'd never looked into this accommodation before, it has proven to be like a home away from home. Regarding the budget, because we've been staying in off season it costs us a little more than a motel, while being cheaper than luxury hotel style accommodation.

The camper trailer has been having a little rest over the past few months, as I'm not quite hardy enough to enjoy waking up to frosty cold mornings. But now that it's Spring it will be coming out again soon.

We chose a roomy 50's beach house that had stunning views over the ocean. It felt amazing to wake up to a different ocean every morning. Still, choppy, or sparkling with deep blue or grey. The air was so much warmer there, so we spent a lot of time out on that deck.

We ate breakfast and dinner in every day, and a few lunches also. Mostly simple food. But I did appreciate the cast iron frypan and griddle pan. With the pile of retro china plates, cups and bowls I felt quite at home. There was even a small stash of vintage Pyrex, that made great salad bowls.

Some days we just went down the beach, coming home for lunch and then relaxing on the deck all afternoon. My knitting was never far from my side. Otherwise I was reading, often by the open fireplace at night. I bought a few new books while we were away. The Gourmet Farmer - which is everything I thought it would be and more. Also A Story of Seven Summers - the story of a high flying journalist that threw in her London life for a rambling old home in Tasmania. It's been an enjoyable read so far and perfect for holidaying.

The kids brought their lego and did quite a bit of reading while away. It makes me happy to see them splashing in the water and digging holes in the sand. Things that were a big part of my own childhood.

Have you done the holiday house thing? Or are you the hotel or camping type?