Thursday, 29 January 2015

Out With The Old...


It all started with this...........

20 years old with a cracked top on the vanity unit cupboard and leaking tiles on the shower floor.  I am starting to shudder at the thought of the "consumerism" I am about to embark upon but there is really nothing in the bathroom that we can salvage and use again.  The point is - if we want to be able to sell our home in the future, the job needs to be done, and done properly - enabling it to pass a building inspection.

This is what we have after two days of demolition.  The tiles of course would not come off the walls so our easiest solution was to cut and remove the whole lower section of the tiled wall sheets.  A jackhammer was still necessary to remove the "wetbed" from the shower and the tiles from the floor.  I won't say another word because you would all be able to imagine the noise and dust that was part of my life for the duration of this proceedure.   Boy - glad that's finished.

Another couple of days and my wonderful, handyman husband has been able to re-sheet all the walls, relocate the water pipes for the vanity unit, build the shower hob and concrete the wetbed for the shower floor.  Having a "tradie" husband is certainly a big money saver for this part of the renovation.

And now the professional "Waterproofing" bloke has just left after applying the two coats of waterproof sealer needed before the tiling can begin.  Yes, I'm hearin ya!!!!  that is a very vibrant shade of blue.


Monday, 26 January 2015


Mmmmmmmm - its a pity you can't smell what I smell.  This is my latest sourdough loaf - pulled out of the oven just now - and, if I do say so myself best loaf yet. 


I have been trying to perfect the art of making sourdough bread for about 6 months now.

My first attempt at a starter was fairly dismal, which I put down to maybe the age of my bakers flour.  With a quick visit to "SIMPLY GOOD", a bulk produce store, relatively close to my home, I was able to buy a fresh batch of flour which made my second starter bubble away nicely in just a few days.

However.....I quickly found out that just because the starter is bubbling and a wonderful fruity smell is being emitted from the bowl,  this does not mean things are going to work out.   So many other variables come in to play when making a sourdough loaf.   The time of the day, the weather, humidity, all of these things and many more affect the ability of the dough to ferment and rise.

After many failed attempts, I resorted to buying "dedicated equipment" thinking this would help.  I jumped on-line and purchased a cane banneton, scraper and slashing blade from Sourdough Companion.

This was the first thing that I did right.  What a great website!!!!!    I did not sign up to use the forum there, however, I found it to be an invaluable place to be able to read all about the "art of sourdough".  Being able to read at my own pace and learning level, step by step, was a great help and I have never looked back.

Another great find on "YouTube" is the following video which is all about the shaping of the loaves before setting them aside in the banneton for their final rise.


Good luck if you are on your own quest for the perfect sourdough loaf.  I hope the links that I have posted here are of help as well.    My advice to you is just practice, practice, practice and keep going - don't get disheartened.  When a loaf turns out too flat or too chewy just give it another day you will be amazed at yourself - just like me. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Handmade Preserves

Preserving is part of the routine here........Directions for jams, chutneys, pickles and relishes occupy a large section of my recipe box.   Being on 10 acres of land with a large vege patch and orchard, there is always an abundance of some type of produce ready to be bottled for later use.

Preserving is a great way to ensure our 
gardening efforts do not go to waste but I also
think they are a great "simple-life" tool as well.

A jar of homemade jam or chutney can be a wonderful "thanks mate" gift for the neighbour who helps feed the chickens while you're on a weekend away.  Its a great "bartering" tool with a local farmer - my jam for your moo poo. 

It's also a way of making some extra money at the local markets to buy seed and seedlings for the patch.  But, best of all jars of preserves are an awesome "you're appreciated" gift for your BFF who is always standing by when you need them. 

So.........I like my preserving jars to look a bit thoughtful, special and very homemade.  A quick way of doing this is with a crocheted jar lid cover.

Here is a set I have just finished, ready for some mango chutney I will be making on the weekend.  They are made using leftover cotton yarn and buttons from my button jar.  No extra expense - just some of my free time in front of the TV after the days work is done. 

Here is the pattern if you want to give them a go.

  • Chain 3 and slip stitch to form a ring
  • Chain 3 (this will be the first DC)
  • 11 DC into the ring  and join with slip stitch to top of chain 3 (12 stitches)
  • Chain 3,1 DC in the bottom of chain 3, 2 DC in every stitch to end - slip stitch to top of chain 3 (24 stitches)
  • Chain 3, **1 DC in next stitch, 2 DC in next stitch** repeat from ** to ** to end and slip stitch closed (36 stitches)  This ring now forms the top of the jar
  • Chain 3, **DC in next stitch, 2 DC in next stitch** repeat from ** to ** to end and slip stitch closed (54 stitches) 
  • Chain 3, 1 DC in every stitch to end - close with a slip stitch. (54 stitches)  This is the row to insert the gathering chain.
  • Chain 3, 2 DC in every stitch (108 stitches)  This is the edge row.
  • Finish off and weave in ends.

  • Then chain a length approximately 20 inches in a contrasting colour for the gathering cord.
  • Insert cord in appropriate row
  • Sew a button to the centre

Thursday, 15 January 2015

In the Herb Patch...

When the parsley gets unruly, snip it back, and make tabouleh !!

I have 3 parsley plants growing at the moment and with all the rain of late they all look like huge green mountains.  

Tabouleh is one of my favourite salads in Summer.  The tangy, lemon flavour is very refreshing after a hot days work and the parsley plants never let me down for an abundant supply of leaves.


  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup bourghal (cracked wheat)
  • 1 small red onion diced  /  or 4 shallots chopped
  • 2 cups finely diced parsley
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
Whisk the zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, then add the bourghal.  Let this soak for 30 minutes to 1 and 1/2 hours, depending on the coarseness of your cracked wheat and how soft you want it.

Use shallots or spring onions if you find the red onion is too strong for your taste.

Wash the parsley and dry thoroughly.  Remove all the stems, then grab a handful and roll it up and slice the roll as thinly as possible.  Chop the parsley in the opposite direction to the direction you sliced and you should get it pretty evenly chopped.

Add the parsley to a large bowl along with the cucumber, tomato and onion.  Add the soaked bourghal along with the dressing that has not been absorbed yet and toss to combine.

Tabouleh tastes fresh the day it is made, but if you let it sit overnight, the flavours have a chance to meld and it tastes even better.........enjoy

Monday, 12 January 2015

Big Day in the Patch...

Overcast today, still very humid though - but at least the sun is not beating down upon me as it has been for many days now.  Finally, it is an opportune day for me to pull out what is left of the Summer plantings in the vege patch.  The garden will then remain fallow for the next couple of months  -  its way to hot, humid, wet and bug heaven to have a vege garden in Summer in Queensland........Roll on Autumn

After a very hard day and four buckets of perspiration later we have................a decidedly empty garden plot and a dozen very happy chickens.   

Together with.........the last of the produce

Some capsicum, a large long green cucumber, a nice truss of tomatoes and a big bunch of juicy basil leaves.   

Big day here - going to turn my basil leaves into pesto now for a big bowl of pasta and then relax for the evening.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Tomato Sauce

Summer brings with it an abundance of tomatoes here in South East Queensland.  My garden is no exception.  The recent rains and humidity have pushed hundreds of cherry tomatoes to ripen so I have been under pressure trying to preserve them in as many ways as possible.  One of my favourites is home made tomato sauce (sugar free - of course).

Place all ingredients in a large pan and simmer


4 x 400gm cans tomato (diced, chopped, whole  -  doesn’t matter  -  whatever is on special)
(this can be substituted with 1.5 kg of fresh tomato from the garden but add 1 tablespoons of tomato paste as well)
2 large onions  -  chopped
3 cloves garlic  -  crushed
4 teaspoons “Stevia”
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Place tomatoes and onion in blender and finely chop.  (this needs to be done in a couple of batches due to the amount).  Put all ingredients in large pot on the stove and bring to the boil.    Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Do a taste test  -  everyone is different  -  add a little more salt, pepper, stevia or herbs depending on your tastebuds.
Will last 7 to 10 days in the fridge.  Freeze in batches. 

Freeze in manageable batches in the freezer

The "boys" just love this on top of hot meat pies and beef rissoles.  The recipe has just the "right amount of spice" for all my family members to be able to enjoy it.   Of course, more spices, salt, or sweetener can be added depending on your families taste buds. 


Friday, 9 January 2015

Back on Track - Goals for 2015

The Christmas / New Year break is always such a relaxed time for us.  Life slows down for a couple of weeks and we all just enjoy each other company and do whatever takes our fancy.

It is a time that I can "take stock" of what I have accomplished over the last 12 months and "ponder" what might lay ahead for the coming year.  My special spot on the verandah helps my thought process. 

My favourite place - "Harvey" under the chair, likes it too

I don't like New Year Resolutions but I do like to set some goals or skills that I would like to achieve.  This years list looks a bit like this........

Branch out in my bread making skills.  Last year I got into sourdough (which I am still trying to perfect) and this year I would like to include some flatbreads to my culinary skills and maybe try my hand at making Turkish Pide.

Increase my knitting skills.  I have never used a charted pattern before and as I would like to knit some more for my wardrobe, I thought learning to follow a chart would give me more scope in the variety of patterns that I could choose.  I found a beautiful design called "Nantasket",a lacy vest pattern from Amy Herzog.  I have downloaded the pattern, ordered my yarn and hopefully I will be starting soon.

No more hairdresser.  Continue with the battle to let the natural grey take over my hair.  The money being saved from this goal is huge and its not a quick task but........I know I can be strong..........I KNOW I CAN DO IT !!!

Renovate the ensuite.  Last year it was the laundry, this year it is the ensuites turn to be "made over".  This project, to save money we will be tackling ourselves........starting with a total demolition of what is there now.   Woo hoo!!! sounds like fun doesn't it.

The finished laundry makeover

Lower my carbon footprint and do more exercise.  I plan to do more walking and bike riding and much less use of the car.  Remember - the centre of "town" is only 5 kilometres away..........JUST DO IT !!

My "Wheels"