Monday, 31 March 2014

So That's How The Other Half Live

You know in the movies how you see the lead male organise a private jet to fly some young buxom lass off to dinner in some exotic location.  I'm thinking Richard Gere in Pretty Woman or Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair.  Well it wasn't exactly a private jet (more like Jetstar) and now that I'm 50 (Egad) I'm not a young girl but the company was excellent in the form of my big sister Glenda, we are both very buxom and rather than champagne she did give me lollies so my ears wouldn't pop on takeoff.

Goodness, i had to pause there.  When i typed "buxom girls" into Google Images you should have seen what came up.  I think i need a lie down........and to delete my browsing history before my teenage son finds it.   You'll just have to use your imagination.

Glenda and i flew to Hobart, Tasmania yesterday for a beautiful 5 hour cruise that included a 5 star meal in Peppermint Bay.  Such a lovely birthday present.  I know, I know i can hear some of my blog buddies screaming out "carbon miles" but really guys, you live once, right?  I think it all started when i mentioned many time over the last few years that i didn't want a party for my birthday (like my other siblings). I had a PLAN and that was to add and E  (for those that are a bit slow that spells PLANE) and go somewhere. Well my "No Party" wish didn't turn out too well (read all about my surprise 50th party on my last post here) so she came up with this little adventure just to tick off all the boxes.

This is not my photo.  For some reason they don't like you taking pictures of their planes.  Actually the opening photo isn't mine either.  I was in it silly, how could i take a picture of it on the water?  
This big day started out very early yesterday with my lovely Hubby (who is not a morning person) volunteering to take us girls to Tullamarine Airport. They wanted $56 to park my car for a day, no thank you! Our flight left at 6am and so two very excited sisters, neither of who slept a wink (no help from Tom who was giving me hourly reminders "its two o'clock Mum, just thought you should know" , "its just past 3 Mum, are you getting up"), very nervously wandering around the airport asking everyone with a uniform what to do next. Big travellers we are not and in truth we are just country bumpkins pretending to live in the big smoke who have a thing for uniforms. LOL   Oh, did i tell it was Glenda's first flight.

Having a son that is an Aspie and a recent missing plane in the news, the program Air Crash Investigations have featured fairly heavily in our house the last few weeks.  Tom advised me that when i was choosing the seats i should make sure its down the back where the black box is and because when the plane breaks on impact, the rear is more likely to hold together.  So much useful information Tom. Glenda chose the seats and they were up the front.

I don't think its appropriate at the moment to put a picture of an aeroplane snapped in half here, do you?

Well we were up for the experience and true to form i was even called aside during the security check and my bag and i were given the once over and wipe down for substances.  Do i look like i would be carrying traces of TNT or narcotics? Well some of you don't know because you have never seen me.  I'm the woman in the blue dress, big boobs and big a......e  like my profile picture, right?  Maybe he thought i was someone skinny with padding? Personally i think he could see that we totally had no clue and was giving us the full airport experience.   We were also checked over by the sniffer dogs at the other end.  Hello,  if i had nothing on me at the start of the flight, how would i have something on me at the other end?  What if it (Mr Beagle) went ape because i smelt like Tilly who i had cuddled before i left.  The mind boggles at the possibilities for this scenario.

Once arriving in Hobart we caught a shuttle to Sullivan's Cove.  This is on the Derwent River and is the site of the first European settlement here in 1804.   This historic area near the pier is surrounded by buildings made of giant slabs of stone and pavements made of bluestone.  They are really beautiful to look at but also a reminder of a dark piece of Australian history where settlements were built on the backs and lives of convicts.  I can however admire the craftsmanship.  I especially love old bluestone bridges.

These buildings are now full of cafes, restaurants and galleries.  The world famous Salamanca Market is held on these same streets and in the grassed area out the front on Saturdays.  We are hoping to come back later in the year for a full weekend.

At 8am on a Sunday with the streets empty, breakfast seemed like a good idea and so we found a lovely restaurant in the courtyard behind.

Love Coffee Art - at Rendezvou

No, i did not eat all this, no one could!

The pier next door had several boats docked including a Survey Ship probably bound for Antarctica, a huge catamaran bound for MONA (Museum of Old & New Art) and a replica of the tall ship Lady Nelson which we saw later out on the river when we were on our cruise.

We departed on our own cat about 11am.   I'm not sure if it was organised by Glenda or not but we managed to score really comfy lounge chairs in the Captains Cabin upstairs.  It was very luxurious and there was drink and food service if we wanted.

Leaving Hobart
I spent most of the first leg of the trip on the deck outside.  It was cool and windy but the air was so pure. We were told that when the wind is blowing from the Southern Oceans that it has been rated as some of the cleanest air in the world.  I was certainly getting my lungs full as well as a free blowave.

The cruise is dotted with commentary of the various passing suburbs, historical sites and some very interesting geological facts.

These are the Alum Cliffs, named for their geological properties and they are a popular walking track for residents and visitors.

We paused several time to watch sea lions bask in the sun and also at one point stopped to lower a camera over the side to view a small cold water reef with coral, marine plants and fish through the flat screens on board. Lunch beckoned and so it was onto Peppermint Bay.  Isn't that a lovely name for a location.  Its name is derived from the Peppermint Gums that line the foreshore.  We stopped at a small settlement called Woodbridge and walked up just a few steps to find ourselves at the restaurant, also named Peppermint Bay.

Our meal started with some very savoury nuts and a selection of olives.   They then served, ahem, some oysters with apple.  I'm sure it was lovely and we certainly didn't have trouble finding takers for them.  Seafood is not our thing.

The next course was a beautiful flavoured hummus with crisp baked sourdough. Glenda still had a turned up look on her face.  3 courses down and she still didn't have anything to eat.

Good ole pumpkin and sweet potato soup saved the day for Glenda.  It was really nice.

The main, which i didn't get a photo of was a win win win.  It was lamb fillet sous vide (or poached under vacuum) which was finished off with a slight roasting and served on a puree of egg plant.  Yum Yum.   It was so so tender and served with rosemary baked potatoes and a cauliflower and quinoa salad (another first).

Something i certainly didn't say no too was the salted caramel fudge.  I would have given my soul for another piece but everyone was of the same opinion and so only one made it onto my plate.   I believe that the menu was all local ingredients and as such my guilt in having flown and cruised there in carbon fuel guzzling beasts was assuaged.

We dined and chatted with some lovely ladies and after a short wander around the grounds we made our way back to the boat.

Glenda wondering with the door shut, just how she's going to leap up there to go to the loo.  No, she wasn't.  She was dutifully looking at the boat on my instruction while i took a pic.  Most accommodating she was - i wouldn't have.  

I can't tell you too much about the trip back because we two "Bobbsey Twins" (who even have the same colour hair because we shared a box) had a nanna nap in our very comfortable lounge chairs. Gosh, we must have looked a site but when we woke, everyone was smiling so it couldn't have been too bad OR it was and we were very entertaining.

On arriving back in Hobart we caught a shuttle back to the airport and had a small wait till our 7pm.  I was given a very challenging Soduku puzzle to do by my fellow passengers and so before i knew it we were back in Melbourne.  Hubby once again picked us up and almost got a ticket for stopping in the wrong spot.  It was dark and there were no signs to tell us where the public pickup area is.  I think they want you to use the public car park which cost a fortune for just 30 minutes.

Gosh were we both tired but happy.  We are planning our next adventure later in the year. Id really like to see more of Tasmania.

So who has the best big sister in the world - I do.  Nope not arguing with anyone.  Its a fact!   

PS.  For those who think i have crossed over to the dark side of wanton consumerism and consumption, im planning a staycation for Easter to work on my veggie patch and the food that thrilled me the most was the 20cm long 2cm thick potato chip we had at the Hobart airport.  It was perfection.  Crispy on the outside and all gooey on the inside.  3 was enough though.  

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Monday, 24 March 2014

Woo Hoo! 50 Years Young

I made it, all in one piece, slightly bent, wobbly feet and definitely out of shape (no comments) but i am now 50.   Its not really a big deal.  I'm not suffering from "Oh my life is over and i haven't accomplished anything syndrome" or "I am now old".  The only time i feel old is when I've been out shopping for a few hours and my feet hurt.  I don't think i look old.  One of the best things about this week was seeing the look of surprise on most peoples faces.  No one thought i could possibly be 50. Which is kinda cool but I'm sure that its down to being "puffy" and therefore not having too many wrinkles. If i lost weight I'd probably look 100.

I guestimate of what i would look like if i was skinny, which is kind of strange because i seem to have changed ethnicity as well.  
My birthday was actually last Wednesday and so i spent the day at work with my "other" family.  I kept it pretty quiet so it was mostly The Boys (Paul & Daniel) wishing me well and buying me pizza for lunch.

Are these not the most amazing flowers.  The fragrance was really strong and my office smelt like a garden.  
Mr Google had his normal birthday greeting.  

Facebook also has a big mouth and so i received a multitude of well wishes from family and friends including my blog buddies from Oz and OS.  After that there wasn't really any point in trying to keep it quiet.

Our family of 3 had a quiet dinner at our familiar Turkish restaurant with my Bestie dropping by.  It was on this day however that i started having a few sneaking suspicions.  Someone forgot to tell Mum to act normal. I received my usual early morning call from her singing me Happy Birthday, and then that was it! "You forgot to send a card Mum!"  When have you ever not given me one of your special birthday cards. Usually they are very special mother and daughter messages that are sentimental but recently, this mother of mine has been getting very cheeky.  I wonder where i get it from?  Seems to me that when you are just about to hit 85 that there is nothing to lose and you can pretty much do what you want. Rock on Mum!

Did i tell you she's buying a new car?  So what do you expect her to buy, a small automatic run-a-round? Nope this mother of mine is buying a Nissan Xtrail 4X4 because she likes getting into something higher and she's considering Steven's need for a fishing vehicle. I guess she needs room for her walker as well.  (LOL)

This is not the one but its what she has asked the dealer to find and i wouldn't put it past her to get a red one.
Auto? Goodness no. We have all copped it trying to convince her she needs an automatic gearbox at her age. Quote "Ive been driving a stick all my life and i don't see why i have to start driving something different now". Unquote.   Message received Mum.  Back away, very slowly, don't turn away.  This mother has a weapon, otherwise known as a walking stick.

Anyway, when she did give me her card on Saturday it was:

If that turtle is you Mum, then put your teeth back in!

Did she actually pick the wrong card, which by the way was even more confusing because it opened backwards and upside down (and yes I did get caught) or did she do it on purpose and write in the Oops, Its 50 trying to be funny.

Did you notice i that i said she gave it to me on Saturday.  That's right, my mother travelled down from NSW with my sister, Sam (thank you Sam), and brother Steven for my

Its was all the doing of my other sister Glenda and her daughter Bella.  They not only arranged it over several weeks but also catered and decorated and cleaned up.  It was beautiful.  It was Hubby and Tom's job to get me out of the house and so i was taken to lunch and then they had a big shopping list of things to do that conveniently ended at 3pm.  Never have they been so patient while i looked at books and browsed in clothing stores. Things were not adding up at this point but i was happy to go along.  It was all revealed on arriving home as there was Sam's car with its NSW plates parked in my parking spot and Oh, look, there's Veronica's car from work and and and.......

It was never going to be an easy job to surprise me but they managed to do a good job.  They arrived soon after our leaving and spent hours putting together a lovely afternoon tea in our pergola.  Isn't it so so pretty. Nearly everything was home made, fresh and yummy.

Lots of homemade quiches, filo spinach triangles, cheeses, dips, crudites, small slices ........ just amazing.

These pink roses are fairly rocking my Tuscan blue wall.  The ornaments are a cute touch of theirs.  

Are these not beautiful.  Glenda baked them and they were so fresh.  Almost too pretty to eat. 

My favourite was my sisters chicken sandwiches.  A mix of chopped roast chicken in a egg mayo, Dijon mustard and herbs on spinach.  

This was the tea/coffee table and yes, more flowers.  

Made by Bella - are you ready?  Starting at the bottom - vanilla cake, white chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, Toblerone cheesecake, vanilla cake, white chocolate cheesecake, chocolate cake and ganache with strawberries and cream.  Wow!  Now that is a birthday cake.  
All my favourite people were there including Jessie and Allegra from Ballan (who gave me my first box of Fowler jars with lids, rings and clips). Also Rob and Tom, Glenda and Bella with her children Maison and Chelsea,  Mum, Sam and Steven from home (6 hrs drive away), my Bestie and her Mum Shirley with Mirandah, Veronica from work, The Wilbraham Family, and surprise surprise Daniel from work with his wife Kym and two children (Maddie and Austin) who came to our home for the first time.  Such a treat and Maddie was definitely the star of the show.  Tilly excelled herself and was so quiet and allowed both children to pat her and she responded with kisses.

Maddie - my special special little friend that keeps making her way in the world and is the poster child for what can be achieved with caring professionals and a lot of hard work by loving parents with a special needs child (Cri Du Chat).
Go Maddie!

Mum with Maddie and Tilly.  Mum's lap was made for a lapdog.  Its like a gravitational pull.  As soon as she arrives and sits down, she's up there.  
I received many special gifts from everyone.  Gifts that were given a lot of thought and especially for me.

I also received quite a bit of $$$ (so appreciated) and so i can look forward to doing more work in my garden.  Espaliered fruit trees here i come.   One gift that i do have to accommodate is a work of art, designed by Daniel (engineer) and made by our welder extraordinaire, Frank

Sorry about the view  -  its almost as tall as me.  
This is a mirror but it is not made of glass.  This is a brushed metal frame and a highly polished piece of stainless steel.  It is amazing and Frank assures me that so long as no one attacks it with an abrasive it will stay this way.  It was made for the garden and so i will now be dreaming of an appropriate spot that can be reflected back.  My older mate Noelle has a "Secret Garden" in her backyard.  Many have thought her garden continues through but it is a mirror and makes her small rear garden look bigger.  Imagine this trellis with wisteria blooms hanging down - it is so beautiful.   

So i can see myself as a collector of Frank Art.  I'm twisting his arm for custom tomato trellises that are tall enough to accommodate the 2m+ plants i had this year and my custom built potting bench i designed.  Pretty lucky girl, aren't I having so many people care about me that have so much talent.

Saturday was also my brother Steven's 48th birthday and so he had his own cake and was given  a new little friend.  Steve breeds budgies and has always wanted a pure white one.

Jackie is an albino and there is Mum chatting away to it.   It is already home in NSW and in Mum's conservatory with its fellow inmates (oops, couldn't help myself).  It, along with the others, will be spoilt rotten as they sing along to Mum playing the piano daily.
 So you would think that would be enough of a celebration, wouldn't you.  I would but wait, there's more.

I always said that instead of a party it was my PLAN to add an E and go somewhere.  Well this same sister has organised for her and I to fly to Hobart, Tasmania for the day on the 30th to fulfil my wish. 
It will be a long day but i believe that we will be having an early start, flying (her first plane at 57 - boy am i going to have fun chatting about plans going missing and falling out of the sky), breakfast at the Hobart marina and then a cruise up the Derwent River.  Sounds like a good day doesn't it.   Thank you so much to everyone who made my celebration of turning 50 memorable.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land of Oz

PS.  Bella and Glenda have recently started a small catering service.  Bell is a Funeral Director and saw a gap in the market for low cost finger food catering. They offer a drop off service or a complete waited event. Obviously these ladies can cook and are good (if not sneaky) at organising an event.  Bellaro Finger Food - Glenda  0438 492 992   (Melbourne Metropolitan Area).

Friday, 21 March 2014

Green Tomato Pickles - For Beginners

Now that the tomato season has come to an end here in Oz, what do we do with the few green tomatoes left when its time to clear the bed in prep for winter crops?  The first thing that pops into my mind is "Fried Green Tomatoes" only because its a favourite movie of mine and those US southern folk sure do like them so they must be good.

For those wanting to try, here is a link to new blog I'm following (spreading my wings but still loyal to my favourites):

From Leigh at 5 Acres & A Dream - Test Frying Those Canned Green Tomatoes & Canned Green Tomatoes For Frying

Its a simple crumbing technique but Leigh has some hints on how to do it right and she is also using green tomatoes that she canned in season.  I think that some grated Parmesan in the crumb mix would be nice as well.

When i say that this post is for beginners, I mean beginner.  My instructions are very basic and those of you with a pantry full of preserves who don't even have to think about it, let alone pour over recipe books and blog posts for a week prior, well you can stick with me and have a laugh or go open your pantry and wait for the angels to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus".

Leigh's Pantry
I was looking for my pic of yours too Jessie but i cant find it - its equally as impressive.

Green Tomato Pickles

I'm taking my 900gms of green tomatoes and making Green Tomato Pickles.
The recipe I'm using comes from the recipe book "Well Preserved" by The Country Women's Association of Victoria - Page 84.

Order Form for Well Preserved - CWA Victoria  -  $13 for non-members  Its packed full of award winning recipes.

Everyone knows that you don't argue with the ladies from the CWA.  They have generations of handing down recipes, testing and competing against each other before a recipe is considered good enough to be put into one of their recipe books.  This recipe comes from Theresa Bateman - Gippsland Hills Branch and is a First Prize Winner.  Since i have a smaller amount i used Excel to find that i needed to apply a 45% ratio to the following ingredient list.

2kg of Green Tomatoes    (some recipes also add 1/2 a cauliflower broken into small florets)
1kg of Onions
500ml vinegar   (apple cider or malt seem to be the vinegars of choice in most recipes)
4 cups of sugar  (white or brown)
3 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 desertspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon dry mustard

I like tweaking things so I threw in a chopped green apple and a handful of sultanas.  You would think I would try the original recipe first wouldn't you?  I mean they tested it right!

1.  Cut up the tomatoes and onions, sprinkle with a handful of salt and stand overnight.

Gosh its a pretty green isn't it?  
I'm at this stage, so ill be back tomorrow to do the next step.


It says to drain off liquid but it doesn't say to rinse, so i guess that the salt stays in.  Amazing that 900gm of tomatoes and 1 large onion created 300mls of this clear salty liquid.  
2.   Drain off the liquid and place tomato mixture in a pot, add the sugar (white) and vinegar
      (apple cider). Bring to the boil and simmer for 3/4 hour.    I wondered if i should be reducing
      the cooking time as well.
      20 min mark and I'm getting worried. There is a lot of liquid in that pot.
      Maybe i should have added cauliflower.  I was going to but when i went to buy one they wanted
      $6.30 for one small head of cauliflower.  No way.  I'll be planting seedlings in the next few weeks.

45 Minute Mark - and I'm feeling more relaxed.
3.   Mix the remaining ingredients with extra vinegar to a pouring consistency.
      Add to the pot to thicken the pickle.

Love this colour - in food only.  Anyone thinking of wearing this should reconsider their options.  
4.   Cook for a further 5 minutes

       I figured it was ready when I could stir and see the bottom of the pot.

5.   Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal when cold.   I boiled a couple of jars in hot water and then using
      tongs I placed them into an oven on 130C before i started cooking and so they were hot for the 45 min.
For less than a kilo of veggies this is pretty good.  There is only two of us here who would eat these with cheese or cold roast meat and so these will last us for a while.  
Once I had filled the jars I placed them back into the oven, upside down for another 5 minutes and then turned the oven off to let them cool gently.

Proof is in the taste and so despite the fact it was fresh I approached my husband (asleep on the couch at 10pm - we do get up at 4.30am) with a taster.

Should I wake him, or should I just pop it in the his open mouth.  Gently I asked if he wanted to taste.  His verdict was "good, very pickly, how long do we have to wait?"  

I don't know why I am so worried of it not working out.  Last year those green tomatoes went into the compost so what does it matter.  I think there are some issues at play here.  Fear of failure?  This wasn't really hard and actually a bit of fun.  I'm going to have to come up with a customised label for my preserves.

Have I encouraged another beginner to give it a try?

I keep eyeing off that 5kg bag of onions at the supermarket for $5 and think of caramelised onions.  I pay almost that much for the small sized jar above and I do love them.

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