Sunday, 19 January 2014

Zen Teachings - So many truths (the laugh is a bonus)

I was sent this today at work and it certainly made me smile while also acknowledging that there is certainly some truth in some of them.  Enjoy.


1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead.
Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow.
Do not walk beside me for the path is narrow.
In fact, just piss off and leave me alone.

2. Sex is like air. It's not that important
unless you aren't getting any.

3. No one is listening until you pass wind.

4. Always remember you're unique.
Just like everyone else.

5. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

6. If you think nobody cares whether
you're alive or dead, try missing
a couple of mortgage payments.

7. Before you criticize someone,
you should walk a mile in their shoes.
That way, when you criticize them,
you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

8. If at first you don't succeed,
skydiving is not for you.

9. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.
Teach him how to fish, and he will
sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

10. If you lend someone $20 and never see that
person again, it was probably well worth it.

11. If you tell the truth,
you don't have to remember anything.

12. Some days you are the dog,
some days you are the tree.

13. Don't worry; it only
seems kinky the first time.

14. Good judgment comes from bad experience ..
and most of that comes from bad judgment.

15. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

16. There are two excellent theories
for arguing with women. Neither one works.

17. Generally speaking, you aren't
learning much when your lips are moving.

18. Experience is something you don't
get until just after you need it.

19. We are born naked, wet and hungry,
and get slapped on our arse -
then things just keep getting worse.

20. Never under any circumstances take a
sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

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Use Your Harvest and Dont Just Look At It

OK, i admit it (i think i might have confessed this before) that i love to spend time in my garden watching everything grow and sometimes, just sometimes, i leave them there a little too long and they go to seed or they rot on the plant.  Stupid, i know.  So when i brought in my harvest last night and proudly showed them in my last post

if you missed them, here it is again.....

i immediately thought that i had better come up with something that used the above.

If you take a look at the opening picture (pretty isn't it) well that's

my lettuce
my tomato
my zucchini
my corn kernels (cooked)
my capsicum

I've added onion, pumpkin, eggs, bacon and flour and made a slice.   Some for tonight's dinner and some packed in freezer.  It reheats really well and makes a nice light lunch.

The only thing i missed out on was the beans.  The pickings from the day before ended up in a slow cooked lamb shank stew served on a potato and garlic mash (sorry no photo).  There were lots of leftovers so again it was boxed up for freezing and serving on pasta at another time.  The beans picked last night were blanched and frozen for later use.

How green is green
The other week i showed a bowl of lemons i was given and said i would be making a Lemon Coconut Slice.  Today i was at Bunnings buying some wood for Hubby's project and getting some more Pea Straw for mulching and we had a cup of coffee together.  I almost bought a piece of this slice for $3 and then i thought, no i have everything i need to make it at home.  So on request from Sharon, here is the recipe:


90gm butter
250ml of sweetened condensed milk (i used skim because i had it)
1 pkt of Marie biscuits (250gm)
1 Cup of dessicated coconut
2 tbsp of lemon juice (about 2 med size)
peel from 1 lemon   (don't forget to put the rest of the peel in your citrus cleaner jar covered with vinegar).

Place the butter, condensed milk and peel in a saucepan on very low heat and stir constantly until butter is melted.  Crush the biscuits and place in bowl with coconut.  Pour butter mixture over and mix until all coated.
Press into slice tin lined with baking paper.  Refrigerate until firm.


3 cups of Icing Sugar
2 tbsp of butter
3 tbsp of juice
a little peel
A drizzle of milk chocolate is optional.

Sift sugar and combine with butter, juice and peel.  I wanted a thick icing that was about 5mm thick and so i kept it quite firm.  The chocolate drizzle was optional but i wanted to appeal to Tom and his mate that was coming over.  If i said it was a Lemon Slice they wouldn't even try it but because it had chocolate on it, it actually made it past their lips and they ended up having two slices.

Definition of Frustration:   When you go to the effort of making good food and you are told "i don't like it" and they have never had it before.  This happens so so often.

I used a lasagna dish for this and so i figure at cafe prices i had a fortune now packed away in my freezer.

I know the chocolate looks crazy but after gardening i really couldn't be bothered getting out a piping bag.  
Leftovers Magic

My Bestie is leaving for holidays tomorrow and so she came around with the contents of her crisper and the chicken carcass from her roast chicken dinner tonight.  Only the best of friends would give each other a cooked chicken carcass.   So i threw it into a pot with veggies, herbs, can of lentils and after pulling the chicken off and discarding the bones, i have a yummy healthy soup for tomorrows lunch.  She left with a big frozen bowl of my slow cooked bolognese sauce i made a week ago to take with her so that when she arrives in Hastings tomorrow their first meal is taken care of.

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Saturday, 18 January 2014

Breathe In, Breathe Out, Breathe In, Breathe Out

Its been a tough week this week.   Not only have we had to deal with the shocking hot temperatures all week but it would seem that a secure job is not a secure job when there are arseholes involved. You guessed it, we are back to one income and probably more importantly my poor Hubby has taken another hit to his self esteem.  I'm wont go into too much details but we were not expecting this to happen.  Many people in his industry are in the same boat but gosh its hard when last year he/we went through five months of unemployment only to find himself with two jobs and to make, what would seem now, the wrong choice.  So many broken promises were made and stupidly we believed them. Lesson - if it seems too good, then it probably is.  It hard sometimes to not allow these things to change who you are.  I don't want to be bitter and to second guess people.  I know I'm often accused of being gullible, innocent and/or ignorant but the alternative is to be the kind of person i don't want to be.  Hubby has had so many knocks in the last few years he expects that something will go wrong.  So sad.  

Still,  I've learnt alot in the last year.  Ive garnered great advice and motivation from my fellow bloggers and I know that i can make this work, again.  Our first objective is to fight depression.

We have projects around the house that need to be completed where the materials are already on hand.
Hubby is a talented tradesman and I'm lucky that he can do many things that help us around the house that save us a lot of money.

On Friday, when i think it was 44C outside, our air conditioner broke down.  To many this would mean an impossible call to a service person eventuating in great expense and a possible 2-3 day wait.  For us, he simply opened it up, checked the board, found a swollen capacitor, replaced it for $14, and TaDa, its fixed. We have paint on hand and a fence that needs to be finished off.  Rob has his new tool box and a whole garage to sort out.  Plenty of things to keep him busy.  If he's reading this, id really like my water pump hooked up to the tank so i don't have to water the garden with $$$.

This is for all of us, not just him.  
Hubby has his own home gym we've discussed focusing on getting healthy and fit so that he is prepared for pre-employment medicals.  One less thing to worry about.   Why do they expect a 53 year old to be able to do the same physically as someone 30 years younger?  Is it a fair comparison? Do they consider the age when they ask you to do 10 squats without touching anything?  Can you do it?  He has 35yrs experience in his field that is worth far more than the ability to move fast. He doesn't get the job done fast, he gets it done right, the first time.  As someone that has the fault find others mistakes, he understands the importance of doing it once and doing it right.  

OK, I've shared my news and had a little gripe and now ill impress you all with my harvest tonight.  This was after a week of 40+ degree temperatures.  I watered in the evenings and strung a few ropes between the beds, hanging shade cloths sheets up with pegs to provide shade.  There are a couple of wilted leaves on some of the tomato plants but all the beds are deeply mulched and so retained their moisture.  

I'm feel lucky (sometimes) that my garden is small and i can give each plant exactly what it needs.  I probably obsess about them a bit.  Now, what to do with all those peppers?
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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Tupperware - Beware

That title sounds ominous.  Do i have some deep seated hatred of Tupperware?  Nope, in fact i love it.  I love the colours, the nifty fit together modular "systems" that organise your fridge or pantry.  The uniformity when its all put together.  The handy little gadgets you get as welcome gifts that fill your bottom drawer - i though i had them all, but no, there was more to choose from and so many new products to oggle.  

OK, before you all start thinking that I've gone off my decluttering rails - i say "beware" because it is so so tempting but - I DID NOT BUY A THING.

Not even this cute insulated bag to carry my sandwiches in for lunch.  
Its been quite a few years since I've been invited to and attended a Tupperware party. I remember my first being at around the age of 15 when all the products were burnt orange or mustard colour.  I still have some of those in my cupboard which i guess is a good endorsement to their longevity.   

My good friend Ella invited me to be a bum on a seat.  Really!  Since i have such a large one then i guess she was trying to cover two places. 

I helped her out by inviting another friend who then invited her daughter and so Ella ended up with 10 bums on seats.  What a party it was.  So much so i didn't take a single photo. For someone who is known to have her Iphone always to hand and will literally interrupt someones dinner and ask them if i can take a photo of their meal (i did truly - it was food art) it was an indication of how distracted i was.

Our salesperson, Es, is a friend of Ella's from the other side of the city.  Not that she needed one but having a party was a reason to catch up.  She brought her family as well, more on that later.  Es and Ella deserve an award, it was a great party.  I didn't know at least 5 of the other ladies but what a great crowd.  We laughed and laughed and talked and talked and ate and ate and giggled and giggled for hours.  I hope that Es actually got some business out of it because it certainly didn't feel like i was being railroaded into buying up big.

Jeepers, i thought the before looked pretty good, compared to my pantry.  Lucky its a small walk in and i can shut the door to hide my sins.  
Ella had released me before hand from feeling the need to buy anything, though i was surely tempted.  I know she had her party to try and achieve enough sales to get her own pantry looking like the one on the right above and so guilt was present i can tell you.  I struggled with wanting to help Ella and giving in to my love of containers and the thought of bringing more plastic into the house thus perpetuating the consumer driven need to manufacture more plastic products. Phew, got that one out. Is anyone out there going to give me a gold star?

These however, were very tempting.  Tupperware have a range of small hand operated processors that use the latest in wiz bang technology. Somehow i think our grandmothers and the Amish have been here before.  Instead of turning a handle you pull a string.  They do work but you know that I'm dreaming of a Thermomix and if i fill the house with appliances then i wont "need" one, it will just be a "want".  So I'm going to martyr myself until its an absolute necessity (as if) and then ill feel justified in getting one.  At the current price ill be 80.

I digress, back to the party.   In one of these contraptions above (invoking lawnmower zip technology) we put the ingredients for sticky date muffins (cooked in microwave) and then once rinsed the ingredients for fresh raspberry icecream. Zip Zip Zip on the cord and the cream is whipped and the raspberries chopped and its into a freezer.  Another rinse and it was blending up caramel sauce (also microwaved) and we were all feasting until not a crumb was left.  I loved the icecream.   I really think these would make a good addition to my "Glamping" trailer but i was being very very good.

I haven't told the exciting news.  After introductions we were advised that it was National Party Week for Tupperware.  During the week, all registered parties go into a drawer and one in five will be called.  We had just finished talking about it and everyone was kind of "as if" and Ella's phone range.  We each will receive a free product (so i didnt go home empty handed - well i did, cause it hasn't arrived yet).  Both Ella and Es were over the moon.  This also gave Ella more specials and discounts and i think Es some bonuses.  Go Ella.  Then because she had 10 present, she got more gifts.  Woo Hoo.  They are very generous at Tupperware, but somehow i think they can afford to be.  I mean, its all about generating excitement and making parties fun, right?

This veggie steamer was the bomb but at around $170, i think ill still stick to my supermarket ones that i buy on special for $3-5 each and just replace when needed.

I know, I'm up for another party shortly, as my besties (my guest) volunteered to have her own.  More temptation.  Thanks go to Ella for providing a yummy afternoon tea of homemade humus, veggies and sourdough and my favourite, jelly slice.  We stayed for a pizza dinner and then once the mosquitoes drove us inside, some coffees and more belly laughs.  Es's husband is so so funny and we were in stitches. We finally forced out way out of there at 8.30pm and by all accounts it was the best Tupperware party i have ever been to.

Thanks for Living In The Land Of Oz

Monday, 6 January 2014

Gorgeous Greens and Veggie Patch Update

I love lettuce and doesn't this pic just make you want to make a salad, with just a dribble of balsamic vinegar and a shave of Parmesan.

So what does one take to Sunday breakfast at Ella's (thanks for the lovely scrambled eggs and onions on toast with a cappuccino) but a bouquet of lettuce, egg cartons and zucchini (still giving them away).

The veggie patch is doing its summer things and bursting with growth.  I have about three staggered crops of tomatoes and the ones i planted early October on a wall are coming into to full fruit. I expect them all to be ripe within the week.

The Diggers heritage varieties were planted in pots much later and seem to grow a little slower.  There are one or two fruit on each of the 4 bushes at the moment.

Zucchini are still popping out everywhere and seem to have really benefited from having the marigolds as companions (apart from looking stunning).

The main crop of tomato are just starting to form little fruit.  I am constantly pruning the shade leaves off to allow the light in.  Maybe i planted too many in this bed but many were also freebies that grew too big and i was too slack to transplant them.

Corn is ready to harvest and some have already opened on their own.  I'm not sure why but they have been feeding the birds or something.  Tomorrow night will be corn night.  I think i feel a corn relish coming on......

The squash plants have produced such massive leaves that almost the entire bed is obscured.   There are squash and bean plants, a very sad passionfruit in need of sunlight and another free tomato bush hiding in under them somewhere.

So far no aphids.  Ive tried all the tricks and i noticed a few love bugs the other day but they are harmless.  I need to get some garlic and onions in as well.  I think the key to successful organic gardening (hey, im only a beginner so dont take my word for it) is having it all - biodiversity.  Providing a home and a diverse range of food for the good guys to fight the bad guys (very scientific explanation there).

Washed and dried out in the sun - ready for crushing.  This is one of my favourite jobs. I sprinkle them around the garden to discourage slimy suckers from getting my food.  Here that snails, its MY FOOD! 

Don't get too excited, i know i have an addiction to coffee but it did take a week to collect these bags.  We wont mention the ones at the office.  The coffee grounds go onto the garden or in the worm farm and the paper is recycled or composted.  

Alyssum - beautifully edging the garden beds, attracting bees, ladybugs and butterflies.  Insects that eat the baddies are also attracted to Alyssum.  They seem to really help the tomatoes.  
While i was at Ella's i got to visit "My Girls" and to check out for myself the transformation of Ole Cranky Pants Molly to Mother of the Year.  She is so good with her little 4 chicks and we sat on a bench for a while and just watched her fussing over them as they walked all over her.  So Cute.  

That's it.  Another late night.  Last night i was up till 2am because i could not put a book down until i had finished it - Home Front by Kristin Hannah.  Wouldn't have been so bad except I'm up at 5.30 am.   Oh well.

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Simple Lemon Butter and Citrus Cleaner

Hmmmm, a bowl of lemons has been sitting on my kitchen bench now for over a week.  The best kind of lemons - free ones.  Time to do something with them.  

Lemon Butter - this is a very simple recipe which takes about 20 minutes and makes only about two cups. Since its so easy to make and ill be the only one eating it in our house,  i figure i had better not make too much at once.

2 Large Lemons
1/2 Cup Sugar
60gm of Butter
2 Eggs
2 Tspns of cornflour and a little water

Grate the rind from two lemons.  I'm loving my new grater which collects the rind in the curved top and allows me to just pour it into the bowl.  Previously i used a zester and chopped it with a knife.

I microwaved the lemons for 45 seconds before squeezing to help release the juice.  Strain the pips.

Combine lemon rind & juice, sugar and butter in a double saucepan (or in my case a bowl over a saucepan) and stir over simmering water until the sugar is dissolved and butter melted.

Beat eggs in a separate bowl and stirring constantly (i used a flat whisk) add gradually to the bowl in a steady stream until combined and stir until thick.  Don't try to rush this by having the heat up to high.  The last thing you want is lemon butter with scrambled egg in it.  I wanted to be sure mine was thick and so i added just a little cornflour paste and cooked for a further 3 minutes. This is optional.

Whilst i was doing the above i had two clean jars in the oven at 130 degrees for ten minutes to ensure they were sterilised.  Once i had poured the hot mix into the hot jars and sealed the lids tight, i upended them onto their lids and put them back in the oven.  I turned oven off and let them cool.

This pic was taken once it was refrigerated.  I'm looking forward to having this on toast for breakfast (occasionally).  It will keep in the fridge for two months.

In a few weeks ill be going on a bit of a break and so i also have planned to make and freeze some Lemon Coconut Slice and also to make some Lemon Cordial with juice that i have frozen in ice cube trays.  There might even be a Lemon Curd Tart in the near future.

Citrus Cleaner

I was visiting a friend on Sat and admired her jar of lemons in vinegar sitting on her kitchen window sill.  The morning sun was shining through the jar and it was almost glowing with liquid sunshine.  I made a comment and was invited to raid the MANDARIN tree which was overflowing with fruit to make my own.  Apparently mandarin peels release their oils more freely than other citrus and so are great for making citrus cleaner.

I peeled all the mandarins, freezing the segments for later use in cooking, and generously salted the peels  popping them into a bottle.  The salt aids the release of oil and is an added cleaning agent. Now in my opinion the only good thing about Chivas Regal is the bottle (i don't can't drink alcohol).  I found one in the office, empty, when i turned up after the Christmas Party and so I took it home to be reused for something.  I let the peels and salt rest for a few hours and then filled the bottle with white vinegar. I gave it a small shake and it now rests on my kitchen window sill.  Having a pergola outside the window means i wont have any direct sunlight passing through it but it does look nice. IMO :)

Having it in view will remind me to give it a little shake every so often.  It should be ready for use in a few weeks and it should smell of what ever citrus you used and the vinegar should be tainted the same colour.   If you only want a weak solution for cleaning then when it is ready pour an amount into a spray bottle with the same quantity of water.

This also reminded me to give the vanilla & vodka infusion a little shake as well.  I definately need to put some more pods in there but they are so expensive.  The onces i have were given to me.  Its a pity we cant grow them down here in the South.

There you go, another post telling my loyal readers what they probably already know.  Sometimes i feel my adventures in being more self sufficient are a little low grade compared to some of the amazing "green" things others are doing.  This is, however, a personal journal for myself, my interstate family and friends.  When I'm old and grey and I've lost my marbles i'll be able to remember when......

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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Zucchini Abundance

Aren't zucchini flowers beautiful?  I know that they are edible but i love to see them in the morning when I'm watering.  Such a happy colour.   My garden does not produce a huge harvest but one veggie i seem to grow easily is zucchini.  With that comes the occasional glut and so Ive been spending the last few days thinking of ways to use them up.

One way is to take a walk next door and hand them over to my neighbour.  My produce is always greatfully received and they appreciate the effort I'm going to with my garden.  What was previously a Kikuyu patch is now a productive veggie garden and they know it gives me pleasure.

Of course another way Ive been using them is simply to cut thick slices and gently fry them till golden with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  I used them as a base under some left over homemade meaty bolognaise sauce the other night and it was very tasty.  Much lighter than a pasta meal.

My favourite (and my husbands) is Zucchini Slice .

I sometimes add bacon but this vegetarian version went down well for dinner with a salad and then packed into lunch boxes the next day.  It also freezes well.

So what to do with still more to go.  Ive procrastinated over preserving for so long.  I'm afraid of failure.  I read so many blogs and they make it look easy but for some reason i have never taken the leap.  So with encouragement from food preserving master, Jessie of rabidlittlehippy,  i took my first step towards making relish.

I don't have a Vacola kit nor Fowler jars and so my first trip was to the garden shed where i have a collection of bottles put aside for reusing.  I first had to soak them and use eucalyptus oil to get the labels off and then after a thorough scrubbing i placed them in my pasta pot.

This has an insert that keeps the jars off the bottom of the pan and so was perfect.  If i was using a normal pot i could have put a cake rack or just a towel in the bottom to keep the glass jars from resting directly on the bottom of the pot. Submerge jars in water and bring to boil, turn down to simmer.

Next i diced the zucchini (1 large or 700gm) and a red capsicum (1 large) to about the same size as the corn kernels (1 Cup).  I love these three colours together.  I placed the zucchinis into a bowl with a diced onion (1 med), mixed through a tablespoon of salt and then placed the bowl in the fridge for two hours.

The salt draws out the bitter juices from the zucchini and onion.  Drain and rinse thoroughly under cool water to remove the salt.  Place zucchini, onion, capsicum and corn into a large pot.

During the 2 hour wait, measure out the spices and liquids.

4 tspn turmeric
4 tspn mustard powder
1 tspn allspice
1/4 tspn curry powder
1 tblspn salt
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 1/2 cups of white vinegar
1 cup of white sugar
1 tblspn vegetable oil

I blended all these together to make first a paste and then a pouring fluid.  Pour over veggies in pot, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 hour stirring frequently.  This is where i became frustrated.  My gas stove wont hold a simmer, it blows out.  Yet another item on the never ending list of household jobs.  The stove top is 18 years old and it probably needs a new regulator.

During this hour, remove your jars with tongs from the hot water and place in a very low oven.  The jars will be dry, hot and sterilised, ready for the hot relish.

Once the hour is up, blend together 2 tblspns of cornflour with 1 tblspn of water and blend through.  Cook for further 5 minutes.  This will thicken the sauce.

Spoon hot relish into hot jars (carefully using tongs to handle) until full and place lids on firmly.  My Mum then told me to turn the jars upside down so that lid is on the bottom and place back on oven shelf.  Turn oven off and allow jars to cool in oven.  Another way of doing this would be to cook relish for 30 minutes, fill jars and then when sealed place into hot water bath (in my case pasta pot) and cook for another 30 minutes.  The objective being to kill all the baddies and preserve the relish.

This made 3 jam jars of relish. Not alot i know but i didnt want to waste too many ingredients if it all went bad.  It will take a month to mature and for the spices to mellow. If ive done it right it should store for up to 12 months.  I did dip my finger into the pot when it was cool and the sauce was yum.

It wasn't so hard and actually a bit of fun (minus the stove issues).  So, my preserve collection begins.  I still have several zucchini's left and more on the way which may find there way into a cake, fritters or more slice. Oh, remember to date and if planning to gift then include ingredient list on a label.

I cant wait for the tomato season to be in full swing.  Im planning on sauce, relish and pasata.

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