Monday, January 31, 2011

Back to school

Today was the first day of school for 2011. Lisa asked me if Australian children attend school all year round. The answer is no. I know the Australian readers understand our school terms but I never thought much about our northern hemisphere neighbours who don't. The Australian school year starts in January/early February and there are four terms (in NSW anyway). The children have there summer vacation over the Christmas/ New Year period so it works out perfectly for a nice long break at just the right time of year.The first day back at school is the hardest for me at least. I didn't really like it when I was at school and I don't like giving up our holiday time together. Although the girls loved their time at home school, they are well and truly settled into main stream schooling now and we are going to continue with this choice for them. They are happy and that is very important.
Tomorrow the other lessons start- violin, piano and musicianship. At the moment I'm having a rethink about our music commitments. The time involved is just one factor but the costs are becoming quite inhibiting. With two children learning and attending orchestra etc, our tuition costs are about $150 per week during the school term which for my mind is too much. It just seems that once you start learning something like music, it is hard to stop. Time will tell, maybe I can work out a way around the expense or perhaps at least justify it to myself.
My pictures are a bit random. My nasturtium is a flower from the seeds that Janice sent me in Jodie's swap and the tomatillo is ripening away on the bush. I am really eager to try the tomatillo as I have never had them before and am quite pleased that I have some fruit.
Tomorrow morning I will be busy. I have a date with some plums and tomatoes that need to be made into chutney and sauce.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Quick Trip

We had a quick trip on Friday, leaving home in what Hope describes as the dark morning which, is her favourite time to travel. It was about 5.30am so sunrise was only about half an hour away so really not too early at all. It was a nice trip of about 800 km to Newcastle and back to buy Grace a full-size violin. Our home town doesn't carry good quality violins so we went to the nearest specialy store and they were very helpful. I did feel like an outsider though, I sit in on music lessons and do most of the driving but that is far as my music ability stretches.

We also spent some time at the beekeeping supplies shop in Cardiff and came home with some new equipment and our bank account considerably lighter.
Our trip home was extended a little by taking the scenic route. That really should say it was extended because we took a wrong turn and ended up a little lost. It was a nice drive though and we found some lovely places along the way.
We drove up to Wollombi and the scenery and the scupltures along the way were beautiful. There looks like there are some lovely bed and breakfasts and farmstays down that way. I'm going to keep it in mind for another time. The valley actually reminded me a lot of our own valley.

On one of our stops we were joined by some local wildlife. This kangaroo was at Burning Mountain which has a wonderful walk especially on a cool day.
Tomorrow is back to school. For me, it is not the best day of the year. I love having the kids home for the holidays and it will take a few days or a week to readjust into school routine again. Early to bed tonight.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beauty abounds

Just some pretty pictures from the vegetable gardenDahlia Tiger Bey
Dahlia Lemon Snow



A while back Christy was offering a give away in honour of 500 posts and I was the lucky winner. When I say lucky, I mean lucky. Christy was more than generous with the lovely surprise parcel she sent me. It was wrapped up so beautifully in sheet music that it seemed a shame to open it.Open it I did though and we were all delighted by the gifts. Some gorgeous cards, some vintage fasteners, some linen with cross stitched details, a wax seal(my son thought this was great), a heart shaped pendant, some pretty fabric and a lovely handmade brooch. Thank you so much Christy.
Here is the lovely brooch that Christy made . It is very sweet and I can't wait to wear it. In fact, we are off on a quick trip to buy Grace a violin tomorrow so I think I will wear it then.
If you haven't had a look at Christy's blog before, it is well worth a visit. There are lots of lovely things to look and at the moment when it is so hot here, it offers a delightfully cool/cold break.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm Cool

I'm cool...that's what I'm telling myself today. If I think I'm cool then maybe I won't feel so hot. It is working fairly well so far. Although it is very hot outside, I have the evaporative cooler on and I have managed to get a few things done including the ironing. For the most part though, I am just watching the cricket. There aren't many games left of the season so I have to watch it or listen to it while I can. I also decided to have a look through some of my wool because I've been inspired by a couple of new library books.
Mug Hugs is very cute and most of the projects would be quick knits. There isn't much call for a mug hug at the moment but come winter time, they might be nice.
Brave New Knits has some fantastic projects from knitters from the blogosphere. Quite a few are difficult and for someone who really likes to concentrate while they are knitting. I'm going to choose one or two of the easy knits so my mind is free to wander just a little while I knit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Plain Home Cooking

After my last post mentioning the heat in Wellington, a heat wave is descending on us. Tomorrow we are expecting temperatures around the 41 degC mark but thankfully the night time temperatures are more tolerable. Althought the last place most people would like to be when it is hot is the kitchen, that is where I have been. The plums all seem to be ready at once and have to be picked and processed. I'm sure I could put some in the fridge for when the weather is cooler but jam making isn't really that labour intensive. The results are well worth the effort.We have eaten fresh plums too but yesterday the majority went into plum jam. I have just read a recipe for a plum chutney in The River Cottage Year by Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall which also uses overgrown zucchinis so that will be on tomorrows to-do list. I have a few bumper zucchini that I don't feel like grating for biscuits, cakes and slices.

Yesterday was a bit of a cookathon. I made the jam, a banana fruit loaf and also braised beef for dinner. The braised beef was in the slow cooker which made the day much more enjoyable, not having to think about dinner at the last minute.
Thankfully last year after suffering from a shortage of jars, I put the word out on Freecycle and at Tim's work for any unwanted jars. I now have a stash that will last a while and they in every imaginable size too.

These zucchinis are going to turn into soup tonight. I'm not sure yet if it will be served hot or chilled. I usually like to pick our vegetables as close to serving as possible but because of the heat it makes more sense to pick them in the morning while watering.
The menu plan for the next few days while it is hot, will be plain home cooking. No fancy meals that require a lot of thinking and planning.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Wellington and Back

We are back home today after a couple of nights in Wellington, NSW. Tim's sister lives there and his mother was visiting too so it seemes like the ideal time to visit. Ideally it would have been a little cooler, we are used to the cooler temperatures of our valley but over there, the nights stayed hot and the sun seems brighter and hotter. It was a good trip with a few good discoveries along the way. I always like to visit gardens when I travel. It offers new ideas and inspiration. The fountain in the gardens at Wellington might be a little over-the-top for a home garden but it reminds me that I really want to add some sort of water feature to our garden. I think a pond might be more fitting for us.
The zinnias were a carpet of colour and just gorgeous. Mine aren't as good this year but there is still more summer for my zinnias to put on their show.

They had some awesome bunya trees. I have a wee specimen of about 1 metre. I think there were four in the gardens. I wonder if any of them produce? I know that I won't see any nuts from my tree, it is such a slow grower and I think I need another tree of the opposite gender to produce fruit. It is interesting enough though to keep it's place.

Along with visiting and eating out, we did some window shopping and some bush walking. We chose Mt Arthur for our walking, the tracks are fairly well marked and despite the heat it wasn't too hot because of the trees. We met Tony and his wife who are volunteers at the reserve and they were very friendly and informative.
I'm not sure when we will be back in Wellington but I hope it is during the cooler seasons. As always, going away no matter where, makes home so much sweeter.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Watering and Cooking

The vegetable garden as expected needs to be watered every few days but the rest of the other gardens peppered around the house yard haven't needed watering for some time. The rain has taken care of it and then some. Today however it was time to head outside with the hose and give some plants a drink. The established orchard is fine but the new trees needed a soak as did the more tender fruits- the kiwi fruit, the berries, the currants and the gooseberry. I also watered all of the roses, the herbs, the garden beds surrounding the house and the potted plants on the verandah. It took a while but I love to have enough time and enough water to not shortchange the plants. It's great thinking time if that's what your after.

A couple of the bird baths were. I feel bad if I don't keep them topped up even if there is plenty of water around elsewhere.
They are all brimming now ready for thirsty birds and insects.

I just liked the look of this spider web built across one of the archways. Not sure where the web builder was but his web is pretty.

Yesterday was Tim's birthday and I made him most of the things he requested for dinner. All three recipes I used came from the book above, delicious more please. It is quite a good book and I'm thinking of buying it when I return this copy to the library.

It was a little too hot for the requested zucchini soup so I replaced it with a refreshing Basil Lemonade. Sounds a little different and it is but it is very refreshing. Sweet,sparkling, lemony with a basil twist.Even Hope drank it which is saying a lot because she really does not like herbs. The main meal was Bobotie which is a South African style shepherds pie. It has a custard like top and sultanas and apricot jam in the pie which gives it a distinct sweetness. Definitely worth a try if you like sweet and savoury in the one mouthful similar to Moroccan food. The dessert/ birthday cake was my rendition of the cover recipe, a classic vanilla cheesecake. I left off the chocolate sauce and used the berries that we had ready yesterday-raspberry, blackberry and strawberry. The difference in this version from other cheesecakes I have made is that there was a top layer of a mix of sour cream and sugar. The recipes were easy to prepare and ever so tasty. I'm sure I won't be able to top it tonight.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Gardening

For me Sunday gardening is mostly pottering about. I don't like to do too much 'work' even if it is restful work. This morning I have been watering and spreading some mulch now that the hotter weather has started. I may be going away to Wellington at the end of the week so a fresh layer of mulch will take care of the plants a little while I'm away. I also lifted a couple of kilograms of potatoes, the last of the Cranberry Reds and some Sapphire potatoes. The rice 'paddy' is growing well. I have pretty much left the watering of the tub to nature. We have had enough rain for there to be considerable water stored in the soil in the tub and I haven't had the need to flood the 'paddy' which apparently is mostly for weed control anyway.
I also enjoyed the shady parts of the vegetable garden this morning. By afternoon they are in full sun so it is always best to get the jobs done early. I love sunflowers because they just seem so happy. The bees like them too.

My dahlias are really starting to put on a show. It started with just one plant but now quite a few different varieties are opening up. I never used to be a fan of the dahlia, I thought they were a bit too old-fashioned but I have come to enjoy them so much that I'm always on the lookout for a typw that I don't have.

This one is called "My Love". It is a little plain for my tastes but the spiders and insects don't mind it. Last year I started growing the majority of my dahlias in the vegetable garden. I spend quite a bit of time there and I get to enjoy their company more regularly so they are back again this year.

Not everything is pretty or productive in my vegetable patch. I have one bed which is quite overgrown with grass and weeds. I'm just finding it hard to get started in this bed. Maybe this evening or early tomorrow morning before I start cooking Tim's birthday feast. It would be nice to have an extra bed to plant out into.
This afternoon however it is too hot to do much more than listen to the cricket and maybe a little sewing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Subdued was definitely the mood of the town when I headed in there yesterday.The Country Music Festival that takes over the town every year in January didn't have the same vibe yesterday.Hopefully things will pick up as the festival continues. There were markedly less people on the street and having a look around the camp sites, there were a lot less visitors there too. The street is usually full of people but not so yesterday. I guess many of the people who had planned a trip to our town had their plans changed by the recent weather events. Fun and frivolity isn't on the top of peoples priorities.

I made the most of my day in town. I made my regular blood donation (although that almost didn't happen due to low haemoglobin levels), bought Tim's birthday present for Monday ( gps device and a new spotlight), had afternoon tea and dinner out, bought a few groceries and a few other bits and pieces. Boring but thankfully so.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Planting, Hoping, Waiting

That is what gardening is about a lot of the time. Planting seeds or tiny little seedlings with great hopes and expectations and then just waiting. No matter the skill level of the gardener, it all comes down to a little bit of natural magic.
A while ago I planted a little bit of hope with my Finger Lime. I check on it now and then but don't want to mollycoddle it. It now has some small flowers and the hope for future fruit starts. I live in an area that isn't quite right for finger limes but I have chosen a site that is protected and it is definitely growing. The flowers are quite tiny and not overly impressive unlike the thorns. I have also planted a little more hope. Not of growing spoons, that is just a marker for my saffron bulb. I have planted three saffron crocus bulbs in the hope of harvesting a few of the lovely little golden threads for some culinary delights without the exorbitant expense.

I don't have to wait for flowers in the garden. They are a bit patchy with all of the rain we have had but the purple agapanthus is flowering well. I think a bonus with agapanthus is the dried out flower heads. The added bonus of the agapanthus is it is zero maintenance. I never water it, just mow around it when necessary.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Holiday Reading

I currently have a stash of fantastic cooking books from the library. They are all new titles and are not only making great reading, but great cooking too.

Poh's Kitchen is great and the Women's Weekly World Table, I might even buy as it has enough recipes in it that I would make over again. I also have The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans on my library card but I forgot to add it to the stack when taking the picture. Nigella Lawson is always a favourite in our house and I also like Skye Gyngell's approach to food and cooking. I borrowed a book totally devoted to macarons but have yet to make one. I think I borrowed it just to see what all the fuss is about as macarons seem to be the flavour of the month. I will give them a try, some of the combinations in the book are quite tempting and the colours are fantastic.

I love cooking for my family and it is especially fun during the school holidays when the main meal can be served at anytime. Tim's birthday is coming up on January 17 so I have given him carte blanche over the menu for his dinner. I think he will have a hard time choosing one meal out of all of these cook books.

Today I am off again for a belated Christmas get together with my other sister. It doesn't feel very Christmassy at all though, I think once the New Year has passed, the mood for celebrating the season subsides until it builds up again in December. I actually feel more in a sewing mood so I might take it along with me.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Little Obsessive

Every year for Christmas my wonderful husband gives me a new notebook. He knows how I love to make lists and how I love to keep them all in one pretty little place. So every year after Christmas,usually at the beginning of the new year, I transpose information that needs transposing and leave out out-of-date jottings.

I always have a list of what we want to acheive around the house and on the farm throughout the year. I make a list of the craft projects I want to complete .This always gets added to during the year and hopefully there are more projects completed come the end of year than those left as works in progress or worse still not even started.

I keep a copy of our budget, a month-by-month birthday list, a list of swaps I'm involved in and also any little titbits of information I want to remember. My notebooks are the go-to book when you want to know how things work here.It's good to have most or all of the required information in one handy place and written down too so that it isn't all just in my head.

In addition to the notebook this Christmas, Tim also gave me some new felt tip pens which I am a little crazy about too. Now my book has a rainbow of writing and I love it.

A little obsessive yes, but it works for us.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hot and Jammy

Today is hot to say the least. Chores were done early. I managed to get some mowing done and found enough strawberries in the garden to make a small batch of jam. I have never had enough before and I just scraped by this time. It helped that no one else was around when I brought them inside.The kitchen (actually the whole house) smelt great while the jam bubbled away. It really smelt like strawberry lollies.
Bottled up, still warm and almost ready to enjoy. Strawberry jam is very easy to make. A little water, a little lemon juice and equal quantities of strawberries and sugar. Summer in a bottle. I'm glad I got it made before the kitchen hots up later.