Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Herbs and macarons

This is possibly the world's worst looking macaron. I have made them before but feeling a bit adventurous decided to try a different recipe and they just wouldn't form a 'skin' before baking and didn't have the right lift during cooking either. I have had a few problems with recipes from this source so I think I will steer clear of this magazine in the future. My sister, Kelly, has also experienced a few issues with the recipes too so maybe it isn't just this cooks fault.

Herb bed 1 had some attention today. I would really like to be able to make lovely drawings of the garden bed to map out where and what everything is... maybe next week. I looked at a couple of free online garden design programs but they weren't suitable. There are still a few empty spots but it is lush enough right now. Not a very culinary bed but lots of useful plants.

  • curry plant

  • Turkey thyme

  • lemon balm

  • lemon scented geranium

  • fennel

  • Avonview lavender

  • garlic chives

  • catnip x 2

  • cherry tomato

  • chives

  • foxglove

  • common thyme

  • chamomile

  • rosemary

  • southernwood

  • oregano

  • santolina

  • peppermint scented geranium

The list has surprised me with its length, I really didn't realise that there were so many different plants in this bed but herbs are really my favourite plants. It feels like a good time to be taking stock of what is in the garden and what can be added. New plants will have an easy time settling in while there is moisture in the gound and warmth in the air.

Advent calenders opening up tomorrow so it is excitement all round here.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The party is over

We are not quite back to normal life yet as we have a visitor staying until Thursday. Then the three adults, Tim, Tom (who is officially an adult today) and I will head to Wagga Wagga for an interview at the university. It isn't his first choice of university but he is keeping his options open and we will find out for sure in a couple of weeks. The rain has passed and the sun is back out with a vengence . The path is so weedy after the rain. The cheeky cosmos and some rather stubborn parsley seedlings have emerged and it is times like this when spraying is very tempting. I'm not going to though. A couple of hours and the hopefully the path and garden will be back in order.

As you can see we had the dinner inside even though the sun started shining at around 2pm. We had about 200ml/8 inches of rain so it was much too soggy to be outdoors. The artichokes in the vases were quite a nice addition(once the ladybugs were relocated) especially for a dinner for a male.

I made Tom a simple mud cake for his birthday cake. The chocolate ganache icing, cherries and chocolate curls lifted it though and it was quite rich.

For my sister, Jody's 40th birthday cake, I made a little tower of patty cakes. Plain vanilla cakes with pretty icing. These were my pick of the three cakes.

I also made a cheesecake with a fruit topping. Not enough butter in the biscuit base meant it was a little crumbly but nice just the same.

Today for Tom's real birthday dinner, it is lasagne as always. It is his favourite and we have rarely missed a year. Just a humble cinnamon teacake to hold the birthday candles, we have indulged a little too much over the past couple of days.

Until dinner time though I will be busy replanting my tomatoes and pulling weeds while the ground is still giving.


Friday, November 25, 2011

More wet weather

We seem to be right in the middle of a weather system that is producing rain, rain and more rain. Although it is hard to be grateful for it right now, in a month or two we will be thankful for the soaking of the soil that is happening now.

Today I had a full trolley of shopping to buy and bring home for tomorrow nights dinner. Before I went shopping though I did a little procrastinating. Whilst packing up my parcel for Chooky's SSCS, I located some charms I got for Christmas last year. That led me to a little jewellery making. I had some earring findings and in two minutes I had a new pair of earrings. I wore them to town and felt a little special all day.

Wet weather and dinner parties don't mix though. I had planned an elaborate outdoor extravaganza. Well there were going to be fairy lights, candles and a long table. Now I have to set up inside and the guests will get to watch me cook and plate up...aargh. It will be just like a cooking show only not. Anyway I may be absent from the world of blogging tomorrow but I do hope I have a few minutes in the day to spend catching up with online friends.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A little damage

After much rain and the nasty weather of last week, the warm days have returned. The days do have that threatening storm feel though. When I could finally get back out into the garden to check how things faired, not everything was rosy. The pods are bruised from the hail but the peas inside are ok.

The artichokes are looking a tad sad and I am now going to save the tops for a table decoration for a dinner I am having on Saturday evening.

There were no berries left on these strawberries but some others were better off. I think it is often the newest and most cosseted of plants that suffer the most. Or perhaps that is just how it appears.

I am very happy that it is so early in the season to have this damage because I lost 30 tomato plants last Tuesday and as there are still months of warm weather, I can replant and expect a decent crop.

I am in the midst of preparing for my son, Tom's, birthday dinner on Saturday night. It will double as a 40th birthday dinner for my sister too. That means two birthday cakes and twice the fun.Tim has been putting up fairy lights and I have been dreaming up menus that hopefully everyone will enjoy. I'm excited about it now that I have been bitten by the entertaining bug.


Friday, November 18, 2011

On My Mind

Most Fridays I join in with Rhonda and quite a few other bloggers with what's "On My Mind". This week as with every week there are many things on my mind but as I was heading out this morning for my jog, I got to thinking about fitness and finding a rhythm and thought I would share a picture which I probably should not. My back side in my running clothes. I think I am being quite daring and perhaps a little foolhardy but so far I haven't met a nasty blogger so I feel safe.

Running isn't something that I am good at but I am finding myself really enjoying it now that I have developed a rhythm that suits me. In the beginning I tried to run too quickly and was out of steam too fast. Now I have learnt to slow down and I can cover much more ground and do it without feeling like I might just be breathing my last breaths.

It is much like life in general. When I try to do too much, too quickly and overextend myself, I quickly lose focus and end up not achieving much of anything. Though I do like the challenge of multi-tasking and having a few things on the go at once, it is good for me at least to test my mettle and stay on my toes. It can take a while to work out what is the right rhythm for yourself and your family but when you do, life seems to run more smoothly. And when there are times that require a bit of extra effort, the knowledge that the normal rhythm of life will return helps too.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rainy Days

We are having some rather wet weather. A wild night of hail, wind, rain and lightning on Tuesday dawned to the morning above on Wednesday. The sunshine was very short lived however and I spent the day indoors and without power. The electricity was out for 11 hours which really does make you think. It made me realise how much I rely on the power coming in for so many things. Cooking, lighting and even just to get water into the house we are reliant on an electric pump. The day was good though. I made a start on some crocheting I wanted to do for Christmas, made some lists (because I love lists), I tidied up some cupboards which needed it, cut out some sewing patterns and fabric (no sewing though). I even had a siesta in the afternoon.

If the meteorologists forecasts are accurate, and sometimes they are, then we have a wet summer ahead. I now have an area in the garden which is prone to becoming a bit boggy after a downpour. It then dries out cement hard. I am thinking that it needs a little creativity to get it right especially with more rain on the way. Perhaps Phoebe's swale idea could work here. I'll ponder it a little more. Anyway, it is another crocheting kind of day along with orchestra and an art show this afternoon.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bottling- Capsicum Jam and a Porter

The last few days have been busy and hard work with shearing the sheep. The weather has been hot and sunny and the wool is coming off just in time for the summer heat. We usually shear earlier but with later lambing this year, we have held off. Although they didn't say anything and their actions implied the contrary, I'm sure the sheep are happy to have their wooly coats removed. When there has been a break in outside farm work, I have been busy sewing, making jam and Tim has been bottling up a home brew. Sometimes it feels like we get a lot done. Capsicum Jam


4 red capsicums

6 tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

2 teaspoons grated ginger

chillies (according to your heat preference)

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup white vinegar


Cut the capsicums so they sit flat and remove the seeds.

Place the capsicums skin side up under the hot grill and grill until the skin is charred.

Remove the capsicums from the grill and wrap in foil until cool.

Once the capsicums have cooled, peel and chop them.

While the capsicums are cooling, make a cross in the top of the tomatoes and place in boiling water for a few minutes.

Drain the tomatoes, peel and chop once cool enough.

Place capsicum, chillies(I use 5 dried chillies),tomatoes, onion, ginger, sugar and vinegar in a saucepan.

Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer until the mixture is a thick, jam-like consistency.

Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

This is a sweet and savoury type of jam and works well with eggs at breakfast or even meat with salad. My preference is to have it with a cafe style breakfast.

The dining room right now is bottling central. I am a teetotaller but Tim likes to make his own beer. The latest is a Porter style brew and next on the list is mead which I am really looking forward to. The mead sounds simple enough so hopefully all goes well and I will blog our progress.


Friday, November 11, 2011

On My Mind...The Apron Strings

On My Mind is hosted by Rhonda each Friday. Participants post a picture depicting what is on their mind and write an explanation. There are always some interesting and thought provoking entries.

Today because the weather was nice and I had the time, I tidied the linen cupboard and washed and /or aired what I thought needed it. With all of my aprons pegged on the clothes line it got me to thinking about the apron strings. Or rather the cutting of the apron strings as the saying goes.

My son who has just finished school is away this week and some of next in Sydney. Working at Taronga Zoo and then staying with my sister. He spent this week living in Mosman at a bed and breakfast, coming home each day exhausted from work. It really is the first step we have made towards the next phase in his life and ours. Next year he will be at university and living in the city and we will be a household of just four here on the farm. At the moment it is still looming in the distance like it will never happen but it will and we will all adjust to the new dynamics of our family. It is a good thing that these changes usually build up with a little more independence garnered with each milestone. Of course I am not happy that my boy will no longer be at home everyday but I am happy that he will be learning and preparing to do something that he wants to. Besides that, it is only a 6 hour drive to Sydney so I predict many trips to and fro next year.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Companion Planting ???

I know there is much conjecture as to whether companion planting works or not. I'm not sure either way but I think it does no harm and there does seem to be a certain amount of common sense behind it if not scientific fact. A good table of companions both good and bad can be foundd on here. My coriander is in flower now and seems to be attracting some good insects. I am by no means an entomologist (my scientific background is microbiology) so I am just guessing that this is some sort of beneficial wasp.

There were a lot of these beasties so they are probably bad news rather than good.

This ladybird I like. I'm ever so grateful for the ability to crop my fingers out of these pictures. Digital photography is a boon for the likes of me who need a little help.

No matter what I plant with the potatoes, the nasty ladybirds always find them. The only pest control I use is squishing which despite being a little revolting is quite rewarding. I thought these were my only problems with the potatoes. In fact yesterday I weeded around all of the potatoes and even harvested some and everything was fine.

Today however is another story. What I can only assume to be a rabbit has decided to burrow in one of my raised potato beds. This bed is made of corrugated iron and a foot high so it is one keen bunny and one cranky gardener. I'm pretty sure I won't find anything on any companion planting list that can help me with htis problem. Perhaps a gardeners revenge stew will fix it.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Birds in the garden

I really love the seeing and listening to the birds that inhabit our garden. Where I live is very much the home of native birds so there is always a lot of bird calling and squawking so although it is peaceful here, it is never quiet.

The property has some dense areas of eucalypts and I have also planted other natives along the driveway. In the near future I'm hoping to plant some native edibles.

It is not the native plantings however that get the birds into the garden.

It's the irresistible fruit that I have planted. I myself can't walk past a ripe cherry without picking one so it probably is too much to expect the birds to leave them alone.

I would prefer it if they did though. This naughty king parrot taunted me this morning. I was watering some young lavenders and he watched me whilst he delighted in MY cherries. I chased him away twice and he just flew a little away and watched me until he thought it was ok to come back. He probably was a little perturbed with me for ruining his peaceful breakfast. He is a connoisseur, he is leaving the ripe mulberries alone in favour of the more gourmet cherries. My revenge, I picked what I could and enjoyed them right there in the orchard.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sewing Time

The speedy pace of my 'simple' life is slowing a little for the time being. I am finally having some sewing time and the worst part is over, washing the fabric. I think reds are the worst fabric for running but they are always so stunning in Christmas creations. This afternoon I am making a start on some Christmas sewing, a corset which Grace has requested (this girl really does love "Little House on the Prairie"), some boxer shorts and last but not least, a bikini. I wish I had have had the bikini pattern years ago when I had the bikini body to wear it. Never mind, it will be fun to make anyway.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Party pooped

The guests have returned home, the kitchen put to rights and now I am pooped. Time for a soak in the tub and an early night. I used an old sheet that was my grandmothers as a table cloth and I think it was much sweeter than the fancy lace table cloth I had envisioned. The girls seemed to be impressed with the menu and didn't leave a lot behind. I was surprised though that they managed to fit in some birthday cake at the end of the day. I guess being a teenager improves the appetite and the metabolism too. Todays menu was : chocolate mousse, cookies and cream slice, white chocolate and macadamia slice, meringues, chocolate coated strawberries, sandwiches, mini meatballs and mini chicken satays. The birthday cake, a pink velvet cake as chosen by Grace. The funny thing about the high-tea, was the distinct lack of tea being consumed. All of the girls chose cold drinks and only my mother had tea.

This was the 'overflow' table. Hope and my mother supped here and I had a quick rest.

This interloper arrived a couple of hours ahead of the party. I'm glad Tim was home today to move him along before everyone arrived. I certainly wasn't dressed for snake wrangling today.


Friday, November 4, 2011

On My Mind...painted

Thanks to Rhonda for hosting On My Mind each Friday. There are always some great blogs to visit to be inspired, motivated, educated or even just entertained.

Today our painted house is on my mind. I can finally say that the painting is finished and it is a nice feeling. Painting is not fun at least it isn't for us and so it became a monumetal chore which almost seemed like it would never end. It did as all things do, good and bad. Sometimes there were real reasons why the painting stalled but more often than not, there were just excuses not to do it.

I'm ever so grateful that the thing on my mind today is trivial and untroublesome and that my life is a happy and simple one.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rose Syrup and a cheescake too

The rose petal syrup was a sweet success. It is a fairly basic syrup recipe and I am not sure of its keeping qualities (though there is plenty of sugar in it)so best stored in the fridge and made in small batches. It has a real Turkish delight type of flavour and the colour is amazing. It should come with a warning that it is uber sweet. I did use some lime juice in the recipe to cut it a little but it really is only for the sweet tooth. An added bonus, when simmering the kitchen smells like roses.

Rose Petal Syrup


2 cups rose petals (the fragrant red varieties would be best)

1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water


Rinse the rose petals because there is most likely some kind of wild life amongst them.

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently.

Allow to steep on the lowest possible heat (not bubbling) for around an hour.

Strain into a clean saucepan and bring to the boil.

Allow to lightly boil until the syrup thickens slightly.

Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

I will make this again and next time I will let it reduce a little more as I would prefer a slightly thicker syrup. It was delicious on the cheesecake and gave it an exotic flavour a bit like Persian fairy floss. The first two strawberries of the season were a nice addition too. Actually I will admit here that I picked a strawberry on Sunday and ate it in the garden but that's my secret.

Simple Baked Cheesecake

250 grams plain biscuits

125 grams butter, melted

4 eggs

3/4 cups white sugar

500 grams cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon lime/lemon juice


Grease a 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Process the biscuits until fine and add the melted butter until combined.

Press the biscuit mixture into the tin, on the base and sides.

Refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Pre-heat oven to 160deg C.

In the food processor combine the eggs, sugar, cream cheese and juice and mix until smooth. This could be done with an electric mixer but I think it is easier(lazier) to use the processor which is already out.

Pour mixture into tin.

Bake for about 50 minutes and cool in the oven.

Refrigerate until it is cold and serve.

This is a very plain and basic cheesecake so it really takes the syrup well but also any fruit topping or even lemon curd is nice.

The oven is having a rest today, it is being cleaned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I try to keep the house pretty clean but I do like to give it a thorough going over now and then. Spring is an obvious time with the warmer weather. Having a wood fire for heating makes for some ashy dust which seems to settle everywhere so I always wait for the last fire of the year before I spring clean. Today the dining room hutch which is full of china tea sets took its turn. I emptied the shelves this morning at 5:50am before heading in to town for Grace's violin lesson and by the time I came home, it was ready to pack away. Glad that job is done. I have also been outside a lot. The weather is too nice to be indoors all day. Sprucing up untidy areas and topping up mulch. The chooks even the pretty little Pekins think that I do this for their benefit alone.

I also cleaned the carpets yesterday morning just in time for Hope to need some paracetamol for a sore throat last night. I really do not like carpets at all and in our first home we removed them and polished up the lovely tounge and groove floorboards. In this more modern house, the flooring is just sheeting and doesn't look as good bare. I am hoping that we can pull up the carpet still and put a floating timber floor over the top. Another thing for the wish list.


P.S. The rose petal syrup was a triumph and I am baking a cheesecake right this very minute just to have an excuse to taste it proper.