January 29, 2013

A cookbook giveaway :: The Byron Life

Photo by The Byron Life

Pop over to The Byron Life for a chance to win a copy of the Byron Farmers Market 10 Year Anniversary Recipe Collection! 

January 28, 2013

Recycled pallet garden on wheels

Garden bed & photo by Slow Living Essentials

What a fab project idea! The always inspiring Christine from one of my favorite blogs, Slow Living Essentials, has created this mobile garden bed from old pallets. (Project idea is from this book.)

The clever thing about a wheelie garden bed is that it can be shifted from a sunny to a shady spot depending on the weather or season. Love it! Might just be next weekend's project...

January 27, 2013

Domestic arts in action

Feeling like domestic goddess's!
27kg of tomatoes cooked and bottled... and some gourmet scraps for the chooks.

January 26, 2013

Giant sunflowers & making compost

This week we measured how tall our Giant Russian Sunflower is... 220cm high! Impressive!
It's always nice to have a few sunflowers in the garden as they're just such a cheerful sort of flower.

The bees seem to be as impressed with it as we are, so hoping we'll have plenty of sunflower seeds to harvest in a few weeks. If the parrots don't beat us to it!

In our part of the world, the summer growing season is relatively short. The rule of thumb is that frost tender seedlings, such as tomatoes, don't go in the ground until after Melbourne Cup Day (early Nov). Which means that unless it's a good hot summer, the autumn frosts are creeping in again while a half my crop of precious tomatoes are still stubbornly green. (The solution to my woes is in the pipeline however, in the form of a poly tunnel...)

The short summer also means that January and February are the time to start getting the winter brassica's (broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbages) sown. So time to pull up the overgrown leeks and the coriander that's gone to seed, and top up the beds with compost.

Now compost is something that it's taken me a while to master get the hang of. For years when I was living in places with small yards, I tried making compost in bins but always ended up with a somewhat smelly and sludgy result (I now realise an excess of kitchen scraps and lack of aeration was the likely issue).

Since switching to an open bay system, things have been considerably more successful. I use what I think is known as the 'lasagna' method: adding thin 10cm layers of alternating brown (carbon-based) materials like straw, shredded paper or dry leaves, and green (nitrogen-based) materials such as kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and weeds, as well as animal manure. Different 'experts' seem to recommend different ratios of browns:greens - but I suspect it might depend somewhat on where you live, what season it is, etc. I go with something that's probably around 50:50.

Then give it a good water and cover with hessian sacks or old carpet.

In theory I'd be turning my compost pile every week or so once it starts to feel hot in the middle, and I would have perfect crumbly compost in 8 weeks. In reality I manage to turn it once or twice and so perhaps it's not as broken down and fine textured as it could be, however the plants don't seem to mind.

So with my trusty helper wielding his sturdy new shovel, the compost goes onto the no-dig beds... a bit of a rake in... and we are ready to plant!

January 24, 2013

Quick knit picks

Fluted Cowl by Purl Bee

I can't wait to start on some small, quick(ish) knitting projects - perhaps I might even have one or two items ready to wear by Autumn! This are my top 4 picks... I just need to decide which to start on first!

Nola Cloche by Hilary Smith Callis

Arbutus Cowl by Jane Richmond

Basic Mittens, photo & mittens by Bird & Little Bird, pattern by Margaret Klein Wilson

Of course, I do have several UFOs (unfinished objects) I really ought to tackle first... but I think they can wait for Winter!

January 22, 2013

Banana Berry Ice-cream

I've recently discovered this super yummy and 100% healthy summer treat! The only ingredients are frozen bananas and raspberries! (I used around 10 raspberries for each banana. Plus a sprinkle of coconut to make it look pretty!) How did I not know that whizzed up frozen bananas turn into something that has a perfect, creamy, ice-cream texture?

Apparently the blending process can be done just in a food processor. I haven't tried this method yet though, as our lovely friend and neighbour Barb, has a Champion juicer with an attachment that is apparently intended for this very purpose. Ooh yeah!!

(Just checked ebay... even secondhand Champion juicers sell for several hundred dollars. However this is a less expensive alternative that I may just splash out on if I spot one secondhand.)

Note: A reminder to myself for next time - remember to peel the bananas before popping them in the freezer the night before.

January 20, 2013

Heading home...

...after an action-packed weekend.

And within 10 minutes of arriving home... the boys try out their new toy. :-)

January 19, 2013


Down in Melbourne at Mum's for the weekend...

:: enjoying afternoon naps
:: going down to the shops for icecream
:: finally choosing some splashback tiles for our bathroom & kitchen (a year after moving in)
:: creating a toy explosion in the living room
:: weeding for Nanna to earn the last $1.50 towards a secondhand set of Matchbox Mega Rig toys from ebay

January 16, 2013

Birdseed Slice

I love that almost everyone in my extended family are great cooks. We're definitely a bit of a foodie family! Family get-togethers are always a feast of tasty goodies. 

This Christmas was a highlight - Uncle Jeff's stuffing roll and super fluffy roast potatoes, Auntie Heather's stuffed zucchini flowers, Thomaz's roast duck, Mum's plum pudding, cousin Jaclyn's pavlova and lots of other delicious things. Mmm!!

This is a super simple and tasty slice, slightly adapted from my Auntie Heather's recipe. It's an ideal alternative to bought muesli bars for school lunches.

Birdseed Slice

125g butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup oat bran or wheat germ
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup sunflower kernels
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried fruit (sultanas, apricots, figs or dates)

Melt butter, honey and brown sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir into the dry ingredients.
Press mixture into a greased slice tray and bake in a moderate oven for approx 15 minutes until golden.
Allow to cool completely then cut into squares.

January 13, 2013

Homemade passata

The past week has been hot, hot, hot here. So I was pretty chuffed to wake up to the sound on rain on the roof this morning. Nice. Perfect for cooking up my 9kg box of roma tomatoes actually...

I like the extra intensity of flavour that you get from roasting the tomatoes but I can only fit two baking trays in the oven and can't be bothered with multiple batches. Hence two trays worth are halved and go in the oven for about half an hour. The rest are quartered and tossed in my big stock pot to soften up.

Then everything goes straight into my fab vintage mouli mill - country markets and garage sales are great for picking up such useful items - to remove the skins and seeds. I love my mouli - avoids the need for time-consuming blanching and peeling. 

Then the passata goes into jars and is simmered in the Fowlers Vacola pot (can anyone tell me what the proper name for the actual pot is?) for an hour or so. 

My 9kg produced 4.5 litres of passata. I'll be processing a few more boxes of tomatoes this summer to produce enough to last the year.

January 12, 2013

Myrtleford Produce Market

I love our local farmers market... no fancy cheeses, nashi wine or dozens of varieties of olive oil. Just proper fresh produce.

It's one of the few markets in our region that is on every Saturday during summer and autumn so it becomes our regular shopping venue during these months.

What I also love are all the seasonal veggies you can buy here that you would simply never see in the supermarket - fresh borlotti beans in their lovely spotty pods, zucchinis and squash in all colours and shapes, giant russian garlic, local chestnuts and tomatoes of all varieties.

This area has a significant Italian population so there are always wonderful home-cooked pasta sauces, home-preserved jars of olives and garlic cloves, and home-baked cakes and crostoli to be temped by too.

But today, these are what I particularly came for...

More about that tomorrow!

January 9, 2013

Mid summer in the garden

In the veggie patch...

:: the perennial leeks have beautiful mauve pom pom flowers
:: we are sowing more peas, beans, spinach, zucchini and radishes (trying to plant a few of each veg each month to avoid one big glut as in past years!)
:: we are munching on the first green beans of the season... mmm!!
:: our giant russian sunflower is nearly 2 metres tall
:: we are waiting and waiting for the tomatoes to ripen

January 6, 2013

How to drop two shirt sizes in 1 hour

I spotted this great tee as a gift for a friend (in this super lovely shop in Mildura), however only size XL was left and my friend is more of a medium fit. Thus, a quick alteration project to kick off my sewing for the new year...

First I cut off the sleeves and reduced the shoulder width by 1cm on each armhole (plus the new seam allowance will take in the shoulders a further cm). Note that you don't want to take any extra off at the bottom of the armhole however, as this will make it too big for the sleeve to fit back on nicely. Then trim off the underarm seam of the sleeve pieces so they open out flat. I also cut 2cm off each side of the tee and trimmed off the bottom hem. 

Then I simply sewed it all back together using an overlocker (serger) - sleeves first, then underarm and side seams. Finally use a twin needle to resew the hem.

Voila! A size medium t-shirt. I do hope it fits!

January 1, 2013

Hello 2013!

A few things I plan to focus on in 2013...

Breathe :: read more, stretch, lie on the grass on sunny days and do nothing, practice mindfulness, have occasional weekends away, go to bed early, love & appreciate

Grow :: nurture my veggie patch, harvest our first honey, eat home grown or local produce, plant some shade trees, learn new skills (enrol in a course)

Create :: sew something each week, take lots of photos, knit, bake bread, try new recipes, get back on my pottery wheel, pick flowers to bring inside

Play :: exercise daily, dedicate some playtime with the kids every day, explore our beautiful area, go on weekend campervan adventures, schedule monthly date nights, play music, go on family bike rides

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