Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.

While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections for 2011 & Happy New Year for 2012

Wow, what a big one...where do I start?.....

I think I would have to say that finding the DTE forum, and starting my blog in February to be up the top of the best things that have happened......I've met some very lovely people along the way, made some awesome friends both here and overseas..and learnt lots of new skills. The enthusiasm here is fantastic and I appreciate and cherish each and every comment left by my readers....If you are one of the 'lurkers' that left a comment for the first time in my last post.....Hello there, It's lovely to meet you and thanks for leaving a comment. I don't always have time to leave comments, but I sure do love reading them.

I also joined a monthly garden course learning local knowledge month by month....which has given me lots of encouragement to try new things. To top it off, I'm getting to know a lovely bunch of people who also love gardening. Joining this class has been the best thing I could have done to improve my gardening skills. You can't get this information from sitting down reading a book, I don't care how good the book is.

Adding flowers (Yes, even non-edibles) to my garden to attract bees has been a major learning curve for me and I say hello to each and every bee I see now. When hubby was home, he took a walk around the garden with me and couldn't believe how much healthier everything is growing.... Every time I plant a new seedling, I also plant a pesticide plant and a pollen attractor if needed; which I also grow from seed or cuttings I've done myself.

My garden areas now have at least trippled and I love the workload.....It's fantastic therapy for both the mind and body, even though this run down body says "Enough!" most days.
I'm also working on a whole new food forest which is in the plans for next year.....The back yard really doesn't have any more room for plants, unless I start lifting pavers, and I've thought about doing that too....lol.

Like life in general, we've had some lows over the year, but with time we've also created some highs.
My oldest has completed his first year of an "Overhead linesman Electrician" which I am very proud of, and  being top of the class, he has his sights set on Apprentice Of The Year at the end of his 4 years of training....

One of our lows would have to be a huge change, when hubby and I made a joint decision for him to move away (2000km) from the family home for better work. We are both working towards one goal of paying off the house sooner.....While we all miss him ever so much when he is away, and my heart aches for him to breath the same air, we have grown even stronger than before. I am so grateful for the love we have after more than 20 years...it just grows stronger each week....

This past year has had my oldest niece going through a bitter divorce which isn't finalised yet, and we almost lost her to complications after a tonsillectomy. Her sister went to help with her children and her recovery, so I got to meet my youngest nieces two daughters for the first time; aged two and four....which I might add are darling little girls who love their great Aunty....
Sadly; Hubby's youngest sister has also gone through a divorce and on top of that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. On the bright side, she is back at work after treatment and also found a lovely new fella.
I'm grateful for the health of all of them....

My mother's health has deteriorated some what, with complications adding 3 new specialists to her list...and she is also thinking of giving up driving, which will be a blessing, but also more running around for me....She is becoming less independent with each passing month....I can't help but wonder what the coming year has install for her.

Overall, I have learn't to take each day as it comes, and I've also learn't to listen to my body, and deal with my pain better.This has cut down on the amount of medication I take by half since this time last year.....and I am doing much more manual work too.....

One thing I like to live by is this: ....."How hard can it be? .....Really .....Give it a go!"
You never know until you try, and remember, anything is easy, once you know how.

Do you have any highs you would like to share for 2011? Maybe you have had some lows too, which you have been dealing with? If so, I would love for you to share some...If you have blogged about them, please leave a link too.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas for 2011

I guess this is my first Christmas post on my blog, but don't worry, I'm pretty sure it won't be my last.....I'd just like to take the time to tell you all how much I appreciate you reading my blog. I have some very regular followers who have been here since the beginning...which isn't that long ago either, but I am coming up to my first anniversary in Feb too...which is also exciting.

If you are a lurker, now is the time to show yourself...leave a comment, and make yourself known. Given my blog stats, I know I have a huge list of lurkers who enjoy sitting on the sidelines, enjoying reading my blog. Don't feel obligated to show yourself though, it really is up to you and you alone. Although I would love it if you popped in and said Hi! No pressure....lol!

Christmas for me is a time to celebrate family and enjoy good food. Food that you wouldn't often eat, but more for a special occasion. I enjoy showing off my cooking skills at Christmas, and like to go the extra mile for a more complicated recipe.....although this year...I don't have anything complicated planned....but I know that my family will enjoy every bite.

I haven't even had time to (or remembered until now) to post about the beautiful Christmas Decorations both Mum and I received in the Down to Earth Christmas Decoration Swap.....

Mum received lots of lovely hanging 'gift' decorations from Lauren which are all handmade. They are stunning Lauren! Thank-you from Mum.

Just visible on the left is one of the
Origami butterflies....it's bright Orange.

My swap partner was Marnie...and I received a very complicated knitted stocking, along with a cute little house made from scraps of fabric....

Looking at all the photos, I didn't capture the Japanese Origami Butterflies,....but I know they are on the tree.....Thanks Marnie for the lovely decorations.

As you can imagine from your own household, things have been rather busy around here......As well as doing lots of baking for the freezer, I've been getting things done in the garden and doing lots of weeding, harvesting and planting too.....

I've even been too busy to publish my Gardening 101 for December post, but I did attend the December course, so I will make time soon to write that post....Sorry to those who have been looking forward to the December post, I will get to it soon after Christmas.

After hubby's flight being 5 hours delayed, I finally picked him up late last night....he had a huge day yesterday to get home for Christmas...the airport was packed to the rafters of all the workers trying to get home to spend Christmas with family and loved ones. I'm so grateful that we get him home for Christmas.

We have been busy tidying up, and I've been stocktaking in the garden to see what herbs I have for different dishes and salads....No herbs had to be store bought this year..which is fantastic!

Although I am organised with meat and other odds and ends...I can't help but look at more recipes......Yesterday, I found some more delicious recipes, and if I get time today, I might try a few of them out.

In the kitchen today I will do some of my salad prep for Christmas day.....All this stores very well for roughly four days in the fridge in press-seal bags....I use the bags, because they don't take up as much room as containers, and they can be stacked on top of each other: all being the same size....Some of my prep today will include the following:

  • Cooking and draining two types of pasta
  • Grating a big batch of carrots in the whizzer
  • Shredding some cabbage
  • Dicing spanish onions
  • Making another batch of Universal Herb & Garlic Mix

Remember: any prep you do today, makes light of the time spent in the kitchen tomorrow. All these ingredients will go in bags and be stored in the fridge, ready to make up salads the next day....any prep I can do today, makes things easier and less of a fuss or mess tomorrow....I think I mentioned that....lol....I will also be:

  • Boiling a dozen or so eggs to have on hand
  • Making my potato salad...making it the day before adds to the infused flavours of the fresh herbs
  • Mixing a French-onion dip for nibblies
  • Cooking my Ham in coke...(see *)....

*Instead of making Nigella's Coke Ham this year, I've found a simple recipe for making a cola syrup to cook the ham in...I think I will double the mixture though....so I will be doing that today too......I think this looks far more delicious than the Nigella version....and a lot healthier too.

  • Presents are all wrapped, and tonight I will get a small bag of pre-cooked turkey drumstick meat out of the freezer...along with stuffing balls and a few other bits.....all cooked over the last few weeks.....
Stuffing Balls
I've met many interesting and wonderful people since beginning my blogging adventure....and I appreciate all the comments and feedback...Some, I'm sure will be great friends for many years to come...To those who sent me a Christmas Card, I thank each one of you....I'm sorry, I didn't have time to do many cards this year. 

I take this time to wish all my readers, friends and family (and even the lurkers hiding in the background)...a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous new year. To  everyone on the DTE forum; along with all the followers on Rhonda's blog too.......

If you are travelling; stay safe.
If you are out drinking; make sure you have a designated driver.

If you are out partying, don't do it alone, take a friend.

Stay safe, and enjoy your Christmas holiday....I look forward to seeing everyone back here after their holiday celebrations....and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Until recently, I had never grown Sweet Potato....some also know this root vegetable as Kumera. There are three main varieties or colours of the Sweet Potato, but generally, there is not much difference in flavour.

I am yet to harvest my first tuber, but my plant so far is looking rather healthy. Sweet potato is an excellent source of mulch....it's also brilliant as a clay breaker....and either way; you get to eat the end result.....and if you bandicoot them while they are still growing, you get to have your crop and eat it too. How much better can that be?
This photo was taken almost a month ago, and the tub is fully covered over now with leaves and runners.

Even though I had already planted this lot earlier with beginners luck........After learning how to propagate a Sweet Potato Plant correctly at my garden course last Saturday, I had to have another go.  I visited the Barrack Heights Community Garden midweek, and came home with cuttings and plants, along with which was a few runners of Sweet Potato.

You can grow them too if you know someone who is already growing them. You can also plant a young tuber and hope for the best....I have had tubers in a brown paper bag for easy 6 months....and they are just beginning to form eyes on them....so I figure getting some cuttings or a runner off someone is the easier way to go.

Firstly, dig and turn over the soil where you are going to plant the runner.....dig in some compost and make sure there is good drainage in the area you have chosen. You can plant them in raised beds, which is what I am doing, or you can plant them on mounds about 15 to 20 cm high. You can see in the following photo all the tiny new growth, just waiting to prosper.

Use cuttings which are about 30cm long, and remove the side leaves.
Run a slot in the soil, and press the soil over the cutting. Don't forget to leave tip of the cutting exposed above ground.....You should have roughly 5cm of soil covering the cutting.
Water the area well, and often until roots have formed....the rest is just as easy.............

Before covering with soil.
Look at the difference in colour, of the vines.
The green foliage is my original vine, 
and the purple is the one I was given the other day.

Hmmm...I wonder if that means they are two different varieties?

Oh, and check out the two hitch-hikers I picked up from the garden.....I found them in the bag along with the cuttings.......I couldn't help but capture their beauty.....
all the while thinking how nice and fat they were....and how very destructive they would be in my garden, had I not found them........I had never seen anything like them before.

Have you grown Sweet Potato before? If so, how did it go?....Would you have a go now, after seeing how easy it is? ........

Have you ever seen these little, but rather big creatures before? I had a look on Google, but couldn't find their exact eye (fake) markings...lots of other Horned caterpillars though.......

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beetroot - the longer variety

I love home preserved pickled beetroot.
Here are the beets I harvested from my garden the other day....I prefer the longer variety for smaller spaces.
It makes sense....less space, but more slices......
Imagine if you had plenty of space to grow these beets.....I bet your harvest would be twice as big.

Don't forget to harvest the thicker of the stems too.
PICKLED BEETROOT....the recipe I went by

4 large beetroot
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Wash beetroot thoroughly and cook in water until tender......
after cooking the beetroot, remove them and cook the stems too.

2. Cool and remove the skin....wearing gloves prevents your hands being stained.

3. Cut beetroot into slices, dices or julienne strips.

4. Place all other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
5. Simmer for 5 minutes, then strain...keeping the liquor.
6. Pack beetroot into hot sterilised jars, and top up with the vinegar mixture.

7. Using the handle of a spoon, poke the handle down to the bottom of each jar....moving the chopped beet from side to side......this expels any remaining air which would contaminate the final product.

8. Top up each jar again, with more of the vinegar mixture.
9. Place sterilised lids on jars....and heat in a moderate oven for 45 minutes.
10. Turn the oven off, and allow the jars to cool in the oven.

Each jar lid should pop down when touched.
Most will do this during cooling anyway. 
If any lids do not pop down, store these jars in the fridge and use them first.

Do you grown and preserve your own beets?
Would you consider growing this longer variety? 

On my mind...Thinking of loved ones passed

Many thanks to Rhonda at Down to Earth for this concept.
This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with  a link to your blog. 

I warn you, reading this post, you may need a box of tissues.......
I was going to write about the beetroot I have preserved and the stuffing balls I have made....but after reading Rhonda's blog post today..I think this is more appropriate.......

Christmas is a time when we reflect...a time for celebration yes, but also in many households...a time for sadness. Sadness for the pain of missing a loved one....sadness maybe because you are not where you wish you could be at Christmas. My thoughts go to the people who have recently lost a loved one, or that have a family member who is not long for this earth. Christmas is a time for me, when I reflect how fortunate I am....fortunate to have two wonderful sons, fortunate to have a wonderful husband, fortunate to still have one parent alive....fortunate to have good food at the ready, and good protection from the weather with a warm cosy bed at night.

I am fortunate for the love I am surrounded by.

One Christmas holidays 11 years back, I lost two nephews in the short space of 2 months.
One to each of my siblings....Such sadness, such heartache........

First was new years eve involving my sisters youngest...aged 20; he fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from work.....died instantly in the crash and was buried 10 days before his 21st birthday......

We still miss you David...Your sisters both miss you very much...
You would have made a wonderful priest. 

Second was on the 25th Feb, when my brother found his newborn son with no life, in his cot.....they call it Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Donny was just 84 days old.....I guess angels are needed at all ages.....

Donny, your parents miss you very much, and so does your big sister....You have another sister and a brother now, who often think of you too.  

Having not met my nephew Donny until his funeral, I held his little hand....and whispered to him...."I'm your Aunty". 
Donny had a traditional Kiwi funeral at the house before being buried back in New Zealand beside other family members passed.

Growing up, Christmas memories have not always been the best for me...but becoming a mother has made many new and lovely memories which have replaced the bad ones......

I love my children, and am very appreciative that I have both of them in my life....We've had some extremely close calls where I thought my first born would be taken from me......having had a 'failed cot death' when he was just 2 months old, and a horrible skate boarding accident just a few years ago......

So yes, take time to reflect on your loved ones who are still with you.....and how fortunate you are....
But also give thought to the ones who have passed..........

Over the following weeks.....I will also be thinking about my niece and nephew in my husbands family.....who lost their father in a fatal car crash...at such a young age, not being able to remember him, not having the chance to get to know him........
I know you both miss what you could have had very much....Natasha and Zac, your father loved you sooo much.

Today, take joy in the family you have around you....you may come from a large family...or you may be an only child....you may have children, or you may not.....either way....somewhere.....you have family, because you were born....Think about the family that are not with you now.....especially the family you never met, because you were not born yet when they passed......

Take comfort in the family you do have around you.....
tell them each day, how much you love them......

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Prawn & Chicken Sausage Rolls

We like to enjoy a bit of seafood around Christmas, and I usually buy just a few of the cheaper varieties....Economically, I see the value in buying a kilo bag of frozen prawn meat. The bag comes with the prawns snap frozen, so you can take out and defrost the amount you need to defrost....No one big lump, which is good. I buy my prawn meat at the local seafood shop....they have it defrosted ready for you to use, and also frozen in the 1kg bags. My prawn meat costs me $20 but there is no waste, no scraps, but all meat.

Here is what I have done with this lot of Prawn meat.......

My Prawn & Chicken Sausage Rolls.

From left to right in the photo below....mince your chicken mince...then without rinsing the whizzer, mince your prawn meat....add both to a large bowl.....You can use what ever amounts you wish....it all depends on what you have. In this recipe, I used 1 kg of both Prawn meat and 1 kg of Chicken breasts.

So....Left to Right:
Minced Chicken breast, finely chopped Chillie, bruised Lemon Thyme with cracked pepper,
My  Universal Herb & Garlic Mix,  2 egg yolks, Minced Prawn meat.........

Blend it all together.....

Now fry a spoon full, to test for seasoning and flavour....This is a big help before you start wrapping the mix in pastry.....

After tasting the sample....I decided the seasoning and flavour were fine...but I thought they were a little heavy....so instead of saving those egg whites for something else...I whipped them up and folded them into the mix......
Fry to taste again.......much better......yummmmmmm

Now, I used to spoon my mix onto the pastry, but finally lashed out for the real thing last Christmas...and Oh...it is sooooo much easier to use a piping bag.....If you plan on buying one, buy the best quality you can afford.
As in the photo, fold the top half of the bag down over your hand and fill the bag with the mix....Only half fill the piping bag, or it will be too hard to manage.

Twist the top of the bag tight...and begin piping onto the pastry.
Each sheet of pastry needs to be cut in half.............

Use an egg wash as glue...by using on egg, a little water, and a pinch of salt...the water and the salt helps break down the white of the egg..........

Score the tops of the pastry once rolled with a sharp knife...only very shallow though, as you are not trying to cut slits into the tops...it is purely decoration. Then paint each with the egg wash.

To cut each roll into three, first dip your knife into a cup of flour, do this for each cut, and your cuts and edges of your rolls with be much neater.
I was able to fit twelve rolls on a biscuit tray for the oven...in a very hot oven of 240 degrees celcius...bake the sausage rolls for 20 minutes or until golden brown depending on your oven.

Repeat making them until you run out of the meat mixture.....
Both Mum and I enjoyed a few each for lunch, but the rest went into the freezer to be used as a meal for while Hubby is home......

Do you have left over pastry? I had a 12 sheet pack of pastry, and only used 9 1/2...so what did I do to use up the rest of the pastry?......

Fruit Strudel of course.....
In this mix I used....
Left over peaches off our dwarf peach tree
Two green apples, peeled and grated
Strawberries from the garden
Blueberries from the freezer
1 pear grated
a sprinkle of brown sugar

I had enough to make two large ones, and two smaller ones......so into the freezer they went
a yummy dessert fit for a king.....and My King...is home for a few days.

Background: Prawn & Chicken Sausage Rolls
Foreground: Mixed Fruit Strudel
Hubby and the rest of the family are going to love these......
What have you been baking for the Christmas break?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Universal Herb & Garlic Mix - for Every day!

Imagine having a healthy mix of fresh herbs and garlic, that you can happily add to your menu every day of the week; without the hassle of picking, washing, peeling, slicing and chopping each time you want to use them all........

I've found that happy place....in the Herb Mix that I make on a regular basis...Up until now, I had been calling it My Soup Starter....but it's taken on a whole new meaning in my kitchen lately.

Frankly, I'd be lost without it....(Well, almost, I've done ok up until now..lol)....
It's been raining on and off here for what seems to be forever....but long enough for me not to remember the last time I hung wet washing outside on the line....What I'm trying to get at here is.....I haven't had to run out to the garden for herbs at all. Why? Because of my All Purpose Herb & Garlic Mix!!

It's brilliant, flavourful AND time-saving!!
Thank-you to my niece Shona for the inspiration behind this mix. I have adapted mine to suit my garden, and I am discovering new ways to use it almost every day.....

Depending on what is growing in abundance in my garden at the time, depends on what goes in my Herb Mix. Here are some examples....the method is always the same......Whizz everything in the blender until finely minced, adding Olive Oil to blend easily. Store in the fridge in a sealed glass jar.

  • 1 big bunch of spring onions
  • a couple of Spanish onions if you have some on hand.
  • a good cup of minced garlic..I just used the bottled variety (home-brand too)
  • adding Olive Oil while it is whizzing to make a good spooning consistency.
  • Store in an airtight jar in the fridge.

  • 1 big bunch of spring onions (from the garden)
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • a good cup of minced garlic..(I use the bottled variety because I just don't have time to peel that much garlic)
  • a big bunch of freshly picked parsley (also in the garden)  
  • a bigger bunch of Sorrel (also in the garden) 
  • a small bunch of Marjoram and Thyme (also in the garden)

    Add Olive Oil while it is whizzing to make a good spooning consistency. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge. Remember, anything you add will be a time saver....If you have it, add it! I use this starter for many different recipes...I love it on the 2 ingredient pizza dough (oooh I have a good idea for some flat bread to go with dinner tonight) or stirred into cooked pasta. It also makes a delicious dressing too. The list is endless where you can use this Herb Mix.

  • 2 big bunches of spring onions 
  • 2 large Spanish onion
  • a whole jar of crushed garlic..(I use the bottled variety because I just don't have time to peel that much garlic)
  • a huge bunch of freshly picked parsley 
  • a bigger bunch of Sorrel
  • a handful of Rosemary  
  • a medium bunch of Marjoram and Thyme 
There was two of these jars.

It really couldn't be any easier....I encourage you to have a go...Make it up and see for yourself, what you can create with it.

Here are just some examples of 

what I have used it for.......

Herb & Garlic Butter - Mixed

Herb & Garlic Butter - one for now, one for the freezer.
Roast Leg of Pork

Savoury Crackers

Chicken with Cheese Baguette

Roast Turkey legs

Roast Turkey Roll with herb butter and garden salad

HINT: When you only have one tomato, or maybe a few slices of cold meat, AND you have lots of people to feed....how do you choose who gets what on their sandwiches...Simple! You don't have to choose....just chop it all up...and share it with everyone. 
Ham & Salad Bread Rolls

That method works so well for any salad sandwich, and it's perfect for people who have false teeth problems. No tomato skins to bite through......or lettuce to tear with your teeth.....

Like I said, It's brilliant!.....here's some more ideas.....

Fresh Garden Tomato Salad with fresh peas

Herb & Garlic Bread

Prawn & Chicken Rolls
(Like sausage rolls, only better)

Base for Pizza

Roast Leg of Lamb

Hmmm, I wonder how I will use it tomorrow? ........
Oh, and I didn't even show you any dressings, sauces, or soups.....

Your time is just as valuable as mine...and If I find a way to save time in the kitchen, I'm sure going to share it with you all.
Is this something you would be interested in making? What meals can you see yourself using it in?
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