Friday, March 23, 2012


Washing our shells before they go away for the cooler months; he was focused on this taste for the whole time it took me to cook dinner one night...and then started the process all over again (the washing not dinner cooking!)

Our local organic grocer sells 'seconds' of organic fruit and vegetables, slightly bruised, marked or ready to be eaten immediately. Last week I grabbed a 10kg box of tomoatoes (of the such called 'seconds') and set to work making some tomato sauce, the 'ketchup' kind. We often make tomato pasta sauce on a one pot/one meal basis but this was my first time making this style of tomato sauce/ketchup. What does 'Ketchup' mean anyhow/where did that name come from? (mmm, curious).

My recipe was devised with guidance from here and here, indiviual family preferences and a touch of play. Because ginger appeals so much to us, I'll put more in next time and perhaps a touch of peppercorn too.

 (or KETCHUP!)

big splash of olive oil
2 onions
2kgs tomatoes
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
small chunk of ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon cloves
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 teasppon salt 

Heat oil in pan, add onion and cook until soft.
Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cloves and allspice and stir for a few minutes.
Add remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer, uncovered for about an hour or until sauce thickens.
Cool for 1/2 hour.
Blend/puree until smooth.
Strain sauce through a fine sieve and discard solids.
Return sauce to pan; bring to boil, stirring.
Poor hot sauce into hot sterilised jars, seal immediately.
Store in a cool, dark place or devour all in one go
(you might need some friends over to help you out!).

And I'm gushing a little over this week's OpShop find of 25 Fowlers jars (size 31) and clips for $10! To this newly annointed preserver, it's a dream find. Now what to fill them with!? We have plans to make tomato pasta sauce and to preserve some fruit before the cooler months (judging by the past few days, I should start collecting before all our favourites are out of season - well from local sellers in any case!).

Thursday, March 22, 2012


In light of the change of season, our Nature Table has changed hands. 

The gnomes have moved in bringing with them all their nuts, seeds, pinecones, bark and rocks, among other things. We see them surveying the land preparing to steal their favourite seeds underground for the cooler months. Here, at our house where it does not snow, we hope they leave us some seeds for planting out the autumn vegie garden. 

So much autumnal work to be done about here! (packets of seeds waiting to be sewn, knitting projects to finish and start, a cross-stitch here or there to be finished and others to be framed, the outdoor of a house to be painted (or at least, part of it), prerverves to be made (the tomatoes are calling!), a slower cooker to be dragged out from the cupboard and put to use, fire wood to be cut (we're so excited about the fire), chickens to be cared for, a dog to be retrained (she's escaping more and more!) and well, too many sewing projects to list....and soooo many family birthdays just around the corner.

Off to enjoy the autumn sunshine while it lasts!

Funny little seed pods from my Mum's palm trees

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


So, Summer, she's gone. I hear she's heading north where apparently many family and friends eagerly await her. I hope they savour every minute in her prescence. She left yesterday without a word of goodbye save a few smiles here and there earlier in the week and a gusty exit as she idled past her brother, Wind, who swept in without a word of warning.  I heard her whisper something to him on her way out, something like  'blow Wind, blow'. They've always conspired like that, ever since their first meeting all those years ago. And today, Wind begun that all too familiar task of reaquainting himself with us causing bustling chaos all round, reminding all that, while his sister impressed and brightened our days, he's here to shake things up a little. Unaware of his strength, the fallen tree in our yard (that just missed the house) signaled his arrival; so starts his three month stay. Don't get me wrong, I do like Wind, especially his approach to redecorating (the things he can do with leaves!). Still, it will take some before we stop missing his sister.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Some dips that have kept us going this summer during our outdoor wanderings, beach outtings, at home...anywhere and everywhere!
Hommous has been a staple around our house for years however making beetroot dip and carrot dip was new to me this summer and quickly joined my mental list of favourite snack foods. My recipes are a touch spontaneous depending on the day and mood and reflect a variety of inspiration from family suggestions and our cookbooks but,  play with the ingredients and quantities and you're sure to come up with a combination that works for you. The method is much the same for all the following dips; blend /puree all ingredients and devour with your favourite accompaniment (we like rice cakes and crackers, flat bread, carrots).

Chickpeas (caned or home-cooked), tahini, olive oil, ground tumeric, fresh basil, ground coriander/cilantro, fesh or dry dill, garlic, dried celery seed, salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice
Hommous in a rush? Chickpeas, ground cumin, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

I generally start with one can of chickpeas and around 4 tablespoons of tahini and add the herbs, spices and seasonings incrementally from there, tasting as I go til the dip tastes right for that day. You can save some of the juice from the can to use in the mixture, as needed (until you reach your preferred consistency).

Beetroot dip
Beetroots (boiled or baked), lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, ground cumin, fresh coriander, salt and pepper to taste. I use the same principle as above...start with beets and oil oil and add herbs etc until it tastes yummy.

Carrot dip
Carrots (baked or boiled), olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, paprika, chilli powder, ground cumin, caraway seeds. Again, start with mixing the main ingredients (carrot and oil) and add the remainder bit by bit until it 'hits the spot'!

"mmm, a tree stump, what's the loudest, busiest, most active game I can play with that?

It seemed a shame to leave my insatiable desire for all things basil unfulfilled, particularly given that we have an abundance of it this summer, so this past Sunday I made pesto.

Pinenuts, olive oil, BASIL (!), garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend/puree as you please (I made a few jars of extra chunky pesto). I left the parmesan out because we ran out but it's sure to be added pre-eating. It's no problem to freeze the pesto with or without paremesan - in my world at least, though I'm sure some olive oil aficionados would disagree. Guess what we had for dinner on Sunday night? Yep, pasta with pesto...and our last sprinkling of parmesan.

The beginnings of the 'pesto pantry' as we termed it...well, it's actually a 'pesto freezer' but that doesn't sound nearly as appealing!

Monday, March 19, 2012


Hello. I find myself once again with much to post about and only broken pockets of 'spare' time in which to do it but, such is life, no? I'll start and see how far I get this week in my attempt to catch up.

My first batch of yoghurt using a range of online sources for inspiration; there are sooo many on this topic! I found the incubation stage challenging and eventually put the oven on as low as it goes for about 8 hours. We have a gas oven and the flame was on as low it goes. I searched the kitchen for some large jars in the hope that I could utilise the hot day (30 degrees) by wrapping the jars in cloth and putting them in the sun but, alas, I had only 'lid-less' options. Next time perhaps. The end result is very thick and scrumptious and we've topped with fresh fruit and devoured it in smoothies (those below were made with frozen raspberries, fresh strawberries, rice milk, honey and, of course, yoghurt). I'll make yoghut again,and time use the slow cooker to incubate the yoghurt! (as suggested by my mother-in-law).

As a complete contradiction, I fried some home-made potato chips/fries last week because one night Elsa requested fish and chips "like we have at the beach" and I thought it sounded like a good idea. They went down well but, won't be a regular thing - just look at all that oil sizzling! Still, they were delicious.

The vegie-patch enjoys the last of Summer

Last week, with temperatures around 30C, resembled the peak of summer or certainly a time when Summer was more entrenched and 'the end' seemed far, far away. And today was 28C adding to that impression but in between, we've had snippetts of autumnal  weather reminding us that more persistently cool weather is closing in. This sounds like a weather report! Anyhow, we are doing our best to send Summer off with a bang, a little bang but, a farewell all the same.

Picnics with the 'babies'
As much outdoor meandering (minus mittens) as we can muster

 As an aside, you may have noticed that I'm unwilling to concede an end to summer. While Australian calendars mark March 1 as the 'First Day of Autumn', we prefer to run by the equinox, which is quite handy at this time of the year because summer lives on in our hearts and minds well into March. So, my titles will begin 'Summer' until March 21 as we hold on to summer and happily adhere to the more North American  (and elsewhere!) tradition where the equinox defines the seasons. I've gone on about this before...perhaps we feel justified  in this approach having a Canadian in the house (Dada) but really, it's not just us; I know plenty of  non-bi-country (!) families who do the same. Either way, it works for us so,according to us, we're enjoying the final few days of summer.

But my attention increasingly focuses on projects for the cooler weather to come (in addition to what these two babes are up to of course). The knitting basket has been reinstated near the couch, in front of the fireplace this year! (something we haven't had  as a family until now and are very excited about). The basket is slowing filling with projects, some unfinished from last year, others just beginning, some in the planning stages (read, balls and balls of yarn that I often contemplate /stare at (!) while knitting away in the evenings).

A cardigan for baby Iris (see my Ravelry notes here). Despite some searching, I'm yet to find the right buttons for this one and might just turn my search to etsy.

And a cardigan for Rafael, almost there......I'm loving the green, of course.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Elsa's latest pair of shorts, made this Summer to provide a lose fitting, 'comfy' pair she might actually wear; as I've said before, she has certain preferences about these things - well, who doesn't really! As a child I was 'fussy' about my cothing preferring nothing too "scratchy", "itchy" or "tough" (which meant 'stiff'), no elastic around the arms, no jeans, no high-necked jumpers/ must've been a nightmare for my Mum. In any case, I get it. We all like to be comfortable don't we and, thankfully these shorts hit the mark. I used this basic pattern - again - and added  the trim around the leg and the pocket. The denim is from my fabric stash and the red fabric on the pockets came from here (I grabbed a pile of it for some Christmas sewing and pinched a little for this project). 

Now if I could only convince her to wear something other than 'Crocs' on her feet! When I explained to her recently that they were really beach shoes (that was my story!), she replied with "that's why I love them Mum because I pretend I'm at the beach everyday!". Okay.

My first batch of chutney; this one is Apple Tomato Chutney using a recipe from here. I was happy to add ten jars of it to our growing store of 'stuff in jars'. I'd like to make tomato sauce next, I just need to find 10 kgs of good tomatoes; we can muster some from the garden but ten kilos at once, I think not! It should be easy to find some good, organic, local tomatoes, in fact I passed a road side stall last week that might be just the thing. As soon as my bottles arrive, I'll be onto it.  I feel a tad guilty for buying jars but, I've been collected them for a while and there still aren't enough so I placed an order here.



A few more Huck Finn Pants for Rafael. He's now officially 'all Hucked out', at least until next Summer, when no doubt his current stash will be more like shorts but hopefully still fit him so I can obsess over a new pant pattern; for some cold weather pants, I have my eye on an Enid Ghilchrist pattern that I drafted when visiting Mum last October (and some others too).  

The blue cotton fabric came from here or here (it was a while ago) and was oh so lovely to sew with.. The denim pair are made from organic denim from here; it was also purchased a while back but I think it's this. If only he'd stay still for long enough to capture a decent photo!

Recently, I decided to halt my long-standing subscription to this magazine because, while I still enjoyed it, I found magazines were remaining largely untouched between Issues. I guess I find other magazines more relevant to our day-to-day lives, as lovely as it was to think beyond those parametres. So, while we continue to subscribe to Organic Gardener, Diggers and to buy Anthology (and between you and me, I think Mollie might join the ranks), Frankie, you're no longer inspiring me in the same way but, if you look particularly appealing any month, I'm sure I'll grab you (if you know what I mean). Now that I sound completely obsessed with my magazine subscriptions (!), I'll add further to that image because, to fill the Frankie-void, though it appeals in a completely different way, we now subsribe to Feast.

Since going T.V-free back around September last year, on occassion I've missed SBS, particulary the food, travel and history shows, along with the documentaries and foriegn movies - oh and Rock Wiz, of course! I think Dino's mainly missing Julia! (if you're husband has to have a crush on someone let it be a  French born, witty, intelligent, music lover: Julia has pizazz!). And back to SBS, let's face it, I miss almost EVERYTHING about that station.. Our Feast subscription is a little way to feed (excuse the pun) the SBS-void in our lives and while there's no more spare time in our lives than before, we do cook a great deal and this mag. is so very inspiring. The international flovour of the mag. is particularly appealing to us. The photography appeals with such vivid depictions of wonderful meals; I always feel hungry during and after reading Feast!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I'm too embarrassed to admit how long ago I started these pants for Rafael, actually no I'm not! It was a very long time ago, in the life of a two year old at least; let's say around 18 months ago (see, I have no shame). I remember chosing the fabric for a particular impending beach holiday with the intention of sewing some 'lairy' pants suitable for a day at an Aussie beach, where boys and men are wearing all kind of  bright  coloured and fun patterned 'bordies'  (as an added benefit, I wouldn't lose him!). With summer seemingly fading fast, I felt the push I needed to complete these 'bordie'-style pants. Not surpringly, the basic pattern, isn't titled 'Bordie-style pants' (I'll get the pattern details soon). The original pattern comes minus the cuff and pocket.

The cuff idea comes from a friend and it's width can be adjusted as he grows without the wrong side of the fabric ever showing. The cuff was sewn separately (with the wrong sides of the fabic  facing) and applied to the pants....still don't get...I'm sure I could've explained that better but, perhaps you get the idea? For now, the cuff is ultra wide but the width is adjustable allowing the pant length to extend as he grows. So, if this summer has truly disappeared, they're sure to come in handy next time it comes around.

And the 'shifts'?

* One 'big' girl starting Kinder next week; three mornings a week of craft, bees-wax modeling and eurythmy (the activities set for the days she will attend) and, of course, play!

* One little boy determined to be nappy-free without the slightest  encouragement from us or warning from him; he's very decisive!

* One summer determined not to shine; though I'm reminded that the heat might return as late as April, I'm not hopeful and wonder whether all those corn stalks will provide.

* One Dada away in Sydney for the weekend and one family missing him (and one big sister wondering what gifts he'll bring back while the one Mama reminds her that he's not there for play! - though I do hope he squeezes in some time for himself).

* One basket of incomplete knitting projects from last Winter/Spring  and another laden with yarn, the focus of much planning.

* One Mama thinking more and more about the above; the peak knitting season is almost upon us.

* One big bag of tomatoes waiting to be converted to chutney and sauce.

* One basket of hand-sewing being visited more and more frequently by one very interested little girl (and one brother looking on frustrated that he's not quite old enough to join her).

* One Valentines display that really could come down but, probably won't (not just yet). 

* One rainy, rainy weekend that has me wishing for such persistance! (oops, I spoke too soon, here's a ray of sunshine now).

Friday, March 2, 2012


Some Quick Change Trousers from this book, a first birthday gift for a gorgeous baby in our lives.  I love this fabric and I  chose this colour-way because I think its the perfect accompaniment to her strawberry-blonde hair and peaches n' cream complexion. She's so very beautiful. Last night I dreamt that I had rolls of this stored in my fabric cupboard...ah, to dream. What was more important this week was that I had enough of this fabric in my hands to sew these pants....


Is that a princess on your knee? (well, it will sit on her knee eventually, when she grows)

This summer I've embarked on preserving for the first time with the help of Sally (the first time excluding a poor attempt at strawberry jam some plus five years ago!). Using the techniques she outlines, along with her basic recipes, I 'played' with making some jam combinations of my own. I was inspired by some some large, productive blackberry bushes located a short walk away and my twelve (!) year old niece who makes wonderful preserves and all the great summer fruit currently available. Now we have...

raspberry and strawberry jam
nectarine jam
plum and peach jam
blackberry and apple jam

Elsa picking blackberries with a big cousin
Popping in a few under-ripe blackberries increases the pectin levels and improves the consistency

My first batch - raspberry and strawberry jam (I was a little excited)
Though I don't love jam myself (true), there's something wonderful about having a
cupboard full of  jam for the kids and Dada and to give away as gifts.
My Mum's never made jam but Dad dabbled in preserving, sometimes jams, but mostly chutneys and relishes. I think he would've enjoyed the blackberry and apple jam, perhaps more for the fact that we picked the blackberries. He was very interested in all kinds of flora, including fruit plants and loved to get out and about amongst it.

This week, I enjoyed a date with the littlest one...while Elsa is at her creative dance class, Rafael and I have taken to sharing time at this wonderful park on the river and a drink at the cafe overlooking it. We chatted away with the sound of Kookaburras laughing in the background and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos squawking overhead. So, inevitably perhaps, we chatted mostly about the birds. I love this weekly one-on-one time, something that his big sister and I enjoyed frequently before he entered  the world, and still  enjoy during his daytime sleeps whenever we can. With Elsa starting Kinder next week, I'll be savouring our day-time dates even more than usual and enjoying more one-on-one her little brother.

The river cafe