Tuesday, September 30, 2008


In my neighbourhood it is that time of the year when everyone goes through their home, garden and garage and throws away a lot of junk but also a lot of items just ready to be reclaimed. Utes drive up and down the suburb filling the back with metal items and others with secondhand goods - I think they must have second hand shops. I am always happy to see things get picked up and reused - sure beats going to landfill at the dump!.

But I am always amazed at some peoples attitude to bulk council clean ups. Comments such as

"but why would you scavenge through other peoples junk?"

"I'd hate to see their houses", referring to the people who reclaim the items.

"I refuse to put anything out because I hate people rifling through the stuff and messing it up".

Guitar Dude and friend have been on the prowl for pieces suitable for making a billy cart from. They have dragged home two bikes and taken the wheels off, a backseat of a car, a few metal bars for axils and a steering wheel. And the great building of the cart is progressing well. It is school holidays so it is keeping them entertained.

I have had a few wanderings around the neighbourhood and ventured home with some large black pots for the garden, a cane cat bed for my friends cat and a hose reel.
Zippy came home with a toy lawn mower for Super Boy and a sunflower pot as a present for me.
The prize for the best find goes to Guitar Dude and friend who reclaimed a trampoline. We already have one so the trampoline has found a home with a family with three boys. I know they will get heaps of jumping pleasure out of it.

Yesterday I set out with my shopping list after working out a meal plan for the fortnight. But unfortunately I didn't make it to the shops. I got to a busy roundabout and my car cut out as I was giving way. I got it going again and decided to head to the mechanics further up the road as the car was making a funny noise. But when I stopped to give way again it cut out. After blocking traffic for a little while I finally got it going again and this time it cut out while I was driving. Luckily I was able to cruise into a bus stop and off the road. The car needed towing away and the report from the mechanics isn't great - expensive. I have only brocken down a few times before - once in Sydney where I was partly blocking traffic and was in the car with two little ones. Not one person stopped to help me push the car over or offer help. Plenty of horns beeping me, even though my hazard lights were on and it was obvious I was broken down.

Well yesterdays experience was very different from that one. I called the NRMA and while waiting a lovely man came over and pushed the car further up the road out of the bus stop zone. It was midday and Superboy was with me. A man walking by stopped and had a look under the bonnet and then continued walking further up the road to the shops. He came back a short while later with a bottle of water for us and a cupcake for Superboy from the bakery. After NRMA had come and declared the car dead we had to wait for the tow truck. Superboy was very sick of waiting around in the heat by then and a lovely lady with her kids stopped to see if I was okay. She offered to wait by the car in case the tow truck came while I went up the road to the bakery(bribery food for Super) and to take him to the toilet.

Today I took Superboy to Dora The Explorer concert and normally I would have driven but for the first time since living here I took the bus there and back. We had to walk a little way on the way home and wait for a while for a bus but it worked out okay. Now we will be using public transport and walking more often for a while, it is the spur I needed!

Half way through the concert I sudenly had this aaaght moment! Did I turn off the hose form the water tank? The water tank hasn't got a pump so I usually hand water from the tap and before leaving I had it under a tree while pulling out some weeds. Turns out that I didn't turn it off. And now the tank is empty. I can't believe how stupid I am! And that poor tree will probably die from root rot or something! I am so annoyed with myself. Just have to hope it rains soon.
M xx

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I challenge myself to not waste food. Yesterday I read that 1 in every 5 bags of food brought into the home in australia ends up as waste. That is absolutely disgraceful! Notebook magazine are promoting a Stop Food Waste! Campaign, http://www.homehints.com.au/my+journey/1268/reading/stop+food+waste They also have a competition to send in a hint http://www.homehints.com.au/competitions/competition.php?cid=138 and you could win a Tupperware Fridgesmart Set. I use this tupperware in my fridge for veges and fruit and they make a huge difference to the freshness of foods. Love them.
I am guilty of throwing food away. I go shopping and buy too many vegetables or fruits and they go off before we get to use them. Yesterday I cleaned out the fridge. I threw out (into the compost but still waste) 3 sweet potoatoes, grapes, 1/4 rockmelon, part of a pumpkin and some left over rice. Food that was perfectly alright when brought and it sat too long in the fridge until it was no good to eat. Ideally I want to grow the majority of my vegetables and not have to buy them. But when I do grow them I want to be able to eat or preserve or give away all excess. My aim is that all food that enters this house is eaten not disposed of.

So starting tomorrow I am going to plan a fortnightly meal plan. Fortnightly so hopefully I only need to grocery shop once each fortnight. I hate food shopping, so the less the better. At the moment I usually go to Aldi and then to a fruit and vegetable market. I try to avoid the bigger supermarkets unless there are specials that I can't ignore.
My local supermarket is Coles but I try not to do a main shop there. But every now and then they have great specials. Like last week they had Seventh Generation washing powder marked down to $4.00 from $8.50 and they had toilet paper under 50 cents a roll too ( I have a thing about spending more than 50 cents on a roll of loo paper).
So I will be making a menu and making a shopping list and sticking to it.
I will cook to use up foods that I already have in the fridge, freezer and pantry. At the moment I have 4 zuchinnis sitting in the fridge so tonights tea will be zucchini slice.

M xx

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


It is only 13 weeks to Christmas. We don't go overboard in our house with Christmas buying/giving. Mr. Gadget and I usually get something for each other that is practical or for the house or garden. This year I am after a water tank.
The boys get one main pressie and then smaller ones we have usually brought on sale and put away during the year. I always spoil the kids, mine and my nieces and nephews!

But I love giving presents and making presents. Usually I give my family and friends something handmade. I go to great lengths to make something that I know the recipitent will use or value. Giving presents is a talent, to know what a person wants, what suits their personality, what they will appreciate. I love it!

I also encourage Guitar Dude, Zippy and Super Boy to make and give presents to us, to one another and to grandparents or special friends.

So I have made a start on some presents. Some covered diarys for the kids to give to their teachers.
Milo tin decorated for a nephew. The tin will be filled with toy wild animals - he is animal mad. I am currently decorating another milo tin for my Aunt who is a gardener. Her decorated tin will be full of seeds, gardening gloves etc. And when the next tin of milo is empty I will decorate it for my niece and fill it full of hairclips, make up, lip gloss etc. These are so fun and quick to make.
Bookmarks with quotes and beautiful rose photos on them. These ones are for my reader friends.

M xx

Monday, September 22, 2008


Actually Dahl, Channa Dahl - that delicious Indian, yellow split pea, spicy and very filling meal.

This is my version of the recipe:

2 tsp butter /ghee
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
coriander seeds
3 cardamon pods
1/2 tsp turmeric
garam marsala
curry paste ( sometimes red, tonight green)
1 1/2 cups yellow split peas (soak in water at least one hour and drain)
500g tomatoes (I use my homemade tomatoe puree/pasta sauce)
2 cups water

Heat butter/ghee and fry onion, garlic until soft.
Stir in ground coriander, caramon pods and other spices and curry paste.
Add tomatoes and stir well.
Add split peas and and bring to boil.
Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
In the last five minutes I often add green herbs or celery or other greenery from the garden.

I usually sllightly blend mine for a smoother consistency but this is entirely up to your preference.

Mmmmm - so delicious!

Today Superboy and I planted corn seeds and sunflower seeds, weeded part of the front garden and watered the veges and front garden.

I was all set for getting garden soil delivered for the new vege patch but Mr Gadget said he would borrow a trailer and get a few loads. Didn't happen. I think tomorrow I will just go ahead and get the soil delivered. I need somewhere to plant all my seeds! I have coriander, beetroot, chives, rhubarb, thyme spinach and lettuce all waiting to be planted out.

In the garden my Port Wine Magnolia is in flower. The fragrance from this tree is glorious, just heavenly. Funny because the tree itself isn't anything amazing and the flowers are little, hidden amongst the foliage and hard to see on the tree. I have planted it outside the bathroom window. It is my natural deodorises. I leave the window open and the bathroom always smells so fresh.
Close up the flowers are pretty little things, shame they aren't noticable. You can see the pollen that has dropped onto the bottom petal.

I am investigating gardening by the moon.

And I am going to make ginger beer this week too.

Off to Bunnings tomorrow to suss out water options for either another tank or some other sort of rainwater collection/diversion/storage option.

M xx

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Our area has council bulk waste collections twice a year. People put things out on the kerb for the local council’s bulk waste collection. They’ll recycle any white goods and furniture, green waste gets mulched and dispose of the rest.
But that’s only if the stuff lasts long enough for the council to pick it up. Reseller cruise around the areas in their utes, and there are many cars going for drive bys and people wandering around to check out what is on offer. A 70 year old grandma of a friend used to go out in her van each week to collect and then do things up and resell at the Trading Centre. It was a great way for her to supplement her pension.
Anything worth salvaging usually gets snavelled up before the council trucks come around. Householders purposely put good items they want recycled out in the hope that they go to a new home.
Many people I talk to about my love of bulk waste days say they are happier contributing to the ‘donating’ side rather than the scavenging side. I like the salvaging, I get rather excited about it! I love a good bargain!
I have found this wonderful old chair.

Pots, I especially like the large terracotta ones.
Plant stands.
shelving for the garage.
step machine excercise machine thingy
dog bed
garden ornaments
old wheelbarrows like the one below which is my strawberry patch.

The council here advertises where and when the collection dates are and if they are close by Super boy and I go for a walk or drive, park the car and stroll the streets to check for useful items. Next one is coming up very soon in this area and I for one can't wait.
M xx

Saturday, September 13, 2008


How cute is this little frog! Zippy found him while pruning the plant he is sitting on - not sure what it is (the plant that is, but I think it related to the ginger plant somehow).

Zippy and Superboy helped me in the garden today. They pruned for a while then made swords from the prunings. Then they helped me build up the no dig garden for the pumpkins and to plant them out. They helped water the pumpkins and then made up this funny game with a bucket of water - they asked each other questions and if they answered wrongly they had to dunk their head into the bucket. It was hot today - 29 degrees so perfect way for them to cool down. They even went for a brief swim in the pool in the afternoon too (along with 4 other boys from the neighbourhood).

I really haven't got anywhere for the pumpkins to grow in my garden. So I decided to try growing the pumpkins outside our boundary. There is a walkway betwween our house and our neighbours running along around two sides of our house. The land is never used and is maintained by us. We mow the grass/weeds and have planted natives out there. The soil is clay so the only way I can see them growing is in a raised patch. There is plenty of space for pumpkins to ramble out there. I will just have to remember to water them -hose wont reach so will need to bucket water them.

While Zippy, Superboy and I were doing this, Mr Gadget and Guitar Dude were around the back finishing off the raised vege patch. I posted about the dilemma of the treated wood for the raised garden a few posts ago. We decided to seal the wood on the inside and then also covered it with black plastic. As a further safety measure I wont be growing any root veges there. But I am much happier now with using this garden as a vegetable patch.

M xx

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Of The Room

I have had these two bedside lamps for a while too and just because I am in the mood for a change I personalised them to suit the new look shabby chic bedroom.
Simply added some satin roses and beading glued around the edge.

I have only one lemon left on my meyer lemon tree now. But lots of new flowers on both lemon bushes. For the first itme this year I had wasp galls on the meyer lemons. I cut them off a few weeks ago and disposed of them so hopefully wont be a problem

With the last of the lemons I made lemon icing for this very delicious carrot cake. It is waiting on the bench for Guitar Dude and Zippy to get home from school.


2 carrots

3 eggs

175mls olive oil

200g castor sugar

100g pecans or wlamuts or almonds

200g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

ground cinnamon and ginger

1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 180 c, line tin. Beat eggs in a bowl and add oil and sugar. Add grated carrots and chopped nuts. Sift in flour and other ingredients and fold together. Spoon mixture into a tin and bake for 45 minutes.

Icing is made with 50g icing sugar, 200g cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla essence.

M xx

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I have recently painted and decorated our bedroom. Gone are the two tone pink wallpaper with border - it was probably very in vogue once but we were definately in need of a change. Poor Mr. Gadget has been surrounded by pink for way too long!

So now the room is green - dulux fortune. Mr Gadget made and installed a picture rail for me. He is a good man!
Then I decided I was sick of the pine furniture that we have had forever. But I couldn't justify gettign rid of it and buying new since it was still in good condition. So instead I painted it. Firstly painted it with this very cool paint (it has probably been around for ages but I have only just found it) that can be painted onto oil or varnished and there is no need to sand beforehand. After that was dry I painted the main colour (antique white USA) and then sanded off around edges etc to give the furniture a distressed look. Brought some new knobs for the drawers to replace the wooden ones and all complete. Love how they turned out.

Very shabby chic - very me.

M xx

Monday, September 8, 2008


In the suburb where I live front yards are neat and showy. Manicured lawns, ordered shrubs and bushes neatly enclosed in garden beds, paved driveways leading to the garage. There is this unwritten code that front gardens are for show.

When I go walking around the neighbourhood with Zippy we play this game - guess what sort of people live here. According to Zippy the super neat gardens and houses belong to fussy, posh people, the messier gardens to lazy people. I guess the front garden of a home is a statement to the whole neighbourhood of what the people who live in the house are like.

So that got me thinking of what first impressions I want to give people when they come to my front garden. I want people to know that I love gardening, that I am concerned about the enviroment and that everyone can grow vegetables and fruits.

Mr. Gadget and I have just redone our front yard. We have paved the driveway, dug up all the lawn and replaced it with larger gardens and reduced the amount of lawn at the front. I was all for making the whole front garden and no lawn but Mr. Gadget was a tad horrified with this suggestion - he is far more conservative than me and has a desire to impress the neighbours with an ordered front yard. So we compromised. Since I am the gardener I got the job of choosing and planting the gardens out.

Our front yard is facing north and the best place for growing veges. It is a lovely size too and off the road. The front hedge (to the right of the photo is plumbago).

Below is the larger part of the garden. Over that brick wall is our pool. In front of the wall I have planted photinia to form a hedge. I want the pool area to be nice and private so want the photinia to be a foot higher than the brick wall. The weeping tree at the front is a black mulberry. There are 5 standard roses, 3 blue mooon roses, apaganthus and clivia bulbs.

On the other side of the hedge is a public walkway. I have replaced the grass with agapanthus and further along grevilleas for privacy. I am going to plant pumpkins and other veges out there this year - between our fence and the grevilleas. It is council land but not used by anyone and gets lots of sun.Looking up the driveway I have a teardrop garden bed with a small magnolia tree, three lavendar plants and a border of parsley planted. The dirt is where the turf will be layed (hopefully next week).This is the path leading to the front garden. The garden has been extended. The greenery is the original garden - mondo grass, hydrangeas, some sort of ginger, and manfern. In the front I have planted tomatoes, eggplants and edged with more parsley. I had intended on planting mondo grass and more hydrangeas in front.Towards the side is a smaller garden bed. There is a coffee tree (coffea Arabica), star jasmine and thyme in this garden.

The agapanthus were all given to me and are great fillers. But now I am realizing that I am going to be space poor to fit in all the veges and fruit trees on my wish list so thinking that they may have to go to make room for more productive plants. But that job will be for another day!

M xx

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I have been asking Mr. Gadget to build me a raised vege patch for a while, not weeks, not months, more like years. A few weeks ago I saw a colourbond raised veg patch http://www.greywaterreuse.com.au/index.php/Greywater-Reuse-Systems/Steel-Vegie-/-Garden-Beds.html and told MrR Gadget that I was seriously thinking of getting one or two for the garden. The mere thought of me buying one spurred him on because last week I came home to find he had brought the wood and started. He has even designed it with a higher section at the back and it goes another few metres around the corner than the photo shows.
Very happy as now I will have a dedicated place to put my veges and herbs. Up until now I have just planted them where ever there is a space in the garden. And the place with the most space doesn't get nearly enough sunlight. This new corner where the raised patch is going gets heaps of sun.
But the big problem is that Mr Gadget has brought treated pine sleepers for the vege patch. The thought of what will be leeching out of the timbers into the soil where veges are going to be grown distreses me. What to do! Mr Gadget will not be impressed if I don't use it and it won't be good for marriagal harmony for me to make a huge fuss (even a little fuss will cause friction).
Does anyone know if sealing the timber by painting it will work or lining it with black plastic? Might do both. I have also read that root veges should be avoided where there is treated timber.
Oh what to do?? Help!
M xx

Friday, September 5, 2008


My little mandarin tree which is only 1.5 metres tall has had a fantastic crop, as has the meyer lemon tree. I made some marmalade with some and with the rest decided on making some cordial. Found a few different cordial recipes and so far have made two batches using different recipes.
Guitar Dude, Zippy and Super Boy have voted the cordial recipe below the best.
Homemade Cordial
3 cups sugar
1 litre water
1 litre orange/lemon/mandarin juice
2 teaspoons citric acid
In a saucepan mix together sugar and water. Heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is gently boiling. Turn off heat and add juice and citric acid and mix together.
Pour into sterilised screw top glass bottles. Store in the refrigerator.
Dilute 1:10 with chilled water or to taste.
Adding the citric acid is optional.
The cordial will keep for 1 week without the citric acid or 1 month with it.
It is so delicious and refreshing and the best thing is that the boys love it! I added some rind and pulp to my mixture too which gave it a bit more body. I was a bit concerned about using citric acid, thinking it was some nasty additive but it is natural and is just the natural acid from lemons. You can get it from supermarkets in the baking section.

Will be making more of this for sure.

M xx

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I'm a country girl at heart living in the suburbs. Our family lives in a suburb in Newcastle, Austalia on a slightly larger than average suburban block. Our house is slam dunked on the middle of the block and is a large, stretched out single story place. This suburb is a tidy and neat - everyone has manicured front lawns, ornamental neat front garden beds. Each weekend the revving of mowers, whipper snippers and blowers can be heard as the neighbourhood battle for the neatest, low maintenance garden swings into full force.

I am after more. I want to turn my little yard (front and back) into a more productive, useful enviroment. So this blog is to document my journey in gardening, vege and fruit growing, reducing wastes, becoming more frugal and more self sufficient.
It will be somewhat of an uphill struggle convincing Mr Gadget to support me - he is much more at home on the computer or tinkering with his latest techno gadgets.
I will have more success with our three boys - Guitar Dude, Zippy and Super Boy.

What fun it will be though! May the gardening force be with me.

M xx
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