Monday, December 28, 2009


It is raining here in NSW and I couldn't be happier. It has rained for the last 4 days off and on. My garden is getting a much needed soaking. The kids have been playing happily inside with their Christmas presents. The weather is refreshing with a cool breeze each evening - a very welcome respite from the summer heat and humidity.

The vegetables in the raised garden are really taking off. Nothing beats a good down pour to get them growing.
I am picking loads of cucumbers at the moment.
We eat them with salads but I am always after new ways of using them.

So thought I would share some of my favourite things to make with cucumbers

Cucumber and cream cheese Mousse
1 large or 2 small cucumbers
275g cream cheese
2 tbs mint leaves
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 1/2 tsp gelatine
150 ml vegetable stock
Ground pepper
Blend cucumbers, cream cheese, vinegar and mint in a blender until smooth.
Dissolve gelatine in a little of the stock over a low heat until dissolved.
Once cool stir in the remaining stock. Add this to the cream cheese mixture.
Season and blend.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hurs until set.
Serve with cucumber and crackers.
Tzazziki Dip
500g yoghurt cheese
1 large or 2 small cucumbers
2 cloves garlic
tsp salt
Make yoghurt cheese by placing the yoghurt in muslin and let it drain overnight or for a few hours. The whey will be drained off leaving a thicker yoghurt.
Blend cucumbers and squeeze out excess liquid.
Blend garlic and cucumbers with the yoghurt. Season with salt and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Anyone else got some delicious dips or ways of cooking with cucumbers?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The heat has been getting me out in the garden earlier in the morning. While the kids sleep I go out and water and do a quick tidy up.
The insects are still out. They haven't gone for shelter from the harsh sun. It amazes me , the amount of bugs out there. I am always running into spider webs and squealing at the thought of a spider crawling over me. I love them in the garden but not too close and definately not crawling on me. I f I come across spiders in the house they get killed but the ones in the garden I leave.
Noticed something has been eating my bean leaves.

And after a bit of searching found him. Needless to say he ended up squished.
And this bug was in the pool. I fished him out and he is drying in my hand. I am not sure what sort he is but the green is so bright. Superboy has been finding a few of these every now and then and always around the water.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our week

It has gone by so quickly! Thought a quick update would be good just to show I haven't dissapeared completely.

I have been enjoying the garden more than working in it. Plenty of flowers in bloom including lots of sunflowers. I should have plenty of sunflower seeds in a few weeks for my cooking. Thats if I can get to them before the birds do. At the moment we are getting frequent visits from the parrots. They are enjoying eating the seeds from the butterfly flowers.

This photo is a part of the front garden. It is a little overgrown at the moment and like a mini field of flowers. Amongst those flowers I have some herbs growing, silverbeet and squash plants. There is a young mango tree too.

I have just started reading The China Study. From what I have read so far (which isn't very much) it is proving to be a very interesting book and confirming in my mind what I already believe about what we eat affects our health.
I am also reading Cindi O Meara's book Changing Habits, Changing Lives. I am a huge fan of Cindi O'Meara. She advocates eating real food, food that our great, great grandparents would recognize. Real foods that are cooked from real ingredients.
This book is about making changes one at a time. You read the chapter and inplement that change and once you have got that change down pat move onto the next chapter and work on changing that one. Changes include such things as starting the day with breakfast. I have done that one.
Now my day begins with a cup of water with lemon juice, fruit and a boiled egg or a homemade protien shake (complete with fruit, egg, oats etc).
I have been cooking heaps. It is so quicker and cleaner and easier with the thermomix. After an hour and a half yesterday I had made bread, crackers, chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies for lunch boxes, hommus dip and custard.
All made from real ingredients and no additives.
Today I am making pastry for a quiche, sorbet and more bread.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Saving Time

With this little baby.

It is a Thermomix and it is all mine. I am in love. I have wanted one of these after hearing Cindi O Meara talking about how they have made her life so easier.

Cindi O Meara is a nutritionalist with a few bestselling books and she speaks such common sense. She promotes eating food that is natural and chemical and preservative free.

I almost choked when I heard just how much they were. Lets just say that they aren't cheap. The price turned me off for months and months. That is until I went to a cooking demostration and saw one in action. And I was blown away. In a little over an hour it made sorbets, dips, bread dough, coleslaw, lentil hot pot, smoothies, butter ... all in the one bowl with next to no mess to clean up afterwards.
It is a one stop kitchen appliance.
It can grind wheat grains into flour, raw sugar into icing sugar.
It can knead bread and dough.
It cooks and stirs at the same time - no need to stand over the oven while cooking anymore.
It cuts and mixes.
It can even wash itself.
So far I have made bread using wheat grains (remember the Thermomix will grind the wheat into flour.
I have made tomato sauce - it cuts the onion, tomatoes, herbs, then heats and stirs and cooks them.
Sorbet in a couple of minutes - ice, egg white, sugar, mango and banana.
Mushroom soup.
Chocolate spread (similar to nutella) but with hazelnuts. The Thermomix grinds the nuts smooth, melts the chocolate and mixes.

So enough raving! If you have a chance go and see one in action. You can only buy direct from a demonstrator which is another thing that turned me off initially. But I found there was no hard sell. The demostrator I saw using it just cooked and answered question and then let the machine speak for itself.
People who want to cook from scratch like myself, those who grow their own fruit and veges, and those like myself who just run out of time each day will love this. It is so fast and easy.

Hmmm.... did I say I love it yet?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bulk Buying

It has been a while since I have posted. But now the holidays are over its back to day to day life.
Since being back I am more determined than ever to get back onto track with our food - both buying and eating. Before I was getting rather overwhelmed with trying to make too many big changes all at once -
- buying local foods.
- eating organic foods.
- growing our own vegetables and fruits.
- supporting local shops.
- eating foods with low or no additives.
- preparing foods from scratch, unprocessed.
- bulk buying.
- preserving our own foods.
Finding the time to do all the above was proving difficult.

Well I could go on with the list of changes I want to make.

Instead I am focusing on one thing at a time and getting that system into place and making it a habit before going onto another change.

So the first thing I am concentrating on is bulk buying. I am lucky to be in touch with a great group of people living locally who are also interested in eating and cooking more healthily. We have formed a bulk buying group and have got our fruit and veges, grains and red meats covered. We haven't found a good supplier of organic chicken or turkey yet though.

I have been part of a fruit and vegetable goup now for over 5 years. At the moment there are six of us in the group. Each fortnight we put in $30.00 and two of us each fortnight go to the farmers market and buy for the group, come home and sort it into 6. This all takes about 2 1/2 hours. Our turn comes around every 6 weeks which makes it very easy. We are going this Friday so I will take a photo of the amount we buy for our $30.00 and post it - huge amount!

We buy our grains wholesale from here
The wholesale prices are good, its organic and products are great. We divide each up into 1 kg or more lots and share them around.

Meats (lamb and beef) are brought direct from the farm here Their meats taste so much nicer than that from the supermarket!

Our eggs come from the fruit and vege market and so does our honey.
Milk I still buy from the supermarket. I wish I knew someone with a cow.

And we are very lucky to live close to this shop
They stock a huge range of Australian and imported foods and bulk amounts, hard to find ingredients etc. It is a cooks dream just to wander up and down the aisle.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


We've gone through a few!

We have been here...

and here...and here...

and are finally home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vege Garden Dreams

Last September Mr Gadget built me a dedicated vegetable patch. A raised garden bed in a sunny corner of the garden. Prior to this my vege plantings were rather haphazard. I brought and planted punnets of seedlings in any vacant spot I could find in the garden with not much success. The seedlings were competing with other plants, in poor soil, or getting too much sun or not enough.

With the new vegetable patch I developed an interest in growing my own vegetables from seeds and also in saving seeds for use in the future.

Last summer I had great success with basil, cucumbers, eggplants and cherry tomatoes.
This winter I have a great supply of carrots, parsley, radishes, lettuce and chinese cabbage.

I have dreamt of the day I can go off to my vegetable patch and pick all the vegetables I need for the families dinner. Well yesterday I did. We had fish with lemon juice from the tree out the back and rice with home grown carrots, parsley, radishes and tomatoes. Such a small thing but to me it represented a great success and I am feeling rather chuffed at being able to provide my family with home grown fruit and vegetables.

But now I am in need of more room for vegetable growing so I have a vege patch in the front yard. I have large pots growing more carrots, Styrofoam boxes from the fruit and vegetable markets growing chillies, capsicums and more vegetables.

I have a potting area near the water tank for growing cuttings and more seeds and another seed raising area on top of the bunnys cage outside the kitchen window.

My vege garden dreams are coming true and I am happy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The boys have all had winter lurgies - coughs, chest infections ear infections. One gets better and the next gets sick and now they are starting all over again.
I haven't been spending much time in the garden, other than wandering arond with a nice hot coffee in my hands.

I have lots of tomatoes growing. When I emptied the ocmpost loads of seedlings shot up. They seem to be copeing all right with the cold so I will leave them and see what happens.

This year I planted small carrots in pots. These carrots only grow about 10cm deep. They are sweet and full of flavour. We have been eating them raw or with dips. Yum!

Lavendar is my favourite flower. I can't get enough of them. On my kitchen bench I have 4 mini vases and I pick lavendar for here. They give the kitchen a lovely scent. Last year I planted 4 new varieties in the front yard. Two are early flowering varieties and 2 later ones. I want to have lavendar flowering all year long. The bees and insects love this little unassuming flower as much as I do.
The potatoe vines are also flowering over a coupleof arches in the back garden.
The citrus trees are weighted down with mandarins and lemons. The orange and other lemon are still too small to be fruiting. I have been juicing the fruit and we enjoy a glass each day.
Finally a couple of the new fruit trees. These are the apple trees - granny smith and pink lady. I have duo planted them on raised soil. The blue pipes are for watering so we can get the water down to the roots.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I have been making room in my garden for some more fruit trees. I went through Daleys fruit tree catalogue and made a list of the fruit trees I would love to have in my garden. The list was long, more trees than I had space for. So I narrowed it down considerable to just four new fruit trees.
Then I had to decide where I would plant them. This wasn't easy as the garden is full. I have had to sacrifice some hebe bushes to make room. And dig up more lawn to extend the garden. My backyard is long and narrow. It is over 40 metres long and 4 metres wide. The house runs one length and the back fence the other.

In winter the backyard is mostly in the shade except for some sun in the later afternoon towards the fence. In summer this area gets a lot more sun though. I am hoping that the lack of direct sun in winter will mean that the fruit trees I have selected get plenty of chill hours during winter.

The fruit trees I chose are a fig tree (black genoa) - Fig Black Genoa
A large sized fig with purple skin and red flesh and a very sweet rich flavour. It is a high yielding fig making it popular for home gardeners.

Peach - Angel Peach Tree Donut Peach. The Angel Peach grows to approximately 3 metres by 3 metres, and has a beautiful spring flush of pink flowers. There are two varieties of the Angel Peach which can be grown around Australia - a high chill variety, which fruits in January / February, for the cooler areas and a low chill variety, which fruits in December, for the warmer areas of Australia. I brought the high chill one The fruit are donut shaped. It is a very sweet white fleshed variety, which is more soft and juicy in texture compared with standard peaches. Performs best in temperate climates. I have planted it closer to the house. In winter it will get mostly shade so should get plenty of chill hours.

Apples- Granny Smith and Pink Lady. I have plaanted these two trees as a duo planting - planted in the one hole, see the link for more information.

The fruit trees I have now include the four above and 2 lemons, 1 mandarin, 1 orange, 3 passionfruit vines, 1 dwarf banana, 1 dwarf avocado, 1 mango, 1 plumcot.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A few weeks ago I was invited to a gathering at a friend of a friends house. There was a lady there who was going to talk about how her whole family have changed to an additive free eating lifestyle.
Gathered in the room were at least 20 other women around my age, some with kids, some without, some working mothers some not but all interested in a simpler, healthier eating style.
The lady talked about how and why she decided to change her families eating habits and how she eliminated all additives from their diet. Their family have maintained this healthier lifestyle for over 18 months now. She had lots of wonderful hints, delicious recipes, talked about additive free treats for the kids and their additive free birthday parties. She explained where she sources her organic foods from and a normal daily eating style for their family. Her kids have chips, chocolate, biscuits and cakes. they eat sausages and lots of other meats. But the difference is that she buys foods with no additives or if she cant buy them she makes them.
After the talk she had books for sale. Then we all had nibblies and stayed around to chat.
The talk went from eating habits, organic foods, growing our own foods, cooking fresh foods to making yoghurt and bread, soap and perfumes.
Everyone seemed to have something to contribute and different people had different things that they were interested in or talents to share.
We ended up swapping email address', and names and phone numbers.
We have decided to all get together again and share some of our knowledge.
We have organised a yoghurt making day and a herb swapping day as well. We have labelled our little group "Living Good".
One lady has sourced a bulk buy of local organic grown macadamias, macadamia oil and macadamia body wash at a fantastic price. We are also investigating bulk organic chicken and beef group buys and organic grains as well.
I am very excited by all this! It wasn't that long ago that people interested in organics, growing own veges, making yoghurts and breads were a rarity. Now it is becoming a trendy thing to do - a trend I am very happy to follow. I hope it isn't just a trend though - I hope these changes I am seeing everywhere are here to stay. Times are changing, peoples attitudes are changing and I am excited.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Soap making - this is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I have read about it and always felt like it was a complicated thing to do. Also the danger of using sodium hydroxide has scared me off in the past - it is a powerful corrosive and can cause blindness if splashed in the eyes, it can burn skin.

So I chose a day when no kids were at home.

I used a basic soap mix recipe from Organic Gardening Magazine (Jan/Feb 2008 issue).
The instructions were very easy to follow.

First I gathered my equipment.
Now let me say right here that stainless steel pot is the go! NOT ALUMINIUM! I tried making soap in an aluminium pot (I didn't realize it was a problem) and the sodium hydroxide reacts with the aluminium. The mixture instantly reached boiling point and great bubbles burped from it. Then clouds of horrid steam came into the air. I was in the laundry and left until the steam had settled, leaving a fine dusting of chemicals over the surfaces. The smell lingered for ages too.

This time I worked outside. I donned my safety goggles, gloves and long sleeves. I made sure I had some vinegar handy as vinegar will neatralize the soddium in case of splashes. I added the sodium hydroxide to the water (never the other way around). There is an instant chemical reaction that heats the water. I stirred a few times with a wooden spoon which I will use only for soap making and then left until the mix had cooled to 48 degrees.

After this I added the oils being careful not to splash myself. Then I stirred... and stirred...and stirred. Stirring helps saponification. This brings the acids and alkali into contact and helps neutralize the mix. So although soap is made with sodium hydroxide it doesn't contain any at the end of the process. The recipe said to stirr until trace occurs, 5 -40 min. I stirred way over an hour and got the mix to a light trace. Trace can be recognized when you dribble a bit of the mixture on the surface and it sits on top for a while before sinking. I read in another soap making book I have Gourmet Soap Made Easy by Melinda Coss that trace can sometimes take several hours and dont worry if you are sure the mixture was correct just pour into a mould and leave it to set.

So I poured the mix into my mould and left for 24 hours before taking out of the mould and cutting. For a mould I used a shallow cardboard box and lined it with freezer bags opened up so they would cover the base and sides of the box. Now it is in a warm, ventilated place curing for another 2-3 weeks. Looks rather rustic , doesn't it. The cutting is rather haphazard. This being my first batch, I decided not to add any essential oils. Next time I will experiment with some herbs or oatmeal or essential oils. I am also very interested in making soap with goats milk. Has anyone had experience with using goats milk? I have read that the milk can curdle and turn a nasty yellow and makes the initial mix smell strongly of ammonia.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I've never grown them before.
I planted a few sweet potatoes that had started to sprout a few months ago and picked the first one today. I had a bit of a dig around but the others aren't big enough yet so I will wait a while longer before digging them up. The sweet potatoe plants have just started to flower - pale purple flowers that remind me a bit of morning glory flowers.
I have just made a potatoe bake with normal potatoe and sweet potatoe for tea tonight.
M xx

Sunday, May 31, 2009


... to buy lots of fruit and vegetables.
Locally there is a fruit and vege market. It is only open to the public on Friday mornings and mostly you can only buy veges in bulk. Last Friday we got together with 4 others and each put in $30.00. Then we divided the large boxes of fruit and veges between us.
I came home with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, corn, pumpkin, oranges, pears, apples, spring onions, spinach. Lots and lots of each.
So this weekend I have been busy cooking.
Stewed apples for the freezer - will be used for apple crumbles, muffins, pies etc.
Tomatoe sauce to freeze. This is very easy - cut up tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, herbs from the garden (I used mint, oregano, chilli and parsley). Boil until soft and then blend slightly, ladle into containers and place in freezer. This sauce is wonderful with pasta or in casseroles.

4cloves garlic

3 tsp cloves

3 tsp peppercorns

2 kg ripe tomatoes

1 1/2 cups sugar

2/3 cup white vinegar

2 tsp sea salt

4 fresh chillies

Stir all ingreddients over heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and boil everything for 45 mins or until mixture thickens slightly. Blend until smooth. Strain through sieve to. Pour sauce into hot sterilised bottles and seal when cold.
5 medium lemons
8 pears, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup glace ginger, chopped
1 1/4 litres water
4 cups sugar
Slice lemons(unpeeled) and combine in pot with remaining ingredients. Stir over heat without boiling until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil, simmer uncovered for 1 hour or until jam jells when tested. Pour jam into hot sterilised jars, seal when cold.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


One of my least appreciated presents would have to be kitchen gadgets. I am sure you know the ones - electrical choppers, graters, serving bowls etc. They are the type of things I seem to get a few of each year for birthdays or Christmas. My family and friends know I love cooking and creating in the kitchen. But I haven't the heart to tell them I hate most kitchen gadgets. They used to be put into the cupboards and hardly used. I have since found new homes for most of my excess and unused gifts of the kitchen kind.
There are however some kitchen gadgets that I absolutely love and use over and over again. Most of them are are simple things that make life much easier.
For some reason the kids think apples taste better when they are peeled/cored with this. I actually think it is the long spiral of apples that they really like. Super Boy loves apples done like this when he goes to preschool. I use the peeler heaps when making stewed apples for apple crumbles or to freeze. It saves a lot of time rather than peeling an dcutting by hand and it is all manual - no electricity.

This one is a heavy marble one. It gets loads of use for crushing garlic, herbs, nuts etc.
If you do a lot of cooking like I do then this little sprayer is very useful. It is a simple hand pump for oil. It is refillable and perfect for oiling baking trays, frypans etc.
And a million times cheaper than buying those cans of oil spray from the supermarket.
Love these! No more burnt fingers from holding cobs of hot corn. The spiky bits fit togther when storing so no spikes in fingers when rummaging through the drawers. A very civilized way of eating corn.

I have no idea how much electricity the bread machine gobbles but I think it is worth it for the convenience and time saving. I use mine heaps. Sometimes for making dough for pizzas and foccacia bread and other times for loaves of bread or buns.

I would love to know what kitchen gadgets others find really useful. Leave me a comment on your favourites.

M xx

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Euphorbia Diamond Frost is its real name.

I first heard about this plant on Better Homes and Gardens a year or more ago and they raved about it - drought hardy, needs little extra watering, flowers all the time, pretty dainty white flowers...

But when I went looking for it I couldn't find it in any of my local nursery's until last November when I saw three plants for sale on the discount table at my local Bunnings store. I almost left them there as they looked so scraggly and unattractive. Boy, I am so glad I didn't because I love this plant so much.

All the claims are true. So far it hasn't stopped flowering. It will flower every month of the year in warmer areas. It loves a sunny spot or semi shade. Where mine is planted it gets full sun in summer and dappled shade in winter. The flowers are tiny whispy just like little butterflies . The bees and other insects love the plant. The foliage is lime green. The plant can grow to 1m by 1m but mine are smaller than that. They are perfect for a cottage garden look. And the best thing other than the endless flowers is that once you have one plant it is so easy to divide. As I said I began with three and I have pulled off parts from the plant and popped them into the soil to give a carpet effect. I have at least 15 plants now.

It grows really well in a pot too - check out the picture below. How gorgeous is that! It isn't mine, found the image on the web, but after seeing this I am putting a plant in a pot outside my kitchen window where I can admire it.
M xx

Friday, May 15, 2009


Rhubarb is such a nostalgic fruit for me. As a child it was served up in crumbles, stewed with apples or made into pies. The gorgeous crimson stems added a lovely colour to our deserts.

In my garden I have 4 rhubarb plants growing. This is their first year and I have been told by an old seasoned gardener that I should let them grow and become established for a year before harvesting any. The leaves are poisonous although that hasn't stopped the bugs chewing at them - maybe they are dead bugs now. Oxalic acid is in the leaves and that is the poison. My dad tells me if he had a mouse problem in the compost he would put a few rhubarb leaves in there with peanut butter smeared on them. The mice would be attracted to the peanut butter and nibble the leaves and die.
The leaves can be steeped in a bin full of water and then the resulting liquid used as a deterrent for cabbage white butterflies. I haven't tried this but I have been told it seems to work and it smells bad!
The stalks on three of the plants are thick and long and the leaves huge. These three are planted in a shady area of the yard which only recieves a few hours of sunlight a day at this time of the year. They seem to be very happy there amongst the nasturtiums and the little olive trees. The other plant is up near my raised vege patch and is in full sunlight. It is not as happy nor as healthy looking.

I am looking for forward to my rhubarb getting big enough to use - I don't think I will be waiting a year though.
Then I will be trying out a few of the recipes from the link below. Rhubard jam and chutney sounds delicious.
M xx

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Growing up in my parents house we led a fairly simple life. As a child I thought we were well off. We had heaps of food, a dodgy tv, freedom to play in our large yard or up in the bush or down by the river.
It is only as an adult that I realized my parents were doing it tough. Without dads large vegetable garden, my nannas sewing and knitting skills and my mums thriftiness, making ends meet would have been a real struggle.
My dad had a large vegetable garden and many fruit trees - 8 apples, a few pears, two huge plums, lemon, raspberry vines, gooseberry, rhubard to name a few. Dad was the gardener. He came home from work and was out in the garden until we called him in for tea and then again after tea for an hour or two.
Mums domain was the house. She had the task of preserving, bottling and storing all the home grown produce. She stewed apples and berries for the freezer, bottled pears, froze excess vegetables, made the most delicious plum and tomatoe sauce (as children we never had store brought sauce).
My nanna and unmarried Aunt kept us girls in clothes. They knitted us lovely jumpers for winter (our Tassie winters were cold), they sewed us dresses for summer. My Aunt always looked out for clothes on sale for us. Nothing was brought at full price - there wasn't the money. But we never felt deprived.
Mum cooked on a combustion stove. It was a great big, soot covered black cast iron thing. Nothing like the one in the picture above. She hated it! The stove also heated up the water, so no fire going meant no hot water! First thing of a morning one of us would light the combustion. It smoked and went out regularly. The hot water took at least 30 min to heat up and it was forever going cold, usually in the middle of having a shower. If we had been out all day the first thing needing to be done was to get the fire going. In summer it made the house too warm. In winter we hated going outside and up to the shed to bring in armfulls of wood.
When I was a teen mum finally got rid of the combustion heater and replaced it with electric oven and electric hot water.
Now having a combustion oven sounds wonderful. Maybe not here in Newcastle in the heat of summer but it would sure beat the electric oven.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Going Ons

Winter Plantings:
I tried to grow spinach from seed again with no success so ventured to the plant nursery and came home with seedlings of spinach, brocolli, silverbeet, basil, onions and leeks.
I also got a golden passionfruit. The old passionfruits have both died this past year. They lasted about 5 years and provided us with a mountain of fruit.
The seedlings were all planted in biodegradable potts. After planting out, the pots can be added to the compost and breakdown. How wonderful! Maybe these pots have been around for a while and I have only just discovered them? When we have bulk rubbish collections the main items I see being tossed are pots - those plastic ones of various sorts and sizes. I have collected a number of the larger black ones and some decent sized terracotta ones.

In The Garden:
I still have heaps of basil. Tomorrow I will make up some pesto and freeze. It seems that the more basil I pick, the more it grows. So if I pick a good bunch tomorrow I might still get some good growth from it before the weather gets too cold.
My carrot seeds have all germinated - very happy about this as I have found it hard to grow carrots from seeds before.
Citrus trees have various problems I need to deal with. The mature meyer lemon tree has some wasp gall swellings that I need to cut off and burn. Again this year there are heaps of lemons maturing on it. The mandarin tree has lots of fruit too but they are splitting before fully ripe. Must look up what this means. The infant lemon tree and orange tree have been sprayed with oil as something has been nibbling on their leaves and leaving a skeleton type track.
I have loads of lettuce, parsley and tomatoes that have sprouted from the compost heap when it was emptied onto the vege patch. The tomatoes probably wont have enought warm days to bear fruit but the parsley and lettuce are very welcome garden additions.

Reassessing Water Usage:
After getting thelatest bill - increased from the same period last year by much more than I am happy about. This year has been drier and I have used a lot more water in the garden. Our water tank ran dry part way through summer unfortunately so I had to rely on tap water. We really need another tank. Priority before next summer. Also Guitar Dude and Zippy (one a teen and one soon to be) spend way too long in the shower. There is a timer in there but it either gets forgotten or turned over and over way too much!

Community: There is going to be a community garden in my area! I am so thrilled about this and as soon as I heard about the plans sent off an email expressing interest to help in anyway. We are all meeting next week at the proposed garden site. It is still very early days but finding out who some of the eager people that are instigating this gives me great hope that the gardens will get off the ground and be a great success. One of the guys helping on the commity lives in my suburb. I don't know him at all but I walk past often to see his latest changes to his garden. First there were veges growing on his pegola roof in styrofome boxes (not sure how he got up and down to care for them), then he converted his front garden into a vegetable patch. Last week I noticed a section of the side garden fenced off and a few chickens there.
Not many of my friends are interested in sustainable living or enviromental issues so I hopefull of meeting some like minded people.
Also not too far away (just around the lake) has began a Transition Town project. I don't know too much about Transition Towns but have read a bit and the idea really appeals to me. Don't like the name though! From my understanding a Transitional Town is a locally sustainable community.

Kids: Back to school now after the holidays. Big ones not too thrilled, little one very excited! Time to get back into a routine again.
M xx

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I have been somewhat of a slack blogger lately. I have lots I have wanted to share but just haven't had the time to get on here and write a post. So I will be making more frequent posts for a while now.

I wanted to share these very cute owls. Found the pattern in a handmade magazine and I have been collecting scraps of material for a while. These cute owls are all made from offcuts from old clothes etc. I made them as Easter pressies for two cute niecesof mine but guess what? As soon as they were finished Super Boy and Zippy claimed one each.
I had intended making a couple more but haven't had the time and now that school hols are here I won't be getting the sewing machine out for another few weeks yet.
The herbs in the garden are growing prolifically at the moment. I have heaps of basil, parsley, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoran, oregano, rosemary and sage. I tend to get a bit lazy and forget to use them. So yesterday I went hunting for recipes and found some wonderful ones I plan on trying. Not just cooking ones either. As I try them out over the next few days I will share them here.
Today I brewed up a batch of hair shine. I have made this before and it worked a treat, especially on my hair and the boys which is straight and brown. It even cleared up Guitar Dudes flaky scalp problem.

Rosemary and Sage Hair Shine

3 tbs rosemary

2 tbs sage

1 1/2 quartz water

Boil the sage and rosemary in the water for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs and pour the liquid into a container. I use a spray container. When cool refrigerate. Spray on hair and let the liquid sit for 2 minutes. Rinse off.

M xx

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I am on a power blitz. Mr Gadget is very interested in solar power especially with the rebates on offer - solar panels are a gadget to him and he does get mighty excitied about them. He almost blew me away when he suggested it. After a lot of research we have decided to go ahead and get solar power but first I want to see how much we can reduce our power usage. After all it is definately cheaper to reduce our use power use than to make it.

I started off with basic changes.
Turning lights off when we leave a room. All our light bulbs are the more energy efficient ones now.
Turning power off at the wall. Now this sounds so easy but I have been met with such resistance from Mr Gadget and the boys. They argue that it is too hard, not necessary, messes up the settings, doesn't save on power use etc. But really it is just laziness! Slowly they are coming around though. In the mean time I continue to go from room to room switching off power points. Some of the power points are really hard to get too -behind havy furniture but there is a power point gadget you can get with a remote control. Thinking this might be a good idea but I have resisted buying one because a) its another gadget and B) I have a bad relationship with remotes!
I have discovered that some powered items don't need to on continually such as the filter to the fish tank. I used to leave it running all the time, then decided to turn it off at nights and back on during the day. The fish were still active and alive, the tank was still clear. So now I have turned the filter off completely and it has now been over a month and all is nice.
The electric toothbrushes were always plugged in but now once the blue light is on indicating they are fully charged I turn them off and they don't get turned back until they are flat.
The pool filter I cautiously reduced the running time - just by a small amount at a time, and then watched making sure the pool didn't turn green. I think I have it worked out to the smallest running time to keep the water clean and blue.
We use appliances differently now too. I only turn on the oven when cooking a batch of things. I am using the gas bbq and cooking top more than the electric oven.
Our hot water is gas so no problems there.
The phones are cordless and rechargable and were once always turned on. Now I charge them up and turn them off.
So all these changes have resulted in lowering our power usage.

There is one area that is really wasting a lot of power and that is our fridge/freezer set up. We are a family of five and a few years ago found we never had room in our fridge so we brought a cheap small bar fridge for drinks. Then we began buying meats in bulk for freezing and making pasta sauces, stewing apple and freezing other produce. We ran out of freezer space in the freezer attached to our main fridge so went out and brought an electricity guzzling small chest freezer. So with our fridge/freezer, bar fridge and the chest freezer they add a lot to our power usage. I am in a quandry as to what to do since all three are working really well. Our best option is to make the cash outlay and buy the one fridge/freezer that is the right size for our needs rather than running the three we have now. I just dont like the idea of getting rid of perfectly good items and buying new. In the mean time we have emptied the bar fridge and turned it off. Mr Gadget is all for buying a new fridge/freezer but he is all excited about fridges with ice and water dispensers and the fridges with a mini pop open door to get out milk/drinks. Oh, he loves his gadgets! Me, I just want the most energy efficient basic design that meets our needs.

I will be standing my ground on this one too.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I have been asked how to grow okra and how to cook with it. I like silver queen okra - seems to grow well here (Newcastle area). I grow mine from seeds and they are very easy to propagate. They love sun and heat so I have planted my okra seedlings in the front garden whick is north facing and recieves sun all day. The flowers are yellow and pretty little things, though they only last a day and really don't stand out.
The okra pods need to be picked when small or otherwise they tend to get hard and woody. When picking them pick with a bit of stalk intact as the okra have this slimy viscous sap inside them. Not at all attractive - like snot was Zippy's comment.
Before cooking the okra I prepare them the Greek way by washing and trimming the stalk but dont remove the cone shaped tops. Place in a bowl and pour over vinegar. Turn to coat and then let stand for 20 min. Then rinse well and dry gently. This reduces the slimyness and prevents them splitting when cooking. I use the okras in casseroles or with stir fries. Just remember to keep them whole. They are a tasty vege and easy to grow if you are in a place which gets enough sun.
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