Wednesday, November 9, 2011

hangin' around

Goodness, it has been a long time between posts! Time is moving so fast these days that it really is an effort to try and put the brakes on just a touch and slow things down a bit. Every day I find myself trying to organise and fit everything in to the day, and when it comes to the evening I am thinking about how I can manage my days better. How can I fit this and that in and how can I give more time to my work or staying on top of the washing. Each week I have a new plan and this time it is going to work and my days will run to clockwork with everything getting done.....well I think that it is time to let that go and embrace the idea that the days blur by in crazy chaos. Yet, somehow, things get done. The kids get fed, the washing gets done (even though sometimes it needs washing again because it sat around too long wet in the basket!), the dinner gets made, my business runs and just sometimes there is a chance to sit and quietly have a cup of tea! I will probably keep writing lists and keep trying to find the secret behind staying organised during these crazy days but deep down I know that it won't work and that the days will continue to be a messy confusion of dirty nappies, forgotten things on the grocery list and pretty much just always trying to keep up!
But it is fun and certainly a crazy ride!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

at our place...

...I've been surprised at how much produce can come from and be used in our dinners from our limited vegie patch at the moment (seriously if you are going to only plant one vegetable in your garden make it silverbeet [chard], it's the plant that just keeps on giving!).

...all our chickens are now on the lay so there have been many egg dinners!

...there's been a cold snap here in Melbourne so we have the fire cranking again and I spend a lot of time rotating washing around it to get it dry.

...and our little Scarlett just keeps on growing...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Around here we have a new favourite treat. . . chocolate hedgehog. It's made in bulk but generally doesn't last like it should. I have a huge, commercial size slice tin that I use for this and the intention is that it will be sliced up and put in the freezer to last at least a few weeks. But it never seems to work that way and by the time I get around to slicing it all up it just doesn't seem worth putting the remainder away! It's just one of those things that you can't stop eating... oh so good!

Here's the recipe for those of you that dare!

(I generally double this recipe for a huge batch but you need to have a big tin or lots of them to do this)

420 gms sweet biscuits (something like arrowroot)
210gms butter
210 gms sugar
60 gms cocoa
3 eggs, lightly beaten
coconut (I don 't measure this but I would say about 3/4 cup)
icing sugar
extra cocoa

-Crush biscuits. This is fun for little ones. Do this however you like. We put something between a tea towel and take to it with a rolling pin. Make sure you have pieces of biscuits not fine breadcrumbs. You can see in the picture the chunks of biscuit.
-Melt butter and sugar in a pan. Add coconut. Boil for a few minutes (it will split but that is ok)
- Let cool for a bit and then whisk in eggs quickly. Be careful not to let eggs cook so work fast.
-Add all ingredients together and mix well with wooden spoon.
- Pour it all into a slice tin (flat, shallow tin) and press down (I use the back of a spoon). Put into the fridge to set.
- After a few hours you can ice it. I don't measure these ingredients but just put about a cup of icing sugar and a tablespoon of cocoa in a bowl with a teaspoon of butter. Add about a tablespoon of boiling water over the butter and mix together so that the butter melts. Keep adding small amounts of boiling water so that you have a consistency of toothpaste. If you add too much water add more icing sugar. Spread over hedgehog and leave to set again. When the slice seems set enough to cut then you are good to go! Slice however you like and freeze what you don't need but be warned it is highly addictive!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

washer women

One thing that I have really noticed since Scarlett came along was the enormous increase in washing that I have to do! Little babies really do create a lot of extra work when it comes to housework and I am really feeling the noticeable difference.
Yesterday it seemed that all I did was washing. We don't have (or want) a dryer so it takes a bit of juggling to get it all dry as quickly as possible. It was a windy day yesterday so I seized the opportunity and rotated the wet washing on the balcony all day. Seriously, I think that I did about five loads and still didn't get to the bottom of the washing basket!

Since making my own washing powder and soap (you can read about that here) I have made an alteration and am now using my homemade soap grated in the laundry powder instead of store bought pure soap. I think that the results are better and the less products that I have to buy at the supermarket the better.
It's a simple recipe; 2 parts grated soap to 1 part borax and 1 part washing soda. It doesn't take much time and with a little baby and a toddler with very sensitive skin I know that I am doing the best for them in that regard.

I did, of course, also get the time yesterday to take some snaps of Scarlett and Jonty!

And, in case you were wondering, those very cute orange crochet shoes were given to Scarlett by Bec and can be found at her shop here in Melbourne, The Little Shop Of Handmade.

Monday, September 12, 2011

slow weekends

Dave and Jonty have both been sick over the last week so the weekend was a bit slower than normal. We spent most of the time inside especially because Melbourne has had a cold snap the last few days. Dave did, however, get out to cut more wood as we envision needing the fire for quite a while yet, at least in the evenings anyway.

All this wood has come from just putting the word out and people letting Dave pick up unwanted felled trees and branches.

Little Scarlett is continuing to be her happy self...

I bought a sling for her to snuggle in to and to help me with having some free hands when she has those days when she just wants to be held. Needless to say she loves it and spends quite of bit of time in there. This is my view on these days! Lovely Scarlett.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


So our little boy is three! Wow, time has gone fast. Jonty arrived only a few years ago but it feels as though he has been with us forever. I can't imagine life without him now.

We celebrated by taking him to the Melbourne Zoo. It was a quiet birthday but he had a great time. . . . any time spent with his people makes him happy! Or course there was a cake and, for my my rocket man, only a rocket cake would do!

Happy third birthday my beautiful, sweet boy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Warm and Cosy

A few months back we bought this little wood fire. We had ducted heating in the house (a gas run system that shoots warm air up through vents in your floor) but it was an old system that would need replacing and was really expensive to run throughout the winter months. Ducted heating is also not very efficient and so we wanted something a little more sustainable and cheaper to run.
We bought this little fire place and did some tiling on the floor, Dave put some reproduction pressed tin on the back wall, added a safety guard, and we lit her up! This heats half of the house where we do pretty much all of our living and it takes the edge off the rest of the house. We did get this in the middle of a very cold winter for us so Dave has had to work hard at keeping up with the wood collecting and chopping but we figure that for next winter we will be all prepared and if it is something that you work on all year it will never be a massive job. To buy fire wood is really expensive so we have done this with the vision of not having to purchase any. We live in an area where people are often removing trees and limbs and so if you put the word out everyone is happy for you to take the wood off their hands if they don't need it. We have a few large and dangerous trees that need removing so that will give us a few years burning and with Dave working on building sites he makes sure that no timber goes to the dump for landfill. If we just keep our eyes out around here and take advantage of any opportunity for free firewood then we should be ok.

This winter has been a particularly long and cold one for us but we have been quite comfortable. We can also dampen the fire down so that it burns all night. This is a great feature and means that you have a warm house to wake up to and that in the morning you can easily crank it up again without having to start it from scratch. The fan that you can see will be replaced with one that we will mount on the wall above the fire to push the warm air further around the room. You can get fires with this fan as part of the system but ours didn't come with one.
Using a fire for all of your heat is a little work but it is something that I enjoy and there is just something extra nice about sitting around a wood burning fire on a cold evening isn't there? And...we recently got our first gas/electricity bill and it was $150 cheaper than the month before! We are saving $150-$200 every month that we would have used the ducted heating so this fire will pay itself off in a few years. I loved getting that bill and it had motivated us for adding as many self-sustainable features into our new extension that has started. We are looking into hydronic heating that will run off this wood fire, solar hot water, solar electricity panels, water tanks to supply the house and garden and double glazing. . . . but more on all of this later down the track!

Daily Rhythm

As Scarlett now is into her third month I finally feel that we are settling into a daily rhythm where it just might be possible to perhaps do some cooking or gardening, make some soap or even take the time to catch up on some of those things on my forever expanding 'to do' list. Yes, we are getting it together now and everything doesn't seem so busy and out of control. It's amazing how I now feel like I must have had all the time in the world with just Jonty and that I wasn't busy at all. . . . having a toddler and a new baby, now that's busy! But, we adjust don't we? We roll with the new things that life brings, add them to our lives, and get on with it. Having Scarlett has brought a new sense of excitement to life. I am realising that these early days with her do go fast and so I take the time to just be with her and watch. The dishes can wait, I don't want to miss that little grin, or the first time that she manages to lift her head from the floor. I may be busier and have to stay up to all hours of the night to work on my business but I am loving life at the moment. I thought that with having another baby I would have to put a lot of the things that I enjoy doing on the back burner, but now I see that it is possible to fit it in; that it will be possible to garden, sew and cook and generally do the things that make my day enjoyable and not full of chores. Scarlett has arrived and is now slotting into her place in the family. We carry on as before, but now there is another layer of happiness and excitement with one more of us here to enjoy the days!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Miss Scarlett

Introducing Miss Scarlett Matilda . . . .

So, this is where is have been all these months! Scarlett is now 8 weeks old and, as I am sure it is the case with all families, we just can't imagine her not being here. She is so lovely and an absolute joy. As this is the second time around for me I have made a conscious decision to enjoy every moment as they really do grow so fast. That's why this blog has been left for a while. I don't want to put added pressure on myself to get another thing done every day. The day's are already busy with washing, cleaning, bathing, keeping my toddler entertained and keeping the house is some kind of order. It has been a little tricky, especially to keep up with things like bread baking and cheese making, so I have let some things go until I can get some daily routine going and can add those things back into my life again. I feel like I am starting to get there now, though, and writing this blog again seems to be possible. After all, it is something that I like doing and it motivates me to live the life that I want to live while helping to connect me to similar minded people. Not to mention when I get comments from readers who are actually enjoying this blog and perhaps taking away something and implementing it into their own lives. So, I am back and hoping to keep up with this writing that gives me a little reflection, quiet and self time that is even more important these days!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jerusalem artichoke harvest

After a very long wait we were able to finally dig up our Jerusalem artichoke harvest. These are a favourite of Dave's and kind of like the first vegetable he has watched and cared for since we have been here. In the future once all the "Dave" jobs slow down with building, etc, he is hoping to spend more time in the garden growing the vegetables with me. I know that he will be good at it and will bring a certain science prone brain that I do not have.
He has been waiting for these artichokes to be ready because they are not something that you see around a whole lot, but we did work with them a bit as chefs in restaurants. They are amazing plants to watch grow and by the time they were topped with lovely little sunflower looking blooms they were as tall as me! On the weekend Dave had decided that the time had come and we set about pulling them up. We were amazed at the yield. I didn't weigh the end result but from just four plants we got two huge buckets full. We will definitely be growing them again and will keep aside a few roots to replant as seed. I've read that they can be invasive so I wouldn't recommend shoving them in the garden just anywhere. We are going to stick with keeping them contained in a raised bed.

To cook them they are treated kind of like a potato. I should also mention at this point that they are nothing like a globe artichoke; I have no idea why they have the same name but I can assure you that they are two very different vegetables. Dave loves j. artichoke soup so I set to making a pot of that fairly quickly. This is a labour of love, though, because peeling them is like peeling ginger. They are knobbly little roots and it takes a long time. But, the result was appreciated and so worth it. I just basically make a pureed soup with onions, potatoes and the artichokes, finished with a little cream. Yummy!
They are also good just roasted with the skins on or shallow fried. Be aware that they cook faster than an average potato so can overcook if you aren't careful.

I think that if I carefully store them like I would potatoes in a hessian bag, they will keep for a long time and maybe next year we will plant enough to have them available to us most of the year.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

re-nest feature and more before and afters

Something very exciting! Our kitchen make over was featured on the very lovely yesterday. If you want to take a look follow this link. There is talk of doing a full house tour too so I'll keep you posted!

It seems that people are interested in our renovation and I myself do love a good before and after so I have decided that over the next week or so I will do posts on our house make over.
Today I'll concentrate on the hallway and master bedroom. . . .

This is what our bedroom looked liked before. It had badly stained awful brown carpet, stains and holes in the ceiling and was generally dark and dreary.

The first thing to go was obviously the carpet and the boards were sanded and polished in a matt varnish. Then as with just about the entire house, the stucco style plaster and ceilings came down and new plaster was put up.
We painted it a pure white (no colour mixing, just straight white off the shelf - the whole house has been done the same), fixed up the windows with new sills and arcs, added new blinds and light fitting. The rest is just decoration!

The lamps were opp shop finds and the side tables were rescued from the local dump! The light fitting is from Ikea and the bedding is all from opp shops and made by me.

The green drawers were a plain pine set that my husband owned so I painted them and added miss matched hardware sourced from flea markets. The round set of drawers were attached to an old dressing table that came with the house and the sea chest at the end of the bed was unwanted and given to me a long time ago.

We won't have a bedroom for the new baby on the way until the end of the year so I have made up a corner of our large bedroom for her. There is ample space and it will do until we finish extending the house. . . . then I get to decorate a little girls room. Yippee! I bought the cupboard a long time ago from a second hand store and have loved it ever since.

Below is the before shots of our hallway. As you can see, more stucco plaster, bad stinky carpet and ugly light fittings.

We started with the carpet and clever husband repaired the floorboards.

New plaster, light fitting, and paint finished it off! All the door handles are ones that were rescued from one of the building sites my husband worked at. They give a bit of something different to regular cheap plain doors. We have since come across some beautiful old hardwood doors waiting to be stripped and repaired that we will eventually put through the whole house. Next time I think that I will show you the "temporary" make over of our bathroom!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New pillows

With it starting to feel like Winter is approaching I have been attacking a job that I have been meaning to start for a while; replacing and making new pillow case and cushion covers for our lounge and bed. I have, over time, been collecting bits of fabric from opp shops and putting them in an ever increasing pile ready for this task so I'm happy that I got the motivation to begin. Winter means that there is more time spent on the couch in front of the fire and bed just seems to be one of those places that becomes very important! Not to mention that there will be lots of time spent in these two places in a few months feeding a baby. So, it is important that couch and bed are cosy and comfortable!
I am also extra motivated because we have just realised that our big comfy couch isn't too big for our new living space and it now looks great in it's new spot.

A little while ago in the early hours of a Sunday morning I was out hunting treasure at Camberwell market and came across this pile of vintage letter and number stamps. And for the small sum of $6 I took those home with me, thankyou very much! I have been using those stamps around here and there a bit but what I intended most for them was to stamp little sayings on pillow cases. I just made up a simple calico pillow case and stamped away, it's a lot of fun and I have plans for more pillow cases stamped with all the sayings my Mum uses on a regular basis that are so familiar to me but when I really think about it are actually quite funny!

I'm also partial to using old hessian bags around the house at the moment, the only problem is that they smell quite strongly of coffee so I think when the weather improves I'll air them out for a while first!

Knitting obsessed!

I have discovered knitting! It's something that I have always wanted to do but I think that the timing has never been right and it's something that takes practice so needs some time dedicated to it. With this new baby on the way and with the cold, rainy weather, it just seems to fit in with the days quite nicely. I love at the end of the day, after all the chores have been done, sitting in front of the fire or the telly and making something. I'm not really very good at doing nothing and so I find that knitting gives me a relaxing yet productive activity that I can do while being relatively still.

The first thing that I did to teach myself was go to the local library and borrow every book I could get my hands on about learning to knit. I filtered through these and kept a hold of the few that I found easy to understand. Then, with the help of online videos I was able to fumble my way through the very basics. Mum came down to visit at about this time as well so I kept her up late one night trying to absorb the forty plus years of knitting experience that she has! I picked up this book at the local opp shop for $2.50 as well so I always have a book on hand at home.

I've started with really basic SMALL things so that I don't have to wait too long for a result (I'm pretty impatient and big projects right now might mean the end of my knitting career!) and have found these little boots knit up quickly. We also seem to be surrounded by a baby boom at the moment so they have made great little presents.

I've really enjoyed sourcing beautiful yarns. I've decided that if I am going to put all this time and effort into something that I have to use a good quality material. There is the local wool store up the mountain here that is fantastic and I love that I can now go in there and buy something to take home and use rather than just admiring it but not being able to do anything with it! Also at Camberwell market every week there is a stall that sells locally spun pure merino in wonderful colours for a great price. Now, the problem is that I want to knit with it all NOW! I have about four different things on the go at all times but I find this suits me and I can knit what I feel like at the time. I want this to be something enjoyable for me not a chore. I will slowly build up to more complicated projects but at a pace that I am comfortable with and without any pressure. This new craft is purely for my selfish enjoyment!