Sunday, May 21, 2017

All the Citrus! What we are doing with ours

It is citrus harvest time. We have been blessed with a gift of a bowl of  navel oranges, but in our own garden we have Meyer and Eureka lemons, pink grapefruit and limes ready now. Our mandarin tree has not produced fruit this winter, but as it is finally growing, I am happy just to let it be. (Four years of sulking brought us near to giving up on this one). 

We have been seeing some Mediterranean fruit fly in the garden and the fruit, so it is important that we harvest the fruit, and don't just leave it on the trees.  We have bought and made our own fruit fly traps, but the other control trick is to ensure we don't leave the fruit on the ground, and dispose of the spoiled fruit by freezing first so there are no live larva in the compost.

In this picture you can see some of the ways we deal with the citrus harvest. I was given a dehydrator, and we absolutely love having dried grapefruit peel (right hand jar) , as it adds so much depth of flavour to a casserole.If you don't have a dehydrator, I guess you could do this with the residual heat in your oven after a cooking episode. I need to do this with lemon zest -in the past I have also frozen zest and it has been very useful. I freeze it in tiny packages -one lemon's worth at a time. This year I want to dehydrate it as there is only so much space in my freezer. 

DH makes marmalade (left hand jar) . He likes small batches, and recently has taken to making it with just the juice of the fruit -not the pulp. He made some this week with lemons and a variety of spices including star anise, and it is SO GOOD. 

My jar of preserved lemons (behind at the right)  is more than half empty, and has gone that wonderful deep amber colour. Time to make some more! A small jar makes a great gift to someone too. 

Lemon juice ice blocks are versatile -I add them to cooking and to my G & Ts when necessary! They have a strange property -if left in the freezer uncovered -they evaporate! It is necessary to take them from their trays and pack them in a covered container.

We had to remind ourselves recently that we can make fresh fruit juice out of our crop! It feels utterly decadent to drink freshly squeezed juice for breakfast! I like to think that, as my poor DH recovers from a serious bout of illness -he was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia- that this will help to boost his immune system again.

We also have some great recipes for using citrus in our meals: we had grapefruit & red onion salad the other day. I have a couple of new cook books with great ideas to try.

Finally, I guess my yellow quilt is continuing the citrus theme! Now pinned together as a quilt sandwich, it is a burst of lemony goodness. 

I am going back to work this week. I have another trip to Victoria in a couple of months to look forward to, but meantime I have my lovely simple life with it's seasonal workload to keep me busy. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not an Instagram holiday

Do you have an Instagram account? I do, and I am not very regular at posting there. It seems that every post needs an award winning photograph to accompany it -spectacularly lit and staged, with everyone's lives being equally glamorous.

Well, we have returned from a two week trip in Victoria, and it was by no means an Instagram worthy holiday. It was full of joy and adventure, however.

The first week we spent in country Victoria, up by the Murray river, visiting our son, daughter in law and grand children. The weather was sunny almost every day, but a little cold in the mornings for those of us coming out of a WA autumn.

Rochester Town Hall in the afternoon sun

The Campaspe river.

We spent a lot of time playing with our grandchildren, of course, and enjoying family time with their mum and dad. We played all sorts of games, read stories and watched them jump on their trampoline.  

MR DGS with his granddad, playing "Wake Up Pa!" in the hammock. 

After having a really lovely time, we went by train back to Melbourne, intending to have some luxurious times in one of our favourite cities. 

It did not exactly work out like that! My DH and I both were sick with colds, but shortly after we arrived, he came down with bronchitis, and we spent most of the days either attending medical appointments or resting in our hotel room! We both were on antibiotics by the time we got on the plane to come home. 

We did manage to have one nice dinner and lunch with friends, and we saw some of the NGV art collection. We took ourselves out to a  couple of  lunches when it was warm enough. We ate breakfast in our room, and dinner too on a couple of occasions.  

I was able to visit a couple of hidden-away fabric shops when a friend took me to see them, and came away with these nice pieces:

Fabric from Kimono House, which I am planning to make into a quilted wall hanging. 

For a few days, we weren't sure we would be well enough to make it onto the plane, so when we arrived in our lovely home we were most grateful. We are still on annual leave, but taking it quietly as DH is still coughing badly, and I am in a lesser degree coughing too. The weather has turned cool and showery today, so we are quite content to do what our energy levels demand.

One good thing is that Mother's Day brought some new books and DVDs, so we should be capable of entertaining ourselves quite well at home until we are recovered properly. 

I am grateful for the care we received from the medical people we turned to, when DH was sick. I am also grateful for this coming week, as I do enjoy pottering around at home. I have chicken soup in the crock pot for tonight's dinner, and bread rising near the heater in my sewing room. 

In a couple of months we will be back to do some babysitting. We hope to have a better run of health on that occasion.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Making bread with a stand mixer-and progress on the quilt

About ten years ago, a relative handed on to me a bread making machine that she no longer used. This seems to be the way with these machines -given the numbers I see being sold or given away.

I was just starting on my simple living journey, and was keen to give it a try. I made loaves using the bread making packets you buy from the supermarket, and experimented with the breadmaker. There were some failures as well as successes! After I was told that I needed to weigh all the ingredients -including the water- and use tepid water - things improved. The mixes used sachets of dried bakers' yeast, and the flour was often quite soft and  made a wet mix.

After about six months that bread making machine died, and I bought one. I had come to enjoy the control of making bread using all natural ingredients, without preservatives or sugar added. I started to buy bulk bread flour -local wherever possible -and use my own ingredients. Here is a home made foccacia_ so yummy with our own rosemary and salt on top.

We learned to slice bread -which is quite a skill! At one point we bought an electric knife, but I was convinced I would cut my fingers off so it has now been relegated to the dreaded "second drawer" in the kitchen!

The years went by, and the bread-making got better. I have now a number of recipes I make regularly: fruit bread, Russian Black bread, and a mixed grain loaf.

After a while I realised that I could take the dough out of the bread making machine before it cooked it, and finish it in my own loaf tin in my own oven We preferred the shape of this loaf, it didn't have the funny hole in it from the bread-making beater, and the crust was crustier.

I then learned about making sourdough, and after one catastrophe in creating a starter, I developed a sour dough starter and since then have been making sour dough bread at least once per week.

This week the story took a new turn: my bread making machine died! 

I had been expecting this for a while, so I had my plan ready. I had done some research and discovered that it was possible to get a stand mixer with the capacity in both motor power and bowl size to mix the sour dough. I had toyed with the more expensive KitchenAid, but careful reading of its capacity for dough made me turn to the Kenwood Chef XS model, with a 1200 W motor, which can make up to 2.4 kg of dough. My usual sourdough is half that, so I knew that I would not be overloading the motor. The nice thing is that the Kenwood was about 2/3 of the price of the others, and has a 5 year warranty.

The method is pretty easy. I add the ingredients according to my normal sourdough recipe:

  • 350mls warm water
  • 150 grams of sourdough starter, at 100% hydration. (when I have used this amount of sourdough starter, I replace it with 75 g flour and 75 g of warmish water). 
  • 50g olive oil
  • 600 g bread (strong) flour
  • Salt (about a teaspoon) 
Use low speed to mix, then 5 minutes on Speed 1 with the dough hook.

Transfer to an oiled bowl and leave for 2 hours.

Back in the machine for 5 more minutes, then into the  oiled or buttered tin for the second rise.  I have a large plastic box I put the dough in, and put it somewhere warm. Sometimes this is outside -in winter I chase the sun coming in the windows which face north. When it is outside I add my 'bread rock" to the top of the plastic box in case the wind comes up and blows it off.

On very cold days I have been known to stand the bread tin in warm water in the sink. Warmth is vital at this stage!

When the dough gets up about 2cm beyond the top of the loaf tin, I put the oven on to warm up to 230 C. When the oven is hot, I slash the top of the bread, and put it in for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven back to 180C for 25minutes. At this point the house smells wonderful -baking bread is fabulous!

I turn it out onto a rack and leave it until quite cool. This is important to getting good slices, and also the bread steams out of the oven. It will last longer if it is cold before you slice it up.

We usually put half the slices in the freezer.

Pumpkin bread ready for soup! 

Finally, a catch up on the quilt -it now has a funky pink inner border and an orange outer border!

Monday, April 24, 2017

All things bright

Here is the Yellow Quilt, also known as All Things Bright, which now has been assembled to this stage. My question is -is it finished, or will I add a border in some kind of solid? I tried to get a navy blue at the LQS today, but they didn't have one. I have black here and that would do quite well I think. Maybe 4 inches  or so. 

In other news, we have been working in the garden, sowing seeds and planting things. We were able to help a young gardener out. This person had advertised on a community Free-cyle type page that she was setting up a new garden and wanted cuttings. In the end she took quite a few of extras and doubles and cuttings we had around here. I think we passed on a large Lemon Grass, some Agapanthus, some bearded Iris, an Aloe Vera, some herbs and daisies and Frangipani.   The whole collection of pots and nursery items was getting out of hand, and it gave us a good feeling to pass them on. She was very excited to see our garden and what we are growing here!

One of the things that happens when you become interested in propagation, is that you can't help yourself in the presence of a likely volunteer plant, cutting or seed. There is thus always plenty to share around! 

Our neighbour provided me with a pot of lemon grass, and I am growing cuttings of Vietnamese Mint, one of which I will pass on to him! The secret, I have discovered, to both these plants is to keep them standing in a tray of water. I have Vietnamese Mint in a wicking pot, and it is doing very well.. 

I have Mizuna, Dill, Lettuce and hollyhock seedlings here at the moment. DH harvested some agapanthus seed, so he is experimenting. 

The Kangaroo Paw I grew from seed is now in the ground. It would be great to get some actual flowers in the spring. 

We celebrated DH's birthday (again) with not one but two concerts on the same day! The Fremantle Chamber Orchestra was my birthday gift, but we were contacted by a friend who had tickets they couldn't use for the WA Symphony Orchestra on the same day. Of course we were happy to take them off their hands.  It was a real feast of music. 

In between we strolled through the Stirling Gardens and had a lovely meal at the Perth Concert Hall. 

The view of Perth from the PCH balcony. The Council House has a light show on it at night - I caught it in the lime greeen phase of the show. 

Whilst I am writing this post, I must remind you to head on over to the page From My Kitchen, as I am adding recipes and ideas on a regular basis. This is largely so I don't forget the new things I have tried and made work, but you can find some new ideas too.

Finally, thanks to those who have left comments. I love to hear from you! 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Joy Joy Joy

DH had a birthday this week. This is the cake we made for him: with 6 candles and 4 candles! I made Norma Jean's whole orange cake recipe, but substituted two Meyer lemons for the orange. The lemons were from our tree. The recipe is entirely capable of making a transition to being a lemon cake: delicious! 

There has been a lot of joy around here, with DGD who is 4 and a half, visiting us from far away. 
We have had so much fun -she has visited bike parks, gone to the library, played in mud, searched for treasure, cooked all manner of things (including the cake above) and planted her own garden space within our garden.

We also planted garlic cloves together. It was VERY exciting when the shoots came up! 

We have played all kinds of hide and seek and treasure games. Here is a picture of one we played in the dark with a TORCH! 

And when we went to the beach, she had an enormous mango ice cream. This picture is where she pretended to be sad because we had bought her a tiny ice cream -after she had eaten most of it! LOL. 

As a result of all of this fun, not much quilting has taken place around here.
There is plenty of time for that when she goes home again. 

Tomorrow is Easter Day. I have been getting ready for it with a few themed decorations.

DD found these gorgeous bunnies in her op shop and brought them home to add to our collection of Peter Rabbit and bird themed Easter decorations. Much of what you see here has come from the Op Shop browsing DD and I do regularly.

Of course my icon display has changed. I have the Entry into Jerusalem on the right, and the foot washing on the left. The little monk reading a book, is a new addition -again, found in an op shop. I thought my 'mind blown" quilt made a good backdrop for these! 

Happy Easter! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Know your limits

This is a new concrete path which was laid by workers at our place today, out the back.

Yeah, I know -environmentally unfriendly concrete. 

The thing is, we have been using mulch to cover the dirt on the way to this outdoor clothes line for years and years.  In the picture above the clothes line is folded back against the fence, with its 'roof' of shade cloth showing.

It takes a lot of work to spread the mulch every six months. After the winter the path is full of weeds and during wet days we tread dirt everywhere. We don't have any lawn at all -haven't had for a long time. We don't have lawn because we would rather spend our time and money on flowers and fruit and vegetables, than on grass, which needs mowing and weeding and fertilizing.

This week we allowed ourselves to know the limit of our time and energy. The mulch path had done its job, but it was time to deal with this. As brick paving would have to be weeded regularly, and the path is not in the most visible part of the garden so looks are not a priority, we just got the (concreter) man in! They came with three guys and a huge truck!

The back garden is not large, and this path has made it feel even smaller! We now have clearly defined edges for the beds. On the left is a passionfruit trellis. On the right is a selection of citrus trees fronted by two wicking beds.

I hope to improve the look of this area now the path is laid. We can grow extra ground covers between the path and the wicking beds. We can tidy the place up, and keep on working towards a mature garden which can provide outlets for our creativity, our need for fresh air and exercise, and bring in fruits and flowers and other foods.

There was one much prettier addition to the garden -this time out the front in a shady area.

Our grand daughter visited, and helped us plant some shade loving plants in her own garden (complete with sign made by Pa). She took great pride in watering in the plants and spreading the mulch around. She also planted some garlic in a raised bed, and 'watered all the things!" . 
We learned about roots and different kinds of leaves. She was very excited to have her own garden, and was sure that one of the plants had grown taller overnight!

I am hoping that a local Freecycler will turn up this week and take some of our many pot plants off our hands. We have quite a lot since my brother gave us some from the garden at his own place. It is time to concentrate on some productive and pretty ones, and let duplicates of plants go to another garden. We have quite a few frangipani  which we have struck and established, for example, but have no room for now that we have had some success at last with pink and white ones. There are also the usual sort of volunteers and cuttings that any gardener can't resist, which would be great to pass on to another person who is starting out at a new place- daisies, lavenders, herbs.

So that is it for us this week, enjoying knowing our limits and enjoying passing on the love of gardening to others.
I hope your week has been good too.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Autumn harvest begins

Meyer lemons are such lovely, fragrant heavy orbs of succulent flavour! They are hanging low on the tree, even throwing themselves to the ground just to emphasise that they are ready to harvest. These tend to come all at once -unlike the Eureka which always has one or two to pick, and others getting ready.

Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than the Eureka, which makes them great in deserts and cakes and spreads. They are wonderful to add to the cavity of a roasted chicken too.

There are too many ripe limes on the tree, so I made some lime cordial today. I am reusing bottles which I got second hand. The rubber tops had perished, so I was glad to finally find a brewing supplier who had silicone ones. I cut back the citric acid and tartaric acid in the recipe from Stephanie Alexander, as I find it adds a bit of an aftertaste. I know they act as a preservative, but I will keep these in the fridge and they will be fine. We add a splash to water when we have been working in the garden.

The pink grapefruit are getting an early blush, but I hope they hold off for a month or so.

This autumn is early by Perth standards. We had an 8 degree Celsius minimum temperature this morning, which is pretty rare when we haven't even finished March yet. March is often very hot indeed.

I have set up the seed raising trolley again, and planted these seeds in 'flats'. The packet says I could have put some straight in the ground, but I thought it was worth experimenting. I planted hollyhock seeds too.  I took a gamble on it being 'really autumn" and put in some garlic a week or so ago, which is doing OK. I have also planted some new rainbow chard. Vietnamese mint cuttings are on the seed trolley - I am hoping to give some plants away to people I know who like cooking Asian food. Jerry from Gardening Australia demonstrated making coleus cuttings by putting them in pots on a tray of water, and I thought that Vietnamese Mint might like the same treatment.

I would guess that our herbs and green leafy things are the best things we grow in the garden, because they add such a wonderful addition to flavour in our food.

Apart from the garden, there was a bit more sewing on the yellow quilt. I am working on the border but there is not enough progress to brag about. I did get some 'stash enhancement" though when DD brought home this lovely batik piece from her op shop.  There are two metres here.  This is the best way to add to my stash, with op shop pieces that bring variety and challenge to my quilting. I am not sure how this will appear in the future!

That is all for today, thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Thanks to those who recently left comments -you are most encouraging!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So much to show and tell this week!

This morning I was back in the garden, after too many weeks when it didn't happen. The weather here is unusually mild for March -which is often very hot. We have had rain and cool temperatures so it feels like autumn already. The roses are certainly having an autumn flush.

I have added a new page to my blog: "From my kitchen". It is a place for me to record my culinary adventures. The harvest this morning was one sweet potato and two tomatoes, along with a tiny cucumber and some lemons. I used the sweet potato and tomatoes in a soup -and it was so good I don't want to forget how to make it. The new page will be a place to record my inventions in the cooking area!


I also want to show you the wonderful quilts I saw at the WA Quilter's Guild show this week. 

It was held in the foyer at Central Park in Perth. DH very nicely came with me to enjoy these beautiful quilts -and we then had a lovely lunch. I just want to say that these quilts were the ones which spoke to me -but there were many others equally amazing. 

21 Jumpers by Liz Humphries was a very poignant tribute to her relative who was persuaded to put her infant son up for adoption when she was 16. There were 21 handknitted jumpers incorporated into the quilt, which also had the words "She looked in every pram". 

This one was so simple but the addition of the coloured thread to the quilting was a wonderful touch. 

The quilter said on the label "but it does have to be red!" 

You can see how amazing the work on this one was. As a Fair Trade supporter I really liked this one.

You can see what beautiful weather we have been having. DH and I have switched our walk back to the paved path at Hillarys for the winter. The Mullaloo beach walk gets harder as the winter storms come in and change the shape of the beach, so this is our subsitute. 

Well, I understand that it is "Quilting weekend" so I will now get back to sewing my 2.5 inch squares together as a border for the 'cheer up' yellow quilt.
Onwards and upwards!