Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas


Just though I'd show off the ham I glazed for our Christmas lunch. It was a beauty, and looked even better than this. It didn't look like this for long though. The Christmas puddings I made also went down very well too.
Our family - my parents, and my four brothers' families as well as our own - had a nice day together. It was mercifully cool, and we even had some decent rain for the first time in a long time. That was a Christmas present in itself.
Today is Boxing Day - we've had a beach walk, ham and salad sandwiches for lunch, and I've been listening to the cricket while doing some drawing.
Hope you have all had peaceful Chrismases too.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Asian hand cultivator

I'm not one for accumulating the latest gadgets, but I do revere a good tool. Thought readers mightbe interested in this Asian hand cultivator that I bought from Green Harvest online a few months ago. The Green Harvest blurb has it as a tool dating back to the Bronze Age. By golly, it's a beauty.
Since buying this, the spade, garden fork, hoe, hand trowel and hand fork have all been relegated to the corner. I do all the vegie gardening with this one tool - cultivating, digging, planting, everything. It is an excellent weeder. This makes me very happy, as weeding is my least favoured chore. You just have to go trawling through my past posts on gardening to see the evidence of my aversion to weeding. This tool makes weeding a snap, whether the ground is wet or dry.
It's other upside is that using this tool instead of more conventional tools takes the strain off my dodgy elbows. All the action is in the wrists.
It's not cheap (about $40 or so from memory) but it seems well built, in Korea of all places.

Here's the link if you're interested - Asian Hand Cultivator

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A plumcot!

I admit I spend a bit of space on this blog whingeing about our garden challenges, but today I'm happy to share an unexpected surprise.
Nine years after planting, and unexpectedly, our plumcot has yielded it's very first fruit. To be honest, whilst it is a very nice specimen of a tree we had just about written this one off for ever giving fruit. So it just goes to show, you never know what Mother Nature has planned.
As the name suggests, plumcots are plum and apricots crosses. It's about the size and shape of a nice apricot with a lovely rosy colour. We have about a dozen or so fruit on the tree, and ripening before Christmas, they haven't fallen prey to those foul fruit fly.
Can't wait to try it.

In other news, and very sadly - our male silky, Jack, died this morning. He was advanced in years for a chicken - we got him from a family who had had him and his mate Fluffy for 5 years, and that was 5 years ago. All in all, a long life.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chicory

After yesterday's vegie patch post, I thought I'd give you a close up of this leafy green you may not be familiar with.
My parents spent six weeks in my father's home village in Italy this year. Mum brought back the seeds for this salad vegetable, which my family calls radicchio. It is a huge favourite at dinner, and even a bit of an obsession.
While we call this radicchio it is actually chicory.The seed  packet has it as chichorium intybus. Yes, if you were wondering, Mum did declare the seeds to quarantine. Apparently, it caused a bit of debate with the quarantine officers, and sent them off to their reference materials. Lettuce seeds aren't allowed in, but chicory which looks and behaves like a lettuce, but is not a lettuce is ok.
This is a great vegetable - a real cut and come again plant which keeps giving and giving for minimal effort. I love that. It does have that bitter taste which I've grown up to love, but to the uninitiated who are used to mild lettuce it takes a bit of getting to.
The other good thing about this gift is that the seed came in a big packet, with 50g of seed. Why isn't it possible to get lettuce seeds in 50g bags here in Australia? Wouldn't they be useful.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Vegie Patch - December

The weather this spring has been stop and start - some blastingly hot days, interspersed with decidedly cool stuff, and not a lot of rain. It's been a challenge. I'm only just now starting to pick vegies after a winter where we put proper borders on the beds and then planted green manure. Essentially, we've started the vegie patch from scratch.
We live near the coast, south of Sydney. I read somewhere recently that our area has the "3rd most temperate climate in the world". I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I'm guessing that it means that our winters are cool, but don't get that cold, and our summers are warm,  but never that hot. Not a bad place to live, and you would think, not a bad place to grow vegetables. But temperate climates throw up challenges. Our winters aren't cold enough for vegies that love the really cold temperatures. They'll grow all right, eventually.  In summer, tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplants and capsicum - all the vegies that enjoy warm weather - take their time as well. For example, seedlings that I put in the garden in October are only just now starting to take off. They might be ready to pick in a month or two. Our eggplants and capsicum are sulking in corners. They have done precisely nothing. And the pumpkins aren't much better. And the beans are taking their time too.
Still, leafy greens fare all right pretty much all year round.  They are going well, as are the beetroot, cucumbers,  zucchini and potatoes, which I expect to pick soon.
Today I planted seeds of lettuce, chicory, beans and more beetroot, after cultivating the soil and adding spades of compost and worm castings. Hopefully with some warmer weather these seeds will get a wriggle on fairly quickly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Heart Composting

A few weeks ago I was watching Gardening Australia. They showed a segment where people were telling the interviewer what they liked most about gardening. One youngish girl, maybe in her 20s said, I like composting best.
This totally chimed with me - strange as it may seem, I too get the more satisfaction from the compost bin than almost out of anything else in the garden. It's just the thought of turning green waste into something useful that appeals to me.
My compost bin at the moment  contains Compost of Awesomeness. Along with kitchen scraps, I have a pile of dried grass clippings and sheep droppings which Action Man has swept up in the mower and dumped next to the bin. When I dump a bucket of kitchen scraps into the bin, I cover it with grass clippings. Occasionally I add chicken manure and shredded paper. Turn over with a fork, and water every week or so. The heat in the bin is amazing. And the stuff at the bottom of the bin is amazing too. The worms just love it. And the smell. I love it.
The other thing I like about composting is that if you follow the recipe, it never fails.

Which bit of gardening gives you the most satisfaction?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas preparations

In the last week or so, I can't count how many people asked me "Ready for Christmas?" Er, no. Apart from making this Christmas pudding, which I made about two weeks ago I have done zero, nada, zilch.
I do enjoy Christmas. What I don't enjoy is how it seems to go for so l-o-n-g. It seems to start about the first week of Noivember. By the time Christmas day rolls around, you're completely over it. The ideal to me would be to start thinking about it a week before, have a great day, decorations down. Wait for next year.
But I do live in the real world, so I guess I should get myself organised this week. I need to make another pudding, so I need a day (not too hot!) to do that. Christmas cards written and sent.
Presents bought. I am pretty lucky in this regard. I have a large family on my side - four brothers, their wives and nine nieces and nephews. We used to do kris kringle among the adults, and give presents to all the children. A few years ago the adults just looked at each other and agreed - too much! So now we don't do presents among the adults, and do kris kringle with the kids, so they receive one present each. My brothers will receive some of our 2011 Merlot and a bottle of homemade limoncello. Apart from my mother-in-law there are no others to consider on Action Man's side.  Action Man and I have agreed no presents to each other this year.

As for Christmas dinner, my family gathers at my parents' place, which is big enough to accommodate everyone. We all contribute something - our contribution is a leg ham, which I glaze on Christmas Eve and the two puddings. So getting ready for Christmas dinner isn't too bad, but I do tend to find myself stationed at the sink for long periods on the day.

So that's it really. Not too onerous. Hope your Christmas preps are going well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Good garlic

One of the mysteries of life I frequently contemplate is the almost impossibility of buying garlic grown in Australia in Australia, especially in the Colesworths of the world. Why is this so? We seem to be able to grow and sell everything else, but when it comes to garlic - no can do. Does anyone out there know the reason?
I'm a bit dubious about imported garlic. I have vague recollections of reports that Chinese garlic and like are fumigated/sprayed to pieces to prevent them rotting. Spooky.
Never mind, garlic is easy to grow. It only takes up a square metre or so in the garden. This is about half of the garlic I've grown for this year, more to come. Just in a nick of time too, as I had just about used up last year's garlic. The garlic bulbs are now drying off in the sun. Then they'll be stored in a basket in the pantry, where they seem to do ok for nearly a year.
Meanwhile, the coffee dehusking carries on. Last night, for example, I sat down for about 45 minutes and dehusked a couple of handfuls of coffee beans. Remember, this is done bean by bean with your fingers. After 45 minutes I decided to weigh the results. 16 grams - only! I weighed all the beans Action Man, myself and the kids had done over the last week - 180 grams! Yep, this is a slow old process. The only way to approach it is to come over all Zen-like and treat it as a daily meditation.  We have heaps more beans drying and on the bushes still to dry. I can see myself dehusking coffee for months, years maybe after which time I'll be a Zen master. Or something like that!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to process coffee beans - Part 2

So, you've picked your coffee beans. You've popped them out of their soft red outer shell. You've left them to ferment in a bit of water for a day or so. You are ready for the next stage - here is the first batch of coffee beans for the season drying in the sun in my garden sieve. It's the best thing I've found for the job so far.
The slimy coating on the fresh coffee bean has dried and hardened. Now to getting that dry outer shell off. No, sadly, kbenco, I have no magic method for making this task less tedious. While the initial peeling of the beans prior to drying is kind of fun and addictive (a bit like popping bubble plastic, or is that just me?), dehusking coffee beans is hard graft, because each bean has to be done INDIVIDUALLY. This hasn't been too onerous to date, because our harvests have never been that big. This year however, we have heaps, easily four times more than usual. Hmmm - child labour/bribery might be in order here.

Bridget - We planted our coffee bushes nearly 10 years ago. They were slow to grow to start with. From memory, I think we started picking coffee beans in the third year. They are now each over 2 metres tall.

Tracy - The homegrown coffee, once you finally get to the brewing stage, tastes just great. So, I guess it is all worth the time and trouble.

Thanks too to everyone re comments on my lack-of-work situation. We are very fortunate in that we  manage ok on one income - I know so many families rely on two incomes. And I fully intend to  use this gift of spare time to the max, because who knows what's round the corner? I can't control the economy, but I can control my attitude.
Cheers!

Monday, November 19, 2012

How to process coffee beans - Part 1

 After issues with cameras, then computers dying, then simply getting out of the habit of looking at the world with my blog spectacles on (ie. thinking "I'll put this on the blog", then taking the appropriate picture etc. etc.), it's been a prolonged absence. But here I am. Let's crack on shall we?
We've started picking coffee, and 2012 looks like the best season yet. We have three bushes, and with the high rainfall of the last couple of years, all the bushes have grown substantially and are covered with berries.
I would put growing coffee beans in the novelty category of self-sufficiency. Three bushes is no where near enough for caffeine self-sufficency for us. More than that, without machinery, processing the berries is labour intensive. Any more beans than what we have and the novelty would wear off, well and truly.
This is the first batch of beans for the season (the berries don't ripen at the same rate on the tree, thank goodness, otherwise this would be completely undoable). We've just taken the soft red outer skin of the berry off. Then, into a bowl with a bit of water to ferment for a day or so, before they go into a tray in the sun to allow the slimy coating to harden.

It's been an interesting couple of months here workwise at Spades and Spoons. I lost my job suddenly, but not unexpectedly, in May. Since then I have been looking for work without success. I'm guessing a combination of a depressed local economy, and let's face it, my age, are against me. I can't think of another reason. This has never happened to me before - I've always found work when I wanted to work. This time, it's different and it is difficult not to get despondent about it at times.
What irks me most, though, is the reaction of people to my jobless status, normally people who do not know me. "Don't you get bored?" they ask, as if it my choice to not have a job. Actually, no, boredom is not a problem I have. (I am never quick enough to reply "Jobs are for people who get bored easily!") Nope, boredom is not the problem. There is too much to do, and I have too many interests. Indeed, the upside of being jobless is that I've been able to pursue those interests. Another upside is I feel a lot healthier than I did this time last year when I was pretty much working full time.
So it's not all bad.  I'll just keep plugging away with applications that don't get acknowledged, and keep hoping that Christmas will bring me a job!

Lastly - Blogger tells me this is my 300th post! Yay!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lambing 2012 - the continuing story!

This is what our family has been doing every few hours for the last few weeks - feeding our poddy lamb Olympia . She is going great guns after her tough start, and is now over a month old. Hopefully in the next month or so we can wean her off regular feeds as she starts to graze more. Meanwhile, feeding her is good for a laugh. I'll prepare her feed and go over to the paddock where she is with our other sheep, including her layabout mother Susy. Wherever she is, when she sees me she tears over to the fence at full speed. You can almost see her apply the brakes as she skids into the fence for her feed. It's like a cartoon.  Hilarious.
Meanwhile, 16 days ago, we had another lamb born. Action Man came in one night at about 11pm after checking the animals before going to bed. A lamb had been born, but this little one was so small and weak, AM doubted he would survive the night, even though he had seen it feeding. Next morning when I went to feed Olympia, the new lamb was there next to Mum, a tiny little thing. He was so still, I thought he was dead, but he moved his head as I approached. I scooped him up and stuck him under my jumper and held him there for 10 minutes or so to warm him up, while Mum bleated her head off at me. I was willing this one to live. Over the next few days I would  often find him sitting well away from Mum, I think he was just too weak to follow her, so I would pick him up and put him next to his mother, where he would invariably try to feed. So the spirit was willing, and fortunately Mum was doing her bit too. Gradually, his strength has improved and even though he is still a tiny little thing - his name is Tiny Tim - he too is going well.
So that is lambing for this season. Barring fox attacks, we have three healthy lambs, two male and one female.
Roll on spring.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Miso soup

A few posts ago I wrote about the sad fact that the last few months had seen me expand. So it was back on the Weight Watchers programme for me. Dear oh dear.
So far, progress has been slow but steady in the right direction, hooray for me. I'm still to get to the measurements where I will  deem it worthwhile to devote an inordinate amount of time to making myself a complicated skirt (I go by measurements, not weight, and the whole weightloss thing sprung from a project to make myself a skirt, and shocked myself with the measurements).
For the first two weeks or so I stuck pretty closely to the WW programme. This was enough to recalibrate my ideas about portion size, which was one of my problems I admit. I love eating good food, what can I say? Apart from that, I am also observing the following strategies:
1) Giving the "c" foods a wide berth - chips, chocolate, cheese and cake. Not that I ate chips and chocolate all that often, but when I do, I don't seem to have an "off" button. Meanwhile, cheese and cake played a role in my undoing.
2) Limit snacking to one piece of fruit between meals. That's it and that's all, and only if I'm hungry.
3) Eliminating sugar from tea and coffee.
4) Walking at least 30 minutes every day - Dash the Dog is enjoying this one, and he's lost weight too.
5) Being very careful about my wine intake - one small glass only, and only at weekends.
6) Switching to skim milk.

I've found soup to be my main lunch time choice through all this- lots of vegies, not much fat. I'm enjoying miso soup quite often, like the one above. Delicious and filling, I don't feel deprived at all after a bowl of this. It's really easy. Here's what I do:

My miso soup

1 tablespoon miso - I'm using red miso at the moment, but will probably experiment with other miso types in due course
1 tablespoon soy sauce
50-100g firm tofu, cut into small cubes
2 bok choy (or other greens - silverbeet, spinach, snow peas etc) shredded
2 spring onions shredded


Boil 300mL of water in a saucepan. Pour a bit of water into a small bowl and let cool a little. Whisk in the miso to thin it out a bit and then pour into the saucepan. Add the soy sauce. Bring to the boil again, then take off the heat. Add the tofu, greens and spring onions, and let it sit for a minute or two to heat through.

This is one of those recipes you can change according to what you have - noodles, grated carrot, grated pumpkin, finely diced zucchini. You could try anything really.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Ovine Olympics

Sorry I couldn't get a better picture, but I couldn't resist posting this photo of our local identity Sheepie S Sheep. There he is on the bike, racing around the track mown into the grass. It's a bit hard to see, but his mate, the Pig is sailing. Olympic rings in the background (The IOC hasn't gotten onto him with their logo police yet).  This photo was taken yesterday afternoon. This morning, Sheepie is on the gold medal podium, with the Pig taking silver.  Sheepie's been out every day of the Olympics representing Australia in just about every sport. He lit the torch. He's been in the swimming. Sheepie never fails to make me laugh. This blog seems to have taken on an ovine theme lately. Our little lamb is now a week old and is thriving on a mixture of handfeeding and the occasional feed from Mum Susy when we can hold her for long enough for the lamb to latch on. Mum Susy loves this of course!
We've been casting about for a name for the lamb. I had Maggie in mind, in honour of the fact that my favourite flowering tree, the Magnolia is flowering at the moment. They are really beautiful this year too. Kate from Slow Living Essentials. suggested Mintie, which makes me grin. It looks though that I'll be overruled by the rest of the family.Her name is to be Olympia, in honour of the Olympics. That seems as fitting as any, so Olympia it is..

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Name that lamb

This is me, fresh from a few hours' gardening - digging, pruning, gathering sheep droppings for the compost etc - which accounts for my dishevelled appearance. I'm holding my new constant companion, a five day old female lamb.
She got into the spirit of things, and was literally at my heels the whole time. I do feel sorry for her. While the other lambs are with their mothers, she spends her time all alone in the paddock. So while she is relatively small we are giving her lots of cuddles. At night we bring her into a little enclosure that we have near the house. There are foxes about, and we'd hate to lose her.
Anyway, she needs a name. Any suggestions?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Nice lemons!

Still not much happening in the garden at the moment, but I thought I'd share a picture of my lemon tree. Doesn't it look lovely? So lovely that I've kept the lemons on it for the moment. They look better there than in a bucket in my pantry waiting for me to do something with them.
This lemon tree was the only productive thing on our 5 acres when we bought this place nine years . It's been a pretty good tree since, but this year with all the rain we've had, the lemons are fat and heavy with juice. The best ever crop.
The tree looks are bit sparse at the bottom. This would be because the sheep gave it an unscheduled prune a few weeks ago.
Speaking of sheep, our little hand-fed lamb is going great guns. Mum Susy continues to be a write-off as a mother. Very weird, because her mothering instincts to date have always been fine. Who knows? We don't.
Today is fine but the August winds are blowing hard. I had plans to be outside but I've changed my mind. I can work outdoors in the rain, no problem. In fact, I quite like it. But wind sets my teeth on edge.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lambing

The last few days have seen the birth of three lambs - one to go. Above is a beautiful little boy, born to the ewe with the most personality, the Woolly Jumper.
Yesterday morning we woke to find Susy had also lambed, but for some unknown reason, she has rejected this lamb. Doesn't want a baa of her (sorry, couldn't resist a pun!). She's an older ewe and she's had a few lambs now. Maybe she's just over this whole lambing thing.
Fortunately, the lamb is strong. We've been hand feeding her every couple of hours. She's eating well, and already knows that a pair of human legs equals food.
The plaintive cries though are pretty heartrending. We have her in a little enclosure with Mum. The lamb is trying to feed from her mother, but Mum is completely ignoring her. 
Gee, nature is cruel.
So we are all acting as surrogate mothers. I predict this lamb will be a pet for years to come. Any suggestions for names??

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Continuing a Grand Tradition

Continuing the Grand Tradition here at Spades and Spoons of Inconsistency in Blogging. After an active (for  me) June, I went on to have an unproductive July. Here's why...
As the name implies, this blog is mainly about gardening and cooking. In both departments over the last month, though, things have been less than inspiring.
In the "Spades", or gardening department, it's been quiet. The renewed vegie patch has been planted with green manure ready for spring. I have also planted this year's garlic, and have a few lettuces and silverbeet in there. Apart from that the order of the day has been pruning - 100 grape vines, fruit trees and some rose bushes. Try as I might, I can't think of one interesting thing to say about pruning. I've already blogged about how to prune a grape vine. I don't think I'm doing the fruit tree pruning "right" so I'm loathe to blog about that - I don't want to give out uninformed advice (hey, but it hasn't stopped me before!). And that's it out the back. No material there.
As for "Spoons", my kitchen capers have been curtailed by a run-in with the tape measure. I don't weigh myself as a rule. But I had a suspicion that I'd been putting on weight over the last few months by the fit of my clothes. Anyway, early last week I decided to start on the Beignet skirt from Colette patterns. With multiple panels, a lining and 12 buttonholes, this was going to be the most complicated skirt I'd yet attempted. I have some beautiful corduroy I bought in New York, and some lovely material for a lining.  I was psyched for a major work here. I was going to take my time and do everything properly, as opposed to my normal rush jobs (which aren't that fast either).
In line with this philosophy, I uncharacteristically decided to actually take my measurements. My weight and shape are normally pretty stable, but as I mentioned, I noticed my clothes were "filling out", so I fronted up to the tape measure.
Sigh. It seems that the last few months jobless and with plenty of time to bake and eat my way through David Herbert's Best Ever Baking Recipes had me indeed at my "baking weight", as suspected (whatever that is, as I haven't weighed myself.).
No way was I going to make the investment in time and material in the Beignet skirt at this weight. Plus I felt that I had to change my habits before things got completely out of hand.  There was nothing for it but to shelve my sewing plans, and dig out my Weight Watchers materials from 2002. I lost about 10 post-baby kilos with Weight Watchers then. I love food and cooking, and hate diets, but I could live with WW. Nothing for it but to go back on the program.
The thing about WW though, is that to be successful , I have to "dumb down" my cooking quite a bit. The WW is good nutrition, but it doesn't accommodate too much in the way of fancy, or complicated cooking, and certainly not baking. So it's plain food around here for the time being at least.
So, there you have it, a dearth of subjects recently  for a gardening/cooking blog. The other thing is that until I shift the weight (or the centimetres) there won't be any clothes sewing. I have a few home dec projects I could do, but the interest factor in them is pretty minimal.
Still, spring is around the corner, and things will be hotting up in the garden. And though I don't wish to turn this into a weight-loss blog, I could post some of the low-fat cooking I've been doing, if I find a dish interesting enough. Maybe.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Making crostoli

We've had school holidays here the last two weeks. My kids always look forward to a few days spent at Nonna and Nonno's place hanging out with their cousins, and lapping up the Nonni's undivided
attention.
This holiday, Mum decided to get the older grandchildren, including my kids, together for a spot of crostoli making. We have crostoli whenever there is a big family get together - birthdays, christenings, Easter and Christmas. Crostoli is always made in quantity, and it's an ideal holiday activity as many hands make light work. It's no different to making fresh pasta with a pasta machine. What you get is mounds of light, sweet moreish biscuits.

Crostoli
3 cups plain flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
grated zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup grappa (or brandy, rum - whatever!)
icing sugar to dust

Heap the flour onto a clean surface. Make a well in the middle, crack the eggs into the well then add sugar, olive oil, grated lemon zest, milk and grappa. With your fingertips, slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the flour, and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the dough ball with cling wrap and leave for an hour.


Take a lump of dough, flatten and start to feed through the pasta machine, first through the wider settings, then again a few times ar narrower settings  until the dough sheets are thin and smooth
Dough resting on clean tablecloth. With a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough sheets into fingers, then cut a slit in the middle of each finger. Some go to the trouble of threading the dough through this slit to make a "bow". We don't seem to bother with that too often.
Fry in vegetable oil medium high heat until lightly golden.
A heap of crostoli ready to be covered in a blizzard of icing sugar. I did have a final photo, but my satellite service just doesn't want to let me upload this photo, and I have no patience to wait!
School resumes on Tuesdays, and hopefully, normal service on this blog.
If you've been on holidays too, hope you've had a good one!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tofu for breakfast

Even though I'm not a vegetarian, I'm a fan of tofu - it's something about its texture and nutty blandness.

I came across a version of this recipe a little while ago, and have been eating it for breakfast. It looks a bit like scrambled eggs, after all. It's also good for a quick lunch.

Tofu Scramble

300-400grams firm tofu (silken tofu would also work), grated
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
veg oil
A small head of broccoli, broken into florets
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt to taste
Chopped coriander

Mix together the tofu and spices in a bowl, making sure the spices are well mixed in.
Heat a frypan, add oil, then add the tofu mixture and "Scramble" for a minute or two.
Add the vegetables and continue scrambling for a few more minutes.
Add soy sauce and mix in, and salt if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Down at the beach



It might be a bit cold and blowy, but the beach suits us fine in winter.
Hope you are having a fine weekend.

Friday, June 29, 2012

How to replace a broken zipper


In our recent declutter, I got the kids to go through their clothes and bag up the things they had grown out of. My daughter included these shorts because of the broken zip. They still fit and were in good nick apart from the zip, so they were worth the 20 minutes and $1 to fix them. Here's how:


With a seam ripper, remove the stitches that held the zipper in place. You'll create a "hole" in the fly underlap. On the overlap side, simply pick out the stitches. The fly went up into the waistband area on these shorts, so I didn't have to cut the zipper out of the waistband. If you have a more traditional waistband, you might need to do this.
These shorts have only a very short fly, so I needed to shorten the zip. I measured the new zip against the old, then stitched in a new zipper stop to match the old zip. Then I cut off the excess zip.

With the zipper right side up and closed, I slid it into the slot on the fly underlap side of the fly. Pin it down, and using a zipper foot on the machine, stich close to the zip.

For the fly overlap, I opened the zip and lined the remaining side up against the stitch lines from the previous zip. Then I handstitched in place, using backstitch with a double thread pulled through beeswax.

Done!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Menu Planning Maze

When I think of Menu Planning, I think of my friend's mother. She had it down pat. She had settled on seven evening meals, one for each day of the week. She simply made those meals, week-in, week-out. I can't remember the rotation now (I used to!) , but I do remember Irish Stew on a Tuesday, 52 weeks a year!
Whilst I love food and cooking too much to ever countenance such an approach to menu planning, I do understand the drive to keep the task of feeding the family simple.
One of my basic, ongoing goals to make all our meals at home from scratch. As anyone who has this goal would know, menu planning is a big part of that. Menu planning for me though is a juggle of timetables, ingredients, time, nutrition considerations, balance and personal preferences. Here's what I mean:

Timetables:  The number one consideration for me in planning our meals is our family timetable, because this affects the timeframe I have available to cook, and therefore what I can cook. This week the timetable looks like this:
Monday - out of the house from 3.30pm for swimming training, back 5.30pm, one hour window before son needs to go to soccer.
Tuesday - out of house between 3.30pm and 6.00pm from training - everyone starving.
Wednesday- leave house by 5.15pm for soccer with son, back 8.00pm.
I won't go on and on but you get the picture. Every night and every week is different

Ingredients: What's in the fridge that needs to be used up? What's in the garden? What can I cook with whatever is at hand?

Balance: I try to have a balance of meals over a week. We're not vegetarians, but I've been trying to reduce our meat intake. I try to plan for two vegetarian meals a week, and these are normally nights I'll make a dessert, because the meat eaters (ie. the men) reckon the veggo meals don't fill them up...With the other five evening meals, I'll aim for three red meat meals, 1-2 fish, and maybe a chicken meal. Of course, all this is not hard-and-fast.

Stove availability - one constraint I have in my kitchen is that I only have two working stove elements  (it's a long story!) , which in practical terms often means one, as I mostly cannot use both elements simultaneously because of the size of my saucepans/frypans. So I have to plan to use the electric frypan, rice cooker, the oven etc. to get around this.

Having taken all these factors into consideration, this week the  evening menu plan has looked like this:

Sunday - Roast Shoulder of Lamb, Roast Potatoes and Sweet Potato, Brussels Sprouts.
Monday - Tuna Pasta, Coleslaw, Apple Crumble -  this meal can be cooked in less than half an hour! Apple crumble prepared in the afternoon, eaten after soccer.
Tuesday - Beef and Tofu Stir Fry, Brown Rice
Wednesday - Lamb Pie (using leftover roast lamb), Steamed Broccoli - prepared in the afternoon, finished off in the oven while I'm out with daughter in charge, eat when we get back frozen from soccer.
Thursday - Chicken ?? I have chicken thigh fillets ready to go after we return from netball training at 6.30pm. I'll decide later today what I'm going to do with it..Maybe a tagine in the pressure cooker??
Friday - Corn and Potato Chowder, cheese scones - ready to eat by 5.30 before swimming club at 6.00pm.
Saturday - not sure yet! Maybe fish if Action Man goes fishing - quite possible. If not, watch this space. I might get the children to do this one.Probably pasta. Dessert too.

Phew! That's one week taken care of. Looking forward to school holidays as this means the sporting commitments stop for a while, and there will be more scope to cook meals that take a bit longer..

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Muesli Slice - Fail

In the interests of Truth in Blogging, see above today's baking effort - Muesli Slice. The recipe was new-to-me, the Muesli Slice in David Herbert's Best-Ever Baking Recipes.
As with all baking recipes, I followed this recipe to the letter. There is no flour in the recipe which raised a question in my mind, but as I had never had any trouble at all with any David Herbert recipe, I ploughed on.
A bit of a fail, shall we say. The Slice crumbled into smithereens as soon as I lifted it from the baking tin.
I can see this ending up as the crumble on a few apple crumbles in the next few weeks.
Sigh. Back to the baking tins.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Foolproof white sauce

This time of year I seem to make a few cheese and white sauces for lasagnes and pasta bakes.
The problem with white sauces is lumps, or to be more precise, how to avoid them.  Most recipes for White Sauce have you melt the butter, stir in the flour, cook it for a minute or two, then add the milk.
I don't do this when I make a white sauce, and I never, ever have lumps. I follow a method I found in Delia Smith's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course (published circa mid-1980s). Here's how:

White sauce

1/4 cup plain flour
60g butter
3 cups milk
salt, pepper, nutmeg
Grated cheese (if you are making a cheese sauce)

Place all the ingredients in a frypan (except the cheese). Stir with a whisk over high heat until the butter has melted. Use a wooden spoon for a final stir, making sure any flour in the corners of the pan are incorporated into the sauce. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to the lowest temperature and let it simmer without stirring at all for six minutes. Add cheese at this point if using.

And that is how to make lumpless, smooth white sauce.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Virtual move

In our first 12 years of marriage, we moved nine times, thanks to Action Man's employment with the Defence Forces.
As you might imagine there was a certain amount of tiresomeness that came with moving constantly. However, it did mean that we didn't accumulate much stuff. Each move was an opportunity to jettison the excess.
We've been in this home now for nine years. I've been well aware that our cupboards could do with a clean out for a while now. Losing my paid job has given me an opportunity to go through every nook and cranny to clear out the excess.
I went systematically from one end of the house to the other. I pretended we were about to move, and with each article I would ask myself one question: "If we were moving, would this come with us or would we ditch it?" An easy enough question, and very effective.
If the answer was "ditch it" I would decide then whether to chuck it, take it to the recycling centre or donate it. The above lot was stuff waiting for a friend to pick it up to sell at her church's jumble sale.
I now need to take old computers to the council recycling centre. I also need to contact the Salvos to pick up furniture: some lounge chairs, a heater, a bed and a computer desk. Then it will be DONE! Hooray!
This has been a huge, and niggling, task that I am very extrememly happy to have off my plate.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Made by Me - Vogue V1250

Although I seem to live in pants, it behoves me sometimes to wear a dress! Mum, my children remark, you've got legs!
This is Vogue 1250, a Donna Karan pattern, which was rated one of the Best Patterns of 2011 on Pattern Review.
To make it I used a jersey I bought at Paron Fabrics in NYC. It's a lovely fabric (I think rayon blend, I could be wrong - I really should get in the habit of noting exactly what I'm buying, especially knits), a nice weight and drape for this pattern.
The fabric was great for the pattern. The pattern itself is rated Easy, and it was. It has only two pieces, with the front cut on the fold, including the entire skirt, which is sewn up the back. No side seams. Then there is an upper back pattern. The only fit adjustment I made was to lengthen below the waist 5 cms.
So the fabric was great, the pattern straightforward and interesting. I'm just not loving it as I thought I would. Perhaps it's because of its winter guise, with tights and over a turtleneck. Maybe it will look better on its own with some sandals in summer. Maybe.
Also not loving that ripply hem. I've applied the twin needle to the hem which I have done many times on knits with good results. This hem, though, just wants to ripple. I dunno why, and I dunno if I can be bothered to fix it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My gardening bookshelf

 I am the sort of person, who, when she needs to do something will automatically reach for a book. Poach an egg? Get a book out. Raise a child? Read the books. Grow a lettuce? Where's that book?
The books above are those I reach for most frequently when it comes to gardening:

Harvest by Meredith Kirton - This is a beautiful book. It has great pictures and is packed with information about almost anything you can think about in relation  to the edible garden. This book not only informs, it inspires. If I need a bit of a push off the couch to get out into the garden, five minutes with this book and a cup of tea does the trick...
 The Practical Australian Gardener by Peter Cundall - The main reason I like this book so much is that it is set out in months, with explanations of all the jobs you need to do in any given month. For me, it's a case of consulting this book to get an idea of what I should be getting on with at that time.

Organic Vegetable Gardening by Annette McFarlane - Whenever I go to plant anything, a quick consult with this book ensures I get the planting right. An excellent resource for all organic growing. Annette has a book out Organic Fruit Growing, that I'll think I'll check out too.

Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia by Louis Glowinski - There's no doubt about it, Louis has written a comprehensive book on all things fruit growing. At times a bit wordy, but certainly comprehensive.

Do you have any favourite gardening books?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why I grow my own vegies

I've been growing vegetables here for a while now. At the moment, we are re-jigging our vegie growing space, building some raised vegetable beds. Before we went to all that trouble, though, it was a good exercise to remind ourselves of why we grow vegies in the first place.
Here are the reasons I came up with:

1) I like eating good food
The number one reason for me: consider the taste of fresh vegetables straight from the garden v. supermarket vegetables trucked vast distances. No contest. Next...
2) I need the exercise
I don't like gyms, but I'm in my forties and I need the exercise, especially the strengthening stuff. When I garden, I use every muscle in my body, as I dig, hoe, weed and plant. Even better, the effort I make is going toward to achieving something useful, as opposed to the wasted effort in the  mindless tyranny of the Stairmaster.
3) It  saves money
It doesn’t take much money, really, to set up my own vegetable garden. Our first vegie garden was a no-dig garden that cost a few bags of soil and some bales of lucerne mulch. Growing vegetables from seed is super-cheap, but even if I buy seedlings, my vegetables will still be miles cheaper than shopbought vegies. As a bonus, I found  that once the vegetable garden was established, certain vegetables spontaneously grow whether I want them there or not. Think self-sowing potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, rocket and mint. No gardening gardening, I love that.
4) It connects me to nature
Vegie growing attunes me  to nature. I notice things:  changes in temperature, the effects of a change in season . I scan the skies for rain, and monitoring weather reports like a farmer. The presence of bugs and slugs and the insect world in general, takes on great significance. With the  vegetable garden, the nuances of nature are always there, in my face. It’s just that I haven’t noticed them to the same extent before.
5) It reduces my carbon footprint
Growing my own vegetables is a small contribution Ican make toward reducing your own carbon footprint. My food miles will reduce dramatically. By reducing demand for conventionally grown vegetables ( ie. growing methods that rely on pesticides and synthetic fertilisers), I can make a contribution toward reducing the degradation of soils.  I am also reducing my demand for packaging, itself a source of demand for precious resources.
When I started to grow vegetables, I soon saw the need to start our own compost heap, therefore reducing the amount of waste that needs to be transported to and accommodated in landfill sites. The composting process itself stops my food scraps ending up in landfill where they give off methane, one of the more devastating green house gases.
There is no environmental downside with growing my own vegetables.
6) It’s contemplative
I feel myself relax from head to toe when I head out into the garden. The sounds of the wind and the birds calms me down, and puts a smile on my face

And that's why I grow vegies.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lemon cordial


It's lemon season, well and truly, here. Today I made up a batch of lemon cordial. Here is what I did:

Lemon cordial

6 large lemons, juiced and zested
1.5 kg white sugar (yep, that's right 1.5kg. There is no denying that cordial is basically flavoured liquid sugar)
1 tablespoon citric acid
4 cups boiling water

In a heatproof jug, place the juice and zest, sugar and citric acid. Add the boiling water, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Strain and decant into sterilized bottles.
Place a couple of tablespoonfuls into a glass, and top up with water, soda water or lemonade. Or add a splash to your gin and tonic!

If you have loadsa lemons to deal with, here are a few past posts to help you on your way:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Aloe vera

Last weekend whilst I was working in the garden building raised vegie beds, something bitey worked its way up my trouser leg and sunk its fangs into me five times just behind the knee. The bites stung at the time, but the main torment has been the itch ever since.
I've been using aloe vera to soothe the itch. You just break off a leaf. The leaf oozes a gel that you smear onto your skin, and the itch disappears like magic. Great stuff on sunburn too, I'm told.
It's easy to strike aloe vera. My aloe vera plant came from my friend Jan who gave me a pup, a couple of leaves with some roots, from her plant years ago. It's now flourished in it's full-shade position. It also has quite a nice flower.
That's one of the nice things bout gardening - sharing plants and seeds.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Salmon Patties

One of the reasons we live where we live is that it is five minutes from the ocean. Action Man is a keen fisherman, so we have really fresh fish on the menu on a regular basis. Quite a luxury these days.
This is my mother's recipe, and she made this often for us tribe of 5 kids. I preferred them then to any other fish dish, and I still have a soft spot for them.
This is  a great storecupboard option. I made these the other night when I had run out of nearly everything, but didn't have time to buy food.  The last remaining salmon patty made an excellent sandwich filling the next day.

Salmon Patties

4 slices bread
 1 cup Milk
1 tin of salmon, drained (you can also remove the skin and bones if you prefer, but I tend to leave all that stuff in)
1 chopped onion
1 crushed garlic clove
1 beaten egg
grated rind of a lemon
chopped parsley
breadcrumbs

Tear the bread into small pieces, place in a bowl with milk  and leave to soak for a few minutes.  Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread. Place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
At this point I usually put the bowl in the fridge for a half hour or so. If the mixture seems too wet, put in a tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs, so it still sticks together without being too wet.
Use a quarter cup measure to scoop up the mixture, form it into patties and roll in breadcrumbs. Shallow fry for a few minutes on medium heat until each side is golden brown.
Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Days like these...

Yes, I missed a blog post yesterday, thus failing in the Blog-Post-a-Day for June challenge. Here's why:

The day started inauspiciously. It had been pelting rain all night. I walked out the back door in my bare feet to retrieve something from the verandah and stepped on a leech! Yechh!! I'm fine with most animals that seem to perturb other people: snakes, spiders, cockroaches, rodents..not a problem. But leeches make me feel seriously faint. It stems from the time years ago when I went bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. At the end of the day, I removed my shoe to find my sock sodden with blood. A leech had made it's way down into my shoe and was having a merry time feeding away. It was huge! By the way, if you want to make a wound stop bleeding after removing a leech (they inject an anticoagulant to help the blood run more freely and stop a scab forming) apply black pepper. It worked a treat that day.
That set the tone for the day.
I went grocery shopping. When it came to pay, I decided to use EFTPOS, and also withdraw $150 cash. I walked away without the cash. D'oh! I realised this when I went to pay for some meat at the butcher. No cash. Then a big kerfuffle ringing head office because you can't ring the local store directly, etc etc., after upending everything looking for the money.  (Happy ending, today, though. Their reconciliation located my money.)
Absentmindedness continued. I put a pot of pasta on to boil for the dog, then walked away to read some blogs. Smell travelling through the house told me I'd allowed the pot to boil dry. Removed okay pasta, then spent 1/2 hour removed the gunk off the burnt saucepan with multiple applications of bicarb and vinegar.
Our regular 3 monthly servicing on the Envirocycle tank revealed that we needed a new air blower. Ta ta $500!
Developed sore throat and earache through the day.
It rained solidly all afternoon. By dinner my mood matched the colour of the sky.
At least New South Wales won the State of Origin game last night.
And that was my June 13th.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Made by Me - Self Drafted Moleskin Pants

The reason I took up sewing for myself in earnest a few years ago was pants. Despite an appreciation for the skirt, my life dictates I wear pants most of the time. At the time, I found the whole exercise of finding pants that fit me disheartening. If pants fit me around the hips, they swam around the waist, which meant that I was constantly hoiking up my pants because my waistband ended up around my hips. Not a great look. Then the hipster pants fashion came into vogue. Thanks, but after two kids I need coverage in the tummy area. And they were never long enough. It was doing my head in. I realised the only way to get what I wanted and needed was to sew myself.
Seamstresses will know that fitting pants is quite an undertaking. There is so much going on, so many curves too take care of. But in this regard, I had a stroke of luck.
Not long after I started to sew I found  Pattern Review. Among other things, Pattern Review offers online courses. I was lucky enough to take part in fitting courses offered by Shannon Gifford. This was a great investment, as I now have a pants pattern that fits me. You can't imagine how happy this makes me.
I have to confess that I made up these pants without doing any measurements whatsoever. I knew my other pants still fit ok, so I cut away. Ok, I might have been a teensy bit reckless here, but it worked!
I have altered the basic pattern with darts to make a pant with straight legs, and a deep-ish yoke, eliminating the darts and fly front. I don't do pockets or any other embellishment. It's a simple basic pair of pants, and it suits me fine!
I bought the moleskin fabric last year at Fabric Finesse in Bowral. I'd been coveting moleskin ever since I had to give away my pre-baby moleskin jeans. Those jeans were warm, and in winter I look for warmth.
With my pants I always reinforce the waist seam and crotch seam with twill tape. I always interface my hems too. Apart from this, my pants are a straightforward make.
Worn above with the Jo Sharp reversible wrap and a merino jersey turtleneck top made from a Burda pattern 2010(?)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flower of the Moment - Bethany Sage

When I bought this plant at the local market, it was just a stick in a pot. The pot was marked "Bethany Sage". Though I'd never heard of Bethany Sage, I assumed it was a salvia.I quite like salvias so I gave this one a go.
Well, this plant just took off. It has taken over it's part of the garden, and needs to be heavily pruned regularly to make it behave.
The payoff is these pretty flowers, about this time of year.
I haven't come across another Bethany Sage anywhere - does anyone know anything about them?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Building Raised Vegie Beds - Done!

We'd cleared three days to build our raised vegie beds, and were pleasantly surprised to find that by lunchtime today (Sunday) the beds were DONE. Very happy with that, of course, and happy to tick one task that has been on the to-do list for too long off.
The job was made easier by the fact that the timbers were all of equal length and square, and the planks for the ends had already been cut, so that saved a lot of time. AM was also using a bolt that screwed straight in, without having to drill and countersink holes separately. Another time saver.
There was a fair bit of soil shoveling done. I was happy to see plenty of nice fat worms in there. I also planted this years' garlic in there. Another job done.
It was sunny this morning, but the cloud has come over this afternoon. I'm planning on some sewing and photo-sorting over the next few days.
Hope you are having relaxing weekends.

Building raised vegie beds

The before shot
 First off, I did try to post this last night to make my "post every day in June" challenge, but the satellite wasn't allowing me to upload photos for some reason. I tried, I really did...

When we returned from our trip, our vegie patch resembled a jungle. After weeding it, it didn't look much better. Our beds were raised, but with no borders. Chooks were kept out with chicken wire and stakes. Two words, "ramshackle" and "eyesore" leap to mind. Check out the "before" shot for an idea.
As we had nothing growing, except two rhubarb plants, it was a good time to get some proper raised beds, WITH BORDERS, built.  And it's a long weekend here - the planets were aligned!
Yesterday, Action Man and I got stuck in to the job. This is what we achieved in about 5 hours work:

At the end of Day 1 - much better!
Hopefully we will finish off the beds today. We will end up with eight beds. I plan to use one bed for asparagus, one bed for artichoke and rhubarb. Then I'll use the remaining beds for vegies, using rotational planting for the first time. Until now I've just used the rough philosophy of not planting the same vegie in the same area two times running. It's worked pretty well until now! I'm planning on planting a few winter lettuces and garlic, and then planting green manure in the rest until spring planting.
How's your weekend going?

Friday, June 8, 2012

How to clean windows

I don't consider myself an expert on household tasks . I'm always on the lookout for ways to clean and organise the house more efficiently and effectively.
One thing I do know, however, is cleaning windows. This is an example of the windows I have at my place: cedar frames with each window divided into 4 smaller panes. I reckon I have over two hundred of these panes to clean, 400 panes when you consider you have to clean inside too. Believe me, it's a fiddly job. You can see where my motivation is to get this job sorted out.
We've been here for nearly nine years now - our anniversary is on Monday - and over this time I've trialled lots of different methods/recipes etc. for cleaning windows.
The best method to clean windows, in my opinion, based on exhaustive research is 1/2 cup methylated spirit in half a bucket of warm water. Use a rag to clean the window down, then use cheap paper towel to wipe dry.
The one drawback of this method is the use of paper towel .I try to limit disposables where possible, but for this job I have to say that the traditional alternative, newspaper, just doesn't cut it I feel. It might have once upon a time, before the newspaper publishers changed their presses in the last 10-15 years.
I've been cleaning my kitchen windows today, as it's the window I look out of most of the time and they were looking a bit grimy. Now I've cracked the window cleaning code, I hive this job to the high schoolers during their school holidays. It keeps them busy and out of my hair for a good few hours:)
Now what I would like to figure out is how to discourage the spiders around the window frames, and through the house in general. Keeping their cobwebs at bay is a constant battle.  My family is pretty house trained but these interlopers just don't have any manners, and they just don't want to learn!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The cake-a-thon continues

It's Action Man's birthday today. I handed him my birthday present, Best-Ever Baking Recipes by David Herbert, and told him to choose a cake for me to make. He chose a very grown up All-in-One Coffee and Walnut Cake. I'm quite happy with how it's turned out- it looks just like the book photo, and boy, was it delicious.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Strawberry Guava Paste

Before we went on our trip in April, I picked all the strawberry guavas and froze them, as I didn't have time to deal with them then. Normally I use the strawberry guavas to make jelly, but I took 1.5kg, and made a batch of strawberry guava paste for the first time.
I didn't have a specific recipe. I adapted a recipe I had  for quince cheese, and here is what I came up with. I'm pretty happy with it. I cooked this on a low simmer for an hour, and would probably go another 10 minutes or so for a really firm paste. This is a bit soft.

Strawberry Guava Paste

Strawberry Guavas
Sugar
Lemon Juice

Place the strawberry guavas in a saucepan with water, bring to the boil and simmer until soft - about 30-40 minutes.
Strain off the water and cool. Blend or process the guavas (I used a stick blender) to make a puree. Push the puree through a sieve to extract the seeds. You want a nice, smooth puree.
Measure your puree. Put in a saucepan with the same volume of white sugar (eg. I had 3 cups of puree, so added 3 cups of sugar), juice of a lemon and 1/2 cup of water. Stir to dissolve the sugar over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer until the mixture thickens substantially - in this case, over an hour. NB. Don't wander off and do other things. This cheese requires you to hang around and stir frequently to prevent it sticking.
Pour into dishes lined with oiled cling wrap. I put this into a rectangular pan, but in retrospect I would divide it up and use a number of small containers instead.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On the sticks now

It's blowing a gale outside, and lashing rain. All I've wanted to do today is sit inside and knit. I mean, it's the only sensible thing to do, isn't it?
Small problem: I had no project on the go, having just finished the reversible wrap the other day. So I did what I had to do: I hijacked my daughter's knitting project. This is her first ever knitting project, a cushion cover in garter stitch in Patons Inca. Another no-brainer, but Inca knits up fast so I expect I'll finish this one off too soon. Fortunately, the daugher doesn't seem too perturbed I'v muscled in on her knitting.
Still, as this looks like finishing quickly, I'll  need to find a project to proceed with - July promises to be a blockbuster month for couch sitting/knitting. First, there is the Tour de France to look forward to (all that scenery, human and "real"!), then the London Olympics.
I noticed that Patons Inca is on sale at Spotlight, so I'm toying with the idea of a throw rug for my son. It's rather a big project, so I'm a bit concerned I'll lose interest before I finish it (always a knitting hazard for me).
What to next? Any suggestions?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Vitamin D Deficiency - the update

In October last year, I was taken aback to find out that I was Vitamin D deficient. Taken aback, because I never considered that Vitamin D deficiency was something that I would ever have to worry about. Every health message I've ever received regarding sun exposure has been to cover up, that in Australia our day-to-day doings provide more than enough Vitamin D. So, I am pretty religious about the sunblock, and I always cover up in the sun.
For the months since then I've been taking a Vitamin D supplement of 3,000mg per day, and today I've found out that I don't need to take the supplements anymore as my readings are well within the normal range.
It's interesting. The post I did on this attracted more comments than normal, and speaking to people around the traps confirmed that Vitamin D deficiency is more common than I would have imagined. Then earlier this year Choice Magazine did a feature on Vitamin D.
I have to admit that I didn't put myself out there for a lot of extra sun exposure - after years of putting on a hat and covering up in the sun, I just don't feel right going out without a hat and long sleeves. Also, when I go outside it is generally for a long period to walk or to garden, and it's just more practical to get "suited up" before I go out. I will interested to see how my levels track over the next few months.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Made by Me - Jo Sharp Reversible Wrap

This is the latest in my intermittent series of Made by Me makes - the Reversible Wrap from Jo Sharp's Knit Book 10.
What makes this reversible is the fact that you can wear this as shown, or upside down as it were, to make a bolero. Sewn together from three rectangles, it really is pretty ingenious, and perfect for a beginner knitter (like me) or if you want a switch-your-brain off make.
I'm pretty happy with this jumper, although it could do with an extra couple of centimetres for the arms. This doesn't bother me too much. I have proportionately long arms and have come to accept three quarter sleeves as normal. I should have anticipated that one - oh well, live and learn.
As for cost, I would put this in the "cheap luxury" category. The yarn cost over $100, so it is by no means cheap to make. But the yarn, Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweed is a wool/silk/cashmere blend. It feels fabulous and cosy, without suffocating me.  Would I be able to purchase a jumper made from these fibres for $100? Answer:  no way. You see, cheap luxury.

By the way, my friend-in-blogging, Libby has challenged herself to post every day on her blog Life is a Journey not a Destination. Coincidentally, I'd been thinking along the same lines, so I'm joining her. Here's hoping for some blogworthy material!!
Meanwhile, Tracy on Sunny Corner Farm is doing an interesting Photo A Day Challenge. Check 'em out!