An Evolution

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This week we spent some time in the garden and on of the jobs I tackled was tidying up the entrance pergola.

The mandevilla were growing out of control and needed a bit more training up the trellis. I also trimmed some of the lower growth and swept the pavers. We cleaned up and mulched the adjacent garden area. The flowers and small shrubs will thrive as the weather begins to warm up.

It looks much better.

There are not a huge number of flowers at the moment but this shot from November last year shows it in full bloom.

In March 2018 the area was very different.

By September of 2018 things were progressing but the plants were still in their infancy.

It is always useful to look back and remind yourself of how much progress you have made.

Gourmet Gluten Free Gnocchi

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I had previously made pumpkin gnocchi a few months ago with reasonable success. Today I attempted to improve on that attempt and I think it was a success.

This was our dinner.

Here is the recipe that I used.

While the original recipe is not designed to be gluten free, I managed to modify it simply by using gluten free flour.

I made a double quantity of the mixture and find that I needed more flour than recommended in the recipe, however, that may simply be a result of the different properties of gluten free flour.

I try to handle the dough as little as possible while combining the ingredients. Portions of dough rolled, cut and spread on racks.

To cook the gnocchi:

2/3 fill a large saucepan of water, bring to a rolling boil, add a teaspoon of olive oil. Carefully add the gnocchi, cover and bring back to the boil as quickly as possible. Gently separate the gnocchi and cook for 3 – 5 minutes. Drain.

Serve immediately with sauce of your choice.

Tonight I chose onion, garlic, chilli, smoky paprika, capsicum and fresh cherry tomatoes topped with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

The pumpkin puree had been frozen from the harvest of a glut of pumpkins earlier in the year. The cherry tomatoes have been picked in the past few days. We try to make use of what we grow wherever possible and this meal is a perfect example.

A Different Dinner

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Due to Covid 19 our area has been locked down for 8 days. Those restrictions ease from this afternoon so we are very grateful. I know that this nothing compared to what many people have endured and continue to do so. I understand that grocery shopping is one of the acceptable reasons to leave your home but whether we are locked down or not, I try to minimise my exposure by shopping as infrequently as possible.

Yesterday I stocked up on some grocery items and also replenished our very meagre selection of fruit and vegetables. Now the trick is to make sure that everything is used wisely and none of the perishable goods go to waste. I bought 2 bunches of broccolini and decided that 1 of them would be used in our dinner.

After canvassing several options, I decided on a Broccolini and Caramelised Onion Tart. I found a few recipes online but none that exactly matched my idea so I pulled a few different elements together and this is what I came up with. It makes use of what I had available so you can make your own adjustments or substitutions.

Broccolini and Carmelised Onion Tart

Pastry – I was looking for something that was gluten free and tried this recipe for the pastry base. I had never thought of rubbing coconut oil rather than butter into flour when making pastry. I thought it turned out reasonably well but GMan is not a fan and feels than you can taste the coconut. You can make or buy whatever pastry suits you.

This is the pastry when I placed it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Filling

2 onions
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
2 teaspoons treacle
2 tablespoons red wine
1 bunch broccolini
Olive oil
Salt
Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic
Nutritional yeast
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese

Slice the onions, place in a pan over low heat and cook gently, stirring regularly. Add mixed herbs and treacle. Continue to cook until golden brown and soft. Add red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for another minute and remove from heat.

Rinse broccolini and spread on baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and slivers of garlic. Roast for about 15 minutes at 150C. Set aside until required.

Ready to go in the oven.

Line a dish or tray with your chosen pastry. Lightly spread with mustard and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place half of the onions in the dish then the broccolini followed by the remainder of the onions.

Add some dollops of sour cream and a little grated cheese.

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

I served slices of the tart with freshly-made coleslaw and cherry tomatoes.

Something Old, Something New

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It is even blue as well.

Yesterday I made this playsuit using some of the seersucker fabric from a barely-worn dressing gown.

I used a pattern drafted from a vintage Enid Gilchrist pattern book which is over 60 years old. The book originally belonged to my mother and has been used many times.

I do not have a photo of me in an outfit from this pattern but here are some taken of other family members over the years.

1968

1983

2008

A good design will stand the test of time.

I even found some of the green/white spotted fabric in my patchwork squares that I am sorting out today.

Back to the Beginning

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One of the very earliest posts I wrote for this blog was about folding plastic bags. It was back in 2011 and you can revisit the post here.

As part of my sustainability strategy, I reuse everything as many times as I possibly can. Even though we do not intentionally acquire any new plastic bags they do seem to accumulate. This is due to several factors, including other people giving me things in plastic bags, the longevity of the bags and finally, an enormous number of both new and used bags that have resulted from cleaning out my mother’s possessions.

Plastic bags are not the only ones that I seem to have. There are also paper bags. I know that these can be recycled and/or composted but it is still better to reuse them where possible. I give consideration to the resources that have been used to generate these bags and feel that they deserve to be used as many times as possible.

I seemed to have different types of bags stored in various locations in my home so I recently decided that there needed to be a better and more co-ordinated approach. Hopefully, this will assist in ensuring that what we have can be easily accessed and used as required.

Additionally, the bags I use every day are in the kitchen drawer – ziplock bags and reused bread bags as well as lightweight plastic bags hanging in a dispenser in the laundry cupboard.

I made the new dispenser as the old one had really seen better days. All of the materials were recycled bits retrieved from my stash.

Finally, I created a small pack of bags for the glovebox of each car. A few small ziplock bags, paper bags, lightweight plastic bags and a small foldable carry bag all contained in a medium ziplock bag. The plan is that this will cover all possible unforeseen contingencies when we are out and about.

I am happy with my new arrangements and keen to gradually reduce the quantity of bags in the household through natural attrition rather than wholesale disposal or recycling.

Designed By Me

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Today I made a new peg bag for my laundry trolley. The last one was about 15 years old and worn out. It also also had some serious design flaws – yes, it was another of my creations. At least I was willing to learn from the shortcomings.

This is the old one once I had removed it from the trolley. Once upon a time the fabric was navy and the buttons were red.

I sourced some heavy gauge wire from GMan’s collection along with some wire cutters and pliers to fashion the approximate size and shape of the hanger for the bag.

This piece of heavy cotton fabric was an offcut in my stash and seemed perfect for the purpose.

The hanger shaped and completed.

The next step was to make the bag. Note the mitred corners to create a boxed base. This was an improvement which resulted from my experience of making Boomerang Bags.

Stitched onto the hanger.

Filled with pegs and ready to use.

A closer shot to show the hanger over the handle of the trolley.

I have not specifically mentioned Plastic Free July this year, however, making/upcycling/refashioning things we need is one way that we minimise our use of plastics and other resources all the year round – not just in July.

One For the File

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Do you remember my recent post about making lentil wraps? You can read it here. We have used these predominantly for lunches filled with a variety of spreads and salads.

Last night I decided to use them as a main meal.

I made a filling, rolled the wraps and lay them in an ovenproof dish topped with grated cheese.

As with savoury pancakes, the choices of fillings are almost unlimited. Here is what I did.

FILLING

1 medium onion, diced
250g lean beef mince
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 cup refried beans
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 teaspoon beef stock powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Fry the onion, add the mince and brown. Add remaining ingredients, combine well and simmer gently, stirring regularly until fairly thick. Remove from heat. I also added some chopped spinach. I stirred it through the mixture after it was cooked.

Divide the mixture between 4 wraps. Place filled wraps in ovenproof dish and top with grated cheese. This can now be baked in the oven or heated in microwave and finished under the grill to brown the cheese.

I served the meal with coleslaw and avocado slices.

This made enough for 4 servings so I have enough left for another meal.

Completing the Craft

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When we packed up Mum’s things there were various pieces of craft which were works in progress. Some are out of the range of my skill or interest, however, I have begun work on one particular piece.

I am not sure what Mum’s plans were for this piece of hand-pieced patchwork but I think it may have been going to to be a small wallhanging.

My first step is to complete the quilting. I have never handquilted anything but I am fortunate that Mum had done about 60% of it so I was easily able to follow the pattern. The needle and thread were in the bag with the work so I have been able to easily pick it up where Mum had left off.

Here is a close-up of the stitching.

Knitting was another craft which occupied a lot of Mum’s time in recent years. She enjoyed contributing garments for the local charity, Knitting for Brisbane’s Needy. Naturally, she had a knitting bag. I planned to give this to my younger daughter, however, I discovered that it was not in great condition so I came up with another plan.

Once I have finished the quilting project, I am going to disassemble the bag and use it for a pattern to make a new knitting bag using the quilted patchwork for the side panels of the bag. I will add some plain fabric to complete the project and then my daughter will have a knitting bag constructed using patchwork and quilting that was started by her grandmother and completed by her mother.

I think that will be a pretty neat keepsake as well as a practical piece which she can use for her own knitting projects.

Hang It Up

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For those of you who have been following this blog for a long time or anyone who knows me well, it will come as no surprise to discover that one of my preferred organising methods is hanging things up.

Today I created a solution to a long-standing dilemma. As you would be aware from my last post, I sort my washing into light and dark loads, however, there is another small issue – the handwashing. I know that there are wash bags for delicates, designated wool cycles on the machine and so on but I choose to handwash my bras as well as any woollen or particularly delicate fabrics. Historically, these have always been tossed in the main laundry hamper and sorted out when I come to do a load of washing. Alternatively, they end up languishing on the laundry bench until I am ready.

In among some of my mother’s things were several small wash bags as well as a couple of much larger ones. The zip was broken on of these but I had a plan.

I set to work. 3 small hooks from the stash in the workshop. Installed just below the lower shelf in the laundry cupboard.

I then cut 3 small holes near the top edge of the bag and handstitched the edges to reduce any fraying.

Here is a close-up of my handiwork.

Can you see where this is going? 3 hooks, 3 holes?

The bag is now hanging and ready to hold any handwashing.

With the laundry hamper in place.

A full view of the cupboard which was originally a full-length space which was of limited use to me.

The 2 shelves were added by a builder when we had the laundry renovated about 15 years ago.

I added the upside down hook in 2015 to retain the small ladder.

Today’s addition is pretty much the icing on the cake in terms of storage solutions in this cupboard.

A Continuing Tale

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There is no doubt in my mind that decluttering is a long-term and ongoing project. This post from 2017 explains my thoughts in detail.

I have been a bit under the weather for the past few days with a head cold but am definitely much improved today. Since we were in lockdown until 6pm today, I took the opportunity to do a bit of cleaning, tidying and decluttering. I have really just done the bare minimum at home over the last 4 months while my mother was ill and following her death as there were many other more pressing priorities.

As I noted in another old post from 2015:

“Circumstances are constantly evolving as we welcome children into our homes, they grow and then finally leave home.  Later there may be the addition of grandchildren or the death of a spouse.  All of these things require us to adapt what we have and how we use it.  It is easy for the essentials of one phase of our lives to become the clutter of the future so it is wise to review our needs regularly.”

I am not sure of exactly what prompted me to write that 6 years ago but it is certainly relevant to my current situation. Not only have I acquired items that belonged to my mother but I am also reassessing what we really need.

We have been empty-nesters for close to 16 years, however, during that time the lives and needs of our children have become increasingly separate to us. They are now thoroughly independent adults in their mid-late 30s. Even the grandchildren are moving into their teen years.

The impetus for some of my recent decluttering has been multi-faceted.

Acquisition of items from Mum
Items becoming obsolete due to improved organisation
Need to use the available storage as efficiently as possible
Continuing realisation of how much/little I actually need
Desire to give to others who need items
Considering the possibility of relocating sometime in the future

I don’t have many photos for this post but here is one example of what I have achieved recently.

This is a photo of my laundry cupboard back in 2015.

I had one laundry hamper in the cupboard and another mesh foldable one in our bedroom.

About 3 years ago I relocated the vacuum cleaner to the bottom of the linen cupboard and the space on the left-hand side of this photo was home to the portable dehumidifier. This worked reasonably well except I was not overly thrilled with a basket of worn clothes lurking in the corner of our bedroom.

I recently acquired another mesh foldable hamper from my mother’s belongings and this prompted me to reconsider how things were arranged. The dehumidifier was rehomed to a cupboard under the laundry bench and I then put the 2 matching hampers in the tall cupboard. They are now designated as ‘lights’ and ‘darks’ so I can see at a glance when a particular load needs doing.

The cane hamper is now surplus to requirements.

The lid had long since broken and the lining ripped so I had fashioned a removable liner from an old sheet. I really did not think it would be a highly desirable item, however, I listed in on a couple of local Buy, Swap, Sell groups and had several enquiries almost immediately. It is going to be collected tomorrow.