Why Did We Wait?

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We have lived in this house for almost 14 years and made various changes to both the interior and exterior of the house.  The kitchen, laundry and bathroom have had major upgrades.  Windows, external cladding, verandah railings and flooring have all been replaced as well as the outdoor staircase.  The entire interior of the house has been painted, floor coverings replaced and built-in wardrobes added.

But apart from buying timber venetian blinds for 2 of the front windows we have never had any window coverings.  It has not really been a necessity from a privacy point of view since we live on a small acreage with no close neighbours.

However, the combined lounge/dining room has quite a large expanse of windows and we do find that it makes the room quite cold on winter evenings and I would love to be able to draw the curtains to cover the glass and make it feel more cosy.

We did not do anything about it initially as we knew that we would replace the old windows.  The upgraded windows are louvres and one section of them is quite close to the slow-combustion heater so I was unsure as to what sort of window treatments would work best.  Hence, winter would come and go each year and still the inertia and indecision remained.  This is a post on the same subject from 2011.

The combination of a few cold nights and some free time once I had finished work meant that I decided to check out a relatively local business, Custom Curtains and Shade at Beerwah.  It is barely a month since we first ventured to the showroom where we discussed a couple of different fabric and colour options  A few days later we had a measure and quote, decided on our choice of fabric and today the finished products were installed.

Here is the result and I really do not know why we procrastinated for so long before deciding to get the Roman blinds for this room.

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After almost 14 years the living area now looks ‘complete’ to my satisfaction.

Local and Leftovers

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There has been quite a bit happening here as we prepare to leave for our holiday in less than 2 weeks.

However, some things remain consistent and preparing meals is one of them.  They are not overly fancy but here is a quick snapshot of some of our recent food.

This was my Sunday brunch.  Omelette with stir-fried cabbage and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.  Apart from the seasonings (salt, pepper and smoky paprika), everything was sourced within 20 metres of my kitchen.  No chemicals, no packaging and no transport costs.  This is not feasible for every meal or even every day but it is quite exciting when it happens.

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Then there are leftovers.  On Saturday evening we had Mexican quinoa followed by satay chicken and vegetable stir-fry the next night.  So last night was leftovers – a multi-cultural taste sensation!  They are not flavours I would generally combine but it was a wholesome and satisfying meal.

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Note that there was cabbage in the stir-fry.  When you have several home-grown cabbage it goes into pretty well everything.  There is no photo but we also recently had baked potatoes with salad and a generous serving of coleslaw.

As a change from cabbage, today I picked these 2 beautiful heads of broccoli.  I steamed the florets of broccoli then made a tuna and tomato (with a touch of chilli) sauce to pour over them and finished with cheese and flaxseed meal topping.  A few minutes under the grill and I served it with some rice.

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There will probably be a few creative meals in the next week or so as we try to use up what is on hand as well as in the garden.

Not Quite the Deckchairs

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‘Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ is a phrase which is often used to describe a futile action in the face of impending catastrophe. 

Far from being a futile exercise, I have been rearranging furniture recently.  As we continue to gradually reduce our possessions we have less need for storage.  Bookshelves/display units are a perfect example.

A few years ago we had 2 of these shelves filled with books.  One was sold a couple of years ago and the other is going to a new home today.

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When we seriously downsized the number of books we had a couple of years ago, this shelving unit became useful storage for sewing fabrics and projects.

The sewing is now housed in this large IKEA cube unit which was previously a display unit/bookshelf in the lounge room.

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Here is a closer look at the sewing table which is ‘new’ to me.

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This white laminate desk came from my daughter as it does not fit in her new accommodation.  I was very happy to have it to replace the folding trestle table which I have used as a sewing table for many years.  This one is more compact and suits the decor of the room but, most importantly, it is solid and does not shudder when I am using the sewing machine at fast speeds.

Additionally, there were 2 smaller IKEA cube units in the lounge room originally which have since been moved around.  One of them spent some time in the sewing room and the other as a stand for the television before we gave one to our daughter and the other became the bookshelf in the library.

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The other smaller cube unit has recently come back from our daughter as she no longer needs it.  So, back to the lounge room it went.

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The other significant piece of furniture in the lounge room is the television stand.  This was made by my father about 60 years ago from then-salvaged silky oak.  I had it restored and modified slightly a couple of years ago and it now has pride in the lounge room.

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I am pleased that nothing has been wasted and many pieces have been able to be repurposed by thinking laterally whilst reducing our overall possessions.

 

Cooking Dinner

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Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cooking.  However, I do not necessarily want to set aside an extended period for meal preparation every single day.  Therefore, making a larger quantity than required of some meals will save time and energy at a future time.

It also makes sense when turning the oven on to make it worthwhile.  Past generations would probably have popped in a batch of scones or a cake or baked dessert but that is not always required so a bigger batch of a meal makes sense.

Tonight I made vegetable kofta from a recipe I found some years ago in a magazine from the local Co-op food store.  I have adapted it somewhat from the original in that I do not saute the vegetables, I bake the balls rather than frying them and make slightly bigger balls than suggested.  Additionally, I doubled the mixture tonight.

Vegetable Kofta

1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup of grated sweet potato
1 cup of finely shredded cabbage
2 cups of grated cauliflower
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups chickpea (besan) flour

Combine shredded vegetables.  Combine all dry ingredients and add to vegetables.  Stir to mix thoroughly.  Add a little more flour if required.  NOTE:  The mixture will be quite wet but that is fine.  Form into balls and place on greased tray and bake at 180C for about 15 minutes.  (I turned mine after about 10 minutes).

Here they are on the tray and ready to go in the oven.

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I served them with a spicy tomato sauce (pasta style) on a bed of rice for a satisfying dinner.

They are versatile and can make a yummy lunch with a side salad or as an appetiser with tsatziki dip.

Newly Retired

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Blog posts have been few and far between over the last 6 months as I navigated the countdown to retirement.  I had previously managed to successfully combine the running of a household with full-time work but once I could see the end in sight I tended to put several things on the back burner so that I could focus on tying up as many loose ends as possible in my job as well as training my successor.

So, my last day in the office was Thursday 4th July, otherwise known as Independence Day.

I searched for a suitable retirement image but nothing sums it up better than this photo.  We now have the time to explore our own backyard as well as further afield and simply enjoy being surrounded by scenery like the amazing Glasshouse Mountains.

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The past 3 weeks have been an absolute revelation.  You do not have to be constantly busy.  It is OK to take your time.  What does not get done today will be done tomorrow.  It has been a huge relief to feel the pressure fall away.

The first week of retirement coincided with school holidays so we had our granddaughters visiting for a few days and managed some outings and activities with them.

Since then I have caught up on sleep – no more 5am starts, exercised – walking each day and socialised – lunch with school friends, morning tea with cousins and several more lunches planned as well as a gallery visit.

Catching up on appointments is much easier without having to juggle them around work.  Dentist, optometrist, financial planner, tax agent and so on.

On the home front, meals are prepared, rooms cleaned and washing done with the minimum of fuss.  I am doing some sewing, too.

Meanwhile, we are putting the finishing touches to the plans for our next overseas trip.  We leave in a little over 3 weeks and have a couple more train trips to book.

That is only a brief overview but suffice to say that I am not bored.

I plan to share more details of the day to day activities now that life is running at a much more reasonable pace.

Thank you for sticking with me during the very lean blogging periods.

 

A Golden Oldie

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Prompts from several different sources inspired me to make a Lemon Delicious pudding yesterday.

First, a Facebook group post encouraged members to make a post recipes for a childhood favourite food.

Second, my brother, sister and brother-in-law were coming for dinner.  What better, than to share a dessert from our common childhood memories?

Third, another Facebook group discusses how our grandparents lived, including cooking and preparing food.

I had not made Lemon Delicious since 2012 when I began eating a gluten-free diet, however, I was not going to let that stop me.

I have posted the recipe for Lemon Delicious on the blog previously.  See here.  Unfortunately the photos have disappeared from the old post and I am unable to retrieve them.

So, here it is again – with the addition of the gluten-free option.

LEMON DELICIOUS

1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour (use gluten-free flour if required)
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add flour, juice and rind.  Mix well.  Separate the eggs, add yolks and milk to mixture.  Place the whites in a separate bowl and beat until stiff.  Fold the beaten egg white into the mixture.  Pour into an ovenproof dish.  Stand the dish in a tray of water (about 2-3cm deep) and place in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is firm to touch and golden.

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The finished product is like a lemon self-saucing pudding.  This can be served warm or cold with ice-cream, cream or custard.

NOTES:

As a nod to past generations, I did not use my Kitchen Aid mixer to cream the butter and sugar.  I used a bowl and tablespoon – hard but satisfying work.  I also beat the egg whites using a hand-held rotary beater.  The results were equally as good as any I have made previously using electric appliances.

The ‘sauce’ of the pudding was somewhat thicker than other efforts and I think this was probably due to using gluten-free flour which does tend to absorb more moisture.  I would probably ad the juice of another half a lemon in order to rectify this.  Despite this, the pudding was extremely well-received by the dinner guests and I will definitely be making it again before too long – especially as the lemon trees are absolutely laden with fruit.

 

Scones? Yes, please.

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I have never had a great deal of success baking scones but when you add the requirement to be gluten-free into the mix it really becomes a challenge.

A few years ago I acquired this book and I have mastered the scones.  I think the trick is the flour blend which is explained in the beginning of the book.

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I use the following to make 1kg of plain gluten-free flour and use the Kitchen Aid mixer to thoroughly blend the flours before storing in an airtight container.

340g brown rice flour
340g potato starch
200g arrowroot
120g quinoa flour

Here is the original scone recipe from the book.

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Please note that it has 900g of flour so makes a large batch.  I make a half mix because that is what will fit in my mixer.  A half mix makes 16 large scones using my method.

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As usual, I have adapted both the recipe and the method.  I make savoury cheese scones to serve with homemade soup but there is no reason that you could not make sweet scones.

CHEESE SCONES

400ml warm milk
40g psyllium husk

450g gluten-free flour blend (see recipe above)
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese

2 eggs
20ml apple cider vinegar

130g butter

Combine milk and psyllium and set aside. Combine dry ingredients and cheese.  Grate/shred the cold butter into the flour mixture.  Add the eggs and vinegar to the psyllium mixture then add to the flour mixture.  Combine until you have a soft dough.  I use the Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this but can be done by hand.

I use a 20cm x 20cm square tin lined with a silicone sheet and press the scone dough into the tray.

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Using a knife dipped in flour, cut into 16 portions.  These cuts will not remain throughout the baking process but will be a guide for the second part of the baking.  Brush with milk and bake at 180C for about 15 minutes.  The scones will not be completely cooked yet.

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Remove from the oven, lift from the pan and lay on a flat baking tray.  Using the original cuts as a guide, recut the scones and arrange on the tray with the centre ones (least cooked) on the outside and bake for another 10 minutes approximately.  Make sure the scones are spread out to allow them all to fully cook.

Whilst this is far from a ‘traditional’ scone recipe or method, it does provide a very acceptable gluten-free alternative which most people who do eat gluten are more than happy to eat.