The Pandemic Pantry

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…………and refrigerator and freezer.

There are several reasons why we may need to be able to create meals from what we have on hand rather than rushing off to the shops for a particular ingredient. During the current pandemic there is a chance that any of us may be quarantined or supply lines disrupted.

Therefore, it is beneficial to maintain a selection of shelf-stable goods that can form the basis of basic meals.  A refrigerator allows us to keep perishable foods but during times like this it may not be possible to restock perishable items on a regular basis.  Finally, a freezer can be useful for storage of a variety of foods, including processing gluts of fruit and vegetables.  These may be sourced from your own garden or when you have taken advantage of seasonal bargains.

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Tonight we had a large shared serving of nachos.  Corn chips and canned tomatoes from the pantry teamed with a jar of refried beans from the freezer and some grated cheddar cheese and we had a filling meal.  I make the refried beans from dried kidney beans.  The recipe is here.  They are really versatile and can be used in a number of ways.

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We do not usually have dessert every night so this was a bit of a treat.  We currently have an abundance of eggs from our chickens as well as a steady supply of lemons and the oven would be turned on for the nachos…………..so, I made a Lemon Delicious pudding.  It is a relatively simple combination of butter, sugar, flour and milk along with the eggs and lemon.  Recipe is here

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What is in your pantry?

 

 

 

 

Making a Mask

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**DISCLAIMER**  Everything written in this post is based on my experience and the best information I can source.  It is general information only and should not be taken as medical fact.

If you had seen this blog title a year ago you would have assumed that I had an invitation to a masquerade ball.  Fast forward to March 2020 and many of us are thinking of some sort of protective mask.  A couple of months ago in Australia, it was bushfire smoke and now it is coronavirus.

Wearing a mask is no substitute for practising ‘social distancing’ which means keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and any other person when you are out in public or preferably, staying at home as much as possible.

A homemade, cotton fabric mask does not offer the same level of protection as masks manufactured as ‘fit for purpose’.

This article lists different types of masks and their intended purpose, cost and effectiveness as well as some general information on mask-wearing and control measures.

Due to the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, masks seem to be in short supply and people for whom they are not necessary or recommended should not be buying them.

If I don’t need to be wearing a mask why did I make some?

  • I am currently healthy but that may change
  • I will not feel like making masks if I am ill
  • A cotton mask worn correctly will reduce my risk if I have to leave my home for essential tasks
  • Wearing a mask will remind me not to touch my face when I am in public
  • A mask is a visual reminder to others to keep their distance

How to wear/use a mask:

  • Wear it once
  • Wear it over your mouth and nose – not around your neck or on top of your head
  • For maximum effectiveness masks should be changed every 20 minutes or after sneezing, coughing or talking
  • Handle only by the elastic/ties when removing after use
  • Disposable masks should be discarded as soon as removed
  • Reusable masks should be contained immediately in a lidded bucket, thoroughly washed and dried in sunlight

So, you want to make masks for you and your family?

There are many, many links, instructions and tutorials.  Like all instructions, they vary enormously in the detail and quality.  Furthermore, some do not look as though the finished product would be of any use at all while others are so complex that they would be beyond they capability of many people.

As a retired operating room nurse, I am very familiar with the general size and construction of a mask as I wore one every day of my working life for over 30 years.  Therefore, I had several features in mind which I felt would make it as effective as possible under the circumstances:

  • Ties instead of elastic loops
  • Pleats to assist in contouring it to my face
  • Wire to conform over the bridge of the nose
  • Several layers of fabric
  • Tightly woven cotton fabric for the outer layer

I found this link which met my criteria.

I made 2 alterations to what is in the instructions:

  • The ties on my mask are only 36 inches in length rather than the 54 inches recommended.  That was the length of bias binding I had available and it works well for me.  You need to be guided by the size of the head of the intended wearer but you definitely do not want to be hampered by excessively long ties.
  • I added an additional layer to make a total of 3 – outer layer is a strong, tightly-woven cotton, middle layer is very fine, lightweight cotton and the inner layer (next to my face) is used cotton sheeting which is very soft and non-irritant.

The fabric you choose is important.  A tightly woven outer layer will provide the best physical barrier while the inner layer should be soft and comfortable against your skin.  If you add an extra layer keep it fairly lightweight otherwise it will be too bulky and sewing the pleats will be difficult.

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I bought a roll of plant tie wire from Bunnings for the wire to conform over the bridge of the nose but any plastic-coated twist tie would be suitable.  Be sure to turn the ends over and flatten them.

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Remember, a mask may be an adjunct in preventing the spread of COVID19 when used properly and in conjunction with effective handwashing and keeping your distance as far as possible.

The better a mask fits, the more effective it will be.  It must completely cover your mouth and nose at all times when you are wearing it.  A neat fit, without being tight, over the bridge of your nose, under your chin and in front of your ears is desired.

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Please take care and stay safe.

 

 

 

Buying with Purpose, Not Panic

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There has been a lot written in recent days about people panic buying everything from toilet paper to rice, pasta and Panadol.

We have plenty of foodstuffs and have continued to top-up more perishable items like cheese and butter.  Today I did my small version of panic-buying.  This was prompted when I broke a sewing machine needle yesterday.  I went to the drawer to get out another and found that it was the last of my regular machine needles.  I still had some heavy-duty ones which are designed for jeans and heavy fabrics like denim.

Here is the result of what is likely to be one of our last forays into the shops apart from a basic weekly (or less) grocery shop.

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Spotlight for 3 packs of sewing machine needles, a new pastry brush and a couple of packets of seeds from Bunnings.  The needles should last me for many years but the prospect of being stuck at home with piles of potential sewing and no needles was too much to bear.  In the past few days the media has been reporting that seeds and seedlings are being cleared out everywhere.  My own experiences this week would make me agree with that assessment.  GMan offered the observation that you can’t eat sweet peas!  However, they are one of my favourite flowers, they make me happy and it is the right time to plant them so they came home with me.

Then it was off to another Bunnings as GMan continued his quest (unsuccessfully) to purchase a new wheelbarrow.  We checked out the garden section and were surprised and delighted to find plenty of vegetable seedlings.  I think there must have been a very recent delivery so I took advantage of this and bought punnets of cauliflower, celery, pak choy and eggplant seedlings as well as a well-established capsicum plant.

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The cauliflower, celery and pak choy seedlings had not been thinned out so I did that when we arrived home and found that I ended up with 29 cauliflower seedlings and 24 each of celery and pak choy seedlings.  I am now keeping my fingers crossed that they all survive.

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I hope to share and swap some of these seedlings with others in my extended family so that we can all benefit from nutritious, home-grown produce.

All About Ants

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We had mushroom risotto for dinner but this post is not about a recipe.  As I was beginning to prepare the meal, I went to the pantry for arborio rice and stock powder and discovered…………..ants!  They seemed to be everywhere on one particular shelf and I quickly traced the source to a sticky patch near the jar of honey.  Thankfully, there were no ants in the honey.

Cleaning out and re-arranging the pantry was on my mental ‘to do’ list but it was hastened by the events of this evening.  While the risotto was simmering I set to work.  Since the pantry is relatively modern with melamine shelves, I just needed a cloth and plenty of hot water.  In order to speed up the drying process I used a hair dryer.

Naturally, a bit of rearranging was required and I completed the 2 affected shelves plus the floor of the pantry.

Here is the result – 2 shelves done.  I still need to tidy and sort the 2 undershelf drawers.  The top one contains herbs and spices and the lower one is various seasonings and other small containers.

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On the floor is a paper bag for storing potatoes, a box of the excess of homemade tomato sauce, marmalade, jam, chutney and worcestershire sauce, the attachments for the food processor (stored on the shelf above) and a large stockpot.

The are 2 higher shelves which the ants had not invaded so I have saved them for tomorrow as well.

Here is a before photo.

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Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this post I decided to check my blog reader and there was a post from my dear friend, Julia, on the other side of the world.  Her post was more appropriately titled, Spring Cleaning the Cupboards and contains some great information about ‘Best Before’ dates.

As we are choosing to curtail our social interactions during the COVID-19 outbreak there will be plenty more posts on jobs I catch up on around the house.

 

 

An Anniversary and A Virus

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It is now 8 days since my last post and in the intervening time I have passed a significant milestone – the 9th anniversary of this blog.  My very first post was 12th March 2011.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge.  GMan and I have both retired.  We have lost both of our elderly pets.  Our eldest granddaughter who was a 3 year old at daycare is now at high school.  There have been birthdays, holidays, deaths and an assortment of celebrations.  Skills have been acquired, friendships made, issues addressed, gardens planted and recipes made.

However, nothing I have written about is anywhere near as important as the current global pandemic of COVID-19 virus.  Very few countries have been left unscathed.  In fact, Australia has seen a doubling of reported cases in just 2 days – from 150 to 300.

It seems that the best chance we have of ‘flattening the curve’ is social distancing.  In order to do this large gatherings of greater than 500 are banned.  For example, there will not be spectators at football matches.

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Working from home is being encouraged.  Since GMan and I do not have work commitments, we have chosen to limit our social interactions.  This will not only protect us but assist in reducing community transmission.  The more people that restrict their movements the greater the chance that the increase in cases can be slowed.  The primary reason for this strategy is to ensure that our health system can cope with the influx of cases.

If you are going to stay home as much as possible, you need to consider not only your physical needs but also your mental health.  Food and other essential consumable items are important but you need to give consideration as to how you will spend your time.  Naturally, it will depend on your individual circumstances.  We are very lucky to have small acreage so outdoor activity is definitely still an option.  I will be sewing, gardening and cooking.  The focus will be on cooking from scratch and making do with what I have.  Check out this link on the blog.

I am grateful for my relaxing retreat right here at home.

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Whatever is going on and however we deal with it, don’t forget those around you.  Everyone has different needs and priorities.  Just within my smallish extended family, there are people who are elderly, sole traders, single parents, students, homeowners, renters and residents of retirement villages.  Each person is impacted differently.

These are unprecedented times.  This post was written almost 9 years ago.  While this is a very different scenario with the presence of a new virus in our midst, the message remains the same.  Take care of yourself.  Look out for others.  Above all, be kind and considerate.

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A Celebration

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Today, 8th March is International Women’s Day.  It was designated in 1913 and celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

It is day to remember the women who came before us.

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And those who have their whole lives ahead of them.

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As well as those closest to me – my mother, sister and daughters who all mean so much to me.

I hope you have an amazing day, whatever you are doing.

 

Growing Up

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One way to maximise the growing space you have available is to consider vertical gardening.  There are fancy prepared kits, DIY pallet gardens or you can simply choose to attach containers to an existing wall or fence.

Even though we have an extensive garden area there are always opportunities to grow plants in a vertical manner.  It may be to contain a vigorous climbing pant, create a screen or to make it easier to pick produce.

Here are some examples from our garden at the moment.

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Stake pyramid with twine and the snake beans heading upwards.

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More beans, this time with a trellis made from some leftover reinforcing mesh.

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Cherry tomatoes trained and tied to the perimeter fence of the vegie garden.

Vertical gardening is not just confined to food crops.

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Here is the mandevilla making its way up the side of the freestand pergola entrance to the garden.  We have 2 planted on each side of the structure and in time they will cover it entirely.