A New Garden

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There was an area on the southern corner of the house which had been a bit of no-man’s land. At times we had stored excess pavers and sheets of corrugated iron as well as some potted plants waiting to be planted.

A couple of moths ago I began working on cleaning up this area. Any remaining materials were relocated as were most of the plants. I decided to plant the aloe vera plants from multiple pots and edged the area with some rocks.

Then some cardboard to suppress any weed growth.

I had planned to put some mulch over the entire area, however, GMan suggested small rocks. There were plenty in our neighbour’s paddock next door as there was an enormous amount of rock and soil which had washed down from higher up the mountain during the recent heavy rains.

So I set to work.

That was a couple of weeks ago and then I was caught up in other jobs so it was put on hold.

However, this weekend GMan I spent several hours filling and moving buckets of small rocks to finish the area and here is the result.

I am very happy with how it has turned out. I managed to turn an eyesore into a low-maintenance feature. A definite improvement in my opinion.

Staying on Track

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I know that there are many and varied opinions of ‘to do’ lists. I have used them in differing guises and with varying degrees of success over the years.

Now that I am retired there is really not a great deal pressure to get things done. My lists are simply a memory aid more than anything else. I jot down things I think of in the notes section on my phone and while I do not follow it exactly, I do refer to my notes each morning. There always seem to be plenty of things that get rolled over to the next day (or week).

One of the things I had been meaning to do for some time was to make another pair of sock protectors for GMan. Last night I cut out 2 pieces of fabric.

This morning I joined the seam, hemmed the bottom edges and turned a casing and added elastic. It took about 15 minutes of my time and they were done.

Another item ticked off the list.

My list is also very flexible. For example, I had intended to clean the kitchen windows today, however, we woke to high humidity, drizzling rain and low cloud which meant that we could barely see the backyard. It does not seem like the ideal conditions for cleaning windows so I am off to work on tidying my sewing room instead.

How do you plan your day?

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Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Baking Day

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It is over 2 weeks since my last post and I am not really sure why. It is partly because I have been occupied with personal aspects of my life which are not blog material but also I have been somewhat overwhelmed by national and global events which are out of my control.

Anyway, I am back and wanted to share a little of my day from yesterday.

As you may be aware, GMan has been the baker of bread in our house for probably close to 30 years. The breadmaker is an appliance that was a fad for some people and ended up relegated to a storage space to gather dust or the next garage sale. That was not the case here and it has been used consistently here for many years. Our current model is the second one we have owned.

Our bread needs have changed as our daughters left home and the demand for sandwiches diminished. Also, I eat a predominantly gluten-free diet, therefore, regular bread is off the menu.

In the early days GMan used various premixes, however as time has progressed so have his skills. He now makes bread in the breadmaker from scratch. This is mostly restricted to the occasional loaf of fruit loaf which he enjoys.

His main focus now is sourdough which he has researched, studied and perfected in the last 5 years. You can read about one of the earliest results here. Continuing research and a more mature starter have contributed to his current success of which he is justifiably proud.

I am still waiting for him to try a gluten-free starter. Maybe this year……..

Like most people, we are mindful of our power usage, and therefore, the oven is generally used for multiple items when it is turned on. Yesterday was a good example. I also made a loaf of gluten-free banana bread and a batch of gluten-free cheese scones. These are enjoyed by both of us. The scones are the perfect accompaniment to home-made vegetable soup and the recipe is here. I will add the recipe for the banana bread later as yesterday was the first time I had made it.

The last thing I put in the oven was a tray of eggplant slices. These were from our garden and I brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before gently roasting them until soft. They were for the pizza I made for dinner last night. I do not use the oven when making pizza as I have a benchtop pizza maker.

A day in the kitchen was not only about baking but also other food prep (pineapples, bananas and tomatoes) but I will save those stories for another post.

Storage Solutions

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In the eleven years that I have been writing this blog I have intermittently made attempts to organise my photos. Little by little I make some progress. I recently uploaded the entire collection to the cloud but this post is not strictly about the photos.

While I was sorting through them I found random photos I have taken of different storage solutions that work for me. Here is a selection.

Rolls of wrapping paper in a repurposed shoebox.

In the cupboard in the spare room. Various bags sorted into categories for reuse. A beautiful old tin which is full of buttons (also sorted and bagged). A plastic tub of all our CDs. They have all been ripped and saved on the computer but we can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of them.

Folded teatowels in a repurposed timber box which lives in the linen cupboard.

The plastics drawer with containers stacked in piles. This needs maintaining regularly.

The cupboard in the office is constantly evolving.

Storage is not an alternative to decluttering but it does help to be able to maintain a level of organisation. However, I do not advocate rushing out to buy specific matching containers. As these photos show it is possible to utilise various containers that you probably already have available.

Happy Anniversary

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I received a notification yesterday from WordPress that advised me that I have been writing this blog for 11 years. Although I sometimes wonder what to write about I intend to keep going for the foreseeable future. Thank you for reading along.

Meanwhile, the day went on with regular jobs. I did 4 loads of washing, ironed and folded everything, stripped and remade the bed, swept all of the floors and made another batch of spreadable butter. When I cooked the rice for dinner I did extra and have 2 more batches in the freezer.

Tomorrow is another day…………………..

Salvaged From the Snakepit

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Fear not, there are no snakes in this post. The snakepit refers to an undeveloped area surrounded by rocks in our backyard. It was flooded recently along with the whole lower portion of the garden.

This is a rather sad looking specimen of a chilli bush which had came up self-sown in this area. Despite being drowned by a couple of feet of muddy water, the bush appears to have survived and even had plenty of ripe chillies. Today I picked a substantial quantity.

My goal was to make some more of my ‘Tabasco-style’ sauce but it needs 150g of chillies – that is a lot of birdseye chillies. So, I supplemented my haul with more from a couple of other bushes that are in the fenced vegetable garden area.

I ended up with 128g of chillies so reduced the other ingredients slightly to match the reduced quantity of chillies. The recipe is here. Scroll towards the end of the link for the recipe.

The end result was 350ml of my version of Tabasco sauce. The equivalent cost of buying this in the supermarket is about $24. My cost was about 25c and a small amount of time.

Bagging a Bargain

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Most of us are trying to make the most of our grocery budget as food prices seem to be increasing on an almost daily basis. Extreme weather events driven by the impacts of climate change along with global conflicts are combining to disrupt supply chains.

This is the background upon which shoppers are doing their utmost to spend their food budget wisely.

There are not many, if any, items which can regularly be purchased for $1/kg. So, when I spotted Roma tomatoes for $1/kg at our local greengrocer, I took advantage of the bargain. Although the tomatoes were loose on a display stand, I discovered that I could purchase an entire 10kg box for $10. This was too good to pass up.

Here is my haul.

Of course, a bargain is only a bargain if there is no wastage. I have spread the tomatoes out on the kitchen bench and there are no soft spots or blemishes – all absolutely perfect.

Tonight we will have slices of fresh tomato on our pizza. Tomorrow I will make salsa to have with our bean tacos and I am sure they will feature in other meals over the next week. Other than that, I may dehydrate some, make pasta sauce and bottle or freeze them whole.

Making the most of seasonal and often cheaper produce makes good sense as we try to stretch our budget a little further.

After the Flood

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Some of you may have been wondering whether I had floated away. We certainly had a lot of rain but not as much as others in south-east Queensland or in the continuing flood emergency in NSW. My heart goes out to all of those people who have lost homes, businesses, their livelihoods and in some cases, lives. The toll has been tragic and more is yet to be revealed.

We have been interstate for the past week and returned home to the detritus now that the water has receded. Thankfully, this is only our backyard and it will recover. We have very little planted in these areas as we know that it is a natural watercourse and it becomes inundated whenever there is really torrential rain. However, this event was somewhat out of the ordinary and the water remained for several days until it eventually drained away.

Imagine if this thick layer of mud and silt was through your house. I cannot begin to imagine how thousands of residents are facing the massive heartbreak and clean-up.

We have lost the majority of the garden mulch from beside the driveway – most of it is combined with the mud in the photos. A couple of small trees did not survive the onslaught of the water. The mud and mulch will eventually becoming top dressing and the grass will regrow.

Many others are not so fortunate and will need massive assistance to recover and rebuild their lives.

Climate change will continue to make these disasters more extreme and more frequent. We must act decisively and immediately if we are to have any hope of limiting the damage and not condemning our children and grandchildren to an unbearable future.

Making a Statement

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We had a brief moment this afternoon to finish a job I had started last week. GMan helped me assemble this sign and attach it to the top of the pergola adjacent to the footpath. It has a sign on both sides and is positioned so that it can be seen by people travelling in either direction along the road.

I previously had one on a short post close to our driveway, however, person(s) of unknown identity or intent removed and discarded it about a month ago. They probably did me a favour because by looking for a less vandal-prone location I found this much more visible spot.

We also have large stickers on our wheelie bins with the same message.

I know that there are plenty of like-minded people in our town and surrounds judging by the signs I see. Have you seen any?