22 February 2017

An old quilt

Quite a few of you commented on how nice our blue quilt is (see previous post). I've blogged about this before but we must have a lot of new readers here, so let me explain the blue quilt again.  I bought the blue quilt at Ikea a few years ago when I needed a bed covering that hung down to the floor on both sides of our bed.  In winter, we have a top flannel sheet and a doona/duvet but they only hang to the bottom of the mattress. To be really cosy in a winter's night, we need a longer top covering.  The blue quilt is ideal, running from floor to floor over the top of the mattress.


But not to disappoint the quilters out there, I found the first quilt I ever made. I've only made two full quilts and this is the first one; the second was Shane and Sarndra's wedding quilt.  I made this little single quilt in 1980 when Shane was a tiny baby. A year later I had two tiny babies when Kerry was born 12 months after Shane.  I needed a cover to put on the floor so I could put both of them down. As they grew, we used the quilt as a play mat, a tent and a hide away and any number of other things. I think we even used it as a quilt for a while. I haven't seen the quilt for years but found it again this week when I cleaned out the linen press. There it was in all its unpretentious glory, lurking at the back of the cupboard.




As you can see in the photos, the quilt has been well and truly used and it's been washed many times. I don't remember much about its construction, only that in the late 1970s, I bought a bag of pre-cut Laura Ashley patchwork squares and set about sewing them together when Shane was sleeping. The backing is an old brown sheet and all the stitching is done on the machine. It's not made well, it's very simple but it holds a lot of memories for me.  It's in need of repair now with one of the squares frayed and unstitched and all along the edge, signs of wear and age need some sympathetic hand sewing. I'm not going to replace or hide any ageing fabric, the wear is part of the quilt now and I want to keep that, but I will tidy it up and repair the obvious.

This is the Around the World wedding quilt I made for Shane and Sarndra. Tricia helped me piece it together and my DIL Cathy did the machine quilting.

When the quilt has been repaired, I'll return it to its former productive role and use it to protect my off white lounge from the grandkids. I like to use everything I have. Everything I own now has to work for its keep. It should have another 10 years of life left in it, I think I do too, so as soon as it's repaired, I'll put it to work on the lounge and it will be part of my daily life again.

Do you have any of your old handmade quilts still doing service in your home?

19 February 2017

Including the mistakes

This time last year, Hanno and I set off on a three week book tour. We came home feeling happy and optimistic after having met hundreds of people around the country. We were also incredibly tired and it took a couple of weeks to get back to 'normal'. That arrival back home signalled the start of my retirement. I've been retired for almost 12 months now so it's time to think about how I'm going, if changes need to be made and if I can improve on what I'm doing. This kind of self assessment is ongoing because I want to be in control of my life. That doesn't stop the unexpected from happening but when it does happen, it's easier to deal with because I'm working to a plan which is shaped by what's happened in the past and what we need to happen in the future.
I guess the common idea of retirement is to stop paid work and then spend time relaxing with hobbies, travel, family and friends. I stopped working for a living many years ago and I concentrated my time and energy on my home. I reinvented how I lived. Instead of working for money, I worked to reduce the amount I had to spend by making, instead of buying, what we needed. I made a new life for myself by doing that, I became a different person too. The days when money and shopping were the focus of life stopped and a new era of self-reliance and productivity started. The change in mindset ensured success in this new life and I found that I didn't have to penny pinch and become an expert on shopping for bargains because the changes I made pushed me towards becoming productive at home instead. Laundry products were made at home instead of bought at the supermarket, food was grown in the backyard and not always sourced from elsewhere, food wastage stopped, recycling, mending and craftiness replaced the ingrained belief that everything valuable was on sale somewhere.  I discovered that real life and the things I needed to live it, were available right here in my home and I paid for them mainly with my time and effort.
A mis-matched bed is a pure joy to me. We don't need to have matching grey linen sheets with 20 pillows to be comfortable in bed.  All we really need is clean and fresh cotton sheets on a bed that is made every day. 

Now my life has slowed down a lot. I do what I want to do, I express my creativity in a number of ways and I think a lot. And while all that is happening, time seems to be moving faster. I guess it's a byproduct of ageing. Our ages dictate a lot of what we do now. We have to be careful not to get too hot or tired so we work and have breaks, many more than we once did. I think the key to successful ageing is to accept the changes that come your way. That's what I'm doing and it seems to be working. One thing is for sure, ageing isn't for wimps. You have to be tougher than old boots to survive it.

I think the retirement part of my life is working well.  I'm happy to get up every morning. The work I do in my home keeps me interested, I have the opportunity to spend time with my family and friends and I when I look back I feel satisfied with my life and how I spent my time. I can't say I never made mistakes because I made a lot but I did learn from them and I know that I am the woman I am today because of the way I've lived and everything I've done, which includes the mistakes.


So there will be no major reshuffle after this reassessment. I think I'll just keep on keeping on and this week:
  • I'll continue to plan my soon to be planted vegetable garden.
  • I'll try to track down and catch a mouse I saw in the kitchen. Ugh. 
  • I have to put pockets on all my aprons.  This is because we're training Gracie and I need treats/bribes to be close.
  • I'll continue with Alex's jumper that I cast on late last week. I'm shaping the raglans at the moment.
  • I'll set up Pocketbook - a budgeting app.
  • As part of the continuum, I'll continue to focus on needing and using less.
  • And, of course, I'll take time out for myself to think, plan, rest and appreciate what I have. If I don't value myself enough to do that, I might as well give up.
With the seasons about to change I guess there are many of us who are preparing for the coming season. What are you doing this week?

17 February 2017

Weekend reading


It's been a busy week full of simple home tasks, family, dogs and thoughts of changing seasons and what that means for me and my home. Nothing stays the same, that's for sure, and while I look forward to the weekend and next week, it has hit me that it's almost a year since we packed the car and took off for three weeks on the road for our book tour. That time has gone by so fast. It seems like yesterday when I signed that contract and sat down, in 2015, to write the first chapters.

Thanks for your comments and visits this week. I hope you have something good planned for the weekend. We'll have all the grandkids here tomorrow and a day in the garden or planning the garden on Sunday.  I'll see you again next week.  ♥︎

Simple beauty washcloth pattern by Salihan at Ecoyarns.  This is a great tutorial if you're starting out with knitting or crochet or if you just want a simple pattern for easy knitting.
The wonders of afternoon tea - so many good ideas here
Timeless advice on writing
Cutting into hand knits - steeking
Steeking a cardigan
For my overseas readers - Sydney (my home town) webcam
The Great American Baking Show
And finally, my mother studied the piano at the Sydney Conservatorium and was a gifted pianist. Maybe there is some of that in my blood because when I read this, I understood the feeling and the need. I'm smiling at you, Phil.

13 February 2017

A slow busy week ahead

It was 42C on the verandah here yesterday but I believe it was much hotter out west. I'm very grateful we have an air-conditioned house. Last night was one of the few nights since we've lived here that we let the air-conditioner run all night. Yesterday and Saturday were spent mainly indoors after watering the plants and filling up plenty of water troughs for the chooks. These days are bad enough for us but I think how the native animals, birds and insects are faring, especially when their habitats have been wiped out for housing developments.  It's not a wise move to leave food out for native wildlife but it's essential to leave water out in shaded places. Usually it will help keep your local birds and insects hydrated, but on extremely hot days it can be the difference between life and death.

I finished off my shawl on Saturday and cast on a boy's seamless jumper in grey cotton.  We have mild winters here so a cotton jumper generally keeps young bodies warm. It will give me a project to work on when I'm sitting in the lounge room and I'm hoping to have it finished by early July.

Yesterday I made white nectarine jam. Peaces and nectarines are my favourite fruit and it's always a treat to eat them, ripe and cold, during summer. I'm partial to the late season free stone varieties and this year, Hanno found some under-ripe white nectarines for $3 a kilo. They are perfect for jam making so he bought 2 kgs.  Yesterday I made up one batch, netting us two large jars of jam.  I'll make up the others today. Four jars of nectarine jam in the cupboard  won't go far so I looked through my preserves books to see what else I can make from fruit easy to find and not too expensive.






I'd like to have enough jam to do us through the year - even if we have a visit from my sister who is the queen of jam on toast, with tea, for breakfast. Jam is such an easy thing to make and homemade tastes so much better than commercial jam.  In the coming weeks I'll make some dried apricot jam and orange marmalade and I'll be on the lookout for local strawberries in early winter. That should keep us in jam for the entire year.

This will be a big week for Gracie. This afternoon she's going to the groomer to be thoroughly washed and clipped. That is in preparation for her trip to the vet on Wednesday when she'll be spayed.  She's six months old now and the vet recommended that as the best time to carry out the procedure.  She'll have stitches after the operation and I want her nice and clean so she's not too uncomfortable when she's recovering.

Gracie with her teddy bear. She takes it out to the fence to show the chickens.
 And then she brings it back and gently places it in the shade.
 At night she sleeps on her back close to either Hanno or me.

Grace has spent most of the last two days inside the house spread-eagled on the floor in front of the air-conditioner. She goes out early morning, again at lunch time and late afternoon. When she's ready to come back in she barks once at the back door, and we, her servants, wander over to open the door for her.  She devised the system and it's working well. 😃

I have a slow busy week ahead and I'm looking forward to doing a few things in my home as well as planning and mapping out the new season garden that will be planted up in March.  Since we reduced the size of our garden and the number of plants we grow, it's essential to choose the right ones. It's time to sow some seeds in trays in the bush house so when this hot weather ends, we'll be ready to plant our seedlings out in the garden. When I work it out, I'll tell you about our plans for this year's garden.

I hope you all have a lovely week. Take care in the heat and cold, my friends. xx

10 February 2017

Weekend reading


I'm really looking forward to the end of summer so I can get back into baking and doing housework without sweating or needing to sit down afterwards.  Boy oh boy, has this been a hot summer.

Hello to everyone who comes by, I'll see you again next week.  ♥︎

The three questions that every patient should ask their doctor
Gather around the family table
Herbal medicines can have dangerous side effects, research reveals
What to Make of Those Animal-Welfare Labels on Meat and Eggs
Heatwaves to be hotter, longer and more frequent
Australian weather heats up
Dog day afternoons: caring for your pets in extreme heat
How to keep hens safe in a heatwave
And just to show that Australia isn't the only country experiencing extreme weather, here is a video from New York where they had thunder snow.
Room to grow: The garden for generation rent to take with them
Le orecchiette - You Tube
Chocolate chip mint Greek yogurt pops

I'm adding one extra link so we can help Humble Wife with her project.



7 February 2017

Buttermilk chicken and fruit cordial

Here's another recipe that is good to eat in summer or winter. It is started the night before and marinated overnight, the preparation and cooking the following day takes about 30 minutes. You can do a plain version using only salt and pepper or a mild spicy version using the spices below without the chilli, or a hot version, depending on who will be eating it.  This is great hot or cold so it's good for picnics and lunch boxes, particularly wrapped in flatbread with a salad.

The buttermilk tenderises the chicken and usually keeps it moist during the cooking.  I have tried frying the chicken until it's cooked and I've tried oven baking the chicken until it's cooked. The combined frying and baking method works best for taste and visual appeal.

 SPICY BUTTERMILK CHICKEN 
Makes 2 - 3 portions

2 skinless chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk

½ cup plain flour
1 tablespoon paprika
½ tablespoon turmeric
½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Oil for frying

Cut up chicken breasts into large bite size pieces. Don't cut it too small because the chicken will dry out too much. Pour the buttermilk into a sealable plastic bag, move the chicken pieces around until all of them are covered in buttermilk and place the bag in the fridge overnight.





When you're ready to cook, take the chicken out of the bag and put it in a bowl. Discard the buttermilk. Place flour, spices and seasoning in a bowl and roll the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, a few at a time.  When all the chicken pieces are coated, get ready to fry them.

Heat oil in a frying pan and when it's hot, carefully place the chicken pieces in the pan. Fry for about five minutes or until they are a golden colour. You don't want to cook them in the frying pan, you just want them to develop the colour you want when you serve them.

When they're golden, place all the pieces on a small baking tray and pop into a preheated oven on 185C/365F and cook for another 20 minutes. Cut one in half to check they're cooked and remove from the oven.  Cover with foil to keep warm.

  PASSIONFRUIT CORDIAL  
We had an abundance of passionfruit on our vines in December so I made passionfruit cordial with some of the excess.  I know they're expensive in the shops now ($1 - $1.50 each !) but you could also make this using pineapple, mango, berries, citrus juice or a combination of several juices. To make any fruit cordial you make a sugar syrup - equal amounts of sugar and water, add lemon juice or citric acid (from the supermarket) and if you have 2 cups of sugar syrup you add 2 cups of fruit juice. You can make a weak syrup using half the amount of sugar to water if you wish, you can make it with honey but I've never made it so you'll have to do your own research.






This will make up just under 2 litres/quarts.
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 - 3 cups fresh passionfruit pulp
Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan, heat up while stirring, bring to the boil and when the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat.  Allow to cool for a while and add the passionfruit.  We like the seeds here but if you don't want them in your drink, strain them out. Mix throughly and pour into a clean and sterile bottle and seal. It will keep for 4 - 6 weeks in the fridge.

Serve with cold sparkling mineral water and ice.

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