Sunday, 30 July 2017

A Little Serenity

It has been many, many weeks since I walked in this beautiful, serene place. What a joy it was to set foot on the sand again. Step after sandy step, breath after cool breath, beside wave after gentle wave coming in and retreating again. 

A favourite place to walk.

As I walked, the welcome and familiar sound of the sea was beside me. The crash of waves coming in to the beach and that gentle fizz of foam as they retreat is the soundtrack I love to listen to on these walks. No earphones for me! I want to hear nature's "backing track" as I walk, I want to hear and say, "Good morning!" to those I pass and to the fishing folk who try their luck off the beach.

I saw much but I didn't photograph any of it. I didn't want to stop, to break that steady, familiar rhythm that I had settled into. I watched dolphins play offshore, their silvery grey bodies sleek and shiny in the sea. A lone Brahminy Kite soared overhead, her shadow on the sand alerted me to her presence above. Lots of little shells and a few pieces of sea glass were scattered the length of one quiet bay. Playful dogs, barking their happiness and chasing one another across the beach, reminded me just what it means to be carefree and totally absorbed in where one is and what one is doing.

I sometimes bring much that feels heavy to these shores and, at those times, I leave feeling lighter and grateful for the space and time to walk here. This beautiful place offers up to me a little serenity. I thought I would share it with you.


Friday, 21 July 2017

Inspiration in the Show Pavilion

I could spend hours in the pavilion at our local show. The others leave me to wander through happily while they go to find their own bliss. (Rides and ice-cream, of course!) All the homegrown fruits and vegetables, baking, crafts, paintings, photographs and flowers displayed on trestle tables, prize ribbons adorning some but not most, are just so inspiring to me. Here are some of the interesting entries that I found in the pavilion at my local show this year:

A prize winning, knobbly pumpkin.

A spiralling rug knitted from material reclaimed from old T-shirts.

Wedges of delicious shortbread ... I think the judges must have sampled a few!

Lovely colours in pretty crochet work.

A little circle of ripe red cherry tomatoes.

Jars of lemon and passionfruit butters. Mmm! 

A sweet little handmade doll.

A cushion made from repurposed denim. Complete with pocket!

A juicy homegrown grapefruit.

Vibrant crewel embroidery work. 

Gorgeous and fragrant blooms in their individual "vases".

There are so many talented people who live in our community! I always leave with a lots of ideas of what I'd like to grow or make or cook or learn. 

Do you go along to your local community's annual show or fair too?


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Red Lentil, Bacon & Sweet Potato Soup

A nourishing soup on a cold Winter's night, served with toasted sandwiches or some fresh bread and butter, is a simple and warming meal. 

 Soup & Sandwiches

This particular soup is a firm favourite here. It is quick and easy to make from simple and wholesome ingredients. It tastes delicious and freezes well. My recipe is an adaptation on this one for a Lower GI Ham and Red Lentil Soup.

Red Lentil, Bacon & Sweet Potato Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
3-4 rashers bacon, trimmed and diced
3 stalks celery, washed and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1.5 Litres vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
500mLs water
1 & 1/4 cups of red lentils, rinsed and drained
black pepper 

1.  Heat oil in a heavy-based soup pot over medium heat.

2.  Add crushed garlic, onion & bacon to the pot and fry lightly until onion is soft. Stir often.

3.  Add celery and carrot to the pot and cook for few more minutes stirring regularly.

4.  Add stock and water to the pot. Bring to the boil at higher temperature and then reduce 
     heat to medium again.

5.  Add red lentils and sweet potato and simmer (turning heat down if you need to) until 
     lentils and sweet potato are tender.

6.  Season with a little freshly ground black pepper to taste.

7.  Garnish with finely chopped parsley if you wish & serve with fresh bread and butter or 
     perhaps some toasted sandwiches.

When it is cold or frosty outside, a bowl of homemade soup is something to look forward to. I find that the warmth of that soup not only fills our tummies but reminds us too what it is to be safe and warm inside on a cold night. 

 Do you have a favourite Winter soup that you make often for your family?


Monday, 17 July 2017

Sunday's Baking

I often bake in the morning on Sundays. I might make batches of biscuits, little muffins, a simple slice or occasionally a cake of some kind. These are then ready to pop into lunchboxes for the morning and afternoon teas to come during the week ahead. It makes things a little less hectic on weekday mornings!

It was a rainy, cold start to yesterday's Sunday, so while I was baking the oven warmed the kitchen and that tantalising smell of baked goodies wafted throughout our home. This is what I baked, with recipes at the links below each photograph:

(The distinct, spicy smell of these baking is just divine!)

 Simple focaccia with crispy cheese.
(You can top focaccia with cheese or herbs or olives...)

(A healthier version of an old favourite.)

Slice Notes:
I substituted 1/4 cup of brown rice flour for the 1/2 cup almond meal in the slice recipe simply because my son's school in a nut-free zone. I used ordinary, everyday jam instead of the chia jam suggested too and it all worked out just fine.

We ate slices of the focaccia, still warm from the oven, with lunch. It is the first "bread" I have made for a very long time (as I tend to bake flops rather than loaves;)  It was very simple to make so I think it might become a Sunday staple...topped with cheese or maybe herbs or olives and always sprinkled with sea salt. The gingerbread cakes and the slice were "sampled", of course, before being whisked away from my rather enthusiastic taste testers. 

Do you bake on Sundays? What do you make for the week ahead?


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Here & Now 14

Here, our mid-Winter days are short and cold now. Much colder in comparison to our scorching Summers. Winter's contrast to the heat, the dry and the light of Summer is perhaps what I love most of all about this season of the year. It seems a gentler season somehow.

Tiny blueberry blossoms

A little knitting.

A warm salad.

Delicate rose petals.

Loving //  The favourite and familiar songs that have filled our house and set me to remembering.
                        (Like this beautiful acoustic from the ever-talented Finn Brothers.)
Eating //   Warm Winter salads like this one made with homegrown and roasted beetroots.
Drinking //  Frothy hot chocolates ... now with marshmallows!!
Feeling //  Exhausted as our son has had pneumonia and we are all tired.
Making //  A set of these washcloths in soft colours.
Thinking //  Soon, there will be blueberries!
Dreaming //  Of Millford Sound, in New Zealand, where I have never been.

In the garden, the soft and delicate petals of the old-world Duchesse de Brabant roses are unfurling. The bees land on them and then make their way to the hidden centres to find their pollen. Imagine being enclosed in rose petals like that!

 Going in ...

... and coming back out again!

This is our Here & Now. If you'd like to share too, then you can click on the link and join in with Sarah over at Say, Little Hen. There is always many beautifuls to find there.


Monday, 10 July 2017

Cockatoo Capers

These cheeky characters entertained us for quite a while yesterday. We first heard the distinctive screeching of these Sulphur Crested Cockatoos off in the distance before they landed, with loud commotion, on our verandah. They seemed not the least bit perturbed by our inquistive presence and interest in their shenanigans. They were quite happy to pose for photographs before flying off to a nearby gum tree. Cheeky!

A cheeky trio of cockatoos!

 An inquisitive fellow.

Pure white feathers and a little yellow crest.

Perched together in a gum tree.

I suspect this trio of cheeky birds may be interested in the still unripe passionfruit on our vine. In previous years, they have plundered our passionfruit, taken the still green fruits up on to our roof, had a nibble and then sent the remains tumbling down the "alleys" of our corrugated roof like bowling balls. What a racket!

These cockatoos are a noisy native bird but I love seeing them here. I don't mind paying for such entertainment in passionfruits ... as long as they leave a few for us!


Friday, 7 July 2017

Nourishing Winter Breakfasts

An early morning storm is rolling through, the sky is dull and grey and the horizon invisible behind the cloud. It began as a gentle pattering on the roof, in keeping with the forecast showers, but it wasn't long before we heard thunder rumbling in the distance and the rain began bucketing down. The cold has settled in around us and will probably linger after such a damp and chilly start.

Just the type of morning for porridge! Topped with little blueberries and the distinct sweetness of a swirl of maple syrup, it's delicious. There are other breakfasts that we love just as much:

You can top it with any berries you like or a banana or add some coarsely chopped nuts.

Creamy avocado & feta on toast with last night's leftover roasted veggies.
(You can also make Bubble & Squeak with leftover roasted veggies too:)

(Toasty, warm and delicious on a cold morning with a warm drink.)

Omelette with the goodness of eggs, greens from the garden & leftover roasted veggies. You could add toast, bacon or some baked beans on the side, of course!

(You begin these the night before & bake the next morning for a warm start to the day.)

All of these breakfasts are a nourishing and filling way to start a Winter's day...or any day really. Perhaps you'll be able to make yourself a hearty breakfast or two this coming weekend. Perhaps someone could even be persuaded to make it for you and serve it to you in bed on a tray with a warm cuppa and the day's newspaper (Now, I'm getting ahead of myself!). 

Have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Beautiful Beetroot Salad

Homegrown beetroot is something special. Plump, purple and full of earthy flavour ... so very different to the beetroot that comes in a tin! With some of our fresh beetroots, harvested this past weekend and roasted until tender, I made this beautiful beetroot salad. It was full of flavour and goodness. Delicious!

Beautiful Beetroot Salad

The main ingredients of Emma Jansen's recipe for Roasted Pumpkin, Beetroot, Chickpea & Feta Salad were the inspiration for this version. The main difference is that I used marinated feta and the herby marinating oil for the dressing. This is how it came together:

Roast beetroots and pieces of pumpkin until tender.
(See note below on how to roast beetroot.)

Rinse and drain 1 tin of chick peas & put in a salad bowl.

Crumble pieces of a marinated feta & mix with chickpeas.

Lightly steam broccoli florets until bright green but still crisp & add to salad bowl.

Mix in pieces of roasted pumpkin.

Peel & then cube roasted beetroots & put into a separate dish.

Drizzle over dressing, toss to coat salad & serve with pieces of roasted beetroot on top.
(See note below on how I made dressing.)

I haven't written exact quantities because, with a salad like this, you can put in as much or as little as you like. I used half a decent sized pumpkin, 4 large beetroots, a fair bit of feta (because I love it) and 1 small head of broccoli. You can tweak those amounts to suit, you could add fresh baby spinach leaves instead of broccoli, you could experiment with the marinating oils you use for different flavours too.

Dressing:  Blend together 1/4cup of the herby oil from the marinated feta, squeeze in juice of half a small lemon or lime, add a few teaspoons of Pomegranate molasses (or you could use balsamic vinegar) and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mmmm...

How to Roast Beetroot:  Cut the stems of each beetroot to around 2cm. Wrap each unpeeled beetroot in foil. Bake in oven, at 180C, until tender. You know they are ready when you can poke a skewer through the foil and easily into the beetroot.

I'm so glad I planted many beetroots this year. I'll be making this salad (and versions of it) as long as there is fresh beetroot coming in from the garden. YUM!


Monday, 3 July 2017

Behind Our Blue Gates 1

It's been quiet here of late. Beyond our blue gates, the world hurtles on, but days here have felt gentler and slow. School holiday days. Most have unfolded with very few set plans, content to be here enjoying the place we call home. The temperatures have dropped the past few days, the first single digit readings of the season. Playing and gardening outside, when the sun is on the yard and on our shoulders, coming in earlier before the evening's chill settles in. Warming foods, cosy blankets, jumpers and socks and slippers. This morning even gloves! Winter at our place. Here's a sample of what's been happening behind our blue gates:

The lavender is in fragrant bloom in the garden.

The branches on the Plane Trees are not yet bare.

Board game "battles" have been won and lost.

We've been sharing this book while snuggled under warm covers.

Freshly baked buttermilk scones, with jam and cream,  have been "sampled".

Many trays of this Pumpkin & Silverbeet Lasagna have been baked.
(We have a LOT of silverbeet in the garden to eat!)

Cakes have been mixed and stirred up at the kitchen bench.

Sir Steve dog had an operation to remove a growth on his lower right eyelid.
(He is most unimpressed with the collar protecting his few stitches!)

This spot in our garden, where our son's sandpit used to be, is slowly being transformed.

 The Perpetual Spinach is going to seed ...

... and so is the basil!

There are not a lot of crafty projects to show you. I seem to have been busy with other things and whenever I do pick up my knitting needles or embroidery threads, I seem to put them down again almost straight away. Never to mind though, when that crafting bug does return, I will have plenty of half finished projects to choose from!

What's been happening behind the gates at your place?