Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Close to Trees

The late afternoons of this Winter are balmy and beautiful. I love to take Sir Steve dog for a stroll, ambling along the bike paths and footpaths at his pace, his nose forever sniffing the tree trunks and grass while my eyes look up to the treetops.

The golden, mellow light highlights the eucalypts and paperbarks; a soft glow that signals the evening is not far away. I love the shapes of branches and leaves set against the sky and the shadows, cast by straight, tall trunks, as the sun begins its descent.

A paperbark down by the creek. 

Leaves in light and trunks in shadow.

Tall gums touched by late afternoon light.

Golden treetops along the path towards home.

The trees we walk by and under, and the forest that begins on the ridge close by, make it feel as though we live far from the bustle of the city here. Cooling our little pocket of suburbia, shading our streets and paths, cleansing our air, providing a home for native wildlife and connecting us to nature. Without these trees, our place wouldn't be the same.


Monday, 28 August 2017

Late Winter Walk Around the Garden

We've had some bursts of unseasonal heat here and then some strong, Westerly winds blew in so things are feeling quite dry. Glad that I mulched heavily early in Winter as the soil is moist still underneath. I've been thinking ahead to Springtime; to what I need to do in the garden and what I would like to grow for our table.  

Cherry tomatoes from a volunteer tomato plant...destined for our salad bowl!

Yesterday, I felt well enough (I'm getting over the flu) to prune back the passionfruit vine, pull out some spent basil plants and lay some compost and manure down around the drip line of our avocado tree. I need to cut the last of the Winter lettuce I've grown, pick a few bunches of sweet peas, collect Calendula seeds and unearth the baby potatoes that are ready in the grow bags I've used for spuds this year. 

Seeds to save from the sunshine yellow Calendulas.

Bright green lettuces are ready to eat.

Very pretty pink Sweet peas make for lovely posies!

Baby potatoes are waiting under the soil in this Grow Bag.

Soon I'll prepare the main veggie patch for Spring planting. I want to grow more lettuce (always lettuce!), different varieties of cucumbers, spring onions, cherry tomatoes in pots, try my luck with some capsicums and grow many bee-friendly flowers! Soon, the blueberries will be ripe too and I can't wait to eat those!

It won't be long and these will be ripe, delicious and blue!

I loved being out in the warm sunshine yesterday, feeling quite content to wander the garden and dream about the form it will take this coming Spring. There's much to enjoy in the garden and always so much to look forward to!

 A vibrant Zinnia has sprung up through the mulch.

The native iris is in flower along the side fence.

A gorgeous deep red geranium is in bloom.

What are you planning for your garden in the coming season?


p.s. Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes after my last post. I am feeling much better, still a little croaky and tired, but thankful to be up and around again!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Very Slow Days Indeed

Things have come to a grinding halt around here as this Winter's flu has taken hold. For well over a week now, the energy and will to do anything much at all has escaped me. Illness is one of those times in life when the tide is out, when our energies ebb and we wait for that wellness to return. Very slow days indeed!

 The scent of these little flowers perfumes the garden.

A soft and creamy-coloured washcloth.

Homemade pumpkin soup with a swirl of cream! 

A walk in the garden in the warm sun, a favourite show while tucked up on the lounge under a warm blanket, a spot of knitting now and then, a bowl of nourishing soup when I've felt like eating, reading a few pages and posts while propped up on my pillows, some quiet music and a LOT of sleep.  A gentleness and slowness that is just what's needed!

I hope my post finds you well but, if not, I hope that you are going slowly about your days and being gentle with yourself too.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Simple Cereal Slice

Another weekend ... another simple slice! Just a few basic ingredients, together with crushed wheat breakfast biscuits (and the saved crumbs from the bottom of the cereal packet) is all you need to make this Simple Cereal Slice. Afternoon tea will be ready in a jiffy!

Squares of Simple Cereal Slice.

This is another slice my Mum would make often and that I learned to cook as a young girl. The recipe comes from my well-used copy of "Day to Day Cookery" with a few of my 'adjustments' here and there. Here's how I made it:

Simple Cereal Slice

1 cup flour (white spelt or plain)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 wheat breakfast biscuits + saved crumbs from bottom of cereal packet)
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/3 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
150g melted butter

1.   Preheat oven to 180C. Line a slice tray.

2.   Sift flour and baking powder together into a mixing bowl.

3.  Crush wheat breakfast biscuits under a rolling pin until fine crumbs. Add to mixing bowl.

4.   Mix coconut and brown sugar in to other dry ingredients.

5.   Melt butter over gentle heat in small saucepan. 

6.   Make well in centre of dry ingredients in your mixing bowl and pour in melted butter.

7.  Mix until slice ingredients well combined.

8.   Press mixture firmly into bottom of slice tray.

9.   Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned.

10. Cool before icing. (You can make a simple lemon icing or melt a little white chocolate to
      spread over the top.)

11. Cut your slice into fingers and share with everyone ☺

This is such a quick and easy slice to make. It's great too for using up those crumbs left in the bottom of the cereal packet that may otherwise go to waste. A little icing too and something quite plain like this becomes quite delicious. 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.


Monday, 7 August 2017

Behind Our Blue Gates 2

The days have been warmer here though Spring is still officially another month away. Spring looks like it's arriving in the garden too as there is much in bloom. As you enter, through our little front gate, a sweet scent greets you, released by the masses of flowers on the Michelia Coco hedge. As you walk past, you'll hear the buzz of honeybees and see the specks that are native bees, working away industriously among these fragrant flowers. Around the back, masses of beautiful blue Lobelia and snowy, honey-scented Alyssium border the main vegie patch. The bees love these too! The delicate scent of Sweet Pea, all pink petals instead of the pure white of last year, and the yellow sunshine of Calendula intermingle with the veg planted there. Our patch is a riot of colour and homegrown food that just simply makes me happy. Come on in, through our blue gates, and see what's been happening of late...

Beautiful & blue ...
bee-friendly Lobelia is in flower in the garden. 

Blooming Blue Lobelia and white Alyssium edge our vegie patch.

 Two varieties of homegrown lettuce are ready to eat. 

Simple salads, like this one, have featured in weekend lunches.

 Many lunches have been packed up at the kitchen bench.

Some simple slices have been baked.

A new washcloth is forming on my knitting needles. I love this new-to-me pattern!

The first sweet peas are in bloom. A delicate fragrance beyond compare!

A new oven was installed in our kitchen.
(After 14years of constant and reliable service, the old one went kaput!)

We are now preparing our house for a major Spring clean. The verandah has been cleared and the timber boardwalk swept ready for washing down. Windows are being washed. When Spring does officially arrive, our home will be sparkling clean. Ready to greet a new season!

What's been happening behind your gates lately?


Friday, 4 August 2017

Simple Pasta Salad

Although we are in the last month of Winter, the days here have been reminiscent of Spring.  Daytime temperatures have been in the low to mid 20Cs and, while the mornings have still had some chill to them, the afternoons have been quite balmy. Perhaps this is the uniquely Australian season that Dr. Tim Entwisle calls "Springer". Perfect for such warmer weather, and a move away from the heavier and more hearty foods of Winter, are salads like this one:

A simple homemade salad.

Simple Pasta Salad

1 packet of "bow-tie" pasta (or other suitable pasta such as fusilli)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion
4 rashers bacon
1 small red capsicum
1 medium zucchini
1/3 cup frozen peas

4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon seeded mustard
1 -2 teaspoons honey

1.  Cook pasta according to packet directions.  Drain well and place in a large salad bowl.

2.  Peel and chop onion finely. Remove rind from bacon and cut into cubes. Wash and 
     remove seeds from capsicum. Chop capsicum and zucchini into small pieces.

3.  Heat olive oil in heavy-base frying pan and gently fry onion and bacon until onion has
     softened and the bacon has browned slightly.

4.  Add capsicum and fry gently until this begins to soften. 

5.  Add zucchini and frozen peas. Fry gently until peas have defrosted.

6.  Remove from heat and add fried vegies and bacon to cooked pasta. Combine well & chill.

7.  Whisk together ingredients for dressing and have at the ready to pour over this salad 
     just before serving.

This salad can be "jazzed up" with some toasted pine nuts or some crumbled feta. It's perfect for a weekend lunch, to pack for a picnic or to take to a barbecue. Perhaps it will fit in with your weekend plans.

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Simple & Sweet Chocolate Slice

A sweet chocolate slice, made from a few simple pantry ingredients and some butter, is quite a nostalgic treat here. My mother made this, from her trusty and somewhat splattered "Day to Day Cookery" book, when we were small and I remember it being one of the first things I learnt to cook. I make it rarely now, but when I do, it's a happy treat that disappears very quickly!

 Pieces of deliciousness!

My Mum gave me a copy of the "Day to Day Cookery" book when I left home and, I'm proud to say, my copy is now just as splattered as hers! I've tinkered with the original recipe to reduce the sugar in the slice by half so it's a little less sweet ... that's just my way. Here's how I make it now:

Sweet & Simple Chocolate Slice

1 & 1/4 cups white spelt flour (or plain flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder (or cocoa)
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
125g butter
1 egg

1.  Preheat oven to 180C.
2.  Sift flour, baking powder and cacao into a mixing bowl.
3.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.
4.  Beat egg.
5.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted butter. Begin to 
     combine with dry ingredients and then add the beaten egg. Mix well.
6.  Press mixture into a slice tray.
7.  Bake for 15 minutes.
8.  Cool before topping with a simple chocolate icing and a sprinkling of coconut. ❤

 Simply yummy!

You can make a simple chocolate icing by mixing together 1 cup of icing sugar and 1 Tablespoon of cacao powder (or cocoa) with a little hot water. Just sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl so there are no lumps and then mix with hot water, a little bit at a time, until you get the consistency you want. You can then flavour with vanilla essence too before spreading thinly over your freshly baked slice. 

Disappearing quickly!

There is nothing fancy about this slice. Just simple ingredients and a little icing and you have a delicious treat for afternoon tea!