Friday, 29 September 2017

Stitching in Zinnia Colours

Last year, I grew a lovely drift of bright and happy zinnias. Their pink, yellow, orange, red and cream petals coloured-in the garden. When trying to decide on a little stitching project, after feeling inspired by several embroidery books from the library, I kept coming back to the zinnia-coloured threads in my stash and so I began ...

Little zinnias on linen.

Simple little flowers, made with tiny french knots for centres and what I think of as a not-so-neat satin stitch for petals, are beginning to scatter themselves across the linen inside my embroidery hoop. Randomly placed, repeated as many times as I wish, tiny and some even a little smaller than that, imperfect and so soothing to stitch.

Brightly coloured & freely-formed flowers.

I'm not sure what I'll do with this little square of embroidered linen once it's done. Perhaps another small project bag, a pocket on a simple skirt, a central and flower-y panel on a reusable tote bag ... what would you suggest?

Last year's colourful zinnias.

Whatever it becomes, it was lovely to be reminded of the zinnias I grew in last Summer's garden. Stitching happiness!

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

On the Fringe

A short drive out to visit friends last week had us exploring the semi-rural western fringe of our city. Depending on rainfall patterns, this area is either lush and green or it's dry and myriad shades of brown among the gum trees. With hot daytime temperatures and no significant rain for a long while now, the landscape seemed hazy and parched. The grass crunched and crackled under our feet and the dust billowed up behind the car as we bounced our way down the rocky and rutted driveway to our destination. This is what we found just fifteen minutes from home ...

A hand-painted sign looking after the local wildlife.
(No sign of these spiky creatures though!)

 Rusting farm machinery by the roadside.

Long local driveways.

A silvery log in a paddock.

Low water levels in property dams.

Gorgeous grevilleas in flower.

 Chooks scratching for tasty morsels and ...

... geese, cockatoos, kookaburras and rosellas.

Busy honeybees at the entrance to a hive!

The distinctive seed cones on native Banksia.

The hazy view from the top of a hilly road.

As we were leaving for home, the distinctive call of sulphur-crested cockatoos rang out over the hills and paddocks. A late afternoon farewell.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Fried Cauliflower Rice with Chicken

Different versions of cauliflower rice appear on blogs, in health-conscious recipe books and in lifestyle magazines.  Touted as having many nutritional benefits in comparison to white rice, and with a cauliflower in the crisper to use up, I thought I would give it a try. I made  a fried cauliflower "rice" with it and this is how it turned out:

Fried cauliflower rice...with chicken!

All you need to turn a creamy white cauliflower into an alternative "rice" is a food processor. I put florets of fresh cauliflower into my processor and blitzed it for a few seconds at a time until I had a rice-like texture. A great base for a fried "rice"!

A great alternative to rice!

I added this blitzed cauliflower to a large frypan where I had some chopped vegies & spring onion already stir-fried in a little olive oil. I put in some frozen green peas and leftover chicken from the night before too. Tossed together with a good glug of tamari sauce and cooked until the cauliflower was tender, but not soggy, it made for a delicious meal. 

So,  is it my new favourite way to eat cauliflower? No! That title shall forever be held by the creamy, cheesy and decidedly not-as-healthy cauliflower gratin that my Mum used to cook for us as girls. Would anyone mistake the cauliflower for rice? No! But it was a different way to enjoy cauliflower and was relatively quick to cook too because blitzing the cauliflower took me less time than it would to prepare the brown rice I usually use for fried rice. Nutritious and easy! 

I used this online recipe as a bit of a guide while I was cooking. These are plenty of other recipes out there for everything from a plain cauliflower rice that you can serve with curries to this version of fried rice with all the trimmings. 

The humble cauliflower waiting to be turned into cauliflower rice.

If you have a creamy, fresh cauliflower and want to try something new, you might enjoy this easy and delicious fried "rice" too.

What's your favourite way to cook cauliflower?


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Embroidery Inspiration

I have loved stitching since I was a young girl. My Grandmother had an old chest of drawers filled to the brim with her beautiful handiwork. I loved to pull out one heavy drawer at a time and carefully look through all of her delicate linens.  Each piece embroidered with the tiniest of stitches, intricate and so beautiful. 

I remain fascinated with embroidery today. I love to look through the piles of old linens in op shops, antique stores and markets. When I hold a piece in my hands, I wonder how old it is and who made it. Occasionally, I will find a piece and bring it home with me, a treasure from yesteryear. Sometimes, I will wash and iron it carefully and use it in our home here to lay out on a table or to sit a vase of flowers or an ornament upon. Sometimes, I will cut out snippets of the embroidery, usually from stained or damaged pieces, and incorporate them somehow into a new project such as a little gift bag or pouch. This gives an unwanted piece new life.

My most precious piece is a set of napkins that my Great Grandmother stitched in what is now very old linen. I love the intricate, cut-out circles. I can't imagine how long it must have taken to do such neat and careful work with her needle and threads. I feel so very lucky to have pieces which connect me to her and which were worked in her hands so many years ago. Do you have a precious handmade treasure that has been passed down to you?

An intricate cut-out circle stitched by my Great Grandmother.

Precious napkins!

The back of my Great Grandmother's embroidered circle.

Although nowhere near as old, some of my favourite stitched pieces are those created by the very talented Melissa Wastney of tiny happy. I simply adore the little flowers, twigs, leaves, dots, dashes and marks that Melissa makes on fabric. I love the nature that she draws with her needle and threads.

 A beautiful project bag made by Melissa Wastney.

Very tiny and happy stitches. ❤ 

Very occasionally, I pick up my own needle and threads and create something with tiny little stitches. (This project bag was the last piece I made using embroidery.) Usually, I find inspiration and ideas from nature or drawings or in the library. On a recent trip to the library, I found several books which I have been reading and looking through again and again since I borrowed them. I'm not sure yet what I want to make but I'm sure I will settle on something soon. In each book there are some wonderful ideas. 

Inspiring embroidery books from the library.

What I loved most about the inspiring book, Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshop:  A Bend the Rules Primer is her whole approach to stitching. Colourful, layered, textured, different. I love that she's included a photo of the back  of one of her pieces in all its messy fineness in her book. One of her dropcloth samplers would be an ideal project for someone to learn a range of stitches while creating something beautiful from the practice. 

In Nancy Nicholson's book, Modern Folk Embroidery, I love the simple little pincushions that repurpose bottle tops with little pieces of felt and some stitches. Similar bottle top pincushions can be made using the tutorial over at the beautiful blog, Tea Rose Home OR this tutorial over at the Muse of the Morning website. Something useful and pretty from something that would otherwise be thrown away. The folk arty style of the projects in this book really appeal to me. The stitched bird on the front cover reminded me, as soon as I saw it, of the incredibly colourful birds that Julie created with felt, fabric and stitches over on her blog, JulieLou.

For something different, Japanese Paper Embroidery by Atsumi, Minako Chiba and Mari Kamio has me thinking of stitching onto paper and card. Beautiful little projects like greeting cards, notebook covers and little photo frames are included in this book. So many possibilities!

Time for a little stitching is a definite possibility this coming weekend. I hope your weekend holds lots of happy possibilities too.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Recycling Mobile Phones

So, a whizz-bang, you-beaut, brand new and very expensive mobile phone model was unveiled this week with much fanfare. It made the news here in Australia and I've no doubt there will be a lot of people queuing up to get one when it becomes available. After all, it's the latest must-have ... isn't it

All the brouhaha left me thinking though:  What happens to all the superseded, unwanted, left-by-the-wayside, broken & discarded mobile phones out there? As coincidence would have it, I had good reason to find out during the week because my hand-me-down and decidedly not trendy mobile phone broke and repair was not an option. 

According to this recent news editorial, Australians buy new mobile phones in their millions every year meaning there are more than a lot of discarded mobiles languishing somewhere. I can't even begin to fathom how many that would be worldwide! Given the plastics, metals and contaminants in all those phones, what is best to do with them?

When a mobile phone breaks and is beyond repair or when it's no longer useful (to anyone), it can be recycled. According to Planet Ark, up to 95% of the resources in a mobile phone can be recovered so it makes sense to recycle them. It's also really important that they don't end up in landfill because the harmful substances in them can leach into the environment. 

In Australia, unwanted mobile phones can be sent in to Mobile Muster (or they can be dropped off at designated collection points) or they can be donated to organisations such as those listed here. These are great alternatives to letting an unwanted phone languish in a drawer or sending it to landfill. We packaged up my broken phone and an ancient one too (yep, it had been hidden away in a drawer) and sent them off to be recycled. Less junk all round!

If you have a mobile phone collecting dust at your place, and you want to recycle it, all you need to do is print off a mailing label, attach it to a padded envelope or bag, pop your old mobile in and send it off. You can also pick up a reply paid satchel, like the ones we used, at participating Australia Post branches. No postage required!

As for my new mobile phone, I didn't go and pre-order that newfangled gadget and instead purchased a far less fashionable model within my limited budget. This was much to the consternation of the sales person who simply couldn't understand why I didn't want all the bells & whistles of more trendy models. I'm pretty sure he felt I was depriving myself of something. I knew this to be debt but I don't think he saw it that way!


Monday, 18 September 2017

Getting Ahead in the Kitchen

On Sunday mornings, I typically spend time in the kitchen getting food ready for the week ahead. 

Making biscuits on a Sunday morning. 

I always bake homemade somethings for the school lunchbox be it biscuits, a slice or, very occasionally, a cake. A sample of that baking is shared at Sunday's afternoon tea that we always have with Grandma and Granddad on their weekly visit. While the baking is happening, I also roast some nutritious veg to have in omelettes for brekkie and toss into healthy lunchtime salads. The oven is already on so I put it to good use! I prepare everything I need for dinner Sunday night and extras are frozen for later in the week. A homemade vanilla ice-cream is whizzed up on Sundays too. A couple of scoops makes an easy weekday dessert.  My kitchen is a busy place on Sunday mornings!

These are some of the things I regularly make on Sundays:

 Simple slices like this one and this one.

Bite-sized biscuits for the cookie jars.

 Trays of veggies ready for roasting.

Pasta sauces for spaghetti bolognese and lasagna.

Mini meatballs for the freezer.

Yummy homemade pizzas.

Salads, like this one, for weekday lunches.

Ice-cream mixture ready for the freezer.

Spending some of my Sunday preparing food for the week ahead saves time on busy days because there's food in the fridge, freezer and biscuit jars ready and waiting. It saves money because I don't need to buy packaged snacks or takeaways for dinner and having a salad or two in the fridge saves on buying lunches. It saves energy because I'm making full use of the oven when it's already on and those frozen extras just need reheating. It saves my energy too if there comes a night when I simply don't feel like cooking!

I think that Sunday's homemade foods are an investment in our health too. I know exactly what I put in them. Basic ingredients and no artificial anythings. I minimise the sugar content of the sweeter foods  (The ice-cream we make has just 40g of sugar in it as opposed to the 150g the original recipe calls for and we all still like it!). I add nourishing veggies into everything I can and those extra roasted veggies, baked along with the biscuits, boost the nutrition and fibre of simple breakfasts. A great return on the time I spend in my kitchen on Sunday mornings.

What foods do you prepare ahead of time for your families?


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sweetly-Scented Rose Geranium

One of my favourite plants in the garden is coming in to bloom now that Spring is here. 

 A little cluster of Rose Geranium flowers.
While its little pink flower clusters are very pretty, they are not the reason I love this beautiful plant. Rather, it is the strong musky-rose scent, released by this geranium's leaves, that make it a favourite. Whenever I brush past it, or gently rub a leaf between my fingers, I catch a drift of its rosy perfume and breathe that in deeply. So beautiful!

Little buds forming on my Rose Geranium.
My Rose Geranium grows really well in a position where it receives lots of morning sun but is somewhat sheltered in the afternoon. The soil where it grows is free draining and so I just give my Rose Geranium a deep watering whenever I feel the soil is a touch dry. Definitely, a low maintenance plant in my garden!

Lots of fragrant leaves on my Rose Geranium.

There are many different kinds of scented geraniums, from those whose leaves smell like roses to those that are lemony or minty. I hope to add some different scents to my garden by swapping cuttings of my Rose Geranium for cuttings of some of the other-scented types.
Do you grow scented geraniums? If so, what's your favourite?




Monday, 11 September 2017

Here & Now 15

It is getting very close to the end of the school term here and I am now impatiently waiting for the school holidays to begin. We have had our fair share of illness this past term and so I am hopeful that our upcoming holidays will be filled with wellness and here-at-home happiness. Contentment that will no doubt come from days with no set plans that can unfold on spontaneous whims. 

 A gorgeous Grevillea flower on the tree outside our bedroom door.

A posy of pink sweet peas from the garden.

Bell-shaped blooms on the "Roaring Meg" climber.

A deep red geranium growing in a pot.

 A lollipop pink Grevillea flower.

Loving //  All the pretty pink and red flowers that are in bloom in our garden right now.
Eating //  Sweet, locally grown strawberries with a dollop of cream.
Drinking //  Fresh filtered water as often as I remember to.
Feeling //  Impatient for the holidays to begin after what has been a long school term.
Making //  A hand-stitched tote bag in chocolate brown linen with a soft cotton lining.
Thinking //  We need rain, and bucket loads of it, because it is so very dry here.
Dreaming //  Of warm Spring Sundays down by the river.

Sarah, over at Say, Little Hen, is hosting this lovely blog link-up once again. You can visit her and see her beautiful photos at the link above. You'll find others sharing their own Here & Nows for September there too. 


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

"Cheesecake" Sponge

Creamy, sweet "cheesecake" on top and light, airy sponge cake underneath makes for a divine dessert! 

A very special treat!

This is one of those recipes that I left home with; scribbled down on a scrap piece of paper and tucked into an old folder that was, at that time, my recipe book. I've been making it for special occasions ever since though I don't know why it's called a cheesecake when there is no cheese in it at all!

Homemade sponge cake for the base. 

For the sponge:

Grease and line a springform pan. Preheat your oven to 180C. Beat two eggs until thick and creamy. Gradually add 1/3cup caster sugar while beating until sugar dissolved. Gently fold in 2Tablespoons each of plain flour, self raising flour and cornflour. Spoon mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly over base. Bake for 20mins. Turn out cake and cool on a wire rack but return to your re-lined springform pan when you are ready to pour topping on.

 Smooth, lemony "cheesecake" mixture.

For the "cheesecake" topping:

Beat 300mL of a thick cream until soft peaks form. Fold in one tin of condensed milk and then generous 1/4cup of lemon juice. *Topping should thicken as you fold in the lemon juice.* Pour over the cooled sponge base and smooth out evenly. Carefully cover the top of the springform pan with a plate and place in fridge for topping to set which takes several hours.

 One on top of the other!

Ready to set in the fridge.

Once your "cheesecake" sponge is ready, after you've removed the side of your springform pan and lining paper, you should be able to carefully slide it onto a serving plate with the aid of an egg flip or two. 

You can jazz up its creamy topping with fresh fruit like berries or passionfruit which have a tang that balances out the sweetness of this dessert. When I made it for Fathers' Day last weekend, I popped some little raspberries on top and served it with a dollop of homemade passionfruit butter.  A small slice is plenty but you might want to hide any leftovers!

Do you have a dessert that you save for special occasions at your place?


p.s. Over on her Down to Earth blog, Rhonda has a recipe for making your own condensed milk at home. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Spring Beginnings

The weather here has been Spring-like for a little while now. Many days of warmer temperatures reflecting the very short Winter we have had. (Perhaps that is the new normal??) It is very dry here and I heard over the radio that it is predicted to be a hot, dry Summer. (Perhaps that is the new normal too??) The first new leaves are beginning to unfurl on our neighbour's Plane Trees that spread their branches well over our shared boundary. I love these beautiful, deciduous trees and how they mirror the weather and seasons. It seems though that they only lost their leaves a short time ago and now they are readying themselves for Spring. I wonder if they had a long enough Winter sleep??

A Spring leaf unfurls.

In our own garden, our little native bees are taking flight from their hive sooner rather than later each day now as the temperature reaches 18C earlier. Did you know that native bees only venture out when the temperature climbs to that magic degree? The native birds are making good use of the bird baths; coming in to drink and splash about in the cool water. The first snake, a carpet python curled up in the eaves of the verandah, has been spotted and a pair of nocturnal Long-nosed Bandicoots have been visiting at night, leaving their tell-tale drill holes throughout the garden and lawn and forcing us to think up ways to protect our plants. (We put up a temporary wire mesh fence, dug well into the ground to try to keep them away from the base of the avocado tree...we'll see how that goes!) The last of late Winter's offerings have been harvested; a few lettuces, leeks, baby potatoes and little sweet pea posies among them. 

A pretty posy indeed!

From the very few passionfruits left after sulphur crested cockatoo raids, a deep yellow and tangy passionfruit curd has been made. Some for us and some for friends. Fresh, locally grown and sweet strawberries were enjoyed with a french toast breakfast and a creamy Fathers' Day cheesecake sponge, a cheat's "cheesecake" really for there is no cheese in it at all, was a special homemade treat for Dad and Grandad for our Sunday afternoon tea.

 A little pot of passionfruit curd. Mmm!

Sweet local strawberries make perfect french toast toppings.

Homemade sponge underneath with a creamy "cheesecake" topping.

One new craft project and one rediscovered project are taking shape. A soft blue cotton washcloth is forming on my knitting needles and a little hand-stitched tote, that I began years ago, is being completed one tiny hand-sewn stitch at a time. Although more time consuming than using a sewing machine, I am enjoying the slowness of hand sewing again. 

 Brown linen and a soft cotton lining held together with hand-sewn stitches.

We spent a lovely evening in at our city's South Bank to celebrate the birthday of a special young teenager friend. A train ride in, a shared Mexican meal with much laughter and fun, a ride together on the big Wheel of Brisbane that offered a twinkling bird's eye view of our city at night. Finished off with a slice of divine homemade chocolate birthday cake, it was a happy Spring night indeed.

I hope you have had a happy start to your new season too.