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January 27, 2014

Summer days


{The joy of being 5 and a half and riding your bike.}


{The joy of being 11 weeks old and lapping up the love.}


{The final harvest of our rosy red nectarines.}


{Shiny new blue sandals.}


{Lunch with wonderful long-time friends who I don't see often enough.}

January 16, 2014

Cumquat marmalade


Cumquat marmalade is my favourite, so I usually try to make a few jars each year. Can you even buy cumquat marmalade from the supermarket? I've certainly never seen a cumquat in the produce section of the supermarket - you have grow them yourself or know someone who grows them - so it somehow makes this marmalade all the more special I think.

As usual, making the marmalade involved consulting numerous cookbooks for a recipe. So, based on the combined wisdom of Cookery the Australian Way, The PWMU (Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union) Cookbook, Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion and In The Kitchen by Allan Campion & Michele Curtis (if I could only have one cookbook, this would be the one), this is the method I used. (Which has resulted in near perfect marmalade in my personal opinion.)

Cumquat Marmalade

Start with a large bowl of cumquats.

Slice the skin off 4 sides and the top and bottom of each cumquat leaving the centre pith and pips behind (I decided this was easier than halving or quartering them and then cutting out the pith and pips as most of the recipes seem to suggest).

Weigh the skins and note this down (I had 800g). Place in a large saucepan and add cold water until just covered. Leave to soak overnight.
Place the cubes of leftover flesh & pips in a separate bowl and also cover with water (this is to extract the pectin from the pips so the marmalade will set). Leave to soak overnight.

The next day, strain the liquid from the flesh & pips and add this liquid to the skins. For good measure (to really make sure I had maximum pectin!), I then put the flesh & pips in a sieve and placed it in the saucepan so it was just sitting in the liquid but not spilling out.

Simmer the skins for 30 mins until soft and translucent (then remove the sieve). Add an amount of sugar equal to the weight of the skins (in my case, 800g). Simmer for approx 20-30 mins until the marmalade reaches setting point (testing a small blob on a cold saucer).

Pour into sterilised jars. (Makes about 4 jars.)

January 13, 2014

Tomatoes


Firstly, no I didn't grow these. They're from our local farmers market - $20 for an 18kg of big beautiful romas grown in nearby Shepparton. At that price, I'm completely happy to give over my garden beds to other veg that are easier to grow in our cooler climate. I do have a few cherry tomatoes and other salad varieties growing but they're not even close to being ready to pick yet.


This is the first time I've managed to deal with the whole box of tomatoes in one day. Because this year I kept things simple. No blanching, peeling, onions, herbs. Just chopped tomatoes, cooked until soft, put through the mouli, bottled and sterilised.


So I now have 15 litres of beautiful tomato passata, from local tomatoes bought direct from the grower (courtesy of my wonderful neighbour Jenny), in recycled jars, with no additives. And that's a whole lot better than cans of tomatoes from the supermarket that have travelled halfway around the world from Italy (and who knows from where or how far the steel for the cans, or the trees or ink for the labels, has come).

Happy days!


Next up... these little guys, which have travelled all of 300 metres from Jenny's garden to our house. I do love living here!

January 11, 2014

Christmas Ornament Exchange :: Part 2


I've received 2 more lovely ornaments as part of the Christmas Ornament Exchange.

I adore this gorgeous stitched Christmas tree in a mini embroidery hoop, which came all the way from Rhonda in New Zealand.


And not only did I receive this sweet little Chistmas stocking from Gabielle but a bar of chocolate too!

Thank-you to all the lovely ladies who sent me beautiful hand-crafted goodies. I'm looking forward to doing it again next year!

January 6, 2014

We grew peaches!!


Can you tell how excited I am?

I've never really grown fruit before (not counting tomatoes and other things masquerading as vegetables). Fruit takes rather serious commitment and patience. A bit different to poking a handful of beans in the ground.


When we planted our small bare-rooted trees a few years ago, the prospect of harvesting fruit from them felt like something that might possibly happen in the far distant future. We diligently weeded, mulched and watered. We studied the branches of the peaches and nectarines almost daily in Spring to check for the new buds and endeavoured to apply the spray for leaf curl 'within one week prior to bud-burst'. And apparently we've succeeded in sufficiently nurturing them, oh yes!

Our trees are still just a couple of years old, not even as tall as me. So was pretty excited when I realised that we actually had a decent crop of peaches and nectarines coming along nicely.


 So we're all busily devouring lovely big, juicy peaches at the moment. There are 38 yellow ones and 27 white ones to be exact. There's also 50 or so bright red nectarines that should be ready to pick in the next couple of weeks. Happy days!


We're also enjoying all things green from the veggie patch. Tomatoes look to be at least a month away yet though. Summer, where have you gone?


I just need to keep the girls from wreaking too much havoc...


January 2, 2014

Our new arrival


Meet Lucy, our newest family member! She's an 8 week old mini dachshund pup. ('Dachs' = badger; 'hund' = dog. They were orginally bred to hunt badgers apparently, although the miniature one's were bred for smaller game such as rabbits.)

She is seriously cute. The kids are besotted and Kipp, our 2 year old dog (of unknown heritage - he came from the RSPCA), seems to have taken to her too. He's even willing to share his bed, which is a good sign. Hopefully they'll become best buddies!



December 29, 2013

Christmas Ornament Exchange :: Part 1


One of the things I really love about the blog world are all the opportunities to participate in swaps, sew-a-longs and other community events. I love the fun of joining in something crafty with other lovely peeps, the sense of community that develops from these events, and the excitement of receiving surprises in the mail!

Recently I signed up to join in the Ornament Exchange organised by Kelly over at True Bias.

I wish I was one of those organised people who jump straight into a task as soon as possible, however in my usual style I did lots of research on Pinterest, dithered over what to create and got temporarily distracted by going on holidays for a week. So by the time I'd finished stitching my ornaments, I hurriedly popped them in the mail and didn't even take the time to photograph them. (But hopefully one of the recipients will do so and I'll show you then!)

The sweet Christmas tree above was first to arrive from Renee of Nearest the Pin.


This sparkly star arrived from Alison.


And this spunky little reindeer (or, I suspect, dachshund in Christmas attire!) came from Nicole of The Solmnolent Dachshund.

Thanks everyone! (Plus there's another couple that will be waiting for me when I return from holidays in a couple of days.) So much fun! It's so nice to have special decorations with a personal story don't you think?

Update:
Thank-you so much Renee for sending through a photo of my bird ornament! I used a vintage cotton print, gifted to me by my lovely neighbour Jenny, machine-stitched to an unbleached cotton linen fabric. Then added two layers of cotton quilt batting and hand-stitched together with red perle cotton.


December 6, 2013

The Craft Sessions


Although it's over a month ago now, I have to post some photos of the wonderful weekend I spent at The Craft Sessions. It was SO good. 

It's the first time I've been surrounded by so many awesome people who are just as interested in discussing knitting patterns, fabrics, yarn, pattern designers, blogging, quilting techniques, Ravelry...

There were so many different workshops on offer from so many cool people that it was really hard to decide which ones to do. In the end I decided to try 3 crafts that were new to me: freeform patchwork and block printing, both run by Lesley Keating from Maze & Vale, and whole fabric quilting with Anna O'Brien.

I have to say that patchwork and quilting have never really appealed to me (too precise, too slow-going, too bitsy). But this was different! Freeform patchwork was a revelation. Just grab a bunch of coordinating fabric scraps and start sewing them together. No measuring, precise cutting or matching corners. I love this! (Ohh and the gorgeous Maze & Vale fabric scraps that Lesley brought along for us to use!) I can't wait to do some more. And whole fabric quilting - just beautiful fabric and simple stitching (no patchwork required). From Anna I've discovered how much I love hand-stitching. Such a relaxing, mindful process.

I met so many lovely and inspiring women but a special mention to Jo my room-mate (who is making the most amazing English patchwork quilt - something I will never ever attempt) and Kylie who has revolutionised my knitting by teaching me her continental style method.

A big thank-you to Felicia and her crew who organised this event. Can't wait for next year!










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