Friday, 31 August 2012

In the kitchen - Round-up 24-30 August

I've just spent the last 15 minutes blinded by a gardening incident. Now that I can see out of my left eye again, it's probably a good idea to come inside and avoid injury by sitting still for a little while...

This week's kitchen round-up is a little bare. I spent most of the week being cooked for by wonderful friends and family or eating out. On Monday 27th, I did make a lamb roast for my family in Mount Gambier, using a pre-marinated lamb with roasted potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and zucchini and boiled green beans. Everybody seemed happy.

On Wednesday 29th when Miss 1 and I got home, we discovered that Darren had made us Thai-style sausage rolls from We had a salad of carrot, radish and tomato with a lemon and sugar dressing to go with them and it was the perfect way to come home.

Yesterday, Thursday 30th, I made a stir fry of strips of beef cooked in garlic, oyster sauce and a sprinkle of brown sugar, with baby sweet corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, choy sum and udon noodles. I didn't cut up Miss 1's noodles and she kept swallowing them whole and then choking...

Beef and oyster sauce stir fry.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Road trip to Mount Gambier

We are just home from a five day road trip to Mount Gambier, visiting four week old Mr D and his parents. We spent most of our time getting to know Mr D and catching up with my brother and sister-in-law, and aunt, uncle and grandmother who were also visiting. There was very little time crafting, although I did get some inspiration from my sister-in-law's house (more on that later).

Aside from family bonding, the most wonderful things were the beautiful wattle displays and the black-shouldered kites and other falcons that were happily hunting.

The road trip home was just Miss 1 and me, as Darren flew home early for work. We went to Branxholme, only 1.5 hours, on Tuesday night and stayed with friends and then made the trek to Melbourne together on Wednesday. Miss 1 was very well behaved, sleeping the first two hours to lunch, then spotting sheep, playing with toys, snacking, reading, singing, sticking stickers, drawing pictures and generally trashing the car.

Friday, 24 August 2012

In the kitchen - Round-up 17-23 August

It's been a busy week, with my brother and his wife and new baby Mr D visiting from Mount Gambier, my mother visiting from Brisbane (via Mount Gambier), lots of people coming over to see the visitors, and my birthday and associated dinner guests (who shared lots of cake with me).

Miss 1 meets Mr D.

On Friday 17th, when things were still on the quiet side, I wondered what to do for dinner that would involve pork mince and salty duck egg. My friend, Kat, suggested stir frying the mince with oyster sauce, then folding it around the salty duck egg and steaming the package with lots of ginger. Steamed Asian greens on the side. I totally intended to do that, but got side-tracked and ended up stir frying the mince in garlic and oyster sauce with red cabbage and baby corn, adding the duck egg and some fish sauce and lime, forgetting the ginger and serving on vermicelli rice noodles and steamed choy sum.

Pork stir fry thing.

There followed a reasonable amount of eating out.

On Monday 20th, I was home from work early to say goodbye to my mother, so I made dinner. I used the Beef Rendang spice pack from The Saucy Spice Company, which is great because it's proper cooking, just with all the spices prepared for you. I added lamb (not beef), onion and garlic, yoghurt and coconut milk, zucchini, pumpkin and green beans, on rice. Miss 1 enjoyed it all, with the sauce sucked off since it was quite hot, and we all had it for lunch the next day.

Yay for frozen meals. Some months ago, a trolley of pumpkins arrived from some co-workers who have a farm. To say I was excited was probably an understatement. I used the pumpkin to make pumpkin jam (don't knock it if you haven't tried it), pumpkin chutney (fantastic on a sandwich), and pumpkin soup (with potatoes, nutmeg and tarragon, from Debra Mayhew's 'Soup'), which I froze. After work on Tuesday 21st I defrosted the pumpkin soup and we had it with cheese on toast. I love soup!

Pumpkin soup.

Dinner on Wednesday 22nd was chicken domburi, based on the recipe from 'The Essential Asian Cookbook'. As well as the copious amounts of chicken, onion and eggs, in soy sauce and mirin, my version had rehydrated mushrooms and carrot, topped with spring onion and seaweed.

Chicken domburi.

My lovely Spanish friend introduced me to the Spanish method of baking fish in salt. On Thursday 23rd, the "twins" and I went to the market and bought two snapper, which I had cleaned, but with the scales left on. I stuffed them with fresh basil and parsley and then buried them in three kilograms of salt. After baking at maximum temperature, I unearthed the fish and peeled off the skin. The result is fantastic and not salty at all (unless you pierce the skin of the fish). We had them on rice, with two salads, one of roasted beetroot and chick peas in a cumin, coriander seeds, mixed spice, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar sauce and one of steamed mushrooms with avocado and green capsicum, in coriander seeds, olive oil, garlic and red wine vinegar. Delicious.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Toddler art - Five things to do with foam stickers

I found a big bucket of foam animal stickers at Riot Art & Craft for $3.74.

When I opened the tub, I discovered two things: (1) there are hundreds in there and (2) they smell bad.

What to do with all these stickers?

1. Stick them!
The first thing that we did was stick them! Miss 1 was awake, so I started peeling off the backs and giving them to her to stick on paper.

Eventually, we both concluded that I wasn't peeling fast enough, so she set about drawing pictures and I started peeling stickers and sticking them on a plastic container so that they would be easy to get hold of later.

Once we had a good collection and Miss 1.5 was up, the "twins" made collages. Then, when Miss 1 was sleeping, Miss 1.5 stuck them all to herself. She worked out very quickly how to peel off the backs, clever girl.

2. Learning animals.
The "twins" are very good at animal noises and are starting to learn animal names as well. I set up paper with one of the seven animals on it and asked the girls to pick which was the cat, etc, and what noise it made. Full points all around. Then I asked them what each animal was. Miss 1 got dog and fish, Miss 1.5 got kitty, puppy, horse, fish, bird and pig. Rabbits are hard, but Miss 1.5 eventually setted on bunny.

3. Learning colours.
Miss 1 was having another nap so Miss 1.5 and I worked on colours. She's come a long way from everything being "blue" and can now pick out red, blue and brown with certainty. Yellow and green are nearly there. Orange and pink are hard.

When pointing out colours becomes boring, Miss 1.5 is also adept at peeling off the correct colour.

4. Stamping.
I've been collecting bottle caps and my neighbour just gave me a whole pile more.

The stickers were a bit too big for the milk bottle caps, except for the bones, but yoghurt lids were a good size.

With paint dollops on ice cream container lids, the girls set about stamping. They added in biscuit cutters for more shapes.

Super messy and super fun! The stamps didn't make perfect imprints in their hands, since toddlers are a bit sloppy, but they enjoyed themselves anyway and didn't even require a bath afterwards.

5. Tell a story.
I drew scenes and the girls add the animals (and some extra drawings) to tell a story.

In this one, the pig is in the mud, the fish is in the water, the cat is in the flower bed, the bird is in the tree, the rabbit is watching the bird, the horse is visiting the house, the dog is riding in the car...

We still have lots of stickers left.

Any other ideas for what we should do with them?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Toddler cooking - toasted cheese bread

Watching Play School some months ago we saw this idea for toasted cheese bread. I was making mini quiches for lunch out of a loaf of supermarket bread (something we rarely have in the house, since we make nearly all of our own bread) filled with ham, red capsicum, cheese, spring onion, mushroom and egg. What to do with the rest of the loaf?

We put the slices of bread on a chopping board and used biscuit cutters to cut out animal shapes. Miss 1.5 is especially good at this.

Miss 1 found the shape cutting boring relatively quickly, mainly because she hadn't had lunch yet. So instead she thought it would be a good idea to eat the left over crusts (and some of the bread that hadn't been cut yet). Miss 1.5 finished cutting out the animals and then joined in.

I put the shapes on a greased baking tray and the "twins" sprinkled grated cheese over the top.

And then we baked the bread at 180 degrees for about 10 min.

Tasty, cheesy ducks, rabbits, sheep and pigs!

In the kitchen - Round-up 10-16 August

Things that I learned this week: kneading dough is hard work.

On Friday 10th, I decided to make a double batch of ruskie pierogi (potato and cheese dumplings), from the recipe in the SBS 'Feast' magazine, for dinner. This was a good idea because they were delicious. It was a bad idea because it took me two hours to make the dumplings (the entire toddler nap time, plus more) and I am severely out of practice kneading dough. When I rang Darren to complain, he pointed out that we have a dough hook on the mixer... Anyway, yum!

Ruskie pierogi.

On Saturday 11th, Darren cooked some lovely rock ling in a herb batter, shallow fried, with chips and salad for us. I think that he combined a few recipes to do it and it worked out very, very well. 

On Sunday 12th we were lucky enough to have Gill cook dinner for us (thank you!), but I did make some pseudo-crepe complete for lunch, using my vague crepe batter recipe (some flour, eggs, milk and salt, in a blender) with egg, ham, dill and cheese filling. Miss 1 is very impressed with these.

Pseudo-crepe complete - pre-folding.

I invited myself over to dinner at Kat and Marc's house on Tuesday and they made a lovely dinner (thank you!). I'm feeling pampered.

On Wednesday 15th, I made a mushroom risotto again, but this time added feta cheese (and omitted the nuts and roquet) and had a side salad of cucumber, radish, roquet, tomato and carrot with a lemon and sugar dressing. Miss 1 ate way too much and followed up with yoghurt and strawberries, and subsequently a tummy ache and screaming all night long.

Last night, Thursday 16th, I slow-cooked a lamb tagine with peas and lemons (preserved lemons that I bottled last year) from 'A Little Taste Of Morocco'. Slow-cooking is good because I can make dinner during nap time and put it on the stove and then not have to worry about navigating toddlers and cooking. I added spinach, pumpkin and sweet potato and served with cous cous and sultanas. I do like a good tagine!

Lamb tagine with peas, lemons, pumpkin and spinach.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Sneak peek

I haven't done any painting for two weeks, which is a little sad. This is mainly because I've been unable to commit mentally to what I want to do for my next canvas. This week, I had five meetings over three days, which gave me plenty of time for doodling and I finally decided what I wanted to paint.

So, here are the beginnings of a new canvas...

Friday, 10 August 2012

In the kitchen - Round-up 3-9 August

You remember the Red Rooster meal from my sister's birthday lunch? I put the left over chicken (there was a lot of it) in the freezer and on Friday 3rd boiled it for four hours with an onion and a carrot and some bay leaves to make chicken stock. After the four hours, I drained the stock and picked the meat off the bones and put that back into the stock. Then I sliced the kernels off three cobs of corn and threw them in, along with chopped yellow capsicum, sweet potato  and two handfuls of risoni and simmered for another hour. Yum! Chicken soup.

It was also my turn to host Parent's Group again. This time I made double-chocolate muffins  from Leanne Kitchen's 'The Baker', full of cocoa, dark chocolate and sour cream. These were especially good microwaved for 20 seconds.

Double-chocolate muffins.

We had a big weekend eating, but it was out in restaurants (yum cha and Oriental grill) and at a friend's house (thank you, Anu!). On Sunday 5th, Darren did decide that we were in need of chocolate brownies, so he made some from the recipe that he once found in a magazine for chocolate brownie and vanilla ice-cream cake with raspberries and raspberry syrup. The brownies are good by themselves and are full of nuts and rum.

On Monday night, I cooked a chicken pie for Tuesday 7th's dinner. The recipe was based on chicken and leek pie from Stephanie Alexander's 'The Cook's Companion', but I also added chopped spinach and peas, and a side salad of chickpeas, tomato and cucumber with lemon juice. Miss 1, who had been off her food since the weekend, ate the chickpea salad for dinner, but the next day decided that chicken pie was THE BEST and finished off the left-overs.

Chicken and leek pie.

On Wednesday 8th, I had decided that I was going to make pat thai using the recipe from David Thompson's 'Thai Street Food' that Darren used exactly a month ago. Unfortunately, when I came to cook, I realized that I didn't have many of the right kind of noodles. Nevertheless, I persevered, adding in some rice vermicelli noodles instead, as well as fresh prawns, broccoli, carrot, mushroom and red capsicum. The end effect was really a prawn, egg and vegetable stir fry with noodles and Thai-style tamarind-fish sauce sauce, topped with fried shallots and lime juice. It was nice though (although vermicelli rice noodles did stick to everything that Miss 1 came in contact with).

Thai-style stir fry.

Grilled pork chops were dinner on Thursday 9th. I marinated them in garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and oyster sauce for a couple of hours and then grilled them. To go with the chops was a stir fry of udon noodles with spring onion, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, carrot, rehydrated Chinese mushrooms and pickled cucumber all in soy sauce and garlic.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Gift tags on madeit

July was my sister's birthday and I purchased some beautiful pantry eggs from Mud By Nest for her. I'm quite a fan of Mud By Nest and have been browsing the gift tags there. Today, my favourites are the polka dot ones.

Mud polka dots - clay gift tags by Mud By Nest

There is quite a wide range of other gift tags on madeit. In the clay variety, Red Punch Buggy also has some pretty tags imprinted with a lace doily.

Embossed heart clay tags by Red Punch Buggy.

These vine tags by Ruby Victoria Letterpress & Printmaking are hand-drawn, lino cut and the printed on a letterpress. I'm a bit fond of lino cuts at the moment!

Vine tags by Ruby Victoria Letterpress & Printmaking

Very simple and very effective: 3Girls + a goat has a great range of embossed gift tags.

Embossed trees white large gift tags by 3Girls + a goat

There are heaps of other gift tags available - have a browse.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Broken easel

For her birthday six months ago, Miss 1 received an easel with a magnetic blackboard on one side and a whiteboard with a big bulldog clip on the other side from my parents, as well as a table and chairs from her aunt. We set up the living room so that she can always draw. On the table there is always paper and washable crayons and textas within reach, as well as a craft box, playdough and paint brushes on the shelf. I keep the paint in the laundry, it's washable but a little too fun for use without supervision. The easel has chalk, a duster and a magnetic alphabet (all from Darren's parents) and blank newsheet clipped to the back. This is what it looked like when I got up this morning.

The drawing area is one of her most loved (close to her bookcase, but far behind being outside) and she and Miss 1.5 play there every day. Both the table and easel have been subjected to "accidental" drawing/painting (Miss 1.5 likes to draw inside the easel, for reasons that I have yet to discern).

But last week, the leg of the easel snapped at a knot in the wood. Devastation. Darren took the easel and the transaction details back to Windmill and they identified that there was a similar knot on another leg. They went out the back and checked all the others that they had and gave him a replacement with the least knots. They were great and the "twins" were ecstatic to have the easel back again. Miss 1.5 has promptly dedicated herself to replacing the decoration on the inside.

So, I know that "buy handmade" is a great and all, but also, support small Australian business. Especially fantastic toy shops that have real, educational toys, wonderful customer service, and no Dora The Explorer in sight.


This post isn't sponsored by anyone and reflects my personal opinions and experiences only.

Friday, 3 August 2012

In the kitchen - Round-up 27 July - 2 August

I've actually not done a great deal of cooking this week, as Darren's been the one slaving away over a hot stove. On Friday 27th, I did bake some very tender lamb chops in the oven, in a kind of Greek inspired way:

2 onions, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
1/2 red capsicum, chopped
6 mushrooms, halved
5 lamb chops
3 tomatoes, sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place onions, potatoes, capsicum and mushroom in a casserole dish and sprinkle with parsley and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Place the lamb chops on top and then layer the sliced tomato. Add half a cup of water and then bake for 1 hour, covered. Remove the lid and bake for another hour uncovered. 

On Saturday 28th we had a lunch time party for my sister's birthday. I was making Thai-style sausage rolls from for a 30th birthday party that night, so I made 84 total and kept some aside for my sister's party. In addition, I made "Best-ever" chocolate cake (from a recipe that I photocopied from someone at work a few years ago; the secret is jam in the cake mix) and Darren added chocolate ganache icing from some other recipe that escapes me. My sister turned up with two Red Rooster family meals, so there was excess food for the eight of us and plenty left over for dinner, lunch, other meals...

Ever since our 2010 trip to Brittany, Darren and I have had a thing for moules frites (mussles and chips). On Sunday 29th, Darren cooked moules marinieres (with added mushrooms) from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion: The complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen, with a side of chips. They were excellent. Miss 1 was having a daddy phase and would only eat mussels from Darren's plate (yay for me!).

Moules frites (minus the frites).

Monday 30th, more daeji bulgogi. All gone now. Sigh.

On Sunday night, as well as the moules frites, Darren cooked some Jamaican patties. Darren has somehow inherited some Jamaican cooking gene and can make patties and jerk just like my grandmother used to. My Jamaican cooking never tastes like what Grandma made. The patties recipe has come from some Jamaican cookbook that someone has...

500 g minced beef
2 stalks escallion
1 stalk thyme
1 medium onion
2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat meat with water to cover and separate the lumps. Add seasoning, finely chopped, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar. Cook 30 min. Correct seasoning and add remaining salt. Add bread. Make sure there is enough gravy to be wet. Add butter. Cool. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Cut out pastry. Add mince, fold, crimp, brush with oil. Bake approx. 45 min.

We ate the patties for dinner on Tuesday 31st and for lunch the next day, with cucumber, tomato, green capsicum and carrot salad.

Darren continued his kitchen run on Wednesday 1st with herb crumbed beef schnitzel and mushroom sauce, based on the recipes from With potato mash and more of those Red Rooster peas, it was very yummy, but not terribly photogenic. Miss 1 ate a whole schnitzel!

Herb crumbed beef schnitzel with mushroom sauce.

Last night, Thursday 2nd, was vegetarian korma. I used some korma curry paste that I found in the fridge with left over butter-milk and onion, potato, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, lentils and Red Rooster peas. There was basmati rice, poppadoms, mango chutney and hot lime pickle on the side.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Mr D, a photo a day, and toddler art

On Tuesday morning, my brother and his wife welcomed their first child, a little baby boy, Mr D, who looks just like my brother. Yay! I'm looking forward to visiting them in Mount Gambier and meeting my new nephew, but not looking forward so much to the six hour car ride with Miss 1.

When I was pregnant, my sister-in-law gave me a lovely 365 day journal. When Miss 1 arrived we took a photo of her every day and kept a diary of her achievements and put it in the book. It was a great idea and the presentation was lovely, but the journal wasn't really designed for having 365 photos stuck in it and is now bulging somewhat.

Miss 1 is now one year and 196 days old and we're still taking a photo of her every day, which is a pain on days that I work, but otherwise fantastic. Although I suspect that we've now committed to doing this for all future children too... I just received my latest update of 174 prints and although the 2012 boring spiral bound photo album isn't as pretty, it is designed to comfortably hold a whole lot more photos.

The prints arrived in duplicate (even though we only ordered one copy), so my family can expect a selection of photos heading their way.

In crafty news, I found a Blog post where a lady named Kara made a sticky window and thought that it would be fun for the "twins". It's a sheet of contact stuck to a window so they can be artistic sticking, well, anything to the window. My sticky window wasn't terribly neat, because I set it up with the help of the "twins". I cut up coloured paper for our window, and fished out some animal shapes and some stars that I had in the craft box as well.

Miss 1 was instantly hooked. Miss 1.5 gave it a go, tried (unsuccessfully) sticking things to the regular window, and then decided that it was more fun to pull things off the sticky wall.


A week later and the contact is holding up very well (i.e. is mysteriously not covered in dog hair!). Miss 1 has been playing with it every day, cousin Mr W has had a go, and I caught Miss 1.5 playing there this morning (although she escaped before I could find the camera).

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

One year old

In May this year, my Etsy store was one year old. August is the birthday of my Madeit store. I've had a fun year - I've painted 42 different canvases, sold 21 of them and given three away as gifts.

As that little picture there says, this month everything in my Madeit store is 20% off. You don't have to do anything fancy or enter any codes - the discount is already applied to the price.

In addition, there is one free mini photo board (that's 20 cm by 25 cm) up for grabs. All you have to do is let me know that you are interested and I'll post a mini board off to someone random in Australia at the end of the month.

Good luck and thank you for all the support in the last 12 months, everybody!