Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tiny Plaques

These aren't photo boards. Not at all. But I've been enjoying making these personalised little wall plaques for children. Enjoy!

Friday, 28 September 2012

In the kitchen - Round-up 21-27 September

Illness was still working it's way through our house this week, but happily I have remained immune (maybe I am Typhoid Mary? maybe this is the illness I had at the beginning of the month?).

On Friday 21st, I made vegetable tempura of cauliflower, carrot, capsicum, mushroom, broccoli and zucchini dipped in batter and deep-fried. The batter was an egg yolk, 200 ml water and 200 g flour, loosely combined. I made two batches - the first was a bit thick and clung in lumps, whilst the second was much improved. The dipping sauce was some dipping sauce of mirin and soy that I have left over in the fridge from a previous Japanense effort. There was black rice on the side, which was nice but didn't really go.

On Saturday 22nd we had some koftas from our Andrew's Choice supply. Miss 1 thought that these were perhaps the best thing ever invented and ate two, as well as rice and salad, and then had them for lunch the next day too.

Darren cooked on Sunday 23rd and made pat thai from David Thompson's 'Thai Street Food'. This is clearly a favourite in our house. This time, the vegetables were bean sprouts and mushrooms and the garnishes were coriander and fried shallots. I think that this might have been the best effort so far...

Pat thai.

On Tuesday 25th we came home and cooked the last of our Andrew's Choice sausages: cheese kranskys. We had them on a fresh loaf of bread, with a green side salad and Mrs H.S. Ball's Chutney.

I had an annual leave day on Wednesday, so Miss 1 and I went to the zoo, where she showed me the proper way to eat a Paddlepop.

And we were tired when we got home, so we had take away for dinner!

Last night, Thursday 27th, I put together goi bo (beef, mushroom and glass noodle salad) from Luke Nguyen's 'The Songs of Sapa'. I read the recipe calling for 100 g of dried mushrooms and thought that that sounded like a lot, but I guessed it did say that it was a mushroom salad. I only had 50 g of dried mushrooms - that would have to be enough. After I'd rehydrated them, I re-read the recipe and realised that it called for 10 g of dried mushrooms. Now I have lots of mushrooms left... Anyway, this was beef marinated in garlic, soy, fish sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Then it was in a salad of vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, mint, basil, coriander, Vietnamese mint, kaffir lime leaves, red onion, carrot and green beans, dressed in palm sugar, lemon juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and garlic, with peanuts and fried shallots. Oh yeah!

Goi bo.
Update: Oh! I forgot! I made chocolate brownies for my neighbours too, because they are wonderful people who mowed my lawn for me :-)

Thursday, 27 September 2012


I am going my way through the rooms of my house, working out what will come with us to our new home and what will be given away or thrown away or sold. In the study are my half-finished, mostly abandoned and never started craft projects.

Here are the instruction leaflets. One for Japanese reversible loop bags that I made everyone for Christmas one year and another for an Australian Bushland Wildflowers cross stitch that I made for my mother over a number of years. Another for a winter wonderland cross stitch pattern, never attempted. A Sashiko kit for a mini tote or an apron, but I haven't got any Sashiko needles. Step-by-step instructions for washi eggs. An article on papercutting. I have a lot of sketch books.

In my sketch books there are an awful lot of unfinished sketches, as well as lots of finished ones. Unfinished are some of my family and a design for a mural that I was going to paint on my mother's garden wall (before she grew a creeper up it instead). I keep the sketch books for posterity.

Tucked in the sketch books are the designs for some paper-cut Christmas cards that I made years ago. I never got beyond eight maids amilking in the cuts, although I have a design for nine ladies dancing. When I'm getting out the Christmas decorations, I'll share the paper-cuts with you.

I find a big plastic envelope full of bits of paper that I picked up in 2010 when we visited Germany and France. I've previously put together photo albums for our 2006 trip to Malaysia and England, and our 2008 trip to Vietnam. I've got organised enough to purchase albums for the Germany-France trip, but haven't decided which photos to print yet. I keep the envelope and remind Darren that we need to sort out the photos.

There are lots of things to do with felt. I discovered felting in 2010 and made quite a few wet felted scarves and baby booties, as well as some needle felted pin cushions and decorations. Here is the instruction book for the first silk merino scarf that I made, as well as my notes on making felt booties. Three beautiful books full of wonderful ideas. A half-finished stripy felt bag and a piece of felt that I was going to make into a travel wallet. A box of wool, my detergent drink bottle and some bubble wrap. I keep the instruction manuals, wool and books, and throw away the incomplete projects.

One of my finds are some wooden bodies, turned by my father-in-law, and wooden noses and a few different kinds of fur and untreated wool. These are the supplies to make little gnomes in felted hats. I started these earlier this year, glued a beard on the first gnome, and then stalled in the felting of the hat. I keep these and put them on the list of things to get around to doing.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Oh, wow!

Oh, wow! I just found my old sketch books from uni. I did take notes at uni, but I spent a lot of time drawing the people in my lectures too. Here are some of my drawings from 2001 - 2003. Can you find yourself in them?

In the kitchen - Round-up 14-20 September

It's been another sicky week here. On Friday 14th, I was hosting parent's group and made some apricot pies from the 'Epicure' in 'The Age' a few weeks ago. These are shortcrust pastry stuffed with stewed dried apricots and topped with almonds. Tasty!

Apricot pies.

That evening, our neighbours had us over for dinner. In the night, Miss 1 became ill (nothing to do with our neighbours!), but this didn't diminish her appetite (disappointingly) and she was still up for yum cha the next day. We just had some nibbles on things lying around the house, since we never need dinner after yum cha.

Sunday 16th, I coated chicken thigh strips in Cajun spice mix (garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, white pepper, cayenne pepper, dried oregano) for those who were into heat, or Cashew Za'atar & Bush Tomato from Gourmet Morsels for those who were not. I grilled the chicken and we had it in wraps with lettuce, grated cheese, tomato, grated carrot and cucumber. Very fresh.

Monday night was the point where Darren became ill. On Tuesday 18th, the rest of us had reheated frozen chicken domburi, which worked well on defrosting.

Wednesday 19th morning, I put together the ingredients for a salad niçoise for dinner that night, which I made with potato, eggs, cucumber, tomato, butter beans and, of course, canned tuna, dressed in lemon olive oil. That night, driving home, I heard a piece on 'Hack' talking about Greenpeace having a guide to what brands of canned tuna are most sustainable. I usually purchase #10, which is "must improve". Next time, I shall try to purchase something in the "good" category.

Salad Niçoise.

Yesterday, Thursday 20th, I made use of the left-over apricot pie filling and put it into the loaf of bread that I was making. The "twins" thought that this was fantastic. Darren was feeling well enough to attempt food again, so I made a Chinese soup for dinner. This one had a base of the liquid from rehydrating dried Chinese mushrooms, with a bit of chicken stock throw in to make up the volume. Then I just added sliced chicken breast in egg white and cornflour paste, sliced asparagus, carrots and rehydrated mushrooms, and some dumplings. Yum!

Chinese chicken, asparagus and dumpling soup.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Toddler Art - Adventures With Bottle Caps

What exciting things can we do with a box full of bottle caps?

Monsters and Ladybirds
I did some searching and found Crafts by Amanda who made some cute ladybirds and monsters out of caps. This looked like something that the girls could do. We pulled out our bottle caps...

... and all got a texta to draw on the bugs and faces. Miss 1, of course, wanted the permanent marker, but Miss 1.5 and our neighbour, Miss L, were happy with washable markers.

I decided that glue was a bit too dangerous for two people under 2, so I put blu tack on the back of the googly eyes.

The sticking phase went well...

... until Miss 1 decided that she would rather pull the blu tack off the backs of the eyes.

After we have finished putting on all the eyes, I glued them into place. They looked very cute and I thought that the girls would have fun playing with them.

Miss 1 had fun pulling the eyes off them. Perhaps an activity for when the girls are older then.

Another fun game was learning letters. Miss 1.5 is getting very good at her letters, but writing them on the blackboard can get a bit boring. I put sticky letters on the caps and laid them out for some letter hunting.

Miss 1.5 and I hunted for letters for quite a long time. She is very fond of the letter 'A'.

Miss 1 came over to join in. She was very fond of peeling the letters off the bottle caps. I sense a common theme here.

Still, the point was to have fun and they certainly did that.

Friday, 14 September 2012

In the kitchen - Round-up 7-13 September

Sometimes, you just have a bad day in the kitchen.

On Friday 7th, I decided to make some Anzac biscuits. I got the "twins" to help me measure out the dry ingredients and then added the wet ingredients and put the biscuits on a tray and in the oven. I took them out a little early and they weren't cooked, so I put them back in for a bit more of a bake. Upon which I forgot about them. When I remembered, they were burned and I fed them to the dogs.

The reason I forgot the biscuits was because I was preparing a stuffed pumpkin for dinner. This is a recipe that my next-door neighbour introduced me to and I've made it before with great success. You cook rice and add vegetables, herbs, cheese and maple syrup (and sausage, if you're not going vegetarian). At the same time, you empty and roast a whole pumpkin. Then you stuff the pumpkin with the rice filling and roast it again. The flavour of the pumpkin goes through the rice and it's fantastic. This time, however, the pumpkin tasted AWFUL. So bad that after a mouthful, Darren, Miss 1 and I decided that we couldn't eat it. It was the foulest pumpkin on the planet. The awful taste had gone through the rice too. My theory on cooking has always been that I'll give any recipe a go and if it doesn't work, I'll get take away. I don't remember having to ever put this into practice before. We gave the whole stuffed pumpkin to the dogs and ordered take away. The dogs refused to eat the pumpkin too. You know that dinner is an ultimate failure when the dogs refuse to eat it.

On Saturday we went over to my parents-in-law's house for a lovely dinner. On the way, we stopped in Yarraville to visit our old neighbours, stock up on Andrew's Choice sausages, eat cheese kranskies in the park, browse gift shops and general sticky beak in our old neighbourhood. It was a lovely day... I miss Yarraville.

Having been out of the kitchen for over 24 hours, I decided that it was safe for me to venture in again on Sunday 9th. I tried making Anzac biscuits again - this time, success! The recipe is my dad's one:

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
3/4 cup sugar (white or raw or brown)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons of boiling water
125 g melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons golden syrup
Can also add 30 g sultanas or currants or raisins or nuts

Mix dry ingredients. Dissolve soda in boiling water and add to the melted butter and syrup. Then add to the dry ingredients and mix. Place teaspoonfuls on greased trays. Bake 15 min at 160 degrees.

Anzac biscuits.

For dinner, I cooked tiger prawns in garlic, red onion, tomato and spinach. We ate them on some black rice that I had decided looked exciting in the supermarket. It was great!

Tiger prawns on black rice.

Several weeks ago, my neighbour gave me a bag of oranges in exchange for a bag of lemons. They were very sour and I have been complaining about how sour they are at work, whilst trying to eat them. Someone at work suggested that I should make a cake out of them. "But Darren can't eat oranges, and I can't eat a whole cake by myself," I said. "Make it for us," was the reply. So, on Monday 10th, I found a recipe for orange and lemon syrup cake in Sweet Food. I figured that the oranges were so sour that I could leave out the lemons. The result was a very nice, quite eggy, orange cake that was a big hit at work. People are planning what I should bake for next week.

Orange syrup cake.

On Tuesday 11th, we delved into our new sausage supply. Darren barbecued Thai chicken, chicken Montenegro, Greek lamb and Italian lamb sausages and we had them with some mashed potato that had grated carrot, mushrooms and cheese mixed through it. 

Other people cooking for you is a joy! On Wednesday, my mother-in-law made us dinner. Then, on Thursday 13th, I made a zucchini slice for dinner. I used the recipe from Stephanie Alexander's 'Kitchen Garden Companion', which is zucchini, onion, cheese, egg and self-raising flour, layered with sliced tomato. I made a double batch and it didn't set very well (did I forget to double something?), but still tasted good with a carrot, cucumber, mushroom and spring onion salad.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

My soon-to-be ex garden

For the last four years we have been living in my parents' house. One of the joys of the house is also a curse - a massive suburban garden. When I was pregnant, the garden was severely out of control, but over 2011 I bashed it into shape and it was looking quite lovely.

This year, the garden has been a little more neglected, but not a total loss, for three reasons:

(1) I have been back at work. This cuts down on the amount of free rambling time that I have.
(2) On-again, off-again builders. When people are throwing bits of rubble on your garden and stomping on it, it's at little demoralising.
(3) Our impending move. Since we'll be leaving very soon, I've lost a bit of motivation.

Currently, half of the garden is gorgeous...

... and the other half is overgrown.

There didn't seem to be much point in a spring veggie patch, so there are only the three raspberry bushes, blueberry bush, grape and passionfruit vines, rosemary plant, parsley patch, two resilient leeks, and a lot of well mulched soil.

But spring is here and being outside in the dirt is so much fun!

Miss 1 and I decided to re-pot and renew our herbs, ready to take with us to our new house.

The sorrel was severely pot bound.

The newly updated herb garden has two different oregano plants, Vietnamese mint, basil, chives, two bay plants, strawberries, lemon thyme and regular thyme, mint, sorrel, two different chilli plants, coriander, rosemary, curly leaf parsely and flat leaf parsley.

I have a bunch of heritage seeds and poppy seeds, as well as some herb and vegetable seeds dried from last season. Perhaps I can plant those in pots too...